Thursday, March 14, 2019

3/14/19

HE
By Tony Daly


HE was the hero of the Battle of Adjunar
Stormed the citadel with no care for his own servers
Without him, the organic shield never would have dissolved,
The soldiers of the 5th and 27th divisions of the
Intergalactic Marine Strike Force never would have breached the walls
The evil of the Halcien Empire never would have seen its end
Millions of young Adjunians would have grown up slaves,
Or maybe never grown up at all

But HE will never know the impact of his actions,
Or even that those actions took place,
For HE is being replaced by a new model,
A sleeker, faster, more ruthless killing machine, HE-x1.

HE was only a BETA android: just a test
HE will be mind wiped, reprogrammed
Become a bodyguard and cocktail waitress for
The Acting General Overlord of the Regional Dynasty
Until such time, probably two years at most, as the full-time
General Overlord of the Regional Dynasty is appointed
At which time, HE will be decommissioned and scrapped,
Being forgotten, as countless android war hero’s before him

But you can honor him in his afterlife,
Just send a modest downpayment to secure your piece of history,
You may own his head (perfect for a security system or just for display),
or a set of coasters made from his hands (what a conversation starter!)
Act now, before all records of his brave deeds pass into forgotten history.


- - -
Here is a short bio: Tony Daly is a DC/Metro Area creative writer. He has work forthcoming with The Stray Branch, The Horror Zine, Pure Slush, 0-Dark-Thirty, and others. He also serves as an Associate Editor with Military Experience and the Arts.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

3/7/19

Echo Chamber
By John C Adams


Chris Miller clicked the Decline Echo Chamber button and watched it disappear in front of his eyes. But before he could enjoy the momentary thrill of saving a few pennies as he settled into an evening on The Corporation's Society Unlimited application, a deluge of comments appeared replying to his first post.

Thirty seconds later, precisely long enough for Chris to become mildly irritated, The Corporation triggered the first of what would be many nudges encouraging him to pay extra to have the negative comments removed.

Chris smacked Decline again as soon it re-appeared, but it was immediately replaced by an equally annoying Are You Sure? button, pulsing in his peripheral vision. He blocked it out by resting an open book against the screen. Sixty seconds later, it emerged on the other side of the screen. He covered it with his book, but the button gradually wormed its way to the middle of the screen, until it was simply easier to click the tiny cross on the top-left corner of the button.

"Yes," Chris muttered to himself. "I am damn well sure!"

Chris's partner Billy glanced up from the screen opposite. He chuckled at the sight of his better half moaning as The Corporation connected him to the outside world for yet another evening of social interaction.

"Diversity of opinion getting you down again?"

"Being asked to pay to get rid of stuff I don't agree with? What does that say about me if I accept?"

Billy smiled. His fair, curly hair tumbled into his eyes and he tucked it behind his ears. He leant back in his chair, tipping the front castors off the ground, just keeping his balance by maintaining contact between his toes and the floor.

"Tells me that life's too short, frankly. Just press the button! It's only a few pennies! I click it just to get rid of the prompts."

Chris scowled. Precisely what they wanted over at The Corporation. Either you were fed up with seeing ranting arguments about the most innocuous of posts, and paid up. Or the electronic nagging got to you eventually, and you paid up.

Are You Sure? returned. This time, it throbbed in the middle of the screen. Chris clicked Echo Chamber, and watched his credits decline as the cost of the service was debited from his account.

It became more expensive, the later you paid for the Echo Chamber during your session on Society Unlimited. Damn it, it was cheaper to be an intolerant so-and-so from the moment you logged in!

The bliss of the Echo Chamber took only nanoseconds to numb Chris's annoyance. Billy was right. The joyous absence of the Are You Sure? button was worth the cost of it alone. And the carping criticism of his post on the correct oven temperature for soft meringues disappeared. It was replaced by a barrage of praise from people who claimed to have tried it, loved it and couldn't recommend the recipe highly enough.

Some of them referred back to Chris's blog post yesterday, about how to make sticky toffee with just the right consistency that it melted in your mouth. One or two wags added a few flirty jokes about how good it tasted. A conspicuously attractive couple of influencers cracked a dirty gag about sucking up every last drop. People loved the hint of smut, and everyone just piled in. Suddenly, he had thousands of likes, and hundreds of comments recommending his blog.

Chris's first instinct was to join the banter, but he hesitated. This was a fantastic response rate, but could anyone have tried it in the five minutes since he'd posted his blog? It took two hours to cook meringues!

