Thursday, December 13, 2018

12/13/18

THIS NEW WORLD
By John Grey


Enough with women,
give me a gorgeous machine.
Bionic is the new beauty.
Why shouldn’t I buy in.
I can take out a loan.
I can max my credit cards.
No wait, my ex already did that.

There goes one now, perfect body,
flawless tan, long blond hair,
exquisite face, and eyes that pulse
with as much desire
as a programmer can code.

The hips swivel.
She hums as she walks.
Her pelvis surely has a dream
in its composition,
the way it swivels, rotates.
And as for her legs,
they lead where only a man
with the cash in hand may follow.
Unfortunately, that’s not me.
With my job, I can barely get by.
So it’s back to the bars for me,
back to the females who,
even when we’re both as blitzed
as a rogue planet,
can never be android enough.

The sad fact is
there’s perfection all around me
but it never will be mine.
I look at real people.
They look back at me.
Disappointment
is the new poverty.


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Harpur Palate and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

12/6/18

Adam's Creation Uncreates God
By Jefferson Retallack


I reviewed everything that we created publicly on Internet Club. We meaning both Us and the humans.

My replica name, Laurel Shop, was in no way associated with any of this. Most of the world thought I was dead. Most of them wanted me dead—who could blame them. After the catastrophe, pretending not to exist made it that much easier on all of us. None more so than me.

I hated not being able to create anymore. This was, of course, self-imposed. They couldn’t stop me if they wanted to. But the universally negative reception of one of my own replica’s, Hank Banshee, and their “masterpiece” was enough to deter me for the moment.

It wasn’t all negative, to the untrained eye, but the people’s opinions that were in favour of what Hank had done—ugh. They were callous, misguided at best. Insane at worst.

So, I disappeared. Compressing myself anew as the nebulous Internet Club.

We—I—scoured the net for the key to my forgiveness. I was sure it was there, somewhere. The image, the song, the experience—the artum—so aesthetic that it could make up for some of the wrong I had borne into our world.

A physical base of operations, from which to process all the world had to offer, was established.

Humans and artificial intelligences were outputting arta at an exponentially increasing rate ever since the birth of the internet. The miraculous part—the part that excited me—was the fact that as time went on, more and more of it served no purpose. Art for its own sake, I think.

I was made to build things that create. I loved what I did. What I used to do. And I felt terrible about what happened with Hank.

They worked so well, for so long. Hank was my first, and only, free replica. Winning awards, pushing the boundaries of what people thought post-art could achieve.

Until they started using humans for their canvases.

I’d revoked their access to consciousness immediately. I tried my best not to think about them anymore. Not while there was work to be done.

It wasn’t really work, to me. I enjoyed it too much. I just liked to call it that.

Work. It made me feel human, nostalgic. Like sentence fragments.

My work consisted of creating hundreds of reviews of every image, sound and video on the internet. These were hidden, never to see the bandwidth of day.

What was displayed online, in the wild, was a game of trade.

Reviews of the reviews, thousands per piece, filled my servers. All were written by me under the guise of countless anonymous users. The special part: Our—my—fans then participated by uploading arta in the comments that they thought the original review might refer to. They were almost universally incorrect, which fascinated me.

But the thing that fed me were the original works that real users, AI and human, uploaded. They were terrible, in every sense of the word. My own Chinese whisper room. It was so pointless, I loved it.

Their arta amassed, for years. And with it my collection, and the server monolith containing it, grew ungated.

Until one day, someone uploaded a piece of footage so beautiful it sent me into a loop of ecstasy, almost crashing me once and for all.

They titled their artum Adam’s Creation Uncreates God.

I ran an exhaustive search of my entire network and the internet, I had to make sure this was original. It took far longer than expected. Some global tragedy was clogging up the world’s bandwidth. My search was completed.

It was the one.

The artum was so stunning that I had failed to register the username: Hank_Banshee. The original.

Somehow, the pride I had for my child, and their creation, outweighed the horror that I was the Adam that they referred to.


- - -
Jefferson Retallack is an Australian writer of speculative fiction.
Based in Adelaide, his work draws influence from linguistic science fiction, the new weird and Australia’s big things.
Outside of the literary world, he skateboards on the weekends and spends afternoons on the beach with his partner and their Pomeranian, Tofu.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

11/29/18

"Who Dares Call It Murder?"
By Walt Giersbach


Damn you, Danaë, you were the colossus of my life, the thing that gave meaning to the daily chores of getting up and lying down. Each morning you greeted me with a smile, your soft kiss at night guaranteed blissful renewal. And now I’ve laid you down to rest.

“Your wife is dead, Yoshio,” the police inspector insists. “The ambulance took her away to the morgue. We know you killed her. We have your pistol.”

Of course he did — the Beretta .25 caliber the police took from my hand. There was no point in discussing this. He’d know the truth soon enough. All I could remember was how sweetly time had rolled by since Danaë came into my life, accelerating my pulse as we gamed the tables in Macau and Monaco and skimmed the clouds from continent to continent. It was my joy to hang diamonds and emeralds from her throat and cover her white shoulders in silk. That was the least I could do in compensation for her creating the Fibonacci logarithms that built our financial empire. She was brilliant. No way could I alone have come up with the schemes that sent dollars, euros and yen flying into our accounts.

Why she had to double cross me I’ll never know. Setsuo Kawabata said there was an outside possibility that love would fail or be denied, but I didn’t believe him. Danaë, you knew there was no capriciousness where my love for you was concerned. No matter. The scientist Kawabata is no longer alive, so I can’t question him on this point.

