Issues from 2010
Issue #41
The Circus of King Minos’ Masque

Condescension, from a slave, though Periphas. How appropriate. He got up, following the loggerhead along the circus' aisle as it swam. The carvings on its shell were spidery and thin, interconnected traceries meaningless in any language of logic or linear thought. He doubted that an untrained eye, even in the first row, would know them for what they were: the marks of madness bent to will. The symbols of a sorcerer's attention.

Periphas dug out the last handful of raw gold he'd earned without killing and offered it on open palm.
Pawn’s Gambit

Tarc was awake for a couple hours at the beginning and end of my shift, and those hours were longer than the ones I spent with my thoughts. He was chatty as a guiro-bug. He didn’t just talk, though. He asked questions. The more he asked, the more chary I got that he’d figure out what I was doing—that one of his marks was my little girl, and that I meant to stop him.

The more he asked, the more chary I got that he’d figure out what I was doing--that one of his marks was my little girl.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Waiting for Number Five
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Four crouched alone on her platform, unwatched, abandoned.
Issue #40
Knowing Neither Kin Nor Foe

She was in the fields and out of sight of the kin-nest before she stopped to reconsider. Tahn would die anyway, once the Destroyer broke completely free of the barrier. If the old fool wanted to hurry the process, why stop him? He was no friend of hers, just another selfish lackey of the ley-readers. He’d probably only gone to manipulate her into following him. And like a soft-shelled hatchling, she was doing exactly that.

In the dream, she swallowed her siblings dispassionately, one by one, the Destroyer incarnate.
Waiting for Number Five

He'd called her excellent! Four's heart soared, and she sped up to keep pace with the music's racing beat. Oh, let them watch. Let them ooh and aah, them with their foul stinking breath. Even when sweat rolled down their noses and fell to her platform in large blobs, splashing so she had to jump out of the way, she never flinched. Let Master see how strong she was.

Four crouched alone on her platform, unwatched, abandoned.

"Unusual touches give interest to a familiar subject..." —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Pale
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 42:16 — 29.03MB)
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I take my time undressing her, half-expecting for The Marshal to come calling.
Issue #39
Sanji’s Demon, Pt. II

The old man’s form shimmered in my grasp, like a mountain peak glimpsed through summer haze. Another instant and I did not hold an old man at all, but rather an oni. He was perhaps a head taller than myself, with red skin, gleaming tusks and horns, and black hair as coarse and thick as a horse’s mane. He continued to struggle, and it was all I could do to hold him.

I was beginning to understand what had so terrified that first demon that day on the Hokuriku Road.

Recommended Reading, Year's Best SF & F 2011, ed. Rich Horton

The Leafsmith in Love

Jesper whirled. Right at his back, feet clacking on the limestone, was one of his steam-powered wolves. But instead of ambling across the gravel path and back into the forest, it went utterly mad, hoping forward and back, tail pinwheeling. It jumped forward, teeth bared; the air rent with a scream and the ugly sound of ripping fabric; the wolf danced away with a mangled petticoat in its gleaming jaws.

The bud abruptly opened to reveal spiraling rows of stained glass petals, firing microscopic pistons, and droplets of molten gold dew.

"Delightful fantasy love story"  —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Recommended Reading, Year's Best SF & F 2011, ed. Rich Horton

Audio Fiction Podcast:
In Memoriam
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 29:58 — 20.58MB)
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What horror could I feel, I who had counted more bizarre monstrosities among my friends?
Issue #38
Sanji’s Demon, Pt. I

I didn’t have to ask whom he meant, but it seemed that Daiki, in this one regard, was not going to get his wish. The bushi produced two flea-bitten, scruffy men. Both were bruised and bloody but alive. Two more were not. Daiki kicked the body so that it rolled face up and studied the dead man’s features. “It would seem the bandit has escaped me after all.”

Yet I couldn't get past the feeling that whoever had done this massacre had enjoyed it to a degree beyond anything I had ever seen before or ever hoped to see again.

Recommended Reading, Year's Best SF & F 2011, ed. Rich Horton

In Memoriam

I felt it, or rather Gaumont’s body did, and with such force that it took me a moment to throw it off, a sudden desperation not to see what lay beneath that heavy drape of fabric. Yet I watched eagerly as the hands drew back the folds of grey material to reveal a granitic face, human in form, but so frozen that its wrinkles might have been carved from stone.

What horror could I feel, I who had counted more bizarre monstrosities among my friends?

