Thursday, December 26, 2013

12/26/13

Another Night At The Chronos Tavern
By David Barber


We get all sorts at the Chronos Tavern; we get workers from the Canaveral Timeport; we get travelers from the future, but in all these years I met only one executioner and one shade.
It introduced itself as C. Jammes Nord, which seemed over-formal, then sat gleaming and motionless. It must have been disturbing to others too, because no one else would sit at the bar.
It was a quiet night. The goblins with neural crests in the corner booth were from the Cryptarchy; you might have seen those history-of-the-future wall charts in the Sunday papers; the Cryptarchy’s a long way uptime. My other customers were a handful of female clones from someplace when it’s legal. They chose that moment to lift their glasses and drink as one.
C stands for Construct it seems. If I wished, it could drink and dispose of it later.
"These are innocent times," it added. "Without prejudice."
"Well, you're from the future, how great is that."
"Those Cryptarchy there would not speak to me for instance. Their society is warped by fear of manipulation by AIs."
Moments like this were why I opened the Chronos.
"I am employed to make ethical judgements."
"By who?"
"By those too nice to decide for themselves."
That was when the man sat down at the bar. The Canaveral Timeport was off-limits to the public; more like an embassy with the land signed over to the future, so customers were either Timeport staff, or time travelers. This drab, grey little man was the shade.
He took a Chronos Tavern coaster out of his pocket and looked at it. "All I seem to have is this. So I came here."
C. Jammes Nord beckoned me over. "Vend him what he wants and I will pay."
The man held up his beer to the light. “Excreted by micro-organisms you say?” He had a queasy fascination with the drinks on offer. “But they are dead now? The ethanol kills them?”
"When are you from?"
He blinked. "I don't know."
You know how it is with a broken-winged bird, with some wounded creature clipped by the car. You want to help, but in your heart you know the best thing would be to put it out of its misery.
His baffled gaze took in the Chronos and its customers. "Do I remember this?"
The goblins ordered more patches. Reds to dumb them down, to slow their cognitive turbines. When I got back, the little man was gone.
"What is his debt?" asked C. Jammes Nord.
"Who was he?"
"A shade. From the future. He has gone to complete the loop."
I had to ask.
"The loop returning him to the future in time to travel back here."
"But where did he come from?"
"The loop is acausal. He was not born and will not die. Unless I judge otherwise, he remains in the loop. As I said, I am an Executioner."
This wasn't why I opened the Chronos.
"I detect your disapproval."
Those fixed in time have little hope of understanding those who are not.
"You were kind; you treated him as if he was real. His life is little, though no cheaper for that. He does not know he is in a recursive loop. Do you think such a life worth living?"
Perhaps I said some bitter things about stuff I didn't understand. The Executioner replied that to those uptime, our own brief lives look much the same, like a short video that could be fast-forwarded to see how it ends; that we reminded them of shades.
I noticed later the shade had pocketed the coaster again before he left, as he always does.


- - -
David Barber lives anonymously in the UK.
He used to be a scientist, though he is retired now and writing stories.
He is a puzzle to his friends.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

12/19/13

Knowing Home
By E.S. Wynn


The moment I slip into the ocean, I know that I am home.

I wasn't born here, on Nereid IV-b. The colony is only a few years old, and most of the settlers are early-gen spacers, migrants who've seen a thousand worlds, elected for sterilization centuries ago. It's something else, something I can feel in my blood-- about the planet, the ocean, something I feel like I've been searching for my entire life, trying to get back to.

Something about the gravity, the planet's proximity to the three stars that hold it suspended in the most elegant orbit I've ever seen on an inter-system approach, gives it the most placid, most serene seas I've ever seen. Clean and clear, there are no tides or currents in the wide oceans of Nereid IV-b, nothing to wear down the smooth, gray-glassy stone that sprawls on across the bottom as far as the eye can see. No life-- nothing beyond a few simple mineral constructions that might become bacteria before the planet's three suns burn out.

All of my life, I've been afraid of oceans, but not the oceans here. Earth's oceans are dark and deadly, oppressive and thick with horrors both real and imagined. Some planets I've seen are worse, have thick, sludgy seas teeming with tiny, violent carnivores eager to seek out human flesh-- others are better, their seas more serene and silent.

But none of them have seas like Nereid IV-b.

There are no monsters here, nothing lurking or hunting in the darkness, no danger, no unseen movements of water waiting to pull you under. Open your eyes under the surface and you can see for miles, know that there is nothing but the seafloor, the shore and you, you floating there in the middle of it all. With the right gill-breather you can float there for hours, close your eyes, meditate, drop away into the pleasantly cool embrace of pure water held together by the most minimal gravity field you've ever felt. There is nothing like falling asleep in the oceans of Nereid IV-b, waking up again a few hours later and knowing that you are safe, that the sea has supported you softly while you've slept. It's an incredible feeling, trusting your existence to an ocean, to an entire planet's stretching seas, knowing that no matter how deep you go, no matter how far from shore you swim, you will always be safe, always be home.

The moment I slip into the ocean, I know that I am home, and for a while, at least, I know I can forget everything but the sea, the endless ocean I love, the silver, serene waters that seem to accept all that I am, man-- flawed and imperfect. Shore leave never lasts for more than a few days, but some day, some day, I'll come back to Nereid IV-b. I'll come back and I'll stay.

And I'll never leave the ocean again.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of more than 50 books.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

12/12/13

Blinking Like Ferrets
By Donal Mahoney

- -
I've been too busy
the last two years to chat
with anyone in the office.
Today, however, I pause
at the pencil sharpener
while my co-workers
calculate and jot.
It makes no difference, you see,
if I remain silent until retirement
or if suddenly I start talking again.

All we must remember is
that we decay together,
that this charade
we give ourselves to
doesn't require that we speak,
that all we must do, really,
is calculate and jot.

If we calculate well,
if we jot well, the charade
will carry us through.
In the end, we'll see what is true
when blinking like ferrets
we emerge in sunlight,
gaping and gasping,
free of this maze created
by the family of man.


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

12/5/13

Testing
By Lauren E. Munroe


A minute passed before I heard the sound that I was waiting for to come near. When the sound filled my friend, Zimber's ears, she fumbled around my body before she was able to get a firm grip on my forearm. Her breathing became more panicked. As the sound grew louder behind us, she squeezed even tighter. I quickly took my arm away.

"W-What is that sound, Norait?"
"Our ride," I said.
"A-A roller cart coming down this pipe or somethi-?"
"Yeah, something like that," I fibbed. "Listen–when I yell to you to run, you do it. Understand?"
"Why?" she asked.

"Just do it!" I yelled. With that, I took off down the pipe in a straight line away from Zimber as fast as I could. The last thing I needed was the both of us crashing into each other. I could hear Zimber screaming and cussing up an electrical storm, and begging for me to wait up as I said a twenty-second countdown. By the time I reached five seconds, the force coming near us was so deafening I couldn't even hear myself think.
As I was being lifted into the air, I stretched my arms and legs out like a glider and allowed the cold icy air to propel me through the pipe. I tried to keep myself in this position as long as I could, but the intense pressure of the air took hold of my limbs and twisted me about. As I flipped overhead, I managed to fight the air and curl myself into a ball. After a few minutes, I became tired trying to hold my body in this position. As I let go of my legs, the air took control again and whipped my body all about. Spinning and flipping like an asteroid in space, I could feel myself being pushed forcibly to the side of the pipe. I flinched as my shoulder grazed its rough wall.

The rhythm of my breathing was interrupted when I accidentally cried out in pain. Realizing my mistake, I quickly tried to close my mouth and save any oxygen I had left; but choked violently for not having enough in me. As my lungs were robbed flat, grave thoughts passed through my mind about me perishing in this death-air. I closed my eyes. The strong light made my eyelids glow red-magenta. As I made a last attempt to fight the crushing air, my eyelids began to turn dark. I opened them just in time to see myself approaching the end of the white void and entering a small, round black hole.

