Gold Fish

When Goldie opened her eyes and saw the colorful fish swimming outside the curved window, she screamed, loud and high. The big Ohma waddled over and picked her up in its fuzzy, globular arms, hugging the little girl close to its warm soft body. Goldie shoved the Ohma away and wiped at her tears.

“Stupid Ohma.” She said “You’re not what I want.” Goldie went to the kitchen, where Ammee was spinning on its circular base. Green tentacles reached into the storage unit and on the high counter, making food for Goldie. When she came close Ammee started whistling a little tune.

“I’m hungry!” Goldie clutched her stomach and fell on the floor.“ You take too long. You’re killing me!”

Ammee uncurled a tentacle towards the little girl, offering her a peeled carrot.

“I hate carrots! How many times to I have to teach you!” Goldie kicked Ammees silver base, and it squealed. Goldie kicked Ammee again, and the base flipped over, food flying from the ends of the tentacles. Goldie giggled; Ammee had never been so funny. She kicked a tentacle, and it turned a dark blue. The Ammee twittered and Goldie kicked the base again, but it didn’t change colors there. Goldie opened one of the drawers and picked out a bunch of forks. Goldie scratched the tentacles till they turned blue. Some of them spilled out blue water on the floor. She giggled, watching the Ammee trying to right itself with all its tentacles deflated. Dumb Ammee.

With the Ammee on the floor Goldie could eat whatever she wanted. Goldie went into the cold box and picked out the ice chocolates and ate the whole box. The Ammee was still squeaking on the floor, spilling its blue water everywhere.

“Mom will punish you when she gets back.” Warned Ammee. “She’ll punish you for the mess.”

It seemed like she couldn’t tear up the silver shiny bits on Ammee, only the squishy tentacles. Ohma was all squish. Goldie wondered if Ohma was pink inside. Goldie picked up her forks and started to scream. Screaming and crying always got the Ohma out of her closet. The Ohma trundled over to Goldie and picked her up, humming a little tune. Goldie squealed with delight and stuck the forks in its soft fur. The Ohma made a weird low noise. It tumbled backward and Goldie bounced on its stomach, squealing. She kept sticking the forks in it till she ran out and then she went back to the kitchen. Her stomach hurt, and her throat felt like it had food stuck in it.

“Ammee, make me medicine.” she kicked Ammees tentacles, but it didn’t move. Goldie felt like somebody was sitting on her heart.

“Get up!” she pushed the base back onto the floor, but the wet tentacles kept pulling it over. Goldie tried to pile all the tentacles together, but the floor was wet and she slipped, falling on her bottom. Goldie cried. She screamed her loudest, but Ohma didn’t waddle through the door. Goldie crawled across the floor, her bottom and face wet, her tummy hurting, and found Ohma where she had left her, flat like a giant mattress. Goldie crawled on top on the Ohma and pulled a limp, furry arm over her like a blanket.

Legend of the Candy Cane

No one is sure where it came from. The old books with paper pages will tell you that it came from Cologne Cathedral, but I’m not so sure anymore. I imagine it comes out of the woodwork when trouble starts and times are dark. It’s time for the holidays again, but all we hear are the bombs of the war crashing down on our walls, shaking our souls and the ground beneath us.

The Archons of the city have gathered us children in the basements and the shelters as everyone awaits an end. They tell us stories and in each of these stories I listen for a crooked stick of candy.

Think back to the battle to defend Earth. In the chaos of the Narxar attacks, the holidays happened and the fighting stopped. The invaders didn’t have to put down their guns, but when they saw smiles and heard singing, they almost had a reverence about it. Somewhere in that story, a child was handed one of these curved confections and life was made better for it. Rumors have it that when peace was made with the Narxar, one of the canes was given as tribute.

Who could forget the civil war of the Mars colonies? A whole thirteen years filled with blood and sacrifice. The usually dry desert of the red planet was soaked with the blood of those who had given their lives for the right to make laws. It was then that the sky softened and revealed to them that man controlled nothing but himself. Snow broke the battle. It coated the red, if only for a day, and it cleared the minds of those who were riddled with anger. I like to imagine that someone handed someone else this length of peppermint and all was made right with the stars and the heavens.

In darker times, when we invaded Delfia II for its plentiful resources, for its air and plants and endless reserves of fuel, we expected to skip the holidays until we were victorious. Still, the Delfian climate was so warm and peaceful that when the time for celebration and goodwill came about, the soldiers lost their wills to fight. The war had become unimportant. Sometimes, I dream about a soldier holding up one of those perfect shiny red and whites and handing it to a Delfian child no older than myself. That child would know that everything would be all right.

