Sand in Black and White by John R. Canter

Xeric scratched his short beard. The young man thought for a long time on how to word his wish. You had to be careful with djinn, he thought, and efreet were even more dangerous than them. In the dark basement storeroom, a pair of fiery red eyes gazed impatiently through the smoke. What appeared to be a horned man had a grin on his face, trying to look trustworthy. It worked surprisingly well.

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Upstream by John R. Canter

A leaf, crimson red, falls into the water and floats on top. It flows down the stream, like a tiny boat in autumn colors sailing on the gentle water's flow. Above, the orange sky of dusk fades lazily in from the afternoon. Below, a carp swims in the opposite direction. Upstream. The koi is old. He was once a captive creature, the pet of nobles, bred for show, that like so many others were released into the wild. He swims forward against the current, with deliberate intent but pacing himself. He remembers the climb from previous years, and in his age knows that this will likely be his last attempt.

The Acid Caverns by John R. Canter

“Remember, we need to reach the bottom of the underground lake,” Len told her companions. “I need to put the catalyst there: it’s the only way it will restore everyone’s water supply, and have us be rid of the acid.” Asoka nodded and led them on into the tunnels, carrying a torch. Bosu, Lohuan and Fabia followed behind with Len, who would periodically prod at puddles on the ground with the butt of her spear. The cavern walls were wet, and in some places slick with a film of slime. It was not long into their descent into the darkness that their progress was paused by a pool of water that reeked with a sour, biting stench.