Beckoning Billy to take look, Chris swivelled the screen round and showed him the results.

"Advertising. At least they give you something for your money. Better than an eerie silence online."

Chris pondered this wisdom as the seconds ticked down before the Echo Chamber expired. The timer had appeared in the top-right corner of his screen as soon as he'd paid. Occasionally, it was joined by a pulsing button, offering him a discount if he paid now to extend his Echo Chamber session, even though it still had an hour to run.

Nothing was worse than posting something, only to have it ignored. But how could he tell which, if any, of these clicks and likes and downloads of his recipes were genuine?

What if the Echo Chamber was just an empty shell?


- - -
John C Adams is a Contributing Editor for the Aeon Award and Albedo One Magazine, and a Reviewer at Schlock! Webzine. John's fantasy novel Aspatria and futuristic horror novel Souls for the Master are available now on Amazon.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

2/28/19

Cosmic Deregulation
By Jake Marmer




I lost loads of time
eating information
pills in the ship’s abdomen –
we called it “the library”
                           (as a joke)
until one evening, in the back
of a bar on a desolate, backwater moon
I was introduced to methods
of ingesting vacuum
and felt cosmos not beer
running through me
in knowledge’s stead
“consciousness,” I called to the librarian,
“consciousness is a ritual,
                          not an organ
and intergalactic history
is a contracting theater
                          of shadow puppets
performed by my own hands
which keep opening
like goddamn eyes”


- - -
Jake Marmer is a poet, performer, and a high school teacher. He is the author of three poetry collections: "Jazz Talmud" (Sheep Meadow Press, 2012), "The Neighbor Out of Sound" (Sheep Meadow Press, 2018), and "Cosmic Diaspora" (Station Hill Press, forthcoming 2019). Born in the wild Ukrainian steppes, Jake considers himself a New Yorker, even though he now lives in the Bay Area.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

2/21/19

Post-apocalyptic Chicken Wizard
By Marlin Bressi


It was not an attack from an enemy with electromagnetic pulse weapons that scurried us back to primitive times, as our elders had feared, but a gust of air. A shockwave of compressed air, to be precise, produced by the passing of a great meteor that didn't even have the decency to smack into our dreary ball of water and mud and give us the gift of eternal rest.

Such a gift would have been nice, I think sometimes, because rest is what we need. The shockwave showed those of us in northern Indiana-- we are the sole survivors due to some peculiar geographical quirk of fate-- just how soft and helpless we had become, like grubs wriggling under a log. Survival without machines would be significantly more tolerable if we had been left with the written word to guide us, but our elders had tossed away books with as much thought as one gives to throwing out eggshells or melon rinds.

Only the spoken word endured after the shockwave. The only person I know who had seen a book, many years before I was born, is the ancient one we call the Wizard. It is possible that some day we may learn the secrets of making paper again. But, even if we knew where paper came from, what would we do with it? Until another person as smart as the Wizard comes along and invents a machine that can turn our mouth words into written words, such knowledge would do us no good.

Sometimes I wonder if the Wizard is really as smart as everyone says. The Wizard told me once that paper came from trees. I've stared at every tree in the district-- big ones with rough bark and skinny ones with shiny leaves-- and I fail to see what one has to do with the other.

Or maybe it's just one of his many magical secrets, like the way he summons beasts to do his manual labor while the rest of us break our backs and topple over in the fields from heatstroke. Some of it is magic, yes, but much of the Wizard's power comes from his ability to make machines that can function even without the Grid. My grandfather was incredibly bright-- he designed motorized vehicles with complex artificial intelligence-- but even my grandfather couldn't figure out how make one of his machines work without electricity.

The Wizard, on the other hand, has devices that can do the work of an entire village, and strange, mysterious tools that can turn wood and metal into chicken warehouses and transporters. Of the twenty thousand of us who survived the great shockwave, the Wizard is the most technologically advanced. He knows how to do things in real life that you and I can only dream about. And he knows more mouth words than all other survivors combined.

In fact, he knows so many different words that you walk away from his dark castle reeling in confusion, just as I had that afternoon he tried to tell me that trees can be transformed into paper. I still can't wrap my brain around that, how something so hard and heavy can be radically altered in such a way as to make it thin, flimsy and flexible. If that's not witchcraft, I'm not sure what is.

Like most of the survivors I know only one or two names for things. For instance, I know that chicken warehouses are also known as coops. As for the chickens themselves, the Wizard refers to them by dozens of different names: Orpingtons, Leghorns, Brahmas, Rosecombs, Appenzellers, and the list goes on. The Wizard is so scientifically advanced, so skilled at genetic engineering, that he can get the exact type of meat he wants by getting one particular animal to fornicate with another.

