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Proper Pedagogy

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:15

by Jessica Cho

“…they pulled strings from theories, tangled and untangled equations, sliced through Gordian knots with claws as sharp as Occam’s razor.”

When the doors of the Universities across the world first opened to them, the cats, for all their sheddings and shortcomings, took to those academic halls the same way they took to sunbeams and soft places.

They paced through their research with a hunter’s single-minded focus, ears high and alert for any sounds of interest, ferreting out facts like mice from the walls.

The linguistics department welcomed their nimble voices, well versed in a wide range of sounds, but even more their subtlety of jaw and gesture, their ability to communicate across oceans of silence.

From laboratories and lecture halls, they pulled strings from theories, tangled and untangled equations, sliced through Gordian knots with claws as sharp as Occam’s razor.

To all indications, they excelled.

But in the quiet depths of a building of cracked stone and creeping ivy, lies an old tabby, his body curled in proportions the envy of any Renaissance painter, who understands that chasing knowledge is an exercise as futile as chasing dust motes — imagined specks that disappear as soon as they’re grasped.

He sleeps undisturbed, a scholar in perfect repose, for he knows the key to understanding cannot be found in study or debate. The language of the Universe is neither math nor science, but rather the frequency that thrums in perfect resonance, the sound at the centet not a roar, but a purr.

 

* * *

About the Author

Jessica is a Rhysling Award winning writer of SFF short fiction and poetry. Born in Korea, they currently live in New England along with their cat Mushroom, who, as far as anyone knows, has no aspirations of higher learning. Previous works can be found at Fantasy Magazine, khōréō, Fireside Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction and elsewhere. They can be found online at semiwellversed.wordpress.com and on Mastodon @jcho@wandering.shop

Categories: Stories

Night in the Garden

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:15

by Marshall L. Moseley

““Phoenix!” I said. “Mouse isn’t waking up!””

“Mouse?” I gently reached out and tapped him with my paw, but my little gray friend lay inert. Still.

We had been playing in the grass the way we always play. The game – you know it, I’m sure – was cat and mouse. Our respective species had once played it in deadly earnest, but over time, after the garden’s MedNanites gave us minds and we’d become friends, we played it for fun.

I hadn’t shaken him that hard. I’d shaken him harder before, and he’d always lain still for a moment, and then bounded up with a cheery “Good one, Cat!” and we’d go on with our play, or wander down to the stream to sip some water, or over to the food trees for some kibble.

The Phoenix would know what to do. I left my friend lying on the grass and ran out of the meadow and up the short grassy hill to where the giant bird was always perched on a rock at its top.  As I ran I looked up at the skydome, and its plates were no longer a bright sky blue, but darker, like I remembered dusk being before the escape. And there were cracks in them.

I ran up to the Phoenix and stopped. He no longer stared straight ahead, looking sleek and regal, awaiting questions or requests. His rainbow plumage was ruffled and sticking out everywhere, and his head was down.

“Phoenix!” I said. “Mouse isn’t waking up!”

“Fazzit… fa… failure… system,” the once regal bird said in a voice I didn’t recognize. Instead of his gentle baritone, he spoke in a monotone, almost like he wasn’t alive. “Neutron star… gravity well… MedNanites offline… gravity shear imminent…” He lifted his head and looked at me, and for a moment he was back. “I can’t fix it, Cat. I’m so sorry. It’s–” and then his head dropped.

He was gone.

I turned and ran back down the hill. I looked up; the plates were darker now, and there were more cracks. All around me I heard a faint creaking sound.

Mouse was where I’d left him. I looked up at the skydome one last time. Then I laid down and curled myself around him, and as the sky went dark and the wind howled, I mourned my friend.

 

* * *

About the Author

Marshall L. Moseley has been writing fiction of one kind or another for forty years. His screenplay, WILDCARD, placed in the top three of the third season of Project Greenlight, and he appeared in the show. He subsequently optioned it to Dimension Films, a division of Disney. His stories have appeared in ROAR 6 and Inhuman Acts, and he was nominated for a Cóyotl Award in 2015. He is a member of the Wordos Professional Writers workshop in Eugene, Oregon.

Categories: Stories

The Last Life of a Time-Travelling Cat

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:14

A. P. Golub

“So I wait, flitting in and out of Stjepan’s life like the ghost of what wasn’t — like revolution and socialism and the idea that there won’t always be someone trying to take advantage of someone else.”

Stjepan saved me when I was a kitten 56 years ago (his time, of course). My own time has been spent less… linearly. He recognizes me, I think, when I curl at his side on the hospital bed. He doesn’t say anything, but his hand scratches under my chin like he used to do. His hands are frail. Not like they used to be. I am thinner now, and my fur isn’t thick and soft like it once was.

Soon, he will be gone, and I will go, too.

But for now, I want to pretend that I am just a cat, and he is still a young man.

I can still purr, rumbling my old body as loud as any kitten can.

* * *

He found me in the mud on the riverbank. Stuck fast and exhausted, I was done. Then Stjepan picked me up, cradling me in his big, strong hands muttering about how there were better ways to kill a cat than by drowning. I could tell by how he held me close that he wouldn’t try any of them on me.

I wanted to tell him the truth — that it was my own bad luck that saw me in that mud.

Cats don’t have nine lives, but some of us are born with a gift of time travel, the gift of flitting through the years and lingering where we will. Mother said we were only supposed to use the gift when in danger. Of course, being a kitten, I used it to try to steal cream.

And that’s how I wound up on a muddy riverbank in the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the darkening 1930s. Of course, cats can time travel, but we can’t talk, so couldn’t correct Stjepan.

He took me home and gave me a bigger bowl of cream then the one that got me into this mess.

So I stayed.

* * *

Stjepan talked to me like I was a human, telling me of change, labor rights, land rights, and strikes. He told me that once we weren’t a country; then we were a country. One day, he said, the people would build a better country: he honestly believed this, even as members of his party were imprisoned or killed.

Even as he hid his own beliefs to keep work, to stay alive.

