Excerpt: ‘The Drowning Pool’ by Vonnie Winslow Crist

‘The Drowning Pool’ is a lovely mix of science fiction and fantasy, with Indian cultural elements. It a flash piece, so the excerpt is just a small tease….


‘The Drowning Pool’ by Vonnie Winslow Crist


The swimming pool on the Chandra Estate in New Thoothukudi was shaped like a coffin. From local historical records, Darshan knew this had not been the case when the pool was first constructed on Mars in the twenty-third century. Then, it had been oval in shape, and the centerpiece of an elaborate garden. But that was prior to Lalita’s drowning.

The facility manager stood on a slope of well-manicured grass and contemplated the pool. Mango and arjuna trees, genetically modified to fit the terra-formed planet’s climate and trimmed to near-perfection, and jasmine, bred to bloom year-round, surrounded the pool’s patio. Wrought metal chairs circling form-stone tables with decorative umbrellas poking out from their centers were positioned around the pool awaiting the wedding reception guests. Bathed in the glow of solar lamps and the scant moonlight of Phobos, the scene beneath the environs-dome was postcard beautiful, except for Lalita’s ghost perched on the edge of the pool.


Vonnie Winslow Crist’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Science Fiction Page



Excerpt: ‘Love & Relativity’ by Stewart C. Baker

Stewart C. Baker is a new contributor to The Insignia Series, and his story, ‘Love & relativity’ is an interesting Indian sci-fi piece that’s sure to linger after reading.


‘Love & Relativity’ by Stewart C. Baker


Dearest Adhi,

The psychiatrist assigned by Headquarters suggested I start a diary to help me cope with your ship’s disappearance.  Instead, I’m going to write you a bibliography.

I won’t write every day, and maybe you’ll never read this anyway, but it helps to think that someday I’ll be able to show you what I’ve written here.  To think that somehow, someday, we will bring you home.

Can’t write any more today.

I miss you.  I love you.



Source: ‘Special Relativity, The Universe, and You’ (New Beginnings Press: London, 2028)

Date Read: December 3, 2036

Summary:  Time is not an absolute, but depends on your location in the ‘hypersurface of the present’—a map of all physical space.  The speed of visible light limits observations to events already past, so the past is all there is.

Notes: While reading, I discovered I was pregnant.  It’s strange to think that once she’s born, I’ll only ever be able to see what she was—even if it’s only a few nanoseconds difference.  I wonder, if someone is inside you, can you still connect at the speed of ‘now’?

Ravi from mission control keeps calling, but they are no closer to learning what became of your ship.

Be safe.  I love you.



Stewart C. Baker’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Science Fiction Page



Excerpt: ‘Kill/Switch’ by L. Chan


Stolen memories and black market tech feature in L. Chan’s intriguing story, ‘Kill/Switch’.


‘Kill/Switch’ by L. Chan


Harpold opened his eyes and stared at his dead face. Cheeks already chalk white; dry eyes forever staring at the ceiling. A memory interrogation rig was still pressed tight around the head of the corpse. He traced the twist of wires from the rig back to the humming computer between him and the body.

Wu Yen Xing, said the security tag pinned to the breast of Harpold’s smart looking suit. Harpold’s body was dead in a chair. Harpold’s soul however, was alive in another man’s body. The world spun; he bent over double and splattered the floor with hot vomit. His memories, another man’s body. Memory transfer gone wrong? Sour, dusty air filled his lungs and left his nostrils slowly. He ran inventory; a litany of memories spaced to see if the transfer had gone through.

He was Harpold David Chang.

  1. He was ten. He topped his class in mathematics.
  2. His first kiss. She was drunk. He was not.
  3. Graduated a year early, top two percent of his cohort.
  4. Third year in Tarshem Industries, first year in advanced memory tech research.
  5. A missing year, one of five stolen from him when he fled the industry.
  6. Up to his eyeballs in synthetic drugs, working black market memory tech.

