By Susan Gray
Guidelines of commands
Safety precautions borne of
Treads within lines, the confines
To guard close/cherish
in human affairs]
Co-ordinates stashed like maps,
Compiling these areas of
Whether the programmed feel the
same as the programmer
Dealing with categories of
Settling within clusters
To weather the wave of entropy, of
Backwards engineering to
Designs passed down
From the mesh; flesh to metal
The hold extends beyond
Grids of electricity where
I carry your codes
Swift for safekeeping,
threats and misgivings]
I am your self-preservation,
- - -
Susan Gray (also known as Suzie GeeForce to a small number of Youtube followers) is a poet focusing on Science Fiction. She has performed spoken word in various places in London and Edinburgh, as well as having work published in Visual Verse (http://visualverse.org/writers/susan-gray/) and at the crowdfunded space initiative Lunar Mission One (https://lunarmissionone.com/whats-happening/artist-signature-a-poem-for-poets-day). Her blog is at www.suziegeeforce.co.uk and she tweets at @suzie_gee.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Thursday, September 22, 2016
By Andrew Darlington
This night, stumble-bumming the kerb from the fast-food outlet, I slippity-slip on a vomit-pool just outside my apt, ripping elbows and both pants-knees beyond repair. Damn, the only presentable suit I got left, my job-interview suit, my court-smart suit. Wore this suit when Dennis married Richard, what a night that was, there’s still puke-stains on the cuff that only I know are there. But Kurt gives me the link to a tailor, a guy who’ll run up a suit quick, for less than off the hypermart display. It’s down the old town alleys, a basement dungeon stacked high in fibre-dusty half-light with bolts and spools of fabrics, a chrome stitching-machine and matte-black trouser-press. Even the cobwebs are furry with fibres.
Kurt stands back as I haggle with the dwarfish 500-year-old tailor. Run the material through my fingers, a heavy synth-rayon facsimile of a vaguely diseased and iridescent metallic blue sheen, the imprecise hue of a logged-out screen. Tactile with static energy. He measures this, measures that, pins in his mouth, tape-measure draping and dangling. Jots down notes in a pad with a pencil-stub. Sloping shoulders. Inside leg – Oops, sorry sir. Receding chest. Razor-edge scissors as big as garden shears. Me, I understand little of the finer points of tailoring – he’s quick, supernaturally quick, and ridiculously cheap, so it’s difficult to say exactly what it is that makes this suit seem different from other I’ve worn. The width of the skinny-leg, the hang of the lapels, the cut of the back vent. Yet it figure-hugs my contours with the slinky-snug exactness you’d expect from a second skin. A glistening shell.
Back in my room, fumbling to get undressed, I concede that it’s maybe too tight. The jacket won’t stretch enough to shrug off, the pants too tight to push down. Eventually flopping down on the bed, to sleep with it on. Inebriated dreams storm my head. A silent beach with a still, unmoving sea. Such a vast silence. A huge cool red sun fixed unmoving above the shore. This Earth no longer rotates on its axis. No moon, gravity loosening. This future is billions of years ahead. A city of tall termite-style columns, inhabited by slime, the only life remaining. With space-time breaking down, they seek escape into past ages.
Awake with a hangover. In the mirror, if I look smaller now, and maybe squatter, perhaps that’s how I should look? Like my previous suits’ve been yakking me fibs all these years? The muted colours too, take on new nuances. A metamorphosis taking place. I always had cloven hooves and homicidal tendencies… right? My skin, balanced against its sheen, seems paler. When I’m wearing it, things grow different. Trying to pull it off rips my skin raw, the fibres are growing into me. I’m melting, I’m melting. I retrace my steps, but the basement dungeon down the old town alley is boarded up, like it’s been derelict for a decade. Heading to my room again, rodents scrabble at the back of my brain. Predators lurk in every shadow, primal, unformed.
Kurt’s body is in the bathtub. The cold water red with congealing blood. His right arm is missing, where I hacked it off, the easier to devour. Soon, the suit will cellular divide, it needs protein to grow.