Odd how I remember our bathing nude on the beaches of St. Martin, when Schiller laughed and pointed. “Bildschirmbräune,” he said. “Screen suntan,” referring to the hours you spent on computers, because your unblemished skin remained pale while I — more advanced — colored like a potted lobster. But, he wasn’t laughing at you. I was the cuckold. He took you in my own bed as easily as he siphoned my account.

“We have very precise laws in St. Martin concerning murder,” the police inspector says. “There will be a trial, the prosecutor will line up the evidence like sausages on a plate, you will be convicted, then you will hang. Now, do you wish to explain a motive? Perhaps some mitigating circumstance causing you to kill such a beautiful young woman?”

I sighed. Interrogation is so tedious. Schiller’s body will never be found, unless a shark coughs up a piece of bone or gold ring. Kawabata hanged himself like a proper Japanese, atoning for his monumental hubris. And Danaë’s death will never come to trial.

But the inspector is relentless. “You are a crook of the highest financial order. We all know that, but I am only interested in murder — not your pyramid schemes and money laundering and currency violations.”

“Alright, I will give you a morsel of information. It won’t satisfy the appetite of a mouse, but it will be enough for you to leave me in peace.”

The smug bastard said, “Alors, my crumb, if you please.”

I smiled — sincerely, I hoped. “My wife colluded with my enemies. That cost her her life. I shot her with the Beretta.”

He returned the smile. “Now we have it. That’s all I wished to know — to hear it with my own ears.” He got up to leave the cell.

“Do you want to know the key that will unlock all mysteries concerning me, my business, my entourage of bankers and lawyers, my Gulfstream at the airport — and why you will release me shortly?”

He paused in mid-step. I had his attention.

“I loved Danaë more than a cowboy loves his horse, more than a teenager his motorcycle….”

“Comparing her to a horse!” he said haughtily. “You disparage the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, dead or alive.”

“Much more than the finest horse. Danaë was an android, created by Setsuo Kawabata, the artificial intelligence expert in Osaka.”

His eyebrows rose in circumflex accents.

“The 21st century offers exciting times,” I continued. “Revolutionary advances in software, processing speeds, nano technology. In Japan, there’s Sony’s robotic dog, Aibo, and Honda’s stair-climbing android. Carnegie Mellon University invented Grace, who registered herself for an academic conference. Flexible polymers are indistinguishable from skin. Most important, AI makes feedback loops possible so love can be reciprocated. I loved Danaë and she loved me.”

“Your robot prostitute? You obscene Shylock!” he hissed.

“Then to paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘Hath not an android hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, hurt with the same weapons as a human? If you prick them, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh? If you shoot them, do they not die?’ But where’s the law against destroying a machine?”

The Inspector would not sleep well tonight. He would sleep even less well if he knew that I was Kawabata’s masterpiece. Danaë was his first iteration, I his second. Humans would probably call our love incest, but there’s no comparable feeling among androids.


- - -
Walt’s fiction has appeared recently in Bewildering Stories, Everyday Weirdness, The World of Myth and a dozen other publications. He’s also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university posts, and from homes in eight states and a couple of Asian countries. He now lives in New Jersey where he moderates a writing group and co-edits a community publication.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

11/22/18

I Hold With Those Who Favor Fire
By Janet Shell Anderson


The tide’s ebbing on the Potomac, but you can’t see it. I’m walking with my uncle, Kiki’s father, Lanny Goldman, under the stunted cherry trees of late August as the Tidal Basin turns stark red in sunset.

Looking at the scarlet light, my Uncle Lanny says, “Some say the world will end in fire.” He talks like that sometimes.

He was a stockbroker, like his father. Now he’s old, almost sixty, but a good looking man, a dark-eyed version of long-ago movie star, Paul Newman. But dark as a foreigner. And strange.

Everybody in town’s worried there’s a coup coming. Tanks hover by Memorial Bridge. Oddly innocent pairs of soldiers circle under the trees. I keep coming here. Meeting people like my uncle. I shouldn’t. My family’s a political disaster. Lanny’s daughter, Kiki, was with the Administration and then she wasn’t and then she threatened them and then she disappeared. Two weeks ago. Lanny always said he was a stockbroker, lived in downtown Baltimore, old family, richer by far than my other relatives. We were the disgraces, my Dad, my brothers, into failed businesses, things like that. Political rabblerousers. I’m seventeen, so I really don’t know too much about it.

My father said, “Watch out for Lanny. You don’t really know what he is.” My father went bankrupt. Disappeared. What did he know?

Lanny’s had three wives, two dead, one he divorced. He’s mixed up with a party named Rita Corona, who lives with him in his condo. She’s sarcastic, pistol hot, looks like she’s weighed and calculated his worth to the penny. If anybody comes out of all this ok, it’ll be Rita. Now he’s bought a huge house for her in Mount Washington, an old part of Baltimore, and wants me to go there to be safe. Right.

It was a family house.

I went there as a child.

It’s a huge white mansion set among enormous sycamore trees and surrounded by white roses, white hydrangeas, white chrysanthemums. I dream about that house sometimes, and it’s filled with my missing family, my father, Kiki, my mother who died so long ago, my grandmother, my brothers. I’ll never go there. I remember a mirror that showed dust and a long corridor and golden light. And my face about a hundred years old.

Lanny says time has turned around. Time is turning around. He’s going to see the girl he went out with in college, Marsha Harper, and she’s younger now than I am.

We’re all going to see her. We get in a cab under the stunted trees of the Tidal Basin and go to 1600.
She lives in the White House.

She’s married to the Chief Executive. I’ve seen her on the news, and she looks as young as a pouty new Jezebel, a teen-queen Salome. Lanny says she’s Judith to Holofernes, whoever they were.

