Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Phyx crossed the street at the East end of the bridge, the soft neon glow of the street vendor drawing him in out of the evening drizzle. As he stepped under the shelter of the umbrella, implants stimulated muscles and patches of tensile fabric beneath his hairline, pulling the flesh of his face taut. The vendor would likely survive the evening, and it was a young man he’d remember from the moments before the mayhem began.

He selected a small tray of sushi and a bottle of mineral water. Paying cash, he smiled and nodded, allowing his face to relax only after he’d turned and stepped back into the darkness. Phyx ate slowly as he walked onto the bridge, taking a position along the railing. There was nothing to do now but wait.

Images of the evening’s target flashed through his mind. A volatile cocktail of stimulants and memory enhancers would render every feature of the Senator in immaculate detail. The exact proportions of nose, chin and eye sockets; the slight difference in flexion between the two knee joints from a recent surgery; the nervous left eye twitch. Every characteristic with crystal clarity. In time, these would become just memories, but for now, they carried the intensity only a professional could bear.

He slipped the empty tray into a recycling bin as the first two members of the Senator’s security team jogged onto the other end of the bridge. Phyx smiled at the kevlar plate armor the two men would be forced to maneuver in, making careful note of the exposure points for arterial penetration. The Senator himself came into view next, flanked by four more men, and in the distance, Phyx could make out two motorcycles following quietly behind.

As jobs went, this one was unremarkable. The Senator was pushing legislation that was threatening a lucrative patent. A stake holder had an eager assistant find Phyx and with the payment of his fee, he simply had to live up to his name and reputation.

As the first guard reached the middle of the bridge, Phyx studied the Senators gait, it was even, steady, wrong. Phyx knew the left knee joint couldn’t flex like that, the re-knitting of his ACL was still too fresh. Turning from the decoy, Phyx started walking West, off the bridge, slowing as a car pulled up, blocking the road. Two men stepped out, weapons in hand and began walking towards him.

“Freeze. You’re under arrest for the attempted assas…” The words were torn away in a pink mist as the limp form toppled backwards onto the street. Phyx crouched low, sprinting across the roadway, his jacket flowing, obtuse angles deflecting high velocity fire from the other end of the bridge. Three steps and he had a clear view of the vendor’s cart, a single shot punching into the gas cylinder on its side, the neon umbrella suddenly enveloped in a cloud of blue and orange flame.

The explosion bought him a few seconds of distraction, and he capitalized by taking two more shots at the closest men; gaps in their armor exploited with startling precision. Return fire peppered Phyx, most bullets glancing off the fabric of his jacket, or merely bruising with the impact, but a rifle shot punched through and tore into his heart.

Phyx staggered and fell to one knee, reflexively pulling the coat around him. Blood pressure dropped precipitously, triggering valves to iris off around the damaged muscle, drugs released, numbing it, preventing it from emptying his bodily fluids out through the gaping wound in his chest. For a moment, he was frozen, vulnerable, but then a second pump took up the task, adrenaline and oxygen enriched blood flooded his body, and he was running again. He cleared the railing, diving towards the river below, and his mind raced.

He’d been betrayed, most likely by the assistant looking for a political posting. As Phyx hugged his chest and propelled himself down the river, he knew his targets were now two. Not being a vengeful man, the assistant he’d do simply as a matter of public service.

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Author : Chelsea Peloquin

I wasn’t always this way, you know. It happened a long time ago, yeah, but I wasn’t always invisible.

I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just know that one day I realized that there were no more calls on my phone, no more voicemails or emails or snail mails, no more cares or concerns. It’s funny how a person can just disappear like that. I don’t think they even remember me anymore—I walked through the house and all pictures of me had disappeared, as though I were never there.

I do know how it happened. I didn’t know that Madame Mystery would be the last person to ever look me in the eye. That crazy glass eyeball of hers lolled in all sorts of directions—that’s the last thing that ever looked at me, that crazy glass eyeball. It didn’t show me any emotion when I told her I wished I was invisible. It did as it was told and lolled around in its socket.

My brother was too scared to do it, but I did the dare without a second thought. He doesn’t even know he had a sister now, and I don’t know if there will ever be a way for me to let him know that I once existed.

Not even the mirrors remember what I look like.

I remember when people knew I existed. I remember when someone actually gave me a surprise birthday party—I can still remember tasting the cake and the cream cheese icing. It was my favorite. I can remember conversations as clearly as though I’ve just had them. I don’t care what I said, but what they said stayed rooted in my thoughts and grew thick like redwood trees. I took those things for granted.

Now I can’t even catch a stranger’s eye on the streets.

One grows used to it, I suppose. You get used to the noise of life around you that ignores everything you do. You can go through life doing whatever you want, eating hotdogs from the stands without having to pay, stand underneath the Slurpee machines in corner stores and turn your tongue green, fart in church and the reverend keeps droning along like a bee in a hive. Last night I took a shower with the new Calvin Klein underwear model.

I suppose there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

You don’t really know what you’ve got till it’s gone. There’s no one else like me in the world. Even if there were, I don’t think I’d know about them. We’ve all forgotten what we looked like, what we sounded like, what we wanted to do with our lives, so much so that we’ve forgotten why it is that we exist. Only the lives of those around us keep us company, because we like to remember just what it was like to be able to interact.

I like to know that people still interact with each other.

