Plugs

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

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

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

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.

Hanna’s Last Day

by Daniel Braum

I thought it would remain open forever. Full of wonders and horrors. Comedies and tragedies. And grand dramas giving context and meaning to our sometimes rote existences. Its beautiful, terrible light set imaginations ablaze, illuminating both dark corners and sunlight days alike. Today it takes me a little longer to get out of bed and start my routine. They are closing the Vortex of Inspiration down and it is my job to get it done.

 #

Standing outside my locker, in the Bureau of Vision and Illumination, I check my uniform one more time. The lab surrounding the vortex is full of dignitaries and high command and all sorts of upper brass pomp and circumstance. They’ll be watching.

 #

When I was first told of the vortex I thought my commanding officer was insane. A device that is some sort of mad blend of science and magic given to us by the gods? Next she’d be telling me that Ra or Posiedon were real. They weren’t. But she went over a long list of gods that were real. And issued me a phone book sized official bureau document full of their offices and staff and contact numbers.

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.

“You are being promoted.” She shook my hand. “Welcome, you are now the secretary to the under minister of Unfulfilled Dreams and Lost Masterpieces.”

“What do I have to do?” I asked.

 #

I walk along a white painted line that leads into the spinning, blue vortex. I’m holding a transparent globe, full of agitated water. The bureau’s emblem is engraved on it. Everyone is watching as I pass into the vortex. Feels like I passed through a wall of water then it feels like nothing. On the other side is a bridge. It looks like San Francisco, only the colors are tinted blue and over-saturated. A woman is waiting on the other side of the bridge. When I get close enough I see her features are so strong. So exotic. Like a statue from a musuem. She takes the globe and the water inside stops spinning. Go back she says. Her voice is so beautiful I am overcome with sadness.

#

“The Vortex was a gift to the higher ups,” my CO had said. “A gift we squandered.”

“What do you mean?” I had asked

“One too many flat, unimaginative Hollywood remakes. One too many cities designed thoughtlessly. We stopped using it and now they want it back.”

I had wondered if these things were only symptoms of some greater disease or transgression.

#

I thought the vortex would remain open forever. Now that it is closed I do feel different. An aching void. Not entirely unexpected. I wonder what the blackness feels like to them. I leave the lab and do not stop in the locker room to change. I run for the parking lot with the thought on my mind. I light a cigarette and sit in my car and wonder if spark will ever come again to our darkness. I try to picture what it will look like. What it will feel like. And who might be waiting for it.

 – END-

The End

by Jen Larsen

He carried her all the way to the end of the universe, and showed her where it all dropped off. Stars streamed down the long black wall, leaving streaks of silver behind.

From the crook of his arm, she asked, “Where does it all go?” She was five, and she asked a lot of questions.

He juggled her a bit in his arms, and pointed. “Down there,” he said. His eyes were bright, reflecting the shine of the stars and the spaces around them. He was not what she expected at all. For one, he was far too prosaic. Her mother said that platypuses proved he had a sense of humor. Her father said physics was serious stuff—no dice games. Both of them were at home asleep, and either of them would have felt all their questions sucked away down into the streaming black of the end of the universe. Either of them would have felt like they were falling and falling and falling. Either of them would have woken up immediately, relieved.

She asked, “Where’s that?” and he frowned at her. He was used to being questioned. He was used to ignoring the questions he wasn’t interested in, which was most of them. His frown seemed to take up all the rest of the end of the universe, and echo back to the beginning. Streaming stars trembled, and swept around him.

She sighed, and struggled down out of his arms. He let her go, spreading out his hands, watching her make her way to the edge. It was not behavior he was particular familiar with. She thrust out her chin, assessed the drop, the lines of incandescent light shivering down into points, away and away forever. She turned and smiled at him, and he could not help but smile at her, wrapped in the luminous vapor of the stars. She smiled at him again, and turned, and she leapt past the edge of the universe, beyond the end.