Cover art © Thom Davidsohn
- Reduction Descending by Luke Jackson
- Omens by Bruce Holland Roger
- A Miracle in Shreveport by Michael Jasper
- Crater Beach by John Mantooth
- Dr. Black and the Village of Stones by Brendan Connell
- The Alchemy of War by Paul M. Jessup
- Look There He Is by Bruce Holland Rogers
- The Prisoner in the Forest by Lavie Tidhar
- The Garden of Earthly Delights by Jay Caselberg
- Make Your Books Well by Bruce Boston
- The Deal by Megan Messinger
- Houseguest by Megan Messinger
- The Money Splicer’s Tale by Bruce Boston
- Untitled by Aurelio Rico Lopez III
Pradeep pedaled up the wooden bridge before his village, a scattering of staircase shanties enclosed by the green swarm of jungle. The benevolent gaze of Sai Babu peered from a towering billboard through the wide, fleshy fronds of tropical vegetation, Babu’s Afroed skull sparkling in the dwindling yellow light. Children from Babu’s crumbling stucco orphanage called out to Pradeep, chasing him eager and barefoot through several blocks of the village’s dirt roads.
Pradeep skid his ancient Schwinn Cruiser to a stop and descended into the dark, smoky interior of his hypogeal abode just as the muezzin let forth his mournful call to evening prayer.
On her wedding day, Marita woke up before dawn to a throbbing toothache. Her gums were swollen, and her face in the mirror looked a little lop-sided. She touched the puffy side of her face. This was an omen.
She hadn’t been all that certain about Marcus anyway. He kept promising to quit smoking, and he did quit. Again and again. Yet even when he wasn’t smoking, he kept an unopened pack in his glove compartment. The cigarettes bothered her—she hated the smell. That wasn’t the worst part, though. He didn’t like to be without opportunities, even if he planned to resist them.
We were lucky to make it out of Shreveport alive on that early spring day in 1917.
At noon, before the first game of our doubleheader, my All Nations team was taking batting practice, and as usual, I was studying the crowd. The people fascinated me: all those life stories that I’d never get a chance to hear, like that old colored man smiling and singing to himself next to his stern, frowning wife in her flowered hat, or the two white women with their cigarettes and exposed ankles. I was amazed by it all, though we never stayed in a place long enough to learn about anyone or anything more than the game and its players.
The man could not remember his name.
He said that certain chunks of his memories were gone. He said someone took them, but he could not remember who. We laughed at him at first. Just another derelict among the throngs at Crater Beach.
He was persistent. He kept saying, “It’ll happen to you. But I can’t tell you how. I can only remember stupid stuff like my best friend’s phone number and the way my dog used to wake us up at night barking his head off when a cruiser would fly over the house. Stupid, stupid shit.”
Blank is the book of his bounty beholden of old, and its binding is blacker than bluer:
Out of the blue into black is the scheme of the skies, and their dews are the wine of the bloodshed of things.
Charles Algernon Swinburne, Nephelidia
“Quai D’Orsay. Gran corona. A box of twenty-five.”
His German was perfect—far too perfect, too true for him to be Swiss. The shopkeeper nodded, fetched the box of cigars and returned.
“That will be three-hundred and ten francs,” he said, looking down at the man before him, a strange and gruff deformity who, far from inviting laughter, inspired him with the utmost respect.
Karac perches on the looking stones of Silas Bay, the sea spit frothing in black turmoil against the iron clouds of the horizon. Behind him the city belches fissures of steam and smog, glittering against the grey cliffs, an oppressive structure with clear and angry features, its brass and clay towers aggressive against the backdrop of sky and earth
The songs of birds mating fill the air with angry cries as Karac stands and walks towards the alchemy turtles moving sleepily along the beach. They have come to lay their eggs against the foam and torrents of the sea, the tips of their gigantic blue and silver carapaces bobbing up and down against the waves.
“Once upon a time, there was a young man who longed for adulation.”
“That sounds like most young men I know. What was it that he hoped to be praised for?
“He didn’t know.”
“Make it music, then. I like stories about musicians.”
“I’d be quite happy to tell you a story about a musician, but it wouldn’t be this story. The young man wanted to be adored, generally. But that was the extent of his ambition.”
“No. That can’t be right. It’s not enough to be generally ambitious. You’ve got to have a goal in mind, such as playing music exquisitely.”
We found the soldier lying in the crossing of the brook, by the drill water facility. He had dark hair cut short and was bleeding from a gash at the back of his head. He wore a uniform. It was wet.
That month we were playing prison camps, and we built a secret house in the forest that rose above the brook and overlooked the kibbutz on the other hill. It was a tree house, built with bars of wood and long nails and rope.
But everyone wanted to play guard.
Bosch drew deeply on his cigarette and exhaled slowly, watching the smoke paint clouds of tissue paper across the chill moon. If his hard-boned mouth had been capable of smiling, it would have. He’d tried to mimic the gesture often enough. He took one last drag at the cigarette, then flicked it out in a wide arc to scatter sparks against the broad stone steps. It was funny how compelling these human habits could be, even the ones they frowned upon. There was no risk for Bosch, but the humans seemed to like the fact that he had adopted one of their vices. It showed them he had his personal weakness.
Compelling. It was less compulsion than convenient subterfuge, but they weren’t to know that. Smoking, and alcohol, and sex—particularly sex; the examples went on and on.
Once books have become
reflecting the primitive
technology of the past,
only the finest books
will survive our age.
So make your books well.
Bind them tightly with
paper that will not decay,
ink that does not fade.
Make sure the words you
fill them with are the
finest you have to offer.
Once your flesh is dust,
some far future being
may crack the pages of
such creations and your
encore will be made.
in her pale, cold hand,
she whispers that they aren’t hers.
Mine are right here, see?
She blinks and wags her eyebrows.
She spins them in her fingers,
asks if I think she really died a virgin, if they’re really eyes, and if I want to trade her mine for those, since mine are ugly brown and those will last much longer.
Mom kicks me to pay attention.
St. Lucy rolls her eyes, one set at Mom
and one at me.
I pick them up,
and she holds out a hand, smiling
She’s almost like a person,
coming up the stairs—could be a cat,
except I know it’s her,
it’s always her,
this left-over ancestor
without the sense
to head into the light.
She drifts up behind me, reaching toward the mirror where I’m trying
—hey, I’m trying to put on some make-up, here.
Go find yourself somewhere else.
Somewhere not my house.
She leaves her face next to mine in the mirror and wanders down the hall, still nameless, barely noisy, barely there,
and when she stops at the window
to admire my alley view,
there’s a new, hard voice right in my ear—
I was prettier than you.
The mirror frosts over.
I call my mother from the cordless in the basement,
wedged between dryer and wall, listening to the winds upstairs, and ask, for the first time,
who is she, Mom? Jesus Christ, what happened here?
I grew them in my basement,
not counterfeits or copies,
but bona fide U.S. greenbacks
gene-spliced from real bills.
I spent my harvest wisely,
reinvested in the trade.
Soon I had a laboratory and
more cash than I could spend.
It drove those G-Men wild with
their microscopes and scanners.
No way to tell a Franklin cloned
from one hot off the presses.
Now the economy is leaping like
a frog with St. Vitus’ dance.
Bears claw down the market
while inflation gallops ahead.
I don’t give a wrinkled sawbuck
for I’ve sacrificed that game.
At my villa in the Swiss Alps,
I’m cloning gold instead.
frowning alien checks brochure
should have stayed at home