Rule #86

Author : Joey Cruz

There are certain rules in this world that we must abide by. We don’t always agree with them, and they rarely agree with us, but if we are to survive to see tomorrow, we need to place our personal feelings aside and just accept things for what they are.

Take rule #86, for instance.

Rule #86 states that every time someone speaks your name, it creates a duplicate of you.

Consider that.

Every time your parents ever scolded you using your full name, they’ve given birth to another you. Every time someone at the doctor’s office told you the doctor could see you now, somewhere in the world, another. Every time a lover cried it out in a fit of passion… another.

Think about that. Think about this thing you take for granted. This beautiful gift given to you by your ancestors and forefathers. Your name.

Imagine living in a world where your name was a curse instead of a gift.

“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”

You people are so funny.

For us, your name wears *you* out. It hunts you down. It fights for survival. Tries to steal your life to save its own. After all, who is the real you when you all bear the same name?

But then… those are the rules. Just one more in an endless stream of governing laws that warp and disrupt and diminish our world, little by little, piece by piece, one name at a time.

I just wanted you to think about that. Remember it every time you sign a check. When you introduce yourself. When you gift your newborn child.

Remember rule #86, and remember that we are watching you, and we are waiting.

Every world has rules. You test the boundaries of yours every day. Someday you will find a way to break those rules, and in doing so, you will let us in.

And then you will have to learn the rules all over again.

See you soon.




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The Plane Truth

Author : Asher Wismer

30,000 feet above the ocean, my fighter jet went into a barrel roll. This was not optimal. I hung on the control stick for dear life, opened the flaps, and grunted as we decelerated hard.

In the air around me, flashing lights tailed and surrounded my plane. With a shriek of terror, my copilot hit the eject and blew out, leaving me with a malfunctioning plane and a big rushing hole in the canopy. Over the roar of the wind, I worked to stabilize the jet while the flashing lights moved in.

Nothing happened. I lowered to 20,000 feet. Some of the lights moved through the plane, through me. I felt nothing. A small chuckle escaped my lips as I contemplated my copilot. Shaky on the nerves; he’d key a transponder and the Coast Guard would pick him up.

Of more concern were the lights. Several of them were congregating in front of my plane. Others were still trailing me by several yards.

In front of me, the group of lights came together in a blast of white. My mirrored visor kept the lights dim, but I still squinted. There was now a big flashing light, keeping pace with me. I checked the radio. Still jammed. Ahead, I could see the coast. There was no landing strip nearby, but I could dry-land the fighter if necessary. I just needed a long enough stretch of relatively smooth ground. A low-traffic highway would be perfect.

The big flashing light suddenly came toward me and enveloped my plane. I could see nothing except the light, not flashing from the inside but bright and steady. My instruments said I was still about 15,000 feet above sea level.

A voice came from around. “You have been selected for our special offer, just 19.95 while supplies last! Just relax and take it easy, and you’ll receive three nights and two days in beautiful Las Vegas! As seen on TV!”

Shocked, I watched as my altimeter plunged towards the ground. I hit the eject, but there was no response. I braced for the impact–

And nothing happened. In awe and horror, I saw that my altimeter was registering 10,000 feet below sea level.

“Ah, shit,” I said. “All this time we’ve been looking to the sky–”


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Best Supporting Actors

Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

“My card.” The smooth-shelled android pressed a small square of cardboard into Gin’s hand.

Gin turned it over. Printed, in a fine copperplate script were the words ‘Best Supporting Actors’, and then underneath that, there was an address, a URL, and an e-mail address. He held it between his forefingers, and turned his head about to ask the android question, but it’d already moved on, circulating amongst the crowd. The android was part of Jamie’s entourage: he had shown up to the party with a half a dozen people and two androids. This, in and of itself was unusual — Jamie was a well-known introvert, however much of a contradiction in terms that seemed to be. But today, he had accepted an invitation, he’d shown up, and seemed to be the life of the party.

Gin carefully pocketed the card, and looked after Jamie in admiration.

* * *

“Good morning, Sir. How can I help you? Are you a new customer?” The pretty receptionist smiled at Gin, her entire demeanour exuding confidence and enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I was given one of your cards. I was wondering exactly what you…did…here.” Gin scratched the back of his head, feeling pretty awkward.

“Well, you’d probably be surprised at how many people come in here asking that question. Tell you what, one of our advisors is free. I’ll call him, to give you a rundown of our services.”

“That’d be awesome, thanks.” Gin availed himself of one of the comfortable seats that were available in the reception, and waited whilst the receptionist spoke quickly and quietly into a phone.

Five minutes later, the receptionist looked up at him.

“Mister Gibson is free. Down the hall, first door on your right.”

Gin nodded his thanks, and went to the door mentioned. It opened with his approach, revealing a comfortable-looking office. ‘Mister Gibson’ was sitting behind a desk bereft of paperwork.

“Gin! Gin Holden, it’s an honour.” Gibson got up and darted round his desk, clasping Gin warmly by the hand and shaking it vigourously.

“Uh…do I — know you?”

“No, not at all,” Gibson laughed, and released Gin’s hand, “as a point of fact, I don’t know you from John Q: just got your name and a bit of background data thirty seconds ago. We provide a service, Gin. Your life, everyone’s life is a story. Often an unspectacular, petty, boring story, but still a story. A play, a plot, that sort of thing.”

Gibson gestured to the seat in front of his desk, and returned to his own. He leaned forward conspiratorially, and Gin caught himself doing the same.

