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

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

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

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

Chain Letter

by Kat Beyer

Aurora started off an ordinary kid, made out of complex strands of DNA and often bored in class.  She passed chain letters during fifth-grade math.  In fact she hated math up until seventh grade, when she worked out that she needed it in all the science classes she loved so much.  So, cautiously, and prepared to flee at the slightest sign of x, she began to make the matter of numbers and the numbers of matter her own.

This is probably why she graduated summa cum laude. In a quiet moment after the loud honors and before the family lunch, she stood looking back across the grassy quad she had crossed so many times on the way to class.  While she tried to get the pebble in her shoe to tip ahead of her toes so she wouldn’t have to take the damn thing off and shake it, she noticed the grass rippling and flattening.

“Perfect timing,” said an Englishman beside her.  She hadn’t noticed him coming up.  She didn’t answer, instead watching the elegant keyhole pattern laying itself out on the lawn.

“Crop circles,” he said.  “I think they just do it to get my attention, nowadays.  It’s what I study, you see.”

He handed her his card: Gerard Manley, Crop Circle Institute, Cambridge.

She forgot all about the pebble and only remembered lunch just in time.

She thought about that first crop circle often while examining rearranged Triticum aestivum and artistically interrupted snowdrifts all over the world.  The circles began to follow her as well.  Not until she returned to a theory involving her old archenemy x, however, did she make a serious breakthrough.  She made her peace with the elusive variable and it lead her to a mathematical analysis of the patterns, laying bare at last their wonderful language.  For they did speak, in an alien poetry that she could finally read as easily as DNA:

May your oceans always be jewels

May your air always be sweet

May your species someday leap from planet to planet

like light leaps from eye to eye

If you can read this, forward it to two interplanetary species in three millennia for good luck!

…Which made her laugh, at the nature of living things, which were never content with the genetic chain letter they sent into the universe each and every moment; they needed to pass notes as well.

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