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Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.



Yep, you guessed it. Fantasy has occupied the human mind from time immemorial. Not all of it will fit into neat little cubby holes, no matter how many we define. Here's what didn't fit elsewhere.

by Rigel Ailur
Sisters, they sat across the table from each other. Sendell, younger, meticulous, wise and quietly implacable. Danzor, instinctive, impetuous and charismatic. Lost concentration meant death, the victor winning the queendom of Azencerand the man. Their hands on the square table top, they watched a knife hover in mid air equidistant between them. Inseparable from childhood, they'd long since become bitter enemies. Their telekinesis focused on the gleaming blade, each woman trying to thrust it into the other. Neither had suggested a non-lethal contest. Neither would have accepted.
Published on Sep 16, 2010
by Edoardo Albert
Yes, it was an obsession. I can date its inception quite precisely: the evening of 15th May 2010, when my latest work was premiered by the Quadrivium Ensemble to critical incomprehension. This soon became, in the prose of those stunted creatures, bile. When even Mario Zucotta, the ensemble's leader, came to me and suggested certain changes to make the work more accessible, I realized that what I was doing was beyond even the most advanced musical intelligences. The only person who could appreciate my work was me. But the flowering of genius requires an audience outside itself. So, I withdrew. That was when I became obsessed with the Voynich Manuscript. I'd been interested in it ever since I learned of this 16th-century text, composed in a script no one understood, interspersed with obscure drawings and diagrams. The author was unknown and, despite the attentions of the greatest cryptographers in history, its meaning had never been deciphered.
Published on Jan 17, 2011
by Ken Altabef
Occasionally, the castle shifts in the night. Not that anyone could perceive such a tiny motion, you understand, but I can hear it. The sound sits somewhere between a weary creak and a desperate sigh. Nestled high on its hill, Castle Adjura is dark and muted now, home to nary a cautious mouse nor creeping spider. I am its only tenant, a lonely wretch, blind and forgotten. I wander its lofty halls, its vast empty rooms, its dread dungeons; its gaily painted walls I shall see no more; its famed tapestries are rendered as grayly carpeted deserts to my questing fingertips. I am not totally blind. I can still see the birds. Don’t ask me for explanations I cannot supply. And let me be clear, I do not see the birds quite the way as I used to through sighted eyes. I see them only as shimmers of silver light, fluttery silhouettes winging their way across the infinite pool of ebony beyond my prison window, and within each, at its breast, burns a fierce ruby glow. Silver and ruby, that is what I see, all I see. But how beautiful they are! In the winter months, with the birds all flown, I am left in total darkness. As you can imagine, winter is a time for only the darkest of moods, the solitary domain of desolation and despair. How happy then is the spring, and the return of my feathered friends! This is to be that day. Through the open tower window I can smell--not fresh air, no, not that--for the air here is forever stained and mildewed. Never fresh. Never. But spring has come. I stand at the window, staring into the blackness, eagerly awaiting the magnificent sparkle of the first aerial visitant that might happen by. A sigh of anticipation passes my lips, an exhalation of sulphurous breath. My hearing has grown quite naturally acute, as you might expect. There are few sounds here, in this skull-faced castle keep, in the here and now. But often I experience echoes from the past, ghosts sounds if you will, and none of them pleasant. Screams of death-agony in the night, peals of darkling laughter, and the occasional gruntings of animal passion. And so I can hardly believe my ears when I hear a muffled sound seeping up from below. A footfall. A visitor! My heart flutters at the thought--sluggishly of course, always sluggishly. I have been alone here for so very long. So, so hungry. I take the cold stone steps on bare feet, the tips of my fingers caressing the wall as I go. One, two, three, four... fourteen, fifteen. “Who’s there?” I want to cry, but am fearful of how those syllables will sound passing my lips. I have not spoken in a very long time. Would they come as a barely discernable croak? Would they tremble with fear? “W-w-who?” A whisper. A frightened whisper. How I must seem to them, a frail old man in a dirty nightshirt, blind, barely alive. “Monseigneur Salazar?” His voice holds a strange timbre; it does not seem quite human. I can see nothing, no light, no spark whatsoever. I reach forward and tremulous fingers touch cool metal. A featureless face. If I were still sighted, would I see my reflection in its polished surface? Ancient skin cracked and weeping, so unnaturally pale, and red-rimmed eyes that stare with unending blood-lust. Could I bear to see it? “Who is it? Why have you come here?” My visitor takes a step back. “I am your death.” The click-whirr of a weapon charging, a tingling in the air, followed by a vague hum, its intensity slowly building. And I know he speaks true; it is the hum of death. I welcome it. And then... For just a moment, the assassin’s boldness irritates me, just enough to freeze the scene in that instant. He has come here, to my castle, to my place, to destroy me. And Lord knows, I deserve it. There is so much blood on my hands, such foulness, an inhuman betrayal of everything I’ve ever held holy, over and over and over again--my soul is steeped in sin. I stand disgusted by the horrors I have done. Perhaps better to be set free of this? To be laid finally to rest, my weary soul released from the fetters of mortality, to fly straightaway to final Judgement. What hideous fate is writ for me in Heaven’s book, I cannot imagine. But I will accept my punishment. I must. The moment unwinds. The assassin is ready to act, but I am quicker. You see, I still have a little spring to my step. Turning sharply, I reach forth, stretching from dungeon to spire, and draw upon the eldritch energies that imbue the castle, its invisible ineluctable mists, its very breath, one final time. Its hidden shrieks and midnight screams fill my ears as never before, amplified now to a thunderous roar. Even in my blindness I see a sinister silhouette, darker than the darkness itself, as a pair of gigantic ebon wings envelop my foe. He never gets to push the control stud to fire the weapon. Add one more death scream to my castle casket’s infernal cacophony. I stagger exhausted, frozen with weakness, almost dead, the assassin having nearly succeeded with merely the failed attempt. Hungry. So hungry. But fate has provided surcease once again. I need only pry open the tin can and take my feast. For a moment I mourn this faceless adversary, but more than that--this opportunity squandered. It may be a long while before they send someone against me again, or perhaps a short while. I don’t know. This had been such a close thing. Perhaps next time I will let them destroy me and end my suffering. But not just yet. It’s the first day of spring and I want to see the birds again one more time.
Published on Jan 14, 2022
by Liz Argall
Every time the shadow puppets play, someone is saying, goodbye. Someone is saying, please don't go. Someone is saying, if only, please. Someone is saying, I remember when, and laughing. Every shadow play is a memory.
Published on Mar 21, 2013
by Patricia Ash
She came into the used bookstore. She didn't know what she was looking for, exactly. She wandered up and down the aisles, through every section from computers to romance. She combed through the clearance section. At last, something caught her eye. A slim green volume poked out beneath an unwanted encyclopedia. She dug it out, and it felt right in her hands. "Wishes," read the cover. "Fifty cents," read the price tag. Why not? She could afford fifty cents. She took it home with her.
Published on May 23, 2012
by Matthew Bailey
"...and this one, sigliare, is a red widowmaker from the Uvaldi region," Maggio explains, as the client raises yet another glass to his lips with exaggerated care. A young nobleman of the third rank, Gonyaire was warned not to swallow any liquid that touches his lips while inside the vault. "Aged for seventeen years in only the finest oak casks," Maggio continues. "It tastes of plums and marzipan, with just a hint of quill-ink and pine needles." He watches Gonyaire swish the liquid before spitting into a silver carafe. "The finish, however, is long with bitter failure and broken dreams, tempered with just a bit of Oh-God-What-Have-I-Become. It is very popular for use on young, ambitious junior executives and unruly minor princes."
Published on Jul 3, 2018
by Bo Balder
The White Lady will receive us in the honeymoon suite. The elevator groans and stutters getting us up. I'm afraid it's going to fail and crash, and I can't tell Dad because I know he won't listen to me anyway. Or maybe we both kind of want that to happen and I don't want to see it in his eyes. The room is large and dim. Sand blowing up from the deserted beach rattles against the shutters like a steel brush, even though this is the fortieth floor. A funny smell, like old mushrooms, floats in the air.
Published on Dec 3, 2019
by Bo Balder
I tried to sneak out of the attic under cover of the air raid sirens, but a cold little hand grabbed mine and wouldn't let go. I couldn't have Precious wake up the others, so we tiptoed downstairs. Precious was dressed in every layer she had and wore shoes. That meant she'd known I was going. And I thought I'd been so sneaky.

"Presh, it's dangerous out there. There's bombs, and there's creatures. You can't come. You're better off here."
Published on Aug 10, 2022
by Peter M Ball
One Of the sixteen recorded executions featuring Signore Don Vashta as the subject, I have been present for three, and I have read detailed and verified accounts of two more. In addition, I am known as a man who has an interest in such things, and thus I am a man to whom all rumors eventually find their way. Among our fraternity, if we can truly be called such, this makes me something of an expert, and I do not take this duty lightly.
Published on Feb 21, 2014
by Barbara A. Barnett
Akorsa lurked beyond the reach of the firelight, where darkness swallowed the bold pounding of the villagers' drums. Like the drunken young men who gorged themselves on hunks of meat torn from the harvest festival's spitted lamb, Akorsa watched the unwed women dancing around the bonfire, searching for one who would satisfy the hunger throbbing inside her. But the women passed in a blur, blond hair flaming into red, tanned skin fading to pale, curved hips thinning until svelte--all the same to Akorsa. After a thousand years of roaming the earth, she had tasted every kind of song these women had to offer. A lifetime ago, villagers like these would have welcomed her to their celebration and extolled her name: Akorsa, immortal oracle to Inamis, goddess of the moon and femininity. Akorsa would have shared the songs of Inamis and filled the people with new knowledge, and they in turn would have offered Akorsa her fill of food and drink and shelter for the night. But in those days of old, the people grew greedy for more than they should know, and the oracles began demanding exorbitant recompense for such songs.
Published on Jan 14, 2011
by Bronson D. Beatty
A hand of five trumps--a rarity indeed. I held The Lovers, signifying a choice between two paths, and The Tower for misfortune. The Wheel, which spun fate. The Magician, poised with promise, and The Moon, which masked turmoil behind illusion.
Published on Oct 7, 2015
by David G. Blake
"And that will make her love me?"
Published on Mar 8, 2011
by Marie Brennan
In every labyrinth in Vraszan stand the Faces and the Masks.

