The Doorway

Author : C. E. Page

Silt rained over her as she crawled from her hiding place; a pocket of air in the pile of rubble that had been her habitation tower. Others, some familiar, were emerging from the crumpled buildings to bay at the sky and drag grey hands over their anguished faces. The ground shuddered again shaking the rubble pile. It convulsed like a dying creature, collapsing in on itself, cutting off screams and creating more dust. She huddled against the ground gripping her shins, her face pressed against her knees; silently counting, pretending the roaring earth was thunder:

One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. . .

The tremor passed and she continued to rock. Icy fingers scoured her chest to grip her heart. She had to breathe. The air wheezed over her lips and down her throat to hang there like a jagged bone. She swallowed to shift the blockage. Still the air she gulped in short sharp breaths refused to fill the bellows of her lungs. Trying to ignore the fire that prickled up her spine and flooded the back of her skull she forced herself to crawl forward. Shale shifted under her hands and she slipped, her mouth filling with dust and blood as her chin cracked against the ground.
The others had started to hulk forward some missing limbs, some beaten and bloody, with glass embedded in their faces and angry red gashes where skin and muscle had been torn away from bone. They clawed towards her pleading for help. Asking: why, what, who?

Another vibration started in the earth bouncing small pieces of shingle and stirring clouds of dust. It seemed to be gaining power the closer the others got until it became a shuddering wave of force that rent the earth in two. The others fell, scattering among the churning debris screaming, roaring, and dying. She was tossed into the air and her hands torn open as she landed in a tangle of steel reinforcement wires. She pulled herself free and rolled to avoid being crushed by a column of steel of stone. Heat rolled over her as the gas cylinders in the maintenance quarter exploded, adding their echoing boom to the cacophony. Chips of stone and glass showered over her slicing the skin of her face and arms.

Then everything grew still. The screams of the dying and the roar of the earth sounded distorted and far away, like sounds distilled through water. She lowered her arms and a shining light blinded her grit filled eyes. Shielding her face she crept towards the source of the brilliance.
The cool planks of a wooden door met her questing fingers. It stood, haloed by light, amidst the ruins of an unrecognisable building. It was old and ornate trimmed with bronze fittings and ancient scrolling carvings. The door seemed to hover in a bubble of still air despite the destruction of the city around it and the light radiating from it washed away the pain and fear, beaconing her to pass through the door to see what wondrous world was on the other side. Her blood stained fingers gripped the gleaming handle and the door swung open to reveal a tunnel of soothing light. She looked back at the dying world then stepped over the threshold.

Cold clean air and fragrant grass waited at the end of the light soaked tunnel. A verdant meadow: calm, quiet, and eternal.

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Author : Art Klein

I know there are more of them than before. Why have they stayed so long and why have even more of them arrived?

“What’s going through your head now, Jack?”

I looked at Tom across the table in a bar we frequent, and realized that I had once again fallen into that mood I had been trying to shake for…I don’t remember how long.

“Just thinking, Tom.”

“Those same thoughts about ‘Them,’ Jack?”

“’fraid so. I can’t seem to get them out of my head. And I do mean ‘Them’.”

“How much do you remember? Do you still have those vague spots you’ve told me about?”

“Yeah. They’re still there. And I don’t know how to fill them in,” I replied. “Maybe I’m getting worse. There are more signs in their language than in ours. Or am I just imagining that, too?”

“No, Tom. What you’re seeing is there: ‘Them’ and lots of signs in their language. How far back can you remember?”

“I remember the war. Not all of it, but more than enough of it to make my skin crawl. The radioactive, chemical, and biological sprays in building heating and air conditioning ducts, subways, sports arenas; any enclosed place where there were lots of people. Later on, crops shriveling and dying as they started attacking outdoor targets. The water turning that foul-smelling milky white.”

“Can you remember where you were when the war ended?”

I tried to answer Tom’s question, but the only thing I could come up with was one of those vague spots he had asked me about.

“Sorry, Tom. But I’m drawing another blank.”

Tom considered what I had recalled, and said, “That’s pretty much what happened. Do you remember when the UnifiedTerror teams broke into the big stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons here and in Russia and China?”

I had to dig for that one. “I think I remember some of it,” I replied.

“Do you remember when we received the first message about help being on the way?”

