The Bronze Shade
By Brady Koch
As they filled my cradle, I had worried that the drowning would be painful and I started to thrash, begging for my caretakers to take me out. Now I am thankful that they rebuked my pleas for mercy and had weighted me down with the stones. I cannot tell if their motivation lied in their commitment to the task at hand or the lifetime of money I’d paid to have it done to me. (Laughing ~1 min straight.) I awoke from the bath, no longer subject to my millennia of dreams. Yet with no eyes to see, I question if I am still in the dream.
Jeanie sat in the board room and reviewed her last page of notes from last week’s interview with Haetor. She trusted the court-appointed translator’s notes from the sessions; he had no motive to deceive her. Was it bad to emphasize Haetor’s last statement in her presentation? It was the one coherent section from any of her interviews and she wanted to use it to add some humanity where she failed to find any. Everyone deserved a fair trial.
She tuned out the Board of Directors as they held a discussion about her findings. Jeanie felt shallow thinking about her payout from this contract, when she should have been worried about the fate of dozens of waking dreamers she’d been brought on to interview. The Grant Family Foundation had asked for her recommendation for their fate. Unlike Haetor and his ilk, she had a mortgage to pay.
A multitude of internet and TV shows produced over the past two years documented the story of the waking dreamers. They all started the same way: the unnamed intern at the Cleveland museum of modern art. He was cleaning one of the bronze busts, tipped it over, and it crashed to the ground. While the fate of the intern’s credit hours is unknown, the story of the bruise that formed over the next week on the ancient Greek statue is now common lore to everyone who’s followed the story of the dreamers. After the bruise, the programs all follow the same story arc: the MRI on the first statue, the discovery of an internal bronze anatomy inside the metal, the understanding of a lost alchemy that was able to preserve these ancient Greeks, the chemical dissection of the metal to figure out how their organic tissue had been converted into bronze, and finally the reverse engineering process resulting in reanimated statues. All of this in a one hour show.
At first, scientists thought these statues had been the great thinkers of the time that had preserved to share their knowledge with future generations. Some worried that they were awakening the Olympians. The battalion of historians, scientists, and philosophers who’d interviewed the dreamers soon pieced together that these ancients were simply the aristocracy of the day who had paid extreme sums for the chance to defy death. None of the once-statues had any understanding of how the procedure functioned or could provide any insight to the cultural achievements of the civilization they’d jettisoned themselves from in their bronzed forms. With no knowledge to share, the academics soon lost interest in the dreamers, the tabloids and lawyers took their place.
Haetor was one of the many of the once-ancient, once-bronze statues that were in the middle of a custody dispute between their current country of reanimation, the museum of residence, Greece, and the Grant Family Foundation. The generations of the Grant family had donated these perceived statues to museums after securing them through all sorts of legal and clouded transactions and now that no country wanted them they had to determine their fate.
Despite an early support of the experiments the Grant Family Foundation had put a halt to the reanimation of their statues. All of them were alive in form, but their minds were no longer making connections. They were continually offering commentary to their blind dreams. Haetor was particularly unwanted. He was too horrifying to look at and was no longer art. When he wasn’t lucid he was screaming or laughing for hours at a time. Never sleeping. The museum had moved him to the basement closet.
Some of the online shows, especially the ones that had been made for school audiences, had skipped the failed reanimations. The earliest attempts had ended in piles of metal and gore. All of the videos had avoided showing or mentioning Haetor at all. He, more than the others, was a challenge to fathom. He had lived the past century at the museum as a bronze head on an ivory post. He’d become separated from his body at some point in last couple thousand years. Haetor was the only partial dreamer that had been successfully reanimated and he had no known reason to be alive. No lungs, no heart, no liver or anything below the neck. He was a questionable miracle.
When Philip, the board chair, called Jeanie’s name she jerked. She was thinking of Haetor’s eyes. The one thing the reanimators hadn’t been able get right were the eyes. Each of the dreamers still had green metal orbs rolling around blindly in their sockets; hunting for a purpose and never finding it. Jeanie simply nodded as the board laid out their plan to re-bronze Haetor and the others and try to recoup their investments. Hopefully their learnings in unmaking the statues could help them salvage their other investments. “Give it a couple more millennia and see if those civilizations know what to do with these things,” he rationalized. Jeanie considered the statues and felt comforted by their fate at the hands of these patrons. Haetor was simply an echo from another time; worth more as a statue than a living head.
