DP FICTION #55C: “Fresh Dates” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

SFX, International Terminal

The scuttling of a million feet before him, the collective aspirations to get somewhere resounded in the marble hall, while he stared at his stubby chin in the glass. He rubbed a growing five o’clock shadow with a soft hand. “Paging passenger Carl Rogers. Please come to Gate 48B. Paging passenger Karl Rogers. Please come to Gate 48B.” The near-garbled voice issuing forth from the speakers was far from honeyed, but there was something sweet about the announcement and the cadence of the passenger’s name. At that moment, he would do anything to be Karl Rogers, to have such a short three syllabled name, so he could be rushing about like the many others rushing about. Needing to get somewhere and feeling the inadequacy of bipedalism in hauling body and material possessions to reach that end. 

DP FICTION #55B: “Dear Parents, Your Child Is Not the Chosen One” by P.G. Galalis

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Goodblood,

Thank you for expressing your concerns about Rodney’s First Term grade. Please understand that the highest mark of “Chosen One” is exceedingly rare, even among our exceptional student body here at Avalon. Rodney’s grade of “Stalwart” is neither a mistake nor cause for concern, but a performance about which you and he can both be proud.

As I indicated in my written evaluation, Rodney is a bright young man, although he does have room for improvement in the areas of effort and behavior. I’m told by his Warrior, Wizard, and Rogue teachers that he shows equal aptitude in all three classes, so I’m confident that with support and encouragement, his skills will continue to improve.

Sincerely,

Madeleine Whimbley

Teacher of Intermediate Feats & Virtues

Avalon Preparatory Academy for Adventurers

TABLETOP GAME REVIEW: Eye Found It!

written by David Steffen Eye Found It! is a competitive hidden picture card game aimed at children. The version of the game I’m familiar with is the Disney version, though it looks like there are other variations. Each player is dealt a hand of cards with scenes from Disney TV shows or movies, such as Winnie the Pooh … Continue reading TABLETOP GAME REVIEW: Eye Found It!

DP FICTION #55A: “Empathy Bee” by Forrest Brazeal

I’m at the microphone for the first round of the 32nd Annual National Empathy Bee, and I can’t feel a thing.

*

ROUND ONE

Good morning, Alex. A man is sitting in a banker’s office. The banker says: “You have great collateral — I’ll give you credit for that.” Is this a joke? If so, why is it funny?

*

Press photographers in the front row dazzle my eyes with flashbulbs. The hotel ballroom stretches behind them, vast and dim, a fog bank of blurry faces. Mom sits somewhere in the audience, but I’ll never spot her with the naked eye from up here on the stage.

Fortunately, my brain implant has an image processing feature. I scroll through options in my mind, zooming, enhancing, upscaling. There she is, slumped on a straight-backed gilt chair with her “guardian of contestant” credentials drooping around her neck. The seat beside her, Dad’s seat, is empty.

DP FICTION #54A: “The Inspiration Machine” by K.S. Dearsley

“I’ve got it!” Barnes leapt out of his chair and knocked hot synth-coffee over his work interface and paunch. Perhaps that was why the idea vanished. By the time he had swabbed away the mess, the brilliant flash of creativity was no more than the memory of something that had almost been within his grasp. He needed a few breaths of bottled fresh sea air–his last multi-million global craze–to boost his brainpower.

He had exactly twenty-three minutes to find the next big thing, the product that everyone–young, old, straight, gay, white, black and everything in-between–had to have. Innovations Manager Oona Hardy had smiled at him at the last project development meeting–that smile. Barnes was sure it was produced by twitch implants that pulled back her lips to reveal entirely too much gum and teeth. No one who had been on the receiving end of that smile survived the next meeting unless they came up with something so good no one could understand why it had not been thought of before. The trouble was, the harder he tried to snatch at ideas, the faster they fled. What was that idea he had been about to have?

DP FICTION #53B: “Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore

The Abbot’s eyes stared up at the ceiling. The reflections of blue-robed angels flew across his gray irises. Not much blood had spattered on his face. His chest was another story. The stains had finally stopped spreading from the rents in his brown wool robe. I noticed a smear near the hem of my long skirt where I stood too close. 

Revulsion erupted in my throat and I clamped my hands over my mouth. I could feel the dampness of the blood on my leg. I fought the urge to tear the bottom of the skirt off.  I needed to stay calm. If I panicked, all was lost. 

On the Abbot’s shaven scalp, the lights of his implanted sanctifications still blinked, attempting to change the thought patterns of a dead brain. One finger slowly twitched. The motor cortex must be getting extra juice. I focused on that. A simple, physical issue in the neurological wiring. I could fix that. I slowed my thinking around that problem.  

For some reason, the Abbot’s other hand held a saw. That problem I couldn’t solve right now.

DP FICTION #53A: “Little Empire of Lakelore” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

All the world followed pretty much the same guidelines for international trade and travel. That’s a very big gloss, but let’s say it was true. And it was, for the most part.

There was however, one exception. It was Little Empire of Lakelore. Little Empire of Lakelore had to be qualified by the word little, because simply calling it the Empire of Lakelore would be a misnomer. You see, there was nothing imperial about Lakelore itself, except for its air of superiority, which was manufactured much like the actual air itself. The air had to be manufactured and pumped out, and it wasn’t too costly to do so, given the marginal cost of opening a few more factories for that purpose.

DP FICTION #52B: “Bootleg Jesus” by Tonya Liburd

Out where rock outcroppings yearn to become mountains, there was a town cursed with no magic.

In this town, there was a family.

In this family, there was a girl.

She was nine, almost ten, Mara. Childhood hadn’t completely lifted its veil. She had an older brother, Ivan, who was fourteen, and whose voice was changing. Elsewhere, puberty would have signaled all sorts of preparations – acceptance into a special group home as much for his safety as for the general public – while his Unique Gift manifested. Watchfulness. Guidance. Training. 

But not here.

DP FICTION #52A: “The Ceiling of the World” by Nicole Crucial

This is important. When Margaret moved to the city, you see, the office she worked in was on the top floor, five stories up. The train took twenty-five minutes to travel between Bleek Street—where her office was—and Swallow Avenue—where she lived. She took a room in a basement, and that basement room was ten feet … Continue reading DP FICTION #52A: “The Ceiling of the World” by Nicole Crucial

BOOK REVIEW: Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams

Tailchaser’s Song is a fantasy novel by Tad Williams, published by DAW books in 1985.  The story is set in a world of anthropomorphized cats, a quest fantasy with the young cat Fritti Tailchaser as the hero.  It is set in something like the real world, but from the perspective of cats, where humans are known as the race of M’an, descendents of cats who have been deformed by an ancient curse.