Thursday, December 28, 2017


By Dave Ludford

This Cube is my prison cell.

This is where you placed me all those years ago. Punishment, you said, for displaying the barest hint of a human emotion, one that has been virtually bred out of our species: love. I loved someone and that is why I ended up here. Not you; I could never love someone so cruel and devoid of all feeling, someone who wields great power but uses it to suppress, subjugate and control. You, who I once considered to be a friend.

I don’t understand where the emotion came from; a throwback to previous generations perhaps? To when humans came together in loving union, cared for each other, showed respect and empathy? I had never felt it before, not even fleetingly, until that moment with Freya. I will never forget her. My memories are something, at least, that you can never erase.

It was a dark day for all humanity when you and your kind swept into power, killing all who opposed you. I remember that within just a very short period of time the first reproduction labs were under construction; vast, soulless institutions where you could carry out your experiments to create your warped vision of the ‘perfect human’ on an industrial scale. Our generation simply had our capacity to love chemically removed; subsequent generations were created with it completely erased. But you haven’t been entirely successful, have you? Not as clever as you thought. You succeeded in extending the human lifespan but removed the one thing that made us what we were. What use is there in being able to live for centuries if we cannot love? I, and no doubt many others like me, would rather perish, and become dust and atoms swirling around the vast, cold universe. Anything but this. It is not the ‘gift’ that you claimed it to be. You have removed love but increased the capacity to hate. And why? To what end? Legions of slavish automatons carry out your every command, continue your work, building a world of hopelessness, misery and despair.

I’m pacing this tiny box in my agitation and anger, like a caged animal, thinking about all the other prisoners there must surely be in the same predicament as myself. Others who may have somehow managed to defy your chemical interference. Is Freya one of them? Is she imprisoned in a Cube somewhere near to me? Or did you have her executed? Sometimes I feel her presence, so perhaps she is dead and it is her spirit that is with me. Or maybe it’s just memories of her that make me feel this way. I’ll never know, will I? Because you will never tell me. You are even denying me the chance to grieve.

Here is my promise to you: love is a powerful emotion, it can never be completely eradicated, can never be totally destroyed. I will concentrate, contact others like me through the power of my thoughts; all of my fellow prisoners, wherever they may be. Because love will find a way, it always has and always will.

That which you have sought to destroy will bring about your own destruction. Then we will start to rebuild.

- - -
Dave Ludford is a writer from Nuneaton, England, whose works of poetry and short fiction have appeared at a variety of venues in the US, UK and India. His horror collection 'A Place of Skulls and Other Tales' is available now from Parallel Universe Publications or via Amazon.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


By Kelly Sauvage Angel

RW-T: Good Evening, and welcome to Twenty-Three Gigabytes from Bliss, where we discuss the myriad ways in which technology is bringing us ever closer to ultimate realization. I’m Rosie Wishful-Thinking, and, boy, do I have a guest for you! But, first, I’d like to pause for a quick mention of our sponsor, Dominion Taxidermy. “Your lunch looks so good, mounted above the couch.”

Now, without further ado, I’d like to introduce my guest, Brother Maynard Pence. Not only has he led the congregation of the Hellfire and Brimstone Southern Baptist Church for the past forty-two years, but he is also the founder of the God Save Your Soul Pseudoscience Center. And, tonight, he is with us to discuss his latest enterprise, FrankenGod, Inc.

My goodness, Pastor. You’ve certainly got your hands in a number of bubbling cauldrons.

BMP: That’s right, Rosie. I’m not hiding my light under a bushel. No, I’m going to let it shine!

RW-T: Indeed. So, I’ve heard of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the recently-revealed Frankenburger, but FrankenGod? Tell me more.

BMP: Obviously, anything from food to a fetus to an anterior cruciate ligament can now be grown in a lab. Yet, let me ask you, what could be more important than one’s ultimate destiny?

RW-T: So, true. It’s my belief that one’s spiritual life is of utmost importance, especially within the chronically stressful, mile-a-minute world we live in.

