Wednesday, May 20, 2015

“StandBy from Quastroc” • by Katrina Johnston

From Pop Access Control, Pioneering, Quastroc Settlement, Subsect 12.

Gestay success: Viable obtained at Quastroc.


Settlement proclaims viab. Celebrate, merriment.


Seven day-units prev, Quastroc. Noted. Succ extract from materna cavity. Out-settler broadcast infoco conf single viab dubbed “Samdie762.” Breath. Mid-W healer plus obstric attend. Aid deliver. Jubilant.

Ten day-units post, viab respir reg. Nutrients taken, held. Quastroc parental claimants buoyed; eyedeed Forloc764 materna – pair bond affirm, eyedeed Jayloc769 presumed paterna. Hale and thee.


Viab gender estab: Male. No abnor, anoms, quirks. Gestay weight wagers closed. Time of extract, partum weight: 572KT, noted: Wagering closed post extract. Payout complete: Lotto window locked, time-code 2265.02.27.

Quastroc StandBy....


First succ partum materna claim primiG. Subsect, also first at Quastroc. Inhab moon-dancing. White moon orbit bisect minor green light-side. Quastroc decrees: Moon-dances legal, warranted. Rapture.

Day-unit nine update Quastroc....

Concur settlement direct, main trocars, expand canulus, discard. Quastroc viab cont indie breath. Populates hopeful; increase number, expand, diverse devel. Waiting. Viab thrive. Airways clear. Speci demos vigor resp reflex, nil hyaline compro. Nourish cont. Eyedeed, tentative human/Quastroc child. (Samdie762 pref moniker).


Viab/child, Samdie762, thrive mode, declare alive. Quastroc pride, BOY. Pred avg male longevity. Quastroc giddy. Settlers imbibe, pair and fervent moon-dance under yellow moon, mauve stars.

Debate erupts Quastroc: Req claim consent. 

Sec rep. Central Security ident rules. Protocols incite re-think params. Ref innovates and latest over-clauses, (cite particulars 17 to 32). Newest implants, better comple-max sec traction; infoco.

Stalemate. Latest intel accepts outland infoco. How to? Sector laws flare, change. (Expect update within 60 day-units). Parentals comply. No alt. Intra muscle band reqs ext (techie P47 plus protolet). CS pushes for togg implant.

Wide accept. Glostrid non-togg implants prov inclu extract sector infoco, subsector, genetic order, data, prequels and physical anoms, eyedent, every security. Latest tout is Glostrid Star II, innovate togg implant, expand, upgrade. Details regist, retrieve from Cen Sec. Togg implant ease. Mobility screen, posits, sec, tracking, genetics, citizenship.


Gov forcement. Parentals. Consent. Glostrid innovate. Nil obsos. Best for Quastroc prec child. Comply. Agree. Reluct.

StandBy. Update. 

Parentals opt Glostrid Star II, efficient, permits, monits, volumes, fast. Time code 2295.07. Same day-unit. Procedure begins. Time code 3071.39. Initiate.


Quastroc Update: Latest news: 
Post-op tragedy. Unforeseen.

Viab heretofore known as Samdie762 ceased respi at Subsect 12. Time code 1401.06, on viab twelfth day-unit full indie. Nil survive. “My child… woe.” Parentals both, materna and paterna weep, excess. Complic cite with implant proc. Nonspec. Unexpect. Resuss effort persist. Nil result.

StandBy. From Quastroc:

Materna unit, fert proven, eyedeed Forloc764, self-mutilated and deceased. Nil resuss attempt. Nonspec.

Waiting for obits from Quastroc. StandBy....

Two deceased. Serv under orange moonset.

Mourning. Tears, Materna and child…. Anguish. Pain.

StandBy.... StandBy.... StandBy....

Katrina Johnston
is the winner of the CBC/Canada Writes True Winter Tale. Works of short fiction may be found at several on-line sites and a couple of print issues. She lives in Victoria, BC, Canada. The goal of her fiction is to share a human journey and explore. Occasionally she dabbles into science fiction.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

“Shapes of Power” • by Lance J. Mushung

Zantoinell reclined in her bath pool, enjoying total contentment. The hot salt water was divine, and so was being the Supreme One of the Zarkindell Realm.

A viewer overhead chirped and displayed the name Zixdell, her principal advisor. Total irritation replaced total contentment. Her eight feelers, which had been floating relaxed like seaweed on a calm ocean, went rigid, pointing downward. She said, “Connect,” and Zixdell’s aquamarine-hued face appeared. “Why are you disturbing my bath?”

