FELICIA MARTINEZ & ALINA MĂCIUCĂ vs DANI J. CAILE & ELAD HABER
MEET YOUR CHAMPIONS
DANI J. CAILE
After a lifetime of reading clones and a decade of proofreading coffee table books, Dani J. Caile has completed a handful of novels, such as “The Rage of Atlantis”, “Manna-X”, “How to Build a Castle” and his most recent sci-fi series “Humanity H2O”. Dani also tries his hand writing novellas and short stories. When not putting finger to keyboard, dabbling in Shakespeare, teaching English, proofreading, washing up, hoovering, he is busy with his loving and long-suffering family.
Elad Haber is a husband, father to an adorable little girl, and IT guy by day, fiction writer by night. He has recent publications from Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, The Daily Drunk, The Night’s End Podcast, and in the No Ordinary Mortals anthology, forthcoming from Rogue Blades Entertainment. You can follow him on twitter @MusicInMyCar or on his website at eladhaber.wordpress.com.
Alina Măciucă enjoys reading, writing, buying odd trinkets and taking photos of beautifully decaying buildings. She has formally studied religion and hermeneutics at the University of Bucharest, and really has a thing for the Greco-Roman mysteries and Gnosticism, as well as for Renaissance magic. She lives in Bucharest with her very supportive boyfriend, their two cats and an ever-expanding vinyl and book collection.
Felicia Martinez is a professor, cat wrangler, and frequent backyard bird watcher. When she isn’t teaching her amazing and curious undergrads, she can be found exploring northern California’s hiking trails or trying out her next favorite galette recipe. She is a native New Mexican, but home is a little house amongst the redwoods with her husband and a cat named Bat. You can find her on Twitter as @feliciafm.
This Good Life—Felicia Martinez +25
Ofelia dreams that her father returns home just in time for the morning Connection. She’s eleven years old again, chatting with friends before school in the Virtual Hub while her older brother sets the table and begins to fill bowls with the spicy morning soup. As is the way of dreams, Ofelia’s monitor screen, at first filled with the neon wings of dozens of hummingbirds (her friend Maya’s favorite collective avatar), suddenly becomes her father’s old record player, a relic, no doubt, but a superb mental conduit. His song rises as he mimics the grooves of recorded sound and a pleasant crackle of static replaces the hummingbirds’ buzz, rendering her father’s face from the rising distortion. His kind eyes smile.
Ofelia awakens with a gasp, automatically reaching out with her awareness for the family that she hasn’t felt in the swaying of the Connection for more than thirty years. She quickly scans the dark of the room for the record player, sitting solid and whole on its usual stand. Her dreams of late have been cruel, but only part memory. At times, she watches as the chemical rains destroy her brother and father, the electric-green acid mercilessly pelting and burning and scouring until they are no more than slicks of flesh on the putrid rising floods. Sometimes, just the record player is destroyed, its potential silenced in an explosion of splinters and she awakens in tears, knowing, as she does know, that she will never again hear her family in the stream’s song.
But these are just dreams, not the reality of sickness and death. So long ago, now.
Her hands are tired, though still strong and brown. Ofelia places the needle on the old record player. The generators won’t turn on until evening, but she places the needle anyway, not wanting to play a record, but to hear the sound of static and the flutter of birds’ wings, as she once did. She wants this. Even though she’s helped build a strong community here. Even though together, they’ve made a safe place. They’ve learned to trust one another. To share the stream of awareness despite their fear and resentment in the wake of so much destruction and so much loss. Survivors all. They grow food now, raise animals. They share their lives.
This good life.
As the sun begins to rise, Ofelia steps outside to watch the lapping waters frame the city in shining gold and shimmering red. The city itself is a faint tinge of green against the horizon. In the startling light, the homes nestled amongst the newly sprung trees seem to hover above the surrounding waters, and from them emanates a stream of life aglow. The morning Connection.
It starts as an ache at first, and then an agony. Ofelia reaches towards the life before her, letting her awareness pass over the city until she feels something beyond. She sends her love to those who cannot answer back. And then she lets the stream go.
To Better Pastures—Dani J. Caile +10
Alicia cycled through the flood waters, her wheels slipping in the mud beneath the puddles. Every now and again she’d pass by one of the villagers, stepping carefully trying to avoid what was left of the roads. They’d look up, recognise her and taunt.
“Stupid witch! Get back to your hovel! We don’t want you round here!” shouted Carlos, the local cobbler. He looked smart in his newly-pressed suit. Business was good, what with all the flood damage, and especially the need for a good pair of boots.
Moving to the side, she rested her bicycle, now muddy and wet, against the Post Office wall and walked into the establishment, only to be greeted by another villager, her closest neighbour.
“Eh, what brought the likes of you into town?” scoffed her neighbour, Isabella.
“It’s a village, not a town,” said Alicia.
“Yeah, no thanks to you!” Isabella spat into Alicia’s face and left. She ignored the slight and made her way to the back counter where Victoria the owner sat on her high stool. She said nothing but a demanding hand greeted her. Alicia took out the delivery note which had been dropped into her letterbox and gave it. Victoria tutted, having to leave her perch, and rummaged through the letters and parcels below. She gave back the note.
“I cannot find it. Come back tomorrow,” said the owner. Alicia spotted something sitting on a shelf behind the large woman, a parcel just the right shape and size, and pointed to it, saying nothing. Another tut and Victoria followed her finger. Raising her hands in disgust, she grabbed it off the shelf and threw it onto the counter.
“Careful, that’s very precious,” said Alicia.
“What? It’s just some old record! Who cares about records anymore!”
