Thursday, May 26, 2016

5/26/16

Minnesota Iceman
By Richard Stevenson


File under Famous Fakes –
Homo pongoides, indeed!
Sanderson and Heuvelmans,
Famous cryptozoologists, goofed!

Yep. It’s just another rubber prop
under ice. Modelled on
the real deal – a Neanderthal
dragged back from Viet Nam
in a body bag, no less!

“A sucker is born every minute,”
the owner likes to quote
P.T. Barnum in an icy aside.
Humans, what are we gonna do
with them? Ol’ rubber lips will be
on the rubber chicken circuit next.


- - -
I’m a well-published Canadian poet ( 30 books, counting one forthcoming), three of which concern cryptids, ETs, ghosts, and unexplained phenomena: Why Were All The Werewolves Men? (Thistledown Press, 1994), Nothing Definite Yeti (Ekstasis Editions, 1999), and Take Me To Your Leader! (Bayeux Arts Inc., 2003). Initially, I was going to try to write five or six more poems to replace the weak sisters in a new and selected monster poems collection, Bigfoot Boogie, but I`m up to 67 of the suckers now, hence a fifth volume, Cryptid Shindig.

I`ve just retired from a thirty-year English, Creative Writing teaching gig at Lethbridge College and am now having a blast writing full-time. After several collections of haikai poetry, it`s nice to get back to light verse and longer things.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

5/19/16

DANCING QUEEN
By C.E. Gee


Marie bit her lower lip as she paused at the hatchway to Dave’s studio. She was wary of Dave. His lecherous staring was off-putting to someone as shy and young as Marie -- she was 17.

Marie had a boyfriend, Ron, who was also on the moon. His company had contracted to install an improved environmental control system to the Moon’s prison. Marie and Ron were living in one of the compartments used to house transient workers.

Marie pressed her right forefinger against the I.D. pad mounted to the right of the studio’s hatch.

The audio transducer above the hatch said, “Hello Marie. Please wait while Dave gives his consent.”

There came a buzz and a snap from the outer hatch. It swung open. Marie stepped through the hatchway, continued on through the airlock. Automatically, both hatches closed.

Marie opened the visor of her pressure suit. Though the corridor was pressurized, it was on Luna’s surface. With no internal airlocks the corridor’s entire length was always in danger of a blowout.

Dave was waiting at the other end of the studio.

As Marie walked toward Dave she once again marveled at the size of the studio. Leasing such a spacious facility on Luna was expensive.

The studio’s overhead was a half-dozen meters above the deck. The studio’s deck-space was more than 500 square meters.

In addition, there were storage closets, an office, restroom, all arranged around the studio’s perimeter.

As Marie neared Dave he said, “I’m all set up for our next take; start whenever you’re ready.”

Marie nodded an affirmative, climbed out of her pressure suit.

Marie was wearing a pale pink tutu.

Marie approached Dave’s platform, where all the equipment was, slid her pressure suit under the platform.

Marie strolled to the center of the studio. Cambots affixed to the overhead and bulkheads followed Marie’s every movement.

Just beneath Marie’s skull, atop her brain was an implant, constantly transmitting her brainwaves.

Dave announced, “I’m getting your output Okay.”

Dave said, “Now recording.” He then pushed a button just before he cued the music, a compilation of Rachmaninoff’s most danceable works.

Marie began to dance. Dave’s own implant received the monitoring feed from his recording equipment. Dave rubbed his hands together, chuckled in glee at the quality of Marie’s output. The royalties from this performance would be huge.

Quickly, as usual, Marie got into the music.

Fed by the transmission of Marie’s implant, recorded by Dave’s equipment, the Solarian internet would soon deliver to appreciative fans spread throughout the Solar System all of Marie’s current dancing experience –- her near ecstatic appreciation of the classical music, her youthful joy of soaring high up off the deck for long distances as she executed low gravity variations of classic ballet moves and postures.

Most of all, her audience would experience love. Marie’s emotions were at full flood. Her youthfulness, her love for her art and her love of the moment was deeply tinged by her love for Ron.

The dance, once considered an obsolete art form, a holdover from the past, had been successfully revived thanks to cerebral implants and dancers such as Marie.

Marie smiled to herself as she considered her primary audience, which mostly consisted of older women who were reliving emotions of their past, combined with young girls who were experiencing perhaps for the first time emotions they would someday greatly cherish.

During her dance, Marie stole glances at the view screen suspended above the equipment racks. The screen displayed a count down of the routine’s remaining time.

The music consisted of several of Rachmaninoff’s most stirring concerts, which Dave had edited down to short bits. The dance went on until there was just one minute left.

A few more seconds passed. Marie threw herself into a pirouette. Almost three meters up from the deck, Marie spun and spun, expertly timing her landing so that she directly faced the platform.

Marie delicately placed the forefinger of her right hand under her chin, gracefully executed a bow as Dave cued recorded applause and cheers.

