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Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.






Fantasy

Religious


Souls, Angels, Devils, God, and gods. Certain tales are best understood through the lens of religion.

by Day Al-Mohamed
Ding! The first bell of the New Year. Corporal Michael Bradley's gaze flew to the chronometer that glowed faintly in the heads-up display of his armor. He had waited all year for this. People always thought that All Hallows Eve or All Souls Day was when the living could speak with the dead, but the Romans were the ones who understood that the true day of communication with the afterlife was New Years Eve--Janus of Two Faces, one looking back at the past and one looking forward to the future. It was a truth that every soldier knew and held closest to his heart.
Published on Jan 20, 2014
by Janet Shell Anderson
Murderers have a special planet they go to when they die. Kepler 22b. Oh yes. Attorneys who represent them don't know that. Well, no one really knows that. I know all about it now. I was accused of murdering Harrison Reed, Esquire.
Published on Mar 25, 2013
by Jarod K Anderson
Pound your chest and threaten the sun. See if it blinks. See if it even notices. When expeditions from western countries visit our mountain, we do what we can to make them feel brave and singular. We teach our young to gasp at their armor, to touch biceps with reverence, to stare at their weapons and fair hair as if such things were beyond our comprehension. It's a simple transaction.
Published on Nov 23, 2018
by Kevin J. Anderson
The train thundered toward him, its sharp light pinning him like a spear. He stood in the center of the tracks facing it, not moving. Defiant. Impotent. The night seemed to laugh around him. He opened his arms to greet the onrushing locomotive, waiting for its juggernaut embrace. In its glowing headlight he saw a glimmer of what humans called Heaven.
Published on Sep 6, 2013
by Megan Arkenberg
O tower not of ivory, but builded by hands that reach Heaven from Hell.
Published on Dec 16, 2016
by Marcy Arlin
***Editor's Note: Adult story, situations, and language*** We never went out. We usually stayed in all weekend and fornicated until we were bleeding and our eyes almost popping out of our heads. Fun, but after a while, every orifice stuffed with a genital or tentacle just gets repetitious.
Published on Jul 23, 2015
by Dani Atkinson
Once there was a god. And that god was you. Yes, you, sweetie! It was and is and will be reborn eternally, this god. You are given form and walk among us again and again. For we have chained you. We chained you in this adorable body, we chained you with these ten itty bitty fingers and ten wiggly toes. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, TEN! Yes, ten little toes on the mortal flesh prison for the eternal god! And one soft tummy! Pbbbbtthhhtht!
Published on Aug 17, 2020
by Barbara A. Barnett
"So it's like this, Beth..." God stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray and leaned across the bar, close enough for me to smell his cheap cologne. "I'm not omnipotent." "But you're God." I took a swig of my beer. "The all-knowing."
Published on Mar 7, 2011
by Barbara A. Barnett
puppyhugs42 2-04-2016 12:03pm Thanks so much for this post, Dr. Bates. Such a fitting tribute to a true pioneer in the field of near-death experience (NDE) research. Controversy over methodology be damned; you and Dr. Nako have done groundbreaking work. I know you're still crunching the data, but I truly believe your research will prove once and for all what those of us who've had NDEs know in our guts to be true: activity continues after the brain dies and the EEG goes flat.
Published on Feb 5, 2016
by James Beamon
17. in media res Let's start in the middle of things, near the end. That would be where I'm climbing up this tree, not too high up, just high enough to find a thick, sturdy branch. Here I tie the rope. The other end has already been tied tightly around my throat. Secure in the belief that this will end me, I leap.
Published on May 3, 2016
by T.J. Berg
The Devil and The Blues Met the devil one day, drinking coffee at my favorite breakfast cafe. Devil was looking at me while I was reading my paper.
Published on Aug 31, 2011
by David G. Blake
The man shuffled in around closing time before I had a chance to bolt the door or turn off the sign. A dark blue suit drooped from his drawn frame, and his black shoes reflected the dim floor lights. Neither suit nor shoe had been in style since the mid-seventies. I nodded hello and wiped down a spot for him at the bar with my lucky rag. "What'll it be?"
Published on Nov 23, 2015
by Brenta Blevins
It was 2 a.m., a time of day so thin that nothing seemed real, but the tubes cycling in and out of my husband like external blood vessels, his monitors' rhythmic beeps of electronic pulses, the ventilator's hiss and sigh, all kept pulling me back to a reality I didn't want to accept. The doctors had told me Robert was "actively dying." Actively dying? What did that mean? Pale, emaciated, and immobile, Robert's coma seemed the antithesis of any action. His parents and sister hadn't yet arrived; unable to resign from their jobs as I had mine, they'd given up their constant vigil months ago, so by the bed I sat alone with my husband of twenty years. My continual presence and loving attention hadn't been enough to bring him back to life, to actively living.
Published on Jun 2, 2011
by Jacob A. Boyd
Chase entered one end of a narrow white-walled room and crossed it toward a chair positioned before an unfamiliar man at the far end. But for the man and the chair, the room remained featureless. Chase was drawn to them. Seated, Chase asked, “Am I dreaming?”
Published on Nov 29, 2010
by Marie Brennan
When the soldiers arrive, the old woman is waiting. “Sit down, sit down,” she urges them, gesturing with her free hand. There are cushions spread on the floor, one for each soldier. “The tea will be ready soon.”
Published on Jul 21, 2021
by Myna Chang
Jesus was in my washing machine. The transubstantiation is what tipped me off. It beguiled me. So I studied the phenomena, analyzed the data. Quantified the variables. After all, precision is essential in tangling with a god.
Published on Dec 31, 2018
by Michael W Cho
The god wandered into his temple one morning after an absence of years. Someone, he saw, had been faithfully sweeping the floors and mending the roof. Someone had sacrificed a fish on the altar, leaving a heap of ash and bone. Given the poverty of the village, this was not an inconsiderable investment. In the corner crouched a limestone statue with a trident in one hand and a net in the other. It was not so bad a depiction, but he would have preferred if it had a more heroic cast to it.
Published on Nov 16, 2018
by Judith Clare
Well, it didn’t quite happen the way they thought it would. I mean, there were no bodies of the faithful wafting up to heaven in a golden light. No, it was much more subtle. Here and there, one by one, or sometimes in threes, the bodies were taken down, actually; to be laid into the ground; dead for no good reason. There was plenty of speculation about why this was so. But after a while we just mourned for a brief time and tried to soldier on. Which was hard. It seemed to be true that only the good were dying, whether they were young or old. The liars, thieves, murderers, and soulless, dead eyed predators were thriving. Doing well. Living high. Bragging about their latest acquisition. The fourteenth home. The new yacht. The killing in the stock market, which kept rising while it seemed like the rest of the world was collapsing under our feet. Elephants, tigers, salamanders, and frogs all gone, just to name a few of those we had names for, versus all of those we had yet to meet, and that were now no longer with us.
