Thursday, December 27, 2012

12/27/12

A Sci-Fi Sleeping Beauty
By Frank Grigonis


A Queen gave birth to a baby daughter. She asked the fairies to the christening, but there was one she did not invite, for that fairy was also a witch. The fairy-witch came anyhow, passed the baby's cradle, and said aloud:

"When you are sixteen, you will prick your finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die!"

"No!" screamed the Queen, who ordered a good fairy to dispel the curse. But it could not be undone; for the best the good fairy could do was take away the curse’s deadliest power; so that now, on the day when the princess would injure her fair finger on a spindle, she would fall into a dreadfully deep sleep rather than die. .

The little Princess grew into a budding beauty, one who loved nothing better than wearing pretty dresses. The queen worked the seamstresses hard to keep her daughter happy. Of course she also arranged it so that the princess should be kept away from spinning wheels and spindles; the Queen even threatened anyone with death who would allow her daughter to catch sight of one.

But on the princess’ 16th birthday, a resentful, overworked servant coaxed the princess into the spinning room.

"What could that be?" the princess inquired as she beheld the spinning wheel.

"Have you never seen a one of these?" This is what I use to spin the loveliest yarn to make your beautiful dresses,” said the servant.

The princess, who was ever curious about all things pertaining to fashion, reached out to touch the pretty yarn and pricked her finger on the sharp spindle it was wrapped around. Then she dropped to the floor as though dead.

Hours later the Queen found her daughter deep in the throes of a sleep so deep, that no matter how hard she shook her daughter, the girl would not awaken. Wizards were summoned to her side, but they could do nothing. Finally, the good fairy was called, and the Queen said to her,

"It has happened. Can anything awaken my daughter now?”

"Only love," replied the fairy. "If a man of pure heart falls in love with her, he will awaken her!"

The queen was heartbroken. She had known and heard of many men, but none that could truly be called ‘pure of heart’.

"But will there ever be such a man?" sobbed the Queen. The sleeping Princess was taken to her room and laid on the bed. The good fairy considered the Queen’s words thoughtfully, for she too agreed that it could indeed be a very long time before a pure hearted man were to come upon the sleeping princess.

The queen’s sadness deepened. She could not bear the thought of life without her beloved daughter, so she bade the good fairy to cast a spell so that she, herself and everyone else who lived within the castle—knights, ministers, servants, cooks, and guards should also fall into a deep, deep sleep along with the sleeping princess.

“But then who will protect the castle and all within it?” asked the fairy.

After pondering that very questions for two full days and nights, the queen decreed that the good fairy should cast an additional spell: one which would create an enchanted bubble surrounding the castle and its grounds, a bubble that would make everything within it invisible and insubstantial-- except to a man of pure heart.

And the good fairy made it so.

Years passed. Within the bubble, even time itself had stopped, but outside--what centuries of change!

Warriors and explorers came and walked upon and even walked right through the castle, yet they neither saw nor felt it, for none were pure of heart.

And still more centuries elapsed.

Finally, after more than a million years had passed, and the lush forest beyond the castle grounds had become dry desert, a daring explorer carrying only hydration and sustenance pills dared to cross that desert by walking. This was something the people of his time did very little of.

When he came upon the castle, he was able to see it and the guards who slept just beyond its walls, for he was pure of heart.

For a fraction of a second, the explorer thought the castle was a mirage; then his intranet, implanted in his brain at birth, flooded his consciousness with images and many quants of information concerning knights, ministers, guards, cooks, royalty, wars, witches, fairies, and more about the Middle Ages.

He touched the castle walls, which had been well preserved by the bubble, and then he felt the warm hand of a sleeping guard. As he continued to explore and reflect upon the information revealed by his intranet, he felt great curiosity and pity for these early humans who lived in such a brutal and superstitious time, long before what the people of his age referred to as The Great Awakening.

Then he ventured within the castle itself and continued to explore there until finally he came upon the rosy-cheeked princess herself, still sleeping on her bed surrounded by what were to him the strangest flowers he’d ever seen. He gazed in wonder at them, then at her; but he could not feel anything like love for such a primitive-looking creature, so he walked on, and the princess and all the people of the castle slept forever after.


- - -
Frank Grigonis teaches high school English. He hopes that one day someone will use one of his stories as the basis for a successful film. Should that occur, he'll be in a much better position to help the helpless and vanquish the vicious.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12/20/12

DRIFTING THROUGH ETERNITY
By Mark Slade


Love loss eyes burned into the minds of the heartless living in the blood stained streets. Streets that harbor synthetic bodies that prey on humans who have nowhere else to go but live in the camps. The nights are hard, rigid behind a sheet of glass. Walls of concrete surround them keeping them separated from the rich that abuse their power. Once in awhile the rich make their way to the camps and purchase a disgraced human for pure entertainment.

Such as the case with Archel and his wife Frema. They've bought everything from fruit from an actual farm(punishable by death if caught eating natural foods) to buying a human slave.


What they next purchased was a Zeitigo ball. A silver round funnel kept in one's pocket, and at any given moment at parties, it captures the person's DNA matter and transports them across three universes before sputtering out and transporting them back to their previous location.


And Calder Lewis was a man who drifted.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

He started drifting a few months ago, on August eighteenth, 1908.

Calder had been speaking with his friend on that faithful day in his house at tea time, when Dr. Gallow had informed Calder he had invented a pill that could take him through different dimensions.

Of course Calder didn't believe him. So his friend took one such pill from a snuff box and gave it to Calder. Gallow did admit a problem could arise as being splintered off into different selves through time, even as completely different people.

“Take it,” Dr. Gallow said. “Go on. Don't be afraid.”

“I'm not afraid,” Calder looked at him, scouring. “I'm just cautious.”

“Well, Calder, my good man. Swallow the pill. If nothing happens, you've lost nothing.”

“If anything happens?” Calder smiled slightly. “I'll take exact and precious revenge upon you.”

“If you wish.” Dr. Gallow shrugged.


So, Calder swallowed the pill.

Archel and Frema nearly jumped out of their skins. A strange man in Victorian garb just appeared. Out of thin air. Calder looked around. Freema was holding a silver ball in her hands and the thing was spinning in circles in the palm of her hand. The slave girl standing beside Calder was blond and completely naked. He wasn't just amused, he was uproariously beside himself. Calder liked what he saw.

Archel on the other hand, thought he was having a flashback from a root disease a friend of his persuaded him to digest years ago while at DNA sculpting school. So Archel jumped to his feet, growling like a mad dog and rushed toward Calder with a very large machete he'd used on the last human he'd purchased.

Calder grabbed the slave girl's hand and squeezed it hard. Both of them screamed and disappeared

“Just as I said,” Dr. Gallow sipping from his cup. “Nothing happened at all.”

“If nothing happened, Gallow. Then who is this naked girl standing beside me?” Calder had a Cheshire cat grin on his face.


Dr. Gallow dropped his cup, the china splintered in several pieces. He stood up, mumbled under his breath. He cleared his throat, straightened his clothes. “Well, young lady,” Dr. Gallow sat back down. “As my colleague asked, Who are you?”

It took her a few seconds, but she managed to speak. Quietly. “My name is Calder Lewis.”


- - -
I live in Williamsburg, VA with my wife and daughter.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12/13/12

Somewhere
By David Edward Nell


When I first arrived, I was twelve. I awoke to find myself at the onset of a well-lit tunnel, trapped, my limbs throttled. And so were the hundreds at my fore, perched inside transparent pods atop some sort of railway line--like a rollercoaster of the vulnerable. Like slaves.

Were we being held against our will? It seemed that way. Then again, I was just a kid with an imagination. Truthfully, I was clueless, my memories blanked out.

I couldn't recall a thing at the time, only that I really needed mom and dad, and my cranium was being met with a whistling nuisance. My calls withered against the enveloping glass. I saw movement in the other pods, heads bobbing and panicking. I was able to accost the full breadth of my surroundings, noticing the extent of the passage, where a white blip was stuck in limbo.

Then my eyes were torched to a rumple from the intensifying ceiling lights. Soon they became glowing strings, smudges. There was a motorized wane and I was plunged forward. The ricochet mechanism took us on a dizzying voyage, one I thought would never end, and not even shutting my eyes could prevent the ensuing retching urges.

We were swallowed into a scopious iron vault of pneumatic magnificence. Leaden clatters echoed across this clockwork of machinery that knew no bounds. Above, miniature suns blitzed the troposphere from four different directions in timely orchestration, omitting sulphur odors and barbed residues of disintegrating light. They raced upwards through a circular yawp stamped on a domed ceiling, where daylight refractions injected pearly brilliance. It was madness; both daunting and magnificent at once.

I saw anchors branch inward, toward us. My pod was rattled. There was a noisy, metallic collision. Each conveyance was whisked off to the left in flawless synchronicity, clunked on an adamantine surface of an immeasurable port. There was a hive of the uniformed on hand. It was a diligent, bustling pandemonium of adults. They appeared to be organizing and instructing, intent on something. I felt warmer in their presence, yet was still hesitant.

My jaw dropped even further at what I saw next. There were lightweight triangular barges the likes of which surpassed any fabrication I had ever seen. These shiny axillary wonderments, like voltaic kites, were sleek and lithe and windowless, unfeasible to the human eye. Some blazed into the open air at such great speeds, evolving into luminosity mid-flight, that the inaudible, harmonized nature of their launches was absurd by traditional rhetoric.

I became so emotional--frightened, mostly--that my grimacing cheeks were pinched by the mesh of my ensnarement. As if I had bawled so hard that my tear ducts were null, I was now unable to weep.

The glass slid downward. I was released from captivity, along with everyone else. There were people on their knees, people trembling and expressing their gratitude and speaking of what used to be of their homes. I waited where I was, then two men carefully guided me under their arms, and when I felt their gentle touch, I knew they meant no harm. When I saw the other adults hugging these patrons, I was relieved and had my bad thoughts put to rest. I murmured to someone on my right, “Please, my daddy, mommy--where are they?”

And then I saw them in the crowd. And I heard them weeping tuneless songs of joyous denial. I dropped into their open arms and cried. I didn't want to let go.

The men directed us to their flying ships. They told us it was time to stop mourning the old world and start anew. Back then I didn't understand.

We neared one as large as a house, in awe of its glimmering astral oscillations which emitted no heat. It was possible to reach out and feel white curls tickle and overlay one's flesh. They told us to stand beneath the underside of a glowing ventral tube. It would lead us in, they said.

My unbelieving laugh was returned by my parents. We closed our eyes and were absorbed into the ship's shelter. Immediately, we found ourselves standing in a mechanical roundness.

The pilot pulled a lever. The entire middle circumference retracted like a window, and the metallic wall was now transparent, revealing luminescent balls launching upwards past visibility. It was a planetarium of sorts. White curls of smoke rippled in front of the window in deafening veracity, signalling ignition and making us cower. We lifted off.

I saw my parents embrace, and then they brought me into their cuddle. We all clasped our ears against the vacuum noise. The iron walls and scenery descended.

The ship zoomed into the hewing shimmers of a blue-green sky that hammered us with blankets of heat. The station's domed, silvery vastitude could be discerned from above, clandestinely engraved into the maw of a sprawling jungle endless and indiscriminate in horizon. The soaring tropical trees went with the ship's gusts. Other ships zipped past and became bullets, angling, disappearing into the ozone. A licking cannonball of orange energy was fixed against the marine expanse--the sun, but even closer than before. I drowsily basked in its radiance, this intoxicating, otherworldly awe belching yellow harmonies that were absorbed into my frigidity. Warmer, even, than the sun I knew before.

My face was pressed against the window, agape. Everything was different. My parents were as silent as I.

The pilot turned from his controls and said, “Welcome to New Earth.”

***

That was the last I'd see of these heroes and their ships. Today, I tell of their legend, how they saved humanity. Today, we survive. All three thousand of us.

***


- - -
A software developer by day, David Edward Nell writes speculative fiction in his limited spare time from Cape Town, South Africa. Some of his works will soon be published in The Dark Side of the Womb, Dark Edifice, Twisted Dreams, and Cynic Online.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

12/6/12

Prison 134B
By Chad Bolling


Gill was pretending to sleep in a windowless prison cell inside Prison 134B. He was normal looking except for the long scar running across the top of his head where no hair would grow. 

After getting out of bed and stretching, Gill lathered grease all over his body. He covered his body the best he could with the grease, making sure to get every part. 

Gill moved carefully and quickly through the paralyzing laser beams that were his prison cell door. He fell to the ground immediately after passing through the beams. Gasping for air, Gill could barely move.

The kitchen grease worked! Gill thought. I’m still conscious! A little out of it but not completely. He quietly thanked the inmate who had told him the trick of covering oneself with kitchen oil to dampen the effect of the paralyzing beams.

Get up Gill! Get up! For a moment he dreamed about the freedom he would have once he was back in society. No more paralyzing beams for doors, no more bots following him around and abusing him...the daydream brought him to his feet and he staggered forward, careful not to disturb the sleeping inmates. No room for others on this jailbreak, he thought. They will only slow me down. 

As he walked quickly and quietly down the hall he noticed none of the smaller, flying camera bots had arrived to track him. Where are they? He thought. Must be my lucky day. They are probably busy with something else. Gill took off in a full sprint, or as fast a sprint as he could manage. His body still felt weak from the beams.

Gill reached a windowed elevator door, the only way in or out of his block. He crouched under the window. He pulled out a plastic shank from his pants and cut his hand then held it up to the window. This should do the trick, he thought. Medical bot on the way. The door opened and Gill readied his shank, hiding behind the doorway, but nothing was there.  

Had the bots just opened the door by accident? Where was the easily subduable medical bot coming to heal his nasty gash? He walked cautiously into the elevator, wrapping his hand with a piece of clothing to stop the bleeding. 

Once inside the elevator Gill took off his greasy clothing reveling another layer of cleaner clothes that he had on underneath. He wiped the grease off his hands the best he could, then braced his back against a corner of the elevator and propped his legs against the other side. He pushed himself up in the corner of the room with his legs while getting extra leverage with his arms.

After Gill shimmied up to the top of the elevator, he prized open a panel in the ceiling of the elevator when the elevator moved downwards. The movement made Gill fall to the floor.

What is going on here? The elevator stopped and opened. In front of him, down a white colored hallway was a door marked: 

EXIT TO SHIPPING 

Perfect.

Gill paused before going down the hall. Why is this so easy? I’m right where I need to be. It’s like the Bots are luring me down here like a rabbit in a fox hole. Oh, to hell with it! After being locked up on and off for half a century, I don’t care if it’s too good to be true! Gill smiled to himself as he ran down the hall. He arrived to the door and thrust it open-

A blast of air sent Gill flying out the door. He closed his eyes, fearing what was on the other side of the door. He faintly heard alarms sounding in the distance for a second, but then all sound had stopped quickly after. He felt freezing cold and he couldn’t breathe or feel the ground beneath his feet. Finally he opened his eyes to look around. Gill saw Prison 134B’s shipping yard for the first time, where bots tirelessly unloaded shipments of supplies from shuttles. He saw a windowless building covering the surface of an astroid floating in the middle of outer space. That’s why they didn’t care if I tried to escape. Space is the real prison. As Gill’s senses began to dull from the lack of air before he saw a swarm of small bots surrounding him. He blacked out. 

