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This story was originally published in Lakeside Circus in 2016. As the Lakeside Circus website seems to be down long-term, I’m going to go ahead and repost is here on my blog so it’s still available to be read.

Note that this is the original as-submitted version of the story. I think there were a few edits made to it before it was published, but I seem to have lost that file.

Silver Fish

Josh wiggled his fingers in the moonlight, pale and graceful, and imagined them as fingerlings in the river, sliding through the currents. Under his bed, something buzzed like an angry bee.

Silvery fish flowed in through the open window, large as dobermans, blue moonlight glittering from flat eyes and scaled, underslung jaws.

Josh pulled his quilt up over his nose, afraid to breathe, heart thumping in his chest. Fish had no ears, right? They had teeth; he saw them, glittering triangles. Their fins waved slowly like the air had become water, too thick for lungs to hold.

The buzz sounded again from under his bed, like a cell phone vibrating over carpet but much lower, an angry growl.

It had to be the box.

The night before he had woken from a dream of running, running down a mountainside like Indiana Jones, a carved wooden box tucked under one arm, stolen from a temple where sylphs danced and men with long beards and longer knives scattered sand in great handfuls.

The box stayed in his arms when he woke, a creaky puzzle of mahogany that read like a story under his fingertips. He smashed it open with a hammer when he couldn’t decipher its knots and whorls, overeager to find within it the content of his dreams. The inside was lined with midnight blue velvet, cradling the silver shard of a mirror that twisted rather than reflected his face, showing his nose eating his cheeks one second and shrunk to a pinpoint the next.

Josh had shoved the mirror back into the gaping hole of the box’s lid, then rolled the mess up in a tattered green army surplus blanket normally reserved for picnics and hidden it under his bed like a shameful secret. He’d hidden other secrets there before, the results of pranks: stolen pencil cases and Lana Douglas’s pigtail, cut off with a pen knife.

From under the bed, the box snarled, insistent and angry.

Startled, the fish whipped in the air, flicking their fins and streaming back out into the night.

snap and crash and slam, doors up an down the block opened. “What the hell are those?” a man shouted. More people screamed in a wordless cacophony, high and discordant and then crunch. One less scream.

He knew that crunch. He’d hit Jeffery’s little sister’s bunny with his go cart, and accident, and it had made that sound. It had made him sick. He never wanted to hear that sound again, but it still echoed in his ears.

The cool night air gnawed his bare legs as he twisted free of his quilt. Josh’s shaking fingers found the rough blanket and he pulled the box from under his bed. Shards of wood scattered across the floor, too complex a puzzle to be solved with the roll of duct tape his father kept next to the hammer.

Josh reached for the warped mirror, and saw the way it twisted his fingers into lithe silver fish in the moonlight. That had to be the answer, then; the mirror turned what it saw into a monster. He grabbed the Louisville slugger next to his bed and drove it into the glass again and again, crack and crash and smash, until the mirror was little more than powder.

The silvery dust smeared across the floor made him a distorted, fuzzy shadow. The back of his throat tasted metallic with fear, like he’d licked up some of that shattered mirror. Dreams can’t be destroyed; they can only be contained. The words of his third grade teacher echoed up from his memory. When she’d said that, it had been a hopeful message. No one can hurt your dreams, they can only try to cage them up. You want to be a baseball player, a race car driver, a brain surgeon? No one can stop you. Smash the locks, open the cages, ignore the doubts, let your dreams be free.

But nightmares, Josh felt with the clarity of a bone needle dragging down his spine, like the teeth of the silver fish, were dreams as well. Nightmares were just a different direction for reality to twist, down into the dark.

At his window something growled, the low rumble of distant thunder, of some ancient beast freed from the shards of a broken prison. Josh’s hands tightened on his slugger as he turned. It was his dream, his nightmare, and he should be able to beat it, right? Dreams – nightmares – couldn’t be bigger, stronger, than the people who dreamed them, right?

