December 31, 2012

Final Encryption - Part 4

In which we get a boatload of exposition, and almost learn what the hell happened to Hans.

   They traded the Tercel for an equally ugly minivan that handled like Kia Motors’ idea of a combine harvester.  Marie-Ange climbed in, followed by Crowbar Eddie and three other people that the nun called the intervention team.  Apart from Crowbar, it appeared to be composed of a tiny woman of about sixty with grey-blond hair, a young man with a crew cut and muscle shirt, and an elderly man carrying a white cane.
   Ricky floored it.  As they sped towards Montreal at twice the speed limit, Ricky, white-knuckled from holding the non-power-steering wheel, spoke again.
   “Alright, so, what’s going on, sister?”
   Marie-Ange nodded.  She’d had no time to change back into civilian clothing before leaving the convent, and her face seemed grimmer under the habit’s black and white headpiece.  Ricky had to admit she looked more at home in it than in the jeans and blouse he’d first met her in.  She popped a tape in the old tape deck and the power chords of Def Leppard filled the cabin.  Ricky’s grip on the steering wheel increased.
   “What I am about to tell you,” the nun said, “you can’t repeat to anyone, or you will die.
   “That’s a little un-nunlike, threatening to kill people like this,” Ricky said.
   “She wouldn’t be the one killing you, you rockabilly smartass,” Crowbar said from the back.
   “Who then,” Ricky told the ex-cleaner.  “You?”
   “StormBrainOne,” Crew-Cut intervened, like it made complete sense.
   “Is that your favourite white trash DJ?” Ricky asked him, and in the rearview mirror he saw Crew-Cut’s square jaw tense.
   “Ok, kids, calm down,” Marie-Ange said.  “Ricky, all you need to know is that this information is very dangerous.  ”
   “Like what happened to Hans?” Ricky asked.
   “Yes.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
   “Ok.  Explain.  I want to know.”
   “My name is Marie-Ange Lévesque.  I’m a sister of the order of Saint-Mary-Magdalen and The Holy Child and The Holy Gates Of Heaven.”
   “You should get yourselves an acronym.”
   “The order,” Marie-Ange went on, “is big on finding your calling.  My spiritual advisor insisted heavily on that during my years as a novice.  So, after working in prisons, on an army base, at homeless shelters, in food banks, with orphans, at CCS, in hospitals and in South Sudan, I finally found mine.”  She smiled and looked at the intervention team with motherly fondness.
   “And it was…?” prompted Ricky after a moment.
   “To assemble a team of experts whose goal it would be to restore the balance of justice, stop dangerous imbeciles who threaten the Earth, protect the meek, and save the world in general.”
   There was a long silence, during which Def Leppard had time to play two songs that sounded exactly the same, and Ricky considered jumping out the moving car.  Finally he settled for “You’re insane, sister.”
   Marie-Ange shrugged.
   “What’s that got to do with me and Hans?” Ricky pressed on.
   Marie-Ange’s face darkened.  “I’m sorry for your friend.”  Ricky could see she meant it.  “Our present mission is very dangerous, and it appears I had underestimated the reach of our enemy.”
   “Enemy?”  Ricky said.  There was a genuine worry in Marie-Ange’s tone that made him afraid.  And really, what the hell had happened to Hans?
   “Our previous mother superior, God rest her soul, was an old psychotic religious bigot,” Marie-Ange said.
   Ricky wondered what that had to do with anything.
   “When she passed away, five months ago, I was charged with cleaning up her chambers.  She’d accumulated a lot of crap over the years.  Papers, journals, little angel statuettes, a crucifix collection to rival the pope’s…”
   The pope had a crucifix collection? 
   ”…the collected works of Robert Fripp, all that.  Going through it, I found a key, wrapped in an old piece of paper where the mother superior had written Tool of the Devil. The key eventually led me to the crypt you’ve seen earlier today.  It contained only the old radio you saw.”
“The GE Colorama E-126,” Ricky said.
“Yes.  I plugged it in and switched it on.  Nothing happened.  Dead.  It was too heavy for me to carry out, and so I left it there.  In mother superior’s diary, I found an entry about getting the radio as a present from a devout parishioner way back in the day.  She writes that the moment she turned it on, an earthquake shook the convent, unhooking the crucifix above her desk and shattering the rose window in the old chapel.  Mother superior, being an old psychotic bigot, concluded it was a tool of the devil and had it stored away in the crypt, where it lay forgotten for fifty-seven years.”
“Maybe I could sell the thing on eBay to raise some money for charity.  Thinking I’d have to get movers to get it out of the crypt, I went to vespers and then to bed.”  
“But in the middle of the night, I couldn’t sleep.  Without knowing exactly why, I went back to the crypt.  This time the radio was on.  A faint yellow light illuminated its dials, and a crackling voice rose from the speaker.  It seemed to come from far away, and to be repeating the same thing over and over again.”
“What was it?” Ricky asked, intrigued.
“First, what sounded like a piece of an old radio commercial, that said You need to listen well, young lady.  Then a string of numbers: 573-515-B-H-719.  Then Churchill saying The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.  And last, Churchill again, saying We will never surrender.
   “What the…?”
   “Exactly.  And every night, at exactly 2:17 am, the radio repeated the same words, the same string of numbers.  I started thinking this could be important.  I asked the team to look into it, and eventually we found the answer.”
   “What was it?”
   “For now, all I can tell you is the numbers led us to a recording.  On a hidden tape.”
Ricky waited.  He was starting to wonder if Marie-Ange was maybe psychotic, but she seemed coherent, and he was still intrigued.  Plus, again, what the hell had happened to Hans?  “Who made the recording?”  he asked.
   “Not who.  What.”
   “Oh for Christ’s sake,” Ricky said, throwing his hands in the air.  The van swerved dangerously into oncoming traffic, but Ricky put it back on track with one expert twist of the wrist.
   “Hey, careful man,” said Crew Cut. “And you watch how you speak to Marie-Ange.”
   “Alright, don’t get your pants in a knot, Van Damme,” Ricky said.  “So, what made the recording?”
The old blind man spoke for the first time.  He had a weak, raspy voice.  “An entity born of the analog world.”  
   “Huh?”  Ricky said.
   “We don’t fully understand it,” Marie-Ange went on.  “All we know is, all the analog technological devices that mankind created over the years, the old technology, like radios, magnetic tapes, cathodic tube TVs…”
   “Moog synthesizers,” the blind man interjected.
   “…And all that, it appears to have created some sort of consciousness.  Some crude entity that is aware of the world and of itself.”
   “And… what does that mean exactly?”
   “The recording was made of cuttings from early radio shows and old songs.  It was a warning The analog entity had sensed the appearance of a new consciousness, one different from it.  A digital entity.”
   The tiny, grey-blonde woman spoke for the first time.  Her voice was soft and slow, as if she weighed every word.  “And this digital entity is taking over the world.  Up until recently, it seemed to be content with controlling bank accounts and governmental databases, but in the last few days, it’s been leaving the confines of its digital world.”
   “It’s started killing people,” Crew Cut concluded.
   “We’re here,” Crowbar interrupted as Ricky veered into a narrow Old Montreal cobbled street.  “Suit up.”


