When I was eleven, my best friend could kill you with a handshake.
He almost killed me the first time we met. On that fateful day, I was out of class having been caught passing a chit in Mr. Mboyo’s maths test. Given the choice between touching my toes and receiving canes, or getting reported to my mum, the schoolmistress, I chose being reported. I knew my mum would be too busy to punish me if I kept out of sight. I might still get suspended, or have to dig an anthill, or sweep all the classrooms in our block, but all that was nothing compared to Mr. Mboyo caning you.
Mr. Mboyo, afraid of the endless drizzle outside, scribbled a chit and sent me to the admin block. On the way to mum’s office I branched off into the library a.k.a. the computer lab. The 6E kids, busy thumbing keyboards and squinting at computer screens, didn’t pay me any attention as I sneaked behind the wobbly chairs on my way to the stairs at the end of the narrow church-like room. It was a miracle I escaped Mrs. Nadya’s all-seeing gaze. I locked the creaky door behind me, and climbed to the roof.
No teachers ever came to the roof. It overlooked the school farm, and if the wind was strong, it smelled like manure. It was the last place my mum would send a prefect to search for me. You could spend the whole day there and no one would ever bother you. Problem was I was so restless, I always got bored.
He’d never seen a burgundy before. Kim held it in her lap, tapped it with her finger. She was probably tapping it to bring attention to it, and Jeff didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of asking to see it, but he really wanted to see it. Burgundy (Kim had insisted on calling it burgundy red when she showed it at show and tell) was a rare one. Not as rare as a hot pink Flyer or a viridian Better Looking, but still rare.
A bus roared up, spitting black smoke. It was the seven bus–the Linden Court bus, not his. Kids rushed to line up in front of the big yellow doors as the bus hissed to a stop. A second-grader squealed, shoved a bigger kid with her Partridge Family lunch box because he’d stepped on her foot. All the younger kids seemed to have Partridge Family lunch boxes this year.
“What did you say it did when you’ve got all three pieces of the charm together?” Jeff asked Kim. He said it casually, like he was just making conversation until his bus came.
“It relaxes time,” Kim said. “When you’re bored you can make time pass quickly, and when you’re having fun you can make time stretch out.”
Jeff nodded, tried to look just interested enough to be polite, but no more. What must that be like, to make the hour at church fly by? Or make the school day (except for lunch and recess) pass in an eyeblink? Jeff wondered how fast or slow you could move things along. Could you make it seem like you were eating an ice cream sandwich for six hours? That would be sparkling fine.
“Want to see it?” Kim asked.
“Okay,” Jeff said, holding out his hands too eagerly before he remembered himself. Kim handed it to him, looking pleased with herself, the dimples on her round face getting a little deeper.
It was smooth as marble, perfectly round, big as a grapefruit and heavy as a bowling ball. It made Jeff’s heart hammer to hold it. The rich red, which hinted at purple while still being certainly red, was so beautiful it seemed impossible, so vivid it made his blue shirt seem like a Polaroid photo left in the sun too long. (Continue Reading…)
She was a princess and he was a prince, and they had been genetically made for each other. The science had been precise down to their anatomical make-up, the blood and the speed in which that blood pulsed through their perfectly symmetrical hearts.
His name was Almahdi. He had been named this because of the way the consonants and vowels hit the shape of her ear. Her name was Nozizwe, because she would indeed be the mother of nations. They would meet at a grand ball on the space station, in the neutral zone between their two new colony kingdoms, in their eighteenth year. So that meant, while other children got to spend their first eighteen years enjoying their robo-dogs and trying to set their parents’ fireproof space suits aflame and going to camp on the moon, the prince and the princess did nothing fun. In fact, their daily activities were about as far from fun as daily activities could get.
“You were made out of love,” Nozizwe’s father, the King, instructed her — age three — from his throne. “Therefore, you must love. Now, what does it mean to love, Nozizwe?”
