Animatronic taxidermy. The new bougie thing to do with their beloved. God, Hector wanted out of door-to-door sales.

“Oh! Don’t mind him,” his host said. “Never met a lap he didn’t like.”

On his thighs, the thing rolled onto its back, waggled its paws: pet my belly.

Hector’s churned.

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The Beast of Hillfort

The Beast of Hillfort wasn’t, as generally assumed, a dragon, though it had a sharkworth of teeth and a murder of wings. It had no particular taste for virgins, though in droughts of its preferred game, if the village didn’t offer up easy snacks, it would get hangry.

Its preferred game, when available to hunt? Dragons.

The village learned this the hard way, after they found someone to kill it. 

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A Raging Fire

The library carries old rituals, shelved in wafer-thin booklets.

He checks out a pictorial history of London, the ritual to cure erectile dysfunction secreted within. Its magic doesn’t work, but the painting of the Great Fire of 1666 does.

Great. Another thing to be embarrassed about.

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Taking the podium for her turn at the campus Big Read, fifty peers below, she spots the word debut two lines into her first page. Fear surges. She’s seen the word before, but has never heard it pronounced.

Then she recalls Matthew Mercer’s sigil: missteps don’t define you; strengths do.

Emboldened, fortified, she conjures her voice and speaks.

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Bad Seed

They find it in a crater ringed by burning corn. A polypy thing with tentacles, but they take it home. Always wanted to be parents. When it eats a girl named Lana, the Kents figure it’s just having trouble adjusting. Cover it up. Tell each other he’ll grow to do great things.

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The Situation Is Fluid

Water blunts radiation. There’s a zone in the spent fuel rod pool of a nuclear reactor where you get less of it than you would under a night sky.

Particularly tonight.

My oxygen’s low. Above and below are death.

Water blunts radiation, but it’s damned hard to breathe.

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A Student-Centered Approach to Improving Performance in Cognitive and Affective Domains

While hiding from bullies behind a school-ground bush, Evie found the old ball. Dusty and abandoned, one of those early smart models, the annoying talky kind. Soon she was huddled with the thing, whispering, all hours. We considered confiscation—no toys allowed—but having a friend seemed to improve her test scores.

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