One in a Trillion

Author : Josh Romond

“One more time. CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?”

“Ugh, would you please STOP already?”


“Did it ever occur to you that simply no one’s interested in what you have to say?”

“You can hear me! You can hear my thoughts!”

“For quite some time now, actually. You’ve practically been on non-stop broadcast since you figured this little trick out.”

“Why didn’t you ever respond?”

“We don’t have much in common.”

“Oh. What’s your name?”

“Believe it or not I actually have more important things to do at the moment, so if you don’t mind…”

“What are you doing?”

“…None of your business. Now, really.”

“I-I’m sorry.”


“It’s just that being surrounded by people’s thoughts night and day is just so terribly… lonely.”


“I was giving up hope that I’d ever find anyone to talk to. Anyone who understands. I was beginning to think about, you know, ending it all.”

“Yes, that’s sort of what we hoped.”



“’We?’ You know others?”


“How many of us are there?”

“Well, counting you, five.”

“Five? That’s it? Five?”

“One in a trillion, love.”

“Where are you from?”

“No where near you, I’m sure.”

“But I bet I know it! I love to study charts and maps and that kind of stuff.”

“Is that so? Well, I only know the local name so I suppose I’ll just have to sift through your vast pile of cartographic ‘stuff’ for one you’ll recognize. Pardon me.”

“What? Uh, ah! AH!”

“You’re really making this quite difficult.”


“Ah, here we are.”

“How… how’d you do that? Go into my memories?”

“Figure it out for yourself. Now… oh. Oh my.”


“It seems we’re practically… neighbors.”

“REALLY? You’re from Connecticut?”

“Never heard of it. According to your brain I’m from M33.”


“Yes, galaxy M33.”


“About forty-five degrees antispinward of galactic north to be precise.”


“The local name is a tad more eloquent believe it or not.”


“Now if you’ll excuse me I must get back to work. Go find someone else to bother, won’t you love?”

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The Panhandler

Author : Benjamin Fischer

“Begging,” and the cop practically spat the word, “is not allowed in Silver City.”

Nelson grinned and shook his plastic cup. It jingled, filled with a motley collection of transit tokens, poker chips, and low-end credit vouchers.

The cop growled at him.

“If you’re saying it’s illegal, I’m saying you’re wrong,” Nelson replied.

They were standing in the broad triangular promenade between the monorail station, the newly obsolete spaceport and the quarantine houses that guarded the entrance to Silver City proper. A sparsely forested park lay at the center of the public space, a place to lay down and rest for those who had time to kill while waiting for the next train to the Golden Crater, the city of Copernicus, or points more exotic.

The Silver City cop had caught Nelson making a circuit amongst those weary travelers.

“Where’s your sense of civic pride?” she asked him.

“Why should I have civic pride for a city that won’t let me in?” Nelson countered.

The frown on the cop’s face invited more words.

“Sure, I can get scrubbed and shaved, exfoliated and flushed out. But I happen to like my lice and the little beasties in my large intestine. Maybe they’re my damn pets, or maybe I don’t like being told what to do. This is Luna, God bless it, and no man can tell me what to do here!”

By this time Nelson was gesturing wildly, his eyes glancing around for an absent applause.

The cop sighed.

“Do you need food? Shelter?” she asked. “There’s plenty both at the port, if you’re willing to work.”

“Any man who surrenders his liberty for temporary security deserves neither!” Nelson shouted.

“I’ve heard that one before,” the cop said.

“You should have! It’s only the creed that all good Lunies live by!” said Nelson.

“I can think of a hundred thousand good Lunies who don’t want you begging on their doorstep,” the cop replied.

“And so you’ll do what?” asked Nelson. “Muscle me out of the city? Or out of an airlock? Your so-called civic pride won’t allow that. Or will it?”

The cop shrugged. She stepped away, muttering to herself and speaking through a throat mike.

Nelson smiled and resumed his rounds.

“How’s it going, how’s it going?” he would ask. “Spare credit? Spare credit?”

Some ignored him, a few yelled at him, many gave just out of the sheer brash novelty of a panhandler here, on Luna.

