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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The Forest of New People – Thom Connors

When winter comes to Vakning Forest, nothing changes. The evergreens, packed tightly together, don’t wilt or become bare. Nor does the smell fade. As the winter deepens, the snow covers the canopy like a blanket, and the scent of pine needles and pine cones follows the only path worn out of the darkness.

Outside the forest, where the path begins, is the cottage of Abi and Odo Tremord. It has a red roof, brown walls, and a whitewashed, waist-high fence. In the yard stands a pine tree, a sapling, half as tall as the forest.

While the kitchen looks out over the pine tree, Odo’s wood chopping block looks towards the forest. So it is that Odo is the first to notice any man exiting the forest.

It was always an adult, stumbling along the path on legs with newly formed muscles. The Tremords would take the man in, feed him, clothe him, and set him to bed. Then they’d teach him: wood chopping, speaking, etiquette. And when the season changed next, they’d see the colour on the horizon as the Bastler came trundling along, his wagon painted that garish orange. They would dress up the man in the finest clothes Abi had made, and all three would wait at the path’s end for the Bastler to arrive.

When he did, the Bastler would get off the wagon. He would wave his black cloak around for show, with its purple inner trim and the wolf fur on the cuffs, and he would flash a smile which showed off his pointy canines, stark against the perfection of his other teeth. He would inspect the man.

“The forest made you mighty,” the Bastler would say after checking the man’s teeth with his eyes and a finger. Then he would push the man into the back of his wagon and get back in front of the horses, and prepare to leave. “Does he know when to run and when to walk? I can’t set him to work if he can’t show common sense.”

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