Sir Percival spurred the borrowed police horse as far as the corner of York Avenue and 67th, where he swung his armored bulk down from the saddle to land on the sidewalk with a clangor that stopped the startled street vendors in their tracks. Grail in hand, he ran in past the security guards at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, who called after him, “What room number are you visiting, sir?”
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“And to think the biggest problem the advance critics are having is religion,” Shin says, smiling as he holds the pad in his hand, scrolling through the spotlight on his play in the arts page of the planet newsfeed. “As if it matters if I use New Servitism or not. It’s science fiction. The future. As if the audience won’t get the implication.” For my part I nod and stir, bring the spoon up to my lips to taste it. Too sweet still, and nothing to do about it other than start over. I suppress the grimace that wants to form on my face, and keep my attention on Shin.
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Captain Lawson stood in front of the wall-sized painting of the Battle of Melusinae, where he’d died. He did not hear the wind blowing or the chilled waves pounding the rocks far below the inn. He did not hear Madame Shirley, the proprietor of this place, speaking to him, as she usually was or the lead crystal glasses clinking with rough chips of ice and fingers of gin.
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The day we met, Prasad asked me how many times I had died. I answered without hesitation. “Forty-four.” That number is part of my identity. As important as my womanhood, my occupation, my name. My soul had occupied forty-four bodies. Had experienced forty-four deaths. And the memories of those forty-four are in my head. Unforgettable. Unshakeable.
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Eliška huddled in her laboratory during that short autumn before the predicted onset of the Dark. She poured over her star-maps, scrawled calculations on a black ink diagram of planetary epicycles. She hefted bound volumes of research by Copernicus and Kepler, Brahe and Galileo, about Mars and the moon, about the ascendency of Mercury and the dangers of spotting a comet in Taurus.
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I‘m practicing juggling again, because it’s raining outside and there’s nothing else to do. Big fat bloodwarm drops drum on the tent’s waxed canvas. In an hour, as the day’s light vanishes, the circus’s light will flicker to life, powered by the ancient turbine/treadmill pulled by three ponies and a servobot. Townsfolk will wander the […]
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It happened one day that the Blessed Lady of Dark Forever went for a walk in her garden of black leaves, past the Seven Broken Doorways, and down to the ferries, where the refugees arrive in endless outpourings. She was watching her servants—”facilitators” they called themselves these days—play a game of Snatch The Bone when […]
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The stranger’s back is turned to me when I enter The Cactus Tap. Lost in his whisky glass, he does not spare an old lady like me a glance. Once black hair spills across his once black clothes, draped dusty and bedraggled over his tall and angular frame. A mercenary, I guess, a Near Kingdom […]
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I wanted to break my brother’s face again. My knuckles burned from my previous efforts. Dark mascara ribbons streaked down Bridgette’s cheeks. Roger’s smooth features, darkened with fury, no longer bore a single scrape. The bruises he’d left on my body throbbed. This time I had to fix things without getting hurt. More than that, […]
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His partner was missing, and P.I. Stamens didn’t know how to feel, so he went to the local branch of the Emotion Store. “Ninety minutes of Pensiveness, please,” Stamens said to Jack Condon, the proprietor. “Actually, make that three hours.” Stamens’s tall, standoffish calm contrasted with the squirrely Condon’s jerking movements. A tag hung on […]
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Once they applied the new algorithm, the senseless chatter of the Universe immediately came through as a coherent message: CAN ANYONE HEAR ME? HELLO? The telemetry rattled off the message a dozen times while the assembled men uttered a collective, “Holy shit!” A return message was quickly composed and transmitted: WE HEAR YOU. The incoming […]
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When Raine went kicking through the flower beds of the forest, Paylee knew their mother had returned from the village with a heaping basket still brimming with pungent, dried herbs and weeds. He wondered what she offered the people this time. Wartberry Fairvbell? Arrowhead Groundsel? Yellow Skullcap? She could offer them the Fountain of Youth, […]
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“You’re a good girl, Ruthie,” Ma says, placing hands on my arms. She’s looking at them—really looking at them—for the first time in longer than I can remember. “You’ve always been a good girl.” The cadenced beeping of her heart monitor rises up from the background noise of the ward, intrusive, and it seems to […]
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Behind the local anchorwoman, Tessa’s snapshot hung suspended in the corner of the screen.
“Day two of search for missing woman,” the ticker tape read.
I switched off the set. I palmed my face and scrubbed the two day old stubble along my jaw.[…]
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Iron spear tips brushed the bound captives’ necks. Battle scars still bleeding, they knelt in mud at their guardsmen’s feet. Most of Pempamsie village stood gawking at the captured slavers held just inside their walls.
The sight of the prisoners’ ragged armor and chains made Ralo’s stomach clench.[…]
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Death arrived in London in a plain, brown, cardboard box topped with a ribbon.
Martha Bazelton found the box on her stoop early on a chilly Tuesday morning. Expecting to see little but the week’s milk when she opened her door, Mrs. Bazelton instead took her first steps toward her own gruesome and painful death by cocking her head to the side with curiosity. Then she leaned down and picked up the object of mass doom[…]
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“So how’d you guys get together?” Katie asked.
We stopped at the top of the rise, leaned against a pink wall in the shade of an awning: Janie and I, and the couple we met at dinner, first night of the cruise. It was an effort to remember their names: Katie and Kevin. I kept thinking of them as Lucy and Ralph. As in, Ricardo and Kramden.
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Those who survive combat with the Sarakul return home with holes in their memories. As memory-setters, it’s our job to delve inside their skulls and repair the damage.
When I say “our job” I’m stretching the truth, since I’m not yet a memory-setter. During my last three years of apprenticeship under Master Agoza I’ve assisted with many restorations. Even completed a few solo. But technically I’m still an apprentice.
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The fire engine races as fast as my heart through the dark, snow-banked streets, sirens shrieking.
Still I see his blackened shell, red eyes pitted inside a face twisted with madness and malice. Still he is with me. But I couldn’t tell the shrink that because I have to keep going. If I don’t get back out there and do this now, my career is over. And the memories will be there to haunt me just the same.[…]
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Joreth knew when Maia entered his father’s smithy, despite having his back to the door. Her honeysuckle scent wafted through the smoke and curled like a fist in his gut. He yanked the rope to squeeze the bellows, but the rush of air couldn’t block out her voice.
“Good day, Halbor,” she said, addressing the master smith.
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