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Category: Fiction

Axes on Viola

An intriguing short story from the award-winning Czech science fiction and fantasy writer Jaroslav Mostecký

The tree yelled in a premonition of death and the sky stormed.

Seal was startled and dropped the lamp on the ground. I swore and looked furiously at him. “What the hell are you doing?”

He turned pale in front of my eyes.

“It must have been totally rotten,” he said, terrified. “It cracked too early!”

He didn’t need to explain anything to me. I had already heard what could happen when Viola started playing.

He pushed me aside and rushed outside. It had always been much worse to stay in the gallery when the rotten air roots, reaching somewhere up to the height of several kilometers, crashed to the ground, than to be taken by surprise outside. I had not been on the job long enough to have experienced anything similar, but I had heard enough the very first evening at the cabin, after they had taken us down from orbit.

I chucked the laser saw on the ground and had just enough time to jump aside to avoid the thin ray tickling my ankles. I picked up the dropped lamp, quickly stamped on the switch of the laser saw and followed Seal to the exit. He was really good at running in the dark. By the time I had got out of the gallery he had already disappeared from sight.

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La Gorda and the City of Silver


I was born on a Wednesday, in middle of a chapuzón.

The sudden squall of sky water bears little resemblance to a thunderstorm – it’s more like a vertical flood, though very brief.

I considered Chapuzón for my luchador name – I had poured out of my mother with the same fulminating relentlessness and washed her into the hereafter – but fate took a hand, and the name is still available to anyone who wants to design its mask and come up with some signature moves.

Fate always takes a hand and leads us where she will. Fate is not funny, although she thinks she is as she laughs at us. When I meet her face-to-face I intend to talk to her about it. Maybe I’ll body slam her while I’m at it.

But until then I’m stuck with the name she set out for me when I packed on weight on my way to adolescence: La Gorda. The Fat One.

It’s okay. I am fat, though not compared to the luchadores in my father’s company. But they’re men and are allowed to be corpulent. They’re also allowed to be luchadores in the ring and on the screen and in the cantina – where they swallow their tequilazos through the mouth holes of their masks because otherwise no one would recognize them and they’d have to pay.

There is no ring for me, and no movies, because women are not luchadores. That’s what El Patojo and El Súper Fly and El Diablo Colorado tell me when they come to my father’s house for the Sunday tamalada. I make the tamales, of course, and after they’ve eaten their fill my father gets out his camera and films another one of their episodic adventures right in our backyard. Read La Gorda and the City of Silver

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American Moat

Hamilton — everyone called him Ham — had fully bought into the bacon-as-fashion fad. That night as he patrolled the Arizona border with Alex, his…

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Winds That Stir Vermilion Sands


Seven-year-old Rodrigo ben-David sat alone in the hovel, spooning the last bit of last Shabbat’s chamin into his mouth and using a hard bit of crust to scrape the pot clean. The thin, cold wind rattled the aluplaz walls mercilessly. Winters in the Hellas Region were tough, and in Babulandia, one of the most notorious shantytowns on Mars, the lack of municipal infrastructure made it nearly impossible for the residents to keep themselves warm.

As he moistened the crust in some weak, tepid coffee and slowly chewed that soggy staleness, Rodrigo prayed his father would finally return today. The food was now gone, and the boy had already pushed the limits of his neighbors’ meager hospitality well beyond their accustomed limits. Babulandia had accreted into existence during the exodus from religious oppression on Earth earlier in the 24th century, and its inhabitants, a jumbled-together pastiche of cultures and languages, were mistrustful and not particularly giving. Another day of being alone and Rodrigo would have to strike out for Malacandra City, where he believed his aunt lived and worked, though he had never met her.

Isaac ben-David had left a week ago, returning to Nirgal Vallis, where he’d been scavenging a century-old, abandoned research station. Rodrigo’s dad scraped out a living this way: hunting through what others considered junk, looking for bits and pieces that could be resold or repurposed. With the station, he claimed, he had finally found his mina de oro, his gold mine.

“Las kozas van amijorarse, fijo. Ya topo algo,” his father had muttered in Djidio before leaving. “I’m gonna find something good, promise it, and we’re gonna be set, muchacho.”

Rodrigo had tried not to cry, but his eyes had gone damp, and his father had grimaced. “Hey, life of the Sefardis, no? First the katolikos run us out of Spain a thousand years ago, and now they run us off the whole planet, got to come to Mars—el guerko ke se lo yeve—and freeze our kulos off. But you and me, we adams are gonna laugh last, yes? So you stay put, light the menorah right before night falls. Shamash, too, so when I come home I’ll see them burning through the window, yes? Come on, no tears. Pasiensia Cohá, ke la nochada es larga.”

Isaac had smiled broadly then and clicked on the holographic image of Rodrigo’s mother, dead these five years. “Your mom would want you to be brave, fijo. And el Dio Barukh, he’ll be watching over you.”

And Rodrigo had tried, really tried, to be brave. He looked at his mother’s face, flickering with the uncertain power source, and tried to remember her voice, singing to him. In snatches it came to him, overlaid with his father’s rich baritone—the song of Avraham Avinu, newly born, miraculously singing to his mother, Amtilai:

Yo ya topo ken me alejasse
mandará del syelo ken me akompanyará
porke só kriado de El Dio Barukh

Wish I had someone to get me out of this shack, Rodrigo thought. Wish el Dio Barukh would send me someone to keep me company. Read Winds That Stir Vermilion Sands

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By Ernest Hogan

An extract from the novel High Aztech:

high aztechI thought I had died, but it was an ixmictiante flowery death, in a battle with a proud Aztecan warrior, so I was happy. I knew it wasn’t Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancíhuatl that were waiting for me this time. I knew that once my soul had fled my virus and drug-infested body, it would fly high into the sky, to where the sun rises, to Tonatiuhicán, the Eastern House of the Sun, the celestial home of Tonatiuh, Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli. For sure all three of those warrior-gods would be there to greet me, and congratulate me on such a fine, flowery death. They would accept my soul into their home, and I would change into a Tonatiuhototl, a fiery sun-bird. I would flap my flaming wings and go off to join all my millions of squadrons of brother warriors, and we would recall all the glorious battles we fought in life until sunrise, when we would go forth and chase away the darkness and the demonic spirits that live within it.

I was happy. I thanked the gods for the mind-altering virus that made the Aztecan religion real to me. I could hardly wait.

But it didn’t happen. Read Gringos

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