Lost City, 1946

Author : Dustin Neal

I had just rested my head on Billy’s shoulder when he asked me if I “believed.” Looking up into the cold, starlit sky, I didn’t stumble long with my response. “Yeah, Billy, I believe in God.” His eyes grew fierce as he pushed my head off of his warm, flannel shoulder. “I’m not talking about God, Emily! I’m talking about aliens and spaceships; life outside of Earth. Do you believe?” He had such a huge interest in what I cared so little for. “Why would aliens come to Lost City, Oklahoma, anyway?” I smiled and then whispered in his ear. He knew I wouldn’t respond to the question in the manner he wanted.

Billy has been so paranoid after the three “sightings” this past month, and tonight he seemed to be at his worrisome peek. After a moment of scratching his head, he stood up and lit a cigarette. With my eyes tracing his every move, every inhaled and exhaled breath, I walked toward him, smiled, kissed him on the lips, and wrapped my alien arms around his waist.

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The Second Society

Author : Pyai (aka Megan Hoffman)

Most of her thoughts were consumed in blind panic, so she wasn’t really away of what was happening until she had dug herself halfway out of the dirt. She was wearing the dress her sister had put her in to be a bridesmaid last spring, and her face felt tight and heavy. She touched it and her fingers came away with beige paint.

She panted, gasping, as she pulled herself completely out, and rested against the flat rock that sat behind her. After catching her breathe, she looked around at the night. Two figures approached. She quickly jumped up and hid on the other side of the rock.

“Judy Keaton?” one voice called out. The were close, and probably looking right at her hiding spot. “Judy Keaton, born March 23, 1983?”

Judy stood up, her knees still a little bent, from behind the rock. “Yes?” she asked warily.

“Welcome to the Second Society.”

She looked at the pair of people, confused. One was a younger blonde woman and the other was an older man, going flabby around the middle and dressed in a trench coat that was a little too small for him. “What’s the Second Society?”

The blonde woman looked at a clipboard she was holding. “As a founding contributor in March of 2000, your contribution awards you full posthumous benefits of a Second Life. Your generous donation puts you on the list for immediate member reactivation upon your death.”

Judy wrinkled her brow. “You mean that crackpot charity the wandering televangelist convinced me to donate to? Back in highschool?”

The older man coughed politely. “That ‘crackpot’ you refer to is now the world’s foremost reanimator. He also repays old debts.” He handed the dirt covered woman a manilla envelope.

“Your new home is part of our gated community about 40 miles outside of the city. Community meetings are every Tuesday and Friday, attendance mandatory unless you clear it with one of the committee heads in advance. Optional revivals are held on Saturdays, woman’s potluck Sunday afternoons, and we’re opening up a community center which will hold continuing education classes regularly. Welcome to the Second Society.”

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Time Trap

Author : Duncan Shields

Seven years of work here in the KT and the worst that’s happened to me is that I lost a fingertip in a time trap. It’s still there, falling to the floor in a three second loop over and over again for eternity over in Cardiff. The victim is still turning to look at me every three seconds before the trap springs. I reached out for her and my finger tip was caught in the field when it went off. She’ll stutter her half pirouette with wide astonished eyes for the rest of time. My fingertip will brush the shoulder of her coat and hang there until gravity pulls it down where it will almost touch the floor before the loop starts again.

She was Laney. We were set to be married on a summer’s day just like in the song.

Simon was killed last week after only six weeks of active duty. We’ve put him at a desk alphabetizing until we can find a way to get him back. Elaine was aged from 16 to 49 over the course of six seconds. Julie lost an arm. Ted got two more. Peter’s head got twisted the other way around but wasn’t killed.

They still don’t know what to say to me. They look at me like I got the worst of it.

All the mage science and laughterlife we know isn’t going to bring her back. The worst part is knowing that I can catch a flight to Cardiff right now and see her turning towards me over and over again with a questioning look on her face that I can never set at ease.

The trap was set for my DNA. She triggered it because she was pregnant with our child. The trigger was sensitive but not smart.

We found the bad guys. I killed them myself.

Three seconds. I go back to Cardiff less and less and I die more and more. There’s a blackness inside me that’s making me reckless on duty.

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The Plum Eater

Author : David Zhou

It started, as many such things start, with a plum.

The fruitseller first noticed the plum eater when he came by the same stall not once, not twice, not thrice, but fifteen times in the same cycle. He would always pick the juiciest plums; freshly cloned from the best Terran stock, hundred credits for a bunch.

The fruitseller didn’t know what to make of it. No one likes plums that much. Fifteen in a cycle!

And so he talked.

It was here that the groundskeeper of the Skylaunch heard from his friend the gardener of the Genetic Granaries who heard from his uncle the proprietor of Smithee’s Singular Singularities that the fruiterseller down the corridor, over in in the Eastern Dome, had a customer who ate fifteen plums in a cycle.

Fifteen!

The groundskeeper told his wife who told her friend who told her husband who told his son who told his friends and pretty soon, the entire colony was in a buzz about the man who ate the plums. They peeked from behind auto-dimming transparencies. They followed him in secret, watching him eat.