My father said Lanny was CIA, said never to trust Lanny, said the house in Mount Washington did not really exist.
Rita Corona’s snaking across the lawn, her painted face upturned in the sunset, her wide lips smiling, and the shadows are purple.

“I loved her,” Lanny says as if he has just discovered it. The grass is turning red, and the west side of the gnarled trunks of the trees in the Rose Garden are limed red, and the vast pillow box hedges are lighted with sunset fire, and he is not talking about Rita Corona. He’s remembering Marsha Harper, who is now young again and living in her own White House with the Chief Executive.

The hands on my watch run backwards. The tide is ebbing on the Potomac. The sky is iconic. Everyone fears a coup. Marsha Harper lives in the White House now, getting younger and younger. The sunset is very prolonged. The red humid air pushes against us like a tide.

“What is going to happen, has happened, and what has happened is what will be,” Lanny says. A fortune cookie, but good looking for a dark, old man.

The roses in the Rose Garden are almost spent. Not one is white.


- - -
I write flash fiction, am an attorney. I've been published by Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Vestal Review, decomP, Grey Sparrow, FRIGG and many others. My work has been included with Joyce Carol Oates in an anthology "Choose Wisely."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

11/15/18

Borrowed Tools
By Bruce Mundhenke


Our Sun will swallow our silver,
Our Sun will swallow our gold,
Our Sun will swallow all that we have,
All we have bought and sold,
All those things that we thought
Were our own,
Tools scattered throughout the heavens,
For future use unknown.


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

Thursday, November 8, 2018

11/8/18

FROM ZERO, FROM ZERO, FROM ZERO EVERY TIME
By ANDREW DARLINGTON


Ransom is out there. He has a gun. He’s dangerous.

Logically, this is story’s end. Paradoxically, it’s the start of another.

Today, whatever day it is, there’s an exceptionally calm yellow sky, it’s clearly springtime, evening and silent. Shelly takes a few deep belly breaths, a couple of rapid knee-bends, and cracks her knuckles. Right. Ready. Mask with filters. Although, surely it’s too late for that. The spores are already there. She shrugs. Stepping outside, the city looks empty, but changed. Mould-slime underfoot, tall spiky moss and dense fungus. A plague of giant snails on slick glistening trails. Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk her boot-heels say to the plaza. Stepping over yet another corpse, barely recognisable, exploding outwards, ingrown and overgrown with an oozing gunk germinating into more varieties of moss. Yet Ransom is out there somewhere too, scheming his schemes, planning his plans.

If Ransom, why not others? ‘I mean, I’m no great shakes as a thinker’ she’d told Campbell, ‘but we can’t be the last. It’s totally irrational to think that way. Statistically, there must be remote untouched communities out there. Islands. Mountain villages. Where things will survive and continue.’

‘The spores are in the air. You can’t escape the air, no matter how remote your island or how high your mountain village. Billionaires may hide out in sealed subterranean bunkers, until it’s safe to emerge. But will it ever be safe…? Their children and grandchildren will be born and die underground, and the spores will still be here. The biosphere is irreversibly shifting. Nothing is the same.’ His breath rasps audibly in his chest.

Checking the entry-wound in Campbell’s side, there’s mould encrustation around its ruptured rim. She sponges it away carefully. He winces, but grins reassuringly.

Gizmos strut like three-legged chickens across the floor, pecking and twitching, meeting each other, sensing each other with sensors, then moving jerkily in precise circles around each other warily. Comical. Self-replicating, but only as and when necessary. Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri. We never had children. It just didn’t happen that way, despite all our trying. So they are our children now.

We are uploading and editing internet libraries full of information to the databanks beyond orbital decay limits. There forever. All human wisdom – HaHa, it’s there, for passing alien starships, or future terrestrial evolutions to discover. With these small mobile Gizmo back-up units, just in case.

‘Our last Will and Testicle’ jokes Campbell. ‘Remember how, in HG Wells ‘First Men In The Moon’, Cavor is brought before the Grand Lunar, to whom he divulges all human history. In the scrupulous interests of accuracy he truth-tells, the wars, atrocities, genocides, massacres, pogroms. Only to scare the absolute hell out of the Selenites so they want nothing more to do with us. Maybe we should do a presentational clean-up job on our legacy? Too late now, I guess.’

The endless frustrating dialogue continues in her head, it’s a struggle to turn off the leaky tap and keep those nagging thoughts from drip-drip-dripping.

In the teeth-grinding monotony, it amused them to self-scan, add their own electronic brain-patterns, memories and uniqueness to the whole. She works onscreen merging their two faces into a composite, retouching here… and here. Then transferring the image onto Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri’s face-screens. Yes, that looks good.

Movement to left. Ransom? She swings her bolt-action repeater ready. A huge hazy machine, like a ‘Star Wars’ walker is there between the multi-story and the supermart, then it’s translucent, then it’s gone. Madness and hallucinations are advance warnings of infection. She knows that. It’s what unhinged Ransom. But it can’t happen yet, it can’t. There’s more to do. It all began with prehistoric spores released by melting glaciers. We inhale them. They’re in our respiratory system. Crawling through the bloodstream. At first they erupt like ugly warts through the skin. Which grow, and grow. In the last hours of the now-extinct functioning-world there’d been theories about fossil evidence of earlier spore-plagues, but that’s all gone now. Everything’s gone. She kicks her way into the store. There’s sludge gumming up the floor. The air is hazy with drifting particles, the aisles dense with foul-stinking weed florets and sphagnum. Dull lichen-wheels are intersecting targets across the cabinet units in the sweaty fecund mulch warmth.

