by submission | May 29, 2016 | Story |
Author : Kate Runnels
Emi always looked them in the eyes – the poets knew them as the gateways to the soul – even though she plugged in and dove their mind. Dove their cybernetic link and into the electronic pathways. She always looked them in the eyes. There were green eyes with gold flecks. Deep dark brown with slashes of black; the palest of blue; to midnight black; those with old fashioned glasses; or the newer contacts so someone could watch shows even while walking.
Emi never remembered the eyes though as she dove into their memories.
Her specialty was to recover memories in mind wiped victims, TBI cases, alzheimer’s patients, to those with dementia; basically anyone who couldn’t remember who they were on their own.
What she found when she dove into others people’s memories wasn’t always pretty so she always looked them in their eyes.
The man seated before her fidgeted unto her regard – though she was far beyond the gateway now. She had entered through his brain port, and now she rode the pathways to the darkened segments of the mind. Those that had been forced into the dark recesses where only she could dig them out.
Emi could hardly comprehend a time before the melding of computers to the human body and brain. It was easier and easier all the time to mix the two. But for all the technology, the brain was still a fragile system and could be damaged. It was wonderful and frightening all at the same time. She saw glimpses of the wonderful and frightening within the mind.
As Emi worked to repair the damaged segments slowly and painstakingly, she also saw the memory that had been there, blocked and freed now by her. Sometimes they lingered, sometimes they hit into her own mind like a gale force wind and she couldn’t stop either from entering into her mind and entering into her own memory. It was like trying to push wisps of fog away from you and with about as much success it just kept coming on, until it dissipated past.
Those other memories weren’t hers and she didn’t want them. Any of them, be it laughter – aggression – sorrow – they weren’t hers; but they stayed with her long after the eyes she stared into were gone.
Had the fidgety man’s eyes been blue? She didn’t remember, and couldn’t see them as the man covered his face with his hands from the memory forced back into his mind. Emi tried not to feel sorry for him, but it was difficult at times, knowing what memory the other had just been forced to remember. As Emi disengaged her mind from out of the fidgety man’s mind, she nodded to the officer. “He’s your murderer. He wiped himself thinking he wouldn’t be found out. He went to the Crossed-den for the wipe.”
The officer nodded to Emi, even while he pulled the man’s hands from his face and cuffed him. He stared at Emi then.
Hmm, so he had hazel eyes.
by submission | May 27, 2016 | Story |
Author : John Tippett
Helen and James Abernathy exchanged an incredulous glance as the reporter on the car radio began to lose her composure.
“Turn it up”.
“…must recognize that early reports during a crisis are often incorrect.”, the clearly shaken announcer was speaking in a voice that alternated between quavering and Walter Cronkite.
“You think this is some kind of jo-”
A searing flash of pure white intensity hit them both. It filled the car, their minds, and payed no heed to tightly closed eyelids, or the hands that covered them.
James reflexively slammed on the brakes, but it hardly mattered because the car had ceased running and was already halfway to a stop.
“James, JAMES!”, she was blind, at least for the moment.
“I’m here, it’s OK honey.” His hand groped out for her knee.
“My God James, what is HAPPENING”, now the quaver was in her voice. Her feet were on the dashboard, and James heard her mumbling a prayer, something he remembered from elementary school.
“I think that was an EMP, an electro-magnetic pulse. It can fry electronics.”, James said in his best professorial voice, trying not to convey his own emotions.
James looked at his watch, 5:01 now, and ticking. There was a reason he chose wind-ups.
“What do you mean? Are we under attack, James? Do you know what’s going on?”
He could tell her vision was returning. The gig would be over shortly. It has been 35 years of make-believe.
35 years of waiting.
35 years of preparation.
“Everything is fine, Helen”. He had already retrieved the small pressurized can of gas from under the steering column, and was fiddling with the release. ‘Come ON!” he whispered.
He had grown to love her, or at least care deeply, although that wasn’t in the Plan. He felt a pang of sadness (or was it shame?) for refusing to give her children. That would have been wrong.
His false features had already begun to peel from his underlying self. He didn’t want her to see him like this; not in her last moments.
After all, it wasn’t her fault.
It wasn’t her fault they needed a new home.
by submission | May 26, 2016 | Story |
Author : Sharon Molloy
“That’s the surprise, Daddy?”
A family of four stood in the restaurant lobby, watching unfamiliar shapes moving in a huge tank.
They’re staring at me!”
“No, they’re not. They don’t have eyelids.”
