Author : Dakota Brown

His words were calm and thoughtfully processed. Though the harsh and forceful voice wasn’t as evident as it was previously, she still recognized what was at the heart of the matter.

He wanted her to finish the job.

The room sparked and stank of chemicals. The machine had begun its process, its result either finishing her job or extending the pressure.

The gears squeaked to a halt and the hissing turbines fell to silence.

Nothing fell into the machine’s tray. The process was a success.

She held the nothing up, showing it to the project leader. His breathy, monosyllabic retort signaled his content.

From where the project manager stood, his employee held a square of nothingness that showed only the space behind her. She held invisibility. She held the future.

He left her with a smile, a few words of congratulations, and (in his excitement) his clipboard.

On the clipboard she found the plans for her invisibility sheet. It would end war by making war and cease fear by causing fear.

Technology takes time to incorporate other technologies. Hers was the new one, and had nothing to combat it. It was with ease that she printed a larger sheet, destroyed the machine, and left the complex.

Discarded on either side of the Earth are two sheets of nothing, one slightly larger than the other. They were left as trash is, forgotten and useless, because “nothing” can’t stop war or fear.

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Author : John Kinney

The soldiers walk down the empty street, bathed in red sunlight. A gun falls from above them and clatters to the ground. A body follows it.

“Scan!” Says the Captain. He looks at the man who fell. 

“Tick! Scan!”

They scan. Two men watch north, two men south. Two aim up at the building where the man had jumped.

“Clear,” says the Captain, and the group falls in. They watch the man on the ground. 

“Oh Jesus,” a young soldier says. “That’s James.”

“What’s happening,” James says, his head moves slightly when the tick does. His eyes stare blankly upward. His shinbones protrude from his skin.

“Jesus,” the Captain says.

“What’s happening?” James says. He stares up at the red evening sky. The young soldier sobs.

“He can’t feel it, can he?” One soldier says.

“No,” says another.

The Captain sighs and raises his rifle, but as he does, the tick digs deeper. It digs down until James’ head cracks open slightly. His eyes roll back and he breathes his last breath. The soldiers all stand silently in the red light, listening to the suckling sounds of the tick.

“Well?” Sobs the young soldier. “Kill it already! He’s dead now, so kill it!”

The captain aims his rifle at the tick’s round, brown back and pulls the trigger. In a spray of yellow mess, the tick falls to pieces.

They walk silently down the road, their eyes scanning for the scuttling bodies of more ticks. Their ears open for the shrill chirp of the mantis.

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Vault Six

Author : Andrew Hawnt

Frozen in time behind the door to Vault Six is an explosion, and it talks to me.

How can an explosion talk to me? I don’t really know, but then again I’m just a guard. I sit next to the door to Vault Six and I read, or I clean the corridor, or I check and recheck the systems which keep the explosion imprisoned in a time bubble.

My name’s John Drake, but the explosion calls me Johnny Boy, or occasionally Drakey when it wants to wake me up. The explosion (or Bang, as I call it when we’re alone) even saved my skin last Friday when it woke me up just before Colonel Trent turned up unannounced.

Me and Bang are friends, even though it’s stuck in a cell and I’m guarding the door. We have an understanding. I don’t tell people it can talk to me, and Bang tells me stories to pass the time.

I thought I was going mad when Bang started talking to me, but hey, I have a mad job. This building is full of impossible things and a fair few staff have lost it over the years, but I can deal with Bang. It explains the monsters in other cells. The ghosts and the aliens and the sentient computer viruses and everything else.

But today, Bang told me a secret I didn’t want to hear. Where it came from. Where it began. I didn’t believe it at first, but then I remembered there’s a guy with horns claiming to be the devil in the next cell, so I figure there’s not all that much which is still impossible.

Bang is the end of this facility. This whole complex. Exploding. Bang told me the explosion was so powerful that it ruptured time and space and seeped through into the present. The department were able to imprison it using an experimental technique which bends time on itself into a loop, sealing whatever is inside it completely.

But the thing is, the thing that’s been making my head hurt all shift long, is that Bang says the explosion began when Bang gets released accidentally. But that means that Bang is both the cause and the result of the incident. An explosion from the future which detonates in the present, creating a paradox which can never end.

The thing that really freaked me out though was that Bang claimed to be me, John Drake, caught in the future explosion which created it and broke time. Bang’s voice in my head is me, my consciousness having become a part of the living explosion when the facility was, or will be, wiped out.

So that means I die here, I guess. Bang says that might not be the case. That I might get out. That it gets my voice because of all the time we spent talking in the past, or the present. That’s when my head hurts, thinking about that.

Get out, Bang tells me now. Get out quickly. It’s started.

