Steve Toase lives in North Yorkshire, England and occasionally Munich, Germany. In Steve's work trees hitch-hike and bears play chess in sunlit plazas. His story "Call Out" was reprinted in the Best Horror of the Year Anthology 6. To read more of Steve's work please visit www.stevetoase.co.uk, www.facebook.com/stevetoase1, or on Twitter: @stevetoase
Fold and Masks
Making the last fold, Simon watched the origami raptor traipse across the table, tumbling against the already made paper cranes. Two dragons lay scorched after setting fire to themselves. Tired, he left the dinosaur to familiarize itself with its brethren, turned out the light and crawled into bed. Sleep came quickly.
The paper was from stock found at the back of an old stationers fallen on hard times. Pressed from pulped robe rags the reams were ignored by everyone else in the auction, but Simon tasted stale magic rising like mildew from the paper.
Back home, he made simple things first. A couple of cat heads that floated above the table, unseen bodies padding across the varnish.
Not everything ended up finished. Some went south halfway through. Paper tearing or creases in the wrong place. Simon didn't let it get him down. He just crumpled up the failed attempt, dropped the wasted paper in the bin and started again.
Over time his folding became better. Sharper. Soon he shaped herons and foxes. Jumping frogs and giraffes.
But when he abandoned a model the failed fold became the last fold. In the bin deformed creatures fed on the ancient words hidden in their paper, finding a type of life within themselves.
Crawling out under the lid they skittered toward their sleeping creator.
A hundred foliate faces stared down from the walls as Helen sat in Urscumug cafe watching the man disturb paths of passers-by walking upon the pavement.
She couldn't hear what he was saying. She didn't need to. Sometimes expressions shouted louder than words. Angry faces wore hatred like a carving.
Reaching behind her for a plate she opened the fridge and took out that morning's baking. With a bronze knife she cut the oatcake into mouth sized pieces. Agrimony and black snakeroot stained the blade.
Shutting the front door, Helen held the samples in front of her.
"Free taster," she said. The man made some comment she took no notice of and snatched more than one piece of cake from her plate. Helen watched him chew and swallow.
Leaf buds appeared from the corners of his mouth, but she knew from previous times the growth started deep in his torso. A twist of branches finding a way out through narrowed throat muscles.
Leaves unfurled between skin and bone, staining his face green, leaking chlorophyll into the whites of his eyes.
He stumbled as roots locked his limbs into position. Helen reached out, gently laying a hand upon his arm.
"Come into the cafe. We'll soon get you sorted," she said, trying to remember if her wood saw needed sharpening.