Thursday, June 25, 2015

6/25/15

Bad Dreams
By David K Scholes


I couldn’t recall ever having so many bad dreams.

I would wake up and find myself vividly remembering at least three nightmares each night. Even though I tried desperately to forget them. They had begun to haunt my days.

They were all duly recorded on my dream recorder. I had bought the contraption a while back because it was a new fad. To tap into a dream that you might have liked but couldn’t quite recall and enjoy it in full later. Either as a dream or a full fledged 3D video. Now though it was clearly redundant. There was nothing on it that wasn’t already seared into my mind. I left it turned on though. Just in case the dream recordings could help with any expert analysis of my problem.

The dreams were getting so bad that I had started to delay going to bed or going back to sleep if I woke up.

Desperate I started consulting dream therapists and dreamologists though the breakthrough came when I called in a dream recorder technician.

“Some of your more vivid dreams have been downloaded to the internet,” he said “it’s a common enough problem that we call, unsurprisingly, dream theft.”
“Ohh!” I responded. I’d heard of dream theft but was not exactly sure how that helped me.

“That’s not the real problem here though,” the technician continued “dream theft is pretty crude but what has also happened here is much more unusual. Much more sophisticated. Someone has been inputting dreams remotely to your recorder and then via the recorder you’ve been experiencing those dreams. In fact all of the very worst nightmares on this dream recorder have been input remotely. The weird alien landscapes, the otherwise unimaginable alternate realities, the hand to hand fighting in fantastic oversize alien urban landscapes. To mention a few."

“What can I do about it,” I asked.
“Simple,” the technician replied. “Stop using the dream recorder. Disconnect it. Better still get rid of it completely.”
I did turn the dream recorder off but something in me couldn’t quite throw it out. At least not yet.

The solution worked. At least for a while.

Then the dreams or I should say nightmares started again. At least I was remembering them vividly on awakening. I didn’t recall turning the dream recorder on but I saw that it was on and assumed it must have been me that did it accidentally. After all – I lived alone – who else could have done that?

The first night the dreams returned was not so bad and out of curiosity I left the dream recorder on for a few days. It got worse each day from there. Strangely the nightmares started to focus almost exclusively on combat scenarios. A lot of different mostly alien scenarios. Different worlds maybe even different dimensions and realities. They were weird enough to be that.

I was waking up fully remembering four or five nightmares each night. Then when I checked the dream recorder there were some other nightmares that I had not remembered. Was this remote input to my dream recorder that hadn’t reached my brain? I wondered or had I also dreamt these nightmares as well and not remembered them?

For hours on end during the day I found myself helplessly re-playing the nightmares that I could not remember. This second time around was worse than the first.
Though none of the nightmares broke me. I always managed came out on top by the end of the nightmare.

In the end I summoned the will to physically smash the dream recorder to smithereens before throwing it away in the trash.

That, I was sure, would be the end of that. Though there was a small part of me disappointed that I hadn’t gotten to the bottom of the matter.

* * *

It was quite some weeks later, just when I was starting to sleep a bit better, that I received the communication. It had come via a quaint medium that I had thought no longer existed. On a piece of paper inside another piece of paper physically delivered to my home. I believe they once used to be called letters.

It was both congratulations at my having passed rigorous testing and also an invitation to discuss possible future employment. From an organisation with the somewhat vague name of: Off World Defence Recruiting.

I had heard of the organisation in my final days as an Earth special forces soldier while on secondment to the Drorne military. Training their then new incubated soldier units.

My first thoughts were to rip the “letter” up and throw it away but I didn’t do that.

I was just curious enough to go and talk to these people. Maybe even give them a piece of my mind about the nightmares they imposed on me.

It occurred to me that maybe this was how they got people like myself back into combat again. Highly experienced operatives not that long retired. By piquing their curiosity while testing to see if they still had the nerve for off world combat.

Any way what could I lose from just going to talk to them?


