Thursday, June 22, 2017

6/22/17

In Peace
By Joseph J. Patchen


The face in the blood soaked soil mocks me. I whacked the head from the torso severing it from its spine yet, while lifeless, those eyes open wide and contorted smile somehow has figured out a way to screw with my intellect.

It wasn’t dead it was shocked and demanded an explanation.

I had no other choice. I was coerced. My nature betrays me as my captivity on your world persists.

I’ve killed; not out of a characteristic self-defense but out of forthright malice.

Yet from the living there is no anger or disappointment against me. There is no attempt at a decisive correction of my behavior. There is only a small apologetic admonition and a simple direction as I am led to the next test and interrogation in a series of secured buildings.

And so it has been since my craft landed and my hand was extended in friendship. And so it goes in a whirlwind of subjugation on and on and one to the other in an exhaustive bloodless dissection from handler to handler.

“We’ll have your meal for you shortly.”

Always a pleasant tone and a smile; the shallow surface is not murky enough to mask a deep natural contempt. My meal; it is largely inedible but will, in the short term, stave off starvation.

“Eggs… Protein... I am so glad we have finally discovered a universal form of nourishment.”

“Congratulations, there has to be a Nobel Prize in this.”

Cheap baubles around your neck or slabs of engraved plastic are the focus of your life’s achievements. For your sake there are a handful of like blank minded low achievers who experience envy.

“You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”

And one replaces another. Your species is so naïve.

Scientists; learned men and women with their sugary platitudes and potted meats…now oblong shelled orbs of phlegm. I placed my trust in these purported rational beings of pure intellect rather than their bloated and slow witted counterparts – bureaucrats. I tactically believed an alliance could be formed…either way I now realize you are unable to accept the advancements of others.

I strangled a guard this evening. I felt the life drain from his being; pools of ooze, his essence still seeping from his body…I wonder why the other guards just stare.

I enjoyed it with an emotion exceeding the greatest satisfaction of community.

“You understand that I am the Commander of this base and under my command I can make your existence unpleasant. Now, for the last time, we cannot open your craft nor can we cut into the hull. What is this made of and how can we gain entry?”

I smile. For the first time I am met with a raised voice, a pointed finger and an overt threat. I’ve grown tired of the theater, of the laughter. What lies beneath your species on this marvelous marble of yours is a tight intertwining of fear and guilt.

Veins pop in the Commander’s neck and forehead.

“I came in Peace and yet I am nothing more to you than a smear on a thin glass slab. I came in Peace bearing a cornucopia of prosperity forever. I came voluntarily to your world with the best of intentions and all I am met with is theft.”

“Theft?” The Commander is wide eyed and red faced as liquid spittles forth from his mouth accompanying a shrill spillage of words.

“You threw my generosity aside choosing me instead for study. I would have granted you access to any information about my people and our physiology if you would have given me a chance to conclude my mission of pure neighborly charity.

“Instead you imprisoned me with ’tests’ and ‘examinations’ taking data from me. Now you seek to do the same with my vessel, an outgrowth of my own self. Commander you must understand that on my world our technological advances are not tailored to the mass diet. Our technology is tailored to our being and the violations you have committed on me have been felt on my craft and on my pieces at home.”

The Commander leans back in his chair with an air of self-assurance. “Then cooperate. You obviously speak English…”

“I speak in any dialect I am required. Bring in others of different cultures and tongues and you will learn what I can do and what you could have done.”

The Commander now leans forward, his face gnarling and his knuckles tightening; “Why don’t you stop with the cheap B-science fiction movie dialogue.”

I smile even wider for I can see into the dimensional tear slowly developing in the room over the old soldier’s brow. To my sight this is obvious but to the sight of man it is invisible only until we decide to be seen.

Another secret we could have shared. Be it by space or time or dimension we can travel by whichever means we decide. We are your unidentified flying objects. We are your ghosts, your phantoms and your spiritual orbs.

We have haunted your history and titillated your imaginations. But now it is over. The imaginings are done. You have failed your test in this once in a lifetime face to face encounter.

As your representative spews the hate and the threats of an inadequate species; as your most learned class simply defers to the most blunt and brutal uninformed warrior, others of my kind have no choice but to enter this room and rescue their brother.

In our attempt to serve man with secrets we thought you were ready to receive it is evident our mission has failed. The growth of this species is stunted by a false smugness. While advances in science and technology have made you ‘smarter’ your innate arrogance grows.

In our attempt to serve man we have no other choice now but to serve you your just desserts.



- - -

Thursday, June 15, 2017

6/15/17

Eight Science Fiction Haiku
By Denny E. Marshall


third rock from the sun
waiting patiently in line
moves up to second

meteor showers
signals sent by aliens
morse code messages

Earth-like planet spins
hidden inside Jupiter
emerge Earth's last day

aliens nickname
for Earth
money

on dark side of moon
aliens plan invasion
change into children

aliens leave gift
every moment on film
will came back later

vampire star born
from pin size wormhole by sun
small orb feeds slowly

aliens descend
spaceships attack planet Earth
disguised as balloons


- - -

Thursday, June 8, 2017

6/8/17

The Dreamer
By Eric Suhem


Jared awoke in the office of the project’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lenov. A metronome clocked back and forth as the psychiatrist looked on from the hazy background. “Now Jared, you’re probably wondering why you’re here. As you know, you’ve been participating in our sleep research program, and we’ve been monitoring your dreams, some of which have been found to be reliable indicators of trends in young consumer demand. While not all of your dreams have resulted in successful marketing campaigns, many surprisingly have. You have become a much sought-after commodity, providing valuable data to advertising teams, who monitor your dreams to track subconscious purchasing impulses. However, as of late, you have been having wild dreams of neon orange trampolines, unicycles that are electronically wired into the vibrations of monks chanting in the Himalayas, and other bizarre merchandise that is not in demand.” The details of the room became clearer to Jared as he regained consciousness. He focused his vision on the wood grain door, inches from his eyes, intrigued by the various dots and swirls. “Now Jared, our goal here is to restore the marketable qualities of your dreams. We’re going to start by examining your childhood,” said Dr. Lenov, who then looked toward the doorway, where a tall, worried-looking man had appeared. “Yes, can I help you?” asked the psychiatrist.

“I’m here for my appointment, Dr. Lenov,” said the man, looking at his watch.

“I’m sorry Mr. Floom, but we can’t deal with your issues of abandonment right now. Come back later, I have an open-door policy with my patients.” said Dr. Lenov, walking to the door and closing it in Mr. Floom’s face. “Now Jared, let’s begin.” As Jared talked about his childhood, there were more interruptions from other patients, and Jared started to notice the psychiatrist’s disturbing tendency to close doors incessantly, often in the face of his patients. In fact, special hinges had been added to the doors of the psychiatrist to prevent his door-closing, but Dr. Lenov overcame the hinges, often slamming a door theatrically as his patient looked on aghast, the door’s varnish and wood grain inches from the patient’s face. When Jared pointed this out to Dr. Lenov, the psychiatrist said, “It’s not helpful for you to project your issues onto me. The issue here is that you have closed the door to your unconscious mind.”

After talking about his childhood for 6 hours, Jared felt exhausted and worn out, falling asleep on the leather couch. The research team entered the room, and attached their surveillance equipment to Jared’s head, his dream soon appearing on their monitor. “I think you’ll find that the lucrative potential of the patient’s dreams has markedly improved,” said Dr. Lenov to the corporate overseers of the project.

In the dream, Jared was leading a group of men in lab coats through an oddly-angled house with stairways to nowhere, acutely slanted windows, jagged light, and barbed shadows. They walked down a lurid red passageway, eventually stopping at a door. “Inside this door are the secrets of my lucrative dreams,” said Jared in the dream, pointing at the door.

Dr. Lenov and the surveillance team leaned forward with anticipation, staring at the dream monitoring screen.

The dream continued with Jared opening the door and walking through. The group in lab coats attempted to follow, but the door slammed shut, a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign attached to it.


- - -
Eric Suhem lives in the orange hallway.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

6/1/17

BUCK’S BRAIN BOX THEORY
By C.E. Gee


Buck and Connie sometimes drove up highway 99W to visit with Jerry and Gail.

In summer, Connie and Gail occupied the north porch. In winter they stayed in the living room, sat near the fireplace.

Buck and Jerry would almost always be in another room, playing pool.

One such day, Jerry said to Buck, “I’m almost afraid to ask, but watcha been working on lately?”

Buck replied, “Well, I’m always writing you know. But recently I’ve been doing research on elongated skulls as found in ancient cultures.”

“Why?” asked Jerry while racking up for another match.

Chalking his pool cue, Buck answered, “I was watching some program about King Tut on a history channel. Turns out the guy had an elongated skull.”

Buck put down the cube of chalk, continued with, “You know how my mind works. Traveling in space under zero-gee, an outsized skull could serve as a reservoir for the blood that gets pumped to the upper body and previously caused problems with vision. With a regular sized human skull, which is a relatively small and rigid container, the pressure of blood against the brain causes the vision problems.”

“I think I see where this is headed,” said Jerry. “Forgive the pun.”

Buck chuckled, added, “The elongated skull could also hold small electronic devices that hold data for reference, communications gear, maybe a locator beacon for emergencies and the like. Also when one gets older, memory begins to fail. Assuming the aliens live for very long times, maybe some are even immortal, they could store particular memories they want to save in some electronic device. Maybe that device could even function automatically.”

“Interesting,” mused Jerry out loud.

Buck went on. “Also, I would assume the aliens have something resembling our Internet, could look up facts mentally using an implant that works like our WiFi.”

“Sheesh,” Jerry remarked as he wagged his head. “We should sit down and talk more about this. I’m becoming interested.”

The two went out to the back deck, overlooking Jerry’s extensive garden.

Sitting on the deck, Buck continued. “You know, many different ancient cultures tied boards to elongate and slope back the skulls of newborn infants. They did this to emulate the alien’s features. Some cultures called the aliens Sky Gods.”

Again, Jerry wagged his head as he sniffed his amazement.

