Music of the Spheres

Author: David Atos

Are you familiar with the musical composition called a canon? It’s a piece where the main melody is repeated over and over in counterpoint, with some kind of transformation. Sometimes, it’s delayed in time. Sometimes, it’s played backwards. Even if you’re not familiar with the musical terms, you’ve not only heard them, you’ve sung them as well. Simple rounds like “Row, row, row your boat” are basic canons.

The interesting thing about canons is that, given a partially-completed one, you can figure out the rest of the notes, like a logic puzzle. Famous composers used to exchange incomplete canons to entertain each other. Even today, you can find “puzzle canons” to exercise your mind.

The first gravitational waves were definitively detected by LIGO and Virgo in September 2015; two black holes dancing around each other, then merging into a single mass. Further observations were made over the years, slowly at first, then more and more frequently as our instruments improved. Soon, we were able to measure the gravitational waves from every portion of the sky.

It was a college music professor who first discovered it. The frequencies of the waves were confined beyond what quantum and relativistic physics dictated. Plotted on a graph, they all fit within enormous octaves. Each merger was a separate note. The notes combined to create harmonies and counterpoints. And together, an overarching structure.

It took 15 years of processing on the greatest supercomputers available to humanity, but the structure of the canon was discovered. The main melody was identified. The retrogrades, inversions, and mirrors calculated. Predictions were made, and observations matched them.

We don’t know the composer, but we do know that the universe is building towards an enormous crescendo.

Close your traps

Author: DJ Lunan

For centuries clever clever men have sought in vain to authenticate the future invention of time travel.
But I have proof. Laura is a seven-foot partially invisible time traveller from 3031 zip-tied to a hairdresser’s chair in a flat above a carpet shop in the centre of Mechelen in northern Belgium. Take that scientists! Out-futured by a clever woman!

“Time travellers will be drawn to major historical events, like assassinations, secrets, Treaties and miracles – one challenge being we don’t typically know when these will happen” mused Hawking.

“Cracking the fourth dimension is so many millennia away, we would need to be super-lucky to catch futurists in the act of observing us men living now”, speculated Einstein.

“My first stop would be the World Cup Final in 1962, to see Brazil defend their title and watch the game with Pelé”, chimed Coelho.

“Once we have computing power to analyse every photograph ever taken, and document every moment, we shall spot men time travelling throughout history”, contemplated Clarke.

Hopeless, hapless men. Hampered by their first assumption – that time travellers would be men.

By understanding the foundation of their failure, I designed my trap and caught Laura.

‘Sexiest Man Alive of all Times. Pleasures and cleans in silence. Available one night only. Crack this code to find my location’

“How could you know?”, Laura demanded in ‘Norwegian (parochial)’ according to my TranslVoi App.

“We are weak mammals” I answer sagely.

“But I am not weak, I was just intrigued…by the code.”, Laura retorted deflated.

Wearing cloaking technology head-to-toe, Laura had walked unnoticed through history thanks to the Time Travel device fixed to her waist. She had stood next to Cleopatra and watched slaves build temples, followed Wollstonecraft across Europe on a speaking tour on women’s rights, and sat in awe as Thatcher bullied, harried and outwitted her men-only Cabinet.

“OK, I admit it, I had a day off, and permitted one free near-time destination. I was just looking for some fun before I move into 2020”, she confessed.

Laura was both multi-coloured and transparent. My paint trap and explosion had caught her down one side only after she kicked in the door, expecting some clean silent fun. One side of her remained transparent. It took all my strength to leverage Laura into the chair. She dripped paint in large spectral splashes over the concrete floor.

“What do you want, Trapper?” she demanded.

“I want to prove two things – that time travellers is possible, and that time travellers are female.”

Laura half-beamed. “Well done!”

“I will trade you something for my release. Do you know what historical event will occur on the 8th December 2020?” was Laura’s gambit.

“Do I want to know?”, I retort.

Half of Laura ruefully smiled. “Yes! It’s a time-stamp of huge significance. The USA elects its first female President. And she is shot the following day. It’s my next destination, to uncover the enduring mystery of who and why.”

“That’s intriguing, but utterly bereft of evidence or proof. Indeed, it’s what any time traveller would say!” I reply.

“President Melania is more, she heralds the end of patriarchy, survives two more assassination attempts, by old men, during three terms of office.”

“Prove it”, I challenge.

“I’m here. I’ve proved your hunch. The future is female dominated, starting very very soon. By my time, we only use men for pleasure and of course menial service. Your prescient advert could be from my time.”

