Cicada

Author: Thomas Mills

Some say it was bound to happen. But people no longer talk about it. After years of governmental and military alien cover-ups, who could be shocked at all? We saw something, that’s for sure. But what?

Millions of flying saucers just started appearing, small and black, the center sections of each craft encircled by soundless, spinning disks, the only visible means of propulsion. Observers offered similar descriptions… “dark saucers, rising silently from deep bodies of water”…all over the earth. Self-levitating disks creating beautiful, fine wisps of opalescent mist and spirals of water radiating downward as each craft emerged from unexplored depths.

News of “the situation” bombarded us from every media source. We watched in riveted fascination, mouths agape, as alien technology blatantly barrel-rolled into our awareness. We watched in amazement and delight, the playfulness reflected in soaring gyrations and acrobatic intermingling of the saucers. We gasped in awe as collisions were adroitly avoided, like clouds of bats or schooling fish. Black swirling shapes curved around cumulus clouds and raced over the dappled green leaves of our global forests. Video monitors repeated endless loops of the enigmatic alien saucers, from extreme close-ups to hazy, out-of-focus swarms of dark hovering objects. Smartphones captured the event. Owners scrambled to share the “penultimate moment” over the Internet. But still the questions linger, why, how, who? Non-stop, staccato questions with no plausible answers. Scientists exhibited both stupor and incipient disbelief.

As quickly as the alien machines emerged, they disappeared, spinning beneath the waves leaving no trace, no answers. We can never again look upon our oceans, inland seas, deepest lakes and fjords without wondering if and when they might return. They’re gone and we’ve no technology that can prove their continuing existence. It’s as if they were never here. But we know better.

As I sit, listening to the oscillating rise and fall of summer’s newly emergent Cicada, I wonder if the aliens will return much like these ancient insects? Rhythmic pulses from countless Cicadas increase, deepening my consternation, as I wonder how these aliens came to be here, pondering their intent with growing concern about what they might do next. We now know…alien life forms do exist, right here on Earth. Have they been here all along? With that knowledge what will we do differently? How does this change things? Do we cling to some form of contrived normalcy? How do we live, aware that everything is different? It’s as if the earth has shifted beneath our feet, continuously thrusting us left and right, catapulting everyone toward the incontrovertible conclusion that we are not alone.

Primal fear kept us on edge, capable of fighting or fleeing to survive. But a lesser human instinct was triggered by the mass emergence. We froze, as a result of what we saw. Not knowing what comes next, we’re aimlessly adrift in time, a repeating loop of remembrance…from before we knew of them, to the day they emerged, and subsequently, through an uncertain time in which we must move forward without certainties.

So what was “the situation” all about? A cosmic slap of comeuppance? A subtle sign disparaging our simple-minded conceits? Was it a random event that will not occur for another 200,000 years? We now possess knowledge of a certainty, of which we had no prior awareness nor advance warning. Nor will we necessarily acquire additional certainties now…or ever.
We can only wait, wonder and worry. Could it be possible that our biological parents came calling? What do you think? You’ve been strangely silent.

Home Where I Feel Alone

Author: Hari Navarro

She sits at the console, the warm glow of beading sex sits at her lip and the sleeping monster it shifts and turns in her bed. Silently her fingers glide, swirling across the holographic keyboard that projects from sensors embedded into their tips.

The face that stares from her monitor is that of her lover, a man she has never once met. A man whose skin she’d not brushed against and whose scent is as unknown and alien as the shale plain that lays chill in the darkness beyond the blast shutters at her back. His name is Frank, though nobody knows that but she. In the world of electronic interplanetary sex, he is Blackbird 73-52.

Pinching the corners of her mouth she draws her thumb and index finger together, puckering her lip so as to absently chew at its bulge. The texture of flesh between her teeth and the faint hint of blood comforts as she reads his words.

Carnal words hastily typed, error-filled filth that deteriorates with the ever increasing beat of her breath. Words that wrap and pulse within her in ways that those of the monster never could, nor ever would.