Published on May 6, 2021
by P. Djeli Clark
The fishermen stood on their longboats that lifted and fell with each wave, watching the boy walk out of the sea. None said a word as he waded from the shallow water, passing their nets without notice. He was bare most would later recount, except for what appeared to be a skirt of sea grass. A few would remember that wasn’t exactly true and that a string of shells circled his head like a crown, gleaming white in the light of the descending sun. As he walked onto the beach no one said a word. The sea after all, often brought in strange things. From a small rounded house made of red clay and dried leaves, an old woman pushed out a head to stare at the boy standing in her doorway. She shifted to the side to let him pass, noting the small footprint shaped puddles he left behind. His coiled black hair was filled with things of the sea, while his long grass skirt swept back and forth as if still beneath the waves. He stopped to take in the meager contents of her home before returning his gaze to her. She stared back, catching her reflection in his eyes--large dark pools that could drown you in their depths. “You look different,” he remarked. His voice was fluid, and she felt it surround her, fine salt-tinged mist like the breath of the sea. She smiled at the familiarity, worn skin creasing and pulling tightly across her face. “I am old. It has been a long time Alil.” The boy frowned, as if not understanding. But of course he didn’t, she mused. He never could. “You wouldn’t come back with me,” he said. The hurt and accusation in those words caused the water in a nearby earthen vase to ripple and grow turbulent. She watched the tiny tempest for a while, following the small waves until they died away. “And yet here you are.” With a sigh she wrapped an indigo shawl more tightly about her, settling down with much effort onto the bundle of cloths and nettings she called a bed. She was too old for all this standing. “Come back with me,” he pleaded. “To my father’s kingdom. We can be together again, like before.” The old woman closed her eyes, reluctantly retrieving carefully buried memories. As a girl she’d loved to watch the fishermen of her village, perched like birds on their colorful longboats, skimming along the waves as they cast out nets to bring in their catch. Her mother and aunts chided that girls didn’t belong at sea. But her father, who could never resist her pleadings, had let her come with him that day. That was when she’d first seen Alil, his boyish face peering up at her from beneath the waves, those dark eyes beckoning. She’d followed them, diving into the sea despite her father’s cries. And there she stayed. Those memories with Alil were her most precious. The wonders of his world were endless. And for a while, she forgot that there was anything else. Then one day a young man fell into the sea during a storm. He would have drowned if she hadn’t taken pity. Alil’s help came reluctantly. What the sea wants the sea takes, he was often fond of saying. But he helped her bring the young man to shore. And when her feet touched land again, all her forgotten memories returned. Alil pleaded with her to come back. But she told him she had to stay, to see what had become of her past life. Those watery dark eyes turned sad and rippled then, but he agreed. She would stay for a while, and he would return for her. But time passed differently in Alil’s world. She returned to the village to learn her family was long dead, along with everyone she had known. There was a story however, of a girl who had jumped beneath the waves to chase a boy and was never seen again. Mothers still used it to keep their daughters from their father’s boats. With nothing left for her, she walked back to the sea and waited for Alil’s return. And waited. And waited. Ten seasons passed before he finally walked back onto that shore, as young as when she’d last seen him. But not her. Time had embraced her again outside of the sea, away from his magic, and she’d swiftly grown into a woman. The young man she’d saved was now her husband. Alil of course, didn’t understand. “Come back with me,” he pleaded. She’d shaken her head, wanting to say no. But those dark eyes were as inviting as ever. When he extended his small hand she took it. And the two ran down to the sea, into the waiting waves. Time passed and once more, she forgot. It was a fishing hook that made her remember again. Finding it nestled in a coral bed flooded her thoughts with memories of the life she’d discarded, and she rushed back to the shore. Like before, time had not waited. She found her husband and their small home long crumbled away to dust. All that remained was the story of the young wife who ran off into the waves, leaving her husband to die of grief. Since then men had been warned not to let their wives wander too close to the sea. Once more she’d turned and gone back down to the shore and waited for Alil. Thirteen seasons passed when he walked back out of the waters. “Come back with me,” he pleaded. She’d shaken her head, ready to tell him she was married again, and now had two children besides. She could not possibly be so selfish. But when she looked into those dark eyes the words disappeared and she was running off again to the sea. That last time, it was the music that called her back. She’d looked up through the waves to find a man reclined in a small boat, playing a long wooden flute. He was startled to see her but hadn’t stopped playing. So she climbed aboard to listen. And when he began rowing back to shore, she stayed. Alil came to her some fifteen seasons later, as the first bits of gray nestled into her hair. “I turned around to find you gone,” he said. She eyed him sadly. “All this time, and you only now noticed I was gone?” But he only stared, the idea of mortal time lost upon him. “Come back with me,” he pleaded. “No,” she said, careful to avoid those dark eyes. She’d married the man who played the flute. And following what had become a common custom in the village, he’d built a house for them far away from the sea--which old tales said stole away wives from their husbands and children. Now he was blind, and couldn’t fend for himself. She couldn’t leave, not like she’d done so many times before. Alil had grown angry. Villagers that day claimed to see furious water spouts spring up from the sea and spin high into the sky, before crashing down again. But when he calmed there was only sadness drawn onto his youthful face. He placed a smooth rounded pearl in her hands and spoke in that fluid voice. “When you are ready, throw this into the waves and I will come for you.” Then he was gone. And she hadn’t seen him since. Now here he was, once more, as young and full of life as when she’d first spied him beneath the waters so long ago. “Come back with me,” he pleaded. She shook her head, remarking silently how those dark eyes no longer worked their magic upon her. Alil frowned. “But the pearl, you dropped it into the sea.” He opened a palm to show it to her, round and smooth and perfect. “You called me.” The old woman leaned forward, clasping his young hands in her own. “Alil, my husband took ill and died only two seasons after I last saw you. I threw that pearl into the sea then, and waited for you to come. That was thirty-six seasons ago--barely a moment for you, but so many moments for me. Can’t you see how old I am now?” But Alil only stared at her, his face a mask of confusion. “Come with me,” he pleaded. The old woman frowned and pulled away, making her voice stern. “I cannot. I will not.” Those dark eyes grew darker, like a roiling storm. And for the first time in his presence, she felt a tinge of fear. Then without another word, he turned and walked away, leaving behind a trail of small footprint shaped puddles. Releasing a breath she sat back in relief. There she remained, alone in her small house, lost in her memories. It was night when the awful roar pulled the old woman from sleep. She climbed from her bundle, wrapped in her shawl as she stepped out into the darkness. The village was alive. People ran screaming, with children in tow. Their faces were carved masks of terror as they sped from their homes, heading deeper into the surrounding jungle. The old woman turned, searching for the cause of such fear. Then she saw it. Rising from the sea was a great wave, an unnatural black against the night sky as high as a mountain. It crept forward slowly, casting a shadow across all below, thundering its coming like some angry god. “Alil,” the old woman said knowingly. In her memories, she stared into those dark unfathomable eyes and realized suddenly, she was the one who had never understood. Come with me. It had never been a plea, but a command. From a being who never aged, who never grew up, who was little more than a child--with a child’s wishes and wants and tantrums. Settling down onto the trembling earth she did not run like the others. Instead, with heavy heart, she sat and waited for the sea that had come to reclaim her. Seasons passed and went. After a time a new village arose, with new people who fished the waters on their longboats like many had done before them. But they built their homes deep inland and far from the shore. Tales claimed there had been another village here once. Then one night the waves came and snatched it all away--every man woman and child, lost to the waters that had so long sustained them. The fishermen had a warning of that fateful night that they passed along to each other as they set their boats out upon the waves. What the sea wants, the sea takes.
Published on Oct 2, 2012
by Helen E. Davis
The man, sitting at the desk, thinks he is alone. His head is bowed and his fingers touch the edge of a grainy photograph. All day he radiates youth and energy, but here he lets himself feel the pain that gnaws at his bones. Weariness shows in the slump of his shoulders, in the sag of his chin. War, pain, grief--all these things have bowed him, but never broken him. He is not the kind of man we can touch. But now we have our chance. His finger taps what looks like cigars laid upon the ground, if Cuban cigars can be twenty feet long. I taste despair. It rolls across my tongue like a fine brandy; I savor it before I speak. "I can make that go away."
Published on Nov 21, 2013
by Brian Dolton
Begin with water. Cup it in your hands. You can feel its utter lack of character. It has no texture; it has no resistance. It is substance, and yet it is emptiness. It possesses nothing of its own. It cannot give; it can only borrow.
Published on Dec 9, 2010
by Tom Doyle
At the first chill of winter in Delphi, Aristonike's husband was struck with fever and died. Aristonike washed his gnarled body with her calloused hands and placed one of their few coins in his mouth. Her two boys and their wives helped with careful piety, while her grandchildren squawked and squalled. With the funeral done and quiet restored, Aristonike was confirmed in her decision: she would not live with either of her boys' families. Her sons' wives were pleasant, but that would change if she stuck her nose into it. She'd be bound to tell those proud girls to dirty their hands and milk their own goats, for starters. No, she would go someplace where she wouldn't cause trouble.
Published on Mar 15, 2013
by Scott Edelman
Amraphel curled his already hunched body atop the chest of the first sleeper Dream had assigned him that night, her location plucked from the parchment he had been given long ago which remained blank until the dreamer was nearly ready. As the woman snored, her torso bucking irregularly, he rode spasmodically up and down in the darkness, cursing his luck. He already resented the humans upon which he preyed, but he hated even more the members of that species who snored. They distracted him as he worked, and degraded what was meant to be a noble and uplifting process. Each unconscious snort, each jerk of the woman's head as she struggled to breathe, only served to deepen his pain, underlining the unfairness that humans, so roughly hewn, so clumsily conceived, could do what he could not, reminding him that while it was in their nature to easily tap into the divine, he could only--as a function of his centuries-long apprenticeship--borrow it, but never own it.
