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.


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