Author : Ian Rennie
I met a girl the other night while hopping. It was in some bar somewhere, and she must have been a local, because she was fascinated by my bracelet. It must have been a relatively close hop, because she spoke english in an accent that wasn’t too weird, but I was drunk enough that the details didn’t register.
Hopping is a great way to have a no strings night of fun. If you can afford the bracelet you just dial up somewhere random and make the jump. You can set parameters if you like, so it will always pick out somewhere where your currency is valid or whatever, or you can freewheel. It has the advantage that whatever happens in that reality stays in that reality, the consequences don’t follow you home unless you’re really unfortunate and you catch a dose of something that doesn’t exist where you came from.
She had skin like coffee just as the cream goes in, a gradient from rich dark skin to the wonderful paleness of the palms of her hands. We drank something amazing that tasted like minty cinnamon but had the aftertaste of warm honey, and when we made love we both came until we screamed. As I fell asleep beside her I was more perfectly happy than I had ever been.
The morning came, as mornings have a habit of doing, and I woke up before her. I went through the pantomime everyone does the morning after, and pulled on shirt and shoes in the scratchy silence of a blistering headache. I was going to wake her with a kiss, maybe get a morning reminder of the night before, when my bracelet beeped. I had to be at work in five minutes, so I buttoned up what I could and sent myself home. Half a second after I hit send, I realized what I’ve done.
One of the reasons hopping is so popular is that it really is anonymous. When you dial random coordinates in the bracelet, it does exactly what it says. You get somewhere entirely random. And once you go, it forgets all about where you’ve been. When I left without a word that morning, I left entirely, with no way to go back. And it was only after I’d hit the button that I understood how much I wanted to go back.
I’ve been trying to find her ever since. Theoretically, there are an infinite number of realities out there, but I’ve been narrowing as well as my memory will let me. Each night I go to the same bar, or as close to it as I can get, and I watch the girls on the dancefloor, looking for the one with skin like coffee, eyes like sunrise. I thought I saw her a few nights ago, but when I spoke to this girl, she had no idea who I was.
One day I’ll see her again. Our eyes will meet and she’ll know me. We’ll share glasses of something that tastes like minty cinnamon, and in the morning I’ll hear my bracelet beep and I’ll turn it off and stay here forever.
Author : W. Kevin Christian
A monotone, bureaucratic female voice shot through the hearing centers of Felicity’s brain: “Free-form imagination, courtesy of The Sensation Station. Free-form imagination, courtesy of The Sensation Station.” On and on it went until the computer had fully mapped the physical structure of her brain. Suddenly Felicity was walking through a wheat field where she grew up. The moon was full and orange. Hundreds of shooting stars rocketed across the night sky. One came down and slowly cruised by Felicity’s head, its tail leaving a trail of floating diamonds, glittering like fireworks.
The last and greatest vehicle of human creativity was a manually controlled artificial reality on the only entertainment device anyone cared about: The Sensation Station. All other entertainment had become obsolete seven years earlier.
In free-form imagination, what one thought became one’s reality. The possibilities were endless. Not even God himself knew the limits of the unbridled infinity of human creativity channeled through The Sensation Station. Of course most people just used it to have sex in a hot tub with movie star A. But Felicity was different.
Before The Sensation Station, Felicity had been a real book worm. She loved to escape to the vivid worlds she could manifest in her mind. She painted, too. She made sad, silly and fantastic paintings, full of vibrant, burning colors.
Felicity’s first artificial pleasure was imagining herself as the coldest she had ever been, naked and alone on the North Pole. She waited until she could bear it no more and then dumped herself into a hot shower. Felicity had saved the first five seconds of that shower and put it on repeat for hours. The computer daydreams were indescribable pleasure. Divine. Perfect. Satisfying. They had cost Felicity her job.
And her family, kids, home, and car. Right now she was sitting next to a dumpster behind a Denny’s where she had found an unguarded electrical socket to plug in. Her rail thin frame sat hunched against a filth-covered fence. She was dying. Two golf-ball-sized electrodes were attached to her temples with wires running down to a wallet-sized receiver that lay limply in her half-open palm. Drool ran down her chin. Blood trickled out her ears.
