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TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 48

TigerTails Radio - Tue 25 Jan 2022 - 05:07

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 48. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show.
Categories: Podcasts

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 49

TigerTails Radio - Mon 24 Jan 2022 - 17:03

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 49. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show.
Categories: Podcasts

Bearly Furcasting S2E39 - Ben Diskin, A New Word, Bearly Facts

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 22 Jan 2022 - 09:00

Moobarkfluff and welcome to a new episode. This week we spend some time chatting about TV Shows, a random thing in Taebyn's email, and Emmy Winning Voice Actor Ben Diskin joins us for a discussion about his work on Beastars, Aggretsuko, and other animated shows! So join us for a sock and teabag filled episode with Bearly and Taebyn!  Moobarkfluff everyone.

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Categories: Podcasts

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 47

TigerTails Radio - Tue 18 Jan 2022 - 05:08

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 47. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show.
Categories: Podcasts

Bearly Furcasting S2E38 - Clio Lemon Fox, Music Notes, Weekly Challenge

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 15 Jan 2022 - 11:00

Moobarkfluff!  Clio Lemon Fox joins us for the entire podcast!  We chat about fried rice, music, rhyming and myriad other things. We get a listen to Clio and Rouki sing a bit. Who is Brad and why is he important? Taebyn almost has a street named after him. Can a blanket be Needle Pointed? Can a computer write an article about Furry dating? What is Taebyn thinking? Be sure to tune in! You won't want to miss this one! Another 'catch item' is brewing! Moobarkfluff!

How To Make My Fried Rice! the Clio Way 

Good Furry Award link:

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Categories: Podcasts

How Did JMoF Start? + More about Japanese Furs [FABP E18]

Fox and Burger - Sat 15 Jan 2022 - 09:42

How Did JMoF Start? + More about Japanese Furs [FABP E18] ---- In our first episode for 2022, we’re taking you back to Japan again - this time with Luca (Mangluca)! Luca is a rabbit from Japan. He’s been in the fandom since 2006 and works as a staff member for JMoF who works in public relations and translation. We’re excited to finally be interviewing our very first Japanese fur on the show so let’s give Luca, a big awoo! ---- Timestamps: 00:00 Intro 01:28 mangluca joined the fandom 02:53 the first JMoF 04:16 jmof beginnings and history 08:16 what makes jmof special 09:12 jmof dead dog 12:35 favorite jmof moment 13:57 cons popping up in asia 16:32 doujinshi cons 19:05 how to describe japanese furries 21:00 how japanese think of furries 23:05 permission to fursuit in public 25:01 describe furry to normie 29:10 furry as a foreign concept 32:04 differences between japanese and western fandom 33:21 all about vtubers 37:11 LGBTQ+ in Japan 40:41 the future of JMoF 43:17 social media shoutout 44:04 outro Social Media: Our official Twitter: Fox: Burger: MangLuca: JMoF: Footage: Other pictures and video provided by MangLuca, Pixabay, and hosts' personal footage. Intro/Outro Music: Aioli by Andrew Langdon.
Categories: Podcasts

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 46

TigerTails Radio - Tue 11 Jan 2022 - 05:15

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 46. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show.
Categories: Podcasts

Bearly Furcasting S2E37 - Guest co-host Rayne Raccoon, Five Minute Furs

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 8 Jan 2022 - 09:00

Moobarkfluff!  Rayne Raccoon sits in for Taebyn this week.  We have a super special guest on Five Minute Furs, we play trivia and Rayne answers some This or That Questions.  Did Jacques Cousteau work with Jethro Tull on the Aqualung? We make so many movie references this episode…can you name them all? So come spend an hour with us and have a flufftacular time!  Moobarkfluff!

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Categories: Podcasts

Awards Eligibility Post for 2021

Zooscape - Thu 6 Jan 2022 - 01:24

As awards season descends upon us all, we’ve compiled a reference list of all the original stories Zooscape published in 2021, along with approximate word counts.  We think they’re all award-worthy.  We hope you think so too!

