The new story by Nicola Griffith (Hild) gets off to a slow start — but by the end, you'll be swept along by the strange exhilaration. In a lesbian bar, an old, feral presence lays in wait... but is Griffith's main character looking for a lover, or a victim?

Top image: Sam Wolfe Connelly/

I don't want to give away too much of what happens in "Cold Wind," but suffice to say that it's not just a story about picking up a woman in a bar. Or a story about the main character becoming a victim to an ancient entity that feeds on young women. Mostly, it's worth savoring Griffith's evocative, wild language.


Here's how it begins:

From the park on Puget Sound I watched the sun go down on the shortest day of the year. The air lost its lemon glitter, the dancing water dulled to a greasy heave, and the moon, not yet at its height, grew more substantial. Clouds gathered along the horizon, dirty yellow-white and gory at one end, like a broken arctic fox. Snow wasn't in the forecast, but I could smell it.

More than snow. If all the clues I'd put together over the years were right, it would happen tonight.

I let the weather herd me from the waterfront park into the city, south then east, through the restaurant district and downtown. The streets should have been thronged with last-minute holiday shoppers but the weather had driven them toward the safety of home.

By the time I reached the urban neighborhood of Capitol Hill, the moon was behind an iron lid of cloud, and sleet streaked the dark with pearl.

Inside the women's bar, customers were dressed a little better than usual: wool rather than fleece, cashmere blend instead of merino, and all in richer, more celebratory colors. The air was spiced with cinnamon and anticipation. Women looked up when the door opened, they leaned toward one another, faces alight like children waiting for teacher to announce a story, a present, a visit from Santa.

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