Keep Them Dying

Author : Townsend Wright

They came when I was young. Crash landed, really. Science said it was a great discovery, but they couldn’t live in our air. But they could do something to their own DNA, made their offspring suited to earth. Big bug things, we started calling them figits. They latched to our buildings and scampered through our streets. We used bullets but they just adapted again, gave their young a hard shell. So we used fire. Fire retardant shells. Gas. Learned to breathe it. Chainsaw. Repair cuts in themselves. We ended up switching methods every so often just to keep them dying.

One day I’m walking with my young son and stop in a crowd to watch a figit extermination. It’s fire month. Ugly-ass thing, big as a car, latched to an office building, squirming, screeching in the flames. My boy looks up at me.

“Daddy,” he says, “what did the figits ever do to us that made us want to kill ’em so bad?” I looked down at him. So did the folks next to us, and behind us, and in front of us. Whispers spread his question through the crowd and all conversation stops. One by one all heads turned his way, even the exterminators stopped to look and the figit’s screaming stopped. In the dead silence my boy still looks to me.

Nobody has an answer.

 

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An Explanation

Author : Thomas Desrochers

People don’t want to feel anymore, not beyond petty happiness. They don’t read to expand their minds or learn or come across the emotional depth that real art brings about. People read their shallow books about overcoming some petty obstacle, about being special, about fucking some person because that’s what love is about after all; They watch their holograms filled with sex and violence and childish plots. They listen to music that has fewer different notes in it than I have when I speak one damn sentence. Dancing is just sex with clothes on. Paintings and sculptures are just a shade of vomit passed off as beauty.

Nobody appreciates art any more. Nobody will go and seek out art for the enjoyment of it, for the sake of expanding horizons. We care more about establishing colonies than we do about aesthetics. Do we even have a culture worth spreading any more? Where does that leave the artists of the world?

Skyl bit the bullet last week. He tried to, at least, but you can’t really bite something that’s going six hundred meters a second. He only succeeded in shattering the back of his throat and the base of his spine, the poor idiot. He was in a coma until an hour ago. He’ll be six feet under in another hour.

Coralee went a month ago. She drank herself to death on 160-proof liquor, and I don’t think I really blame her. Her last act was to vomit into a seven hundred year old Stradivarius, just to make a point. She was right when she argued with me and said that people would mourn the loss of the person more than the violin. And really, they wouldn’t miss the person at all, so what was the point any more?

My wife. She died a year ago. She was selling her paintings on the street, pieces that rivaled what now collect dust in the Louvre. A man took a disliking to her taking up street space and stabbed her, then set fire to her and her paintings. The authorities said he was mentally ill and there was nothing to do for it. I went by his house last week. He’s still there. She was just an artist after all.

Why am I telling you this? Easy. I want you to have context, to know why I am going to do what I am about to do. I want you to understand the emotions behind the piece of art that you are about to become. Nobody will be able to ignore you – or me.

The muscle relaxants have well and truly kicked in by now, though I’m sure you noticed that, just like I’m sure you noticed the mirror above you and the fact that you are completely naked. I hope you don’t mind the lights – I need them so that I can see your skin while I work.

It wasn’t hard to get ahold of a good supply of razor blades, and while you slept I traced out everything that needs doing. You are going to be beautiful. You are going to be absolutely beautiful.

Be happy, be happy like me. You are the canvass, I am the artist, and we are going to make history. We are going to bring art back to the people, make them see again what they are missing.

I truly am sorry that I’ll have to take your eyes out, though. They’re very pretty, but I can’t have you turning me in to the authorities. That wouldn’t do at all. No, not at all.

 

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The Sound of Silence

Author : Desmond Hussey

“Hello darkness, my old friend.
I’ve come to talk with you again.
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains,
Within the sound of silence.”
– Simon and Garfunkel

I awake from dreams about a person I once knew. Was it me? Opening my “eyes”, the brilliance of a new day assaults my senses, but it’s not the light of home. I’m 7,600 light years from my birthplace and it’s not one sun but two which dazzles my vision. I’m looking at Eta Carinae, a binary solar system possessing the largest known sun in the Milky Way galaxy, EC-A; a hundred solar masses and five hundred times brighter than Sol.

Blinking, I switch filters, shifting into the cooler ultraviolet range. This is as natural to me now as squinting once was. My brain, (the only real thing I’ve left that I can call my own), communicates via a synthetic nervous system to sensory units capable of 360 degree vision and can peer deep into all spectrums of light.

My “ears” hear radio waves like they once heard sound. When I first left Earth, I thrilled at the illusion of traveling back in time as I moved through (slightly Doppler shifted) radio signals broadcast since the dawn of radio. It was comforting to relive those transmissions from bygone ages of wars, musical genres and radio plays, but I never felt more alone than the moment I crossed the threshold of Earth’s first broadcast. What a strange form of resurrection it is, hearing Hienrich Hertze a thousand years after his death, a billion miles from home. When his historic oscillations cut silent, replaced by the cold, alien, inscrutable frequencies of space, I knew that I was truly alone. It took ages to comprehend the seemingly random and chaotic signals filling the void. But now, I understand the language of space as easily as a conversation in a crowded room. The rotations of suns are heartbeats to me now, pulsars, like the ticking of clocks. When I listen carefully, I can even hear the faint music of creation.

