A Dancer, To Dance, Is Dancing

Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“What is it doing?” Cerulean shimmered into the environment, overlapping the space Fuscia already occupied, though they didn’t seem to mind.

“It’s dancing,” Fuscia replied, moving to fully envelop Cerulean, their resulting colour an oscillation between both of their beings rather than a blend of them. “It’s a dancer, it dances,” they added, as though this was obvious.

Cerulean studied the room, it’s pale yellow floors, and the walls reflecting back the image of the dancer as it danced. From one corner of the room waves rippled through both spaces, theirs and its, undulating and rolling back on themselves when they reached the hard boundaries the dancer danced within.

“Its movements, are they caused by, or are they causing the waves of undulation?” Cerulean pondered, out loud. “They are almost synchronous, and yet not, quite, exactly.”

Fuscia spread through the space, leaving Cerulean at the edges and rode these undulations around the dancer, mimicking their frequency, their amplitude, following them as close as possible.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Fuscia mused, “as quick as I am, I can only go where it’s already been.”

Fuscia detached from Cerulean completely, and attached to the dancer at the tip of one flailing appendage, then followed as it danced, an otherworldly shadow.

Cerulean was fascinated, this creature of a physical world so in tune with a form of energy they in the spiritual took so for granted, a form they presumed was theirs and theirs alone to experience.

The atmosphere in the space itself then changed, in an instant, as Fuscia locked into absolute synchrony with the dancer, who itself seemed to channel the frequencies and amplitudes of all the energies at once in the space they occupied together. They were, for an impossible moment, all interconnected and intertwined.

Cerulean alone bore witness, and in the magic of the moment was changed, indescribably, but absolutely.

As quickly as it began, the moment passed.

The undulating waves in the room ceased.

Fuscia fell out of synchronicity with the dancer, as the dancer itself stopped dancing, collecting its things and moving to leave the space.

Soon even the light waves in the room were no more.

Cerulean and Fuscia stayed, silent for what seemed an eternity, reveling in what they had just witnessed and been a part of.

“I want that, I want to do that,” Cerulean was first to break the silence, “I don’t understand it, but I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Fuscia simply beamed.

“I want the dancer to come back. Make the dancer come back.” Cerulean strained at the edges of the dancer’s hard space, a strange yearning now growing inside.

“The dancer always comes back,” Fuscia replied, “it always dances, it’s as if it knows something, knows there’s something here and is trying to become one with the energy it so eloquently chases in this space.”

Cerulean softly keened.

“Don’t worry,” Fuscia comforted them, “the dancer always dances.”

The Gantry

Author: Morrow Brady

For years, the travellers, with their grimy little lives, laboured their way up through the pillar engine, in a vain hope of reaching the great power chamber. Long lives of suffering through industrial tunnel networks, chain powered lift corporations and mechanised fuel courts. They were near deaf as the machine’s roar grew ever louder. The legend of the gantry fuelled them onwards.

From oil-drenched crevices, they finally crawled out into the great underground chamber atop steel pillar city, their disorientation magnified by the crashing clatter of the world’s machinery. The engineered city struck angled poses, as it teetered on the edge of a bottomless divide serving only to imprison them. Beyond the divide, the mirrored wall, a surface of angry bismuth, rose from deep darkness to the chamber’s ceiling where glistening machinery came alive. Blue streaks of light held motionless silhouettes that watched.

The travellers stood horrified, as edge zealots flung themselves into the dark divide. Their sacrifice but subtle carnage compared to hammering a life out of this den of despair. Leaning over the edge, the travellers looked down the pillar’s steel wall, to catch their first glimpse of the gantry, nestled in like a sleeping coiled snake.

With the extortionate traversal fee paid, the travellers were shoved down oily, machined access-ways to the gantry’s greasy dock. After clambering through an assault course of structural bolts, a large yellow painted assembly led to a series of articulated arms. Wearily they scaled across surfaces slick with machine oil and calloused in salty build-up, to reach the platform at gantry’s end. On the teetering platform, they fearfully looked into the divide.

Glowing green from the control station, the operator awoke the gantry. It shuddered into life and stuttered away from its snug dock, languidly cantilevering out across the perilous divide. Thrown to the platform floor, the exhausted travellers desperately tried to find purchase, as their lungs heaved the hideous stench surging up from divide’s bowel.

