Divine Wine

Author : James Machell

Having sampled manna, which fell from Heaven and was enjoyed by Moses in the desert, picked dates from a batch given to the Prophet Mohammed, Derek Lockerby, restaurant critic, was determined to taste the wine, transformed after the wedding at Cana.

His time machine worked by Einstein’s principle of teleportation, whereby the fourth dimension could be crossed in a manner similar to making two dots on a sheet of paper, then folding it so they reach each other. It was also invisible, covered in malleable paint, and seeing as Jesus might have inherited his father’s all-seeing eyes, Lockerby parked half a mile away from the festivities. This allowed him to enjoy the summer, a sensation ruined by global warming in his own time. Many heads turned as the average height in the year 3000 was 6”6’, and though Lockerby was considered short in his own time, he was one of the tallest people among the ancients.

‘Come see the Messiah!’ yelled a crier, at the end of the street. ‘It’s the party of the decade!’ Lockerby, whose Aramaic was shaky, only understood the first part and was surprised when many people went in the same direction as him, most with their own cup or gourd.

Among the crowd, gathered around the largest synagogue in Galilee (illustrious white spires and the star of David above the door), was a woman dressed in blue, with the fairest skin of anybody there. She was speaking with another woman who was probably the bride, and afraid to interrupt the Virgin Mary’s conversation, Lockerby went to catch a glimpse of Jesus.

Everyone, he heard someone say, was centered around a large barrel, which Jesus dispensed wine from so people were joining the crowd at the same rate as others were leaving with their drinks. Lockerby only had a flask in his bag and having unscrewed the top, decided that if anyone asked, he would pretend it was a metal cup from Canaan.

Summer heat became uncomfortable when surrounded by the thirsty mass, who seemed more interested in free wine than seeing Jesus, and he wondered whether it was different seeing the son of God when you had the retrospect of history. His heart started to beat uncontrollably because Christianity was the religion he’d been raised in and after breaking a fast with Buddha, and feasting at Diwali with the Dalai Lama, Lockerby already knew the pleasures of dining with the enlightened figures of other cultures, and felt overwhelmed by the prospect of confronting the hero of his traditions.

Now sweaty, Lockerby was suddenly in front of the barrel with his flask ready. Dark, fruity liquid was being scooped into cups by a man, fair like Mary, who had long hair and a short beard.

‘Here you go Derek,’ he said, pouring some into his container, and noticing the Starbucks logo, smiled and added, ‘you won’t be getting that kind of coffee round here.’ Jesus continued serving and Lockerby stumbled back into the open, amazed. He must be the Messiah, Lockerby concluded. How else could he recognize the brands of the future? Feeling as though the greatest of all mysteries had been conquered, Lockerby took a celebratory sip and found it more brawny than elegant, reminding him of the cheap wine cordial, invented when he was a boy, and now available in all good 31st century stores.

Just Be Yourself

Author : Joseph Lyons

“Good morning Mr…Ogden. I’m nurse Shaw, I’ll be your mod operator today. What can I do for you?”

“I’m here for my girlfriend.”

“Ok, perhaps I can interest you in the sensitivity package.”

“No, no, no, no thank you. She says I’m sensitive enough. I was hoping to be a little more, ahem, assertive.”

“I see. That’s very common in here Mr Ogden. Here is our standard waiver. If you’d like to sign it then simply recline your seat and we’ll begin.”

***

“There we are. How do you feel?”

“The same. Did it work?”

“I’m sure you’ll find out when the situation arises Mr Ogden.”

“Oh, yes, I’m sure. Thank you.”

“Goodbye Mr Ogden.”

***

“Hello again Mr Ogden.”

“Please, Nathan.”

“Well, Nathan, what can I do for you today?”

“I was hoping you could make me more talkative this time.”

“That’s not specifically something we can do. I can up your extrovert levels if you like?”

“I’d like that.”

“Would you, or would your girlfriend? Sorry, I know its very personal.”

“Its fine. She’s paying for it.”

“Well, if you’re sure, you remember the standard waiver I’m sure.”

“Yes, thank you.”

***

“We must stop meeting like this Nathan.”

“Ha.”

“No, seriously. This has to be enough. This is your seventh visit in as many weeks. Is she really worth it?”

“She is a terrific human being who I love whole heartedly. This goddess that walks the earth is the only one for me Jenny.”

“May have overdone it on the doting mod last time.”

“Not at all. You only ever do the finest job. You have made each and every one of my experiences here a genuine pleasure. You’re a credit to this establishment and to health givers everywhere.”

“Flattery mod-ing will get you nowhere.”

“My apologies.”

“Its fine, its not your fault. Barely you at all anymore really. Oh well, what will it be today?”

“My good lady would like me to be more selfless, giving.”

“Would she now?”

“Indeed.”

“Well, you know the drill, sign here and we’ll go ahead.”

“This doesn’t look like the usual form.”

“Do as you’re told please.”

“Yes, of course.”

***

“Here is your coffee Jenny.”

“Oh, thank you Alison.”

“Whats going on with this guy? Professional or personal?”

