‘Rough Flight’ is a fun, fantasy flash fiction with a massive twist in the tail (which I honestly didn’t see coming when I read it) that Rebecca wrote for a Queer Sci Fi anthology a few years ago. Like this? Then why not check out her other books and writing at her website?
Flashes of light blazed across Kalt’s retinas. Already disorientated, his mind spiraled out of control, and an urge to move towards the brightness churned deep inside his third stomach. He should’ve heeded the advice of his third wife, or it was his second husband?
“Nothing is ever free, and the cheaper it seems the higher the price.”
His heart hammered and his throat constricted as he was engulfed in the torrent of white. After everything he had seen, the worlds he’d saved, and destroyed, it would end here. Alone, the buzzing in his ears the only requiem of his death as he left his mortal body and flew higher. The taste in his mouth reminiscent of lost good times, a tang of blood with a side of bitter tears. He swallowed past the lump of the untasted poison that had signed the final death warrant that no interstellar warden had been able to complete.
Kalt was ready. Bring on the afterworld. He would face it with the same relentlessness he’d enjoyed in life – once he could stand up without falling to his knees. His final journey in this realm would not be his last. He would spread his wings further in the next cycle, burn even brighter.
He held out his arms and waited for the collection. Something grabbed his wrist, he tried to scream and the next thing he knew he was face down, cheek against cold metal and a pair of boots at eye level. “For fuck’s sake, Kalt. I told you not to eat those gigaberries. You were tripping through hyperspace. You dick.”
Kalt rolled onto his back to see the unamused face of his current lover, Diflin, a rugged man with a sense of humor that needed work. “I’m fine. Just a rough flight.”
I make no apologies for putting the zine into full-on mushiness mode this week, with this adorably sweet yet “make you think” story from Kaje, which involves, er, two men and a baby… Don’t forget to check out Kaje’s other books and stories at her website here.
“She has your nose,” David said, his voice soft and low.
I rubbed his back and held in my laughter. “I’d look pretty silly with that tiny nose.” Not to mention, we’d met our daughter’s mother when the teen was five months pregnant. There was nothing of me in that minute perfect body, except love.
The love, though― I’d thought with adoption, feeling connected would take time. Like when you get a new puppy, and at first it’s just generically cute and helpless and in need of care, but after a little while it becomes your puppy-baby-precious. But Lylla had blinked her unfocused blue eyes at me, eyelids still puffy, skin blotchy, tiny hands curled in fists, and I fell. So fast, so hard.
I reached past David’s arm to run a fingertip over Lylla’s tiny satin cheek, and then brushed the back of David’s thumb. My family.
“I don’t want to love her yet,” David murmured.
“Why not, hon?”
“Ah.” His words made my stomach clench, though I tried not to show it, stroking his thumb again, inches from our precious child. Thirty days. Lylla’s mother had that long to think about the adoption before we could finalize it in front of a judge. I didn’t think she’d change her mind. But Amanda had already pulled back once and then reaffirmed her choice, in the four months we’d supported her pregnancy. She was a great girl, trying to do the best thing after her parents kicked her out, but desperately lonely. What if Lylla looks like the answer to never being alone?
“I want to grab Lylla and run,” David sounded fierce. “Take her to, like, Hawaii or somewhere perfect and keep her safe forever.”
I returned my hand to David’s back, rubbing firmly. “Amanda’s smart and she’s realistic. She knows she can’t take care of a baby right now.”
“I don’t trust her.” David turned wide dark eyes up at me, even as his hands cradled our daughter so gently. “What if― What if she decides she can? What if someone convinces her she’s going to hell for giving her baby to a gay couple?”
That wasn’t a shot in the dark, because Amanda had started out at one of the so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which had convinced the runaway fifteen-year-old that keeping her pregnancy was God’s will. She’d run away from the God-fearing foster home they’d sent her to, back on the streets, much too late to change her mind. Although my heart clenched at the thought of Lylla gone from the world as if she’d never been, Amanda had gone through a lot of hell that abortion might’ve spared her.
Our gift came at her sacrifice. And at her stubbornness and independence, because that original group would never have let a gay couple darken their doors.
“She’s not going to care about what someone like that says. You know that.” Her best friend on the streets had been a gay teen. She’d been cool about us from the start.
David bit his lip. “I know. I just…”
“You just worry.” He took things deeper to heart than I did, and agonized over every choice. All the more so after our overseas adoption had fallen apart at the last moment, and the organizer couldn’t look us in the eyes as she claimed not to know why.
I leaned over his shoulder, putting a little weight on him, and wrapped my arm around his to brush the baby’s wispy dark hair. “Look at her.” I kissed his temple, there beside my mouth. “So precious and perfect. Our baby. Whatever happens, even if we can’t keep her, even if she has health issues, whatever― you’re going to love her with all your heart. No matter what comes afterward. That’s also who you are.”
The baby waved a little hand and her eyes screwed tighter like she might wake and cry. David leaned his weight up and down on his elbows so the pillow supporting her rocked gently. He sang, “Hush little baby,” almost under his breath, his voice warm and rich, and she quieted.
