Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
After the Great Energy Wars of the twenty third century, human civilization was almost non-existent. The human global population had been reduced from nine billion to a few hundred thousand. The original global superpowers, China, India, and the USA had been obliterated. Radioactive fallout made much of the Earth’s land surface unusable. Most of the survivors were clustered into small nomadic tribes that were widely dispersed in areas that contained reasonably fertile soil and where there were some animals to hunt. The birth rate was low, and the mortality rate was high. If you were lucky enough to reach forty, you were probably the oldest person within a thousand miles. Life was very hard, and everyday was a struggle. However, all that was all before the Leonians arrived.
The Leonians were a humanoid race from a planet orbiting a star called Regulus. They were a little smaller than humans, had greenish skin, and no hair. They had four eyes; two in the front, and two in the back. That was kind of creepy, but they were nice folk, nevertheless. They arrived with a fleet of 1000 spaceships. They claimed that they had been monitoring Earth for several years and wanted to provide assistance. They said it was what their species was driven to do; help others that were less fortunate. Their offer seemed sincere, and quite generous. I don’t know if the rest of the world agreed to accept their help, but the hundred of us living near Johannesburg did.
They got to work right away. They began neutralizing the radioactive areas and purifying our water supply. We helped where we could, but their robots did most of the real labor. They even built us a community center on the top of a small hill. We used the building for group meals, town meetings, training, and minor medical treatment. During the weekly town meetings, the Leonian captain would regale us with fascinating stories of exploration and adventure. We’d listen for hours on end. Life was good.
Eventually, we had ample farm lands, plenty of clean water, a small hospital manned by robots, and even a one room schoolhouse. Then one day, the Leonian captain informed us that he needed to move his ship to another location, to help other humans who were still struggling to stay alive. He said that he’d stop back now and then to check up on us, and to swap out the three crew members that had volunteered to stay with the settlement. We gave them a big going away party, thanked them at least a thousand times, and wished them luck at their next stop.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly until about a year later. We started noticing involuntary changes in our vocabulary. Instead of saying “God bless you,” after someone sneezed, we said, “Gluon nigh vit.” We started uttering other unknown words, like muon, lepton, and hadron. The children made strange sculptures and bizarre drawings. When we asked one of the resident Leonians if he understood what was happening, he was overjoyed. “Ah, this is wonderful news, my children. You have finally begun your greatest journey. I was hoping that the conversion would occur while I was still here with you. The Holy Cosmic Egg must be thrilled that you have cast away your false gods and have come to worship in his glory. Come, let us pray together.”
Author : Jeff McGaha
A red-haired man walks directly up to the customer service counter. He carries in his right hand a metal cage with a tiny brown hamster inside. Reaching the counter, he drops the cage thoughtlessly, jostling the small creature inside.
“Scuse me,” He says to a man in a royal blue short-sleeved collared shirt.
“Yes sir, how may I help you?”
“I’m havin’ some problems with Neo here. I thank he’s broke.”
“Ohh, that is unfortunate. What is exactly is the problem?”
“He got out de other day and attacked me cat.”
“Ohh, that is too bad. Is your cat okay?”
“Naw, he’s dead.”
“Yeah, hampsters ain’t suppose to attack cats. Suppose to be de other way round.”
“Ohh, yes. Most definitely. I am sorry to hear about your cat.”
“It’s okay. Been meanin’ to get a fake one anyways. I ain’t got de time to keep takin’ care of a real one anymore.”
“I completely understand, sir. I have two artificial dogs myself. I do not know why anyone would want a real animal anymore.”
“Dogs, eh? Not much fer dogs. I’m more of a cat person.”
The man in the royal blue shirt nods and reaches into the cage and grabs the hamster. The hamster growls at him.
“That is not right. Hamsters definitely do not growl. I definitely know what the problem is then.”
“So, you’ll be able to fix ‘em?”
“I believe so.”
The man in the royal blue shirt holds the hamster in his left hand and pinches the hamster’s head with his right thumb and index finger. The hamster becomes rigid and the top of his skull pops open, exposing a tiny socket. The man in the royal blue shirt pulls a small hand held device out from under the counter. There is a short cable wrapped tightly around the device. He unwinds it and plugs the end of the cable into the jack embedded in the hamster’s skull. He taps on the hand held device for a few seconds.
“Yes. It appears that the hamster has inadvertently been given canine programming rather than rodent programming. That’s an easy fix.”