Moving through the Homunculus Nebula, twin billowing clouds of celestial dust blown from EC-A in one of its false supernova’s, my “tongue” begins to taste the bitter tang of iron and nickel, my “nose” detects the sweet aroma of oxygen and hydrogen. I compare the sensation to the sharp effervescence of a deep, red wine aged in oak barrels. Don’t ask me why.

A million units of data are unconsciously recorded and categorized as I’m caught in the gravity well of the massive binary system. It’s stored within my “memory”, remotely accessible by my Earth bound research team even should I “die” out here. I only wish I could remember more of my own memories… before the transplant. Only in the long dream, as I travel the vast gulfs of space to my destinations can I glimpse fragments of my terrestrial life, but it’s like gazing into a shaken snow globe full of shadows. The doctors told me this was to protect me from madness. I have no idea if they’re right, but I have an ache, an inexplicable emptiness I yearn to fill.

I feel gravity’s grip as I carefully maneuver my sleek, mirrored, oblong “body” into a trajectory which will make the best use of the extremely high gravity, one that will sling me like a catapult further on my journey, deeper into the unknown and closer to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream…

 

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The Resurrected

Author : Desmond Hussey

The twin, muscled eunuchs shove the girl to the feet of Tar Marrella, Crèche mother. The remaining forty-seven crèche citizens stand in a rough circle surrounding them. All but the girl wear pale, toga-like robes and watch impassively, dull eyed and slack jawed. The girl’s dirt smeared clothes are obviously Old World relics; black pants, a stained, white t-shirt and a filthy denim jacket, the likes of which haven’t been seen for over eight hundred years. A wild mass of auburn hair coils about her head.

“We found this one in the Restricted Zone,” says one of the eunuchs. “Near the old city,” finishes the other.

Tar Marrella, tsks disapprovingly. She lifts the girl’s freckled chin with her finger carefully, as if the feral girl might suddenly bite.

“Who are you?”

The girl’s emerald eyes blaze with rebellion.

“What Crèche are you from, child?”

No response.

“What were you doing in the Restricted Zone? Collecting these?” Marrella gestures dismissively at the girl’s clothes. “Every child knows it’s against the Law to enter the Forbidden Zone, or to possess artifacts from the Age of Death. Why awaken memories we have all tried so hard to forget?”

The girl remains obstinate.

“Stubborn, are we? Very well. There are other means of getting the answers I seek.” Tar Marrella speaks without anger, or malice. “But first, let us remove that defiled clothing. Even after all these years, Death clings to it. The smell offends me.”

Susurrations of agreement come from the crowd as the two eunuchs, despite her ineffectual struggling, strip her bare and thrust her into the center of the ring of watchers.

The gathering grows deathly quite. All stare in disbelief.

The girl stands naked and defiant, tangled hair cascading over her freckled shoulders to drape over the gentle mound of her breasts. Ribs push against her taught, pale skin. Her strong, lean legs brace for action. Her hands clench into fists.

It’s not her nakedness that has stilled the masses. All gawk at her navel, the tight little whirlpool of skin just above her tangle of ruddy pubic hair.

A woman’s horrified scream breaks the silence and the crowd erupts into frightened banter.

“Freeborn!” someone yells.

Tar Marrella circles the profane girl as if she was a poisonous viper and raises her voice above the panic.

“It’s Blasphemy to be born of the flesh, a Sin to live in the shadow of our ancestors, whose greed and lust nearly destroyed the world so long ago. We, the Children of the Crèche have lived harmoniously for a thousand years! Born in the Crèche! Dieing in the Crèche! Reborn again! This has been our way. Five hundred thousand of the purest were chosen. Only five hundred thousand can there be. This is the Law! Our wise forefathers knew the only escape from sin was through Clone Resurrection. There can be no Freeborn to taint our perfection. Death to the Lawbreakers!”

The murderous horde echoes the verdict and closes in, tightening like a sphincter.

The girl’s green eyes flash. She inhales deeply, a furrow of concentration creasing her brow. She waits patiently for the oppressive mass to condense, for the first tentative probing fingers of her dull witted attackers.
When all are within range, she retaliates.

Her short ranged, but powerful psychic assault reduces the entire mob into a quivering, spastic mass. Their weak minds, too old and frail, their intellect spread too thinly over a thousand years of revolving resurrections are easily dominated by her own.

The naked girl looms over the epileptic form of Tar Marrella.

“Evolve or die, bitch.”

 

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Fine Line

Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

My father always told me that there was a thin line between bravery and stupidity. Just like genius and insanity, it frequently comes down to time, place, outcome and who’s doing the judging.

Right now, I don’t need to check with any judges. This is stupid and insane. I am hanging, angled head down, from a kilometre length line woven from graphene, carbon nanotubes and synthetic spider silk. I’m naked under the sightbender bodysuit and the anchor points at my waist, knees and shoulders have been carefully needle-pointed through the suit and superglued to my skin, which has Kevlar weave bandages reinforcing those bits. Did I mention the stealth gel between skin and suit? I don’t sweat or anything right now and will die in about forty minutes if I’m not hosed down.