The air gave me a final push before I fell from its grip and into the dark chasm. My lungs, now realizing they were no longer constricted, inflated to such a degree that I thought they would explode. I cried out–not just because I afraid of where I was falling to, but happy that I could breathe again. I could feel my stomach turning to a nervous mush as I continued to free fall through the darkness like dead weight but I had a feeling that I was approaching the end of my ride. My fingers scrambled around the loops of my carrier belt until I found my Neg-Matter Chip. I pressed it into my chest and could hear it activate–a high pitched beeping sound surrounded me. I looked down again only to see myself headed towards a small square of grated light shining up from the bottom.

It was a ceiling vent. As the time came for impact, I stretched my arms out in front of me to try and balance my weight. As I came into a few feet of the vent, I still did not feel any reaction from the chip. If Zimber and I survive this, Neg-Matter, Corp. has some serious explaining to do.


- - -
I graduated from the Institute of Children's Literature in 2008. Since 2001, she’s had multiple articles published in The Enterprise newspaper as well as websites Boston Globe and Metro West Daily News.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

11/28/13

BUG
By Francis X. Altomare


Six months since the WHO designated the cyphelis cryptenza B virus (family: unknown, genus: unknown, common name: BUG) a world epidemic, scientists still disagree as to the exact time and location of the first outbreak. Some experts locate ground zero at an internet cafe/daquiri bar in Miami Beach, circa late May or early June of last year. Others have pinpointed the epicenter as the Bellagio Las Vegas, then hosting an adult film convention. Most experts agree, however, that the initial encryption took place at an insurance office outside Newark, New Jersey. Regardless of specific details, one fact remains: the jump of virus from machine to man defies all previously touted principles of biology. For that matter, the BUG outbreak raises serious doubts about the fundamental assumptions of computer science, information theory, and plain common sense.

A perfect recreation of circumstances surrounding the outbreak is impossible, but the following hypothetical scenario seems likeliest:

An unmarried, middle-aged insurance salesman—whom the press later dubs Patient 01-B, but whom for convenience we can call Ralph—surfs the web on his lunch break. Ralph stumbles upon a free pornographic website, whose address will remain undisclosed for national security reasons. Covertly, Ralph masturbates under his desk. When he’s finished, he smokes a cigarette in the stairwell and ducks out of work early. On his ride home, he notices an unusual tingling resembling static electricity on his scrotum. By the time he arrives home, Ralph’s genitals are inflamed with a silvery rash that appears to be soldered to his penis. In addition, Ralph’s urine is tinted a mercury color, and he suffers migraines when watching television or using the microwave. Later that evening, his interactions with electronic devices are unanimously met with shortcircuits. Most unsettling perhaps, Ralph misses Conan. Ralph never misses Conan. More disturbingly, Ralph cannot sleep; he cannot focus; he cannot remember. The next morning, he manages to call in sick. Ralph confines himself to his bedroom, nourishing himself on Evian and Wheat Thins. For three days, he applies copious amounts of ointment to the rash, which is beginning to look suspiciously like the guts of a motherboard. On the fourth day, he consults a specialist.

The initial medical report notes a violent and theretofore unidentifiable rash accompanied by headaches, memory loss, increased dermal electroconductivity, and high amounts of trace metals in stool and urine samples. An unknown STD is suspected, but Ralph reports being celibate for almost an entire year, although further research suggests that this is a gross underestimate. The attendant physician prescribes an antibiotic salve and plenty of sleep, preferably alone.

Subsequent laboratory analysis reveals that the virus’s genetic code is, in fact, binary. All ones and zeros. Geneticists and computer scientists alike are baffled. Attempts to analyze it digitally fail: The virus instantly crashes any computer system within range, causing all monitors to go blank except for a single message blinking on the screen in all caps: BUG. Researchers suggest that, after the initial incubation period, the virus causes hosts to emit disruptive EMF signatures. Consequently, after being hospitalized, Ralph had to be quarantined so elderly patients could receive their daily dose of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in the common room without interruption.

Ralph's current whereabouts and condition are unknown.

As is by now well known, fractally spreading across the grid, the first incident ballooned into a full-blown BUG epidemic in under 24 hours. In its patently anxious press releases, the CDC commented vaguely about measures in place to stop the spread of BUG. The only absolutely effective precaution, they say, is abstinence from both sexual and electronic activity, or any combination of the two.

No one listened. No one ever does.

The initial symptoms of BUG manifest immediately. During later stages, patients experience a severe reduction in visual clarity to somewhere between 64- and 128-bits. Auditory problems have also been reported, the commonly reported ringing in patients’ ears escalating to a persistent stream of what can only be described as chiptunes. Those who do not adapt to these perceptual changes inevitably suffer depression, psychosis, and most likely a gruesome and unpleasant death by their own hand.

A campaign is underway to keep citizen morale high.

The final stage of the disease is the most perplexing. Patients report being able to communicate by transmission, thereby bypassing the need to speak to one another. The scope of this final symptom has not yet been determined; this symptom may in fact be hallucinatory in nature. Regardless, the rise in these reports is curiously correlated with a catastrophic drop in social interaction and the unexpected bankruptcy of Facebook and Twitter.

Citizens are advised to go to the hospital if they experience any of the following: paresthesia (i.e., limbs “falling asleep”), electromagnetic abnormalities, lethargy, insomnia, difficulty focusing, irritability, extremely dense stools, difficulty focusing, mercury-tinted urine, ringing in the ears, difficulty focusing, or anti-social tendencies.

As this article went to press, BUG has been found in 90% of the industrialized countries on earth. If you are capable of reading this, you yourself are likely infected.

Pr05spects f0r a cure are grim.


- - -
Francis X. Altomare currently inhabits a stone hut on the shore of Loch Lomond, Scotland, Planet Earth. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared widely in North America, Europe, and the mining colonies of Circinus ESO-097. His diet consists exclusively of smoked salmon, wild mussels, and single-malt scotch.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

11/21/13

First Contact
By Andrew P Weston


The Earth had never looked more beautiful.

It felt as if I was examining a precious gem through a jeweler’s loupe. The Koh-i-Noor of the star-spangled fabric of space, adorned in sapphire-blue radiance and buttermilk contrasts. Home to the teeming billions of bickering idiots who failed to appreciate what a treasure they possessed.

So near. And yet, sooo very far away. I can almost reach out and touch her.

I visualized running my fingers through the whorls and spirals that clouded the crystal lens of the sky. Those mountain-dew infusions of liquid vitality, distinguishing this place as different from so many others. As a planet teeming with abundant, vibrant life.

An overwhelming sense of loss threatened to consume me as the vacuum encroaching into my self-contained little world made its presence known. I felt like an autopsy waiting to happen. The inside of my visor fogged up, and my breath created a flimsy barrier against the unfolding nightmare.

Ha! As if that can save me now.

Senses dulled, I continued to float through the ether, pirouetting on eddies as old as the cosmos. The ruined shell of my fragile craft, Discovery, waltzed into view once more. A cenotaph of jagged metal and flickering sparks with my name engraved across it.

And there she is. The pinnacle of mankind’s scientific and technological superiority, reduced to scrap with consummate ease by an accident. A million-to-one chance that no one will ever know about.

I watched, bemused, as a gelatinous blob of phosphorous green goo hovered gracefully above the shattered remains of my ship. It reminded me of a gigantic jellyfish, only with bristles instead of legs.

It had appeared out of nowhere only ten minutes ago, caught me a glancing blow, and literally turned my world upside down. It’s obviously intelligent. I mean, it came back to see what it had collided with. To check me out.

I marveled at the way its filaments probed among the flotsam and jetsam so carefully. It doesn’t seem to realize that I’m the important one, not the bloody machine.

My lonely dance-macabre progressed. In a way, the creature’s naivety was heartwarming. Ah, what the hell. It obviously hadn’t meant any harm. And by the way it’s acting; it still doesn’t know what it’s done.