The monster is her husband and she had two monster children. They aren’t monsters. But she has no other word to describe what it is they become. She sees monstrosity as they silently conspire, as they parade before her in flesh suits tailored perfect and stitched just so.

She knows they’ve shifted. The people they were last week is not who they are today. And then, they will change back. Life focusing and blurring, a fucked up iris in constant and perpetual flux.

Franks words taper to exclamation marks and the blood in her veins it quivers. In all the twenty-three months they have been communicating he has never changed. He the one constant in her life. A life where the corridor that backbones her living module grows doorways at will. Where things in photographs evaporate and memories are thought and not spoken.

Her reflection ghosts that of his image and she again sips from her lip. A truth is being hidden from this man she has told everything.

“You good?”, he types in words that have recovered their poise.
“Always”
“Been thinking about what you told me, the shifting”
“I know what I see”
“I looked into instances of similar cases… where people claim that things change or are substituted”
“I’m not a case”
“There are cases, sorry, reports that suggest that maybe these kinds of feelings…”
“It’s not a feeling”
“… that they can be triggered by historic trauma, sometimes. An event that has you subliminally alter your surroundings so as to remaster the event. To warp time, to protect yourself and those you love”
“From what?”
“From whatever it was that hurt you”

The ensuing silence lasts but a moment, just long enough for a fracture to appear. A crack in the shell that had calcified and entombed a long forgotten memory.

“It was a cage under a house that smelled like wet concrete”
“Come, live with me. The children too”
“I cant”
“It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s a cage built around a cage. Meet me. This thing we have created here can live and breathe in the real world too”

“I can’t. You’ll shift, you’ll change. You won’t want to but you will. I know this. Frank… I’m one of them too”, she laments as her infant son slides open the door and the hallway light warps her reflection on the screen, bubbling and splitting it in two.

Wormhole Revisited

Author: William Gray

These bite marks on my forearm. Just below the crease of my elbow.

They’ve always been there, even as a child growing up on the colonies of Ganymede.

Their pattern is unique. All slim, clean lines with the exception of one wide, jagged rip exactly where the brachial artery carries oxygenated blood to my hand.

I’m not sure how long the wormhole tossed me about. My guess? Somewhere between a day and a millennium. The time was mostly darkness, with a periodic fitful nightmare, the same one every time.

Hot yellow teeth melting into my flesh.

#

The wormhole hiccuped me out near a planet that, so far, has been a pleasure to explore. Oxygen is plentiful. Sunlight peeks through a canopy of gigantic palm leaves high above. A cool, dry breeze weaves its way through the fabric of my expedition suit as I explore the new terrain.

I have not yet encountered any humanoid life forms. Numerous rodent-like species prey upon each other in a bid for survival, but they leave me alone. The insects are harmless. No reptilian forms. I have seen giant birds flying above, similar to depictions of Earth’s ancient Pterodactyls, but I am yet to see one up close.

With its extensive family of moons, eclipses on this planet are common. Partials happen almost daily. However, considering how dark it’s getting, today’s might be full totality.

As the eclipse resolves and light returns, the air feels heavy. I work harder to breathe, as if atmospheric oxygen levels are dropping.

A haggard old man approaches. His kyphotic spine is bent to a right angle. His beard is braided into individual strands which are woven into larger braids, hanging low, creating a curtain that hides his apparent nakedness. He ambulates with both hands on a gnarled wooden staff. As he gets closer, the heavy air turns salty.

He is in a hurry, as if he must accomplish something before what life he has left is spent. He winces and struggles forward, as if pushing past the excruciating pain of severe arthritis.

As he stands right in front of me, I start to wretch. It smells like someone pissed on a pile of rotten sardines.

He flashes a smile, a mouthful of brown-yellowed teeth. One in front is a single fang, thick and serrated. It spikes down over his lower lip, into his beard, embedding itself into the nest of braids.

He crouches down, takes a final breath, and somehow finds the energy to pounce on me like a tiger.

As he is a frail old man, I didn’t think I was in any danger. I did not anticipate this at all. I have no time to retrieve my weapon before his teeth sink into my neck.

