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).

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

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

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.

Archive for October, 2009

The World, Under

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Dark and constrictive and wet, cacophony of noise, the yelling, the pushing, vague sense of ejection, and then the little Eurasian girl with the Sanskrit name emerged into the Land of Grey Dusk, whispers of the world she knew still clinging to her jumper and jeans.

Bewildered, she gazed wide-eyed at the surrounding forest of sere arbor, the slate-colored skies, the ashen soil and the cinereal sun, and tried to block from her ears the faint staticky background hum of the place, as if a myriad radios were tuned to dead air. Her equilibrium slightly unsettled, as though the ground was quaking beneath her feet. The air tasted faintly of charcoal.

From a tree branch above descended a Corgi-sized spider on a silken line, landing gracefully at the little girl’s feet. Eight crimson eyes blinked in unison as the spider took in her face.

“Such pretty eyes,” said the spider with a husky feminine lilt. “They match the color of this place. And who might you be?”

“My name is Anya,” said Anya. “Where am I?”

“You are in The World, Under. Are you lost?”

“Yes, ma’am. Could you show me the way home?” The little girl rooted in the pocket of her jeans for something with which to barter, and produced two greenish iridescent scales, vaguely fish-like, which shimmered in the low light. She didn’t remember how the scales had gotten into her pocket, but they were pretty enough. “I can give you these in return for your help.”

The spider scrutinized the scales for a moment, passing two of its forelegs lightly over them, then nodded.

“Indeed. Quite unusual. I wonder how you came across them. Catoblepasi are very rare in any realm, and their scales tend to stay on.”

Anya said nothing, protective of the scales’ origin and slightly embarrassed by her unintentional theft. Though the spider seemed friendly enough, Anya knew about not giving away too much information to strangers.

“Fine,” said the spider, taking the scales in two of its arms. “I will show you the way.”

Abruptly, the spider cast out its filaments and ensnared the little girl in a cocoon of white fiber. Snug tight in her swaddled capture, the little girl closed her eyes and lost consciousness. Then, without another word, the spider pulled her effortlessly upward, into the treetops.

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00: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall

Homecoming (mono no aware)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

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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