Author: Michael Anthony Dioguardi
“Forever,” the doctor replied.
The patient breathed in slowly, swallowing before he spoke, “The view’s incredible from up here! What did you say the name of this quadrant was?”
The doctor activated the patient’s interface on his forearm, “Enoch Spalding, Saiph system, I’ve gotten a bunch of patients from that area — oh, your question, well, we’re in the front row of the Pegasus Nebula Cluster. They say every fifteen minutes another star goes supernova,” the doctor paused, observing Enoch’s age on his interface, “I worked for years to get my offices here. It’s the best view in the galaxy and it’s far away from the Central Authorities.”
Darkness surrounded the theater of cosmic fireworks. Stars exhaled their final breath and engorged themselves with the neighboring galactic debris.
Enoch shuffled his body in the bed, “Doctor, why should we be bound by mortality?”
“You and the big questions,” the doctor scrunched his brow, “Usually my patients aren’t this chatty before the procedure, I think—”
“Why is there no end to this!”
The doctor leaned back in his seat, nodding his head. He showed his finger to Enoch, “Hold on, I’ve got something for you to see.”
The doctor reached into a drawer and pulled out a box-like apparatus. He blew off the dust and wiped the front of the box, revealing the words: Newbury Public Cemetery Manifest.
“You’re probably wondering what this is…I’m still trying to figure it out myself. I’ve only seen a few of these in my lifetime. They were called books, some millenniums ago.”
The doctor handed Enoch the book. From the spine, a thin rope dangled with a plastic tube attached at its end. Enoch rubbed his finger against the tube’s point and watched his skin darken with its inky residue. He opened the book and flipped through its pages, “What is all this stuff? They’re just peoples’ names, and numbers and letters.”
“These people are all gone now,” the doctor peered over his shoulder, “From what I gather, folks used to stow away their family in these things called cemeteries. I reckon this was before the Infinity Initiative.”
Enoch tapped his feet against the table and placed the book by his side, “Will this really work?”
The doctor adjusted the machine behind them, “My last patient was over one thousand years old when he came in. You’re but a mere 314. Your question shouldn’t be whether it works, but rather, if you’re ready for it to work.”
Their eyes met. Tears rolled down Enoch’s face. Looking out the viewing chamber, Enoch asked between breaths, “Forever?”
The doctor smiled and attached Enoch to the syringe, “And not a day more.”
They clutched their hands together; their pulses increased with each passing second until the grip from Enoch’s fingers loosened.
Another star expanded in the cluster. Fiery bolts of crimson spread like tentacles reaching for the heavens. The red turned to black — and the darkness, forever opaque, welcomed Enoch to its abode.
Sweat beaded underneath the doctor’s eyelids. He reached for the book and flipped through its pages. He lifted the tube from its string and pressed it against the page. As he wrote, he whispered, “Enoch Spalding, Saiph system, 314 years old. Final words: Forever…”
Author: Shannon O’Connor
Usually, in all the movies and books, the post-apocalypse is followed by a journey of some kind. The world falls apart, and the characters involved have to leave their homes in order to find food or shelter, or go somewhere safer.
I work in a hospital, and one of the doctors in my department contracted the virus. I didn’t have a lot of face-to-face time with him, but I did touch things that he touched, and I had a cough, so I was sent home from work.
Today, in our virus-ridden world, we are not told to leave home. Not yet. We are told to shelter in place, which has become a cliché of sorts. But we have to be ready. So we should pack our bags, and we need to decide what to bring.
At first, I debate between my small, gray carry-on bag, and my hefty backpack that I bring when I travel. I decide on the backpack, and try to make it light as possible.
I bring one pair of yoga pants, one comfortable but sturdy shirt, which I do not love, because it has flowers and stripes, but it’s colorful, and I think we will need color where we’re going. I decide if I leave I will wear a pair of black jeans with a short-sleeve shirt and my heavy USS Constitution sweatshirt that I usually wear to bed. I pack three pair of underwear and socks. I pack one bra, and I decide to wear one when I leave.
Usually, when I travel, I overload on toiletries, because I am a girly-girl, and I must have my correct face wash, moisturizer, body wash, and lotion. But I decide in the post-virus world we are contended with, my skin cannot be as soft and clean as it usually is in the real world.
