WIP: Teaser From “Red in Tooth and Cog”

This is what I’ve been working on today. It’s a lot closer to being done that it was.

This is how Renee lost her phone and gained an obsession.

She was in the park near work. It was a sunny day, on the edge of cold, the wind carrying autumn with it like an accessory it was trying on before settling for it for good.

She set her phone down on the bench beside her as she unfolded her bento box, levering back metal flaps to reveal still-steaming rice, a quivering piece of tofu.

Movement caught her eye. She pulled her feet away as a creature leaped up onto the bench slats beside her, an elastic band snap’s worth of fear as it grabbed the phone, half as large as the creature itself, and moved to the other end of the bench.

The bento box clattered as it hit the concrete, rice grains spilling across the grey.

She’d thought it an animal at first, but it was actually a small robot, a can-opener that had been greatly and somewhat inexpertly augmented, modified. It had two corkscrew claws, and grasshopper legs made from nutcrackers to augment the tiny wheels on its base that had once let it move to hand as needed in a kitchen. Frayed raffia wrapped its handles, scratchy strands feathering out to weathered fuzz. Its original plastic had been some sort of blue, faded now to match the concrete beneath her sensible shoes.

The bench jerked as the robot leaped again, moving behind the trash barrel, still carrying her phone. She stood, stepping over the spilled rice to try to get to the phone, but the leaves still on the rhododendrons thrashed and stilled, and her phone was gone.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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