Author : Courtney Raines
As I watched myself falling down the hill, I remembered that fairy tale from physics class; the one about the cat in the box.
I had been walking home through the wilderness that separated my cul-de-sac from the grocery store, it was a walk I had taken hundreds of times over the past five years, when I tripped. The pack of groceries on my back had nearly slipped off my right shoulder, and I shuffled mid-step to adjust it. That’s when it happened; the quantum flash.
A ‘quantum flash’ is what the ubiquitous ‘they’ call it when you experience a moment of your life from another quantum reality before returning to your own. Mine happened in that instant between when I knew my foot was coming down wrong, and when it actually hit the ground.
I stood there for a millisecond frozen in time, watching as another me somewhere didn’t manage to regain her balance. I watched as the other me’s foot came down and twisted on a root. I heard the crack of bones. I felt the snap in my shin. I watched as the other me fell backwards towards the ravine, and wondered for the millionth time why the path was so close to it.
It was me, and it wasn’t. I felt it, and I watched it; both inside and outside. It was still me. The soft, moldy puff of dirt when I crashed backwards. The citrus thumps as my groceries began to tumble from my pack. The uncomfortable stab of cold plastic wrapped in polyester as I hit the milk jug before the inevitable flip.
The inevitable slow motion flip; my back arching, my pack sliding further down my arm, the milk, the bag of oatmeal, the kiwis and apples plopping to the ground, my feet creating the circle I could never draw. I felt my neck bending but not, quite, snapping. It radiated pain and there were spots before my eyes. As my body came around an almost elegant 360 degrees I saw, from both above and to the right, the pile of grapefruit and lemons that had first fallen from my pack.
Then my knees hit the ground, and I began to slide downwards. My pack was gone, what little cushioning it might have offered rendered nonexistent. Dirt and leaves began push their way up my shorts; I felt the leaves break and crinkle against my thighs. I slid in a slow motion second until first my feet, then my stomach, and finally my head bucked over a knobbled rock, smashing in a rhythmic serpentine motion. I barely had time to register the explosion that was my shattering kneecap, or the loss of breath following a rock in the gut, when the hard surface thrust my chin briefly upwards so it could better collide with my forehead.
Pain circled my head, blood trickled coppery in my mouth, and darkness called until the clock ticked into the next millisecond and my foot came down awkwardly on the dirt.
With a little hop, I regained my balance. I shifted my pack so that it was squarely on both shoulders, and muttered a prayer to the God of physics that I had been born to this quantum reality.
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
Senator Reginald Wadsworth lay in his hospital bed; his biphasic artificial respirator hissed rhythmically as it expanded and contracted every six seconds. Dozens of electrical biosensors monitored his vital signs, while a miniature tubular highway of transparent hoses pumped fluids into, and out of, his body. Doctor Clive Colin stood next to the bed and studied the latest medical report. “Senator,” he said solemnly, “modern medicine cannot keep your body alive much longer. You need to make a decision concerning the memory transfer procedure that we discussed last week. Tomorrow, the state of Texas plans to execute Gilberto Escobar. He’s the drug kingpin that killed six DEA agents during a raid in ‘56. I’ve been in contact with him since he lost his last clemency hearing. He says that if you agree to give his family ten million dollars, he’ll give you his body. The procedure is called a cerebral cortex transfer. We use a high frequency neuroreprogrammer to overwrite his frontal and temporal lobes with synaptic data that we record from your brain. I know that’s a little oversimplified, but the bottom line is that we’ll erase his brain and imprint your memories. In essence, we replace your old dying body with a young healthy one. Senator, you are a very influential man. Say the word, and I’ll notify the Justice Department. We can make this happen.” Wadsworth closed his eyes and nodded his head once.
The following day, Wadsworth and Escobar lay side-by-side in the “operating” room. Wadsworth’s skull was capped with thousands of Electrocorticographic receivers. Escobar’s head was surrounded by a large bank of Electrocorticographic imprinters. The procedure took eight hours, and while in recovery, the body known as Wadsworth died. When Escobar regained consciousness, he smiled. “Doctor Colin,” he whispered, “It worked! And there’s no pain. I can breathe on my own. I can move my arms. This is fantastic. Thank you, thank you.” He openly cried.