He apologized by touching a feeler to each of his eyes before speaking. “There were several more civil disturbances last night, Supreme One. Your subjects are continuing to protest your high levies, the poor economy, and the outflow of jobs to Earth.” He’d always had the uncanny ability to anticipate Zantoinell’s questions and continued before she could ask one. “Yes, Supreme One, your warriors dispersed the protestors.”

“So why you are disturbing me?”

“Supreme One, I would like to once again point out that the humans are—”

She interrupted. “How many times must I say humans are unimportant. Now stop bothering me.”

The viewer went blank. A pet, an orange-hued Earth cat named Zippy, slinked toward Zantoinell across the polished turquoise floor of the luxurious bathroom. Even she’d been forced to admit, only to herself, that the room’s opulence was a bit much. “Zippy, why do my subjects grumble? My warriors have expanded my magnificent Realm throughout this entire limb of the galaxy and subjugated the other intelligent species. The protestors are all miserable ingrates.”

Zippy had nothing to say, of course, and Zantoinell continued. “Why can’t Zixdell stop blabbering about the humans? Their few planets and small fleet capitulated after two battles, although I’m told they demonstrated innovative tactics. They’re not even fully unified on Earth and have religious conflicts in a place called Palestine. They’re no match for us, and they know it. Earth has paid my levies on schedule for more than eighteen of their years, and you’d think everyone would be happy about all the inexpensive manufactured goods now produced there. Yet Zixdell keeps yammering about their activities in the job, equity, and debt security markets.”

She returned to savoring her bath, almost falling asleep. The loud and guttural sounds of humans speaking her language brought her to full consciousness. The door flew open and Zixdell walked in.

“Why are you intruding?” Zantoinell yelled, her feelers crossed in front of her. “Do you wish to spend several spins in a pain chamber?”

Zixdell appeared neither frightened by the threat nor apologetic about barging in. Rather, his feelers interlaced in the pose of resignation. “The humans, along with your warriors, have deposed you.”

He had neglected to use her honorific, but she decided he’d been threatened and chastised enough for the moment. “Ridiculous. Have whoever claims that dragged off and ended by dismemberment.”

“You no longer give orders. The humans own vast amounts of our equities and debt securities. In particular, government debt, of which there is much. They purchased it at good prices because our people happily disposed of what they consider nearly valueless government debt securities. The humans own your government and can financially ruin the Realm, and your warriors realize it.”

She wished she’d paid more attention to his efforts to explain financial subtleties in the past. However, such details had always seemed beneath her. Rather than ask for an elaboration, she decided to go to the key matter. “A human can’t replace me.”

“Zodemdell is the new Supreme One.”

“That limp-feeler cretin? All he does is bleat about the welfare of the people!”

“Zodemdell and the humans have agreed to exile you on Drelba.”

“If I refuse?”

She straightened her feelers forward in a truculent manner. Three palace warriors watching from the door came halfway into the room, followed by two humans. Zantoinell’s two hearts sank and her feelers went limp. The humans also carried weapons. One had a Zarkindell sonic pulser while the other held one of the unique projectile launchers favored by humans. Her warriors and the humans were indeed working together.

Zixdell’s feelers straightened toward the ceiling with exasperation. “If you refuse exile, the humans will ‘boot your derriere out the front door of the palace’, to use their words. They added a few far stronger phrases that I won’t repeat. Going out among your subjects is a terrible idea. They will be merciless. Drelba is your only possible choice.”

“Drelba? It’s the most unpleasant cold and dry habitable planet in the Realm. Why did they select it?” Her feelers waved in consternation.

“You answered your own question by saying unpleasant. Incidentally, I will join you.”

She had started to acknowledge his loyalty when she noticed the slight drumming of his feelers on his lower torso. He hadn’t been given a choice. Instead she said, “I can’t believe humans brought my Realm down with petty economic and mercantile concerns.”

The slight curling and uncurling of Zixdell’s feelers indicated I told you so, but he had the grace to not voice that sentiment. “Power comes in many shapes. Your warriors are but one. Capital is another. Earth has experienced many waves of economic euphoria followed by calamity, and the humans put their knowledge to work here.”

Zantoinell cowered in a corner of the pool, with her feelers flopping about like a tired old mop. “What will become of me?”

She could see Zixdell felt compassion as he said, “We will all leave so that you may prepare to depart for Drelba.” He then turned toward the door.


