Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Fantasy

Ten Deals with the Indigo Snake

I’m fourteen the first time I bargain with the indigo snake. I find it basking on the rocks that are piled against the south side of our house, a lazily drawn line of black, like a cursive letter that has gotten away from itself. It lifts its head as I walk up. “Can you hurt Sam Mueller?” I ask. I’ve taken health class by this point, so I know that I’m not supposed to speak to snakes. There are videos about what happens to the kids who do. But they’re so poorly made, the actresses too peppy and the snakes no more than plastic-eyed puppets. Hardly sinister.

Science Fiction

Tribute

NASA died two hundred and three nautical miles above the planet Mars. It died when Daniel Chen, the last surviving crew member of Pilgrim 2, ran out of breathable atmosphere. At that point, Chen pulled himself close to the nearest camera lens. Even though NASA was not sharing the feed, hackers inevitably populated it across the internet. Millions witnessed Chen’s death. He was a beloved figure, a brilliant scientist as well as a twenty-first-century Will Rogers dispensing wisdom and humor on the talk show and lecture circuit, in books and web TV specials.

Fantasy

The Dream Curator

It is the business of the Dream Curator to choose, and at the moment he is doing so. On his left, an uninspiring rococo fantasia on a childhood humiliation; on his right, a fractured symbolist nightmare of mollusks and walls of televisions. Neither is permanent-gallery material, but both tempt him to reshuffle the rotating exhibit space near the front of the museum. He samples them again, and makes the correct decision. Too much beauty in a museum, he thinks to himself, is not necessarily a good thing. And the mollusks will look good in the newspapers.

Science Fiction

The Real You™

We were getting coffee, which we used to do all the time, when Tierney told me she was thinking of having it done. “Really?” I asked, half-laughing—I didn’t think she was serious. “Why?” “What do you mean, why?” Tierney looked annoyed. “Do I need a reason? Why did you get your tattoo?” I’d hurt her feelings. I hadn’t meant to. As I tried to think of what to say I followed the line of her eyes to a woman who’d just walked in and was ordering a latte. Her face was merely a suggestion, like a Cycladic head or a more abstract Brâncuși.

Fantasy

Super-Luminous Spiral

Even though your creative fiction professor fawns over Joyce, you don’t understand the copy of Ulysses you checked out from the library, so you hide behind it while you stare at your classmate whose skin flickers. His blue and green skin is speckled in spirals of twinkling lights. When you stare long enough, you realize the spirals spin like galaxies. Part of your brain should tell you he is abnormal, but it does not. He stands up and reads his assignment. He reads poetry. This is not a poetry class.

Science Fiction

Big Boss Bitch

The woman began as an idea, as so many women do. She couldn’t be entirely beautiful, because that would stretch credibility too far. She couldn’t be ugly, either, though. A face with just enough lines that on a man it would be called rugged or handsome; but let’s put a little makeup on to smooth the edges, hmm? For clothing, a pantsuit, and sometimes a skirt. Recognizable brands made invisible through smart cuts and conservative hemlines. And let’s make sure that she smiles. A little razzle-dazzle.

Fantasy

Kaleidoscope

In this universe, the last time we talk is when I return the basketball I borrowed from you. We are seventeen. We’ve known each other for seven years. We’ve vivisected each other all through high school, intent on playing games of cruelties and making up, because it’s how wild animals play and we are nothing if not savages in denim and sneakers. We are always friends and always enemies, though on this day probably more friends than anything. You’d think we’d kiss this once, to seal a parting.

Science Fiction

The Horror of Party Beach

All this happened a long time ago, in the summer when Blackboard Jungle ruled the screen, “Rock Around the Clock” shot up the charts, and Hal March asked the first $64,000 Question. That was the year our friend the atom lit up the streetlights of Arco, Idaho, the world’s first atomic city. Reddy Kilowatt had slain Bert the Turtle, who’d been telling us to duck and cover for years.

Fantasy

You Pretend Like You Never Met Me, and I’ll Pretend Like I Never Met You

The worst day of Wells the Magician’s life begins pleasantly enough, with a shot of whiskey at the Lost Kingdom bar. It’s a birthday party day, and as all low-rent magic men know, birthday party days begin with booze and move laterally through coffee, cake, and whichever divorcee can be convinced to unhook her bra, whether offsite or in a back bedroom. Onward from there into (dire case) helium, (better case) weed, or (best case) coke.

Science Fiction

How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps

How to tell your boyfriend you are in love with a robot: 1) Tell him, “I may possibly be in love with a robot,” because absolutes are difficult for biological brains to process. He won’t be jealous. 2) Ask him what he thinks of a hypothetical situation in which you found someone who might not be human but is still valuable and right for you. (Your so-called romantic relationship is as fake as you are.) 3) Don’t tell him anything.