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The Dragon Bride

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I do... Editor

The Dragon Bride

by Jenny Schwartz

"Listen, dragon," began Princess Julia of the Kingdom of Vanarre. Her hands were on her hips, her right toe tapping. "This can't go on."

The Southern Dragon, bigger than a house and with a row of spear point spikes along his spine, looked bemused--as well he might. Julia often had that effect on people. Who else would open parley with a dragon by chiding him like a naughty puppy?

The dragon opened his mouth and sent a stream of flame to incinerate a nearby pine tree which flared like a torch before falling into powdery ash in the intensity of the maintained flame. The dragon blinked in a satisfied manner, then glanced sideways to see how Julia had taken the demonstration of power.

She brushed ash off her wine velvet skirt. "That was very thoughtless. This is a new dress." It laced tightly across her bosom, emphasising her full figure. Julia was a big girl.

An odd rusty sound emerged from the dragon.

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When You're Alone

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Sounds like my weekend - Editor

When You’re Alone

by Jonah Koenigseker

Karen was gone. She had been gone for three weeks now and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Due to the season, friends and family called to wish me happy holidays and inquire about how I was doing being that it was the first Christmas without Karen.  The calls were appreciated, but invariably the well-wisher would quickly be escorted off by whiny, over caffeinated children or a demanding wife to perform some tired annual ritual. During the lulls between calls, I began to feel an intense tinge of loneliness. Christmas had always been a time of cheerful gatherings and exciting festivities for me.  Now I was living hundreds of miles away, on the outskirts of Detroit, and while their well wishes were somewhat comforting, I was still alone.

Following an adjustment phase, I made the decision to cure the emotional and mental paralysis ailing me. The first few days of the next week I immersed myself in repetitive, tedious work, something to occupy my muscles and mind. Cleaning. Folding clothes. Going through and organizing the boxes in storage, something Karen always nagged me about doing. I missed her, even the sometimes incessant nagging.
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The Eleemosynary Insurrection on Y-13

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System glitch - Editor

The Eleemosynary Insurrection on Y-13

by Fred Ollinger

I would have felt strange staring at a command line interface, but I was used to it.  Some computer bug had brought down my space station's operating system and along with it my graphic interface--the virtual hand that I controlled to select menu options.  I impotently squeezed my hand inside my power-glove staring at the message: "Kluster component bigMF inappropriately touched kid+k9."

Holding my breath, I pressed the command to reboot, plunging my space capsule into darkness and silence.  Cold and frustrated, I sat for a few seconds, alone, strapped in a tiny capsule, floating a million miles further from the sun than earth.  Then I heard the reassuring beep, and I watched text scroll down my screen, too quickly to read.  This was soon covered up by the Kluster OS logo.  Next the lights came on, and I heard the sound of the oxygen fan cut in.  I tried not to think of my home, my earth: trees, fresh air and open sky.  I took in a breath of recycled air then I pointed my power glove at the menu where I'd find that overused option: tech support.
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Gray Cell Blue

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For I have sinned - Editor

Gray Cell Blue

by J.R. Carson

The cell was four foot by six foot, with a seven foot ceiling. It had been Chris’s home for over a year now, as he awaited his court-appointed fate. He sat on his thin bed, head in hands, with sweat shining on his forehead. A voice in his mind caught his attention.

“How are you holding up, Christopher?”

Chris turned to see that, rather than originating from his head, the voice belonged to Father Muldoon, now sitting beside Chris on the bed. His white clerical collar was missing and his top shirt button was undone. Father Muldoon wore a tweed sport jacket rather than his vestments. Even in his street clothes, the priest had an air of softness, congeniality. Chris shifted his weight a bit and answered.

“I’m alright, Father.” His voice cracked a bit. “Time’s getting short.” He looked back down at his feet.

“There’s still time,” Father Muldoon said, “for the sacrament of penance.”

“Confession? You want my confession?” Father Muldoon put a hand on Chris’s knee. Chris stood up and began to pace his small cell. “You know what happened. What do I need to confess to you for?”
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Jimmy the Snipe and The Meth-Lab Fiasco

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Warning: Adult language - Editor

Jimmy the Snipe and The Meth-Lab Fiasco

by Kevin Atherton

A scream ripped through the night fog like a razor through fat, and it reminded me of a freshly castrated hog. Same sound no pork. Guy screws around with a rich man’s wife ought to be smart enough not to get caught, and Hog-Man was one stupid piggy. The job paid good money, and the only thing that would’ve made it easier was if my no-good partner Eli had shown up. The twit was always late and had some sorry excuse for bein’ late, and half the time I thought about cuttin’ off his skinny little dick just like I did on Hog-Man. Only thing stoppin’ me was, I liked Eli half the time, but just barely.

