He was a dream of philosophers ancient and new, the stuff of robot apocalypses and zombie fantasies, driven not by Need or Desire, by Hope or Despair, but by stark Causation and inevitable Outcome.
The last thousand years had been pretty good. Those who'd been around for any of the previous thousand still harped on about what a relief it was to finally have a government that cared and knew how to. It was so nice, they intoned, not to go hungry unless you wanted to, not to get shot while out shopping, not to have to change channels mid-movie because the dominant aesthetic called for a salutary stirring of the baser passions.
Mantis was helpless, though he gnashed his mandibles and lashed his baggy sleeves. The thunder godling plucked him like an unguarded aphid and swallowed him into an airless belly ripe with twisted light.
"Daddy," said the nine-year-old, "today I caught a mantis. They're very rare. I put it in a tin with some leaves and a weevil, but it hasn't eaten yet."
"Hmm," said the father.
The sky sieved a torrent, drip by drip.
"Let's go downstairs to the parking lot and get umbrellas, then we'll go on to the school."
Susan stood in her doorway and frowned down at the note, its handwriting all sharp, black spikes. She could read the words, “Dear Sister Marsh,” but everything after that was as unintelligible as Cyrillic. She glanced at the girl standing on her front porch, who shifted her weight from one skinny leg to the other.
“Tell me again who sent you here, honey?” Susan asked.
Loosh was of age and he wanted a divorce. When his parents asked why, he said, “I don’t have to tell you, but I will.” When he’d told them, his mother said, “Are you sure about this, dear?” and his father said, “You ungrateful little—!”
When the conversation was over, Loosh called his lawyer, who arranged lodging for the night and set aside half an hour to meet with him the next day.
“That boarding house stinks!” Loosh commented when admitted to his lawyer’s cubicle the next morning.
Dr. Mamund flips through the patient's chart while taking a drag from his Jasmine Light.
"You know," he comments, exhaling the blue smoke into the surgery, "It's a pity to destroy art like this."
His nurse seems distracted, likely watching something subjectively in his visual field from the net.
"Nurse! Can you join me for a moment?"
The Nurse snaps his attention back, "Sorry. Watching the match."
"Cameroon is going down to Japan 2 3. What we got?"
“Earth is over there,” he said, pointing with his chin at a vague cluster of tiny, white smudges on the wall of the sky. The soughing of waves on sand beat like a crimp-stoned drummer, regular but slow. Feathery greenness swayed out of time overhead. Beach biters nipped at our feet. We brushed them off with gritty soles.
He looked at his watch. “Two more minutes.”
There was this girl and, oh, what a girl! I don’t mean that in any whoa-babe-any-man-would-be-glad-to-have-you-in-his-blanket sense of the term. I mean I liked her a lot for who she was and who she was turning out to be, and I would have been glad to hitch my horse to the same wagon and cross any prairie you chose with the gal—warts, babies, dust and all.
They rode down into the valley, passing clumps of pole-willows and aspen that clustered in the open space like bouquets. The air was sweet with the spicy scent of the little white flowers that starred the grass, which was tall enough to close over the shoulders of the burro and tickle Shemona’s elbows.
They rode toward the buildings. One open, rough-hewn structure was obviously a stable—Shemona heard the whuffling and neighing of horses.
There were several more crystal bottles with different-colored contents on ledge ledge above the tub, which had tarnished iron dragons for legs. Shemona upended one of them entirely, spattering the cool porcelain with a glutinous crimson substance. She shivered, and turned the tap on full-blast.
The bubbles foamed up on the water immediately. Shemona slid into it, feeling the scalding liquid rise up on her body. By the time Thessaly stuck her head in again, the water was high in the tub, the bubbles up around Shemona’s neck. She quickly moved her left hand under the surface.