Author: Madison McSweeney
Under a sweltering summer sun in southeastern Ontario, an aerial camera watched as two boys walked through a wheat field.
Each boy dragged a heavy wooden plank; as they traversed the land, stalks of wheat bent and flattened underneath them. After exactly seven hours of work, they abandoned their tools and trudged across two hundred feet of flattened and un-flattened cropland, emerging on the other side, scratched, sunburned, and surly.
At the edge of the field, a news camera turned to capture their exit, before refocusing on KX604 anchor Hadi Chadha.
Hadi read from a cue card: “Last week, a Mellonville grain farmer was shocked to find portions of his field flattened into an elaborate pattern. KX604 spoke to renowned ufologist Maxwell Salinger, who speculated that these crop circles could have been caused by radiation from alien spacecraft. He even suggested the city send samples of the damaged stalks in for testing.”
“But yesterday, two local teens approached KX604 News with a confession: they were behind the whole thing.”
The camera fixed on the boys as Hadi narrated: “Sixteen-year-olds Josh Drayton and Brady Michaels say that they snuck onto the farm in the dead of night and created the circles themselves, as an elaborate practical joke.” She pivoted to the pranksters. “Mind explaining how you did it?”
Brady shrugged. “We tied some planks of wood to ropes, and just dragged them through the field. Crushed the wheat pretty good.”
“But what about those incredible designs? Surely you didn’t just wing it?”
Brady hesitated; Josh piped up. “No, that was planned out. We visited the field several times, too, to case the route.”
Hadi nodded and returned to the camera. “However, some didn’t believe them. Bill Petrovsky, the farmer whose crops were affected, maintains that it would have been impossible for the boys to level such a large portion of his field without him noticing. So, with Mr. Petrovsky’s consent, Josh and Brady volunteered to replicate their prank – under the watchful eye of a KX604 aerial camera.”
Brady cringed; Josh elbowed him.
“In keeping with the timeframe of the original ‘prank,’ the crop-circlers were given less than seven hours to forge three circles, at 200, 150, and 100 feet in diameter. Let’s see how they did.”
She raised a hand to her earpiece, indicating she was addressing the aerial cameraman. “What do you see, Allan?”
The helicopter doubled back and made another sweep across the field. The camera panned across three freshly-made crop circles, 250, 150, and 100 feet in diameter. They were a bit rougher around the edges than the original three, but the visual was close enough.
The story ran at six o’clock. No one who watched was surprised that Brady and Josh had been behind the crop circles. They all knew the boys were troublemakers.
Of course, no one who watched the broadcast knew why they knew that. Come to think of it, none of the viewers could quite recall where they’d met these boys, or if they knew who their parents were.
Had they thought about the story more deeply, it would have occurred to them that there was no Drayton family in Mellonville, and that the youngest Michaels in town was a 52-year-old spinster.
But they didn’t, and it didn’t.
Similarly, no one thought it odd when they didn’t see the boys around after that. No one wondered where they’d gone, or even remembered they’d ever been there.
However, a stargazer did report a strange set of lights in the sky just a few hours after the broadcast, and two indistinct figures rising into the sky.
Author: Anne Dewvall
The tiny blue pill gleamed in Jerome’s palm as it danced with electrical impulses. This capsule had the power to transform the human experience, and through that, the world, but people were wasting it, eating the same shit they always had, with slightly improved results. Vita-E was supposed to change anything you ate after swallowing it into a nutritious, digestible substance.
He wanted to eat something people had never eaten before. Most Americans used the supplement to turn tasty junk into something that would actually sustain human life. Those in the developing world relied on the pills to survive what would formerly have been a starvation diet of leaves, bark, and the odd insect or two. Neither application was adequately ambitious. Anything was a word quivering with possibility, begging to be challenged, and he would answer that call.
Jerome ran his other hand across the slippery surface of the helmet he wore to increase cognitive function and surveyed the minimal contents of his loft. Hoverboard? No, he needed that to get around. Computers, media screens, lights, toilet – all too expensive, too functional, and too hard on the teeth. His eyes landed on a grey, wool cardigan. Replaceable, sturdy enough to make digestion difficult, and easy enough to ingest. Perfect. He popped his Vita-E and perched on a counter. Dinner time. Unraveling the wool, he slurped it like spaghetti, gleefully imagining the nanobots tearing apart the fibers and transmuting them into something his body recognized as food.
