posted Saturday 8 June 2013 @ 2:47 pm PST
A rare occasion when the print fiction outnumbers the stories online. Promising issues from Analog and Apex.
Interzone #246, May-Jun 2013
An unusually large number of short stories here this time: eight, including the winner of IZ’s James White competition for newer writers. Of course, this means the stories are overall on the short side. As has become usual here recently, a mix of SF and fantasy.
“The Machinehouse Worker’s Song” by Steven J Dines
The machinehouse used to be a sweatshop where workers toiled body-to-body, but now there are only two men left: Jacob and old Samuels, who has entirely interiorized the workhouse mentality with his catchphrase: plennytado, as in, “There’s always . . .” But now Jacob is starting to ask questions.
“If we are to die,” I said slowly, “and they have not shown us the courtesy of providing our replacements, then the work dies with us, right? Then what has it all been for? Answer me that.”
A strong dystopian vision. Bad enough to imagine a factory prison where work is a life sentence tied to the machines, but even worse when the workers come to feel nostalgic for the place when it was in its functioning prime.
“Triolet” by Jess Hyslop
Mrs Entwhistle is Jim and Lisa’s neighbor. She grows poems, poem plants. Lisa has always wanted a poem of her own, and one day the old lady presents them with one, a triolet.
Two lovers lie together sleeping,
In their dreams their lives they share.
Entangled in their secrets’ keeping,
Two lovers lie together. Sleeping
Is the world without, none peeping
On the inner world, the bedroom where
Two lovers lie, together, sleeping.
In their dreams, their lives, they share.
At first, the poem makes their marriage bloom, but after a time, when things go wrong between them, Jim finds sinister meanings in it.
Nice premise. The story is a short one, and the deterioration in the relationship happens rather abruptly. The question, which the author handles with nice ambiguity, is whether the poem might be responsible. Me, I have to feel sorry for old Mrs Entwhistle, who only seems to want to grow beautiful things. She isn’t responsible for the uses that people make of them, out of their own weakness. At least, that’s how I see it, although I must admit it could be some sort of sinister plot on her part.
“Sentry Duty” by Nigel Brown
Ssthra is on sentry duty protecting the human skycart against the Ra-Ki, but she’s also hungry with eggs to incubate and no time off to hunt. She’s surprised when the human approaches her, as she shouldn’t. But Jo is badly in need of a cigarette, which she can’t smoke inside the shuttle. A friendship grows between them, as two different beings with the same migratory lifestyle. Or so it appears.
The twist at the end comes as a surprise and a lesson against making assumptions about alien thinking and alien ways. The tobacco makes a neat final touch.
“The Angel at the Heart of the Rain” by Aliette de Bodard
The city is a refuge, and the 2nd-person narrator is a refugee from war, waiting to be released from the red tape to join the rest of her family. But the waiting continues, and the narrator begins to hear the voice of an angel, the spirit of the city:
His voice whispers, over and over, that where you came from does not matter, that everything is better here than everywhere else, and the wars and storm that rage outside cannot touch anyone within the city’s embrace.
Short-short, a brief, touching evocation of what it means to be cut off from home. The editorial note tells us that it was inspired by the experiences of the author’s family.
“Thesea and Astaurius” by Priya Sharma
An updating of the myth. See, it was never Theseus at all, that was just a disguise. With the Daedalus myth included:
Flight is so much more certain with polyurethane resin than with wax.
And not to mention single-malt. Fun stuff, despite which, this isn’t primarily humor but a way to turn the elements of the story on their side as metaphor – for freedom, for tyranny, for love. An imaginative revision.
“The Core” by Lavie Tidhar
Another Central Station story. Achimwene wakes to find that his vampire lover Carmel is missing again. He follows her, wondering what sort of story this adventure will turn out to be, because Achimwene sees life in terms of stories while the rest of the world sees it in binary form: the digital overlaying the physical.
But he knew, too, that there is more than one story in the world at a time; and that her story was not his. Their stories had entwined, but they had different trajectories, different conclusions. He could only hope the two stories would not separate.
Because he loves her.
Most of this one is quite incomprehensible without previous exposure to the series, as we have the same characters popping up over and over as if it will increase their residuals, while readers wonder who they are and why they are here. Yet there is a glow of illumination that casts all the repetitivity in the shade and briefly shows us something of the true heart. So I end up not at all as irritated with another Central Station story as I thought I’d be at the beginning.
