Meeting of the Minds

Author : Bob Newbell

The tiny spacecraft skimmed the atmosphere of the turquoise world that orbited Tau Ceti. When the ship had completed its aerobraking maneuver, a small sphere emerged from it and plunged toward the planet’s surface. The sphere grew larger and became buoyant, sailing silently through the air as it slowly descended. At last, the sphere touched the great global ocean and burst like a soap bubble, depositing its pilot into the water. The jellyfish-like entity intertwined its tentacles with a half-dozen of the trillions of similar creatures that floated in the planetary sea.

In a matter of minutes, everything the organism had learned about the crew of the small alien vehicle that now orbited its planet was disseminated to the composite-mind made up of the legions of gelatinous marine animals that drifted across the waves of the world.

Curious, these humans, the aggregate-consciousness thought to itself.

Self, as the collective mind regarded itself, had, of course, encountered visitors from other worlds before. As recently as 10 million years ago a most hospitable species from near the center of the galaxy had paid a visit. But they had been more like Self: a multitude of brown, leathery arthropods that formed a single group-intelligence. These humans were altogether different.

“We come in peace and friendship representing all the peoples of Earth,” one of the humans had said.

The translation organs had rendered the human’s strange atmospheric vibration-communication comprehensible. But it had noted that the message seemed to originate entirely from a single human. The encounter ship’s sensor organs had detected no cognitive plexus formed by the crew.

Even while in orbit, the appendage that had met the aliens was still in at least limited communion with Self through the ship’s bioluminescence organ. The idea of this bizarre compartmentalization rippled across continent-sized clusters of bodies as Self tried unsuccessfully to comprehend this odd, fragmented species.

The amalgamated mind was disturbed by its lack of understanding. What could be done? The question electrochemically knifed across the surface of the world. Almost instantly, the only viable answer followed.

* * *

Self awoke on the human ship, waking being itself a novel and unsettling experience as it had never before slept. But it was not Self. The creature had Self’s memories, albeit in a strangely condensed and abbreviated form. Eight of the animal’s tentacles had been fused into two jointed struts, each strut comprised of four tentacles. It found it could stand upright on them and ambulate. Its remaining two tentacles remained unaltered so as to be useful as manipulators.

“Are you okay?” asked one of the humans. Not-Self was taken aback not only by the fact that it understood what the alien had said but that it had heard it speak. The Tau Ceti jellyfish had been biologically retrofitted with a tympanic membrane.

“The…rest of you down on the planet said you might be confused at first,” the human continued. “It said it wanted to understand us and that the only way it could was by sending an ‘appendage’ to live with us.”

Not-Self was again surprised when it discovered it had a speech organ and was fluent in the alien tongue. “I…am…to…accompany…you.” It was disconcerting to hear its thoughts transformed into acoustic modulations. And the awkwardness of it would never entirely abate in the bewildering centuries that passed as it lived and worked among the disassociated creatures from Earth.

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Author : Kenny A Chaffin

Joy was shunned by society. She chose therefore to spend much her time alone; in her room, in her cubicle at work, listening to music on the bus, eyes downcast to avoid attention or conversation.

For her mother it was a difficult pregnancy with morning sickness, back and pelvic pain, near miscarriages and bedrest which pushed her to the brink. When the nurse brought Joy in for her first feeding her mother said, “This is not my child,” and turned away. Despite reassurances from the hospital staff she refused to accept that Joy was hers. They never bonded. Joy was provided for, but there was no love.

In childhood, even before being ostracized by her classmates Joy began creating elaborate scenarios, languages, people and societies in her mind. She saw them, felt them, touched them, and even smelled them. To her they were more real than life. She felt as if it was where she belonged. There were multitudes of detail in her mind. The blue-green grass was thick lush. The stucco-like textured walls of all the buildings were something soft instead of hard and caused a tingling in her palms when pressed against them. The people there were nice and friendly. They accepted one another, relied upon one another, helped one another something she’d never really experienced. The languages they spoke were elaborate and detailed with nuances of meaning that were perfectly clear to her. Nothing like the crude English she had to speak in real life. Joy never told anyone of these wonders in her mind, never spoke of then, never wrote of them, not even in the detailed daily journals she had kept since teaching herself to write at age four.