Something the creators of The Sensation Station had never anticipated was the ability of the technology to intensify consciousness. Felicity’s imagination was expanding at a frightening rate. Where once she had been satisfied to focus and repeat one good sensation, Felicity now combined hundreds, thousands, millions – the ecstasy of gods. There was no limit.
Felicity set her imagination for the heart of the universe. If God didn’t exist, she was about to create him. She flew up into the sky, into space, out of the solar system. Her perspective increased to a galactic level. The whole universe unfolded at the limitless command of her creativity. Somewhere inside she knew—she had always known—what it was to be a star, an ocean, a banker, a pulsar, a honey bee, a fry cook, a sonic boom, a mountain, a crying baby, a falling leaf, a cloud, a proton, an orgasm, a primal scream. Matter ended. Energy became infinite. Time was reformed. Somewhere in some fold of some reality a force of ten billion supernovas was released. A new universe was born.
Author : JT Heyman
You, who read this, remember us.
When the Senneela arrived, there was panic, at first. People forgot that. I mean, what would you expect when an eight foot saurian biped in silvery vacuum armor suddenly appears in the middle of the United Nations Security Council? The panic lasted for months.
Then the Senneela ambassador broadcast her apology to the nations of the world, offering a gift to show their remorse. They offered the cure to everything … every disease. Viral, bacterial, parasitic, it didn’t matter. The Senneela Cure changed human physiology so that disease was instantly defeated by the human’s own immune system. They even offered genetic resequencers to eliminate the genetically transmitted diseases.
There was a side effect, the ambassador warned. It would quadruple the human lifespan and change it. Childhood would be accelerated, the children achieving physical maturity in less than twelve years. And the detrimental effects of old age would be pushed off until after the person reached three hundred years, after which they would deteriorate rapidly, usually dying within two years. The world’s leaders laughed and said it was something we could live with.
The damned Senneela knew.
With their newfound immortality, people cashed out their retirement plans and the rest of the economy collapsed. As the population ballooned, resources dwindled. Mobs roamed the countryside like locusts, searching for food. Countries which were already overpopulated began spilling over into their neighbors’ lands. Armed vigilantes guarded the borders of the wealthier nations, killing illegal immigrants on sight.
The other shoe dropped when Pakistan launched nuclear weapons at India, claiming that India was using its higher birth rate to force a claim to the long disputed Punjab region. The weapons never detonated. The Senneela teleported every nuclear weapon on the planet away … “to prevent accidents,” they said.
After all, an exterminated human race was of no use to them. They needed us.
More than three hundred million lined up on the day the massive Senneela transport ships first arrived. Earth’s billions followed. Some ended up as servants to Senneela nobles. Most ended up as foot soldiers in an interstellar war. There are darker rumors of the uses to which some of the human volunteers have been put. For many humans, though, they decided it would be better to be well fed slaves than to starve as free humans.
Eventually, there were perhaps three hundred million souls left on Earth. With the removal of the population pressures, very few humans lined up willingly.
The Senneela refused to take “No” for an answer. Already, the continents of Australia and the Americas have been emptied. The Senneela are moving westward across Asia. Within, at a guess, three years, they’ll reach us here in Rome, where some of the world’s last brilliant scientists have been working feverishly, if you’ll forgive the pun.
You see, we’ve managed to reverse engineer the genetic resequencer and use it on The Senneela Cure. A group of us have been deliberately infected with a particularly virulent strain of … well … let’s just say it’s something nasty for which humans are just carriers but which, to Senneela, is invariably and swiftly fatal. We’re going to go volunteer to serve the Senneela. I’m sure we’ll be killed once the Senneela realize what we are but, by then, it will be too late. With luck, they’ll never get the chance to finish depopulating the Earth.
The human race will live, grow stronger and maybe even have an interstellar empire when we’re done.
Morituri te salutamus.
You, who read this, remember us.
