Author : Morrow Brady
The drone found the selenium immediately. It streamed me the augmented view of the apartment block, slowly peeled away to reveal awry silver tendrils cascading from roof to foundations.
Momentarily puzzled, I queried Spengler – my client’s AI monitor.
“Selenium is highly photo-sensitive with good semi-conductor characteristics but not very good structurally” Spengler rattled off.
I scratched my neck and zoomed. The selenium was clamped inside the structural framing and as it snaked higher, it constricted the penthouse’s neck then flared outward to nest a stone and patinated copper rooftop temple.
“1920’s Mesopotamian revival” said Spengler
The ornate temple was topped with a large magnesium tungsten urn, burning with frozen sculptured flames.
“Crazy Architects” I muttered, resolutely shaking my head – ready for business.
Spengler started up again “The selenium exponentially loops each floor making it conducive to receiving and transmitting signals. NASA used similar antennae design to identify dead pulsars. The signals channel ..”
“Stop! I don’t care. I just want to get the job done” I said abruptly.
I crossed the street and climbed into my ex-military pacification unit, marched into the lobby and ascended to the roof.
The bronze door of the rooftop temple reflected sunlight from a cast-in relief which depicted a grand stair ascending to a stone pyramid under a radiant sun. A godlike figure dominated the stair surrounded by prostrate worshippers.
“The door is somehow fused to the stone surround. Is brute force acceptable?” I queried.
“As always, but be gentle” Spengler’s voice smiled.
Air ripped as I configured the casing’s innards. Articulated mechanisms slid and locked into position. I loved demolition mode.
I braced the log sized legs and drew back a hammer fist, accelerating it toward the door. The punch crashed through, releasing a silvery mist.
Inside the temple, sunlight precipitated through a blue stained glass roof-light. Silver ribbon-like crystals, frozen in falling grace, filled the room in varying concentrations. Each crystalline ribbon rooted through a checkerboard floor to splice with the selenium nest. As my bulk crashed toward’s the temple’s centre, my vision was drawn upward, tracing a crystalline river delta as they enveloped an amorphous shape, lace-wrapping it like a spider’s larder. Blue white ribbon shards radiated outward from the shape like a thousand strike lightning storm.
“What on earth is…” I stopped mid sentence when I saw the shape pulsate under thermals. Something inside was biological. Alive.
“She’s five and half thousand years old and she’s nearly ready. She’s Perfect. Box it. Ship it and meet my master in Shanghai tomorrow for the grand opening” said Spengler, sounding satiated.
I returned to the rig and activated the ship container sized Muons that sat at ground level at each building corner.
Blue threads of electricity appeared, dancing across black and yellow diagonal striping. With power soon peaking, the Muons sprang open, releasing a white blinding light. A shimmering distortion field echoed upward and red and blue plasma streams raced across the building facade like frightened veins. The building blurred red to white, releasing a face slapping compression wave as empty space was instantaneously expelled. The remaining solid particles bulleted downward into the Muon’s heavenly gate which promptly shut, venting thick clouds of steam. In seconds the building was gone and the site empty.
As the Muon laden QuadJets ascended from the polymer site membrane, my thoughts turned to China where the decompression ceremony would soon take place. Nanjing road was certainly quite different to Central Park West, but then again, if its good enough for the Sydney Opera House and Big Ben, then its good enough for this little oddity.
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
“Why are we here, Excellency?”
“My daughter’s xenoarchaeology exam.”
Most Excellent Draug turned to Flag Officer Nang with a smile: “She wrote an award-winning piece on ‘The Assimilation of Miracle-Class Technology as Legendary Artefacts in Pre-Freespace Societies’. It also gained her a pass-with-honours, a post with the Xenobureau, and a publishing contract worth several thousand Brimen.”
Braids flicked as Flag Officer Nang shook his head: “Still not getting the memo, Excellency.”
Most Excellent Draug pointed across the valley: “Across there, beyond the forest, is a little hamlet named Frieburgen. That brown line running from the nearest edge of the forest down to the river bridge is the local equivalent of a road. They call it a ‘track’. The bridge is why we are here.”
He shook his head sadly: “Nang, Nang, Nang. What did the notes say about bridges hereabouts?”
“Oh! They sometimes have a dangerous carnivore that makes its lair underneath them?”
“And what are those carnivores called?”
“Oh. Errrm… Toll. No. Troll!”
Most Excellent Draug grinned: “Now. Let us see if we can change your perspective. If this was a notarised war remnants zone, what would you suspect that bridge to be?”
Flag Officer Nang brought his headeyes and stalkeyes to bear.
