Thursday, January 29, 2015

1/29/15

EVOLUTION
By LELA MARIE DE LA GARZA


“That’s a bad sign,” Thorpe said. “Listen.”

Lucy gave her husband a puzzled look. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Exactly. Birds on Corfus are always singing. If they aren’t something must be wrong.” Lucy looked at the purple trees with their stiff, straw like leaves. Thorpe was right. Usually there were tiny winged yellow creatures (what the Corfus natives called “kals”; what she and her husband called “birds”) perched in the branches, chirping their bell like songs. Something must have happened to scare them away.

Suddenly there was a crash. It was followed by another one and another. They sounded like gigantic footsteps. Lucy heard a sound like a roar and a trumpet and a warble combined. She turned to Thorpe quickly. “What is it?”

“I’ve heard there are dinosaur like animals still roaming this planet. Corfus didn’t evolve the way earth has. Humanoids came into existence before the earlier population had died out.” There was another crash, and it was very near them. Thorpe lifted his gun. “This fires a hundred rounds, but they’re small bullets. They wouldn’t stop anything large. And it might be armor plated.”

“We can’t possibly outrun it,” Lucy said. “What are we going to do?”

“We’ll have to hide. Maybe—”

Suddenly something gigantic and lizard like stood before them, blocking out all three suns. It looked like a cross between a tyrannosaurus Rex and a brontosaurus...as well as being armor plated. Then it spoke, in a deep but pleasant voice. “I am a Glofindel. And you…are humans?”

Thorpe swallowed “Y-yes.”

“Don’t worry. You have nothing to fear. We Glofindels are herbivorous.”

“Are there more of you?”

“More all the time.”

“How is it you can talk to us?”

“You’ll have to excuse me. I took the words out of your mind—not invading your privacy, of course.”

Lucy shook her head in bewilderment. “This is too strange. We’ve been on this planet for almost a year, and only a few natives have learned even basic English words. Yet you speak it perfectly. Why?”

“Oh. There is much you need to know. I will explain about our planet. The great Mandelo created Corfus out of the endless green sky dust. The Glofindel bowed his head and struck the ground with his tail three times, in reverence. “He then juggled three pink balls, to give us light. With His mighty finger He dug the sea and filled it with red Bral (what you call water) to give us moisture. He planted purple trees that we might have shade. Then He made life." Again the Glofindel struck his tail on the ground.

“Did it take seven days?" Thorpe asked.

“No. The process took billions of your earth years. What I have just told you is the story the Corfus natives use to explain the mystery they cannot fathom. They also have a tale of two infants, one male; the other female, who grew up to populate the entire planet. But humanoid life (what you call humanoid) came to Corfus in this way:

A tiny one-celled organism crawled out of the red sea. It split in two, and thus was reproduction. Soon there were two-celled creatures. They became more and more complicated. Some sprouted feathers and became the kals which fly about. Others grew fur and claws and walked on all fours. There were those who stood upright and became what you think of as human.”

“Something like our own planet,” Thorpe muttered.

“Something like that,” the Glofindel agreed. “But the bipeds on Corfus—the fittest, the strongest, the most intelligent—continued to grow. Then began developing magnificent tails.

Lucy looked at Thorpe. “Tails?” she mouthed. Just then they were surrounded by chirping, fluttering yellow birds. Some perched on the Glofindel’s head. All of them sang with joy. “Poor things,” it said fondly. “They’re still learning.”

“Learning what?” Lucy asked, apprehension in her voice.

“That Glofindel is now the dominant life on this planet. The natives are evolving into us.”


- - -
Lela Marie De La Garza has had work published in “Behind Closed Doors”, “Pound of Flash”, “ChickLit”, “Daily Romance”, “Creepy Gnome,” “Passion Beyond Words”, “Black Denim.” and “The Western Online”. She was born in Denver, CO. in 1943 while her father was serving in WWII. She currently resides in San Antonio, TX. with three and a half cats, some stray kittens, and a visiting raccoon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

1/22/15

Friends In Another Life
By John Laneri


A voice in Todd Martin's head spoke incessantly – never ending, yet prompting him to heed its message and appear for another interview at the Mercantile Office Building.

