by submission | Oct 3, 2021 | Story |
Author: Joe Graves
“With this top-of-the-line casket, you have unlimited destination opportunities,” explained the funeral director, tapping the back where the propulsion sat, “these boosters will send your husband to the nearest asteroid belt, planet or for a few credits more, take him to the nearest star where he can rest among the gods!”
Primrose rested her hands against the edge of the casket and stared out the airlock of the ship. She’d never enjoyed making decisions, and for most of her adult life, she hadn’t had to. Everest had been more than happy to oblige—at least while he was alive.
Those who couldn’t afford a rocket-powered casket had to share the same fate as food waste and human excrement; their bodies were recycled. Their destination was the garden. But that wasn’t Primrose. She could afford anything she wanted.
“And if you choose to send him to a star,” he continued, “for a small fee, it can be named after him, so you can remember him wherever you are.”
She began to wonder if her husband of forty years would enjoy resting in a star. If only she could send him back to Earth. That’s what he loved the most. He often talked about the feeling of dirt under his toes, endless trees, and his small garden of tomatoes. He missed tomatoes the most. There weren’t many on the ship.
After a long pause, the director asked, “Have you decided where he will go to rest?”
She smiled at the young man and then turned back to the casket and held Everest’s hands. She had been pondering this question for the last year—ever since his diagnosis. Everest had given zero clues about what he wanted. “Whenever you send me,” he had told her, “just make sure a part of me stays close to you.” Whatever she was going to do, she had to decide today. “May I have a few more moments with him alone?” she asked.
“Yes, of course. Take all the time you need.”
She bent down to him, and in a whisper asked, “Where do you want to go? And why the hell didn’t you wait for me to go with you?” She took in a deep breath and then noticed the painted metallic pin holding his tie: a bright red tomato.
She stood back up. “Sir, I’ve made up my mind,” she said.
“Where will he be headed today?” he asked again, as he walked up, ready to put in the coordinates.
She turned to him. “You’re too young to have been to earth—born on the ship—and this is all you know. But I remember, and so did my husband—did you know that back on earth everyone was recycled?”
The director paused and looked a little embarrassed. “Recycled?” She might as well have told him they used to throw everyone’s body into the trash. “A woman of your means doesn’t have to have him recycled.”
“A woman of my means can have exactly what she wants.”
She turned towards the casket, leaned in and kissed Everest’s hands. “What if you helped a tomato grow? It’s better than a star, I think… but you know I was never very good at these kinds of decisions.” She removed the small tomato pin on his tie, kissed it, and placed it in her pocket. Standing up, she turned to the director. “I’d like him recycled; I won’t have it any other way.”
by submission | Oct 2, 2021 | Story |
Author: Anna Hamilton
After the seas rose and the Earth caked, after the crops withered and died, after you launched spacecraft into the upper atmosphere, silently watching from above as the greens faded and the browns grew and, too miniscule now to see, your buildings crumbled: then, you believed you could achieve the rank of the gods.
Evolution halted. With no external environment to play judge to the fittest, to shift genes and brains and bone structures, you were changeless. Your medical technology allowed you to live, not for tens of years, now, but for thousands.
For a million years you waited out the Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction. Then you returned to a planet hot and lush, replenished with new life forms. For the next millions of years, some of you remained in space, but some of you spread out again over the surface of the earth. You marveled at the endless forms most beautiful in this new Eden, for millions, for billions of years.
But your time would not last forever. Even the sun had its fated end. The sun swelled red like a blister, hot and throbbing. The Earth parched. The surface dwellers were forced to depart. You know now that this source of life and light, which was once your god, would fail you. The only gods you have left are yourselves.
by submission | Oct 1, 2021 | Story |
Author: Shannon O’Connor
We met at a Star Trek convention in New York. I was dressed as Worf; she wasn’t dressed up, but she was wearing a Quark T-shirt, and she looked out of place.
“Have you ever been to a convention before?” I asked her.