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Four Minutes

Author : Christopher Albanese

With her eye pressed to the inside of the window and his eye pressed to the out, their lashes navigate the viscous silicate surface of the glass. Somewhere inside, they twine.

The same happens at each of their fingertips — ten hers and ten his press to the window, hers on the inside, his out. A human eye cannot see the wriggling strands of DNA trickle and tumble from the sweat on their fingertips to push through the glass, seeking the heat from the other.

A human eye cannot see the surge, the urgent chemical transaction that occurs as these strands strive through the silicate surface with a drive not unlike that of spermatoza starting new life. Incensed and alive, these precious pieces of their selves wriggle and writhe as they drive on, headlong.

The glass heats to liquid beneath her fingertips. She presses out tighter, her fingertips. Just beyond the glass, on the outside of hers, are his. He is receiving.

Behind him, lightning crashes across the stars and indigoes bleed from bruise to red as chemicals cut the sky. Inside, the space behind her is vacuum silent, vacuum empty, vacuum deadly. Yet, she lives. She is a new form of life, and she is limitless. He is the way of all things. They peer through the window, and a new form of creation has been engaged.

They open their mouths and press their sets of lips to the window, hers on the inside, his out. Her blue eyes blink and his green do, too. Sealed in this O-ring kiss, they inhale – her the vacuum, him the stars.

A skin like mercury bubbles into the cavity created by the kiss. It takes four minutes for the glass to cease to resist. The sound that shakes them apart is not a shatter, but a torrent. The sound that shakes them apart is the union of all things to the vacuum. The sound registers at the frequency of a new form of creation screaming alive.

Their invisible barrier boiled and broken, they melt the space between them as lightning screams down indigoes from the sky.

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Author : Duncan Shields , Featured Writer

I wake up from a dream about bookshelves and the answers to life. The sheets are damp with sweat and tangled around me. I sit up and look around at my dark room, allowing my eyes to adjust. The stars twinkle outside my living quarters window.

I’m one of the few people here who remembers life on Earth.

I fumble a cigarette out from a pack on the bedside table and wonder for about the hundredth time why there isn’t a twenty-four-hour kitchen on this station.

I stand by the window for a few minutes with the sheet wrapped around my shoulders like a cloak as I smoke. I look back at the bed and can still almost see the impression that Janet made after being there for six weeks. She hasn’t been there for the last two nights and has no plans to return.

I am worried about how little I care.

I have no position of authority here but there is a certain mysticism surrounding the fact that not only have I been on a planet, but I’ve been on the very planet that birthed us as a race. To tell the truth, I remember very little about those days back on planet Earth but I don’t let on.

I stand and smoke and look out the window and wait for the timers to turn on the morning lighting.

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Author : CK

“Synaptic couplers disengaged.” Andrei Milosovic sat up in the recliner, gingerly rubbing the back of his neck. He glanced at the control room window; his colleague there beckoned him up. The Institute had paid for the nanosurgery and training- all so that one of the country’s most promising minds could be one of the privileged few with unrestricted access to the whole of human knowledge- and for what? Fields of fog, and chills down the spine. Milosovic swung his legs over the side of the chair and made his way upstairs.

“Mind telling me what I’m supposed to be seeing?”

“Look. Right there. Those aren’t human alpha patterns.” Albert Gürz pointed to the screen displaying the records of his colleague’s MMI session.

“Not on the screen. I mean during the interface. It’s all gray.”

“Like I said, these aren’t alpha patterns. Maybe you aren’t relaxing?” Milosovic snorted. It had taken him years of psychological exercise to achieve a restful, ‘alpha’ state during these sessions, despite the fact that the previously sacrosanct boundary between his consciousness and the world outside had been so brutally violated by this machine. The thought that his training was failing him, now that it finally came to it, was laughable. He peered at the screen again.

“Was I asleep?” Gürz looked puzzled.

“No. Why?” Milosovic remained silent, instead merely indicating a section of the brain wave graph in response.

Gürz’ eyes narrowed and his hand moved towards his chin, mannerisms characteristic of his most pensive of moods. “They look like delta waves.”

“I know they do. Does the system work both ways?”

“That’s immaterial. Even if we had built it to, there would need to be a consciousness on the other end. It was made to be an interactive database, and that is what it is.” Milosovic remained skeptical. His training allowed him to seamlessly exchange data- information, but also sense data, emotion, unadulterated thought- with the machine’s processor. But what it could not prepare him for, and what Milosovic was having difficulty accepting, was the machine’s response to the most human of these processes. A machine has no use for emotion, but where Milosovic had expected an inability to parse such data, he instead experienced a void, as though the bits and bytes of his humanity were absorbed in their transmission: processed and rejected. Computers were cold and impersonal by design, but this mind-machine interface seemed cold by nature, if machines possessed such a thing. The looming monstrosity of the processor’s protrusion into Milosovic’ thoughts left him with the impression that he was dealing with an analytical, dispassionate individual as opposed to an information-relay engine, and it chilled him to the bone.

“Punch up the brainwave reader.”

“What? Why? You’re disconnected. There’s nothing to read.”

“Just do it.” Gürz tapped a key and his eyes widened in shock. There, though the machine displayed operational standby, were patterns coherent with human delta brainwaves, indicative of deep sleep. An iron fist closed around Milosovic’ gut.

“It’s dreaming…”

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