Issue VI -- Canadian Writers

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Read about the contributors to our sixth issue and see excerpts from each article or story.  

Issue VI Contents

Living the Quiet Life                       A.M. Dellamonica

With her society divided into two very different sets of people, and negotiations with an alien race who regard humans as 'Mindpickers,' Nerethe finds herself having to make a choice between her family and those she has grown to love. 

Wasps at the Speed of Sound     Derryl Murphy

Derryl Murphy returns to our pages with an end times story that has his heroes having to decide whether to stay or go in a world where wasps break the sound barrier and ants have become the size of lions.

State of Disorder                             Douglas Smith

And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges, wrote William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, and Douglas Smith takes a meeting between two scientists to twist revenge along the thermodynamic arrow of time.

Hounding Manny                            Mark Rayner

 

Living the Quiet Life by A. M. Dellamonica © 2002 A. M. Dellamonica

A. M. Dellamonica has been an actor, rape crisis worker, guerilla secretary, piccolo diva and theater technician. Currently living in Vancouver, British Columbia she is a student of ki aikido and an avid but inept gardener. Her work has appeared in Crank!, Realms of Fantasy, SCIFI.COM and many other venues.

“In old times, popping 'sphere was much more serious." Reinventing her bedside manner, Nerethe had found, was the hardest thing about pretending that she no longer had any mental abilities. Harder even than wielding hand-held med instruments instead of reworking the flesh with her mind. "When we were planetbound, we didn't hibernate under any circumstances. We were spacers for over a thousand generations before we developed a survival mechanism."

"That's just theory," the miner said. "Nobody knows what the ancestors were like."

"There wouldn't have been any need for hibernation on Urt." Nerethe snipped at another piece of the patient's carapace. A shell of thick goo that had been extruded by her skin when the woman hit open space, it had protected her from the vacuum. One of fifteen miners blown into space in an accident, the patient was Quiet, just like Nerethe was pretending to be. She was pregnant, too. With no mental signature to track her by, it had taken twelve hours to locate her cocoon, hours Nerethe spent on call, waiting and anxious. Once they had pinpointed her location, the Loom transited her directly to Nerethe for extraction and a determination on whether the baby was injured.

"What if they fell into water? Or if it snowed?"

They drowned and they froze, Nerethe thought, but to say so would be morbid – she was failing with the banter again. This was all so much easier when you could do it telepathically. "I never could believe that Urt had much snow," she said.

"I think it snowed."

Nerethe's treatment room was better furnished than her own hab, with a plush treatment couch of dusky pink and an imagewall showing babies she had delivered, snuggled in the arms of their parents. Views of space were streaked across the ceiling – another imagewall, but expensive enough to pass for a portal. A trellis covered in pale orange roses climbed the room's back wall, perfuming the room slightly.

Nerethe herself was wedged into a narrow slot between the treatment couch and the instrument counter. Over the years she had learned to reach for instruments without turning her face away from her patient. Eye contact was important to the Quiet, who couldn't thread their thoughts in any mind but their own.

The last hunks of carapace fell away. "I'm going to start the scanner now. Try to relax."

The woman nodded, lips pressed together with tension, her attention fixed deep inside as she stared up at the imagewall showing the scattered lights of Urb. Each tiny flicker was an asteroid; each rock was home to people numbering in the thousands. "I think it snowed on Urt, all the time. I think they just grew a carapace and slept through the winter, and when they woke up everything was fine."

"You're probably right," Nerethe agreed heartily, and started the scan.

She was able to send the woman home with the best of news – no damage to her or the unborn child. Her own relief she barely had time to savor before her brother startled her by transiting into her treatment room.

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Wasps at the Speed of Sound by Derryl Murphy © 2002 Derryl Murphy

Derryl Murphy is a fiction editor with On Spec magazine, and a writer whose work has appeared in many venues. His most recent stories include ‘Those Graves of Memory’ in Future Orbits and ‘The Abbey Engine’ in our Spring 2002 issue. He lives in Prince George, British Columbia with his wife and two sons.

Abe sat in the van for several long moments after it had stopped, breathing slowly and deeply as he eyed the copse of trees about fifty yards away, farm house and barn sitting a little ways behind.  Through the slit in the windshield he could see there were signs of movement, but being this close meant he should be safe from taking a hole. 

The only other concern today was the fact that there were more around than ever before, and they still didn’t have a clue as to why.  Hopefully he wouldn’t run into problems with anything new.

“Well?” came a distant voice.

Abe spun awkwardly, stared at Ryan through the scratched and pitted plastic and steel mesh.  His suit squeaked as he shifted his position to get a better look.  “Well what?”

Ryan cocked his head in the direction of the nest.  “Well you gonna do it.  You know what I mean.  Your turn.”

Abe sighed, his hot breath momentarily fogging up the face plate.  “Yeah.  Curtain yourself.  I’m opening up the door.”

Ryan pulled the metal curtain across the interior of the van, latched it and sealed it.  “Done!” he yelled, voice even more muffled now.

Abe popped open the back doors, shuffled his butt to the edge and gingerly stepped to the ground.  The suit groaned and protested as it settled into place, haphazard-looking rivets and redone welds holding everything together.  Once standing, he checked the buckle on the home-made flame thrower and then made sure everything was ready to fire.

