Thursday, December 26, 2019

12/26/19

Alien Botany
By John Grey


It is a zarkal-blossom afternoon.

A creature, the zextotl,
buzzes its way among fresh flowers,
is attracted to what the blooms attract.

It’s a whir of wings, a sudden dive at
the most sedate of nibblers, piercing
the victim’s carapace with a syringe-like lance.

It’s the time to fill the nest with stung corpses.

Bingles, tinier than itself, are easy targets.
The zextotl stabs and injects, piles up the victims,
bears them back to its home of spun paper, river mud.

Two Earthlings, leading botanists,
watch excitedly but cautiously,
snap photo after photo
of these purple beauties.

The zarkal is a thousand feet high.
The zextotl is the size of an average Earth rocket.
Even the bingle would outweigh an elephant.

Despite their degrees,
two Earthlings cannot be conceited long.


- - -
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

12/19/19

The Vacuumer
By Eric Suhem


“Vacuum this, vacuum that! I’m not a machine!” yelled Timothy, nude and perched in a tree in front of the office building, vacuum accessories in his hands. As he screamed at the passersby, the asylum van’s siren could be heard in the distance.


Monday

Dr. Hoover stood in the hall addressing Sylvia. “I am glad you have applied for the position of ‘Office Vacuumer’, the job is yours,” said Dr. Hoover. “This position will help you to clean the impurities from your consciousness and cleanse your soul. Vacuuming my office will give you a sense of purpose, a dedication of spirit. Don’t listen to that voice inside of you, as its views are steeped in an archaic, narcissistic, navel-gazing, self-involvement that will repeatedly drop you into a psychological null pit of need and greed. The benefits to your soul of simple service cannot be overestimated.” Sylvia looked forward to the work, somehow wanting to be around vacuuming.


On the first day of therapy in the asylum, Timothy noticed crumbs on the floor under the couch, so he volunteered for a vacuuming work shift.


Tuesday

Sylvia started work at Dr. Hoover’s office. As she was vacuuming, Dr. Hoover walked in, clutching papers in his hand. “Now Sylvia,” he said, “if you are able to use each of these diagrams to disassemble and reassemble your vacuum, you will be freed of all anxieties, self-doubt, and feelings of victimization.” He handed her the drawings depicting mechanical details of various vacuum components and then left the room. Sylvia put the diagrams on the floor in a mandala pattern and began to disassemble the vacuum.


During his work shift at the asylum, Timothy was vacuuming the hallway when a man in a white coat approached. “Come with me, Timothy, we need to discuss how to vacuum the shag carpet,” said the man.


Wednesday

“Why are there crumbs all over the carpet?” Where’s the vacuumer?” demanded Dr. Hoover. Sylvia was frantically trying to reassemble the vacuum she had disassembled the day before. Dr. Hoover found her and said, “Sylvia, do you understand that you are a co-conspirator in your feelings of self-doubt and anxiety, perpetuating them as a comfortable integration of your self-identity, giving you license to not have to undergo the efforts of psychological growth? You must start taking more responsibility for your feelings, as this will help you to function more effectively and responsibly.” He then left the room, scowling at the crumbs on the carpet.


Timothy’s mind flashed on what seemed to be a dark room with a movie screen. He was strapped down to a chair, watching a film of a woman trying to assemble a vacuum in an office. People in white coats hovered near him as the screen faded to black.


Thursday

Sylvia arrived early at the office but wasn’t making any progress reassembling the vacuum. She left the office and drove out of the city to the forest, where she wandered amidst the redwoods, inhaling the crisp clean air. Sylvia happened upon a meadow full of flowers. Each of the flowers resembled the mandala of vacuum cleaner diagrams she’d created on Tuesday. Staring at a flower, she realized, “I need to follow that voice inside of me.” She returned to the office and found the disassembled vacuum parts, strewn on the floor. Following the instructions in her mandala of diagrams, she assembled the pieces.


Timothy finished vacuuming the reception area, and sat on the carpet, visualizing a woman using a mandala of diagrams to reassemble her vacuum. As she put the parts together, snapping the last piece into place, he felt something click in his own mind, his tattered psyche beginning to reconstruct.


Friday

“Timothy, you experienced a nervous breakdown on your last vacuuming job. Fortunately, my technique combining hypnosis, psychotropic drugs and subliminal suggestion worked to accomplish your recovery!” said the psychiatrist. Timothy mulled this over, as faded images of Sylvia frolicking through a forest and assembling a vacuum drifted through his head in a residual mist.

Later that day, Timothy was given his belongings, mainly vacuum accessories, at the exit desk. The psychiatrist waved to him. “Goodbye Timothy, and happy vacuuming.”


