Scorned

Author: Marina Dudenhoefer

CROSS PATCH

Merike caught him out the usual way. Why were cheating spouses so unoriginal? She’d wondered who he was messaging non-stop on his wrist com, so she’d hacked it. She was angry, of course, that he was screwing the doc’s assistant, but that wasn’t what caused her anger to grow into a fury that froze the very depths of her soul. No, it was that a lot of their com messages were about ridiculing her.

Hannes regularly made fun of what he called her autistic traits. Her shy awkwardness that she had believed he found endearing, her near photographic memory, her attention to detail – all a source of cruel parody and scathing dismissal. He was so sure his cerebral coms wife had no idea he was playing around with Yuta. His wife who could read at barely three and had memorised her book of 500 Rhymes from Around the Universe. She still recited them in the shower. She might have several doctorates and be able to hack or repair any coms system known to man, but she had no imagination, no finesse.

DRAW THE LATCH

Merike had soon discovered that their favourite bonking ground was Escape Pod 2D-497. She’d set the stage by claiming she needed to work overnight on a coms project. She had sealed the pod – literally – the carbon dioxide was no longer evacuated but re-circulated.

SIT BY THE FIRE AND SPIN

She’d hacked into Yuta’s com system and spent weeks planting false log entries. Entries that would serve to demonstrate Yuta’s fixation on Hannes, who couldn’t leave his wife for her. After all, you don’t leave the daughter of the man running the conglomerate that owns the space station you are managing. Merike had fun with creating entries that would demonstrate an unraveling psyche and a deadly obsession to keep her lover forever. One that would lead to a murder-suicide. A muricide?

TAKE A CUP AND DRINK IT UP

As a last touch, Merike added a glitch to the ventilation system so that the build-up in carbon dioxide was tripled. The coup de grace was that all adjustments were recorded as having been made from Yuta’s com system. Then she made a large pot of Earl Grey which she sipped slowly in her favourite bone china mug. They would die well fucked – not a bad way to go really. Her observations through the escape pod systems showed that Hannes possessed a sexual creativity she would never have credited him with. She looked forward to experimenting with the technician in engineering level four who had indicated he would be “up for it” if she ever felt so inclined.

THEN LET YOUR NEIGHBOURS IN

In the morning, she would return to her quarters and be surprised that she couldn’t find Hannes. She would be worried that the system did not show his life signs and that his wrist com appeared, strangely, to be in an escape pod. A convincing picture of panic, Merike would sound the alarm.

But, till then, there was time for another pot of tea.

Better Than Perfect

Author: Patrick Hueller

Peter cinches his only tie, pushes the bathroom door open, and there Laine is: standing in their bedroom, trembling with excitement.

He’s never gotten used to seeing her tremble. He’s never gotten tired of it, either.

For a moment they stand there, together, beaming at one another.

Then her trembles turn to shudders. To spasms. Her body convulses; her hair whips every which way. There’s a grinding sound, an acrid smell. Peter grabs her shoulders, reaches behind her neck. With his thumb, he flips open the flesh-colored power hatch and flicks the switch.

Laine’s body slumps against his shoulder.

He checks his watch. 7:18. If he doesn’t leave right now, he’s going to be late to the restaurant. Laine—the real, non-robotic Laine—will be less than pleased.

He grabs a pair of pliers and reaches for the robot.

#

“Where are you going?” Laine asks. “You just got here.”

“I’m not doing this anymore.” Peter flips the brochure back at her. It lands on the Caesar salad.

“What? Take classes? I just thought that digital media arts might be a good fit.”

“My current job is a good fit.”

“Fine. If you really want to spend the rest of your life fixing mechanical pirates and bears, go ahead.”

“I’m glad you’re fine with it.”

“Don’t make me sound like I’m being overbearing just for wanting more for you.”

“You mean more for you.”

“How about for us? Isn’t that why we’re here? To figure out if we can make us work again? The way you’re looking at me—sometimes I wonder if you even remember us.”

“I remember,” Peter says. “I’m not the one who forgot.”

#

He opens the door to his apartment, and there she is, just as he remembers her.

“Don’t go,” Laine says.

Her voice and movements are triggered by a motion detector. Every time the door opens, the same words come out of her mouth. Then she stands on her tiptoes and gives him a peck on the mouth. The movement makes a mechanical noise, akin to a copy machine when you put paper on the tray.

He looks at his watch. 8:42. Too early for bed. But maybe he’ll go to the bedroom anyway. All he has to do is open the door, and Laine will be there, quivering. Just like that, Peter won’t be in the bedroom anymore. Through the force of his own will he’ll be back in front of Laine’s old dormitory—only it will be her new dormitory, just as it was five years ago. That was the first time she trembled happily at the sight of him. It was inexplicable, really—absurd. There was no way he deserved that much affection. But it was also undeniably true. She really was that overjoyed to see him.

