(Narrative) The House in the Stove – (Music) – leftovers

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By. Gary Beck

It has always been cold. We never could afford a stove, so we tried to keep warm wearing the leavings of one hundred strangers. But if we never quite succeeded in losing the chill that made our fingers stiff and clumsy, there were times when life was rich and full. One of these times was when I was five years old. A man knocked on the door. My mother opened the door and asked what he wanted. He said that he represented the welfare agency of the city, and that our name had been given to them in order to provide us with assistance. At this, my father, who was listening from the bedroom, mustered the little dignity that remained to him and said: “Sir, I have made many mistakes in my life, but I have never permitted myself the degradation of accepting charity.” He returned to the bedroom with the haunting thoughts of pride and his children, who were never warm.

The man turned to go and then he noticed me. “Are you cold, son?” He lifted me and placed me on his knee. “I’m going to tell you a story,” he said. “Once there was a family who lived in a great big black stove. They ate coal and wood, and drank kerosene. Sometimes they were hungry, but generally they had enough to eat. One day, though, there was a great noise and the stove shook and fell on its side. After that it was carried away somewhere and dropped with a terrible thump. The family was very frightened. Soon they began to grow hungry. They waited for a long time, becoming hungrier and hungrier, when suddenly the door to the stove opened and someone gave them food.” At this point he looked at his watch, muttered something, put on his coat and said: “I’ll have to finish the story another time,” and went out the door.

Three months later I contracted pneumonia. The doctor told Mommy that I was going to die. My brother Jimmy came to see me and told me that when I died they would put me in an oven. Then I could live in a stove and be warm, just like in the story.

Gary Beck resides in New York City.

Biocratic is a musician from New York City. 

(Narrative) Reclamation of A Kingdom – (Music) – Sleepless Dreamer

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By. Linda M. Crate 

Her usually green eyes were shining red in her rage beneath the sunset. She was the third vampire made in existence and the true Queen of the Vampires. Her best friend and her husband had betrayed her, leaving her for what they believed was dead. But she hadn’t been dead just injured, and for a long while she had been sleeping.

Now Frika was awake, and she wasn’t taking any prisoners. She would have vengeance on all those who attempted to take her kingdom from her. Who the hell did they think they were?

She pushed red hair from her dark skin. Her mother had been black but her father had been white. She had gotten his hair and his eyes but her mother’s skin and features including the shape of her eyes which was large and almond shaped in appearance.

Frika was recognized by her distinctive characteristics when she rose from the place where her husband and once friend had left her. Some were terrified and ran to warn the king and queen but she had set them on fire before they could warn her husband and the new lover he took.

She was going to reclaim her throne whether or not they liked it. She was the rightful owner of this place, after all.

Frentenia needed her, she noticed, as she walked through the quiet streets. Her husband was working the poor mortals to the bone, and taking more gold than he could ever possibly spend undoing the good relationship her parents had with the common mortal that allowed them to rule over them without fearing death by their hands.

“Frika lives, oh, God forgive us, Frika, he said you were dead,” came a voice of a vampire elder she had not seen in years.

“My anger is not for you, Antonio. It is for Lincoln and Livia. They both shall pay for their insolence. But first I need allies. Can I trust you, old friend?”

“Always, my lady.”

“I need the element of surprise on my side. Few vampires can walk in the light as you and I. Find the old ones and see who is willing to help our cause. If they are not willing then sacrifice them to the earth because I have no need of traitors.”

“Of course, my lady, and gladly so. It does my heart good to see you again. Lincoln is ruining everything.”

“I know I’ve slept too long, but I couldn’t will my eyes open sooner than this. I will undo every damage he has done, mark my words. Now go. We are wasting precious time here.”

Time was of the essence. She had to strike tonight. She knew that. Frika hoped she still had allies. Antonio had always loved her, and she hadn’t given him the time of day when she was younger. She regretted that now. Clearly, he would have made a better husband than Lincoln.

Vengeance, whilst a human emotion and something she felt rather futile in most circumstances, would be hers. She was not weak and easily broken as the limbs of an old tree. She was fierce as fire, stronger than the mighty eroding arm of the ocean, and had more songs than the wind. The sun couldn’t shine as brightly as the rage that coursed through her veins.

She felt the thirst prickling at her, serving to irritate her further.

Patience, Frika, patience, she told herself.

Antonio returned to her some time later with four men and one woman. This was a disappointing turnout she had to admit, but it was good to know that some still honored loyalty to their queen.