- - -
Eric Suhem lives in the orange hallway (www.orangehallway.com)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

12/12/19

Passenger 859
By Ridge Smith


Mars. Alon awoke with a start and swung his legs over the side of his cot. The steady hum of the thrusters filled his ears for the hundredth time. It had only taken a day to reach their destination, and Alon was filled with apprehension. The previous day had been utter torture: a short trip up to Luna, followed by a mountain of paperwork. A small price to pay, however, for the opportunity to colonize a new planet. Not to mention, the ship they had built for the journey was the largest ship ever designed, more massive than those of Mars.

The U.T.F. Azmon was built to fly faster and more efficiently than any ship before it, and serve as the first city on their new home planet. It was massive in size, big enough to house an entire colony, though it seemed barren now with just over 1000 passengers. Most ships of this size were war-ships, loaded with nuclear missiles, rail guns, and lasers, but there was no risk of war here. They were far beyond the grey zone, and enemy ships wouldn’t dare interfere with this mission.

Instead of heavy weaponry, the Azmon was loaded with plant-life. Each room of the ship had a large cutout the size of a normal window full of plants to help regulate the air. Throughout the entire center of the ship the scientists of Terra had created a lush, green Eden full of plants and water. Artificial streams flowed through the ship, providing hydro-power and sustaining the plants. The garden, as it was called, was full of plants of all sizes, including trees, flowers, crops, and genetically engineered plants capable of producing the maximum amount of oxygen. He remembered walking the winding paths through the garden during orientation on Luna. Never had he felt such humidity in a controlled environment; it rivaled the preservation pods back on Terra. Despite the humid air, the high oxygen environment made the air feel cold. The old term breath of fresh air came to Alon’s mind. It was a paradise the old Terra would have known, back when it was still called Earth.

With a lump in his throat, Alon glanced at his holo-pad. He touched the screen to bring up a picture of a woman. Beneath her picture read: Passenger 759. Alon looked down at his suit. 859. Passenger 759 was Alon’s assigned partner for the breeding program.

Why am I doing this again? Alon thought for no more than a moment.

His father. Those damn Martian traitors killed millions of Terrans in the Martian War. His father was a pilot, and died just before Mars gained their independence three years after the war began. The Martian city of Guan Yu prospered when they began mining the asteroid belt. Terra kept their hold as long as they could, but the Martian colony was built to thrive and expand. Martian colonists were genetically enhanced. They were smarter, stronger, and faster than Terran soldiers, and their regime was built for war. The first Martian attack came seemingly from nowhere. Terra was too busy fighting itself; none of the unified powers saw it coming. Terra only held its ground as long as it did because of the United Terran Alliance. Their sheer numbers kept Mars from taking control of the planet. This was Alon’s chance to make a difference, to help Terra regain control over the system. He would do whatever it took to make that dream, the dream of millions of Terran children who were orphaned by the Martians’ war, come true.

Alon heard the thrusters slowly begin to fade. He walked over and slowly opened his window shutter, careful to make sure the sun was not on this side of the ship. There, huge and beautiful in front of him was his new home. Similar in size to Terra. Clouds swirled above the surface of the planet. From here it was hard to believe that beneath those clouds was a hellish surface, completely unlivable and deadly. This is why the Azmon would stay in the sky, above the cloud level. The colony would be dependent on Terra, at first, but would provide a direct link to the mines of Mercury. They would support each other, and together they would take on the Martian Global Collective. Alon’s new home: Venus.

Suddenly the planet was blocked out as dark metal engulfed his view. The room darkened, and the darkness was replaced by a faint red glow and the sound of sirens. Panicking, Alon rushed to the other side of the room, opposite his window. As he secured himself to the safety harness, the emergency shutters began to descend, blocking his view of the other ship. Before slamming shut, Alon caught one final view and his heart dropped, sweat beading against his forehead. Engrained in Alon’s vision was the deep, dark red of the Martian flag.


- - -
My name is Ridge Smith. I have been imagining and enjoying science fiction for most of my life, but have only begun to write fiction myself recently.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

12/5/19

The Local Astronomy
By Hillary Lyon


expert wields a machete because people think
grant monies grow on trees

learn to interpret the sky he says
for an authentic rooftop experience

the first colors of sunrise
heighten awareness

and ceremoniously quiet the mind
by gliding over the glass surface

of dawning consciousness glittering
like mica-flecked sand


- - -
Hillary Lyon is founder of and editor for the Arizona-based small press poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. The author of more than 20 poetry chapbooks, her poems have appeared in journals such as Black Petals, Bloodbond, Dreams & Nightmares, Scifaikuest, Illumen, and Jellyfish Whispers, as well as numerous anthologies. hillarylyon.wordpress.com


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