Published on Aug 12, 2011
by Kary English
I've never liked this airport. The endless corridors of white on white remind me of a hospital, but this is the only place I can talk to Stewart after the heart attack. He's not always here, but I come every day to look for him. Today he's sitting in his favorite spot in the departure gate, a corner seat connected to a low table. I tried sitting on the table once, but we can't talk unless I sit on his right, where I was for the trip to Hawaii.
Published on Aug 18, 2014
by Eugie Foster
Movement 1: I could ignore the boys at school. By and large, they left me alone. Guess I wasn't pretty enough or interesting enough to be worth their attention, which was fine by me. It wasn't like I wanted to cram my feet in suicide heels or dangle door-knockers from my ears like some hoochie bimbo, anyway. But the girls were trouble. Since Mom and I had moved from Chicago to New Orleans into the pink and yellow house Gran had left us, they'd honed in on me like they had something to prove.
Published on Sep 9, 2011
by Karl K Gallagher
I didn't recognize the guy, but I let him in. He felt familiar; the name would come to me in a bit. Probably a historical reenactor. The height and beard made him a perfect fit for the Viking encampment. The eye patch was overdoing it. But who am I to judge?
Published on Feb 2, 2017
by Ivy Grimes
Out of nowhere, the gods altered my punishment. A woman replaced my boulder, and I watched her roll. “Why are you here?” I said.
Published on Jan 20, 2021
by Sara M. Harvey
The dark stretches in all directions, soft and silent and eternal. Then, uncurling, unfurling like a trembling first leaf of spring, not even tipped in green but translucent and pale and so delicate, something disturbs this peace. Peace like a crypt, lonely and vast. It tastes like a prayer, this wavering uncertain spark. No more prayers Pull the dark tighter around. The dark had edges now, boundaries pulsing faintly, limning the margins like the creeping dawn. The prayer beckons, shining with the promise of danger like a fishhook. No more prayers, that time is lost, I am lost Awareness is a curse, knowing that the silent dark is not encompassing and expansive. It is not eternal, it is nothing but a forgotten corner. The prayer beckons, shining with the promises of a new lover: I love you, this is forever I will never leave you. No more prayers, they always leave me The unforgetting is more painful than the forgetting, reminders of a power once vast and wielded with strength but now gone. Long gone. Nothing but darkness remains. Soothing, boundless, abiding, solitary. But the darkness is smaller now, shrinking to the confines of a box. No So, then, the prayer. One prayer. One taste of amaranthine potential, reaching into the realm of mortals and bending that world on a whim. Temptation stirs, hungry and relentless. The fish will bite the hook and be caught. The prayer will be answered. They will catch me and make me into their image They will confine me by their limited minds They will make me into their servant The request is simple, deliriously simple: Align this space and this moment so I can occupy it. An easy nudge. Done. It feels good. So good. Stretching after a long sleep. Twisting reality, just a little bit, like old times. The dark is now spangled with prayers, but also with gratitude: Thank you for this grace. It was nothing I will call on you again if you will hear me. I will hear you I will hold the power of the universe again I will be loved again
“How do you always find such great parking?” “Magic.”
Published on Sep 27, 2021
by Cat Hellisen
There are a million of them, flicking between worlds faster than grasshoppers, the whine of their wings cicada summers, white scythes sighing. I caught one, once. Or it caught me.
Published on Dec 11, 2015
by Dave Henrickson
The devil showed up last night. Not in person. In a dream. I guess that's the way it's done these days. I'm sure it's a big time-saver. And it wasn't The Devil, it was a devil. Just a minor cog in a much bigger machine, putting in his hours before going off to do whatever devils do in their spare time. Telemarketers from hell. It was kind of funny when you thought about it. If you weren't dying. Brain Tumor. Inoperable. I know, sad. Thanks for the kind thoughts. Yes, it has put things in perspective. Yes, I will let you know if there is anything you can do. So kind. Thanks again. I had already told everyone who really cared. We said all the things you say in those situations. Now all that was left was dealing with the mundane, sordid business of dying while everyone else got on with their lives. Until the dream. He was polite about it. Really quite nice for an infernal messenger. Patient, too, seeing as how I had a lot of questions and he must have heard them all a million times before. It would have made his life a lot easier if the organization he worked for could have sent around some promotional material ahead of time to smooth the way. Once you got through all of the marketing mumbo jumbo, though, it was all pretty straightforward. No immortality. Well, that was off the table to begin with, he told me candidly. It made sense. If I never died, where would be the pay-off for them? I mean, he could have dangled the offer in front of me, but I knew there would always be some kind of catch so I was just as glad he didn't bother. No youth. No mountain of gold. No globe-encompassing power. No stable of pliant, beautiful women. (Or men, depending on my preference. No judgment.) You might find it hard to believe, but I was just as glad about that last one. When you get to be my age, such fantasies are better left where they are. Sex is great, but it all gets to be a little too much work after a while, doesn't it? Maybe other kinds of people got those offers. Not me. Remission, of unknown length. That was the best he could do. A stay of execution, as it were. He tried to talk it up a bit, but that's what it boiled down to. Clearly, it was a buyer's market. He didn't know how long said remission would be for either, he assured me, he really didn't. Apparently some things in the universe actually were indeterminate. It may have been a line, or maybe he wasn't privy to that kind of information. He was just the guy who worked the phones, after all. The procedure was simplicity itself, he went on to explain. All I had to do was sincerely affirm that upon my death my soul would no longer be my own. That was all it would take. I wouldn't even be bothered with the thought of what I had agreed to. The memory would be wiped from my mind and I could go about my life as if a minor miracle had occurred. Until the moment of truth, when the secrets of all hearts are revealed, to paraphrase the well-known verse. I would even have the use of my soul until the time came, for whatever good it would do me. He suggested I think about it as kind of a reverse mortgage. I thought about it. I did. It wasn't like I enjoyed pain and I certainly didn't want to die. Here was the thing, though. I didn't have anyone depending on me. No wife. No kids. A few friends who would miss me, but we were all getting on these days. No use kidding ourselves. If it wasn't one thing, sooner or later it would be something else. He was cool about it when I told him I wasn't interested. I don't think he was even particularly surprised. He had done this a million times, after all. He didn't wipe the dream from my memory. He wanted to give me a chance to think about it, he said. And I will, of course. How could I not? I imagine I'll be hearing from him again. Probably a lot of people turn the deal down the first time they hear it, only to change their minds on later when things get rough and the end is close. I think I'll try to tough it out. I didn't even know I had a soul until last night but, if the Devil wants it, it must be worth something. Who knows, wherever I'm going, it might be the only thing I can take with me that's worth selling.
Published on Jan 4, 2022
by Getty Hesse
Death's dead lover sits opposite him, his chest still, his flesh a mirage. Jerome is naked, as spirits are, and he seems so real Death imagines if he reached out he could stroke the dark satin skin, the rough-hewn muscle underneath. But were he to reach out, his hand would simply melt through air longing to be human, so he doesn't.
Published on Mar 19, 2014
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
When Father Robert stepped outside the rectory Monday morning to visit the pauper's grave where he prayed every day, he found the cemetery playing host to scores of babies. They were all different races, most wrapped in brightly hued gowns that, he hoped, kept out the chill of morning mist; fog lay in the low grounds of the cemetery, with baby parts emerging from it, baby parts he hoped were attached to whole babies rather than being dismemberments. The babies were quiet and self-absorbed, none laughing, crying, or speaking--none that he could see in obvious distress. All seemed older than infants, though not by much.
Published on Nov 24, 2017
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
***********Editor's Warning: Adult Story--Horny Gods*************** I should have gotten out of the goddess business a long time ago. It's hard to let go of power, though, even when most of it is gone. It's not like I can grant people good luck at the casino anymore, or destroy the crops of people who irritate me. I can wave bad luck toward them, but not the way I could in my heyday. Sometimes I miss. Sometimes it bounces back on me. And sometimes it takes a long time to manifest, so I think nothing happened, which is frustrating as hell.
Published on Apr 26, 2019
by S.L. Huang
My father was the most haau person I know. I don't know the English term for it. Haau. It's like love, but it's not. It's like respect, but it's not. American families don't have it. Children love their parents--I know you love me--but being haau, it doesn't exist here.