One important thing you must know about the Wizard is that you must never refer to him by that name when you meet him in person. If you do, he will not share his vast wealth of technological and mechanical knowledge with you, and this could be tragic. Get on the Wizard's bad side and you just might end up starving to death for lack of food, or freezing to death for lack of heat. He does not like to be called Wizard because he has a different mouth word for himself. He calls himself Amish, whatever that means.


- - -
Marlin Bressi is the creator of the paranormal website Journal of the Bizarre and author of two non-fiction books, "Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits" and "Pennsylvania Oddities", both published by Sunbury Press.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

2/14/19

Nephilim Arrogance
By E.S. Wynn


"You ever think about what they might feel?" John asks. "What kind of trauma our work causes?"

"The wipe takes care of anything our procedure might introduce," Kelley says, squinting into the viewer. Her hands move slowly, carefully weaving molecule-sized beads of transmitting composite into threads of nervous tissue. The feathered alien splayed out on the table twitches, moves a little as her hand slips almost imperceptibly. "Dammit."

"Those twitches," John continues. "Surely there's some part of the brain that remembers being poked like that."

"Memories are easy to chemically code," Kelley takes a deep breath, gently nudges another bead into a bundle of nerves. "I doubt they remember anything, even subconsciously."

"I suppose if they did, we'd know," John nods. "They're about as intelligent as we were ten thousand years ago. They'd probably build a cargo cult honoring us if they knew we were out here."

"They'd probably see us as demons," Kelley pauses, lets the nervous shake pass, starts nudging again. "Stealing their young, their mates. Cutting them open, sticking implants in them, erasing their memories, setting them free again with no knowledge of any of it." She hesitates, looks up, meeting John's eyes evenly. "It's a good thing they don't remember. They'd probably hate us."

"Yeah."

"Look, there are people who pay good money for what we do here." Kelley says. "It's our job to ensure a clean install and a clean experience for our clients afterward. I've reviewed the SimEx feeds from all of my alien installs personally, and I've never felt any sign of psychological trauma. Nine times out of ten, they wake up groggy and grumpy the next morning and go on about their little lives as if nothing has happened. I've never seen one that remembers anything about me or my surgical table."

"I guess it helps that we take the outcasts," John leans over, watches as Kelley goes back to working on the alien beneath her. The soft feathers around its nostril clusters drift in the long, ragged breaths of deep sleep. "If one of them did remember something, maybe the others wouldn't take it seriously."

"It's not just that," Kelley says. "The members of this species that live in hives are well supported by one another. They still experience want and have the occasional adrenaline spike, but the Simulated Experience feeds we get from the outcasts are much more exciting, much closer to what our ancestors experienced when our species lived full time in nature." She weaves another nodule into the nerves of one of the feathered alien's delicate shoulders. "Most of our clients don't care that we're recording the sense experiences of bird aliens. What they pay for is the danger, the mortal tension of real, raw animal existence. It's the one thing they cannot get in our society. Want and need. Real, palpable, survival-level want and need. The day-to-day anxious terror of a genuine, dirt-level existence."

"More compelling simulated experience feeds make for more clients and bigger money, I get that," John rubs at the edges of his eyes, blinks against tiredness. "How many more of the recording implants do you have left to install?"

"That's the last one," Kelley says, setting aside her nanoscale tweezers and breathing a sigh of relief. "Keep an eye on him. I'm going to grab a coffee, then we can seal up the surgical sites, fly him back to his swamp and tuck him into bed."

"Bed sounds good," John yawns. "I've been groggy all day. Feel like I hardly slept last night." He rubs at the back of his neck, absently rolling a tiny nodule just underneath the skin."I've got this mole, or calcium deposit or something. Just popped up. Been bugging me, thinking about it."

"Should get that looked at," Kelley's voice comes quiet and distracted. The gurgle of a coffee maker comes a moment later, the scent of synthetic go-juice.

"Yeah," John nods, playing with the nodule. On the table in front of him, the bird alien seems to twitch, eyes moving just under the lids, then going still again. "You ever wonder if aliens ever did anything like this to our species?"

From the other room, Kelley laughs.

"You getting into conspiracy theories now, John?" She peeks around the corner, winks at him, coffee in hand. "Everyone knows we're the smartest species God ever made." She takes a long sip from the cup, gestures at the bird alien. "Everything else out here is like this guy. Smart, but not like us. Not spacefaring. No species we've seen is smarter than us."

