Friday, January 31, 2014

"Sins of Heaven and Hell" by Edward Lange (Novella)

Genre:  Dark Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  The Grim Reaper wants to kill God. His quest will take him across the dark landscape of Hell, and to the gold-paved streets of Heaven. He will come face to face with the perpetual cruelty of the underworld, and the endless hedonism of paradise. Sadistic demons, unsatisfied souls, and an army of angels stand in his way. Can he succeed?


The landscape before me was totally dark, save for a few towers of fire, and pits of magma that stood off in the distance. Shapes and figures moved in that darkness, scurrying, slithering, slipping, and stomping their way around their dirty dark hellscape. Sometimes they would brush against me, and I’d find my cloak ruffled by a reptilian tail, or covered in unnamable goo. Dark shapes stood silhouetted against those pillars of flame, and pits of magma, and I could see the outlines of hundreds of snouts, tentacles, claws, and other assorted body parts. They snarled, growled, gurgled, and squealed, but their grunts and guttural noises could not compete with the screams.

From all sides, I could hear the screams echoing in the gigantic dark cavern. They came in all languages, accents, pitches, keys; an inhuman symphony of the damned. Occasionally through their anguished screams, intelligible words would pour forth, making their demands, and asking their questions.

“Please!” one of them said, somewhere to my left.

“I’m not supposed to be here!” an older voice, high above. A shrill bird-like squawk followed.

“I couldn’t help it! I’m sick! The doctor said so!” From somewhere up ahead.

“My leg!” from right behind me. It was followed by an amused roar.

“I can’t help it if braces turn me on.” A nasally voice from the horizon said, and was silenced when a silhouetted tentacle threw something into one of the magma pools.

“God please!” A little figure said from the top of a pillar of flame. The screams continued as I walked on.

“I wasn’t myself! I made a mistake!”

“No, please no!”

“I’m so sorry!”

“I’ve learned my lesson! Please let me go!”

“I wasn’t ready!”

“Stop it”


“The fucker had it coming!”

“I didn’t know!”

From the darkness something wet grabbed my arm and said, “Please help me.”

The voice was weak and familiar. I turned and by the dim yellow glow of a nearby magma pit, saw a man whose soul I’d taken to Hell only months before.

Dark circles hung under his eyes. His face was the color of chalk. Small streams of dried blood flowed from his nose, ears, and mouth, and mingled with the dried tears and dried sweat. The letter A had been carved on the top of his bald scalp. I looked down at his quivering naked form, and saw that all his skin from the neck down had been ripped from his body. What he now gripped me with was a collection of nerves, muscles, and tendons, stretched over bone.

“Please help me.” he whispered, and it was hard to hear him over the screams. His lips were trembling, and he kept looking over his shoulder. I wanted to tell him the truth; that I wanted to help him; that I’d come down here for that precise reason. But I couldn’t risk one of the demons over-hearing.

Buy this story on Amazon.  Be sure to check out the author's website.

Friday, January 24, 2014

"Rules of the Heart" by Gabriella Mahoney (Novelette)

Genre: Historical Romance

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary: Book 1 of the Heart of the Highlands Series.

Years of war and occupation have left the MacKinloch clan in ruins. The old laird is dead and Alec is left to inherit little more than a broken down castle and a marriage contract to a woman he has never seen. So long as his wife knew her place and didn't fuss when he claimed his husbandly rights Alec would consider it a good arrangement. Little does he realize that that his new bride has some ideas of her own...


Lara didn’t even so much as flinch when two screaming boys tore through her room in the midst of a wooden sword fight. Frankly, she was glad of the distraction as it kept her from thinking too hard about the fact that she was going to be married to a complete stranger in just a few hours.

As she put the finishing touches on her hair she could hear her father outside hooking up the cart that would take her to the chapel. Her mother bustled about with the energy of someone half as young and not eight months pregnant. Lara had no idea how her mother managed but she supposed that after four miscarriages and eight living children the woman was more used to be being pregnant than not.

Even though Lara was terrified over the prospect of leaving home she kept these fears to herself since she knew her family, especially her mother, was absolutely thrilled over the match. More than once she had overheard an uncle or a cousin bragging to any random merchant that would listen that the Thompsons would be forming an alliance with the MacKinlochs. They would be related by marriage to a laird.

