Sunday, June 29, 2014

Antimatter by A.T.J. Cember

After years of wandering Apollo returns unannounced to Aviva's arms; by A.T.J. Cember.

It was only a few minutes after take-off from the runway in Bangkok that he began to wonder about Aviva, whether she had kept her promise. On the one hand, he mused amidst the rainy-season clouds, it was objectively unlikely; one the other hand, she was crazy enough to promise in the first place, and it didn't seem too much more drastic for her to actually keep her word. She wasn't the kind of girl to whom it would matter that, as the rest of their acquaintances had doubtless phrased it between themselves, he had "disappeared into thin air".

Actually not thin air, as it turned out, but the soupy monsoon breath of the southeast coast of Asia, and a few forays here and there into stretches of desert, be it in the Sahara or the Holy Land. But his wanderings hadn't included any altitude. And it was only his peers who didn't know where he was - his mother, Bridget Devereaux Wang, had been kept well informed. She had continually wired him money on behalf of herself and his father, and he continually sent expensive ethnic jewelry back by airmail for her to adorn herself with and continued to eat ramen noodles or the local equivalent form of subsistence.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Outing by Beryl Ensor-Smith

When the Prentburg Church Sisters join their neighbouring congregations on an outing to Waterfontein, a mix-up on the buses causes a terrible muddle; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

The invitation to church members in Prentburg to join the congregations of other towns on a bus trip was met with varying degrees of enthusiasm by the Sisters of the Church.

"How lovely," was Sarie Blignault's bright response.

"I'm not so sure," Marion Klopper said slowly.

"Well, I am!" Mrs Merton shot back without pause. "Some of the branches of our church in bigger towns are so snooty I'm surprised they even bothered to invite us. They look upon our little congregation as poor relatives."

"Especially the Waterfontein lot," Helga Swanepoel agreed. "They're really an arrogant bunch."

Christina du Plessis, who had lived in Waterfontein for some years and been (in her opinion) a mainstay of that branch, bridled.

"They most certainly are not! In fact, they are known far and wide for their Christian charity. They've adopted the local township and there is no end to their good deeds."

Their interference, more likely, Rina van Wyk thought cynically, but left the thought unsaid.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Portrait of Bare Pneuma by Steve Lucas

An alcoholic artist loses his job as a mechanic at the same time that his visions of an alien world reach a crescendo; by Steve Lucas.

'Why don't you just disappear?' asked the old man, waving his hand as if brushing away a fly.

'Don't speak to me like that.' James lifted the wrench a fraction as his muscles tightened in his right arm.

'Take it easy kid.' The old man lifted his cap, ran his fingers over his white hair and put the cap back on. 'Listen. You don't show up for a week. You don't call me. Now you turn up stinking of booze. You did a botch job on Mr Williams' Audi before you took off.' The old man took a deep breath. 'And you were already on your final warning after last time. What else can I do with you?'

James rolled his shoulders back and lifted his head. 'Come on, Joe.'

'I know you've got these... difficulties... and I've tried to be as understanding as I can be. I'm trying to run a business here.'

'You've no idea,' said James, stepping forward an inch.

'Put the wrench down,' the old man said, turning his palms over.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Should I Know You? by Harry Downey

Ian loses his job, and his day is about to get even worse - but what matters is how he deals with it; by Harry Downey.

3.33pm Tuesday 23rd

"Right, you're all here then. I'll come straight to the point and it's bad news. At the end of the month this office is closing down and we'll all be unemployed. The firm's been taken over and everything is going online from a call centre up in the North East somewhere. No exceptions - everybody here is in the same boat: me included. Apparently it's going to be national - every branch office is getting the chop. The new people will give us what money we're entitled to - please don't ask me for details - I don't have them. There'll be a little bit extra on top as well, I'm told. A man from Head Office will be coming down tomorrow or Thursday. He'll have individual envelopes for each of us with all the details. So there you have it. That's all I know at present. Under the circumstances I'll stick my neck out and say that anyone who wants time off for interviews and things will be given it. Sorry folks, that's it for now. Don't ask me questions as I don't have the answers."



5.58pm

Two cars had had a shunt and blocked Disraeli Street near the bridge just before rush hour. It didn't look serious - no ambulance or anything obvious - but it caused a tailback. Ian had been stuck in it and couldn't turn round to go another way, so as he opened the front door he knew he was in trouble. Twenty minutes late. Good excuse or not he braced himself for a tirade.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Innocent Lust by Ethan Regal

Ethan Regal recalls a dark and confusing secret from his childhood.

We were seated next to each other while our teacher spoke. Our teacher stood in front of the class, with a cane in her hand pointing at the blackboard. Her features, I don't recall. This is a vague memory, a moment in time that I shoved aside. All I remember is that the girl seated next to me had her desk so close to mine. Her chair was also close to mine. She took my shaky hand and guided it into her skirt. I was seven or eight.