Once there, he moved hurriedly across the lobby, toward the elevators, wondering if the woman lurked nearby. She always seemed to be close whenever he heard the voice.

Had she willed him here, he asked himself, or had the Masters and their population of avid spectators summoned his presence for another life or death struggle?

For reasons he did not fully understand, the Masters, as they called themselves, had determined his fate years before. He knew them only as people of a distant world whose population thrived on viewing mortal combat between a man and a woman.

Still uneasy, Todd stepped into a crowded elevator. It stopped on three to let several passengers out. They were followed by an attractive woman with dark hair who quietly entered just as the doors were closing.

She was of medium height, wearing a tailored pants suit and stylish heels. A single whiff of her musky fragrance though, heightening his caution.

He edged back, knowing that his counterpart was a lady of disguises.

Once he reached the sixth floor, they were alone.

She moved to the control panel, her stylish heels tracking across the floor, then looking over her shoulder, she smiled and asked, “Where to?”

He indicated eight.

“We're getting off on the same floor,” she said in a soothing voice. “What a nice coincidence.”

Todd started to say something, but suddenly, she turned and charged him, locking her legs firmly around his body while directing her pointed nails toward his eyes.

Struggling for balance, he turned away to protect the eyes then spun around and slammed her against a wall, releasing the leg hold.

“You're a wicked bastard,” she snarled, as she sprang to her feet and again sent her fingers searching for his eyes.

“Stop... this insanity,” he demanded, as he pushed her away.

“Never!” she screamed. “I hate you with all my heart. You're the reason why I've been unable to live a normal life for all these years.”

“We're both being controlled by the Masters. Don't you understand?”

“It doesn't matter. We fight to the death. That is the rule,” she said, as she twisted to the side then aimed a spiked heel toward his groin. “I knew you were vile when you violated the rules and used a weapon to knife my leg. I still suffer constant pain.”

“Believe me, I suffer the same pain as you. It's one of the rules we were forced to accept. And besides, you're using spike heels for a weapon as we speak.”

“The shoes are merely an edge to even the odds.”

“If you say so... but you need to understand that we've been brainwashed into hating each other by the Masters. They're controlling us. We've never had reason to be enemies. We're nothing more than pawns in a galactic game that's being orchestrated and viewed from a distant world. You heard the Master's voice years ago just as I did when we interviewed for that job.”

“The worst day of my life,” she replied, as she whorled around and threw a wicked kick toward his head.

“Listen to me. It's the hatred that keeps us going. It overrides all of our other emotions. Neither of us has been able to live normal lives since our fighting began. But, I do think that once we stop our combat they lose their control.”

“How do you know?” she asked, as she continued circling in a defensive posture.

“I don't... but I think the misdirected hatred keeps us in constant conflict with each other.”

“So what?” she asked, as she landed a jab to the side of his head.

He shook it off saying, “Ask yourself, why do you hate me?”

She laughed. “As the lady said, let me count the ways.”

“Stop playing with words. Relax... try to control your inner self. Think about something pleasant, something good.”

“What if I don't want to?”

“Do it anyway. Do something to calm your inner turmoil.”

“I doubt that I can.”

Many tense minutes later, while she continued to feint threatening moves, she gradually relaxed then stepped back and took a deep breath, keeping her eyes firmly directed to his.

“We need to find a neutral place where we can talk.”

“Can I trust you?” she asked in an uncertain voice.

Todd lowered his guard and replied softly, “You have to, if you want this business to stop. Once we get to the first floor, we need to walk across the lobby like normal people. Then, we'll find a quiet coffee shop where we can be talk... agreed?”

She cautiously edged near him. “I'll try, but I'm still not sure I can do what you're asking.”

