Bad Milk

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The woman, who’d run to the farthest edge of a star system to find who she was, contracted into herself as she read the message and discovered that, perhaps, she had not.

Renfield Station/ Pluto/ Transmission Incoming: “You don’t know me and this may come as a shock, I’m your father…”, it said.

And with that short sharp jolt so began a long and, as it turned out, rather pointless game of interplanetary hearsay ping-pong. Her first volley was returned by the man with a long and surprisingly candid message regarding his supposed baby-making escapades years before with the woman’s mother.

The man offered no further proof to his claims, bar, for an old photograph of the woman as a baby. A photo of innocent issue that she’d seen many times before. How did he come by this? And, how would she now settle the shrapnel doubts that did dice and slice in her head.

At this point, egged on by an incessant nagging doubt, she did the unthinkable – she contacted her dear old mum. For years she’d savoured her loneliness, withdrawing even from this wonderful lady. Why?

Her mother was a proud woman who’d raised her alone. This story made her sick. Physically ill at the notion that this man would claim paternity when – again as it turned out – it was impossible for this to be true.

In fact, as this truth became increasingly evident, the man curled back into himself and fell all but silent. Tucked up warm in the world he’d knitted; his obsessive attraction to the woman’s then-teenage mother, a proclaimed shy and delicate disposition and the litany of lies that he’d told his parents, siblings, and children – lies that he’d now stuffed into his cocoons walls as insulation.

The woman had always known who her biological father was. He was never a secret, though, he was never there. He’d been a very young man at her conception. He got married, to a woman who was not her mother, and had children. This was something that had eaten at her, most especially as a teen when she’d felt she was suppressing a vital part of her being. Something wild, screaming and begging to be filled.

She never disbelieved her mother, but, there was something in just how adamant both sides were that they were telling the truth. This something picked and played with her mind until she decided to pull a few strands and obtain a digital sample of her biological father’s DNA.

“Thank you. For I know now who I am. Why I was drawn to travel to this darkest corner of space. Why I’m so dark and why I so love it here with only a damn synthetic for company. He who looks, acts, smells and even makes love like a human. I know that nothing pumps in his veins”

The shuttle is due to dock in a week. She will not speak to her replacement and he’ll think her a bitch. But she must tread carefully, for it is not his blood that she lusts.

“No, I must save myself and pay no mind to this beat that throbs in my teeth. I’ll hold back until I walk of your street. I’ll climb through your window and stand beside your bed. And, as my bite sinks as rapiers into your skin, you will plead through the red bubbles that pop at your lips…”

And the liar, he who’d rob away her heritage, will know what he already knows well – She is not of his flesh.

The Low View

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

Confined in a 4-metre cube with nothing but my thoughts for company. Poor conversation and haunting memories by day, convoluted dreams by night. The dreams are too disturbing to contemplate long enough to unravel, so they leave varying degrees of disassociation in their wake. I kind of welcome that. Anything to relieve the monotony. After the first sets of 100 press-ups and sit-ups, I switch to jogging on the spot until my legs give way. Takes a while. I’m in the best physical condition of my life. My instructor would be proud, I think. She’d certainly be surprised. I was never one for excelling at anything. Doing just enough to get by without hassle was my way.
Explaining the reasons for that would take a while and requires insight I don’t possess: family problems, inadequate father figure, who knows?
Back to it. Every month or so I like to do this. Tell the walls my story. Keeps things from coming loose in my head.
Earth got attacked. Nothing major, but it took a lot to stop them. ‘Them’ being ‘Naxon’ – as close as we could get to their pronunciation. From the remains, we pieced together coordinates for their homeworld and reverse engineered their technology. When volunteers for the crazy plan to invade the Naxon homeworld came up short, they drafted a few ‘suitable candidates’ to do ‘non-essential roles’.
Having a qualification in plumbing along with a criminal record, I was deemed suitable for ‘flow maintenance’: bathroom cleaning. Clever PR like that meant ‘Defiance’, our massive spaceship, left Earth with a full complement of heroes and heroines.
By the time we reached Naxdoonif, I had become a trainee gunner/navigator on one of the Condor gunships – after fourteen months of cleaning toilets, it was the only escape option. With eighteen months of simulator training, I strapped myself into the seat, ready for our first raid against the Naxon.
I can’t say whether we were outgunned, ambushed, or just hopeless. All I remember is a period of yelling and screaming while shooting at planes that seemed to be able turn on the spot while doing several hundred kph. Someone shouted about ‘teleport orientation’. I still can’t figure that out.
What I did understand was the second sun that grew in the sky when the ‘Defiance’ blew up. Our home, our support, and the only way back, was gone.
Some surrendered immediately, some fought until downed, some flew into enemy machines or installations. I was up for surrendering: a minority vote. When our Condor got shot down and crashed through a forest, I was thrown clear as it rolled into a lake.
Since capture, I’ve been here. No interrogation, nothing. Just two meals a day, unlimited water, a toilet that auto-flushes at sundown, and a new bar of soap each week. The guards who bring the food aren’t Naxon. These guys have rocks for heads and tentacles for fingers. Over the last few years, I’ve found out they’re from a slave planet, just like Earth has become.
I’m never going home. The guards reckon I’ll be transferred to the Human exhibit at some huge museum-cum-zoo, whenever the Naxon finish building the enclosure. They have small groups of every race they’ve conquered on display. It’s an educational thing.
The possibilities of that are the stuff of my daydreams: meeting a pretty woman, making the best of our exile, and all the usual ‘last hero’ fantasies. Deep down, I know I’m going to end up on my own, cleaning toilets. But, until that happens, I’ll let the daydreams make me smile.

33 million or One?

Author: Arkapravo Bhaumik

“ … according to them, GOD was a superior being who cared for their well being and could undo their wrong-doings. Most of their morality was related to GOD. They often gathered together to lyrically speak about GOD and bestowed GOD with offerings of jewelry and sweetmeats, in the belief that doing so will lead to GOD, in turn, doing good for them.”

“Really! They must have come across the Restfawts at the Brown Oval Nebula, their sheer size would have overwhelmed them.”

“No …”

“… then, it has to be the Yiggsets at the vicinity of that large red star, what is its name?”

“No, GOD was a hypothetical concept. It was an attempt to calm their own anxiety to their lack of security. A sense of feel-good that a certain higher intelligence is always caring for you. GOD, never existed in reality.”

“So, a make-belief … a gimmick”

“That is not exactly how they would wish to put it across. Some of them thought that there are as many as 33 million GODs. One for the star of their star system, one for land, one for growing plants, one for controlling the water cycle … so on.”

“33 million, that is a huge number for a hypothetical conception.”

“Some disagreed with that figure, many of those who disagreed thought that there is just one GOD.”

“One, and not 33 million!”

“Yes! One, and this GOD sent in his son to help the people of that blue planet”

“I see, so there is some reality to all of this. There is a child whose parents are deemed to be GOD.”

“No, No, No … it is not like that. You seem to have related this to the hierarchical organization of the Jizambods and the Jizambots in the lower Gemini constellation. This child had a magical birth – not through any parent.”

“So, a child born with magic. What happened next?”

“They killed this child. And, then for the next few thousand years repented doing so.”

“What! … they are fools, raving lunatics.”

“There was still one more group which considered GOD to be omnipresent, a super awing entity present in everything and everywhere.”

“Good, so a convergence of these three ideas?”

“Not really! These three groups were at odds with each other and such differences led to war.”

“WAR! As in killing each other? To resolve a hypothetical concept? Which again is a make-belief to overcome their sense of insecurity. They were worse than raving lunatics.”

“We are documenting the history of a culture eons ago, we will never be able to understand them completely.”

“So, after war … what happened next?”

“No, not much … after a devastating war, one side won. But, by that time they had dwindled their planet of its natural resources and deteriorated their atmosphere and other life-supporting systems of their planet, and the universe soon closed their chapter.”

“Hmmm …”

“Yes, so it seems.”

“I am not sure how we should document them. However well and conceptually correct we write about these entities of the blue planet, the readers will find it as a poorly put joke. Do we really need to document such a ridiculous civilization?”

“You will have to take it up with the high counselor, and his aides”

“Well! … let me see … 33 million or one, quite a story!”

This Fable is Reversing

Author: DJ Lunan

The policewoman eyed me sternly through the crosshairs of her pistol. Her blue uniform wet from the remnants of the time blizzard I’d arrived with. Her free hand flat-palming to dissuade a rash attack.

Yet she clearly wasn’t police.

And I was freezing, shrouded in space-dust and time-sperm crystals. Great snowbergs crashing to the floor, pooling as elliptic slime ponds on the sawdust-scattered floor. My numb arms raised compliantly accelerating the avalanches.

This was Paddy’s Bar in Kilkenny, alright. But she isn’t Paddy or his sister. And her gun is wrong for 1996: triple-cross-haired, used by amphibious peoples in a distant future I’d only glimpsed through a time storm long ago.

“I’ve never seen an inter-dimensional being cry”, she said slowly, circling around me, her large feet crunching frozen time, as she crouch-walked alert, trigger-poised until she was behind me.

I was warming up after surfing time at double-zero Kelvin for this t-delivery. My face was re-flushing with blood, my tear ducts flowing energetically. I flexed my fingers, relishing the beckoning warmth.

“The poetry of being menaced by a cold-blood never fails to bring a tear to my eye”, I replied in the worst fake Irish accent I could muster.

“I need the package, Postie”, she demanded.

An Interceptor. The fabled time-beasts. Lowly paid, reverse time-liners, paid by future reptilian corporations to quash poor choices by long-dead rich humans.

Interceptors steal your message and your memory. You don’t realise its happened. Seamless bi-directional time plods on.

“Doesn’t it worry you are intercepting personal messages. I don’t see how this one will help anyone”, I replied tersely postponing inevitable surrender.

Posties have our own fables. Whenever a Postie disappeared, we’d speculate they’d met an Interceptor and made bad choices. We hoped they’d found a way to disconnect from the Sorting Office, dodged the Mail Retrieval Bots, met a boy, moved to the ‘burbs, had biological offspring.

“The message!”, she menaced, emphasising her multiple threats by jabbing her pistol.

I was outgunned and maybe I’d never remember if I complied. “Teresa Minnstrom, 40a Chepstow Ave, South Dublin. Buy Niveau Ltd and Cromex Corp; Sell Shell Renewables and Apple-Trump. Dad xx”

“Shit!”, she wheezed, theatrically dropping her gun guard, her elongated arms almost scraping the floor.

I continued cascading snowbergs down my back, “Rich folk keep me in coin. Always prioritising financial security for their dumb entitled kids”

“All the power in the world, yet you chest-beaters waste time travel to get rich!”, she sounded disheartened.

“Is that how you reptiles took over, by being mean to your kids?”, I joked.

“Oh Rosie, we’ve shared so many beers right here right now in Paddy’s Bar. I know your life, family, four kids, love preferences and your debt with the Boston mafia. Yet the bloody message is always the same!”, she barked, her frustration echoing off the tobacco-soaked walls.

A melon-sized snowberg dislodged from my helmet, its acid-white crystals tumbling. I instinctively scissor-kicked it in mid-air, triggering a brief snowstorm, and acrobatically evaded her flaming gunshot by diving over the bar.

“Jeez, you are getting nimbler, girl”, she whistled, “I think you are ready”.

“Ready for what?”, I shout cowering behind the bar, the aroma of sweet tobacco and lost nights toasting my nostrils.

“Reverse timeline travel, you are coming with me to kill my Dad”, she calmly replied.

“Teresa?!”

“Well, just my good parts! Cromex makes me so rich, I innovate, and …. “, Teresa motions to her body, “…evolve”.

“Kill your future-dad, stop evolution, delay lizard take-over?”, I propose.

“Something like that”, she replies shrewdly as the time-blizzard begins again.

A Strongly Worded Letter to the Department of Future Persons

Author: John McLaughlin

To Whom It May Concern:

My wife and I have reviewed your report with great disappointment — with such disappointment, in fact, that only after two straight weeks of sobbing, dry-heaving, and manic-hysterical disarray, only then could I sufficiently collect myself to pen this response.

After carefully calibrating, documenting, and sending you a dozen of our most prized permutations of bodily secretion, the Department of Future Persons replies that these genetic combinations would, and I quote, “constitute the cruel and unusual punishment of a future person(s).” Really now?

I shall have you know that both the Cunningham and Miller clans are descended from only the most hearty and resourceful of ancient cave peoples. Sadly, it comes to this — my dear Mabel and I, embarking on the joyous journey of parenthood only to fall victim to a bureaucratic witch hunt. Very well, then. Our first set of designer children, for reasons incomprehensible to us, was declared unacceptable. May I propose a few alternatives?

Sperm number 8,312,111 coupled with Egg number 371: A boy, with his mother’s wispy blonde hair, father’s eyes of mud brown, the fortitude of an ox and a razor-sharp wit.

