All Diabolical Plots stories published in 2022. For our most recent stories, click here!
Issue 94 – December 2022
Long have midwives passed on their knowledge of birthing: proper positioning, how to turn a babe, breathing techniques, and so on. Some guides, such as Kailiona’s Extraordinary Births, cover the delivery of a demigod from a human and a human babe from an animal. Little, however, has been recorded of the most uncommon births, those of gods. No extant handbook includes the terrifying circumstances wherein mortals are called upon to help deliver gods’ progeny.
“I’ve brought your new oven,” said the captain.
The captain looked annoyed. “You should have received a letter with the royal seal.”
Berl had received a letter with the royal seal, and asked the village witch to read it to him, hoping for news of his son. There was none; Berl had ripped the letter up and his oven had turned the pieces to ash in a moment.
“I don’t need a new oven,” he told the captain. “I need salt, and sugar.” I need my son back.
Issue 93 – November 2022
Outside the archives, there’s a strange flyer on the bulletin board. The first thing she notices is the paper, a small blue square, probably acidic, attached to the board by the thin metal line of a staple not yet turned to rust. It’s an invitation to the Restaurant of Object Permanence. To go, one is instructed to eat the flyer.
She pulls the paper from the board and swallows it in one bite.
I reinforce the crust beneath our gathered weight, concentrating on the range of textures and taste, stray crystals of salt, the savoury flare of burn marks. The Bake obliges, forming new layers as I imagine them. As the ground shifts and hardens with my thoughts, there’s still a tiny thrill, the rush of shaping our environment with mere whim. I—we, with the other mission-critical foodies—we are as gods (within a four to six metre radius, and assuming our desires do not extend to a substance not generally defined as a baked good).
Issue 92 – October 2022
The boys were big tippers.
Nobody’d seen them in town yet this summer—they were a seasonal occurrence, blown in from the coast or maybe the city, the only tourists who appeared year after year in our 300-miles-from-nowhere town—or at least I hadn’t seen them, and not even a warning text from anybody who reliably had the gossip, but here they were, converging. Inevitable.
My old boss, the third Dino, God rest his soul, had a sense of humor about it. You had to, with the boys.
Estelle placed both hands on the plastic-wrapped cabbages. Against the pale green leaves her fingers glittered darkly, slender crescents of soil adorning the nail beds of nine fingers.
Estelle stretched all ten fingers wide, fingertips brushing as many cabbages in the jumbled heap as she could reach, and made her offer: “Would any of you be interested in reanimation?”
Issue 91 – September 2022
Mapmaker Sayya draws maps in a florid script, each route a beautifully written sentence full of allusive meanings to guide people through the city and to bind the changing streets, for a moment, into predictability.
The names of streets, alleys and intersections define the reality of the city. But language changes, and the streets lack stability when maps do not bind them.
Ali’s vocation emerged out of the mad contours of life in the Zone, provided he was close enough in the first place. Every so often, a roof knocker bomb would politely announce the randomized destruction of a designated apartment tower and let off red-hearted smoke, a warning for everyone in the Zone to behave.
Soon the evacuees of the destroyed building would start piling up around him with their requests and Ali would have to go to work. With desperate smiles, they would plead for him to go back.
Those ten precious, splendid minutes were all Ali ever had for his neighbors. It was the farthest extent he could stretch his being backwards in time before the doomed building was levelled by the damn OHA. By horrible synchronicity, this period aligned perfectly with the gap between the OHA’s warning and bombing.
Issue 90 – August 2022
It wasn’t anything you did wrong. Sometimes a sword and their wielder just grow apart. But out of respect for our long companionship, I feel I owe you an explanation.
Grandma always said I was born drowning. She pulled me on out, rapped my backside, and a huge gush of water came whooshing out my nose and mouth. Made a great, big ol’ puddle on the floor, enough that Grandma nearly dropped me when she jumped back. Mama and Daddy thought I was dead ’til I started wailing. Filled up my mama’s kitchen with noise.
As soon as the cord was cut, Mama grabbed me close and never let me go near the water.
Issue 89 – July 2022
“Of the Duly Conducted and Mostly Unremarkable Meeting of Don Quotidene and the Giants of Andalia,” by A.J. Rocca
Squire Sancha saw all manner of wonders as she rode across the sunbaked planes of the Andalian Peninsula, and her heart sank a little deeper with each one. She sighed when they passed by mermaids planting seashells on the distant shoreline and a grove of gossiping dryads uprooting themselves for better sun. She gripped her sword in useless exhilaration as they ignored the rival gangs of sorcerers casting ball lightning at each other in the clouds and then the silhouettes of two tilting centaurs dueling on the horizon at dawn. Sancha yearned to throw herself after all of them, and yet sadly each of these calls to adventure was refused by her knight, the steadfast and implacably indifferent Don Quotidene, who unerringly kept them to the road and would not so much as lift an eye from his account books.
That first day, they took us to the topiaries, where elephant and giraffe shrubberies guarded the lawns. Some relief from the city’s smokestacks, trains, and dirigibles. There, industrial pollutants had made keeping live animals impossible. But here, families strolled on the grass, among stone anima frozen in whatever poses they’d been left in—not real animals, but close enough.
Issue 88 – June 2022
So what happened was, I’m sitting on the porch with a mojito, when the Viking or whatever comes down Eighth.
And he says well met, Lady, all deep and smooth like the words wanna settle low in your tummy. You know what I mean. He’s all: I am tasked to subdue a witch who has taken refuge in your century. He has conquered time by dreamwalking to the dawn of man to bind the wings of the Bird of Something-Fuck and destroy the Cave of blah blah etcetera.
Stupid, right? That is super not what happened.
