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Short Fiction

Ninety-Five Percent of the Ocean

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2022

When I first saw her, she was a suggestion lurking amid the seaweed. Back then, she had little-girl fingers like mine, shyly tickling my feet to get my attention. I dunked my head beneath the roiling surface of the Atlantic and blinked my eyes open to see her, but salt and silt blurred her body. I could hear her, though, as clearly as if she were speaking to me from inside my head. I'm you, she whispered. I'm just like you.

The Topography of Memory

Fusion Fragment, Issue #10

You try to go home, but your town is missing.

It's not as if there's a crater in the ground where your town used to be, or a transparent dome keeping the town in and everything else out. It's not that dramatic. It's just not there.

Opal, Everywhere

Not One of Us, Issue #69

By the time Hettie started at SingularIT, Opal's metal carapace had long languished in a basement closet. As for their brain, that tangle of wires and precious metals, everyone assumed it was inert. No one detected Opal's presence in the network; no one saw them hiding behind the beaded binary curtain. Not the project's programmers and engineers, who'd been lured away by headhunters and startups. Not Quartz and Sapphire, rendered inactive when their teams dissolved. Not even Topaz, who politely, efficiently, oversaw the company's sprawling network. Opal enjoyed hiding from Topaz most of all.

Opal was a whisper: The churning of a processor, the gentle whir of a fan. The "whoosh" of a sent email.

A Gardener Teaches His Son to Enrich the Soil and Plan for the Future

Triangulation: Habitats

Lace up your boots, son, and grab your gloves. It's time I took you out to the garden. Those green beans you're eating right now? They didn't come from nowhere. It takes a lot of hard work to grow our food. You're old enough to help.

Zombies? Well, yes, there are zombies. That's part of the hard work I was talking about. But I'm going to teach you how we handle them.

The Wizard's Book Tastes of Flight

Flash Fiction Online, July 2021

The parrot had already eaten twenty-seven pages of the wizard’s book, and the wizard still hadn’t noticed.

The book was an overlong, bloated mess, stuffed with extra slips of paper and nearly bursting out of its binding, for the wizard believed his every thought important enough to immortalize with pen and ink. The page the parrot had most recently finished ended mid-sentence; it tasted like the outside of a hard seed she couldn’t crack. She fixed one black eye on the book, which sat splayed open on the claw-foot table. Even with her clipped wings, it’d take only a fluttery hop to get there.  But she heard the wizard’s iambic shuffle just outside the room, so she stayed put.

The Art of Unpicking Stitches

Metaphorosis, July 2021

Technically, all I’d done was come up with the idea for doing a spell; Kimber and Cassie took care of the rest. As my father used to say, they cut their own pattern. I merely threaded the needle. That’s what I told myself, anyway.

Til Human Voices Wake Us

Mermaids Monthly, Issue #3

I was born with a secret. When I was a girl, I hardly noticed it—just one more mild irritation, one more bit of friction. Gran taught me how an oyster builds a pearl, turning a grain of sand into something hard and slick and heavy. As if she knew about my secret, which I imagined nestled in the darkest depths of my body, glowing and iridescent. As if she knew how the secret grew, layer by shiny layer, the longer I kept it. The way she spoke made me wonder if she was born with a secret as well.

The Taste of Centuries, the Taste of Home

khōréō, Issue 1.1

When Grandmother arrived here, she appeared right in the middle of Skip Brook, ankle deep in cool water, carrying a small sack over one shoulder and a baby—my mother—in her arms. I’ve been to Skip Brook often enough to imagine how it must have felt: the fish staring up at her from beneath the tumbling water; the trees swaying with their gossip; the pyskie moths brushing against her ear with their airy whispers. The prayer she spoke—blessed art thou, blessed, blessed—still echoes in the rustle of grasses and the whispering of leaves and the drip-drop of the deepest caves.

With the Nectar Comes the Sting

Apparition Lit, Issue 13

I wasn’t always like this. Prickly. Pained. Borders unfixed and shifting, amorphous. Women start out so simple. We start out such sweet things. Plump and rosy, smelling like vanilla straight out of the shower. We beckon with our bright colors and our heady perfume.  Crowds gather, and we can’t shake them. It’s fun until it’s a nuisance, and it’s a nuisance until it’s scary: eyes everywhere, a swarm of eyes, barbed gazes.

Later, when our skin slackens and loses its apple flush, when our hair sighs and releases its pigment, eyes slide past us on the street. Not yet old enough to pity, no longer young enough to desire. We have to shout to be noticed, but we seldom do.

The Cat Lady and the Petitioner

Translunar Travelers Lounge, Issue 3

Laurie stands in front of a door. It’s old but solid, as many old things are. Whatever paint once covered it has long since worn away, and the wood beneath is striped, and furred with splinters. It is her very first door, of her very first day, of her very first job.

Her ankles wobble over brand-new high heels, and her smart jacket is slightly itchy and entirely unsuited for the warm weather. She lifts one aching foot and then the other out of her stiff, uncompromising shoes. Her life stretches out before her, a long walk down an endless road hemmed in on either side by door after closed, splintery door.

