Issues from 2009
Issue #15
More Than Once Upon A Time

Hubley dashed forward, and crashed head first into something stretched solidly across the passage. She lay stunned for a moment on the cold stone floor, the cries of the sissit suddenly very far away. Then, in a daze of memory, she realized she’d run headlong into the wall her youngest self had cast. She was leading them out into the Sun Road! The Timing was exact!

“You have many years,” she said, “before you get to this point. You’ll know what to do when the time comes.”
Where Virtue Lives

The other ghul came at them. Raseed sped past Adoulla, his forked sword slashing. The creature snaked left. The boy’s weapon whistled through empty air. The ghul drove its scaly fist hard into the boy’s jaw. It struck a second time, catching Raseed in the chest. Adoulla was amazed that the boy still stood.

“‘Great and virtuous’? No, boy, I’m Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the best belcher in Dhamsawaat.”

"introduces a promising series"  —Rich Horton

"Really enjoyed this story... Good stuff."  —Lou Anders (Pyr Books)

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Unrest
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 42:26 — 29.14MB)
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We are borne up by fate like leaves on the wind, and sometimes carried home.
Issue #14
Driftwood

He did neither. He grabbed her by the shoulder, shoved her to the floor, and left. Alsanit should have chased him, but her legs were too limp. She sat on the tiled floor of the room he rented in a Shred whose name she had already forgotten, shaking and on the edge of tears, and knew her people were doomed.

She would probably die before her world did.
Stormchaser, Stormshaper

His tone filled her with a strangeness. Some of it was pleasure at his diffident compliment, some of it was fear, and some more elusive tendril buried in the emotion was something unsettling, like watching a shark drift up out of the depths and vanish again. Sternly she told herself that all of this was normal, and Mother wished her to learn from this creature, who, certainly, above all other things, would be strange! She would not let fear master her.

The rush of the sea beneath the hull sang of danger in her mind.

"Enjoyed this very much."  —Lou Anders (Pyr Books)

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Preservation
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:33 — 20.3MB)
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I thought at first my hands would shake. But when I reach to make the incisions, they are calm.
Issue #13
The Five Days of Justice Merriwell

My voice sounds thin and choked when I speak. “Let the soldiers choose for themselves,” I say. “Let those who wish to flee leave now, in good faith. I will not have them stay to be murdered for a cause they cannot support. But let food and bandages be stockpiled through the day, and close the gates”—I almost say, at nightfall, but it is always night now— “before midnight. We will hold my father’s fortress until the last.”

I see again my brothers’ grins beneath their iron helmets as my father released the holy fire upon the heretics.
Haxan

“No, I’m talking about real people. Flesh and blood like you and me. They’re taken from places they call home and sent into this stormy sea to help calm the waters. It never ends because it’s the storm itself, the unending conflict, that makes the world we know a reality. Along with all the other worlds that could be.”

Her words got me to thinking about my past. What there was to remember.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Hangman
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 32:34 — 22.37MB)
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I'd had a name, a long time ago. But no one but me remembered it.
Issue #12
The Orangery

The music grew louder, skirling with strange harmonies that wove in and out of each other, and I knew then it couldn't be Nanny, though I did not recognize the instruments. I emerged from the artificial forest to stand behind my brother and sister. An elegant divan covered in striped cream and blue silk was faintly visible out of the corner of my eye. I crossed my arms over my chest as though I could protect myself. "Where is this?"

Flanked by my brother and sister, I opened the orangery door and was enveloped in sweet-scented air.

"a fine spooky (story)"  —Rich Horton, Locus

"Recommended"  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2009

Unrest

Shaken, I reach for her arm as though to pull her back, and feel rough skin under the robes: old scars, burns, long healed. For some reason I am reminded of another traveller, long ago, a little girl fleeing a burning house, running out into our pilgrim-train. She would have become a priestess when she grew up, I think. It is not impossible. Tekel, the woman had said before she died, and I wonder what she shares with my son.

We are borne up by fate like leaves on the wind, and sometimes carried home.

