New author Benjanun Sriduangkaew, from Thailand, has a new story up at Giganotosaurus, Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon:
It is the aftermath of the world’s end, and nine birds–nine suns–lie dead while Houyi cradles the curve of her bow, her fingers locking around the taut hardness of its string. The tenth sun, the last, has fled. Chastise them, Dijun said, a father’s plea. But there is the land and the horror and the dryness, desiccated corpses in empty dust trenches that were rivers not long ago. There are dead dragons, too, and snake women with bright eyes–and is it not right to bring down the suns, is it not what Houyi is meant to do? She is a god who protects; she is a god given a duty.
The birds are dead. They no longer burn, but the places where they have fallen will long after be black scorch marks, indelible. There will be consequences. It does not matter that her first shot meant to warn: wing clipped, the eldest sun plunged and shattered on the earth. Seeing their brother fall they attacked, and she had to defend herself.
Behind her Chang’e is inhaling and exhaling shallow scraps of air. They will not let this pass. What will you do now? Where will we go?
And the archer whispers, I saved them all.
She knows, as she has known since she notched that first of nine arrows–even in the firestorm of their rage she was a peerless shot, one arrow per bird all she needed–that for her there will be no thanks. They have transgressed enough, wife and wife, and this shall be the final insult tolerated.
So Houyi only takes Chang’e’s hand and says, I am sorry.
Night comes, and with it the first drops of rain. Somewhere a dragon king or queen serpent stirs and tastes the air with a forked tongue. The Sea Mother sifts sand out of her eyes, which have been so parched, so dry. Out of their bellies and mouths rivers will surge forth, tides will rise bright-green with brine, and the world can go on as it did before the convening of ten triple-legged suns. This is their duty, as the murder of sun-crows has been hers. – continue reading!
We featured one of Dean Francis Alfar‘s stories yesterday, and here’s another! From the latest issue of Expanded Horizons: Terminós:
Mr. Henares thinks about time
From the moment he opened his eyes in the morning to the instant before he fell asleep alone at night, Mr. Henares thought only about time.
He reflected about how time slowed down when he was engaged in an unpleasant activity, such as dyeing his thinning grey hair over the broken antique basin installed by his son-in-law Alvaro in his blue-tiled bathroom; and how time went faster during the rare instances when he felt happy, such as when his brace of grandchildren came for the cold weather holidays, their hypnotic music invariably loud and invigorating.
Mr. Henares recalled days when time did not move at all: waking up one morning convinced that it was the exact same day as the day before, watching the red display of his tableside clock blinking fruitlessly. The experience of the twin miércoles was to be repeated thrice more, adding jueves, viernes and sábado to his list of repeating days. He endured the repeated conversations and graceless routines, read the same stories in the newspapers and watched the same interviews on television.
Once, when he was a much younger man, Mr. Henares went back in time. The incident caught him completely unaware – he realized he was walking backwards and thinking thoughts in reverse. This unfortunate event flustered him so much that when it was suddenly over, he broke down in tears and resolved never to travel back in time if he could help it. – continue reading!
When the boy inevitably grew up, married and moved away with his own growing family, the toymaker decided to make a girl. He did it this time in secret, afraid of what his neighbors would think, fearing the potential unjust accusation of prurience when all he wanted was someone he could talk to, whose conversation would eradicate the heaviness of his solitude.
He worked at night, carving wood with his spotted hands by the feeble light of low and fat candles he favored from his youth, recalling how he watched his grandfather shape magic from wood and humming a song whose words he had long forgotten. He worked from midnight until just before dawn for five weeks, struggling with the impatience that old men with erratic memory suffer, losing himself in the methodology of his craft, shaving wood to reveal the delicate limbs and the small torso of his waiting daughter. Then at last he reached the part he liked best: shaping the girl’s face, determining the contour of her cheeks, the ridge of her brow, the curve of her chin, the hollow of her eyes. For her hair he chose the color of burnished bronze, planting and pulling the strands in and out of her hard scalp. For her eyes he selected the color of the bluest sky, fitting the glass spheres with a precision that only a master toymaker possessed. Just before he finished, he covered her polished nakedness in muslin and lace, cutting and sewing the sleeves and the hems and the ruffs, just as the sun came up.
