Matt Dovey

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Clouds in a Clear Blue Sky

Content Warning: childhood grief for a parent

It were a clear blue day, what with the factory shut for the funeral and wake.

Colin was slumped in the pub garden's swing, his straw hair sticking out every which way despite his mam's best efforts with the Brylcreem. Me and Trev were stood by quiet, our hands lost in the oversized pockets of our borrowed suits. Trev's cheeks had gone red and purple in the heat, his top button still done up and straining against his neck.

Mark came back out the pub with a plate of sausage rolls that he offered round.

"What's it like in there?" I asked.

"Grim," said Mark. "Your Uncle Gareth's lost his jacket, and then he says it doesn't matter compared to losing Colin's dad, and then he starts crying again. Seen it happen three times while I were at the buffet."

"Yeah, well," I said. "Best mates, weren't they?"

Read the rest at PodCastle #667 →
(exclusive until 26th June 2021)

Fantasy; 5989 words; first published 23rd February 2021 at PodCastle #667 →; podcasted 23rd February 2021 at PodCastle →


An Infection of Priests in the Body of God

Content Warning: Death, grief, labour complications

They name me a god, and I wish I was worthy of the title.

My chambers are filled with supplicants. The sick and suffering are brought into my rooms of flesh and laid on beds of viscera, sequestered down sinewed corridors dim with blood-tinted light.

A screaming, sweating, shuddering woman is manoeuvred inside by blank-masked priests. She is not quite consenting, not quite understanding, lost in pain and contractions; her world has shrunk to the pressure inside. She is pliant in their insistent grip: they lay her down on a slick-soft-grey coil, one portion of my convoluted gut. The priests back out, leaving her alone.

I hate the priests. I reach out with my veins before I catch myself, recoil--

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Fantasy; 3027 words; first published 15th February 2021 at Translunar Travelers Lounge, Issue 4 →


Griffins Don't Respect Bouncies' Returns Policy

Content Warning: Child in danger

Jordan recognised the griffin waiting outside the chicken cage as she stepped out, holding three dead hens by the neck; his chest had that unmistakeable stripe of velvet-black feathers among the russet.

"Y'know, Cooper," she said, "the whole point of the orphanage was you learned to hunt for yourself." She stared at him meaningfully then sighed, picked out the smallest hen, and threw it to him.

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Fantasy; 1156 words; first published 29th June 2020 at Toasted Cake 239 →; podcasted 29th June 2020 at Toasted Cake 239 →


Why Aren't Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?

In a generational shift that some claim threatens the fabric of existence and the sanity of all humanity, surveys show that worship of the Elder Dark is at a record low for one particular group--millennials.

Bob Rawlins is worried. "When I was growing up in the 1950s, I made my obeisance before the Manifold Insanity every night, uttering the invocations to satiate the Watchers Just Beyond and keep them at bay for one day longer. But young people now aren't prepared to make the necessary sacrifices."

I remind him that human sacrifice was deemed unnecessary and illegal in 1985, and animal sacrifice in 2009.

"Well I don't mean literally," he says, though there's a note of longing to his tone.

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Fantasy; 2114 words; first published 1st April 2019 at Diabolical Plots →; podcasted 17th November 2020 at Podcastle #653 →


The Bone Poet & God

Ursula lifted her snout to look at the mountain. The meadowed foothills she stood in were dotted with poppy and primrose and cranesbill and cowslip, an explosion of color and scent in the late spring sun, the long grass tickling her paws and her hind legs; above that the forested slopes, birch and rowan and willow and alder rising into needle-pines and gray firs; above that the snowline, ice and rock and brutal winds.

And above that, at the top, God; and with God, the answer Ursula had traveled so far for: what kind of bear am I meant to be?

She shouldered her bonesack and walked on.

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Fantasy; 3830 words; first published 1st August 2018 at Sword and Sonnet →; podcasted 11th June 2019 at PodCastle #578 →


Homebrew Wine Recipes for Favourable Effects, from the Regrettable Life of Mrs Poulman

Dandelion Wine, To Capture the Eye of A Gentleman

5 gill of twinkling dew from the petals of roses, tulips, peonies &c. as available in early Spring. The more admirable the flower, the greater the effect. Only to be collected on a clear morning when the sun shines down, for it is that glimmering essence you require to capture the eye of dashing Mr Poulman as he passes your market stall on a Saturday, and who sends his footman instead to purchase your jams and preserves when you are so anxious for a moment of his time directly.

