Originally published in Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, March 2012
The curved neck and stretched wings of the black Dragon dwarf the figure of the doe-like white Unicorn. They make an unlikely picture behind the glass panel and aluminum frame of my sliding glass kitchen door. As always, quite the sight to see. I ask them in. Continue reading “Hot Chocolate for the Unicorn”
This is an excerpt from Otters In Space III: Octopus Ascending, a novel published by FurPlanet, June 2017
The pale glow of Jupiter lit the moon’s watery surface. Europa’s recently melted ocean reflected the gas giant’s ruddy face back at itself, broken by ripples where Brighton’s Destiny disturbed the water on takeoff.
The dark metal V-shape of the two-man spaceship skimmed over the ocean before veering upward in a sharp climb out of Europa’s gravity well. Spacesuit clad paws eased off on the throttle, and Brighton’s Destiny leveled off into a smooth arc toward Jupiter.
Jenny’s otter heart ached to twirl the little ship in spins and loop de loops, but her octopus co-pilot insisted that she needed more practice with the basics of piloting a Whirligig Class vessel first. It hardly seemed fair. The ship, shaped like a two-winged maple seed, was clearly built for spinning. The very name Whirligig begged Jenny to lean on the left thruster and pirouette the ship until Ordol, perched on her shoulders, flailed his tentacles in dizziness. But Jenny restrained herself.
Tentacles sheathed by the clingy, clear fabric of a cephalopoidal spacesuit waved and writhed in Jenny’s peripheral vision, working the controls that she couldn’t reach. The ship had been designed for a biped and an octopod, working together symbiotically. In this case, the biped was an otter. Jenny was still getting used to the design.
Ordol lowered two of his tentacles into the center of her field of vision. He twisted the tendril tips of them, forming the Standard Swimmer’s Signs to say, “Let’s swing around Io. You need practice maneuvering at high speeds.”
Jenny’s whiskers lifted in a smile, brushing against her space helmet’s faceplate. It wasn’t loop de loops, but flying fast would do. She signed with her paws, “No argument here!” Then she pressed down on the throttle and felt the vibration of the thrusters roar in response. The whole ship moved around her, pressing against her back as it shoved her faster and faster toward Io, a small round shadow visible against Jupiter’s ruddy face.
The two celestial bodies — gas giant and volcanic moon — were paintings from the same palette in different styles. Io’s jagged surface roiled with molten lakes and sulfurous plumes as it grew in the viewscreen. Behind Io, Jupiter’s creamsicle clouds slid and swirled past each other, smooth and serene. A timeless god, circled by a restless servant.
As they flew toward Io, Ordol’s tentacles continued to work in Jenny’s peripheral vision, running scans and taking readings. The ship’s computer displayed the results in a language Jenny couldn’t yet read. Sharp angular letters clustered erratically into words — or so Jenny assumed — and scrolled senselessly across the computer screens arranged beneath the central viewscreen.
The sight of the alien language made it impossible for Jenny to forget: this ship was stolen. They had disabled the homing signal to hide it from the original owners, but it was stolen nonetheless.
Ordol could read the writing, at least, a little of it. He’d been a slave to the aliens who’d built the ship, before it was renamed Brighton’s Destiny; the aliens who wrote the inscrutable language that filled its screens and who still enslaved the rest of his people.
Jenny signed, “I’m going to practice veering to the left and right.”
Ordol acknowledged her plan with a sign made by a single tentacle: “Okay.”
Jenny fired the thrusters on the right, pushing Brighton’s Destiny leftward and Io off-center on the viewscreen. The ship continued on its new arc until she cancelled the leftward momentum with a blast from the left thrusters. She overshot and repeated the process several times, causing the ship to swerve on a wiggling course — Io wobbling on the viewscreen — until she managed to straighten the ship’s momentum out. Once again, Brighton’s Destiny flew true, straight toward Io.
Jenny whooped at her success. She knew Ordol couldn’t hear, so she repeated the sentiment with her fisted paw raised in a victorious gesture.
Ordol signed, “Now see if you can do it faster.”
They were nearly halfway to Io. Jenny practiced three times before she could no longer resist: she leaned on the left thruster until Brighton’s Destiny corkscrewed its entire way through a barrel roll.
Ordol’s tentacles fluttered rapidly, too fast for Jenny to understand his signs, but she could read the anger in his movement.
The blood rushed to Jenny’s rounded ears; she felt ashamed for upsetting her co-pilot. “I’m sorry,” she signed, and then she did her best to straighten out their course as fast as possible. However, Ordol’s continued signing flustered Jenny, and she felt herself losing control of the ship. Brighton’s Destiny veered wildly away from Io, and then nosed back toward it, wibble-wobbling in an erratic course.
More and more frustrated, Jenny slammed her paws against the ship’s control board. She raised them and signed, “Stop! Stop it! I can’t understand you when you sign that fast, and I’m trying to fix it.” As she signed, Brighton’s Destiny barreled away from Io onto a course more directly toward Jupiter.
Creamsicle clouds filled the viewscreen. The soft shades of orange were marred by flecks of black. A fleet of enemy vessels had assembled between Jupiter and Io, and Brighton’s Destiny was barreling right toward them.