When the aliens approached Joy knew it before anyone. It was weeks later that the president announced on national TV the approach of an interstellar ship. He said they were attempting to communicate with the ship but were so far were unsuccessful. The news media played a clip of the transmission and Joy immediately knew it said, “We come in peace.” She didn’t tell anyone.

Joy knew they would be landing in western Wyoming. She got in her old beaten up car and drove, hoping to make it, hoping to meet the aliens. She drove through the night and the entire next day to reach the spot where she knew they would be landing. It was nothing more than a simple crossroads of two state highways outside of Big Piney.

They landed silently and slowly a few hundred feet from her car with no smoke, fire or rockets. She loved them even before they lowered a ladder and two of them in protective suits clambered down it to the Earth. Joy approached and spoke to them in their own language. “Welcome to Earth. We are pleased to have you.” The larger of the two aliens spoke, its voice muffled by the suit. “Thank you. We come in peace.” Joy was at a loss for what to say next. The alien filled the silence, “We would like to enjoy your company, to have you join us.”

“Yes. Of course,” Joy said.

They climbed the ladder into the ship and were gone long before the F-16s arrived.


The Hair of Nazareth

Author : Beck Dacus

The year is twenty – twenty seven. An archaeologist squats in the dirt, staring stupidly at a hair pinched between her fingers. An outside observer would have no idea that she was marveling at her way to bridge science and religion.

For years she had felt like she was forced to choose between science and religion. That the two would never agree. She was told that evolution was a bunch of lies spread by the devil, despite the fact that all the pieces fit perfectly. She was told that the universe had been spontaneously made, despite the fact that it was beautiful and logical in a way she felt only an intelligence could design. They were like two parents that couldn’t stop fighting, and she just wanted them to compromise and accept her.

And this could be the key to it. This hair, buried in Nazareth, would end the argument. There would be a second coming, but it would not be accomplished by magic. Jesus would return through cloning.

The Bible had been correct. Jesus would return from the dead. She would take him to America first, and he would circle the globe in that direction. He would come from the east, no matter where you were.

There was the matter of Judgement Day, as that would most likely not happen. But much of the Old Testament would come to be realized. And it would be accomplished using science. He would not magically return from the heavens, as predicted. He would be brought back using an orderly, proven procedure. He wouldn’t remember anything from the year zero, either.

The perfect compromise. The two would agree, and she could live in peace. If the involved parties weren’t too stubborn.

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One Man’s Trash …

Author : Edward D. Thompson (edacious)

It’s just like hunting, Marcus thought, as he scanned the past at double speed. Know where the good spots are, know how to watch and wait, and mostly, it was just dumb luck. He let himself go, drifting up the current of the past, waiting, watching.

Silva’s hungry whimpering only distracted him for a moment. Poor Sil, it was hardest on the youngest. “I know, Sil, I know,” he whispered to himself. “I haven’t found a good catch for a few days. One’s coming soon, I promise. I won’t let any of you starve.”

He avoided the more crowded focus spots, the landfills, the strip malls, the fairgrounds. Those would be picked over, and the temporal dampers wouldn’t let you harvest too much from one place. Too much chance of changing the present, they said. He didn’t see what would be so bad about that.

If anyone glanced out the begrimed windows, they’d see the present in all its over-harvested, dustbowl, sun-bleached-skeletons-of-the-starved glory. It could use a little changing. But he was in no position to argue; he was lucky to have the transporter at all. You did what you could to survive.

A small town, not too small. A few modest but busy eateries. He slowed around a promising site. And there! He scrolled back to watch the moment again, then forward to make sure no one else grabbed the stuff. Nope, it wouldn’t be missed. Just a little less waste in their already overfull landfills.