They differ in their materials: some wood, some clay, some metal, some stone. They differ in their details, though the general appearance is the same: the abundant petals of the Face of Roses, the shattered pieces of the Mask of Chaos, the elderly wrinkles of the Face of Ages, the skeletal grin of the Mask of Bones. They stand in pairs around the labyrinth path, each Face with its corresponding Mask, the good and the ill of the deities they represent.
Published on Aug 15, 2022
by Rachael K. Jones and Laurence Raphael Brothers
Evan's hobby was collecting ghosts. He had puppy-ghosts, lizard-ghosts, playful wispy kitten-ghosts, even an ethereal, shy fox-ghost he'd found whimpering outside. Ghost-making was easy. You buried their bodies in your backyard, and they'd be yours for life. Simple. Easy enough for roadkill, but Evan had ambitions.
Published on Jun 6, 2019
by Stephanie Burgis
"Just look what you've become since you left home!" Mara's cousin jabbed an accusatory finger at the colorful, cartoonish paintings of lions and tigers that lined the nursery walls. "All the magic you'd gathered, all your skills and your fortune--you were the strongest of our generation!--but you've let yourself sink into changing nappies and drawing twee little pictures for your children. Did you really think the rest of the family wouldn't notice? Did you not realize one of us would come and seize it all the very moment you stepped back and gave up your strength?" Mara met her cousin's gaze over the heads of her sleeping children, just as she'd met it over a hundred family battles throughout their childhood as they'd been trained in the painful rules of their bloodline. "I didn't want it to be true anymore," she said quietly, "but, of course, you're right. Why do you think I created all those paintings?"
Published on Feb 13, 2020
by T. Callihan
She turned the head back right side out. She smoothed the features into place as she worked the stuffing in. She positioned the eyes, popped them into place, then adjusted the eyelids and lashes around them. After adding the last of the stuffing, she lined up the edges of what was going to be the final seam and took a deep breath. This was the last step. True, there was work to be done after the last stitch: cheek and lip shading, hair, and she thought this one might need freckles. But the head seam was the last make-or-break point. Mistakes there could be hidden in the hair well enough to pass a visual scrutiny, but you never knew when a child was going to be tactilely oriented, and once a seam was found, the illusion was destroyed. She knew that firsthand, and she was never going to ruin a childhood the way hers had been.
Published on Jan 8, 2014
by Dan Campbell
Illness skulked about the village, hiding in the alley fish-rot and grasping at coats in the fog. The sea misted up and smothered the houses, as if already holding the island in its embrace was not enough. People coughed and hacked and died in their sleep. My father found one elder staring out to the dawn from his bed, one hand reaching toward the window. They buried him and all the rest under the perimeter of church bells, ringing out the chill.
Published on Oct 4, 2011
by T D Carroll
Just how old are you, Mrs. OMalley? May gave Jason a hard look because it was the only kind she had. He was a good kid for all that he died his hair blonde and punched metal through his skin. Most kids that made it out to college didnt come back for summer break, let alone winter break. They didnt come back at all. May strongly suspected that Jason loved the mountain and was planning on wasting his life being the town doctor. That meant that he needed a lot of straightening out.
Published on Nov 15, 2010
by Beth Cato
I held my newborn in the hospital delivery room, and I saw fluffy cumulus clouds billow across Ivanova's eyes. Right then, I knew. Already, she looked to different worlds. A week later, Mom visited. "Yes, she's like my mother." Grief rattled in her voice. "You'll need to watch her closely and get her ready."
Published on May 31, 2019
by Beth Cato
I had almost become accustomed to the stench of sickness, horrible as it was, but I could never accept the sight of my small granddaughter perched bedside as she clutched her mother's limp hand. Nezra's brow was furrowed, eyes squinted shut as her lips mouthed breathy words. "Nezra?" I set clean laundry at the end of the bed. "What are you doing?"
Published on May 26, 2020
by Michael W Cho
The lizard, Lunnie, clung with tiny claws to Bron's ham-like shoulder. "Heroes and their plot armor!" she meeped indignantly.
Published on May 27, 2020
by Emmie Christie
Culver hauled the sack of chittering shadows to the back of his truck. "Now, now," he said. "None of that. Y'all should know better than to nest in a Light lady's bird feeder."

One of the shadows said something about the possibility of a dog in Culver's mother's ancestry.
Published on Dec 19, 2022
by Marie Croke
On the first day of building her Sand-child, Abi took grains from the Jurida Desert, breathing joy into their tiny souls. On the second day of building her Sand-child, Abi found grains at the base of the Nieradka Range, breathing anger. On the third day, Abi drained silt from the bottom of the Enmdi River, breathing love. And so it went, with breaths for kindness and shame, for calmness and hate, for all that which made a person a person, until Abi stood back to admire her child. Perfection, he was not, but to her he was beautiful. He would be the happiest child of the village. Contented with the creation of long hard months of work, Abi called her husband to see their Sand-child.
Published on Nov 25, 2011
by Amanda C. Davis
Fire sings of pain: the tingling victories and the scorching failure. When Badra calls on fire, her skin lights up in sympathetic memory. When she gets her scars too close to the flame, they prick the way they did the first time they were burned. The scars recall the wound. Fire is pain, and air does not quench it. Air is a blow from behind, disorienting pressure, empty lungs. Air is so heavy. Badra had no idea. If Gera had lived to teach her air, she'd have been prepared. Instead the air runes fell on her shoulders like boulders, squeezed her life out breath by breath, until she was so weak and so afraid she called back the runes and broke the spell. Air sings of cowardice, because weeks passed before Badra dared to try again.
Published on Nov 28, 2013
by Amanda C. Davis
Onezfloorzbelowzthezpenthouse, the elevator slid open. Ben, pressed against the mirrored wall like he wanted to climb it, mashed the button marked "P" before my husband got his shaking hands and drew him away. "Come on, buddy. Time to get out." "The penthouse is higher," said Ben. His skin was gray under the patches of his beard. "Aren't we--aren't we--" "All the way up," I told him. I thought I'd lost that soothing tone when he reached adulthood, but it came right back. "All the way up." Gerald supported him under one arm as they staggered down the maroon-carpeted hall. "Keep going," said Gerald. He had a bracing edge to his own parental soothe: something he'd mimicked from his own father, he told me. "One foot in front of the other. Just like Rickman's." I'd never heard what went on at Ben's bachelor party, only that he had to be supported out of it. His father had straightened him and all six groomsmen into presentable young men. That was my Gerald. There was a window at the end of the hall. Ben lunged for it. Gerald caught him in time, and I added my weight against Ben's other shoulder. If my heart was not already broken, Ben's frothing curses at being stopped would have finished me. Angie's mother told me how she'd cursed at the end. So much filth gushing from her little girl. But they'd managed to release her from a skyscraper in the city where she was born, taller than anything we have here, and Angie's mother promised me it was all worth it. It killed Ben to send his wife away at the end, but for some things, you have to go home. At a door near the ice machine, I used the key we had bribed from a janitor to get us into a storage room with a service elevator. Ben lit up at the sight of it. There wasn't space to go three side-by-side, so I caught Ben from the front, helped him in. His eyes turned irresistibly to the fluorescent panels of the elevator-car ceiling. Gerald squeezed in behind us. "Roof," groaned Ben. Then, unexpectedly: "Angie." Gerald nodded at me. I hit the top button, illuminated around a chipped embossed R. The service elevator lurched and rose. "Remember high school graduation?" I said. Maybe not to Ben, or even Gerald, but I said it. "How you didn't want to leave? We told you there was something better coming next. Some things have their season." Gerald looked at the ceiling. Not awed like Ben, anguished. I wished I hadn't said it. The doors opened to gray concrete, gray sky. Ben shuddered. We caught him before he could bolt onto the roof. He snapped at Gerald's face, with a painful click of his jaw. "Almost, buddy," said Gerald. We had scouted this place days before, ever the good parents, smoothing the future for our boy as far ahead as we could reach. We heaved him to a ladder bolted to the concrete. Eased his fingers around a rung. Beside and below us, there was a cry so desperate my shoulders tensed, though I'd heard so many of them lately; panicked shouts, too late, and a terrible crunch. I knew what followed that. Someone else gray-skinned and desperate, crushed onto a sidewalk or car or dumpster. Someone who hadn't been high enough before he tried to fly. I closed my eyes and prayed he'd been high enough to make it a quick end. "Climb, baby," I said. "All the way up." We nudged him up the first rung. He seemed to recover his limbs, at that: pointing his face to the sky, longing for the clouds. I promised myself this was what I'd remember, not whatever came after. I groped for Gerald's hand. He hugged himself tightly, eyes on our boy. I made myself into a second coat around him. We watched him climb, then crawl, then pull himself up to the very tallest point of the very tallest building we could give him, in a city full of buildings too short and people too eager. And he flew. END
Published on Nov 12, 2015
by M. M. De Voe
1) They can't be housebroken. Who is going to clean up after him? Fifty pounds of dung per day. Hadley has his hands full with the unicorns. You can't expect him to go chasing around after a rhinoceros. Not even a baby. 2) They are loud. We can hardly stand the sirens and the succubus. When rhinos are happy they make a loud "mmwonk" sound. And a hungry rhino, whining for his meals? No thank you.
Published on Aug 25, 2015
by Caroline Diorio
You shed your skin for the first time on New Year's Eve. You are ten years old, and you are surprised at how much it doesn't hurt. Your mother helps you remove it. In the dim light of the fireplace, the dead skin has a wet, silvery sheen to it. You long to touch the limp petals of it as your mother scrapes them away with her pocketknife, but she casts them into the coals before you can reach for them.
Published on Jun 26, 2020
by Aaron Emmel
The miniature city struck the ground and burst into splinters of wood. The self-opening xdoors, the tiny clocks that moved by themselves, all were destroyed. "Irini!" her mom gasped behind her.
Published on May 10, 2019
by Meg Everingham
When the other boys ran out of rocks they vanished into the thickening night. Henry came out of the trees and made his way carefully through the dunes down to the shore, where she was washed up in a bloody serpentine knot. Tenderly, he dug a hollow in the crush of sand and shells and laid her inside, crustaceans crawling in her slender broken arms. In time the tides would drag her up again, but by then she would be safe. Remains of ancient woman eaten by whale. Remains of ancient woman strangely at rest with the delicate smashed bones of a fish.
Published on Dec 5, 2012
by Acin Fals
"See you next visit," Rtl'en called to his customer. Rtl'en is a dragon, which, yeah, of course. No one but a dragon has a name like Rtl'en in Mineskeep, and no one but a shapeshifting dragon has the scaly pattern of dusky purple on their human-shaped cheeks, forehead, and around the back of the neck along the edges of thick black hair. While watching Rtl'en work (the only way I could see him regularly), I liked to imagine where else his hair grows. And do his human clothes hide more of that pattern? My own name is boring--Corb--and the most interesting variance of my skin are a few scars from careless accidents. My pale hair matches my skin well enough to disappear. I'm only human, not even a potential sorcerer. No special skills with invisibility or shapeshifting for me. I had to make up for that somehow. When Rtl'en turned his moonless night eyes to me, I smiled by reflex. My lopsided grin was less a charming smile and more a presentation of my nervousness. I held out a bouquet of white starfall blooms. "For you--or the shop." The last words jumped onto the first, smashing their meaning. A gift to the place is not a gift to a person. He accepted the flowers in silence. His emotions rarely show in his face, but even his shoulders and hands told me nothing as he pulled out a wooden vase and slid the flower stems inside. He didn't move quickly as if irritated or slowly as if cherishing the gift; his movements were only the speed needed to complete the task. His vague reaction concerned me. I chattered on about how the new bridge out of Mineskeep was developing. He already knew that unlike how he hauls heavy goods onto wagons for the town's main shop through the day, I stand at a cliff to give directions from a chart every morning. Not exactly impressive. Rtl'en can calculate numbers and letters just as well. Cut starfalls can last a few days. After giving some to Rtl'en, I didn't want to see if the bouquet would last or if it would be dumped in the midden before anyone could pressure Rtl'en to answer questions about their purpose. I avoided the shop until the lower petals in the cascade of blooms should have been falling. Peeking through the windows, I could see the silvery bouquet in a wooden vase on an unfurnished chair beside the bridge design that was posted for all the townsfolk. I waved at someone who saw me peeking, hugged a warm bundle of my next gift in my arms, and waited with smells of dinner drifting around me for the end of Rtl'en's shift. He stepped out of the shop through my daydreams. I had to chase after him, calling his name. He turned with a surprised tilt of his head and shoulder. His nostrils flared at the bundle I shoved into his arms. "Coal-cooked. For you." Then I ran off. I don't know why. Cooking had taken two days inside the fire pit. My plan had been for us to sit and eat together. Who knows if he ate the meal or dumped it? A few days later, my courage caught up to my longing. A tumbled and polished gemstone felt hot in my palm as I asked if we could talk out back. He agreed, his body tense as if I had asked him outside to duel. When I held out my hand and said it was for him, he stared with cold black eyes at the gem. "For me? Is this a joke?" Of course, it wasn't a joke! I said, "I want to show you what being near you means to me." "As a friend?" Rtl'en asked. My throat made unhelpful noises until sounding out an explanation. "Giving gifts to someone who doesn't already know he's a friend has a different meaning, doesn't it?" His head tilted to the side in confusion. I tried to be clear. "What would say that I like... thinking you could like me... as a romantic partner?" "In dragon?" Rtl'en said, "I guess for a gift, that would have to be gold. Gemstones are for friends and infants." He moved the milky rainbow stone out of my hand to the windowsill. "Gold?" My hopes sank as I thought about the low chances of finding the metal so high up the river. Rtl'en closed in so close I remembered he was taller and broader than I am. His heady musk-and-goods scents gathered from his work filled my mouth. He reached for a thin braid at my temple. His fingers slid along my yellow hair. My breath caught in my chest. "Corb, will you give me gold?" he asked. My mind took a moment to understand what was happening, but then my knife was out of my pocket and in my hand. I sliced the requested braid from my crown. He smiled in a quiet and accepting way at the golden token that unfurled in his palm.
Published on Dec 8, 2021
by Shannon Fay
As the ruined ship settled on the ocean floor it sent eddies of silt swirling, creating a grimy underwater mist. The anglerfish swam through the cloud, curious as to what caused such a mighty ship to sink so deep. It found the answer when it spotted a siren watching from a nearby cave. It swam up to her. “Why do you sing sailors to their doom?” the anglerfish asked the siren. The siren reached up to stroke the fish’s stomach.
Published on Mar 4, 2021
by Shannon Fay
After my father passed away my mom sat me down in her kitchen and told me she was going to go live in the ocean. She was a mermaid, she said, but she’d stayed in her human form all these years for mine and my father’s sake. Now, with dad dead and me grown, she’d be returning to the water. “I knew it!” I blurted out. “Remember the day I came home sick?” It had happened back in grade 1. I’d developed a bad fever during the school day, but seeing as dad was working at the factory and mom didn’t know how to drive, I’d convinced the school nurse that I was well enough to walk the two blocks from my school to the trailer park where we lived (it was the 90s and people were lax when it came to letting kids look after themselves). When I’d walked into our single-wide, I saw mom, sitting in the sink, her large, shimmering tail splashing water onto the floor. “I remember that,” mom said. “That trailer was so cramped. Not even a bathtub for me to bathe in.” “You told me I imagined it, that the fever made me see things!” I said, anger growing. “You gaslighted me!” Mom blinked. She wasn’t online enough to know what I was talking about. “You purposefully made me believe something you knew wasn’t true,” I explained. “Sweetie, I didn’t think you’d understand,” she said. “Your father... he certainly wouldn’t have.” She was right. Dad hadn’t been a bad man, but it was like he had been ossifying slowly from the day he was born, becoming harder and more rigid as the years went by. Mom barely had a life of her own. I could understand why she’d want to do her own thing now that dad was dead in the ground. That’s not what I was mad about. “Do you know how alone I felt? I thought I was a freak!” Mom blinked again. “What do you mean?” I held up my hand and showed her how I could form webbing between my fingers. Her eyes widened. “I can grow fins and gills too,” I said. “I thought I was alone. I had to figure it all out by myself.” Mom pressed her own webbed hand to mine. “I’m sorry. I should have told you earlier. But you’re not alone anymore,” she said. “Let’s go home. Together.”
Published on Jan 17, 2022
by Shannon Fay
Legere Lake was named for the Legere family, white settlers who came to Mi'kma'ki in the late 1800s. They built their house on the banks of what was then called 'Grand Lake' by the English, using local aspen trees for the walls and bird's-eye maple for the floors. In time other houses would be built on the lakeshore, first bungalows for local farmers and later on summer getaways for rich city folk. But all that came long after the Legere's drowned.

The story goes that on a clear winter day, the entire Legere family decided to go ice skating. Grandma, mama and papa, two teens and a toddler, all six put on their skates to glide across the green-white frozen lake.
Published on Dec 16, 2022
by Andrew S. Fuller
Almost exactly one week after the last day of seventh grade and one week before her thirteenth birthday, Sylvia stomped through the house, flung open the sliding door to the back porch and stood with hands on hips. The Sunday newspaper was not extremely captivating that day, nor were her parents in the practice of ignoring their daughter, but the lawnmower next door was loud enough to mask the impatient tapping of a foot and the flaring lament of teenage nostrils. Finally, Mr. Jera shut off the small motor to empty his grass clippings, and Sylvia said, "Well?!"
Published on May 7, 2012
by S.E. Gilbey
Alex came from a good family--the kind that sits straight-backed in the front pew at church and makes it very clear that they are listening properly to the sermon. Their father was a banker, who was very fond of meetings. Their mother volunteered for a charity for disadvantaged children. Alex's siblings were much older--a daughter and son who'd left home as soon as they could and seldom returned to visit.

