The nanoprocessor points lit up, flashing blue in each corner of the wall of windows in my daughter Miell’s swanky apartment. A bigger than life vid appeared, the date showing on the lower right. I advanced it until I found the memory I wanted: Hayes’ sixth birthday. What was I expecting? A joyful birthday party. […]
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Why hadn’t he asked her? Stinking, soupy mud soaked into Adam’s clothes as he crawled forward through the tall, whispering grass. Gretchen would have married him if he had just asked. Probably. Maybe. The pungent smell of crushed vegetation caught in his nose, making him want to sneeze. He rubbed his face hard. The mud-scented […]
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The news wasn’t even news anymore—that was the problem. It was full of shoe styles and celebrities and five year olds who could play Mozart. Yeah, there was the occasional tear jerker about a local house fire and some sensationalist crap, like that story about a thousand dead birds falling out of the sky that […]
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Dynaea walked down the dormitory aisle, gray robe swishing at her bare heels. Though she’d long passed the need to go barefoot in an effort to remain awake, she still followed the custom. It didn’t feel right to wear shoes around those she guarded while they slept. Dozens of still forms lay under blankets, their […]
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“Mom, I’ve come to say goodbye.” “That’s a funny way to say hello, Julie. Good morning to you too.” “I’m serious. You needed to know.” “Know what?” “I’m turning you off. Deleting the simulation.” “Hun, I’m self-aware, remember?” “That’s what the techs say, but I’ve never really believed it. You’re just tricky programming. Algorithms crafted […]
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Running my fingertips around the concrete pillar in the rental house bedroom, a story took shape in my mind. I wanted to write it down but I’d have to hide it from Scott. “The outside became the inside?” I asked the realtor. What would I look like if my outside became my inside? Scott called […]
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The application process is no different from any other: transcripts, teaching philosophy, Skype. Until it reaches the in-person interview stage, and a flame-edged portal opens in your living room. But when you peer through, there are no fiery pits on the other side, no shrieking tormented sinners. There’s just an institutional-yellow waiting room and a […]
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It don’t matter how I came to be known as the Dragon Rodeo Queen. And I guess it don’t matter how many gold buckles I got displayed on the walls of my room in the boarding house, neither—there’s twenty-three, in case your heart’s set on countin’—long as it’s clear who’s apt to win should the […]
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Can’t tell you how pleased I was to find a ticket to the exhibit about all those dead authors. My mother, see, she was a real big fan of the late 21st century classics—anything by Carter, Lee, Nguyen—you name it, she read it. She even had a collection of real books, old stuff her gram […]
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In sleep I see what lies beyond this world. Vast shapes skulk in the cold crevasses of the cosmos and slither through the fissures of reality. They glide through the void in perpetual craving, unscathed by the ravages of time and cellular decay. They are as they once were, and as they will continue to […]
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On my way back from a breakfast meeting with a client in mid-town Manhattan, I dropped dead on 47th Street and 7th Avenue. A heart attack. My soul stood naked over my inert form and watched a Good Samaritan steal my Rolex. I felt more shock than sorrow, and, confused by my nakedness and demise, […]
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The messenger who burst upon my chamber favored me with the sort of worshipful gaze I hadn’t seen in years. I was not best pleased to see him or his starry eyes. At my breast, Matilda sucked placidly, undisturbed by the stranger’s entrance. I didn’t bother to cover myself; if this sight embarrassed my visitor, […]
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“We need to talk.” The nixie did not reply at first. She leaned her elbows on the embankment and laid her head to the side. “It’s warm,” she said. “For the time of year.” “Yes, it is.” Harold shifted his weight and glanced at the trees surrounding the nixie’s pool, their yellow foliage beginning to brown. A squirrel chattered in a tall oak and hefted an acorn at him. “They don’t like you,” said the nixie. “Well, they don’t like me, but they know better than to give me trouble.” She lay back in the water, examining the fingernails on her long, sleek hands. “When you have married me, they won’t trouble you either. I’ll see to it.” “Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” “Go on.” Though her tone remained casual, she froze absolutely still. He thought he could see the water at her sides starting to ice over.
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Kara followed the New Year’s procession through Chinatown, deep drumbeats echoing in her ears punctuated by the pop of fireworks. Smoke from the fireworks hung low in the windless air, filling her lungs with an acrid scent and making her cough. She welcomed the smoke. It gave her an excuse for her tears. Chinese New Year had always been celebrated at her grandmother’s home, where banquet tables groaned under the weight of the food. Rooms filled with cousins she adored, even though they threatened to drive her mad. Then, they would finish off the night with a family trip to view this parade. All of those traditions ended the night her grandmother died.
