Plugs

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

The Diplomat Teaches Leaving

by Kat Beyer

I was exiled, for I would not kill the Diplomat. He had arrived at our village on foot, with robe and begging bowl and a faded badge from the government of the planet Gaia. I had tried to kill him, and had learned that I would rather admire him instead. “Gaia rat,” they called him, and me, “helper of the Gaia rat.” But when I told them of his mysterious powers, how he had disarmed me by–talk? My own tears?–and how he had outlived our strongest poison, none of them were brave enough to kill him themselves.

“Go,” they said to me, my father, my mother, everyone I loved; “where?” I asked, and they said, “We do not care, for you are like the corpse of a stranger now,” and for a moment I felt my flesh crawl with chill, as if each cell in me were really falling still.

I said, “Then I will go with the Diplomat, and be twice dead to you.” Just as I turned away I caught a small movement of my father’s hand and knew then that they did care, that their whole hearts ached with love and anger.

I went to the orchard. I saw from the Diplomat’s face that he did not need to be told what had happened, but I told him anyway, while we walked. When I was finished we had reached the edge of home. I did not want to look back, but he said, “Will you be my student?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Then look back,” he said, and added simply, “You must carry this place with you.”

I looked. I saw the cluster of bumps that were my people’s houses, sitting together like loaves at a feast; the glint of the solar stills and the oil press beside them; the hatcheries and the sheep-yard (not all things from Gaia were bad, were they?–I asked my people in my mind); the low stream running through the valley bottom, the orchards, the quiet flags on the hill–hanging flat today, though no doubt tomorrow they would carry a message to the other villages: “A son is dead.”

The Diplomat brushed my wrist with his rough thumb. We turned and walked down the hill.

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