Once in the lobby, they stepped off the elevator and looked about. As they started toward the exit, he noticed her features relax. Moments later, he began to experience a renewed sense of contentment deep within his soul.

It was a feeling he had not known in years.

***

On returning home, Todd was unsure as to why he had gone to the Mercantile Office Building. He did remember that shortly after arriving there, he met a woman in a local coffee shop.

She had dark hair and was of medium height, wearing a tailored pants suit and stylish heels. Strangely, he detected a musky scent about her that reminded him of someone he had known in the past.

He was not exactly sure how or why they met. He just knew that they were drawn together as if they had been friends in another life.


- - -
John's writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

1/15/15

Operation Destiny
By Joseph Patchen


The first part of the mission went like clockwork. Clear day, flawless launch and pinpoint landing. And in between there was nary a communication glitch or dulled sensor.

It was perfect.

It had to be. The window on this mission was thin. Landing, investigation, technical set-up and re-launch had to be accomplished in a scant 48 hours; all before the planet, a rogue wanderer floating through space, an orphan star without a solar system, moved just out of reach of our moon as it travels out of our solar system for another 5,000 years.

PSO J318.5-22 is a planetary body floating free throughout space. Scientists theorize it to be a ‘baby’ planet, using the spectrums of color to date the birth to some 12,000,000 years ago. First discovered by an observatory in Hawaii in 2012 using a Pan-STARRS I telescope, the rock appeared to be some 80 light years away. That is until it appeared over the shoulder of our own moon this Spring.

With no explanation and little theory NASA felt compelled to act.

The mission was to visit, study and tag the planet, like an animal in the wild tracking its journey across the heavens, making this rock an interplanetary space lab for the ages.

The crew was carefully chosen; a disciplined and driven crack military squad of four with stellar IQs and advanced scientific degrees.

The entire mission was calculated and destined to succeed, hence its name ‘Operation Destiny’ but fate had something else in store shortly after landing.

What began as a small ‘dirt devil’ mere meters to the right of the landing quickly became what Mission Control charted as an F-5 tornado confined in that small area where the spacecraft stood. The twister lasted almost five minutes.

The ship weathered the storm as it should, yet post disturbance things just didn’t seem right.

While the crew went about their business, their personalities seemed altered. They worked hard but without any discussion; without any of the camaraderie they had prior. Even their responses to Mission Control seemed sterile and robotic.

Fatigue?

Maybe.

Fear? They tested out from that concept.

The treasure trove of data transmitted back to Houston was rich and curious. The flight home to Andrews Air Force Base was uneventful, that is until after the landing itself.

Commander Rader stated they were disembarking but never did. Repeated calls were made to the command module and all went unanswered.

After ten minutes the order was given to the ground crew to carefully approach the craft and force open the hatch. When they did they heard screams, but not of the crew; the screams were that of a woman in deep and dire pain. The screams lasted about as long as the storm.

The crew was dead; nothing but skeletal husks in space suits; fresh, clean, un-punctured space suits.

Retreating quickly out of fear of a potential interstellar contagion, the ground crew, confused and unarmed found themselves on the tarmac face to face again with the crew.

The four astronauts appeared as themselves, in flesh and bone, dressed in their overalls but holding strange looking weapons pointed at the frightened men.

It was here that man’s destiny was forged. It was here, at this very moment that Man learned he was not the king of the dark and vast jungle.

Soon the entire base would learn of its impotence. Soon man would learn that its haste, arrogance and curiosity opened the door to an invasion from a chameleon like race from a lonely planet seeking refuge from a cold and barren orb for the warmth and vitality of a sun.


- - -

Thursday, January 8, 2015

1/8/15

I Bet You Are Wondering About The Pup
By Philip Schochet



I bet you are wondering about the pup. I bet you are wondering about why we were standing in a circle around it and blocking its attempts to escape with our feet. I too would wonder if I saw a group of people like us standing in a circle with a pup darting back and forth between them.

