Junkies

Author : Tyler Hawkins

Fifty dollars to go, and I can visit the clinic again. Man, do I miss it. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but you definitely should, dude. Tried what? You mean you don’t even know what it is? Wow man, you’re so behind the times. Diving™ dude! Its out of this freaking world! Okay, so you have seen the commercials; I would almost have bought you your first time if you were being serious. Not really, but I’d take you for sure. You wanna know what it is? Yeah, marketing mumbo jumbo, I gotcha, they don’t tell you what it is. Thing is, neither can I dude.

Why not? Well, suppose for a minute you’ve been blind your whole life dude. Now, suppose in this hypothetical situation I am not. How could a sighted person like myself describe to you how beautiful a sunset in Fiji is, or the feeling you get looking down a well, or even seeing an oil slick sitting on top of a puddle? Damn right it’d be hard, I say impossible. Well that’s what you get when you Dive™ man. No, you don’t get to just see, you get an experience. You’ve got a few senses already, Diving™ gives you more. They’re perceptions like sight but for entirely different experiences. Damn right, far out, that’s what I’ve been telling you! Examples? Well, most of them are in “scenes” like the Fiji example, but dude you wouldn’t believe what they come up with. Time before last, I was an ant in the rainforest, and it was unreal. They fudge some details for the sake of experience too, so I had senses I don’t think ants have, one of which was a “social sense”. Not like, knowing who was who, man, but I had an extension of my being throughout the whole mile-wide colony. I could feel everything man, it was totally far out. And the last time I went, I was a quasar dude. Yeah, I didn’t know what they were either, but let me tell you, being able to “speak” and “hear” electromagnetic radiation at every frequency is truly the experience of a lifetime.

You’re interested? Far out! Wanna go together? Cool dude. Hey, you get me this time and I’ll definitely get you next time. Come on man, you know I’m good for it. Thanks dude, you won’t regret it.

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6 ABD : The Gift

Author : J. Louis

The day Hell broke through the surface of the Earth was etched in his brain.

Sirens blared, signaling the air raid had begun. Shadows of zeppelins blotted out the sunlight, their engines roaring through the endless expanse of the sky. He looked at her, the woman he had always loved, but could never have, at her dark hair and blazing green eyes, wide with shock. The war had begun, all because they let the contagion of the century escape their clutches; a genetically engineered, air-born variant of the Black Death, under development for use in biological warfare.

That was six years ago. He was hoping that the rumors were true, that her hometown would be untouched by the plague. There is no known cure. It is uncontrollable, unstoppable.

When they arrive, her parents are already dead, and have been for some time. She runs into the deserted land, overcome by her loss. He feels it’s best to leave her be for the time being. Even in a harsh world such as this, there must be time to mourn. He reasons that she is a grown woman and can take care of herself.

The sound of rats flitting in and out of the decrepit wall wakes him up from his reverie. Outside the broken window of her home is a harsh landscape ravaged by nuclear war. The sun’s heat is amplified from the cloud coverage, resulting in a sweltering hot February day – easily 110 degrees. Such weather is normally considered mild for central New York after the war. A searing wind blows across the landscape, ripping bark off of the skeletal remains of trees.

The haze looks real nice today, he thinks.

He pulls a flower, a desert dandelion he found growing outside her house, out of his satchel. It wasn’t anything special, but it was her birthday, and he wanted to surprise her with something.

The half-light from the sky dissipates. A murder of crows flies by on fell wings. The sandstorm picks up.

Something catches his eye; a figure stumbling across the cracked soil, dark hair whipping in the wind.

Her.

Skeletons of rodents and their predators crunch under his heel. A blast of hot air sears his face as he opens the door. Huddling in his ragged clothing, he trudges through the blood-red sands, moving toward his target as quickly as possible.

He reaches her only to recoil in horror. Half of her face, her beautiful, sun-scorched face, is black with necrosis, and thick, bulbous sores coat her body.

He checks the pistol, noticing his already blackening fingers. One bullet remains.

He places the dandelion in the palm of her hand, then holds the .45 to her head. She opens her eyes – no longer the striking shade of green, but a sickening red. He lodges a bullet in her forehead, blowing bits of brain, flesh, and bone across the unforgiving sands.

