Amateur Historian

Author : Robert Niescier

“Why do you keep writing in there?”

He looked up and into her eyes, through steam shaded orange from the bonfire’s glow, and smiled. “It’s so people, future people, remember everything we went through. So we don’t get lost as just two generic survivors of the bad times. History tends to cast a blind eye towards those who don’t record their own endeavors.”

“Yeah, yeah, ‘people who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.’ I’ve heard the cliché.”

“Yes, and it’s advice humankind tends to ignore. But that’s not why I’m keeping a journal.”

The fire had begun to die down, so he groped through the darkness for another log. He placed the wood onto the weakening embers, close enough to the water-filled pot to keep its temperature up and boiling. His hand recoiled in pain as a flame jumped up like a startled snake and burned him.

Her eyes widened. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Here, let me get something to put on it…” She began to rummage through her backpack and came up with a cream. “This will help.”

“Thank you, but no. Save it for when we really need it. It’s only a little burn.”

“And when that little burn turns into a little infection, then turns into a little toxic shock, where will I be? You want to test out just how much of a survivor I really am? Use the damn medication.” But still he refused, and soon she put the cream away and sighed. “You didn’t finish answering my question,” she said.

“What else is there to say? I don’t want to be forgotten. It used to be that if you produced a grand work of art, a moving story, an invention or theory that would improve the quality of life, your name would be remembered, your memory encapsulated in books and landmarks dedicated to your name. But those opportunities are gone now; the only thing left for us is to survive. To be.

“This journal, this story, is the only thing I have left to give. I want future generations to know that, even though our time may have come so close to destroying that which we had spent centuries to build, everything that we held dear, that we were still just people. Neither villains nor heroes. Just people who made a grievous mistake and paid for it with everything they had.

“How can you be so sure that these future people will find your little journal, or if they will even exist? What if we were the only…” Her throat made an odd noise and she stopped. She poked at the embers with a stick for a few minutes, then shifted her body away from the fire and laid down, her gaze to the sky.

He grabbed two scraps of cloth and, after picking it off of the fire, placed the water pot onto the highway blacktop. He stood up and looked down the highway, but there was nothing to see but inky blackness all around. He shivered. It was getting colder every day; they would have to increase their pace if they hoped to reach the western coast before the winter months.

“Beautiful,” she whispered.

“What?”

“The sky, it’s beautiful. You know, I lived in the city all my life. I never really got to see the stars. Not like this. It’s like we’ve entered a whole new world.”

A coyote howled somewhere in the distance. He looked up, up at the black, star-sprinkled tapestry that seemed to go on for ever and ever. She was right; it was beautiful.

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Chameleon

Author : Debbie Mac Rory

My knee is still bleeding from the last time I fell and my trousers keep sticking to them, bringing forth fresh darts of pain. But I’m too scared to use my torch here. I’ve already been stopped by two division patrols on my way here; I guess my research wasn’t thorough enough, and I still look overdressed for this part of the city.

She told me just to find somewhere quiet and private in the shared sector, where we could be alone. When I’d asked how she was going to know where we were supposed to meet, she smiled and told me not to worry. “I’ll find you”, she said.

46…47…48…49…50 paces further into the alley and there should be a door on my right. My fingers fumble on the greasy brickwork for the frame the obsolete city maps told me should be here. Finally my touch meets jaded timbers, and I move to brace my shoulder against the door. The door disintegrates in a shower of wood dust as I push against it, leaving me yelping as I hit the floor, skinning my partly healed knee again and earning a matching scar across my knuckles.

I sit there for a moment, cradling my bleeding hand and generally feeling so miserable that I never heard her come up behind me. She smiles at my disproportionate distress and takes my hands in her gloves fingers and pulls me to my feet. She gestures for me to follow her into the darkness further inside the warehouse.

When finally she stops, she takes the torch from my stiffened fingers, and props it against a wall, exploiting its feeble light to the full. I smile at her, and raise a hand to gently brush my thumb across her cheek – and my breath catches as I watch the trail of colour left there, as if I’d dipped my fingers in paint before touching her. Her skin seems to be flowing now, catching the colour from my hands, and carrying it in mesmerising swirls across her face. I tear my eyes away from the sight, and lifting my other hand to her shoulder, being to draw small shapes on her skin. I feel dizzy already, but when I see that she’s removed her gloves, and her hands are lying naked in her lap, I take her face in my hands and kiss her as all the world fades away.

