Hot Chocolate for the Unicorn

“The Unicorn shuffles his hooves in restless excitement as I open the cupboard with the mugs.”

by Mary E. Lowd

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”

Otters In Space III: Octopus Ascending (Chapter 1)

Art by Idess (www.idessart.com)

by Mary E. Lowd

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.)

Take Them to the Happiness Zoo

“Junie knew that Gorvall was only trying to ingratiate himself to her. It was working.”

by Mary E. Lowd

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.

Continue reading “Take Them to the Happiness Zoo”

FemCloud Inc.

“That… uh… wasn’t the machine talking,” Dr. Orton said. “That sound came from your uterus.”

by Mary E. Lowd

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.”

Hidden Intentions

“S’lisha wanted to claw the child’s little face off, but the captain wouldn’t like that. And she needed this job.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March/April 2017


“Can you breathe fire if you eat rocket fuel?” asked Alison, the captain’s five-year-old daughter.

S’lisha drew a deep, calming breath through her scaly nostrils.  She didn’t understand why humans brought their children on spaceships.  Her species kept their larval offspring in caves on their home world until they matured and their adult scales grew in.  Continue reading “Hidden Intentions”

Cyclops on Safari

Cyclops on Safari
“He peeked out the window again and sneered at the pathetic unicorn horns. Those simple spikes were nothing to the beautiful branching of a moose’s antlers.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published by Penn Cove Literary Arts Award, June 2013


The little boy pressed his nose up against the minivan window, twisting himself up under his seatbelt.  He strained his one eye, trying to peer all the way across the golden field littered with shiny white unicorns, gamboling and playing, their manes rippling in the wind.  Danny was sure that if his parents would just let him roll down the window so he could stick his head out, he’d be able to make out a moose in the forest edge beyond.  Instead, all he could see was stupid unicorns. Continue reading “Cyclops on Safari”

The Best Puppy Ever

The Best Puppy Ever
“None of my friends at the dog park believed me when I told them that my masters had been bringing me to the hospital to have a real doctor check on my puppies.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Issue No. 15, May 2014


The hospital lights flash in my eyes, and a man wearing blue scrubs injects me with a needle.  I can’t feel my body anymore, and all I can see is his blue-clothed back and the nervous faces of my owners, Geoff and Bree, looking down at me.  I can see them holding my paws, reaching to pat my ears, but all the sensations are distant. Continue reading “The Best Puppy Ever”

High School Dogs

High School Dogs
Art by Idess (www.idessart.com)

by Mary E. Lowd

A Deep Sky Anchor Original, March 2016


The dance was over, like most high school dances, around eleven. The music stopped, and amid barks and yips of outrage, the lights came on. Without the blasting music and strobing lights, the crowd dissolved into a mass of individual dogs standing around awkwardly. Katasha’s ears flattened, and she drifted away from the bandstand, suddenly feeling weird as the only cat in the audience. The band playing tonight, Dog-Step, didn’t exactly have a lot of feline fans. Continue reading “High School Dogs”

My Fair Robot

robot-and-girl
“She made robots, and that’s all she did. Robots, robots, robots. Robots day and night.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Luna Station Quarterly, Issue 017, March 2014


“She’s gonna be beautiful,” he said. He was human. I’m human. We were all human. Most of the patronage at the All Alien Cafe is human. Despite it being “all alien.” Anyway…

He was really bragging it up. He was designing a robot, and he had some sort of Pygmalian-hubris-God-complex thing going on. It was annoying as all get-out. I had to pick my moment. Continue reading “My Fair Robot”

The Most Complicated Avatar

“When Ken and I told her we were getting divorced… That’s when she added the tortoise shell. A big green shield covering her avatar’s little back.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, July 2012


It feels strange to me, deep in my stomach, that I can’t find my ten-year-old girl in real life — but that, maybe, I can find her here. Continue reading “The Most Complicated Avatar”