Sunday, September 12, 2010

Issue Three, Volume One

From the editor,
Welcome to Streets Ahead Magazine of Fiction Issue Three! Here at headquarters the office has been under maintenance and a new semester at the local college has made everything exciting.
Besides that we are happy to say contests pieces have been slowly filtering in, but please send more! We have no poetry or drama submissions! It is official though--top prize will be a video of the editors acting out the best piece of short fiction (whether that is motivational or not is up to you).
On that note if you have any writing that you think is streets ahead please submit it--it does not have to be for the contest, we are currently accepting all types of fiction.
The SAM staff would like to wish Raveneye of Legend Fire Writing Community a happy birthday for being generally awesome!
This issue is filled with some buckle-swashing action in anticipation of the fantasy fiction contest. We certainly hope you enjoy it, and if you are new make sure to check out our back issues.

Daniel J. (Kiddy) Pool
Edinator T-9000

a prologue to the novel Forerunner
By J. Oskar Williams

Dawn. A trickle of light shone out, revealing a harsh, arid world. There is no grass here, only the desert ferns. The soil is baked and red. To the north, gentle slopes roll back to reveal occasional streams and waterholes, islands of life in a waterless world. In the shade of rocky overhangs, the cool dark of the burrow, and under the blazing sun, life finds a way. To the south, however…

Southward lies a dry sea. Sand dunes, salt pans, barren rocky structures and eerie glass deposits continue over the horizon. The desert is ubiquitous, and encroaching. This oasis of life is surrounded by lifeless desert.

A ship drifted slowly over the baked earth, five metres off the ground and clad in rusting iron. It is huge, a hundred metres long and thirty wide. Arrays of tubes are fixed to the sides, humming quietly. On the top deck, photovoltaic cells and compact hydroponic gardens compete for space with water condensers. It is a Terrakastell.

In the bowels of the ship, a crowd of people have gathered around a launching bay - a magnetic catapult's tunnel lies flush with the wall, and a young man stands ready beside one of the tribe's elders. He carries his Sandskimmer, which resembles a wheel-less bike with buoyancy tanks, solar engines and pneumatic valves.

"Who are you?" shouted the elder. Though thin and fragile-looking, her voice pierced the air with authority.

"I am the Third Lix, elder Kohlingen."

"No more. I name you H'wacha Lix, Techa-nomad. Now, it is time to prove yourself. Take your first step into the unknown."

The newly-named H'wacha swallowed. He'd prepared for this. Years spent learning to surviving on the little water available to them. Condensing, genetically modified food, solar and atomic power, electronics, buoyant gases… He knew them all. But he'd never been outside before.

He mounted his Skimmer, making sure he was strapped in, then lay flat as he eased the long, floating craft into position. He shut his eyes as he felt the sharp tug of acceleration, legs gripping the saddlebags tightly.

When he opened his eyes, he was falling. Startled, he grabbed the handlebars and filled his tanks with helium. He stabilized, the rough, red ground speeding beneath his feet. There was no sound but the wind, and whirring of electric motors. An overwhelming euphoria overcame him, and he cheered as the Terrakastell faded.

Shylo emerged from under his shirt, and oozed onto his shoulder, it's membrane rippling under the wind. It cooed, oozing onto H'wacha's arm and wrapping its tentacles around it. It squeezed inquiringly.

H'wacha laughed. "It's okay to come out now, Shylo. Don't worry."

Shylo waved its tentacles in the air and let out a trill. H'wacha grinned and twisted the throttle, air blasting his body.

Into the unknown - across new ground, H'wacha was borne over the great landscape by the eternal wind. Remembering to fly low to avoid attention, he hugged the ground with his rugged skimmer, occasionally drinking water from his supplies - even as they were filled with moisture extracted from the air. Now and then, he reached into his saddlebags for bland carbohydrate rations. Over the ferns, open clay beds, salt pans and rocky hillocks, he flew as if in a dream.

