Thursday, November 24, 2016

11/24/16

Other Side
By David K Scholes


I found myself swimming forever in a sea, perhaps more a morass, of predominantly negative emotions and under currents.

Shock, anger, hatred, frustration, disappointment, despair, disbelief, among others.
Overlaying it all was a sense of helplessness. Of the inability to do anything to reverse whatever had occurred. Though exactly what had occurred I was quite unsure of. Though I had some suspicions and rather hoped I was wrong.

In the far distance was a vast barrier which carried an all pervading sense of impenetrability.

I had no sense of relative size or proportion here and consequently no sense of exactly how far away the barrier might be. There was a vague sense that distance here was not measured in kilometres or miles but by something else altogether. I attempted to swim nearer to the barrier but no matter how fast I strove towards it I could get no closer. In fact slowly, inexorably I was being drawn further away from the barrier.

Time seemed eternal here and yet I felt no particular sense of boredom. I was still trying to grasp where I was and what had happened to me. All the while my recollection of who I had been was receding. Though I was trying desperately hard to hold on to vestiges of it.

Eventually I began to feel an easing in the negative emotions and undercurrents. More than this I was able to discern actual figures apparently swimming like me in the morass. They were of all types and sizes. Not merely humans. The barrier, if such it was, was still visible but only just. I wondered if it too would recede into memory.

In one major direction the negative emotions eased further and I had my first sense of lighter more positive emotions and undercurrents. Feelings of relief of joy and of acceptance though sometimes still tinged with sadness. In another major direction the negative emotions actually seemed to gather strength once again. Threatening to become overwhelming.

For an indeterminate period I was flowing in neither of these major directions. I was just wallowing between them in what was now a morass of mixed emotions. Some positive, some negative. I felt more now than ever like an observer. With the main events passing me by as I simply watched on.

It was during this time that I detected a narrow current going against the flow. Back in the direction of the barrier. With figures swimming in that current. I attempted to enter it but could not.

While still wallowing in this no mans part of the morass I was finally able to hear and communicate with the many entities around me. I did not recognise the language used but understood it very clearly. At first it was overwhelming with every entity trying to communicate at once. It was also mainly unnerving. Entities yelling out in this universal language “I wasn’t ready”, “I’ve got so much still to do”, “It’s not my time” “Why me?” and similar remarks.

It was quite a while before I was able to have an actual conversation with anyone or anything. Eventually something clearly non human engaged with me.

“Where are we,” I asked “what is this place?’
“You know,” he/it said “you just don’t want to admit it.”
I feigned ignorance but I knew he was right. The evidence had been overwhelming.

“That flow, the current taking some back towards the barrier, what is that about?”
“You know,” it/he said “another chance, another opportunity for them back there where we came from.”
I looked puzzled.
“It happens, you know it happens. It always has and always will. The second chance thing or sometimes third, fourth, or fifth chance.”

I still didn’t quite understand. Even as suddenly I found myself caught up in the current going back towards the barrier.

He/it that I had been speaking to did not follow me in the back current.

“I believe the world you once belonged to had a name for it. This second/third/fourth chance thing,” he called out.

Reincarnation.


- - -
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.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

11/17/16

Dine And Dash
By E.S. Wynn


I knew a guy who used to travel from town to town, skipping his bill at every diner he visited. He'd eat for free for weeks that way, just dine and dash and leave the wait-staff shaking their fists while he burned rubber toward the highway. No one ever caught him or stopped him. No one ever coordinated any sort of search for him. For months, he got away with it, stopping at a different place every day.
Until he stopped at the wrong place.
It was a little cafe on the Interstate. One of those little roadside joints where they sell alligator jerky and sun-brewed sweet tea. Much as he always did, the guy ate like a king, racked up a pretty serious bill, then got up to go to the bathroom.
Only he didn't go to the bathroom. He waited until the one waiter on duty went back to speak with the chef, and then he tip-toed to the door and slipped out with all the grace of a cartoon villain.
When he got outside, though, the chef was already waiting for him with a meat cleaver in his hand.
“Heard about you,” he said. “Skipping out on bills from here to Florida.”
This guy, he just cracked a grin and said, “Yeah, what of it?”
“What of it?” The chef asked, pointing with his meat cleaver. “I reckon you've racked up about thirty thousand in unpaid services, boy.”
“That's a lot of dishes to wash,” the guy mocked.
“Won't be no dish washing for you,” the chef said. “I've got something else in mind. Buddy of mine runs organs down to people in need at the hospital three towns over. Good pay for good parts, and the rest of you – well, I see some cuts that will probably go good on the grill.”

Yeah, I knew a guy who used to skip his bill at every diner he visited.
That is, until his debts finally caught up with him.
By then, he'd gotten fat and delicious. I'm still picking bits of him out of my teeth.