“Hey Jimmy, you’re sposed to wait on me,” said Eli who came strollin’ up like a rock star or somethin’. That was Eli. He never had a hair outta place, always smiling, and never phased by anything. He’s kind of psychotic if you ask me. Eli took in the Hog-Man’s pants wrapped around his ankles, the bloody stump where I did a little rough surgery, and the smile never wavered.

I said, “Jesus Eli, where the hell you been? What if I needed a little help because this fuckwad had some buddies along carryin’ knives and guns, or bazookas stickin’ out their ever-lovin’ assholes? What the hell about that? You just ain’t got respect for your partner, that’s what the problem is.”

“Relax Jimmy. I brought you some Twinkies, and I’ve been lining up some work that will pay big-time without even bringin’ up a sweat.”

“You know I ain’t supposed to eat that shit. I also withhold my judgment on any kind of “easy” work you’ve been trawlin’ for. You told me that before, and we wound up with bullet holes and broken bones. If you think I’m gonna fall for that crap again, your brains are floatin’ on sewer water. Hand over the Twinkies.”

Eli grinned like a shit-eating possum, tossed me the cakes and said, “You sit down and enjoy ‘em while I tell you what I got cooked up.”
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What it is to be Alone

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And the winner is... - Editor

What it is to be Alone

by F.G. King

Timothy James Norwalt. That’s my name, a name that had been announced all over the world. I had won the International Space Exploration Lottery; the publicity stunt that had become a recurring tradition. I didn’t intend on winning…I just got the ticket because my girlfriend was into the whole ‘pioneer to the final frontier’ thing and it seemed to make her happy that I bought it. The thing is I didn’t consider myself lucky to be getting an “all expenses” paid trip for an “out of this world adventure.” The thing is… I won, and that was a billion to one odds that that would actually happen. So now I’m going, now I’m the middle class nobody who gets to go to space. I’d be famous for as long as I was up there and then I’d be forgotten the moment we touched ground as the real astronauts would have lots of real important data to share with the world and all I could say was how weird it is to vomit in space.

I was acting as enthusiastic as I could. Only I hadn’t paid much attention to the well displayed information on the mission I was to attend. This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill space walk. Nor was it a quick run to mars. It was to be the fifteenth inter-solar flight. Our destination…the surface of an alien world. Not just any planet though. This one was ‘special.’ It was a planet just about the size of earth, a little larger in fact. So we would be able to walk around fairly easily. What wouldn’t be easy would be lugging around the two hundred twenty-three pound suit to protect me from radiation. Yeah, it was that kind of planet. They wanted to go up and get some rock readings from the surface to see if they could learn how long the planet had taken to form. It had formed some time after the star it orbits had gone nova. Which meant that the star had exploded, leaving behind a pulsar star. So all in all everyone was excited, except for me, I was enthusiastically attempting to be enthusiastic. Only I wasn’t doing to well at it.
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This Fresh-Fallen Snow

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Love is as love does - Editor

This Fresh-Fallen Snow

by Patricia Correll

The women doing their washing in the stream paused when the little family came up the road. They grinned and waved. The older children, a boy and a girl, waved back. The mother’s arms were occupied with holding the baby, but she stopped to talk.

“We wondered where you were, Yuki.” The oldest of the women called. “But since you’re coming from the graveyard, I see you were visiting your mother-in-law.”

“Her seven-year ceremony is in a few days, so we’ve been taking offerings all week.” Yuki shifted the baby, her long black hair swinging like a curtain.

“I laid flowers on Grandmother’s grave!” announced the little boy.

“Me too!” The girl squeaked. Her pale face turned red and she hid behind her brother as the women laughed.

Yuki smiled at the children. “I’ll be back to do laundry when the ceremony is over.”

The group moved off toward the village. As soon as they disappeared around the bend, the women began to talk.

“What a devoted daughter. Old Emiko was lucky to have her.”

“I celebrated my mother-in-law’s seven-year ceremony, but only because I had to. I was glad to see the end of that demon.”

“That little girl will be lucky if she grows up to be as lovely as her mother.”

“She’s been here…eight years? And she doesn’t look a day older than when Noboru brought her home. Yet we just keep getting more wrinkled.”
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The Edge of Extinction

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Skulking vermin - Editor

The Edge of Extinction

by Sophie Playle


It had been four years since he’d seen his own kind alive. There was a white-hot explosion. He shielded his eyes with his arm, too little too late, and was thrown into the air. When he woke up, half his face had melted away and most of the flesh was gone from his arm. The sounds of war had silenced.