***

When I finally open my eyes, my vision clears enough to let me catch a glimpse of skin as dark as my own, and a pair of unfamiliar hazel eyes. But the smile is the same, as is the gentle touch of her fingers. She could almost pass for human now.

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Lives

Author : Michael Varian Daly

Paln gently cupped the small green vegetable in the attachment designed for its harvesting. The steel segmented orb closed – a soft ‘snick’ – cutting the stem. Paln carefully placed the hard round vegetable among its brethren in the bin strapped to his midsection…and felt Pleasure.

“Brussels sprout,” he sub-vocalized. He knew what they were, the perfect conditions for growing them, but he would never eat one, had no concept of what a ‘brussles’ was, nor cared.

His universe contracted, focused totally upon the next small green vegetable. Cupping. ‘Snick’. Bin. Pleasure.

Internal sensors told him the bin was At Capacity, though Paln knew that already. That made him feel Satisfaction. He stopped harvesting, smelling the rich loam of the field. He could analyze the chemical components to the millionth part, but organic senses came first.

Paln was the perfect blend of the organic and the cybernetic. He looked around at his Pod Brothers, felt Connection. They were all Type 26 General Purpose Agricultural Mandriods. He was officially PLN-161697434, but the Mother/Master/Ruler who hatched his brood from the uterine replicator had called him Paln, his first moment of Pleasure.

He put the full bin on the field cart, retrieved an empty one. He was still human enough to sense the beauty of the day. The sun. The fields. The easy sloshing of the nutrient tank on his Feeder nozzle. The quiet hum of the vaporizer on his Bleeder nozzle. His Brothers harvesting. The grace of the dark skinned, yellow eyed, Mother/ Master/Ruler upon her horse, overseeing their work. The Fear/Awe of seeing her shambok, long hard leather hanging lazily from her saddle horn, the Symbol of Overseeing.

Tonight, when Paln was reclining in his cradle, the Bleeder-Feeder tubes hooked up, toxins draining, body healing, he would dream of the day, sun, fields, smells, sounds.

He would dream of Selt’s funeral. The Pod gathered at dusk. Selt’s body on the field cart. Mother/Master/Rulers down from The House, bearing torches. The yellow eyed one anointing Selt’s forehead with oil. The prayers as the black bag was…

Niniskil sat up with a start, breathless and sweaty. That chingado dream again!

She glanced around to find her Sisters, saw Rhea on one side, Tzisoc on the other, both still out cold. She quickly looked between her legs, sighed with relief. At least she had detached the bioform phallus before she passed out. It had been a serious Bacchanal. But after ten months on deep space patrol, they’d earned it.

She crawled out of bed, went to the window, looked outside.

The gorgeous vista of Sylph looked back at her as if designed to be perfect, which, of course, it was, from its core outward. Nothing, but jeweled archipelagos strung across warm azure seas without predators, skies painted with wispy clouds, all under the multicolored rings that crowned this princess of worlds.

A few yards away, just up from the white beach, a group of Sisters rested upon loungers in glistening nakedness, while a tall, lean Harlequin, a Mandroid pleasure server, offered them cold drinks.

She drew back, light suddenly like daggers in her skull.

“Ugh!” she grunted. That was definitely a Past Life dream. Too much detail…that yellow eyed Sister!

“Chingos!” she spat. What Sister wants to remember an Incarnation as a AgroDriod? But there it was. Time to see the Priestesses of Eriskegal for Regression Therapy. But not today.

She crawled back into bed. “The Wheel Turns,” she muttered, snuggling close to Rhea.

Drifting off, she thought, “Be extra nice to the servants today.”

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Physical Therapy

Author : Grady Hendrix

Danny Leeds really wanted to punch his wife in the mouth. Over the last two years she had managed to cast their relationship as one where he was constantly the oppressor and she was eternally the victim. If he said anything she didn’t like, it was an attack. If he told her something she was doing that bothered him, she wound up crying in the bathroom. Christ! All he was doing was trying to communicate, but now he was at the end of his rope. He was a nice guy, but if she wanted abuse, he’d give her abuse.

