Three outstanding pieces of short fiction from award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Mark Shainblum, collected for the first time.
"Playing Solitaire" - Rachel Steinberg was just a nice Jewish girl from suburban Montreal. She was never really Solitaire. She never asked for superhuman powers, nor the relentless, grinding cycle of violence and alienation that came with them. Rachel allowed herself a glimmer of hope when Carl said he loved her, when he swore up and down that her secrets didn't scare him. But that was before he saw her glowing like the north star, before he ran in terror just like everyone before him. Probably not the ideal moment for an omnipotent, 3000-year-old evil slumbering under the Island of Montreal to awaken and wonder what it should do first.
"The Art of Solitude" - Mary-Ann became desperate when her history-player boyfriend took up bartending. Nobody with a scintilla of self-respect drank alcohol anymore, it was just so...so...industrial. Not only was Quent turning their dogs into alcoholics and their apartment into a seedy dive, he was getting in the way of her art. Something had to give, and in this case, it was the laws of physics. Mary-Ann purchased a top-of-the-line Solitude fold-heart, and retreated to her own private universe to paint in peace. What could possibly disturb her there?
"The Break Inspector" - Missouri dirt-farmer John Gray had never regretted a kind act in his life, although truth be told, he would have had little enough to regret in any one of his 55 years. But oh how he wished the milk of human kindness had been completely drained from him that terrible, cursed night. With every fiber of his being, with every drop of blood in his body, John Gray wished he had never found the mysterious stranger on his prairie. "The Break Inspector" is an unofficial sequel to Mark Twain's "A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage", and a top-ten finalist in the International Mark Twain Writing Competition, 2001.