A front page excerpt

Stuffed Head

Stuffed Head

The Vrekli had charged him a small fortune for the gene-tailored symbiotes, and it had taken weeks for him to get used to the squirming feeling in his nasal passages, but it was worth it to be at long last rid of the allergies that had made his life a misery since childhood. The tiny slime worms reliably devoured every speck of pollen, every fragment of dust-mite, every molecule of each airborne allergen that had plagued him in the past, before they could cause the vestige of a reaction.

What he shouldn’t have done was to spring for the recreational-hallucinogen nanobot inhaler on Chur’r. There seemed to be a struggle for supremacy going on inside his sinuses—some kind of hierarchical dispute—and even though he was zoned to the gills, he had now been sneezing nonstop for at least two hours. The spasms were simultaneously a delightful metaphor for a pervasive sense of oneness with the universe, and absolutely unbearable.

from the notebooks of F. J. Bergmann

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To the Eggplant Cannon – Beth Goder

The amusement park was so large that it had two trains named after root vegetables. Vienne got on the wrong one.

Lugging her magician’s trunk in one hand and a map of Wonder Gardens in the other, she clambered onto the Rutabaga Express. The seat was sticky with pineapple gunk and the car was open to the sky.

As the train chugged past the Bananarama Coaster and the whirling Strawberry Surprise, a sweet scent wafted through the air. Hordes of people milled around, clumping up to watch the organic farming demonstration or three women juggling zucchini. Lines for rides and food carts snaked around and around. The sound was tremendous—laughter and shouting, the whoosh of the Bananarama Coaster, and the train chugging along, whistling occasionally.

Vienne pulled out a deck of cards and shuffled, the rhythm of the cards matching the churn of the train’s wheels.

Another performance at another weird amusement park. But the produce theme wasn’t so bad. Last week, it had been cats—a tabby tea cup ride, catnip funhouse, ice cream sandwiches shaped like mousey toys. The Performers’ Guild was always sending her to kooky places.

It would be different when she made a name for herself. She’d travel around the world—hike in New Zealand, read on a beach in India, take a cooking class in Japan. But first, she’d go to Iceland. Iceland had all the best things—tiny horses, magma caves, medieval manuscripts, super cool birdwatching. Ever since she was a kid, Vienne had wanted to visit.

She flipped four aces out of the deck in a flourish. Maybe someday, she’d do that trick on an Icelandic stage.

The train chugged along. It wasn’t until the Carrot Waterslide that she realized she was going the wrong way.

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