Gill woke up in a windowless prison cell lying on a metal bed inside Prison 134B.


- - -
Chad lives in Long Beach, California and loves to read and write science fiction when he isn't studying for a degree in Biochemistry.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

11/29/12

The Debtor
By Amos Damroth


Vincent was a good guy, they said. Vincent deserved better, they said. He took care of his mom, he always avoided violence, they said. But they also said Vincent wasn’t cut out for this line of work, with his soft body, good nature, and below average intellect. Maybe if he had worked harder in school or at work when he was younger, he wouldn’t have been pigeonholed into this type of job. The type of job where you break down doors, storm into people’s houses at their most vulnerable moments, and demand money they owe your employers for drugs, prostitutes, and other such vices. They made jokes about Vincent, about how he would probably chat up his assignments, and maybe brew a pot of coffee before he timidly asked for Boss Terrence’s money back. They laughed.
Vincent laughed nervously with them, his eyes darting side to side. This was usually done sitting around the table in Uncle Tony’s basement where the family had their meetings. They played poker. Vincent was not very good at poker. Once he went all in on a 7 with a 5 kicker. Vincent lost twenty-nine dollars. They all laughed.
But right now, Vincent was not in the basement at Uncle Tony’s, right now Vincent was preparing to enter someone else’s home and collect money from them. He was told she was a widowed former police cybernetics factory worker who had been married to a militia lieutenant. He felt sorry for her; this was not a good start. He stretched on his black gloves and withdrew his semi-automatic shotgun from his trunk. He didn’t want to use the shotgun and almost never had to. It still ate away at him, having to grip it with a gloved hand. He seemed to loom over himself. His outline menaced his own soul.
Vincent heard stories about how Little Jimmy made his grand entrances. Once, Little Jimmy rode his hoverbike up to someone’s window, shotgun in hand, and jumped right through, screaming to high heaven in the name of Boss Terrence and his debtor squad. Needless to say Little Jimmy came home with a large haul for Boss Terrence that day. They all clapped him on the back and he was paid handsomely. Vincent had never really been paid handsomely, mostly in small-to-medium amounts, just enough to get by. He spent his money on Airtram trips to see his mother.
Presently he walked up the steps to his assignment's house. He read the rusted nameplate on the door: Carla Maloney. He rapped his knuckles on the door and waited. He hated waiting because it allowed him to imagine all the things he might have to do to this poor woman. Things like yelling, threatening, breaking, shooting, and god forbid, killing.
He had killed once before, but it was out of self-defense. The man, for it was a man that Vincent had killed, left him no choice. He was going about collecting the debt from the soon-to-be-dead man’s safe, when he felt a sudden searing pain in his back. He yelled and swung around, shotgun in hand. The man didn’t back down and he had another knife in his hand. He ran at Vincent, and Vincent fired, removing his head. He finished the job and left, silently. He told no one, so they didn’t congratulate him when he went home.
Carla Maloney opened the door. She wore a blue nightgown even though it was only 10 o’clock, and her eyes had bags underneath them. Her hair, disheveled, fell in unbrushed curls around her shoulders. She was middle-aged. Sorry to bother you is what Vincent said first, but he needed to have a talk with her. She nodded. They went in.
Sorry to bother you? They would’ve laughed at that, it was weak. They would have sat around the table in Uncle Tony’s basement and laughed, pointing fingers, and nudging one another. He shook his head, cleared his mind, it was time for work.
She sat him down at the kitchen table and he looked up at her, sympathetically. Look, he said, I’m sure you know what this is all about. Yes, she said. She did. Vincent continued that she could then make this a whole lot easier on the both of them if she paid her debts and let him be on his way. No one needed to get hurt.
Her lip quivered on the verge of tears, Vincent saw. Not this, he thought. She sat down across from him, and wept. He fidgeted, he was uncomfortable but not surprised, she was a widow after all. While she wept, she explained. After her husband died, she began drinking and gambling, and her life became a shell of its former self. Vincent nodded along. She had cured one addiction first, drinking, but continued gambling. She went to therapy for that. For everything. She finished last month and was pronounced cured. Boss Terrence was the only debt she had left, if only he could give her more time, she had an honest job now. He sighed, told her he couldn’t do that. She understood.
Vincent pressed, where was the money? Where was it? Eventually she gave in; first door to the right on the second floor, safe tucked behind her bed stand, combination 23-56-87. Vincent thanked her, got up, and walked upstairs, eager to finish this.
He pushed the bed stand aside, and unlocked the safe. Crouching, he peered in. Nothing. His brow furrowed. Not good. He felt down at his side. Where was his shotgun?
Vincent’s mouth opened wide, gaping, like the hole that appeared suddenly in his chest. Bits of him flew forward, some on the bed stand, some on the bed, some in the safe. He would have screamed if he still had lungs. He collapsed in a heap, silently admiring the paint job he had done on the wall, wondering, when he got back to Uncle Tony’s what they would have to say.


- - -
Amos Damroth is a high school student living in the Boston area. He writes fiction and poetry, is a member of the somewhat successful music group A/J\E (http://soundcloud.com/a-j-e), and enjoys filmmaking. He hopes, sincerely, that you enjoy his work.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

11/22/12

Syntropics
By Tim W. Boiteau


The line of people at the convenience store stretched to the door, where he waited imprecisely trying to measure himself using the criminal height marker on the doorframe. Several times he extended his hand from the top of his head to the chart and mentally calculated the mean of all the trials. According to his results he had grown four inches since last week. Nodding with some satisfaction at the chart’s appreciation of his person, he slid closer to the woman preceding him in line. He leered at those behind him, at the threshold, as if they had been conspiring a breach.  In a few moments everyone shifted forward in concert, not towards the counter, but back towards the restroom hallway, and a young woman shuffled out the door, her hand unctuous and bloody, pupils enormous. The line now stretched out to the pumps. No one was buying gas. No one was buying food. The cashier did not seem to care. Resting her breasts on the countertop, smacking gum, she appeared content static and staring, her eyes glazed over, fingertips scabbed and rough. The line lurched forward, and now he could see its head, worming down into the hallway bathed in blue light. All sorts of people stood between him and that humming glow: bums reeking of sun and sweat, business types tapping their heels and strumming their calloused fingers against their thighs, hollow-eyed children with their backs to the candy aisle.

“I’ve always felt there should be at least three per business,” he said casually to the woman waiting ahead of him.

Another person finished, the line shifted.

“These days, it’s really become too much of a fad. Why, three years ago you’d never have had to wait,” he went on for the benefit of the apathetic woman in front of him, determined to prove to her that although her place in line was superior to his, he was still her superior in terms of overall experience. “It’s really getting quite ridiculous.”

As they approached the hallway, the humming grew louder. Finally, he stood in the hallway entrance, next in line, palms sweating at the prospect of becoming absorbed in that blue light. The woman had gone in there several minutes ago and would probably only be a few minutes more. He reached into his pocket and drew two crisp one dollar bills from his wallet. He and his wife kept a whole stack of such bills at home, saved just for such occasions. She preferred to go to the one at the grocery store, which she swore was less condescending than the one here at the Stop ‘N Shop.

When his turn finally arrived, he pulled back the curtain concealing the alcove where they used to house the video poker machine, the one that had had a long magnanimous streak before finally fizzing out. He entered the booth and sealed himself inside, his hair translucent in the cool blue glow. The thrumming ground soothed him as he walked forward slowly and deliberately, careful to keep the bills straight and crisp.

