Ann Wuehler has written five novels: Aftermath: Boise, Idaho, Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane, House on Clark Boulevard, Oregon Gothic and The Adventures of Grumpy Odin and Sexy Jesus.

Her story “Elbow and Bean” appears in the current Whistle Pig Literary Magazine. Her “Blood and Bread” appears in Hellbound Book’s Toilet Zone 3, the Royal Flush. Her “Sefi and Des” is in Brigid Gate’s Musings of the Muses. Her “Lilith’s Arm” shows up in the Bag of Bones 2022 Annus Horribilis anthology. “The Cherry of Her Lips” will appear in Black Hare’s War anthology.

Ann has been published before in The Horror Zine; her “Circle Salt” is included in the Summer 2022 print edition of the ezine.

She has been published in eight other anthologies and ezines, and is still writing and submitting her works, so soon she will be adding even more to her list of publications.


by Ann Wuehler


My Aunt Quillette looked me right in the eyes. “You go get Grenadine. Bring him to me.”

My cousin Fee clutched at my arm. I shook my ten-year-old carrot-top of a head.

My aunt raised herself up, her milk face splotched with two apple sides for cheeks. Her lungs had turned rotten as winter ice. “Don’t you sass me. Go get him. Turn that picture of your mother toward me a bit more. Fee! You go make sure your uncle Yar went out to the stables like he said. Go on now. Do what your mama tells you.”

Fee cast me a strange despairing glance, before stomping off toward the stables and away from whatever Quillette wished to say to me and my mother’s old wooden doll. It might be bad luck to disobey a dying woman, it might upset Baby Jesus. I turned the picture, framed in heavy silver, toward her, before I went to my room to fetch Grenadine, the four-foot doll carved from some strange pale wood my mother had been told came from the Dolamites in Italy.

He seemed heavier in my arms. His dark red head lolled on my arm in a rather unsettling way, as if he had a secret to tell me that would be ugly and hurt my heart.

He had real diamond dust in the three small buttons that kept his black silk jacket closed. Wooden spikes held his arms and legs to his body. His limbs were four pieces, with the elbows and knees carved in a clever way, circle within a circle. You could sit the doll on a chair for tea parties, as my mother must have done. Mother had also been told her doll had the teeth of a monkey fixed into the smiling red mouth. Bright blue eyes, glass balls, screwed into the wood. Someone had blown the glass eyes, fixed tiny screws into each eye, before fixing them into the sockets.

Aunt Quillette flapped her hand at me, pointed at the bedside chair, coughing so hard she spilled blood into her stained handkerchief. I arranged Grenadine, unwilling to touch him more than I had to.

When my aunt coughed and coughed into yet another stained handkerchief, the doll turned his head toward me, gazing at me with confusion that I had moved him. Why did he sit near a dying woman? Was I done that day with trying to roast him over a pile of pine cones? Was I done that day trying to bury him behind the stables?

“Damn it,” my aunt muttered, taking a long sip of water. “You’ve been told you’re alone now except for your uncle.”

She took a deep breath, as deep as she could, her breath rattling a bit. “That’s not true. You got Fee and you got Grenadine here.” Her claw of a hand gripped that doll’s arm, drew it nearer her face, her blazing eyes on me. “Your mother got this doll on her wedding day. By next morning, your father was dead. They said she killed him. She didn’t.”

Grenadine turned his head very slightly toward my aunt, those monkey teeth gleaming. I saw it.

“Grenadine did it,” I repeated the family lore.

“No, child. I did.”

I sat upright in shock.

My aunt sighed. “It’s why I have to pay this penance. I was crazy in love with your father, Jane. I wanted him for my own. I stuck a knife clear through him, snuck in before dawn. They slept beneath the sheets I’d help hem, wash, dry and iron! Your mother slept beside a dead man for near an hour.”

I drew back from my aunt. “How can you say such things?”

Grenadine watched me now, the sorrow in his eyes something like blasphemy.

My aunt almost whispered, “You better hush now and listen.”

There was silence for a minute, then my aunt continued, “That doll rose up—he kept me from killing my sister. He told me to put that knife into the man I loved, make him mine forever. Except then the man I loved went away, and I’ve never found him since. Grenadine kept my secrets—you must do the same. That old doll loves you, same as he loves me, same as he loved your mother.”

I could not listen to this foolishness! I didn’t want to hear the adult confession about those I had never met.

My mother had died birthing me. Before that, my father had died, indeed, on his wedding night. Nobody had ever figured out how the knife got in him or why my mother never heard a thing or felt the blood pooling under her.

I went to live with my Uncle Yarborough and his disgraced sister, my Aunt Quillette, who had a strange child out of wedlock she had named Fiona. Everyone just called her Fee. Fiona seemed too grand and ripe a name for such a spell-taking child. Doctor Arlow declared she had epilepsy. Fee never had fits; just phases where she went very still, her breath barely felt, her eyes turned inward. She went away, as her mother said.

