Plugs

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).

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

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

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

Archive for April, 2010

The Otter Bakery

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

“Our specialty today is wasabi otter in puff pastry,” said the smiling twenty-something guy behind the counter. “Would you like to try a sample?”

“Don’t you have bread?” said the orange-haired customer, “Or bagels?”

“Sorry: we only serve otter. Otter pie, otter calzone … things like that.”

“With otter meat?” The customer looked disturbed, then thoughtful. “Is it any good? Tell the truth, now.”

“Well … it’s not bad,” said the twenty-something. “But the wasabi otter is really worth a taste.”

“I can’t believe you people. I just want a bagel. Why would you make a whole bakery that just sells otter?”

“We hate otters,” said a man who stepped out of the shadows behind the counter. The twenty-something winced. The man wore a Boston Red Sox cap pulled down inside a dark blue hoodie, and his face was completely obscured. His arms hung limply at his sides, ending in leather gloves.

“Imagine for a minute that otters had killed everyone you loved: your parents, your friends, your brothers and sisters, your lover … that’s how much we hate otters. So we raise them on an otter farm and slaughter them to be served as tasty treats for people with a sick enough sense of humor to appreciate it.”

 “You should be ashamed of yourself!” the customer said. “I wouldn’t buy a bagel from you in a hundred years.” She walked stiffly out, shutting the bell-rigged door with a violent jingling sound.

 “You’ve got to stop that,” the twenty-something said. “It’s not like we’re getting a ton of much business in the first place.”

 “People respond if you get them worked up,” said the baseball-capped man.

 “Boss, come on–” said the twenty-something, but the baseball-capped man turned away and disappeared through a door marked “private,” closing the door behind him.

 In the back room, he took off his cap and pulled back his hood, revealing himself to be an oyster on stilts. He slipped off his perch on the stilts and into an aquarium, where his one surviving friend was sitting at the bottom among their remaining hoard of pearls.

 “This isn’t going to bring your family back, Eddie,” said the friend.

 Eddie didn’t respond. He knew vengeance wouldn’t relieve the pain, but sometimes you just had to be satisfied with your available options.

 Happy as a clam, my ass, Eddie thought.

Lessons in the Dark

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Today’s story continues last week’s The Tale of the Astrolabe.


“Why am I learning all this?” asked Saan after his first day on the shore of the subterranean ocean.

The scorpion-man was the one who finally answered. “Study a year and a day, and you’ll know.”

“You’ll tell me?”

He didn’t answer, and if his carapace-skin hadn’t been translucent, Saan wouldn’t have seen his smile.

Beyond the sea-light’s shimmer, everything was unchanging darkness. Saan had no idea when days began or ended. He doubted he’d have much more sense of a year.

First thing after waking, he cleaned and repaired owl towers. Rather than keeping mice out of fields like their counterparts above, these owls kept lungfish from overrunning the delicate gardens of land-coral. Before sleep, Saan polished the astrolabes they hung to scare off the fish the owls didn’t get.

Between, he had lessons.

The troglodyte women taught about the world below. Irzell taught history and her sister Zirell, geography. Some days, he was sure they switched, but the subjects blurred anyway–listing Aldressorian battle-griots led naturally into recounting the shifting borders of their telling-lands down the years of the memory wars.

The baboon doffed his filigree robes for long strips of cloth like mummy wrappings to teach combat, hand and blade. He had to repeat every move a hundred times before Saan could make his far less flexible body imitate the vaguest shadow of the motion.

Saan sat with the scorpion-man for hours, rehearsing protocol, which was even more elusive than the other subjects. If you were given a snail, the proper thing was to praise the sky over the land of the snail-giver’s birth. Unless you were in the south of Uil, where saying anything before eating the snail was a mortal offense. Unless this was during the festival of Noltu, and the snail was spiced. Then you needed to feign sneezing, and remember that loudness counted for sincerity among the Uilish…

Saan had gone from wondering why he was learning these things to wondering if he was learning anything.

Irzell sensed his uncertainty. “There are patterns to everything. All knowledge is written in stars above us.”

“We’re in a cave,” said Saan, but, looking up, he saw faint glints on the far-off cave ceiling.

“The knowledge of a dozen lost libraries is there, encoded.”

“But how do you decode…” he said, and remembered the garden’s astrolabes.

A year and a day didn’t seem quite as long.

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