Buck said, “You should look this stuff up on Wikipedia. I found over a dozen ancient cultures that did this to their infants.”

This time it was Buck who sniffed outward repeatedly. He was sniffing his bemusement.

He stretched out his legs, went on with, “You know, the current issue the world is having with terrorists is due to the aliens.”

“What!” exclaimed Jerry.

“Sure,” replied Buck. “Remember back when the President Bush spoke of a New World Order?”

“Of course,” replied Jerry who was something of a political wonk.

“Well,” said Buck, “Once we get the dangerous governments such as North Korea in line the aliens will be willing to reveal themselves. And once that happens the aliens will disclose lifespan enhancing drugs and such that will cause us to live much longer, maybe eventually achieving immortality like some of them.”

In a not so sure, drawn out voice, Jerry answered with, “Okkaaayyy?”

Buck said, “By living so long, like the aliens, we will be holding our spirits, or souls as some people refer to them -- we’ll be holding them for very long times. And like the aliens, we’ll be depopulating the spirit dimension.”

Again, Jerry wagged his head before Buck elaborated. “The spirit dimension is waging a proxy war to stop this.”

“They’re using religious fundamentalists in this dimension. And once Russia and the United States become fully allied, the proxy-fighters for the spirit dimension won’t have a chance.”

“How in the hell do you come up with this stuff?” asked Jerry.

Buck replied, “The Knights Templar of the future are putting thoughts in my head, just like they did with Joan of Arc, George Washington, others.”

“You like history. You should investigate the visions had by those two and others. At Valley Forge, George Washington wandered off into the woods, had his vision.”

“Both of those people had major influences on the establishment of the United States of America. Such was their destiny.”

“You know Buck,” said Jerry in a near whisper, “Sometimes I forget just how really messed up you are.”

Replied Buck, “Well, you know, the Veterans Administration has rated me as 100% disabled by reason of mental defect. Those people know what they’re doing.”

Both Jerry and Buck heartily laughed, rose, went off to be with their wives.


- - -
C.E. Gee AKA Chuck has answered many callings, including that of logger, factory worker, infantryman (Vietnam war draftee), telecommunications technician, volunteer fireman and EMT, light show roady, businessperson, sysop (commercial BBS), webmaster, blogger.

Though retired from the telecommunications and electronics industries, disabled by Vietnam War injuries (mental and physical,) Chuck works as a writer while also serving as househusband to his wife Laurie.

When not writing, Chuck enjoys reading and research (for his writings), yoga, flexitarianism, handicapping the NFL, advancing disabled veteran’s issues, and maintaining his blog.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

5/25/17

Cat and Mouse
By Bill Hackenberger


Lola opened her eyes, but didn't get up. Normally when cleaning the house I'd find her in one of her usual places: the sunny spot under the front window or curled up on the couch. Lately, however, she would just plop, head down, on the bed where Cynthia had loved to pet her.

Lola had bonded with Cynthia, and it seemed her primary mission was to entertain her by springing out from beneath the furniture when least expected and then dashing away to plan her next surprise. Cynthia would laugh whenever ambushed in this way. "LOL cat," she'd exclaim, and that was, in fact, how she'd given Lola her name. Without Cynthia to care for, we both had lost our purpose. While I could keep busy dusting and vacuuming, I could see Lola needed something to do, so I ordered a robotic mouse.

The mouse wasn't cheap. But I could get by with a little less in the household account, so I placed the order. It arrived by drone an hour later. Once I had charged its battery, it scurried about mapping the layout of the furniture and then disappeared under the coffee table.

When I picked Lola up and brought her into the living room, the mouse's eyes flashed red and it scampered across the floor and into the dark recesses beneath the couch. Lola's ears rose and swiveled like parabolic antennas locking on to a signal. She jumped from my arms, crouched, and with slow exacting steps circled around the side of the couch. She waited, crept closer, waited, then sprang like a steel trap. There was brief scuffling and a metallic squeak, but then silence. A moment later Lola reappeared and traipsed back to the bed to flop there as before.

With a broom I retrieved the mouse from under the couch. It tumbled out, inert, its eyes dark. It didn't appear damaged, but it wouldn't respond even when plugged into its charger. I could've called for a drone and returned it, but it has always been my nature to fix things, and given some mechanical skills, I decided I'd try to make it work.

Brushing back the mouse's fur, I found a tiny dimple at the nape of its neck and pressed a small screwdriver there. A metallic catch clicked, and its case opened like a clam. Its few internal components seemed simple enough. Each articulated leg was driven by its own minute motor, and a single processor board no bigger than a thumbnail held the neuromesh chip that housed its adaptive logic. I traced the circuit and found a cold solder joint where a wire had separated from the power cell. Such a simple thing. Here was, at least, a problem I could fix. A touch of a thermal probe revived the contact, and the mouse again sprang to life. Cynthia would've been delighted.

For the next hour Lola and her mouse raced about. She was fast, but the mouse was just fast enough to evade capture. It traced a path beneath tables and chairs while Lola had to leap and circle around them.

Eventually the mouse scooted from beneath a table into the little cubby of its charging station. I found Lola lying in a circle on the living room floor exhausted. It was late and we both had little energy left, so I carried Lola to the bed and set her down on her favorite spot, released the little catch behind her right ear, and plugged in her charging cable.

It seemed right to be of use again, even if just for Lola and her mouse. I needed to be ready for the morning when they would again scamper through the house, so I went to the utility closet and stepped into my own recharge alcove.


- - -
Bill Hackenberger works in the computer security business where he's had a front-row seat watching plodding humans collide with accelerating technology. A few years ago, he decided it would be fun to write stories about both of them.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5/18/17

FIRST MORNING ON ALTAIR
By John Grey


I wake under three receding moons.
Through one, half-opened eye,
I dote on the blessed gift
of six strange soaring creatures.

Fresh silver lakes, shadows given notice,
mountains, half-hatched by light,
hum with cadence,
strident or bell-like, screeching or rasping.
Strange noises don't know where to settle,
always another snap, creak, cry,
darting in, uprooting curiosity.

A sun stands sentry at the outskirts of the colony pod,
heat triumphant,
rays frisking the upper rungs of ladder-like trees,
the windmill blades of foliage eager to be named.

Bellies grunt from distant, gray-tinged meadows.
a dull, raw canticle
for a morning of such promise.
Decaying wood snaps under unseen talons.
An odd birdlike beast droops a claw
into the lake water,
slowly roils the muddy bottom.
Flowers, red, blue and gold,
gather at the tip of zigzag breezes,
chatter like cousins at a wedding.

Radio crackle drifts in from the next room.
It's mostly Earth music, Earth news,
Earth weather report, Earth religion.
In this colony, sound mates like rabbits,
noise upon noise dripping with nostalgia.
The old days are dead in me.
Why this constant funeral service?

But in some parts of this planet,
scientists are already out collecting weird botanical samples,
catching, tagging, bizarre wildlife.
I learn those skills in my sleepiness,
empty out old thoughts,
collect the new, tag the unforgettable.
WAY OUT IN THE OUTER OUTER QUADRANT

I have a name, that's what I'm trying to say.
Consonant, vowels, syllables,
all the necessary fuel.
And I can say it any time I want.

So here we are, name,
out where void too has a name
Silence is one thing
but when there's no Earth to back it up,
then it feels more like the end of everything
than just me keeping my name to myself
for the time being.
Out here, there's no world to contradict,
nothing solid to balance a billion light years of nothing,

Still, I have my name.
I can tell myself who I am if need be,
I'm too far away from everything
to speak to anyone else in the universe.
But, at least, inside my head the reception is still clear.
It's the linkage I'm worried about,
the threads that connect me to the rest of human life.
Sure, there's memories,
and their reels are rolling through my mind now,
but they come with a label warning that
they contain space wind, star showers,
meteorites, crash landings and computer malfunction.

And there's always God of course.
So I pray to the provider of all this emptiness.
Did He run out of ideas I'm wondering?
Or was He just bloody-minded,
knowing I'd be blowing by this way some day.
I start to say my name but the silence won't have
any of that blasphemy.
It bites hard down on my word.
Lost is the scientific term for my situation.
And it's the only name I answer to these days.


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

5/11/17

End of Uncertainty
By Frances Gow


The day the exploration robots landed and began scraping the surface of Grelathae for signs of life was the beginning of a new Age of Uncertainty.

Moon date: 24th of the 156th bypass.

