Fiction

Jemisin, N. K.: “The Narcomancer”

The Narcomancer

by N. K. Jemisin

In the land of Gujaareh it was said that trouble came by twos. Four bands of color marked the face of the Dreaming Moon; the great river split into four tributaries; there were four harvests in a year; four humours coursed the inner rivers of living flesh. By contrast, two of anything in nature meant inevitable conflict: stallions in a herd, lions in a pride. Siblings. The sexes.

Gatherer Cet’s twin troubles came in the form of two women. The first was a farmcaste woman who had been injured by an angry bull-ox; half her brains had been dashed out beneath its hooves. The Sharers, who could work miracles with the Goddess’ healing magic, had given up on her. “We can grow her a new head,” said one of the Sharer-elders to Cet, “but we cannot put the memories of her lifetime back in it. Best to claim her dreamblood for others, and send her soul where her mind has already gone.”

Read the rest »

Kaftan, Vylar: “Break the Vessel”

Break the Vessel

by Vylar Kaftan

Even a god has human needs, if he resides in a living body. He must breathe the purest air possible. He must consume fresh food, and sleep on good bedding. And he must excrete. Some priests say that this is not truly the god’s need, since it results from the mortal body he occupies. I say this need is as important to a god as any man, because even gods create things they wish to be rid of.

In this incarnation, Aki prefers a mid-morning session. We meet in our chamber — a narrow aisle, with gold-leaf handholds on each side. I attend him with my box of soft cloths, jintilla oil, and incense. He dismisses his other attendants with a wave. They drift behind tall stone pillars fifty paces away, giving him privacy.

Read the rest »

Kaftan, Vylar: “Kill Me”

Kill Me

by Vylar Kaftan

I’m sitting cross-legged on a rock in west Texas, somewhere north of El Paso, bleeding into the dirt. The pose feels like a meditation. I’m fascinated with the knife mark on my left thigh, a shallow slash from hip to knee. It’s surrounded by bruise clusters that look like flowers of broken skin. In the silent desert, I hear only the soft clicking of the car cooling down. Then his urine splashes against the rock behind me, and I hear his zipper when he’s done. The night breeze is icy on my back, drying the blood into clots. He did me well, I admit, glancing up at the full desert moon. If my body survived – which it wouldn’t – I would be scarred, possibly disfigured. The welts on my back throb like electricity, and everything – the moon, the desert, the wind—is alive with me.

Read the rest »

Leckie, Ann: “The God of Au”

The God of Au

by Ann Leckie

The Fleet of the Godless came to the waters around Au by chance. It was an odd assortment of the refugees of the world; some had deliberately renounced all gods, some had offended one god in particular. A few were some god’s favorites that another, rival god had cursed. But most were merely the descendants of the original unfortunates and had never lived any other way.

Read the rest »

Leckie, Ann: “The Snake’s Wife”

The Snake’s Wife

by Ann Leckie

I was out in the woods when the king of Therete and his son came to ask for my sister.

My hunting had been interrupted by a rainshower, and I sat under a tree on the hillside waiting for it to end when I heard horsemen on the road below. I rose, brushing away wet leaves, and quietly made my way forward so I could see. There were nearly a hundred of them, horses in brightly colored trappings, yellow and green and red, riders in gold-colored armor hunched over against the rain. I watched until they disappeared around the curve of the hill and then stood wondering whether I should stay out, and out of the way of whatever would happen when those horsemen reached the gates of the town, or whether I was curious enough to go home and see what they wanted.

Read the rest »