Published on Aug 22, 2016
by M.K. Hutchins
Babies born without souls didn't live long. Amma's great-grandson, with only half a soul, didn't look like he'd do much better. "Is there nothing you can do, Amma-mer?" Vette asked, cradling the child against her chest.
Published on Jul 30, 2018
by Jess Hyslop
***Editor's Note: Disturbing. For adults.*** Now
Published on May 9, 2013
by Jose Pablo Iriarte
You pieced it together decades ago; so far back that you don't remember not knowing. The way it works is this: you see the pain in people's hearts, the way somebody else might notice a rend in fabric or a run in a pair of stockings. And just like one might repair and reweave damaged cloth, you repair the pain, by removing it and connecting the threads of life that surround the damage. But there are rules. They have to be willing. Some people are so attached to their pain that they cling to it and can't let go. The pain is all they have, and if you were to remove it there would be nothing left. You can't help those.
Published on Mar 20, 2017
by K.G. Jewell
I first picked up soul weaving at summer camp, when I was 13. At most camps, kids made friendship bracelets and lanyards. At Camp Anima, we made sprites, small ephemeral creatures that flitted overhead for a few minutes before sparkling away into the nether. My last year at camp, I won an award for the longest-lasting sprite of the week, a purple dragonfly that followed me to lunch. It lasted ten minutes, almost a camp record. I remember that I asked Ms. Linda, the soul-weaving counselor, where they got the souls piled in the baskets on her craft cabin's shelves. She smiled, twinkled her eyes, and said they were collected from the rosebushes in headmistress' garden. They gathered around the blooming flowers, and the headmistress vacuumed them up for camp projects. I think I giggled.
Published on Dec 5, 2016
by Patrick Johanneson
Jake called from Heaven again. When the phone started ringing, I glanced at the call display. As usual I didn't recognize the number. It's always different, and not always an actual number as such. This time it had a lower-case lambda in it. 212-3-λ-something or other. So I didn't answer the phone. I just let it go to voicemail. If it's important, I told myself, they'll leave a message.
Published on May 18, 2015
by Rachael K. Jones
A week after my husband leaves me, I go out for midnight burritos with the demon who's going to devour me. I haven't even bothered to take off my stage makeup, but Zozrozir has my back. With Zoz around, nobody notices my black eyeliner or purple Mohawk or the jacket made out of tiny leather f-bombs all stitched together. "How do you do that, anyway?" I ask Zozrozir, who is small but inexplicably terrifying, like a cockroach crossed with a closed-casket funeral.
Published on Jul 10, 2018
by Vylar Kaftan
The suicide witch crushes glass in her leather gloves. Shards crumble like crackers over soup, filling her metal bucket. The witch's fingers squeak together in the damp cellar air. Glitter escapes over the worktable's edge, like white stars vanishing in the low torchlight. A peasant girl lies dead on a funeral board, her dress nailed to the wood in thirteen places. The witch's name is Yim, but none call her that. She lives under the noble house of Jiang in the province of Kung-lao, in a cellar with puddles like rice paddies. In the summer, fat flies buzz around her face until she swats them down. In the winter, her knees ache, and she coughs in the dampness as if she were an old hag. But Yim's ragged hair is black without silver, and her face shows no lines. She can still see in the dark.
Published on Jul 13, 2012
by Andrew Kaye
Item 1: Darkness. Item 2: Firmament.
Published on Jun 5, 2014
by Andrew Kaye
As Abigail's soul dripped slowly into my gut, I started thinking about the rest of my family. What they did, how they lived. Everyone always teased Grandpa about how his soul would taste. He was such a good person that his soul would have tasted like pure heaven. I thought about Mom and Dad. I thought about me. What sort of life would I live? What kind of soul would I leave behind for my family?
Published on Aug 29, 2011
by James Patrick Kelly
There! Is that a ship? Faithful sister, you've been staring at the horizon for all these long years, standing to your shoulders in the restless sea. And seen what? Waves. Glitter and shadow. Mirages that flicker and twist into nothing. But this speck persists on that distant, dreamy verge where the metal-bright sky kisses the stone-dark sea. It bobs on the waves and--yes!--it grows. You feel your blood stir. How long has hope seeped through your veins, sluggish as the tide, while your fear drips, drips, drips into despair? You were told to watch and wait for the ships to come. Oh, how you've waited! Is this the moment at last? A school of herring roils the water around your knees. The fish know that something is different, that everything is about to change. They dart through the weeds that cling to your belly and thighs and shins, the sea's algae greenery covering your nakedness. You wiggle your toes in the cold mud of the sea floor, four fathoms deep. A reef has grown around your feet. Move to sound the alarm and you will shatter it, break the elkhorn and brain and star corals. But is it an alarm you are to give? Or a benediction?
Published on Jun 17, 2020
by Simon Kewin
Demonic Summoning Publisher: ChthoniczSoftware
Published on Jul 22, 2013
by Simon Kewin
Daniel Corder--Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland--regarded the senior Civil Servant standing before him with something like astonishment. "Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"
Published on Jul 31, 2015
by Brenda Kezar
The heavy church door swung open and a bald-headed Monk peered out. "Jesus won't see anyone until after dark. You'll have to come back later." "Wait," Nick grabbed the door. "I'm a reporter. I called earlier--" The monk scowled and looked Nick up and down. Nick let go of the door.
Published on Feb 11, 2014
by Cassandra Khaw
"Four hundred and five in the Year of Our Tyrant. Fabulous year, yours. Very rare." Gunmetal stare warms to blue. "Very exquisite."
Published on Nov 18, 2015
by Leigh Kimmel
When they came for her father, he hugged her tight and whispered into her ear, "Never forget your daddy loves you." Even as they tore her from his arms, she promised with all the earnestness a child of seven can muster that she would never, ever forget. And she didn't, even when they handed her over to a stony-faced woman who told her to forget her father, then smacked her face until her mouth bled when she balked at this new name she couldn't even pronounce. In the orphanage to which that woman delivered her, she comforted herself with memories of his love when the staff took glee in pointing her out as a criminal's get so all the children would taunt her and nobody would ever dare break ranks and be her friend, lest they too be contaminated.
Published on Nov 23, 2011
by Floris M. Kleijne
*****Editor's Note: Disturbing Story, Mature Issues*****
Published on May 31, 2021
by Jessica M. Kormos
"If you want me to stay, Alice, I'll need you to agree to a few things. First of all, you'll need to sin a little." "I don't want to do anything really bad."
Published on Apr 28, 2017
by Matt Krizan
The old man and the angel sit in silence, waiting for the sun to rise over the ocean. As the cloudless, indigo sky gives way to burning oranges and reds that spread across the horizon, the old man sighs and shakes his head. "So beautiful..." he murmurs. "It is," the angel agrees, as it has done many times before. The two turn at the sound of voices on the warm, summer breeze. A young man and a young woman stroll along the beach, holding hands and talking softly. They stop at the shoreline to watch the day dawn, arms around each other's waist, gentle waves lapping at their feet. "So, um, there's something I've been meaning to ask you," says the young man, and the old man isn't sure if he's actually hearing the quaver in the young man's voice or merely remembering it. As the young man kneels before the young woman, holding out a ring he's pulled from his pocket, the young woman gasps, clapping a hand over her mouth. The old man mouths the words as the young man speaks them: "Mary Ellen Whiteley, I can't imagine having the sun rise on another day without you in my life. Will you marry me?" The light of the rising sun glimmers off tears in the young woman's eyes as she nods. The old man isn't sure whose hands tremble more as the young man places the ring on the young woman's finger. He and the angel look away as the young couple kiss and hold one another, kiss some more and do other things besides. Once the young couple has gathered themselves and returned the way they came, the angel places a hand on the old man's arm. "We really should be moving on," it says. "Just one more time. Please?" After a moment, the angel smiles and nods. "One more time...." It waves a hand, and then the old man and the angel sit in silence, waiting for the sun to rise over the ocean.
Published on Dec 9, 2021
by Jamie Lackey
I have heard no tales about who sealed the gods, or how, or why. No tales about how it happened, how each member of the pantheon, from the greatest to the smallest, was sealed away in a bead of gray stone threaded on a braided leather cord. The tales all begin later, after the mortals woke one morning to find these simple necklaces fastened around the necks of newly born babies.
Published on Mar 5, 2021
by Mur Lafferty
Last week I found the god of the supermarket, standing in the frozen food section, silently weeping. I hadn’t thought much about the new gods. I mean, they were worldwide; two had been spotted in my city alone. Gods of cats and sewers and furniture and lonely roads and traffic and board games. Many religious countries and cities were suffering great turmoil with the coming of these gods, but I was an atheist, and I hadn’t seen any of the new gods in person. So my day to day life was largely unaffected. My girlfriend Laura had seen one, the goddess of the rock climbing wall, and she said it had changed her life. “Her shoulders, Maya,” she had gushed. “You had to see Her shoulders! The woman was ripped, only not in that gross bodybuilding way, in that “I’ve climbed a lot of walls” way.” Laura was a convert and went to church, the climbing wall at Gold’s Gym, twice weekly. I say I was an atheist, but I mean I had been one. I was unsure about the God of Abraham, or the Wiccan goddess, or Buddha, but obviously I believed in the new gods; you didn’t need faith to know about them, you had Twitter and the 6 o’clock news telling you of the latest miracles, the latest god, the latest church leader who screamed themselves hoarse in denial and proclaiming that Satan was behind it all. But near as I could tell, these news gods weren’t evil, just finely tuned to what they were the god of. After the initial fervor died down, I didn’t think about them much until I met Jeorge, the god of the supermarket. I had arrived as I always did, directly after work, to get dinner and a trashy magazine to read. I was looking for a frozen pizza - the lean kind, gotta get rid of middle age that was comfortably settling around my hips - when I saw Him. A grown man was crying in the frozen food area, tears and snot wet on His face; it wasn’t exactly a religious experience. I nearly walked by with an “It’s none of my business” air about me. I had the usual feeling you get when you see a stranger weeping. Discomfort, wondering if they want to be alone, if you’ll embarrass them by pointing out the obvious, wondering if someone else will come along and fix it, wondering if they’re crazy and will lose their shit if you touch them. I’m pleased to say my compassionate side prevailed, and only when I approached Him did I realize He wore a gray robe and had a soft glow emanating from His skin. He was Hispanic, tall and broad with a round face and long shaggy black hair. His dark eyes staring at the frozen lasagne, tears unabashedly flowing. “Excuse me, sir, are you all right?” I asked, putting my hand gently on His shoulder. With that touch, my mind flared awake and I saw the world as I had never seen before. I had touched a god. “Processed. It’s all fake. And people eat it up like it was ambrosia,” He said, shaking His head. “They buy the food, more and more because it’s cheap, and they get fat and then die of malnutrition, when no one believes they’re sick because they’re so fat.” I shifted so my basket was behind me and He couldn’t see what was in it. “Well if the frozen food upsets you, how about we go to the produce aisle? Fresh fruit? I bet a bunch of kale would cheer you up. Come on.” He allowed me to steer Him, and as He turned left at the end of the aisle, I quickly opened the freezer and shoved my diet frozen pizza back in among the frozen tater tots. “What’s your name?” I asked as I caught up. He walked listlessly, looking neither to the left or the right. “Jeorge,” He said. “I am the god of the supermarket. As near as I can tell, I’m ninety seconds old. This Piggly Wiggly is now hallowed ground.” I winced. That was one of the problems with the new gods. Piggly Wiggly and Gold’s Gym didn’t have the same religious weight as Mecca and Jerusalem. We walked to the produce section. The other patrons seemed as listless as He, and didn’t notice us; me walking with a god. I took Him to the organic area, where a bunch of kale cost $4, and proudly flourished my arms. “Healthy food, all you can consume, Lord!” I said. The tears continued. “It’s so expensive. And how do I know what “organic” means, anyway? And the eggs,” He pointed to the fridge unit at the perpendicular wall. “Vegetarian fed, free range, cageless, organic, do any of them mean anything truly kind and humane, truly good for you?” “Um, Ethnic food? There’s an aisle with Hispanic and Asian food.” “Processed again, for an American palate.” This guy was a downer. “Wine, then,” I said firmly. I walked to the summer patio set - why did a grocery store sell a $150 patio set? - and sat Him down. “Wait here.” I ran to the plastic aisle and grabbed a bag of biodegradable cups, then went to the wine aisle. I got a bottle of red, paused, and got another one for myself. I figured I’d need it. I rejoined Him, relieved to see He was still there. I sat and put the cups and wine on the table. “Shit,” I said. “No corkscrew.” Jeorge waved His hand and lo, the cork flew out, hitting the back of a thin man’s head - an unbeliever. The unbeliever frowned at us, but did not come to chastise the Lord, but walked away, muttering darkly. “So you’re the god of all this, but you hate it?” I asked. He downed his wine in one gulp and shoved His cup - His Grail - at me. I refilled it. “It needs work. It’s why I am here. I need priests, followers, a bible. It’s a wretched place.” I thought of Jesus and the money changers, and wondered if Jeorge would go all medieval on a samples table at the market. I was about to tell Him that it wasn’t all that bad, but I glanced at my own basket, discarded on the floor. In it was a Cosmo, a bag of generic brand potato chips, not a box of frozen food, and my bottle of wine. I looked at the door. An obese white woman with a crying baby came in and bypassed the overpriced fresh produce to get to the cheaper processed food. She frowned at a book of food stamps. At the customer service counter, a bored-looking manager, without apology or irritation, gave a shouting man a refund for his broken eggs. The god took my hand and looked into my eyes. “Maya,” He said. Had I told Him my name? “You must be My priestess. Will you take on this solemn role? Will you write My holy book? Will you spread My word?” “I’m just a copywriter,” I protested. “I’m not a woman of the cloth.” “You are all I have. You are the only one who noticed me, who took note of my pain. You’re chosen of god.” I’d probably have to learn to cook now. I sighed. “I don’t really have anything else going for me. Why not?” I looked at Him sharply. “I don’t have to be celibate, do I? And women aren’t going to be below men in this religion?” Jeorge shook His head. “The shopper is the highest in the household, and the cook is above all but the shopper. Gender and sex matter not.” “All right, then. We have a deal.” I shook His hand, the contact with His skin making my head swim. He smiled at me, and I relaxed in His divinity. A manager came over to tell us we couldn’t drink in the store, this time looking less bored and more outraged. Jeorge looked at him, dark eyes flashing, and the man fell to his knees. He babbled, confessing the sin to push expired meat onto customers. I left him to learn the Ways of Jeorge and headed to the express lane. I know the impulse buy endcaps of Piggly Wiggly better than anyone, and I’m sure that yesterday there hadn’t been a bin of multi-colored robes by the express lane. Above it, a sign said, “BUY TOO PRIESTESS ROBES, GET THE THIRD FREE! INSULATED POCKETS KEEP HOT FOODS HOT AND COLD FOODS COLD!” I frowned and took a Sharpie out of my purse. I changed the TOO to a TWO and smiled. I was already doing my job of getting the proper holy message across. I grabbed three robes and got in line. It moved faster than usual. I chose to thank Jeorge for that. Only when I got outside did I realize I still didn't have anything to eat for dinner. Too emotionally drained for more grocery drama, I dropped by Taco Bell on the way home. I saw the god of restaurants through the window, shouting and waving His arms at the patrons, throwing hot sauce packets at them. I decided to take the drive-thru.
Published on Mar 18, 2014
by Christine M Layton
Mary Shelton steps into the kitchen of her efficiency apartment on Christmas morning and quietly fixes a small pot of coffee. Long ago divorced, with no children and no family living close by, Mary is prepared for a solitary Christmas day. While the coffee pot burbles and drips, she turns on the television for some company. A reporter speaks excitedly. "...a phenomenon that cannot be accounted for. I repeat, this is not a hoax. Police stations across America began receiving calls in the early hours today, when individuals across the country phoned to report the break-ins. Police Chief Richard Burley is here with me at the station."
Published on Dec 25, 2014
by Leena Likitalo
"We'd bring the Christmas tree in the night before," Gramma said as the children and adults alike gathered for dinner. She loved filling every nook and corner of her farmhouse with tales from the years past and traditions forgotten by most. "But the preparations would have started already the spring before." My cousins and I giggled as we passed the wooden bowls around. The sweet steam of the rice porridge made us all salivate. I treasured each milk-swollen, butter-coated grain on my tongue as if it were a pearl.
Published on Dec 18, 2015
by Grá Linnaea
Things you were supposed to believe in, but you didn't really until He told you for certain: Heaven.