One day, we wouldn’t even need countries, he said. The people would abandon such constructs. And what is a country but a construct? What is a movement but seeds, planted by others, that will bloom in time? Stjepan booped my nose as he said it.

I suspected he’d had too much to drink that evening.

Still, I liked that he respected me enough to tell me such things even if I didn’t understand any of it. Cats need no country, and our movements are always our own. Humans put such constraints on themselves. Maybe, maybe I did understand it, in that I understood that Stjepan wanted to be more like a cat.

He said he was going to move to the city.

Purring, I laid on his lap. I ignored the pull of time, wanting me to leave. I imagined it felt much like the pull of the promising future felt to Stjepan.

* * *

We didn’t make it to the city.

War came again to our country that wasn’t/was. And Stjepan wanted to fight.

He cried as he said it. He cried because he would be leaving me with his sister, Marija, and because Stjepan’s future would be born in blood. Could anything beautiful be born from blood, he whispered, as he stroked my whiskers. I pressed my head to his hand.

His fingers ran under my chin (scritch—scritch—scritch).

“You’re beautiful,” he said, “and you were pulled from mud.”

* * *

Marija is kind.

She is kind to me, and she is kind to the people who come to her house.

They come at night, exchanging whispers and letters. There is fighting in the hills, but it spills over to these late-night meetings. It spills over to our life, in the way people disappear.

The enemy is the invader/the enemy are those we drank with/the enemy is—

Eventually they come for Marija.

I run.

* * *

I am not proud of this.

When the door slams open and men rush in yelling, I dart right through their stomping feet and out into the cold, lonely night.

Marijia is shouting back. Something crashes. Screaming.

Then silence.

I wish there was gunfire. I wish there was some certain ending.

She is gone, and she will not come back.

* * *

The future Stjepan saw had Marija in it. The future I try to run to has Marija in it.

But as I run through time, that future slips out from under me, like an unstable shelf or book laid half-off the counter. I cannot find the future. I am lost in the dark. At first, I think I am cursed for running. As if a cat could have stopped those men. As if a cat should die making a stand. That’s something Stjepan would do, not me.

Then I think that humanity is cursed, for killing so many infinite futures. This is closer to the truth, but it does not help me, lost in time.

I want to find Stjepan.

But the future twists away from me as more lives are extinguished. Each one was a path, a connection, a possibility gone. I run on through the darkness, unable to find the future I believed in, that Stjepan told me about.

We are always one step behind the future that will be.

* * *

One step behind means abandoned houses and empty camps. It means smoldering fires, put out just in the nick of time. It’s cold and everyone’s suspicious, even of a cat.

It’s the way blood drips off the wall.

There’s a body there — not Stjepan’s.

* * *

After the war I learned that Stjepan got a job in a factory, that he left the party, that he was a mechanic.

But curse or bad luck, I never see him.

There is the scent of oil and a swinging door.

I find a note — half-drafted, to Marija. Stjepan believes she escaped. He thinks she must have eventually made her way to the US. He tells himself that she thinks he is dead, and that’s why she didn’t come back. He knows for a fact that she took me with her.

This is how he protects himself from the reality that his sister is gone. He can’t see me because in his mind I am safe with Marija. Sometimes I think I could push through these futures, walk into the room and demand cream, meowing as loudly as ever. He’d pick me up, scratch my chin, and then his heart would break. I can’t bring myself to do it.

At the end of the letter, he says he hopes I am getting enough cream.

* * *

One step ahead, one step behind.

I do not have it in me to destroy the future Stjepan imagines for Marija and me.

So I wait, flitting in and out of Stjepan’s life like the ghost of what wasn’t — like revolution and socialism and the idea that there won’t always be someone trying to take advantage of someone else. Slowly, I gather my own years, live my own lives. I know there will come a time for Stjepan when his reality and the life he’s imagined for Marija will blur and fade together.

He’ll be waiting for me at the end. I will take him to the future.

* * *

The monitors at Stjepan’s side beep slower than I think they should, not that I’m well-versed in matters of the human heart. But the sound feels wrong. Stjepan isn’t mechanical beeping, fading away, he’s hope and strong hands. A hammer coming down steadily — like the heart should. The scent of iron and grease and the gift of cream.

“Mačkica…” His breath is reedy. He doesn’t finish his sentence.

I curl against his side, rolling into his hand and purring harder. Here is my past, and the future we should have had.

We will leave together soon, in the way dreams flee upon waking.

—in the way things are until they aren’t.

 

* * *

About the Author

A.P. Golub is a speculative fiction writer residing in central Virginia with their partner, dog, and four cats in varying states of domestication. They’re a graduate of Viable Paradise writers’ workshop. Online, they can be found at apgolub.com or lurking on Twitter and Instagram as @andtatcat.

Categories: Stories

The Unbearable Weight of a Photograph

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:13

by Jelena Dunato

““According to the Shifter Control Act, you’re required to wear these.” The officer hands them silver pins in the shape of a wolf’s head.”

Roza runs down the corridor towards the bursar’s office, unladylike, her freckled cheeks red with exertion, auburn ponytail trailing behind her. Leather soles of her new oxfords slip on the polished floor and she skids past the door, flailing, gripping the doorknob in the last moment. Locked. She checks the clock above the notice board. Two minutes past four.

She sighs, ready to try again tomorrow, when a leaflet pinned to the board catches her eye. Secret Society of Shifters and Their Nefarious Protocols it proclaims in thick, greasy hectograph ink.

“Roza!” Lena’s footsteps echo in the empty corridor behind her. “What are you doing? We’re all waiting for you!”

“Reading,” Roza says softly, catching her breath as a slow, viscous shudder travels down her spine like a fat slug.

Lena, in a man’s shirt, her flaxen hair shorn by some mad artist, twists the corners of her mouth downwards as she glances at the leaflet. “Not that rubbish again. Why are people so obsessed with shifters?”

“They’re afraid of things they don’t understand,” Roza says.

