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February 2015 cover art

Letters to a Useless Nephew on a Backwater Planet

By Iain Ishbel

I.

Dear nephew:

You are an idiot.

My sister remains, of course, entirely delighted with you. She spends her days boasting of your triumph: the runt of her first litter, her little baby babooshka — you see, learning Earth languages is not difficult — assigned to a real-life planetary Overthrow. And yet to me, nephew, you have revealed your idiocy in a single letter. This before even arriving in your assigned system!

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An Alien Warmth

By Karl Dandenell

I raised myself onto my rear footpads, then knocked loudly on the front door with a holding claw. I was so cold, I barely felt the heavy ironwood. Frigid wind gusted behind me, shaking a line of brightly colored flags. The squares of blue, white, red, green, and yellow fabric shook violently, catching the attention of my left eye. My right eye remained firmly focused on the door.

“I’ll get it!” called a male voice from within. The door opened, releasing a much-welcome wave of warm, dry air. “Hi—” The Terran stopped as soon as he saw me framed in the doorway. His pupils widened, and a glass of beer dropped from his fingers. I caught it with an upper footpad.

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Fiction Vortex 2014 Horror Issue

Horror 2014 2nd Place: The Friends

The Friends by Luke Dykowski, reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode but with better special effects. A perfectly seasoned festival of horror tropes and moods. It’s get under your skin and takes your breath away. — Johnny Worthen
By Luke Dykowski

Conner Nilsen did not leave his property often. At least — not anymore. But that didn’t matter. Even though he lived on Haskell Lake, twenty-four miles from the nearest town, Rockville, and had to go in often to buy bread and milk and toilet paper and fishing lures, it didn’t matter. Not since he had met his new friends.

It had been a week now — no, two weeks. Or was it a week? Who knew? Not Conner. A month?

It didn’t matter anymore.

He had found the fungus … three days before he met his friends? It was hard to tell.

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Art by David Revoy/ Blender Foundation

Black Road

By L. Nicol Cabe

Dust obscured the sun, the thick yellow haze hung low in the sky. The townspeople lazed under porches, choking for water and fanning themselves. The adults kept saying that it was hot, so hot, hotter than usual this year. Many looked at each other with worried glances, the yellow dust clinging to their sweat and wrinkles, making masks of their fear.

Dylan felt itchy and hot. Inside the cover was cooler, but not enough to endure the dust-roughened whispers around him. He grabbed a cracked, hard-plastic bottle, filled it with cloudy water on the sly, and took off into the waist-high scrub behind his house.

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Art by David Revoy/ Blender Foundation

A Place Without Monuments and Endings

By Elliott Langley

I didn’t feed the cats.

Out of all the horrible things I have experienced today, that is what I want to tell you the most. I guess it’s almost funny when you look at it: The world is going to hell, and I’m sorry for leaving your cats hungry. I swear there should be a law against a stomach left rumbling on Judgement Day.

And the funniest part is that I am so damned sorry for not giving them food before I left your place this morning. I don’t know, I guess I was just in a rush to make the train or something, maybe thinking about picking up a sandwich on the way, where I was going to get my cup of tea before work. You know, the usual inane crap that goes around in my head. But babe, I’m British; you can forgive the necessity of tea in my morning ritual, right?

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Copyright Neils Christensen

Yet Another Invader

By Sean Monaghan

Night came quickly out this way. Always did.

It felt like the sun blasted the desert clean all day, as if some spectacular furnace was set on high and aimed right at this one spot before dropping off the side of the world.

I’d been here sixteen years now, at altitude, watching the sun pass overhead each day. When I arrived they called me Mr. Harding, but now I’m just Fex. I guess I can fix your stuff up better than most. Take a look at whatever’s ailing and tweak here and there and you’re good to go. Tractors, well-pumps, shoes, bearings, metal detectors, phones, watches, flashlights, kids’ toys, medical equipment, televisions, refrigerators. Practically anything that can break down, I can get going again. Kind of a useful skill three hundred miles from anywhere.

Until tonight.

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