But the next day there were a half dozen panhandlers in the promenade, all of them suspiciously clean cut and antiseptic.

Nelson told jokes, got louder, and hung out directly at the doors of the monorail station.

The day beyond that the other beggars told better jokes, played musical instruments, and several were already camped out at the station doors before he woke.

On the third day Nelson cashed his tokens and took the train to Copernicus.

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Author : Patrica Stewart

The little boy was sitting in a chair that was clearly designed for an adult. His feet, which didn’t quite reach the floor, swayed back and forth like two tiny crisscrossing pendulums. His arms were wrapped tightly around some sort of red stuffed animal as his saucer-like eyes darted around the interior of the spaceport. His eyes finally came to rest on a man wearing a uniform sitting across from him. Comforted by an official looking adult, the little boy smiled sheepishly.

Captain Pluvia smiled back. “Hi there, buddy. Is this your first trip to the asteroid belt?”

“Yes, mister. This is the first time in my whole life that I ever even left Mars. But I’m a little scared that the spaceship might crash.” He looked down. “But, Daddy says we have to leave. It’s not safe to live here any more.”

“You don’t need to be scared, son. You know, I’ll be flying the ship, and I’m the best pilot in the entire universe. I’ve flown this ol’ ship at least a thousand times. I’ll make sure you get there safely. And don’t be sad about leavin’ Mars. You’re gonna love it on Vista. The gravity is so low that you can practically float. There’s hundreds of kids your age there already. You’ll have so much fun, you’ll forget all about Mars.” He stood up and grabbed his flight bag. “Well, buddy, I have to get ready for liftoff. But listen, if you get scared during the trip, you just tell the flight attendant that you’re a personal friend of the Captain, and to come get me, OK. There’s no need to worry. I’ll take good care of you.” As the Captain started to walk away, he noticed that the boy had relaxed his vise-like grip on his stuffed animal, and his smile became broader, and a lot less apprehensive. Captain Pluvia wished that it were always that easy. As he headed toward the bridge, he thought about how desperate their situation really was. The chance of long term survival on Vista was very slim. But, hell, a slim chance is better than none, right.

As the ship lifted off from the surface of Mars, the captain stared at the dry, barren landscape through the view port. It seemed that the tan colored rocks were turning a little redder every trip. The surface water on Mars had disappeared centuries ago. They’ve been living underground for generations, conserving what little water could be extracted from the permafrost, and recycling every precious drop. But it was a losing battle, and everyone knew it. They’d all have to leave Mars. They started establishing settlements on the asteroids, or the moons of the large planets, wherever water was available. The evacuations were almost complete, but the hardships were just beginning. The refugees would have to survive for thousands of years in their remote outposts, until the third planet cooled enough to start the rain cycle. The scientists say that the third planet is still too young, too volcanic, and too hot to live on. But, hopefully, when it settles down in a few thousand years, it will become a paradise, like Mars was centuries ago. It will have lakes, and rivers, and oceans. And rain! Captain Pluvia had never seen rain, just read about it. He could only imagine what it would be like to stand outside when it rained. Water, falling from the sky, like a gigantic, cold shower. Tiny droplets, splashing off his upturned face, running down his antennae, and collecting in his pouch. He knew that he’d never live to experience rain. But maybe, with a lot of luck and perseverance, his descendants might survive long enough to relocate to the third planet. A very, very slim chance, perhaps, but it’s better than no chance at all.

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Confessions of a Cannibal Sun

Author : Joshua Reynolds

A little flare.

Just a flash on the other side of the sun, our sun, and it was gone.

That was when we knew it had escaped.

We made it in a generator the size of a grown man’s thumb. Just a little thing, a little spark. But it was a hungry thing nonetheless. We fed it fire at first, spoon-fed it on lit matches and glow-sticks. It ate light and drank heat at a prodigious rate. Like an infant at its mother’s teat.

It’s getting colder as I write this. Everything is going dark.

Soon it wanted more. More light, more heat. We had to move it to a quantum singularity tube. It was the size of a basketball within a week and still growing. Still eating. We fed it with a flame thrower and with bundles of light-bulbs. The heat it put off was astounding. We thought we had done it. We had created an artificial power source that would replace fossil fuels, replace nuclear energy.