“No English,” she said.
“What do you speak?”
I didn’t know any German.
“Vjljathl!” I said.
She smiled. “Vjljatlh!”
We continued speaking in Klingon. It was the best day of my life.
Her name was Greta and she was a study abroad student. She looked up words in her English dictionary, but we liked speaking Klingon better because it’s a powerful language. She told me it’s a lot like German, people speak vehemently, emphasizing what they want to say. We decided English lacks strength that Klingon has.
We moved in together after six months. We watched Star Trek every night before we went to bed. She liked sex the Klingon way, and it was difficult to keep up with her, but I did my best.
There were some strange things about Greta. She didn’t like to eat American food all the time, sometimes she liked to eat worms that she dug up in Central Park. I asked her if that’s what they did in Germany, and she said in Germany things were different, and they ate live animals. I had never heard of that custom in Germany, I thought they ate sausages and drank beer. She said she and her Klingon-loving boyfriend ate live worms and bugs back home. She didn’t tell me if everyone else did such a thing.
And she could fight! One day a woman gave her strange looks when we were out at a bar, and she took out a bat she carried in her backpack and hit her with it over the head. I had to pull her away, but the woman screamed that she was going to sue her, so we ran out of the bar.
“Those pussies know nothing of honor!” Greta screamed in Klingon. “She would sue me because she cannot defend herself. Coward!”
“I agree.” I thought Greta might take the Klingon culture a little too seriously. I wanted to explain to her that we didn’t live in the Star Trek universe, but I wasn’t sure how she would react. I didn’t want her to think I didn’t have any honor.
Greta, with all her strange habits, was irresistible, but I had a feeling something terrible was going to happen.
“This is it,” she said. “I’m going home.”
“Are you going back to Germany?”
“No, stupid, I’m going to Kronos, the Klingon homeworld.”
“But that’s not real, Greta.”
“Why don’t you think it’s real? This is our culture, our passion. Don’t you have any honor?”
“Of course, I have honor, but sweetie, it’s only a TV show.”
“That’s what you think. It’s time for me to leave.”
“But how are you going to get there?”
“I will be energized, and then I’ll get to the ship! Do you think the ship is actually going to land here?”
“Greta, I think you need help.”
“I don’t need your help anymore. I’ve learned all there is to learn. Thank you for everything.”
She stood straight up. A light beamed on her, and she disappeared.
“But how could this be true?”
I thought it was a joke. She couldn’t be gone.
Was she Klingon, or was she crazy? Greta disappeared in a beam of light, and I knew I would never forget her.
by submission | Sep 30, 2021 | Story |
Author: Alzo David-West
Unlike what most people were used to seeing, the “Squirmers” were nothing like us. To begin with, though about our size, they were horizontal, flexible, and a deep murky grey, with tufts of neon green fur. They had twelve eyes and a mouth like a sideways S, and they were generalist omnivores. Originating far outside our system, they were adapted to a relatively temperate, high-gravity super-Earth. And they came to our terrene orb on unique vessels shaped like spirals, designed entirely to their form and build. Instead of seats, they had tubes. Instead of controls for five-fingered hands, they had ergonomic panels and smart screens for four hooked forelimbs.
The “Squirmers’s” purpose for visiting was much like our reasons for searching for new asteroids, planets, and stars: curiosity, exploration, habitats, resources, self-preservation, etc. What was really intriguing was that, unlike many who were petrified by or repulsed at the sight of the “Squirmers,” they were fascinated by and fond of the lanky, upright, walking reeds they found in our corner of the cosmos. Indeed, from the point of view of the “Squirmers,” human beings were adorable and cute looking, like pirouetting larva infants and babies.
Communicating with the “Squirmers” was initially difficult and sometimes impossible. Not having arms, bodies, and mouths like ours, they gestured completely differently, and also not having vocal cords or hearing organs, they “spoke” and “listened” by signal odors, which smelled like uprooted grass weed. They had a writing system resembling blotches, but it was actually a series of abstract pictures, each representing a full sentence, whose senses and tenses depended on context. Needless to say, without a spoken equivalent, the script was and remains extremely hard to learn.
