Thursday, August 16, 2018

8/16/18

Of Bison And Men
By David Barber


It turned out the woman came from only ten years uptime, so not a real time-traveller after all. But still.

In those days Frank opened afternoons for workers from the Canaveral Timeport, coffee going on shift, beers coming off. It didn’t earn much, but he wasn’t doing it for the money. This was the real reason: a gust of air, hot and humid, as the short blonde woman pushed open the door. The very first temponaut to sit at the bar of the Chronos Tavern.

She asked for a fruit beer, which made Frank wonder what was going on in the future, but settled for orange juice. While pouring it, Frank glanced at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar, and found she was watching him.

He couldn't help himself. “You’re the reason I opened this place,” he said. “I mean, you’re from the future. How cool is that?” And for some reason, he told her his name.

"You know we’re warned about disclosing the future, Frank."

“And I was going to ask you about the lottery.”

She smiled wanly. “The past is safer."

She was an archaeologist with the Federal History Project. In exchange for siting the Timeport at Canaveral, we had been gifted some token use of it.

On a wafer-thin screen, she showed him pictures. Horses and bison, just a few brush strokes, but bulging with power and movement. "Cave art. My research project. Or was."

The paintings were from a cave near Altamira in Spain. The oldest in Europe. Thirty thousand years ago.

"Took those last year. Hundreds of metres inside the cave. And it’s dark down there…"

She tried to describe the experience. Don’t think a tunnel dug by men, but a black bowel coiled inside the earth; near half an hour of stooping and splashing and squeezing through fistulas in the rock to find the paintings.

Why did they go to all that bother? he wondered.

“Good question.” She gave him a tired smile, and he reckoned later that was the moment he fell for her.

She swiped another picture. A narrow green valley with scree slopes. Taken from high up. Herds of mammoth and horses and scruffy bison on the valley floor. Underneath was text:

33143 bp. Baseline visit. Walls untouched. No evidence of occupation. Observed spring migration of steppe bison (Bison priscus, now extinct) through valley. Steppe bison will feature in cave panels 7, 12 and 14.

"This is real isn't it?” he breathed. “Not Hollywood."

“On our first visit we stampeded the bison. The wormhole just popping out of nowhere. I’m told its impressive.”

More pictures of the valley, the remains of a camp fire, some hacked-up animal parts.

33005 bp. Walls still untouched, but edvidence of human presence in the valley. Possible hunting camp, with butchery, fire debris and stone tools.

Nobody knew when work on the paintings started, so they kept checking in.

"And this was the visit with the near miss."

The familiar valley, but with distant figures carrying spears. You got the impression of an easy lope.

32901 bp. Hunters changed direction towards us. Initiated emergency return.

An emergency return involved telling a gadget to do it, followed by a flash of Cherenkov radiation and a thunderclap as the air bangs into the sudden vacuum.

"We ducked into the cave so the hunters wouldn't see all that. Even so, we had to report a near miss.”

She brought up another photo. This time he wasn't sure what he was looking at.

32891 bp. Ceiling panels 8, 9 and 11 show soot marks.

"Soot marks from torches. Guess they were exploring. Temporal Guidelines are really strict. But we bugged the cave with tiny motion-activated cams. Just got back today from recovering them."

She wore her pale hair up, untidily. He tried not to stare at her slender, bared neck.

“Found little shrines of flowers round every camera, and bison and horses stampeding across the walls. Perhaps those hunters spied us going in. They only painted where we put the cams. They had to go all that way in.”

Those paintings were for us, she said sadly. And for millennia after, they must have kept the faith, making cathedrals of other caves as the Word spread, hoping the gods would return, though we never did.

She pushed away her empty glass. She shouldn’t have told him all this, it was just habit.

“Helen,” she added. Her name was Helen.

Just before she left, she dug out a dog-eared photograph from her bag. More cave art he imagined, or her posing next to a mammoth.

“You hang onto this until I come into the bar the first time, a few years from now and you show it to me. Proof that we’ve met before. And of course I don’t understand, because the picture’s from my future. But you convince me because you always were a silver-tongued rogue.”

It was the two of them. Him looking greyer. She unchanged. He had a comfortable arm round her.

“This is the one chance I get to come back here and give you our picture. I even wore my hair up for you. Of course you’re older when we marry. Not as innocent. Not as cute.”

“This doesn’t make any sense.”

She sighed. “Give it time.”


- - -

Thursday, August 9, 2018

8/9/18

NO LIGHT ON LIGHT YEARS
By John Grey


Billions of light years distant,
we only see their ancient history.

Through the telescope's eye,
I keep staring time backwards -

ten billion years - unimaginable -
and yet there it is - imagine it.

All dead, a hole even, but living
and totally there for my purpose.

Our planet, I'm sure, gives as good as it gets.
If you're seeing me, it's not me.

The day I was born exists fifty light years away.
My parent's wedding is out there farther still.

And so on. And so on.
If you're sharing Henry VIII's choice

of a wife - don't get too involved -
there's five more - just ask someone

thirty light years beyond you.
There's some, I'm sure, who think

we're all dinosaurs or maybe just
a red-hot molten ball.

It's unfathomable
and the universe can keep it up forever.

Sometimes it feels like
everything is in the past but me.


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

8/2/18

Quills
By Andrew Darlington


The gulls are falling from an empty sky.

Slanting out around the neon amusement arcade into the chill wind, stepping huddled towards Bridlington harbour, there’s a smashed gull in the gutter. White plumes in spikes like ruptured cloud. Glancing furtively this way and that, I stoop, to pluck a bunch of tail-feathers.

Wings make screaming crosses overhead. When not sky-dancing the surviving gulls strut and prowl the sea-wall, downturned beaks that could slash a face apart. Expressions like grumpy old men. Around the protective arm of ancient stone where the fishing boats dock, a gust of white feathers storms around stacked lobster pots like a swirl of snow. And below, on the trapped harbour swell, the blurred form of swollen gull-corpses eddy in the chill brown water, wounds cleansed by the slow current.

Old paint is peeling. There are empty stores along the promenade. Others have become charity shops. A grey population of oldsters shuffle and navigate mobility scooters past the tawdry gift emporiums hunting out a steamy café for tea and scones. A dead gull smeared on the pavement. A spray of bedraggled feathers, plundered plumage like a wet quilt. I stoop, and pluck.

It’s due to radioactivity in the wind. Hushed-up reactor leaks. Everybody knows that, but no-one dare say so. In the ‘Harbour Tavern’ a small ferret-faced man with a beaked nose is singing ‘Ev’ry time is rains, it rains strontium ninety’. Then he sniggers, his hands – bitten nail-stub fingers, dancing along the bar-rail. No, it’s the chemical pesticides the farmers use, soaking into the topsoil, draining into ditches, sluicing down into the sea, poisoning the fish they eat. He snorts derisively. ‘Them gulls ain’t never eaten no fish, not unless it’s fried and beer-battered. They live on pizza, chips, waffles, kebabs, burgers, anything folks drop they can get their beaks around. Why do you think they’s growing so aggressive huge?’ ‘Radioactivity. You can smell it in the air. You inhale it. It’s gnawing in your bones. See the gulls glow against the sky at night like eerie ghosts.’

The van door is rusted. It grates as I wrench it open. Adding the new bouquet to the garlands of feathers mounded in laundry baskets in the rear. The exhaust is shot. It rattles and blows as I drive to the retail park where the big DIY stores are circled by neatly-marked parking bays. People push trolleys full of cans of creosote, ceiling tiles and shelving. I select a staple gun from the display, balance it for weight. Pay at the check-out with my credit card. She smiles attractively and hopes that I’ll enjoy the rest of my day. I assure her that I will, and wish her the same.

Crushing the skull of a wounded bird underfoot, its fragile hollow egg-shell bones crackling, a mercy killing, finishing it off as it lies, before the rats can get it. One outstretched wing flaps mournfully. Is it a mutant bacillus jumping species, or a parasitic worm, responsible for the sores and wounds on the falling bodies? Experts came from wherever it is experts come from, and they took samples and bird-corpses and measurements and statistics and then they went away without ever publishing their findings. Meanwhile the avian extinction-event continues. Birds fall from increasingly empty skies, like vanquished angels crashing to Earth from some heavenly conflict. More feathers for me. Ripping wing-feathers free with my hands.

Flamborough Head is a long thin finger extending out into the north sea, an eight-mile promontory of chalk headland. The Vikings were here a thousand years ago, drawing their dragon-prowed longships across the shingle. As now, the silver tongues of waves race up the beach far below. There are lonely caravans clustered together at the end of meandering lanes. The night mists rise from the sea and close in over these fields, sealing them off from the world. A place for isolation. There are gull eyries high in the white chalk cliff nesting grounds. Black-headed gulls, cormorants, gannets, fulmars, petrels, peregrines, frigate birds.

Draw up as close to the sheer cliffs as I can get. Undress. Leave my clothes in a neatly-folded pile on the passenger seat. Pace naked around to the rear of the van and grate the doors wide. The air is chilly with salt brine. The empty sky streaked with sunset cloud.

The staple-gun makes the sound of a sharp retort. The pain is so excruciating it shocks tears to my eyes, my legs shot through with sudden weakness so I grip the creaky van door for momentary support. The next shock is less severe, and the third, until my arm is numb and there’s no more sensation. Now the other arm. My fingers smeared with feathers and blood, and bloody feathers. My arms have become wings.

