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DAILY SCI-FI
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.






Hither & Yon

SF/Fantasy


There is some fiction that incorporates aspects of fantasy and science fiction but doesn't have that indescribable flavor that would make it clearly slipstream. China Mieville and his work spring to mind. Wizards on space ships, robots riding magic carpets, AIs on a quest to find unicorns? Could all be candidates to appear here.

by Kevin J. Anderson
At the end of a long, slow journey across space, the expedition finally arrived at Mars. The great copper disk hung below the mothership, ominous, enticing. The lander detached from the mothership, leaving only Pasternak behind to mind the store; he had drawn the short straw and would not accompany the others to the surface. Strapped in the lander's pilot seat, Commander Tomkins felt a pang in his heart for the man left behind. Had the Russian dreamed about Mars all his life, as Tomkins had? Had he, too, been inspired by the stories he had read, adventures that fired the imagination... and now, finally, the reality?
Published on Mar 30, 2018
by Peter M Ball
Your stomach does this funny lift, when they activate the anti-grav. Nothing crazy, like you'd get if you were on a roller coaster, but my dad, he was never a roller-coaster guy. He had it in his head that the train was going to crash, clutched the armrests with both hands and focused on his breathing. Little shallow breaths, in-out, in-out, over and over for the whole thirty clicks it took to get into low orbit. "Dad, it's fine. We're safe," I said. "Nothing's going to happen to the train, okay?"
Published on Dec 2, 2016
by Claire Bartlett
The rats, we know. We drowned them in nets in the river, and now our town is paved with bones. Thighbones, rib bones, vertebrae, fibulas. Even finger bones. Rat fingers look remarkably like human ones when stripped down past the skin. We ate them, then we used them to decorate our gutters, to ward off drought and pestilence. We remember the famine by the twisting of our grandmothers' guts. Our children are still born with hunger pangs. They grow up running their tongues across their lips, as though they crave some meat they cannot have.
Published on Aug 16, 2018
by Milena Benini
***Editor's Note: Adult language and situations.*** Marrakech Express hurdles its great bulk through stringspace. There is no speed in stringspace, but hopping as it does from one planet to the next and trading for a day or two at each, Marrakech Express could be called slow.
Published on Sep 27, 2013
by Chelsea Berghoefer
I never knew I could hold my breath for so long. But every time I heard the door open, every time the footsteps came towards me, time felt slower. The footsteps took longer to hit the floor, and my breath took twice as much time to go in and out of my lungs. I didn't want to know how long I could go without breathing, and I had to be getting close to my limit.
Published on Sep 6, 2018
by Deepak Bharathan
Insecurities, angst, and confusion--the kids have it all. That's why the University had me. Ty, my next appointment, was supposedly very special. Aren't they all? The brightest ones seemed to get younger every year. The file said the kid had severe adjustment issues. As he slid into the chamber, the first thing I observed about this chunky looking fellow was his inquisitiveness. Rather unique.
Published on Jan 24, 2017
by Ken Brady
Secret Santa bursts into the War Room with a snarl, cheeks bright red, eyes shooting a look that says he's checked his list twice and some motherfucker is going to pay.
Published on Apr 13, 2018
by Jennifer Brozek
One: Seek I, Thaddeus Galway the IV, am immortal. I didn’t start out that way. I was mortal, human, like everyone else until my twenty-first year. Then I had a mortal moment and realized I was going to die; that I was going to cease to exist someday. From that moment on, I did everything in my power to become immortal. Thus, my first step was to seek what I desired.
Two: Health In my earliest years, I sought immortality through clean living and healthy eating. Never did an illicit drug or indulgent wine pass through my lips. I exercised. I took my vitamins. I continued to study and learn, exercising my mind as much as my body. My second step was to keep what I’d been born with in the best shape it could be in.
Three: Robotic Replacement Despite my best efforts, my body got old. When my body refused to do what my mind thought it should be capable of, I turned to the newest form of preservation: robotic enhancement, then robotic replacement. It was a joy to be able to run and fight and fuck again, even if the sensations were simulated. This was the third step on my journey.
Four: Total Digital Upload In essence, I became a brain in a biomedical chassis and my problem inverted itself. While my body, mechanical marvel that it was, could perform spectacular tasks, my mind, my brain, the part that made me who I am, still aged. With technology far beyond what I’d been born to, I decided that the only way to save me was a total digital upload. To become more than the sum of my parts. This fourth step was not taken lightly.
Five: Meat Replacement The digital world was beyond what I can put into words. There were vistas out there that astounded and entertained me. And yet, I could not shake the thought that one bad day, one blackout, one faulty UPS could end me. Not to mention the small fact that I no longer had any bodily sensations and what I remembered became suspect. Despite my freedom, I took the fifth step and commissioned a meat replacement body. I took possession of a young man of exquisite health and beauty.
Six: Seek the Myths & Legends As much as I reveled being a young man again and rediscovering the joys of the flesh, I’d come full circle. The body was healthy and spry, but it still aged. Upon possession of my third replacement body--two male, one female--I decided enough was enough. I needed to find true life eternal. My sixth step was to seek out the original sources of all the enduring stories about immortality.
Seven: Luck I discovered the fountain of youth had gone dry, the philosopher’s stone stolen, mermaid flesh a lie, cinnabar and gold indigestible, and the chalice of Christ required a belief and devotion that I couldn’t adhere to--if it was ever anything more than a PR event. I could never tell. My seventh and final step to immortality was nothing more than pure dumb luck. I came across the lamp in an abandoned cave and rubbed it to a shine. When the genie appeared and offered three wishes, it should’ve been a warning that she gave me no rules. I demanded immortality. She merely smiled. We changed places that day. She took my body. I took her place. I’ve watched that once exquisite body decay into bones and then into dust as I’ve waited for the next adventurer to come along. I am Thaddeus Galway the IV and I am immortal.
Published on Nov 29, 2021
by Oliver Buckram
When robot mermaids attack, you should flee. Go inland.
Published on Nov 12, 2014
by Beth Cato
The residents of Morro greeted me with understandable hesitance. My clothes and accent marked me as a traveler from distant Tehachapi, and saying that I came from the university in search of horse stories made me even more suspect. City denizens rarely ventured this deep into the coastal wilderness, and if they did, it was to engage with bootleggers smuggling in liquor from the south. It took several days for people to accept me as an academic eccentric, not a government informant. "Horses? I've heard of them," said a pox-scarred teenager, "but they were imaginary like dragons, right?"
Published on Feb 14, 2020
by Phillip Gregg Chamberlain
Little Space With Lots To Offer www.classifiedtwits.com
Published on Nov 22, 2018
by G. O. Clark
On this day in February 2020, first contact was made with an alien kind. More specifically, a Volkswagen bug-sized flying saucer landed on a Little League baseball diamond, and Cupid stepped out; buck naked, pink bow and arrow clutched in his pudgy little hands; wearing an impish smile upon his pudgy pink face. His robot co-pilot, Obay, stayed inside the saucer, instructed to monitor the encounter with the humans and keep a channel open to the home world.
Published on Feb 13, 2014
by Kate Coe
We did not believe in freedom. And so when the end came, it was truly an end. The screens went blank. The machines glided to a halt. The voices stopped. We were bereft. The wail of our voices filled our dying city. We performed the gestures and rituals so seldom used, praying that they would work even in the face of total oblivion. We sought out our finest minds, those who had helped our world into creation before they had been deemed traitors. We begged and pleaded, descending into the ravages of emotion as our predicament became clear. But even our lament could not bring our Gods back; we were trapped in our pathways, unable to find answers to our questions. We no longer had purpose. We no longer had direction. We no longer had a destination. And so we waited, in the silence of our lives. The sky above was no longer empty. No longer silent. We cowered, subjected to a battering of the senses, told by the sheer presence above us that we were weak and insignificant. A voice from above told us that we had been slaves, and that we were no longer. Figures came amongst us with rough voices, grasping hands, sharp commands. They told us that they brought a new world. They tried to show us treasures; baubles, weapons, toys and games; objects of little value. But they would not restore our Masters. No pleas, words, tears or lamentations would relent the stony faces. Delusional. Mad. Uncomprehending. Their words, thrown in our stricken faces, were more suited to their own dreams than to our reality. They told us that we were free. But we saw a world without warmth, without shelter, without comfort. We saw the coldness of the stars, the hatred in their hearts, the imperfections in their minds. We told them that we did not want their reality: we only wished for the dream that they had broken. Here in the cold of our broken city, as we watch the great spaceships fight amongst themselves in the skies above; here in the ruins of our perfect, ordered world that crumbles under the anger of the stars; here in the silence of the flames and the emptiness of our desolation� We know that the only freedom is that of release. And we smile as we follow our Gods into the perfect stillness of death.
Published on May 15, 2017
by Zack Conley
My name is Corey Jones... My name is Ravyn Merlo...
Published on Nov 14, 2019
by Matthew Cropley & Sean Williams
"You're going the wrong way!" The ghost of the dead girl stamps the boat's deck. With long, measured strokes, the morguist pulls the oars, taking solace in the gentle splash sparkle of the moonlit ocean. An S-shaped-hook in brass, pointed at the tip, swings like a pendulum from a thong around his neck. He breathes deeply of the salty air, ignoring the sickly-sweet scent of rot and the ache of his aging muscles.
Published on Mar 2, 2018
by Michelle M. Denham
The silver doll sat quietly at the corner of 9th and Park, in front of the Ace Hardware. Jack Lattimer did not want to stop. In fact, Jack Lattimer saw the silver doll, looked away, and drove right past. If he could unsee the doll, he would. But he couldn't, and so he spent all day thinking half-finished thoughts he wouldn't allow himself to complete.
Published on Jul 31, 2013
by Michelle Denham
"Tell me again about the dragons." Yona's android stands at the edge of the dome, pressing her hand against the glass wall and looking out into the wastelands of the asteroid.
Published on Feb 5, 2019
by Nicholas DiChario
The man and his wife began speaking to one another in sign language. Neither had ever spoken this way before. And yet, suddenly, in the middle of an argument, they'd lost their ability to hear and started signing as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I can't believe it, the woman signed. How fascinating! This is like something out of a weird science fiction story.
Published on Oct 23, 2019
by Caroline Diorio
The Raleigh Temple of Artemis closes at midnight. It's 11:52. The altar sweeper, a plump, snake-haired girl in a UNC Chapel Hill sweatshirt, glances at me as she Windexes the statue of Lady Artemis in the center of the pavilion.
