To Call My Own

By Jessica Cho in Issue Nine, June 2023

I was nineteen when the first holes appeared, just on the cusp between thinking I knew everything and realising I knew nothing. Walking home from work with Mellie, we turned onto Chestnut Street and found our path blocked by a crowd of people.

“Sinkholes,” a woman was saying. “Like the ones in Guatemala.”

“Nah.” This from a man with a small child at his side, gripping his hand tightly. “Burrows. We used to see this kinda thing when I worked out west. Them critters’ll burrow the ground right out from under you.”

“It’s the damn city, that’s what,” said an older man. Permanent frown lines creased his forehead. “Tearing up roads with construction and digging gas lines and never telling anyone when or where. Irresponsible is what it is.”

We were finally able to push our way through the gathered ring of people to see what they were all looking at.

Touch of Ruin

By Timothy Johnson in Issue Nine, June 2023

Antoni kneels on the cracked pavement and waves his hand over a seam. A weed sprouts from the desiccated earth beneath, spreading its jagged limbs in praise to him, its creator. He brushes its leaves, allows its bristles to graze and nuzzle between his fingers, the mounds of his knuckles. He hears the high frequency at which it chitters its pleasure to be alive because, even here, it is grateful for the chance.

And then he tears it up, root and all.

To Kneel at the Altar of Your Bones

By Valo Wing in Issue Eight, March 2023

She slices open a vein, and out pours star-matter. Liquid and glittering, the iridescent mess drips from her arm into my cupped palms. And, for a moment, there is only this: breathing in duet (forte, agitato), her brow a slash of determination worthy of sainthood (she’s my religion, yes), and, too, the dumbass acolyte who made a promise they’re no longer sure they can keep (me).

Quicksilver catches in the open window’s breeze, splattering over my double-breasted suit.

The Tempest

By Taylor Grothe in Issue Eight, March 2023

The creak of the ship on open water, the dark sea below my feet. The infinite, so close, one false step away through the rotting side of the hold. One hatch opened in a storm, and I would be as good as foam.

The intrusive thoughts followed me everywhere, but especially on the ocean.

I had come here to meet those thoughts—I chose this fate every time a new boarding house turned me out to the streets. I’d learned the sting of salt could not scrape away the thoughts boiling through my skull. But I could change things. Be something more. The things I sought were larger than a life spent toying with unsuspecting, powerless people. Larger than thoughts breaking like a bloodied tide.

From Far Away, With Love

By Carol Scheina in Issue Eight, March 2023

Marcus laughed when Rella asked him to take a rokri fish with him to Station 12. “Rokri fish? Isn’t that what teens use to send love letters when their parents won’t let them use the comms?”

“Yeah, but comms are expensive, and rokri are cheap.” Rella was always the practical one when it came to money.

Roki fish were unique in having a symbiotic digestive system. When two rokri bonded, whatever one ate, the other digested, and that connection lasted even across the immense span of space. As Rella explained, that meant Marcus could scribble short notes on specially coated paper, feed them to his rokri, and even though their work stations would be lightyears apart Rella’s fish would harmlessly digest the paper out.

Guiding My Sister's Shaking Hand

By Paul Michael Anderson in Issue Eight, March 2023

I'm putting this note among Christine's artwork. When everyone finally gives up trying to find her, they'll take apart her studio, parse out the beautiful, shallow things she made, and, somewhere among the shelves, they'll find this little book.

I could never talk about this before, but being on the sidelines means you get an unobstructed view, even of yourself. Because I'm the one who led her to where she is today. Indirectly or directly, every step of the way. I think about those steps when I can't sleep at night.

Kimi's Fruit Stand for Dead Pirates and Privateers

By Jenna Glover in Issue Eight, March 2023

The sun was just beginning to set when Kimi reached the beach, the wagon she hauled behind her exchanging the clatter of cobbles for the soft whisper of sand. Debris dotted the landscape, leftovers from the hurricane that swept through several weeks back. Kimi kicked it all out of her way, grateful there were no bodies today. The memory of purple and bloated once-people hung over her like a cloud, but she didn’t turn back. She needed to be as close to the water as possible.

That was where the ghosts were.

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.'