She was using an ice-cream scoop this time. I came home to find her slumped in the deck chair out back, scoop in one hand, other hand holding open the skin of her abdomen. “That is disgusting,” I told her. She scooped out a lump of guts and dropped it onto the tiles beside her chair. Already there was a significant mound of the stuff, coiled like pale snakes. Blood seeped out and trickled along the grooves between the tiles.
Look at how bright we burn. I’m driving my spaceship with a hacked joystick and my friends in the side-seats: Tiger, Grizzly Bear, and Joshua Tree, my boyfriend. And me, Sequoia—all named after extinct species, as if our light could bring them back. The spaceship is an older model we stole from a junkyard, souped up and kept at an abandoned building in the Park Zone so our parents wouldn’t confiscate it when they saw all the mods. I’m sitting backwards, straddling the inward-facing seat.
“Bones?” “What about them?” “Our data suggests you’ll feel a great deal of pain in them after you transmit.” “Oh? Like how much, a lot?” She shifted where she stood and I sensed she was annoyed with me. It’s funny how much you can understand from body language. I couldn’t really tell from looking at her face, since the room was almost entirely dark. “All of this is covered in the manual. Didn’t you read it?” I didn’t answer her because the answer was obvious. Instead I started taking off my clothes.
It’s the Day of Good Birds in the city of Um-Helat! The Day is a local custom, silly and random as so many local customs can be, and yet beautiful by the same token. It has little to do with birds—a fact about which locals cheerfully laugh, because that, too, is how local customs work. It is a day of fluttering and flight regardless, where pennants of brightly dyed silk plume forth from every window, and delicate drones of copperwire and featherglass—made for this day, and flown on no other!—waft and buzz on the wind.
I never had a sister. Okay, so I did have a sister. She just died before she was born. No one talked about her, because sometimes a family looks ahead and sees through a veil into another universe where tomorrow is a given. But then we end up not living in that reality, and it creates a terrible break in our brains. Her name was Sarah. My dad finally told me her name on the deep black road between Omaha and Chicago, on my return to college for junior year.
The rifle murmured into Wilson’s brain as he held it. It told him of its full load of guided, high-velocity, fire-and-forget armor-piercing rounds. It whispered of wind speeds and horizons, of lethal range and reload times, of firing lines and killing zones, of obstacles its smart bullets could arc around. He was the rifle, and it was him, a limb as familiar and intimate as his right arm, and more deadly by far.
Staring west at a blood-red sunset, Adam Fisk leans against the railing encircling the beer garden, willing his body to feel the alcohol. Usually he’s blunted by the third Manhattan, but tonight his tolerance foils him. All he wants is an empty mind, cool evening air, the susurrant drone of insects. But his every attempt to find contentment is just that, an attempt, an effort he feels, unnatural and doomed to fail. He wills his eyes to enjoy the beautiful hues of the sun-touched horizon.
She’d had a hard day. Earlier that morning she’d discovered that the game her company was developing, which was already months behind schedule for release, had a glitch somewhere in the code that caused the game to crash if the player character was equipped with diamond armor on the level with the meteors, and nobody could figure out why. It didn’t make any sense. It was a total nightmare. Anna, her boss, was mad at her for leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen again.
Hello Senator. Thank you for returning my call. I’m so glad to speak to you at last. Yes, I did say in my message that this is a matter of life-or-death. It is. Absolutely. Oh, no—you misunderstand, sir. It’s not your life that’s threatened. It’s the life of a child. The life of your unborn child, in fact. First, congratulations are in order. I understand that Julia Banks, your former intern, informed you that she is pregnant. I believe that was just over a month ago. She’s just entering the second trimester.
Water looks the same everywhere. It’s only the background, lighting, and impurities that differ. I peer at the silver-gray surface of Bimha’s pond, calm and still, undisturbed by wind. It’s deep and the bottom is a black abyss. Midday here is like dawn on Earth in the middle of the Kalahari. Light shines through the transparent panelling of the pressurised geodesic dome that prevents the water boiling straight into vapour. “This is where it happened,” VaMutasa says to me on the crackling open channel.