Hydrogen Butterfly

Author : Glenn S. Austin

It was the first ship to be outfitted with the Time Jump and the Magnetic Field Drive. It was the perfect pairing of technology. The right tool for the specific research that Gleason was pursuing.

Traverse back in time billions of years to when the Sun was just a cloud of hydrogen. Then, on consecutive Time Jumps, watch the cloud as it compressed, coalesced, and eventually ignited into our Sun. The Time Jump seemed to be perfect, although it had its limitations. You could only go backwards in time and then return to the present, which was fine for this particular research program.

The Magnetic Field Drive, created a magnetic gravity field that would effectively suction up, compress, and then ignite the free hydrogen to propel the ship to various points within the cloud. An abundance of hydrogen was expected at the far end, so there would be no problem fueling the drive or collecting the energy to recharge the Time Jump.

Gleason Jumped.

All worked as expected and placed him and his ship in the middle of a vast hydrogen cloud, exactly as predicted. He checked the systems and onboard chronometer and all was functional. It was surreal, here he was, in the middle of all the matter that would become the center of our Solar System. Eventually, when compressed, it would provide the heat and mass that breathed life into Earth and warmed the beings that inhabited it.

As Gleason’s sense of awe subsided, he got to work. First, start the Magnetic Field Drive and collect energy to recharge for the Jump home. Next, check all the monitoring sensors that collected and stored data for later analysis. Then a side job that he had planned to help fund his research. Collect quantities of this primordial hydrogen in containers to bring back to the future. It was going to be the perfect gimmick. Package the gas in souvenir bottles, and sell them to folks who would pay big for a bottle of the hydrogen that created the Sun.

That done, it was time to take a trip around the Cloud to measure the different hydrogen densities. Gleason activated the MF Magnetic Field Drive D and the ship accelerated leaving a fiery tail behind as the hydrogen plasma ignited and thrust the ship forward. It was beautiful and the onboard cameras got some great pictures of million mile long trails of burning hydrogen.

Gleason watched in fascination as the trails expanded to consume even more hydrogen and leave large swaths of empty space where the gas burned off.

How long would it take for those voids to fill in with the surrounding Hydrogen?

As that depended on the various minute gravity influences, his propulsion trails could theoretically endure for millions of years. He grinned, it was nice to know that something he did here would have a long lasting effect, even though there was no one to see it.

Time to head back. Gleason activated the Time Jump and was instantly back in the Solar system, or was he?

The Sun didn’t look right. It seemed dimmer. Was he in the wrong timeframe? The chronometer said he was right back where he started. Where was Earth? He should be close to the Lagrange point between the Earth and the moon. But there was nothing. A quick scan, four planets orbiting the dim star. It was all gone, no Earth, no humanity, no history.

Gleason figured it had been the long trails of burning Hydrogen but he looked at the souvenir bottles of gas and wondered if just that little amount had made the difference.

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True Love

Author : Todd Wells

Jon approached the pearly gates. The kindly old man smiled. “Welcome,” he said. “Here, everyone spends their immortal life together with their true love. Soon, you will be reunited with your wife, Julie.”

“That’s wonderful. Thank you so much!” Jon entered the gates at peace, knowing that before long he would be with Julie again.

Julie was an avid runner, and drank red wine only moderately, so Jon had to wait awhile for her arrival. But one day she finally appeared before him, looking just as she had on their wedding night.

Jon fell to one knee, “Julie, my love, he said we would be reunited, and we are. I’ll be here to cherish you for ever and ever.”

“Jon, hey, wow. It’s great to see you too.” Julie was looking around.

“Until the end of time I’ll hold you in my arms, gaze into your eyes, and…” Jon was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Alejandro, who lived down the street.

“Hi, Alejandro,” said Julie softly.

“Hi, uh, Julie.” Alejandro looked uncomfortable. He glanced back and forth between Jon and Julie.

A woman materialized between Alejandro and Julie. Julie’s eyes narrowed. “Stephanie, what are you doing here?”

Alejandro now looked happier. “Stephanie, it’s so good to see you. You look fantastic.”

Jon tried to get Julie’s attention again. “Honey, we get to spend all of eternity together. Isn’t that marvelous?”

“Hold that thought, Jon.” Julie turned to Alejandro and protested, “You said that when you go over to her house, you’re just there to troubleshoot her home network.”

Stephanie snorted. “Ha! My network is fine. His is the one that needs troubleshooting.” Alejandro gasped.

