By Michael Fontana
Rain fell like dimes from a pocket. I lay face down on the grate, on the street, creak of dress shoes passing by. The grate blew hot so the metal of it heated to a boil. My bare arm lay on it long enough to where the skin burned. I thought it would blister so I raised it up. There was a bubble on it but it wasn’t a blister after all. It was a little planet.
How could I tell? I had seen much in my months on the street. I had lived inside of trees like an elf, inside abandoned buildings, inside shelters where nightly stabbings went unchecked. I decided it was safest out in the open where I could at least hear fatal footsteps coming and make a dodge away from them.
The grate offered some heat, boiling facedown while my backside remained exposed to bitter winter cold. I was a tall man so my form fully draped the grate. My clothes were already tattered so scorch marks didn’t mar them more. I smelled ripe like the dumpsters I invaded to seek remnants of other people’s eating.
I had heard of little planets forming on other people’s skin before but never mine. It was a precious item, like my body had become the universe and God, wherever housed, had selected it to unveil brand new forms of life. I was careful to inspect my little planet because the skin surrounding it stood membranous and thin. Within this fragility lay an amniotic fluid that sank with the slightest pressure of my fingertip.
I turned over on my back and then sat up though the heat burned my buttocks. I struggled to see inside the little planet through the fluid. Inside I swore, after a long spell of staring, that the whorls of my fingerprints began to move and gradually that movement took me inside the world. The fluid after all only lay above it all like clouds. Beneath the clouds worked centipedes.
The centipedes were nearly microscopic yet they undulated with their movements, working to build a bridge that led over a silver river where small automobiles hustled to and fro. Puffs of exhaust followed their every acceleration. The centipedes wore steel caps on their heads and spoke in broken cadences that resembled my own English but without any vowel sounds.
It became my mission and goal to protect this little planet from rupture in my days. I didn’t want to wrap it for fear of squishing it to demise so I carried my arm gingerly, the planet clinging just below my elbow. People assumed I was injured, which softened the normal stares I received, my beard growing like a haystack from my chin, my face creased with dirt, my hair long and alive with flies.
I walked along downtown streets in search of food. A dumpster left unchained outside a greasy spoon seemed inviting so I flipped its lid and wormed in, careful to lift the planet up and away from harm. As my feet flailed out of the dumpster lid I suddenly felt a hand grip my ankle and pull me backward.
“Out of there, filth,” a masculine and official voice said.
I kicked briefly free of the grip before it sought me again, this time unyielding, this time followed by a link of cold steel. A handcuff for my foot. How novel. Another hand clasped the second ankle and soon I was hauled out of the container and onto the concrete which I struck first with my nose, breaking its skin into blood. I maintained the little planet in suspension, away from harm as best I could.
“What’s your name?” the police officer asked.
I had long since given up speaking because it only led to more problems. Police, social workers and judges spoke a lot, always with the same end result to the merry-go-round ride: back out on the grate. I sought to pre-empt the empty ride by saying not a word.
“I asked your name,” the officer said again, this time seizing my ankle, adorned in its cuff, and giving it a twist. The torque contorted my face into displeasure: eyes crushed shut, mouth crooked. Yet still I kept the little planet in suspension, outstretched as if it might soon break away from me and find its own singular and independent orbit.
“You hurt?” He asked, now kneeling beside my head, touching my elbow gently, seeming to examine the planet as if to name it and claim it for himself.
I pulled it away from him.
He stood back up. “Uncooperative, eh?” He said. He gave my ankle another twist for good measure before dropping it.
The planet was unaffected. I could feel cars and centipedes inside it rumbling along bridges and roads, toiling in their way, unaware I was their protector and they were under what resembled pure celestial assault.
It was the only responsibility I held in the world, the only point to existence that I had been given and I damn well would defend it even with this gaunt and sometimes drunken apparatus. The officer had released the free end of the cuff so I was able to stand up. The empty cuff tinkled like raindrops on cement as I dragged it away.
“Where you think you going, buddy?” He said.
I said nothing. I continued to move, slow though my motions were, in the direction of lamps on the street where there just might walk witnesses. The officer walked more stridently and seized my arm, narrowly missing the little planet with his hand's brute force.
“You’re coming with me,” he said. “We have laws against vagrancy in this town.”
And then his finger tapped the little planet. Not hard enough to break it, mind you, but enough to send a tremor through it. I could feel bridges collapse within it, roads sever, centipedes grab their caps as their bodies contorted with the pressure. This made me very sad.
