by Lee Budar-Danoff
Nico noticed the little girl as she pressed herself against the glass window of his antique store. She stared with intent but when he smiled, she didn’t smile back.
He returned to his work but looked up over the wire-rim of his glasses as the bell above the door tinkled. The little girl strode in, black braid swishing behind her, followed by a frazzled woman.
“Annie, wait,” the woman said, but the girl ignored her. Instead she stopped at the end of the counter to focus on the project in front of Nico.
by T. Gene Davis
“The layover was only two years.”
Hazel let out a breath and crinkled her already wrinkled forehead. “He told me about it.”
Keira bounced her newborn child, more to calm herself than to calm the baby. “We’re newlyweds. How could he die? Was there a malfunction in stasis?”
by David Steffen
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I don’t expect you to understand. The mountain of evidence that seems to support the prosecution’s case is daunting to say the least, but all of it is based on an adolescent understanding of the forces that move the universe. I must stress to you once again that Ambassador Gupta is alive and well.
by T. Gene Davis
Jackson looked up from a cat video at the sound of flopping sandals on the floor he’d just cleaned. His expressionless middle-aged face bore the slightest frown. Was she management? She looked more like a tongue depressor escaped from a gardening expo than a supervisor. However, he didn’t know all the ship’s managers, so he placed his device in his pocket discretely. He picked up his mop from the floor and examined her progress. She left a trail of echoing “THOP” sounds across the hall’s tiled expanse.
by Rebecca Buchanan
“Stop it, TJ, you’re doin’ it wrong!”
“Shut up, Alex, I am not.” Chalk staining his fingers, TJ drew a double inverted arrow, piercing the center of the circle.
“Are, too!” Alex crouched beside his brother, careful not to smudge the lines. “That’s not the way Mom showed us—”
by T. Gene Davis
“Fishie?” Little Evan asked over the sound of his mother flushing the toilet.
Ray stepped between Evan and Cecelia, squatting down to look into Evan’s watering eyes.
“I thought you said that Fishie went to heaven.”
Ray took a deep breath, keeping eye contact. “Evan, … Fishie, … well, he did some things … He’s gone to a bad place.”
by V. Hughes
The wind’s desperate grasp strips the frail leaves from the silver maple but the giant looks as if it still wears its finery, a borrowed dress perhaps, with the murder of crows gathered within its branches. The girl listens to the soft flutter of wings, stretches out her hand to catch a single black feather as it drifts down in a slow spiral. When the stiff plume makes contact with her skin the birds alight and she gasps, even though she has already seen their departure.
The girl watches the murder grow smaller. She watches the empty leaden skies for a long time, until the shadows of the night form and Morgan comes for her.
Morgan follows her gaze into nothing. “Just like you said.”
The girl tucks the feather into the breast pocket of her heavy flannel work shirt. “Is Sirin okay?”
Morgan looks down at the girl. “I haven’t seen her since breakfast.”
by James Dorr
“They used to be bats, you know. That was before they lost their wings.”
“I beg your pardon?”
It was going to be one of those kinds of conversations.
“The story goes,” the man persisted, “that when Noah built the ark, he sent invitations to the bats, but that they refused. ‘Why should we ride on your smelly old boat?’ they said. ‘Even if there is a flood, we can just fly over it.'”
by Scott Hughey
I wrote my first prophecy when I was seven. I filled a diary with short statements like, “Sister leaves forever at Christmas,” and “The robot sets the house on fire.”
At the time, everyone else thought the writings just fanciful imagination. I knew they were more. They resonated in my young mind like an aluminum bat does when it strikes a knee. Wasn’t until years later, after the gift left me, the prophecies started coming true. That Christmas, my robot butler malfunctioned and melted down. My sister visited us that year. She didn’t make it out.
by Ellen Denton
Thomas sat in his truck, glad to be out of the cold rain blowing in sheets against his windshield. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, and as he glanced over to the right at the trees and brush, thought he saw a flash of movement. Sitting up now on full alert, he watched carefully through the rivulets of rain pouring down the window. A woman burst out into the clearing and started lurching forward, her arms extended towards him, her expression one of terror.
He threw his truck door open, and as he got out, just for an instant, looked down to where he was stepping. By the time he raised his eyes again to the approaching figure, she was gone.
He thought she must have collapsed into the long grass, until he reached the empty spot where he last saw her.
by Shannon Fay
Mad science 101 was the only class where you had to worry about your homework eating the dog.
Poor Barnaby. The only thing left of the cocker spaniel was a chewed-up collar the angle-wolf had spit out before booking it out of the lab Jodie had built in her grandma’s basement. She could hear the beast overhead, knocking over granny’s fine china and Hummel figures.
Jodie typed up an e-mail to her Mad-Sci 101 prof.
