Sparky

“The robotic dog had been sent to fetch a packet of nutri-candy burritos for the girl and energ-supp bars for himself and Rononia.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Galactic Goddesses, July 2019


Annie squeezed the mechanical hand of her robo-nanny.  The hand was cool and silvery like metal, but the smooth surface had a soft give to it like real flesh.  Annie felt safe when she held Rononia’s hand.

“I need to take you home,” Rononia said, her voice low and even, but not mechanical.  For all of the metallic gears visibly built into her elbows, shoulders, and anywhere else that hinged, Rononia had been given a deeply feeling, emotion-laden voice.  And she was programmed to love the child she cared for.  “We can’t go looking for Sparky.” Continue reading “Sparky”

For the Sake of the Mushrooms

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in All Worlds Wayfarer, Issue I: Summer Solstice 2019, June 2019


“A shipload of cargo. Mushrooms from two star-systems over that would spoil, if she didn’t deliver them to Crossroads Station on time.”

The red sun glowed like an evil eye on the forward viewscreen.  It stared into Irudy’s soul.  Once it had been the warmth on her fur and the shine in a smiling sky while she ran through fields, her paws bare against the wholesome dirt.  Now it was death’s mocking wink, as the cold, stale air of her cargo ship recycled endlessly through algae filters and mechanical pipes. Continue reading “For the Sake of the Mushrooms”

Welcome to Ob’glaung

“He submerged, and a moment later, the bubble-like helmet he always wore bobbed back up to the surface.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Midwest Furfest 2019 Conbook, December 2019


Water splashed into the Ob’glaung Station airlock, wetting three sets of feet — a pair of red-furred paws belonging to a Heffen, a pair of gray-tufted paws belonging to a Woaoo, and a pair of green-scaled S’rellick talons.  A long blue fin hovered, trailing over the water’s surface, as an icthyoid Lintar swam eager circles through the air. Continue reading “Welcome to Ob’glaung”

Ecto-Busters One

“I’m sure the fire-spitting portal-thingy at the top of the Great Dane Building will hold for forty minutes or so while we eat some wontons.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Midwest Furfest 2019 Conbook, December 2019


Sunny’s belly gurgled, and she adjusted the heavy weight of the techno-ecto-pack on her back.  The hardworking yellow Labrador hadn’t been able to grab a meal all day long.  Not even a snack.  Her ecto-busting team was too busy dissipating ghosts, exorcising possessed buildings, and laying ghouls back to rest.  It had been one haunt after another, non-stop, ever since the first phone call that Halloween morning.  But what were they supposed to do?  Who else were the good dog and cat citizens of Dogotham City gonna call? Continue reading “Ecto-Busters One”

Heart of an Orca, Grace of a Cat

“The cat’s ears flicked. Her black and white patches made her look like she was wearing a tuxedo, terribly overdressed for the wild, windy beach.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Furvana 2019 Conbook, September 2019


Jamie watched the roiling waves, searching for unicorns in the white spray.  She sat on the golden sand of the freezing Oregon beach, clutching her favorite book, The Last Unicorn, to her chest.  Her toes were red and numb from wading.  The water was too cold for swimming.

Continue reading “Heart of an Orca, Grace of a Cat”

Galactic Garden

“The other galaxy-spinner brought her to his web and showed her — around each star, he’d placed broken fragments of matter, little dust balls, and on the dust, complex carbon structures had bloomed, grown, spread.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Furvana 2019 Conbook, September 2019


Ariadella chose a cozy corner of the universe where the velvety blackness was thick with a rich, fizzy soup of hydrogen and helium. She settled into the lonely void and began gulping up the fizz, letting it process deep in her belly, until she had enough dark matter to begin spinning.