He made an appointment with his doctor, sat down and explained the situation. His physical results were all on file from last time so this was mostly a psychiatric evaluation.

“You really want to do this, Danny?” his doctor asked.

“Absolutely. I’ve thought about it calmly and I think it’s the only solution.”

“Okay, but I can’t sign you up for anything in the face. And I can’t write you a prescription for kicking. Once she’s down, she’s down and you need to back off.”

“I understand, doc. I don’t want to hurt her, I just want her to know how much pain I’m feeling inside. I can’t seem to communicate it to her with words, so this is all I can think of.”

His doctor wrote out the prescription, filed a copy with the local police and Danny went home.

He stopped off at the gym to limber up first. The last time he’d had a physical therapy/psychiatric prescription he’d stressed his rotator cuff and he didn’t want to be back at the doctor’s first thing in the morning. Once he’d worked up a good sweat, he showered off, got dressed and went home. As soon as he walked in the door his wife shot him.

“Huh – ?” he said, stupidly, looking down at the hole in his chest.

“I’ve got a prescription,” his wife said, waving the piece of paper. Sure she did – Danny recognized the signature.

“Dr. Harris,” he gasped. “That hack.”

Danny slid down the wall and sat in a pile of his own blood.

“Don’t undermine my therapy,” his wife said.

Danny coughed up a gout of black blood and died before he could tell her that, once again, she was completely misinterpreting what he was saying and making him feel really, really bad and that maybe she should think about how the problems in their relationship might be partially her fault.

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Disqualified

Author : JT Heyman

“Name?”

“Archimedes Goldblatt Jastrembski Akune,” the applicant replied.

The immigration official looked at the application on his holoscreen and nodded. He studied the screen.

Akune studied the office. Behind the official’s chair, a hologram of the great seal of the Colony of New Canada floated without a ripple. Akune’s eyes narrowed. That was top grade technology … and expensive. He glanced at the wall which held a continuous, live interstellar feed … also expensive … from New Canada’s capital, New Ottawa. There was one cobblestone street. The other roads were just dirt. One building was modern and clean … the governor’s mansion. From what he could see of the other buildings, they were little better than the pioneer cabins from three centuries in the past.

“You have three advanced degrees?” the official asked.

“Yes,” Akune replied. “I’m a certified medical doctor and I have doctorates in civil engineering and agriculture. I wrote the new textbook on colony development.”

“Hmm,” the official said impassively. “Capacity for children?”

“My sperm count and motility numbers are on the fourth screen.”

The official touched the screen. “Hmm. Impressive.” He touched the screen once more. “And you’re wealthy. Self-made trillionaire. No chance of becoming a ward of the colony.”

Akune said nothing. The official was too calm. Something was wrong.

The official fell silent as one of the emigration shuttles lifted off, making the embassy building rumble.

When the noise had decreased and they could speak normally, the official said, “Ah, the joys of Embassy City. Sometimes, I think Earth put all the colonial embassies next to the main emigration spaceport just to hinder the attempts of qualified candidates to leave its sterile megalopoli for the adventure of the stars.” He closed the application on his screen and stood. “We had you thoroughly vetted before you walked through that door, doctor. What made you think you were qualified to emigrate to New Canada?”

Confused, Akune said, “My skills. I’ve studied New Canada extensively. I can help make New Canada a thriving colony. I could help improve its medical care, its city planning, even its use of native food plants. I want to help the people of New Canada.”

“And spread your genes?”

“Well, yes, of course. The one-child limit on Earth is unacceptable to me. I’ve always wanted a big family.”

“I thought so,” the official said grimly. “Disqualified. Request for immigration denied.”

“What? Why?”

“As I said, we vetted you thoroughly before you walked through that door. Very thoroughly. Your great-grandmother died of cancer.”

“Yes? Oh. But it was a rare, non-genetic cancer. It’s not something my children would inherit.”

“Sorry. We can’t risk our gene pool with your obviously defective genes.”

“But ….”

With a pitying look, the official added, “If you want to go to a colony so badly, try next door at the Embassy of New Wales. I hear they’ll take anyone.”

Dejected, Akune left.

As the door closed, the official sighed. “Just once, I’d like to see a qualified applicant.”

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows