Plugs

Rose looked all around the little meadow and listened intently. It was safe, for the moment. She sat in the grass among the roots of a big oak and held out her hands to her two little girls.

“All right, my little bunnies,” she said, wrapping one arm around each of them as they came to her. “What story do you want today?”

“The one about the lady in the garden who could never find the rabbits!” said the elder girl, squirming close. The younger pushed the hair out of her face and copied the squirm. “About the lady and the garden!” she confirmed.

“Again?”

The girls nodded, grinning.

“All right. Well, once there was a lady gardener who grew the most beautiful lettuces anyone had ever tasted. The spinach in her garden–”

There was a noise. She stopped, listening. The girls froze in place. The sound came closer: footsteps

*

Old Mike pushed through pine branches to step out into the meadow. He was sure he’d heard a woman’s voice again, though there wasn’t another house around for a dozen miles.  Over by the big oak, the grass shuddered as a little group of rabbits bolted away.

Up the ladder so fast she skinned both knees through her dress. Into the cloud oracle’s room. The anonymous note had been right. The smoketeller lay face down in a puddle of his own vomit. Poisoned. Dead. In the brazier that smoldered beside his clenched left hand, enough incense for a whole day half-gone already. The mold-sweet smell so thick Irene felt it on the roof of her mouth.

She went up through the door slowly. Even breathing would change the pattern of the telling, but she couldn’t save it if she couldn’t see it.

She jostled the body over and knelt on the teller’s stool, crouched to put her eyes at the level where the teller’s would have been. Composed herself, and looked. Left to right. Threads of smoke against the velvet wall paper. A tangle of meaning she couldn’t read but could remember. An owl in each corner, marking divinatory quadrants.

A bare lightbulb hung above fizzed like it was about to go out. Irene leaned forward to put its glare out of her eyes, felt its heat on the top of her head. The light flickered; all the smokesigns seemed to jump and blur. She looked faster. The corner with the plaster owl passed, then the corner with the stuffed owl. Signs layered on signs unfurling intertangled in the air, all mapped in her brain.

Looking. Bronze owl. Looking.

Irene had nearly reached the wooden owl when the man came up through the trapdoor wearing assassin’s blacks and an expression of recognition. “You’re that memory artist. Don’t say you ain’t. Not one of those phrenologicals with their lumpy heads and magnets, you’re the one who’s some kind of broken, half-made witch. You were pointed out to me once, and you’re not the only one who can remember. Yes, ma’am, it’s a pity you’re here, a pity you’ve had so long to see what you shouldn’t. A pity I have to do what’s next.”

Irene didn’t answer, just reached up until her hand was hot. In the next second, in the dark, with broken glass in one hand, the brazier in the other, with the assassin’s location as bright in her mind as if she could still see it, and her swinging arms filling everywhere he could be with sharpness and burning, she wondered if the outcome of this moment were recorded in the air around them.

This is the Daily Cabal’s last week, so we’re going out in style, with two stories a day. Luc is starting us off with the story below, and David’s following right after.

“OK, I respect that,” I said to the other turkey, “but if we’re going to have a conversation, I need to give you some kind of name. Why don’t I call you Lashonda?”

“Gobble,” said Lashonda.

A chubby guy in rubber gloves and a rubber apron snatched me up by the feet and hung me upside down.

“Hi!” I said in Turkey, but of course he didn’t understand.

A second later he hung Lashonda up next to me, and we swung gently from side to side as the track we were hanging from carried us into the gloom.

“This feels strangely peaceful,” I said. “Who would’ve imagined? Hanging upside down … it’s so relaxing. It’s a little like grooming. I had an incarnation as a spider monkey once, and we were always grooming each other. Most relaxing thing in the world.”

Up ahead, there was a burst of gobbling that was abruptly cut short. The machine we were swinging from made a gentle creak-creak sound.

“Gobble gobble,” said Lashonda.

“You know, it’s funny you should mention that,” I said. “That’s what I’ve been wondering about: why a turkey in the first place? I mean, we’re raised butt-to-wattle in a pen, fed terrible food, and eventually carted off to be slaughtered. What’s the point in that kind of existence? I’m worried that if I don’t learn anything from this life, I’ll just have to do it all over again.”

We came around a bend, and I saw that the line dipped, lowering turkey heads into a silvery machine. There was an electrical noise somewhere.

“It’s not the same as being a wild creature or a human or whatever,” I said. “As those you can make choices. But what can you possibly learn if you don’t get to make any actual choices?”

Lashonda was silent. I wondered if she was scared.