Lance J. Mushung
graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with an aerospace engineering degree. He worked for over 30 years with NASA contractors in Houston, Texas, performing engineering work on the Space Shuttle and its payloads. Now retired, he writes science fiction. His first appearance in our virtual pages was “Space Program” in SHOWCASE #5 and his most recent appearance was “Searching for Home” in SHOWCASE #13.


Monday, May 18, 2015

“This Old Mare” • by Molly N. Moss

“Somebody probably though they were funny, calling this dump a sea.”

Bentley and Nguyen were surrounded by salt-laced sand. They stood in an ancient seabed of a moon orbiting a gas giant, the red-and-orange planet dominating the dark sky.

“It’s tradition.” Nguyen shrugged in her bulky envirosuit. “Mare Tranquillitatis on the Moon, Mare Erythraeum on Mars…”

“This old mare ain’t what she used to be.” Bentley turned back to the disabled ATV. A minivacuum labored to clear sand from the wheel housing.

Weird stuff, this sand. Pale gray mottled white with salt, and waxy. As Nguyen stared, a trick of the light made the salt chunks seem to move, like maggots squirming.

“I’ll be glad to get out of this suit. I itch.” Bentley shut off the minivacuum, resealed the wheel housing, and tried the ignition. A harsh grinding gave way to a resounding snap. “Damn it!”

Curse Bentley for saying he itched. Now Nguyen itched too. Unable to scratch, she thumped her helmet.

Something shook loose from her hair…and squirmed on her shoulders.

Kneeling by the wheel housing again, Bentley banged a gloved hand on his helmet. “I swear, it’s like I’m getting eaten up by mosquitoes.”

Chunks of white salt and waxy pale gray sand coated their envirosuits. White salt clumps, squirming like maggots. A trick of the light.

Squirm. Itch. Squirm, squirm.

Nguyen’s heart froze. “BENTLEY?”

He turned to her.

Visible through his faceplate, chunky white parasites squirmed over Bentley’s face. One slithered into his nose as Nguyen screamed.


Molly N. Moss is the alias of a swashbuckling adventuress from the 43rd century, trapped in our 21st century by a tragic time travel accident. She doesn’t like to talk about that. As few of her futuristic skills are useful in our time, she now writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Feel free to follow her progress at

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“The Insufferable Triteness of Beings” • by Christopher Allenby

The open doorway to the Jade Tortoise Room loomed before me, and I wanted to be anywhere but here. A State Security checkpoint was set up immediately to the left of the doorway, so I presented my passport for the third time since registering at the hotel desk the previous evening. Inside, a huge banner on the wall behind the small elevated stage proclaimed what everyone here knew already: “WorldCon 100: LunaCon I.”

Naturally enough, the event had been dubbed “LoonieCon” as soon as the location had been announced. I’d referred to it as such myself in an editorial—one in which I criticized the WSFS for locating its convention at so exclusive a destination, no matter how appropriate—long before I had any notion that I would attend.

The meeting room was half-full at half an hour before the panel discussion was to begin. I headed to the stage, wending my way around banquet tables, shuffling my feet carefully to prevent bouncing in the unfamiliar gravity, and smiling and nodding at writers, artists, scholars, and fans—most of whom did not know me nor I them. More than once I felt for the name badge that was pinned to my lapel. The badge read “Eric Renshaw, Editor, Circumlocutions.” Once on the stage—after hopping gently up to its elevated surface without flailing or, worse, overshooting—I found a place card that matched my name badge and sat to watch the room fill.

The Chinese government had bid furiously against several other municipal and national governments to host this special one-hundredth WorldCon: the convention of the World Science Fiction Society. The United States had aggressively sought the contract for New York since the inaugural 1939 convention had been held there; the city wanted to make of it a centennial celebration. The Chinese, of course, had the better carrot: a convention hotel in the first lunar colony. My fellow science fiction enthusiasts couldn’t refuse such a romantic locale, and I hoped that sightseeing would make attendance at this panel discussion unattractive. I was tempted to forego the discussion myself, Gedanken-like, but had neither the nerve nor the personal clout to pull it off.

I was invited to the convention and specifically to this panel discussion because in last December’s issue of Circumlocutions I had published a controversial story by the pseudonymous Ruprecht J. Moore entitled “The Insufferable Triteness of Beings.” Since that publication, the story has been the subject of at least three critical essays and dozens of reviews in the literary journals and blogs. Because of the author’s anonymity, the WSFS had invited me as editor and stand-in on this panel, “Polemics of R. J. Moore’s ‘The Insufferable Triteness of Beings.’” I did not expect a pleasant experience.

