Plugs

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.

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.

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

Archive for the ‘Daniel Braum’ Category

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.

“Both.”

“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.

-END-

FAR FROM HOME

Monday, December 27th, 2010

I thought I saw something bright green moving in the leaf-free branches of the crab-apple tree. It was another gray December day in New York. The strip mall parking lot was full of holiday shopper’s cars. A bunch of day laborers bundled against the cold waited near the entrance of Home Depo, despite the mid-day hour, hoping that someone would come needing work.

 I found a parking spot under the tree. A green bird swooped from the sky into the branches. A parrot. The tree was full of them. A few dozen tropical birds feasting on the fruit that was still hanging on the tree. A few sparrows and blackbirds were in on the action, looking dull and drab next to the bright green and electric blue feathers.

 I tried to get a picture on my crappy cell phone. Were these the descendants of escaped pets or a lost flock, very far from home?

 There was a commotion by the day laborers. A man in a pickup truck was taking pictures of them.  He wasn’t a cop. The cops mostly turned a blind eye so long as the laborers just waited in the lot without causing incidents. Some of the laborers turned away or pulled their hoods down over their heads. Others paid no mind. And others posed, taunting  the man in the pick up.  

 I just had that bad feeling that something was going to happen. I knew I should be on my way. But the tree was alive with a tropical murmur and layers of sound from the birds. One was taking apart a crab-apple in the branch only feet above my head. I couldn’t help but stand and stare at the delicate lines in the bird’s green-blue tail feathers.

 One of the day laborers walked over to the tree. Paying me no mind he lifted his hand. The bird above me flitted away from its meal and on to him. The man said something to the bird and stroked him gently, like a child. the bird took to the sky, ignoring the free feast and its flock and disappeared high into the gray. My Spanish isn’t so good, but I thought the man said something like, “Go home for me, brother. Tell my wife and daughter I love them.”

 The man in the pick up was out of the truck now. He had a gun instead of a camera in his hand. The group of laborers were backing away from him, fanning out into the street. Nothing had changed but everything had changes about the sound of the wind and birds, the murmur in Spanish and the suburban afternoon buzz. I braced for the bang I knew was about to come.

-END-

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