“Soccer Fields & Frozen Lakes”

From Lightspeed #82

The official verdict that I am no longer classified as human arrived in a windowed envelope bearing the return address of the Bureau of Lineage Affairs. There is one envelope for me and one for you, although I haven’t opened yours. Except for the return address, these envelopes look like something from the bank, or perhaps an offer for home insurance, the kind we throw away. Inside mine is a letter folded in thirds, and on it, something like a death sentence, although a very formal and polite one. It’s here beside me–I’ve read it many times already. It breaks the bad news without much ado, then goes on to list the names and numbers of several organizations to which we may apply for further information and support. This is strongly encouraged. There is also a number to call if I feel a mistake has been made. This is not encouraged at all. Somewhere in there I’m given my identification number, which is 73281. This number is mine for the remainder of my life. Worse than all of this: they provide the numbers that have been assigned to our children: 73282 and 73283.

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“Masks of the Mud God”

from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #213

bcs213Miriam fashioned the inner lining of her mask from a single piece of cured and softened pigskin. Pressing the soaked leather over a plaster gauze mold of her face, she cut it to shape with a pair of shears, and with a naked razor carved holes for the mouth, nose, and eyes.

She baked it only long enough to fix its shape without sacrificing flexibility, then conditioned the inside with neatsfoot oil, so it would remain kind to her skin, and supple. She mixed her own plaster with clay, sand, and water, which she smeared over the mask’s exterior. She sculpted cheekbones, nose, and chin not from memory but from imagination and desire. With a sliver of wood and meticulous care, she pressed detailed texture into the lips and drew the finest lines around the mouth to suggest kind and frequent smiles. When the plaster dried, she brushed it with the softest hues of pink and red paint. It was a pure face, a face with only a few innocent secrets, if any at all. It was the face of a woman with freedom, contentment, and children who brought her joy—all the things Miriam lacked.

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From Interzone #261

interzone261Two weeks after his sixty-third birthday, Martin found himself squirming on the crisp white paper of the examination table. The paper, sensitive to his slightest discomfort, objected to his weak struggles with agitated crackling. Gripping the edges of the table, Martin kept his face turned insistently away from the good doctor Medhira, determined not to watch what was being done to him. But now Medhira was reaching deeper, and Martin found it increasingly difficult to breathe.

“Old Bones”

From Interzone #251

interzone251A sudden knocking at the door of his garret shocked Simon out of his chair by the portal window. The chair – older even than Simon – tipped backwards and banged against the warped gray floorboards, cracking two of its brittle slats. That sound, so loud in the empty room, and so soon following the first shock, caused Simon to flinch. The knocking had come without warning – no creak of stair from the landing, no veiled whispers or stifled coughs. Simon had been watching the desolate street beneath his little window all day. From time to time he’d seen mummers moving through the perpetual smog, wrapped tight in drab cloaks, but nothing friendly – never anything friendly. But now here was light – probably from a lantern – showing in the gaps around the frame of his door. What kind of fool ventured out with such light?


From Interzone #250

Ben pressed his forehead and palms against the cold glass of the picture window. Twenty-three floors below, ice floes clogged the Moskva, bumping for position in the sluggish current. On the opposite bank, walkers bundled against the weather followed a towpath along the curve of river. The path skirted the park and disappeared under the covered span of the Pushkinsky pedestrian bridge.


“Once More to Kitty Hawk”

From Intergalactic Medicine Show #36

“The first symptoms most often appear in the hands,” the doctor explained to the young couple and their aged father. “The grip weakens; manipulation of even the most basic instruments becomes increasingly challenging. Within a very short time, you will feel that you’ve grown feeble and uncoordinated. None of these symptoms represent an actual loss of strength, you understand, but rather a declining capacity to interact with the physical world.”

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“Freshwater Sharks”

From Gray’s Sporting Journal; Vol. 38, Issue 6

“Before a man goes fishing, he needs to know some things about the fish he plans to catch, and some things about himself.  If he doesn’t know about the fish, he doesn’t deserve to catch it–and probably won’t. If he doesn’t know why he wants the fish, he doesn’t even deserve to be fishing.”

“Dark Gardens”

From Interzone #248

Sam bought the foreclosure on Enfield at auction, sight unseen. He assumed its history would be questionable, but as the plan was to gut, remodel and resell, history was irrelevant. Not until the day he took possession did Sam learn the previous owner had been a semi-professional magician, stage name of Kurricke. The magician had vanished after living in the two-bedroom ranch for seventeen years, leaving spoiled milk in the refrigerator, dishes in the sink, and all the tools of his trade in unlocked trunks.


“The Study of Monstrosities”

From Beneath Ceaseless Skies #127

“On the morning of his interview with Dr. Alabaster, Ethan rose at dawn to claim exclusive use of the shared lavatory at the end of the hall. He wiped down the interior of the tub before adding three inches of hot water from the spigot. He bathed with a washrag, then lathered his face sparingly with soap. Other men used thick cream to shave, a practice he found not only lavish and uneconomical but a sore compromise for maintaining a keen razor. When finished, he carefully rinsed and dried his ebony-handled razor before folding it away. Again, he wiped down the inside of the tub, the spigot, sink, mirror, and every tile upon which he had stepped.”

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