Issues
Issue #332
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Featuring new cover art: “Rabbit House” by Avant Choi.

A Flower Cannot Love the Hand

I am still myself and so I am answered at last: yes, I have a soul, no matter what shape its vessel is forced into. I remember that I am sunlight made tender flesh, even as I stir soundless feathers against a starlit sky. I remember the wind in the woods, the gift of nectar, the graze of wings. Though I cannot see the sun, I fly ever closer to its resting-place, and I pray it hears me, in its dreams, when I call.

I am still myself and so I am answered at last: yes, I have a soul, no matter what shape its vessel is forced into.
My Mirror, My Opposite

I hit the water headfirst. The sea latched onto my clothes and weighed me down like armour and crowns and scepters, all those vestments I had never wanted. I didn’t glance up at the ship. Didn’t care if the captain’s panicked eyes were peering down at me or not, and felt grateful the sea drowned out his calls. I breathed in water and choked on it, feeling my mind and vision slipping away. Then something wrapped around my waist and began dragging me... up.

Let’s clear up one thing: that night, the storm didn’t hurl me into the sea.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Flower Cannot Love the Hand

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:21:44 — 14.93MB)
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I am still myself and so I am answered at last: yes, I have a soul, no matter what shape its vessel is forced into.
From the Archives:
Everything Beneath You
I wanted to ask her more questions, about the way the world was made, about death and dreams, but did not want to know the answers.
Issue #331
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The Woods Echo Back

Shon isn't afraid. This isn't the stark silence of his empty home. This living quiet conceals the stretch of new leaf to sun, the rustle of the worm, and the squirm of pink pinioned baby birds. It is the held breath of small lungs in small bone cages around small swift hearts that beat a little faster waiting for the listener and the whistler to pass by.

Shon knows silence well.
Worth the Whistling

The wind turned, and the rustle of the field bled into the whistling of the wood, and more smoke blew closer. The air was bitter with it. He didn’t turn his gaze away from her. Anger. It was anger, there in its depths. She’d never had that directed at her before. Hadn’t had the chance to cause it, really. She let the hand holding the coins drop. “Tomorrow night.”

It was near midday when she heard the door open behind her, his cautious steps shuffling through dry, ash-coated leaves.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Woods Echo Back

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:43:28 — 29.85MB)
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Shon knows silence well.
From the Archives:
Men of the Ashen Morrow
Sal stood alone in the field, feeling the absence of her friend's touch. Being open to death was the cost of living free.
Issue #330
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Hassan the Executioner Walks Out of Jawasar for the Last Time

Hassan had loved her, but his eyes had still been clear enough to know how the world saw her, the horror of her power and her magic and her intolerance of human weakness. It was easier to think of that now, in the way that it was easier to see after stepping from too bright sun into a shaded room. Lamia was not here to blind him anymore.

Hassan had loved her, but his eyes had still been clear enough to know how the world saw her.
To Crack the World

As magehandler, I technically outrank them during transit. But what's a command here on the frontier, ankle-deep in corpses? Danger's one thing. Soldiers expect that. Some even enjoy it. But certain death? No one walks into that just because some asshole with rank tells them to. Besides, what use would they be, soft flesh and brittle steel, with a world-cracker on the loose?

And here's us, trapped on the plain, nothing more than shivering flesh and bone. Well, us and it.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Hassan the Executioner Walks Out of Jawasar for the Last Time

Podcast: Download (Duration: 00:32:34 — 22.36MB)
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Hassan had loved her, but his eyes had still been clear enough to know how the world saw her.
From the Archives:
The Grace of Turning Back
Semira watched Aniver hold audience with the Queen of the Dead, nerving herself to cross the river to them.
Issue #329
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Featuring new cover art: “Lost City of Ganesha” by Ankush Sharma.

Oak Apple Night

“I hid him in that tree.” Her grandfather nodded at the famous one, its lopsided head barely visible in the gloom. “Gave him a ladder to climb with, and my wife Joan—you’re named for her—she fetched two pillows to cushion him. William Carlis sat there with His Majesty all through the day, while those Roundhead dogs searched high and low, but we never said a word.”

None of them would talk about it—except to say, as her father had, that this was Penderel family tradition.
The City of Kindness

"Not me," Isaac said. "But all things are connected in the Ayn Sof. Maybe I can help him be found. Hochmah and Binah. Wisdom and understanding. Seventy-three and sixty-seven—a hundred and forty." He felt a change in the air and knew that Mansour, too, had risen; he turned to the house to get the things he would need before they went to the university. The smoke of burning Tuluz came to him one more time, and his familiar home had the smell of death.

"Not me," Isaac said. "But all things are connected in the Ayn Sof. Maybe I can help him be found."
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Oak Apple Night

Podcast: Download (Duration: 18:02 — 12.39MB)
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None of them would talk about it—except to say, as her father had, that this was Penderel family tradition.
From the Archives:
John Simnel’s First Goshawk
Though in the muffled dark of my room I wonder if I might instead go mad.
Issue #328
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A Stranger Goes Ashore

There had to be other islands capable of supporting human settlements, Alain told himself. Life should be possible beyond the shores of Heora. That was the article of faith that drove all Exploration. They simply haven't sailed far enough to find a new home. It was their own failure, not the obvious fact that Heora did not want them.