He taps a few more times on the hand held device. The hamster goes limp.
“Okay, everything is fine. I have just flashed him with rodent programming. He will be up and acting normal in about 10 minutes.”
“Thank gawd. My kids woulda been real upset if anything happened to Neo.”
“Yes, sir. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Yeah, ya got any calico’s in stock?”
Author : Erin Searles
“Cats,”said Big Fat Dave. “It was cats that started it in this reality.”
In his channel’s feed I saw Archibald, Big Fat Dave’s big fat cat, stretch as if in agreement.
He continued: “You know how cats will watch something or someone crossing a room when you can see there’s no one there. That ‘s them watching people on alternate reality channels. That’s how we figured out how to do it. Scientists did studies on cats’ brains.”
“I doubt it.” Pink Dave scoffed. Pink Dave hadn’t chosen his own nickname. The day we all first met Pink Dave had been wearing a pink shirt and tie. He didn’t like it, but nicknames stick.
Recently things hadn’t been going so well for Pink Dave. We hadn’t seen him in a shirt and tie for a while. He’d stopped shaving for so long that he was a better candidate for Bearded Dave than I was. Maybe he could be called Bearded Dave when I was gone.
“It was those scientists at CERN, right?” He looked to me and Not Dave for agreement. “You Daves have CERN in your worlds, don’t you? Back in the noughties they build a machine they thought might end the world, but instead they discovered how to view the alternate realities.”
I wasn’t keen to gang up on Big Fat Dave, who worshipped his cat slightly more than was healthy. I answered as diplomatically as I could.
“Yeah, we have a CERN here and they did build the LHC, but I don’t remember anything coming of it. I think the tech came from the American military on my channel.”
Not Dave shrugged. “It’s probably different for all the channels, that’s the point of alternate realities, right?”
Not Dave’s name was actually Andrew, we didn’t know why. Like the rest of us he was the 32 year old son of Jack and Nicola Upton, but in his reality they had called him Andrew, not Dave. It was strange for him to realise after a lifetime of being an Andrew that he was, according to probability, a Dave. He elected to be known as Not Dave, despite not needing the differentiating nickname.
Pink Dave was about to start arguing again. I headed him off:
“Guys. Do we want to spend my last night retreading the same old arguments?”
“Hell no,” said Not Dave. “ Let’s raise a glass to Bearded Dave.”
They all lifted a can, in strange unison in their respective corners of my screen. Not Dave and Pink Dave had beers; Big Fat Dave was drinking Coke.
“Bearded Dave,” they chorused.
I picked up my own drink to toast them back.
“Dave, Dave, Andrew it’s been a pleasure knowing you all. I wish we could carry on being friends… I’ll always remember you.”
We all lapsed into silence. It was close to midnight, the time when my channel would block all other realities from viewing us, and, as the inter-reality laws decreed, be blocked in return – who wants someone watching you when you can’t watch them back. Despite international outrage my reality’s committee governing reality channels hadn’t backed down. People had been given a month to say goodbye to friends on other channels while the final appeal went through. It had failed and at midnight the switch would be thrown.
“It sucks, man.” said Big Fat Dave.
More silence. One minute to midnight.
“See you Dave.”
Black screens. Channel 1353 had blocked. I sat back in my chair – an isolated Dave in an isolated world.
Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Harry nudged the body in the lobby with the toe of his boot, weapon unwaveringly pointed towards the head. Satisfied he was dead, Harry retrieved his knife and the man’s keys, turned and carefully locked the front doors.
The entrance secured, he stepped over the body, moved cautiously around the reception desk and slipped quiety through the doors deeper into the clinic.
From a distance, Harry could hear voices in a language he couldn’t make out.
Empty gurneys lined the hall, hospital-blue sheets cast grey in the dim after-hours lighting. At the first open door he paused, holding his gun down against his leg, two handed and ready, he peered around the doorway into the room. Empty. In the corner an LCD panel displayed the x-rays of the day’s last patient. Trans-tibial amputation. Left leg.
Continuing down the hall, the next doorway was closed off, light spilling into the passage through a plate sized portal at eye level. Harry stepped away from the door and allowed his eyes to adjust as he surveyed the room within. There was one doctor with his back to the door and two additional figures, gowned and masked passing instruments in response to barked instructions.
Harry wet his lips, then pushed open the door with his shoulder, bringing his gun to bear as he rotated into the room.