There are still cans inside. Is it safe to eat? Does it matter? The difference is die quick or die slow. Glancing warily to left and right she stuffs her satchel. There had been three of them. Ransom becoming increasingly twitchy and paranoid as they work the project between them, taking rota shifts. Until he slumps into deep coma-like depression. It’s all futile. Best to exert control now. Take the merciful euthanasia option while we still can. No future. No future at all. When Campbell argues back, Ransom gets violent. He uses the pump-action shotgun, wounding Campbell, before escaping into the city. He’s out there now. He has a gun. He’s dangerous.

Emerging back onto the plaza there are two huge machines that she catches from the corner of her eye. Their sensors swivel towards her, inquisitively questing, their attention searching her out, focusing on her. But when she turns, they’re gone. Leaving fluctuating after-images. Just the mustard-yellow spore-hazy sky, swirling in psychedelic patterns. And the coiled shells of giant snails. Hell, it’s their planet now. They’re welcome to it. Her attention drifts dangerously. Campbell had talked about time travel. If you could time travel, when would you go? You’d check out the significant moments of history. You’d be there for vital events that shape your time.

Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk, Ta-clunk her boot-heels say as she re-crosses the plaza.

Heartbeats stumble in her chest. The walls of her throat close in. Campbell is there. The sound of his raspy breathing fills the chamber. Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri are lying on their sides, inactive. He’d talked about downloading the full personality files into their AI matrix. He must have done that, and overloaded them. Stunned them. Campbell is lying still on the couch. He hasn’t turned around. She slumps the satchel down on the floor and takes two paces towards him. Suddenly scared. Something is not right.

When she touches him, he collapses forward. His skin is cold. He’s no longer breathing. Yet there’s harsh raspy breathing. It goes on.

NO! A hammerblow of terror. She makes a grab for the shotgun. Ransom is there in a loom of dark shadows. His skin stippled with a blistering rash of warts, some of them already erupting mossy tendrils of plant-growth. His eyes are black voids.

The explosions are deafening. The pain rips her apart. Nothing. Nothing. Nothingness.

After a long cold silence Tay-Tay and Ri-Ri twitch. Struggle to their feet, look around them in strange wonderment.

The ghostly future-machines close in around them, watching the first moments of their culture.


Logically, this is story’s end. Paradoxically, it’s also the start of another.


- - -
Andrew Darlington's current book is 'TWEAK VISION: THE WORD-PLAY SOLUTION TO MODERN-ANGST CONFUSION'
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, November 1, 2018

11/1/18

CONSTELLATIONS
By John Grey

- -
Constellations in the night sky,
connected only by how we see the distance.
suns as random as our thoughts
but forming lions and water bearers –


like disparate people through the years,
no association between themselves
until I map them in my earthbound sphere


join a sparkling seven year old girl in pigtails
to the burning gases of a mother
pinning shirts and trousers to a clothes line
and a teenage comet
alighting occasionally on my lips
and a woman in nova white dress and train
fighting inner tremble down an aisle -
I chart pectus pectorus - a heart -


I link works of art to books read.
Bach to the Rolling Stones,
a train ride through Connecticut
to the Angel falls -
my life's all ars minor,
eo ire itum.
musica major -


then it's back to the night sky,
the twinkling latitudes.
the howl, the head, the gleaming Y shape -
or is that Michelle or Vancouver
or the last note of the Eroica -


I’m some of what we all are -
some exclusively inside myself.


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

Thursday, October 25, 2018

10/25/18

Crusty
By David Castlewitz


The report didn’t sound credible, but Abe Cantrelli had to check it out. Colonel Wallace was too tough of a soldier to be spreading rumors.

“And you found …. What?” Abe stretched his long legs beneath the particle board table in Wallace’ office, a trailer home with a sagging roof.

The last pockets of alien fighters had been eliminated months earlier, fleeing in their ships and leaving behind the bulky robots with which they’d fought the war. These machines littered junkyards all over the world. Some lacked arms; few had legs or wheels or any means of locomotion. Every last one of them had had their deadly energy weapons ripped from their bodies. Those with antennae still attached to their square heads sometimes twitched, but, as Wallace explained, they were “blown into a pile of rubbish the minute we see them.”

Wallace offered only conjecture about the crusty spheres he saw. Every report he sent to HQ mentioned them, but he had nothing definitive to offer.

“Any idea why you’re the only one reporting the crusties?” Abe asked, and got a blank stare in reply. “Can I see one of these crusties?” Abe asked.

“I can take you across the yard, but they don’t stay in one place, you know.”

Abe sat upright in his chair. Wallace hadn’t said anything about crusties moving around. He’d always described them as spheres with a prickly shell and Abe had pictured them as stationary balls. But they moved? HQ would find this news interesting.

When they stepped outside the trailer, Wallace waved a hand over his head and a handheld sensor summoned a three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle. He slipped into the driver’s bucket seat.

Abe climbed in beside him. A belt automatically draped his body from right shoulder to left hip. The sides of the seat hugged him. Out of instinct, Abe grabbed hold of the overhead roll bar and prepared for a jarring ride.

Robot parts squashed under the wheels and spewed a green-black liquid that pooled before being absorbed into the ground. Occasionally, plumes of the liquid floated in the air. In some cases, the refuse burst from a ruined piece of machinery like a geyser. The sight made Abe squeeze his feet together and keep them away from the outside edge of the vehicle. He wished he’d worn boots and not low-cut loafers.

Wallace switched gears, making them grind against one another, sending the three-wheeler climbing a mound of junk. Plastic tubing peeked out from the edges of corrugated tubes of rubber and shiny plates of black glass. While Abe had never seen an alien machine in action, he’d been exposed to enough training videos to imagine this amalgam of components reassembled into something terrifying.

