Hell, Gon-Zuu was in hell.
The body shell they had inhabited was overcome, again, by a wave of disgusting nausea. Gon-Zuu would have to lie down soon, preferably on the floor. They fumbled in the pocket of the alien clothing for a tablet that they swallowed dry. The only thing that helped with the constant nausea and prevented vomiting, a fate worse than death, was a medication designed for impregnated human females.
Nothing had prepared them for being trapped at the pinnacle of a soft mound of flesh, or for the sickening see-saw movement that displacement involved. Gon-Zuu’s home world had much stronger gravity than this primitive planet and their species had evolved accordingly, hugging the ground when displacing themselves.
Despite three months of attempting to become accustomed to the body shell and its method of displacement – “walking” the humans called it for Gon-Zuu had most definitely not managed “running” – they still struggled with constant feelings of vertigo and what humans called seasickness. Gon-Zuu constantly felt like they were going to fall off a precipice and smash screaming onto the unforgiving ground. The motion jostled and jarred them and that ground never stopped rolling.
Gon-Zuu had begged to be allowed to discard the body shell and leave the planet. But their superiors had insisted that they had to wait three months to see if they could become accustomed to the swaying motion while trapped so high above the planet’s surface in a flubbering jelly vessel. Only then would their commandant accept a full report.
Gon-Zuu was already certain of the message their report would contain:
Human body shells are not suitable receptacles for the Cretoid.
Strongly advise seeking alternative planet for colonisation.
Author: Riley Meachem
After years of research, Delkor Bionics completed “the door of perception.” Not a literal door, but a maze of computers, electrodes, goggles, and wires attached to a chair, it allowed whoever sat in it to examine any choice they’d made in the past, make a different one, and follow it to its logical conclusion, viewing years of existence in mere moments. The product’s release was heavily hyped up by marketing and was already world news before the first issues cropped up.
Several testers came back with severe trauma after only a few seconds in the machine, as their hypothetical choices subjected them to agonies beyond measure, and loss and grief which was yanked from them as suddenly as it was foisted on them. Even those who did not witness their own agonizing death and disfigurement, or the deaths of their loved ones, were sometimes neurotic wrecks after emerging, refusing to make any choices at all for fear of upsetting the balance of the universe. In extreme cases, these subjects refused even to eat or drink or move, and wasted away and died or froze solid. Subjects would live eternities in these myriad new lives, only to be dragged back to their young body, with the experiences of a thousand men in one young brain. Many merely went insane from eternities in other people’s lives, ones which bore such an uncanny relation to their own. Despite this, investors did not lose their investment or undercut public confidence in the brand. The Door of Perception was released.
How that went depends on who you asked. If you can indeed ask anyone and are not just trapped in the door of perception. Would you remember entering it? Could you tell the difference between a real person and a mental projection from our own mind? Most of us only talk to ourselves and an idea of another person when we have conversations anyway.
Many theorize that humans have entered the door many times, and that we are in a perception of a perception of a perception, using the door over and over. That is, as I said, if any of us is real.
I have forgotten my name, and which of my lives is real. I have forgotten how to exit, and how to choose. I wonder if there is anyone sane enough on the other side of the door to pull me back through, or if there ever was. I wonder if the door has closed upon me forever. In the meantime, I push ever further in these potential lives which never were, until in one of them, I once again stumble upon the door.
Author: Philip G Hostetler
She was my dream girl before I laid myself to rest in the Dreamcell. Alright, that’s a little dramatic, I didn’t “lay myself to rest” as in six feet under. No, think of it like life insurance for your loved ones that pays out immediately. All you have to do is, and I quote, “Lay down, plug in and power up!”
Oh, the girl, yeah she was my dream girl before I signed on the dotted line to dream for the rest of my life. I know I’m dreaming now, it’s a perpetual lucid dream, life is blue grass and green skies and she’s always, always by my side.
My children, from waking life, get electricity, HVAC and plumbing because I’m the battery. And you know what the Arbiters say, “A family is not a family without a battery- today!”
Ugh. Whatever. Just watch out for the terror of the unconscious and horror of the unknown. Those weren’t in the user manual before I was plugged in. A crash course on basic psychology would’ve been helpful. Thanks doc.
But the dream girl never leaves my side, I never suffer alone. I guess that’s what we really need in the end.
I try not to think about my waking family, mostly because I feel like I’m better off without them. I’m just, guilty. It’s a hellscape out there. If the distillers malfunction, you’ll miss your daily 8oz ration of water. If, or rather, when the crop drones encounter rogue meteor storms, prepare to fast for a week. Work is menial at best, the social part of society excommunicated itself at the order of necessity.
And here I am blissfully entwined in understanding and mutual adoration with my dream girl. I only wish I knew who she was. She has the face of a thousand stunning expressions. The touch of family, friends and lovers.
My family are the strangers now, and I am better for it, damn me. Damn me and my dream girl, our perfect union fuels the dying gasps of a failed civilization.
It’s OK, she forgives me.
Author: Heather R. Parker
What a long trip. Gone for four years, studying at Nivoria University in the Sao X3D Galaxy, and another whole year to get back to Earth. I couldn’t exactly pop home on the weekends or on holidays. Now, as my ship touches down on Earth for the first time in ages, I’m overwhelmed with emotion.
Everything looks so…vintage, I think laughingly as I make my way to my house. That’s the problem with being in space for too long. Everything looks archaic on Earth now. I couldn’t wait to see the look on my mother’s face. I smile at the thought. I’d been 18 when I’d left. She might not recognize me. I’m a for-real man now, with a beard and everything.
I walk up the short drive to our house. Only…it looks different. There is no two-car garage that was added on when I was six. The house looks even newer now than when I left. Odd. Maybe Mom had spruced up the place a bit since I had left.
I don’t have a key, so I knock. I don’t want to startle my poor mother. She wasn’t expecting me, as I had wanted to surprise her.
A young mother, three small children loudly playing in the living room behind her, answers the door. She looks oddly familiar. I step back and look at the numbers on the house again. 2476 Elm Drive. This is my house. Only…it isn’t…is it?
“May I help you, sir?” The woman’s kind eyes crinkle in a smile as she wipes her hands on her faded floral apron.
“Um, I’m sorry, I think I have the wrong house. My parents used to live here. But I’ve been at university in the Sao Galaxy for the last five years, they must’ve moved. It’s hard getting transmissions in that far into space sometimes,” I laugh, trying to hold in the unease I feel.
“Who are your parents? Maybe I can help you.” She steps onto the porch, leaving the door cracked to listen to her playing children.
“Well, my father passed when I was three, but my mother’s name is Sarah Golding.”
“How strange, I’m Sarah Golding!”
Suddenly the world tilts on its axis. The house, so new…the cars that look 20 years out of date…this kind young mother, who wasn’t just familiar, she was—
“Mother, is that you?”
Author: Joe Prosit
I didn’t do much, really.
Well, I learned some German.
Sorry. Ich lerne Deutsch. See?
And I learned some Karate too.
Well, not Karate. Kendo.
I kind of had to do that because of the Time Nazis.
And I suppose you could say that’s why I learned German too.
Sorry. Deutsch. Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch.
See, I wanted to learn Karate but…
Kendo uses swords,
and with all the Nazis coming through the Time Portal,
Sorry. Die Zeittür,
With all the Time Nazis coming through the Zeittür I needed swords.
Sorry. A katana and wakizashi, and the years of kendo training needed to weld them.
See, the Zeittür goes both ways, and I figured my trip to ancient highland Japan and the harsh tutelage under Master Masamana Yojibo, learning to dance the Ashi Sabaki, and the months spent in his mountain forge birthing my blades from raw ore and shaping them into the gleaming teeth of revenge I needed to right all the wrongs that had beset my city since the Zeittür appeared was time well spent.
And the German lessons.
I mean, Ich lerne Deutsch und ich lerne die Klinge.
But really, those things didn’t happen this summer. That was years in the past.
See, the only way the Nazis could escape their fates on the dusk of the Second World War,
Was to escape the timeline all together. And when they emerged through the Zeittür,
Filed hard from years of a failed war, full of the kind of hate that fuels genocides,
Strung out and desperate for meth, leaderless and displaced,
They came ready… fertig… for a fight.
That means “ready.” I wasn’t ready.
Didn’t even know what they were screaming when they stormed through the city,
Waving their guns, executing families randomly in the street,
Executing my family in the street,
And saying something to me,
I didn’t know what,
When they shot my mother and father but let me go.
Some of the first words I picked up?
Dein Vater und deine Mutter.
My father and mother.
I learned others.
Out of spite.
And I learned weapons other than the gun.
Because guns didn’t work for me. Zu schnell und billig.
Entschuldigung. Too quick and cheap.
I wanted them to know my words,
I wanted them to see my face,
When I killed them.
So I went through the Zeittür,
And when I realized what it was, I took full advantage of it.
Ich lerne Deutsch. Ich lerne die Klinge. Ich suche Rache.
Days learning German.
Months forging my blades.
Years spent training. Getting ready.
But, wirklich, that wasn’t this summer. That was back in time.
This summer? I came back to this summer just before the Zeittür opened.
And I waited for them.
When they came through, still covered in the dust of their bombed-out city,
Still running in fear, still bloodied and drug-addled and strung out,
The first thing they saw was me and my blades.
The only thing they heard was mein Deutsch.
Kommt, mein Shatz.
Kommt mit mich und ich zeige dir deine Zukunft.
Ich werde dir den Tod zeigen.
Ich bin fertig.
It only took a few minuten.
I spent most of my summer just laying around.
Not doing much, wirklich.
Besides killing Time Nazis?
The rest was pretty…