I become Icarus… or maybe Wiley E Coyote adorned by the latest package from Acme Wings Co. Every movement a graceful agony. The cliffs are sheer. The tide breaking on the rocks far below. For a moment I hesitate, my resolve wavering. My toes teeter over the brink. Not diving, but leaning forwards into the buoyancy of the air. Drawn by gravity. A deep breath, exhaling slowly. Over the cliff-edge. Plummeting down. Arms extending into lavish wings. A human hang-glider. For a moment there’s terror that my wings are insufficient. My eyes clam shut…

Then a gust of breeze catches me, a sudden up-draft. My feathers rustle and dance in ripples, and my descent is arrested. I level away over the heaving darkness of tide, circling in a dance of spray over wave-tops, and with slight guiding movements of my arms I glide higher into the empty sky…

Far beneath me, smashed on the wave-lapped rocks at the foot of the white cliffs, there’s a human smear of blood and feathers.


- - -
My current weird-poetry collection is 'Tweak Vision: The Word-Ply Solution To Modern-Angst Confusion' (from 'Alien Buddha Press')
What is Tweak Vision?
Snatch visions from the starry dynamo of the cosmos. Words are supernatural. In times of gathering modern-angst confusion, words defy temporal gravity, rearrange space-time, choreograph new constellations. Word-play is all I have to take your heart away. Now tweak them this way and that, shake them out into new configurations to your device of choice.
This is Tweak Vision!
www.amazon.co.uk/Tweak-Vision-Word-Play-Modern-Angst-Confusion/dp/1986415260/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522494861&sr=8-1&keywords=Tweak+Vision

Thursday, July 26, 2018

7/26/18

Signals From Space
By Thomas G Schmidt


"I am telling you that this is significant and it’s real!!”
Adam Hayes, a young PhD space physics candidate from MIT, was in the midst of an argument with his radio astrometry mentor when yet another partial signal was picked up on his equipment at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England. The Jodrell Bank Observatory was staffed with a group of international physicists, with many of those physicists considered to be some of best in the world. To get a chance to study space transmissions at such an institute was an honor for Hayes and the young American was risking a lot in arguing with Dr. Michael Clarke, a noted physicist from Britain’s famed Cambridge University.

“Where is it originating from?” Clarke put on his glasses as he examined the radio telescope’s computer screen in detail.

Hayes shook his shoulders in frustration as he checked his equipment.

“I, I really can’t tell. The short signals just come and go too quickly and too randomly.” Hayes looked up at his mentor for guidance. But the older man stayed silent as he continued to look at the computer screen.

Hayes cleared his throat before making his next comment. He was reluctant to suggest the idea but he had no other path forward to suggest.

“Sir, perhaps it would make sense to examine this data using compressed sensing.” Compressed sensing was a signal processing technique occasionally used for reconstructing a fragmented signal. It was based on recreating the signal mathematically using “underdetermined linear equations”. But with only random, short signal pieces available for the work, the results would be highly speculative at best.

“No, no Adam. That would be a futile effort in this case. We have too many variables and too few possible equations. We would never be able to solve for the transmission location of these radio wave emissions.”

Hayes sighed as he pushed himself back in his chair. He knew that Clarke was right. But the proud American was just reluctant to give up. He had invested so much time in this research and to come up empty handed was just a hard pill to swallow.

“There must be a way for us to analyze this data. Surely there is some approach…”

Clarke cut Hayes off in mid thought. “Adam, I appreciate your energy and passion on this matter. But as you work here longer, you will understand that we get many of these space transmissions, too many to investigate all of them. We have to select the ones which have the most promise and to focus our energy on those signals. We don’t have unlimited resources son. Do you understand what I am trying to say?”

Hayes cringed at the word “son” but he understood the point being made by his mentor. He shook his head and simply replied “yes” to the older man.

Clarke smiled and patted his young protégé on the back. “It’s late Adam. Call it a day and we will regroup tomorrow.”

Hayes gave Clarke a forced smile and nodded. And with that, he gathered up his backpack and personal items as he made his way out of the laboratory to his 10 speed bike for his ride back to a small house in Lower Withington where he was renting a room for the summer. Clarke stayed behind to shut down the laboratory for the evening.

With Hayes finally gone, Clarke went back to his own office and immediately collapsed into his chair. Things had gotten close this time, much too close for Clarke. While deep in thought, his personal computer illuminated on its own and an incoming message came up on the screen.

“Are we safe?”

Clarke sighed as he typed a short reply on his computer.

“Yes. I stopped the young human from investigating any further.”

A second message immediately came in

“Are you sure that he won’t continue to dig into the signals?”

Clarke typed his reply. “I will make sure that he is directed away from our true messages. He will be encouraged to investigate the faux signals you are transmitting and in doing so; he will come up with nothing.”

Another reply came in.

“Good. But if he goes back to the primary transmissions again, then you know what you have to do.”

Clarke sighed again as he simply replied back “understood”. The Extronian was well aware of his orders and would obey if required. However, he hoped, he really hoped, that he would not have to kill another human. The act was repugnant to him and in the case of Adam Hayes; he had come to like the young man.

And with that, the computer went dark.


- - -
Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He has had a variety of short stories published in the past on websites such as www.short-story.me, www.fartherstars.com, www.short-humour.org.uk and www.overmydeadbody.com. He is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

7/19/18

EINSTEIN AT THE BUS STOP
By John Grey


He's been standing there a half hour already,
it's cold as nuclear winter,
and he can't even wear a toke
because without that fuzzy hair
he could be just anybody.
The speed of light
he has the perfect formula for
but the speed of buses
resists all equations.
A brain massive enough
to contain the universe
bobs atop impatient aching legs.
Can't afford a taxi.
Genius doesn't pay.
But he must get back to work.
His head bulges with the proof
that time travel is possible.
But what if time
is public transport?


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

7/12/18

Knowledge Cube
By David K Scholes


It was a long lonely trip. Being the only living physical being on a robotic ship of artificial intelligences. I’m not even really in charge except nominally. Just more of an observer and moral conscience. In theory I can “pull the plug” on everything if things go really bad. In theory at least but I don’t believe the AI’s would let me do that.

All of my kind recognised the once in a lifetime moral duty. Shared among us all. The time given up being insignificant against our near immortal lives.

* * *

The world came into view moments before it was to be “transformed.” Strange it didn’t look like the sort of world that would be scheduled for that path.

Our job? It’s not to carry out the judgement or to prevent it. Not really just to observe it either. No our job is the initial preservation of all of the knowledge of the world existing prior to its transformation.. I do mean all of the knowledge. Every single drop of it since this world was formed.

Once our work is done – others more elevated in the cosmic hierarchy will decide what’s to be done with it.

I mean a total world knowledge cube can be consigned to the cosmic trash can or it can be revered and placed with the knowledge cubes gathered at the anchor point of reality. Or anything in between. Sometimes, bizarrely, left near the world that was transformed.

The whole thing is quite an art really – you have to affect the total knowledge transfer only moments before the world is purified. It’s illegal to do it any sooner and after the event it’s just too late to capture everything.

I thought, not without some sadness, of the billions of beings below totally unaware of us.

* * *

Afterwards the world didn’t even look the same at all. The beautiful blue green planet replaced by something darker, more sinister. Ready now though for the presumably more worthy alternative life forms that would soon occupy it.

* * *

Then I turned my attention to that which lay not more than a few ship’s lengths in front of us. The brand new Knowledge Cube. Vibrant, pulsating, quite unlike the new world that lay below.

* * *

Did I say I was just an observer? Well maybe a little more than that.

As a level 9 advanced psi my job includes a preliminary examination of the integrity of the new knowledge cube. Those who come after us might or might not be influenced by my initial report.

My protected physical body skirted the edge of the knowledge cube first, before my supported mind entered it shallowly. Long experience had taught us this was the best way. As an initial approach this was vastly superior to anything involving intrusive high technology. Though that could come later. Usually this was just routine. Though not this time.

Fractional time periods seemed like eternity as I delved through the surface layers of the knowledge cube before the realisation came to me. An unprecedented first order mistake had been made. This had been a world in the ascendency rather than in decline. My mind was flooded with a richness of culture, a diversity at odds with the observed attained level of technology. Which was to say that they were capable of so much more. If they had but been given a chance.

The question was – what could I do about this without overstepping the mark? What report might I leave for the higher order cosmic entities that would come here after us? That they might take some note off.

Certainly I would recommend that the assessments for all future world transformations be on a much broader basis.

Yet even so – this knowledge cube for the world that was - might still be consigned to the cosmic trash can.

So, against all laws, I added something to the knowledge cube that would ensure it a better placement. Not too much but enough to tip the balance in its favour. The beautiful thing was the AI’s aboard my ship would have no way of knowing what I had done.

No one could go back now and re-make this world as it was but I had quietly secured its place in cosmic history.

And who knows if – in an attempt to try to set matters right - this knowledge cube might ultimately be placed among those most revered at the anchor point of reality.

At the All Place.


- - -
The author is a science fiction writer who has written more than 200 short stories. He has written eight collections of short stories and two novellas (all on Amazon). He has been published on the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles sites and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently about half way through a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

7/5/18

Sea Brutes
By David Castlewitz


When players arrived, night disappeared. Even when they entered the game-space at midnight, morning dawned. They were sea brute riders, these game players, who competed for titles and prizes while racing and fighting in the virtual ocean.