Dance of Wood and Grace by Marie Croke (2,100 words)

The Lonely Little Toaster by A Humphrey Lanham (1,100 words)

How to Safely Engage in Telepathy with the Dolphins of Ocean Paradise by Elizabeth Cobbe (900 words)

Bliss and Abundance by Nicholas Stillman (3,200 words)

Heart of Ice by Anna Madden (1,000 words)

And the Red Dragon Passes by Emily Randolph-Epstein (2,100 words)

Coffee and the Fox by Mari Ness (800 words)

The Sewers of New York by Elinor Caiman Sands (1,600 words)

The Tech by James L. Steele (4,500 words)

Puss Reboots by Rachel Ayers (1,500 words)

Persinette by Elizabeth Walker (1,000 words)

Him Without Her and Her Within Him by Aimee Ogden (4,500)

A List of Historical Places Frequented by a Boy and His Dog by Eleanor R. Wood (500 words)

The Squirrelherd and the Sound by Emmie Christie (3,000 words)

Mama’s Nursery by Gloria Carnevale (2,500 words)

Moon-Eye by Garick Cooke (1,000 words)

Moonbow by Jason Kocemba (3,400 words)

How We’re Made by Christopher Zerby (5,700 words)

Three Layer Apple Pie by Mephitis (500 words)

Xerophilous by M. J. Pettit (9,400 words)

Rabbitheart by Archita Mittra (3,000)

Scale Baby by M. H. Ayinde (3,600)

To Gentle the Wind by Deborah L. Davitt (900 words)

Be Productive Like Cha-Cha by Katlina Sommerberg (150 words)

The Incandescence of Her Simulacrum by Logan Thrasher Collins (1,000 words)

A Chance to Breathe by Daniel Ausema (3,200 words)

Categories: Stories

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 45

TigerTails Radio - Tue 4 Jan 2022 - 05:13

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 45. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show.
Categories: Podcasts

Bearly Furcasting S2E36 - Guest co-host TickTock, New Year's Traditions

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 1 Jan 2022 - 09:00

Moobarkfluff!  TickTock sits in for Taebyn this week.  We chat about New Years Traditions from around the world. Are Sardines like Cigars? Should Skittles have a fursona? We play some trivia, read an Edward Gorey Story, and tell some really bad jokes!  Join us, won't you, on this first day of 2022!  Moobarkfluff!

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Categories: Podcasts

Podcast Recap 2021! Updates, Future, and New Content [FABP E17]

Fox and Burger - Fri 31 Dec 2021 - 05:52

Podcast Recap 2021! Updates, Future, and New Content, Fox and Burger Podcast Episode 17. ---- We’re both sad yet happy to finally release the last episode of our podcast for 2021. In this episode, Burger and I talk more about our lives, highlights from the podcast, and future plans for our channel. This episode is much more candid and as a result is slightly longer than our usual episodes. We’re also happy to announce that we are now officially *Fox and Burger Productions*! Expect different kinds of content from us in the future! From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank every viewer, fan, and guest of the show. We couldn’t have done it without you all. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! ---- Timestamps: 00:00 Section 1: Introduction 01:47 Burger’s Updates 05:34 Micheal’s Updates 16:09 Michael’s opinions on the podcast 18:14 Burger’s opinions on the podcast 22:36 what stuck out to burger 25:40 what stuck out to fox 28:09 Our favorite episode of 2021 is...! 30:33 What did we assume/learn about other countries? 33:33 What can we do further with the podcast? 38:13 Changes and what to expect 43:15 Our personal goals for the future 48:42 Social media shoutout 50:17 Podcast outro Social Media: Our official Twitter: Fox: Burger: Footage Credit: Other pictures and video provided by Pixabay and hosts' personal footage. Intro/Outro Music: Daydream by Eli Way
Categories: Podcasts

