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Tor.com Original

The Ashes of Around Twenty-Three Strangers

The world doesn't make sense. All rain has moved indoors, wrecking houses from the inside out while the skies remain cloudless. With ever greater devotion, people worship giant, inert, humanoid bodies as gods as civilization falls apart. Lucy, who has never been religious, has no way to properly mourn her brother after his untimely death. Now, a year later, she will travel south on a makeshift pilgrimage with the help of her best friend Carve, who was once himself a believer, trying to find peace and some better means of understanding the world.

The Perfection of Theresa Watkins

Justin C. Key's "The Perfection of Theresa Watkins" is a skillful speculative exploration of the intersection of race, mental illness, and the American prison system. Darius and Theresa Watkins confronted death once as fellow cancer survivors. Their lives are full and productive, their love a shield against Darius's bouts of anxiety and Theresa's occasional flare-ups. Yet when tragedy strikes, Darius will try everything to save his wife...even against his fears that she may have transformed into an entirely different person—literally.

Hearts in the Hard Ground

Following the death of her mother, Fiona buys a new house in order to start a new chapter of her life, one with fewer reminders of painful memories. Unbeknownst to Fiona, this house has a melancholy history, and slightly more ghosts than she anticipated. In learning to live with her unexpected companions and their losses, Fiona might find a way to make peace with her own.

Flight

As a girl, Maggie dreamed of joining the Sisters, a group of women who enjoy the status and attention afforded by their beautiful wings. Now, years later, she has wings of her own. But an encounter in the woods forces her to reckon with her past—and the painful price her wings demanded.

Exile’s End

Exile's End is a complex, sometimes uncomfortable examination of artifact repatriation and cultural appropriation. An artifact of indescribable and irreplaceable beauty created by an "extinct" culture has been the basis of another culture's origin stories. The race who created the artifact has survived on a distant world and has sent a representative to reclaim it, throwing everything into question. Inspired by the SF camp in Danzhai, China, which is co-hosted by the Future Administration Authority (FAA) and Wanda Group.

The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex

Each of the Empire's houses keeps secrets, even from themselves. For the bookish academics of the Sixth, every secret is a mystery, and every mystery is a puzzle to be solved or a paper to be published. Deep in the bowels of their house, one such secret is about to reveal itself. The study of the famed academic Donald Sex, sealed since the moment of his death, is about to open, and archivists are ready to dissect what he left behind. They are not ready for the macabre surprise that awaits them. Enter Palamedes Sextus and Camilla Hect, age thirteen.

Everything’s Fine

Eric’s day is off to a rough start: his regional managers are in town, he’s running late to work, the moon seems to be falling apart, and he just can’t seem to get his tie right. At least he has his priorities straight: it’s the little things that matter. The world may be plunging into chaos, the neighborhood children might be mutating into abominations, but that doesn’t mean he can let his standards slip. If he and his co-workers can survive their nightmare walk to the office, then Eric has a plan for success...

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