Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

To the Dar, Seed is immortal.

Seed knows he is not immortal, it’s just that the nature of his cellular structure, the length or certain mitochondrial chords that determine his long lifespan. Longer than the Dar, longer than the normal human life.

Seed is not normal. Seed has been Altered. The chemical treatments, the virus that mutated his body, the tiny machines he swallowed that sunk into his cells and changed him were painful, but not half so painful as the long and terrible travel to The Dar. Even sleeping most of the journey, Seed felt the passage of time like an ache in his muscles, the endless silence, the dark sleep without dreams.

More than once on that journey, Seed considered suicide. There were a hundred different ways he could kill himself on his tiny ship. There was starvation while he slept, certainly the most cowardly way out. There was opening his airlock and dipping himself into the nothing that was space. The vacuum so like death itself, a dark void of still and cold. He would have liked to say that the thought of the mission, his calling, kept him from taking his own life. However, after waking up and making his ship adjustments for the hundredth time, the mission seemed very small. It was only fear that kept him inside his warm little pocket of safety.

When he landed with the Dar, he was so lonely that even their strange company was a relief. The Dar were like birds and squid but like neither as well, something altogether alien in construction. Their “feathers” were rubbery cellular structures that flared around their segmented bodies when they slipped underwater. They could expand four tentacles from their bodies to grip objects. Their cone heads had eight great eyes, half covered with milky lids that blocked out the bright light from their green sun.

They were sentient, but simple, living seasonally, unwilling to make any but minor modifications to their environments. The Dar were friendly and curious though, and when Seed learned their high, underwater language, they welcomed him to their bizarre world.

One hundred years after landing Seed lives with a Dar collective. Sixteen Dar crowded inside Seed’s modified ship. They traveled all over their world. The Collective does not worship him anymore, but treat him like an elder, with reverance and love. They allow him to perform his tests, they marvel at his shiny red machines, curling their eight fingers around those smooth shapes.

It is eight fingers on each extremity row now, instead of three. The tentacles, once able to retract, are now permanently extended. Two of the tentacles are atrophying and inside the other two, a kind of stiff cartilage is growing.

He is making them human.

It will take a hundred generations, but he will make them human. A little different perhaps, to be better adjusted to the climate, but the Dar will be able to breed with any human from any other world. Transporting enough humans across the stars to colonize or conquer a planet takes more energy and resources than contained in a star. Changing a planet, this is the work of an Artist, a Doctor, a Master, a General, a Seed. This is the calling, to spread humanity among the stars.

In a hundred generations, Seed will be home again.

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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Author : Jennifer C. Brown a.k.a Laieanna

I was twelve when the world went mad. Mom saw it coming well before then and she prepared, stocking up on goods and drilling into me the importance of keeping secret our supply. At first the epidemic seemed to spread slowly, starting in third world countries, but soon after it grew at an incredible rate. The states, last to fall, were affected within three months time.

“Keep it hidden,” Mom used to whisper in my ear. I’d sit on her big lap, lay my head on her pillow breasts, and watch movies she had stashed under the floorboards of our trailer. “Never let them look at you closely and keep the warehouse to yourself. I’m trusting you, girl.”

And that’s how it was. Mom stayed in our secluded trailer. I continued school till I was fourteen. It was hard keeping the teachers and nurses from poking at me, but mom had an excuse ready for everything. When she died, I quit going.

She was hard to bury. It took me three days to drag her out of the trailer and far enough that the critters wouldn’t bother me. Later, I went to town with what money I had. Joggers, walkers, and bikers crowded the streets. Kids jump roped in parks and threw balls over traffic lights. Even the old were out. Every one of them fit and trim, barely breathing hard. Why she had to die in spring, I’ll never know. I drew my winter coat closer to my body. There were plenty of stares, but I still felt secure inside its linings.

I only had enough money for two bottles of bleach. I tried running back home, just to get away, but pain in my side stopped me time and again. When concerned people tried coming to help, I’d run again, just letting the air burn my lungs.

The smell and sorrow wrecked me. Tears never stopped rolling down my cheeks. It hurt to clean, my body tired. It hurt to see, eyes stinging from the chemicals. It hurt to think. I missed Mom. Fed up with trying, I took the secret key and headed for the warehouse. There was still plenty of food in the trailer, but I wanted to see what Mom died for.

