Thursday, May 28, 2015

5/28/15

00
By Maximillian d'Erembourg


The alarm -this time- was not a drill nor an exaggeration; in fact, this time the emergency was quite real. Yet another limit had been reached, yet another line had been crossed for the sole surviving remnants of what had once been Humanity.
EAS Opportunity’s originally programmed destination had been Gliese 832c, which from Earth had seemed Humanity's best bet for a new home-world. An opportunity for the quarter-million of us lucky enough to have rated a seat in Earth's only escape pod.
However, there is only so much detail one can discern from sixteen light-years distance, and as we approached at space-warping speed, our atmosphere scanners revealed that Gliese's Eco-sphere had evolved at pH levels that would prove fatal to life as we knew it.
Therefore, the decision had to be made whether or not to lose our velocity by dropping out of warp-space.
The decision had been ours -- my brother and mine, he as the Mission Specialist, I as the ship's Captain. He had voted for our stopping for a few days, to run tests, to make certain no accommodation could be made at this, our programmed destination. I had overruled him, as the question was a matter of the ship's velocity, it fell into my jurisdiction. This point of divergence in our opinions -one of the few we'd had in a lifetime together- showed me his weakness: desperation.
I had chosen to stay in warp, with a slight alteration to vector that would give us a second chance at an Earth-like jackpot. Well...some of us.
Opportunity’s resources were finite. The point of no return had long since been crossed. Some of us would have to make the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest might have even a throw at life. If heading toward the Gliese system had been a red/black bet on a roulette wheel, this new throw was more akin to betting the whole remaining pot on 00.
Half of our quarter-million souls would continue, half the pot -so to speak- having been lost to the first bet.

#

"We should have died...together." Plead my brother.
I thought about his words for no more time than a spin of a roulette wheel would require, then said my very last words to my twin brother. "That's the difference between you and I, my brother, and the reason that I deserve this chance at continuing...as you no longer do."
I watched as the ejection pod sealed itself off from our main vessel, and began to separate. The airlock hatch was -in the main- plexiglass, so I watched an imperfect copy of myself drop out of warp-space to fall toward certain doom, as if looking into a mirror.


- - -
Maximillian d'Erembourg does not exist. He is the creation of a fantasy-prone mind, which is currently preparing a space-opera novel for self-publication. Although he believes this is the Era of Self Publishing, Max also believes getting his work out onto Amazon will be the best way to 'submit' it to every agent and publisher in the world, cutting through years of rotting in slush-piles.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

5/21/15

Hounds Bounce When They Bark
By Joseph Patchen


Rodney awakens to a high pitched, whirling whine outside his eleventh story window. Peeling back the curtains he sees a sky full of saucers firing their rays on the city below. He knows his office is going to be closed today.

The sun’s reflection off the invaders is blinding. The city cracks, splits and explodes all around him.

As his own building quakes and his possessions are thrown off the walls, Rodney tries to call, text and email each and every one of his networks, only to find they’ve all disappeared. There is no television and no radio. The everyday intimacy and security that he’s known through his technology has washed away.

And fear - not only of the terror outside - but the fear of being alone supplants his cyber-camaraderie, as someone else’s technology is raining down death.

What to do? What to do? He thinks, over and over. How extensive is this invasion? Who’s invading?

Running up and down his hall, banging and kicking on doors. No one is home or, at least, no one answers. His calls for help change to shrieks as plaster sprays down from the ceiling.

Careening down the staircase towards the lobby, he continues shouting for help. Once there, he finds furniture overturned and smashed; the steel mailboxes that were so securely embedded in concrete walls are torn out and crumpled like scrap paper.

Onto the street, debris continues to rain down - piling up on cars, bodies and more debris.

The saucers keep flying overhead and shooting at everything below.

Rodney huddles in a pocket of debris between three cars that has become its own cave. He debates his options. Thinking about his parents, his brother and sister; what’s happening to them?

Funny, the things you think about.

For all the times he’d cursed his work and his mundane life, he now wishes he could take it all back. He wishes he was sitting in his cubby, sipping lukewarm coffee, eating day-old danish, reading his bosses' imperious pronouncements on the office intranet.

The assault does not stop. How long has this been going on? How long will it continue? Rodney knows he was sleeping, but any idea that this may be a dream doesn’t enter into his thinking.

