Author: Russell Bert Waters

“Push” comes on by Matchbox 20, you reach to turn it up but it is already increasing volume. You remember how you turned it up last time it played, so now it happens automatically.

You walk to the cupboard as sadness washes over you again. There is whiskey because the order came automatically. Before you reach for the bottle your door chimes, and you walk to open it.

“Here ma’am, your Pharma Direct RX order,” the cheerful hovering drone says through its speaker.

You accept and sign with your retina, one blink and a muttered “thanks” and the drone whisks away.

You return to the kitchen.

The bag contains sleeping pills.

You hadn’t ordered them, but you have been sad. Very sad.

It’s been a year and the waves hit just as hard.

“I’ll see you soon again, my love” you murmur, in a cracking voice.

You return to the cupboard and open the bottle. You’ve already unconsciously opened the bottle of pills.

In the distance, you can already hear the pleasing low siren of the Medical Examiner drone.

No time is ever wasted these days.

“Bottoms up,” you say, and take a big gulp.

“Soon…”, you repeat, awaiting the darkness.

The Robot Child

Author: Phil Manning

She had watched him grow.

Grow beneath her hands. Each circuit and wire placed and soldered with finesse and care. There was a team, of course, and they each had their part to play, to add to his growth and development, but she felt a different connection to him.

She remembered the day he had first moved on his tracks, back and forth, left and right and watched his periscope eye swivel in joy. It was joy controlled by a computer program but she felt as though she could feel his excitement. Like watching a child run for the first time, the child never understood the momentous occasion and neither did he, like any child, but she knew. And was proud.

He passed test after test and the team added armour and extensions to improve his chances of survival, so far from home. Dirt and dust would be great risk factors so they added fans and brushes for him to run cleaning programs each day. Everything he saw would be recorded.

And then, too soon, far too soon, she watched as they packed him away in his ship and he went blasting away on a great adventure.

For years she waited for each message he sent back. A data sample, an array of images. She watched and tracked and pestered those at the controls to let her know his progress. She worried but was so proud. He was paving the way of the future.

The day came. They all knew it was inevitable but she had buried that future deep within her.
The final message, my battery is low, and it’s getting dark. She knew it was for her.

She wept. Her tears could have filled an ocean on a dead planet.

She pictured him, alone, far, far away, the dust settling forever on his perfect form.

She went back to work, broken, but determined, to build him a sister, to bring her loved one home.

HOGA – The Monstrous Fish

Author: Timothy Goss

Washed up, lifeless, the thing was battered and scarred by the ocean. Seagulls pecked and pulled at the meat squawking and cawing. Things had nibbled its extremities and something big had taken its lower half. No appendages were obvious, but there were bone-like protrusions bursting from its leather-like shell. Gulls feasted as a cast of crabs busied themselves away from the birds. Where they ate the sand was Spanish blue.

The horseshoe cliffs witnessed the bright lights in the sky three days before. The lightning produced a halo of prisms through torrential rain, and then something else, something unexpected. It scarred the sky for an instant, an incision through the storm and clouds to expose the void, and then it vanished.

An almighty splash on a turbulent sea and green-blue sparks followed flashing like superheated copper filings. The wind whistled long and low as it skimmed across the water disturbing the waves, then upon reaching the cliffs changed its pitch and ascended.

It took three days to reach land but the gulls spotted it immediately, adrift amongst the waves. A momentary snapping of jaws took its lower half in an instant, maybe a shark, maybe a pod.

It had no perception of the Earth, in the void all function ceased. It is the space between spaces, the smallest place between this and that, vacuous, devoid of physical properties. Exposure to the momentary rift between places sucked the living essence from everything before spitting it into the ocean.

Older scars stretched around the barrel-like shell, scars with seven talons around a centrepiece mimicking the rays of the Sun. Scars with no terrestrial association. These marks originated from the thing’s past, before the ocean and the beach, before the sharks and the whales and the crabs and the fish; before the void.

Over millennia the cliffs at St Mary’s witnessed these events unnoticed by human eyes. Expulsion from the void was nothing new. During prehistoric times detritus cast adrift would have been decimated by gigantic sea creatures. With humanity came the marvel of monsters and myth, strange fruits for human minds: Sea Devils, Marine Sows and Hoga – a monstrous fish indeed.

The thing had its place in this grand assembly. There was no evidence it was independently capable of interstellar travel. It did not reveal any secrets about its origins or its knowledge of space and time. And save for its scars the thing had no discernible markings, nothing to personalise it. There were no obvious signs of civilisation yet this thing had traveled a greater distance than any human ever created. It did not belong with the crabs and the gulls; it did not belong on the land, in the sea or in the air. It did not belong.

So, it was the crustacean and scavenger who became the first of earth’s explorers unto the unknown. Gulls cawed noisily and scavenged what they could. Crabs had better luck at the blue end and the equipment to split and pry the semi-broken bones exposing a richer bounty. Within the cavity of the things shell the explorers found other sea creatures feasting quietly in their minuscule fashion. These provided an earthly delight to the otherwise alien cuisine.