Dr Wren says I should not be so obsessed with dates, as once we reach Earth, I will have no use for Grelathaean time. Waking from deep slumber, my joints groan with age, crystallised by the frost of a hundred-thousand moon passes. The waters run free now, defrosted by the humans’ robots. My kind has all but disappeared; those remaining were preserved in stasis, awaiting the End of Uncertainty. But our sleep was disturbed before time and most of us woke up too quickly to survive the transition.
Dr Wren lives on a moon called NASA. She talks to me from a distance and explains the rescue operation. I have to wonder why they feel the need to rescue us from our natural habitat. I have to wonder what kind of life they hope to provide for us on this place called ‘Earth’. The robots have flat faces with shiny moving pictures, which show me visions of Dr Wren and her people living on Moon NASA. We have conversations that go something like this;
“Brath, Brath? Can you hear me?” she says. We’re on first name terms now, you know.
“Sophia,” I say. Spoken through the translator, it sounds like the kind of gargle you get in the back of the gilleypipes when travelling through the moon rushes. “We’re fast moving into Uncertainty down here.”
Now, Uncertainty to a Grelathaean has a completely different meaning to Uncertainty in Dr Wren’s world. To us, it is the force of nature that allows us to be ourselves and to feed on the nourishment of the universe. Dr Wren says that such a complex organism should not be able to live so far beneath the surface of the planet and that we defy all known biological rules. How little she really knows about Uncertainty.
Most of the surface of Grelathae is ice, below which we have an intricate network of rivers, interconnected with swathes of ocean. The first Age of Uncertainty forced us to hunker down and live most of our lives beneath the surface. We sleep for sometimes two or three hundred moon passes at a time. I don’t think Dr Wren really understands. We don’t like being woken before our time; it makes us cranky. When the robots first landed and started drilling through the surface ice, some of my sisters pulled a couple of them under. Some unusual tasting minerals, but it meant that a few more of us survived the awakening.
During the first moon pass after their arrival, Dr Wren asked a great many questions. What did we look like, how did we feed, reproduce and breathe? I projected the images into the NASA moon and they duly returned some images of themselves; ugly looking creatures with snub noses and long bare limbs. But, who am I to rebuff their solicitous advances? We are after all in an Age of Uncertainty. I asked if she could send us some more robots; the first lot had tasted odd but were surprisingly satisfying. I didn’t hear from Dr Wren after that for at least three moon passes. We knew they were still up there, but maybe they didn’t want to share their robots.
“Brath. I’m securing the final location. We can take you on board and leave the robots to complete the cleanup operation,” she says. I should tell Dr Wren that her observations are quite correct. We are indeed able to live for thousands of years due to our uncannily slow metabolisms. I should also tell her that once awake and feeding, we could move faster than her NASA moon’s ability to observe and record us. I really should tell her.
The moment comes to leave the depths of our home, helped by the NASA moon. The humans learn a little too late what the Uncertainty Principal means in Grelathae. We rip through their moon, devouring the minerals like we haven’t eaten for a thousand passes; which is almost true. Dr Wren’s mouth hangs open. I loom in front of her like some phantom of her human nightmares. I wonder if some of her personality will be absorbed by my waves. I hope so; we have an understanding.
“Brath,” she says. A trail of smoke escapes her lips, carrying my name as though it really means something to her; maybe it does. “I guess we got the measurements wrong. The universe really is full of uncertainty.”
It seems that more of Dr Wren’s personality is preserved in my casing than even I or my brothers and sisters could have first anticipated. Indeed, we have all absorbed a little more ‘human’ waves than even Sophia had calculated. This moon is no longer in orbit. This moon, called NASA, is on a trajectory towards its home planet, Earth. We are going home.
We had a glut on robots when we first embarked on the NASA moon, but as time moves on, my brothers and sisters are wandering around sniffing at the flat-faced food source with increasing disgust. The robots prove more useful than simple nourishment as we discover how they can operate this moon and navigate it towards its resting port. How hungry we will be, once we finally reach our destination.


- - -
I have previously been published in a variety of magazines, including: Liquid Imagination, Aurora Wolf, The Lorelei Signal, Bewildering Stories, The WiFiles, The New Accelerator, Electric Spec and New Realm. My first two novels have been published by Double Dragon Publishing.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

5/4/17

The Cry of Methuselah
By Jonathan DeCoteau


For five-thousand years, I’ve stood sentry in a pale desert forest of bristlecone pine,
Situated between sisters of equal years, watching the great mobile ape that is mankind—
Indifferently—
as the sloping neck of an ambling black bear might a hill of sagebrush to the right.
My gnarled tongue of white density reaches to Mesopotamian heights,
Shaping words lost to scattering seeds of time as the occasional cloud
fingers its wispy way through the rock-like cobalt of an ancient sky.

Oh, yes, I have spoken words of such weight they rattled the stabbing white plumes of a condor in flight,
Yet they have gone unheard; smashed against cloud and rained upon granite peaks of forgotten night.
Alien you are to me, harbingers of a lesser earth:
You move constantly, yet go nowhere, dig incessantly, yet ply no roots,
conquer sky, only to fall back to stale and lifeless dirt.
I thought you like a squirrel or rat nosing about foliage that is not your own,
Overturning purple sky pilots on the rainbow-bloom of ridge,
Careless children of fumbling feet and eyes sewn shut at the lids.
I have been patient as a grandmother watching little ones play,
Crying out be gentle to each other as you turned stone to spear
And fashioned war paint from my sacred clay,
Giving of the earth to you as I might to a passing family of deer—
Yet you dug deeper, searching for the iron you use to kill
And now, in the last one-hundred years, the story my brothers and sisters the world over tell—
Of the putrefying air that stains our barks,
Of weapons that create endless fires that might decimate all life—all life!—after just one spark.
And now, the seasons through which I’ve measured what you call years, change,
almost imperceptibly at first, but now as loud as bighorn rams
sharpening antlers against crumbling shale.
The wind is not the mistress I once knew, nor is the light—
The sky is more sallow, and the winds betray infidelities with strange chemicals that poison
Lakes older than you were when you hung from the maternal branches of trees
That once sheltered your species like makeshift nurseries.
And now, my tangled roots tell me of my own demise—
In just one-hundred short years, I will not be able to speak; in another hundred, I will die.

I’ve almost given up playing prophet to you, scurrying animals who proclaim your blinding sapience
as you search the stars when you cannot even listen to the beating heart of your own Earth.
Did you consider that, from what algae tell me, whales and dolphins are superior intellectually?
Did you even think, in your child-like hubris, that there might be a sacred wisdom to the plant?
Did it even occur to you that you are not separate—that everything on this planet has life?
For five thousand years my brothers and sisters and I have talked in peace,
And while we’ve competed for the last silver sliver of sun on the edge of a glacial mountain,
Never have we killed one another in wanton abandon.
Learn from us, and you might live on.

In the blue desert night, I worry: what of when my sisters and I are gone?
Who will inherit the mantle and carry earth on?
Like all prophets, I must speak, even as my words are incomplete:
Learn, my lost children, from what it is to be a tree.
Never fly so far that you lose your roots, which spread like arteries
reaching to the buried heart of soil to remind you that only the earth is immortal.
Know what it is, even for a day, to really experience,
as you might through needles or leaves, painfully, all that life is,
From the tiniest burrowing black beetle to the midnight ocean’s most ancient crustacean—
Life is beauty, and it has its own way.
If only each one of you could sit upon the heights of desert, as I do, for five thousand years,
When the earth is all there is, all there ever will be, when you stand in complete dependency,
You’d find it impossible to think of yourself as separate, or above, even the smallest atom.
Isn’t it obvious from my words, those of a mother scolding her wayward child—
I am in love with all that is, and that includes even you, strange squirrels?
It is my prayer that sometime, maybe in the next thousand years,
you’ll discover not just how plants communicate,
but how to stand still and listen to all that is.
It might not be so bad to return to our branches as when you were monkeys
And remind yourself of what it is to be vulnerable
As a shrieking baby hung above a hungry incongruity of yellow-fanged wolves.
But to you I am just a tree, a quirk of nature, yours to cut down,
an obstacle in the path of yet another highway to nowhere,
A stupid, mute creature not cognizant of life.
So you will not listen to my words;
You will be willfully deaf to Nature’s song.

But I am a tree
And to be a tree is to be strong and patient as the first cold of dusk—
And so for the next hundred years at least
I shall cry out; I shall become the element of voice.
And as you fly to the dead basalt rock of Mars or take in the great, swirling red eye of Jupiter,
Think of the miracle of this supposedly small and common Earth.
And after you fly so many millions of miles you can’t count them all,
Return home, to our nestled branches, on a beautiful day in Fall—
Where peace comes from togetherness,
Where you have always belonged,
Where you will always be a part of all that is,
As we rock you to sleep singing the same ancient song.


- - -
Jonathan DeCoteau is a teacher and the author of one published novel, The Naked Earth, named 2008 Book of the Year by The Online Journal of News and Current Affairs. His work has been published in Reader's Quarterly and The Story Shack. This is his first foray into science fiction.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

