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March 2015 ebook cover

Gnawing the Bones of the City

By Leigh Kimmel

Even in a crowded communal apartment, Tikhon Grigoriev could hear the ever-present thudding of German mortars besieging Leningrad. The starving residents of the apartment gathered around the body of a boy who had committed suicide. They were equal parts grief-stricken and terrified of being accused of murdering him for his ration card.

Grigoriev, a member of Leningrad’s militsia police force, had come the moment he heard shrieks through a badly boarded window. However inexpertly tied, the rope had done its work. Nothing to do but cut the corpse down.

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March 2015 ebook cover

Salvage

by Jeff Kuykendall

All of it was gone, even the memory of calamity. Before the gap in Rúni’s memory, he stood at the rail watching the fast approaching isle of Cairnobel, and after the emptiness he lay on an endless beach, struggling at a tangle of seaweed about his limbs. The tide was receding and all its prizes were lodged in sandy ooze: flotsam of the ship Olaf’s Charge, sea stars, and crabs under shells, glistening orange in the morning sun, struggling with their burdens back toward the waves.

There was also the girl who peered at him from a short distance while she grunted at the weight of a large cedar chest, leaving a broad trail through the wet beach. The chest had no markings or decoration, but he recognized it as the one from his quarters. The girl had long, uncombed, reddish hair, her face scorched with freckles, and she was surely no older than fifteen. She wore a shift — white but dirty, the sleeves rolled up and her forearms coated with sand — and a man’s trousers cinched tight with a belt of rope. Read more

March 2015 ebook cover

Revealing the Mirage

by Christina L. Usher

Warren’s girlfriend was dead and gone, or at least that’s what he told her mother. He ended the call, unable to deal with the shocked silence, and inched between the bed and dresser to stare out the window. The streetlights were broken outside. People lingered in the discrete darkness, muttering and drinking like no one could see them. Warren took a drag from his cigarette, ignoring the whispers in his head.

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February 2015 cover art

A Lovely Light

By Lindsey Duncan

Of the thirteen thousand lampposts marking the paths between worlds, only one was dark, and this did not bother its Keeper.

Lirann reported the problem to his superiors, but the vital function of the lantern — the subliminal pulse that drew travelers so the Keeper could direct them — was unaffected, and he did not miss the light. He wasn’t blind — he simply kept his eyes closed. In the shadows there were sweet winds from meadow worlds, tastes of silverfruit and rye, voices and prayers that shaped the contours of between. Color and surface details seemed bland and distracting by comparison.

In the dark, Lirann leaned against the post, rust crinkling under one hand. Footsteps approached in waltz rhythm, as if their owner moved to music. Too light to be mortal: Even the stealthiest had more weight. She — he could tell it was a woman by the way fabric rustled, silk playing against curves — couldn’t be a ghost, either, for there were aromas of summer earth and wood smoke against clean skin.

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Aristi Chthonia

By Danielle Coombs

Hades only means to visit the white asphodels that grow on the limestone slopes of the mountains, not to disturb Persephone. The god of the dead knows better than to draw the striving, strangling attention of life.

Persephone is picking the asphodel, using a small knife to snick through each waxy stalk and laying them one atop the other in a reed basket. Hades feels the faint, shivering pull of the blade as though over his own skin. He pauses among the shadows, watching, because to retreat would call her attention as much as to advance.

“Hades,” says Persephone. She looks at him. The knife cuts another flower.

“Kore,” says Hades, using her safe name, the one that means ‘maiden’.

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We Are Judged by Our Plumage

By Rhoads Brazos

Andrew didn’t trust the bank teller. He fidgeted at the counter and tried not to stare. Her delicate profile and warm smile meant nothing with that Magpie on her shoulder.

Latin name: Pica pica. Characteristics: thievery, omnivore, faux bird of prey.

The teller looked shifty. It surprised Andrew that the bank had even hired her. On the way out, he carefully counted his money.

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Kinzoku No Tori

By Emil Terziev

The rays of the early morning sun applied gentle but persistent pressure to Kinzoku’s eyelids, making her face twitch. By reflex in her resting state, she brought her left hand up to scratch it. The stretching box hit her instead, jolting her out of her sleep with a sharp pain. The girl rubbed her forehead against her shoulder to dull it, and let out a light giggle. It wasn’t the first time she’d delivered an accidental blow to her own head in the morning.

She looked out the window and tried to guess the time by the position of the sun’s disk relative to the Hakkoda mountains to the East. It was barely an hour after sunrise. It was not often that one of the servants would part the drapes and let the sun wake Kinzoku this early in the day. There must be news of approaching forces. Today would be a preparation day.

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Fiction Vortex - November 2014, art by Sergio Suarez

Cleansing Rain

By Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin

At first she thinks they’re attracted by the light and heat.

During the day they slip out of the water pooled in the hollows of the park and sun themselves on the humps of higher ground, drying the gossamer shreds of skin that hang from their bodies. Luba watches them from the corner of an upstairs window, barely breathing, drawing back if they glance her way. They seem to know they’re being spied on, because every time she’s called Zach to the window they’ve dropped back into the water with a plop, leaving only a widening ripple.

The ducks and seagulls drawn to the miniature lakes made by the storms squawk and flap away when the two of them appear. The birds return hours later, when the day is waning or clouds hide the sun. Only then does Luba step out of the house—but never out back, where the park is. She surveys the damage in the front: the live wires that droop from leaning poles to tangle on the street, the house next door abandoned to the tree now sinking through the roof, the debris that encrusts everything.

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Fiction Vortex - November 2014, art by Sergio Suarez

Music in Glass

By Sabrina West

From her hiding spot in the antiques shop, Sarah watched the man pacing along the street. For the past ten minutes, he’d been at the back of every store and the edge of every crowd, blond hair sweeping down over lowered eyes. She could swear she knew him. But whenever she had tried to approach him, he had slunk away. Now, as she finally had a chance to study his face, the sensation of familiarity grew stronger.

The man paused just on the other side of the window. Sarah could see the bright blue of his eyes and the frustration evident in his expression. He looked lost and sad, on the verge of tears. As the man ran his hands through his hair, a strand fell into his eyes.

And Sarah remembered.

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