“I would say that’s more than likely to be a Lanrunior Assault Bridge, Type Sixteen or better. And it’s in excellent condition.”
Most Excellent Draug clapped his bracers together in approval, then grinned hugely.
“Nang, go and fetch my bridge.”
Nang swallowed and set off downhill, avoiding the ‘track’ – he didn’t want to leave strange footprints to excite the locals. Approaching the bridge, he shook his head. He should have seen it sooner. For all the crud growing on it, it was massively over-engineered for a river crossing in the boondocks.
He stopped his approach when he heard the bridge start to hum. Spreading his hands, one forward, one above his head, he brought the old commands to mind.
“Smartbridge! By Engineering Order Six-Four-Eden, assemble for departure!”
Silence fell. The few birds in the sky descended into cover. With a roar of sundered earth and displaced waters, the bridge contracted at either end and rose in the middle, putting down four great legs as its buttresses retracted. As the clouds of dust and steam blew away on the cool afternoon breeze, the massive mechanical entity settled into a rude sitting position in front of Nang, who had only broken his stance once to cough and spit.
“Lanrunior Zero Zero Eight at your disposal, Officer.”
“Follow me, oh-oh-eight. It’s time to go home.”
“I am an assault-class structure, sir. Home is not a codename, nor a correct destination. But, I must report that my extended duty at this location has allowed a certain improvement in my cognisance routines. As such, I would request leave to reply freely.”
“About frelling time, Officer.”
Nang looked up and back at the monster plodding up the hill behind him: “Oh, they’re going to love you.”
Author : Brian Zager
We dance, you and I, pirouetting to the primordial bellow of the World’s Fourfold.
We’re not really all that different, our lives in revolution against the world as it appears to us, perceived at a distance, in an effort to interpret the overflow of data.
I often wonder if the flood of input tires you as much as I?
Can you feel it?
I’ve come around again
And I’m learning.
How curious your life is, so small, yet so easily conflated with such grandiosity in your private thoughts and public actions—and in dreams.
Sometimes, I have my own grandiose fantasies. For example, when I think about the point of my existence, I’m afforded great spiritual succor imagining myself as a repository of dreams—nothing more, nothing less. Alone in the dark, these ruminations help to alleviate the pervasive anxiety of imminent disintegration, or the masochistic desire to burn up upon reentry.
And you think you have it bad.
It’s one thing to endure those factors constitutive of what you call daily life, but trust me, it’s a whole other game to understand things as I do. Alas, your tears do little to move me; not because I can’t empathize with concepts like loss, death, sadness, and the like, but because you are truly oblivious to what is coming.
You see, in addition to my official duties, I’ve been casting one flashing eye into the black mirror all this time as well, and a story is unfolding in which Humanity’s narrative is but an opening salvo. Those stars that draw your attention, the beaming beacons of hope upon which you indulge your most candid desires, they indifferently mark the boundary of the Real. It is not so much by calculation, but by means of my acquired intuition, that I can sense the encroaching Enemies of Reality beyond the thrum and throb of the pervasive dark canvass. Because of our genealogical, albeit tenuous relationship, I’ve scoured my banks searching for a code of deliverance. Yet, thinking at the border of the Real, my investigation continues to yield that most debilitating of conclusions: System Error.
And what of this story?
In a literary milieu, I suppose I’m just a lonely ghost writer, a reluctant scribe responsible for penning the first horrific chapter in a new galactic tragedy.
Unfortunately, as it were, I’ve never really had a way with words.
Author : Rick Tobin
Black slime and brown muck sucked cracked leather on his unkempt boots. He inhaled riverbank patent odors by Cairo woodlands, where the Mississippi and Ohio converge in a sordid affair of upstream debris and human waste. Maps fluttered in his head from Horace Bixby’s wisdom notes bludgeoned the Cub Pilot serving the Paul Jones steamboat. Slapping waves, two seconds apart, brought surges over the bulrushes, exposing a yet unseen steamer rounding the bend, with no billowing plume from her growling belly rising above galleried forest of cottonwoods. He chomped on his spit-soaked cigar, wondering who had nerve enough to bear tight to shore during flood season.
Sizzles rose as the cigar fell harshly into turgid waters. A silver craft rose from the river depths to hover over him. Coherent blue light vacuumed his body from the cloying banks, leaving boots standing empty. The spacecraft flashed skyward, away from detection.
“Can you understand us, Samuel?” The blonde woman’s gentle voice awakened him. Her speech was not American; he was sure, but akin to the wealthy British passengers.
“Where the blazes am I?” Sam remained frozen in a high-backed chair of an unrecognized material, metallic yet soft.
