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Compost Traumatic Stress

Blistering tongues of immolated fuel spewed from the dropship, sculpting the sterile mudscape into a smear of ragged sumps and ridges as it touched down. Seconds later, the rear hatch fell open and shat 2nd Platoon into the mire. Mort Louka stumbled into his first taste of the war, then sank straight to his knees […]

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Still Life

“And I’m tellin’ you, leave him alone.” The gun pointed at the gang was from a different world: an antique, short-barrelled shotgun, the stock worked in bronze. The bearer of the gun didn’t match the delicate filigree either—a short, stocky woman, hair tied back under a wide-brimmed fishing hat of dubious age, and a filthy […]

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The Shepherd

The cross is bigger than he remembers. Its tumescent beams stand atop the church’s peaked steeple, their size symbolic of great sacrifice, the ruptured cement below roasting in the fire of a four o’clock sun. Carlos sits in the crumbling Chevy, windows rolled up, desperate to feel every inch of the heat. Blood-warm apprehension pools in the […]

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Chrysalis in Sunlight

The thin gray webs stretching across Aunt Melissa’s hand hadn’t been there the night before. Her condition wasn’t supposed to be contagious, but I went to the kitchen for some latex gloves anyway. If these webs were a new stage, all the procedures might change. There was still so much we didn’t know about the […]

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Balloon Man

If it hadn’t been for the camel, Mithun might never have noticed the old balloon seller at all. He almost didn’t notice the camel either. If he’d been looking for it, he probably wouldn’t have. Like so many other parts of Northern India, Qaisarbagh Bazaar wasn’t so much a place that time forgot as much […]

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The Wait is Longer Than You Think

1. John stood and gunned up his courage. “We need to talk.” Colophinanoc’s manipulator digits didn’t stop their movement, their rhythmic squirming in and out and around the small basket he made. The eyes, the two at the top, swiveled toward John, the antennae dropped back—something John had learned was one of a dozen shows […]

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Traces of Us

It was an old network of intelligences, one of the first, and the bulk of its physical embodiment was housed on a ship orbiting a planet of perpetual windstorms and violet lightning. Some of the network’s intelligences busied themselves on this world, drifting through sulfur-tinged clouds and sampling a rich stew of hydrocarbons. But most […]

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