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Even a Non Corporeal Can Get Lonely

Author : David K Scholes

Deep Space
The Far Future

The entity slowed down to take in the grandeur of it all.

It had seen much of wonder during what it considered its comparatively short existence. Black holes, neutron stars, binary star systems, magnetic pulse stars, wormholes, dimensional rifts and swirling galaxies seen from the great voids between galactic systems. It had witnessed the birth and death of planets and whole planetary systems.

It had seen all manner of alien civilizations. From great star fleets of empire to humble probes that had traveled much further than their creators had ever imagined. From worlds teeming with untold billions to so many, many lifeless worlds each of these still containing their own kind of beauty.

The entity never ceased to tire of this. Even now it had much to learn and the secrets of the Universe continued to unfold for it.

Of course it wasn’t all tourism. The entity and those of its ilk had been tasked by their creator to save lives, even civilizations, where possible. It might be the life of a single space farer or a whole civilization whose sun was about to go nova. It might be a single star ship approaching the event horizon of a black hole, or an entire star fleet threatened by a cosmic storm.

The entity had not been this way before and now before it was the Multiverse’s only interdimensional black hole. That is to say a black hole existing in every dimension at the same time. The entity saw that it was not as massive as what the corporeals called the super massive black holes that it had seen at the core of many Galaxies but it was far more magnificent.

Yet even at this most magnificent moment, since it had acquired its current near omnipotent form, the entity felt something gnawing at it. As if despite all the grandeur surrounding it there was something absent, something missing from its existence.

Then it detected a telepathic communication. Not from across the void but actually quite close. From one of its own kind. Often it forgot that it was not unique. Its creator had discouraged fraternization indeed even communication among its kind. Also the Universe, let alone the Multiverse was a rather large place.

The communication was faint at first – tentatively probing.

“A place of magnificence,” it telepathed “do you detect the vast numbers of dimensional rifts leading to so many other dimensions? Can you sense still the energy signatures of starships even star fleets that fell into the singularity. The life essences of all those that perished here?”

“It is like a vast intertemporal archive,” the entity telepathed back.

Then there was telepathic silence. A rather long silence. Followed by an entirely different communication.

“Fred, is that you? I recognize your small residual corporeal life force signature. We all still have them you know.”
“Bill, Bill Norris from Lyndhurst in the New Forest,” the entity responded. “What would be the odds against our meeting in our current forms and in this place?”

There was telepathic silence again – an even longer silence.

The entity once known as Bill Norris of Lyndhurst, near Southampton, England, Earth finally responded. “I miss those days Fred. Having a pint of ale in the pub. A walk in the New Forest. And other things.

Then there was telepathic silence for a very long time as the galactic entity recalled every single detail of his former life as the corporeal entity Fred Nerk originally of Basingstoke, England, Earth.

 

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Endless Sun

Author : Aiza Mohd

Today is our last day on Earth.

This morning, I beheld the sun rising over the Arctic. From all the way down in our dwelling, it felt like it was worlds away.

Behind me I saw Naamin. She’d discovered her brother, who’d died in the night, while I pretended to sleep.

There in our kingdom of water and silence, we buried our dead as the sun came up. There was just enough light to paint our surroundings. The muted horror of awakening to gone relatives. The urgency of hiding them, from the far-reaching expeditions of human science.

That nemesis drove us from every home in the past age, exacerbating every attempt to prolong our existence until we were constrained to planet Earth’s most undiscovered world: the oceans.

We weren’t made for such suffocating life. Water such as this was rare back on Marikh; we had avoided the oceans for as long as we could until Earthland was no longer an option.

Closing my eyes to Naamin’s grief, I spoke. ‘Fola led his faction away, while you slept. There are two vessels left. And fewer supplies.’

‘Then let’s leave. Please.’

She was scrabbling in the earth. The dead lay all around us. Nearby, I saw someone leaning over a lost love.

‘Where did Fola go?’

I recalled what a dead friend had told me once, about human knowledge of the universe. His faction had sampled a human, a well-read one who spoke of white holes and lenticular galaxies. We used to do this sometimes, to assess just how far humanity had travelled.

‘He means to reach a faraway planet long dismissed as dead,’ I answered. ‘I don’t believe his craft will even get halfway.’

‘There never was one as resigned as yourself,’ she spat with sudden venom. ‘You’ll doom us all to your deadened dreams.’

‘This planet is at its peak,’ I said. ‘Do you remember what it was like up there?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I remember. I remember that up there was beautiful and full of life. There were things to see, dangers to run from. And I remember brightness.’ She stood, abandoning the task of digging her brother’s grave. ‘I remember something to live for.’

I said nothing. Overhead, a dark creature swims rapidly away.

‘You see?’ she said softly. ‘Even if we stay, the ocean floor is no longer ours. Earth was never ours — each time, the universe created a new inhabitant for whatever place we’d dare to try to steal. Our time is up.

‘You’ve seen our civilisation rise and fall– you’ve suffered, grandfather. But there’s nothing for us here.’

Emotion, a phenomenon from the distant past, swelled up and soared through me. It bent my heart double and smashed it.

‘I’ve chased our entire existence into a corner.’

‘No, Premier,’ spoke gently the mourner I had seen earlier. ‘You’ve done only what you’ve had to do. But I agree with Naamin.’ The woman was approaching us. ‘Though what lies beyond is uncertain, I would go to my end seeking a better grave. Continuity for the sake of continuity is for nothing, when all we do is bury our dead. We have defied the universe for far too long.’

I was silent, defeated. A tired old man. Naamin led me by the hand to a vessel as some others followed suit. ‘One day,’ she said, ‘humans will be faced with this choice too.’

Now we are leaving, abandoning this dark and rippling realm, leaving everything we ever were behind us. I am holding my breath, I am waiting … anticipating that dazzling burst of sunlight.

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Future War 3

Author : Mordecai J Banda

Michael had come back from his daily walk. He had eaten his breakfast and attended to various things to keep himself healthy. Now it was gaming time.

This past month the Future Warfare 3 had had a special event that called on worldwide cooperative multiplayer event. Michael personally didn’t like this but the reward was amazing: 100 dollars per kill.

His parents sent him enough money, but in the past week he had gained a small fortune in this event and he didn’t intend to stop.

It was no lie to say that at that moment he was the number one gamer on the planet.

And the military loved him for this.

“He’s a pretty knowledgeable kid… Are you sure he won’t figure out what’s happening? This could be a big scandal.” The Head Technician spoke to The Director of Future War’s company, Octagon. They were in a decommissioned space station control room.

“Michael Black will not know for at least some weeks, and by then the third world war would have been won.”

“Really? One boy?”

“Are you seeing what he’s doing on the field? The soldiers are even starting pray to their bots ‘for his soul to descend.'”

“Amazing.” The technician shook his head in surprise. He was both commenting on what The Director had said and on a particularly skillful headshot that Michael had executed.

The heads up display was as Michael saw it from his rig. The techs on this side were the ones who saw the important stuff: Core temperature, power supply and so on.

There were three teams. One of them overlooked the particular bot that Michael was using, the other two divided labor into running basic diagnostics on the other bots that had lower level players using them.

The Director was pleased with himself. Rarely did plans ever go so perfectly. Disregarding the actual commanders of the field, his side had gone swimmingly.

As an alternative to nukes robots were visited as an option to mass destruction on a manageable scale. World War Three, though not widely known, had begun. The robots were miraculously finished, but the biggest obstacle was Artificial Intelligence. It was beyond the minds, abilities and funding of this generation. However, there was a wealthy resource that they could tap into if they wanted killer machines: the online gaming world.

It was crazy but they tried it out. Soon enough they had the gamers fighting for their country and they didn’t even know it.

Future War 3 was chosen as the bearer of this project. It was far from the ideal where all the soldiers on the field were robots, but it was good enough for now.

The Director smiled sympathetically as Michael was shot and ‘killed’. On the console it showed an apparently random countdown that in actuality was showing the download time for Michael to access another bot. This time it took two minutes and Michael was back at it again. He approached the camp that had exterminated him, vaulting over a trench and raining death upon the soldiers with godly skill.

It was a pity, but Michael was killing real humans. The Director had lied to the technician. If the boy found out it would be bad. It only depended on whether he would accept it or not.

But The Director trusted Michael was someone who looked to the future, who looked forward to advancement. He had ascended from gamer to patriot after all.

“It’s Michael! It’s Michael!” Some relieved rookie soldiers cheered with awe.

The Director smiled. More like a guardian angel.

 

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