“Mrs. Russell, I’m Mr. Cavanaugh, here about your son’s assessment scores.”
The large man adjusted his glasses – an affectation in a world of perfect vision repair – and opened his glossy red folder. Another affectation, it held a single sheet of SmartPaper, which had been tuned to Benjamin’s assessment. He seemed ready with a presentation.
Trudy Russell cut him off. “What’s his aptitude?”
The man frowned. “Math. And problem solving.”
“He just turned five,” she said, “prime recruitment age. I’d want an advance on an eight-year contract, at least.”
“Provided his education proceeds on schedule…”
Benjamin’s mother settled in to negotiate.
Author’s Note: The pressure to decide our futures comes earlier and earlier… fortunately, mommy’s here to save the day. Or at least negotiate for a higher advance.
Today the news bulletin warned blonds under thirty to abide by the curfew. The weekend before had been Asian women, the week before was little black girls, drunk teens etc. An ordinary day in a city of killers. And if you weren’t a potential victim you were a potential killer. It was wonderful last summer when the killer of killers was hunting. Made us all safer, until he was slain himself, of course. And things went back to normal. We watch the news, obey curfews, beware our friends and family. Mix up the routines, trust no one. Above all, survive.
Author’s Note: If serial killers were as common as TV procedurals make them out to be, bodies would be shoulder high in morgues.
Johnny steps from the line-up onto the conveyer belt; the Supervisor makes her way over. She examines Johnny thoroughly.
“Reintegration,” she says.
I see the relief in Johnny’s face as he’s wheeled to the left.
My joints are frozen. Sweat drips off my nose.
Johnny got reintegration. I’ll get it, too.
I step up. My legs buckle.
The Supervisor pinches the skin around my belly. She measures the length of my arms.
She flips through her chart and writes something down. She doesn’t look me in the eyes.
“Spare parts,” she says.
Author’s Note: Another take on society’s obsession with appearance.
As he put the finishing touches on the time machine, Professor Windsor Crabtree saw a flash of light and heard the sound of a cork being ejected from a bottle of champagne. In the corner of his lab stood another, older Professor Windsor Crabtree.
He looked around, disoriented. Then his eyes focused on the machine. He ran toward it. It was not until the other Crabtree was fairly upon the machine, that Crabtree noticed the ball peen hammer.
Down it came on the delicate control panel.
Just before his future self disappeared, Crabtree heard him mutter, “How many more times…?”
Author’s Note: Time travel stories often deal with characters going back in time to try to fix past mistakes. But what if the mistake that needed fixing was building the time machine in the first place?
Sophia and Mason collected the household pets together in the living room. Grandpa had assured them that at midnight on Christmas Eve, the animals would speak to them. They sat in the glow of Christmas tree lights, waiting for the appointed hour.
Finally, the mantel clock chimed. The kids looked breathlessly at their pets.
The parakeet was first. “Mmmmelon!”
“Sausage!” insisted the dog. “Sausages, please!”
“Tuna for me,” the cat said, between licks of her paw.
Sophia frowned at Mason, then got up and headed to the kitchen. No wonder Grandpa hadn’t wanted to stay up for this.
Author’s Note: I still try to get my dogs to talk to me every Christmas Eve, even though I’m pretty sure that conversation would probably be about food and how I should get some for them.
She’s coming upstairs.
I push back my matted hair, staring into the mirror at my porcelain reflection. My fingers trace the crack that runs down the center of my face. One of the results of the countless times she’s dropped me.
I hear her singing quietly to herself in the hallway.
I walk from the vanity table to the edge of the shelf and look down, fingers smoothing my dress hem. The drop is eight feet. Enough to crack me for good, I hope.
The doorknob turns.
I breathe in.
Then I jump.
The child will drop me no more.
Author’s Note: It’s the bad side of Toy Story.
They left her as bait for the dragon. It only made sense: She’d been a stranger on the road, and none of the villagers wanted to sacrifice their own daughters.
As the dragon swooped down, wings spread, she raised her head and shouted in a strange tongue. The dragon stopped, looking confused.
What those fools didn’t realize, she thought, stripping the chains off her arms and legs, was that no innocent girl would walk alone on the roads like that. Only a witch would dare.
“Come on now,” she crooned to her new pet. “Let’s go destroy that village together.”
Author’s Note: Damsels in distress aren’t always as distressed as they seem.
I wore a blood red dress.
The box with the dead old man was near and I was made to march.
The crowd left space near me, as though I was a hole in the road down which they might fall. They wore type D tops, had soft soled shoes. I tried to see a glint of joy in those hard by, but there was none.
I knew that they were close.
I made my mouth an O. “We are free,” I sang. And from the shade they came, with their sharp suits, their Style A hair, and their guns.
Author’s Note: Experimenting with the Oulipean technique of only using one syllable in this piece, I wanted to explore a world where language was constricted and wearing red was an act of rebellion.
The first thing she did when he woke up was hug him. But it wasn’t the same as before: his thick arms engulfed her, leaving her no room to breathe. And resting her head against his muscular shoulder felt odd. Perhaps she just needed time to get used to this new body: the shorter legs, the freckles on his shoulders and flat, wide feet. If only he’d had the platinum insurance, she wouldn’t have been limited to choosing from the back-catalogue. Still, any body was better than none and at least his face was the same as before the accident.
Author’s Note: I’ve become a bit obsessed with the idea of body/head transplants and what it would mean. This is the second story I have written on the subject.
Other people’s milkmen only brought them dairy products. Ours delivered milk and magic right to our front door. Once he pulled a live flamingo out of his cap for Mum. Another time he conjured up a whole kaleidoscope of giant butterflies. Poppy and I would cheer from the hallway while Mum laughed into her dress sleeve. We loved him for that – the way he made her face all pink and giggly. That was the best magic of all. But after he and Mum did their disappearing act together we cancelled our account. That’s when Dad started taking his coffee black.
Author’s Note: Buying your milk from the supermarket is much less magical. I’ve never once spotted a flamingo in the dairy aisle.