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).

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

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

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

Goodnight Nobody

by Jason Erik Lundberg

“Send you home?” said the Green Empress, eyes ablaze. “My dear girl, whyever would I want to do that?”

Anya knelt low in front of the Empress’ throne, pressed down by the shafts of the spears carried by Mister Shiftless and Mister Hopeless, whose loyalties had abruptly shifted back upon their subterranean inception into the fortress. Though they both had said, “Sorry,” she couldn’t really blame them for wanting to curry favor with their old employer.

“Because I am asking nicely,” Anya said, raising her eyes; with the weight on her shoulders, all she could see were the Empress’ knees. Anya’s father the cat miaowed softly behind her; she presumed he was also constrained in some way. She didn’t know where the rabbit and the Turtle had been taken. “Plus,” she said, “it’s the right thing to do.”

The Empress leaned forward. “Do I look like the type of person who tends to do the right thing?” She sighed and continued. “For your kind of request, there is always a price. What can you give me in return for such a great entreaty?”

“I have nothing more than what you see,” Anya said.

“Wrong, girl. You have very much more. I could take your soft palette; you didn’t have one until the surgery when you were six months old, so I’d just be returning you to your original state.”

Anya tongued the roof of her mouth and said nothing.

“Or, even better, I could take your name. Not even your entire name, just one letter, that would suffice.” The Green Empress’ index finger reached down and lightly touched Anya’s middle-forehead, the third eye, the Ajna chakra, Anya-Ajna, and for a brief blinding moment the world flashed indigo and silent, and she felt something removed from her, a strange sensation of losing something she’d never known she’d had.

The weights on her shoulders lifted, and the Green Empress said, “Rise, Ana, and go home.” In the Empress’ cupped right hand was a weak ball of bluish light that pulsed slowly; with her left, she performed a complicated series of gestures and a circular portal of hazy blackness opened in front of Ana. “Step through, and you shall be home.”

A high screeching yowl, and then a small cat, mottled and striped and blotched in patterns of grey, leapt from over Ana’s head and pounced on the Empress’ hand, biting and scratching, a blur of teeth and claws, then it snatched the pulsing bluishness in its teeth and bounded once again into Ana’s arms.

The Empress screamed, “Kill them both!” Without thinking, Ana sprung forward into the fuliginous darkness, falling into the black hole where sight, sound, and everything else were obliterated.

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01: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
02: The World, Under
03: Androcles Again
04: Look Into My Eyes, You’re Under
05: Shiftless, Hopeless
06: Cricetinae’s Paroxysm
07: Wind and Harmony
08: Dragons at Dawn

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