All Diabolical Plots stories published in 2021. For our most recent stories, click here!
Issue 82 – December 2021
“There Are Angels and They Are Utilitarians,” by Jamie Wahls
Our elders teach us that in the beginning, as we were given this world in stewardship to love and protect, there were two leaders, good and Greater Good.
And good said: “Let us love them, lest we grow callous and fail our duty.”
And Greater Good spoke: “Let us grow callous, lest we give in to love and fail our duty.”
And good said: “What? How can you claim that coldness is better than warmth, that duty is greater than love?”
And Greater Good spoke: “”
And good said: “What?”
“There’s an Art To It,” by Brian Hugenbruch
Twenty years! It had taken me all this time to find every bookhouse in the Valenthi Empire. And now, the last one: the greatest one. Folmaer, conquered by the Valenthi not one year ago, held the largest library in the known world. The Bibliothedral—a series of spires said to contain the whole of the human mystery—had accumulated written words for longer than the Empire had existed.
I came to burn it.
Issue 81 – November 2021
“Lies I Never Told You,” by Jaxton Kimble
Shanna’s father was psychic on paper. The first time she saw it, Shanna was eight and Dad sent her to the corner store with a list:
- skim milk
- barbeque chips
- Wait ten extra seconds after the light changes at Canal Street and Vine
- toilet paper
- cereal (no sugar!)
“Forced Fields,” by Adam Gaylord
Abigail glanced at the fake field emitter strapped to her arm. Her real unit had died weeks ago, only two days after the warranty expired. She’d done her best to use its casing to craft a passable replica of one of the newer models she couldn’t hope to afford. She’d thought the facsimile turned out pretty well.
But then she looked up and her heart stopped. The skinner’s eyes were on her. The replica wasn’t good enough.
Issue 80 – October 2021
“It’s Real Meat!™,” by Kurt Pankau
Why does RealMeat have 46 chromosomes?
Wow. I couldn’t help but notice you accidentally CC’d Legal and Human Resources on that last email. I went ahead and took them off the thread. Anyway, I told you not to bother with that genetic profile. RealMeat™ is a blend of the finest all-American meat sources: pork, chicken, beef, and just a little hint of venison. When you mix all those up, you’re sure to get some weird number of chromosomes that doesn’t make sense.
“Audio Recording Left by the CEO of the Ranvannian Colony to Her Daughter, on the Survival Imperative of Maximising Profits” by Cassandra Khaw and Matt Dovey
You will just have woken in your bed. Time is short. You are groggy, I’m sure, but it is important you pay attention and do not leave – do not move – until this recording is finished.
Listen: marketing is everything.
Issue 79 – September 2021
“A Guide to Snack Foods After the Apocalypse,” by Rachael K. Jones
Gulab Jamun: 8/10
They’re canned donut holes soaked in rosewater syrup. I’ve added “roses” to my Master List of Things I’ve Eaten, after “poodle” and “roaches.” Jordan says stuff from dented cans might be full of bacteria, but the dent was pretty small, and we heard a Gangly scritching against the supermarket doors from our rooftop perch. Figured we might as well die with a sugar high.
The donut holes had mostly dissolved into the syrup, but they tasted so good I almost finished them before I remembered to offer Jordan some.
He rolled his eyes. You’d think he was my actual little brother and not just my pretend one. “You’re gonna be sooooooo sick tomorrow, Nadia,” he said. But he ate them too. I guess dying from bacteria together is better than fleeing Ganglies solo.
“Rebuttal to Reviewers’ Comments On Edits For ‘Demonstration of a Novel Draconification Protocol in a Human Subject’,” by Andrea Kriz
Response to Reviewer 1
1. We have duly cited
your the indicated study and apologize for our omission.
2. We apologize for and have corrected the typos. The corresponding author takes responsibility for these mistakes. Unfortunately, typing has become much more difficult for the corresponding author as of late.
3. The increased shipment of livestock to our Institute is entirely irrelevant to the goals and aims of our study and does not need to be explained to the Reviewer. Again, we have the situation under control.
Issue 78 – August 2021
“The Art and Mystery of Thea Wells,” by Alexandra Seidel
The interest in Thea Wells even outside of the circle of art lovers and connoisseurs remains strong, and conclusions about her work range from the normal, technical approach of art critics to the downright strange explanations of the ardent believers in the paranormal. To give a brief overview of her art, it does not do to linger too much on either end of this spectrum. Instead, a few key paintings of Wells may be seen as markers of her arc as an artist, of where she started, of where she ended.
“Fermata,” by Sarah Fannon
It was strange to stand in my childhood bedroom as a woman who was starting to find her first gray hairs when the light hit her head just so in the bathroom. It wasn’t like going back in time, exactly, but like finding embarrassing photos of yourself. I looked at the walk-in closet and could almost feel the clothes brushing the top of my head from all the times I hid in there with a flashlight and book on nights when I wanted to muffle the sound of my mother’s clarinet floating up through the house. My memories of nighttime, even ones that didn’t involve the house or my mother, always carried a sharp echo of that instrument. It wasn’t the sound I’d hated, but the dread that each note might be her last. The final trill always led to a fearful silence.