“They have too many legs.”
“Those aren’t legs, and they need all of them.”
“Well, they’re ugly.”
The maître d’robots led them into a marine blue dining room, its walls softly lit by track lighting and water reflections. They sat at pier-shaped chairs around a table resembling a wharf built around a glass touchscreen showing rippling water. Touching the screen floated four menus to the surface as if the table was a glass-bottomed boat.
The mother had chosen the seat facing a loopicture showing the ocean currents flowing around raised areas representing the continents. Warm currents were yellowish green, cold ones, deep navy.
“Remember our spring break in California? These days, that’s when they start coming up here to cool off. The forecast says it’ll be even warmer this year.”
“When the radiation decays, we’ll even be able to swim in the ocean again on spring breaks… in 300 years or so.”
A robot, shaped like a small dory on a three-wheeled leg, came ferrying their orders, dodging the other robot dories until it docked at the edge of their table. Once the parents had distributed the food, the dory drifted away.
“Why is it white? What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing.” The mother calmly cut a piece and lifted it to her mouth.
“How do you eat this stuff? It keeps falling off my spork.”
“Scoop it up like we showed you.”
“It falls apart.”
“Well, it’s not tofu. It’s fillet.”
“I can’t fill it.”
“Mom’s is orange!”
“If you wanted trout you should’ve asked for trout.”
“What’s this black stuff?”
“Skin, sweetie. You can eat that too. It’s tasty!”
“You can’t like this stuff? It’s gross!”
“All new food is gross, son. Just keep eating, and it’ll stop being gross.”
“Everybody… please stop saying that word.”
“Why? Because its… ‘gross’?”
The children began giggling.
“Mmmm… I haven’t tasted this in years! Where did you ever get such a great idea?”
“Oh… guy talk.”
“My grandfather used to fish, and even caught a few, but he never ate any. The river was already too polluted. So where did this come from?”
“They raise them in tanks, bigger than that one of course, built in underground caves, so they don’t need refrigeration,” the father explained. “Must be why it doesn’t cost a mint,” he muttered to himself.
“We gotta eat this new stuff all the time now??”
“It’s not new, it’s old. We used to eat it every week when we were your age, but it’s hard to get now.”
“Good. It’s yucky.”
“And it tastes all weird. I can’t eat this.”
“Well, try. Not all children get to go to a fish restaurant. They’re expensive.”
“Kids don’t appreciate that, dear. They will after they grow up. Anyway, I certainly enjoyed it. Thank you.”
“Happy birthday, honey.”
“I want dessert.”
“I’m still hungry.”
“No dessert. You both need protein.”
“I want a burger! Let’s stop at – ”
“That’s enough restaurants for one day. I’ll wifi the kitchen so something will be ready when we get home. What would you like?”
“3-S! 3-S!” they both shouted.
“Silkworms are just a snack, soy sauce or no. I’m adding locust patties.”
“And cricket-flour bread. I still want a burger.”
“Then chocolate-covered ants for dessert!”
“Honey, remember when you vowed no such thing would ever come home in our groceries?”
by submission | May 25, 2016 | Story |
Author : Bob Newbell
I’m going to die here, thought Or’Vykl to himself.
Or’Vykl stared out through the visor in his helmet at what had been a residential suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. The area showed little evidence of the orbital bombardment that had fallen upon more strategically important areas of North America. Or’Vykl looked from one house to the next. So many places to hide, he thought. He imagined a sniper shooting him dead from some second story window. Or maybe one of the houses is boobytrapped and an explosive device would kill him as soon as he entered. He forced himself to walk on.
Or’Vykl thought about the atmosphere on the other side of his faceplate. It was a lethal cocktail of nitrogen and oxygen and the pressure was one-fifth of what it was back home. He looked up. Even after all this time on Earth he had never gotten used to seeing a blue sky. Worse still, the star this planet orbited was a sickly yellow color, not the warm and reassuring red sun under which he had been hatched.
Suddenly, a sound came from the house on his left. Or’Vykl jumped behind a car and leveled his rifle at the house. For five solid minutes he crouched, ready to run if he could, ready to fight if he had to. At last, he convinced himself the sound had been a cat or the wind rattling a loose shutter or some such thing. He slowly got up and proceeded down the street.
Why are we even here, he thought. Why travel dozens of light-years to fight these people? They didn’t know we existed much less posed a threat until we bombed and invaded them. If this war had never started, right now I’d be back home sunning myself on a lounge rock and drinking a tall glass of–
A shot rang out. Or’Vykl froze. His helmet’s faceplate’s display showed a flashing blue dot annotating where his battlesuit’s sensors determined the shot originated. He aimed his rifle, shot three times, and then ran behind a trash dumpster.