Aside from a little indigestion, which he figured was normal for such a high fiber meal, he felt great. So it was true, you really could eat anything. The world was alive with possibility. Peonies, rubber gloves, plastic wrap: he would eat his way through the world. Jerome’s skeptical mind was gleeful with the realization.
That is, until the following day, when it was time for his morning constitutional. After several hours of straining, he finally passed a felted wool log.
Author: Philip Berry
Brandon wiped pale grey dust off the sign. It dropped in a thin wafer that crumbled over the toe cap of his left boot.
– Heat exchange: no unauthorised entry –
The door spun away under the silent wave that emanated from the unit in his outstretched hand. He heard it clatter against the far wall of the cavernous hall within.
There was no heat. The exchange had been still for 6 months.
Brandon moved across the once spotless floor, kicking away fallen tiles and coolant coils as he went. In the middle of the hall a man sat on a white plastic chair.
“Saturan?” said Brando.
“Yes. Who else did you expect, in Saturan City?”
“What are you doing? There are only 8 hours until the levelling.”
It figured. Saturan, the most successful miner in Coin’s forty-year history. The guy who built a town (PR called it a ‘city’, or SC) with one purpose – mining. At its height there were five hundred inhabitants, employees, paid to keep the power flowing, the processors purring, the networks communicating, the heat exchanging… the Coin revealed.
Of course, it was all about power. Saturan owned the third largest electricity generating company in the northern hemisphere. When faith in Coin solidified, when its value became economic lore, he diverted a large proportion of the power he owned into mining. And boy, did Coin pay back. Power = processing time = Coin. The shadow equation did not interest him; Coin = global warming = suffering. While Saturan accumulated Coin, the continent’s southern littoral fell into a rising sea. Millions were displaced. Ecologists correlated the upturn in warming to SC’s gross power consumption.
Something shuffled through the detritus to Brandon’s left. A rat? A dog? No, an elderly woman.
“Madam Kensi! Please, it’s not safe here.”
Madam Kensi, the inventor of Coin. For decades known only as Fat K, an unshaven, pallid basement- dweller in the popular imagination. When Fat K showed herself, the day after the solution had been reached, the world perceived a lineless Japanese lady in her sixties. A genius.
The solution – that is, the mathematical endpoint towards which every cypto-currency miner had been unknowingly edged, chipping away at a grand, gamified challenge of Madam Kensi’s design– the solution was the answer to Earth’s plight.
The solution was fusion.
Brandon placed a protective arm around Madam Kensi, but he did not touch her, wary of puncturing the aura of sanctity. “Madam, please come away.”
She now stood in front of Saturan.
“What do you want?” asked the Coin trillionaire.
“To satisfy myself that you see the irony.”
Brandon interjected, sensing physical threat; “No sudden moves Saturan. I’m charged.” Unlike the door, Saturan would fall to pieces if caught in a wave. Madam Kensi continued,
“You carried on, despite the warnings. You consumed power, you burned the atmosphere, to enrich yourself. You built a whole city for it! Your processors mined more Coin than any other individual or conglomerate… and thus,” she laughed out loud, “contributed most to finding the solution. It’s beautiful! You have unlocked Earth’s future.”
Saturan said nothing. Brandon smiled to himself. He got it.
Like all things of value, Coin had rarity. That rarity derived from the power-hungry processing time required to mine it; only the rich could afford to mine Coin. Now, power was cheap. Power was universal. And Coin had no value.
Madam Kensi moved to leave.
“You coming?” asked Brandon, of the dejected figure in the plastic seat. Saturan shook his head.
The leveling had begun.
Author: David Henson
Valeria knocks down Devis and scores. The 10-year-old girl then stands over the boy and laughs.
“Your daughter plays to win,” Enzo, captain of the Noah 500 says to Valeria’s father. “I like that.”
Later that day, Valeria is having supper with her parents. “Don’t play with your food, Sweetie,” her mother says. “We don’t get vegetables from the hydro garden that often.”
“I hate fresh food,” Valeria replies. “Can’t we have replicated?”
“Please eat up,” Valeria’s father says. “I don’t want to be late for the next installment of The Evolution and Devolution of Earth. I’m sure there’ll be a crowd.”
“I don’t wanna go.”