- - -
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.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

6/18/15

Soil, Stone and Cinder
By E.S. Wynn


We change every world we carve our sprawling cities into.
Likewise, every world we claim and colonize changes us.
I was born on Manzan Prime. I grew up walking the perfectly curving marble streets, the pristine sidewalks as white as milk, as white as the fauxcrete and lunar sand that makes everything there shine. I remember the silver-white shimmer of the dust that would build up on the soft blue facades that hid roofs deemed too dark or too industrial to match the overall aesthetic of the cities and the smaller, more elegant settlements that supported them. I remember the people, emaciated and pasty, the drooping rolls of their heavy coats, their eyes the same cold and pale blue as the planet's perpetually cloudless skies.
Manzan prime. I grew up there, came of age there, married there, worked in a tiny white cubicle there until the day my wife died and I had no more reason to be there. Too many places reminded me of her. Too many things still shined with her smile, sang with her sweet laughter. I needed to try something new, something altogether different. I needed to start over in a place where things were cleaner, where I could scrub the pain from my psyche with the warm sand of fresh experiences and the fires of a world wreathed in unfamiliar laws and unintelligible languages.
That was how I ended up on the edge of Commonwealth space. That was how I ended up on a frontier world the locals had christened Aumakua'aina. That was how I ended up on a world as rich with shades of black and red as Manzan Prime was with shades of milk, moon and sky.
The funeral for my wife, the cremation and the paperwork that had to be filed in the wake of her passing left barely enough money to live on. A few thousand credits, most of which I pumped into a one way ticket to the most distant rim world I could find that was still part of the Commonwealth, still subject to the same laws as the worlds closer to the core. Aumakua'aina fit the bill. It was exactly what I was looking for. Utterly alien. Only recently proved and paved. A small population condensed into a single colonial township, aching to grow.
I don't know what I was expecting when I arrived. All of the pictures of Aumakua'aina were beaches and sea, or green with hybrid colonial groundcover that fruited heavy and constant, grew all over everything like ivy. What I wasn't expecting were the wrinkled waves of black basalt rolling through vacant fields of thick and thorny brush, the black and red cinder dust shaped and shaved and flattened here and there to make parking lots and landing pads and walls and houses and everything else the human mind could conceive of a need for. For days, I marveled at the way shades of cinder and glassy sand shined as flux and grit in every inch of everything, at the way the black dust and biting ash gathered at the edges of deeply ebon streets. For days, I found myself stopping just to watch the people, the colonists who had lived in the cinder and grit their whole lives, had become part of it, men and women of stone and fire, their skin rough and dark, their smiles wide and fiery.
Pohaku. The name of that singular township, that collection of dark, basaltic buildings, home of the settlers who had raised them from the native rock. Pohaku– but I didn't stay there long. Workers were needed in the unproven fields and twisted, spiny jungles of a second settlement, still only in the planning stages. There were tides and currents of solid rock to be shorn and ground into gravel, pulverized into flux and dust. There were new buildings to raise, farmlands to cut and furrow, miles and miles of native fungal jungle to clear away. Hale'hanau– that was the name of the town we built, the town we raised from the stone with our hands and hearts and days and days of gritty, dirty work. By the time I had my own home on a hillock of native rock, my own business based out of my own black-stone living room, I was as dark and rough as the soil I had shaped, the stone that had shaped me. Not a trace of Manzan Prime's glitter and white remained in me, except maybe in memory, in movements here and there, in the few char-darkened shirts and the heavy coat I brought with me to remind me of the world, the life, the way of being I'd left behind.
It's been almost twenty years now. Almost twenty years since my first wife passed on, since I first found myself standing at the terminal in Pohaku, standing on these alien shores and staring out into the endless sea of stars hanging in the skies beyond, almost wishing I hadn't stepped off the shuttle that seemed all too eager to leave me behind. Twenty years, and I haven't come to regret a single one of them. Twenty years, and each so packed with memories, with moments that led to other moments, sweeter moments, wholesome moments as solid, as heavy as the earth that blackens the feet of my children as they run between the hybrid trees in the fruit orchard beyond the veranda of our home.
Four of them now. Four children, and each so colored and shaped by the native soils, by the edges and waves of the native rock.
By the bit of Manzan Prime that still clings to me, lingers within me.
And by the dark and stony features of their fiery, smiling mother.


