Rooks on Sundays – Jack Neel Waddell

“You never liked to play chess with me,” she says. The board lies on a tray across her bed. Pillows prop her up slightly, just enough to see the pieces. She reaches out a wrinkled hand, skin both pale and blotched brown, like the flesh of an apple left out too long. She grabs a rook that she carved, perhaps twenty-five years ago, from purpleheart wood. Today she remembers how it moves. “I know how …

A Bear, or a Spider, or an Elephant – Edward Ashton

“The night sky is beautiful,” Seven says. “Deep and dark, blue-black and starless. It has a certain ineffable purity to it, don’t you think?” Mara glances up. This world is a young one, snugged tight against the galactic core. The stars above her are so fat and bright and crowded together that this can barely be called a proper night at all. She looks back to Seven, one eyebrow raised. “Not here,” he says, his …

A Layer Thin As Breath – Thea Boodhoo

“Valley. Can you still hear me?” Julian’s voice filtered through her dying radio. The Prince of Cats was a speck of light, dimming through the gold-grey film that, atom by atom, was devouring her helmet. Valley tried to say something, anything. Failed. Julian was sobbing on the other end. “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so kzzzzzzchchchcffft—” and that was it. Her radio was gone. “Oh god,” she breathed to herself, to no one. “Oh god,” …

Unmasked – Tomas Marcantonio

There isn’t much difference between night and day in this city, but we know it must be night when the train comes. It stops in the centre of the city inside its glass tube, the passengers standing shoulder to shoulder with their faces at the window: The Rat, The Flamingo, The Impala, several more, all of them watching us. After an hour or so the train moves on, out through the wall that encircles the …

The Memory Dresser – Nicholas M. Stillman

Our parlor is small—tucked in a corner of Helm, folded between an empty Gassa stall and the home of a half-deaf mystic. For this reason, discretion numbers as one of our services. Not even the moon bears full witness, as Illsea, the largest Tower on the hill, shades us from the first few hours of evening light. Under our lamps, we shape the memories of the people of Helm, our people. Unlike the royals in …

In the Beating of a Wing – David Cleden

When his mother calls, Chester is in the back yard tending to his various projects, which all seem to be going badly. “Chester!” Her voice is shrill and tired-sounding, as though she’s been crying again. “Inside now, please.” He ignores her, head bent over his work. The frankenstem is dying, and he’s sad about that. The books he’s read make it sound easy—how you can graft cuttings from one plant onto another, taking the best …