Fine amber dust infiltrated everything in the Preserve. Each morning, I vacuumed it away with my ventral hose prior to opening my kiosk. I paid particular care to my curios: the fossils, the bismuth crystals, and the beetle-cleaned skulls. Forebears, especially the children, delighted in receiving my curios as gifts. Each successful transaction gave me a burst of surplus energy, expressed as pride.
The mineral specimens I gathered from the talus behind the kiosk. I polished them right in the kiosk according to aesthetic principles. But I prepared the skulls in the subterranean machine rooms. They were created from deceased rhuka, a species of domesticated bovine. No other kiosk attendant created such skulls, and Forebears traveled great distances to receive one. They used them to decorate their caves. (Continue Reading…)
Dr. Thaddeus Begay had been expecting a dying child in the exam room, but no one had said anything about a woman half-dead from starvation. He stepped inside and muscled the door shut—like the rest of the clinic, it was made from metal reclaimed from the original dropship, and like everything else in the colony, it didn’t quite fit right.
“Good morning,” Thad said.
“Hello there,” the woman said. Her tone was probably meant to be cheerful, but to Thad, it sounded like it took significant effort.
Thad frowned. His nurse must have made a mistake. A woman had burst into the clinic without an appointment, the nurse had said, demanding help for her sick child.
But the woman sitting on the examination table with her child was thin to the point of starvation. Cheeks deeply sunken; the outline of her ribs and collarbone sharp through her tank top. Her hair, like her shirt, was thin and plastered against her flesh with sweat. On her lap sat a little boy of about a year and a half, had jet-black hair and deep brown eyes, and cheeks that were flushed with a painful crimson rash. Still, he looked healthier than his mother.
Thad dragged a stool over to her. It squealed across the faint outlines of the struts and tie-downs and internal dividing walls that had once honeycombed the massive storage container that now served as the colony’s clinic.
He glanced back at the chart—her name was Suzanne Buenaventura. He glanced at her vitals, and nearly gagged when he saw her records from the colony ship. She’d been more than 215 pounds when the dropships had landed. Sitting on the exam table, she didn’t look like she’d top 110. “And what seems to be the problem this morning, Mrs. Buenaventura?” (Continue Reading…)
My beloved waits for me in the flooded church. She’s died one time too many, and I can’t get her back without her help. At least, at last, it gives me a reason to see her again.
The church lies at the edge of the Mediterranean fracture, below cliffs barely eight thousand years old. Glacial melt pours down the precipice, filling the air with a fine frigid mist. Rime ice coats the façade, making the church look like a sharp-clawed hand locked in melting wax. Another fork drops me off in a flier, leaving me alone in the valley with my pack and what few memories I can carry.
Boulders and high water have turned the entrance into a scramble over icy stone. My lungs heave against thin cold air as I catch my breath in the nave atop a half-submerged pile of boulders. There’s just enough dry space for me to stand upright. I wish I’d taken a different body, but for this task—for me—only the traditional shape will do.
I first spot Emlune as a glowing line of blue. Her primary lamp cuts across the chamber, and the air glimmers with frozen mist. She clings to the vaulted ceiling with eight articulated limbs. Smaller lights spangle her teardrop-shaped chassis, as if she had swum in water rich with bioluminescent algae.
The claxon blares three times: all clear. We file out of the underground shelter and up the serpentine lava tube. Our semi-annual hibernation drill, bureaucratic gibberish for run down to the emergency shelter and hide, is now monthly. I’m all for avoiding nuclear annihilation, but I wish the drills weren’t scheduled so close to lunar sunset.
I jostle my way toward the front of the long line headed for the surface modules. It’s been fourteen Earth days since I’ve talked to my best friend. Sure we could have emailed or texted, even from two-hundred and thirty-nine thousand miles away, but that would be cheating. We’re the Interplanetary Morse Code Club. Sally is President, Earth District; I’m Vice President of Lunar Operations. It’s a small club. (Continue Reading…)
Charity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She’s worn both Girl Scout and Army green. These days, she writes fiction (short and long) and works as a technical writer. Her short speculative work has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, Deep Magic, and Cicada.
about the narrator…
Amy H. Sturgis holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History and specializes in the fields of Science Fiction/Fantasy and Native American Studies. She lives with her husband, Dr. Larry M. Hall, and their best friend, Virginia the Boston terrier, in the foothills of North Carolina, USA.
