Author : William Tracy
“A Ham is coming!”
The news spread like wildfire. Even the adults were swept up in the excitement.
“A Ham is coming!”
The Ham came from the east in a truck. I had never seen a truck move before!
The adults eagerly asked the Ham for the news. I didn’t understand everything he said, but the Ham said that up north they had steam trains working again. The Ham and the adults talked for a long time, then they lead the Ham to where they had the sick people.
With the adults gone, we crowded around the truck. All the trucks I had seen before were rusted and broken. We used to play in them and pretend to drive to faraway lands.
But we didn’t get to play in this one. We peered through the windows and looked at the strange tools and machines inside.
The Ham came back. He looked worried. He went to a metal box in the back of the truck. He took a little piece off of it. It was connected to the rest with a little wire that was curled like a pig’s tail. He talked into the little piece, and it crackled and talked back in a strange voice.
Then the put the piece back and told the adults that a chopper was coming. This made me scared. I thought they were going to chop up the sick people into little pieces!
“I thought they didn’t have enough fuel to run choppers anymore,” Mister Barnsworth told the Ham.
“Only enough to make a run in an emergency, and this is an emergency,” the Ham answered.
After a long time, someone pointed to the sky in the south. I could see a tiny speck. As it got closer, I could hear a rumble that grew into a loud, fast, rattling drum beat. The chopper was a metal egg with a tail, with little tiny legs curled up underneath, and spinning wings on top!
The chopper landed in the middle of the town square. A wind blew out from it, blasting dust every which way. The adults crowded around the chopper, and pushed us away. Suddenly, there was shouting, and some of the women started to scream.
We climbed up the trees around the square so we could see. The people in the chopper were handing out boxes, and the adults were grabbing the boxes as fast as they could.
“What does it say on the boxes?” little Jessie asked.
I read a label out as the chopper man handed it to Mrs. Fisher. “It says ‘penicillin’.” Mrs. Fisher cried and hugged the box like it was her baby.
Then the adults brought out some of the sick people. After they carefully lifted the sick people into the chopper, the chopper floated into the sky and flew back the way it came.
The adults tried to give the Ham food and money. He wouldn’t take anything. “This is just what I do.” Then, he got into his truck.
He drove west. The sun was going down, and it set the sky on fire. His truck turned into a black dot that grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared.
I want to be a Ham when I grow up.
Author : Cal Glover-Wessel
There is a being, I have witnessed that, through some strange twist of evolutionary fate, is able to move any which way through time, but through space can only move unceasingly forward. It lives a life parallel to our own, one where “day” and “year” and “month” have no meaning, but “wall” and “tree” are the true obstacles. Material possessions mean nothing to it, because when it moves, the object will either cease to exist, or never have been created. Rarely do you see it, and when you do your mind passes it off as little more then a flicker in the light, an optical illusion. I saw it, though, and recognized it for what it was.
“Will you walk with me?” I asked.
The being laughed and said “If I were to walk with you, in the sense that I use the phrase, this conversation would be meaningless to you, seemingly with out order or sense. See, now it is you who must walk with me.”
I did so, making sure to choose a path that would remain clear for the a good long time, so as not to cause the being any distress. We walked for a time at a steady pace, for the being was unable to do anything but.
After a while, I spoke.
“It amazes me that something could be created that could simply travel to any point in time it wishes, a power far greater then I possess.”
“Nonsense,” it replied, “I envy your abilities to step sideways, or even to stop. Ahh to stop! That would be beautiful. You see, I am rarely able to fully appreciate where I am.”
“Much,” I assured it, “Is the same for humans, only slightly different, you see.”
“I suspected as much.”
We walked in silence, broken only by the sounds of the ground underneath our feet.
Suddenly it spoke.
“When you move about as you do, is there ever danger of moving in such a way that could compromise your existence?”
“Of course,” I replied, “if I don’t pay attention, I could slip and injure myself, I could fall down a pit, get struck by another moving object.”
It seemed fascinated at the possibility that two moving objects would ever collide, but before it was able to ask more questions about it, I asked my own.
