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).

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

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

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

Archive for February, 2010


Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

You step through the door…


…the city blazes silver in the blinding noon.

You stand in the shade of an underpass but can feel the city, warm as glowing coals.

A monorail hushes by overhead, a little breeze in its wake.

The city sleeps by day, gathering energy, and you have nine hours until it wakes…


…you slide down the gravel bank and catch yourself just above the waterline.

The ice-covered lake booms.

To your left, the mills are sharp-edged shadows in the twilight. Their vast, hushed buzz has all the little hairs on your arms standing on end.

Under a charcoal evening sky, lights glint among the far dark hills and the farther mountains.

Skaters are approaching, a line of them, moving fast across the ice…


…you stand beneath painted cliffs, dry heat electric on the back of your neck. You turn to face the towers.

Looks like a busy day, with much coming and going between the aeries.

Standing with the petroglyphs, you feel abstract, an outsider looking out over the flow of lives from a distance that’s more than physical.

Out the corner of your eye, however, you see a path. Winding upward, it can take you among the towers, and the towers will bring you to the aeries…


…you realize you’re sinking into the earth, the heat all over you like a thousand sweaty palms.

You step onto the roots of a tree for better footing, and cheese-like smell rises from the mud.

Is that the splash of dragons, off among the reeds?

A butterfly gnaws on your leg. A flower buzzes in your ear. You wonder if this was the best destination.

But then the serpents begin to sing, and you forget the rest…


…you stand in the monkey’s palm, looking out over a plain of earthbound constellations. A sea of signs stretches to the horizon.

The flinty wind on your face. A sound of slow-dripping water.

From this low rise, you look out beyond the monkey, trying to make out the other designs. The chalk lines hold the light, glow amid the evening-faded world. You look out beyond the plain’s cairns and rock mounds, farther than its farthest pyramids.

Early stars stare back at you.

A door opens in the rocky hill to your right, a rectangle of butter-yellow light.

A silhouette beckons.

Apparently, you were expected…

Chain Letter

Monday, February 1st, 2010

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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