SHORT FICTION

(This is a selective list; for a full bibliography click here.)

Parasite Art in Interzone #284

 

I portray my dreams.  So does everyone on Culcifa.  We paint them, sculpt them, sing them, spin them into words.

Except, of course, they aren't our dreams.  They aren't dreams at all--or rather, they are only to us.  To the Zobe, they're reminiscences of other lives, vicariously lived.  Their symbiosis is remarkably versatile.  Their lifespans are extraordinary.  And all that they experience, everything their hosts experience, they recall with absolute clarity.

This is the lure of the Zobe, of Culcifa: to see through eyes not your own.

The Last of the Martians in the A Tribute to H. G. Wells anthology from Belanger Books

 

Once I was rid of my coat and hat, the Colonel said, "I won't beat around the bush. You're here because we have one of them alive and incarcerated."

I should, perhaps, have been dumbstruck. Yet in truth I was barely surprised, as though this was precisely the news I'd been anticipating.

"You mean to say," I asked, "that you captured a Martian?"

Cat and Mouse in the Best of British Science Fiction 2018 anthology from NewCon Press

 

A pause.  No sound but the tap of my feet on the pavement. Her voice, lilting behind me: "I'll see you soon."

At first I thought she sounded pitiful.  Did she really think I meant I'd call her?  Then I realised how she'd said it.  This wasn't at all the plea of a woman too desperate to admit she'd been jilted.  Surely she wasn't going to start turning up unannounced at my office or loitering outside my flat?  No, that wasn't it either.  What I'd heard in her voice was simply certainty: the tone in which someone might look at a cloudy sky and say, 'It's going to rain.'

Step Light in the Urban Crime anthology from Flame Tree Publishing

This was his eighth prospective jumper in barely as many months.  He'd learned long ago that he had an aptitude for such things, and had asked for them particularly. To Feist's mind, people who wanted to die didn't make a song and dance. They locked themselves in a room with a handgun or a car running its exhaust flat out.  Anyone who chose an audience didn't want death, the wanted a little attention ... and what they really wanted was someone to take the choice out of their hands.  Once you understood that, it wasn't so difficult.

The Way of the Leaves in Night Land Quarterly from Aterlier the Third (Japanese Translation)

 

Afterwards, in my bedroom, when the shaking had begun to pass and my thoughts were more than the flicker of midsummer lightning, I discovered injuries: scratches, a long cut along my wrist, a scrape of purpling skin beneath the fringe of my hair. I catalogued them with slow care. I didn’t think about Charlotte. I dissected each bloody line, every red welt. I didn’t think about the darkness or her down in it alone. By the time dawn light began to ease around the curtains I’d inspected every inch of myself, I was only shivering a little, and I was no closer to remembering.

The Only Way Out Lies Farther In (as Il Labirinto) in Il Buio (Italian Translation)

 

In her heart, she knew the truth.  More and more she traced the changes to that day, and to the labyrinth.  Something had happened there; something crucial and intangible had been lost.  They had gone in as a family, come out as strangers - or had never left at all.

The Only Way Out Lies Farther In in The Dark Issue 42

 

In her heart, she knew the truth.  More and more she traced the changes to that day, and to the labyrinth.  Something had happened there; something crucial and intangible had been lost.  They had gone in as a family, come out as strangers - or had never left at all.

The Promise of a Threat in the Shadows of the Apt: The Scent of Tears anthology from NewCon Press

 

Wasps did not threaten, they promised.

Or so they claimed; and what reason did Meyr have to disbelieve them? After all, Wasps were no strangers to atrocity. Even if he could somehow ignore their steady yet inexorable effort to stain every corner of the map in black and gold, how many Mole Cricket-kinden had died at their hands? Whether beneath the lash or by the steady regime of starvation and mistreatment which characterised the Wasp occupation of Tzeina, they had ended ample Mole lives for the possibility of wholesale slaughter to seem utterly plausible.

Casualty of Peace in the Lost Souls anthology from Flame Tree Publishing

 

During the week, we build bombs.


The bombs look like mushrooms—like a field of fungi stretching to every horizon. In the low light, the factory floor is without walls, without ceiling. There are only us and the bombs—and there are so many more of them than us.
 

Is that how it feels for you? Out there, where you are, have the munitions already outnumbered those they’re supposed to kill? While I work, I think of you.

