Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

David Kopaska-Merkel’s book of humorous noir fiction based on nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Noir 978-09821068-3-9, is sold at the Genre Mall. Other new books include The zSimian Transcript (Cyberwizard Productions) and Brushfires (Sams Dot Publishing).

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

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.

Archive for the ‘Susannah Mandel’ Category


Friday, July 24th, 2009

“So have you decided yet?” Becca asked. “What you’re doing Friday?”

“Oh, God knows. Last-minute house party with the boys, probably.” Selwyn rubbed absently at her temples. “At least if the apocalypse comes there’ll be plenty of gin in the house. You’re invited, of course.”

“Thank you,” said Becca.

“And you? First Night again?”

Becca snorted. “Once was enough, thanks,” she said. “Especially this year, with freezing rain as a bonus!”

“You think it’ll still be coming down on Friday?”

“It’s been two weeks, hasn’t it?” said Becca. She nodded toward the window. “Does it look to you like it’s planning to let up by then?”

Selwyn considered the thick, cottony light filtering through the glass. “Not likely,” she admitted.

Becca watched her rise and walk to the window, watched her face shade into silhouette. Behind it, runnels of rain made bright worms on the pane.

“Do you think,” Becca said, quietly, “that everything’s really going to blow up?”

The shadowed face was silent. “Depends what you mean by that,” it said at last.

“You know what I mean. Everything really stopping working. Lights going out all over the world.”

“A technological apocalypse,” Selwyn said, slowly, “seems to me unlikely.” She paused. “What people do, of course, that’s more unpredictable.”

“There’s all kinds of doomsday predictions going round,” said Becca. “I’ve never felt so medieval.” She hesitated. “I could almost believe, at moments, that it really is going to end.”

“Do you really think that will happen?” Selwyn asked in her low voice.

“I don’t know,” said Becca. “I – you know I wouldn’t, ordinarily. But this is such a strange time. What if something really is coming that will change the world? Again?”

“A singularity,” said Selwyn. “You can’t see it coming, but before and after it, history is different.”

“Yes, like that,” said Becca. She shuddered a little. “You think you’re in the real world, and then something impossible happens. And you say, Oh! The world was like that, all along.”

Selwyn came over to her, touched her gently on the head. “Don’t kill yourself over this. You’ll find out in three days what the end of the story is.”

“I guess we will,” said Becca. Her hand closed and opened upon the desk. “Stay a little longer, please.”

Selwyn leaned one hip on the edge of the desk, and stroked Becca’s hair again. They stayed there together some time, in silence, looking out at the rain.

End of the Line: A Puzzle

Thursday, July 9th, 2009


Note: This story is a game of skill. Can you help Thad and Elizabeth solve it?

“Which door should we open? Help me think.”

“I have no idea…” Thad let himself sag against the wall. Even with the support, he could feel himself trembling with fatigue and fear.

“Which one?” she murmured, studying the doors; back turned toward him, hands on hips. “Hell,” she said, “there’s a clue here somewhere. I’m positive. There has to be.”

“Elizabeth,” he began. “What…” His voice came out rasping and thin. It shocked him.

“This clue,” he said, groping for steadiness. “Explain this, please. What exactly are you looking for? How will you know it when you see it?”

“It’s obvious, I’d think,” she said. Turning to face him, she seemed to loom, then suddenly recede. Expect disoriention, he thought, you’re dehydrated.

“We’ve been kidnapped by parties unknown — my vote’s still for aliens, by the way. Held, then dropped into this… labyrinth, or whatever it is. Inched our way through. Tackled games of skill, of wit… and learned that, incidentally, our captors aren’t above penalizing us for a wrong guess — ”

“Exploding thresholds,” he muttered. “Weight-dropped arches, and that napalm thing –”

“Horrid stuff, yes. It’s clear they’d let us die here, and want us to know it. …That brings us to these doors.”

“Exactly.” Which stood before them now in a neat row. Heavy, simple, solid. Identical, except for their color. The smooth surface of the first shone with a green luster; the second, white; the third, a warm gold.

Eyes throbbing, head pounding; dehydration and low blood sugar were taking him down. “Why don’t you just pick one?” he said, feeling despair wash through him. “Hand on knob, shove it open. It’ll blow us up or it won’t. That’s better than waiting here to starve to death!”

Elizabeth scowled. “With due respect, Thad, no. Help me think this through instead. I can find the clue –”

“There is no clue, Elizabeth!”

“Everything can be understood if you look closely. We can find the key. Help me think! It’s here if we look hard enough… They can manipulate everything in our environment, Thad. Examine everything. Where would an alien put the pattern? How would they hide the key?”

It’s here somewhere. Think like an alien. Everything can be understood….

White, green, gold. How would a master manipulator hide the clue?…

Impossible. Thad closed his eyes. Elizabeth stood, silent, still staring at the doors.


Which is the right door? If you can find it, post your answer in the comments. But don’t explain how you solved the puzzle: let others test their wits.

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