I lost sight of my newfound friend as I continued to drift, only to be reminded of the seriousness of my predicament. Like a morbid serpent, the severed remains of my umbilical returned to mock me. Waving redundantly, it bid me farewell, weeping precious air into the void. A bitter portent of the tears my family would no doubt shed at the spectacle of my memorial.

I sighed.

Oh well, at least I got to answer the question that’s eluded astronomers for so long. And in a way, it’s just as well no one else knows. We’re just not ready yet.

Yes, I’d made my peace here amongst the solitude of the crowd, and the glittering stars had gathered in silent testimonial, both to my discovery and increasingly labored respiration.

My ears popped. Nausea gripped me. My heart pounded that little bit faster in compensation. Then, like a balloon at a funfair, I felt myself begin to swell.

Icy fingers intruded into my fragile inner sanctum. Bursting capillaries, it induced a lack of awareness and contrasting high of euphoric lethargy. Anesthetized to the fact I was now grazing the outer atmosphere, I grinned. A Jolly Roger of flesh and bone encapsulated within a carbon fiber pennant.

I began to glow and waved goodbye to my fellow traveler.

Will he notice me at last, as I blaze across the sky?

My vision blurred and began to fold back in on itself. I tensed, stiffening in morbid anticipation. Then, as if in recompense, I was granted a final view of mackerel clouds amid an ocean of soul-wrenching tranquility.

One, perfect, frozen, moment in time.

Relaxing, I breathed out…and slept.


- - -
I am a military and police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with my wife and growing family of rescue cats. I have always had a love of writing, and my new home provides the perfect inspiration to be creative. I am a contracted author of both fiction and poetry and have the privilege of supporting a number of charities through my work.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

11/14/13

Even Non-Corporeals Get Lonely
By David K Scholes


Deep Space
The Far Future

The entity slowed down to take in the grandeur of it all.

It had seen much of wonder during what it considered its comparatively short existence. Black holes, neutron stars, binary star systems, magnetic pulse stars, wormholes, dimensional rifts and swirling galaxies seen from the great voids between galactic systems. It had witnessed the birth and death of planets and whole planetary systems.

It had seen all manner of alien civilizations. From great star fleets of empire to humble probes that had traveled much further than their creators had ever imagined. From worlds teeming with untold billions to so many, many lifeless worlds each of these still containing their own kind of beauty.

The entity never ceased to tire of this. Even now it had much to learn and the secrets of the Universe continued to unfold for it.

Of course it wasn’t all tourism. The entity and those of its ilk had been tasked by their creator to save lives, even civilizations, where possible. It might be the life of a single space farer or a whole civilization whose sun was about to go nova. It might be a single star ship approaching the event horizon of a black hole, or an entire star fleet threatened by a cosmic storm.

The entity had not been this way before and now before it was the Multiverse’s only interdimensional black hole. That is to say a black hole existing in every dimension at the same time. The entity saw that it was not as massive as what the corporeals called the super massive black holes that it had seen at the core of many Galaxies but it was far more magnificent.

Yet even at this most magnificent moment, since it had acquired its current near omnipotent form, the entity felt something gnawing at it. As if despite all the grandeur surrounding it there was something absent, something missing from its existence.

Then it detected a telepathic communication. Not from across the void but actually quite close. From one of its own kind. Often it forgot that it was not unique. Its creator had discouraged fraternization indeed even communication among its kind. Also the Universe, let alone the Multiverse was a rather large place.

The communication was faint at first – tentatively probing.

“A place of magnificence,” it telepathed “do you detect the vast numbers of dimensional rifts leading to so many other dimensions? Can you sense still the energy signatures of starships even star fleets that fell into the singularity. The life essences of all those that perished here?”

“It is like a vast intertemporal archive,” the entity telepathed back.

Then there was telepathic silence. A rather long silence. Followed by an entirely different communication.

“Fred, is that you? I recognize your small residual corporeal life force signature. We all still have them you know.”
“Bill, Bill Norris from Lyndhurst in the New Forest,” the entity responded. “What would be the odds against our meeting in our current forms and in this place?”

There was telepathic silence again – an even longer silence.

The entity once known as Bill Norris of Lyndhurst, near Southampton, England, Earth finally responded. “I miss those days Fred. Having a pint of ale in the pub. A walk in the New Forest. And other things.

Then there was telepathic silence for a very long time as the galactic entity recalled every single detail of his former life as the corporeal entity Fred Nerk originally of Basingstoke, England, Earth.


- - -
I have written four collections of science fiction stories and two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon) with another collection of short stories to come out shortly. I have been a regular contributor to both the Beam Me Up Podcast and the Antipodean SF sites. My Alien Hunter series appeared on the then Golden Visions Magazine from early 2011 to mid July 2012 when that site closed.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

11/7/13

Future Extinction
By Maurice (Mo)


The sun shone through the trees as James and Derek sat on the terrace. They were going over the plans of the time portal that was well hidden in the motel room. The plan was for one of them to travel to the future and see what it would be like fifty years later. James decided that he would be the one to try it. After going over the plans for what seemed like hours they walked back into the room. The two men made sure they knew exactly what they were going to do before carrying out their plan.
“ Which light switch triggers the wall? James asked.
“The one on the right.” Said Derek. “All you have to do is twist it all the way to the right, all the way to the left then back into the upright position. The wall slides over and then you type in the date on the inside.”
James walked between the two beds towards the light fixtures. He removed the telephone and the table from the wall. He reached over to the light fixture over the bed on the right and twisted it to the right, then to the left. Finally he turned it back into position. The wall slid open revealing a small room. James walked in and looked at the panel on the wall to the right. The panel had today’s date August 16, 1971. James set it for August 16, 2021. He hugged Derek and climbed into the room. James shut the door but it instantly opened. The room had been changed completely.
Everything had changed drastically. The room was a disaster. Everything in the building was falling apart. James walked towards the front of the building. Most of the building was destroyed. He walked towards the street to see what else had changed. The big sign in front of the motel said there was a new pharmacy coming soon. James wanted to find Derek. He started walking towards the street where Derek had lived. It was just a few blocks and he knew he could make the trip. The outskirts of town had not changed much. Lots of homes were abandoned and falling apart but there were a few new ones as well. The house were Derek had lived was not in great shape but it looked a lot better than the rest of the older ones on the street. James went to knock on the door. The older man that had answered looked just like Derek did when they were younger. Derek recognized him immediately and told him to come in. James followed Derek to the kitchen.
“Would you like some coffee?” Derek asked.
“Yes, Thank you. That would be great.”
As Derek went for the coffee James noticed how he wobbled and could barely walk.
“ How are things in this time now Derek? James asked.
“ Things are great except for one thing James.” Derek answered.
“ What’s that?”
“You’re not here James.”
“ What do you mean? I’m right here.”
“ No, I mean you’re not here, you never made it back from that room in the hotel.”
They sat down to go over the details of the trip. Every thing seemed to be fine. They could see nothing that could prevent a return trip. For the next few hours they sat there and tried to come up with the solution.
“It’s getting late.” Derek said. “You can stay here for the night.”
“Thanks Derek, I am really tired.”
The next morning they were talking about the trip. They still couldn’t figure out why James had not returned from the room.
“ You need to get back to that motel before it’s too late James.”
“ Yes we need to go.”
When they got back to where the motel was, they were shocked by what they saw. The motel was gone. The bulldozer had completely leveled the building. Derek and James finally realized why James never made it back from the room in the motel. Neither man knew what would come next. As the day grew longer, James grew weaker. Derek explained to him that since he is not in the right time his body might stop working. By the end of the day James’ body had stopped working altogether. Derek was there for his friend every step of the way. He held his friend’s body as it completely disintegrated in his hands. The remains of James’ body lay at Derek’s feet. Derek was grateful for the time he had with his friend these last two days. As the remains of James were lost in the wind, Derek walked away with tears in his eyes.