- - -
@BradyTheWriter lives in Aurora, Illinois with his wife and two children. Feel free to read over his shoulder if you see him working on a new novel or short story at the coffee shop, library, or BNSF Metra commuter train into Chicago.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
The Bronze Shade
Thursday, November 20, 2014
By Michael Rafferty
On the morning of the third Wednesday in September the eighth grade class of Halsey Charter school prepared to give their “What I did for summer” theme speech. The class was small; twenty-four mostly well off kids. Richie Greenwall began with six weeks touring Europe followed by Chrisy Peck at her (divorced) father’s summer house in Malibu. A few others talked about weeks of shallow good times and then suddenly Zxandra was trudging up the aisle from the rear. Zxandra was new, three weeks new—-and different. She was really short, and bone skinny with a somewhat oversize head sporting spiky short, auburn hair that should have been trending, but wasn’t.
“Hey Zxandra, it’s okay if you didn’t have time to get this ready!” Janice Wilburn, the teacher, tried to give the new student with only one weird name (that’s how she registered) a break.
“Okay Ms. Wilburn. I got this.” Zxandra spun and planted herself. She was clothed in a pale blue jumpsuit with matching boots. Her eyes, an indefinite color, were large and wide set. In one of her tiny hands she held something looking like an Ipad. She tried to smile and later the kids in the front row would swear that the teeth in her small mouth came to points.
“I spent the entire summer on my Grampy’s cruiser. If it’s okay, I’d like to show a visual display…”
“Well, honey,” Ms. Wilburn interjected, “we don’t have equipment for that. . .”
“That’s okay. I got it.” The little girl pointed the device over her shoulder and a dark rectangle popped open and hovered in front of the blackboard. “Can everybody see okay?” The girl raised the dark screen higher to the gasps of the students.
“Okay, this is my Grampy’s cruiser…” A crisp image appeared and then grew larger. A silver oblong-shaped vessel with many lighted ports and openings and what looked like operational connections could soon be recognized. It hung in a void of star-filled space. “Here I am arriving. Of course Grampy is inside. Docking is all mechanical.” Another camera onboard the much larger cruiser had recorded the arrival of a smaller, sleeker ship, maneuvering quickly in to unload its passenger, then departing.
“Uh. . . honey, Zxandra, could I ask you something?” Ms. Wilburn’s voice had broken the tension.
“Oh! I’m sorry! Am I going too fast!” The girl turned to face the class.
“Well, no. It’s just that, well, exactly where is your. . . Grampy’s cruiser located?” Dead silence awaited the answer.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! It’s parked exactly five hundred kilometers above a point located in Nebraska in a stationary orbit. Can’t be in lower orbit because of the ISS Mir. . . you know, the space station. Some crazy law.” She whirled back to the visual. “This is my bedroom. It’s so cool!” The camera panned a furnished space as large as the classroom. “The view is the best part,” she said absently as a large rectangular port looked down on the planet. Their world was shrouded in total darkness. Then the sun broke through on one side and exclamations such as “Oh my God!” and “No way!” went around the room. All too quickly she showed the rest of the cruiser, to the student’s disbelief, and then Zxandra’s “summer” was over.
“Grampy says he’s coming back next year.” She said this as she walked back to her seat, smiling again, showing her jagged little teeth. “He’s going to bring some friends. He really likes the food.”
- - -
Retired retail manager. Written, published novel HEADSHOT on Amazon. Doing short fiction now for online pub. Accepted in: Beyond Imag. Mag.—Short Story Me—Linguistic Erosion Mag. Have finished Sci-Fi novel. Will shop around shortly.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Explosions and Collapses
By W. T. Paterson
It wasn’t until the third day that they began to appear; the women in the sky. They would watch us as we, from the ground, struggled to stay alive. Our ship had crashed on an uncharted and uninhabited planet, or so we thought.
These women were as large and elegant as the clouds, transparent and graceful. We were not afraid, for they were not here to harm us. As to who they were, some speculated they were angels while others imagined they were apparitions and hallucinations. But if all of us saw them, how could they not be real? Perhaps they were all that was left from a civilization that has long since vanished, or perhaps they were here to guide us into the places we have always feared to go.
They did not appear until the sickness set in. Two men complained of stomach and head pains one day, then the next they refused to move. Instead, they sat staring at the sky. That’s when the women began to appear. Their sightings soon became common, an occurrence that garnered no reaction until the infected men began to speak. It was then we noticed the women were somehow communicating, but only to the sick.
The men, they were dying. No matter what we did, it wasn’t helping.
At night, we’d hear singing just over the horizon. It was them. Their melodies became the lullabies that put our hearts to rest. We dreamt of vast oceans that bathed us. We saw trees that spoke with the wisdom of our fathers.
One morning, we emerged from our tents to find a woman in the sky looking at one of the sick men. Her arms were outstretched; she wanted him to come to her. With his eyes watering and mouth pulled into a smile, he whispered, “I’m coming home.” Death took him over. The woman in the sky bowed her head, crossed her arms and disappeared.