“They’re everywhere around you, hiding in plain sight,” Lena reads from the leaflet and laughs. “Nonsense. I don’t think I’ve ever met one. Have you?”

“I don’t think so,” Roza lies in a smooth, well-practised manner. Her identity card is a fake, the genetic test that got her a place at the university a forgery. Can’t be too careful, her Papa always said, and she’s glad she listened.

“C’mon, don’t waste my time.” Lena grabs her hand and pulls her down the corridor. A minute later, they’re outside, running down the gravel path leading to the immense lawn. Hundreds of students sit on colourful blankets, enjoying the June afternoon.

“Lena! Over here!” somebody calls, and the two of them find themselves among Lena’s usual motley group of painters and actors and architects.

“I think you know everyone,” Lena says, “except maybe…”

A dark-haired young man is sitting on a yellow blanket, peeling a hard-boiled egg, his white shirt unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up. He’s broad-shouldered and lithe in an attractive sort of way.

“Franz, this is Roza,” Lena says. “Roza, Franz.”

“Sit down.” He pats the empty spot beside him. Roza takes her oxfords off and kneels down awkwardly, her pencil skirt too tight for lounging. “Egg?”

“No, thank you,” she laughs. Somebody pushes a paper cup filled with spritzer into her hand.

“Smile!” Georg, Lena’s photographer boyfriend aims a bulky instant camera at them and clicks. The camera whirrs, producing a slightly blurry image of Roza and Franz. She tucks it absentmindedly into her purse.

“So what are you studying?” Franz asks. His dark eyes gleam, focused on her face.

“Biology.” She pulls a carrot from a bag of vegetables and takes a bite. “You?”

“Mechanical engineering.” Still holding the egg in his fingers, he flicks his wrist, waves his other hand, and the perfect white ovoid suddenly appears on his neighbour’s plate. “And magic, obviously.”

“Obviously.”

The conversation between them flows without hindrance. They chat about their plans for the future the whole afternoon, impervious to sunburn and strange looks from Lena’s crew.

“It’s time to go,” Lena pronounces when the sun slips behind the Arts building. “We must get ready for the play tonight.”

“Ah, sure.” Roza brushes the crumbs off her skirt. She’s not really into the avant-garde art of Lena’s circle, but she likes the relaxed crowd. As the others turn and leave, Franz touches her hand.

“A quick drink?” he asks.

She’s had enough to drink, but still she follows him, feeling like a naughty child. They amble through the winding, cobbled streets of the town till they reach a small cafe with live music. It’s packed, but she doesn’t mind standing close to him. His hips attract hers like a magnet, and half a dozen cigarettes and two glasses of wine later, she finds herself glued to him, dancing to a slow tune. He bows his head, she lifts hers, and their lips meet in a long kiss.

She should go home, it would be the proper thing to do, but there’s something strange in the air that night. The sky above their heads is shiny and brittle like a glass bauble, the laughter is too loud and nervous and everybody is drinking as if the world is going to run out of alcohol. Beneath the glare and din, Roza senses a deep, slow thrumming; the fate marching towards them. So when Franz says, “Come with me,” she follows once again, light-headed and giggling.

He has an attic room in the old town, five creaky flights of stairs leading up to a lopsided door. A single bed, a sink, an ancient armoire and a desk — good enough for students, poets and rats.

His slim fingers unbutton her blouse and slide under her bra straps. She pulls his shirt out of his trousers and over his head and inhales his scent, entirely human, yet intoxicating. His lips slide down her hot skin, the tip of his tongue writes passionate verses. Her flesh is light and supple under his gentle hands, and she lets him touch her, feel every inch of her, slide inside her.

For one dizzy, blinding moment, she wonders if he can see what she is, if her skin is transparent like a parchment before a candle, revealing the foul secret of her shifter genes. She shudders, and he pauses immediately.

“Do you want me to stop?” he asks.

But no, humans have a poor sense of smell, and they have no way of telling a shifter from a human without genealogy or a blood test. It’s a ridiculous fear fuelled by those cursed leaflets appearing all over the campus. She banishes the thought and pulls Franz closer, skin on skin, mouth on mouth as their bodies merge, sailing the waves of pleasure together.

Afterwards, they share a cigarette, and she briefly considers shocking him with the story of her childhood, of running on four legs through the ancient green forests, of cuddling with her sister beneath the earth, safe in their den. Perhaps he wouldn’t mind. But she doesn’t know him, not really, and is unwilling to break the gossamer bridge of affection between them. There’ll be time enough for awkward revelations.

They remain bunked in that room for a week, darting out to get bread and strawberries and cheap wine. Running up the rickety stairs to fall on the narrow bed, breathless, and make love again and again.

While he sleeps, she searches his desk. Engineering, math, some history and poetry. No incendiary pamphlets, no tractates on the treacherous nature of shifters. No hate. When she slips back under the sheets, she feels guilty and mad. Franz sleeps; silver moonlight plays with the sharp shadows on his face. He is gentle and funny and talks about machines as if they were live creatures. He’s a great dancer and an even greater kisser. In a kinder, more normal world, she’d be wondering if he were The One.

Humans cannot marry shifters; it was outlawed a year ago.

As dawn pours its golden light over the rooftops on the eighth day, someone knocks on the shabby door. “Roza? Roza are you here?”

Franz groans in his sleep, but Roza recognizes the voice. She rushes to unlock the door.

“I travelled for two days and turned half the town upside down to find you,” Hana says, flushed from the climb. She looks leaner than before, and fiercer, her red hair in two perfect plaits, her eyes burning. “Papa wants you home immediately.”

“What? Why?” Roza bristles.

“Haven’t you heard the news? We need to report to the census office by Sunday.” Hana peers over her shoulder, curiosity softening her features. “Oooh, I see. Handsome. Does he know?”

“Shut up,” Roza hisses, pushing her sister out. “Wait here.”

She gathers her things quickly as Franz yawns and rubs his eyes. “Family emergency,” she says.

“I’ll call you.”

She kisses him quickly and manoeuvres out of his arms trying to pull her back to bed. One last glance at his unshaven face and she’s out, running down the stairs with her sister.