Jenny's Sick in the Nowa Fantastyka (Polish Translation)

 

By the time I knock on Jenny's door it's started again.  When I open it the cough is shaking right through her, throwing her about like a rag doll.  I don't know what to do, whether I should try and help, so I just stand watching and for a while she doesn't seem to know I'm there.  Then finally there's a break, and she looks up.  "I'm sick," she tells me.  She says it with a weird grin, like she's challenging me.

 

"What do you mean?  Nobody gets sick.  There's nothing left to get sick with."

The God Under the Church in the Corporate Cthulhu anthology from Pickmans Press

 

Goaded by my nerves and the last vestiges of the champagne, I snarled, “Damn it, are you threatening me?”


Nothing in the old man’s outward appearance changed: the lined face, beneath its mop of white hair, remained inscrutable. Yet as he replied he seemed somehow, suddenly, exhausted. “Not at all. Still, you won’t be permitted to leave. We will go beneath the church and I’ll show you what I have to show you. Nothing else will be tolerated.”

My Friend Fishfinger, by Daisy aged 7 in Cast of Wonders

 

Fishfinger and her mom and her dad don’t ever come to church with us, so I asked her one time, did that mean that she doesn’t believe in the baby Jesus like how we do?  And she said, no, they have their own God who’s different from ours and he isn’t called God his name is D-A-G-O-N, that’s how she spelled it.

The Sign in the Moonlight in the Lost Worlds anthology from Flame Tree Publishing

 

In a sense, I suppose, it’s a spirit of morbidity that draws me back to those days upon the mountain and their awful finale, which I failed to witness only by the purest chance. But what draws me most, I think, is the memory of what I saw after I left Bergenssen and the others—that knowledge which is mine uniquely. It’s without disrespect to the Times that I say they know nothing, nothing whatsoever, of the horror of Mount Kangchenjunga. Likely, there is no one else alive who does.

Casualty of Peace in the Horror Library Vol. 6 anthology from Cutting Block Press

 

During the week, we build bombs.


The bombs look like mushrooms—like a field of fungi stretching to every horizon. In the low light, the factory floor is without walls, without ceiling. There are only us and the bombs—and there are so many more of them than us.
 

Is that how it feels for you? Out there, where you are, have the munitions already outnumbered those they’re supposed to kill? While I work, I think of you.

Now That All the Heroes Are Dead in Read Short Fiction

 

Ghest looked away.  He felt fear he could not quite explain.  Hadn't he faced worse threats than this?  He had, for he remembered them each distinctly.  The Shifters of Starsang, that corroded city where men walked who were not and never had been men.  The priests of the House Descending, who had dreamed their mad and blood-red dreams.  And the thing in the Forests of Fossil, which his mind still trembled to consider.

But he'd won.  He had always won.  Why then, this time, was he afraid?

Passive Resistance in the Operative Sequence anthology from Digital Science Fiction

 

Alec turned just in time to see Ennis begin to fall, to feel wetness spray across his face.  Ennis, his bodyguard, his friend, wavered for an instant - then collapsed backward, emptying a flower of red over the steps behind him.Alec was already running.  There was the whiplash crack of a second shot and a pane in the vast series of glass doors disintegrated.  Arms up over his face, Alec threw himself into the opening, felt splinters shivering across his clothes and skin, stumbled and fell.

Rindelstein's Monsters in the Casual Conjurings anthology from Digital Fantasy Fiction

 

As up close as I can manage without my stomach turning over, I notice something of interest.  "This coarse hair?"

 

Rindelstein kneels beside me.  "Well, it looks human.  It’s certainly odd though."

 

"Why odd?"

 

"Because Mr. Price was blonde, and this hair isn't." 

Feet of Clay, Mind of Coal in the Gaia: Shadows and Breath vol. 3 anthology from Pantheon Magazine

After more careful study, one page particularly drew her interest.  It was titled The Clay Man, in faded, barely legible handwriting.  Nadia spent an hour deciphering the eccentric script, then set to musing.  She didn't resent being alone, though she missed her mother.  She didn't crave a man's company, having never spent time with any other than her father.  Yet there was something appealing in the passages, something that emphasised her loneliness, and certain details made her cheeks flush warmly.  Besides, it would be good to have another body around the house to take on tiresome tasks.

Golgotha in the Mysterion anthology from Enigmatic Mirror Press

 

The Reverend?

If you know to find me, you know too that he's not a man I talk about.  Let the newspapermen tell their lies; it's no business of mine.  The truth is ... well, let's say that sometimes a lie goes down easier and leave it there.

