The Unconquerable (36)

By: Helen MacInnes
March 5, 2015

macinnes

HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Helen MacInnes’s 1944 novel The Unconquerable (later reissued as While We Still Live), an espionage adventure that pits an innocent English woman against both Nazis and resistance fighters in occupied Poland. MacInnes, it’s worth noting, was married to a British intelligence agent, which may explain what one hears is the amazing accuracy of her story’s details. Under the editorship of HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn, the Save the Adventure book club will reissue The Unconquerable as an e-book for the first time ever. Enjoy!

ALL INSTALLMENTS SO FAR

***

Chapter 36: Funeral

At nine o’clock, punctually, a large black car jolted over the rough road and halted in front of the inn. The children had taken a short cut over the fields and had shouted as children do when they raced each other. Now their game was over. They stood in a breathless, wide-eyed group and stared at the enormous car. Behind the shuttered windows of the cottages older eyes watched the four men who stepped out of the car. One wore a grey tweed suit and a fitted, dark-blue coat. There was a touch of the dandy in him, with his casually worn Homburg hat and the yellow gloves gripping the cane. The businesslike brief-case seemed out of place, but authoritative. The three men who accompanied him were in the black uniform of death.

At the first warning from the children’s raised voices the small procession had formed outside the inn, and the cortège of white wood coffins moved slowly over to the church. When the car arrived at the village the first coffin had already been carried carefully into the church, the second one was disappearing inside the door, the third was being edged through the gateway, and the fourth was still being slowly borne across the small village square. For one moment the file of mourners turned their faces to stare with village curiosity at the newcomers. Then they bowed their heads once more. The four men paused to look at the procession. Then they turned abruptly, swinging neatly on their heels. The women who had been watching through the half-closed shutters of the houses crossed themselves thankfully and turned back to the younger children whom they were guarding. The older children outside in the square were completely silenced as they transferred their attention from the Nazi car to the funeral and watched the last coffin pass through the church’s narrow gate. The two slow-swinging bells commanded silence and respect for the dead. Everywhere there was the brooding peace of mourning.

*

The four men halted at the inn door. Hefner and the Gestapo officer were in front; behind them, in neat order, were the two other black uniforms.

“This is it,” Hefner said crisply. He was more businesslike than Sheila had ever seen him. “This is it.”

The officer glanced over his shoulder. “All looks dead to me. How do they know, these people, when it’s time to enter their coffins?” He laughed at his own joke, and Hefner joined in politely.

“Wait here,” the officer was saying to his two men. He rapped briskly against the door. Sheila moved back from the half-shuttered hall window into the bedroom where Zygmunt was lying, as the Nazi pushed the door open and entered. Tomasz was coming out of the front room to meet him.

“They’ve come?” Zygmunt whispered hoarsely.

Sheila nodded and sat down beside the bed. It was strange how the panic which had first seized her as she had heard that car approach had now quite vanished. She felt calm, even sure of herself. We are so desperate, she thought, that we just don’t care. She made sure that Kati’s red kerchief was knotted round her head so that not one strand of hair was shown. She placed Kati’s thick black shawl over her shoulders, crossing it over her breasts and tying it behind her waist to give her a bulky look. Kati’s long wrinkled boots hid her legs. The grey ashes from the stove with which she had touched her eyebrows had made them dingy and colourless; her cheeks and lips were pale, and she had added a streak of charcoal from her smeared hands. If the hands looked dirty enough perhaps the scar on the left one might never be noticed. She tried to look like a patient, huddled woman watching beside a sick-bed.

“You’ve left the door open,” Zygmunt said.

“We’ve nothing to hide,” she whispered. “Don’t worry… You remember your story?”

Zygmunt nodded. His lips were dangerously white. His head moved weakly against the narrow pillow.

“I’m all right.” His words were halting. She touched the large, powerful arms, now so motionless.

“Of course you are. It’s just loss of blood. Keep still, don’t talk, and try to sleep.”

“Kati?”

“All right. She’s been sick. That’s all. Don’t worry.”

“You should have gone away.”

“Not enough time,” Sheila whispered back. She placed a finger lightly over his lips. She was listening attentively to the German voices, to Tomasz and his slow, steady replies. The Nazis had pushed past him into the living-room, hardly listening to his answers.

“There is no one here,” the Nazi officer’s voice was saying with a mixture of annoyance and surprise.