He gradually came to his senses as night fell, skimming the surface of a hillside of ferns. He had to navigate his way to Za-Kaladashi, a large waterhole and meeting place to the southeast. No, wait… He checked his compass. He had drifted too far east, and a lake had appeared on the horizon. H'wacha adjusted the lift column, allowing the gas in the Skimmer's frame to expand, drifting upward over a large overhang lined with dew and moss, to reveal a vast sea of sand. He should never have come here - this was Raider territory.

H'wacha brought the Skimmer to the ground, re-pressurising the helium, and checked over the machine he had built with his own two hands. Solar cells free of corrosion, moisture condenser fine, valves secure, motor clean, tanks sealed.

He checked his position next, pulling a strange angular tool from his belt, checking the Southern Cross and the Pointers. Calculations flew through his mind as he found his position and plotted a new course.

"One-seventy degrees, ten minutes and five seconds true."

After a few more buoyant hours he had to sleep. He shook out his sleeping bag on a patch of smooth ground, and started his first night under moon and star. Shylo settled in by his feet.

Lix remembered tales from his childhood, stories of dread. Nocturnal predators erupting from the ground, silently gliding, attacking helpless, sleeping victims. He fidgeted. His heart pounded, and his mind screamed at him to stop being such a baby. But sleep was impossible. Eyes filled the darkness. 

An electric shock jolted him, sending Shylo flying up onto his face with a squeal. Wriggling out of the sleeping bag and wrenching a clinging, oscillating Shylo off his face, he checked his Skimmer's sensor display. The seismics had found a moving object to the south. H'wacha realised his feet were bone dry. He looked at Shylo accusingly, but it's eyes seemed to say "who, me?"

After making sure his needle gun was loaded, the skimmer flew once more. H'wacha skimmed the ferns, giving himself the most camouflage possible against the light of the rising sun.

There. On the open sand before the dunes - clouds of dust surrounded two noisy, tracked buggies. 

H'wacha, a Techa-nomad to the core, clenched his fists at the crude, inefficient vehicles.
"Raiders." The venom in Lix's word was probably enough to kill a hundred men with one dose. Shylo hardened its membrane and growled. Barbarians, with no goal in mind but uprooting, burning and plundering. 

Their voices rang out. "Hahahaha - those Techa-faggots are never going to know what hit em! They'll cry like babies!" 

Obnoxious laughter filled the air. 

H'wacha could see Za-Kaladashi in the distance as he flew. Now was his time, time to make a mark on this harsh, irradiated land. He fixed his needle-gun to the Skimmer, and gunned the throttle.

About the author:
J. Oskar Williams usually writes hard sci-fi, with a taste for space flight, political coups and war. His idols are Asimov, Heinlein and Orwell. Previously he focused on action, but now he has developed a taste for themes and characters. His goal is to inspire emotion.

A Fire in the Face of the Fluxqueen
By: Ben Baden

Arrowhawk stood proudly over the fallen beast - a great black tusk boar with bloodshot eyes. 

"Ay!" he called with arrogance, "Your monstrous demon has fallen, at the hands of..." He waited, smiling, as the void-mage stared with a skeptical gaze. "ME!"

Arrowhawk's long golden hair rivaled the sun gods, though it was harshly cared for and riddled with tangles and uneven cuts.  His green eyes, filled with life and pride, pierced the darkest shadows. His bare chest outlined his scarred tan skin. Worn farming trousers clung to his legs. His light brown leather belt gleamed in the sun's glow. Two sheathed daggers sat at his hips. A massive sword-sheath trailed behind him as he walked. 

These weapons were useless in the face of his most powerful ally, his courage; bravery; stupidity; fighting spirit. He never backed down; never ran away; no foe was too big, too powerful or too numerous. Call it what you will - it was the one weapon he held that could down any foe. Since his hometown fell into the void he had been fighting. After five years of being hunted by the fluxqueen he had not fallen into submission, unlike most of his comrades.

"Listen here you stupid mage-ey!" Arrowhawk hollered, "Your vile reign will hold these people in shackles no longer!"

Standing in the main street of a dark and ruined village--thousands of eyes peeked from doors, windows, behind cover.