Two sets of eyes widened, then disappeared from view behind the table as his SIG Mauser barked twice, dropping the nurses where they stood.
The third figure spun about, scalpel pinched between thumb and forefinger, ready to cut.
“What are you doing? You can’t discharge a weapon in here, you’ll contaminate the merchandise.” The doctor’s English was crisp and matter of fact.
On the table behind him, Harry could make out part of a familiar phrase inked down the left arm the surgeon had been preparing to sever at the shoulder. “Fidelis”.
“You’ve made a bit of a mistake, Herr Doctor.” Harry moved away from the door, weapon leveled and steady. “That body you farmed this evening isn’t what you think.”
The doctor raised his hands slightly, the scalpel catching and reflecting the surgical lights overhead.
“Nothing more than some drunk soldier.” On the table Harry could see the body was covered in carefully drawn lines, a roadmap from which he was to be carved up like a side of beef. “Drunks are worthless alive, and this one less so if not promptly packaged. He’s losing value while you’re wasting my time. Get the hell out of my operating room, you’ve no idea who you’re messing with.”
Harry moved until he could see the supine man’s face, and the blossomed flesh of a bullet wound in the middle of his forehead.
“No, not ‘just a drunk soldier’. My drunk soldier, and my drunk soldier brought me here to see you.” Harry addressed the body on the table.
“Corporal, relieve the good doctor of his faculties.”
The doctor turned back to the table to find himself face to face with his naked cadaver, now sitting upright and eyeing him with a wolfish grin.
With lightening speed, the doctor lashed out with the scalpel, drawing it from the Corporal’s right shoulder along the line of his collarbone then upward to his throat. Where the skin peeled back, black carbon fibre mesh showed through from beneath flesh veneer. In a single motion, the Corporal grabbed the doctor by the throat, and standing, lifted him from the ground, the scalpel clattering to the floor.
“I’m afraid his parts won’t be much use to you.” Harry holstered his weapon and began rolling up his sleeves. “Your bits, however, are quite useful, and there are a few of our boys that you can rest assured will put them to good use.”
Author : Ilan Herman
Koy, the sky-blue alien, explained to Jeff that life on earth was really an experiment conducted by him and his associates, an anthropological study of how life evolves from the molecular to the bird, or fish, or tiger, or man. “We planted the seeds of life on earth. We did the same with other planets with various environments and used different seeds. On H12, we have an intelligent race of birds. They have language and governance much better than yours, perhaps because they use their wings instead of cars, though they have those too. We have not done well with creating life on Earth.”
Jeff listened to Koy’s explanation and then said, “No worries. We’re like germs in a Petri dish. We’re genetically engineered. I can dig that. How many other humans beside me know about your experiment?”
“Only four others, a woman in China, and one in Russia, a man in Peru, and another in Scotland. The rest of humanity is not ready.” Then Koy’s voice choked with cosmic tears. “We tried so hard to make a good world for you. Our best minds labored tirelessly to help humanity succeed. We failed and we are sorry. Man turned out to be toxic to the planet.”
Jeff scratched his balding scalp. The alien sounded like a frustrated five year old whose tree house had collapsed. “Why are you so upset? We’re all still an extension of God, with you as a facilitator. It’s all good.”
“I am happy to hear you say that,” Koy said, “for what you say is true. We are all one.”
“Besides,” said Jeff. “You could be someone else’s experiment.”
The alien’s sky-blue skin dimmed slightly. “I am not sure what you mean.”
Jeff held out his palms. “Duh. Like us humans are your experiment, though only five of us know that, maybe your race is also a Petri dish set up by another race.”
“But I have revealed myself to you,” Koy said, a cheer in his voice. “If what you say is true, why have I not met the race that created me?”
Jeff rolled his eyes. “Because you’re not one of the five of your race to know. Like your secret is safe with me, so is the secret safe in the hearts of a few of your people, or race, or blue blobs.”
Koy’s shimmering ripples turned pinkish-green. He shrunk to about half the size of when he’d first appeared. He hovered only two inches off the carpet.
“That is a silly theory,” he finally said.
Jeff raised his arms in surrender. “If you say so. You’re probably right. After all, you made me, so you know better.”
Koy said nothing. Then he vanished.
“Nothing new under the sun,” Jeff said and hoisted himself off the couch and walked to the fridge for a glass of milk. Pouring the milk into the glass, he chuckled and said, “And that’s not a bad thing.”