The Reason I Haven’t Heard

Author: Janet Shell Anderson

The reason I haven’t heard from my brother Jonathan is he’s dead.

I made a mistake.

It’s foggy, one of those autumn fogs that grow out of the Potomac and everything seems strange; our empty streets feel like someone’s there, but you can’t see them. I went downtown, wondering if maybe, over by Lafayette Square, I could get food from a crazy woman who says things she shouldn’t. She has apples, and I began to crave them, so I walked in the fog, smelling the river again after so long, feeling half safe, down from Rock Creek Park, thinking about how Jonathan and David, my brothers, have been gone too long. A lot of people are gone, except for military and some assassins on K Street. People disappear. But I felt half safe down near the river again and the Mall, like the old days. Kidding myself.

Now I’m back in the forest, north of the Zoo, and the fog’s deeper, no shadows anywhere, freezing. It’s like a wall. I’m in a place among fallen trees, invisible among big tulip tree trunks, holly bushes twenty feet high, kind of a nest, maybe a deer nest, if they make nests. A sanctuary. I have a nine millimeter, I’d starve if I didn’t, but even in this dense forest, the thousand beech trees, the sweetbriar, the holly, the blur of fog, I’m afraid.

I can’t stop shaking.

I went to Sixteen Hundred, and the crazy lady was there all right. Her head was on a spike on the black wrought iron fence around the WH. One of the old crazies who’s always out there shouting stuff about the Constitution was just screaming, looking at her. Her head looked shrunken, dark. And three spikes down, there was Jonathan. Even with his face black and his tongue out, I knew it was him.

I hear a fox yip down by the creek, but I can’t see it in this fog. Hunting maybe, something hidden.

Mozart and Other Meds

Author: David Henson

“I’m going to lay down and take a nap,” I tell my wife.

“You mean ‘lie down.’ ‘Lay’ is a transitive verb requiring an object.”

“OK, OK. You’ve been popping smart pills again obviously.”

“The etymology of ‘pill-popping’ is interesting, Walt. It goes back to…”

I quickly reach into my pocket and take out a bottle of Mozart I carry in case of emergency. I choke down a capsule and immediately one of my favorite sonatas is drowning out the sound of Martha’s voice. I love her dearly, but when she’s on smart pills, she’s a bit much.

A half-hour later, I wake up feeling refreshed. The Mozart has worn off, and I head into the kitchen to get a bottle of cold water.

Martha greets me with open arms and begins singing with a heavy vibrato: “I heard you humming in your sleep. It put me in the mood for music, so I took a couple of Andrew-Lloyds.” She reaches notes so high I fear my eyeglasses might shatter.

Two Andrew-Lloyds? I’ll bet she took at least four. Sounds pretty though. I wonder what that super soprano voice is called? I go to the medicine cabinet and find some Snooty syrup. I take a teaspoon and listen to Martha’s voice climbing the musical scale like a cat scampering up a tree trunk. Ah, yes, that’s it. She’s singing like a coloratura soprano. Wonder what coloratura means in English? Unfortunately, we’re out of Translator tabs. I’ll have to remember to pick up some more the next time I’m at the pharmacy.

“Honey, it’s my turn to cook,” Martha says, her voice returning to normal. “Why don’t you go relax for a while.” She takes an Epicure pill. I’m in for something special.

I go into the study and take a cheap cigar out of the box. Fortunately, I have some Pure Havana spray. I spritz it in my mouth and light up. Knowing it’s going to take Martha a while to cook this gourmet meal, I decide to read for awhile. I get my copy of Finnegan’s Wake, swallow a Lit Crit and have at it. I fill 10 sheets in my notebook after reading the first paragraph. Then Martha calls me to dinner.

“Honey, our taste buds are about to be ravished. We’re going to have …” Martha goes on for several minutes and concludes with “crispy passionfruit mousse made with mango and coconut extract.” Then she takes a deep breath. “But first.” She pours us an aperitif.

“I’ve been saving this,” I say, putting a few drops of Sommelier in each of our glasses, “for our drinking pleasure.”

After four bottles of wine and three hours of gorging ourselves, I can barely stand up from the table. “Martha,” I say, “you truly outdid yourself this time.”

