We're doubling up on free scifi stories (scifi? maybe just weirdo) for you lovely folks.
That's right -- last time was two romantic scifi stories and now... it's not. However, there is some continuity, as you will see.
Enjoy these punchy bite-sized treats from Lee Anderson and Roger Ley!
King of Ashes
By Lee Anderson
Pulling her Ralph Lauren Black Label leather coat closed against the freezing air, Claire knocks on the first level door of a sprawling, fully above-ground Upper West Side townhouse. The home features 1,000 square feet of entertaining space with a sizeable open kitchen and 30 foot living room. Claire coughs.
The real estate agent, Will, answers the door. He wears a Gray Calvin Klein two-button notch lapel suit. “Oh my god, you look more beautiful every time I see you,” he says to Claire. “How is that possible?”
He turns into the apartment without touching her.
“You look good, too,” she offers quietly to his back.
“Welcome to the most a-maz-ing townhouse you have ever seen!”
He leads her further inside. Walls of sun-flooded windows on three sides adjoin with a private backyard (approx. 400 sq. ft.) There are also three full windowed bathrooms and two stackable washer/dryers. Will leads her to a kitchen with Norland SK6oSSG stainless appliances and dark granite countertops. Will holds his arms out, beckons her to behold the majesty of this optimum-designed kitchen.
“One of the main reasons that anyone buys a townhouse,” Will says to her, “is the kitchen.”
Claire collapses to the Pietra-Firma white-tiled floor and convulses until pockets of foam fill the corners of her mouth. Her eyes roll back, and she gags. With one hand, Will manages to lift her to her feet again. Using the Marazzi kitchen island as a brace, Claire wobbles on her feet, though still bent over.
“Sweetheart, you have to look at this,” says Will. “This isn’t just any kitchen. It’s a mega full floor kitchen. It goes on and on. It’s huge!”
She stumbles to the Franke sink and attempts to vomit but nothing comes up. She turns on the Toto Neorest II faucet and splashes her face.
“Look at the size of this stove. Claire, you’re not looking. See it? I want to cook on it myself. I want to sleep on it!”
She takes her pink-shelled iPhone6 from her purse and dials. Places the phone to her ear. “Hello?” she asks.
“Do you hear that?” Will asks her. “Listen, sweetie. Hear it?”
Claire drops the phone, and it hits the floor. She gasps. She looks around them, her view half-hidden by a large tuft of her own hair.
“I don’t hear anything,” she says in a whisper that cracks.
“That’s right! Quiet… this townhouse is super soundproof!”
“I have to call people.” Claire moves to retrieve her phone from the floor, but the distance feels impossible. She freezes and stares at the phone instead. “I don’t know where anyone is.”
“First things first,” Will says. “We have three more floors, two fireplaces, five bathrooms, and four bedrooms still to view. And the balcony!”
Will leads her through sliding crystal doors and onto the 600-square-foot balcony with double-paned glass railings. Without hesitation, Claire races for the edge. Will catches her after only a few bounding steps, hooks his arm around her waist. He lifts her away and balances her on his hip, then sets her on her feet, once they’re back inside.
Claire, still breathless: “Okay, okay… I’ll take it. I want it.”
“Verrrrrry smart move,” Will says. “A lot of value in a place like this. For this neighborhood? Forget it!”
She reaches into her black Hermes Graphite purse and carefully removes an albino boa constrictor. Its scaly skin shines smooth like slime. Before even half of the reptile is exposed, Claire holds it towards Will. “This is all I can afford,” she says.
Will takes the entire snake from her with deliberation, careful to keep his balance with the reptile’s girth. He then lays it gingerly around his own neck, a stiff sash. “I’ll talk to the owner,” he says. He pets the snake, nuzzles it like a newborn.
The snake blinks its pink, pebble-sized eyes, stretches its body as if to get a better look at Will’s face. “I gave your first breath to you,” the reptile says to him in perfect English. “I shall accept your last sigh....”
The Tiny Green Buddha
by Roger Ley
‘Do you think it's handmade?’ Estella asked as she unpacked the small green figure of the Buddha from her suitcase. She’d bought it from a stall on the floating market in Bangkok.
