Read about some of the contributors to issue eighteen and see excerpts from each article or story.
Born in 1956 in
Sofia, Bulgaria, Velko graduated with a degree in Machine Engineering but has
worked chiefly as a journalist. His published books include 'Kadeto ne ste bili'
(Where You Have Not Been)
Born in 1956 in Sofia, Bulgaria, Velko graduated with a degree in Machine Engineering but has worked chiefly as a journalist. His published books include 'Kadeto ne ste bili' (Where You Have Not Been)
past midnight, and there’s not a soul about. The square is deserted and quiet.
Not even a stir comes from the garden – neither from the trees, nor from their
shadows under the bluish light of the lamps. And yet, he is here. A few
bright-colored leaves are falling from the linden-tree, swirling down to the
ground, then suddenly they engage in a strange dance, freeze in fantastically
symmetric figures and then scatter again, landing lightly on top of the piles of
aesthete,” I muttered under my breath, trying to light a cigarette.
gust put out the small fire, something flat and cold struck my back with an
ominous flap. Even an experienced weather inspector would shrink at this.
Without turning back I peeled the thing off. It was a colorful poster – a
blonde beauty with her hair flying and the words “Become a wind!” I threw it
away and the poster slid easily along the asphalt toward the nearest trash-can.
funny,” I said in my palm, trying to light another match. When you talk to a
wind, there is no need to look around.
Inspector and the Night,” someone whispered in my ear. “The Inspector
doesn’t feel like sleeping. Why is that?”
drew up the collar of my raincoat and sat down on a bench.
here to lecture me, aren’t you?” The voice made an effort to sound ironic.
I’m not, though I should. What a beautiful night. And what about you? That’s
what you’ve sunk to – sweeping the streets.”
wind whirled round the bench and I felt cold.
find it much more amusing, you know, than swaying the blossoming branches in
front of Vihren’s window!”
just started working for a famous poet.
there was wisdom in my voice, “are to see beauty where we don’t notice it.
Don’t be whimsical!”
are right, I am whimsical. But I don’t like caressing the poplars’ tops and
lashing the builders’ faces at the same time. It’s not fair ... Hey, you
weren’t sent here to ... have you?”
wasn’t. I just don’t feel like sleeping.”
rushed and caught a leaf almost touching the ground and left it on the pile.
Then I felt him come back.
might have very well been sent. They don’t like my work, I hear. Am I not
useful, though? Yes, I am. They could say nothing to that.”
OK. But is that what you’ve come back for? For all I know you wanted open
spaces. You wished to fly over the fields, over the mountains.”
wind was slow to answer. Only the leaves of the poplar rustled above me. That
was not even a whiff, it was a sigh. Only he could do that, the slyboots!
was with the Delta-plane pilots ... I’ve run away ... They don’t need us.”
spent two weeks with them. At first they were glad, you see, they hadn’t had
such flights before – long and high. And, safe, too. One day I was carrying a
boy. We’d had several flights together. That day he kept silent. After we’d
flown over two hills, I asked where we would go next. Can’t you keep silent,
like you ain’t here!’ he shouted. Then he suddenly plunged downwards; he
slipped out of my grip, you see. He nearly killed himself. I managed to catch
him just before he hit the ground. He chucked up the Delta-wing and headed for
nowhere. Never said a word.”
threw away the cigarette and stood up. Then I crossed the garden and made for
the square. I was walking as if I was on my own but the trees rustled at my
approach, the torn ends of the posters flapped. A few steps behind me everything
I abruptly stopped and turned back. “What about the children, then? Don’t
they enjoy it? The kites, the balloons?”
children,” repeated the voice. “Why don’t you go to any play-ground with
winds-on-duty for the kites? What do you think you’ll find there? Lots of wind
and no children. Only those brought by a grandfather or an uncle. They don’t
like it when it’s organized, don’t you see?”