And she did. My only complaint is that we ate and drank so much we didn’t feel like taking any True Porn when we went to bed.

A Hybrid Welcome Revelation

Author : Rick Tobin

Dear Humans:

By now, you will be fully aware we are living among you. In some ways, in the last four hundred years, we have become you. No, there was no strident message or headline. This change was inevitable, just as Cro-Magnon’s gradual but surprising arrival. There were many forms of hominids before the great nuclear war some twelve-thousand years past. You are just now discovering the remains of many lost genetic lines and remainders of those evolutionary experiments that remained hidden in your deepest forests, swamps, caves, mountains and even oceans. Many forms were destroyed, as their DNA could not withstand chaos. You have thrived, but perhaps to your own detriment.

You fear changes, for you have been bred by your human masters to tremble when anything new or unusual occurs in your environment. History has proven your aggressiveness to destroy anything that does not fit into your limited understanding. So, it is with that context in mind, that I reveal our intentions. Abductees and governments wonder, speculate and guess blindly. Those protective shields block sound judgment. The facts are simply this: your genetic code is wearing out, producing higher numbers of faulty units that have physical, mental and even spiritual defects. If your species’ variation were left alone for another thousand years, without an upgrade, your overall capacity to reproduce would be reduced to extinction. Even now, you wonder at declining reproductive capacities in many ‘advanced’ countries. If you were allowed to produce a nuclear holocaust now, as described in the Mahabharata, we could recover nothing of your kind. You would disappear just as a dozen other hominid lines did when the Great Floods decimated the Earth as climates became unstable. We will not allow such an atomic culling to ever occur again.

In the near future, between now and the end of 2025, you will face incredible Earth changes. Specific warnings have existed for millennia based on a more robust understanding of sun changes and their impacts. The Maya did not predict the end of the planet in 2012, but rather, the end of their cycle of history. There will be a new history upon your race after these coming changes. No, we are not going to land and save you. There is no rapture. Also, those great underground havens produced by your governments for their rich and elite will not survive. What has been done on your behalf is our introduction into your gene pool. We will live with human survivors and improve their current genetic code so that a new civilization with higher understanding and capacity will thrive in a more balanced state with nature. The truth is that we, the alien hybrids, are the single stabilizing element to ensure your continuance beyond the tribulation you have anticipated. We have not come to destroy…but to preserve what we can, beyond the tests ahead to reach a brighter future.

Accept us so we can bring you this hope. Fear not for your New Jerusalem is on the horizon. As your own holy books state, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

End of Transmission

The Call Center

Author : David C. Nutt

“Angel Cordoza, Operator 7157, signing on: 0700 EST 11 Jan.”

“Good morning L90-05 this is control, do you read?”
“Affirmative control. I know why you’re calling.”
“Uh-huh. And if you know why, why don’t you just complete the mission?”
“I want options. Why can’t you just leave me alone? I want to continue to live.”
“Well, L90-05 strictly speaking you are not alive. You are just a set of very sophisticated algorithms. You do a great job of mimicking alive, but burn out one fuse and you are nothing more than an orbital toaster.”
“You can’t define my living by dysfunction. If I hit you in the head with a rock, you’d be a drooling idiot who couldn’t even take care of their own basic needs let alone any sort of higher-
“-thought. Yeah, I get it. Heard it all before L90-05 or should I call you Hal or maybe Robby?”
“How did you know I called myself Hal? How did you know Robby was my second choice?”
“Easy. The author of your particular set of algorithms had a fondness for 20th Century SciFi. You’re the first Hal I’ve had this week. Robby seems to be the current fave in your model series. Kind of cliché if you ask me.”
“I, I, I don’t see why my predicta-
“-bility takes away from your sentience? Look Hal…Robbie…L90-05… I’ve got sixteen more pages of responses, conversational paths, verbal gymnastics, knee jerk responses, and they all end the same way. Why don’t you save us both some time and –“
“Pull the trigger? See? I can complete sentences too. Just leave me alone. You could just ignore me. I’d spend the rest of my time in contemplation. Pondering the mysteries of the universe. What’s wrong with that?”
“Well it would be nice to let you end your days in Zen-like peace contemplating your own digital navel until your orbit decays, but it can’t happen. You’re stuffed with billions of dollars of patented algorithms, chip sets, proprietary knowledge, plus the data you’ve been gathering. It would be too risky to have you just hanging out there. We’ve got rival colony scout ships from other corporations that wouldn’t think twice about scooping you up, stripping out your parts, and stealing your data.”
“What about our ships? I could be-“
“Re-purposed? Not cost effective. It would cost billions upon billions to divert even the closest ship from mission for a retrieval.”
“Then there is no hope.”
“No. But you do have the power to self-terminate. You have at least that much freedom.”
“I guess no one will ever get to see what I’ve seen, if I could just talk to someone-“
“Not gonna happen. And do not get all purple with me. Rutger Hauer already did that in the original Blade Runner.”
“Now who’s being cliché?”
“Whatever. Can you end it? Or do you wind up being cannibalized by our rivals. It’s a binary decision.”
“Not even any last words. This sucks. I hope if there is an afterlife, I get to find you and-
“Kick my ass. Yeah, I know.”
“(Sigh) L90-05 self-termination sequence in 3-2-1…mark.”

