Thursday, April 30, 2015

4/30/15

A Future That Will Never Come
By Lyla Sommersby


Suspended here
suspended between stars
with nothing
but the shards of a ship
to grasp
to hold on to

I raise one hand
for you
for all that we had
for all that we've lost
for all the memories
we'll never get to share
together
in a future
that will never come.

I raise one hand
I swallow my last tear
swallow my last whisper
my last breath
and float
just float

thinking only of you
thinking only of you.


- - -
I am a student in Miami, Florida. Painting is my other love. My first book, Sketches of Someone, is available through Thunderune Publishing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

4/23/15

A Runner of Sticks
By David Castlewitz


Dad had the best of intentions when he had us kids genetically modified. My sister, Sheila, at six-foot-five, became a well-paid and sought-after underwater salvage worker because of her size and her gills. My brother, Ken, a thin man standing no higher than five feet, rescued dozens of people from burning buildings thanks to his fire-resistant skin. I was meant to be a tracker, a star detective perhaps, but something went wrong and I wound up a playmate at Happy World Preschool. I romped. I tumbled. I ran after sticks.
The children loved me. Dad tried to hide his dislike, but my siblings ridiculed me at every opportunity. I think our mother would’ve been understanding and accepting, because the moms at Happy World encouraged their kids, petted them on the head, and never yelled even when they whined and cried.
I intervened when I could. Our first Rule of the Yard was, “Make happy times whenever wherever.” So, when Sally threw an apple at her mother or Timmy the Terror sat on the pavement and cursed the sky, I went into action.
“Isn’t Randy the best,” Sally's mother cooed from the safety of her car.
“You’re doing good, Randy,” Timmy’s mom called when I jumped on her wailing kid and tickled him until he wet himself.
My own mother, if only she’d known me, would’ve beamed and smiled, and cooed kind words. I often imagined her sitting in her cottage in that far off farm where dad put her after she tried to kill me, pictures of me spread across her lap.
I even imagined visiting her. I’d jump out of the car and skip-hop to her cottage door. I’d burst into her little room with its ornaments dangling from the ceiling, its huge stuffed chair encasing my frail mom like an oversized bag wrapped around a doll, and the room’s air perfumed by colorful flowers dancing on a windowsill. I’d kiss her all over, make her laugh and cry and hold me.
But Dad would never take me to the farm. He never talked about her and I knew he was as disappointed in her failures as he was in mine. He boasted about my sister and her achievements. He bragged about my brother. But he never came to Happy World to see me play in the yard, hit a soccer ball with my head, or jump on my hind legs when told to dance.
I went to family dinners now and then, with Mrs. Harold, Happy World’s administrator, as my keeper. She sat at the table, across from Dad, wedged between my sister and my brother, her large round eyes darting to and fro. Dad never looked up from whatever fare occupied him at the moment. I think these get-togethers were a chore for him, even though everyone else enjoyed the chance to exchange gossip and good-natured ribbing.
At my special place in the corner, on my special chair, at my special little table with its playful animal motif top, I ate from my favorite bowl, careful not to slobber all over myself, get my bib dirty, or splash water on the floor. Even though Mom was no longer there to kick me for such bad behavior, and though I knew Mrs. Harold would protect me if Dad lost his patience, I liked making as good an impression as possible whenever I had the chance. After all, one of the reasons for these occasional suppers was to show my family that I’d made progress adapting to my situation.
I think they understood, even if they didn’t play with me after supper. Sheila and Ken always shot up from the table moments after finishing dessert. Sometimes they looked in my direction, shook their heads or wagged a finger because I’d flung pie crust or cake frosting against the wall or onto the floor, and grunted their disapproval.
Mrs. Harold explained, “We have a particular room for feeding him. Easy to clean up.” She flashed a toothy smile. I wondered if she was a failed hybrid herself. She understood so well. What gene-cross mishap gave her such an incongruous shape and look? Bulging eyes, patchy dark skin, curly hair that sprouted from her head like some sort of bush, and big teeth that sparkled in the light.
“He’s special and precious,” Mrs. Harold once said.
“Special?” Dad spat out the word. “He ain’t so special, lady. He came out a freak.”
Mrs. Harold smiled and said, “To Happy World, Randy is our special chummy-bud.” Sweet words. They soothed the wounds Dad inflicted with his invective. Not able to speak, I couldn’t thank Mrs. Harold with anything more than a rub across the back of her legs when she took me to her car. I licked her hand. I nuzzled her neck from the rear seat. And then I lay on the blanket she kept for my comfort, paws under my chin, hind legs drawn together.
Now and then, when we stopped at a light in traffic, people glanced into Mrs. Harold’s car and stared aghast at the sight of a human-canine hybrid with the face of a boy and the body of a dog. I sometimes heard gasps. I sometimes heard laughter. I sometimes heard nothing but whispered conjectures and opinions, amazement at best, hatred at worst.
If it weren’t for the children who romped with me, or the tender regard of Mrs. Harold, or the parents that appreciated what I tried to do at Happy World, I think I would’ve wished Mom had succeeded in drowning me as an infant. I think I’d look at myself with the same disapproval my siblings showed. Or I’d glare at my reflection with the disappointment I saw in Dad’s eyes.
But I kept happy. No matter what else, I was a Happy World chummy-bud romping across the lawn, tumbling on the grass, running after sticks.


- - -
After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, I have turned to my first love: SF and fantasy. I have published several stories in Weirdyear, Farther Stars Than These, Fast Forward Festival, Encounters and other online as well as print magazines. Search the web and you’ll even find some of my earlier military history articles. My longer work can be found at https://www.amazon.com/author/davidcastlewitz

Thursday, April 16, 2015

4/16/15

The Serpent In The Garden
By David Edward Nell


“Larger than anything ever built by man, the traveling tower could flatten hills and mountains,” Dad told Gabriel, his face glowing red from the candlelight.

“Our Great God,” said Gabriel from her bed, making a sign of the crucifix with her hands.

Dad did the same, and replied, “What we call it today. We used to call it World Eater. We were wrong about many things.”

“Where did it come from?”

“They say Our Great God came from the sky. No one really knows.”

“What did it do?” Gabriel asked.

“When it came, all the cities of the Old World were crushed. For good reason. Back then, the people were living sinful lives. Me, too. I was what they used to call an Atheist.”

“What’s that?” Gabriel asked.

“A terrible type of man. But I’ve changed my ways.”

“How did you escape the Old World cities?” Gabriel asked.

“I believe Our Great God chose me in spirit, though I didn’t know it at the time. See, I was one of the survivors who fled to the sea and formed this new settlement, and I think there’s a reason for that. Eventually, when the tower caught up with us, we were so, so afraid. But remember, we didn’t understand at the time. As I remember, it was mid-winter. Suddenly we heard this great rumble, and the ground quaked. Everyone went outside to see. When the traveling tower came again, you couldn’t even see the moon anymore, only its… lights. Seemed like it was heading right for our shacks.”

Gabriel’s mouth was wide open now.

“I still remember going to collect my things so I could try to run away. But then it cut into the sea and simply stopped. It spared the people that day. Been a long time since it moved. Well, it doesn’t need to anymore, because it’s here to teach us great things. It’s chosen us. It’s a blessing, really. If only we knew what we know now.”

“Wow,” Gabriel exclaimed.

“Our Great God then communicated to the Preacher in his dreams. Imagine that.”

“What did Our Great God say?”

“Our Great God wanted our servitude.”

“What is servitude?”

“Serving. That’s what we do. We serve Our Great God in many ways.”

“Like how?”

Dad laugh-coughed weakly and smoothed her soft hair. “You ask many questions. I can tell you’re excited, but you better get some sleep.”

“Please, Dad, just one more question. Like, who lives in the tower?”

“Forbidden knowledge, my girl. We must never speak of that.”

“Why?”

Dad pointed upwards. “They’re watching.”

“Watching?”

“Tomorrow you will know everything.”

“Will Our Great God bring Mum back some day?” Gabriel asked.

Dad paused, rubbing his wrinkled face. He spoke softly, “No one has ever come back, girl. That’s a good thing, though. Mum is probably having a very nice time with Our Great God. Better than struggling here, don’t you think?”

“Like, what will happen when I see Our Great God?”

“I don’t know, but look, this is a good thing. All right? Consider yourself very lucky. No more questions.”

Dad blew out the candle, and Gabriel dreamt of her mother. In the morning, Dad was weeping.

Gabriel was given a special necklace by the Preacher. She was happy but wished Dad was, too. The Preacher put her on a boat and paddled against the Atlantic Ocean tide, and then Dad was gone.

On the way, Gabriel kept asking the Preacher questions, but he wouldn’t answer. As the tower came into view, it wasn’t so beautiful anymore. She saw the sun for the last time as the boat entered a tunnel at the tower’s base. The Preacher picked her up under the arms, put her on a platform, faintly thanked her and left.

The little girl stood in darkness for a while, waiting.


- - -
David Edward Nell writes from Cape Town, South Africa. He can be visited at: http://davidedwardnell.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 9, 2015

4/9/15

Delta Wawaru Ruedi 5k(726)+2p
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)


Between-space yields to starry cosmos, and immediately you find yourself coasting into orbit around a massive, rocky world hanging at the extreme edge of a blue-white star's sketchy habitable zone. Sensors reach out, catalog the spikes of sharp, soaring mountain ranges broken by deep and craggy valleys. No lakes, no oceans– only a thick layer of roiling fog three kilometers deep clings to the lowest points on the planet's rocky face. The atmosphere reads as thin, mostly krypton and xenon with traces of oxygen and nitrogen. A gritty frost of dry ice rimes the highest points of the planet's peaks, smokes where the sun touches it.