With her thousands of legs, Ariadella pulled silk from her spinnerets.  The gravitational lines of silk brought tension, structure, and form to the swampy darkness. She spun from a central point outward, choosing a spiraling pattern as she went. Continue reading “Galactic Garden”

Memory Sprites

“Phyllis hands one mug to me and keeps one. She pours the third onto the fire, and the hot chocolate explodes in a cloud of steam.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Fantasia Divinity Magazine, Issue 5, December 2016


Camping with my sister Phyllis feels like a cargo cult.  If she hikes into Uncle Mark’s forest, stakes out a tent in the dirt, cooks instant stuffing on a propane stove, and toasts hot dogs on sticks, then she believes the happiness of childhood will come flooding back.  But all I see is a sadly empty camp site.  There are no cousins climbing trees, rock-hopping across the river, or searching for frogs — they’re all grown up and scattered across the country.  Hell, Erika lives in Australia.  Instead of aunts and uncles laughing over a lively game of Brain-Dead Bridge around the campfire, it’s just me, Phyllis, and her travel backgammon set. Continue reading “Memory Sprites”

Welcome to the Arboretum, Little Robot

“GY-30 froze, intoxicated and entranced by the sight of verdant emerald grass, buzzing insects and tiny avians, bountiful bushes heavy with brightly colored fruit, and trees with willowy trunks and draping leaves.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2018


GY-30 extended his wheels from his mechanical feet and rocked back and forth, passing the time.  He was waiting for Chirri, the felinoid who employed him, to finish her business in the wholesale outlet.  She was a baker and would probably need him to carry a couple hundred pounds of Aldebaran sugar and Procyon flour back to her bakery in the merchant quarter.  GY-30 was a small robot — only knee-high to Chirri, without his extendo-legs deployed — but very strong. Continue reading “Welcome to the Arboretum, Little Robot”

Weremoose

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, Issue #9, May 2014

“Whimpering on the snow-covered ground, Darkfoot expected the moose’s giant hooves to trample him.”

A shadow of antlers stretched ominously over the snow.  Darkfoot crouched behind a fallen log.  White flakes tickled his muzzle, but he dared not shake them off.  With its long legs, the moose could easily outrun a young wolf like him.  Or kick him in the skull.

If Darkfoot downed a moose alone, though, then his pack would never mock him again.

Giant hooves clomped into view.  Legs like four-year-old elm trees bent and passed before him.  Darkfoot sprang at the moose from behind, aiming for its massive neck.  The moose turned, and its brown-furred head, nearly the size of Darkfoot’s whole body, swung at him.  Knocked him from the air.  Destroyed his plans to prove himself.

Whimpering on the snow-covered ground, Darkfoot expected the moose’s giant hooves to trample him.  Instead, he felt the dull, stabbing pain of a leaf-eater’s teeth on his flank.  Panicked, pained, and confused, Darkfoot lost consciousness.

* * *

He awoke covered in snow, under the dull glow of the winter moon.  His pack mates nosed him gently, rousing him to get up.  He could see the laughter in their eyes.  He’d taken on a full grown moose and lost.  He’d taken on a moose alone.  He was a fool like they’d always thought he was.

Darkfoot tried his paws and found they held his weight, though his side throbbed in pain.  A crescent of tooth marks marred his flank, angry with blood.  He licked his fur clean.  Then, dejected and limping, Darkfoot followed his pack mates home.

* * *

Night after night, Darkfoot stayed home to heal while his friends, his brothers and sisters, went on the hunt.  The pain in his flank ebbed, but the crescent scar remained.  It marked him as separate from the others, a badge of his lunacy.

As the winter moon waned, Darkfoot grew increasingly solitary and strange.  His pack mates brought back food for him from their kills, but he barely ate.

On the night of the new moon, his pack downed a moose.  The flesh tasted wrong on his tongue.  The flavor lingered like guilt over a broken taboo.  From that day on, Darkfoot wouldn’t eat meat at all.  Instead, he munched on the winter berries down by the river and, stranger still, gnawed on the twiggy branches of young oak trees and the fallen needles of pine.  His pack thought he would surely starve.

Darkfoot, however, felt a new strength growing inside him and found new comfort in his solitude.  His legs felt long and powerful; his shoulders broad and heavy; and a sense of majesty filled him at the slightest turning of his head.  His pack saw a mangy, sickly wolf.  Darkfoot knew better.  Darkfoot saw the shadow of what he was becoming stretched across the snow before him.

Darkfoot saw the shadow of antlers.