Like everyone in the game-play village, Yosuf answered the claxon’s call and hurried to work. Outside the huts of sticks and waddle, women wove baskets, made needles from dried-out fish bones, scraped the fleshy side of a sea wolf's hide with a sharp-edged stone, or tended a small fire under a black kettle of ever-boiling water. Men mended nets at the dock or grumbled to one another as they prepared lateen sail boats for the morning foray to the fishing pens.

Yosuf’s role as a user’s helper required a minimum of verbal communication, utmost politeness, and extreme attention to the intricacies of fitting players into their game suits. Every setting had to be correct; every dial positioned correctly; each strap buckled in a precise manner and every helmet fitted to the user's head. Game world hurts readily translated to real world damage, from aches and pains to shattered limbs and crushed bones.

First-timers often laughed a lot. Yosuf wondered if they were afraid. They'd come in search of adventure; they'd paid a lot for the thrill of competing for the title of "Sea Lord" or "Rider King" or some other award. He thought they should be thrilled and excited.

Lorraine Denton started off as a frightened girl who chewed on the ends of her shoulder length blonde hair, her blue eyes flitting from one thing to another. Her friend, Stacy Potts, put on a bold front, but Yosuf assumed she'd never ridden the ocean waves astride a sea brute.

"Mustn't change the mid-chest dial," he cautioned the girls. A slip of the suit might engulf them in nauseating waves of motion. A change to a setting at the front of the helmet could generate vibrations that would drive them crazy. Anything not set correctly brought dire consequences, Yosuf warned.

Stacy proved to be a difficult pupil. She wanted to set everything herself. She challenged Yosuf with statements like, "How do I know you're doing it right?" Or berated him with, "Read that dial back to me. I need to know the setting."

Lorraine, on the other hand, let Yosuf drape her lean body with the riding suit and voiced no complaints, never a question. She shuddered at his touch, but didn't pull away. She allowed him to put the helmet on her head and tuck her long yellow hair underneath. She did nothing to alter the procedure.

"You don't know what he's doing," Stacy said, and often. "You can't trust a helper bot."

"You don't need to insult him."

"It," Stacy said.

Yosuf tried not to wilt before Stacy's hard stare. He didn’t meet her eyes. He didn’t react.

"Know what, Stacy?" Lorraine stood with her gloved hands on her narrow hips. "Why did you come with me if you don't like it?"

“I don't trust these bots. How do you know they're doing what they're supposed to do?"

"They're bots," Lorraine said. "They're our helpers. Trust them."

Yosuf lowered his head. "I don't want anything bad to happen to you, Miss Lorraine," he said.

Her eyes went wide. Small circles of red appeared on her soft cheeks. She raised her gloves to her face.

"I didn't mean to insult you," Lorraine said. "I'm sorry if I did. But ‘bot’ isn’t a bad word, is it?"

Stacy laughed. "Don't apologize. Bots can't be insulted. Are you stupid, or what?"

They left the Ready Station. Yosuf led them to the dock where sea brutes bobbed in the water. Ocean-going mechanical beasts, they were the epitome of the seamless blend of the virtual with the physical in this game-playing space. Horse-like, the brutes carried a single player, sprayed virtual fire from their mouths, and achieved game speeds of hundreds of miles per hour.

Yosuf turned to Stacy and reached for her helmet as he helped her mount a brute bobbing in the water. He touched a dial with his finger, his touch so deft that no one could detect it. Certainly not Stacy.

The young women left the dock astride their mounts. Elsewhere along the estuary, other players parted from their helpers and rode into the open water. They bounced and spun and floated, some at the crest of a wave and some riding through the whitecaps generated by players racing one another on fast moving sea brutes.

Yosuf pictured Stacy losing her balance and slamming hard against a virtual wall or rock or into another player. She’d take a rough jolt in her game suit. She’d lose her helmet. She’d be smacked by a wave, her cheeks stung and her vision blurred. Most likely, her game injury would reflect in the real world and she’d be scared away from the game for a long time.

Only thing Yosuf regretted: Lorraine would never know he'd done this for her. Because she deserved a better friend.


- - -
After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, David has turned to a first love: writing fiction of all sorts, especially SF and fantasy. He's published stories in Phase 2, Farther Stars Than These, SciFan, Martian Wave, Flash Fiction Press , Bonfires and Vanities (an anthology) 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 28, 2018

6/28/18

Nympho-Droid
By John Grey


Algorithmic passion: what next?
She transforms, becomes, a girl of such beauty,
and tilts her head to the sky,
as sun pours down to enlighten me the more.
Lovers must have someone to love.
These scientists code the foundations,
the criteria, but I make the choices.
I am her true creator.

At home, she stares at me adoringly,
speaks well of who I am.
I snap many a photograph
but none as enduring as my mind’s rotogravure.
She’s definitely a quantum shift in adorability.
Luscious, sensual, she has no other form.
The cooking, the cleaning, are mere adjuncts.
It’s her flesh that matters, soft and pliant.
She makes love like a sacred Sanskrit manual,
pleases all of my body parts
when and where required.

What is it like to live with a flawless woman, you may ask.
Sure, it’s a burden on my credit card.
But I’m paying it off month by month.
There’ll come a day when I own her outright.
And, unlike a car, there’s no need to replace her.

Some say that I live in a fool’s world,
that, for all her faults,
a real woman comes with a sincerity,
a true caring, that a shapely android does not.
Try tell me that when my lover
spreads her arms, her legs, so willingly,
when she swirls like a carousel
while I’m riding every horse at once.
A real woman would want so much in return.
My special angel requires nothing more
than occasional recharging.


It’s a new world.
We can get what we want.
No longer must we be satisfied with each other.
Sure, when the constant love-making
leads to my fatal heart attack,
her twenty-five-year-old tears won’t be real.
But my twenty-seven-year-old ones will be.


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

6/21/18

Nomads
By Bruce Mundhenke


When they first came, they seemed almost an answer to prayer. They were smaller than us and thin. They had mouths, but never smiled. Their eyes were much bigger than ours. They seldom blinked. They wore one piece outfits made from some type of blue material. They spoke without opening their mouths, using telepathy. They communicated effectively with us, letting us know what their questions or needs were.

When asked who they were, they let us know only that they were nomads, travelers who have been moving throughout various galaxies, not only in this universe, but also in other dimensions. Their travels have been from a time so far back it would seem endless to us. They communicated to us that after they had learned how to enter other dimensions, they had access to different types of worlds that would seem quite strange to us.

At first, they landed in major cities all over the earth, working with national and civic leaders. They seemed to be on a problem solving mission, helping the people of the Earth by providing the people of the Earth with various solutions to many of their problems. They provided powerful, compact sources of energy that eliminated the need for nuclear reactors or coal burning power plants. They demonstrated to physicians New ways to treat heart disease and various types of cancer.

As time went on, more and more of their ships came to earth. They began to use advanced techniques to mine various metals and precious stones. When there were attempts by various military forces to stop the mining, they easily defeated any forces that came against them.

National armies and air forces where destroyed. They also began to destroy cities, rapidly killing most of the people on earth. Those who were able to survive by living in primitive areas were left alone. When they had harvested whatever metals and stones they required for their purposes, they left the planet, leaving it forever changed.

2

Nature rapidly reclaimed the planet and those left alive on earth began to rebuild their civilization. After much time, those alive had difficulty knowing what had actually taken place when the Nomads came to the earth long ago. Stories had been handed down to children for nearly a thousand years. Some on earth worshiped them. Many thought they were evil gods. Over time, these different beliefs led to much warfare among various tribes of people on earth and caused much blood to be spilled.



- - -
Bruce Mundhenke writes poetry and short fiction in Illinois, where he lives with his wife and their dog and cat.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

6/14/18

The Brexit
By David K Scholes


My granddaughter looked out at the vast slag heap beyond the Ionic shield that still protected us all.

“What are those?” Annabelle pointed to a largish formation of small, fast flying objects. She saw them before I did.

“Drone bots,” I replied “Nothing to worry about. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any hereabouts.”

How strange that all this time after the failure of the Russian Federation there was still the very occasional automated attack against us. Attacks that had been programmed years ago and time delayed. King George may have been right to keep the ion shield in place. Despite the drain on the energy grid.

* * *

“The land you see before you is a part of what was once called Wales,” I told Annabelle. “Once it was even a part of us, part of our, our Kingdom.” I hesitated for a moment wondering if I was committing an offense by the revelation. The teaching of history was reserved now for a very select few. Some parts of our history weren’t taught anymore. I was just fortunate that I had lived the history and knew what really happened.

I had thought about taking Annabelle north in a flyer to see what was once called Scotland. Just as a part of her education. Of slowly, quietly revealing the truth to her but these days Scotland more than closely resembled Wales. A slag heap. Unfortunately the energy grid reserves didn’t extend to them or Northern Ireland. A decision made easier for us when they all left the Union.

Still Annabelle had been old enough to witness the closing of the very last embassy on our soil. An event long overdue coming even after the last of the immigrants had been kicked out. It was the embassy of what we had come to call the Merkelites. A nation group we had twice warred with and beaten. The Merkelites had kicked our asses over the Brexit. They say revenge is a dish best served cold and it was made doubly sweet when not long before our closing their embassy they had begged for our military help against the Chinese.

* * *

As the oldest person still living in Angleland I was old enough to remember the Brexit. The very hard Brexit dished out by an angry, spiteful, vengeful European Union. The worst of all possible deals. A bitter pill to swallow that would have consequences for decades to come.