Yet, here we are now. The ground trembles and my friends are huddled together as if our proximity could protect us from the bombs. Our Archons have left to defend us from the soldiers who would enter and kill us. I pray that no one wins. I pray that the sky opens up and that snowflakes fall down. I pray that somewhere, anywhere, someone will remember why we breathe, why we live, and why we created the word “peace.”

Then, the walls stop shaking. A deafening silence fills the air around me. My friend Sarah reaches over to me and takes my hand, pressing something into my palm. I look down and see a transmitter antennae, bent and shaped like a cane. Like a candy cane. Smiling, I take her hand and close my eyes. Somehow, everything is going to be alright.


Me? Oh, I’ve always known. I mean, not that I knew what it meant, but I’ve felt this way since I was a child. It wasn’t something that came out of nowhere, you know? But yes. When I went to high school, that was when I really had problems. I remember hiding in the girls’ bathroom and mewing for hours, just crying out because nobody could understand me—and I mean, how could they? I didn’t even understand myself back then.

I was an only child, you see? So there was no one to compare myself to. I didn’t realize that it was weird to sleep on the floor with the cats, or to feel more natural on all fours than on two legs. I didn’t understand these feelings inside of me. Kids in school used to make fun of me, so I tended to spend a lot of time on the Internet. That’s where I met other people like me. It was like stepping into a new world.

My parents… well, of course they don’t approve. They blamed themselves. I’m told most do. But you know, it’s not anything they could have prevented, right? I mean, this is what I’ve always felt inside of me. Even when I didn’t know what an anthro was, I had leanings. We all do.

The ears were first, yeah. It’s a good place to test and see how the genetic manipulation will work with the implants. The eyes were pure surgery, actually. We don’t even need feline DNA to mimic the slits. Later on I might get the gene manipulation to help with night vision, but it’s expensive, you know?

The tail is my next priority. It’s a big operation and it’ll take a lot of time to recover, but it’s something you can really feel. With that new nerve technology they’ve got now, I’ll actually be able to manipulate it, if I follow doctors’ orders after the surgery. I’ll need gene therapy on and off for the rest of my life, but just imagine the feeling.

Just imagine, for a second, that you’ve felt wrong your entire life—that your own body betrays you. Picture yourself as a pretty girl who has boys asking her out but cries herself to sleep every night because she can’t understand why she wants to lick herself clean. Pretend you’ve been told your entire life that what you are, what you feel, is wrong. Then imagine the freedom of finally being able to express yourself.

I know what I call that. I call it a miracle.


The picture made the cover of the Tzarin colony newsletter: a petite, blond-haired girl kneeling in the center of a flock of hibernating escravo, her arms wrapped around her skinny stomach and her face contorted by sobs. It was a powerful image, this preteen runaway surrounded by the sprawled and angular bodies of the plantation’s livestock, and it was made even more powerful by the subsequent photographs of her tearful reunion with her family. Adolescent psychologists were quick to speculate about the long-term effects of 18 months spent living with animals, but after a rocky readjustment period, Elena was deemed healthy enough to re-enter the colony’s schooling system.

“I thought they were dead,” she said in a televised interview. “I didn’t know about the photo…photo…(“synthesis,” her mother finished). All I knew was that it started to get dark, and everyone I lived with fell down.”

“Everything,” her psychologist prodded.


Elena was no longer permitted to play in the fields with the escravo, but during a press conference, the governor presented her with an authentic Earth puppy that breathed and barked and did several other tricks that the mouthless, photosynthetic plantation beasts couldn’t compete with. After two nightfalls, the incident was completely forgotten.

At the height of the third sun-season, the Finnegan’s storage tank ignited.

It was an unfortunate but not uncommon setback. Glass-ceilinged working spaces were necessary to permit the escravo to live indoors, and in the hottest sun-cycle temperatures inside the storage tank often reached over 150 degrees. The financial loss was great but no one was hurt, and a veterinarian was called in to determine how many of the damaged livestock could be saved.

The plantation owners borrowed some beasts from their neighbors to haul the bodies, living and dead, into a nearby field so that they could be sorted. The veterinarian made his way slowly among the rows of blue-green bodies, dividing the responsive from the nonresponsive and the nonresponsive from the dead. He preferred working with the colony’s livestock; unlike Earth animals, the escravo had no mouths and were incapable of producing screams. In fact, science had speculated that the native Tzarin animals had more in common with vegetation than Terran creatures, so it was likely that they could feel nothing at all.

The veterinarian paused beside a young colt which rested in a crumpled heap, its front tendrils drawn up around its torso like arms and its eyelids firmly locked shut. The waxy skin across its back and stomach was badly damaged, blistering and peeling away to reveal the milky whiteness of dead photosynthetic cells. The animal’s eyes opened slowly when the veterinarian sprinkled water across its body to test the rate of absorption, but it made no other movement. Dire case. He labeled it unlikely and moved on.