The jagged hot incisor plunges into my carotid, boiling the blood coursing within.

#

These bite marks on my neck. Just above the clavicle, where tendons bind it to the top of my sternum.

They’ve always been there, even as a child growing up on the colonies of Ganymede.

Their pattern is unique. All slim, clean lines with the exception of one wide, jagged rip, exactly where the carotid artery carries oxygenated blood to my brain.

I’m not sure how long the wormhole jostled me about. My guess? A couple hundred minutes or a couple hundred centuries. The time was mostly darkness, with a periodic fitful nightmare, the same one every time.

Hot yellow teeth melting into my flesh.

Growing Back

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The snow is so fine it sometimes drifts about for hours before finally settling. The result is a mist that makes everything vague before fallen snow obscures it completely. This being acid snow, obscuring may become erasure when thawing drenches everything in acid.
On organics, the snow is quicker to harm. Every member of our group has snowburn – blotches where snow melted on contact and scarred the skin. You’ve got to be well covered to survive out there. Even the toughest organics have a lifespan measured in days, which drops to hours if any snow is allowed to melt on whatever it is.
Every lair has a sluice, where those coming in are rinsed thoroughly as soon after entry as sensible. Filtering the water used is a continuing nightmare, as we can’t let it contaminate our potable supplies and even the vapours are noxious to varying degrees.
“Rack and ruin, rain and burn, will we see another turn?”
It’s a well-known rhyme, used to keep those who pedal the generator in time. Everyone gets to pedal, it’s a rule. Electricity allows us to keep the luxuries going, like educators for the kids and the special lights that keep the plant vats growing.
Vegetables: beans, okra, cucumber, melon, and more. We have nineteen varieties. That gives us trading rights with every group for ten miles. We even get trekkers that come from the haven over at Lewes and the forts at Southampton. They’re hardened types, grown from ex-military cliques. I’d call them strange, but we’re all a little ‘off’ these days. Good thing is, with the end of natural fresh water and everything wet falling from the skies liable to melt your face, the bandit problem just petered out. You can’t raid to live anymore.
“I’d question if we’re actually living.”
That’s Ethel. She’s looking over my shoulder, getting a feel for this writing thing. Someone has to, and she’s inherited her mother’s knack for words. All she needs to do is take the plunge and write something from what she feels, rather than what she sees. It’s a factual existence, these days. No room for whimsy when the planet’s out to purge you.
Which brings me to her question. We’re working very hard to live. So hard that anything not directly associated with it has been let go. Me writing is a gift from having lost my legs in a bad fall. I needed something to do, so I’m writing a guide to everything we do, so we don’t lose any of the ways we’ve worked so hard to perfect – and continue to refine.
“You and Kaden Leader are the same. Keep insisting that we’ll eventually be able to not work at surviving all the time. I still don’t understand what we’ll do with – what do you call it?”
“Free time.”
“That. What do you do with it?”
“Anything you want. Do something for fun. Relax.”
“Not sure I’d like that.”
“You’ll be surprised.”
She thinks on that, then grins.
“When it happens, I’ll cope. Like we always have to.”
I laugh for so long she wanders off in disgust, not understanding just how funny the idea of people having to cope with free time is.
Which is unfair. I can remember people, long dead, who’d agree with her. They had the same problem, even back when we had non-lethal snow and leisure time.

Memories Light the Corners of our Minds

Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

I look out the viewport to the crushing void of space.

It doesn’t feel real. I don’t feel connected to any of this, out here alone amidst all this nothing.

“Put all the weight on the balls of your feet and press them into the floor,” advice from an old teacher. “It’s impossible not to remain present when you’re focused on feeling the floor. It will help center you in the moment.”

I shift my weight forward, but instead of the floor, I’m pulled back into a distant memory.

Shadow coloured stones crushed and scattered under sneakers. Our passage unheard, we had slipped silently across the rooftop expanse to its eastern face. Lumbering ventilation units dotted the rooftop at intervals, drinking heat from the spaces below to exhale in great humid sighs. These were the only sounds to disturb the pre-morning air. There were no bird songs, no passing craft, no murmuring undercurrent of peripheral lives.

