Superversive Fiction: Spider Without a Web

More fiction from Abyss & Apex

Spider no web illo

“Spider Without a Web”

by Daryl Nash

Umbilicus cut with the World, Syr was little better than a human. Her unaided eyes could make out nothing but vague shapes in the dim light. She uncurled from the padded couch on which she had grown to adulthood and stretched her thin legs. Bionutrient tubes loosed from her veins swayed in the thin air like living creatures.

Syr swam across a garden of flesh, neman with closed eyelids fluttering in perpetual REM. The pale white and brown bodies of her kin stretched across the floor and ceiling of the flattened spheroid chamber. Their skin was smooth and hairless, tended by an army of invisible nanomachines. Floating above them, Syr was disturbed to notice their sexual organs clearly visible. Never did she think of her family members as male or female while they studied and played and worked in the World. They were neman, and neman were not humans chained to messy biology.

Syr floated into contact with the wall, and the surface undulated to carry her around to an indentation that pulsed faintly blue. The wall enwrapped her in a skinsuit and spat her into the cold vacuum of space. She floated away from the neman satellite, a series of loosely connected spheroids twisted into a helix, like beads of water on a string. The data spike extended into the port on her neck, and Syr’s senses erupted in a cascade of welcome information. Bionutrient tendrils slithered into her veinports, oxygen and other nutrients rushed into her bloodstream. Though she could only connect wirelessly, Syr felt a palpable sense of relief to be free of the suffocating lack of information.

Superversive Fiction: Hunting Fire

Latest Superversive Fiction from Abyss & Apex:

Hunting Fire

Hunting Fire illo

by Lindsey Duncan

 

Sarril picked her way down the cavern slope, claws digging into the ice for purchase. Her toes slid up to the joint into slush, and she grimaced in distaste. She hated not having a solid, icy footing.

She reached the cavern’s basin and scanned the shadows. The winds of the snowplains didn’t howl, didn’t even whimper, and the only sound was the nerve-jangling click of dripping water.

She halted by the puddle – a small pond, by now – and drew out the measuring stick. Like most of her kind, she was short, squat, covered in thick fur that was not white but translucent and layered over pale, tough skin. The Sages believed the glaciads were related to bears.

Sarril splashed into the water, frowning at the film of ice. No one had touched it in two days; it should have been frozen over. She found the red dot of paint that marked the deepest point in the puddle and inserted the stick.

Two inches deeper. Blast. She twisted her head to study the massive ice stalactite above her and thought she saw cracks in the surface. She shuddered. Summers before had caused sagging homes and even collapsed tunnels. This was worse – and it was only a few weeks into spring, by the rock calendar in the Sage’s Hall. An unseasonable hot spell? Or the herald of a more dangerous trend?

Sarril wiped the measuring stick on her tunic and put it away. She had left her cloak in her burrow. Now she wished she had worn it to ward off the water droplets. She wiped the back of her neck and muttered.

It was a swift journey back to the tunnels where the glaciads made their home. She continued to the lowest point, past the Market of Teeth, the Boneyard, and the Sage’s Hall. A guard in front of the Deep One’s cavern stopped her until she displayed the black insignia on her tunic, the mark of the leader’s personal scouts. He nodded her through.

The tunnel looped around thrice before plunging downwards in a series of ice steps, dusted every morning with snow. Did Sarril detect melted blotches in the pattern of blue and ivory? She needed to stop spooking herself.

It was refreshingly cold down here: she wished she had thought to reclaim her cloak, then decided to revel in the prickling that swept her fur.

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Superversive Fiction! The Winter Astronaut

Abyss & Apex : First Quarter 2006

The Winter Astronaut

by Mark Patrick Lynch

It was the forty-third day of a slowly drifting October spun from russet and gold. An uncomfortably forgetful old man – whose name was like a sunbeam and whose dreams intruded upon reality like firecrackers in the Fourth of July sky – felt the first warm breath that had been held all the way from another world released over the plains. As the heat rose, he noticed a whirl of dust rising through faded purple grasslands he could see from his rocker on the porch, and knew his tired old senses hadn’t deceived him. It had been the sigh of a rocket whizzing overhead just moments before! It had!

