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FICTION


Heart of My Heart, Soul of My Soul

By Jelena Dunato in Issue Four, May 2022

When Maryeta and the baby died, I thought I’d never love again. The world was a thick grey haze through which I moved with effort. I performed my duties, but I watched myself as if from outside, a pale stranger with a golden crown receiving foreign emissaries, hunting in the woods, dancing with pretty daughters of ambitious nobles.

I wasn’t old, but I felt like it. The whole weight of the world on my shoulders and no one to share it with. My advisors nudged me to marry again: after all, a king needs heirs. But I had Steffon, my golden-haired boy, with his mother’s hazel eyes and shy smile. He was enough.


Resistant

By Rebecca Angelo in Issue Four, May 2022

“My name is Clark, and I am a recovering criminal,” I say to my support officer, whom I report to every quarter here on the station near Proxima Centauri. My job in communications at the terraforming office is supposed to make me regret ever dealing in the black market back on Gaia-canth. It's not having that effect.

My subordinate, Dyann, arrives early to offer their report. I think they actually enjoy their life out here in the middle of nowhere. They’re so passionate about everything—prisoner rights, human rights, rehabilitation—it's close to infuriating. I'm just here to do my stupid job, do my stupid time, and get back to Earth.


Axolotl

By Atreyee Gupta in Issue Four, May 2022

I eat silence. It tastes lonely and bitter alongside ma’s watery yam casserole as it serrates speech from my tongue. In thirty years I haven’t learned how to digest this aching abyss. I turtle into my eight-year-old self, wondering: what aren’t ma and baba saying? Is the silence punishment for my inadequacy? No matter how I iterate myself, the recipe fails. Untethering from home, I’ve discarded my native language, abandoned the gods, adopted cutlery. Yet the minute I cross their threshold, artifice, concealment, and placation cloak my intentions.


Focal Point

By Elise Stephens in Issue Four, May 2022

Her world was gone, like a night sky stripped of moon and stars.

“They told me you fell,” Hilf whispered from the bedside. “That you tripped down the stairs from your studio and after that you didn’t look into their eyes.” His voice deepened. “Why didn’t you let them fetch a doctor?”

Her husband hadn’t removed his riding coat in his rush to see her, and she could smell the wet wool as she sat up and opened her eyes. As before, the darkness remained. Blind. Had she seen Hilf’s kind green eyes for the final time?


The Calligrapher's Granddaughter

By Stewart C Baker in Issue Four, May 2022

Rain again, pouring from the dull, dark sky and into the shogun's capital. A hot, relentless rain that fills the summer air with shouts as people hurry about their business.

It smells, Hatsuharu thinks, like sweat and desperation. He is sitting beneath the awning of his small shop in the city's southern quarter, watching as the downpour churns the street until all the world is rain and mud.

He puts one hand beneath the folds of his robe to scratch idly at his stomach, wondering if he ought to put the thought to paper with one of his special brushes. Better not—business has been slow of late, and an illustrated epigram of weather like this will only make it worse.


Sworn Guardian

By Kimberly Christensen in Issue Three, March 2022

When the crack of thunder ripped us from sleep, our eyes scanned the darkness for one thing—the green light over our doorway. Ten breaths exhaled at once, as if we were a single organism. Lightning had not ignited a fire—at least not yet.

“Who’s in the watchtower tonight?” Bristlecone whispered from the top bunk, her voice sinking through the humid air.


Hope: A Perspective from the Forest

By Tadayoshi Kohno in Issue Three, March 2022

Dad, I thought to my father. The smoke is too thick. I can’t breathe. I looked up at him, and he looked down at me. His soft amber eyes glistened with tears and sorrow.

I know, Dad thought to me as he laid his snout on mine. My body glowed with the knowledge that he would protect me.


For the Remnants

By Belicia Rhea in Issue Three, March 2022

Every night we wait for the drones overhead to spill our allotted water rations. I’ve never gotten used to the whirring sound—and that smell, nearly sour, the way it coats the air. Turns it artificial. For most of who’s left, it’s all they’ve known.

The kids are already racing outside with their mouths open, waiting for the pour. I remember as a boy, before the machines, playing in puddles that lasted all night, floods rushing the ground till morning. It rained for days, dragging cars away, the water reflecting our nervous faces back at us when we looked over the porch.


Chrysanthemum

By Erin Keating in Issue Three, March 2022

Mama didn’t weep when the world Dried Up. When the smoke choked the sun. When the sky turned orange. When the birds died mid-flight. Mama didn’t weep when the world Dried Up.

But she’s weeping now.

Her parched eyes can’t spare the tears as she howls curses to the sky, her bloody fingers clawing at the roots around my legs.


The End of the World

By Meghan Kemp-Gee in Issue Three, March 2022

I met you in London last July, on the hottest day ever recorded, during the last two weeks of my research fellowship at the Cambridge University archives. The vaults and reading rooms were quiet and cool, so like all the other fellows, I stayed until the very last minute they were open. Nowhere else in the city had such dependable air conditioning.