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From the roof of his house, Andrew can see everything in the town of Pandora. Right below is his yard of wispy yellow grass that breaks at the touch. A little way down is the dead creek, a stinking, mucky place. And above him, always, is the hand of God. Briefly, he trains his flashlight on the underside of the hand, studying the whorled, grayish flesh, then he stares back toward the outskirts of town, peering through his binoculars at the mushroom farmer’s trailer. The farmer makes a drug. Andrew’s not supposed to know about the drug, and he certainly isn’t supposed to take it, but the farmer’s daughter goes to school with all the other kids, so word gets around. He must have mixed a new batch. The townspeople are lined up all the way back to the old Sunoco station, their headlamps making a broken ant trail in the ever-present dusk.
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“The nurse says I can stay long enough for a story,” I say, gripping the edge of the chair next to your bed. The air-conditioning-too cold in these places, it’s ridiculous—keeps blowing a loose strand of hair into your eyelashes. You blink and lift a small hand, so slowly, I can’t believe how slowly, but I grab your fingers and smile. “I’ll take care of it, you just relax.” As I tuck the wayward curl beneath the elastic band holding the mask to your face-too tight, I think, but the nurses swear it’s on right-I can feel your fever creep into my fingertips, feel the sweat beading there. And I can see by your expression that my face changed in that moment, that you glimpsed the deep whirl of rage and fear and sadness I hide from you. All I can do is smile again and tell the story and hope you’re too young to have learned how to worry as much as your parents. I find no comfort in that thought.
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Half the county figured my big brother Samuel had bricks for brains. There was mighty good evidence in favor of that, like the time he decided to walk through downtown naked simply cause it was a hot day and clothes just plain didn’t feel good. But I knew Samuel wasn’t a dummy, just quiet, with his mind in a different place than the rest of us. So when I heard him with two speakers of dark words, I knew to hunker down and listen. Here by the barn was the most private spot on our property—or would be, if I wasn’t up in the rafters. I smelled the bad guys before I heard them. Mama didn’t get to teach me much, but she did teach me to heed my nose when it came to good and evil and all the grey in between, and those men stank like the septic tank being sucked out on an August afternoon. I gagged against my wrist to keep quiet, Mama’s old chain bracelet warm at my lips.
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The gallery is a smooth, sleek ocean liner of a building, delivering its cargo of culture to posterity. Smog disfigures the white stone like an encrustation of barnacles. I reckon the pollution is overdue for cleansing, both outside and within. The evening sun throws long shadows pointing the way. There’s been so much interest in Clark’s new show that preview tickets were allocated in shifts, and Clark has given me the final slot, just before the opening party. Presumably this is so I’ll have less time to write my review-a feeble ploy. Outside the gallery, a giant billboard shows Clark looking as fabulous as always with his neatly trimmed stubble, baby-hedgehog hair, presidential chin, and ‘Come up and see my etchings’ smile. Underneath there are adulatory quotes from everyone except me. As I approach, Clark’s eyes track my steps, and the billboard speaks.
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She’s got her system down: a fly on a string, to lure a snapper to snap; a sharp carving knife to sever an extended neck. Simple. Safer than other methods. She’s lost toes to other methods. She’s lost fingers. Snappers have wickedly sharp beaks. No one knows that better than she does. There are safer ways, of course. A heavy enough rock lobbed from a distance can shatter a carapace. Shatter a spine. You don’t have to get close enough to lose digits. But that way is cruel. Jenny doesn’t like cruelty. She doesn’t like killing turtles, either. But it has to be done. There are two turtles today, which is the right number of turtles. They’re near the pond, behind the house where Jenny lives with her grandmother. Where Jenny’s parents used to live. It is a place where turtles rarely go anymore. A place the turtles have learned to avoid. The coincidence of finding them here heartens Jenny. It is as if they have been guided here. By something inside them. Guided to Jenny’s fly on a string. To Jenny’s knife.
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“Nothing but the world is real and true,” Grandfather began. His voice was soft, whispery and wise. His eyes were as black as the darkness beneath the good ground. “Everything that does not belong to the world is false and untrue,” he continued. “It is the stuff of spirits.” “It is a lie,” Raven continued, knowing the lesson by heart. “Spirit stuff only looks like green grass and white sand.”
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