“Are you sure?”

Lena bit her lip and nodded. “Yes. Very sure.” Her voice was quiet but strong. She needed this.

The counselor nodded, looking down at her clipboard as she checked off items. “All right. I’ve noted your reasoning. The records will be sealed, of course, after the procedure is finished; if you look them up you’ll know you had something performed, but of course you won’t remember what. That would be counterproductive, wouldn’t it?” She gave Lena a lukewarm smile which Lena didn’t return. She didn’t feel much like smiling. The counselor looked back at her sheet. “You passed the psych screening, so now we just need you to isolate the memories you’d like us to modify. Make sure you take your time and get your story straight. I’ll give you the forms.”

Lena took the binder from the counselor with pale, cold hands. A part of her was aghast at the idea of changing her own memories–it felt like self-mutilation. She knew her parents could never find out what she’d done, however, and there was no way to lie to them with her memories intact. They’d use the serum on her, and if she remembered her wrongdoing, Lena would be forced to capitulate.

With a firm and steady hand, Lena wrote her directives and specifics into the binder, recording what would be her new memory of the last six months. “Here,” she said in only a matter of minutes. “I’m ready.”

“Are you sure?” the counselor asked. “That didn’t take long. Make certain you’ve written down everything we need to change.”

“It’s only one thing,” Lena said softly. “It was a miscarriage. That’s all. That’s the only thing I want different.”

The counselor regarded Lena for a moment, then nodded slowly. “All right.” She took the binder and stood, beckoning Lena towards the operating room. “Right this way.”

The Nightmare Sword

Sunset Lake made Mike nervous, which was something that hadn’t happened since he came home from the war. Sunset Lake was a nice place; lots of natural light, pretty gardens and a big dining room with stretched white tablecloths. Still, all the old people made Mike feel uneasy. Cosmetically, they all looked like teenagers, but they were rotting inside. The cosmetics industry was far ahead of internal medicine. Everyone looked young in their graves.

Mike was happy to be in Melody’s office. Melody was the head nurse of Sunset Lake, and she actually looked all of her forty some years

“You’re a veteran,” said Melody, looking at the computer pad that was displaying Mikes’ resume. Melody was stocky, with large arms and an ample bosom. She had layers of silver chains under her blue smock.

“Yes. Ma’am.” said Mike.

“Well, I don’t want you to worry. I had a cousin that was in the war. Noatter what most people think, I blame the government for what happened, not our boys in space.”

“It’s good to hear that Ma’am’” said Mike, but really, it wasn’t. Mike never expected a homecoming parade, he just wanted to forget the whole thing, scrub that part of his life off his record, so people would stop talking to him about it.

Melody sat down, and leaned across her desk. “Mike, I like your resume and you seem very honest. I’d like you to help me protect our guests.”

“Ma’am, I’m glad for the offer. I just want to know what kind of threats you think your guests are facing. It’s a nice neighborhood here, do you really get a lot of thefts?”

“Thefts aren’t the problem Mike. Most of the people here don’t bring too many personal possessions, and most of their children keep anything that is of value. I need you to protect the people in this facility.”

“Are they in danger? Do they fight?”

“No Mike, most of them, it takes all their effort just to walk.” She crossed her arms tight around her body. “When I first started working here, I noticed some young men hanging around the building. At first, I thought they were children or grandchildren of some of the patients here, but when any of my employees would ask for ID, they would always have “Left it at home” and they would beat it. After one of my staff caught a boy in with Mrs. Lansing, touching her on her breast, we instituted an ID scan on entry to the facility and I set nurses to watch the women’s dorms very carefully. I always had someone in eyesight of all the doorways of every room, and there were random spot-checks.

