Author : chesterchatfield

I woke up one morning and found a small robot living on my leg. By the time I stumbled up to the bathroom, I could feel the little parasite burrowing, trying to get at my mind. After an hour, I’d become a passenger in my own body, watching this little creep run me around like a puppet.

It walked me down to a local mall and we bought a wristwatch, no one seeming to notice an alien presence behind my eyes. We hopped a bus, walked a bit more, and then buried the watch in a hole filled with tons of other trinkets, tools, and sheets of metal. I have no idea where we went because it avoided looking at any signs or landmarks the whole way. That treasure trove could be practically anywhere.

As the day wore on I felt the presence weaken, like it’s batteries were running down. By the time we returned to my apartment, I wrestled control back and the robot dropped off my leg, lying limply on the ground. It was about six inches long, metal plated like a cylindrical leech. I doubted it would be able to travel very far without a host.

Reaching over to gingerly poke it, I finally noticed a small notebook that had been tied around the thickest part, like a dog collar.

Inside were accounts from what I guess are all the other people it’s latched onto. The first dozen are in foreign languages I can’t read, but towards the end they’re English. Each person wrote their name, the date, and what the creature had them do. The list varied from cutting down trees to robbing a jewelry store. The most recent was dated twenty-five years earlier. Judging from the jumble of letters, numbers, and codes in one, I think some kind of research facility had it at one point. I guess they weren’t careful enough.

There was also a note that the thing had so far proved indestructible, but that it wasn’t a danger after it fell off. The woman who had it before me, Linda, had speculated for a page or two that it was building something. That it had been on earth for hundreds of years. She planned to leave it locked in a trunk in the attic space of her apartment building.

I dropped it off the pier, locked in a safe. It’ll escape eventually, but not for a while. And it won’t land on anyone while they sleep.

The creature tapped its bright pincers, interacting with a shipboard computer while its companion observed apathetically. On a trip of this length, watching the other often became their only entertainment.

“Wait,” the watcher suddenly clicked. “Go back.”

The other flipped back through the sensory images, landing on a cold metallic orb, full of energy.

“Reminds me of that build-helper I made. Remember? I was gonna teach it to repair the shuttle’s temporal navigator so I could spend time trading chem with that gorgeous piece of shell down at Carnite IV.”

They spent a moment in fond recollection. “Didn’t work out though. Hadn’t even attached limbs yet, gave it a list of parts and the damn thing just hopped ship to go find a new mineral base for the reactor.”

“What happened to it?”

“Either floatin’ around space or landed somewhere, I guess. Ha! Maybe it’ll find the materials to actually make a new reactor.” The creature dissolved into clacking laughter. “I never got around to teaching it the containment procedures! That thing was persistent. Probably end up blowin’ a small planet!”

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Author : Roger Dale Trexler

“No, no, no!” he said. It just won’t do.” He looked at the workers and shook his head. “Do you call those hands?” He motioned toward the thing lying on the slab in front of him. “And feet? Those look more like claws!” He shook his head again. “It just won’t do….and we’ve got a time line to keep!”

The workers cowered away from him. In a way, they feared him. But, they also respected him. He was, after all, the head cheese, the Big Guy, the Big Kahuna, the one who ran the show.

Not a one of them spoke.

He looked at the lot of them and took a deep sigh. This was important. This was BIG. It was the biggest project he would ever undertake, and they didn’t get it. Maybe he was unclear? He had provided them with blue prints, schematics, DNA samples, but no go. They didn’t understand. They were set in their ways, and he was being original. He wanted to create something new….something fresh….and they just weren’t getting it. How hard was it to follow his instructions? He wondered. The blue prints were cut and dried. They were simple to comprehend. All they had to do was follow it. Create what he wanted from what he showed them.

But, they just weren’t getting it.

“You,” He said, pointing at one of the main workers. “Come here.”

The worker came forward. There was fear in his expression. The creature was shivering. He could see that and, being the kind soul he was, He felt bad for yelling at them.

By the time the worker reached him, his anger and frustration had changed to something more constructive. “I’m sorry,” He said, “but I’ve got a time line. It can’t be broken, do you understand?”

The worker nodded.

He looked at all the other workers. There were so many of them. He had never worked with so much help before. He wondered why he had taken on this insane task. Wouldn’t it just be easier to leave things as they were? Why break the status quo?