“Personal. Girlfriend.”

“Shocker. My goodness, this is his seventh mod.”

“Something like that. Shame, he seemed like such a nice guy the first few times we met.”

***

“Nathan, how are you feeling?”

“Good.”

“Ok, well, hopefully we won’t see you again.”

“Goodbye Jenny, Miss.”

“What did you do?”

“What makes you think I did anything?”

“The half smug, half guilty look on your face.”

“I may have reset him to factory setting. Although I did let him keep his assertiveness…”

“And?”

“Removed his eagerness to please. Lets see how his girlfriend likes that.”

“You are going to be in so much trouble.”

The Sphere

Author : J.D. Rice

The last camel died at dawn. Doctor Peterson and the other survivors worked quickly to salvage what meat they could from the corpse, then pressed on into the desert. Unending waves of sand rose and fell ahead of them, ripples of heat pulsing from the surface as the sun rose higher in the sky. At their backs, a massive, city-sized metallic sphere hovered miles above, looking down over the entire region.

“Three days before it overtakes us,” Mary, Doctor Peterson’s assistant, said as the sun reached its apex. “Assuming our supplies lasts that long.”

Two of the other survivors, a couple whose names Peterson couldn’t remember, urged each other on with increasingly desperate voices. They had offered no objection when Peterson suggested stealing the camels from the last village. Doing so had saved the lives of their tiny group but had also doomed the villagers to a fate worse than death.

“Is there anything ahead of us on the map?” Peterson asked, trying to forget the faces of those he had abandoned.

“A fueling station, with maybe a few homes nearby for attendants, but that’s all.”

“Maybe someone abandoned a car.”

He knew it was hopeful thinking. Even if a car had been left at the fueling station, the Spheres had bombarded the Earth with so much electromagnetic radiation that not even Peterson’s watch worked anymore. He couldn’t dream they’d find a car old enough to run without an onboard computer.

Mary had brought up an entirely different problem as well: their supplies. Almost everything they’d taken from the village was gone, and the camel meat would only last so long in this heat. Even if their water stores held out, the weakness from malnutrition would slow them down. And that meant being taken by the Sphere.

On the group trudged, throughout the day and into the night, the Sphere drifting closer all the while. Mary suggested more than once that they might turn east or west, head deeper into the desert and out of the Sphere’s course. But the maps said there was nothing in either direction. Just sand, sunlight, and death. If they didn’t stick to the trail, all hope would be lost.

Peterson kept thinking about the children in the village. Had the Sphere overtaken them by now? Had they screamed as they were pulled from their beds by an unseen force? Did they cry for their parents as they were lifted into the sky and melted into the body of the sphere, their physical matter converted into that strange, floating mass? Peterson had seen the recordings. Watched live as cameramen were caught in the disaster. It made his stomach turn.

No one in the group slept well that night, their tired and hungry bodies protesting in the face of oblivion. Before sunrise they took stock of their food and found the camel meat had gone rotten. They marched on anyways.

Mary lagged behind the rest of the group, slowing them down. The Sphere was getting closer, and all Peterson could think was that if they just left Mary behind, he might live another few hours. She was his only friend in the world, and he would trade her away for a few extra hours of misery.

On the second night, Peterson waited for the others to fall into fitful sleep. Then he went looking for a knife. The young couple from the city had brought one along as a precaution, thinking they might fend off scavengers.

Finding the pair curled up together at the bottom of the next dune, Peterson carefully pulled the knife from the husband’s belt, his surgeon’s hands allowing him to deftly work the hooks without making a sound. The deed done, he marched his way back up another dune, away from his party, and found the Sphere staring down at him from the sky, less than a day behind them.

“What do you want from us?” he whispered. “What have we done to anger you?”

The Sphere did not answer.

Peterson collapsed at the top of the dune, his legs failing him as the slow moving Sphere drew closer. He looked down at the knife in his hand, unsure what he meant to do with it. Kill himself? Kill Mary so he could have his few extra hours of life? Charge at the Sphere like a madman and let himself be absorbed?

He couldn’t bring himself to do any of those things.

With no strength left, Peterson let himself drift into an uneasy sleep. Perhaps the Sphere would overtake them in the night, giving them a painless death. Or maybe they would die in the desert, falling one by one just as the camels had. In either case, they would all share the same fate – strangers and friends made companions at the end of the world.

If humanity must die, they may as well do it together.

Speed Dating

Author : Joseph Lyons

“Hi, I’m Evan.” I introduce myself to the first lady to sit opposite me.

“Clarissa.” We shake, left handed so she can purposefully check my bio-clock. She’s nice enough to make polite small talk for the duration. Shame she has no interest I think as she walks away, she was cute.

A stern middle aged woman next.

“Evan.” I offer.

“Trixie.” The name and the outfit don’t match. “Don’t.” She says, obviously used to some reaction. I quickly realize small talk isn’t an option and struggle toward a meaningful question. She beats me to it.

“Why can’t you find love?” Holy shit, intimidating much?

“I haven’t met the right woman.”

She smells a lie. “How much time you got?”

“All night if need be.”