"I, the great warrior Arrowhawk, will break the ropes magically binding them to your will!"

The mage smiled under his dark hood. A flux-oath could not be broken easily. and 

'This walking joke for a fighter could hardly hope to beat me, a fully fledged void-mage,' he thought.

"Make your last wish, flux-sucker! Your opponent, a tenacious demon spiraling into the light of justice iiiiiiiissssss…" Arrowhawk grinned, holding up a sheath, the size of a child, above his head in an arc, he drew a thin crescent-blade. "…Me!"

The mage's lips curled up with malice, and with the recital of ancient tongue a dark swirling whirlpool appeared in the sky, made of black clouds, strings of pale lightning were thrown across its face with a thunder chorus. From the portal, man-sized talons clawed  - then came scaly black legs, followed by a whipping rattle-tail and a sleek snake body covered in black scales.  Folded leathery bat-wings spread out and threatened to hide the sun. Last, the creature's head -  fangs permanently protruding from its mouth. Escaping its other-worldly prison, the whirling storm in the collapsed onto itself. 

"Ay, ay, ay!" Arrowhawk called, "Nothing has ever cast such a shadow over me."

He tightened his hold on the long blade's cloth-softened grip and pushed away the dark fingers of doubt clawing into his mind. He made for the dragon, his feet kissing the ground before he lifted off with another bound.

The creature was startled. 'How stupid is he!' it would have asked itself, if its tiny brain had allowed any shred of sentience. Suddenly Arrowhawk was climbing the monsters belly - his sword gripped in the cusp of his teeth- he used the scales as hand holds and pulled himself up.

The beast hissed - screamed, and writhed around in agony. Each scale he ripped brought the creature another unforgiving sting. It took off, into the sky - flapping delicate wings and Arrowhawk realized how to beat it.  

He continued his accent up the demon-snake's belly, though with the creature in the wind, tumbling and turning in effort to throw him off it was a task indeed. 'Nothing the great Arrowhawk can't handle!' he thought, as he thrust his arm out the final time and latched onto the wing bone. 

His other hand grabbed his sword from his mouth and slashed at the dragon's wing. The leathery membrane tore, and with one flap the small slash had been ripped open by the force of wind rushing through. The creature twisted around, heading headfirst for the rock below. It flapped intensely,  and more damage spread like veins throughout the membrane. 

It was out of control, and crashed into the earth below, snapping its own neck and flattening its skull.

Arrowhawk, who had made his way to the creatures back in the decent, slid down the smooth scales of its neck and landed half a meter in front of a very surprised void-mage.

"yo-you." the mage stammered, "Who are you?"

"The great Arrowhawk, a fire burning brightly in the face of the fluxqueen, scraping away her darkest minions!" Arrowhawk announced.

The void mage began another recital, Arrowhawk thrust his blade into the cloaked man's chest.

"No magic can save you now, no matter how potent the ancient tongue." Arrowhawk said, pulling his sword from the body, letting it slump to the ground.  
The townsfolk emerged slowly, eyeful of the dragon. It looked dead, but those claws looked awful sharp. Satisfied the beast would not launch a surprise attack, they looked to Arrowhawk but he was gone.  They saw a figure in the distance, walking across the flatlands. His cape thrown over his back now, it fluttered in the wind. His sword was sheathed, balanced on his shoulders his arms thrown around it.
He had asked for no thanks, no payment for his liberation. He left. On his way to save another settlement from the valicious void's villainy, for he was the great Arrowhawk! A fire in the face of the fluxqueen and a spark in the hopes of the oppressed. 

About the author:
Ben Baden resides in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. He is sixteen and currently studying in year 11 at high school with a focus on English, Psychology, and Theater. He plans on taking psychology and creative writing in University.

Wondrous Thoughts and Wishful Action
By Daniel J. Pool

She laughed. He dies.

About the Author:
Daniel Pool is a psychology student, couch-side philosopher, and part-time writer/editor. He lives, works, and day-dreams in Chickasha, Oklahoma. He mainly writes flash science-fiction and fantasy adventure stories.