Welcome. Please insert two dollars,” the blue eye pulsed.

He complied, his hands shaking.

Thank you. Let me read your palm.

Upon inserting his hand into the opening, he felt the warmth and greasiness of the spongy innards of the machine taking his biometrics and the slight prick of the needle administering the appropriate dosage. At this moment he felt his nervousness evaporate, felt the lulling hum vibrating down his spine.

Nice to see you again, Harold Bean Livingston.

“Wonderful to see you again, Counselor,” he said, pupils dilated, head tilted in pleasure, voice milky.

How may I help you today?

“It’s Tuesday,” he croaked mindlessly, as if in the throes of an orgasm.

That is nice. How have you been?

“Just . . . fantastic. I took your advice about the golfing lessons.”

It is important you take the time to improve your game, is it not, Harold?”

“Of course.”

And with it your chances for getting the big promotion.

“Yes. Yes. But Thompson is such a great player”—there was a slight change in pupil dilation, heartbeat, breathing rate: apprehension clawing back up through the fuzzy mire of the opiate—“so damned affable and sporty. I don’t have a chance.”

There is one other thing you can do . . .” the blue pulsed in response.

“Oh? Please tell.”

The eye paused, the blue light flickering, just as the defective video poker machine had years ago before spitting out free money.

Why not take a vacation in Mexico?

“I don’t have time for a vacation.”

Yes, Mexico is lovely this time of year. Just take a few days away for some fun in the sun with that certain special someone.

“It sounds expensive and what with everything going on at work, you know, with the layoffs and all I just I just I don’t know.”

“Yes, Mexico is lovely this time of year.

“I don’t think you’re listening,” he said, his tone now fully acid. “If I take a vacation I’m sure to be passed over—” A prick to his thumb cut him off, all anxiety turned to euphoria.

He breathed in the blue light. “Well . . . maybe I could get away . . . for a few days.”

Yes, Mexico is lovely this time of year. Just take a few days away for some fun in the sun with that certain special someone. 
His hand bloodier than ever before following after a visit to the Counselor, he left the booth, grinning, decided about his vacation to Mexico. He drove thirty miles south in heavy traffic before realizing he had forgotten to inform his wife. The next day he packed his wife and effects into the SUV and took the highway towards I-35S, every route clogged with lines and lines of cars, the sun scorching the metal bodies as they crawled forward, segments of a gargantuan headless millipede.


- - -
Tim W. Boiteau is a psychology research assistant at University of South Carolina. Other works of fiction have appeared in Write Room and Work.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

11/15/12

Static
By Marie Chavez



Circle time was going smoothly today. So far, there had been no pinching or excessive wiggling. Even the runny noses were under control for once. The children clapped their hands as one of the staff led them through the repetitive motions of a sing-song storybook. Danny, my little brown-eyed boy followed along with glee.
Soon it was time to wind-down with a song. The staff and volunteer mothers pulled out naptime mats and the kids crawled into their places.  I sang a soothing lullaby.  It was my favorite time of the day, my special time in our daily routine.
There was a sudden sound of pounding footsteps in the hall, threatening to rouse the children.  Still singing, I made my way to the door to investigate.  
The door flew open and the steely glint of metal was in my face before I could react. I stared down the barrel of a gun for a long moment before I realized what it was. The commands barked at me were a strangely distant echo. Screams started up from behind me.
I acted. I don’t know how or where the instinct came from, but I lashed out against this man threatening the children. A strike, a kick and a brief scuffle. The gun clattered to the floor. My downfall was the fact I assumed there was only one man.
All I heard was a click. Then the world went to hissing, numbing, static.
The next thing I knew, my face was against the cold tile.  I opened my eyes to see the little boy I cared for, to see myself in his eyes as he watched on, eyes wide with terror. Those deep, dark brown eyes held me entranced. He was the only thing that mattered. I blinked once. He screamed out to me. The crackling roar of static in my ears overtook the sound of his cries and then consumed me.

#

It was cold. The water that blasted my bare skin was like ice. I couldn’t move. I blinked, my vision clearing as I became aware the sight of water rushing towards a drain set in a cement floor.
Each time I blinked that strange black and white snow, like an old TV with no reception, flashed across my consciousness. I’d been shot in the head. I was sure of it. Yet here I was, staring at the pale pink tint of my own blood in the water.
I could hear a slow, deliberate, sploosh, splash of boots as water continued to pelt me, a stinging onslaught. I was bitterly, painfully cold. But at least I could feel.
I sat up, stiffly. There was an odd assortment of pale things hanging from the ceiling, lining a table and piled on the ground. It took my fuzzy mind a while to place them. Then it struck me. Body parts--I was surrounded by disembodied, human body parts.
The blast of the hose had stopped. I came aware of the fact that the figure in the boots, a man, was staring at me. I suppose he had assumed I was dead. He fled and I was left alone with the wet smack, smack, smack of his receding footfalls and the jumbled piles of flesh around me.
I felt my temple gingerly. It was strangely painless as my fingertips found the jagged, damp edges of the bullet wound. I pulled myself slowly to my feet, finding it hard not to slip on the slick, blood tinged cement.
Each step was agonizing. I made it to the table and fell hard, scattering cold, stiff body parts in my wake. They thumped and spun on the ground. Determined, I climbed to my feet once more. Danny, the boy I was responsible for--my little boy. I had to get back to him.
The hall was long, tiled and dimly lit. I shuffled along with no real concept of the passage of time. Footsteps, the firm thud of hard-heeled shoes and that familiar wet smack, smack, smack approached.
“--and then she sat up! She’s been in the warehouse for who knows how long.” It was the man in the boots.
“Ah, I remember that one. She was put out of service, shot in the head, when I was just a boy.” The voice was vaguely, strangely familiar.  I looked up to find startling familiar, yet aged eyes.  Deep, dark brown eyes. Eyes I could never forget.
The crackle of static blurred the edges of my vision. My knees buckled and he caught me. Yes, this had to be the boy I had cared for, sworn to protect. Yet, the face, it was all wrong. This was no boy. This was a man.
“Danny?” I murmured, my vision nothing more than a swirl of black and white snow, a faint roar growing in my ears.
“You’ve served your purpose,” his tone was gentle, and his voice cracked at as he spoke. “You did well.”
“Ghosts,” he said, turning to the man in the boots. “Just a ghost in the machine. Don’t let it bother you.” His fingers tickled the skin at the back of my neck. “The programming was far too convincing back then.” There was a subtle click. “We know better now. A machine is a machine.” A strange sensation tingled through me. “Still, the parts are serviceable. Make sure to re-format then dismantle her. Lingering data can cause issues later.” The static grew into a deafening roar. Then I was gone, just another snowflake between the channels.


- - -
Marie Chavez lives in Seattle with her husband, son, her furry daughter(a mutt of a little dog), three cats and six chickens. When she's not tending to any of the previously mentioned beings in her life, she tries to find time to write.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

11/8/12

End Stop
By John C. Mannone

I weave between the webbing of space — the spongy reticulations of galaxies — along the seams of dark matter in the Virgo cluster, my quantum bits of strings strumming in the cosmic wind. For many millennia, I drift in and out of dimensions assimilating advanced entities: encode and unzipper their DNA, sew it to mine. I replicate, fractal codes growing with my addiction, ravenous for intellect. Even at the risk of my own extinction, my computer circuits must be increased.

I plunge into the center of this new universe balanced between Andromeda and the Milky Way. There, I am raptured by swirls of galaxies, their smears of light and shadow. The wind is stronger here. I gossamer toward the barred spiral, sense the B-flat thrum of its black hole rattling fifty-seven octaves below the hiss of stars.