Dave gathered up an armful of flowers, grown in a local hothouse, threw them over Marie. A red rose landed in Marie’s hair. Smiling, she picked the rose out of her hair. Holding the rose in her left hand, Marie used her right hand to throw a kiss to a cambot.

Marie then held the flower to her nose, in an exaggerated action, drew in its fragrance. Her smile broadened as she looked directly at the cambot.

Dave slowly pulled down a T-shaped lever mounted on an equipment case. The overhead monitor screen read “FADE.”
Dave said, “And we’re out. Good take. Man, we’re gonna make a bundle on this one.”

“It’s not all about the credits, Dave,” scornfully said Marie.

“I know,” replied Dave. “I enjoy it just as much as you. In a different way, certainly. But still, you can’t complain about the credits.”

Marie climbed into her pressure suit.

Dave asked, “See you Tuesday? I got a jazz routine I’m working up. I figure a coupla rehearsals, you’ll nail it.”

***

Ron had ended his work day, was back at their quarters when Marie arrived.

Ron, sitting at the desk, asked, “Wanna hit the dining hall?

“Sure.”

Marie climbed out of her pressure suit, removed her tutu, changed into yoga pants and a bulky sweater.

As Marie changed, Ron, eyeing Marie’s sleek, slender figure, commented, “You know, I gotta be the luckiest feller on Luna.”

Marie couldn’t conceal her wicked little smile.

The dining hall was located at the center of the habitation dugout. Being deep underground, no pressure suits were required in the corridors.

Marie walked to the hatch, turned, asked, “Ready?”

Ron rose, went to the hatch, opened the hatch for Marie, followed her through the hatchway.


- - -

Thursday, May 12, 2016

5/12/16

The Shooting Gallery
By David K Scholes


I took aim at the grotesque alien entity that appeared before me. With only a micro second to decide, I fired. Just the once.

“Good clean shot, instant death,” boomed the automated shooting gallery’s robotic announcer. “Only problem is he was a friendly, a Glaxian no less. One of our closest allies.”

Was the announcer rubbing it in? I wondered

Next up was a very beautiful alien woman. Too beautiful, too perfect to be a woman of Earth. Homo Superior I guessed but from where? Those thoughts passed through my mind in the micro second I chose not to shoot her and instead she shot me. Was I influenced by her beauty? That something that beautiful couldn’t possibly be our enemy?

“Wrong again!” boomed the announcer. The thing seemed to be laughing, enjoying my discomfort. Was it programmed such that its attitude changed the more mistakes I made? I might not have minded so much but the alien woman’s shot hurt me. Caused me to stumble and left me feeling numb. “Is that really necessary?” I yelled at the robot announcer. There was no reply.

Next up was a droid soldier. Finally I got it right. It was of Fermian construction and had enemy written all over it.

“You are learning!” said the announcer who, it seemed, had also been programmed with impertinence. “Good, accurate, temporary disabling shot, but you should have followed up with another shot to permanently disable it.”
Was there no satisfying this announcer?

I went on down the gallery occasionally getting it right but mostly killing friends and being shot up by enemies. The cumulative effect of the shots on me was starting to tell.

There was another thing about this gallery. Was it just my imagination or were some of my potential targets looking decidedly real? I asked the announcer. Normally it would not have responded to such a question but inexplicably it did.
“All potential targets are only holograms, re-useable droids, or disposable partial robotic constructions.”

I just didn’t quite believe that.

Later towards the end of the gruelling gallery I was on the verge of quitting from the sheer pain of hits I’d taken. It was only then that the proverbial really hit the fan.

A Velovrian unisex soldier. It had to be an enemy. I’d never heard of any Velovrian being on our side. It may be that I hesitated oh so briefly – then I fired and it fired at about the same time. I scored a direct hit on an excuse of a head and the Velovrian narrowly missed me.
I waited for the robot announcer to tell me I’d done something wrong but no announcement came. Of any kind. It was nice to have silence. Not far away the green blooded Velovrian looked very real and very dead. Then two human security guards came on the scene and unceremoniously whisked me away from the gallery.

* * *

They gave me a pass mark for the shooting gallery test and I was told to keep quiet. I needed the pass for my alien embassies protective officer status. So I did as I was told.

When I next came up for re-testing on a shooting gallery I was stationed on Grolton 4 attached to the Earth embassy there.

The automated gallery there was eerily like the one on Earth even down to its robot announcer. Who made these shooting galleries anyway? I wondered.

“Well left,” boomed the robot announcer as I didn’t fire on what looked like an Earthman to me. Was the thing even programmed for sarcasm. It sure sounded like it.

I went down the gallery shooting a few friends and missing a few enemies but mostly getting it right. Seemingly to the annoyance of the robot announcer.

Then everything caught up with me. I hesitated. The target seemed to be located in an Earth setting and appeared to be another Earthman. Except that he was wanted in 8 star systems. I got off a shot but he beat me to it. I fell and kept falling. It was a feeling I have experienced just once before. Travelling through a gateway.

