The Christmas Tree Barn

by Mary E. Lowd

First published in Nature Futures, December 2021, by Springer Nature


“Our trees can recognize faces and everything. They’re approximately as smart as Labrador Retrievers.”

The concrete floor of the basement was freezing cold right through Becca’s socks, and the air smelled moldy.  She hadn’t properly aired the basement out since it had flooded most of a year ago, last spring.  Becca yanked on the corner of the old, beat-up cardboard box with the robotic Christmas tree in it, and the box scraped across the floor as it pulled out from under the tool shelves. Continue reading “The Christmas Tree Barn”

The Dreaming Arm

by Mary E. Lowd

A Deep Sky Anchor Original, December 2022


“The dreaming arm had doomed them all, urging them to spend energy they didn’t have to spare…”

One arm sagged.  Seven arms writhed and worked, puckering their sucker discs and pulling the joint-being they composed across the slippery rocks.  The gaspingly dry, slippery rocks.  But the sagging arm — as little as it helped with pulling, and as much as it acted like a dead weight needing to be pulled — had dreamed about crossing the rocks.  It had dreamed of wonders on the other side.  And seven other arms had listened to those dreams.  Been compelled by those dreams, drawn to explore the rocks at the top edge of the ocean. Continue reading “The Dreaming Arm”

Dark Father

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Theme of Absence, June 2020


“As if in a dream, I activate my robotic arm. The false skin boils away, and with a musical hum that I had hoped to never hear, the laser coils power up.”

I didn’t cry. I didn’t flinch. I barely reacted at all.

Even the soldiers on the bridge — trained clones, grown in vats, raised to be soldiers — exclaimed in horror and shock. How could anyone order the destruction of an entire planet?

But Erith Danaya is more than a warlord to me. He is my father. Not the absent kind. He didn’t abandon me and my mother, though every day I wish he had. Continue reading “Dark Father”

The Arsenal of Obsolescence

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in The Voice of Dog, June 2021


“Clearly, these gerbils weren’t as primitive as they looked, and she needed to trust them. She needed to trust someone.”

Lieutenant Vonn crashed through the undergrowth of the wild alien rainforest.  The uplifted yellow Labrador felt like the branches were grabbing at her, tearing at her Tri-Galactic Navy uniform.  She hated this planet.  Usually, she liked planets.  Ground missions were her favorite — getting off the stuffy, artificial halls of the starship Initiative, and setting paw to dirt.  She lived for that stuff — fresh air, walking about in the sunshine!  But right now, all she could think about was Commander Wilker and Consul Tor, stuck in a hole in the ground — a deep, dark ditch; a trap lined with primitive pointed sticks that kept her from climbing safely down after them. Continue reading “The Arsenal of Obsolescence”

The Words in Frosting

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, July 2019


“…it wasn’t her place to judge. It was her place to bake cakes and to kick sad androids out of her bakery if they didn’t shape up and start buying some cake…”

Gary was a humanoid android, programmed to experience the complete range of human emotions.  Right now, he was sad.  His broad shoulders slouched, and his head hung, framing his handsome face with his beautiful raven hair.  He had been designed to be beautiful.

Chirri wasn’t sure what to do with this sad android who’d shown up in her bakery, so she served him a piece of cake on the house.  The felinid-alien slid a gold-embossed ceramic plate in front of Gary, and the android stared disconsolately at the piece of fudgy caramel cake on it for several seconds — a very long time for an android — before saying, “I don’t eat.” Continue reading “The Words in Frosting”

Queen Doripauli and the Sproutlings

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, January 2018


“What did an amphibioid care for the political concerns of sentient flowers?”

Sloanee’s slick, sticky amphibioid fingers wrapped around one of Queen Doripauli’s slender twigs.  The queen’s sea-green fronds uncurled, caressing the richer green skin of her amphibioid lover.  Doripauli’s yellow daisy-like petals brushed ever-so-lightly against Sloanee’s face, and the froggy alien’s bulbous eyes closed blissfully.

How could Sloanee give this up?  She had loved Queen Doripauli since she’d first set eyes on the photosynthetic floral alien.  Her eyes were pink roses; her mouths were blue irises; she was a living bouquet — color and splendor and everything that was right with a universe filled with infinite diversity. Continue reading “Queen Doripauli and the Sproutlings”

Waking Up in the Genie Shop

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, January 2018


“You came to us as a female amphibioid and paid us to change you into a male canid. You’re a Heffen now, one of the most common species here on Crossroads Station.”

Sloanee opened her eyes and felt her heart racing.  What was she doing?  Lying down?  She was on the lam.  She should be running or hiding.  Nowhere was safe from the royal guards pursuing her.  Queen Doripauli and her army of photosynthetic tumbleweed-like aliens would stop at nothing to catch and punish the amphibioid who had betrayed them.

Betrayed her. Continue reading “Waking Up in the Genie Shop”

Home Remodeling

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, March 2020


“This spaceship doesn’t want to attract attention. I can tell it’s doing its best to look like the set from a thirty-year-old sitcom… after thirty years of gathering dust.”

A spaceship crashed down at the end of my street this morning.  Its inertial dampeners and camouflage shield must still be in working order, because it looked like nothing more than a parabola of blue light followed by a puffy white clump of cumulonimbus cloud streaking down from the sky.  After the crash, the puffy cloud dissipated with the morning fog, leaving behind a boxy, non-descript, ranch-style house, painted a bland shade of tan.  The paint is even peeling.  Sure, the lot at the end of the street had been an empty field all winter long, but somehow people have a way of forgetting that. Continue reading “Home Remodeling”

Crystal Fusion

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in The Voice of Dog, August 2021


“Yet she found herself speechless, staring at the crystal facets, mesmerized by the way the light played over them, winking and shining at her as if the light itself were a lifeform trying to catch her attention.”

“Here, let me carry those,” Lt. Vonn woofed to the team of scientists packing a crate with electronic devices that looked like funny mechanical spiders, sprouting metal legs in every direction.

The scientists — an orange tabby cat wearing techno-focal goggles, an arctic fox android, and a very striking brown cat with leopard spots — finished arranging the last few mechanical spiders, closed the top over them, and stepped back from the heavy crate gratefully.  Lt. Vonn stood a head and shoulders taller than all three of them — even the spotted cat, who was unusually tall for a cat. Continue reading “Crystal Fusion”

Ensign Mewly

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Tri-Galactic Trek, November 2021


“Ensign Mewly used the lumo-bay programs more than any other officer. He found them useful for practicing social scenarios and simply escaping from the constant sensation of being lost in the deep, dark void…”

A cat with ghost-white fur walked into the lumo-bay, the sleeves of his Tri-Galactic Navy uniform pushed up above his elbows and a bucket of electronic tools hanging from one paw.

The blue grid lines of the lumo-projectors usually sketched out regular, hexagonal patterns on the dark lumo-bay walls when it was not in operation.  Right now, they looked more like drunk squiggles. Continue reading “Ensign Mewly”