Infurnity Online 2021 Panel - Interviews from Abroad

Fox and Burger - Tue 28 Dec 2021 - 09:06

The wait is over! Our panel for Infurnity Online 2021 is finally here! In this panel, we interviewed over twenty furs from around the world. We asked them about their experiences in Taiwan and Infurnity. This is the first time Burger and I have done something like this and we enjoyed every minute of it. We want to sincerely thank our guests and volunteer translators for being part of this production. We also want to thank the Infurnity Staff for reaching out to us to do this panel. Note: If you are a Chinese speaker, please turn on Chinese subtitles for 18:43 as we forgot to complete the translation here. We corrected this with YouTube subtitles. Thank you! 如果你是中文母語者,請你打開字幕,我們在18:43忘記把句子寫完,所以我們用YouTube字幕補充,謝謝您。 Guests: Joe, Dusty, Alf, Majira, BerkWolf, Darkou, DreamWolf, Elvin, Gantos, Mangluca, Loprov, Tatsuro, Toki, Tail, Trax, Sora, Panda, Streifi, Cinnabar, Chirros, Skai, CT, Chivilt, Blaze Collie (BitKat), Chaba, Parca, Aulder, Kiyochii, Nero Sparks Special thanks to our translators: Michael (麥可), Kronos, Ray Ting (雷霆), Carbon Thank you Joe and Dreamerwolf for your self-translations. Credits:
Categories: Podcasts

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 44

TigerTails Radio - Tue 28 Dec 2021 - 05:23

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 44. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show.
Categories: Podcasts

Bearly Furcasting S2E35 -Merry Christmas Every Fur!

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 25 Dec 2021 - 09:00

Moobarkfluff!  Bearly and Taebyn chat on this Christmas Morning podcast about Christmas, Sardines, and have lot's of bad puns.  We read a story that is a response to the 12 days of Christmas. Taebyn regales us with his 12 Days of Pupmus.  We even make a phone call to the Jolly ol' Elf; Santa!  Who doesn't have a tree? Taebyn. He has a Christmas Fig!   Christmas will never be the same again.  Moobarkfluff!


Do You Like My Decorations? Link below

BFFT Merch (Murch)

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Categories: Podcasts

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 43

TigerTails Radio - Tue 21 Dec 2021 - 05:10

TigerTails Radio Season 13 Episode 43. Join the Discord Chat: For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show.
Categories: Podcasts

Bearly Furcasting S2E34 - Furries in the News, Storytime, Jokes

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 18 Dec 2021 - 09:00

Moobarkfluff!  Bearly and Taebyn chat about lots of things, we read a story: Super Torta. Just how badly can we massacre a language? After all that we tell some really bad jokes. It's not a long episode, but it's a good one! Join us, won't you, on this furtacular adventure into the unknown!  Moobarkfluff!

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Categories: Podcasts

Tempo Talks with Sarah Granke (Birds & Bees, Nova Scotia)

Culturally F'd - Fri 17 Dec 2021 - 12:07

Tempo talks with Sarah Granke, a sexual health educator, equal-rights activist, and policy-maker in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. She led a team that created the two-part animated short film "Sexual Violence with the Birds and the Bees." The videos feature anthro birds and bees navigating common situations and present realistic options helping promote consent. "Sexual Violence with the Birds and the Bees" Special thanks to Dralen Dragonfox for audio editing assistance! Art: Slate Dragon Merch, Sweet Tees and stuff: Support Culturally F'd: Listen in on TEMPO TALKS with Tempe O'Kun Check out Tempe O'Kun's books "Sixes Wild" and "Windfall" here: Here's a playlist of his other Culturally F'd videos:
Categories: Videos

Issue 13

Zooscape - Wed 15 Dec 2021 - 03:11

Welcome to Issue 13 of Zooscape!

A new day is dawning for furry fiction.

Science-fiction was once a looked-down-upon genre, small and shoved off to the side, kept away from serious literature, back at the turn of the previous century.  Now, it’s a booming field, filling the airwaves with blockbusters.

Well, furry fiction already has blockbusters.  Now it’s time to start labeling them.  If it’s about talking animals, it’s furry.  If it’s about talking dragons or gryphons or unicorns, it’s furry.  There is furry fiction mixed up all throughout the other speculative fiction genres, and readers who want to find it are ready to see it labeled properly under a name that lets them find it.

This will be the century when furry fiction rises up, and we’re here to be a part of that.

We’re here to raise up furry fiction.