Only he’s learned in school about I have a dream, and about I am become Death.

Hot, dank breath rolled through the room as Josh howled into the face of a reflection shattered past all recognition.


Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Remember that silly story I wrote a year ago, about math and waffles and an alien invasion, only it’s really about choosing your family and loving people for who they are? (And waffles.) It’s back! BuzzyMag has reprinted it and given it oh gosh, the cutest little illustration ever.

So go read it! And eat waffles! Raise a toast to the Blender, may he rest in peace.

Oh and by the way, don’t forget I wrote a bunch of stuff last year that’s eligible for awards!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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They Tell Me There Will Be No Pain is now available online at Lightspeed. (You should subscribe to Lightspeed anyway, you know, even though you can read the story for free now.) You should go read it, because it’s quite literally the best thing I’ve written to date and is incredibly important to me as a story. It is about lies, and frankly, the fact that PTSD kills.

Oh yeah. And the money from it went to UNICEF UK. If you think it’s a good story and have the spare money, you should subscribe to Lightspeed and/or donate to UNICEF. Hell, if you hate the story and think I’m a fucking hack, you should do one or both of those things anyway.

Enjoy, and please tell your friends! AAAA THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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It is 11:37 in the dark of night. The hour of yeasting. Sian’s sprawled across her brand new reclining sofa, only just bought from Sofa Mart by way of a downright predatory loan because she wanted to own leather furniture for once in her goddamn life and had already decided to be buried with it. Stainmaster, they told her. Tough enough to withstand a pack of great danes or half a day with a rambunctious toddler.

But they didn’t say jack shit about evil fairies. She’s just finished part one of a two-parter for Criminal Minds and is eating hummus directly from the plastic container with a spoon because after your fourth twelve hour shift in a row while holiday music does an endless loop and summons forth the devil in the automotive aisle at Target, going to the grocery store sounds about as appealing as doing lines of ground glass off the floor of a truck stop bathroom.

Sian knows she’s fucked the minute she sees the sparkly puffs of flour out of the corner of her eye, and catches the smells the sweet scent of baking bread mixing unappetizingly with the acrid stench of scorching leather. “Oh, come on.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Just in case you hadn’t heard yet: I HAVE A STORY IN LIGHTSPEED AW YEAH HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW

I’m in a TOC with NK Jemisin. I’m in a TOC with NK Jemisin. MY HEART CANNOT HANDLE THIS.

Anyway. Whew. Deep breaths. Yes. The Tell Me There Will Be No Pain is in December’s issue of Lightspeed, now available from many a fine purchasing establishment. If you want to wait (and you shouldn’t), it will be available online on 12/30. Trust me, I’ll say something on my blog when that happens.

Colonel Rathbone attends my final debriefing. I’m wearing a paper hospital gown that doesn’t cover my ass; I’ve got a breeze where no breeze has any right to be, from the back of my neck right down where the good Lord split me. But despite that I’m sweating, the backs of my thighs sticking to the paper covering the hospital table. The metal contacts set all around my head feel cold, sending little shocks that make my teeth itch…

Technically, this is actually a reprint, since the story was originally published in the special edition of Women Destroy Scifi that went to the Kickstarter backers. Not exactly a wide release, if a special one that had me super excited. So I’m really happy that this story will finally be widely available to read. It’s an important story to me, and probably the best one I’ve ever written thus far.

And also:

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 11.47.01 AM

$385 encompasses the original payment plus the reprint payment for being in the December issue. And you might recall what this means; it’s the same deal as two years ago with Comes the Huntsman. Story written as a birthday gift for Tom Hiddleston, funds get donated.

I hope you all run out and get this issue of Lightspeed right now. This story is incredibly important to me, for a lot of reasons. And I hope you’ll consider supporting UNICEF with me this month as well.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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I have two new short stories out, because I am living the dream!