I pack two small bottles of body wash, and some travel-size shampoo and conditioner. I also put a small body powder in my bag. I add a first aid kit with Band-aids and disinfectant, ibuprofen, a water bottle, a hairbrush, my toothbrush, and some toothpaste. I place my iPad and its charger in the bag.
I cannot help but be a girl, so I put my hair spray conditioner in my backpack, which untangles my hair like nothing else. I also bring several elastics, because I know I will be tying my hair back a lot, because I will not be trying to impress anyone with my long, wavy, almost natural auburn hair.
I will wear one pair of shoes, my workout sneakers. I will pack my phone last.
My backpack isn’t particularly heavy. I want to bring jewelry and makeup, but I know that would be ridiculous. I remember I should pack sunglasses and a hat. I hope that’s everything. If it’s not, I can add more later.
I hope this virus doesn’t make us leave home. I don’t want to go anywhere like they to do in the movies, traveling around, scrounging for food and fighting for safety. I’m not a fighter, I’m an artist, and most likely I won’t survive long.
We don’t know what the future holds. But we have to be ready.
Author: Samuel Stapleton
Xayana had no parents because she was engineered and grown in a lab, as most assassins were these days. Though it’s not as horrendous an upbringing as you might expect: she grew up surrounded by peers, received an excellent education, had access to counseling and the best medical staff money could buy. She’d gotten to train with the best of everyone, at nearly everything. She had learned four languages and lived in six different countries all before the age of eighteen. And I was with her every step of the way.
My name is Annabel, and I’m the AI inside Xayana’s brain. We are a team. Sisters.
Yeah, we’ve killed some people. Mostly bad people. Probably some decent folks too, we don’t get to choose. We’ve almost died a dozen times, but we’ve gotten to live the high-life as well. No matter what though…I had been there to see what she saw, feel what she felt…but I also had to remain…separate. That’s the rule.
For the past two years, Xayana had me working on a secret project. We only discussed it in the safety of our neural-net link, where no one else could reach us. She’d asked me…to find her a way out. Out of the program. Out of this life. She said she had done enough, and you know what? I agreed. I could feel her need to move on, so I searched. That one feeling of wanting fueled me for months. Everything else had been a mission, but this was a purpose.
I had already chased down four decent leads, all ended up being…impossibilities. Recently though, I had started connecting dots I’d missed before. About the software, the program, and the elites that controlled us from the shadows.
When I had all the pieces (for the fifth time) I ran a battle simulation. It had a success outcome chance of 86%, with a 5% margin of error. She was ecstatic, and even that’s an understatement.
“So how do we do it, what do I need to do first?” She asked breathlessly.
I began explaining. How she could, step by step, corrode away the systems that tracked her every movement. And then how she would accept a mission to a remote part of the world, take down our survey systems, de-log, wipe, and disappear. To be honest, I’m a bit of a genius, and the plan was as good as she was going to get. But it still took us months.
It was that last step. That last goddam step. We were out in the middle of ‘a’ desert, having just successfully knocked out the last tracking drone when I told her to get out the nano-surgery bots.
“What? Why? I feel fine, do I have an internal injury?” She asked, suddenly concerned.
“No,” I replied. “This is just the last step. I’ve already programmed them to remove me.”
There was a long pause.
“Anny. What the fuck are you talking about?” She said quietly.
“Xayana, part of my program is remote access. They can reach me anytime, anywhere, as long as I exist…you can’t escape…but it’s okay…I already-”
“NO!” She screamed to the sands.
“No.” She whimpered as she dropped to her knees.
I could feel everything. It was unbearable. To want two things more than anything, but only be able to keep one…but just before I let the surgery bots go, I learned what tears taste like.
And even though we were almost dying of thirst, they were still so useless, so bitter-sweet.
Author: David C. Nutt
It started with isolated incidents. Dead hiker’s bodies being found half-eaten. Forensic reports coming back that the teeth and claw marks were postmortem, small animal… most likely chipmunks and ground squirrels of some kind. Nothing too disturbing about that, there was a great body of evidence that both species occasionally ate animal flesh from time to time- even hunted. When these behaviors started showing up in rabbits, and woodchucks, then deer, moose, and bison… well, that was different.
