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A Perfect Time of Life

“I want to be young forever,” Deirdre announced to the Decider, when her turn to enter the room finally came.

He looked up from his terminal but finished tapping a few more keys before giving her his full attention.

“Yes, that’s what we usually hear,” he said in a flat voice. She thought she detected some sarcasm, but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t there to enjoy his personality.

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Scars

Dark webbing still marks my shoulder from the day that bullets separated my squad from our company. The bleeding would’ve killed me if my comrades hadn’t bandaged it. But isolated from medical equipment, we couldn’t stop the scarring.

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Two by Two

“Marcus?” his caseworker said, her hands folded on Mama’s kitchen table. “Did something happen to your sneaker?”

Marcus looked down at his size thirteen feet—two shoes, one old, one new. “No ma’am.”

“Why don’t they match?” She didn’t understand that matches weren’t the same as pairs. Daddy never told her about arks.

“They’re opposites,” he said. Daddy explained it better because he had more words. That was okay. Marcus was better at pairing.

“Like your socks?”

One foot, two foot, red foot, blue foot. Marcus smiled and nodded. “You and me, we’re opposites, too.”

“I guess we are. Is your father still spending all his time at the hospital?”

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The Backwards Man

I remember quite distinctly the day I met him. One does not easily forget the strangest day in one’s life. It was a soggy morning, gray and overcast; fitting indeed I should think for what would soon take place. He stood at my doorstep, gripped my hand with unearned familiarity and smiling at me, attempted to enter my house.

While he appeared vaguely familiar, I was quite certain I had never made his acquaintance. “Pardon, sir,” I said abruptly, blocking his path. “But I am not in the habit of allowing strangers into my home.”

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Druy’s Space Junk

“Druy, where did you find that pitiful looking piece of space junk?” Capitan Saga asked as he slid off the ramp onto the lower deck of his ship.

“In the emptiness,” Druy said and continued circling the disk shaped object.

“And why wasn’t I informed?” he asked.

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A Healing Song’s Curse

“You never sing for me. Why is that?” Rob’s voice was casual, but I froze. It was a breezy evening in March and a tired sun handed out the last lights for the day.

“I have an awful voice. I fear you’ll stop loving me once you hear me sing.” I tried to keep my voice playful, but fear in me didn’t make it easy.

He sighed and put a finger under my chin, turning my face so that my eyes met his. Chocolate brown and inviting—that was what his eyes were.

“Don’t lie, Nupur.” His casual tone had gone, and hurt framed his voice. “You sing for the young, the old, the sick and I always hear that you have a lovely voice. Some say your voice has magic.” With a great effort, I kept my face expressionless. The last word hit too close to home. “So why not for me, love? What have I done wrong?”

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Long Now

Julie knocked, balancing a warm crock pot on one knee. Lance answered, holding a textbook in one hand. Julie smiled. That was his idea of light reading, but she planned to marry him anyway.

“Come on in.”

“Whoa!” Julie stopped mid-step, nearly dropping her pot. “I thought it was just me.”

Lance escorted her gently through the door so that he could close it.

“It’s just the two of us.”

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Jack Twice-Caught and the Pusherman

No one in Bridge could remember exactly when the legend of the Pusherman began. As folk began to go missing, the stories just appeared, fully formed, as if they had fallen from the sky. Some in Bridge whispered that the Pusherman was an old graybeard who hunted children playing along the Edge because he was envious of their youth. Others said he was a jealous husband who pushed his cheating wife over the Edge and came to enjoy the taste of murder.

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Heart Patent

“Owen! You’ve got snail mail!”

“What’s that?” Owen asked, taking the envelope from his father.

“Don’t they teach you kids anything at college?”

Owen opened the envelope, and read the single sheet of paper. His father whistled from over his shoulder. “That looks official. Is it a scam?”

You are hereby ordered by the court to appear in civil hearing of copyright infringement, patent infringement, smuggling, and bootlegging of a human organ.

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Self Service

Before pregnancy became extinct and babies stopped being born, the greasing of death’s once firm grip caused a lot of worry about the potential of the revived. Would they turn vicious? Could they be restored to a responsive state? How much humanity do we ascribe to an animated cadaver?

I stayed apart from it all. I had my farm, my family. Cora was marrying age, but once it became clear there wouldn’t be any grandchildren forthcoming, Ma stopped needling her. When the corpses wandered through, stinking, twitching, chattering, Bub and I ushered them off our land, gently, respectfully. Then we went back to work. Outside, the world clashed and gnashed its collective teeth. I had less use for it than ever.

Cora got sick first. I drove her into the city, threading my way past thickening crowds of the dead. She wheezed from the passenger seat of my pickup; pressed her fingers against the side window as if she were reaching for those grim mannequins.

“When did there get to be so many of them?”

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