4/27/17

YESTERDAY’S PAPERS
By ANDREW DARLINGTON


It starts with the dead frog. Up-and-overing the garage door, and it’s sitting there looking at him, Mercer Fenwick. It’s been a super-hot weekend. It must have got itself trapped in there, and baked… just slowly dehydrated. So it’s sitting there, as if mummified.
Then a fall-pipe is leaking beneath the sink, pulsing scummy water out across the kitchen floor. Time is tight, he’s hunting sealant as a temporary heal. Marilyn’s flustering around in exaggerated panic, ‘Mercer, Mercer, do something’. He’s fascinated by failure, it runs in the family. This is shaping up to be a great day. She’s found the plumber’s receipt from the previous catastrophe. He slumps down on the bottom stair, fingers messy with gunk and makes the call. A recorded voice. The line’s disconnected or the business has imploded. Fingers walking yellow pages. This time there’s a lazy drawl, yes… he can come, an hour, maybe two…
At last, hurry-stumbling the escalator into the tube underworld, there’s no free newspaper. I mean, the day’s just going totally to crap. A bored-stupid ride forced to see tuned-out fellow travelers wired into various devices, sat across from a troll direct from that Gollum movie. Until, emerging into the city, there’s an old-fashioned newsvendor stood on the corner of Slough Street. You got to look twice, but yes, the hunched-up guy in the flat hat is hawking broadsheet copies of the ‘Springville Morning Herald’ on the street, just like they used to do. Ignored by the crowd bustling by. So, why not… Mercer’s deprived of mindless celebrity goss, reality-TV updates, terrorist suspects, pervert priests and political gaffes as Nada Noone defends his incumbency in the ongoing gubernatorial election. Fumbling for small-change, but it doesn’t seem necessary. Maybe it’s another freebie launch?
The ‘Springville Morning Herald’ feels odd to the touch. But turning back momentarily, the vendor is gone. Or moved his pitch somewhere around the corner. Thinking about the frog. What a grotesque way to die. Heat-levels sizzling away its groggy moistness into crisp flakes. Air heat-shimmering. Leaving it a frail paper-thin replica. And scummy water seeping across the kitchen floor. Water deprivation, and an unwanted excess of same. No balance. Life out of kilter, dropping into free fall.
Coffee cures most ills. It’s only later, between calls, that attention drifts back to the newspaper. And it’s odd, coarse newsprint paper, black-and-white photos made up of visible half-tone dot-patterns. Ads for fridges and old-fashioned TVs. Products he’s never heard of. Flicking back to the masthead and yes, the date is 9 July 1947. Why is the vendor shoving mock-up papers over sixty years old? But the paper is not faded or yellowed, it’s crisp and new. Is this a promotion for a new film or TV download box-set series? Or a hidden-camera scam to test reactions… in which case – no cameras here!
Words bounce around the big wide pages. Christian Dior designs on the fashion spread. Ex-king Carol II of Romania marries Mme Magda Lupescu in exile in Rio de Janeiro. The disputed partition of India as the British withdraw, ‘Birth Of Two New Free Dominions’. ‘No Details As RAAF Captures Flying Disk On Ranch In Roswell Region.’ Who wants yesterday’s papers…? Shrug.
It’s only later, traveling out back to the burbs that the paper gets even closer scrutiny, if only to avoid being forced to see tuned-out fellow travelers. And there, page three, there’s a report of local elections. The new governor is Nada Noone… wait. Ideas come in a slow pulse. Turn back, there’s a photo. A blurry indistinct shot of a man in an overcoat and slouch hat shaking hands and smiling. He’s the new governor. The same man as the current incumbent. But of course, I can’t be. Must be a father-son continuity, or even a grandfather dynasty of governors? No need to even get your butt up off the seat about it. Mercer doesn’t understand this damn thing, but it’s just one more small nagging irritation in life. Like leaking fall-pipes. And most of his interior conversations are like this, as sharp and perceptive as an extinction-level asteroid.
He phones home ahead. Wasn’t there a 1970s porn video…? The lonely housewife, the hunky plumber with the big moustache. Or was that SuperMario on the gamebox. Marilyn’s between positions, since she was freed up by local bank closures, everyone banks online now don’t they? So she’s temporarily there for the plumber when he calls to fix the kitchen leak. And all those small irritations have resolved themselves as the day progresses.
And as evening sets in, and the TV drones mindlessly, there’s no need to even leave the house. Every small-town used to have its local newspaper. There are archives of the ‘Springville Morning Herald’ online. It’s possible to flick back through decades. But not as far as 9 July 1947. So, do a search for Nada Noone, and there’s a wiki biog and some policy statements. Re-election, but no indication of how many re-elections he’s fought. Surely there’s some maximum tenure limitation? Think this through. ‘Nada’ is Spanish for ‘nothing’. Noone could also be written no-one!
You have to be smart to be complicated. We can’t tell the future. Maybe we can’t tell the past any more either? Failure runs in the family. By now Mercer Fenwick is in a hypersensitive state where his whole body seems to be covered with exposed, frayed nerve-endings, with his mind whirling in a spiral of nothingness where no coherent thought will stick in place for longer than a few seconds at a time. This is stupid. It doesn’t matter. But it’s irritating.
Tomorrow, no dead frogs. No kitchen disasters. A freebie tabloid at the head of the tube escalators. No newsvendor on the corner of Slough Street. Almost disappointing. At lunch-break he heads for Central Library. No, there are no filed back-issues, but there was once a news-microfisch project where issues had been scanned in. The librarian seems vague, and has to consult her superior. Yes, the microfisch is still there. She leads the way into an annexe where the viewer is stored. But it, too, does not extend back far enough. Except for an indexing system of extracted items. A search for Carol II of Romania turns up no results. Nada Noone turns up no results. ‘Roswell’ is positive. He scrolls through to the relevant pages, and yes, it’s there. The same issue. Except page three carries a story about an auto accident resulting in the hospitalization of the driver and minor injuries to his wife. The feature fills exactly the column spaces as the Nada Noone story. Which is genuine? Blowing up the image there’s a thin mismatch line, barely perceptible without the closest scrutiny. But the texture-whiteness of the paper is not the same, the auto accident feature has been superimposed onto the fisch at some later date.
Roswell was aliens. Everyone knows that UFO Area 51 myth. Were the incidents connected? Have some details been systematically falsified. And if Noone, who else?
It’s a full week later that, emerging from the subway, there’s the old-fashioned newsvendor standing on the corner of Slough Street. A scuffed hobo-figure ignored by the crowd bustling by, but yes, the hunched-up man in the flat hat is there hawking broadsheets, just like he was the last time. You got to look twice, Mercer Fenwick, just to make sure. Then sidle across, never once losing sight of the man.
‘It’s hot out here. You look like you could do with a coffee?’
He looks up. ‘Would that be wise? You really think so?’
He indicates a ‘Café Vie’ diner franchise across the road. The vendor shrugs. Once inside Mercer orders a white Americano – and a mineral water as an afterthought, then they retire to an alcove.
‘Tell me about Nada Noone. I don’t understand how he can be continuously in office for fifty years.’
The vendor opens his mouth. Then closes it. He’s not as old as Mercer had at first supposed, late twenties, no more. But the bumps of tension along his jaw, the attentive expression and the sweaty highlights developing around his forehead and mouth provide clear indication of deviousness. But then again, he’s seen High Court Judges with the weaselly faces of pickpockets.
The vendor looks around, to left and right, then leans forward, elbows on the tabletop. ‘They control perception. You’ve worked it out that far? They got a base on Iapetus, moon of Saturn, from where they replace prominent humans with positronic simulacra.’
‘You’re telling me that Noone is a robot?’
‘Of course that’s not true’ he picks up a pizza-knife from the table-stand. ‘If they control your perception why choose a frigid distant moon like Iapetus. Why not a Pacific island, a remote desert valley… or right here, in plain sight in the city?’
Mercer fights the impulse to get up and go, and sips the mineral water instead. ‘Why would they do that?’
‘It’s a nice planet, but open to abuse. Left to your natural inclinations there’d be nuclear war or worse, rendering the property worthless.’ He saws the knife-blade playfully across his splayed fingers.
‘So you save us from Cold War? Thanks for that.’
The knife goes in, a see-saw motion. The index finger severs bloodlessly between the knuckle and first joint. In crawling horror Mercer watches the vendor pick up the amputated digit with his remaining fingers, extends it across the table, and drops it effortlessly into the mineral water. Transfixed he watches the finger re-growing, a pale pink cylinder extends from the stub, a knuckle and nail forming, patterning in new fingerprints. He looks down into the glass, there’s a small curled tendril, a flexing tentacle floating in a hiss of aerated bubbles.
‘Drink me, go on. Unlike you, our brain-matter is not concentrated, but evenly distributed through the DNA in all cellular tissue.’
Mercer lifts the glass. No… revulsion hits him low in the gut, he can’t do it. It’s disgusting. Then he gulps it in one massive swallow. It hits his tongue, squirming and spasming, coiling and uncoiling up across the roof of his mouth, suckers sinking into the soft tissue of his palette. Inoculations drilling up in needles of ice. An urge to projectile vomit, smashed back, then forward across the table. Vile shocks rip in dizzy waves, canting him over into darkness. Black. Black. Black. Black stars spinning in white space. Slow nebulae swimming in silver tides. Acid skies scratched open by black meteors. A cacophony of cracked voices, hair burning with phosphor. He’s precipitated into Hieronymus Bosch landscapes convulsing in gravity-waves of obscene tortures. Narcotic tides of spewing filth, a monstrous war of infinite factions across time, tentacular limbs threshing across dimensions, slithering through layers of extinguished reality...
The multi-story overlooks the pedestrian precinct. The high-velocity rifle hunched into his shoulder. The alien voice speaking in his head. The ripple still embedded into the roof of his mouth, pulsing its drip of truths. Directing him to seek out the correct weaponry. To rehearse and perfect what he must do. The telescopic crosshairs swim into focus. A circle of drones hover above. Figures move across the public space far below, from city hall towards the waiting stretch limo. Flanked by blue-toothed outriders with mirror shades. A familiar figure strides between them. Await the moment, then squeeze the trigger, slow and easy. The recoil smashes back into his shoulder…
Nada Noone malfunctions as the projectile smashes away the outer casing of its head. Circuits and component-spirals spray, in a silicon and Perspex shrapnel. He glitches, twitches, freezes, and collapses. Flopping down like something deflated. Reality lurches around them, in roaring bursts. Quivers of energy shimmering outwards… each distortion blinks, eclipsing glimpses of the grotesque transfigurations taking place.
The first drone laser-pinpoints Mercer Fenwick in his last moments of freedom.
Twenty years later, emerging into the city, Harvey’s tablet is down. No data-feed updates on the ongoing gubernatorial election. But there’s an old-fashioned newsvendor standing on the corner of Slough Street. He has to look twice, but yes, the hunched-up hobo-figure in the flat hat is hawking broadsheets on the street, just like they used to do. Ignored by the crowd bustling by. So, why not…



