This week’s stories are about falling in love during a full moon, going back in time to fix your biggest mistakes, and deciding whether or not existing is honestly worth it.
Werewolf Loves Mermaid by Heather Lindsley | Lightspeed Magazine
They met at a wedding.
He was in the wedding party. She was serving canapés at the reception.
On some level, reclining in a fountain while holding a tray of canapés is more efficient than circulating through a crowd with them.
On most levels, it isn’t.
“Canapé?” the mermaid asked the werewolf when he wandered near the fountain.
“Isn’t this just garnish?” said the werewolf, picking up a wilted stem of parsley.
“I guess,” said Mermaid. “I don’t really eat this kind of thing. The scallops were nice, though.” Mermaid looked toward the kitchen. “I wish they would bring me another tray.”
“Everyone will be heading in to dinner soon anyway,” Werewolf said.
“Ah, well, then,” said Mermaid, and after that neither of them said anything for a while.
No one does awkwardness like cryptids at a party.
“This is a weird wedding,” Mermaid finally said to break the silence. “They’re a weird couple. It’s creepy, don’t you think? Vampires marrying high school girls?”
“I’m the best man.”
“So you don’t think it’s creepy?”
“It’s a little creepy.”
“We should go out.”
I love everything about this story. The voice, the characters, the story. It’s fun and hilarious and deep and beautiful all at once and all over the place. Plus, it includes this line:
“She thought maybe she would take a trip to visit her friend Mel at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Apparently that’s where the hip young merpeople went to make art and plan the revolution.”
This story is everything for me today and you should read it. Highly Recommended.
20/20 by Arie Coleman | Strange Horizons
When the Taylore case pops up through the Triage computer, it takes me five field-swipes before I steady my hand enough to cross-check the date. It’s right. My chair falls over when I throw myself from behind my desk, and I don’t even pause to set it upright as I run to my boss’s office.
Dr. Zina Bankole looks up as I barge in, a quizzical expression on her face. Charlie, her Anchor, gives her an almost imperceptible nod from across the room. Relieved that I’m actually here, Zina indicates that I should sit down.
I take the chair near Charlie. The one across the desk from Zina is both there and not-there. I know that if I try to sit in it, it will probably be solid enough; I just prefer the chair I’m sure about.
“You have to give me the Taylore case,” I say. “Iatrogenic hypoglycemia. A nurse gave a massive dose of insulin to the only non-diabetic patient at County instead of her roommate. It’s an easy intervention.”
Zina pulls up the Triage queue, and for a moment I’m sure that the Taylore case is the product of a counter-memory and not part of this timeline at all. But she starts reading, and I let out a breath. It’s a real case. And she’s considering it.
Then her head jerks toward the door, and she smiles.
“Just put it there,” she says.
Charlie shakes his head, and her face falls. There’s no one there. At least, not in the timeline Charlie’s in, which is the one we’re supposed to be focusing on. I’m happy for a moment that I didn’t see anyone there either, and then remember that something so simple is not normally a victory.
The slippery dangers of time travel, even time travel designed to do good in the world. I like that this story explores issues around medical mistakes that aren’t a condemnation of doctors and nurses, but more than that I dig the image of a person trying to keep all their different colliding timelines straight and experiencing the after-images of parallel worlds that used to or might still exist.
Please Undo This Hurt by Seth Dickinson | Tor.com
“A coyote got my cat,” Nico says.
It took me four beers and three shots to open him up. All night he’s been talking about the breakup, what’s-her-name Yelena I think, and all night I’ve known there’s something else on him, but I didn’t know know—
“Fuck, man.” I catch at his elbow. He’s wearing leather, supple, slick—he’s always mock-hurt when I can’t tell his good jackets from his great ones. “Mandrill?” A better friend wouldn’t have to ask, but I’m drunk, and not so good a friend. “Your cat back home?”
“Poor Mandrill,” Nico says, completely forlorn. “Ah, shit, Dominga. I shouldn’t have left him.”
He only goes to the Lighthouse on empty Sundays, when we can hide in the booths ringed around the halogen beacon. I expect sad nights here. But, man, his cat . . .
Nico puts his head on my shoulder and makes a broken noise into the side of my neck. I rub his elbow and marvel in a selfish way at how much I care, how full of hurt I am, even after this awful week of dead bikers and domestics and empty space where fucking Jacob used to be. It’s the drink, of course, and tomorrow if we see each other (we won’t) it’ll all be awkward, stilted, an unspoken agreement to forget this moment.
But right now I care.
In a moment he’ll pull himself up, make a joke, buy a round. I know he will, since Nico and I only speak in bars and only when things feel like dogshit. We’ve got nothing in common—I ride ambulances around Queens, call my mom in Laredo every week, shouting Spanish into an old flip phone with a busted speaker. He makes smartphone games in a FiDi studio, imports leather jackets, and serially thinks his way out of perfectly good relationships. But all that difference warms me up sometimes, because (forgive me here, I am drunk) what’s the world worth if you can’t put two strangers together and get them to care? A friendship shouldn’t need anything else.
He doesn’t pull himself up and he doesn’t make a joke.
The fantastical element in this one is slight. But dear Zu’ul Dickinson does things with words and I cannot get over it.
And now I want to know how many of you would call that number in the end.
What were your favorite stories of September? Shout them out in the comments.
K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author, media critic, issuer of the Tempest Challenge, and author of “Until Forgiveness Comes,” reprinted in In the Shadow of the Towers: Speculative Fiction in a Post-9/11 World. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.