He wandered through the debris for days, kicking through the rubble where buildings used to stand. He turned over a sheet of metal with the point of his gun. Beneath it was a twisted figure. Its pupils shrunk at the light and it lay twitching in a tangle of broken and fused limbs. It tried to speak but emitted only choking static.

He put the gun to the creature’s blackened, hairless head and pulled the trigger.

He still sees figures skulking through shadows. He hears footsteps disturb the rubble behind him, in front of him, all around. He sees the glint of wide eyes in the darkness. They are watching him.

But their minds are as ruined. All that remains in them is the will to survive, and an instinct that tells them to stay away from him – that he is one of the dangerous things. That instinct has served him well so far. But they are becoming more and more confident. They are getting closer. Last night he awoke to a dirt-encrusted face and wide white eyes staring down at him. He grabbed at his gun with his good arm and startled the man away.

They are starting to forget the memory of gunfire, and the threat of his ammo-less gun is no longer making them afraid.
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Say Goodbye

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Count to sixty - Editor

Say Goodbye

by C.J. Miozzi

Dan scrambled to his feet. Disoriented from the fall, the teenager reached out into the darkness and touched the cold, stone tombstone he had tripped over. His heart raced -- his pulse throbbed in his temples.

"Mark," he whispered. "Mark. Where the hell are you?"

Dan spun about in the dim light of the crescent moon. Amidst the shadows, he spotted a small patch of grass illuminated by Mark's flashlight. The stocky teen kept low to the ground as he rushed over to the light. He looked around nervously, but couldn't perceive any movement in the large cemetery.

When he reached the flashlight, Dan saw Mark's prone form sprawled out on the grass beside it.

"Dude, come on, we got to get out of here." Dan nudged his friend with his foot. "That guard was right behind us. He can come around any minute."

Light fell upon the tombstones mere feet away from the two friends.

Dan dove into a mound of earth behind a tombstone.

The light scanned the area. "You punks aren't getting away this time," spoke the gruff voice of the night guard. "You're going straight to juvie, and your folks are going to pay for all those tombstones you kicked over." Footsteps shuffled closer through the grass.

Dan held his breath and squeezed his eyelids shut. Don't come this way, don't come this way, he pleaded in his mind.

The footsteps receded from earshot.

The teen mentally counted sixty seconds before letting out a deep breath. He rose to his feet and tried to brush moist soil off his new Philadelphia Eagles football jersey.

After ensuring the guard was nowhere in sight, Dan turned back to Mark, who still lay on the ground. As he squatted beside his friend, Dan held a finger near Mark's nostrils, and felt warm air pulse out.

Dammit, he thought. What if he's in a coma, or something?
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Big Sugar

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9,000 words, but worth every one - Editor

BIG SUGAR

by Keith G. Laufenberg

-1-

THE PORT

God the first garden made and the first city Cain.

Abraham Cowley, The Garden.

Thomas Wang strode resolutely across the glistening terrazzo floor at New York City’s huge Port Authority Bus Terminal. Wang, the CEO of Wang International, a huge computer-tech firm, was in a hurry but then Thomas Wang was always in a hurry. He had been in the city for two days straight, in heavy negotiations with his staff and the CEO and staff of Plum Computers, as the two firms were consolidating their assets in order to buy out an ailing microchip computer firm. It was the advent of a new year, 1990, along with a new decade and—as far as Thomas Wang was concerned, a new era—an era in which computers and high technological companies would outstrip and out-sell all others, to the extent that they would dwarf them almost into oblivion. Wang was a visionary who was consumed with buying out any software or high-tech company that showed even a hint of any intention to sell. Wang’s limo driver had taken ill and, rather than employing a new one, Wang had decided to try, for the first time in his life, the mass transit system; he had decided to take the bus back to his palatial estate in New Jersey, even though several of his staff minions had offered to drive him home in their cars. Wang had been offered a large block of shares in a bus company, as part of the microchip computer deal, and he wanted to see firsthand what he might be getting involved in and how many people rode the buses, as well as what kind of people they were. He spotted a men’s room on the second floor of the terminal and headed towards it, not even realizing that there would be a portable toilet on the bus. He noticed several maintenance men dressed in red jumpsuits pushing mops silently across the shiny terrazzo tiles and smiled towards them, as he began walking up the stairway that led to the bathrooms.
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