It was the silence before the break of day.

The two of us sat, silent, legs dangling into space from the parapet, the last of the previous night’s beer in hand, each of us absently slaking the thirst neither of us felt anymore.

It’s not the night’s antics that made this moment memorable, indeed I don’t remember anymore what we did that night. I barely remember the rising of the sun itself, though I’m sure as always it was worth the wait.

The memory, rather, is of two unlikely friends sharing the last moment we’d know together, in silence, waiting for the sun to rise and give us permission to leave one another, to go to our separate futures.

It is those few moments, that shared time of solitude so exquisitely inscribed upon which I now reflect. A time remarkable in its clarity, plucked from a sea of murky memories, of happenings that have long since faded from view.

I blink and she’s gone, as the rooftop is gone, replaced with the gnawing emptiness.

What I wouldn’t give for one more morning like that, for one more rising of any sun.

The Day Everything Goes Down

Author: David Henson

I wake up sweating, check the alarm clock. Three fifty-nine? Too light. I fumble for my watch. Almost 10.

“What’s wrong with the a/c, Daniel?” Jean says sleepily.

***

I come back from Kyle and Lisa’s across the street. “They don’t have power either. And there’s no Sunday paper. Must be out across town.”

“I tried to call Lorraine, but there’s no service,” Jean says.

“I guess everything’s gone down.”

I find an old transistor radio and change batteries. It hisses across the dial. How widespread is this?

“Let’s drive around and see what’s going on,” Jean says.

I shove up the garage door, get in the car and turn the key. Nothing. Jean tries her car. More nothing. We go outside and stare into the sky.

“Our cars won’t start,” Kyle yells.

***

Jean holds her phone in one hand, the hissing radio in the other. “I’m so worried about Lorraine. Why would this happen now when she’s due any day?”

“Randolph will look after her. They probably don’t even have an outage in Ridgefield,” I say, trying to ignore the radio.

“Maybe we could ride our bikes there.”

“A hundred miles? We’d never make it in this heat.”

Her face glistening, Jean goes to the kitchen sink, holds a dishcloth under the faucet and lets the water run. The flow quickly trickles to a stop.

“Guess the water company’s lost power, too,” I say, wondering why its standby generators aren’t working.

We sweat out the day, constantly trying the phone, the cars, and the radio. We finally give up around midnight.

Around 3:30 a.m., I slip out of bed, towel off sweat, and go to the picture window in the living room. There’s an eerie red glow in the sky. I notice movement across the street. Kyle and Lisa? Someone —something — else? I need to keep my imagination in check. I lean closer to the window, hear a noise behind me, and whirl around.

“Too hot to sleep.” Jean goes to the window. “I see Kyle and Lisa can’t either. Daniel … this couldn’t be some sort of … invasion? That’s crazy, right?”

I hear shouting outside. Sounds like Kyle and Lisa arguing. “More likely the heat wave caused it. Or hackers. Probably hackers.”

“But the cars. How could hackers do that?”

“Well, most are connected to the internet nowadays. Not older models though.” I realize that’s a clue. “When it’s light, I’ll bike to the overpass. Bet I see a few cars.” I take my wife’s hand. “Let’s try to get a couple hours sleep.”

***

I lie awake in pools of sweat. At 3:59, the alarm clock glows red. “Jean,” I whisper with relief. She doesn’t respond so I slip quietly out of the bedroom and turn on a 24-hour news channel. A woman talks only, and cheerfully, about the heat wave. Not a word about the outage. I tune a local station on the radio. More happy talk about the heat. Drenched with sweat, I go outside hoping for a breeze, but it’s dead calm and already a scorcher. I make out Lisa in the predawn glow. She seems to be digging. “Beautiful day,” she says.

I stagger back inside. Warm air pours from the vents.

Jean’s at the thermostat. “Won’t this go any higher?”

“Why in the world would you … Have you checked on Lorraine?”

“You should forget about your daughter,” Jean says. She looks at her watch. “And Randolph, too.” She comes toward me. There’s not a drop of sweat on her.