Issue 77 – July 2021
“Kudzu,” by Elizabeth Kestrel Rogers
A mech could breathe for a person, fill the pilot chamber with oxygen or pipe it through slender tubes that sat in their nose, winding behind their ears. A mech could walk for someone, taking thoughts and the slightest twitch of their muscles and translating them into smooth footsteps that indented the earth. A mech could allow someone to work to pay their debts, giving them employment they long thought was impossible. For Caris, the mech did all. Her body had been, still was, still would be, ravaged by cystic fibrosis. It wasn’t so bad that she needed a transplant, but she’d been on disability for some time, each paycheck slim, each breath feeling numbered and tighter than the last.
“Along Our Perforated Creases,” by K.W. Colyard
In my earliest memory, my mother folds in half. It couldn’t have been her first time. She was already so small by that point, so diminutive, that it’s hard, even now, to imagine her big, unfolded to her full size, giving birth to me. It was not her first time, and probably not even the first time she folded in front of me, but it is the first time I remember, and it happened when my father hit her.
Issue 76 – June 2021
“We Will Weather One Another Somehow,” by Kristina Ten
The most common causes of erosion are: water, wind, glaciers, people.
“One More Angel,” by Monica Joyce Evans
“I’m dead, right?” The room was as bare as a VR stage. “Or this is the weirdest ad I’ve ever been in, and I’m not sure what you’re selling.”
“No, you’re dead,” said the other me. “Look, I keep drawing the short straw on this whole explanation thing, so I’m going to go fast. Two things that are true.” She held up two fingers and waggled them. “One, Heaven is real, God is real, all that religion stuff is real. Not the nasty bits, just the simple, straightforward, everybody gets an afterlife part. That’s real. That’s thing one. Thing two? Transporters are murder.”
“No, they’re not,” I said. “I use them all the time.”
My other self twisted her mouth into a crooked smile. “Follow that thought through,” she said.
Issue 75 – May 2021
“Three Riddles and a Mid-Sized Sedan,” by Lauren Ring
When the cars started driving themselves, we went back to the old ways. The old ways help us stay safe.
I teach my daughter to chalk runes around the house, double yellow lines that forbid the cars from crossing. We bring a baby stroller everywhere we go. It saved a friend of mine once, making him rank slightly higher in the car’s inscrutable calculus than the woman on the other side of the street.
Sometimes I wonder if he feels guilty.
“The PILGRIM’s Guide to Mars,” by Monique Cuillerier
First, she silently paid tribute to this hardworking, dedicated robot who had been sent to this planet. Then, she acknowledged the efforts of all those who had imagined, designed, built, and sent the landers and rovers to explore the unknown.
And finally, she silently recited the details:
Mars Exploration Rover A, called Spirit.
Issue 74 – April 2021
“For Lack of a Bed,” by John Wiswell
>> u want a bed, but would u sleep on a sofa?
> I’d sell a kidney for a sofa.
>> what if some1 died on it? but u keep ur kidneys
> Dying on a sofa would be the highlight of my year.
“The Day Fair For Guys Becoming Middle Managers,” by Rachael K. Jones
You just landed yourself an interview!
Tell us all about why you’re the best candidate for Bradification,
and please, don’t mind the blood.
Issue 73 – March 2021
“The Void and the Voice,” by Jeff Soesbe
I switch the medical system back on. Alarms sound as it realizes Father’s condition and injects drugs through the dermal patches.
Father gasps, audibly, as his body is slammed back to stability.
After I reattach the careful tangle of wires connecting the shuttle’s control system to the interface cap fitted to his head, his voice echoes through the shuttle’s speakers.
“Son. Son. You should not disconnect me. I have told you this before.” He is scolding me, but he is also afraid.
“Boom & Bust,” by David F. Shultz
Kondo barked his orders. “Rocco, cover the east window. Valiant, you’re on ammo detail. Pepsi, keep an eye on market changes. Luna, get me a full asset list.”
“What’s the plan, boss?” Valiant said.
“Corporate takeover.” Kondo cocked his shotgun. “You all ready?”
Issue 72 – February 2021
“A Study of Sage,” by Kel Coleman
I tried to tune the sounds of the diner out, and continue practicing in my head. I love you so much. And the last six years have been…
I restarted the program, over and over.
“Energy Power Gets What She Wants,” by Matt Dovey
No other threats on my wristscreen minimap, players or monsters. Clear for now.
A deep rumble echoes up from the defeated demon, and coalesces into a voice reverberating with the screams of a thousand swallowed victims. It speaks unto me:
“Knife of Taertus has restored Kakardemon’s soul. Kakardemon can now talk, and will ally with—”
“Yeah, yeah, shut up, you’re not my first. Look: there’s this boy.”
Issue 71 – January 2021
“Unstoned,” by Jason Gruber
I built my house to wall off a place for myself in this world with no other trolls in it. And in a clever nook in the back wall, behind the hearth, I hide my secret treasure: a schematic for a ship.
If I could build it, then the elves would understand: we are not as different as they think. If I could build it, could speak to them with my hands in a language that they understand, then they would remember: the trolls were artists, before we were soldiers.
“Everyone You Know is a Raven,” by Phil Dyer
I’m not saying that there aren’t any real people in the world. The ravens are very real, and indisputably people. I’m not saying you’re the only human, either. There are definitely a few of you about. How many, I couldn’t say. More than fifty? Less than a thousand, that’s for sure.
Ravens are accomplished mimics. If you’ve ever seen one, well, that’s basically accurate, except the real thing is a little smaller and plainer and generally one metre to the left, just as a precaution. If you’ve never seen a raven, you’re wrong.