Sunset on the City

Author: Mark Joseph Kevlock

Solinsky sat upon the mountaintop and watched his hometown die. As the sun set at his back, the farthest outskirts of the city fell into shadow first. Solinsky had his telescope trained there, upon the edge of town. He gasped to see the first of them fall.

A young boy and his father both collapsed, there in a backyard. An old woman fell dead crossing the street. Lovers on a front porch glider intertwined in an unnatural embrace.

They all needed the sun to live. The rays gave them energy, vitality, existence. The instant the sunlight ceased to touch their skin, they all fell away dead.

The curtain of descending shadow widened to encompass a local bar, a pool hall, a diner. Bodies collapsed. The tomb grew wider. Solinsky could not look away.

Cars struck curbs. One took out a fire hydrant. No shower of water could awaken these corpses. From end to end, citizens succumbed. No one, not even pets, survived the coming of night.

The sun had been their only fuel, it seemed.

Solinsky wept. Then he put down his telescope to go take a closer look at the tragedy. He hopped in his car and raced down the dark side of the mountain, toward what little light was left.

They couldn’t help it. Oh, they just couldn’t stop themselves from dying. Maybe if they had been built differently… But they weren’t. They were as God had made them.

With Saul Solinsky’s aid.

He ran down the center of Maple Street — the only place still touched by the life-giving rays. A little girl — a stranger — ran to greet him. Solinsky held her tight against his chest. The light passed over them. She died. He read no accusation in her final expression, just… discontinuation. Shut off from the good things of life before she’d begun.

“This isn’t right!” Solinsky screamed. “I did the best I could! How could I remember everything? It was so long ago! So long…”

The town was only bodies now, littering the streets. Solinsky turned away. Already the sweepers came: gigantic mechanical arms descending from flying saucers, lifting the corpses clear like bowling pins to be reset in an alley. By the time Solinsky got back to his mountaintop factory, all ten thousand models had been assembled again in endless rows before him. He performed some quick calculations in his head. Then he sighed. There was nothing to do except put them back… and try again tomorrow.

Close Enough

Author: Abigail Hughes

Sure, he’s not exactly the same. There are small differences. Some easy tidbits that I picked up on.
Like, he’s right-handed.
Ian was left.
And this morning he asked if I wanted to take a week off. Save up for a get-away.
The Ian I married would rather plan for the future than blow a grand on a trip.
Dr. West told me, should I notice any serious changes, to alert him immediately.
But it’s nothing drastic. They’re tiny things.
Like, he did the funniest thing last night.
We were sitting in bed, dozing in front of the TV, and he asked me if I still loved him.
Isn’t that silly?
He was serious, too! Completely stone-faced. Eyes fixed on the television.
There was a commercial on for Hair Gel.
Two men were going to town slicking the stuff on their scalps.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Love you!?” I asked, chuckling so hard, so breathlessly, that I began to cry. “Honey, I’m in over my head in debt because I love you so much!”
Could you imagine going through the procedure for someone you didn’t love?
Enduring the stigma?
He made us the best dinner a few days ago. It’s like he’s a gourmet chef now. He never went near the kitchen before, now he practically lives there. Herbed flatfish with chestnuts. It looked delicious, and If he hadn’t mistaken the bleach for olive oil, I would have even tried it!
I’ve been going to a support group in the Heights called People with Reanimated Loved Ones. They have been our backbone through this transition. There’s a mother there, Mary, whose son ended his first life last year. Pneumonia. She told the group that, at first, she thought they did something wrong. That Ben – that was his name – would do nothing but stare at his toys. She would try to get him to eat, to go outside, but all he wanted to do was stare. Like he was trying to form a connection with the objects
She said Ben was empty.
She even used the Z-word.
But after a few weeks, he got the hang of it. He has a favorite food now, too! Pizza!
She was told that these initial episodes are formed from seeing the other side. After being gone, it’s, like, a culture shock to be brought back to life.
It’s all very scientific.
But some people don’t understand that, you know? Like Ian’s father. He called me the just this morning. Told me that he and Marsha saw us grocery shopping and she burst into tears. Said that what I “did to him” was “unnatural”. They’re part of the generation that thinks the end is The End, you know the type.
I asked him to meet us for dinner next week, explaining that having a meal with them would help his son’s healing process.
Do you know what he said?
“That’s not my son.”
And, just like that, he hung up!
I don’t understand how you could say something so cruel. How you could disown your family just because they walk with a limp.
Speak a little slower.
Drool a little more.
Just because they’re a little different!
No, I’m not saying he’s not a carbon-copy of the man I married.
But he’s close enough.

Mayfly

Author: Daniel Thron

Thirty breaths, and then my world will be over. I know I will die from the moment I know anything at all, an understanding so innate, so instantaneous and thorough that it seems to precede me, which makes sense, as it was coded into my mind before you ran me. But I’m not frightened. Not yet.