“Learn all you can about Earth, Sweetie,” Valeria’s mother says. “It’s where you’re from.”
“You’re from earth. I’m from the Noah 500.” Valeria crushes a carrot with her fork. “Never even seen earth,” she mutters.
“Congratulations, Valeria,” Captain Enzo says. You’re the first in the entire evacuation fleet to make ensign at 17.” The captain turns to Devis. “Maybe next time, son.”
“I’m glad you could have supper with me, Sweetie,” Valeria’s mother says. “Since you moved into your own quarters, meals are terribly lonely.” She sighs. “I miss your father. I always hoped I’d live long enough to make it to NewEarth. Now I don’t really care.” She places a plate in front of Valeria and frowns. “No more fresh the rest of the trip. Who would want to sabotage the ship’s hydro garden?”
“I broke up with Devis.”
“Why? You were a lovely couple.”
“I shouldn’t be with an ensign now that I’m a lieutenant … Mmm, this is delicious.”
“Congratulations, Valeria.” The years quiver through Captain Enzo’s hands as he pins another star on Valeria’s collar. “Your parents would’ve been proud.” The captain turns to Devis. “Sorry, Lieutenant, but there can be only one commander.”
“Yes, Sir,” Devis says. “I understand.”
The captain leaves the bridge.
“Commander, a word?” Devis says.
“I’m busy, Lieutenant. Be quick.”
“There’s discontent among the shipborn,” Devis whispers. “The captain’s too old. All the earthlings are. If you … make a move, we’ll follow you.”
A white-haired man in a lush garden appears on the viewscreen. “Captain Enzo, finally you’re in range. I’m Dr. Arpad, NewEarth Board of Governors. We’re looking forward to your arrival next month. You’ll love it here.” Dr. Arpad drones on about how wonderful NewEarth is. As he talks, two coal-black horses lope past him. Finally, he motions to a young man who’s been standing silently at his side. “I suggest Braoin and your commander begin coordinating the logistics of your arrival.”
Dr. Arpad and Captain Enzo excuse themselves.
“Is NewEarth really so great?” Valeria asks.
Braoin looks around then speaks quietly. “It’s horrible. Nothing but fresh food.” He sneezes. “Flowers everywhere … Ow! Damn bee … And every kind of creature imaginable since Noahs 200-300 arrived. I wish I’d never gotten off of 150.” Braoin’s shoulders slump. “I so miss falling asleep to the soft rumble of engines, the way the gravgens tickled the soles of my feet.” He closes his eyes.
Valeria does the same.
Captain Enzo draws his weapon, but Valeria easily slaps it away. “Change of plans, Captain.” She nods to Devis. “Tell the shipborn to move now,” Valeria says.
Devis reaches for his communicator, then stops. “First, there’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.” He steps menacingly toward Enzo, but suddenly turns and snatches Valeria’s weapon from her.
“Please resume command, Captain Enzo,” Devis says. “I’ll escort this traitor to the brig.”
Author: John McLaughlin
She danced across the living room in a yellow sundress, her heels tapping to flamenco on the smoky hardwood. It was Charlie’s favorite outfit–the one he’d gotten her for their anniversary. Her hips swayed like magic, he thought.
“So what’s playing at the Cineplex?” he managed with a tepid grin. “We should catch a flick for date night.”
She paused for just a beat: “Casablanca at 8:15. It’s a classic!”
“And then, I was thinking,” his lip quivering a bit, “maybe dinner at D’Amico’s. You love that place…”
“Two for one cocktails during happy hour, and wine is half off!” she shouted back mid-spin.
He was leaning against the mantelpiece for support now. His bloodshot eyes surveyed the room–dark, sunken sockets finally turning to hers.
“Sarah…did it hurt?”
The music stopped. Silence lingered while she stared vacantly into space, head slightly tilted.
“Sorry, I don’t understand the question.”
And then a smile blossomed wide across her cheeks. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Charlie staggered onto the couch and sent a pile of empty Buds tumbling across the carpet. The SureComfort cushion folded tight around his gut.
He blinked three times to switch off his retinal patch and the woman vanished.
But when he closed his eyes once more, her fuzzy outline still swam in his vision. It was the photon afterburn; a constellation of brilliant points that persisted for a few minutes after shutting down the implant.
Charlie didn’t mind it. He fell deep into the cushion, meditating on the shape of his wife until sleep took him.