What, you've seen him?  A niece, you say?  Then that's different I suppose.  If he gave you my name, I suppose that means he's talking again.  Well, screaming, talking . . . my point is, he's found his tongue.

Jenny's Sick in the Great Jones Street app

 

By the time I knock on Jenny's door it's started again.  When I open it the cough is shaking right through her, throwing her about like a rag doll.  I don't know what to do, whether I should try and help, so I just stand watching and for a while she doesn't seem to know I'm there.  Then finally there's a break, and she looks up.  "I'm sick," she tells me.  She says it with a weird grin, like she's challenging me.

 

"What do you mean?  Nobody gets sick.  There's nothing left to get sick with."

Great Black Wave in Nightmare Issue 45

 

There is metal inside the tunnel entrance. But it isn’t mines.


The objects are each about a foot tall, black under the Birdeater’s flashlight—and when Walker eventually manages to manoeuvre it to a position from which he can see their fronts, utterly grotesque. With their design of faces piled one upon another, some human, some animal, all flowing into each other, they make him think of miniature totem poles. They’re evidently carved from stone, but perhaps there’s metal in the charms draped about their necks, enough to set off the Birdeater’s sensitive detectors.

Black Horticulture in the Uncommon Senses anthology from Digital Fantasy Fiction

 

I realized I must be before Alambic himself, and had already, without so much as a word, achieved a terrible impression.  He was sat in a latticed pagoda, sheltering from the heat of the afternoon sun.  My first thought was, can that really be him?  By the depths, he's old!  Never had I seen someone so profoundly weathered, nor with a beard so long that it required its own stool.

I prepared to stammer an apology, but he cut me off with, "If you've come to beg then you're the most determined vagabond I've met.  If you're an assassin then the King's enemies are truly in despair."

Dancing in the Winter Rooms in the Ctrl Alt Delight anthology from Digital Science Fiction

 

Beth looks serious for just a moment.  "This place will beat us if we let it.  Better to defy it right from the start."

"The Winter Rooms don't care what we do.  The cold doesn't care.  You'd all do better to save your energy.  The only fight that matters here is surviving."

Gently, she touches my shoulder.  "We can't live like that, can we?  Just surviving?  Not even for a Season."

Team Invasion in Liminal Stories Magazine, Issue 1

 

Inside, the air had smelled of barbeque and ozone.  Sure enough, three of the four crew were already dead.  Not just dead but messily dead, for at the last their gravity must have failed, at least in patches; one was not much besides a smear across its console.  The fourth, however, was out of its seat and crawling, inching its way across the silvery metallic floor towards who knew what.  It was as big as a large child.  Its head was disproportionate to its body, and now more than ever it seemed to be suffering from that inconvenience.

Step Light in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine March 2016

This was his eighth prospective jumper in barely as many months.  He'd learned long ago that he had an aptitude for such things, and had asked for them particularly. To Feist's mind, people who wanted to die didn't make a song and dance. They locked themselves in a room with a handgun or a car running its exhaust flat out.  Anyone who chose an audience didn't want death, the wanted a little attention ... and what they really wanted was someone to take the choice out of their hands.  Once you understood that, it wasn't so difficult.

The Magpie of Souls in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores

 

Crux Kulhain looked up at the double doors, down at the pommel of his sword.  The former were high as a village church, profoundly black, veined with silver that drifted like mercury.  The latter was plain and worn.  With its blade, Kulhain had killed eighty-seven people that he was sure of.  He had never, to his knowledge, killed a sorcerer.

The Painted City, in the Infinity Cluster anthology from Digital Science Fiction

 

Everything - the square, the street, the structures - was painted in a kaleidoscope of colour, in countless patches of incredible shades that ebbed and flowed around each other.  It was like a massive, magnificent fractal, or a Rorschach test of the gods.  It was astonishingly, painfully beautiful to look at.  It brought hot tears to his eyes and hot thoughts into his mind.

Under his breath, Kafka said, “This is bad.  This is the worst, most wonderful place we’ve ever found."  Then out loud: "I think we should leave.”

A Killer of Dead Men in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #189

 

Otranto knew better than to ask why any man must die.


Yet in the case of Vixara Ixar, it was a simple enough question to answer.  For Vixara was young, handsome, rich and growing richer by the day and, even if all of those offences could have been ignored by the populace of Cold Harbour, a visitor from a distant land that few could so much as pronounce.  He and his family were different, in a city that tolerated difference only dimly.