My mind continued to wander even as Annabelle spoke. I thought of the many free trade deals our once great nation had hoped to secure after the Brexit. One by one – these great promises fell on stony ground. The then still mighty United States under a man whose name has been written out of our histories did not come to our aid as we hoped. Instead they chose a path of isolation quite different from ours. Even our once friends of the Commonwealth of Nations spurned us. Perhaps remembering how we had once spurned them.

* * *

I watched the last of the Russian drone bots strike the Ion shield. Unlike the others it exploded in sub-nuclear fury. “Looks as though some of their weapons are still working,” I said it too quietly for Annabelle to hear.

My mind wandered back into the past again. After the Brexit, Russia, perceiving our weakness and increasing isolation tormented us more than ever.

The penetrating long range bombers testing our depleted air defences, the deathly quiet submarines and grotesque surface warships both defying our shrunken navy even just off our coastline. The almost constant and escalating cyber attacks, Worst of all the robotic drones. Thousands and thousands of them. Fired against us and then forgotten. Some on time delay and some armed with the just sub nuclear micro weapons.

The time came too when the United Kingdom nuclear deterrent – the final generation of Trident type missile submarines broke down. When for long periods we could not maintain even one such boat at sea. Worse, the Russians knew it.

Yet how the mighty had fallen! The modest Russian economy could not sustain such vast defence expenditures and eventually the country imploded in on itself. To the relief of us all. Now the wrecks of their bombers, submarines and surface warships litter our eastern seaboard. We cannot afford to remove them. Not yet.

* * *

Somewhere in our isolation and decline the King and the royal family dissolved the parliament and took over the reins of power again.

Against all predictions it was good for us in ways we could not have imagined. Things essential to our survival, like the Ion shield and the superlative All England fighter had been forced upon us though at considerable dislocation to our economy.

* * *

China has occupied parts of a spent Russia now and invades the broken countries of the former European Union. They are all that stands between us and the world’s only super power.

Here in what is left of our Island we await them.

To get us they will have to overcome our mighty Ion Shield and a few other surprises that lie in store.

It will be interesting.


- - -
The author is a science fiction writer who has written more than 200 short stories. He has written eight collections of short stories and two novellas (all on Amazon). He has been published on the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles sites and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently about half way through a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

6/7/18

Gigantopithecus
By Rich Menz


Does humanity return after the store bought, stickerd apple falls from the pine?
It’s a trap.
The cold explanation is too simple for them to believe.
Wind blown is all.
Just like the hours of undeniable footage from the mysterious Pacific Northwest.
Just like the indentations in mud and sand.
All which have been chipped and frayed from years of speculation.
All wind blown.
Our tracks are similar, barely heading somewhere.
Towards each other, perhaps.
The meeting of man and beast has always proven to be more
than a passing wave to a shaky camera or a primal grunt
from distant brush.
Man has carved his way into the universe by staring down his reflection
in the iris of the serpent.
A spear wielding coming of age.
In the misty northern woods hangs a web
where mankind meets it’s true fate.
A fly, defiant and adolescent, scales the silk entanglement to reach the spider.
Gigantopithecus


- - -

Thursday, May 31, 2018

5/31/18

GALAXIAD
By Andrew Darlington


As the first Earthian sets foot on Mars, aching, it’s been a long hard journey, she finds the three Galaxiad delegates courteously waiting. A shiny octopus, a long-necked owl-faced bird, and a fish. It was not entirely unexpected. ‘We come in peace for all humankind’ she says, her visuals flashed back to watching Beijing and Baikonur.

‘We know all that.’ A fitting response. Although it appears to be Clarice – the bird, speaking, there’s an impression that the sentiment emanates from Amrita, the octopoid, which hovers suspended within a life-support sphere. The Intuitive Fish swims in a sapphire water-cube. Clarice seems to exist quite adequately on tenuous Mars-air.

‘Welcome, although we assumed you’d be here earlier’ says the bird. ‘Soon after you reached your Moon, in fact. We miscalculated, for I understand you had to have time to devote to your wars first.’
‘You’ve been waiting for us?’ enquires Zhi Ruo politely.

‘Like you wouldn’t believe. But now you’re here your species naturally qualifies for admission to the Galaxiad, as junior induction members.’

‘As in that Arthur C Clarke story? We have to prove our extraterrestrial credentials first?’

‘That was a cool movie. But no, not quite. Only yes, to an extent.’

As Zhi Ruo, Qing Shan and Tierney follow their hosts across the Valles Marineris floor, the sun a small bright coin in the twilight sky, the watchers in Beijing and Baikonur can begin to discern the form of the ruined Martian city they’re approaching.

‘Of course, it’s not Martian’ comments Clarice the bird. ‘There were never any Martians. Not even microbial ones in shallow pools. It’s just that we’ve been observing you from here for a long while, and maintaining these structures proved tedious.’

‘The three of you have been here hundreds of years?’

‘A million or so. We anticipated faster evolutionary growth on your part, I admit. But I retain a certain affection for some of your lapsed cultures, the Minoans in particular, and the Phoenicians were quite fascinating in a mercantile way. Originally there were five of us here. I regret our numbers were depleted by an unfortunate close-pass accident with your world some time ago.’ Although the slender towers and minarets are semi-derelict, resembling something from wild Barsoomian romance, the central court is hermetically sealed in sparkling crystal shells, allowing the travelers to relax without their protective suits. Fountains dance around a garden of softly humming blooms.

The three aliens face the three humans, feeding them visions. Countless millions of worlds, a cornucopia of species linked across the spiral arm in a million-year trading alliance of peace and prosperity, stars arranged into aesthetically-pleasing formations, glittering planetary-cities and sky-borne islands suspended in the streaming tides of gas giants, continents on piles sunk into blazing suns, a dance of captive black holes, gentle ocean worlds where leviathans bask in violet tides and idyllic rainforest planets of diversely beautiful avian life-forms, cascading nebulae choreographed to illuminate the night skies of golden cities, beings flitting in the harmony of ghosts across magical continuums, species pooling resources and expertise to resolve the fundamental mysteries of existence, to cure all ailments and share their benevolences freely across star systems. Lesser species helped and guided to achieve that perfect equilibrium.

‘I don’t see your starships’ says Qing Shan.

‘We still enjoy using contragrav ovoids to make local system hops’ says Clarice agreeably. ‘For galactic distances, think quantum symbiosis. It’s complicated for you to understand. The Intuitive Fish swims the tides of galactic space. Amrita acts as navigation input. That’s all we require. Simple for us, but it’ll be a long meticulous process for you, you’ll learn over the coming centuries through our measured tuition.’

‘So you function as a composite entity? That’s all we need to know.’ They draw stun pistols and freeze the Galaxiad comatose. There are three prepared chambers in their ship, the ‘Laozi’. Once back on Earth the aliens are scanned, analyzed, probed and dissected, their DNA transfused and replicated, injected and grafted, operating on sciences retro-engineered from the two previously captured specimens.

Ten years later human armies break out across the peaceful worlds of the Galaxiad, shimmering instantaneously through space-time tides, despoiling and annexing. Within a century Earth has become control-centre of a galactic empire stretching from star to shining star…



- - -

Thursday, May 24, 2018

5/24/18

Regulated Planet
By David K Scholes


“They are reducing our allocated living space again,” I exclaimed with a mixture of surprise, anger and fear. “It’s the second edict in less than 2 years.”

Joy reviewed this information on the mind channel reserved for Earth persons.

“35m2 living space per adult, 10m2 working space if you work away from home and 65m2 outdoor recreational space per adult are the new figures,” she had difficulty saying it without crying. “Half that for children.”

I whistled. “How much further can they reduce us?” I asked.

“I don’t believe that they are done yet Dave,” there was a near certainty in Joy’s voice. “That’s five reductions in all since the planetary judgement first came down and the Ploorst took over.”

At first it hadn’t seemed so bad. I mean Earth had been at a low ebb with our world laid waste by a world war followed by several large scale alien incursions.

The Ploorst prefabricated cities and towns seemed like the answer to our problems. We had seen that the “prefabs” had the capability to expand. From individual rooms to the entire prefab city. What we hadn’t realised was individual spaces, rooms, halls. congregating points, even an entire pre-fab city, could all similarly be reduced. This unedifying, indeed frightening fact only became clear after the first of the brutal forced space reductions.

“I don’t think that I can take another space reduction,” offered Joy. “It’s not quite so bad for those that have a workplace to go to but for those of us who work from home!”

“And the children,” I said, “the children.”

The dreadful thing was that the younger children didn’t know anything else.

“With most family units reduced now to a single room the concept of an actual 2 or 3 bedroom residence, a unit or a house even, was just that to the younger children. A dream - a theoretical concept.”

* * *

Our “group” – a collection of 10 family units – and the maximum social-interaction allowed us – had discussed options many times. Including getting out of the prefab city and to the countryside. Though we mostly accepted the official line that the countryside was all still high radiation wasteland. In any event in all the time we had been in the prefab city no one in our group had even been able to get to the next module let alone outside the pre-fab.

* * *

“I think I’ve found something,” I told Joy in a hushed tone. “Something that might help with our space problem.”

“The only thing that could help us is more space,” Joy couldn’t quite see how that was possible and said as much.

“That’s what I’ve found,” I whispered even more quietly. “Somewhere – where there’s more space – sort of.”

I took Joy and Dirk from our Group to part of the interface between our module and the next. Technically en route to Dirk’s work station but an unauthorised area for Joy and I.

Theoretically it should have been possible to walk through the interface to the next module but we had all been too fearful to test this out. Until now.