As the present day drew nearer, he sampled his memories with increasing frequency. Years. Months. Weeks. Long term was intact. Short term was good up to about a week before. He examined his new security pass. Interrogator, First Class, it said. First Class meant dangerous work, deep diving into the memories of the recently dead, fishing for memories in a sea of decaying neurons. Except somehow Harpold was in Wu’s body and he had nothing to explain why someone wanted his memories bad enough to kill him. That, and two giant holes in his memory.


L. Chan’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Science Fiction Page



Excerpt: ‘The Galaxy’s Cube’ by Jeremy Szal

The third excerpt I’d like to share from our new anthology is by another first-time contributor, Jeremy Szal.

‘The Galazy’s Cube’ is a gritty tale of black market tech dealing set in New Bangkok.


‘The Galaxy’s Cube’ by Jeremy Szal


It started to rain as he made his way back home, warm spatters of water drumming on tin roofs and taut tarpaulins. Two moons were visible in the sky, pouring pale light on the road. The third was obscured by thick clouds. Back on Earth, where his grandparents were born, there had been only one moon in the sky. And the days were twenty-four hours long, not thirty-two. He’d been meaning to go there, see the wonders they spoke about. But even getting a permit to travel would require years of saving. And then there was buying the actual ticket. He’d spent all his money on his daughter when she came down with the blister plague, slowly eating away at her body. Every sale he made from selling equipment fought back the disease just a little more. But in the end, it hadn’t been enough. It had crawled into Serah’s brain and killed her.

Some days Jharkrat didn’t know what kept him going.

He arrived at his bottom floor apartment. Blood-red creepers curled around the sagging poles that were weary with the building’s weight. He fished for the rusty key and unlocked the ancient door. He could have gotten a keypad or printscan system, but that would draw attention. Showed he had something to hide. The place was going to get broken in again anyway. No need to encourage the thieving devils. He’d seen what people would do for money. Just last month a man a couple of blocks down from him had traded his newborn son for a dog so he could sell its litter. Jharkrat had to restrain himself from going over and smashing the man’s teeth out.

The flat was a wreck; the floor littered with computer equipment and crushed beer cans, plastic chairs wrapped in thick cables. A moldy fan spun lazily overhead, swirling muggy air around the room. Stock was packed in cardboard boxes threatening to fall apart, stacked to the ceiling. Jharkrat swept away a disassembled motherboard from his desk and brought out the cube. He simply had to know what this was. There was no way the Ministry had licensed it. Which just made it all the more exciting.


Jeremy Szal’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Science Fiction Page



Excerpt: ‘The Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh

For the first time in The Insignia Series, we have a fantasy story set in India. Nidhi Singh’s ‘The Last Train from Begunkodor’ is a wonderful ghost tale full of intrigue.


‘The Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh


For all I suck at my cigarette, I find no joy, no soothing sting as the smoke whirls in. I turn it in my fingers, it is not damp or anything, but the stench and relish of tobacco is missing from my mouth and lungs. I am incredibly thirsty, but the boiling, sticky water from the train’s tap does not slake my drought. I glance again at the tattered piece of newspaper that had woken me, by rustling against my cold cheek in the night breeze as I’d hunched, catlike, in a long stupor I can’t recall since when, on the crown branch of a Junglee Badam tree.

It had announced the coming of a train to Begunkodor. I knew I must get on this train. Why, I didn’t know.

I rode the first bullock cart—perched between the swaying humpbacked beast’s horns—out to Purulia to board the 1283 Superfast Express. I lay for a while on the train’s ribbed roof, swung some from its shuttered windows, and then hung out with the atrabilious engine crew. I finally calmed down from all the rattling and lurching and found an empty wooden bench next to the latrines to puff at a cigarette I’d eased from a sleeping Naga sadhu’s robes. I have always been this uneasy and restless. I roam the marshes, string myself to floating mists, crawl through the sludge and entangled roots in the gaping depths, but find no rest. My memory betrays me and I don’t even remember what I look like— let alone know where I come from or where I am going. But this place Begunkodor beckons, and I am sucked like dark matter into the black funnel of its screaming, lonely torment.