A needle of machined steel and rivets had fallen from space, landed in the distant town, and here was the result.

The giant sunflowers beside the white picket fence bounding the old man’s scant acreage turned towards the heat-wave rolling up from town, forsaking the distant flare of the sun, a flare very much like a forgotten memory regained at the end of a life. They unfurled as they strained towards the furnace-surf rushing in now that October had been granted leave to snooze awhile and warm its weary bones to the Martian rocket summer.

“Ha,” said the old man, watching from behind the lenses of his black-framed spectacles as the grass turned green and butterflies blew over the meadow like leaves from twisty old trees ahead of a mischievous Halloween storm.

“Ha,” said the old man as hares and prairie dogs woke from their slumbering hibernation, and with an excited twitch of the nose or a yapping bark leaped to run with the tide of new colours swimming like shoals of tropical fish around them.

“Ha,” said the old man as the wave hit the porch fully and summer was upon him, warming the decking where he sat so that boards warped and groaned, stretching and popping beneath him, oozing the scent of sap as the screen door kissed the crooked jamb.

And “Ha,” said the old man finally, his snow white hair puckering with a kiss curl in the breeze, as trailing on that tide, working furiously to keep the wave, ride the breaker all the way to the cottage on the hill, he saw a young boy with firecracker eyes and hair as red as an explosion grit his teeth and push on the pedals of his Labyrinth of Night Cyclone Bicycle Extra Special Super Quick Deluxe!, raising behind him a dust storm like a sooty comet’s contrail.

“Now who’s this, pushing on that bike so hard?” the old man asked no one in particular. Lists of names fluttered by, with wings bright as the cerise and gold of the huge butterflies just sprung to dancing life. But he already knew, of course. Why, naturally he did! That burnished crew-cut could mean only one thing: it was young Jimmy Salina – son of Dexter Salina the town councillor and elder member of the Tharsis Martian Elks – riding up here on his much-spun wheels, tyres thin from miles of adventuring, spokes delicate and iridescent as dusky thoughts, all excited by rocket fire.

And what did he have in his hand? The old man squinted through his thick lenses. Was it a rolled up newspaper? A series of telegram sheaves? Letters?

Thinking of mail, the old man experienced a melancholy stirring of expectancy then: the thrill of waiting for letters through the door, excited at what might lie in the mailbox at the end of the long driveway when he’d shared a house with his wife, all those years ago, on another world. But the memory, like so much else, faded and was gone, leaving him unsure and uncomfortable, a spaceship charting unexplored emptiness, teasing its solidity between the flood tides of meteors and sucking gravitational wounds of space-time.

From his rocker on the porch, he looked to the end of his short walk, saw his old mailbox, freckled by rust and sunflower tree shadows, a place now of only birds’ nests and hollow echoes.

“Memories,” he said. “Always getting in the way of something.”

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Superversive Fiction: The Night The Stars Sang Out My Name

The next in our weekly posts of Superversive Fiction from Abyss & Apex Magazine

 

The Night The Stars Sang Out My Name

by Ken Scholes

  I should have been a runner.

 Of course I’m naked. Naked and running full–on. Suit seized up three weeks back. Then captured. So now I’m naked and running under stars that steal my words and warp my sense of size in the vastness of Everything. Using a stolen charstick to burn my way out. A flash. A scream. A smell of burning meat.

I should have been a chef.

CHIB–CHILI, CHIB–PUREE, CHIB–KABOB –– That’s my jiminy. He chatters endlessly when nervous. His name is Eddie.

My stomach lurches. I haven’t eaten in days. Even chib sounds good.

Speak of the devil, one appears. I burn out its face. Chibby Chibby Burning Bright ––

I should have been a poet.

My jiminy agrees with this and launches into a litany of children’s verse. Find our way out of here, I send.

A trisket a –– WORKING ON IT, BOSSMAN –– a trasket a green and yellow––

Another chib breaks through the foliage to my west. I sweep the charstick over it. Another flash. Another scream. More meat.

Hey diddle diddle , my son John –– WEST FIVE LEAGUES, ROVING PACK SEVEN –– went to bed with his stockings ––

I adjust my course. Good work, Eddie.

