Author : Jordan Mason
The wardrobe is full of ghosts.
Clothes she wore now mere memories of what once was. Metallic shirts and faux fur coats, shoes and denim and all things feminine. They could be burned. They could be donated. They could be sold. They could not be saved. They exist only as threads of the past.
Shelves of books and cabinets full of vinyl records and CD’s, all lost to time. Chords of melancholy, verses and pages of meaningless drivel that now belonged to the rest of the world, but not to her. King, Koontz, Rowling, Bradbury; all the property of someone else now.
If Dylan sang for her once, he sings for me now. Tangled up in blue.
If there was one thing to solely identify her with, it was her smell. She wore Chanel, Givenchy, and Tom Ford. She smelled of coconut butter in the summer and black pepper in the winter, and just as winter turns into spring, you open her drawers and inhale the lavender. You admire her ability to impress. Black lace and purple lining, soft white cotton and floral blossom. Only the best would be worn to bed.
She would never sleep still; twisting, turning, and snoring as loud as she would breathe. Her asthma was worse at night. Sometimes, when she would lay flat on her belly, she would sink her face into her pillow and cocoon the sound.
I didn’t mind. I got more peace that way.
When she wasn’t sleeping she was satisfying. Her lips were as soft as her laundry. Delicate. Frail. Addicting. Her body was slender and toned and beyond that of art. Her thighs were my favourite, to kiss and to touch. I never tired of them.
And I never tired of her hair. Dark brown and flowing, curling and falling all down her breast. Her eyes were hazel. They never looked unhealthy. Neither did her complexion; rosy and bright and full of youth. Her voice was like silk. It would ring out with such intimacy; as delicate even when we were fighting. She had a way with words on paper as she did in speech. Next to her bedside table stood a small writing studio: piles of paper stock, unfinished manuscripts of all sizes, paperweights and Royal Doulton figurines inherited from her mother, a German typewriter with a missing ‘N’ key; a precious space for concentration. The light from the window would drape across her corner each morning, and it would bronze and retreat each night.
Light of my life. Dawn to my day. Twilight to my night. Every phrase under the sun. If there was a more precious life in the world, it has yet to be found.
But the bed is colder now. The room is dark, even in the day. It smells different, of damp and decay. Never had she smelled so foul. Never had she slept so still.
I turn over and think of the good times. I think about burning the clothes.
There is no sound tonight.
Author : O. G. Patterson
The dark sky flashes with the colorful bursts and flowing sparkles of a new year. I watch as flickers of light pulse through silhouettes of houses and trees, then scatter across the black lake water. I watch as the heavens light up with the end of a long year and the beginning of a fresh one. They do not know. No one knows. They celebrate while I brood. They drink while I plan. They party, make love, sleep and dream while I plot. They make resolutions. I make mine too. It will be soon.
I go to bed for the last time.
The dawn brings with it the hope promised at midnight. My hope is not the world’s hope, is not the same hope that rushes to brush the past away. My hope is for a truly new beginning. I leave my bed unmade. There is no need, today. I ignore the coffee, do not eat breakfast. Instead, the workshop, the project, the end of the world will be my meal, my sustenance. After I turn on the machine, give life to it, there will be no more need for food.
I gaze at my creation, my aluminum child. My trembling hand quivers scant centimeters from bestowing both life and death. The button flirts and flashes its eager face at me. Just a few seconds more. The timing must be perfect.
I am no god. Of course not. The mere thought trickling through my mind makes me chuckle. No, there is no god. Only science.
Only the ultimate certainty: that of playful atoms, frisky elements, quantum frolicking. Yes, oh yes, physics. I had made love to physics, caressed it, manipulated it, and choked it to submission.
They thought they knew physics, the others, “so-called” scientists. They did not know the truth about energy. I know.
They did not understand that they were wrong, wrong about it all. There are no laws, no precious rules. I will show them.
I press the button.
The first thing to go is the roof. I wave at it as it tumbles upward. The trees, with trembling skeletal fingers like mine, arch upward, straining to escape the constrictive earth. There is a roar, a whoosh. The lake water across the way bursts upward, a cloud of rain that falls on the sky. I rise up, too, flying, soaring, and rushing upward as if I am meant for this. Others, too. Cars. Boats. Walls. Neighbors. I gasp at surreal reverse rainstorms with specks and globs of civilization rising to the heavens. More debris now. Earth and rock, chunks of them, larger and larger sections. Higher and higher I fly. I spread my arms wide, laughing. Too high for details now, yet I see sections, plates, continents separate, orange jagged veins of the earth’s molten heart spreading like shattered glass.
I was right. I proved them wrong.
Author : Callum Wallace
They stepped into the city, ignoring the barrage of smells assaulting their nostrils.
People swam in and out of view, chatting animatedly, gracing the travellers with only the most cursory of glances.