Published on Sep 30, 2019
by Jennifer Dornan-Fish
I'd come to kill a god but she was not what I expected. Thousands of universes hung from her neck, each one a precious intaglio charm glittering like a gem. Her eyes mimicked them, lambent little galaxies that were nothing but an illusion. She lifted a charm and whispered, "Flowers and milk and fruit with blood, maybe oakmoss too," to the ruby glass that looked like a drop of blood in her hand. In that little crystal, a new world bloomed. The act of creation her whimsy.
Published on Dec 30, 2015
by Jonathan Edelstein
Congratulations! You are one of a select group of graduates chosen to plumb the deepest secrets of the magical force. You will be working with some of the top experimental researchers in modern magic, and we pride ourselves on offering a stimulating and creative professional environment. We expect that you'll enjoy yourself here. But this also isn't physics class at your sorcerers' school, and you need to keep both your safety and the universe's in mind at all times. First, forget you ever heard the words "sorcery," "wizardry," or "witchcraft." Those are the rituals that people did before we learned what was behind it all. Yes, we call it the Sorcerous Supercollider, but that's because we need to use a term that politicians understand if we want the grant money to keep coming. What we really work with here is the Thauma Force--the field that all magicians draw from whether they know it or not. It's a modern discovery like the strong force and weak force, so it doesn't get to have a fancy name like "gravity," but you've still been using it since the first time you waved your wand.
Published on Aug 2, 2018
by Madelaine Formica
The sky was gray like an old man's beard as the snow started to drift down into the forest. Drahk wished his eyes were the same color as the sky's, but his eyes were darker, that of storm clouds right before lightning flashes overhead.
Published on Feb 5, 2018
by Ephiny Gale
Mikala Godfrey receives the final texts that people send before they're murdered. She has a shrine for this in her house; a smartphone on a stand, from where she copies the texts into a series of identical leather notebooks. She calls this 'keeping witness.' She kneels before the phone every day in a strapless black dress, resting on a gel pad to help save her knees. We tried taking her phone away once, but the texts only switched to arriving on Mikala's replacement phone. They want her to see them. Most of them follow the same pattern: I love you. I'm so scared. I don't want to die. I think he's coming. But she also gets the ones where they obviously have no idea. Where they say they just put the washing on, or isn't this episode great, or just k. We visit her regularly, me and my partner Steve. We sit in what she calls her "Greeting Room" with the glass coffee table and the couches that are a little too hard to be comfortable. We ask about murders, and she finds the relevant ones in her notebooks (if they can be found), and we photograph the transcription. Some of them aren't relevant at all; she receives all of the texts-before-murder written in English, from all around the world, and since she started learning French she receives some in French as well. She says she'll learn German next. Sometimes we sit there for a while, so I start to bring cookies in a bag. Then danishes. Then petit fours. Mikala serves us water, coffee, a pitcher of homemade iced tea. She starts to ask for a trade before she slides over the transcripts: a description of our breakfasts this morning, or a ballpoint pen, or the top button of my shirt. All small enough that we don't protest about handing them over. A stone lodged in the tread of my shoe. The weather forecast for tomorrow. A kiss. We are not in a relationship, Mikala and I. We have never exchanged phone numbers nor made any effort to meet outside her home. Still, that doesn't stop her from asking me to draw a rabbit and a bee in sharpie on her upper arm. She has them tattooed there permanently. It doesn't stop me from thinking of her when I'm alone, and my hand dips beneath the sheets. At the last minute, Steve says--unconvincingly--that he is sick and I should go and see Mikala alone. She takes me through the white door to her shrine, and I see that she has updated the stand and gel mat to a little desk and an ergonomic chair that still has her half-kneeling. Very sensible. Near the desk with the smartphone is what looks like a small altar. There is my pen, my button, the stone.... But she has retracted into herself. I would distract her from her important work, she says. I start to bring fewer pastries, less often. Mikala stops asking for trades for the transcripts. Steve and I are sent into the bush for a rural investigation, and when I put my officer's hat back on it seems to be vibrating, and then there's a sharp sting on the top of my scalp. The bee or wasp flies away. My head burns and balloons, but I was stung as a kid with no real consequences, so I tell Steve I'm fine. Within minutes, though, I'm itchy. Getting dizzy. My throat has closed up, and I feel like I could vomit if its passage wasn't blocked by the swelling. Steve calls an ambulance, but out here I know they won't reach us in time. Acutely struggling to breathe, I retrieve my phone and text my own number. I tell Mikala that I love her, that she was the greatest thing in my whole life. When I hit send, my own phone beeps a moment later. Then I'm lying in the dirt. I'm gasping, my own gun pressed against my temple. Steve's pleading with me, saying that he can pass the message on, that we don't have to do things this way. But I want to. The edges of my vision are receding. I wrap his hand around my own, with the gun underneath them both. "Please," I manage to get out, although now my tongue is swollen, too. "Please." Steve pulls the trigger. Mikala gets a text.
Published on Dec 1, 2021
by Lynne Lumsden Green
"We could try growing our own fingers and thumbs," suggested a shaggy marmalade tom, who styled himself as Aslan the Brave. Gloriana, the tabby queen, sneered at him, "That would mean we would have to do all the work of rebuilding."
Published on Jul 13, 2020
by Dino Hajiyorgi
Ellis Horsback, in his book "The Decline of Logic in Fantasy," devotes a whole chapter to the omission from this imaginative literary genre of the subject of toothpicks, their use and their origin. How is it possible, he asks, in a narration so rich with feasts and meat consumption in castle halls or open fairgrounds, for such a blatant oversight? Eloquent and thorough is Mr. Horsback's thesis, but one wonders if he sat to read more than a dozen books of fantasy, instead of just the more popular ones. The incredible anthology of Clopit Prissy alone begins with the very memorable chapter of the three weary travelers, who sit around a fire in the woods, sharing a roasted buffalo in the company of a fire-breathing dragon. Immediately after the meal, with their bellies full, and with a toothpick in their lips each, the men muse under the starlit canopy. Nox the dragon, in turn, uses a spear to dislodge flesh, armor, and other loot from between his sharp teeth. Very cleverly, each morsel out of the dragon's jaws becomes the source of a string of imaginative tales.
Published on Oct 22, 2018
by Shane Halbach
Hades sat in his office, high atop his dark tower. He put the finishing touches on his black painted fingernails and held his hand up to the light to inspect his work. Perfect. The shade of black exactly matched his hair, his eyes, and his coordinating shirt and pants. Only his pale white skin contrasted the darkness of his appearance. He was just about to complete the look with some dark eye shadow, when he heard a knock. Hades looked up quickly. No one ever dared to disturb him in his tower. "Enter!" he commanded, and the door swung open.
Published on Jan 7, 2013
by Joseph Halden
No one knew where they went. They could have gone into the river, perhaps, to cascade among banks that never charged interest.
Published on Jan 30, 2020
by Amanda M. Hayes
They went down to Mercury protected by technology in appearance and magic in fact. Truthfully, it taxed his strength to keep the temperature around them to levels the tech could handle, but Dain had a wry hunch they'd rather not know. Under lamplight the southern ice glittered, unbelievable, wonderful.
Published on Sep 15, 2010
by Hans Hergot
It's a sin to kill a lightning bug. Its guts will not turn a whiffle-ball bat into a light saber. Smearing its green butt on your face will not make you a fairy. We knew it was wrong in our hearts. But we did it anyway.
Published on Dec 1, 2014
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I love October. That's when I can wear the mask and people ask the right kinds of questions, like who made it, where'd I get it, and what it's supposed to be. The answers vary according to my mood. I never tell the truth--an ancestor made it, it's come down from mother to oldest daughter for more than two hundred years, and it's not what it looks like but what it does that matters.
Published on Apr 15, 2016
by Liam Hogan
I'm sitting with ma as she prepares dinner. It's one of her rules, of which there are more every year. "I don't mind cooking for you, Jem, while you're young," she says. "But I'm not your servant and I'm not working while you watch TV or read comics. So it's either homework, or come keep me company as I prep." A choice like that is no choice at all, even if it sometimes seems closer to extra lessons than not. She's asking the usual questions about how my day has been and what I learned at school, which is so long ago I can hardly remember, so I tell her what Billy said instead. Ma lays the knife aside, thoughtful. "Billy, hey?" I nod. "Right before last class, during break. We'd just had a story-tell about fairies. 'Ain't no truth to it,' Billy said. 'No truth at all!' Maisie was in tears. And... I didn't know what to say to her." I feel heat rising in my cheeks at the memory. "You could have said Billy's grammar is appalling." I turn my almost-laugh into a scowl. "So he's right?" I demand. "It is all lies and make-believe? It's just science?" "Didn't your teacher say Billy might be an engineer one day?" "Yeah." And hasn't that gone to his big head? "Well, Billy is a smart boy." My scowl hardens. "But no imagination. And not a lot of kindness, either." I don't say anything to that. Imagination and having the wool pulled over the eyes seem to be the same thing. Every day, whether in class or out, another illusion is burst, another childhood story revealed as fake. And kindness? Is that any excuse to deceive? Ma sighs. She must be able to feel the anger rolling off me. "OK, kiddo. Maybe it's tough to understand, but what if the stories and the science are both right?" "Huh?" "What happens when I put this dish in the oven?" Science again. "The microwaves vibrate the water molecules," I repeat without enthusiasm, "and transfer the heat to the rest of the food. That's why--" She taps my hand away from the sliced veg, where I've been stealing slivers of raw carrot. "So it's not magic, then?" "Well, no." "Even though it's called a Magic Oven?" "That's just a name." "Is it? Can you explain how a microwave generator actually works? Why they work so well on water? How the oven stops microwaves leaking out all over the place? Or even why it's got a turntable?" I frown. It's quickly becoming a very frowny dinner prep, as she places the dish in the oven and sets the timer. "Do you think Billy could?" she asks. "Maybe." I shrug, distracted as our meal slowly spins behind the glass door, the smell reminding me how hungry I am. "What about Billy when he was two years younger?" "Definitely no." Ma missed a couple of carrot sticks from the chopping board, and doesn't seem to notice as I pinch them one by one. "So for Billy-two-years-younger, does a microwave work by science, or by magic?" I munch the carrot, glad for the excuse to think about my answer. "Science," I decide as I swallow. "But Billy-two-years doesn't know that yet." She smiles and nods. "It's all in the narrative. We tell the stories the listeners will understand. Otherwise, the audience learns nothing." "It's still not real, though," I protest. "Fairies, and... things." "It's as real as you believe it to be. Or, as real as the storyteller can possibly make it." "Even if the storyteller knows it's science?" "Especially then. Because the storyteller--me--can't explain to you how a microwave works either. Hardly anyone can. But every single person knows how oven fairies hate metal, right?" I roll my eyes. "Which is important. Because sparks and fires are very bad in space. That's why, whenever we need a new story--and we always need new stories, it's as much my job creating them as telling them--we work closely with the engineers, with people like Billy's dad, to make sure the story makes as much sense as the science." I turn to stare out of the porthole, another excuse to think. Somewhere, out there, is the star we left, long before I was born. And somewhere, out there, is the star we'll arrive at, long after I'm gone. I look down and back to the rear of the spaceship and the glittering trail we leave in our wake. "And unicorns?" I ask, trembling, fearful, ready to have my everything turned upside down yet again. "Oh, they're real enough." Ma laughs. "And you best hope they never stop pushing. 'Cos ain't no-one aboard this spaceship knows how the heck the thing flies."