December 8, 2012

Final Encryption - Part 3

In which we get a Bible quote, a 1936 General Electric Colorama E-126, and some nudity.

The nun led Ricky down a long stone corridor, to a chapel.  A few rows of cherrywood pews, four stained glass windows filtering the pale morning light into simple geometrical motifs on the floor.  The altar was some concrete modern thing from the sixties.  It reminded Ricky of a ’57 Buick, which made him think of his Mustang, and how it was probably stolen by now, by some greedy bastard who would soon regret being born.
“Don’t worry about your car,” the nun said.
“What,” Ricky snickered as they walked down the aisle, “you’re gonna tell me God will take care of it or something?”
“God has better things to do,” she said.  “And soon, so will you.”
“No I won’t.”
“Also, I think God hates red cars.  Now be quiet.”  She kneeled down in front of the altar, joined her hands together in front of her like a supplicant, and yelled:  “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!”
“Uh?” said Ricky.
The altar pivoted with a soft electrical whirr and revealed a flight of metal stairs descending into the ground.  “Matthew 23:24,” the nun said.
“What does it mean?” Ricky said.
“Not a clue.  But it makes a good password.”  She gestured Ricky to walk down the stairs, and followed him.  She still had the gun, but by then Ricky was too damn intrigued to think about running.  Who the hell was this crazy nun, and what was she doing here?  Where was here, for that matter?  It looked like some sort of religious building, an old convent maybe, but it seemed deserted, except for that man with the strange antenna contraption he’d seen in the yard.  And he couldn’t deny that the nun had a certain strange charisma that seemed to be drawing him in despite his best judgment.
They climbed down into a large concrete room overhung with fluorescents.  Wooden shelves, packed with books and documents, lined the walls.   Three rows of oak desks occupied the center of the room.  Sitting at the desks were eleven men and women, working under old articulated desk lamps.  Ricky took them in quickly and the first thing he thought was that they couldn’t have looked less well-matched.  Dress, age, looks, hair, everything about them was dissimilar.  The next thing that struck him was that, where they appeared to be doing some sort of office work, there were no computers. 
In fact, the only piece of technology he could see in the room was an antique, massive radio that stood in the middle of the room.  Ricky immediately recognized a 1936 General Electric Colorama E-126.  An array of cables and wires ran from it and disappeared behind a stone column.  It appeared to be off at the moment.
“Alright, that’s enough,” Ricky said.  “What the hell is this place?  Who the hell are you?”
The nun put her gun away.  “You’re right, I owe you an explanation,” she said.  “But first, take off your clothes.”
“I beg your pardon?” Ricky said.
“We need to search you,” the nun said.
“Really?  I think you just want to get yourself some eye candy, sister.”
The nun laughed.  “Oh, I’m not the one who’s gonna do the searching,” she said.  “Crowbar is.”
A man that looked like a mountain with tattoos rose from one of the desks and stood in front of Ricky, who found himself staring at sirloin-like pecs.  He tilted his head back until he was able to meet the mountain’s eyes, but found only a pair of knock-off ray-bans.
“Your mom has fed you well,” he said.
The nun turned chastely around and stared at the wall as Ricky stripped to his shorts.  Crowbar’s search was surprisingly gentle, which made Ricky more uncomfortable than the usual rough pat-downs he’d gotten used to on some of his cross-border ventures.
“So, what are you doing here working in a convent for a nun,” Ricky asked as Crowbar checked his leather jacket and looked through his wallet.
“Marie-Ange saved my soul,” Crowbar said in a soft voice.
“You always exaggerate, Crowbar,” the nun said in an oh-you-sweet-talker tone.
“What’d it need saving from?” Ricky said.
“He’s all clean, Ange,” Crowbar said without answering.
Ricky got back into his clothes and Marie-Ange turned back towards him.  “Crowbar Eddie did some work for the bikers several years ago.  He was what I believe they call a cleaner.  I found him in the Bordeaux jail.”
“What the hell brought you there?” Ricky said.
“A call from God.  Plus I needed to get away from the convent and all these women having their PMS at the same time as me.”
“So now Crowbar works for you,” Ricky said.  “Doing…?
Marie-Ange nodded.  “Yes.  The explanation.  So…”
A fast clicking sound from a desk in the corner interrupted her.  She turned.  The man at the desk spoke in an urgent tone.  “Marie-Ange.  We have activity on two.”
Marie-Ange walked quickly over.  Ricky followed, puzzled.  The man who had spoken was well into his seventies, with short silver hair and a well-groomed mustache.  A threadbare tweed jacket hung on his shoulders like it hadn’t moved in a decade.  He was manning what looked like an antique telegraph machine.  “This is Aurélien,” said Marie-Ange.  “He’s our telegraph operator.  I found him when he quit the navy.”
“Honorably discharged,” Aurélien said with a smile that bore such sadness that Ricky almost looked away.  “Cross of Valor and everything.  All for burning down a village.”
“What do we have, Aurélien?” Marie-Ange asked before Ricky could say something.
“Coordinates.  With the usual nine-letter intro code.  It’s him.”
Marie-Ange’s face tightened.  Four people, two men and two women, got up from their desks and headed for the stairs.  “Where?” the nun asked Aurélien.
“Old Montreal,” Aurélien said.  He scribbled an address on a piece of paper and handed it to her.
“Two hours.”
Marie-Ange’s jaw tightened.  “We won’t make it,” she said.
“We will if I drive,” Ricky said.
He had no idea what had made him speak up.  But he knew he’d put his finger into something that was about to eat him whole.


