Author : Matthew Harrison
“Tell Mr Hoffmann, Jimmy,” said his father.
The noonday sun outside had been dazzling, and Jimmy’s eyes were still adjusting to the dimness of the shop. The old jeweller loomed formidably behind the counter. But at his father’s prompting, Jimmy piped up, “It’s my watch. The time is wrong.”
Mr Hoffmann frowned, his white eyebrows almost meeting. “Our watches are very gut,” he said slowly, becoming Germanic in his concern. “Vot is the problem?” His son Stepan came up, his younger brow likewise furrowed.
At his father’s signal Jimmy took his watch off, reached up, and put it on the counter. “The numbers – there’s a thirteen…” Then he saw Stepan. “I bought it from him.”
Mr Hoffmann glanced at Stepan. Then he put on an eyeglass and squinted at the watch. “Ach, Ja! Dreizehn!” He took the eyeglass out.
Then with ponderous humour: “Thirteen o’clock – Ha Ha! Zat vould make you late for ze lunch!”
“It did too,” his father said.
Mr Hoffmann invited Jimmy to choose another watch. With encouragement from his father, Jimmy looked, and chose a shiny new digital one. Mr Hoffman congratulated him, and passed the old watch to Stepan.
“In a way, it’s a pity,” said his father. “We could have used the extra hour.”
“As could we, as could we,” Mr Hoffmann agreed with a smile.
When Jimmy and his father had gone, Mr Hoffmann turned to Stepan. He was not smiling now. When he spoke, it was not in German or any other recognisable language. But it seems that Stepan understood, for with a miserable expression he picked up the watch and quickly did something to it so that the numbers ran from one to twelve again.
Outside, there was a sudden flurry. The sun flipped back in the sky, and then resumed its normal course.
Author : Gary Bremer
I awoke with a start from a dream that I’d already forgotten. Groggily registering that it was sobbing from my six year-old son’s room that woke me, I quickly glanced at my phone sitting on my bedside table. 2:41 a.m.
Shuffling quickly down the short hallway to find out why he was crying, I stumbled over our cat…unseen and lying in the center of the hall, curious at the commotion this early in the morning. She gave a slight hiss as she disappeared just as quickly as she’d seemed to appear underfoot, annoyed that I couldn’t see in the dark as easily as she could.
I found him sitting up in his bed, slouched forward and quietly crying into his hands. I sniffed my nose loudly to announce my presence and not startle him. Sitting next to him in bed, I pulled his head into my chest.
“Did you have a bad dream?”
He continued to cry, and I had to repeat myself.
He replied, “Noooo.” Some sniffles. He wiped his eyes a bit.
“Why are you upset, then?”
“I’m afraid, because I know one day I’ll die, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”
“My little man, you don’t have to worry about that! You have your whole lifetime ahead of you. Also…”
He looked up at me.
I continued, “…scientists are making more and more progress with technology all the time. You know, they say the first person to live forever has already been born”
I could see a palpable change in his eyes. “What do you mean, Daddy?”
“Well, they say that one day we’ll be able to upload our brains into a computer, so we will be able to live forever…only having to replace parts as they wear out.”
“Really, really. Does that make you feel better sweetie?”
He smiled slightly. “Yes Daddy, thank you. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I tucked the covers around his shoulders as he settled back into bed, and kissed him on the forehead. I whispered, “Get some sleep.”
The cat was nowhere to be seen on the walk back to my bedroom.
Before falling asleep, I recalled my own existential crisis in my youth. In order to comfort me, my father had told me how I had nothing to worry about dying, as I’d be able to live forever in Heaven.
I started quietly sobbing to myself, as I realized my son would probably be making up his own narrative for his son 30 years in the future, just as I did tonight, and as my father did for me.
Lies. All lies.
Author : Rick Tobin
It’s insane to record anything, but what else is there to do, floating alone at twelve-thousand feet? Altitude sickness will kick in soon enough…maybe a blessing. I’m out of supplies and dehydrating. Frightened people grabbed Bibles; others cash…some each other. I snatched my school backpack with my video cam. This roost saved me as I watched thousands flying past into the waiting vacuum these last three days. I captured all the horror, watching family and friends pulled to their demise, desperately holding hands…too far from me to touch. Maybe nobody will find this video, but I am driven to capture this ending. Someone must.
Dad warned us. He was military liaison between NSA in San Antonio and NASA. Space Command listening posts picked up weird chatter months ago. Then JPL analyzed light emitted from alien crafts after they passed through the sun’s corona. Hubble photos confirmed these invaders had jumped from old space into our system. Their ships’ construction lacked any hint of iron. Dad said theorists speculated old parts of the universe, first formed after the Big Bang, were missing iron. JPL wasn’t sure why aliens wanted that metal, but after watching their armada siphon off Mercury’s tiny core, and everything inside Venus, their intent was clear. All attempts to communicate with these intruders failed; as we watched, some of their ships bypassed Earth going towards Mars.