With fifteen minutes until the discussion was to begin, the room was filling quickly. I could see no completely empty banquet tables, and the scowls directed at me from some of those I presumed to be academics were becoming worrisome. Did they think I was Moore? I tried to focus on the crowd as a whole, avoiding eye contact with individuals, and noticed several young, suspiciously fit hotel employees circulating among the tables and setting out pitchers of water for the attendees.

Dr. Alfred Milliard, a professor of Cultural Studies at King’s College, Cambridge, stepped onto the stage and extended his hand. “Thank you for coming, Mr. Renshaw. The society appreciates your willingness to make the trip.” Cultured British accent with a trace—imagined?—of condescension.

“It was my pleasure, Professor Milliard. I’m not sure I’ll be able to contribute much to the discussion, but the chance to see Selena-Beijing was something I couldn’t pass up. Thank you again for the invitation.”

“I hope you’ve reconsidered your position on the author’s anonymity?”

“I’m afraid not,” I said. “As I indicated, the author has been explicit about that. I’m contractually obliged to maintain confidentiality.”

“I see,” Milliard said. “You understand, of course, that we’re on Chinese territory here. Your confidentiality agreement has no basis in local law.”

“That’s really beside the point,” I said, feeling uncomfortable.

“Well, I hope that it remains so,” he said, adding, “for your sake.”

The lights then flickered once, the three other panelists converged on the table, and Dr. Milliard stood to welcome the attendees and introduce the panelists: me; Regina McGill, a writer whose fiction was highly regarded; Dr. David Rozhenko, Professor of Literature and Semiotics at UC Berkley; and Edith Hartwell, a professional literary critic who had written a blistering review of the “The Insufferable Triteness of Beings” that hit the Internet like a supernova and ramped up my circulation by nearly twenty percent, at least for the December issue.

Milliard said, “Welcome all. This is the panel discussion titled ‘Polemics of R. J. Moore’s “The Insufferable Triteness of Beings.”’ Those of you in the wrong room may now go find the session you wanted.” The crowd laughed politely.

“I know this story has evoked a great deal of discussion already,” Milliard went on, “but before we begin in earnest, I want to invite Mr. Renshaw to provide a little background—how he came by the story, why he happened to publish it, that sort of thing. Mr. Renshaw?”

And just that quickly, I was on the proverbial hot seat.

“The story came to the magazine through the usual electronic submission service,” I began, “submitted I think sometime in the late summer of last year. I remember that it was early Fall when I read it. I read it twice at that time and passed it to my assistant editor, Juanita Sanchez, for her opinion.”

From the audience, “Excuse me, Mr. Renshaw, but why did you want Ms Sanchez’s opinion? Don’t you make all decisions on what you buy?”

“I do make all final decisions, but it’s a team effort—not exactly consensus driven—but we work together to publish the stories we think are important. Anyway, she agreed that the story was unusual and that it probably should be published. Once the December issue was available, our editorial email in-boxes were inundated with inquiries about the story—more email than for any other story we’ve ever published, in fact.”

“But who is Ruprecht Moore?” Another voice from the audience.

“I can’t say,” I said. “Anyway, I contacted the author…”

“You can’t say, or you won’t say?” This voice was accusatory.

“Either. Both,” I said. “I contacted the author about the unusual correspondence and…”

“Mr. Renshaw,” called a new voice from the crowd, a woman’s voice, though I couldn’t locate her, “you must divulge the identity…”

Milliard cut in. “Please allow Mr. Renshaw to conclude his introductory remarks. We shall have opportunity for questions afterward. Thank you. Please go on, Mr. Renshaw.”

“I asked the author if he had any standard reply that I should make to the correspondents since they seemed greatly moved. He said, ‘No. It’s just a story.’ We began forwarding those emails to the author’s R.J. Moore email address…”

“But that address simply generates an automated response!” It was the woman’s voice again. She was now standing in the middle of the hall, four banquet tables back from the stage. She wore her iron gray hair in twin buns, in the fashion of a Star Wars character from more than sixty years ago.

“Really?” I asked, addressing her directly. “What is the automatic response?”

“It just thanks me for inquiring about the story and assures me that it means whatever I think it means. That’s infuriating.” She sat down, exasperated. “I want to know what he meant by it.”

There was a rumble of agreement from the audience. Angry agreement.

“Mr. Moore assures me,” I said, “that like Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’ it’s just a story. What you bring to the story dictates its meaning for you.”