“I’m probably overthinking it,” I said. “Right now, I just feel grateful, you know? Grateful to be hanging upside down, grateful to have a friend like you right when I need one … I don’t think I’ve ever told you, Lashonda, in the few minutes we’ve known each other, how much I appreciate your company and your level-headed attitude.”

The line began to descend, and all of a sudden the silvery machine was right in front of me.

“Have a nice life, Lashonda,” I said. Then something sparked.

Kat Beyer
Kat BeyerWhen Kat Beyer lost the use of her hands in 1999, she decided that shouldn’t stop her. She writes with speech software, and her hands have healed enough to paint. She has published with Circlet Press, Strange Horizons, and others. Check out her website, complete with gallery, links to writings, favorite single malt scotch, and “Wasabi for the mind, ” at www.katspaw.com.

 

Ken Brady
Ken BradyKen is multiple kinds of geek: writing, film making, virtual worlds, video games, music, cars, motorcycles, and computers. His publications include Analog, Writers of the Future, Strange Horizons, Talebones, Darker Matter, Fortean Bureau, Ideomancer, Weird Tales, Midnight Street, Modern Magic, The William and Mary Review, Rosebud, Science Fiction World, Exquisite Corpuscle, and others. He’s also sold some stage plays, a screenplay, and produced an award-winning feature film. There are rumors he may be making more films soon.

He lives in Tokyo with his wife, Yuki – a manga artist — and runs a company that creates virtual world and social media strategies. Sometimes, people force him to speak at conferences.

His website is irregularly updated. Someone should really do something about this, don’t you think? Alternately, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Quillpill, LinkedIn, Naymz, and occasionally MySpace and Friendster.

Daniel Braum
Daniel BraumDaniel Braum likes his fiction to take him to places on the edge of civilization, or anywhere near or far where the darkness needs a little light or vice versa. His stories often blur the lines between genres, most of the time unintentionally. His short stories can be found in print in places such as Cemetery Dance, Electric Velocipede, and Full Unit Hook Up and online at sites such as the Fortean Bureau, Abyss and Apex, and Dark Recesses. He is very happy to be in such good company with the diverse and talented authors here at the Cabal. He is currently shopping for a publisher for his first novel, a supernatural thriller set in Central America. Visit him at www.danielbraum.com and www.livejournal.com/danielbraum.

Rudi Dornemann

Rudi DornemannWhat we know of the Rudi Dornemann has come has been passed down through the generations of storytellers, from father to son and from mother to daughter since the days before the Dark Times. The tale-tellers speak of how the Rudi’s fiction appeared in various magazines, some of which were fashioned from the skins of ancient creatures called trees, others of which were made of a more ethereal substance — some chronicles speak of webs, others of vast systems of tubes. The names of these magazines have come down to us like the words of some incantation — Behind the Wainscot, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, The Fortean Bureau, Flytrap, Ideomancer/, Rabid Transit: Menagerie, and others. Some of the legends tell of the Rudi’s home in a place called “Maine”– an Atlantis-like locale said to be located somewhere off the coast of Vermont. A few of the tales relate that he had a thing called a website and others speak of his blog.

Jason Fischer
Jason FischerJason Fischer is based in Adelaide, South Australia. He is a graduate of the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and a recent finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. He has a story in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again, and forthcoming stories appearing in Aurealis Magazine and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Jason likes anything to do with zombies or post-apocalyptic settings, and when he’s not writing he wishes he was. He can be found lurking in internetland at jasoni.livejournal.com

Sara Genge

Sara GengeSara Genge lives in Madrid, Spain. She writes speculative fiction aided and abetted by a coven of friends and female relatives. She’s walked the Camino de Santiago and spent a year as a foreign exchange student in Paris. Sara even saw a gnome once, but it was after a week of sleep deprivation and sixteen hours of studying, so she’s not sure if it wore a pointed red hat or not. Her blog is regularly updated.

David C. Kopaska-Merkel

David C. Kopska-MerkelDavid C. Kopaska-Merkel was born in Charlottesville Virginia in 1872. He attended Redhill school until the fourth grade, but dropped out after only 18 years without completing high school. He took to electronics like a duck to water, once the field was invented, and quickly developed a machine that allowed him to become his own great-great-grandfather. He later tried his hand at fiction but, realistically, it was too unbelievable. So he became a ghostwriter for scientific reports. In his spare time he specializes in yak pedicures and appraisals of stuffed marmots. He lives in a quarter million dollar condo a half a block from the railroad tracks, with a flock of seagulls and a couple of minor inconveniences.