Nozizwe, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, farted loudly. (Continue Reading…)
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about the author…
Natalia Theodoridou is a media & cultural studies scholar currently based in Exeter, UK. She is also the dramaturge of Adrift Performance Makers
(@AdriftPM). Her fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere. Find out more at her website or follow @natalia_theodor on Twitter.
about the narrator…
Raised by swordfighters and eastern European freedom fighters, Ibba Armancas is a writer-director currently based in Los Angeles. Her darkly comedic genre sensibilities are showcased in two webseries and a feature film forthcoming later this year. One day she will find time to make a website, but in the mean time you can follow her projects and adventures on Twitter or Instagram.
When They Come Back
By Natalia Theodoridou
They were called Maria, and Michael, and Siobhan, George, Elise, and Sarah, and Violet, Daisy, Jasmine, Rose–
no, perhaps these were not people names, these were flower names, weren’t they?–
and Gabriel, Raphael, Bacchus, Athena, Io, Muhammad,
but these were mythical names, and god names, and prophet names, so hard to tell them apart all these years after the–
all these years after they–
and Natalie, Vasilis, Dmitri, Ousmane…
The angel is rotting. He’s leaning against the trunk of an olive tree. I examine his body but avoid his eyes, as always, just in case. I would like to have been a man, he’d said once, so I always think of him as one, no matter what his body looks like. Today he has a mane of dark curls that reach all the way down to the roots of his wings. No beard. No breasts. No hair on his body except a little around his crotch.
from Wikipedia: Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis (born December 31, 1945) is an American science fiction writer. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for particular works —more “major awards” than any other writer — most recently the year’s “Best Novel” Hugo and Nebula Awards for Blackout/All Clear (2010). She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Science Fiction Writers of America named her its 28th SFWA Grand Master in 2011.
Several of her works feature time travel by history students at a faculty of the future University of Oxford—sometimes called the Time Travel series. They are the short story “Fire Watch” (1982, also in several anthologies and the 1985 collection of the same name), the novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog (1992 and 1998), as well as the two-part novel Blackout/All Clear (2010). All four won the annual Hugo Award and all but To Say Nothing of the Dog won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
Sarah Pinsker is the author of the novelette “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” Sturgeon Award winner 2014 and Nebula finalist 2013. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, the Journal of Unlikely Cartography, Fireside, Stupefying Stories, and PULP Literature, and in anthologies including Long Hidden, Fierce Family, and The Future Embodied.
She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels (the third with her rock band, the Stalking Horses) and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland and can be found online at sarahpinsker.com and twitter.com/sarahpinsker.
about the narrator…
Amy’s voice over training began by taking a short workshop at the Alliance Theatre, instructed by industry veteran, Paul Armbruster. Having whetted her appetite for the craft, she sought out further voiceover training with experts and agents alike, and finally landed at yourAct studios in Atlanta, GA. Under the expert instruction of Della Cole, a seasoned voice actress with over 30 years experience as both an actress and an agent, Amy grew as an actress and a voice over talent. She continues to sharpen her skills and is constantly working hard to provide the best possible voiceovers in the business. She is now proudly represented by People Store, and Umberger Agency, and works both in local studios and out of her home studio.
The Transdimensional Horsemaster Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province
by Sarah Pinsker
I. Options for an Imagined Pictorial Eulogy of Oliver Haifetz-Perec
IMAGE 1: The photograph depicts an unmade bed covered in gear and clothing. A military-style duffel, half filled, dominates the shot. A camera bag sits next to it, cameras and lenses and lens cleaners laid out neatly alongside.
IMAGE 2: Shot from the center of the bed. A shirtless man reaches for something high in the closet. He has the too-thin build of an endurance runner, his bare back lanky and muscled. There is a permanent notch in his left shoulder, from where his camera bag rests. A furrow across his back tells of a bullet graze in Afghanistan. The contrast of his skin and his faded jeans plays well in black and white. A mirror on the dresser catches Yona Haifetz-Perec in the act of snapping the picture, her face obscured but her inclusion clearly deliberate. Multiple subjects, multiple stories.
IMAGE 3: This photograph does not actually exist. A third person in the room might have taken an intimate portrait of the two alone in their Tel Aviv apartment, photographers once again becoming subjects. A third person might have depicted the way her freckled arms wrapped around his torso, tender but not possessive. It might have shown the serious looks on both of their faces, the way each tried to mask anxiety, showing concern to the room, but not each other. They have the same career. They accept the inherent risks. They don’t look into each other’s faces, but merely press closer. It would have been the last photograph of the two together. Eleven days later, he is beaten to death in Uganda. His press credentials, his passport, his cameras, his memory cards, and cash are all found with his body; it isn’t a robbery. Since the third option doesn’t exist, the last picture of Yona and Oliver is the one that she took from the bed: his strong back, her camera’s eye.
