Author: David C. Nutt

“I’m begging you, don’t flip the quantum motor drive switch.”
“Oh, I’ve flipped it hundreds of thousands of times, not flipped it just as many. The result is the same- I wind up back here, locked in, and we eventually have variants of this conversation. Once, I went almost 19 hours without flipping it and then I fell asleep and, and well, right back here.”
“So, you’re telling me you are stuck in a time loop?”
“Yup. Told you that for about the millionth time, literally. And before you say it, yes, I’m the only one who has continuity, and no I haven’t figured out why yet.”
“You know that sounds insane.”
“Uh-huh. I was insane for a few thousand go rounds of this, but I got better.”
“So, if you’re better then you’ll not flip the switch and come with me?”
“Ummmmm… don’t think so. See, each time I do that, as soon as we round the corner, security puts the beat down on me and I wake up here again, but with a headache and bruises.”
“How can that be if you are in a loop? Don’t you just reset?”
“Exactly what I thought! I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to notice that I wasn’t totally re-setting each time. Then, one time after I committed suicide for the hundredth time, when I came back I noticed I had scars where I didn’t have any before. So I can actually change something in the loop.”
“So then, assuming for a second this is some kind of temporal loop, and you can change things, then there is a way to break the cycle.”
“Bingo! By the way, this is the fastest you’ve gotten to this point so far. Kudos, my man.”
“Thanks… I think. So then are you using the time you have to figure a way out?”
“Absolutely. Of course, in all the sci-fi I’ve read or watched, some physics genius figures out a solution after about a dozen times around. They polarize the temporal widget doo-hickey and wham! Get back to normal. Problem is, I am not a physics genius. I’m a machinist mate, second class. It’s taken me a while but I’m great at physics now; a whole bunch of other stuff too. Philosophy, biology, history, chemistry, electronics, all the stuff I ignored so I could get out of my crappy home town and see the universe with the merchant marine.”
“Well, if you surrender, I guarantee we’ll give you all you can read in the brig.”
“Mighty white of you, but I don’t think so. I have a plan. Actually, it’s been operational for almost three years now…my time line of course. In fact, I think I even have a way to break the loop. But I‘ve got to brush up a little more on my legal skills before I take action. After all, once the loop ends I have to go before the Captain’s Mast and I have to put on a good defense.”
“No, I lied. Figured out all that years ago. I’ll walk from this and be a considered a hero.”
“But you’re gonna flip the switch anyway?”
“Oh, absolutely, so you can go now and try to figure out a way to get me out of here. Spoiler alert: none of them work.”
“What If I just stay here?”
“Then you can watch me finish reading the last chapter of Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi.”
“Don’t you want out of the loop?”
“Of course, but you know what I’ve finally figured out?
“I’ve got plenty of time.”

People of Earth

Author: Jeremy Marks

“People of Earth, we have come bearing a divine message: Your God is tired. He is announcing his retirement.”

A traditional flying saucer had landed in the badlands of the continental United States. The saucer broadcast its message on a frequency that was picked up by AM, FM, Ham, and Short Wave radio across the country.

The saucer’s pilots, a troupe of “aliens” had modeled their craft to resemble a ship taken from a 1950s era Sci-Fi flick. It was an intentional choice. These beings wanted to be seen by the most pedestrian imaginations.

In truth, the shape of their ship was irrelevant. As non-corporeal beings, they were not in possession of bodies. Nor did they actually travel through space-time. Their appearance was that of an apparition, what in the past would have been some witch doctor’s vision.

“Your God knows that some of you have seen him. His likeness displayed in temples and art is the currency of prophets and saints. But he insists on being experienced as immanence available to all. He is what your philosopher Collingwood called “not the mere absence of time . . . but as a mode of being which involves no change or lapse, because it contains everything necessary to itself at every moment of its own existence.”

Being a people accustomed to a spectacle, Americans would expect to see their visitors. The saucer alone would not be enough, so the aliens became a troupe of statuesque brunettes and blondes one might have found on the set of a major motion picture. They awaited their first interview. But instead of dropping in on Hollywood or Times Square, they chose a far corner of the American landscape, a place seemingly removed from the imagine-making machinery.

North Dakota.

For out in North Dakota is buried the lifeblood of America. Beneath its soil flows a crude primeval thunder, a lubricious lucre that powers the progress of the world’s richest empire. In a place where earth and sky once turned black with cloven hooves and pigeon wings, the Earth itself now turns up a thick, dark vector that dances its way onto graphs and charts and turns over pistons and cylinders.