That’s why I tore my arm away from his grip. I did nothing else, just tore it loose and stood there: bug-eyed, wild-haired, gap-toothed, more animal than man as I imagined our creator to be. The officer responded swiftly. He removed a stick from his belt and struck me across the forehead with it. I fell backward and heard him say, “Resisting arrest, eh?”
My eyes remained closed and a thousand constellations bloomed into life behind them, the inside of my skull yet another universe bearing multiplicities of life. But instead of rejoicing for these new forms created, I wept for the old one. I could feel the little planet had burst open from the fall, its amniotic fluid creeping down my arm, its centipedes and cars and roads and bridges falling from protection of its shell to where the atmosphere lay lethal. Rain soon washed it all down into the grate, which steamed and seethed with its presence.
- - -
Michael Fontana lives and writes in beautiful Bella Vista, Arkansas. He is the author of two published novels, Sleeping with Gods and The Sacred Machine.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Two Flying Saucers
By Donal Mahoney
A flying saucer whirrs
through the kitchen air
almost hits him in the head
flies out the open window
followed by another saucer
sailed at him by her
angry that he's earthbound
can't take her to the moon
one more time tonight.
He's getting old, he tells her.
She should have come aboard
when he was 23 and flew
all night from star to star.
He ducks again and gasps,
"Once must now suffice."
- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
By David K Scholes
CASMCF - the acronym stands for Comprehensive Advanced Simulated Military Conflict Facility.
Alien military come from many different worlds to use the Earth based facility. Mostly worlds favourably disposed to Earth as many are. Yet sometimes potential enemies come and are allowed to use the facility. They test themselves against the Earth military and others in simulated battle.
Almost every conceivable military conflict is catered for. Simulated landings on alien worlds and moons ranging from small special forces type incursions to larger affairs. Then there are simulated defences of Earth against all manner of alien invasions. Also alien terrorist capture of space stations and star ships and many other mil-conflict scenarios.
CASMCF is run and run well by the large CASMCF Board. Many of whom are working board members and part of high level management. With so many worlds and races using the facility it was long ago agreed that the board would be multi-world. With representatives, only one from each world, of the major Galactic powers. Together with some representation from the lesser powers. Even the non board member high level management of CASMCF is on a world representative basis though Earth as host world carries a disproportionate amount of lower level administration. Thus the overall control (both high level and operational) of CASMCF had long since passed from Earth Central Command.
I remember well my visit to CASMCF as a junior officer. It was a place that got the adrenaline going like no other. Some said more so than even actual combat. Yet in truth the Galaxy has seen so few actual wars that many modern soldiers would not know.
I remember when the strong Vorg contingent came. They were mostly pitted against Earth units and we didn’t seem to shape up so well against them. I remember worrying at the time that it might encourage the cocky Earth hating Vorg to take things a step further. Yet it didn’t and a strange grudging respect as to their respective military capabilities started between Earth and the Vorg that continues to this day.
Later on I became a qualified mil-conflict trainer at CASMCF. It was only then that I first began to gather an appreciation of the true significance of the CASMCF facility. A significance that I only truly came to appreciate in the later years of my life.
It has been claimed that some simulated conflicts at CASMCF have led to actual wars. After one military power has tested itself against another military and its confidence grown as a result. If this is so then there were many, many more wars that were averted by the regular use of the CASNMCF facility and understandings between races that developed there.
Very occasionally supposed simulated conflicts have became actual conflicts. This is true. Though never without the approval of the relevant planetary authorities and also of the board of CASMCF. The original creators of CASMCF knew what they were doing.
All Board members and senior management are thoroughly vetted. All have come up through the ranks of their respective militaries and most have been instructors and also moved through the administrative ranks of CASMCF. And all have been selected for their inter-species tolerance
I should know as I am current Chairman and Earth representative on the CASMCF board.
Trust me – it works!
- - -
The author has written six collections of sci-fi short stories and two sci-fi novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to both the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and has also been published on a variety of other sci-fi sites including this site, Bewildering Stories, 365 Tomorrows, and (the then) Golden Visions magazine.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
By Tantra Bensko
Somehow, it looks like water. You approach it, and it waves, it sparkles. More like mercury, liquid silver, something impossible. Something undeniable.
Her secret tattoo artist does very good work. If she let on who he was, he would be killed.
