Author : Michael Blewett
Her father glanced down at the watch on his wrist. “How long?” she asked.
“Two minutes and thirty seven seconds,” he replied, gazing out the airlock window. The curtness was for her, she knew, but it was hard for her to hear – especially now.
The girl looked to her father with tears streaming down her face. In all of her lives, he had been her rock – the constant that wove the thread between centuries and tied them all together. What would she do without him?
“I know it’s hard for you to understand,” the old man offered, “but you should know that I’ve been thinking about this for a long, long time.”
“But,” she countered, “why now?”
“How long have you been with me?” he replied, his eyes still focused out the window, “Three cycles? Remember, there were five more before that. Five whole lives – five deaths; five rebirths – before I saw your beautiful face. Five lives of searching; never once did I find purpose.”
“But then you met mother, right?” she pleaded, “And then you had me. And then you found that purpose. I was that purpose, I am your purpose!”
“My star, my darling girl, if only you knew! You might, one day. Maybe you won’t, you were always more like your mother in that way.”
“You never told me why she did it,” she inquired, knowing it wasn’t the right time, “Why she refused to take the implant.”
Her father’s eyes confirmed her suspicion. It all comes back to mother; it always has.
“She hated me,” the old man said. “She didn’t always, but after you were born she… She saw me as a freak. An experiment of my own creation for one purpose and one purpose alone: to play god.”
“But, you can’t believe that!” the daughter exclaimed. “Look at what we’ve accomplished! We’ve colonized new worlds. We’ve saved countless species of life. We’ve given humanity the reason for progress; the power to accomplish!”
“And I don’t regret it,” he interjected, “I don’t regret a single thing. But what I’ve realized – what your mother realized all those years ago – is that there is no progression without an end.
“Life is not the process of living,” he continued, ”it’s the process of dying. Time without end is infinity; infinity is nothing.”
She tried to speak, but could only cry.
He opened the airlock and stepped inside. The door shut with a hiss.
She heard the comm-link switch on. “Can you hear me?” his voice said.
“On my desk you’ll find a large file,” he said to her through the glass, “Right now, it’s nothing but memories and thoughts, but in twenty seconds it will be my life. The work of all my lives.”
She placed her hand on the glass. He reciprocated.
“I love you,” his voice said, “my god I love you.”
She mouthed the words back.
“It was you, my star. I never knew how important it was – how important life was – until I created it. One day, maybe you’ll know what I mean.”
“I only wish I could have been there to see them.”
Their eyes met; nothing more needed to be said.
She saw the tears welling in his eyes.
The airlock opened, ejecting him out into the end.
His face was calm as he suffocated. And, at that last moment, she saw the implant detach itself from behind his ear. Never to be uploaded into another clone – free from time, free from infinity.
Author : Steve Pool
Tess always threw the best parties; it was a fact that Lizzy was painfully aware of. Tess owned all the trendiest causes, giving her complete control over the calendars of every social climber in the city. She played the role of Alpha Queen with ruthless benevolence.
Earlier that morning, Tess mentioned to a few of her closest gossips that she had just returned from Paris and Milan; everyone, of course, understood the code. Tess dictated the absolute word on fashion; whatever anyone else wore to the party would now be “so last week”.
Lizzy considered this as she spotted Tess across the room. Predictably, Tess was the eye of a micro-storm; admirers ringed around her, touching her new gown, speaking louder and faster in the hopes of being noticed. Lizzy sauntered over to the group.
“It’s the latest fusion of taste and technology.” Tess sounded uncharacteristically excited. “They call it Hi-Lo Spectrum fashion. This gown is the color of ultraviolet.”
The women surrounding Tess gave her an envious sigh.
“It’s wonderful, Tess,” one of the women said. Lizzy thought her name might be Francine. “It goes really well with your eyes.”
Several others complimented her as well, noting qualities that seemed absent to Lizzy. Wasn’t the dress black? It was nice, but no more special than the one she herself was wearing.
“Oh, hello Lizzy,” Tess said, taking time to notice her. “Well…what do you think?”
“It’s really gorgeous, Tess,” Lizzy replied dryly. “I’m thinking, maybe though, that you might like to try an infrared dress, like the one I’m wearing. They’re remarkably slimming.”
The women surrounding Tess gave Lizzy an envious sigh.
Author : Connor Harbison
“What did you just say?”
“You heard me. The sun, it’s…alive.”
“No, no, hear me out. According to my research, the sun, it’s a living, breathing thing. Being. Not life as we know it, per say, but still, life. In another sense.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Think of it this way. A mosquito lands on your arm. It can’t comprehend you, I mean really you, like your name or your job or any of that. All the mosquito knows is that you are a food source. That’s sort of like how we see the sun.”
“So how do we get in contact with it? The sun. Is it an it? Does the sun have a gender?”
“I don’t think so. As far as we know stars are created through gravity, so their reproduction would be radically different from anything we’d be familiar with. And as for contacting Sol, I’m not sure that we can. No more than a fly can have a conversation with a human. The differences in time scale are too vast, to begin with.”
“What do you mean by time scale?”
“Sol experiences time differently than we do. Again, think of the insect analogy. A mayfly has a lifespan of one day, and to that mayfly the day is everything. But to us, a day is just a passing…well, day. It’s relatively brief. I mean, we live for thirty thousand days, an eternity to a mayfly. Likewise, Sol is four and a half billion years old. The human mind can’t even comprehend that number, but to Sol it’s barely half a lifetime. Time scales, my friend.”
“You have no idea what this means, for us, for humanity. The search for life out there is over, and the answer has been literally staring us in the face forever.”
“For starters it means the Egyptians were right, in a sense. Their god Ra was a lot more accurate, scientifically speaking, than any Judeo-Christian God. Not that Sol is particularly large. There are stars out there that dwarf Sol. But our star has gathered a number of planets and other objects, more than is standard for a star of Sol’s mass, if our extrasolar astronomy is to be believed.”
“What do you mean, gathered?”
“Compared to Sol, even Jupiter is tiny. We humans probably don’t register. I doubt Sol is even aware there is life on Earth, what with our short existence. No, Sol seems to have steered itself or cast its gravity far and wide to scoop up all sorts of interstellar detritus.”
“So what you’re saying is…”
“Not only is the sun alive, but Sol has a personality. It seems our star is a hoarder.”
Author : Jean-Paul L. Garnier
The shuttle clanked back and forth in its many dimensional dance. The strands all lay separated by their individual frequencies, ready for use at any given moment, and waiting for their chance to join the great tapestry that was unfolding. If only man had been given eyes to see the entire electromagnetic spectrum then maybe the loom would have been noticed, but we missed it altogether. We did see the weaver, but the size, shape, and the consistency all eluded us. With so much phase cancellation and dark matter, how could we have noticed that the great weaver, the player of the music, was in fact space itself.
The loom was invisible, but small parts of its expression were not. Sometimes when two or more colors would clash we might detect, as though from far away, an increase in perceived amplitudes, we dubbed these moments: reality. Space always looked like it was expanding, and its colors would shift because of this, however the weaver never told us, nor had any reason to tell us, that it just happened to be the colors chosen for this particular display of threads, in this section of the tapestry.
When weaving, sometimes threads jam the loom and it is necessary to detangle and retie them. The weaver took great pleasure in reaching out and strumming the threads strewn out on the loom: the cosmic background radiation. Such long threads let loose subtle bass notes that sent harmonics spreading out through most of the spectrum, making the fabric sway with an ordered mathematical music.
We searched for the mysterious gravity wave. They remained hidden for so long that we eventually set up a laser system in space to detect such low notes. The focused light that we sent out was generally unavailable in the cosmos, until we found a way. Each color we focused and utilized, each color just one note that sat waiting for use, waiting for the weaver.
Two threads caught and tangled, it did not bother the weaver and was a common occurrence. A gentle touch spread across the threads, rang out with the miracle of music, but something was missing, certain frequencies that should have been there were not. It was only a small few, but the music was disturbed, as though notes had been muted from a symphony.
The weaver bent inward for a closer listen to the loom. Yes, something was missing, a single frequency of red here, a single frequency of green there. Never before had there been interference in the tapestry, never a challenge to the music of the weaver.
Squinting so as to limit the frequency intake of the spectrum, the weaver looked on, closer than usual, zooming in on the details of the work. It was impossible, it was too soon, the tapestry was nowhere near finished.
Although the weaver had been working for countless eons, the grand design had yet to unfold, details had yet to be worked in. Yet here, in this insignificant almost unnoticeable and minuscule section of the fabric, a pattern had formed.
The weaver had put great care into the larger order of the work, but had decided to save the details for last, but here at the intersection of two threads, somehow a pattern had arranged itself, undirected by the loom, or the weaver.
Author : Konstantinos Kalofonos
Sotiris glanced down at his sleeve and brought up his family’s bank statement on the Fabroscreen. The corners of the screen flickered as the frayed edges of the flannel were losing connectivity. The large negative number was clear enough to make him wince. Running his hand across the screen, he brought up his friend list and searched for someone that might have an inside track on a small score, just enough to get his family by for a few days. His mouth dried at the thought of giving into Alvaro and Dimitri’s offer to join them at the chop shop and run a hustle on their usual elderly marks.
