The Worst Year

Author: Shannon O’Connor

The year I lived on Arachnida was the worst year of my life. It was a real dump back then. People say it’s changed, but I haven’t been back in a long time.

When I lived there, pawnshops selling all kinds of junk filled the town center. The spiders who populated the area where all a bunch of racist drunks. I didn’t feel safe walking around at night. I thought I would be attacked, being an Earthling, and a Black one at that. Alien spiders don’t understand beings who are different.

I had to walk a long way to go to the grocery store, and I had to walk across a highway to get there and back. My life was in a bad place back then. I was ending my career in academia, and I needed another job, but I didn’t know what I wanted. I had wanted to get married, but that didn’t happen, because my boyfriend was eaten by the spiders.

Those spiders are so inconsiderate! They only think of their needs. They don’t care who they swallow, or who it hurts when they do. I began to hate them intensely.

I moved away from Arachnida, and close to the city planet, Rutonia. I didn’t have to go grocery shopping because there were so many restaurants with Earth food close by. I liked the action of the city: the noise, the crowds, the anonymity.

I got a job at the planet clerk’s office, printing birth certificates, and talking money for parking tickets. It was much easier than my old jobs had been. I ate a lot of good food, and lived my life.

I talked to someone who had always lived in Arachnida, who said it had changed. She wasn’t one of the bad spiders, but she couldn’t afford to move, because everything was so expensive. She said a Starbucks was plopped down in the middle of the town center, and everything had become more upscale, with yoga studios, and wine shops and microbreweries. The old spiders were still there, but the surface looked cleaner, and they behaved themselves better.

I still think of Arachnida as a dangerous, depressing place. The worst year of my life was spent there, and it doesn’t matter if they put all the microbreweries or yoga studios there, you can’t put lipstick on a spider and call it pretty. Arachnida holds a dark place in my heart, and I hope I’ll never have to go back.

Bleeding

Author: David Berger

“I hate bleeding,” Nora said to her friend Allison out of nowhere.
Allison screwed up her face in response.
“Don’t look at me that way,” Nora went on. “I don’t mean the tampon stuff! I mean this twice a year shit. They take a pint out, give us a lollipop and fifty bucks. And twice a year we go home feeling all weird and dizzy.”
“Well I don’t get weird or dizzy,” Allison said.
“No black spots or feeling nauseas?
“No-o-o.”
“Well lucky you,” Nora said.
“Remember two years ago when it was only once?”
“Yeah,” Nora said. “And also they’re dropping the age limit to twelve. And I hear next year they’re going to drop it to eleven.”
“Oh shit!” Allison said. “That’s not good. But think about this, Norie. At least, like Mrs. Grant says in History, we’re in the generation who may have finished death.”
“Yeah. But I hear each dose of the stuff cost $5 million. And only rich people are getting it. And as they get older, they’re gonna need more and more. That sucks.”
“Yeah,” Allison answered. But when me and you become rich celebrities, we’ll be able to afford it, and we can help all our families and friends get it too. That’s so cool, isn’t it?
“But Allie,” Nora said. “My Mom says my Uncle Eddie was up to 12 bleedings a year, and he got very sick.”
“Too bad for him, but we all got to donate.”
“That’s cold, Allie. But think about this. A guy gets born with a zillion dollars, and he gets the treatment all his life and maybe lives forever. And most of us just get to donate to make the serum. That’s not fair.
“Who says what’s fair and what’s not fair, Nore? Anyway, you and I are gonna be rich, and we’re gonna help people. Make sure people get the serum.
“But what … .”
“Listen, I gotta go.”
“Als, there’s never gonna be enough for everybody!
“Who says?” Allison asked over her shoulder?
“My Uncle Eddie said it. Before he died!”

You Don’t Buy New Family

Author: Stephen C. Curro

Phobos had just set when I exited Mark’s airlock and stepped into the little antechamber that served as a mud room. I popped my EVA helmet off and kicked the door open into the living room.
“Where is it?!” I shouted. I raised my particle gun and scanned the lavish room. Everything from the intricate rugs to the paintings on the wall to the elaborate furniture screamed sophistication. Or, knowing Mark, the desire to be sophisticated.
Mark’s eyes peered from behind the posh sofa, like one of those ancient Kilroy Was Here pictures. “Truce?” he offered with a nervous chuckle.
I answered by firing an energy bolt into his crystal imagizer. The entertainment system shattered, sending sparks jumping like scared insects.
Mark’s jaw slack as if I had struck him. “Quill, are you crazy?! That thing cost two-thousand—”
“I don’t give a damn!” I aimed my pistol at his balding head. “Where. Is. It?”
Mark’s hands eased upward, putting up a smile that was trying hard to look convincing. He was wearing a white bathrobe, as if I’d caught him at the spa. “It’s not here, if that’s what you mean.”
I’d have believed anyone else, but Mark had burned me before, and I wasn’t about to graduate to the “shame on me” part of that old adage. I fired another blast, burning a hole through a posh armchair.
“Really?” Mark whined. “I imported that all the way from Earth!”
“How about I import you to Hell?”
“Well, technically that would be an export—”
Mark’s balding head reflected the light of another beam I shot at the wall. He whimpered and ducked down like a prairie dog. “Okay! You’re upset, but consider this…everything is replaceable with enough money, right? You’re going back to Earth, and what you got ain’t readily available off-world. I know a buyer on Enceladus—”
“Shut up!” My anger burned like a hot tar on my skin. I stomped to the sofa and seized the collar of that stupid bathrobe. “You don’t buy new family,” I snarled. “Now tell me, or I’ll blow you out your airlock.”
Mark sniggered. “You wouldn’t.”
I hoisted him over the sofa and dragged him into the mudroom. Mark’s bravado vanished and he flailed like a crab on its back. “Wait! Jesus Christ, wait!”
Trembling as if he’d been exposed to the Martian chill, he pointed to a gaudy marbled vase on a stand. I let him go and picked up the vase. Doing so released a switch that opened a compartment in the floor.
I dropped the vase and ignored Mark’s groan when it shattered. I stooped over the compartment, my heart pounding. The pod was there, an ugly metal pill one meter by one meter across. Green lights danced on the cover, indicating its cargo was secure.
I hefted the heavy pod in one arm. Once more I aimed my pistol at Mark. “If I ever whiff your scent again, you’ll wish I blew your airlock today.”
Mark cowered in the corner as I went into the airlock. I put my helmet on and cycled out. Once I’d cycled into my clunky rover, I took off my EVA suit. Eagerly I opened the pod and a burst of steam wafted into the rover.
When it cleared, I smiled, and felt my eyes grow moist. “Hey, honey,” I said. “You okay?”
Trudy, my eighteen-month-old miniature poodle, lazily opened her eyes. I gently stroked her black, velvet fur, relief flooding my limbs. She looked at me and, still half asleep from the pod hibernation, wagged her stubby little tail.

Unsolvable

Author: Borut Slokan

Report private spy translation quick done, planet race dust is, treasures left
The artifact, planet race gone whisper wind, one, only one preserved in howling sand, precious digged, found, rigged, bound, could brought to wisdom the universe. The rectangle known, full thin, dying, letters on sheets was. Treasure, opened to be, lightened. Ruled was, solve slip one, opener, not lift it, continue, otherwise.
Sages three from galaxy five (don’t ask), dared to look at it, trembling.
M’daath, one with two heads never agreeing other, venerated the title; but title of this dying little four-sided of pieces thin was what?
Language being beings, gone, stayed behind, known. Sages mastered fragments it of of anlgaamerish —- in long dead script written in mode three hieroglyphs: walls one, signs built on buildings gone two, and rectangle flimsy artefacts hurt all by time.
(the heretical wise sect demanded there was a compulanguage written too, but no proofs there were)
Sages three from galaxy five (don’t ask), start begin translating title artifact of race and time disappeared. With language shards only, few them help, known less.
Head second M’daath always first tried, always: “It is a female insect hovering the food. See, (h)er and fly and food, butter. Diar be it the owner, and Y are we know a city in the north. It will happen month M(a)y of ancients ”
Head second pale jealous spoke against “It is challenge fighting, see, kick butt, we met fore; means war. Two females kill other, flying. Mad to the death with drink of rye. Mye is a name not month. We know it be the owner of it, know.”
——–, species of name never said, the one in cloud eternal, was slow as all snake mist people were.
“It is a religious ritual, where food, butter thrown to the gods above, can’t you see. And person will die, knife of ry, sacrifice to gods of ancients here. An there is lament, we seen before, saying, my, my, my.”
N, as all his flying species with one name sound solitary hissed his say “It is mating ritual, the butter not food but lubricant for male member entering the fly, fly covering sexual organ, we read that, obvious. Below is signature male olden, D. the fiery one. My was god of this people. The pieces left are full of its name”
Days changed, evenings darkened, dark born rosy morn. Wisest three sages from five galaxy (don’t ask) agreed to disagree, as there no agree was, to agree.
And in air hovered around little thing, possibly treasure history, change all, forbidden open what is not known. And looked, soaked, cooked in head, word on title leaf puzzle unsolvable glaring its letters at them. No title knowing, no open thing rectangle, rule was. Object only, casket secure now, in light glaring them.
Saying, in anlgaamerish dead now, known smithereens lonely only. Unsolvable. It, cultures, letters there, conspicuous them glared:
Butterfly
My Diary

The Hive Mind Orders Dinner

Author: Sarah Klein

The Mind is awake, and it’s hungry.

This is one of its most difficult tasks.

Synapses yawned and stretched, crackling. Former individual minds shifted within, sending their desires down the main conduits.

Fried chicken. Pizza. Kale salad. The Mind considered, the memories of a thousand tongues in unison trembling. It looked across the expanse of the planet, trying to see what it could actually obtain.

Ice cream, came a small but persistent desire. Ah. Section 4b. Former elementary school population. Usually that part of it wanted ice cream. Hundreds of messages drowned this out; hundreds of thoughts that were the equivalent of patting a small child on the head and saying “there, there, not this time.”

The Mind shifted closer to town. It saw its choices were somewhat limited, but still varied. the chicken restaurant and the Chinese place looked the most appealing. The people at the chicken restaurant had encountered it before; they might thus be more willing to cooperate, under the threat of having another cashier absorbed. There was no way the Mind was going to make two trips; it would endanger its life to have to harass (GENTLY inquire, a population of softies somewhere inside intoned) two different proprietors of food for the portion it needed in exchange for its relatively little payment. Once its growth slowed down, there went the income stream.

The Mind grumbled to itself as it shuffled toward the chicken restaurant. Individuality! Bodily autonomy! Freedom of expression! All the words and phrases used to dissuade anyone from joining a Mind willingly. Sure, portions of itself missed that sometimes. But nobody was advertising the real downside: never being able to delight in the animal satisfaction of being totally content with its dinner…