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Devil in the Deep Blue

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Depth and charges - Editor

Devil in the Deep Blue

by Jack Skelter

The sleek and sharklike U-boat had been stalking the British merchant convoy for five fretful hours.  Forty metres below the heaving seas, she struggled to maintain a two-knot headway against the powerful crosscurrents of the North Atlantic Ocean.

“Sound contacts at bearing three-four-seven,” the hydrophone operator whispered as he pressed the headset against his grimy ears.  “Moving towards us.”

“Periscope depth.”  Kapitänleutnant Tobias Elfe’s quiet order -- his first spoken one in the past half-hour -- reverberated through the hushed submarine.

“Aye, Herr Kaleu,” acknowledged the first watch officer, using the familiar, diminutive form of the submarine commander’s rank.  “Planesmen:  periscope depth, ten degrees up-angle.”

The planesmen twirled their wheels as the watch officer kept a careful eye on the depth gauge.  The submarine gently nudged her bow upwards.  Upon reaching fourteen metres, the watch officer ordered the planesmen to level out the diving planes.

“Periscope depth reached, Herr Kaleu.”

Elfe removed his peaked white cap and nodded to the watch officer.  “Very well.  Up periscope.”


The Pixie Purse

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Could Tinkerbell be bipolar? - Editor

The Pixie Purse

by Doug McIntire

I’d noticed it lying on the floor for days, but I ignored it. I thought it was gum wrapper, or some other piece of trash. When I finally picked it up, I realized that it wasn’t just some wadded up paper. It was a tiny little purse, about the size of my thumb, maybe a little smaller.

At first, it appeared to be an accessory for a Barbie doll, but as I looked at it, I could see that it was too well made to be a toy. I got out a magnifying glass and studied it more closely.

I could see tiny stitching and embroidery on it, as well as a zipper. I took tweezers and ever so gently, pulled on the zipper and opened the purse. Inside, I found clothes; a pair of doll-sized shorts and a halter top. There was also a pair of tiny panties. They were also too well-crafted to be doll clothes.

I couldn’t imagine how the purse ended up on my bedroom floor. I went back to examine where I’d found it.

There was a rather large gap under the bedroom door and the purse had been just inside, about eight inches from the opening. I closed the door and realized that it matched the depth a cat’s paw could reach.

My cats were always losing things they played with, like the plastic rings from milk jugs. I would find them under the couch about the same distance in. They were probably playing with the purse and pushed it under my door where they couldn’t get at it anymore.

But that still didn’t explain where it came from.

Know When to Lie

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I thought I was compulsive... Editor

Know When to Lie

by David Gallinger

Two men sat on opposite sides of a small room.  The table was four feet wide by six feet long, and was lined up perfectly with the floor tiles and ceiling tiles.  The ceiling tiles, however, were two feet by four feet although the floor tiles were square, and one foot across.  The room was eight feet by eight feet, and a one-way mirror was on the wall facing the short side of the table opposite the door.  The mirror was the same size as the table and the door was half the size of the table.  The floor tiles were matched up perfectly with the shape of the room but the ceiling tiles were not.  The room was sixty-four square feet in size and each tile was eight square feet in size; it should have been possible to install the ceiling so that all of them were complete tiles, with none cut down.  For some reason, they had been installed so that each wall was lined by half-tiles, with quarter-tiles in the corners, and this was really bothering Jason.  It was acceptable to him in the sense that it formed a symmetrical, repeating pattern.  The problem was the number of holes in each tile.  Complete tiles had 433 holes: that is the 64th prime integer and there were 64 floor tiles, which created a satisfying pattern.  If all the tiles were complete, there would be 3464 holes in total and that would have been awesome.  However, the half-tiles had been cut in such a way that the cut intersected some of the holes, and they were not perfectly measured; they all had a different number of holes, some of which were prime numbers and some were not, and this increased the amount of data that Jason had to memorize to satisfy his compulsion.  It was terribly inconsiderate.


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.


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.

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?”

The Grove

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Leave me ALONE! - Editor
The Grove

By Keith J. Scales

What did I notice first? That the trees described a perfect circle, and I was at the center of it? That the moon I glimpsed through branches was full, but misty and wreathed with drifting clouds? Or was it the whispering?

I sat on dry grass and looked up and out from my circle at the world beyond, gradually realizing that the sounds I had been hearing for some time - wind in tree limbs, wind over grass, wind in the air above - had other sounds within, and those sounds, when I bothered to listen carefully, had sounds within them, like many instruments playing the same tune, except that the innermost voices of all were not making music but speaking. To me.

The voices were trying to tell me something, whispering, constant, insistent, sometimes urgent, they were trying to reach me, trying to teach me, to show me something, trying to make me understand something I had known for a very long time but had forgotten. What was it?


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.

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.”

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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