Alex was adopted--a disadvantaged child from their mother's charity.
Published on Dec 27, 2022
by Alexandra Grunberg
Decorative sabers and top hats. It was not an internationally popular graduation dress, but Hans Gutenberg had seen a century's worth of pictures of boys like him getting ready to face the world dressed to the nines.

"We're going out in style," Lillian Geissman whispered.
Published on Jun 7, 2022
by Tom Hadrava
This is what you find when you return: 34 leaflets and newsletters, plain or glossy paper with no moon runes, ink-chants or scarenocks. None of them folds itself into an origami puffin or a kangaroo when prodded with a finger.
Published on Mar 17, 2016
by Jenna Hanchey
She hovered over the deep green leaves before deftly pricking her finger on a spiked edge. Turning it over, she found only emptiness where blood once welled. Sighing, she lifted the heavy sack and continued her ordeal. She had known, before, why the leaves were so important, what the lack of blood meant. But the repetitions of menial labor--lifting, carrying, climbing, driving, lifting again--had worn her mind smooth, and the memories, unable to catch on anything, slipped away into the darkness. She knew it had something to do with this body, this cursed, round, hairy body. Male, obscenely. White with years she didn't remember. Heavy with food she never tasted. Others ate the cookies, of course. They weren't part of her punishment. She knew the body was, vaguely. Something about her vanity, her rapacity. She felt flickers of her old self in the deep green of the holly: reverberations of the color in fabrics, echoes of the word through extravagant halls. She could only ever catch the first, tantalizing, syllable: "Ho-," she sometimes said aloud, as the remainder of her name caught on her lips.
Published on Dec 24, 2020
by Erin M. Hartshorn
Ariana's heartbeat echoed the last word of the spell: dub-dub. The tugging began, as though invisible gremlins had grabbed her arm. Yara's shriek made Ariana swivel her head. Yara was being pulled in the opposite direction. Cloth ripped as the single dress with two necks was tugged with the girls. Her pulse grew louder.
Published on Dec 7, 2010
by Colin Harvey
"There are no railways on Ceftanaloa," Isabella the tour guide insisted, cutting the conversation dead. Rob wondered why her sullen monotone had suddenly erupted into vehemence. "This area is for Transport Museum staff only." She motioned him away from the workshop full of agricultural machinery, a lorry chassis, half-complete cars, even a ship's propeller. A mechanic looked up from the engine he was working on. She pointed to a sign saying "No visitors beyond this point" in English, Spanish, and local dialect.
Published on Dec 23, 2011
by Michael Haynes
I came in from the snow, curses rolling around in my head. A day didn't go by without me wondering how I'd come to this. A once-upon-a-time god reduced to trolling for humans desperate enough to believe in something that surely sounded crazy. There was a man sitting at the bar with that look I know well. He didn't feel like the wrong sort. I've gotten good at steering clear of those people through the decades. Call it a self-preservation instinct. I feel the joy--or the pain--which comes out of the relationships I forge.
Published on Nov 12, 2013
by Kate Heartfield
Ron allowed himself one shallow breath before gripping his cane and creaking to his feet. There was no need to rush. More than a century before, he had counted the steps that would take him from his watching-chair, across his living room, through his front door, off the porch, and across the expanse of rock to the cliff. Ron knew, likewise, the number of steps a jumper needed to hike to the top of the rock face they called The Ridge. Ron had time.
Published on Aug 2, 2013
by S.J. Hirons
When the shaman was done tying his ribbon around the middle of our pig, my father stood and watched the old man doddering off down the lane for a long time. A few months ago I would have expected my father, the notary of our little town, to have berated the old man, but now I was not surprised when he did no such thing. He only leaned on the slats of our fence, pensively watching the shaman depart, uttering not one word: We could neither feed nor water the pig now until the shaman was done with whatever spell it was he had been casting these last few weeks. "I didn't like the way he tipped his hat to me," my father muttered as he strode past me and back to the house. "That's all." I watched him go into the house, knowing he would be ascending the stairs one last time, before he left for his office, to see to mother.
Published on Feb 15, 2011
by Rebecca Hodgkins
"What's that?" I ask her. We're walking along the beach at the high tide mark and I spot a dark brown rectangle with corners that end in tendrils. I push it with my toe--it's lighter than it looks. "Do you want science or romance?" she asks, looking up into my eyes. I live and breathe by the crescent moon smile on her face.
Published on Apr 23, 2015
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
***Editor's Note: This is a story for adult readers*** My mother worshipped the god of rugs, which gave her peculiar powers, and gave me the conviction that I needed to find a god of my own.
Published on Oct 30, 2013
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
"There's nobody else, Aunt Phyllida," my niece Alice said over the phone. "You have to take Sam for Christmas." "I can't. I absolutely, positively can't," I said. I set down the golden candleholder I was carrying and glanced around my living room. The windows were covered in black velvet curtains, and every surface bore at least one layer of midnight cloth. I had cleaned the fireplace and laid new wood in it. Shadows loved fire.
Published on Jul 26, 2016
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I sat on the bed and watched my slender, curly-headed, seventeen-year-old brother Darwin pack a suitcase. He was leaving the farm. People under eighteen never did that unless they were cast out.

Darwin had many gifts. He could gentle animals, find water, and coax plants to sprout and bloom. He was the opposite of an outcast. He was a family treasure.
Published on Jun 1, 2022
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Thick as Honey was the one who discovered the man in the glass coffin. She was on her way to the mines with her six dwarven sisters, but decided to cut through the forest to check on her clay pits She had a pottery project she wanted to work on, and she wondered if the pits were flooded.

In a forest clearing on the way to the pits lay a glass coffin of exquisite work. Thick as Honey worked in clay, but her sister Heart-Shaped worked with glass; they made household objects to sell when the veins of tin and gold they mined were thin. Each of the seven dwarves had extra skills to supplement their mining, skills that brought them into contact with the world of giants.
Published on Aug 2, 2022
by Chip Houser
In fair Aliquant, where the soils are rich and the brooks clear, where the woods are filled with game and the mountains silver-veined, where the laws are just and all citizens are treated as equals, the executioner stands beside her scarred block.

Behind the executioner, the heavy palace gates are thrown wide, flanked by the royal guard in their silver and crimson panoply. Through the gates, a rare glimpse into the queen's lush private garden, a hopeful vision of what awaits the faithful beyond this world. In fair Aliquant, it is said the faithful will walk forever with Ilsemance in her celestial garden. The faithful who, to reach their goddess's garden, must be as perfect as their murdered princess. Perfect, unlike the executioner, whose hood hides her misshapen ear from the gathered citizenry.
Published on Sep 30, 2022
by L.C. Hu
There was a monster in Hannah's kitchen. She had invited it in, but that did not make it any more welcome. It leered at her from above a brown paper package, and from within it: a long-faced man presenting her with a lean, red cut of meat.
Published on Mar 10, 2015
by Nathan Andrew Huffine
Date: VII Mensis Sextilis MMMXXI From: Orpheus Musician, Poet Employee No. 230125 To: Pluto Executive Manager Underworld, Tier 1 Subject: Request for Salary Increase Dear Master Pluto, I would like to request an increase in my salary. I understand that you rejected my first request with fair points, and so this time I wish to address those reasons that made you hesitate before. Firstly, I will not resort to any poetic rhymes. Business is business, and I will not try to charm you with silly musings when the hard facts are what you prefer. So please allow me to show you some results that I've produced for you in the last two years. I visited Sysiphus and noticed that he took an entire day to push his rock up his hill. Well, I couldn't help but ask him if he would prefer to be more productive. Upon his eager approval, I organized for a henchman to split the rock in half. Now Sysiphus does in one day what previously took two, namely, he takes two loads up the hill by day and two loads tumble back down for the next. I'm certain this will please you, but besides this, I had visited Prometheus and Tantalus. With the former, it was clear to me that Prometheus was as tired of losing his liver as the eagle was tired of its taste. I asked the bird and the man if they would together prefer a new arrangement, perhaps the kidney being a nice change. Both excitedly agreed, so I went ahead and connected these two with a physician of yours so that he could mark the location of the kidney for the eagle and advise Prometheus on any new side-effects from this change. Lastly, upon visiting Tantalus I noticed that he was hurting his back constantly looking up at the various fruits and reaching for them. I couldn't help but suggest a new, less strenuous temptation. Tantalus gratefully agreed. I took the liberty of arranging a new vegetable garden with your landscaper. Don't worry, Tantalus won't ever get a taste of those carrots. They pull down into the earth just as he bends to pull them up!
With these accomplishments now presented, I humbly request that you reconsider your previous denial of my pay raise. If there is anything I have learned from you, it is not to look at what is behind me but to look ahead at future prospects. The music business is much less reliable these days, so I'm looking to apply my ingenuity to new things. Your Faithful Servant, Orpheus
Published on Oct 11, 2021
by James Hutchings
In the beginning of the world, the gods considered all those things which did not have their own gods, to decide who would have responsibility and rulership. "I will rule all flowers that are sky-blue in colour," said the Sky-Father.
Published on Jun 30, 2011
by KJ Kabza
The Fortress of Omn hums in the heart of a cumulonimbus cloud. We are the warriors who bring the lightning and the storms. "A cold front," say the duped meteorologists on the surface world below. The warpath, say we. Every generation has its radical philosophers, but mine has the deadliest. "Why must we live so brutally?" they argue, in grand halls of ice and dark. "Why worship chilling tempests? Why not gentleness and warmth?"
Published on Feb 4, 2016
by Andrew Kaye
When Mom died, I inherited my childhood home. I have good memories attached to the place: fairy tales and Saturday morning cartoons, tea parties and lightsaber duels. In those days the house felt like a castle, and I imagined dragons in the cellar and elves in the ceiling and magic hidden in every room. But one room was more magical than the others, a guestroom filled with multicolored cloth and the constant hum of a sewing machine. Inside, Mom would sit like a princess in a storybook, handcrafting tiny eveningwear. I remembered every dress and tuxedo. I remembered Mom's satisfied smile.
Published on Nov 14, 2014
by Andrew Kaye
Ambrose had pressed another bulb into the freshly turned soil when the ground shuddered and sent a fresh ache through his gnarled fingers. The heliocentric dome of tinted glass that covered the palace's garden rattled overhead, and the cries of soldiers on the outermost walls had enough shrill panic to send the dome rattling anew. Then came the jangling alarm of the gatehouse bells. Ambrose pulled himself upright with another ache—knees this time, and lower back. He set aside his trowel and pulled the faintly glowing sword from his wheelbarrow. "Rouse the gardener!" came a shout from the walltops.
Published on Aug 23, 2019
by Cassandra Khaw
"Was he worth it?" She puts down the dao; traces the flat of the blade with a callused finger; feels the pitted steel, the runes brocading its surface; breathes out. This is not hers anymore. But its voice knifes through her gut, nonetheless, hot with accusation, the shriek of metal-on-metal, bitter as stomach acids.
Published on Oct 13, 2016
by Floris M. Kleijne
The raiding party piled out of the tunnel in a cacophony of heavy breathing, weaponry, and increasingly exasperated hushing noises. I dragged myself from my slumber atop the highest mound in my hoard to sniff out their scent. Dwarves. Who else.
Published on Oct 10, 2017
by Floris M. Kleijne
The Riders fled, and Porcaleo followed. Pestilence attempted to make the long, cold crossing to Andromeda. Some million light years into the void, Porcaleo overtook the fleeing murderess, and released the billions of cures he had accumulated over the millennia, until Pestilence vanished without even a pop to mark her passing.
Published on Oct 14, 2019
by D.J. Kozlowski
"It's not real!" The Ouija board rested between them; six hands still resting on the planchette.
Published on Oct 13, 2015
by Christine M Layton
From: Captain "Long Beard" Johnson The Island at 34 degrees longitude, 86 degrees latitude
Published on Dec 6, 2017
by Mary Soon Lee
Published on Sep 29, 2022
by Jennifer Linnaea
She is the best. Not only can she overhear a conversation between spirits in a gurgling brook or overturn those rare rocks with djinn correspondence carved on the bottom; she also catches wisps of stories from the gods themselves, songs as old as time with messages so eternal they are as relevant today as a hundred thousand years ago. I met her years ago, in a circle for seers that used to meet in town, back when I was entertaining the notion of going into that business myself. She loves her job, and allows hardly anything else to enter her life. Her name is Gwenneth.
Published on Aug 6, 2018
by Ken Liu
"Come, come!" the attendants at the gate of Tourmaline call to you. "Come and bathe your feet." The water is refreshing, ice cold, straight from the glaciers on top of the mountains far to the west. You wash away the dust of your long journey across the desert, and marvel at the streets lined with twenty-foot slate slabs, the centers slightly depressed from centuries of traffic. You squint at the bright blue murals depicting rearing elephants and leaping lions in smooth jade and lapis lazuli.
Published on May 9, 2012
by Mary E. Lowd
The paper cone I'd taped together from an old piece of algebra homework slipped off the pony's forehead and landed in the clover at her hooved feet. Mallory laughed derisively and said, "What were you trying to do? Play unicorn?" The pony, Tulip, turned her head away, abashed, but she didn't say anything. I couldn't believe Mallory was lucky enough--and rich enough--to be given a real Smart Pony for her birthday, and still stupid enough to treat that pony like trash.
Published on Sep 7, 2020
by S. Qiouyi Lu
Marie was thunder and lightning, a tornado tearing through the plains, weaponized rage consuming everything in her path. And I was a mouse clinging to a stalk of grass in the distance, watching her, trembling in the wake of her glory. Envy swallowed me. I wanted to be her, a force of nature instead of this borrowed shape; I longed to be anything but what I was inside.
Published on Oct 22, 2019
by S. Qiouyi Lu
My mother was from the sea, raised by the Pacific Ocean that laps at both China and the United States. When she rose salt-crusted from that amniotic love, she found that she could never stay long on either shore, that she needed to be traveling between them. She was more jellyfish than person: her presence tentacled through my life, yet at the same time she was translucent, transparent--there one moment, gone the next. She was a yearning, a wish for a barnacled presence rather than the slipstream glimpses I caught.
Published on Aug 24, 2017
by Wakefield Mahon
"I really hate my job." Arlen stretched his arms and tried to loosen his stiff neck. "That's nice. I hate my stinking job too." Every "s" the guard spoke came out as a hiss.
Published on Sep 1, 2011
by Jennifer Mason-Black
They come to study us. Not to help. They watch my father struggle his way through his chores and make notes in their notebooks, too busy charting our future to join our present. In any case, I've no reason to believe their help would be of use. Their essence smells different--arid, dusty--and it blisters the leaves it touches. "It has no life, Mari," my grandmother says. At least she used to, before the day she took to her bed, lay there in her mended sheets, her face crumpling in on itself like an apple gone soft with decay, the threat of losing the land not aging her, merely bringing her years to rest heavy upon her shoulders.
Published on Nov 9, 2012
by Jennifer Mason-Black
She wakes hungry. He knows this, now. He greets her sleepy smile with bread and honey, with blueberry pancakes and salmon jerky, with the last of the jelly made from the wild grapes. He covers the table with food--once, twice, three times--until she groans and pushes it away. "It's April," she says, looking out the window.
Published on Jan 10, 2014
by Dafydd McKimm
Eyes aglow, you tell me where the dragon is buried; so early one morning, before the autumn has waned like the moon, we go to dig it up.

You are more excited than I am, brightly singing as you walk, lamp already lit, shovel swinging in your hand, and your smile, your radiant smile, fuller than my gentle happiness.
Published on Jun 23, 2022
by Dafydd McKimm
When the sun pops, we watch hand-in-hand from the wold.

"So this is how it all ends," you say, as molten gold erupts through the blue.
Published on Sep 19, 2022
by Melissa Mead
There once was a rabbit who had been made of velveteen. For many years now he'd been Real--not just Real in the eyes of the Boy who loved him, but real to the world of grown-ups and rabbits with twitching noses and springy hind legs. The Rabbit's hind legs weren't as springy as they'd once been. They ached in the wintertime, and he hopped more slowly. He liked nothing better than to lie in a sunny patch by the thicket of overgrown raspberry canes and dream of the days when the Boy had held him close and warm beneath soft blankets.
Published on Sep 3, 2013
by Melissa Mead
There's a mystery light in my bedroom closet. Kind of bluish-white. It comes on shortly after I turn out the lights. The first time, I turned on the lamp to look around, and saw nothing. I turned the lamp off, and it was dark. After a bit, the light came on again. It's bright enough to be distracting, but not enough to really illuminate anything. It makes no sound.
Published on Sep 30, 2015
by Matt Mikalatos
The seed cost a year's salary. It arrived in a small wooden box, packed in pearl-colored satin. He turned it gently in his palm, where it stuttered against the glint of gold on his finger, polished and nut-brown, with swirls of lighter color.
Published on Jun 6, 2016
by Heather Morris
Tom tried to show interest in Miss Collingsworth's flower arranging as she blithered on about some dance in the next county, but he kept finding himself distracted by the statue under the arbor. Bent in a posture of world-weary resignation, the subject did not appear regal or refined; she was dressed in dowdy fashions of the last decade rather than of the classical era. Her face, broad and homely, was ill-cut, but the stone eyes seemed to stare Tom down clear across the garden. He'd heard brilliant things about his new neighbors, the Collingsworths, but if this was a mark of their taste, he wasn't sure he wanted to deepen the acquaintance. "Mmmhmm," he muttered in Miss Collingsworth's direction, when it seemed there was an appropriate gap in the conversation. "Yes. Of course."
Published on Dec 13, 2013
by Michelle Muenzler
"I'll kill him," Helene says. "I'll rip out his heart and throw it to the crows." Autumn winds tear at her hair, lashing her face with black tendrils. We stand, my sister and I, simultaneously together and apart, her hands clenching the cold stone of the public garden's only bridge and mine worming deeper into the protective pockets of my woolen dress. She, of course, still wears silk, even as our breaths cloud white in the early chill.
Published on Nov 30, 2012
by Michelle Muenzler
There's a joke the Ja'deen used to tell, back when they first broke past the smoking ruins of our city walls and claimed our land their own: How many rebels does it take to make wood bleed?
Published on Sep 25, 2018
by Mari Ness
She gave me the amber right after I had kissed her for the first time, right after I started to confess, well, everything. Nothing. The sort of things you say, or don't say, right after you have just kissed her for the first time, and you are convinced this means something. "So you can carry my warmth with you," she whispered, tying the piece around my neck.
Published on Nov 26, 2012
by Mari Ness
She wakes to find seaweed in her bed. Never the same, this tangled weave of salt and slime and leaves: sometimes glistening red, sometimes dark green, sometimes dank brown. But always, always, there, entangling her feet, her hands, sometimes even sliding across her mouth, so that she wakes to the taste of salt and the sea.
Published on Aug 14, 2013
by Mari Ness
The dreams had become no less difficult to weave, no less painful. Her hands were already raw and sore each morning, burnt in places, sometimes still oozing a bit of blood, well before she reached for a strand of dream. By the time she stopped, she could hardly bear to move her hands; blood dripped from them into the dreams, moving between the strands. Her hands and back ached from working the vertical loom. The pain worked its way into her own sleep, waking her every few minutes; she could not remember the last time that she had slept long enough to have a chance at catching a dream herself. And yet each morning, she plunged her hands into the dream threads again, biting on her tongue to keep from crying out. And now the loom was broken.
Published on Jul 29, 2016
by Tarver Nova
Dr. Bell swept through the shop door in a huff. Winter winds swirled his coattails and scarf, and snowflakes danced all around him. His eyes darted over ships in bottles, glass-orb terrariums, and ant farms, before landing on the shopkeeper, Madame Delia. She squinted at him, pushed up her glasses, and then smiled.

