Thursday, January 16, 2020

1/16/20

Challenger Deep, A Romance of the Depths!
By David Barber


Time presses and this copy must must be brief.


The Descent

My name is David Barber, special reporter for the New York Daily Gazette, whose job is to record our story as we plunge into the sunless deeps, six miles below. Two hours have passed since we squeezed into the armoured hull of Professor Champion’s submersible and took our last lungful of fresh air at the ocean surface.

Hear the prescient words of Lord Royston, companion of Professor Champion in so many adventures, and now our pilot as we plunge downwards:

I've tried exploring and aeroplanes and such, but this search for undersea beasts that look like lobster-supper dreams is the salt of existence.

At last our lights reveal the drear expanse of the abyssal floor, where one tiny animal (a sea cucumber, Champion says) inches its solitary way.

I wonder if it has eyes to witness the blazing monster of steel invading its realm? We take turns crowding the porthole to view the desolate scene, as a sparse diatomaceous snow drifts down from the waters above.

Champion measures the temperature and salinity, and blinds us with a flash photograph. Time passes and Royston becomes concerned about our air. He says it is time we bade farewell to the depths. I feel someone should say a few words to honour the moment, but before anyone can speak, Royston releases the external weights to begin our ascent.

Trapped!

Except we do not rise! For half an hour Royston struggles with the controls. From the porthole we can even glimpse the fallen weights. It is as if something is holding us down. Perhaps a giant squid, Royston speculates, and wonders if an electric shock from our batteries might free us from its tentacles. Always the man of action.

Champion though is already busy, he flashes our lights, once, twice, then three, four times. Counting! But how could an insensate beast understand?

Whatever dwells here was attracted by our lights, Champion reasons. We are invaders and perhaps this is their response.

He and Royston square up to one another, as best two powerful men stooped inside a steel ball can manage. As I move to part them, our outside lights fail and our craft lurches into motion. Something is dragging us into the abyss!

Into The Abyssal Realm

We have come to rest within a chamber, lit by a ghastly phosphorescence. We have yet to glimpse what Champion insists are our rescuers. Royston and he bicker while the air in our submersible grows foul.

Panting, Champion argues if they had wanted our deaths, they need not have moved us. Royston bitterly regrets not bringing a gun.

In the end, Champion unscrews the door, and we gulp air as thick as fish soup, but there is oxygen in it and we live!

The World Lost To Us

Champion supposes the creatures keep us alive for study. To them the surface world must seem akin to the deadly vacuum of space for us. Released from the enormous pressure of the ocean, they would explode, and must believe no living thing could endure in the great emptiness above. And yet we came.

Examining our prison, Champion wonders if we are not inside some leviathan of the deep. We have not seen our captors though we have heard them. They have provided air, and sustenance of sorts can be scraped from the walls of this place.

Royston shrugs, he says he has eaten worse on his adventures.

Escape!

We must escape, Royston insists, his anger stoked by inactivity. He says we must lock ourselves in the Professor's vessel and somehow breach the chamber that imprisons us. A dozen impossibilities before we rise to the surface, where even then, the crew of Champion's ship, believing us dead, must have sailed for home long ago.

Champion merely shrugged shoulders big as an Assyrian bull, but if I had known his plan I would have supported Royston in his lesser madness.

The Professor spends his time trying to communicate with our unseen gaolers. They are rational beings, he insists, and claims to have progressed beyond simple mathematics.

I wake to find Champion unloading the submersible. Our captors do not need this equipment, he says, and who knows what we may find useful for our survival.

What he meant, I did not realise at first, though Royston had already guessed. Moustaches quivering with rage, he accuses Champion of planning to hand over our vessel to these creatures!

The Professor faces him calmly. Filled by the ocean, then sealed, his submersible was capable of containing the terrible pressure even to the surface. These beings might visit our own world much as we had visited theirs. By helping them he hoped to earn their trust.

Trust! mocks Royston. These unseen creatures will no more return us to the surface than we would return a specimen to the ocean floor. Champion is deluded if he hopes to become their ambassador to the world of light above. Again the two men begin shouting at one another, but I suspect it is all too late.

To the Editor, New York Daily Gazette.

Perhaps Champion's ship faithfully searches for us still; perhaps the creatures will make contact above; perhaps we will be freed after all.

I have little faith in the Professor's plan, but it is my job to report a story which may be Champion's last adventure. Whatever the outcome, I ask only that it is printed under my byline. These pages will ascend with the submersible.

I must hurry, I hear the creatures coming.


The End


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Thursday, January 9, 2020

1/9/20

The Art of Detection
By David K Scholes


With super computer assistance, the three of us pored over the various mind image, life force energy, and bio patterns. All of them in 3D.

Robotic investigators, the “B” team if you like, were at hand ready to assist. Perhaps even hoping, with their emotion chips in, to find something that we human experts couldn’t.

There were of course other “A” teams and many, many other robot led “B’ teams, the world over, doing the same type of work as us. Fighting the same fight.

Even with all the expertise at our disposal though it was hard going.

“They are getting almost impossible to detect now,” said the Prime investigator. “Their ability to replicate even a mind image or life force energy pattern is approaching perfection.”

I sighed remembering back to the old days – when fingerprints, retina scans and voice prints were enough for differentiation.