We were elite civilians to be saved. Mom, typically stubborn, just lost it, refusing our transfer to underground sanctuary near Marfa. Once alien fleets moved the Moon out of its orbit like a beach ball, the Gulf rose overnight within ten miles of downtown. It was too late for our evacuation. Nothing moved as mother ships penetrated the poles. By then the chosen were already hunkering in deep safe havens, anticipating someday emerging, like Ant People in Hopi legends, replenishing Earth. Dad heard everyone underground was crushed on day one within the secret conclaves, once gravity was disrupted. No one was going to make it.
Hugging a huge building’s belly slowed my exit, as its mass inexplicably drifted somewhat slower. My precarious perch allowed observation of smaller objects zooming past, including the doomed living. The first day streams of the cursed rushed slower, but as aliens stole more iron, transition amplified. Mmm! Damn roaches. I hated seeing them pass by me, but at least they didn’t sting like scorpions, or worse. I saw a cop zoom past yesterday into a cloud of ascending fire ants. I shut off the camera, just as I did when a couple floated past doing the dirty deed in their panic. At least they weren’t screaming in agony.
I was going to enter the astronaut program, with Dad’s influence. Now, I’ll reach space, but I won’t be alive to enjoy the view. The weather is now turning insane. It’s raining upside down as lightning bounces through debris across the wide horizon of lift. Clouds of surface plants and water are now rushing past me like bullets. It’s only a matter of luck something hasn’t smashed me into building windows like a bug on a windshield.
The Earth will soon be a barren rock after the core is completely removed, so here is my final record as I watch the Hill Country below shred apart and the waters of the new Bay of Texas rise up in a twisting wave of froth, dead fishes, seaweed and muck. My water bottles are empty. That seems ironic as water flies past, escaping the dying planet, forever. Oh, there’s the camcorder battery light…
Author : Lisa Jade
Wake up, Michael.
Can you see? Look up. See the white light overhead, the white ceiling? The walls? White, too? Good.
Now. Try and move your left hand. No, the other left. That’s it, good. Don’t try to sit up. Lie still.
Now, think back. What do you remember?
Do you remember yourself? Tall and dark with an eternal five o’clock shadow, nails bitten to stubs? You wear T-shirts, even to the office, because you feel strangled by ties.
Remember Debra? Her soft curls, her rotund body? Do you remember the way her eyes sparkled when you first met, or filled up as you slipped the ring on her finger? Do you remember your wedding day – but maybe not. You were drunk before the speeches began.
Michael. Think back, and try to remember.
Remember your job? The stresses of the office. You’d come home and kick off your pants at the door, proclaiming you were taking a beer to bed. Debra wasn’t keen on that, was she?
The fights were intense. Do you remember? Objects flung across rooms, insipid floral teacups shattered against that fleur-de-lis wallpaper you always hated. Screaming matches. The time the cops came, concerned after complaints from the neighbours.
Do you remember that? Good. You’re back to being you, Michael.
Now think back to the second of July, 2098.
You had a meeting in the next town, didn’t you? You stood at the train station, swaying, your head spinning from a killer hangover. Debra refused to speak to you when you left that morning, furious about your coming home in the early hours.
Remember feeling dizzy, Michael? Remember falling onto the tracks?
You didn’t realise a train was coming until the screaming started. There was no time to react before it hit you, sucking you into the depths of its whirring maw. Do you remember dying?
I’m sure you’d rather not.
But you need to. Because you weren’t the only one who died.
See, the Highspeed Train was pretty new. I’m sure you remember the launch ceremony. Debra picketed against it; not that you’d have noticed. They protested the poor and dangerous design.
Thing is, Michael, when the train hit you, blood and guts and bone swept into the engine. A moment later it exploded, veered off the track and crashed into the station building.
Nearly two hundred people died that day – including you, of course.
Do you remember?
Nobody’s happy about this, Michael. Tragedy only settles if there’s someone to blame. The City won’t accept that any fault lies with them. The people are baying for blood; and you’re expendable, I’m afraid.
Sit up. That’s it. Place your feet on the ground. Don’t look too closely at the stitches that hold your shredded body together. Don’t think too deeply about how you’re alive.
Look up. Do you see that door, dark in the white room? Through there you’ll find the courtroom. You don’t have to speak much – in fact it’s easier if you don’t. The City didn’t bring you back to give you a fair trial.
At least this way, you can say goodbye to Debra. Maybe you can reconcile before your half-dead body is strapped into the electric chair.
Don’t cry. It’s pointless. The City can’t reanimate you for very long anyway. You’re doomed to die regardless, so embrace this opportunity. When they ask you something, answer them. Even if your tongue is swollen or they didn’t put your teeth back quite right. Just answer the questions however you can.
Think back, Michael. Do as you’re told, and behave.
Just try and remember.
Author : Lauren Triola
In Universe A, you meet as children. You become high school sweethearts. You live happily ever after.
