by submission | Aug 12, 2021 | Story |
Author: S.R Malone
An officer with a square-set jaw greeted us at our front door.
“Daddy, who is this man?” Myra asked.
“Oh, this kind gentleman is from the army,” I crouched by her side, “He’s here to take you to space camp.”
She stared at me with wide, innocuous eyes; the eyes of a firstborn whose lawful duty was to serve for five years off-world in the military. More importantly, the eyes of a daughter who does not wholly believe the truth, nor understand it, but cannot help but trust the word of her loving parents.
“Have a fun holiday, pumpkin,” I said, choking on tears.
Myra squeezed me as tight as she could while her mother passed her backpack to the serviceman. He smiled, dutifully. She sniffled, clutching Myra. They wept together, until the serviceman gently led our child down the pathway to the curb.
Over the tops of the neighbourhood gleamed the upper struts of the launch pad, towering over rows of spotless prefabricated houses. Unified Earth flags stood sentinel on countless laws, blowing mockingly in the breeze.
I watched Myra join other innocent faces in the convoy, all prepared for their holiday.
Fury bubbled under my flesh as her pale face pulled away from our street, the row of black SUVs fading to dots in the distance, like a chain of ants as they rounded the corner and climbed the hill to the launch pad.
This day was one I was dreading for seven years. Ever since I held the waxy black and white stills of Nora’s womb back then, a concoction of pride and anxiety swelling in my stomach.
My foreman rang the house earlier, giving the all-clear for my absence today; such is the way of the world now when your eldest is called up.
And that evening I stared heavenwards as the craft’s retros fired up and it ascended into the misty dark blue. I settled on the edge of the porch, watching it soar free of suburbia.
Every night I sit and impatiently await its return, as others do.
I did not anticipate the acidic sorrow that would fill my veins, casting red eyes over Myra’s room, a dark museum to her memory; a baseball bat slunk in the corner, her dolls arranged as she had left them, having a tea party. Her plastic crossbow with foam darts; her little brother Ryan has one too, but he is too young to understand why they are never played with anymore.
The Mathesons from No.10 pass me tonight, waving and smiling their sympathetic greetings. I’m perched here every night, and the neighbourhood knows it. The neighbourhood likes to discuss it.
“Conscription Day,” sighed Emmett Matheson, the last time they’d invited us for dinner, “It isn’t easy. But it’s our duty to the planet, and that’s something worth the sacrifice.” He’d led me into the study, and we’d shared a Scotch. I’d positioned myself near the window so I could watch the skies. “We can’t fight it, and nor would I want to— no, sir.” My gaze had wandered to the photo of him and his lad, a picture a decade old.
Tonight, I blow a kiss to the dying embers of the day as the milky yellow glow from the living room presses out against the gloom of the porch.
Myra would be ten years old today.
I just hope, pray even, that she had a brilliant day.
In the dusk, the spotless homes lining the streets light like fireflies.
This was what we sacrificed for.
This, our utopia.
by submission | Jun 9, 2021 | Story |
Author: S.R Malone
None were allowed to upset the status quo.
This was the point of the neuro-signalling headsets, to stem the tide of those whose thoughts proved too much for society. Were these dangerous folk? No, not always. In fact, they’re your regular Joes: partners, employees, friends, neighbours.
Tristan Jasinski is one such man. He is the loyal, and for a long time, obedient husband of Mara Jasinski. He is no revolutionary. At least, not yet.
The headset buzzed against his forehead every time it registered too much stimulation. Anger, curiosity— the subject conditioned to change their thought process. The higher powers are near untouchable, and our emotions are policed.
When Mara Jasinski landed a last-minute interview for the position Tristan had been coveting, he was supportive. When she was awarded the position, he was disheartened. Upset, he aired his disappointment, his woe at not breaking free of his role in administration. The next day, Mrs Jasinski had her husband fitted for a headset. Now he doesn’t complain.
One rainy morning in March, I run into Tristan at an auto shop downtown. He had brought his wife’s new car in for an alternate paintjob, and was waiting patiently in the draughty foyer. Our meeting was no accident, much as I would have him think it was.
“My name is Liv,” I extend a hand. Liv wasn’t my real name, not even close.
“Tristan,” he smiles. I tell him my car is having two tyres replaced, and he believes me.
Over the next hour, I warm up to telling him about myself. It was well-rehearsed, but with the mechanics in the back, there was no one to doubt my credibility. Tristan certainly didn’t; his headset wouldn’t allow him to question me. I explain who I work for, my employer being the infamous Desiderata.
Desiderata, dubbed ‘humankind’s pessimistress’, is public enemy number one. She stays hidden behind vidnet screens and a masquerade mask, often as a white rabbit in a silk dress and combat boots. We work for her, cleaning the oppressive rot from society. We upset those in power, and those who have a false sense of it. Like Mara Jasinski.