BMP: Yeah, yeah. That’s lovely, but if you wanted to talk about mindfulness, you should have brought in one of those blasphemous Buddha-worshippers. I’m here to talk about salvation.

RW-T: Now, that’s something we all could use a bit of!

BMP: Amen, Sister.

RW-T: So, if I’m understanding correctly, an individual could foreseeably come to you with a list of qualities he, she or they would like a personal god to embody, and you would be able to accommodate that request.

BMP: First of all, God damn me to hell if I ever do business with a “they” or an “it.” But, yes, theoretically, my very capable neuro-team is able to provide a man or a woman—with her husband’s permission, of course—the Higher Power of his liking.

RW-T: You mentioned your neuro-team. So, this lab-created god is, just to be clear, implanted within one’s gray matter?

BMP: However you choose to look at it, I suppose. I prefer to say “heart.”

RW-T: This sounds to be more of an internal than an external process, which makes complete sense to me. God is the inextinguishable light within us rather than a bearded white man in the sky. Am I right?

BMP: Blasphemer! You tell me where God resides when I’m sitting at His right hand while you writhe in torment in the searing heat of Hades, you Heathen Slut.

RW-T: I apologize if I offended you, Pastor. Please do forgive me.

BMP: That, Rosie, is between you and the Father. Anyway, I can certainly send you home with a Bobblehead to guide you on your path to salvation, but the process itself is internal, yes, for the sinners among us are unable to attain even the slightest glimpse of heaven through the fog of their nefarious thoughts, actions and deeds.

RW-T: So, it’s clarity you offer?

BMP: Yes, brain surgery.

RW-T: Wow, that sounds really involved.

BMP: It is, but, if truth be told, I simply haven’t gotten the results I’m after through conversion therapy, intimidation, rallies, lynching or any of the other conservative modalities I’ve practiced over the decades. And, I’m not willing to settle for a society anything less than one-hundred percent pure… of spirit.

RW-T: I must say, Brother Pence, I’m in awe of your desire to provide those who have looked so deeply inward an opportunity to embrace a higher power that is meaningful to them.

BMP: Yep, that’s what we’re telling people.

RW-T: So, how does someone who is interested in your services find you?

BMP: Parents with the appropriate pedigree may call my office to schedule an appointment for their offspring. The number is on the website.

RW-T: What about those seeking to schedule an appointment for themselves?

BMP: He or she can call the same number to request a questionnaire. If the desired God is, in fact, the One and Only Almighty, we can typically schedule the procedure within a week.

RW-T: And, if the caller is seeking a god whose teachings originated in another part of the world or serves as the synthesis of a personal belief system?

BMP: Then, they best be prepared for one hell of a Come-to-Jesus Moment.

RW-T: I’m a little confused, Brother Pence. It sounds as though those who are able to access your services are required to meet certain, rather strict, criteria.

BMP: We don’t need any more sinners in the world.

RW-T: But, how are you able to grow your business if those with diverse ideologies are turned away?

BMP: Simple, Rosie. I have my bread and butter in the government contracts.

- - -
Kelly Sauvage Angel is the author of Om Namah… and Scarlet Apples & Cream. She’s not necessarily as frightening as her name might suggest.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Realtime TV
By Eugen Bacon

ABRAM GOT UP and loaded his donkey. Sara stood at the doorstep worrying her scarf.
‘Really, Abram,’ she said. ‘This is so—sudden. So early in the morning…’
‘See those blinkers in the sky? The satellite is watching—we’ll be fine.’ He checked his earpiece.
‘If only you’d tell me where you’re going. I’m not comfortable with this Survivor thing.’
Abram ignored her. ‘Zac,’ he called to his son, ‘you’re coming with me.’
‘Why do I have to go? Why can’t Selenis?’ grumbled the boy from the top of the stairway.
‘Selenis is not my son—he is here to fix the car.’
The mechanic poked his head from the wooden shed that was also a garage. ‘It’s cool, I’ll go. Just the fan belt, sort it in a jiffy.’
Abram considered for a moment. ‘Sure. Come along. You and Zac both.’
‘Still charge you by the hour if I come, mind—’ said Selenis.
‘How about we make it a day rate?’
‘No drama.’
‘Unfair,’ grumbled Zac. ‘How come he gets paid?’
Abram took a little jar and put a piece of burning coal from the fireplace in it.

