A path through a garden leading to a blue door set in a stone wall.

The apartment above the pub was surprisingly spacious and open. The first time she’d seen it, Kyrie had been enchanted with the apartment. It was a large two-bedroom, two-bathroom place that spread the length and width of the pub below. A large balcony ran across the back of the apartment, overlooking the parking lot below, but more importantly, providing an unimpeded view of the ocean. The opportunity to live rent-free practically right on the beach was what made Kyrie decide to leave her app-creation job in Silicon Valley and move to the small central California coast town where her parents had retired.

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Kyrie pulled the bottle out of the little wine fridge behind the bar. It was the last of the case she’d bought on her celebration trip to Napa a few years ago. Smiling, she thought back to that trip. She’d just gotten the job offer from AppWare with its amazing (for her) salary and benefits. This was what she had dreamed of since discovering her talent for writing apps that people loved and used. Her best friend, Kenzie, had gotten an offer as well from her dream company, and so the two of them had splurged and headed up to Napa for a weekend of spa time and wine tasting. Kyrie had indulged even further and purchased a case of wine from one of the fancier wineries in the valley. She’d been waiting for a special occasion to open the last bottle and figured this was it.

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The Dryad’s Garden

Stone bridge over stream surrounded by trees. Bridge is reflected in the still water.

“Very funny, you guys! Not!” Cassie yelled. “Now get me out of here!” She turned in place, staring around at the fantastical scene. Sunlight filtered through the dense canopy of trees giving some relief to the deep green darkness surrounding her. Spanish moss draped and flowed across everything, and little tendrils ran down the sides of the small tower sitting at the top of what looked like a sundial.

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Cult of Personality

Crowd raising hands in worship

These days we all know what a cult of personality is, and we all believe that we can identify them, and we all believe we’d never become part of one. Khrushchev first used the term when speaking about Stalin and admonishing the Communist Party that they must not allow such a thing to happen again. In the West we scramble backwards at the mention of the word “cult.” After all, a cult is a group that brainwashes its members into believing absolutely fantastical claims and performing strange rituals deifying the leaders. And nobody with an ounce of sense would fall for a cult of personality, right? Right?

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Market Day

Serena bit into the cinder orange and absently wiped the juice away as it ran down her chin. Chewing, she held the fruit up and examined it closely. While named “orange” it in no way resembled the oranges based on the Old Earth fruit that she was used to. For one thing, you could eat the skin and then it wasn’t even colored orange. In fact, it more resembled a pear that tasted like a cross between a pear and a mango. Different, but very good, she decided.

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