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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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Through the Eye of the Needle

There are only two ways to leave the mistress’s menagerie. One is through death, the other is love. Both are tricks. All of us prisoners buried within the menagerie’s pristine fractals are here by virtue of our skills. Fire keeps me alive, and the guests entertained. If the mistress knew my real skill, well. How […]

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Higher, My Gallows

One I can still taste electric anise when I open my eyes. It’s been a week since that kid got himself killed and I came too late to do anything about it. An open-and-shut case. I light a cigarette trying hard to ignore the boy in my bed tonight. He snores and I kick him […]

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