Defying Nature

Author : Dominic Constable

Jacob stood in his garden. The sky was clear and the sun cast it’s early morning, summer rays across the long strip of grass where the clover had taken hold, it’s white flowers, scattered across the green vista. He could hear the hum of the bees and see the glowing green of the leaves.

Jacob had not slept well and felt tired. He had worked into the early morning. A few turbulent hours of sleep later he stood waiting for the rays, like the trees. Now the warm finger tips massaged his naked torso, the heat welcoming and alluring. He carefully ran his forefinger along the inside of his left wrist, triggering the implants.

Like a mass of dominos collapsing simultaneously, small, square scales erupted across his back, that he turned to the sun. The wave of solar panels, each one revealed as the skin above them became translucent, flickered orange and then blue in the sunlight as the multifaceted metal caught the solar rays. Jacob twisted his back and the solar cells moved with the stretching, flexing with the muscle, echoing the shape of his back, an integral part of his body.

The energy surged through Jacob’s form and the late night fell away. He could feel the tiredness in his aching limbs evaporate, the fuzziness in his mind clearing. He let the warmth surge through his body and couldn’t stop, the solar energy was addictive, but just when he felt like he could stand there all day the inbuilt failsafe triggered and his skin returned to normal. He signed and turned to walk back to his office. The company had paid a lot of money for him to worked extended hours.

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Don't Touch That

Author : Cheryl Wood Ruggiero

You’re right. I really should not have touched it.

I certainly know better. My mother always told me not to touch odd things I found in the woods. I told my own children the same, and my grandchildren.

But it was so shiny. And so smooth. And when I touched the green fallen leaf it lay on, it quivered like a quarter-sized pool of mercury. I had to touch it. I just had to.

And of course, it spread itself up my finger, which only looked silver plated for about half a minute.

I don’t feel any different. Haven’t I always had the smooth complexion of a young girl? Very smooth. Almost luminous. Haven’t I always been able to pour myself under leaf litter, around the fruiting stalks of fungi and rise up again into my beautiful body a mile away? Haven’t I always absorbed the dead detritus of the earth and dead skin cells of my fellow humans as I touch them? Haven’t I always been a vital part of the food chain?

You think I’ve changed? You’d rather I didn’t touch you? Oh.

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Drake Park

Author : Gray Blix

Late afternoon in Drake Park. In the red-orange light of the setting sun, he walks down the path towards the footbridge and pauses. Should he cross the river or turn and walk along the… A bicycle blur brushes by him and swoops onto the footbridge, barely missing a woman and toddler. Instinctively, before the man is out of range, he pulls a pistol from beneath his jacket and fires two quick shots. The rider careens onto the railing and falls into the river, sinking out of sight.

There had been no warning, no bell, no “coming by on your left.” What if he had turned and collided with the bike. And, and the sign said “Please walk bicycles across bridge.” And the mother and child. He had to do it. It was a righteous act, he thought to himself.

Aware of people screaming and running away and a police woman shouting, “Put the gun down or I’ll shoot,” and aware that he is more responsible than the cyclist for upsetting the perfect calm and beauty of Drake Park, he presses the button on the strap of his backpack.

An explosion of bright white light and wrenching metallic sound give way to another quiet afternoon in Drake Park. The cyclist continues across the footbridge, scattering a few more pedestrians before darting onto a side street. As the mom and toddler pass by, the child extends a lollipop in her sticky hand to offer him a lick. He smiles. It doesn’t bother him that in this reality the cyclist went unpunished, because in another he paid, he paid for…

No longer distracted, he decides to turn away from the bridge and circumnavigate the park. But something is different. There is no artillery piece. Whoever had it installed in other realities had not done so in this one. Every reality differed from the one years ago when he first tried out his invention. He leans against his favorite pine tree and remembers when there were houses on this spot, or ashes up to his armpits from a volcanic eruption, or the vacuum of space where the park and Earth should have been. He had gasped for air and pressed the button and thrown up blood. A man on a bicycle had stopped to give aid and a police woman called for EMTs.

Lost in thought, he and the park have been overtaken by evening. From his dark vantage under the tree he sees a man and woman struggling. She screams, the man wrestles her to the ground, another man intervenes, the two men grapple. He pulls his gun but can’t shoot without risking… Then, an open shot, the muzzle flashes twice. One man runs away, the other staggers.

He staggers, dropping his gun. His chest is on fire. He and the other man fall to the ground. He knows instantly what has happened. In this reality he had not invented the machine. He had seen a woman in trouble and had… the overwhelming pain pushes all other thoughts aside. He feels the warm blood gushing out, covering him, washing away his…

The other him, surrounded by people, the police woman pressing her hand on his chest to stop the bleeding, the sirens coming ever closer. The two men expire and fade away, leaving only pools of still warm blood as evidence that they ever existed on this fine summer evening in Drake Park.

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Tunnel Rats

Author : Rick Tobin

“You speak English, Mario? I don’t know German and you don’t speak French.” Emil put the phosphorescent torch down by the other resting miner. They took their break secretly, amid the dust and constant reverberation from other slaves mining the deep caverns.

“Some. Little bit. We speak here. So deep few come and they don’t burn us.” Mario coughed, looking at the dark blood splattering his tattered sleeve.

