Anna Tambour presents 


The virtuous medlar circle
thoroughly bletted
Cinnamon Gate
Deborah Biancotti


Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Kahlil Gibran

The Sandman had come to hate the night.

Dark, always dark, the twisted matte of blacks and purples pressing in. Pressing down. And in these final hours before night gave way, apparently, to day (though he hadn't seen daylight for thousands of years), the sickly, milky grey of pre-dawn washed all nuance away, gave to each shadow a gritty, ashen sameness.

He stood on the roof of an apartment block and watched as, twelve stories below, a shadow slid along the street. It danced and wove in streetlight. It stretched to look like a finger, accusing. Or perhaps beckoning. And in its wake it dragged a man.

Worse and worse, the Sandman thought.

He liked men least of all.

This one was —

 — a puppet on strings, restless and groping.

The Sandman leaned over the lip of the building for a closer look. The man wore a suit with the buttons undone and a tie hanging long on his neck like a tongue. One hand — whether by design or coincidence — was wedged in a trouser pocket. One floated free, now conducting an orchestra, now curling a lock of invisible hair by his ear. Head lolling, knees sagging, the man pushed on, spine spongy with the effort of staying upright. He didn't so much walk as fall along the street.

The Sandman could almost smell him from here — the sweat, the stink of pulse, the alcoholic breath. This one, this man, had no need of the Sandman's aid. He was tired enough that he would sleep without it. The Sandman leaned back, dismissing the man from his mind, and returned to his counting. It helped to fill the time — the one thing he had too much of. He drummed a staccato beat on the handle of his cane.

One-two, one-two, one two three.

A hollow catalogue of sand, the last few grains that remained, wedged tight in the seam of his pocket for safekeeping. Just three grains, not quite lost. Not nearly enough. He sensed each one the way an animal senses injury it can't see, and resented them the same. These three grains kept him awake. Or rather, it was the itch and nag of human need —

— like grit under the eyelids —

— that cancelled out his rest. It kept him in this place, and other places like it.

He loitered, not quite ready to give in; unable, so far, to give up. So it had been for millennia; so it would be until the sand was gone. Then he could rest, of course he could. If he remembered how.

He tapped his cane experimentally against his foot, rolled it along his palms and spun it in the air. Then suddenly he somersaulted up, off the roof. Flew at the unwelcoming sky, straightened out and aimed at Heaven — or whatever was behind the sagging clouds, the blue-black tar of night. He flew until he was far enough away that the call, the itch, the human need, loosened just enough and he began, almost, to miss it. Began to feel its absence in him, somewhere in his side, beneath what would be ribs, if he were human.

Missing it was almost worse than enduring it.

He was further from humanity here, but no closer to God (or what passed for God behind the milky scratch of stars). Night, endless night, crowded out everything, made all places the same. Pinned in the dark, he turned and sharply fell. He plummeted, hooked his descent and skimmed past the blur of unlit windows, the doors shut firm. He flew faster and faster so the world was a dizzying smudge, so it melted and bled.

He liked it better that way.

Then, inevitably, the itch returned. A pang, a prick, a spasm of need at first, a nagging in his temple. It drew him on and over, across the sleeping town.

Nearly dawn, yet someone here was awake. It called him and he surrendered to it. He allowed himself to be twisted around and dragged to a narrow house in a block of six. Identical grey-red-brick houses with pointed roofs and long, mournful windows.

He was thrown at the second storey. Didn't even see the window until he was almost upon it. There was a tug as he spun through, like a pin through the skin of a bubble. Rolling in the air, flipping onto the floor, he stood hard and hauled his cane up with him. Instantly, he flung his other hand out in front of him, ready to bewitch the occupant to blindness.

Silver moonlight washed the room through open curtains. It caught the shape of something that stood between the Sandman and the half-closed door. A ghost. Its edges hung over the bed, its head trembled and wove, white and pointed like a flint, an iceberg.

The Sandman was transfixed.