“Have your men start searching the houses and barns, Winkler,” Hefner answered. Then he must have turned to speak to Tomasz, for his voice had a sharp, aggressive note which Sheila had never heard before. In Warsaw his voice had been gentle, lingering over his words with an accent almost feminine.

“You said you were the doctor?”

“I’m a bit of a doctor. I’m a bit of a blacksmith too. I’m a bit of everything.”

“You said you had your patient here. Anyone else in the house?”

“The nurse. And Katarzyna Hulka’s daughter, who has been ill.”

“Hulka is the owner of this place?”

“She was. She died two days ago. Her daughter is recovering.

“Send her here.”

“She isn’t well.”

“Send her here!”

“One moment.” It was Captain Winkler’s voice. “What’s wrong, here, anyway? An epidemic which you haven’t reported?”

Tomasz said slowly, “No, I don’t think it is typhus.”

Typhus?” Hefner’s voice rose sharply. Without seeing him Sheila had guessed that he had backed away from Tomasz as he spoke. Charming Herr Hefner with his elegant taste in shirts and fine shoes…

Winkler said angrily, “Hefner! You don’t catch typhus from people. You get it from what they carry on them. We aren’t going to sleep here, you know.”

His heavy, assured step moved into the hall, and he was giving orders to his two men. “Touch nothing and no one,” he ended and came back into the room.

“Well,” Winkler demanded. “Where’s this woman’s daughter?”

Tomasz’s slow footsteps came down the hall. Sheila strained her ears, but the flood of German from the front room was too quick, too confused. All she could gather was that the captain was annoyed that they had to wait, perhaps annoyed with Hefner too. Hefner was definitely subdued, anxious to find Dittmar and leave the village. Sheila heard Kati’s light step added to Tomasz’s shuffling.

“Stand there!” Hefner said. Tomasz and Kati must now be standing at the doorway of the front room. He began a series of sharp questions, scarcely giving the girl time to reply. Sheila felt her admiration for Kati growing. She had learned the story they had prepared, between attacks of vertigo and violent sickness, and yet, even with one shoulder hideously discoloured, a broken rib in her side, and a green-shaded swelling across her stomach, she was standing there giving the right answers in an even, quiet voice.

Zygmunt was listening too. He saw the sudden emotion in Sheila’s face.

“What’s wrong?” he whispered, staring at her anxiously.

Sheila bent over the pillow so that her lips almost touched his ear. “I was just wondering: what makes people so brave and other people such ——” She searched for a word he would use. “Such ——?”

Zygmunt gave a slow smile, with something of his old humour in it. He nodded his agreement and closed his eyes.

The voices still came unceasingly from the front room. To Sheila, straining to catch each point and counterpoint, the talk was like an unpleasant fugue, harsh, scraping, dissonant. It was obvious that Hefner and his friends had not come armed with questions; they had hoped to find Dittmar waiting. If they had expected any talking it was to have been done by Dittmar.

No, Tomasz repeated, the village of Dwór harboured no criminals. Only the people of the village were here. As the Elder of the village he could swear to that.

Winkler must have consulted one of the documents in Hefner’s brief-case. “You lie. It says here that the head man of the village is called Zak. Where’s this Zak?”

“He’s dead. He was cutting down a tree with another fellow, two days ago. We found them yesterday afternoon. Zak had died, and the other fellow’s leg was pinned down and crushed into jelly.”

“You mean the tree fell on them?”

“Looked like it.”

“And your patient is the other fellow?”

“Aye. Just cut his leg off. It was turning green.”

Hefner said, “You are wasting our time. We aren’t interested in amputated legs. We came here searching for a man. A Pole called Ryng. You say he hasn’t been here. I warn you that if our men find him in a barn your village will regret that your memory was so short.”

“I said he isn’t here. And he isn’t.”

Winkler’s voice cut in quickly. “One moment. He isn’t here. I see. But was he here?”

Tomasz didn’t answer.

“Was he? Out with it. Was he?” Winkler’s voice rose threateningly.

Tomasz said slowly, as if fear were making him betray his news in spite of his desire to be loyal, “A stranger came yesterday to the village. I don’t know his name. He didn’t stay long.”

“Now that’s a lie,” Hefner said triumphantly. His voice was mocking. “He didn’t stay, did he?”