* * *

Things sour quicker than Roza can follow. The peaceful, happy village she left to go to university is grey and quiet now; the villagers’ eyes cautious and hard. The school is turned into a temporary census office, but instead of the kind old headmaster, a young uniformed officer sits at the desk. As Roza enters with Hana and her parents, she sees the local genealogy register opened on their family page, their real identities written down in a meticulous hand.

“According to the Shifter Control Act, you’re required to wear these.” The officer hands them silver pins in the shape of a wolf’s head. “Don’t leave the village, or you’ll be arrested.”

At first, Roza remains shut in her room, refusing to accept this new reality where people stare at her from afar but cross to the other side of the street when she comes near. The other shifter families sometimes visit furtively, and she hears her father talking to the men late at night. She refuses to socialize with their daughters; they have nothing in common but the cursed blood.

Hana is laid off from her teaching job. Roza knows how hard she worked for it and how much she loved it, but faced with her sister’s furious eyes, she doesn’t know what to say.

“They can’t do this to us,” Hana fumes, as she reads the smuggled newspapers aloud to Roza. “The Government now says they want to intern us for our own safety.”

Roza wonders if she should write to Franz, explain the situation, but words fail her. What could she say? I’m sorry I forgot to mention that I’m an animal. She could only get him in trouble.

The Government starts taking shifters away to an unknown location and the first bloody uprising breaks out – and is brutally put down – in the capital. All shifter families receive Government-issued pills “to restrain their dark nature.” A girl in the village bleeds to death, but the rest of them are forced to report every Sunday to the hard-eyed officer and swallow the pill before him. No one can shift anymore.

A young man Roza went to school with spits the pill before the soldiers. They drag him into the yard unceremoniously and shoot him.

The shot echoes in Roza’s ears for hours afterwards, rendering her numb.

“They’re coming for us,” her father says one evening. “It’s time to move.”

Roza fills her backpack. Warm clothes, a toothbrush, soap, some food. Leafing through her notebooks, she finds the photograph. The two of them, sitting on the yellow picnic blanket. A long-lost version of Roza, laughing into the camera, a paper cup in her hand, her hair a flaming halo. And Franz in half-profile, holding a hard-boiled egg, looking at her. It weighs almost nothing, so she pushes it into the secret pocket in her backpack.

Two days later, their father wakes them up in the middle of the night, and the whole family trudges across the fields, into the woods, to the old forest track. A van with its headlights off waits there. Hana and Roza enter and squeeze themselves between the silent people sitting inside.

“Aren’t you coming with us?” Roza asks her parents, her voice suddenly very small.

“We only had enough money for two,” her father replies. “Don’t worry, we’ll stay here in the woods.”

“No, you mustn’t—” Roza tries to contradict him, but the driver shuts the door and cuts her off.

She cries holding Hana’s hand as they move through the night forest. When the pills wear off – if they wear off – their parents will be able to shift again. But they can only stay in their shifter bodies for a day or two. A shifter who stays longer risks forgetting their human self and turning into a real animal.

Looking at the indifferent moon through the dirty window of the van, Roza thinks that’s not such a bad fate.

* * *

They get new identity cards and jobs at an ammunition factory in a drab industrial town where nobody cares who they are, and new machine fodder is always welcome. Hana joins the resistance immediately, slipping off in the night to attend secret meetings, whispering about propaganda and diversions and shifter troops in the mountains.

Roza pretends she’s normal and ignores Hana’s rage. She stubbornly treats this life as a nightmare that will pass soon, if only she remains small and silent and keeps her head down.

While Hana disseminates illegal pamphlets that attack the Government, Roza wears her one tight dress and goes out with other factory girls. She lets men with greasy hands feel her up in filthy bars that reek of stale cigarette smoke and piss. She thinks of Franz as they shove their tongues down her throat. Soon those men are replaced with boys in badly fitting uniforms, and then they disappear as well. What began as a cleanse turns into a war that spreads across the borders. A general draft spares only those too old or too crippled to fight.

Her beauty fades and so does Hana’s. Their glossy hair becomes brittle and dull. Hana hacks it off, Roza brushes it every night, crying, and hides it under a scarf during the day. Their bodies turn gaunt and tired, their bones creak in protest as they move. Their faces are hard and unfamiliar. Roza struggles to recognize her own reflection.

She sometimes wonders what happened to Lena and her artistic crew. Are they still at university, protesting this madness, producing sharp, furious art? Or have the boys been mobilized and girls sent to factories, so now they look just as harrowed and hopeless as Roza?

One night, the factory explodes and when Hana comes home, her face is bruised and her clothes torn and dirty.

“Close call,” she says, grinning. “They don’t know who I am, but they soon will. Time to move.”

As Hana packs her bag, Roza feels rage flaring in her chest. “Why do you always have to go and do something dangerous?” she says. “We could have stayed here, safe.”

“You want to stay here?” Hana asks, incredulous.

Their tiny room at the boarding house has mold growing in the corners and perennially smells of cabbage. A prison cell would be more cheerful.

Roza hisses, refusing to answer, and grabs her backpack. It’s winter outside, she dresses for the cold and tucks the photo in her breast pocket.

“Why do you keep dragging that stupid thing around?” Hana asks.

Roza wants to hurl back something sharp and hurtful, but in the end, she just says, “Because I liked him. Because it was real.”

The pity in her sister’s eyes cuts her deep. “That world is gone,” Hana says. “And everyone who inhabited it. Those people are dead.”

“No. I’m not dead. And neither is he, I know it.”

Hana shrugs and pulls on her boots.

“Where are we going?” Roza asks.

“There is a base in the woods,” Hana says. “For those who have nothing left to lose.”

* * *

They meet a group of desperate men and women before dawn. Roza keeps her head down, avoiding their eyes. She doesn’t know who they are, she doesn’t want to know. They leave the town and head straight for the woods. It’s freezing cold. The untouched snow reaches up to their knees and there is no path, but Hana leads them with grim determination.

