Author: Michael Anthony Dioguardi
Chris dipped down on a spiraling vortex and examined the jet stream beneath him. He crept in on his board and inspected the area—as if searching for something.
“And we’re back at the 113th annual Great Red Spot Freestyle Championships, I’m your host Jeff Hadley here with Mike Spencer. Kenny Bradley is down in the action on the hydrosulfide ridge.”
“Let’s take a look at our athletes down below. Mike, what’s your take on Chris Ransom’s triple axel earlier?”
“Jeff, I’ll tell you, that was something else. Chris just has that finesse on those quick upshots. You know when there’s a lightning gust—he’ll be skimming the top of it with his board. He’s smooth and in control.”
“Mike, do you think he gets a little too close to that electro-jet stream? That’s risky business—too many talented athletes’ careers cut short by deep dives.”
“You’re right, there, Jeff. For the folks watching at home, the jet stream is most affected by the magnetosphere; it can throw off their entire trajectory coming off the ammonia layers.”
“Alright, let’s hear from Kenny Bradley down below.”
“Thanks, Jeff. Well, Chris Ransom has had quite a day. He’s got a twelve-point lead on Kerri D’Angelo who sits comfortably in second—looks like we’ve got Chris coming through a chromophore pocket right now! He’s riding the apex…. he’s starting to carve down.”
Chris lifted his board over the ammonia expulsion and turned around: He had found the location he was searching for.
“Chris’ footwork is unmatched.”
“Nice finish on the cascade. Wow! He’s going for another run-through?”
“Gutsy move. We haven’t seen a double-entry since Chris’ father, Jack Ransom, 15 years ago….”
Chris caught a glimpse of his reflection off the inside of his visor. He unpeeled his lips and whispered, “Pops, I’m coming for you…”
“Oh no…wait! We have to go to commercial! Cut the stream!”
“What? We’re live! We can’t?”
“Cut the fucking stream!”
“What the hell is Chris doing? He can’t make that run! Kenny! What’s happening? We’re off-air!”
“Chris is skimming the bottom edge. He’s going under the top-stream. I can’t see him that well. He’s floating in and out of the course perimeter. I think he’s attempting the same run his father—oh God…”
“No! His board! He’s lost it! Where’s the damn relief team?”
“Jeff! I got Chris on mic, listen! Chris?”
Chris’s voice trickled in through static and fuzz. “Don’t send the team, Mike.”
Seconds passed before Chris responded, “It’s okay, Mike. Jeff, thank you for everything.”
“Chris! Get it together! What are you talking —”
“I’m going to find my father’s body. Fifteen years ago, he became part of this storm,” more static filled the silence, “And I’m getting him back.”
“You’ll die in there! Chris!”
“That triple axel sure was nice, wasn’t it…I’m…star…..bre…re……..li…li……….”
“Wait! Come in! Chris?”
The Great Red Spot swirled in its eternal frenzy as the commentator’s box reared back towards the transport ship beside Ganymede. Chris’ board remained suspended atop a convection cell emanating from the storm’s eye. The remaining riders rushed skyward to their support shuttles. Chris fell through the increasingly pressurized layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere. His vision tunneled and was replaced with the image of his father. His father’s hand stretched out and wrapped around his falling body as Chris felt the embrace of the clouds—forever rushing, forever red.
Author: Palmer Caine
There is nothing until the buzzing and ringing disturbs my deepest thoughts, my darkest dreams, and I am awoken. I’d heard tales of dreams unlike any terrestrial imaginings where memories are colours organised in a table of elements. A place where worries and fears are vanquished or conquered in extended sleep, when the physical no longer matters and space expands before us. But I saw nothing to enrich my sleep, my rest, my journey, save the sloppy biscuits at the bottom of grandma’s cup.
Eyes focus on pale hands with pale digits that wriggle and crack and dart over dials to press switches to quell the din. The capsule might spin and pivot uncontrollable through the cosmos, but I am unaware. In zero G I am fish or amphibian, I am atrophy.
The stars barely shine through voids of unimaginable size, and I remember the Fells and the floods and the islands in the marshes. Through the power-lines of my mind I see these things again as lights flash and needles peak. Everything wobbles and warps around an approaching gravity field. Reality phases once, twice, thrice and again and again until we’ve passed through. But time is loose now, an illusion we all believe and seconds become minutes, become hours, become days ad infinitum. Dreams of grandma’s biscuits are all I have when distance is time and length is measured by improbable clocks. Everything is dead or dying, you are only a binary image stored someplace inaccessible. Oh, I have missed you in the dark.
The silence of space eases through the seams of my conveyance and the blackness outside becomes the blackness within. If the universe is forever then darkness is our only true companion, the worlds of colour and light mere oases on the grid. Sometimes the Caravan is lost in the dunes searching for the road. Sometimes the Caravan never returns.
Bucky held on ‘til the crunch. He was my back up, a body to replace weight lost. He would go on but his time it seems is limited to just one life. The islands of the mind cast adrift on wandering photons and his torso is removed, ingested by the machine for energy.
“This’ll be an up-hill slog.” I say it twice so not to forget. The comment is recorded and the machine names it prophetic.
I can remember fighting thistles and thorns, cutting back the flora on a hot summer’s day with you in the yard drinking squash and reading my thoughts. My skin is still scared as I float naked around the capsule; every mark reminds me of the loss. Though we were born in the same decade of the same century of the same species, you are now older than grandma as I remember her, wrinkled and pox marked. Older than anybody I truly remember.
Now the lights have ceased and the sirens stopped screaming, I may return to slumber, first inserting the straws for the liquid provided for sustenance in solitude. It runs like milk from the udders of banished bovine.
Oh, I will miss you in the darkness.
Author: R. J. Erbacher
I’m writing this down because at some point there are going to be questions and I want to keep the facts straight. And no computer, don’t want anybody catching wind of this.
About three weeks ago I got a call that my grandparents had died. Not at the same time but pretty close. Seems my grandfather turned bedridden sick, then died some months ago, the autopsy people are not quite sure when. My grandmother must have been tending to him until he went, and then just decided to sit down on a chair in their bedroom and waited to die as well. A city fellow went out there to collect some past due payments and found the two corpses, if they could still be called that. Not much left after lying there decaying for months.
They lived in Grady, New Mexico, and the place needed to be cleared out before they could sell the property. Well my dad’s got Alzheimer’s and his brother lives over in Europe, so the task fell to me. So, I rented me a truck and took a nine-hour road trip from Austin, Texas to their house.
On the way there I thought about them and the old place that we kids used to call the Weed Ranch. Not what you think, not marijuana. Just that nothing seemed to grow there except weeds out in the middle of nowhere. And we used to call grandfather the ‘Pieman.’ Not pi, even though he was always talking about vectors and nuclides and the like; worked for Experimatics, some government facility out in the desert. But pie, because he loved him a nice piece of grandma’s fruit pies with a mountainous dollop of whipped cream on top. And grandma baked him lots of pies.
When I got there the house smelled awful, I guess you can’t clear that kind of smell out no-how. It was dusk but thankfully the electricity was still on. I brought in a couple of cartons, figured on throwing in some collectibles for the family, stuff that looked valuable. The rest of the crap I’d cram into the truck and sell to a thrift store somewhere. Walking around the place brought back a bunch of great memories. Nights we played cards at the dining table. Birthday parties we had there. Even the scary stories that my grandfather would tell us kids after dark about men changing into monsters.
I came across the basement door, still with the big padlock on it. I remember my grandfather saying that we couldn’t go down there because it was his la-bore-a-tor-ree, pronouncing it with all five syllables. Well, that renewed a curiosity in me that I’d had since I was a kid but completely forgotten about. I couldn’t find a key anywhere so I got a hatchet from the barn and chopped it free.
It was pretty much a letdown, no Frankenstein machines or nothing. Just a bunch of small chemical tables full of empty tubes and bottles, lots of written on notepads and cobwebs. There was an old-fashioned fridge with a pull-down latch. I wondered if anything in there could possibly still be good, maybe some beer. Inside, it was filled with old Cool-Whip tubs, the lids labeled with marker. A whole lot of them had a big X, five were marked NG and one said ‘STUFF.’ I took a chance on that one and opened it. It looked good, looked like regular Cool-Whip so, what the hell, I took a finger taste. It was delicious…but apparently not what I thought it was.
There have been changes.
Author: Arkapravo Bhaumik
As I recall, at first it was a middle-aged woman from Sicily, Ariana Antonella. It was then I realized that though the feminine anatomy is a work of art but it felt out of context as I am derived from a man. On the brighter side, it was very satisfying to see the sights of Sicily, it was not Milan or Venice but better than most of my later experiences. I felt reinvigorated with the salty air of the Mediterranean. The language, or rather its dialect was different from the one known to me, but it hadn’t changed by a lot. Another delight was to see people fly in air. As many as 500 people can fly together for great distances in long metal vessels with wings which were called aeroplanes. Finally – we had imitated birds. As a downside, I could not get her to engage in the arts, her thick fingers and stubby palm just would not work a paintbrush, but Ariana was a good cook.
Next excursion was a man from the orient, Honshu islands in Japan. Junichi Koizumi, he was a politician at a city council. How disconnected can such a pair feel! A body from the orient in the 21st century and a mind from 16th century Milan. Never had tasted uncooked fish, but it was a fair experience, maybe a wee bit too spicy for my liking. I was aghast to know about the second world war. How could the entire world go to war? That too with weapons which can kill millions at one go! From Junichi I also learned about Lord Buddha and his teachings.
A week later, I found myself in the body of a whale and I spent most of my time hunting for food. It was fascinating to observe its swimming mechanism – the synchronous flapping of the fins and the tail which helped it to negotiate through the water. I missed my sketchbook.
Next was Brian, a scientist from Manchester. I wasn’t with him for long but it was a learning experience. The world had been reduced to 108 building blocks which are called as atoms, molecules sometimes. This modular structure of the world was brilliant – God indeed had a recipe to make this universe.
Now as I think about my previous experiences, I am probably in the body of a philosopher. His taste in food is nothing too great but he has an assortment of likable wines.
I really wonder if my mind is genuine or another illusion created in this world of future. How much future this future is? Or is it black magic? Have wizards and sorcerers taken on the reign of society? How can my mind be restored after six hundred years? What happened to my body? These surrogate bodies are they genuine, or just another magical manifestation of the new age? Can I add such minds, streams of thoughts to my paintings?
Clearly, the body is a vehicle, and the mind is the lesser of the two illusions. The mind and the body are not unique, not really meant for each other rather their convergence helps form reality. Or alternatively, it is a sick game and we are all monikers for chess pieces.
Am I a painter and sculptor or Ariana, Junichi, Brian, or the whale? Or another collection of atoms which had acquired some sort of an identity and values and which will once again assimilate into the womb of the universe.
… maybe atoms are also a lesser reality.
Author: Morrow Brady
The four magic words.
Complimentary Bed and Breakfast.
Javed smiled. Somewhere, someone needed his critique.
Rolling green countryside sprawled forever below the single white dot of a departing pod-cab. Mossy grey granite outcrops peppered the treeless landscape that terminated abruptly at a sharp cliff edge beyond which the horizon capped a blue sea, calloused with worn lonely rock stacks.
Nothing artificial. Just beautiful nature.
Nearby a distinctive rock formation lay like piled whale corpses, teetering at the cliff’s edge. Within a shadowy overhang throbbed recognisable fine blue hologram lines. They faded and an intricate curved silver door opened to reveal a pale blue circular lobby. Sealed inside the lobby’s stainless steel tube, the familiar hum of hidden energies tickled the skin, neutralising viral loads.
Javed waited in expectation for the grand reveal. He imagined a futuristic open white space, populated with revolutionary furniture overlooking an exhilarating sea view. The ideal human habitat. He quivered at the potential of this content to increase his followers.
The micro-needles came from all sides of the tube’s reflective curved walls. Their menacing sharp tips inched slowly toward a terrified Javed. Panic pounding at a solid curved lid as it lowered to mould around his skull. Futile screams of pain at thousands of puncture wounds and a final glimpse of red lines of blood.
He wailed into unconsciousness.
A white floor and ceiling came into focus. Javid felt revitalised like he just woke from an afternoon nap on a luxurious couch. The memory of needles wiped.
Light rippled outward as he rose, revealing a perfectly formed white room. Organic and relaxing. Familiar shapes gathered here and there, giving unspoken meaning. A space to live, a space to dine, a space to dream. Refined, rational, functional and ergonomic. An idealised realisation of pure design evolution. He became deeply emotional at the beauty before him.
The long open space flowed toward a wall of blue specks that pecked at whiteness until the view revealed itself. A glassless opening like a catfish yawn. Clear blue skies met white breakers on a living sea. Grey stone stacks remembered each passing wave. Javed thought this was truly the ideal place for a peaceful life. This was content.
Exquisite cuisine appeared when he hungered. The comfort chair was where it needed to be. Chaos was silently dealt with behind the scenes. And that scent. Like honey and true love.
Cradled in comfort and the warmth of a perfect beverage, he watched the most beautiful sunset. He knew instinctually where his bed would be. A fluffy cloud-like womb that gently hugged him to sleep. A protected niche for dreams.
In the morning, blue light filtered through from the yawn, softly teasing him from a dream of monarchs. At the ideal state of consciousness, the aroma of a ready-made bedside breakfast lured him into life.
From a misty ceiling crevice poured a temperate rain shower, backed by an unrivalled sea vista. Dried in a sympathetically warm breezeway and adorned in pre-pressed attire hovering on a silken web. At his first thought of departure, he blinked and stood blissful before the open pod-cab.
He turned to gaze one last time upon the weathered rocks, longing to return and spend the remainder of his days in its delights.
As he sped over the rolling green hills, he put the final words together for his critical review and uploaded it for public viewing.
The VR capture and suspension log registered the outstanding online review and published the first of its worldwide advertising campaign.
The optics were off-the-chart.