Publishes March 1, 2021
Letter From the Editor
By Rob Carroll
Storytelling is an illusion. It’s a magic trick played on the mind’s eye that when performed correctly makes the real melt away and the fantasy fill the void that is left behind. Good storytelling is never prescriptive. It doesn’t tell you what to think, or what to feel, or what to believe. It merely tells you what is, real or not, and lets you, the reader, decide the rest. This is because the illusion lies not within the act, but within the mind of the audience. The trick is not making the ball disappear; that’s impossible—and that’s why if your audience is Penn and Teller, the ball will never disappear, it will just forever go up your sleeve. The actual trick is the prompting of the human mind to create from presented information a new reality in which the disappearance has actually taken place. The trick is the prompting of the human mind to create a reality that is based on truth, but born entirely from fiction. It is a respectful and loving ode to paradox. READ MORE.
The Three Breeds of Lie
By T.M. Hurree
Mr. Mishra is the third gene agent I’ve seen today. The first had dark grey scales and a bifid tongue which flickered nastily as he rejected Son. The second had waxy, translucent skin pulled taught over fat and gristle, and pulsing arteries supplying all the muscles required to form the word nahin, Hindi for no. Mr. Mishra has three arms—two sprouting from the left shoulder—all fully functional. Genes like that cost money. Serious money, enough to feed every family in my ramshackle street for the rest of our lives. His office is clean, bright, air-conditioned, and even if he doesn’t purchase Son’s genetic code, this meager scrap of comfort almost makes the last nine months worthwhile.
“What’s his name?” Mr. Mishra cradles the baby in two strong hands.
“Son. Just Son.” It’s easier if they’re never given names. Easier still if I don’t even consider him my baby, my son.
With his third hand, Mr. Mishra grabs a torch off his desk and swings it over Son’s face. The baby has slit pupils, like a cat. Otherwise, he is perfectly healthy. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
The Hottest on the Hotline
By Evan Marcroft
I was finishing up with a promising call when Judith came on to the intercom to announce that we had just broken our jumpslip goal for November, and tomorrow there would be an assortment of donuts available. There were cheers from all corners of the office. Nobody had to guess who’d put us over the top. The man of this and every hour was already strutting towards the boss’s office to claim his prize. Gagging on envy, I quickly urged my prospective jumper to go die and hung up before I could accidentally say something I’d regret.
When Matt returned to his desk, it was with a fat basket of air filters, bottled water, and anticancer supplements. I jumped as he leaned over me and plopped it down on my keyboard.
“You need it more than I do,” he said with a wink.
I smiled, because he was right. I could strip paint with the water I got from my taps, my apartment was rotating sixteen rows down tomorrow, and I had a lump in my left breast the size of a bocce ball that I’d been putting off worrying about. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
Her Tongue Was Weighted with Salt
By Alexandra Seidel
Three chocolates sat in the box, peering out at Tamsin through the clear plastic cover. They glittered with coarse salt, the simple variety, not some exotic pink or black novelty. The box itself was triangular to emphasize the occasion, oddness being considered proper for Samhain. A white bow with a red line running down its center decorated one corner.
“What a superstitious gift,” Ludaque said. He had taken it from the courier at the apartment door, signed for it. He held the card out to Tamsin while he placed the box of salted candy on her desk in front of her. Tamsin crossed her legs before she took the offered card, a heavy cream envelope that felt soft under her fingers. “Has the consumption of salted food ever given you dream visions, Tamsin?”
Tamsin bit her lip and stared at her desk, though not at the candy. Work. She would rather be working than look at the candy. She wanted to look at the stars. “Don’t you have to charge? Or update one of your algorithms or something?” she said in lieu of answering. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
Your Augmented Home is Now Ready
By Erich Alan Werner
Blake has fallen asleep again, just moments after our bodies parted. So, I tiptoe in the dark to the other side of the bed and, gently removing them from the charging dock on his nightstand, I steal my husband’s smartglasses.
I know, I know. Snooping is wrong, always, and I’m a horrible, sneaky, privacy-invading, mistrustful bitch for doing this. If Blake snooped on my phone, I’d lose it. Probably call the cops on him, or post his porn browsing history on social media. I can be petty like that.
But he won’t tell me what’s going on with him—and if I don’t figure it out soon, I’m going to fall apart. Something is different with him. Something is wrong. That distant, empty look. Then, the sudden urgencies. Like tonight. He basically dragged me to the bedroom, like a drooling caveman. Then, afterward, he just collapsed. Again. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
The Revolving Couch Therapy Ride
By Bo Balder
They enter the Revolving Couch. Maxey is nervous, her friend Joene not so much.