One Person is All You Need

Author: Alex Z. Salinas

It was the 4:30 p.m. moon, clear as a piece of holy bread on a bright blue carpet, that led him—thinking on it much later, “led” was the only word he could come up with—to kneel down and scoop baseball field dirt into his palm. He then pulled out a scrap paper from his blue jean pocket, reread the “Yes” circled in pencil by Liliana Howard—her response to his asking her to be his girlfriend—then released the dirt onto the center of the paper. He folded it into a ball and, with all his might, threw the wad as hard as he could toward the unusual afternoon moon. Whether it was a strong gust of wind, God’s miracle, something else—his wayward imaginings—the paper ball flew, ziplined, rocketed, blasted toward the far-away rock known by ancient prophets. It disappeared, never seemed to fall, defied law. It was in this moment that the boy’s head was crudely struck, popped, cracked open by a ball—a flyball—punishment for not paying attention in the outfield. Backyard baseball was a game he’d never wanted part of, never enjoyed, and as fate had it, concussed him to a dark place, a shadow prison with its own terrifying logic and black magic.


When they released the image, the first picture ever taken, I texted Danny right away. How could I not?

Yo, this shit is crazy. Just like you predicted.

Two minutes later, he responded. Three emojis, zero words.

I couldn’t believe it. When word spread that a picture would be coming, Danny and I somehow got talking about it during a break. One way or another, he mentioned this crazy story about being hit in the head with a baseball and then already knowing what the black hole would look like, having seen it a long time ago. “There are things we know but have forgotten,” Danny said, “even things we’ve never seen,” I told Danny he was tripping like a motherfucker. I didn’t know the extent of his crazy.

Danny smiled, all creepy, but that made me believe him somehow. I had no choice. Had there been other dudes there, an audience, I’d have known Danny was fucking with me. With all of us. But no.

That’s the thing with certain people. Spend some time with them, nobody else around, and you realize later what they say to you comes with nothing attached. No strings. No stakes. Nada. Just straight-up talk. Shit that sticks in your head and rolls around, keeps you up at night, especially when you sleep alone.


Danny spent his whole life at first drawing, then painting, black circles with white, sometimes yellow or orange rings around them. He didn’t know why he painted them, didn’t understand the urge or force or what some call higher calling that “led” to his peculiar art. All Danny knew, better than his family history, better than the Bible, better than his three-year-old’s birthday, better than his cheating heart, were the rings. The rings. The black circles with light rings. He sold them, people liked them, hung the canvases on their bathroom walls, but he’d’ve painted them anyway.

April 10, 2019, the release date of the first image of a black hole, was just another day for Danny. As the world at large collectively gasped, shared on social media, talked around water coolers, Danny smiled.

They’d look back at his work later and say, Thief.

But Danny was cool. He knew. Another person knew.

One person is all you need.

It Worked Before

Author: R. J. Erbacher

This was bizarre.

He hovered over the planet and examined it.

During the last check of this planet, there were more than eight million different species. Most were instinctual but others were fairly intelligent residents. Some of those species had billions of inhabitants, some of the smaller ones even had trillions. Now there was just one. And not just one species but only one single entity of that one species.

True, there was a gap of time. He hadn’t been back here for a couple of thousand years but what could have gone so wrong, so quickly?

More importantly what was this individual essence? How had it survived on a planet by itself? And what happened to all the rest?

Was it just lucky enough to be the sole survivor of a global disaster? That seemed far-fetched. Maybe this one ‘thing’ had enough energy to destroy everything else, including every little bug and tadpole. That would make it pretty damn powerful but again, highly unlikely. Or was this an enormous blob like presence that was not indigenous to the planet and methodically sucked all of it up, absorbing all other life entirely into its own massiveness? None of these prospects were really feasible. Yet it was all just a little bit scary.

The last time that things had gone this haywire, an incident needed to happen; to make a correction. Bulky little-brained beasts meandering around for millions of years and not developing as they should and not making a substantial contribution to the higher cause. So, a big rock was redirected, and the impact blotted out the mistakes. It took a while but when things were back on a more congenial path it was time to move onto bigger and better things.

Now this. This planet was becoming a real pain. Time for another correction.

A smaller rock was meticulously nudged into a bigger rock which was now perfectly aligned with the singularity that harbored down there. The ball of destruction screamed through the atmosphere and lit up the sky. This should take care of things. Then there would be the waiting for the whole process to become reestablish and hopefully progress into a more acceptable design. That could take another million years or so. He’d have to be persevering. Maybe third times the charm.

He waited for contact. The ground shaking divot into the crust. Waited for the tremendous plume of dust, billowing out until it covered the majority of the planet. He waited. But there was none of that.

Instead, some ‘thing’ threw the rock back at Him.