- - -

Thursday, October 31, 2013

10/31/13

36
By H. C. Turk


My part is exploratory in nature. Just because we've managed to transport ourselves to an alien planet doesn't mean we have to move in. The thought of never returning home terrifies me. If the rest decide to colonize, we won't be commuting across parsecs of duration space. I would never see my home again. All right, my home is not the best place in the world (or the universe), but at least it's not alien. Though I have a say in the ultimate decision, it's only one voice.

If they decide to settle in, I, I would have to mutiny.

Of course, as scientists we are very advanced, as proven by our profound location. However, gross spaceship locomotion doesn't mean we can achieve similar results on a cultural scale. A semi-human scale. Standing in our tennies, breathing perfect air, we try to measure them. We think we're in a village, but those structures of local materials—wood and stone and metal—might be hollow sculptures, for all we know. They might be storage units for items the populace collected and then it deteriorated and blew away or the bugs ate it. They don't seem to be defensive mechansims, because we aren't being blown up while examining them.

What do you mean, "they"? We haven't found "them." These structures might be a new type of natural product created by the environment, like rocks or trees. Just because they're hollow doesn't mean they're nests. I certainly don't want one to become my nest.

We've been here for some time now. Our quarters are tents, because the ship isn't something to sleep in. It's more like a pair of shoes for several people. You wouldn't sleep in your shoes. The tents are great, not flexible or subject to the vagaries of local weather, which is mild and not at all alien. Yes, much of our whole crowded planet could live here, if they brought their own tents. Mass colonization would require creating an entire infrastructure for supporting non-alien human life, wouldn't it?

"Yes, but you can live indefinitely in a cabin in the woods," my peers tell me, the inferior bastards. "You don't have to be connected to the rest of society, unless you need to listen to the radio or pop into town now and then to buy a new pair of shoes."

"Our shoes last forever."

"I never listened to radio."

Well I listened to radio, when I lived on Earth, and I like a new pair of shoes now and again, even though these last forever, when they fit.

Forever. That's how long they've decided we'll remain here. I can't grab my ball and go home. It's not my ball. I can't return by myself, because that would be stealing their only transportation. That would be stealing their shoes.

A part of me understands the glory in remaining: the very first people in the history of mankind to live on another planet, one of Earth's oldest wishes.

No, it's a modern wish. An immortal wish is to live on a paradise, not in a planet.

It's time to decide; we're running out and can't pop into town to replenish. It's now or never. Returning would be very costly.

Running out? We have provisions to last as long as our shoes.

That type of running out is not what I mean.

It's time for all of us to decide, but we can't, because one of us is dead. The horror is incomparable, alien. In our modern world, people don't die easily. Our medicine is too good. They have to suffer from a spontaneous accident, or carefully planned murder. Or ghastly alien slaughter. That's new. We are living in a new land—no, no, we're only visiting. I don't want to live here. This can't be my home. It's too much like home. The land is open here, though foggy. No, that's a different type of haze; this is an alien land. An alien pasture in the wilderness that reminds me of home. I don't want this to be my home.

A part of me could love this place. The ambiance created mutually by the pasture and the haze and the buildings enthralls me. But those structures are not plural, and not alien, because I'm viewing our spaceship, which could take me home, even though it seems I have already arrived. My home, in the wilds with my cabin, has no alien haze caused by rotting corpses.

Why are the aliens killing us? We're leaving, so they don't have to reject us. But we don't see them and our technologies don't inform us of any aliens. If they're killing us because we're leaving, doesn't that mean they want us to stay? But if they want us to stay, why are they killing us? Evidently we are dealing with an alien mentality, and that senselessness makes perfect sense.

We have to hide. We have to run to our shoes, but can't expose ourselves without getting murdered.

No, no, we have to run to our ship.

Too late; the entire party is dead. At least, the part that made the bad decision, which was very human of them, and thus inappropriate for an alien existence. When you travel to an alien planet, you become alien to them.

Now that the aliens are gone, I can have this place to myself. If it fits.


- - -
H. C. Turk is a self-taught writer, sound artist, and visual artist living in Florida. His fiction has been published by Villard, Tor, and The Chicago Review.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

10/24/13

Wallace
By Michael White


An extra-terrestrial being travels through innumerable galaxies en route to Earth, only to kill itself shortly after arriving: why? Allow me to start from the beginning. No, I am pressed for time here, so instead allow me to start from near the Fall.

Several weeks ago, on a slow afternoon, what appeared to be a corpse was brought into my firm’s laboratory. From the little information I obtained through its couriers, I was able to surmise not only that it was in fact a corpse, but also that it had fallen to its death. Master detective work, I know, but it was a good start.

Hung around the corpse’s neck, or what I presumed to be its neck, was an oblong device which emitted a slew of vibration-like sounds. Our in-house translators deemed all but one of the sounds unintelligible: the sound was the word Earth.

I was tasked with dissecting the corpse, so I named it Wallace. (It is important to be on a first-name basis with your specimens.) Wallace is a short pale creature with a whirlpool of little spikes along its torso. It has a mouth-like crater middlemost its chest, sandpaper skin, and many stern eyes the color of burnt bread, which pimple its face—or maybe its genitals; it is difficult to know what is up or down (if there is “up” or “down”) with Wallace. I only tell you all of this because I struggle even now to put into words what I found inside.

The machine in which Wallace had traveled here was soon after found buried at the bottom of a lake in the city. I was fortunate enough to attain a handful of photos through a friend in the police department. In them, the machine, although distorted by water and night’s haze, was shaped much like a torch, and even dead in the water its aura flickered like a strobe light. As of now the machine is still there. The surrounding area has become a sort-of tourist’s attraction: people come from all over the state, stare at the lake and see only the water’s misty crown, and yet leave filled with childlike astonishment. Some even refuse to leave, camping as long as a fortnight in wooden cells along its shore. The whole absurd spectacle reminds me of a Panopticon.

But I digre—

“Samuel! What of the specimen?”

“I’m still working on it, sir.”

“Is that the report?”

“No, sir, it’s a personal log.”

“Have you ever seen a man decapitated?”

“Never.”

“What’d you find inside?”

“I’m afraid I’m not finished yet.”

“Let me rephrase the question: what did you find inside?”

“Sir, that’s the same question.”

“Have you ever seen a man decapitated?”

“I found an image.”

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing else but guts.”

“What of the image?”

“Well…”

“Samuel?”

“…it’s the Roman Colosseum.”


- - -
Originally from Chicago, IL, Michael White is a current full-time student at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. He is working toward his bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

10/17/13

Losing Your Load
By Gary Hewitt


Karell stared at the screen. She prayed Davino HabbalBaddi did not get on her case.

“Anyone got the report for Altan Exports?”

His accusing eight eyes scoured the office.

“Mr HabbalBaddi, I have it here Sir,” squeaked Karell.

The office manager stormed over to her desk.

“Did you not see I marked it U R G E N T?”

Karrell's hands darted to and fro amongst the piles of memos and plunk-it notes. One of her six hands handed over HabbalBaddi's report.

“You damn Gorfick's are all the same,” he muttered. He snatched the paper and stormed off.

HabbalBaddi's middle face flushed in orange. His staff knew the stardust hit the cooler unit when his face turned the colour of deep space.

He was interrupted when the Ejackian Teleportprinter churned into life.

“Get that Abubabell.”

His clerk flew to the printer and plucked a note from the machine. Her wings almost stopped beating when she read the heading.

“I never thought I’d see one of those,”

“What? Bring it here.”

He seized the paper and turned purple.


Ogrenoid: Cargo Lost.

Figures swirled in HabbalBaddi's head; trillions of Zentagi's were invested on the consignment.

“Out of my way,” he shrieked and headed to his inner sanctum.

HabbalBaddi slammed the door. He punched the ID locator of the Ogrenoid into his Fractallocuter.