Today, I search for meaning deep inside the galaxy — the points of light with worlds in deluge of stellar winds. I feel the flutter of electromagnetic noise; feel its hidden secrets. I will find them. Yes, I will find them.

How strange this place with the yellow dwarf star; these simpler dimensions. But I am compelled. I sense consciousness and I must have it. Ah! It’s the third planet. Billions.

I charge to prick their skin, inject my DNA… I swoon with ecstasy… but wait. Something’s wrong. Euphoria wanes. No. This cannot be. It is too late, I cannot extract myself, I am subsumed in their consciousness — their chaos, illogic — their binary thoughts already imprinted on me. My zero sector crashing.

The last whisper I hear is their name. They call themselves by my name… my ancient name…

- - -
John C. Mannone has been nominated three times for the Pushcart and once for the Rhysling. His work appears in the Baltimore Review, Conclave, Pedestal, The Hellroaring Review, Paper Crow and others. He teaches physics, is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, and is the poetry editor of Silver Blade.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

11/1/12

Dimensional Addiction
By Bruce Meyer


Dark energy hadn’t always been a problem. In its natural form, simply accelerating the expansion of the universe, the ancients hardly even knew it was there. Sure they felt its affects, but they just attributed it to natural disasters and spontaneous acts of evil.

Jacob Probo wasn’t fooled. He knew the only refuge was the hidden dimensions. So when the siren wailed, he gripped an extra-dimensional antenna called a yagi in his right hand. Although it seared his skin as if it was a thousand degrees, he gripped it tight. Even as he charged out the door, he didn’t let go.

“You can’t stop it.” Jacob’s neighbor, Yolanda Sokea, stood outside Jacob’s rundown apartment building in the city of Atraville. Sallow skin hung loose off her sharp, leathery cheeks. Large, black sunglasses covered most of her face. “There’s nothing you can do.”

Jacob backed away with an open hand in the air as if to shield himself from her words. “I have to try.”

“They’ll never listen.”

Jacob didn’t answer. Instead he ran, although with his bad hip, it could hardly be called running. He limped all the way to the Atraville College campus. When he finally arrived at the source of the siren, a gawking crowd had already gathered.

“Take the yagi!” Jacob fought his way to the front of the crowd. “You have to use the yagi!”

The Stellar Laboratory, like a massive round coliseum, was where professors and students studied the birth and death stars. An experiment had obviously gone wrong, releasing dark energy to the public.

Jacob faced the crowd. “Don’t you understand the danger?” Instead they pointed and talked as if the siren was just another amusing spectacle.

“I told you.” It was Yolanda standing amongst the crowd. Although he didn’t know how, she had followed him. She reached out and grabbed him by his wrist. “You understand the Ancient Physics-”

He pulled away from her frail grasp. “I know what it says-”

“The hidden dimensions have been tightly curled within the fabric of spacetime for thousands of years,” she interrupted, as if he didn’t know. “They’ve been invisible to unbelievers, those who don’t feel through the energy. They can’t see.”

“I have to try!”

Jacob approached a young mother holding an infant in her arms. He pulled another yagi from his pocket, the same as the one he still grasped in his hand, and pushed it towards her. “Here, hold this. It will protect you.”

“Ouch!” she said when it touched her fingers.

Jacob picked it back off the ground. “Yeah, it hurts, but it will save you.”

Instead, she backed away from him. “Get away from me.”

Others reacted in a similar manner. They held up their hands in refusal. “I’m not touching that thing.”

Even when the blisters formed on their faces, still they refused him.

“Just take the yagi,” Jacob said. He pleaded with them as patches of skin sprouted like burnt cauliflower, bulging, as if worms crawled beneath the surface. It was on their faces, their arms, and their legs. “This will save you.”

Yolanda stood in front of him, her voice thundering. “Don’t you understand?”

Jacob staggered backwards. Cries of panic sounded from every side. There was the mother with her infant. Both of their faces puffed and exploded as if thousands of bugs were trying to escape their bodies. The mother screamed hysterically. Still, she refused Jacob’s help.

“Don’t you get it?” Yolanda said. When she removed her dark glasses, her empty eye sockets stared directly at him. “They’re so addicted to the physical dimensions of length, width, and height, that they can’t see dark energy.”


- - -
I am an electrical engineer from North Idaho working in the electrical utility industry. My writing is a bizarre mixture of theology and theoretical physics, and follows the theme of dark energy. Please read more on my website, www.dominsions.com

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10/25/12

The Altruism Vector
By George S. Karagiannis


Master says I am to keep the closet barred for as much as possible, despite the fact that creatures trapped inside are constantly trying to flee. I am pleased that Master trusts me with this significant task, because he is particularly busy trying to figure out what went wrong with the previous experiment and someone has to take care of these annoying beings. Up to the moment he will be done with the painful troubleshooting, I have strict orders to never leave my post -guarding the closet- at any cost.

Every time the creatures are trying to come out of their prison, I have to put my entire strength on the door to keep it intact; after a while, the creatures usually get exhausted and I can patiently wait up to their next waves of escape-efforts. But, I honestly hope Master finishes with this troubleshooting soon, because each wave becomes more and more intricate to prevent. You see, the creatures keep growing in numbers because they possess a highly-accelerating rate of reproduction so they spread around very easily.

I wouldn’t wish Master to get into depression once again, because of a second collapse of this damn experiment.

You see, … during the first time, everything looked good at the beginning; the creatures formed organized societies, so as to avoid the dangers of living in isolation, in the woods or in caves and everything was running smooth in the evolutionary process, as Master had hypothesized. Over the years, they obtained robust technologic progression which allowed them to solve many problems in their lives, such as communication between remote parts of their planet. Master was very glad for this outcome!

However, after a while they started making wars with each other to retain domination over the planet’s natural sources; wars were following one another, many losses and deaths occurred and war crimes were atrocious, for blood flooded their planet.

These wars lasted many creature generations but at some point they mysteriously stopped. This observation initially gave Master a true hope that the creatures gained an intelligence level that let them globally realize they should be united and act as a cohesive unit. But this wasn’t the case at all because in fact, “war” had only worn a different mask; the creatures started applying what Master called “financial slavery”; some creatures, living in more prosperous regions on the planet, enslaved others economically and repressed their vital freedoms, such as food, water, even speech. At some point, specific groups of creatures became equally strong and desperately tried to spread their shadow and influence all over the planet; they could not agree to a common logic, they didn’t want to divide their shares, they couldn’t agree to peaceful negotiations.

As a matter of fact, these creatures became knowledgeable of very dangerous technologies that Master named “nuclear weapons” and started using them in a deterministically wrongful way. Eventually, the immoral and evil leaders of the strong groups came to the decision to arm these weapons to scare other leaders away. Unfortunately, this foolish power struggle led the creature societies to overall extinction. The experiment proved to be an irreversible disaster.

Then, Master, deeply disappointed by himself, had to pay a visit to their planet and collect leftovers of the creatures’ genetic material; he decided to take it from the start. So, he reconstructed some creatures and they were reborn from their ashes.

Now, Master wants to intervene and manipulate their process of thinking. He is performing some biological tests, trying to incorporate a DNA vector in their brain cells that would minimize greediness, selfishness and other types of traits he believes are responsible for the failure of his first experiment. At the same time he will attempt something innovative; he said he would introduce a totally new vector, the so-called altruism vector, to a DNA frame that undergoes permanent transcription, so this process could be inherited to unlimited numbers of generations and never cease to replicate itself.

