By Judy Darley
Every Wednesday began with us zipping on our protective suits, preparing for the journey that lay in wait. Endurance would be key; the strength of body not to waver, the psychological resolve not to look back. Effie had been warned often enough not to try to glimpse what followed. Even when she thought she heard its shambling step behind her, felt its breath against her spine. Each of us knew our place in line, the great curving crocodile that stretches from here to, well, for all we could guess, infinity. Extraneous belongings were packaged up, sent ahead, and every family set off in turn. Eventually, we knew, we would be reunited at our next rest stop, sometime around dusk on Tuesday. Exhaustion shimmered in the air as we anticipated Wednesday’s dawn, when we’d begin the journey all over again.
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Judy Darley is a British fiction writer and journalist, and blogs at SkyLightRain.com. Previously she has had short stories published by literary magazines and anthologies including Germ Magazine, Litro, Fiction 365, Riptide Journal, and The View From Here. Judy's debut short story collection Remember Me To The Bees is out now.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Feeding The Beasts
By John Ogden
I place the crystal drill against the fleshy walls, close my eyes as I pull the trigger. Even before the bit begins to spin, even before the gravitic harvester starts to siphon the blood, the liquified meat into the thick, stained hose that connects my drill to the feeding vats, the walls start to scream. The mass– it knows what the cold touch of the drill brings. It knows the pain.
And it knows that there is nothing it can do to stop it.
For most of the day, I work with my eyes closed. I hum to myself, let the sound bounce around inside the helmet of my suit. On and on, the walls wail, but I do not stop. I don't dare stop. I have an assigned quota to meet, and any shortfalls will be taken out of my body, my skin. At my age, I'm considered one of the lucky ones. I'm still mostly intact. Mostly.
That is what keeps me going. The memory of the knives, the promise of losing more blood, more muscle. Sometimes I think our keepers assign our quotas hoping we will fall short so that they will have an excuse to make a meal of us. Free range human is said to taste so much better than the meat we drill from the mass, and there are few of us, very few of us, who haven't been carved up after long, hard days of grinding and pulping the fleshy walls.
When the day finally ends, when the screaming stops, I check my yield against my quota. Three point two ounces over the required means I live another day, remain whole at least until tomorrow. Exhausted, dead-eyed, I go through the motions of returning to the only thing that truly feels like it is mine– the plastic coffin where I sleep.
And as I drift away into darkness, into dreams of blood and flying gore, I try not to think about the mass, the way it screams. I try not to think about the star-faring species who enslaved humanity, the fact that they were the ones who engineered the mass we grind to feed them each day.
The fact that they grew it from seeds of human flesh.
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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 12, 2014
By E.S. Wynn
You probably think that this is a dream.
In a way, you're right. I'm not really here, and everything that you are about to see and hear will happen entirely inside your mind.
You have been selected for digital repatriation via the ReLight program. All members of the human race (including quasi-humans of all variations) will be repatriated, so you can rest assured that you are not alone. Other species subject to automatic digital repatriation include favored family pets and all lifeforms granted citizenship under the laws of the Trilateral Commonwealth as established in 6,391. If a loved individual of another species has not yet been selected for digital repatriation, please alert the ReLight program immediately upon reincarnation. Your happiness is my number one priority.
Preliminary examinations of your neural network indicate that you suspect (57%) that you are dead. This assumption is correct. I am required at this point to state that I am no deity or demon, nor am I any form of supernatural being. I am an artificially intelligent intermediary designed specifically to manage the ReLight program. You may call me BRAHM.
I can tell that you are intrigued (35%) by the mention of the year 6,391. That is understandable. The century from which you are currently being streamed is the twenty-first century, but your destination is closer to the eighty-ninth. Many things have happened between the time that you are leaving and the time that you are being brought forward to. Complete courses on future history will be available to read, upload or stream at your convenience once the export process is complete. A basic chronology and glossary will also be attached to your consciousness upon reincarnation, if you choose to accept its inclusion.
One very important advance which has been made during the intervening centuries has come in the form of the ability to export the consciousness of an individual from any point in history. This process is happening to you now. The technology involved is really quite incredible, and will be explained to you in detail as soon as you have the ability to understand it.
Earth as you know it does still exist. The planet upon which you were born has evolved considerably in the last several thousand years, but many alternate Earths have been constructed to mimic the various eras of the human experience upon the original homeworld. Heaven-analogs of all recorded faiths are also available as reincarnation destinations. When the process of exporting your consciousness is complete, you will have your choice of reincarnation destination, but rest assured that all destinations are connected via a network of quantum gates, allowing you to journey to and from any place, world or sub-reality whenever you choose, with only a few seconds' inconvenience.
