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 …

Misalignment – Erik Goldsmith

When Levy Green awoke, he looked around for a few blinking moments, and did not try to remember. He was alone. Through an open window, he could see it was day. Something, somewhere was beeping. An ache began to throb in his forehead and, after a bit of searching, he discovered an unfamiliar incision just below his hairline. The words What if I came into his mind. What if I what? he asked himself and …

A Final Resting Place – Matt Hornsby

The lander sloped down from orbit towards the jagged peninsula that leaked westwards from Earth’s great landmass. Salzmann’s eyes tracked across the surface as they broke the cloud cover. It stretched brown-green to the limits of his vision, shorn of angles and straight lines. He heard Nguyen grumble under her breath as she wrestled with the command console, urging the craft towards a suitable landing site. When he had offered to co-pilot, she declined, and …

Favorites from Here and Abroad – Peter T. Donahue

Two giant polyps were nibbling at the husk of a shopping mall some miles off. I was focused on a sludge-tower, though, just a half mile down the hill from me. I’d have to pass it. From where I stood, on the street that zig-zagged down to the basin of the valley, I couldn’t see the tower’s base. A ridge, wearing a row of rotting condo roofs like an epaulet, was in the way. For …

The Propagator – Simone Kern

There’s a packet of powder taped to my inner thigh, and it feels like the plastic is burning a hole through my leg. Two police officers wave me towards the chem-detecting archway—one last hurdle before I can board the ferry. Sweat pools in the pits of my cooling suit, and my breath comes fast and hot through my respirator. I tell myself they’re just city cops, not agents of VerdiCorp. They’re just looking for drugs …

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 …