Tristan tells me how he does not dream anymore, that his mind plays a reel of colours at night, like a kaleidoscope. There and then, I pull the switch. The headset slips from around his head, replaced with a powerless lookalike. It would emit an alarm, but I learned from Des how to suppress this. All I ask of Tristan is an invite to his wife’s soiree this Friday, where her colleagues would be in attendance.
Mara Jasinski works at the local television network, under station manager Ezra Madigan. I’d wager they were having an affair behind her subdued husband’s back. They both ridicule Tristan while he stands before them at the party, drinks tray in hand. I told him previously to grin and bear it, for now. His migraines have cleared, a side effect of my removing the device, and he is fully awake.
I sweet-talk Mara, saying I like her revolting post-future art. I have Tristan ask her into the study, where she viciously berates him for wasting her time. I emerge and slip the headset on her; her malachite eyes go wide as she freezes, understanding the gravity of her situation. Her thoughts of fury are met with burning rebukes from the device.
Tristan smiles, his first genuine smile in a long time. Desiderata would love to get her talons into the network, and Mrs Jasinski is just the woman for the job.
by submission | Nov 3, 2018 | Story |
Author: J. H. Malone
“Happy Valentine’s Day!”
“Oh, Honey, for me? How sweet!”
“Open it. Then I’ll take you out to dinner.”
“Ok, just let me… What could it be?… Wow!… A CRISPR valentine…”
“I taped the pills to the back. Let’s take them now and in a month, every cell in our bodies will contain a swatch of the other’s DNA.”
“Are the pills homemade? They’re kind of…”
“My cousin has a setup in his garage.”
“Don’t be mean. Leonard is a smart guy.”
“Come on, Baby.”
“How did you get my DNA?”
“Oh… Right… Ok, then. Down the hatch!”
“Here goes nothing!”
“Together forever! I love you, Peter… and I don’t think it takes a month once we swallow them.”
“What? Leonard said…”
“No, never mind. You’re right. In a month.”
“Why would you say it doesn’t take a month?”
“I just… I probably heard…”
“Wait a minute. Have you done this before?”
“It was Fred, wasn’t it. That bozo. All your cells are polluted with Fred DNA, aren’t they? I don’t believe it. I’ve shared my toothbrush with you.”
“I’m so sorry! I was young. I was innocent. I thought I was in love.”
“I’m just… I can see him in you. That skunk.”
“No, no, Peter. His pill didn’t change me at all… I can tell when I’ve eaten asparagus, but that’s about all… and I’m allergic to peanuts…”
“You can hold your liquor too, for a girl. I’ll bet that came from Fred.”
“Forget about Fred. What am I getting from your DNA? Your jealousy?”
“Hey, don’t blame the victim here.”
“It was after Fred’s valentine that I started getting a yen for you, out of the blue. Maybe you ought to be thanking him.”
“Fine, Janice. Whatever. I just wanted it to be a surprise, is all.”
“It is totally a surprise. Actually, I’m honored. You’ve had so many girlfriends, but now I’m the special one.”
“Oh my God! The guilty look on your face! Your lying gene is lousy. I hope that one isn’t in my pill… You’ve got some Lucy McGowan in you, don’t you? That tramp. She lies every time she opens her mouth. And Vanessa Pazzoli. How could you? And Mai Lei Sook? Afrina Bokadella? I’ll bet you’ve swapped DNA with all of them. Peter, you’re not the man I thought you were.”
“At least I’m not allergic to nuts. Plus, I’ve still got the old Y chromosome. I’ll prove it after dinner.”
“Ok, that’s it. I want you to leave. Please. Take one of your other valentines out to dinner. I’m just another girl to you.”
“No, no, Janice. Listen. This is a CRISPR PLUS valentine. First time I’ve ever given one.”
“What’s CRISPR PLUS?”
“The pills include the CRISPR gene drive, so our babies are gonna get extra me and you genes.”
“Our babies?… Oh, Peter… Are you saying…”
“Yes. And these pills will also swap our love genes.”
“Huh? What’s our love genes?”
“Leonard didn’t say, exactly, but he said now we’ll love each other forever, guaranteed. The divorce lawyers tried to get it banned but they couldn’t. So will you marry me?”
“Oh my God, Peter. I… I don’t know what to say… I think the pill’s kicking in. I can feel the love… Yes! I’ll marry you!”
“Excellent! So where do you want to go for dinner?”
by submission | Dec 14, 2013 | Story |
Author : Glen Luke Flanagan
Click, whir, grind. Melvin’s movements were always accompanied by this sequence of sounds. His jeweled clockwork joints moved with a decidedly inhuman precision, but his troubled face wore the mask of a truly desperate man.
“What is love?” he asked, while his golden fingers tapped nervously on the crystal casing of his knee. “This is the question that has been troubling me. It haunts all my waking moments, yet I cannot bring myself to wind down until I understand the answer.”
As if afraid that he would power down just by mentioning the matter, Melvin’s hands strayed underneath the casing on his back and began to wind himself up frenetically.
