The Inspirer

Author : J. S. Kachelries

As Archimedes lowered himself into his bath, water lapped over the top edge and spilled onto the floor. “Damn it, you fool,” he cursed aloud, “You overfilled the tub again.”

“Not necessarily, master,” I pointed out. “It’s not too full; you just displaced too much water.”

“What’s that Jamicles? Are you saying that I am too FAT?”

“Not at all, master. I was merely pointing out that had your body been denser, you would have displaced less water.”

“Now I’ve got too much blubber, and not enough muscle, heh Jamicles?”

This was taking longer than I had anticipated. This is the third straight night the tub overflowed, and he still wasn’t getting it. “What I am saying, master, is that if you know the weight and density of an object, you should be able to predict the volume of water it will displace. That’s all.”

“What are you babbling about? Wait. That’s it. I’ve got it, I’ve got it.” Archimedes jumped out of the tub, and ran out the front door in his birthday suit, yelling to the townsfolk. As I faded out of this timeline, I could hear him proclaim, “Eureka, eureka…”

Later that day…

“Dmitri,” I said, “why do you insist on grouping them by multiples of atomic weight? Other scientists have already tried that. There has to be a simpler way to arrange them.”

Dmitri Mendeleev looked down at the 63 pieces of paper spread across his kitchen table. Each piece contained the name of a known element. “Perhaps you are right, Jiminka. I am getting tired anyway. I give up. I think I will head off to bed.”

“Ah, before you go, Dmitri, let’s play a game. You know, just to help you relax, before you go to sleep.”

“What kind of game?”

“It’s a type of card game. Something I played as a child. It’s called ‘Concentration’.”

“How is it played?”

“We can use these pieces of paper. We’ll put them in the middle of the table, face down. Then we take turns flipping them over, two at a time. If they match, you put them in front of you. The person with the most matches at the end wins.”

“Match? Match, how? They are all different.”

“Yes, obviously. But, Dmitri, some of these elements must have something in common. Something that will make them appear similar in some way?”

“Well, sure. For example, sodium and potassium bond very strongly to chlorine or bromine. I guess we could group them by similarity of properties.”

“Great. That works for me. You can go first.”

After four hours of intense concentration, Dmitri was exhausted. “I must go to bed, my friend. I played this new game so long; I’ll be dreaming about chemical similarities all night. Do you mind showing yourself out?”

“Not at all, Dmitri.” I rose from my seat and headed toward the door to start my next mission. On my way out, I picked up a piece of fruit from a basket next to the door. “Dmitri, I have a long trip ahead of me. I’m going to a farm in Lincolnshire, England. Mind if I take an apple?”

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In Memory of Persistence

Author : Duncan Shields

I’d like to remember her the way most ex-boyfriends remember their exes. That is to say, when I’m drunk and missing her, I want to remember that space right under her ear, her easy smile, and that way that she’d hiccup if she laughed too much. When I’m angry at her and hurt, I want to remember that time she kissed the bouncer just to piss me off or how she’d constantly complain no matter how awesome our life was.

Instead, all I can remember is her left hand in the sunlight, hanging out the car window on August 22nd.

I don’t see her face in the memory. I can feel my ear pressed against her chest.

I think the wipers weren’t top of the line. Maybe their schedule had been just that little bit too tight. That little fragment of her hand in the sun had slipped through their nets. I wondered if there were anymore. It’s hard to search for memories that may have been missed during an erasure solely because they had been misfiled. I mean, where did you accidentally put them?

Was the time you wiped strawberry juice off of her unbuttoned white blouse filed under ‘stain removal’ somewhere in your head? Were her instructions on how to get to that store on fifth that sold the cheap eels filed under ‘maps’ and never looked at again?

I like to just let my mind wander and see if it comes across something that stands out by not standing out. I wouldn’t know it if I found a picture of her face. I wouldn’t know it if I remembered a few seconds of her speaking. The only way I’d know is if I had no idea who that person was.

Not knowing her would be the only clue that she might be the woman that I lost.

Sorry, the woman that was taken from me.

Even if it was a cheap rush job, it was still miles away from a bank account like mine. I figure her daddy must have been rich and didn’t want me following her. His little girl had been slumming with me. I had no idea why he didn’t just take her away and shoot me in the leg or something but maybe he had. Maybe he’d tried to take her away a few times before.

Maybe this was the only option left to him. If he could afford a wipe on a gutter rat like me, well, I must have been tenacious and he must have been obscenely rich.

I think the ring on her finger in the memory I keep looking at is an engagement ring. I see its lazy arc up into the sunlight before the flash of light again and it’s over.

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Decommissioned

Author : Michael Herbaugh a.k.a. “Freeman”

I’m sitting

That’s my first thought

I can’t move my hands

That’s the next thought. Then like a lightning bolt, I’m fully conscious. I know where I am and I know why I am here.

“WAIT! I can prove I’m human! When I’m in bed I can’t sleep unless I have three points tucked in. Between my legs, under my shoulder and under the opposite arm. Surely, that’s something human? I’m human, you can’t kill me”

“All skin jobs think that.” The voice came from the darkness to my right. “See it’s genetic memory, you can’t help it. Your host had that predisposition so it’s been passed to you. It doesn’t change what you are.”

“But, I know I’m human! I bleed like everyone else, I feel, I think!”

