By James Bambury
There was no good television on Saskadelphia. All the signals faded and dispersed on their way out of the earth's upper atmosphere and all the corporate Intellectual Property enforcement satellites snatched enough packets of data to break up any good streams. Even still, we could only afford the chance of getting signals from when Saskadelphia's orbit was on the same side of the earth as the sun.
So we had to make our own fun.
We all took up acting. We did all of Shakespeare's work and then Shaw's, which was all we had. Then we translated them into Esperanto and performed them all again. After we exhausted every permutation of euchre we moved onto contract bridge until that game was considered solved. We turned to creating our games from the standard deck of playing cards but they never provided the same enchantment. For a while, we looked into chess as a means of amusing ourselves through Saskadelphia's long solar year. Eventually that drew tiresome even after introducing Fischer's random set-up system or fairy pieces.
Now, we wait under the domes and bide our time, always looking upwards. It is a quiet place now, but it's not home.
- - -
James Bambury writes from Brampton, Ontario. He blogs and tweets about it at http://jamesbambury.blogspot.com and @JamesBambury.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
House of the Gods
By Michael S. Collins
The road was carved into the mountainside, by the original mission. The dark landscape contorted upwards, and a deep mist smothered all, so that you couldn’t see more than a foot ahead. Desolate was the word, and the house which stood carved into the side of the mountain, fifty feet up from the valley floor, was as aloof from society as you could get. Nobody came to this part of a forgotten planet in an insignificant system. The doctor looked at his view, then realised there wasn’t one. Shame, but you couldn’t just drop the human issues all at once. The mist hadn’t been there when he arrived, he’d created it, it was an air-belt. It blocked the amazing sights of the planet, for those interested in rocks, but allowed him to breathe, and get on with his work. Seemed like a fair trade off. He had no interest in sight seeing anyhow.
He turned to the creation.
“Move your left hand” he ordered. It did so.
“Move your right leg” he ordered. Again, it did so.
“Speak” he ordered.
“Hi”, the creation said. “Can you stop telling me to move about? I’ve just come to life, its going to take time to get used to movement.”
“You can talk!” said the Doctor.
“Yes, you did programme me to. What’s my name? Do I have a name yet?”
“Robot, I created you!”
“Robot? That’s not much of a name is it? No creativity at all. Like you didn't even care. What’s my name, dad?”
“Do you have to call me Dad?” said the Doctor.
“Well, how about...Friend. That’s a nice name, isn’t it?”
“Friend. Friend.” He let the words echo. “Yes, I like it. Dad, I am your Friend.”
The Doctor grimaced at the words and began to loosen the cords binding the creature to the bed. It stood up, checked its balance and smiled.
“Standing! Dad! Friend is standing!”
The Doctor nodded.
The creature took one step forward.
“Dad! Friend is walking!”
The Doctor affirmed, and looked over his notes as the creature took more steps forward. Before he knew it, the creature was standing over him. It smiled at him, so he exchanged one back, which swiftly turned into a shocked look of horror as the creatures grip focused on his neck. He was dead before he could say a word.
“Dad! Friend can kill!”
Friend looked at his handiwork, and liked it. He registered that he was alone on the planet. Walking about, he discovered the oxygen mist that enveloped the planet, and turned it off. The dark night shined in the cleared air.
“Friend is alone!”
He needed friends, and the urge to kill was too strong to ignore. He did what he was programmed to do. He activated his SOS signal.
- - -
Known for rarely shutting up about any given subject, Michael S. Collins is the pet of two gerbils who live in the South of Glasgow. Michael has written over sixty short stories to date, including many found on the Short Humour Site, and has recently finished a book, which he hopes to get published sometime in the next century or two.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Ray Gun Love Song
By Daniel J. Pool
“I hope you have a plan,” remarked Celyn.
Rubbing the butt of his hip-iron, Tobias replied, “There’s always a plan ‘B’ bab—“
He would have said more but a security torrent cannon swirled to meet them. Pushing Celyn out of the path of its disruptor beam, Tobias jumped for cover behind a garbage can. Pulling out Johnny-Be-Good, he set the power to “Kill”. For a moment the cannon was quiet.
“Come on out Two-Time-Tobias. There’s nowhere to run now,” half choked a tall order of a mechanized man.
“Randall that you? I thought I killed you, for good…”
“That you did, and you done a fine job all considered,” he hissed through his breathing apparatus.
Tobias sneaked a quick look. Plasma singed the top of his hat. He said, “Boy howdy Randall, you just keep getting uglier every time I put you in the grave. You working for the Federals now?”
“You can say what you like about the boys in blue, but they pay, and they ain’t never shot me in the back for working for them.”