“You see where I’m going with this? You’re the lead role. We can cast someone to play second fiddle, to take up the supporting roles. We can be your backstory, Mister Holden. We set up jokes, deliver carefully crafted anecdotes, admire, intimidate and bluff our way through. With one or two of our Actors, you’ll be the centre of any event. We script and thoroughly choreograph everything. We have helpers, advisors, fall guys, muses, sparks, henchmen and the odd nemesis.” Gibson leaned back. “We assign a creative to each client and they decide which of our actors would work best with you.”

“Wow. So…” Gin was taken aback. It did sound like a good idea.

“Let me guess. You want henchmen?”


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The Time Traveller

Author : Gavin Raine

It is with some consternation that I realize I am having difficulty in ordering my thoughts. Perhaps this is the onset of confusion one must expect, as the air supply becomes exhausted. I must make haste to write my account:

Only a few hours have passed since I was enjoying a bottle of port and a cigar with my good friend Dr Stanley. Stanley was pontificating on my work. “I know that I can’t match your grasp of mathematics, or the physical sciences,” he said, “but I still maintain that this whole notion of time travel is preposterous. If it were possible, then why haven’t we been visited by travellers from the future?”

“You well know that my theories will not allow travel backward in time,” said I. “The inevitability of paradox precludes any such journey. Time is an arrow that we all travel along at the rate defined by the clock, and my apparatus merely accelerates that progress.”

“So when can we see a demonstration?” said Stanley. “You completed your machine today, did you not?”

“Why not now?” said I, and I wobbled through into my laboratory, with the good doctor following closely.

I confess, the alcohol made me foolish and impetuous, but even in my most sober moments, I had not anticipated the fate that awaited me.

I placed myself in the saddle of the time machine and took the control rod in my hand. “Meet me here at exactly this time tomorrow night”, I exclaimed and, with a salute, I inched the rod forward.

There was a confusing blur of motion, after which I found myself looking at the stars. I was perplexed, but when I looked down to see the curve of the Earth, far below, my puzzlement turned to panic. It took some time before I calmed down enough to realize what had happened.

Throughout all of my theorizing and calculation, the one factor I had failed to take into account was the motion of the planets. While I travelled through the dimension of time, the Earth had continued onward in the other three physical dimensions. It had simply left me behind. Outside of my time dilation field, there was only the vacuum of space.

After a while, I advanced the control rod forward again, taking my machine a full year into the future. However, I could only watch in frustration as the Earth swung past, out of my reach. Perhaps I am drifting, or the solar system itself is moving, but it seems I have lost all hope of ever reaching home again.

My machine is moving through time at its maximum velocity now, and all I can do is hope that I intersect with some form of planetary surface, though I fear that the odds are against me. I am hundreds of years in the future already and it is becoming difficult to write in my notebook. All around me, the light sources are growing dimmer.


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The Vortex of Youth

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Cephei A and Cephei B are eclipsing binary stars that are located approximately 3,000 light years from Earth. Cephei A is a supergiant that is currently the second largest star in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is so large that if it replaced Earth’s sun, its chromosphere would extend almost to the orbit of Saturn. Cephei B is no pipsqueak either. It is over ten times as massive as our sun, and over 100,000 times as luminous. Both stars have extremely elongated orbits that cause them to practically touch each other every twenty years as they whip around their celestial center of mass. During the close approach, the overpowering gravity wells of these two massive supergiants forms a localized space-time distortion between them. This previously unknown phenomenon is called a temporal vortex.

Twenty years earlier, during the previous close approach, Francisco Fontaneda discovered that the temporal vortex was not just a portal through time, as predicted by other scientists, but was actually the astrophysical equivalent to Ponce de León’s “Fountain of Youth.” His analysis of the Quantum-mechanical entanglement data collected during the brief formation of the vortex revealed that if a body passed through the vortex at the instant of closest approach, the body’s physiology would change by twenty years. In other words, it wouldn’t physically travel back in time, but it would emerge on the other side of the vortex 20 years younger. To his chagrin, this hypothesis was greeted with skepticism and ridicule by the scientific community. Unfortunately, his chance at vindication had to wait for the next transit, which wouldn’t occur for another twenty years.


Francisco Fontaneda sat in his spaceship meticulously going down the pre-flight checklist one item at a time. Fontaneda had spent the last ten years building his ship from scratch, making sure to only use parts that were at least twenty years old. He wanted to make certain that if his ship got younger too, the parts would have existed twenty years earlier; otherwise they might simply vanish. He was even wearing a thirty year old flightsuit. After all, he didn’t want the press to photograph him climbing out of his ship completely naked. Of course, that wouldn’t have been too bad, since he’d be a trim thirty year old, rather than his current flabby half century.

At the designated time, he fired his aft thrusters. The ship climbed above the A-B plane of the two supergiants, and began its slow parabolic plunge toward the coordinates where the 100 meter wide vortex would appear at the instant of closest approach. His timing was perfect. A swirling whirlpool of light and degenerate matter began to form a few hundred kilometers in front of the ship as he accelerated downward. Fontaneda held his breath as he entered, then exited, the temporal vortex. Momentarily blinded by the intense brightness, he fumbled for his communications equipment to contact his support ship. “Calling the SS Bimini. This is Fontaneda. Do you read me? Did I make it?” He tried to focus on the monitor as his vision slowly returned.

“Roger that, Fontaneda,” said the captain of the Bimini. “Direct hit. How do you fee…? Whoa. What the hell happened to you? Your face…”

Fontaneda saw the captain’s broad smile morph into a grimace. “What’s the matter, Peter?” asked Fontaneda. “Haven’t you seen a handsome young man before?” He pulled out the mirror he had stowed in his flight bag. “Oh shit,” he said, as he looked at the reflection of the horrified seventy year old man staring back at him.


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