Eve has come on this trip at the behest of her sister. No one could have predicted what would happen, or how it would change Eve’s very real plan to end it all.
Lee put together a story that was a literal example of two beings working together toward a common goal: life. Be warned though, Lee is an expert in the horror that leaves your stomach churning. SY
Was I dead?
I peered through the fog.
I was dead: I had to be, because I could see an angel. But if I was dead, why was my head throbbing like the inside of a nightclub? People were shouting and moaning. Somewhere nearby a car alarm was blasting. I smelled petrol.
I blinked. Blinked again. Slowly, my eyes cleared.
Not an angel, then. Just a man with a pigeon flapping on his shoulder, the soft grey insides of its wings like an angel’s at his back.
Casey has lost the only person who seemed to care since the death of his mother. The unusual man at the duck pond, feeding Mrs. Kuschikin’s ducks, piques Casey’s interest and he has to find out the truth of his appearance. No matter what it costs him.
J.B. Rockwell leads us down the precarious and lively garden path of childhood; the dramatic need to have all the answers. This story looks at the need of another to make a better world for one’s self, and another. SY
They held Mrs. Kuschikin’s funeral in the pickle factory her family had owned and operated for over a hundred years, and a memorial in Wickering Park after. Not your typical send-off, but that’s what Mrs. Kuschikin wanted. She never had been one for fanfare and folderol, after all. Especially when said fanfare and folderol involved herself.
The funeral itself was mercifully short, and it was a fine June day for the memorial—the kind of day that made ten-year-old boys like Casey grateful to be outside—but the official in charge of Mrs. Kuschikin’s memorial just kept droning on and on and on.
Casey wished he’d hurry up already. He hated having all these stranger around him, whispering, staring, throwing pitying glances his way. ‘Look at the poor little broken boy in the wheelchair,’ their eyes said.
But he wasn’t broken. Casey’s legs just didn’t work like theirs.
Symbiosis can be a very intricate and subtle process. It can be a community of organisms living and working together for the betterment of them all. Adam Kotlarczyk takes this idea and works it in delightfully into this post-apocalyptic snapshot.
We’re all having dinner when my friend Kris collapses. Tony had just broken some bad news to us:
“Saw some Hendersons yesterday,” he says, working on an apple. “A whole mess of them.” Tony has these beautiful, sincere brown eyes, and he wields them like a superpower. We’re all about 90% sure he was a used car salesman before. He knows just how to use them to get an effect. Now the effect on the group is anxiety. All eyes turn to Phil.
“Hendersons?” says Phil, digging his fingers into his gray beard. “Why would they be all the way out here?”
“Water, I think,” says Tony, looking around the room. “Any rate, the pond is where I saw them.”
This horror piece, delving into the existence of an individual’s psychologically-perceived worlds existing side-by-side, perfectly captured the (sometimes) precarious balance of this edition’s theme. SY
Misery doesn’t love company. Complaints, bitchiness and boredom love company. Misery is a solitary place. A place where one exists alone with only thought and pain as company.
Marvin Jackson considered this whim in front of a mirror as he gazed into the red of his eyes, the tiny veins like hot red fingers reaching for his irises. It had been another long and uncomfortable night.
Physically, the pillow-top mattress with gentle heat and subtle cooling options was akin to resting on a genius cloud, one ready to accommodate with the push of a button. The remote sat where they always had next to the bed, untouched. Marvin’s eyes stared at the ceiling, casting aside the dark around him in search of more dark, a dark that could take him to a worthwhile life.
“This bed, this room, this is not who I am,” he mumbled.
Next to him, his wife rolled and smacked her lips while she slept. She always slept so easily.
Virralat and Ira are the only mission members that made it to Venus. As they work together to continue the mission, in the absence of any communication from home, their relationship seems fraught. But together they must continue to exist.
A.L. Lorentz has worked many layers of commensal relationships into this science fiction short. See if you can spot them all! SY
My emerald hands glittered with every twitch in the pale indoor light of the cleaning chamber. The diagonal facets tessellating my body echoed the heavy metal grating I stood on and the reinforced lights below. I remember the days, literally worlds away, when I wondered if anyone would ever give me just one diamond. Now I have millions.
They said Venus was the best chance to start a much needed human colonization effort, but they gave me so many changes I barely felt human by the time we arrived. NASA’s microbes turned my skin verdant and my lungs ochre. The sparkles were a fortunate side effect of using my skin to separate carbon and oxygen from the otherwise deadly troposphere. Fortunate not for aesthetic reasons, but protection against acid rain.
NASA gave me a suitor too: Ira.
Cooperation and coexistence appear at the end of this delightful fantasy, even if only for a brief moment. SY
The last of the sunlight shafted through the water, twining through the green kelp and transforming its tips into diaphanous siren hands. Devon was mesmerised by it momentarily, and then checked the regulator and her oxygen readings. Sunset dives were tricky and more than one diver had been lost in these underwater forests as day turned to dusk, then night.
