Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

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


by Luc Reid

You know that you are related to the Trians who own you, though your body is much smaller and your three legs longer in proportion. But you are a Secret-Runner, and your kind, as far as you know, is always property.

You are on a strange planet, you’re told: Earth, the human planet, but you never see anything except Secret-Runner nests and the long, narrow, smooth tunnels bored beneath the ground from one Trian habitat to another. The tunnels are narrow ovals in cross-section, tilted to one side, a perfect shape for you as long as you are moving at top speed, your three legs out like spokes, spinning from one foot to the next, moving so rapidly that the world is a blur. But if you are tired, or simply want to stop for a moment to remember who you are, then the tunnel is cramped and uncomfortable: you can’t stand on all three legs, you’re forced to lean, and you feel you can hardly breathe. Better to keep moving and not think.

Because you can see nothing when you spin, you’re taken by surprise today when the walls of the tunnel are no longer there, when you’re tumbling helplessly through space. You crash into a wall of dirt and rocks, and pebbles rain down on you.

“Got it!” says a human, the first one you have heard with your own membranes, and you try to look up, but the light is blinding and painful. You’re thrown into a cage, and the cage is covered.

You know why they’ve broken into a tunnel and taken you, because you have only one purpose. The long, complicated message-secret you were given this morning, which one of your Trian owners throbbed to you over nearly an hour–that’s what they want. They must know that you have been conditioned, brought up, even bred for secrecy, so they must think they have some power that will break your conditioning. You are frightened to imagine what it might be.

The cover slips, and you see it is now less bright outside. Thousands and thousands of pinpricks of light gleam far above you in a soft, black sky. You have never seen anything farther off than a few dozen meters. Now you are seeing what you know must be stars, they are light years away.

Do you wish you had never been captured, now?

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One Response to “Secret-Runner”

  1. david Says:

    March 17th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    cool! Hope there is a sequel.