It was all well and good for them to brag. They didn’t have to share a bed with man that could be twice her age for all she knew. Lara tucked and plaited the MachKinloch plaid that was to be her wedding dress. The dark reds and blues flattered her fair complexion and seemed to make her eyes appear even more intensely green. At least something had worked in her favor that day.

Her mother came over and helped her to straighten the plaits. “Oh, my dear, you are truly a bonnie lass. The laird is a lucky man to be marrying you.”

Lara gave a thin smile. She loved her family and she knew her mother would miss her. But she also knew it would be a great relief to have one less mouth to feed, especially with a new little one on the way. Her brothers stopped fighting for a split second to express their admiration. “You look like a fairy princess!” the youngest one exclaimed.

Lara genuinely grinned at that. “A fairy princess that can still beat your arse in a wrestling match!”

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Friday, January 17, 2014

"Cinderella Shoes" by Nicolas Wilson (Flash Fiction)

Genre:  Science Fiction, Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Flash fiction collection

Summary:  Cinderella Shoes contains 15 short stories, including the titular story.

Stiletto: An exotic dancer struggles to make a living after encountering a murder-in-progress on the job.

Cast: The world is increasingly run by robots, which grow increasingly human.

Analog: An ex-Air Force pilot subsists after a weapon disables all modern technology.

Weakness: Sergeant Ruocco hanged himself.

My Beloved's Eyes: We leave pieces of ourselves with our loved ones- sometimes literally.

Reformatory: A juvenile delinquent and her roommate mature in the aftermath of a devastating assault.

Capricorn: A man wrecks his life and chases fairy tales, while dealing with his young daughter's impending illness.

Behav: Future terrorists recruit a past terrorist.

Death Echoes: A detective communes with the dead to close their unsolved cases.

Traveled Time: A man examines his life and choices, with the advent of time travel.

Genetic Memory: A dog confronts his owner after gaining the ability to speak and reason.

Darling, Wendy, M.A.: A girl saves her brothers from their abusive father by masquerading as a gang leader. From a 2009 series of shorts reexamining classic heroines.

Eponine: Following her near-death in the streets of Paris, a young woman witnesses the birth of feminism and the industrialization of Europe. From a 2009 series of shorts reexamining classic heroines.

Dorothy: Her fantasy was undoubtedly much happier than the reality of her injuries. From a 2009 series of shorts reexamining classic heroines.

Cinderella Shoes: A man discovers a new side of himself after acquiring women's clothing.

Sample story from collection:

"My Beloved's Eyes"

We were in love at a strange time. It was the kind of fad I always laughed at when we were kids, that I teased my brother for falling into. But- I don’t know- I just got caught up in the burgeoning body-mod movement, and it seemed like maybe this was important, that it was changing and updating something in our culture that was stale and even hollow by comparison. I was even the one who talked Laren into it (he’s named for the Nederland town where his mother was born- and I know it’s silly, but his dad rallied to have him named t’ Gooi after the region instead).

For years, DeBeers had held a grip on the diamond industry, and it came out that even its best attempts to eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds weren’t wholly successful, but I think most of us were just using it as a cop out (the way most of us used our politics those days). The surgery started as a medical necessity, but after a few years, it became so safe it became elective and fashionable.

Of course, I made sure he drank a little wine, and I sexed him up real good, then I popped the question: “I think we should exchange eyes.” We’d been engaged for three months already, so it wasn’t completely from left field; he was so sex-comatose he lifted his head from the pillow just enough to smile and look in my eyes and tell me we should.

The ceremony was strange. We had the surgery weeks before, because we wanted the eyes ready when we said our vows. But they weren’t official yet, either, so we each kept an eye patch over our one new eye. I whispered that it made him look like a pirate, and how hot that was, and he pulled me closer to hide how much that, um, amused him.

As the ceremony ended, the priest (I know- his mother would have completely freaked out if it hadn’t been one, but he stayed “off book” the entire time- marriage is compromise), he told us we could remove our patches, and kiss. We did, and looking at each other through a new eye and an old, at a piece of ourselves given away, said, “wow,” and kissed.

But young love has a way of wilting, like flowers as their blooming season comes to a close. He didn’t cheat on me, but when he found himself drifting closer to that eventuality he told me, and told me that if he was looking at other women that way it meant what we both had been afraid of admitting for quite some time by then. And there are days I wished I’d had some argument or excuse or reasons to debate, but I didn’t.