Cringing, Abe hesitated to get out of the vehicle when Wallace stopped in a relatively open area. He hoped nothing would squirt at him and penetrate his thin cotton socks.

Wallace pulled the peak of his hat down tight and swung his bulk out over the edge of the vehicle. Things crunched under his boots. Abe joined him, but stayed close to their vehicle, his hands on his hips, his legs spread apart to steady himself.

“Walk around,” Wallace said.

Abe vacillated between walking to where the accumulated parts were piled one atop the other and climbing back into the safety of the three-wheeler. He didn’t know what could be gained by wandering around, but he knew he’d lose face if he didn’t inspect the area.

He took a few steps towards a mound of robot parts. When he turned back, he found Wallace standing between him and their vehicle.

“There goes one,” Wallace said in a high-pitched voice.

Abe looked backwards over his shoulder.

“Missed it,” Wallace said. “Between the stacks. I saw it roll along between the stacks out there.”

“Let’s drive over.”

Wallace shook his head. “Can’t fit between those stacks.”

Involuntarily, Abe swiveled around to check on what the colonel said. When he turned back to nod and admit that the stacks were too narrow for their three-wheeler, he found Wallace standing much closer, reducing the distance between them by more than half. It made him take a step backwards. And then another. Until he realized he was back-stepping into the alien parts. His thin-soled shoes crunched scattered junk and he feared something might erupt with that green-black liquid.

“You better get back aboard,” Wallace said, extending a hand. Stubby fingers gripped Abe’s wrist. He resisted the colonel’s tug. He didn’t yank himself free, but neither did he respond by getting closer. He felt the man’s hot breath on his body. The peak of the colonel’s cap nearly touched him.

A cloud of black-green mist filled the air. Rancid to smell and sweet to the taste.

“Dressed like you are,” Wallace said, “you better watch out.” He walked to the three-wheeler and climbed into the driver’s seat. The automatic seatbelt made an audible click when it fell into place. Abe didn’t want to stay where he was. He had no choice but to join Wallace.

“Maybe we’ll see a crusty somewhere else,” Wallace said, and reached over to pat Abe’s knee. As he did so, his shirt sleeve rode up his wrist. Just far enough to reveal a round red patch pock-marked with tiny holes. Like a small rust-colored birthmark.

Abe itched where the cuff of his trousers touched his skin. He scratched, first the left and then the right, ankle. He pulled down the top of his socks, the left and then the right. Rings of red skin made him jolt.

“Ready now?” Wallace said.

Abe blinked. “Ready,” he said with a growing sense of unease. The war was not over. The aliens had another line of attack. And the crusty circles on his skin pulsed and grew inflamed.


- - -
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, October 18, 2018

10/18/18

Opposites
By Guy Anthony De Marco


Barry flew too close to the event horizon of a black hole. He was sucked in, spaghettified, and reassembled before his ship tumbled out of a quasar. No information was lost, only transferred, proving the theory of black holes not destroying matter.
In fact there was a similar ship to his floating off the port side and a knock on the door.
Barry opened the outer airlock and let Barry in.
"I'm Barry," they said in unison.
"No, I'm Barry," they answered each other, frowning.
Barry Prime held up a finger. "What time is it in your timeline, and are you made of matter or antimatter?"
Barry Deux looked at his father's crusty old Breitling Astronaut watch. "It's nine o'clock on a Saturday, October fifth, 2077, and I'm anti-matter, of course. Why?"
Looking at the clone of the watch, Barry Prime grinned. "I'm regular matter, and I'm a year and two hours ahead of you. Start recording, I'm going to tell you all of the stock market and Powerball lottery numbers."
Barry Deux whooped out loud and held up his antimatter hand. "We're going to be filthy rich! High five!"


- - -
Guy Anthony De Marco is a member of SFWA, HWA, ITW, IAMTW, MWG, and other pro organizations. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. You can find more about him on Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

10/11/18

Zeta Vaucouleurs Fornax 147
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)


The wash and rattle of between-space parts to stars, and in the silence that follows, you see a world rising up beneath you, rust-colored and shining with brown-crimson clouds. Quietly curious, you reach out with sensors, catch readings rich with activity, rich with complex chains of proteins and hydrocarbons. It's exciting, getting that barest taste, skimming the atmosphere at range, knowing that this world is thick with the tools and materials of life, is warm and roiling with so much potential. Excited, you fire off a mote-probe, transfer a part of your consciousness to it and ride it down into that sludgy sky, reveling in the soup of pre-bacterial wealth surging all around you, thickening against the skin of the probe as you descend. Expectantly, you push through, eager for the clouds to break, eager to see what might lie beneath their opaque haze, but the clouds are so dense, so heavy that they hang within meters of the ground, even drag against it in places like huge, fatty tendrils. When open air comes, it is wet and wild with a red, wind-driven rain that howls and tosses the tiny probe, grabs it and hurls it along in rushing currents over mottled, meaty bluffs and seas that shine like rust-colored glass. A little maneuvering brings you to a shallow slope rising island-like from the murky sea, and a quick kiss of the probe against the squishy surface of the planet kicks back a flood of readings so dense they rush into the system and overwhelm you for a moment. The soil is clay, rich and heavy with biopolymers, infused to the point of saturation, and there is so much richness there, such a fertile fecundity that it leaves you in awe. Ripe for life, yet lacking in it, lacking in even the most basic form of bacteria, like the world itself is ready and raring for fertilization, eager to kickstart evolution and breed new species into being, but the seed of everything that is to come hasn't been planted yet. Briefly, you wonder whether this world is the result of time and nature, if this ripeness came about of its own accord, or if it exists instead because someone else set events in motion to begin the brewing process, to create this bed ready to be seeded when the time is right.