“Come now,” said Edith Hartwell. “‘Just a story’ is no response at all when the story is clearly an attack on the egalitarian status quo, a subversive manifesto promoting capitalist-individualist philosophies.”

I nodded as sagely as I could. “It very well could be, Ms Hartwell. I’m not sure.”

“What led you to think it should be published?” This from Regina McGill, beside me at the table. She winked at me, barely concealing mirth.

“It disturbed me,” I said. “It disturbed the whole staff. Anything that disturbing ought to be published.”


I shrugged. “I’ve made no secret of favoring open discourse,” I said. “Anything as unsettling as that story deserved to be published because of its ability to elicit such strong emotional responses—to make us think, to question. No matter what its politics.”

Milliard said, “I find the story racist and elitist, Mr. Renshaw. If it is such, then publishing it could be considered a violation of the Jorgensen Act of 2022, as it encourages social disharmony.”

This caused me to bristle. “I don’t concede your second suggestion. I think the story would encourage reasoned discourse even if it were racist and elitist—which I don’t think it is. What makes you think the story is, first of all, racist?”

“What? Why, it’s obvious, Mr. Renshaw. All the immoral characters are black.” I noticed some murmurs from the crowd at that.

“Really? How do you know that?”

“They’re not black,” an angry voice shouted from the audience. “They’re Jews!”

I squinted in the direction from which the voice seemed to have come. “What makes you think so?”

The room quieted. Milliard looked perplexed as he paged quickly through the story on his tablet. “Jews?” he muttered.

“They are not Jews,” Rozhenko said authoritatively. “They’re Slavs. It’s obvious.”

The audience erupted in a babble of dissension. I wanted to get out of there and take the surface tour, to see the Armstrong Footprint and to stare up at the big blue wonder that was the Earth. I wanted to take the low-orbit shuttle to see the lunar surface sliding by, 7,000 miles of desert landscape with perfect contrast of sunlight and shadow.

“Why the zombies?” a loud-voiced man in the audience demanded. “Why zombies on Mars? And what about the shape of the Martians themselves? They’re described as walking cucumbers, for Christ’s sake!”

This raised the volume and tempo of the discussions at the tables. It was a cacophony. Rozhenko, Milliard, and Hartwell were heavily engrossed in a three-way argument that was being piped through the PA system, adding to the din. A man in the back of the hall shouted, “Why does Jane seduce the Martian? Why all those minutely detailed interspecies sex scenes?”

Rozhenko raised his voice. With the amplification, he was uncomfortably loud, momentarily drowning out the babble of the room. “The zombies obviously represent the entropy inherent in any complex political system, and the death of Jane at the hands of the Martians symbolizes the corruption of powerful people.”

“No,” said a woman at a table in front. “Jane’s body is used to fertilize the Martian crèche-fields. It alludes to mythological metaphors for the fertility cycle!”

Edith Hartwell, scowling, shouted back, “Then how do you account for the rape and bondage of Donald McDowell? It’s clearly anti-feminist satire.”

Regina McGill leaned over and switched off my microphone. She was smiling. “This is likely to go on for some time. Would you like to get some dinner?”

We stood together and shuffled all but unnoticed toward the doors in the back of the room. At every table in the hall, people were shouting their pet theories at each other, red-faced and sweating. Opening the doors and stepping into the corridor, I saw two Chinese State Security officers walking toward us from the main hotel lobby.

“Can you believe all that?” McGill asked.

“I wouldn’t have believed had I not seen.”

“One day, I want to write a story like…”


We halted. The Chinese officers had stopped before us. “You are Eric Renshaw,” one of them said in near-perfect English, “of Circumlocutions Science Fiction Magazine.”

It was not a question. I began sincerely to regret the invitation.


Christopher Allenby lives in North Carolina within sight of the Appalachians where he teaches college literature and composition. During the summer months, he dabbles in satire and other less insidious literary vices.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

“A Tradition is a Tradition” • by Laura Davy

t was the city’s tradition to put up a memorial wherever a hero died.
It was an even bigger tradition to have the owner of the land pay for the memorial. But the biggest tradition was to talk about the traditions.

Dotting the landscape were bronze statues of superheroes who had died fighting evil robots, plaques for firefighters who had heart attacks while rescuing kittens from trees, and a laminated paper memorial posted on Mr. Frampton’s door for his missing and presumed dead dog, who bravely barked every night at 2am to keep intruders away. Next door was a tasteful sculpture of Mr. Miller, a known thief and lock picker, who died from too many free drinks when he admitted at the pub one night that his cousin now owned an old dog that loved to bark at 2am every night.

