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Rock, Paper, Scissors, Glass

Jude-Marie Green has sold stories to print anthologies, online magazines, and podcast productions, including Tina Connolly's Toasted Cake. She edited for Abyss&Apex, Noctem Aeternus, and 10Flash Quarterly. Part of the Clarion West 2010 class, she also won the 2013 Speculative Literature Foundation's Older Writers' Grant. She lives in Sunny Southern California and writes about damaged strong women. judemarie.wordpress.com.

Aunt Tad lounged on the porch swing, half in and half out of the sun. I brought her some lemonade because I was thirsty and hot, sweating through my shirt. She didn't sweat. She waved her hands slowly through the beams of sunlight, admiring the rainbows they painted on the floorboards.
"Most people cast shadows," she said. "I shed refractions. It's kind of odd. But you get used to it." She took the lemonade in her glass hand. She wore a tank top and abbreviated shorts, leaving nothing to the imagination, really. Glass skull--no hair, of course--glass bones and skin, glass chest rising smoothly with her breath. Transparent everywhere except for some discreet cloudy spots shielding her internal organs. I sat next to her on the swing, squinting to see where the glass of the lemonade disappeared against the transparency of her hand and her lips.
"I guess you'll know soon enough," she said. "Your mom says you want to join up, take on the Change. Go into battle as an Amorphous."
I nodded. "Yes. I have to serve, I might as well serve with the best." And the most beautiful, I thought, but I'd already blurted out that I thought she was beautiful. She'd ignored me.
Aunt Tad stretched like a cat. I heard dangerous crackling from her spine. "She wants me to talk you out of it." She pointed her face at me with a considering silence.
I'd expected this. "I already signed up. I don't know why she doesn't want me to be on the elite team."
"You don't? I know you heard me last night. I shattered glass with my screams." She waggled her feet. Three toes were missing from the right, two from the left. I gasped.
"No worries, sweetie, I have a repair kit. I even picked up some dichromatic glass. Some decoration is allowed these days."
"Can I watch?" The words slipped out and I blushed. She's my aunt, I thought furiously, not a curiosity. Not a thing to observe.
She snorted. "Maybe. Ya know, your mom and I fought over getting into the Amorphous. We both had the scores, but they said only one of us could join. Only one opening, they said. So we settled the issue with a rousing game of rock-paper-scissors. A strategy game as old as time."
"But that game is always a tie!" I blurted.
"You're thinking tic-tac-toe," she said. Was that disappointment in her voice? My face heated up.
"That nice blush will go away after the Change, you know." She smoothed my cheek with her fingers, which weren't cold at all. I thought they'd be cold. "I was so proud that I beat your mom 2 to 1. I'm still not sure why she threw the tie-breaker to me. But she did." She sat up straight and pushed the swing into motion with her damaged foot. "Say, want to play a game or two?"
"I won't throw them to you!" I said.
"Of course not. One-two three."
I held out my fist. Rock. She held out her fist, too.
"Tie," I said, "rock smashes rock."
"No. My fist is glass. When we touch rock our nanos disintegrate the material. Rock feeds us. Enemies can't hide from us in caves. I win."
I almost said, That's cheating. But I didn't. That's how she wanted to play it? I'd play along. "Okay."
"One-two-three," she said again.
I held out my palm. Paper. She held out her own palm.
"I win," I said. "Paper wraps glass."
"I win," she said. "Glass shreds paper. We aren't tame little blown glass figurines. We drop over the enemy and shiver off flechettes of glass. Flesh doesn't stand a chance against us. Nor clothes, nor armor. Better than bullets, that's what my sergeant said." Her eyes clouded over. "Fields of blood and glass."
I thought about this. "But doesn't that make you the perfect weapon? Killing the enemy, isn't that the idea?"
She shook her head. "Winning, that's the idea. Killing is a strategy."
"One more," I said. And counted, "One-two-three-"
I put my fingers out as scissors. She left her hands down.
"I win!" I crowed. "Want to play 4 out of 5?"
She shook her head. "The only way to win is to not play. But I like to play. And your mom won, she has you."
I grasped her clear, warm hand. "Not for long."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Author Comments

This story was written as a challenge and started with me sitting on a porch swing in a beam of refracted light from a wind chime. I thought about how wonderful that glass can change the nature of something as fundamental as light (dichroic glass, by the way, is one of my favorite things.) Then my grandson wanted to play a game and I taught him Rock, Paper, Scissors... and the kid cheated! Yes, I steal all my best ideas from real life.

- Jude-Marie Green
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