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Fiction

Fantasy

Card Sharp

By the time Quentin reached the Ketterly Riverboat, he was down to thirty-seven cards, not counting the two Jokers. He ran his index finger along the edge of the deck, tucked securely in his waistcoat pocket. He was unarmed, not the kind of man who ever felt comfortable with a pistol, though he had once regularly carried a knife on his hip. Back then, his playing cards had been as disposable as everything else in his life: his women, his possessions, his inheritance.

Science Fiction

No Matter

First, I want to give you this moment. You will understand why in the end. We were walking on the trail, the way we did on Sundays: the sun-washed gully, the open air, the shadows of last night’s rain staining the earth dark and slick beneath our boots. At the river’s edge, I caught my husband’s hand and pointed at a stack of topaz-eyed turtles that had piled themselves ancient and precarious as a cairn. Here are the shapes and shades that colored my life, before. Then we looked up and saw you.

Fantasy

The Final Blow

Like the Isle of Lenas upon which it sat, the town of Lodorest had been dying for decades. The final blow, however, came all at once. Outside of his father’s home, Manil shivered in the night air. He heard shouts and cries and screams, the roar of burning houses. Other sounds, too, drifting up the dirt streets, coming from the shadows as if the darkness itself was a monster feasting on the town: laughter; barking commands; angry bellows from deep-voiced men. Manil stood with his mother and his uncle. Manil barely came up to Uncle Janeed’s hip.

Science Fiction

Calved

My son’s eyes were broken. Emptied out. Frozen over. None of the joy or gladness was there. None of the tears. Normally I’d return from a job and his face would split down the middle with happiness, seeing me for the first time in three months. Now it stayed flat as ice. His eyes leapt away the instant they met mine. His shoulders were broader and his arms more sturdy, and lone hairs now stood on his upper lip, but his eyes were all I saw. “Thede,” I said, grabbing him. He let himself be hugged. His arms hung limply at his sides. My lungs could not fill.

Fantasy

The Rock Eaters

We were the first generation to leave that island country. We were the ones who on the day we came of age developed a distinct float to our walk, soon enough hovering inches above the ground, afterwards somersaulting with the clouds, finally discovering we could fly as far as we’d ever wanted, and so we left. Decades later, we brought our children back to see that country. That year, we all decided we were ready to return. We jackknifed through clouds and dodged large birds. We held tight our children, who still had not learned to fly. Behind us trailed rope lines of suitcases bursting with gifts from abroad. We wondered who would remember us.

Science Fiction

One Thousand Beetles in a Jumpsuit

Isla didn’t consider herself much of an outdoor person, but after five layoffs and a breakup, she found herself in a drone warehouse at the border of the barren wasteland known as Robot Country. She consulted the map on her tablet. To the west was the Gila National Forest. So, trees. She clicked on the forest icon and up popped some names of trees. Arizona sycamore, Douglas fir, Aspen. To the south was desert and the Mexican border. To the east was an even more extreme kind of desert, the White Sands National Monument, where atomic bombs had been tested in the previous century.

Fantasy

Ahura Yazda, the Great Extraordinary

The sunshine brings him to his knees. Every day he thinks, I am here, I am here, in this house that we raised above ourselves, with this woman who chose me. The girls are safe. The creatures are fed. The windowsill is pearled with dew. The spiders are friendly. We have made a life for ourselves, away from the world. We live in a church of infinite light. In these hours, he is left soft-footed and silent, walking the hallways in the farmhouse that he built with his wife Roksha. In their bedroom, she is nosedived into her pillow, and in the other one, his daughters’ silk hair feathers around them.

Science Fiction

The Moon Is Not a Battlefield

We’re recording. I was born in the sky, for war. This is what we were told. I think when people hear this, they think of ancient Earth stories. Of angels and superheroes and gods, leaving destruction between the stars. But I’m no superhero, no Kalel of America-Bygone with the flag of his dead planet flying behind him. I’m no angel Gabreel striking down Satan in the void or blowing the trumpet to end worlds. I’m no devi Durga bristling with arms and weapons, chasing down demons through the cosmos and vanquishing them.

Fantasy

Mother Carey’s Table

My father says he’s saved my life nine times. Once at my birth, once when we fled master and overseer through rows of struggling tobacco beneath a sky choked with stars, and the other seven paid out over all our years before the masts of ten different ships. The oldest two I must take at his word, as I have no memory of either. The first of the seven was the time Pop shut me below when I thought to skip up the rigging to the topmost yard of the Barbry Allen in a near gale off Barbados, the decks awash and the sea yawning up before us.

Science Fiction

Miles and Miles and Miles

Noah Stubbs eyes the large white pill pinched between his thumb and forefinger, remembering the first time he hit golf balls on the moon with Gord. “I wonder,” Gord says to him as Noah lines up on the tee, “just how far these suckers’ll really go?” THWACK! Noah swings. The little ball hurtles into the Lunar day, a pinprick of speeding light bright against the velvet sky. Long after the ball becomes invisible to the naked eye, his suit’s visor tracks its trajectory until it drops towards the ground. They parked the hopper at the top of the Virgo Escarpment.