The river’s in flood again, and it feels like a blessing from God. You emerge from your home, built with wood and plastic scraps of ancient towns, and stand on the green hill high above the rushing waters. You remember from when you were young that the river would spill over its banks every year, submerging the low-lying land, turning fields that had lain fallow through the darkness and bitter cold of winter into lakes of rushing, wild water. And then when the waters had drained away, the corn could be planted in the deep sediments left behind.
The difficulties of transporting wine over interstellar distances are manifold. Wine is, after all, like a child. It can bruise. It can suffer trauma—sometimes the poor creature can recover; sometimes it must be locked up in a cellar until it learns to behave itself. Sometimes it is irredeemable. I ask that you greet the seven glasses before you tonight not as simple fermented grapes, but as the living creatures they are, well-brought up, indulged but not coddled, punished when necessary, shyly seeking your approval with clasped hands and slicked hair.
The city surrounded him while he slept. He had been fleeing it for four days. Long before its walls became visible, it was a grayish smudge on the horizon, beneath which the air shimmered in silent testimony of its radiant heat. It was one of about ten living cities he knew of and he had avoided it for as long as he could, staying out of their usual migratory paths, contenting himself with the company of the small tribes who had also managed to keep out of the reach of the cities, living on roots and the small animals that fell to his bow.
“Life is the only indulgence,” was the Ames motto, and today was meant to be the latest, grandest example of that philosophy: Fecundity given breath and shadow, with the promise of ludicrous profits tomorrow. The “I do’s” were to be held exactly at noon on the summer solstice. A thousand species of expertly crafted, first-of-their-kind foliage stood on the island’s highest hill, creating a church of pigmented cellulose, perfumes and pheromones and wet-earth stinks. The honored guests were carefully shaped and then firmed by regenerations.
Henrietta followed the receptionist down the hall of Schneider Hospital. The woman’s keys jangled as she walked, mixing with the echoing clicks of Henrietta’s blue church shoes. No other noises greeted them. Henrietta watched her shadow stretch itself in each unlit room, her form made large by the ultra-bright fluorescent lights of the hallway. One of the lights in the hall blinked on and off. Henrietta pinched her eyes closed to ward off dizziness. Her lower belly throbbed and she stifled a groan.
We stood naked on the shore of Bernal and watched the candles float across the bay, swept by a lazy current off to the north, in the direction of Potrero Island. A dozen or so candles stayed afloat and alight after half a league, their tiny flames bobbing up and down, casting long yellow reflections on the dark water alongside the streaks of moonlight. At times I fancied the candlelight could filter down onto streets and buildings, the old automobiles and houses full of children’s toys, all the waterlogged treasures of long-gone people.
Engineer’s meat wept and squirmed and wriggled inside her steel organ cavity, so different from the stable purr of gears and circuit boards. You couldn’t count on meat. It lulled you with its warmth, the soft give of skin, the tug of muscle, the neurotransmitter snow fluttering down from neurons to her cyborg logic center. On other days, the meat sickened, swelled inside her steel shell, pressed into her joints. Putrid yellow meat-juices dripped all over her chassis, eroding away its chrome gloss. It contaminated everything.
Kango and Sharon first met at a party, one of those lavish debauch-fests where people fly in from all over the galaxy wearing sentient fetishwear that costs a whole asteroid belt. The specially grown building had melted, causing toxic fumes that killed a few hundred people, and then the canapés on the appetizer table came to life and started mutilating bystanders with their razor-sharp mandibles. The party was going according to plan, in other words. The only thing that nobody could have predicted, even the most OCD of the party-planners, was that two of the party’s minor entertainers ended up standing around near the Best Dressed Dead Guest lineup.
Dear Bob — “Dear Bob.” I can’t believe I’ve written that. Did I ever think you’d read this letter? Dear Bob — Dear Bob!!! I’ve done it. I’m writing the letter. How are you? But I won’t know that, will I? Not until I read your letter. Don’t forget—put it where you found mine, between Asimov and Bester, fourth shelf up in the science fiction section of Cray Point’s library, just as we agreed. I’ll pick it up when I’m next through, I promise, and God willing, I’ll leave you another letter that day. Then we’ll swap letters, just like that couple in 84 Charing Cross Road, swapping our lives between the lines.
A Vortal ripped open in the heart of Manhattan. It began as a microscopic dot, invisible to the naked eye. Just hung there in midair, almost two meters above the street. People walked, drove, biked, rollerbladed, skateboarded, jogged, and one dude on his way to a Broadway audition even tap-danced by without noticing it. It grew. A day later, it was the size of a pea. A Metro bus struck it. It was still barely visible and the Sikh driver was hardly expecting to collide with a nearly invisible pea-sized obstacle suspended six feet up in the air.