QSFer Rhiannon Rasmussen has a new gender fluid sci-fi book out: The Wasp Child.
Caught between two worlds. Wanted in neither.
Kesh is afraid—of his classmates, his allergies, his odd sense of smell, and his prospects for the future. Born into Meridian Colony, where corporate values dictate human worth, Kesh longs for escape. He gets what he asks for in the worst possible way when his classmates kidnap and dump him in the middle of an alien rainforest. Alone.
Faced with certain death, Kesh encounters the sansik, giant insects native to the planet. Though the sansik seem to care for him, their pheromones set off a horrific metamorphosis in Kesh. Claws sprout from his fingertips. A monstrous exoskeleton grows beneath his skin. And then the bugs do the unthinkable: trade him back to Meridian, where life as a living scientific curiosity awaits him, a bleak future void of autonomy.
Caught in a tug-of-war between Meridian’s laboratories and a harsh alien world, Kesh has to make a choice: convince his people to accept him, or break free and face an uncertain future alone in an alien world.
Warnings: eating insects.
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Kesh scrambled back to his feet and shielded his eyes from the glare and dust. He could barely see Rin and Saize silhouetted against the hovercraft’s hatch. Although he could pick out the corporate blue of their student uniforms, their faces were obscured by sun and the hover haze. The dust blown up by the exhaust coated his own uniform and pelted his skin, and no matter how he angled his hand, it stung his eyes.
“You can walk home, you disgusting parasite!” Saize shouted down, crouched to ride out the hovercraft’s shivering.
He could walk back all hundred kilometers, sure. Kesh had been watching the dashboard from where he’d been shoved in the back, hands duct-taped together, on top of the research equipment and musty old tarps. It’d been a bumpy ride. He had a pretty good idea of how bruised up he’d be tomorrow. There’d been no point in trying to put up a fight. At least they’d taken off the duct tape before shoving him out the door.
Kesh swallowed the dust, smiled, and waved up at them with the brightest wide-eyed expression he could manage. “Okay! Meet you there, then? How far is it?”
“I told you he wouldn’t understand,” Rin said, leaning back in the pilot’s seat.
“Freak. I can’t believe they just let him go to school.” Saize’s silhouette retreated inside as the hatch sealed shut.
Poor naïve Kesh. Too stupid to understand he’d really been abandoned out in the rainforest to die of exposure.
Kesh considered trying to grab the edge of the hatch as the hovercraft retreated into the air, but it was already way too high up for him to jump. They’d ditched him at last, like they’d been threatening to do every year he’d been in school. All jokes, right? That’s what they told the teachers every time he or Aster tried to have something done about it.
Mostly Aster. She’d kept trying long after Kesh had given up.
Internationally published author Rhiannon Rasmussen writes elegiac paeans to the vulnerability of a life lived without an exoskeleton; sometimes this is called ‘body horror.’
Primarily interested in the boundaries of humanity, monstrosity, and phantasm, Rhiannon’s dark fiction writing has appeared in magazines including Lightspeed Magazine, LampLight, Diabolical Plots, and online with Magic: the Gathering.