"Welcome back, Dr. Bell," she said. "Here for another trinket?"
Published on Jul 28, 2022
by Xander Odell
1. Plants want you dead. Don’t waste time wondering why they turned against us. It is what it is.
Published on Jun 3, 2021
by Aimee Ogden
The assassin waits in Serekha's chambers until she returns from her evening meal. Serekha removes her headdress and sets it aside. Her hands clasp behind her back when she stands over the assassin. Their tray is spread out on the floor before them, and Serekha's quick black eyes dance over its contents. No surprise ignites in her expression; the Judge's favorite painter knows precisely which deed severed the thread of his favor. To create an unauthorized work is forbidden; to create such a thing and present it not to the Judge but to the uncomprehending masses that he rules--that cannot be forgiven. Not by the one who holds the power to forgive.
Published on Dec 4, 2019
by Aimee Ogden
Ruthanne has gone down into the basement, but she can't remember what for.

She glances around, but the cobweb over the storage bins and the dusty shelves don't jog her memories. There's wet laundry in the washer, anyway; she bends to haul it into the dryer. Her jeans, Ben's running t-shirts--what's this, wadded up at the back? She pulls it free, shaking out its folds.
Published on Oct 6, 2022
by Ebuka Prince Okoroafor
Mama told me, "Chike here is what you should expect: when you get there be well composed. Do not put on a cloth that will make them look at you like you fell from Mars. Be simple, no shiny shoes. Your father's head shouldn't be hard to find, his temples are always sunken in; back then he didn't eat too much Shaki meat--I bet that's why. His eyes are globes, they bulge too prominently--you won't miss them. He has a tiny neck: they say when God gives you a big head, he also gives you a thick neck to bear the weight. But God gave your father such a tiny neck that a slight wind could easily tip his head to an angle. Also, look out for any neck that can turn 180 degrees, that should be your father! He was the only person in the whole village who didn't need to move his whole body around to get a clear view of any space. Your father did not own a television, so you should expect him to have big ears. He loved to listen to his transistor radio and you know what they say about Lamarck's theory of use and disuse of body parts. It applies here. His nose is spade shaped, the ala spreads towards his cheeks until you would think they want to fall out of his face. But, they can smell anything, from the foul breath of Chief Omego--who was the first man in the whole village to own a toothpaste and brush--to the distinct odor of mama Ijebu's armpit five miles away. Be careful, it could smell you too, so douse your body with talcum powder until it buries your aura. Your father hates talcum powder. Finally, your father's head is bald. Do not forget that." But when I get there, there is a sea of heads and it is not as Mama has described. The keeper looks at me from his sunken eyelids, the dark circle around them spread like a penumbra. He is a mixture of many races, a petit and bald headed ominous looking man in his late seventies who is rumored to have lived more than that. "When you get there, Look at his nose," my friend Xi Ling says to me. "People say it changes each time they visit the mausoleum to pick up their fathers' heads; it's as though he switches destinies." Xi Ling comes from an old Chinese family of face readers. In the old world, their reputation was as old as the great wall itself. Xi Ling could look at the ridge of your nose and tell you what you'd be at forty. Before now, he couldn't do all these until he was of age, and went to the mausoleum to pick up his father's head. In this new world, it is tradition that when a man dies, his body is buried without a head. A man's head keeps on living even after death, and contains a wealth of information to be passed on to the next generation. Xi Ling became a face reader the moment he tasted the stew made with his father's ears.
Published on Oct 15, 2019
by Ebuka Prince Okoroafor
This is not your name--neither by your baptism, nor confirmation in the church. But from the time you grew older and met it on the lips of Dada, your granny, you instantly loved it. You met it in the smile of your Pa too, in the way he would drag you into his bosom once he returned from one of those protracted travels that he always ventured on, usually lasting some weeks and a few times, stretching into months. He would call you, "Warrior! Warrior!!" Lifting you up and sitting you on his thick, muscular shoulder so that you felt you were taller than everyone in the house. In those moments, you felt safe, you felt the pain that always lingered in your bone drain out, and your body coming alive as though you just began living. But in school, nobody called you Warrior and it irked you. Everybody knew you with different names. Your classmates taunted you with Big Head, Big Belly, or Drummer girl, because your fingers were as though they were shaped like drumsticks. Your teacher Mrs. Gladys called you The Strange One, and when you had complained to your Pa and he came to unload a truck load of bile on the proprietor, he was told, " Mr. Peterson, we have been looking for a way to ask you to take your child away, she doesn't seem to fit in here. She is bright, but you see, interaction with other pupils here has been a problem."
Published on May 20, 2020
by Emma Osborne
When I was young I dreamed of becoming a lioness, but when the moons turned and I became a woman, the gods made me a mouse. My brother, who had been an antelope (and with those legs, everyone had guessed well beforehand) had laughed and picked me up in his dusty hands. For the first time, his teeth were sharp and dangerous. I squeaked, wishing that I was stalking around the village with golden eyes and a pad full of sharp claws. How many nights had I prayed for that shape? Not to keep forever. Nobody lasted forever when they changed. It was a moon, usually, or three. My Mother had gone a year as a lark, but everyone said that the women in my family were slow to learn. You changed back when you understood and not a day before. "Keesa! I could eat you in a bite!" And this was my brother, who had once been an eater of grass.
Published on Jul 25, 2013
by Kat Otis
I nudged the corpse with the toe of my boot. "Looks like he froze to death, poor sod." "That's what you get, wandering these mountains unprepared." Ranulf snagged the corpse's rucksack and began rifling through it.
Published on Jul 5, 2012
by Kat Otis
The first time her parents left her home alone, Elvira was good. The second time, she managed to behave, too. But the third time, the temptation was too great. That Friday night, the instant her parents were gone, she ran down to the basement and entered the Forbidden Workshop. Papa's workbench stretched out along an entire wall, covered with power tools and a half-built wooden train that was probably a Christmas present for her little brother. Other tools, so big they had to have their own tables, were pushed up against a second wall. The third and fourth walls were lined with shelves, which were filled with more tools and clear plastic boxes that had tool bits in them. The whole room smelled of freshly cut wood, and she stood in the center of the room, just breathing it in, for a few seconds. The Workshop was just as wonderful as she had imagined it would be.
Published on Dec 6, 2012
by Kat Otis
I saw my first deathship when I was only ten migrations old. Mamma and I had swum up to the ocean's surface to play with a pod of dolphins. We were leaping and spinning and dancing in the waves when she caught sight of white sails on the horizon. The dolphins abandoned us, racing off to ride the waves in front of the ship's bow. I wanted to join them, but Mamma herded me below and told me I was never to approach the deathships.
Published on Apr 18, 2013
by Anya Ow
The woman in crimson phoenix robes stood barefoot on the frozen river, her long black hair streaming in the icy wind. Hairpins and bangles wrought of the finest mutton-fat jade traced a littered path back to the snowy shore. Barely visible against the crest of trees, the glow of festive lanterns from a sprawling estate blushed the evening sky wedding-red.

Steam curled past the woman's painted lips as she breathed in and out. She took a step forward and slipped to her knees with a grunt. Pushing herself laboriously back to her feet, she laughed, shaking out her softened wrists. With her internal energy suppressed by poison, her knees ached fiercely. Not that it mattered. The edge of the ice was just within reach.
Published on Oct 17, 2022
by Jack Pagliante
When the new king was crowned, and the feast finished, his court gathered around him and asked him what he believed to be the largest threat the kingdom faced, and he told them: Time. Time, he said, will do more damage to us than any invader, than any war. Time will ruin us and strip me of my crown. Time will take us away from what we love, who we love, and Time will take us, finally, from ourselves. It is Time, he said, that we must stop.