The explosions increase. There is no way to pinpoint exactly where. He’s choking on the smoke and fumes of burning gas, oil and rubber, and assorted other carcinogens that, until today, had been neatly wrapped and buried out of sight and mind, deep within the bowels of the big buildings.

There is nothing to do but cringe and pray and contemplate suicide. There is not another soul around: no rats or stray cats, no flies or beetles, not even a cockroach. Rodney wonders if he is the only one left alive.

Eyes are burning; His throat feels full of tar. Rodney’s head is swimming, trying to come to grips with the loss of all.

Through a hole no more than the diameter of a quarter, he spies above. The saucers don’t quite look like those in the movies or on television: there are no long necks or pulsating arrangements of lights. These are sleeker: stripped down, with no markings, about as wide as a standard passenger jetliner. Pretty utilitarian and generic looking, and there are thousands of them.

Gold, silver, red, blue; their color appears to change depending on their positioning against the sun, the clouds and the smoke-- also depending on whether they’re firing or not. At times they even appear clear, almost invisible.

Rodney can’t discern their sound above the explosions. He knows one is hovering over him. It hangs over his makeshift cave for what feels like an hour, although he knows it’s only seconds.

Through his peephole, he watches its underbelly some thirty feet above, and the craft is silent.

Rodney recalls his childhood: baseball, street hockey, army men; Christmases past: that bike, those drums and his favorite catcher’s mitt.

Then Rodney remembers his dog Skye, a devoted hound that followed him everywhere.

Funny, the things you think about.

Time has stopped. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 pm or 6 am. No trains are running, no meetings to attend, no television to watch. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday or a Friday. Weekend plans are insignificant.

Funny, the things you think about.

The saucers hover. The bombardment ceases. Smaller, egg like crafts exit bellies, floating down to the surface. These black, glass-like ovals skitter about, four feet above the rubble, scanning. They’re searching for survivors: firing on the wounded and near dead just for luck.

Now the moans and screams are heard. Pleas for mercy and God are swiftly met with a ray and silence.

Pile to pile they move, burning or not. One survivor has a pistol. He pumps round after round at the invaders. The bullets are absorbed into the glass void and the blaze of a ray meets his high pitched scream.

Rodney wants to run. But what is the point?

For one week every summer his father would take off from work. The family would take day trips to the beach. Skye was always by his side.

Funny, the things you think about.

The glass eggs converge, methodically following a grid of linear coordinates. They not only kill everything that moves, but with another ray, pulverize everything – concrete, steel, bodies, and trees - into fine dust.

As they close in, Rodney can now see for miles. The city is gone. The dust and smoke are gone, and so are the sounds of demolition. There are no more pleas for mercy. No more sobbing and moaning, just the silent efficiency of machines.

And soon it comes to pass that Rodney is face to face with one. Seeing his reflection in the deep black glass he knows. For the first time all day he chuckles and says, "You know hounds bounce when they bark”.


- - -
Joseph J. Patchen's work has appeared in print, online and on podcasts. He is the literary critic for www.lurid-lit.com and you can read more about him at josephjpatchen.weebly.com.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

5/14/15

Sweet Solace
By E.S. Wynn


Xinnia. There's a memory I keep of Xinnia, that I've had extracted and restored so I can look at it, live in it, even if only just for a moment. Her eyes are so beautiful in that memory, open, sky blue, with the soaring heavens spreading out behind her. We're standing at the peak of a ridge on HCR-95488, and the cool summer winds which gust up from the canyons on our right and left toss edges of her brown-blond hair. Her smile– God, her smile. Wide and generous, a light dusting of cinnamon freckles rising across her cheeks. “You ready?” She asks, and I can see the glint of excitement in her eyes. The memory dips and bobs as I nod, and then her grin spreads, just for a moment, just for a moment before she turns to the left, throws herself into the sky.

I wish I had video of those days. So many canyons on so many alien worlds, and I never once thought to stream one of our dives back to the network. I remember the way her arms would sweep out behind her, go rigid as she flew. I remember the way the bones and tissue of her grafted wings would blossom from her back, catch the wind, lift her aloft until she was soaring with the sun, soaring with me right there in the sky beside her. There was so much determination in her eyes, and her hair was like a stream of golden fire, flickering and dancing in the space between her slow-beating wings. I remember the feel of the wind rushing over us, the static-sound of gusts rippling across the arms and legs of our flight suits, and I remember the way she looked at me in those moments, in the moments right before she'd take my hand and we'd plunge as one into the void. A smile, wind-weathered but still fierce, still sharp and wild.