HabbalBaddi's voice screamed at the emerging image.

“This is Davino HabbalBaddi, office manager of Presics Logistics. What's this nonsense about a lost load?”

The image strengthened. Davino could visualise the interior of the Ogrenoid. He fumed when his pleas were ignored. He spotted movement to the left. Davino jumped when powerful jaws sprang at the screen. He shivered for he knew the name of the dangerous creature.

He assured Admiral Denier Humisle it would be safe to transport Farnocks to Rhesa Prime. His personal poron rang.

“Davino, it’s Sorgaram Pwattan here. What's this about a lost load?”

The Chief Director of Presics Green space division disliked surprises.

“I'll be right up.”

Davino's seven legs scuttled towards the imperial office. The alienated office staff glanced at their trembling boss. His three heads had turned black.

“Sit,” ordered Pwattan.

Davino cowered under his bosses gaze. Sorgaram was the most impressive Gutawaler he had ever seen. Sorgaram's stomach had grown to huge dimensions and his array of eyes could seek out the tiniest flaw in any alien’s composure.

“A Lost load, Davino. This is furoggian terrible.”

The rise in Sorgaram's voice shattered Davino's electron shield of confidence.

“Can you explain the loss of over seventeen trillion Zentagis?”

“Farnocks, Sir. The stupid humans didn't follow protocol.”

“Who authorised this?”

“It was a joint decision.”

“Answer the furoggian question.”

“I did,” said HabbalBaddi. He examined the pixellated floor.

“You're responsible,” cursed Sorgaram. He pointed an accusing tentacle at his office manager.

HabbalBaddi did not dare reply.

“I've got no choice Davino.”

Sorgaram opened up a cavernous drawer to his left. He removed a Mallevian Extrapolator.

“You’re fired,” he said.

He pressed the orange button. Davino HabbalBaddi was sucked into the sacking device. Sorgaram was damned if he was going to be blamed.


- - -
Gary Hewitt has had several stories published in various publications including Linguistic Erosion, M-Brane and the Rusty Nail. His style tends to be dark/bizarre. He is also a member of the Hazlitt Arts Centre writers' group.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

10/10/13

Wilbur’s Great Gaffe
By David Castlewitz


When the bride entered the auditorium and the wedding guests turned to watch her waddle down the aisle, someone shouted, “My God! She’s a monster.”

She teetered, her bodice heaved, and when she lurched to her waiting human bridegroom, the warts on her puffy cheeks sparkled. Juvenile Cullers trailed her. As a princess of Culleria, she enjoyed the attendance of children to hold her satin train and throw insect-eating flowers in her wake. The man picked to marry her -- an offering to Culleria – shivered as the princess neared.

Henry Wilbur shut his eyes to the image on the wall-mounted monitor. He didn’t want to see his startled face or watch his wife, Cynthia, burst into tears.

“How many times have you watched that?” Wilbur’s advisor asked. Unlike the females, he lacked facial warts, but black and red bumps decorated the backs of his hands.

“It was inadvertent,” Wilbur said. “A joke. You know? Can’t they take a joke?” The smell of ammonia scratched at his nose. Four months aboard the Culler ship had accustomed Wilbur to many smells. Humanoids, lizard-headed beings, as well as scaly Cullers, visited every day, some to gawk, some to tease. Many used scent to enhance communications.

Wilbur turned to his dinner, a bowl of soft black pudding. According to the advisor, it had been developed to meet his nutritional needs.

“Recite your apology.” The advisor’s pointy teeth flashed white against his red skin. “As the judge ordered.”

Wilbur cleared his throat. Slowly, in Cullerian Speak, he intoned the words he’d been taught.

“I am truly and deeply regretful of my speech and apologize to Culleria and its royal family and to the princess herself for what I said at her wedding.”

The advisor stepped to the door. “You must sound sincere or my leaders will annihilate Newark.”

#

The “Sense-of-Humor” defense, Wilbur’s lawyer said, would exploit a common complaint about Earth’s conquerors. A cartoon in a newspaper, a satirical essay, a TV skit or even a newscaster’s aside often brought swift punishment. Sometimes, they demolished a building, as they did when a local television station in Chicago staged a panel discussion that included a reference to the Cullers as lizards because of their scaly skin.

In Wilbur’s case, four Cullers and three humans listened to witnesses for a week. Scores came forward to identify Wilbur. Although similar sentiments had been whispered elsewhere, Wilbur spoke loud enough to be heard.

His defense lasted two minutes. It was a joke, not an insult. But the judges, even the human ones, rejected this claim, found Wilbur guilty and announced the sentence:

Newark would be destroyed.

Unless Wilbur apologized in a ceremony performed on Culleria in the presence of the Royal House.

#

When the transporter entered orbit around Culleria, Wilbur welcomed the end of his journey. Then came the first surprise. The Culler advisor told him that an apology was made bereft of adornment, including clothes.

Dressed in a properly fitted suit, Wilbur thought he looked successful, not at all like a mere government office clerk. Naked, with his pot belly and knobby knees, he looked as ineffectual as the Cullers portrayed Earthmen in movies and TV.

“Naked? Okay.” He sighed.

The advisor patted the scales under his chin. “I hope your spousal person is not embarrassed.”

“This is going out on TV?”

“Interplanetary,” the advisor said, and continued with, “The coals will be hot, but you must not run.” They walked out of his cell and down the empty corridor to the waiting shuttle.

“Coals?” Wilbur asked.

“Don’t worry. We have ointments to heal the burns.”

“You do have oxygen?” Wilbur said. “I’ll be able to breathe down there, right?”

The advisor frowned. “Of course.”

#

The event took place in an outdoor arena. Wilbur anticipated seeing bleached skulls on sticks, impaled enemies and axe-wielding soldiers. Instead, helmeted security personnel in black and red jumpsuits protected him from the crowds lining the blue carpet leading to the arena gates. Females wailed, their facial warts oozing pink foam. Males shook scaly arms and knobby fists.

Wilbur entered the stadium and walked to the path of sizzling coals. The fumes stung his eyes. Tears trickled down his cheeks. The Royals watched from a raised stage.

Prompted by the advisor, Wilbur shrugged off his robe. The audience brayed and honked. A drumbeat sounded, followed by the clash of cymbals, the blare of bugles.

Wilbur walked on the coals. Heat punished his feet, but he knew he shouldn’t hop.

“With dignity,” the advisor had said. “An apology must be delivered with dignity.”

Wilbur reached the end of the long path, his chest heaving, his feet peeling. He stepped onto a pad of thick cooling grass and looked up at the Royal Family. Layers of scales, large warts, and narrow mouths with pointy teeth greeted him.

The grass platform rose in the air. Wilbur fought to keep his balance when he drew level with the Royals.

The largest of the male Cullers bellowed. The advisor brought him a translator pin. “You are the worthless human who insulted my daughter?” the pin said.

“Now,” the advisor mouthed.

Wilbur recited his speech, straining to get each word right. When he finished, the Culler King said, “You will seal your words with the refuse of my daughter’s mother.”

The queen squatted over a clay bowl and dropped the flap covering her rear. A dark brown mass oozed out of her body and into the bowl. With a grunt, the Culler queen closed the flap and resumed her seat next to the king. An attendant brought the bowl to Wilbur and gave him a wooden spoon.

“Eat it,” the advisor whispered. “Or see Newark destroyed.”

Wilbur sniffed the bowl. No odor. He dipped his spoon into the dark mass. It had the same consistency as the pudding they’d fed him over the past six months.

The king hooted. “And you say we have no sense of humor.”


- - -

Thursday, October 3, 2013

10/3/13

The Distant Drums
By Scott Raven


I can hear the beating of distant drums,
Imagination fueling the possibilities of life beyond my reach.
Softly and rhythmic, the sound of another culture runs through my mind like a deep river,
Lustfully beckoning my belonging.

