The End of the Hourglass

Author: Adrianna Voss

A series of flashes.
An orange marmalade disc cut into her forehead and wrists as she witnessed herself unfold. Her sugar eyes poured as Saskia reached into the surreal. Danced to music no one could hear, with someone who wasn’t there.
The Indivisible agents tilted while watching the blue lines materialize. Her slender silhouette came into the picture tiptoeing from one line to another as a shadow emerged like a halo around her.
Aloy adjusted his video display glasses and the scene dwindled. He disconnected for a reboot, blinked, and saw a flash. She put her arms up and melted in between the lines. The rutty surface made waves as she bobbled falling over an edge of something not far off but far in.
He pulled his glasses gently from his face and held them out, stunned. Saskia dangled her forming legs off the brim. She was the size of a fingernail and caught the light like a gemstone.
“I’m a visual illusion now. But I’m everywhere you are. It seems like we are far apart, but the surface is the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“I live on a planet that exists within the universal you; an immortal verse. The assumption that the universe is on the outside is false. The Elixirs know the truth.”
“So you were born inside me?”
“Sort of. We all switch bodies and planet projections often…The last time we met, you were Zanora and lived on planet Red Wing.”
“I’ve never heard of that place.”
“No one on the outside has, it is in the thoughts of beings that inhabit parts of the Vega constellation. You volunteered for an unconscious mission while incarnated there and fell into a loophole that left part of your soul drifting causing you to live simultaneous lives.”
Aloy shook his head with skepticism.
“The reason you can see me now is that your higher self brought me out when your memory aligned with the Indivisible stream. So I was able to come into a form that you would recognize.
Aloy shifted his feet creating static electricity. He looked out the window at the solitary star dangling like an earring in blank space.
Saskia jumped into his eyes like dust. He looked around as if he were a part of us watching and felt a deep pain in his chest.
“You can come with me. But you must think of yourself as a speck within time, within space that becomes no space. Everything you see on the outside is really happening inside. Visualize the blue light of a flame. The center is real. Feel the heat that doesn’t burn.
He warmed himself up visualizing molten lava. A marmalade disk cut into his forehead and wrists. In the background, he heard, “We’ve got another one.”
Sugar started pouring from his eyes as he disintegrated into tiny granules. He couldn’t move. He had become part of an eversion. He screamed and reached for Saskia but she too had become hardened granules. But he sensed her presence; heard her whispering.
“We will transform at the end of the hourglass. We only have to be compounds for a while before we turn into Elixirs. We are not fixed, but in perpetual motion; without renewal, nothing exists.”


Author: David Barber

In 1969 the Canaveral Timeport was brand-new. The future had come to meet us and everything was possible.

This is the Chronos Tavern, with its much-polished wooden bar, a dozen booths, subdued lighting, and no hint of clocks, hourglasses or calendars.

The overweight man behind the bar talking to a time-traveller is Frank Court. This is exactly why he opened the Chronos. He would work here for nothing, he once told a traveller.

“So, you’re some sort of future law enforcement,” Frank was saying. “After a runaway.”

There were two of them, Frank was sure of it. There was an occasional ripple in the air, a flicker in the corner of the eye. The disturbance seemed to have settled near the door.

The traveller smiled a smooth curve of enamel where teeth should be. Why didn’t Frank like this man?

Sometimes he wondered what customers made of the place. A shack bordering a jungle airstrip, where a native offers hooch across a plank on two oil drums.

The Timeport Authority had planned an automated refreshment zone, but Frank made a clever pitch. The government could bug the Chronos and listen in on conversations about the future, though it only gathered miles of tape hiss.

“He will walk through that door presently.” The man had put his box of tricks on the bar. Even his lips seemed to speak English. It was only technology.

Frank was wise to the rookie mistake of asking how the man knew. Because it was documented history. It was the smug hierarchy of time travellers who have seen your future.

“I didn’t even realise there were runaways.”

“Idealists, who think we interfere with the past. When in fact we ensure peace and stability. They come here to warn you, but are ill-equipped for the squalor. After enduring a night out there, he will be glad to be apprehended.”

Frank guessed it was the runaway he’d talked with yesterday, sitting on the same stool as this cop. Best not to get involved, he decided.

“What did he tell you?”

Don’t play poker with someone who’s already seen your cards.

The man had made an impassioned speech about worlds that never happened, and Frank had shrugged vaguely. Runaway seemed a misnomer. More like a zealot.