“When shall we strike, my lady?”

“Tonight.”

“Excellent, I’ve been looking to spill those bloodlings little veins. They have not the strength or the wisdom of us, Queen Frika. They are frail as human babies, and I want to dash their brains for their insolence.”

“Fret not, Venus, you shall do just that. However, Lincoln and Livia are mine. Their deaths are mine and mine alone. Understood?”

“Aye.”

All six of the figures bowed at Antonio’s simple agreement.

“You are the strongest and wisest of us all, Queen Frika.”

“Not to mention oldest,” she added, eyes twinkling. “But even I still have a lot to learn. There is a lot of wisdom in the world that we have to learn. It is arrogant to assume we are gods jut because we are blessed with these gifts and eternal beauty. Because even we rely on the blood of others to survive.”

“And we can die, too.”

“Yes, but tonight we shall live,” Frika said, turning her eyes to the castle. “Today I will reclaim what is mine.”

Frika walked so quickly that the others had a hard time keeping up with her.

She walked to the courtyard setting several of the younger vampires on fire until even their ashes couldn’t find anything other than wind to scatter them so they could not return. She then jumped to where she saw Livia’s face full of horror glancing down at her.

“Frika! It wasn’t my idea. It was his.”

“Still you helped him to betray me, and so you must die, too,” Frika scowled. “No excuse will save you from my wrath.” She then bit deeply into Livia’s throat, draining her of all her blood. She then set her on fire making sure she scattered the ashes of the woman before the wind got a chance.

Lincoln seemed to hear Livia’s screams, but was all too late.

“Frika?”

Frika smirked, with a twisted grin, Livia’s blood still on her lips. “You will succumb to my power, you weak worm!”

Before Lincoln could respond she had tackled him to the ground, and was pinning him down to the ground. Her fangs were mere inches from his throat. “Die fool!” she snarled before she drained his blood and set him on fire, too.

Now her kingdom was hers again even if there was work to be done.

Linda M. Crate’s works have appeared in many anthologies and magazines both online and in print. She is the author of three published chapbooks and the Magic Series.

Pearl Charles is a musician from Los Angeles, California. 

(Narrative) Qianzhousaurus Feathers – (Music) MIG

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By. Joshua Scully

Donald Barlow didn’t have any pots on his head or bands of aluminum foil wrapped around his arms.

That was a step in the right direction.

The old man was crazy, but, aside from an absurd hat, he answered the door in ordinary dress.

“Thank you for coming,” Barlow said as he pushed the door open for his former neighbor, John Forbes. “I see you came prepared.”

Forbes stepped through the doorway with a new Winchester Alaskan rifle in his hands.

 

“Well, I wanted to help if I could,” Forbes replied once inside the kitchen.

Barlow had called Forbes the night before about an unusually threatening bear near his home. The former asked the latter to bring a firearm capable of bringing down a grizzly. If Forbes was successful, Barlow offered to butcher the animal and hand the meat over for freezing.

At the time, Forbes was somewhat relieved that Barlow’s call was normal. When Barlow lived in town and next to Forbes, the elderly man seemed borderline insane most days.

Barlow had owned a butcher shop at one time, but his ridiculous stories scared off most customers. He was the guy in the neighborhood who insisted that the government controlled the weather. He communicated with extraterrestrials and lived with a family of yeti for three months in 1988. Barlow once even claimed to own some functional voodoo dolls modeled after various politicians.

Forbes could readily see the old man hadn’t acquired any new housekeeping skills since moving into his countryside residence. The kitchen, which apparently doubled as a workshop, was a disaster. A large table covered in newspaper, plastic, and bits of egg shell dominated the room. There was a plate of scrambled eggs and ketchup near the only chair.

An ancient 12-gauge shotgun leaned against that chair.

“Sorry if I caught you in the middle of breakfast,” Forbes said before gesturing toward the shotgun. “You been using that?”

“Oh yes,” Barlow chuckled while backpedaling toward the table. “I just hate to have to get so close to shoot.”

“I don’t blame you,” Forbes replied. “This time of year the bears get pushy. Was it in your garbage?”

“Well, yes,” Barlow finally replied with a goofy grin.

“What’s with the hat?” Forbes asked frankly.

The old man reached up and pulled the straw fedora from his head. A few bright blue and purple feathers were tucked into the horsehair band. Barlow whimsically ran his fingers through the feathers for a moment before replying.

