Neptune Square Ascendent Carp Paul Hong Illustration by Mathew BorrettThe recently upgraded multi-automat installed inside the base of the lighthouse informed Jim that he had no new messages.“Has my half-way house application been processed?” Jim asked.“Not yet.”“Why is it taking so long? When will it be ready?” Jim asked.“It will take as long as it needs to take and no shorter or longer. Jim, you know there is a specific and important order to follow in the process of repatriating you back to the city. Have patience, please, and let’s take it step by step.”Jim sighed. “That’s what Beryl says all the time. That I need to have patience and faith.”“Beryl is wise and you are lucky to have her in your life. Similarly, I feel fortunate for the universe having brought us together here. Sometimes, I wish it would go on forever.”Jim looked at the automat for a moment. “What? No, not me.”“Did you hear about the good news?”“What?” Jim asked.“An enormous and truly wonderful and unique grass carp was caught the other day.”“I didn’t hear anything about that. Who caught it?”The automat said, “A homemade boilie was used. It was caught as the sun broke over the horizon. What a magnificent specimen! No surprise really when one considers there was an exceptional double conjunction of 2060 Chiron and the Mercury in Pisces two days ago and that—”“Any updates on my quarantine status?”“Oh, I’m afraid that information is currently unavailable due to maintenance. Would you like something to drink?”“When’s it going to be available?”“The drink?”“No, the status updates.”“Try again later, please. I also insist you sample our new lineup of fortified drinks and edibles.”The automat shut down followed by the lights inside the lighthouse. Jim turned. The rain started again. The door had been removed, and the slowly advancing shoreline was framed in the centre of the doorway. We’ll be releasing one story online each month until September 2019 Want to read this story now? Buy the book!