By John Ogden
I press my face into the scope to look, but don't open my eyes.
At least, not at first.
I know what I will see. I know what the QPR lenses will show me. Maybes. Ifs. Could-have-beens.
Almost reluctantly, I open my eyes. The lights of an indice at the center of ten coordinate points is the first thing to resolve as the blurriness falls from my sight.
Then I see her. Her.
Breath catches in my throat a little. I see her eyes, aquamarine, the fronds of blond bangs, the wide, generous smile. I see the memories, flickers of touches and words and fights and compliments that have led to this moment, the moment of a younger me reaching for her, kissing her just lightly on the forehead. Shaky arms extend, and then I, he, gently takes the baby from her, rocks it, coos to it.
I turn my eyes away, spin one of the coordinate dials to eradicate the images, rub at my face with shaking hands.
A child. A child to pass my heritage on to. A child to tell about my father, my family.
There is more. I know it. Another careful calibration of the dials shows a younger me making love to another woman, a woman who fell into my arms in another universe, another fragmented fractured path of a possible reality. I know her features immediately, know her face. Tracy. At another indice, she too is straining in the throes of childbirth, squeezing, hands white knuckled against sheets as she brings forth new life, life we share together, teach together, learn from together.
I throw the dial again, throw it to a series of coordinates I know as a possible future with a woman named Teresa. Seductive, motherly hips, handsome features, sharp hair, a poet's soul. A handful of degrees in one direction, and she too is giving birth, bringing our child into the world.
Another throw of the dial, another life lost in possiblity. Names track one by one from my list.
Glenda, Rebecca, Sabrina, Allie, Yvette.
Lives that could have been. Lives that might have been.
And in every one of them, a child.
Every one of them except the one I have chosen.
A few carefully calibrated twists of the dial from the moment of the life I am living now bring me to the future of the path I walk. Gray hair, in this future. Louise. Hand in hand, we walk, memories flickering over the simple, calm pleasures of a life as devoid of bumps as it is of purpose. In this path, there are no children. There is no job. There is nothing but simple pleasure, a life as passing as a breeze, touching so many, and yet only so lightly that my name is forgotten as easily as is the legacy of my family. Six months after my body is lowered into the darkness of the earth, I am nothing. It is as if I had never been born, as if my father, my grandfather, his father and perhaps men standing even further back had never been born.
Here, now, I turn away from the QPR lenses, wipe the tears from my eyes, mourn futures that might have had quieter, less painful deaths.
If only I had resisted the urge to see them.
- - -
John Ogden was conceived of a government form and a passing mailbox. He lives somewhere out in the woods of a rural land more akin to the fantasy realms of literature than real life, and his favorite dirt bikes will always be the broken ones.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Feast And Famine
By E.S. Wynn
"I have to apologize, David." Ellis said, his one good eye rolling, moist with emotion. "But your lady is just so beautiful, I can't keep my eyes off of her."
"That's okay, Ellis." I gave him the edge of a grin, sharp with teeth. "You can look, just don't touch."
Don't marry a Tyallian. My father always said. Stick with your own species. Human girls know they're the least desirable females in the galaxy. They'll always stay true. Only Tyallian females have their pick of men, and they know it.
Tritileia is a Tyallian. We've been married for twelve years. In twelve years, she's never strayed from my side once. In twelve years, she's only had bedroom eyes for me.
I watch men as they watch her, their red-vesselled, jaundiced eyes tracking her graceful, quantum-perfect movements, her ripe, swaying breasts. When their eyes meet mine, I smile, give them the sharp edges of warning teeth. Primal. Effective. None have been rough enough to challenge me back.
"How do you win a girl like that?" Darryn asks me, his plain, austere features twisting around a cigarette as tightly as his guts twist around an empty hole where too many women have cut him with their infidelities, their agendas, their selfish cruelties. "Where did you two meet?"
"Brintoo colony." I cut the words with more teeth, a silent threat to set a wall between him and what is mine. He hardly notices. He has eyes only for Tritileia, for the perfect curves of her seductive, swaying hips. "Friends introduced us."
Friends have followed my father's advice. In twelve years, I've seen the men I work with, the men I grew up with court grotesque parodies of womanhood, seen them chase after easy Human females with jowls piled upon jowls, with wide, equator-spanning rolls of adipose tissue that descend over hems of pants and seem to grow their own breasts beneath wings of sweat-slick hair, eczema-cracked skin, broken, jagged smiles. Find the ugliest woman you can and marry her, my father's voice guides them. Everyone wants a Tyallian. Eventually, they all stray.
Eventually, they all stray, but not my Tritileia. Eventually, every beast of a woman I see walk the aisles with men I respect falls on her knees before some other man, opens her thighs for armies of eager, mindless pricks hungry for connection, those willing to quench themselves anywhere, heated by the thought of conquering another man through his adulterous wife, as if occupying her genitals makes them superior to the man paying her bills. I smile and smile, each sharper than the last, but I trust, I understand, I know.
Everyone wants a Tyallian. No one wants a human woman.
When there's a surplus, we get picky.
When there's a famine, we get gluttonous.
- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over thirty books, the chief editor of Thunderune Publishing (and the associated magazines: Daily Love, Weirdyear, Yesteryear Fiction, Farther Stars Than These, Flaming Filmreel, Linguistic Erosion, and Smashed Cat Magazine.) He manages dozens of websites, has written hundreds of articles and short stories for a number of publications, has taught classes in literature, marketing, math, spirituality and guided meditation, voiced fifteen albums as a voice actor and even spent time working as a model for stock photography. He has a bachelor's degree in English, has been trained in Reiki and other forms of energy healing and is a proud Freemason.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
By Terry Godier
It was the third time this week. My hopes of skating out to an early dinner faded with each ring of the phone. The mound of papers in my inbox was climbing by the hour. There goes Thursday and probably most of Friday too. The desk I sit behind is located in the third corridor on the left off of the main entrance to the big brown Travel and Tourism Bureau building in Panama Square. That’s about as specific as I get. Specificity is a funny thing—the more specific something is, the more it feels like work. Then again, the more specific something is the more useful it probably is. Unless we’re talking about something that isn’t very important—then it’s just boring, or again, a lot like work. A lot of things are like work. Work is a lot like work for most people. Sometimes it is for me too.
As I mentioned previously (in fairly specific words, as I recall), I work for the Travel and Tourism Bureau down in Panama Square. I’m in charge of records for Sector 11.3 (the sector covering the milky way galaxy). I have a nice desk, a squeaky chair, a gossipy neighbor, and a bathroom within 12 paces. It’s perfect. What more could an alien of non-descript sexuality and unimagined laziness ask for? A more meaningful existence maybe, but who am I to complain?
“You ready Graff?”, Joran asks. He expects me to say no.
“Yeah, might as well”, I admit, just to spite him.
We reluctantly make our way to the ship and we’re airborne soon enough. Joran’s a great guy – well liked and as successful a pilot as we have. I’ve never met a person more afflicted with excellence in my life. It is because of this that I don’t like him.
We’re heading to a planet in my sector called Earth. They’ve got another would-be-successful attempt at time travel going through in a couple of days with an experimental particle accelerator (I’m not sure if they realize it’s time-active or not). Joran and I will make sure it’s not successful. If only the residents of Earth knew how many times they had come close to time travel. I’d like to tell them, “Yes, time travel is possible, but there’s just too much paperwork involved.” I wonder how they would take it.
O, think of all the paperwork! Form 1473, “Intent for Temporal Travel” has to be filed prior to the journey, which gets really confusing if it’s a past-time travel. In that case, technically the return journey would happen in some cases millions of years prior to the initial journey, or even the birth of the travelers. And yet, consider Voucher 3334, which must be initialed by each successive (or previous depending on the direction of travel) Custodian of Records for the Travel and Tourism Bureau. A daunting task, considering that even the custodian or clerk in charge of making sure the paperwork is initialed must file each applicable form for their form-related travel.
Paperwork is the scourge of my life. There’s nothing I love more than (not) working at the Bureau, and there’s nothing I hate more than paperwork. Can’t a guy be a simple custodian of records without doing so much paperwork?
- - -
Terry is a budding writer and tech maven. Probably not in that order.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
By Joel Zartman
She did not want to see it blowing up. The spectacular biotech monster was orbiting in its menacing way. It was a technological marvel, a space-going insect, a large bio-computer with an interior that served not only as interface, but accommodation for a crew.
Not that it needed a crew. That's why the resistance did want to blow it up. With their robotics, machines, and human sovereignty they were opposed to everything an autonomous biotech space-craft represented. Bio for the living, parts for the machines—was their motto. Interdependence and the secret dream of evolution was hers.
The Dragonflyer was the closest thing to the next step known. It was a triumph of biotechnology in the full sense of the term: living processors, aerobic circuitry, neural impulse commands and reactions. It was orbiting her home planet now, gathering information, thinking, regenerating its cells, recycling waste, bringing systems and processes online and putting others into a nurtured dormancy.
She feared a spy, an intruder. She feared the resistance would sabotage the Dragonflyer by somehow getting a bomb in, rupture its insect-like joints, put out its myriad jewel eyes, stop its impulses and scatter is material into a cloud of orbiting debris. And she had reason to fear: the ship had sent a warning just last night.
"Have you detected anything else?"
"No, but I have thought how something could sneak in."
"Below my level of consciousness. I need something, some kind of subtler system to feel under the shell that would be sensitive to smaller things. My sense of touch is scaled to my dimensions and to outer space, you see."
"I see," Melissa said. They hadn't thought of that. The Dragonflyer had been developed with a hard, outer shell for outer space: for resisting asteroids, the cold, great unforeseen shocks and blows. The complexity of the brain and systems had been thought of, not the complexity of the skin. Now she felt a new sense of dread. Her biotech creature was vulnerable.
How vulnerable she did not yet realize, but the resistance had a good hypothesis and were willing to go to great lengths to try it out. An insect sized drone had been employed. It was this the biocraft had detected, but only by accident and only for an instant. The insect drone (Anopheles delta model) had a kind of virus. The resistance was gambling and trying to take warfare on the biotechs to a new level, not just to shoot it down or bomb it.
Melissa watched the feedback from the Dragonflyer, and spotted the problem an instant after the craft itself did.
"There’s something wrong in me!" the Dragon said.
"You have a section where the neural impulses are no longer reaching and the cells are shutting down. Can you diagnose it?"
"It seems to be something causing the cells to mutate and multiply, but they don't contribute to the overall well-being, they just want to grow senselessly, with no discipline."
Melissa watched the great biocraft begin to twitch, to curl, to thrash in space. She disconnected as its communications became incomprehensible and watched the tortured, writhing death.
This is what comes—she thought—of doing it in secret, of not admitting critics to the project. She did not think it came of playing god: she would dedicate the rest of her life as she had up to this point to try and try again. And she watched as billions in investment and billions in hours and effort made its end, not with a bang as she had feared, but a whimper.
- - -
Joel Zartman lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia. His work has appeared in Aoife's Kiss, The Mythic Circle and Yesteryear Fiction.
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