The first Walker patted her Pair Mate gently on the shoulder, and spread out her hand.
“Welcome to the city, Akira. What do you think?”
Her partner looked around scornfully, his upper lip raised beneath the baby blue visor covering his eyes. He pulled his wide brimmed hat lower over his face.
“The sooner we finish, the better.”
She nodded her agreement, squeezing his shoulder, “Come, then. Let’s not dally.”
They strolled along, the crowd parting respectfully around them. Their oiled cloaks shone darkly, reflecting the myriad of buzzing, coloured lights around them.
She looked about her with similar scorn, judging the fools staring vapidly into their various screens, wishing fervently for the comfort of her book satchel, stashed safely outside of the city out of the reach of these troglodyte morons.
She laughed briefly, causing Akira to turn to her.
She shrugged, “They have the audacity to call the areas outside of these prisons ‘The Wastes’. The irony tickled me, is all.”
Akira, not known for his humour, chuckled with her, this time patting her shoulder.
“Well Brenna, hopefully this will help fix their views.”
They moved further into the city, headed for the centre. When they arrived, they flashed their false credentials at the guards and asked for peace. The men nodded, grudgingly, and moved on, creating a cordon around the towering pillar that stood there.
This broadcast tower catered to every man, woman and child that lurked in this superficial pit, showering all within with a surfeit of luxury seldom seen outside: laziness.
People didn’t want for anything here, not for anything important.
Knowledge was dying here, killed off by the ease with which people could access it; nothing was learned here, but accessed, glanced at, and discarded callously.
The thought made Brenna feel sick; it clashed with everything within her, instilled there by the Order since her infancy.
The rebels entered the tower and rode the lift upwards, looking balefully out through the flashing glass windows at the sprawling megacity below them. They passed even the tallest of buildings that scraped the sky, finally bursting through the heavy artificial clouds.
The lift slowed, depositing them safely at the top of the narrow tower. Brenna fancied she could feel it swaying slightly, but paid it no heed.
“I’ll get the device ready,” she said quietly.
She began to work, taking the heavy metal box from the sling across her chest, where it had been concealed by her cloak.
Akira nodded, removing his hat to save it from blowing away. He tapped her gently, pointing,
She began to grumble, but did so, and stopped.
The two of them retracted their visors and stared up at the moon with naked eyes.
It hung heavily in the sky, bloated and white, pearlescent through the greasy scum of the atmosphere far above.
“Do you think they’re still up there, doing things right?
Again, she gently squeezed his shoulder.
She didn’t know.
“Probably been there and gone. To Mars, or one of those others. Come on, help me.”
He lingered a moment longer as she knelt, “Think they’ll come back?”
He looked down at her questioningly, before flicking his visor back down. She did the same, setting the EMP to detonate within two hours, enough time for them to escape easily.
She stood and gazed into the band of blue blocking his eyes.
Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer
The Arnen are beautiful people, even more so when they are angry. Consequently, we have been seeing a lot of heartrendingly beautiful people killing us. We are getting slaughtered, and a few people are beginning to fear extinction. The few voices of reconciliation were lost in the trumpeting of ultra-racism – having non-humans to hate and fear turns a lot of supposedly reasonable people into bigots.
My name is Turande Givenchy, and my great-great-great-grandfather was one of the men who helped Carter unearth Tutankhamun. So, in a way, my family is one of the contributing causes to this debacle.
Archaeology loved Ancient Egypt, with its death obsession and plethora of divinities. Everywhere you went, mummies abounded and pyramids peeked from sandy concealment. The treasures were stupefying and the real mysteries easily glossed over. Reputations were made and fortunes founded, either by toil or theft.
Decades later SETI received a polite communiqué from deep space, formally notifying us that the funerary delegations of Arnen would be making planetfall in about five months, here at last to collect their dead. We puzzled over this statement until they arrived.
It seems that the creed “no-one gets left behind” is older than any thought. The Arnen version is: “we shall leave none, alive or dead, to lie alone under cold stars”. The Egyptian diaspora was one of their greatest failures, ruined by a strain of water fever that less than five percent of them had immunity to. Over the centuries, it had come to haunt the Arnen in a similar way that the Two Towers haunt America, but far more deeply seated. So when the Arnen came to collect their fallen and found them looted, discarded, displayed for public spectacle, or having been used for fuel, they became – to put it mildy – rabidly angry.
I have an ex-serviceman friend who lost relatives in 9/11. When I mentioned my puzzlement at the Arnen’s behaviour, he looked at me bleakly and said: “If I found out that my Anna had been yanked out of the ground and put on display as part of some study project, I would burn the place down around her, with the people who did it inside. Then hunt down any survivors.”
He’s fighting to save his remaining loved ones, and with me is doing it the only sensible way we can agree on: retreat, bunker up and wait it out. He and I agree that the Arnen will, eventually, relent.