When the sun rises above the mountains, they hear barking in the distance and know they’re being followed.

They trudge on stubbornly, hungry and exposed.

“We should shift,” Roza says. “We’ll move faster on four legs.”

“No,” Hana retorts. “We leave no one behind.”

Roza looks around and makes a quick tally: the ragged fugitives look half-dead in the morning light. Perhaps not all of them are purebloods, and some of them might be too old, too exhausted, or too poisoned by the pills the Government fed them to shift. So they continue slogging beneath the snow-laden pines, armed soldiers hot on their trail.

This deadly landscape in the sharp claws of winter terrifies Roza. Her toes are numb and every muscle in her body screams at her to stop. In order to keep moving, she slips away. The blurry photograph in her breast pocket, tucked under five layers of clothing, pokes at her ribs. She thinks of Franz’s kisses.

The photo is the only vision of the future she can muster. An unfinished business of the two people who fell in love one summer night. Perhaps she’ll find him again, in the next town, next rebels’ base. And then it will be easier to live through this evil, and fight it together.

She doesn’t realize she’s sobbing until Hana’s hand finds hers and squeezes it hard.

“Almost there,” Hana says, her breath a white, frozen cloud. “Up this hill and across the old railway bridge. The rebels should wait for us on the other side.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I have my sources.”

Roza bites her lip and pushes on. While she wasted her time torn between daydreaming and despair, hundreds of grim, stubborn people fought the Government.

“This base in the mountains has a new leader,” Hana says. “A hero, determined to take back what is ours. It’s time to turn around and bare our fangs.”

“I’m scared of fighting.”

“They need other skills too. Nursing. Cooking. Teaching.”

The idea sounds more optimistic than anything Roza has heard in months. There are people like them, organized, led by someone who has a plan.

A shot pierces the silence and Hana falls with a gasp, pulling Roza down, a bloody rose blooming in the snow beneath her.

“Run!” someone screams, as the soldiers pour out of the woods, with their dogs and their guns.

Roza still holds Hana’s hand, though her sister’s eyes are empty, the side of her head blown up. She forces herself to let go and bolts behind the pines, running for her life. She expects a bullet any moment. It doesn’t come. Five seconds pass, then ten, then twenty.

She almost dares to hope she escaped, when a voice says, “Stop.”

He stands before her, a soldier with a raised gun. She closes her eyes and says a quick prayer. Time trickles away.

“Roza?”

She opens her eyes. The soldier removes the scarf that covers his mouth.

“Franz.” She gasps.

The gun shakes in his hands. “I always hoped I’d find you, but…” His eyes study her face as if there’s something crucial written on it. “Tell me you’re not one of them.”

The anguish in his voice breaks her heart and she finally manages to tap into Hana’s rage. She wants to tell him he’s an idiot poisoned by the Government’s lies. A brainwashed fool. A murderer.

But the snow and the blood and the gunshots echoing in the distance wipe away all reasonable arguments. Her sister is gone and Roza is too furious and desperate to care what he thinks when she says, “I’m not a monster, you are.”

And then, keeping her eyes on the barrel of his gun, Roza wills her body to shift. As her clothes fall to the ground, the photograph slips out. It lies on the snow, a perfect rectangle of fiery colours.

She stands lightly on her four feet now, a sleek young fox. Thick red fur protects her from the cold. She waits for the bullet.

Instead, Franz lowers his gun and picks up the photograph. He presses it to his chest.

“I’m so sorry,” he says. “I never—”

Shots thunder among the trees. Eyes locked on each other, they both know no words are powerful enough to carve a future for the two of them.

His gaze follows her as she turns away and dashes into the woods.

 

* * *

About the Author

Jelena Dunato is an art historian, curator, speculative fiction writer, and lover of all things ancient. She grew up in Croatia on a steady diet of adventure novels and then wandered the world for a decade, building a career in the arts.

Jelena’s stories have been published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, The Dark, and Mermaids Monthly, among others. She is a member of SFWA and Codex. Her novel Dark Woods, Deep Water is coming out from Ghost Orchid Press in September 2023. Jelena lives on an island in the Adriatic with her husband, daughter and cat. You can find her at jelenadunato.com and on Twitter @jelenawrites.
Categories: Stories

29-Year-Old Furry Considers Moving Out of Mom's House

Ask Papabear - Sun 14 Apr 2024 - 14:40
Hello, Papabear,

It's been a long time since I last asked you a question, but I hope you're doing well. I'm messaging for some advice because rgis is something that's been on my mind for a good while. I currently live with my mom and it's not really bad, but there are times she can be more of draining to me than my own job. I'm more than happy to help with stuff or grab something she needs, but sometimes when I've just finished a tiring ten hour shift and just got home she'll ask me to go right back out to grab something for her when she's been home all day and could have went out to grab it herself.

There are times when she'll ask to use my car for something instead of her own for something. I don't mind since my car is bigger than hers and for groceries it certainly holds more, but there are times it messes with my own work schedule, and when I have no choice but to use her car, she'll leave it with little to no gas at all.

But most of the issues I feel I get are from just being around her. There was a day she called me from my room just to see me and say "You're getting fat." It made my day which was relatively nice feel much worse. She says how she wants me to lose weight and worries about my health and right now I'm around the 240's, I'm actively moving about at work and I maintain my weight rather well but all she sees is my belly and just goes back to that. It feels as if everytime we talk her tone makes it that she looks down on me, or at the very least like I'm still a little kid. I sometimes wonder what to do, even my sister suggests I finally move out.

I'm sorry for trailing on like this, my question after all of this is do you think it's a good idea for me to try moving out?

Kageichi (29)

* * *

Hi, Kageichi,

Please forgive me if I don't recall what we might have talked about in the past.

Before I answer your letter in more detail, could you answer a couple of questions? 1) Why, at 29 with a full-time job, do you still live with your mother? 2) What are the conditions for your living at your mom's house? (e.g., i.e., do you pay rent or have some other agreement for your continuing to live there?)

Thanks for your replies.