Several years passed by without words between us. I wasn’t even in the same area any longer, but he found me. He was going to remarry, and his wife, or fiancĂ©, I suppose, at that time, didn’t like looking in my eye when she kissed him. It was a wounding reminder to her of his life before they met. He tried to reason with her; my eye had been his now almost as long as his had been, but she wanted him to ask anyway. He asked about me, if there was anyone else, someone I might want to marry someday- who might want to look in both my beautiful sapphire eyes. “Marriage is a young man’s game,” I told him, and he didn’t seem to understand what I meant. But I told him I’d consider it.

I didn’t.

Buy this collection on Amazon.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"The Prototype" by V. A. Jeffrey (Short Story)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  A lowly quality assurance employee befriends an android who by accident uncovers a mysterious plot at the behemoth corporation where he works, Vartan Industries.


All the numerous corporate meetings, the mandatory overtime, the conferences, the wheeling and dealing behind closed doors and long, honest hours by most of us had culminated in this one, grand day. The project: The Prototype, or more accurately, called Vartan Pragmatic Heuristic Impression Linear Model (VPHILM) finally, after ten years in the making, was live.

Around here we just called him Will. By the way, my name's Bob.

Fred, the public relations project leader for VPHILM and my good friend, took the liquid and crystal processing chip gingerly out of its iced case with heavy-duty rubber gloves. The chip, essentially the brain for the android prototype, a sapphire and violet-colored thing, had to be kept cold until it was planted inside of its host.Ooohs and aahs reverberated through the vast assembly hall as all the employees in Section C - 30 on the southern campus were gathered to see "Will" come to life. With a great and nervous sigh Fred slipped it carefully into the life-sized body of the humanoid lying on the table before him.

"Careful, Fred." I murmured nervously. That chip was worth more than all the gold in the world as far as some were concerned.

Other employees from the other departments on campus were watching the occasion through giant vision screens. These were planted all over the campus. To see the newborn prototype come alive - to see the hard work and the dreams of future national expansion and exploration of space come to life in this new creation was thrilling. Will was part of Man's future. To help Man where ever he would go - out there. He was the next Man's Best Friend, as Fred used to say.

There was a great and exaggerated release of tension from those gathered. The android was lying face down, looking like a dead man in the morgue. The small opening at the nape of the neck closed up like a thin mouth. I heard the opening click and then there was a soft hissing sound. The humanoid jerked suddenly, taking a breath. The body rose and fell slowly as the seconds ticked by, then it began moving more rhythmically. Its breathing eventually became regular, becoming accustomed to this new function of breathing. Will had been built to breathe like humans to make his future human co-workers feel more comfortable around him. In fact, that was why he looked human instead of like most of the robots and other intelligent machines being built around campus. He was to be a companion, worker and a high-powered mutant computer to travel in space and help humans settle the solar system frontier. Space exploration had newly risen again as a frontier for humans and Vartan Industries, one of the biggest corporations in the world was near the front and center getting ready to land some of the most lucrative government contracts around. More "Wills" would be engineered and built, spaceships full of them as test subjects before humans would race out and grab their piece of the cosmos frontier gold.

More than a simple machine, Will had a purpose. Or what was supposed to be a purpose.

Suddenly the android pulled himself up on his forearms and then clumsily toppled over on his back. He sat up, wobbling a little. At first there was a pregnant silence that filled the hall and then many cheered and there was applause. The liquid-crystal chip and its secret patented DNA technology was a smashing success.


"Well Bob, we've done it!" Said Fred, all grin.

"Yep! I knew this latest generation chip would work perfectly. A good friend I know in engineering, he worked on that chip."

"He done good."

"So what's the first order of business for Will? Is he coming to help everyone out around here?" I asked.

"That's the word. To help him get a feel for how some of the different departments work. He'll need to know a lot of things and he can soak up information easily and assimilate it into his work. Seamless mind with this new chip. A vast improvement over the last one."

"Right." The last android project, a fiasco as I heard it, came and went before I started working at Vartan Industries.

"I just wonder, Fred. Someone might steal him or the tech."

"He is the tech."

"You know what I mean. I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet. Whitney Corp. agents are always lurking, trying to steal secrets."

"Wouldn't be the first time they tried. But Vartan has things under control these days. Don't think they don't. We're on the brink of a vast project that will bring back quadrillions of dollars in resources back home. I trust they know how to guard their secrets, Bob. Whitney Corp. hasn't been able to find out anything about Will and now it's too late to get the jump on us. They're always one step behind us." Footsteps were approaching. Fred turned.