IMAGE 4: A Ugandan journalist sent Yona a clipping about Oliver’s death. A photo accompanies the article. It shows a body, Oliver’s body, lying in the street. Yona doesn’t know why anyone would think she would want to see that photograph. She does; she doesn’t. She could include it, make people face his death head on.
Instead she opts for
IMAGE 5: in which Oliver plays football with some children in Kampala, his dreadlocks flying, his smile unguarded (photographer unknown), and IMAGE 6.
Michael Swanwick has received the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards for his work. Stations of the Tide was honored with the Nebula Award and was also nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. “The Edge of the World,” was awarded the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1989. It was also nominated for both the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. “Radio Waves” received the World Fantasy Award in 1996. “The Very Pulse of the Machine” received the Hugo Award in 1999, as did “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur” in 2000.
His stories have appeared in Omni, Penthouse, Amazing, Asimov’s, High Times, New Dimensions, Starlight, Universe, Full Spectrum, Triquarterly and elsewhere. .
His books include In the Drift, an Ace Special; Vacuum Flowers; Griffin’s Egg; Stations of the Tide; The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, a New York Times Notable Book, and Jack Faust; his short fiction has been collected in Gravity’s Angels, A Geography of Unknown Lands, Moon Dogs, Tales of Old Earth, and a collection of short-shorts, Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures.
He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Marianne Porter, and their son, Sean.
About the Narrator…
Born in New York, Michael Liebmann is a legal secretary now living in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been everything from a convention organizer today to a trivia master at science fiction conventions in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He’s also an amateur voice actor who has worked on over 40 projects, most of which are based on Star Trek, and is now at work on the Babylon 5 fan audio drama Novo Babylonia.
The Dala Horse by Michael Swanwick
Something terrible had happened. Linnea did not know what it was. But her father had looked pale and worried, and her mother had told her, very fiercely, “Be brave!” and now she had to leave, and it was all the result of that terrible thing.
The three of them lived in a red wooden house with steep black roofs by the edge of the forest. From the window of her attic room, Linnea could see a small lake silver with ice very far away. The design of the house was unchanged from all the way back in the days of the Coffin People, who buried their kind in beautiful polished boxes with metal fittings like nothing anyone made anymore. Uncle Olaf made a living hunting down their coffin-sites and salvaging the metal from them. He wore a necklace of gold rings he had found, tied together with silver wire.
“Don’t go near any roads,” her father had said. “Especially the old ones.” He’d given her a map. “This will help you find your grandmother’s house.”
“No, Far-Mor. My mother. In Godastor.”
Godastor was a small settlement on the other side of the mountain. Linnea had no idea how to get there. But the map would tell her.
Her mother gave her a little knapsack stuffed with food, and a quick hug. She shoved something deep in the pocket of Linnea’s coat and said, “Now go! Before it comes!”
“Good-bye, Mor and Far,” Linnea had said formally, and bowed.
Then she’d left. (Continue Reading…)
from the authors website, linked above — I am a science fiction and fantasy writer who’s published over fifty stories in markets including Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, and Realms of Fantasy. I have won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, Endeavour Award, Writers of the Future Contest, James White Award, People’s Choice Award for Best Drabblecast Story of the Year, and Phobos Fiction Contest, and I have been nominated or shortlisted for the Nebula Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award, Aeon Award, Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest, an earlier Hugo Award, and the John W. Campbell Award (twice). My stories have appeared in four Year’s Best volumes and have been translated into French, Czech, Hebrew, Swedish, Romanian, Finnish, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. I have been an instructor at the Alpha Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers; the Cascade Writers Workshop; Rainforest Writers Village; and numerous science fiction convention writers’ workshops. I am a member of the Wild Cards consortium, Book View Café, and the Science Fiction Writers of America, for whom I coordinate the SFWA Northwest Reading Series. I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife Kate Yule, with whom I co-edit the fanzine Bento.