All the high-end sneakery is to place me above the target without being detected by some very thorough and murderous security. This piece of lunacy was suggested by yours truly in a moment of drunken insight a week ago. Well, what I actually said was: “We need a flying chimp with a spear to pop that dome.”

All I have to do now is use the carbon fibre composite bow to shoot the molecular-point diamond-tipped arrow through the forty metre diameter dome a hundred and twenty metres below gently swaying me.

The Thodmuk come from a deep subterranean culture and are methane breathers. After their initial assault, they adapted the Purbright mine complex as it has the right composition and depth to contain a pressurised methane atmosphere. This one arrow could change the course of history.

Ignoring the pains and the view, I nock and draw smoothly to my cheek in one movement as my father taught me. Relax, sway, aim, breathe in, breathe out, sway, breathe in, breathe half out, hold, sway, release –

*

I wake up a month later after they transfer me from the immersive healing vat to the silken hammock. All I remember is being a comet, hurtling through the sky, leaving a trail of incandescent me.

They tell me that’s not delirium. When I shot the dome, it ruptured savagely, and ripped some power conduits. Sparks and high pressure combustible gas resulted in a plume of fire jetting a kilometre into the sky.

I was a hundred and twenty metres up, remember? The plume blew me away. To the limits of my line, anyway. Which snapped. Fortunately I was glued to it, so the western winch anchor defined the radius of my arc, which terminated in a lake just under half a kilometre away. The hard water effect should have killed me, except I was completely relaxed: unconscious from the seventy percent burns inflicted by the flammable stealth gel under my only slightly flame retardant suit. I’m going to be in agony for weeks, but if the line had held I’d be a crispy speck dangling over the smoking crater where the Thodmuk used to live.

I’m going to be decorated for bravery when I have skin all over. The bloke who came up with the plan is being hailed as a genius.

Like I said. Results and judging. Because my opinion of him and the Thodmuk opinion of me are a lot less complimentary.

 

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Sentence Option B

Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

“Well let’s see now Mr. Williams, you have your battery charged for over 100,000 hours of usage, plus the suit’s solar absorbers are in good order. Your spots will provide ample light should you land somewhere where it’s night. Of course on your right forearm is your matter analysis spectrometer so you can tell what things will be poisonous or edible. Your medi-pack is fully stocked and of course functional.”

“And my suicide pill?”

The little man in the white lab suit patted the prisoner’s breast pocket. “Don’t you worry young man, we wouldn’t let you go without that. Just because you’re a mass murderer, we’re not inhumane!”

“I told you I’m innocent.”

“Sure Mr. Williams, of course you are.” With a nod toward the two huge guards the test subject was escorted toward and then shoved roughly into the chamber. There was a hiss of steam as the heavy door bolts slid into place.

Suddenly Williams was terrified. “Wait, don’t do it yet… I’ve changed my mind!”

The little man laughed, as did the giant guards. “Changed your mind? You want lethal injection instead of becoming a hero to your race? Please Mr. Williams. The contract is signed, so it doesn’t matter anyway.”

Williams’s shoulders slumped in resignation. “So, how long will I be able to talk to you?”

“After you land the wormhole starts to close almost immediately. We probably have less than a minute, so I need you to describe everything to me as quickly as possible.”

“Then that’ll be it? I’m on my own after that?”

“Yes Mr. Williams. You’ll be free to live your life however you must, wherever in the universe you are.”

Inside the chamber the prisoner was breathing hard and sweating bullets.

The little man typed in a command at his console and there was a hum as the fractal probe began to pick through the trillions of miniscule holes in the froth of the space-time continuum. The program was quick, finding hundreds of distant planets every second, casting aside rejected discoveries as it went.

Too hot, too cold, too much gravity, no magnetic field, inadequate atmosphere, and on it went. Suddenly there was a soft chime. The analysis came up on the display. “Ah it looks like we have our winner; quite nice indeed. Goodbye and good luck Mr. Williams.” He typed in the launch code.

Williams realized that his eyes had been closed. Suddenly he felt a cool breeze on his face and so he hazarded a small glance. In a second his eyes were wide open and his mouth was hanging agape.

“Mr. Williams!” The voice was crackling in his earpiece. “What do you see?”

He answered dreamily. “Tell me again why you can’t find this place a second time?”

“We don’t have time for that. Please, tell me what you see!”

“Not until you tell me why no one else will ever come here.”

“Oh for god sake… because wormholes are countless and always on the move. Trying to find you after this would be like trying to find a microscopic needle in a cosmic haystack. Now tell me what you see!”

Again he answered dreamily. “I’m glad nobody else will ever come here… we’d just ruin this place.”

“Mr. Williams… we’re almost out of time!”

“Wrong. I’ve got all the time in this world.”

He tore out the earpiece and began to walk toward the greenest mountains he’d ever seen. He wanted to drink from the azure pools beneath those mile high waterfalls. Above him a pink and red ringed planet hung between two warm yellow suns.

 

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