Author : Callum Wallace
They stepped into the city, ignoring the barrage of smells assaulting their nostrils.
People swam in and out of view, chatting animatedly, gracing the travellers with only the most cursory of glances.
The first Walker patted her Pair Mate gently on the shoulder, and spread out her hand.
“Welcome to the city, Akira. What do you think?”
Her partner looked around scornfully, his upper lip raised beneath the baby blue visor covering his eyes. He pulled his wide brimmed hat lower over his face.
“The sooner we finish, the better.”
She nodded her agreement, squeezing his shoulder, “Come, then. Let’s not dally.”
They strolled along, the crowd parting respectfully around them. Their oiled cloaks shone darkly, reflecting the myriad of buzzing, coloured lights around them.
She looked about her with similar scorn, judging the fools staring vapidly into their various screens, wishing fervently for the comfort of her book satchel, stashed safely outside of the city out of the reach of these troglodyte morons.
She laughed briefly, causing Akira to turn to her.
She shrugged, “They have the audacity to call the areas outside of these prisons ‘The Wastes’. The irony tickled me, is all.”
Akira, not known for his humour, chuckled with her, this time patting her shoulder.
“Well Brenna, hopefully this will help fix their views.”
They moved further into the city, headed for the centre. When they arrived, they flashed their false credentials at the guards and asked for peace. The men nodded, grudgingly, and moved on, creating a cordon around the towering pillar that stood there.
This broadcast tower catered to every man, woman and child that lurked in this superficial pit, showering all within with a surfeit of luxury seldom seen outside: laziness.
People didn’t want for anything here, not for anything important.
Knowledge was dying here, killed off by the ease with which people could access it; nothing was learned here, but accessed, glanced at, and discarded callously.
The thought made Brenna feel sick; it clashed with everything within her, instilled there by the Order since her infancy.
The rebels entered the tower and rode the lift upwards, looking balefully out through the flashing glass windows at the sprawling megacity below them. They passed even the tallest of buildings that scraped the sky, finally bursting through the heavy artificial clouds.
The lift slowed, depositing them safely at the top of the narrow tower. Brenna fancied she could feel it swaying slightly, but paid it no heed.
“I’ll get the device ready,” she said quietly.
She began to work, taking the heavy metal box from the sling across her chest, where it had been concealed by her cloak.
Akira nodded, removing his hat to save it from blowing away. He tapped her gently, pointing,
She began to grumble, but did so, and stopped.
The two of them retracted their visors and stared up at the moon with naked eyes.
It hung heavily in the sky, bloated and white, pearlescent through the greasy scum of the atmosphere far above.
“Do you think they’re still up there, doing things right?
Again, she gently squeezed his shoulder.
She didn’t know.
“Probably been there and gone. To Mars, or one of those others. Come on, help me.”
He lingered a moment longer as she knelt, “Think they’ll come back?”
He looked down at her questioningly, before flicking his visor back down. She did the same, setting the EMP to detonate within two hours, enough time for them to escape easily.
She stood and gazed into the band of blue blocking his eyes.
Author : Danielle Bodnar
Listen. In the basement, there is the shelter. You’ll find everything you need: canned goods, camping gear, cell phone, travel router, multilingual slang phrasebook. Inside the phrasebook there is a list of numbers and letters. This is the code to unlock the time machine – the big black box at the far corner of the room. Put on the jacket that hangs on the chair by the bed. It might be cold. Inside the inner pocket of the jacket is a tablet with inter-dimensional GPS installed and an electronic spanner. It’s an old one, but it should still work.
When you get inside the box, go to the control panel. The correct coordinates have already been put in. You’ll be back home, albeit 50 years earlier, in no time. How do I know it works? I’ve tested it before, of course. With apes, like the first spaceships. You’ll be the first human to go back. But forward – unfortunately, you can only go the long way round..
Try and stop it. Tell the world that the comet is coming. You’re a bright young kid, get into the best university you can, study astrophysics. Don’t worry about papers – I’ve already forged some for you. I plan for everything. You will find these in an envelope, also in the inner pocket of the jacket. Don’t look for yourself thirty years later. And for the love of science, don’t come looking for me, ever. If you succeed, this will never have happened, but right now it looks like you’ve failed. It’s all right, though; we can try over and over again, forever if we have to. Katy, this world is too beautiful to lose like this. I have faith in you, but this is an inevitable event. If you think you can’t stop it, advocate for humanity to travel to the stars. Maybe you can save some of them. I have included a list of coordinates of the closest inhabitable planets inside the phrasebook, page 116. But don’t reveal them unless this is the course you must take.
Don’t worry about me. I brought you here without meaning to. I had every opportunity to keep you away from danger, and I didn’t take them. I knew it was coming, that it always would come, but I waited too long. I thought, with all my intelligence and clout, I could swoop in and save the world at the last minute. Genius that I am, I let Hollywood delude me. This is the least I can do. I know you can do it, Katy. You’ve been a tremendous help in my research. The others always nodded along to everything I say, but you spoke up. You asked questions. But I shut you out. I should have listened to you before, told you what I knew, but it’s too late now. Another thing – don’t wallow in regret. Lucky for you, Katy, you can try again.
