The fiction of Bennett North

The Burning Sea

I’d always watched the whaling boats going out to sea in the morning; big, asbestos-lined vessels churning through the lava, leaving a black wake behind them. My parents’ house was close enough to the beach that the shingles warped and blistered in the heat, and if you stood at the kitchen window you could see the shapes of the boats through the smoke as they chugged past.

—“The Burning Sea,” Factor Four Magazine, forthcoming

The Shotgun Lucifer

The caravan was a spectacle crossing the ridge. The hooves of the uksan struck bright flashes off the bare stone, pops of flaring light that Vee could see from half a mile away. The wagon wheels weren’t much better, the steel rims grinding a steady glow. Vee had tried to convince the wagon master to switch out the rims for rubber tires, but it had been too expensive. At least they’d oiled all the metal hardware, though there was only so much noise dampening one could do with wooden wagons. They’d been traveling in a hazy luminescence of creaking wood for a week now.

—“The Shotgun Lucifer,” F&SF, forthcoming

A Place We Used to Visit

I will be born in the explosion that kills me. My first memory is—will be—was—the blinding flash of ignition from the methane tank at my side, reflected off the ground around me.

—“A Place We Used to Visit,” Kaleidotrope, forthcoming

It’s Always Ourselves We Find in the Sea

The apartment is near enough to the river that the walls are stained from an old flood. The murderer—I can’t remember his name, but it doesn’t matter—unlocks the front door, throwing a glance toward the neighbor’s windows. It’s mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. No one is home.

—“It’s Always Ourselves We Find in the Sea,” GigaNotoSaurus, Jan 1 2022.

And She Rose in the Sky on a Pillar of Flame

When the morning dawned clear as a glass of water, they took Aya to the pyre. The first hard frost was coming soon and fields lay ripe for harvesting, but everything would lay dormant today, as it had for the last two days, and as it would until the funeral pyre had burned itself out.

-“And She Rose in the Sky on a Pillar of Flame,” Fusion Fragment, May 1, 2020.

A Bridge from Sea to Sky

Aoife never felt so far from home as she did when she climbed out of the maintenance pod. The first few times she left it to repair the space elevator, she couldn’t even let go of the pod’s external ladder, despite the safety harness. It wasn’t until her fourth time out that she allowed herself drift free and looked down past her feet to South America, twenty-five thousand kilometers below.

-“A Bridge from Sea to Sky,” Jul/Aug 2020, F&SF.

No Mercy to the Rest

Sadie parked in the lee of Castle Inferno, where she would be spared from the wind, and sat while the engine ticked, trying to convince herself to let go of the steering wheel.

The castle stood stark against the sky, dark stone walls leaching the saturation from the blue. One tower was burned out and soot-streaked. No sign of repair. Was Dr. Inferno hard up for cash or did fresh tarmac interfere with the mad scientist aesthetic?

-“No Mercy to the Rest,” Podcastle episode 604 on December 10, 2019.

Glory Night

When the scream shattered the mid-morning quiet, Beckah was in the middle of guiltily deleting six of her mother’s emails from her work account, unread. It took her a moment to process what she had just heard. There was only one thing that that kind of a scream could herald, and it was pretty late in the semester for it.

-“Glory Night,” Welcome to Miskatonic University by Broken Eye Books, July 2019.

All Profound and Logical Minds

The space station was silent in the way that a black hole is black; it was more than just an absence of noise. There was something physical to the silence, a force pulling in all sound and eating it. Hannah anchored her boots to the floor of the atrium, feeling the reassuring click as the magnets engaged. Emergency lights washed the atrium floor with a watery red light.

—“All Profound and Logical Minds,” Escape Pod episode 618 on March 8, 2018.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

There’s a thick yellow stink in the town of Zaretan when I arrive, like stomach bile and fetid water. This is a town that eats its shoe leather, I can tell. A town that depended too much on the earth to keep them fed, and now that the rains have stopped and the crops have died, there’s nothing left for them. The first clue is the smell; the second is the absence of rats. The third clue is the shopkeeper sitting on the front steps of the general store like a polished brown collection of bones.

—“Forgive Us Our Trespasses,” Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #237 on Oct 26, 2017.

Smooth Stones and Empty Bones

There’s a skeleton in the chicken coop. It’s some bare collection of abandoned bones, maybe a former fox, and it’s slishing through the pine needles and bumping liplessly against the gate. The chickens, for their part, don’t look concerned.

—“Smooth Stones and Empty Bones,” Jan/Feb 2016, F&SF. It was later narrated on episode 50 of Glittership on Feb 24, 2018 and was translated into Hebrew in The Tenth Dimension.