 

In so much as Otranto had an opinion on the matter, he felt that such were poor reasons to take a life.  It didn't matter.  A deal had been struck, a payment made, and so Vixara Ixar would die today.

Across the Terminator in the Cosmic Hooey anthology from Digital Science Fiction

 

“I’m telling you, it’s alive!”

Fasbender shook the flask as though it really were some living thing he was trying to subdue, yet its contents looked more than anything like dirty water - it was Hank’s pointing this out that had provoked his outburst in the first place.

Bad Times to be in the Wrong Place in Urban Fantasy Magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 1

 

"So what does the old man do?"

 

She looked at me properly for the first time.  Until then she’d been concentrating on her cigarette, or staring towards her own outstretched foot.  Her glance weighed me up.  No, it did more than that.  I felt like an open book, except it was as if she’d skipped through the contents and gone straight to the index.  It took her barely an instant, and then she looked away again.  "He’s making sure it’s all here," she said.

Jenny's Sick in the Science Fiction Short Stories anthology from Flame Tree Publishing
 
By the time I knock on Jenny's door it's started again.  When I open it the cough is shaking right through her, throwing her about like a rag doll.  I don't know what to do, whether I should try and help, so I just stand watching and for a while she doesn't seem to know I'm there.  Then finally there's a break, and she looks up.  "I'm sick," she tells me.  She says it with a weird grin, like she's challenging me.

"What do you mean?  Nobody gets sick.  There's nothing left to get sick with."

All We May Known of God in the Coven anthology from Purple Sun Press

 

"I've never been one for bothering the gods," Tyler said, his ashen eyes drifting over the low canyon and its multitude of jade-robed occupants, "but if ever I should want to, I doubt this is the religion I'd choose."

 

Logan nodded, sending filthy grey-blond hair tumbling about his face.  He reached to brush it aside, picked a piece of twig from his beard, scowled and flicked it behind him.  "At least they look as if they've bathed recently," he observed.  "What is it they say cleanliness is second to?"

 

"Obsessive lunacy, I think."

Across the Terminatore-book release from Digital Science Fiction

 

“I’m telling you, it’s alive!”

Fasbender shook the flask as though it really were some living thing he was trying to subdue, yet its contents looked more than anything like dirty water - it was Hank’s pointing this out that had provoked his outburst in the first place.

Free Radical in the Second Contacts anthology from Bundoran Press

 

The second Envoy, entering behind them, spoke first: "Good night."


The syllables mimicked, with no understanding of the meaning, the intent.  The words she wanted to say choked up behind her teeth: You come here and you tell me that, and you've killed my son, my second son, like you did my first?  Only he isn't dead, something worse than that, something sick and alien like you.  You tell me this is a good night?
 

The Hair of the Hound in the Gaia: Shadows and Breath vol. 2 anthology from Pantheon Magazine

 

"As a field operative you're supposed to be keeping things in check, not rattling on about your bad dreams."

 

Postlewhite looks shocked.  No surprise there.  Our field staff aren't exactly the prize of the Order, having mostly been cobbled together from whatever eccentrics and faux mystics fancied the job after Rapture.  Postlewhite was a self-professed psychic back in the day, which is how he ended up posted to Thrompton Chalmswick.  The village might make the back of beyond seem like an amusement park, but it has more than its share of restless afterlifers.

Caretaker in the Garden of Dreams in The Drabblecast #359

 

Gug-Shabeth returned his watery stare to the long field.  There, other birds had nestled amongst the crop, their leathery wings tucked around them like cloaks, their proboscises probing the strange fruits that grew there.
 
The scarecrow he’d built was nothing now but a cruciform frame draped with scraps of leathery meat.  

 

 

 

The Shark in the Heart in the Sharkpunk anthology from Snowbooks

 

Five of the fish were as long as the distance between Noah's hand and elbow, with red splashes like the skin of the girl in the year below whose house had burned down, and surprisingly ugly faces.  The sixth was sleeker, larger, slate grey, with jaggedly protruding fins.

 

"That one does look different."  His father looked puzzled for a moment.  Then his doubts vanished into a grin.  "Aren't they great?" he said.

Across the Terminator in the Clarkesworld Year 7 anthology from Wyrm Publishing

 

“I’m telling you, it’s alive!”