As he watched and wondered, the ghost came undone. Its head split, becoming two, trembling again in this new form. Then it faltered, fell and washed away, the white sheet emptying. The twin heads slapped the mattress and flopped out the sides, becoming feet. At the other end, a face appeared.

A young girl rocked up to sitting, her brown hair tousled and her face silver-pink in the moonlight. She pulled the sheet away and turned towards the Sandman. Their eyes locked and he, unbalanced, caught off-guard, could do nothing but stare.

"Who's there?" said the girl, though dawn hung like a threat in the window.

The Sandman raised his hand again, then realised she was already blind.

"Daddy? Is it you?" said the girl.

She wore pyjamas with grey-orange flowers and muted purple fruits. By her hand, a brown bear gazed dolefully, its button nose hanging loose.

The Sandman hesitated, but the girl was twisting her head, seeking him out. She knew he was there. So he summoned his voice from a half-forgotten place and searched his memory for one name in all the names.

"Klaas," he rasped at last. "Klaas Vaak."

She took this without fear or regard. "Are you a friend of Daddy’s?"

Klaas nodded uncertainly, then thought to say, "Perhaps," in a whisper.

He stepped closer and saw magenta scarring across her brow. It was healed, but recently. Her short, soft hair was beginning to cover it. The scars dipped into her eyelids and pulled at their edges, twisting them sideways. Despite this, her eyes were perfect. Irises that were whole and round, and coloured a pale honey. He leaned in, rubbing his finger and thumb together, and contemplated — despite himself — what it would be like to pluck those eyes out whole and roll them between his fingers, rest them in his palms like pebbles, scoop them into a pocket. It was a passing fancy, born of boredom. It was a game he played, not cruelly or with malice. Just something to fill the long dark hours of the long dark night.

Finding himself mirrored in her grey-black pupils, he drew back. If she were able to see him, this girl, she might describe a dark figure, cloak wrapped tight. She might be alarmed by the arrow-straightness of the face that floated above the cloth, the beaked nose and stabbing glare, and the matching hands, all angles, that grasped a black cane (and this almost invisible against the black cloak). She might note — if she were paying attention — the way the moonlight glanced around the shape and never touched it.

She would not, even if she could, even this close, make out the thousand pockets that lined the cloak. Pockets empty and slack and far too numerous for the three small grains that remained. As if a castle had been built to house three mice.

"I’m Hannah," she said, pushing her knuckles into the mattress. "Like my grandmother." She drew her knees up and twisted her fingers around her toes. There were scars on her hands, too, and some of her fingers didn't curl quite right. She stared toward Klaas, though no longer meeting his eye.

"I’m practising handstands."

Klaas frowned. "At this . . . hour?"

Hannah shrugged. "Why not?" she asked. "What else is there to do? Everyone's always asleep."

"Not always. Not everyone." Hardly anyone, hardly ever, by his reckoning. They were always awake, always needy. "You wish to sleep, too?" he offered. The only gift he had.

She shook her head. "Nope," she said, "I don’t need to sleep. But maybe you can hold my ankles?"

Klaas turned this over in his mind, seeing for a moment the girl like a grain of sand, tumbling through the air. He asked, "For the handstands?"

She grinned, nodding.

The Sandman rolled his cane anxiously between his palms. "And then," he said, "you should sleep."

Gracelessly, Hannah shrugged. "I guess."

The deal struck, he rested his cane against the bed. Hannah was reaching out for him, so he held his hands towards her. She found him and folded her fingers around his.

"Ow," she said, "you're freezing."

"I apologise," he said. "Hannah."

She was assured, though, that he was there. So she flopped backward onto the mattress, fitted her palms under her shoulders and rolled, pushing her feet in the air.

"Okay," she puffed, "hold my ankles."

Carefully at first, Klaas gripped the little ankles in front of him. Her bones were thin; he was careful not to snap them.

"Tuck in your chin," he advised. "Unbend your arms."

She tucked in her chin and straightened her arms and he pulled her upward until she hung perfectly still in his grasp.
"I'm doing it!" she puffed.

