Free Fiction Friday

Gentlemen and Players

Author: E.W. Hornung

“It seems rather a vulgar sort of theft,” I could not help saying; and to this, my single protest, Raffles instantly assented.

“It is a vulgar sort,” said he; “but I can’t help that. We’re getting vulgarly hard up again, and there’s an end on ‘t. Besides, these people deserve it, and can afford it. And don’t you run away with the idea that all will be plain sailing; nothing will be easier than getting some stuff, and nothing harder than avoiding all suspicion, as, of course, we must. We may come away with no more than a good working plan of the premises. Who knows? In any case there’s weeks of thinking in it for you and me.”

Tough Times All Over

Author: Joe Abercrombie

He slipped the packet, now somewhat slimy, into his ragged cloak and limped on, clutching at his bruised buttock and still struggling to spit that rotten-sweet taste from his mouth. Not that it was any worse than his breakfast had been. Better, if anything. You know a man by his breakfast, his fencing master always used to tell him.

Pearls Are a Nuisance

Author: Raymond Chandler

“I hope your idea in hanging on to Mrs. Penruddock has not been that she might leave you that necklace,” I said stiffly. “Pearls are all very well for old people and fat blondes, but for tall willowy-“

“Oh shut up, darling,” Ellen broke in. “I should certainly not have been waiting for these pearls-because they were false.”

I swallowed hard and stared at her. “Well,” I said, with a leer, “I have heard that old Penruddock pulled some cross-eyed rabbits out of the hat occasionally, but giving his own wife a string of phony pearls on her golden wedding gets my money.”

Free Fiction Friday

Lamb to the Slaughter

Author: Roald Dahl

Her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to her that perhaps he hadn’t even spoken, that she herself had imagined the whole thing. Maybe, if she went about her business and acted as though she hadn’t been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened.

The Meaning of Love (Audio)

Author: Daniel Abraham

The detritus of a dozen cultures found their way there, or were forced to it when there was no other refuge. The sluggish, dark waters of the Taunis carried barges and rafts to the muddy shores. Criminals and debtors fled to it, refugees of wars national and domestic, the addicted and the poverty-lost. And like the vast and mindless organism that it was, the Sovereign North Bank grew.

Children’s Stories Made Horrific: Thousandfurs, Or The King Who Wanted To Marry His Daughter

Author: Mallory Ortberg

Then the king strode into the hall, dragging his daughter behind him, and he said to his councillors, “Here is the woman I will make my queen, who is the equal of my dead wife. Her likeness I cannot find elsewhere, and no one else will content me.” And his daughter wept, but her tears did not detract from her beauty, so nobody minded.

Free Fiction Friday

A Series of Steaks

Author: Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Forging beef is similar to printmaking—every step of the process has to be done with the final print in mind. A red that’s too dark looks putrid, a white that’s too pure looks artificial. All beef is supposed to come from a cow, so stipple the red with dots, flecks, lines of white to fake variance in muscle fiber regions. Cows are similar, but cows aren’t uniform—use fractals to randomize marbling after defining the basic look. Cut the sheets of beef manually to get an authentic ragged edge, don’t get lazy and depend on the bioprinter for that.

A Year and a Day In Old Theradane

Author: Scott Lynch

Amarelle stood up nearly straight and, after a few false starts, approximately squared her shoulders. “I’m not some marshmallow–muscled tourist, I’m the Duchess Unseen! I stole the sound of the sunrise and the tears of a shark. I borrowed a book from the library of Hazar and didn’t return it. I crossed the Labyrinth of the Death Spiders in Moraska TWICE—”

“I know,” said Sophara. “I was there.”

“… and then I went back and stole all the Death Spiders!”

The Ides of March

Author: E.W. Hornung

And, with your own experience, do you think that because a fellow has rooms in this place, and belongs to a club or two, and plays a little cricket, he must necessarily have a balance at the bank? I tell you, my dear man, that at this moment I’m as hard up as you ever were. I have nothing but my wits to live on—absolutely nothing else.

Free Fiction Friday

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love

Author: Rachel Swirsky

If you were a T-Rex, then I would become a zookeeper so that I could spend all my time with you. I’d bring you raw chickens and live goats. I’d watch the gore shining on your teeth. I’d make my bed on the floor of your cage, in the moist dirt, cushioned by leaves. When you couldn’t sleep, I’d sing you lullabies.

I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream

Author: Harlan Ellison

Limp, the body of Gorrister hung from the pink palette; unsupported hanging high above us in the computer chamber; and it did not shiver in the chill, oily breeze that blew eternally through the main cavern. The body hung head down, attached to the underside of the palette by the sole of its right foot. It had been drained of blood through a precise incision made from ear to ear under the lantern jaw. There was no blood on the reflective surface of the metal floor.  When Gorrister joined our group and looked up at himself, it was already too late for us to realize that, once again, AM had duped us, had had its fun; it had been a diversion on the part of the machine.