Two more men emerged from behind Stephanie and tried to attract her attention. Another woman turned up next to Alejandro – she smiled at him, and he tried to move away.

The crowd grew larger. Jon recognized one woman from a movie he had seen. “Who the hell are you people?” she demanded. “How did I get here?”

A man approached the starlet. “I finally get to meet you,” he gushed.

Jon turned back to Julie. He took her hands in his own. “Julie, you’re my true love. Do you not feel the same?”

“Jon, I’m so glad you understand. Thanks.” Julie turned back to Stephanie and they resumed their barbs, barely disguised in home-networking innuendo.

The daisy-chain of bickering lovers got longer. Jon grew suspicious – none of the parables he had read in Sunday school ever described eternal bliss like this.

Jon wandered off and found the old man who had greeted him at the gate. The man had removed his beard and was screwing a pair of horns back into his forehead. Jon thought for a moment, then asked, “I know I wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t think I was headed here. What did I do to deserve this?”

Satan looked apologetic. He asked, “Do you remember your old girlfriend, Suzanne?” Jon nodded. “Do you remember the night she broke up with you? She invited you to her mother’s funeral and you stood her up to play video games with your friends, and when she came back afterwards she found all of you laughing as you held up one of her bras, pointing out how small it was? So, Suzanne became a medical researcher who developed an affordable cure for a tropical disease. Millions of low-income people now live longer and healthier lives thanks to her. That has given her some sway with the powers-that-be. She asked for a favor and, well, here you are.”

Jon considered this, and sighed, “Damn.”

“Yeah, ‘fraid so.”

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Better Than Reality

Author : J.D. Mraz

A man snores on his pseudo-leather recliner, the remote dangling between his half closed fingers. He is bald, the white of his stomach hairy and stained with unwashed sweat. The light of the TV dances along the wall, ballerinas at play. His stomach rises and falls at uneven intervals while popcorn kernels and false salt cubes fall between the cracks of the seat.

“Remember to always Fly Excelsior Air. Why fake it?” The commercial says as it fades out.

A woman’s face fills the screen and an ambient hum calms the room. A blue shadow tints the wall. Her skin is smooth, silken and tanned. A pleasant hazel surrounds her pupils. Her hair is flat black and cut to the chin. Water is flowing, running over cold stones whilst fish follow, her face comes in and out with the ripples in a smile.

“Hello.” She says. Her lips move effortlessly. “Have you ever wanted peace but can’t find the time? Have you ever wanted adventure but thought it too costly or dangerous?”

The image pans to familiar desires: The Coliseum, Eiffel Tower, Great Wall, The Mediterranean. Her face returns, soaring like an eagle over the Grand Canyon. “Welcome,” her smile grows, “To a new reality. Here at the Virtual Reality Foundation we strive to make the world a better, more accessible and, most importantly, safe place for everyone.

“Here at VRF we work with you in the most affordable and comfortable manner possible based on your needs and goals, your hopes and dreams. Be it a day trip to Bermuda or a weekend extravaganza at Oktoberfest, you are certain to come back satisfied and fulfilled. Why waste time with travel agents and ticket counters? Why risk the chance in a public bus or taxi cab? Noisy kids on the plane? Not anymore.

“Call NOW to receive our fifteen percent off coupon and save on our most popular trips…” The Caribbean and Alaskan adventures appear side by side along with smiling couples and families.

“Don’t put off your dreams any longer. Let’s make them reality, together. Why do, when you can see?”

Her voice pans into a quick paced male. “Call today at…”

The man snorts and cuts off the voice, he licks his dry mouth and settles further into the cushion. Outside, a pigeon’s head turns in semi-circles as it stares into the window. A hawk circles overhead, waiting for the perfect angle.

“Prices may vary upon availability. Ask your doctor if VR is right for you. You should not try VR if you are pregnant or may become pregnant. VR is not recommended for anyone under twenty or over fifty-five. Common symptoms of VR include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, vertigo, loss of appetite, thoughts of suicide, loss of fulfilment, depression…”

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Strength In Numbers

Author : A. A. Woods

When I approached the dominant species of that vibrant blue planet, they bowed to me as their new ruler. Queen, they called me. Big oneness. They allowed me into their web of minds without hesitation. I entered their war-ravaged colonies and granted them peace. Unity.

In return, they ended my loneliness. After untold millennium floating through the multiverse, wondering where the rest of my kind had gone, I suddenly had billions and billions of friends, all eager to please and obey me.