"wonderfully imaginative stuff"  —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Skirt of Many Colors
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 37:45 — 25.93MB)
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The pond was a bathing pool, long ago. You can still see pictures in stone, under the water and scum.
Issue #37
A Skirt of Many Colors

I go further in, to the ghosts. The first ghost is the ghost of the Boots. They are two holes in the wave of stone that half-fills a room of the old house. No telling who felt inside the pair of holes and found they were the shape of the inside of a boot. If you slide your feet into them—first checking that nothing has gotten there first—you can ask the ghost for a wish.

The pond was a bathing pool, long ago. You can still see pictures in stone, under the water and scum.
Pale

There's always a woman. And she plays her part, one way or the other. “The stranger’ll come for you,” I tell her, trying to tip-toe round the vulgarity. Whether it’s The Marshal or The Hired Gun, the innocent’s champion gets the woman. He’ll be good to her, but she’ll never forget, never be quite the same when he rides away.

I take my time undressing her, half-expecting for The Marshal to come calling.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
To Slay with a Thousand Kisses
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:51 — 17.75MB)
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Her tongue was a grave-worm tunneling into me, befouling me.
Issue #36
To Slay with a Thousand Kisses

Her age was impossible to say, for her face was crusted with muck and roots. Her teeth were like kernels of mottled corn. She was naked, her skin textured like stone, gray and gravelly. Wet, bulbous mushrooms grew in the moss around her womanly crevice. Her reek nearly brought me to my knees.

Her tongue was a grave-worm tunneling into me, befouling me.
The Motor, the Mirror, the Mind

When you sat down so suddenly, the movement caused an infinitesimal trauma to the flesh in your head. In that chaos, a few of the tiny creatures that compose your brain were killed. Are you sad for them? Or do you only care about them so long as they provide you with movement, emotions, the mirrors that reflect my mind in yours?

Whether we see visions in mirrors or hear voices in warbling electrical static, we must always interpret, extrapolate, confabulate.

"...a first-rate fantastic idea, a fully-extended metaphor that comes vividly to life as a fantasy world. Recommended" —Lois Tilton, Locus online

Audio Fiction Podcast:
Shatterach Gates
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 34:05 — 23.4MB)
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It roars, shuddering the stone, and I imagine three thousand corpse voices in shrieking harmony.
Issue #35
Gizzard Stones

Grampa huddled inside, exposed in the corner. Bark and Thorn crouched next to him covering their faces. The gleaner struckone-twoand in less time that it took to draw a breath, Grampa and Thorn were trussed and thrown over the gleaner's back like sacks of meal. Bark, the bravest of my littermates, whimpered and dodged out of sight into the yard behind the house. The gleaner stepped forward and raised its serrated front legs.

I pulled, and Maggot screamed as the arrow snagged and tore through her flesh.
Shatterach Gates

The warmth, then swift coldness, of piss on my legs brings me back from the rolling horror oozing over the dirt-pack towards me. Still a league distant, it is monstrous. A grotesque boil on the earth; a seething mass of tree spars and rocks that scalds the ice around it into steam. The way it moves! Questing forward, then rushing into the blackened space before it. Each thrust accompanied by boulders grinding, great snappings of century-old trunks as it heaves ahead.

It roars, shuddering the stone, and I imagine three thousand corpse voices in shrieking harmony.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
In the Age of Iron and Ashes
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 37:40 — 25.86MB)
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When she spoke, her voice stopped him, as surely as a knife drawn across his throat.
Issue #34
A Serpent in the Gears

Professora Lundqvist insisted on taking the bones to the captain, and borrowed me for the purpose. I piled the serpent’s jawbone on her tank, secured the lesser fangs to her braking mechanism, and accompanied her up to the lift. Lundqvist, lacking either an andropter or the torso around which to fasten one, could not venture to the open decks, and thus we were limited to the helm room.

After all, no one noticed a valet, and if some codes were childishly easy to crack, that was hardly my fault.

"Crammed full of Neat Steampunk Stuff, delightfully witty prose, and high adventure. Recommended."  —Lois Tilton, IROSF

Recommended Reading, Year's Best SF & F 2011, ed. Rich Horton

Bellwether

Niddy’s pale corpse lay naked on the table. Her eyes were held shut by river-worn pebbles rather than the coins I’d placed before I left. The dress that should have graced the corpse, Niddy’s best, was on Trilla. Though it shamed me that my sister’s body was shown such dishonor before strangers, it didn’t hurt as it might have. If justice prevailed, that dress would be all the benefit Trilla’s treachery brought her.

The following midmorning, Trilla arrived in the village wailing that my Niddy was dead.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Manufactory
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Podcast: Download (Duration: 27:54 — 19.16MB)
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We figured we’d get rich once corpses became rare and valuable resources again.
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