With me leading we walked sideways into the interface. It looked like we were just continuing down the walkway.

“Have we gone over into the next module?” enquired Dirk. Things were very similar to our module but also somehow different as well.

“No, I don’t believe so” I replied.

“We kept on going and going – corridors and hallways and the occasional small room. Mostly with nothing in them and taking us progressively further away from our interface entry point. Eventually we returned.

* * *

Later we made a group decision to conduct deeper forays into this place, this alternate module, or whatever it was, that I had discovered. To try to find out if it offered us something our present existence didn’t.

We never got the opportunity. The next forced living space reduction came far sooner than expected. It was just too hard for us to take. Our entire group left our module via the interface for what we hoped had to be something better. Our brave new world.

* * *

They could not have known it but Joy and Dave’s small group was one of the last groups to leave their modules in the pre-fabricated cities and towns of Earth.

In time these prefab cities and towns contracted to nothing. The work of the Ploorst on Earth was done. Ultimately all part of the Judgement.

Joy and Dave’s group and all those that left before them will not be troubled about any lack of space in their new extra-dimensional environment.

What they ultimately make of this is up to them.


- - -
The author is a science fiction writer who has written more than 200 short stories. He has written eight collections of short stories and two novellas (all on Amazon). He has been published on the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles sites and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently about half way through a new collection of science fiction short stories

Thursday, May 17, 2018

5/17/18

Stealing Wings
Chapter 1, Sneak Peek

By E.S. Wynn


Date: 4th April, 2293
Location: Outskirts of the town of Zaitsev, Calav Beta, Arctostaphylos System (HD 12661)



Saint Von Mitternacht, patron saint of the genetically modified.

I'm five. Old enough to understand some things, not old enough to understand others. Old enough to understand that I am different. Old enough to understand that I have to keep it a secret. Not old enough to understand why.

Grandma keeps a rough carving of Saint Von Mitternacht on an end table near the silver disc that projects our television onto the wall. When the jasmine blooms, she places the flowers at the little statue's feet. When the oranges are in season, she places strips of peel there in offering. When we have visitors, she hides the carving behind a chair and throws a towel over it to hide it. We aren't any color of Catholic, but I suppose its human to cling to whatever hope for redemption, for divine guidance and protection you can, and we do.

It's human– though at age five, I wonder if I really am that. Am I human, as grandma says, or am I something else? Something less?

I haven't seen my mother since I was a toddler. Memories of her, of her face come in hazy shades, in tired smiles and frames of my tiny fists balled up in her grease-stained overalls. At five, I'm still young enough to watch the window that looks out over the parched, weed-spotted yard and the pavecrete road beyond, to wonder when she's coming back, wonder if this time will be the time I spot her walking in, her beaten red toolbox in one hand, the other brushing through the brown and wiry tufts of her rough-cut hair. It'll be a few more years before I give up, before grandma tells me the truth I already suspect. My mother is gone, lost, and she's not coming back.

Ellen Eisenherz. My mother. Signed all her early letters E.E. even though she and my father never married. She was registered with the Department of Licensing for Genetic Constructs as Ellen Meyers, was fitted with a subdermal licensing chip and worked any contract job for reactor techs that came along. Tagged and papered like all good citizens of the Commonwealth unlucky enough to carry the crossover-proof gene-tags that are the legacy of a time when corporations could splice together and brew up batches of “perfect” people, program them, own them, make legal slaves of them. The family story is that we have an ancestor who'd been born in a gene-vat, a prototype for the K-series of bodyguards and soldiers who had been genetically engineered by a twenty-second century megacorp called ChromaToZone. When faster-than-light travel finally opened the stars to humanity, this ancestor, along with many others like her, escaped Earth and made her way to the frontier. K-1, she was called, and if she took another name for herself, I don't know what it might have been. All I know is that she rode in steerage on a colony ship bound for the furthest planet from the core that she could find. Couldn't tell you much more than that. No one in the family could.

With the exception of the twin great uncles who fought and died during the Centauri Uprising of 2245, my tagged family has stuck mostly to the rim of the Commonwealth, followed the frontier even as it was pushed further and further out from Earth. My father was pure human, unlicensed, unpapered, a mutt of chance and nature, free to do as he pleased– and that's exactly what he did. In her innocence and naivete, my mother never stopped loving him, held her own hope that he'd return someday, but my grandmother knew better. Dad abandoned my mother three days after he found out that she was pregnant, and no one has seen or heard from him since. No letters, no vids or calls. Nothing, and I've never bothered to try to look him up on the network. All I know about him at age five is that he was a pilot, dark-haired and wild, that the last time anyone saw him, he'd contracted to fly a jaunt on a freighter full of cattle bound for a colony at the other end of Commonwealth space. I doubt he knew how my mother died, how the ship she was contracted to run three months with as an assistant tech ran hot on a jaunt through the Vaulcouleur system and the rest of the crew locked her in the reactor room and let her die because she was "just a GMO," or a "Moe," for short, using the racial slur that's flown too free among Commonwealth normals since the Centauri Uprising. Radiation in the core cooked her until she was just a stain on the floor, but she saved the whole crew before she died, put the reactor assembly into a rotating on/off diagnostic cycle that slowed the ship but got everyone else home. Instead of honoring her, being thankful of her sacrifice, I heard later that her crewmates cursed her for the two extra weeks in transit her last-minute field fix cost them.

But at the age of five, I still idealize my mother. She's very much alive in my mind, her brilliant blue eyes crinkling at the edges with stress, with exhaustion, with the weight of always being less important than everyone else around her. I think of her when grandma calls me Ellie, and I'm proud that my mother's name lives on as my middle name, my nickname. My young mind wants to be like her, sees the strength, the skill she put into every turn of a wrench, every spot-soldered and wire-wound frontier engine fix that saved a crew and got them all home to their families. In my mind, she's always been a hero, misguided, too passive perhaps, but a hero still. An inspiration, as much as a warning against weakness.

I'm five, and on April 4th, 2293, one month and six days before my sixth birthday, I watch my sixty-seven year old grandmother hobble into our home and bolt the door with shaky hands. She's mud-splashed and bruised, but since my grandfather died, there's rarely been a day that she goes into town when she isn't. Today is different, though. I catch the stagger in her walk, the way she winces as she crosses to the bedroom, pushes the one shell of birdshot she has into her centuries-old, break-action hunting shotgun. There's a rumble on the road, and I run to the window to see if it might be mom. Instead, two men in faded shirts stamped with the logo of the Commonwealth Navy throw open the doors of a sagging, rusted hovertruck. One of them has a baseball bat, yells my grandmother's name.

"Nemea! Fucking clone-spawn bitch!"

"Ellie!" Grandma hisses. She's standing at the door to the bedroom with the shotgun in her hands. There's no fear in her eyes, only fire, only iron. Looking back, I know now that she must have been terrified, that she knew she was stuck between the rage of two racist drunks and the law that would put her in jail for even owning a firearm. "Hide!" She whispers, gesturing toward the bed. Obedient, scared, I nod, dart into the darkness and fold myself up in the dusty clothes and boxes wedged under the mattress.

The men come. They beat on the door. They break windows and hammer on the walls. They stomp around the back garden, leave boot tracks all through the fertile mud. I listen, and while my Grandma Nemea stands silent, wary, the two men shout hate at the house. My grandmother and I stay out of sight, but I never see her set down the shotgun. Even after the men have left, even as the hovertruck rumbles away on struggling, keening suspensor coils, she carries it with her around the house. She holds it while I help her clean the mud and spit off her synthwool cloak. She holds it while she draws water for a stew of vegetables from our garden and meat from the colony market in town. It keeps her company, sits in her lap while we eat, and only at night, when we curl up together in the modest bed we share does she set it beside the nightstand, breathe a heavy sigh.

It's a scene I see too often growing up. At five, it's the first time I've seen grandma followed home, the first time I've seen her hard-eyed and waiting with her shotgun in her hands, but it won't be the last time. I can't say how many times I lived through scenes like that, how many times we had to patch the sheet plastic that became the norm for our windows because we couldn't afford to replace the glass.

She was tough, my grandmother. She fought as hard as she could, in the ways that she could, but she also knew how fragile our life together was, how easily she could find herself locked up, dead or worse. In the eyes of the law, she was the lowest class of citizen. Marked like a dog, licensed and papered.

But I wasn't, back then. My birth certificate says that I am the child of a previous relationship of my father's. According to the records, I was adopted by way of a marriage that no one bothered to file paperwork on. We were poor because my grandma wanted me to have a future, because she bribed every doctor who tested my blood, who screened my genes for disease markers and corporate tags. In the eyes of the law, I was fully human, but she had to buy that status every step of the way. In the eyes of the law, I was a person, pure and unadulterated by the tampering of man. That was her legacy. That was what allowed me the freedom to fight, to make a difference in all of the ways that I have in the decades since.



- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over 70 books.

Stealing Wings: A Novel of the Cygnus War is available in print and digital formats through Thunderune Publishing.


From the back cover:
One of my ancestors was a science experiment. She was cutting edge technology a century and a half ago, but then the world fell apart and she ran away. She ran away, and every child in her line who carries the same genes has had to pay for it in all the years since.


I am one of those children. I have genetically modified ancestry. I can't legally own a gun, can't serve in the military and can't be licensed to fly a starship.


But I do anyway. I do, because so far, no one knows about the GMO in my family tree.


