Bethany’s Bliss by H. J. Harding

~4100 Words

  Julie pulled into her sister Bethany’s driveway shortly before noon. Ignoring the front door, she headed straight for the gate in the hedge. Sure enough, Bethany was in her garden, weeding. Judging from the dirt on her clothes and skin, she had been at it awhile.

“You’re going to get sunstroke,” Julie chided, hiding a smile when Bethany jumped. “Come on, time to go inside for a while.”

“I didn’t hear you come in,” Bethany said. “Besides, it’s not that hot.”

She was already getting up, so Julie didn’t mention that the back of her shirt was drenched in sweat and that her face was red.

The garden was Bethany’s paradise, and it was clear from the rose bushes that lined the back, to the hollyhocks along the wall, the lavender that transitioned to violets, that bled into pansies, then into tulips, and from there to things Julie couldn’t identify. It was good that she was still gardening. When Bethany had been forced to close the greenhouse she had operated, Julie had been afraid her sister would slip into depression. For a little while she hadn’t even seemed interested in her garden. Julie was glad to see that that was over.

Julie’s heels clicked on the stepping-stones, wanting to be inside before Bethany hosed the dirt off her legs so that she didn’t get her hose wet. Once inside, Julie headed to the kitchen to get the lemonade while Bethany cleaned up a little more.

Julie had finished pouring the lemonade and was putting the ice back when she spotted something on the floor, behind the refrigerator. It looked like an envelope. She frowned, wondering what it was. It could be important, but she wasn’t sure how to get it without getting filthy.

Using a broom handle she finally managed to get it within reach.

“Julie, what are you doing?” Bethany asked as she came into the room.

“Trying to get that envelope,” Julie answered, trying to manoeuvre it closer.

Bethany rolled her eyes and ducked down to pick it up. “A little dirt isn’t going to kill you. What is this, anyway?”

“I don’t know, it was behind your fridge.” Julie put the broom back. It was a small brown envelope, about the size to put buttons or coins in, and it wasn’t empty.

Bethany looked inside and frowned as she poured out little red hooked seeds into her hands.

Julie looked closer. “I’ve never seen those before. What seeds are they? They are seeds, right?” Continue reading

Pawn by Timons Esaias

~4700 Words

 What Winstead knew about Squire Yvor was this: he was a pawnbroker. Years ago, he had brokered the more important pieces–your knights, your rooks–but for several years now, it was pawns only. Reliable pawns, but not the most expensive nor the most stylish.

What Winstead knew about chess was nothing, but his boss had sent him down here to get some decent material, and suggested that Winstead’s job might be on the line. Winstead knew that meant the boss’s head itself was probably pretty close to the block. O the times. O the business climate.

The real bitch of it was that he actually had to physically go to the place, with nothing but a monocle to keep him connected to the datastream. Brokers positively refused to deal material over the publink. Tradition or something. Customers had to get out of their workpit or pentsuite and march down to the shop to take responsibility for the choice themselves. And responsibility was another bitch in this bitchy business. Who took responsibility these days?

Taking responsibility stinks of bad form. Continue reading

Jigsaw by Douglas Smith

~4900 Words

Still in shock, Cassie Morant slumped in the cockpit of the empty hopper, staring at the two viewplates before her.

In one, the planet Griphus, a blue, green and brown marble wrapped in belts of cloud, grew smaller. Except for the shape of its land masses, it could have been Earth.

But it wasn’t. Griphus was an alien world, light-years from Sol System.

A world where nineteen of her shipmates were going to die.

And one of them was Davey.

On the other viewplate, the segmented, tubular hull of the orbiting Earth wormship, the Johannes Kepler, grew larger. Cassie tapped a command, and the ship’s vector appeared, confirming her fears.

The ship’s orbit was still decaying. She opened a comm-link. Continue reading

Dialetheia* by Anil Menon

~5000 words

“Time is a partial order!” said Ralf, beside himself with excitement.