Ekaterina Sedia now lives in southern New Jersey with the best spouse in the world and a menagerie of animals. She generally enjoys monkeys, robots, Thai food, rain and sarcasm. Her first novel 'According to Crow' was released in May 2005 from Five Star Books. She has sold short stories to Analog, Aeon, Fortean Bureau and Jabberwocky. Visit www.ekaterinasedia.com for more information.
unmoving, looking into the darkening Martian sky. His telescopic eyes followed
the slow movement of the ship that soared far away but getting closer, its sails
aglow with the light of the invisible sun. The golden radiance of the sails that
stretched for miles over the silvery hull was so majestic that Esu felt deep awe
and sadness; the sight made his metal heart heavy, as if infused with thick,
Isaiah approached, his tracks rustling on the
red dust. “What’s happening?”
“It’s getting closer,” Esu said. “And it
is so beautiful … how do you think it’s moving?”
“According to the records, Ra the Sun God is
pushing it with his breath. Probably.”
“Do you think there is anyone alive in there?
Isaiah seemed uncomfortable, the red eye
blinking in the middle of his aluminum belly. “Maybe. That would be nice, you
know? They could take us home.”
“So it’s the Apocalypse?”
“I suppose. Jonah would know more about
Esu thought of asking Jonah, but could not peel
his eyes away from the sky. The sails fluttered and stretched, turning,
capturing as much of sunrays as possible, and flared up in the inferno of the
reflected light and gold.
“It must be what the burning bush looked
like,” Esu whispered.
Isaiah made an affirmative noise. “Or the
“Or Noah’s ark,” Paul said.
Esu did not even hear him approach. “Nah,”
he said. “There was no gold on Noah’s
“But there were people,” Paul said.
Esu turned one eye to stare at Paul’s compact,
circular form that huddled low to the ground. “Are you sure there are people
“Yep. Jonah says that there are. Just like on
“That would mean our days here are
numbered,” Isaiah said, resignation audible in his voice.
Esu was about to answer, but flickering in the
sky drew his attention. The giant sails were folding, like wings of the Roc, and
soon disappeared from view as the silver hull shuddered, caught in the
gravitational pull of Mars. A flame shot out of the end of the hull, and it
plummeted toward the surface.
Isaiah whirred around, screaming, “They’re
coming! They’re coming!”, and took off in the direction of the Salvation.
The first panic was supplanted by curiosity and
nervous anticipation, as the robots gathered at the spot where, according to
Paul’s estimates, the ship would land. There was a big discussion regarding
the appropriate course of action.
“They are different from us,” Jonah
cautioned. “But they are not very complex.”
“Do they know about us?” Esu asked.
“They made the Salvation and me,” Jonah
“And me,” Peter, Paul, and Abel said in
“The point is,” Jonah continued, irritated,
“they know we’re here. They’ve sent us.”
Before Esu got a chance to ask what the
Apocalypse would be like, the sky darkened, and the ground shook with impact,
not half a mile from the gathering. Everyone stopped talking and listened, as
Esu extended his eyes to see. A cloud of rust-colored dust billowed, concealing
the silver bullet of the ship’s hull.
The dust had settled by the time Esu and the
rest walked, crawled, and rolled toward the ship. They had crash-landed, Esu
thought, just like the Salvation. They had come to stay.
Esu’s feet pounded on the hard ground as he
ran as fast as his unlubricated joints would allow. He arrived just in time to
see silver people with glass bubble heads emerge from their ship. They appeared
to be made of the same material as Esu, and he felt vaguely pleased by that.
“Hi,” he said.
The people turned their blank glass faces that
reflected the jagged ridge and the red expanse around them.
Esu thought that he would’ve been more
comfortable if they were in possession of eyes or mouths.
“Hi,” one of the people said. “Say, are
you from the Salvation?”
Esu turned his head from side to side, and
cringed at the whining and grating of metal. “Not me, but Jonah, Peter, Paul
and Abel are. They made the rest of us.”
“Incredible,” one of the people said.
“They made you? What for?”
“Be fruitful and multiply,” Esu quoted.
“Blessed is the man whose sons are numerous
like arrows in a quiver.” Jonah whirred right beside Esu, annoyed that he got
to talk to the people first.
The people remained silent, just standing there,
as if an evil magician had turned them into stone.
“That’s Jonah,” Esu said. “He’s the
one who teaches us, and holds all the knowledge.”
“Bible, Torah, Upanishads, Ramayana, brothers
Grimm, Lao Tsu, Book of the Dead,” Jonah recited with pride.
“What about physics?” one of the people
said. “Astronomy, electronics, other sciences?”