November 30, 2012

Final Encryption - Part 2

   The shitty Japanese thing that still clung to the illusion of being a car more or less sped along highway 10 towards a destination unknown to Ricky.  He was driving, with the baggy-bloused lady’s gun still pointed at him, but she was just giving directions minute by minute, like a living blond GPS with too flat a chest.   At least with a real GPS you could imagine the voice’s owner according to your own preferences.  Ricky sighed and tried to focus.
   One of his present problems with focus was that the radio was playing frigging Supertramp, from a cassette tape, for Christ’s sake.  Even with the windows rolled all the way down, the noise of the wind couldn’t mask the intolerable Wurlitzer chords that filled the hot summer air.  He tried conversation.
   “Where are we going?” he asked, screaming to cover the wind and the Wurlitzer.
   But the lady shook her head.  “You’ll see.”
   “At least tell me your name then,” he said.
   “Not here.”
   Not going anywhere.  “So, you like Supertramp?”  Gunpoint was a good excuse for shitty lines.
   “No,” she said.
   Ok.  “So… why are we listening to it then?” he said, and extended his hand towards the off button.
She batted his arm down with such force that his hand hit the gearshift.  “DON’T TURN IT OFF!” she screamed.
   “Ouch!  You’re insane.”
   She clenched her teeth, muttered “I wish I was,” and said nothing for the rest of the trip.


   They finally arrived as dawn brought a fine band of pink and grey on the horizon.  She’d made them take several detours and side roads, probably to try and confuse him.  Ricky let her think it had worked, but he knew they were about 15.5 km northeast of Lac-Mégantic, near the US border.  To the best of his knowledge, there was nothing out here.
   They took a dirt road and drove through a wrought-iron gate.  Ricky looked for a sign, a name plaque, anything, but the property seemed anonymous, at least from this entrance.  Then in the distance, over the trees, he saw a bell tower.
   “Taking me to church, lady?” he said.  “Isn’t it a bit quick?  I mean, I know how sexy I am, but maybe we ought to get to know each other a little.”
   A ghost of a smile played on her lips.  Or maybe it was a smirk.  “We’re here.  Turn left.”
   They stopped in front of a grey stone building that looked more than a hundred years old.  Morning mist still hung around a small courtyard with a statue of some saint in the centre.  The light was a ghostly yellow, and Ricky wondered when was last time he’d been up this early.
   She took the car keys and they entered a small coat room.  “Wait here,” she said, “I’m going to slip into something more comfortable”.  Right before she left the room, she added, like an afterthought:       “Oh, and if you were thinking of hotwiring the car, don’t do it.  It would explode.”
   “You’re bluffing,” Ricky said.
   “Maybe I am,” she said, and left.
   Ricky stayed in the coatroom, which smelled of must and incense and something else that made his nose itchy, like a weird cleaning product or something.  He peeked through a small window on his left and saw a man in the courtyard.  He was dressed in overalls and climbing up a metal ladder.  He carried some sort of contraption in his left hand, a long pole with some large copper cables coiled over it, and what looked like a big black light bulb on the end.  Before he could wonder about this apparition, the lady walked back in.
   Except she was wearing a black and white nun habit.
   “Please follow me,” she said.
   “You looked better when I could see some legs,” Ricky said.  “Why are you dressed as a nun?”  
   She laughed.  “Why do you think?”
   “Wait…  you are a nun?”
   She nodded.
   “But you’re young.”
   “And you need to get laid but I can’t help you with that.  However, if you will follow me, I will explain to you how not to die.”