The toymaker straightened up and grimaced at the creak of his aching back and looked at his new daughter, reaching forward to gently put an errant lock back in place.
“Now we must be patient, you and I,” he told her. “If my son could come to life, then certainly so can you.”
With all the gentleness his trembling hands could muster, he lifted her from his worktable and set her down on the low shelf where the boy came to life one memorable night many years ago. He blinked once against the memory, then left to make four dainty pillows from the scraps of the materials of her dress, to arrange around her and arrest her fall should she awaken early. – continue reading.
Short Story Highlight: “Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Thailand)
New Thai writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew has a new story in The Future Fire magazine: Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods:
In the shadow of machine-gods I tell wayfarers of a time where my people was a nightmare the color of hemorrhage and glinting teeth.
There are other narratives, but this is one they want to hear most, the one they pay with their adoration and bright-eyed want, for they’ve never known us for anything but peace. Conflict juts out from the skein of Pojama’s history, broken glass-shard, rupturing and ruptured.
I smile; I oblige. Though the story is for me there are parts that I share simply for the reality of speaking it out loud, for the virtue of being heard.
My mouth moves, output for one of my cranial chips. My fingers sketch, autopilot, the forms of our heroes and enemies from a continent whose name and life have now been lost. My voice murmurs the tragedies and sings the heroics of Kanrisa and Surada, rising for climax, falling soft for denouement. The visitors’ district is machine-dead. What thrill it must be to hear the thunderclap notes of my gloves, behold the psychedelic fires that pour from my nails.
Once, they interrupt. The figures of our enemies do not seem real. They are right: with sagging eyes the hues of cheap jades and faces like skulls, even for villains they are too fantastical, too unhuman.
“My great-grandmother told of them so,” I say and shrug. “Perhaps she was senile.” With a motion I turn the figures into shapes more familiar, shapes more like ours.
Inside the vessel of my thought—a garden of sliding intelligences who whisper to me, childhood mates grown to adults next to my ventricles and lungs—a different story unfolds. – continue reading.
Over at Clarkesworld Magazine is the latest story from Indian writer (and World SF Blog contributor) Indrapramit Das: muo-ka’s Child.
Ziara watched her parent, muo-ka, curl up and die, like an insect might on Earth.
muo-ka was a giant of a thing, no insect. Ziara was the one who’d always felt like an insect around it. Its curled body pushed against the death shroud it had excreted in its dying hours, the membrane stretched taut against rigid limbs. She touched the shroud. It felt smooth but sticky. Her fingertips stuck lightly to it, leaving prints. It felt different from her clothes. muo-ka had excreted the ones she wore a month ago. They smelled softer than the death shroud, flowers from Earth on a distant, cosmic breeze. She raised her fingers to her face, touching them with her tongue. So salty and pungent it burned. She gagged instantly, coughing to stop herself retching.
“muo-ka,” she said, throat thick. “You are my life.” Ziara thought about this. “You are my life, here.” She meant these words, but felt a hollow, aching relief that muo-ka’s presence was gone.
She closed her eyes to remember the blue rind of Earth, furred with clouds, receding behind the glass as she drifted into amniotic sleep. Orphan. Volunteer. Voyager. A mere twenty years on that planet. When she had opened her eyes after the primordial dream of that year of folding space, the first thing she saw and felt was muo-ka pulling her from the coma, breaking open the steaming pod with predatory lurches. Its threaded knot of limbs rippling like a shredded banner in the sweltering light, stuck on the leviathan swell of its dark shape. She had opened her mouth, spraying vomit into the air, lazy spurts that moved differently than on Earth. muo-ka had pulled her out of the pod and towards it, its limbs sometimes whiplashes, sometimes articulated arms, flickering between stiffness and liquid softness so quickly it hurt her eyes to see that tangled embrace. Stray barbed limbs tugged and snapped at the rubbery coil of her umbilicus, ripping it off so pale shreds clung to the valve above her navel.
muo-ka had grasped at Ziara’s strange, small, alien body, making her float in the singing air as she tried and tried to scream. – continue reading!