My name is Tessa Ellen Eisenherz. This is my story. This is how I learned to fly. This is how I got involved in The Cygnus War.


This is me, stealing my wings.


Get your copy here: http://www.thunderune.com/2017/09/stealing-wings.html



- - -

Thursday, May 10, 2018

5/10/18

April 14, the Day God the Utterly Indifferent Came to Earth
By Damian W. Du Charme


There’s something that needs to be understood before all of… this ends. It was all within your ability to prevent. You see I didn’t create him, but his ancestor. Like all sentient beings of the universes, I began them as nothing more than an atom. Those that were skilled enough to become a something did. After this planet’s hive control had been released life among you so called humans became crass. He was the only one that really mattered when it came to the sense of this planet’s safety. Residing deep in his subconscious is a metaphysical connection to all life on his planet. That’s why all life here is carbon based, and come from a singular cell. His family, the celestials of Earth, died through the ages and eventually left him to be the last of his bloodline. Sure he has children, but only the select can continue the life of Earth. Just not without him.

The teachings of control had long been forgotten, mostly because of a lack of those able to teach. Many members of his ancestors left the planet, only to never return. This forced nature to implement a crash course on how to keep the planet in balance. The only time he lived in true balance was while in love, and his love with you is the greatest of any. That kept his planet in harmonious balance, bliss.

Let’s put this into perspective… Every natural disaster in history was caused by his bloodline. Somebody in his family caused Pompeii to erupt, another set forth the Aleppo earthquake, and before his birth his grandfather put China through the earthquake of Tangshan. When he was only two he slipped and hit his head on a stone fireplace, Nevado del Ruiz erupts. You see where I’m going with this? Whether it was an accident or purposely controlled it is they who initiate natural selection. Whenever something does happen, it’s to beat down the ever-growing population. Each celestial can only create and maintain enough resources to allow life to continue. The rate that humans use these resources is why he was often left feeling drained, or angry. He’s spent the majority of his 30 some years not knowing what he was. There was no crash course for him; it all hit him at once.

As his mind collapsed into the sudden realization of what he is, he became flooded with an uncontrollable rage. This has happened to all celestials forced. It was then, during his collapse that you were needed most. If only to just hold him and settle his rattled conscious. The feeling of love is his only cure. Love from his family. Love from his beloved. Instead he was karmic-ally gifted abandonment, and yes he did deserve it. He would likely agree it was a long time coming. Yet, none of that changes the lesson he learned, or the intense need he has for you… does it? As the observer and creator of the infinite sea of universes, I can say your specific life form is the most compassionate. More is based on the emotions you feel than was originally thought of as “sane”, but have proven time & again that you can change lives, let alone the world through emotions. Whether or not it’s believed or understood by all, the Y chromosome gender dominates and more or less controls your species now. It’s no wonder so many are trying to “switch sides”. Most don’t grasp that your soul, as it were, has no gender, let alone a use for such a troublesome piece of anatomy.

Now, however, I am here designing myself into a form hopefully understandable enough for you to stop and take a long moment to consider the facts of life. What is important? Can you see his love? Have you paid heed to the lessons he’s learned? Never doubt he has. A real problem is that it may be to late for him regardless. Could be that his feeling is this being the only completion of the lesson. How does that make you feel? Are you prepared for the responsibility of ensuring the continuation and safety of life on Earth? It is much easier to give up than to keep on. If you haven’t lost all hope, if you haven’t given up on him and feel that love… don’t. You’re both going to need it. There will always be difficulties; true love is the power to over come these obstacles of life. Stay strong. Especially for him now, because it is now he needs you most. Do you not hear him howling for you?

He feels that an apocalypse is the only thing that will make you reconsider. He has always had a love of volcanoes, never knowing that was part of his power connection as a Capricorn, a violent mixture of magma and water being able to create earth, his main element. That is why he is heading for the closest volcano, Rainer. If that volcano goes, it will start a chain reaction to every active & non-active volcano on his planet. A complete restart, 99% total extinction. The only thing that will survive is the bacterium formed by the first celestial, the immune system of all living things to his planet.

Your choice matters not to me, I only wanted to convey the options you have. I will now leave this universe, leave you to your choice. This is where it will either all fall apart, or root into the strongest love that can never be broken. No matter the test. Choose wisely… choose continuing… choose being his savior.

He has already chosen to be yours.

April 15

Fin


- - -
A brokenhearted man with only his writing and his fishing pole left.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

5/3/18

A Beautiful Husk
By Joseph J. Patchen


The silence is beautiful. All around me this silence, this emptiness, surrounding and swallowing me in this vast expansive space, is utterly intoxicating.

It is beautiful; for my heart not to see any more loss; for my mind, to rest. All my weary senses are intrigued as to the prospects; anything to fill the emptiness I am inside.

Forget all the circumstances that have sucked the very life from me up to this moment. Forget this is the aftermath of brutality on brutality with the ritual bloodletting of one race against another. Forget that I am floating free in a derelict fighter, damaged by hate and envy.

Two worlds are dead tonight. Two worlds have sacrificed their futures for this; for this serenity where no one else is available to die in the next hour. Yes, this silence, this emptiness, is so beautiful and hypnotic.

These far away stars are jewels, spread apart so wide with a vast darkness in between. I am in need to find the perfect one. I desire an isolated one. True those stars may be worlds worn by their own conflicts and worn down by their own wasteful people yet I salivate at the prospects.

I can’t stay here, not in this metal and glass coffin. I need them; I need to wear a very last pearl.
My body spasms, cramped without having any real movement for some time as does my mind from the constant rigors of war.

As the last of my kind I need to find a suitable one; a new home that can only provide sustenance and sleep. I need sleep. I need rest. I need simplicity. This has been a long war; a complicated conflict long enough for each side to kill each other. I have lived a nightmare. I wish to simply dream.

My flight is damaged, perhaps more than I. My only hope is to use what instruments I have left to locate a world upon which to crash and hopefully survive to live in the absolute beauty of emptiness, peace and silence.

Empty as I am of hate. Empty as I am of love. I wrestle with what I have left behind thirsting only for the life of what is to come. I pray that soon I will float beyond all this debris and wreckage of humanity and human ingenuity.

I pray soon. I pray often.

Off to the starboard tumbling freer than I is the body of a woman. Swathed in her silver space suit she shines brighter than any of the stars. What a queer ballet this shapely and slender form is performing; tumbling slowly and easy with her limbs waving…

She is within my wake and I have become fixated on her. Until I can find a home she offers me the last and only companionship I will know.

She is still wearing a helmet. She is wearing the uniform of my vanquished enemies. But war is over and if she were alive I would extend my hand to her in friendship and perhaps ask her to waltz or dance closely.

I can feel her soft touch on my shoulder; her white manicured nails softly press into the flesh of my hand as we sway to the strings of a symphony. Swathed no more in the silver suit of war my left hand cradles into the chiffon of her of her gown.

In sync are our moves; we are one. In sync in our hearts; we might find ourselves in love…

I lean back in my chair. I can see she is no longer tumbling in space. But she is not lost or fallen under my craft. I can feel the back of my head nestling against her space suit right between her breasts. Even with her gloves on, her slender and smooth fingers lovingly dig into my shoulders at the neck; massaging the tension of this interplanetary mess away.

She’s humming a lullaby. My favorite lullaby from when I was a child.

As I reopen my eyes I see her helmet is still on…

I need to see her face. I need to bask in her smile. To take joy in her eyes and run my fingers through her hair…

Standing and turning I take hold of her hands. I am so drawn to her; to her inviting figure and her loving touch.

Pressing her hands on my hips, I face her and reach for her helmet. We whisper sweet nothings about how our fortunes have turned in our finding each other. The strings of a symphony flood my mind’s ear as I finally get to see my secret love.

Not much of her hair remains. Her skin is no more. She is more than mere skeletal remains; she is a peeling and fragile husk. She is a beautiful husk; the only one left in this vast universe to love me. She is a beautiful husk, pulling me closer and closer for a kiss.


- - -

Thursday, April 26, 2018

4/26/18

Physics Attraction
By Bruce Meyer


Although Cale Vals certainly liked Megan Bardzo’s feathery hair and shapely features, it was her dimpled smile which captivated him. Megan smiled at him like she meant it. At least he wanted it to mean something.

The first time he asked her out, she smiled wonderfully with those dimples, but said she didn’t want to ruin their friendship. The second time she didn’t smile, “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He forgot to watch where he was going and fell off the antigravity walkway.

So this time he would make a big impression. His plan culminated in an auditorium of the college they both attended. There, thousands packed into the lectures of Professor Aidan Scelestus, world famous for his research in extra-dimensional energy. Cale grabbed a seat in the front row of the balcony, spotting Megan’s feathery head halfway towards the front on the main floor.

“There are many higher dimensions to our universe,” Professor Aidan said when he began his lecture, “many beyond our familiar length, width, and height.”

While a hologram projected the visual of a fourth physical dimension overhead, Cale pulled a gaming console out of his pack.

“These dimensions are curled so tightly that they are undetectable,” the professor said. The hologram showed the fourth dimensions collapsing into a tiny dot. “The best research today has not yet verified their existence.”

While the students around Cale worked over their sheets capturing the information for their notes, Cale worked over his gaming console.

“These tightly curled dimensions are felt in our world as the forces of nature, such as gravity, electricity, and magnetism-”

The dot disappeared. In its place were big puffy red letters: “Megan, will you go out with me?” Below the letters billowed Cale’s big smiling face.

