Two Terrible Stories by Joseph Young

Fourth Hag

She tries the cold water because that works with the wine on your linen slacks. But no, she says in her sleep, that won’t do it.

Still asleep, she goes to the front door and looks out. The hills fall away on every side, some toward the tossing sea and some toward the tangled woods. From the woods comes the sawed sound of her murders.

Ouch, she says, burning her hand on the stub she carries. It burns fast into her fist and the sweet of it stirs her dream. Hers is in ermine and whalebone and sperm, and laid before her is the king, succession-dead, and his blood-stunted boys. At her feet, her stained and humiliated husband.

Fetch me my scepter, he’d said, staring only at the spirits. Break me my fast, he shouted, My cock crows. Make me the man I’m supposed to be.

Yes, she says, in her living sleep, his ambition spilled on the sand. Yes, she says, never to bear him. Yes, my liege, my prick, the name that’s never spoken.

Then she’s on the moor, astride of her dream. There’s her sword, and the stain on her hand is not shame, or sorrow. I’m free, says the death on her gown. There’s no meaning to the woods, no drive for the sea, the soldiers and their semen blots.



In the end it was death all ‘round, death and tragedy and so much swagger. But he’d been such a happy boy!

His mother remembers him laughing, that most. He and his hobby horse, he and his short pants, his cod, his boyhood crush. Oh Rose oh Rose! he’d exclaimed, there in the garden, there by the pool he loved to gaze. Such a pretty one, such a pretty me!

Later, she said, he’d studied to strut and murder. Boys will be boys. He fell in love, a full man’s love, and with the crossed curse of stars. Oh rut and cruelty, poison gash, oh immeasurability.

He snuck off to her porch, that’s what his mother knew. To she whose moon was round and full with blood. She the sun, the red fount, the spells of maidenhead. She for whom the baby was banished and all the nurses wept.

I’m thrown upon these rocks, his mother cried, fallen from my balconies. Mine’s a mother’s grief and hers is just a toy — some lip-gloss potion of two and forty hours.

Girls and boys — such pretty boys — make such stupid men. Boys, she said, all fall upon their daggers.




Joseph Young writes and makes art in Baltimore. His book of microfiction, Easter Rabbit, was released in 2009 from Publishing Genius, and his chapbook, 5 drawings of the maryland sky, from Ink Press in 2012. Links to these books, as well as other writing and art, can be found at


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