"an excellent dark tale of the ravages of war... a Recommended story."  —Rich Horton, Locus

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Of Thinking Being and Beast
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 41:53 — 28.76MB)
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Boreas crushed the keys in his palm to silence them.
From the Archives:
A Place to Stand
She had dreamed of being a weaver, and a fisher, and a soldier, and many different wives, but the life of a seeker of knowledge had never come to her yet.
Issue #11
Silk and Shadow

So well did Anansya tell the tale, little did I realize until too late that her ritual had already snared me, thrusting me into the tapestry of shadows. I became the hero laced with light, while my body sat mindless before the screen. The past had become present through Anansya's magic, the players and props conjured from my memories. I could feel an odd thinness to my flesh.

I felt scars under her silk that my fingers did not remember.

"All is resolved imaginatively"  —Rich Horton, Locus

"Recommended"  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Honorable Mention, Year's Best SF 27 (ed. Gardner Dozois)

Preservation

I can preserve (here insert animal’s name if known, otherwise state ‘your loved one’) in any pose and moment of expression that you desire. Whenever you are plagued by dolorous thoughts of his (or ‘her,’ never ‘its’) passing you may simply turn your gaze to your mantelpiece and your spirits will be raised as you see him (or ‘her’) captured eternally in a moment of zestful energy.”

I thought at first my hands would shake. But when I reach to make the incisions, they are calm.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The God-Death of Halla
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 55:31 — 38.12MB)
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Once a child of the holy rich; now the pawn of a priest?
Issue #10
Hangman

The full moon let me see the train coming. It raged up the path of the old tracks but it wasn’t on them. It wove across them, ignoring their boundaries, sweeping like a snake on sand. It was a long one. It’d be full of a lot of good things—nails, cotton, wood, corn. That pleased me. Made everything a little more worthwhile, as worthwhile as dying ever got.

I'd had a name, a long time ago. But no one but me remembered it.
Kreisler’s Automata

The Prodigy scampered forward at once and sat before the pipe organ’s keyboards. Kreisler was with him. Together they began to play, calling the automata back to their city. Just as we had planned. And I, I ran after the Clockwork King, driven, as ever, by the thought of Olympia. For I had more that I would know.

I chased him, quite mad, hurling questions, demanding answers.

"Recommended"  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Dragon’s-Eyes
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 48:07 — 33.04MB)
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He thought of a man strapped to a table, whispering his secret.
Issue #9
Dragon’s-Eyes

The farther they traveled, the more Skald's old trade seemed to distort what he saw, forcing the faces he'd learned over the last few weeks to conform to the city vision. This one will break after a day, he would find himself thinking as the other drovers hailed him. This one is strong, but he favors his left knee; use the hammers first. This one will not break on his own, but hurt any member of his family and he'll tell you anything just so you'll stop.

He thought of a man strapped to a table, whispering his secret.

"Recommended"  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Of Thinking Being and Beast

It wasn't just the minotaur's life in Boreas's hands. If Eurytus won the wager, the two human rebels would die center stage at the Circus, under torture, giving up everything they knew. Eurytus would rob them of dignity, hope, faith. If they had any left.

Boreas crushed the keys in his palm to silence them.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Sand-Skin Man
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:15 — 20.08MB)
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I remember seeing a patch of sun-scorched grass become a lion watching me with amber eyes.
Issue #8
Beneath the Mask

I well knew that only human blood and human lives kept the end of the world at bay. I had abased myself before gods, offered them what they needed, from human hearts to flayed skins; I had wielded many obsidian knives myself in many sacrifices. But the concentration of images in that room seemed almost unhealthy.

Clearly he was not lying, and equally clearly he didn’t know anything.
Winterblood

The young man’s eyes fixed on my face, his straight, dark brows elegantly raised. I pressed myself against him and forced down a shiver. It may have only been the wine, but it seemed to me that, even through the layers of silk and brocade, I could feel the cold radiating from his flesh.

His lips would be soft, I decided, like a woman’s, and they would taste like blood and rose petals.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Precious Meat
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 28:25 — 19.52MB)
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I am Boon. I lead my pack.
Issue #7
Snake in the Glass

"How little you understand. A man of power is at war with everything that lives. LeKestra knows this. So do I. You, Therese, on the other hand, have yet to learn the importance of choosing the right side."

Few conjurers remained who had such power. One lived at the end of this trail.
Sand-Skin Man

I held my father while he died. It was all I could do, but I whispered fiercely, "Father, I'll get your sword back one day. One day when he least expects it." I'm not sure Father could hear me by then, but I never forgot my promise.

I remember seeing a patch of sun-scorched grass become a lion watching me with amber eyes.
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