Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

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

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

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.

Archive for January, 2011

Superhero Soup

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Little hands tugged at my apron.  “Mom? Mom? What’s for dinner, Mom?”

I dipped my spoon into the pot and gave it a stir. “Superhero soup.”

My announcement was followed by gasps and delighted squeals, followed by the sound of little feet pounding out of the kitchen.

Mark glanced up from his laptop and grunted.  The kitchen table was his work desk until five.  “Soup?” he said.  I ignored him.  He was a big man, and never believed soup could count as a meal by itself.

Since Layla’s little friend Raph was staying for dinner, I’d decided to go deep in my mom’s old recipe box and dust this one off.  Layla liked superheroes just fine, but Raph lived and breathed them.  This was a boy who’d once worn a Batman costume every day for the first two weeks of kindergarten.

Little feet came pounding back in.  I glanced down to see two bouncing sets of curly hair, one black, one blond.  “Can we watch?” said Layla.  “Pretty please?”

I nodded.  “I was just about to add the secret ingredient,” I said.

“What is the secret ingredient?” said Raph, bouncing up and down.  “Some kinda weird chemicals? Somethin’ radioactive?”

I took the two steps to the refrigerator and opened the freezer door.  “An ice cube,” I said, and popped one out of the tray.  I held it up as if performing a magic trick, then dropped it in the steaming pot.  It floated for a moment or two, then vanished.

The two of them looked confused.  Layla started, “But–“.

I raised my hand.  “Go wash.”  They did.  I tapped on Mark’s computer, then pointed at the clock.  “You too.”


Despite Mark’s concerns, we also had cornbread and salad to go with the soup. “This is very good, Mrs. Kasdorf,” said Raph.  I smiled.

“What else is in here?” asked Layla.

“Chicken.  Carrots, onions, noodles, and some other things.”

“It’s chicken noodle soup?”

“No,” I said.  “It’s Superhero Soup.  Eat.”  They did.

Finally they all pushed their bowls away.  “Can we go play?” asked Layla.  She and Raph were already to go.

“First, come with me.  I want to show you something.”  They followed me out into the warm April air.

“What’s up?” said Mark.

“This,” I said.  They watched, jaws dropping, as my face frosted over like a December window.  Then the snowball fight began.

Once You Go Cold

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Allison and I lay on the hood of my pickup watching the beetles march across the Anza-Borrego. In the distance a line of giant insects emerged out of nowhere, marched across the desert valley, and disappeared again into nowhere. No one had been able to figure out where they came from or where they disappeared to.  We were safe from our vantage on the mountainside road. The beetles did nothing but march, mostly. But the military was there just in case.

The MM-1 unit nearest us was as tall as one of the giant black bugs, as tall as a mountain. Another of the giant “robots” stood in the valley. They were shaped like men, but their operators were far, far away. Only their consciousness was present inside the machine to guide and control it.

One of the beetles, (one that kind of looked like a giant stag or rhinoceros), stopped, broke formation, and veered towards the mountain. The MM-1’s came to life, their dull brown-gray skin lighting up with the glowing color of electronics and weapons.

“If they weren’t so weird, they’d be kinda cool,” Allison said.

“The beetles or the robots,” I said.


“Is it any wonder I love you.”

She was going away tomorrow. To begin her five-year military service. She would one day be one of the minds inside one of the MM-1’s. Her body would be “on-ice”, in suspended animation, and her mind would see all sorts of wonders that would dwarf this desert night. I squeezed her hand.

“It isn’t forever, Scott,” she said. “I’ll be back.”

“It’s five years. And once you go cold you never come back.”

“That’s not true.”

We both knew that it was.

The stag beetle had left the line again and was marching solo across the desert, toward the road. The MM-1’s lifted from the ground to intercept as if they were made of feathers and not hundreds of tons of armor and weapons.

“See, they’re not supposed to do that. Anything is possible,” she said.

I didn’t agree. We stayed there until dawn, not wanting the night to end. After that I drove her home and watched her family’s car take her to report to duty. All my life I followed stories of all the places our country went and the wonders we discovered.

But I never saw her again.


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