They’d only known each other a few months at the time. Happy Rails—that’s where they’d met: the amusement park. It’s where they’d had summer jobs. Anyway, it’s where she’d had a summer job; his turned out to be permanent. She went off to college and Peter visited her that first weekend. He found her standing in front of her dorm, hands and shoulders and head vibrating.

“Don’t go,” the Laine in front of him says again, after Peter releases the door and lets it close behind him. She raises up and presses her lips to his.

“I’m not,” Peter says. He scans his eyes across the apartment. In every room, in every corner, in every nook and cranny: Laine is literally there, waiting to be activated. “I’m not leaving any of you.”

The Wales of Whales

Author: Joachim Heijndermans

“And thus concludes this portion of our tour,” said Theo to his group. “If there aren’t any further questions, I suggest we all sit down for lunch and–,”

He stopped when he saw that one of the Lidilian tourists in the back had raised his hand, anxiously waving it to draw Theo’s attention.

“Yes, Mr. Ush. Do you have a question?”

“Where are the whales?” Mr. Ush asked, sounding somewhat disappointed.

“I beg your pardon?”

“The whales. I was hoping to see the whales of Wales. My family would love it if we could see some of these whales we’ve heard so much about.”

Theo chuckled. Mr. Ush was not the first off-planet tourist to ask that particular question. “There aren’t any, I’m afraid. Certainly not here in Brecon. That is sadly a misconception. But we have plenty of other examples of beautiful wildlife here in Wales. If you–,”

“Why aren’t there any whales?” asked Mr. Ush.

“Why?”

“Yes,” Mr. Ush said, rubbing his three fingers through his long strands of purple hair. “Why aren’t there whales in Wales?”

“Well, for one thing, whales are marine animals. They need vast amounts of seawater if they wanted to survive here.”

“How much?”

“Pardon?”

“How much water would be needed for the whales to be here?” asked Mr. Ush.

“Well, I suppose it would need to be completely submerged under the sea,” Theo laughed. “Can’t fit the poor blighters in the Usk river, now can we?” He was joined by the other tourists, apart from the Zuut family from Dothogan, who weren’t actually sure what a ‘whale’ was.

“So our first step would be to bring the sea here?” asked Mr. Ush.

“Well, like I said, they couldn’t live here on the land for long. I could sign you up with our bureau’s whale watching tour in Iceland, but as long as we remain above sea level, you won’t find any whales in Wales.”

“All right,” Mr. Ush. He raised his hands into the air, joined by his wife and three children. They closed their eyes and became immobile, practically taking on the appearance of statues. Theo scratched his head, not sure how to approach this. The agency’s guidelines were pretty adamant about not commenting or disrupting any of their customer’s traditions or ceremonies, no matter how strange they might be. But it seemed that even if Theo had tried, the Ush family wouldn’t have responded, having blocked all their senses off, immersed in their silent pose. The Lidilians stood there for nearly half a minute, not once breaking out of their trance, before finally letting out a collective sigh and tapping their hands together.

“Ehm, Mr. Ush. Did you have any other–?” Theo began when he felt something shooting up his leg.

A light murmur went through the ground. That murmur grew into a tremor, which in turn exploded into a quake. The tour group shrieked and panicked, scattering throughout the streets of Brecon. Theo looked to the horizon, saying nothing, for he no longer had the words to describe what he saw. He stood there, frozen in awe at the approaching wall of water. Screams came from the distance, quickly silenced by the oncoming wave. The grasslands and homes were submerged beneath the dark cold blue of both the Atlantic and the North Sea. Theo couldn’t believe it, but the ocean had come to swallow Wales.

“There, step one is finished,” said Mr. Ush. “Now that’s taken care of. What next?”

The Goalposts of Every Y

Author: Mark Joseph Kevlock

I remember a day I hadn’t remembered. I stood in the field, at the edge of where the woods began. Childhood came through the trees with the morning sunlight, at just the right angle to trigger longing — an overwhelming desire for uncluttered afternoons of play.

Have you ever felt the past brush so close that it no longer seems irretrievable?

I stand among the tree trunks and embrace this certainty: that I can return, can find my way. Something in the quality of the moment tells me so.

My mood lends itself to sorrow, to joy. I search for a doorway, in the dappled shade, along the trails of youth. I recall being here before, long, long ago. The energy of the world aligned that day. Being a child, I was immortal. But so was the world.

I pause along the way, at certain trunks, early on grown divided at their base. What particular madness causes me to insert my hand, between the goalposts of every Y, searching for an opening, in thin air?

And, oh, each disappointment, when I do not find it.