First off, go to Scigentasy and read What Purpose a Heart. Because it is painfully obvious that your morning doesn’t contain nearly enough space opera, ship to ship battles, or lesbians. I’m even more excited because the artwork Scigentasy put with this story is absolutely gorgeous and perfect in every way. So go! Read it! Why haven’t you read it yet?

Also, the second piece of flash I’ve ever managed to write, List of Items Found in Valise on Welby Crescent is out in Shimmer #19. This story has had three different incarnations and gone through over 10 drafts, which is pretty impressive (or potentially depressing) considering it’s less than 500 words long. But it’s an odd little story I wanted to see if I could tell in a strange way, and I’m really pleased with it. The story will be available online in June, but I think you definitely want to read it so much right now that you should buy a copy of Shimmer #19. And as a bonus you’ll get some other awesome fiction too.

Patricia Ash at GearHearts has reviewed The Ugly Tin Orrery and gave it 4/5 gears. If you’ve been missing out on pirates and murder and steam engines designed to jump the tracks, you should really remedy that. Just sayin.

Other exciting things are in the works, which has involved me being in editing hell for the last two weeks. Super exciting things. Unfortunately if I told you, a squadron of ninja would then have to show up at your house and kill you to preserve my honor, so it’s probably for the best that I’m just going to be mysterious and annoying about it.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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I have a new story out today from Crossed Genres: The Heart-Beat Escapement

Please read and enjoy!

This story is one that went through a lot of drafts–nine in total. It started out about 1500 words longer than it is now.

Something about the way Greensmith says but grates. “I already know that,” Owen snaps. The baby, abandoned in an alleyway and dying; the doctor and the engineer who found him and replaced his malformed heart with one crafted of delicate gears. It was his favorite fairy tale, growing up.

Most of those 1500 words I ended up cutting out of the story were the fairy tale Owen refers to here. Bits of it were interspersed throughout the story to act as section breaks. It ultimately didn’t work right and slowed the story down way too much, which is why I cut it, but I’m still pretty fond of those words. So I thought I’d share those sections (plus a bit extra to make them more coherent) with you as a little bonus–Owen’s bedtime story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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I know some people were wondering about the digital download for Waylines #4, which contains my story Samara and a little interview with me. Wonder no more! The digital download went live this morning and you can grab it at the Waylines website. There is also some additional content in the download that wasn’t in the original issue.

The digital download is free. As always, I encourage you to consider donating to the magazine if you like what they’re giving away. (I’m looking at it right now-it’s a nice pdf.)

I’m now in the thick of editing Blood in Elk Creek, by the way. I’m really pleased with how this one is turning out. (Been wondering about the Infected?) A little over a month until it will be available!

Man, I have just fallen in love with writing novellas. Long enough to have some real meat to them, but still short enough that writing then doesn’t feel like a marathon.

Originally published at The sound and nerdery of Rachael Acks. You can comment here or there.

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Surprise! I have a new short story out. This was actually a bit of a surprise to me, since while the editors had told me Issue #4 was going to go live at the beginning of the month, I somehow didn’t make the connection that my story would be in it. Surprise! Happy surprise.

To read the story, go to Waylines and look at the Issue #4 table of contents.

I’m super excited. I love the illustration they put with the story! And here’s how it starts out…

Dearest Chandra:I was the first to wake, one month out from our new home to be and twenty-four hours before everyone else. The bulk of the deceleration is already done; we’re at a bit less than normal Earth gravity now. Remember those little sleeper jaunts we used to do out to Io? It’s nothing like that, Chandra. I feel like the inside of my head’s been scrubbed with a wire brush, sinuses desiccated and tongue glued in place. I don’t think any language has suitable words for how I feel.
Look at that, I wrote science fiction… To read the rest, head over to Waylines! It’s free to read, but if you like the story please consider donating to them!

Originally published at katsudon.net. You can comment here or there.


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Tetsugawa Katsuhiro

September 2017

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