An Aldebaran Sugar Cookie for Star Shaker

“Chirri wanted to give her hero something, as a kind of thank you. She dug one of the cookies out of her bag; it was star-shaped and glittered with grains of Aldebaran sugar.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Fantasia Divinity Magazine, May 2017


The asteroid amphitheater rocked with applause as the suspended final note of Star Shaker’s encore vibrated the atmo-bubble over everyone’s heads.  The reptilian pop-star bowed and spotlights shone off of her rainbow-colored scales, making her glitter like the stars all around.

Chirri had loved Star Shaker’s music since she was a little kitten.  Once, she’d even shaved off her fur and drawn little Vs all over her naked skin, hoping they’d make her look like she had scales.  It had looked awful, but she’d been too young to care.  All she knew was that it had made her feel closer to her hero.

Everything felt right when Chirri listened to Star Shaker’s golden throated singing.

The applause died down, and the other fans — all sorts of aliens, from the fuzzy to the feathered, antlered, or scaly like Star Shaker herself — began leaving their seats, heading to the airlocks at the back of the atmo-dome.  But Chirri didn’t want it to be over.  She stayed in her seat, clutching her bag of supplies — snacks, water, vid-com — hoping to catch one more glimpse of Star Shaker.

Of course, it was the fleet of Roboweiler guards who cleared the stage.  It was silly to think Star Shaker would come back out, but Chirri couldn’t let go of the feeling she’d had while watching her hero, dancing so close, singing in the same air — real sound waves from Star Shaker’s silver forked tongue directly to Chirri’s eager pointed ears.

Reluctantly, Chirri stood and started edging her way back through the rows of seats, each pawstep taking her farther away from those perfect moments during the concert.  She sighed, accepting that the magic had melted away, and it was time to return to her normal life.

Then Chirri saw her:  Star Shaker’s scales were simply silver-gray without the stage lights, and she was small — a full head shorter than Chirri.  But it was her.  Alive and real and strutting toward Chirri with a Roboweiler on either side of her.  The Roboweilers’ mechanical red eyes glowed, menacingly.

Chirri stumbled backward, nearly falling over a seat and tangling her hindpaws in her long tail.  When she recovered herself, she could feel that her fur had fluffed out.  There were only a few seconds until Star Shaker would pass her on the way to the airlocks, and there would only be a moment then — but there would be a moment.  What could Chirri say to her hero in a moment?

Chirri remembered the snacks in her bag — she was a baker and had brought some of her signature Aldebaran sugar cookies.  It was stupid… but maybe she could give Starshaker a cookie.  Something she’d made for someone who’d made so much for her…  Because Star Shaker’s music always felt like it was made only for her.  She knew it sounded that way to everyone…  That was Star Shaker’s appeal; she was a reptilian alien, but her heart could have been anything — fuzzy, feathered, photosynthetic — she spoke to them all.

But it didn’t matter.  Chirri wanted to give her hero something, as a kind of thank you.  She dug one of the cookies out of her bag; it was star-shaped and glittered with grains of Aldebaran sugar.  Chirri had made the batch especially for this concert.  She’d been so excited.  And it had been everything she dreamed.

Chirri held out the cookie.  Her eyes locked with her hero’s, and the small reptilian alien said, “What is this felinoid doing here?  I thought you guys cleared this place out.”

The Roboweiler to the right snarled and advanced, probably just to warn Chirri to keep her distance from the pop-star, but its mechanical teeth startled Chirri so much that she tripped all the way over the seat this time.  She landed splayed on the asteroid amphitheater’s floor, ears askew, tail crimped beneath her, and star cookie smashed.

By the time Chirri dusted herself off, Star Shaker and the Roboweilers were well past her.  The moment was gone.  The moment had been horrible.  Chirri relived it — seeing herself over and over again, tripping awkwardly, all dignity lost in front of the one being she most admired.

Chirri’s ears flattened and her whiskers shivered.  She looked down at the crumbles of sugar cookie in her paw.  Maybe she wouldn’t bake that recipe again for a while.

In fact, she didn’t think she would listen to Star Shaker’s music for a while either.  At least, until the memory of this night faded.  Because she needed that moment to go away, and she couldn’t imagine hearing Star Shaker’s voice without thinking about it.

The stars still stretched out all around the asteroid amphitheater, but for Chirri, the world had become much smaller, and nothing sounded right.  At all.