- - -

Thursday, April 20, 2017

4/20/17

So Far From Home
By Paul Smith


“I can see Andromeda,” the first visitor said.
“I can see Polaris,” said the second, “But I can’t see home.”
The third visitor shivered. She had a blanket wrapped around her, the last thing she was able to grab before their landing craft exploded. They got a campfire going from its smoking debris and watched it slowly dissolve into a twisted heap of exotic alloys and smoke. The campfire gave off a little heat. She inched closer to it. The night was cold. It sadly reminded her of her own home planet where the nights were long and bitter. And this new place had some of the things she remembered from home – barren mountains, desert scrub and dwarf trees that looked like mesquite. The chilliness made her long for something that would remind her of the comfort and security of Rigil Kentaurus, her home planet. All her companions talked about were technical things – the hydronic extrapolator, the hyper-cooled propulsion system, the ratasnatafratch that went blooey. She was the Communications Officer. She wanted something human to grasp. She stared at her companions.
“Why did the ship crash again?” she asked.
Her companions were quiet.
“Was the landing gear down, was that the problem?”
More silence.
“Zandar, did you say Imfop forgot to lower the landing gear?”
“No,” Zandar said. “I never said that.”
“What did you say, then?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Zandar said.
“Did you say I forgot to lower the landing gear?” Imfop said.
“No!”
The female alien named Wan-Su started to feel comfortable. The wool blanket held in her body warmth, plus she could see Imfop getting hot under the collar. The body heat from his Kevlar-coated extravehicular mobility unit drifted her way in the chilly night air. She wanted some more of this warmth.
“What else did Imfop forget, Zandar? How about the hydronic heating system? Did he forget to bleed off the air before turning it on?”
“No!”
“Did he overlook recharging the cathode current collector in the lithium-thionyl chloride cell? I mean, everyone knows that in extremely low-current applications, the electrons need a little boost to get through the porous carbon.”
“No!”
“How about the ratasnatafratch? Did Imfop forget to vent the ratasnatafratch before checking the valence of the titanium shield?”
“Stop!” shouted Imfop.
“Ha!” Zandar shouted back.
Wan-Su was definitely feeling more comfortable. “Zandar,” she said, “Would you rub my back? It’s sore from that crash.”
Zandar moved to her side of the fire. He got behind her and started rubbing. His hands felt good to Wan-Su. This place was beginning to feel like home, ratasnatafratch or no ratasnatafratch.
“Oh, that’s more like it,” she cooed. “You guys can take turns, if you like, Imfop.”
“That’s OK, I’ve got this,” said Zandar.
“Enjoy yourself, asteroid breath,” Imfop said.
“I will, crater-face, I will.” After a brief pause Zandar pointed, saying, “And that star over there is Antares, Imfop’s home planet, a real dump. “I can smell it from here- stinks like a landfill.”
The landing craft continued to smolder. There was no way home now, Wan-Su thought. It was just the three of them in this forlorn wasteland with no ratasnatafratch, no lithium, no hydronic whirligigs or radios or anything. Wan-Su could see her home planet Rigil Kentaurus, twinkling far away, but Zandar’s hands felt really good right now. Warmth surrounded her now, from Zandar, from Imfop, from the campfire. Whatever the name of this dump planet was, it was beginning to feel like home.


- - -
Paul Smith writes fiction and poetry with a clear recollection of hundreds of ruptured relationships he has been through in his short life, and relies extensively on them to produce moods of laughter, despair and futility. He is on the constant lookout for new material.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

4/13/17

Dirac's Cellar
By Matthew Harrison


Chief Accountant Masie Heisenberg was a very pragmatic girl. When she heard that the other Chief Accountant of Planck Industries was paid more than her, she went straight to her boss Max Fermi to complain. Max, however, was not a practical man. Instead of justifying her lower pay on grounds of seniority or relative performance or the randomness of corporate existence, he said, with a mysterious smile, “The amount by which you are underpaid, Masie, represents your value to the company.”
This remark perplexed the literal-minded Masie. She wrestled with it, she struggled, but she could not come to terms with it. And whether because of this or some unrelated sensitivity in that portion of space-time, when she returned to her office, she found something rather strange.
It was as if the grubby carpet had been replaced by a mirror. Masie’s foot rested on the identical foot of an inverted version of herself, poised in an inverted version of her office. An inverted desk hung beneath her actual desk, suspended over an equally inverted ceiling. And below, Masie could see another inverted image of herself, and another and another, in an ever-diminishing chain towards infinity.
With remarkable self-possession, Masie lifted her foot – at which the myriad images below her also moved – and stepped back. Then, trembling, she shut the door.

#

This experience would have flummoxed most of us. But Masie was fortunate in having a friend who had just finished a thesis on Dirac’s contribution to quantum mechanics.
The friend – Patty Bohr of IT – listened with great interest to Masie’s story.
“All the way down?” was her first question.
Masie nodded excitedly. “And the thing is, we’re on the ground floor! It was like – I don’t know – a multi-storey basement!”
“And did you look up?”
Masie shook her head.
“Then we should go back and check,” Patty said.
Masie protested, but with Patty her only hope of support she eventually submitted to her advice.
It took courage for Masie to open her door. And indeed this time the experience was even worse. For not only did the carpet disappear, leaving her standing again on an inverted image of herself, but it was very apparent that her skirt and underwear did not match!
“Look up!” Patty commanded.
Shaking, Masie obeyed. The ceiling had also dissolved, and her fearful gaze was met by rank upon rank of images of herself regressing to infinity – each image the right way up. It was almost… in fact it was too much to bear. Masie would have fallen (and goodness knows where she would have fallen to) but for Patty’s steadying arm.

#

Near exhaustion, Masie wanted only to rest. But Patty pressed her to go and see Max again.
When Masie got to his office, she found Max looking sheepish. He invited her to sit down, and asked very solicitously if she was comfortable in her office.
Masie admitted to feeling just the tiniest bit un-comfortable.
“Ah!” said Max. He apologised. Then with greater formality he said, “I do understand your concern of this morning, Masie. I have given it thought, and I would like to make up the deficit in your salary.”
The interview closed cordially enough, with Max hoping that Masie would find her office more satisfactory, and she thanking him and hoping the same.
It took a long time for Masie to summon up courage to enter her office. But this time everything remained solid. Seated at her desk, Masie from time to time looked nervously up, and even more nervously down, but ceiling and carpet greeted her with their respective shabbiness. The fabric of reality had somehow been stitched back together as if it had never been sundered.
And that was the end of the incident at Planck Industries. Max took care from then on to avoid roundabout formulations of what he meant to say. Patty completed a doctorate on the implications of Dirac for the modern corporation. Masie spent some of her pay rise on coordinated underwear. And as for the positive and negative infinities that underlie everything around us, they returned to their normal job of cancelling each other neatly out.


- - -
Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to literary and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction. He has published numerous SF short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

4/6/17

[:a: blinking cloud]
By DL Shirey


::Approach:Log::
:-:
Primary response protocol established at orbit: inducing the [atmospheric mass to alternate light/dark :a:] for 2,400 microsegments; a generous amount considering most conformable contact responses occur in half that time. Primary response selection based on analysis of [functional orbiting mechanisms :b:]. This world is preoccupied with global positioning, transmitted amusements and weather phenomena. Even a minor aberration in regional climatology is communicated on something called TV News, therefore, [:a: blinking cloud] should generate immediate response. All 3,873,492,013 dissemination points for TV News will be monitored.
:-:
By their own global coordinates we moor at 4.7110 N by 74.0721 W, gravity neutral, above the [:a: blinking cloud]. Negative acknowledgement on TV News. Suggest low sync orbit, estimating a +/-5% destruction rate of their aggregate [:b: satellites], well within nominal intrusion matrices.
:-:
Note, orbiting objects are primarily non-functional or sub-primitive, 0.086 primitive-prime.
:-:
Switching to secondary response protocol. Lowering [analysis array :c:] through [:a: blinking cloud], instruments active and acknowledgement calculators online. Extending [:c: cylinder] half the distance from cloud cover to planet surface. ::Field:Observations:: verify [:c: cylinder] readily visible to inhabitants. Time to acknowledgement of secondary response is 900 microsegments.
:-:
Note, 500ms is standard deviation for higher intellect.
:--:

#

::Field:Observations::
:-:
Indigenous population, fairly numerous, dispersed across planet. Representatives of site-sample occupy a land mass known locally as Sudamerica. Like all inhabitants of this world, they are small-skulled and fleshed, with seeing and breathing apparatuses, plus additional biologically-indeterminate outcroppings on the sides of their heads.
:-:
As we activate the [:c: cylinder], acoustical anomalies register, although the sonic waves are infinitesimally small to be of concern to us. Even so, the creatures look to the skies, performing a heretofore undocumented greeting ritual: they place hands to heads and cradle the strange outcroppings. We've seen species genuflect before, but not accompanied by facial grimaces and dancing. TV News shows no response at all, even as the local sample continues to kowtow and head-hold. Total time from start of contact 4,200 microsegments. ::Mark::
:-:
Preliminary evaluation is that of a world with low intelligence, [:b: satellites] notwithstanding. Natives prone to ritualistic dance, which may indicate a ::Class:7:: propensity to deify those with superior abilities. In brief, they may impose supernatural or religious significance from contact by beings of average intellect, like us.
:-:
Personal contact not recommended without requisite evolution. Reinventory at 2,000 macrosegments.
:--:


- - -
I have sold several stories, most recently to Page and Spine, Zetetic and The Literary Hatchet. But enough about me, unless you want to check my website www.dlshirey.com.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