"Speaking of steps, here he comes now. Come on in here, Will!" Said Fred. A few employees going down the hall patted Will on the back. Will nodded awkwardly at them and then wandered into my office. He was so finely made, so finely tuned that he gave the aura of simply being a young foreign student getting his bearings rather than a machine. He was programmed that way but the cheerfulness he exuded was not as hard-wired, from what Chip told me. Ok, actually it was, somewhat, but he seemed to suggest that there was some leeway for personality to come through - personality that reflected the maker of the chip but was also partly the being's own internal "way". But Will may have picked up this quality of hopefulness and wistful excitement from his new environment, processed and examined it and searched for the closest way to understand such fleeting emotional qualities. Which probably translated as cheerfulness. I don't know much about that kind of stuff, I leave it to the geniuses to figure it out. (A nice touch by my engineering friend, if I do say so.)

"Hullo, Fred and Bob. Hullo. Hullo!" Said Will. He blinked and a bit of moisture misted from his right eye. He wiped it clean. Even the tear ducts worked. "Mr Allen said to find you."

"Chip sent you, did he?" Will nodded. "Well, you'll be following along with Bob and me today, working in this department for a little while before you move on to another department. Bob here is in Quality Assurance. Below there is one of the larger assembly lines you'll be monitoring. Beneath the glass windows," Fred extended his arm out over the vast, cavernous production assembly room below, "is where employees build parts for the brand new space stations and ships that Vartan is rolling out. Simple production line assembly work down there. Bob monitors quality from up here. You will be helping to monitor some of this work on the floor, Will." Some of the workers glanced up through the big windows and saw their new co-worker and smiled. A few of them waved. Will managed a clumsy smile. I looked up beyond my own office and saw at the top level of the department floor a few of the guys in upper management peering down at Will from their polished window offices above my own. I noticed one in particular, whose constant sneering, scheming sometimes gave me indigestion. I abruptly looked away and faced my friend and our new super-apprentice. I grinned at them.

"Well, let's get started."


Will, having a brain that could compute, store, receive and make immediate sense of prodigious amounts of information took in everything like a sponge, no matter what. And often he turned out to be able to do something that even some humans do not do; the ability to use what is known as discernment about this information he was finding and collecting. He could ascertain things others did not or would not ascertain. Which proved to be problematic.

Buy this story on Amazon or Smashwords.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"New Corpse Smell" by Nicolas Wilson (Flash Fiction)

Genre:  Science Fiction, Horror

Type of Short Story:  Flash fiction collection

Summary:  This collection includes fifteen action-packed short stories, mostly science fiction, horror, and military fiction.

Shades of Cray: The story of the first transracial individual.
Leaving Lost Atlantis: A man writes his ex-wife, after discovering what happened to Atlantis.
An Iraqi Christmas Carol: A small group of soldiers and an Iraqi policeman mount a rescue for a kidnapped boy.
Quarter: A military team designed for assassinations loses control over one of its members in the middle of a mission.
Werehouse: A man trying to help his homeless cousin runs afoul of a society of murderers.
Atlas Dug Up: Two philosophical equals have a love affair that continues after death.
Blood Falls: An expedition to the Antarctic goes south, after a rock wall collapses.
Murder Your Darlings: A writer finds himself convinced one of his characters is trying to kill him, after his loved ones start getting hurt.
Mine: A doctor exacts revenge on a former-General.
Failure Cascade: A ride on a space elevator goes horribly wrong.
Euthanasia: A surgeon gets caught between his oath and his vengeful calling.
Shrink: An executive ponders the consequences of modern business.
Indian Gift: An ex-outlaw is drafted into convincing an Indian to sell his land.
Parallel: A professor familiar with inter-dimensional travel tries convincing one of his students to kill another.
New Corpse Smell: Observing decomposition.

Sample Story from Collection:

"Shades of Cray"

Day 0

My name is Alistair Cray. I was born to African American parents. I’ve spent the majority of my professional scientific career working to make myself white. Predictably, this has caused some controversy.

They all think I’m a racist-that may be the first thing liberals and white supremacists have ever agreed on. And those who don’t think I’m a racist assume I’m a coward, that I can’t take the discrimination, that it’s all about closing the wage gap, or the opportunity gap, or about being able to walk down a dimly lit street without every white woman crossing to the opposite sidewalk. And I’d be lying if I said I’ll miss any of that, but I see those things as unintended perks.

