The Mary Jane sails away from the storm that almost took her, and it looks like plain sailing hereon out to Joseph. However, the sea is a fickle mistress, hiding all manner of plans behind her deceptively gentle waves. SY
The gale passes with the dawn. The Mary Jane barely lifts on the swell, her mainsail fortified with the bonnet and drabbler to better catch the breeze, her square-sail full on the mast. The North Sea lies as green and calm as an English meadow. Joseph puts on his cap but the cold still bites at his ears. The wintry air, like a ghost, moves through anything it pleases, stinging his fingers and toes, slicing without resistance into his belly, his marrow. It’s a familiar discomfort.
Joseph leans on the gunwale to better enjoy this rare moment of rest.
The sky shines pale and clear, a sign of good fishing. Once thrown, the nets will be full of cod and herring within a few hours. Joseph longs for something to eat other than fish. Mostly, he craves bacon and potato pie. His wife, Amelia, is a good cook. He sighs. The Mary Jane has been at sea for weeks. It’s best not to think about one’s wife and the various pleasures that she can offer.
Mortimer loves horror, but he’s never been any good with work of his own. He lucks out with an interview with a hero of the genre, who sets him on the path of his dreams, if only he knows what he will need to give up to achieve it. SY
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been addicted to horror stories. I was desolate that I missed the end of Weird Tales. Hell, I was even bitter about being born too late for Terror Tales and Shock Mystery Tales, which were not exactly horror’s gold standard.
I worshipped H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith (and of course Bram Stoker), and would take bus rides more than one hundred miles from home just to attend an autographing by Stephen King or Peter Straub. Even if they were known for other work, I collected—and read, and re-read—the few horror stories by Ray Bradbury and Fritz Leiber and Joe Lansdale.
I even tried my hand at it when I got out of college, but while I could push nouns up against verbs with some minimal grace, I simply couldn’t come up with notions that were original, or saleable, or preferably both. I began to think that every good horror story had already been told. Then I’d pick up a new novel or anthology and suddenly realize that no, they hadn’t all been told. They just weren’t going to be told by me.
Moatvey knows Kayrill has done it this time, though what it is, he can’t quite figure out. But that won’t stop him. He has a plan to sort out Kayrill and his schemes before it’s too late. Tied third in the 2015 Story Quest contest, Jason’s unlikely partnership turned a mirror on the deviousness of these monsters. SY
Darkness was complete, but there was heat, and it moved in ways it shouldn’t, in silent rushes first this way and then that, like the chugging of some great beast breathing out over the surface of this far-flung planetoid.
Heat was how Moatvey always found Kayrill. Kayrill should have figured that out by now, but, as luck would have it, he hadn’t, and that was fine by Moatvey. He was his people’s rightful hero, after all.
He saw Kayrill’s cloaked harvester fine through his specs, even on a world as black as this. It sat there, as it pleased, collecting ore as fast as it could, as if Kayrill didn’t realize it was poaching on a planet surrounded by monstrous aliens that would pick it apart if they ever found it.
After a quick perimeter check, he jumped to the harvester’s port and scurried inside. He made sure to check for traps as he went. Kayrill had left snares and the like inside the last few ore collectors he had stolen.
Chris is the only woman who works in the Radar Room. While her parents seek her a suitable marriage, Chris looks for an escape. One suitable suitor later, and Chris wonders if the freedom she dreams of may be within reach. SY
I love the Radar Room; I can be alone here. Away from my parents’ constant needling, away from the glares and the whispers behind my back; away from the oppression of doing what is expected. In the Radar Room I am free to be myself.
They only let me work the night shifts because I am not supposed to be here. They can pretend I am not here, cover the shame of a girl doing a man’s job. I pretend there is nothing else, just me and the Radar Room. No expectations, no need for propriety, no pressure to marry.
Just the job and me. The radar is my window to the world outside.
My shift ends when Mr Grumpy arrives.
‘Quiet night, Christine?’
Christine is his label for me; I am just a silly girl in his eyes. I have a label for him, he is Mr Grumpy, but I keep it to myself.
‘Yes.’ I look towards him. ‘Henry, can you please call me Chris?’
‘No girl, I won’t be doing that. It not be a proper name for a girl. It’s bad enough that you’re doing a man’s job, instead of getting yourself married.’
I stare at the radar screen, pretending to check it is clear so I do not have to look into his judgmental eyes. ‘I am not ready to be married.’
Jiaming often dreams of the white woman, who predicts the future in her stars. School dominates her teenage life, and she seeks the attachment and happiness she doesn’t find at home with her distant father. Despite all other predictions, her life begins to spiral out of control. This dark, supernatural fantasy from Tang Fei captures the shallow and excruciating existence of the teenager, and their detachment from others. SY
If I really think about it, the stars did not arrange such a fate.
But the stars are broken, and so the definitive proof is gone. This moment is a vertex where time caves in: to the left is the past, to the right—
To the right should have been the future.
But the stars are broken.
Also, I met Zhang Xiaobo.
She didn’t bring an umbrella though the weather forecast said it was going to rain. After dinner, as she passed by the shoe rack, she missed the umbrella that had been specifically set out for her.
A few other students were scattered along the sidewalk, gradually gathering into a trickle of school uniforms that crossed the road and entered the school. Tang Jiaming entered the lecture hall from the back, at the top of the tiered seats, just as the first bell for evening study hall rang.