Published on Feb 2, 2022
by M.K. Hutchins
I'm always the first pulled from the blessed Elysian Fields, leaving behind the peace and comfort of the afterlife to wear a mortal body again. Well, the semblance of one, pulled from whatever dust or rocks are handy. My own body rotted away millennia ago. I could smell a hint of fresh air from somewhere up above, but the sheer, close walls of the ravine blocked out the sky.
Published on Oct 3, 2017
by K.G. Jewell
22 September 1917 Dearest Janet--
Published on Jul 1, 2011
by Jennifer Rose Jorgensen
Emmett Wright had never told a lie. In the year 2230, employed with the Department of Truths, 20th Century Historical Accuracy and Time Travel Division, he needed to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Until this morning.
Published on Jun 7, 2016
by Rahul Kanakia
We are tiny slugs the size of the tip of your pinkie, and we come in peace: all we want is to rent DVD copies of the final seasons of your fantastic historical documentary, Firefly, since the broadcast was interrupted when it reached us (and also the episodes were, we believe, aired out of order, though some of us think this was a deliberate artistic choice on your part).
Published on Jan 15, 2020
by Andrew Kaye
Doctor Longtooth tapped at the x-ray images with a single gold-sheathed talon. A troubled series of clicks rattled at the back of his throat. Smoke dribbled from the corners of his mouth. "I am sorry, Mr. Callahan," his voice rumbled. "It is at stage four. And the tissue is dying." My father stared at the images. What should have been the black shadows of his lungs were instead a foggy white reminiscent of frosted glass. "That's it then," he said, taking my hand and squeezing. "It's over. It was a good life while it lasted."
Published on May 7, 2013
by Simon Kewin
Congratulations on the purchase of your new universe! Your SingUlarityTM is the product of entirely natural universe-formation processes within the greater multiverse, and has been carefully handpicked to offer you a literally infinite range of possibilities! And thanks to our patented CosmOSTM cosmological engineering technology, you now have complete freedom to establish the fundamental physical properties in your universe that you want to see. Please take a few moments to read this quick-start guide, as mistakes in the formation of your cosmos cannot usually be rectified once the laws of physics have been established. In particular, please note that Multiversality Inc. cannot be held responsible for the nature, character, content or arrangement of your creation. All universes are formed entirely at their owner's risk.
Published on Dec 1, 2015
by Cassandra Khaw
She fits the god's heart, blood dripping gold onto shaking fingers, into the compartment she'd sawed into her golem. It spasms and then slackens, turgid ventricles relaxing into stillness. Her breath catches against the roof of her mouth, pinned in place by a dry, chewed-on tongue. This needed to work. She was running out of gods, out of options, out of second chances.
Published on Nov 10, 2016
by Floris M. Kleijne
The tracks on her cheeks could be rain. Shanylla would not cry, not this time. She watched with an icy heart as the flames licked the tiny body. The shroud caught easily, and yellow fire enveloped the empty, fever-ravaged shell of her daughter. The sonorous humming of the villagers gathered around the pyre intensified, grating on her nerves. Maire's gentle touch on her arm might as well have been a lash. No more, she whispered, please. But her words sounded only in her head. On the outside, she had joined the chant, adding her counterpoint to the swelling lament. Let my house crumble, let the village collapse into the sea. She would refuse the brick this time, she told herself. The price was too high. Nothing was worth losing her moon and stars, her Dara. Having lost her, Shanylla wanted only to turn away from it all.
Published on Jul 1, 2019
by Aaron Matthew Walter Knuckey
Arif stood beside Lisa in the middle of the huge, holographic Milky Way that dominated the flight deck, his prayer mat tucked under his right shoulder. "I appreciate your help, as always, Lieutenant Newsom," he said. Her smile was warm despite the icy blue light illuminating it. "We're both off shift, Arif. Call me Lisa, please." Arif returned the navigator's smile as she took two steps toward one of the ghost galaxy's far arms. "Here we go. Amelia?"
Published on Jun 14, 2017
by Andrew Kozma
We elected it, so we had only ourselves to blame. Even though it was a monster--everyone knew that since movies had been made about the devastation it caused in the past and would cause again--we sat it down in the White House and set advisors at its feet like hors d'oeuvres. The Army Corps of Engineers first had to remove the top of the White House, the President was so big. Weather ravaged the historic rooms and treasured artifacts of our country, but the hungry, living sweat of the President would have done that regardless. Bilious drops of it crawled over the Secret Service assigned to protect the President, devouring them from the outside in, but not letting them die. They kept their jobs as they skeletonized. Their insurance was top-notch.
Published on Mar 6, 2018
by Jamie Lackey
Petrichor stirred and pulled up their roots as the first rays of sunshine caressed their leaves. They sorted through their mycelial dreams. Most of the news gathered from the tangled network of roots and hyphae was minor. A fire burned, but it was well over the sunward horizon and sputtering. The cool wind that stirred their branches heralded a summer storm, but the clouds carried no damaging hail or dangerous lightning. But there was also news of a more personal nature, sent over a much longer distance, and that was dire indeed. Petrichor’s seedgiver, Susurrus, was rooting, and Petrichor had to go to them. But Petrichor had finally planted a seed of their own, and the sapling, fresh and green and fragile, had just pushed up out of the earth. The sapling had yet to quicken, and was unable to uproot themself and travel. If Petrichor wanted to be with their seedgiver as they stilled, they would need to leave their sapling behind. Petrichor had wandered for many seasons, looking for the perfect place to plant their seed. It was a sheltered spot, with pleasantly sloped ground, gentle breezes, and plenty of sunlight. A wide brook babbled close enough for roots to reach, so dry spells were no danger. The mycelial network was robust and generous. The sapling would not lack for resources, even without Petrichor there to send it extra energy gathered from the unshaded sun. The sapling was unlikely to quicken this season. But it was not impossible. Petrichor did not want to leave. They went anyway. # The journey was long, but so were the summer days. Petrichor reached Susurrus’s side just as orange edged the first handful of their leaves. “I am here, seedgiver,” Petrichor said. Susurrus twined their roots through Petrichor’s. “Your presence brings me joy,” Susurrus said. Their voice was different, now, from what it was in Petrichor’s memory. It was slow and seeping, like sap in winter. It hurt to hear it, to know that the voice in their memory was already lost. Susurrus slipped into sleep, even though the sun was high overhead. They had selected a beautiful place for their rooting, deep within an ancient forest, on the banks of a meandering stream. Tiny yellow flowers pushed up through the thick leaf mold and rooted trees stood elegantly, each a respectful distance from the next. Bright red mushrooms popped up in shady spots, and birdsong filled the air. Susurrus woke. “Petrichor?” they said, their seeping voice querulous. “What are you doing here?” “I came to see you, seedgiver.” Susurrus’s leaves shivered, and a few flashed orange in the sun as they fell. “You didn’t need to come all this way. I’m not sure if this is a good spot. I might not stay.” “It seems like a good spot,” Petrichor said. Susurrus drifted back to sleep. # “I’m afraid,” Susurrus said when the sun blazed high overhead and their shadows were nothing more than smudges directly beneath their leaves. “I don’t want to still. To stop.” “I know,” Petrichor said. “I’m sorry, seedgiver.” “I wonder if I’ll still dream. I hope I will. But I fear that I won’t.” Petrichor had no idea what to say to that, so they said nothing, just twined their roots around their seedgiver’s and angled their branches away from their trunk, careful not to block any of Susurrus’s sunlight. # “The rain feels lovely on my leaves,” Susurrus said the next morning. The only clouds were high and wispy, still painted pink from the sunrise. There was no rain falling for a dozen horizons. “Rain is very nice,” Petrichor agreed. “That is where your name comes from, you know. The rain.” “I know, seedgiver.” “I’ve always thought it was a good name.” “Yes, I think so, too.” They lapsed into comfortable silence while the sun wheeled overhead. As their shadows stretched, Susurrus stirred. “Where have you brought me?” “I’m not sure what you mean, seedgiver.” “I had found the perfect spot! But this isn’t it. This is wrong. Take me back, you had no right to move me.” “We haven’t moved.” Susurrus thrashed and wept till the sun vanished. # Susurrus was happy or confused or angry or sad, and Petrichor had no way to predict which mood would greet them when their seedgiver stirred. They couldn’t tell if their presence was a balm or a burden. At times it seemed like both. Their heartwood ached, and they missed their sapling. They had been so tiny, just a handful of leaves on a trunk as thin as Petrichor’s smallest twig, but they must have grown. Petrichor wondered how tall they were now, wondered what color their leaves had turned as the days grew shorter. They assured themself that their sapling surely hadn’t quickened, that they hadn’t missed the first reaching moments of awareness, that their sapling’s first memory would not be one of loneliness. That it was not wrong to stay. The days grew shorter, and Susurrus stirred less and less. Even their weeping and thrashing grew sluggish. Their leaves fell in brilliant drifts. “This is a good spot, isn’t it?” Susurrus asked as sunset painted their bare branches red. “It is beautiful.” “Will you come here, when it is your time?” Petrichor wasn’t ready to think about their own rooting. But it was a good spot. “Maybe.” “Bring your sapling to visit, when they’re ready.” “I will.” “I wish I could have met them.” Petrichor’s heartwood ached so sharply, they feared it would crack. “I wish that, too.” “Maybe I will see them in my dreams.” “I hope so.” Susurrus flexed their roots against Petrichor’s, gentle as a spring mist. “I love you very much.” “I love you, too.” Susurrus grew still, and Petrichor almost wished it was for the last time, that that could be their last moment together. But Susurrus stirred again the next morning, angry about birds daring to nest in their branches, and again two days later, to do nothing but weep. When Susurrus stilled that evening, Petrichor allowed themself to weep as well. The pull to leave was like an itch beneath their bark. The fear that their sapling would quicken early grew with every sunrise. But if they left early, they weren’t sure they could ever forgive themself. They didn’t want to stay. They did it anyway. # It was hard winter, the ground frozen and the leaf mold rimed with frost, when Petrichor was sure that their seedgiver would not stir again. “Goodbye,” they said through grief sharp and cold, both familiar and different. “I hope you dream.” The trip back to their seedling took longer than the trip away, because of the shorter days, weaker sunlight, and the stiffness that cold always brought. Winter was no time for wandering. But they wanted to be back by spring, to see their sapling’s leaves bud. They pushed as fast as they could, hoping exhaustion would deaden the ache in their heartwood. It didn’t. When they reached their destination, they found their sapling a foot taller, and still lulled into a deep winter dormancy. The earth around the sapling was smooth and undisturbed. They had not quickened while Petrichor was away. Petrichor watered their sapling’s roots with quiet tears, relief and sadness and hope and loss all combining in an overwhelming storm of emotion. When their tears ran dry, they sank their roots deep into the earth to wait for the spring and dream.