“Like your moon landings,” the man had insisted, these natives seemingly deaf to his warnings.

“What do you mean, moon landings?”

“Didn’t your rivals put a man in space?”

“The Soviets? Oh, right, sixty one. Before the Timeport.”

“Without the Timeport it would all have been different. They need dead-ends to anchor the wormhole…”

After that, the man’s words had become indistinct, his translator on the blurred edge of causality violation.

Frank grew up during the Cold War, which was quietly abandoned when the future arrived and let slip WWIII never happens. He couldn’t recall spaceships fired at the moon, though as a child he’d been promised colonies in space, and von Braun’s winged and shiny rockets docking with the Big Wheel, ready to set out for the red planet and adventure.

For a while he’d debated opening a bar called The Right Stuff here in Canaveral, but then the space program went the way of Zeppelins.

Before Frank could ask his own question, the door opened, and the runaway was seized and bundled back outside by the stealthed presence. Unless you were looking, you wouldn’t even have noticed.

“No harm done,” said the time traveller, getting to his feet. No mistaking the contempt on his face.

Frank had missed something here, but he didn’t know what it was.

The Games Oracles Play

Author: William Gray

Exploring Callisto, stumbling upon curious cave drawings.

Erratic runes chiseled into rocky walls needed no formal translation. Illustrations below sufficed.

A staircase, a shrine, an altar, a robe-clad Oracle. Arrows circling from a child to an old man, and back again, indicating an infinite process.

Where nitrogen waterfalls once cascaded down, a partially eroded map gave directions to this fountain of immortality. A moon orbiting a planet somewhere past Saturn.


I found it on Neptune’s Triton.

The thousand steps were a mile wide. No handrail, nothing to catch me if I slipped. As I entered the shrine, my atmospheric sensors reported plentiful oxygen, comfortable temperature. I removed my helmet and approached a sandstone altar, behind which stood The Oracle.

His robes sagged from a bony frame. A liturgical hood hung down, concealing His eyes. Wrinkles spiraled out from rounded lips.

He touched my forehead with the tip of a bony finger. My mind stretched out, held for a moment, then snapped back. He nodded thankfully as if accepting a gift, withdrew His finger, retreated behind the shrine.

He emerged with a handful of glass shards, handed them to me. Their razor-sharp edges made dozens of superficial cuts on my hands. He touched my forehead again to communicate: The shards contained memories he had just extracted from my mind, to be arranged in chronological order.

The Oracle placed a simple hourglass on the altar, but did not invert it. Instead, He rested His palm on top. Sands rose, filling the upper chamber.

My first memory? Earthrise as seen from Mercurius Crater, my hometown colony.

In the middle, I placed my proudest moment-graduating valedictorian, a degree in Lunar Archaeology. Next? My professional debut, an excavation on Ganymede.

Somehow, the sands’ rising corresponded with rapid aging. My wrinkled face appeared in the shards’ reflections. Bones of my arthritic joints, lacking articular cartilage, ground against each other as I worked.

Little sand remained. My last memory to archive? My father died in the beryllium mines. I was young at the time, I do not remember exactly when.

I made my best guess. I was correct. Shards crumbled into shiny dust. I started feeling younger already.


After decades of archaeological exploits, I am thirty years young, getting younger every day. I remember Callisto’s cave drawing, that circle of immortality. I must return to Triton, play the game. Time to get older again, before I forget and drown in my youthful excesses.


The Oracle touches my forehead, exact same spot. Contents of my mind stretching, unraveling, unspooling…

He scatters shards before me, spreads His fingers out upon the altar like a card dealer, an intergalactic oddsmaker.

Is He smiling?

He places His palm on the hourglass. Sands rise, slower this time.

As I arrange the slivers of glass, becoming younger accelerates in time with the rising sands. It is refreshing. My concentration sharpens.

Approaching adolescence, however, “passion over reason” impedes my ability to think rationally. One of the shards involves a specific discovery-palladium carvings, used in some sort of fertility rite-but I cannot remember when, or even where, I excavated them. Impetuousness sets in. I want to kick The Oracle’s ass.

Younger still, I start to panic….

….All sands have risen. The Oracle’s lips are now long, thin lines. They peel back, revealing a thousand slender fangs. He cradles me, a fearful child, in His arms. His fingers are like leather stretched out over knitting needles. They poke and prod as He tries to comfort me, but to no avail.

I recall my memory of Earthrise. Everything fades away.