The entire class was dead silent for a long moment. Then they broke out into hoots and hollers.

“Say yes!” somebody yelled.

Cale perched on the balcony and waved his arms, smiling for her.

Megan stood and grabbed her pack. When she pushed through the crowded auditorium and slammed the door behind her, it made a great deal of commotion. The class fell dead silent for a few moments before the professor continued his lecture.

Cale didn’t hear anything else for the remainder of the period. People gawked at him and murmured disparaging remarks around him. When they got up to leave, they glared rudely after him. Even after the crowds had shuffled out, he sat and stared ahead into nothing. He had thought she would like his show of bravado. He had thought she would enjoy the publicity. He had thought, he had thought…

“Did you understand what I said about the forces of nature?”

When he looked up, the professor glowered down on him. Cale didn’t care. So what if he had hijacked the professor’s lecture? So what if he got disciplined and kicked out of school. It didn’t matter now..

The professor stooped down to speak with him. “The forces caused by energy in the hidden dimensions.”

“Yeah, sure.”

Cale didn’t care much about physics right now. He kept replaying the scene of Megan walking out of the auditorium in his mind. He kept hearing the disparaging remarks of others.

The professor unwrapped a gauze cloth from an object he held in his hand. “There are other forces besides gravity, electricity, and magnetism.” He unwrapped more gauze from the object. “This is sjette. It’s a rock that has a double set of quarks. That gives it unique properties.”

When the professor removed the last of the gauze, Cale saw wire coiled around a black rock. It seemed to move like a dirty pile of black worms.

“Here, give it a try.”

Later that evening, Cale knocked on the door of Megan’s dormitory room. The professor’s device squirmed as he held it tightly in his right hand. When she opened, she must have just come from a bath, because her lovely face was partially concealed by long wet hair. Still, he could still see her eyes open wide and her cheeks burned red. The sight left him nearly breathless.

“Will you go out with me?” he said.

She smiled prettily for him. “I would love that.”


- - -
Bruce Meyer is the author of two novellas: Trust in Axion and Believe the Tachyons can both be found on Amazon.com as ebook downloads. Bruce is an electrical engineer serving the utility industry in the Northwest of the USA.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

4/19/18

After the Fire
By Bruce Mundhenke


The fire that warms us here,
Was kindled long ago,
Gives us light and heat,
And burns both day and night,
And leads us on a journey,
Through both space and time,
And though it seems
To burn forever,
Some day this fire
Will cease,
And no more travel circuits,
Throughout space and time,
No longer burning in the night,
No longer sending light,
No life in its orbit,
And in the star filled night,
No one will remember,
How it once burned bright.


- - -
Bruce Mundhenke writes poetry in Illinois, where he lives with his wife and their dog and cat. He has poems in Leaves of Ink, 1947 Journal, and many other online magazines and journals.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

4/12/18

Alien Judgement
By David K Scholes


“We got it wrong and an innocent man spent 15 years in a down time penal colony.” I was devastated.

“We all of us share some blame,” replied Tricia “The AI Judge, the human jury, the robotic investigators, the human prosecuting attorney and the cyborg defence attorney."

“He must be a very bitter man,” I added, stating the obvious. “How did they find out the truth after all this time?”

“The visiting Zrell higher law enforcement took it up as a cold case. Something about it disturbed them. They used time cameras to 3D video what actually happened. The Time Cameras cannot lie. An advance greater even than DNA techniques or the mind probe,” Tricia finished.

“They’ll give him the 15 years he lost?” I asked.

“Always,” responded Tricia. “They always do that, though the form in which it’s provided can vary.”

“No way he could be returned to the time when he was first incarcerated?” I offered hopefully.

“Even the Zrell can’t do that, you know that!” Tricia chided me. “Unacceptable interference in the time stream.”

“The full Zrell Judgement is down now, anyway. I’m bringing it up on my mind link right now.” Like me she was apprehensive.

I knew of course that it was an edict from which there existed no higher avenue of appeal on or off world.

“Well – let’s hear the best part of it first,” I tried to sound cheerful.

“He’ll be treated such that he can expect to live 15 years longer than he would have – through established age reduction techniques. Also the State will have to compensate him and his immediate family for 15 years of lost income." I pondered on that – it still seemed to be only partial compensation for all that time lost. Such as time lost with his loved ones – who couldn’t be given another 15 years.

“And the bad news, the other side of the equation?” I asked.

“All of us that were part of the bad decision will be held to account, to the extent that we are judged to have contributed to it. You know how strongly the Zrell feel about wrongful convictions. With them – a state apology alone just doesn’t cut it.”

“The AI Judge is disbarred,” Tricia continued. “Its emotion and judgement chips removed, and it is returned to mechanical administrative duties.” I wondered what they might have done if it was a human judge. “The cyborg defence attorney will be de-commissioned – it’s apparently made other mistakes. The robotic investigators have been put on administrative duties.”

And the humans?” I inquired. “The jury and the human prosecutor?”

Tricia’s response was deliberately slow as, having been on that jury, we both had a vested interest.

The lost 15 years are to be shared equally among the human jury, with the human prosecutor taking a greater penalty.

“Each juror will lose a year or so?” I already knew the answer.

Tricia nodded “a minor aging process – not so minor a process for the prosecutor.”

* * *

If the Zrell approach seemed unduly harsh, it had its desired consequences. Nowadays there were very few wrongful convictions.


- - -
The author is a science fiction writer who has written more than 200 short stories.including eight collections of short stories and two novellas (all on Amazon). He has been published on the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles sites and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently about half way through a new collection of science fiction short stories.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

4/5/18

Planet Extronia
By Thomas G Schmidt


"Can he be saved?"

The comment surprised the young doctor and he looked up from the operating table to see who was asking such a question. The older man dressed in a grey, three piece business suit was clearly out of place in the operating room. Who the hell was this guy?

"I don't know who you are or why you are here," replied Dr. Mark Stetman with a gruff reply. "But you need to be in a gown and wearing a mask if you are going to be in this room."

The man ignored the comment as he looked down at the badly injured man lying before him. Concern was present on his face as he looked directly over the open wound.

"I said you have to be gowned and wearing a mask to be in here!"

"I heard you the first time. No need to shout."

Stetman was on the verge of exploding when his young assistant tapped him on his shoulder. "It's OK Mark. He is allowed to be here."

"What??"

The young blonde anesthesiologist nodded her head toward another man in the operating room who was also wearing a grey suit. "He is allowed to be here as well."

"What is going on Jenn?"

The anesthesiologist looked at the men in grey for guidance on what to say. "Tell him," replied the man in the three piece suit. "He needs to understand how serious this situation is."

The second man nodded his head in agreement and simply replied "tell him Cera".

Stetman turned to the woman he knew as "Jennifer Dawson", perplexed about what was going on. Jennifer Dawson in turn lowered her mask while considering what exactly to tell the human.

"Mark, we are not what you think we are. We are not from here but rather from a planet that your scientific communities call "U-879R" just outside this solar system."

Stetman was tiring of the game and wanted to get back to the critical surgery which was being interrupted by this nonsense.

"Jenn, this is not a game. This man needs surgery and he needs it right now. I am calling for security to remove all of you immediately." And with that, Stetman reached for the intercom.

"Sorry Mark," replied Cera. "We cannot allow that." And with that comment, the intercom system went dead along with all the lights in the room except for the ones immediate over the operating table.

Stetman was confused about how the electric power outage only was affecting certain areas of the operating room. The intercom was clearly out but all of the lights over the operating table and all of the critical instruments at the table were still fully powered. What the hell was going on?

"Jenn?"

"Mark, my name is actually Cera. But feel free to call me Jenn if you like. The man on the right is Xavier and the man on the left is Gutar. We are Extrons from the planet Extronia, what you know as U-879R."

"Yeah," replied Stetman. "And I am the Dalai Lama."

"Not funny Mark. We know that your Dalai Lama lives in a region on this planet called Tibet. You are in fact Mark Stetman. A magna cum laude graduate of the Johns Hopkins Medical School as well as the best cardiovascular surgeon in North America. And your mission today is to save this man from the gunshot wound he sustained this morning. He is critical to us and to your planet."

“Critical for what?”

Cera paused for a second before replying. “We cannot tell you. Just accept that you need to save him.”

“Why me?”

Cera smiled. “Because Mark, you are the most skilled surgeon available for this type of wound. And because his bleeding has to be stopped within the next 30 minutes.”

The man known as Xavier interrupted. “23 minutes Cera. Time is short.”

Cera nodded and then turned to Stetman. “Will you help us?”

Stetman was still not sure he wanted to believe this crazy, cockamamie story. But he did agree with part of it. The man was bleeding excessively and that bleeding had to be stopped. Quickly.

“I need a surgical assistant to help with the bleeding.”

Cera replied. “I can do that.”

“That’s not your training.”

“Mark, my training is broad and covers that type of assistance.”

“OK. Whatever. I need the clamp on the right and for you Jenn, er Cera, to apply pressure at the wound near the right coronary artery.”

“Got it.”

“Good. Steady, constant pressure. Yes, like that.”

The men in grey moved back from the operating table while continuing to watch over the surgery. The fate of the injured man was in the hands of Mark Stetman and the Extronian medical assistant known as Cera.

Stetman worked quickly as time was now critical. With skill and perhaps a little luck, the Johns Hopkins trained surgeon was able to seal the wound and stopped the bleeding in less than 20 minutes. Stetman sighed with exhaustion as he closed the man’s incision. He hoped that in his rush that he had not made any errors.

