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Art by Melissa Mead

Z is for Zoom

Tim Pratt's stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and other nice places. He's won a Hugo for his short fiction (and lost Sturgeon, Stoker, World Fantasy, and Nebula Awards). He lives in Berkeley CA with his wife and son. Find him online at timpratt.org

Jenn Reese lives in Los Angeles and is currently writing a middle-grade adventure series for Candlewick Press. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons and the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities, among others. Follow her adventures at jennreese.com.

Heather Shaw is a writer, editor, gardener and aikidoka living in Berkeley, California with her husband and son. She's had fiction in Strange Horizons, Polyphony, The Year's Best Fantasy, Escape Pod and other nice places. She just finished her first middle-grade novel, "Keaton T., Junior Gene Hacker" and is looking for representation. For more, visit heathershaw.org

Greg van Eekhout's fiction for adults and children includes the novels Norse Code and Kid vs. Squid and stories published in Asimov's, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and other places. He lives in San Diego, CA. For more information, visit writingandsnacks.com.
Anna runs. Down city sidewalks, leaping over trashcans, into alleys, on top of dumpsters, bouncing off brick walls and scrambling to the roof. Feet pounding. Heart singing. Across the rooftops, jumping gaps, tumbling the force away and rolling up again.
She didn't always run. Once she was a lawyer defending people who couldn't defend themselves. Once, she felt connected to other human beings, powerful in her ability to help them. Convinced she could make a difference. Determined to change the world.
But now Anna runs. Her sneakers long since dissolved into scraps, the soles of her feet hardened, her arms pumping or splayed or gathered, like twin tails on a cat. Balance, grace, flow. She knows the city's secrets, the hidden routes between Figueroa and Broadway, between Highland and Lincoln. Vault through a window, and she's running along the beach, sand and sun and dogs and people just blurs as she passes them.
She wants them to be blurs. Never wants them to resolve, to come into focus.
Her wool pencil skirt has become lycra shorts. Her gunmetal silk blouse is now a sleek second skin that clings to her muscled torso, never too tight. She has been running since February, but she is never cold. Or hot. Or hungry.
She craves water sometimes, and scoops it from fountains as she passes. The taste doesn't bother her. It serves a function, and that's all she cares about. She's done with simple pleasures beyond running. She's done with exotic sushi and high thread-count sheets and gadgets that track her calories, her finances, her grocery list.
Once, she believed in those things. Believed every person had the right to them. Equal. Just. Fair. But the world doesn't work like that. It runs on handshakes over lattes, deals over scotch.
She hops concrete barriers across the freeway, slides through a car window and out the other side. Whoosh. Zoom. The blurs inside never notice her. Around a corner, looking for something. A weapon. A sword. A raygun. A way to the world she wants.
In July, Tanya Sanchez will be killed by the state, condemned for an act she didn't commit. Anna knew this at one point. But by June, she doesn't remember her parents, her brother, or even Tanya Sanchez. She knows only asphalt and brick, concrete and gravel. She feels only wind and rain and heat, tastes only her own sweat as it drips down her face and into her mouth.
She'll find it eventually: a doorway in a shadow, a rip in a wall. She won't hesitate. Won't slow down. She'll fly, leap, slide. Grab the sword. Lift the banner. Blow the horn.
It's out there, somewhere. The answer. The key. The thing she needs. And until she finds it, Anna runs.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

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