“People of Earth, we assure you that your God is alive and aware of your pleas and demands, your hopes and wishes. He hears your woes and whinges but he insists that we bring you this further message:

“You must learn to act as though he, whom you love, lives among you. For you see, your God is like a star swelled to giant size, He now is more mass than energy. His form has grown apace with your trinkets, your inventions are a part of his expanded consciousness.

“So now you must learn what your teacher Aristotle said: That the human, restless for perfection, pushes the perfect away.

“People of Earth, you must find among you those who desire no more than to fulfill the requirements of life. Tread not upon them as they are your salvation. Be they anteater or ant.

“That is His message.”

The transmission ended while the aliens waited for the first spectators to show. They could be farmers or oil workers, media personalities and curiosity seekers. They knew how they had called these folks to come from across the vast prairie, their voices cutting across the swirling dust of rutting bison. Their words and phrases shaking the leaves of an occasional oak like the vibrations of a breeze.

What the aliens knew was that words are like mites: they trigger an itch. But their itch can start a stampede toward relief.

Teary Visor

Author: Harrison Abbott

They slapped on the door. Their saliva lashed the glass, and their wings pounded on. But they couldn’t get to us; the glass was too strong. We’d already beaten them. I had the box with me. Our species was saved.

Marcy was crying below me, like a little girl. We both knew that my suit was ripped. I’d already pressed the airlock latch and the red sirens whirled about our heads. And I’d always found it scary, being in the lock when the latch was about to lift. But now I was already missing it, knowing I wouldn’t experience it again.

I was annoyed at Marcy for crying and I picked her up. I gave her the box. I told her it still wasn’t definite whether we would all survive. She had to reach Delta, make sure they got the box, before it could all be safe. I told her to stop blooming crying. I was glad because I knew she would be able to get to Delta. I was just trying to discipline her.

The creatures were still slapping the walls and Marcy wasn’t even afraid of them anymore. I still was. We’d been battling in this ship with them for nearly 40 hours. They were such a ravenous, horrific species, I’m amazed Marcy and I survived.

Marcy eventually stopped her grief and tried to stand up and face the latch. I could see the tears against her helmet’s visor. I told her you shouldn’t have a teary visor when heading into the abyss we both loved. But she didn’t have a torn suit. She’d be fine.

The lights changed on the latch, and moved up in blocks of blue, with the joyous bleep bleep bleep I knew so well. There was the rush of air. Marcy leaned out and took my hand. I clutched it as hard as I could, and I was trying to be the strong one for her, but when the latch opened and the blackness sucked us out, I realised it was the other way around.

Her hand was still griping mine, despite the ferocity of the non-air … I looked up into her teary visor and I mouthed, “Don’t watch,” and, for an answer, she let my hand go.

My body spun away as the vacuum worked under the hole in my suit. I watched the stars whizz about in crystal static. When I was a boy, I’d always thought that the stars were so far away. But I also would never have thought I’d be as close to the stars as I was then. I felt my body implode, fast, and in seconds I would be dead. And I had no clue where Marcy was. But I could still love the sight of the stars, nearest to them as I always would be.

Job Search

Author: David K Scholes

I didn’t recognize any of the positions in the job search booth.

Terra-forming Engineer, Change Field Manipulator, Short Tele-Shunt Engineer, Long Distance Teleportation Engineer, Unified Mind Sustainer, Alternate Reality Coordinator, Extra-Dimensional Tour Guide.

Though I could take a guess at what they might involve.

Whatever happened to the ubiquitous Business Analysts, Project Managers, and Executive Assistants. Not to mention Associate Professors, University Lecturers, and Research Fellows which were perhaps more in my line.

I hadn’t come that far up time – had I? Not more than the contracted period?

They had selected me on the basis of my Ph.D. in mathematics from the Australian National University. Not to mention my responses to some of the weirdest tests imaginable.

I was expecting a more formal reception and a little more guidance when I got here. Something more than the lone, barely civil, little bot ushering me into the job search booth.

“Take your time,” it said almost insolently. “Choose from any of these positions that interest you and that you appear qualified for. Once you have a job we can see about settling you in.”

