A Franciscan monk slips among the stars, in communion with other species, spreading his word. Where the journey will take him next, he knows not, nor what awaits at the end of his road. Mike Adamson brings us on a journey of discovery. SY
To step out upon the plane of the universe is a consummately spiritual experience; and deeply terrifying.
The universe is infinite. A human being is finite but connected to infinity through consciousness and the ability to conceive of something greater than self. In this burgeoning age when humans have spread their seed among the stars, a few among us have not forgotten our past. We cherish and safeguard the treasures that made our species who we were—a young race filled with promise and hope for the bright tomorrow which has arrived; but at what cost?
I, Gerome DelCanto, am a Franciscan monk, and my role in life is to bring the Cosmic Christ to the universe.
An old world sacrifice means Daemiel can eat. But the eyes watch and the child squalls, awakening memories in Daemiel long forgotten. Cynthia McGean draws us into long forgotten traditions in this dark, fantastical tale. -SY
High on a cliff, a man and a woman stand beneath a lone tree, its center sliced with an ancient, charred wound. The clouds roar. A distant flash of light shoots across the sky.
In her arms, the woman cradles a small blob with red hair. “How will this put things right?” she asks the man.
“It will quiet the gods,” he says. “Just leave it!”
The bundle in the woman’s arms screeches. “Hush,” she whispers, frantically bouncing the little shape. “You’ll make them angry.”
Philip felt Ellie’s grip tighten around his hand. Opposite them, almost lost behind the enormity of his comma-shaped desk, sat Arturo Maldonado, a small, balding man in an immaculately-pressed pastel grey suit.
‘I must admit,’ Maldonado said, ‘we here at the Directory are largely unimpressed when couples participate in unsanctioned conceptions. It speaks to us of a certain…irresponsibility.’
‘Doesn’t it mean something that we’ve come forward?’ Ellie asked.
‘That depends upon your motivations,’ Maldonado said.
‘Us conceiving was-was…an accident.’ Philip bowed his head. The whole office—with its white carpet, white walls, and glass furnishings—was pristine. ‘But we’ve taken—’ He gulped, and forced the tremor from his voice, ‘—we’ve taken responsibility. We didn’t go underground, didn’t try and have an unlicensed baby.’
The Russian ballet is in town performing Swan Lake. An understudy watches the Prima Ballerina from the audience with awe, and she is not alone. The performance floors the audience, in ways it is not supposed to. Beth Deitchman brings the house crashing down in this paranormal tale. SY
The opera house hummed with opening night excitement. Voices rose in animated conversation, punctuated by bursts of laughter. Beautifully dressed people stood near their seats, scanning the auditorium for their friends, their eagerness to see the great ballerina palpable. The men cut gallant figures in their tuxedos and crisp bowties; the women dripped with jewels, hair coifed to perfection.
Although my seat awaited me above, I lingered near the dress circle railing. From my vantage point, I observed with amusement the dance of interactions—a nod here, a smile there, the flourish of a fan, the flash of opera glasses. Below us the orchestra warmed up, its well-ordered cacophony of trills and glides cutting through the symphony of voices.
I turned my gaze to the heavy gold curtain where a spotlight played against the plush fabric. Backstage, pre-performance preparations would be underway—a last-minute costume check, a final stretch, a quick review of choreography. I almost regretted having the night off to watch the ballet from the theatre.
Anna loves her garden, and the little tasty treats that are gratis for her lovely fresh herbs. The discovery of a purple spot on her finger leads her down a path where her two loves drop her in deep trouble. Rue Karney’s dark little fantasy will have us all questioning what’s in a name. SY
Anna squatted in the herb garden, secateurs in hand, and snipped off the head of each grasshopper she spied. Among the glossy leaves of basil and parsley, she cut off small green heads with tiny black eyes. Between the pale sage and dark, woody thyme, she chopped through green necks and sliced off plump-winged bodies until, through the shades of green, a bright purple spot caught her eye. She spread the secateurs’ curved blades open. She peered closer. The purple spot did not move or squirm or wriggle. It did not sprout wings and fly away. It did not belong to a garden predator.
It belonged to her.
The purple spot was small and perfectly round. It sat on her finger like a faceted jewel, perched in the centre of the flesh of her middle finger, between the knuckle and the joint. Anna twisted her hand, turning it this way and that, and contemplated drawing a line around her finger, circling the purple spot in gold felt-tip pen. Perhaps she’d flash it around like an antique heirloom at work, give the other nurses a giggle.
She picked a caterpillar off the underside of a half-chewed basil leaf. ‘Bloody pests.’
She squished the grub. Pale green caterpillar flesh oozed out between her fingertips. She wiped it on her gardening apron and searched for more.
Brutally stripped from her place in the forest, the oak remembers. As she feels the call of new life, she takes steps to return her life. Patrick Freivald strips back our love of wood and shows us the horror of our consumption, and the consequences. SY
She remembered the men, the saws and the smoke and screaming agony and bleeding sap. She remembered the darkness, when they took her and stripped her and killed her and shaved her down to cruel planks. She remembered the darkness, the tepid warehouse harsher than any winter, and the brief kiss of sunlight before her imprisonment.