“Cat World” by Georgina Bruce
Doctor Rain’s travel gum takes you away – really away. It takes Little One and her sister Oh to Cat World, where they can stay as long as the flavor lasts. When not in Cat World, they live under a tarp and Oh has to work so they can eat. So when Oh disappears, Little One decides she must have gone to Cat World and is waiting for her there.
A very depressing work, because readers know what Little One isn’t admitting to herself, that there is only one kind of work for girls like them, and as another older [age 12] girl tells her, sometimes girls just don’t come back, like mothers don’t. What we realize finally is just how ominous Cat World is, and why the child is afraid to go outside. Symbols that we might originally see as endearing are revealed in the end as sinister.
“You First Meet the Devil at a Church Fete” by Shannon Faye
In Liverpool. He asks Stuart for a fag. Just to introduce himself. The question is, how long does it take readers to realize this is Stuart Sutcliffe, that the band will be The Beatles, and just what the devil is offering him. Given IZ’s readership, I’d say it would be somewhere in the 2nd paragraph. It’s hard to think that a story about Sutcliffe’s tragically short life could be very happy, but this comes pretty close. Still, there’s no real fantastic content here, or much real creation.
Clarkesworld, June 2013
Tales of mishaps in space. Not my favorite issue, this.
“The Urashima Effect” by E Lily Yu
Japanese-American Leo Aoki is the sole astronaut on a joint US/Japanese expedition to a world in the Alpha Lyrae system. Even with coldsleep, there are still long stretches of solitude to endure, and mission control fears for his sanity, so he has lengthy recordings from his wife and parents. His message from his wife bears unwelcome news, preceded by a Japanese legend about a man who saved a sea turtle and was rewarded by her father the sea king.
This legend has much in common with those of the Celtic fairy mounds, when mortals enter. Thus it isn’t surprising when Urashima decides to return to his village and visit his old parents.
‘I have heard of two people with those names,’ she told him. ‘They had a son named Urashima who drowned on a clear day. Only his empty boat was found. But that was hundreds of years ago, when this town was a scattering of fishing huts by the sea.’
The legend as a metaphor for time dilation is apt, but there’s not much left in the story, and little characterization of Leo. If we don’t know which of his options he would choose, it’s because we don’t know Leo. Unlike Urashima, there’s nothing to him.
“This is Why We Jump” by Jacob Clifton
The narrator rejects names, but as I find them useful, I note that she has occasionally gone by Deals. She lives on the mined-out Uranean moon Oberon, where her father is a high administrator, but she has rejected the colonial lifestyle and moved to the center with the knife boys [I don't know if these include knife girls] and fostered a little boy too young for a knife, but aspiring to one. Her love for him is the center of her life, so she is always preparing to let him go, as her father refuses to do for her.
I can curl myself around him like an ammonite, and call him little names, and he will smile. Arms and legs getting bigger every day. A little starfish, crowding me out. It is my name for him, but only when he will be gentled can I say. It happens less and less.
Mostly, this account rubs my fur the wrong way. Deals is intolerable in her self-righteousness, and while she spends much story space justifying her position, it remains obscure. She calls her society “decentralized anarchist collectives”, but Deals is a parasite. She produces, contributes nothing to the world, yet she consumes. There’s much talk of taking showers, nothing of the cost of the water. Or the air she breathes, the food she eats, none of which comes freely in a world like Oberon, unlike love.
“Free-Fall” by Graham Templeton
This one I like, in a depressing way. It’s an If This Goes On story, as PhDs with millions in student debt struggle for scut work on a space station. The narrator is a journalist, going up the space elevator with three such hopeless cases, looking for a story, finding it when the elevator stalls. They wait.
Looking at my three fellow passengers, hot-shot scientists all, it is distressingly easy to imagine our mini-society devolving into tribalism; it’s obvious that in this group, I am most definitely the Piggy. They seem calm, however, which calms me.
No one contacts them, no one comes to repair the elevator. One by one, they jump, not so much in panic from their immediate situation but existential despair at the life circumstances that put them there.
The narrator has a nice satirical touch as he speaks of “the new class of mega-proles, people with the social credentials of a CEO, and the income of a cocktail waitress.” The conclusion is fitting, but I do find myself with a quibble, as it’s been established that the emergency hatch only works when the pod is the last in line.