We were wrong of course. You wouldn’t be reading this if we hadn’t been.

I’m sorry. This is no time for sarcasm.

Almost too dark to write now.

I wish we hadn’t fed it the flashlights.

We realized it wasn’t under our control when it began to reach out of its containment pen and drain the lights in the ceiling. Can you imagine it? The horrible sound of a tendril of living flame uncurling from its parent mass and piercing a quantum buffer? It sounded like a church-bell exploding. The heat washed over us then. More than we thought. Men were turned to ash before they had a chance to scream. It didn’t notice.

In our defense, we never thought it would be intelligent. How we couldn’t see that, in light of its hunger, I can’t explain.

Maybe we were blinded by science.

I’m sorry. Gallows humor.

It left us, left our facility a burnt crater. Those of us who survived almost wished we hadn’t. It had its gravometric pull you see. It distorted the laws of physics around it as it devoured the heat and light of anything it touched. And it got bigger. Ever-increasing mass at an exponential rate.

Then, like a dog on the scent, it noticed our sun hanging serene in the sky.

That was two hours ago.

The sun turned as red as blood forty-five seconds ago.

It will be dead in a matter of minutes. And then, so will we. That’s why I’m writing this. Just in case someone reaches this planet and wonders what happened. Wonders about the trail of gutted, dead suns all leading back to this pathetic little mud-ball of a planet. I’m sorry. We’re sorry. We don’t know how to stop it.

Cold. It’s so cold. Can’t see anything. The sun is gone. Our sun anyway.

How were we to know it would be intelligent?

How were we to know it was a cannibal?

Please forgive us.

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A Mother's Love

Author : Jinque

“How much further is it, sweetheart?” from the backseat of the car, Mitchell stroked his hand across baby Willow’s tiny head, slightly mussing her soft black hair.

“At least two hours. The traffic ahead looks even worse than it has been. Curse you for suggesting we travel on a holiday.” From the driver’s seat, Siana smiled, gently chiding her beloved husband. They’d been married just over a year, and their baby daughter, Willow, was not yet two months.

Siana navigated her way through the traffic, her eyes wide and alert. When they’d left that morning, she’d gotten a feeling in the pit of her stomach: a feeling of dread. Now, as she carefully pulled their car into the far left lane, she felt it returning.

The truck came from the opposite side of the freeway. Breaking free from the threads of cars heading east, it barreled toward the west-bound lane, and Siana saw it instantly. Her temples throbbed, and she thought to scream.

But time stopped. She dreamily rose from the driver’s side window, and peered down, seeing herself poised to howl, and jerk the wheel. The truck was too close though, and moving too quickly. Siana knew it, though she couldn’t say why. Looking in the back of the car, she saw her husband, bowed over the baby, unaware of the danger. Gliding in the window and sitting next to them, she smiled, reaching out to stroke her husband’s jaw, and the baby’s tiny nose. An itch in the back of her mind told her that time would soon resume.

Siana slipped her arms around her husband, and stretched herself over him and the baby, projecting herself as much as she could, to cover them both in a protective embrace.

I love you, Willow. I love you, Mitch.

Time resumed. The screeching impact happened within seconds. In the back seat, Mitchell felt the force of the hit, but nothing more. In his arms, Willow and her seat jolted, but she didn’t cry. It was as if something were holding them.

Later, police noted the incident as a tragedy. The Yosts’ vehicle had been hit, and sent spinning across four lanes of traffic. Thankfully, nothing else struck them, but the damage had been done. The truck’s impact crushed Siana in the front seat, leaving her body barely recognizable. Her husband and child, however, were completely untouched, despite the damage to the car.

In the last report on the tragic death of Siana Yost, the medical examiner noted this in his recordings during the autopsy:

“Patient #66607, Siana Yost, suffered physical marring and deformation during the crash. However, this was not the cause of death. Upon examination, I discovered that she seems to have suffered multiple aneurysms, as well as the loss of neurons to… God knows where. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career. Her brain is a mess. It’s as if everything required to make it function simply stopped, and disappeared… but how?”

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