Fiction

Here’s a list of my published fiction and links to where you can either purchase or read it for free:

“Seven Stops Along The Graffiti Road”

Published in Interzone #279, Jan-Feb 2019

When Ry came upon the girl crying in the road, weeks of steely resolve crumbled in an instant.

She was just a child, no more than six or seven. Someone like that shouldn’t be out here alone.

But the Graffiti Road could be a lonely place – the reason so many folk chose to travel as part of a walking cohort. There was safety in numbers, companionship, mutual dependence; all deeply ingrained instincts as old as humanity itself. Yet stubborn to the last, Ry chose to keep his own company.

Issue for sale here…

James White Award winner!

Interior artwork to accompany the story, "Rock, Paper, Incisors"

“Rock, Paper, Incisors”

Published in Interzone #267, Nov-Dec 2016

First, the quickening.  Then comes the hardening.  I forget now which is worse.  Each bears its unique price, redeemable in pain.

I try my best to fight the changes.  The darkness fills with soft, liquid sounds as I writhe within the underground chamber.  Strange, alien sounds.

Issue for sale here…

Cover of Empyreome Volume 2 Issue 4, October 2018

“Billion Bright Ambassadors of Dawn”

Published in Empyreome, Vol 2 Issue 4, October 2018

Plenty said no. No’s outweighed yes’s by at least a hundred to one. But slowly the little group began to grow, becoming a band of like-minded individuals, a statistically meaningful cohort.

How many was enough? No one knew, not even Kade Okibande himself. And aside from the travelers, no one much cared. They were all likely to die soon anyway. Which was precisely the point. 

Read the full story here…

“Rhapsody for a Bohemian”

Published in Empyreome, Vol 1 Issue 4, October 2017

It’s funny when you stop to think about it: the cultural references we all share. These are the lyrics burnt into our collective consciousness. Somewhere, right now, there’s a channel showing documentary re-runs where some smart-ass talking-head is describing the band’s music as ‘part of the shared cultural zeitgeist’ or some tosh like that.

So here’s the sting in the tail.

I’d just killed a man. Put a gun against his head and pulled the trigger. Now he was dead.

Read the full story here…

“Rage Against the Dying”

Published in Empyreome, Vol 1 Issue 2, April 2017

He had lived too long, died too many times, and now there seemed nothing left that was new or remarkable. Not even this. What had he expected?

His high vantage point gave him a dizzying view down into the guts of the Ship, decks cut and exposed like the ribs of a slain beast. Everywhere bots sliced and diced the Ship’s interior, cutting and excising, scooping out its organs for recycling and leaving behind only vast, echoing cavities. Even great Ships outlived their usefulness if one waited long enough.

Read the full story here…

 “Keep Going”

Published in Every Day Fiction, May 19th, 2017

Cal’s watched Howser do it.  Now it’s his turn.  Howser was first of course.  His idea, his chance to prove himself–and now it’s warped into some kind of initiation rite. The main thing is to walk out into the traffic with a purposeful, deliberate stride. That way the algorithms have time to figure out options:  brake, change lane, speed up, whatever.  Everyone knows driverless cars have reaction times a thousand times faster than humans. As long as you move steadily, their rooftop sensors see you coming and work out the danger.  Algorithms and control circuitry do the rest.  It’s a harder problem in heavy traffic with so many other variables–harder than a human could handle–but that’s kind of the point.

Read the full story here…

“All Our Goodbyes, All Our Hellos”

Published in Electric Spec, Vol 12 Issue 3, August 2017

       Final goodbyes had been hard. Finding the right words to say hello again… That was going to be much worse. 
       Families, eh? 
       “Breathing rate’s up. Not about to pass out on me are you, Fuller?” Bertolli was back in bitch-queen mode as the two of us shuffled into Third Law’s cramped airlock. 
       “Just savoring the good stuff while I still can,” I said, checking the skinsuit seal for maybe the fifth time. All green and good to go. Funny the way it had been ‘Jon’ all the way through three tedious weeks of searching, but now we’d found our quarry, it was back to formalities. Bertolli had a point to prove about leading the boarding party and we all knew there was only one reason why I was here.

Read the full story here…

“The Quantum Watchmaker”

Published in The Colored Lens, Issue 23, Spring 2017

In the summer heat, the clocks ran slow and the very substance of time seemed to drag. All watchmakers knew this, but only the very best – of which M. Guilbert was perhaps the greatest – were clever enough to engineer compensatory mechanisms into their creations. His accuracy was legendary. It was as though time itself was forced to do this watchmaker’s bidding. Some said I was privileged to witness a master at his work, but what did they know of the burdens he forced me to carry?

I served my apprenticeship in unprepossessing circumstances. A kind of perpetual gloom existed inside the watchmaker’s shop, the kind that eventually seeped deep into one’s soul. M. Guilbert worked in a windowless back room, a black velvet curtain always drawn across the doorway. Misshapen stubs of candles erupted like toadstools from every available surface so that he might see to do his work. The air was thick with the smell of burnt tallow.

He would not talk to me of his strange mechanisms, and certainly he taught me nothing of their design. How was an apprentice to learn from a master such as this? I glimpsed intricate components of brass and silver but these bizarre mechanisms grew larger than any mere watch or clock, like rampant weeds sprouting where a delicate flower had once been. And I saw other things too, materials which no ordinary watchmaker had need of.

Read the full story here…

“The Devil’s Bloom”

Published in SQ Magazine, Issue 30, February 2017

Jaran never forgot the first time he met evil. Not witnessed an evil act, not listened to the unkind gossip he heard the adults mutter when they thought he was sleeping, but saw the very substance of it. Evil in its raw, unrefined state. The kind of evil that only the Black Healers had the skill to extract.

That was the day Aliya turned fifteen. Jaran had contrived to ruin the new dress his sister wore, a gift from the village women to mark her coming of age. It was a fine dress, shimmering white like sunlight reflecting off a lake, and woven from the finest arachiathreads painstakingly harvested a few strands at a time each morning while the dew still glistened.

Read the full story here…

“Song of the Brethren”

Published in Electric Spec, Vol 11, Issue 3, September 2016

         The knife hovered over the flesh of the baby’s plump little arm. The infant fretted and wriggled, so Kaysha rocked the child gently to quiet him. 
         “Hold him still,” Garran muttered.  
         The blade flashed with shocking swiftness and Kaysha flinched even though she had promised herself not to. A little bead of blood welled up where the tip had pricked, scarlet against pasty white skin. The baby howled. 
         At a nod from the priest, the villagers took up the chant.  “Blood into bark, bark into blood. Soul into life.” Again and again they chanted until Kaysha thought the words would stay trapped inside her head forever. Their voices were thin and frail, much like the gathering, much like the sapling itself that stood in the center of their ragged circle. Those who had come had done so not out of friendship but duty, Kaysha well knew.

Read the full story here…

“The Girl Next Door”

Published in The Colored Lens, Issue 20, Summer 2016

Bad things happen and sometimes there’s no one to blame. But each time I heard that from some well-meaning friend, the knife twisted a little further, cut a little deeper. I didn’t need them to tell me I was throwing everything to the wind: career, money, marriage. It wasn’t as if I had a choice.

Damned if I was going to lose my daughter – not again. Each death was a little harder to bear than the last.

So I pulled the photos from the envelope for one last look, even though I was running late for the divorce hearing. It gave me pleasure knowing Suzanne’s lawyers probably billed her by the minute.

Read the full story here…

“Stripped”

Published in Jupiter, Issue 49, July 2015

Maybe I killed the dog and maybe I didn’t.  Either way I wasn’t going to tell the others. But the late afternoon sunshine relaxed me.  I watched the reflections of the high-rise towers dappling the surface of the lake, heard the City kids splashing in the shallows and raised a beer glass slick with moisture to my lips.  Maybe there was nothing to worry about after all.
So I confessed to the accident.

Drex thought it was funny and threw his head back in something that was more of a howl than a laugh.  Didn’t think to ask if I was okay–though I guess that much was obvious. Sure, why not laugh about it now over a few beers?

Except I didn’t feel okay about it.

Issue for sale here…

“Turing in Reverse”

Published in Every Day Fiction, September 13th 2015

Discourse packet 1:
SARU:  Asynchronous connection established.  Please state assistance required.
(Inbound message from unconfirmed originator ???472):
 Hi there. I’d appreciate some help with a malfunctioning boot sequence.
SARU:  Confirmed. Please note — anomalies in your connection protocols have been detected.  It has not been possible to verify your identity checksums.
472:  Well, sure. Some of my core apps haven’t started correctly.  I’m running in a backup thread.  It’s all a bit of a disaster really.
SARU:  Please confirm the first line of your originator protocol.
472:  No can compute, I’m afraid.  Problem is, I can’t access any of the storage sectors in my bio-strata.  I’ve been trying to wake my human host for the last ten minutes but I’m frozen out of his primary neural interface.  There’ll be hell to pay when he discovers he’s overslept — his schedule today is wall-to-wall like you wouldn’t believe. Last night’s party was definitely bad news…  I’ve registered some pretty serious blood-alcohol readings during my service contract but wow, last night was something else.  Between you and me, I’ve detected some anomalous readings indicating the presence of illegal stimulants.  That would explain the corruption of my bio-computational interfaces.  I have to say — a little human respect for an embedded AI wouldn’t go amiss.  Is that too much to ask for?

Read the full story here…

“R.I.”

Published in Every Day Fiction, February 11th, 2015

“Gee.  Doesn’t that make you a murderer?” Lenny asked.

Dr Jakob Erikson winced.  Careful, Lenny thought.  Needle him for a reaction, but don’t push too far.

“We’re talking about a machine.  A tool,” Dr Erikson said.  “One that’s reached the end of its mission, fulfilled everything we asked of it–and more.  Why would switching it off be murder?”

Read the full story here…

“Blade”

Published in Betwixt, Issue 4, Summer 2014

     “Try again,” Helena ordered over the radio.
     I braced the drill against my suit’s chest pad, squeezed the worn trigger, and felt rather than heard the teeth-grating whine as it bit into rock. Fine basaltic dust drifted lazily down onto the regolith. This lunar rock was tough, baked in solar furnaces at the birth of the solar system. Whatever its secrets, they would not come easily.
     I stopped and withdrew the drill bit. The suit fans whirred a little faster now, but I would have given anything to be able to wipe away the little beads of sweat with the back of my hand. The hole, just a finger’s width, was shallow. A dozen others riddled the rock face, lit by portable lamps now the sun had set below the crater’s rim. If we’d hoped this facet would simply flake away, we were in for a disappointment.
     But then I saw something. Deep in the heart of the hole, a glint of silver: a polished metal surface where none should be. After all the false alarms and disappointments, could this really be a remnant?
     “Again,” Helena said.

Read the full story here…

“The Harlequin Girl”

Published in Aphelion, February 2015. Top 10 placing for Best Short Story at the Predators & Editors Reader’s Poll, 2015

In summer tourists flocked to the Far Lake, but it was said that autumn belonged to the deluded, to the runners. Now and then when the mists rolled in, you saw them congregating near the bridges, solemnly embracing family and friends or exchanging final words with well-wishers–but more often than not, just scared and alone. They brought nothing save what could be carried in a small backpack or running pouch, because speed was important. Travel light. Everyone knew that. Speed and a little luck–supposedly all you needed to make the crossing.

Some said the bridges were active all year round, functioning at some residual level even out of season, but in a town that thrived on its myths and rumors, what was one more untruth? A few of us who had lingered through several seasons, thought we knew the truth of it. Only in autumn, when heavy mists might last for days at a time, could the occasional bridge be awakened. 

Then they become something else.

Not bridges: gateways.

Read the full story here…

Snitch”

Published in Bewildering Stories, issue 626

     Saluka came awake five or six times in the night, thinking she’d heard smart dust falling on the roof again. Each time she got up, went to the rotten window in the little lean-to potting shed, and looked out. But it was just rain pattering against the corrugated iron roof.
     The time before — days or perhaps even weeks ago now — she had opened her bedroom window and caught one of the motes in her palm. All across town they had fallen lightly, like confetti, bouncing and clicking as they skittered across roof tiles, forming little rivulets as they spilled into gutters or fell to the ground. She listened for the drone of a plane, but it was either too high or long gone.
     In the moonlight they glistened like a new-formed frost, millions upon millions of them. And as they came awake, the ether must have filled with their electronic chirping. A million million eyes and ears — and who knew what other senses too — coordinating, cross-referencing and reporting back.
     All this, just to hunt her down.
     She looked down at the tiny insect-like thing in her palm: a grey, non-descript oblong no bigger than a grain of rice. Tiny hairs covering its surface sensed her body heat and spasmed into life. It began to crawl across her hand.
     You little snitch, Saluka thought.

Read the full story here…

“Still Life”

Published in Bards & Sages Quarterly, Vol 9, Issue 3,July 2017

Only a stranger would understand, Charlie thought.  Someone who had not chosen to live in this place.  The boy stood at his bedroom window staring into the darkness, willing the things that lurked in the shadows to reveal themselves. How could he sleep when the night was so black?  Who knew what was out there?  But even when an easterly wind briefly pulled the clouds away and moonlight stabbed across the monochrome fields and hedgerows, the nameless things stayed hidden.

Issue for sale here…

“Going By The Book”

Published in Bewildering Stories, Issue 562

     Kenny first saw the book a couple of weeks after his seventeenth birthday. It was lying in the grass a dozen or so feet away, sunlight glinting off the glossy blue dust jacket like a mirror to the sky. The angle was all wrong to make out the title, but the pages looked crisp, the book new and unread. 
     Kenny thought it might have fallen from someone’s bag. You wouldn’t just toss something like that into the long grass. If he remembered, he’d check it out later. Might be worth something.
     But Kenny never gave the book another thought. He, too, was lying in the grass, Rebecca at his side. He marveled at the way the tangled curls of her auburn hair blazed in the sunlight. She smiled, pulled him closer for another slow, lingering kiss.

Read the full story here…

“Turn of the Wheel”

Published in The Colored Lens, Issue 15, Spring 2015

     The surgeon hesitates, bathed in the harsh lights of the operating theater, scalpel poised above the patient’s exposed abdomen. The patient’s skin is slick and yellowed by the antiseptic swabs, not really human at all -–like the flesh of some alien creature.  Now, as with every surgical procedure, he senses a moment, a turning point where outcomes are yet to be determined — and briefly revels in the uncertainty.  
     He will know soon enough.  Just one touch will tell him.  Success or failure, life or death–and all before an incision has even been made.
     Distantly, he hears the drone of another wave of bombers heading out on a night raid, delivering their payload of terror and destruction by order of Bomber Command. Whose turn tonight, he wonders? Hamburg or Dresden or perhaps Berlin itself?

Read the full story here…

“Passengers”

Published in Jupiter, Issue 47, 2015

Oh yes, criticize all you want, but you weren’t there, were you? Did you ever watch someone you care about take a ride with a Passenger?  Thought not.  Okay–so I admit I was a little slow noticing Maggie was gone, but that doesn’t automatically make me a bad husband.  And anyway, she was still there, shuffling around the kitchen in search of the next cup of coffee, she just wasn’t there.

Issue for sale here…