Before the Previous Crunch

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

It was the one thousandth anniversary since Victor Kent first traveled backward in time. Of course, humans had been traveled forward in time for a thousand years before that. But, forward is easy. No paradoxes to deal with. After all, in the future, you can’t kill your father before he met your mother.

The first company to develop time travel technology was Epoca Inc. In the early days they’d only travel a few weeks into the future to see how some key experiment went. Then they’d return to the present to modify the experiment so it would work better. Of course, this action changed that future, but what difference does that make? Epoca would be more prosperous in the new future. With this philosophy, Epoca perfected time travel in short order. Another side benefit is that Epoca could peek into the future to keep track of any potential competitors, and take whatever steps were necessary in the present (legally or illegally) to make sure their competition was unsuccessful. It’s so easy to determine the future when you control time.

Anyway, on the one thousandth anniversary of negative time travel, Epoca decided to expand the time envelope exponentially. They decided to send me and twelve other scientists backwards in time thirty billion years. That’s 15.5 billion years before the Big Bang. Epoca considered it “an acceptable risk” because astrophysicists had proven that the universe is “closed” (i.e., it explodes, expands, stops, and collapses again, repeatedly for all eternity). They call the collapse “The Big Crunch.” Epoca figured that if they could send us into the previous cycle, we could learn new “inconceivable” science from whatever life forms existed then, bring it back to our cycle, and make gobs and gobs of money. A simple plan, right? Well, not really. I asked Epoca to look a few years into the future to see if we made it back OK. They did, but said we weren’t there because we had crossed the “barrier” (whatever that meant) and would not exist in our continuum until we physically returned. They called it the “Sagan Principle,” after some scientist who lived eons and eons ago. They also said that when theya looked at the instant the ship left, I was on it, so I needed to go because I had already gone. Did I mention that time travel arguments make my head hurt? Anyway, who was I to question Epoca? After all, they could prevent my parents from meeting. So, I climbed into the ship.

As I watched through the view port, the stars began to turn bluish. I guessed it was the opposite of red-shift as my universe collapsed backward toward the Big Bang. It got so bright at T=1,000,000,000 that we had to close the iris. I held my breath as we shot through T=0. At T=-1,000,000,000 we opened the iris to see a reddish universe expand backward. Well I’ll be damned, I thought, the astrophysicists were right. At T=-15,500,000,000 the ship came to a stop. With the universe no longer expanding, the shields began to sparkle like a thousand fireflies. Every alarm on the ship began to go off, including the one labeled “Danger: Lethal Radiation Detected.”

As I was thinking, “Well, this sucks,” I heard one of the other scientist yell, “Quick, get us back, and hurry!”

The pilot replied, “It will take 40 minutes to re-charge the temporal coils. I c’not change the laws of physics.”

“Then we’re screwed,” said the scientist, “because this universe is composed of anti-matter.”

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So Thirsty

Author : Kyle DeBruhl

“Oh man…” Jeremy sighed as he stared out the window. “The old man’s at it again.” He pulled himself out of the chair and lumbered to the front door, seizing an rain slicker from the coat rack as he went. Thunder crackled in the distance and he peered out the embedded front door window with hesitation. He’s going to catch friggin’ pneumonia. He turned the handle and the door swung open with a bang, carried in full circle by the howling wind.

The lawn had been transformed since the afternoon. What was earlier a large green blanket with the occasional wildflower or misplaced stone, had become a filthy mess, a deep marsh that soaked the toes of even the toughest tennis shoes.

“Hey Murray!” Jeremy shouted hoping to catch the man’s non-existent attention. The frail figure across the street did nothing. Jeremy took his last step through the water and opened his front gate, all the while keeping his eyes on the man across the way. A quick jog across the street and Jeremy was now at the opposite gate which he cleared with a short jump. The old man could now be seen clearly; sickly white columns of flesh surrounded by red Bermuda shorts stood atop a lawn table. The open t-shirt showed an array of exotic fruits and ukulele prints and was barely hiding the pale, almost skeletal chest it adorned..