They walked a good hour through the countryside, past the last neighbouring farmhouse and into a place in the distance. Along the way Abram instructed them to collect wood. They piled it on the donkey.
At last they reached a clearing.
‘Selenis, stay with the donkey,’ said Abram.
‘Why can’t I stay with the donkey?’ grumbled Zac.
‘You bring some wood,’ said Abram. He pulled a knife, a piece of cloth and some rope from the donkey’s load. He sheathed the knife. To Selenis: ‘I’ll be back before noon.’
‘Where you guys headed?’ asked Selenis.
Abram pointed at a dust path leading up a hillock.

They reached the top of the hill.
‘Abram! Abram!’ boomed a voice in his earpiece.
‘We’re here,’ he said. He listened, eye on the blinkers in the sky.
Then he arranged a few rocks. ‘Zac, stack some wood.’
‘Really, Dad?’ He arranged wood within the pile of rocks.
Abram blew into the jar and rekindled the burning coal. He used it to start a fire, first with twigs. He lit the wood.
‘A campfire?’ said Zac. ‘Where are the sausages?’
Abram unsheathed the knife and advanced on his son.
‘What the—’ Zac made to bolt.
Abram tackled him to the ground, bound him with rope as the boy yelled blue murder. Abram gagged him and raised the knife.
‘Abram! Abram!’ boomed the earpiece. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy. Look at the sky.’
The sound of a chopper up yonder grew louder until the beast came in sight. A dangler on a rope snapped, and Thud! a sack dropped to the ground.
Inside the sack, Abram found cauliflower wedges, eggplants, corn, marshmallows and a few cans of soda.
‘What… what were you on about?’ said Zac, ungagged, unbound, subdued.
‘Nothing but Survivors. Viewers vote, they decide what happens.’
‘Firsthand sick shit. Dad, the knife! Viewers love drama: you were playing up to the ratings, right?’ He swallowed. ‘Right?’
Abram said nothing.
‘People are crazy, you know this, Dad. Will you sacrifice your life, our lives, for whatever Big Brother whim the show conjures?’
‘Worry about the next round: wrestle a croc, dive from a cliff, gladiate for your life… who knows?’
‘All that, for what? Fame?’
‘Loyalty.’ Abram handed him a roasted marshmallow. ‘Just shut up now. Enjoy quality time with your old man.’
He looked at the blinker in the sky that never stopped ticking.

- - -
Eugen M. Bacon is a computer graduate mentally re-engineered into creative writing, and has published over 100 stories and articles. Eugen’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Award Winning Australian Writing, AntipodeanSF, Andromeda, Aurealis, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Breach, Every Day Fiction, Horrified Press anthologies, Meniscus, TEXT and through Routledge in New Writing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Something You Want… For Yourself
By Kelly Sauvage Angel

Boarding the space train for Planet 3X+Y, I took a seat toward the rear of the car and rifled through the contents of my rucksack for the science fiction and gaming convention’s program book. I had never before attended a con and thought I’d utilize the time before the conductor came through to choose the panels I might want to attend and educate myself a bit on the prevailing co-ed geek culture.

It took a while to retrieve, given the number of items I tended to keep on my person—my journal, a stash of super-absorbency tampons, my Bikini Kill graphic hoodie and a slew of hand-printed business cards and private numbers from the previous weekend’s women’s music festival as well as those of exceptional note from years past—but at last I found it, adorned with aliens stealthily aiming blaster guns. Just as I had opened to the scheduling grid, the conductor (one of my ex’s ex-girlfriends) approached with a haughty smirk and a violently seductive adjustment to her strapped-on nethers.

“Ticket?” she growled into my ear.

As I handed her the document I’d downloaded and printed at home, I noticed her notice that I noticed that she had stolen a glance at the program book in my lap.