"Yes," said Klaas.

"I really am!"

He held her ankles and waited. Her elbows trembled until he pulled her higher, allowing just her fingers to touch the mattress.

Finally, in halting tones and with evident regret, she asked to be let down. "Not too quick!" she cried, and he had to seize her ankles again, because he had let go too soon.

Slowly and with infinite care, he lowered her to the mattress.

"Did you see me? I did a real handstand! Did you see?"

"I did," he admitted.

"Even Mum could never make me go that high."


Her face was red, even her ears. She bounced up to standing and seemed almost as though she would hug him, her arms outflung. But instead she swayed dizzily and had to step back to steady herself. Her eyes shone a pale gold.

"You were very good," Klaas said. "And so. Now. Handstands are done. Time to sleep."

Hannah shrugged. "Okay, but I’m not sleepy," she cautioned.

"Ah, but you must be worn out. You need to sleep."

"Nope," she grinned.

"So I do magic," he said. "And make you sleep."

He picked up the brown bear and pressed it to her hands. She took it and obligingly folded herself neatly to the bed with a sigh. Klaas tried inexpertly to drag the rest of the bedding into place. Hannah punched the pillow into shape and placed it under her cheek.

"Are you going to sleep, too?" she asked.

"If," Klaas smiled, "you insist."

"Yes!" she said. "I insist. I'll sleep if you will." Delighted with this logic, she laughed, pulling the sheet to her chin.

"But if I sleep . . ." Klaas began, plucking a blanket from the floor where it lay.

"What?" Hannah asked.

What, indeed? He wasn't even sure himself. "Perhaps . . . others cannot."

"So?" said Hannah. "What then?"

They paused, wondering, each calculating the possibilities of the new world.

Hannah said, "There’d be more time for handstands." She seemed to think on this a while. Then she sat up sharply; so sharply the Sandman, leaning over her, drew back to avoid collision.

She whispered, breathless, "You make people sleep?"

"Some," he replied. "Those who have forgotten how, or have lost their way. I send them through the Cimmerian Gate and into the eternal land, the land of sleep. Lie back down, now, Hannah."

She lay again on the pillow, frowning hard. "Cinnamon?" she asked.

"Cimmerian," Klaas corrected gently. "The black gate, between this world and the next."

"Do you make people sleep forever? The way Mummy's been sleeping? Since the accident, I mean."

"Never. No." The same accident, Klaas guessed, that had scarred her face and taken her sight. He felt a strange need to comfort her, to reach out and perhaps pat her shoulder, smooth her hair. But he was afraid of his cold skin on hers. "Mine return," he said.

As if reeled in on a fishing line, they would come back. Sleep was just a glimpse.

He withdrew one gain of sand from his pocket and balanced it on his fingernail, where it rocked pale and round. Tipping forward, he drew a breath and blew the sand into her unblinking eyes.

"So, what magic do you do?" Hannah asked. But she was already yawning, turning her face toward the pillow. One hand twitched by her cheek, and she was still. The bear, clasped to her shoulder, continued to stare.

The light in the room was not so icy now; dawn had sent pink threads through the sky. Time had passed, and for a while Klaas had forgotten to feel it. Alone again, he picked up his cane and moved to the door. Perhaps there was more work he could do here before he left. Another piece of sand might be spent.

It was dark in the corridor, darker still in the next room. He found a bedroom with the bed unmade, found, also, grief in the crumpled sheets and loneliness in an upturned alarm clock. In this room, he understood, time had too much meaning. The intended occupant had fled elsewhere.

Downstairs in the loungeroom it was warm; too warm, almost stifling. Curtains were drawn tight. Tawny light trickled from a lamp and fell on an old cracked leather armchair, its stuffing spilling out. The chair held a man in much the same condition. His paunch protruded above unzipped trousers, his socks were greasy and so was his hair. His head rested uncomfortably, emphasising yellow folds in the skin of his neck. A pair of spectacles balanced on his nose though his eyes were closed.

