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My Wife Glows in the Dark

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Shines like a beacon - Editor

My Wife Glows in the Dark

by Brian Ross

My wife is following me.

Again.

Lately, I have been distant: hands-off when she wants me to be hands-on, too busy or too tired when she wants to talk. She has suspicious blood, my wife, but she trips over her reckless curiosity. She does the math, comes up with five, and paints herself a pretty picture. Next thing I know, I’m watching my back because she’s on it.

She never stops to ask why.

So we play the game.

She asks me how my racquet-ball practice was and I say, great thanks. I rub my shoulder convincingly as she tells me about her evening of dishes and dirty nappies. Her story is as transparent as mine, but I’m working a lie so I don’t question hers.

She is a poor detective - more Clouseau than Poirot. She thinks I don’t see her - behind cars, in doorways, around corners - but I do. I see everything. She doesn’t move when my eyes try to find her, but she is there just the same, not realising that I have her chasing her own tail.

I’m happy to indulge her, to pretend I don’t notice my new shadow, because she will only ever see what I want her to. And besides, after tonight, she won’t do it again.

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The Taller and Tumult

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I'll take taller - Editor

The Taller and Tumult

by Augustus Peake

We were there in your Garden of Eden. I believe it is documented; though I have never read the book. Documented, but misattributed. You called us, and continue to call us, ‘the snake’. Understandable, I suppose - we do look rather similar - but somehow faintly disappointing. Don’t get me wrong – all that ignominy and hatred wasn’t something we craved. On the contrary, we were amused by your taxonomic incompetence. Still, some of us were and are a little peeved. I mean, to be over-looked for millennia can’t be good for one’s self-confidence, can it?

And just for the record, it was a pear.

You are shocked, I can tell. Which part shocks you? That the garden really existed? That it was a Taller?

That there were many beginnings?

In our family, there were some greats. Giants, really. That tree in Eden was not a highpoint, literally I mean. After all, pear trees tend not to be greater than 10 meters. But I had a grandfather, you know, who made it to Giza. Now, for you moderns, a trip from The Garden to Giza would be a short plane trip away. Not for us. For generations, we had talked of it and made it the object of our collective ambitions. And although it was Khafre’s and not Khufu’s, he was the first to get there, the first to tall one, the first to reach Tumult on one of your constructions. In our stories of him, he moves from stone and stone-cutter, to mule and mule driver, to slave to slave to slave up the face of the great stone edifice to its final stone. And when that final stone is laid, he is there for his Tumult. Blue with a hint of pineapple.

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What Philip Did in Tulsa

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Short, but searing - Editor

What Philip Did in Tulsa

By Steve Lowe

The blindfold bit into Philip’s face, cinched tight enough behind his head to pull hair out by the root.

“What is this?” He slurred his words, still groggy from whatever had been slipped into his drink.

The voice said nothing. Philip heard only grunts. The person attached to the voice was straining against something. Then the straining stopped and Philip heard exhalation. “There,” the voice said. It was a man. “Ready. But you shouldn’t be awake yet.”

Something bit into Philip’s bare shoulder and an electric jolt once again removed him from the world.

#

A little candle set inside a bottle glowed from a table in front of him. The flame waved inside the glass, pulling and stretching at the edges where the bottle curved. The way everything grows at the edges, larger than reality allows.

Philip smelled pizza and his stomach grumbled and kicked. His ass throbbed and he felt an intense urge from deep down in his guts to move his bowels. He realized he was bent over and strapped down to some kind of low bench, his numb arms pinned behind his back.

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Corner of River and Rain

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Keep your voice down - Editor

Corner of River and Rain

by Gary Cahill

From the bird's eye view, above the old tenement rooftops down to what's left of Hell's Kitchen, through the spinning rain that flipped between covering like cream and icy bite, our lonesome parade looked like two campesinos driving two wayward burros to water. Switch out the Mexican peasants for me and Willy, the watering hole for the Hudson, and the doleful donkeys for a pair of booze sweating, bleeding, braying jackasses, and you've got it.