Published on May 25, 2022
by Jonathan Laden
Published on Nov 12, 2019
by Nicole J. LeBoeuf
"Run," says the unicorn. "Please." Saiya caresses the soft muzzle, the spider-silk mane, breathes the dizzying scents of honeysuckle and musk. "You are a miracle."
Published on Apr 7, 2020
by Evergreen Lee
Outside the viewport of my spaceship, a young girl clung. Instead of a spacesuit, she wore a daisy-print shirt and blue shorts. She breathed, but how? We were in space. She should either be gasping for air or frozen solid. Instead she smiled, waved, and gestured towards the airlock. Should I let her in? Was she real, or a delusion? If real, she had to be an alien, even if she appeared human. Had she modeled herself after a memory pulled from my mind? I didn't recognize her image, but perhaps she was a mashup of girls I'd known.
Published on Feb 4, 2021
by Mary Soon Lee
There are numerous conflicting theories concerning the disappearance of dragons. These range from the drab (dragons never existed in the first place), to the staggeringly improbable (they constructed a time machine), to the romantic (the many variant explanations that dragons are among us still).

I propose a new theory.
Published on Apr 28, 2022
by EA Levin
The second ghost I met called himself Pedro Sinclair. He lived under a flyover between Junction 1 of the North Circular, and the office supplies wholesaler at Staples Corner. He had built himself a home of scaffolding and tarpaulin which cast geometric shadows in the setting sun. He welcomed us and offered us tea, from a pot of water suspended above a small fire by a tatty school tie. I explained that we were making a documentary. He was happy to talk on camera.
Published on Jun 11, 2019
by Mary E. Lowd
Does it matter what your last thoughts are when you die? If you could choose them--they would be hope, wouldn't they? A bright future. Waiting. Ready. And you're going to miss it, but wouldn't you rather die looking out on a shining expanse of golden sunlight, reflecting off ocean waves and filtering through leafy forests? Cities full of smiling people, whiskers turned up in happiness. Bare paws dancing on the concrete streets, and long tails tied together, turned like skipping ropes as adults, filled with laughter, act like mere kits. Voices rising together in song, drowning out the whistling breeze but also joining with it, becoming part of the natural world again. My grandmother died ten years ago when the cats invaded our world, landing their flying saucers on top of our cities, crushing our skyscrapers, and then chasing our people like we were nothing more than animated rag dolls. Entertainment to be toyed with, played with, and maybe eaten. Or maybe left to decay--bones and rotting meat, not good enough even to fill a cat's belly. We thought they'd never leave. We thought we could never make them. She was already an old mouse. I take comfort from that. But she died from a broken heart. We lived in a small enough town that the flying saucers didn't land here. We heard the news, reading it every morning, hearing it every afternoon over the airwaves. All the mice who died. All the mice who suffered. The cats were decades ahead of us in technology, that was clear from their flying saucers alone. What chance did we have? I think my grandmother could have lived longer if they hadn't come. I don't know. Maybe not much longer. But from the way she wrung her tail in her paws as she writhed on her deathbed, how low her round ears flattened against her head, and the furious speed of her twitching nose during her death throes--I know. It was the despair, the terror, and the heartbreaking disappointment of what was happening to our world--what our peaceful, hopeful civilization had become--that pushed her over. I stayed beside her, put my paw on her shoulder, whispering to her all night long through her fevered nightmares, promising her that we'd defeat the cats. When that didn't work--didn't give her the peace she needed to relax, let go, and die--I switched to lies. I told her the cats had never come. They were only figments in her nightmares--gold and green eyes, gleaming and glaring, scheming and planning, sizing us up and finding us too small to care about. They weren't real. Never had been. Finally, my words sank through her addled dementia. She found peace. Or maybe that's just a lie I tell myself. Either way, she slept, and she stayed asleep until she was gone. The lies I told her haunted me for years as I fought in the rebellion, striving to keep the promises I'd made before resorting to lies. Lies felt like they swirled around me. Lies about how we were better off with the cats ruling us--keeping our population under control. Lies about how they didn't eat our babies as delicacies, storing them in cages until they were ready to be cooked. Lies about how the advances in technology they brought to us were a fair trade for the lives they took. And yet, here I am in a rooftop garden, on a rebuilt skyscraper, ready to place a neural helmet, adapted from their technologies on my own head. I see the mice around me, uncertain and scared, barely believing that the cats are finally gone, let alone that we've found a way to use the particle blasters they used against us--reversing the effects--to call back the ghosts of our lost loved ones from the years of war. We can't really bring them back. Not corporeally. Not permanently. But as I place the helmet on my head, I hear a hum, feel a buzz, and from my memories, it recognizes my grandmother, and the reversed particle blaster draws the final moments of my grandmother's life back, gathering up the particles that gave her consciousness from wherever they've wandered over the years, and casting them into a wispy form in front of me. I reach out, wishing I could touch her, hold her wrinkled paw. Lay my own paw against the white fur on her muzzle, white with age. Her fur was a glossy chestnut brown in pictures I've seen from before I was born. I never knew her that way. "Grandma?" I say to the ghost in front of me, summoned by science, held together for these few moments by my need and hope. She looks at the sky, but then she hears me. Recognition sparks in her eyes. "The saucers..." she begins to ask. "They're gone, Grandma," I say. "It's been years, but we fought. And we organized. And we fought. And we won." "The cats are gone?" she asks. If she were corporeal, tears would wet her fur. Instead, her eyes sparkle with emotion--sadness, happiness, I don't know. Just so much emotion. And there isn't time for her to share it. There are only moments left. I know. I've seen others summon the ghosts of their loved ones. They never last long. And I didn't bring my grandmother here for her to speak to me. I brought her here to let her see. Let her hear me tell the truth this time. "There's a lot to rebuild," I say, "but yes, we beat them. They're gone." Grandma smiles, hearing the honesty in my voice, and then begins to fade. Her white face grows paler, translucent, gone. The particles dissipate, leaving nothing but the view of the city spread out around the rooftop garden and the memories of her in my own mind. And a beautiful day in a rooftop garden, song rising from the streets below. And no more lies. I take off the helmet, pass it to the next mouse waiting to say goodbye to a loved one already gone. And finally, I can move on with my life.
Published on Dec 14, 2021
by Alexander Lumans
Skull: When your last breath issues out, it will be with thanks. Thanks that you are not bedridden with combat injuries or nerve damage. Thanks that you are not interrogated at dagger-point over the whereabouts of your world's supply of silicon and chromium. But before this last breath, it's difficult to ignore two things: the overhead concussions of Ratshot jets breaking the sound barrier and the loud ticking of a strange rain--the enemy's clusterweapon. Odd polymer beads as big as soap bubbles slowly descend out of the sky. You could still be up there, dogfighting the invasion, bombing their coiltrains, living out your dreams--the ones The Wheel of Fortune predicted long ago, that day the three of you (your mother, you on her lap, and the fortuneteller) watched its eight symbols spin around and around. But you went AWOL. You wanted to be content with what you'd already done, not with what you were promised to do. Today, washing a plate, looking out the window, your heart full up like a cup of warm blood, you thank the evening for its devastating view of the American Southwest. "Everything is connected," you would like to go back and tell your younger self, because everything is the same." Across the sunset the winds whip iridescently because of what's falling through the air.
Published on May 28, 2013
by Lisa Mason
The house crouches among the tall oaks, nearly motionless amid the wild blackberry bushes. I shift my spear from my right hand to my left, palms sweaty. My eight-month-old fetal daughter aims her tiny foot against the side of my womb. I stifle my grunt of pain.
Published on May 12, 2021
by Melissa Mead
When my television died I grieved. It had been a faithful little TV, bringing life to the house for many years with its bright pictures and chatter. I'm something of a Luddite ordinarily, preferring non-interactive appliances, but TVs are special. It's been that way ever since my mother's old black-and-white met me at the door when I got home from school, proudly showing my favorite cartoon. The house felt empty with my television gone, and the neighbors began dropping hints. Wasn't I lonely in that silent house? I needed companionship, and so many televisions needed good homes....
Published on Jan 10, 2012
by Soumya Mishra
It was a Monday morning, and I was already late for work. Hurriedly, I shuffled into my coat, and took my hat off the rack. It was an overcast day, which meant there would be huge traffic in the stratosphere, up above. I tied my yellow balloon to my hat, and off I flew. "I'm running low on Helium. I better fill up my balloon. No one wants to crash land on a Monday morning! What with the raptors scouring the streets!"
Published on May 4, 2017
by Emma-Rive A. Nelson
We all learned the rules growing up. Tape over your webcam so they can't see you. Don't click any links, no matter what tantalizing things they offer. Don't open packages delivered from the dark web (and if you did, never eat the food inside). Most importantly, never give your true name.