- - -
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, November 10, 2016

11/10/16

“JEMs”
By David Castlewitz


The character that emerged from the smart phone reminded Carlton of the bullies he'd dealt with at every school he'd ever attended, from Mrs. Margery's Grammar Academy to Elton Prep. The avatar stepped off the phone's screen and onto the tabletop. It exuded confidence, and that put a twinkle in Carlton's light hazel eyes and made him more certain of himself than any avatar he'd tried in the past. A few taps on the screen changed the avatar's eyes from bright red to a more normal hazel, its blonde hair from buzz-cut to shoulder length, like Carlton's.

Satisfied, Carlton tapped the pay button and sat back, his chair against the coffee shop's dull green wall, and waited for the inevitable interaction. He picked up his phone and whispered a name by which to identify his new avatar. "Billy," he said. "Billy Bonkers."

Billy pranced back and forth. "What's happening out there in real people world?"

Carlton sipped his coffee.

"Want to fight?" asked a teenager who took the chair next to Carlton's

"Not a fighting app," Carlton said. He'd purchased this new avatar in the hope of attracting one of the young women he saw at this coffee shop. Many of them had avatars riding on their shoulders or perched on their heads, which prompted flirting that often resulted in something more.

The avatar that emerged from the kid's phone was a big-headed, barrel-chested man wearing a pair of tight-fitting black shorts.

"I'm not fighting you," Carlton said.

"Let your avie speak for itself," the kid said.

"Walk off," Billy said. Dressed in faded jeans ripped at the knees, white shirt not tucked in, and with sandals on its feet, Billy affected a casual, come-talk-to-me look, much like the one Carlton tried whenever he left his apartment to prowl the mall and coffee shops for companionship.

"My avie can beat the crap out of your avie," the kid said.

"Not interested."

"Ten bucks. I'll put up ten. You put up ten. Winner takes the pot."

Carlton watched two young women pass by his table; their short blonde hair and facial makeup and outer dress so much the same, they looked like twins. One paused and looked at Billy. She smiled. She tapped the cloth purse dangling on a cord looped across her shoulder and a pixie-faced avatar peeked out from the handbag's open top.

"Fighters," the look-alike companion said. "Don't waste your time. Kid stuff."

They walked on.

Carlton seethed.

"You won't get rid of me if you don't put up a fight," the kid said, his face brightening as though he'd just won a contest or aced a test at school.

"I like your JEMs."

Carlton looked at the source of the intruding female voice. The young woman pointed a lacquered fingernail at the avatars now prancing back and forth across the tabletop. Some media maven once called these mesmerizing holographic toys "Just Energized Magnetism" and the moniker -- shortened to JEM -- stuck. Even the app-maker used the fabricated name, though magnetism had nothing to do with the holographic projections.

The woman seated herself in the chair next to Carlton's, her triangular face glowing, silicon beads of red and blue embedded in her high cheeks. She pulled a cell phone from the pocket of her one-piece outfit, which shimmered and changed from one hue of blue to another.

"I'll take the winner," she said, tapping the phone's screen. A robust, black haired female avatar in a blue-and-white one-piece bathing suit emerged. It strutted across the screen, and then stepped onto the table, where it suddenly grew inches in height, gaining girth as well.

"Meet Betty Blue," the woman said.

The kid gulped. "Misty," he said.

"You've heard of me," the woman shot back.

The kid snatched his cell phone from the tabletop. His fighter avatar disappeared between his fingers. Red-faced, he hurried away.

Misty smiled at Carlton. "Still want to fight?"

"Billy's not a fighter," Carlton said.

Misty continued to smile. "Looks like a bully to me."

Carlton searched for words. He often reached this point with people, especially young women, when he couldn't think fast enough to keep a new acquaintance interested, to turn a casual encounter into a friendship, to fashion love from shared humor.

"Wanna try me?" Billy said, hands on hips, shoulder-length hair shining.

"No," Carlton said. "We're not fighting."

"Says you," Billy replied before grappling with Betty. The two holograms merged. Hands on one another. Bodies entwined. Carlton stared at the melee. Sparks flew. Tufts of black hair and curls of blonde erupted like feathers from a stirred up chicken coop.

Billy fell backwards, Betty atop him. Misty smiled.

The avatars kissed.

Carlton blinked. When Betty rose to its feet it offered Billy a helping hand.

"I won," Misty said. "Pay up."

"We didn't have a bet."

"Sure we did. Ten bucks."

Carlton searched his memory for what had transpired moments before the fight, moments after Misty sat at the table and chased the kid away. In a trance, unable to remember any details, he transferred ten dollars to Misty's account with a tap on an icon in the corner of his cell phone's screen. An animated image of old-time paper currency fluttered to the other corner of the screen, where a locked vault representing Misty's bank account opened and welcomed the incoming ten dollar bill.