The United Nations Building even had a large golden wall with a list of names for the heroes who died defending the building from supervillains, alien armies, soulless demons, and graffiti artists. Most people carefully didn’t comment on the fact that the wall left a generous amount of room at the bottom for more names.

Locals would give directions based on the memorials that were on the route. Bars were named after heroes who had died nearby. Memorial tours were conducted by budding entrepreneurs, and a few guides even gave the tour even after they received the money upfront.

It seemed like everyone loved the tradition.

So it came as a great surprise when the elderly Mrs. Bainbridge refused to buy a memorial for her garden, despite the fact that the superhero Limitless had died there just two days earlier.

When muttering, gossip, and even a tad bit of rioting didn’t solve the problem, people became curious about why someone would refuse to follow a beloved tradition. Finally a young reporter named Mr. Radley was sent to investigate.

He knocked on her door one sunny Sunday afternoon and Mrs. Bainbridge cheerfully invited him in for tea and answers.

“Mrs. Bainbridge, thank you for agreeing to chat with me,” Mr. Radley said as he settled down on the mostly empty sofa that smelled a little like brandy and a lot like mothballs.

“Please call me Bonnie,” Mrs. Bainbridge said. She brought out a teapot that had a knitted pot warmer covering it and poured three cups of tea.

“Thank you, Bonnie. If you didn’t know already, people are quite upset that you’re refusing to buy a memorial for Limitless.”

“They are?” Mrs. Bainbridge asked as she took cup of tea for herself and settled down in her comfy recliner. “That’s such a shame.”

“It is a shame,” Mr. Radley agreed. “So are you going to change your mind now and put one up?”

“Oh no, I think not.”

“Why not?” Mr. Radley asked, deciding to get to the heart of the matter.

“Well, it’s silly, isn’t it?”

Mr. Radley tried to process her words. This tradition, silly? There were memorials dating back hundreds of years. There were memorials of memorials. And it was silly? Well, he admitted to himself, perhaps a little. Still, it seemed a waste to end a tradition just because it was a touch silly.

“You could put a paper one up,” Mr. Radley argued. “Or a Post-it® note. That wouldn’t cost very much.”

“I’m not going to spend a single penny on a memorial,” Mrs. Bainbridge said as she sipped her tea. “You’re welcome to add a little something to my garden, if you must. There’s a patch by the broken birdfeeder that’s free, but I’m not going to buy anything for a memorial.”

“Please, Bonnie,” Mr. Radley said. “You could spend just a few pennies on a single note. If you want I could even ‘forget’ some money when I leave here, if you only promise to put something up.”

Mrs. Bainbridge pressed her lips together firmly and Mr. Radley had a flashback to his not-that-long-ago schoolboy days when a teacher caught him without his homework.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Mrs. Bainbridge said firmly.

“Is it because Limitless was drunk when he flew into your yard and tried to save your fish from drowning in your pond?”

“At least the neighborhood cats had a nice seafood breakfast.”

“Or was it because he uprooted your garden when he decided that all plants were somehow related to Brussels sprouts and so all plants had to be destroyed?”

“I’ve found Brussels sprout casserole to be quite delicious. But no, that’s not why.”

“Or are you refusing,” Mr. Radley asked, “since he died because he was simply too drunk and too stupid to remember to keep breathing?”

“That’s not it.”

“Then why won’t you put up a memorial?”

“Because he’s still alive.”

Mrs. Bainbridge nodded towards the third person in the room, who was sitting on the sofa next to Mr. Radley. He was wearing a plush pink robe over a spandex superhero costume and drinking a cup of tea. He waved at the reporter and took a sip of his drink.

“He’s been here recovering from his hangover for the past two days,” Mrs. Bainbridge explained. “I’m not sure how those nasty rumors about his death have gotten around, but he’s been very pleasant company.”

“Oh,” Mr. Radley said. He studied the very much alive superhero and glanced at Mrs. Bainbridge, then looked down at his tea and thought for awhile. “Well, I still don’t see why you shouldn’t put up a memorial. I mean, at least for the fish.”


Laura Davy lives in California with her husband and two cats. She wrote her first story when she was in Elementary School and, despite the fact that the plot didn’t make sense, she kept on writing. You can learn more about her at

Friday, May 15, 2015

“We Do Not Speak of the Not Speaking” • by David Steffen


When Cassie stepped out of the general store, she saw a horseman galloping into town like he had the devil on his heels. “Now who do you suppose that is?” she asked.

Jake stopped his rocking chair, but said nothing.

“His business must be something mighty vital, to be carrying on like that.”

The young man sawed at the reins and pulled his horse to a halt in front of the store. His horse panted fiercely from the exertion of the run. “Someone’s coming! Someone’s coming!”

“Who’s coming?” Jake asked.

The young man didn’t seem to notice the question, staring intently back the way he’d come.

“I’m Cassie,” she offered. She’d seen him around, but had somehow never heard his name. The young man looked at her with an odd look to his eye, but still said nothing. “Wait a minute, it isn’t He Who Must Not Be Named, is it?” She’d heard all kinds of queer stories from her sister, who’d married into this dusty, odd little town. Cassie was only here for a few days to visit.

The young man exchanged a look with Jake. “Is she serious?” the young man asked.

“She’s a foreigner,” Jake said, as if it were an explanation.

“I’m not a foreigner. I live half a day’s ride from here with my pa. I’ve lived there my whole life. Ain’t exactly a different country.”

“Foreigner,” Jake said. “No insult meant by that, mind you. It’s just the way of things, round here. If you live in the town or a nearby farm, you’re a townie. Else, you’re a foreigner. Ain’t nothing more simple.”

“What does my being from out of town have to do with it?”

“Well,” Jake said, spitting a wad of tobacco on the stained porch, “if you weren’t a foreigner, you’d know who He Who Must Not Be Named is.”

“I do know! He was some evil wizard gunshooter who came to this town ages ago. Tore up half the town with exploding bullets before the Matron shot him in the head. My sister says he comes back every couple years, with glazed eyes and the scabbed bullet hole between his eyes, until the Matron sends him away again.”

Jake shook his head. “You’re thinking of He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said, wasn’t it?”

“No, you said He Who Must Not Be Named.”

Cassie threw up her arms in frustration. “Well, what’s the difference?”

“Different people entire,” the young man said.

“Well, who’s He Who Must Not Be Named, then?”

“That’s me,” the young man said, simply.

“Why can’t you be named?”

“The Matron made a decree when I was born. She was dabbling into fairy magic at the time, and heard that if a fairy hears your name, they have power over you. For a few years, nobody was allowed to name their babies, because no name meant no weakness. It got mighty confusing, I hear, until the Matron told the parents they could pick out names.”

“Why not you?”

“The Matron said it was because we may as well have one of us be safe, but I think she had a dislike toward my ma. I hear my ma talked sass at the Matron once or twice.”

“Hush,” Jake said. “Have some respect for the Matron. She’s twice the woman your ma ever was.”

“Leastways,” the young man said. “He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered used to be known as He Who Must Not Be Named, but when I came around the Matron decided that name worked better for me.”

“Anyhow,” Cassie said. “Obviously it ain’t you you’re riding ahead of. Is it He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered?”

The young man shook his head. “Nope. I wouldn’t be riding ahead for him. He’s not dangerous at all since his bullets ran out. He just charges through town, guns clicking. The only thing powerful about him now is his stink.”

“Who is it then?” Cassie asked. “She Who Shan’t Be Spoken Of?”

“How did you know about her?” Jake demanded, suddenly very intent.

“My sister told me, but she only knew that name. Why can’t anyone talk about her?” The atmosphere seemed suddenly oppressive, as if the sky was pushing down on her.

The young man shifted uncomfortably, glancing up at the sky. “I don’t rightly know. We ain’t been allowed to talk about her for so long, I don’t even know who she was, or what she did.”

“Why can’t you speak of her, Jake?” Cassie asked.

“Can’t talk about that neither,” Jake said. “Tain’t safe.” Jake darted a glance upward meaningfully.
Cassie looked up. A black storm cloud was building rapidly directly above the town, surrounded by blue skies. Lightning played fiercely in its depths.

“Mayhap we could talk about something else,” Jake said. He sounded like he was trying to sound casual, but his voice was very firm.

“Okay then. All right, I’ve got one more guess.” She looked up again. The clouds were already dissipating into the dry air. “Maybe it’s It Whose Existence Shall Under No Circumstances Be Credited As Plausible.”

“Children’s stories,” the young man said quickly.

“Yes, yes of course,” Jake said, with a glance over his shoulder. “Old wives’ tales.” The clouds dissipated as quickly as they had formed.

A cloud of dust was growing over the road in the direction the young man had come from, and he jumped to his feet. “There he is! There he is!”

They all watched as it drew closer. “The mail coach?” Cassie asked.