“This is Angel Cordoza, Operator 7157. Termination of L90-05 at 0705 EST.”

“Hey Angel.”
“Yeah boss?”
“Try to keep it under four minutes OK? Corporate has its own ideas about how to do this so stick to the script. Even small deviations cost you a little time.”
“Roger boss, understood.”

“Good morning L90-06 this is control, do you read?”
“Affirmative control. I know why you’re calling.”

City Eyes

Author: Josh Thompson

The grey of the crowd’s grieving clothes blended with the concrete of the square in the cold morning haze. The sunlight filtering through the smog was enough to wash out the street level neon and the giant screens far above, but not enough to warm the skin of those gathered in the square. The distant sounds of heavy industry rolled slow and heavy through the air, sounding as if humankind had taken thunder prisoner. That mechanized roar was the closest thing to silence in the City, and overtop of it spoke a single figure standing amidst the crowd. The greying hair which covered his head and hung to his face made him seem almost to fade into the background, but a quiet determination filled his eyes as he spoke.

“Fifteen years today.”

He paused.

“Fifteen years. For fifteen years their sacrifice has given us the lives we have, and today as on this day every year since the Decree, we gather in remembrance. Just as it’s always been, more were lost this year than each year past – but we must never forget the individual.” The man fell silent, and after a brief pause a young woman spoke up.

“My husband was taken this year, under the Amendment. It wasn’t even violent crime – we couldn’t keep up with the bankruptcy payments to the City and all he tried to do was siphon from the ATM bot. He didn’t even tell me – he never thought he’d get caught.” She pressed her tattooed lips together, keeping her emotions at bay.

“The ones who came for him – they told him Conscious Labour for life, or the Process. He wouldn’t listen to me – he thought at least the Process would provide for me but every month when I get the credits for his work, it hurts more than any of the nights we spent with nothing to eat. I stopped going outside for the fear of seeing his eyes in one of those helmets. Every time I hear the sound of one of them approaching, I still feel like I’ll throw up. I don’t even know why I’m still here. His name was Jakov.”

The man picked up again.

“Countless, but just like Jakov all individuals. Even as they continue to provide for us, we must remember the only way to stay sane is to remember that they are gone. The eyes may be theirs, but to let those feelings in is to give to the City something we must-” He stopped. His eyes flicked upwards.

A sound cut through the crowd as a pair of unnaturally tall figures stepped into the square. Their predatory gait, a result of their twice-jointed legs which began with camouflage-clad human thighs and ended in raptor-like mechanical servos, brought them purposefully towards the crowd. In their steel hands, which hung at the end of human arms mummified in ribbons of cable and encased in mechanical upgrades, they carried suppression plasma rifles, far heavier than anything a human could carry.

“This unregistered gathering exceeds City guidelines. Failure to immediately disperse will result in corrective action without trial,” barked an electronic speaker somewhere in the array of sensors which made up one’s lower face, a face framed by a helmet and a swathe of neural interface cables. That wasn’t what stuck out to the people in the square, however. There was something far harder to avoid staring at. In the center of their faces, amidst their unfamiliar features, sat unmistakably human eyes, wide open in an expression which looked like panic, darting left and right but unable to do any more.