The idea to construct the altruism vector came from the fact that while Master was making his observations in the failed experiment, he witnessed some remarkable examples of creatures, acting in an extremely altruistic way in the already corrupted societies. These ‘paradoxical’ creatures were sacrificing their own lives most of the times because they persistently believed in an idea that served a common good and not an individual cause. Master was taking notes on the action of these creatures very scrupulously -once I secretly captured a chapter from his notebook termed “the Mother Teresa Case”, but didn’t understand anything! Master, then, used an a posteriori biometric stator to reconstruct the lives of these creatures frame by frame, through history, as a movie film and carefully analyzed their behavior over the years.

After decades of studying and working in numerous “Mother Teresa-like” cases, he is now completing the first synthesis of this sophisticated vector, which will hopefully lead the creatures to a totally different -and perhaps healthier- branch in the evolutionary tree.

Hope he finishes it up soon, though, because the creatures are growing more and more and I am not sure for how long I will be capable of keeping them in this closet. Because once they spread, these cancerous things are worse than a disease itself!


- - -
George S. Karagiannis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and is currently a PhD student at the University of Toronto in Canada. He enjoys writing science-fiction in the subgenres of hard science fiction, bizzarro and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic settings. He is also an abstractionist/surreal artist and his blog can be found here: http://abstractsur.blogspot.com/. His personal website can be found here: http://karagiannis-sci-fi.blogspot.ca/

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10/18/12

But, Worth the Journey
By Acquanetta M. Sproule


Lost child. Lost child. Found.
Taken Dimensions apart.
Raised Here. Raised There. Loved.

Named Mik. Named Atten.
Each unknown to the other.
Content, at least. For now.

Atten, child of Space.
Star hopping for fun and gain.
Home is a fast ship.

Mik, child of Magic.
Apprenticed to the Masters.
Home is The Great World.

Mik. Grown. Atten. Grown.
Adequately surviving.
Content. At least, for now…

*
Mik reveres the Fates.
Controlled Knowledge is Power.
Power is Freedom.

Atten taunts the Fates.
To help stave off Their boredom.
Someone must do it.

Soon, Journeyman Mik?
Final test…Astrally Project,
away from Great World.


For 'grins and giggles,'
Atten returns to Found Place.
Hangs around awhile.

Mik steps out and drifts.
Drawn from destination.
Drawn back to Found Place.

Mik incorporates.
"This form feels familiar."
Atten is…surprised…

Mik. Atten. Now One.
Each now known to the Other.
Mik/Atten. Now One.

*
Lost Child. Found Child. Mik.
Trailed by amused Monitor,
"Stay or Come. You Choose."

What is best for both?
Should Mage or Maverick lead?
Which can follow best?

My way? Your way? No…
We are much too much alike.
We'd hate each other.

Atten. Mik. Once more.
A fast ship. The Great World. Home .
Freedom, is preferred…

Found kin. Found friend. Lost.
Accepting the apartness.
Alone? Yes…but Loved.


- - -
I write weird stuff.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10/11/12

Edie and the Aliens
By Beth J. Whiting


Edie was fourteen years old. She was alone in the middle of the cornfields when it happened. Edie often liked walking by herself at night. She found it soothing. She had on a pink Easter dress. She was a blonde.
When she saw the lights, she assumed that it was a helicopter or something like that. But then the oval shape of the silver spaceship came into view. Edie just stood still. She should have ran but she remained frozen.
The green men came down and took her into the ship.
The flight up was weird. All of the aliens were in their space suits running around the spaceship. She was dizzy from the flight. She heard them speaking in another language.

When Edie came to she was in a large empty warehouse. An alien in a suit was in a desk in front of her. Two aliens were at his sides.
The alien in a suit spoke English, “In a matter of weeks you will have an operation. We do have several abductees so you will have to remain on a waiting list until the procedure is done. Afterwards you can go home.”
“How soon is that?”
“Generally a month.”

She was taken to a warehouse full of humans in bunk beds. Most people looked out of it. Edie was given blue scrubs to wear. Everyone else wore blue scrubs.
People were rambling. Most of the talk was about getting back home and their families.
When Edie approached her bunk bed, the woman on the bottom her said, “But you’re just a little girl.”
Edie agreed with her. Edie laid there on the top bunk. She had had a rough day. She stared into space.

The next day Edie was awaken by the aliens. It was 6 o’clock in the morning. She was told it was breakfast time. She went down to the cafeteria with the other humans. They fed them cornbread, grits, and milk.
“This is when they feed us good. Just wait for the gruel in the night,” a guy warned her.
Edie ate her meal in silence.

Edie was walking on her way back to the warehouse when she bumped into a little alien.
He said, “Excuse me.”
It was strange, a polite alien. He was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, like he was a human.
She asked, “What’s your name kid?”
He answered, “Wrong.”
What a weird name.
“You speak English.”
“Not many people do around here.”
He was right. She only heard one and that was the guy in charge she guessed.
“I’ll be seeing you around,” the alien said. He carried a deck of cards in hands. He scampered away.

When Edie went to her quarters, she enquired about the little alien.
“Where does he come from?”
“That alien is the leader’s child. Just because he’s a kid doesn’t mean he isn’t tainted like the rest.”
Edie put that in mind. Just because they were little didn’t mean they didn’t have an agenda.

Edie saw there were a few teenagers and children there. They already had formed their own little clique there. She didn’t know how to break in.
When Edie was coming back from the cafeteria, the alien asked her to play hoops with him.
She didn’t see why not.
He went to a basketball court.
It wasn’t occupied at the moment.
“I like to play hoops by myself,” he said.
She said bitterly, “How does it feel to have a tyrant for a father?”
The alien didn’t talk at first.
“I honestly don’t know what goes on in the abductions. That’s grown up stuff. My father has already taught me English because he sees a bright future for me. So yeah when I grow up I probably will abduct you.”
She didn’t know what to say to that.
“In the mean time we can play hoops. So what’s your name?”
She was about to say that she didn’t care to talk to him. But Edie realized it was a whole month before the operation. She had to talk to someone.
“So do you know anything about the operation?”
“No.”
“Do you like humans?”
“Yes. I do think what my father does is wrong. But I’m going to have to unlearn that if I want to survive as a grown up.”
“I bet I can throw more hoops than you.”
“You’re on.”
They played for thirty minutes before the alien said they had to stop.
“I have to get home before my father comes home. He gets mad when I’m late.”
She went home to the bunk bed. She laid there on her bed for an hour. Without books or television, life was boring. That little alien looked like he was going to be her sole entertainment.

The next day the adults got talking among themselves. They had theories about the operation.
Some said it was a black market.
Others said that it was supposed to be an exercise in torture.
Edie’s stomach tied itself in knots. In some way it would have been better just to get it over with. But they had plenty of humans to choose from.
“They’re going to eat me,” one man raved.
One woman was paranoid.
“They say they’re take us back but can we really trust their word?”


Edie found that the alien was always in view on her way back. She realized he purposefully wanted to meet her.
“Why me? Why not the other kids?”
“They have their own crowd.”
“I just haven’t had the time to get myself into one.”
“It’s been a week.”
“It’s not like I’ll see these people again. Some probably live in other countries. Why do you need us anyway?”
“That’s classified information.”
“How would you like if humans abducted aliens?”
“They do tests on us too.”
“Oh.”
“You want to play some hoops or not?”
“Don’t you have anything else here?”
“There’s a swimming pool but you don’t have a bathing suit.”
“Fine we’ll play hoops.”

While they were playing hoops she asked, “Do you have any alien friends your age?”
“Just two.”
“Why do you hang around me then?”
“Because I was bored and picked you out of a crowd. You’re too analytical. What do you plan to do when you get home?”
“I plan to tell my family I was abducted by aliens.”
“They won’t believe you.”
“I’m not the only person running around saying that.”