* * *

Rabbitheart by Archita Mittra

Scale Baby by M. H. Ayinde

To Gentle the Wind by Deborah L. Davitt

A Star Without Shine by Naomi Kritzer

Be Productive Like Cha-Cha by Katlina Sommerberg

The Incandescence of Her Simulacrum by Logan Thrasher Collins

A Chance to Breathe by Daniel Ausema

* * *

As always, if you want to support Zooscape, check out our Patreon.  Also, please consider us and our stories when you’re making nominations and voting for awards in the coming year.

NOTE: if you’re curious about what awards eligible work we published last year, check out our brand new Awards Eligibility Post.

Categories: Stories

A Chance to Breathe

Zooscape - Wed 15 Dec 2021 - 03:11

by Daniel Ausema

“…the beaked natives ambled over to inspect the immigrants and welcome those allowed to stay.  Tirket calmed her breathing.  Don’t let her cough now.”

The passenger ship floated down to land, and Tirket wasn’t the only one to cough and wheeze.  Her carapace ached as it stretched with each heaving breath.  The weeks in the hold hadn’t been a kindness to any of them.  She pushed toward the nearest window, longing to see the city — the songbird city with its fabled machine-craft.  The doctors promised she might breathe easier there in the dry air.  In her mind it was a wide land of bulbous buildings and sprawling parks, bronze and green.  Of fresh air that welcomed the fluttering of her wings, air that tasted of flowers.

The windows, though, were rimed in salt too thick to see through clearly, and the sailors wouldn’t let them above until the airship was secure.

Tirket circled her antennae impatiently and focused on breathing.  A tang of oil set her to coughing again.

At last the doors opened.  Treated bamboo framed the towering buildings beside the airship, and the beaked natives ambled over to inspect the immigrants and welcome those allowed to stay.  Tirket calmed her breathing.  Don’t let her cough now.  Let her seem as healthy as anyone could be after such a journey over the ocean.  The engines of the airship hissed above her head.

While she fell in line with the other immigrants, a troop of humans ran past, each the height of one of her leg segments.  They chattered high-pitched instructions and unloaded the airship’s luggage.

“What are your skills, beetle?”

Tirket had been so absorbed in how she would convince the bird doctors of her health that she didn’t understand the question at first.  The words made sense, even coming from a beak.  She’d spent months before boarding the airship learning the native language.  But they didn’t form a complete thought.

“My skills?  Oh.”  Stifle that cough.  “I’m quick with my legs.”  She waved two pairs in front of the bird.  With their impractical wings, the birds always needed such help, though Tirket knew she wouldn’t survive factory work on her lungs.  She only needed to get through, then she could find a way to the frontier where they didn’t care what kind of lungs you had.  They can’t ask about my health.  Don’t let them.  The air here was dry, and that felt good, but smoke and oil trickled into her lungs.

“You fly too?”  The bird gestured with a wing at her back.

Tirket flexed, and they shuddered, but she shook her head.  “Only slow myself from falling.”

Without a question about her health, without any exam at all, the bird waved her on to one doorway that already had its own line of immigrants.  Beetles, as the natives called them.  Tirket had learned the word early in her studies, a derisive term, but she wouldn’t let it bother her.  As long as they let her in.  Through this door, past the bamboo wall… she pictured arrows on the ground to direct her beyond the city to clustered sacs of promised fresh air.  Lungs become geography.

“It will be a long wait.”  A crested bird paced beside the line, trailed by a troop of humans, their arms for the moment empty.  Tirket thought he might be some kind of woodpecker.  “They’ll be sending you to your assigned jobs, and you’ll likely be late for dinner.  If hunger takes you, though…”  The bird swept a wing back.

Where?  He seemed to indicate the airship behind them.  Or maybe the open flag where the ship rested for unloading and maintenance.  “Take any you want.  They are quite tasty.  I will be the one you pay, and we ask only that you not snatch one who is carrying gear at the moment.”

The humans.  The bird was offering the slaves for their snacks.  Tirket’s stomach clenched, and she looked away.  Hunger did grow, though, as the line crept forward.  The first time a passing bird grabbed a human, everyone in line cringed and turned away.  As evening came, several of the immigrants pooled some money and shared one amongst themselves.  She’d come with some money, knowing she couldn’t expect to earn much through work, but even as the others in line gave in to hunger, she wasn’t tempted.  Eyes closed, she focused on the dry air.