November 23, 2012

Final Encryption - Part 1

Good morning everyone,

Today we're starting publication of a serial.  I've always enjoyed reading and writing those.  As a reader, there's the feeling of being taken on a long journey, and looking forward to the next leg of the trip every week.  As a writer, there's the pressure of producing something regular and coherent over a long period.  I always found the pressure kind of liberating (when you have to post a story in two hours, you have less time to worry about whether you have properly developed your main characters profound motives and all that).
In any case, here's the first installment.  Enjoy!

   Custom cars lined the parking lot.  Ricky leaned on the hood of his ’74 Mustang convertible and smoked.  He’d found the piece, and paid a high price.  Now so would his buyer. 
    On the nearby sunken highway, cars screamed by.  Strings of multicoloured lights hung between lampposts and the giant, orange, spherical restaurant that overlooked the parking lot where classic car enthusiasts gathered every week.  Ricky distractedly appreciated a ’68 Citroën DS idling by the fast-food counters as its owner, a redhead in expensive jeans and ridiculous red and gold high heels, ordered an amount of fries that no one with that figure should have been able to eat.  He liked the car, and he liked the girl, but his mind was elsewhere.  Trying to figure stuff out.
   Like, for example, what the hell had happened to Hans last night?
   He lit another cigarette and squinted in the blur of headlights as an ugly, grey, recent, fucking japanese car turned into the lot and headed towards him.  It looked like a Tercel but it was hard to tell with all the rust.
   From it emerged a woman with straight, blond hair cut at the shoulders.  She wore perfectly creased jeans and a white blouse that looked too big on her.
   “Are you Ricky?” she said.
   Ricky nodded, blowing smoke through the side of his mouth.  Manners in front of a lady and all that.
   “Do you have what I asked for?” she went on.
    Ricky nodded again.  “Do you have the money?”
    She gave a strange smile.  Ricky had never seen that kind of smile.  It contained an equal mix of contempt, pity, sadness and some sort of vindictive glee.  It made him wary.  And curious.
    “Of course,” she said, and produced a large reusable shopping bag that read Magog Army Surplus
    Ricky checked it and counted. “All there,” he said, and went to the trunk of his Mustang.  “I’ve got your thing right here.  Genuine, original 1956 Ford radio antenna with vintage copper coil and couplings.  Took me forever to find it.”
   “Thank you, mister Ricky, well done,” she said, putting the antenna in the trunk of her own, well, car.
   “I hope you’re not planning to waste it on this shitty box on wheels you’re driving,” he said.
   Her smile grew enigmatic.  “I’m not,” she said.
   “Can I ask what you’re working on then?” he said.  “I’m the best mechanic around.  Maybe I could, you know, give you a hand.”  Get her talking.  Find stuff out.
   The smile disappeared, and she suddenly looked twice her age.  “There are things that you’re better off not knowing.”
   Ricky lost what little patience he had.  He took a step forward and loomed tall over the woman.    
   “Alright, let’s cut the crap,” he said, “What happened to Hans?  You know, don’t you?”
   She didn’t flinch, didn’t take a step back, just looked at him calmly, and again with that hint of pity.   
   “Hans is your partner, isn’t he?  You seemed to have a lot of affection for him when we first met.  Is he alright?” she added, with what seemed like genuine concern.
   Ricky lost it.  He often did.  “No, he’s not alright!  Last night, when we tested your goddamn antenna, he just… I don’t know… he disappeared!”
   She frowned.  “Disappeared?” she said.  “How?”
   “I don’t know, lady!  It’s just like he was a pile of sand and some invisible wind blew him away or something.”  Yeah, and he was ready for the nut house.
   The woman’s frown turned into a look of intense concern.  “Get it the car,” she said in an anxious voice.
   “You’ve been compromised.  Give me your phone.”  With surprising speed, she reached into his jacket, grabbed his phone and threw it in a storm drain.  “Now get in,” she said again, shoving him towards the Tercel. 
   “Hey, my phone!  You…”  he stopped when he saw her pull a revolver from inside her baggy blouse and point it at him.
   “I’m sorry,” she said, “Get in the car.  Please.”
   “But…  my Mustang…”
   “We don’t have time.  Get in now.”
   He got in.

November 7, 2012

HBM at Expozine 2012

Hello everyone!

Here Be Monsters will be at Expozine this year. Last time we were there (2010), we were nominated for one of the independent press awards. We're excited to be a part of it again. For those that have not been, it's an amazing collection of independent and small press works from all over the place. The mix is very eclectic, from books like HBM to handmade unique art books to comic books -- It's an awesome experience and I'm looking forward to checking out all our fellow exhibitors.

It'll be held in Montreal on November 17 and 18. Our table will have the brand new issue, Tongues and Teeth, as well as some copies of the older books if you're looking to complete your collection :)

For more information, check out their site here:

October 4, 2012

Excerpt From "Brain Freeze", by Vincent Mackay

   Last excerpt.  Launch tomorrow.  Can't wait!

