Steve Simpson

Steve Simpson lives in Sydney, Australia mostly. He took up writing when the neighbors complained about the bagpipes. His hobbies include experiments on time travel and the creation of negative light, and research on epileptic seizure detection. Web: inconstantlight.com.

Steve Simpson lives in Sydney, Australia mostly. He took up writing when the neighbors complained about the bagpipes. His hobbies include experiments on time travel and the creation of negative light, and research on epileptic seizure detection. Web: inconstantlight.com.

Lighter Than Claire

“We were scaly. We scurried through the undergrowth.”

Claire recalled a jagged light, exploding into brightness. “We hatched from eggs, we cracked our shells.”

“Do you remember flying? We swooped and soared.”

Claire saw it and felt it, but she didn’t understand.

“We flew before we ran. Were we birds once?”

Magda shook her head, not in denial but not knowing.

“Does a fish swim?”

“I suppose it does.”

“I don’t think so. We swim. But for a fish, the ocean is air. She flies on her silver fins.”


The crystal bell chimed. It wasn’t loud but it carried everywhere because the school was made of cardboard, and it had no windows or doors.

It was time for special studies class, and Claire and Magda sat in the front row because the teacher wasn’t like the others–he let them ask questions.

Claire remembered their first class, when he still shaved and didn’t fall asleep halfway through.


“I have no name but I have a rule. Numbers are not permitted in my classroom. Once you start with numbers and counting you never stop. You reach infinity before you know it.”

He took a piece of purple chalk from his pocket and wrote ‘Special Studies’ on the wall.

“This is class is about …”

He lit a cigarette. Even back then he was a heavy smoker.

“Well. It’s self-explanatory isn’t it?”

He contemplated the purple letters. “Perhaps it will explain itself tomorrow. Does anyone have a question?”

Magda put her hand up. “Sir, why doesn’t the school have windows? The rain comes in.”

“Glass is a sharp liquid. It would damage the walls.”

Claire was next. “Sir, why are the walls made of cardboard anyway?

“They’re metaphors.”

“Metaphors are just ideas. They’re not real.”

“Let’s not be too clever.”

Afterwards Claire understood that when he said that, it was a signal not to keep asking, but in the first class she didn’t know.

“Why not?”

“The more you know, the more you have to forget. What’s your name?”

“Claire.”

“Does anyone who isn’t Claire have a question?”

Eduardo raised his hand. “Sir, you’re different to the other teachers. They’re all ghost people and they never let us ask anything. You’re the first teacher who’s done that.”

He was startled, and he dropped his cigarette.

“The rule. You’ve forgotten the rule.” He shrugged. “I suppose you’ll get used to it soon enough.”

He picked up the cigarette stub and brushed it off. “The ghost people are just projections. They teach you what you already know. I’m the counterpoint, the antidote to all their pointless truth.”

Claire had a thousand questions on the tip of her tongue in that first lesson, but she wasn’t allowed to ask them.

The Rising

Iracema didn’t sleep well, she tossed and turned, sweating and sore, and in the early hours she crept out of bed and dressed, wincing when she pulled her top over the bruises on her breasts.

He was on his back, a snoring drunken mouth with a wasp’s nest inside. They didn’t sting him, but they were going to chase her. She was certain of that.

She searched, but there were only a few coins. He’d flushed the rest at the bar the night before. She took her backpack out of its hiding place and left.


The magnetometer signals were strong. The ore body was close enough to the surface for open cut, a no-brainer, but Doctor Ana Fliess was puzzled. She’d read the report on the area west of Marimbondo from the year before, and there was no mention of it.

Still, there it was, and she’d have to do a full survey. She looked out across the low ridges, the scrub and baked red clay, and her geologist’s eyes saw contours and grid lines. She unloaded more equipment from the back of the truck, electromagnetic transmitters and receivers, and set to work.