“The Blessed Ones”, for which I sought beta-readers here, has been rejected by F&SF and Asimov’s, and I’m trying to work up the courage to submit it to Tor.com (one of the few other SF publications that will consider work above 10,000 words in length). I’ve gotten some good feedback on “Knives” (see here), so after I get some other stuff out of the way I will start revising it. And while waiting for feedback on “Knives”, I wrote something else that I call “House Arrest”, a little over 5,800 words, which begins thusly:
The girl lifted her hands straight up as far as they could go, exposing bony elbows. If she and the soldier had been standing toe-to-toe, her fingertips would have reached his nose. Her hair was blond, like the soldier’s, but plumbline-straight instead of curly; a headband shaped like a row of daisies held it back from her high forehead. The soldier aimed his pistol at her pale green Wharton School T-shirt, sighting on the r in Wharton.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she said. “There’s food here. Take whatever you want.”
“Where are your parents?” He kept his arm and his gaze steady, but was conscious of the loft above and behind the girl; he wondered if he would soon glimpse moving shadows in his peripheral vision.
The girl cocked her head. “My father’s dead. My mom’s in Long Island, in a nursing home.” She waited for him to respond, and then smiled at him, exposing her teeth. “My name is Tacey. Short for Anastasia—” she pronounced it Anna-tay-shuh— “of Washington County, daughter of Irene, daughter of Nina of Brooklyn. What’s your name?”
The front room measured about four meters across and three deep; Tacey had emerged from the bathroom door at the far side. The soldier cursed himself for not looking more carefully through the windows before breaking in; he had assumed that with tourist season long over and no vehicle parked outside, the cabin must be empty. He asked Tacey, “How old are you, miss?”
“Forty-eight.” She started to lower one hand and then raised it again. “This terminal just turned five.”
“You’re a housewife?”
“I am.” She puffed out her chest. “I got an MBA from Wharton Online and I have a husband and I have two daughters.”
“Go on,” he scoffed. Homo vestae housewives, unable to even cross the street in the flesh, depended on neighbors for the kind of social contact they couldn’t get over the Net. None of them would choose to plant herself in a cabin in the Maine forest, twenty miles from the nearest town. The soldier asked, “Where are your older terminals? Where’s the one who gave birth to your daughters?” Sweat had gathered in the small of his back, soaking through his shirt, pinned there by his knapsack. His beard itched. It was mid-September, but the hot, muggy air felt like August.
Tacey looked the soldier up and down and let out a slow sigh. “Every other terminal was culled,” she said. “It’s part of my sentence.”
“I’m a convict. This is my prison. Well, technically, house arrest.”
As with the other two, if you can read it and give me your comments, I can email you a copy. I even have software that purports to translate HTML to various e-book formats (although the PDF converter doesn’t work), so if you want to read it on one of those newfangled devices, I can try to accommodate you. adTHANKSvance.