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.
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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 28, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
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.
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
Even Non-Corporeals Get Lonely
By David K Scholes
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.
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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
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.
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