Author : John Arthur Beaman
Why should we expect God to keep track of everyone in the world? The galaxies, you know, take a trained eye and eons of proper management to turn a profit. It’s quite an operation. I don’t blame God for losing me.
It’s funny when you think about it. The universe runs in circles. Maybe it’s just easier that way. I’ve yet to build a one; I wouldn’t begin to criticize. So, the moon goes around the earth. The earth goes around the sun. The sun, too, has its little circles. The solar system moves around the galaxy, and so on. Our lives? They’re like microscopic versions of the universe. We go round and round, until we don’t.
To crawl inside the mind of an infinite being seems easy enough. There’s plenty of space. But it’s like a game of hide and seek in there; the only problem is no one’s seeking. We hide in back of the curtains or under the bed. We poke our heads out occasionally, wondering when we’ll be tagged. Years go by; no one finds us. Have we hidden ourselves that well? It was only curtains!
It’s hard to say how important the Milky Way is on the universal scale. It harbors life, we know that. In certain scientific circles, they call the realm in which we survive “the habitable zone.” I like the word zone. It has a z in it, and that’s good. More importantly, it starts with z. Plus, it has two vowels and two consonants. That’s perfect symmetry if I ever saw it. Zone. We live in a zone.
Neighborhoods have been zoned for housing. Parking lots have been zoned for parking. We have commercial, residential, agriculture, time, weather, ocean and even empty zones. We have zones within zones. I suppose we do this to keep our cities running smoothly. It’s not hard to see why God would have a habitable zone. It just keeps the integrity of the thing.
So, our spot in the galaxy has been zoned for life. I’m sure when scouring over the blueprints God took great pains deciding the most lucrative locations. We have our place, and the other three life bearing planets in the galaxy have their zones as well. How I came to the conclusion that there are four life supporting planets in the Milky Way is a simple matter of deduction: it’s less than five and more than three. Five and three are, of course, absurdities.
How does our habitable zone stack up? There are billions and billions of galaxies, give or take. Each of them has four life supporting planets. When all is told, God’s got his hands full. It’s quite an operation.
Then there’s a man named John. He’s just one living soul among the trillions and trillions and dare I say trillions more. He’s managed to crawl inside the mind of an infinite being and get lost. He lives in one galaxy among billions in a very small site zoned for life. In a solar system too large for his little mind to grasp, he exists. Magnifying further, we see that he lives on a tiny speck of light that’s almost completely overshadowed by its own sun, if overshadowed is even the correct word. Through the clouds of a dense atmosphere we go. Passing over billions of lives, we find his country. Over multi-millions more, we find his state. Millions go by again just locating his city, but hundreds of thousands remain before we find him. I can see why God gave up. Who’s got the time?
Author : Alanna Cohen
She set the plate before me and grinned with pride over her homemade dish, her hair falling in strands over her shoulders as the steam rolled in curls of fog from the meal. I looked down as my stomach roared loudly and admired the look of the food. The mixed smells of spices wafted through the room, and although it smelled good, there was not a thing on the plate that I recognized.
A yellow mound of what looked like mashed potatoes sat on one side of the plate, only sprinkled throughout the mush, there were large colorful balls that looked like berries. On the other side of the plate, a meat — yet this meat was hardly recognizable as such. Blue in color, it sat perched like a bird on two bare bones that resembled claws. No meat touched the plate.
“I have been working to get this right for years,” she admitted with a grin, “Are you brave enough to try it?”
She stood above me and watched as I lifted the fork from the table, feeling like an interrogated criminal. I knew what could happen if her experiment didn’t work. I had heard the stories of the others who had tried it. Her attempts had failed. But something inside me knew that this time was different.
I glanced up at her and gave her a half smile as I took on a fork full, lifted it to my lips, and gingerly took my first bite.
And, as I expected, something about it tasted not quite right.
It wasn’t the flavor, per say. Actually, it wasn’t the flavor at all… there were a variety of delightful tastes in my mouth. It was the sensation that made the dish strange… my taste buds suddenly felt warm, my tongue was tingling as if it had fallen asleep, my cheeks were bubbling. My heart fluttered with nervous thoughts. Was this it? Was I going to be another failed attempt? I felt as if my mouth was beginning to explode, and my body was suddenly betraying my confidence. But despite my fear, I knew I had to eat more. If I gave up now, I would sure be a failure.
“Keep going,” she encouraged, and I nodded. Sweat beads began forming at my brow as I scooped another fork full of food and shoveled it into my mouth, my lips beginning to sizzle like half boiled water.
With the second bite, the sensations expanded down into my throat. My tonsils began moving back and forth in a rhythmic dance. The very root canals of my teeth were throbbing to the beat of my heart pumps.
Closing my eyes, I took a third bite. My heartbeat became pronounced and I was suddenly aware of every artery that carried my blood. I felt the blood cells traveling, as if I were one of them myself carried along the bloodstream journey.
The fourth bite. The fifth.
My head began to spin. Every hair follicle gave a standing ovation on my head, a sudden cold enveloping only parts of my body, while others felt extremely hot. My organs were flopping, my bones aching, skin stretching.
And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped.
The room was still, and there was a silent, small moment when she looked through me. Her eyes darted around my chair, searching for an image that wasn’t there.
“It worked!” She gasped, groping for my wrist. She found it. She lifted my hand close to our eyes. “Look!”
And there, between her clutched pointer and thumb, was nothing.
Author : Suzanne Borchers
Bea stared through the 10 mm thick window at the metallic mining equipment covering the gray landscape. One more plate to wipe then she’d be able to read and escape this. She’d be in a colorful world filled with fascinating sights and enchanting friends.
“Dammit, I hate this place,” she muttered. She swept her gaze around the kitchen area. Had her husband heard? He must be outside securing one more plate on the roof. She caught her breath as she stifled a laugh. “How long has it been since I’ve seen one drop of rain? How long have we been here? Forever?”
“Lonely?” The quiet question came from behind her.
“Oh, James. You weren’t supposed to hear that.” Bea turned to wrap her arms around her husband’s waist.
“I never should have married you, Bea. This is no place for a woman. You were happy with your family…, friends…, parties…, travels.”
She wanted to say that this godforsaken rock was no place for a man either. Instead, she drew him closer and rested her head on his chest.
A motion outside caught her attention.
“It’s the supply shuttle! Maybe they’ve brought more library chips!” She pulled away from James’ arms, running to retrieve the case holding the old chips.
“Bea.” His voice seemed to stick in his throat. “It’s not the supply ship.” He drew her over to the window.
Bea’s eyes widened at the sight of the approaching white suited androids. Their measured steps inevitably brought them to the outside airlock door. She didn’t see them enter and close it, but her heart knew. Soon they would be inside.
“James! Hide me!”
She pressed against him.
“There’s no place to hide.” Tears crowded his eyes. “I’m so sorry.”
Bea ran through the room, from one wall to another and then back, like a mouse searching for a hole. Meanwhile, metallic appendages pounded the door.
“No!” she screamed.
James opened the door and let the androids into their santuary, their home.
She beat his back with one small, tight fist. “No!” Then she sunk onto the floor, still clutching the case in her other hand.
One android blocked off James from interfering while the other android herded Bea into the tiny room in back.
“James! Don’t let him touch me!”
James stared at the floor. “I can’t stop them. I’m so sorry. I wish I could. Damn that supply ship.” His head swayed with each word. He wiped tears and cursed beneath his breath.
“No! Get away!” Bea’s voice echoed through the cubicle. “But, I’ve never seen the Martian Vaults, or the Baths of Otics, or…” Her voice died away.
The android emerged into the main cubicle and turned to James. He held the case of chips. “Rules cannot be broken. There is a waiting line.”
“But the supply ship didn’t come on time.” James said. “We couldn’t trade for other chips. We haven’t seen a ship in months. Have pity.”
“Rules cannot be broken.” With that, the two androids left James standing alone.
Bea staggered out from their sleeping pod. The chip insertion socket was gone from the tiny cavity in her temple. A small drop of blood intermingled with a tear down her cheek.
“No more worlds to view,” she murmured.
Bea turned and scanned the tiny colorless cubicle. “Ever.”
James moved to Bea.
James leaned toward her.
“They never let you borrow another chip when…” She touched the empty cavity with a finger. “Never.”
“We’ll still have each other,” James said.
He drew her in close.
Bea felt nothing, enclosed her endless gray world.
Author : David Nutt
It took all of Jimmy J’s concentration to lock out the invading minds trying to pry the secrets from him. The first attack was dealt with easily, the Thulian from the belt. It was straight forward frontal lobe probing. Brute force, horribly off balance, easily turned aside. The Thulian dropped out immediately.
The second attack was from Danni, a humanoid like him. Typical. She tried to appeal to his libido. Vague images of passionate encounters but he ignored them. She switched to homo erotic vignettes thinking that maybe he swung that way, but it was to no avail. In the process he did discover she had a weakness for older men. Jimmy tunneled into her unconscious and planted a few spicy sequences of his own and she folded like a wet cardboard box.
The next attack came from the ancient. Ancient what he wasn’t quite sure. Old, powerful, and subtle was all he could read. Jimmy thought he was done for but while old, powerful, and subtle spoke of the unknown creature trying to overwhelm his mind it was no match for the creatures inexperience in this arena, and the Ancient’s own doubt was what sent him (her? it?) cowering from Jimmy’s mind.
The last attack came from an old nemesis. Kazanti. Jimmy smiled. Kazanti was so augmented with implants it was hard to tell where organic being ended and nanotechnology began. The rumor was Kazanti was in some kind of accident and the emergency procedures to save his life altered his personality so much that it was as if the old, pre-accident Kazanti never existed.
That’s where Jimmy caught a glimpse for an attack; between rumor and reality. Another’s perception meant nothing to Kazanti, but his self perception was everything. It was a quick glimpse; a small child-like creature on some kind of recreational equipment. Large mammalian eyes, soft fur, delicate primate like hands; hands that reminded Jimmy of the lemur he saw in the zoo when he was seven. His big sister was still alive then and he could almost feel the warmth of her hand in his as they looked—
Jimmy threw up his defenses, drew down his ego shields and unleashed a panicked id response. Childish and violent to be sure, but the surprise caught Kazinti in a vulnerable spot and while Jimmy was thrashing Kazanti lost his grip and had to retreat leaving Jimmy with the secret still locked inside his head.
A smile crept on to Jimmy’s face as the others withdrew, leaving Jimmy alone and unscathed. At peace, he knew the others could not touch him, that they did not know what he knew already; that he had won. Jimmy opened his mind to all his attackers the split second before he spoke so they would know the horrible truth as their physical senses caught up with their minds:
“Read ’em and weep boys and girls! Straight flush.”
Author : Tim Rouse
It’s been eight years. I suppose it had to happen sometime.
They’ve been here longer than that, of course. Just shy of a century, they say. But eight years ago they revealed themselves, thousands of people enslaved, with aliens in their bodies, and suddenly they wanted the rest of us to welcome in an alien guest.
And people lined up for the opportunity. Maybe it was something in the water, but I drank that water and I never wanted an alien put inside me. I suppose when they saw some of the people the aliens already had (the president, hell, they had the president) they didn’t think it was worth fighting no more.
‘Course, lots of us did fight. Didn’t matter, for the most part- one of them inside the camp was all it took to open the gates, so to speak. And once they were in, it didn’t matter how hard you fought or how fast you ran, you ended up in the back of a van headed for Processing.
That’s where everyone ended up. Processing. Didn’t matter if you’d fought to the last man or if you’d welcomed them with open arms, there were only two ways out of that place. Death for the fat, the terminally ill, or whatever- we still don’t know, to tell the truth. My guess? They were just thinning us out. Maybe they didn’t need eight billion bodies, or maybe they just wanted to make sure Earth survived once they took over.
Maybe it was the lucky ones they killed. The rest got taken. One of their grubs down your gullet, and two days later they’re sat in your stomach, latched onto your spine, and it’s them running your brain now. They claim it’s like motherhood, but I always figured they were more like zombies.
A few of us got away. Not many- one in ten thousand, maybe? Probably less. Might be more overseas, where there were less people- Russia, perhaps, or Madagascar. Round here, most live in the hills, on old farms or in caves.
And then there’s us. Domestic terrorists, they call us. Freedom fighters, we call ourselves. Bombings, vandalism, straight-up execution sometimes. We’ll do anything to rid this planet of these monsters.
But sometimes… sometimes you stop, just when the crowbar should be smashing into the skull of a pretty teenager, just as the cold dead eyes of the alien inside betray, just for a moment, a flicker of fear, of humanity long since smothered.
It’s been eight years. I suppose it had to happen sometime. You stop, once too often, and the police
are onto you, and it’s no mercy, the aliens don’t know the meaning of the word.
So there we are. Two of us are already dead. The rest are battered, beaten, on the ground. The police aren’t paying much attention any more, busy with the growing crowd. But there’s no way we could get away now, unless…
I look over at Owen. Sure enough, he’s already got his slim wrists out of the cuffs.
“Go on!” hisses Cassie, a girl I thought I loved, once. Whatever happens to me tonight, I’m fairly sure I’ll never feel love again.
Owen looks unhappy. “I can’t leave you all… to them…”
I cut him off. “Just go, Owen. The fight must go on!”
Resigned, he nods, rises, and darts across the street.
As he walks up the road, mingling with the passers-by, I can’t help but think.
They look so like us.