Already asleep, then.

The Sandman stepped closer, just to see. To admire the way the lamp caught the planes of the man's face and sank the rest into charcoal shadow. There was little of Hannah in this figure, but when he looked for it, he thought perhaps he could see something in the height of the brow and the cast of the nose.

He reached delicately for the man's spectacles and propped them on the side table, far enough from the edge they wouldn't be overbalanced by an errant elbow. Then he hunkered down and leaned in, examining the small black spots of new beard and the chalky flakes of skin, the oily shine of the man's eyelids as they trembled and —

The Sandman froze. Or rather, he was frozen. Not by the man, or some strange presentiment of fear. Rather, it was a thing, a —

— white plume of smoke, rising like a serpent from behind the lounge.

It reached out and grasped his wrist, and he saw a hand as white as powder, its fingers slim with long red nails. Then the rest of her pushed forward, forcing his gaze up to meet hers. She had bone-white hair and a death-white face, and her red lips were fixed in a sensuous smile. Her eyes were no colour at all, but deep and dark. She kept leaning, compelling the Sandman’s stare into her marble cleavage.

"You enjoy his eyes?" she whispered.

She had a way of spotting truth.

Like the Sandman, she was old, had many names. He called her Lilit, if he had to call her anything. She was the fallen, the succubus, and the somnambulist already belonged to her.

"See? He dreams." She looked slyly from under her long lashes. "Do you remember what it's like?"

Her gaze worked the Sandman and he knew what she saw. The empty pockets, the prickle of his desperation.

She said, "It must be time for your dreams, too, time to dream and turn your dreams to sand, to feed the dreams of others." Then she laughed, for all the world like this amused her, the image of him sleeping.

He stepped back as if struck and snapped his wrist from her grasp. But he was still trapped. She had no power over him, or shouldn't have, but her words, like a charm, weighted his fatigue even further. It was always like this with the succubus. Her gaze, her ruby mouth, her eyes that held only darkness, her strange, sinister knowledge — he was always confounded.

"Oh," she whispered, pouting. She pinned him with her eyes, and pulled her lips together in a red stain. "You put off dreaming. As though waiting will make it easier. The keeper of sleep, kept away  . . ."

Still the Sandman was silent, while between them Hannah's father grunted and seemed almost to snigger. Under the ministrations of the succubus, he would wake more exhausted than when he first dozed. This, though, was not the Sandman's fight. Yet for an instant — the time, perhaps, between heartbeats — he felt a stab of familial care.

Lilit had grown bored. She wrapped herself around her victim and bent to his face, angling her chin so the Sandman could watch her soft, possessive kiss. She expected him to back away, he knew, and he expected the same. But compulsively he stepped forward. Unable to get a hold on smoke, he gripped instead the loungechair and shoved it so hard it skidded across the floor.

Lilit collapsed around an armful of empty air. She howled, mouth square in rage. The Sandman blocked her with his back and focussed on the sleeper. He withdrew the last two grains of sand. He had need of only one, but there was no time to count. He blew both into the sleeping man's face. The dreamer sagged deeply and was still.

"Why?" Lilit screamed.

The Sandman had no answer. He smiled thinly to cover his own surprise. With the release of the sand, sleep hollowed him out. Lilit was still howling when he leapt. He threw himself at the window and through, into dawn.

The unexpected light brought tears to his eyes. The world was not, as he had supposed, more beautiful when it was coloured in. He missed the depth and subtlety of darkness, the coolness of its mattes. He rushed to catch up with the meniscus of retreating night.

It was time to make the trade: his sleep for the sleep of others. Time to remind himself what lay in that exchange. Time to re-acquaint himself with a kind of eternity different from the one in this waking night.

He lay back in a warm current of air, feeling snug. Rolling once, he nestled his face in the crook of an elbow. And slept.


The Cimmerian Gate approaches each dreamer differently. For the Sandman, it was a wave. It rushed over him and pulled him down. It shut with an iron maw.