Not surprisingly, there was much misunderstanding after the “Squirmers” landed. Many people thought they were witless, though their technology belied the misperception. Nevertheless, despite the hostility the “Squirmers” faced in the beginning, they were benign. As a highly monistic species, they also did not worry about individual death. Revealingly, when the first alienist hate crimes against them occurred, the “Squirmers” literally did nothing, yet twenty-eight of their own had been mutilated and eviscerated. By their philosophical traditions, the living and the dead were a single mode of appearing and not clearly distinguished stages of corporeal existence.
The “Squirmers” certainly cherished life, of course, and strove to preserve their sentience in the violent, indifferent expanse, but mortality itself was never a source of heart sickness to them, in their ten hearts. Their lifespan was significantly long by human standards—five hundred and twelve years—and to be sure, the whole landing party that originally came was composed of some of the most venerable “Squirmers” around. However, physically, distinctions in age between grown “Squirmers” were not obvious, even among themselves. They could naturally slow down their aging process, and they had accelerated healing abilities as well.
So after coming in their spiral-shaped vessels, the “Squirmers” spent seven years introducing themselves around our world and establishing foreign missions for diplomatic relations, friendship exchanges, and inter-system trade. A full thirty years was needed for most people to get used to the “Squirmers,” but already in the ninth year after the arrival, the new generation did not see what the previous problem was about, and in fact, several kids wanted to be “Squirmers,” too.
The culture war between the old and the young seethed for a while, and today, there are still some rogue individuals and groups who revile the “Squirmers.” All the same, even though they look nothing at all like us, they never showed us any malice or harm over fifty-six years, so we last-remaining twenty-first-centurians may as well learn to accept their differences, as they accepted ours.
by submission | Sep 29, 2021 | Story |
Author: Peter Tittle
It was understandable, really. By far, most of the crime— 97% in fact—was committed by men. Prisons are expensive to build and maintain. Prisoners are also expensive—they don’t work while they’re in prison, so we have to support them. Then there’s the expense of the police forces and courts that get them there. And the emergency services that take care of all the gunshot wounds, the knife slashes, the broken jaws…
She pushed. And pushed. The hospital room was white and sterile. The attending doctor said something to the assisting nurse from time to time, but things seemed to be progressing normally. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t excruciatingly painful.
Her husband mopped the sweat off her brow, and encouraged, and reassured.
“And push again,” the doctor said.
“It better be a girl,” she grunted as she pushed again when the wave of pain struck her.
“Don’t worry about that now, honey” her husband said. “Just focus, you’re doing good…”
Then there’s all the environmental stuff. All those beer cans, empty cigarette packs, fast food cartons—most of the litter along the highways was put there by men. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What are they driving on those highways? Big cars and pick-up trucks. Gas-guzzlers with high emissions. And the companies that dump toxic waste, and clear cut forests, and dam river systems…? All run by men.
“But I want a girl,” she cried. With exhaustion. With worry.
“Oh come now,” the nurse said. “Boys are harder, I know, had two of ‘em myself. Holy terrors half the time, but you love ‘em just the same.”
“Another push— ”
The insurance companies opened the door when they implemented higher premiums for men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six. They were the ones more likely to cause an accident. Can’t argue with the facts and figures.
“No, it’s not that,” she gasped, “It’s the money.”
“Shh, honey, we’ll find a way, it’ll be all right,” he wiped her brow again.
“One more, I think—”
She gave one final push then fell back against the pillows, drenched, exhausted. She waited anxiously for the announcement.
“It’s a boy!”
They called it the Gender Responsibility Tax— a $5,000 surtax was levied on each and every male. Payable annually, from birth. By the parents, of course, until the boy reached manhood.
(Thanks to June Stephenson. It was her idea.)