Fasbender shook the flask as though it really were some living thing he was trying to subdue, yet its contents looked more than anything like dirty water—it was Hank’s pointing this out that had provoked his outburst in the first place.

 

Twitcher in Pseudopod #431

 

His first thought was that she was crouched to search for something.  Then he realised that the woman sat on her haunches wasn't the assistant.  The assistant was the man in the blue uniform spread-eagled on the floor.  The one the woman was bent over, scrabbling at.  They were the one lying in the red pool filling most of the space behind the counter.  The woman, with the whatever-the-hell that was clutched in her hands and dripping half out of her mouth, that was someone else.

 

Oh Lord.  Oh Jesus.  That was something altogether else.

Twilight For the Nightingale in the XIII anthology from Resurrection House

 

How long had they been playing this game?  It had begun with ideologies, with simplifications like 'crime' and 'justice', 'chaos' and 'order'.  Now there was only Eponymous and the Nightingale, locked together hand and throat.  It could only end one way.

 

Eponymous paced down the stairs to the lower level.  He spared a glance for the bank of monitors to his right, and the fifty agents labouring before them in their neon orange jumpsuits.  "He'll have eluded the trap I set upon Tzompantli, and defused the Tezcatlipoca bomb.  It was beneath him, really."

 

No Rest For the Wicked in the Death God's Chosen 

anthology from Deepwood Publishing

 

They'd ridden for two nights and a day, without sleep, without food, almost without pause.  Beneath them their mounts--the fourth pair they'd appropriated since the chase had begun those long two days ago--were panting and flagging, their flanks striped with foam.

Behind them came the Gray, a thousand not-quite-men, marching silent as the grave except for clatter of hooves and clash of metal.  The Risen was always in front, amidst a halo of flies and lightning.  What his force lacked in speed it more than made up for in persistence.

My Friend Fishfinger, by Daisy Aged 7 in the Whispers From the Abyss anthology from 01 Publishing

Fishfinger and her mom and her dad don’t ever come to church with us, so I asked her one time, did that mean that she doesn’t believe in the baby Jesus like how we do?  And she said, no, they have their own God who’s different from ours and he isn’t called God his name is D-A-G-O-N, that’s how she spelled it.

Bad Times to be in the Wrong Place in Interzone issue 250

 

"So what does the old man do?"

 

She looked at me properly for the first time.  Until then she’d been concentrating on her cigarette, or staring towards her own outstretched foot.  Her glance weighed me up.  No, it did more than that.  I felt like an open book, except it was as if she’d skipped through the contents and gone straight to the index.  It took her barely an instant, and then she looked away again.  "He’s making sure it’s all here," she said.

Ill-Met at Midnight in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #110

 

The garrote was made of fine silk laced with steel wire, designed to choke bloodlessly.  Its ends were looped to small grips of cherry wood.  He'd crafted it himself over a period of three weeks, designing for speed and efficacy.  Still, the target was thrashing hard enough that the smooth handles were biting his palms.  Otranto drew harder.

 

A Shadow Play in Transfusion Magazine issue 2 from Bleeding Heart Publications

In the life not lived, he married late.  His lifestyle hadn't been suited to settling down in those first heady years, when each month, each week, posed a new challenge and brought a new thrill.  There had been women of course, and some were special, some of them seemed for a while as if they might be the one.  Not all of those relationships ended well, but each was memorable, and sometimes the bad endings stayed with him more than the good ones.

Across the Terminator in Clarkesworld #82

 

“I’m telling you, it’s alive!”

Fasbender shook the flask as though it really were some living thing he was trying to subdue, yet its contents looked more than anything like dirty water—it was Hank’s pointing this out that had provoked his outburst in the first place.

 

Too Regular in Lamplight, vol. 2, issue #1

 

He veered into a side street and clambered over the low fence blocking the far end, guided purely by instinct.  None of his senses were working reliably.  Only painful concentration kept him from growing lost in a maze of synaesthesia - for every slight sound exploded like fireworks in the corners of his eyes, every brush of litter round his feet sang like wind chimes in his ears. 

First Date in AE - The Canadian Science Fiction Review

 

How many nights has Johnny walked by the House of Mirrors?  How many times has he glanced at its drab plastic facade and wondered?  He was never scared to come, but they take the rules seriously in the House, it’s all legit, and if your biomet says you’re under twenty-one they won’t so much as look at you.  So Johnny waited - not with patience, but with determination stubborn as faith.  And now it’s time.  Tonight he can do more than look.