Jason Erik Lundberg

Jason Erik LundbergJason Erik Lundberg is an American expatriate living in Singapore, and the author of The Time Traveler’s Son (2008), Four Seasons in One Day (2003, with Janet Chui), and over forty articles and short stories; he is also the co-editor of Scattered, Covered, Smothered (2004) and A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (2008). His solo work has most recently appeared (or will soon) in Polyphony 7, Subterranean Magazine, Sybil’s Garage, Farrago’s Wainscot, Hot Metal Bridge, and other groovy venues. His short fiction has been honorably mentioned in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, nominated for the SLF Fountain Award, and shortlisted for the Brenda L. Smart Award for Short Fiction. With Janet Chui, Lundberg runs Two Cranes Press, an independent publishing atelier. A graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and the Creative Writing Master’s program at North Carolina State University, he now teaches English and creative writing at Hwa Chong Institution. His website and blog can be found at jasonlundberg.net.

Susannah Mandel

SusannahSusannah Mandel enjoys poetry, bicycling, comic books, movies, languages, and landscapes — in fact with the proper priming she can enjoy just about anything. She is especially hot on science fiction, and looking at things. Susannah has degrees in English literature and media studies (and it may not be over yet), and has worked in research, editing, translation, teaching and linguistics. After time in northern California, Boston, and the north of France, she now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She publishes a regular column at Strange Horizons about the fantastic in classic literature.
Alex Dally MacFarlane
AlexAlex Dally MacFarlane has been writing ever since the discovery of computer games made her think that if stories could be found on a 32-bit cartridge, why not in the mind of an eleven-year-old girl? Now she works just outside London, England, proof-reading military specifications. Her short fiction has sold to magazines including Shimmer, Sybil’s Garage and Farrago’s Wainscot, and she guest-edited the Five Senses issue of Behind the Wainscot. Visit her at http://alankria.livejournal.com.

Luc Reid

Luc ReidLuc Reid is a past winner of the Writers of the Future Contest and the founder of the online neo-pro writers group Codex. His first book, Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures was published in 2006. He created and writes for a site with practical articles about how self-motivation works called The Willpower Engine and recently completed a free-to-copy eBook on writing motivation called The Writing Engine: A Practical Guide to Writing Motivation. Luc lives in Williston, Vermont. His Web site is www.lucreid.com.

Angela Slatter

AngelaAngela Slatter is a Brisbane-based writer, schlepping her way through life. Her short fiction has appeared in places such as Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Shimmer, The Lifted Brow, Strange Tales II, 2012, Crimson Highway, Dreaming Again and a few small disreputable bars in London. She likes fairytales and thinks the creepier they are, the better. She is working on a couple of novels, but the one taking her time at the moment is set in Jerusalem during the last years of the Crusader Kingdom – it’s always 1187 in her head.

Jeremiah Tolbert

Jeremiah TolbertJeremiah Tolbert is a web designer, photographer, and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. His stories have appeared in Interzone, Ideomancer, Polyphony 4, and All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories. He is responsible for the design and maintenance of the Daily Cabal site, so if anything goes wrong, you know who to blame. He blogs on photography, science news, and more at his website.

Edd Vick

Edd VickEdd Vick, the son of a pirate father and a baking mogul mother, is a 2002 graduate of the Clarion SF Writing Workshop. He has had several stories published in Asimov’s SF Magazine. Other magazines to publish his work include Electric Velocipede, Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe, and Jim Baen’s Universe. Anthologies with stories by Edd include Fundamentally Challenged, Distant Planes, and Northwest Passages. He lives in Seattle with SF novelist Amy Thomson and their adopted daughter Katie. Visit him at eddvick.livejournal.com.

Trent Walters

Trent WaltersTrent makes his living taking drugs for the DEA. Unlike most Americans, he walks to work every day with a spring in his step. His work appeared in The Golden Age SF anthology, Electric Velocipede, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and BSFA’s Vector. Online work can be found at 3am Magazine, The Angler, EOTU, Lamination Colony, Pindledyboz, Vacancy (audio). Forthcoming are works in Full Unit Hookup, Grendelsong, Legends of the Mountain State, Triangulation, and Visual Journeys. Also forthcoming from Morpo Press, a poetry chapbook called Learning the Ropes. He is the poetry editor of Abyss and Apex.

Jonathan Wood

Jonathan Wood is an Englishman in New York. He writes odd little things that show up in odd little places, like Weird Tales, Fantasy Magazine, Farrago’s Wainscot, and Behind the Wainscot. It’s also forthcoming in Chizine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies, including Crawlspace: The Best of Farrago’s Wainscot, and Hatter Bones.

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