Plugs

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

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 the ‘Series’ Category

The Minotaur’s Gaze

Monday, February 7th, 2011

I grew up in a tenement that looked out on the back of the minotaur’s head. The minotaur statue is older than the city and taller than any building in it. Our tenement is nearly as tall, not nearly as old, and in far worse repair.

The statue gazes out across the plain of salt, which the scholars say was a sea that dried up years ago, and my siblings and I gaze with it into the hazy horizon.

The scholars don’t know who built the statue, or why, but everyone else says it’s a marker to guide travelers over the salt plain. However, everyone, including the scholars, agrees the plain is impossible to cross–too vast, too empty of landmarks. With all the wind-stirred dust, you can’t navigate by stars; by day, you can barely guess where the sun is.

My brothers and sisters and I do go out onto the plain at daybreak and dusk, when the twilight seeps into everything, and we might be walking on a flat of sky. It’s the one advantage we’ve got in the salt quarter. The old city has history; the river districts have trade and communication with distant lands; and the elite quarter has the evening cool of the mountains. A half hour at either end of the day to explore an empty blue world doesn’t seem like much in comparison.

We find our way back by the broken silhouettes of the mountains, and the prongs of the minotaur’s horns above them. One night, we found a man collapsed at the base of the minotaur statue, covered in salt dust. Under the white coating, we saw his boots and glasses were the blue of twilight on the plain.

We went for a healer and returned to find the man gone. The scholars and city guard told us he was a lunatic who’d wandered out onto the plain. We didn’t believe them; we knew the impossible when we saw it.

They built his pyre on our rooftop–our building was closest, and they didn’t want to move him far, which made us even more suspicious. We knew secret ways to the roof, so we crept up and stole his glasses and boots.

We argued all night and drew lots. In the predawn twilight, the glasses show me trails on the plain. I set my foot on one to see where the boots will take me…

Know-It-All: Queue

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The RV belonging to the guy who knew everything was parked behind the old building supply place off River Road, and the line to its door already stretched halfway across the parking lot. It was just after 2:00 on a hot Thursday, and the sun blasted me as I got in line.

I was surprised at how quickly we moved, but as I got closer to the RV I figured out why: most people were being turned away. A tall Chinese guy in a cowboy hat stood at the door beneath a camera pointed at the line. Next to the camera was a loudspeaker.

The tall guy must have had an earpiece or something, because as each person came up, he’d tilt his head, then say “Sorry, he can’t see you today,” or just “Sorry,” or sometimes something like “Get out of here, you son of a bitch.” He spoke in a twangy accent.

Three people in front of me there was a skinny woman in her 50’s with red hair, and for her the tall guy just stepped aside. She went in silently. Two minutes later the door burst open and she ran off across the parking lot, crying.

The tall guy, expressionless, closed the door, then turned his attention back to the line.

“Sorry,” he said to the next lady, then to the guy after her, “No.”

The guy in front of me wasn’t having it. “I just–”

“Please clear off before we have to get rough.”

“Don’t you threaten me! I’m seeing him, God damn –”

A nondescript, midwest-accented voice blared over the speaker. “Chad MacIntyre is the one who defaced the war memorial last summer. The spray paint cans are still in his garage.”

The guy in front of me turned white as paste and began backing away across the parking lot. “That’s a lie!” he shouted. “That’s a goddamn lie!” Then he ran for his car, gunned the engine, and tore off.

I was next, and I looked up at the tall guy. He tilted his head, then looked back at me and grinned.

“Mike says go on in,” he drawled. “You get one question, so don’t ask why he’s living in an RV or anything stupid like that, OK?”

“OK,” I said, and stepped up to the door, my heart hammering. My question suddenly felt small and sad.

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