Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Fantasy

Nitrate Nocturnes

Fiona’s timer read 40 33 04 21 53 08. Years, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds. Her first girlfriend had done the math one day in bed. “You’ll be sixty-four when you meet your soul mate. I’ll be twenty-two,” the girl said with a gesture that revealed her frail, luminous wrist, which was lit from within, like a lightning bug. Fiona watched her own timer tick down through her girlfriend’s hair, feeling as though she were trying to catch up to the world.

Science Fiction

Mozart on the Kalahari

It took Michael “Meek” Prouder half an hour to magtube from Claremont to the Coachella Valley desert, near the Nestlé Reservoir entertainment pier. In this oasis of hot dogs, pinwheel fireworks, and whirlygigs, he could lounge and marinate himself, soak up rays as he listened to the music radiating from the dam wall, and sink under the rhythmic roar of artificial waves crashing against the artificial shore. He could walk out into the desert away from the city lights.

Fantasy

The Snow Train

School was canceled; the governor announced a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm, and told everyone to stay home or go home early. “We don’t need to have cars stuck on the highways. Be safe.” Manoj’s foster mother was complaining again. “The landlord said he’s going to fine us if you don’t take that blanket down.” She was referring to the woven rectangle hanging over his window: dark blue, with red and yellow concentric diamonds formed from the weft yarn.

Science Fiction

The Elephants’ Crematorium

Liyana had seen elephants form into protective circles when calves were threatened, but this was different. These days, animal behavior was all but impossible to predict, of course—prey turning to predator; trees turning to stone in moonlight—but this didn’t feel random. There was intent in the way the elephants moved. The seven of them—she counted three juvenile males, two juvenile females, and two adult females—plodded into a loose formation.

Fantasy

A Place Without Portals

It was only then that she woke up in her nice warm bed and discovered that her entire adventure in the land of Nys had been nothing but a dream. Everything she had experienced from the very beginning, starting with the ancient soothsayer with the parchment skin and beclouded eyes appearing at her door to brush those gnarled fingers against her cheek and murmur, “Yes, you are the one, you are the chosen one, you are the one destined to defeat the great evil.”

Science Fiction

Webs

The suns were setting over Ariel’s cliffs, a great blaze of crimson and gold, when the first pounding came at Anna’s door. The stories from old Earth talked about the glories of their sunsets, but they were nothing, nothing, to the drama of Ariel’s twin suns. And yet, it wasn’t the sunsets that brought people to Ariel, that had brought her and her husband, all those years ago. Bam-bam-bam! No polite neighbor knock, but desperation in the hammer of fist against metal.

Fantasy

The Old Women Who Were Skinned

There once were two sisters, close in age, who had been birthed and loved and became stooped and wise and were now old women together. They lived in a house in a courtyard surrounded by a tall stone wall, meant to keep out most children and all men, though starlings made their nests in the boughs of the elms. One day, the king—an old man himself—was walking by the wall when he heard the lilting voices of the sisters, who had become accomplished singers over their long years.

Science Fiction

What Is Eve?

I’d never been on a quieter school bus. Kids were whispering to each other, looking scared as hell as the bus clipped stray branches from the endless forest pressing in on both sides of us. “This isn’t even a two-way road,” I murmured to Flora, the girl sitting beside me. She was chubby and had braces. “I know. Where is this school? My parents said this would be the greatest thing ever for my college applications, but I don’t know about this.”

Fantasy

You Do Nothing But Freefall

Once upon a time, a fox came across a cat in the forest. Or something very similar to a cat, at least. The thing was neither flesh nor fur, but pale enamel, the tip of its nose and the insides of its ears daubed with blood. It sat on its polished haunches atop a mossy log beside a babbling brook, paw metronoming in salute. “Hello,” said the fox to the cat, drawn to its gleam and its amiable expression, its bobbing foreleg, but mostly by the golden coin at its throat.

Science Fiction

The Effluent Engine

New Orleans stank to the heavens. This was either the water, which did not have the decency to confine itself to the river but instead puddled along every street; or the streets themselves, which seemed to have been cobbled with bricks of fired excrement. Or it may have come from the people who jostled and trotted along the narrow avenues, working and lounging and cursing and shouting and sweating, emitting a massed reek of unwashed resentment and perhaps a bit of hangover.