Can days repeat themselves, with a degree of cosmic accuracy sufficient to render the concept of time irrelevant?

Someone else walks through my doorway.

He comes through, instead.

A two-way passage, to tomorrow, to yesterday.

His courage proves quicker than mine. He gazes with wonder — his ever-present filter, in viewing the world.

But am I still, at this decrepit age, a thing of wonder to behold?

Shame forces my hand. I hide behind the nearest trunk. He cannot be allowed to discover his tomorrows, if all his tomorrows look like me.

Realizations flood upon me.

I don’t remember… being so brave.

This isn’t me. This is another me, possessed of an adventurousness that begs the question: what might I have accomplished, with such daring?

I grow jealous of his footsteps, into this new world; of his easy victory scored, against time, space, whatever other immutables he conquers so readily, armed only with his curiosity to guide him.

While I ponder options, he makes friends with birds. Will my world destroy him? Or is he a savior come, to instruct us with kindness?

I live, for a moment, in that moment past. I followed the rays of the sun that day, too. I found the doorway. What occurred next… did not seem real. I have since dismissed it.

He has not.

I determine to kick him back, through the goalposts, to a field where the bark has not yet hardened, with the ugliness of age.

He robs even this action, stealing my intent. With nary a backward glance, he departs, all on his own, seeking the next world to visit.

I remember him, now. I remember his worlds.

The sunlight shifts. The passage closes.

I reach only one conclusion: I am myself, after all.

Ocean’s 15 Trillion

Author: DJ Lunan

President Nugrubyev looked deep into the lens of the RTV and BBC cameras and smiled broadly.

He caught his image in a control monitor. All those hours with his hot voice coach, body language course and hours aping De Niro in front of his wife’s mirror, were worth it. He looked great!

“We are going to build an Ocean” he declared “Right here in Uzbekistan, the only sizeable double-landlocked country in the world”

Milton Abse visibly shook. Anger and anxiety blended to a scowl. He hated surprises. He was used to being the one to press, wheedle and inveigle information from his interviewees. But this put him squarely on the backfoot.

And worse, after an hour side-stepping inquiry on alleged human rights abuses of pastoral communities in the steppe, and his restless junkie son’s Lamborghini habit, Nimrod had hijacked the live transmission, and was now beaming like a chuffed cartoon cat.

This ocean vision was unequivocally odd, candidly bold, and almost certainly technically infeasible.

Milton frantically sought a follow-up question that didn’t offend.

“That….” stumbled Milton, “…that is undoubtedly a bold vision, President Nugrubyev. Bold and unprecedented, and ….doubtlessly expensive…”.

“Call me Nimrod, all my friends do!” he quipped while maintaining a semi-smirk as he sipped water from the vodka tumbler.

“But I haven’t told you our Vision yet, Milton! We are going to save the world from climate change by building our Ocean!”

Milton nodded shrewdly, suppressing the urge to smack Nimrod and scream ‘Nutter!’ so loud it would wipe his smirk clean.

“Central Asia will manage the Earth’s sea level. We will invest up to one-third of our land which is in a natural basin across five countries. We will relocate three million of our citizens. Then we will gradually bring the rising seawater, ensuring global sea levels remain stable”.

Milton’s eyebrows reached for the stars.

“We will link Indian and Arctic Oceans, by canal. Our initial Lakes will form at Daman in Afghanistan, and in Russia’s Kunvat State Nature Reserve. As the sea level rises, we will inundate the steppe in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.“

Milton remained dumbfounded. “Nimrod! An epic and bold vision! Wherever did it come from?”

Nimrod paused thoughtfully, and he hoped Presidentially.

He caressed the small amulet in his palm. One of over one hundred found across Central Asia over the past two years. Each one over 10,000 years old cut using precision micro-tools. When viewed under strong microscopes each amulet exposed the new ocean concept in relief.

“According to the Stern Review, rising sea levels will erode 5% of global GDP by 2050. Barely a generation away! In light of the savings from keeping London, New York and Tokyo dry, we feel this fifteen trillion dollar scheme is best funded through a global tax on GDP, at a mere 2% per annum, per country.”

Milton audibly gasped for the first time. It wasn’t pretty. It was replayed on BBC News each time the Asian Peace Ocean was mentioned. It was a gasp replicated in 250 Governments each year as the bill was presented.

Nimrodded became a byword for being outwitted publically by someone more devious and clever than you.

Even the amulet-makers on their voyage on the SPRFed6 adopted Nimrodded, for it matched the impending loser’s feelings during gameplay of their favourite board games.

Their planned stopover on Earth in 32.4 years for fuel, protein, and water promised to be easier and more fun. Two years later when seawater inundated the dunes on Daman basin, they partied. No more landing on tidal seawater on rough oceans!

[END]