Griselda built the cabin of logs and twisting branches. Moss crept in to plug the cracks. She put in a black-iron stove and a fireplace: when you’re nine hundred and thirty-five, you get cold easily.
The squirrels filled her pantry with nuts, and the Queen Bee’s guard brought honey. A white-pelted wolf left rabbits at her door.
Snow fell. Winter was a good time to die.
Then the woman showed up at her doorstep, heavily pregnant.
The babe was a girl.
Her laugh lit up the room.
Griselda bounced the baby up and down.
“Welcome to Grandma’s house,” she said.
Author’s Note: You start to think about stuff like this at a certain age.
The librarian walks the forest, her skin space-dark, shot with stars. Sonnets brush her feet as she stops to smooth out a white bloom that contains legends of the Mandare people.
An ancient tree contains every encyclopedia known to sentient beings. She runs her hand along its rough bark. Definitions stick under her fingernails.
The novels beckon, ripe fruit on hanging vines. She picks one, blue-green and spiky. Words burst on her tongue.
When she is finished, she cracks the slimy seedpods and slips the seeds into her pouch.
She wanders on.
Dry leaves rustle like paper at her feet.
Author’s Note: Turns out that you can store data in the DNA of plants. All the knowledge in the world could hypothetically be stored in a boxful of seeds.
The starwhale floated past the ship, its silver fins spread to catch the solar wind.
Jin gaped, speechless for once.
Their guide smiled. “The computer translates its song into frequencies humans can hear. ”
Eerie, low sounds drifted from the speakers.
“We call this one Cassandra. She always comes back. There’s something wrong with the pitch of her voice, you see. The others can’t hear her.”
“Can’t the computer translate for them, too?” Jin asked.
“Can we try?”
After a few hours, a strange, new song burst forth.
Together, the two starwhales disappeared into the nebula.
Author’s Note: According to NASA, there is sound in outer space. Humans just can’t hear it.
Two hundred years ago, we discovered FTL.
A hundred and eleven years ago, we made first contact. War inevitably followed.
Ninety-eight years ago, the remnants of humanity were dispersed among twenty hidden, low profile colonies, none knowing the location of any other, only that they existed.
Eighty-five years ago, omni-directional broadcasts from Earth stopped abruptly.
Seventy-two years ago, catastrophe beacons started broadcasting fallen colonies’ epitaphs.
Two months ago, every colony had been accounted for, destroyed, except for us.
Three weeks ago, something entered our solar system.
An hour ago, our president apologized for failing to save us.
A second ago…
Author’s Note: The title inspired the story, but I can’t tell you the correlation between the two.
Jonathan met the indigo-haired lady scientist at an anatomy lecture. She sat in the front row and scribbled furious notes into her worn leather journal with a silver fountain pen.
When he asked her to dinner, she accepted and suggested a restaurant.
The beef was rare and the brandy strong. Jonathan fell asleep in the hansom cab, head against her shoulder. She smelled of formaldehyde and rust.
He woke up on her surgical table, strapped in tightly. Brains in jars lined the wall.
She only liked me for my mind, he thought as she smiled and cut into his scalp.
Author’s Note: Be wary of strange ladies you meet at anatomy lectures.
Detective Iredell wanted a drink, and not the enhancement formula. Too much clarity is a bad thing.
Still, the victim’s family needed closure, and Iredell would provide. He drank the syrupy liquid.
It worked at once—he spotted blood on the carpet. Smelled chloroform. Felt a draft and followed it to the window. Escape route.
Iredell also felt his own pains. Arthritic knees and hips protested as he squatted over the scene. His heart strained with clogged arteries. Mostly, his liver ached.
Each enhancement he was more tempted to drink to counteract the effects. Soon, he knew, I’ll give in.
Author’s Note: I recently read a great story about an alcoholic detective, and I wanted to try my own . . . with a sci-fi twist.
Fog swirled around Jenny’s boots as she walked, and skeletal branches grabbed at her hair. Moonlight filtered through the dark, damp leaves, and the ancient trees whispered and swayed.
It was a night for haunts and ghasts and goblins.
Something slithered a laugh in the bushes.
Jenny was quicker; she snatched the ghoul out of the air and snapped its neck.
Sighing, she slipped off the tiresome human skin, stretched her claws towards the starry sky, and bared her fangs.
The ghoul’s blood, salty and sweet, ran down her chin.
It was good to be home.
Author’s Note: Maybe monsters like coming home, too?
This should be a great night!
Human Cosplay is new to my species. Dressing up in another being’s guise is incredibly empowering. It’s almost as much fun as making the costume.
Entering the bar, everyone notices my impressive appearance. I must have done well to draw such immediate attention.
There are my co-workers, at the back: the cool crowd, finally accepting me.
“Dreegli, what have you done?” Cute little Shrel asks, exasperated, eyes wildly tracing the blood dripping down my sides.
“I … came as a Human?”
“You’re supposed to emulate them, not kill them and wear the carcass.”
Author’s Note: I read recently about a cosplay hosted at the Sydney Sexpo. It got me thinking about how easy it is to misunderstand the base assumptions of participation in someone else’s traditions.
“You really want me to do this? I can barely see,” Laura asked. Macular degeneration had stolen most of her central vision.
“Yes.” The client’s voice was strange and slithery, like her hair.
When Laura shampooed her hair, the client hissed.
The curling iron was worse. Something bit her finger.
“What was that? Did you see?”
Laura twisted stray strands around the bun. It took a lot of hairspray to make them stay put. Her arm felt hard as stone.
The client got up. “Thanks. Sorry about the arm.”
She heard a hissing laugh as the client left.
Author’s Note: Even Gorgons need hairdressers.
“Now’s a bad time to let our guard down,” Aaron said. I concurred.
We found a cave and took turns keeping watch—bandits had stolen treasure from Lord Grant, and he’d charged us to steal it back. Bandits don’t usually appreciate that.
“Wake up, Duncan!” Aaron hissed, and I sprang to my feet. Still midnight. Aaron loaded his crossbow; nothing moved in the woods outside.
“Not out there,” he whispered. I turned. Two eyes caught the starlight, at least three feet over our heads.
We fled. Given the choice between ogres and bandits, we’d take our chances with the thieves.
Author’s Note: I wanted to try something that started in one place, then took a right turn and ended somewhere completely different.