She can only pass on new business for him by literal word-of -mouth, to people whose aural style shows they are trustworthy. Vulnerable, and safe. Only through something akin to a “shotgun.” His identity has to be spoken within your mouths, passed from one to the other, so nothing escapes through the air. You have to feel it from her tongue's articulation against your tongue, your cavities of shining darkness flesh, your soldier row of teeth, your lurking uvula. They must be upstanding.
You wish you didn't bite the edges of your cheeks with your own teeth so much, and leave their sine-wave imprints. That throws off your acoustical extrapolation of the words she presses against your mouth's cavities and extrusions. You wish your tongue wasn't swollen from some Chinese Medicine god's curse. The pillowy teeth marks on the side of your fuzzy tongue give her meaty tongue-thrust words a confusing accent. You need to find out who gave her that mirror tattoo on her shoulder.
Because you want to kill him.
You eat a macro-biotic diet and wear a mouth-guard. You try not to suck your cheeks. You position your tongue's tip to the top palate with all your attention on letting your mouth become a clean slate. You wonder why it's called a palate if it's spelled like pal ate. Your pal ate your mouth. You can't stop moving your tongue as you think these very words. Tiny involuntary movements of inner-speak. That's what gives spies away.
You practice holding your tongue with your fingers at night.
When you see her next, she has gotten a new mirror tattoo -- on her shin. You really hate to talk about it. But, the mirrors reflect, in particular, all those things you accuse her of wanting to do, that you, “Mr. Monogamous Transparency” in fact, want to do yourself.
You hate her more. And that's the worst thing you could do. That makes terrible reflections in her shin tattoo. Growling furry slobbering teeth. You want to never look at her but she means too much.
HaHA! She says. She is being proactive. She is being firm and aggressive. She is no longer taking the stance of dissociating. When people project their shadow sides on her, she doesn't just take it any more. She kicks ass with those tattoos. She is a firm bitch. Makes you want her more.
You find it most interesting when she wears panty hose, refracting the reflections of your psychological projections. Shimmery!
OH NO, you yell, next time you see her. No that's not OK. Not OK!
Because she has a mirror tattoo -- on her face.
You have been dreaming at night of her leaving you so you could use your victimhood to rationalize dreaming of orgies with other women.
Every night, you dream of cuckolds showering her. Her sexing up hitch-hikers. You glare across pillows. You shout that you know she will do these things! You can tell from your dreams she is that kind. You earned dreaming revenge-sex with sexy chicks again. It's only right, after what she did to you in your dreams. Only right.
Your accusation-dreams now carnival-ride through the fun-house mirrors of her forehead and the ridges of her nose. You see your own desires for other women coming out her nostrils like mucus. They slide along cheeks, short skirts flying up in the air as they land in shadows. She swallows her grin sickeningly, her tongue lolling across her lips, the only things not tattooed except for her eyeballs.
When you try to kiss her, you see reflected the cross-dressing Pony Girl's face that you pretend is hers when you make out. And the Pony Girl, isn't she/he under-age? To actually have to see the Pony Girl laughing at you, on your girlfriend's body, is just wrong!
Your girlfriend sports a better posture these days with more of your weakening projections of bad behavior reflected away from her. She is strong enough to work more than she was able to before since you've started dating. And save up money for a full body mirror-tattoo.
She is going to shave her head.
You resolve to track her when she drives anywhere. This mirroring can't go any further. You will be the invisible face in the rear-view mirror, hidden in the bushes, following in the rented car, in a wig. You will find this tattoo-artist of doom. This --- metal-man. You will shoot him, or you will shoot her in the face, one or the other.
You notice the revolving door motif tattooed around the edges of the face-mirror. Hm. You like the roses around the Victorian mirror on her thigh much better. And the mirror tatt on her shoulder. With your hairstyle inked around it so flatteringly.
Then, you two go into the bathroom together. You've both always loved kissing her while she pees. You crouch down and sit on top of her lap. And when you both glance sideways, into the large mirror on the wall, you notice her own projections on herself reflected in her face-tattoo. Poor girl. Her face looks like some sort of baboon butt. Really raw raggedy red.
She breaks down crying, on the toilet, while you are straddling her tan legs, licking her tears coming out of the metallic inked holes, your hand reaching down feeling the wetness of the pee coming out of her slit. She sits straight, and tall, and laughs at you, and inside your mouth, you see your eyes reflected at you, winking like rain.
- - -
Tantra Bensko teaches fiction writing through UCLA X Writing Program, Writers College, and her own academy, including the online class Interstitial Fiction Genres: New Wave Fabulism, Magical Realism, Slipstream, Surrealism, and Weird. She lives in Berkeley.
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