“You look toned, you exercise?” I nod. “Why?” She’s slim, same as everyone else. That’s what a healthy diet but no exercise will do for you. “You have some disease that means you must?”

“No. I enjoy how it makes me look.”

“That’s ridiculous. You can’t add heartbeats you know, only subtract.”

She grabs my arm to check the wrist display.

“55 years, are you joking? I have 83 and I’m planning for the long term. You’re not helping yourself, waster.”

“You’re right, no more wasting. Take your frail, smoothie chugging lack of an ass elsewhere.”

That’s roughly how it goes. The nearest potential partner has at least 15 years on me and that’s what it boils down to.

I check my display between humiliations, less than a billion heartbeats left.

“Hi, I’m Evan.”

“Rough night Evan?”

“So far.”

“Could get rougher if you like.” Playful or threatening, I can’t decide.

“And you are?”

“Tired of meeting losers.”

“Who has time for it?”

“I certainly don’t. I only started with 65 years.”

“Started with?”

“I’m down to 62.”

“How the hell did you do that?” Having said that, I knocked mine down by about a month just by exercising.

“Chocolate, red meat, exercise, overly athletic sex, sky diving. And you?”

“55 years actually.” And I thought I was daring.

“Huh, so I guess you have to live fast too.”

“I try to keep a balance mostly. Gotta try and make 55 after all. Doctors said a heart attack or stroke is likely from 48 onwards.

“Gives you 20 or so years to really go at it.”

“Sure.”

“You’re cute. And I do like the athletic look you’re rocking. Better than those salad munching skinny dudes anyway.”

“Thanks.”

“Let me be forward. I want to live a great life. Existing has never been enough. Theres nothing quite like that feeling of sending your heart rate into the red zone. So, how about this, you knock 30 seconds off my life and we’ll leave right now. You can spend the next 20 years trying to get my life expectancy down near yours.”

I don’t hesitate. Beautiful, smart, strong, and loving life. I underhook an arm and spin her face up onto the table to kiss her. I learned that from an old Spiderman movie. My heart explodes, I see stars and the butterflies attack in droves. And the kiss goes on. She’s blushing, shocked. Guess its time to see if she backs it up.

Our eyes lock before she sits up and adjusts her hair. She stands then throws herself at me and we kiss again.

“Lets get out of here.” She whispers into my ear. I don’t dare check how many beats I have left as I grab her hand and make for the door.

A Wasp’s Sting

Author : Kate Runnels

Issa steered the wasp closer to the distant speck in the sky. A flash of light off metal had sparked her attention. It was an Airship, but whose?

Dodoma City hadn’t had a good haul in months. They wouldn’t tangle with a Royalty cruiser. But if it was an independent or one from an unaligned aircity, well, those cities left on the ocean surface like Dodoma would take their fair share.

Issa swooped closer on her one man wasp scout ship. She didn’t see any markings associated with the Royalty and grinned into the wind as she rocked the wasp first one way and then back, signalling to the other scouts she’d found something. She then radioed in to the city to send reinforcements and gave her coordinates and estimated speed.

Two others formed up with her and they buzzed the airship to gauge its response, but there was no one manning the guns. Which means they were caught woefully unprepared or were undermanned. All the better for us, Issa thought.

She signaled again and then the three landed near the engine room near the aft – on one of the landing decks, starboard side. Still no response. Good. if they took the engine room they had the captain by the balls and then their reinforcements could land unhindered. The ship would be there’s and more importantly, the cargo.

Each wasp settled lightly. They lashed them to the deck before entering into the engine room. Again, there was no one. Out of the wind, the room hummed pleasantly, smelling of oil and ozone. Knives in hand, they relaxed slightly when nothing happened.

Bay locked the hatches while Lekan studied the communications tubes near the front. Issa looked around the room. She peered down the crankshaft room into darkness, before turning back.

“What a haul,” said Lekan.

“How long until reinforcements?” she didn’t smile back.

“About five minutes.”

“I think we can hold off until then.” Suddenly an arm came around her neck from behind as the other arm grabbed her knife hand.”Ahk.”

Lekun and Bay turned at the noise. She struggled against the hand moving her knife upwards without her control. She fought the grip, but the knife moved closer to her face, then she realized why. It was a metallic arm. “Abomination,” she managed, still fighting with the hand to slow the knife’s advance. But it was like struggling against the tide, it came on inevitably.

“This abomination will kill you if you don’t tell the others to open the hatches, now!”

Issa nodded, the arm still around her throat. Bay released the lock and the hatch opened immediately with several of the crew entering and quickly disarming the three. Issa finally had a good look at her captor, the abomination of flesh and metal. Issa clenched her teeth. She couldn’t believe it, shame and anger filled her. To be captured by a young girl!

“Nicely done, Torque,” said the one with captains tabs on the collar. He was a good looking oriental, not much older than Issa. “you’ve saved us again. Mel, forty five degrees to port and max thrust. Let’s be away before more arrive.”

“Aye, Captain.”

But Issa only had eyes on the girl. She now had a name to go with the face. Torque.

Torque, you abomination, I will have my revenge.