In Universe B, your family moves out of the country before he moves to town. You never go back. He marries your childhood friend, only knowing you through pictures and stories.
In Universe C, you meet at the grocery store in college. You both pick out apples at the same time. There are enough for two. You part ways, never speaking.
In Universe D, you had to use the bathroom before shopping. You get there a minute later than he did. You never meet. You always feel something missing.
In Universe E, you live on the Moon. He lives on Mars. You’re pen pals.
In Universe F, there was a run on apples. You both go for the last one. You both laugh. You chat. You get dinner. You get married. Sixty years later, you die within a week of each other and are buried together.
In Universe G, he had a bad day. He yanks the last apple free and stomps to the register. You flip him off. You never speak.
In Universe H, your friend meets him instead. She sets you up on a blind date. It doesn’t go well. You marry the waiter.
In Universe I, there are lizards. Humans do not exist.
In Universe J, your friend marries him. He’s your friend too. You don’t tell either of them about your crush.
In Universe K, they get divorced. You stand by your friend and never see him again.
In Universe L, you see an obituary in the paper. You don’t know the man, but you think it’s such a shame when people die so young.
In Universe M, you have super powers. He is your nemesis. You destroy New York.
In Universes N through T, everything is perfectly normal, but you were never born.
In Universe U, you’re allergic to apples. You meet at the cash register instead.
In Universe V, he breaks your heart. You still love him, and you hate yourself.
In Universe W, there are zombies. He does not exist. You rule Australia.
In Universe X, you work at a coffee shop. He visits frequently, but neither one of you musters the courage to do more than flirt.
In Universe Y, it’s you who has the bad day. You steal the last apple. You never speak to each other.
In Universe Z, you meet as children. You become high school sweethearts. You both plan to go into physics together in college. He dies in a car crash on graduation night. You cry for weeks after the funeral, tinkering with theories to try to distract yourself, wondering what life would be like if things had been different…
Author : Janet Shell Anderson
Black holes can now be rented. Aliens may arrive! That’s the headline on everyone’s App.
“The rich can have all the lemon tarts they want.” Another headline. Giovanna Romanova Baldwin said that three days ago, then disappeared.
If Aliens landed, would they steal one of the best looking women in south Florida? She’s what divorce lawyers like me privately call the young second, third, fourth, blond, very good looking wives of older, successful men. Lemon tarts. Giovanna’s my cousin’s fifth wife, to be precise, who could very possibly become a First Lady.
I’m Eudora Pennifer. My cousin’s the ninth richest man on Earth, Perry Austrian Baldwin, a living legend on Wall Street, corporate head of Birnbach BirnBach, Austrian and Meese, United Micro Inc., and BalMart. Ninety-six but on regen, he looks twenty, has the energy of a teenager, is considering a run for the White House. Rich men have done it before. People who know him like him, he says.
I know him.
I know Giovanna too. Now she and her personal trainer Jordan Somebody have disappeared. Giovanna hasn’t been well received by the press since pictures of her on a bearskin rug appeared on everyone’s App. She’s actually a sweetheart.
So she’s an old man’s honey, a lemon tart, a beauty from Bulgaria, married, her big mistake, to my cuz in DelRay, Florida, in his huge house on the waterway. The mansion looks like a flying saucer that made an emergency landing. It gives me the fantods.
You have to drive through a cutout tree, some kind of evergreen that can live in South Florida, to even see the gate. Two miles down the very private lane, the monster residence looks like the White House and the Sydney Opera House, mated by drunken Martians. Wild Squirrel Monkeys slip into windows so high no one can close them properly. It rains in on Carrara marble floors. The monkeys spring across candelabras, hide in high niches with priceless vases. An alligator called Lazarus, because no one can kill him, favors the infinity pool. Maybe he’s eaten Giovanna. If Lazarus got her, he choked down all her designer gowns, Jimmy Choo shoes, and seven alligator bags. Giovanna’s black pug’s missing too.
What has been discovered so far is that two secret service agents assigned to Perry and Giovanna tried to film her in the bathroom, smuggled in three Hungarian prostitutes, swilled seventy bottles of beer. One agent was spotted dead drunk by the pool with Lazarus emerging from the foliage. There was a shooting; the alligator smirked, slid calmly into the waterway. A threatening note was found in the second largest dining room with a crude picture of Perry on it, but it was just written by his mother. She often writes threatening notes as well as novels, political commentary and new wills. She has her own reality show.
Perry’s newest girlfriend, Cynthia, a yoga teacher who’s twenty-one, is lying low in a little-known guesthouse deep in the shrubbery. Her skin’s gilded, her mouth a fuchsia dream; she can wrap her knees around her neck and often does. She’s either from Slovenia or Altoona; no one knows. A lemon tart-in-waiting?
Well, my money is on Giovanna. I think she’s rented a black hole and popped Jordan Somebody, her personal trainer, her designer dresses, Jimmy Choo shoes, alligator bags and herself into it.
Good luck, Giovanna, and remember to feed the pug.