“It is sharp, and beautiful, and awful to watch them burn, but burn they must, wrapped up in dust and flame, writhing and curling and dying, thin hard men who wear cold steel at their belts while trading silk for silver, spices and myrrh. Sometimes, as they cry in anguish before the dust chokes their voices forever, I savour the sound, relishing that it is not I who cries in anguish for that which I have lost – not this time. Over rock, across dunes, between the sleeping canvasses of their caravans and the snorting of dromedaries, I blot out the sky before them, judge them, and deliver my sentence, or my mercy, as I see fit. I come upon them in the brutality of screaming wind and shredding sand, descend on them in a howling rage, summoning the nightmares of their sweating half-sleeps to their eyes, their throats. I swirl and thrash about them, knowing their bright Arabian steel, Damascan gold and Grecian silver will not shine so bright when I am done, when I have blasted the skin from their flesh and the flesh from their bones.”
“Back in the black old days, we called it the Bone Plate. Wasn’t worth your life to touch the Bone Plate. It made men kings, back in the black old days. Mine was a trashcan lid, piled high with gnawed, soot-stained remains, the bones of rats and cats and stray dogs and pigeons. Only the bones of that which you had killed and stripped clean with your own biting, smiling teeth were allowed on your Plate, and whoever had the biggest Plate ruled the windswept world of trash and frost that sprawled beneath the overpasses. I remember jamming more and more bones on top of each other, wrapping them up with wire and twine and whatever else I could find amongst the trash, until mine towered taller than anyone else’s under the ‘pass. It had made me king, and Hania my queen.
Mary Had a Unicorn by Ripley Patton in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear
The last thing on earth Mary Maloney wanted was a unicorn. She wasn’t an addict, no matter what they said at the clinic. Sure, she used sometimes just to have some fun, or when she was down. But who didn’t? It wasn’t any different than the booze her dad tanked. Or the pot he smoked. But you didn’t see anyone assigning him a freakin’ genetically engineered, one-horned parole officer.
Never Look Back by Grace Bridges in Space Battles: Full-Throttle Space Tales #6, from Flying Pen Press
Mars. Ten years ago. I didn’t kill him, I swear. It was an accident. And now his brother wants to kill me. I ran from him, into the farthest reaches of travelled space. But now my sister wants to die. I have to fight for her life before we can fight for both of us. Somewhere out there is my enemy…and he’s coming for me.