By Philip Berry
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
- - -
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 23, 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
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.
"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.
"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
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
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.
- - -
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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