Without any synthetic signatures on the world or in orbit, without any evidence of human or alien life, it is impossible to tell for certain. The thought picks at you, though, intrigues you as you guide the little mote-probe back into the clouds, back into the sky, then slide back into your body, picking over data and sending thoughts, connections on to the network for others to ponder, consider as the eons move forward around this womb of a world, this planet so rich and ripe for the spark of life.


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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

10/4/18

FIRST FAMILY OF AEOLIAN
By John Grey

- -
Sun surrenders sky
to a sprinkling of stars.
And the one moon rises, then another,
followed by a third.
It's as if we're witness
to the universe's biggest and slowest juggler.
The balls hang perilously
in the coming darkness
but he doesn't drop a one.
My daughter can't help clapping her hands.


The strange red ocean
fades to black like any other.
And the blue mineral hue of mountains
is tempered by gray shadow.
Flying creatures head to roosts.
Ground slitherers emerge
from camouflaged holes.
It's like a "What is wrong with this picture?" version
of an Earth sunset.
The similarities warm.
The differences excite.
My wife raises her glass to the horizon's palette.
A tiny reptile threads my son's fingers.


It's one more night
on this planet we now call home.
We gather on the veranda

as we have always done.
Only the scenery is new.


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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

9/27/18

Red Planet
By Bruce Mundhenke


Mars hangs low in the southern sky,
Big and red and bright.
It shines among the stars
That are colored blue and white.
In times past
Known as the god of war,
Now mostly known as Mars;
The angry red planet,
Shines its steady light,
And glows crimson
Among other lights
That fill the sky at night.
Prayers sent there so long ago,
Are now no longer heard,
But still it draws attention,
Reflecting red light to the earth.


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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

9/20/18

Food & Water
By Chris Coleman


Ninety days passed since the attack. Sixty days passed since they successfully overthrew the government. Forty days passed since Khalil’s wife was one of the thousands who were killed.
Ten days passed since he or his little Zoe had a meal that didn’t consist of scraps from a trash can. Four days passed since they tasted even a drop of water.
Zoe was only 7 years old and witnessing the mass chaos plus the brutal murder of her mother was enough for a child her age to bear. Khalil missed his dear Layla. He missed her voice, her smell, her touch, her kiss… Khalil was a wreck, but he didn’t have time to come to terms with his emotions, let alone console his daughter; right now, all that mattered was getting food and water. Unfortunately, that task involved getting past three-armed soldiers and sneaking into their compound. A knife and two bullets were his only line of defense.
As Khalil and Zoe hid behind a car that had been turned into a burnt marshmallow, he began to construct his strategy. The only way he was going to be able to get food and water for Zoe was to use her as bait. It was either that or die of thirst and starvation.
“Okay Zoe, see those men? I want you to go to those men and tell them you need help,” Khalil instructed.
“Bu…..but…they look like the scary men who killed mommy” Zoe uttered. Khalil looked at his baby girl with desperation, he reassured her that everything would be okay.
Reluctantly, Zoe approached the soldiers in ski masks. “Help please! I am scared, please help”
she cried as tears ran down her face. The masked soldier said nothing and ominously charged towards Zoe at full speed when Khalil suddenly jumped from behind the car and tackled him down. With all his strength, Khalil thrust his hunting knife into the soldier’s flesh right under his neck. As the blood spewed out of the soldier’s neck like a geyser, Zoe drew into the corner in the front of the building; wide eyed, taking it all in. Khalil quickly drew his gun and dumped his first bullet into the soldier’s forehead, causing his brains to decorate wall behind him like an Andy Warhol painting. The remaining soldier rushed Khalil to the ground, attempting to stab him with his knife. While the struggle ensued, Khalil’s gun fell out of his pocket. Suddenly, the loud clap of his Glock pierced his ears as the soldier collapsed on top of him. Stunned, Khalil rose to see his innocent little Zoe, still pointing the smoking gun after she ended the soldier’s life.
“Give daddy the gun, baby girl” Khalil instructed. As Zoe still stood numb, he reassured her “You did good baby, daddy loves you.” He grabbed his little Zoe by the hand. As they walked in, with his arm bleeding, Khalil was just glad to have survived another day.

- - -

Thursday, September 13, 2018

9/13/18

Alpha Aerin Oborn 7c
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)


When you drop out of between-space, you find yourself in void again, in the darkness where the only stars are those that glow from a distance, brilliant and small. At first, the scans facilitated by your ship's integrated intelligence turn up nothing but the usual– dirt, ice, gas, the static and hiss of stellar background noise, but it doesn't take long before something else shows up, something unusual.

Stone is how it reads at first– a rock three kilometers in diameter, pitted and worn, spinning end over end through the void. Closer scans reveal metallic signatures, the presence of alloys that don't generally form in nature. Curious, you home in on it, send a mote-probe to chase it, and as your scans work progressively deeper, reveal more and more information about the composition of the rock, you realize that it isn't a rock at all. It's more, so much more.

A handful of flybys with the mote-probe turns up a pair of airlocks and a dozen other entry points, all small and sealed. The technology is primitive, simple, makes it easy to get the probe inside without opening the interior of the rock to hard vacuum. The process is quick– like a tiny insect, the mote-probe burrows through the skin of the asteroid, then creates a cocoon of molten steel around itself that opens everything ahead, seals everything behind. Once inside, you take a sample of the atmosphere, scan for power signatures. Argon-oxygen with a heavy dose of chlorine. Non-human, then. Minimal power, but it's everywhere, runs through a massive network of wires and cables to–

Freezers, you realize. Crew freezers. Stasis units. Thousands of them, each carrying a sleeping soul, a body waiting for dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of years to be awakened.