  Two years ago, when Chief Hansen had come to Foster’s apartment to recruit him into the squad, Foster had just finished a series of conferences around the seven flying cities. He’d given his Poetry and Synapses lecture to the usual audiences of five frog-eyed academics and two weirdoes, in the standard ultra-light, ultra-polymer, ultra-hideous college auditoriums.
   He was drinking a well-deserved glass of wine at the oak table that was his only piece of furniture, wishing he had a view of the open sky from his place, when the doorbell rang. A man stood there, looking out of place in his black fatigues. A blunt form of energy emanated from him, like that of a pitbull, or a boulder rolling down a hill.
   “Chief Ule Hansen, head of the New Montreal Bomb Squad,” the man had said, extending a calloused hand.
    Foster was confused. Why was this boulder in his doorway? He shook the proffered hand. “Hi. Gerald Foster. I’m more of a pine tree than a boulder. Please come in.”
   Chief Hansen frowned. “Yeah, they warned me you were strange,” he said, and accepted the invitation nonetheless.

Excerpt From "Cobbled", by Tarquin Steiner

 Alright, so this is almost our last excerpt.  This one is what I think of as our geeky piece.  For those of you who played those old games on BBSs, waaaaay back before the real internet, this will bring back fond memories.

Cobbled Road

It is night. Dim gas lanterns light the street.

To the east is the cobbler's shop. In the upper window are two bright candles.

The ocean breeze chills your neck.

> that's the signal!

You had better get moving.

> run to the door

You burst into the cobbler's shop. The young woman behind the counter starts. "Sir? Is everything alright?"

Cobbler's Shop

It is night. The room is lit well with several lamps.

A few tools are hanging on the wall. Piles of shoes and unsorted papers have collected in every corner.

The west door out is closed.

> ask about cobbler

(to the girl)

"He's upstairs. You must be Stevens. May I take your coat?"

> climb stairs

You leave the woman at the counter and track dirt up the stairs.

Cobbler's Shop---Upper Corridor

Three doors and a stairway down.

> knock on the doors

You proceed down the hall, knocking on each door in turn. From the second, an old voice echoes.

Cobbled Road

It is night. Dim gas lanterns light the street.

October 2, 2012

Excerpt From "Strings", by Richard Larson

This story stood out to me because it is set in a futuristic, dystopian version of Africa, which is something I had never encoutered before.  It's also a murder mystery, a genre that holds a special place in my heart, from my first Agatha Christie novel to Fred Vargas' quirky, Paris whodunnits.  Please enjoy.

“So you are not the killer.” The investigator rolls the Coke can across his baked black forehead.
             Nuru’s fingers drum on the table. “No,” he says.
The investigator crooks his head and a fat policeman shuffles forward, thumps an old solar laptop down between them. The investigator tracks his finger across the dirty screen and Nuru watches the murder play out in pixels.
              “Here is you, here is your hands on his neck. Your hairs—everywhere.”
              “Yes, yes, you know this means nothing.” Nuru’s fingers drum harder, angry.
              The investigator flicks his tongue against the cold can like a lizard. “So why is your boss dead, you puppet son-of-a-whore?”
              “I think it has to do with Kataryna,” Nuru says, and his organs feel suddenly damp and heavy in his gut. The investigator whirls away, showing off his exasperation. He curses in French, too fast to follow, but Nuru hears the word for Christian and recognizes guignol as well. He spins the laptop around and clacks something in.
             “The white bitch?” he demands. “The European?”
The laptop faces Nuru again, showing a headshot. Her skin is bleached ghostly. The exposure was not meant for white skin, but the camera-man didn’t know better.
              “Yes,” Nuru says, and his fingers die one by one on the plastic. “Her.”

Excerpt From "If Not the Moon, Then the Exquisite Sun", by Carl Roloff

Today's excerpt.  My name for it is poetic sci-fi.  It has real beauty, as well as the end of the world.

All the flowers open at once, and suddenly we're surrounded by the scents of a thousand blossoms that won't live out sunrise. We had called them the Dawn Callers, by their strange quirk of opening about an hour before the sun began to swell. Shimmering dark purple, the kind only a full moon can really bring out.
“You need to make up your mind soon,” she says, her head pillowed on my stomach and me spread-eagle on the ground like one awaiting crucifixion. “We could still go together, save ourselves.”
It was the end of all things. Our sun was to betray us, but we had found an escape of sorts. We had discovered that everyone's dreams, everyone's hopes, hates and loves could be distilled, reduced down by some arcane process into a lattice of purest crystal. We would abstract ourselves into gauzy glimmering structures, lazy cobwebs of colour that refract the light into mad patterns and sudden pits of darkness. A human, translated into a chip of eternity. Then, the flight from our doomed planet: convoys of carnelian, emerald and garnet sailing out into the deepest reaches of space. We would go with the hope that being an unthinking piece of beauty was better than being a cinder.

September 30, 2012

Excerpt From "Children of the Device", by Camille Alexa

Today's excerpt is classic sci-fi, from a very cool story.  Read, and be hooked.