In a Manner of Speaking
By Charity Tahmaseb
I use the last of the good candles to build the radio. I still have light. The fire burns, and there is a never-ending supply of the cheap, waxy candles in the storeroom. I will–eventually–burn through all of those. My fire will die. The cold will invade this space.
But today I have a radio. Today I will speak to the world–or what’s left of it. I compare my radio to the picture in the instructions. It looks the same, but not all the steps had illustrations. This troubles me. My radio may not work.
I crank the handle to charge the battery. This feels good. This warms my arms, and I must take deep breaths to keep going. I shake out my hand and crank some more. When buzz and static fill my ears, I nearly jump. That, too, sounds warm. I am so used to the cold. The creak and groan of ice, the howl of the wind. These cold sounds are their own kind of silence. They hold nothing warm or wet or alive.
I decide on a frequency for no other reason than I like the number. I press the button on the mouthpiece. This, according to the instructions, will let the world hear me.
Amy is a writer, reviewer, librarian, and crazy cat lady. Her work – including the “Mr. Featherbottom” series – has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, including Abyss & Apex, Daily Science Fiction, Toasted Cake, and Podcastle.
Kate Suratt is a flash fiction author, novelist, and NASA program analyst. Her short fiction has appeared in Splickety Prime magazine.
about the narrator…
Christopher Cornell is a writer, musician (no, not that one) and software developer in Northern California. He is also the producer and co-host of the Unreliable Narrators podcast and creator of the upcoming audio drama series, E’ville. Also a film buff, foxhound wrangler and occasional editor. Skeptical of real estate shysters.
Captain Drake Learns His Lines
By Amy Sisson and Kate Suratt
So I was sitting there minding my own business and trying to choke down the rotgut Rick passes off as whiskey, when who should come sailing through the door but Jeanne Bixby –- yes, the Jeanne Bixby, the biggest telewave starlet this side of the galaxy. She’d covered that famous red-gold hair with a gauzy green scarf and wore sunglasses, but she had to take them off because the bar was so dim she nearly tripped over the Candalubian dozing on the floor just inside the doorway.
Candalubians can sleep anywhere.
Anyway, I knew it was her the minute she took the glasses off, but I couldn’t figure out what the hell she was doing in Rick’s Bar. She didn’t even have her contingent of red-carpet bodyguards with her, just a single H’Rak’tin wearing brass knuckles on all four hands.
On second thought, maybe that was enough. H’Raks are famous for what they can do with brass knuckles. (Continue Reading…)
Lavie Tidhar’s latest novel, Central Station, is out now to rave reviews. He is the author of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize winning A Man Lies Dreaming, of the World Fantasy Award winning Osama, and many other books and short stories. He lives in London.
about the narrator…
Summer is a bit of a television addict, and enjoys putting her scifi media geek skills to good use in interviewing guests for Slice of SciFi as a co-host from 2005-2009. She was previously the co-host for The Babylon Podcast and host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas, before returning to Slice of SciFi as host in August 2014.
She is an avid reader and writer of scifi, fantasy and thrillers, with a handful of publishing and voiceover credits to her name. Next on her agenda is writing an urban fantasy tale, and a B-movie monster extravaganza.
There are four Three-times-Three Sisters in the House of Mirth, and five in the House of Heaven and Hell, and two in the House of Shelter. Four plus five plus two Three-by-Threes, and they represent one faction of the city.
You may have heard tales of the city of Polyphemus Port, on Titan, that moon of raging storms. First city on that lunar landscape, second oldest foothold of the Outer System, or so it is said, though who can tell, with the profusion of habitats in those faraway places of the solar system? A dome covers the city, but Polyport spreads underground – vertical development they called it, the old architects. And its tunnels reach far into the distance, linking to other settlements, small desolate towns on that wind-swept world, where majestic Saturn rises in the murky skies.
There are two Five-times-Six Sisters in the House of Forgetting, and five Eight-by-Eights in the House of Domicile. We who are a ones, and will one day be zeros, we cannot hope to understand the way of the Sisterhoods of Polyphemus Port, on Titan.
Understanding, as Ogko once said, is forgiveness.