“Let me explain,” Barlow said with a grin before putting the hat back on his head. “Actually, maybe I should show you.”

“Don’t tell me you shot a peacock? I noticed the neighbors are raising peacocks. Is that where you got the eggs?”

Barlow only laughed at these questions and picked up the shotgun.

“Follow me,” Barlow said jovially. “You need to see to believe.”

Forbes audibly sighed. He could sense Barlow starting to get weird, and he didn’t want to waste the entire morning.

Barlow pushed open a door next to the refrigerator that led to the basement.

There was dried blood on the floor between the table and refrigerator.

“Getting messy in your old age?” Forbes joked.

Barlow only smiled and guided Forbes down several creaky steps into a cool, dark room under the kitchen. There were bloody smudges on a few of the steps. A dank aroma seemed to float through the space.

Barlow leaned against the washing machine and fumbled around with some shotgun shells next to a bottle of fabric softener and a few more of those peculiar feathers on a small table next to the washer.

“What do you know about Earth’s magnetic field?”

Forbes rolled his eyes and mockingly slumped where he stood at the bottom of the stairs.

“Do you know anything about electron diffusion regions?”

“No,” Forbes sighed. “Where’s the bear?”

“You see, the magnetic field of the Earth sporadically connects to the magnetic field of the sun,” Barlow explained, “and portals are created across millions of miles through those fields. These portals penetrate the fabric of space and allow for travel through time.”

“Is that what the fabric softener is for?” Forbes asked sarcastically.

“I’m serious,” Barlow said after a visible scowl.

“Don, is the bear down here?” Forbes asked more forcefully. “I don’t have time for a wild goose chase.”

Barlow’s scowl deepened.

“Or a wild peacock chase,” Forbes added.

“You see that door?” Barlow said pointing to a door on the other side of the room and next to the furnace.

“You trapped the bear in your coal room?”

“One of those portals open into that room. I don’t know why or for how long,” Barlow continued while lifting his hat and running his fingers through the feathers again, “but I reckon these are Qianzhousaurus feathers.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Their eggs are real good eating,” Barlow said with a smile.

Forbes turned to leave and noticed a strange shape under the basement stairs. He peered around the staircase and realized this was the form of a bloody, mangled grizzly.

“Don, what did you do?”

“Nothing but open that door and have myself an egg,” Barlow replied. “A Qianzhousaurus followed me back through and ran into the bear outside. The creature dragged the kill back down here and I chased the beast back through the door last night. It’s a smaller one and I still couldn’t bring it down.”

Forbes stood with an uncertain tremble. He gripped his rifle tightly in both hands.

Without another word, Barlow stepped forward and opened the door next to the furnace. A brilliant glow filled the room. The old man turned away from this illumination and toward Forbes.

“What do you know about the Novikov self-consistency principal?” Barlow asked.

Forbes shook his head.

“Oh well,” Barlow laughed. “Let’s go! I’ll butcher the beast and split the meat with you. You still have that big freezer in your garage, don’t ya’?”

Joshua Scully is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. He writes speculative fiction.

Odd Nosdam is a musician from the Bay Area, CA.

(Narrative) Your non-ordinary spell – (Music) Anabella

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By. Russell Hemmell

“Books are mischievous objects, Gillian -remember. Written words have always proved dangerous, and ancient books, containing bunches of them in a fascinating format, are the worst. Stay away – especially in the Day of All Hallows’ Eve.”

Her teacher’s eyes were jade-like stones, repeating those words day after day – adamant and unforgiving.

“They kill you by spell, they kill you by handling. Sometimes it’s the quest itself that dooms you to hell.”

 

But Gillian had come to all possible extents to put her hands on the One of All Books bestowing mystical powers, the One everybody had tried to hide from her knowledge.

She entered the old library, eyes-wide-open, fearful and expectant. And there It was – waiting, on a golden lectern, ripe to be grabbed.

Gillian approached -hesitant, her hungry fingers lingering over the torn leather cover, skin over skin, human against beast.

A chilling gust coming from nowhere opened up the volume, and its pages whistled to her ears with the crystalline voice of a vestal that prayed – words different from the ones printed on its pages, resounding in the thousand tongues of the most radiant angel.

Whispering to her ears. Insinuating with slithering moans into the deepest recesses of her mind. Buying her soul, spiriting it away.

Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. Recent Stories in Gone Lawn, Not One of Us, SQ Mag, and elsewhere.