Apex Magazine have just published Israeli author Nir Yaniv‘s story, Undercity. The story was published in the exclusive pre-order edition of The Apex Book of World SF 2 but will not be available in the regular edition. You can, however, read it for free online!
That day, the complacent city received three warnings. No one bothered to take notice. The city listened only to itself.
At the seashore, just before sunrise, a teenage girl met an old man. A westerly wind played with the water and with a grey beard and with some golden curls. On the promenade, a street sweeper passed, unnoticed.
“Child,” the old man said, his hand reaching for his worn cap, which was slightly smaller than the measure of his head. Surprisingly, this did not make him look ridiculous, only slightly older. The girl looked at him, dazzled, as if she’d opened her eyes for the first time in her life, and did not answer.
“Child,” the old man said in the pleasant tone of someone not used to any kind of pleasantry, either given or received, “is not this too early an hour?”
The girl said, “Soon it’ll be too late.” She did not look bitter when saying this. There wasn’t a hint of drama in her words. It was merely a statement of fact.
“I would have liked to argue the falsehood of your words,” the old man said. “To delve into the expression ‘too late’ and prove that no matter what the circumstances, it cannot be true. To say that always, always there is something that can be done, always there is hope. But if I do so, I shall be lying.”
The girl stared at him.
“I shall be lying,” the old man repeated, looking eager to add some drama to the conversation. “It is always too late. This way or another, no matter what you do, no matter what we do, it is always too late.”
“Yes,” the girl said. “No.”
She closed her eyes and turned away from him. “No matter what you do, no matter what we do, it’s always too late,” she said, “but there is one thing that’s going to happen just in time. Right now.”
The sun rose. Slowly, majestically, it floated above the eastern city line, illuminating the old man and the so-called child.
The girl smiled. – continue reading!
There’s a lady on the moon and she has a rabbit; at mid-autumn we have mooncakes when her husband visits.
Long ago the moon grew a city on its skin like nacreous shell around a pearl, and in this barren city lives a goddess who was once a girl.
The goddess counts the years, at the beginning.
She folds gold paper and silver paper in the proper months, and burns them for her mother. She makes houses of glassy yellow windows and pale walls, double-storeyed, and burns those so that her mother will have a comfortable residence in her passage through death. She makes animals, companions, furniture. When she begins counting in decades instead of years she starts burning offerings for her niece. It is the wrong way around; she is the elder, and she should be the one waiting beyond for her niece’s sendings.
But she is immortal, and her family is not. – continue reading.
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz has a new story up at Philippine Genre Stories: Song of the Body Cartographer.
Siren traces the marks on Inyanna’s body. There are concave hollows in Inyanna’s arms, and there are connectors along her ribs that allow her to jack into her windbeast when she is in flight. Under Siren’s fingers, the patterns on Inyanna’s shoulders register as bumps—like tiny hills grouped together in circles that wind in and around each other.
“That tickles,” Inyanna says.
Her voice sends shivers along Siren’s spine and her fingers clutch and caress Inyanna’s skin.
“There is no one more beautiful than you,” Siren says.
She worships Inyanna’s body and follows the shape of muscle and bone with her hands. There is no fat on her body and Siren takes note of this too. Her fingers glide over her love’s hipbones, and she feels the muscles contract and hears Inyanna’s indrawn breath.
“There,” Inyanna says.
The shiver in her voice makes Siren smile.