1:1  According to the ship's chronometers, it's a brand new year, and in some archaic tradition carried from Earth by our forebearers along with the tablets, we are urged to make a resolution.  I'm not entirely sure what this entails, but have resolved to begin keeping this diary, this weekly log of thoughts, observations--maybe even jokes if I can think of any not too unfunny even to record them in this digijournal, where they'll never be seen or read or even suspected by anyone else ever.  We'll see.  It's the first Saturday of a new year, and I, Hannah, of the fifth generation of the first and last of Earth's colony ships, The Elkanah, resolve to keep as true and faithful an account of myself as I can.
1:2  Is it possible a whole week flew past?  Unbelievable.  Between one Saturday and the next seems a long endless trek from one quadrant of this hulking ship to another and back again and back.  The Elk escaped collapsing Earth with its colonist complement numbering in the thousands.  It's not always easy to decipher our earliest recordings, but shipboard outbreaks of various plagues have a way of making everything else--captain's logs, medical records--seem less important.  Even we fifth-gens have had our share of outbreaks, viral strains like the one that killed my parents mutating in unanticipated ways under the intense radiations of deep space.  Guess those who shot us into the void as the last bombs wiped out Earth anticipated a lot of things, but not that.  No matter how long they'd had to prepare, they might not have been able to safeguard against that first plague, or the subsequent mutations, or the sterilizing effect on the majority of the survivors.  And they certainly couldn't have known how few survivors there would be.
But some few hundred of us are still hanging on, along with the thirty thousand embryos in cold stasis.  Wish I were one of the lucky ones, like Penny, who can have children. Children to love her, talk to her, help her with her portions of the lichen field harvest and the repairs to the urine stills in our quadrant of the ship.  Children to carry on, find another world and get right all the shit we pitiful humans messed up on the last planet.
Yes, Penny's one of the lucky ones.

September 29, 2012

Excerpt From "Sterrennacht", by Cat McDonald

Continuing with excerpts from issue 7.  This one involves a woman with a very special ability many have dreamed they could have.  Only for her, this time, it's more of a nightmare.

Dana changed her mind as soon as the canvas they’d wheeled into her office stood revealed to the buzzing fluorescent lights.
“Get someone else.”
The Starry Night. Van Gogh’s view from his sanitarium window after he’d been committed.
Michael sat on her desk, his spine rounded forward, his sunken eyes staring at her floor. He didn’t say anything, just stared at the old gray-blue carpet, looking up to trade serious glances with the guard who’d come, in uniform, from the Museum of Modern Art with the painting.
“Dan,” Michael began. So he’d chosen to start this with first names. He felt sentimental, apparently, if a little behind the times.
“You’re the only diver I can find.”
“Vacation.” Finally, he turned his head to look at her, his face worn and sullen. Not a good day to force him to issue an actual order; something had got to him.
The painting’s central swirl of white sneered at her somehow behind that brush-streaked cypress silhouette, blackly luminous in Van Gogh’s world of brilliant light and color. She could see, even from outside the painting, the twisted knots of oil paint that made up that blue landscape.
“I don’t do post-impressionism.”
Michael’s eyebrows didn’t drop, so she had some time before Captain Michael Czerniak straightened his back and informed her that she would, in fact, do post-impressionism. Maybe time to find another diver in the area, someone who could fearlessly slide between the brushstrokes and navigate the maze of colors that looked, from the top, like a night-time landscape.

September 28, 2012

Excerpt From "Private Transit", by Amy Bright

 The launch is in a week.  An excerpt a day until then.  Enjoy!

  The first time I saw him, he had a black eye.
  “What a shiner.”
  He looked around, the old, hey, you talking to me, but who else would I be talking to through the smoke cloud. I disarmed him with my finger guns, one of them pointed right in line with his bruised melon. His swollen socket.
  He put his free hand up to his face. The other hand was holding a guitar case, slick and new.
  “I don’t even remember it happening,” he said.
  “That,” I said, “is not the end of the world.”
  I pulled down my sweater and showed him the bruise on my arm. I wore it proudly, tank tops, shoulders bare. Doesn’t everyone want to show that they are loved so hard that there is someone out there who will not let them go, not even for a second?
  “You got his fingerprints on there?” the guy asked me.
  I pinched my skin and revolved it around my arm, taking a closer look.
  “They are there,” I told him. “In case a crime is committed.”
  He raised his eyebrows and I lowered my sleeve and we went back to not talking. If I am alone outside of the bar, I hold my breath very tightly in my chest and count out easy numbers in my head. My specialty is reaching thirty exactly every single time. When I am finished counting, I open the door and go back inside.
  Tonight I am breathing. In, out, in, out. It’s heavy humid, Florida-style. We rode the roller coaster at Disney World, me and my sister, when we were family-vacationing on a high school Spring Break. Our hair was wet where it touched our scalps and the ends went curly like it never happens anywhere else in the world. We fell out of the sky and dropped very quickly, safe inside our safety harness, our extra-strength plastic seatbelts.
  “I’m Tom,” he said, offering that spare hand. “Tommy.”
  Woah there, buddy, I wanted to tell him, hang onto your name. Don’t you read fantasy books.

September 27, 2012

Excerpt From "The Airlock Scene", by Karl Johanson

Continuing with our series of excerpts from our upcoming issue. 

  Captain Winston did his best to look heroic as he stood at the exit to the airlock of his spacecraft, looking over the surface of Mars. The bulging pack on the back of his form-fitting vacuum suit made moving around in the airlock awkward. The other five crewmen in the airlock made it sextuply so. He looked at the terrain below him, held out one arm and said, “Looking out at the new world, the six intrepid men set out from their brave craft, with its numerous shades of orange and red.”
  “Hang on a minute,” the life sciences officer said from further back in the
crowded airlock. “The space ship isn’t red and orange.”

September 26, 2012

Excerpt From "Numbered", by Duane Burry

Duane has once more produced an awesome story, with a concept that will surprise you out of your socks. If your species wears socks, of course.