"No species we've seen," John mumbles to himself, running his hand across the back of his neck.

"Here, help me close up," Kelley says, setting down her coffee. "We've only got a few hours of night left to wipe his mind and get him back. This guy usually herds livestock at dawn, and we don't want his family waking up to an empty bed or strange lights in the sky."

"Yeah," John says, his mind turning back to work, the strange lump soon forgotten.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over 70 books in print. You can find most of these here: [link].

Thursday, February 7, 2019

2/7/18

The Alien Light
By Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal


The alien light came
from the sky.
From a cloud
it came down.
It broke through
the harsh wind
blinding me
for an hour.
I faced the
world without
sight. I could
see nothing.


- - -
Born in Mexico, Luis lives in California, and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles. His poems and prose have appeared in Mad Swirl, Unlikely Stories, and Yellow Mama Magazine.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

1/31/19

Those Voyages
By Bruce Mundhenke


Admit we loved to sail that ship,
That took us far away,
And didn't we relish those worlds
Full of wonders,
So unknown and strange?
And would you not set sail again,
If ever it was that you could?
And if you could do it over again,
I know that you know we would.


- - -
Bruce Mundhenke writes in Illinois, where he lives with his wife and their dog and cat. Recently, a tornado roared through their town without causing any deaths. The wonder of it all.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

1/24/18

ANOTHER MORNING ON ALTURA
By John Grey


Machines pump oxygen
while a heart speaks like a lover.
and surely, between the hum of the computers,
the nightingale has come
to chirp by the star-lit window.

All new and strange but it's
a familiar eye that collects the fire
from suns and carries it to a breast
to ensure the dawn's brightness.

When an explorer dreams,
he makes a place in the bedding for earth,
a lover who seeps through his lowered guard,
fades slowly into him.

As a sleeper awakes,
the safety of function moves willingly aside
for the cozy wildness of remembered touch.

On a planet, three solar systems hence,
old reflections gather in faces.

In a place of red sky,
waves from that least cosmic of beaches
leap across the light years,
roll up on a purple shore.

Each planet, he bestrides,
he offers like a pendant
for her soft, white throat.

He gathers odd-shaped flowers
from a scarlet bush,
the rouge of her cheeks
still flush in them.


- - -
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, January 17, 2019

1/17/19

The Savage Spiders
By Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal


In the hills of Mars
spacemen are held hostage
by savage spiders
in formidable webs of death.

Birds do not fly here.
Night is cumbersome. To
survive spacemen must
be still as the stone when

the hour of the feast arrives.
The body must not move.
The savage spiders go for
the voice box first. Spacemen

who plead for life will not live.
The end is certain.
The thirst of the savage spider
is eternal, boundless, infinite.


- - -
Born in Mexico, Luis lives in California, and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles. His poems and prose have appeared in Mad Swirl, Unlikely Stories, and Yellow Mama Magazine.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

1/10/19

Borrowed
By Damien Krsteski


Emma was playing with Lev the Lion when the bell rang.

Rainbows gleamed in her father's eyes: the porch camera feed relaying to his optic nerve. Emma giggled as his cheeks and forehead wrinkled up in befuddlement; but his eyes dulled back to brown a moment later, and he went to open the door.

He returned flanked by two women whose gaze was fixed on Lev and Emma.

“Please have a seat,” her father told them and went to fetch tea, shooing Emma and her toy out the room.

She started up the stairs to her bedroom, Lev leaping after her with his hind motors whirring, before she decided she didn't want to wait to learn what the guests had wanted from her father, and so she tiptoed back down, sat cross-legged, the cub purring in her lap, and she put her ear to the door.

Padding on the floor. The clanking of porcelain on tray. Setting of saucers with cups on the glass table.

They exchanged pleasantries among loud sips of tea, the guests complimenting the house, his furniture, the flowerbeds in the front yard, Emma's father managing to squeeze in a That's too kind or a Thank you between niceties, before one said, “Congratulations are in order,” to which her colleague added, “We're pleased to say your unit computed the crucial bit.”

The easy chair creaked, after, presumably, her father had leaned on it. “Crucial,” she heard him say through the door, “for which program?”

“For 't Hooft Dreams.” A sip, then, “This particular simulation was so demanding, our company kept the dreaming software running in idle units for a whole year.”

“Which makes your win all the more impressive.”

“Oh,” her father said, and Emma could picture his confused expression; she clasped her hands over her mouth to prevent a giggle from escaping. “What was being computed?”