“Hey man, I think you ought to get back inside, it’s cold and I’m not sure you’ve got the, err… shorts for it.” Murray had never stood on the table before. He apparently was getting wise to the ease with which Jeremy could force him back into the house.

“I’m gonna pull you down man…” Jeremy thought it sounded confident enough, but he was having a hard time with the physics. The last thing he wanted was to harm the old guy; the neighbors would throw a conniption fit.

With as much strength as Jeremy could muster, he eased the old man off of the table and onto his back, taking care not to contort his cargo on the way down. Murray kept his back straight, and the void expression on his face remained. In the end youth won out and the old man was pushed (gently) back into his home. Jeremy walked quickly back to his own piece of Churchill street and regaled in the good work of a good man.

Somewhere deep inside of 143 Churchill Street a silent voice spoke. It spoke to the electrons in Murray Feckleson’s brain. It seethed as an ocean and whispered as a child. It burned. So thirsty, It thought. What a thick, brainless, species. Can’t he see that we are thirsty? Murray nodded mechanically as the voice carried on. Can’t he see that we are dry? Can’t he see? Suddenly the TV burst to life and the light’s soft colors soothed it’s “mind”. Murray? Be a doll and draw up a bath for us would you?

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Insist to Exist

Author : Anthony R. Elmore

William rode the Green Line, making the passengers hostage to his presence. Here, they couldn’t walk away, far. They could only avoid his glare, his insistence at existence. The train stops at Parkway Station and a pretty teenage girl with soft brown hair enters the train. She glances at the only empty seat next to him, and walks toward it. The train moves and the air shifts forward and she shudders like a gazelle that caught a lion’s scent creeping upwind. She moves toward the gangway, glancing backward at possible danger.

“But he lied…” he wants to cry at her, at the world.

Attention starved little…

The train rattles to a halt at Memorial Park and many people in bright summer shorts and carrying lawn chairs and coolers disembark. A weekend street fair is happening topside, but he’s not invited. Facial recognition cams on lampposts would alert the police and they will escort him away. So he rides the train, staying in motion.

But he lied…

The trains stops at Chamblee station and a horrible, fecal smell enters as a covey of passengers leave. The bum is layers of filthy, mismatching coats and shirts and shoulders a rucksack. The passengers’ noses curls and some gag and comment to others. Newspapers and handkerchiefs rise to their faces to block the stench. The bum drops into an empty seat and he feigns sleep. At the next stop, everyone leaves the car except William.

The odor disgusts him but he wonders if Pheremonic Shunning caused the bum’s state and this is what awaited him.

No more overcrowded prisons, chip tracking and dedicated surveillance, they said. Shunning put offenders in an open air prison with their own skin and guilt for a cell.

After his trial, state doctors injected him with a solution that changed his pheremonic signature that broadcasted “Danger, Stay Away.” messages.

But he lied. He misunderstood my touch. It wasn’t like that.

The stinking bum was his future, his present, he thought. Six months into a five year sentence, he would never again teach and would die on the dole. This was his family. Guilty or not, they were a confraternity of the shunned.

He approached the bum, crossing through the fog of stench. “Did they shun you?” he asked.

The bum looked at him through a camouflage of dirt, his beard nitted with food bits a dried mucus. He moaned and leaned over and slapped the side of his head with both hands, rocking back and forth.

He didn’t see the shiv lance his gut or the bum draw it. He only saw the betrayal of snared animal fear in the bum’s eyes. The train bucked and slowed and his legs gave way and he fell. From the wrong angled view from the floor he saw the bum shuffle through the crowd of arriving passengers, parting the crowd with his stench.

“Do you see me now?” he sputtered to their shocked faces. I exist. Then he didn’t.

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The Cult of Personality

Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

“I was a fat old man way before it got popular.” The fat old man leaned across the old fashioned, wooden bar. “When I chose this body it was before what’s-his-face got on the Feeds about bellies and beards. I decided I wanted to be big, on my own, for, whatsit, philosophical reasons.”