Bloodied and in pain I awoke from unconsciousness just long enough to realise I was no longer on the shooting gallery on Grolton 4 but on the shooting gallery on Earth where I’d first been tested. Security guards stood around me unconcerned and with them was a robot announcer. Just for once it didn’t have anything rude to say for itself.

* * *

The shooting gallery on Earth and on Grolton 4 have been closed,” said a voice as I started to come to. “Others on other worlds will follow. Things were in motion beforehand but what happened to you was the catalyst.”

At my bedside was an alien. A law enforcer from Grolton 4 but with extra planetary authority. I knew him slightly and knew he’d been sniffing around about the shooting galleries.

“It all started when they tried to make the shooting galleries for each world more realistic. Laser and other weapons that actually hurt. Then they occasionally brought in real people that got hurt. They really overdid it when they established some gateway links between shooting galleries. They actually had participants from different galleries up against one another. Then there was ____.”

“It’s a long story,” he sighed “but then you’re not going anywhere.”


- - -
The author has written over 150 speculative fiction short stories many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites. He has also been published on Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently working on a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

5/5/16

A Cable Through His Nose
By Austin Malcome


Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, Miriam?

Miriam screams and throws crayons at me. She likes to pull her hair out in chunks; I hope she doesn't, they'll sedate her again. I try to explain.

My family's home is insured for $48,000. That's enough to lay three feet of deep sea communications cable. That's what I do, Miriam; lay cable. Everything relies upon those cables; fiberoptic bundles of hope buried beneath the seabed, tying our lives together. They 're the internet's umbilical cords.

Last year I spent 359 days away from my wife and kids, 359 days laying cable so perverts could drool over web-porn while soccer-moms sold Avon through social media.

I know it's sparking, leave it alone. I'll fix the TV, I promise. Sit down.

You know what I hate, Miriam? Sharks. They attack the cables, dig them up from the primordial silt and chew on them. We don't know why; it might have something to do with electrical currents. A few years ago we started wrapping the cables in kevlar to shark-proof them.

Which didn't matter at all.

All of the undersea networks have a finite number of backup cables, called 'dark cables'. I was on a boat in the Pacific in June. We pulled up another cable, same as the last one. Severed clean, six feet of cable missing entirely. We had to light up another dark cable. We lit up thirteen out of twenty four dark cables this year. Those cables should've lasted twelve years but they didn't last twelve months, it'lll be six months just replacing half of them, and dear Lord it's expensive, costs us man hours and equipment fees, and here we find another cable with this same impossible wound.

July, near the Philipines, I get a call from an engineer working on the WHOLENESS lines. They're down to nine dark cables.

An email from Hanna, on the MERCY project. Sharkproofing failed; any suggestions?

A text from Martin Garret, CEO COMNETRON, please call at my earliest convenience.

Convenience. I have time now, Marty! Would you take my call now?

Everything in the world depends upon the internet. The cars you drive, your phones and TV's. Everything's connected. Everything depends upon that intricate mesh of cables, thick snakes sleeping in the sea slime, you see? Everything is connected.

It's not the sharks, Miriam. I'll show you. Look—I have the nurse's cell phone! I swiped it at med-check. I'll show you a trick. A very special trick. Watch the TV, Miriam.

She wants out, but I've barricaded the door; the day room is ours now, no way in or out, not now, not when I'm so close.

The hospital bills my insurance $3,949 per day. This is week two, that's $55,286—about what it cost me to build my fishhook. Two lights, four cameras, in a box beneath the sea, watching, recording, broadcasting.

I saw the Leviathan once, Miriam.

A shadow—such a shadow! So big, Miriam, this creature with teeth sharp enough to bite through kevlar like licorice. One eye, I saw; one eye, and in that one eye, I understood. It knows me, Miriam. It knows what I do, it knows about the cables, about humans. It hates us.

It's not a shark, oh my no.

I'm prepared now. I'm going to catch it! I'll broadcast those horrible eyes through the very cables it wants so badly to destroy. They'll understand when they see it. My wife, the kids, the doctors.

The TV lights up again. It worked! The phone is tied into the fishhook so many miles away. I shunt the feed into the TV. On screen, yellow beams of light rape the oceanic darkness, streaming through clouds of tiny unidentifiable bits that remind me of the sea monkeys I had as a kid.

The orderlies batter at the door, but I ignore them. Miriam's gnawing on my ankle now, thank god she has no teeth. My fishhook continues it's lonely broadcast, clamped to an Almighty Lifegiving Cable. Once again, I keep vigil, hunched over my fishhook, waiting for the thing to bite.

Keep your eyes on the TV, Miriam. And don't worry. The internet's safe—I'm here.


- - -
Austin Malcome is a writer living in Casey, Illinois. He is the creator of the Spes Mortis Requiem roleplaying game, which no one has ever played. He really likes instant ramen.


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