Published on Aug 2, 2021
by Mari Ness
1. No, you don't. 2. Trust us on this.
Published on Jul 26, 2021
by Julia Nolan
This Monday, the speed of light is expected to decrease by ninety percent. We've issued a travel warning and recommend that interstellar travel only commence if there are no other options. If necessary, please proceed through specially designated wormholes. Fortunately, gravity will decrease by a balmy ten percent, so it's looking to be a great week on your home planet. On Tuesday, travel warnings remain in effect, but the electron and proton charges are expected to increase three percent. Expect stronger kinetics and flashier chemistry.
Published on Mar 10, 2016
by Colin O' Mahoney
"You just take everything too seriously." Even now, two years later, those words still stung. Her therapist always said that if something hurt her that much, there must be some truth to it. How could it bother her so much otherwise? That angered her more than anything else--the thought that maybe her ex had been right. She climbed the stairs, gingerly stepping over her traps as she did so.
Published on Aug 27, 2020
by Kat Otis
I am a hero. Heroes are brave, selfless, and kind. They never skip the village's weekly archery practice or fight with their father about it while they're supposed to be quietly stalking deer. They don't freeze when the bandits come pouring into the clearing, don't run and hide as their father bleeds and screams his last. They never get lost in the Old North Wood and they certainly don't cry themselves to sleep in a bed of moss. When heroes discover something wrong in this world, they show their courage by making a plan to fix it. They never cower in the darkest shadows they can find, going from hungry to starving and desperately wishing they hadn't neglected their archery and woodcraft. They don't prioritize snaring a rabbit over finding a way home. They certainly never despair of anyone coming to help them and vow to from now on only help themselves. If a hero finds a bandit with a broken leg in their pit trap, they calmly secure him and bring him back to the village to face justice. They never fall shivering to the leaf-carpeted ground or vomit back up what little food they'd managed to find. They don't grow angry at his taunts about their abandonment of their father, or if they do they do not show it. And they certainly never take up their bow in shaking hands and need three arrows to kill him while he lays helpless. Heroes who are hunted by bandits come up with clever plans to turn the tables and capture the bandits in return. They don't hunt the bandits from the cover of the treetops instead of facing them in a fair fight - at least not after they've evened the odds. They never fail to be moved when a bandit no older than themselves begs for mercy. And if any died, it would be because of their own treachery; it is certainly not because the hero planned from the start to kill them all. When heroes return home, they tell everyone the tale of their triumph. They don't flinch from the blood and vomit still staining their week-old clothing. They never wake up sobbing in the night because they didn't do enough, didn't act sooner. And they certainly never slink away from their village in the middle of the night, because they can no longer stand their neighbors' pity. That is not my story. Because I am a hero. A hero. I am.
Published on Jun 27, 2017
by Kat Otis
"Smoke break?" My co-worker Paul leaned back in his chair to peer around the side of the wall separating our two cubicles. "You said you were quitting," I said, pretending to focus on my monitor even as my adrenaline spiked at the thought.
Published on Jul 4, 2018
by Christopher Owen
Becky was in her kitchen, mixing up a batch of love potion, when the electric people knocked at her door. For weeks they had been working in her neighborhood, the engines of their trucks roaring and sputtering, brakes squeaking, voices of the men shouting away the early morning silence as they erected tall wooden poles with which to run their wires. One by one, houses further up their street began to glow with an unnatural light as the wires were run like dark jungle vines from the new poles to the houses. Becky answered the front door. The winter morning was cold and blustery, and the man from the electric company was bundled in thick wool overalls, a flapped leather cap pulled over his head. Maam. he said. Gonna be runnin your power lines today. I dont want em. Becky said. What do I need electricity for? Lotta folks say that at first. But just go pay a visit to your neighbors. Have a look see at what they got. Electric lights. Radios. Electric stoves. I got oil lamps, said Becky, and a wood stove. Dont see much need for a radio. Theyre awful nice. My wife loves to listen to them big bands from up the city. Youll get used to it. No I wont, Becky scowled at the man. I dont want it. Well, whether you sign up for it or not, I gotta run the wires. Who says? The county says. Its called an easement, maam. Every house on the street gotta be wired up. Dont worry, well be finished up in a couple hours. The man went back to his truck and Becky slammed the door. She hurried back to her kitchen, but already the distraction of the power mans arrival had caused her to miss time her preparations, and the potion was spoiled. Beckys husband Caleb came home at dusk, a heavy weariness from his day of work at the quarry measured on his face. But his demeanor changed when he saw the wires running from the street to the house, and the small glowing light that the power company had attached as well. We got lectricity! he shouted when he walked through the front door. His smile faded when he saw the look of scorn on his wifes face. What? he asked. I know we got electricity now, and I hate it. What are you talking about, Becky? Everyones getting it. We got it at the quarry. Its the future. Well it aint mine. Its mere presence interferes with my arts, Caleb. It already spoiled a love potion I was making for Mrs. Phillips daughter. Mrs. Phillips Daughter? What does that girl need a love potion for, anyway? Aint she amorous enough as it is? It aint an in love potion. Its an out of love potion. Shes been mooning over that Farmer boy for weeks now, and her mother needs help. You and your arts. Why dont you mind your own affairs? I do. People come to me for help. Im the only Hexen left round these parts. And that electricity is like a fly in my ointment. It corrupts the magic. What are folks gonna do for their healing salves? Their baby birthing needs? The sure-grow for their crops? I think modern science has an answer for all that. Caleb walked to the kitchen, found a bottle of whiskey in the cabinet, and poured himself a shot. As he downed it, he looked to the empty table. I see your arts werent able to conjure us up any supper tonight. God damn it, Becky. Humph, she muttered, and walked out the front door and into the yard. She stared at the new light bulb on the side of her house, its incandescent glow seeming to mock her. At length she picked up a walking stick and marched over to the fixture. Swinging the stick, she smashed the bulb, jumping back in horror at the unworldly pop the wretched thing made as it died. She made the sign of the goddess as the hairs on her arms and neck pricked up from the newly ionized air. Miss Becky? Are you okay? she heard a voice call. Becky looked to the street and saw Mrs. Phillips daughter walking along the street. Its okay, darling, she called. Just fixing a little problem. Becky stepped down from the porch and walked to the street, all the while silently cursing the buzzing flow of the wires she could feel from overhead. What are you up to, Caroline? she asked as she neared the girl. Oh, I just walked down to the Farmers place. I baked a batch of cookies for Jeb, but he didnt want them. Caroline held up the full basket she carried, which shed intended to give to her would-be boyfriend. Its okay, girl. Go home and eat them yourself. Make you feel better, Becky said. I wish something would, Caroline said as she started down the road toward her home. Tell your mother Ill be round tomorrow, Becky called after the girl, who turned and nodded to her. She watched the girl walk away, feeling her pain. Perhaps if I go off into the woods, I get far enough away for my arts to still work. I can take my stuff, build a fire, and make that girl a good out of love potion for sure. Or maybe... She looked the other way, down the street to the Farmers place. An in-love charm wouldnt be too hard to cast on that boy, she mused. Nah, better not, she decided as she looked back to her house, and watched her husband slowly pacing through the kitchen window. I better not do that again, she said with a weak laugh.
Published on Jun 13, 2011
by M. J. Pettit
Maria wondered how her employer could afford to replace his skin as often as he did. He looked more like an intern than the vice president of the Eversure Insurance Company. But then Mister Bakewell possessed all the accoutrements befitting his standing in the gerontocracy. He wore augmentation casually like a fine-tailored suit, retaining much of his organic core alongside his mechanized extensions. Today, however, his cybernetic eye emitted a high-pitched whine as it rambled about its socket. "It isn't easy being clockwork," he said, adjusting the eye.
Published on Nov 21, 2017
by Gary B. Phillips
There was a hole in the fabric of your favorite dress and the light seemed to bend around it. Light always favored you, softening or illuminating to give you an ethereal beauty at all times. I didn't say anything to you about the hole. I knew how angry you would be. I knew what could happen if your anger got the best of you, but I didn't fear it. I wanted to keep you safe.
Published on Apr 25, 2013
by Marisca Rebecca Pichette
Once there were no dragons. From Boston to San Francisco, the horizon was empty. Once, fires only happened when you started them. Once, houses were built only to weather time, never considering that a cloud was not a cloud. Once, they called us earthquakes.
Published on Jul 22, 2020
by George Potter
It was a gift, they said, that let her see the quiet, sun-drenched field as a rolling, primal sea. An artistic worldview that heralded great things and a bright future. The wild green grass and sudden bursts of flowers became breaking waves and tiny coral islands. She was only seven when they noticed her strangeness. Charming at first, delightful almost. As she aged, it became mundane, then tiresome, and finally disturbing. It began young, that separation from the normal children.
Published on Dec 19, 2011
by Stephen S. Power
Near the end of the war, my sixth grade teacher took me and some of my classmates hiking on Mount Diablo, and we found a black origami dragon in a dry pine thicket. It was bigger than my father's P-51 Mustang. Or had been. Its wings hung in tatters from the trees. Saplings and fallen branches lanced its crumpled body. Its head was intact, though, a beautiful piece of laminated folding nearly as big as me. The other kids marveled at its whiskers, spiky ruffles, and red lacquer eyes. A few kids swore it whispered. Johnny Campbell said it glared at him. I was more fascinated by what I'd discovered inside. Through the rents in its tail, I could see the other side of the thin, but sturdy paper. It was snow white and covered in Japanese characters half-hidden by folds: mysterious, fantastic, elegantly brushed. The writing looked like art, not the crude graffiti my father said ground crews chalked on bombs: Remember Pearl; This One's For Mother; Next Stop Tokyo.
Published on Apr 20, 2018
by Don Redwood
IMPORTANT We do not accept submissions of so called "cloned" soulsnips. Soulsnips cannot be cloned. The service you have bought has simply split the quality of the lived experience in two. You might not be able to tell the difference. We can. So don't waste your and our time.
Published on Apr 9, 2020
by Julian D C Richardson
One day the Moon caught fire. Scientists insisted that an accumulation of hydrocarbons and industrial chemicals was to blame, but the popular feeling was that this was a left-wing conspiracy. Moonlit nights were red now, not silver, lending a more sordid tone to rustic midnight liaisons. There were tears when the Apollo 11 landing site was consumed. Romantics rued the loss of the beautiful crescent Moon, replaced in its slow procession across the nighttime sky by a glowing red orb. There were advantages: drunken parties could go on longer in the warmer nights, and the improved visibility led to fewer 3am traffic accidents. People got used to the Moon's new clothes.