After an extensive interview/interrogation by the District Attorney’s office, it was reluctantly determined that with the exception of a few minor inconsistencies, the knowledge and mental attributes that had been in Wadsworth brain were now in Escobar’s brain, and everything that was Escobar was gone. After the attorneys completed all the necessary paperwork, the new Wadsworth walked out of the hospital to a waiting hoverlimo.
A month later, Senator Wadsworth strutted into Doctor Colin’s office. He plopped down into one of the large leather chairs that faced the doctor’s desk. “Well, my friend, I as agreed, I deposited twenty million dollars into your offshore account. I never thought that we could pull it off. The detailed information that you provided me concerning Wadsworth’s personal background was invaluable. We fooled them all.” Escobar stood up and walked toward the door.
“Are you going back to Colombia, Escobar?” asked Colin.
“No, Clive. Not right away. I think I’ll stay in the US Senate for a while, and make an honest living.” He chuckled as he strutted out of the office.
Author : Q.B.Fox
Peter Stovold had hoped to be the first person to solo circumnavigate the sun in his [Manchester Evening News sponsored] Solar Flare 2.
The timing had to be perfect; repeated Earth orbits before shooting off on a flawlessly planned course that used the planetary bodies and floating space hardware to help accelerate SF2 and, later, act as brake; finally completing one and bit revolutions, coming to rest on the moving target of the Earth.
But something went wrong on the homeward leg, as his elliptical path passed near locus of Venus’ orbit. The first signs were an unexpected change in heading; then, almost imperceptible at first, but soon decreasing rapidly, his velocity began to fall below the plan.
Stovold was baffled when he checked his computer. He was on the edge of Venus’ L5: the gravity hole that followed in the wake of the morning star. There should be no forces, at all, acting on the elongated bubble-shape of SF2.
The computer said something very large was tugging at them aft and slightly to port. But it was nothing he could detect and the computer model constantly changed its mind about the size and position of the body that must be causing it.
Solar Flare 2 had almost come to a halt when the cloud of particles, into which Stovold was being inevitably drawn, became sufficiently dense for him to notice them through the forward viewport. It was then that he realised that there was no massive object; no gravitation forces acting on SF2. Some other sort of force entirely was grabbing at his vessel from this quicksand of stranded, ancient particles; a trap set for unwary travellers since the formation of the solar system.
He had only half formed his next thought when the SF2 came to a sudden and complete stop, throwing him hard against bulkhead, with sufficient force to break a leg and a wrist, shatter his pelvis and crack six ribs.
“Our superstructure is made entirely of a special polymer, comrade.” Josif Samoilenko waved his arms effusively.
“We’re less than 1% metal, my friend,” his Ukrainian drawl like beet molasses.
“We are invisible to the cloud, like the ceramic Glock of spaceships,” he concluded, putting two fingers to his temple, pulling an imaginary trigger and slumping in his chair.
“There never really was a….” Ian Bennet began.
“But the timing has to be perfect, comrade,” Samoilenko rejoined, leaping Lazarus-like from his seat. “We have to fire the grabber,” he gestured with a claw-like hand on an outstretched arm, “at just the right moment. Once we connect to the Solar Flare all the forces change, our course changes….” He waggled his eyebrows knowingly.
“I’m the astro-engineer,” Bennet said patiently, “I understand all this, but I’m not sure you….”
“The timing has to be perfect,” Samoilenko continued unconcerned, “and that is why….” He paused for effect, removing his pseudo-communist, red-starred beret with a flourish, “…that is why we let the computer do it. No?”
“Timing,” the Ukrainian mused. “All the planets have to be in exactly the right place.”
“Strictly speaking you only need….” Bennet attempted.
“It is why we have waited for 12 years, no?” Josif interrupted, “we could have come earlier, but the timing was not perfect; it would not have been, as you say in London, economically viable.”