At first, I languished in the light of this shared consciousness. The planet was an amusing bloom of life in the middle of a vast area of darkness. Inhabiting one of the least populated corners of this universe, these strange little creatures were ignorant of the untold plethora of life beyond their system. In fact, my new friends were barely aware of the delectable spread on their own planet. They were content to work, breed, eat, obey. Their requests to me were few and their company delightful.

However, after several rotations around their yellow sun I began to realize that my friends were being tormented. Not by their natural predators — they explained to me that I had to accept their low biological status if I was to be the head of their own, more ethereal ladder. No, there was another beast threatening the contentment of my people. This large, graceless animal entertained itself by kicking over our homes, dousing our nests in fatal blasts of water, even capturing my followers to study them in labs and press them between panes of glass. In my frustration, I took one glimpse into the mind of these brutes.

In all my time exploring the multiverse I have never been knocked so low as I was with that one grotesque taste of humanity.

The queen of the nest in which I was concentrated — sub-queen, she reminded me to call her — sensed my distress.

What wrong?

Those creatures, those… humans, their existence is horrendous. They live alone, no connection to each other. They do not work for order or braid their strength.

They what they are. We live with them for many suns. They not like us.

But you suffer under their hand!

We suffer under many hands. They are bad, but give less baddness than flood or frost.

In my time at the Library of the Mind, I studied what some call emotion. I always longed to experience emotion — my loneliness was the closest I ever came to knowing sadness. But in that moment, as my small, black-bodied friend stated her fate in such a resigned manner, I felt the one they call anger.

My people will not suffer while I am their queen.

The humans had no warning. I struck the densest centers of their population, overrunning them with billions of my largest workers. My friends fought hard. Their trust in me was complete and immaculate. I, in turn, swore their sacrifice would not be in vain. I cradled every one of them as they died, capturing their essence as it smudged, merging it with my own. It was glorious and thrilling to be ensconced in the red blaze of their battle cry.

It took twelve moon cycles to subdue the humans. I did not kill them all, only enough to establish who now ruled the world they live in. Those beasts thought they could govern this hive of life based solely on advanced technology, but it was the overwhelming number of minds that drew me to this planet in the first place.

Precious few of those minds were human.

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Author : Andreea Daia

Yesterday’s art show was a disaster. Again. No surprise that Howard was a jerk, but this time he called me a wuss in front of Aliena.

“Your solar system looks like it’s been blustered by a magnetic storm. Don’t tell me you think anything could live there. Aww… The wuss is going to cry.”

Liar. I didn’t cry. Nope. I waited until Mother’s friends started gorging on finger foods to throw my jar of supernova-red in his face. You should have seen the streaks of crimson dripping down the bully’s asymmetrical jaw. An improvement, if you ask me. Mother packed me home before cocktails, banishing me to my room for the rest of the day. No drawing allowed. Bummer, but it was all worth it.

Did I tell you I’m a sky painter? Howard is still jealous after I crushed him on Parents’ Day with my masterpiece—Orion Constellation. It snatched the Parents’ Award for the most promising cosmological rendition, the Sound Award for the most popular exhibit, and the Teachers’ Award for whoever pestered them least during the lunch breaks. Of course, the ninny dragged his bigwig father to class, to threaten the teachers. I think even Mr. Bigwig saw the truth—his son’s double pulsar sucked. Everyone smirked when Howard started boasting that life could flourish in his environment. The only thing that flourished in his painting was mold, after he had forgotten it outside in the rain.

Gosh, that guy hadn’t even learned the basic technique. You use brush #2 to fling big globs of paint, then leave them overnight to glide down the painting. Voila—instant asteroids. If you throw enough blobs of paint, some of them will collide with your planets. If you are very lucky, the impact will start a chain reaction and then you’ve created a system that supports life. If you are very very lucky, a teacher will suspend you for the rest of the day for being arrogant enough to believe you can create life.

No such luck so far, but maybe that’s about to change. Last night I was so furious with Howard that I sneaked out and smashed the entire jar of Sulfur-yellow on my latest painting. It looked like a smallish- planet crushed into a slightly bigger planet. I thought I ruined it. Wreckage everywhere. This morning though, the most awesome thing happened. The bigger planet has attracted most of the debris and turned into a blue wonder. The rest of the wreckage has blobbed into an ochre moon.

I nailed it this time—my planet is already teaming with simple lifeforms. I’m going to be suspended for at least a week. In your face, Howard!

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