Jonah and Esu traded a look of confusion.
“Science?” Esu said.
“I think it’s a different kind of
knowledge,” Jonah said. “It was in other robots – they did not survive.”
“There was other knowledge?” Esu felt
cheated that he was only now finding out that he did not know everything there
was to know.
The people started to laugh – softly at first, and then roaring like lions at the sight of Daniel. They slapped their thighs and doubled over. The one who spoke previously managed to whimper between sobs of laughter, “How … how did you manage to make other robots without any science?”
Lord led me,”
Jonah said with his habitual dignified humility.
Ivaylo Ivanov is a 35 year old lawyer and science fiction writer living in Varna, Bulgaria. He has had stories and articles published in Bulgarian books, and magazines. Ivaylo has five Bulgarian literary awards. His short story collection 'Naslednitsi' (Heirs) was published in Bulgaria in 2002.
thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long in the land which the LORD
thy God giveth thee.”
I am walking and I cannot hear my steps. Their
tapping is drowned in the lashing rain and the deafening roar of thunder. I walk
silently. The cool drops run down my cheeks and my temples, soak through my
clothes and have the bouquet of white narcissi. I can’t help remembering
Murphy’s laws – it never rains but it pours. Damn it, I didn’t even take
an umbrella! Yet, what does an umbrella have to do with all that?
IX sector, fifth row – there’s the small copper
plaque “Sean Simon (2053-2081)”
Father. My father! I feel like grabbing a passer-by
by the lapels and screaming at him: “I’ve got a father! Do you hear me? I
do!” But who else would be in a graveyard at nightfall, just to have these
words yelled at him? And I have to guard against emotional breakdowns –
that’s what the doctors have told me.
My mind, they said, would be catching up with the
age of my body for several more years. When they took me out of the incubator
they said, it was still that of an eight-year-old. I was eight years old when
they stuck me in there and twenty-five when I came out – a man with a beard
All that time they’ve been feeding me knowledge
by the ‘sleep method,’ they’ve been in touch with me, but emotionally
I’ve stayed a child. Otherwise, I’m crammed with theory, I’ve graduated
from high school while asleep, I’ve even demonstrated an enviable IQ, but
nothing has been able to make my emotions develop. It’s been impossible, they
I stand before the copper plaque, the bouquet in my
hands. My face is itching like hell. Sure it does: I shaved the damn beard less
than an hour ago. Here I stand, asking myself – how did it come to that? Why?
Where did it all begin? From the incubator?
“All true men wear beards, and you are a true
man, Oliver!” – I have no idea who impressed that on me – was it in the
incubator... or did everything start from the glasses? Or from the pile of
documents I received when they discharged me from Pan Alfa Medics, seventeen
years after my entering there; the documents I looked through only today?
In the few childhood memories I have, my father
appears as a pensive and strict man, often sullen for no obvious reason with a
cigarette clenched between his lips. I remember his deep voice, bearing no
objections, and yet soft, echoing in the whole house. I could not disobey that
voice, whether it demanded that I helped my mother with this or with that, or
not play with the children until late, or behave at the table. The respect I had
for my father has often repelled me and I would not stay near him. Quite often,
after some mischief, I would nestle against my mother’s skirt to escape the
spanking I deserved. I think I didn’t care for my father much then.
Khristo Dimitrov Poshtakov earned his Masters of Engineering in 1975. He had published seven science fiction books in Bulgaria and has written over 140 short stories that have been published in Bulgaria, Spain, France, England and Russia. His novel 'Sword, Magic and Power' was released in Russia last year and is planned for release in Spain this year.
Still stunned by the visit, Buster B. King found a place to park the car quite easily. He wound the wheel, turned it back and put his foot down on the brake. The luxurious limousine rocked slightly and stopped in front of his favorite Chinese restaurant. He switched the engine off and slipped out of the car. The gush of heat struck him. The effort of taking the twenty steps to the bamboo curtain made him sweat. He took out the handkerchief and mopped his forehead; then bent down because the paper lamp over the entrance was too low. The short corridor led to a room decorated with dragons and full of small tables. Buster looked around. There were no visitors yet. Lee, the bald waiter came up quickly, bowed and took Buster to his table.
are quite early today,” he noted with his typical impenetrable smile. “As
little man disappeared in the kitchen and left him all alone with his thoughts,
gloomy like thunder-clouds in the summer time. To learn the date of one’s own
death is unpleasant, even indecent. What had urged him visit Future Determining
Co.? A whim, an inexplicable drive, foolish curiosity or incomprehensible fear
of the future? He had not made up his mind and did not know what to do.
“It’s a convenient occasion for insurance,” he thought bitterly but
immediately realized the idea was stupid. The insurance companies had surely
received the computer data about his case. Right at the outset, Future
Determining Co. had to sign agreements with them and later on, with the National
Defense Committee, the CIA and other institutions and companies. The agreements
contained provisions for ‘the degree of information,’ so his intention was
obviously senseless. Anyway, his children would be well provided for.
perhaps he had to do something entirely different? Go to the Bahamas, bask in
the sun on the coral beaches and forget everything? It sounded attractive but he
knew he would never get rid of the haunting despair. “You
have two months and six days to live, Mr. King,”
the machine operator had declared impartially. “You’ll
fall from the roof of a skyscraper.”
Johan Vladimir is the pen name of Ana Ivanova Ilieva. She is a philologist, journalist and writer from Varna, Bulgaria. Her stories often blend the fantastic with medieval history and examine the problems of duty and human choice. Her web site is www.johanvladimir.com
near side of the cliff was overgrown with soft grass. Dewy in the early morning.
It was slipping under my bare feet and moistened the end of my robe. I was lucky
to be held on both sides by the guards, for I could hardly stand on my feet.
was climbing slowly, more slowly than the rhythm the weariness of the dungeon
dictated, and I was drawing deep breaths of the fresh forest wind. On the top of
the cliff a few people were waiting for me, I avoided looking at them. I was
tossing my head and devouring with my eyes the blue-green hills of Arbanassi and
Trapezitza, the sunlight splashing on them, the endless sky.
last view of my life.
chopping log barred my way. A new one, unsplashed with anybody’s blood, hewn
especially for me. They were paying honor to my high rank. The guards knocked me
to my knees and left me.
rose with great efforts. Down below, under the sheer cliff, my people were
crowding round. I couldn’t hear the voices, only disjointed, sigh-like wails.
They had brought everybody, to witness my humiliation. And my death.
turned my eyes to the boy. While I was going up the cliff, I had passed by
without recognizing him. His wanton black tresses were wrapped in a colorful
turban. His cheeks were sunken and in his eyes the fire of madness burned. His
slender body was wrapped in a grubby cloak with an embroidered crescent. They
had told me his name was Iskender.
Holy Father.” His voice was trembling. “And ask Cheleby’s forgiveness.”
obey, most noble prince! I obey to one master and every day in my prayers I ask
his forgiveness. Everything that shall happen is of his will.”
are going to kill you! They won’t be shy about killing you! And then why all
the fuss? Why did we surrender the city? Why did we acquiesce? Wasn’t it you
who wanted us to reconcile and to accept God’s will?”
accept Divine Predestination is one thing. To obey an earthly master is another.
It is a pity I have not been able to teach you to discern between the two,
Alexander. Go away. To look at you, fills me with shame.”
I knelt down and joined my hands together for a last prayer. I pressed
my eyelids tight, so that I would not see the tears of the boy whom I loved like
a son. Lord, if Thou hear me take this child under Thy wing! Don’t turn Thy
grace away from his father who, of Thy will, is tsar and autocrat of all
Bulgarians. Give strength and hope to those whose crying and wails I hear now.
Dear Lord, I pray not for myself, my road has come to its end
Somebody croaked in his barbarian language. The rude hand of a hangman bent my head to the chopping log. A surge of cries crashed against the cliff.
opened my eyes and half-closed them again, blinded by the gleam of the blade
above my head…
“It’s half past five. The work
day is over.”
