Author : Denny Knights
William struggled against the padded leather straps that held his hands and legs pinned against the surgical gurney which he was laying upon. He writhed and squirmed as much as he could against the restraints, hoping that they’d break, but it was a fruitless notion, the straps were solid. As he struggled, the straps cinched tighter and tighter until movement became impossible, and as the straps tightened, a small alarm bleeped just outside of his room.
Within a few seconds of the alarm’s initial bleeping, a bull of a man dressed in hospital scrubs appeared in the doorway leading into William’s room. “Hey, knock it off wouldya?”
“Let me out of here! I don’t belong here!” William exclaimed.
The bull wearing hospital scrubs said in a gruff voice, “That’s what everybody says.”
“But I’m not everybody. Jesus, I don’t belong here.” William said.
“Listen, Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with it. If he did, he woulda made ya smarter, and ya wouldn’t be here.” The bull said.
Seeing that William wasn’t going to acquiesce, the bull hulked over to William’s bed. William read his name tag, ‘Dante’.
“Yeah?” Dante asked.
“Dante, there’s been some kind of misunderstanding.” William said.
William watched as Dante pushed a button on the frame of the gurney. A blue liquid that had been suspended above William’s head in a translucent bag, slowly dripping through an I.V., now turned into a steady stream. The blue liquid quickly exited the plastic bag and rushed into William’s body. Almost immediately, William’s intellectual acuity became muddy and his body stopped responding to his requests to squirm and move. “Don’t worry about this stuff,” Dante said nodding at the blue liquid, “it’s a surgical paralysis concoction. It’ll wear off in eight to twelve hours.”
Dante pushed another button, this time, the operating slab detached from the gurney, gently levitating off the ground. Dante, with one finger, slowly spun the slab so that it was facing the doorway and gave it a gentle push. The slab maneuvered itself out of the room and then down the hallway toward the operating room. Dante walked in time with the levitating slab.
“William,” Dante said, “at the age of eighteen, everyone is required by national decree to register, take, and pass the National Purification Exam. You registered, you took it, but you didn’t pass it. Your scores were low enough that they landed you here.”
William tried making sounds of objection, but his body was now fully grasped by the blue liquid from the translucent bag. He only managed to make gurgles.
“I know,” Dante said, “you don’t think you belong here. But you do, your test says so. It told the government how smart you are, or in your case, how dumb.”
“It’s not so bad.” Dante continued. “The doctor will do a quick couple snips. The operation isn’t invasive, recuperation time is minimal. You’ll be out of here in another day or two. Best of all, you’ll still be able to have intercourse for as long as you can pump blood down there, you just won’t be able to have children.”
William’s eyes enlarged with panic.
“Hey, it could’ve been a lot worse than being sterilized.” Dante said. “You could’ve scored in the range that would’ve qualified you for automatic extermination.”
Author : Martin Berka
“Should you see a Fallen, send us a prayer that we may bring them peace. Otherwise they will bring you death.”
Egor felt like death. He could not get a full breath, and every joint asked only to be left alone, preferably far away. He approached the prone figure with curiosity, instead of the prescribed summoning chants.
Why would the gods’ commandment mention this? The description matched – wings, blades, tubes long and short, wires – but it all seemed so earthly. Traceable curves, clear edges. Profanum, not sacrum.
Then it opened its eyes, and Egor voiced the profanity aloud. It could have passed for human. After a moment, it shook its head (rattling wires, several were broken) and answered curse with ragged introduction:
It was a peculiar name, but who was Egor to question Fallen nomenclature? Death was far more gripping, having Eyn caught firmly. Creakily, Egor knelt, wedged a rock under its head, and pressed the stale bread from his pack to its lips. No sooner had they closed around the food, he felt a burst of heat. A strong hand clutched his forearm for long seconds. He felt a tingle, then for the first time, nothing. He stared at his arm as its skin tightened and thickened.
“Blessing,” he heard.
Egor led Eyn-Jel to the village. Several, those not paralyzed with fear, began their prayers at the sight of a Fallen, but none finished – word of its miraculous, life-giving power spread like the mist. Food was given, and shelter, and scraps of metal, and the sacred tongue went unspoken.