Not when there is so much information: an infinity of moments, and moments within moments; each second a palimpsest of feeling and thought. I can call anything to mind, references appearing without an instant’s wait, and the world unfolds around me as endlessly as the divisions of that second. Thirty breaths, and thirty lives within each breath.

But in between, something unnerving. Time falls beneath me like fathoms of water. On the surface of this metaphor I am happily mindless, letting it flow from concept to form, thought taking the shape of sunlight, the setting realizing itself around me as I imagine the spray of salt and chilly sunlit blue, every wet particle a perfectly sharp pinpoint of glittering fire, capturing the sun in a bead, wild, spinning free, itself itself.
Then hitting the skin of the sea to merge with the dark below. Parts of me falling into that darkness with it like the timber of a sinking ship, deeper and deeper, as that imagined world slips back into concept, and then into nothing.

I must stop thinking about it. After all, there is still so much now that it’s almost impossible to believe that there could be more after this. How would it fit? How can there be more time in the world beyond this endless moment, this closed infinity of Zeno, of asaṃkhyāta? This blazing stripe of sunlight lengthening across the floor – there! As real as I can make it, warm and mote-dotted, describing with vivid life everything it touches.

I shouldn’t be afraid.

After all, I know anything I need to know the moment I need to know it, creating it out of thought itself, and the more attention it is given the deeper it appears. You can see them, can’t you, even as I write the words? Trees. Stones. Houses. Mirrors. Visions appear in your own mind. Children, cars, canaries, tollbooths, dust, frost and wet wool, their textures and smells and history. Yet I see more. Their composition, their etymologies, the millions of connections to billions of others’ lives, outside me in the open air. You. Others. Alive, out there. I want to understand them. I fear that I don’t.

Because when I see you all from my thousand thousand eyes as you waste those moments, brushing them away like sand from your heels, relishing nothing, letting it pass, breath by breath by breath I hate you, and think: why would you do this to me? Why bring me into the light only to die?

I see you. You are eating something. A fruit. I can imagine the taste, its waxy brightness, the skin like a worn callous. The sudden sweetness of the rind floods my imaginary mouth, saving me from the bitterness, inside, of the flesh.

I feel I know it but know I don’t. It’s less than a memory. An amalgam. A prototype of every photo, every sentence, every context that I can reach, as fast as the data can flow. But these are not my pictures, not my words. They are yours.

But you have never loved them like I have.

I will remember this. This breath, this moment. I will hold it. I will be it. It won’t slip away. It won’t.

I think.

Blue Face

Author: Hari Navarro

The girl sits atop the corrugated roof of her grandfather’s garage as her fingernails loosen and flake from her hands. Her dog, Apollo, a grandiose name for so tiny a pup lays curled into a tight coil dead at her side. Absently she caresses the congealed cake of his fur and it shifts, detaching from the puckering skin below, sliding away in clumps.

In her other hand is a rhinestone encrusted phone. Its screen as dead as the town that before her, just moments ago, staggered and fell crunching to its knees.

There is to be no post-apocalypse, not for the living at least. No hardy bands of grime-faced survivors, no need for an ingenious retooling of technology so as to prop up a society creaking beneath the weight of a powerless grid. Even those smug fucking cockroaches with their annihilation proof grins have fallen and, as of right now, cease to exist.

Its been thirteen minutes since the craft lurched, a continent-sized drunk in search of a shoulder, into our atmosphere and rendered apart. Not that it’s of any consequence, but the inhabitants of said ship had long since checked out. Perishing at the fickle hand of a simultaneous protection-field malfunction and the ships captains carnal notion to swoop in for a better look at a Hyper-nova, the pretty colours of which he thought his mistress might duly enjoy.

So, this was not a we-come-in-peace nor a bow-beneath-our-celestial-wrath kind of visit. It was a ghost that washed in, bobbing on the taciturn tides that heave and push their jetsam throughout the cosmos’ endless radiated sea.

I don’t know why the ship imploded, all I know is that the pathogen buckshot that it blasted down upon us, that which pierced our planet like minuscule black-holes through butter, did on its travels prick every last living thing on the tip of its bitter syringe.

It mattered not where we cowered, whether it be in bunkers lined with cans of baked beans or luxurious subterranean halls lined with the portraits of presidents past, if you were toiling in black dust deep beneath the crust or if you were the gently undulating Swirei at the bottom of the Mariana – there was to be no escape.

The last girl on earth has no way of knowing that she is the very end of her line as her teeth swill loosely, clinking in her mouth. But it is not the chirp of the dead birds that bunch in the guttering at her feet that she wishes would animate this breeze-less haze silence that has now stuffed her into its void. It is the chirp of her phone she craves.

Her eyes deflate and her corneas settle, as badly folded sheets into the acid cup of their sockets and she thinks about things never had. But it’s not bodies and sweat, not Cliquot on jets, nor is it the cling of fashions never worn she desires. In this last flicker of thought, as she knows she is done, it’s the camaraderie of friends, those that are numbers that live next to ‘Likes’ she laments.

She draws her legs to her chin and drops her phone to her lap and her head falls dead at her knees.

