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Fiction

Fantasy

The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles

In the very heart of winter, the forest holds its breath. Frozen earth sleeps without dreaming; brittle sunlight breaks and scatters in gasps between the trees. The girl walks through the woods, boots crunching the crusted snow. There is always such a girl, walking alone. Little footprints point the way back to a clutch of hovels; she peers half-dazzled through shadow and snow-flash. A basket hangs dispiritedly from her arm. Sausage end. Hardened loaf. The creeping doubt in spring itself.

Science Fiction

Today Is Today

In one tiny part of one of the new bubbles emerging from the bubble that is our particular universe, there is a place and time where you might exist and I might exist where I have a daughter named Janine. Perhaps, in that tiny bubble, I may have been lucky with sports and found some success. As quarterback in high school, I’ll have converted to a tight end in college at the University of Minnesota, where I’ll bang heads and block like a demon, catching most of the passes they throw my way.

Fantasy

The Hidden Girl

On the morning after my tenth birthday, spring sunlight dapples the stone slabs of the road in front of our house through the blooming branches of the pagoda tree. I climb out onto the thick bough pointing west like an immortal’s arm and reach for a strand of yellow flowers, anticipating the sweet taste tinged with a touch of bitterness. “Alms, young mistress?” I look down and see a bhikkhuni. I can’t tell how old she is—her face is unlined but there is a fortitude in her dark eyes that reminds me of my grandmother.

Science Fiction

Eros Pratfalled, Or, Adrift in the Cosmos With Lasagna and Mary Steenburgen

Ellis Neider met his soulmate. The End.

That’s his story. The rest is annotation. We would almost skip that part, were it not for the stone knowledge that any love story not about masturbation does require at least two characters. The object of his affection does deserve something approaching equal time. Ellis was a guy. Some men are guys, other men are dudes. Ellis was a guy. As a child, he was a little guy. As an adult, he was a bigger guy. Like most guys, he gave off the vibe that he knew the universe operated by a certain set of rules.

Fantasy

Knee Deep in the Sea

I woke early—or perhaps didn’t sleep. My body is still adjusting to the time zone hop from Southern California to the islands north of the Scottish mainland. Orkney. A series of islands, many of them uninhabited, in the cold North Atlantic Sea. To the east is Norway. To the West are Iceland and Greenland. In other words, it’s chilly even in the summer when there is endless light. It’s stunning, aside from the dead guy currently at my feet.

Science Fiction

Overburden

The runoff had broken the sandbags overnight; by the time Davis got to the office, somebody was skimming dead carp from the top of the pond. The rain was pissing down and the big nets must have been borrowed to shore up the sandbags, because the soldier was using a hand skimmer. Davis watched her sluicing the net hypnotically back and forth, piling up hundreds of bodies, scraping the oil off whenever it got too heavy to lift or too slippery to hang on to anything.

Fantasy

A Country Called Winter

In winter, the snow comes down as softly as feathers. I have always loved to watch it. It’s different, of course, once it’s fallen: thick, heavy, difficult to walk through. In Boston, the snow plows come out almost as soon as the first flakes land on the sidewalk. They make narrow paths, and the snow piles up on either side, so when you walk to class, it’s between two mountain ridges, like a miniature Switzerland. That’s how Kay described it to me one morning, while we were sitting in my dorm room.

Science Fiction

Her Appetite, His Heart

It came to Javi in a vision while he was at Burning Man. There was something calling out to him, and he’d hoped an ayahuasca ceremony would help him figure out what it was. It was during the ceremony that she appeared to him. Isla. In his vision, she was a temple priestess and he was laid out on a sacrificial stone table. She was literally eating his engorged heart out of his chest cavity. It wasn’t as frightening as it sounded. It was only when the vision disappeared that he felt an aching in his chest. Isla, come back.

Fantasy

The Second-Last Client

Forty-six minutes and a trickle of seconds remained before the end of the world—this world, anyway—and I was trying to evacuate the second-last client on my list. Some apocalypses come in with horns blaring and guns blazing and cascades of fire. Some apocalypses like to be obvious. This wasn’t one of them. The humans had various names for their world. My partner Rawk and I called it Seedworld 722.11.15, which was our superiors’ label. We’d seen a lot of Seedworlds perish, she and I.

Science Fiction

The Concubine’s Heart

The tomb of the Empress has breath, and bone, and muscle. I can feel her shiver and moan beneath my hands, and though my fingers tremble I know the vibrations are more than my own weakness; they are a pulse that runs deep to the caverns of her far-off ventricles and atria. The tomb of the Empress lives, and we live inside her. There is one window before which the Empress’s coffin lies at rest. The coffin is gold, the only bright embellishment amid the hall of grays and silvers and coppers.