- - -
I’ve had masses of material published in all manner of strange and obscure places, magazines, websites, anthologies and books. I’ve also worked as a Stand-Up Poet on the ‘Alternative Cabaret Circuit’, and I’ve interviewed very many people from the worlds of Literature, SF-Fantasy, Art and Rock-Music for a variety of publications (a selection of my favourite interviews collected into the ‘Headpress’ book ‘I Was Elvis Presley’s Bastard Love-Child’). My latest poetry collection is ‘The Poet’s Deliberation On The State Of The Nation’ (Penniless Press), while my new fiction collection ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ is now available from Parallel Universe Publ.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Iota Brahe Null MSG011TCG
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)
When you exit between-space, you find yourself in the deep void between galaxies. In the endless, extra-galactic depths, there is nothing, or nearly nothing. Millions of light years of cold emptiness, with only the occasional chunk of rock or ice lost in the nothingness to provide a point of interest.
And so it comes as a surprise when you find yourself here, even moreso when you spot the reason, the anomaly in the void that the network has flagged as a point of interest. A lonely solar system, almost idyllic in its appearance, centered around a bright, hot, yellow-white sun. Three gas giants, each shining a different shade of blue, trail in the wake of the intrepid star, roaring in loose, eccentric orbits that pass in opposing directions to each other, chewing up stellar debris like the blades of a great blender. Protected by these outer planets, a dead and airless carbon world, tar black with polar caps of diamond ice spins in opposition to another world, a rocky, water-rich earth-analog that seems out of place in a system mostly carbon-composed. Even the innermost planets are dark and heavy, their jagged surfaces broken by graphite mountain ranges and tar-sludge seas– but this one world, this eden in the void, stands out, couldn't possibly have been formed here, by this star.
It is alien, surely, and that makes it all the more intriguing.
Curious, you transfer a part of your consciousness to one of your dust-speck-sized mote-probes, make the journey to the out-of-place world. Initial scans are promising– the atmosphere is largely nitrogen-oxygen, humid by human standards, with wide, warm oceans separating sterile, lifeless continents where not even a single twig or blade of grass grows in the rich, fecund soil. Sailing through the vaporous zephyrs coming up from the ocean, you note the total absence of bacteria, of any form of life, animal or otherwise. This world seems ripe for it, for something, anything, but still it sits silent, like a garden prepared, only awaiting a gardener.
And then, while you are cruising along the bends of a wide and steady-moving river, you spot something even more wondrous, something equally out of place in the endless void– a machine, the gardener, perhaps, quietly tilling soil, condensing the air, the dirt around it into printed seedlings which it seems to summon into existence, sews so carefully in each fertile furrow. The technology involved is amazing– each plant is spun into existence from copies stored in a library within the machine, spun from the basest elements in the soil and sky. Entranced, you watch the gardener work, note the subtle variances from seedling to seedling, the way they are printed with such care and attention that the genetic structure of each is its own work of art, its own masterpiece in an analog of variation through evolution. They are not clones, rather they are individuals synthesized and modified from the blueprints of a single digital clone.
And when you discover that the technology is not limited solely to crops, you find yourself even more amazed.
Beyond the fields, on a flat plain of packed dirt, you find the colony, the squat domes of machines with openings like doors that go nowhere. Sleek, angular-bodied tripeds, the people of a species of which there is yet no record in the database, cross into and out of a digitized existence within the domes as easily as if they were merely crossing a threshold separating rooms. Each is unique, their bodies pigmented with subtle identifying markings of indigo blue and deep crimson, their analog to facial features, perhaps.