And always at the same place.

The goundskeeper of the Skylaunch viewed it as his personal luck that the renowned plum eater would choose his grounds to eat his plums. Everyday, at precisely the midstrike of the demi-cycle, the plum eater would bring his plums, sit down on the grass knoll facing South, look towards the heavens and eat his plum.

“It must be a woman!” cried the goundskeeper’s wife. “Only a woman could make a man eat so many plums, and stare so forlornly into the sky!”

“How the hell would you make a man eat plums,” muttered the goundskeeper. “And he didn’t look so sad to me. He looked like he was pondering.”

And so they told each of their friends the story. The wife told the other wives that the plum eater was eating plums for his long lost love, who left him in the colony when she journeyed to the stars. The husband thought that was silly and childish.

“He’s doing some deep thinking,” the groundskeeper told his friends. “Earth is that way, you know, our home so long ago. And he must be thinking of Earth, and eating plums.”

The stories spread. Wives quarreled with husbands. Husbands quarreled with daughters. Daughters quarreled with boyfriends. And boyfriends glared sullenly back.

One day, it all came to a head.

By this time, the plum eater had gained a grand procession on his cyclical trips to the Skylaunch. The fruitseller made a fortune, as all sought to imitate the plum eater, and bought plums by the tens and dozens. Some even bought fifteen. In a cycle!

And so the procession followed him, to the Skylaunch. And the procession watched, as he sat down on the grassy knoll, plum in hand, eyes upwards.

Behind him, the crowed argued.

“It’s his love he’s looking at, in the stars!”

“No, it’s Earth, that pale blue dot in the lavender sky!”

But, quietly, without notice, a small child walked up to the plum eater.

“Mister,” the child said. “Mister, why are you eating plums?”

“Because I like them,” said the plum eater.

“But why are you sitting here?”

“Because it’s cool, with a fresh breeze from the Southern Ventilator. The grass comforts my back, and the heavens calm my mind.”

“Are you thinking about a girl?”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

The wives sighed in unison behind him.

“Are you thinking about Earth?” said the child.

“No, I don’t think I ever thought about the Earth.”

The husbands behind him cursed under their breaths.

“Then what are you doing?” asked the child.

“I like eating plums. And I like looking at the sky. The grass is soft. The air is fresh. And the sky is so open and wide. The universe is a marvelous thing, don’t you think?”

And so, the crowd left the plum eater to his ways. They went back to their lives, caring for the cloned cattle, cleaning the atmosphere ventilators.

They learned a lesson that day, one not quickly forgotten. For when you see a man walking down a corridor, and he has plum in hand, it doesn’t mean he’s thinking about love, nor that he’s thinking about Earth. It doesn’t mean anything.

He was just a man who ate his plums while being fascinated with the universe. And there’s nothing wrong with eating plums.

Even fifteen!

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Discovered Upon Drawing a Curtain

Author : J. R. Salling

A large ripe melon rests on an operating table. Members of the surgical team stand in the wings, preparing long serrated knives. Spotlights illuminate chunks of crushed ice that slip down the sides of the patient. My mouth becomes moist in sympathy. I take another step forward when the nurse’s hateful expression stops me. I have trespassed.

She points to the sign threatening unauthorized personnel. “Can’t you read?”

In answer to her question I retreat to the waiting area, sit down again, and pick up my book. When she fails to notice I rattle the pages. This releases a faint odor of formaldehyde, which makes me think of Kate.

Kate would have loved this book. It has such an interesting typography. Sometimes I piece letters together and make a word, but not often. There’s no need. The important thing, I tell myself, is to forget the other room.

The man sitting beside me suffers from an insatiable curiosity. I have already told him the title of the book. “Honestly,” he says, “when do you find the time?”

I shrug.

He fills the void himself. “I used to have plenty, then lost it all. Every last minute. There’s not a cure, you know.”

This information angers me. “I’m not sick,” I insist.

“Exactly,” he says and smiles, revealing black teeth. From the pocket of his sweatpants he retrieves a partially consumed strand of licorice and wrestles off another bite. The blackness oozes from his open lips as he chews.

One of the surgeons emerges and delivers hurried instructions to the nurse. There must be trouble, I decide. The nurse pops up and disappears into a long empty corridor. When the squeaking of her shoes becomes faint I make my move into the restricted area.

It appears that I am too late. The procedure has begun, the rib cage of the melon spread open to reveal its inner secrets. Wondering where the operating team has gone, I push on into the theatre.

For a brief moment I see Kate lying there in a contented if somewhat waxen pose. My head swims. I fight it off and inch closer, blocking the light, so that I can no longer tell who or what is being operated upon.

When my lips make contact, just brushing the exposed tissue, the melon reappears. Angry electronic noises rake my ears. I stagger backwards, my eyes shut.

The blindness is somehow comforting, but does not last.

“There’s no cure!” I hear the man from the waiting room scream. “There’s no cure.”

“I’m not sick!” I want to shout, but I know that it is a lie.

A curtain slides back and the nurse reappears. She picks up a bowl of moist, pink, fleshy chunks and creeps toward me, baring her teeth like a mad dog.

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