Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams

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Flash Fiction

Science Fiction

The Heaven That They Never Knew

Ginger clings to the skin of Heaven, wrapped in deep, cold vacuum. She’s a speck in the void and her breath trembles inside her helmet. No sound in space. So she breathes. She has to stay grounded, keep her thoughts from shaking and drifting to hostile sensors. Heaven’s skin is a smooth, shimmering membrane enclosing the angelships. Heaven: a bubble the size of a small moon, seeded with egg-like metallic beings that chew and swallow and reap. Locusts with a taste for spirits; nothing holy in those devourers.

Fantasy

How to Abandon Your Sourdough Starter: A Recipe for Disaster

First, three stolen months ago, scroll through fifteen hundred wistful words about a white woman’s transformative trip to Egypt before getting to the recipe. Only absorb every fourth sentence because your fingers keep straying to refresh Twitter. Soak up words like “nourish” and “sacred grains” and “fauna,” but mostly just stare at the pictures of bread swaddled in linen and tucked inside wicker baskets like baby Moseses, sailing between islands of polished lemons on stone countertops.

Fantasy

In the Cold, Dark Sea

We didn’t ask you to come, not here, not now. Not into the deep, where we didn’t want you. Nor into our other waters, where we didn’t want you either. But you came anyway, with your ships and your harpoons and your chanting tunes. And we watched you slaughter our kin and dim their songs, and still, we did nothing. Until their blood ran red, in the cold, dark sea, and our anger ran true.

Science Fiction

Dissent: A Five-Course Meal (With Suggested Pairings)

AMUSE-BOUCHE: A pungent sourness builds at the back of your throat, slowly at first and then with a crescendo of intensity as you flip through the authorized news streams. A string of smiling state-approved anchors informs you that everything is fine, that things are finally looking up, that there is nothing to worry about for those who have done nothing wrong.

Fantasy

Writing You

Now that you are dead, we will write you a love letter. It was Achmat’s idea. He worries that in our loneliness, the two of us will become like parallel mirrors, reflecting upon each other an eternity of grief. You were the strong one, he says. Our centroid, he calls you. I disagree. You made us strong. That is why we will write you a letter. Perhaps it will make us strong enough to bear your passing.

Science Fiction

Fairy Tale

“Father? You’re staring at the stars again.”

“It is what I have instead of television.”

“What’s television?”

“Something from the old days. A magic box that told stories.”

Fantasy

To Reach the Gate, She Must Leave Everything Behind

Death takes much and in return it offers Susan P—- only clarity. She finds herself in a great gray desert and knows her life has ended. Clad in a royal dress, she carries a bow and quiver, and a finely-carved ivory horn dangles from her throat. A tremor of fear shakes her. She’s not possessed such things in many years. Has she returned to His world? But Susan doesn’t recognize this bleak land, this starless black sky.

Science Fiction

Stowaways

Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Would you like to? Stowaways is a groundbreaking work of memetic art that, when originally premiered, raised an ethical controversy about the consensuality of artistic experience. In the 2060s researchers developed information-dense images that could deliver code to the biocomputational apparatus of the human mind, raising memetics out of the low-brow world of social media to the plane of high culture.

Fantasy

The Right Dragon

Marisol stared into the cave, breathing in the stomach-turning scent of decay that meant a dragon’s den was inside. I held my handkerchief over my nose and mouth so that I wouldn’t gag. “You’re sure this is the one?” “Definitely.” She scratched the stub of her left arm where it tucked into the metal hinge, just above where her elbow had once been.

Science Fiction

Those Who Went

The wide yawning sky. We stare at unfamiliar stars, seeking familiar patterns in their strange configurations. Here is a cup and there a bear. A queen reclined and all the fish in the endless seas. The universe is more boundless than we know. Maybe than we can know. We left everything behind for this, everything. We won’t return home—can’t return home.