Published on Jun 18, 2013
by Huston Lowell
Singh watched with a skeptical eye as the little boy came woohooing down the cyclone slide. Could this be the snotty nose of the Chosen One? "We've definitely found him." Jhadav took a step forward. This was his first run, and it was no secret that he wanted to prove himself. "Let's go."
Published on Oct 16, 2012
by Matthew Marinett
"Here's a good one," Kali said. The left corner of her mouth was curved up like a dog-eared page: her trickster smile. In her hand was a crumpled parchment with ancient letters scrawled messily across it. "'Please strike down this impious philosopher with your mighty lightning.' Unsigned." Horatio moved beside her and tried to stare over her shoulder. "Addressed to whom?"
Published on Dec 10, 2012
by Rich Matrunick
It begins the same as always, with the sound of the shovel scraping over the country road. I sit upon the dashboard of the idling car--being a turtle, it's the only way I can see--watching as the old woman lifts her shovel, carrying the mangled carcass of a squirrel. She opens the rear door and places the squirrel into a shoebox on the back seat. The smell is not pleasant, but I say nothing. She seals the lid.
Published on Jun 26, 2012
by Bruce McAllister
The piece of amber that held the inclusion--the fragment of shed snakeskin--had arrived in a load from Iraq, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. There were also twelve pieces that had leaves and tiny bits of bark--a fruit tree, it would turn out. When the material was isolated, removed, and its DNA analyzed, the company--one of the "species resurrection" companies providing collectors, museums and wealthy consumers with product--knew it had both a non-venomous snake of a new genus and a fruit-bearing tree in the ficus genus. When the techs had made their report, a young man in Marketing suggested that they package the two as the "Eden Pair." The amber, after all, was from one of the three locations that might, scholars believed, have been the location of the mythic Garden of Eden. "A snake and a tree," his boss responded. "Why not?" The tech responsible for DNA scanning noticed anomalies, but had seen such things before. Like leglessness in some lizards, it wasn't a red flag. What mattered to the company was that it wasn't venomous and that it couldn't breed with living species. If the buyer wanted more, the company would clone them.
Published on May 22, 2015
by Laura Lee McArdle
Zaphira spoke to God. It wasn't that she had been taught to, or that she was at a loss for conversation partners. It was mainly that no one else was interested in talking metaphysics with a four year old. The other children at daycare would stare blankly, and if she became too insistent Miss Carnegie sent her to Quiet Corner. Which was where she was now. She rocked forward on the Quiet Corner carpet until her forehead bumped against the dust-colored wall. She closed her eyes and pressed her fingers against the lids creating bursts of color that matched the rhythm of the bumping.
Published on Mar 8, 2012
by Melissa Mead
The old devil blinked. They stood on the blank storage platform, and the lost soul, looking more opaque than before, was shaking a finger at him. “That was too easy. You left a trail of bloody footprints. Now you find me!” It turned and dived off the edge.
Published on Sep 9, 2010
by Melissa Mead
The skiff had almost forgotten its purpose. Crossing the Styx, back and forth. Or was it the Acheron? The skiff wasn't sure it mattered. The River of Pain and the River of Woe had no effect on wood that could feel neither. Once, souls had thronged the river's banks, leaving threads of their fraying selves behind to melt into the skiff that ferried them to the Underworld. Those tattered fragments of identity had awakened something in the skiff's timbers. An awareness, a sense of "it" and "not it," and the greater world around it. The skiff sensed flowing water, charged with powers it couldn't understand. It sensed the banks that bounded its world. It felt the heavy tread of the old man who poled the skiff back and forth, and the faint shifting weight of passengers. Decades passed and souls came and went, leaving scraps of themselves behind. Its sense of self broadened. It saw shapes and forms. Sounds took on meaning, became words like Sun and Earth and Friend and Family. The old man might be Family. He was more than just a heavy tread now. Now he was Charon, strong-armed and quick-tempered. If a soul tried to enter the skiff without paying a coin, the ferryman would heave them overboard with his pole. It made the skiff feel protected. The passengers were mostly colorless, vague things. Now and then, though, someone vibrant and interesting would cross: the man draped in golden lionskin who dared to fight with Charon. The youth who played such sweet music that the very timbers of the skiff echoed with it. His sad, silent wife, who came back without him, weeping. Now not even the pale and aimless shades came. Even those doomed to wander the shore for a century because they lacked coins for Charon had gone long ago, while the Ferryman and his craft poled from bank to empty bank. So the skiff felt Charon's surprised jolt when he spotted the shining figure on the shore. The skiff had never known its Ferryman to be surprised. Angry, sullen, fierce, but never surprised. They poled closer. "Hail, Hermes Psychopomp," the old man grumbled. "Well, now there's the thing." The newcomer, a young man wearing a cap and winged sandals, stepped aboard without offering a gift, or even waiting for a nod from Charon. The sandals tickled the skiff's planking. And to the skiff's astonishment, the Ferryman just stood at rigid attention, making no move to throw the stranger overboard. "About the psychopomp business," the youth continued, stretching his long legs on the deck and throwing an arm across the gunwale, "It's hard to be a Conductor of Souls when you've got no souls to conduct. Surely you've noticed that business has fallen off lately." "One soul or a hundred, it's the same to me. I am the way across the rivers, and I will not leave my post." "That's what I like about you. Dedicated. Evenhanded. Reliable to the last." The young man sat up straight, and his expression turned serious. "And trust me, Charon, you are the last." "What do you mean?" "Mankind has turned to new gods and new ways. They go from this world to another through gates of pearl, not across dismal rivers. They go to paradisaical gardens, not shadowed caves. The Olympians have retired to their Mount, and the world has changed to its foundations." His cheerful smile returned. "So I've come to collect you before you miss all the fun." "You are the god of thieves and tricksters, O Messenger of Olympus. Why should I believe you?" "Because I'm also the god of crossroads and boundaries, and we're standing on one. The very rivers of the Underworld are changing. Wait too long, and you'll simply fade to nothing, and your faithful boat here will crumble to splinters." Hermes patted the gunwale, and the skiff felt its patchwork consciousness unify and expand. It remembered being a tree, standing tall and proud in a flowered meadow, while sunlight pouring onto its leaves. It remembered the axe's bite, and Charon's first ponderous tread upon its resinous planks. The myriad souls. Charon's steady guidance. His strong hands deftly patching any crack or splinter. The way Charon never let the skiff's keel scrape in the shallows. For the first time, the skiff felt yearning. For their journey to go on. To carry passengers together: souls and heroes and Queens of the Underworld. And irreverent young trickster gods like the one who sat grinning in its bow. "Never had any use for Olympus," Charon grunted. "Marble and peacocks and featherbeds with everybody and their brother jumping in and out of 'em.... No. I've got a job to do." "But you don't! That's the point. If you don't wish to go to Olympus, the whole Afterlife's wide open now. Even the Elysian Fields." Charon grunted. "Or the Asphodel Meadows, if you'd prefer. You can even sulk in Tartarus if you want. The point is, go somewhere, or you'll fade." The old man grunted again, and for the first time the skiff could remember, sat down. "I swore by the Styx not to leave my post, and I remember my oaths. I won't leave my post, or my ship." "Ship?" Hermes smiled and ran a hand along the gunwale. Something sparked and trickled through the ancient wood. "Bit of an overstatement, that." "It does the job," said Charon. "As do I." "Stubborn. Fine. Let me off. I can't make you come with me if you don't want to." One of the god's long-fingered hands trailed idly in the water that no shade could touch. Charon poled for the shore without another word. Hermes, Conductor of souls, leapt out alone. "Travel well, Ferryman," he said, and patted the skiff's side. The water trickled along the paths that the god's touch had laid. As Charon poled the skiff into the river, it saw Hermes' smiling face and felt a wrench of knowledge. This was Acheron, bitter river of woe. Woe for the leaves and sunlight it had lost. Woe for the thought of falling to pieces. And greatest of all, woe for Charon, loyal ferryman of the strong arms, fading, alone in the darkness, to become less than the shades he had carried. Did Charon's hand tremble on the tiller? No, the skiff realized. That was its own motion. The Trickster, the Conductor of Souls, had given the skiff the reins of its own soul. The skiff turned and labored its way upstream. Charon's startled curses drowned out Hermes' laughter. The skiff fought its way against the currents of the Underworld, past fallen rocks and collapsed banks, until the taste of the water turned soft and soothing. Charon stood breathing hard. The skiff drove forward. The waters of the River Lethe soaked into its planks. Forgetfulness teased at its fragile new consciousness. Why was it fighting the current? It was meant to go back and forth, back and forth.... "No!" shouted Charon. "I swore by the Styx. I remember my oath. I will keep my oath!" Ah. That was why. Charon, its constant companion, its protector. Charon's mighty self must not be allowed to fade. Gently as a sigh, the skiff's planks parted, tumbling the ferryman into the River of Forgetting. And Hermes was there, his winged sandals just above the water, hauling the sputtering old man onto the far shore. "By Zeus, who pushed me? What happened?" "Welcome to the Afterlife, Charon! You've served the gods long and well, and earned the right to a throne on Mount Olympus." "Throne? Bah! None of that nonsense for me. Just point me to a quiet spot under a tree." "Certainly. Right this way. Don't mind Cerberus. All three heads are quite gentle, as long as you're going this direction." The old man paused, and rubbed his forehead. "I'm forgetting something... someone...." "Trust me. Anybody you might want to see will be waiting in the Asphodel Meadows." "Hmph." Charon stumped off, oblivious to the broken pile of flotsam on the shoreline. "Ah. Just a moment," said Hermes. He reached into the pile and pulled out a piece of wood as long as his forearm. At his touch, the waters of Lethe steamed away and the former skiff remembered. Sunshine. Leaves. Souls. Stubborn, loyal Charon. "Just the thing!" said Hermes. He held the slab out to Charon. "Here. Throw it." "What?" "For Cerberus. He loves to chase sticks." "That's a plank, not a stick." "Humor me." Charon's mighty arm lifted the slab of wood with ease. He hurled it, and the three-headed dog leapt forward, wagging a tail as long as a serpent's as it took the plank in its jaws. "Go on now," said Hermes, shooing it ahead. "We're coming." The piece of wood that had been Charon's skiff didn't notice the great dog's teeth. It only felt the rush of breeze and the warmth of sunlight as Cerberus bounded ahead, carrying it into the Asphodel Meadows.