Asimov’s, August 2013
An unusually large number of longer works this time, which ought to make me happy, but doesn’t, as my favorites are the shortest pieces. The issue features a novella by Rusch, which is to say a large chunk out of one of the author’s ongoing series.
“The Application of Hope” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Captain Cooper of the Ivoire has sent out a request for military support, being under attack by an alien fleet. If readers recognize the name of this starship, which has played a recurring role in the author’s Diving series, they will have a better chance of understanding what’s going on than those who don’t. We’re back in the age before the breakdown of the foldspace anacapa drive, which has caused so much trouble to the subsequent civilization. Captain Sabin, who may be a new character, receives the message.
The weapons she understood, the ones that worked against great ships like these, required a lot of space and often their own power system away from the ship’s engines. She had never seen ships so tiny with repeated firepower, the kind that could do damage on something like the Ivoire.
Suddenly the Ivoire disappears into foldspace, in a manner that suggests its anacapa drive might have taken a hit from the unknown enemy, perhaps with an unknown weapon. This is worrisome, and readers familiar with the series will already be aware of the profound mishap that will have overtaken the ship at some point – apparently this point. Sabin is asked to take charge of the foldspace search for the lost Ivoire, a mission with profound personal resonance for her.
Most of the text is backstory. That isn’t a Good Thing. The essential part is: as a young student in the Fleet, Sabin’s father was lost in foldspace. Obsessed with finding him, she developed the fundamental techniques that the Fleet has since used to conduct foldspace searches. Now, with the loss of the Ivoire, she has lost Cooper, a lover and confident, in the same way. But we get a lot more, extraneous, background than this. We get extensive scenes of her relationship with Cooper, of her parents and their dysfunctional relationship, of her nemesis in Command who has always tried to sabotage her career, of her attitude towards ship discipline, of various subordinates that don’t figure largely in this immediate story. It’s Sabin’s story, the resolution of her own lifelong personal crisis. But because it’s all backstory, which is to say emotionally remote, the character doesn’t come to life as a person. When she resolves her crisis, there is no catharsis for the reader. We’ve expected something of the sort, because this piece has to end somewhere, somehow. But it’s quite without feeling. It’s also really tedious to wade through, hoping for a return to the immediate storyline when, supposedly, something might actually happen.
I don’t know whether this one is part of some larger work, but the backstory is proportional to a novel, not the novella-sized piece we have here. If publishing history repeats itself, within a year or so there may be another installment featuring Sabin and her quest, which would make it part of another serial, part of the novel series, not an independent work. The resolution we have here seems like a stopgap, a setup for subsequent action. As a novella, a work that readers might have reason to expect to be complete in itself, it’s deficient. But unfortunately part of a longstanding pattern.
“Stone to Stone, Blood to Blood” by Gwendolyn Clare
Duyi is the half-brother of the planetary Regent, and Feng is his bodyguard/companion – a gift when they were children – with the programmed Imperative to protect him.
Then Duyi stepped close, and the floor seemed to shift under my feet, as if the whole world were forcibly reorienting me. I felt a pressure behind my eyes, and I knew with the sudden, precise certainty of a programmed Imperative that I must keep this boy safe, and more than that, I must make him happy.
Now Feng is helping Duyi to escape and join the revolution, a complex and hazardous operation. But otherwise Duyi will have to swear allegiance to the Regency and accept an Imperative that will override his free will.
The SFnal premise is a unique genetic implant in the Regency’s bloodline that allows it to telepathically activate a valuable material unique to their word. Because Duyi possesses it, his sister can’t really harm him, and the Imperative is considered necessary to control him. The revelation at the conclusion is sufficiently satisfactory for the plot, but the real story is the lifelong relationship between the two boys, who now call each other Brother.
“Arlington” by Jack Skillingstead
Starting off with a lump of really clunky prose as teenaged aspiring pilot Paul Birmingham gets lost in a cloud on a solo flight. This is an anti-hook:
VOR is short for VHF Omnidirectional Radio. Aviation is full acronyms—it was even back in 1982, when I got lost over the Olympic Peninsula. With a VOR you tune in the station, center the little arrow on a compass dial, and fly straight along the selected radial. Theoretically you don’t need VFR conditions to do that. It’s how I found my way from Crest Airpark, a small private field east of the Kent valley, to the logging city of Hoquiam. From there I turned north, switching to the next station, which was in Port Angeles—and that was the mistake. VORs are line-of-sight signals, and I did not have a line-of-sight to Port Angeles.
