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fiction
Editor's Choice
Gas Tank
by Kelby Losack

The night she came home covered in blood, dragging the severed head of a stranger across the garage floor, I stopped kidding myself.

Our relationship’s origin story was the typical ‘meet online, drive across the country to see each other, move in together within a week’ tragedy. I’d conjured up fantasies since seeing her picture on Craigslist and meeting her IRL didn’t shake me out of that dreamer’s delusion.

I posted selfies of the two of us doing the most menial shit—#TacoTuesday, #BeachBums, #GettingTheOilChanged—yeah, I was that guy.

But, could you blame me?

I mean, I had the figure one gets from a disciplined diet of pizza and takeout, and my ten years at the chemical plant had aged me twenty. #crowsfeet #sleepapnea

But she—she had that classic kind of beauty. And, the way she moved when she let me inside of her—it was a rush of new life, like being hooked up to jumper cables. Each time made my legs shake, made me tighten my grip around her.

There were those nights, though, I’d wake up to headlights illuminating the curtains, rush to the window to see her creeping down the street. And then, when she was out of sight, I’d hear that roar, and my eyes would roll back and I could feel phantom vibrations up my spine.

I never questioned where she went. As long as she kept coming home, it didn’t matter. I’d help her wash the blood off, kissing every inch of her body as it was washed clean, and my own suspicions and judgements would simultaneously be washed away.

So, no, I never called the cops.

They showed up on their own, though, that night she made an appearance on the live action news. Headline: Xmas Parade Massacre.

They asked to see my car and I said, “Um, yeah, sure thing, officers,” and when the garage door rolled up, I fake-gasped, acted like I was so fucking shocked to see an empty garage. I guess they bought it. I filed a report about my car being stolen, said “thank you so, so much” and “please, bring my baby home.”

I knew she’d be back, though.

Soon as I saw the head bouncing between the concrete and her undercarriage, with the Santa hat and face full of white scruff, I knew the cops would be back, too.

So I did the whole throw-your-hands-in-the-air-and-scream-WHAT-HAVE-YOU-DONE routine, threatened to pull my hair out as I paced around the garage. #DramaKing

She just idled there in silence with broken teeth and brain matter on her windshield.

If this was going to be the end, it was going to be the absolute fucking end, so I grabbed the lighter fluid and she revved up, blinked a couple times to show approval. I covered us both, getting high off the fumes.

#burninglove #blazeofglory

I popped her gas tank and said, “One last time, baby?” and she purred.

Yes. One last time.

New!
Hero of Earth
by David Henson

I touch my Hero of Earth medal as I always do to boost my confidence. Intelligence has learned the Hitlojian queen is going to address her troops on Marsden Square this afternoon. As the top sharpshooter in the resistance, I've been assigned the task of taking her out. 

The Hitlojians have secured a wide perimeter and control the skies. I'll have to fire a Planck-length quanta-pac from five thousand meters and strike her one vulnerable spot -- we think -- between the third and fourth segments of the underside of the bitch's exoskeleton.  

We can only hope killing the queen will help us turn the tide. Half of earth's population has either been slaughtered outright or wasted away in the nurseries. 

I saw a Hitlojian nursery once through my scope at distance. Row on row of cheap cots. A naked human on every cot. On every human, a huge larvae, its razor sharp teeth clamped into the breast of its host. The human just lies there with a dreamy look, apparently under the spell of something the larvae secretes before it slowly sucks the human dry. The larvae has become a miniature hard-shelled, twelve-legged adult by the time the human crumbles into ash. I didn't let that happen to my wife. Forgive me, Melinda. 

I take my position on the 40th floor of the Sanders Building, shoot a round to dissolve the window, brace my firearm, and look through the scope. From here the assembled Hitloji look like bugs. Hell, they are bugs. Deadly, intelligent, conquerer bugs. Even for a marksman of my skill, this is going to be a difficult shot. Not quite a Hail Mary, but almost. I feel my heart race and work my mouth to generate enough saliva to swallow. 

A Hitlojian approaches the stage. It's not her. She, unlike all the others, has a reddish hue. The Hitlojian on stage gestures broadly, apparently stirring up the troops before he introduces the queen. I freeze. A noise out in the corridor. Are they on to me? Do they have an informer in the resistance? There are rumors they have shape-shifting technology. Or have they forced one of our own to turn against us? Maybe they have the family hostage. Would I have turned to save Melinda? The night the Hitlojian troopers stormed our house, I threw myself in front of her before she was taken. I still don't know how I managed to escape. But I've made a life, of sorts, in the resistance. And discovered I have a talent for killing at a distance. 

The sound again. I ease open the door to the corridor and fire into the ceiling at a scraping noise. A second later, a rat, the biggest I've ever seen, squeezes through an air vent, drops to the floor, and scrambles away smearing blood behind it. 

I go back to the window and look through the scope. The queen is crawling onto the stage. She rears up, legs roiling. I can hear the clicking throng. In the resistance, killing at a distance, I chant to myself. It's so far. Can I pull this off? I feel a weight on my chest, take a breath, and re-live my other successes. I touch my medal for confidence, and for good measure think back to the day the general awarded it to me. I remember how she stuck the pin in too deeply, and it bit my chest. This is for earth. For Melinda. I try to swallow. So dry. I feel like my tongue is turning into ashes.