How much of humanity remains at that point will decide the extinction question shortly thereafter.
Author : Danielle Bodnar
Listen. In the basement, there is the shelter. You’ll find everything you need: canned goods, camping gear, cell phone, travel router, multilingual slang phrasebook. Inside the phrasebook there is a list of numbers and letters. This is the code to unlock the time machine – the big black box at the far corner of the room. Put on the jacket that hangs on the chair by the bed. It might be cold. Inside the inner pocket of the jacket is a tablet with inter-dimensional GPS installed and an electronic spanner. It’s an old one, but it should still work.
When you get inside the box, go to the control panel. The correct coordinates have already been put in. You’ll be back home, albeit 50 years earlier, in no time. How do I know it works? I’ve tested it before, of course. With apes, like the first spaceships. You’ll be the first human to go back. But forward – unfortunately, you can only go the long way round..
Try and stop it. Tell the world that the comet is coming. You’re a bright young kid, get into the best university you can, study astrophysics. Don’t worry about papers – I’ve already forged some for you. I plan for everything. You will find these in an envelope, also in the inner pocket of the jacket. Don’t look for yourself thirty years later. And for the love of science, don’t come looking for me, ever. If you succeed, this will never have happened, but right now it looks like you’ve failed. It’s all right, though; we can try over and over again, forever if we have to. Katy, this world is too beautiful to lose like this. I have faith in you, but this is an inevitable event. If you think you can’t stop it, advocate for humanity to travel to the stars. Maybe you can save some of them. I have included a list of coordinates of the closest inhabitable planets inside the phrasebook, page 116. But don’t reveal them unless this is the course you must take.
Don’t worry about me. I brought you here without meaning to. I had every opportunity to keep you away from danger, and I didn’t take them. I knew it was coming, that it always would come, but I waited too long. I thought, with all my intelligence and clout, I could swoop in and save the world at the last minute. Genius that I am, I let Hollywood delude me. This is the least I can do. I know you can do it, Katy. You’ve been a tremendous help in my research. The others always nodded along to everything I say, but you spoke up. You asked questions. But I shut you out. I should have listened to you before, told you what I knew, but it’s too late now. Another thing – don’t wallow in regret. Lucky for you, Katy, you can try again.
Don’t worry about Muffy – she’s safe in her carrier in your room, right where you left her. No time. You must go alone. Hurry; it will be here in half an hour. I’m old, Katy, so old. My life is lived. Please go. Now. I’m so sorry.
Author : Travis Gregg
The grizzled man, draped in furs, trudged his way up the mountain side. The morning air was crisp and he could see his breath as he slowly made his way to the crevice. The location was a sacred secret and he checked behind him often, double backed more than once, but no one had followed.
The crevice was just wide enough for him to squeeze through. In his youth the climb up to the crevice, down into the depths, and then back up to the surface had been trivial but every year it became more difficult.
“Have to start thinking about an apprentice,” he thought to himself. A new apprentice would be a lot of work. He was reluctant to admit to himself that the time was approaching when he’d need to step down, but the tribe couldn’t go without a leader, regardless of his pride. As he had been taught as a youth, the knowledge of the sacred place was to be passed down so as not to be lost.
Taking one last look around, he squeezed between the rock walls and descended into the darkness. He had a small torch with him but he hardly needed it. The way was familiar and the pathway opened up after the initial squeeze. Navigating the twists and turns, he pushed through the last tight place and eased into the impossible long and rigidly straight chamber he thought of as the throat.
He’d had no idea the total length of the throat but it was four spans wide and at least that again tall. The walls and floor were smooth as a frozen lake, or maybe even smoother, but they weren’t slippery at all, and they were very hard. Every time he came he marveled at the smoothness of the walls. He’d never seen anything in nature as straight and smooth but he also couldn’t imagine what could have built this place either. It was like stepping into a different reality.
Heading down the long narrow chamber, passing several sealed up entries, he came to his destination. The archway was circular and reached nearly to the roof of the chamber. This entryway opened up into a large wide room with a ceiling at least ten spans tall. Inside were row after row of waist high tables and chairs all facing towards one wall of the room. Scattered around the tables were dull metal boxes that held the reason for his arduous journey.
Sitting down at a table he got to work on one of the boxes. The metal sides slid out if you knew the trick and once it was open he twisted a couple of the pieces inside the box loose. Holding up his torch he evaluated the components on how impressive they’d be. The piece he decided on was a small cylinder that was clear with thin swirls of metal coiled inside. It was beautiful in its own way. More importantly though, it was clearly beyond anything his people could fabricate themselves. He knew he’d have to be careful descending back to the village, from past experience he knew these could break easily and then he’d have to come back for another.
For another season the tribespeople would be duly impressed and appeased by his gift from the gods. They would be assured he was still favored and his leadership would remain unquestionable.