Today I’m super excited to share with you not only the details of this awesome anthology, but some excerpts! I hope you end up as excited about WHAT WENT WRONG? as I am.
A Caring Company
By Matthew Harrison
The two HR ladies slowly backed away. Danny, still ‘reading’, kept one eye on them all the time. What did Sandra have in that handbag? “Platform infrastructure obsolescence…” Eventually, the HR ladies disappeared. Danny put down his ‘report,’ and went to the corner to check that they had gone.
On his return, he found Vicky collapsed in her seat, breathing in great gasps. Danny stood awkwardly, wondering what to do. Then Angelina, from a neighboring department, came over and comforted Vicky.
When she had recovered somewhat, Vicky looked up at Danny gratefully. “Thank you so much!” she whispered. “You faced them down.” Angelina glanced at him admiringly, and then returned to her cubicle.
“We should stick together, they won’t dare take us on then,” Danny whispered to Vicky urgently. “Here, take this.” And he handed her his own sheath knife which he had smuggled in. He would have to get another, but they surely wouldn’t come for him that day.
Vicky took the weapon in her small hand. “I’m not sure, I—”
“Just take it,” Danny insisted. “You just have to show it; that will already put them off.”
Vicky nodded, and put the weapon in her handbag. Danny made her promise to call him at once if she saw anything threatening, and then made to go. Glancing back, he saw how frail she looked. He was going to have to find stronger allies to have any chance of surviving in Prospect.
This conviction strengthened as he rounded the corner and found the large HR gentleman standing over his own cubicle.
By Holly Riordan
“I want to test it first, to see if it’s safe,” my aunt said, unfolding the place mats and flipping through them. “Which one wouldn’t you want?”
“We never really did much for Easter. Try using that one.”
“Sounds good to me.” She plucked it from the pile and a smiling bunny face stared up at us. Its fur and little pink nose filled the entire mat, except for a black box in the lower left-hand corner, which held a signature line.
I nudged the knife with my knuckles, hoping she’d pick it up and slice without wasting precious minutes trying to prepare herself for the pain.
That’s exactly what she did. She swept the knife across her skin, like she’d done it hundreds of times before. Like she was as used to seeing blood as the man in the booth.
“I guess this is my temporary goodbye,” she said as she dipped a pinky into the blood and wrote out the year she wanted. She chose 2008, the same year I was planning on picking. The year before it had happened.
As soon as she finished drawing out the last number, her hands fell to her side. Her eyes rolled up. Her back arched. Then her body froze. I would’ve called an ambulance if I’d had a more innocent childhood, but I’d seen death before. This wasn’t it.
This was magic.
By N.O.A. Rawle
“Gentlemen! Just starting out on the rocky road to marriage? Want the kinks in your future smoothed out before you start?” the spindly gentleman tugged on his fine moustache for dramatic effect, “Ladies! Want to know that you and your partner will share equal footing in the house? Or know that your spouse will pull his weight?” he allowed himself a smile, but not long enough to arouse suspicion, “We all know that balance is the key to a good relationship but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it… Or is there?”
“My secret is right here!” He gesticulated to the large oblong box draped in purple silk. “It’s simple! Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the key to your Happy Ever After! Here, is what no matchmaker or priest can guarantee! But do you dare to try it?”
The crowd was now so silent that his patent leather boots could be heard as he clicked back across the wooden platform.
“I speak now only to the brave among you. Those of a sound heart! Let me introduce you to the Equilibrator! Modern science, my friends, mixed with a just the right sprinkling of magic of course, has the answer! But are you sure you want what I have to offer?”
The audience nodded, some already murmuring consent.
“The Equilibrator will iron out all your differences before you even know what they might be! Lifelong attraction assured! No arguments! No Discussions! No risk! And I mean no risk, because if you are not satisfied that balance has been brought to your relationship after the first week, I personally, will refund every last penny of your hard earned cash! Yes, that’s right, you heard me correctly! If you can show me that your circumstances are not balanced, I will give you your money back.”
Kruse threw open the glass doors with a theatrical flourish. “Look upon my works, ye mighty!”
That part wasn’t an act. I was willing to entertain the possibility of a Guild scientist who didn’t have a few screws loose, but I’d certainly never met one. The walls were lined with wicked-looking weapons, portable orbs and platforms of dubious purpose, and stacks of canisters with brightly-colored biohazard symbols all over them. Kruse handed me what looked like a bottle of perfume from a particularly well-organized section of the counter. I took it gingerly and waited for him to explain before I did anything with it. There was still a stain on the ceiling from some apprentice shaking a bottle of what had turned out to be a new explosive.
“I’m not going to get Victoria-Charlied, am I?” I asked.
“No, may she rest in pieces. I’ve been more careful with labels since then,” Kruse said quickly. “Perfectly harmless, that one. It’s a lovely little cocktail for my new conflict-avoidance line.”
I turned the bottle over in my hands and watched the oily, pink-tinged liquid shift around the dip tube. It was perfectly emulsified, glittered in the overhead fluorescents, and looked more like a body spray marketed at tween girls than a diabolical superweapon.
“I’m calling it Love Potion Number Ten,” he continued. “One spritz and the opposite sex will be putty in your hands! Security guards will hold open doors for you as you make off with everything in the store. Policemen will help you load stolen merchandise into the back of your truck. Armored car drivers will hand over the keys and security codes with a smile.”
By Jonathan Shipley
Clare reached for her phone, pausing as she felt the sudden increase of increase of air pressure around her. “No, don’t,” she called, but already she saw the blue glow of the implant in Feodor’s temple. And McHenry was gone. Disappeared into thin air.
“Your heart,” she reminded Feodor as the blue faded. “You know it strains your heart every time you do that.” But he seemed all right for the moment — no shortness of breath or discoloration of the lips. She picked up the phone and dialed. “Where did you send him anyway?”
Feodor started to shrug, then winced at the pain in his arm. “About a half-mile down the beach,” he rasped. “He can be thankful that’s the limit of my range.”
Clare nodded absently and finished the call. A half-mile hike would be nothing to McHenry once he got over the shock of the jump. As angry as Feodor was, it could have been a lot worse. A half-mile out to sea, for instance. Or straight up.
They had a word for it–translocation–because teleportation sounded too sci-fi. Feodor’s newly developing talent for relocating objects, his heart flutters–both directly connected to his ground-breaking research into trans-dimensional portals. He should never have used himself as a test subject for the control implant of the machine in the attic. Now it was to the point where this new translocation talent might be the death of him.
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