Shereen was a cleaner in the House of Mirth in the day, and in the evening in the House of Domicile. It was a good, steady job. On Polyport all jobs connect to trade, to cargo. A thousand cults across space arise and fall around cargo. In the islands of the solar system cargo achieves mythical overtones, the ebb and flow of commerce across the inner and outer systems, of wild hagiratech from Jettisoned, best-grade hydroponics marijuana and raw materials from the belt, argumentative robots from the Galilean Republics, pop culture from Mars, weapons from Earth, anything and everything. Polyphemus Port services the cluster of habitats that circle Saturn, and links to the Galilean Republics on the four major moons of Jupiter. It links the inner system with the wild outposts of Pluto – with Dragon’s World on Hydra and Jettisoned on Charon, and the small but persistent human settlements beyond Saturn, in the dark echoey space that lies in between Uranus and Neptune.
People are strange in the Outer System, and the few Others, too, who make their homes there. Some say the Others, those digital intelligences bred long ago by St. Cohen in Earth’s first, primitive Breeding Grounds, have relocated en masse to the cold moons of the outer system, installing new Cores away from human habitation, but whether it is true or not, who can tell? Whatever the truth of all this is, it suffices to say that all jobs on Polyport, directly or indirectly, are linked with the business and worship of cargo, and that some jobs are always in demand.
Shereen apprenticed as a cleaner in the landing port beyond the city, a vast dust-bowl plane where RLVs like busy methane-breathing bees rise and fall from the surface to orbit, there to meet the incoming and outgoing space-going vessels to ferry people and cargo back and forth. She was seconded to Customs inspections slash Quarantine, scouring ships’ holds for unwanted passengers, the rodents and bacteria, fungus and von Neumann machines; from there she moved dome-side, abandoning her public sector job in favour of the private. She cleaned houses both above- and under-ground, until at last she settled on the dual work for the House of Mirth and the House of Domicile, a work associated, after all, with cargo and religion both.
M. Glyde recently moved 1813 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to El Paso, TX, where he writes, works, and attends grad school. His fiction has appeared in See the Elephant. You can find him on Twitter @michaelglyde or on his website and blog mglyde.com.
about the narrator…
When not inhabiting cyberspace or various fantastic fictional worlds Joe resides in South London. He is a geek by trade and by nature; having undertaken at the tender age of two to rewire, much to his mother’s chagrin, a power socket in the family home, he’s never looked back. He spends his days wrangling both data and users making sure that they behave themselves and play nicely. His evenings, when not diverted by his remarkable wife or mercurial cats, are spent gaming, reading comics, and intending to write something.
The Hungers of Refugees
by Michael Glyde
I. Generation One
Our grandparents always said, “Take care to remember the first generation.” They came from fresh, from sunlight, whirling winds, and butterfly fields. They came from Hunger.
Generation One came from six different nations. Six nations? How long ago was this that six nations could exist, all at once? That’s what we’d ask our grandparents. They never answered satisfactorily.
Ship 13c smelled iron like death. White LED lighting glared off the walls. And it was warm, but an uncomfortable, mechanical sort of warm.
When Generation One boarded the ship, their children spent days waving and crying as Earth receded from view. To those children, loss was an old trick—that’s what their parents wrote of them in the ship’s log. They cried because they remembered their tiny fishing villages, their college towns, their cities that counted among the oldest on Earth.
The parents celebrated leaving the Camps. Finally escaping foreign soldiers quick to kill, food rations too small for mice, and the oppressive, endless heat, they laughed at their pain.
“Good riddance,” they said, “to all that.”
And that first night, a tradition began: all of Ship 13c’s residents crowded around the glass globe that overlooked the reactor core. Like campers around a fire, they told stories of their homes. How strange, how awkward, trying to tell stories everyone would understand. Which of the four languages did the most people speak? What prohibitions differed between these six cultures?
But that night they silently agreed to become one people. A people hunting for a new home.
The storytellers became The Historians. On the walls they created a vast digital collage of Earth’s monuments and trees and constellations. It ended, as it still does, in a vast forest scene, tree roots littered with chestnuts and crawling with bloodhounds.
Ten years after departure, The Historians threw an enormous festival.
Generation One played games using little toys the ship could print. Stories were told around the reactor core, and they gorged themselves on water and the multicolored paste they’d been given as food. This food, which they described as oddly dense and bitter, is all we have known.
As our people also do at festivals, the children danced. Fast tempo music whirled and waned, lifting the hearts of Generation One, even as their stomachs filled with bitter mash. Bright dresses twirled and blurred, and the dancers grinned as they flew about the floor, as if they could not smell the iron, as if the air did not feel dead, as if they had never left Earth behind.