“Or’Vykl to Enforcement! Sector 795, grid–” He consulted his display. “Grid 44! Taking fire! Request support!” He waited for a response. None came. “Enforcement, are you receiving? Request support in Sector 795, grid 44!” His helmet’s display showed he wasn’t even getting a synchronize-acknowledgment from Enforcement. His transmission was being blocked. The humans must have gotten their hands on a subspace transceiver and repurposed it into a jamming device.
Suddenly, he heard another shot and instantly felt searing pain in his back. “Warning!” said a synthetic voice in his ears, “Containment failure!” His battlesuit was venting chlorine. He had to get to safety and try to seal the breach. There was a large truck a short distance to the right. If I can get underneath it, I might have a chance, he thought.
He positioned himself to make a sprint for the truck, then he paused. What if he was being set up? Had the first shot been intended to make him run for the dumpster so he could be shot in the back? Was the apparent safety of the truck a subterfuge?
He ran. It was time for action, not second guessing, he thought. A moment later, he was flying through the air. He had run over an explosive device. His left leg was gone. He heard a voice in the distance say, “Got the son of a bitch!”
Or’Vykl was surprised by how little pain or fear he felt now. His last thought was his distaste for that blue alien sky.
by submission | May 24, 2016 | Story |
Author : J.D. Rice
Her mouth opens wide, eyes squeezed shut in a show of agony, teeth bared, then suddenly comes to a stop. The moment of her death slows to a crawl, like time itself is standing still. They say this is what it’s like to see someone die. Everything just slows down as you watch the person breathe their last breath, say their last goodbye, or simply scream, scream as death carries them off into the night.
But I hear no scream, and time isn’t just standing still as a metaphor. She drifts only feet from where I clutch to the hatch combing, frozen in place, dying for eternity. Moments pass and still she hangs motionless in the air, a silent scream frozen on her agonized face, covered with the helmet of her bio-suit. They told us not to come aboard the station, that the alien technology had yet to be identified. But with our ship low on fuel, and what did they expect a salvage crew like ours to do? “Unidentified alien tech” might as well read “solid gold.”
We should have listened. Now I can only wait futilely by the locked hatch and stare into my own future. The time dilation field keeps expanding, inch by inch. First the radios went out, leaving us in silence. Then her hand become stuck to the tiny device. Even then she was screaming, wrenching her body against the device trying to her hand free. Then it slowly enveloped her, freezing her forever in the final moments of her death. Frozen to the world for all eternity, yet dying in an instant on the inside. At least that’s what I hope. It’s the only hope I have as the field slowly crawls closer to where I drift.
My flashlight is the next thing to freeze. I dropped it when the commotion started and it drifted in the weightless corridor, waiting to be snatched. I can see now that it has stopped drifting, hanging motionless just a few feet away. I see the rays of light it cast as a sheet of glass hanging in the air, and wonder for a moment what this says about the age old “particle” vs. “wave” debate. This is the last intellectual thought I have before the field finally expands and envelopes me as well.
“Nooooooooo!” her voice suddenly rings in my ears through the radio. The sheet of light is gone, replaced by simple, invisible rays once again. Looking up, I see that her face no longer holds the silent scream, but only a look of puzzlement and confusion.
“You…” she starts to say, pointing to where I floated when she was first frozen, then to where I am now near the hatch combing.
I open my mouth to speak, but then the entire ship shutters. We drop like flies to the ground as the artificial gravity kicks back on. I end up somewhere to left of where I floated, and find my feet quickly. We’re used to this sort of thing on our rickety salvage ship. But here?
“What’s going on?” my companion asks, before a voice cuts her off, overriding our radios.
“Welcome, travelers,” the voice says. “Welcome to the end of the universe.”
A light flashes out the small window to my right, and I join my companion in gazing out into the unfamiliar space beyond. The stars are gone, as is our ship. Outside, we see nothing but a tiny speck of a light in the distance, which flickers violently for a moment then disappears.
“The end of the universe?” I say, looking out into the nothingness that once held the entire cosmos.
“Yes,” the voice says. “The end of one universe, and the start of another.”
There is another flash of light, a tremendous force pushing against the hull of the ship, and then nothing but white. This time there are no screams, only two quiet gasps, before the birth of the new universe carries us away.