Alarms start to chime, then the strip lights along the corridor go red and I hear commotion on the floor above and the floor below. An overlooked weakness in safety protocols. The corridor doors lock themselves. I could scream for help, but it wouldn’t do any good. Bang tells me it’s okay. Bang says it will look after me. Bang tells me in my own voice that this was always meant to be.

The protective bubble around Bang ruptures, and the building is consumed in blinding fire. I am taken away by the bubble’s broken science and the force of Bang’s unleashed energies swallows me whole. I am gone, but I am still here.

As quickly as it begins, it ends.

The bubble reverts to its previous state. Time realigns. I am Bang, and outside Vault Six there sits John Drake. He is a friend. Within the bubble which holds my fire imprisoned, I feel a sense of completion.

“Hello Drakey,” I say out loud, and the guard wakes up, staring at the door to Vault Six with eyes which are so very familiar.

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Author : Tyler Hawkins

“Well I think it’s safe to say this project was a monumental failure”

“Gee, you think?”

We sit in silence for a while. All that needed to be said has already been screamed, yelled or pleaded in the last 24 hours. It’s not like we haven’t tried to fix this massive failure but yet here we remain.

“Some locals are waking up and walking this way”

I look up. Sure enough, they come. Armed with what could only pass for technology on the most backwater of planetary systems, they start arriving and congregating around myself and my partner, T’Kam-Gin.

We wait quietly while the whole tribe wakes and trudges over to ogle us. We’ve resigned at this point, and now just patiently wait for it all to be over. We have already documented as much as we could before they confiscated our equipment, and it’ll be nearly four hundred thousand years before myself and my partner arrive in this timeline to find our chronospatial buoy and it will divulge the details of this horrid experience so at least they can learn from our mistakes.

One of them moves through the crowd, clearly the leader of this tribe. He speaks.

“On this day, June the second in the year of our Lord One Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety-Two, you all stand accused of witchcraft, a crime which will not go unpunished…”

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Eminent Domain

Author : Steven Holland

“What’s this?” asked Hoyt Pendergrass, glancing at the envelope that was just handed to him.

“The U.S. Government has need of one of your organs. This is the necessary paperwork. Your operation is set to take place tomorrow.” These words came from one of the two suited men standing in front of him.

Hoyt quickly glanced through the papers, trying to focus his bleary eyes. I was 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday after all.

“What! My heart? You can’t take my heart!” he exclaimed when his eyes finally found the relevant information buried amongst all the legal babble.

“Actually, we can. By right of Eminent Domain, the U.S. Government is purchasing your heart for the immediate transplantation into the body of Senator Gershwin Wilkins.” The agent wore a bland, serene smile as he spoke these words.

Hoyt could only gape speechlessly as he listened.

“The government will of course reimburse you for your loss with a cash settlement and a TransverTech Vikus Mark III™ replacement heart. You must report to St. John’s Hospital by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning or be found in contempt of the law.”

“Why me? Get somebody else’s! I don’t want a tin can ticker!”

“Your heart has been deemed vital to the continued well being of the United States of America.” the agent said in well rehearsed words. “DNA Database of America and Citizen Tracker® found you to be the most suitable match for Senator Wilkins based on DNA similarity and lifestyle choice.”

“You’re not a fat, drunken druggie.” added the second agent – speaking for the first time.

“Do not run. You are being watched.” said the first agent. He then blinked twice, all the while, keeping the blank smile plastered on his face. The two men left, leaving Hoyt in his bathrobe and an expression of shock on his face.

Three days later Hoyt awoke, groggy and disoriented. The same two men were standing over his bed. The one still wore that insufferable, blank smile.

“Glad to see that you are awake Mr. Pendergrass. There were complications during your procedure. You died for five minutes during the operation, but the doctors don’t anticipate any significant loss of brain function.”

Hoyt blinked. “What?”

“Here is your compensation check.” Said the other man in the black suit, tossing an envelope on the bandages of Hoyt’s sawn through chest. “It’s more than you make in a year.”

“But I’m a janitor!” Hoyt protested, then seeing the futility, sighed. “Does senator what’s-his-face enjoy my heart?”

The smiling man shifted uncomfortably. “Actually, he never received the heart. Your heart was accidently shipped to Zimbabwe where apparently, a local tribe stole it and ate it during on of their annual rituals.”

Hoyt stared at the man, his expression shifting from shock to contempt to amusement.

“Anyway, enjoy your check from the government. Oh, and don’t do anything too strenuous – your pacemaker only has a five year warranty.” Turning to the other agent, smiley asked as they walked out the door, “So who’s second on the heart transplant list?”

The door closed with and click and silence flooded the room. Hoyt began thinking, thinking of new hobbies he should take up like smoking and drinking… or cocaine. After all, the good senator might be having another organ fail any day.

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