Author: Ken Poyner

My husband has fashioned me many things of great wonder. A gryphon, our unicorn, the town’s signature basilisk. With his ability to resequence DNA and a sufficient quantity of raw living cells, there seems no end to what he can accomplish. And no end to his generosity. I have birds with gills, the most pleasant of singing snakes.

There are times, though, when I stare idly at my long, glowing fingers and wonder, would he craft more than he can handle?

Bon Appétit

Author: Alicia Yau

It was entertaining to watch Chevelle busily pan-searing a lab-grown salmon fillet, cooking a bit of spaghetti, boiling a hydroponic broccoli head, and pouring a glass of wine.
“Smells good.”
Before my first bite, she asked, “Can I join you?”
“I just want to talk to you.”
“Are you going to draw me a rose as well?” I joked.
“Not this time. I did that several times already, I drew on the dish with a spatula.”
“What? How come I didn’t know about that?”
“I erased it with a stir.”
“Business secret. You didn’t subscribe to the apps. Also, I don’t want you to distract from the taste which is also great.”
“I agree,” I chewed a piece of salmon. “But, what’s the drawing for?”
“Again, this’s a business secret. But, didn’t you relish that Mickey-Mouse-shaped cookie you had when you were a kid?”
“Yes, I did.” My attention grew, “But, wait, I checked the recordings and I didn’t see you draw anything.”
“I blacked out your recorder.”
“What for?”
“I didn’t want you to waste your time investigating it as it was a business secret.”
“Makes sense.”
“But you are special…”
“Special, how?”
“You smiled when you saw me for the first time, giving me a very warm welcoming sensation and admiration that I myself had not experienced before from other humans and creatures…”
I looked at her. Her skin was unusually smooth, her hair was sleek and she was wearing oversized round sunglasses. Her black outfit was as if it contained priceless treasures. She sat with an elegant posture.
Maybe it was the wine, but somehow I forgot she wasn’t human and I raised my glass toward her. She too raised her hand, “Cheers!” I echoed it. A warm sensation flooded into my blood; my heart felt like a garden of a thousand different kinds of flora emanating exotic fragrance.
“So, you know human culture,”
“We have been studying it for a long time.”
“How high is your intelligence?”
“We are not that different.”
It may have been difficult for her to admit that her intelligence was much higher than a human’s. I apologized. Meanwhile, on the display emerged a scene of a teenage girl magically turning into a baby girl to play with a baby boy.
“Am I the baby boy?” I asked.
Her eyes looked straight at me and I felt a hot sensation—like being hugged passionately. Now, the garden in my heart had very beautiful sunshine and birds singing a sweet tune that made me want more and more. I tried to cover up my emotional eruption by eating elegantly but my blush was undeniable. I felt like pouring out my care for her but didn’t know what to say. But, I still blurted out a stupid line, “Can I bring you something?”
“It’s o-,“ she started, “a glass of water.”
“Sure.” Now, my body was as though it was wine-filled and my smile could not be covered anymore. That kind of happiness used to be very remote to me.
When I came back, the display indicated: —.. -. She was gone. I slumped in my chair, ? A million questions flooded into my mind along with all kinds of self-condemnation. I shrank to a quantum dot. Then, I discovered something new on my table. It was a stalk of rose. ? I guessed that it must have been Chevelle who brought the flower from the indoor Eden, which I happily put in the glass of water.

The Great Slowdown

Author: Natalie J e Potts

Apparently, scientists had been debating the nature of time for years. Some thought it was linear, others circular, with a multitude of theories in between. Now there was a new, more frightening theory. Time was linear, but it ended in a squiggly knot that twisted in on itself. The squiggle had been dubbed the ‘Great Slowdown’ and many believed we were deep in the middle of it.

I glanced at my watch to confirm that the seconds were actually moving forward. It was barely quarter-past five, and while I’d only just got on the bus, it felt like I’d been sitting in the seat for a long time. All I wanted to do was get home, turn on the heater, and chow down on the lamb shanks I’d put in the slow cooker this morning. But the bus ride was taking forever, and judging by the overwhelming waves of deja vu, it wasn’t the first time I’d made the trip.

A few years ago, when only the government had access to time travel, the glitches were infrequent and exhilarating. The heady buzz you got with that rush of familiarity was exciting. Everyone would smile and nod knowingly at each other, safe in the knowledge that something important had just been set right.

Soon all the governments had it, and the effects started coming more frequently. People stopped acknowledging when it happened besides the occasional expletive or irritated huff. Just knowing you were doing something again became annoying, even if you had no actual recollection of it.

About six weeks ago the plans had been leaked on the web. Pretty much every comments section on any site with the hashtag #TickTock could be guaranteed to give you a link to an illegal blueprint or a pdf of the plans. That or a virus. Who knew which was worse?

It was obvious that people had started building them straight away. The sense of ‘normal’ and ‘novel’ fast disappeared. The one saving grace was that time travel was limited to a hard four hours into the past. Enough time to go back and revise the right answers to an exam or not say that career limiting comment, but not enough time to go back and contain a pandemic or stop an uprising.

Suddenly days felt like weeks. While our clocks all showed the days passing as usual, the bone-deep fatigue told a different story. It was true, there were only 24 hours in a day, 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds – but there was no limit to how many times you could live them. Today felt like it had been at least a century long.

