Author: Hari Navarro
The bullet that didn’t kill my distant ancestor struck him just above the peak brim of his steel helmet. Our histories are boxed and sent and folded for us so neatly. I received my past on my ninth birthday, no surprise everyone does. Memories gleaned and projected from DNA so as we can sit and cringe and laugh and cry at just how so damn lucky we are.
I played it back. I listened to it so many times. The old man with eyes like mine who spoke of himself and a bullet. I listened to it late at night though I’d been told to turn down the light. So many times that it should of numbed my attention and lost its legs and become just another of the many childish things that I swallowed. But it was a story that grew as I grew and it flourished into a truth, whereas once I had thought it a tale.
As I grew to a teen he told my young ears that bullets they make a sound in battle that cannot be easily described. It was not so much their sound so much as their feeling, he said.
As if they were fingers. Fingers that stretch out from barrels and peel strips off of the airs true flesh. It a sound that becomes a reflex cringe that pushes down and has you want to claw into the earth, away from even the foul air that feeds your lungs, away from the screaming and the broken away skin and away from the ones that you love.
His bullet was a gush wail that ended in a crack. A snap that struck at the helmet that then grabbed at the strap that hung loose beneath his chin. The sky it rose up and he felt his eyelids clap shut and then the dark it swallowed him whole.
I loved the humour of this beautiful man. That smile as he told of the typed notice which would ride the wires across oceans and all the way back to his tiny home so many far miles away. False news of his death that would slap at his mother Mary and his father George and fold them both down to their knees.
The smile was for the message that followed “Condolences but your son he is still very much of this world”, or at least that’s how he said it did read.
I think about my ten times great grandfather often. I think about that tiny projectile that released and flew away from its shell. I think about the jolt of the Germans rifle and the smell of burnt fire that stunk in his nose. And I imagine myself fading to nothing had that fragment of flesh-eating lead been but a fraction of a fraction bit lower.
I sit in my car as it shimmers on air and I look at the whore as she sits in her chair. I look as the night heat it plays with her skin and I wonder just how she would taste. I think to snip off her hair and savour it stacked and bound in a box and I think of her frozen in ice. I want to soak her sweet bones and have them come out all clean and I want to then etch and then rub into them my blood, so as to draw out this tale of a shot.
But then I think of that bullet and I push the knife back under my seat and I drive away into the night.
Author: Leanne A. Styles
The day the parade came to town was the best day of my life. I remember jostling through the crowd to reach the front, before begging my mother to lift me onto her shoulders to get a better look.
My idols were even more beautiful than I’d dreamed. Seven angels floating by in seven glistening glass boxes. Each girl wore a different coloured dress – the colours of the rainbow. Every time they struck a new pose, their arms twisting and torsos bending into the most elegant shapes imaginable, the crowd let out a collective gasp.
“Aren’t they amazing, Mother?” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “They’re very lucky.”
“She’s just like me!” I said, pointing at the redhead girl in the green dress.
Her smile was so sweet and pure, and I wished that someday I would feel that happy, so I could smile like that all day.
“I’m going to be one of them!” I said, drawing amused looks from the crowd.
My mother reached up and stroked my hand. “It’s a lovely dream, Katie.”
“I mean it. I’m getting out of this town.”
The crowd teased at the idea of a girl like me making it as an idol. If only I’d taken it to heart, then maybe I wouldn’t have ended up trapped… a prisoner of my dreams.
But instead, I watched until the idol with red hair disappeared around the corner of the old brewery ‒ the heady scent of malted barley floating on the breeze ‒ planning how I was going to become her.
Everybody I knew back then is dead now. The streets of my childhood town are lined with unfamiliar faces. A new generation of children sit upon their parents’ shoulders, gawping in awe as we roll by.
If I could speak, if I thought they’d hear me through the glass, I’d try to save them from this hell. But the glass is too thick, and my vocal cords are wrecked from the chemicals our handlers use to preserve our aging bodies, so any attempt would be pointless. Even if I could still talk, my face muscles are too weak to crack the lacquer they use to fix my phony smile. My legs tremble beneath my skirt as I strain to hold my pose. There was a time when maintaining the perfect pose, in the stifling heat of the box, and under the crushing weight of the dress, was a challenge I relished. But that game soon grew old. Like me.
The girl who dragged her mother along to parade all those years ago feels like a fictional character from a far-off land, a deadbeat town beyond my tank.
Without warning, we hook a left at the brewery, leaving the crowds, before stopping in front of a blue door in the side of the building. The door bursts open, and a young redhead girl runs out. She circles my box, caressing her prize. The handlers surround me, open the box door, and yank me out. I plead, silently, through tear-filled eyes for the other idols to help me, but they won’t, they can’t.
Two handlers hook a hand under my armpits and drag me through the door and down a dark staircase. The bitter aroma of burnt hops intensifies as we descend, and my perfect memory of riding high on my mother’s shoulders, her coarse brown hair laced between my fingers, marveling at my idols, plays over and over.
The day the parade came to town was the best day of my life.
And it always will be.
Author: Lance J. Mushung
I tightened my grip on my black mini tote and stepped out of the elevator on the top floor of Parasol Corporation’s headquarters. The CEO, Kal Shakti, used the entire floor for his office.
A few steps brought me to a human receptionist with trendy long blue hair like mine. She said, “Ms. Eriksson, Mr. Shakti will see you immediately.”
A portion of a mirrored wall slid open and she motioned me toward Shakti. He was wearing his trademark white turban and sitting behind a walnut-colored desk on the far side of the floor.
The wall closed behind me as I crossed an expanse of sandy colored carpet to him. He’d set the window glass surrounding him to privacy mode. That deprived us of a panoramic view of Geneva, but suited my purpose.