A little earlier, I'd seen this coming. Things were going to go badly if these guys didn't shut the hell up.

#

On the way to meet him, I'd answered a call from Willy on a cell I answered only when it was him.

"G...G... where the hell are you? I'm waitin' here." Here being the old bar on the edge of Manhattan's West Side where we met socially and professionally. Professionally being if we needed to collect money -- owed on outstanding loans with exorbitant interest rates, or illegal gambling loses, or to insure a string of broken windows and fires of unknown origin would not interfere with someone's fledgling business becoming a success. Like that. All the stuff that invigorates our underground economy.
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La Cosa Angeli

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Ruffled feathers - Editor

La Cosa Angeli

by Don Norum

Oriel woke up in the Himalayas, tucked beneath a blanket of new snow. His wings unfolded and he rolled upright, sending a sudden plume of white powder into the wind screaming down the mountainside. Mikael stood before him, feathers unruffled by the howling storm.

"Wake up and get dressed. Today's important."

"Hmm?" Oriel ran his hands through his luminous hair, brilliant fingers vaporizing the ice that had locked around his head like a crash helmet.

"Dress warmly. We're headed into winter."

The younger angel had just enough time to cast ahead and see their destination, and then they were walking down the streets of Los Angeles.

"You said we were headed into winter," he asked the Principality.

"I meant you should be clothed."

A kid glided past on a skateboard, weaving around the two young men in windbreakers with oiled hair.

"What's the first stop?"

"Joseph Bonner, First United Assembly of God."

"What'd he do?"

The two angels paused before the glass doors fronting the cavernous building. Behind the doors was a series of vestibules, safety systems designed to prevent sparrows and robins from flying in during the spring months and getting lost and trapped in the thirty-thousand seat fellowship hall.

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BJ's Last Shift

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Outer or inner space - Editor

BJ's Last Shift

by Lawrence Karis

"This is Willie Sims, second in command of the Mars Explorer, 267 days out from Earth. I am recording this message for delayed transmission to Director Mike Jackson at mission control. By the time you receive this message, BJ will be dead." Willie looked over his shoulder at the hatch to the aft cabin. He knew BJ couldn't hear him, but he still whispered.

He walked to the storage rack where two space suits hung in readiness. He picked up the life-pack with BJ's scrawled initials and carried it back to the work bench.

"I saw this coming, but I didn't want to believe it. I hoped he would snap out of it. There's no hope now. BJ is completely insane.

"Two days ago he went through the cabin with a marker writing his initials on everything he thought was his. He even marked the dishes and utensils in the mess kit. He left a note saying that if he caught me using any of his stuff, he'd throw me out the airlock.

"I am delaying this message transmission because he changed the password and locked me out of the main computer." Willie looked up at the video display and adjusted the camera pointed at his face. "I think he would kill me if I rebooted the computer to reset the password. That's what it has come to: I kill him or he kills me."

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My War Against the Invisibles

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It was wretched goop - Editor

My War Against the Invisibles

by Jeffery Scott Sims

The invaders came like thieves in the night. No one ever saw them, no one ever knew of them apart from their effects. They showed up the morning following the night of the meteorites, which can’t be a coincidence. They came in something. Things fell to earth around there in the wee hours, and from those something alien hatched. I didn’t actually know it at the time-- I learned most of the sparse details later-- for I was up in the hills on holiday from the big city, enjoying two weeks of fishing and other lazy recreation. I sojourned in the little cabin deep in the woods by the stream up from the mouth of Munds Canyon, I and a couple of friends, Mark and Buddy. A good time was had by all, and then that morning they went into Page Springs for supplies. That was the wrong thing to do, because I never saw them again.

By that evening I was really worried about them, but there wasn’t anything I could do then since they took the jeep. The next morning I fried myself some fish, ate a big biscuit, and set off on foot down the rocky four wheel drive road to town. All that day I saw no one, which wasn’t totally strange, but I’d expected to run across other outdoorsmen, if not my friends. By following Oak Creek I reached the edge of the forest, where it gave over to farmland, before I sacked out again, very tired, confused, and remarkably low in spirits (I say that because I didn’t know anything yet of what was coming). So it was one more morning before I hit the winding paved road of the lowlands and made it to Page Springs.

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Southern Justice

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Precious gifts - Editor

Southern Justice

by Peter Howard

The Krufts motel on Water Street faces away from town like a man who believes hiding his face makes him invisible to strangers. Sheriff Doug Porter had paid an official visit here more than once in his career and despite the best intentions of the owner this was still the shallow side of the law in Eden, Kentucky.

Inside one of the rooms the Sheriff stood and walked the information around his head using the floor boards for traction.

''You can''t be serious? You can’t be?''

''Kid needs a dad.''

"'Your daughter probably has one. That’s no reason to do something stupid!''

''Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it depends on how you look at it.''

''You can''t be serious.''

''As cancer,'' said the man, ''serious as cancer.''

#

Sometimes a missing child is a good thing. Social Services threatened to take kids all the time, some that shouldn’t be but could, and others that should be and never were. Some were just ignored altogether. If there was ever a kid that needed to be, it was Molly Sanders.

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A Natural

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Do you mind if I come in? - Editor

A Natural

by Sylvia Hiven

The shape on the other side of the stained glass door was all too familiar to Bill. He knew that dark-blue uniform anywhere, and he didn't need to squint at the glint of gold to know it was a badge. Even the damn knocking sounded authoritative.

You can do this. Just act natural.

Bill glanced into the mirror, certain that the truth was etched into his features. But an oddly calm face stared back at him. Sure, it was thin and wrinkled--and perhaps paler than most--but it was decorated with friendly blue eyes, and there was no sign of distress. No, sir.

See, you are a natural. And nobody knows.

He plastered on a slightly disheveled, Sunday morning look, and opened the door.

“Morning, Bill.” Jake Kitchener's familiar face looked back at him across the threshold.

Damn.

Bill had hoped for someone he didn't know. Perhaps one of those young new officers, or the tall black guy he never really cared to get to know. But Jake Kitchener lived just a few blocks away. Last summer during the community barbeque, Bill and Jake had spent hours tending the grill. And when you've barbequed with a fellow, you may as well have fought in Vietnam by his side. He knows you.

“Morning,” Bill replied. “You're up early for a Sunday, Jake.”

Jake shifted his weight. “I am here on official business, actually,” he said. "Do you mind if I come in?”

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Temple of Mirrors

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Refreshing Fantasy setting - Editor

Temple of Mirrors

Wm. Luke Everest

On his first contract, Tzu-lung was hired to kill a famous swordsman.  Tzu-lung revered him.  General Wen had proven his greatness twenty years ago fighting the Tung Ma, a triad society.  He now lived in disgrace three day's trek from Chang An.  Tzu-lung didn't know why.  The pig-men of nobility wanted him dead.  Someone was going to kill him.  This way, Tzu-lung could meet his hero, and ensure Wen died with honor.

Tzu-lung passed the colorful fruits of the market stalls, ignoring the salesmen's shouts and the guards who flanked the gate, halberds glinting in the sun.

Yellow River extended east, wide enough it might have been an ocean.  He followed it through sopping rice fields, passed old mountains, weathered to look like musician's fingers, long and curved.  He avoided the villages, living off smoked meat in his pack, sleeping under trees and beside rocks.  When he reached General Wen's home, it rained.

It rained like Yellow River had been turned upside down.  The water seemed to freeze on his scalp.  The home was a shack of wood planks and thatch.  It rested beside a low cliff, surrounded by trees with leaves in flat clusters like wisps of cloud.  Water bounced off the wood, creating a white, hazy aura.  Yellow River lapped a mud bank nearby.  Tzu-lung planned to keep the fight near the trees.  Mud made footwork unpredictable.

No answer at the door.  Tzu-lung pushed it open.  Rain drummed the ceiling, leaked into a cooking pot and chimed like a bell.  Bookshelves overflowed along every wall.  On the table was a teapot painted with a phoenix, and half-wedged underneath it, a letter addressed to the Tung Ma.  There were two cups.  Tzu-lung drew his sword.

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