I only half listened; Ralf was beside himself often enough to be classified a twin. My attention was focused on the bulletin board, adorned with announcements of upcoming conferences, visiting dignitaries, new monographs, job notices and other thumbtack-worthy events that constituted the lifeblood of the Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität’s Mathematics Department. There were, per usual, no faculty postings from Australia. 1930 was turning out to be a dismal year.

“What is?” I asked Ralf, still not paying any real attention. His spheroid eyes brightened in anticipation. The enthusiast lives to infect.

“Time, Carl. Time is a partial order.” Ralf added a suspenseful pause.

Partial orders, I remembered, were one-way relationships between pairs of things; relationships like ‘father-of ‘, ‘taller-than’ and ‘greater-than’

“But here’s the neat thing, see.” Ralf almost Daffy-Duck’ed his words out in his haste to reel me in.

“It works in reverse as well. Take a set. Any set. Add a partial order. Voila, you have just made things temporal. No cycles, you see. You follow?”

I knew exactly how to irritate him. Continue reading

Playing Doctor by Robert Jeschonek

~ 4000 words

The problem with having a crush on your mad scientist boss is, every day she doesn’t see how wonderful you really are seems like the end of the world.

“This is all wrong!” says Dr. Hildegarde Medici, hurling the tray across her cavernous secret laboratory. “You’re a complete imbecile, Glue!”

Her words sting, but at least she’s paying attention to me. I’ll take what I can get from the woman I love. “I’m sorry, Dr. M. Please let me try again.”

“Everything is ruined.” With one arm, Dr. Medici sweeps notebooks and glass beakers from the table in front of her. “Now I’ll never finish the doomsday weapon today!”

Continue reading

Staying Behind by Ken Liu

~5000 Words

After the Singularity, most people chose to die.

The dead pity us and call us the left behind, as if we were unfortunate souls who couldn’t get to a life raft in time. They cannot fathom the idea that we might choose to stay behind. And so, year after year, relentlessly, the dead try to steal our children.

***

I was born in Year Zero of the Singularity, when the first man Uploaded into a machine. The Pope denounced the “Digital Adam”; the digerati celebrated; and everyone else struggled to make sense of the new world.

“We’ve always wanted to live forever,” said Adam Ever, the founder of Everlasting, Inc., and the first to go. In the form of a recording, his message was broadcast across the Internet. “Now we can.”

Continue reading

The Boy And The Wolf by Ram V

~ 5000 words

“Ashtaad! Tell me a story!” The boy Khoufran, nagged eagerly, with his hands clasped in a pleading gesture.

The man called Ashtaad, sat upon a weather worn rock. one that seemed oddly out of place – half buried, among the roots of an old Banyan tree.

“Mmmm?” Ashtaad responded to the boy, leaning back on the trunk of the tree. He rested his feet on one of the many roots that snaked out from under the tree.He had heard the boy’s request, but his mind wandered, that evening, to cares and worries that a boy would understand little of.

“Tell me a story!” The boy repeated. He sat by Ashtaad and hugged his knees – huddling to keep warm. His cheeks growing a deep red in the evening chill, as he stared at the storyteller with eyes full of expectation.

Continue reading

Goddess By Lavanya Karthik

~ 3900 words

 This time around, the woman looks us directly in the eye as she rips our chest open. We look down at our entrails flooding out, watch the world burn in hellfire around us, and all the while there is that voice and there is its song. We look up again and the woman is smiling and humming, and we begin to hum along, and in the madness in her eyes we see ourselves. We wake up screaming.

“The dreams are getting worse,” we say to Radha.

She isn’t listening. “They caught a witch in the lower village last night,” she says.

The witch was eating little children, they said, though no one in either half of the village was missing any. She was a widow who lived alone, farmed a fertile plot of land, and refused to sell it to the headman at a price of his choice.

“She squealed like a pig as she burned,” Baba giggles when we ask him. It was he who led the crowd to her house, then watched them strip and beat her. “But she didn’t back down, not once. A hard bitch, that one.”

Continue reading