‘I wouldn’t have thought so,’ he said. ‘It’s probably just a resin casting. Look, the details are all blurry and there’s a seam on the top of its head.’ The base came off in his hand. ‘I’ll have to stick it back together,’ he showed her the two pieces. ‘Crap quality.’
The Buddha looked back mutely, fat and laughing. All blurry, crap quality.
‘It’s green, it could be made of jade,’ she said hopefully.
Martin went to his study and came back with a small screwdriver. He heated the tip with his cigarette lighter and applied it to the underside of the base. He sniffed.
‘You can smell the plastic.’ He offered it to her.
‘Yes, the base is plastic, but what about the figure?’
He turned the Buddha upside down and melted another small indentation.
He held it to his nose. ‘It smells the same,’ he said.
The Buddha remained frozen in his moment of hilarity. Smells of plastic, upside down.
Martin mixed up some epoxy resin and glued the pieces together.
‘We should never have paid two hundred baht for this,’ he said, as he put the Buddha on the shelf in the lounge, along with the various fossils, pine cones and odd pieces of geology that had come home with them from other holidays. ‘It’s just tourist rubbish.’
The Buddha stared through crinkled eyes. Tourist rubbish.
Next morning, as he walked past the shelf holding his first cup of coffee Martin called to his wife, ‘That Buddha statue, was it standing or sitting?’
‘I don’t really remember; standing I think,’ she called around her tooth brush.
He peered at it closely. The laughing Buddha was definitely sitting. He could have sworn it was standing before. Oh well. He left for work.
That evening, the statue was standing again. He must have got it wrong; it must have been standing that morning. His memory was playing tricks on him. He went to bed and tried to put it from his mind.
The next morning, still wearing his sleeping shorts, he brought a magnifying glass with him into the lounge. He would nail this once and for all. As he approached the statue he noticed something different about it. It was sitting again but this time, one of the arms was raised. He held up the magnifying glass. He’d been wrong about the Buddha’s expression. He wasn’t laughing at all; his face held an angry grimace. Martin looked closely at the raised hand. The tiny green Buddha was giving him the tiny green finger.
About the Creators
Lee Anderson has written for The New Times – Miami and Ocean Drive Magazine. He has published short stories in a multitude of small press magazines, including Fiction International. After moving to New York in 2000, Lee became involved in playwriting. His first play, Supper’s Ready, was staged at The HERE Arts Center in SoHo. His second play, Dark Lords of the Trailer Park, premiered at The Manhattan Theatre Resource in the West Village. He’s also served as “writer-for-hire” for Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, a top Manhattan literary agency. He lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Roger Ley was born and educated in London and spent some of his formative years in Saudi Arabia as an Air Force brat. He worked as an engineer in the oilfields of North Africa and the North Sea before starting a career in higher education teaching Computer Aided Engineering. He has written articles and stories for The Guardian, The Oldie, Reader’s Digest, Best of British, Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos and various technical journals. His comic autobiography A Horse in the Morning is available on Amazon as is his latest sci-fi book Chronoscape. He is married with two sons and loves tennis, acting and writing.
World's Shortest Creator Interviews
The robot overlords have gifted you with the choice of one cybernetic module that will make one of your existing skills or traits all bionic and stuff. What do you choose to buff up, and what would be the unexpected plot twist?
If the robot overlords gifted me with the choice of one cybernetic module that would make one of my existing skills or traits all bionic and stuff I would ask for a general purpose transmogrifier which enhanced all my traits so that I could take over world Science Fiction, starting at the Space Squid office complex in downtown New York.
If, due to some very poor logistics, you had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness, what would you do to find food, and what species would your imaginary companion be?
If, due to some very poor logistics (on your part presumably), I had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness I considered several imaginary companions, including a quick growing fungus which was both edible and could hold a reasonable conversation about the works of Iain Banks or a flock of intelligent mutant chickens whose eggs I could eat. In the end I decided on Superman, because he could fly me directly to your office so that we could discuss the circumstances under which you left me in the wilderness and then reverse the situation. Before you vacate your desk, I want my Space Squid tee shirt.
About the Artists
Mauko is a visual artist on Pixabay. Roger Ley is an author who provided us with a nice high-rez picture of a small green Buddha.
Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.