In the morning, he brought together his court again, and they met inside his chambers. He ordered they hire men, mercenaries, anybody willing, to set to the city and destroy every clock, every clocktower and to break every ticking watch and watchmaker's shop. I am serious, he said, our enemy is Time.
Published on Jul 21, 2022
by Jez Patterson
"Don't you ever sleep?" she asked, and he shook his head. No, she thought. He never will, and he's going to keep you here forever, in this soft white bed, like some fairy princess.
Published on Feb 19, 2013
by Shannon Peavey
Today they will burn our tamarisk trees to the ground. It's a quick, hot fire, and the flames light the sky bright enough to read by. I've seen it before, with other people's trees. But this year, it's mine they're burning. A few of my yearmates are like me--stupid and sentimental and afraid of what will come after. So we go to the grove and we find our trees and spend a few last moments with them, touching their scaled leaves and their bark and the little scraps of cloth and paper we have tied to them so carefully all our lives.
Published on Feb 18, 2014
by RJ Pedie
I used to be a crow but now I am not. I have shed my wings and feathers, given up beak and claw. I have grown and stretched and expanded. I have ten toes and ten fingers and dark hair on the top of my head and between my legs.
Published on Jun 13, 2019
by M. J. Pettit
The faded blackbird circles the ship, searching for a path to land. Squint and I can discern the sharp-edged folds giving her avian form, but our crude impressions flatter the expectant eye. Raven buckles in the headwind. Another gust will tear her. She looks that pale and thin. But then so does the crew milling below, adrift without a commission. After a fortnight, I alone remain unsunken. My sister never returns without a winning bid. I float down the mast to greet her before Nana can intercept. As Raven glides onto the deck, she refolds herself. The contours of her papery feathers become the sinewy lines of human muscle in her newly adopted form. I wave, eager to learn if she procured what she promised, but Raven turns and heads towards Nana. I shadow her, crouching behind a rain barrel to overhear them. They confer in whispers, the corsair queen and her envoy. I can't make out their words and Nana still refuses to teach me how to read lips. Nana grins, slaps Raven's shoulder. Good news, then.
Published on Aug 3, 2018
by Aimee Picchi
Imagine standing on a sandy sleeve jutting into the Atlantic. In the hazy distance where the sea meets the horizon, the mermaids sing, their voices dancing like strands of silver and black seaweed in a tide pool. The fluid harmonies draw you to the water's edge. This is the point when many young ladies transform into mermaid-song enthusiasts. Yet the noble quest to pursue beauty for beauty's sake is no tame pastime such as needlepoint or china painting, especially if one is unprepared for the dangers lurking within the waters. This pamphlet, based on my experiences as a female in the field, will educate novices in these endeavors, and I hope, prevent you from repeating the missteps made by my beloved Miss Mori and myself.
Published on Sep 13, 2016
by Hailey Piper
The chief elf kicked open the workshop door. "Boss, we got one!" Santa checked his calendar. Christmas Eve? They had little time. "Ho-ho-ho?"
Published on Dec 25, 2019
by Sara Puls
Don had been delivering mail to Ruthetta Bell's house for almost thirty years before she finally asked him inside. It was the day he'd been waiting for, but never had the courage to make happen on his own initiative. Now, though, it wasn't like he imagined. He'd waited too long.
Published on Aug 20, 2013
by Cat Rambo
The Snail ride was haunted from the beginning, and what made it worse was that it was the slowest ride in the entire amusement park: an hour and a half of crawling along the track. The architect had meant it to be a clever postmodern play on a haunted house ride, a deconstructed, ironic ride experience and all that cleverness did, really, was to attract ghosts, who are always drawn by irony.
Published on May 31, 2015
by Mike Resnick
There was a time when the Yakima tribe lived in peace with its surroundings and its neighbors. We welcomed the changing of the seasons, the migration of the birds, the spawning of the fish. We harvested our crops, hunted for meat when we desired it, paid tribute to the sacred tree that protected our people. We had lived this way for many hundreds of years; we expected to live this way for many hundreds more. Then the white man came.
Published on Mar 2, 2012
by Lauren Ring
1. A pair of hand-knit red gloves.
Published on May 10, 2021
by Lane Robins
42 facts about my wife, Marie: 1) Marie was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1984.
Published on Jan 29, 2016
by Michael Adam Robson
A cruel winter wind raged outside the crooked hovel, battering its empty boarded up eyes and howling through its broken stone teeth. The wizard could hear their impish laughter in that wind, out there in the dark, and he shivered in his bed. They used to keep their distance, whispering and scurrying away like vermin, but they didn't run anymore. He was old and toothless now, no threat to anyone.
Published on Dec 11, 2014
by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero
--Will it fly? What do you think, Yammet? --Well, Sis, the lifthold is full of wist, so at least it will rise.
Published on Apr 20, 2016
by Patricia Russo
As far as cloaks went, Rall had to admit that Verenisse's were good ones. She had fooled him more than once, and he expected her to walk abroad under guises. One time she'd crept up to him as a barely adolescent boy, all shaggy dark hair and bright curious eyes, and he'd talked with the child for half an hour before realizing that it was her. Verenisse had the talent of bending her voice and her words and her manner to the role she took on. Cloaks tricked the eyes, but there was more to concealment than what people could see or could not see. And that was the problem right there in a spoonful of words: a cloak did nothing to change a user's smell, or taste. Neither did practice in altering one's voice or stance. She was human, and anything that was not human would be able to smell that, and the Rat Folk in particular had very keen noses. "Don't go," he said. "Please. I'm afraid."
Published on May 27, 2011
by Angela Rydell
Emmett saw a small head hovering where darkness met sunlight filtering through leaves, caught glimpses of pale hands and feet shifting in shadow. He thought these hints of feminine body were simply light itself, figments of his own desires for a world outside of woodsheds and sanding and the lathe. But as he pushed further down the woodland path, further from his father's demands to pound more pine pegs for legs, varnish maple tabletops stretching vast as frozen lakes, a whole girl appeared in front of him, barefoot and wearing a wooden dress. He blinked, blinked again, and, as the wind changed, saw a girl wearing a dress of the woods itself. When she moved towards him the woods moved with her, yet she was more girl than wood.
Published on Aug 4, 2011
by Elizabeth Shack
Holding the laundry basket, Gina paused in the doorway of Adam's room. It looked just like it had the day he hadn't come home for dinner, though the police had combed it for clues. Five years now. She knew she should turn the room into a guest room, but every time she thought about it, her heart turned to lead. She hadn't even taken down the drawings of the girl with flowers for hair, though they made her skin crawl. The girl was a flowery Medusa, with bluebells and pink and yellow daisies ringing her head. Adam, a budding eight-year-old artist, had been proud of his crayon creations. He claimed he played with her every day after school. Gina hadn't seen any harm in his imaginary friend until the day Adam didn't come home. The police had dutifully photographed the drawings, but the pretend portraits had been no help.
Published on Nov 5, 2013
by Alex Shvartsman
For this spell, only the most powerful magic will do. The glass tubes full of air magic jingle like wind chimes as she takes them off the shelf, the iridescent gases swirling inside. Next she moves the heavy clay pots filled with earth magic and then wrangles the jug of water magic with both hands. Hidden behind it is the keepsake box.
Published on Jan 22, 2014
by R.D. Simmons
It had been a busy day for the Guardian of the First Door; no fewer than three heroes had come his way. That was often how it happened, though. Centuries could pass with barely a tomb raider to break the monotony, then some king or other would set a quest and suddenly, bam--wall-to-wall questers. Today's trio had all worn sandals and tunics, suggesting they had set sail from a sun-kissed island of olive groves and crystal-clear waters. The first had entered the chamber as dawn broke, the second in the mid-morning, while the last had only arrived in the Room With Two Doors as the shadows outside were lengthening and the Guardians had been about to knock off for the day. He was barely more than a boy, with blond curls that glowed in the dying sun and an angel's face set hard with determination. A son seeking to avenge his noble father, rather than a street-urchin on the adventure that would make him a legend, the Guardian guessed. Not that it made any difference. The lad had asked the wrong Question, just like the others, and when he chose the wrong path, the Guardian of the First Door had unsheathed his great double-handed sword and taken his head. The Guardian of the Second Door had chucked it on the pile with the rest, and together the two of them had dragged his body into the room of the Wrong Decision, where the Most Sacred One would dispose of it. How, the Guardian did not know. One did not question the doings of the Most Sacred One. Anyway, what with the welcome (given by the little old man with the long beard who sat in the corner of the Room with Two Doors), then the explanation (the old man again, who always milked this bit), then the Question, followed by the execution and the resulting clean-up, they'd ended up leaving late. The Guardian didn't mind that--you had to do the job properly, after all--but he'd had plans for the evening and was keen to get off. It was dark and the grasshoppers were chirping in the big field as he walked up the familiar dirt track to the house. "You're late."
Published on Sep 28, 2021
by Emily C. Skaftun
***Editor's Note: This is an adult fable, not for children.*** The boy, who was an old man, did not stay long. As he hobbled out of the forest, the tree, who was only a stump, watched his cane of burnished wood. Her wood.
Published on May 6, 2013
by Callie Snow
She sits in front of the screen long after he disconnects. Her gaze drifts over to the window, to the bubbly city below. Millions of happy citizens are starting their weekends, taking walks, shopping, enjoying leisurely brunches with friends. She's wearing her nicest clothes, and her fur is neatly brushed. She could still go out--he wouldn't think to cancel the reservations--except she doesn't have money; the apartment is expensive and the relocation swallowed her savings. Plus she doesn't have friends. For three weeks now, all she does is drive a hover-cab, like so many other new New Yorkers, and wait for increasingly sporadic holo-calls, like so many other clueless women before her.