The Tale of the Golden Eagle by David D. Levine
This is a story about a bird. A bird, a ship, a machine, a woman—she was all these things, and none, but first and fundamentally a bird.
It is also a story about a man—a gambler, a liar, and a cheat, but only for the best of reasons.
No doubt you know the famous Portrait of Denali Eu, also called The Third Decision, whose eyes have been described as “two pools of sadness iced over with determination.” This is the story behind that painting.
It is a love story. It is a sad story. And it is true.
The story begins in a time before shiftspace, before Conner and Hua, even before the caster people. The beginning of the story lies in the time of the bird ships.
Before the bird ships, just to go from one star to another, people either had to give up their whole lives and hope their children’s children would remember why they had come, or freeze themselves and hope they could be thawed at the other end. Then the man called Doctor Jay made a great and horrible discovery: he learned that a living mind could change the shape of space. He found a way to weld a human brain to the keel of a starship, in such a way that the ship could travel from star to star in months instead of years.
After the execution of Doctor Jay, people learned that the part of the brain called the visual cortex was the key to changing the shape of space. And so they found a creature whose brain was almost all visual cortex, the Aquila chrysaetos, or as it was known in those days the golden eagle. This was a bird that has been lost to us; it had wings broader than a tall man is tall, golden brown feathers long and light as a lover’s touch, and eyes black and sharp as a clear winter night. But to the people of this time it was just another animal, and they did not appreciate it while they had it.
They took the egg of a golden eagle, and they hatched it in a warm box, and they let it fly and learn and grow, and then they killed it. And they took its brain and they placed it at the top of a cunning construction of plastic and silicon which gave it the intelligence of a human, and this they welded to the keel of the starship.
It may seem to you that it is as cruel to give a bird the intelligence of a human, only to enslave its brain, as it is to take the brain of a human and enslave that. And so it is. But the people of this time drew a rigid distinction between born-people and made-people, and to them this seemed only just and right.
Now it happens that one golden eagle brain, which was called Nerissa Zeebnen-Fearsig, was installed into a ship of surpassing beauty. It was a great broad shining arrowhead of silver metal, this ship, filigreed and inlaid with gold, and filled with clever and intricate mechanisms of subtle pleasure. (Continue Reading…)
It was a snake–and Gods, what a snake it was. Fifty feet from sweeping tail to flicking tongue, its eyes as cold as deepest space and dim as the farthest star, its fangs dripping poison so vile the stench alone would kill a lesser man.
This, then, was the dreaded Doom of Lla Haathra, into whose black maw the unlucky and damned were fed to the Impotent God. Never having counted myself among His faithful, I saw no reason to submit meekly to His wrath.
His priests had made one crushing mistake when they lured me onto the trap door: they failed to relieve me of my blade. _Wind,_ they called it, those for whom that name was the last word to leave their lips. I rushed the foul altar, upon which lay my Darinda, black chains coiling about her supple form, her body purest alabaster against the crimson stone marbling her flesh. Tsutu Kalai, highest of the wretched priests, cackled as I approached, throwing the lever that opened the trap. Darinda’s scream followed me down the endless, serpentine flue. Beyond that, darkness.
Rolling to my feet, I stood in the shaft of light piercing the abyss from the chamber above, Wind held before me, daring the almost tangible shadow to draw near. Within moments came a rasping omen, as of a great mass dragging itself awake after a slumber of eons.
Now the Doom reared before me, thrusting its head into the light. We goaded one another to strike–it with the insolence of the predator that has never known failure, I with a rage that would never be clenched till the serpent’s blood coated my blade from point to pommel. From above echoed the laughter of the priests and the muffled screams of my Darinda. Here there was only silence–the sweet anticipation of the moment before death.
Finally I saluted the beast with a nod and spoke: “At least your masters have granted me a worthy adversary. Very well; let us have at it. I will not pretend to the ancient patience of the serpentfolk.”
It hissed its reply.
At that I lunged. Its mammoth head darted forward quicker than mercury, but primal speed avails not against human cunning. I ducked its strike and gripped my blade for the piercing jab: up under the jaw and through the skull. I sprang up, mighty thews tensing for the killing blow–