A Few Billion Leaves by Thomas Howarth

Is it worth your lives? his father had asked him – repeatedly. Your lives? A bullet for a few billion leaves?

Well, he’d never understood it.

No, that’s not fair; he understood it perfectly well. That’s precisely why he feared.

He’d never come out to the settlement. Laisa asked, with deliberate frequency, why he never visited.

Because he’s afraid, Felipe explained.

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When Normal Becomes Real by Harrison Kim

Everyone’s queued up in the cafe, a string line of heads, some with hats, waiting. It’s a fairly conventional straggle and Drew stands with it.  Good to have some order.  The line’s almost out the door.  Lights fall bright around him, with invisible music. Something by the Soul Twisters.  He feels a huge space above him, compared to his regular quarters. His official security man Cody stands assertive and blocks the view ahead.

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 A Little Bit Toasty By Ben Gamblin

“Reload the story,” Harry said.

“Harry, I just—”

“Please?”

Kenneth sighed and clicked the arrow icon. Their network connection was slow in the mornings and the page reconfigured slowly. First came the bold, enlarged headline, followed by the ads. The smaller print loaded last. Kenneth and Harry skimmed the entire article again but it read the same as before, no updates or revisions of any kind. The suspect is in a blue Volkswagen Passat heading southbound on I-5. Police are urging other motorists to avoid—

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 Bike Killer by Doug Hawley

I don’t drive.  Everywhere I need to go I can walk, bus or taxi.  I take a bus to my job at Hadleys Department Store in the Consumer Help Department.  You should know that I am a highly valued employee based on my ability to resolve customer problems while still maintaining company policy.  Trying to find a parent for a screaming child or dealing with someone whose credit card bounced without ruffling feathers or giving away the store is like walking a tightrope.  Someone who wasn’t both reasonable and sensitive couldn’t handle it, believe you me!

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Sun and Sediment by Martin Toman

During the summer holidays when I was twelve my neighbour shot his three sons. I was at home with my brother when it happened. We were experimenting with a magnifying glass, colouring strips of card with different pigments to see which would burn first under the focussed triangle of sunlight. I remember the sound of the gun was a huge and deep boom. I could feel the concussive force even through the walls of our house. I heard a shot, a scream, two more shots, and then silence. Three shells fired from a breech loaded shotgun, each containing nine double aught spherical pellets, their destructive force expressed onto the children next door. The boys used to play in the yard. I would see them almost every day. They were all younger than me, twins and an elder, one at school. My mother would look after them from time to time when theirs wasn’t well. I tried to teach them how to play cricket.

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