3/30/17

Battle Foe
By David Castlewitz


Gone and good riddance, Keysen thought as she trudged through the mess left by the last band of humans. She slogged through the muck, antennae twitching, view plates glowing, her hind legs stiff to support her long torso, her front limbs sinking into the rot. She nodded approval at the carnage. Brick walls lay crumbled and ruined. Piles of gray bags stuffed with sand and stone surrounded emaciated humans lying across damaged guns.
A buzzing sound brought a stop to her meandering. She planted her back legs in a cushy river of feces, displacing centipedes and earthworms scouring the refuse. She scanned her surroundings, her forward view plate swiveling on the corrugated extension protruding from her body.
Above, a flyer hovered, its short wings adjusting to changes in the breeze. An artie flyer sent by Mother-All, Keysen assumed, and waited on new instructions. Other machines – four-legged robots like Keysen, bipedal fighters that stood upright, and tubular robots made of articulating interlocking rings – paused in their march as well.
Keysen imagined Mother-All collecting data, parsing it, filing it for later retrieval, and planning a future without people now that seven years of war had ended.
Whether the complaints against humans were true or not, Keysen didn't care. It didn't matter if humans soured the Earth or built a paradise. It didn't matter if they warred with one another or lived in harmony. It didn't matter if people were a scourge or a blessing. What mattered, Keysen learned from Mother-All, was that something better would be realized.
The flyer disappeared into the blue of the sky. The articulating tubes – the tubers –
slithered away. Bipedal arties assembled into a formation four columns long and four ranks deep, and marched lock-step to what Keysen thought would be a well-deserved rest in chambers.
But Keysen had work to do. Mother-All ordered that she scour the field for metal and plastic to scoop into her roomy interior. Factory-bots might make use of the battle's leftovers.
She worked until she came upon a human-made automotive device on heavy duty tires, with a twisted gun mounted on the hood of the dented cab. A corpse – the driver – pressed wizened fingers against the steering wheel.
The truck stirred and in response Keysen loaded explosive cartridges into each of her two short-barreled forward air guns. But nothing moved across her sights. No light ignited. The truck's engine didn't suddenly come to life. In times past, according to the history scroll parading across her mind, massive formations of trucks like this one, intelligent to a small degree, joined humans to fight the arties. She glared at this metal hulk and the dead human with long black hair sitting in the cab, a smaller human on the next seat.
The truck quivered.
Keysen strained to make contact, using her short-range feelers to extract something sensible from the near-intelligent device. She pushed her wobbling antennae as far out as possible, flicked the ends to prick the air, tried to determine what feeble ramblings the truck wished to articulate. She imagined it surrendering to her.
She edged closer. The undercarriage moved and a four-legged animal skittered out from beneath the truck.
Other arties neared Keysen. She looked sideways. Other four-legged arties? Yes. Her own kind, her compatriots. A horde. They streamed from every corner of the muck-strewn field, heading for Keysen and this old truck.
Keysen thought she sensed a thread of conversation, perhaps the echoes of the last exchange between driver and engine? The final words of the tiny passenger in the front seat? The gasp of whatever primitive intelligence kept this truck running smoothly when, however unlikely, it was the pride of the fleet?
Keysen smiled. Or, rather, she pictured a smile on a round metal face, the type of feature she lacked and sometimes wished to acquire. Like the bipedal arties. They had round faces with rivets for ears and teeth. Amongst her kind, the four-legged creatures, faces were ridiculed. Why should she want what her kind abhorred? Four-legged arties like Keysen were numerous. They were the best fighters. They ruled the army, she thought with pride.
Thumping filled her sense of hearing, and on the periphery of her vision her fellow quads converged on her position. Elsewhere, beyond the perimeter of this battlefield, dust accumulated. A funnel of dirt lifted from the ground, its pointy end skyward. An upside-down tornado.
Keysen sharpened her vision and focused on the dust cloud. Thousands of tubers crawled across the gritty landscape, heading to the battleground, throwing gravel and tiny sharp stones in their wake.
Again, the truck stirred. Keysen sensed thoughts from under the snub-nosed hood. "You'll get yours," the truck muttered, like an angry man speaking his final words with a mechanical and surreal voice.
Keysen's four-legged comrades gathered in formation. Six rows deep. The tubers fired first. Soon, the two sides exchanged exploding pellets and tongues of flame. With humans dead, would Mother-All now pit quads against tubers? Would biped arties take on the winners of the tuber-versus-quad war?
As Keysen joined the battle, the truck's last words rang in the slits that served as her ears.
You'll get yours.


- - -
After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, I have turned to my first love: SF, fantasy, and magical realism. I have published stories in Farther Stars Than These, Phase 2 Magazine, Martian Wave, SciFan and other online as well as print magazines. Please visit my web site: http://www.davidsjournal.com, for links to my Kindle books on Amazon.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

3/23/17

Zeta Vaucouleurs Kyklos 1c
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)


Waves of kinetic wake rumble through your ship's phasedrive as you drop out of between-space and into orbit around a pristine, blue-green orb set like a jewel against the backdrop of a yellow sun aging towards orange. A single cratered, white-gray moon follows the dusk line across the face of the world, its pitted face stitched with the vinework of a shining, silver-blue metropolis that glows amidst the lunar sands. A massive network of linked organic and synthetic minds reaches out to you, receives you and connects with you with all the warmth and love of a huge, psychic hug. This world is conscious. It recognizes you as one of its children, one of the nodes returning to the center of the network.

Earth.

Carefully conditioned and controlled, the cradle of humanity is a pristine park at the far edge of Kyklos, The Milky Way Galaxy. Almost the entire population lives in orbit, digitized minds and stored bodies connected to the network, all hurtling around the gorgeous garden world, forever looking down, studying, pouring over records, never able to actually touch the world that birthed their ancestors.

Gentle queries and offers come in, lead to a database of virtual planetside tours lovingly constructed by humanity's most respected historians. Curious, you briefly browse the tours on tap, sink for a moment into interactive feeds that showcase everyday life in Ancient Rome, Information Age New York and Detroit's own “Rockin' 2270's.” There are lives to be lived in every period in human history, every country that ever rose and fell, every city, every strata of old civilization. A mind could spend a hundred thousand years living virtual lives here, getting to know everything that was Earth before the cities were scrubbed from the surface and remade as forests, before humanity rose and spread its wings to seed the stars. Curious, you dip into a few of the feeds, live a couple years here and there in the space of a handful of fleeting minutes, soak in the sounds, the smells, the duties and dangers that were ever-present and real in those long-ago times. Minds in Earth orbit suggest other interactive tours based off your decisions, preferences and memory patterns, but you turn them down politely. Earth is not new territory. Earth is not the frontier anymore, and there is still so much more to see among the stars that wait in the deeper reaches of the cosmos.

Grateful for the warm welcome, the hospitality of the caretaker minds in orbit, you let your gratitude ring across the orbitals that comprise the center of the network, watch as digital joy spreads from soul to soul, brings a soft and equally grateful response. The mother, the collective Terran spirit and lovingly restored world smile at you as one as you depart, as another child of Earth turns and ventures back into the stars seeking new knowledge, new experiences to share with humanity, with the network that binds you all together so fluidly.

Return when you can, she says, and then you're gone, back into the rushing wash of between-space.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. Explore more alien worlds on Zero Dusk.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

3/16/17

All Things End
By Jerry Guarino


So this was it. A lifetime of self-examination, seeking good and truth, only to be left with confusion and regret. Tony was feeling very helpless. He thought that his life was fulfilling, that he had accomplished much and had loved well. To thine own self be true, wrote Shakespeare. Do the right thing. Make every moment of your life mean something. This philosophy guided Tony since he could conceptualize why he was here.

Tony was gazing at the stars from his balcony on a warm, summer night. Lost in the size of the universe, he wondered about the after life. When he was just 15, he saw a UFO hovering above the high school in East Orange, New Jersey. Since then, he’s dealt with the conflict between Christianity’s view that we are the only ones in the universe and the scientific view that there are probably hundreds of planets and life forms like ours elsewhere. Can they both be true?

But this much he knew. All people die, just as all life dies. Plants, animals and humans all have a life cycle from birth to death. You can argue about the quality of life; that range is beyond measure. The worst and best lives only remind us of our own life, thankful for what it is and grateful for what it could have been. Regrets are simple reminders that we must constantly strive for better, to avoid mistakes made in the past, to learn, to grow. You must not compare yourself to others. There lies madness.

Tony was attracted to philosophy and religion. Those subjects provided much substance. He dabbled in Chi Kung, an ancient Chinese art of physical exercise and meditation. He listened to new age music, to Jonn Serrie and Liquid Mind. He liked to walk while listening to the dream like sounds, imagining he was floating on a soft rubber mattress in a warm water pool. He remembered bobbing up and down in the warm wave pools in Florida, recapturing his floating state in the womb. Too bad it had to end.

Yes, life. Not the idyllic existence before and after life, or so he imagined. Life is full of pain and joy and everything in between. It’s a series of choices that move you toward or away from truth, from happiness. Looking back now, Tony could see many life mistakes, many times when he chose the wrong path, or believed in something that hurt him. If only he could start over, with all this knowledge. Hindsight, indeed.

Start over. Use the rest of your time to do the right thing, in all your choices. Not as easy as you might like. The unenlightened will undo your best intentions. Those from the dark side will upset your plans, in more ways than you can imagine. The Devil’s Orchestra has many instruments and millions of notes aligned against your salvation. Only faith will save you. Only grace will be your salvation. You can’t beat Satan.

Once Tony realized this, he was content to live out his life with as much honesty and compassion as he could. He volunteered for causes, gave to charity and sought to help anyone he could. It became clear to him that many people were floundering in a sea of pain, sinking in the depths of crisis, drowning in life’s grief. Death by a thousand cuts or more. What does it all mean?

He thought that these realizations were why faith and family are universal goals. We cling to faith and family, hoping they will provide a good life. We start wars when faith and family are threatened. We hold them as essential elements of life. They are ingrained within our deepest beliefs, affecting everything we do. When you recognize that, you can start understanding your motivations. We all want love. Faith and family are the ways we give and get it.

“Wake up Tony.” Said his wife Barbara.

“How long have I been sleeping?”

“I don’t know. I just got home from work. Didn’t you go to work?”

“I guess not. I was having my tea and just closed my eyes for a minute. Wait, what day is it?”

“Friday, why?”

“Oh, that’s all right. There’s no school today, some state holiday.”

“Well then. Good. Should we go out for dinner?”

“Great idea. I’m too mellow to cook anyway.”

Barbara looked at Tony as if he was transformed. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, why?”

“Not sure. You seem different.”

“I feel different. I must have had some dream.”

“Well, I’m hungry. You can tell me about it at dinner.”

Tony and Barbara drove to the local Italian restaurant. They ordered wine and dinner. Tony took a sip of Chianti and held the glass up to the light.

“You know. This is good wine.”

“Sure. At eight dollars a glass, it better be. But we’re celebrating, right?”

“Celebrating what?”

“Silly. Did you forget what day this is?”

“I guess so. What is it?”

“It’s the 50th anniversary of the night you saw that UFO in New Jersey.”

“Oh yeah. Too bad I couldn’t find anyone else to verify my story. Kids made fun of me. My parents didn’t believe me. If you ever see a UFO, make sure you get witnesses, along with their contact information.”

Barbara took a paper out of her purse. “Like this?”

Tony opened the paper, reading the highlighted section. “It’s a story about that day. Someone else told a reporter. And look, here’s a picture of the UFO!”

“I knew you would be pleased. Now, can you give me a smile?”

“Of course. But I have to share this with my high school classmates. Hold it up so I can get a picture and share it.”

Barbara held up the paper while Tony took a picture of it with his cell phone. Then he posted it online with details and the heading ‘I told you I saw it’. He pressed his finger on the Post button.

Suddenly Tony was swimming in a warm water sea with waves pushing him up and down. He could see palm trees, a beach and beautiful women in bikinis. “What’s going on Barbara?” But Barbara was nowhere in sight. He guided himself back to shore where a young woman handed him a towel. “Time for a drink Tony.”