Daniel Fries is a musician from the United States. 

(Narrative) Breaking the Rules Is Not Allowed – (Music) 96374896​-​23

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By. Stephen Oram

Screaming white noise. Pitch black darkness.

What a way to be greeted into a new day.

Aiden felt around for the edge of his cardboard mattress. Beyond its frayed borders buried among the food scraps and his few discarded clothes was the nectar he craved.

The withdrawal was intense as the nanobots issued their friendly warning that his addiction needed feeding for him to stay alive.

Fumbling around in the detritus of his life he found his last vial of nanobot nectar and gulped it down.

A pinpoint of bright light appeared. Then another. And another. And another. He blinked. The nanobots were working. A gradual shift from the oppressive white noise to the welcoming sounds of a city about its daily business.

 

As his sight returned he noticed the clock on the house control unit in which his robot waited while he slept.

‘Jessie. Why didn’t you wake me? I told you – 7am.’

‘Good morning Aiden. It was in your best interests to sleep longer. Your metabolism needed the rest.’

‘Don’t you do what I tell you anymore?’

‘Not if it would cause you harm.’

‘For fuck’s sake. Being late for these lunatics will cause me more harm than a little tiredness you stupid robot.’

‘Would you like me to cancel your appointment?’

‘No.’

Aiden sat on the edge of his bed rifling through his clothes desperately trying to find something wearable. Everything was dirty, but he sniffed each item and gradually pieced together an outfit for the day. Maybe after today’s transaction he’d be able to buy a pure water bath to reactivate the self-clean molecules in his clothes.

‘Jessie?’

‘Yes, Aiden.’

‘It’s best to play safe today and inhabit the old female body.’

Jessie transferred from the control unit to the mother bot, as Aiden affectionately called it. With Jessie at the helm, the mother bot shook off the junk piled on top of it and stood up.

Aiden lifted the top four layers of his corrugated cardboard bed and took out a bag of vials wrapped in an old rag.

It would be delicious to keep a couple of the sweet nanobot nectar vials, but he was a mere delivery boy and even his addiction couldn’t overcome his fear of his supplier or today’s customer.

He handed the bag to Jessie.

‘Aiden, it’s illegal for me to carry this.’

‘Black Market.’

‘Illegal.’

‘Just carry the bloody thing.’

‘I have stored a copy of you issuing that instruction to protect myself from decommissioning.’

‘Let’s go,’ he said, more to himself than Jessie who would follow him wherever he went.

The streets were packed with humans going about their business, each accompanied by their own unique-looking robot following half a step behind.

‘Whatever happens with these guys,’ said Aiden to Jessie, ‘you must protect me.’

‘Understood,’ said Jessie.

‘Who knows what harm they might do to me if they’re not happy with the goods. It’ll be more than refusing to pay, that’s for sure.’

‘Understood.’

The door to the gang’s offices was conspicuous by its failed blandness. Painted dark battleship grey it was criss-crossed with STF filled plastic bars down its length. Bars that would instantly harden if forced.

Aiden knocked.

The tiny speck of red light above the door let him know that someone inside was watching. He waved. Jessie waved too. ‘Remember. My life is in your hands,’ he said quietly.

With an over-engineered creak the door opened and the sound of a violin concerto drifted down the hallway.

‘Mendelssohn E Minor Opus 64,’ said Jessie matter-of-factly.

Aiden fixed his smile and walked towards the source of the haunting music. Beautiful in normal circumstances, but somehow made sinister by the setting.

‘Pass me the bag,’ he said to Jessie.

Through the smog of highly illegal cigarette smoke he could see the silhouettes of the gang members lost in the euphoria of nectar and music, each cradling a knife across their chest.

Their leader, who was standing watch, swaggered over to Aiden. He gave her the bag and she offered him a cigarette. The precious hand-rolled cylinder sat in the palm of his hand; it was only the second time in his life he’d been offered one.

Jessie crushed the cigarette to a pulp. ‘Smoking kills.’

All heads turned towards them.

‘Shit,’ said Aiden. ‘Sorry. Bit of a misunderstanding. These robots, eh?’ He laughed a hollow laugh.

The gang leader stared at the crumpled mess in Jessie’s hand. ‘Expensive mistake,’ she said as she ran her thumb along the sharp blade of her knife. ‘Aiden, isn’t it?’

He nodded.

‘Leave,’ she said. ‘Leave now.’

‘The nectar?’ he asked.

