Plugs

A kilometer outside the fortress of the Green Empress, a small white rabbit huddled naked against a dirty concrete shed cracked with age and bombardment, clutching in her small arms a tiny version of herself, her shivering baby, the only one left alive after the incessant aerial bombings of the Dragonflies over the past four weeks.

The skies were the ever-slate of the Land of Grey Dusk, but the Dragonflies’ explosive ordnance threw up smoke incarnadine and lavender. Overhead, the massive insects droned, searching out any remaining warrens or burrows not yet obliterated by their patrols. The rabbit squeezed her eyes shut and held her little one tight as she dared, her entire body ajitter, anticipating the descending whistle of the ball of light and noise that would destroy her completely.

But instead she heard, “Psst! Over here!”

She eased up her right eyelid and saw a young girl poking her head out of a doorway in the shed, a doorway the rabbit was certain had not been there before. Within was dimness, but the rabbit skittered over and leapt inside onto a dirt floor. The girl slammed the door and the rabbit laid eyes on the motley assortment gathered there in the faint light: a tortoise, a cat, and two person-shaped things with spears.

“We’re looking for the Green Empress,” the girl was saying. “Can you tell us how to find her?”

“Do you mean to kill her?” asked the rabbit.

“What? No! I just need her to send me back home. Why would you want to kill her?”

“She did the same to my lifemate and my dozens of children. To her we’re pests to be exterminated.” Her one remaining bunny trembled and wept silently in her arms.

“Is that so?” said the girl, her facial features set hard and angry. “Well then, I have yet one more thing to discuss with her.”

“And then afterward you will kill her?”

The girl bent down and gently touched the rabbit on the arm. “No. I don’t believe in killing. It wouldn’t bring back your family. But I will make her stop her extermination, and there will be recompense for the survivors, you can be assured of this.”

The rabbit said not in a word in reply, but held out her precious baby to the strange girl, who took her. The rabbit closed her eyes again to concentrate, and despite her exhaustion both physical and mental, she touched her forepaws to the dirt floor and began to dig.

(This piece was inspired visually by Lisa Snellings’ evocative eponymous painting, and aurally by Linkin Park’s “Krwlng (Mike Shinoda ft. Aaron Lewis).“)

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Previously:
01: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
02: The World, Under
03: Androcles Again
04: Look Into My Eyes, You’re Under
05: Shiftless, Hopeless
06: Cricetinae’s Paroxysm
07: Wind and Harmony

Here’s my first question: how the hell does a head without a body wind up in a vegetable box in a Safeway stock room, anyway? Sure they call them ‘heads’ of lettuce, but that’s just rife with wrong. Second question: how much wronger is it that the head opens its eyes and starts gabbling away in Spanish? Third, and wrongest of all: why does it happen when I’m here? I mean, I’ve been good, mostly.
Pretty handsome, as heads go. Long dark hair, deep brown eyes, straight mostly-white teeth in a mouth without a bottom. Ew.

I’m Tina Tryon, night stocker. These things happen to me.

No way is this some joke of Manuel’s or Pablo’s. For one thing, they’re both backing away in horror, hands totally visible.

“What’s he saying?” I ask. Sure, I want to retreat, too, but vegetables is my beat. Somebody’s got to stick around. Guess I’m elected.

From behind the forklift, Pablo says, “He’s very tired, and he wants his body.”

“Fair enough,” I say. “Tell him we don’t have any in stock. Manny, call the cops.” I know this script; somehow by the time they come the head won’t be there or it’ll turn into lettuce, and I’ll look like some kind of kook. But maybe if I don’t call them it’ll get worse. A lot worse.

“So why’s he here?” I ask Pablo. “Ask him what he’s doing contaminating my lettuce.” If I know Alan Parkins, the store manager, he’s just going to have me wash the stuff and put it out anyway. Hell, he’d probably have me put the head out in the freezer case marked $7.99 a pound.

“He says he is a powerful brujo, a wizard, and often turns his head into a crow to spy on his enemies.” Neat trick. “Sadly, he takes on crow habits, like trying to grab food. He landed in a truckload of lettuce, ran out of magic, and turned back into a head. Without hands he’s stuck this way.”

I hear sirens approaching. It’ll be the simplest thing in the world to let them have the head. Then I can go back to stocking.

Boring, boring stocking.

Or I could grab the head, hitch south, and learn Spanish. Maybe learn magic.

Maybe lose my head. “Pablo,” I say. “When the cops get here let them in. I’m going to keep an eye on this head and make sure it doesn’t get away.” I shrug at the head, and get the impression he’d shrug back if he had shoulders.

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.

Jon Hansen
jon Hansen

Jon Hansen has been publishing speculative fiction and poetry since 1996. His chief amusement when not writing is watching his cats eye the birdfeeder.

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.

Recent books by David Kopaska-Merkel
Nursery Rhyme Noir (fiction) 978-09821068-3-9
Night Ship to Never (poetry, with Kendall Evans) 978-0-9821352-3-5

Jen Larsen
Jen Larsen

Jen Larsen is a writer living for less on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. Her current obsessions include selkies, supernovas, tattoos, lipstick, wendigos, whiskey, tiny stories, enormous novels, unsolved murders, mysterious backpacking disappearances, and you. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Word Riot, Nimrod International Journal, among others. She quit smoking years ago, but she’ll never give up.

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’s short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Electric Velocipede, Shimmer, Sybil’s Garage, Farrago’s Wainscot and various other ‘zines; another is forthcoming in Fantasy Magazine. One of her poems received an honourable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Vol 21. In 2009 she left her job in the UK to go travelling, and is currently in Australia admiring the grass trees and trying to find money for visiting East Asia. To find out more about her writing and wandering, visit Tales and Foreign Markets, her website.

Luc Reid
Luc ReidLuc Reid is a past winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, the founder of the online neo-pro writers group Codex, and author of Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures. His latest book is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories, available for the Kindle and other eReaders. 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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