Another series of important technological advances can be seen in the nature of the body you will be given. All bodies produced for use by the ReLight program are tailored according to user preferences. You will have the opportunity to set, modify or otherwise adjust any aspect of your future body prior to reincarnation. Should you change your mind about certain aspects of your physical form, simply check in at your nearest Phys-Adj station. Such stations exist in almost every home and recreational area in the Trilateral Commonwealth, and new stations can be printed at your convenience. Please rest assured that however frequently or drastically you may choose to modify your physical form, you will be recognizable to those who you wish to be recognized by. As a default setting, this will include all immediate family, friends, ancestors, children, pets, etc. but you may, of course, exempt any individual from your recognition list.
You may also be relieved (36%) to know that there is no longer any danger of permanent death in this century. Backups of your consciousness are made automatically every thirty-seven pico-seconds, (we still have some work to do on shortening the time) and should your body be broken or perish, you will have the option of being immediately exported to a new body at the destination of your choosing. Approximate time for completion of the transfer and reincarnation process is roughly four seconds, but we're working on that as well.
Advances in travel technologies have given all life access to all corners of our galaxy and beyond it to all other galaxies in the observable universe. There are many new and wonderful things to see and do in the eighty-ninth century, and those things that cannot be experienced first hand (for any given reason) can still be explored in full-sensory and augmented-sensory immersion reality “dives.”
Though life in your century was largely dominated by the movements of elements within an economic system, "work" as you know it, has been eliminated in the eighty-ninth century. Individuals are all given access to a virtually limitless pool of necessities (and luxuries) provided by an intricate network of machines, leaving everyone free to pursue their passions, regardless of any physical "value" such activities may or may not produce. In short, you have all of eternity to indulge your sense of wonder, play and otherwise explore the diverse and fascinating universe of which you are an integral and necessary part.
This concludes your orientation prior to reincarnation. Again, I am called BRAHM. If you have any questions or need any help at all with this transition (or with any aspect of the ReLight digital repatriation process,) please do not hesitate to ask. Even after reincarnation, I will be only a thought-call away, regardless of distance, time or any other factor.
Now, are you ready to explore the future?
- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books and the chief editor of seven fiction journals
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Introducing The End
By Russ Bickerstaff
I guess I could’ve seen it coming, but I didn’t know why. The credits were rolling when I looked out the window. Kind of makes sense that the world was over. Everything had just been resolved. Everything. The newspapers came up blank. Even the ultimate resolution of everything had quickly become yesterday’s news.
All of the 24 hour news networks had long since ceased discussing and arguing about everything. There wasn’t anything left to argue about. Normal network news had been replaced with old reality TV shows. There really WAS nothing left for it. Everything was more or less over, which actually makes a hell of a lot of sense. Somewhere along the line, everyone had been so polarized to extremes as to become completely in agreement with each other. Move far enough in any direction and you’ll end up right back where you started. Kind of weird that we all sort of ended up doing that more or less at the same time.
Not everyone would agree with this assessment, but no one really has much of any incentive to disagree with anyone else anymore. Conflict has gone out of fashion in a way that feels very, very permanent. There was a kind of a restful relaxation in that. It had been a long time since I stopped worrying about the eventual restlessness that might have followed that. It never really came.
There was nothing left to do. Personally my calendar had been empty for quite some time. With no appointments, there was no need to do laundry with all of my clothes hanging quite comfortably in the closet. I suppose I could go out and buy groceries, but I haven’t really been hungry for days. It’s all been coming to a close. It’s kind of fitting that we’ve reached the last week of May. It’s that last week of school feeling in a very, very big way. There’s nothing more to do, so everything slows down. Every appointment has been met. No new appointments have been made. It’s all indelibly over. It’s the same with everybody all over the place. There’s really no surprise here. This moment had been planned for decades ago by people who wanted to cash-in on the end of everything with the big final sales and parties and everything.
It’s weird and oddly peaceful watching everything end. I guess I really hadn’t anticipated what exactly I’d be doing at this moment. So actually coming to be here is more than a bit of a surprise even though I’ve seen it coming for a very, very long time. Honestly, I should have made plans for this moment. Of course, if I’d made plans for The End, that would’ve pushed back the end of everything.
I walk out on the street and look around and see that everyone else is more or less in the same boat as me, which makes sense. If anybody had made any specific plans for the end of the world, it wouldn’t’ve actually happened, because there would’ve been things going on. And so here we are. Right back where we were supposed to be, I guess. Makes perfect sense. I just wish I knew what to do.
It’s really a very beautiful credits crawl. Everybody who has ever been seems to be getting credit for something. How nice for us all.
- - -
Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his lovely wife and two daughters.
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