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Fantasy; 997 words; first published 10th February 2018 at Arsenika, Issue 2 →; podcasted 10th February 2018 at Arsenika →


Winter Witch

Content Warning: Infant mortality

I feel their grief moving through the forest. It is like a buried splinter tugging at my skin, working its way further inside. In part this is my deep intimacy with these woods, nurtured through all my thirty years, and in part it is the soft sound of their sobbing, carried through still air that is thick with pine and decay and more.

Their sputtering car could only bring them so close in these dense trees, and now they walk the narrow paths to my cottage. The cadence of footfalls on soft mossy ground tells of something small being carried.

There is only one thing so small and heavy with sorrow.

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Fantasy; 1473 words; first published 22nd August 2017 at PodCastle →; podcasted 22nd August 2017 at PodCastle #484 →


To the Editors of The Matriarch, re: Allegations of Pressganging

Content Warning: Consent

42nd of Autumn, 16th year of Annabelle II

Regarding yr/ article of 37th of Autumn, and the ongoing judicial case around consent and "press-ganging":

I have served in Her Majesty's Air Navy for two decades now, and am considered one of the foremost Captains amongst that glorious sorority, so I write with authority on the topic of naval employment and sailor acquisition.

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Fantasy; 400 words; first published 1st June 2017 at Daily Science Fiction →


How I Became Coruscating Queen of All the Realms, Pierced the Obsidian Night, Destroyed a Legendary Sword, and Saved My Heart's True Love

No shit, there I was, knee-deep in necromantic weasels in the lair of the mad wizard-king, when Korgar and Elutriel both decided it was time to win my affections once and for all.

Elutriel had summoned an aura of resistance, an iridescent bubble free of weasels. He struggled forwards, heaving against the weight of their wasted furry bodies.

"Push them into the flames!" I shouted, pointing with Hrrnngnngrrrndr, the Sword of a Hundred Thousand Agonies, at the fire-trap Korgar had triggered as we entered the room.

But Elutriel ignored me and waded toward Korgar instead. He used the aura to shove a wave of writhing, stinking flesh before him until it piled up and over the granite-slab shoulders of the Vhunken warrior.

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Fantasy; 5368 words; first published 15th February 2017 at No Shit, There I Was (Alliteration Ink, ed. Alex Acks) →; podcasted 25th April 2017 at Podcastle 467 →


Squalor & Sympathy

Anna concentrated on the cold, on the freezing water around her feet and the bruising sensation in her toes. So cold. So cold. So cold, she thought. A prickling warmth like pins and needles crackled inside her feet. It coursed through her body to her clenched hands and into the lead alloy handles of the cotton loom. Each thought of cold! kindled a fresh surge of heat inside and pushed the shuttle across the weave in a new burst of power. Anna's unfocused eyes rested on the woven cotton feeding out of the back of the machine. It looks so warm.

The constant clacking of looms that filled the factory changed tempo, quieted slightly. Anna glanced to her right, where Sally White worked.

Sally was standing, her feet still in her water bucket, and talking to herself. "Sodding thing, gone and jammed on me again. No wonder I can't meet numbers." She was peering into the loom at where her shuttle must have caught.

"Here, let me help." Anna took her bare feet out of the bucket and stepped over. Her own shuttle slowed and stopped as she released the handles.

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Fantasy; 9096 words; first published 3rd May 2016 at Writers of the Future v32 →; podcasted 2nd August 2016 at Podcastle #427 →


The Lady & the Moon

Ella raced up the forest path and dropped her armful of branches and twigs in the firepit. Granddad was still a ways down the hill, his creaky legs making him slow, so Ella lay down on her front at the cliff's edge, where the long grass tickled her chin. The salty summer wind blew her hair into twists like rope as she looked out over the sea. Small white clouds floated beneath her, skimming over the surface of the water, their tops picked out in copper by the setting sun.

A huffing and a puffing behind her meant Granddad Judd had made it to the clifftop, so she sat up and turned to face him. He eased himself onto a weathered log by the firepit. A large conch shell on a length of twine swung loose from his baggy shirt as he leaned forward and took a bottle of seaweed wine out of his bag.

"Ella," he said, bottle shaking in his hands, "how old are you now, girl?"

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Fantasy; 2115 words; first published 28th April 2016 at Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores →


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About

Matt Dovey is a professional writer of short science fiction & fantasy. He is very tall, very British, and probably drinking a cup of tea right now. His surname rhymes with “Dopey”, but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. More →

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There weren't no good way to say Colin, mate, this is shit, you don't deserve it, but we bloody love you and we'll get through it, alright? Cos no matter how you said it his head was too full of angry buzzing to hear it.

Clouds in a Clear Blue Sky

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