Leena Likitalo hails from Finland, the land of thousands of lakes and at least as many untold tales. She is a Writers of the Future 2014 winner and Clarion San Diego 2014 graduate. Her fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Waylines, and various semi-pro markets. This is her third appearance in Galaxy’s Edge.


Leena Likitalo

The Party headquarters dominate the skyline of the city, the spike of glass outshining all the surrounding towers. The building takes root deep underground, the interior as vast and complex as the laws shaped by millennia. And though the clock has yet to strike nine, people with agendas swarm in.

One of them is Mrs. Dunnoway, a widow and mother of one. Yesterday she quit her job at the diner. Today, she has an appointment with the Politician.

Mrs. Dunnoway halts in the lobby and, despite herself, cranes her neck. Perhaps the proud steel arches and elaborate stuccowork remind her of the railway stations of the olden times. Perhaps it's the brightness slanting through the hall's windows. Or perhaps it's something as mundane as the mosaic tiles that still glitter after the morning wash.

Stacey, dressed in a floral silk blouse and pencil skirt, spots Mrs. Dunnoway and sails to greet her. The strap of her eyepatch dents her carefully arranged red curls. The campaign button pinned to her chest states Sharing Is Caring.

"I'm so happy you have decided to join the Party." Stacey beams, always ready to become everyone's best friend.

Mrs. Dunnoway flinches ever so slightly. She swipes her sweaty palms in the hem of her best dress before she shakes hands with Stacey. "I'm here for the Audience."

"I know, and I'm so excited about that." Stacey claps her hands. "But before I can take you to see the Politician, we'll need to pay a quick visit to Legal."

"Paperwork." Mrs. Dunnoway nods, a gesture of a woman who's fought against the system longer than she cares to recall. "I wouldn't expect anything less."

"I like you already," Stacey replies and turns to lead the way. Her silk blouse shifts, revealing a vertical slit at the back. And underneath, an old scar curving from below her ribs under the waistline of her skirt.


Even years later, we could remember the day Mrs. Dunnoway first saw a cosmetic scar, and even though our mind is crowded with information and knowledge, we hold onto her memories.

The ache on her lower back as she hauled the last moving box into the rented van. Dylan running across the yard, shouting for Mama to look at him. Mrs. Dunnoway turning to see her son, all knees and thin limbs and bruises, sprawl on the over-grown grass.

"My careless foal." Mrs. Dunnoway wiping the tears off his cheek. Blowing gently at his scraped knee. "You have to be careful."

Dylan nodding, though he would never heed her advice. Ever.

Then, a taxi halting by the row of red mailboxes. Mrs. Cunning, the lady next door, stepping out, smiling and grimacing simultaneously. Calling at them in her high-pitched voice. "Moving out, are you?"

Mrs. Dunnoway tousling Dylan's blond hair, proud he'd stopped crying, ashamed of other things. She'd thought they could be on their way sooner, without anyone noticing. "The Party will provide us temporary housing. I've heard there's a park just two blocks away."

"I see." Mrs. Cunning grimacing again, brushing her shirt's hem aside, as if by an accident.

Mrs. Dunnoway realizing the hint without further prompting, knowing the truth, but not wanting to cause her neighbor to lose face. "How was the Donation?"

"One must give one's all to the cause." Mrs. Cunning beaming, though she had gone under the knife to boost her position in the social circles, not to keep the wheels that held the nation together rolling. "Half of my liver, to be exact."

Mrs. Dunnoway nodding as if she agreed. The healing wound curled down Mrs. Cunning's right side. Too narrow, too short for her words to be true.

Dear Bobby… Mrs. Dunnoway trying not to think of her husband, thinking of him anyway. He'd sworn he was fine, returned behind his truck's wheel too soon after his operation. He'd sworn he was fine…

We offer Mrs. Dunnoway our deepest condolences. She accepts them now, though she might have declined them earlier.


The Legal department occupies every square foot of the seventy-fifth floor. The paneled corridors echo with jargon, the tables bend under the burden of paperwork. Stacey points out the library, the bookshelves that stretch on infinitely. Centuries of legal accumulation have transformed laws to labyrinths, clauses to corners better avoided.

