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FICTION


The Moon is All Wrong Here

By Danai Christopoulou in Issue Seven, November 2022

Ι clutch my Book of Shadows to my chest like a wounded animal.

I imagine my heartbeat, fast but steady, seeping through the cracked leather cover and into the old tree pulp of the pages, imbuing them with new life. I focus on that thought as I make my way to the clearing, footsteps muffled by the forest floor, my shoulder already sweaty from the strap of my satchel. It’s a warm night, but then again, all nights are warm on KOI 5554.01. This old, quaky orb we now call home has us stewing slowly in our linen clothes.

At least the weather here is consistent. At least the air is not trying to ravage our lungs.


Blackwater Children

By Moustapha Mbacké Diop in Issue Seven, November 2022

I didn’t believe there was anything extraordinary about me.

See those beige and brown clothes, wrapped in thick layers around my delicate build? Everyone aboard the dusk lizard was dressed in similar attire, wearing their bogolan in safari suits, sabadors, and wide robes above an inner layer of enhanced shiki cloth to keep in the heat. Identical helmets enclosed our heads, tied to small pockets of oxygen at our sides. We’d needed them ever since the Call had driven us up the blizzard-battered mountains, where no oxygen would grace our lungs. It had been either that or drown with those who could not be saved.


To Trade in Secrets

By Erin K. Wagner in Issue Seven, November 2022

There was a revolution. A bloody one. The farmers were angry, and they were dirty and sweating with years of back-breaking work. They turned their farming equipment—their sickles, their rakes, their spades—into weapons. When they breached the high spiked wall of the czar’s court, there was a wonderful and brief silence—a thousand breaths held in anticipation of what would come. The farmers were not kind to the royal family. They ripped the jewels from the czarina’s ears and they cut off her head. They paraded the czar through the streets naked and covered in pitch. He cried as best he could, though the pitch had sealed his eyes half-shut.'


The Man Who Ate the Road

By Warren Benedetto in Issue Seven, November 2022

The man in the orange vest held up his stop sign and motioned my car over to the side of the two-lane forest road. It was after midnight on a Sunday. There were no other workers, no construction vehicles, no orange traffic cones. There was just the man, standing in the middle of Route 322 with his sign held high. He wore mud-streaked jeans and a filthy white t-shirt stretched taut over his protruding belly, with one of those reflective vests that seemed to shimmer in the glow of my headlights. The stubbled goatee around his mouth was pure black, an unnatural color that looked like he had dyed his facial hair with shoe polish.


Little Death

By David Farrow in Issue Seven, November 2022

I don’t advertise my services, but they all know where to find me. I have a little place near the center of town with salmon-colored shutters and a wide front porch full of flowerpots. You can see them from the street, the flowers; they spill out of their pots in all sorts of shapes and colors, like globs of paint on an artist’s palette.

My clients bring them to me. Like I’m the one dying, instead of them. I guess they think of it as payment because I never ask them for money. It’s a transactional thing, what I do, as much as I hate to think of it that way. So now I’m the Flower Woman. I guess there are worse things they could call me.


#snailsofinstagram

By Andi C. Buchanan in Issue Seven, November 2022

snailsforleni: discovered this group of Cavellia brouni in leaf litter in Khandallah park after a rainy week. Like to think they’re a family, looking out for each other. Love the markings on their pale shells. Fingertip included for scale; like most New Zealand land snails they’re much smaller than people think.

#snails #snailsofinstagram #cavellia #cavellia-brouni #molluscs #khandallah #wellington #parks #native-wildlife


I/O

By Rhiannon Rasmussen in Issue Seven, November 2022

outside
The asteroid belts were never as dense as they looked on the projection charts once the Round barge hit rendezvous. Lin Mugen matched velocities with the M-class target, marked the checklist go without double-checking the numbers—that's what the Fleetmind was for—and let the EMVI mech unlatch from the Round.

She could have called up the log to tell her the exact number of changes, but obsessive log-checking was more her partner Kim Sang-ki's thing. Round pilots like Mugen were a redundancy system on top of a glorified ore barge, not a critical component of the mining process; the important one was the EMVI and its nanowire saws that slowly cut the asteroid into pieces with as little mass shift as possible. Always go in pairs—that was the rule. It got lonely on the half-formed edges of stellar systems, scooping up the detritus of planet formation to be processed into the Fleet.


Giant Country

By Frances Koziar in Issue Seven, November 2022

Of all the places I might have considered being on my thirtieth birthday, locked in a cage with my grandmother in giant country would not have been one of them. Yet here I am, alternating between cleaning my useless sword for the umpteenth time and pacing back and forth on my aching prosthetic, while my grandmother knits with enormous needles she got from the giant.

“OLD HUMANS REQUIRE KNITTING SUPPLIES,” she had shouted up at the giant, and after some haranguing back and forth, my heart stuttering with the volume of the giant’s voice, my seventy-two-year-old grandmother now sits cross-legged on one of the rocks thrown into our cage for “habitat”, her wiry brown arms moving with seemingly tireless energy as she makes something gigantic and grey from the person-sized ball of yarn at her side.


Long Distance Runaround

By Austin Shirey in Issue Seven, November 2022

Have to hand it to the bastards: I think they’ve finally killed me.

No idea how long I’ve been unconscious or how much oxygen is left. This metal coffin’s air is close and stale. I try leveling my breathing—maybe buy myself more time to find a way out—but my jackhammer heart isn’t helping things.

It’s the perfect way to get rid of me: lock me in a dark box, buried gods-know-where, and let me suffocate as I realize there’s no way in hell I can jaunt out.

Bastards.


Sharing a Meal at the End of the World

By Anya Ow in Issue Six, September 2022

Sometime after the end of the world, a man buys a woman a drink.

He’s old enough to remember a time when drinks at no-name bars like this one came in bottles with printed labels, made in everywhere—glass bottle in Australia, label in China, hops in America—the casual wealth of easy resources bottled up for cheap. She isn’t. Maybe that’s the draw for them both.

“Samuel,” he says, when she takes a seat at the table. “Sara, yah?”

Sara nods. “Hi Samuel. Nice to meet you.” She attempts a smile. It’s been a while since she’d last had the resources to go on a proper date, so she’s splurged. Mineral powder makeup, the last of her blusher, even some lipstick. Samuel’s possibly worth it, judging by his Bumblr profile. He’s tall, an atheist, has a full-time job and Grade+ access to water rations, which more than makes up for his average access to everything else.