Last Man

Author : George R. Shirer

Adam woke, as usual, with a headache and a weird taste in his mouth. There was a woman by his bed, wearing a prim white nurse’s uniform.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Good morning.”

His eyes rolled past her, taking in the familiar institutional green walls of the room. This time, there was no window. The door behind her was open, revealing a green-walled hallway.

“How do you feel?” asked the nurse.

“Fine. Considering.”

Adam sat up, swung his legs over the bedside. Too late, he realized he was naked. Blushing, he grabbed the blanket and pulled it over him.

The nurse was looking away.

“Sorry about that.”

“It’s all right,” she said.

“Why did you wake me?”

“The usual reason.”


She gave him a gray boilersuit and some boots to wear. He pulled them on, while she stood with her back to him, humming a funny melody.

“I’m dressed,” he said. “You can turn around.”

She did and presented him with a rolled up sheaf of pages.

“Where?” he asked.

“The bath at the end of the hall,” said the nurse.

He nodded and set out to perform his duty, the duty womenkind brought him out of cryo at least once every five years to perform.

The spider was about the size of a kitten, an ugly purple thing with a luminous red hourglass on its back. It hissed at him when he approached. He didn’t use the paper, just kicked it to death with his boots.

Adam remained awake for about a day. It took them that long to get the cryo-machine ready. Meanwhile, he discovered womankind had moved underground because of some sort of war. When the machine was ready, Adam stripped down and slid into the tube, grateful to sink back into dreamless, dark sleep.

The nurse was the last to leave the chamber. She locked the heavy doors herself and pocketed the key, grateful that the Spider Killer would sleep until they needed him again.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Industrial Lies

Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

It took me twenty years. I mortgaged everything I had, including family, friends and the love of my life. But G-Nano was worth it. A revolutionary method where leading-edge technology would restore the Earth’s damaged biosphere as a side effect of improving everyone’s lives. The adaptability of the code allowed scalability that ran from going one-on-one with disease organisms to cleaning the plastic islands at the ocean gyres. I submitted the patent request along with the gigabytes of proving data, then waited for the calls to start.

After a month, there was only one: “Professor David Adams? This is James Rufford of the Ministry of Defence. A car will be outside your block in two hours. It will bring you to discuss your patent application.”

The driver was courteous, as was everyone I met on the way to the nicely-appointed office where James Rufford waited. He looked up as I came in, his wall screens displaying the highlights of my work.

“Professor Adams. Firstly, may I compliment you on the genius of your work. Secondly, may I apologise for the fact that it is about to be classified beyond public scrutiny forever.”

I just stood there, my mouth hanging open. He gestured me to a chair.

“You cannot be serious.”

He smiled: “I am. Let me show you why.” The wall screen showed a grainy, scanned photograph of a group of bearded, top-hatted gentlemen standing next to a wooden frame that supported a tall, naked being with hourglass-shaped openings where its eyes should be.

“In 1754, a Dakerda scout crashed in the Lake District. While computers were unknown to the gentlemen of the time, the mechanicals salvaged from the wreckage were revelations to them. What the only survivor told them before he died was an epiphany. The Dakerda were looking for a new planet as theirs was ruined. Earth fitted the bill: clean with a primitive civilisation. At that time, the gentlemen involved rightly concluded that we could not withstand the Dakerda. So they came up with plan.”

I raised my hand. “The Industrial Revolution. Mechanisation to evolve the technologies we needed.”

He shook his head: “Nearly right. They decided to make Earth unappealing.”

I slammed my fist down on the table: “Surely it is time for that policy to be reversed. We have the technology now.”

“In 1947, another Dakerda scout came down in Roswell. Analysis of that vessel against what little remained of the 1754 wreck showed technological advances on par or exceeding our progress. Their computers took us thirty years to crack.”

Rufford looked at me: “The Dakerda remain so far beyond us that it is doubtful we would even slow their invasion of Earth down.”

I just stared at him. The implications were horrific.

“Professor Adams, we cannot ‘clean up’ Earth. The moment we succeed, the Dakerda will invade and wipe out humanity. We must keep the pollution while we work on expanding into space. Our only defence is to become a star faring race so we can flee. Of course, if we fail, the polluted Earth will eventually spell our doom anyway.”

Twenty years. I mulled over what he had told me to work out why I had been brought in. With a smile, I extended my hand: “How can I help?”

He looked relieved: “Your designs bear similarities to the architecture of some Dakerda systems. We’d like you to discover how they work.”

“I would be delighted.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows