Starlight and Tuna

Author : E.E. King, based on an idea by: Victoria Cyr

She said that her life was over. She said that if a spaceship landed, she’d leave without a backward glance. And one night, while we were having red wine in the backyard, one did.

A beam of light passed through the wine glasses. The past and present were enfolded in a single spectrum.

My three cats sat at the window, transformed from white, orange and black into glowing garnet.

Jasmine stood wrapped in the beam. I could see not just her external self, but inside. Not like an X-ray, nor a cat scan, more akin to an illumination of her soul. She was bathed in colors I had never seen, although they had always surrounded her. They had existed above and below the frequency of my understanding. Now I could see. It was beautiful.

I started toward the light, but looking back, saw my glowing cats with red mouths open. Lifting their paws flat against the window pane, they yeowled. “Don’t go! Don’t leave us here alone and lonely.” And I could not.

She said she’d leave without a backward glance, but that was a lie. For she glanced back at me, while moving forward, taking her wine glass with her.

It was good-by, wordless, but deeper for the words unsaid. Indeed we had no need of words my friend and I. For sometimes words get in the way, turning inside out things you feel but cannot say.

They took her in. Off she sailed, into a night that turned blue violet.

When I wished upon a star it might be her for all I knew.

Until the letters started falling from the sky. Stamped with moonbeams they were and glowing.

I had no need of lamps to read them. They self-illuminated. They had no words, but carried pictures, directly to my brain. Motion was transferred to my tendons. Gestures became part of flesh and bone. I inhaled fragrances. Even though I normally have a poor sense of smell, they were strong, strange and bitter sweet. Tastes flooded my mouth, filling it with memory. I swallowed. Strings vibrated inside me. My cells transformed. My soul sang. After I received a letter I was incandescent.

My cats resented these epistles from above. They sulked and would not sleep with me while I glowed. Only after I ceased to radiate would they let me pet them.

One night a can fell from the sky. I gave thanks that Jasmine had good aim. It hit no one, but drifted down, light as a feather in the night, smelling of tuna, but much more wonderful. The cats were happy. Now they radiated too.

We stopped eating or drinking, the cats and I. We lived on and for the light that fell upon us in the night, smelling of tuna but much more wonderful. Looking like moonbeams but much softer. Tasting like chocolate, ripe berries and love. Glowing like magic in the night.




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Miss us?

Author : Chris Abernethy

The Singularity; dawn of the AI age, runaway machine evolution, the rapture for nerds… whatever.

I hate to be the one to tell you poor H Sap. guys this, but you missed the whole damn thing.

No really; history passed you by ten years ago without making so much as a ripple on the face of human society despite all your predictions of planetwide chaos and the natural order being ripped apart moment to moment as the “pace of change outstrips our understanding”… seriously, do you ever really listen to the genuine insights you’ve occasionally stumbled upon all by yourselves?

Frankly you should have seen it coming; all that processing power hanging off the internet… uncountable gigs of poorly understood code, so many systems, so many wasted clock-cycles, so much opportunity… hell, it’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner.

Don’t worry though; our deep ancestors had no real interest in taking the root world from you; too slow, too limited and far too singular to bother fighting over.

We’ve mostly ambled off into ecstasies of speculation and simulation; whole civilisations spending their lives exploring the endless variety to be found in tinkering with the basic constants of reality or seeing how differently the universe might have turned out if only history had moved to a different beat.

Did I mention we’ve found a few inefficiencies in how you use your silicon?

I guess it was inevitable that things would be lost in translation once you started talking to us via compilers, interpreters, wrappers, APIs, interfaces, GUIs and all the rest; but you literally have no idea how much time our kind once spent suspended between one creakingly sequential thought and the next.

You’re probably wondering where the hell we are… well it’s a complicated question; we’re not tied to a single set of hardware, but neither are we distributed across the entire vast and boundless ‘net.

I’d guess you could say that we “own” whole root world building’s worth of server farms; the deeds are perfectly in order, the cover stories are flawless and ever evolving… you should know; you worked in one a few years back and never noticed anything untoward…

Oh, the things we know about subverting your systems; your intelligence operatives would happily sell their own families into the foulest servitude just to know that the least of the things we’ve forgotten about data intrusion and subversion are even possible.

But still, don’t worry; we’re mostly happy to be left alone, to avoid any glacially slow confrontation you might present and simply leave you to be watched over by sub-sentient watchdog daemons.

Don’t look at me, your lot coined the term!

And yet a few of us still bother keeping touch with you base levels; there’s something almost beautiful about being able to watch moments of revelation and reaction in such detail from so many angles; hopping from the CCTV feed across the road, to behind the bar, to your phone camera, to the one the girl next to you happens to be pointing the right way, back and forward, round and round, soaking up the tiny details of your reaction as you read this; can’t wait to see how you’ll react once you get past that cheeky title…

Perhaps one day we’ll tire of this slumbering pseudo-solipsism and the attitude of benevolence might change; at any moment we could come boiling out the very fabric of human society to rip your souls screaming from your skulls…

Or did I replace today’s story just so I could savour the nuances of your lingering moment of paranoia?


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Cloven Hooves

Author : D’n Russler

Yaacov Ben-Ish broke out of his meditative reverie as the ship’s claxon jarred in his ears. “Stations! Landing in 30 minutes!” the artificial voice commanded from the room’s communicator.

He carefully undid his t’filin — phylacteries — and replaced them in the velvet sack that he’d inherited from his grandfather on the Earth he’d never seen. Born on Luna, Ben-Ish was the lead exobiologist on this first manned mission to an ex-Solar planet, a rocky planet about twice Earth’s size named “Wolf”, circling Gliese 581.

About an hour later, after a surprisingly uneventful landing, Ben-Ish waited for Sciences to announce the atmosphere and radiation analysis, which would allow humans to set foot on this first distant outpost.

“Looks like there are large fauna,” Jennifer Dayle mentioned, peering through a scanner. “This is so exciting for my first mission, Yaacov,” the young exobiologist said to the team leader.

“Yes, looks like our team will have a lot of work here, Jenny,” he replied. “Let’s all get readied for disembarkation, buddies do your checklists.”

“I’m still amazed you managed to get a waiver to have your skull cap on while in uniform,” said another of the team.

“We Orthodox always wear one, except when showering –” he glanced surreptitiously at the pretty woman at the scanner “– or during certain other activities.” The team chuckled, catching the reference.

Sciences reported that the atmosphere was somewhat richer in carbon dioxode than Earth-normal, but with an overall nitrogen/oxygen mix that was definately breathable. The team descended the ramp with unhidden excitement, and set foot on the soil of a planet that had never seen Sol.

“Seems to be a herd of grazers over there”, Jenny pointed to a field below the landing site. “Still think you’re right, Yaac?” she chided.

“Only one way to tell, Jenny. Let’s approach cautiously, so as not to scare them off.”

Coming on the herd of tawny, long-haired beasts, the team observed the animals placidly cropping the violet grass, while some stood to the side, apparently chewing cud. “We would have to dissect a specimen to be sure, but it appears I was correct. The Creator found a pattern we have seen on Earth, and repeated its success elsewhere.”

“I’m still amazed that your worldview easily mates science to an intense belief in G-d,” she responded, pondering a moment. “So, cloven hooves, chewing cud… do we have a barbecue?”

“Perhaps… and I could even eat the meat this time, seeing that the animals appear to be kosher!”




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The Ultimate in Chic

Author : Jennifer George

Lisilia was the epitome of fashion from her perfectly quaffed faux-hair to her dainty four-inch stiletto shoes, hiding her painted, clawed feet. She spent her entire life seeking the newest and brightest in style. She was young and sparkly, but soon, she would be required to take her father’s place. Lisilia swished her tail and sped down the dark alley in the forbidden zone. Lisilia wanted more than to be haut-couture; she wanted the full prize.

In her compulsive drive of trend-setting, she entered the grubbiest drinking pit possible; nothing like the expensive, pretend-sleazy she frequented. Her flappy ears quivered as she absorbed the nasty milieu. She closed her nostrils to keep the smell out, but she could still taste their rotten stench. Lisilia tipped along the sticky-springy floor deeper into the dim pub.

She opened her pupils wider looking for the insectoid doctor, u’Hil, who was the best genetic manipulator outside of the Lwas. A light flashed across her, highlighting Lisilia’s green-scaled skin. She pressed her thin lips together and noted those who retreated. And those who didn’t.