“Here?” she asks.
She blows gently and watches Inyanna stretch and reach upwards.
In the moment when Inyanna reaches climax, Siren feels as if she has traced the road from Lower Ayudan to that place where the high gods dwell. – continue reading.
Over at InterNova there’s a new story by Israeli author Guy Hasson, A Good Ending:
This story has a good ending.
Well… for the bureaucrat.
Once upon a time, in a country far, far away, there lived a bureaucrat. And the bureaucrat’s son, who was six at the time of this story, had very bad dreams. The bureaucrat’s son used to wake up in the middle of the night shouting, his heart pounding, his breath short. The son would run to his mother, the teacher, and his father, the bureaucrat, and they would hug him and tell him it was just a dream and that everything was all right.
This was not a problem specific to the bureaucrat’s son.
Many children had nightmares. Many adults had nightmares, as well. Although adults could more easily wake up and tell themselves that they had only been dreaming, and that none of it had been real. In fact, adults sometimes decided that, since it was only a dream, they would try to re-enter the dream and bring about a better ending.
This did not always work. Dreams are hard to control.
Well… dreams were hard to control.
But it is not yet time to tell you about that.
On the night that our story begins two important things happened: the bureaucrat’s son had another dream and the bureaucrat received a phone call. – continue reading.
The latest issue of Clarkesworld has a major new story by Aliette de Bodard, Immersion:
In the morning, you’re no longer quite sure who you are.
You stand in front of the mirror—it shifts and trembles, reflecting only what you want to see—eyes that feel too wide, skin that feels too pale, an odd, distant smell wafting from the compartment’s ambient system that is neither incense nor garlic, but something else, something elusive that you once knew.
You’re dressed, already—not on your skin, but outside, where it matters, your avatar sporting blue and black and gold, the stylish clothes of a well-travelled, well-connected woman. For a moment, as you turn away from the mirror, the glass shimmers out of focus; and another woman in a dull silk gown stares back at you: smaller, squatter and in every way diminished—a stranger, a distant memory that has ceased to have any meaning.
Quy was on the docks, watching the spaceships arrive. She could, of course, have been anywhere on Longevity Station, and requested the feed from the network to be patched to her router—and watched, superimposed on her field of vision, the slow dance of ships slipping into their pod cradles like births watched in reverse. But there was something about standing on the spaceport’s concourse—a feeling of closeness that she just couldn’t replicate by standing in Golden Carp Gardens or Azure Dragon Temple. Because here—here, separated by only a few measures of sheet metal from the cradle pods, she could feel herself teetering on the edge of the vacuum, submerged in cold and breathing in neither air nor oxygen. She could almost imagine herself rootless, finally returned to the source of everything.
Most ships those days were Galactic—you’d have thought Longevity’s ex-masters would have been unhappy about the station’s independence, but now that the war was over Longevity was a tidy source of profit. The ships came; and disgorged a steady stream of tourists—their eyes too round and straight, their jaws too square; their faces an unhealthy shade of pink, like undercooked meat left too long in the sun. They walked with the easy confidence of people with immersers: pausing to admire the suggested highlights for a second or so before moving on to the transport station, where they haggled in schoolbook Rong for a ride to their recommended hotels—a sickeningly familiar ballet Quy had been seeing most of her life, a unison of foreigners descending on the station like a plague of centipedes or leeches.
Still, Quy watched them. They reminded her of her own time on Prime, her heady schooldays filled with raucous bars and wild weekends, and late minute revisions for exams, a carefree time she’d never have again in her life. She both longed for those days back, and hated herself for her weakness. Her education on Prime, which should have been her path into the higher strata of the station’s society, had brought her nothing but a sense of disconnection from her family; a growing solitude, and a dissatisfaction, an aimlessness she couldn’t put in words.
She might not have moved all day—had a sign not blinked, superimposed by her router on the edge of her field of vision. A message from Second Uncle. – continue reading!