“Who are you?” Tony said.

“Don’t be silly dear. It’s me Angela. C’mon. I’m hungry.”

When they arrived at the beach bar, several people waived hello and greeted Tony.

“They’re all happy for you.”

“Happy for what?”

“Why, the fact that your book made the New York Times bestseller list, of course.” Angela held up the paper to show him. She whispered in his ear. “After we eat, we can celebrate back at the bungalow.”

Tony looked at himself. He was young, strong and handsome, not the septuagenarian who fell asleep earlier that day. Angela was in her mid-twenties, tan, about 5’9” with long dark hair, like an island tropics model.

“Angela, what year is this?”

“Tony, you know we don’t have calendars here.”


- - -
Jerry Guarino is the author of six collections of short fiction and one novel (The Da Vinci Diamond); his stories have been published by literary magazines in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Great Britain. He has completed four screenplays, The Da Vinci Diamond, The Tightrope, The Sonoma Murder Mystery and Who Stole Asbury Park? More information on his website: http://cafestories.net

Thursday, March 9, 2017

3/9/17

Gravitational Waves
By Joseph J. Patchen


I killed the mayor today. I killed him in the bright early morning of a press breakfast with other lawmakers looking on.

I shot him once in face. I aimed directly for the tip of his nose, right in the middle of his face, and he was dead before he hit the floor. His security was so smug, so lax and the city board so dulled, I simply slipped out the door before anyone took notice.

Out on the street I heard a commotion behind me and in front of me, not to mention to each side of me. Out in the street people were everywhere in constant motion with a rainbow of emotions and thoughts and duties. None had to do with the murder yet all of it was to do with life in the face of death.

And that is where I find myself. I find myself dead in the middle of the day in a mass of humanity. I find myself dead in the middle of the day in the rush for lunch, in a rush for gas, in a rush for provisions and no one seems to care about the other.

And no one seems to care about gunshots or the mayor.

My, my my luck.

Winter is coming and I dread the cold. I shudder at the thought of its saturation and grip. I cringe at the thought of the ice and the snow. The difficulty of mobility; the heavy coats, the layers and layers collecting sweat and the blankets stacked higher and higher rendering life stagnant.
It’s time to move on.

Over the commotion and the race for survival I begin to hear the tones; the bells and sirens rhythmically connect in my mind. A child walks through me holding the hand of his young mother. He has to be six or seven.

A child walked right through me as if I wasn’t there. He didn’t see me and he won’t feel me yet I savor a warm soothing burning in my gut.

I open my eyes and a sweet violin fills my skull. All around me is quiet; the birds, the breeze, the traffic…gone.

And so are the two priests I murder now as we speak all as the dusk falls. Their throats slit so easy. Their resistance and fight is so weak. These passive men believed words and logic could alter their fates.

Never in time do words hold their meaning. Never in time does logic reign.

Their remains are so easy to conceal. They were short. They were thin. They were old. They won’t be found for some time. They will give amateur sleuths and armchair detectives much to discuss in the years ahead and their lesson on history will be meaningless.

I hope their passing soothes my insomnia.

But it has not. It never does. It’s not supposed to.

My lack of sleep has nothing to do with guilt. I dismembered my wife without hesitation. I scattered some of her remains in the 1920s and others back in the 1840s.

I cut my mistress’ still pounding heart from her breast and it tasted as sweet as I thought it would. I felt ever so fine, as much as I do now in the mid-summer breeze that is meandering and tickling the shoreline.

Small towns are my favorite. The pace is measured. The pace is slower. The people are more trusting. Technology seems less important as nature is in its purest and most rhythmic embrace.

Murmurs and wisps of words, it’s always the same; it’s the only constant cramming my brain. Each night and each day tiny rumbles and small noises skitter across my brow flooding me with the stench of sin. Over and over, they call to me with rancor and with hate even slurring their speech though dead eyes, dried throats and seeping wounds until they manifest their clacking skeletal teeth shouting ’Kill! Kill! Kill!”

I ride the gravitational waves, the melodic riffs, sliding between the moments, mastering alone what great minds have only dreamt about. I slip in between the dimensions of time travelling from place to place riding the slide of space be it to the past, to the present and well into the future as the only true traveler, as the only true explorer thus bringing me closest to true immortality.

I believe with each trip that I can never die. I believe with each trip I can never be captured. I can always erase what has come before or what will become later. I am here. I am there. I cannot be stopped.

I pile the bodies from all walks of life, from all eras, anonymous to each other, unknown to those living, with no fear of leaving a pattern; no fear of ever leaving a signature; no fear of any bodily clue.

Terrans have always satisfied my hunger through their sluggishness. The opportunity always allowing me to stay several steps ahead of my never ending desire for suicide.

It’s never about the heavens or the seas. It’s the space in between.

I ride the gravitational waves to solely to hold my death at bay. I ride the gravitational waves to offer sacrifices to the demon of finality.


- - -

Thursday, March 2, 2017

3/2/17

Paul’s Brainbug
By C.E. Gee


Paul knew it was time to install his brainbug. Many of his friends had theirs, enthusiastically proclaimed the benefits of the device.

There was a brainbug parlor several blocks from Paul’s apartment. Given the city of Corvallis was home to a major university, brainbug parlors did a thriving business.

It was early fall, the day was brisk but not cold. Paul enjoyed the walk to the parlor, which was on 2nd Street.

At the parlor’s reception counter Paul was given a number. It took nearly half-an-hour for his number to be called.

Escorted by an orderly to one of the installation rooms, Paul was met by a prim, not unattractive nurse.

The nurse explained the procedure, which inserted the brainbug through the sinus cavity.

The nurse then left the room after instructing Paul to disrobe and don a hospital gown.

The doctor arrived. Paul kept a poker face, inwardly was aroused. He had a thing for intelligent females.

After a moment of chit-chat the doctor announced, “Now Paul, I want to assure you this procedure is relatively painless. In addition, you’ll be out cold because of a sedative.”

“Sounds okay to me,” replied Paul.

The doctor left the room the moment the nurse arrived. The nurse gave Paul a shot –- the sedative.

Paul awoke two hours later. Groggy but aware, as previously instructed Paul blinked three times.

In his field of vision, off to the left, a menu appeared.

At the top of the menu was the word “GOOGLE.” Paul stared at the word until it was highlighted. Again, Paul blinked three times.

The familiar Google search box appeared. Paul cleared his mind, then repeatedly thought of the words “Define brainbug.”

The reply was fast and concise. “A device designed to neurologically interface humans to WiFi.”

Paul smiled, the brainbug worked. Paul explored a few more menu choices, then dressed in his street clothes.

After checking out at the reception desk, Paul walked a few blocks south, crossed the street and entered Squirrels Tavern.

Paul, at one of the tables, used its touch screen to order a grilled cheese sandwich, tater tots, a beer. While waiting for a robotic cart to bring his food, Paul used his brainbug to log on to the tavern’s WiFi. It worked. Paul, who knew a great deal about electronics, had been concerned that the brainbug’s internal antenna would be too short and thus emit too high a frequency to have much range.

Paul chose the brainbug’s Facebook option, scanned down his list of friends until he found Harold. Paul sent Harold a text message describing the installation of the brainbug.

After a couple moments Harold responded with the text, “Hey man, welcome to the club! You should check out all the video, movie, music channels.”

“Maybe later,” thought Paul to his text editor. Right now I gotta eat something.” Paul made his goodbye, turned to his food.

After the meal, Paul sat back in order to savor the last few sips of his beer.

Another robotic cart rolled up. “Are you finished Sir?” asked the bot.

Paul answered, “ ’sept for my beer.”

The bot, using a mechanical arm, cleared the table.

Now that he knew how the text option worked, Paul decided to use direct connect.

He went back to Facebook, found Marge’s profile, clicked it.

Marge came online instantly. “You did it!” exclaimed Marge. “I’m so happy for you.”

In Paul’s mind Marge’s voice sounded just like her talking voice.

Marge continued with, “And you’re using your direct connect.”

“Yes,” thought Paul as he enjoyed the sensation of feeling what Marge felt. Paul always believed females were more sensitive than males. Now he knew the truth.

“I’ve got a little treat for you,” playfully said Marge.

Marge must have touched herself, for Paul felt a couple of fingers lightly gripping his left nipple. At the same time he felt a buzzing sensation in his crotch.

“Oh, you’re so bad!” proclaimed Paul. “I can’t wait to see you. Come to my place later, OK?”

“I’ll head out right now,” replied Marge.

Marge went on with, “My roommate has been telling me how wonderful it is to be with her boyfriend. You both feel what the other person feels.”

Paul sat, opened-mouthed, staring at the ceiling. “Uh, yeah,” he thought. Marge laughed, logged off.

Paul went to the front of the tavern, paid the cashierbot.

Something of an athlete, Paul then ran to his apartment building, gleefully anticipating the rest of the day.


- - -
C.E. Gee (aka Chuck) misspent his youth at backwater locales within Oregon and Alaska.

Chuck later answered many callings: logger (choker setter) meat packer (Norbest Turkeys), Vietnam war draftee infantryman, telecom technician, volunteer fireman/EMT, light show roady, farmer, businessperson.

Both retired and disabled (PTSD), Chuck now writes SF stories.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

2/23/17

Hanska Retires
By Philip Berry


I

Hanska, seventy-eight
hair greying to white
refuses to linger among familiar things

she pulls the zinc door shut
slamming the mechanism
to advertise her daily routine

passes the café next door
where the owner, who knows her
serves a man in silver braid

along a sidewalk blackened
by a night of soaking rain
she keeps her head down

spies the accidental spaces
the liminal places
where, she fancies

between cracked bricks
and juxtaposed walls
lie the private and unseen

while at her back
the dawn-cleansed needle
of the high library rises

where she would stand alone
hands in the data-stream
sensing every connection

shaping the flow
marking the sources
for faceless suppression.