I wish I could play you an audio clip of her laugh. I wish I had more than memories of her cheers, of the excited, feral cries she'd scream into those canyons as the rocks and the rivers rose up to greet us. I wish that there was an app for the neural network that could convey the awe, the adrenaline that surges through you when you swoop down to within a few meters of the rushing waters of rocky rapids and soar suddenly upward again, holding the hand of the woman you love the entire time. With our grafted wings, we made every moment in the wind a dance, wove a duet that rose from stones to sky and dropped back again just as quickly. All those canyons, all those moments when I smiled to see her smiling, all those moments when I laughed because she was laughing– and they're gone now. They're hazy, hollow, the watercolor washes of moments I'm supposed to treasure even though I can't find any joy in them anymore. For me, all that's left in those memories is heartache, pain.

Take another look at that extracted memory, the one of her standing on the peak of that ridge, smiling. See the love in her eyes? See the way she looks at me like nothing else in the galaxy means as much to her as I do? Maybe that's the best way to remember her. Simple, sweet. Just another smiling girl with the sun off her shoulder. Maybe that's the best way to remember her. Forget the canyons. Forget the dives. Forget the sweat, the mingling fingers, the way she'd arch her back and stretch her wings between sky and sun. Forget it all. Pretend it went nowhere. Another missed connection. Another fever dream. Another maybe that went nowhere. Nothing else. Nothing more.

I don't fly anymore. I gave it up years ago, retired my wings and had the tissue in my back reconfigured to something closer to the stan-terran look I was born with. Sleeker skin, webs of smooth, cultured tissue between my fingers and toes, nictitating membranes, bio-filtration nets in my lungs– those are the mods I had installed after Xinnia left. Tissue mods meant to make the oceans more like home. Mods that make it easier to forget the canyons, the peaks and the skies.

Last thing I heard, Xinnia is still flying. She's still cruising canyons on alien worlds, but now she soars with someone else. Now, the valleys she flies through echo with his laughter instead of mine. His shouts and his cheers mingle with hers, musical and pure. Another man. A better man, maybe. A better man if only because he is the one who makes her smile now.

But for me–

Me, I still search for sweet solace in the sea.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. During the last decade, he has worked with hundreds of authors and edited thousands of manuscripts for nearly a dozen different magazines. His stories and articles have been published in dozens of journals, zines and anthologies. He has taught classes in literature, marketing, math, spirituality and guided meditation. Outside of writing, he has worked as a voice-over artist for several different horror and sci-fi podcasts, albums and ebooks.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

5/7/15

Digging In
By John Ogden


The star interceptor shifted and shook under my touch, danced like a puppet loosely strung.

Somewhere in the rift between the meat and the metal of my hybrid mind, a thousand digital eyes, all mine, tracked lines of code, hunted figures, wrapped critical values in light and tied them down, left them securely locked in the recesses of my consciousness. Three point five seconds. Time from initial intrusion to total control. A little slow, but the interceptor was armored better than anything else I'd seen cruising through the rim between the core colonies and the lawless frontier.

Military grade cyber armor.

No. Better. Something better than military grade. Something black market.

Meat mind impulses got the better of me and I gave the interceptor a quick flick of code that sent it spinning through the black like a top. Cheap, rogue interceptors were bad enough. Something like this– something like this particular interceptor shouldn't even be here.

Turning back inward, I caught the readings on the pilot. Terrified, but alive. Alive for the moment. Alive only as long as it amused me to keep him alive. One flick, one thought, and he'd suffocate or freeze in an instant. I was tempted. Even knowing he was plugged into the interceptor I'd taken control of made me feel dirty. Being that close to any human was enough to make me feel tainted or infected. I couldn't wait to be rid of him.

But the nature of the interceptor, its armor and everything else that made it stand out meant I had to keep him alive. Had to keep him alive, at least, if only long enough to know what he knew.

Snapping the digital equivalent of a layer of latex over my own mind, I reached into the controls of the interceptor, molded the back of the pilot's seat into a drill. The symphony of his screams as I cut into his soft and terrified mind was almost enough to make the messy extraction of his memories worthwhile.

And what I learned in the silence was sweet. So sweet.


- - -
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.


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