Hugs,
Papabear
* * *

Hello There

First of all, it's alright. It has been many years since I last sent a letter to you.

As for your questions, I live with my mom because while there are plenty of apartments a part of me feels pretty nervous too, I feel worried I might be unprepared to move out and handle being out on my own. A lot of things over the years just makes me have little confidence in myself.  The living condition of living with my mom aren't bad. I help with some bills, and I give my mother 100 bucks a week. She never told me where the 100 dollars go to, but I just thought maybe it was for rent.

* * *

Okay, one more question if I may: how much $$ do you bring in per month? Also, does your job include any benefits like medical insurance? 
Oh, and what city and state are you in?
* * *

I get paid every week and since I work almost 40 hours every week, my pay usually rounds up from 500 to $700 a week after taxes is taken out. My job does include health insurance and 401K which some of my cash goes to. I live in D***, SC.

* * *

Hi, again,

Okay, thanks for the information. So! Basically, you make about $2,400 a month take-home pay. I looked at apartment listings in the D***, SC, area, and you can get a studio or 1-bedroom apartment for anywhere between $800 and $1,500 a month or so. Let's say you find a good deal at $1,000 a month, leaving you with $1,400 a month. Let's further assume your car payment is $200 a month, leaving you with about a $1,200 a month for utilities, gas, food, sundries. That's not a lot in this economy, even in South Carolina (you wouldn't survive in an expensive state like New York or California). You're giving your mom $100 for rent a month (sometimes).

You should be kissing and hugging her "Thank you!" for saving you so much money. You should NOT resent her if she asks you to occasionally buy some food or to borrow your car. And if the worst she does is suggest you might need to lose some weight? I would hazard a guess she is genuinely concerned about you staying healthy. Don't take it as a slam (unless she says it in a mean tone to you, but it sounds like some of that is how you are taking her words).

If you moved out of the house, you would likely struggle financially unless you found a better-paying job. And, if you lost your job, you'd likely have to move right back in.

Instead of complaining about your mom asking for a few things, you should sit down with her and make out a JOINT budget in which you figure out how you can pay your fair share for the room and board she is supplying you. If your biggest complaint is that she sometimes asks you to buy some food after work when you are tired, that can easily be fixed by the two of you planning your grocery list ahead of time and going to the store together to make sure you have everything necessary. Set a rule that, unless it is something vital to purchase right away, she should not ask you to run errands right after work when you're tired. Schedule a time in your week when you run errands for her. You should also be paying her more per month. Compromise between the $400 and the price of an apartment, so, let's say, give her $750 a month. That's a good deal, and you should be grateful for it. If you don't feel like you can afford that (I don't know what other expenses you might have) then compensate by doing more chores around the house (you don't mention if you do any, but just because you work doesn't mean you can't do chores, too).

Moving out right now, while doable, is probably not the best choice financially. Your mother sounds like she is not bad to live with at all. If she treats you like a little kid, it might be because you are acting a bit like one by not helping to pay your fair share of the expenses at the house. She might be a little passive-aggressive with her criticism of your belly, so you should talk that out. Perhaps she's directing some frustration over you by saying you're chubby.

Sit down with your mom and discuss the following:
  1. Budget: Find out what her expenses are and what you can reasonably contribute to house payments, utilities, and gasoline. IMHO you are not paying your fair share of living expenses in a house you live in full time.
  2. Schedules: Come to an agreement as to how to do things that need doing without conflicting with your work schedule.
  3. Being respectful of each other's needs: Tell your mom how you feel when she says you're fat, but do it in a calm way. Explain that you know you've put on some pounds but that it hurts your feelings when she says that and talk about how both of you feel about your health. ALSO! Ask her about HER health, HER feelings, and HER needs. It's not all about you, Kageichi.

You're 29 years old. Time to step up. You don't have to move out (unless you want to), but you do need to show more responsibility and appreciate your mother more for helping you out so much. Whether you stay or go, you need to do the adult thing.

Take Care,
Papabear

Bearly Furcasting S4E46-The Wrong Podcast For All The Right Reasons

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 13 Apr 2024 - 05:00

MOOBARKFLUFF! Click here to send us a comment or message about the show!

Bearly's away so the Pup and Raccoon play! In this action packed episode Taebyn and Rayne try to keep the USS BFFT afloat without her captain and avoid any icebergs. 


We play a pun game, learn some weird news, chat about our media consumption, get some Furry News, a movie review, a story…and have an all around good time. Join us for some hijinks and shenanigans. 

The links below are ‘clickable’ on most platforms

Taebyn YouTube 

Taebyn Merch at Fourthwall 

Rayne’s Friday Night Traxx

 

Wild Bills Soda 

Merch at Redbubble 

Merch at Bonfire 

Merch at Fourthwall 

This podcast contains adult language and adult topics. It is rated M for Mature. Listener discretion is advised.

Support the show



This podcast contains adult language and adult topics. It is rated M for Mature. Listener discretion is advised.

Support the show



This podcast contains adult language and adult topics. It is rated M for Mature. Listener discretion is advised.

Support the Show.

Thanks to all our listeners and to our staff: Bearly Normal, Rayne Raccoon, Taebyn, and Ziggy the Meme Weasel.

You can send us a message on Telegram at BFFT Chat, or via email at: bearlyfurcasting@gmail.com

Bearly Furcasting S4E46-The Wrong Podcast For All The Right Reasons
Categories: Podcasts

Unicorn Overlord Review - By Brandon Billingsley

Gaming Furever - Furry Game News - Thu 11 Apr 2024 - 14:34

Unicorn Overlord is a tactical rpg developed by Vanillaware and released on March 8th, 2024. Those familiar with Vanillaware's work might remember Dragon’s Crown (2013) for PlayStaion 3/Vita and/or 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (2019) for PlayStation 4, both of which also featured sidescrolling and strategy elements. If you haven’t heard of them, don’t worry. Neither did I until doing research for this review. 

