Here are two drabbles and a flash piece from the August 2022 issue of Worlds of Possibility. You can listen to audio versions on the podcast episode (narrated by me, Julia Rios), and you can also read the full text and see the illustrations below. Subscribers make it possible for me to pay creators, and they may download the full August issue in ebook and PDF formats.Listen to "Fencepost and Tree by Marc A. Criley and A Saturday Out byLena Ng" on Spreaker.
Drabbles are a written form that span exactly 100 words. In the ebook version of the August issue, these two drabbles appear at the beginning and end of the issue, sort of bookending it. For the online and audio versions, they are right next to each other.
Content Notes: “Fencepost” and “Tree” by Marc A. Criley depict a tree that is injured and distressed. “A Saturday Out” by Lena Ng discusses and depicts exercise and whether or not a person is fit.
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Fencepost / Tree
by Marc A. Criley
I bore down on the heavyweight bolt cutters, isolating the four rusty, ingrown barbed wire strands piercing the massive oak. “A tree,” I muttered, “is not a fencepost.”
“How old you think this fence is?”
Henry, my nano wrangler, asked.
“Ingrown this bad? Sixty years at least.” Tar-like tears stained the bark where each wire emerged. Henry puttied the exposed strands with FerroPhage™, then activated the nanos. Soft sizzling accompanied spurting puffs of rust.
I brushed away the powder, gave Henry the okay to start daubing bio-repair paste into the wounds.
Above us, the old oak sighed in the breeze.
Clicks and scrapes reverberate within the heartwood-piercing strands. What new barbarity is this? Season upon season, ring after ring the open sores have wept black stains.
Snip, snap. Snip, snap.
Snip, snap. Snip, snap.
Sizzling. Hissing. The barbed violations, deeply ingrained, abruptly crumble. Pain evaporates – now nought but callused perforations.
What is happening?
A healing touch on rough bark – the warm resin of the sapling. New growth remembered ... the first, tender shoot.
Knots unclench, split rings heal. Leaves unfurl in the warm sun. Transpiration calls, fresh sap ascends through bough and branch.
A sigh of renewal shimmers root to crown.
Marc A. Criley avidly read fantasy and science fiction for over forty years before deciding to try his hand at it. He has since been published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Abyss & Apex, Martian, and elsewhere, so rest assured it's never too late to start writing. Marc and his wife “manage” a menagerie of cats in the hills of North Alabama, from where he maintains a blog at marccriley.com and noisily tweets as @That_MarcC.
Andrew Turok is an artist from Ukraine. He says, “In this time I can’t find a job and a normal life, but I believe war can’t stop art.” You can find Andrew’s work at https://www.artstation.com/duleonto.
A Saturday Out
By Lena Ng
“Katie,” Jessica, my wife, called out. “Can’t you ride any faster?”
I would have yelled something sassy back if I wasn’t so out of breath. Jessica was the outdoor athlete whereas I was more of a couch athlete, but they say opposites attract. She was tall and fit while I was short and curvy. On our wedding day, she had buzzed her hair in an undercut and worn a tux, while I had kept to the traditional wedding dress with dollops of lace. Today, the weather was beautiful, and she really wanted to go on a bike ride, and since she came with me to the Fellini Film Fest last weekend (which I know she secretly abhorred), I had to do something she wanted to do.
She slowed down, not to be nice, but to start razzing me. “Seriously, anything can ride faster than you. A frog on a bike. A snake on a bike”—
“Like, really? With what limbs?”
—"even a cat on a bike.”
“I object to that,” I said, between huffs. “Cats are lazy and the least likely of the three to be on a bike.”
And of course, what comes riding up from behind us, but a chunky orange cat on a Schwinn bike, its little legs pumping like second nature. It easily overtook us.
Jessica started laughing. “What did I say?” she said.
Right. My legs were burning, but I tried to convert my weight into power and started to pump them faster. The cat took a quick look behind, realized it was now in a race, and hunched over, putting its back into it.
There was no way I was going to let this cat ride faster than me, so I cheated and turned on the bike’s secret motor. Soon I whizzed past everyone, the cat and Jessica. “Take that,” I crowed.
The cat narrowed its yellow eyes and gave me a look that clearly said, ‘So that’s the game you want to play.’ It reached down to the aluminum frame, flicked something on with its paws, and flames shot out from behind the bike. The cat’s bike flew past me, using the road as a runway, and shot off into the atmosphere.
I had to stop at that. When Jessica caught up, I said, “Stupid cheating cat.”
Jessica reached into her pack and brought out two helmets with oxygen canisters to be worn over the shoulders. “I was meaning to tell you.”
“When did you get this?”
“Last week at the bike show.” That’s what happens when you have separate bank accounts, but I couldn’t say anything since she’s pretty responsible in other ways.
“What about my bike?”
“We’ll come back for it.”
So I slung a leg behind Jessica, and she flicked a switch on her bike, and we went zooming through the atmosphere into the cosmos. Since Jessica had bought the latest model, we easily overtook the cat who shook a furry paw at us. It must have put its helmet on after it broke through the clouds.
Then I said I wanted to have a go, so through some acrobatic moves, we switched places. Jessica is a terrible back-seat driver so she was like, “Look out, we’re flying directly into the sun.”
And I was like, “That’s nonsense, the sun is 1.58×10−5 light years away, and why don’t we visit Venus, the planet for women?”
And she said we didn’t have enough fuel for that, but maybe next year we’ll upgrade if I chip in, so we returned to earth. I picked up my bike, and when we got home, we tried to work out a new budget without fighting.
Lena Ng lives in Toronto, Canada. Her short stories have appeared in eighty publications including Amazing Stories and Flame Tree’s Asian Ghost Stories and Weird Horror Stories. Her stories have been performed for podcasts such as Gallery of Curiosities, Utopia Science Fiction, Love Letters to Poe, and Horrifying Tales of Wonder. Under an Autumn Moon is her short story collection.
Julia Kim is on Instagram as mulanartist. She says, “I’m from Mykolaiv, Ukraine. I love to create cute little designs that help me to donate to charity organisations of Ukraine.”