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.