“It’s like at the carnival,” Joene says. Maxey knows Joene hasn’t been in here before, although everyone in their circle of friends has. Or says they have. They’re kind of mean girls, maybe they’re lying. Maxey’s only sometimes part of their circle when Joene decides to include her, so she has no basis on which to judge this. Joene is the kind of girl who can believe things are fun before she has experienced them and is always proven right.
Maxey’s not like that. She’s wary of life in general. Much of it turned out to be not a whole lot of fun.
She’s out of work and her best friend’s Joene.
That says it all. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
Drifting From Her Lunar Ruin
By Sloane Leong
The scent of quartz hits you like a collapse, inky dreams crumbling into a cold, crisp awareness. White dust falls from your eyes and mouth as they part in a gasp, pink saliva oozing a new trail from the gate of your glassine teeth. You will all six of your eyes open, breaking the crystal rind with rapid blinks. The sound of your eyelids crackling the hardened film across your pupils, the sounds like a newborn escaping its egg. You heave a firstborn breath, agonized. What has woken you?
You sit up with all the pain a crystallized body offers, emaciated,
full of ancient stalagmite ribs and thin, shriveled entrails. You untangle yourself from your nest’s nutrient-rich feeding tendrils. They slither back into the porous walls with a sucking pop. You lick your time-bloomed sores, knead the knots of vigilante veins and arteries with the heel of your clawed hand. Vision returns slow as flow stone, dripping into clarity. When it finally settles into the vivacity you recall, you look out of your skull at the grey-pink ruin of your skin, your many arms, flushed talons, the knotted river of a tail. You wonder how long the sickness has kept you beneath the black membrane of sleep. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
The Past, History
By Aeryn Rudel
Murder was supposed to be a permanent situation. Jared Stiles should know; murder was his business, and contract killers didn’t get paid unless their hits stayed dead. Now, sitting in the cavernous intake room of The Infinite You, he was relieved death was, at least theoretically, reversable…if you had the money.
“Sir, I just need your thumb print to authorize payment.”
Jared looked up at a tall young man with a shaved head and the muscular build of a soldier. He held out a data pad, a small red square blinking angrily in its center.
“Two million bucks, huh?” Jared frowned. That was nearly every cent he’d carefully hoarded in twenty years in the business. Sixty-one successful hits. Sixty-one murders that couldn’t be traced back to him because he was careful, because he never let it get personal. Until now. Murder
number sixty-two was the most colossal fuck-up in his entire forty-seven years on this planet. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
The Last Miner
By Tom Jolly
Each day, at the same time, PM12 beamed a signal at Earth to update its status. It didn’t stop working to perform this task.
Sometimes, there was a response.
“Hello?” it heard. PM12’s receiver recognized the data on the signal as an analog voice and interpreted it accordingly. It still had a functional module that let it synthesize English and respond.
“Hello, this is PM12, delivering a status update.”
“Is there someone there?” said a second voice.
“No, it’s just that PM12 robot again with its goddamned update,” said the first voice. “PM12, what’s your status?”
“I have located an asteroid with an adequate iron supply to produce three standard sheets per hour. I would like to request a retrieval and storage ship for units produced.”
“Jesus, PM12, do you know where those damned steel sheets are going? It’s a hundred thirty outside due to all the crap reentering the atmosphere. Can’t you just stop?”
“I would require a supervisor command to stop manufacturing.” PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
By Stewart C. Baker
Min can tell by the way the man in the lizard mask drums the fingers of one hand on the surface of his desk that he is angry. She avoids the bright green glimmer of his eyes, wishing she were anywhere but here. Wishing she remembered who she was supposed to be.
“This is all you bring me?” the man asks, his voice raspy with distortion. In his other hand, he holds the latest chip Min has stolen, heavy with data on Ship’s communications to the other surviving colony ships and its route away from Earth-long-gone.
Min says nothing. She is not strong enough to answer, cut off and alone as she is.
The man grunts; his lizard-tongue flickers out of the mask and dances across the chip. His eyes glimmer to blackness as he decrypts the data it contains. His fingers stop drumming. They begin to twitch and spasm on the desk’s austere surface. PURCHASE ISSUE 002 TO READ MORE.
By Anthony Perconti
Technicolor Dream Coats
By Carly A-F
Burls & Bramble
The Came from the End of the Universe
By Miguel Aguilar