He stumbled, and by stumbling, realised he was walking. His eyes were open, but he only knew this by reaching a hand to his face. It was dark, yes, but perfectly dark — not like the grainy soot he was used to.

For a moment he thought it unfair. Must he dream in darkness, too, as well as live in it? But if this was darkness, he had to admit he had never known darkness at all. This was a heavy, chocolate black, an ebony fire, a raven flood.

It occurred to him then that he did not walk alone.

"Do you take me to the Plains of Judgement?" the Sandman asked. He should have asked,
Are you Charon, the Ferryman, come to take me to Eternity? But somehow he already knew that answer.

"Were you to be judged," came a voice, though not from his companion, "you would not be found wanting."


The Sandman was not so sure.

They hung in space, but space was a solid darkness. Klaas feared they may have to dig their way out. He imagined his feet slicing the inky dark with each step.

He searched his pockets for a coin to give the Ferryman, but they were empty. Or not quite empty, since they were filled with water. He was in a river, the water up to his neck. He sensed another river to his right, and more rivers beyond that.

One-two, one-two  . . .

He counted seven the first time, eight each time after that. Nine rivers in total, nine rivers that were all one. He called the river Styx, though it could be anything. It wrapped the land like a serpent enfolding its prey.

What glimpses of eternity others found here, he could not say. What they discovered beyond the gate, and brought back with them, was not his concern. He only knew that in his Eternity, death was real. He was drowning in it.

A fire burst beside him, so bright it threatened to burn out his eyes. Charon had thrown back the cloak he wore. He stood bare against the dark, but hardly naked. There was little skin to be seen between the silver coins that lined his body like eyes. They gleamed in the shadows, small diamonds of amber flesh winking between. His eyes were mere imprints of other coins, and when he smiled he revealed teeth of curled silver.

He opened his mouth as wide as Hades itself. Then he showed Klaas his silver tongue.

Klaas pitched backwards. In the afterglow of the light, black waters turned red. They rushed away, heavy as quicksand. They gathered him up and pushed him down, toward the gate.

No! he thought. Too soon!

Too soon, but there was no stopping it. He heard —


"Wake," a voice by his ear.


The Sandman turned away. In his mind, still foggy with sleep, he was a white fish, swimming up waterfalls to the ocean. He spun in waves as warm as summer, as bright as day.

"Wake!" the voice commanded, and he had to obey.

He opened his eyes and saw —

 — lips as red as blood, skin as white as sheets.

Lilit lay over him, her face against his. They moved through the air, across rooftops and along suburban streets. Dimly he was aware of this, but his focus was on her.

"Sweet dreams?" she smiled, leaning in for a taste.

They turned lazily in the air, the fish and the net.

"Not all," the Sandman muttered, "not so sweet."

"Ah!" said Lilit, surprised, perhaps, by his voice. Then, "Yours."

When he frowned, still caught in the currents of sleep, she added, "The people, the human
kind. Too many for us. They're yours again, now."

Surely they had never been.

He reached up with a hand as thin as paper to press his nose between thumb and finger. He sighed. He wasn’t ready to face it all again. He pulled from her grasp and hurtled backwards toward the street. The tips of his coat brushed the ground and he rushed up again, toward the sable sky. He somersaulted onto a rooftop and stopped.

The dreams fell from him like water droplets and he was awake. He was alert and alive; his senses jangled. His coat groaned at the seams, fat with sand: his dreams made into dust. He was strong. He could carry this burden for another eternity if he had to. And all around him it was night.

Night, always night.

But hardly dark.

"It's been . . . ?" he began.

Lilit, swimming by, arched her back and stretched. "Yes." She washed up against the thick oil spill of his cloak. "Months. Months and months."

The Sandman nodded at her impossible answer. What had time ever been to either of them? Something, entirely, to be endured.

This, though, this was different to any night he had seen. Beneath and all around him was light. Streetlights, house lights, lights strung up in trees and along gutters. Lights poured from windows and fell in crisscrosses against the ground. He could see this in street after street: night diluted utterly with light.