He couldn’t hear much beyond his own breathing, but as he slowly shuffled towards the trees and the nest he knew that there would be only one sound outside today.  There would be no bird songs, no distant cars, no airplanes flying overhead.  In the distance, across the brown and wasted wheat fields, he could see a lone combine sitting.  Probably Old Vic’s -- the old guy himself probably sitting in the combine right now, bones bleaching in the morning sun of Indian Summer -- if he had his directions right.  He hated sitting in the back, not driving; besides having the easy job, driving aimlessly and looking for the signs of infestation was the closest thing he could remember to pleasant Sunday drives.

Just a few more paces and he would be at the edge of the trees.  Sweat dripping down his back was making him hot and itchy, but scratching would be a luxury that would have to wait.  He blinked away more perspiration from his eyes, looked down through foggy plastic at his sheet metal leggings, and then entered the little patch of woods.

The hum could be heard now, distant but growing with each step.  Around him the trees were in shambles, leaves randomly tattered and stripped, shredded bark hanging like dreadlocks, littering the ground like the floor of a barber’s shop.  He saw bones on the ground, probably a rabbit, and a few more paces brought him to the skeleton of a dog.  That would likely be Old Vic’s shepherd, Rufus.  The top of its skull was blown right off, little bits of bone lying in a spray pattern leading to the left.

The hum was much louder now, turning into a persistent, angry buzz that was already beginning to rattle his teeth.  Abe heard a few distant pings as some of them ran into his suit, getting up speed for whatever journeys they were taking, forays for food or else for a web jump to wherever the hell it was that they went.

There it was.  A giant gray mass of paper and puke, crawling up the trunk of a giant elm and enclosing the first three levels of branches.  And everywhere there were wasps, yellowjackets by the tens of thousands, maybe even by the millions for all he knew.

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State of Disorder by Douglas Smith 

Doug Smith's stories have appeared in over forty professional magazines and anthologies in thirteen countries and eleven languages. Doug was a finalist for the international John W. Campbell award for best new writer, and won an Aurora Award for the best SF&F short fiction by a Canadian for his story , La Danse des Esprits. He has been an Aurora finalist eight times and has twice been selected for honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror.

In real life, Doug is a technology executive for an international consulting firm. He lives just north of Toronto, Canada.

Tick.

In the banquet hall of a sprawling castle of a house, the woman looks up, startled.  The dishes of the night’s dinner still litter the long table before her.  At the evening’s outset, the table had been so clean, its settings so precise.  She tries to recall each step in its journey from order to chaos but fails.

Tick.

She jumps again at the sound.  A man’s wristwatch lies at the table’s far end.  He has left it, forgotten or unwanted.  Or for another reason.  The watch is old with a broken strap; the woman young with a broken heart.  The watch lies face down, but she knows it is the old-fashioned kind with hands.  A date will show in a little window.  A date from a time long ago.  Two lives ago.  It will be today’s date.  She wonders how she knows that.

Tick.

Rising, she moves toward the watch ...

#

“My God, James.  Look at this place,” Caroline exclaimed.

James Mackaby put down the book he was reading to their young son, David, and looked out the window of their limousine.  Their driver was negotiating a street filled with refuse and the abandoned corpses of burnt-out cars.  Under a late afternoon sun, men in ragged clothing slept or sprawled on steps before low-rise apartments.  The nearest group of men shouted something at the car as they passed around a bottle.

The limousine pulled up to the curb in front of a dirty-gray, three-storied building.  Crumbling steps led to a door with a crisscross of planks covering its broken glass.  Mackaby surveyed the scene and looked back to his wife.  “Looks like Dr. Harnish has fallen lower than I thought.”

“Are you sure it’s wise to go?” Caroline asked.  “He was very uncivil to you when the University dismissed him.”

Mackaby felt uneasy at the memory.  But for her sake, he forced a smile.  “He was treating everyone that way by then.”

“Still ...”

“And he’s asking for my help now.  Besides, I can’t cancel a dinner this late, though I know better ways to spend an evening.”  He grinned and she smiled, rubbing her foot against his.  He gave David a hug.  “Bye-bye, my big man.  Be good.”

David hugged him back.  “Can we read my story later, Daddy?”

“Daddy won’t be back until past bedtime, dear.  We’ll read it tomorrow.”  He pulled Caroline to him in a long kiss, then stepped from the car into cool fall air, her perfume swirling in his head.  He spoke to their driver.  “Pick me up at ten o’clock sharp.  Apartment 202.  If you need to, call me on my cellular.”

The driver nodded.

     Caroline leaned out the back window.  “Wait.  I have your watch.  They fixed it but won’t have a strap till next week.”  She took a man’s wristwatch from her purse.  Gold hands, black face, broken leather strap.  The inscription on the back read, “To James, forever your Caroline.”

Caroline stared at the building.  “James, do you ...”

Mackaby kissed her again.  “I’ll see you before midnight.”  He put the watch in his pocket and climbed the steps.  At the door he stopped to wave to them, but the big Lincoln was already gone.  He lowered his hand, his feeling of unease returning.

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Hounding Manny by Mark Rayner © 2002 Mark Rayner

 

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