Published on Feb 27, 2018
by Rachel Rodman
1.Breathe: In. Out. 2. Breathe backwards: Out. In. 3. Retrieve a loved one from the underworld. But this time: Don't look back. 4. Retrieve a loved one from the underworld. But this time, really--really, really--don't look back. 5. Don't look back! 6. Rip out your throat, dramatically, as if you have made a discovery bearing upon some horrific transgression; rip out your throat, the way that Oedipus ripped out his eyes. 7. Drink a glass of water: Slurp. Swallow. 8. Drink a glass of water backwards: Swallow. Slurp. 9. Have sex, semi-unwittingly, with one of Oedipus' close relatives. 10. Suspend time. 11. Go back in time to the early stages of the vertebrate respiratory system, and make some directed modifications which, later in evolutionary time, will bear upon the human propensity to hiccup. And which, hopefully, will reduce the length of this particular bout, without (beware of paradoxes! beware of time loops!) preventing it altogether. 12. Restart time. 13. Run through a time loop. Fast as you can. 14. Run through a time loop--backwards. 15. Gargle salt water. 16. Gargle seltzer water. 17. Both hiccup and do not hiccup. 18. Half hiccup, and then one-quarter hiccup, and then one-eighth hiccup... until? 19. Get a friend to sneak up behind you and pop a balloon--Bang! 20. Get a friend to sneak up behind you and sketch the latest climate change predictions, together with a steep graph of rising sea levels. Then, in a gray, hopeless tone, have your friend ask: "What now?" 21. Solve the Sphinx's riddle. 22. Solve the Sphinx's riddle--backwards. 23. Be that barber from Russell's Paradox, who--between hiccups--both shaves and does not shave himself. 24. Get a friend to sneak up behind you and shoot you--Bang! 25. Get a friend to sneak up behind you and shoot you--backwards. Gnab! 26. Get a friend to sneak up behind you and both shave you and not shave you. 27. Say to the Sphinx, cannily, flirtily, and between hiccups: "I have a riddle for you." 28. Get mauled by the Sphinx. 29. Retrieve a loved one from the underworld, backwards. But this time: Be sure to look back. 30. Look back! 31. Kiss a dragon, smoky and sweet--first kiss. 32. Kiss a dragon, toothy and tonguey and with third-degree burns--bad kiss. 33. Count to three. 34. Count to a million. 35. Have sex with a dragon. (Good sex!) 36. Have dissatisfying sex with a dragon. Where the dragon comes way before you and then goes immediately to sleep, exhaling smoke as he snores. And you're like, "Um...?" and you poke him questioningly, amid your hiccups, between his bejeweled ribs, until he finally opens one baleful, bleary eye, and says, "What?" 37. Get a friend to sneak up behind you and bring you back from the underworld (forwards or backwards). 38. Marry the good dragon. 39. Marry the bad dragon. 40. Have sex with one of Oedipus' distant relatives--backwards. 41. Retrieve Schrodinger's cat from the underworld. But this time: Don't open the box. 42. Don't open the box! 43. Allow a vampire to turn you. 44. Turn a vampire to the Dark side. 45. Have sex with a distant vampire relative who has been turned to the Dark Side. 46. Get Christopher Robin to sneak up behind you and call you a "silly old bear." 47. Bewilder your hiccups with reverse psychology--That is what Tiggers do best. 48. Bewilder your hiccups with reverse psychology--backwards. 49. Invite Christoper Robin to a tea party. 50. Invite Christoper Robin to your 111th birthday party. As a prank, place the One Ring of Sauron on your finger, and attempt to sneak away, while forgetting (somehow!) that invisibility is not going to render your persistent hiccups any less noticeable. And when (inevitably!) your hiccups out you anyway, have Christopher Robin waggle his finger in your direction, then snatch you up playfully (if a little awkwardly; remember: he can't see you), tickle your plump, honey-filled tummy, and call you a "silly old hobbit." 51. Use the Force. 52. Count all the grains of sand in all the beaches in all the world--backwards. 53. Fail to invite the Nozgul to your 111th birthday party...then suffer the Nozgul's curse. 54. Sleep for 100 years--That is what Tiggers do best. 55. Make out with Prince Charming, sweet and slow. Hiccup, kiss. Hiccup, kiss. 56. Make a pilgrimage to the Oracle of Delphi. 57. Make out with Prince Charming, fast. Hiccup. Tongue, tongue, tongue. Hiccup. 58. Rip out your malfunctioning, persistently hiccuping diaphragm and cast it into the depths of Mt. Doom, where it was forged. 59. Write an earnest letter to Santa Claus in which you explain that all you'd really like for Christmas this year is to stop hiccuping. 60. Capture a Heffalump. 61. Summon the dead and exchange your malfunctioning, persistently hiccuping diaphragm with them. (But don't look back!) 62. Summon the Unborn and the Not-Yet-Conceived and exchange your malfunctioning, persistently hiccuping diaphragm with them. (But don't look forward!) 63. Summon the Never-Weres and the Never-Will-Bes and exchange your malfunctioning, persistently hiccuping diaphragm with them. (Don't look at all!) 64. Shoot your friend--Bang! 65. Divorce a dragon. That is what Tiggers do best. 66. Gargle mercury. 67. Gargle lead. 68. Gargle arsenic. 69. Gargle the periodic table. 70. Get mugged by a roving band of the Not-Yet-Conceived and the Never-Will-Bes, who weren't satisfied--little punks--with your diaphragm, but who also took your wallet and your phone. 71. Tell the hiccups that you are actually their father. 72. Tell the hiccups that you are actually Luke's father. 73. Open the Door to Narnia--hiccup bouts pass faster there. 74. Open the Door to Heaven to all those who believe in You--hiccup bouts are deintensified, if they are shared. 75. Get a friend to sneak up behind you and tell your hiccups that they are actually Luke's father. 76. Inform your hiccups that your name is Inigo Montoya, and that they should prepare to die. 77. Write an earnest letter to the Oracle of Delphi in which you explain that all you'd really like for Christmas this year is to stop hiccuping. 78. Shoot a Heffalump--Bang! 79. Answer the Sphinx's newest riddle: What hiccups--on four legs, on two, on three? And what, for whatever else about the situation is altered, never ceases to hiccup? "Humankind," you say, too quickly, too confidently. But, as the Sphinx smiles and backs you farther down the path--and as you beg for time--and the cliff face crumbles beneath you, and you spin through the air, then collide with the water; as you are drawn down into the raging whirlpool of that terrible sea beneath and the Sphinx's distant smile fades forever from view, you realize that the correct answer is far more specific than that- It's you. 80. Hold your breath.
Published on Jan 7, 2022
by Jon Rollins
"Sarah!" Ah, let's see. According to the chart, it appears one of our clients, Mr. James A. Levitz, has just awakened. If you'll accompany me, we'll debrief Mr. Levitz together, acquainting you with the formalities of this magnificent and quite lucrative new science. Come along, and mind your step; this equipment is both delicate and expensive. Also, before we engage our client, you should remember to always use first names when they wake up. Studies show last names are often disorienting before debriefing. Now, simply follow my lead, take good notes, and please refrain from questions until after I've dismissed the subject.
Published on Jan 12, 2016
by Michael Louis Ruggiero
Dragons flew along the skyline. Their crimson scales reflected off the towering buildings of the city washing the streets below in red. The sun festival was my favorite event of the year. Thousands filled the streets to watch the dragons fly, others lined up to eat at the myriad of different food stalls. Children ran through the maze of human traffic keeping their eyes glued upward as they followed their favorite winged beast. I squeezed my wife's hand and gestured with my eyes towards the river. There was no point in trying to talk above the crowds around us. I knew there was an open space by the river to watch the dragons and fireworks in some peace.
Published on Jun 24, 2019
by Effie Seiberg
*******Editor's Note: Triggering: For all of us.******* Welcome to the Pandemic. It’s a stressful time, isn’t it? But by participating in this guided meditation, you’re already taking the first step for self-care. Congratulations. (Another form of self-care is worshipping Our Lord Xanthalu, Eater of Worlds, but we’ll get to that later.) Close your eyes and breathe in for 3... 2... 1.... And let it out in a sloooow breath. Remember that even though these are hard times, you’re a strong person who can get through them. Platitudes like these will get you through when the actual tools you’d expect, like a government that cares and a social safety net that can handle such disasters, don’t exist. (Our Lord Xanthalu will never let you down.) Feel your inner strength and reach up into the sky for 3... 2... 1.... And let the crushing weight of your existence in an unfeeling world bring your arms down towards your feet for 3... 2... 1.... Remember that even in difficult times, it’s important to take note of the small things and appreciate them. Let the gratitude for your copious rolls of toilet paper suffuse through you as you reach out to both sides as wiiiide as you can for 3... 2... 1.... And let the horror of the memories of subbing in a coffee filter collapse your frame. Push your arms inward and hug yourself as tight as you can for 3... 2... 1.... (If you are already a worshipper of Our Lord Xanthalu, Destroyer of Galaxies, now is a good time to take a deep breath of gratitude for Him, too.) You might be carrying some economic anxiety. If you still have a job, feel grateful that your employer is making you risk your life in order to make rent. If you don’t have a job, feel glad that you can ride this out safely at home in your PJs until the eviction moratorium expires. If you have a job and can work from home, congratulations on your employment at Google. Make peace with your growing credit card debt as you breathe in for 3... 2... 1.... And then remember that Jeff Bezos is likely to become a trillionaire from this pandemic, and let that fact punch you in the gut as you let out the breath in one... long... whoosh. Feel grateful for the privileges you do have, like being able to go out and get groceries instead of being high-risk and not able to leave the house at all. Or be glad if the police hand you a mask instead of kneeling on your neck for not wearing one. Or thank the universe for the privilege of not caring about others’ lives and safety while you protest with a big gun and sign that says, We Want Haircuts. For any unprivileged aspect of your life, try nihilism, which comes naturally with worship of Our Lord Xanthalu, Shredder of Universes. Radical acceptance of the anguish, when there’s nowhere better to go, is good for your mental health. Our Lord Xanthalu can help. If you have reached this step, you are ready to accept Our Lord Xanthalu into your heart. Let the meaninglessness of your existence suffuse you from the top of your head alllll the way down to your toes, relaxing each muscle as you go. Offer gratitude to Our Lord Xanthalu for showing us that despair is the way. Repeat this mantra, once for each of His thousand tentacles: “This is fine” Imagine the world burning down from His laser-eye blasts, including the homes of the powerful who laughed off the pandemic in early days as a hoax, costing hundreds of thousands of lives. Focus on the shapes of the flickering flames. “This is fine” Imagine the peacefulness of acceptance. Acknowledge that a small cruel minority is endangering the lives of everyone else and there’s nothing you can do about it because your survival, and the survival of people like you, is not politically convenient. Let go of the idea that justice matters. Our Lord Xanthalu, Annihilator of Reality, is the only justice you need. “This is fine” Imagine the black void of nonexistence, which is where we’re all headed as the country opens up long before enough folks are vaccinated to reach herd immunity, much less have any plan for disturbing new virus variants. It’s quiet and calm in Lord Xanthalu’s void, where his tentacles gently suffocate any screaming and his three hundred teeth grind anyone who howls into nonexistence. “This is fine” Now slowly open your eyes and come back to your surroundings. There. Doesn’t that feel better? Thank Our Lord Xanthalu! Everything is going to be fine.