Egg 129 with a dash of Sperm 14,901,395: A girl, light of our life, with the reflexes of a mongoose, arm span of a stealth bomber, grandfather’s Florida-shaped birthmark, and the radiant glow of a freshly waxed bus seat.

Sperm 11,359,011 paired to Egg 1,034: A boy, with the proud bearing of royalty — skin the hue of a mozzarella cheese stick, the widow’s peak of a comic book villain, musculature like a honey badger, the verbal felicity of a carnival barker.

Egg 971 affixed to Sperm 37,902,485: A precious girl, a glorious little cherub — mother’s droopy blue eyes, the sultry baritone pipes of an Elvis impersonator, and broad cheeks as rosy as a dog’s erect penis.

Well, there you have it. I trust that these new genetic pairings will be granted a priority rating — otherwise, I fear, my Mabel and I will be forced to take swift legal action. We (impatiently) await the DFP’s response.

Sincerely,
Donald F. Cunningham, MD, MFA, Esq.

Just Human Nature

Author: Rick Tobin

“He’s on edge again. It’s intolerable when he tears into our crew like this. Makes me itch all over.” D-7 moved away from overheated control panels. He heard sputtering of wiring insulation against conduit. Corrosive effervescence from singed plastic revealed damage others still missed, but his reports were ignored. Their limitations–his curse.

“Relax, D. Besides, you’re always itching. You need your fur treated. Remember how you messed up on the last cargo run? You caught those changosa ticks after heading for a whiz in the bushes. You could’ve waited. And lay off L-2. How’d you like to have the Captain’s lizard scales, with psoriasis to boot? ” C-23 felt hull vibrations on her whiskers–perhaps a warning of a meteor storm. She activated ship perimeter sensors.

“Hey, you use a stupid box for your dumps. I have more pride than that. Everyone on board hears you scratching your litter. Do you even wash your hands? Drop your potty comments. Inappropriate.” D-7 shifted, giving his tail a rest from his cramped control room chair. “Why they ever slapped two like us on the same shift baffles me,” D-7 complained.

C-23 yawned widely before responding. “Two Cs on navigation…never a problem. You should be down in engineering with your mutt buddies.”

“How about I bite off one of your arms, you useless breeder?”

“And you thought L-2 was touchy?” C-23 moved her chair a few feet away from her reluctant assistant, dragging her feline claws over metal panels, creating ear-shattering screeches. D-7 howled, covering his furry ears. “Oh, good. You can hear me. Now get this straight, bow-wow. I’m a superior officer. We cross train because we lost both pilot and co-pilot on our last escapade through this Taranus Escarpment. We almost bought it. If automatic systems had failed, we’d still be adrift, boiling in magnetic fields. We need emergency backup staff. Simple as that. So, take my lead, learn what you can, and lick your wounded ego somewhere else. Got it? There won’t be a eucatastrophe ending in your life’s story if you don’t.”

“You ca’ what? I don’t understand cats. All right, I’ll be still. My DNA makes me act rashly on occasion. I wonder why humans breed us to run their ships. They have robots. I would have been happy as a normal dog.”

“It’s risk variables. AI never mastered long-distance space travel. Animals have specialties that were not programmable…like your smell and hearing and my sensitivity to vibration. There is a reason a squirrel’s in communications, a raccoon cooks and an oxen works loading docks. Besides, it’s easier and cheaper to replace us after radiation exposure. Some die sooner. You’re only a seven for this ship…but my kind takes it harder. That’s why I enjoy my time. It’s short.”

“Not as short as R-200. He’s our intelligence officer. Those rats drop like flies. No wonder they quarter them down below in the hold.”

“We have rats? Damned rats! Where in the hold? How many?” C-23 was visibly shaken as her ears flattened, eyes widened and her shoulders pulled lower.

“Not sure. I heard in dark spaces–bilges, maybe. Pretty spooky down in that heat.”

“You take the con. I need to step out. Be back.” C-23 scampered away with no further instructions.

D-7 chuckled deeply, recalling reptile warriors below, loyal to L-2, constantly hunger driven, ensuring vicious attacks of pirates or mutineers on command. He became distracted; he focused on a tall, potted shrub C-23 had placed against an adjacent electrical panel. He ignored the ‘Out of Order’ warning sign. It was just his nature.