“Yes, the mail coach! I’m expecting a letter from my sweetheart.”

“Didn’t you just get a letter from her yesterday?” Jake asked.


“And another the day before?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Oh yeah,” Cassie said. “My sister was telling me about her. She Who Never Shuts Her Yapper, right?”

The young man looked at her coldly. “She has a name. Mary, which you’d know if you’d bothered to ask.” He turned to Jake. “She’s rude, even for a foreigner, ain’t she?”

Jake shrugged, and went on rocking.



David Steffen writes fiction and code.  He is the co-founder of the Submission Grinder, and the editor of Diabolical Plots which has begun publishing fiction in 2015.  His fiction has been published in many great venues including Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, and four times previously in Stupefying Stories publications.







Monday, May 11, 2015

“Off the Hook” • by Richard J. Dowling

“Listen. This is going to sound unbelievable, but it’s absolutely true. I’m speaking to you from the future.”

“Don’t be daft.”

“You’re confused. That’s all right. Let me explain. Thanks to a killer time-travel phone app, I’m calling you from the year 2025.”

“You’re calling me from daft-in-the-head is where you’re calling from, matey.”

“You have to cancel the wedding.”

“What? But Kimberley’s had her hair done.”

“Trust me, it doesn’t work out. The marriage, I mean. Not the hair. The hair’s fantastic. Female mullets are fab.”

“I’m sorry but who are you when you’re at home?”

“I am your future self. Ten years from now. You and I are the same person.”

“We chuffing well aren’t!”

“Let me prove it. I know things about you that only you would know. For example, when you’re alone, you eat curry naked.”

“Yeah? Well, a lot of people don’t like getting chicken tikka masala on their jumpers. There’s even a facebook page. It’s called—”

“You had a poster of Nicholas Cage on your bedroom wall until you were 25.”

Moonstruck was a popular film! That proves nothing.”

“When you get an erection, you make the bionic man sound in your head.”

“Okay. You’re me from the future. I totally get it.”

“Good. There’s no time for questions. This call is—”

“What’s it like? The future?”

“Huh? Oh, you know. Terrible. Kimberley made life hell. She moans about everything. You lose all your friends. I won’t even mention the mother-in-law. You’ve got to get me off the hook.”

“Do you have flying cars?”

“What? No.”

“Laser swords?”

“I wish.”

“Is Nicholas Cage—?”

“You and your chuffing Nicholas Cage! Yes, he’s still doing films. Though we could have done without the sequels to Leaving Las Vegas. Anyway, I told you there’s no time for this. Promise me that you’ll cancel the wedding.”

“But I love her.”

“I know you love her now, but I’ve got ten years’ worth of hindsight. It’s not worth it.”

“You’re saying that in the future I don’t love Kimberley at all.”

“Not a jot.”

“And she don’t love me?”


“It can’t have been all bad.”

“Well, the first few years were okay.”

“There you go, see. Maybe you’re just going through a bad patch.”


“Is it?”

“It’s possible, I suppose. In the same way that they might stop making The Simpsons is possible.”

“Isn’t there the tiniest chance that things could get better? Isn’t there anything at all you like about her?”

“Well, she still has that lovely mullet.”

“You’ve gone to all the effort of phoning yourself ten years in the past. Perhaps if you put that kind of work into the marriage..?”

“Whoah. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m the problem. Maybe if I just tried a little harder…”

“That’s the spirit.”

“You know, you might have just saved my marriage. Thank you. Thank you so much. Hey, that reminds me. Have you got a pen?”

“What for?”

“For riding daisies on the moon! What do you think you need a pen for? I want you to write something down.”

“Oh, I thought there might be, like, a chronic shortage of biros in the future.”

“No. Petrol, water, and clean air are all in short supply, but we have enough disposable pens.”

“Phew, that’s good to hear. Right. Got it. Fire away.”

“Okay. Take down these numbers: 12, 19, 28, 29, 38, 49, 30.”

“Ah, the Fettuccine sequence.”

“The Fibonacci sequence. No. It’s the winning numbers for tomorrow’s lottery, including the bonus ball.”

“Chuffing hell!”

“The prize money will be 13 million quid.”

“You star!”

“Put the money in a high-interest account…”

“Of course.”

“… and in ten years, it’ll be just enough for me to pay the cost of this call.”



Richard J. Dowling is a writer who hopes to bring a smile to the faces of life-forms throughout the galaxy. Born in England, he currently resides in Spain and, for the moment, is happy living on Earth. You can read his previous story for us here—“Dragonomics”—or reach him directly at