Published on Feb 25, 2022
by William Meikle
The man who walked into my office was old-school through and through. A squad of little old ladies on Harris had toiled for years to make his suit, his school tie was knotted just right, and his brogues squeaked as he walked across the room. He looked to be in his seventies, but held his back ramrod straight. He strode into the room as if he owned it and thrust a hand at me that I couldn’t refuse to shake. “Thanks for seeing me doctor,” he said.
Published on Nov 16, 2010
by Viara R Mileva-Seitz
I notice the scars on her back. I wasn't born yesterday. She's a made-over angel. Wasn't meant to be, maybe, or maybe she fucked up somehow. She slumps over the gleaming bar like she doesn't want to be disturbed, but I can't stop my feet from trudging over, leaving traces of soot. She doesn't look up. Don't think she sees me, though the fluorescence casts my shadow over her clutched hands on the alabaster countertop.
Published on Aug 26, 2016
by D. Thomas Minton
Alexandre found Samson exactly where the card said. The card hadn't mentioned the gun or the explosives or the twenty- seven ashen-faced hostages, but he could work with that.
Published on Jul 17, 2013
by Jennifer Moore
“Never mind. You’re here now,” continued the man, as if he hadn’t heard. “And it’s your turn. Go on, my lovely.” There was a black hollow at the front of his mouth where teeth should have been. “Pick a jug. Any jug. You get to keep the soul inside.”
Published on Sep 23, 2010
by Mari Ness
If you follow the sound of the pipes on a very certain Monday morning, you might see them. The partridge first, in the little pear tree. The turtledoves next, and then hens. By this time, you might be laughing, or groaning, at someone obsessed enough with a silly carol to be following it this closely. But. Those pipes.
Published on Dec 25, 2017
by Mari Ness
The angel did not want his wings. He had, after all, a place in Paradise. He had harps to polish, and music to sing, and the occasional soul to comfort. And if he could not rise to the heavens during the angelic choruses --well. From where he stood, the music of angels surrounded him and fell upon him in golden drops, and in those moments, he needed nothing else.
Published on Mar 17, 2020
by Kat Otis
Every condemned man and woman of London has the right to face my sword before they die, but I pray they will choose not to. The first man to face death is dressed in his Sunday best and plays to the jeering crowd as he walks to the gallows. As the executioner ties the noose around his neck, I offer him the sword and he spits at my feet. He makes a fine speech about being seduced by worldly pleasures then they drive forward the cart upon which he stands and leave him hanging from the gallows. Men rush forward to grab his legs and hasten his end.
Published on Apr 20, 2020
by Chris Ovenden
Right after my PhD, I took a job at Omni-book. You remember? That search-engine. Had this algorithm that could take you where you wanted with just one search term. No? I Suppose that makes sense.
Published on May 4, 2016
by Anya Ow
"It's time," the nurse said. A digital countdown leaped over the wall. 0:99. 0:98. Countdown to the perfect hour. She had been sweating into her pristine white and blue uniform for an hour before this, getting ready. With her round face masked tight, her envy was visible only as bruises within her eyes. 0:88. The surgeon's arms were sheathed in state-of-the-art bionics. The mods could probably complete the operation even if their host body was unconscious, but they were set on manual today. The life of the mother wasn't what was at stake. The future auspices of the baby were in their hands. The surgeon would have to time the procedure exquisitely to pull the baby out into the right hour of the right day of the right week, month, year.
Published on Jan 14, 2019
by Shannon Peavey
It's somebody's birthday. Streamers tangled in the chain-link fence--a spotted pit bull with a party hat strapped to his flap-grinned face. So I know it's somebody's birthday, and soon I'll remember whose. Soon I'll remember arriving here or who is going to take me home. I close my eyes and there are countless unknowable faces behind my eyelids and they want to touch me, want to know, like there's something they could steal from just underneath my skin--
Published on May 29, 2015
by Alex Petri
***Editor's Note: Mature Theme, Disturbing Tale*** "You have to call them today," I said. "We've waited too long. We should have done that the day she disappeared."
Published on Dec 17, 2012
by Stephen S. Power
When Satan comes out of Whole Foods, dressed as an old lady, He finds his car surrounded by other shoppers. Inside His bichon is yapping like mad and pawing the windows. "You should be ashamed," a woman in yoga pants says, "leaving your dog in there with the windows closed."
Published on May 18, 2016
by Ken Poyner
It has been a while since my wife was Raptured. Happened right there in the grocery store lot. One minute, we were deciding whether the cola should go in the trunk or on the back seat, and the next she was ten feet in the air and gaining momentum. We always buy too much when we go to the store, trying to take advantage of all the hidden bargains. Back with our full cart, we know not all of it will go in our small and already amply populated trunk. So, there is the discussion about what items fit best in which available rolling space.
Published on Apr 20, 2021
by Alter S. Reiss
"You seem to have brought one heck of a sword here. Four and a half feet long, black steel blade. Can you tell me what you know about it?" "Well, my grandfather was the treasurer for one of the dark lords, over in the Southlands. And, you know how it is. Sometimes he'd bring home little things that wouldn't be missed--caught up with him in the end. Liver eaten out by demons on a rock in hell, or something like that. We send him a card at the holidays, but I don't know if he reads it. Anyhow, this was one of the things that he brought back. We used to love it as kids--used it to cut pumpkins in half, and we'd chase each other around with it."
Published on May 26, 2014
by Daniel Rosen
Piniglat was not the first to ask for miracles, but she was the most persistent. I'd turned her away last time, and the time before, and every other time after the first. As easy to count grains of sand on the beach as count the times I've been begged to open my book of miracles. Piniglat was persistent, but so was I. When she arrived, I put on water for tea (black for me, chamomile for Piniglat), and prepared to say no. We only get one miracle.
Published on Feb 4, 2020
by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero
Stalker feels the leers of wall-leaning pool-players slide along her spandex dress--she's worth gazes, even though she gilds her hair to hide sneaking gray. She breathes alcohol-and-hormone haze. Ah--her prey are at the bar, his buzz-cut gray head nuzzling her sleek neck, her young face bored, as on most nights.
Published on Nov 24, 2011
by Kenneth Schneyer
As a condition of the use and enjoyment of the Body selected for your use, you agree to the following Terms of Use: You understand that the aforementioned Body is designed for no more than seventy (70) years of operation, and that attempts to employ said Body for any period beyond the aforementioned duration carries no guarantee that it will function in any capacity. You understand further that We have no control over the actions of other vendors, and that consequently the Body selected for your use may be subject to the actions of other models not within Our control, including infection, infestation, deformation, and decomposition before the expiration of the design period.
Published on Nov 26, 2013
by Nicholas Schroeder
Charles was a philosophy professor at a small liberal arts college. He prepped for the afternoon lecture on the problem of evil. This was always a fun topic, especially considering that he was an atheist. “Now why is there evil in the world, if god is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good?” Brandon jumped in, “If I understand correctly evil exists because of human free will, not God?”
Published on Apr 30, 2021
by K. Shefferd
The men who tried to kill her were content to see her as a trophy, yet objected to their materialization under her stony gaze. History was carved by those permitted the tools, and so the stories painted a heinous monster. Lost was the truth that her gaze didn't turn all to stone, only those that wanted her, lusted for her, for gods were lusty creatures and men in their image. The stories didn't tell how she laughed with the weaver and her daughter, spun thread with them; broke bread with the shepherd and gave him and his goats shelter when storms smashed against the land. That she was happy with a life without lust, and that love could spring from other wells.
Published on Jul 19, 2021
by Amy Sisson
The man in the black fedora closes his eyes briefly, then turns to face the demon behind him. He holds his arms out from his sides and tilts his head back, offering himself, his face peaceful, or perhaps resigned. The man waits patiently for what seems an eternity, arms outstretched, until the demon finally rushes forth with a roar and rakes its claw across the man's throat. The smell of blood enrages the beast further and it slashes again, this time slicing through the man's clothing and across his chest. The man falls to his knees, gurgling as he tries to breathe, but still he keeps his face turned up towards the demon.
Published on Nov 21, 2016
by K.B. Sluss
It started with a thumb. Tiny and pale, it came in a slim, padded envelope that fit through the mail slot in my front door. A week later, I received a toe--the big one, possibly for a right foot. A week after that, the pinkie finger of a left hand, no bigger than a kidney bean. Each item was made to my precise specifications and guaranteed one-of-a-kind. I laid out my growing collection on the table in my workroom and spent countless hours trying to surmise the eventual results from those small clues. During the fourth week I received an ear; pink with curving cartilage like a strange seashell, a souvenir gathered from an exotic beach. Next came an eye with a blue topaz iris, the color reminding me of the waters at the ocean where I spent the summers of my own childhood.
Published on Oct 29, 2013
by Robby Sparks
With steady hands, the watchmaker inserted the tiny cog into the back of the timepiece. Clocks of various shapes and sizes occupied the workshop around him. Outside, the winter storm blew. Amidst the cacophony of ticks and tocks, the occasional chime and bell, came a knock at the cottage door. The watchmaker paid it no mind, but continued to work with unyielding concentration on his most intricate design. Meanwhile, a cold draft gusted in as the door opened and a tall, heavy stranger, wrapped in burlap and furs, hunched down to enter. Snow dusted his clothes. Ice clung to his lashes and beard.
Published on Dec 24, 2014
by Gordon Sun
“Got any tax-deductible donations for the Visit, Mr. Smith?” asked Elvis. “You know the drill. Perishables, recyclables, anything you don’t need.” Smith craned his neck back into the house. “Son, go to the attic and bring down all those unopened electronics.” He returned his attention to the solicitor. “Will that do?”
Published on Mar 25, 2021
by Henry Szabranski
The water's glassy surface reflects the boardwalk and the mist that drifts above it. Pine scent lingers in the chill air. The only sounds are the clomp-clomp-clomp of your feet, the slow rumble of the bicycle's tires across the uneven planks, the tick-tick-tick of the chain winding over the gears. Soon even these come to a halt. Steps lead down to the water.
Published on May 27, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
The angel floated just below the rafters of Amy's bedroom. It glowed like a Christmas ornament: rainbow colours shimmering across its translucent, slow-sculling wings. Its soft radiance filled the darkened room.
Published on Oct 19, 2011
by Elizabeth Twist
Helene takes two vows on her wedding day, equally rotten. The first is private. Midnight crossroads. Chanted words. The scent of brimstone. Cherry red skin and horns in a gentleman's suit. Negotiation. A cold kiss to seal agreement.
Published on Mar 23, 2017
by Sean Vivier
Ever since the Rapture, we have all become far kinder to one another. I haven't seen a trace of judgment for petty differences. Not one gay slur. No Muslim has been beaten in a long while. My trans friends are walking without fear. And I haven't been slut-shamed once. It's a real Paradise on Earth.
Published on Sep 15, 2020
by Deborah Walker
That demi winter night, Thrash stood on the passage stone, a hundred meters from the village walls. During the long hours his eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, and when he glanced at the sky the stars were brighter than he'd ever imagined: dazzling, mocking. The wind's knife cut at his bare chest, flensing flesh to bone. Thrash longed for the warmth of his wool-lined leather coat. But that was a boy's thought. Men did not wear such things.
Published on Sep 24, 2014
by Wren Wallis
"Here," says Nina, "hold this," and she puts it in my hand. That's how I come to be holding the stone when the world ends. It's hard to tell at first what's happening. We've been standing on the beach in the bleak afternoon light, gray shore and gray sea, sand and spray whipped into a fine stinging mist by the December wind. We were beachcombing. Well, Nina was beachcombing. She said we ought to have a walk, for old times' sake, after the meeting with the lawyers but before the whole thing was done.
Published on Nov 19, 2013
by Kieron Walquist
I feast my eyes on what I'll be eating tonight: a whole, roasted bird. L'ortolan the host declares. It's a delicacy. Caught in the forest--a cathedral of green--by a net spread up in the canopy. Captured alive, the songbird is taken home, put into a cage and blinded--a needle to the soft eyes. You force-feed it oats and millet and figs to fatten and flavor the fowl. Heavy with meat, it's drowned in Armagnac that both murders and marinates it. Plucked of feathers, the bird is roasted in a hot oven, then brought to the table. Before we begin, we place a cloth over our head, he instructs.
Published on Mar 29, 2018
by David Wardrop
"And there." He held his hand out to the far new horizon and with his finger spread a white line against the turquoise sky. From behind him came a figure. It was a shadowy figure in a long black robe and a creeping form of movement.
Published on Jun 30, 2016
by Ian Watson
At midnight on the final day of the electoral campaign, Jehovah annihilated the human race. Jehovah had done this once before, by flood--apart from Noah and his wife and his family and their zoo--but this time was more final. Jehovah used simultaneous global strokes. Annihilation meant that us assembled Gods could count souls, to determine how many votes each of us had. I am Dawk, the God of Militant Atheists, biased in no God's favor, thus I was the scrutineer.
Published on Aug 25, 2017
by Hannah Yang
The gods told us to wake, so we did. Eyes open. Fists unfurling. We looked up to see these powerful creatures beaming down at their new creations, ready to show us the world.
Published on Jun 10, 2021
by Ann Zimmerman
The overlords drop our food from the sky. We never know where the packets will land, or how they fall undamaged. Our daily activities include a search for our meals. If we raise our voices in hymns and chant our prayers loudly, we may even receive fresh fruit. Once we worshipped so reverently that packages of sugar graced our village. But lately some youthful rabble rousers started agitating for change. They curse the overlords. At their secret meetings they discuss "haves" and "have nots." Once I foolishly attended, and left terrified. I am old enough to have experienced the overlords’ wrath. These youngsters know only their generosity. Now their chatter endangers our entire village. One day a large package of oranges appears in the town center. The angry youth gather round and smash the fruit. They raise their fists and scream at the sky. We elders notice the black clouds gathering. I call to everyone to take cover. But the would-be rebels continue smashing and shouting. Soon metal particles fall like hail, breaking windows and shredding plants. As the storm intensifies, high winds blast shards through any flimsy structure. All who cannot reach shelter risk their lives. Huddled safely inside my home, I see a young woman dash away from the group. Clutching an infant, she races toward my door. I stare in horror as shrapnel falls around her. Suddenly she stumbles. A fragment of metal protrudes from her back. The child screams. Shaking with fear, I open my door and run. I cannot pull the woman to safety, but I lift the child. After we rush inside, I watch more shards pinion the dying woman. I wonder why the young cannot learn from us. If my useless tears had not long ago dried up, I would shed them now.
Published on Oct 19, 2021