 

Prisoner of Peace in the After Death anthology from Dark Moon Books [Also, podcast in Pseudopod #345]

 

I know today what's behind me, lying on my sleeping mat.  I wish I didn't but I do.

 

I tried to scream at first, but no sound came out.

 

Now, I sit and wait.  Forgetfulness will come.

 

It has to.

The Sign in the Moonlight in Nightmare Magazine issue 6

 

In a sense, I suppose, it’s a spirit of morbidity that draws me back to those days upon the mountain and their awful finale, which I failed to witness only by the purest chance. But what draws me most, I think, is the memory of what I saw after I left Bergenssen and the others—that knowledge which is mine uniquely. It’s without disrespect to the Times that I say they know nothing, nothing whatsoever, of the horror of Mount Kangchenjunga. Likely, there is no one else alive who does.

 

For Life in Flash Fiction Online

 

August.

 

I have a little money but my flat is drab and empty, and the work is cutting smooth slices from my sanity.  I listen to old records, watch old movies, and huddle in the park on a bench dedicated to some long-dead stranger, watching the swan family, which has grown by two chubby cygnets.  I'd hoped the grief would have faded by now, but it's knotted in my stomach like a tumour.

Final Relocation in the The Glass Parachute anthology from Villipede Publications


Dom, used to discarding information as rapidly as he learned it, was surprised to find as he walked the last distance home that he was still thinking about the overheard exchange.  He did remember, suddenly, what the A stood for - the A in PAD, as he'd realised.  What exactly was an ‘Adaptive Domicile’?  Had his room really shrunk while he slept; could they do such a thing?  The thought unsettled him, more than anything had in years.  As he turned into his corridor it seemed narrower, the ceiling fractionally lower.  Could they do that?

 

Fall From Grace in Kaleidotrope

 

The stench reached her long before they arrived.  It was the worst thing she’d ever smelt, an open sewer running through a sick room.  It was sweet, and it clung to her mouth and throat.  She knew there was nothing to be done, no way to clean, to sanitise, or to bury the dead in the heat-frozen earth.  She still couldn't help feeling disgusted.  The level of degradation was so beyond anything she could have imagined.  How could people live this way?  How could they die like this?

A Twist Too Far in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine  issue 56

I know the police are seeking me.  Small wonder! 

Yet this is not a confession.  Perhaps I'm a criminal, in an obscure sort of way, but what I did I did with as much reason as any man ever had.  Nor did I flee from guilt, or to avoid justice.  No, it was horror that drove me into seclusion--a horror that's never far from my mind.  I sit beneath a Mediterranean sun, with the lap of warm waters close to my ear, and still that maddening sound hovers always on the edge of hearing...

Wetback in the Slices of Flesh anthology from Dark Moon Books

 

The others, brains putrefied to nothing, are far away now.  They stumble in waves against the gates, where the heavy guns are - their thum thum thum is a huge but distant heartbeat.  The others die in their thousands, never even drawing close to the outer fence.  Chico is - not smart, but driven.  Not remembering, but full of memories.  They throb.  They itch.  They led him here.  Around the tripwires, through the mines, into the storm drain, under the wire.

A Study in Red and White at the Angry Robot blog
 

The air reeks of snow. It licks across raw, red muscle and sinew, testing cavities and meaty crevices. The cold reminds the Santa Thing of home – and for a moment, it recalls older winters, deeper frosts, the uncluttered, frozen eons before shape and form and roiling, sickly life. An age when it seemed nothing would ever claw its way from the utter chill to crawl and mewl. An age when there was no need for subterfuge.

 

Dancing in the Winter Rooms in Electric Velocipede issue 23

Beth looks serious for just a moment.  "This place will beat us if we let it.  Better to defy it right from the start."

"The Winter Rooms don't care what we do.  The cold doesn't care.  You'd all do better to save your energy.  The only fight that matters here is surviving."

Gently, she touches my shoulder.  "We can't live like that, can we?  Just surviving?  Not even for a Season."

Jenny's Sick in the Lightspeed Year One anthology from Prime Books

 

By the time I knock on Jenny's door it's started again.  When I open it the cough is shaking right through her, throwing her about like a rag doll.  I don't know what to do, whether I should try and help, so I just stand watching and for a while she doesn't seem to know I'm there.  Then finally there's a break, and she looks up.  "I'm sick," she tells me.  She says it with a weird grin, like she's challenging me.

