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.

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

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

Life on Mars

by David

A farm house. Weathered pine boards, joists and rafters spaced haphazardly, nothing level. Completely ordinary in its eccentricity. Only its location was unusual.

Snow and Jenkins were first inside. He was the commander; she was the best shot. Eight rooms, and not a stick of furniture. Pull-down ladder to the attic (nothing up there), just nothing. Carman and Uriyev got pretty antsy during the 20 minutes or so the others were inside.

The mission planners had them continue the planetary survey, but kept them away from the house. When they got back home they were sequestered for months. Rumors flew. Snow was dying of some aggressive new cancer. Carman had gone crazy and killed the other three. Jenkins was pregnant. The haunted house on Mars. Eventually, the astronauts were let out. Everything was back to normal, but no second ship was launched.

The house showed up on Earth. Anyone could walk right in, wherever the house appeared. In a parking lot, on a baseball diamond, in one of those sad developments from 2008 where nothing had ever been built. It could show up in your front yard, or squeezed between two buildings that, you could have sworn, were not 10 feet apart the day before. But you went in and it was full of people. Websites were devoted to following the thing. One, a global real-time map, showed the house appearing simultaneously in dozens of places. Then hundreds. People flooded in wherever it was, mad to be a part of the phenomenon. Kids were fascinated. You could walk in the front door in Tucson and climb out the back window in Kuala Lumpur. Some people tried to destroy it, some practically worshiped it; thrill seekers took their chances with it.

Then, suddenly, there was only one house again. No one came out, no one at all. If you dared to enter, you heard voices. All those people who’d been in the houses when they collapsed to one, it sounded like them. You might listen for somebody, maybe your kid sister, who got away from you when the house manifested by the animal clock in the D.C. Zoo, and eventually you’d hear her. You’d hear her, but she’d never hear you.


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