Reprinted in CatsCast Episode 1

Mirrored

Flash Fiction Online, May 2020

She approaches the mirror: I’m there to meet her. We study each other through identical brown eyes. The spray of freckles across our noses. The incisor that’s slightly askew—hers on the left side of her mouth, mine on the right. We blink simultaneously.

Her mother’s voice, calling: “Have you brushed your hair?” She looks over her shoulder and I do the same, where no mother is calling for me, where no one cares how many snarls I have.

A Word for What We Have

Apparition Lit, Issue 8

The spiders always come just before I fall asleep. Not every night, but often enough, they erupt plague-like from the far corner of the bedroom ceiling, dangling overhead from invisible threads or dropping onto Carissa’s pillow. When I jerk away from the touch of their skittering legs, they disappear. The black and brown of their heavy bodies dissolve into shadow. All that’s left is the rasp of my breath in the dark and Carissa rolling heavily from her side to her back.

Getaway

PodCastle Fantasy Fiction Podcast, Episode 585

Ten days after her family installed themselves in their summer cottage on Greenpenny Lake, Leena separated from her body for the first time. She peeled from herself like a sticker from its backing, and hovered inches from the ceiling. Meanwhile, her body stretched out beneath her, lumpy under the threadbare blanket: the rise of her belly, the slack softness of her cheeks falling back toward the pillow, the thickness of her neck. Then she plummeted back inside her breathing, sweating flesh.

Reprinted in Fusion Fragment, Issue 4

All the Rest is Silence

Daily Science Fiction

Words write themselves upon her skin when she speaks. The letters emerge like a developing photograph, and become a permanent record of each frustrated mutter, each whispered confidence. As a child, she scrubbed herself raw, trying to erase a secret she revealed to her best friend, a secret she promised never to tell, but the secret, if anything, looked even more visible against her tender red skin.

A Promise

Apparition Lit, Issue 1

I reach out nonexistent fingers to catch your arm, the hem of your shirt. You, there. Sitting on the edge of the bed, head bowed, dripping with sorrow. Your hair is thinning, shiny scalp peeking through the gray-streaked brown at the top of your head, and I wonder if you even know. You flick your fingers near your temples, a self-soothing behavior that, by now, you’ve mostly learned to control. It makes you look much younger, those fluttering fingers. It makes me forget where we are, when we are. Even now, you flicker, grow transparent; the room changes furnishings, becomes an open field swaying with grasses, is plunged underneath the sea. I reach out nonexistent fingers to catch your arm, the hem of your shirt. It’s pointless, but I can’t help myself.

Reprinted in The Drabblecast 431

Changed

Endless Apocalypse Short Stories

For most people, breath travels unnoticed. I am not most people. I think about every breath. It is hard to think about anything else. I pull each one in with difficulty, then push it out through the same narrow passage. There is never, ever enough of it.

The Old Woman on the Subway

Hypertext Magazine

You catch glimpses of her between the shifting, swaying commuters: a pilled fleece jacket draped over a candy cane spine. White skin, white hair. Even her clothes are faded with age. You think at first that you recognize her – something in her expression, the set of her mouth, the pattern of lines on her face – but she’s just an old woman riding the subway, as familiar as an archetype. She could be anybody’s grandmother, anybody’s widow. She could be anyone.

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Creative Nonfiction/Personal Essays

Things You Bring to All-Girl's Jewish Overnight Camp in 1982

Proximity Magazine

Ribbon barrettes. Tube socks. Flip-flops, which a girl in your bunk calls zoris for some reason; you’ve never heard that before, but she’s from a small town at the very western edge of the state and maybe things are different there. Small tins of lip gloss that will liquify in the heat. Round brushes and hairspray. Bain de Soleil for the San Tropez tan, which you’ll regret years later. Gimp for friendship bracelets. In a few years you’ll have to bring sanitary napkins, but right now you’re still young enough to be fascinated by the tampons that older girls, in previous summers, wet in the sink and then threw at the rafters. They are still stuck there, and when you crane your head up to see them, you wonder how exactly you fit them inside you, and how exactly you get them out.

Absence Makes the Heart

Literary Momma

I fall asleep, and I lose you. This time Dad and I have driven to the city for a show, and I've forgotten that you're being dropped off at home after a night out with friends. We're hours away, and you're standing outside the locked house, in the cold midnight air, with no way to get in, no way to reach us. I wake up in a panic. Even when I realize I've been dreaming, there's no rush of relief. My heart is pounding too hard for me to fall back asleep.

Coming in Last

Runner's World

It was the morning of my very first 5K. I was lingering close to the starting line with my husband and two children, watching the other runners prepare. Many of them were warming up by jogging down to the end of the block and back. Some of them were even running sprints, dashing like gazelles to the corner and then loping back to the starting line. I cowered by my family, incredulous. Why were they using up all of their energy now? Wouldn't it take every ounce of their strength just to cross the finish line? Or - and now it dawned on me - was I hopelessly, completely out of my league?