Categories: News

If You Build It…

In-Fur-Nation - Thu 11 Apr 2024 - 01:54

Stuart Ng Books always have a fascinating booth at any number of fannish conventions. At WonderCon, they introduced us to Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest, an illustrated book for children that came out in 2018 from writer Steve Richardson and illustrator Chris Dunn. “Can a lone girl rabbit with all the odds stacked against her actually surprise boastful Jimmy Squirrel to win the big tree house construction contest? It is the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, Jimmy Squirrel, whose dad owns the biggest construction company in the city, agrees to a tree house contest. To everyone”s surprise, Paisley Rabbit, who has never touched a hammer or a nail and has no one to help her, is a long shot to win. But the imaginative and determined Paisley, demonstrates her resourcefulness and strategic planning abilities that eventually amazes her friends and silences the smug Jimmy Squirrel.” The book is available now in hardcover. Check out the preview pictures — the artwork is gorgeous. Interesting note: Chris Dunn also illustrated an edition of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. We’ll have to look it up.

image c. 2024 Impossible Dreams

Categories: News

與「毛」同行!台南獸曜日快閃活動吸引眼球

Fur Times - 獸時報 - Wed 10 Apr 2024 - 06:54

文/伊爾、藍風 編輯/涯軒宇、傑克、艾倫德

在台南成立的團隊——獸曜日3月9日下午於新光三越台南中山店舉辦首場快閃遊行活動,共有29位獸裝扮演者報名參與,吸引許多獸迷同好與民眾圍觀,一同享受熱鬧氛圍。

29位毛毛在現場合影。 圖/伊爾提供

主辦單位表示,為了向大眾推廣獸文化,活動安排從百貨公司一樓外進行大合照後往建築內移動,以小型遊行的方式穿梭在各櫃位之間與民眾與百貨人員互動,許多人也向毛毛們打招呼或是要求合照。參加者沃斯特表示,因為百貨公司內要進行獸裝扮演拍攝多數都是禁止的,因此這次活動讓他好奇並從外縣市前來參加。參加者晃汰則說能在百貨公司內看到毛毛和櫃檯人員的互動很有趣,不過對有位毛毛的眼皮掉在手扶梯的情形表示有點危險。

毛毛與櫃台人員握手展現親切態度。 圖/伊爾提供

對於本次活動,多數參加者都有提到現場空間比較壅擠,對獸裝扮演者來說會比較不友善,但扮演者帕洛特和悠樹皆表示,未來如果再度舉辦會想要再參加。另外,參加者米糖表示,雖然本次是快閃活動,但遊行時間有點倉促,也對本次活動的理念有點疑惑。參加者弗里德則建議主辦單位可以使用對講機,來增強現場遊行隊伍的管控。

現場民眾與毛毛歐迪斯一起合照。 圖/伊爾提供

主辦單位之一的烏咪和小歪說,本次活動能從原先預定的4樓場地,擴展至百貨公司的快閃遊行,要感謝提供場地的源酒屋協助,讓活動能更加熱鬧。但由於本次活動的籌備時間較短,工作人員也有限,因此在動線規劃與活動沒辦法完全掌控,也沒辦法針對獸曜日團隊理念多做介紹,不過歡迎對獸曜日有興趣的獸迷加入團隊。

許多獸迷與一般民眾在現場舉手機拍攝毛毛們。 圖/伊爾提供

未來的活動規劃上,主辦單位的成員冰心表示,接下來的例行活動會安排在元宵節前後,在剩餘時間也會不定期舉辦不同主題的小活動,結合台南在地的文化,不僅讓更多民眾了解獸文化,也能推廣台南的美給每一位參加者。

Categories: News

Furries conduct fursuit parade around shopping mall in Tainan

Global Furry Television - Tue 9 Apr 2024 - 17:54

与「毛」同行! 台南兽曜日快闪活动吸引眼球
Categories: News

TigerTails Radio Season 15 Episode 22

TigerTails Radio - Tue 9 Apr 2024 - 04:23

TigerTails Radio Season 15 Episode 22. Join the Discord Chat: https://discord.gg/SQ5QuRf For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit http://www.tigertailsradio.co.uk. See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show. If you like what we do and wish to throw some pennies our way to support us, please consider sending a little tip our way. https://streamlabs.com/tigertailsradio/tip * Please note, tips are made to support TigerTails Radio and are assumed as made with good faith, so are therefore non-refundable. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Categories: Podcasts

Bomb threat alarms Motor City Fur Con 2024; one suspect arrested

Global Furry Television - Mon 8 Apr 2024 - 20:23

美国兽展 MCFC 因炸弹威胁受惊吓 一名嫌犯被捕
Categories: News

FWG Monthly Newsletter April 2024

Furry Writers' Guild - Sat 6 Apr 2024 - 18:47

It’s been a busy start to the month for the FWG, so apologies for the slight delay in getting the blog out!

Not only have we closed for submissions on Blood and Water (39 submissions in total, and we’re already getting stuck in to reading them!), but the Coyotl Awards have also closed for nominations. We’re currently collating the numbers now, with an announcement on the finalists and voting to begin tomorrow.

With both of those happening, it should also not be forgotten that April is the start of the election period for FWG officers. Any FWG member is eligible to stand for any of the five officer positions, with an election to be held for each if more than one nomination is received.

All candidates should declare their intention to stand for election in the designated thread on the forums: https://forums.furrywritersguild.com/t/guild-elections-2024-2025/2463

Details about the election will be shared in early May if one is required. All candidates have until April 30 to declare their intention to stand.

With so much happening that is already known, there is not much else to discuss on the blog this month so I will keep it short.

I also wish to remind you that we are open for guest blogs across the year. Topics can relate to anything around the furry writing community or furry writing as a whole. Submissions to the blog can be made at this link:

https://forms.gle/icEUzYtZQ5tFE6w47

As usual, we have the current open markets:

F/F Non Erotic Anthology – Deadline August 31st 2024
Indecent Exposure – Deadline When Full
This Is Halloween – Deadline When Full
Furry Femdom Erotica – Deadline When Full
Isekai Me! – Deadline When Full
Children Of The Night – Deadline When Full
Furry/Lovecraftian/Erotic/University Themed Anthology – Deadline When Full
Beyond Their Pale – Deadline When Full

Please also check out the latest and upcoming releases from guild members:

Kelpie Thrall, by Frances Pauli. Released March 3rd 2024.
Quicksilver, by Anastasia Spinet. Released March 6th 2024.
Far Flung, by Utunu. Released July 3rd 2024.