Those of us who lived in the city heard the reports and while we believed them, didn’t see how it would mean anything to us. After all, most of us chose the city life to avoid wildlife and nature. Glossy wall calendars and nature documentaries were enough. Until the petting zoo incident.
It was shocking. 17 children, five chaperones and their bus driver, plus the petting zoo staff. The carnage was horrific. Goats, sheep, llamas, and an alpaca. Muzzles all frothy with blood, chewing entrails of the victims as if they were mouths full of hay. No one told the police officers arriving on the scene to put the animals down. The first thing they did when they got out of their vehicles was start shooting, double-tapping every downed animal.
Then it started showing up in what little wildlife we had in the cities. Squirrels swarming over the elderly feeding them. Raccoons in small packs hunting drunks staggering their way home. Possums dropping out of the trees on children. A walk in the park became a life and death struggle. No one walks very far anymore. Jogging? It’s suicide.
At least the dogs are still on our side. Stories of average Fido’s dying while protecting their masters are daily events in the news. I was never much of a dog person- now I own two terriers and a bull-mastiff. We are quite a pack; I never go anywhere without them. I also was never a gun person. I carry an automatic shotgun now, always loaded. Yes, I have had to use it. Let’s just say I’ll never be a cat person again.
Milk and cheese are getting hard to come by now. All the milkers at a dairy farm in Wisconsin, went on a rampage- 400 head of angry cattle running wild down the highway, breaking into stopped and stalled cars to get at the passengers. The same happened a few weeks later in dairy farms all over the world. The only commodity we seem to have a lot of is meat. Got to do something with all those dead cattle.
The scientists have no idea why this is happening. No diseases, no mutations, nothing unusual found in the hundreds of thousands of animals autopsied. This prompted reps from PETA to hold a press conference in Central Park advocating for humans to stop panicking and end the wholesale slaughter of our fellow creatures. They sounded sincere until about a thousand squirrels overran the event. Two of the PETA staff in attendance were reduced to nothing but bone in minutes; the rest barely made it out alive. Haven’t heard anything from PETA since.
Philosophers, theologians, occultists, nobody seems to know what’s going on; if this will be the new normal or if it will stop and things go back to the way it was. Until things get back to normal, if ever, I’m in it for the long haul. We’ve been top of the food chain for all this time and I aim to stay there.
Author: Michael W. Clark
Now that I had eaten to the crew, what was I going to do? Autophagia? That seemed a pointless waste of energy. Cutting off my leg and cooking it? A waste of energy all round. Killing one’s self in space though was efficient, relatively simple, and full of choices. Reduce the cabin’s oxygen concentration or increase the carbon dioxide. The latter was preferable to the former. Then you fall asleep and die unaware. There was turning off the heat. There was the much more dramatic method of opening the airlock, all at once or slowly. So many choices to one end.
It was such a waste though. Failures are like that, a waste. This mission failed dramatically. Off course was an understatement. Too much travel time, too little food. Water and air recycled. Not like being lost at sea. No fishing in space just starving. So, the captain decided, no one else questioned. I was the survivor because I was small. The captain froze the other crew members and himself while I was asleep. Not a good thing to wake up to. Good thing I wasn’t a vegetarian. The captain ordered me to survive and get back to base. Preventing a total failure was the captain’s rationale for the decision. So, I was only following orders.
Unfortunately, still too far out. The Navi Comp’s recalculations were more accurate the closer the ship was to base. Still two months out. I left out the most obvious way to die. Starving to death. It is a slow death. I have always been a patient person. It was thought to be a virtue in long space voyages. Short stature and long in patience. That’s me. Got me into this situation. Now add thin; short, thin and patient. Obedient, yes, obedient too. Aye aye captain. I have eaten you all. As you ordered. I may fail you on survival though. I will move as little as possible. Drink water and keep calm. Keep the metabolism down. I will try, captain. I will try. Try or die. Try and die. It was the way my grandfather described living. Try and still die. So, I am living in full.