A flash, a slivering gleam far below caught Devon’s eye—she hadn’t imagined it earlier. It flickered through the fronds, a mysterious beacon in the watery gloaming. Her diving partner, Christine, was observing sea otters near the top of the kelp, close enough for Devon to feel safe to dive just a little lower.
There. With each pulse, the light outlined a gate made of glass and faded gold. Above Devon, Christine motioned for her to come to the surface. She shook her head in response, pointed below. At that distance, in these waters, she shouldn’t be able to see it so clearly and in such detail.
Unbelievable, she thought, checking her oxygen again. But it was there and behind it, a city of molten glass, rising through the green depths in spires and turrets and ever-changing gables. Mist swirled and eddied in the glass buildings and—impossibly—through the streets and alleyways between them. It glimmered, shifted, reformed, a ghostly song made into faery palaces twisting in the tide. Read the rest of this entry
Tom Dullemond brings us all the dangers of a mission of salvage with the additional dangers of a ship cannibalising itself and its crew. Helping another organism to achieve its ends is symbiosis; but sometimes this seemingly commensal relationship can be coopted. SY
Mission log: Today’s salvage target, The Great Bluefin, is a registered Mitsuyama Corp long-range supply transport. It was unofficially flagged as a conversion-risk vessel after impact with a dormant node in proscribed space. Please note: I will commence this salvage operation by entering through the primary outer loading hatch. This was also the entry point of the failed recovery mission launched by Mitsuyama Corporate Security three hours ago.
Supplementary: This recording is supplementary to the mandatory safety and operational mission log, reference number Q-B7054. It’s the only safe way to record these operations. I don’t know when you’re reviewing this so please indulge me.
Trapped in another world, lured there with lies, the servants of the castle toil in the kitchen at dishes both tantalising and glorious. If not for the beauty of this world, perhaps they could leave… SY
The flames and glowing coals on the three hearths pour heat into the kitchen like the midday sun on the Sonoran desert. I’m wet under my arms, under the cumbersome dress they make me wear, wet between my legs from clinging sweat. But my face prickles in the kitchen’s dry heat, my forehead and nose itch, and when my tongue grazes the corners of my mouth I taste salt.
I bend my head to chopping, my back to the fires, bent over one of the five tables in the center of the room. There’s a servant at every table, cutting or arranging or stirring at the overseer’s direction, and more of us running back and forth to fetch or carry.
One girl reminds me of my best friend back in another life, petite and sloe-eyed; when she’s hard at work she bites on her lower lip and scowls to intimidate the food into submission.
Watch Andy’s fingers skip deftly across the keyboard. Notice the speed, their steady rhythm, how each fingertip uses a little more force than is needed, implying anger or frustration of a sort. Now draw back and look at him, all of him, hunched and heavy over the laptop with his eyes fixated on the screen, a focus that would put Buddhists to shame. He’ll stay like that, in that very position, coding and calculating until he passes out, when the need to dream finally surpasses the coke and ephedrine. That smell is of Andy’s making. That’s weeks of sweat coating his body, from the mismanagement of the thermostat and an aversion to showering. The urine stagnating in the nearby toilet isn’t helping. Last week’s milk, in those unfinished bowls of cereal, might be long-life but it’s not immortal.
Normally he makes it to his bed, though sometimes he’ll go down right there at the desk to a restless sleep. He works for the logic, the kindest distraction that the world will offer him. When he wakes, he remembers her; then he returns to his computer. He sits and scripts new features for his creations and years have passed like this.
Fanny and Wolfram, with their faithful hound Helen, are drawn to Beesdon, investigating an usual disappearance. Their experience in paranormal investigations didn’t quite lead them to expect an offender hiding in such plain sight. Meghean’s submission to the 2015 Story Quest contest charmed the judges into making her a finalist. SY
The Maiden rumbled along the tracks, cutting through a low valley of wildflowers and docile cows. Morning dew nestled onto the crisp leaves as the sun crept across the sky. It was a picture of a rural paradise that was slowly dying. Fanny Helhouse peered over her newspaper to eye the idyllic surroundings. She had kept herself in the city, bundled in the soothing cacophony of noise and violence. But as her eyes wandered the horizon to the lazy tendrils of smoke from snug cottages, she uncovered a forgotten comfort.
Her husband, Wolfram, slouched across from her with a boot on the edge of her seat. Helen, their Leonberger, rested her head on his lap. Both were drifting in and out of sleep. Wolfram’s bowler hat had slid over his eyes. Fanny wasn’t quite able to relax as well as them. The carriage jostled her dreams, leaving her restless and irritable. She flipped through the pages of her newspaper, half-reading, half-worrying.
Fanny prodded Wolfram gently with her boot. “Darling,” she chirped, “We appear to be close to civilization.”