And then the computer triggered the recovery systems; cables shot out into the particle cloud towards the Solar Flare 2. Inside the desiccated body of Peter Stovold waited patiently to make his journey home, waited for his hero’s welcome, waited for the timing to be perfect.
Author : William Tracy, Featured Writer
The royal palace was mostly quiet. It was late afternoon, and the heat from the desert sun drove all but a few guards to seek shade. Even construction on Pharaoh’s great pyramid on the far side of the Nile had halted for the day.
A woman, face twisted in anger, strode purposefully toward one of the palace’s grand entrances. The guards, armed with spears and swords, stepped forward to intercept her. She extended her arm, and a sword with a blade of violet flame materialized in her hand. With inhuman speed, she dispatched the guardsmen and entered the palace.
She hiked briskly to the royal chambers, and threw open the doors. There the mighty Pharaoh, a god on earth, lounged on a couch next to His favorite wife. He started in surprise and horror, and His great crown tumbled to the floor.
Consumed with fury, the woman beheaded Pharaoh’s wife with a single stroke of her fiery weapon.
“All this time, you had another wife here?” she yelled. “How could you do this?”
For a moment Pharaoh sat, dumbstruck. Then He frantically tried to gesture to someone behind the intruder.
She swung around, and saw two naked children. “You had kids?!”
With two strokes, she killed and mutilated one of the children. The other turned and fled rapidly; the woman then threw her sword like a javelin, impaling the boy.
“That is it!” she screamed. “I have had it with you! You can stay in your virtual reality and rot for all I care! I am leaving you!” she flickered and disappeared.
Pharaoh glanced around wide-eyed. The royal entourage stood motionless, petrified. For several moments the god-king tried to regain His composure, then gave up. He terminated the simulation.
After all, Pharaoh can’t allow His people to see Him cry.
Author : Charles Spohrer
I totaled my motorcycle. Of course, I had no medical insurance.
I figured if I ever did have an accident, it would be final. I never expected just a couple of broken bones.
The ambulance dumped me off at County. The drivers wheeled me inside and left me on the gurney. A middle aged lady walked over and dropped a stack of papers on my chest. She pushed a pen into my injured hand. I winced as I reached over with my good hand to grab the pen. Without waiting, she began to leaf through the stack. “Sign here, and here” she said, as she flipped the pages quickly. I signed wherever she pointed. She gathered up the papers and left. Eventually the doctors set to work.
I was out of there before the start of the next shift.
By the time the road rash scabs fell off my face, the bills arrived. A year’s salary for a broken wrist and some scabs. Outrageous, I thought. So I let it slide.
Bills become past due bills.
Past due bills become final notice bills.
Final notice bills became phone calls from the collection agencies.
Then the calls stopped.
A few days later, six in the morning, I woke to the sound of my front door crashing in. Several policemen in SWAT gear and guns drawn rushed into my room. They pulled me from my bed, threw me to the floor, and sat on me with my arm behind my back. A technician in a white lab coat over a bullet proof vest jabbed my bicep with a syringe and drew a small amount of blood.
After a few minutes, he said, “That’s him alright. He’s the one. DNA markers match at a 95% confidence level. You can bag him.”
One of the cops spoke. “We hereby serve Notice that you are in Default on your Obligations to County Hospital and invoke Reclamation pursuant to the Rights assigned by Contract as agreed by You at the time of Admission.” I could hear every capitalized word.
Those were the last words I ever heard.
It’s been a few days since I got my sight back. Quite remarkable if you think about it. I can see in four different directions now. It’s not that hard to process, especially since the decision logic isn’t that complicated.
The green light flashed on.
Summary judgment came quick. For not paying the hospital bills, I gave up all rights. Everything. I understand some politician’s son got my body, something about inoperable leukemia. He just happened to be next on the waiting list for a full body donor. It was all in the fine print.
So what happened to me? Well, they found me some work. Look for me on the corner of State and Madison. Inside the traffic control box. The latest in intelligent traffic management. If you do come by, blink your headlights twice. I’ll hold the green a little longer for you.