“Oh yeah?” said the bartender, distantly sympathetic.

“I wanted to fill up space.” The old man gestured at his girth.

The bartender nodded, cleaning a glass. The old man continued. “I was raised in the Cult of Barbie. Really, I was. I know I don’t look like it now but I’d been a Barbie all my life. I know, doesn’t show to look at me now, but I was one of the plastic people, shiny hair, long legs, perfect surgical tan. I used to wear miniskirts. And the shoes, rows and rows of them. My closets, if you could have seen them then, you would have been amazed.”

The fat old man, who wasn’t really old at all, pushed himself back from the bar and stood, pointing at his feet. “You know how many shoes I’ve got now? Two, the ones I’m wearing. I didn’t take this body to be fashionable.”

The bartender raised an eyebrow. “Then why did you take it?”

Shaking his finger, the old man came back to sit on the barstool. “It’s not to rebel against the Cult, if that’s what you think.”

“Didn’t even come to my mind.” said the bartender.

“I did it to be free. You always had to watch yourself with the Barbie’s. You always had to be perfect.” He shook his head. “I did it. It was the way I was raised. I went through Skipper then the initiation to a full Barbie, the whole thing. You ever dated a Barbie?”

“Do I look like I make enough money to date a Barbie?”

The old man laughed. “No, you don’t. But they slum it sometimes. Although they always drive the bankrupt ones to tears. I remember. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t take more money and spend it on clothes, crap really, just crap. I wanted to be covered by fat, my inner self-hidden. I wanted a big beard so you couldn’t ignore me. I wanted to be a drunk, I wanted to smell like a man whose been somewhere besides the mall and the compound.”

The bartender placed the glass upside down on the shelf. “You’ve been places since those days, then?”

“Oh yes.” said the old man. “I’ve seen up more skirts than when I lived among them. I’ve walked far in these good shoes. Then, when I want to disappear, I’m not pretty enough to notice.” He sighed over his drink. “But now, that damned actors made my look popular.”

“You gonna change then?” said the bartender.

“I have to, don’t I? I’m not one of those fad bodies.”

“So you’re worried that people will see you as fashionable then?”

“Yes.” The old man looked into his drink, his face warped in the brown liquid. “You know what?” he said, looking up at the bartender. “Screw em. I’m not changing. I’ll be this way long after they’ve found another body type to take.”

“You’ll be even further out of fashion then.”

“You’re right, you’re damned right.” The old man slammed his fist onto the bar, triumphant. “Bartender, another drink to celebrate.” He raised his glass “To the death of fashion.” He said. “May we all fall out of style.”

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Origami Stars

Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Staff Writer

“We’ve considered the simple stuff in previous sessions, and now all of you are comfortable with the basics of folding space, correct?”

The teacher saw some nods of assent from his class.

“Excellent. But this is the advanced class. I’m not just going to teach you to fold space — I’m going to teach you origami.”

He drew a sheet of plain, white paper from his desk, and held it up.

“I’m not trying to overextend my metaphor, don’t worry. A piece of paper really is the easiest way to show you the folds. That way you can all see the work in progress, and understand where all the folds are meant to go.”

As he spoke, the teacher’s hands were creasing and folding the paper. The eyes of his class were focused hard on those fine movements, most of them probably recording it in their cortex or otherwise. He soon finished, and held up a model of a twelve-pointed star between his thumb and forefinger.

“And this is where the metaphor breaks down. In your spacetime version, when you reach this step, you need to grab the center of the structure and do the tesseract twist, wrench it round by about half a rad. Then put the entire thing somewhere safe, and release.”

The teacher sat back in his chair, and closed his eyes. About a metre above the desk and it’s spread of paper and origami, the air began to distort. Light shifted crazily through the patch. The teacher’s face betrayed his enjoyment of the task.

He opened his eyes, and the miniature star above his desk ignited.

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