I blame myself for what happened. I was sexist. I just didn’t imagine. . . Mr. Walsing started telling me that his legs were hurting, and he told me to get his Sword. He said ninjas were attacking him at night. Mr. Walsing has never handled a sword in his life. He was an investment banker before he retired. He just kept asking for a sword, to keep away the nightmares. I had them do a medical exam on him today, and I found out that he has been physically abused. They’ve hacked our system and were coming in here and since they couldn’t get to the women. . .” She stopped speaking for a moment and looked out the window, blinking her eyes.

“That’s terrible.” said Mike, feeling awkward.

They were silent the rest of the way to Mr. Walsings room. When they entered, Mike saw a slender purple haired teenager sleeping on the bed. His smooth pale skin was blanketed with soft sunlight streaming through the light yellow curtains of his room.

Melody lowered her voice. “Mr. Walsing was an engineer. He’s got these beautiful holos of the ships he designed in flight. Maybe you even rode in a few of them. These boys came in here and they hurt him. I don’t know what I am going to say to his family.”

“What about the police?”

Melody shook her head. “We can’t afford them. In this neighborhood, their rates are too high and if we default on a payment, it could be worse for us than the kids.”

Mr. Walsing’s black lashed fluttered and his eyes opened. They were a wet green color, like a forest after it’s rained. “Whose there?” he asked softly, squinting at the doorway.

Mike walked closer, so Mr. Walsing could see his face. “Good afternoon Mr. Walsing. My name is Mike. I am your sword. I am here to keep the nightmares away.”


There was a time when food could be remembered; a time when you could lick your lips and recall the sweet sting of dehydrated packaged delights. Too bad those days don’t exist anymore. Days like that leave you when the thirst takes over.

Travel has just about stopped by now. No one comes off-planet because there is no source of sustenance to be had. I am smarter than that. Perhaps there were fewer of them, but the lack of competition made it easier to capture what you needed.

Watching, I remind myself that I cannot afford the luxuries of stress or frustration. Those things could cause a leak, and I won’t have it. The temperature in my craft is well below what it should be. They say the thirst holds itself at bay for longer when it’s frigid. My breath attests to the fact that I have taken this rumor to heart.

As my cold eyes watch the dead space I know that whatever is left of my soul is out there beyond my reach. The cold, hollow truth lay bare before me while I stand vigilant near the radar. There is nothing left inside, above the saturation percentage. I can measure it by the time that passes between when I swallow and when the glands ache as they thirst for more.

Well above the dying planet I can witness the small blots of what isn’t land. Sometimes I muse to myself how they still exist or why I haven’t drawn closer. They would kill me if they saw me, but in the end they would do exactly as I have done. They would do the same, because there is no other way. Clouds will not gather over a dusty rock and let redemption fall down from the gray mass.

A beep, and my eyes stop wandering. They are now fixed upon the red screen, watching the tiny dot edge closer like an insect to a web. My God, I can feel it rising within me, wanting me to feast. I must wait, however. I must prepare.

One on board? Two on board? It doesn’t matter now. I’ve locked onto them and I prepare the grappler. If not for the emptiness, I could hear their screams. Their horror at being pulled in while the oxygen ceases to flow in their vessel. It must be maddening.

On one side of the device, I observe a gallon-sized capsule stained a dark brown. This is my sin. On the other side, I can see a flask with a dusty, cloudy, but ultimately empty interior. It smells of metal, and it tastes of hydrogen. This is my salvation.

I hear the grappler pulling home, and I hear it lock in before the ship becomes silent again. It’s silent as the inside of their pod. They need not worry anymore. What is left of them will be my salvation. What is left of them will slake my thirst. I power up the machine and I wait for the doors to open into their vessel. Ounce by ounce, pint by pint, the future is on its way.

The Contract

My brothers made me lay on my stomach, my bare back exposed to their brushes. We are a family of artists; my brothers make a fine design. My father, his fingers stained with ink, watched them work, his face warped in a scowl.

“She may not come.” warned my father. “She is the weakest of her sisters.”

“She is the smallest of giants.” I said, “She will come.” I haven’t had any contact with her for a year, but I believe she will keep her promise. I will not die. She is a warrior, she will come.