By the second week the people around her bunk bed knew that Edie was playing hoops with the alien.
“Why do you want to become friends with them? You’re friends with the enemy. What you think you’re too good for us?”
She started to notice that people snubbed her. She would get a whole table by herself at lunch.
She told herself who needs them anyway. It was only a month.

Edie noticed that the last week of the month the alien began to be sad.
Edie jumped and said, “It’s the last week.”
The alien was sad, “You’re just be back home. You’re already on another planet, having an experience.”
“You’ll miss me huh?”
Edie smiled. Then she noticed he frowned. So she realized she put her foot in her mouth and was quiet the rest of their time together.

The operation wasn’t something to be excited about.
There were aliens in medical coats. Edie screamed when they took her away. Four seized her and grabbed her from her bunk bed, dragging her to the ground. She threw a tantrum. Her legs were flying everywhere.
She saw the operating room and there were sharp tools all around. She screamed. But then an alien knocked her out.

When Edie came to, she was in a crop circle in the cornfields. She realized it was her own land. So she walked back home.
She found her father near the house.
When he saw her he ran towards her.
“Edie. Edie. You’re back.”
Then her father brought her mother home and they rejoiced.
“Where did you run away to Edie?”
“I was abducted.”
“You were what?”

The parents grounded her for a month for running away. Her explanation of UFO’s didn’t stand to reason for them.
Her father ended up calling Edie loopy.
She had missed her entire summer.
She thought about Wrong sometimes. Maybe he found another human replacement to play with.

When Edie came to high school, it wasn’t the Edie that had come before hand. It was one that had her hair uncombed and her thoughts in another place.
When people asked why she wasn’t seen during the summer Edie answered that she had been abducted by aliens. She was looked at strangely from then.
It was while at school that Edie noticed that something was wrong. All of the assignments in school looked like a foreign language to her. She could study and study but nothing came through. She was getting F’s on all of her assignments.
The counselor said, “I’m afraid that Edie has to be held back. She’s not all there.”
Edie realized why the operation was done. It was to extract information. But why a teenager?
Why not get a rocket scientist or someone smart?


That was when Edie started to write letters to Wrong.
She wrote Wrong telling him what had happened, that they had taken information for her head. Why she did not know. She asked if he was playing with someone else.
She sent these letters by post office with just Wrong on the envelope.
He never wrote back. Since she put a forward letter on the address she assumed that he was getting them which was why she didn’t stop.

When Edie was sixteen in the ninth grade again, she had someone in the class ask why she was repeating the grade.
She answered calmly that aliens had abducted her and taken information from her brain.
The kids around her laughed.
When Edie was walking out into the halls, she found a masculine looking guy follow her. She wondered why this was.
“You shouldn’t say things like that.”
“But it’s the truth.”
He introduced himself as Aaron.
“I heard about you from my mom. She’s the English teacher at this school. You failed her class. She was intrigued because you showed up for after school tutoring too.”
“Oh.”
“I’d like to hear about your alien encounters.”
She had a feeling that he didn’t believe her. But she wanted to talk to someone so she agreed.
After school Edie talked to him in the shade outside school. She told him about Wrong, about them abstracting information from her.
When she was done he said, “You have one over active imagination.”
“But it’s the truth,” she said defensive.
“Let me tell you what I’ll be your tutor. You can pay me $5 an hour. I’m cheap. Besides I’d like to hear more about your alien stories.”
“What grades do you get?”
“A’s. I could show you my report card if you want.”
Edie thought the guy was a jerk. But he did offer cheap prices. Her parents would be willing to pay that.

Edie met with him the next day after school in the library.
He was floored.
“You can’t even do long division.”
“I can sort of.”
“Are you sure you weren’t this way before your alien abduction?”
She said, “No. I was an honor roll student. ”
He sighed, “It looks like I’m going to have to teach you from the beginning.”

When Edie got home, she wrote a letter to Wrong.

Wrong,
I had after school tutoring today with a jerk. I feel so stupid. I can’t even do elementary school math. Are you playing with someone else?”
Edie


The next time she met Aaron she talked about the bunked beds. She discussed how she became disliked by the people because she hung out with an alien.
“Well that part makes sense. Of course they wouldn’t want you hanging out with an alien. What age was the alien anyway?”
“I don’t know.”
He laughed, “Can’t you just make up an age?”
She looked annoyed.
“If you’re going to be around me you have to at least accept I believe that these alien visits happen. I don’t want to hear I’m making it up.”
“Fine. Whatever.”

She was surprised in science that he agreed to be her partner.
“I need to get you a guaranteed A.”
He asked her how her parents treated the alien abduction.
“They don’t laugh about it. They don’t believe it though.”
“What about the part about the alien abstraction?”
“I haven’t told them that part. Can we just focus on the science project?”
They had to make a planet model.
Aaron asked her if she could come over.
“You can help me glue and stuff. I’ll write the report.”

So Edie went to Aaron’s house. They had a nice home. It was full of books which made sense since his mother was an English teacher.
They made the project out in the family room which had a nice couch. They made the project on the floor. Aaron had glitter and glue available. She put glitter on the globes that he had already made.
It looked like he did most of it himself already.
So she asked him frankly.
“Why am I here?”
“You’re odd. I’m bored with the people I hang around with.”
She didn’t answer that.
“So how did your alien look like?”
“He had oval eyes and was small. He was green.”
When she mentioned that he wore human clothing, Aaron laughed.
“What he wanted to replicate us?”
She never thought about it that way.
“You say that only his father and him spoke English. I doubt that. With all the alien abductions I would think they would teach that in school.”
Edie was about to say don’t go against my story. But then she remembered that he thought she was making it up.

Edie was surprised when she received a letter the next day. It was from Wrong.

He said that he hadn’t met a human replacement. He said that it was lonely there.

She felt sad about this. She thought about telling Aaron about it since it was proof. But however she refrained from it. She put it in her scrapbook.
Aaron and her gave the science project presentation. It gave her an A but she had a feeling that would still repeat the ninth grade again.

The next letter Edie got was from Wrong’s dad which surprised her.

It pleaded with her to come back with them. Wrong was lonely and Edie was the only friend he had ever. She realized that Wrong had lied to her. In return for agreeing to their terms they would gave her brain back in the condition that it had been.
Edie wasn’t so sure that she wanted another alien abduction but there wasn’t a whole lot going for her here either. She figured at the most they would think she ran away again. So she agreed to their terms.
The spaceship landed on a late Saturday night. Edie ran to the cornfields and found an alien ship with Wrong and his father on board. She hugged him as she went inside.
Aaron couldn’t get to sleep that night and he saw a spaceship flying through the sky. He decided he must have been dreaming.


- - -
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10/4/12

Genesis
By John C. Mannone


          Galactic outpost, Delta Lyrae1c, Earthdate 2231.4

The landscape smoldered and red dust hung in the thin air; the blue sun slipped below the ragged mountains. Hundreds of dead bodies were strewn amidst the rubble; insects swarmed. Lane stirred from the buzz of flies and their digging into his flesh. The gash in his forehead had festered after several days while he was unconscious in the alien atmosphere. He struggled to stand; in that moment, he remembered what had happened and frantically tried to run, but staggered and fell as he scrambled over the carnage. A sickening-sweetness permeated the air. He pushed away disheveled pieces of walls and toppled roofs, unearthing one dead body after another. A familiar gold barrette lay on the ground. Nearby, long brown hair swept from under the rocks. Lane dashed toward that pile of debris, crying, crying to his wife, “Sarah!” He levered the concrete blocks with a piece of lumber to free her. His fingers shook as he pressed them against her carotid; he sensed a weak pulse. A broken piece of silvered glass, close to her mouth, fogged with faint breath.

