Necessary as a Rose

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Kaleidotrope, January 2020

“Because when there’s something fragile but wonderful to tend to, something that needs you, something that you can watch grow and blossom… It’s easier to survive the darkness outside.”

Sleek and silver, your spaceship sliced through the darkness of space.  Cold, mechanical, everything a rocket needed to be to survive the harshness of vacuum and background radiation and simply the crushing depression of being totally isolated in the middle of a vast nothingness.

But inside.

Yes inside, a bubble of warmth and life support.  Oxygen, nitrogen, puffy gases expanding out to fill the mechanical shell.  All those good ingredients that let humans breathe.  And dogs breathe.  And cats breathe. Continue reading “Necessary as a Rose”

The Pink Agate

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, September 2018

“…when told to pick an agate to represent her in the mosaic, the little lizard girl had picked the pinkest, warmest looking stone of them all. A warm stone to represent a cold-blooded child.”

Clori, a koala-like woman, twisted wires about the pink and white agate in her paws, bending the delicate silver strands carefully with her claws.  When she was done, the heart-shaped stone’s wavy lines were cradled in a net of silver that she hung from the mosaic of agates — each one collected by one of her adopted children. Continue reading “The Pink Agate”

Diamond Dust Heart

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in The Lorelei Signal, April 2021

“I hope to whatever gods out there who would listen to an android like me that behind the door to this backroom, I’ll find a motherlode of drugs and not an android with a dark and leaky heart.”

Down at the precinct, we’d been calling the big crime lord in town Diamond Dust, because that was our only lead.  Whenever the big busts went down, the only clues left behind were microscopic traces of the expensive substance.  Most of my fellow detectives thought Diamond Dust was an addict, hooked on smoking the stuff.  But none of us had any luck tracking Diamond Dust down through the trafficking patterns of the illicit drug.  I had a different theory. Continue reading “Diamond Dust Heart”

Prototype Dino 1

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, May 2021

“After three more tries, it became clear that Wisper was not interested in inhabiting a robot body today. She was busy reading about dinosaurs in the paleontology archives.”

Maradia’s fingers flew over her keyboard as she uploaded the reservoir of files that collectively were Wisper, an AI program she’d been writing over the last several months, to Prototype Body 1.  She ran a quick check to make sure the files had uploaded properly, and then she pushed her rolling chair away from her desk with a grin on her face.  She spun around, kicking her feet out, and feeling like the kid she’d once been who’d dreamed of becoming a roboticist some day.  And here she was.  Ready to turn on her first fully automated robot, controlled entirely by a quasi-sentient AI. Continue reading “Prototype Dino 1”

Too Cuddly

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, May 2021

“”Okay, so you don’t want to be a giant teddy bear,” Maradia said. “What do you want to be?””

“Where did your plush exterior go?”

“I stripped it off.”  Anxlo7’s shiny metal interior gleamed, skeletal and mechanical, without the cinnamon brown teddy bear fur that usually covered her.

“But now you look… scary,” Maradia said to the robot she’d designed for Crossroads Station’s upcoming children’s carnival.  “You’ll scare the kids.” Continue reading “Too Cuddly”

Dry Skin

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Shark Week: An Ocean Anthology, June 2021

“I know that if I can hold out long enough, my skin will regain its natural levels of moisture. But I don’t think I can make it.”

My skin is drying out.  I can feel the withdrawal symptoms.  I want to go back home and run a bath, lace the water with sim-dopa66, and soak, soak, soak up the delicious chemical through my salamander skin.  Without the magic chemicals, I’m withering, drying up, shriveling like a water lily in the desert. Continue reading “Dry Skin”

Where Have All the Mousies Gone

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, December 2021; recipient of the Ursa Major Award for Best Short Fiction

“My grandmother died ten years ago when the cats invaded our world, landing their flying saucers on top of our cities, crushing our skyscrapers, and then chasing our people like we were nothing more than animated rag dolls.”

Does it matter what your last thoughts are when you die?  If you could choose them — they would be hope, wouldn’t they?  A bright future.  Waiting.  Ready.  And you’re going to miss it, but wouldn’t you rather die looking out on a shining expanse of golden sunlight, reflecting off ocean waves and filtering through leafy forests?  Cities full of smiling people, whiskers turned up in happiness.  Bare paws dancing on the concrete streets, and long tails tied together, turned like skipping ropes as adults, filled with laughter, act like mere kits. Continue reading “Where Have All the Mousies Gone”

In the Roots of the World Tree

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Typewriter Emergencies, November 2020

“…the fastest way home was to do what Queen Seltyne wanted. Then she would be sent home through the summoning circle, instead of slowly collecting enough life-leaves to summon her own portal, high in the world tree’s branches.”

Alia heard water dripping all through the city.  Every surface was damp, cold and slick.  She smelled mold in the air.  It came in great huffs as the wind moved.  The summoning circle would open around her, and suddenly, mold would be all she smelled.  She hated it.  She loved water, but not like this.  She longed for the open ocean of her home realm, but she’d been called here.  To Dornsair, the city beneath the hanging roots of the worldtree.  The rotten bottom of the world. Continue reading “In the Roots of the World Tree”

Green Skin Deep

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in All Worlds Wayfarer, September 2020

“The two photosynthoid aliens greeted each other in their own language, sounding like a dance of bells and wind chimes.”

“We’re so much alike,” Trinth said, forming the sound of the words through her flute-like reeds.  She certainly didn’t look much like S’lisha, a reptilian alien.  Trinth looked more like a cosmic rosebush — she saw through flower-like eyes; spoke with flute-like reeds; and used grasping vines to walk and grab. Continue reading “Green Skin Deep”

Crystal and Rainbow

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in New Myths, December 2019

“But the colors have no patience. They can’t wait for precision. They happen. Whether the crystal is ready to contain them or not.”

I am a cracked crystal vase holding a rainbow cloud.  The colors leak out through the cracks. The crystal is too rigid; it can’t contain them. The colors are too strong, too big. Too bold. And the crystal is precise. It desperately wants — no, needs — to be precise. But the colors have no patience.  They can’t wait for precision. They happen. Whether the crystal is ready to contain them or not. Continue reading “Crystal and Rainbow”