With a huff and a puff from Victoria, Alicia took the parcel and walked out. Putting it in her basket, she slowly cycled home, trying not to fall.
When she got back inside her small home, she opened up the parcel… and there it was, ‘the record’. Everything would be fine again. Many years ago, the villagers had stormed her small dwelling after many personal disputes over her strange, peculiar actions. They destroyed many of her things, including ‘the record’, the one which allowed her to cast her spells, both good and bad, with the power of thought. They had no idea what they’d done! And now, after so much time succumbed to depression and apathy, she had finally found another copy after extensive waiting and searching through the internet, through websites and asking old acquaintances.
She took the record out of the worn, used sleeve and placed it on her player, moving the needle onto the beginning of the first track. Crackles turned to music which soothed her soul and made her want to dance. She thought of what she desired, what she so wanted, to leave this place, to move from the awful people who lived here. Slowly her home began to rise.
Lamb Stew—Alina Măciucă +10
Mrs. Khai pedaled with the precision of one of those fine, Swiss watches. She was neither too fast, nor too slow. Muddy water splashed her legs. A bunch of spring onions, that’s what she came back from the market with. Everything else she need was already washed, cleaned, chopped, plucked, shaved, and placed in white plastic bowls on the kitchen table. For her son, it didn’t matter what she cooked as long as it was dipped in scallion sauce and ready to eat when he stormed inside the tiny one bedroom. Would he visit, with the flood and all?
Every Saturday evening, she dropped the needle on that record he had given her for her birthday six years before. It was the last time they had seen each other. She sunk deep into what was left of her armchair. Her cat had destroyed the upholstery, but she didn’t mind.
Her feet went deeper into the water when she pushed the pedals. Strange, she didn’t remember the street to be sloping and she had ridden her bike down that street a million times before.
Mrs. Khai had a secret, a little something she kept just for herself, while she had already given everything else away to her family, to her children, to her neighbors. Whenever she played that record, it spun her away into a dream where she gazed into deep waters from the edge of her yard, which floated in the air above a mountain lake.
Her feet had stopped coming out of the water as she pedaled, but she didn’t think much of it. Would the government fix the city’s drainage system before the next heavy rain? In the rainy season, she loved drinking her tea by the window.
There was a house in her dream. It called for her whenever she would stare too long over the edge. “Mrs.Khai,” it said. “You’ll get a cold if you stay outside for too long,” or “Mrs.Khai, you’ll get dizzy and fall off the yard.” On most Fridays, she found a pot of warm stew on the stove. The sheets smelled like mulberry.
Her bike rippled the water and disturbed the flip-flops and plastic bottles floating along her way. She was not sure if she still had to pedal, or not. Water covered her head and she rode on for a few minutes, or an hour, or more. She didn’t own one of those underwater watches, so she wasn’t able to tell.
When her head came out of the water to the base of the neck, Mrs. Khai took a deep breath of pine-flavored mountain air, turned left, and headed for a strip of land. She leaned her bicycle on a rock, shook off the water and looked up at the floating yard, as it was coming down from the sky. It was not very fast; it must have been quite heavy. So, she sat down and waited and hoped there was lamb stew cooking on the stove.
The Party Going On Upstairs—Elad Haber +10
In the great big cocktail lounge in the sky, The Name (Blessed Be) is having the party of the millennia.
All the coolest gods are there. Every manner of mythological and theological deity are present: hanging out on the futons, smoking in the day spa, or whispering sweet words next to the record player. The music coming out of the ancient player is period perfect rock.
All of the gods are in human form. It’s in fashion these days. Also, it fit’s the theme. Many of the party guests wear oversized yellow tinted sunglasses. Bellbottoms everywhere.
The Name breaks away from a dull conversation and slides back into the party. It’s the kind of party that’s always in motion. Dancers appear behind him, silently moving in syncopation.
Near to the pool is the Idiot Humans room. Inside are hundreds of floating screens, each one focused on a different human, somewhere on Earth, in a precarious situation. One of the guests, a pale skinned man, leans into a scene of a woman riding a bicycle through ankle-deep water. He blows a guest of air into the scene. The woman careens and falls in a series of clumsy splashes. The guests erupt in laughter.
Even The Name can’t help himself. “They’re so stupid!” he exclaims.
In another screen, a scene of a simple house by three fir trees. One of the party guests, a woman with Egyptian jewelry, licks the back of her thumb and then uses it to erase the ground around the house. It hangs there for a moment before it crashes to another chorus of laughter.
This is also the kind of party where new guests arrive regularly. They open the unlocked front door and shout, “Hey, Capital G!”
The Name immediately appears for judgment. If it is a lesser god or mortal trespassing, there would be violence, but if it’s a friend, he just smiles and embraces them. Often he lets out a bellowing, non-specific, “My friend!” because even Capital G has trouble remembering all the names.
A returning guest opens the door and shouts, “Hey, Yahweh!”
The record screeches to a halt. All heads turn. A seated man rises, impossibly high, until the top of his head touches the ceiling.
“What did you say?” he growls.
The god is defensive. “I was calling for our host.”
The tall man looks ready to strike. “You said his name.”
There are growls and snarls from all over the party as the guests began to morph and contort themselves into beasts.
Then The Name appears between the newcomer and the party guests.
“Calm, my children,” he says. He turns to the newly arrived guest and clasps him on the shoulder. “I have seen into his heart and he means no disrespect.” He grins. “He is just stupid like a human!”
The party guests burst out laughing and shift back into their relaxed, party-going, selves. The music starts up again.
Even The Name does a dance although its name is forbidden.