Every new shore was the same: a blue expanse conjoined to unyielding volcanic stone, wreathed in a furious margin of foam.
Traces

But think—if we succeed, I’ll acquire a whole boxful of memories. Big, jewel-like memories whose sharp edges will tear my master’s world around me like old silk. I’ll escape. Eat a whole orange rather than a mere pip. Oranges are bright, like the sun. Do they taste like the sun? I think they might. I almost remember that they do.

My master keeps my memories in a carved stone box tucked in a pocket of his silver-foam coat.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
A Stranger Goes Ashore

Podcast: Download (Duration: 45:19 — 31.13MB)
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Every new shore was the same: a blue expanse conjoined to unyielding volcanic stone, wreathed in a furious margin of foam.
From the Archives:
Wooden Boxes Lined with the Tongues of Doves
We dry the tongues on butcher's paper beside the stove. Once desiccated, they barely have a scent.
Issue #327
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Every Breath A Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer

She wanted to ask the nurse at her elbow if any of the others had survived, but while she was thinking about how she might phrase it, the woman gestured to a padded wooden dais meant for centaurs and abandoned her to the sunlight. She wondered how long she would be left there. This dais was close to the hedge maze’s entrance. A figure sat there on the long stone bench. Where the sun fell, the surface along her limbs and chest greened: a Rose Knight.

A walk that would have taken her seconds once now was a handful of moments for each tiny leg of it, stopping to replenish herself.
Concerto for Winds and Resistance

The piece was by a composer from Labadi. The trumpet had gone to the library to find out more about him, but all the books on Labadi were gone. The Dictator wanted the trumpet's home to not exist, to not ever have existed. Every rehearsal made the ache inside him hurt worse—the Labadin words in the margins, the little changes the conductor would make. She would bring in new pages, switching a part from one instrument to another, each time making it sound more like home.

"Now," the new conductor said once they were tuned, offering a smile that promised infinite secrets. "We begin."
From the Archives:
The Oracle and the Sea
Every month when the soldiers bring her supply of flour and milk, they also bring waterproofed parcels of manuscript paper and cool bricks of ink.
Issue #326
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Featuring two giveaways for a copy of BCS author C.L. Clark’s new military fantasy novel The Unbroken.

The Captain and the Quartermaster

How different that was from the beginning. With her hand in Deputy Quartermaster Omopria’s, sneaking away from the army’s camp, Captain Len felt like she could climb the clouds. But the sky was clear and blue, and the quartermaster’s smile was bright and warm, and the captain was sinking hopelessly into it. Back when the war was new and hope was sweet on the tongue. Freedom from the Tyrant. Rule by The People.

Commander Maeb Len knows that, more than anything, an army needs hope in order to struggle onward.
The Colors of Sand

Bas'hai sits there, stunned. There is only one goal for an honorable Shahan: to dispatch the invaders once and for all, when they come back. Theirs is not the power to question, to wonder or to explore. She feels a jagged rift open between her and her lover, and her voice raises like a rockfall. “We know enough! They are not people, they are devils, and devils do not reason. The only one cowering at this instant is you. You better take your post, while I go to the general.”

The horizon starts to tremble, the yellow of the dunes bleeding into the blue, and before Bas’hai even sees the first hoof, she knows.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
The Captain and the Quartermaster

Podcast: Download (Duration: 44:39 — 30.66MB)
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Commander Maeb Len knows that, more than anything, an army needs hope in order to struggle onward.
From the Archives:
Do Not Look Back, My Lion
“I will not feed another child to the Emperor. I will not.”
Issue #325
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Dead at the Feet of a God

Aware of what awaits you, you proceed as if you are not. There is no avoiding it: your story will end with you dead at the feet of a god. Your divinations have told you this. There is no ambiguity. The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.

The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.
Parchment Sky

I asked him once how fast the sky rose up from the horizon. I thought if one could put a number to that, and if the sky had the shape of an inverted bowl as we had been taught, then that speed could be used to determine its size, to determine how far the ink-etched parchment of the sky arched above us and descended down toward the fabled western horizon.

When I was younger, I asked my brother why we wrote the names of God on the sky.
Audio Fiction Podcast:
Dead at the Feet of a God

Podcast: Download (Duration: 24:31 — 16.83MB)
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The portents float at the edge of your vision, haunt your dreams, shake themselves free with each throwing of the bones.
From the Archives:
The Black-Eyed Goddess of Apple Trees and Farmers’ Wives
My favorite story as a child was the one about the farmer who slits open his wife’s belly and plants an apple tree amongst her insides.
Issue #324
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Quintessence

He could hear her voice more clearly now, as though the notepad were merely a synchronizing gear between the two minds caught in his head. She sounded sick and frightened and tired—like a young woman trapped alone in a strange place, not like a witch threatening to castrate him or murder his wife. Guilt blossomed in his mind, followed by pity.

“The winter stock of red,” Loren’s mouth said. It seemed to have gotten ahead of his brain.
Cleaning Up After the Blackout Boys

Ustuus scoured the halls for bloodstains, pail and sponge in hand. The framed pictures upon the mantle described a family of two parents, a son and a daughter. The toys cluttering the upstairs bedroom suggested a self-sacrificing love, judging by the threadbare state of the mother’s wardrobe. Four plates had been set at the table, where the blood was festooned most thickly. Each room told a fragment of a story. His job was to silence them.

His belly rumbled like an idling engine.
From the Archives:
A Handful of Sky
Praying she still had the skill to do it, if indeed anyone alive could do it: gather, and sew, four square yards of sky.
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