The Plural of Tits

"What's the plural of tits?" Annie looked up from the rusty box of silverware holding an incongruously blemish-free steak knife.

Jenn stared unseeing into her own box of scrap. "Tits is already plural. One tit, two tits."

Annie held her new knife up to shine in the wan light of the dust-clouded noonday sun. "This is my tit knife." Her face bore solemn determination. "It's for cutting off one tit so I can be an Amazon. Once I have tits, anyway." She looked down at the sweat-stained, dust-soiled t-shirt over her flat chest.

"Don't be stupid." Jenn bent over her box and sorted old tools from it in abrupt, distracting movements.

"We have to be Amazons if we're gonna be badass. Which we need if we're gonna be safe, now there're no cops." No response. "Mom'd think it was cool."

"Mom would—" Jenn lowered her head, eyes closed, and continued in a low voice. "Mom would want us to be safe. Take care of each other. Not cut off our tits. Now keep looking. We have to find something to trade for food tonight."

Annie drooped. "Yeah, 'kay." She went back to her box. "You're gonna make a lousy Amazon."

Gone Concept Diving

"It'll work!" Naomi said.

"I don't care if it'll work, it's a stupid idea!" Aria threw up her hands. Naomi sat at a terminal connected to the bank of supercooled processors.

"Look, all the simulations say the conceptspace exists where I can reach it."

"I don't care if you can simulate Heaven, it's—"

"It's not a simulation, don't you get that? It's a constructed conceptspace, but still real."

"Like another dimension." Aria's affect was flat.

Naomi rolled her eyes. "Sure, if you want to drastically oversimplify."

Aria took a deep breath. "It's untested. Let's run more simulations, test it on animals. I can maybe get a hold of some sign language-trained chimps."

"No. This is my chance to enter a world I've loved since I was five." Naomi hit three keys and slipped a helmet over her head. The world shifted and slipped away.

Everything resolved into shades a big room, all grey and white, with a big window looking out onto open space. She saw it all through some kind of helmet. Naomi was about to take it off when a radio crackled in her ear. "TK-421, report to hangar bay C-37 for cargo inspection."

Oh, Naomi thought. Uh-oh.


Ksenia lay in bed, not wanting to get up. She could indulge that feeling for five minutes, at least. Maybe as many as seven. Burying her face in her pillow, a position she never fell asleep in, she enjoyed the warm cocoon of her bed.

She became aware of her heartbeat. She'd tucked her arm under her body for maximal coziness, and she felt the blood flowing through the veins of her elbow pit as it beat against her ribs, ba-dum, ba-dum. It soothed her. Tension seeped from her shoulders, and she smiled.

Other places where her pulse neared the surface made themselves known. She felt the beat of her wrist against her hip, and the pianissimo rhythm of her other hand's thumb tucked against her shoulder, bi-dip, bi-dip.

As she relaxed, she opened to ever more sensations, becoming increasingly attuned. She felt it in her knee pit against the blanket so warm, and in her one ankle crossed over the other, and where her neck pulsed strong, deep in her pillow, thrrrrum, thrrrrum.

Where she felt a different rhythm, rapid and shallow: bidibidibidibidibidibidibidibidi. She surged up onto her elbows and stared down, relaxation forgotten.

"Oh, shit," said the pillow.

Not Going to Hit Him

"Hit him," Armand said.

"I'm not going to hit him." Cathy rolled her eyes and looked back at her drink.

"C'mon, he deserves it!" The man who'd offered her a drink backed off, silently disappearing into the late-night/early-morning crowd.

"You always want me to hit them. It scares them off. I mean, I didn't want to keep him around, but it's not normal."

"Normal is as normal does."

"That doesn't even make sense."

"You never let me have any fun," Armand said. As he spoke, one of their neighbors at the bar looked down at Cathy's arm, flesh-toned but obviously a replacement, and speaking through a grille where the deltoid would be. "We're at a bar, and you won't even let me run my intox app."

"Are you surprised I don't want my arm flailing about like a drunk?"

The arm signed. "Do you regret getting a prosthesis?"

Cathy shrugged, which meant Armand shrugged, too. "I regret needing one, sure. Would life be less complicated if we could train good prostheses without that deep neural stuff that results in conscious AI? Sure. How about you?"

"Me what?"

"Do you ever regret choosing a stupid-ass joke name?" Cathy smirked.


Universal Demarchy

"I hate doing this," Sam muttered. She and Chris took another step with the long line toward the curtained booths ahead of them.

Chris rolled her eyes. "You've said that a hundred times. Maybe you won't in a few minutes."

Sam snorted. "Minutes? My ass. We'll be lucky to be through in a few hours."

"Ugh." Chris slouched. "Hopefully you'll be a little more positive. All that negativity can't be good for you."

"God, why do I even talk to you?"

"God only knows."

They passed the next forty-five minutes in silence. At the front of the line Sam paused. In a small voice, she said, "Let's just turn around. Let's go. We don't have to... to do this."

"Oh, sweetie." Chris put a hand on her cheek. "Everybody deserves a chance to be anybody. President, CEO, homeless. Lover. They'll keep us together, we did the paperwork."

"Just... will it really be us?"

"All the times we've done this, and... who knows?" The technician ushered them past their respective curtains. "See you on the other side."


On the other side, one turned to the other. "Boungiorno. I'm Valentina." She held out a hand.

The other took it. "Xiu Ying."

A Moment of Frustration

Gabriela had a five-year-old, which meant she had a problem making her brush her teeth. When asked, in a moment of frustration, why in all the faiths on Earth did Zahra fight so hard, she said,

Because when I brush my teeth the toothbrush cleans down and down until it's brushing inside out and it'll suck me in if I don't stop in time.

Well, that was too impossible to be true and too detailed to be a lie. Next time Zahra brushed her teeth, Gabi was there to watch. She watched as the toothbrush slipped deeper and deeper into Zarha's mouth and almost panicked, fearing choking, but stopped when

She saw a different angle in the mirror This one showed her the toothbrush disappearing in a spiral that grew small with distance, surrounded by a yawning void so absent of all quality it could not even be called black.

Gabi pulled Zahra's hand away from her mouth. Dimensionality returned to rightness, and she blinked away an afterimage that held as much as the void had held nothing

"Those are all baby teeth, anyway." She led her daughter out of the bathroom. "Now about why you don't flush the toilet..."

This Meat Market

"Hey." Alicia quirked an eyebrow and a smile at the half-naked man. "How you doin'?"

"Miss?" An older man approached, sounding concerned.

She glanced over. "A bit young for you, doncha think?"

His eyes widened in confusion. "Miss, are you... flirting with Jesus?"

Alicia looked up at the man on the cross with a smile. "Is that your name?" She bit her lip. "Strong, silent type? You really hit all my buttons. Bingo!" She laughed, a little self-consciously.

"Miss, this is a church." The priest gently turned her toward the door.

"Did I say you could touch me?"

"Wuh.... No."

"Next time I'll scream." She turned back to Jesus. "Now how about you and I get out of here?"

"Miss, I..." He tried to herd her without touching her, so his hands hovered around her shoulders. She ignored him.

"Don't worry, Jeezy, I may be looking 'cause you're smokin', but I want to know the man behind the muscles. Maybe we fit, maybe we don't, y'know?"

"Thank God," Jesus said, pulling free of the cross. "Most of the time I just feel so objectified, y'know?"

"Let's get outta this meat market."

Gasping in a pew, the priest watched them leave.