Dear Professor Smogmire,
I know the deadline for the anglefish-wolf hybrid is tomorrow, but could I please have an extension? My grandmother has passed away.
by William R.A.D. Funk
SETI Report March 23rd, 2049
Broadband transmission received at 09h38
Estimated distance of origin: 58,416 Light Years
Host: …does your solar system have a pest problem? Are your lush, verdant planets overrun by a bipedal scourge? Not to worry, because HumaneX is guaranteed to get rid of your Homo sapien infestation. Continue reading
by Tegan Day
“Because you can’t set fire to water.”
“No, you can’t set fire to water.”
“Why would I want to set fire to water?”
“You wouldn’t, ’cause then I’d be right.”
by Michael Haynes
The emissary of destruction awoke as his ship decelerated upon entry into the Grinaldi system. Though the calendar would say a dozen generations had passed since the Grinaldi had methodically, torturously, wiped out his homeworld those memories were fresh in his mind. For him, it had happened only days before.
His consciousness, the only part of him which had been able to make the journey, went immediately to work. He confirmed the computer’s accounting of the ship’s location and checked to ensure that the transmissions originating from the system’s large fourth planet were indeed Grinaldi.
His makers had argued whether a conscious mind was necessary for this mission. There had been some who felt computerized systems were all that the ship required, but others said such a device would be irresponsible, capable of accidentally wiping out other inhabitants if they had overrun Grinald in the centuries between the launch of this ship and its arrival. Continue reading
by Rebecca Buchanan
To: Grove Lake HOA
From: Katie Kennedy, Secretary
Re: Holiday Preparations
by T. Gene Davis
Patrick parked near his in-law’s graves. The sunset was nearly finished, and the graveyard was appropriately dark. He flashed Lilly a glittering rockstar grin—clearly visible despite the coming gloom.
“About my allowance,” he began an old discussion, keeping the grin while talking. He somehow avoided looking like he was gritting his teeth.
“Not now,” Lilly interrupted opening her car door.
“No,” Patrick grabbed Lilly’s wrist. “I need more for my research.”
“No.” Lilly pulled away but he held her wrist, bruising her again. She struggled, finally getting out of the door, pulling him half way out her car door in the process. She stomped off into the grass and granite, listening for him behind her, but not looking back.
She stopped in sight of her parents’ graves. The soil was piled to one side and the fresh sod pushed to the other side. One of Patrick’s devices stood at the head of each grave. Lilly pivoted on one foot, looking back at Patrick and the car, both hidden in the dark.
by T. Gene Davis
His irregular blood pump sped up in reaction to the silence. Wind should have filled the sails. Instead, they hung limp—dead. With no wind in the sails, Allen sat perfectly parallel to the cutter’s mast. Green pre-dawn starlight glinted off the reflective surface of the glass flats surrounding him and the cutter. Pre-dawn calm on the Lacus Glass Flats meant death. The cutter’s long skates made no “skitting” sound, completing the terrifying silence.
by Ariel Kroon
Things tend to disappear, these days.
Take the road signs, for example. Dougie lives in the old van parked on the corner of Main and Eltshire Street, and the sign had always been there, pointing the way to the cathedral or to the mall, if you wanted to go that way. Now, though, it’s gone, and Dougie swears he heard kids talking outside the night it disappeared.
I told him he’s crazy; there’s no kids left on the streets now. Only the nobs and gene-hackers can afford to have kids; only their kids will survive. Jeannie used to be a nob, before the War, and she says that they have special air filters and everything. That’s why Jeannie can still run for more than a city block, but she tries not to lord it over us. She’s good like that; sometimes you can almost believe she’d been a junkhead, just like one of us, her whole life.
by Elinor Caiman Sands
I looked on Vera, my beloved wife. She was scaly and green—but still beautiful. A fine specimen of alligator, I saw that as soon as I lumbered out of the Florida Exotic Creatures Vacation clinic.
I joined her by the edge of the warm olive waters and peered in expectantly, my slit pupil eyes enchanted by the balmy Everglade pools. I didn’t feel that different despite my change of skin. Perhaps the swamp felt a little less oppressive and the waters more inviting but that was all. I was the same old Archibald Trent, MD of Nettle Enterprises, Littlehampton, UK, maker extraordinaire of plastic food packagings of all kinds.
I was on holiday with Vera, two weeks in the sun, same as last year. At the end of that time I would return to my old life, my old habitat.
by William R.A.D. Funk
“No. No. No,” Van Richter whined. He slapped a hand against the steering wheel.
The hover car, its battery reading empty, puttered to a halt on the scenic roadside. Without adequate thrust, it sank down into the grass.
The twenty-forty hover model would never have done this. Goes to show, Van thought, newer isn’t always better.
“I knew we should’ve recharged back at the last station,” said Ula, his wife. Arms crossed, she stared at the road ahead, unable to see Van’s irritated glare. “What are we going to do now?”
Van took a deep breath. When the ire subsided, he said, “Relax. Emergency roadside will send someone.” He pressed a button on the dash. “In the meantime, enjoy all the trees. You don’t get much of those in the city.”