He scrolled by again, half speed. There was the moment when they decided to toss them. Then the moment when an employee dumped the trash. Marcus locked in on the boxes, but didn’t retrieve them. Not just yet. He skimmed forward slightly. There was the moment the restaurant closed. He tried not to think about the hefty people making their way out of the building. So much. They had so much and they just threw most of it out! Now, no one was around. He initiated the transfer, pacing impatiently as the unit teleported the target from the past to the pad. In the past, the boxes winked out of existence instantaneously; on his end it would take a while for them to rematerialize. He watched Silva and the other children, lost in the fitful, restless sleep of the hungry, and smiled sadly when the first whiff of hot meat and bread wafted through the room and he heard stomachs growl even before they woke.

And there they were. Six flat boxes, steaming slightly in the cold air. He waved the kids into the dining area. They knew better than to rush him, no matter how hungry they were. Slowly he slipped the top box out of the unit and looked over the contents. One medium supreme pizza with some moldy lettuce stuck to one side. Could be worse. He smiled, they’d feast tonight! And tomorrow, he’d resume the hunt.

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Author : Rick Tobin

“Get down!” Carol yanked private Pennington to the ground below low walls of disintegrating bricks. Enemy snipers pinned them.

“Sorry Captain. Just wanted a look.”

Pennington stared at his commander. The ship’s cook was learning the game. An alien shootout in a California town was new.

Carol did a team perimeter search. Six still huddled below withering attacks.

“Just stay low. I’ll call air support…” She halted. Pennington disappeared below her. He faded, peacefully, without distress. The game screen froze. Her remaining team stopped playing. There was no cry of sorrow. It was the price of losing a member in cryosleep.

The Company psychiatrists invented cryosleep mind sharing to prevent deep-space ‘cold insanity’ that was devastating a third in long suspensions; however, they misreported the powerful side effects as crews realized chamber failures during sharing.

Carol shook it off, excising her demons, but her remaining team disintegrated, one by one. Horrified, she hurried back to the commander’s control center for hibernation. Her fingers pushed through the panel. She dissipated into dull shadows.

“What…where am I?” She was confused while acclimating to new views. She was slipping gently away from the shredded star ship Clemens, wrenching in meteorite hail. The titanium hull sparked as it turned and twisted. A kilometer away, Carol watched flashes of oxygen reach the fusion drives hydrogen recyclers. Explosive light and pressure waves raced through her with no effect. There remained six rotating orbs nearby, within a larger glow, all drifting like her toward the double star in an unfamiliar system. The spheres rotated and trembled, sometimes approaching each other; other times drifting apart, displaying bright colors, and then regrouping. Carol felt their pull but could not discern how to reach them. She had no sense of her own body or any means to move. She thought about Pennington and his final, peaceful stare. Suddenly, she was next to one of the shimmering bubbles.

“Didn’t have any beliefs beyond life, did you, Carol?” She heard Pennington’s question clearly. It was disturbing. “No, don’t be afraid. We are still us, or at least a core of us, whatever that is. Is this my soul? Maybe we are ghosts, but we exist, even if our bodies didn’t make it home.”

“So this is it? We just drift out here, in a vacuum, forever, with no purpose? I’d rather have pure darkness. Where is all this extra light originating?” Carol felt anger replacing her fear. “This is the hell idiots believe in. This is the ultimate punishment. We’ll never see Earth again.”

“No, Carol.” A deep voice, resonant, sweet and overpowering entered her. “We are here. Our joy is your return to the colony of souls, as we exist to assist all life traveling throughout this solar system. We collect the disembodied spirits of consciousness and then reunite them with the all knowing and all loving.”

“Pennington, did you hear that?” Carol saw the other globes about her glide behind her toward a fuzzy, lustrous patch of light. It was a comet hurtling past them to the twin stars.

“I hear it, Carol, and see the beautiful gathering on its surface?”

“Every system works the same,” continued the gentle voice. “Every star is connected in the web of creation. Listen to others sing of their returning.” Carol heard soothing choruses of a million life forms she now gathered with for her soul’s continuing evolution.

“You will enter the star incubator, returning to your system of origin through the multiverse threadways. We, the shining ones, are collectors— guides. We retrieve consciousness back to source creators of every system. Welcome home.”

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