One of the most original new talents.
A short fiction omnibus collection (vol. 2)
KJ Kabza is back with a second, bigger round of short fiction that’s "Incredible" (Tangent), "Fascinating" (SFRevu), and "Worthy of Edgar Allan Poe" (SFcrowsnest). Featuring his freshest work from top science fiction and fantasy venues of today, including F&SF, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, and more, UNDER STARS showcases wonders from worlds both here and beyond.
UNDER STARS collects all short fiction by KJ Kabza published from July 2011 through the end of 2013 and includes five previously unpublished pieces, notes on each story, and a bonus section of dirty limericks with a speculative twist.
Excerpt From the story "The Land of Stone and Stars"
When the priest laid Jackrabbit's child on the hardpan, he pointed her bare feet shadowside. Jackrabbit stared at those feet. They bore ten perfect toes, so small and gray—gray as ash.
The priest, Thorntree, began the slow funeral song. He laid the tools for her journey on her ash-gray chest: a warm coal, a skin of water, a new pair of boots. "Look down to your shadow," Thorntree sang to her. "It points the way home, to the land of stone and stars, where the blackness of the sky lets the faint upward path to your Heaven be seen."
Hot tears erased the vision of Smallflower's toes. Only ten rains prior, as Smallflower's mother Sweetplant lay dying, she had whispered to Jackrabbit, "Take care of our flower. Promise me." And Jackrabbit had whispered, "Whatever I do, I will always keep her safe and bring her home."
Jackrabbit brought a fist to his mouth, to bite down upon so he would not cry out. The mourners sang, "Find your way, find your way, before the water leaves," as Thorntree laid a bowl of precious water above Smallflower's head, sunside. "When it is gone, we will bury your empty shell."
Though his fist filled his mouth, Jackrabbit wept anyway.
Afterwards, the other mourners bent one by one to kiss Smallflower's body and then walked shadowside, toward the village. When Jackrabbit alone was left, Thorntree approached him. "My friend," said the priest, taking Jackrabbit's arms. "Please. Your kiss."
Jackrabbit's tongue was dry wood in his mouth. "I can't." He looked down. Those ten perfect toes. "She can't. Thorntree, she can't."
"She must." Thorntree's tone was gentle. "She will not be alone. Her mother will be waiting for her at the top of her skypath. And her grandparents."
And everyone else that I've ever loved, too, thought Jackrabbit.
"Come," said Thorntree, guiding Jackrabbit to kneel beside the body. "Offer your kiss."
Jackrabbit obeyed. He touched his warm lips to hers. From any other of his kisses, she would have woken up and laughed, but not this time.
Thorntree helped him to stand, though the priest was surely 50 rains older. "Would you like to stay at my house for a few sleeps?"
"No. I have to go home, to care for Snake and Cloud." Jackrabbit felt foolish for saying it. "My hunting dog and my horsalope."
But Thorntree only nodded. "Yes. They need you, still. Go then."
Jackrabbit left the priest and followed the shadows toward home. His house was sea-right of the rest of the village, tucked into the shadowside of a long rise that sheltered the dwellings from the burning light of the fixed sun. If they lived on another world, where the sun moved across the sky like a great tortoise (or so Thorntree claimed it did), then sunside and shadowside would keep changing places, and Jackrabbit would not have to worry about building a house shadowside of some shelter. He could build a place far from the village ridge. That would be best for everyone, Jackrabbit felt—as his dead family proved, he was too unlucky to live close to people.
At home, Jackrabbit stopped by Cloud's pen. Cloud came to meet him, blinking her slow, long-lashed eyes. She dipped her head and Jackrabbit held his weary face against her long, fine-furred muzzle. "Good girl. You're my good girl, Cloud."
Warmth brushed against the shadowside of Jackrabbit's calves, and a pair of little paws ascended his legs. Jackrabbit reached down and rubbed Snake's soft, pointed ears. "You too," he whispered. "You're my two good girls."
Jackrabbit slept his next sleep outside, lying against drowsing Cloud with Snake in his arms. He dreamed that Sweetplant stood outside his house, her shadow like a black pool, glimmering with the spots of light called stars. "What are you doing?" she cried. "Sleeping in the shade? You promised to always keep her safe and bring her home!"
When Jackrabbit awoke, he knew what he must do.