“Not when he heard of the sickness here. Wouldn’t sleep in the straw of the barn. Queer man. Rather mad.”

“Did he say why he had come here?”

“Looking for his wife. Rather mad.”

“You were willing to shelter a stranger? You know it is against the law to shelter a stranger?”

“This is an inn. Any man can stay here if his papers are in order and he’s willing to pay for a bed.”

“But you didn’t give him a room. You offered him straw in a barn.” Hefner’s voice was pleased. He liked the way in which he had handled the examination of this peasant.

“There were no more rooms for him. Katarzyna Hulka was lying dead in one. The fellow with the smashed leg was groaning in another. And in the last room was Katarzyna Hulka’s daughter, very sick. She’s recovering now. as you see.”

“So you were going to give a stranger some straw in the barn, if he could pay for it. Is that it?”

“Aye. But when he heard of the sickness he wouldn’t stay.”

“Another lie,” Hefner said.

“I’m not so sure,” Winkler broke in once more, but this time his voice had over-emphasized politeness. He had probably given Hefner a look to match his tone. For there was a short silence. And when it was broken it was Winkler who spoke.

“Where did this man Ryng go when he left here?”

Tomasz didn’t reply.

“Where was he going? What directions did he ask you? Where was he going?” Each sentence became louder. “We shall take six hostages, unless you tell us where he was going.”

Tomasz hesitated. “Nowe Miasto,” he mumbled.

“Louder!”

“Nowe Miasto.”

Two pairs of marching feet entered the inn. A new voice said, “Nothing to report, Herr Hauptmann.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing, Herr Hauptmann.”

The pause which followed was more terrifying to Sheila than Winkler’s anger had been. This is the crisis, she thought. This is the point where they either accept or disbelieve our story.

“One moment.” It was Winkler again. “You have a patient here. Let me see this patient.”

Sheila pressed her hands together, covering the left one with the palm of the right. She kept her back to the door, her eyes on Zygmunt. What did Winkler expect to find here? A man with his face bandaged, an unwilling captive? Captain Winkler must have a very low opinion of the Poles. Did he really believe they were stupid? Or did he believe that the Poles kept their prisoners to torture more information out of them, like the Nazis? That was the extraordinary thing about cruelty; first, you might practise it for the ends it achieved; men you practised it because you had developed a taste for it; then you began to believe every one practised it, that it was the normal way to deal with people; then eventually, when your power started slipping, you would begin to be afraid that people might do as you had done unto them, because you believed that was the way all people behaved. Captain Winkler was at the third stage, expecting cruelty as the normal state of man. She wondered when all the Captain Winklers would reach the fourth stage. That would be a very pleasant stage to observe.

Behind her, Winkler’s voice said, “Take off that covering. Let me see this leg.”

She realized just in time that he was talking to her. She pulled the mat obediently aside. The Nazi advanced a pace to stand beside her. He looked down at the blood-soaked bandages round the stump of leg.

Over his shoulder he called to Hefner, “Come in. Come in. It’s amputation all right.” His half-derisive tone implied, “And not typhus!”

Hefner entered the room only far enough to identify the man in the bed.

“No,” he said, “that isn’t Ryng.”

Sheila heard his quick footsteps suddenly leave. Winkler still remained. He was staring round the room.

“Lot of blood on the floor.”

“He bled a lot,” Sheila said thickly. She sat down again. Her knees were treacherous now as well as her stomach. I’m going to be sick again, she thought. She turned her eyes away from the blood as she pulled the mat gently over Zygmunt’s ghastly leg. She stared at Kati’s framed communion certificate which now hung over the bullet which had lodged in the wall. The one which had been aimed at her had been dug carefully out of the floor. Perhaps there was another which they had overlooked in their hurry. It certainly wouldn’t escape Winkler’s sharp eye.

She moistened her lips and remembered to stop looking at the communion certificate. The moment of waiting seemed interminable. She was clutching her hands together, pressing her knees together, biting her teeth together. Her jaw felt rigid, her neck corded.

And men, with a last glance at the bed and the white-faced man lying so inert and helpless, Captain Winkler turned on his heel. His footsteps rang on the bare floor. For once they were not ominous. For once they announced a reprieve. Sheila took Zygmunt’s hand. He knew how she was feeling at this unbelievable moment, for the corners of his mouth were trying to smile. Not yet… wait… don’t rejoice too quickly, she thought. But it was impossible to repress the feeling of relief, of triumph which suddenly intoxicated her.

