Thursday, November 28, 2019

11/28/19

In A White Room
By Dave Ludford


On one wall of the white room you see trains leaving a station with no destination, passengers waving goodbye at windows though they’re not really leaving. How could they be when there is absolutely nowhere for them to go? The white room creates images and lets your mind fill in the blanks.

“How did I get here?” you ask.

“You didn’t,” comes the reply in your own voice. “You never left where you were. Where you were is here. The white room creates illusions” it added unnecessarily.

“Why, may I ask, am I seeing these illusions?”

“You are seeing your own life and the experiences contained therein. But the illusions themselves are illusions. Fleeting, transient ephemera. False magic. They signify nothing because reality is nothing. There is only the white room and your own imagination.”

You take a while to come to terms with this, and then a thought occurs:

“But I didn’t imagine trains leaving a station and people waving at the windows.”

“No, but somebody else did.”

“Somebody else? Who? I’m not alone here?”

“One can never be alone in the white room. Others, like you, will always come across this place. Call it fate, whatever.”

You are then witness to further illusions created by others you cannot see or sense in any way: soldiers marching into a battle that will never happen. Endlessly marching. A woman giving birth to herself, ad infinitum. Dolls within dolls all exactly the same. Athletes running backwards on a track away from the starting line that will never become the finishing line.

“Tell me…my life…it hasn’t happened yet?”

“No, and may never happen. Birth, life and death: the cycle of life. All illusions.”

“Which would suggest that I too am an illusion?”

“Yes. The white room is the only reality. A reality that exists absolutely nowhere at any point in time or in any physical place. It just is; or isn’t, to be more accurate.”

“Perhaps the white room too is an illusion, therefore, conjured by my own imagination.”

“Yes,” you reply to yourself.

“I have one final question. Am I God?”


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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

11/21/19

Awakening
By David K Scholes


I awakened from the deep drug induced sleep/hibernation. The anti-nightmare medications had, at least to some extent, worked. Thank goodness for that. I couldn’t take another mind assault at the level I experienced last time around. It would have broken me. I simply would never have woken up.

I hoped I hadn’t been woken early as a result of computer failure.

The fact that I was still in sensory deprivation mode seemed unusual and gave me cause for concern.

There was a waiting period but with no way of measuring it and with no reference point it might have been only a few seconds or it might have been all of eternity. It certainly seemed like the latter.

Eventually, and to my great relief, the sleep/hibernation pod opened up. My sleep hazed vision was still limited but I could just see the nearby 3D computer display of my vital and other life signs. Within arms reach, that is if I could have moved my arms. Blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature seemed within normal Earth human limits as was my life force energy level. My brain activity was well above hyper activity level but I didn’t need a computer to tell me that.

I was still effectively frozen and knew that by now that should not be. I could just make out the real elapsed time since my initial sensory awakening – over 2 standard Earth hours. More than enough time for me to be med-checked, decontaminated if necessary, energy replenished, fully suited up and about my duties.

My unassisted vision slowly improved and I saw that there wasn’t anyone or anything to help me. Not even the soothing, reassuring voice of the normally ever hovering, ubiquitous AI med-bots.

Those of my companions that I could now see were still seemingly ensconced within their sleep/hibernation chambers. Were they okay? I couldn’t tell. They should have been up and about by now. I was normally the last of them to come out of the sleep/hibernation state.

Slowly, but slowly, movement returned to my body. I found I was not restricted by the usual gentle, flexible force constraints that were applied during sleep/hibernation. As I slowly rose out of the sleep/hibernation pod a great hunger fell upon me, completely overwhelming all other feelings I had. Including the present highly dangerous situation.

Finally a single lone med-bot appeared, ready to inject me with the usual range of standard medically proven nutrients. I shoved the irritating little AI away not without some force.

I had been through a lot since my awakening and now was not the time for mere intravenous fluid nourishment.

“Computer,” I found I was yelling at the top of my voice, not even knowing if the central computer was still functioning properly “get me some solid nourishment now. I’ll take some Hot Oat Meal, Blueberry Muffins and an espresso coffee!”

As the central computer complied with my very reasonable request I began to feel a bit more like my old self.

Also, just then, the other sleep/hibernation pods started to yield up their occupants. I watched on with some trepidation.

I was sure there was a time back deep in the distant past when ordinary people like us didn’t need to have to go to so much trouble just to get a good night’s sleep.

I told myself this as the first members of my family wearily emerged from their pods.

“Get a move on Dad, you will be late for work,” my eldest son exclaimed.


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The author has written over 200 speculative fiction short stories. Some of these are included in his eight collections of short stories (all on Amazon). He has also published two science fiction novellas and been published on a range of speculative fiction sites. Including: Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He will soon publish a new collection of science fiction short stories “Contingency Nine and Other Science Fiction Stories

Thursday, November 14, 2019

11/14/19

Big Bang
By David Berger


“I’ve got a secret.”
“The old TV show?
“No!
“Oh.”
“Heard of the Big Bang?”
“The TV show?”
“No, the Cosmic Event.”
“Oh, sure. Like Carl Sagan?”
“No. That was Cosmos.”
“Sorry. I watch lots of TV.”
“I mean when the universe began. 13½ billion years ago.”
“Oh. Okay.”
“It’s a secret. I’ve never told anyone. But I was there.”
“That’s fantastic. You never told anyone?”
“They’d think I was crazy.”
“Yeah, well, it is weird. But really? When it happened. You were there?”
“Yup!”
“What was it like? Was it ultimately hot?”
“Actually, kinda cool.”


