The Ugly Sapling

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Empyreome, January 2019


“If it couldn’t be a fruit tree like them, it didn’t want to be a fruit tree at all.”

Once upon a springtime in a magical garden, three saplings were planted in a row, along the bank of a sapphire lake.  They were barely more than sticks, standing awkwardly in the sandy ground with their branch-arms raised toward the sky.  All three looked alike, and they shivered together in their nakedness.

Continue reading “The Ugly Sapling”

Sparky

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Galactic Goddesses, July 2019

“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.”

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

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Midwest Furfest 2019 Conbook, December 2019

“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.”

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

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Furvana 2019 Conbook, September 2019

“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.”

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

by Mary E. Lowd

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

“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.”

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

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, June 2018

“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.”

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.