“You have it. You know it is bad.” Emil pointed at the glowing spurts reflecting the yellow glow of their lights. “They will put you in the surface if they see this. Here.” Emil rubbed the gray dust over Emil’s sleeve until the grime no longer shone under the torchlight.

“So long. These many years. So many faces in my head lost in these caves. I have tried to stay alive since the War, when they took us from the battlefield. You were there. I almost long for the smell of the trenches. At least there was water, even in the bombardments. There was horror, but no torture. None of these monsters driving us like cattle; only the madness of men, Earth men, to destroy us.”

“I heard from a crew in the cross tunnels that someone was on the surface and saw a flash on the Earth. Somewhere in the orient. Maybe a volcano, but it was bright as day. Maybe another war. We saw some new faces in the haulers. They had the new stare. Remember that, when we first were captured?”

Mario nodded, still catching his breath in his shattered lungs. The cloying humidity and high oxygen content pumped through the diggings ate away his stamina. The dizziness would return before the end of his shift. He would only think about lifting his pick against the walls, not knowing if he was actually lifting anything. That was all that was left…just imagining the movement to prevent the burning prods from the overseers.

“Mario, someday they will know.”

“Who?” Mario whispered.

“Us…those left behind. They will come here someday and find out the Moon is a slave market and that this horrible place is hollow. They will feel the blasting. They will see the lights in the craters and the ships bringing fresh workers here. Someday.”

The tattered men pushed up as the hum of an overseer patrol cart came near, pushing them to continued until they would be jettisoned on the dark side.

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A New Beginning

Author : Nick Sousa

My senses returned to me slowly as I took stock of my surroundings.

“We’ve been watching, and waiting for quite some time. Your last day on earth has come and passed. You’re safe now, and you will never have to return to earth ever again. Take some time to familiarize yourself with your living quarters. We will return later.”

My body began to fill with warmth, and a collage of information appeared before me. This was a bit startling, but over time it became obvious that the room I existed within was modeling itself based on my own thought patterns.

After a bit of introspection, I set my sights on deepening my understanding of where I existed in relation to planet earth. Instantly, the borders of the room became transparent and a stunning array of galaxies appeared. The heads up display embedded within my body immediately outfitted each star system with a layered view of the relevant data available to me.

The focal point of my observation became magnified multiple times over until my scope of vision was assaulted with a bird’s eye view of planet earth. As my disgust registered itself, the apparition disassembled itself into a scattered array of billions of individual pieces. As the image faded away, a precise feeling of euphoria washed over me; planet earth was no more.

It was at that moment that I realized I was able to adjust the extent to which gravity kept my body tethered to the surface of the room. The feeling of escaping the bonds of gravity added an excellent complement to the joy that one naturally experiences after being freed from imprisonment. Earth’s influence was rapidly diminishing, and what replaced it was immeasurable.

I folded by body into a traditional lotus posture and began to silently reflect. The stress started to melt away, and what remained was a boundless sense of appreciation. Meditating in zero gravity was infinitely more pleasing than expected. I lost all sense of time, enveloped in the awareness that I would never be forced to interact with a human being ever again.

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Help Wanted

Author : Suzanne Borchers

“Hey, Cuz, why are you sitting on that refuse pile?” George5 glided by snickering. “Thought you were high end, not dead end!”

Eddie kicked at the garbage beneath him. He couldn’t be obsolete! He could still warm and cool his skin with just a thought.

He should have had two more years before the luxury spa was renovated. He had enjoyed regulating the restoration/whirlpool. He had enjoyed the soothing waves of the water mixed with the smiles of the bathers. He had been necessary. An Edward450 bot needed to be of service.

Eddie wasn’t ready to be recycled. He’d have to find something new. Eddie called, “Hear about any good jobs?” Even though Georgi5 was already down the alley at the corner, Eddie could hear his derisive laugh.

“My hands can still massage human muscles into relaxation,” Eddie mused. “I’m going back to my job at the Yoga to Go Studio.” After all, they knew he was hardworking. Then he remembered that it had been razed for a fast food chicklet joint.

Eddie wished he could frown. He kicked the pile beneath him.

It was then Eddie noticed an old ragged man writing on a cloth. The man slowly limped past shivering. His clothes were of light material, and he wore no hat or gloves in the freezing air. Eddie didn’t take his orb from the shaky form until a piece of rag drifted toward him on the wind. He pulled it off his stained metallic leg to read its handwritten words.

There once was a bot in my alley
Who certainly needed a pally
So join with me bot
You’re in a poor spot
The garbage ship’s here so don’t dally.

Eddie looked at the man who had turned to stare back at him. He heard the recycle ship rumbling behind him, the sound getting louder.

“You coming?” The ragged fellow turned and began to shuffle away.

“Wait!” Eddie was an intelligent bot and knew he only had seconds. He jumped from the pile and landed on his feet.

Later that evening, Eddie and Charles sat together inside a rickety box of piled metallic pieces tied together with strips of rags. Eddie emitted warmth and light into the space. Charles scribbled on another cloth, occasionally stopping to gnaw on a chicklet bone and take a swig from an ancient flask.

Charles sniffed then showed the cloth to Eddie.

There once was a ragged old man
Who prayed to his god for a plan
To keep him alive
And help him survive
So he sent a fantastic tin can.

Eddie wished he could smile.

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