He pulled up the email threatening eviction. On Mars, that usually meant mandatory deportation back to Earth. Reading his thoughts, the screen jumped to images of stretching deserts and burned out husks of cities. Pictures of emaciated children covered in rad sores put a knot in his stomach. He could still smell the decay which clung to Old York, like a tattered death shroud. Sotiris shuddered as Earth’s soulless gravity well reached out from its tomb and dragged him and his family back.
Sotiris jumped as the terraformer unleashed a new thunderstorm on the world. Outside the dome, rain pelted and lightning flashed against the glass. With each flash, he could trace the electricity shoot down the poles on the dome, and from there trickle down into the generators, which again powered the terraformer. He considered the cycle, his mind spinning. With the next flash, the dome’s BioStat lights flickered to a darker green and a seed of his salvation was planted in his mind.
Sitting up, he took a deep breath and smelled the sterile scent of the air scrubbers working to clean the constant mildew. He knew that he had to use the crash of the lightning, and the dimming of the lights to his advantage.
Ducking out of the BioStats, Sotiris sat in the shadows, watching the red neon lights flicker from Maury’s Pawn shop. A text from his mom flashed across his sleeve: ‘Will you be home for dinner?’ The thought of another night of boiled cabbage crystallized his resolve. He would wait till someone walked by the alley at the exact moment that the lightning struck again.
The shape of a hunched man, counting money of all things, walked by the alley having just left the pawn shop. A flash of light and a crash of thunder sprung Sotiris from his recess and he hit the man in the back of the head. As the figure crumpled to the ground, he grabbed the large wad of cash and sprinted home.
“Dad?” Sotiris called out from the door, greeted by the stench of thrice boiled cabbage. “I found some money on the street!”
“That’s great sweetie,” replied his mother from the kitchen.
“I think it might be enough to pay rent.”
“Your father went to the pawn shop to sell his antique books. If they took them, we should have enough for rent and synth-meat too.”
“Mom, which pawn shop did he go to?”
“Maury’s I think, why?”
“I’ll be right back mom.”
Author : T Anthony Allen
I am not a pervert. And, I find it hard to accept I have to point that out to complete strangers.
Of all the planets I have been to, Verity is most disorienting. A city here looks much like any other, buildings everywhere, but the buildings are very much not designed to keep you out; they are built to let you in. And weather here is temperate, so no need to shut it out. I am told the architecture is set up for the convenience of machines, of which there are many. Adding to, or perhaps the main contributor to disorienting, buildings do nothing, no signage whatsoever, to let you know they have a purpose, or if there is a purpose, what is it?
Soon after arriving, I went looking for a place to stay. I asked someone where I could find a hostel and he pointed across the street to a wide open entrance. I went in, looking for anything hostel like. Walking thru short corridors that bend so you cannot see far ahead, I ended up in a living room that had no door. It looked to me like a living room but maybe it was a gathering place? I called out.
That came from another doorless doorway to another room. I walked in to find man and woman in flagrante delicto with gusto. They had no issue with my presence, asked if I wanted to join in, asked if I wanted to take pictures, bring friends, and apparently, my being there was potent aphrodisiac. The woman, Chelly, tried to say ‘so good to meet you’ but found it hard to say and even harder for me to understand with all the gasping, moaning and ‘oh gods’ interspersed. Meeting me can be an orgasmic experience. They were actually quite nice, very friendly, and thoroughly enjoying my accidental voyeurism.
Where I come from, you get stiff upper lip ironed on as soon as you are old enough to be ‘children seen and not heard’. It never goes away and you go through life never nodding, speaking to or otherwise acknowledging the existence of anyone else in public. That is not at all, no way even remotely, the case here. The first person I encountered on my hostel search was walking wobbly, singing as wobbly as he walked, and when he saw me he said ‘Hey buddy’ with a smile so joyful, I thought he mistook me for someone else. I figured he was just happy drunk before I realized everyone I met seemed to know who I was and soon enough random strangers made comments suggesting they knew why I was here, where I was going and what I was trying to find.
On Verity, everything is recorded. The city will start a thread that contains every conversation you engage in. The thread gets cataloged, and follows wherever you go. You can hold conversations serially with multiple strangers and they can all access your thread, regardless if it started a while ago and far away. Most people I meet only refer back to the latest bit for context, so not a problem, but a few are obsessively anal and go back to the beginnings. I identify them right off by the way they smile and look at me funny.
That is when I tell them I am not a pervert, despite the Peeping Tom title the city attached when it cataloged my thread.