Her breaths wheezed by the time she came to the front.  She scarcely listened as the robin within explained where she’d work the next day, what she’d have to do with the massive steam engines, what would be expected.  She only listened to where she’d have to go.  The sky, when she emerged, was dark, the cooler air a relief to her lungs.  She enjoyed it only briefly before she was led into a brick-and-bamboo building, a dark shape that blocked most of the remaining light, and shown to her bed.

* * *

Tirket couldn’t work in the morning.  Her breath was strangled by oily smoke and exhaustion.  Some leeway seemed allowed to those just off the boat, because the others didn’t try to push her out when the steam whistles blew. She lay in bed and imagined snow on the ground, dry mountain air.

At mid-morning, at last, she pulled herself upright and clambered to the wall at the end of the room, leaning against bunks as she went.  A window, tall and narrow, gave a view of neighboring roofs below them.  The city stretched farther than she’d imagined.  As far as the hazy air obscured the horizon she could see buildings, not bulbous as she’d pictured, but showing the distinctive bamboo frames filled with red bricks.  Smoke or steam rose from nearly all the buildings.

Streets cut between them, in places drawn ruler-straight — probably where a fire had razed earlier factories — and in others tight-twisted and narrow.  Steam cars cruised along the streets, many open to the smoggy air.  Not once did Tirket see one of her insect-like people in those cars.  Only the native birds rode, unless perhaps the closed-roof cars hid beetle riders.  Tiny humans darted about the streets or rode in caged trailers behind the cars.  She looked at the sky for airships, but the window faced away from the airfield.

As she pulled herself back along the bunks, high-pitched laughter echoed off the walls, and two humans raced in, playing some sort of game.

“Oh.”  One pulled up short and stared at her.  The other stepped away from the first and echoed her… or him, Tirket couldn’t tell with humans.  Tirket waved a leg to tell them not to worry, but her lungs wouldn’t let her speak.

“We’re just… we’re here to clean.”

Tirket coughed, still trying to wave them on and move herself toward her bed.  It was too much at once, and the humans rushed over to support her.  In bed she closed her eyes and wheezed.  As her lungs found the air to calm her, she realized her hunger.  What had she eaten since leaving the airship?  Nothing.  Without thought, she said aloud, “I’m hungry.”

There was noise around her, but she couldn’t identify it.  It didn’t sound like cleaning.  When she opened her eyes, both humans knelt beside her bed, trembling, their heads bowed.  “You may choose,” one said in a pinched voice.

Tirket couldn’t even bring any of her legs up to push the idea away.  “No, I…”  The words had no force to them, no breath to give them sound.  “Food.  Bring me.  Whatever.  From the kitchen.”  Her eyes closed, and she heard human voices that never resolved into words.

She woke to a steam whistle.  A tray of food lay beside her bed, and she hurriedly ate it before the workers returned.  It was a tasteless mush but filled her stomach pleasantly.  She fell back asleep before the others came in.

* * *

The next morning brought her some questioning looks, but still no one forced her from the room or asked after her health.  The same humans came early in the morning with another tray of food.  “What are your names?”  Their eyes widened, and they backed away without answering.  If they cleaned the room again, it must have been while she slept.

They returned in the afternoon and stood beside her bed, shifting their feet.

“I’m Rae,” one said.  Or Ray, maybe.  “And I’m Tay.”  Both had long hair and features that looked the same to her.  One — Rae, she thought — had darker skin than the other.

“Thank you, both.”  With one leg she pointed at where the tray had been —gone now, she noticed.  Her lungs labored on the city air.  “Might you know of anywhere I could sleep with an open window?”

Tay cocked his (her?) head.  “Why?”

Tirket coughed.  “The cool, night air.  It’s… I can breathe it better.”

Rae shook her (his?) head.  “No windows.”

“Maybe the roof, though.”

“Maybe,” the other one echoed.

