The gull watches Pevel with tired eyes and Pevel watches it back.
“Hello there,” Pevel says.
The gull hops a little closer along the blackened phone pole. Lets out a meager squawk and cocks its head suspiciously. The gull is a scrawny, dusty thing with bent feathers and patches of gray flesh laid bare by harsh winds, maybe worse. The bird is a sorry sight, but still Pevel smiles.
“Do you know what that means, my dear?” he says. “Means we’re getting close. Unless this poor fellow’s far from home.” He watches the dust roll over the distant ground as if pushed by giant unseen hands. “Like us.”
Pevel reaches out his hand and the gull blinks, hops a little closer. Pevel reaches into his coat and pulls out the folded, glossy paper. Unfolds it, holds it up so the bird can see.
“Have you seen this place?” he says. “Are we close?”
The gull looks at the paper, blinks. Pevel folds it up again neatly and tucks it away. He unzips his pack and pulls out the old canteen, tilts it back, lets his tongue catch a few drops and puts the lid back on. The gull hops closer.
Merophie Jenkins hated the serum jabs. The weekly fix just never sat right, binding the body together when all it wanted to do was break apart. Ever since her first one as a child the side-effects had worsened, despite the Corp’s claims of continual improvement.
She stood on the street swallowing nausea and distracting herself by staring up at the affected apartment block. It was completely a-roll. The molecules of the external walls phased from ground to roof in fat horizontal waves. She squinted to see through the shifting particles and was surprised to find a tenant on the first floor. He was busy doing the Corp’s ridiculous solidity-inducing exercises, jumping up and down and flinging his arms about with such earnestness that she, too, almost believed the ruse. The nausea built to a high and she bent over and vomited a paltry splatter of sick onto the rubble-edged pavement. A bike-lender on the other side of the street grinned at her in sympathy, spreading his arms in front of his three functioning machines. She shook her head. It was always best to walk off a serum jab.
In free-bioform Hong Kong, Dorotéia Fernandes performs on her lute. A meeting with Kailee, part bat-part woman, lingers with her well beyond their evening conversation. A whole new world opens before her. -SY
Puffs of breeze were the first I knew of her. A gust of wind first tickling at my hair from behind, then blowing into my face. Then a voice: “Dorotéia.” And a few seconds later: “Ms. Fernandes.” It was a thin, high-pitched woman’s voice, with only a hint of Cantonese accent, and it came from somewhere above me.
It was late, and dark. I’d just finished my recital at Hong Kong University’s concert hall, and I was in the nearby Tai Mo Shan Park, trying to walk off my post-performance adrenaline. The path I was on was dimly lit, and when I looked up there was at first only a black sky. But in the next moment I saw a flicker of movement, a shape. She was flying, hovering, then landing on the path in front of me. The span of her wings must have been eight or ten feet, but her body was tiny, the top of her head barely my waist-height. She was dark brown, almost black, and whatever she was wearing was close to the same shade as her membranous wings and the skin of her face. Only her hair was a different color; a splash of closely-cropped blonde curls at the top of her head and disappearing behind huge, pointed ears.
“Ms. Fernandes,” she said again, “please don’t continue down this path. There are some men ahead who look…unsavory.”
Sri, left stranded after an accident she believes her fault, lives a meagre existence, attached by need to the Haree she calls Chit by her need to breathe. Tyra Tanner leads us down a path of blame and retribution, alone on an alien world. -SY
Three years she’d waited for this.
Sri touched the tender sprout with the reverence of one witnessing a miracle. Under her fingernail, the small green gemstone glowed in the membranous bark. Unlike trees from Earth, the trees here on Jau grew from the seeds of gems, their luminous veins pulsing with uncontested signs of life.
Sri rose and followed behind Chit—always behind Chit. The remainder of the forest was nothing but burnt stumps: the trees inner gemstones sat exposed and dim in piles of hardened ash. She weaved carefully through the stumps, lest she accidentally step on a young shoot growing from the ashes of her mistakes.
Three years ago, she’d burned this place. Everyone she’d known had died.
The man Denara had her eye on is missing, and she may have made a catastrophic mistake. An old legend tells of an aged helper of the mountain, so Denara decides she has no choice but to fix it. Tom Howard weaves a seaside community, beaten down by time, unawares of looms behind them. -SY
The unexpected silence woke her. For the first time in Denara’s life, no raindrops fell on the roof tiles over her head. She left her bed, pulling her homespun robe around her, and made her way to the kitchen. Her mother, tall and thin, stared out the window at a morning sky lightened much too early.
“The rain has stopped,” said Denara.
“Don’t worry,” said her mother, returning to washing the breakfast dishes. “I saw blue skies for two hours when I was your age. It’ll start raining again in a few minutes.”
Denara scooped chunks of fish out of a bubbling stewpot into her bowl, appreciative of the stove’s warmth. “Would you like some breakfast, Mom?”
“Why did the rain stop?” Denara asked, pushing the bits of fish around in her bowl and hoping her mother had a logical reason for the rain stopping.
“I don’t know,” replied her mother. “It might have something to do with the low tide last night. Your father said he’d never seen the ocean that far out.”
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.
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.’
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
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
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.