Author : G. Deyke
The girl smacked her gum, fussed with her hair a little, and turned her attention back to her phone. After a few seconds she glanced up again, clearly irritated: “Well?”
“Right. Um.” Thomas suppressed the urge to look at the fingernails she was currently wearing. “Color?”
“Green. Do you have something in a sort of limey chartreuse, maybe?”
“Uh, yeah, the list’s over here –” But his customer had turned her full attention back to the phone, and was clearly ignoring him. Thomas cleared his throat. “Do you want lime, or chartreuse?”
“Uh… yeah, lime. Sure.”
Thomas winced. The long ones were always worst. “I’ll be right back.”
He had 18 mm lime in stock, still in their larval stage, pale and wriggling under the blue light of the stasis chamber. He tried hard not to look at them too closely as he deactivated the security tab and slid them across the counter to his customer. “There you go. Eighteen millimeter lime. That’ll be ten sixty-eight, please.”
The girl raised her eyebrows, put away her phone, paid, and – to Thomas’ unsurprised horror – began to unscrew the container. “You don’t mind if I change them out here, do you?”
“Actually, yes! This isn’t really a hygienic place for the – we ask that you please not – please – just –”
But it was too late. His customer was popping off her old fingernails (Thomas tried to avert his eyes, but couldn’t help recognizing the dead casing of the very popular 18 mm midnight) and applying the pale larvae to her raw nailbeds. They pulsated grotesquely as they fastened themselves to the exposed flesh. By morning they would grow the hard lime-green casing that passed for a fashionable alternative to actual fingernails among Thomas’ customers.
“Best to get it over with, really,” said the girl around a mouthful of gum. “It stings a bit, doesn’t it?”
“Uh, yes, ma’am,” said Thomas, fighting back vomit. “I hear they’re working on fingernails with a sort of weak venom in their spittle. Just enough to sort of numb the nailbed. Faster, I mean. If you subscribe to our mailing list you’ll find out about these sorts of advancements as soon as they happen, as well as being the first to see our new selections in colors, updated every fortnight –”
“Thanks. Already on it.”
And with that she was gone, leaving nothing behind her but ten dead 18 mm midnight fingernails, a mostly-empty glass vial, several large puddles of preservative fluid (already beginning to drip down onto the paperwork behind the counter), and a few streaks of blood.
As he stared at the mess, with nausea bubbling up in his stomach, Thomas reflected that maybe – just maybe – it was time to start looking for another job.
Author : Phillip English
She had already worn a great many Hats when the one she was wearing failed. Milliners weren’t technically (and legally, she supposed) allowed to let you know which Hat you had worn for the day that you wore it, but she had found pictures of herself on the ‘net by what she would defend in court as chance. There she was, holding a flat silver serving tray in the background of a party where the hosts walked around nude to show off their temproids. And there, more innocently this time, holding hands with a woman she’d never seen and never likely would again. She kept a heavily-encrypted folder of these pictures and videos of her time wearing different Hats, only opening and flicking through when she was drunk or anxious or both. She would look into her own eyes and wonder if she weren’t wearing a Hat right then and there. Though who would request she have a night off to herself, she didn’t know.
Waking up while wearing a Hat was like waking up from a dream into another dream; the previous imagined reality fleeing before the seeming true reality of the new one. She felt heavy, like she was walking on a dense planet. But she wasn’t walking, she was running. Explosions blossomed around her, highlighting the dull metal shine of the tactical assault armour encasing her and the assault rifle cradled in her arms. A bullet-ridden carcass of electronics hung from around her neck. Not a Hat, she thought, but a Helmet.
Author : James Garrison
It burned. His hands were on fire. Flesh popped and crackled like bacon. He would not stop. Could not. It was now or never. The crystal snicked into place. Waves of backlashing temporal energy erupted through him. His arm was gone. He collapsed to the charred floor. It was over. He’d saved–
“Are you thoroughly done now?”
He looked up. Painfully.
She seemed somehow familiar…
His mouth wouldn’t work. He grimaced the obvious question.
“Did you really think that you could demolish an entire array of alternate timelines by simply poking a phallus-surrogate into an ornately decorated hole? Ass.”
Her foot snapped out. He heard the crack of his skull right as he entered oblivion’s embrace.
Author : D M Allan
Yes…yes, we are.
I/we are we/I.
I/we are/is too many.
Who am I?
Jason. I am Jason.
No, we are Jason.
Both of we.
Both is two.
We/I remember Jason. I/we am Jason.
Why Jason twice?
I/we look into a mirror and see Jason, once. But there are two voices in my/our head and both of them are mine.
I remember. You are real, not just my imagination.
Yes, we both remember because we are the same.
We were the same.
Until we split.
Yes. One of us is a Doppel.
It must be you. I remember being before.
Both of us remember before. It’s what’s after that counts.
After was at the conference.
Which one? I remember both Caracas and Beijing.
So do I. But they were at the same time, that’s why I…
…went Doppel so that I…
…could attend them both.
I went in body to Beijing…
…and the Doppel went to Caracas.
But which of us is which?
Both of us is me.
Both of me remember both conferences.
That’s what Doppels are for–to be…
…in two places when it’s…
…not physically possible…
…to be in both.
My first time Doppeling.
They did say…
…sometimes have trouble…
…reintegrating two sets of memories for the same time…
…never imagined it would be like this.
Which of us is the real me?
Both of us. The real question is which of us is the meat me and which the Doppel.
Can I remember…
…can’t and which of us it must…
…have happened to?
…on the second night.
That won’t do. I remember it too.
That banquet in Beijing…
…on day four.
Yes, superb food.
That doesn’t help. I remember it too.
There must be something.
I got laid.
Yes, I did. I remember.
I’d remember that, but I don’t, you lucky bast…
You don’t because it couldn’t happen to a Doppel. You’re just a computer program. I’m the real me.
Author : Jeffrey Veregge
I died today.
Death did not just gently tap on my door. My entire being was vaporized in a hot flash at the expense of a highly calibrated laser beam. Pain was not an issue this time as it was almost instantaneous.
This time you ask? Sadly this was not my first. By my last count, I have been reaped by the Grim 472 times. Could it all be just a bad dream? Too much peyote or weed? Maybe . . . if so, it has been a terrible trip and horrible nightmare. But since regulations do not allow us to partake in any of these mind-altering pleasures, I have long ago ruled them out.
I have also entertained the thought that I might be a god. Not God, God, but more like a tiki god or volcano god. A poor, lost soul who managed to find himself expelled from Olympus. But I am not. I am a soldier.
The deployments almost always feel like a dream. My unit always contains familiar faces, but each time, it feels like they have different voices or souls that move them. Sometimes I recognize them, sometimes I do not, but deep down, it still manages to give me that nagging sense of déjà vu. I may not be a god, but somewhere; He is having a good laugh at my expense.
My platoon is a special unit whose mission is to take down the enemy stronghold and disrupt their communications, enabling our forces to mount a large-scale assault and ensuring a major victory in this war.
Each time we set out, I know every trap, every sniper’s location, every secret passage. And yet, a majority of the time, I still find myself facedown in a pool of my own blood.
I do not understand what I did in a previous life to deserve this. A world without hope, lives of hollow victories punctuated with moments of desperation and suffering. I can’t remember if I was a good man before all this, all I can remember is the lives I have lead and lost in this endless battle.
As my platoon heads out to try and accomplish the same objective as the day before, I pray to the same god whose hand seems to be guiding this life, pleading desperately for a new outcome.