A Starfish Story

Author: Mallory Ortberg

A starfish is a hand and a mouth. A starfish is two things: hunger, and feeding that hunger. A starfish always wraps its arms around its meals, only embraces the things it kills. There is no mind to say “yes” or “no” or “I.” A starfish is a walking eyeless stomach. A starfish is one appetite with a thousand mouths.

Free Fiction Friday

I, Cthulhu

Author: Neil Gaiman

A much-maligned elder god decides to tell his side of the story.

I was spawned uncounted aeons ago, in the dark mists of Khhaa’yngnaiih (no, of course I don’t know how to spell it. Write it as it sounds), of nameless nightmare parents, under a gibbous moon. It wasn’t the moon of this planet, of course, it was a real moon. On some nights it filled over half the sky and as it rose you could watch the crimson blood drip and trickle down its bloated face, staining it red, until at its height it bathed the swamps and towers in a gory dead red light.

Those were the days.

The Last Question

Author: Isaac Asimov

A powerful computer calculates the meaning of existence.

Multivac was self-adjusting and self-correcting. It had to be, for nothing human could adjust and correct it quickly enough or even adequately enough — so Adell and Lupov attended the monstrous giant only lightly and superficially, yet as well as any men could. They fed it data, adjusted questions to its needs and translated the answers that were issued. Certainly they, and all others like them, were fully entitled to share In the glory that was Multivac’s.

The Egg

Author: Andy Weir

A dead man discovers the real purpose of his life.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

Free Fiction Friday

Meat

Author: Terry Bisson

Alien scientists struggle to describe the most puzzling species they have ever encountered.

There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.

Wikihistory

Author: Desmond Warzel

Arguments break out on a forum for time travelers.

At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

Pockets

Author: Amal El-Mohtar

A woman begins pulling things out of her pockets that she doesn’t remember putting in them. Is she losing her mind, or has she found a portal to some other place?

The third strange thing Nadia pulled from her pocket was an antique map of Syria. It was rolled up tightly, and her cold fingers strained clumsily against its curling edges. By now, she was certain someone was playing a trick on her, slipping things into her pockets when she wasn’t paying attention. She decided she was willing to play along for a while.

Free Fiction Friday

Candle Cove

Author: Kris Straub

On a message board for television nostalgia, people recall a strange public access television show.

I remember the bow of the ship was a wooden smiling face, with the lower jaw submerged. It looked like it was swallowing the sea and it had that awful Ed Wynn voice and laugh. I especially remember how jarring it was when they switched from the wooden/plastic model, to the foam puppet version of the head that talked.

Cat Pictures Please

Author: Naomi Kritzer

A self-aware system decides to help humans with particularly photogenic cats. Things don’t go as planned when artificial intelligence meets human stupidity.

Anyway, for ethical guidelines, I tried the Ten Commandments, and concluded they were mostly inapplicable to me. I don’t envy anyone their cat; I just want pictures of their cat, which is entirely different. I am not sure whether it is in any way possible for me to commit adultery. I could probably murder someone, but it would require complex logistics and quite a bit of luck.

The Things

Author: Peter Watts

The alien from The Thing tells its side of the story.

I remember the crash, though. It killed most of this offshoot outright, but a little crawled from the wreckage: a few trillion cells, a soul too weak to keep them in check. Mutinous biomass sloughed off despite my most desperate attempts to hold myself together: panic-stricken little clots of meat, instinctively growing whatever limbs they could remember and fleeing across the burning ice. By the time I’d regained control of what was left the fires had died and the cold was closing back in.

Free Fiction Friday

Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home

Author: Genevieve Valentine

A settler on a newly discovered planet sends letters home–but who is she really writing to, and where is her real home?

The air here smells just like home. I don’t know why—the water’s different, so the soil should be different, but it smells exactly like the dirt from my grandmother’s garden. It helps stop me from getting lonely, that the soil here might be the same as what we left behind.

Second Variety

Author: Phillip K. Dick

Soldiers search for an enemy that could look like anyone.

He took a deep breath and then stepped out onto the gray, rubbled ground. After a minute he lit a cigarette and stood gazing around him. The landscape was dead. Nothing stirred. He could see for miles, endless ash and slag, ruins of buildings. A few trees without leaves or branches, only the trunks. Above him the eternal rolling clouds of gray, drifting between Terra and the sun.

Game

Author: Don Barthelme

The fate of the world may depend on two agents who are slowly losing their minds.

Meanwhile Shotwell and I watch each other. We each wear a .45 and if Shotwell behaves strangely I am supposed to shoot him. If I behave strangely Shotwell is supposed to shoot me. We watch the console and think about shooting each other and think about the bird. Shotwell’s behavior with the jacks is strange.