People sat or slouched on lawns, too tired to speak, too ruined to be alone. Those that walked did so as though the air itself was heavy. Radios and televisions chattered noisily with messages of reassurance, lullabies, gentle good-nights. He could see this, from where he stood, in street after street after street.

Just beneath him a group of young people flipped cards at an upturned hat. Further away, another group sipped from cups and murmured about days left behind. They watched each other with a shifty camaraderie. Jealously, they waited for sleep.

The Sandman, used to the solitude of his lonely visits at night, had never seen this many people at once.

Lilit gestured to him. She floated above a street and pointed down, spinning slowly around her outflung arm. In the intersection beneath her was a metal snarl: two cars crushed together as if gorging on each other. People had begun to close in, coming nearer, glad for the distraction. They walked with sloping shoulders and crossed arms.

The Sandman scanned them all, looking for a face in all the faces. He caught Lilit looking at him, and tried to hold her stare, tried to shelter himself from her sharp possession. Tried not to let her see his —

"Reality," she said.

He was too late.

"It is too much for some to bear," she smiled, "for long."

The Sandman turned from her. He stepped lightly from the roof and dropped to the street. He joined the fringes of the human group, though their sheer number unnerved him and the itch of their need threatened to tear him apart.

This close, he could taste the anxiety and sickness. He sensed aches and pains that would not heal. He saw the sharp red eyes and throats that clenched painfully on each breath, the skin that was splotched and swollen with everyday maladies.

He smelled alcohol and other drugs. And something else. Something that mixed fear with remorse. It was sorrow, plain as day. Sorrow for a glimpse of eternity beyond the gate — something to balance their waking mortality.

In the middle of the crowd, the two drivers who had collided were climbing from their cars.

"Did you fall asleep at the wheel?" someone called.

The crowd leant in hungrily. "Did you?" they echoed. "Did you, really?"

"No," said one driver, a woman. She was pale skinned, red haired, watery eyed. She raised her head. "I’m just . . ." She drew in a breath. "I can’t concentrate, I can't think."

The crowd swayed back and released a collective sigh.
So tired. That's what she was saying. So, so tired. They all understood.

The Sandman's palms tingled. Without thinking, he reached into a pocket and fingered the white sand there. In this press of people, he was afraid to release it.

Then suddenly, all the lights went out. The Sandman thought for a moment that the gate had claimed him again. Or perhaps it had overwhelmed this world, spreading like a spill of ink. He almost expected to see Charon blazing against the sky.

"The power's out again," someone said.

They were already pulling torches from their pockets, the weak lights fluttering against the wide dark. The Sandman understood it was not the power that had failed, but the human race. Sleeplessness was dragging them from their posts.

One woman grasped the Sandman's elbow, sensing something in the restfulness of the dark figure beside her.

"I see things," she said. Her slack face was the colour of old flour, and her eyes were blue-bruised and bursting. "Strange things. I see . . ." she trailed off. "Please."

The Sandman knew what she was asking, but not how she knew to ask it. Here, on this road, in this press of people, he was afraid to give what she craved. The cloak hung heavy as guilt on his neck.

Others turned to fix him with reddened eyes. Too late, he backed away. As he did so, something caught his eye. A girl with a honeyed stare.


So it had reversed. Rather than an endless night where all places were one, he found himself in a new night, in the same place. The very place where he'd begun.

Hannah's face was drawn, like the others, and there were dark circles under her eyes. The scarring on her face had faded to pale pink lines. Many months, then, since her accident. Many months since he'd seen her, though surely it was just a moment. Behind her stood her father, his hand on her brown hair. Recognition flickered, too, in his gaze, but unsure, he turned away, back to the accident.

In the gloom of torchlight, the Sandman stepped toward them. Though he said not a word, Hannah nodded recognition. She reached out and he took her hand.

"Hello again, Hannah."

"Hello, Klaas. You've come back."