“That we leave to those renting our CPU cycles to explain,” the first woman said. “C&M University is undoubtedly preparing a news conference as we speak.”

“An advancement in the understanding of black hole thermodynamics,” the other said, the way her Dad read off a shopping list, “quantum field theory.”

At which Lev the Lion lifted his head.

“Yes,” the first continued, “they sleep, but their brains don't idle; they lend us those precious computational resources and we put them to good use.”

Emma couldn't make out what her father mumbled then. Lev's head was cocked sideways, as if listening in on the conversation, too.

“Well,” one said, “we only need the unit temporarily, for which you as the legal owner will be, obviously, well compensated by VardarFlow Automatics.”

“What for?”

Emma pressed herself completely to the door, listening intently now that an edge had crept into her father's voice.

“Reviewing the result on the actual hardware, checksum functions, verifying data integrity.”

“I've seen this happen before, all you want is to parade—”

“Please,” she interrupted, “a press junket, an interview, one photo op, yes, that might follow, but as the developer of the distributed computation platform which has allowed for such fantastic scientific breakthroughs to happen, we at VardarFlow want only what's rightfully ours: recognition.”

“Publicity,” Emma's father corrected her.

She said, “The point stands.”

There came a simultaneous clanking of cups on saucers as if they'd all agreed to pause the conversation right there for a sip of tea.

“What if I—if we say no?”

“We hope it doesn't come to that, but anyhow you'll find the unit's license gives us the right to repossess it under special circumstances—one way or another, we will get our product back. Whether you choose to spare everyone involved the trauma, and willingly hand over...”

But Emma didn't hear the rest, because Lev had gotten up, and was biting the leg of her trousers, tugging, pulling with weak toy teeth for Emma to stand up, and it dawned on her that those ladies wanted him, he was the unit, they had been talking about her Lev, about taking him away and parading him around when he was all hers, and she sprang up and cradled the cub in her hands and ran up the stairs to her room.

She needed to hide him. Quickly.

But they might search her room, he might roar when in need of charging and give his hiding place away. So she had to dismantle him. Spread him out, and put him back together much later.

Emma kissed Lev's maw, scratched the cub's mane, then powered him off and unscrewed his head, his limbs, and swept the head under a pile of plush toys, placed a leg beneath a stack of notebooks in her drawer, another in her box of beads and bracelets.

She heard footsteps. Somebody coming up the stairs. She hid the other two under her pillow, and lay on her bed, pretending to be asleep.

Her father entered. He nudged her, and she opened one eye as if just waking up.

“Emma,” he said, “let's get you dressed up.” He sat on the edge of her bed, reluctant to come closer.

Emma didn't understand why he was so unsettled to see her leave, why he'd cried when she'd said he didn't have to worry because Lev was safe; she thought of her father alone in the house now, without even the lion for company, waiting for her to be brought back, and she missed him already.

She soon drifted off to sleep in the backseat of the car, dreaming important things.


- - -
I write fiction and develop software, and some of my stories have appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Metaphorosis, Future Fire, and others. Originally from the Balkans, I now live and work in Germany.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

1/3/19

TRACKING THE QUADNUCK
By John Grey


Open up in the name of a full tank of crystal.
Rat-a-tat on the door with a bucket of Aelopean brew
and interstellar radio loaded with
honkytonk angels from beyond the milky way.
No use trying to run away.
We’ve got weapons that can take out
your scutum from ten thousand paces.
And they’re silent as a sagittian moon.
You won’t know what hit you
and nor will the rest of the herd.

Of course, we’ll send out our two-headed blood terriers
to drag back your carcass.
It’s what they’re bred to do.
And later, of course, we’ll toss them a leg or two.
No big deal. You’ve got at least eight.

Quadnuck, it’s all over. Your time has come.
So sayeth some guys in rugged Levi space suits
flannel steel shirts, and tight sleeveless cosmic parkas.
And don’t forget our space helmets
with their Mac’s Hardware emporium logo.

Forget the high-legged prop and kick,
the escape into the underbrush.
Our lights hypnotize.
You'll do what we say.
Our language is death.
The accent is Earth if you must know.


- - -
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.


Help keep Farther Stars alive! Visit our sponsors! :)




- - -

Archive

The Thunderune Network:

TTC

Weirdyear Daily FictionYesteryear Daily FictionClassics that don't suck!Art expressed communally.Von Singer Aether and Steamworks.Resource for spiritual eclectics and independents.Pyrography on reclaimed woodartists featured weeklySmashed Cat MagazineLinguistic ErosionYesteryear Daily Fiction