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I'm an old Brooklyn Lefty, now living in Manhattan with my wife of 26 years: the finest jazz singer in NYC. I'm a Dad and a Granddad. I've been a caseworker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer. I love life, my wife and the world. Hope to help the latter escape destruction.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

11/7/19

Sunsports
By David Barber


Quick, Quick, the Circumsolar Dash is Starting.

Here in the shade of Mercury, ships jostle through the countdown, jockeying for position. Half the System is taking feed, coverage of all the action from this year’s Sunsports. And new to reporting is AL, the series 7000 artificial intelligence...

We prefer the term "autonomic lifeform" Chuck.

So, AL, talk us through the favourites, what with old Earth money and new Mars tech,how good those new cooling units are, and what we’ll see when the heat is on.

It was exactly ten years ago, Chuck, that Lisa Chan took a short-cut through the corona. She went deeper and hotter than anyone before, and set the benchmark for today’s racers. Of course, she was disqualified post-mortem…


2


Nate straightened his cap, took a breath and tried to push open the door.

“Team pilots only,” cautioned the hologram suddenly at his elbow.

“I’m on the list.”

The virtual maître d’ turned virtual pages. “Ah,” it said finally. “Team Luna.”

Inside, it was oven-hot and sweat popped out on his brow. Can’t stand the heat, don’t compete, goes the Sunsports jingle.

His nerve almost failed, but he sat down opposite Lola Speed, last years’ winner. She wore Mars Tek’s trademark silver, and looked older than the holo of her he prized as a kid.

She studied him, seemingly unaffected by the sauna heat. “Nate Booker,” she said. “New pilot for Luna, right?”

Nate wasn’t famous, she just had implants and recognition software.

“What you flying?”

He explained about his Ceres Series Three with the new cooling unit. Salt stung his eyes and he knuckled it away.

“Looked at that Mackenzie cooler,” Lola Speed interrupted. “Unreliable. Don’t go deep with it, kid.”

Racers used to shave an orbit round the sun; these days you cut corners, diving through the corona and trusting in your hardware until you surfaced to dump the thermal load. Winners stayed down the longest.

“Heard Milland takes risks with his crew.”

Cosmo Milland was the new owner of Team Luna, and you heard talk like that about him, but Nate was just starting out and couldn’t afford to pick and choose.

“Can’t stand the heat, don’t compete,” he said, dizzily, his Team Luna outfit darkening with sweat.


3

Sundiving.

Hard to hear their voices over the air-con’s howl. Something about the engines, about help. Eventually flaws in the mirror layer burn through, punching brilliant spikes across the cockpit. The incandescence crisps the eye even through lids squeezed shut.

This is what can happen when you dive too deep, going for the record. Some leave their coms on right to the end, so we can all hear what bad luck sounds like.


4

Nate had got off to a bad start, outmanoeuvred by the Team Terra third string who’d blocked him at the last moment. Now he accelerated flat out, downwards into the corona.

The Mackenzie cooling rig encased him like a set of Russian dolls, with his his own naked flesh at its heart. Engineering trade-offs and the constraints of physics meant he squeezed into a space no bigger than a coffin.

The corona might be tenuous, but the radiative load from plasma at millions of degrees was making itself felt. Across the board, layer after layer of his cooling system changed to red.

Below him, deep into the brilliance, another craft ghosted intermittently on his screen; maybe the Team Terra craft that blocked his start, but it was already heading back out.

Nate plunged down past it into the furnace, filter after filter struggling with the brightness, ever closer to the boiling surface of the sun.

5

So AL, tell us about this new idea from Team Terra’s Dave Beauman, sharing the pilot’s seat with a series 7000. Because it reminds me how Jessie Bulland limped in on manual that time a solar flare frazzled everyone’s circuits. Could silicon have brought home that win, AL?

Well Chuck, the 7000 series is the most advanced...

Sorry to cut you off there AL, but there’s news in about three-time winner, Lola Speed.


6

The roar of the air-con made it hard to hear, but it was Lola Speed alright; Nate knew that voice.

“What you doing this deep kid?” he thought she said.

His last refrigeration layer was beginning to overload, and droplets of sweat floated off him as the air temperature rose remorselessly.

He asked what was wrong, if he could help. Perhaps she couldn’t hear him, perhaps she knew there was no help.

“Make your choices while you can, kid.”

He was at the nadir of own trajectory now, and would start to climb out of the corona. Lola Speed’s craft still tumbled sunwards.

“Mirror layer next,” she panted. “Not long...” Her voice rose to a scream, then cut off.


7

There was a Team Luna engineer on coms, with Cosmo Milland breathing down her neck. “Our readouts show some issues with the Mackenzie rig,” she said carefully. “But it’s within tolerance.”

Milland seized the mike. “What the hell’s going on? You did a great first dive, even after that crappy start, now you’re ahead of the pack, and there’s some quibble about cooling?”

“Made a choice,” said Nate. He had glimpsed the future.

In the silence, you could hear Milland trying to make sense of it. “You refuse to dive again and you’re finished in sunsports, you hear me?”

Nate flicked off the com and began plotting a safe orbit back to Mercury.


8

They were so sure that flesh and silicon would be a winning team, a synergy where second by second one partner would monitor data critical to optimal performance, while the other did whatever it is humans do, cutting corners, making wisecracks and pushing engines beyond the limits they were designed for.

But note how much power that cooling unit squanders keeping Beauman alive as we plough the corona, in direct conflict with the goal of this mission, to win the Circumsolar Dash.

So I’m sorry, Dave.


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