science fiction • fantasy • horror • botany • astronomy • tea
A crisp, ichorous breeze, spiced with salt and cinders, sends shivers across Zaina’s olive skin. By the waterfront, amid crumbling high-rise blocks, a clenched fist of grey smoke spills into the dusty indigo dawn. For days, it had smouldered, visible all the way from her shelter. In the back of her mind, a different cinder burns. She turns. Glances back, towards somewhere she can stay hidden. Closes her eyes, reaching up to run her fingers along the scarf tied around her neck. The white fabric with its black stitching. That one stained corner which won’t be clean no matter how often she washes it. She draws a deep, slow breath. No. She needs this. Going shopping is a hazy memory now, but this is still the best place to look for supplies. She adjusts the collar of her jacket. Shifts the strap of her satchel on her shoulder. Steps forward.
There were no turtles here anymore. Yang remembered being a little girl running excitedly to the beach on late Spring mornings to watch them. Their patterned shells, still slick with seawater, gleaming in the sunlight as they hauled themselves up the sand to dig their nests. A lifetime ago now. She hadn’t seen a turtle come to the island in years. That's why her heart had jumped when she’d seen the freshly dug nest on the shore. A precious gift from the sea.
The Kraken's Teeth
The dark sea was eerily still under the smoggy orange clouds and their perpetual twilight. Haruka tried to blink the sandy dryness out of her eyes. She dug a small spray bottle from her jacket, misting her eyelids, making them sting as she fluttered them briefly. Then relief. She turned her refreshed eyes back out through the glass wall, to the murky view over the harbour. For some reason it reminded her of Scotland. A long time ago, now, and so very far from here. And this inky black sea was not filled with water.
The Prof and The Baron
A pair of emerald green eyes opened wide to stare at me from between blades of grass. Avoid eye contact. That’s the first rule for approaching an unfamiliar cat. I froze, trying to watch the cat from the corner of my eye. A little tuxedo cat, slightly scruffy but healthy looking. I’d seen him wandering around the garden before, and sometimes I’d notice him napping in a patch of grass near the gate. But this was the first time I’d actually tried to approach him.
I hadn’t noticed the notebook sitting on the table until after I’d sat down. Too preoccupied, my hands full with my phone, wallet, and a cup of hot black coffee. But now I was sitting, it seemed glaringly obvious. Small, with a black cover held shut by an elastic ribbon. Whoever was sitting here before must have forgotten it. I looked around the café, but no one seemed to be paying any attention.
On closer inspection, one of these books was not quite what it seemed. I sat at my desk, a collection of dusty old tomes in front of me, acquired from a flea market downtown. It was amazing, what rare books you could find there. Books which would be very valuable to a collector. But this book in particular didn’t contain the vintage botanical sketches I’d been expecting. Instead, in a compartment made from hollowed out pages, was a small, black notebook.
A padded brown envelope with my name, handwritten in bold letters. No address. I raised an eyebrow, wondering who might have delivered it. I didn’t remember giving anyone my new address yet, and I hadn’t thought I knew anyone who lived in this part of town. The other letters, conversely, had my address but not my name. I caught a glimpse through a clear envelope window, of red lettering, as I put them to one side. They could wait. Tearing open the padded envelope as I walked into my front room, I emptied its contents out onto a table.
Catch ‘em all
The shadow had appeared on the map one night, a narrow silhouette, with lithe movements, surrounded by serpentine tentacles. Rosana immediately felt a flurry of excitement as she saw it. A new creature for her to catch! From the shape, she wasn’t even sure what it was. Since the lockdown started, she’d spent a lot of time absorbed in video games, and Pokémon Go was her favourite. It didn’t provide much social interaction but, instead, gave her something better. It gave an excuse to leave the house.
Acts of Kindness
Good deeds, like so much in this world, are born and not made. Any one particular good deed, at its inception, is little more than an idea. A stray thought in the back of someone’s mind, waiting to escape. Like an acorn, waiting to germinate in the warmth of Springtime.
A terrible shriek sliced into the silence of Nuha’s apartment like a rusted hacksaw blade into splintering hardwood. She turned sharply to find the source of the noise, as her heart almost leapt out of her chest at the sudden interruption. Standing on a metal railing just outside her window was an owl. Seeing it, Nuha breathed a sigh, and let out a quiet laugh of relief. The owl looked at her, shuffled its feet and bobbed its head once from side to side. Its white face and chest, framed by brown feathers on its back and wings, put her in mind of a monk from medieval Europe.
"Beautiful view, isn't it?" Daria looked up, a slight frown momentarily crossing her brow. "I'm sorry?" she said. "This view," a tall, muscular looking woman wearing baggy cargo pants and a muted yellow shirt stood next to her, "It's been a while since I last saw it." She gestured at an empty seat at the windowside counter, next to Daria. "Do you mind if I sit here?"