Kristin Janz is a Canadian speculative fiction writer who has lived in the Boston area since 1998. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, On Spec, and Crowded Magazine, and she is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop.
My husband Donald S. Crankshaw and I have edited and are independently publishing an anthology of speculative fiction stories that engage with Christianity in some way–Christian characters, themes, or cosmology. Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith will be available in both paperback and ebook in August of 2016, and includes stories by Nebula-nominated authors Beth Cato and Kenneth Schneyer.
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.
As Travelers in Sky Boats
by Kristin Janz
My sister blames the Travelers. Before they came, she says, we were content within the small world we knew. No one wondered what lay beyond the flat blue horizon where ocean met sky, or who journeyed between the stars. Children never complained that there was an easier way to mend fishing nets, that they did not like the taste of seaweed. Men did not abandon responsibilities to pursue the impossible fantasy of becoming Travelers themselves.
One rainy night, when both she and the water leaking through our roof were keeping me awake, I told her that she sounded like a Traveler when she spoke that way. Who was she–or they–to tell me how I should live, what I could know or not know?
She did not speak to me the rest of that night or most of the day that followed. I did not enjoy her silence as much as I had expected to.
“May I hold that?”
Traveler Jarrett hesitated before answering me, as Travelers often did. Unable to understand our words, they relied on their tools to tell them what we said and how to answer. But I did not think Traveler Jarrett’s hesitation came from not understanding, not this time. I had pointed to the tool on his wrist while asking and then held my hands out, palms facing up. How could he not understand that?
Traveler Tess murmured a warning in Traveler Speak, but Traveler Jarrett unfastened his wrist tool anyway and placed it in my outstretched hands.
Traveler Tess moved her finger around in the air in front of her, listened for a moment to a voice no one else could hear, then looked directly at me and said, “Please be careful with that.” As if I were a small child and might start bashing the wrist tool against the packed earth floor of the Travelers’ house! Traveler Tess tried to act like a mother to the other Travelers, like my sister did with me. I did not think they heeded her any better than I with my sister. (Continue Reading…)
about the author… Edward Ashton is a clinical research scientist and writer living in Rochester, New York. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of venues both in print and online, ranging from Louisiana Literature to Daily Science Fiction. Three Days in April is his first novel.
about the narrator… Josh Roseman (not the trombonist; the other one) lives in Georgia and makes internets for a living. He has been published in — among others — Asimov’s, Escape Pod, and Evil Girlfriend Media, and has work forthcoming (or already released) in 2016 from Abstract Jam, Stupefying Stories, and The Overcast. In 2015, he released his first collection, The Clockwork Russian and Other Stories. When not writing, he mostly complains that he’s not writing.
By Edward Ashton
Micah steps from the shuttle and onto the tarmac, eyes slitted against the hard north wind that whips across the empty runway. The sky is a flat, leaden gray, with high thin clouds too light for snow, but too thick to let the sun come through as anything more than a vague, diffuse glow near the southern horizon. Micah hunches his shoulders against the bitter cold, ducks his chin to his chest, and pulls his coat tight around him. He hesitates, glances up at the desolate stand of dead trees at the far end of the runway, then walks slowly toward the terminal building.
A sense of uneasiness, which has lurked deep in his belly since he boarded the shuttle, grows steadily as it becomes increasingly clear that he’s alone here. He hadn’t expected an honor guard, but he’d expected… something. As he reaches the terminal entrance, he looks back to see the shuttle wheel around and accelerate back down the runway. He pauses with his hand on the door. He can see through the glass that a half-dozen bodies are sprawled on the floor inside, perfectly preserved. He takes a deep breath in, then lets it out slowly as he enters the building. The scream of the shuttle’s engines fades as the door swings shut behind him.
As he climbs the frozen escalator to the arrivals lounge, Micah remembers the last time he passed through this airport. It was years ago, and he’d been on his way to visit a distant cousin in the North Country. He remembers stopping for a drink before heading to the rental car counter, intending to stay only long enough to take the edge off before a four hour drive, but instead spending most of the afternoon drinking crappy domestic beer and trading double entendres with the bartender. She was tall and lean and blonde, not young, but not yet old either, and her smile caught and held him long after he should have been on the road.
She’s dead now, of course. Lake Ontario was the epicenter. When the strike came, it was twelve thousand miles in any direction from here to safety.