"What do you mean?  Nobody gets sick.  There's nothing left to get sick with."

Passive Resistance in Redstone Science Fiction

Alec turned just in time to see Ennis begin to fall, to feel wetness spray across his face.  Ennis, his bodyguard, his friend, wavered for an instant - then collapsed backward, emptying a flower of red over the steps behind him.

Alec was already running.  There was the whiplash crack of a second shot and a pane in the vast series of glass doors disintegrated.  Arms up over his face, Alec threw himself into the opening, felt splinters shivering across his clothes and skin, stumbled and fell.

Caretaker in the Garden of Dreams in the The Best of Necrotic Tissue anthology from Stygian Publications

Gug-Shabeth returned his watery stare to the long field.  There, other birds had nestled amongst the crop, their leathery wings tucked around them like cloaks, their proboscises probing the strange fruits that grew there.
 
The scarecrow he’d built was nothing now but a cruciform frame draped with scraps of leathery meat.  

Black Horticulture in Abyss and Apex

 

I realized I must be before Alambic himself, and had already, without so much as a word, achieved a terrible impression.  He was sat in a latticed pagoda, sheltering from the heat of the afternoon sun.  My first thought was, can that really be him?  By the depths, he's old!  Never had I seen someone so profoundly weathered, nor with a beard so long that it required its own stool.

I prepared to stammer an apology, but he cut me off with, "If you've come to beg then you're the most determined vagabond I've met.  If you're an assassin then the King's enemies are truly in despair."

Black Sun in the First Contact anthology from Digital Science Fiction

 

The map was below him now  – like some obscene game, a miniaturized catastrophe.

Was that a planet?

The Fixed Identity ruptured its guts into space. The Hindbrain panicked. Waves of blue and orange light vibrated up and across the walls, while every alarm sounded all at once. First came heat, then awful cold. The pressure was like a fist, closing and closing.

Could that sick, deathly orb be a sun?

The Burning Room in Bull Spec issue 4

Behind me, the door slammed, and I nearly fell from the bed.  I twisted round, only to find that there was nothing to see.  The door was closed.  Could the sound have come from a neighbouring house?  I was certain it hadn't.

It occurred to me then that there was something before the door, like the faintest glow of phosphor, about half way up its surface.  Slowly it spread, upwards at first and then downwards as well.  Soon I could recognise something like a figure in outline, pale and insubstantial.  I realised I'd stopped shaking, though I was terribly afraid.  I don't believe anything could have made me tear my eyes away.

The Untold Ghost in the Haunted anthology from Pill Hill Press

 

The girls were practically identical, even down to the trim of their hair and the cut of their collars.  Their faces, caught between boredom and hesitant smiles, were much the same.  They might have been reflections of each other.  Except...

I admit that I still felt shaken, and tired from the day's driving.  Yet it seemed to me there was a difference, a distinction too subtle for the heavy-handed artist to have caught deliberately.  It had something to do with light and shade, with the curve of lips and the barest hint of expression in eyes.  Its effect was simply that the girl on the right looked wrong.

The Unleashing of the Ineffectual in Something Wicked issue 6 [Comic script.]

 

Beyond the altar, the gate, which rends time and space as a pin might pierce the mush of an eyeball...

 

Suddenly the chant is strangled in throats too parched to utter sound.  As the noise dies, so the gyroscope of the gate contracts, folds in logic-defying curves.  But too late! 

 

As a birth canal, it has served its purpose. 

Jenny's Sick in Lightspeed issue 7

 

By the time I knock on Jenny's door it's started again.  When I open it the cough is shaking right through her, throwing her about like a rag doll.  I don't know what to do, whether I should try and help, so I just stand watching and for a while she doesn't seem to know I'm there.  Then finally there's a break, and she looks up.  "I'm sick," she tells me.  She says it with a weird grin, like she's challenging me.

"What do you mean?  Nobody gets sick.  There's nothing left to get sick with."

Rindelstein's Monsters in the The Death Panel anthology from Comet Press

As up close as I can manage without my stomach turning over, I notice something of interest.  "This coarse hair?"

Rindelstein kneels beside me.  "Well, it looks human.  It’s certainly odd though."

"Why odd?"

"Because Mr. Price was blonde, and this hair isn't." 