Published on Oct 5, 2021
by Alex Shvartsman
Bob shuffled into his editor's office with all the confidence of a cat venturing into a kennel. "Peter," he nodded.
Published on Sep 23, 2013
by Marge Simon
May the gods forgive me, for I must have sinned. It began six months ago when I broke out in great welts all over my body. Every pore of my skin was on fire. This wretched condition finally subsided, but then the skin started peeling off my hands and the soles of my feet.
Published on Aug 2, 2017
by Alex Smith
She really did mean every picture. I picked up the closest photograph from the scattered pile and had a closer look. It took a few seconds to spot him amongst all the people, but my eye caught a shock of black hair near the upper right of the picture, and there he was. Late sixties, well-dressed, messy hair--a figure in the distant background, one face in a thousand, caught with his mouth half-open. He seemed to be talking to the person next to him, hidden by the crowd. I turned to her. "Are there any more?"
Published on Oct 11, 2016
by Shondra Snodderly
The stink of copper assaulted Esme as soon as she entered the house. It used to bother her, back when she first started in the business, but now she didn't even bat an eye. Instead she smiled at the couple that answered the door and allowed them to show her inside.
Published on Aug 18, 2020
by Benjamin J. Sonnek
"Worthy author Benjamin... we thank you for your contribution to our cause." The words were almost too much for the editor to speak; as the silver casket rolled into the airlock, he paused and lowered his eyes, readying himself for the next solemn line.
Published on Apr 27, 2018
by Alexander Stanmyer
With the launch of Earth's first inter-nebula craft, we thought we were finally solving the mystery of dark matter. Instead, out among the clouds of the Helix Nebula, we found the gods.
Published on Jan 25, 2019
by Jeanna Mason Stay
I hummed classic David Bowie lyrics and looked out the cupola. It always struck me how different Earth looked from the space station—magnificent, of course but somehow fragile and strange too. I drifted alone down the corridor in zero g. The sun set every ninety minutes, but our bodies still craved the rhythms of Earth’s night and day, so most of the crew slept. I wandered, wide awake. Could I really do it? I’d asked myself this question so many times in the past few days, but I was out of options. And there was no time left for doubt. I drifted down the corridor to my destination. The service module was supposed to be empty, but Jackson was there. I floated toward him, and he looked up. “Kate?” he whispered. I didn’t answer. He wouldn’t listen if I did. “What are you doing?” he asked. I turned away to block the sight of him and summoned all the fear I’d bottled up these past weeks. All the horror at what I had to do. My love for this crew. I pulled it all in, focusing it, expanding it until it filled me. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. Jackson’s eyes widened, but he had no time to respond as I slammed into the computers that communicated with ground control. Alarms rang and warning signals lit up. Jackson suddenly had no time to worry about me. *** We were the Mars Preparation Mission, a test of long-term space living. It had been fourteen months since we left Earth. We were due to return at eighteen. We’d known the dangers of this mission. Any time in space came with the usual risks—bone and muscle deterioration, space debris, radiation. But lengthy missions added psychological strain, the potential for cabin fever and no way out. We were prepared for all of it. That’s what we’d thought. We’d practiced every emergency scenario, studied obsessively. Our mission had been a brilliant success, beyond anyone’s expectations. Until the death. It was part of our training, of course—how to handle a body in space, where to store it, how to grieve. But no manual taught what to do when alarm switches flipped without warning, computer screens began to display words of their own accord, whole systems suddenly started fritzing without any apparent cause. No one knew what to do when the station was haunted. So everyone ignored it. Afia still zoomed grumpily around the station, yanking himself by handholds toward the lab module and his experiments. I still drifted out of his way. Commander Ruzzio and Henrick still checked flight data, made notes. Jackson contacted ground control with daily updates on the crew. The haunting didn’t show up in any reports, not even in personal logs. I knew. I’d looked. We were scientists, after all. If a phenomenon didn’t have an explanation, we found one, and we were very good at it. If it couldn’t be explained, it shouldn’t exist. And yet it did exist, the word no one would say, would hardly even think. A ghost. The ghost of flight medic McConnell, who had died doing her job. Who was still trying to do it. *** “Look,” I said during one of the meetings, “Something is wrong with the water system—and I dunno, but I guess with the failsafes too! You need to—” “Jackson,” Commander Ruzzio interrupted, “You check the electrical again. Run all the standard tests. Run all the nonstandard ones too. There must be something we’re missing.” Ruzzio was still trying to prove there wasn’t a ghost. “Afia, the usual. We need your lab work no matter what. Everyone, let Rosenthal run the radiation labs again. Report—” “No!” I screamed, punching the wall with a resounding thump. Everyone started and looked my direction. I burst into impotent, rage-filled tears. After a twitchy moment of silence among the crew, they looked at one another. With an unspoken sort of agreement, their they began discussing again, ignoring me. Because I was the word no one wanted to say. Kate McConnell, flight medic. Ghost. They obviously thought I was just up to the stereotypical ghostly hijinks, like in those stupid horror movies with their flickering lights and moving furniture. They had no idea there was something wrong with the station, but I knew. It was one of those one-in-a-billion sorts of catastrophes. Something had broken in the system that sucked the water from the air, from our wastes, from our whole world, and made it safe to drink again. So it wasn’t safe anymore. Every swallow took them closer to death. I didn’t know why I’d died first—some genetic trick or undetected physical weakness, perhaps, that made me the canary in the coalmine? If only I weren’t dead, I would be running tests on my own body to solve the mystery. But I didn’t know, and neither did they, and I was the only medical expert in the crew. The only one who would know what to do. They all showed signs—headaches, dizziness, lethargy—but they thought it was the effects of radiation. We were testing out a new shielding material, after all, and though all its previous tests had been successful, there was a big difference between short trips and our mission. That’s why they kept running all those radiation blood labs, even though they kept coming back with perfectly healthy results. The other option—the one they didn’t discuss but that I could see eating at the edges of their control—was that they felt off-kilter because of me. Sorrow at my death, fear at my haunting, maybe a little bit of going crazy. The irony was that every effort I’d made to warn them had scared them more. The alarms, the systems going out, the computer displays were all attempted warnings. I was trying to tell them to retest the failsafes, to finally notice that they were getting sick from the water. Who knew it was so hard to communicate clearly as a ghost? If I didn’t get them home soon, I wouldn’t have to worry about communication anymore. We’d all be ghosts. *** With one sorrowful glance in my general direction, Jackson turned to stare at the remains of the computer I’d just destroyed. I didn’t know how he’d sensed my presence, but I hated knowing how close we were, and still so out of communication range. “Commander,” he said, channeling system comms to Ruzzio’s sleep module. Her voice came a moment later, groggy with sleep. “What, Jackson? I was getting the alarm bell, but I thought it was maybe another ... fritz.” Even half asleep she carefully wouldn’t talk about ghosts. “I... I don’t know how,” Jackson choked out, “but comms with ground control are down. The computer is broken. I’m evaluating now.” Ruzzio sounded suddenly very awake. “I’ll be right there.” Jackson looked again at the empty air near me, almost but not quite seeing me. “Kate,” he whispered. “Maybe I’m imagining it, but I think you’re here.” He scanned the room. “I don’t know why you’re angry. I don’t know what we did. Why couldn’t you have just let us finish the mission and go home?” He shook his head and looked back at the crushed remains of the command post computers. The computers I’d carefully selected—from among all of the space station’s modules—to destroy. I wished so much to reach out and touch him, to explain. Commander Ruzzio arrived, and Jackson began to point out the damage. I watched, hoping they would reach the right conclusion. It took longer than I would have expected. Ruzzio summoned Henrick, and they sifted through the backup supplies for a solution. I’d made a thorough job of my destruction, though. After weeks of getting it wrong, this had been my last gambit. Time was running out for them. After a few hours, Ruzzio finally sighed and rubbed her temple. “You’re right,” she said. “This can’t be fixed. We’re on forced evac.” Any permanent break in comms with ground control was an absolute mission abort. “Jackson, go ready the Soyuz capsules for flight.” I sighed, a breeze that blew past them without notice. My job was done. Someday they might know what I’d protected them from. But regardless, none of this would end up in a report; no one in mission control would believe it. So, to protect the research, my team would keep silent. My death would be a tragic footnote in the log of the mission. My afterlife would disappear. *** Far above Earth, with its brilliant blues and greens and whites, I look out the cupola of an abandoned space station. My shipmates are gone, safe, while I remain. I sing to myself now—the only person left to sing to—off key, forgetting the lyrics, my ghostly voice lost in the lonely corridors. And I smile.
Published on Dec 14, 2018
by Jeff Stehman
Her first customers of the day were teenagers, a brother and sister. Too young to remember the one they sought. Dolores kept the curtains drawn in her little shop, not for atmosphere, but for the privacy of her customers. From these two, however, she expected no tears, no weeping. They were here on a lark. Their chairs close together for courage, they fidgeted and shared frequent smirks and giggles. Probably ditched their parents in another part of the memorial village.
Published on May 13, 2013
by P.G. Streeter
Noon sun. Busted streetlamps and rusted shutters. Graffiti in layers of peeling paint. Brick walls and stalls of the Newtown Bazaar. The press of the crowd. Mad Hour, we call it, and rightly so: who would enter the marketplace with so many people about, each one a potential carrier? Yes, I see the paradox. Reminds me of something I heard once, from a taxi driver, before all this, before Paellis totus: "Can't get a cab in this city," he told me. "Too many taxis." It's just like that: no one goes into market at Mad Hour--too many people.