The cloud turns out to be an interdimensional aircraft trap populated by some kind of robotic beings that seem to feed on the crews and passengers of the disabled planes it catches. But just in case readers might take some interest, the scene switches first to Paul in his office, thirty years later, when he decides to relive the original flight that ruined his life, because when he flew back through the cloud, he reached the wrong world.
Here’s a potentially interesting Twilight-zoneish scenario, but the narrative does whatever it can to kill the enjoyment.
“Lost Wax” by Gregory Norman Bossert
In a city where Alchemist guilds have constructed autonomous golethem to patrol the streets, “alien and impartial enforcers of the city’s laws”, the devices are out of control and revolution is brewing. Leena and Nadin are crafting Augur birds, meant to deliver untraceable messages in aid of this sedition, but Leena keeps pushing the limits of the possible, a counter-alchemist. Nadin is appalled by the risks she takes and the consequences she suffers, at one point melting off her hand, then crafting an alchemical/robotic prosthesis. Ultimately, their relationship becomes a question of loyalty.
A remarkable and unusual setting that makes me think of an exotic 19th-century Paris [many of the names are French], a city known for its revolutions, or perhaps St Petersberg with its ubiquitous tsarist secret police.
Nadin grimaced and looked around for listeners. “I know, I know, we said we’d deliver next week. I think I’ve got the guidance problems solved, as long as his correspondents or whistle-blowers or whoever launch them from inside the inner twenty divisiones. They should be untraceable.”
At some points, a distant family resemblance to ancestral steampunk can be discerned, but here there is less of gears and more of yeasts, biochemical engineering. The author employs the art of lost wax casting as an extended metaphor for transformation, but he spends little time on explanations; readers just have to go along for the ride and pick it up as they go.
“The Ex-Corporal” by Leah Thomas
Gwyn’s Dad was a good father until he inexplicably developed epilepsy when she was twelve. He was also a science fiction reader, which might explain how he regarded the experience, for he insisted that his mind was traveling into other, fascinating worlds. Eventually she comes to believe him.
I sat at Dad’s bedside on countless lukewarm autumn evenings while gran mal seizures rattled him from head to toe. Every time his eyes rolled back and that awful snoring started, we decided Dad was abroad, stumbling through a distant jungle or ducking under crooked wind-bent skyscrapers in some distant dimension.
The real problem begins when the seizures seem to cause other people to occupy his body while his mind is absent. One of these is a nasty piece of work, the ex-corporal, to whom Gwyn’s world is a welcome refuge from jungle warfare. Gwyn is worried about what he might to do her and to her little brother [whom the copyeditor has allowed different names]. She has to get the real Dad back, while the ex-corporal is determined to remain where he is.
Disturbing stuff. The editorial blurb reveals that the piece is based on elements from the author’s life, except that her own father read PK Dick, not Moorcock, as Gywn’s did. I think that fact explains much about this story.
Analog, September 2013
A lot of fresh material in this issue. Here, I prefer the longer stories.
“Murder on the Aldrin Express” by Martin L Shoemaker
Rather than an express, the Aldrin follows a tedious and lengthy route ferrying passengers between Earth and Mars under the martinet of a captain whom Chief Carver privately calls Nick. The current set of passengers are the members of Professor Azevedo’s expedition, minus the professor, whose recent death on Mars is now related to evidence that it was sabotage and thus murder – a discovery that irritates Nick, who had been convinced that Azevedo’s own incompetence led to his demise. He begins his investigation with expedition videographer Tracy Wells, who happens to be Chief Carver’s ex-lover. An uncomfortable interview, that.
“Carver tried to warn you about their poor planning, I know he did; but you were Mars struck. Or should I say star struck, perhaps? The great Professor Azevedo was going to Mars, the first mission of the Civilian Exploration Program, and he was taking the best of the best with him! Or at least that’s what his press releases said. And he chose you, a practically unknown film student, to record his journey!”
But it turns out that there are a lot of personal issues involved, on almost everyone’s part. Which of course makes for an abundance of suspects.
An unusual detective story, in that the investigator turns out to be intimately connected to all the potential suspects as well as the victim; he’s anything but impartial, so it remains to see how his prejudices toward them will influence his view of the case. These personal hostilities lead to a bit too much bickering among the participants. But Nick turns out to be an astute observer of both facts and human failings. In fact, he turns out to be the SFnal Competent Man thwarted in his career by bureaucrats and other assorted fools. Otherwise, it’s got a nicely SFnal touch in the nano-contaminated climbing cord that allegedly caused the professor’s death.