"What now?" Carlton asked.

"Indeed," Misty said. She fingered her phone. Her Betty Blue avatar dissolved. She walked away. Carlton followed her with his eyes. He lost her in the crowd. But later, while he toyed with Billy Bonkers -- finger boxing with it -- and while keeping a lookout for whoever else might sit at his table, he noticed Misty again.

She and that kid with the fighter avatar stood near an exit door. They laughed and put their heads together, acting like friends who'd just pulled off a stunt.


- - -

Thursday, November 3, 2016

11/3/16

Urban Pacifiers
By David K Scholes


The virtual reality urban pacifier simulations helped but they did not fully prepare me for my first mission. There is no substitute for experience.

I brought up the rear in one of ten four person units fanning out from Urban Pacification Central towards the infamous mile high Turnbull residential tower. .

We had two combination punisher/heavy lift bots with us as back up.

En route we encountered disorganised resistance. From em bikers and truckers, star trooper vets, youthpaks and some other objectionables. It threatened to be nasty and we called in a jumbo drone support ready to level “expendable” “corridors” if need be.

Yet when the assorted objectionables realised we were not after them or their particular neighbourhood many of them faded away. Or just perhaps it was the sight of the jumbo drone.

I had a soft spot for the tough star trooper vets and was glad they didn’t push us. I was even more pleased to know that they were not nearly as well equipped as we were. The vets were held together with whatever bits and pieces came to hand. Particularly the younger ones returning to Earth after the collapse of Central Governments. Some of these ex-star troopers were more third rate cyborgs than men.

In my deflector equipped state of the art armour with 10x10 exo-skeleton (10 times normal strength 10 times normal speed) and drug boosted I could afford to be a little smug.

* * *

Our urban pacification doesn’t just mean killing people and levelling suburbs. Of course sometimes it does but that’s not what we are all about. We could be called out for anything from major out of control partying or a major industrial clean up to a full scale urban rebellion or even an invasion of the Megalopolis. Though lord knows why anyone would bother to invade us.

* * *

The Turnbull tower stuck out like a sore thumb. Huge car parks lay around it with many of the nearby buildings flattened. .

The vast acres of parking around the tower had been the scene of some sort of battle. Tangled wrecks of old trucks and cars. Huge volumes of concrete had fallen from the scarred building. Unexploded ordinance lay about the area.

I looked up in wonder at the building. Intended to be totally autonomous it had been built when engineering standards were at their highest. Despite all the damage done to it the colossus, anchored deep in the bedrock below it, stood unbowed as structurally strong as ever.

We put the punisher/heavy lift bots to clearing the car park area.

Then all forty of us entered and swept the building. We did it by the book.

It seemed such a ridiculously small number for such a colossus but our mission was limited. Key agitators were to be arrested, certain individuals were to be freed and escorted safely away, med centres were to be put back on line, power was to be restored in certain areas.

The heavy duty bots later came in to the lower floors.

As a final act we fired a one month noise suppression envelope over the building. Perhaps it seems silly but there had been noise complaints from what passed as neighbours and we had to act upon them.

I realised that we would be back here again in three months or less to do the whole thing again.

* * *

Later as we turned back towards Urban Pacifier Central I knew that three of our number had not made it. Jill, Ted and Xrrlth were all just as dead as Julius Caesar. Of course their exo-skeleton backed armour was still working. On automatic bringing them home with us. We flanked them to ensure they weren’t molested.

We tried never to leave even our dead behind. It had happened once or twice and the locals had stripped their armour and exo-skeletons and done things to the bodies.

Back at Central I got out of my pacifier armour and supporting exo-skeleton. It took me a while. This was followed by an air blast massage and I fell into an old fashioned hot tub. The “forever young” drug I had taken before going on the mission had now completely dissipated.

Then I staggered into my wheel chair and fell asleep even before my android nurse aid could wheel me into bed. With some variations much the same thing was happening in other rooms to my fellow pacifiers.

It still seemed to be our secret that most of us were old, disabled or both. With only the technology; the exo-skeleton armour, the heavy duty bots and the drones giving us the edge.

Someone out there in the sprawling Megalopolis had to know the truth about us but it didn’t seem to be common knowledge. If it were we would surely encounter a more organised more determined resistance. Perhaps even direct attacks on Urban Pacifier Central

My hope was that while the no longer repairable technology held up and we pacifiers remained young enough with the drugs that we could possibly maintain the status quo.

After that?

The truth is we urban pacifiers in each major megalopolis are the last links to any kind of order.

When we are gone there will be nothing but total anarchy.


- - -
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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