The characters in this week’s stories are in communion with their pasts, their past selves, and with people who are both at arm’s length and continents away.

Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar | Lightspeed Magazine: Queers Destroy SF!

“Tell me about your mother,” says Clarice, the clinical psychologist assigned to her.

Madeleine is stymied. She stammers. This is only her third meeting with Clarice. She looks at her hands and the tissue she is twisting between them. “I thought we were going to talk about the episodes.”

“We will,” and Clarice is all gentleness, all calm, “but —”

“I would really rather talk about the episodes.”

Clarice relents, nods in her gracious, patient way, and makes a note. “When was your last one?”

“Last night.” Madeleine swallows, hard, remembering.

“And what was the trigger?”

“The soup,” she says...

Falling into memories the way we fall into dreams—with that same hyper-real yet not real tension and thrill/terror of not always being able to escape—sounds like a thing that could be fun at first but would quickly devolve into a terrifying way to live. What if, in these memories, you found the exact thing you needed to make you feel like you should continue existing? El-Mohtar explores this and more in this gorgeous story. Highly Recommended.

Skins by Rjurik Davidson | Cosmos Magazine

She doesn’t know I’m hovering a few steps behind her, my skin crawling with anticipation. She’s pushing through the metro crowds, past fortune-tellers with names like Doctor Sidibe and Queen Adama, who are passing out business cards. One session to discover one’s future love and wealth – it isn’t so much. ...

A hundred mouches buzz around the metro exit, recording and assessing for anonymous companies or départements. The government already knows me, of course. And who isn’t petrified of those policemen, hopped up on amphetamines, with their implants and body modifications? I can’t remember the number of times I’ve turned a corner to see two of them slouching, faceless behind their chunky insect-like masks with their flapping trunk-like appendages. I should be safe: I was born in France, but it has a peculiar effect on your mind, those half-hidden police and those little mechanical flies, spinning in the air, their thousand refracted eyes pinning you, recording your every move, feeding it into the System for later use.

But there’s no time to worry. Not now when I have her in my sights.

The tourist shops along the steep alleyway are filled with Americans and Germans collecting overpriced miniature Eiffel Towers and T-shirts proclaiming ‘I love Paris’. As I pass them, feeds open one by one in the corner of my sight: lists of the shops’ merchandise and links to virtual vendors. They blink out as I pass by. The System is everywhere.

No matter how much technology changes, improves, enhances our lives, there will always be people who are treated better than others (even if they’re not exactly recognizable as ‘people’) and who will use each other.

Cairn by K.Tait Jarboe | Wyvern Lit

The motion-sensor porch light flicked on. She bolted upright and wriggled in the seat to search the car’s blind spot, search her liar’s talent for a natural sounding excuse to be running the car in the garage at one in the morning. If she’d woken someone in the house, though, they would come through the kitchen door in front of her, not around the porch where the light faced.

Probably a cat, but she averted her gaze from the rear-view mirror. Her skin tingled. The middle of the night was a terrible time to do anything not undoable. She pulled the key from the ignition.

Violet left the garage open to air out the exhaust with the night breeze. It was clear and cold out, the very start of camping weather. She crept through the kitchen door and locked up, slipped off her shoes, and made her way around the creaky parts of the floor and up the stairs to her room.

She would stay up as long as necessary to finish Cairn.

Trigger Warning: Suicidal Ideation

This story has some synergy with the first one above, though they’re not really similar. It’s more about how both characters engage with their past or past selves as a way to deal with their everpresent pain.

Also, I would love to have a chat program like Cairn, wouldn’t you? Even if I could only start right now, I feel like 5, 10, 20 years down the road I’d be grateful for it.

Image Credit: Kacper Gunia on Flickr

Honorable Mentions

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K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author, media critic, and issuer of the Tempest Challenge. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.