Kris Millering

I am a graduate of Clarion West 2009. My story “The Isthmus Variation” was published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies in 2010, and was named to Locus‘s 2010 Recommended Reading List. In 2011, “The Isthmus Variation” was included in BCS’s second best-of anthology. I live near Seattle, and you can find more information about me at http://www.krismillering.com/ .

I am a graduate of Clarion West 2009. My story “The Isthmus Variation” was published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies in 2010, and was named to Locus‘s 2010 Recommended Reading List. In 2011, “The Isthmus Variation” was included in BCS’s second best-of anthology. I live near Seattle, and you can find more information about me at http://www.krismillering.com/ .

Those Who Do Not Reap

The world is water.

From horizon to horizon, water. Trade winds go from west to east, and carry weather and fish with them. Wind and weather bring us news of the world, in the form of all manner of things that float. A string of islands are our own, we and the cousins. Fifteen islands, from tiny Ike to the largest, Yuhime. Ours is the northernmost, Liipil, an island that catches the winds, the volcano beneath dead as our ancestors. As you go south, the land becomes more active, and the cousins become more numerous.

The world is water, and we are at its center.


The youngling who had been assigned to the northern heights plummeted into the village, calling shrilly. “Wings! Wings! The ikei are returning!”

“From where?” I asked, straightening from my crouched position over the morning’s treasures.

The youngling pointed with one wing. West by north. “Did you see which they were?”

“Sun behind them.” That would be no, then.

“Find Lilleloi, tell her,” I told the youngling. “She’s in the fields.” Without further comment, it crouched and leaped upward, beating wings frantically upward. I watched the youngling’s attenuated body and great wings catch the breeze and soar upward, sun glinting off of waxy leaf-scales. I wrapped up the day’s gather into a large leaf and carried it in one arm, using the other to help me climb up to the platform where I stored the sea-treasure I had not yet completely studied.

After putting my work away, I swung down, landing heavily at the base of the great starflower tree that the platform was built in. “I’m getting too old to do this,” I muttered. I was going to have to start climbing down rather than swinging, soon. I had years yet before I would be too heavy to use the platforms altogether, when I would have to have those younger than I fetch and carry from the platforms.

Not too old yet to run, though. I trotted through the village, joined by younglings and adults, down to the landing field. We’d fired it less than a month ago, before the winter rains had made it far too damp to burn. It was a good and welcoming landing place for the ikei, our pelagics who spent most of their time at sea, circling the world with the trade winds, following the great sea-herds of whales and fish. It was better than we had managed some years, when the summer had been far too wet for the burn and we’d had to settle for clearing the field by hand.

Kii and Liiloka had brought food with them, voyage-fruit and sweet tik-tik, and we settled down to eat and wait. A flock of younglings arrived, swirling down to land lightly, grabbing and squabbling over tik-tik. A few stretched out, settling to turn the leaf-scales on their backs to the sun.

Kii stumped over to me, her massive body and her fronds of lichen making her seem like a particularly mobile boulder. She held a quarter of a voyage-fruit out to me, and I accepted with a murmur. “Anxious?” she asked, her voice low as distant surf.

“Every year,” I said. “Every year I think is going to be the year that Thiol does not return.”

The elder snorted. “Foolish to get attached. I try new ones every year.”

“He makes fine eggs,” I told her. “I haven’t had one be fallow since he became my favorite.”