After walking two hours, I could smell the sweetness wafting from the warehouse. Inside, I turned on the light and basked in the beauty. Mom had separated everything mainly by taste. Twinkies and ding dongs adorned most shelves. An assortment of Little Debbies lay in bins for surprise pickings. That world of health food and exercise didn’t know what they had when they started shutting down the factories. Mom did and she wasn’t letting them take that away from us. I pulled my shirt away from my stomach, scrunching up the hole that had worn through with the years and scooped at least fifteen twinkies from the shelf. Spreading my snacks over the floor, I sat, planning to eat till I puked.

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The Key

Author : KimBoo York

Tandoo sat on the steps, turning the key over in his hand. It was a silver stick, long and blank, and heavy. The door behind him stood solid and bright, just as without character as the key.

He held the key up and let the sunlight glint off the surface. The door would open onto a new world for him, he knew, but it was the key that had power over his life. His key. The key was a gift. It was not stolen. Still, he felt guilty, sitting on the steps with the key in his hands.

A hint of delicate, lacey latticework trim peeked over the top of the door frame. From that small bit of ornament, Tandoo constructed in his imagination a whole world – a whole life, in fact. It was full of white, clean architecture and lush, green gardens, and he loved to envision himself walking through those gardens in a light yellow pantsuit on his way to…

“You still here?” Mako walked up.

His sister was portly and kind, and worried. It seemed to Tandoo that she never stopped worrying about him.

“You need to go. You know the Corps will be grabbing boys soon for service. Off planet, right? Deep space. To fight the Unity.You need to go.”

He nodded. It wasn’t their war and no one wanted the village boys to go. He was lucky, as in blessed-by-ancient-gods lucky, to have the key.

“Go.” Mako turned and walked away.

He stood up and faced the door. The small square keyhole was in the middle of the door, so he reached up and slid the key in. He waited.

When Mako returned, Tandoo was gone. His key was sitting on the ground next to the door. She took it, even though everyone knew that once a key was used, it was worthless. She looked at the door, and stood on tip toe to view the lattice trim work that hinted at the other side. It was more like a garden fence, the wall that the door was in: 20 feet tall and running forever into the rest of the world. It was a division to be respected but not understood. Mako thought maybe Tandoo understood it now that he was on the other side, but then again over there it might be just a wall the same way it was in her world. She had her suspicions.

At home with the other twelve siblings, no one asked her about Tandoo. Their mother cooked stew and looked very tired.

Tandoo threw the key back over the wall. On this side, the door trim looked faded and unkempt. There were no gardens here, and no one to greet him, and when he realized that this world was the same world he just left, he threw the key back. There was no keyhole on this side to let him return, anyway.

“You made it.” Mako walked up, smiling and in a worn, dull dress he had never seen before.

“Mako? How…?”

“No, I’m not your same sister. I’m a different sister, the same, I guess, but on this side it’s all a little different.”

Tandoo, shocked, stood still. Mako shrugged.

“I’m sorry, but when the Unity takes our people to fight the Corps, we try to get a replacement from the other side. They drafted my Tandoo last week. But now you’re here, everything will be just fine.”

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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We Are the World

Author : Grady Hendrix

Gaunt women in ankle-length gomesi bent over the stagnant pool and filled plastic buckets.

“There’s not much of anything in Rorongi. No electricity. No running water,” Walter Bennett said earnestly. “No hope.”

Emaciated children, feet swollen from protein deprivation, clung to their mothers’ skirts as they walked back to the village, buckets full of heavy, black water on their heads. Walter Bennett looked directly into the camera.

“With no other source of fresh water, they come here every day. An entire village dependent on this tiny pond for life.” He began to stroll along the bank.

“Water for washing, cooking and drinking all drawn from the same source. Disease is prevalent. Malaria is a – oh for Christ’s sake!”

He bumped into another spokesman, also with his suit jacket slung over his shoulder, also with his shirtsleeves rolled up, also speaking compassionately about the plight of Rorongi village.

“Look, mate,” the other man said. “We were here first.”

“I don’t care. I’m Walter Bennett.”

“I don’t care if you’re Bill Clinton, we booked the pond.”

Three of the emaciated women came over.

“What going on?” one said. “You need be finish by three o’clock cause Intergalactic Geographic come do b-roll for ‘Feed The Earth’ Telethon.”

“Screw this,” Walter said, ripping off his radio mic. “I’m a professional. I don’t have time for this rubbish.”

The director hurried over.