I made my first selection and that’s when I got the treatment. The full treatment.
A bewildering battery of mind probe tests followed by a considerable array of virtual reality job scenarios. Somewhere among this I vaguely recalled an actual old fashioned face to face job interview with several distinctly non-human entities. I think my holograph went to them rather than the other way round. Though I really wasn’t quite sure.

Nothing down time, not even the weird tests I was subjected to down there, had prepared me for this and not surprisingly I failed miserably at my first up time job application. None of the potential employers up here wanting Time Travel Inconsistencies Mathematicians were interested in what I had to offer. It occurred to me that I might have been aiming too high.

The bot wanted me to press on with other job selections in the booth but the rigor of the job selection process together with my up time travel had resulted in brain fade.

A took a break in a very small transparent cubicle offered to me. After a heavily concentrated micro-sleep and some kind of mind nourishment I awoke refreshed and ready to continue. I became conscious of the many other job applicants that were around. Some of them resting, as I had, in the transparent cubicles.

I re-entered a job selection booth, not knowing if it was the same one, as there were so many of them.

I pressed on with my job selections: though with no better results. Failing for each position that I applied for. I began to wonder what I was doing here. Did these employers up time really want any of us down time savages?

I started to look for jobs that didn’t sound so grand. Maybe an up time equivalent of a laborer or cleaner.

Then I got a job. A position for an Efficient Debris Disposal Mathematician. It sounded like a grand title for a garbage disposer.

Going back down time wasn’t an option. The actuarial present value (discounted back to my time) of 50% of my contracted future earnings had already been paid to (and long since spent) by my family.

I realized these up time people knew what they were doing.

We down timers were never going to get the good jobs up here – just those they didn’t want to do themselves.

The up time employers were just going through the motions.

Blood in the Water

Author: R. J. Erbacher

He stood by the running stream, knees trembling, still panting, tears stinging his eyes, exhausted, wounded and numb with shock. And although the simple clear water was marvelous it wasn’t distracting enough. The weapon he held in his hand was stained black and coated with viscera, as was most of his body. So much death.

And why? His enemy did not differ from him. Their fur was the same gray color. They had two eyes to see the daylight, two arms to hold a loved one, four legs to race across the grassy plains. Yet their origins were in the high mountain ranges; that made them a peculiarity. They had odd rituals. Used stone armaments instead of bladed ones. Their howl was a deeper bark than his clan’s yippy cries. But they were the same species on the same planet separated only by varying geography.

They had lived peacefully yet isolated for who knows how long, only spoken of in legends and tall tales. A random encounter brought them together. A meeting filled with curiosity and a warm sense of discovery. Talks, shared meals, shared experiences. Then a disastrous circumstance lead to a misunderstanding, a squabble lead to a skirmish. Then a senseless killing.

Then to war. And now the sandy fields behind him were littered with corpses, so many that you couldn’t step a hoof without sinking into entrails.

He had been led out there by the elders of the clan, handed a weapon and ordered to abolish all. He imagined the other side of the battlement had been given similar instructions. A resounding bellow and then they charged into the melee. He jabbed in close quarters, swung frantically when he could. Soon he was immersed in the furious act of destruction. Death happened in front of him and on either side of him. He was sprayed with blood – his enemy’s, his friend’s, his own. They fought for what seemed like an endless day. Until there was only a scattering of survivors on either side. They all seemed to just stop at the same time and look about and realize what they had done. Those that were left staggered aimlessly away. He wandered from the battle, past the camp and into the thickness of the foliage, oblivious to everything around him. Until he came to this spot of serenity with the river bubbling easily over the rocks and the bugs carelessly fluttering about him.

He dipped his long blade down and the flow of the water washed the offense off, then held it up and examined it. It was the only thing that was clean. And he could not understand. Why any of this had happened? Or why he’d blindly done the things he did?

Impulsively he inverted the weapon around, jammed it into the muddy bank, took one deep breath and impaled his breast on it. He watched in a grimace as the blood rapidly traced down the shaft in a running line to meet with the clear water and swirl into mixed eddies of precious fluids. For an undetermined time, he just watched the liquescent blending. Then he stepped back off the blade, pain, and relief, clomped a couple of strides over to a shady patch below an enormous shrub and collapsed. He laid his head down, staring up at the sky as the mauve colors hypnotically whirled and pondered at how such a beautiful vision could idly watch what had happened here today and not darken with clouds in shame.

Soon, the awful memories of the day coiled into the blackness of nothing.