“Enough now, Aunt Quilly. Take your medicine.”

“You protect her,” Quillette told the doll, looking right into the glass eyes. “You love her.”

A slight nod from Grenadine. I witnessed it.

I stood in my dying aunt’s doorway, the bottles and unguents at the ready, the curtains drawn, the room kept very warm. Grenadine slipped to the floor, a clatter of wood against polished wooden slats.

“I don’t need love or protection,” I told the both of them, before fleeing. I ran in the grounds of my uncle’s estate, in the cold north; with the snow-capped mountains reminding us it was always hard times somewhere.

Fee came out of the stables in her plain gray dress, her pale hair yanked back and secured with a bit of red ribbon. Agatha must have fixed that hair in between cooking cauldrons of oatmeal and basting the big roast with its own juices.

She stared behind me.

The doll had followed me, somehow knowing the servants were down below in the kitchen and knowing no one was about the grounds. The diamond buttons caught the weak winter sun, sparking with a vicious cheer.

“I warned you,” I told the doll, who cocked that dark red head, each hair glued in place one by one. A tiny dollop of glue, a single hair placed.

Grenadine did not fight as I grabbed his wooden arm. I jogged us both into the heavy trees that had not yet been logged. Uncle Yar hunted here yet. Before it all falls apart, I’ll stalk the local deer, the quail, he said over his glass of whiskey some evenings, tense over money.

Fee trailed after me, anxious and thin from being continuously reminded she was a child of sin and should be grateful she had a roof over her head.

I tore that doll apart and he let me.

I wrenched the arms and legs off. I pried the eyes out, broke the glass balls. I smashed each one with a rock in my fist. I tore the silk jacket and threw the trousers into the small stream nearby. I splintered the jointed arms and legs, tossed them in every direction, laughing.

Fee stood back, unsure why I had such a need for carnage and such a rage at everything all the time. But I would not suffer this doll of my mother’s to watch over me like some ridiculous knight of old. I had no such notions in my ten-year-old head. I looked after myself. I looked after Fee.

Free! I was now so free.

Suddenly a voice over my shoulder made me jump. “What are you two doing way out here?” My uncle peered at both of us; at the doll so savagely treated. “What game is this, Jane? Fee, your mother calls for you.”

“He floated away to find Jane’s mama,” Fee said, remaining where she was. “He’s in the earth now. Like a seed, like a wonderful, terrible seed.” Her eyes had turned inward, she stood very still; she had gone away.

Uncle Yar snorted.  He ignored Fee’s spells, as no elixir seemed to end them when she was forced to gulp down spoonfuls from doctors or charlatans alike.

“Wasn’t that your mother’s old doll, Jane? Explain yourself.”

His black eyes searched the trees a bit before returning to me. “Jane. I asked you a question.” His hand gripped my shoulder and fear twisted my throat. I could not charm or fool this man; he had no use or time for me or Fee.

I had no answer at all, my mind blank as I stared up at the man who had beat me over spitting at his horse, Bessie. I had just wished to see what a horse would do when spat at. It had been an experiment.

I sassed him. “I have far too much to deal with.”

His hand shot out, he boxed my ear so that it went numb for a bit, then stung like a fury. Fee fell back out of his reach, her eyes huge as I glared up at my uncle, my hand to my right ear, my throat as wide and smooth as the paths of heaven itself.

“You tall pig,” I said, and kicked him.

But he did not notice that kick. His black eyes grew wide with something like wonder; with something beyond fear.

Fee tried to drag us both away, her hands barely felt tugging at our clothes. She seemed more a bird than a child, with no more strength than a new-born chick.

A boy stood there, taller than me a bit, with bright blue eyes beneath a tangled matt of dark red hair. A tattered silk jacket hung open over his bare sinewy chest, the trousers dripping with stream water. A smiling red mouth full of strange teeth, a face sculpted by masters of marble and stone. A terrible, wonderful beauty to that face.

From his hand hung a tree branch that grew and changed and twisted until it resembled a wooden sword, a wooden sword with a gleaming lethal edge.

“Jane,” this boy said, and his name was Grenadine. I knew this, as well as I knew my own fingers. A low striking voice, full of owls and starlight. “Jane?”

“Stay away from us, Grenadine.” Fee whispered, tugging at her uncle and cousin, unable to pull them toward any sort of safety.

“Go away,” I told this boy, this strange shadow boy, who had formed out of that doll’s thrown-away parts. Except I did not wish this boy to go.

My uncle clutched at me, at Fee, and dragged us toward the house. I beat at the powerful hand dragging me so but Fee accepted her fate as she had been so harshly taught. The wooden sword whistled as it cut the air, as it slid into me, into my heart.

I gasped, Fee holding me in her thin arms, my uncle shouting for help, my uncle chasing the one who had killed me. Everything faded for a bit, the pain swift and awful until it stopped.