- - -
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, June 11, 2015

6/11/15

Warrior Class
By David Castlewitz


It wasn’t unusual to find newborns on the battlefield. Anvil didn’t know which Snippet tribe won this fight, but he knew his duty. He’d survived. Now, the wiggling red babies expelled by dying comrades needed saving. Those with stubby antennae sprouting from their oblong heads, and with two well-defined legs and two mature arms, even if the fingers and toes hadn’t yet sprouted, should be salvaged and taken to the hive.

Anvil stood on the crusty ledge outside his battle station. He’d spent much of the terrifying fight cringing behind a bolt-throw-machine, hands feeding the gun with a fresh ribbon of needle nose missiles. As a warrior-class Snippet, Anvil didn’t expect to be afraid. Especially, since he fought from the relative safety of a Dyak, one of the biomechanical war machines the gods bequeathed his race.

When Anvil stepped onto the metal ladder bolted to the Dyak’s side, blood seeped between the thick scales protecting the beasts's flank; an audible intake of breath rippled through its body. It snorted. It spat bloody phlegm from its snout. Its rear legs – reduced to ragged stumps – supported its hindquarters and it knelt on shattered knees. The control booth in its skull was a charred canyon, its operators strapped to their seats burned black.

Anvil dropped to the soggy ground. A watery mass coated the back of his uniform and he stripped naked, gagging on his own stench. With strips of cloth torn from a dead soldier’s jumpsuit, he tried cleaning himself. Oily, black clumps slid down his legs, accumulated at his bare feet. A blast had torn off his boots. Something had cut his lower back.

He looked at the battle raging in the distance. Two mobs surged towards one another, broke apart, collided again, like ocean waves crashing against seashore rocks. Massive Dyaks lumbered towards one another, their huge heads raised, their long snouts spitting fire. They bellowed, and Anvil pictured the fighters in the recesses behind the Dyaks’ ears shooting darts and throwing spears. On the ground, foot soldiers shouted to rally their courage.

Red newborns crossed his feet. Anvil dropped to a squat and inspected the closest babes. Their parents had ejected them with a burst of blood and water, and pink fluid coated their young bodies. Anvil touched his mid-section. Old enough to be of the warrior class, he hadn’t yet matured to the point where his body could develop a fetus to be taken into the hive and raised to be a warrior, a herder, or any of a dozen occupations.

Anvil often dreamt of siring a breeder that would learn the lore of the gods and cultivate Dyaks, those massive cyber-organic beasts that served the armies. Or, perhaps, he’d birth a controller, one of the few of the warrior class that drove Dyaks by melding their thoughts to the animal’s.

So many babies slithered near the dead soldiers – friends and foes -- that Anvil didn’t know where to start. How would he carry the ones he rescued?

A Dyak neared and Anvil patted the scaly flank. According to the symbols emblazoned on a shiny cloth clinging to the gray body, the beast belonged to his tribe. Anvil pulled on a cord dangling from the massive head and the Dyak dropped to its knees. Quickly, he pushed one wiggling babe after the other into the recesses behind the ears. He put more into the control booth carved into the head.

He wrapped the remnants of a uniform around his midsection and climbed in. He didn’t understand how to use any of the equipment arrayed before him. Putting on the controller’s helmet would be useless. As would attempting to maneuver with the handles and horizontal bars facing him.

“Home,” he said. All soldiers knew the simple verbal commands Dyaks were trained to obey.
The Dyak rose. The surrounding carnage set Anvil’s stomach to heaving. At his first battle, the soldiers encountered a herd of kiekies, those six-legged creatures that roamed the plains and whose migratory patterns were the cause of inter-tribal warfare. Without kiekies, there’d be no meat to feed the populace, no sinews for rope, no bone for utensils, and no raw material for any of a dozen or more implements the tribes relied upon.

Harvesting the herd took precedence over fighting the enemy. They didn't fight.

For his second battle, Anvil remained with the reserve, far removed from the action.

But this battle, his third, showed him the carnage and slaughter old soldiers spoke of as if death and damage were heroic.