At that age, I heard my aunt talking about sex. Penis plus vagina equals babies. But hand plus vagina was unknown. Even with the uncertainty, my instincts were against this action. You know something is wrong when you're hiding it from your teacher and everyone in class. My heart pounded vigorously in my chest as her thighs warmed my hand. Beads of sweat bored through my forehead and turned cold in the warm room. She dug my hand deeper into her skirt while I fixed my gaze on my teacher. This girl didn't even search the room for anyone watching. All she cared about was getting that area touched by someone.

Every day, I had my hand in her skirt, massaging her dark warm area. A day came when I couldn't deal with the tension. I refused to touch her. She grabbed my hand and forced it into her skirt and I pulled it out. She tried again and I pushed my table and seat away from her. The next lesson she exchanged seats with another student. She sat next to some guy, and judging from how close they sat and his shoulder movement, he was exploring her dark area. For some reason this made me jealous. I had no feelings towards her but no one likes to be replaced.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Once a Lucky Man by Kenneth Sibbett

Kenneth Sibbett's tale of an unremarkable accountant whose life gets turned upside-down when he finds a rare coin on the street.

Herbert was a man of few friends, as a matter of fact, he had no real friends at all. Of course he knew people, but they were mere acquaintances at best. Herbert wasn't lonely and accepted his fate, keeping his feelings to himself. He had never been popular, even as a child. Especially as a child. If you asked anyone who knew him back in the day, they would be hard-pressed to remember much about him or his family.

Herbert didn't hate people, no, far from it. He said hello with a smile just as he did goodbye. No one hated Herbert, or had reason to. How can you hate someone you don't know?

Graduating from a Community College with a two-year degree in accounting, Herbert worked as an accountant in a distributing company. It was the only job he ever had. He did his job well enough, but kept a serene yet faraway look on his face. He made less money than most because he never asked for a raise. He wasn't one to rock the boat and the status quo fitted his personality. Like millions of other workers, he wanted only to do his job and go home. Herbert's life would have gone on as usual, if he had not been at the wrong place at the right time one fateful morning.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Forwun By E.S. Wynn

E.S. Wynn's horrifying vision of a machine-mind trained to do battle on distant planets.

From the moment the sentient mesh is mated with the neural tissue of my first body, I know that I have a purpose. I know the concepts, the symbols and the grammar of a sterilized strain of stan-terran. I am acutely aware of my body, know how to measure and calculate weight, distance and inertia with only a glance.

And I know how to use a gun.

The name coded into my mesh is CZ-1041, but the woman behind the glass calls me Four-One, runs the words together so it sounds like Forwun. I take her simple instructions verbally, but a silicon-quick stream beamed directly to my mesh provides the real details. The mission is simple.

Run.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Always, Veronica by Regina Solomond

Roger reminisces on the highs and lows of his relationship with Veronica, as he prepares to break up with her; by Regina Solomond.

He knew he had to do it today. The sooner he did it the better, seeing as how next week was Valentine's Day and all. Still, Roger was never good at confrontations.

When Roger was eight years old and accidentally broke his mother's porcelain Virgin Mary that she got from her honeymoon in Italy during a solitary game of blind man's bluff, he apologized in a letter he left among the broken shards. He proceeded to lock himself in his room before his mother returned home from the supermarket and saw the damage. If only he could break up with Veronica through a letter, things would be so much easier. Whenever Veronica felt upset, her bottom lip trembled and her eyes mimicked those of a vulnerable deer looking straight into a hunter's gun. Roger couldn't handle that. But Veronica deserved a face-to-face explanation.

"Ideally," Roger thought, "Veronica has the same feelings, or lack thereof, as me and wants to break things off as well." He absentmindedly ran his fingers across the pink letter in the pocket of his coat, where he had found it last week. It was covered with silly sentiments that would seem dear to a lover but childish to anyone else, and he had to admit that it seemed unlikely his dissatisfaction with their relationship was mutual.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Train to Aokigahara by Eliz M. Aviles

A girl tries to escape the confines of both her apartment and her guilt about an unusual gift; by Eliz M. Aviles.

The train wasn't in a hurry to leave. I could have stood outside the doors for another minute and it would have remained still. I stepped in, relieved it wasn't crowded inside. It seemed today was a slow day. In other words, I made the best decision to leave my apartment after a week.

I sat in the farthest seat next to the window. The air inside smelled like antiseptics. The seat was warmed up from someone else's body heat.

Only two people were close, but not close enough for me to have any physical contact. I grew so tired of being locked inside four walls, and I needed this small trip to God-knows-where. But I had to avoid touching strangers. I did not want to involve myself with people's problems after seeing their past and thoughts play in mind like a movie.

I raised my hands in front of me, and stared at my palms. I wondered if there were any secrets behind the lines. I considered visiting a fortune teller, but I would end up seeing her life and thoughts instead of it being vice versa.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Beach Gym, LA by Tom Gatley

A Brit visits Los Angeles for three weeks and immerses himself in the beach gym culture, by Tom Gatley.