"You couldn't trust a computer to bring villains to justice or protect the unfairly accused," Stacey says. "It has to be a man that makes the decisions!"

They pass many people, but Mrs. Dunnoway ignores them as she listens to Stacey talk about judges and juries, loopholes and differences in interpretation.

"The Party employs an army of lawyers that crafts suggestions for the Politician," Stacey says.

"He approves all changes and, when needed, pulls the right strings."

They reach the south end of the building, an elegant black door. Stacey raps with her knuckles at the lacquered wood. "Eric?"

"Just a moment." The thin voice bears curious strength. Certainty.

Mrs. Dunnoway buries the toes of her right shoe into the carpeting. She's never owned anything as soft and luxurious. Though, what she owns or doesn't own no longer matters.

Stacey says in a hushed voice, "Eric has recently Donated bone marrow."

Mrs. Dunnoway keeps her gaze riveted on the carpet. She's done her research. Eric comes from Old Money. He can afford to be noble. He could Donate anything he wanted.

Eric opens the door and beckons them to enter. His pinstripe suit, a half size too large, bags on his skeletal frame. He, too, wears a campaign button. A Thousand Eyes See Better Than Two.

"Oh, Eric!" Stacey pokes at the button, giggles. "You're incurable!"

Eric spreads his arms wide, palms tilted up. A drop of sweat trickles down his pallid forehead. But the comforting woodland scent of his cologne covers all bodily odors. "Anything for you, Stacey. Anything." He notices Mrs. Dunnoway. "Ah, but I haven't met this charming young lady before."

Mrs. Dunnoway ignores the flattery and lets Stacey introduce her.

As Eric flirts with Stacey, Mrs. Dunnoway drifts past the executive desk to the window covering the entire back wall. She blinks in the harsh sunlight as she stares into the distance. Perhaps she searches for the diner where she worked for twenty-two years.

"Mrs. Dunnoway is here to sign the papers," Stacey says after they've settled on the black leather seats; Eric behind his desk, Stacey and Mrs. Dunnoway on the other side.

Eric flips open his sleek, silvery laptop. "A standard Donation, right?"

Mrs. Dunnoway glances sideways at Stacey. Her fingers curl around her hem.

"No, Eric," Stacey hurries to reply. Her tone is apologetic, as if she's ready to accept blame for anything to save Eric from humiliation. "I sent you a memo last night. Though, maybe it got lost on the way."

"Yes, that must have been it," Eric agrees enthusiastically. The circles around his eyes seem darker with every passing heartbeat. It is no wonder he's made a mistake. "Now tell me, how can I be of assistance to you?"

Stacey clears her throat before she speaks in a borderline reverent tone. "Mrs. Dunnoway has an Audience with the Politician."

Eric's chair rolls three inches to right as his back twitches straight. Behind him, the view over the city stretches on forever, and he suddenly looks so very small and weak. "An Audience?"

Mrs. Dunnoway's nods once and only once.

"Please excuse my surprise - I'm still a tad dizzy from my Donation." Eric hunches back over his laptop. His fingers rattle against the keyboard as he searches for the memo, the right documents. "Audiences are very rare. You did know that, Mrs. Dunnoway?"

Mrs. Dunnoway uncurls her fingers slowly, crosses her hands on her lap.

"I have given her a full briefing," Stacey replies, meeting Eric's eyes. There's a coquettish tilt to her head.

After Eric has printed the papers, Stacey staples them into neat stacks. She lingers closer to him than necessary. Eric grins in a smug, self-satisfied way. They are both so happy here, working for the Party.

"Please don't take this wrong, but I envy you," Eric says as he hands the first stack over to Mrs. Dunnoway. "I'm the Politician's greatest admirer, but I have never met him. I serve as I may, but I know that the greatest privilege will be forever denied from me."

Mrs. Dunnoway picks up a gold-trimmed pen from the desk and signs the first stack. Eric might have the money, the opportunity to Donate and recover. But for an Audience, the price is high. The blood and tissue type match must be perfect.

"We don't see a Donation of this magnitude very often," Eric continues.

"Your dedication to the cause is admirable," Stacey adds.