Well, I’ll tell you our plan was to kill that pup, to kill it for food, but we also wanted to give it one last run before it died.

Pups are very nutritious, a great source of protein during these protein scarce times. They can be prepared a number of ways but Gustav makes an excellent Galantine with pup meat. It’s a slow process but worth it. A true luxury during these luxury scarce times.

Don’t I move in such wonderful circles nowadays? My circles are brimming with luxurious wonder, and here you are, wondering about the pup. Personally, I couldn’t imagine anyone better to ride this thing out with.

I bet you are wondering about the expressions. Most of what we say we get from the tapes. On the tapes people place bets, wonder, brim, move. People used to talk that way, the tapes suggest, before everything became so desserted.

Gustav makes such spectacular desserts that on most days we don’t even know what to call them. Harvey once called Gustav’s flowerless cake black and dry but I live for his desserts. People might say life is sustained here on desserts and pup meat.

I bet you are wondering about the name. Pups are what we call the Iguanas we raise here. We call them pups because we always wanted a pup but found that Iguanas would help with our roach problem. Here the Iguanas never go hungry and neither do we. It’s a sustainable solution. We call them pups because while we thought giving them individual names felt cruel we wanted a way of signifying they meant something special to us.

More about our roach problem. Roaches fall from the ceiling here. Because we live in protein scarce times, we used to imagine that the roaches were precious jewels, which is hardly a healthy delusion. We are in a jeweled desert where jeweled sand crunches beneath our feet. We find the dunes positively perfect for sliding.

Two things we are obsessed with by the way: sparkling and sliding.

But it turns out the roaches are hazardous. We know because all of the flowers blackened sometime after they arrived. By then the food had already changed. The loaves had turned back to stone, the crops had been somehow set aflame. The hundreds of jars of pickles on reserve had all seemed to implode at once.

Harvey suggests that it’s probably something they carry in their leg hair, the thing that makes the roaches hazardous, that is. Whatever it is, it’s neutralized by the pups during digestion. The pups eat the roaches, we eat the pups, no one feels a thing. It’s a pretty good arrangement we’ve got.

Sometimes we need to stop the pups from overeating. Sometimes we imagine their stomachs bursting, a shower of intestinal fluid and precious stones. If we are being honest, we imagine the fluid less and the stones more.

We try to stay fit by sliding, which is why we do it besides liking it so much. We try to stay busy with our imagining, and our sparkling words make a wonderful home remedy, but lately we’ve been tiring of moving in circles so much. All of a sudden our sliding feels labored, which was the last thing we’d imagine happening during times like these.

And what would you imagine when all the fluids ran dry in a desert that you remember was once a world populated with words, and you are hungry and lonely and near the end of your walk, with only Gustav and Harvey and the other animals, the only ones to survive, to keep you company? With your eye on the horizon, what kinds of names would you play as each thing slid into the next?


- - -
Besides teaching Modern American Literature at Seton Hall University and writing at New York University, Philip Schochet is an occasional Dogwalker, Barback, Valet, File Shredder, Mover, and Ghost Writer from New Jersey. He received my MA in English from Seton Hall University in 2009, and my MFA from the New School in 2011. He is more of a dog person than a cat person, though, occasionally, he does see the error of his ways.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

1/1/15

My Autobiography
By Paul Smith


I always wanted to write a biography. I never could decide on whose, though. I knew everyone. Everyone knew me. I’ve been called lots of things-slippery, insubstantial, lacking in sheer strength, a slave to gravity. I’m used to that. I still wanted to write someone’s life story.

So I decided to write my own. My own. My own autobiography.

I’ll start with my childhood. It was stressful. I had two dads, both with the same name. At first I thought ‘hydrogen’ was a cool name, but my dad wasn’t cool. He was very hot-tempered. Plus, there was two of him. Mom’s name was oxygen. I liked that name a little better. She never liked it. What she disliked more was my two dads. They drove mom nuts. They’d have terrible fights, the three of them, and both dads would argue over who was really my father.