The tender, rippling female voice
interrupted my meditation and dispelled the vision, gently pulling my
consciousness back to reality.
bright desk-light in the reading-room slowly died, leaving only the floating
floodlights around the rotating shelves with the manuscripts. The doleful piano
music coming from the sound system was replaced by lively folk melodies. The
air-conditioners joined in with their whirring saturating the air with fresh
I looked at the open book on the
desk in front of me. There was a drop of blood from my nose on the left margin
of the page. That usually happens when I’m in a trance. Three golden drops
glowing like sparks of gilt. It’s been a whole millennium already, and I still
can’t get used to the color of my blood. I swabbed them up carefully with the
sleeve of my soft cotton shirt. Only a matte luster remained on the paper –
almost no traces.
I stood up and instead of taking the
wide marble stairs to my office made for one of the escalators to the exit. I
was late. I had only half an hour to get to the appointment and the fiestas on
the streets would probably delay me. I nodded when I passed the janitor’s
cabin, although I’d long known he couldn’t see me. A young man and most
likely a zealous atheist – he usually looked through me with a slight
astonishment, as if through a breath of wind.
I inserted my card into the lock of
the massive oak gate. A second later, the display flickered: “Evtim: saint:
main librarian of the Tarnovo Khan Book Depository. Thank you for working today,
have a good rest!”
The doors opened wide and the lights
of the street festivities poured over me like a magic waterfall. I needed a few
seconds to get over the confusion that seized me every time when I was out on
the street. Then I stepped on the moving sidewalk to
The sidewalk was made of pink quartz – smoothly polished triangular paving stones. Under the crystal, about a hand span thick, were the tiny floodlights of the sidewalk lighting, arranged like constellations. I stared beneath my feet and tried to find Orion and Ursa Major with the childish enthusiasm of a beginning stargazer. The zmey builders had a subtle sense of beauty. I left it with a sigh of regret and changed to the next one, leading straight up.
I passed over the central city monument - a triple statuary in praise of the zmey patrons. The first sculpture represented the cornfields of Dobrudja. Large wheat ears with amber grains - and above them the amethyst statue of as flying zmey, driving the storms and the hails away. The second was made of white marble: a sheep flock in the lowlands of Thrace guarded by a smallish zmey shepherd. The third one had three zmeys treading on grapes in a folk dance. A pathetic anachronism - no zmey had visisted a wine plant for ages ...
The sidewalk curved and passed along
the park-square ‘Velchova zavera.’ The zephyr was rustling in the branches
of the venerable trees. The tiled alleys were teeming with earth-worms after the
afternoon rain. I walked very carefully, trying not to step on them. Thank God,
it was still deserted and quiet around; the city celebrations had still not
begun. Birds were flying over my head; rank bushes were reaching out for my
A young woman with bright red hair
and a wreath of roses was hoeing pansies in the alley. When she saw me, she rose
and gave me a dazzling smile, although we hardly knew each other. She was the
diva keeper of the park. I hadn’t asked her why she had decided to leave the
forests and come to the city, but I was glad she could see me clearly enough to
talk to me.
“Greetings!” she said with her
“Good evening, Alena!” I
answered and bowed slightly.
She lifted some picked flowers and put them in the pocket of my shirt. She flinched slightly – I knew that touching me hurt her – then she waved goodbye to me.
Sergey Gerasimov lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine with his wife and daughter. Sergey received a degree in theoretical physics from Kharkiv University and published several articles about cognitive motion and interest. Sergey has sold about a hundred stories in Russia. This is his first story written in English. He can be contacted at email@example.com
spacecraft has ever returned from Mars.
In the days of Mariners, Vikings and Mars Pathfinders the space probes returned vast amounts of data about the characteristics of the red planet and a large number of photographs of its surface. They printed black-and-white or red-and-yellow panoramas, tested soil samples for evidence of metabolism, growth, or photosynthesis, studied weather conditions. They landed, explored, analyzed , and found nothing special.
looked promising at first.
several Phobos probes were unexpectedly lost; they were followed by crashes,
unsuccessful landings and other failures. However, all these machines were not
designed to return.
first piloted mission vanished in the vast rock desert of the Tharsis bulge,
many people on Earth were shocked. The next expedition was delayed for thirty
eight years. Eve and Harold Jahnson landed in the
Then the radio went silent.
third crew consisted of one astromaut, Ronald Brook. The Gulf of Cyclopses was
again chosen as a landing place.
surface of Mars had been mapped long ago, in the late nineteenth century, when Giovanni Schiaparelli saw seasonal color changes and canali, or straight
lines crisscrossing Mars’s surface. That age saw the rise of beliefs about an
advanced civilization on Mars, or, at least, intelligent life. We were so lonely
at that time and so eager to believe. Every dark area on Mars was named a sea or
a lake, from the analogy with the lunar surface. There were no ‘oceans’ on
Mars, though all sorts of gulfs, swamps, swales, springs, creeks and other water
trifles just brimmed over. All this had nothing to do with water: the dark areas
were just dead regions of bare rock.