Published on May 6, 2014
by Alex Sobel
“Do the drownings get better?” I ask Amber. She weaves her fingers together, shakes her head down toward her hands. “It fades a little, you know? Becomes routine, just another part of everything.” At sixteen, I’m old to be having my first drowning. I’ve been sheltered so far by my dad, his pure blood and resulting high rank allowing for some pull with the K’Cha elite. “We’ll always be needed here,” I remember Dad whispering in my ear when I was young, maybe ten or eleven, the first time he had ever taken me to watch the drownings. I remember faces in the distance, blurring, like thumb prints. There, then gone. “We’re useful to them.” It was a few years before I began asking questions. Why are things this way? Why don’t the K’Cha have to suffer through the drownings? “Because they won,” Dad said without thinking about it, an answer given many times. He didn’t elaborate, didn’t need to. “What does it feel like?” I ask Amber. “It’s like... it hurts for a bit, but then it changes,” she says. “When the air leaves, you feel a pressure, your soul or something pushing out through your skin. It’s like you trying to escape another you.” “And... then you die?” She hesitates, then kisses me. It’s a long time before we come up for air.
When we go downstairs, Dad is sitting at the kitchen table. He looks like he wants to cry, but doesn’t. Publicly, he supports the drownings, even when it’s his own daughter. It’s important for his political career that he doesn’t seem to be weak or sentimental. “She’s coming,” Dad says referring to Mom. She was only eight when she experienced her first drowning and the fact that I held out this long made her as proud of me as she’s ever been. “We can’t wait much longer,” I say. “She’s coming,” Dad says. “She promised.” It bothers me that it’s this, something I have no control over, that Mom finally noticed. Not my schooling, not my painting. Not even the amount of K’Cha suitors I have, each one not only taking rejection well, but seemingly honored just to be acknowledged. “It’s your long arms and fingers,” Mom told me once at some K’Cha party when a high ranking K’Cha cackled its jaws near my ear, but refused to look at me, a K’Cha mating practice. “Tricks them into thinking you have a couple of extra limbs.” I put a hand on Dad’s shoulder, like I’m the one comforting him. “Are you sure you don’t...” he begins, but trails off. Whatever he was going to say, even if we did, he couldn’t. Mom, at very least, acknowledged the inevitability of the drownings. I know somewhere inside Dad thinks there’s a way out, that it won’t happen to me, that I’ll be spared at the last second. It’s an optimism you can only have when the outcome doesn’t affect you, when you don’t have to be afraid because no matter what you think or do, it’ll never dare touch you. He hugs me, then hugs Amber, holds her for even longer. He’s scared of something happening to her, of her leaving me here alone. “We’ll wait for Mom as long as we can,” I say. And we do.
The water is close, but I never see it, never walk this way to school. I understand how easy it is to ignore, to let this go on. I understand why Mom couldn’t come, couldn’t see me off. I realize that we can run, that there’s nothing stopping us right now. But then, that’s their power. They’re so sure. So sure that I’ll be weak, so sure that my fear will keep me moving, one foot after another. When my foot touches the water, I feel Amber’s hand on mine, holding me down, holding me here. I can feel people watching us. “Is this okay?” she asks, nodding toward our hands, still together. She means: is it okay for us to be public, for people to see? I respond by squeezing even tighter. The K’Cha look at me longingly. Despite what’s about to happen, they still find me beautiful. Does that make it harder to drown me? It never seemed to be that way for anyone else. It almost feels like beauty somehow makes the drowning easier, makes it feel like we really earned it. A bulky K’Cha grabs at Amber, trying to pull us apart. “Can’t we stay like this?” she says. “Does it matter?” The K’Cha lets out a sound, harsh and breathy, a garbage disposal trying to whisper. It shrugs, one of the few gestures of ours that they’ve adapted, and grabs us by the wrists and moves us both into position. Together. Amber and I look at each other, waiting. “If you’re back first, wait,” she says. “I will,” I say, leaning in so our foreheads touch. Just over Amber’s shoulder I can see a face looking at me, a half-smile, proud, sad. It’s my mother, waiting her turn. She nods, like we’ve had the talk we need to have, like we understand each other. I see now that it’s ongoing, that for her this is life, that this is just a part of everything. “Ready?” Amber asks. Before I can answer I feel a claw behind my head and then the impact of the surface of the water being broken by my forehead. I try to keep my eyes open while underneath, see only a dark impression of Amber’s face She was right before. After the air is gone, I feel it, the pressure against my skin, the weight of my soul. It feels like it wants to fight, to push back, to be freed. Maybe we lose a soul during the drownings, but we also get a new one. Maybe my new one will be braver or smarter. Maybe my new soul will know what to do. When Amber’s face fades I don’t panic, because I know that there are things beyond this, there’s more for me. I know that even though I can’t see her right now, Amber isn’t far, and when I wake up, whenever that is, wherever that is, I’ll open my eyes. And she’ll be there.
Published on Dec 17, 2021
by Arnav Sood
Dear Sir or Madam, I write to express my sternest dissatisfaction with your SoHo, Manhattan location.
Published on Aug 11, 2020
by William Squirrell
Six of the rioters were hung from the branches of the oak tree in the square. How they jigged to the Devil's tune! When their struggles ceased they dangled by their necks; heads at perverse angles; dirty toes pointing to the ground. We gathered stones, of course, us children, and called out targets, collected points, accrued merit. When the ravens came to feed the game improved and there were huzzahs for direct hits. Our merry laughter drowned the outrage of the sacred birds. It was the last glorious moment of our childhood. After a couple of days the windows and doors were bolted against the stench and the ravens ate in peace.
Published on Jul 24, 2018
by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
***Editor's Note: Adult story, complete with adult language*** The Shower
Published on May 24, 2013
by Leah Thomas
Now that they have come for me, banging on the trapdoor above us, there are many things I want to tell you, Son.
Published on Apr 12, 2011
by J Kyle Turner
Winter came to the mountains, and Xuan walked home through the snow. Her family lived in a yurt on the northern slopes of Changbai, nestled in the shelter of an overhang. Her father was a fisherman, and spent the winter next to holes carved in the icy river. Her mother was her mother. Xuan loved them both.
Published on Apr 7, 2014
by James Van Pelt
"Miss Linderman," said the voice--it sounded like the principal's secretary--"there's been an accident. Two of our students were killed driving home from a haunted house. Cathy Jackson and Melinda Cranford." Miss Linderman held the phone tight in the dark room. On the dresser, her clock's red letters glowed 2:59. "If you think you'll need a substitute, I can arrange one for you."
Published on Jan 13, 2011
by Douglas F. Warrick
I knew a girl who tied a hot air balloon envelope to her shoulders, just in case her head should ever burst into flames. It was homemade, sewn together from stolen scraps of Dacron, mottled and gaudy. It was as wide as her shoulders and it hung down to the small of her back like a pair of folded oil-slick dragonfly wings. She pierced the thin, tender skin of her shoulders with four strong surgical-steel rings, two just above the delicate cliff of her clavicle and two over the twin plateaus of her shoulder blades, and to these she anchored the envelope. I used to sneak away from barracks to see her in the wide gray field outside of Courdray. I was nineteen and obsessed with climbing trees. I used to split my brain apart during drills, sink away into the recesses of daydreams to climb imagined redwoods that never ended, and in rare unsupervised moments I would climb the dry and dying cypress out in the field, with the grass twitching and the sky bruising over, and I would sit in the lowest crotch and dangle my arm down. And she would sit at the roots (she never climbed, afraid that she would tear open her precious envelope on a capricious branch, and that her head would explode before she could patch it up), and play with my fingers, never grabbing hold but always dancing across my fingertips with her own. And we would talk.
Published on May 25, 2012
by Caroline M. Yoachim
I am in love with a man from the current. My mother thinks this is foolish. She wants me to settle down with a boy from the still. She doesn't understand. She met my father when they were in the current. Otherwise I wouldn't exist.
Published on Apr 16, 2014
by Caroline M. Yoachim
The other girls are made of driftwood, but I'm made of bamboo that whistles in the wind. My bamboo makes a hollow thud when the other girls kick pebbles at my legs on our way to school. "Bamboo isn't wood, it's grass," Sylvia says. She isn't kicking pebbles, and I can't tell if her statement is meant to be an insult or an observation.
Published on Sep 25, 2015
by Caroline M. Yoachim
"Do as I do," Mama tells me, "and you'll be safe. We walk this road together." The road is seven feet wide and four billion years long. All my ancestors walk ahead of me and my progeny follows behind. Today the road is a pair of tractor ruts in a field of screaming-psychosis grass. The shrill sound makes my head ache, and Mama says if I listen too much longer, it will drive me insane. She plucks a handful of grass from the side of the road. Once picked, the grass is silent. The road is wider, and the psychosis grass is quieter because it has fewer voices with which to scream.
Published on Nov 21, 2012
by Anna Zumbro
The rain has stopped shortly before the dismissal bell rings, and the ground is spongy and quivering with worms. Someone taps Gage's shoulder. He spins around and sees Dasha, her mouth upturned at some private joke. "We're playing the pixie game. Want to come?"
Published on Jun 30, 2015
by Anna Zumbro
We rang in the new year at Jessie's, jam-packed with a dozen of our old crowd and two bar carts. I'd had a Manhattan and a gin martini by the time we flipped on the TV for the countdown. By that point, my social reserves were spent. I lingered by the snack table, staying quiet so I wouldn't spout nonsense the way I tend to do when drinking. You were the one who pulled me to the bar cart to make sure I had a drink at midnight.

"You've had a couple in this already, right?" Jessie asked, taking my glass. "Doesn't work otherwise. It needs your backwash."
Published on Nov 1, 2022