The Dyak trudged away from the fight. In the control booth, dozens of babies wiggled close to one another. In the recesses behind the ears, a similar knot of infant Snippets sought warmth and security. Soon, the Dyak reached the tangled mass of roots at the base of the forest, where Anvil’s tribe nested. Snippets rushed to greet him. A breeder inspected the Dyak for injuries. A builder checked the gun ports behind the ears. Tenders, in their roles as nurses and caregivers, unloaded the dozens of babies Anvil had rescued.

Anvil sat on the ground amid the fury of activity, curious to know how the battle fared. Where he’d been, there’d been so much death on both sides that he didn’t know if his tribe had won or lost.

An old warrior approached. “You rescued so many.”

Anvil nodded.

The warrior pointed at the wiggling newborns. A few, Anvil noticed, didn’t move. These were soon carted off by weeping tenders. Builders assembled pens for the survivors.

“Which ones are ours?” the old soldier asked. “They all belong to the tribe?”

Anvil stared at the babies he’d brought home from the battlefield. There was no way to tell friend from foe. But this ancient Snippet, this hoary tribesman, might discern the truth if their eyes met, so he looked away.

“Yes,” Anvil said. “They’re ours.”

“Of course,” the old soldier said. “Of course they are.”


- - -
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, June 4, 2015

6/4/15

Set Course For The World Without
By John Adams


“What shall I wish for?” I asked the man who led me along the corridor.
Friends of mine had done this. Members of my extended family had done this. Some of them never came back. That must mean they liked where they ended up. The silver-haired man’s lapel badge said, Sylvester: Experience Enhancement Executive.
Sylvester looked me up and down. “Some people wait until they get into the pod. I don’t recommend that. We’ve had some downright irresponsible choices over the years. But you don’t look the type, James.”
I bristled. Who knew what I’d be, in another world? “What are the most requested destinations?”
“We no longer make them available.”
Sylvester pressed his index finger against the biometric reader. The door sprang back and we shuffled into a small room. I frowned. I’d paid a year’s salary! I was about to step into a machine that would propel me into an alternate universe. A world in which I could select which feature of our current existence was missing.
Another door led into a vestibule. Sylvester pushed me towards a pod in its centre. It looked like a giant metallic cigar. It was resting on a blue neon base. I shivered. As a scientist, technology was supposed to be my friend, yet it never turned out like that. Younger, smarter people always seemed to be pushing ahead.
I felt a wave of anxiety as I clambered inside the pod. I stared at the control panel as the hatch whooshed shut. I typed in no technology. Nothing happened. I pressed the red button and gave the machine one almighty kick. I felt it rumble beneath me.

I opened my eyes and threw open the lid. I jumped out, eager to greet a new world of hope and opportunity. With a sinking feeling, I realized that I was in a forest clearing. It felt cold. There was nothing here, just the occasional sound of birdcall from the canopies. I’d never been anywhere so quiet. It looked like a photograph out of those National Geographic magazines, two hundred years back.
I turned back towards the capsule. I just wanted to go home to London. The endless concrete. The gun ownership. The segregated communities locked behind gates with troops of security guards in tanks out front.
The pod began to disintegrate. I grabbed onto it as best I could, but the surface was too smooth for me to get any kind of purchase. It disappeared in a puff of smoke.
The clearing seemed chillingly real. The tiny mud huts with their bracken roofs. The tired wisps of smoke rising up into the sky. I glanced down. I was wearing animal skins. In my hand was a flint axe. I had a bow slung over my shoulder. I put my hands up to my face. Damn! I had a bushy beard that a Viking would’ve been proud of.
I heard rustling in the bushes. A man I barely recognized as Sylvester emerged. He wore furs over his pasty flesh. I glanced at him with scorn. Those chin pubes weren’t exactly manly.
“I’ve been sent here as a punishment for getting you trapped. If I can get us back, I might get to keep my job. No technology, you fool? Really? Strictly speaking, you shouldn’t even have that axe.”
I gazed at my weapon as it evaporated. Suddenly, we were both stark naked. No axe. No bow. No skins.
“Can’t we just hop home in your pod?”
“I don’t think it’s going to be as simple as that…” Sylvester replied.


- - -
John Adams was longlisted for the Aeon Award in 2012 and 2013. She lives in Edinburgh, UK, and is currently writing a techno-horror novel.


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