Two thin, bony vines wrapped around his leg and he stopped.

The creature was motionless aside from the tendrils, which retained their vicelike grasp. The veterinarian unpeeled them but the animal grabbed again, and he reached into his medical back to get his scalpel. The vine quickly withdrew and dropped to the ground. The veterinarian watched the green shape scrape at the soil, and he had almost turned away before he read:


The creature was treated at the university medical facility, which used high-powered solar lamps to feed sunlight into the undamaged cells. It continued to trace words onto the walls and floor: help, stop, hurt, bad. A press statement was released saying that an escravo had developed language ability, then, at the command of the council, another was released saying that it had been a prank. The council scientists took the escravo to a research facility once it had healed enough for transportation, and there, it was put through dozens of tests.

“It has a vocabulary of over 500 words,” the technician said, “but we’re certain that it must be parroting. The escravo brain doesn’t have the capacity for communication. No evidence of language, through text or gesture, has ever been observed in the wild.”

Elena, the escravo stroked into the wall.

“Parroting,” the technician repeated. “No further study is required.”

“What do you suggest be done with it?” the colony administrator asked.

“Well, our society was founded on efficiency. We can’t have people wasting time training their livestock to be circus animals.”

“So it should remain in captivity.”

“We have an underground holding chamber used to contain those awaiting trial,” the researcher suggested. “It’s not inhumane at all. Rather peaceful and secluded.”

“And dark,” the administrator pointed out.

“And dark.”

In A Nest Of Ice And Snow

Hongping watched a small child flounce across the glacier floor. The furry grey snowsuit the child was sealed into kept it from going faster than a clumsy amble, but it didn’t seem to mind. It was charging toward a huddle of summarily swaddled children. Waving its arms like that, the handless sleeves of the snowsuit made it look like some half-formed bird about to take flight.

Hongping smiled sadly deep within the voluminous black cloak that signified his adulthood. He had not been wearing it long, and was still unused to its weight. He had been so excited to cast off his fuzzy grey clothes and don the white and the black. Now he felt buried in the thick material.

When he had put on the cloak for the first time, Hongping’s father had handed him the sword of their family, saying that it was a symbol of the old days, and that it would protect his family. Hongping had believed that to be true, then. Now he saw the sword as little more than a heavy piece of ceremonial metal.

Watching the children play their huddle-game, Hongping wondered if his son would have charged so, or if he would have cautiously approached the huddle, like some of the other children. Hongping thought about pretending one of them was his boy-faces obscured by the snowsuits and goggles, the children all looked alike. But their laughs and cries were alien. None of them sounded like his boy, not one.

Just as well. Hongping remembered how distraught Alice had been, driven so mad by their shared loss that she pretended another’s baby was their own. She had been beaten by the other mothers; slapped raw by mittened hands. Hongping was scrounging in what was left of the city when it happened. He returned just in time to find her sprawled on the ice, her tears searing away the frost that clung to her bare face.

She told him not to leave. It was Alice who had been in the ruins when their son had gotten sick, and now it was forever a place of poison in her mind. The last time Hongping had seen her, she was walking away from the tribe, in a direction opposite of the city. She needed more distance, she had said, and begged Hongping to come with her.

Hongping stared at the children and their play, and felt the deep weight buried in the center of his chest intensify its ache. He found himself wondering whether he should have wandered off with Alice, whether it was better to bury this ache on the other side of the glacier instead of bearing it here within the warmth of the tribe. He wondered how long he would have to walk before the ice crystallized inside his lungs like it had his son’s.

He was staring straight at it, but it wasn’t until the large predatory bird screeched that Hongping realized it for what it was. He was horrified at its presence, but that fear was replaced by cold dread when he realized that he was not the bird’s target.

The children were.

Hongping wasted no time closing the distance between himself and winged terror, his black cloak billowing behind him. Hongping withdrew his sword without even realizing he was doing it, his body now a puppet of adrenaline and purpose. The bird had already gathered up three small bodies in its massive talons, and was reaching for a fourth when Hongping’s ancient steel dug deep into its thigh. The raptor’s screech echoed painfully off the ice. It dropped the children, choosing instead to bury those gargantuan talons into Hongping’s shoulder. As the bird’s jagged beak thrust itself toward its attacker’s face, Hongping summoned the last of his strength and shoved his sword up underneath the bird’s head.

The giant bird kept twitching long after the sword’s point burst through the crown of its head.

Hongping’s shoulder was attended to by Musette, who had recently lost her husband to water beyond the glacier. She removed his cloaks and undergarments, keeping him warm within the folds of her own black clothing. Their bodies close, Musette set to the art of healing Hongping wounds.

“You know,” she said. “You’d make a wonderful father.”