Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

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.

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

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).

Archive for February, 2010

Sempiternal House

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Thomas followed the map’s instructions out of the city, off the highway, into the woods.

He parked at the pulloff, hiked what seemed longer than a mile over mud and slick leaves, found the house.

He didn’t owe the Aarons anything, really. When he’d told them the company he was working for, he had no idea they’d find an agent or invest in the very financial instruments for which he was writing math. They hadn’t told him.

Frozen rain rattled down. A copse of birch trees grew up against the house’s walls, erasing whatever path once led to the front door. Even if the market hadn’t tanked, Thomas couldn’t see how they could afforded to restore it — three stories of Victorian so far from existing roads.

When Marilyn asked him go upstate and shut off the water in their summer house, it seemed like the least he could do with his Saturday. Inside, it didn’t look like the summer house of a small college football coach and his high school secretary wife. Every wall was all shelves and every shelf was crowded with seashells, unfamiliar musical instruments, crystals, lizards in jars…

He looked at the instructions to see where he’d gone wrong. The laser-printed map was now a numbered list in Luther’s handwriting. Directions: find this piece here and move it to there.

Death mask of Marie Antoinette from the library to the kitchen. Gorilla shinbone from the upstairs bathroom to the front hall rug.

No matter how many times he asked himself, he knew he hadn’t seen what future that was hiding in the formulae.

Model of the central city of Atlantis from the pink bedroom to the green.

Could have seen, but why would he have even looked, when everyone was doing so well? When he was doing so well.

Griffin’s skull (boulder-heavy and, he was sure, really some kind of dinosaur) from the rolltop in the library to the dining room sideboard.

A rearranged constellation of curiosities, completed when he set the owl’s beak on the chessboard. He heard the door lock, looked in time to see it merge with the wood of the walls.

The phonograph wound itself and spoke in Marilyn’s voice, “Thomas, dear, make yourself at home. Don’t be angry with us. We aren’t angry with you. But the house needs a caretaker, and we thought you could use some time for reflection…”

The Telegraph Crew

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The sagging ribbon of wire stretched across the Overland now, a fragile line linking the settler-towns. Communication, weak and intermittent as it was, the flour of civilisation. A four man crew had hauled the telegraph line across a thousand miles of nothing, raising a line of uneven posts even into the blasted plains of the Inland, until one day they simply downed tools for good.

Perhaps it was the heat and dust that finally got to them. They’d spent months watching the bush for signs of bad natives, knowing that the taursi hated the settlers now. Skeletons were sometimes found in abandoned holdings, shards of taursi glass crusting the bleached bones. It was a bad death.

The Inland brought other fears. Snakes, great rolling serpents that slept in the dust for years, waking only to gobble up unwary travellers. Crooked mobs too, town-fellas gone bad, robbing folks, tearing up the back tracks. Eating man-flesh.

It’s hard to say what caused the telegraph crew to turn on their foreman. They beat him with their shovels and crowbars, choked him with an off-cut from that great spool of wire. Broke him in a bad way, and as such their employment came to an end.

Perhaps it was the brooding ranges that called to them, great twists of bruised rock that hunched above them with the gravity of ages. Or the vastness of the plains below, a timeless waste full of hidden monsters. Men had scratched little tracks and trade-ways across its back, and this was an insult to the land itself. Holy places had been fouled by the settlers, old springs used to water stock, shrines older than the taursi used for firewood or dismantled out of spite.

These empty places sing to a man’s soul, and sometimes folks stop what they are doing and listen. Three good town-fellas, soft and civil, eager to finish a bad job and get back to the towns and their families. None of them had so much as marked their sheilas or beat on any man, yet they’d murdered their boss-man in that lonely place. They took the bullocks and vanished, and they’re either dead now, or unrecognisable. Most likely they have gone off with the howling mobs, running riot in the in-between places.

Sometimes a crooked man will talk, in the camps that tolerate their kind. They speak of bringing down the towns, of wiping the settlers out, of undoing civilisation. It’s not hatred that drives folks crooked, though we stole this land and none of us ever belonged here.

All we know is that the natives will not touch a crooked mob, nor the beasts. A crooked man has safe travel from Inland to beyond, and those who huddle behind a town-wall are right to fear his attention.

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