“The Whale God” by Alec Nevala-Lee
During the US war in Vietnam, Exley is conducting a medical clinic in an oceanside village when the news comes that a whale has beached itself nearby. Without really considering what he’s doing, Exley leads an effort to return the animal to the ocean. Afterwards, he begins to have a strange sense of something present.
Looking out at the darkness, he felt a twinge of familiar apprehension. Night changed the quality of the landscape here in ways that made it easy to give in to your worst fears, whether they looked like sappers in spider holes or something more insidious. To the villagers, this was the country of hungry ghosts, of men who had died without the proper rituals, as far from home as that whale on the sand.
But instead of simply accepting the villagers’ viewpoint, he suspects the possibility of a psyops program.
A good link between local Vietnamese tradition and the secret operations of the military. The whale temples are quite real; I’m not so clear about the particular operation that Byers was running. What is very clear, though, is the way military forces have harmed and exploited the innocent creatures of the world in the course of their own wars. It makes me wonder why a whale god would bother with us.
“The Oracle” by Lavie Tidhar
When I first saw the issue’s ToC with Tidhar’s name, I was pretty excited, first because Tidhar is the kind of exiting, edgy newer author that I’d like to see more of in the digests. I’d also hoped, because this is a new venue for the author, with a new set of readers, that it might be new material, something – anything – but Yet Another Central Station story. OK, it’s Central Station again, a prequel in some ways. Does this mean it offers a simple and easy introduction to this complicated milieu, a guiding hand extended to new readers? Not hardly. It’s another jigsaw puzzle story, with the pieces seemingly thrown up in the air to land haphazardly, to be assembled. I think I’ve read most if not all of the previously published installments, and I found the assembly a chore. I can only imagine that readers already unfamiliar with the material would have a more difficult time. Achimwene? Who’s he? What’s he doing here? You’ll never know if this is your first CS experience. Asteroid pidgin? Huh? Not an entry-level piece.
The piece focuses on two characters: first we have Matt Cohen, St Cohen of the Others, one of the researchers behind the breeding and evolution of those autonomous digital intelligences.
Knowing that he did not know what he was doing, that digital intelligence, those not-yetborn Others, could not be designed, could not be programmed, by those who wrongly used the term artificial intelligence. Matt was an evolutionary scientist, not a programmer. He did not know what form they would take when at last they emerged. Evolution alone would determine that.
Parallel with his thread is the later one of Ruth Cohen the Oracle, who joined with the Others as the culmination of the usual sort of personal journey. Added to which, we have various of the author’s favorite characters and story elements included for color, effect, and increased confusion.
Tidhar has to be one of the most brilliant new writers working in the genre today. The Central Station milieu is a major creation, full of complexities and inventive wonders, and more, it has a beating heart. The problem is the publication in fragments, isolated in a series of different publications, with different sets of readers, making the material much more inaccessible than it needs to be. Ruth Cohen, such readers might suppose, is a character that has or will have play a role of importance in the overall story, but what that might be, we can’t tell from here.
“Full Fathom Five” by Joe Pitkin
The expedition to Europa hasn’t gone well. A reactor meltdown in their command module killed the rest of the crew, leaving Maria stranded alone below Europa’s ice with Ariel, the lander’s AI. There is also the Europan lifeform in the specimen tank, but it offers no companionship, being dead. Or maybe it isn’t dead, after all, as it seems to be emitting a sort of fluid.
What it was trying to communicate to her, she felt helpless to say. But it was saying something to her. She wished she might go on forever in solitude with the creature, becoming familiar with its alien, chemical language, deciphering in her dreams some message of peace, or love, or whatever might make one creature fill another’s dream with the scent of fresh apples.
What might seem like a standard stranded-in-space problem tale is revealed as something strangely different, full of symbolic and portentous dreams, many of them featuring her father. Maria’s alien has the form of a large human penis; her relationship with it is unusually possessive. She spends much of the time in her dreams, the ship growing colder while the AI does all the work of fabricating a new transponder to allow her to communicate with Earth. It’s not beyond possibility that Maria is hallucinating as she slowly dies in her sleep. I don’t really think so, but we have no way to know for sure. An intriguing story.
