Science Fiction & Fantasy

Null States

Advertisement

Fiction

Fantasy

A Pound of Darkness, a Quarter of Dreams

There was something sinister about the representative’s perfection. The oiled and combed dark hair, the even white teeth, the polished fingernails. His immaculate dark jacket and trousers, the pressed collar and cuffs of his shirt. He looked as if he’d dressed in the shop itself, not ridden up the damp valleys from Manchester on some dirty, smoking steam train, inevitably acquiring the grime and the dust from the tired upholstery of a grubby carriage. No one who had undertaken the walk down the wet high street should have kept their shoes so polished and shiny.

Science Fiction

Carthago Delenda Est

Wren Hex-Yemenni woke early. They had to teach her everything from scratch, and there wasn’t time for her to learn anything new before she hit fifty and had to be expired. “Watch it,” the other techs told me when I was starting out. “You don’t want a Hex on your hands.” By then we were monitoring Wren Hepta-Yemenni. She fell into bed with Dorado ambassador 214, though I don’t know what he did to deserve it and she didn’t even seem sad when he expired.

Fantasy

The Magician’s Apprentice

When she was thirteen, Mr. Hollis told her: “There’s never more than two, Cherry. The magician and the magician’s apprentice.” That was the first year, and she spent her time sloo-o-owly magicking water from one glass to another as he read the newspaper and drank the coffee. Magician’s apprentice had to get the Starbucks. Caramel macchiato, no foam, extra hot, which was a yuppie drink if you asked her (but nobody did). “Quarter in,” he’d say, and she’d concentrate on the liquid shivering from cup to cup. “Now half. Slower.”

Science Fiction

An Ever-Expanding Flash of Light

“Ladies and gentlemen, everyone you know—the entire world you know—is now dead.” Murmurs ripple through the assembled cadets. Not because they’re shocked—everyone knew what they were signing up for—but because it all happened without fanfare, a jump across light-years of space unaccompanied by any grand orchestral swell or roaring engine thrusts. The wiry guy with a shaved head standing next to Tone mutters, “Jesus, I didn’t even feel anything.”

Fantasy

The Last Cheng Beng Gift

There was definitely something to be said about being Mrs. Lim, even into the Underworld: something about comfort, something about privilege, something about a status quo carried into the afterlife. The previous matriarch that bore the title of Mrs. Lim had moved on long before Mrs. Lim got there, but since Mrs. Lim had not liked the domineering nature of her predecessor, this did not bother her overmuch. One of things to be said about being Mrs. Lim was that during Cheng Beng, she received many, many presents.

Science Fiction

Blue Ribbon

I should have known when I didn’t hear whooping and hollering and congratulations from Chornohora Station when I crossed the finish plane. My sister Luzia and I eked out a win over Scott and Ferenc Nagy in the maneuverability race even though Luz was just barely old enough to compete in the teen division. Usually that sort of thing calls for celebration, and Luz was not going to let it go without some. “Wooo!” she hollered into the comms. “That’s right, Pinheiros have beaten you again, even without Amilcar’s help!”

Fantasy

Ink

The American boy, whose name was David, had always collected things. Coins, minerals, seashells, insects, and even house-brand bars of soap from hotels in his family’s travels. His collections helped him know who he was when so much of life did not; and the things he collected did not make him bleed, when so much of the world—the sharp, angular things of it—did. When you bought an old coin in a store, the coin didn’t bruise your skin or scratch your fingers.

Science Fiction

Swing Time

He emerged suddenly from behind a potted shrub. Taking Madeline’s hand, he shouldered her bewildered former partner out of the way and turned her toward the hall where couples gathered for the next figure. “Ned, fancy meeting you here.” Madeline deftly shifted so that her voluminous skirts were not trod upon. “Fancy? You’re pleased to see me then?” he said, smiling his insufferably ironic smile. “Amused is more accurate. You always amuse me.”

Fantasy

A Citizen In Childhood’s Country

It was always a relief on the ward when midnight came, bringing the late-night caretakers in their faded scrubs and sensible shoes, carrying their little trays of sweet oblivion from bed to bed and room to room. They passed among the patients like the Sandman himself, leaving even the most devoted screamers sleeping peacefully. The silence wouldn’t last, but oh, it was sweet for a little while. The more damaged patients—the ones who’d been waiting years for sanity to make a house call.

Science Fiction

An Inflexible Truth

As the commuter jet descended toward the ruins of Las Vegas, Roland Zhang craned his neck at the window, watching the skeleton towers grow nearer. Billowing clouds of dust clogged the air, and wind-blown dunes partially buried the filthy, abandoned buildings. He’d viewed footage from the far corners of the Earth, every remote hellhole imaginable, but this was the first time he’d ever seen the real deal in person. He tugged at his collar, sweating in spite of the air conditioning.