From the front room came Winkler’s voice. “A waste of time.”
A subdued Hefner said, “Let’s get back to Nowe Miasto.”

“A drink first,” Winkler said. “Questioning is dry work.”

“Let’s get back to Nowe Miasto. You’ll have a better drink there,”

“What — Herr Hefner refusing a drink on the house?” Winkler was laughing. “This is indeed a surprise.”

“Let us get back.” Hefner didn’t wait for further argument. He was already outside the house.

Winkler followed him, amused and superior, but conceding that drinks in this hole might not be worth swallowing. Their footsteps became silence. The car’s engine roared into life. Soon it too was gone. The quiet village square heard only the sound of uneven voices praying in the church.

*

Kati came into the room.

Sheila rose quickly and gave her the chair beside Zygmunt. “How’s your rib?” she asked softly. “Better go back to bed.”

Kati shook her head. Her face had lost all its strong, natural colour. She was still weak. But she was looking at Zygmunt, and Zygmunt was looking at her.

Sheila moved to the door. Tomasz was standing at the front entrance of the inn, talking seriously to some of the older children who had grouped round him.

“That’s your orders,” he said to them, and dismissed them with a thump on the nearest shoulder as Sheila approached. He beckoned her to follow him into the front room.

It was large, low-ceilinged, oak-beamed. Bands of painted flowers had been stencilled along its white walls. One of the gable-walls of the house formed the end of this room. Along it there was an open fireplace with an enormous log resting over a heap of accumulated ashes. Opposite the fireplace was the bar — a large, solid sideboard with open shelves and doorless cupboards. On either side of the door was a long, narrow table with side benches. Opposite the door was a shallow stretch of window with potted plants along its broad sill, and under the trailing green leaves was a third table and the usual benches.

Sheila crossed to the fireplace and rested her head against its rough grey stone.

She drew a deep breath. “We managed it,” she said quietly. “We managed it, but they’ll come back.”

“Aye, they’ll come back when they can’t find their man at Nowe Miasto. And the second visit won’t be so easy for us. But first they’ve to reach Nowe Miasto, and then they’ve to search for him.” His grim, heavily lined face relaxed. “Think I’ll lower that drink the captain’s friend wouldn’t let him have.” He wiped his brow with the back of his hand. “Dog’s blood,” he said, “I never thought to God and all the Holy Saints that I’d live through that one.” He moved over to the sideboard. There was the sound of heavy glass being set down on solid wood. His voice altered. “Now, what’s this?” he asked.

“What?” Sheila replied dully. The sense of excitement and relief had gone. Now there was more planning to do, more efforts to make, before the Germans came back. She crossed over to the window, and, kneeling on the bench, looked out on to the rough road which led to the main highway. This was the way they would come back, bringing more men to search and question efficiently. Perhaps they would send a medical officer first, to find out if there was an epidemic brewing; and that meant the bodies in the coffins would be thoroughly examined.

“They’ll have to be burned,” she said.

“Eh?” Tomasz was standing at the table beside her now, holding something out to her.

She took the flask. “The bodies,” she said heavily. “Either they must be burned, or we must bury them secretly out of the village and say that we burned them in case of typhus.” She looked wearily down at the flask in her hand. “What’s this?”

“That’s what I’ve been asking. Never saw it before in my life. It was stuck over on that shelf beside the best brandy we have.”

Sheila looked at the curiously carved top of the flask. “What a peculiar cap,” she said involuntarily. She studied its simple, bold, and yet unusual design. And then she looked up at Tomasz.

“Never saw it before,” he repeated stubbornly.

She said quickly, “Peter got drunk last night after he had some liquor out of Dittmar’s flask.”

Tomasz still looked at her without understanding.

“Dittmar called himself Ryng,” she explained.

He was staring now. He took the flask out of her hand and strode into the hall with that strange, loping walk of his. “Kati! Kati!”

When he came back he said!, This is Ryng’s flask. He must have put it there without anyone’s knowing.”

“Yes…” To give a message. He had put it there secretly, beside the best brandy which friend Hefner would choose to drink, just in case any accident should happen to him. She examined the top of the flask again: its very distinction made her believe that this guess was right. The flask might be one that German agents carried with them, to identify themselves when necessary. If Hefner had found it…

She said very slowly, “Yes, to give a message. To tell them that he had stayed here.”

