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

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

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

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

Your Call Is Important To Us

by Luc Reid

For a minute there, Tom thought he smelled something burning, but then the phone rang, and he muted the YouTube video and picked up.

“TotalCast Cable, this is Tom,” he said, tilting his head to see the contortionist in the video better. “Your call is important to us. How may I help you today?”

The person on the other end of the line asked something about local hours in Vermont.

“OK. First, can you give me your address?”

The other person complained that Tom didn’t need her address: a troublemaker. Tom hated these people.

“I need your address to find your closest local office,” he said patiently.

The other person gave the exact address of the closest local office and repeated, as though Tom hadn’t heard the first time, that all she needed was to know what time they opened on Saturday.

“Yes, but I need your address to be able to tell you about special offers in your area.”

The person yammered on about having already closed their account, blah blah blah. Tom brought up the hours of that local office on the screen just for his own amusement, then closed it. The contortionist video had finished, but there was a link to an X-Rated contortionist site. Tom clicked on it.

“I can try to look it up without your address, but it may take a while,” Tom said. There were two contortionists in this video, and one of them was a redhead. “While you’re waiting, let me tell you about some of the new features available in your area.” Without waiting, he started doing that while the customer tried to protest, talking over him. Then, suddenly, the room went dark.

“That will be plenty, thank you,” said a grating voice that was so loud it hurt his ears. The computer was gone, and the room he was in, and the light had gone dull red. Realization flooded back in on him.

“No, let me try again!” he shrieked. “I promise I’ll do better! I promise!” He reeled away, but the demon grabbed him by the¬†throat and dragged him along the gritty black rock toward the Door.

¬†“Don’t worry. You can try again in another hundred years,” said the demon. He patted Tom on the head, and a patch of skin on Tom’s scalp burned away at the acid touch. “I’m sure you’ll get it eventually.”

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