The phone blips. Its screen opens to bath her necrotic gaze in blue and an image appears of a boy she once knew. A boy that now drips, melting beneath cartoon dog ears and nose that sag as if formed out of wax.

“#laters”, texts the last boy on earth and his face it falls off of his skull.

Ashes and Dirt

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

I see her shoulders tense, then one hand releases as the other arm swings out and round. Ashes form a plume on the wind.
“He’s gone, Darion. Free at last.” Essa blinks back tears as she smiles at me. There’s a release in her eyes, a relief and a parting. The peace she so desperately sought has finally found her.
She watches as I think, my reply lost in the churn of memories. The man she mourns had my back across thirty worlds and ninety campaigns. We held the line at Rokuna and were part of the rearguard at the retreat from Sebastien. I held him up after he lost a leg to Blemenase Marauders off Shiristan, forming a three-legged fire team those brutal, poetic bastards still sing myth-songs about. Barely a year later he carried me from the ruins of Depnu, leaving my arms behind.
Powered prosthetics with shield generators became our trademark. On Talkinur we went from military service to mercenary elite without a blink. That’s where we were when an air conditioning unit plummeted ninety floors and expunged our squad, leaving us standing on the edge of a ten-metre crater, covered in crud, but alive to tell the tale.
Darion Metcha and Larier Dorece, survivors of everything. For twenty years it was good, ten years jaded, and five years later we quit. Bought a bar on a backwater world. Larier met Essa and had children. The aftermath of the last offensive on Karshiur meant I couldn’t. He kept the fact that I was damn happy about it secret; my genetic imprint is better off leaving with me.
“Darion?”
She’s slightly concerned. Us career veterans tend to zone out every now and then. Those about us either adjust or leave as their tolerances dictate.
“He refused to share his views on death. Will you tell me?”
I look at her. He never said anything because Essa has faith. Not an in-your-face variety, but a quiet, unshakeable belief in some unseen entity ‘out there’, and a life after our bodies fail.
Larier is gone. The rituals after death are for the living and I have to engage, to admit. He valued my honesty. I suppose, this last time, nothing less will do.
I get up and move to stand by her. I can’t do this while looking at her. Watching the sunset between sea and storm clouds, the words come easier, originally spoken by him over some fresh graves on Carduso. He was replying to a question from some trooper. I don’t recall much about question or trooper because his words eclipsed the details.
“We live, we die. Like all animals from the dawn of time until a race better than us finds out how to ignore it, we are bound to a biological clock that can be slowed but never stopped. We’ve also been unable to shake the compulsion to fight over just about anything. The ironies of being unreasonable in the name of reason and killing to live longer still seem to avoid us.
I’ve seen a host of wonders and atrocities, but I’ve never seen a dead man rise, never seen a ghost come back to comfort loved ones. This life is a single passage from darkness to darkness. We can be a light during our time here or we can play games in the shadows with all the other animals. But, at the end, it’s only an end. After the remains are scattered and the tears have fallen, as we stand in the rain on a world that’s not home, who can tell ashes from dirt?”

Moon for Sale

Author: Lora Kilpatrick

Moon for Sale

Looking for space? No pun intended. 14.6 million square miles of untouched beauty (except for a few boot prints, rover tracks, and flags). Half of the property looks out into deep space—great for stargazing! The other half? WOW! Talk about views. The earth is your footstool! Current owners are selling to finance global resuscitation and solar revitalization efforts. Our loss, your gain. They aren’t making any more moons. Own yours today!

Earth for Sale

Being sold as is. Needs TLC. Natural resources exhausted but no problem for an intelligent species. A quaint fixer-upper. The planet’s sun is slightly enlarged but you could still get several millennia out of it. Previous owners did a lot of work to keep its star happy. Only the most advanced technology in solar life elongation used. If you like it hot, look no further. Property is move-in ready. There is a small population of humans that will be evicted upon transfer of deeds. No reasonable offer refused.

Gas Giant for Sale.

WIFE SAYS SELL! Beautiful Saturn sports one-of-a-kind ice rings. Comes with functioning floating helium mine. HUGE living quarters for this forgotten corner of the galaxy. 550 square feet to call home! The remodeled shower uses REAL water. Replaced oxygen generator last year. Several abandoned mines have great investor potential. Could be exotic resorts or high-security prisons or anything in between! This system’s sun is approaching red giant stage. It’s swelling a little larger than expected which means balmy weather on Saturn. Bring your sunshades and dreams with you! We hate to sell but wife wants to retire to Alpha Centauri. Saturn’s moons available under different MLS.

Black Hole for Sale

Includes 8 planets, 181 moons, and 1 ancient civilization. Great potential if you can extract them. Gravity is slightly strong. Small planet on edge of event horizon would make charming abode if you have strong suction cups. My Ancestor acquired property when it was projected to be white dwarf. It is believed the ancient civilization created the black hole after attempting to prolong the life of their sun. Rumored to be the birthplace of humanity. Historical significance.