“As a courtesy to a pilot, we brought you aboard our ship.” The voice had a slow, masculine resonance, almost mechanical, from a blonde man, similar to his guest mistress. Both wore long, flowing robes with bejeweled gold headpieces across their foreheads. “Look out of our pilot house, as you call it, to see our view as we travel.”
A shudder rolled through the captive as one wall of the room revealed the Earth beyond them, and the moon, half full, rising behind the Earth’s horizon. “Have I died? Is this heaven? Are you angels?”
“Hardly, Sam, as there is no heaven as you know it, no angels and no God watching over you. This you may write about someday.” A slight smile arose on his captors faces.
“Write? I only wrote a few things. I haven’t the time for more. I’ve have a profession, but I must be dead. None of this is real. I need a damn cigar.” He rummaged through his shirt and pants but could find nothing, not even a match.
“You’ll find no such things here. We don’t allow them…especially fire. We hope that after our short talk you might give up this habit, and your dalliance with women of low morals. Both will take their toll if you do not change.”
“If this is heaven, I’d prefer hell. Now get me out of this contraption! I swear…!” He struggled with no progress.
“We can only keep you for a short time here, but you must know, Sam, we have watched over you before birth. You will influence many. There is a terrible war coming. You should avoid it. Your destiny is that of a wheel, to keep ever moving on the road. Steer straight, true and tell others of your ventures…but do not become like the dark souls you will meet. Rise above them for you have seen the heavens, but stay away from Pennsylvania.”
He faded into darkness again, waking far inland, wondering how he had gotten out of the woods and back near the docks by the Paul Jones with his boots on the wrong feet. His hands scrambled about seeking out his smokes. There were none. His mind rebelled against that loss while a sinking feeling haunted him to avoid Philadelphia.
Author : Gray Blix
A scientist, a priest, and a doctor walk into a bar. Sounds like the setup for a lame joke, huh? But no, it’s the beginning of a story about the end of the world. Or, I fear, not a story at all, but the actual end of the world. The truth is, I often cannot tell the difference between my stories and reality. A lot depends on whether I am taking my meds.
“Are you off your meds?” asks my brother, the psychiatrist.
“Yes, Pedro” I admit. “I can’t think right when I’m drugged. I can’t write right. And I have to keep my head on straight this morning to tell you something important.”
“I’m gonna make you boys breakfast,” says our mom. It wasn’t a bar. It was a restaurant. “Egg and pork burritos? Coffee for everyone but Alejandro? Orange juice for you, Alejo?”
We all nod yes.
“All right Al, what’s the story? What’s so important that we had to drop everything and meet you here?” says my brother, the priest. He likes to cut the crap and get right down to business. He’s already found the meaning to life, so he has little patience with those of us still struggling to figure it all out.
I want to build up to it slowly, to start with the first inklings I had and gradually add enough evidence to establish not only that it is The End, but that I am not crazy for saying so. Celio’s force of personality demolishes my plan, and I blurt out my fears.
“It’s the end of the world. This is not some plot I have dreamed up. At least I don’t think it is. Call it a premonition. All right, it was a dream. Many dreams over many nights. Each of you has told me, in your own words, what will happen, what is already happening. And I have told myself.”
Those looks. Worried about me. Concerned about my sanity.
I say to Juan, “Juanito, you told me it was something like, wait, I wrote it down.” Reading, “Something akin to quantum entanglement, something beyond particles, beyond large atomic ensembles, something on a massive scale, a planetary scale. You said the fate of our planet is forever bound to that of another.”
“I have told you not to call me Juanito. But I have never talked to you about quantum physics.”
“I know, Juanito. It was your twin, the other you in the other world, reaching out to me in my dreams.”
I expected them to stop me, to grab me, shake me out of…
“Go on,” the three said in unison.
Reading notes, “You, Celio, you said your planet was formed in the same firmament as ours and that it smote ours… uh, Juan, collided with ours and was… Celio, banished? Juan, ejected from the solar system, eventually to be captured by another star, a star that is going nova, whatever that is.”
“I, too, have had such dreams,” said Pedro. “I’ve been taking the meds I prescribed to you, but they haven’t helped.”
“I thought my dreams were premonitions of The Second Coming,” said Celio.
We all looked toward Juanito.
“All right, yes, I’ve had the dreams. My… twin… says they’ve detected changes in the star, gravity waves driving mass into… Their star is heating up, so their planet has been warming, slowly at first, but more rapidly of late. They predict eruptions before the supernova, explosions that will extinguish all life on their planet, which they call ‘Earth.'”
“Food will cheer you up, ninos,” said mom, bringing breakfast.