“Yes. That transmission was said to come from some planet located above the plane of our solar system. If I remember correctly, they, whoever ‘they’ are, said they were on the way to help us. Are ‘they’ my ‘Them’?”

Tom nodded his head slowly and said, “Not any more, Jack. They did help us. It didn’t take them long to finish off the UnifiedTerror movement. But even as quickly as that was accomplished, too much damage had been done for us to survive there. You were still unconscious when the wars ended. They took our side’s survivors home with them.

“Jack, here on their planet, we’re ‘Them.’ ”


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What I Wasn't

Author : Tony Bertauski

It started with a flash.

Like the Big Bang, an explosion that swallowed everything. The pain sunk deep into my head, and then was replaced with blurry colors. There were no edges to the blobs floating before a background of gray. The pinks and the browns and the silvers and the blues shifted in silence that was so deep and perfect, like floating in a pristine ocean.

And then the silence was gone, obliterated by the sounds of a tapping keyboard and a young man talking. His name was Ben. He just broke up with his girlfriend, said he was ready to spread his wings. You know, fly a little.

“What’s wrong with her left eye?” Madeline asked.

She was the one making the keyboard rattle. A colorful blob merged into my line of sight and then—SNICK—my left eyelid slid up. More colors.

“Hand me the drops,” Ben said.

The drops were cold and slippery. They burned my eyes. I blinked the world into focus. Ben’s hair hung over his ears and he hadn’t shaved in days. His eyes were green, like the green of new growth. The white collar of his lab coat was pulled up.

He flashed a bright light in my left eye. “How’s that?” he asked. “Can you see me?”

He spoke like I was deaf or old. I was neither.

“Give me something. Sing a song, belch…something.”

“Stop badgering her,” Madeline said. “She’s not ready to talk.”

An argument ensued. I was left staring at a gray ceiling with an attached rail that encircled us with a heavy plastic curtain. I realized, not until that moment, that I couldn’t move. My body was like wet metal shavings, the table hard and cold. Madeline made the keyboard dance while Ben fiddled with a tray of medical tools.

That’s when the memories came.

I remembered Christmas and my dog and the time Simon brought flowers to work and sang and I blushed. I remembered all the little good things and the little bad things, how they hurt and how they pleased. That’s when I smiled.

“There,” Madeline said. “Give her the mirror.”

Ben stuck something in my hand. He lifted my naked arm, wrapping his hand around my dead fingers. I saw my red hair spread over my shoulders. My skin was fair and my eyes were green, like emeralds.

“Heather.” I watched my lips move. That was my name.

Madeline kept tapping the keyboard. Ben danced around the table and rubbed my hands and legs. The feeling came back with pins and needles. The sensations came in dense waves, as if my body had fallen asleep. Ben massaged my arms and shoulders and feet. I sank into the incoming tide of memories to escape the discomfort, each one a jewel that reminded me who I was.

There was sledding and the time I learned to drive and a funeral and my first kiss. I remembered my life.

Ben was rushing to the other side when he slipped. Falling, he grabbed the curtain. The metal rings pinged as the plastic ripped away. We weren’t in a small room, not like I thought. I let my head roll to the side. I saw more tables like the one beneath me. On them were nude women with red hair spilled over their shoulders and fair skin. Their eyes were closed, but I knew they were green.

“Damn it, Ben.” The keyboard clattered at high speed.

And those sweet, sweet memories went away.

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The Missing Element

Author : C.T. Jackman

There was no flash of light. There was no puff of smoke. Such a waste of energy would have been unacceptable during the teleportation, and so Dr. Mueller was very happy to have missed the flower and its pot disappear when he blinked.

His colleagues on the other side of the room let out a cheer. “It worked!” Dr. Hendricks exclaimed, “Come look, the scans say that the flower has been reassembled in its entirety: a full one-hundred percent!”

Mueller looked over the results himself, and then at the daffodil, which was sitting in a class case under the second teleportation module in the room.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mueller said to the half-dozen scientists in the room, “we are the first to have successfully teleported life.” His associates broke into applause, and many handshakes and pats on the back were exchanged.

They had spent years reworking their calculations and technology to reach that day, and many different objects had to have been disassembled on the atomic level and then rebuilt at in another point in space before they finally reached a level of one-hundred percent matter transference. At that point, Mueller declared that it was time to begin the tests on basic life-forms.

It had worked. He had just witnessed the very first subject recreated successfully, and that made him confident that when the time came for human testing, they would be no error involved.