The Warrens move to share the Fremen’s property, a generous gift. But their home is also shared with others, those unseen, who are tied to the Fremens and the land. As Lar Fremen and Tim Warren grow, the world intrudes upon the little idyll, and there will be consequences. Anthony Rella brings to live an urban supernatural horror teeming with underground resentments in a perfectly placed backwater setting. SY
Durrell Fremen, Lar’s father, sipped his coffee by the kitchen window, watching the Warrens unload their car and trailer. “They got a boy about your age,” Durrell said. “Once they’re all moved in, you better go show him around, tell him about the spirits.”
At eight years old, Lar barely understood the spirits herself but felt obliged to do as he asked. That night, her family walked over to the house on their land where the Warrens now lived, and Lar introduced herself to the youngest boy, Tim.
“Let’s go walk around,” she said. “I’ll show you the forest.”
“Chuck, you go with them,” Tim and Chuck’s mother said. Chuck whined about how he was too old to tromp around with babies.
“What are you going to do?” their father asked. “Sit around playing video games?”
“They’ll be fine together,” Durrell said. “Lar’s been walking the woods since she was four.”
Franok cannot wait to be grown and attend the outlandish Festival of Dissolution. He stalks the tent with his friends, hoping to dispel the mystery. Quinton and Jodee travel within a technicolour ice cavern, ever changing and treacherous. It’s a fantastical dream that Dennis Mombauer draws you into, perhaps so good that you won’t want to leave. SY
– I –
The Festival of Dissolution is coming to town, and just like the years before, Franok is too young to go.
He and his friends know very little about the festival, only that it is in a clearing deep in the forest, only adults are allowed visit it, and there is a great tent in which all the celebrations take place.
The interior of this festival tent is enigmatic in itself: it is often described as “a flat landmass drifting in the center of the ocean” or “a desert of salt and engine parts”, but Franok doesn’t know what this means.
He has tried to sneak in with his friends two years in a row, but it took them all night to reach the clearing in the forest, and they had found only trampled grass and little piles of garbage.
Everyone in their group has a theory about what is going on, and everyone claims to have heard some story from an adult, most of them wildly unbelievable. There are tales of bacchanalian rites, of wine, drugs and naked skin; of elaborately choreographed theatre performances and much stranger things.
Some speak of artists that make teeth disappear—not by archaic brutality or the professional horrors of a dentist, but through alchemical means, with some mouthwash that dissolves them without a trace or the slightest sensation.
Dao has the dubious honour of being chosen by a rider, an alien keen to have a human experience. She is not the only one, but is subject to the whim of her rider, a relationship she did not consent to. Jamie Killen’s story won the 2015 Story Quest Competition of Unlikely Partnerships, with her delightful science fiction partnering of an alien and street kid; an usual choice of host. SY
Dao awoke to rain hammering on the tiled roof. She lay in bed watching it fall past her window and into the garden below.
Go out now? Puddle asked. Go out feel rain?
Dao sighed. “Fine. But you’ll have to wait until I eat something.”
Dao’s mother was just laying out a plate of cut fruit when she came out of her room. “Good morning, Mother.”
Puddle made a little chittering sound of excitement at the sight of papaya on the plate.
“Good morning, Dao,” she replied. Then, as always, she pressed her hands together in a wai and lowered her eyes. “Good morning, Lord Puddle.”
Dao tucked the metal braids of her harness behind her ears as she ate. The first few days she hadn’t been able to stop scratching, the weight of the coiling metal ropes and fiber-optic cables within pulling along the edges of her scalp. Now she only noticed if one of them dangled into her food.
On the surface, life is crowded, chaotic and dangerous. Dallas is caught unluckily at the end of his shift with a delivery to the undesirable Ghost District. One unfortunate misstep and Dallas lands in real trouble, in the land of mechanical nightmares. Brennan Gilpatrick leads us into the horror of an overpopulated world and how the unethical choose to fix it. SY
Though he couldn’t hear her over the roaring crowd, Dallas knew the old woman was pissed. Her beet-red face and violent hand gestures made that very clear. He could only guess what obscenities passed through her grinding dentures as he ignored her. She was furious. Hell, she had every right to be. She’d probably been standing around for half an hour, waiting on an eggroll that took less than a minute to prepare. Hers were among several fists beating on the cashier counter, demanding their orders from Great City Wok. Dallas gazed across the restaurant; his coworkers scrambled like ants to appease the starving masses. He resigned to fiddling with the broken cash register, as the futile task would easily consume the remaining ten minutes of his shift.
“Can you even hear me?” the old woman screeched, leaning over the counter.
“I’m fixing the register, ma’am,” sighed Dallas. “Please take your order to another—”
“I just want my fortune cookie, asshole!”
He knew the kitchen’s cookie supply dried up an hour ago, but the task of searching gave him a place to hide.
“Of course.” He beamed. “I’ll go grab you one.”
Sometimes the dream feels so real. John is on his first adventure as a budding archeologist. Both he and the Professor dream of Native Americans, long gone. However, there’s a piece of the past that won’t rest until uncovered once more. Ellen Denton placed second in the Unlikely Partnerships Story Quest Competition with the unlikely partners of long-since gone spirits and a university student. SY
John woke up screaming out loud. In his nightmare, he was someone named Kai Longbow, and strips of flesh were being ripped from his body by the claws and teeth of a rampaging bear. Now, as he sat up wide-eyed in the darkness, he could still smell the pungent animal odor of the creature’s fur and its hot breath, and feel its saliva dripping against his face.
When the perceptions from the dream faded, he lay back down, but the bed sheet was damp with sweat; he would sleep no more this night.
Fifteen minutes later, he sat looking out the window with a mug of coffee warming his hands. He had an exam at the university today and needed to be at his best, but felt too distracted to focus on the notes spread out on the table before him.