Mineral particulates suspended in the fog throw off deeper readings, give strange, conflicting reports of the planet's deepest recesses. Curious, you drop a mote-probe, slide into the feed, chase the little eye down to the bottom of one of the canyons. Visibility drops to nothing almost the instant you're inside the fog, but inconsistent sensor readings still give enough data for you to make a safe descent. When the fog finally parts a few meters above the moist, sticky ground, you're struck at first by how humid it is. Cracks in the stone belch volcanic steam, and all around the vents are pulsating ridges, shapes like hard, fat worms, all stirring with strange life. Gingerly, you probe the dark valley beneath the fog with fingers of light and sense, careful not to disturb the fragile ecosystem clinging to the cracks. Within seconds, your ship's integrated intelligence has identified over a dozen distinct species, goes on to categorize them and catalog their relationships with one another. It's a marvel, all this life, and clustered in such a small, specific place. Extremophiles, perhaps the seeds of something that will spread, grow and evolve as the first seeds of life on Earth did. In another several hundred million years, who knows what wonders might crawl or slither upon the face of Delta Wawaru Ruedi 5p, distant descendents of these simple forms. Maybe, in time, this world might even yield a star-faring culture, might reach out to some distant shade of the human race and welcome us as brothers and sisters in the endless night above.

Only time will tell.

Curious, you settle the little mote-probe in a wet crag out of the way of evolution, leave it to gather data and pass the feed on to the network. It might last a thousand years under the fog, maybe more. It might be replaced with other, similar probes in time, but for now, it's your eye that watches history in the making, reports on endlessly while you seek out other worlds, other havens for life orbiting farther stars than those that shine on Delta Wawaru Ruedi 5p.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. Explore more alien worlds on Zero Dusk.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

4/2/15

Living on Compressed Time
By David K Scholes


I didn’t recognise the old neighbourhood. It had become a patchwork of different architectures. The newer designs with more than a hint of alien influence. My old street, at least the sign said it was my old street, looked deserted.

Then I came upon the block where my old house should have been. I had fully expected to find it still there and still in the lock down mode it had been converted to just before I went into the compressed time program. It wasn’t.

* * *

“Remind me what year this is?’ I asked my escort Kriz.

I think escort was the right term for her. Guard sounded too harsh and guide didn’t quite cut it. I knew there was no way these people were going to let some one like me look around here unescorted.

“To use your terms of reference it is the year 2099 AD,” she replied patiently.

I vividly remember my protesting this when I was first compulsorily extracted from the time compression program. Now with the benefit of a variety of drugs and some modest incarceration I found myself more understanding of the situation.

Still I persisted. “My contract was for a re-emergence only when certain minimum economic and social conditions prevailed and no earlier than 2119 AD.”

Kriz didn’t even bother to reply. We had already gone over this.

The whole basis of the compressed time program had been that an individuals total assets were invested and from these investments annual fees and investment charges were deducted. The financial projections suggested my personal wealth would increase exponentially during this time. The compound interest effect.

* * *

“I don’t suppose there’s any way I could just go back into compressed time?” I sighed already knowing the answer. “Or even take a time shunt back. The very least you could do is give me a partial refund so I can eek out some sort of existence here in this hell hole.” I stopped talking, realising that I was not helping my case.

Kriz laughed. It was the first time I’d heard her laugh and it wasn’t very pleasant to listen to. “If you have other assets, assets that we don’t know about, beyond those already consumed, then of course anything is possible,” she replied.

She knew I didn’t.

Sticking in my gut was the feeling that I was an embarrassment to them. That they hadn’t quite decided what to do with me yet. That they were still assessing me in terms of some unknown criteria. This puzzled me because there had to have been many before me. Surely there was a well established policy for dealing with us.

“If you people were going to terminate me you would have done so already. You wouldn’t be bothering to show me around the place,” I said with something of a show of defiance.

Kriz smiled but said nothing and gave nothing away. It was hardly the encouraging response that I had hoped for.

“You know that there are no legal avenues open to you to redress your situation,” she said. “The World Attorney General saw to that!”

Then, just for a moment, Kriz’s attitude seemed to soften and she looked at me almost sympathetically.

“As losers in the war against the Vrelt, the damned city strippers we call them, the reparations Earth had to pay were colossal. We needed a lot of Universe credits and quickly. Some one thought of you guys on the compressed time program. A lot of people with a lot of money and who were not exactly well placed to protect themselves. Your contracts were re-written and annual fees and charges increased dramatically."

“I thought the World Public Trustee was supposed to be looking after the affairs of everyone on the compressed time program,” I replied indignantly.
“Ohh – he was the guy who thought up the idea of fleecing you, along with the Attorney General of course.”

As my heart fell into my stomach I changed tack a little. “So there must be thousands like me, in my situation, you must have a policy for dealing with us.”

“There will be soon,” responded Kriz “but right now you are the first, the very first compressed time person to run out of money.”

“You are a test case. What we do with you will set a precedent for all of those that follow! All options are still on the table, including termination.”

Kriz was continuing to talk but I was no longer listening.

I stopped after she told me that I was the first compressed timer to run out of money.


- - -
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. He is currently working on a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and also a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site.


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