  “What is your greatest achievement?” asked specimen 326-7.
  “That is too vague. More precision is required. Please,” answered specimen 46-1.
  “Technologically,” 326-7 added.
  “Hmmm... we have astro-engineered a Dyson sphere. I believe this to be our greatest achievement. It is quite possibly,” spoke 46-1, no more than a voice.
  “Where?” probed 326-7
  YOUR QUESTION MAY NOT BE TRANSMITTED. It was the intelligence within the Device that spoke. Perhaps intelligence was an overstatement. It was hard to tell.
  “A great achievement. To what end?” 326-7 continued to ask questions.
  “As usual, are you still concerned that our intentions are to make war?”
  “I’m simply curious. We know the Devices inhibit any information that can be used to determine user locations. What will you do with that much energy, harnessed through a Dyson sphere?”
  “True. But if we found you another way, or perhaps if we have already cracked these Devices decades ago or perhaps centuries... anyway, it is not our intention. 46s are peaceful. Again, we reassure you that we are. We have no intention of war-waging. We will, however, be better able to defend if required. The energy collected from the Dyson sphere will enable this and much more. Indeed.”
  “46-1, you are one of the earlier civilizations to locate a Device on your planet. Are you close to determining the builders’ identities? Any idea of the purpose?”
  The Device’s reaction was clear. Specimen 326-7 felt rattling vibrations though its crystalline form, every lattice-worked piece of its being trembled. The 326s tried repeatedly to find out from the other civilizations in connection with the Devices where they came from. Why plant these Devices across star systems and how? 46-1, it deduced, was from a much older civilization. They had had the Device for much longer; they knew more.
  Also of concern was the fact that so many species were missing. 326-7 assumed it was not likely the Device skipped numbers. And yet, both numbers neighbouring 46 were absent. No 45. No 47. The 46s lived seemingly forever, because only the original 46 was in direct contact with the Device, whereas 326 was the seventh of its kind to be elected guardian.
  46-1 slid its gelatinous membrane from the Device. It interpreted the pause from 326-7 as an attempt to breech the built-in protocol and filters. The builders were opposed to such tampering. Experience with neighbouring civilizations suggested that the builders were most likely dangerous.

September 25, 2012

Excerpt from "The Ministry of Sacred Affairs", by Claude Lalumière

Another excerpt from our upcoming issue.  You'll never see goblins the same way again.

Just as Leo was preparing to go to open the grocery store after breakfast, the doorbell rang. Rosa called out anxiously. Leo emerged from the kitchen to see his wife standing next to an officer from the Ministry of Sacred Affairs, in full official regalia. He asked if he could come in. Rosa offered him tea, but he declined. The Ministry man suggested that both of them should sit down. The officer, towering over the sitting couple, spoke in cold, rehearsed tones: “Last night, your son, Shane, defied curfew and was killed by a pack of goblins. Although the demons didn’t leave enough of a body for a funeral, we were able to identify him by the contents of his wallet. I’m sorry for your loss.” The officer left a card on the table. “Please call me when you’re ready to make arrangements.” He left without another word.

September 18, 2012

Excerpt from "Pickle's Story," by Alex Newcombe

And now an excerpt from Alex's offering for this issue: Pickle's Story.  A tale of a man and his mule.  But is it really just a mule?

Pickle's Story

Ferdinand spurred Pickle lightly in an attempt to get him up the hill faster. The mule snorted in protest and continued on at the same steady pace.

“Oh, yes,” said Ferdinand, “please do take your time. However, I feel I should remind you, as you take in the stunning vistas of Samport Pass, that we are on the run from both Arturo's men and the Duke's army.”

The scrub-choked path followed a bend in the cliff-side. Pickle slowed and picked his way around it. “Of course, you have nothing to fear. You're just a victim in all this, I suppose? One mule caught up in the schemes of the nefarious Ferdinand: provocateur, ne'er-do-well, and debt-dodger?”

Behind them, Ferdinand could see the distance they'd covered. Frustrating as he was, Pickle had gotten him a long ways today. The path wound down the cleft in the grey mountainside. There were miles of rock, punctuated by tufts of small, hardy plants. Ferdinand whistled nervously. Pickle  suddenly pulled up and brayed loudly, nearly sending the rider and his pack over the front of the saddle.

“There's nothing there you stupid brute!”

Pickle remained where he was, swaying his head from side to side. Ferdinand kicked him again and he obligingly returned to his same pace.

“Now I have a mule that is not only slow, but crazy. Excellent.”

The next day was slower, and Ferdinand spent much of it walking. He left the pack on top of Pickle. “You know, I'm supposed to have a steed, in these situations. You wouldn't see Roland crossing the mountains with a smelly mule. Though, if I was a knight, there's no way a horse would be able to carry all that stolen gold, never mind the armour and what have you. We're lucky to have each other, I suppose.”

While Ferdinand was taking a rest, Pickle found a stream with tough little apples growing near it. He pulled them off and nearly swallowed them whole. When Ferdinand came and reached for one, Pickle whinny-brayed and kicked out at the man.

“Eh! You'll need to share. I couldn't fit much food into that bag.” He reached slowly for another one while patting the black mule's neck. This seemed to placate Pickle, though he could have been biding his time until the next attack for all that Ferdinand could see. The animal's glossy eyes were deceptively simple-looking. “You are an insidious grifter, aren't you Pickle?”