Chapter 1: 85bpm

The palm tree leaves quivered dryly two stories above the promenade. A couple young girls rolled past in pink and red, skin yellowish in the humid air. Not a glimmer of sweat. They wore headphones, but managed to be maintain a conversation. This was too predictable, Rich thought to himself, as he stood on the sidewalk. Los Angeles could look like this in a music video, but surely not in reality. He took a daring step past where the girls had been only moments ago, and stared across the road towards an avenue of trees and rolling, rainbow-coloured Americans. The lights above the traffic, synchronised into blots of green. He'd always admired himself as the type of person who could cross roads without thinking. Taking the every day risk and facing death. He remembered crossing on orange back in London and having his foot snatched by burning rubber, swung round like a dancer. His 5p carrier bag flew open and headphones were broken, scattered in two parts on the tarmac. Only when he reached the park and lifted a stained trouser leg could he see how his ankle was bleeding. A dizzy wave washed over, not quick enough for the phobia of automobiles to stain itself on his subconscious.

There was something he despised about the vanity of youth. Perhaps it was what eventually gave him a good reason to escape the country he was born in. Perhaps because he knew it in himself. It came with an attuned level of self-awareness that went deeper than mere superficiality. It ran deep in the veins of insecurity, seemingly beyond relief. A humility impossible to rescue save by a Zen master. Maybe the whole world felt this way. Europeans were different. He had lived in Portugal and France for a few years, and always admired the gentle vanity, which never went beyond looks or admiration for the shape of ones own face. Selfies were abundant on the internet, lost in an ocean of data, relevant for their respective brief moments in time.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Liaison by David W Landrum

David W Landrum tells the story of Eyoline - soldier, judge, governess, lover - who returns to military service after surviving a brutal sexual attack by an enemy alien species.

Eyoline knew Jon was on Planet Glinn, but she wanted to find him off duty. Black Diamond monitored her constantly when she went on assignment, and she had had enough of people nosing into her private life of late. She met with the planet's Central Command group and gave the Mervogian Army Intelligence Agency's report on insurgent activity.

"We have intelligence that suggests the insurgents are planning a major assault," she told them.

"Where do you get your information?" Coll, the commanding general, demanded.

"That's classified, but I can say it's from reliable informers and from other means of observation."

"Our intelligence indicates only minor activity. The insurgents blow up a few mailboxes, but we don't see how they could mount an assault of any significance. They don't have the resources."

"Our data indicates the Housali are supplying them."

"We've seen no evidence of this."

Eyoline passed on Black Diamond's suggestion that the Mervogian military and Glinn loyalists go on alert. Coll thought to do so would alarm the populace and be interpreted as a power grab by the Colonial government, and refused to take action. The Glinn attacked the next day.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Those Strange, Beautiful Fishes by Marcel Admiraal

Joris Dekker stops on the way to work to watch an old man fishing with some unusual bait.

The morning started to creep in over the fields. Before the sun came out, the countryside looked dull and grey with the mist still hanging low and the sky somewhere between black and blue, but now it bathed in that strong golden light. Some of the brighter stars were still visible, but they rapidly faded as the sun rose. Birds tweeted as they heralded the first rays and the creatures of the night scurried in the low grass looking for their burrows in the damp ground. There was no wind rustling in the high grass or the leaves on the trees. The water in the canals was still and even though spring was well on its way, the clear, bright mornings still felt very cold.

Joris Dekker was on his way to work when he came across the big blue Ford station wagon standing in the grass on the side of the road. A little further down an old man sat on a piece of plastic at the water's edge, staring at a colourful float that sat quietly in the middle of the canal. Being somewhat early, Joris wondered what the old man was doing at this time of day, and decided to kill some time.

At first the old man didn't notice the young man approaching and he turned with a shock when he heard the young man's legs moving through the dewy wet grass.

"'Morning," Joris said with a slight grin. He was skinny and tall with dark hair and old dirty work clothes. The old man nodded and allowed Joris to stand next to him on the big concrete tube that connected two small canals.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunflower by Adrienne Bracken

A grandfather wonders at the magic of a growing seed when his son and granddaughter come to visit; by Adrienne Bracken.

Amazing, one seed shooting up into a tomato. A cucumber. A pepper. Scattered about the ground like rice at a wedding. Seeds to roots to leaves to the edible byproducts of fifty years hard summer work.

Zucchini. Squash. Parsnip.

I smoothed the trowel over the earth's icing, coating the spongy cake layers underneath.

I'd caught myself daydreaming about pastries since my doctor put me on a low-sugar diet. No more snickerdoodles, Raisinets, or log cake for this old fart.

Gathering my tools, I wiped them off on my Levi's before placing them, one by one, on the wooden shelves in the shed. Hand built, those bastards were.

Hobbling to the sliding doors at the back of the house, I leaned hard against the French door handle Jeanie'd fought me on. That damn woman, always worrying about things like door handles and cabinet lining.