--At least he usually does, unlike Tuesday before last when he had the need to write a story about some floor.

I was in the office, editing some last minute changes for the next issue of SAM, when Quentin came by with some awful piece of fiction that he blacked mailed me to publish. As he threatened to ruin my short career by giving away my tricks like so many on street corners--I saw her.

Her clothes hugged her body as if they were sewn on. Her face was that of Heaven, her eyes were bottomless, her hips curved into endless night, and her nose hung delicately--its tip lingering just before the drop. Her hair became an ocean stretching out before me.

On her lips the words, 'I want you," sat, waiting for me to reply.

Whatever it was Quentin wanted, I did not care. All I cared for was her. Whoever she was, but she was gone. I lost where she was. Where her place was amongst the carpet.

I wrapped up our meeting and searched for the mystery woman.

As I stared into the swirling patterns of pinks, blues, and grays on the carpet's fibers, I felt alone.

Woven into the floor were faces. Like a crowded street; they mixed, faded, and rose out. Each face cried out to me as they saw that I saw them.

"Will you help us?" said one.

"You can see us?" asked another.

"But who... what are you?" I asked.

"We are lost souls, forever damned to wonder the patterns of textured surfaces till we find our way back to a dimension," answered a few as one.

"I can't help all of you, not all at once anyway," I bite my lip--I did not care about saving any of them... Except for her. "Do any of you know a girl with long hair, deep eyes, and a pointed nose? Who also lives in the floor?"

"Oh yes, but you cannot help her." said a coffee stain.

"But I... I need to." I told them falling to my knees.

"Mmm! Mfftp!" said muffled cries.

"Oh, sorry." I said rising and sitting in my office chair. "Please, I beg you--kind lost persons/outer dimensional beings of the carpet--where can I find this woman."

The face swirled and pondered to each other in a silent ruckus. One spoke that resembled an elderly reptile with a drooping left eye, "We cannot not help you as she does not want to be found. She is not lost in this world."

With that the smug nods of the carpet told me it was hopeless. I knew I had lost the woman of my dreams.

That night I lay awake, thinking of her; the Not-Lost-Woman. As I stared at the roof, a grin formed from the pits and dangles of the roof texture. The grin became a fanged frown.

"Why would you take her from me?" cried the ceiling.

"Who are you?" I asked, trembling behind my sheets of a caped crusader.

"You would take my wife away. Die Three-Dimensioner!" said the thing dropping tiny stalactites and dust into my eyes.

"No! Defend me Captain Night!" I said, but my themed hero sheets ran white as they fled.

I sprung from the bed and raced for the door. Textured hands nipped at my heels. As I latched onto the door three gaping fanged mouths tore at my hand (as they were Two-D'ers this did not hurt however).

"I don't know your wife!" I yelled at the protruding wrinkled face.

"You cannot lie to me, my desk spies saw it all. You made eyes at Henriette! The Not-Lost-Woman. Give up mortal as you could never truly love her as I do! I Kent the magnificant!"

"Do you mean magnificent?" I said.

"So I did." and with that he vanished into a plume of orange grammar.

I never saw She-Who-Is-Not-Lost again, but every time I gaze in a bored stupor at the floor or a door, I wonder. I wonder if she isn't gazing back, but not in a bored sort of gaze.

Quentin's mouth had the word "Oh" stuck between his lips. It was as if a log of cheese had been shoved into his mouth giving the overall effect of him being both excited and stupefied.

"Well? What do you think?" I said, my lips pursed in sequence with my eyes--both saying 'please say anything'. "I was thinking about making it into a novella. I think I will call it The Not-Lost-Woman. Pretty cool, uh?"

Quentin's mouth finally swallowed his 'oh', then vomited it out into conversation.

"Oh..." he said, "That sounds dreadful."

"Whatever, it is better than anything you blackmailed me to publish..." I said in a huff.


Look to future issues for such memorable stories as 'All Too Close' and 'Blind: The Legend of Mount Grant'--See you next time on Streets Ahead!