The following day, Ferdinand and Pickle crossed the summit of the pass. The trail opened onto a sweeping view of the foothills. “When we get to the village down there,” said Ferdinand, “I'm going to sell you. Did you know that, you poor mongrel? I'm not going to be able to fence silver serving trays off of your back like some peddler.”

“You won't be able to fence any of that,” came a voice from above, “unless you play your part right.”

Ferdinand and Pickle stopped short. The man perched on the rocks above them had a crossbow trained on them. Ferdinand knew it had to be one of Arturo's thugs, probably a local judging by how fast he'd made it up here. There was a daring and adventurous way to solve this, and a safe and simple one. Ferdinand looked to his mule and recalled that he was not a knight, and Pickle was not a warhorse.

“Ferdinand made it through Samport Pass with nothing but his ugly face, some of the Duke's gold, and a mule named Pickle. I swear the bastard can't even screw up when he tries.”

“They say Ferdinand's mule can fly. But he had to promise his soul to the devil before it would show him the trick. I heard it from Pepe, who bought some of his gold rings. 'No choice,' Ferdinand had said, 'if I didn't do it, I'd have died up there.'”

“You can't go by what Ferdinand says, but apparently he had to dump half of what he stole back in the pass when he was attacked. He said he would have dumped the whole thing but the mule insisted on its own share.”

Ferdinand was leaving the small town in the foothills with Pickle on a lead behind him. He talked over his shoulder while the wind shook the soft trees. The land around them was bursting with green compared to the trails they'd walked a few days before. “Thanks again,” he said, “I hope you don't mind the embellishments. Don't tell anyone the truth and I won't add the part about you slipping on that one slope. Shameful for a mule, really.”

September 16, 2012

Excerpt from "Antennae", by Tyler MacFarlane

Following is an excerpt from our upcoming issue.  Enjoy!

I’ve always been easily distracted. That’s how I noticed it the first time. A globe of white light and heat descended in an arc from above my roof, within an honest 3km. Dead of night, like I said. I remember it like a bad acid trip. I had been typing furiously at my computer for hours, and the orb showed up just in time to save me from my blank screen. It was an ‘oh, shiny’ moment that turned into a ‘wtf?’ moment. I walked over to the window and unlatched it with ginger fingers. ‘Ginger’ fingers that don’t have soul, right? Remember that red-headed kid on Youtube who had the convincing argument that ‘gingers do have souls’?. What I mean is, I was transfixed by the orb. I slid the window up until it locked into place. A summer breeze poured itself in through my window. The air was hot and thick – and it felt like it was vibrating. I kept my eyes focused on the hot white ball in the sky.

Continue watching this blog for more excerpts, as we ramp up for the launch of our 7th issue, "Tougues and Teeth", Friday October 5th at Kaffeïn.

September 13, 2012

Excerpt from Ogre Baby

Here is an excerpt from Ogre Baby, one of the stories in our upcoming issue, Teeth and Tongues, by author Ann Ewan:

Ogre Baby
The first time I saw a dead human, there were only eight of us smalls and I was just learning to stagger about on my new legs. The big ogre had slung the dead human over his back, so that he had to stoop down low to come into the cave, and we all ran to see what he had caught. He wasn't called "Tribe" yet, but just Big, the biggest of us, the one who brought food.
Grinning proudly, he pulled the dead human from his back and slammed it down onto the floor for us all to see. The human juice was red, not black like ours. "Real meat!" he said, especially to me, the newest, who hadn't seen something like that before. "The only real meat!"
He used his long curved claws to rip a hole in the human's belly and started pulling out the soft guts, shoving them into his mouth with both hands. The reek made me feel sick and hungry at the same time. My mouth filled with water, even though I knew I wouldn't get any food because I was the smallest and all the others were crowding closer, whining and slobbering. Hoog elbowed me in the face and Dross stepped hard on one of my feet.
            "Meat!" they cheered and begged. "Real meat!"
            One of the older ones asked, "New baby?"
            Big looked up with his mouth leaking red human juice and said, "No, this is old meat. Need fresh for new baby."
            While he was distracted, two of the smalls grabbed meat, and there was a loud crack as one of them, Croak, snapped off one of the dead human's hands. Big roared with rage and batted him away so hard that he hit the cave wall and slumped down, asleep or dead. Nip scampered out of range, with inside human meat dangling from his teeth.
            "My meat! You smalls wait till I say!"
            Big picked up the human hand and stuffed it into his mouth. The other smalls had scattered and I got a chance to edge closer, careful to keep my hands to myself. The human was shaped much like us, except where Big and Croak had ripped him, but the only hair he had was on top of his head. He was turning grey from lying around dead. His arms and legs were spindly compared to ours, and with that and the hairlessness he looked puny, more helpless than a dead deer. He had a belt with weapons, a sword that was a tiny model of Big's and a knife, but they hadn't done him much good.
            The other smalls began to creep back, pushing me out of the way. Big belched and suddenly crooked a fat finger at me to come closer. "You! Gerl!"
            The others fell back and let me through.
            "Heart meat." He held out the red drippy thing he'd just been snacking on. "Eat. Get strong."

Keep an eye on the blog for more excerpts from Issue 7. And if you'd like to pick up a copy, we'll be launching the issue at Kafein on October 5th. Check out the Facebook event for more information.