But she didn’t remember before. The dappled sunlight through the forest, squirrels scrambling through her boughs, the deer resting in her shade, the rabbit warren under her roots. She knew these things, but she couldn’t recall them.
Brutal geometry stole her form, a giant kiln her essence, mankind her purpose. Jagged steel screws bound her to dead sisters, gave her a form both alien and hostile. Wrapped in cold vinyl and fiberglass and sheetrock, she hardened, stiffened, became as bone to this new thing, this monstrosity, this structure. Eyes of glass saw nothing but her sisters’ torture, and concrete roots drew no water to slake her thirst. Read the rest of this entry
Evie will not move on without Zeke, her companion. As she works she remembers their time together, the circumstances that lead to Zeke’s accident. Ryan Cage’s sad little science fiction, reminiscent of other robots we might have seen before, reminds us all of the need for companionship, for help. – SY
“Hello, anybody in there?” she asked through the swirling sandstorm, well aware that there would likely be no answer.
The robot’s optical sensors were dark and its chassis, leaned up against the remnants of a building, was covered in dried oil and hydraulic fluid. It fit the model she was looking for, so in a way she was hoping it would not answer. But it would have been nice to have someone else to talk to.
After a few more minutes, when the bot’s eyes and body failed to fire to life, she set about her grim work, eventually finding what she was looking for near the base of the spine of the robot. It was a small gyro, about the size of a golf ball. But that little ball signified five years of scavenging. Storing it away, she made for home.
Home was once an automotive repair garage, complete with a large worktable, a car lift, and a grand litany of power tools. Granted, the tools nor the lift worked, but the large table had its uses. Approaching it, she withdrew the gyro and sat it down softly next to a pile of mechanical pieces and spools of wiring—one of the last pieces in the most vital of puzzles. Read the rest of this entry
Those on top have always used their big, fancy boots to stamp downwards. No change to the status quo is bloodless and the Bollingers have landed right in the middle of the trouble. Austin Hackney’s bloody steampunk will have anyone looking over their shoulder. SY
The noise of galvanized horses and the stink of engine oil had stuffed Sam Garrick’s ears and nostrils since as long as he could remember. His uncle had taught him wrangling. But his uncle was bone-rot now and the work was his.
He grinned. Saliva glistened on his rotting teeth. He spat tar-black tobacco spit onto the engine, watching it sizzle.
“A bit o’ flesh-slicing an’ death-dealing,” he said, relishing the words. “That’s what it’s time for. Engine’s good, horses are hot and it’s time.”
Sam’s calloused hands hovered over a rack of blades. The pain in his swollen knuckles bothered him and he cursed to make a whore blush. He selected a thin blade, testing it on his tongue, lightly, and tasting blood. Satisfied, he slipped the blade into its sheath.
He opened the steam valve, cranked back the release lever and let out a manic cry. The fly-wheel screamed into action. The horses clanked and clattered into mechanical life, hot steam spurting from their nostrils. Read the rest of this entry
Raika speaks for the Mantis sorority, a mouthpiece picked from the ashes of one of their battlefields. As they embark on another campaign, their employers may find pause to regret inviting a hive of killing machines to their door. Russell Hemmell brings the hive down to us in this alien annihilation science fiction, and we’re not sure if that’s a good thing for humanity. SY
Blood drops on my face and lips. I taste iron so I know at once which species it belongs to. I open my eyes, fighting headache and stiffness in my joints.
Sharp pains in my left arm as I turn my head to examine the wound. A shining fragment of a blade protrudes from my flesh. I can deem myself lucky that I can still wail.
I extract the splinter while I exhale. This is not my day to die. Not yet.
Casualties: hundred of thousands.
Sorority death: plenty, but enemy spoils will make up for it. We seized all their hatchlings—a few hundred—and most of the nestlings, and we will feast on them. Hatchlings of this species are especially tasty for my sisters, and the nestlings, well…they are in for a cruel entertainment, fighting for survival in hide-and-seek games where the ultimate prize is nothing but a slower agony. Read the rest of this entry
Joseph S. Pulver, Snr submitted this dark fantasy as an invited piece, unaware of how Skeleton would perfectly embody symbiosis within. SY
(for Brian McNaughton)
Read the book. Came away with paper cuts and a wounded heart. Maybe I had the wounded heart before. Hard looking that far back…
The book was A Nightingale’s View of Autumn. The cover whispered of dark skies. Fitting. And sad…Inside the black ivy on yellowing paper were questions of blood and The Day After, an underworld of blackness that rattled with mysteries. The forest inside was thick, fog-shrouded, and hopeless.
That was the name of the town, Hopeless. And where the sea’s oblivion waves came to lick its shore with ash, it was. Skeleton felt it. Breathed it in. Found himself drowning in it.
That’s me. Skeleton. Was. A few Thens (charged with the witching-whisper of twilight and the nightingale narcosis of black stars) have changed things, but that’s where I began that night. Stood on that rocky shore and heard the rain-lashed cries of the crow. Turned and followed.