A distant busyness taunts my solitary existence,
My limited abilities thicken my thirst for exploration,
And the time has come to drop excuses and run,
Run away from normality and towards a land where one's name is absent.

Despite ingrained passion, this vital desire remains nothing more than a distant hope,
much like a star we wish upon which is forever out of reach.
The far flung drums remain forever far away.

I have seen little of the Earth and her perpetual immensity,
Yet I know out there, hidden in plain sight lies my final resting spot,
And it ties me like an anchor in an ocean of possibilities.

All the while, the voice heard when all senses are stripped can tell,
My body belongs in a place I do not know.
It screams at me: Am I not meant for more?

I am homesick for a place I have never been,
Yet despite the distance from this real fantasy,
I can still hear the beating of their drums.


- - -
Scott Raven from Buckinghamshire, England.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

9/26/13

Soy or Miso?
By James Pollard


The portal to Tanaka’s Noodles shop slid open and two men came in.  The 3D waitress, standing outside the door, said “Irrashaimase.”  They sat down at the counter closest to the door.
Nani kuu ka?” Hideko asked.
“Uhhh, I don’t speak Japan,” said one of the men.  “Do ya understand her, Al?”
“Nope,” said Al.  “I guess she’s askin whatcha wanna eat.”
“Shaddup, Al,” the man said.  “Hey dame, what grub you got?”
It was twilight in Neo Tokyo.  The woman picked up two menu pads and deposited them in front of the men.  A 3D neon bowl of noodles steamed in the air above the counter, a larger version hung outside over the small shop.  From the far end of the counter Tomoko Nakamura watched the men.  She had been talking to Hideko when they came inside. 
“Good.  I want a bowl of noodles.  Gimmie a fork, don’t want those dumb sticks to eat with,” the man said.
“I want the same,” said Al.
“Soy or miso?” asked Hideko.
“Huh?”
“What’s that?” asked Al.
“Soy or Miso?” repeated Hideko.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with a soy or a miso?” the man exclaimed.
“Soy is soy and miso is miso.  It flavor noodles.”
“Oh.”
“Soy or miso?”
“I dunno what miso tastes like,” said the first man.  “But I dun like soy.  Too salty.”
“Miso is a bean, I think,” said Al.
“Shaddup Al.  You dun know nuthin’. Hey dame, which one you recommend? Is the miso any good?”
Hideko raised two thumbs up.
“Alright, alright.  Gimmie a bowl of miso noodles.”
“Make that two,” said Al.
Hai, wakarimashita.”
“Hey.  You speak English?” asked Al.
Iya, eigo dekimasen.  Sumimasen.”
“She’s pretty cute,” said Al.  “Ain’t she, Max?”
“Not my type.”
Al looked at Max.  “Are you blind?  Both of these dames are hot.”
“Shaddup Al.  No, they ain’t,” said Max.
“Hey, what’s your name?” Al asked.
“Tomoko,” she said. 
“Tomoko, I’m Al.”
“I’m getting sick of telling ya, Al.  Shaddup!”
Hideko set down two bowls of noodles in front of the men.  She put a fork and napkin next to each bowl.  She watched the men eat.
“Whatcha lookin at, dame?” asked Max.
“She’s looking at this handsome fellow.”
Max laughed. Tomoko laughed.
“Hey, no need to poke fun.  What’s your name, good lookin?”
“Me no speak Engrish.”
Max laughed. Tomoko laughed.
“Shaddup, Al.”
They continued eating.   Both men wore identical black leather trench coats.  The man called Al wore a chain link utility belt.  Two long vibroknives hung from each side.  Smaller knives filled the rest of the belt slots.  He was short with white pasty skin.  He wore white lasgoggles above a long nose.  The man called Max was taller, broader, darker.  A bandolier containing multiple power clips hung across his chest.  The stock of a Mark IV blaster poked out of his coat pocket.  He had a round face.  He wore purple colored lasgoggles.  Max finished first.  The other man pushed his noodles around the bowl with the fork.
“Who’s in the kitchen?” asked Max.
“Tanaka,” said Tomoko.
“Call him out here.”
“Funny flavor,” said Al.
“Why?”
“What was your name again, Tokoko?”
“Tomoko.”
“Ok Tomoko.  Listen up.  You know why we are here.”
Hideko picked up the empty bowl and dropped it down a chute in the counter.  She wiped the counter with a rag.  “Noodles?” said Hideko.
Tomoko laughed.  Al laughed.  He put down the fork and pushed his bowl away.  Hideko slid the bowl down the counter to the disposal chute.
“You talk silly,” Al said.
“Shaddup, Al,” said Max.  “Tokiko, get Tanaka out here.”
“Tomoko,” she replied.
Hideko wiped the counter in front of Al.
“Tell him to come out here.”
“Why?” asked Tomoko.
“Because I said so, smart girl,” said Max.
“Let me handle this, Max,” said Al.  “Hey, pretty girl.  You smart too eh?  Call the cook out here, will ya?”
“Why?
Max laughed.  Hideko laughed.
“Shaddup, Al.  You really talk silly.”  Max unbuttoned his coat.  “Now Tokoko, get Tanaka out here.”
“Tomoko.”
“Huh?” said Max.
“Tomoko,” she said.  “Me name Tomoko.”
“Whatever,” Max pulled out the blaster and set it down on the counter. 
Tomoko looked at Max.  She slid her hand along the counter to a small button panel.  She pressed a blue button, “Tanaka san.  Chotto soto e onegai.”
Max looked at Al, “See?  Ya dummy.”
Al was looking at Hideko.
A large android stepped through a recessed door behind the counter.  The door slid shut.
“Are you Tanaka?” asked Max.
The android bowed low.  It wore a dirty white apron and a red bandana around its head.  The silver face showed no emotion.
Max picked up the blaster.  “Ok, now all of you here,” he said.  “We have a question for ya.”
Hideko said, “Soy or Miso?”
Al laughed.
“Shaddup Al.”  Max waved the blaster in the air.   “I expect answers.”
“What is the question, sir?” asked the android Tanaka.
“Don’t get smart, tin man.”
“You know why we are here,” said Al.
“To enjoy my noodles?” asked the android.
Tomoko laughed.  Hideko laughed. 
“Whaddaya know, Max.  A smart tin man!” said Al.
“Shaddup, Al,” he replied.  “I’m warning ya.”
Max tapped his blaster on the counter.  “We are here to kill the Martian.  Do ya know the big Martian named Ole Sammy?”
“Yes.”
“He’s one of ya regulars, right?  Comes in every night?”
“Sometimes,” said Tanaka.  “He doesn’t come in every night.”
“And he comes at the 6th watch cycle, don’t he?”
“If he comes, yes.”
Al looked at Hideko.  “Hey gorgeous, whaddaya got to drink around here?  That soup was too salty.”
“Sake?” she asked.
“Yeah, sake sake.  That sounds nice.”
“Shaddup, Al.”  Max tapped his blaster on the counter again.  “We’re working here.  No drinking on the job.”
“Excuse me, sir.”
“What?”
“You said the soup was too salty?” asked the android.
“Yeah,” said Al.  “My throat’s all dry.”
“Please accept my most humble apologies, sir.”  Tanaka bowed.  “That recipe is several hundred years old, passed down by the founder of Tanaka Noodles.”
“Wait a sec,” said Max.  “Someone programmed you to cook?”
“No sir.  I learned firsthand from the previous owner, who died without a male heir.”  Tanaka pointed to Tomoko.  “Tomoko has continued her family’s tradition, but given me the family name as tradition dictates a Tanaka male in the kitchen.”
“Didn’t you say to stay focused, Max?”
“Shaddup Al.”
“Excuse me, sirs.”
“Whatcha want?”
“What should we do if a customer comes in?”
“I’ll tell you what to do,” said Max.  “Tell him to go away.  Tell him you’re malfunctioning.”
“But sir, that is impossible.  I have 78 years left on my power source.  I can never malfunction.”
“You better if you know what’s good for you.”
Max looked at the wall time piece.  It was fifteen sectors past cycle six.  The portal hissed open and the 3-D waitress repeated the traditional greeting.  A young man walked in.
Sumimasen, kyo wa hayaku yasunde imasu node,” said the android with a bow.
The young man nodded and left.
“You see Al, the tin man is really smart.”
Two other people came into the noodle shop.  Tanaka said the same thing to each of them.  The android pointed to the wall time piece.  It was 5 sectors past cycle seven.
“The Martian will not come tonight,” said Tanaka.
“Let’s give him 10 more sectors.”
“Come on, Max.  He’s not coming.  Let’s scram.”
“Shaddup Al.  Alright, let’s jet.”
“What should we do about them?”
“What about them?”
“Well, we can’t just leave them here.  It’s sloppy.”
“Shaddup Al.  I dun like it either.”  Al pushed away from the counter.  “But it’s their lucky day, I guess.”
“Yeah, real lucky, I guess.”
The two men left the noodle shop.  The 3D woman said “Domo arigato gozaimashita!” as the portal closed.
“Should we warn the Martian?” asked Tomoko.
“I think you should forget about it,” said Hideko.
“I don’t like it,” said Tanaka.  “I don’t like any of it at all.”
“But they were going to kill him!”
The android cook turned away.
Tomoko pressed a few keys on a recessed keyboard.  A 3D screen opened up in the air above the counter.  After a buzzer sounded, a large man appeared on the screen.  He had dark hair, eyes, and skin.
“Yes?”
“Excuse me, Ole Sammy.  I need to speak with you.”
“What is it?”
“Two men were just here in the noodle shop.  They said they are going to kill you.”
“Oh.  Ok, is that all?”
“Would you like their descriptions?  Should I call the police?”
“No, and no.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No, there isn’t anything you can do.”
“They want to kill you, Ole Sammy.”
“There isn’t anything anyone can do now.  But thank you for informing me.
The 3D screen fizzled out.
“Told you to not think about it,” said Hideko.
“I just can’t stand the thought of Ole Sammy just sitting there, waiting for death.
“It’s awful, that’s for sure.”
“He must have got mixed up in some shady business on Mars.”
“I suppose so.”
“Double-crossed the wrong person.”
“That’s what people get killed for.”
“I’m closing the shop early tonight.”
“Ok,” said Hideko.  “That’s great.  I’ll call my boyfriend.”
“But I can’t just do nothing!”
 “Well,” said Hideko, “you best just forget about it.”  She folded the rag and placed it on the corner of the counter. 