“Life of the Author Plus Seventy” by Kenneth Schneyer
After quitting as a lawyer and failing as an author, Eric takes a job at Catskill Comics, a position, as he points out, that would thrill most writers to the point that they would overlook the contract’s fine print, like the Hibernation clause.
“If we took the things you write as works-for-hire, then the copyrights last for ninety years, maybe a hundred and twenty. But if you retain copyright and we act only as a licensee, then the rights last for seventy years after the end of your life. And if you’re in
Preservative Hibernation . . .”
Notwithstanding, Eric signs on and thrives in the comics company until a complication arises in the form of a library fine now reaching seven figures and sent to collections, which is run by an unresponsive AI that threatens to attach his salary. Eric conceives of a Cunning Plan. Like all CPs, it comes with unintended consequences.
Clever stuff, amusing while not believable. I’m not buying it that Eric, being after all a lawyer, couldn’t take the collections company to court about the 30 books he actually doesn’t owe fines on. Or that a comics company in the next century would actually pay staff writers a salary. Still funny, though.
“Wreck Support” by Arlan Andrews Sr
Short short-short humor. Alexandros of Macedonia finds his Antikythera mechanism defective. Amusing, and also true to the nature of the actual machine as we know it. I suppose I’m the only person in the world who’ll be vexed by the author mixing up Greek and Latinized spellings, as using Macedonia instead of the “Makedon” form with “Alexandros”.
Apex Magazine, June 2013
An international issue, with authors from China, Israel and India.
“The Call Girl” by Tang Fei, trans Ken Liu
We assume at first that fifteen-year-old Xiaoyi is a prostitute. After school, she drives away in older men’s cars and comes back with a lot of money. But the service she offers is unusual. She sells them stories, interactive experiences, but the cost can be high for both parties.
He takes a step forward. The sea trembles; the sky trembles; everything in the sky and in the sea trembles. If, someday, a bird dives toward the surface of the sea, then he will feel the excitement and joy of that dive through the seawater, as well.
Perhaps it’s because of her age that there’s a sense of wrongness hanging over the scenario, because she’s still going to school where she has no friends, where the other students whisper about her and her clients, making, I suppose, the same assumption about her that readers will at first. Perhaps it’s because her mother takes money from her while averting her gaze, as if she’s ashamed. Does she make the same assumption? But they live in an apartment where the pipes leak and the wallpaper peels – why, if Xiaoyi earns so much? I can imagine her, older, in a sleek office with a receptionist to greet her clients, prospering. Is it because of her age that she meets her clients in beat-up cars? The story raises questions, mainly about the cost to Xiaoyi, of which the only suggestion is the way her shadow stretches behind her, the effort it takes her to walk. But does this effect occur every time? Will she become unable, at some point, to support the burden? Will she need to abandon her trade?
I always enjoy these translations by Ken Liu, with which he makes so much genre fiction available to non-Chinese-speaking readers. He chooses his stories well and does well with the prose.
“Titanic!” by Lavie Tidhar
Readers may note that this is the third Tidhar story reviewed in the current column, wherein I am finally granted my wish for material unrelated to his ongoing series. Here we find an aging Dr Jekyll in flight from the Law, escaping by ship with the seed of his evil other self in his black doctor’s bag. He voyages with hope.
England is a cesspit of corruption. It is too small, too confining. It looks not to the future, but to the past, it is rigid and unyielding. It is time for me to look elsewhere, to the New World; where a scientist may work in peace, where there is space to grow… and where he, too, could roam more freely, for it is a vast land and people may disappear there more easily; and never be seen again.
An uncomplicated story with an unexpected appearance out of left field. Jekyll is well-portrayed as a disagreeable individual, leaving readers to wonder how much of this simply marks him as a man of his time and place, rather than the monster he carries in his bag.
“Karina Who Kissed Spacetime” by Indrapramit Das
A love story. The narrator’s first kiss is with Karina, both of them college students, and it opens up possibilities.
So brief it was; the mere ghost of the future. I watched her walk away. Even then, I saw the ripple of spacetime warping behind her as she walked under the pools of streetlight that demarcated the pavement of North Pine. Her kiss, drying quickly in the winter air.
I like the prose here, the lyrical quality of some of the images. Rather than future-looking, it looks back at the past. The images of spacetime are less SFnal than a metaphor for the branching paths our lives must take, for asking ourselves in hindsight: would I have done the same, knowing the outcome?