QSFer SI Clarke has a new queer sci-fi short out: Stardust Wake.
They’ve been friends since childhood. But can their friendship survive adult reality?
Devon looked up at me and rolled her eyes in reply – tough to do with her face firmly in my grip.
‘Look,’ I said through clenched teeth. ‘Do you want the eyebrows or not? Because, I swear to the entire Q Contin- uum, if you make me laugh you’re just going to end up with glue smeared all over your face.’
‘Okay, okay.’ She reached up and removed my hand from her face. ‘Give me a minute.’
Releasing my hold on her, I set the glue stick down. I was dying to ask her to fill me in on all the details of her life – we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas, after all. We rarely even spoke these days. But when we did, it was like no time had passed; we were the same inseparable besties we’d been since we were seven.
So when she said she needed a moment, I knew her well enough to understand that she wanted no distractions.
With her eyes closed, she exhaled slowly through her mouth. ‘Okay, I’m ready. Vulcan me up, Lem. Please. Sorry for squirming.’
Picking my glue stick back up, I tipped her head back and set to work. ‘Let me just do your eyebrows and then you can finish your story.’
‘’Kay,’ was all she said – because, for Devon, holding still meant she couldn’t talk.
‘Right, your brows are glued down,’ I said a minute later. I dusted them with powder and then covered them in a layer of concealer. When I was satisfied, I picked up my eyebrow pencil and drew in the new Vulcan replacements.
Squatting down so I was level with her, I inspected my handiwork. I touched up a few points then pronounced her finished. ‘Your permission to speak is hereby restored.’
The new black, angular eyebrows – replacing her usual rounded red ones – completely changed her look.
As we both stood up, Devon resumed her story right where she’d left off. ‘…Tore into her. “If you won’t let anyone slut-shame you, then how dare you virgin-shame anyone else.” She’s really cool. You’d like Rosa.’ She pulled her head- band off, letting her hair fall back into position.
‘She sounds amazing,’ I said as I picked my scissors up off the vanity. ‘Now hold still again – I need to touch up your fringe.’
I stuck my tongue out the edge of my mouth as I stood on my tiptoes to snip a few stray hairs. Spock required a perfectly straight black fringe. ‘You did a great job with the dye. I can’t even see any ginger.’ I plucked a bit of fluff off her blue Starfleet top.
Her look would have been more faithful to the original if she’d worn a wig, but her sensory issues made that a no-go. She’d tried it once – after I had convinced her that she’d stop noticing it after a bit. All day long, she’d poked, prodded, and fidgeted with it. By the end of the day, she’d gone into complete shutdown. We’d had to get a stupidly expensive cab back to our hotel because I couldn’t navigate her onto the train. I felt horribly guilty.
SI CLARKE is a misanthrope who lives in Deptford, sarf ees London. She shares her home with her partner and an assortment of waifs and strays. When not writing convoluted, inefficient stories, she spends her time telling financial services firms to behave more efficiently. When not doing either of those things, she can be found in the pub or shouting at people online — occasionally practising efficiency by doing both at once.
As someone who’s neurodivergent, an immigrant, and the proud owner of an invisible disability, she strives to present a realistically diverse array of characters in her stories.