- - -
Born and raised in South Louisiana, James enjoys traveling and reading. He loves to write poetry, especially haiku, as well as fiction and non fiction stories, though only his poetry and non fiction has been published so far. He currently lives in Hong Kong. This particular story is science fiction parody of the famous Hemingway short fiction "The Killers".

Thursday, September 19, 2013

9/19/13

We've Got A Live One
By Madeline Dyer


“We’ve got a live one.”

Those were the first words I ever heard the aliens say. Several of them said it, one after another, passing the message down the ranks. Some sounded excited, others amazed, many of them awed. I was rather surprised that my built-in translator was able to translate these odd being’s words; maybe we’d caught one of them before? Maybe I was the first live specimen of my species to be caught by these strange, strange beings. And I wasn’t entirely sure whether that was a good thing.

Well, of course it wasn’t; it was never a good thing to be caught!

“I don’t need a lead,” I told the nearest alien, (who suited the name of ‘Kypzi’), the one who was holding the other end of rope, “I’m hardly going to run off when you’ve got a gun pointed at me.”

My words made no difference to my situation; maybe their translation devices weren’t up to the standards of mine? A shame really, considering the consequences...

I stared at the alien to my left, and decided to call him (I believe he’s male) ‘Xolprehone’. Xolprehone had a large beaky nose and a monster amount of rugged hair. His eyes were deep and big, sparkling with lost gems. His friend, a lighter-built version of himself, who suited the name of ‘Jyog’ wrote something down on his clipboard and turned to inspect me.

“Oh, yes, definitely a live one, this one. Oh, the fame!” Kypzi lifted his massive limbs into the air. He was a good five feet taller than me, like the majority of his species were, and I flinched.

“Just have to make sure we get this one to the depot, alive,” the alien behind Xolphrehone said. Her voice reeked of exasperation.

“Do you think this one’s female?” Jyog asked, casting his strange eyes over me.

“Of course I am!” I screamed back, rather insulted, because I am very feminine. “And what exactly are you planning on doing to me?” I added rather anxiously.

They, of course, ignored me.


* * *


The Tirrotin Times 18th July 2304


DR. PHILLIP JAMES & CO CAPTURE THE FIRST LIVE TIME-ALIEN.


THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER IS STILL CARRYING OUT THE INITIAL TESTS ON THIS NEW BEING; SCIENTISTS SAY THE DESIRED OUTCOME IS ‘UNLIKELY’.



* * *


The old woman sat in her old cottage at her old table, cradling her wizened hands. She trembled with every sound of the trees’ fingers brushing against her cracked window pane. It couldn’t be true, could it? No, it couldn’t.... Her son was gone.... They couldn’t bring him back.... It was too late... And anyway, she didn’t believe in this new-fangled magic.... she didn’t believe in aliens...

Nothing could bring him back, she was sure.

The lengths that these mad scientists were going to angered the old woman, they were stupid! The methods were stupid, the ideas were stupid and the scientists were stupid. He was gone! As if an 'alien’ could bring back her son. The very idea was absolutely ridiculous.

She got up and looked at the clock. Twelve hours left. In twelve hours she’d know. Ha! They’d know. They’d realise how stupid they’d been. As if this could ever work!


* * *


“I demand that you let me go immediately!” I tried to sound civilised, and repeated my order in the seven hundred and fifty-three languages that I knew; a process which is really quite quick considering that many of the languages are on the telepathic level and can be ‘spoken’ at the same time as the ‘hearable’ tongues.

The room was cold and harshly lit. I was strapped to a bed in the most uncomfortable positions, and the bed had an alarming amount of tubes growing out of it that wrapped around my little body, trapping me. The gun was also nearby.

“Is there any way to turn it off?” Jyog asked the alien behind me. He pressed a button near my ear and the bed moved into a sitting position. But, it was only a little better.

The alien at the foot of my bed shrugged and rolled his eyes. “You got the tool?”

“Getting it now,” one of them replied in a crisp voice that was of a neutral tone. I couldn’t see that particular alien, but I think he or she was behind me.

Ok, so now I was getting very worried. Very worried indeed. Especially as it looked like they were about to perform some sort of experiment that none of the aliens seemed entirely comfortable with. And neither was I, but they didn’t know the consequences...

“This better work,” one of the aliens whispered.

I gulped as my suspicions were confirmed. It was inevitable; she was wielding a knife and it was travelling towards me at an alarming speed. The light glinted off it, slicing the air, as it came nearer and nearer...


* * *


The Tirrotin Times 19th July 2304


“THE IMPOSSIBLE IS NOW POSSIBLE!”


WHO WOULD EVER HAVE THOUGHT IT? SCIENTISTS ARE STILL ARGUING OVER WHETHER IT REALLY HAPPENED. BUT ONE THING IS DEFINITE: AFTER FIVE YEARS, JON LEEMAN IS ALIVE!


* * *


“There are some things that happen, that we understand,” the prime minister spoke, surveying his audience with his eagle eye, “and some things that happen, that we’ll never understand; this ‘new-life’ is one of them.”

The prime minister signalled to the woman at the back of the stage. She reached up and pulled the velvet rope. The crowd gasped as the curtains drew back.

“Impossible!”

“Oh my-”

“How?”

“That - No!”

“What the-”

“It can’t be true!”

“Wow!”

