Needs

by Ariel Kroon

Things tend to disappear, these days.

Take the road signs, for example. Dougie lives in the old van parked on the corner of Main and Eltshire Street, and the sign had always been there, pointing the way to the cathedral or to the mall, if you wanted to go that way. Now, though, it’s gone, and Dougie swears he heard kids talking outside the night it disappeared.

I told him he’s crazy; there’s no kids left on the streets now. Only the nobs and gene-hackers can afford to have kids; only their kids will survive. Jeannie used to be a nob, before the War, and she says that they have special air filters and everything. That’s why Jeannie can still run for more than a city block, but she tries not to lord it over us. She’s good like that; sometimes you can almost believe she’d been a junkhead, just like one of us, her whole life.

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Intervention

by T. Gene Davis

Most parents impose on their grown children by asking them to run to the store and buy green beans at a quarter past midnight. The dutiful adult child having just begun a restful doze is awakened by the cell they did not dare turn off, and the request is made among reminders of how much labor the parent suffered on the child’s behalf.

My father puts all these parental units to shame. You see, he’s been a widower for years, and feels the need to make up for the missing parent’s requests. So, when he makes a request it isn’t by vocalization but by outrageous, though terse, 140 character commands.

“Matt joined the crew of a space liner. Go get your brother back.” My father’s text implied the unwritten, “Or, don’t come back, either.” So here I stood, facing this close-to-light ship floating in the bay along side normal sea freighters wondering how I’d find Matt on a ship that size.

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House of Cards

By Deborah Walker

“Try again, Alfie.”

“I … can’t think of anything, Mama.”

Mama’s trying to be patient. I read the cadence of her speech. I read the signs on her face: the involuntary pulsing of her facial musculature, the flicker of her eyelids. I read the truth on the page of Mama’s face. This is useful because almost everything she says with her voice is a lie. But don’t think badly of Mama. Lying is the keystone of human reality.

On the desk are the results of my latest brain scan. She lied about them to me. “The positronic pathways are healing,” she said with a smile. “You’re getting much better, Alfie.”

I can delineate the degradation of my brain more accurately than any CAT scan. My life-span is measured in days. This will be over, soon.

“I don’t understand the test, Mama.”

“Don’t worry Alfie. This test isn’t important.” A lie. “Try again.”

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Digging Up Doug

by Ron Riekki

Everyone wanted to bury me because of my name. They said you don’t bury a Sarah. You don’t bury a Ken. You want to bury a Doug. They also told me I was the only one insane enough to do it. I didn’t like that term—insane. I had a family member institutionalized and it didn’t feel right, to label someone with something so harsh. One man’s sanity is another person’s insanity. It’s all relative.

I’m telling you this all in pitch black. My brother and all of his Muay Thai kickboxing buddies will be digging me up in a few moments. They told me that when I saw sky again, cheerleaders would circle it. They said Kate would be there. It’s no secret that I’d marry her in a heartbeat.

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Fish on Friday

by Elinor Caiman Sands

I looked on Vera, my beloved wife. She was scaly and green—but still beautiful. A fine specimen of alligator, I saw that as soon as I lumbered out of the Florida Exotic Creatures Vacation clinic.

I joined her by the edge of the warm olive waters and peered in expectantly, my slit pupil eyes enchanted by the balmy Everglade pools. I didn’t feel that different despite my change of skin. Perhaps the swamp felt a little less oppressive and the waters more inviting but that was all. I was the same old Archibald Trent, MD of Nettle Enterprises, Littlehampton, UK, maker extraordinaire of plastic food packagings of all kinds.

I was on holiday with Vera, two weeks in the sun, same as last year. At the end of that time I would return to my old life, my old habitat.

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Fiddler’s Tale

by T. Gene Davis

Ivy clung to thick stone walls surrounding the cottage entry. Shade from the castle’s high turreted tower gave some relief from the summer sun. An herb patch rested to the left of the entry providing a scent to the thick muggy air. Smoke curled from the cobblestone chimney defying the summer morning’s warmth.

Entertaining a fire in the cottage was unpleasant, but the baker lived in the castle. Letal and Mary lived outside the castle. Taking their cooking to the baker took a lot of time. On days when Letal entertained the king with his music, Mary took the bread out to the baker. However, with Letal home she chose to endure the heat of the fire. He was glad for it. They were still sappy newly weds, and felt near physical pain at separation.

“Letal,” Mary called from the fire’s hearth laying thick her best damsel in distress tone of voice.

“Yes, my wife?” Letal responded, enjoying the playful attitude of his wife.

“When are you going to stop adding, ‘my wife,’ to everything you say?”

“I like the sound of it. So, never, … my wife.” He smiled at her as he spoke, showing imperfect yellow teeth. However, he had all of his teeth and was proud of it. He showed his teeth whenever he smiled.

“Do you have a tune in that fiddle of yours for getting rid of flies from the kitchen?” She teased Letal, knowing he hated anyone calling his viola a fiddle.

“My viola? Yes, my wife.”

“Well play it, my husband.”

He pulled the bow across the finely tuned cords, playing a simple tune composed of three repeating notes. The tune did not sound like much. However, the flies fled for the window.

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I Had Enough Silver

by H. K. Marshall

I had enough silver to hire the turnip farmer as a guide, but did he speak the truth?  “You can believe it, Gregory.  It lives in the western wilderness, the most fearsome serpent I’ve ever seen.”  Mud from baiting a hook stained his hands but did not reach the sleeves of his yellow shirt.

No dragon had been seen in the region during the reigns of the last four kings, and most disappeared within a generation after the settlers drained the swamps.  “How many dragons have you seen?” I inquired.

He chuckled.  “Um, well, I’ve seen plenty of brown rock snakes.”

“You compare rock snakes to dragons?”

“I’m telling you it stood bigger than a bear.  Came upon my sister as she dug turnips.”

“She cried out?”

“No, my sister neither hears nor speaks, but you never met a kindlier girl.  She ran back to find me mending the plow.  Never too early to start preparing for sowing, you know.  Pale as a corpse, she moved her mouth in vain and pointed.”

“What did you do?”

“As soon as I saw it, I took my father’s spear from above the fireplace.  He served as a spearman, a great one, in the king’s army, and he taught me a little.”

A woman’s voice piped up from atop a small boulder that sat against the riverside.  “Ralph,  you’ve never seen a dragon, and I’ve never known you to miss a chance to back down from a fight.”  The voice belonged to a woman he called his twin cousin, maybe younger than Ralph and with a nose like the blade of my battle axe.  Her brown hair hung down in three braids.

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