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.

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

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Archive for the ‘Pandora’ Category


Monday, December 14th, 2009

Note: Although this story stands alone, this is part of the Pandora series.

Pandora had not known then what we today take for granted:  Our houses are watching us:  from the center hole in the ceiling fan, to the constellations of faces and creatures inhabiting spackles in the painted ceiling, to the creatures frolicking among the knots in the wooden paneling.  So it was that Pandora was taken completely off-guard by the house’s incisive observations.

Pandora returned from the gym after a half-hour on the stair-master, which somehow felt like her work at Widget Manufacturing, Inc.  She stripped to her Underoos and struck muscle-man poses in front of her bedroom mirror.  She pinched her gut and slapped her jiggly thighs.  “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fattest in the mall?”

“Is that a rhetorical question, or do you really want an answer?”

Being self-conscious of her body and her silly underwear, it wasn’t the best of times to hear a strange voice in her bedroom.  “Who said that?”

“Rhetorical, then.  My father always said I couldn’t keep my reflections to myself.”



“What were you saying?”

“Simply that you have a body-image problem.  Just accept yourself.”

Pandora stared into her reflection and nodded at it, slightly.  She wrapped herself in a fluffy pink robe and stepped into the bathroom.  She undressed in the shower, washed, and wrapped her body in a towel before standing in front of the bathroom mirror.  “So,” she asked, “you think I have a body-image problem?”

The mirror snorted.  “That’s one way to put it.  All you do is primp and preen: Is my hair perfect?  How’s this shade of lipstick?  Vanity, vanity.  I’ve never known anyone so damn self-absorbed.”

Shell-shocked, Pandora stared at her steamy reflection.  Then she walked stiffly into the bedroom and laid herself across the bed, face planted in a pillow.  After a good cry, she draped her towel across the bedroom mirror, dressed in her pajamas, and lay with the covers up to her chin.  She tried to read, she tried to sleep, but her eyes kept leaking.

“Excuse me, Pandora.  I couldn’t help noticing your distress.”

“Who said that?”

“Me.  The ceiling fan.  Look, I know I shouldn’t interfere, but those mirrors don’t see you for who you really are.”

“Thank you.”  Pandora smiled up at her ceiling through bleary eyes.  “It’s nice to know I have a fan.”

“Sure.  Your problem is laziness: All you ever do is lie around.”

Long Live the Dead

Monday, September 15th, 2008

In terms of continuity–although it should stand on its own–this is the last of the Pandora series. The order is 1) “Meet the Extraordinary Ordinaire,” 2) “The Bug-a-Boo Bear,” 3) “Chop Chop,” 4) “Byzantine,” and 5) “Long Live the Dead.”

Pandora scaled Olympus. Oblivious to the world, she snagged her skirt on prickly shrubs and scraped her palms each time a stone slipped out from under. In her right, she carried a knife, gripped blade down. When the climbing grew too steep, she held the hilt between her teeth.

Finally, she reached the Hall of Gods. Apollo, Hera, Zeus, and others lined the jagged walls in colorful repose inside their mile-high, mahogany-framed portraits. Towering above, the statue of Athena was so life-like that Pandora’s footfall stuttered. Should she give obeisance? Only when Athena stood serene as death’s box, did Pandora pass.

Swift-winged Mercury caught up with her and, glancing at the knife, inquired of her business on Olympus, but she sprinted up an unobtrusive spiral staircase built of pearl bricks and silver mortar. Mercury pursued her not. Pandora grabbed a flaming torch from the wall and hastened on.

She paused at a landing to catch her breath and lean out a window. Old Olympus, below, sparkled with the gleam of emeralds and rubies. High above, the tower’s pinnacle was, to the naked eye, invisible. She soldiered on.

Her legs nigh quaked with rubbery fatigue as she reached the topmost stair. Without hesitation, she approached the sleeping figure on the cot–his hair a flowing golden mane–and plunged the knife hilt-deep into his chest.


Pandora jerked the torch from the wall and hurried up. On the landing, she caught her breath and, shaking off her deja-vu, continued.

At the top, she tiptoed to the sleeping shape and plunged the knife into his chest. He raised a feeble hand as if in whisper, but she wasn’t interested in listening to this jerk.


Pandora’s fingers lingered on the torch before removing it. She cautiously ascended.

At a landing, she saw the Hall wink brightly, sighed and clambered up.

Her legs were spry as she arrived upon the height. She approached the figure on the cot, plunged the knife toward his chest.

A firm hand gripped her wrist before it touched the man. A voice from nowhere and everywhere asked, “Have you learned naught?”

“That you’re cruel? Yes. All blame me if something goes awry, but blesses you if right.”

“Because you lack capacity, you look and think you see.” The figure, whose vague features grew more featureless as she watched them, pointed. “The window.”

Pandora glanced at the floor-to-ceiling window, then the figure–which became a child’s thin rendering of a man–now slept as if it never stirred.

She crossed the chamber to stand inside the window–its frame a cheap, pressed wood-pulp–saw the Hall below; above, the tower rose–if she could believe her eyes–beyond the stars.

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