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- There are moments when my mind misses a beat. I find myself, in mid-step or mid-breath, feeling as if delivered abruptly into my body after a long absence (spent where, I could not say), or a long, dreamless sleep. I lose not my memory, merely my thread. My attention has inexplicably wandered, but a little calm introspection restores my context and brings me peace. Almost peace.
- Mind Vampires, published in Interzone (Winter 1986)
- Every night, at exactly a quarter past three, something dreadful happens on the street outside our bedroom window. We peek through the curtains, yawning and shivering in the life-draining chill, and then we clamber back beneath the blankets without exchanging a word, to hug each other tightly and hope for sound sleep before it's time to rise.
Usually what we witness verges on the mundane. Drunken young men fighting, swaying about with outstretched knives, cursing incoherently. Robbery, bashings, rape. We wince to see such violence, but we can hardly be shocked or surprised any more, and we're never tempted to intervene: it's always far too cold, for a start! A single warm exhalation can coat the window pane with mist, transforming the most stomach-wrenching assault into a safely cryptic ballet for abstract blobs of light.
On some nights, though, when the shadows in the room are subtly wrong, when the familiar street looks like an abandoned film set, or a painting of itself perversely come to life, we are confronted by truly disturbing sights, oppressive apparitions which almost make us doubt we're awake, or, if awake, sane. I can't catalogue these visions, for most, mercifully, are blurred by morning, leaving only a vague uneasiness and a reluctance to be alone even in the brightest sunshine.
- Scatter My Ashes, published in Interzone (Spring 1988)
- The Extras were as clean as they'd ever been in their lives, and their hair - and beards in the case of the older ones - had been laboriously trimmed, in styles that amusingly parodied the latest fashions. Gray had almost gone so far as to have them clothed - but after much experimentation he'd decided against it; even the slightest scrap of clothing made them look too human, and he was acutely aware of the boundary between impressing his guests with his daring, and causing them real discomfort. Of course, naked, the Extras looked exactly like naked humans, but in Gray's cultural milieu, stark naked humans en masse were not a common sight, and so the paradoxical effect of revealing the creatures' totally human appearance was to make it easier to think of them as less than human.
- The Extra, published in Eidolon (Winter 1990)
- Somebody out there, show your compassion, come and kill me. Cut me free and watch me slowly shrivel, or slice me up and flush me down a toilet. Any way you like, I don't mind. Come on! You do it for your youngest children, you do it for your sick old parents. Come and do it for me. I can tell you'd like it. Don't be nervous, lovers! You'll never be found out, if that's what's holding you back: I'll stay silent to the end, be it swift or slow. Come on, people! I'm totally defenceless. Hurry up! Don't be shy. You have the right. You made me, you created me, so you know you have the right.
- The Demon's Passage, published in Eidolon (Winter 1991)
- Everyone here would die for the sake of truth. Everyone here lies constantly for the tiniest chance of personal gain. This is what it means to be a scientist.
- Yes, I'm complacent now, with my well enough paid job, with a wife I can almost talk to, with a three-year-old son all dark eyes and tousled hair and endearing clumsiness. We go driving on Sunday afternoons, through suburbs just like our own, past houses just like our own, an endlessly recurring, mesmerising daydream under the flawless blue sky. And I whistle an old song of yours, even if I never dare let the words past my lips:
There's nothing wrong with The Family
That a flame-thrower can't fix
And there's nothing wrong with the salt of the Earth
That couldn't be cured with a well-aimed BRICK.
- Worthless, published in the anthology In Dreams (1992)
- On his eighteenth day in the tiger cage, Robert Stoney began to lose hope of emerging unscathed.
- Oracle, published in Asimov's (July 2000)
- My retainers keep me on ice. Dry ice. It slows my metabolism, takes the edge off my appetite, slightly. I lie, bound with heavy chains, between two great slabs of it, naked and sweating, trying to sleep through the torment of a summer's day.
They've given me the local fall-out shelter, the very deepest room they could find, as I requested. Yet my senses move easily through the earth and to the surface, out across the lazy, warm suburbs, restless emissaries skimming the sun-soaked streets. If I could rein them in I would, but the instinct that drives them is a force unto itself, a necessary consequence of what I am and the reason I was brought into being.
Being, I have discovered, has certain disadvantages. I intend seeking compensation, just as soon as the time is right.
Permutation City (1993)
- "How does it feel to be seven thousand years old?"
"On how I want to feel."
- I want to end my life like a human being: in Intensive Care, high on morphine, surrounded by cripplingly expensive doctors and brutal, relentless life-support machines. Then the corpse can go into orbit -- preferably around the sun. I don't care how much it costs, just so long as I don't end up part of any fucking natural cycle: carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen. Gaia, I divorce thee. Go suck the nutrients out of someone else, you grasping bitch.
- The Walk
- Gambling is a kind of tax: a tax on stupidity. A tax on greed. Some money changes hands at random, but the net cash flow always goes one way - to the Government, to the casino operators, to the bookies, to the crime syndicates. If you ever do win, you won't have won against them. They'll still be getting their share. You'll have won against all the penniless losers, that's all.
- Nobody wants to spend eternity alone.
- Closer (also published in Eidolon, Winter 1992)
- Still, for the first time in our lives, we would have been through exactly the same experience, from exactly the same point of view -- even if the experience was only spending eight hours locked in separate rooms, and the point of view was that of a genderless robot with an identity crisis.
- Screw every known human culture.
- Would I have been happier? Maybe. But then, happiness was overrated.
- No one grows up. That’s one of the sickest lies they ever tell you. People change. People compromise. People get stranded in situations they don’t want to be in… and they make the best of it. But don’t try to tell me it’s some kind of… glorious preordained ascent into emotional maturity. It’s not.
- "The truth is whatever you can get away with."
"No, that’s journalism. The truth is whatever you can’t escape."
- "All right. He's dead. Go ahead and talk to him."
Oceanic and Other Stories (2000)
- The swell was gently lifting and lowering the boat. My breathing grew slower, falling into step with the creaking of the hull, until I could no longer tell the difference between the faint rhythmic motion of the cabin and the sensation of filling and emptying my lungs. It was like floating in darkness: every inhalation buoyed me up, slightly; every exhalation made me sink back down again.
- Oceanic, ch. 1
- If we spend all our time gazing at the wonders ahead without remembering where we're standing right now, we're going to trip and fall flat on our face, over and over again.
- Ch. 1
- [T]hat most beings would prefer to continue to exist once they exist is not in itself a good reason for bringing them into existence, it’s merely a good argument against murder.
- There are times when it’s worth putting aside the endless myopic navel-gazing that occupies so much literature, in order to look out at the universe itself and value it for what it is.
- The Universe may be stranger than we can imagine, but it's going to have a tough time outdoing Egan.