Three Short Stories

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  1. Two and Three
  2. Paperback Editions
  3. See a Problem?
  4. Three Short Stories - Gernot Wolfgang

The old woman lighted the fire and made pakodas. She gave her husband three pakodas and herself took two. But the old man would not take the palcodas. How can I eat three when you are getting only two? You take three now.

Two and Three

Tomorrow I shall get more besan from the shop and make pakodas. I can then take one more than you.

They kept arguing like this all evening. Night fell, but they had still not eaten the pakodas. At last they agreed on a plan. Tomorrow morning, the one who gets up first will have to eat three pakodas. So they both went to sleep. But still they kept lying in bed, eyes closed. Each wanted the other to get up first, for each wanted the other one to have three pakodas. It grew quite late and the sun rose high in the sky. But still they would not get up. The neighbours saw that their door was still closed. Let us go and find out if they are all right.

The neighbours went and knocked at the door. They called out to the old couple, but there was no reply from inside. Against all odds, I have found happiness in tragedy, and it is for this reason, and not to relate my woes, that I write to you now. I have resettled in Valencei, in a ramshackle house overlooking an orchard I pledge will not be derelict for long; and I am not alone! For with me is the dearest, kindest woman in all the world. Her name is Evelyn, and though our acquaintance has been brief, it has yet unfolded with such a certainty, a sweetness and a depth of human feeling that I can scarcely credit my fortune.

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She has sunkissed hair and freckles from spending so much time in the garden, and a wicked sense of humour; and, Earnest, she has bought me a voice! Not a typewriter, as you did, but an honest, sound-making voice, such as I used to have, and whose utterances can even be said to resemble my former tones. She had it made on commission by a Valenceian clockworker: It was an engagement gift, she said, and I accepted it readily.

My bees have made it the basis for a new honeycomb, and it is my dearest wish, Earnest, that you should see it for yourself, at our wedding, the details of which are enclosed. I cannot imagine such an event without you there, if only in order to show you the depths of my current joy. Having exchanged their vows, the new wives shared a ceremonial meal of tears and honeycomb before proceeding to the reception. The flowers were home-grown. Which, granted, is odd, but not the sort of oddness the Captain told me to watch for.

I was frightened at first — I thought the shuttle was in distress — but Li said no, and made me come sit in front with her as we broke atmo, as though that would mend the protocol breech rather than compound it. But I was groggy and fogged, so I went with her and together we watched the planet rear up like a fat, round whale. That made me cross, but just in time I remembered the other thing Captain Vedeshi said: Few enough people know how things work on Ayu Khadan, let alone visit it. The actual bodies stay linked from base.

Captain Vedeshi had told me that, too. Li looked at me sideways. Call it what it is: I thought about it, realised I did, and said as much. A formal bet would tip the scales. What could I say? So instead I left the cockpit and came back here, to record this while it was fresh. Let the record state, then, that pilot Li has challenged both my intelligence and my integrity, to say nothing of failing to properly brief me on Ayu Khadan.

Representative Garan met me at the shuttle doors, which was awkward. I thought she was one of the miners, but no: It took me a while to spot it. Not only the Representative, but every single person on Ayu Khadan is wearing an av. Even the colours are wrong: Even their names make no sense — I asked for access to the station records, but none of the names officially listed in the GHR records match what the miners seem to call themselves. And then it hit me: I asked to see the creche, but Garan said it would have to wait for tomorrow.

Today I inspect the mines, Garan says.

A Magazine of Fantasy Novellas

She He reminded me when he brought me breakfast — a strange, unpalatable slurry, clearly foreign to a kitchen geared to churn out that weird, false fuel they feed their avs — and my stomach turned. Garan will be back soon to take me down to the loading room. Sickle and Wax and Wane, watch over me.

Keep my body safe. It has to be. I tried to ask Garan but she just laughed. I want to believe her, but if I do, what does that say about me?

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About all of us? If a couple wants to make a child, they petition Garan, and down she goes to the Heart-Vault, where their bodies lie in biostasis. She takes DNA from each parent, and the child is glass-grown in the dark, like a hothouse flower blooming for nine months straight. And then they, too, are put in biostasis, their bodies fed the same nourishment as their parents receive, while their newborn brains connect to an av. The baby-avs are genderless and communal. The childmind transitions between them at each major developmental stage, learning to crawl, to walk, to speak, while down below their bodies grow, healthy and safe, in biostasis.