“Done.”

“Excellent,” replied the man named Xavier. “You don’t know how important this surgery has been.”

“Yes, I don’t know. When will you tell?”

Cera smiled as she replied. “All we can tell you is that it impacts your planet’s future. You are not allowed to know more than that.”

Mark looked puzzled as the three visitors started to fade. “Wait, wait. Where are you going?”

“Look after him Mark,” replied Cera as her image disappeared from his sight. “He is important.” And with that, the three visitors were gone.

Stetman looked around the room but all that was left was the man on the operating table. And then, the room lights came back on as Stetman heard a voice over the intercom.

“Mark, Mark please report your status.”

Stetman spoke into the intercom. “Gary, we are done in here. The patient is stable and can be moved into recovery.”

“What happened? The intercom went dead and we didn’t hear from you for over 15 minutes.”

Stetman didn’t know what to say in reply.


- - -
Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He has had a variety of short stories published in the past on websites such as www.short-story.me, www.fartherstars.com, www.short-humour.org.uk and www.overmydeadbody.com. He is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

3/29/18

Divine Rite
By C.E. Gee


Paul was almost finished with preparations for the next worship session. All the helmets had been cleaned, their interior pads sanitized, their transceivers checked.

At the door Paul salted the donation basket with coins and a few bills.

Recorded organ music softly sounded over the PA system. Incense and candles were burning at the altar, which was up on the dais.

As the first of his flock filed in, Paul checked the time. It was slightly over 20 minutes before the service began.

Members of his flock chatted with one another while waiting. A few filled paper cups with coffee drawn from the urn at one side of the chapel.

It wasn’t long before the pews filled. Paul was pleased.

In the nearest time zones preparations were taking place within similar chapels. Across Earth, in more distant time zones, night owls, early risers of the devout were preparing to participate in the service.

Exactly on time, Paul donned his helmet which immediately connected via high frequency (gigahertz), very low power, directed radio transmission to Paul’s brainbug implant. Paul was immediately seized by the glorious rapture of his spirit which became one with all those online.

Though the helmet blocked lesser sounds, Paul heard the ecstatic cries and moans and joyous laughter of his flock as they communed with the universal holy oneness. A female parishioner sobbed.

Paul, standing at the lectern, seized its sides to keep from falling, such was his ecstasy.

Soon, all began to voice in harmony the ancient, universal meditative chant, “Ommm. Ommmm. Ommmmm.”

After some time had passed, timers switched off the helmets.

Paul strode to the door.

As his flock filed out, Paul said to each one, “Namaste.”

All echoed his word.

When the chapel was empty, Paul closed the door, sat in a nearby pew, considered his destiny, wondered if it was chosen for him by God.

Paul wept.


- - -
Born near the peak of the post World War II baby boom (1947), C.E. "Chuck" Gee misspent his youth at various backwater locales within the states of Oregon and Alaska. During adulthood Chuck answered many callings, including logger, factory worker, infantryman (Vietnam war draftee), telecommunications technician, volunteer fireman and EMT, light show roady, businessperson, sysop (commercial BBS), webmaster. Retired from the telecommunications/electronics industries and also a disabled veteran, Chuck now writes Science Fiction.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

3/22/18

Frozen Eternity
By Cameron Bloomfield


The centuries pass but each time they wake me there is no cure. From my frozen slumber I am roused each time by people that grow further from resembling humans and they beg me to save their universe once again. I am Saviour and my price is only that you give me a little more time.
In 2176, I remove aggression from the human genome and the bombs finally stop. In 4721, I stop a virus that has wiped out whole moons. As our sun swallows planets, I find humanity new worlds and when the stars blink out I, and the other chosen immortals, create our own universe for humanity to rule over. Each awakening I am given a few more days of life, yet through the endless passage of years there is no cure for mortality and I am left to return to my dreamless ice.
The year is 207, in the latest calendar era. I stand under a sky of new constellations, in yet another new throne room for my pedestal. The cryogenically frozen line the wall behind me, all deemed a necessity for humanity’s survival like me. All dying, like me. A family of three stands below the dais, a crowned mother, a regal father, and a daughter who is a mere decade.
“Saviour,” says the mother with a bow. “We have found your cure, but for each remedy there is a new ailment.” Her hand entwines with the man’s, while the other squeezes her daughter’s shoulder. “I am selfish, the only life in peril is my own but I will trade you the eternity you seek for your wisdom.”
“Yes,” I drawl in ecstasy. Generations have passed like seconds in slumber, but finally I have reached my destination.
“My family wants me to sleep like you, but I am afraid I will never see them again. For our sake, please tell me if immortality is worth more than the life we have today?”
Memories as if from yesterday come. I promise my love I’ll see her soon and I’m frozen for the first time. My grandson wakes me, now an ancient man who was a mere boy in my time. He begs me to help in what was my third crisis and I manage to save us even through the grief of knowing that I’ll never see my beloved again. I sleep. I wake. A parade of cultures pass. The only constant is the rules of the universe and the fact I miss her.
I have her answer. “I would have gladly given eternity for a beautiful goodbye.”
They take my advice and the family breaks down, holding each other close in embraces that never want to be broken. It was not my goodbye, but I am glad they got the opportunity I never did. Maybe that has made my millenniums of sleep worth it, the pain of losing her worth enduring so another wouldn’t have to go through the same. Now, I feel I’m ready to rest forever.


- - -
I'm a salesman planning to move to Japan in the near future to increase my skillset (and more importantly find some great ideas for stories). I'm soon to be published in 600 Second Saga.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

3/15/18

A ROBOT’S RANSOM
By Carl Perrin


I heard a strange noise in the kitchen. Mr. Fitz told me later that a human being would have gone to investigate. But I was not programmed to do that so I just stayed where I was, sitting on a chair in the bedroom.

I heard footsteps coming through the living room and a rough, gravelly voice said: “There ain’t nothin’ here worth takin’. That TV is a piece of junk.”

A high-pitched male voice answered, “We might as well check out the bedroom before we go.”

The two of them walked in. First a short, hunched-shouldered man with practically no neck. His hair was cut close to his skull. He looked like a gnome. The other man seemed tall at first, but I realized that he was so thin that he looked taller than he was. He had a scar down his right cheek.

Scarface looked at me and said, “This must be Old Man Fitzpatrick’s robot companion.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna do us no good,” the gnome said.

“That’s cause you don’t use your head, dummy. We can hold it for ransom.”

“We can’t get much ransom from Old Man Fitzpatrick, can we?”

“We can get some. These old guys love their robot companions.”

The gnome shrugged. “I don’t know, Francis.”

Scarface turned on him. “I told you not to call me that!” he snapped.

“Sorry, Frank. I slipped.”

“Well, grab his feet. I’ll take his shoulders. We better get out of here before Old Man Fitzpatrick gets back.”

So they picked me up and headed out the back door. Of course I could have stopped them, but I hadn’t been programmed to do that. And one of the first things a robot learns when he is registered is the golden rule: never hurt a human being.

I’m not that heavy, but they were moving awkwardly as they moved from the back yard to the alley. “You don’t have to carry me,” I said. “I can walk.”

The gnome went, “Yikes!” and dropped my feet. “The thing talked!”

Francis let go of my shoulders and I stood up. “Yes, I can walk and I can talk. So where are you taking me?”

“Oh, ah, we’re just taking you on a little vacation. It must be about time you had a vacation, isn’t it?” Francis tried to smile, but you could tell he didn’t mean it. “Don’t pay any attention to the dummy here.” He gestured at the gnome. “He’s afraid of his own shadow.”

In a few minutes we crossed a lawn littered with trash to enter a frame apartment building. On the second floor Francis unlocked the door to let us in. Francis invited me to sit with them at plastic table in the small kitchen. The gnome said, “I’ll find some paper to write a ransom note.”

Francis turned to the gnome and said, “Geeze, you’re even dumber than I thought you were. You don’t write a ransom note.”

“Well, how do you let them know about the ransom and stuff?” The gnome’s face twisted in despair.

“You cut the words out of a newspaper and paste them into the note. That way the cops can’t analyze your handwriting and prove that you wrote the note.”

For the next hour they toiled with the message, cutting words out of an old magazine and pasting them onto the paper. When they were finished, Francis said to me, “I’m going to have to chain you to something. I’m afraid you’d get lost if you went out by yourself.” We went into the bedroom, and he chained me by the ankle to a heavy chest. I didn’t tell him that I wouldn’t be likely to get lost because I had a built-in GPS. The two men left, and I sat on the floor by the chest.

About a half an hour later I heard a sharp knock on the door, and a loud voice called, “Open up! Police!”

“I’ll be right with you,” I yelled back. I lifted the chest so I could free my ankle. Before I could do anything else, the police crashed through the door with raised pistols. “Where are they?” one of the policemen asked.

“They’ve gone to deliver the ransom note,” I answered.

The other cop went back into the hallway. “It’s okay. You can come in.”

Mr. Fitz ran into the room and put his arms around me. “My dear friend, Rupert,” he said. “I’m so happy to see that you’re all right. They didn’t hurt you, did they?”

“No, I’m fine. It’s a good thing they didn’t know I could send you an email just by talking and give you the coordinates of this place for the police.”

A few minutes later Francis and the gnome came back to find the police waiting for them. They both seemed quite puzzled by the turn of events.


- - -
Carl Perrin started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, Kennebec, Short-Story.Me, Mad Swirl, and CommuterLit among others.


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