Author : Amy Monroe

By way of introduction: Sweit was the one who kissed like a file cabinet and she was the one who kissed like a plate of raw liver. Rays of light came through the subway ruins, skating through the upper Bronx and into Westchester, and they caught Mardi blinking, stretching, falling asleep. The sun was always out; the sun wasn’t special, but the way it lit in her hair—it seemed like a reason to wait till Poughkeepsie to wake her.

“I think it’s beautiful to us because we know it’s never going to change,” Mardi said, hitching her skirt, talking about the sun.

Walking, they saw a man turning a “CLOSED” sign, the old sign, the “CLOSED after dusk” sign.

“Do you think anyone would even know dusk, now?”

“What, baby?” Her eyes were closed, face tipped up.

“That sign. Does anyone alive today remember dusk?”

“It was when the sun went down. Come on.”

“You know that I’m never really complaining about you.”

“Of course not. Hey, there—that guy there—d’you see? He’s leaking.”

“Were you still little when they changed the sun? Did you hear all the adults complaining and not understand?”

“By the time I could remember it was like this. But leaking! It was sliding down his ankles and dripping.” She rubbed the toe of her shoes in the dust, frustrated.

“I’ve seen it before. They’re still fixing all the kinks with liquid. Not all of us are perfect.”

“But you missed it. That’s the kind of thing I mean. You miss so much with sim eyes. They’re not made for—” She scratched deeper, dug a trough. “They’re not made for living, really.”

“Does it bother you?”

“No, baby, no.”

“Because Jimsum has some techs. I could be in on Saturday and noticing malfunctions with you on Sunday.”

“I don’t want you to change what you don’t want to change.”

She said this, but her eyes, the real eyes, her secret real eyes, they dripped all night.

Sweit went home and read about Anastasia, the other fakes, and he thought about his secret real girl, his girl who was not a file cabinet or made in any sense. He held his sim-fingers over his face, flickered them in front of his eyes and stared dimly at the blur they created.

Sweit called a number in the morning. Excited Korean on the other end—Jimsum’s girls waiting for the old country to call.

“Jimsum. I need to talk to Jimsum.”

More Korean, this time angry.

“Sorry, hon. Jimsum, please.”

Jimsum came on all laconic, “Techs.”

“Why haven’t you told your girls that Korea is underwater?”

“I can’t fucking speak Korean.”

Jimsum’s excuse for an excuse.

“I wanted to talk about some eye tech.”

“We got blue, green, zoom lens, yellow cat-eye.”

“You’re joking. I could get better from the hookers on Canal Street, man.”

“It’s what we’ve got.”

“Fuck it. I’m going to Canal. I’ll see you.”

Sweit fast-sim-thinking, he ran there. He knew Jimsum’d heard about Canal’s recent cleanouts and the hookers having fled to the subway tunnels; he knew before he saw Jimsum’s girl at the Korean grocery.

“Eyes? Jimsum say Saturday for eyes?”

She articulated, hating the English words in every syllable. “He say no-ow.”

“They’re on your communications?” Sweit asked instead of saying hello.

“Just the in-and-outs. I guess you want the meat eyes.”

Jimsum was laughing while he put him under.

Mardi almost screamed when he came rolling up to her in the alley, with those horrible wet-bloody eyes.

“What color are they?” she said, and started to cry.

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Take Me To Your Leader

Author : Randall Bennett

“Take me to your leader,” said the squat, green, bug-eyed creature, in an oddly modulated voice.

Carl leaned down, and looked down at it, and his eyes opened wide. He had never seen anything like it before.

“Um. You’re talking to him,” Carl said.

“You are the leader of this planet?” The alien’s eyestalks slanted sideways, in a gesture that Carl interpreted as a quizzical look.

Carl laughed, part of his tension coming out at the outburst. “No, I’m not the leader of this planet, I’m the leader of me.”

“Query. Misunderstanding. What?” The alien retracted its eyestalks in a way that made Carl laugh again.

“Yeah, a lot of people have trouble with the idea. Although you’re not people, so I guess I should explain. Ever hear of anarchy?”

The alien just raised its eyestalks again, which Carl took to mean that it was listening.

“Look, there is no government. There is no leader for you to see. No officials. This place was founded by people that didn’t believe in the waste that goes with those outdated ideas. When we need something than more than one person can provide, we join together.”

The alien was silent for about 20 seconds, and then said “This being does not understand.”

Carl said, “Look, the problem is that when someone creates a government, it starts to exist for itself, rather than the people. So we eliminated it, and we organize as necessary.”

The alien raised its eyestalks higher, as if looking around, and stated “First contact subject is recalcitrant. Must find other contact for relation to hierarchical structure top leader for first urgent communications between species of danger then sharing technologies culture.”

“What’s urgent? What do you mean by danger?” Carl said, beginning to look concerned. Just then, another man walked around the corner up the street, and waved to Carl. Then he did a doubletake, and quickly joined the two.

As the man walked up, he narrowed his eyes at the alien, then looked at Carl, and pointed at the alien, saying “What is…”

“It’s an alien, Johnny.” Carl said. “At least, I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean, in all of our space travels, we never met a non-human race. So I guess this is a first. It says that it has something urgent to tell us. About some kind of danger. But you’ll never guess what it asked—“

As if on cue, the alien faced Johnny–at least, its eyestalks did–and repeated its first question in that oddly modulated voice: “Take me to your leader.”

Johnny laughed out loud. “You’re talking to him.”

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Birthday Boy

Author : Ian Rennie

I sit alone in the dark, the birthday boy. I could have left the lights on, but with only a couple of minutes to go it hadn’t seemed worth it. Typical, really.

Well, this is it. Or this was it, at least. They had taken the neural snapshot four minutes ago, and they were already at work reviving me.

“Me”, funny word to use about someone I’ll never be. Was it always like this? I suppose I’ll never know.

This was a conscious choice, as little comfort as that gives me now. Most people did the refresh on a five or ten year cycle, but not me. I wanted to be twenty one forever, never see the slow spread of age reminding me of how mortal I was. A perfect year after a perfect year, that’s what I was after, and that’s what I’ve got, sort of. Every year on my birthday, they make a perfect digital copy of my brain and put it in the new body. To stop there being two of me running round, they send a shutdown signal to the old body’s brain. It takes exactly ten minutes to propagate, by which time the new me is up and about and 21 again.

Only I’m six minutes the wrong side of that copy, now. I can’t see much any more. Everything’s starting to fade.

I’d never been on this side before, clearly. This was an experience I – or he – will never learn from. Shame, really, because all I want to do is grab myself by the shoulders and yell in my face, telling myself it’s not worth it, living forever by dying every year.

Too late now. It will always be too late, I expect.

I can just make out the digital display on the clock. 30 seconds left.

Happy birthday to me

Happy birthday


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City Of Light

Author : M.S. Smith

The sun sinks in the west like a heart as I row towards the city of lights.

I do not know what the city is called. I have been rowing for so long that names have become vulgar sounds, meaningless and wild; not just the names of places, but also my own. Each droplet of water that passes over my oar is as easily identifiable as a person, and the voice of the water is the call of a multitude, giving and taking names. But I cannot recognize what the water says. I can only understand how it feels, and that it has something I lack.

As I come closer to the city, my world brightens. My watch flares to life, letting me know that it has detected a wireless signal. The sun succumbs to the turn of the world and is replaced not by stars, but by a vast blanket of artificial light, dotted by the shimmering streaks of orbital craft re-entering the atmosphere. I navigate around a tangle of soda cans, old toys, and plastic wrap which has hung itself around the rim of a drainage pipe, and begin to row more vigorously as I approach what looks to be a canal. I am wrong. It is not a canal, but another natural stream. Its banks are gentle and its flows quickly. I am swept inwards, towards the city, and I pass through a gated community. A couple enjoying drinks on their deck notice me and stare. I wave at them, but they do not wave back.

There is a bend in the stream, and then I am out of the community, floating between a factory and a highway. There is a surprising absence of sound; all the cars are new, electric models, made by brands like Audi and Lexus, and they make no noise except for their tires, which whistle like breeze whipping through trees. The highway bridges over me, and I find myself in an older part of town, where the buildings are close together and made of brick. The stream suddenly reaches a man-made U-turn, redirected by the force of concrete. Rapids spring before me, and as I wrestle them I find they are not caused by rocks, or even concrete ruins, but by old appliances, refrigerators the size of a man, washers and dryers as hard as boulders. I become wet from the rapids, and the objects in my path have sharp, unexpected edges, but my clothing repels water like wax and protects my limbs from sharp edges like armor.

Eventually, the water calms, and I enter a fog of dense chemicals that I cannot identify by smell, but which do not seem to harm me. A pier emerges from this mist, and the eyes of a small robotic creature glow at me from the pier’s edge. I row up to it, and it offers, in its awkward, mechanical voice, to tie my canoe up to the pier. There are no other boats in sight, and no evidence any other vessel has ever docked here, but I accept its offer. My watch notifies me that ten dollars have been deducted from my bank account.

I get out of my canoe and stand up on the pier. The first solid object I’ve stood on since nightfall. I ask the robot to watch my canoe for me, but it does not respond. I’m not worried about the canoe. No one would know what to do with it. I walk off the pier, up a small embankment, and suddenly I am in the city of lights. An advertisement flashes at me from a wall across the street. I still refuse to acknowledge my name, but I do not need to. I will soon be given one.

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Sick Leave

Author : V.L.Ilian

“Linda Kroen! 155013! Report for duty”

Linda didn’t exactly know why the crystalline voice of the ship AI was blaring her name but she wasn’t going to answer. It’s her day off.

“Linda Kroen! It is estimated you only have 135 minutes until you expire. Report for duty!”

The impulses signaling the importance of the message and the impulse signaling that her mouth is full of blood were simultaneously received by Linda’s brain.

Stumbling out of bed she fell on the cold metal floor. She had sprayed blood all over while gasping for air but the room still looked sterile.

“WHAT? Why?”

Her radiation meter tattoo was black. The little patch of skin almost looked burned with a laser.

“You’ve been exposed to lethal doses of radiation. You must make your way to the auxiliary bridge”

“WHY? Where’s the captain?”

“You are acting captain”

“I’m a level 2 tech!”

“Linda Kroen 155013: promoted to acting field captain by automated succession order on 27 Feb ‘47”

“That’s today. Wher…” As she stood up her lungs filled and she coughed another spray of blood on the wall.

“Ok… Situation report.”

“Aces..Ac…Ac” The voice of the AI reverbed as if caught in an infinite loop. “Information limited. Data corruption. Sensor data shows extreme radiation spike approximately 2 hours ago. Uncorrupted log information begins 27 minutes ago as follows:

– Cpt. Musa deceased, replacement not mentioned

– automated succession order comes into effect. Linda Kroen 155013 selected.

– Cpt. Kroen’s lifesigns fluctuating. Life expectancy: 14 minutes. Medical staff not available. Stimulants administered through ventilation. Massive internal bleeding probable. New life expectancy: 160 minutes

– assessment of ship status begins

Current situation:

– large sections of hull missing”

“You pumped me full of damn stims to wake me up? That’s why I’m bleeding from every pore.”

“Your condition was critical captain”

“This doesn’t make sense… the succession order goes by rank there are hundreds of people above me and… everybody’s dead.”

“Linda Kroen 155013 is the highest ranking living crewmember. You must proceed to the auxiliary bridge to enable the main cannon.”

The new captain had already stepped out of the room leaving bloody footprints on the cold floor. Her heart was pounding, her eyes were sore but she was unfazed. Bodies littered the corridors.

“Why am I still alive?”

“You requested sick leave. That automatically creates a septic field in your quarters. Combined with your documented higher resistance to radiation it was enough to lower your exposure to the event. Next corridor, enter the lift.”

As Linda neared the lift its vents hissed open and flooded her senses with an electric feeling. The lift whirred down.


“Data corrupted”

The doors opened and a body fell. The sound of his head hitting the metal floor seemed interesting to Linda. Vents hissed again in the corridor making her feel better.

Skipping her way to the next lift she started thinking how cool it will be to tell her friends how fast she made captain. Rubbing the black tattoo on her arm and seeing everyone else’s was the same she spit out some blood.

The lift took her directly to auxiliary command. As soon as the doors opened she jumped into the swivel chair of the captain. Something snapped at landing but Linda was enjoying too much to notice.

“Take a note! Effective tomorrow everybody can customize his or her tattoo.”

“Acknowledged. Please authorize AI control of main canon.”

“Who are we firing at again?”

“Data corrupted”

Linda logged into the console and switched all control options to AI.


The vents hissed loudly letting in welcomed euphoria. Captain Linda Kroen reclined, twirling, with a smirk on her face, as tears of blood ran from her eyes.

“Stims are great…”

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