Delicate human hands came to rest on his crystal knees, and soft blue eyes found his mechanical ones. A gentle, melodic voice found its way through his tension, and soothed him.
“It’s alright, Melvin. As the first of your kind, it’s natural you should have these questions. We’ll find the answer together, I promise you.”
Dr. Lucy Malone always knew how to sooth him. Melvin relaxed with what almost looked like a deep sigh, but of course it was not, because he did not breathe. Dr. Malone smiled at him, patting his knee comfortingly.
“Same time again tomorrow, Melvin?”
She knew the answer would be yes, if only because the Institute of Strange Intelligences required these counseling sessions, but she always gave him the courtesy of treating him like any other patient. He nodded, and shook her hand.
Tucked away in a comfy little apartment provided by the Institute, Melvin poured over the classic human texts on love. Byron, Shakespeare, Solomon. But they all seemed to deal with the symptoms, rather than the crux of the matter.
Finally, Melvin gave up on his research, and spent the night in meditation, his gears and cylinders whirring quietly in the darkness.
Over the next several sessions, Melvin and Lucy discussed his problem. She described her personal experiences with love, and he tried to put these in context by comparing them to what he had read. Inevitably, there were discrepancies, which confused him and amused her. But eventually, he began to look forward to the sessions for the conversations themselves, rather than as an opportunity to sate his curiosity.
Then one day, he came in to find a stranger in the therapist’s chair. In many ways, she was like Lucy – tall, blonde, and soft-spoken. But she was not Lucy, Melvin felt that with every fiber of his being. Her eyes did not linger in the same ways hers did, nor did her touch have the same tender sympathy. She shook his hand with a crisp air of professionalism.
“Dr. Malone was in an accident,” she said. “She didn’t survive the resulting operation. I’m sorry, Melvin. I’ll be working with you from now on.”
Melvin sat quietly on the soft leather couch, processing. The new doctor watched him for several minutes, and finally reached to touch his knee lightly.
“Melvin? Is everything alright?”
Finally, he raised his head, and looked at her with sorrowful metal-and-glass eyes.
“I know what love is,” he said. “And I wish that I did not.”
In his own apartment, a curtain opened to let in sad silver moonlight, Melvin sat in reverie. The past weeks flashed through his mind, each moment with her as vivid as if he were seeing it again for the first time.
As the night crept on, the clicking and humming of his gears began to slow, but he made no move to wind himself up. After a while, there was only silence.
by submission | Jun 2, 2013 | Story |
Author : joe malone
“Can we watch Michelangelo work today?” my wife said, at the breakfast table.
“I have to go into the future today,” I said.
“The future? You said that you would never go into the future. You said going into the future is like a man opening his girlfriend’s mail. Ignorance is bliss, you said.”
“I’m only going ten minutes forward, max. To test and prove my theories.”
“Your equipment works,” my wife said. “Isn’t that proof enough?”
“We now know that we can observe the past. We can’t interact with it. We can’t change it. We can only watch it, like a movie. My calculations tell me that the same is true for the future, but I haven’t tested that yet.”
“The universe does not permit paradox, you always say.”
“My calculations prove this. Yet I must test the theory.”
“Will it be dangerous?”
“I don’t think so, but…”
“I want to be there.”
“This won’t be like our travels into the past. Nothing exciting will happen.”
“Nevertheless, I want to be there.”
“OK,” I said.
After breakfast, we cleaned up and dressed. Angela followed my out to my lab behind the house. The day was clear and warm.
In the lab, we sat down side-by-side, facing the counter that held my setup. I ran through my startup procedures and calibrated the central nexus. We put on our helmets.
I switched on the apparatus.
“I don’t see any change,” Angela said.
I moved the mouse and as we sat, we seemed to float backwards, so that we were watching ourselves from behind.
“I’m fast-forwarding,” I said. “Ten minutes into the future should take us only two.”
We sat quietly for two minutes. In front of us, we sat quietly for ten minutes.
I watched the timer and clicked the apparatus off after one hundred and twenty seconds.
“Now what?” Angela said.
“You saw us. For the next eight minutes, we sit here.”
“Neither of us stands up during that time. We can test this. Do you understand?”
“Not exactly,” Angela said.
“If we can see into the future and then act to change it, we can create a paradox, just as we could if we could change the past. We know we can’t change the past. We can only observe it, observe the universe’s stored hologram of spacetime. Now, however, we’ve observed future events in that same hologram. Suppose I stand up?”
“I don’t think you should,” Angela said. “I don’t think you will. We neither of us did. We just sat there.”
I stood up. I stepped away from the chair and looked back. I was still sitting there.
“What the…,” I said, or thought I said. No sound came out.
“Perhaps you’re right,” said the me sitting in the chair, to Angela.
“No!” I said, soundlessly.
I stepped back to the chair and reached out. I couldn’t see my arm. I looked down. I couldn’t see myself. My hand passed through the me in the chair.
“My math is clear,” said the me in the chair. “The universe does not permit paradox.”