“Is there a danger for you as well?” an oddly stated question, I know, but its hard to find your words in such a peculiar situation.
“Well, yes, there is always the danger of going to a time when you are not. Or coming to a place when something else already is, because you will cancel each other out.”
“No you don’t, but I will pretend you do, for both our sakes.”
We walked in silence again, this time longer then the last. On our path before us, I spotted a tree. My time was short, and this brought another question to mind.
“How will you get around it?”
“Simple, I will just go to a time when it isn’t there and continue on my way.”
When it said it like that, it was simple.
“I must be going now.” it stated.
“Good luck, then. Will we ever meet again?”
It glanced at me, briefly, for the first time on our walk.
“We always do.”
And with that, it began to fade.
Author : S.R. Dantzler
“Hey Yates!” Dorian turned to see who called him. The thin blue laser of a retinal scanner flashed over his eyes.
“You have been served.” The young courier handed Dorian an official-looking envelope and turned away, disappearing down the busy street.
He pried the seal and read the document. “F#%$ me. It’s an official notice of a thirty day hunt on my life,” he said to his comrade.
“I’ve never been hunted. I filed for a hunt on that Bastard that ran over Karen, but when it came down to it, I was no killer, even if it were just. You don’t know the guy on the petition?” asked Arlen.
“No. The timing couldn’t be worse. Leading…” He bit his tongue. Dorian knew Arlen was still bitter about him accepting the job as director of the Homo erectus project. After all it was Arlen’s research that drew the grant money. He glanced at Arlen who looked ahead, expressionless. After a few blocks of silence, Arlen spoke.
“I can cover for you awhile, until this blows over. You lay low.”
Dorian didn’t sleep much those next few weeks. He paced his living room, obsessively checking the chamber of his 9mm Grach which was never out of reach. Jittery with caffeine and fear, he checked the bolts on the doors every time he passed and stayed clear of the windows, although they all had a sheet of steel welded over them.
What he could not figure out was who the hell this Ferdinan Metz was, and what motive he might have for ending his life. Dorian had no enemies that he was aware of.
It didn’t make sense. He was going out of his mind trying to figure it out. And he would have, were it not for Arlen who came over each night after work. He found solace in their conversations. It was his daily dose of normality. As he heard the knock on the door, he was relieved to have found it again.
Dorian unbolted the door, letting Arlen in then closed it and bolted it back quickly.
“Good to see you comrade.” Dorian went to the kitchen and grabbed the calendar off the refrigerator. He brought it to the living room to show it to Arlen. The calendar had twenty nine carefully drawn X’s. Just one more to go.
“Just a few more hours and this will all be over with. We made a lot of progress today. The gene sequence is complete.”
Dorian feigned a smile. The news did little to cheer him. The turned and walked to the door to check the bolt again.
“I do have some good news. I found out who this Metz fellow is.”
Excited, Dorian turned to see Arlen holding a pistol at his head.
“It cost me a good deal to buy the new identity.” Arlen had a twisted grin. “The project…My project is getting along fine without you, Dorian.” His eyes were dead cold.
“Arlen, Why? I never meant to take anything from you.”
Arlen cocked the hammer with his thumb. Dorian thrust forward, batting the gun upward and knocked Arlen on his back, then lunged for his pistol on the table. A bullet ripped into his back, beneath his shoulder. He grabbed the Grach from the table, turned, and fired, hitting Arlen in the chest. He fell to the floor.
Arlen lay still. Dorian struggled to his knees. Taking the red marker he carefully drew the last X on the calendar at the table and reached for the phone.
Author : Bradley Hughes
I turned to look at the speaker sitting beside me at the bar. I noticed she had a small doll on the bar along with her drink, one of those wooden posable dolls made of jointed oval sections. I’ve always assumed they were for practicing drawing figures. This one had long blond hair, as long as it was tall. She re-posed it and it fell over.
“Uhuh,” I turned back to my own drink, but she continued.