In the Service of the Guns in Space and Time issue 107

 

There was rock, in dull grey planes broken only by the occasional dip or hillock; there were the meagre moss-like plants, and the Singers.  With nothing else to look at as he set off towards the camp, Pilate focused his attention on them.
 
If he'd had to describe them he’d have offered the image of a two metre long, semi-translucent, white slug.  If slugs had evolved to become the dominate life form on Earth, had developed forepaws and--whatever those things at the front were, some kind of proboscis?  Well then they'd have looked something like the Singers.

The Painted City in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine issue 43

Everything - the square, the street, the structures - was painted in a kaleidoscope of colour, in countless patches of incredible shades that ebbed and flowed around each other.  It was like a massive, magnificent fractal, or a Rorschach test of the gods.  It was astonishingly, painfully beautiful to look at.  It brought hot tears to his eyes and hot thoughts into his mind.

Under his breath, Kafka said, “This is bad.  This is the worst, most wonderful place we’ve ever found."  Then out loud: "I think we should leave.”

Peachy in Murky Depths issue 8

Peachy had been watching the back garden with cold calculation for about an hour before I properly noticed. 

It was hardly uncommon for her to scowl through the glass at the neighbours' tom, or to stare at blackbirds that had the temerity to wander through her hunting grounds.  For her to stay in one position for an hour, though, fully conscious and alert, was something new.

Stockholm Syndrome in the The Living Dead anthology from Night Shade Books [Also, podcast in Pseudopod #44]

 

Billy, he was first generation through and through. I don’t know what his story was, but when he turned up about two weeks ago he was wearing a suit, a real nice suit, he even still had a carnation in his buttonhole. I don’t know, maybe they was burying him when it happened. You’ve got to wonder what they’d have thought, when they was burying him and he got up like that.

Strive to be Happy in Flash Fiction Online
 
“Stupid.” He took a moment to savor the word. “God, but you’re stupid.”
 
She stared back mutely. That, at least, he didn’t blame her for: what could she say, after all? Any intrusion would only make things worse. He’d established the rules for this long ago, and she hadn’t fought back, which he considered as good as consenting.

Fleshworld in Futurequake issue 10 [Comic script.]

 

We'd stretched too far, too fast.  And then, because drive-fuel was easier to produce than food and water, we'd just kept going.

 

Every day the borders of known space grew.  Every day more people starved.

 

That's why what we found six months ago is the most valuable thing in the galaxy.

 

Allotment in the Barren Worlds anthology from Hadley Rille Books

 

It was something like an igloo, a dome of metallic fibre slung over a large framework with an airlock jutting from one side.  It all seemed sensible enough - except that it was on the moon, in the middle of the DeLambre crater, perhaps eighty kilometres from human contact and with no visible means of communication.

 

Maybe the loneliness had got to me after all.

The Desert Cold in Flash Fiction Online
 

Everyone knows the great desert is hot by day and cold by night. But that heat and cold is something you must know to understand. The midday sun seems to burn through your eyelids, so that outside the shade you cannot escape it; it pricks at your skin like a thousand needles, and sweat offers no relief because you could never sweat enough. It is harsh and cruel, and without water and a good guide you will not live long.

 

My Friend Fishfinger, by Daisy aged 7 in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine  issue 30
 
Fishfinger and her mom and her dad don’t ever come to church with us, so I asked her one time, did that mean that she doesn’t believe in the baby Jesus like how we do?  And she said, no, they have their own God who’s different from ours and he isn’t called God his name is D-A-G-O-N, that’s how she spelled it.

Children of Deadways in Space and Time #128

 

The only building was a half-timbered structure over three storeys, set well back from the road.  The second floor was more expansive than the first, held aloft by beams at corners and intervals on each side.  The third was a squat tower jutting through the roof.  The sign above the door showed a kneeling figure, its four wings curved protectively, its flaming sword held in repose.

The traveller rested until the sun began to purple and melt behind the old tavern.  When it fell beneath a line of distant trees, slatting the earth with wine-coloured light, he tipped his hat further forward, tramped the last stretch of road and pushed upon the door.

Stockholm Syndrome in the For Mortal Things Unsung anthology from Pseudopod

 

Billy, he was first generation through and through. I don’t know what his story was, but when he turned up about two weeks ago he was wearing a suit, a real nice suit, he even still had a carnation in his buttonhole. I don’t know, maybe they was burying him when it happened. You’ve got to wonder what they’d have thought, when they was burying him and he got up like that.