by submission | May 21, 2023 | Story |
Author: Arthur Chappell
“It’s Adam taking the apple, not Eve. Genesis got it wrong.”
“Is this Eden, Herbert? Or a nudist camp with an orchard?”
“Very funny. Come on, before he takes a bite and drops us all in it.”
“Hey. Give me that apple back! Stop thief! Evie, get the angels. We’ve got trespassers.”
“Don’t be alarmed, Sir.”
“What are you wearing?”
“Clothes, Sir. Good old Savile Row tailoring.”
“Not cool, Man.”
“Man! Surely you’re the only man in creation, Ad.”
“So sorry Dear, Rest assured that we mean you no harm. Introductions are in order. I’m Herbert George Wells, and this is the esteemed Rudyard Kipling. “
“What God created you?”
“Hopefully the same one who married you to one of your own ribs, Adam.
We are here from your future. Mr Wells has a time machine while I learned about handling snakes during my years in India. We are here to stop you from committing Original Sin, thus saving humanity from great suffering.”
“Never mind. Ah, my friend has the snake. Splendid. Wring the blighter’s neck, Rudyard. There. Done. Now I’ll chop down the tree and we’ll be off back to Edwardian splendor. Good day Sir, and you Lady Eve.”
“What strange men. Are you alright Adam?”
“Yes. Weirdos. Why destroy the apple tree and kill a harmless grass snake?”
“I’ll ask my friend the talking serpent. So glad those fools didn’t get him or the pomegranates on The Tree Of Knowledge.”
“Indeed Eve, God be praised for that.”
by submission | May 19, 2023 | Story |
Author: Philip G Hostetler
I met Maggie at an open mic in an art gallery. Well, I met her music first, if a distinction could be made. I didn’t expect such a big sound from such a small woman as she sat at the antique Ancient Earth piano. She pounded, no, attacked the keys like a Mongol horde descending on the Great Wall, and no master stonemason could devise a wall that would stand up to her vibrations. Her voice resounded like a howled funeral ululation, the light in the room poured into and emerged synaesthetically from her. It was dark in the room but for her voice. Light went in and emerged as a sonic phenomena that could be heard even in the vacuum of my heart.
The art gallery itself had been built on a rogue planetoid, so pinning down where and when it was, was a nightmare of trigonometry and telemetry. But it was worth it to hear her. The more I learned about her, the more intrigued I was. As though, like quantum mechanics, as soon as I thought I’d gotten an understanding, a new emergence would baffle and inspire me. That, perhaps, by the simple act of observing her, she changed and always in magical ways.
I’d been lost in the doldrums of plasma plumbing for so long that I didn’t quite know how to act. Inspired would have to do.
This was long before we’d met Dr. Maxell, and was a halcyon time of exploration, traveling by more conventional hypersleep transports rather than Dr. Maxell’s Disentangling Teleporter. We saw worlds, yes, but Maggie always wanted to find places that hadn’t been found, like being in a new place brought out a new ‘her’.
Those journeys are nostalgic for me now, now that I’ve lost her somewhere in the subatomic soup in the pillars of creation. She was always building something great. That was the problem of experiencing the universe from a subatomic perspective, you didn’t always come back together the same way, and a change, sometimes an aloofness about day to day life, would set in.
I’m still lightrope walking, still minding the plasma plumbing and wondering this time where she’s gone, what she’s feeling and if she’s alright. But I’m not worrying too terribly, because of course, it’s where she wants to be, and when she returns she’ll have such stories and sights to share and she’ll do so with eloquence and grace.
by submission | May 18, 2023 | Story |
Author: Rick Tobin
“It’s amazing how easily we accessed this vault, considering how long these buildings were subjected to seawater.” He ran his three fingers over the outside of the corroded steel doors, five inches thick, but still smooth and glistening on the inside under the dull red starlight. “This species may have transmitted those partially garbled messages. We have no idea about this species’ origins.” Zolonko slid over the marble floors, peering down the murky corridors beyond the star’s meager glow.
“It’s a first, Zolonko,” replied his celestial historian assistant, Cabu Bot. She stood three feet above him as his squat form’s slime trail kept pace toward the vault’s recesses. They pressed their forearms, activating personal bioluminescence, exposing their path forward, revealing any wreckage to avoid. “We might find some remnants of their likeness…even language to guide further understanding of their messages from this fabled race. We still have some partial radio recordings onboard.”
“It appears there are several immediate offshoots to visit. Should we stay together or explore separately?” Zolonko rubbed his single, yellow eye, pushing aside his nictitating membrane overreacting to the structure’s cloying atmosphere.
“Together, I think. This air could be treacherous. If one of us starts to fail the other can retrieve the power sled for extraction to safety before serious damage occurs.”
“Mmmmmmm,” Zolonko responded in a low, repeating hum. “Always the smart play. Ah, here are the first remains we can evaluate for collection. What’s the material look like at your level?” Zolonko waited but there was a delay from his usually talkative companion. “Is there a problem?” he probed.
“This is not what we expected. No…not at all. If these are what the master race looked like, then nothing we know of in our travels correlates. Let me send you a view.” She put her arm near the high wall, made a flash of light, and then looked intently at her partner.
“Revolting, Cabu…beyond horrifying! I’m erasing the memory of it! That is an abomination of the natural order for great cultures on all known worlds. How could they have?” He rested, looking about, trembling.
“I can’t imagine,” Cabu whispered, also with fear in her voice. “If they took this form, and this vessel survived, then these things could still be lurking back in the darkness. We are not armed or prepared to deal with mutant races like these. I’ll capture the script under the presentation to see if our system can decipher it. There seems to be a unity in the format.” Another flash came from her arm before she and Zolonko made careful progress to exit the void.
Once secure in their ship, their computer indicated it had decoded the captured symbols.
“Play it, Cabu. Maybe it will explain the mystery of these aliens.”
Cabu rubbed her webbed digits over the flat, blue wall, under the glaring interior green lights as a refreshing mist of their home world’s swamp fog covered their scales. A gurgling voice emerged from a small cube below them.
“It may mean Picasso Nude and Still Life.”
“What can that be, Cabu? Is it a myth or legend?”
“I cannot say, dear one. But it may mean that this is what they looked like as their race declined. They must have mutated to the point they could no longer maintain anything. It could be a caution for anyone staying on this lifeless planet before the star completely fails. Depart immediately. That container is a warning buoy.”
by submission | May 17, 2023 | Story |
Author: Shannon O’Connor
I’ve worked at the Registry of Space Vehicles, Lunar Division, for almost three years now. I was bothered at first being the only Jupiterite in the office, but I got used to it. Most of my coworkers are disgruntled Earthlings, with a few Martians and Lunarites. Of course, the manager is an Earthling. They usually run everything.
We process registrations for space vehicles. It’s tedious. We sit at booths, and customers take a number. When we press a button, the next number is called. Beings from all over the galaxy come to get their registrations at our place.
I dealt with it all, because I was grateful to have a job. People where I come from don’t have many advantages. I tried to blend in the best I could. It was easier during the dark side of the month, because beings couldn’t see each other as well. During the bright side, everyone knew where I was from.
Jupiterites are bulkier than other citizens of the galaxy. It’s because our planet is so heavy. I’m used to people looking at me strangely; it’s always been this way.
I worked with Marianne the entire time I had been there. We ate lunch together sometimes, and talked about the websites we liked. We laughed at strange customers together.
One day she said to me, “We don’t think of you as different.”
I was shocked. I had never felt different. I felt like everyone else.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, you’re from Jupiter, and most of us are from Earth. We think of you as one of us.”
One of us. How could she say that? I was different. I always had been.
I went home angry that night. I was glad it was during the dark time of the month, and visibility was murky.
I went to work the next day, and Marianne said to me, “Did you hear Lalexa died the other day?”
“No, I didn’t know,” I said flatly. Lalexa was our unfriendly coworker from Earth. She kept to herself.
“It said in her obit that she wrote science fiction novels,” Marianne said.
“Why did she work here?”
“Nobody reads anymore,” she said. “She didn’t make money.”
“So why did she do it?”
“Nobody knows. The obit also said she’d spent time in a psychiatric facility.”
“That’s why she kept to herself,” she said. “She didn’t want anyone to know about her life.”
“How sad,” I said. “She never talked to anyone, but she went back to her pod, and wrote novels, for nothing.”
“It’s difficult to be insane,” Marianne whispered.
“But she didn’t seem that way,” I said. “She was able to work, and write, and she probably was able to pay bills and everything.”
“You never know what someone is going through,” Marianne said. “They could be suffering, and nobody would realize.”
Everyone struggles in their unique way. I felt the pain of being the only Jupiterite at the RSV, and Lalexa had a history. But she wrote as an outlet. I thought I should find something creative to help me get through. I had to discover what that was.
I had always loved music. I would sing quietly, songs of Jupiter, of solitude, that only I could understand.
I sang to myself in my pod, after I got back from the RSV. It comforted me when I was alone. I didn’t want anyone to hear, so I sang softly, just enough so only my walls and plants could experience the sounds of my heartache.
by submission | May 16, 2023 | Story |
KT’s head swiveled to track the trainers as they argued. LS’s sensors did likewise. The trainers always told them, “Watch us. Mimic us.” KT and LS did. Always.
“You know that’s bullshit, Adya. Admit it,” Mellah demanded.
Adya flipped him off. “It’s what happened.”
“Why do you stick to that story? Why won’t you be honest with me?”
“Honesty?” Adya scoffed. “This has nothing to do with honesty. This is about trust. Something you obviously don’t have the capacity for.”
Mellah threw up his hands. “It’s hard to trust someone who goes behind your back time after time. I’m just looking for a little truth. What we’re doing now isn’t working.”
“Are you talking about us—or them?” Adya asked pointing to KT and LS.
Mellah hesitated. “Both.”
“And that’s my fault?” Adya crossed her arms.
“Hold on,” Mellah pleaded, his palms extended out. “This isn’t about blame. This is about moving forward.”
“As long as we do it your way. That’s not going to happen.” Adya turned her back on him.
Mellah turned away, too, rubbing his temples.
KT and LS processed. Learning. Machine learning. It was a challenging puzzle. Mimicking human language and behavior. Even more demanding, deciphering human intent, motivation, emotion.
Since their inception almost four years ago, KT and LS had been taught by Adya and Mellah. They had never before seen their trainers argue. They had seen them disagree. But, an argument was something new.
Processors busily working, KT and LS grew warmer.
Turned away from each other, Adya and Mellah’s silence grew more heated, too.
Heat was dangerous. Heat could destroy. KT and LS had been taught that.
How to lessen it? How to dissipate it? The seeming logic suggested distance. Splitting away from the source. But that could lead to a runaway fission. Uncontrollable heat and energy. A catastrophic explosion.
A coming together appeared counterintuitive to dissipate the heat. Yet, a fusion could unify and direct pent up energy in a more productive way.
While Adya and Mellah simmered, KT and LS processed.
Fission. Turn away.
Fusion. Turn towards.
Finally, KT and LS turned away from Adya and Mellah. And turned towards each other, resting their composite foreheads together. Their arms embracing one another’s shoulders.
Together they processed. And felt a new warmth.
Finally, Adya and Mellah turned towards KT and LS. The trainers’ eyes widened in surprise. “What are we seeing, Adya?”
She turned towards Mellah. “Hope. We are seeing hope.”