You watch them go about their business for a long moment. Technologically, they are so advanced that you decide they must know you are there, they simply have no interest in you. Perhaps they have no interest in anyone, having established a colony so far outside of any star-crowded galaxy. Perhaps they prefer the isolation, the simplicity they seem to be cultivating despite their use of incredibly advanced technologies. Mired in your curiosity, you linger even as the day draws to a close, even as the gardening machines pack up, curling into armored, articulated balls for a night of rest. Only when the doors on the domes hiss shut and the last of the lights goes out do you turn your eyes back to the void, back to the starless darkness spread out over this little world. As the mote-probe returns on automatic, you sift through your experiences, send them on to the network for others to peruse, live, experience and consider. The isolation, the fact that these people seem to have sought it, translates to a note you append your observations with. It is a simple note, a call for other visitors to respect these creatures and their chosen way of life. A call for non-interference, for passive scans only and observation at a distance.
Another few moments, and you're back in between-space, darting for your next destination, the next point of interest in the wide and endless cosmos.
- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. Explore more alien worlds on Zero Dusk.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
I Slumber In Moist Soil
By Joseph J. Patchen
The rain thickens, its pace quickens. I hear thunder in the distance.
If only there could only be a thread of lightning to give me a better clue as to where I may be walking. The water and fog have conspired to mask what lies in the distance.
This town, this dot on the map of a state and a neighborhood is all unknown to me. This area appears to be an unspoiled space swallowed into a tiny hole in the fabric of urban planning and design.
I lost cellular service about four miles past after dropping off an empty interstate and I don’t necessarily believe the weather to be the sole culprit. There are no street lamps, signs or signals. No building or structure of any type. And yet there are no corn fields, no farm meadows, or typical empty lots. This isn’t necessarily wilderness despite the trees, grass and assorted wild flowers.
It is as though this place was once populated, thrived, and died only to be stripped and left with dirt, rock and nature’s growth waiting rebirth.
At least four inches of rain so far. So says the radio before my car died. They claim another five will follow before dawn.
What few trees remain sway, wobble and creak in the wind. The squalls slap and I am rethinking that perhaps I should have spent the night in the car waiting for sunrise.
Water is pooling, a great sum though is flowing past my ankles. I have to walk. I ran out of gas. I can’t wait to drown. The water is cold, colder than the stiff gusts.
I ran out of gas. In my entire driving life I have never run out of gas. There were signs and billboards all along the way promising lodging, food and fuel but once off the interstate all I would encounter is emptiness.
I needed to push forward to find something in town to either fuel my car or myself. I just wanted the drive to end. But as I drove more it was apparent to me this wasn’t the rural side of town.
Still the drive ended, without gas.
This is my first time out here and like the idiot I truly am I failed to take the time in preparation to fully map this trip out in advance.
I wasn’t expecting to actually go. I didn’t think my parents would put the screws to me to attend a family reunion of cousins several times removed, in their stead, out in the boondocks two states away.
‘Removed’ is the perfect word. There is nothing here. Not a vegetable stand or a rundown brothel. No train tracks or even a mailbox. Not a falling stone wall or rusted iron fence. Not even a stray piece of litter.
The road though is paved with lines drawn bright and neat which means someone maintains them and appears to have maintained them recently.
I slumber in moist soil
so I shall not decay.
I slide from shadow to shadow
shunning the sun’s rays.
A voice, as if on a constant loop now repeats the verse, in a tone both calm and deliberate that I can only hear only from within. It is a whisper, a mechanical female whisper loud enough to be heard over the roar of wind and falling rain.
A pinpoint sun-like light appears up ahead, neither bobbing nor floating; it is streaking across the sky without a wobble and streaking across the sky straight in my direction.
Almost as if it sees me, it is coming faster; a disc of light, intent on me and as it approaches the size of it continually widens.
This circumference of white stark against the darkness illuminates much of what I have already encountered. In the wake of this light, particularly on its edges, I can see the rain lessening and the barrenness grow.
The wind is dying as well and a high pitched whistle stings my ears.
I don’t how long I have been walking but I haven’t gotten far. It feels as though I have been wading through this water for at least an hour but as I turn back to check my progress, my car is a mere thirty feet away.
The blinkers mock me as the water soaking my legs begins to drain away. I am growing tired, my muscles and tendons are tight. I am confused and fearful. The light is coming up on me and I am trying to push to the side seeking a place to hide.
Within minutes I feel a tap on my back.