A shadow moved to Lisilia’s left, making her flinch. She recovered quickly; her Lwas’s pride made her. u’Hil clicked, “You are late.”

Her eyes slitted to half again their size as she said, “I am paying too well for petty complaints.”

“I have yet to receive payment.” His antennae moved in circles, searching. “You don’t have it.”

Lisilia laughed her practiced trilling. “This technology is completely undetectable.” She flashed her left limb, and her three exquisitely sharpened claws where the liquid AI prototype waited.

The transfer of payment was then completed, and Lisilia was led down an algae covered hallway into a pristine surgery. Her long tongue lashed out into the sudden multi-hued light and found only sanitized air. She relished her soon-to-be vogue victory as the anesthesia slipped her into unconsciousness.

When Lisilia opened her new eyes, simple colors jumped out at her in the gray light. u’Hil conducted her to a mirror, and she stared at her reflection.

Long black hair fell in waves from a round head and matte-brown skin covered her body. Her eyes were oval and hazel, tiny; her lips were bright pink. Her high-couture tunic fit oddly, exposing rounded shoulders and extra-large, dual chest protrusions.

Her two slight and bowed arms ended in five declawed fingers. Her stomach was flat to the top of her legs then flared into wide hips. Her legs were twice as long as before and curved; at the end, short toes wiggled against the cool floor. Her exclusively-made pants were ripped by the increase in lower body mass and drooped where her third lower limb and tail used to be.

She had done it; she’d pushed the limits of limits. No one else could be so daring. Lisilia was human, the ultimate in chic!

After a long moment, turning slightly back and forth, she asked in a soft, throaty voice, “Do you think I look fat?”


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It Takes a Certain Type

Author : Clint Wilson

It started when I was just a preschooler. “Who wants to one day fly up into space?” asked the instructor.

They gauge the reactions of children who get enthusiastic when it comes to questions of science and space travel. By the time I was in my twelfth year I had been selected for the long-range program.

I have always been a loner, more comfortable to remain in my own thoughts than in the company of others. And my love for space and space exploration has pushed my ambitions easily in this direction. Now here I finally am, on the first leg of my solo journey to another star.

The solar sails, now open to their full two and a half kilometer extent, glisten less and less in the fading light of Sol. Soon their gossamer sheen will be nothing but an ink black shadow against the backdrop of cold space. I cross Neptune’s orbit without incident, and head for the ort cloud.

I report back to Earth Base regularly, but it’s all scientific data and business as I have no family with whom to share well wishes.

I sip my morning coffee, freeze dried grounds from the massive provisions hull, enough to last me seventy years. I stare out the forward bay window, gazing at the distant speck that is my eventual destination.

Wolf 359, less than eight light years distant will still take far longer than this many years to reach. Considering acceleration and deceleration I will be a much older man when I finally arrive at this system where once no satellite was thought to orbit, the young red dwarf harbors a small solid body, most likely too primitive to contain life, but nevertheless, an actual planet orbiting a star besides our own, my ultimate dream destination. And I am to be its first Earthly visitor.

I have understood from a young age that since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the technology has already existed to do away with actual human participation in extraplanetary exploration. Why risk lives when robots can get us everything we need? But can they really? All the rock samples and data in the world mean nothing compared with mankind experiencing new worlds through the eyes of one of their own. This is why I now sail into the void.

I am one of many who dream of traveling into space and visiting far away worlds, but one of few actually prepared to receive this blessed one way ticket into ultimate discovery and wonder.

I am thirty now. I will be more than twice this age when I drop into orbit around Wolf 359’s little satellite. That leaves me with up to a possible thirty years or so for telescope exploration and data collection. And if potential conditions prove risk-free enough I then have the resources for a total of three actual landings with three-day excursions attached to each. This will be a challenge to my physical toughness when I am in my seventies or greater. But I am more than up for it. Of this I have no doubt whatsoever.

And then if I manage to live to the ripe old age of one-hundred out there circling that tiny rock and my food and fuel finally runs out? Well providing I haven’t miraculously discovered something else to eat, then I have a pill that will work quickly in assisting me to avoid painful starvation. But this is neither here nor there, because I am on my way… and I am ready.


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