With an abrupt distancing within her disposition, she wildly scribbled her initials (perhaps some sort of profanity or sadist’s invitation?) onto the tattered page and thrust it back with contempt.

“Traitor,” she snarled.

I lowered my gaze, pained by her assumption that my visit to 3X+Y for a convention could be taken as an affront to the solidarity and sense of community we had so profoundly cultivated on 4X.

In an effort to soothe myself, I tucked my earbuds within my aural cavities and set the Indigo Girls to play on repeat, sniffling with a tug of nostalgia each time the playlist cycled back to “Watershed.”

When we pulled into the station on 3X+Y, I wiped my tears and promptly gathered my things with a heightened sense of anticipation as I prepared to disembark.

Passing the conductor where she stood near the doors, I wished her a good da—. Ugh. Thwap. Blap. Splat. Thunk.

Looking up toward the interior of the train car, I saw her boot resting a bit forward of her body, right at the spot where I’d lost my footing atop the stairs.

“Good riddance,” she concluded once the other passengers had trampled over and upon me. With a whoosh of the hydraulics, the doors sealed closed.

Stunned and hurt, not only where my head met the concrete platform but also within that fleshy cavity buried deep inside my chest, which I had assumed was inviolable given its well-armored casing, I gathered my rucksack, my, now, badly-scratched glasses and program book.

Out of nowhere, a hand reached toward me, offering to help me to my feet.

“Fuck off.” I dismissed the uninvited kindness with a wave of my hand. I then rose to standing. Well, rather almost, as my ankle gave beneath me.

“If you don’t mind my saying so, it looks like you could use some assistance getting to the medic,” said the owner of the hand that I’d moments before waved away.

“Fine,” I agreed. “But, I didn’t ask for help,” I qualified.

“No, you didn’t. I offered, remember?”

As he lifted me, one arm beneath my knees and another supporting my thoracic spine, I looked up into a face that was nothing less than that of a street-smart thug’s most gentle countenance. Strong yet sensitive, capable yet unhurried, scarred yet so very vulnerable.

The scent his pores exuded amid the effort of carrying the weight of my physical body softened me in a way I never would have expected. Typically, proximity to those from 2XY who are inclined to venture to 3X+Y leaves me feeling guarded, if not in the throes of a bona fide panic attack, given that which I’d endured at the mercy of such creatures earlier in my life. Yet, this was somehow… different.

I looked up at him the very moment he glanced down. I then abruptly turned away.

Having arrived at the medic’s, we sat in the waiting area for a brief time, his hand remaining atop my leg, which was elevated upon his lap.

After I was roomed and my vitals were taken, the nurse closed the door, assuring me that the medic would see me shortly. I then lunged for my rucksack, certain that I had an oxytocin-blocker tucked into one of the pockets for emergency circumstances, such as the one within which I had found myself.

Finding the small pill, I worked up a fair amount of saliva, popped it into my mouth, swallowed and emitted an extended exhale.

In little time, the medic entered and declared that I had sustained nothing more than a rather significant sprain.

“Do you have anyone who might assist you during your visit here? You most certainly should not be bearing weight. After all, I’ll be sending you off on crutches.”

“I’m fine on my own,” I assured him.

Hobbling out to the waiting area, my triceps already fatigued, I honestly was only half-surprised to find my knight in buttery leather still waiting.

“So, what did the medic say?” he asked. “Are you alright?”

“It’s just a sprain. I’ll be fine,” I explained. “Now, go ahead. Carry on.”

“Do you mind if I help you to the conference center? You are headed to the con, right?”

“Yeah, but I’m a big girl, really.”

“And, I’m just someone,” he explained. “Someone who thinks you’re pretty cool. Someone who wouldn’t mind a hand if I were in your situation.”

“Right, like there’s nothing you want from me.” I lifted my exasperated gaze to the far corner of the room.

“No, there isn’t. Unless you find there’s something you want… for yourself.”

- - -
Kelly Sauvage Angel is the author of Om Namah… and Scarlet Apples & Cream. She’s not necessarily as frightening as her name might suggest.

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