“That particular mind image there,” I laser connected to it. “If you fast forward the 3D pattern, condense 10 minutes worth into 30 seconds, there’s something different about it. Something clearly outside of human parameters.”

“You are right,” responded the prime “well done indeed!”

“Only problem now,” grumbled the Third putting a damper on things by stating the obvious “is determining what alien race we are dealing with.”

“If indeed it even belongs to a race,” I countered.

Non-human needn’t be adversarial. Of the many extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional visitors and occasional alternate reality visitors we received some were proven friendly and would never seek to take advantage of us. Just curious visitors.

On the best available information the number of alien assumptions of existing human identities was far, far more than any Earth authority could ever admit to. If it were known it would lead to panic. The only plus, if you can call it that, was that almost all of them only ever appeared to be temporary. The Aliens, extra-terrestrial, extra-dimensional or whatever all had somewhere to go back to. They’d leave and we would do our best to clean up afterwards.

Prime had made the joy ride in a car analogy but I didn’t like that comparison. After all – joy ride cars often got burned out.

I persisted with the mind image currently occupying our attention. “We’ll need to go back on this one – re-check everything; interview records, current surveillance, even the basics like retina scans and such, everything. There’s something not right about it.”

“I think it’s one of them,” I said quietly “one of the non-recognisables,” I tried to keep an emotionless face.

Both the Prime and the Third’s faces went white.

They were the hardest of all to deal with. Something in their natural form, even if we could expose it, that we would never normally recognise as any form of intelligent life. It was not proven but some considered that these visitors were not temporary.

We meticulously worked through everything we had on this one and another A team with another Prime joined us.

The evidence, each just little things, started to accumulate. Even among the non-recognisables – there were different types; non-recognisable corporeals, non- recognisable non-corporeals, extreme transients that didn’t fit either of these categories and finally – them.

“I think its one of them,” I exclaimed, speaking at a point where I should have left it to one of the Primes.

“An abstract!” – the super computer beat both Primes to it.

“A concept?” the Third from my team exclaimed.

“The assigned SAS surveillance team has lost track of it,” the Prime from my team exclaimed nervously. “Two of them were killed in the process.”

We knew about the abstracts but nobody had ever caught one – not in human-assumed form and most certainly not in its impossible to detect non-recognisable abstract form.

“Any sense from all of our analysis as to what concept we are dealing with here?” I asked.

“Enmity, enmity is the primary concept registering here,” the super computer with its super emotion chip was best placed to answer this. “Perpetual enmity,” the super computer modified its initial statement.

“Hatred, perpetual hatred,” I exclaimed.

“This is too much for Special Forces,” exclaimed my Prime. “Even the SAS; get the Queller teams on it. Find it, dump it, before it returns to its abstract form."

If it returns, I thought.


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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, January 2, 2020

1/2/20

NOWHERE--WITH DIRE WOLVES
By Janet Shell Anderson


I’m nowhere. Utica Rainbasin.

I’m Jesebeel Florencia Delilah Hanson, from DC, which is probably on fire. There’s no news here. The Second Civil War’s not happening here. Nothing’s happening here but the wind, the “stock,” the birds, the dire wolves.

I’m sitting on a pile of something, hay, maybe, in Flyover country, watching the “stock”. Wild Jack Bisonette’s the biggest, kind of like a cow and goat combined, huge. Has two calves, big as buses. Frankie’s another one. They talk in weird accents but don’t say much, and I’m warned not to get close because they have tempers.

Another thing here when I came were giant white birds, whooping cranes, thousands. Five feet tall. Scary. But they’re gone now.
And there are dire wolves, far out, by Lincoln Creek. An alarm will sound if they come too close.

Why’m I here?

I think a couple of guys are missing back in DC who went to my room to question me a couple of weeks ago because they thought I knew too much. I’m a professional entertainer, a Lollapalooza Class II, sixteen years old. So these guys were not cool. My turndown service, which eats anything that shouldn’t be in my room, like crumbs or dried flower petals or whatever, probably ate them. So the thing is, I can’t go back.

There isn’t much call for an entertainer out here.

The prairie--they call it--is huge. Right now, except for the animals, it’s almost bare, kind of wet, the ground’s black and makes a mess if you walk in it with heels.

So I have to make sure the people here--all twelve of them--don’t get any ideas about sending me back. Have to make sure they don’t get any ideas at all. Not so hard. They talk less than Wild Jack and don’t seem to care I’m around.

But the dire wolves do. I’ve a feeling they watch me. I dream they do.

I’ve a feeling the people here are really, really old. They don’t look old, don’t act old, and I don’t really know anybody who is old, but they feel old. Their eyes are old. Their eyes have seen too much. They have huge green and yellow machines that “put the crop in.” I don’t know what the “crop” is. I asked Wild Jack what it was, and she said, “Stuff to eat.”

The sky’s low and grey, and the wind howls. A robotrain crosses far off. Machines like insects sit in fields. No cars. The cloud’re pleated like the belly of the whale that hangs in the hall of the Natural History Museum in DC.

I’m in the belly of a whale, hiding out, nowhere--with dire wolves.


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I have been published by Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Vestal Review, decomP, FRIGG, Grey Sparrow and many others, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, included in a collection of short works with Joyce Carol Oates. I am an attorney.


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