Surrounded by tall, green conifers, Ula glanced their way and then back at her husband. “If I wanted to see trees, I would’ve chosen to live out here like some cyber-social recluse.”
by T. Gene Davis
“Well there’s your proof.” Riley slapped Gus on the shoulder. “The Earth is flat.”
Gus stumbled back away from the edge, overcompensating for Riley’s slap.
“I told you he was smarter than you,” Violet chimed in with her hands on her hips. Her parka’s drab green somehow looked feminine despite its bulk. Riley shook his head and gave his attention back to the chasm.
Gus approached the edge again, cautiously. He got onto all fours, then on his stomach, and leaned his head out over the cliff of ice edging the world. Gus kept the bulk of his body firmly touching the snow and ice—as far back as possible from the infinite drop. Only his head hung out over the edge of the world. He pulled out his phone and started snapping pics of everything in sight.
Riley picked up a couple of handfuls of snow, molding them in his hands. He stepped up to the edge without taking precautions and dropped the snowball, watching it disappear into the sky-blue nothingness.
“I was expecting something more spectacular,” Riley admitted. “It’s just like looking up, … except you’re not.”
by James Potter
Sarah languidly woke up to what she thought was the smell of chocolate. Bill rolled over in bed and looked at her. “Could we have hot chocolate for breakfast?” he asked. She took a moment to scrutinize the situation. No one was making hot chocolate. Why did they wake up wanting chocolate?
“They’re doing it again!” said Sarah.
“What?” said Bill.
“They’ve changed the ether,” exclaimed Sarah.
by T. Gene Davis
Two days later, I wake. I over slept, again. My first instinct is to roll over. The straps hold me back. I’m salaried. If no one’s complaining, I get paid. I consider unstrapping myself, just to roll over. Then that little voice warns me, where does it end?
I unstrap myself from the hammock, and sit up. The Spud’s gravity is too weak to keep me in bed all night without straps. (“All nights,” I verbally correct my singular thought.) I hate the straps. I can’t roll over with the straps. Sometimes I sleep in the dust just to avoid the straps.
by Nick Nafpliotis
“What do you think is in it?”
There had been a solid five minutes of silence between the two boys before Alex finally asked the question. Another minute passed before Andrew gave him an answer.
“My first guess would be a dead body,” he replied as they continued to stare at the coffin sitting in front of them.
by Alter S. Reiss
Artatra stormed down the five hundred black marble steps to his laboratories and warrens. It was utterly intolerable, the restrictions under which he worked. That a mind such as his should be yoked to an unimaginative, plodding, stupid . . . well, not stupid, exactly. That was the problem! If the Presence in the Throne was stupid, it could be worked around. The mind behind that mask was sly, it was well-ordered, and it knew far more than it rightly ought. It was unimaginably worse than stupid—it was a functioning mind that lacked vision.
by Jenny Goss
I wanted to growl at the man boarding ahead of me—a real growl, like one of those extinct jungle cats projected at the zoo. I bit my tongue, though, worried that mimicking extinct felines could potentially get me committed. Instead, I protected my bulging belly from his wayward elbows as he fought through the small crowd for first place in line. I didn’t want my little girl brain damaged because someone had hit the snooze button too many times.
I shivered. The air this far below was so damp. It seeped through my tunic and bored its way through my muscles until it reached my bones. I hated the tube.
“Everybody’s in a hurry, huh?” The woman beside me murmured. She was also pregnant. Of course. Continue reading
by Justin Stewart
A few candles flickered in the room, casting shadows on the curved wall. A rabbit here, a house there, assorted flowers and even a wine glass. A thousand different shapes wandered the room. They were just pieces of paper suspended from string, mere ornaments guided by a mobile above, but the candlelight made them more. It brought the shapes to life.
It unnerved her.
“Take your time,” said the Whispering Woman. The words were no encouragement. You only came to the Whispering Woman if you were desperate. Desperation didn’t exactly breed patience. The girl wandered between shapes and string, chewing at her lip. None of them called to her. They all seemed random and unconnected, both to one another and her life. She thought about grabbing one at random and being done with the whole, terrible process, but then her future would be decided. Continue reading
by Christian Riley
From behind the chimney on the rooftop, I watched them move in. I was careful not to slip on the mossy shingles, always so careful. They had a truck full of human stuff. There is a mom and a dad, and a little girl they call Miranda. They have a white feline. They call it Mister Jones, and already it knows of me. Tonight I will get to work. Continue reading
by Tony Dingwell
Major Pax’s bony hand rested next to Sam’s eliminated white pieces. A light bulb illuminated the chessboard they battled on to pass the years.
A bomb from a previous conflict had started the war, a mindless mechanical device that exploded at an unfortunate time. They—the Blancs—took less than an hour to launch the missiles from the safety of their cubicles. The Noirs did the same, and the thriving world was gone.
Sam had to contact each Blanc citizen to determine his or her status. He had compiled a list of numbers to call long ago, but had forgotten the original source or if it was in a particular order. Sam started calling once the radiation levels allowed. Continue reading