DON’T MENTION IT.

`And he’s back at it with the verses. Five leagues more of Eddie’s manic sing–song. I tell myself I’m going to have him removed. Upgraded. I tell myself he’s been a real pain in the you–know–what for the past thirty years. I tell myself that he’s not my friend and I don’t need him.

But I do. I really should have been a poet. Then I wouldn’t need this extra personality piggy–backing my own, watching my six. Then all I’d need is words.

WORDS – BIRDS – TURDS – CURDS ––

A moment’s peace, is all I ask.

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Superversive Fiction! Godspeed, Inc.

Second in our weekly series showcasing Superversive fiction from Abyss and Apex Magazine.

Abyss & Apex : Fourth Quarter 2006 | Abyss & Apex

Godspeed Inc.

Vincent Miskell

 When you’re making sweeps close to Pluto’s orbit—okay, where Pluto’s orbit used to be—the first thing you do when you’re conscious is check voice, holovid, and text mail. No matter how much the techs compress a transmission, it still takes 5-6 hours to reach this far Out West after they get it all together. So news wise, you’re always at least a half–day behind everybody else. But a few sports and news holovids, a perky or sultry hello from an old lover (”I miss you, Naomi”), even some bureaucratic smoke from the bubble heads at Godspeed Inc. help you feel less like Disembodied Ghost in Space.

So first thing, I check mail.

NOTHING. And no incoming either.

In fact, all the log files show empty as though an emergency system wipe blanked them. I figure a memory gelpak went overload, cascading through all the other gelpaks—something that’s not supposed to happen. But most sweepers experience this kind of gel crash enough times to know that it’s not “user error.”

That is, when there used to be other sweepers.

Until just a few years ago, this was a two–person job. And before that, right after planetoid Pluto got sucked through a rift in the spacetime fabric to dimensions unknown, Godspeed had a half dozen sweeper ships deployed here Out West, mending spacetime with special particle beams. A few even had faster–than–light Q–drives of their own—not that they were ever used.

Now, there’s just me in Sweeper Two, with the Q–drive removed, of course.

Even after almost twenty years, some of the space environmentalists, especially on Mars, are still pissed about losing Pluto and Charon. Still jittery about Godspeed’s FTL Q–drive punching holes in the universe, which is why they affectionately refer to my employer as “God Peed.” Officially, of course, Godspeed doesn’t admit direct responsibility for rifts—they just sometimes appear after a Q–drive launch.

Could Mars go missing in a spacetime rift? Sure, if some faster–than–light submoron pilot powered up near Mars orbit. But that isn’t likely—not with UN Security Units on board every active Q–drive ship. And not with their hot little fingers on the remote control of the pilot’s brain implant. One push and KA–BOOM: the inside of the pilot’s skull is applesauce.

Fortunately, there’s nothing but the usual pack of neurons inside my head. And nothing but some nutrient implants in my body. In fact, I had to lose some parts for medical reasons for this job, like my breasts and uterus, which I’ll get put back when I retire in about ten months at 32, with a big Godspeed Inc. pension and bonus. As a googol–buck corporation though, Godspeed can afford full body and organ restoration, plus whatever genetically engineered cosmetics my seductive little heart desires. Just less than a year more cocooned as a Godspeed tomboy caterpillar—then I emerge on Earth or Luna as the Femme Fatale Butterfly Goddess of Endless Fertility and Love. I’ve got all my bodily specs and a three–world tour worked out, especially Mars—which is still 100 percent retrovirus free.

That’s the plan anyway. The exact same one that my former partner, Bonnie Perez, is supposed to be enjoying.

Anyway, I’m not really worried about the gelpaks because anything quasi–electronic or mechanical eventually yields to my touch. Computers, particle drives, environmental control systems—all succumb to what others have called my “magic hands.”

Before I go to work on the mail problem though, I check for rifts on the spacetime monitoring screens. Eleven standard days ago from this sector, Godspeed slammed its most expensive luxury liner, Pegasus IV, on a 30–light–year journey to what sweepers call the Wild, Wild West. But, so far, no rifts.

Then I see something suddenly burst behind me.

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