Neither spoke for a moment. The feeling of danger once more flooded into the room.

Then at last, “I’ll have that drink later,” Tomasz said. “I’ve lost the taste for it. And I’m just remembering we have much still to do. I’m thinking that the angels have been on our side this time.”

“Yes.” She remembered Winkler’s heavy joke, “What — Herr Hefner refusing a drink on the house?” “Yes. I’ve never felt so much like going down on my knees and praying, in all my life.”

“We’ll do our praying standing up until we finish this job.” Tomasz was grim, grey-faced once more. “I’ve sent one of the boys over to the church to tell the people when the service is ended that they’re to gather here. The other boys are back standing guard on the main road. They’ll give us warning if any Germans appear. When every one comes over here we’ll plan what to do. The priest will help us. He will know. Then let all the Germans come. Dwór’s ready for them!”

Then he added, not unkindly, “But we don’t know what to do with you. You cannot stay. The Germans would hear from your voice that you are a foreigner. You must leave. But how? Peter was your guide, and he is dead. Zak could have shown you the way, but he too is gone. I know the way, but I must stay here. The village…”

“Yes, you must stay here. Winkler and Hefner will expect to see you when they return.” Sheila looked up at the man’s brooding face. “Don’t worry, Tomasz. I shall leave. But I couldn’t travel by the Nowe Miasto route, anyway. Hefner knows about it; that is why he was there. He traced the old lady with her dog. So neither you nor Peter nor Zak would be any use to me now. I shall have to take another route.”

“You can go back to the forest and wait for instructions.”

“No, I won’t go back to the forest.”

The man stared at her in surprise. The vehemence which she had suddenly shown startled him. Well, every one had their likes and dislikes, every one had their own idea about things. If she wouldn’t go back to the forest she wouldn’t go back to the forest. And that was that.

“What’s wrong with the forest?” he asked defensively. No one was going to talk against the forest to him. She’s got nice soft eyes, he thought; they smile and cry all at once. So she liked the forest. She had nothing against it, after all. “All right,” he said gruffly, and left the room, closing the door firmly behind him.

Outside there was the sound of distant feet. There were voices too. The church service must be over. The people were coming to the inn.

Sheila sat down on the bench, put her elbows on the table, covered her face with her hands. How soon must she leave? And for where? She suddenly felt so alone that her thoughts were stifled. Uncle Matthews would say, “No good giving up hope while you’ve still one breath to draw.” But somehow this was one time when Uncle Matthews’s advice didn’t sound so very true. The villagers’ voices were raised now. They at least were happy. They at least could rejoice over their victory. She wished she could be like them, letting whatever the next day should bring take care of itself. She shook her head angrily, trying to force logic back into her thoughts.

The Germans would spend some hours at Nowe Miasto, searching or waiting for Dittmar. Then they would make inquiries at the villages on the way to Nowe Miasto from here. Then they would gather enough men to strike fear into the heart of Dwór. And then they’d come back. This evening? No, more likely to-morrow morning would be the time of their coming. To-night, in the darkness, she would have to set off. Perhaps one of the children could guide her for the first few miles to the east, and then, after that, she would just keep going east. Eventually she might reach the Russian part of occupied Poland. The Russians weren’t at war with Britain. Perhaps they’d help her. All she could do was try. The Russians weren’t the Germans. They hadn’t been treating the people of Eastern Poland in the way the Nazis had dealt with their half of the country. Yes, all she could do was to try. She sighed. Mr Olszak would be more alarmed than amused if he knew how much she missed him at this moment.

She heard the priest’s voice now. For a moment she wondered why the villagers hadn’t come into the inn as Tomasz had suggested. They had gathered outside instead. There had been a babel of voices; there had been a feeling of relief, even of joy. Now they were listening out there to the priest’s level tones, instructing them, advising them. The priest finished, and Tomasz was speaking once more. And then there was a third voice, strong and confident. Sheila lifted her face from her hands. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t…. People were moving now, there was a blur of voices and footsteps. The door of the front room opened.

It was Adam.

NEXT INSTALLMENT | ALL INSTALLMENTS SO FAR

***

RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.

READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.

SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire”.

ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”

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