I watch with hope as Ms. Figgle-DeBitt samples a slice of caramelized banana upside-down cake. She takes a nibble and seems pleased. She sweeps cybernetic fingers through the shock of gray hair that sits on the human half of her face, a gesture I’ve learned is contemplative. She takes a larger bite, chews, and grimaces. She spits it out into a trash can.
I’m not upset by this. I do not get upset. I get better.
“This is definitely an improvement, Charlie,” she says. “If I may make a recommendation? Next time, peel the bananas first.” (Continue Reading…)
We weren’t, any of us, heroes. Aiden was a downright chicken. I’m allowed to say that; I love him. My husband doesn’t have to live up to your expectations of masculinity. I’ll beat the crap out of anyone who says otherwise. Me? I don’t stick my neck out. I mind my own business, which is selling ice cream and looking after the twins. That’s Aiden’s business, too. We take turns driving the truck and keeping the kids from falling out of it.
It was Aiden driving that particular day. I was counting the money and finding that we’d gotten short-changed about the price of a dream bar at the playground stop – always happens when there’s a large crowd. Little scammers. (Continue Reading…)
about the narrator… Carl Allery has sold a couple of stories (Farthing Magazine, Killers ed. Colin Harvey), had a couple read out loud (BBC local radio, Escape Pod) and had a couple placed in short story contests (Jim Baen Memorial, Heinlein Society Centennial). He lives in Somerset, UK with 2 Feline Overlords and needs to write more.
Among the Living
by John Markley
Williams perceives a world of hazy reds and angular grays. He sees through smoke and through walls. He sees the fury of fires and the sparks of life in survivors hundreds of yards away. He sees every crack and buckle in the structure around him.
Most importantly, he can’t see Chicago’s burning skyline as it would look to his own eyes.
The bulky door barring him from the interior of Waldron Arcology shudders as Williams’ gauntlet-mounted saw tears through its hinges, then falls outward. McIlrath, Principe, and Armstrong catch it, lowering it to the ground while Williams’ saw retracts. Team Leader Garcia shouts commands.
The room beyond is an inferno. The five step aside, and a great blast of fire-retardant dust blasts from the Vertical Take-Off/Landing transport on the landing pad.
They advance into what had been the terminal for the 150th floor’s south landing pad. Williams takes the lead, metal ringing under his 500-pound weight with every step. There’s no need for anyone in full Evac Team Armor to wait for the fire to go out; extinguishing it isn’t for their benefit.
Fire-choking sodium chloride and melting thermoplastics spread across every surface, covering everything but sparing Williams nothing. He sees through it as if it were air, sees the skeletal ultrasound reflections of every person who died here.
They died very quickly, Williams reminds himself. One of the floor’s main corridors runs straight through the center of the building to here. The shock wave of superheated atmosphere and debris had been channeled towards this place unimpeded, crushing and incinerating them before they could have registered what was happening.
He hopes. He hopes most of the 150,000 people living here died that way.