As Eric and Stacey cherish the Party agenda and the blooming office romance, Mrs. Dunnoway flicks through page after page. She signs one stack after another. Her wrist aches from writing, but she continues signing.

Pain means nothing to her.


We can hear the baby crying through the thin wall, the couple next door fighting about money.

We cannot ignore these sounds, but Mrs. Dunnoway has learned to live with what she has.

Dylan bending over the game board, moving his red piece two squares up. Grinning expectantly at his mother.

Mrs. Dunnoway glancing at the board, at him. She could make a winning move. She won't.

"Dylan! I believe you've won your poor Mama again."

"I have?" His brown eyes gleaming with joy, the boy looking too much like his father. "I won!"

Swear words of the vilest kind. A thump of a body pressed against the wall. Plates shattering.

Dylan asking: "What's that?"

The baby downstairs crying louder. The young mother telling him to be quiet.

"Bed time now." Mrs. Dunnoway collecting the pieces from the board.

Dylan placing his hand on hers, preventing her from picking up the last piece. "One more game?"

Mrs. Dunnoway closing her eyes, ignoring the fight next door, the exhausted mother downstairs. How could she say no to her son when they were alone, two people in a rented room?

"One more game."

The two of them playing the night through, forgetting all else.

But the next day at work she dropped a coffee pot, and the waves of dark liquid spread shards all over the floor.


Now that the deal is officially sealed, Stacey escorts Mrs. Dunnoway back to the elevators. Mrs. Dunnoway averts her eyes from the people sporting scars like trophies. None of the scars are cosmetic. Each one of the men and women has sealed their party membership with blood.

By the elevator, a gaunt blond woman in a short-cropped top and beige khakis jabs the summon button. Repeatedly, nail clicking against plastic, as if she were in haste.

"Dolly!" Stacey's face lights up, but a hint of deference shadows her cheer. "I thought you were on sick-leave."

The two women embrace, the movement awkward as both parties treat the other as if she were made of glass.

"Time is too precious to waste when you know you can contribute more," Dolly says as she breaks the embrace. Her cropped top reveals the peace-sign scar on her belly, the angry red edges touching her sternum, angling toward her hipbones. The button attached to her shoulder states in bold black cursive Give Your All To The Cause.

Mrs. Dunnoway shudders a step back, but then the elevator doors open. The hollow ping is akin to a sign. The three of them step in.

Dolly eyes Mrs. Dunnoway from head to toe, puzzlement written across her face. "Which floor?"

"We go all the way down," Stacey replies. "Mrs. Dunnoway here has an Audience."

Dolly inhales raggedly. She brushes the scar on her stomach, fingers lingering on the embossed lines. "Mrs. Dunnoway, I admire your courage and dedication!"

Mrs. Dunnoway closes her eyes. The elevator hisses past a floor after floor.


We know Mrs. Dunnoway doesn't want pity, but that is what we feel when the memories flicker past our thousand eyes.

Dylan growing up to a too honest fool. Always ready to borrow, just a buck or two. Twenty. One hundred. Never learning to call off a bet.

Dylan working in a car factory, the monotony dulling his soul. Mrs. Dunnoway getting through her own shifts only by thinking of him. Pouring a cup after cup of coffee, serving slices of cheesecake, playing the part that had befallen on her.

Then, one Sunday, Dylan returning home late, sparkling with indecipherable joy.

Mrs. Dunnoway muting the TV. Not angry, but concerned. "Where have you been?"

"The races." Dylan grinning, tossing his leather coat on the sofa. "Mama, the horses, you won't believe this! So magnificent, so fast!"

"And how was the race?" Mrs. Dunnoway asking, each word formed with care, to mask her growing dread.

"When I shouted in the crowd, when I shook my fist, Mama, I became something more."

Mrs. Dunnoway knowing without having to ask that he'd bet on the losing horse.

Mrs. Dunnoway hugging him nevertheless

We admire her.


"I know it's a bit dark here," Stacey says as she leads Mrs. Dunnoway down the winding corridor. "But your eyes will soon get accustomed."

Mrs. Dunnoway glances at the ceiling. The led lights stare back at her, steady as distant stars, too high above to touch. She reaches out for them anyway.

"You must wonder how deep underground we are." The wave of Stacey's hand encompasses the granite archway in its entirety. She cherishes secrets like old scars. "Of course I can't tell you the exact numbers, but I can say that he is safe from any possible harm. We take care of our own."

Mrs. Dunnoway grinds her teeth together to refrain from pointing out that that's not always the case. Sometimes people get lost in the system. Sometimes whole families get lost.

The corridor turns right. A massive gate bars the view further. Three stone-faced men stir at their post.

"The security checkpoint," Stacey says, ever so excited. "But don't worry, Mrs. Dunnoway, I'll make sure that you get through in time for the Audience."

Mrs. Dunnoway merely nods. She has signed the papers. Even if she wanted, she can't turn back now.

"Hi there," Stacey chirps at the guards.

The men nod back at Stacey. No hugs are exchanged, only information. This close, it's evident that the black suits conceal weapons.

Mrs. Dunnoway clutches the contract against her heart. The guards are men in their prime. No scars crisscross their bodies. No patches cover their eyes. But all of them bear badges. A Man Alone Is Nothing. Together We Are More. You Decide What You Do With Your Body.

"Mrs. Dunnoway," the guard with a very square jaw says. "You may go through the gates now. The vault is at the end of the corridor."

Mrs. Dunnoway's lips twitch to a customer service smile before she can stop herself. She's about to step through the gates, but a loud gulp makes her glance over her shoulder.

Stacey's façade of calm crumbles. She trembles ever so slightly. "Goodbye, Mrs. Dunnoway."

Mrs. Dunnoway tilts her head, incomprehension creasing her forehead. "Will you not come and show me the way?"

"This is as far as I'm allowed."

Mrs. Dunnoway hugs the younger woman like she once hugged her son. Devotion fuels Stacey, but she serves the Party better alive. "Take care, Stacey. Take care of yourself."


We feel her pain as she recalls the day she visited her son in the prison.

Dylan sitting on the other side of the glass, head buried in his hands. Pale curls spilling from between his fingers. Voice laced with regret and grief.

"Just a mile or two over the limit. No matter what the newspapers say. Don't read the articles, Mama. The dreadful lies they write."

Mrs. Dunnoway thinking how they'd both lost more that they had. That she couldn't afford to bail him out. And even if she could, there would be no bringing back the two lives lost.

"I cried, Mama, I cried. And as drove through the forest I asked a sign from God."

Mrs. Dunnoway shaking her head. A sign. Had her son truly received a sign or was it all just an ugly coincidence?

We know it to have been a coincidence. The horse, worth a million bucks, escaped from the pasture. Appearing out of nowhere.

Dylan saying in a shaky voice: "I noticed the horse too late, didn't realize there was a car behind mine."

We know the truth. We saw it all, out of the corner of our eyes. One more story unraveled. Not significant enough to wager our attention.

But we have changed since then. And hence we gather all that we know, to console her who has lost so much.

It wasn't her son that decided whether to brake or crash. It was a reflex. There was no time to think of the potential consequences.

The tires screeching the road black. The car jarring to a halt. His chest crushing against the wheel.

The car behind crashing into his. Shattered glass and bent metal. Screams shortened to whimpers. Then nothing, nothing at all.

The horse, standing still all this time, trotting to greet Dylan. Staring through the glass. As if to judge his soul.


The vault is smaller than most people think, only thirty by thirty feet. A flat screen covers the back wall. Otherwise the room is unfurnished.

As the vault's door clicks shut behind Mrs. Dunnoway, she walks to the screen. There's no hesitation. The favor she needs has a price.

"My name is Mrs. Dunnoway, and I am here for the Audience."

The screen flickers to life. A male face forms. Mrs. Dunnoway recognizes it immediately.

The Politician has a dimpled chin. His crest of black hair gleams. His eyes glimmer with wisdom. He asks, "How may I be of assistance to you?"

His voice comes from a speaker, caresses Mrs. Dunnoway with promises to be made. Yet, she knows that the man thinking for many can spare only a moment to her.

Mrs. Dunnoway clears her throat. "My son was unfairly judged. It was an accident, you see. There was no malice or neglect."

The Politician nods. He knows everything, or that's what the propaganda says. Yet Stacey did ensure that the memo has been passed to him.

"Two people lost their lives," the Politician says. "The mother and daughter in the car behind. They deserve justice too."

Mrs. Dunnoway licks her lips. She has read the legal books, but the words hid their meaning from her. The cheap lawyer she consulted suggested one last straw.

"My son is a fool, not a bad man," she says. "He is…a little simple, though. Perhaps there could be a medical excuse?"

"Perhaps." The Politician's brows furrow. "Please wait, while I query the precedences and re-analyze this case."

The Politician's forehead creases as he posts queries to his distributed brains. No man alone could connect all clauses, comb through the tangle of information. But the Politician is not alone.

With him are the thousands who've donated a part of themselves. Eyes that take in the data for the hundreds of brains to process. Lungs that turn oxygen to fuel for the multitudes of hearts. Kidneys and livers that handle the toxins from the network of organs. Blood and bone and bone marrow to hold his behemothic body together.

"Ah…" The Politician locks gazes with Mrs. Dunnoway. His eyes glaze over as if he's someplace else, living a dual…living a thousand lives. "Yes. There is a precedent."

She clutches her hands against her chest, holding one fist in the other. "Will my son have a fair trial? Is it likely that his sentence is shortened?"

"Yes," the Politician replies, and that is all even he can promise.

Mrs. Dunnoway inhales deep, exhales an ocean of relief. She glances at the contract, then at the Politician.

The Politician asks, "Are you ready?"

"I am," Mrs. Dunnoway replies.

The face on the screen flickers, disappears altogether. The screen disperses, revealing the vast hall behind.

Sharp, white lights spread above the hall, on and on for miles. Below, the thousands of pods containing Donations form neat, rectangular patterns. Countless nurses and doctors scuttle in the aisles, administering drugs and nutrients. And looming above, at the center of the hall, the Politician stands propped on a podium, tubes and cables spreading out of him like a spider's web.

"Come now, Mrs. Dunnoway."

Mrs. Dunnoway drifts toward the voice, but halts where the screen used to be. A full dozen of surgeons in pale green gowns with masks covering their faces march up the center aisle, toward her. And at their wake follows a horde of nurses, ready for the Donation, to dismember her.

"Will it hurt?" Mrs. Dunnoway asks, as if she were merely curious, not at all afraid.

The Politician replies in a voice like velvet and dreams, "Your life will flash past our eyes. After that there will be only the future."

Mrs. Dunnoway steps into the hall to join the man consisting of many.


We can see everything. We can see everywhere. For a thousand eyes see better than two.

It's the first race day after his pardon. The hippodrome is crowded. She knows, and we know, he will be there.

The horses gallop, round and round. Hooves pounding the lush grass to dust. So noble, so fast, from beyond this world.

And there, we can see him now, his right fist raised in the air. He cheers, and the crowd is just one creature, living and breathing the same air. For that fleeing moment, he is happy. And that is all he'll ever be.

We are not sure if our hearts ache out of joy or grief.

Copyright © 2015 by Leena Likitalo


by L. Neil Smith

A classic closed-room mystery with a murder most foul....and most alien....



The Editor's Word

Recipe: 1 Universe
by Effie Seiberg

Airborne All the Way

by David Drake
Dreidel of Dread
by Alex Shvartsman
by Marina J. Lostetter
Red Letter Day
by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Ides of Nevah-Nevah
by Sharon Joss

Hic Sunt Monstra
by Brian Trent
Sea Change

by Kimberly Unger
Frog Kiss

by Kevin J. Anderson

Give Your All

by Leena Likitalo
Miles to Go

by Sheila Finch

Connie Willis

by Joy Ward

Reboots (Part 2)
by Mercedes Lackey
& Cody Martin

From the Heart's Basement
by Barry Malzberg
Science Column
by Gregory Benford

Book Reviews
by Bill Fawcett & Jody Lynn Nye








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Copyright © Arc Manor LLC 2015. All Rights Reserved. Galaxy's Edge is an online magazine published every two months (January, March, May, July, September, November) by Phoenix Pick, the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint of Arc Manor Publishers.