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

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

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

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

Archive for October, 2010

The Marrying Kind

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Her first fiancé, the evil scientist, proposed from the moon. The light glinted off the helmet of his space suit as he shook his tiny fist on monitors all over the world. With the magnet they built together at his back, he threatened democracy and declared his love in one breath. How could she say no? He died in a firestorm upon reentering the earth’s atmosphere, and she never kissed his acid-scarred lips again.

When she helped reinstate the throne of the rightful king of Atlantis, he asked her to be his queen. She wore a seaweed gown and held a scepter made of starfish, and they swam through the reefs on moonlit nights. They planned the reemergence of his kingdom on the world stage, water streaming down the great coral towers. They never saw the shark that devoured him whole–her name the last word on his lips. She emerged dry-eyed from the sea, far ahead of the assassins, and she never looked at the ocean the same way again.

She was the one who left the vampire. Though you never really leave a vampire—you just leave behind a pile of dust.

The bounty hunter, the ninja, the hired gun. They fought to the death over her before she could choose, and she had to leave the country on a swift boat well after midnight, Rio de Janeiro receding in the distance. She dismantled her machine gun and swore off relationships. She went to go live with her mother. She got a job as a marketing manager. She drank cosmos and did not look down dark alleys, accept mysterious packages, or clap eyes with fedora-wearing strangers. She never said yes to anything. She got five paid vacation days a year. She wondered if she could still kill a man with a comb.

One night, at midnight, the mutant king of the alligators showed up in her room with a rustling wedding dress. “I’ve been watching you,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to make you mine.” She had been sleeping. She wasn’t sure what to say. “You dislike marketing,” he continued, “and have a difficult relationship with your mother. Your friends are self-involved. You are tired of the crowds, the pollution, of ordinary life. But in the sewers, you will be my queen.” He extended his glistening paw towards her. He bared his alligator teeth.

The Day the World Went Away

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Rajeev stared at his screen, open-mouthed. Everything outside his lab — plants, animals, land masses, oceans, stars, dark matter, everything — was gone. Disappeared. Nothing. Null. The world, the entire universe — with the exception of Rajeev, the Tesseract Project lab equipment, and the complex pod-like machinery of the Bridge — had just winked out before his eyes.

Frantically check the equipment, the connections, the hardware, the software, but all operational, no malfs. Diagnostics on all Bridge systems: everything working at peak efficiency. He looked toward the lab door, thinking maybe he could just glimpse outside, maybe everything’s still there and the equipment couldn’t recognize that it was malfing. But what if it was true, and the seal created by the closed door (and the atemporal nature of the Tesseract lab itself) was the only thing keeping him existent? Could he risk it?

His mother and father in Singapore, his three younger sisters in London, Mumbai and Melbourne, his goldfish. Everyone he’d ever known or cared about. Siara, the transition bioprogrammer, responsible for genetic coding and resequencing for native blending in to altunivs, object of unrequited attraction, her long fingers, her wavy hair, that delicate mole at the corner of her left eye.

Rajeev looked to the Bridge, the size and shape of an ATM cubicle, bowed outward and penetrated by clusters of wires, tubes, ducts. It was still active, still humming monotonously, still connected tenuously to the multiverse. But for how long? He’d never used it himself, was only a transition tech, shuddered at the thought of being destroyed at the atomic level, forced through a wormhole, then rebuilt in a place like home but different. Horrifying experience, but a way to survive.

He scanned his screen for an infinity of altunivs, swiping through a cloud of causation, until he found his destination, its only point of divergence being that he (or the altuniv him) had asked Siara out six months ago, and they were currently living together. Rajeev would need to take care of his doppelgänger, but he’d deal with that later. He started the transition sequence and set a two-minute delay, and the Bridge revved up slowly; by the time he was inside, it would whine to an ultrasonic shriek, but he wouldn’t hear it.

Walk over, open the heavy door, hiss of pressure, step inside, close the door, sit down on padded naugahyde bench. Breathe. The light intensifying, the light. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Again. Gasp. Nothing. Gone.

The sequence over, and the Bridge powered down slowly, smoothly to rest state. The lab and pod empty. A knock on the lab door. Swing inward. A flash of wavy hair and a small mole at the corner of the left eye. A voice saying, “Hello?”

Creative Commons License

This piece is just one in a 23-part linked narrative called Fragile, which will take a liberal interpretation of the song titles (but not the lyrics) of the masterful Nine Inch Nails double-album The Fragile. To read the other chapters in this series, click on the category “Fragile” below.

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