My critics have dubbed me “transracial.” At first I thought it was a boon, because it would link my studies and my thought to the transgender movement, and maybe even the nascent transhuman movement.

What I found instead was that trangendered people, on the whole, were just as disgusted by my work as evangelicals. In retrospect it shouldn’t have surprised me. Blacks aren’t statistically more likely to favor gay rights than whites; in fact, there’s some polling data to the contrary. Apparently, even those of us most affected by intolerance don’t recognize our own intolerance.

But it isn’t about them, and at the risk of alienating the good people who have come this far into reading this, it isn’t about you, either. It’s about me. It’s something I’ve always felt, always been.

Kids in school made fun of me, called me an Oreo. Growing up in a predominantly black school, being singled out as too white was not conducive to a happy childhood, and that lack of connection made me look for intellectual stimulation elsewhere, amongst my teachers, and amongst my studies.

But it goes back before that, even. Growing up, I used to have wonderful dreams. Dreams of splendor and fantasy. A knight fighting dragons for the favor of beautiful princesses, a spaceship captain romancing and blasting his way across the unknown corners of the galaxy, even simple quiet moments with a family of my own, smiling wife and happy, energetic children. In all of these dreams, without question or pretension, I was white.

I’m sure there are those who would hear that and presume that an Anglo-centric U.S. media warped my innocent brown mind- but as far back as I can remember, I felt white. It was quite a shock, really, when I started to realize that little dark child in the mirror was me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love my parents, or don’t respect them. Just as the son of a bricklayer might want to be an astronaut (or the son of an astronaut might want to be a bricklayer), I don’t want what my parents had. I remember the first time I discussed it with my mother, she slapped me, and said, “Thank Jesus your father isn’t alive to hear you say that.”

I wish he were. I wish he’d lived long enough for me to get up the courage to tell him. I’m proud to be his son, proud that he worked so many extra hours at the mill to put me through school. Proud that he was so strong, and brave, and confident. I wanted to be all those things, to emulate him in all those things, but my whole life I felt like a swan raised by ducks. I know in our beauty-obsessed culture, that sounds like a value judgment, because swans are prettier, and more majestic, but it’s not; my parents are simply different from who I think I am. I still think I am a swan, and being a swan means being myself, not just quacking and waddling like I was raised to, to fit in.

But I wanted to jot down some of the technical bits, too. There are certain genes affiliated with racial characteristics, and more than half of my research focused on tracking those down.

Next, I took a sequence of my own DNA, and replaced African traits and characteristics with European ones. It sounds simple, but it wasn’t, and my research was enabled by the Human Genome project and hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of other studies.

This DNA was then placed inside a virus. Due to the agreement I have with some of my financial backers I can’t be too specific, because there are genuine medical uses for this technology- like eliminating sickle cell anemia- but like AIDS this virus invades host cells, and replaces their DNA with the genetic material the virus is carrying.

Now, before I could inject myself with that virus, I had to undergo intense chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Otherwise, my immune system would have gone to war with both the viruses and with cells already infected with the altered DNA.

The combination of radiation and chemo can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. I have the quadfecta. I’ve typed most of this from the toilet in the clean room, and just staying on the thing makes the room spin, which only makes me more nauseous, and brings the vomiting back that much quicker.

Day 7

My labs show new blood cells are beginning to grow. That means the transplant is taking hold, that my immune system is slowly being rewritten.

The last of my hair fell out. It had clumped at the top and back of my head, like a yarmulke. If my mom were taking my calls, I would have joked that it was a sign I was supposed to be Jewish. Even if she were taking my calls, I doubt she’d have laughed.

I spoke on the phone this morning with a transplant specialist from Boston. He wanted to make sure I was mindful of “graft-versus-host disease,” when he accidentally coined the term “race graft.” I think I like it. He immediately started to back-pedal away from the term, and it was only then I realized that, despite the depth and creaminess of his voice, he was white; it was only his guilt that gave him away. “Does it matter?” he asked, almost petulant.

“Not at all,” I replied. I spent another 45 minutes talking to him. In part, I wanted to make sure he didn’t feel awkward or slighted; and really, I was rather lonely.