“My husband left me, I lost my job, I can’t see the kids. Fucking tests.” She kept trying to pose the doll so that it would stand up. It kept falling over.
I tried saying nothing.
She pulled on my arm and bourbon fumes washed over me,“I bought one of those study at home courses to prepare, you know. Cost me two thousand dollars. And I worked at it too. I know lots of people say they’re going to study, but they put it off until the last minute. Not me, I studied and studied, six fucking months and I worked at it every waking minute.”
I tried changing tactics, maybe a little encouragement would bring her to the end of her evening a bit quicker, “Joe, can we get two more of whatever she’s drinking.”
She was long past noticing details like who bought the round. She drained her glass, and continued without thanking me.
“You know it just ain’t fair. What have they got that I haven’t got?”
She thought about that for a minute, “’Course, if I knew that, I would have passed the test, wouldn’t I?”
She thought about that too, for a while.
“I hear they’re talking about taking away our driver’s licenses next.”
She slumped forward on the bar.
“Fucking tests, fucking Turing.”
Author : Bob Burnett
A glint of reflected sunlight caught Will McRae’s attention. He ground-hitched his sorrel gelding and bellied up the slope to look into the next draw.
He scooted back down the slope, turned on his back and stared at the sky, his mouth suddenly dry. What he had seen could not be.
A silver barn floated some ten feet off the ground. Under the floating barn were three critters, looking something like antelope, except they were the wrong color and had only three legs. Definitely not antelope.
But there was no doubt about what was stretched out on the ground. Two of his cows.
He started to get mad, anger driving out fear. “Ain’t Jack Slade an’ his bunch,” he mumbled as he mounted, “but by God a rustler is a rustler.”
Will McRae flipped the thong off the hammer of his Colt and walked his horse over the rim.
“Alert, team members!” Relf transmitted. “A biped astride a quadruped approaches!”
Will McRae walked his sorrel to within a dozen feet of the strangers. He stopped his horse, slowly tipped his hat back with his left hand, keeping his right hand near his pistol.
“Howdy,” he said.
“Melodious reverberation from the biped,” Jelif transmitted. “Note that the quadruped stands mute.”
“I’m slow to rile,” Will drawled, “but you best be turnin’ my cows loose.” He pointed with his left hand to his two cows, which appeared not to be tied but moved only their eyes.
“Observe. The biped smglndf the subject quadrupeds. Perhaps it feeds on them and is hungry. Offer it flesh to eat. That will show our peaceful intentions.”
Jelif turned to the quadrupeds, extended his molof, and severed portion of flesh. He held the animal protein aloft, offering it to the visitor.
Will McRae’s eyes bulged with rage. “Butcher my cow right in front of me, will you? You dirty, low down . . . ” His right hand flashed to his pistol, drawing and firing in a single motion.
Something slammed into McRae’s chest and he fell from his horse, unconscious.
“Asmoth!” Jelif signaled, rubbing the mark where the .45 slug had struck his marlif. “Perhaps we did not correctly interpret the gestures.”
“Surely this is an intelligent being,” Relif transmitted. “This one suggests that the biped be transported for further study.”
A beam of green light surrounded the unconscious rancher, then he vanished.
Will McRae rode slowly around the herd, looking for signs of sickness or injury. He spotted a calf with a swelling on its left flank.
He guided his mount to cut the calf from the herd while he unlimbered his rope. The calf bolted, but Will’s loop settled over its head.
He secured the calf, walked back to his mount, and removed a straight razor and armored gloves from his saddle bags.
He examined the swelling on the calf, gripped it firmly with his left hand, and slashed the growth with the razor. When the golif emerged, fangs gnashing, he sliced it in two and dropped it, spurting purple fluids on the orange ground.
Will rubbed a salve into the wound and released the calf, which bounded back to its mother, screeching from the indignity of it all.
Watching the calf return to its mother, the young rancher smiled and coiled his rope as he walked back to his mount.
The land might look a little strange, Will McRae thought as he surveyed his surroundings, and the stock is some different. But ranching is ranching.
No matter where you are.