When I stopped in front of him, he pointed at the wood guest chairs without looking up from a screen built into the desk. I didn’t want to think about smoothing my skirt under me, so I perched on the edge of one.
He looked up. “So, Elsa, why do you want to see me?”
“It’s sensitive.” I took a surveillance detector out of my tote. It signaled clean.
“We’re alone. My system checks continuously for any spying and recording.”
I put the detector back in my tote. “I figured, but better safe than sorry. I know what you did on Geras.”
His eyebrows rose, but only for a moment. “What are you talking about?”
“Like most, I figured pirates destroyed our research site. But then the Virgo Cartel told me you’d contracted with it to destroy the comm tech of the long-gone species there. Was comm using quantum entanglement such a big threat to your wealth?”
He nodded. “Parasol manufactures huge numbers of courier drones for interstellar messaging. The tech you found would soon make us like the proverbial buggy whip manufacturers at the beginning of the automobile age.”
“It turns out Virgo’s raiders collected what we’d found before wiping out the site and most of my team. I’ve been developing the tech for the cartel since being told about you. I can now entangle sets of nanoswitches, resulting in each being in the position of the one last changed.”
He sighed. “So, what will it take to suppress the tech?”
“I entangled four of the special nanoswitches used in replacement hearts and Virgo got three of them into the one put into you last month.” I pulled a black fob with a single covered button out of my tote. “The fourth is in this remote. When the nanoswitch in it opens, your heart stops. It’ll look like an act of God. I could have pressed the button from anywhere in the galaxy, but wanted to see your face.”
Singh sputtered as I flipped open the cover and pushed the button. An astonished look flashed over his face, after which his head fell forward to hit the edge of his desk with a thump.
I muttered, “Enjoy hell,” before putting a shocked expression on my face and running back to the receptionist while screaming for help.
Author: Katelyn Goule
Traveling along a lesser known path, she found Hope idling at the side of the road. He was dressed in all blue and white, and the reflection of the sun smoldered in his glossy eyes. Hand outstretched, he beckoned her closer, sunlight gleaming against the pavement around him. At first she took a step forward, however she faltered and quietly said: “I’ve seen you on many different roads, but how do I know I can trust you?”
Hope looked at her with concern, knowing well the reasons she’d taken this walk, and then offered warmth in the softest of smiles and replied: “I take countless forms—sometimes I leave just as quickly as I appear. I do not ask for trust or commitment—not even belief in my existence, but I am what you wish to see, and if that’s a hand to hold, then a hand to hold I’ll be,” a solitary drop of rain rippled through his voice, “but if what you wish to see is nothing at all, then just as easily, I will recede.”
Author: Carolyn Myers
A well-dressed woman flung the office door open and collapsed onto the sofa across from me. I pretended not to stare at the woman whose body appeared completely artificial. She had cosmetic work done to accentuate what I supposed were her good features. Whoever performed the surgery did a poor job because she looked like an overstuffed model.
“Welcome, Ms. Barkley. You have put in a request for a daughter,” my boss said.
“I want you to make me a superstar daughter!” Ms. Barkley yelled. My boss frowned but maintained her composure.
“Let’s start with the appearance,” my boss said. She nodded at me. I pressed a button that displayed a three-dimensional baby on the screen.
“Blue eyes,” Ms. Barkley snapped.
“Ms. Barkley there is no blue-eyed genes in your DNA,” I said. Her face contorted into the most disgusted expression like it was my fault what was in her DNA.
“Do you think I care? I am paying for the most expensive package,” Ms. Barkley said. I quickly pressed a few more buttons taking the blue-eyed gene from our gene bank.
“Tan skin, tall, thin but not too thin,” Ms. Barkley rattled off traits that she did not possess.
The baby was nearly finished but Ms. Barkley appeared increasingly upset the closer we came to completion.
“Make her a superstar,” Ms. Barkley whined.
“What traits do superstars possess?” I said.
“She has to be famous,” Ms. Barkley said. I sighed and looked into the lifeless eyes of the simulated baby. She gurgled on the screen.
“I can’t do that,” I said.
“You have to help her. Give her best chance of being somebody!” Ms. Barkley begged.
“I’ve been designing babies all week and I hope to God they become somebody. Unfortunately, I can’t make your daughter famous it isn’t a gene.” I said. The woman looked depressed and angry at the same time.
“Fine. Give the child a good memory, make her fearless and…and…give her the ability to be an actress,” Ms. Barkley said. I quickly typed in several commands giving the child a memory was easy but the other traits were harder. I motioned for my boss. She quickly rushed to my side.
“Can you make someone fearless and have the ability to act in movies?” I whispered. Ms. Barkley began to tap her foot on the hardwood floor. My boss shook her head.
“Ms. Barkley we can’t guarantee that your child will be fearless or an actress. We can try to generate those results but there isn’t a specific gene. What may cause one person to become an actress can make another a pathological liar,” my boss said.
“I am willing to take that chance,” Ms. Barkley declared without blinking. My boss typed in a few letters and numbers across the screen.
“Your baby is finished.” My boss said.
“Superstar,” Ms. Barkley demanded. I pressed a few commands aging the baby into a beautiful young woman standing on a movie set. Ms. Barkley smiled.
“Yes, that is a star waiting to be born,” She breathed. I pressed a button that displayed a pie chart across the screen.
“Five percent of her DNA comes from you, Ms. Barkley. The remaining Ninety-five percent comes from strangers in the gene bank,” I said.
“That does not matter to me. She is everything I have ever wanted,” Ms. Barkley said. I clicked the big blue button labeled create. Ms. Barkley had not noticed the fine print on the bottom of the screen. Computer generated imagery may not be anything like real life.