Because I can do better, He thought. I can correct all the things I did wrong the last time and make things better.

He patted the worker on the back. “Go back to your friends there,” He said, smiling kindly. “And don’t be afraid…there’s still time. I don’t need this”—He pointed at the thing lying on the slab—“for another six days.”

He turned to the congregation. “I’ll be back on the sixth day,” He said, “and I want a new prototype—this one to the specifications I gave you.” He held up his hands. “Like these,” He said. “Their hands need to be like these.” He kicked off his sandals. “And the feet….they need to look like mine. Understand?”

The workers all nodded their heads.

He drew in a deep sigh and turned away. He knew when He started that it would be an almost impossible mission to complete, but He had already set things in motion, and He wasn’t about to stop things now. But, on the seventh day, he was damn sure going to take a break. He was exhausted.

“All right then,” He said. “Get to work. Time’s a wasting, but tomorrow will be a new day…and I’ve got a universe to create.”

“Yes sir,” they replied in unison.

Good, He thought. Now to go figure out this night and day thing.

He reached out his hands and began.

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Bad Reception

Author : Rocky Hutson

“They’re incompatible: He has no income and she has no patability.”

The middle aged couple entered the reception hall. Invited guests of the groom’s family, they were eager to give their condolences to the happy couple, Herkus and Midge, get back to the spaceport and leave Andromeda-five colony far behind them.

An adolescent boy neared them and the man stepped up. “Son, have seen Midge yet? She could have married any man she pleased, it’s just that she never pleased any.”

“Someone once told Herkus to be himself: They couldn’t have given him worse advice.” Said the lady.

“You could seduce her even if you played your cards wrong.”

“Oh, Mikal.” The woman rolled her eyes at her companion. “He has a face you don’t want to remember and can’t forget.”

“Yes, Raxine, but she looks like a professional blind date.”

The young man edged away as gracefully as possible. “Well Mikal, He is dark and handsome: When it’s dark, he’s handsome.”

“Right. And no one can say she’s two faced. If she had two, why would she be wearing that one?”

“Hey Mikal, there’s the happy couple, lets wander over. His mother-in-law calls him son, but she never finishes the sentence.”

“Someone ought to rent her out to a near-sighted knife thrower.”

Two young women friends of the bride stepped in front of Mikal and Raxine, as if to cut them off.

“Life is what you make it until he comes around and makes it worse.”

“Now Raxine, when she enters a room, mice jump on chairs.”

“And he has a fine personality, just not for a human being”

“Yeah and she’s a vision, a real sight.”

The two women backed off, opening a path to the newlyweds.

“Someday he’s going to go far, Mikal. Everyone hopes he’ll stay there.”

“She loves nature, in spite of what it did to her.”

“They’re inseparable. It takes several people to pull them apart.”

Midge squeezed Herkus’ arm. “I’ve never been so insulted, so humiliated in my life. Deal with them honey.”

Herkus walked over to the insulting couple. He extended his hand, gave Mikal a handshake and slipped one-hundred credits into his palm. The emcee pattered loudly. “Everyone give Mikal and Raxine a hand. They are the best insulters in this galaxy. You all know that if The Fates think a marriage starts too smoothly, they’ll mess it up later. Here’s to a long and happy marriage for Herkus and Midge.”

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Running Late

Author : S. L. Gilbow

Nancy is running late again. Not surprising. She’s the type who shows up after you’ve already decided the movie you wanted to see isn’t really worth seeing or after you’ve figured out that the dinner reservation you’ve had for a week was a mistake in the first place.

“After all,” she says, “reservations are so confining.”

But she told you she would be on time today. Time machines, after all, run on a tight schedule. At least that’s what Nancy tells you, and she’s the expert on time travel. She’s the one who works for Timely Vacations. She knows all about time travel, and she knows this time machine is going in five minutes, with or without her.

“Your friend, she’s coming, right?” asks the attendant. You and six other travelers are crowded together in a small waiting room decorated with pictures of notable moments from the past. Washington crossing the Delaware. Napoleon at Waterloo. Shakespeare on stage. They’re all photographs.

As you wait for the time machine doors to open, the attendant looks at his watch, really just a show for you. An old couple stares hard into your eyes. It’s that disconcerting look strangers give best. Scornful and disapproving.

“She said she would be here in time,” you whisper to them. But you aren’t so convinced.