They left without saying anything else, and Tirket fell asleep.  She woke in the night to movement.  The sounds of sleepers filled the room, but that hadn’t woken her.  She’d been moved.  She lay in a smaller bed, one that had no upper bunk.  Some fifteen or so humans surrounded her, carrying the bed out of the room.  She propped herself up, but Tay or Rae leaned in and signaled for silence.  She lay her head down and let them carry her up steps and onto the flat roof.  They buried her in a mound of blankets, and she breathed the cool air until she slept.

* * *

During the days that followed, Tirket came down to the main dormitory.  The other workers would already be gone and the sun beginning to heat the city air.  She slept, despite the hours she’d slept in the night on the roof, and dreamed of how she might escape the city.  Tay and Rae brought her food and even talked with her about their work, the building, the songbird natives.  After several days she broached the subject of leaving the city.

“I can’t catch my breath here.  The doctors in the old country prescribed clean air and promised it to me here.”

“Beyond the city?”  The idea confounded them.  Some of the humans there had traveled within the city, they explained, but Rae and Tay had been born in that building and always lived there, working, afraid of hungry birds and beetles.  They agreed to find out what they could.

“You have money?” they asked her the next day.  “You can ride in a cab, if you can pay.”

“I have some.”  More than most immigrants to be honest.  Most came because they had little to begin with, desperate for work and the chance to make their own fortune.  She’d come not wealthy but comfortable, with her family’s blessing.  “Can you summon the cab for me?”

They supported her down to the street that afternoon.  The cabbie stepped from his car and stared at them, humans and a beetle, snacks and dumb labor.  She saw the thought in his eyes.

“I want you to take me to the edge of the city.”

“Can’t, miss.”  The cabbie was already returning to his seat.  “This is a city cab, for birds only.  You’ll have to find a bus or walk.”  The last words were deadened by the shut door, and the cab pulled away.

“A bus?”  Tirket looked at the milling group of humans.  How terrible to be outside like this where any passing person might choose them for food.  She led them inside and stopped at the base of the stairs.  Cracked tiles threw off her balance, and the stuffy air forced her to sit, to breathe as deeply as she could.

One human squeaked a reply.  “No buses.  Not this time of year.  They mainly run in the winter.”

They trickled away until only Rae and Tay were left.  “I can’t walk, can I?  It’s too far.”

Damn her lungs.  Damn the consumption that made them weak!  She let them walk on each side of her, up the narrow steps straight to the roof.  The day air was no easier on her lungs than inside, and the light made it harder to sleep, but it didn’t matter, nothing mattered.  Might as well languish in the bedclothes, become a symbol, a woman for someone to love selflessly — or at least tell himself that, because her imminent death meant his love would never be tested.  Such was the fate of those with her illness back home.

Her tossing dreams showed her the buildings of the city, but transformed.  Bamboo formed the walls, but not dried and reinforced.  Entire buildings waved in a smoky wind, as bamboo stalks will in the wild.  But there was nothing of the wild in the image, despite that resemblance.  Everything seemed constructed, even the glaring sunshine where it broke through the smog.

Great engines swallowed their workers.  Brass craftsmen — all of them native birds — marched in step to showcase their wares.  Shifts of factory workers shuffled in unison to the beat of a deep whistle.  And there she was, above the throngs, encased in her bed on top of a swaying building.  She saw herself from outside, face and blankets alike turned to an icy slate.  A line of beetles climbed ever toward her, intent on worshiping her still form, but each time one reached the roof, human hands dragged him up and tossed him down the other side.

Tirket sat up, awake beneath cold stars.  The dream images faded slowly as her lungs gulped air.  She wouldn’t let it happen.  Despair was not in her, not for one who had crossed the seas and skies in a cramped airship for this chance.  Somewhere open land waited for her, land even she could work, because the air would be clean and dry.  Somewhere a clearing in a high valley longed for a mud cabin to be built by her six legs.

If she had to crawl building by building, she would.  Night by night, wrapped in blankets, her days she could spend wherever the night left her, tucked within an unlocked doorway, huddled on the street, maybe even on neighboring roofs, if she could find the way and the strength to climb.  It might take a month, but she wouldn’t stay to become a symbol of empty fantasies.

The street was empty when she reached it, but the trip down had taken longer than she’d hoped.  Her lungs couldn’t find the air, and she had to rest.  At this rate it would take a month just to cross a block, a lifetime to reach the wilderness.  A healthy lifetime, that is.  If she had to stay in the city, Tirket’s lifetime would be much shorter.