Many still claim what the miners call a fixed heart, an immutable identity of male or female, but still they change avs happily. They claim each one has a different feel, a different perspective; as though the passage of so many souls through their mech-genned flesh has left behind a flavour, or an echo. One name for the body, and one for the soul. And in their avs, they are free. They showed me, when I came out of the mines, what the altered avs could do; how the mech components let them interface with a secret freescape built by generations of miners in defiance of the limits of Ayu Khadan.

The terms of labour are such that the only way free is to grow to adulthood in isolation, take no lovers, sire no children, have no parents, love no siblings; either that, or to disregard them all and leave not only them, but your perfect, self-chosen body. The miners have built themselves bigger, internal worlds to cope with the smallness of the station. They were meant to be prisoners, trapped and punished. The freescape is endless and beautiful; continually remade, yet permanent and unassailable — a life of the mind undreamt-of on Clio for any but the most privileged.

Each person lives in an av that reflects their innermost heart, whether fixed or not; and until their bodies die of old age in biostasis, nothing can harm them. The shuttle leaves tomorrow. Last night there was dancing and drinking to celebrate the end of shift — not alcohol, but a synth-liquid the miners made themselves. It does something to the avs that brings about euphoria; boisterous in some people, contemplative in others, but all of them happy and dancing, even the children.

Every sound, every touch, every taste was intensified to the point of ecstasy, and when Garan kissed me, it felt like suns exploding. I shared her bed last night, as did a fixed-heart man called Beyn. We did what we did and then slept in a tangle, rising all at once when our avs woke up. Everything is in order, says my report and it is. The station functions perfectly and it does. Representative Garan is to be commended for her his sterling efforts.

Three Short Stories - Gernot Wolfgang

Which she well deserves. Though I had to keep an eye on what I called her, in the report. Strange to think that such a little word could potentially betray so much. I felt heavier and weaker, yes, but no less real and alive than I had in the av. And when Garan kissed me farewell at the station entrance, her lips still carried the faintest tingle of sunlight.

The shuttle lifted off ten minutes ago. Right on schedule, down to the preordained second. Apparently, Li is something of a perfectionist despite her disregard for the rules. When I left the station, Li was waiting for me, leaning against the shuttle doors with her arms crossed and a gently mocking, I-told-you-so grin on her face. Valina stared at The Song of Savi , certain she must have mistranslated. The text was, after all, some three centuries old, the fine vellum cracking and yellowed with age.

Even when morning-fresh, it was an easy mistake to make: If the ink had bled, it would be an easy thing to misread e and a for i and o. Only the curiosity of a lowly undergraduate, whose smattering of Enascan had seen him put in charge of updating that ancient catalogue, had rescued it from obscurity. Or, to render a closer translation in Kemic, beloved woman. Except that here, Ilaya was praising a woman — and when Valina scanned ahead in the text, she saw the feminine form was repeated more than once, in configurations that sometimes treated it interchangeably with the masculine. Which, in Enascan, could only have been deliberate: Scholars had always known the original was composed in Enascan, of course, but the lack of a written copy in that language had never been considered a scholarly failure, largely because Enascan poetry — and especially epic poetry, which the Song personified — belonged to an oral tradition.

Much scholarly debate had already been had on this point over the years, but lack of evidence meant the matter had eventually died down. And much else besides , she thought, eyes straying again to that first, impossible word. She was, at present, one of just fifty women studying at Hazic University, and one of only a handful whose position was secured by the formal academic mentorship of a Master. Which student saw the exam paper before the exam? Why is somebody following Miss Smith? Can you find the answers before Sherlock Holmes does? Paperback , 56 pages.

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Aug 24, Dena rated it liked it. Nice , simple and easy English stories. Nov 02, Lucas rated it really liked it. Maybe it would be more elaborated. In the other hands, the vocabulary' book is easy and quickly to read. I like suspense because it makes me exciting. I like this novel. I also like this movie. I have watched it twice. But this book is easy and quickly to read. Also the vocabulary isn't difficult. Hannah Jhon Famor Maligon rated it it was amazing Mar 22,