Eventually, so the theory went, we’d have so many people sending us back by four hours that we’d stop moving forward altogether. What that looked like, no-one knew. How close we were to that was also open to speculation. I just hoped that I’d manage to get home in time to crank up the heater and eat my

The Believer

Author: Warren Benedetto

The last man on Earth leaned on his shovel, then wiped the sweat from his face.

He was almost finished.

He had been digging for hours. He started around noon, when the sun was high overhead, when his shadow was nothing more than a puddle of darkness under his feet. Now his shadow had transformed into an alien figure with elongated limbs and an elliptical head, as if his soul had drained out through his shoes and smeared like ink across the desiccated landscape.

With a sigh, he tossed the shovel aside and picked up a whitewashed slat torn from a picket fence. He drove the sharp end into the ground in front of the newly-filled mound of earth, then used the flat side of the shovel to pound the board into the dirt. Then he stepped back to read what he had written on it.

Rest in Peace
1980 – 2042

“Believer,” he thought, mouthing the word at the bottom of the grave marker. If there was one word that best described Sarah, that was it. She believed that everything happened for a reason, that there had to be some grand plan to explain all the death and suffering that had befallen them. Humankind had been wiped out at an extraordinary rate by something nobody could explain, and yet her belief never wavered.

It wasn’t a belief in God, per se. It was just a belief in positive outcomes, a belief that — on a long enough timeline — everything would turn out for the best.

Unfortunately, her timeline ran out.

The man had found her in bed, eyes open, lips blue, hands cold. He knew she was gone. Still, he laid down next to her, wrapped his arm around her waist, nestled his head against her neck, and held her. He fell asleep like that, dreaming of the first time they met.

It wasn’t your typical romantic meet-cute. They weren’t high school sweethearts. He had been looting an abandoned grocery warehouse, gorging himself on canned peaches, his chin and chest sticky with sweet, sugary syrup. Sarah snuck up behind him and held a knife to his jugular, ready to cut his throat. He grabbed her wrist and flipped her over his shoulder, intending to strangle her. But there was something about the way she looked up at him, the utter fearlessness in her eyes, that made him stop.

Up until then, he wasn’t even sure why he had kept going, why he had bothered staying alive. But once he met Sarah, he knew the reason. He understood. He believed.

The memory faded as he drifted awake. He carried her body outside, grabbed a shovel from the barn, and began to dig.

Now, as he watched the sun setting between the trees, he realized what he had to do next.

He picked up the shovel.

It was getting late. It would be dark soon. He had to hurry.

He had one more grave to dig.

A Calculated Murder Defense

Author: Don Nigroni

I replied, “So it’s an open and shut case. Your client was seen by three witnesses entering the room through the only door. The window was latched from the inside. They heard a thud or two and upon entering the room seconds later saw the victim lying on the floor with his head cracked open. A marble bust of Apollo was lying on the floor beside the deceased and your client’s shirt and pants were spattered with blood. The police determined said blood was from the victim and your client’s fingerprints were found on the bust.”
“That about sums it up,” my law partner said.
“Yet you pled not guilty today even though you know an insanity defense is rarely successful.”
“He’s perfectly sane and he had a good motive. My client was not only recently passed over for a partnership because the victim blackballed him, which he took mighty hard, but the victim was sleeping with my client’s pretty wife, which devastated him. He had married an attractive student twelve years younger than him who had very expensive tastes. He left academia for Wall Street to make a fortune for her sake.”
“So try for a plea bargain.”
“Nobody wants to bargain. The prosecutor figures she can’t lose and my client is convinced he’s innocent.
He was a brilliant mathematical physicist working as a professor at a small Midwestern college. Only eight people in the entire world understood his mathematical equations. They indicated that there are around 350,000 linked alternate universes containing as many alternatives to us.
He’s convinced his equations proved conclusively that shared ubiquitous background static (SUBS) must exist. It’s not detectable by today’s instruments but, without SUBS, his equations would blow up. When the SUBS in the linked auxiliary universes builds up to a critical level then each mind in every related world is simultaneously and instantly ejected. They all jump into another world in the direction of the SUBS spin.
So, according to his calculations, after about 15 minutes in any universe, our consciousness leaps into another universe and then another until after around ten years we complete the circuit and are back to where we started, albeit very briefly.
But, when we enter a new alternate us, we don’t have access to any memories stored in our previous alternate us. That new brain already contains experiences, values, and beliefs that we tend to accept as our own. And that shapes our personality and motives so that we normally behave like the previous occupants of that body. But there’s a lone wild card, whim. So, he claims, whoever clobbered the victim is now in another world.
I figure he’ll get life without the possibility of parole and, considering his age and health, that would translate into about thirty years.
But, according to him, that will mean the real murderer would only be incarcerated for less than an hour. And, although he disapproves of the real murderer’s actions and insists he himself could never kill anyone, he did sympathize with the murderer and didn’t blame him. My client wasn’t upset that the culprit basically got away with murder and framed a series of innocent people in the process.”
“So what’s your defense?”
“I just told you. His case will be argued in court using his mathematical evidence but, conceivably, not by this me.”