Don’t worry about Muffy – she’s safe in her carrier in your room, right where you left her. No time. You must go alone. Hurry; it will be here in half an hour. I’m old, Katy, so old. My life is lived. Please go. Now. I’m so sorry.
Author : Travis Gregg
The grizzled man, draped in furs, trudged his way up the mountain side. The morning air was crisp and he could see his breath as he slowly made his way to the crevice. The location was a sacred secret and he checked behind him often, double backed more than once, but no one had followed.
The crevice was just wide enough for him to squeeze through. In his youth the climb up to the crevice, down into the depths, and then back up to the surface had been trivial but every year it became more difficult.
“Have to start thinking about an apprentice,” he thought to himself. A new apprentice would be a lot of work. He was reluctant to admit to himself that the time was approaching when he’d need to step down, but the tribe couldn’t go without a leader, regardless of his pride. As he had been taught as a youth, the knowledge of the sacred place was to be passed down so as not to be lost.
Taking one last look around, he squeezed between the rock walls and descended into the darkness. He had a small torch with him but he hardly needed it. The way was familiar and the pathway opened up after the initial squeeze. Navigating the twists and turns, he pushed through the last tight place and eased into the impossible long and rigidly straight chamber he thought of as the throat.
He’d had no idea the total length of the throat but it was four spans wide and at least that again tall. The walls and floor were smooth as a frozen lake, or maybe even smoother, but they weren’t slippery at all, and they were very hard. Every time he came he marveled at the smoothness of the walls. He’d never seen anything in nature as straight and smooth but he also couldn’t imagine what could have built this place either. It was like stepping into a different reality.
Heading down the long narrow chamber, passing several sealed up entries, he came to his destination. The archway was circular and reached nearly to the roof of the chamber. This entryway opened up into a large wide room with a ceiling at least ten spans tall. Inside were row after row of waist high tables and chairs all facing towards one wall of the room. Scattered around the tables were dull metal boxes that held the reason for his arduous journey.
Sitting down at a table he got to work on one of the boxes. The metal sides slid out if you knew the trick and once it was open he twisted a couple of the pieces inside the box loose. Holding up his torch he evaluated the components on how impressive they’d be. The piece he decided on was a small cylinder that was clear with thin swirls of metal coiled inside. It was beautiful in its own way. More importantly though, it was clearly beyond anything his people could fabricate themselves. He knew he’d have to be careful descending back to the village, from past experience he knew these could break easily and then he’d have to come back for another.
For another season the tribespeople would be duly impressed and appeased by his gift from the gods. They would be assured he was still favored and his leadership would remain unquestionable.
Author : Suzanne Borchers
Within a huge classroom, Professor Stella watches what appears to be a wild party. Twelve divergent beings converse in languages of uttered speech, thought, movement and touch. Shouts, laughter, and slaps resound. Is this a scene of galactic insanity?
No. It is an experiential warehouse of virtual reality learning which spins in space billions of parsecs from the nearest star. Images of cooperative and competitive thought-architectures fill the shelves, spilling onto the floor and piling upon each other.
Stella calls to Xerus who immediately blows a gust of laughter at his tottering bot to prevent it from smashing into his partner’s project. Stella turns her attention to another team.
Often during this past season, Stella had contemplated how she would feel on her last day of teaching. Would she regret the seemingly infinite number of seasons she had spent here? Would she regret her sacrifice of personal time and relationships for this full-time network? Would she find another vocation in her mandated retirement?
Stella’s breathing is heavy and her two hearts pound.
Last day is here.
Stella smiles as she gathers her students into a circle. The playful shoving, poking, and guffaws take time to settle into place. Each “other worlds” student has grown in personal and interpersonal confidence. This season has been successful. Now is the time to release their images back to their own worlds. Her smile falters a moment at her future loss, but again Stella smiles.
“The universe survives by intertwining cycles with networks. Use these to prosper the spheres of light in our worlds.” She breathes deeply. “I am satisfied you possess the tools to network successfully.” Stella reaches out her rainbow-colored fin toward each student. “Network wisely, my children.” Professor Stella closes her eyes. “Power out.”
The darkened room becomes empty space promising a new season.
Author : Christos Tsirimokos
You would think living in paradise is easy.
And it is, physically, since our creations provide for everything.
But mentally? Have you tried to keep sane when you have nothing interesting to do?
Even the most extreme experiences can become trite given time and we have all the time in the universe to try everything. It’s not like we can die from disease or accident anymore, so why not?
I’ve seen most of my friends get more and more bored as time passed. Someone found it a good idea to die and not come back. He started a trend. I’m not the only living person yet, but I know us all by name.
Truth is I don’t know how long this situation will keep me interested. I have already made my decision to follow everyone else and I keep smiling these days, not from insanity, nor from relief, but the irony.
Who would have thought that humanity would end not in some terrible disaster but in utter boredom?