Plugs

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

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

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

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

Archive for January, 2010

Danger Close

Friday, January 29th, 2010

People who’ve been in combat say you come back changed. Different way of seeing the world, of thinking about life and death, right and wrong. New priorities, skewed brands of patriotism and cynicism. Many ways, you’re not the same person.

I never doubted war would change me. Just never thought it would give me the power to change the world.

Week after rotating back I swear I’m still picking sand out of every possible location, some more unpleasant than others. Two weeks in Seattle before I return to Bragg. Seeing family and friends, but it wears on you when everyone asks about your time in the shit and all you want to do is forget. Questions, comments, stories, judgments.

“It’s a sixth sense,” Belani says. “I know who’s seen combat, who hasn’t.”

Post Street, corner table, rounds of beers flowing. Friends from high school who enlisted around the same time. Different tasks, same war.

“Exactly,” Fisker says. “You know the posers from the real deal right off.”

“I know who’s going to die, who’s going to kill,” I say. Not good party conversation, but it comes out.

“Fuck does that mean?” Belani says.

He’s right, of course. Look around the crowded bar and see who has been in a firefight. Doesn’t take special talent, just recognition. Eye movements, body language. It’s more than that. I can tell who is going to be in a life or death situation. Before it happens. I know the outcome.

“It means he saw too much shit go down,” Fisker says.

“Maybe so,” I say.

Then breaking glass, pissed off man, screaming girl. Know I could intervene, but don’t.

“Don’t want to see this,” I say. I drop a fifty, stand and leave quickly before blood starts flowing.

Two days later, shaking and crying from guilt, I find my calling. On television, announcing a move from the private sector to politics. I don’t know him, his ideals, his goals, his promises.

I know he will kill a lot of people. Hundreds, then thousands, then millions. I know he has to die and I have to do it. Only other possible outcome.

Next day, summer sky, prone on a balcony, his temple in my sights. What makes a man want to kill? Does he see the same things I do? Does he see color-coded right and wrong? Does he see a mandate from God?

Maybe only those who’ve seen enough, lived through enough horror, can become truly powerful. Senses build and fine tune. Dictators rarely start off as mass murderers. Saviors are not born saints.

What will they say about me? Hero or monster? I can’t read that one. Time will vindicate me or it won’t.

I take a breath, let it out slowly, squeeze the trigger.

Up Late With All The Power in the Universe

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The first thing Claude did when he realized he had magical powers was to refluff his stuffed dog, Nostrils. Nostrils had gone through the dryer once before anyone knew how nobbly that would make his fur, and he had been nobbly ever since. Restored by magic, he was now fluffy again, blissfully soft.

It was late at night–almost nine–and he wasn’t allowed to be awake this late, except he had just realized he had magic powers. He had been dreaming about talking to a big crow, and the big crow gave him magic powers. So Claude woke up, and there was Nostrils right next to him, and he immediately used the magic.

The second thing he did was to make it so that all of his toys could talk, and the third thing he did, in a panic just about a second and a half later, was make it so that they were very good at using their super-quiet indoor voices when it wasn’t time for loud talking.

Claude’s Mommy, a tall, beautiful lady who knew everything, poked her head in Claude’s room, but Claude lay still with his eyes closed. Nostrils wriggled a little with excitement, but the toys were quiet, and after a moment Claude’s Mommy closed the door, proving, Claude realized, that she didn’t know everything.

The toys–stuffed animals, matchbox cars, action figures, and so on–were talking in excited super-quiet indoor voices, and mostly they were asking Claude questions.

“Claude, why did you make us alive?” said a monkey with a drum. “Now that we’re alive, we have a lot of feelings, and we don’t know what to do.”

“You should play with me,” Claude said. “That’s what you’re for.”

“But if we have our own lives, should we really be just doing what you want all the time and being ignored other times?”

“Yes,” said Claude.

“But I want to do the things I want to do! Once I know what those are.”

Then Claude immediately took back the aliveness of the toys, except for Nostrils, and he gave Nostrils a complete and utter love for him.

He didn’t have to bother. Nostrils already loved Claude completely and utterly.

Then Claude, who could do anything, went back to sleep, because he could always play with the world in the morning.

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