“Thanks, I designed it to attract strong, taller, tech-savvy female time traveller”.

“Mwuh-mmm. ‘Pleasures and cleans in silence’. The perfect future man!”.

We both giggle as I snip the zip-ties.

A Good Death

Author: Mina

The prisoner was marched across Swan Bridge. It was the pride of space station Methuselah-3, a crystal bridge designed to resemble the curve of a swan’s neck. It was not actually structurally possible and was held in place by a force field. It was a world apart from the military prison camp Prisoner 45X37Z was interned in, Gulag-XXII, which orbited around Methuselah-3. Walking across the bridge that felt suspended in the stars was almost like sensory overload.

At the end of the march, he found himself in a small, windowless room, with blinding white walls, furnished only with a shiny steel table and two steel chairs. The guards seated him in one of the chairs and steel cord tendrils grew out of the arms and legs, pinning him in place. Johan was left alone for a while. Eventually, the door opened and disappeared seamlessly into the wall behind a diminutive figure. He couldn’t help staring at the first woman he had seen since his incarceration, with masses of red hair – a veritable feast of colour.

Sitting opposite him, she placed a recording crystal in the middle of the table:
– Do you mind if I record this interview? It will be the only recording – my uncle is an admiral and he pulled some strings to ensure we could talk freely.

Johan shook his head. The crystal rose and began to spin slowly at her voice commands. It glittered in the harsh synthetic light:
– My name is Dr. Vera Lance. I’m a psychologist and I’m writing a study on the gulags. Thank you for volunteering.

Johan said nothing. It was not as if he’d been given any choice in the matter. She looked down for a moment at her hands then looked him straight in the eyes:
– I’m sorry, Captain Stroemung, about the spider chair. I asked them not to bind you, but they wouldn’t have let me talk to you otherwise.

Johan blinked. She had talked to him not as the number tattooed on the back of his neck, but as a person, even having checked his rank. It was at that moment that he decided he would answer her questions.

For the next three hours, he told her of the sterile, cold world he lived in. The bland and insufficient food. The back-breaking work in the mines on the planet below the station. The transport to and fro, squashed in airless steel cans. The occasional sadism of a prison guard, but the mostly indifferent and indiscriminate violence towards the prisoners – the forgotten losers of a war that would soon be just a footnote in the history records. Cheap labour but, as they were all given life sentences, plentiful enough that there was no real incentive to keep them alive if they were injured or simply too old.

He told her of a discussion they’d been having the day before in the prison barracks:
– We were talking about what would be a good death. A very bad death is being kicked to death by the guards; a bad death is being gassed by a pocket of Oltran in the mine, or being crushed by a rockfall; a mostly good death is getting injured and being shot by the guards. I’ve seen longtimers injure themselves on purpose. You can’t be sure that the guards won’t play a bit with you first though, so you take your chances.

As he fell silent, he realised there were unshed tears in her eyes. She spoke finally:
– Can I do anything for you?
– Music, I haven’t heard music in so long.
– I’ll play you my favourite from the Terran archives. It’s a choral piece called El Cant de la Sibilla. I like the Latin version best.

Vera issued various voice commands and the crystal stopped revolving. It began to pulse instead with a warm glow as the music began. Johan wasn’t sure what Latin was, but he closed his eyes and let the voices fill his soul.

When the two guards returned to take him to the prison transport, Vera insisted on walking with them. As they crossed the bridge, he made a choice, attacking and disarming one of the guards, feeling grim satisfaction as he shot him dead. He was rusty and slow though and the other guard had time to shoot him, point blank in the chest. Johan crumpled to the ground.

He was lying on his side, struggling to breathe, but stars were all around. Vera was kneeling beside him, holding his hand, silent tears coursing down her face, surrounded by that red halo of hair. The music was still echoing in his mind. He smiled as he took his last breath, his eyes fixed open as his spirit departed.



– And we welcome today as our guest the leader of the small but rapidly growing lobby group, Sibilla. Dr. Vera Lance first hit the media by storm with her article, “A Good Death for Captain Stroemung”. So, Dr. Lance, you have been quoted as saying that you will not stop until the living and working conditions have been improved in the gulags and the automatic life sentence has been repealed. In fact, you hope to ultimately achieve an imperial pardon and the unconditional release of all war prisoners. Tell me, Dr. Lance – why should we care about their fate at all?

Bird Song

Author: Morrow Brady

Meetings downtown were always a bore and as the driverless cab pulled up, I began mentally preparing for what lay ahead. I blackened the windows to stop the view of the street beggars and urban decay. They always brought me down.