Yes, he had. Of course he had, as if he'd always meant to.

"No handstands tonight, Hannah?"

She smiled. "Not tonight."

"You must be very good at them by now."

"Yes," she laughed softly. "I'm a bit bored now."

"Are you?" the Sandman smiled. He stood with her, just for a while, letting time pass. At last he said, "So, to sleep?"

She nodded. "Sleep."

The Sandman rested his cane by his side and slipped his hand into a pocket by his hip. He pushed some silver grains into the whorls of his fingertips. Wordlessly, he pressed these to Hannah's pale eyes and caught her as she fell.

Her father, feeling her slip from his grasp, turned then, and held his arms out instinctively. Slowly, taking his time, Klaas placed the girl in her father's embrace. She lay bonelessly against his chest.

"Look," someone whispered. "She’s sleeping!"

The knot of people tightened around Hannah. One by one they looked to where the Sandman stood between them. Then they reached for him.

"No!" He couldn't stop them all.

Hands clawed his cloak and tore the pockets there. Fingers dipped into white sand. Someone raised a pinch of dust to the torchlight, brought the sparkling sand to his mouth and licked at it like salt. As though his spine had turned to water, he dropped to the ground.

In one voice, the crowd roared.

The Sandman's cloak tore; its black cloth turned grey with spilled sand. People dragged at him, eyes hungry through the blur of dust they raised. Panicked, he pushed at them and tried to turn.

"Stop him!" someone shouted.

A fist was aimed at the Sandman’s face. As it swung groggily towards him, he leapt. He shot straight into the air, dragging the most tenacious attackers with him. He rose higher and higher until they fell. Out of their reach, he began to spin, slowly at first. He spun and spun and the sand formed a silver spray around him.

On the street, their mouths open in thirst, people fell. They collapsed against each other like the ground had given way, their eyes closed, hands curled. The Sandman rose higher still, sending a tide of sand into lawns and windows. Everywhere, people slumped, pulled to the ground, and slept where they lay.

He kept spinning, until the night was a purple blur, until handfuls of sand reached all corners of the impatient sky, until not one voice was raised above a sleepy murmur, until all breath was smoothed to sleep.

Finally, when there was not a person awake, he slowed and stopped. Pride made him drunk. He looked for Lilit, but she was nowhere to be seen. This victory, then, was entirely his.

Good, he thought.

Good. The night, at last, belonged to him.

He pulled his cloak around him and wiped at the slick of dust on his shoulders. For once, the night was not long enough — the dark not deep enough — to hold everything he had to give.

There were dreams enough to keep and dreams to give. Enough dreams, more than enough, too much, for all.


'Cinnamon Gate' first appeared in
Orb Speculative Fiction Magazine #6 (editor: Sarah Endacott) 2004.

Deborah Biancotti published her
first story in 2000, winning the
Aurealis Award for Best Horror
and subsequently winning a Ditmar for Best New Talent. She has also received a Ditmar for Best Short Story and has earned four Honourable Mentions in
Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's
Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
over the past three years.
Her stories have appeared in Borderlands, Orb, Redsine and Altair,
as well as anthologies such as Ideomancer Unbound,
Southern Blood,
and assorted Agog! volumes.
Asked about some, uh, personal details, Biancotti offered a tasting so small that she might secretly run a 5-star restaurant. As for dessert, huh!
"I live in Sydney with a cat. My favourite food is dessert.
I am in a battle with the universe, that promises too much
& delivers not enough!"
You can find Deborah Biancotti online at

The virtuous medlar circle

is part of
Anna Tambour and Others

"Cinnamon Gate" copyright © 2004-2005 by Deborah Biancotti, first appeared in Orb Speculative Fiction Magazine #6, 2004, Victoria, Australia.
This short story appears here with thanks to Deborah Biancotti,  whose payment was less than a brass razoo.
This story is part of a series of invited pieces by people I find deliciously inspiring, always a hoot, and who write like a bletted medlar tastes. A.T.
The Virtuous Medlar Circle © 2005