Brook settled into the empty station. There was no evidence of what had happened
there. Two people had disappeared without a trace although the place was well
protected. He remembered a media photograph of Eve and Harold Jahnson and he had
known Harold well – had trained with him. They were a happy and keen couple,
they were dead now, but here, in this deserted station, everything lost its
importance, dwindled to insignificant nothing. Because of the sunset maybe,
because of the solitude, because of the utter forlornness and great void before
him as he watched the sunset?
sunset the temperature in the Gulf of Cyclopses falls steadily
from +10 to – 50; a small and unreal Sun touches the even horizon as slowly as
on Earth. The vast plain is bleak and sublime; the soil loses its amber tinge
and the sky becomes blue because of condensing ice crystals. By the morning
these crystals would feather with blue frost regular metallic pyramids that
protrude from the soil. They are iron monocrystals, weird formations. Wispy
clouds can sometimes be seen at dawn and dusk but they never come close.
put on a spacesuit and went outside. The sun had already disappeared. A gentle
breeze was trying to stir metallic dust in the thin atmosphere. The dust adhered
to his magnetic soles.
have you come here? Brook
wondered. What are you doing here? What is the reason? Loneliness? Or six years of
hard work in the preparation center? Desire to see this sunset? He was
walking looking down, thinking. He saw his legs and the rough track among the
was a spring trap on the track.
The Architect of the Apocalypse © 2005 Boris Dolingo
Boris Dolingo is a Russian writer living in Ekaterinburg. He is one of the organizers of the annual Aelita Convention and hopes to see all Oceans of the Mind readers there this July.
“Seventy years! What was it
possible to accomplish in such a miserable speck of time?”
The old man’s groans, coughs, and
disjointed phrases had sounded behind me for some time but I hadn’t paid any
attention. I sat with my legs over the side of the bench, my back to any
had chosen this secluded corner of the park near my college so nobody could
disturb me. Yesterday was my birthday, and I had a slight hangover. Now I was
cutting my philosophy lecture to think about my future. I no longer wanted to be
an engineer. But if not that, then what? Leave school? If I did, I’d be
drafted immediately. And the Russian army wasn’t my idea of a good future.
I lost myself in the newspaper. I’d
bought it on my way here because I wanted to know more about the terrible attack
The mumbling and groaning grew
louder. It disturbed my reading, and so I turned back not only with puzzlement
about what I’d overheard, but with irritation.
The voice belonged to a lean old man
dressed, in spite of the warm day, in a worn untidy
raincoat of indefinite color – neither gray nor beige. Atop his head
was a correspondingly sloppy hat. Dirty black pants with frayed hems swept dusty
unpolished shoes. Yet all his things were of good quality and had no doubt seen
Our eyes met.
I experienced some confusion. On his
wrinkled face, blotched with age, the eyes were the only detail which didn’t
fit. They were young and piercing.
The old man nodded at
my newspaper and the blurred photo showing the Boeing smashing into the
World Trade Center, and with a slight grin said, “Well, and what do you think
about all this?”
I shrugged. It would be a waste of
time to start a discussion with such a person. Whatever I said would involve me
in useless talk with someone who was old and obviously unsuccessful in life.
What could he say to me? That the world is slipping into the abyss? I knew that
myself. In any case, I didn’t intend to share my thoughts with a stranger.
“Not much,” I lied, turning my
eyes back to the newspaper.
“Not much, to be sure! Hardly
anything! And now I’ve run out!”
“Run out of what?” I asked
The old man grimaced with scorn.
“Time, damn you! You begin the Game at age twenty, and you only have seventy
years to play it. I didn’t realize how quickly seventy years can go by. I
thought it would be easy. But it’s no simple matter to prepare an
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