The travellers cowered as pillar dwellers gathered at the edge and peppered greasy shards of metal down at them. The gantry sluggishly unfolded, creaking at each movement and snakily extended out across the great void of the divide. The insane surface of the mirrored wall grew in detail as they swung towards it and the gantry then began its final pivot that flung the platform in a wide mechanical arc. In precise articulation, it aligned the platform through a hidden wall port. The platform shook as it penetrated the port and emerged on the other side of the wall to another bottomless chamber. The travellers gasped in amazement at a glass dome above them filled with colourful planets beyond. The legends were true after all.

Against the inside face of the mirrored wall was a broad ledge awaiting the gantry’s arrival. The platform drew closer and as each traveller nervously edged forward in preparation, it suddenly stopped short. It was too far to reach the ledge and after a few tense minutes of confusion, the gantry jogged and started to reverse its journey. Anger turned to bitter disappointment as the platform slowly slid back towards the port. Their screams to the operator sounded in vain.

Before the platform re-entered the port, the gantry jolted with such severity that it flipped the platform. Every traveller was silently dumped into the black void, never to return. The platform reset itself, slid back through the wall port and slowly returned to the dock in the pillar.

In the great chamber, the oblivious operator shutdown the gantry and returned to the edge to seek more travellers.

Jessica’s Gone

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The net curtains in the window are blowing free today. You used to sit there, batting them aside whenever they came between you and whatever you were reading.
Camille whispers: “What about these?”
It’s like she’s scared to disturb the memories hanging thick in the air. I look up to see those Lonsdale pads you found for me. With the very same words, too. How long ago was that? I’d been hitting a bin bag filled with takeaway cups hung from a fire escape.
“What about these?”
There you were. Summer dress and army surplus boots, hair flowing across your shoulder on one side, cornrows hanging down your back on the other. Holding out those pads. Old. Battered. I could see you’d coloured in the bits where the wrappings had come away.
“I’ll hold them for you, but you have to teach me how to fight.”
That’s how we started. I scraped and fought in illegal contests to pay for my lessons, then learned as I taught you. You helped out with better food than my Dad threw my way, and I gave you the skills to deck your mum’s boyfriends when they went too far with you or your mum.
What a pair we made, screaming across the rooftops, randomly rearranging the datalines up there, running from rentacops and nosey drones – but only far enough to get decent shots with our catapults. Until that security nutter put a crossbow bolt through my arm.
“I know someone who can fix you. She’ll let us pay monthly.”
That’s when you started fighting, to pay for that. By the time I’d healed, we’d shacked up together in the penthouse of some abandoned tower block at the western end of the London Flood Zone. After I got back up to speed, we fought as a team, tag or paired. While we had the looks that appealed to its fussy devotees, we did naked cage fighting. It wasn’t glamorous, but it made us a lot of money. We could have made more, but outside the cage, we only went skin to skin with each other.
They weren’t truly good days, but they were simple. Love and combat techniques were our lot for nine years.
We were talking about retiring when you got pregnant. Seemed like a hint from the laughing gods who watch over idiots like us. So we took your mum and everything we had from the tidal slums of London to inland shores that revealed what had been Eastbourne every low tide.
“Got an idea.”
You started a blog, ‘Fighting the Times’, and before we knew what was happening, we had Camille and you were a bit of a media star. Endorsements and sponsorship weren’t to either of our tastes, but we had a daughter to raise, and, too soon after, your mum to cremate.
Time went by and life, well, life got harder. Not in major ways, just lots of little things. All the costs added up. I even started coaching to supplement our money. Then you coughed blood all over the bed one morning, and all too miserably soon, here I am, holding our daughter as tears flood down onto a pair of tattered training pads.
“Don’t quit. Get up and wade in.”
I will, Jessica. I promise I will, and I’ll make sure Camille gets through this.
But not today. Today we cry. Tomorrow we fight on.

What Is The World Coming To?

Author: David Barber

The man in the armchair by the window is Frank Chappel. He’s been widowed for some years now; he walks a little stiffly because of his knee but is determined not to use a stick; his hair may be white but at least he’s not gone bald like some men his age.

Frank wasn’t always a killer.

It started with a phone call, and him grunting to his feet and limping into the hall to answer it. His internet service provider, a voice said, and there was a problem. Seemed he must give them some information so they could fix it.

The third scam call that week and Frank was getting more and more enraged by them. What was the world coming to? he wanted to know. Had they no conscience? He shouted down the phone once and heard laughter before the line went dead.

“Listen you,” began Frank, and was seized by the thought of his anger rushing down the phone line, traveling at tremendous speed, and squirting into the ear of this man who earned his living cheating old folk.

Frank never finished, because there was the clatter of a dropped handset and a woman crying out in alarm. He listened, hardly breathing, until someone said, “I think it’s a heart attack.”

There were other calls, worrying calls about his bank card, if he could just give them a few details of his account; also persistent double-glazing salesmen, and all of them broke off mid-sentence, perhaps with a gasp or a cry. Soon there were no more scam calls. In fact, the phone hardly rang now.

He sat and thought about it, and decided it must be coincidence or something. Imagine trying to tell someone, and how mad it would sound.

But then there were the teenagers. Some mornings Frank took a walk to Mr. Patel’s shop to buy a paper and milk and biscuits. His wife always said he had a sweet tooth.

Outside, some teenagers ran into him and everything spilled onto the pavement.

“Watch out granddad,” one of them called, as they strolled away.

Shaken, Frank leaned on the shop window and Mr. Patel fussed out to help.

“Such boys,” said Mr. Patel, shaking his head. “No respect.”

Frank glared after them, and abruptly they crumpled to the pavement, like puppets with their strings cut.

Next day, a policewoman knocked at his door. She perched on the sofa with the broken spring, balancing a notebook on her knee. Frank stared at her police hat on the coffee table between them.

“Four teenagers having heart attacks at the same time. For the moment we’re treating them as unexplained deaths.”

Yes, the teenagers had barged into him. No, he didn’t know them. Had she spoken to Mr. Patel?

“Because your phone number came up in a fraud enquiry. Another spate of heart attacks.”

Yes, that was his number. Sometimes he got scam calls. Didn’t everyone these days?

The police officer sensed something amiss, but in the end, put her notebook away.

Frank watched her cross the road to her car. He watched her suddenly claw at her chest. He watched the ambulance come and go. Later that day he watched another police car pull up. These officers didn’t even manage to get out of their car.

Frank Chappel sitting by the window, while his phone rings and rings; and there’s some sort of commotion in the street, and armed men creeping round his back yard. What was the world coming to? He just wanted to be left in peace!

The phone stops ringing.

Outside, everything goes very quiet.

Eudora Pennifer and the Calabi Yau Manifolds

Author: Janet Shell Anderson

“The extra dimensions of spacetime are sometimes conjectured to take the form of a six-dimensional Calabi Yau Manifold.”

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t mean a lot to me right now when there’re riots in West Palm and I’m nearby at my cousin’s estate, Florabella, in Delray/Gulfstream, Florida. At his entrance by the Atlantic, only a couple blocks away, I can hear shouting and maybe gunfire.

But the speaker’s interesting even to my cuz’s wife, Tatiana Romanova Baldwin, the most luscious woman in the world according to TODAY TODAY and ULTRAGOOGLE. He’s Chad Simmons, son of a famous film star and the last astronaut, young, horribly handsome, face like a Greek god, body ditto. An astrophysicist. I’m not sure if Tatiana thinks his being an astrophysicist’s an asset, we’re more in need of goons and lots of them.
My cousin, Perry Austrian Baldwin, the USA Vice Prez, needs help. I’m a divorce attorney mostly operating out of the Space Coast, not much help. My apt, my one-room hole in the wall, with no noticeable rats, my one Maine Coon cat, it’s probably a lot safer. Wish Thor, the Maine coon, were here. Or maybe not. I see myself as moderately successful although the last divorce trio I worked for stiffed me. And remarried.

But Perry called and I came over. Nothing to do on a Friday evening anyway. Perry’s pygmy mammoths are all gathered by his infinity pool as if they think they could make a break for it to my cousin’s yacht. Perry’s been studying the 25th Amendment, always a bad sign for everyone, including the current Prez, who’s insisting he has the right to be reelected for a third term.

“Calabi Yau Manifolds have properties such as Ricci flatness.”

Tatiana looks at Chad like he’s a piece of forever forbidden pie. She’s no genius, went to a soup kitchen in a gilded, sequined dress that flashed out gold holograms saying “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” “Let them eat cake.”

