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

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

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

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

Random Sample

by Luc Reid

“You will stand up now,” said the alien.

“You speak English?” I said. I was still reeling from being sucked from my bed, out through the window, by a ray of ochre light. Now I lay sprawled on the metallic floor of a triangular room that was windowless, doorless, unfurnished, and featureless except for some faint raised patterns on the floor, walls, and ceiling. My clothes hadn’t been transported with me. I was just about scared enough to pee myself.

“Your question is a kind of stupidity,” said the alien, a tall, rubbery, bulge-eyed, gray thing. “Stand up now or we will encourage you.”

I didn’t want to think about what encouraging me would involve: I scrambled to my feet and waited. The floor opened up in front of me, and small table rose into view. On it were four varied pieces of cheesecake, each on a black triangular plate. There was a clear, glittering, 10-inch fork beside each plate.

“You will taste the cheesecakes now and render your opinion,” said the alien.

I stared at the cheesecakes. Was this a joke? No, nobody I knew had such a sick sense of humor–or access to hard-core hallucinogens.

“Cheesecake?” I said.

“You will render your opinion. It is why you are here.”

“You abducted me to taste test cheesecake?”

“All other methods result in inadequately randomized focus group sampling,” said the alien. “We will take over your earth by monopolizing your economic assets through sales of cheesecake. We must know which is the most triumphant recipe.”

My choices were limited, so I picked up a fork and started eating cheesecake. I’ll spare you the details–the involuntary groans, the amazement, the delight, the rapture. The short version is that numbers 1, 2, and 4 were each much better than the best cheesecake I had ever had, but number 3 was in a class beyond all food. I wept tears of joy while I ate it.

“It is number 3, then?” said the alien. “Number 3 is very popular.”

I nodded. “How can something like that even exist? That was a religious experience!”

“It is also zero calories,” said the alien. “And now we are finished.”

“That’s it?” I said, disbelieving. “I’m done? I can go home?”

“You are done,” said the alien, reaching for me. “But you will not be going home.”

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