Plugs

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

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.

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

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

The Frail

by Jason Erik Lundberg

Fang Chin put down his palette and brush, rose slowly from his stool, knees cracking, and peeked around his canvas at the UFO that had just landed nine meters from where he stood, in the center of the Dafen Art Village on the outskirts of Shenzhen. The saucer was a blackish color, carbon possibly, or charcoal, but Chin could not tell for sure, as he felt slightly nauseated upon looking at it and had to turn away. It was roughly the size of his artist’s shed, vaguely disc-shaped, and it pulsed with a frequency so low that his bones vibrated.

The Village itself was in chaos, artist workers and framers and pigment mixers running in all directions, clambering over each other to escape the presence of this thing that could not be, paintings forgotten, oil reproductions of Van Gogh and Vermeer and Modigliani and Toulouse-Lautrec and hundreds of others, scattered, slashed, ruined in haste and fear.

But Fang Chin did not run. One of the few artists in the Village to paint “originals,” his imitations of the masters stylized, skewed beyond mere mimicry, featuring in the top right corner of each piece a small representation of the UFO that pulsed before him right now, his trademark, his “signature,” impossibly come to life.

Without transition, two amorphous blobs of the same nauseating color as the saucer stood before him, roughly his height, undulating hypnotically, and said, in perfect Mandarin, “Artist-Prescient Fang Chin?”

Chin cleared his throat, licked his lips, and said, “Yes. That’s me.”

“At last!” The blobs undulated faster, more cheerfully. Chin could not tell if the synchronized voices were spoken or just in his head. “Long have we searched the Multiverse for you, such a rare prescence, located only here and in our home univ, so highly improbable your existence.”

“Ah, okay. Thank you.”

“Today we bestow upon you a mighty honor! You and your work are to be immortalized by our collective, absorbed into our cultural consciousness and forever revered as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. Will you accept?”

Immortality was of course any artist’s dream. To be placed amongst the highest echelons of creative visual endeavor, to join with those who had inspired him and given his life meaning, to be known beyond the small galleries in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong, his name on the lips of everyone in China, Asia, the world. His fingers and toes tingled.

“Yes, I accept.”

And without a word, the two amorphous blobs flowed over Fang Chin, covering him from head to toe, rippling with rhythmic consummation, and devoured him utterly. His DNA mingled with theirs, transmitting experience and epiphany, and the two blobs uttered a cry of delight. Then they re-merged with their saucer, lifted up into the sky, and were never heard from again.

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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