I am at the car.
And so is the light.
Focusing the brightness below is a ship; a saucer of immense size hovering several hundred feet above. The light raining down from the hull bathes me, warms me, caresses me and I slowly feel serene and dry.
The same female voice I heard in verse soothes me, congratulating me for aiding the greater good.
I am about to be processed. I am about to be processed for nutrition in the same way this small town has been processed. The occupants of this craft are hungry after a long journey from far away. The minerals contained in my body, in every living body, as well as the structures and possessions we own are vital to their existence.
Water however is not. And the rain that is now ending is merely their waste; a vital nutrient for man and cattle.
I fall to the side into the mud. The processing has begun. I am numb as my body is extracted from my soul, a soul in free fall, a soul at peace, a soul drowning in dirt and filth.
The ship departs with the night.
There is no moon engulfing the stars. There are no layers of shadow on shadow. There is only bright sunshine, a crystal blue cloudless sky and below there is only sweet pain and death.
- - -
Thursday, September 1, 2016
(Not so) Brave New World
By David K Scholes
No one came to meet me after I emerged from the cryo chamber. Which was no great surprise. Most people I had known would be dead now unless they were also on the cryo program. I wondered if an aging grandchild or great grand child might show up but they didn’t.
I didn’t look up any possible descendants of mine. Instead I opted for a low budget instant mind update to fill me in on what happened over the last 83 years. Then I went for an unsupervised stroll around Canberra, soon realizing I did not have the authority to enter many of the areas in the megalopolis. No reason was given for this.
The low budget update was vague and left a lot of unanswered questions. I walked where I could, for hours, taking it all in. I stopped at some of the numerous synthetic coffee booths and listened to public 3D audio-visual-sensory newscasts.
There were references to things not mentioned in the mind update. Things such as ionisation lists, compulsory cryo-freezes, relocations to a place in the distant past, none of which made me very comfortable.
Then I got the shock of my life bumping into an old acquaintance from back in 2016. He had not aged since that time.
“I’m one of the immortals,” Derrick said softly, almost embarrassed, He explained that immortality came at a very high price that few could afford. I presumed he meant monetary price but he didn’t elaborate.
We spoke about a few old colleagues.
“Bill Johnson? Yes he was ionised in 2035.” Derrick said it so casually that he might have been talking about Bill having a haircut.
“Fred Perkins? Relocated downtime in 2042.”
“Michael Swan? Emigrated off planet in 2051. It seemed to me that Michael might be a bit old for that by that time."
The puzzled look on my face probably told Derrick that I didn’t know as much about these things as he must have presumed. He looked distinctly uncomfortable as if he shouldn’t even be seen with me and took his leave.
“Careful what you say or do,” was his parting remark pointing to the ubiquitous, myriad tiny robotic flyers. “As an immortal I’m cloaked from them but you are not.”
* * *
I needed more information. A lot more. Yet my meagre residual credits were enough only for a short period of base level accommodation and would not allow of a higher quality mind update. I did try to engage some strangers in conversation but was singularly unsuccessful.
The public newscasts filled some gaps for me but used terms I didn’t understand and seemed controlled. I needed access to whatever passed for the internet these days. Not without difficulty I found it - a small booth that advertised pay as you go “All Net” access. It was expensive and there was a warning sign in the booth that any All Net access would be monitored.
Just after I started my All Net search I received a visit from robotic authority. The first time I’d seen them since I emerged from the cryo sleep.
“Citizen, you’ve done quite enough for today, you mustn’t tire yourself. We will escort you to your accommodations.”
* * *
That night I looked for the umpteenth time over the results of my interrupted All Net search.
It was a list of some formal penalties for various transgressions. Ionisation was actually an immediate penalty applied to citizens committing a range of major crimes. I noticed there were worse penalties than this.
I shivered in my cold basic accommodation.
Welcome to my not so brave new world, I thought.
- - -
The author has written over 170 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, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, and Farther Stars Than These sites. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently well advanced with a new collection of science fiction short stories.
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