“Look, kid. I didn’t wait for you to wake up so we can debate this. I just don’t like decommissioning skin jobs while they’re unconscious.”

He levels the gun to my forehead.

“THIS IS NOT HOW THINGS GO IN MY DREAMS! THEY…”

The plea was cut short by the gunshot’s thunderous finality.

“Wait, did he say drea…….?”

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Robbie's Repair

Author : Selena Thomason

Robbie woke to find himself in a strange room.

A man appeared at his side. “How are you feeling?” he asked, placing a hand on Robbie’s metal shoulder.

“Strange,” Robbie replied slowly.

“Do you know who I am?”

“No.”

“It’s not surprising you don’t remember me. I’m Dr. Vartan. Do you remember your name?”

Robbie thought it an odd question. “Of course. I am Robbie.”

“Interesting. I have long postulated that some knowledge was stored diffusely. Perhaps the upside of the accident is that I finally have some proof for my theory.”

“Accident?” Robbie had asked the question idly, but before the doctor could respond Robbie noticed a gaping hole in his silver, box-like chest. He reached a hand towards the strange sight. “What happened to me?” he exclaimed as fingers fell into the emptiness of his torso. “My…” Words failed him. “Where is it?”

Dr. Vartan gently pulled Robbie’s hand away from the wound. “It’s okay.”

“But it shouldn’t be…why is it black?”

“Don’t panic.” Dr. Vartan reached to a nearby table and pulled a sheet of thin metal off a roll. He placed the piece over Robbie’s wound and taped it in place. “There, is that better?”

Robbie inspected his torso. It was wholly silver now, as it should be, even though the patch was a different texture. He moved to touch the new skin.

“Careful. Don’t push on it. It’s only a temporary fix.”

The black gone, Robbie felt calmer. “What happened to me?”

“During your last programming upgrade a virus slipped past the sensors. We didn’t notice it until you developed aphasia.”

Robbie couldn’t make sense of the odd word.

“It means you would get your words mixed up, like if you meant ‘door,’ you would say ‘chair’.”

Robbie thought that would make being understood very difficult indeed.

“But we can fix it. We just had to remove your main memory so that we could remove the virus and repair the damage. We’re almost finished. It won’t be long now.”

“But I remember some things. I remember my name.”

“Yes, that is worth further study. I think you must be functioning on the fail-safe programming that is hard-coded into your network, plus a few memories that must be stored somewhere other than main memory. Frankly I’m not sure how you are functioning as well as you are.”

Another man came into the room, carrying a small package. “Here it is, Doc. Good as new.”

Vartan took the box and turned to Robbie. “Are you ready to have your main memory back?”

“Yes, please. I would like to remember my last birthday.”

Vartan peeled back the aluminum foil and replaced Robbie’s memory.

Robbie’s head jerked momentarily as the replaced memory caused his system to reboot. Then he looked again at Vartan.

“Doctor, thank you for your assistance. I feel much better now.”

“And your last birthday?”

“We went to the zoo. I especially liked the tigers. They were magnificent.”

“Yes, Robbie, they were.”

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The Sounds of Music

Author : Kaj Sotala

On the remote planet of Niere IV, countless minds were constantly being played for a vast audience of listeners. Deep within the planet’s crust, the brains were enclosed in immense suprasteel vaults, floating in vast chambers of nutrient liquid. Protected day and night by thousands of fanatic warrior-monks, the brains bristled with wires, electrodes implanted near every center of thought or emotion. They had been stripped from all their sensing organs but with their mind’s eyes they still saw, the electric pulses dancing through them stimulating countless thoughts and memories.

Highest of all among the planet’s inhabitants were the composers, the black-suited aliens who’d dedicated their lives to their Art. Their intellect genetically and cybernetically enhanced, they sat fused to their giant keyboards, surrounded on all sides by black and white keys. With six arms and eight fingers on each, their thoughts and ideas would dance on the keyboards faster than any human could even imagine. The vast screens and speakers in their chambers lay dead – once they had needed them, but no more. By now they knew by heart the effect of each key, could even in their dreams name which press stimulated which electrode in which brain.

It was in the concert halls near the planet’s surface that the music would be heard. The chaotic patterns of neuronal firing in the brains being constantly recorded and reinterpreted into sounds in real time, played on all imaginable spectrums of hearing. The concert halls were the best places to listen, but they were not the only ones – all of the world’s surface was lined with speakers, so no inch of the barren world would miss the sensation of music. Few souls lived aboveground, with the entire civilization of the world living under the ground maintaining the machines and the music. They would not hear the sounds, nor did they care to – they were but humble caretakers of the Art, guardians of a holy process far more important than themselves. The vast concert halls lay nearly empty, the rocks of the surface being close to the only listeners of the songs.

Occasionally visitors from other worlds arrived, attracted by the harmonies constantly being fired off into space by radio arrays powered by a thousand fusion generators. They were all led to the concert halls to listen, to stay for as long as they’d like and to leave freely whenever they so felt. Most of them left eventually, but few of them went unchanged, all strangely touched by the eerie and unique melodies of Niere IV. An even smaller group chose to stay, choosing to join their souls into the Art and subject themselves into the surgeons’ knives. One by one they were transformed into instruments of the Sacred Music, to have electrodes inserted into them and be used as the composers willed.

Can there be any sacrifice holier than that?

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