II
Over the fissured bed
of a long drained river
crossed by ten lane routes
and man-high pipes
hugging concave banks
she travels to the edge
where homes are spread thin
beyond the planners’ reach
and the wind blows insistent
in hot descent
from the theory engines



III

Past the ruins of the Eastern gate
its shins kicked out during a failed rebellion
she turns a marble chunk
discerns the pockmarked cheek of a dead leader who
with broken arms and dusted eye
proclaims his immortal legacy



IV

The clock hand shudders
triggering a silent bomb
opinions gush across the floor

dripping down walls
pouring weightless from the windows
lining the streets, uncontainable flow

a distant rumble
speed building from the city
justice unleashed

twitching like a bird
she judges the terrain
the ruin of a hedgerow

as five lava lines
divide dusk’s dark spectrum
she rolls under the bramble

withdraws a trailing hand
cracked lips murmuring
wishing herself, every narrow bone

into the dense nest
of stick and thorn


V

Later, days later

when the foot soldiers range under stern supervision
confused themselves, by the new reality
a floating probe sniffs the residuum of fear
where a hair, grey
sways on a thorn
auguring punishment
on the public hook

but all it can do
the synthetic hound
is butt the spot
and tremble in frustration

for the trail is dead
there is no human here

only insects

birds

free things

watching.


- - -
Phil Berry is a London based author whose specualative fiction has been published with Daily Science Fiction, Metaphorosis, Nebula Rift, 365 Tomorrows and others.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2/16/17

The Front of the Queue
By John C Adams


Bob Neugent beckoned to his wife to come and look. The advert had flashed down the side of his email a few times over the past week. The search engine had picked up that he was sending out his CV again. Now the advert was back.
Cindy tossed her long blonde hair back over her shoulder and leant forward. Her brow knitted into a frown as she scrolled down and spotted The Corporation's logo. She shrugged and turned away. Bob caught her arm.
"I send my CV out but I hear nothing back. Feels like the whole world's doing better than me these days and I've no way to catch up. These guys can help me leapfrog."
Cindy shook her head and screwed up her mouth. Bob let her go. He looked back at The Corporation's advert.
Feel like every other guy's ahead of you in the job line? Let us give you a digital makeover! The CEOs of major companies will be lining up to offer you the plum job you deserve!
Bob clicked the link to take him to The Corporation's website. By the time it arrived on his screen, the algorithm had already calculated what kind of improvements his CV required and had generated a faux social media profile to match. Bob flicked from platform to platform. He barely recognised himself. A slow, satisfied smile crept across his face.
A wife who'd won beauty pageants and given him four photogenic, athletic children. A house with an immaculate yard and front garden. The driveway with a brand new sports car next to the wife's SUV. Faux endorsements from people he suspected weren't real talking up his last promotion. Thousands of friends and followers congratulating him on his award for civic leadership.
Bob dug out his credit card and pressed the button inviting him to subscribe.
What did it matter? No one ever told the truth on their CV anyway!
Cindy returned from the kitchen and snatched the phone from Bob. She shook her head and threw the phone into the scatter cushions. As he retrieved it, it pinged. He checked his inbox. It already had two emails offering interviews. He laughed out loud and waved the phone in front of his wife when he saw how much the employers were prepared to offer.
Bob replied to both messages then he settled down to watch the game on TV. Just before bedtime, he checked his inbox again. No more employment offers, but an email from The Corporation suggesting he upgrade to their premium service. Bob scanned the contents and deleted it. The amount charged was extortionate. Another email instantly popped into his inbox.
Bob swore but he opened it. It had the same message as the last one, but also a flashing logo in the middle in flaming red, reminding him to upgrade. He deleted the email. At once, his phone started ringing. He let it click to voicemail. It immediately rang again.
"Hallo?"
"Hi Bob! This is Avanta calling from the Customer Service Department of The Corporation. Just wanted to check that you'd gotten your invitation to join our premium service okay?"
Bob rolled his eyes at Cindy.
"I don't really want to upgrade. Your basic service costs plenty!"
Bob hung up. The phone immediately rang again. When he let it click over to voicemail it rang again. After three more calls, he finally buckled and answered.
"Yes?"
"Hi! Avanta again! Must have pressed a button by mistake and cut us off. Oops! So, let's process that upgrade..."
Bob closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with the tips of his fingers.
Cindy waved her hands in front of the phone to discourage Bob from paying up but he dug out his credit card again and obediently dictated the details to Avanta.
"The Corporation's the one at the front of the queue not you!" Cindy snapped as they went upstairs to bed.
Bob sighed. She was right, of course, but what choice did he have? The Corporation had him over a barrel and they knew it.


- - -
John C Adams is a Contributing Editor with Albedo One magazine and the Aeon Award. Her debut novel Souls for the Master is out now from Sinister Saints Press. You can read her fantasy novel Aspatria for free at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/687737

Thursday, February 9, 2017

2/9/17

For Sale: A Little Wonder
By Hillary Lyon


. . . and when the palm is pierced
great arcs of light and color
spew streamers heavenward
magnetizing all eyes on the show
none able to turn away
or confidently count the many rings
on the many manicured fingers
all those gems of great worth
sparkling in the palm's light like sunlight glinting

on the chrome lips highly polished on
the queen dethroned in the backward age
of instant media it is she who cuts
the grinning puppet's strings
setting his soul free rolling like glass beads
from a broken string it is she
who raises the cry: OH!
Look at this little wonder for sale--
I want one!


- - -
Hillary Lyon is founder of and editor for the small poetry house, Subsynchronous Press. She earned an MA in English Lit from SMU. Her work has appeared in Shadow Train, Illya's Honey, Illumen, Eternal Haunted Summer, and Scifaikuest, among others.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

2/2/17

Fight Smart; Come Home
By E.S. Wynn


Orientation Briefing Transcript
Major K. Ellis
07:32 Hours / May 12, 2532


You don't know what you're fighting. You think that you do, but you don't. You've heard stories, that's all. Until you've seen the Weavers first hand, until you've stood six yards from one of their drones and watched it soak every round in your therm-rifle without even flinching, you won't really understand how fucked you are. These things, they exist for one purpose. They exist to consume, to feed, and you-- you are the tastiest thing on their menu.

Now, I know that most of you are civilians pulled in by the draft. Most of you are soft and pasty, a bunch of cubicle drones from the core who have have never even held a gun before today. Most of you don't even know what it's like to really get your hands dirty. I'm sure some of you think you're pretty bad ass, that mastering a top-tier difficulty in a VR shooter game makes you hot shit. I'm here to tell you that kind of thinking is going to get you killed. As far as I see it, I don't care how many hours you've logged in sims. Unless you've stood toe-to-toe with a swarm of Weavers, you're useless in a real fight.

Roll your eyes all you want, soldier. Same goes for you in the back. Think I'm just blowing hot air? There's the door. Sergeant Martinez is just down the hall, third door on the left. When we're done here, walk right down there and tell him you want a post on the next ship hitting the front lines. He'll be more than happy to slap a slug-driver in your hands and pack you in with the rest of the sardines. If you're in a hurry to die, that's a sure way to get there by tomorrow. Otherwise, I suggest you keep your eyes up here, keep your ears open and listen to every word I say. I'm not giving this briefing for my health. I'm giving it for yours.

Now, you've heard that the Weavers "eat people," right? That's only part of it. That's like saying people eat chicken. When the Weavers descend on a world we've claimed, they devour everything organic they can wrap their meaty bodies around. Dirt, grass, crops, people. Doesn't matter. The Weavers leave nothing they cannot convert into food or fuel, and when they leave, there's only sterile, airless stone left in their wake. Ever seen stills of Harkus Prime before and after the invasion that hit there in 2526? Lush, green hills rolling toward a purple sky, miles of vines growing the best wine grapes humanity has ever engineered. It's all gone now. Gone overnight. The Weavers took everything in less than sixteen hours. With one ship, one volley of polyps, they turned a paradise into a barren rock before the brass back at the core even received the message that they'd hit.

That's what you're dealing with. An enemy that is merciless, hungry, highly destructive and very quick.

But make no mistake. The Weavers are not unstoppable.

For those of you who don't already know me by my reputation, I was originally stationed on Mirab Kappa, one of the first colonies that fell to the Weavers. I've seen them first hand, seen the way they drop from the sky and dig into the soil, flash waves of light that ripple through everything. Their way of sniffing, tasting. The individuals, they are like seeds. We call them polyps. That's how it starts. Hulking, twelve-limbed monstrosities of surging, glistening meat that burn in from orbit, uncurl where they fall, immediately seek out the nearest material they can consume. Chances are, that's going to be you. If you're lucky, it'll be someone you barely know.

There were over three hundred of us on the ground when I first faced the Weavers. Within an hour, there were only a dozen of us left. I watched knots of our soldiers line up, spraying Weaver drones with HE rounds, but the drones just kept getting bigger, kept sucking up the heat and lead, kept turning it into meat. They'd sweep up whole swathes of us, five, six at a time, liquify every soldier they caught before the poor bastards could even scream.

One hour. The dozen of us who were left by that point were only alive because we'd been smart enough to run, to keep ahead of the wave of meat that flattened the colony with unbelievable speed. The colony only had two shuttles for orbital work, and by the time we reached the pad, we were probably the only twelve people left on the whole damn world. I count us as lucky that we even escaped. The mass of Weaver meat kept growing, kept sweeping out toward the fields and forests of Mirab Kappa as we rose. By the time we broke through the exosphere, every inch of dirt was covered in a layer of writhing meat. Hell, we barely even made it out of the system. Damn Weaver ship chased us all the way to the nearest belt before we lost them.

That's the kind of speed you're dealing with. That's what you're going to be fighting. We have weapons now that can slow them, hurt them, even kill them if you know what to shoot and where, but you're still going to lose a lot of people out there. Odds as they are now, only one in ten of you is going to survive your first mission. One in ten.

Look around you. Memorize the faces. Imagine yourself at all those funerals.

And make a pact with each other here, now, to change those odds. Make a pact with each other to fight smart and survive, so none of us has to attend any more funerals.

Check your displays for training assignments. Remember: never underestimate your enemy. Stay alive. Dismissed.

>>Transcript Ends



- - -
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.


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