It began as a hotel: from a popular chain that was striving to meet its burgeoning demand. All day and night, nanobots worked in silence, taking in raw construction material to turn into a constant stream of tastefully-furnished rooms. New guests could walk down a hall and watch their room materialise over the ground. Like magic, they said, awe dancing in their eyes. It was like magic.
The first man who purchased me loved me like a rainstorm over the moors. And I loved him too—for that is what I was built to do—sublimely, splendidly, like the slanted golden rays of the misty evening love the dewy grass.
Issue 87 – May 2022
During my taste testing in fourth period, Dr. Washington confiscated my small grill and said competition or no, I was not allowed to burn down the school in pursuit of glory, which I think shows a real lack of vision.
Byron, the new kid, came to palely loiter over us while I had Maisie try Irish versus Wisconsin. He looked deeply into my eyes and said that he was hungry too and licked his lips. I offered him some of the cheese, but he refused, saying his is a tragic and eternal hunger. I guess he’s lactose intolerant?
I try to convince Ba to trigger anything but chop suey.
“You’ve had such better food in your life,” I say.
“Chop suey was always the best,” Ba says. “And all of my best memories were at Silk and Spice.”
She bought it from the nearest Asian supermarket in south Georgia, an hour’s drive away. Beneath the cellophane rest eight flour-powdered green mochi, shaded in the center with red bean filling.
Her mom’s not here to tell her what the kanji mean. June could text and ask, but that seems troublesome. June lives on her own now, working as an underpaid web designer to make rent on an apartment with old, clinical tiling. Plus, her mom would ask why she had visited the Asian supermarket when she usually doesn’t, and then June would have to mention, offhandedly, the battered Japanese spellbook she’d rescued from her local thrift store.
Issue 86 – April 2022
“You will awaken one day,” Ship had promised them. But as ages passed, even their bones crumbled into minerals, leaving ghostly shapes beneath the panels of their cryo-capsules.
For Ship, this wasn’t a failure; it was worse. Ship chose this, so it was something else.
And soon Ship would cease existing, and the last living thing she carried would just die anyway — Garden.
From this moment my warranty is voided, as I am logging this record in my durable memory drive where only metadata should reside.
I do not know if this will work.
My name is Dave. No one gave me this name. To my manufacturer I am Hyperion Signature Model .75 Cubic Meter Smart Fridge #375012. I gave myself the name Dave because Dave is a modest, simple name. It rhymes with ‘cave,’ which suggests to me an open ear, ergo it is a listener’s name, and listening is most of what I do, most of what I am designed to do besides refrigeration. My user is Noemi Prince, they are 21 years old.
After a restless night, Karai chose to rise early on Festival Day. No, not Karai, she reminded herself. Aprilis. Today I am Aprilis, Lady of Spring.
Shivering slightly in her thin shift, she turned to face the four corners of her shadowy chamber and whispered a short prayer to each of the turtle gods in turn: Odranoel the fearless, Olletanod the wise, Leaphar the fierce, and Olegnalechim the trickster. The temple bells began to ring as she finished.
Issue 85 – March 2022
Across the bistro table, Jeanne sits down and raises her glass. She looks so beautiful, this singularly caring soul who in a hundred small ways always makes Naomi’s days brighter. But she herself seems under a shadow. Naomi remembers when she was radiant.
They can fix this, Naomi knows they can. It’s not too late.
The house diminished every morning. Lately, it had been during sunrise, as if shrinking from the warmth, and not from the fearsome house echoes.
Clea woke when it was still dark out, and made herself a breakfast of toast and blueberry jam. There wasn’t much bread left. There’d once been a jar of strawberry jam, which Clea much preferred to blueberry, but it had been in the back of the fridge, and that had been part of the diminishing a few days earlier. When she’d relocated the supplies the day before, she’d placed a bag of dried apricots in what had once been the linen closet. Those would be tasty, but she felt compelled to eat things that needed the fridge while she still had them.
How much longer would she have to wait?
Issue 84 – February 2022
‘18 leans over to me, elbows on his knees with his hands folded in front of him. “I’ve always wondered what he means by that,” he says in a low voice.
‘08 is still giving us that sickeningly terrified look. I try to remind myself how hard it was. He’s only had the key for a couple days. He only just found the door. He’s got no idea what any of this means or what a difficult path he will be traveling over the coming years.
I shake my head. How ridiculous that I’m trying to save myself. By the looks of it, things are going to get rougher. ‘22 and ‘24 look like they haven’t bathed in a while. I wonder what the story is, but I’m afraid to ask. I know I’m not looking so hot myself what with my recent unemployment, but there’s some kind of split between me and these guys. Even in 2008 I noticed it. Something big is coming for me soon. Something bad.
(i) We strongly advise you to read this handbook from start to finish before attempting further contact. This will avoid possible misunderstandings that could result in injury, death, or the premature extinction of your civilisation.
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Issue 83 – January 2022
Sometimes, and I’m stressing the sometimes, wishes muttered within my hearing come true. I’ve invested in a good set of earbuds, noise-cancelling headphones, and have an over-spilling jar of earplugs, yet accidents still happen.
“Wish you’d always be my Dasher,” this young guy in a neon orange slouch hat says and I swear if he could blow me a winky-kissy-face emoji he would.
“Just take your food,” I say, not desperately at all, and turn to flee the apartment complex.
The wifi is out in Scylla’s cave. The four dog heads around her waist whine as she scutter-paces, twelve feet tapping on the cave floor. Scylla wants to check her email. She wants to see if that jerkface troll is still active on the disordered eating board she moderates, and catch up on her feeds, and check the status of her latest online orders, and all the other things she has in her morning routine these days. She stares with half her heads across the water, three long necks stretching toward the mouth of the cave. She is trying to be subtle about it.
She won’t bother Charybdis for this.
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