Muller turned to Dr. Hendricks and said, “Take the plant into the lab for further analysis. Then bring in another.”

Different flowers and plants were teleported with the same results every time: one-hundred percent transference. His assistants monitored every step, and while there were still many more hours of dissecting the data, Mueller began to grow more and more confident that they had perfected the process.

Just as the final teleportation of the day was about to be performed, Mueller told his assistant, “Bring in a lab rat instead.”

Hendricks blinked at him. “Already?” she asked.

“I think we’ve waited enough, don’t you?”

Hendricks smiled and left to fetch their next subject. A few minutes later, a white rat was sitting under the first teleportation module. Mueller watched it sniff the glass as scanners traced its position, and then the computer beeped and the rat was gone.

The other side of the room was silent.

Mueller pushed through the crowd of scientists and saw the rat lying motionless in the receiving end of the teleporter. It was dead.

The computers couldn’t identify the cause of death. There was no brain activity, and its heart sat motionless between two lungs filled with air.

“I don’t understand what’s wrong. Everything was teleported successfully- a full one-hundred percent transference,” Dr. Fredrick said, analyzing several screens at once. “Everything is there.”

“Maybe its body just couldn’t handle the stress,” someone suggested.

Mueller shook his head. “We’ll find out tomorrow. Don’t forget that we’ve accomplished a miracle here today; this is only a minor setback. Everybody go home and get some rest. We’ll continue the tests after we see what the data tells us,” he said to everybody, and they filtered out of the room. After they were gone, his smile drooped.

He collected the dead rat and brought it into the lab where the plants had been taken following their teleportations. All of the flowers were tagged and sitting on a lab table, but Mueller noticed something was wrong: they had already begun to wilt.

The leaves drooped at his touch, and one petal fell off as he grazed it. “I don’t understand,” Dr. Mueller said. “Everything is there…”

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Who Wants to Live Forever?

Author : John Raymond Wilson

My mother was hesitant because of the burden it would put on my wife and I. She didn’t want to be a bother. But she also didn’t want to die, so when she relented and asked us if we would take care of her while she was an infant, we were prepared. We knew she would make the same decision as my dad and my wife’s parents. She decided to eat the jellyfish and live forever.

A century ago, a scientist discovered a jellyfish that didn’t die. It aged backwards, returned to a polyp state, was reborn, and repeated the process. The scientist spent the better part of his life, fortune, and other people’s fortunes trying to find the secret of the jellyfish. When his dog got smaller and cuter and generally friskier, the scientist suspected that the dog had eaten one of the jellyfish and somehow metabolized it. To this day, the dog has lived ten lives.

So my Mom ate the jellyfish and decided to live forever. For her, the process of reversal started when she was eighty four and I was fifty. The physical changes were astonishing. She hadn’t walked in years and now she was exercising every day. We were briefly the same age at sixty seven. Having a mother who was younger than me was odd. My reversal started at eighty three, so she was thirty three the next time I was sixty seven. We were both the same age again at seventeen.

The tragedy hit each family the same way. My wife and I spent our second forties and thirties taking care of our parents who were now toddlers and infants. It was when the oldest parent regenerated and was around three when we realized that memories didn’t survive the reversal process. When the aging process reached the moment of conception, all memory was wiped clean. We had the bodies of young adults, the wisdom of one hundred and thirty years, and four helpless children who thought of us as their parents. And every day they got older, we got younger. They did not remember each other and thought they were brothers and sisters, not lifelong partners. Their genes would live forever, but their former lives were effectively over.

My regenerated mother and regenerated father looked exactly like their former selves, but they thought and acted differently. They thought of themselves as siblings and that it would be taboo to be together romantically. We showed them pictures of when they had been together in their past lives, but it was as if they were looking at strangers. We showed them pictures from the day they met. It was one hundred and sixty six years ago. They both fell in love with other people and have started their own families of children who are technically my step-siblings.

My wife and I enjoyed our second childhoods. It might have even been the best part of our lives, but there was still a sadness looming over us. We thought we had been promised more than individual immortality. We had been promised that nothing would change. We had been promised that we would have eternity together. It was okay to think that one day we would die because we could be together in the next life. But now there was no eternity together. Now eternity is a cycle of lives, growing old and young and old again over and over forever. No relationship can last the reversal process. Two lifetimes is not enough. Eternity took forever away from us.

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