Nawry the Noodlebeast – Chapter 1: The Rocky Shores

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Commander Annie and Other Adventures, November 2023

[Chapter 1  2  3  4  5  6]


“He lived in this world, and he didn’t feel like mourning an old one.  A world he’d never lived in.”

The Noodlebeasts came from the North.  They traveled the Rocky Shores with their baskets of noodle-seeds, eating only as many as they needed to survive.  The rest they saved for their arrival.  It was a long journey along the crooks and crags and crannies.  At night, they found safe nooks, protected from the beating of the ocean waves.  There, they built cozy fires, toasted noodle-seeds for their supper, and sang songs about the world they were traveling toward. Continue reading “Nawry the Noodlebeast – Chapter 1: The Rocky Shores”

The Soul of the Forest

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Commander Annie and Other Adventures, November 2023


“You are not the soul of the forest. I know this forest, and its voice does not sound like yours.”

The trunks of the trees stretched up toward a sky blocked out by clusters and clumps of orange and red autumnal leaves.  The trunks were smooth, black, regular.  Minutus loped between them, slaloming through the woods on long legs, bushy with her burgeoning winter coat.  She was alone.  She’d been alone since her latest litter had grown into full-coated, long-legged adult wolves of their own.  With their own lives. Continue reading “The Soul of the Forest”

When the Universe Listens

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Commander Annie and Other Adventures, November 2023


“The universe didn’t blink in our staring match, it redefined how staring matches work by growing additional eyes.”

The universe is fundamentally composed of irony.  We live in a story, and that story has a genre.  It is a satire.  Let me repeat the most important idea here:  the fundamental building block of the universe, the smallest, indivisible component is irony.  When you take an umbrella, and so it doesn’t rain — dramatic irony.  The viewer, whoever or whatever exists outside the universe, or perhaps simply the personality of the universe itself gets to laugh at you.  It knows; you didn’t.  Dramatic irony. Continue reading “When the Universe Listens”

Rumpel’s Gift

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Commander Annie and Other Adventures, November 2023


“As the blood and teardrops mixed with the sound of Heidi’s urgently whispered cursing, an electric chill filled the room. Heidi looked up to see a man standing in the doorway.”

Each stitch was a nightmare.  Heidi stabbed her fingertip, jamming the pointy needle through the unruly fabric.  Sometimes the fabric bunched up into a stiff, impenetrable clump under the needle’s point.  Other times, the needle sailed through… only for Heidi to find she’d accidently sewn two layers of the ballgown together.  Then she had to rip the stitches out, taking her further from the finish line. Continue reading “Rumpel’s Gift”

Speed Questing

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Commander Annie and Other Adventures, November 2023


“The plesiosaur wasn’t showing up as an attackable creature. She flipped open her adventurer’s log and scanned through it, trying hurriedly to find the right quest text and read it.”

QuestCrusher20 zipped through the zone, zooming from one quest to the next without reading the text.  She didn’t need to.  Just follow the dots on the game map, and like breadcrumbs they led her from a cluster of satyrcorns to kill for their horns to an area strewn with mecha gears that the friendly robots of Robotica needed her to gather.  Quest after quest, she could figure them out on the fly, and it only slowed her down to read the flavor text or listen to the NPCs tell their backstories. Continue reading “Speed Questing”

Huckle’s Puddle

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Commander Annie and Other Adventures, November 2023


“Who are you?” Huckle asked, almost flubbing the words and saying to the imposter-reflection, “Who am I?”

The water splashed under Huckle’s boot in the most satisfying way. Repeated little stomps made smacking sounds and rapid ripples.  Big stomps from running jumps made a slapping sound and spattered the water high enough to annoy his dad.

“Come on,” Terrence said, grabbing his eight-year-old son’s hand and pulling lightly enough to cajole the boy but not hard enough to hurt him.  “If we hurry, we can make it to both Arrin Abbey and the Westle Church before lunch.  Wouldn’t that be fun?”  Terrence spoke with the tightness in his voice that meant he was trying not to sound annoyed.  But he was.  Huckle could tell.  And Huckle decided to push at him. Continue reading “Huckle’s Puddle”

Greatest of Them All

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Commander Annie and Other Adventures, November 2023


“She could be all the creatures the soul had seen and more beside.”

Once upon a time, there was a soul that wanted to anchor itself into the world.  The soul watched all the creatures in the world, trying to decide what shape its anchor should take.

The mouse was small and could explore tiny places.

The deer had long legs and could run through the woods.

The bird had wings and could soar through the sky. Continue reading “Greatest of Them All”

Stranger Than a Swan

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in All Worlds Wayfarer, Issue XII, September 2022


“The tentacled creature had become, in an instant, the measure by which she would judge the rest of the world, for the rest of her life.”

Eggshell cracked, and the dome of the world broke away, showing a whole other world, infinitely larger and more complicated, beyond the confines of the duckling’s natal home.  It was time to lift her head — breaking the eggshell further, widening the crack in it — and then spread her wings, shaking out the scraggly, wet feathers plastered to her dimpled skin, letting them begin to dry into soft, yellow down. Continue reading “Stranger Than a Swan”

Octopus Ex Machina

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in ROAR 11, July 2022


“How did you do this?” She was sure, deep under her fur, that the octopus was behind the snow. “And why?”

The thing that surprised Lora most about being an otter was that her face was round, and her nose was round.  Everyone thinks of otters as long.  With their sinuous spines, like weasels and ferrets, they’re big ol’ fuzzy noodles.  But when Lora looked at her face — round.  So round.

When Lora had been a cat, her face had been full of corners and edges; triangular ears, articulated muzzle; even the shape of her eyes had been filled with crescents and sharpness.  Continue reading “Octopus Ex Machina”

Too Many Jangleberries

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in The Lorelei Signal, January 2023


“…am I truly a human dreaming of being a bizarre alien giraffe, shopping for groceries in an asteroid belt? Or am I the giraffe, dreaming of being a human?”

Franzi swung her long, giraffe-like neck from side to side, surveying the tightly filled shelves of the grocery aisles on this asteroid shop-mart.  There were too many brands of jangleberries to pick from — she didn’t know which kind she’d like best, and somehow, the existence of so many brands made her feel like she shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than her absolute favorite type of jangleberry. Continue reading “Too Many Jangleberries”