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.
Author : J.P. Flarity
We were too busy planting flags and making speeches those first times our planet’s inhabitants touched the moon. But eventually, hidden in the crevasses on Luna’s dark side, we found it.
The first Tablet.
Made from a tungsten superalloy of impossible purity, it stands a meter tall, two meters wide, and only ten millimeters thick. Three words are somehow etched onto its surface, written in a fine, cursive Latin. They read:
Servare in ingressus.
There are many translations…to keep going round, to keep on entering. The most popular one?
How did it get there? Encouraging aliens? A humorous God? Or the most likely explanation–a monumentally expensive prank?
There were no footsteps or landing marks around it, as if a divine hand had wedged it gently into the dust, and its presence awakened mass hysteria. After years of suicide bombings by religious cults, censorship by scientific cults, and unbridled madness by alien cults, our society eventually stabilized, and heeded the tablet’s message.
We missed it on the first trips to Mars, and began to comb the planet’s surface with focused tenacity. Finally, in the crater on the peak of Olympus Mons, we found the next Tablet.
It was identical to the first, but with different words:
A short amount further. A little bit more distance.
A bit farther.
This caused the cultists to grow quiet with studious speculation, and aliens took the lead as the most likely explanation for its origin. We began to dream…
There was an age where satellite dishes grew like weeds from our planet’s surface, as attempts to communicate with the theorized aliens consumed us. But the universe was silent.
Only with cooperation on a global scale, we were able to successfully design a detector to locate the tungsten superalloy. Our ships got faster, and more efficient. But the area to search was massive.
Then, the breakthrough.
On Jupiter’s moon, Callisto, in the center of the Valhalla impact ring crater, we found the third Tablet. How long had it been there?
About thereupon. In general therewith.
And our attitude changed. We lost our optimism, experiencing ennui on a global scale. What were we, children? Why must they torment us in such a demeaning way? Were we so beneath them? After all, we were not a young race anymore.
At least we thought so.
Disdain for the supposed aliens grew into anger, and we forgot to search for many years. We do not heed the Tablet’s message. There was brooding for generations, until we remembered.
Hundreds of moons were meticulously probed until we found the last Tablet. Not on Pluto, but on the dwarf planet Eris.
It was a huge strain on our resources to travel so far away from home, but we finally arrived. Thank goodness somebody remembered Latin…it’s been so long. Would they have changed the language for us?
Now I stand with my crew on the planet’s icy surface, a glorious forty degrees above absolute zero. The Tablet reads:
BENE. Ingrediamur unum centum perfecta. Sepelivit est lumen celeritate machinam. Te ad proxima stella.
Our crew decides on this translation:
Good job! Step one of one hundred complete. Buried here is a light speed engine. See you at the closest star.
Our species celebrates its first birthday. They even got us a present. How thoughtful.
If we’d only brought a shovel.
Author : Mark Jacobsen
In the middle of a dark, lightly wooded area, three figures can be seen moving against the black background of night. An older man is talking with a younger man. The older man is trying to start a fire by friction. There is a third man there, who remains silent and in the shadows, intently watching the other two men work.
“Okay, once you have all the elements together, then it’s a simple process”, the older man said. He arranged the wooden sticks, shavings and bow string and proceeded to work the bow to create fire.
“You know, I’ve seen this in books, but never in real life” the younger man commented. “Since the low power laser emitter has become standard on personal communicators, there isn’t any need to do this”.
“Well, it is an old skill…some old skills are fun to learn”. The older man was sweating slightly because of the effort.
“Yeah, I agree”, the younger man replied. “Way back in 2245, when time travel was perfected, one of the first things they did was to go back and learn manual crafts”.
The silent figure in the shadows moved forward slightly, intently staring at the friction rig.
“Do you think he’s getting it?” asked the younger man.
“I really hope so…after all, this effort is for him”. The older man’s arms were aching now, and he was becoming slightly winded.
“Yeah…for him. For all of us, actually” the younger man said grimly.
The older man smiled and nodded in agreement. He then noticed a small ember. He laid the bow down and knelt down, blowing slightly on the ember, encouraging it to grow. He lifted the piece of wood, still blowing on it. The ember was glowing brightly now. He tipped the wood onto a pile of dry tinder. The tinder started to smoke and he fanned it slightly. The tinder caught and an orange flame wicked up and started to engulf the tinder. The older man quickly put some small dry sticks on the tinder and soon a modest fire was burning easily.
The silent man seemed very excited. He moved forward to see better, then stopped, too scared to get too close to the fire. The firelight danced in his eyes and he grunted his approval.
The older man handed the rig to the silent man. The silent man quickly assembled the rig and mimicked the motion that the older man had done to create the fire.
The younger man smiled and nodded. “Looks like he got it, this time” he remarked.
“Third time’s the charm” the older man smiled. “I knew he was the one!” He turned toward the silent man and pointed off into the darkness. “Okay, get going! Back home. Back home. Show. Show them fire!”
The silent man understood. He grunted and turned toward the darkness and started lumbering toward his clan.
The younger man pulled a small device from his pocket. He inspected the reading on the device and showed it to the older man. They both smiled. “All is well, eh? Back to normal?” The older man said.
“Timeline restored”, the younger man said. “What was his name?”
“I’m not even sure if they had names at this stage of development…why do you ask?”
“I dunno…just seems like we should know his name. After all, he is bringing fire to humanity. Funny how this is how it happened”.
“I agree”, said the older man as pulled a remote from his belt and starting punching in commands. “Let’s go check on the wheel”
Author : Suzanne Borchers
Rachel closed her eyes to the grayness surrounding her. She shut out gray clouds overhanging the gray sky and gray broken concrete and the metallic landscape. Heavy eyelids shielded her green eyes from the present gray existence of hopeless humanity. Her gray filthy fingers picked at her ragged gray covering. She stood alone, a part of the scene.
Rachel shivered, opened her eyes, and searched the ground for gray treasure among the gray dirt.
All were gone. Radiation, disease, hate, and starvation had taken her family, friends, strangers, and enemies. She adjusted the torn scarf to hide her scant wisps of hair with her bony fingers covered with oozing sores.
She clutched her cavernous stomach and tried not to retch once again. She retched nothing but pain. Moaning softly she cried dry tears as she scratched through the gray clutter.
Then her fingers felt the smoothness of the treasure. She breathed in great gasps of poisoned air and smiled a toothless grin. She grasped it to her body as she fumbled to open her pocket. She tugged out the first treasure and placed the second treasure within it.
She pushed the treasure into her mouth and pulled the trigger.
Author : Morrow Brady
I scared myself again. But only briefly.
Bored with routine, my mind zoned out. Wandering like a hungry dog. Dragging extraordinary notions to hell and back with me at the centre of it all. The snap-to was always a break in that routine and this morning it was when the door forgot who I was.
My working day started at the office. Not the morning shower or bus ride but that sand etched security glass door that led into the open plan tenancy. Everything before that moment was mine to ponder.
Thirty seconds before arriving at that door I zoned, my body mindlessly zombied past the carved monolith guarding our street-front, itself a party popper palimpsest of social commentary. Up the groaning federation stairs and across the worn half landing, landmarked by the fading odour of dead wall rat.
On autopilot, my body went through this daily routine, while within, my mind, as free as a three year old, dallied a thought stream that frightened me to the core. The fear that I never actually worked here.
Upstairs, face brick walls held the sand etched glass door hostage. Like every other day, I transmitted the door’s passcode early, to time it’s opening with my approach, only to slam face-first into the glass. Through gaps in the etching, my workmates turned towards me. Within a daydream of public humiliation, I snapped-to, humiliated. The transition was seamless.
The door remained closed. No salient tone. No sliding swish. I retransmitted the code, ran a diagnostic on my implant and then shouldered the door. Nothing.
Staring at my paper covered desk through the glass, I scratched the hairy bulge of my scalp implant dumbfounded. Fearful faces glared through the glass. Someone was yelling on the phone. No one recognised me. No one dared approach the door. I signalled for Jane the office manager to let me in. Seeing her confused face, I checked my sanity only to birth the notion that my imagination had in fact become reality.
A crash downstairs preceded heavy footfalls.Turning, I saw Jim, the security guard, lurch, puffing, into the lobby.
“Hey Jim! How’s it going? Can you help me, the door isn’t….”
Before I could finish, Jim had slammed me against the security door.
“You are not authorised to be here Sir”
Hot sprays of breath pulsed the back of my neck.
“Jim it’s me Dave! I work here. I lent you my music library yester……”
“Remain calm Sir. The police are enroute”
To Dave, I was a stranger and to the police who frog marched me out of the building, I was another lost soul.
At police headquarters mayhem reigned. The unstaffed charge desk meant that no one was interested in our identity. Not a good sign. Each cell held a dozen dazed citizens, each one sharing similar stories.
By midday, the sweating cell walls bulged from overcrowding and wheezed air thick with emotion. Like a football crowd, cellmates mentally journeyed from confusion through anger, finally settling on acceptance.
Late afternoon, a two tone warning sounded. A crowd of despair shushed, starving for the truth. A pre-recorded announcement rattled from a tinny cell speaker.
“Last night at 3:45am, a caching error within Central MEMbank deleted your identity from all implants and hardware infrastructure. Once backup have reinstated transient life data, you will be remembered by your family and friends. On behalf of the MEMbank, I apologise for the confusion”
For a moment I pondered the possibilities of being no one and scared myself again.