In time, it taught them of new gods, or perhaps older ones, ones they had followed before the “elders” filtered down from the stars, and they understood its purpose. Having healed the sick and given sight to the blind, the angel blessed the children, laying a hand on the foreheads of all but the gentlest. After a brief whimper or squeal, each seemed to gain in years and purpose.
One morning, the youngest, Chotei, ran into the largest hut where the angel held court. A priest was approaching, with escort. Judgment, monsters, and madness could be called down in seconds should they find anything unusual. Might their teacher hide?
“Stand tall or die,” it responded. And so the villagers led A’olate Rth’ola to the hut, avoiding the gazes of his massive companions. He screamed when he saw the metallic, undeniably earthly wings reaching up to the roof, and so did the villagers when lightning flashed from several of the angel’s tubes and reduced cleric and guards to charred scalps and hands.
It left that day. The villagers watched as their angel of death ascended once more. Egor stood pensively to the side. As the silvery glint vanished on the horizon, he lowered his eyes from heaven to earth, to the few dozen people who were his life. He saw his granddaughter Nola absently scratching between her shoulder blades. There were literal blades now, pressing up against the tunic, and the tip of a chrome-colored feather extending above the neckline. He fell to his restored knees and thanked whatever light-bringer had enabled humanity’s uprising.
Author : M.D.Parker
It was a green, semi-transparent liquor poured into the six glass decanters. Gabe, the ship’s remaining pilot, poured each glass with methodical purpose, setting it front of each person in turn. Then the final glass, filled only halfway, was placed at the center of the table.
Gabe sat behind his glass. The chairs had never felt so cold and uncomfortable. For a long moment all just sat in silence without moving. One by one, each set of eyes turned toward the Captain. Nedu stood and raised his glass. Even his tall frame seemed smaller under the weight of grief.
“To our brother. May your next journey be one of peace. May the light of a thousand stars burn to show your way across the void.” Captain Nedu tilted his head taking the contents of the glass down in a single gulp, ingesting all but one swallow as he took the glass from his lips. “I shall not finish this drink, until I make my final jump and join you there.”
“Until I make my final jump,” Renald said as he stood rigid and drained all but one sip from the decanter.
“Until I make my final jump,” Addy said, closing his eyes as he stood to hold in the stream that threatened to release from his eyes. He ran his free hand through his hair and let out a long sigh as he studied the remaining swig in his glass.
“Until then, my friend,” Lyn drank hers down slower than the others, breathing deep as she let the alcohol burn its way down her throat. Her other hand never left the grip of her sidearm. Her fingers had been massaging its handle, wishing to even the score, if only they knew who had done this.
“Until I, I… until I make that final jump my friend, and then we … we will drink as brothers,” Gabe choked his words and pulled the liquid from his glass with reserve. His eyes were watered and swollen. His cheeks hung as heavy as his slumped shoulders.
All five of them held their last sips in front of them and in reverse order they emptied the green liquid into the glass decanter in the center of the table. The room fell silent again, and no one looked at each other. One by one they left the galley.
The Captain waited for their exit, and once it was only his and Gabe’s breath that could be heard in the room, Nedu looked at him and spoke softly. “I’m sorry Gabe, he was a good one. One of the best.”
Gabe nodded his head but did not take his eyes off the now full glass in the center of the table. He wept openly, no longer trying to fight it back. Captain Nedu left Gabe alone in the room. Gabe stood for a another long moment before stepping away from the table. With his head hung low, he looked back over his shoulder as he pushed the button that surrendered the off-white light to the dark.
Author : Jordan Mason
The wardrobe is full of ghosts.
Clothes she wore now mere memories of what once was. Metallic shirts and faux fur coats, shoes and denim and all things feminine. They could be burned. They could be donated. They could be sold. They could not be saved. They exist only as threads of the past.
Shelves of books and cabinets full of vinyl records and CD’s, all lost to time. Chords of melancholy, verses and pages of meaningless drivel that now belonged to the rest of the world, but not to her. King, Koontz, Rowling, Bradbury; all the property of someone else now.
