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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New Superversive Fiction: Operation Renfield by Steven Johnson

The latest in the hot new genre: WWII Elf and Dwarf Sagas!

At last, Operation Renfield by Steven Johnson is complete! A Superversive story of courage and sacrifice during World War Two, told with humor and insight, starring Elvish-Americans and Dwarves from the Bronx.

Operation Renfield

Bullets and magic spells echo across the foothills of the Alps. It’s the fourth year of World War II, and both sides are using every trick in the book, dirty, demonic and otherwise. Mick Murphy’s come farther than he ever dreamed in the U.S. Army, even if prejudice against Elvish-Americans is a thing of the past. Most things of the past can still reach up from the grave and touch him, but so far, he’s stayed out of the clutches of Death. But tonight, Murphy and the men of King Company will go farther than they ever have before into the belly of the Beast … from which no traveler returns!

An excerpt:

Well, I’m not an officer. But I was all King had right now. I called the men together.

“Y’all better listen UP, y’hear?” I shouted.

I’m from New York, but that doesn’t matter. Every sergeant in the Army sounds, or at least yells, like a Confederate veteran.

“Take off yer helmets,” I barked. “Now this heah, underNEATH of your helmet, is your BRAIN HOUSING GROUP. Nomenclature: hair … scalp … skull … brain. Your optical SENSING system and OW-ditory sensing system are ATTACHED to the BRAIN HOW-sing group. Your CHOW hole is located BELOW, and FORWARD of, your brain HOUSING group.”

Make that an angry Confederate veteran. You want to keep combat men’s attention, you have to give it some emphasis.

“Maintenance: KEEP your brain HOUSING group clean! When possible, keep it dry. Remove all but one INCH of HAIR as often as necessary. This task CAN be performed by NON specialists!”

It was all an act, at first — the yelling, the not-quite-cussing, the sarcasm, the insults – sergeantry in general. I copied the sergeants who’d trained me, back before I became one.

“Disassembly: do NOT attempt to disasSEMble your BRAIN HOUSING group! Nothing serviceable by non-specialists is contained INSIDE!”

But then about two years into the Army (and only a couple of months into combat) I figured out what was eating me. This was right after a dogface with a very old M1 Garand fired off five shots with one pull of the trigger. Seems the sear was so worn down it didn’t catch properly, turning the M1 into an automatic weapon. Pretty soon lots of the doggies were filing their sears down on purpose, so as to have their very own automatic Garands.

A couple of them wound up with jammed rifles. Which was better than the optimist who didn’t reassemble his action properly, and got the bolt carrier group back in his face.

That’s when I realized the simple truth: the doggie was the enemy. His laziness, his sloppiness, and his aimlessness were the only things that kept him from killing us all through sheer stupid overconfidence. If he pulled the grenade ring with his teeth, and thereby ruined said teeth and made him unfit for service until they were repaired, at least that was one grenade he didn’t drop at his feet, or throw full-armed into a tree ten feet away so it bounced back behind himself, or carry on his belt by the by-our-lady safety ring so it fell off after a thousand up-and-down bounces on the move. Joe Dogface was going to kill us all.

Now my sergeantry isn’t an act any more. I don’t want the guys to die, but they don’t make it any easier sometimes.

“InSIDE your brain is your SOUL HOUSING GROUP, one each. Its exact workings are CLASSIFIED. But it keeps BODY an’ SOUL toGETHER. If you do not keep your soul housing group in good repair, like for example by NOT wearing a HELMET, your soul WILL escape. That can be GOOD, or it can be BAD. The Army answer is that it is BAD.”

“Yeah, you in the back,” I said. I knew his face, but not his name.

“Sergeant, what if we go to Heaven? That’s good, ain’t it?”

I scowled. But now I remembered the earnest smartass’ name.

“Sure, Trasky. Sure. You get to spend Eternity in the Heavenly Fields with Almighty God and his legion of angels. While MEANWHILE, down here on EARTH, your country, your family, your BUDDIES are suffering under the iron rule of SATAN, because we LOST the WAR! Still sound like a good idea to YOU?”

“But Satan’s the prince of this world, Sarge.”

“Yeah, well, we don’t want him becoming King, too.”

The full story is now live!

Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/Operation-Renfield-Steven-Johnson-ebook/dp/B00UCFYMV6

Paperback:

http://www.amazon.com/Operation-Renfield-Steven-G-Johnson/dp/1508734593

 

 

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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Glimpses of Abyss & Apex: Stone Eater

This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of glimpses of stories from Abyss & Apex magazine. Editor Wendy S. Delmater has chosen for us some of the most Superversive stories the magazine has to offer. The openings will be posted here, with a link back to A&A, where you can read the rest.

Stone Eater

Stone Eater

by Brent Knowles

 

Ongar stopped eating the pebbles on the eleventh night of his impalement.

The badger that had collected them growled at him, frustrated and concerned, but Ongar was determined now to end his life. His hands were bound with leather and tied through a hole in the upper part of the crude wooden stake, his feet similarly bound, well above the solace of the desert sands. No iron spikes had punctured his wrists or ankles, but that had been simple practicality, not mercy. And of course, the Charlatan had insisted Ongar face the tower.

What else could be crueler–starving to death before his grandest project, dying of exposure as he watched the Charlatan foul the final stages of construction? Ongar dropped his head, his long tangle of hair falling across a sunburned face, almost stopping his dark gray eyes from pivoting up to steal another painful glance at his tower. A dark moon quivered above the unfinished pinnacle, the scaffolding a nightmarish collection of struts and straps, assembled from the dead and dried wood of the few forests foolish enough to attempt a foothold in the Long Sands. Here, where only a wizard would dare build, stone was the only material worth considering.

As the scurrying twilight wind lent disguise to their collaboration the badger, clinging to Ongar’s stake, hissed slowly, the sound distorted by the pebbles bulging its mouth.

“I know,” Ongar replied. “They build poorly.”

The badger chittered and Ongar shook his head. “No, it does not please me. Not even now.” With no reply, the badger attempted to drop the stones into Ongar’s hand, but still the builder refused to open his fist. He did admire the badger’s persistence. Days ago, when it had become clear that the animal’s teeth could not penetrate the spell-hardened leather straps, the badger had resorted to scavenging pebbles. Like granite the badger was, durable and loyal.

Ongar wished it would just abandon him. The imprisoned builder carried the guilt of too many other sacrifices. He should have died days ago — no food, no shelter, no water. His only contact was with the brittle, sunburned wood and the harsh wind, strong enough to sting the eyes or tear soft skin. (Soft skin of which Ongar had little, with his hands calloused from his stoneworker’s tools. His feet were rough from scaling stone-clad walls and treading the scorching sand now denied him). The rest of his skin would have made a leather worker smile and count her profit — if humans still harvested dwarves. He was a hardened worker. His skill, his work ethic, had been forged by his human mentors, building upon the stonesong he had learned at his father’s side.

How mother had wailed when Ongar had abandoned them but father had been stoic, his face like untouched stone, his words to Ongar, his only child, “You’ll be alone. Til death.” Tears stung Ongar’s eyes at the memory. But his father had been wrong. There had been Yoree, and the children. He forced back those other memories, he would not torture himself. He would make this end.

     Distant voices woke Ongar. He opened his eyes slowly, thick crusts of mucus crumbling away and spilling down his face. He stretched, arms and legs long past exhaustion. A caravan approached, angling towards the rear of the tower.

“Poor bastards,” he muttered. This was the third caravan to arrive since the Charlatan had tricked the wizard.

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