“That’s nice,” called back Tobias. He looked to Celyn, “You still got a grenade? I think this is plan ‘C’ now.”
She thought for a moment. She stared into the empty stone eyes of the man she once loved. She was home free. She could still walk out of this station and go home. Gripping the cargo between her hands she knew she could never let go of the goods. She looked back to him, hurt melted as he replaced it with charm.
“I love you,” he said through a smirk.
“Yeah… I love you too,” she said tossing him a fragmentation grenade.
With a flash of steel and smoke Tobias rose to his feet and opened fire on Randall. Celyn made a dash for the charred check point panel as the securi-drones launched a rain of plasma at the sprinting dark rogue. Shot after shot disabled the tracking of the drones. Celyn scrambled for the panel as Tobias locked arms with the cyborg.
“I got it!” cried Celyn, the hermetic doors unfastening. “They’re set for 6 secs, come on!” she said as she hustled through to the hanger.
“Sorry Randall, gotta split!” said Tobias, holding Randall still on the door tracks.
The Erro was still waiting on its dry dock. Androids dotted the area between their to and its fro.
Reaching to his wrist he said, “Command Protocol, Doormat Blue.”
Lurching to active mode, Erro locked onto the androids and opened fire on them. Tobias pulled Celyn by her coat collar as he fired into the mass of mechanoids. Rushing straight through them they leapt up the gangway as more security broke the hanger doors down.
“Get situated,” snapped Tobias passing from the loading cabin to the front.
Calming her nerves, Celyn sat down and strapped herself in. Still panting, she opened the black case she had been clutching. Bottles of water glimmered in the yellow light of Erro’s hold, and in neat rows around them were packets of seeds.
‘Carrots, pumpkins, corn…’ she whispered.
From the cockpit Tobias called back, “Is the cargo safe?”
“Yeah, it’s all here,” she beamed, wiping a tear.
- - -
Daniel J. Pool is an IT consultant, writer, and part-time funny man from the Southern Mid-West. His works has appeared in Weird Year, Indigo Rising, and the Fringe Magazines respectfully. In his spare time he edits Larks Fiction Magazine.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
By K.W. Taylor
“Fame, fortune, everything. Luxury and security.”
Hands folded in a tent over the contract sitting on the desk. They were clean hands, Ellie noticed, too clean to be real. No dot of ink on the index finger, no nail polish leftovers. Clean, bone-white, chillingly perfect.
Just like this deal, she thought.
“How long?” Ellie asked.
A laugh. “You’re kidding.”
Ellie raised an eyebrow. “Seriously. How long?”
“Eight years, of course. You’re nineteen now. And obviously you know when it has to go down.”
Twenty-seven. Ellie felt like smacking herself on the forehead. “Right,” she said. A gong went off in her head. One, two, three, all the way to twenty-seven, the hallowed age, the hollow age of despair and darkness. That’s what they were angling for. “Right, it would be,” she murmured.
“But that’s way in the future!”
“Think of it this way, eight years ago, you were eleven. Do you remember eleven?”
Sort of, in a hazy way. Ellie shrugged.
“But now you’re hardly the same person you were then. You were a kid!”
“Sure,” Ellie agreed.
“Eight years from now, that’s another life! You’ll have everything until then!”
Beaming smile. Eyes that looked too big, too full, too eager.
The better to kill you with, my dear, Ellie thought.
“How’s it going to go down?” Ellie’s voice sounded very far away, even to her own ears.
Only now did the smile soften, the eyes grow less wide, less wild. “We will have to make it look painful, but it won’t actually be. Trust me, Ellie, we aren’t actually in the pain business. We’re only selling the illusion of pain.”
What’s the difference? Ellie wondered. Kids will think I’m hurting. Kids will think all kinds of awful things.
“No suicide,” she said. “No drugs, not in the end.”
“But those are proven to be effective to our target demo--”
“An accident,” Ellie interrupted. “Tragic, tragic accident.”
A moment’s hesitation, considering. “That could work, yes. That could work with multiple markets. I like it. Car? Plane? Oh, we’ll work out the details when the time comes. Let’s not quibble now.”
The pen rolled toward her. Ellie took it and scrawled her name, leaving moist palm prints on the paper and desk.
“When do my folks get their house free and clear?” Ellie asked.
The insane grin reappeared. “When you’ve finished your first recording session, my dear. Shall we?”
- - -
K.W. Taylor's first novella, “We Shadows Have Offended,” was released by Etopia Press, and her first short fiction anthology appearance was in the collection Once Bitten, Never Die, from Wicked East Press. Taylor teaches college English in Ohio.
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