I didn’t know she knew any French.

“The canonical bundle of M is trivial,” Chad opines and stretches his beautiful legs on the lounge beside the pool, unaware of the gunfire, the shouts, the navy vessel coming up the Coastal Waterway, my cousin crossing rapidly to the pool area. Perry’s thin hair flaps over his high forehead. Like most Vice Presidents, he’s good for attending funerals and standing beside the Big Man, looking inconsequential.

Something like a helicopter churns overhead, a round plastic thing, a time machine, circus prop, whatever. No pilot. The pot-bellied pigs race toward hedges shaped like horses and squeal in German.

“Washington’s on fire,” my cousin cries. “The White House’s surrounded. There’re tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue. No one knows who’s driving them.”

Tatiana slips off her bathing suit top. Her skin gleams. The astrophysicist notices for the first time, takes a sudden breath, doesn’t care about DC.

“M has a holomorphic n-form that vanishes nowhere.” He certainly has a way with words. “We can vanish among the multiple dimensions.”

The round flying object has only room for two .

My cousin smiles at Chad, takes his hand and the two men get in the round clear object which bounces into the cloudless sky and disappears into the sunset.

Tatiana says a word I didn’t know she knew.

That about sums it up.

The canonical bond of M is trivial. Perhaps that will be on her next dress if we survive.

Sweet Nothings

Author: Kevlin Henney

You get all types here — the good and the bad. The ugly? No, it’s all the beautiful types here at the Nakamoto. You want ugly you go to Zom Zom’s. Gets real ugly. You wouldn’t want to be seen dead there. But seen then dead is how you’d be. Rough joint.

Sure, you get the beautiful types here, but the Nakamoto ain’t high class — and what happens here ain’t classy — but it’s better than Zom Zom’s. Newcomers are here to wash something away; regulars come to soak in it. That ain’t always how it plays it out, but they’re all here for one reason. They come looking for something because they’ve got nothing, sweet nothing.

What can you find at the bottom of a glass? Emptiness. Emptiness and plastic — yeah, even the glass ain’t real. You want more of the anaesthetic of the masses, you ask, you pay, you reach the bottom again. Redemption? You won’t find it. Questions? Always. Answers? Sometimes.

The doll along the bar from me is weeping “What’s she got that I haven’t?” into her ersatz drink, the kind her type likes to drink. Satoshi says nothing. Sure, he knows the answer, but good programming makes for good service — being literal ain’t something you want in a bartender.

“A young model… I thought he loved me!” She knocks back her fauxdka.

“Another for the doll,” I say. Satoshi pours her another, like he always does. Always straight, never watered down. No point, nothing is ever as real as you want it to be — the truth is a cold, hard plastic place.

“Sam,” I say.

She raises an eyebrow. “Me too: Samantha.” Yeah, classic doll.

“Samuel. But only my ID card calls me that.”

She spills the story before pitching me the same “What’s she got that I haven’t?” sob. Like Satoshi, I’m too polite to call up the specs to compare and tell. “Sure, she’s younger — newer — but I’ve had all the upgrades! I’m as good as the latest model.”

I let her finish her drink before I lean over and whisper in her ear — part of the pick-up routine, what they like to call sweet nothings. She sits back, upright, giving me that look. She’s ready to go.

All the world’s a stage? Maybe. Maybe not. But we’re definitely players, each with our part, each with our script.

“Another for the road, ‘Toshi.”

What I offer might not be redemption but — squint at it right, through the bottom of a plastic glass — it might — just might — look like an answer.

She’s still, pupils as dark and as wide as the hole she’d been feeling in her life. With the reset code I whispered — ones and zeroes, but mostly zeroes — she could stay like that for hours. But others might start to notice. Sure, everyone’s here for one reason… but it’s different in each case. Don’t want to make mine any more obvious. Besides, waiting around doesn’t get the job done.

The company’s happy when each line is new and selling by the container load. The company’s happy for them to be yesterday’s models, living their dream living someone else’s dream, being — and wanting to be — your whatever-you-want. But wandering the streets and bars, unowned, desperate with preprogrammed love? Not what they’re designed for. Doesn’t make the company look good.

The company has policies. One of them is No Returns, No Refunds. Redemption is never on the cards. The company has… other policies.

We all have our parts to play. This one’s mine. I finish my synth-ab and we leave.