By sunset, the same scene happened to the other sick man. Then, three more men contracted the sickness.
As we vanished one by one, so did they. It never occurred to us that our living numbers were the same as theirs.
When the sickness hit me, I was unprepared. Though I had seen it on the faces of my men, they could not have readied me for my journey anymore than my own mind could imagine. I fought as hard as I could to stay alive, but it was no use. When I accepted this cruel fate, a woman appeared. I sat and watched her. She was beautiful. She understood me all too well, as if she were the vision upon which I had built my life. Underneath the blanket of the sky, she stretched out her palms and called my name. These women had found us; the stranded, the hopeless, the forgotten, and took us into their arms to guide us home.
- - -
W. T. Paterson is a Chicago writer who's recent work can be seen in places such as Maudlin House, Procyon Press' Anthology, and Whispers from the Past. Send him a tweet @WTPaterson
Thursday, November 6, 2014
By David Scholes
It started with the rogue navy seal snipers. They located themselves on the rooftops of several Chicago skyscrapers and just started shooting. Yet someone took them out almost before they started firing and with ease. Not even killing them, just disabling them.
Then there was the innocent man who could not be released from jail for technical legal reasons. Someone helped him escape without leaving any footprint of being in the prison. The same person got the innocent man and his family secretly relocated outside the US.
Then things really started to get interesting. With the shooting death of a child rapist and killer who kept getting off on legal technicalities. It was one hell of an execution – a shot first in the groin, almost instantly followed by the chest then the forehead. All as the child killer fell.
* * *
The unknown do-gooder continued his work unabated. The enthusiastic populace viewing him as a latter day ultimate version of the “Equalizer” character of the ancient 1980’s TV show. The do gooder appeared to choose his own targets based on his perception of the level of evil and injustice.
Next on his “list” was a well organized ring of corrupt police. What various Police Commissioners had been unable to achieve in years he did in days. Busting them wide open.
Whoever he was (nobody would even accept the possibility of he being a she) he was operating completely outside of any legal framework. He also appeared to be operating with absolute impunity and with the full support of most of the population of New York City. The authorities were powerless to catch him.
For those trying to track him down it became increasingly a case of not “who” but “what” they were dealing with.
The Navy Seals had been disabled by an energy weapon. There was nothing unusual about this. Such military weapons did sometimes get on to the streets. Yet later investigations suggested at least one energy discharge was not straight line of sight. That there had been an element of curvature in the energies fired. That was unusual to say the least as such weapons were experimental.
Another thing was that imaging equipment taking pictures of the do gooder resulted only in blurred outlines of the entity.
There had been an ex SAS soldier suspect but eventually it was concluded that the do gooder’s speed and strength lay too far beyond human parameters.
It led an investigating police lieutenant to make a different line of enquiry. Of the military.
“The Strealth soldiers when they were here over a year ago on leave during the Strealth/Dree war. They did all go home didn’t they? There’s no chance that one of them got left behind? Accidentally or otherwise.”
“As far as we know no one was left behind,” responded the assigned military liaison officer. “Yet the capabilities of this “Equalizer’ character of yours are consistent with what we know of a very good Strealth first contact soldier. Too good for any known Earth special forces soldier, past or present. Even with exo-skeleton assists.”
“Can the military help us against an adversary like this,” enquired the lieutenant.
The military man was hesitant before responding somewhat enigmatically “do you have any idea of the full capabilities of an elite first contact Strealth soldier Lieutenant? In any case what this entity is doing – getting rid of the bad guys - isn’t really not that bad is it?”
Fortunately it never became necessary for the military to intervene.
* * *
The starship arrived quite unannounced. Though upon arrival it followed normal protocol. As indeed it had done in times past. Contacting the still functioning UN alien visitor coordination control and seeking permission to enter Earth orbit.
When the time came for fuller communication the Strealth commander was quite brief.
“We left something of ours behind and would like to reclaim him,” he explained.
The reasons why the forgotten soldier had been left here were never explained to the UN. Just that he was finally going home.
* * *
We had thought, not unreasonably, that this entity had been operating outside of any kind of legal or even moral framework. By Earth human standards that was true. Yet not by the standards to which the entity was accustomed.
The soldier, as it turned out, had been a law enforcer before he was a soldier. He had started “policing” New York City as he would have any city on his Strealth homeworld.
That is to say, with zero tolerance, and more or less as “judge, jury, and executioner.”
Needless to say the Strealth home world had very low crime rates.
- - -
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 Podcast sci-fi sites and has also been published on a variety of other sci-fi sites. He is working on a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and also a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Podcast site
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