Author: Ken Poyner
I do not know what I want to be today. The people who serendipitously gave me the ability to wrap ambient electromagnetism around my DNA and in seconds remake my body thought I would have a natural state, some pleasant default configuration that I would be most comfortable with. But it is all comfortable. Once my juiced DNA re-forms my body, whatever shape it is in it is still my body. Once the cells conform to the modified DNA, it is all natural.
Of course, the mental toll is the part that they did not think about.
Simply because you can do a thing, it does not make it normal or moral to do it. Take, for example, the application of bodily functions in different physiologies. For me, the whole concept of most bodily functions is transactional. Eating, elimination, sex all have more blended meanings than for uniform beings like you. Sometimes more nuanced, sometimes less. In some forms, the concept of some bodily functions does not exist at all.
When you can be anything you want to be, you have a lot to consider: what sensations and apprehensions in one form or another will you be giving up, what you will be gaining? How will it affect those around you? Imagine my wife’s surprise when mid-intimacy I suddenly changed gender the first time. Or when I decided to be with her an entirely different animal altogether. I think she wants to become a shapeshifter, too, just to dole out to me some keenly plotted emotional revenge, or maybe even gratitude.
Yes, there are already real consequences. I seldom enjoy a meal. Smells when I am in some forms are solid, sometimes a crusade of liberated colors, sometimes a fresh punch in the gut. Sometimes I have enjoyed more being a fly feasting on discards than a man retching down the formal dinner that produced those discards. You can get philosophical about it, but the reality is practical.
And none of this is your problem. You put four dollars into the slot, tell me what beast, chimera, or celebrity you want me to be. I will do my best. No guarantees. But you should hurry. I am coming to the end of my shift and the next shapeshifter scheduled for duty at this attraction is not so pleasant, and less concerned than I with accuracy. In me, you have the true professional, a principled member of my indeterminant lot. Put the plasticity of me to work entertaining the best, or worst, of your imagination.
And I do take tips.
Author: Arun Bahari
It has been four months since Mary came from her reality to this reality. The migration between alternate realities was legalized last year. There are two laws for migration. First, your alternate version should be dead, and second, you can not go to the reality where you don’t exist. These laws help for identity purposes and keeping the realities intact. Her version in this reality has died in a car accident. Her mother is dead in her previous reality, so she came here where mother’s alive.
She looks at her mother. She has seen her mother dead for a year and was devastated then. It is a second chance for her to be with her mother. In her previous reality, she had a fight with her mother just before her death. She feels guilty.
Her phone chimes. She unlocks it and sees the bold headline.
‘MASS MIGRATION DUE TO ALIEN ATTACK’.
She clicks on it to read the full news.
” Multiple realities have been attacked by hostile and powerful aliens called Naites. There are refugees coming from these realities. The department of migration is overcrowding.”
There is a knock on the door.
She opens the door and is shocked to see a woman exactly like her on the other side. It feels as if she is looking through a mirror.
A few moments of silence pass between the two.
I’m Mary,” the woman says. I am from another reality.
I know……I know come on in.
Her mother is so shocked at seeing two women exactly like her daughter it looks like she’ll have a heart attack. The other Mary has come alone, maybe no boyfriend or mother for her too.
Mom doesn’t know what to say.
Other Mary sits on the sofa.
We can’t meet or be seen together it’s against the law,” she says.
Don’t worry, due to overcrowding at the department of migration I am allowed to stay with you if it’s okay with you till a reality to my specifications can be found.
Now I understand why we can’t meet with our alternate selves, It’s awkward,” She tells herself.
A couple of days later she is talking like old friends with other Mary. It’s easier to talk with her as it feels like she is talking to herself. Even mother has become comfortable with her.
I’m an actress,” other Mary says.
She remembers her high school years when she wanted to be an actress but didn’t take that path. The idea was still in her mind. The choice which she didn’t make in the past was standing in front of her. She wonders if she is also a product of a previous choice not taken. Every alternate self from the best to worst exists and the best is in front of her where she is doing what she loves. She is feeling jealous of herself.
On the day other Mary has to leave them she says to Mary,” I know you feel a little down for not being the best version of yourself. But you have something I don’t have, a mother.
But you can migrate to a reality where mom’s not dead.
The thing is I can only go to those realities where I am an actress but mom has died in every reality where I am an actress,” other Mary says.
Anyway, what I meant by it is that everyone has lost something and for me, you are the best version. If you want we can change places.
Other Mary crosses the street and gets lost in a crowd.
Author: David Henson
I extend my personal force shield to encompass the cart when I get inside the grocery store. Heading for the bread aisle, I push a little too close to a woman. Our shields glow slightly when they graze, and we squeeze past each other like two giant soap bubbles. The woman shoots me a dirty look. I say “Sorry” even though I know she can’t hear me.
I open my portal and pull a loaf of rye into my cart then make my way around the store and down my list till all that’s left are immunity tablets for Martha. I find they’re out of the ones she swears by. There are other brands, but I don’t know which she’d prefer. The aisle is empty so I figure it’s safe to make a quick call and lower my shield. Just as Martha says hello, there’s a blood-curdling sound from the next aisle. A sneeze. I reactivate my shield, which cuts my connection with Martha.
I storm around the endcap, go to the only guy in the aisle, type Jerk on my phone and show him my screen.
He screens back: Apologies. Allergies. Not sick.
Activate your shield, Jerk.
I’m about to screen him an image of the backside of a donkey when I see a burly security guard approaching. I wheel around and head for the checkout.
Once in the car, I lower my shield, call Martha and explain what happened. She gasps when I tell her about the sneeze. I assure her I protected myself in time and tell her I’ll call again from the garage so she can shield-up before I walk in.
… Martha greets me at the door and holds up her phone with an image of lips on the screen. I screen lips back, and we put our phones as close together as our shields allow. Then I go to the UV cabinet, open my portal, and unload the groceries.
We sit back to back, our open portals pointing away from each other, and eat dinner in silence. I think we should start eating in the tv room, where we can see and talk to each other at the same time.
… After I’ve activated the room divider shield, the only one we can afford, we turn off our personal shields. “Hello, Sexy.” Martha’s voice crackles through the hard-wired intercom. She points the remote at the TV.
“Let’s not watch the news tonight,” I say. “Too depressing. Would you mind if we just talk?”
We chat about everything and nothing. Video coms are OK, but being able to see Martha’s face in person — almost in person — as I hear her voice has become one of the great joys of my life.
A couple of hours later, my wife yawns and says she’s going to bed. When we’ve both reactivated our personal shields, I turn off the room divider.
… After Martha finishes in the bathroom, I take my turn then make my way, by the soft glow of my force shield, down the dark hallway. When I get to our bed, Martha pulls back the covers. She’s naked, her body seeming to shimmer within her shield. Her portal is open. I open mine and, with some contorting, we align them as needed. It’s a risk, but one we’re willing to take.
When we’re done. Martha holds her phone to her shield and screens me a heart. I screen one back to her, close my eyes, and try to sleep.
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.