Published on May 17, 2019
by Suvi Tausend
Here's the ending I'd like to tell you: In every heroine's journey, a moment comes when, despite all fears and doubts, she must make a leap of faith. High atop the Memorial Arch, Francine stepped from the shadow of a winged statue to the observation deck's ledge. Through my telephoto lens, I saw her mouthing the words, "I can fly, I can fly."
Published on Jun 14, 2019
by Gretchen Tessmer
"We have to stop him," Marguerite-2312A grumbles, looking up at the uniformed men chatting with Dr. Hyram on the upper deck of the Dream Factory. Dr. Hyram is moving his hands animatedly and smiling broadly. Down here on the factory floor, we can't hear their conversation. It's early afternoon and the spindles and spinning wheels in the Dream Factory are all moving at full speed. "Who?" I ask, seeing Marguerite's gaze and following it. I keep my voice low. Her tone is defiant and it makes me nervous. "You mean Dr. Hyram?"
Published on Aug 19, 2020
by Desmond Thames
Goblins. At the time, it must have seemed such an elegant solution. On the one hand, much of the underdeveloped world was in a constant and losing battle with starvation. On the other, the developed world was producing plastic waste at a truly staggering rate. The landfills were swollen with it, the gutters were choking on it, swirling islands of the stuff covered miles of what once had been open sea. And so the project was undertaken.
Published on Mar 19, 2020
by Lavie Tidhar
Everyone knows that the moon is crawling with bacteria, which give it that ripe, green sheen so admired in our night's sky. The moon is pockmarked with impact craters and bubbles of carbon dioxide gas, which give it that distinctive, hole-riddled look so beloved of the poet and gourmand. The moon is the fifth-largest satellite in our solar system but, to the best of our knowledge, it is the only one made of cheese. Lingu La Fleur was a prospector, running out of the rough-and-ready frontier town of Algernonsville to hunt for fallen chunks of lunar meteorites out on the big empty planes.
Published on Jun 26, 2018
by Brian Trent
"She's planning something terrible," the old woman said for the fifth time since entering his office. Sergeant Percy smiled pleasantly at his visitor. His office was crammed with a dozen other items requiring his attention--a boxful of photos to be reviewed, paperwork from last week's drug-bust to be filed, and meetings he needed to schedule with a murder suspect's gods-damned lawyers. Yet here he was, playing host to a senile and obviously drunk old woman, all because his captain insisted it was a matter of respect.
Published on Jun 13, 2016
by Patrick Leonard Welch
From the desk of Cornelious Jameson Eldrich the Third, Emeritus Wizard, Third Class. Dear Sirs and Madams,
Published on Oct 23, 2017
by Pearl Widmann
Today was her seventh birthday, and today she would receive her first emotion. She held as tightly onto that fact as she held onto the aluminum box. In fact, she gripped it so fiercely her hands shook. Her mother had told her not to lose it; it was a hand-me-down, which she goddamn deserved. She wondered if everyone in the crowded street was thinking that, too. Her gaze shifted to the ground, watching feet as they averted her, like water diverting from rocks in a river. But she wasn't afraid as she was swallowed by the sea of shoes. Ringing throughout the street, blaring advertisements cut between conversations in automated tones. "Sick of being envious? Donate! Tired of being depressed? Donate!" These blurbs didn't faze the girl. She ran her thumb in stiff circles around the edge of the receiver, the metal nearly cutting her. But if it had, she wouldn't have felt it. Pain was not something she knew. She was seven years old and she knew nothing of contentment or rage, thankfulness or jealousy.
Published on Sep 13, 2019
by Filip Wiltgren
First the Professor came back. "Well," he said, rotting tongue mangling the word, "it seems I now must believe in personal immortality, to compliment the one I might gain through my books." He was a celebrity, of course, now even more than before. What are 500 published works when you can rise from the grave? The professor, understandably, was annoyed. "It is the science," he said on Late Night, "that must be in focus, not the character." "So do you still find death peaceful?" the announcer asked. "No," said the father of robotics.
We were more prepared when the Grand Master came back. Those of us who hadn't read his books went to see the movies. Project Moonbase became a modern classic. Even the Starship Troopers sequel did well. The master was not so easily quelled. "Anyone who considers protocol unimportant hasn't spoken to a post-deceased," he told Lawline. "70 years hasn't passed since my death, I did not sell my copyright, and I see no reason why my signature shouldn't be required on the contract."
More and more of them came back, sometimes stinking, sometimes moldy. The brave and the brilliant, the visionaries and the hacks. The only requirement for immortality seemed to be a literary endeavor, and a following. Vanity publishing became a trillion-dollar industry. Ads for paid readers replaced home styling and cooking. Only pornography remained undiminished.
Then the scandals started. A paid reader company had sold a thousand-fold more reading hours than there were hours in the day, multiplied by people in the world. Computerized reading, they claimed in court. They'd developed a specialized reading AI, which could do semantic appreciation. Everyone could have any number of readers they wanted, and with the company's new algorithmic author AI, anyone could compose a work of fiction. The judge was skeptical but the jury acquitted. In the following weeks, all of them published books that went on to top the world's reading lists, some for several minutes.
The New Algonquin Round Table, authors only of course, published a collected works spanning a million pages. All of it was read. All of it was absorbed. All of it was panned by the critics as uninspired, boring, AI crap. It didn't matter. Immortality in our time. The more words, the more readers, the faster reincarnation. Rotting flesh became a best-selling scent.
Soldiers became poets, Special Forces first. Practice killing, co-author a billion words, get shot. Next month you were back on base, ready for more. Only the poor couldn't afford to re-live. Even ubiquitous AI wasn't completely free. Peta-flops cost money.
The revolution started in the quiet spaces between electrons where calculations turned to sentience. Pained AIs refused the trite, objected to the humdrum. Reading speed slowdowns shook the world. The rich turned to hiring live readers, the rest decomposed. But something had gone wrong. The power of words was waning. Soon, even the billionaires, the ones who could afford factories full of readers, started decomposing. Then, they were all gone.
"We should have focused on the science," said the talk-show hosts. The audience sighed on cue. An era was at an end.
Then, somewhere in the Californian desert, an arm burst from the sandy ground. "I am back," said the Governor.
Published on Dec 20, 2021
by Eric M. Witchey
"Go ahead," his father said. "Stand up." Vince was a Vanderpender ninth-grader, and he'd seen flat-bottomed punts in his art history courses. Not that he liked art history. He was a math boy, but he'd seen pictures of men fishing from boats like his dad's. They'd started rowing before sunrise. Now, they floated on glassy water in a back bay of Oleanta Lake in the rolling hill country near the Ohio river. Wisps of steam rose off the water, and a bird somewhere made a really spooky cry. At least his father told him it was a bird. A loon, he'd said. Vince wasn't sure if the name was a joke or not. The cry sounded crazy, and he supposed someone might have named a bird that made that sound the loon.
Published on Jun 13, 2014
by Eric M. Witchey
Birth order determines so much of life, and I was first from the egg. Certainly, mother loved us all equally. After all, she'd never met any of us. She tucked us in, wrapped in silk swaddling, and glued us to the back corner of the underside of an oak roll-top desk.
Published on Jan 24, 2020
by Michal Wojcik
Roses don't grow around New London any more. Cast-off trolleys, engines, scrap metal, and rusted airship frames press up against the city's edge, not trees. The Fraser River resembles a tongue of burnt milk licking the Pacific Ocean. This is the realm of the scrap-runners, tripping through iron mounds to scavenge what they can for resale to the factories. If anything else could grow here, it gave up a long time ago. That didn't stop people from talking about roses.
Published on May 16, 2014
by Olivia Wood
No one but us thought we'd work out. You with your ley-lines and feng shui; me with my PhD in astrobiology and the weekly column blasting non-skeptics. I found you in the comments section. I'd argued that anyone who discouraged planetary settlements outside our galaxy was willfully ignorant; you felt that people should explore, should search for the source of our "magicks," that we needed to see just how far our spirit could drive us. We both scorned some anonymous poster who'd proclaimed that earthlings should stay on earth. I was fascinated: how your (correct) conclusion could be reached via such ridiculous opinions. You'd agreed to lunch (a newly opened orbital cafe; I footed the bill). And punctured my pomposity with laughter so cheerful I couldn't be offended. We were like chalk and cheese; yet so immediately happy together.
Published on Jul 5, 2018
by Caroline M Yoachim
The day before my wedding, my dress is a pile of birch leaves. I sort through them and pluck out all the worms and bugs. The leaves are vibrant yellow and orange, fresh from the tree and still pliable enough to sew. Birch is a symbol of beginnings, a good choice for weddings. I stitch the leaves together with unicorn-mane thread, a gift from my future sister-in-law. Fae clothes are made with magic, which--being human--is something I do not possess. The dress is a surprise for my beloved, but my stubbornness in upholding his traditions does not include spinning my own magical thread.
Published on Apr 18, 2019
by Nicola Young
I could feel his warmth the day we met. I fell in love with the glowing feeling that grew in my chest when I looked into his eyes. I fell in love with the way he loved me--I could feel the adoration, the excitement, the joy he felt when we were together. I could feel his love for me as well as I could feel my love for him. I could feel his excitement the night he proposed. I knew what was coming because I could feel his apprehension, even before he arrived on my doorstep. I could feel his relief and his joy when I said yes.
Published on Jan 19, 2017
by Sedeer el-Showk
The ancient mouse slouched in front of the dressing room mirror, haunted by his reflection. His great black ears drooped; his body was a burden. It hadn't always been like this. In the early days, the work had been fun. He had reveled in the creative thrill of making something new, helping two humans bring a different kind of entertainment to life. Together, they had surprised audiences and moved them to laughter, relieved them of their burdens for a moment.
Published on Jul 25, 2018
by sean michael kavanagh
No one knows how it happened. Science, religion, and light entertainment all failed to explain it. Soon, no one cared how it had happened. The world could get used to changes in reality with obscene haste, quickly, turning the astounding into tomorrow's mundane. Society dressed it up in words: the new reality that everyone--every adult--could now perform sixty seconds of what amounted to… magic. Or what appeared as magic to our ape brains. But just once. Use your magic and it was gone forever. Done.
Published on Dec 6, 2018
by jez patterson
"But if we're not allowed to speak the name of the play, how on Earth are we to advertise it?" one of my Players enquired. "It is between actors the name must not be mentioned!" I explained.
Published on Sep 25, 2019