“We’ll sort this, man. Gimme ten, okay? You wanna go to your trailer? Have lunch?”

“Talk to my agent,” Walter said, storming off to his helicopter.

“Remind me never to work with these wankers again, Henry,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” said his pilot, taking off and heading South.

Below them the famine-wracked poverty zone gave way to the enormous, green suburbs of Capetown. Swimming pools, heliports, private casinos, backyard polo fields – the result of an endless stream of intergalactic poverty relief money. Most of the planet looked like this, except for the poverty reserves.

Walter videoconferenced the network president. An expensive call, but Walter was an expensive man.

“What’s the rumpus?” J.R. Moses asked. “Egos? Experience? Money? Is it a money thing?”

“I’m tired of doing this,” Walter said.

“And so you snapped. Happens to the best of us. Take a half day then go back tomorrow ready to care.”

“I don’t want to go back tomorrow,” Walter exploded. “I want to, I want to go out there and tell all those bloody aliens what’s going on. I want to bring one of them down here and show them what we’ve done with their money. I want to bust this whole thing wide open.”

He had J.R. for a moment, then:

“Jeezis, don’t scare me like that you crazy so-and-so. For a second there – “

“I’m an actor, J.R.”

“And a damn good one. Put your afternoon on our dime, whatever you want. Then go back tomorrow and work! The lifestyle to which we’ve grown accustomed depends on you.”

Walter turned to Henry.

“Set a course for the MGM Grand, Soweto.”

“Yes, sir,” said Henry. And they flew on into the glittering African sky.

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Martin stood at the edge of the field, struck numb by the expanse of white crosses peppered with red, stretching out to where the earth touched the sky.

“Overwhelming, isn’t it?” The voice dry, sandpaper rough.

Martin turned to the old man nestled in a wheelchair, an old green blanket on his lap, liver spotted face wrinkled and pale, too-big ears tucked up under a knit touque.

“It is. I’d read about this place, about how many men were buried here, but you can’t grasp the scale, can’t get this feeling from a book.”

“Men, women, many of them just children. They didn’t just give their lives, they gave up everything they’d ever have. Generations of heroes are buried here, the sons and daughters these men and women never had, never raised,” he waved towards the field. “You’re here because many of them died, and because someone made it home.”

Martin puzzled at the old man in his faded uniform jacket liberally decorated with ribbons and stars. He was unmistakeably proud, even sitting in the centuries-old wheel chair.

“My grandfather used to tell us stories about his grandfather Fred, stories his dad had told him when he was growing up,” Martin started. “Fred served in both World Wars, lived to tell the tale.”

“Many didn’t,” the old man shook his head. “I was part of a Ranger unit, we stormed the bunkers at Pointe du Hoc, lost a lot of good soldiers there, a lot of good friends.”

The comment caught Martin off guard. “Pointe du Hoc? That was nineteen forty four. How…? You’d have to be…”

“Old,” the man interupted, chuckling, “a relic, an artifact of a much, much earlier time. I remember being holed up in the dug-ins we’d inherited from the waves that came before us, curled up in foxholes just trying to stay alive one night at a time. I remember taking cover in the cellars of burned out homes while Jerry rained a hell storm of mortars down on us. It’s a wonder any of us came home.”

“I don’t understand, how…?”

“Friends, wealthy sponsors, all help keep me alive, help to keep me around. I’m full of pumps and pipes, transplanted bits and pieces. The medical technology’s a little beyond my understanding, but it keeps me going, lets me stay on here, to keep watch.”

“What’s with the wheelchair then? Why fix everything else but stay confined to that chair?”

“A bullet took my legs in Hürtgenwald in forty five, right through my spine. A soldier I never knew carried me for an hour on his shoulders through heavy fire to find friendlies. He saved my life, and then went back for more.” He paused, and turning, met Martin’s gaze with his steely blue eyes, surprisingly clear and focused. “I just lost my legs, these men gave up everything. I can’t forget that, and if they fixed me, if I could walk away and leave this place, maybe I would. I can’t take that chance.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to leave? You could travel the world.”

“There’s still fighting to be done. Whenever someone speaks of this place as a piece of ‘real estate’, the men and women lying here need a voice. That’s why I stay. I speak for them, I can still remember.”

Martin turned back to the field, for a second time struck by the enormity of it all.

The old man spoke quietly. “If I left this place, how could I be sure the world would remember? Who would fight for them if I were gone? Would you?”

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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