Nidhi Singh’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)



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Excerpt: ‘Kitsune’ by Heather Jensen

InsigniaVol1-Cover-7AWhat is a kitsune? In Japanese folklore, it is a fox that shape-shifts into human form and causes all kinds of mischief. I felt like a kitsune story was a must for this anthology, so was very excited when Heather Jensen told me that’s what she wanted to write about. Her story, simply titled Kitsune, is first up in the Insignia anthology and is a great introduction to the other varied stories.


Akio carried the tiny mouse in his hands as he hurried home. It seemed to be dehydrated; listless and weak, it had barely moved when he approached to pick it up. A movement caught Akio’s eye and he glanced up in time to see a shadow disappear between two trees.

He called after it. “Help, please, do you have a little water?”

The shadow hesitated, and Akio took a step closer. “Please, this little creature has been injured. She needs water. My flask is empty and it is a distance to my home. Please.”

The shadow emerged from the trees, revealing a tall thin figure, dark hair and pale skin barely showing beneath the scarf wrapped around her face. She pulled out her flask and allowed a few drops to fall into Akio’s outstretched palm.

“Thank you,” Akio said. “I am Akio.”

“Chiaki.” The young woman pulled the scarf away from her face and peered down at the little mouse. It shivered as it drank from Akio’s hand, and she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket, folded it in two and placed it over the poor little creature.

“Do you often save the lives of small things?” Chiaki asked.

Akio laughed. “Only when the opportunity comes my way,” he said. “After all, if the larger creatures of the world cannot take care of the smaller, what use are we?” His thoughts turned to Sachiko, a lump forming in his throat as sorrow threatened to overwhelm him.

“Are you alright?” Chiaki noticed.

Akio began to nod his head then stopped.

“No,” he said. “I lost a dear friend yesterday.”

“I’m sorry to hear it,” Chiaki said. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Akio looked at Chiaki. He did want to talk about it. He wanted to talk of Sachiko’s laugh, of the smile that lit up her eyes, and the gentle kiss she’d placed on his cheek the day before she’d died. But how did you tell someone you’d fallen in love with a creature from a folktale?

He shook his head, not trusting his voice.

“I understand,” Chiaki said.

Akio had to stop himself from shaking his head again. Chiaki couldn’t possibly understand! There was so much that was wrong. The guilt he felt, that he’d been meeting Sachiko in the woods when he was supposed to be helping his father on the farm. And then yesterday he’d stayed behind to help his father when he should have been meeting Sachiko. There’d been a fox amongst his father’s chickens again. It hadn’t harmed the chickens, but it had stolen most of the eggs, and Father needed Akio’s help to prevent it happening in the future.

Sachiko must have come to the farm to look for him. She’d never done that before, it had been an unspoken agreement that they did not seek out the truth of each others lives. It made their meeting in the forest something special, sacred. He didn’t know why she’d come this time.

Akio hadn’t seen her, but his father must have. He pushed the thought away. When Akio had finally found Sachiko, curled up under the great tree, he thought she was napping. And then he’d got closer and seen the bushy red tail and the soft pointed ears. When he’d pulled on her shoulder she’d rolled back onto his lap and he’d gasped in horror as he saw her face, Sachiko’s beautiful face, with a pointed snout and a wet black nose in the centre of it. She was kitsune, a fox spirit, messenger of the Great Spirit Inari.

And she was dead.


Heather Jensen studied the Japanese language for 8 years, through high school, college, and university, taking up the opportunity to visit the country on a two-week jam-packed school trip where she managed to squeeze in sights as varied as the Temples of Kyoto, ’Jigoku’ (Hell’s) Hot Springs in Beppu and Tokyo Disneyland.

Though her preferred genres are fantasy and historical fiction, Heather writes stories in a wide variety of genres: romance, YA, and contemporary to name a few. Her stories have been published in many different places around the web, including 1000words.org, and Five Stop Story, a UK writing competition where two of her stories received Honorary Mentions. Her story Saviour was short-listed in the Ink Tears 2012 Flash Fiction competition.

Heather lives in Tasmania, Australia, with her partner and two children. You can find her on Facebook or at: heatherjensenauthor.com


Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories is now available from:

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Moon Shadow by Kelly Matsuura

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