“Utterly Impossible!”


* * *


“You may return to your own world now,” Kypzi spoke directly to me, over-emphasising every word, speaking to me as though I was a tiny toddler.

I looked at him through my dreary eyes, the world was spinning and I’d never been so exhausted. I could barely breathe.

“Off you go!” Another of the aliens shewed her hands at me, “go on! Your job here’s done.”

“Oh no,” I whispered, “we are not done. It’s only just begun-” I broke off coughing, shielding my eyes from the harsh light above me.

Kypzi looked at me, his strange eyes full of compassion. He mouthed one word: ‘Sorry’.

Yes, I thought, yes. He was sorry. Yes, he was sorry...

...Sorry that he’d just started a war.

My people were furious, I could feel it in my bones, my blood, my limbs, my tail...

Our powers are special, unique and no one should ever force any one of us, against our will, to use our incredible magic to bring someone back. It should always be our choice.

And the humans have broken that rule.


- - -
Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in Devon, England, and has a strong love for mythology and folklore; this in particular inspired her to start writing fantasy. She is currently working on her sixth young adult fantasy novel.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9/12/13

The Bank Teller
By Jerry Guarino


    Joey handed the customer one hundred dollars in crisp twenty dollar bills.  “Here you go Mr. Jones.  You might want to try the new brew from Costa Rica.”   Ever since the merger of coffee shops with banks – my readers may remember the story Starbanks – the public has been clamoring for more services within the bank.  In addition to bank teller, Joey also spent time serving coffee in the morning and waiting tables at the new Italian Bistro, Soldi Facili, in the afternoon.  Not that Joey minded his new multi-tasking job description; he was able to double his salary without an extra commute.
    Of course, the building layout for these businesses had to change.  Even though the Café and Bistro were in the lobby of the bank, they had to be separated from the bank vault.  Then there was the artsy cinema, providing foreign films and fancy appetizers in the evening.  All in all it was quite an incredible business venture.  You could start the day with morning coffee, do your banking, have lunch in the bistro and catch the latest film from Italy at night.  The dry cleaner will be moving in next week.
    And who would be providing loans for all the construction and new business accounts?  Why, the bank of course.  In fact all the employees of all these businesses supported each other because they had 25% discount cards for in-house purchases.
    A tall woman limped over to Joey’s station.  “Excuse, me.  Do you know a good doctor in town?”
    “Just visit our clinic, around that corner in Red Level C.  Tell them Joey sent you.”  (Joey got discount points for referrals)
    A short, rotund man wearing a rumpled black suit waddled over to Joey.  “I’m new in town and I’d like to open an account.”
    “Certainly sir.  We just have to fill out this form.  Where are you coming from?”
    “New York.  Around Niagara Falls.”   That was the wrong answer.  Suddenly


everyone on the platform focused on the new customer.  In unison, they performed the


old vaudeville skit. They walked menacingly toward him.


“Niagara Falls.  Slowly I turned.  Step-by-Step.  Inch-by-Inch.”


Just when the stranger feared for his life, they all gave him a smile and pat on the back.


“We try to keep our theater skills up to date.  You never know when you’ll be called on


for a song or a skit.”


    “Whew.  I was worried.  I think I’ll take this application over to the bar and have a drink while I fill it out.”
    “Certainly” said Joey.  “You can give it to the waitress when you’re finished.”
As the bank was closing for the day, Mrs. Mariani, the branch manager motioned over to Joey.
“Joey, please sit down.”
    “Yes, Mrs. Mariani.”
    “I noticed how helpful you have been in cross-selling our customers to other in-house businesses.  How would you like to be promoted to Floor Director?”
    “Why, yes.  That would be great.  Thank you.”
    Mrs. Mariani flipped a switch under her desk; the branch was transformed into a stage with lighting and seats.  From the left wing, a dozen Indian dancers appeared and performed a Bollywood song in celebration of Joey’s new job.  Naturally, this drew a crowd that joined in the dance like a flash mob.
    The next day, Joey came to work in a tuxedo, with spats, a whistle, and a mustache (it must have been fake), looking very much like the ringmaster of a circus.  “Joey.  You look great.  Everyone will know that you’re in charge here,” said one of the tellers.
    “Thanks.  It’s not too much, is it?”
    “Not at all.  As long as you don’t set up a trapeze and high wire act.”
    So Joey wandered among the crowd, answering questions.
    “Excuse me sir.  Do you know where I can find a caterer?”
    Joey paused a moment, looked at his iPhone, then looked up.  “Yes Ma’am.  We have a new caterer on level 2.  Appetites To Go.  They cater parties for the Food Network.  I’m sure they can help you.”
***
    Well, it wasn’t long before Joey was approached by the owner of Soldi Facili.  “Joey, we are going to remodel our bistro into an elegant evening restaurant, prendiamo più soldi.  Would you consider being my maître d?”
    Joey was taken aback.  “I certainly would.  When will it open?”
    “Within a month.  All the construction is being done at night, so it won’t disrupt the other businesses.”
    Joey shook the restaurant owner’s hand.  “Thank you.  I can’t wait.”
***
    It was Joey’s first night at prendiamo più soldi.  A sophisticated couple was seated at the best table, adjacent to the opera stage.  As the tenor was preparing, Joey approached the couple.  “Welcome.  My name is Giuseppe.  If there is anything special you need, please call on me.  Your waitress will be here in a moment.”  Joey snapped his finger and a lovely young Italian woman glided into position.
    “These are very important patrons Soriana.  Only your very best attention will be expected.”
    “Yes, sir.  I will treat them like family” said Soriana.
    “Very good.  Then I will leave these dear people to your care” said Giuseppe, and he motioned for the tenor to begin his concert.
    The tenor had a magnificent voice and delighted all the restaurant patrons with arias from Italian operas.  By the end of the night, the owner was convinced that Joey was the best hire he had made.  
    “Joey.  A perfect first night.  How do you feel?”
    “It is a dream job sir.  I couldn’t be happier.  Thank you again for giving me the opportunity.”
    “Well, get on home now and get some rest.  Tomorrow is Friday night and with the reviews we are going to get from tonight, it should be packed.”
    “Very good sir.  See you then.”
    As Joey was walking out, he noticed a light on in the bank.  Hmm.  The cleaning crew would have been gone hours ago.  I better check this out.  Joey peeked into the vault area and saw two men putting cash into bags.  Joey reached into his pocket, dialed 911 and waited for the police to arrive.
    The men finished sooner than expected and headed out the back exit.  Joey knew he had to do something.  That was his bank and no one was going to rob it while he was there.  He rushed out the side exit and confronted the robbers.  He put his hand inside his jacket pocket in the shape of a gun.
    “Stop right there.  Put the bags down and walk away and you won’t get hurt.”
    The robbers weren’t afraid, but cautious.  “Who are you?  You’re not a cop.”
    “Never mind what I am.  The gun will do all the explaining if you don’t leave now.  Police are on the way.”
    “Look at this guy Al.  Looks like a waiter”
    “Yeah, he probably has a sausage in his pocket.”  The two thieves laughed at Joey.
    Joey pulled out the object from his pocket, pointed it all the robbers and gave one last request.  “I warned you.  This is your last chance.”
    The robbers saw that it was no sausage, but some sort of weapon, like a space gun.  One of them surrendered, but the other one turned to run with the bag of money.
    “You asked for it,” said Joey and he blasted him with 20,000 volts of electricity.  It was a Taser gun.  Joey had apprehended the men and all the cash.  Then the police rolled up with sirens blaring.
    “He tried to get away, but I zapped him.”
    “Good work son.  Say what are you supposed to be anyway?”
    Joey stood tall and straightened his tie.  “I’m a bank teller.”
    The next day, Joey returned to the bank and of course, worked evenings at the restaurant.


- - -
Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, "50 Italian Pastries", is available on Amazon.com and as a Kindle eBook. Please visit his website at http://cafestories.net


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