“Good morning Sir. I’m Cabbie. 269 Market Street is that right?” A cheerful English accent rang out.

I acknowledged and reached for my phone to fill time.

“Sir, my recent upgrade means I can now offer additional services while we travel. Would you like to hear what they are?”

I pondered what services beyond transportation a driverless cab could offer until curiosity got the better of me.

“Sure, go ahead”

“I can offer casual chatter, cheeky banter or even an argument. We could have a deep and meaningful conversation or I could briefly psychoanalyze you. If you were here with your spouse, I could provide marriage counseling. And if your belief system bears sin, I can offer confession”

The last one took me by surprise.

“Confession?” I snapped. “How can a computer that drives be holy enough to listen, counsel and punish?”

Cabbie informs me its AI-based at headquarters had passed the Turing test and been awarded a digital soul. Confessions were a regular activity for many of the city inhabitants, and the privacy that a cab ride offers, suited them remarkably well. This was a marketing masterstroke aimed at broadening its income stream.

Confessions were never part of my upbringing. My awareness of them through media though had always piqued my interest and as I thought about what I could confess, I very quickly built up a rather large list.

“How much for a confession?” I queried.

“Fifty credits for 20 minutes Sir. Penance will be delivered upon completion of the confession”

I considered the burdensome weight I had carried for all these years and how some mental spring cleaning might lighten the load.

I began confessing the trivial bad things I had done, like breaking a lover’s heart, wilful damage, greed and laziness. I worked through my younger years, easily slipping into buried memories of passion and hate. It made me feel better and Cabbie compassionately carried the discourse along with a stern but sympathetic tone.

Slowly I moved through my darker patches. The time just beyond youth when one is faced with adult issues and must respond in an adult manner. I had never been prepared for many of these situations, I often acted out irrationally. That time that I beat him so bad and had to leave for good in the dark of night. That drunken, drug-addled moment – lost in a strange city, with strangers as best friends egging me on to finish him off. I vanished there too with his wallet and car.

I was starting to run out of confessions and felt reborn. My mind had cleared. I felt fresh and new.

The cab had stopped and silence lingered.

“But what about my penance?” I pleaded. “I’ve given my confession. How should I make amends?”

The door of the cab unlocked. I refused to leave. My temper rising. I needed to be acknowledged. I needed my punishment to reset the system. As I lurched forward in anger, the door swiftly opened and a dark figure dragged me from the car. I scrambled to my feet, lashing out and ran free only to find four walls and no escape.

The sally port at the downtown police station was a secure space and the policeman who approached me took their time.

A Midnight Stroll

Author: Katelyn Prince

The rolling hills and grassy fields glowed beneath the soft light of the full moon. The air was cool and clear, the breeze hardly noticeable as it brushed against the long grass. Stars lay scattered across the deep blue sky, twinkling and reflecting off the rippling, lazy lake far below. Beside the water stood an ancient willow tree, tall and relaxed, a gentle giant among the water reads and brush. The tree’s long tendrils stretched down to the lake below, creating thin ripples with every whisper of the breeze. Every so often, a shimmering fish would break through the surface to swallow a bug as it skittered along the tiny waves, its silver scales glittering in the moonlight.

In front of all that was a rabbit, soft and grey, its nose twitching at a strange smell in the air. It stood on its hind legs, paws close to its chest as its ears flicked left and right. It glanced around once more before scampering back into its burrow to the rest of its family. It snuggled down with its children who lay nestled in their snug home, sound asleep.

And off in the distance, amid the hills and long grass, a brown cow grazed lazily, alone in the grassy fields. Her soft eyes shone with starlight and the moon lit her back. Her farm stood behind the hill, hidden by the first few trees of the expansive forest that lay just out of sight. Earlier that night she had found that the barn door had not been closed completely. After she had nosed it wide open, she wandered toward the wooden fence to find her favorite spot to graze, right next to the gate. She meandered through the field, stooping down for a bite to eat now and again, not realizing she had stepped over the toppled wooden fence and had walked beyond her normal boundaries. She continued her wanderings down the hill, passed the splintered trees and deep gashes in the dirt, until she reached the open valley full of delicious grass and flowers. As she passed the strange metal structures that had not been there the day before, she heard odd beeping and mechanical whirring. Her ears flicked back, but she continued her lazy stroll down the hill, stepping around a pile of fizzing green goo.

Did she wonder where these strange things came from? Did she care that her farmer might be in danger? No. She was just a cow. She continued her midnight snack, oblivious to the enormous spaceship that had crashed into the hill behind her farm.