“Tamerlane online,” said Dr. Chang. A cascade of lights illuminated the control deck and washed over her. “Cortez and Tecumseh saw a 17 percent drop in power but they seem to be stabilizing.” She cracked her knuckles and leaned over the array of controls to view the drone in its launch silo as it ran through systems diagnostics; gouts of steam rolling from exhaust vents and the flicker of external cameras acknowledging its environment. To either side of Tamerlane’s silo his fellow drones creaked and settled into Awareness State. The thrum of their drives could be felt through the concrete walls but, from the insulated Operations room, they were silent. In the silo great slabs of armor would be screeching, slowly dragging against one another, and the drone’s generators would be roaring to life at deafening levels. Read More
Charlie paused, silhouetted in the doorway, and slapped dust from his leathers while his eyes adjusted to the gloom. A window overlooked the mud of Main Street but the glass had long been stained by grime that choked every feeble mote of light. The Law Office of Martin Banks Esq. was painted on the window in gold script and the lettering was chipped and fading. Like everything in Cherry Cove it was worn and in a state of advanced disrepair.
“Mornin’, Preacher, glad you could make it.” The lawyer resolved into a dark lump sitting behind his desk. His spectacles reflected light from outside and for a moment they glowed there, in the shadows, like the eyes of a mountain cat. Read More
Molly stopped crying just past El Paso and sometime later, in the harsh afternoon heat, she ate a greasy burger at a roadside restaurant sculpted like a giant metal bull. Under the glare of the bulls glowing red eyes she wiped threads of dried tears and grit from her face, washed her burger down with a soda then climbed back into her car and drove. Read More
The jazz is thick in Puff's hips and it propels him forward into the night. Dark mysteries and limitless options branch at every intersection presenting a mother-load of sensual, libidinous options with elbow room for improvisation. He’s been here before and he can read the signs in any language. The streets of Shibuya are a glittering black snake rolling beneath his feet to a crackling tempo that switches time on a whim. Read More
“Seriously, Perry, you shouldn’t eat the Fae.” Barton’s glasses were glowing, reflecting the flames from the campfire. His head was wrapped in a black plastic bag and his face was smeared with soot. Draped over his shoulders was a thick, soiled cloak made from an old quilt. He was sharpening his machete, applying the sandstone to the blade in slow, loving strokes. “I’m serious, Perry, killing it is understandable but eating it? You’ll bring us all bad luck.” Read More
It was late and a frost had settled, crisp and brittle, over a thin trail running between the Rhine and the sagging, weary town. Hond sniffed the air and the cold stung but he was sure he smelled the warm, metallic tang of food. At this hour no butcher would be plying his trade so he suspected a darker tradesman had left the meat cooling in the winter air. He followed his nose through the filth along the river bank and the water flowed, black and sluggish, no faster than he walked. The river reeked of sewage and threatened to drown the smell of blood that cut a ribbon through the air and led Hond on a desperate hunt for sustenance. He was close now and began to run in the hopes that he might be the first to the meal. The competition would be fierce and he wasn’t sure he could survive another fight, a collision of fangs and boney hides, over meager scraps of garbage. Read More
It’s Christmas morning in St. Joseph, Michigan, and Caroline Hubbard peels away layers of thick, silver wrapping paper to reveal a heavy, yellowed wheel of cheese. Odor, rich and fetid, spreads across the living room in a wave and her husband looks up, frowning from his easy chair. Read More
Fading ink etched in skin and sharp, pressed khaki’s invert. The faceless grind of time loops then bends, wearing smooth the details. Paths of rough, coarse stone stretch and become elastic, an even path to well-worn ideals where the near blind suffer their individuality. Masses fold and recombine with a practiced smirk into the many-armed Goddess, wreaking destruction to purge and reanoint her children, the blessed fools. Her reflection catches her eye and she can’t help but wonder at her beauty. Read More
I speak with my sister every week. Our Sunday night phone calls have developed into a tradition that we haven’t missed in the past three years no matter where I am in the world or how hard she’s working. We plan in advance to both drink the same wine and since she likes lights, fruity whites and I’m always drawn to deep, rich reds so we take turns choosing a bottle. Read More
We try to keep the topics light and the bitching to a minimum but you know how it goes, sometimes you can’t have that conversation until you unload some stress. The thing is this: I kinda love my life and I struggle to manufacture gripes just so we can have an even exchange. It’s never even, though. She tells me about the clinic and the losing battle with half her patients, the slog of fighting with insurance companies for payment and her family issues. I don’t want to get into that. Sorry, but just talking about it stresses me out. When we speak I am left feeling powerless and frustrated. Last time I saw her, on a layover in LAX, her hair was gray and wrinkles, sharply defined, were crowding her eyes.
“I don’t know, Pop, it just doesn’t feel right, you know?” Johnny Barsetti took a moment to check his hair in the restaurant window, the interior lights reflected off the glass and his coifed reflection stared back at him, framed against the black of night. “I was talking to Pauly the other night and he said most weddings are more for the parents then...” Read More
His father cut in, “Pauly? Now you’re getting wedding advice from Pauly the Puss? When did you see him?” Lou Barsetti wiped his mouth with a starched, cloth napkin and glanced at his wife across the table. She rolled her eyes.
He coughed, a loose rattling sound, and a thin spray of bloody spittle stained the sheets. The nurse leaned in with a fresh towel to wipe red foam from his chin but the Colonel pushed her gently away and took a long, deep swallow of wine. He closed his eyes and held the thick red in his mouth, savoring the earthiness and memories. When he swallowed it was with a grimace of pain and the glass shook in his hand, spilling wine across his chest. His glare stopped the nurse and she settled back into the chair beside his bed. His other hand hovered to the bandages around his belly. Read More
“Bah, if a man’s to die there are worse things to taste on his lips. Eh, Captain Fletcher?” His voice was strained but he spoke with clipped, quiet, precision. “What was the last thing you tasted? The morning gruel? Vomit and fear? Bollocks, man, pour yourself some Malbec.”
The crater, a smoking, attenuated V, cut a ragged furrow across the prairie. At the head of the crater a lopsided ball of metal twitched and hissed with stress fractures as slabs of earth, crystalized by the heat, settled across its dome. The external communication arrays were slagged, melted by the re-entry or scraped from his shell on impact, and Blister ran diagnostics with little hope that any of his core systems would be online. Given what happened he was surprised to get cognition at all. Read More
He had been attempting to slingshot off the planet’s gravity well when the first missile gutted his fusion drive and dropped him into the atmosphere. The second missile knocked out his anti-grav sending him spinning towards the surface. If he had been a war drone, with heavier plating, the missiles would’ve thrown him off course but he’d be halfway around the world by now and ready to catapult into deeper space with only a few dents to show. Recon drones weren’t made to take direct hits. But then, he had no reason to think he’d be at risk, deep scans hadn’t shown any indication of Separatist activity on the surface. Where had those missiles come from?
His skin was taut and he imagined a sudden movement might cause it to rip like dry, rough paper. The air-conditioning tickled his arms. Cool, lazy and impersonal. He stared, unseeing, down the snack aisle and ignored the magazine spread before him on the counter, a jumble of contrasting yellow headlines promising sex tips and the inside scoop on celebrity love lives. He glanced at his watch. 2am. The depression was heaviest at night and his shoulders sagged under the weight. It was always hardest in the evening when he was alone with the beauty, health and hygiene around him making promises they couldn’t keep. In his pocket he fondled a baby blue pill, rolling it between his fingertips. He looked again as his watch. Soon, he thought, 3am. Read More