So one day I just left home. I promised mom I’d show up again someday. But my intention was to never come back, to find a place where there was no fighting and bickering. I got lost in the universe for eons. That’s eons, not ions, which I suppose I was. I went from galaxy to galaxy, looking for a place I fit in. It was like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Isotopes. One place was too cold, another too hot. Eventually I found this place, which was just right.

Earth.

At first, earth was a great place-hot and rugged, with all kinds of germs and amoebae, all of whom liked me. Now I was like a mom or a dad. Everyone depended on me, everyone called me friend. Everyone drank me. I nourished simple cells, organisms, eukaryotes, trilobites, then dinosaurs, mammals, and finally the family of man.

Man was a puzzle. At first he lived in caves, then trees, then huts and finally high-rises. No matter where he lived, though, he needed me. First he drank me from rivers and lakes. Then he built aqueducts and I flowed to his cities. Then he pumped me all over. I started out one place and wound up in another hundreds of miles away. But it wasn’t enough that I nourished him. I had to nourish what he ate as well. Soon there were irrigation systems that he built to get me to wheat, sorghum, rice, alfalfa, bean sprouts. And that still wasn’t enough. I could have named my price, had I been man. But I was just a simple molecule. And all of me, in the sea, was in demand, too. Man found a way to take the salt out of me, and man used all of that up, too. Wars were fought over me. Continents like Africa went dry because all of me got sucked up in the hot Saharan sun, watering crops to feed the billions of people man produced. Soon there were more of them than of me, all of them soldiers with guns. And with all those guns, they killed each other off.

There was one final big war in which everyone died. But there was still some of me. And some animals, cells, invertebrates, some weird looking fish that thrived at the bottom of the oceans, some grotesque bacteria growing in the Ogallala aquifer, which wasn’t tapped dry. So after man and woman were gone, I took a breather. Then I began negotiating with the cells. Cells have great memories. So do I. I reminded them of what happened eons, ago. Not ions. Eons. I reminded them not to evolve into man again. They bought into the idea. How they did it with their chromosomes, I don’t know. But they did pull it off. This time the cells reproduced into peaceful creatures with long necks and non-warlike genes. Some of them looked like geese, some like ichthyosaurs. I waited a billion years or so until I was satisfied things had stabilized.

Then I called mom. “You never pick up a phone and call your mother,” she said.

I recognized her voice. I told her I wanted her to come live with me. She was excited. I got her a visa, and after several hundred thousand years dealing with immigration, I got her cleared. She loved my new place. And the cells loved her.

Our happiness only lasted a few millions years. I could tell something was wrong.

“What is it, mom?” I asked.

“I miss your fathers. You gotta bring them.”

“You always fought, mom. The three of you always fought.”

‘I miss him, them. You gotta do something.”

“OK, where is dad?”

“Are,” she corrected me. “Come look.”

She took me to the edge of the earth where we stood and stared at the vast majesty of the universe, gazillions of stars. Mom pointed. And there dad was, in the corner of a faraway galaxy, flickering with that special incandescent, explosive split personality that set him apart. Then, unexpectedly, there was a giant explosion as the sky lit up. The tiny speck that my dad or dads had been suddenly was a flash of light that catapulted myriads of particles in every direction, an illumination so bright I was nearly blinded. Then dad was gone in a spark of fate and oblivion and grandeur.

My dad, the supernova.

Mom was morose for several centuries, but then a new guy came along. He wooed her with flowers and candy plus a few electrons he found floating around, leftovers from dad. They hit it off right away.

“He calls regular,” mom said. “Not like somebody.”

I wanted her to be happy. The new guy was OK.

His name was Carbon.


- - -
Paul Smith writes fiction, poetry and occasionally does his poems live at the Green Mill in Chicago. In fact, he's planning on doing one there tomorrow night, so come one come all. Drinks are on him, if you say the magic word.


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