Letter From The Editor - Issue 68 - April 2019

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Issue 3
Dream Engine
by Tim Pratt
The Adjoa Gambit
by Rick Novy
Xoco's Fire
by Oliver Dale
Small Magics
by Alethea Kontis
Fat Town
by Jose Mojica
From the Ender Saga
by Orson Scott Card
Audio Bonus
Read by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
Hats Off
by David Lubar
Running Out of Air
by David Lubar
Senior Paper
Special Software Bonus
I-Wei's Amazing Clocks
by I-Wei Huang

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Xoco's Fire
    by Oliver Dale
Xoco's Fire
Artwork by Julie Dillon

Though the smoke rose in sprightly wisps above the beach, Xoco knew that Sea and Sky had no hand in it. It was the breeze rolling off the surf that coaxed the billowing cloud to dance. She threw another whitefish onto the flames and watched its silver scales bubble and boil, gills puffing in the moonlight.

Xoco prayed again for an answer and cast her desires into the rising plume. Kimpana village was functioning again, she thought, if in a limited way. The gardens were producing. The fish were returning, slowly, of their own accord. Does the Shaman still need to hurt me, pin me against the floor of his hut and subject me to his savagery?

I will do anything, she thought. Anything, if you let me kill him. Let me feel his blood on my hands. Let it course down my body, soothe the burns and cuts that scar my thighs and spirit. But when there appeared no response, she sat back, worried. Her hand unconsciously rubbed the rigid bulge of her abdomen, comforting the twin gods that roosted within.

Xoco knew she wouldn't have another chance; the Shaman had gone up the mountain of prayers to meditate, to commune with the gods about the Gambi tribe that continued to harass and steal from them. She needed her answer now.

The tide rolled in slowly, consuming the black sands of the beach, gently lapping first at feet and then ankles and then calves. Salt water snuffed out the fire. As she sat and pondered, Xoco suffered a constriction of her belly. She waited breathlessly then felt another. Warm water seeped from between her legs, mingling with the cool waves of the sea. Was this her answer?

Xoco felt a sharp pain in her lower abdomen and pelvis; she couldn't prevent the scream that clawed its way from her throat.

"Mother, help," she whispered, but though she tried to lift her voice with a prayer, the suffering of childbirth wasn't enough to drive it through the palm trees, back to the village. She needed a sacrifice.

In desperation, Xoco searched through the water, lunging for a fish she saw beached on the sand. It was an Angelfish, with a white stripe that glowed like starlight. Ignoring the short spikes that dug into her palm, she ripped it in two. Chilly blood and gore gushed down her forearms. It was not a delicate prayer; there was no fire, no smoke, but there was pain, there was suffering. It would do.

"Sea and Sky, I offer this creature to you. I ask only one favor in return: take my voice and lift it with the breeze, with the mist and foam. Carry it to my mother for without her help, I fear we three will not survive this tribulation."

Their answer was immediate. Xoco felt the familiar slick sheen of the prayer covering her body, the unseen light that dropped from the sky and sank in through her ears, her eyes, her mouth and nose like inhaled smoke. It invaded her lungs, encircled the delicate flesh of her organs. When it consumed her completely, she closed her eyes and whispered.

"Mother, help." Her voice floated like feathers, past the tree line of creepers and ferns, off toward Kimpana where her Mother slumbered. And then the pain threatened to split her apart from the spine forward. She screamed.

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