Milk and Honey

Callum sat with his guts in his hands, surrounded by gold bricks, scorched turf and Prussian corpses. They’d been absolute bastards to the man—the remnants of Von Tempsky’s old unit, scalp-takers and cannibals all—but nobody deserved to die in fucking Otago. Callum should’ve died in Scotland, like every man of his blood before him, but he’d cut the fuses half an inch too long. Timing wasn’t exactly an issue when you used the shit for mining: you made the fuses as long as possible, and if they took a long time to blow then you went out for a sandwich break with the lads. Half an inch of fuse, maybe ten seconds’ difference, and his belly was laid open on the turf. Half an inch,[…]

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Wetware

Henry Tavit tore out his own brain. That’s an abstraction, but abstraction is everything. Look, let’s talk about computers. In 2006, a single bit flip in a Toyota Camry glued the accelerator pedal to the floor and took the car into a tree, killing the passenger instantly. The onboard computer between the pedal and the engine had over 10,000,000 lines of code. I bet you didn’t even know there was a computer there, cars are barely mechanical any more—they haven’t been for decades. It took three years to find the bug, and it was one solitary bit flip: 0 → 1, and a car goes into a tree. Bookout v Toyota Motor Company took eight years. Toyota was found guilty of negligence, ordered to pay[…]

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Canto III

I wish my dad had drank himself to death. Instead, whenever he got mad, he’d grip his thumb inside his palm and his breathing would get weird and tight. After years of barely-suppressed anger, patches of his cheeks and nose went the purple-red of good beetroot – a whisky shine without the whisky. The coronary was the least surprising thing that ever happened to him: he’d been alone, sitting in his chair, watching the TV blare something about immigrant hordes. With nobody else to shout at – not me, not mum, not even old Ms Potts from next-door, who stayed far away from the fence – all his anger went inwards and popped his fucking heart. He insisted throughout his entire life that alcohol was[…]

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Shaq is About to Eat Five Gyros

NB: this piece was written for the I Don’t Even Own a Television podcast’s short story competition, where the prompt was ‘Shaq is about to eat five gyros’. It was soundly and fairly beaten by the actual winner, but I’m still very proud of it, and to this day I’m sad I never got to hear Chris Collision read it. It is immensely silly, and for some reason remains one of my most popular stories. Shaq stared at the menu, and wept. He wanted the gyro with fries. He wanted the gyro without fries. He wanted the chicken gyro, and the lamb gyro. Most of all, he wanted the dark pleasure of the Everything gyro, which contained chicken, lamb, and a superposition of both fries[…]

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Fire-gilding

Beyond the west of the world, where the sun cannot be seen, lies Crow Hearth – the city of ice and stone. A city out of time, lost beneath the snow and beyond the turn of the world. Men scurry through the lightless streets, holding their warm coats close until they can escape down into the rats’ nest of heated tunnels that make the bulk of the city. Down now, down again. Through the tunnels. Follow the insistent ticking that lives somewhere behind the mind and pushes further onward. Don’t touch the men with blue-and-white carbuncles upon their skin, and pale light in their eyes – they are touched by the Heart and lost to the world.    Down now, down again. Tick tick tick.[…]

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We Fight Monsters

Every day, Rose went out beyond the hawker stands –out beyond the torn-up fences and beat-up dock workers–  to the place where the water was clear. Every day, she went to the ocean to weep. The siyokoy took her son when he was out swimming: the niños ate her little niño. She would cry, and scream, and strike the water with her fists. Then, she would return home and cry, and scream, and strike her remaining sons while they cowered in the corner. If you’d asked her, she couldn’t tell you why. Patti saw, and didn’t know what to do. She watched and hid in trees, on rooftops, behind a jumble of TV aerials. She walked on her hands to keep a low profile, and[…]

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keepongoin

Tremblay lay against gunwale, smoking a cheroot. The wind whipped up around the ship, and snatched away his smoke. A thousand miles of open ocean lay before him but hells, he loved a challenge. He didn’t have magic, or money, or even a crew; he had a boat, and a broken heart, and the wind behind him. Welta would’ve known what to do but he was–   –elsewhere. Elsewhere with his beautiful smile and his wonderful strong arms. Elsewhere with his mushy poems and his big eyes that teared up when he heard the wrong song. Tremblay ran a hand through his greying hair: was he really getting so old? When they’d met, they were the same age. As Tremblay’d got slower, and heavier, Welta[…]

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What Ukto Saw

In Enji, the citizens fell through the world. On the eighth day of summer when the sun was high over the sand, their floors and streets swallowed them. Many died or disappeared, but some did not – they were stuck jutting from the earth, alive, with twisted limbs and bent backs. This is not interesting in-and-of-itself; in the world of Ataal, such things are commonplace. Enji is different, because Enji went on. On the eighth day of summer, not all of Enji was inside Enji. Not all of a city’s work happens in the city: farmers in the fields, hunters in the desert, mystics sitting upon marble pillars. They did not fall through the earth and when they returned home, they found their loved ones[…]

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Playing Horseshoes

The Big Book of Animal Anatomy said that horseshoe crabs had blue blood. It was one of the only books in the house, along with a boring old beat-up copy of New Zealand Bike Trails and a scary book called The Fairer Sex that Henry wasn’t allowed to read, which had a lady with a gun on the cover. Mum and dad took the train south to Wellington every morning, and didn’t get home until after bedtime. There was a school for kids in Paekakariki, but not any proper jobs for adults – there was a cafe and a church, and a lot of houses, and the beach: that was pretty much it. Henry walked to school, then after school he read The Big Book[…]

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