Author : Ian Rennie
It was a crisp, clement evening. The air was fresh and new, and the gentle purple of the sky gave the scene a tranquil and poetic feel.
About five hundred people were gathered here, although similar groups were gathered all over the world, looking up at the sky and the far away stars. Despite the beauty of the night, there was a somber feel to events, as of serenity mingled with sorrow.
When the ceremony started, it did so gradually. The speaker did not rise on any prearranged signal, but instead did so on the feeling that the moment was right. A glance to the sky told him he had chosen correctly.
“We are gathered here in memory and in celebration. In memory of what happened one hundred and five years ago, and in celebration of what has been done since then. We are gathered ten years after the founding of our colony on this new world, to remember that which we lost.”
The crowd looked to him, and then to the sky, eyes focusing on a particular point.
“It took us ninety five years to get here, although to us it felt less than a week. The exodus took us past the light of our own departure, and for ten years we have been waiting for its arrival.”
All eyes were on the same spot. An astronomer could tell them it was a main sequence star, spectral classification G2V. They didn’t need to know this. They all knew what it was.
“Our mistakes cost us our world, and we have determined to do better here. Until tonight, we have worn this point of light as our mark of cain. From tonight, we will wear it as a reminder, a lesson learned.”
The point of light suddenly began to get brighter in the sky. Photons that had been travelling for more than a century suddenly arrived en masse and were captured by eyes that had leapfrogged the distance, overtaken the disaster they caused, and gathered here in memory.
“Friends, I give you the sun. Let’s do better this time.”
Author : Alla Hoffman
When he opened his eyes, it was a special kind of dark. The sky was a dull purple, and what light there was came from the ground beneath its stygian spread. He sat up stiffly in a sea of trash, a vast junkyard. Much of the scrap metal and rock glowed a sickly greenish color, and he didn’t want to think about why. Every part of him was aching, and the morning amnesia hadn’t fully faded. “The hell….” He stood, rubbing blearily at his eyes, and cursed when he realized his ankle couldn’t support his full weight. As he looked out across the abyssal dumping grounds, he put name to place, mainly because a dented sign creaked on a pole next to him. T. W. D. P. 13, Toxic Waste Disposal Planet 13. Recently made off-limits by the government, on grounds of contamination by hostile elements, the first time such a designation had been given to a trash planet. Then again, no one had ever created a self-maintaining, self-improving species of machines before. He’d known that was probably a bad idea, from the standpoint of personal safety.
He wondered how far they’d gotten in the 84 hours they’d been free. It had taken only 19 for them to make themselves known on the planets surface, 26 to be categorized as dangerous. It had taken the governing council another two days to find out who was responsible, but it had taken them only two hours to try and convict him. There had been talk of execution by various methods or imprisonment, but ultimately they decided on a more…unorthodox punishment. Their leniency had hinged on the fact he had created a species, not a weapon, to destroy this world. And after all, it was only a trash planet. Hardly a great loss to society. So they’d sent him to “live” with his own creations. If the radiation didn’t get him first.
He scrabbled around in the junk until he found a bent metal pole, and used it to pull himself up, stumping shakily forwards. He hadn’t yet figured out a plan for himself, but in the end it didn’t really matter. His big plan, the important one, was already inevitably in motion. The machines would begin to improve themselves, and god knew they weren’t short of materials, and soon they would construct weapons and flight. And spaceflight. And he hadn’t bothered to write hostility towards man into them, that was the beauty of it. They had only the biological imperative: survive, reproduce. Mankind would see to the hostility itself, as the robots spread and people became afraid. They would write their own end with their hostility and their fear. And their trash.
That’s what they were for, to provide the antidote to humanity. Ultimately, he hadn’t been supposed to survive either. He’d just wanted to watch. There were cliffs of wrecked ships in the distance, and he began making for them. They’d have a pretty good view. They were a good place to wait. He was glad he’d ended up here, in a way. He might not get to see the end, but he could watch the beginning. It seemed right that the next stage should start here, where humanity had started out so long ago, before it had gotten lost among the stars.