Plugs

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

David Kopaska-Merkel’s book of humorous noir fiction based on nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Noir 978-09821068-3-9, is sold at the Genre Mall. Other new books include The zSimian Transcript (Cyberwizard Productions) and Brushfires (Sams Dot Publishing).

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Homecoming (mono no aware)

by Rudi Dornemann

Miguel came downhill through the ruins after midnight. Slow going; in the years since the fire, raspberry bushes, poplars and bushes had filled the lawns. Coydogs howled, but not too near. He felt forward with his walking stick to keep from falling into cellar holes or the cracked remains of inground pools.

Before dawn, the GPS said he’d found his old backyard — he wouldn’t have recognized it. Across the valley, the milky borealis of city sky-glow behind the dark of the hills and, nearer, the unburnt side of town with lighted houses warm yellow like paper lanterns.

Growing up, this had never felt like home. Coming back had always been awkward as wrong-fitting clothes.

He risked a light, found the trunk of the tire-swing tree, cinderwood glinting like beetles. Below, the old patio’s charred pavers. He counted squares in a chess knight’s move, and levered the stone up with his walking stick. Pill-bugs scurried; ants evacuated their exposed gallery. A few inches under the dirt, the metal box still there, heavier than expected.

He unzipped the lid: pressure hiss and a smell like stale cooking oil and burnt circuits. 30 petabytes of neural storage, a project from the summer of his first college year, a big wobbly cube of shadow-colored jello full of archived teenaged e-mail, backups of favorite games, the complete Louvre in ultra-high resolution, all the Wikipedia entries in eight languages — two decades out of date now — everything he could think of to test the capacity.

He had a couple of wires in his pocket. He could sink them in the gel, sync them to the leads in his fingertips, load it complete to the Q-memory in the phone that ticked at his throat in time to his pulse. The summer was in there, whole days, weeks, of everything he’d heard and seen.

He dumped it onto the patio with a shlupp. The ants would take care of whatever the coydogs left.

On the bottom of the box, sealed in a baggie, a photo. Steve, Oscar, Lili, and — what was his name? — Des, all holding up his sister Ana, a pixie in oversize sunglasses and a rainbow-striped swimsuit. Ana before the war, the crash, the medals; a completely different Ana, with a completely different smile.

Miguel peeled the photo up, put it in his pocket, continued downhill.

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