I lay in the dark.

“Jane,” I heard. I heard it from above me.

I clawed and dug my way through hard-packed dirt, my hands exhausted and bruised, my fingernails torn back but I discovered the moonlight and heavens and that boy sitting on the earth nearby.

“Now nothing can hurt you.”

Grenadine said this with a smile; he said this as he rose, as he lifted me to my feet. He stripped my blue dress from me, wove me a long shirt from grasses and bark.

“You killed me,” I said, admiring my new shirtwaist, which fell nearly to my knees. I did not feel the cold or a heart thumping in my throat when my fingers pressed there. I was not ten, but closer to twenty. I saw my own reflection in a puddle nearby, my face my mother’s face, but everyone told me I resembled her strongly.

“I know what love is. You stab it. Quilly stabbed, I stabbed. Love.” Grenadine peered at himself over my shoulder in that puddle. “Shall we go?”


“To get Fee. You love her.”

I stood, turned to Grenadine. “Is she dead?”

He smiled even wider, took my hand, tugged me toward the fence of the graveyard. He led me beyond it to a small house tucked away at the end of twisting, poorly maintained Wisteria Street. There I saw my uncle, much aged and feeble, sitting by a small fire as Fee, now grown into a thin but lovely woman, rocked a child in her arms.

“I wish Jane were here,” Fee said, looking right at me as I pressed against her frosted window. “Don’t worry, Uncle. James has gone for the doctor.”

“I didn’t kill that poor girl,” Uncle Yar said, as if he had said this many times.

Fee placed the child in the cradle, before she stood looking at me through that glass, her hand flattening against the pane. My hand matched hers. Grenadine stood behind me, his face crinkling and forming lines across his broad forehead.

“I didn’t mean to back her into that branch. She feared no one but me, Fee.”

“I don’t think Jane ever feared anyone, Uncle. Rest. The doctor will be here in a bit. Jane is probably happy haunting that old lot of trees. Where we used to live. Perhaps she will run into my mother. Perhaps all the ghosts are out tonight for a frolic.” She smiled at me, her smile like a blow against whatever was left of me.

What fiction had my uncle told rather than admit a doll had killed me with a sword formed from a tree branch? How silly Uncle was!

Grenadine pushed me aside, that same wooden sword in his hand. I took it away from him. I stepped out into the endless night, into the endless day that would follow, before the night returned yet again.

“Grenadine,” I smiled, I enticed him to turn away from killing to protect me or whatever he thought he had to do here. “Let’s go find my mother. And Aunt Quilly. And the rest.”

His face filled with light, with hope, he laughed the best laugh I had ever heard. I kissed my hand, blew that kiss to Fee. She nodded as I led Grenadine away.

I led him and led him. We explored the night; we found my mother trapped in a bottle with a bent pin. Together we looked for Quillette and my father, for names on the family gravestones. I became so careful not to mention Fee or give the creature that had formed from the torn apart doll any reason to stab her with his sword made from a branch.

When I could, I snuck away to refresh myself with small sips of my cousin. But one night, Grenadine followed me.

I grabbed the sword he had formed, pierced his living flesh. He crumpled to the snow outside Fee’s window, his blood bright red before he formed back into that doll he had once been.

If a ghost can weep, I did, out of a strange grief that I had killed the only thing that had loved me the long, long years after my death. Loved me faithfully and true.

Fee sat by her fire, as desiccated and wrinkle-faced as a dried apple. She let me sit beside her fire, though I felt no heat and the flames did not singe my fingers when I reached toward them to torture myself for Grenadine.

My lips kissed her cheek.


The spirit of Grenadine beckoned to me from the night, the falling snow not gathering on his shoulders now or ever again. Aunt Quillette stood just behind him, my mother and what had to be my father. Uncle Yar was with them, and seemed ashamed to be in such company, yet he kept grinning now and then, as if glad to be welcomed by his own in such a fashion.

“I’ll be along soon,” Fee said. “Such a beautiful snowy night. Go and enjoy it.”

We ghosts ran through the snowflakes. When the morning appeared, when the sky cleared, we faded into mist and shadows. We became the diamond sparkle on a doll’s fancy button, we became the diamond sparkle on icicles formed on Fee’s little house. And when she came to find us, Grenadine sat in an old cherry tree. He shook the white and pink petals over her in welcome.

I took her hand but she pulled free, after kissing my cheek, after smiling at me. Fee faded and faded and I could not find her anymore. She had gone somewhere I could not yet follow.

“Let’s find her,” Grenadine said, showering me with cherry blossoms.

I shook my head. The rest of my kin sighed, their sighs causing more petals to drift to the earth.

I walked toward the lost places full of wanderers and the forgotten. The rest followed me as I let Fee go, as I let go of finding peace or rest or an end to my own wandering. I wished her peace as Grenadine took my hand, as he laughed at whatever our next night would bring us all.