Thursday, June 29, 2017

6/29/17

Safe Word
By David Castlewitz


Say the word, Landis thought. Had he done enough to save Bart Frammers? Enough to pluck him from the wondersphere? Where or when did the player lose himself? As a member of Rescue Seven, an elite squad of six wondersphere lifesavers, Landis preferred precision, not guess work. When a customer got stuck in the induced world of the 'sphere, when the "wonder" part of the adventure game became more nightmare than fairytale, people like Landis rescued them. He went in while the rest of the team controlled both entry and exit from the safety of a room full of blinking lights, panels of virtual knobs, and rows of on-screen buttons.
Nothing guaranteed Landis a secure exit. Not even his safe word. Because he might not get a chance to say it. Just as Bart Frammers may have already lost his chance to utter the word. People died in the wondersphere. Strapped in a chair, with fluids and induction chemicals pumped into their bloodstream, travelers enjoyed marvels they'd never see or experience in the disinfected and white-on-white clean of the real world, but they faced dangers and challenges that, though virtual, had the capacity to kill. Those dangers were the very reason the wondersphere proved so popular. The 'sphere inspired people to test themselves.
Landis was paid well for every lost game player he brought back. He got nothing for those that died. Dead players didn't make for repeat business. Some, like this Bart Frammers, didn't want to come back. Some used the wondersphere to commit suicide.
Cued by the control team, Landis found Frammers within minutes after diving. The player lay on a cot fashioned from leather stretched across a bamboo frame. Blood dripped from the man's open wounds. His black tongue, and the red marks around his fat neck, suggested he'd been strangled. But he wasn't yet dead. His chest rose and fell. Landis could still save him.
Urine and feces pooled beneath the cot. Worms and multi-legged creatures swarmed in and out of the stinking refuse dripping from Frammer's underwear, the only garment he wore. Someone – a virtual avatar or another player -- had stripped him of shoes and socks and outer garments, Landis surmised.
Several long rows of cots like Frammers' lined the length of the large tent, each narrow bed separated from its neighbors by a withered sheet hanging on a pink plastic clothesline. When Landis arrived, no one took notice of him. No surgeon stopped him. No nurse questioned him. People rushed about, adding to the chaos, with the screams of amputation and the cries of the near-dying, the moans of the wounded making for a deafening collage of noise, all of which Landis turned off with a flick of a mental switch, choosing to control his hearing so he could concentrate on the mission.
Outside the tent, gunfire erupted. No big "booms." No whine of incoming artillery. No "whoosh" of rockets or "p-clump" of mortar shells. Just bullets spewing from a rifle or exploding from the mouth of a pistol. Landis hadn't checked which war or which era Frammers visited. He thought it didn't matter. Testing one's mettle during a Napoleonic conflict or a Korean War tableau or a guerrilla incursion in modern times was as likely to kill as it was to reward.
Most adventurers chose to observe battles, not take part in them. According to the gaming log, Frammers had joined a general's staff. A stray shell, combined with the wild and unexpected attack of an enemy sympathizer in the ranks of the general's guards, led to Frammers wounds.
Frammers could be gone in another moment. Landis stood over him, gazing into wide-set blue eyes, a shank of yellow hair in the middle of an otherwise bald head, and tiny blonde whiskers across a less-than-rugged face. His hairless chest and distended belly, the absence of muscle buildup anywhere on his body, marked the dying man as another tribute to the sit-on-their-ass types that Landis abhorred.
Frammers stirred.
"Say your word," Landis urged, leaning close to the dying player's dirt-encrusted ear. "You have to say it, not just think it. Say it loud enough and you'll be out of here."
Frammers smiled and rolled his head to one side, his eyelids fluttering. "You're an angel."
"Say the word."
Thunder rolled in. Correction, Landis thought. Heavy guns. Big guns punished the rear lines.
"Peppers are good," Frammers said.
"Cup o' Joe," Landis said. Why their safe words were actually three words always annoyed him because it didn't make sense. There should be just the one word. But, in any case, he prepared to flee this awful place.
Darkness engulfed him. As usual, he wondered if he'd been too late, if the sudden dark was a prelude to death. He wondered, too, if he'd get paid for the effort it took to help Bart Frammers. Did he save him?
Until the darkness lifted, he'd have no answers.


- - -
After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, David has turned to a first love: SF, fantasy, and magical realism. He's published stories in Phase 2, Farther Stars Than These, SciFan, Martian Wave, Flash Fiction Press and other online as well as print magazines. Visit his web site: http://www.davidsjournal.com to learn more and for links to his Kindle books on Amazon.

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


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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.


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