If Dylan sang for her once, he sings for me now. Tangled up in blue.
If there was one thing to solely identify her with, it was her smell. She wore Chanel, Givenchy, and Tom Ford. She smelled of coconut butter in the summer and black pepper in the winter, and just as winter turns into spring, you open her drawers and inhale the lavender. You admire her ability to impress. Black lace and purple lining, soft white cotton and floral blossom. Only the best would be worn to bed.
She would never sleep still; twisting, turning, and snoring as loud as she would breathe. Her asthma was worse at night. Sometimes, when she would lay flat on her belly, she would sink her face into her pillow and cocoon the sound.
I didn’t mind. I got more peace that way.
When she wasn’t sleeping she was satisfying. Her lips were as soft as her laundry. Delicate. Frail. Addicting. Her body was slender and toned and beyond that of art. Her thighs were my favourite, to kiss and to touch. I never tired of them.
And I never tired of her hair. Dark brown and flowing, curling and falling all down her breast. Her eyes were hazel. They never looked unhealthy. Neither did her complexion; rosy and bright and full of youth. Her voice was like silk. It would ring out with such intimacy; as delicate even when we were fighting. She had a way with words on paper as she did in speech. Next to her bedside table stood a small writing studio: piles of paper stock, unfinished manuscripts of all sizes, paperweights and Royal Doulton figurines inherited from her mother, a German typewriter with a missing ‘N’ key; a precious space for concentration. The light from the window would drape across her corner each morning, and it would bronze and retreat each night.
Light of my life. Dawn to my day. Twilight to my night. Every phrase under the sun. If there was a more precious life in the world, it has yet to be found.
But the bed is colder now. The room is dark, even in the day. It smells different, of damp and decay. Never had she smelled so foul. Never had she slept so still.
I turn over and think of the good times. I think about burning the clothes.
There is no sound tonight.
Author : O. G. Patterson
The dark sky flashes with the colorful bursts and flowing sparkles of a new year. I watch as flickers of light pulse through silhouettes of houses and trees, then scatter across the black lake water. I watch as the heavens light up with the end of a long year and the beginning of a fresh one. They do not know. No one knows. They celebrate while I brood. They drink while I plan. They party, make love, sleep and dream while I plot. They make resolutions. I make mine too. It will be soon.
I go to bed for the last time.
The dawn brings with it the hope promised at midnight. My hope is not the world’s hope, is not the same hope that rushes to brush the past away. My hope is for a truly new beginning. I leave my bed unmade. There is no need, today. I ignore the coffee, do not eat breakfast. Instead, the workshop, the project, the end of the world will be my meal, my sustenance. After I turn on the machine, give life to it, there will be no more need for food.
I gaze at my creation, my aluminum child. My trembling hand quivers scant centimeters from bestowing both life and death. The button flirts and flashes its eager face at me. Just a few seconds more. The timing must be perfect.
I am no god. Of course not. The mere thought trickling through my mind makes me chuckle. No, there is no god. Only science.
Only the ultimate certainty: that of playful atoms, frisky elements, quantum frolicking. Yes, oh yes, physics. I had made love to physics, caressed it, manipulated it, and choked it to submission.
They thought they knew physics, the others, “so-called” scientists. They did not know the truth about energy. I know.
They did not understand that they were wrong, wrong about it all. There are no laws, no precious rules. I will show them.
I press the button.
The first thing to go is the roof. I wave at it as it tumbles upward. The trees, with trembling skeletal fingers like mine, arch upward, straining to escape the constrictive earth. There is a roar, a whoosh. The lake water across the way bursts upward, a cloud of rain that falls on the sky. I rise up, too, flying, soaring, and rushing upward as if I am meant for this. Others, too. Cars. Boats. Walls. Neighbors. I gasp at surreal reverse rainstorms with specks and globs of civilization rising to the heavens. More debris now. Earth and rock, chunks of them, larger and larger sections. Higher and higher I fly. I spread my arms wide, laughing. Too high for details now, yet I see sections, plates, continents separate, orange jagged veins of the earth’s molten heart spreading like shattered glass.
I was right. I proved them wrong.