Jenny realized that her octopus co-pilot wasn’t angry with her; he was scared out of his mind by the sight of the ships of his former slavers. “I’m getting us out of here,” Jenny signed. Then she leaned hard on the throttle, pushing Brighton’s Destiny into the sharpest corner it could make. Jenny didn’t worry about straightening their course out perfectly this time; she just aimed their little ship away from Io.
When Europa was securely in the center of the viewscreen and the fleet of enemy vessels was safely behind them, Jenny signed, “I don’t think they saw us, and they can’t possibly catch up to us before we get back to the base.” The energy shield around Europa would protect them. “You’re safe.”
Ordol’s tentacles calmed down, wrapped around Jenny’s shoulders, and squeezed the otter in a hug.
But Jenny was still worried. There were plenty of other targets in the solar system less protected than the Europa base. After months of quiet, it was time to warn everyone: the raptors were on the move.
(To read more, purchase Otters In Space III: Octopus Ascending, available from FurPlanet, Smashwords, Kindle, and other retailers around the web.)
It’s award season, and so we’re doing a round-up of Mary E. Lowd’s furry short stories published in 2017. There are a lot of them! All but one of these stories can be read online for free; four of them can be read right here at Deep Sky Anchor! If you love any of these stories, please consider taking a moment to nominate them for the Ursa Major Awards, or if you’re a qualified nominator, the Leo Literary Awards.
As a special bonus, we have a coupon for free e-books of Otters In Space 3: Octopus Ascending, which is also eligible for awards! Just use the code YP35J on Smashwords. We also highly recommend each of the stories in ROAR Volume 8, and the anthology itself is eligible for the Ursa Majors in the Other Literary Work category.
The Ursa Major Awards are open for nominations through February 15th, and anyone can nominate. It only takes a minute, and every nomination counts!
Originally published in Arcana: A Tarot Anthology, November 2017
Diamma’s scaly green tail curled to one side, then the other, swaying uneasily, as she stood in the open hatch of her spaceship. Crystals of pink snow caught in her fiery, leonine mane as the flakes drifted down from the powder blue clouds of this world. Snomoth. For years, it had been a number in the registry on her ship; somewhere she would eventually go. For the last few weeks, it had been a dot of light on the main viewscreen. Now it was a faintly pink snowball, the color of cherry blossoms in the early spring, stretched out before her, waiting to freeze her toes when she stepped down from the hatch.
Originally published in The Symbol of a Nation, June 2017
The moon stretched out in front of Jenn like an unhatched egg. Full of possibility. Full of portent. In a few moments, the four pod capsules, including hers, would be ejected from the USS Fledgling, and the final competition would begin. The winner would secure the continuation of their genetic line and be the first live astronaut to Mars. All of them were uplifted birds, designed especially for this purpose, but only one would win. Continue reading “The Moon Like An Unhatched Egg”
Originally published in Theme of Absence, April 2016
Exhausted, Junie watched her five-year-old daughter and two toddler sons play with Gorvall. They stacked up colored blocks and knocked them down. Gorvall’s long gray fingers helped pry apart the building blocks that stuck together. The colorful towers reflected in his large, teardrop-shaped black eyes.
Originally published in Theme of Absence, June 2016
Standing in the hospital lobby, Daniel spread his hands over the shirt covering his flat belly. He tried to imagine the alien life growing inside him, but it didn’t seem real. He didn’t feel any different than he had a week ago.
A couple women walked by Daniel, chatting with each other. The base’s hospital was otherwise quiet at this time of evening. Daniel turned back toward the row of glass doors that led out to the dry, desert air of Eridani Mu, wanting to leave the hospital. The buildings of the human base were under the shadow of twilight now, but the majestic spires of the alien city in the distance were still lit by the pink-and-orange tinged sunset. In only five years since the humans had crashed here, those spires had grown and stretched until they dwarfed the human base. Continue reading “Birthing Class”
Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, February 2014
Chloe lay on the table in the doctor’s office, wearing a paper sheet over her legs and one of those weird gowns that opened in the back. She didn’t want to be pregnant, but she didn’t want to need an abortion. She couldn’t help thinking about David — it had to be David — and what amazing genes he must have. He’d talked like a character out of a fast-paced TV show, everything clever, insightful, and… much too articulate. Continue reading “FemCloud Inc.”
For the last week of Furry Book Month and the week before Halloween, we have two stories for you…
Mice raised from the dead! Zombie puppies! Foolish dogs! And a grumpy cat who’s too clever for his own good! Read the story that started it all, the very first story about Shreddy the cantankerous tabby cat — The Necromouser. And then read the story where Shreddy first meets his unwanted companions, Cooper the empty-headed toy Labradoodle and Susie the lovable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel — Shreddy and the Zomb-dogs.
If you enjoy these two stories, there are more tales of Shreddy and his techno-mystical adventures in The Necromouser and Other Magical Cats, on-sale from FurPlanet for the rest of the month and also available through Amazon. It would make a great book to read for the end of Furry Book Month.