“You can still back out.” said my father, sudden concern on his face. “It is your right. You are not yet sealed into a contract.”

“Father.” I said. “I have prepared our hearth. I am in love with her. From the moment we met, my contract to the Gods was already written.”

My father has never liked warriors, and never liked the violence of their binding ritual. I tucked her letters in a pocket underneath my lavish robes.

“What are those?” my brother asks.

“I wrote her letters, every day.”

“You were not allowed to contact her.” he says, thinking he has found a loophole in the ceremony, imagining he can break the ritual before it began.

I shook my head. “They were never sent, they waited for her, like I did.”

My brothers tied me to a pole on top of a giant mound of burning sand. In some places in this dessert, pools of sand turn to glass in the terrible heat.

“These knots could be broken.” whispered my oldest brother. “If you run away, we will find you.” I shake my head. He does not understand.

In the distance I saw the giant lizard pulling at its electric chain. As soon as my brothers board the airship, the chain dissipates. I am not afraid. She is probably hiding. She is an intelligent warrior.

The lizard ran toward me. It was bigger than I thought. My brothers watched from above. I smiled at them. They were worried that even if my lover does come, she will fail. She has not yet made a name for herself in her clan but I know her strength.

The lizard crawled up the mound where I was tied when my lover jumped into my vision. She was caked in mud and she moved like a blur across the sand. I watched her as she shot a golden beam of light from a silver gun in her hand. It strikes the creatures side, a non-lethal blow. The Lizard roared. She drew her sword and it crackled with blue electricity as she leapt towards the monster.

She managed to deal a blow to its leg. It turned swiftly and knocked her to the ground. She lay very still then, and the creature hovered over her, snarling. The creature reared its head and I screamed, my blood burning inside of me.

Her eyes opened, and she moved quickly, slicing at its throat, its orange blood coating her as she rolled out from under its falling body. She dealt the killing blow, her electric sword shaking the giant lizard’s body. She turned and ran towards me. A year has changed her, she has become hardened from her time in space. I weep and she is wiped the blood from her face.

“Embrace me.” I cried. She hesitated.

“I am so dirty.” She said, shame on her face. It was her first words to me in a year.

I slipped out of the lightly tied knots, reaching for her. “Embrace me, and see if I care.”

From the airships above, our families tossed flowers onto the sandy mound, and we were one at last.

She is an iLand

The bud blossomed into her ear, its hairlike tendrils snaking towards her eardrum where they fanned out into electric petals, sensors cool against her hot skin. The soft thud reminded Meredith of being submerged, and in a way, she was: holding her breath against the summer rush hour stench of body odor and urine as the subway undertow pulled her beneath the island. The bud measured her heart rate, body temperature, slight changes in her pH. It understood her mood, and it provided a soundtrack to match. Slow, quiet. A Monday evening mix.

Meredith was well into the third track when her hardware buzzed against her thigh. She shifted her weight to detach it, and pressed the backlight button to better make out the words. Josh.

u ok?

im fine, she messaged back. y?

Three thousand miles away, on the west coast, the boy Meredith had met on her favorite band’s forum frowned at the letters on his own messenger. She couldn’t lie to him any more than she could lie to her bud. Josh syndicated all of his friends’ iTracks, and the downtempo music broadcast her mood better than any facial expression could.

im reading ur itrack, he typed. sounds sad.

just a mellow monday, Meredith replied.

want company?

Meredith answered with an indifferent emoticon, but Josh understood. He positioned his analogue headset over his ears and smiled at its weight, at the cold feeling of leather-covered foam beside his cheekbones. He clicked the link on her iTrack feed and jumped in mid-song, then settled back into his armchair, closing his eyes and concentrating on the gentle, melancholy notes.

Separated by an ocean of land, Meredith leaned into the hard cradle of an orange subway chair as her world, too, faded to music. Around her, dozens of bodies shifted to their own rhythms, composing their iTracks over the steady, low hum of the train.