Dawn neared, and the morning’s first cars whistled their ignition.  Air whistled in and out of her lungs too, and she imagined them as steam engines, decrepit, failing.  Clogged with the film left from inferior coal.  She stumbled across the street, unable to look anywhere but straight ahead.  Someone yelled at her, but why she didn’t know.

Along the building opposite, she kept her hand on the wall, pulling herself as well as she could.  Smog gathered in her lungs, and the air warmed up.  She collapsed in a recessed side door of the building.  She didn’t think her breathing would let her sleep, but she did, curled against the unused door.  Once a bird woke her, asking her business, but the look in her insect eyes must have been all the answer he needed.

When night came she struggled to her feet.  The buildings swayed as they had in her dream, though she knew it was only her dizziness.  She tried to focus ahead, to pick one spot and aim for it, but her head kept pulling down.  Her goal became simply one more step, that next crack in the pavement, that bit of debris, the base of a street-lamp.

Tirket couldn’t guess how much of the night had passed —she hadn’t gone far, however much it was — when someone came up beside her.  Rae, she thought, and Tay on the other side.  Then a dozen more human hands grabbed her, eased her back onto a pile of blankets.

“What…”  Was this some kind of betrayal with the humans bringing her back to their bird masters?

The blankets moved, a cot that the humans carried underneath her.  Not to bring her back, but continuing along the street.

“Why…”  She looked to either side at Rae and Tay and the other interchangeable humans carrying her.  “There must be thousands of us every year.  Beetles,” she gave the word all the derision that the birds used, “overrunning your city, preying on your people.”

Tay looked away from her as if the answer was embarrassing.

Rae answered though, dark face crinkling in an expression Tirket couldn’t interpret.  “Maybe it’s because you didn’t.  Didn’t prey on us, I mean.  And others saw that you didn’t, saw you turn away in disgust throughout that first day.  We asked around about you, and those people at the airstrip remembered.”

Maybe.  Tirkit doubted that explained it all though.  She imagined an underground movement among the humans, resistance groups that Rae and Tay stumbled on as they made their inquiries about getting her out of the city.  She’d be a symbol for them.  An image of overcoming the songbird city, of fighting even when it became difficult to continue.  But much better to be a symbol for resistance than a symbol for empty romantic gestures.

The cot jolted and jerked as they walked, and Tirket had no answer.  Engines still sounded, even in the night, and the streets were not fully empty.  Her human carriers huddled against the bed but walked as confidently as they dared — her antennae tensed with their mingled fear and determination — and they made good time.

Tirket phased in and out of wakefulness, and it could have been dreams or simply waking imagination, but she saw how they must look from above.  The bed floating along dark streets.  Her own insect head propped on a pillow, the rest of her swallowed by heavy blankets —white and blue — that also hid most signs of the little humans carrying her.  Only a careful observer would note their heads and pale clothing.  They moved as fast as was reasonable, but the city dwarfed their strides, so the bed did not race but must seem instead something from a dream itself.

What stories might an insomniac tell in the morning of her night-time visions?  A beetle goddess leaving the city?  A lonely death parade for the nameless, dying workers?  No one would believe it.

They would not reach the edge of the city that night, but that didn’t bother Tirket.  The humans would find a place for her bed and sleep beneath it through the day, safe from hungry passersby and angry owners come to retrieve them.  They would make it out of the city some night, and then beyond.  When the air grew clear enough, she would walk, and with Tay and Rae and whichever of the rest wished, she could establish her homestead, them free of predators and her free to breathe air clean and dry.

For the moment, she lay back and breathed as well as she could, and the city of the songbirds floated by.


* * *

About the Author

Daniel Ausema’s fiction and poetry have appeared in many places, including Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and Diabolical Plots. His high fantasy trilogy The Arcist Chronicles is published by Guardbridge Books, and he is the creator of the steampunk-fantasy Spire City series, set in a world of beetle-drawn carriages and chained singers. He lives with his family in Colorado, at the foot of the Rockies.

Categories: Stories