Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Fantasy

Destinations of Beauty

It has become increasingly clear to your guidebook writers that the beauty of any destination should be measured not simply by the magnificence of its architecture or the lushness of its landscape, but by the splendor that its citizens collectively produce. In cities where mayors make sure flowers are planted every spring and the baker sends us off with a free roll, the streetlamps are bound to burn brightly with the warmth of welcome. In fact, the wonderful time we’ve had in any destination was due almost entirely to the kindness of those we encountered along the way.

Science Fiction

Sidewalks

I hate when I have a call in Inglewood. It’s still the 1990s in Inglewood, and for all I know, people still care about Madonna. Los Angeles County has a forty-bed psych facility there. Arrowhead looks like a nursing home: a long one-story building with a wide wheelchair ramp and glass doors and overly bright, easy-to-clean floors. I stop at the reception desk and check in. “Rosni Gupta,” I say. “I’m here to do an evaluation.” The young man at the desk catches his bottom lip in his teeth and nods.

Fantasy

Small and Bright

I dream again that I am lost in the tunnels of our cities. The fires extinguished, but still a cool blue glow lights my way. The faster I run, the higher I ascend in the city toward the surface, and the light becomes brighter and burns my skin. I fill with knowing, knowing the place where I am going. More and more light fills each room. My skin burns and then becomes darker somehow. And then I am there at the door in the surface, and if I climb through, death and freedom await me. I stand there looking up. Up.

Science Fiction

Me Two

For as long as I can remember, I have always been two people. My earliest recollection is of myself as a three year-old boy, Danny—and at the same time as a girl of the same age, Cristina. Another early memory is of playing in the rubble of the bomb-ravaged streets of London, when I asked a little boy, “Who will you be tomorrow?” He looked at me as if I were mad. I took it for granted that everyone I met, everyone in the world, was two people like me.

Fantasy

The Memory of a Memory Is a Spirit

After Sumé left her last home in ruins, there was no place left to go except back to the island she’d abandoned years ago. Except when her boat scraped against the shallows, she found the island’s dock slumped from rot and disuse. And the path leading from the docks was smothered by vines and ferns, so overgrown it was almost invisible. The stink of stagnant water and algae assaulted her. The emptiness, the neglect confirmed her worst fears. She was the first person to step on the island in twenty years.

Science Fiction

Bulletproof Tattoos

Allen was watching news of the nearest shooting when he decided he needed a tattoo to cover his neck. He had one over his heart, and one on each eyelid. His forehead and cheeks were covered, and enough of his lungs that he might live if he got lucky. He didn’t have the money to ink his back or chest, but he had saved enough for the neck, where more and more people were getting shot these days, he explained to his wife. “More and more people are not getting shot in the neck,” she said, lighting a joint, her eyes narrowing to slits as she dragged.

Fantasy

Church of Birds

The swan boy lives in an abandoned church in a sleepy, green town by the river. He is small and young-looking still, though he is sixteen now and has been the swan boy for years. His hair is dirty and grown out long enough to cover his shy face. His clothes are striped with greasy white stains, radiating down from the shoulders of his rough shirt. No one would give him a second look if not for the huge, white shield of a swan’s wing that he has in place of a left arm. The people in town do not talk to him.

Science Fiction

The Mathematics of Fairyland

If you had a warp drive, it would be easy. The mathematics are strange the way ley lines are strange, invisible yet divinable. You’ve pulled your way up sterner mountains, fingertip by fingertip. You’ve already compensated for stellar motion, spacetime curvature, hyperspatial congruences. You’ve scratched out hundreds of equations in cold blue hyacinth ink and piled them away in the knitted stocking under your bed, where only Berenice would think to look. Equations that would tell you exactly where to slice a hole between worlds, if only you had the right knife.

Fantasy

Frost’s Boy

Once upon a time, in that place right near to us, there lived a man and a woman, together as man and wife, though, like most peasants, no one had married them nor given them any word. It was simply that their love for each other was stronger even than their poverty. Not that there are wealthy men in these lands—how could there be wealthy men where winter sleeps an inch below the earth?—but this man and this woman had so few stores that it was only their love for each other that kept them warm through the long dark.

Science Fiction

On the Fringes of the Fractal

I was working the squirt station on the breakfast shift at Peevs Burgers when I learned that my best friend’s life was over. The squirt guns were connected by hoses to tanks, each tank containing a different slew formula. Orders appeared in lime-green letters on my screen, and I squirted accordingly. Two Sausage Peev Sandwiches took two squirts from the sausage slew gun. An order of Waffle Peev Sticks was three small dabs of waffle slew. The slew warmed and hardened on the congealer table, and because I’d paid attention during the twenty-minute training course and applied myself, I knew just when the slew was ready.