Day 12

My lips fell off this morning. I should explain; for days, I’ve had skin flaking off in chunks, where the outer layers have been deprived of nutrients, dried and fell away. This isn’t too unnatural, as the skin replenishes itself about every two weeks.

This morning while eating breakfast, my lips cracked, and flaked off. It was a little like losing baby teeth; it came away like it had always been meant to come away, but there was still a little pain as I twisted and pulled. Smaller, paler lips poked through the torn skin, sensitive because they’d never touched the air before.

And I decided I wanted to keep my old lips. Not forever, and not really for long. But I decided I wanted to keep them long enough to say goodbye to who and what I’d been. So I started keeping the larger pieces in a Rubbermaid tote. I figured that would keep bacteria at bay as well as anything else.

Obviously, I wanted to have the “remains” cremated, since burying a few handfuls of skin flakes seemed both macabre and histrionic. But as the day grew long, I decided I didn’t just want to bury some ashes in my backyard, I wanted pomp, and ceremony. In a very real way I was killing my former self so I could have a different life, so I felt I owed him at least some kind of funeral.

I called my mother, because she’d buried my father, and because, really, she was my best friend. I was surprised she answered. She hardly spoke to me, which I’d expected- though expecting it didn’t make it hurt any less. Finally, I asked her to just tell me whether, if I did hold a funeral for my former life, she would come. “I might,” she said, and there was a moment’s silence before she added, “because the son I raised is dead.” She hung up.

Day 17

The infectious disease specialist I’d been consulting with hated the idea, and was actually screaming at me on the phone until I reminded her, “It’s not good for me to be excited.” So she compromised. I could hold my funeral, but I had to hold it in the early morning, forbid sick people from attending, and stay on a respirator the entire time.

Oh, and my eyes are still very sensitive to light outside of the clean room, so I’ve been wearing these thick protective lenses. The combination of the respirator and heavy goggles make me feel a bit like Darth Vader attending Anakin’s funeral.

Not many friends showed up; of course, I don’t have many friends, and never did. I wonder if that will change, if being more myself will make me more outgoing, or if I am that socially isolated kind of a person inside, if that’s still a part of who I’m going to be. I can’t help but feel like a moth inside his cocoon, wondering what kind of butterfly will emerge.

I hadn’t bothered calling most of my family, because I knew by now most of them couldn’t understand. A few of the few I called showed, but even the ones who did wouldn’t sit near me, save for my gay cousin, Alan. Alan likes me because now he isn’t the family’s black sheep, just “blue gray to match my eyes.”

By and large, my funeral was filled with white coats, colleagues- but they came, and that meant something.

Near the end of the ceremony a woman snuck into the back. She was dressed in black, with a veil, and I’d have sworn it was my mother if it weren’t for the protective goggles keeping out so much light. I thought I could talk to her afterward, but after the eulogy, she was gone.

Day 20

My hair has started growing back. Right now it’s just peach fuzz, but it feels good not to be bald anymore. I left the color the same; it was always the same color as my dad’s hair, and I wanted to keep it, but it’s coming in softer and straighter. Alan really wants to take me wig shopping, but for now I just want to see what it does.

And my eyes are finally healed enough to ditch the glasses, and adjusted enough that I can see clearly, so for the first time I’m really seeing myself in the mirror. I tweaked my eye color away from brown, but I was purposely nonspecific. They turned out to have a greenish hazel center, and a silvery blue corona.

But staring in the mirror, I’m not the man I thought I’d be. Echoes of my former features still wash over my face, like my nose, still broader than my wanted, my lower lip still poutier than I’d pictured. Some of it is probably swelling, and will go away, but… I maybe overestimated the amount of change I’d see.

I could have surgery, I suppose, but that feels like it would be too shallow; like it’s one thing if a transgendered person gets breast implants, but it’s another if they opt for the double Ds; it’s the difference between chasing perfection and trying to be complete. Maybe this face is just me, and maybe this is the me I should try to get comfortable with. I guess time can tell on that.

And my mother called. As soon as I answered, she hung up, but it’s the first time in a a long time that she's called me.

So I decided to take a walk, just around the block. Half of my consulting physicians would have conniptions if I told them, but I decided I could bundle up, and not let anyone breathe on me, and be relatively safe.

Outside, everything is different. For the first time I feel I’m seeing a new world, with new eyes. And I hope I’m not the only one who does.
Buy this collection on Amazon.