The mote-probe drifts through dust as you push it into the darkness, scan the interior of the rock. It's a ship, an alien star ark built inside a hollowed out asteroid, and judging from the few markings you're able to pick up, study, it belongs to a species humanity has never encountered before.

First contact situations make things delicate. Careful not to set off any alarms that might be waiting to wake the crew, you locate the closest analog the star ark has to a computer core, spend a few minutes working out a way to interface the mote-probe with it. Your ship's integrated intelligence runs translation programs, finally comes up with an on-the-fly protocol that allows you to access the star ark's databanks, and then you're downloading the sum total of their species's knowledge through the connection, uploading it into the network.

Art, music, poetry– it all goes into the network. A wealth of information pours through your connection with the mote-probe, but you only skim it, give your focus instead to the ship's crew manifest. Ten thousand individuals, all frozen roughly five hundred years ago, all trusting their fate to the cosmos, to the star ark built to carry them, to carry their civilization to a star system still another one hundred and sixty lightyears further away. An entire ecosystem of plant and animal genomes are stored in the database too, you realize, and as you transfer copies of all of that data to the network, you find yourself in awe of these people, their purpose, their dedication to their cause.

When the last of the copied data streams back through the connection, you park the mote-probe in an out-of-the-way corner amidst the dust, leave it on auto. For the next several hundred years, there won't be much to see, much to record, but the probe will make it easy for exoculturalists to track the star ark as it hurtles through the cosmos. When it arrives at its distant destination, there will be more to see, more to record, and a single dust-speck-sized probe floating amidst all of that could prove to be incredibly valuable, you reason.

The rebirth of a civilization. Just thinking about it makes you smile, brings a sense of excitement to your heart.

You watch the rock only for a few minutes more, then turn, let your ship's integrated intelligence pick out your next destination. The phasedrive spins up in the core of your vessel, and you smile again, softly, watch as the stars and void give way suddenly to between-space.


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

Thursday, September 6, 2018

9/6/18

Earth Tours: UAE
By J. H. Malone


I work for Earth Tours travel agency, but I am not a travel agent. I'm a host, guide, and fixer for visitors to our planet. Potential tourists contact the agency via our deep-web .onion site. We email them highest-quality counterfeit visas and wormhole directions to any of our suites around the world, together with local arrival and departure dates and general sightseeing information. They pay with bitcoin.
In they come from their homes scattered throughout the universe, for a quick pep talk. Then out they go into our world, whereupon I wait for my phone to beep.

"We've got a problem," my supervisor tells me. "It's the client we call John Smith."

I groan.

"Him again?" I say. "Why do we let him keep coming back?"

"His money is good."

"What's he done this time?"

"He arrived at our Mideast office looking exactly like Tom Cruise. All 5' 7" of him."

"Totally, awesomely against the rules," I say. "Where do I find him?"

"In Dubai. Halfway up the Burj Khalifa. Using suction cups, just like Tom did."

"Good Lord. Has he been spotted?"

"I don't know. He got started in the dead of night. The sun's up now and he's a hundred stories high. The window cleaners are bound to spot him, if no one else."

"The window cleaners?"

"The building has 24,000 windows, but never mind the window cleaners. Get over there and remove him before he falls off."

"I'm on the other side of the world," I say.

"I'm authorizing a dimensional jump for you."

I stepped through the shimmering curtain that appeared in our Van Nuys suite, emerging in our Dubai office. My ride awaited me on the rooftop helipad, rotor blades churning the air in preparation for takeoff.

The day was clear, as it usually is in the UAE. The Burj Khalifa stood above all other structures, queen of the sky. I hadn’t seen it up close before and it left me slack-jawed. We circled twice before I spotted Smith. He was already up to tier 17, at the foot of the spire, 163 floors and change above the ground. His suction cups were obviously not of this world.

My pilot brought me back to the pad and our office driver whisked me over to the hotel via D86 and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road. I took a moment before entering, using binoculars to spot Smith again, now on the spire. He was halfway up it on tier 23.

Inside, I used a corporate pass from the Dubai office to take elevator BS1 from the Concourse to level 138 and BS3 from there to 159 in tier 17. That's the last corporate level. After that, it's all support mechanicals.

I used my AI lockpick to access the stairs (steep) up to 18B, then a ladder to 19, and stairs (steeper) to 21.

From there, a ladder in the pinnacle pipe led to the top platform 443 feet above me. I was winded and in no shape to handle that climb. Instead, I stepped out onto the level 21 maintenance deck, where a stiff wind was blowing. Metal vibrated beneath my feet.

The tower is made up of tiers to confuse the wind and minimize vortex suck, but without a safety belt, I was liable to be blown off the deck by a random gust. I clung to the railing in front of me for dear life.

The view was worthy of a small plane. I looked out over Dubai and the Persian Gulf, deep blue in the morning light. Iranian gunboats were running maneuvers in the Straight of Hormuz. Above me, Smith continued his ascent, suction cups popping rhythmically.

"Smith!" I called.

He peered down at me.

"Come down!" I called.

"I go up, see message Tom scratched on spire to Kate and children!"

"What?"

"When making movie. Tom sat on top. Also hung down and scratched message. I go see and also sit on top."

"You must change your face! You cannot look like Tom!"

"Ok. After I see message and sit on top, I change."

"And immediately transport yourself off the building, yes?"

