Science Fiction & Fantasy

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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

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

Cosmic Spring

Qubits resolve and superimpose; information entangles and de-couples; consciousness re-emerges. I don’t know for how long I’ve been asleep. There’s so little energy left in the island-ship’s reservoir that I’ve been conserving as much as possible. A faint glow in the abyss, perhaps several thousand kelvins. It’s why I’ve been awakened. I change course and head straight for perhaps the last star in the universe.

Fantasy

Al-Kahf (الكهف)

There once lived a man who was stolen from the sea. Rare and magnificent, he lived in his cave, rising to the surface every so often to pluck the strings of his violin for the birds before retreating into the water to play for his kin. They spent their days enthralled by the doleful songs of the man who lived in the littoral cave. But there came a day when the songs ceased and the people stopped going and the man was nowhere to be seen.

Science Fiction

The Independence Patch

It is exam week, and Donny is 14 years 10 months 15 days 10 hours 16 minutes old. He is bored and hungry and his scalp itches and he hates school more than he’s ever hated anything before in his life. He hates exams in particular, and he hates his math exam most of all. 54 minutes and 20 seconds are left before he can leave, before he can take the damned dunce cap off and be himself again.

Science Fiction

The Goddess Has Many Faces

Pillai expected Kali border security to be much tighter than it was. All he got was a body search that was routinely thorough, and a few old-fashioned tests and checks. It reminded him of a visit he had made as a very young rightwing Hindu activist to an Indian nuclear weapon testing facility back in 1998, after the Pokhran atomic tests. His briefings had been correct in this respect: Kali did not seem to have much use for twenty-first-century Safe Care.

Fantasy

A Coward’s Death

Well, the 101,201st Emperor needed some levies to build a huge statue of himself, so he said, “Okay, all of my recently subjugated peoples: If you’ve got at least two sons, you need to give me your first-born. But don’t worry, I’ll give him back, assuming he can survive ten years of lifting these big heavy stones.” In some places, people weren’t happy about this. The city of Yashar revolted, and in response the Emperor’s legions killed the men, castrated the boys, and sold all the survivors into slavery.

Science Fiction

Four-Point Affective Calibration

Of course I can be angry. But I wear a headscarf. The moment I’m angry, you put me in your mental box labeled “TERRORIST” in neat, tidy small capitals. You store me under “Potential Danger” in the warehouse of your mind. When I cross the parking lot to the grocery store, sometimes people hit the gas, not the brakes. And this is a university town, supposedly liberal—or is it? I’m not a Muslim, but it’s not like most people around here can spot the difference.

Fantasy

The Quiet Like a Homecoming

Travel to Scandinavia if you can, the older cats told me, the queens in their raftered kingdoms. The coffee there, they said, is bitter as an old lie. The Norsemen are beautiful, their women even more sublime, but most importantly, they are quiet. Preoccupied only with Nordic things, disinterested in the outside world. This is crucial. This is what makes them safe. But this is not the only reason I am here.