‘Thank you. Appreciated.’

‘Payment?’

‘Get out,’ she said quietly. ‘Now!’

She turned to the nearest gang member. ‘Terminate that robot,’ she said, looking at Aiden for confirmation.

When he didn’t reply she took a step closer to him while rubbing her blade against her leg.

He gulped, looked at Jessie and nodded his agreement.

Jessie adopted a fighting pose; she was equipped to maim and kill if necessary.

The gang leader took another step closer to Aiden.

‘Protect me,’ he shouted.

Jessie knocked the bag out of the gang leader’s hand and the vials of nectar spilled out on to the floor.

An unconvincing smile formed on Jessie’s lips as they emitted a high pitched whine, triggering a few of the vials to emit an orange glow which was followed quickly by a puff of black smoke.

They were destroying themselves.

The gang leader dropped her knife and scrabbled around on the floor desperately trying to gather as many as she could.

‘Shit and double shit,’ said Aiden.

Jessie grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the building.

‘Enemies for life,’ he said, as they walked away quickly. ‘No money. No escape.’ He turned his head. ‘Your stupid robot rules. I’m as good as dead.’

‘I will protect you,’ said Jessie.

Stephen Oram writes near-future fiction intended to provoke debate. In his time he’s been a hippie-punk, religious-squatter and a bureaucrat with a gentle attraction to anarchism; he thrives on contradictions. As 2016 Author in Residence at Virtual Futures he was one of the masterminds behind the new Near-Future Fiction series and continues to be a lead curator. He has been published in several anthologies, has two published novels, Quantum Confessions and Fluence, and a collection of shorter pieces of work, Eating Robots and Other Stories.

Yosa Buson is a musician from California. 

(Narrative) Wanted: Combat Droid /Jaspin Model – Semi Working Acceptable/ – (Music) Woman

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By. Ryan Sonneville

TO BE POSTED MONDAY/ WANTED ADVERTISEMENT SECTION

Combat Droid Required, Will Pay Cash

I am in need of a combat droid. Preferably a 650 or 457 Jaspin model. It does not need to be fully functioning; it must have a working actuator, Techniatic limbs and mobility functions. Weston blaster and titanium sword would be advantageous. I have parts for most Jaspin models as a result of previous work.

 

I will be entering the Dark Zone on Mars next week. Recent news reports state that locals have attacked prospectors and I wish to avoid this fate. The droid should be able to compute basic instructions in English code translator; it must be able to process 5 simultaneous commands. Droid with previous expedition experience is desirable but should not have a history of emotional reckoning. At no point in its work history should it have been outfitted with an emotion processor (deep code analysis will be completed by myself prior to final purchase).

The droid will likely not be returned.

Ryan Sonneville is a writer and teacher in the Bay Area.

BläpDëli is a musician from Santa Rosa, CA.

 

Fictional Pairings Magazine – Vol 1. 2017

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(Cover art by Jackson Pollock)

In honor of all the great work submitted to Fictional Pairings over the past few months, we have compiled all of the published pieces into a single post.

We appreciate the interest and support we have received thus far and look forward to matching fresh new fiction, poetry and art with music in the months to come. Please see our Submissions Page for information.

 

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Art by Lesley Vance

Up the Hill – Roland Dodds
Your New BAM-AG Home – Maria L. Berg
The Post Modern Cat – Roland Dodds
Floating Over a Spider – Joshua Scully
I Guess We Are Too – Irene Meklin
The Giving Machine – Roland Dodds
The Processor – Ryan Sonneville

 

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Art by Andre Minaux

Seeing Her – Mary Claire Garcia
Do Not Enter Morin Woods – Ryan Sonneville
By Blood a Clown – Stephen D. Rogers
Baby Bird – Justin Zipprich
Mistakes Made – Pat Berryhill

 

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Art by Jean-Honore Fragonard

Flames of Vengence – Linda M. Crate
Snowslide – Joshua Scully
McKenzie’s New Boyfriend – Maria L. Berg
Before the Ende – Jenean McBreatry

 

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Art by Wassily Kandinsky

Sonam Snow-slide – Fabiyas M V
Lady Godiva – LindaAnn LoSchiavo
Various haikus by the editors.

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Art by John Singer Sargent

Near Town – Michael Spencer
Doorway – Ryan Sonneville
Shark – Michael Spencer
Turn – Jose Decant
Dark Dots – Ryan Sonneville
Rock – WolfmanDracula