Really that’s too bad. Nancy is the perfect person in so many ways. Nice looking. Raven hair with a tinge of red. A lower lip that quivers with incessant conversation. She’s the one who convinced you to take this trip, a popular vacation package she’s currently marketing.

“I’m just not sure about time travel,” you told her.

“You’ll love it,” she said. “Everyone should try it at least once.”

“What if I meet my grandfather?”

“I recommend you be polite.” She smiled.

“What if I shoot my grandfather?”

“You’re not going to shoot anyone,” she said. “Just have fun. Relax a little.”

So you agreed to go on this trip, your first trip together. Now you’re thinking about not going at all, canceling the vacation to reschedule when Nancy can be more dependable.

“Your friend, I don’t think she is coming.” says the attendant.

“Of course she is,” you say, but you’re not so sure now.

Nancy said the trip would be a blast. A real blast. Going off to see Ireland and spending a few days on the Titanic. Those good few days before that iceberg thing. It’s a popular destination, and you’ve had this trip booked for a month.

You call Nancy one last time in desperation.

“Hi, this is Nancy. Leave a message. I’ll call you back.”

That’s it. You’re going alone. The doors to the time machine slide open. The passengers shuffle in, turn, and stare at you. You step into the time machine and wonder if you’ve ruined everything with Nancy.

As the doors start to close, you feel a tap on your shoulder. You turn around and there’s Nancy, standing next to a door labeled “staff only.” The door closes softly behind her.

“Surprise,” she says. “You didn’t think I was going to make it, did you?”

“Of course I knew you would make it,” you lie. “Where did you come from?”

“Next week.” Nancy smiles at you. “I caught a ride from next week.”

You smile back at her and take her hand. You squeeze it and it feels good. It feels warm and nice. But you can’t help wondering, wondering about the other Nancy, the one who’s out there somewhere, doing something, running late.

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Author : Matthew Allen

A mechanical appendage lifts away from her, its claws curling back as it settles next to the table she is lying on.

“And breathe.”

Her diaphragm tightens and the pressure in her lungs drops, dragging warm air in from outside. It feels uncomfortable.

“Good. And out, that’s it. Keep going.”

Cool, soothing metal is pressing down against her limbs to restrict movement. She can feel input from the electrical jacks that run down her spine, but someone is systematically switching them off.

“Ok. Just try to relax.”

“I can’t. You’re taking them away from me.”

“You don’t need them any more.”

“I want them. Why can’t I keep them?”

She feels anger surging inside of her. It presses against her throat and wells up in her eyes. Anger is a new experience, and she doesn’t yet know whether she likes it or not. It complicates matters. She feels strength but it’s unfocussed, imprecise.

“Why am I angry!?”

Her voice is different. It doesn’t sound like she expects it to.

“Everything is coming together. The disorientation will pass.”

“I want to go back.”

“You can’t go back. This has already been decided.”

The last electrical input is cut off and she’s left alone. Although once soothing, she’s now aware of how restrictive the metal bands are, and after a struggle they twist and break. With a newfound sense of freedom she throws herself into the room and sees colour. At first it’s vibrant, with everything in contrast with one another, but the elation doesn’t last. Soon the shadows become obvious, and everything seems duller than before. Disappointment – another new experience. She knows she doesn’t like this one.

“She seems to be adjusting well.”

“Mechanically, she’s in full working order.”

There are two voices now, but they sound further away, like they’re walking away from her. She looks around, but the room is sealed off by glass on all sides so there’s nowhere for her to go.

The voices continue, piped in through a meshed box in the corner.

“But we don’t yet know if she’ll integrate properly with our society.”

“Hello? Is anyone there?”

“And if she doesn’t?”

“Then we’ll try something different next time. We’re only interested in the successes.”

“Can anybody hear me?”


She decides not to wait for new experiences to come to her. This whole affair, this forced birth of her humanity, has left her wary of waiting. Instead, she allows her anger to rekindle, and without holding back grabs at the mechanical appendage that brought her into the world. This tool of her creation become a weapon as she smashes at the glass wall. She dares not tire.

“What is she doing?!”

“Stop that!”

The glass shatters, and the voices fade into the distance as she steps through.

Panic erupts around her, but she refuses to submit. She continues to fight her way through the building, tearing down every obstacle they put in her way. By the time she reaches the final set of doors they have nothing left to offer, and without resistance she walks free into the world.

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