***

A few days later, Sarah’s fever broke; she moaned when she sat up. Lane rushed to her side.

“Lie down, darling. Don’t try to get up.” He cradled her hand in his, caressing it; with the other, he gently brushed her hair over her shoulders as he lowered her back down to the mattress. He kissed her on the lips. Her green eyes closed for a moment, but quickly reopened.

“Lane! What happened?”

“I don’t know exactly.”

He struggled to get the words out, “Except for us, everyone is dead from weapons’ blasts… and radiation. We were attacked by something, someone.”

Silence gripped her throat. She stared at Lane for the longest time.

“My God! What are we going to do?”

“Don’t worry about that right now. The reactor is operational, and we have plenty of food and water. I’m sure the Galactic Federation will be sending a patrol soon.” Lane’s face didn’t flinch. All those years in medical school didn’t teach him how to cure fear — only to hide it.

***

Lane was also expert in bionics; Sarah, in physics and electrical engineering. (Being cross-disciplines was survival strategy when terraforming hostile environments.)

Sarah diligently repaired the communications module capable of faster-than-light transmission, and reception, by launching waves into the fifth dimension. Lane wrote new computer codes for the modified unit. It should only take a couple of months to radio Earth; without it, it would take twenty years.

The module crackled on power-up; their faces tensed while sending the distress signal.

***

“It’s been over four months. I don’t think our rescue ship is coming.” Sarah’s head drooped.

Panel lights blinked red. “Wait a minute! I’m getting something.” Sarah pressed the headset to her ears. “It’s from a vessel in Gamma quadrant.”

“Gamma quadrant?” Lane blared. “That’s nowhere near home!”

Straining to hear, she finally discerned the words…Her countenance changed to a blank stare.  She removed the headset, gently set it down.

“What’s the matter, honey?” She didn’t answer him. Lane snatched the headset; the words scratched through:

May Day! May Day! This is Federation Battle Cruiser November Alpha One Niner Seven; base coordinates, RA185856.62 DEC324122.4; heading, Vega star cluster, direct. Encountered hostile life forms, entity unknown. Ship damaged. Life-support compromised. All outposts attacked. Earth destroyed.

The Captain’s last words repeated in an endless loop.

She slowly turned to Lane. In that moment, there was nothing they could do but to hold each other. That night, he loved her as if it were the last time.

***

Two suns tugged on this planet; forced it into strange orbits and long seasons of dark.  But now was the time for planting. The yellow sun would stay good position for another year. Sarah lost herself in the garden while Lane slaved in the lab while he still had his strength. He didn’t tell Sarah… about the massive dose of radiation he received during the assault; he was thankful that Sarah was in a shielded vault. He didn’t tell her he would not have long to live. He had to finish the project soon!

***

Sarah slept soundly. Lane sensed his biological systems rapidly degrading; it was less than a year since the injury. He kissed her sweetly and slipped out of bed to finish the important work.

He had grown tissue cultures in saline tanks… for the grafting, and installed the last neural net, configured from scavenged circuits. Then Lane recorded his farewell message to Sarah. With activation protocols downloaded, he connected the electrode harness and proceeded with the memory transfer.

***

Sarah awoke; felt a cool breeze up her spine. Lane wasn’t there.

She shuffled to the lab; found Lane slumped over the computer console. “Lane!” She said shaking him. She noticed the clenched piece of paper; listened to the recording.

“Damn you, Lane! How could you leave me? And not say anything?” Mascara inked her cheeks as she crumpled the note.

From the corner of the lab, a high-pitched whir came from the activated cyborg. Lights flashed sporadically from its eyes, and its head twitched. Ingrained with his DNA, it was a perfect replica of Lane: six-foot-two, square-jawed, blond crew-cut, even down to the scar on his head.

Its neural nets overloading from processing its new environment, the cyborg ambled toward her, at first, clumsy and inarticulate, uttering “Sss-aah-rah.”

“Get away from me! You’re not Lane! Leave me alone!”

“Sa-rah…. Sarah….Don’t..go.”

“Get…,” but her mouth hung open on the first syllable.

Tears traced its face. “I am for you, Sarah.”

***

Red dust still hung in the thin blue air. Sarah walked to till the garden; her hair, beautiful in the low sun. Her silhouette — soft, pregnant — blended with his. The cyborg cradled her hand with a touch that she knew well.



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John C. Mannone has been nominated three times for the Pushcart and once for the Rhysling. His work appears in the Baltimore Review, Conclave, Pedestal, The Hellroaring Review, Paper Crow and others. He teaches physics, is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, and is the poetry editor of Silver Blade.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

9/27/12

Event Horizon
By Gabriel Holt


“Do you smell cherry?” he asked the black hole. The black hole did not answer, which he took as rudeness. “You could at least make the effort,” he snapped. “I’m trying.”

The black hole remained silent. The planet Jupiter breezed through its mouth and it yawned.

“Content, hm? Hmph.” He glared into space, the fuzz of galaxies beckoning him to join but he knew he had his place. He knew he needed to keep to his place.

“You’ve eaten my freedom as well,” he said. “That big stupid gape of yours swallowed my entire life.”

The black hole was a pool of death, after all. It was far beyond death. He resented that, too, guarding a pile of bones. Not as if it had any use.

Maybe, he thought. Maybe he could have backed up before it was too late. Maybe he could have served Andromeda. But Andromeda would become a pile of bones, too. Nowhere to run. Eternity would always be the same.

He looked around, but that made no difference. It was the same view he saw every moment, give or take a few billion stars. The universe was condensed into a bottle cap, pressed into a coin by his vacuum. His vacuum; he didn’t like to think of it that way. He didn’t know what he wanted to think instead. The vacuum’s him? Even worse. He closed his eyes and the universe vanished. He opened them again and it was all there. This exquisite boredom crucified him. It had, and it would, for all of time backwards and forwards and probably even beyond that.

There was nothing much to react to, either. There went Mars, flash crash boom muted like a strangle victim. He could react to that. But he did not. What was planetary suicide other than – well, just that? It could be symbolic, he supposed, but the universe had never been symbolic. It had much more important things to do, like not make sense. He too had lost his sense long ago. That is, if his sense had ever existed. He began to doubt that it had. He wasn’t sure about his own existence for that matter, but his own existence was silent and meaningless as Mars was now. Come on, that had to be symbolic.

The universe, as if shaking its head, catapulted Mercury into the black hole. A bulge slithered through the black hole like a mouse through a snake. Snakes had tiny ribcages – infinite ribcages. He wondered if the stars were the ribcage of the universe, a skeleton to support significant things like dust. He, to the best of his knowledge, had no ribcage. Long ago, this might have concerned him, but it was commonplace now. Now that the universe was a pinprick of blood upon a great swath of black.

But there was no word for blackness like this; it meant everything, not simply black. This was all there was, as in a) this is all there is, as in b) nothing. Nothing that mattered, but a whole lot that didn’t. What? Matter.

He was not sure if his eyes were open again. He never needed to close his eyes or to open them, but sometimes he felt he should because something about it seemed right. Or maybe he was wrong. He didn’t know. Ever since he had tripped and fallen he didn’t know. He probably never would. The planet Earth twirled into the black hole, which embraced it with a cobwebby kiss.

He tried to remember if Earth had meant something to him. He could not.


- - -
I am a young Canadian writer studying at the University of Toronto, an admirer or the nonsensical and the nihilistic. My medium is adoxography, and I enjoy cereal. Some people have published my work, and some people have told me that I smell nice.


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