If you are a Furry Writers Guild member and have an upcoming release you would like shared on the blog, please feel free to let us know!

We can’t wait to get through the submissions for Blood and Water. Also keep an eye out for the opening of the voting period for the Coyotls!

Until next time, keep safe and happy writing.
J.F.R. Coates

Categories: News

GFTV amends the Programme Rating System on use of coarse language

Global Furry Television - Fri 5 Apr 2024 - 23:00

国际兽视就节目评级系统限制用语方面做修改
Categories: News

Shape-SHIFT!

In-Fur-Nation - Fri 5 Apr 2024 - 01:49

More we discovered at WonderCon: Author Lauren Jankowski and her Shapeshifter Chronicles series of urban dark fantasy books. Here’s the description of Sere From The Green, the first book in the series: “There is a race that lives among humans, unbeknownst to them, called shape shifters, those that can shift from human to animal at will. Many protect the innocent on Earth and act as the eyes and ears of the guardians, divine beings similar to gods in ancient myths. Isis is a woman who lives a normal life until the day she photographs a murder scene for her job. When the body disappears from her photographs, Isis is determined to solve the mystery. Her investigation uncovers answers about her own past and sets her on a journey that will change her life forever.” Visit the series web site to find out more.

image c. 2024 Crimson Fox Publishing

Categories: News

Homemade Cake made by a Furry Chef!?

The Raccoon's Den - Wed 3 Apr 2024 - 22:13

Trailer for Episode 126: Let's Get Cooking! w/ Static Static shows off her baking skills with an incredible 3-layer cake based off the show's logo! #theraccoonsden #TRDs9 #foodchallenge
Categories: Podcasts

Let's Get Cooking! w/ Static (EP: 126)

The Raccoon's Den - Wed 3 Apr 2024 - 22:00

Static shows off her baking skills with an incredible 3-layer cake based off the show’s logo! See more at: http://www.TheRaccoonsDen.com FACEBOOK: http://www.Facebook.com/TheRaccoonsDen TWITTER/X: http://www.Twitter.com/TheRaccoonsDen FURAFFINITY: http://www.FurAffinity.net/user/TheRaccoonsDen INSTAGRAM: http://www.Instagram.com/TheRaccoonsDen TIKTOK: https://www.tiktok.com/@theraccoonsden Fursona Art in Thumbnail by Neo: https://www.Twitter.com/NeotheMartian -------------------- MUSIC BY: E Royale: https://www.eroyalemusic.com/ For All: https://forall.rocks/ Jaiko: https://furaffinity.net/user/jaiko Aki Tanuki: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW_Izh5Cbgp6regPR9_ra1Q Schtewee: https://www.schtewee.bandcamp.com Status Ferret: https://www.statusferret.com rK: https://soundcloud.com/bohemek MDKai: https://midekai.bandcamp.com Doon the Fox: www.soundcloud.com/doonthefox Steven Esso: https://stevenesso.bandcamp.com/ ❤️ GOJII ❤️: https://gojii.bandcamp.com #TheRaccoonsDen #TRDs9 #FoodChallenge
Categories: Podcasts

Buying a Fursuit with a Past Doesn't Obligate You to Keep the Fursona

Ask Papabear - Wed 3 Apr 2024 - 10:52
Heya bud.

Just a random question for a suiter... I recently bought a fursuit (I really like the suit), but he is an already established character (I am the third owner), so he has been around cons and has about 480 followers on his own twitter account done since 2018. I am debating whether to remake his character or continue his character from the previous 2. The 2nd owner continued the first owners character. Thing is, there were a lot of changes already: foot paws, hand paws, and tail were replaced. Padding removed, so no longer digitigrade (needed to remove it cause it wont fit otherwise). So, I feel like he is no longer the previous owner's character. I wanted to redo him, but what about his history? And then, can I still call him using the maker's name when 3 things are no longer the original? This is my very first fursuit.

Anonymous

* * *

Dear Furiend,

As with most things in the furry fandom, there are no rules, so I am not going to give you lines like "you have to do this" or "you have to do that."

That said, here are Papabear's feelings on the matter.

The only reason to keep the original fursona's name and rep would be if you are jonesing to keep his followers following you. And the only reason to do THAT is if you are desperate for followers and trying to get a rep as a popular furry. You don't owe the followers of the original fursona anything. As you pointed out, the fursuit has been modified quite a bit, anyway, so it's not really the same character except maybe for the name.

My feeling, then, is to make this fursuit yours, make it personal to YOU. Continue to modify the fursuit as you wish to please yourself, and change the name to a name that you like and is personal to you.

You bought the fursuit because you wanted a fursuit, not because you wanted the character, right? So, make it your own.

Enjoy! Happy Fursuiting!

​Papabear

Two for Survival

In-Fur-Nation - Wed 3 Apr 2024 - 01:44

Fresh back from WonderCon in Anaheim, and there was so much interesting stuff to see there! Like… Chuck Grieb is an art instructor at Azusa Pacific University, but he worked for years in animation production as well. Now he’s expanded his resume to include “author” with his illustrated fantasy novel The Goblin Twins — the first book in his Garden Clan series. It features more than 100 black & white and full-color illustrations. “Running for their lives from an evil shaman, The Goblin Twins Bela and Vuto flee to the far side of the enchanted Thicket. But the shaman has not given up, and the Goblin Twins’ escape to the Faerie Garden Clans sparks a confrontation which could lead to a Goblin-Faerie war.” Check out the official web site to find out more, including the author’s other projects.

image c. 2024 C and W Creative, Inc.

Categories: News