Anna Tambour presents 


The virtuous medlar circle
thoroughly bletted

by Jason Erik Lundberg


The Singer stands alone in the Great Hall, shivering.
Her bare feet stick to the cool marble floor, which sends chills throughout her body. She wears a thin sleeveless shirt that is nearly translucent, and a simple green skirt that stops just above her knees. The only other article on her body is the small gold bracelet that he gave her; the charlatan, the liar. She hates him yet cannot part with his gift.

The room soon fills with men in sharp tuxedos and women in the latest finery and hairstyles. They wander into the hall, ignoring the Singer, taking their places at the cushioned seats to the far end. The air is pervaded with aimless chatter, crisp footsteps, and squeaking chair legs. As the last person sits, the Host and Hostess of the Evening enter behind the Singer. They saunter past her, flaunting their wealth in her face, making it absolutely known that they are in charge, that she is nothing. The Host smirks at the Singer and she inhales sharply, her hand involuntarily flitting to her bracelet.

The Host and Hostess take their seats in the front row, and the Master of Ceremonies steps out from behind a velvet curtain. He holds a small silver tray in his hand like a waiter; an exquisitely fashioned dagger is balanced precariously on the tray’s surface. He steps curtly over to the Singer, his boot heels like rifle shots against the polished floor. His face is grave, and he nods slightly to her, an acknowledgment of respect. He turns to the audience and gives his speech, which they have all heard before. When he finishes, he turns back to the Singer. She nods and begins to disrobe; it doesn’t take long. Once she is naked, trembling hard enough to shake her bones, the emcee places the silver tray in her hands. The Singer closes her eyes when the emcee plucks the dagger from the tray, and her breath catches in her throat as he makes the incision.

The Hostess of the Evening gasps loudly, says she’s viewed the viddies, but never seen this in the flesh; it all seems so unnecessary. The Singer then hears the Host softly explain that this is all part of the experience, that when the performance is over, the body will knit itself back together and will appear untouched, nary a scratch to be seen. He further elucidates that the Singer feels no pain, but he is wrong. It hurts every single time. The physical rending may disappear, but it hurts all the same.

The Singer winces slightly as she feels the emcee’s delicate fingers tug gently at her heart. There is only slight resistance, then the heart comes free. This Master of Ceremonies has excellent technique. She has had emcees so harsh in their handling of her most vital organ that it would take days to recover after a performance. But she feels secure and even comfortable in the hands of this particular Master. She opens her eyes as he places her heart on the silver tray in her hands. It beats regularly and strongly, its telescopic ventricles and aortae still attached, disappearing into the small slit to the side of her left breast.

The Master of Ceremonies bows deeply, then steps to the side. The Singer treads forward confidently, displaying her heart for all to see. Several audience members put a hand to their eyes, some turn away, some gawk with mouths agape. The Singer looks unflinchingly at the Host of the Evening, her heartbeat the only audible sound in the Great Hall. The Host just stares at the Singer, his expression revealing his shock and understanding. He never attended one of her performances, no matter how she urged him when they were still together. He seems to be projecting his thoughts straight to her: I had no idea what you go through.

 He lied to her then left her for another. He claimed love in the beginning, a white-hot flame that burned out too quickly for either of them. He stole every cent she owned while she was out performing, then fled without a word. And yet, all the Singer feels for her former lover is pity. He will never change; love seems to be beyond his grasp. The Singer then looks to the Hostess and realizes that if she cannot turn back the clock and save herself, she can still save another.

The Singer takes a deep breath, her lungs expanding with the extra room, then does what she does best.


"Songstress" was first published in Electric Velocipede, Fall 2003, and received an Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: 17th edition edited by Ellen Datlow. Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant.

Jason Erik Lundberg's work has
appeared in over twenty venues, including The Third Alternative, Strange Horizons, Fantastic Metropolis, The Green Man Review, and Electric Velocipede. His short fiction has been nominated for the Fountain Award.
With his wife, artist-writer Janet Chui, he runs Two Cranes Press, a critically-acclaimed small press out of North Carolina. Lundberg is a graduate of the Clarion Writers' Workshop and NCSU's Creative Writing program, and currently teaches English at Saint Augustine's College.
Jason Erik Lundberg's website/journal
jelundberg (at)

The virtuous medlar circle

is part of
Anna Tambour and Others

"Songstress" copyright © 2003-2005 by Jason Erik Lundberg first appeared in Electric Velocipede, Fall 2003.
This short story appears here with thanks to Jason Erik Lundberg,  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 © 2004, 2005