The wave of love that went through me stopped my breath. I’d battle the world for these two, now and forever. “She’s going to know she’s always loved,” I said. “Unconditionally. That there’s nothing she can do or be that takes our love away from her. She’ll have what Amanda never had, what you didn’t― parents who are there for her in the hard times and the easy, gay, straight, trans, pregnant, porn star, whatever.”
David made a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. “Did you just encourage our daughter to become a porn star?”
“Her body, her choice―”
A laugh behind us made us both turn our heads. Amanda stood in the doorway, a robe we’d bought her wrapped around the hospital gown she wore.
I straightened quickly. “Should you be out of bed? Can I get you anything?”
“I’m fine. Third-world women have a baby and go right back to work.” She shuffled toward us, arms wrapped across her stomach.
I grabbed the nearest chair and pulled it to the bedside but she just put a hand on the back. “I’m not staying. I just― I know I said I didn’t want to see her again after she was born, but I needed to see you with her. To know you’ll love her.”
“Absolutely,” David said. “Always.”
Amanda looked down at the baby. “Is that pillow one of yours?”
“Yes,” I said. I’d knit a few things— well, maybe a lot of things— waiting for our daughter. Little blankets and caps, sweaters and pillow cases, and even stuffed animals.
“Pretty.” She stared at Lylla, not reaching to touch her.
David kept his big hands around the baby and his eyes were wide, but he said nothing.
Eventually, Amanda pushed up from the chair back and nodded to us. “You swear that was true? All that part about her body, her choice? That you’ll never give her up?”
“Never,” I promised.
“Okay.” Amanda looked at David, then met my gaze. “If I want you to send me pictures now and then, will you? I think maybe I do want to see her grow.”
“Anytime. Keep your contacts updated and we will.” I chuckled, though my throat was hoarse. “David will fill your inbox, if you want.”
“Just a few. Now and then.” Her chin came up, and she pushed a strand of mussed dark hair off her forehead. “I’m going to graduate and go to college and become a vet, and then I’m going to have my own kids and they won’t ever have to wonder if I love them either.”
“I’m sure you will,” David told her.
“Doing the right thing is hard sometimes.”
“It sure is,” I agreed.
“You’re the right thing for her. For Lylla.” She raised a hand in a tiny wave, a twitch of slender fingers. “Bye, baby, have a perfect life. With your two daddies.” Turning, she shuffled back out of the room.
On the bed, the baby stirred, turned her head, and began sucking on David’s broad fingertip. I reached for the bottle, ready in the warmer, knowing our daughter’s powerful-lunged cries were only moments away.
“That was your mommy,” David told Lylla. “She’s strong and she’s brave and she loves you so so much. I don’t know if you’ll see her again, but Matt and I will make sure your whole life, you’ll have parents who put you first. And if you grow up to be like her, we’ll be proud.”
Lylla blinked her eyes open, and for a second she stared up at David as if meeting his eyes. Then her rosebud mouth opened and her appallingly strong wails began.
“Quick,” David said, lifting her into his arms and sitting on the edge of the bed. “We just told her we’d take care of her and now we’re starving the poor thing. Bottle, Matt. Hop to it.”
I lifted the bottle, wiped the outside dry, and set it in David’s hand. Lylla stopped crying to fumble at the nipple, then settled in to suck vigorously.
“You’re right,” David murmured. “Can’t do anything but love her with all our hearts, come what may.”
My knees went weak and I dropped to the bed beside him, wrapping my arm around the two of them. Ten years ago, I bumped into a bespectacled nerd in a coffee shop doorway, and his sweet, hesitant smile of apology went through my heart like an arrow. Today our daughter’s soft sounds in his arms stole my breath from my chest, and it was the most welcome pain I’d ever known. “Don’t forget to burp her,” I muttered, desperate to cut through the sentiment. “And it’s your turn to change her diaper. And there’s already spit-up on your shoulder.”
David turned the exact same smile on me, despite the decade between. “I love you too,” he said.
Back in the day Addison wrote a lot of short fiction to word and/or theme prompts from her readers. This little gem, which had to use the words ‘tattoo’ and ‘edit’ as well as a specific last line, is one of the results. I hope you giggle as much as I did! You can find more from Addison at her website.
“All done.” The tattoo artist gave Adam’s fresh art a final swipe with a cloth and handed him a small mirror.
Adam angled the mirror to check out his backside and gasped when he saw what the man had done. “What the hell did you write?” Adam instantly regretted his words. It probably wasn’t the most tactful way of handling the situation, but damn…
“Wha’dya mean? I just asked you five minutes ago if you wanted the name of the flower printed underneath the picture. You said, ‘yeah, sure.’”
Adam’s stomach clenched just thinking about how hard Steve would laugh at the way his nickname for Adam had been interpreted. “Is it too late to edit that?”
“I can’t erase it.” The burly guy’s face pinched as if he was insulted by the mere suggestion.
Adam took a deep calming breath and tried to be diplomatic. “Can you turn that last e into an a?” Because really, sweet pee was completely unacceptable, no matter how much it might upset the tattoo artist to have it pointed out.
The guy muttered something unintelligible and picked up his tattoo gun. Adam sighed and tried to relax. He would give anything to turn back the clock five minutes.