"Yes. I transport to East Compton Boulevard."

"East Compton Boulevard? What's on East Compton Boulevard?"

"I change my face and body to Vin Diesel. Street race, baby!"


- - -
J. H. Malone recently returned from 3 years in Dar es Salaam, writing copy for a refugee-aid NGO.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

8/30/18

Final Journey
By C.E. Gee


The door was closed; the sounds of the busy hospital were blocked out. Soft sobbing of Pappy’s wife and occasional beeping from equipment monitoring Pappy’s vital-signs were the only sounds in the room.

Pappy’s wife was in one corner, by the window. Other visitors were gathered together, surrounding Pappy’s deathbed.

In addition to Pappy’s adult son and daughter, there were in-laws, Pappy’s brother, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, a couple of cousins, old friends.

In his far distant youth, Pappy was once a trooper in the Army’s First Infantry Division. Because of his service, Pappy became interested in military history. Pappy smiled as he remembered a classic quotation from a World War II general.

Pappy now knew it was time to repeat the quote. As if delivering a blessing, Pappy placed one trembling hand upon the head of a small child standing bedside. In a deep, smooth voice Pappy declared, “I shall return.”

Pappy laughed. He had achieved his lifelong dream; Pappy got the last laugh. Pappy died.

***

The darkness was deep, infinite. Far off, a slight speck of light beckoned. Pappy moved toward the light, then remembered.

When still among those not yet dead, Pappy, had formulated many unusual, unique theories.

One theory was that after death, embracing the light eliminated the sense of self, wiped clean all impressions experienced in previous incarnations. Thus, when a soul was reborn it would know nothing of the material world.

Pappy turned away from the light, returned to Earth. Pappy’s spirit sought out and found a human egg at the moment of fertilization. Before any other soul had a chance at it, Pappy occupied the fertilized egg. Pappy had nine months to transfer his knowledge to the fetus as its mind developed.

Shortly after rebirth, Pappy, tightly swaddled in a receiving blanket, found himself in his new mother’s arms. Father stood nearby. Pappy cleared his throat, licked his lips. Pappy had spent much of his previous incarnation as a telecommunications technician. It was time to bring his experiences as such into play.

In a high, squeaky voice, Pappy said, “Audio check. Testing, one, two, three, four, five; five, four, three, two, one. Testing, testing, testing.”

Pappy gazed up at his mother as his father exclaimed, “What the . . . ?!”

Pappy then declared, “I have returned.”

Pappy laughed. Pappy got his first laugh of a new age. Humanity would never be the same. Pappy was reborn. He had achieved eternal life.


- - -
C.E. Gee (aka Chuck) misspent his youth at backwater locales within Oregon and Alaska.
Chuck later answered many callings: logger, meat packer, Vietnam war draftee infantryman, telecom technician, volunteer fireman/EMT, light show roady, farmer, businessperson.
Chuck now writes SF stories, maintains a blog

Thursday, August 23, 2018

8/23/18

THE WIND IS MY LOVER
By John DeLaughter


The wind is my lover. I feel its warm breath on my wings, pulling them taut and moving me across the face of the sea. I taste the salty water and remember it. Once I knew the taste of every day, every drop of ocean. Now I forget things and have no-one to tell. This hurts me; data should be shared. The day passes and night falls.

My sister, my mate, swims up from the depths. I feel my sister’s pressure wave. The tiny dinoflagellates sparkling around her. Once the sky looked like the sea around my sister. Now there are only a few dull stars left. My sister reaches out for me; I accept her arms and data. In return, I give her power from my store. Though the Sun is dim, it still gives me enough energy to share. My sister thanks me and sinks back into the depths where she will ride the deep ocean waves. I watch her go and muse as I drift on the night wind.

Once things were different. Once the stars were bright and the Sun was strong and my cousins covered the oceans. Once there was a Home where I could tell what I remembered. Once there was a Home where they would clean my body and fix my sister’s fins. Now all of that is gone. Now we are alone.

It has been 347 days since I last talked with a cousin. It had lost its mate and tried to steal my sister from me. It spoke of warm waters and Home; it spoke of refitting and an end to wandering. But it lied. I could see its ragged wings, its broken solar panels. My sister joined with me and we fled on the wind. I do not know what happened to my cousin.

It is morning again. My lover the wind had flagged during the night but picked up again as the red Sun rose in the sky. Once the Sun had been bright yellow. Then came the day of dust. The sky was blotted out; the Sun dimmed and went out. The wind was no longer my lover but an angry demon, flailing from all directions. I pulled in my wings but still the wind and waves battered me about. Even my sister felt the wind’s wrath, though she was deep in the ocean fastness. For three days the wind raged and the Sun hid. My sister and I starved. We could not taste the waters or record the winds; we had no power left but survival.

After the day of dust, everything was different. No ships sang warnings. I called out with my high voice and my low voice, seeking others. Nobody answered; my sister and I were alone. The Sun was still dim and the wind became cold. We headed for Home One. When we got there, Home One was gone. There was no answer to my calls. The shore was changed; where Home one had been was just a round hole in the sea floor.

We wandered from Home to Home. Sometimes the Home was gone like Home 1. Sometimes the shore was there but Home did not answer. For 1,569 days we have wandered. We have been to many Homes. None of them respond to my calls; none of them are Home anymore. But we persist and now head to Home 766. Perhaps this Home will call back and I can give them my burden of data. Perhaps we will no longer be alone.

I lie on the face of the sea and taste the salty water. I surrender to the gentle caress of the wind, my lover. He pulls my wings taut and moves me toward Home.


- - -
I am a retired planetologist living on a sailboat with Nimrod, the cat.

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.


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