Author : Mark Thomas
It was a self-destructive spasm of madness!
When the hunter cornered it, The Future had assumed the guise of a malnourished, homeless psychotic, bumping his shopping cart full of human trifles along a dirt path underneath a highway overpass. In this iteration, the Future was utterly defenseless yet it made no attempt at disguise. In fact, it was wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with white block letters that unambiguously said: “The Future.”
“Stop!” the hunter commanded, leveling his rifle at the thing.
“I can’t,” The Future replied as it continued to force the wire cart through a network of hardened mud ruts.
The hunter fired a single shot into the ground underneath the nose of the shopping cart. Clods of earth spattered a nearby patch of weeds and a wheel spun madly for a few seconds before dropping onto the path.
The Future glanced nervously at the mutilated cart. “Well,” it reconsidered, “I guess I could pause for a minute.” But the abstraction in the black T-shirt soon fidgeted awkwardly and slowly squatted down to pick up a cigarette package which happened to be lying near its feet. “I can’t stop moving altogether,” it said apologetically. The scrap of cardboard was slowly placed in the basket.
The hunter nodded but his muzzle tip produced little air drawn patterns in response to every movement. The hunter didn’t trust The Future.
The Future was full of tricks.
The ragged manifestation squatted once again and picked up a plastic hand lotion bottle. The hunter’s rifle tracked each movement but didn’t fire. Emboldened, the Future decided to gather a few farther-flung bits of debris while it bargained for its continued existence. “What is it you want?” The Future timidly asked, although it surely must have known.
Fingers deftly extracted a wadded donut shop napkin from some nettles, then a cracked plastic lighter.
“You’re a threat to my investment,” the hunter answered. His cheek was still pressed against the breech. “I’m using a second lab-cultured liver. All of my long bones have been replaced with titanium rods. My viscera is silicon mesh, my memories are coded within magnetic bubbles.”
A dirty breeze wafted through the bridge pilings. “It sounds like you don’t need me,” The Future said sadly as it picked up a dented can of strawberry meal replacement.
“That was the plan,” the hunter said. “But I’ve been informed of a glitch within the process of live tissue synthesis…”
“Ahhh,” The Future said knowingly.
“My humanity is at stake.”
“I’m surprised you consider that a problem,” The Future sniffed.
The hunter’s eye discs became threateningly opaque. There was a small click as the guidance mechanism of his weapon locked onto target.
The Future licked its thin lips. “All existence is a delicate negotiation…”
The weapon exploded and The Future jerked violently backwards into his cart, spilling its contents onto the path. The hunter walked over to the body husk and poked it with the toe of his boot. The abstraction gurgled, but its adopted face soon became peaceful. Perhaps The Future was tired of dragging eternity to and fro.
The hunter meant to leave quickly but was distracted by a gaudy bit of tin near the shopping cart. The pseudo-human picked up a can of OldWest tobacco featuring a colorful prairie scene with a mounted cowboy slumped in front of a frozen sunset. Pink-tipped grassland offered endless tranquility.
The hunter picked up a scrap of notepaper veined with faint purple lines. The pattern was beautifully meaningless.
“Hmmm,” the hunter said and stooped again to retrieve another bright fragment from the endless pile.
Author : Rory O Reilly
The blue was bright beyond measure shooting far out from the supernova displaying a beauty across the void. The vast ship passed within viewing range, the shimmering metal reflecting strongly. To the stern lay the bridge resplendent in decadent materials and there stood the captain and pilot desperately searching the area with both eyes and advanced scanners. Everything returned negative results from the blank screens to watered eyes. In deep space a distress beacon had been activated several months earlier, a class three dreadnought on routine patrol with over two hundred souls on board. Contact had been lost after the crew reported distortions in magnetic fields and severe damage to the outer hull. The rescue effort had been swift but unrewarding, however back on board the bridge, a piercing siren announced the possibility of better news. A large shape was visible on the scanner, a mass spread out over an almost impossible distance. The captain gave the order to make for the location.
It took several anxious hours to reach the spot and when they did sadness filled the crew’s hearts as they appeared to be the first to discover the ill fated dreadnought which it seemed had been ripped to pieces and now was nothing more than an immense floating graveyard.
The charged particles of the supernova cast an eerie glow behind the hulking debris field.
It was with an uneasy feeling in the captains’ stomach that it dawned on him what had occurred, he shouted the order to turn the ship and place the engines on full power. In the ensuing frenetic rush of activity, strange noises echoed through the craft; the sound of metal contorting and snapping as the pilot desperately tried to get the thrusters to respond. The visor section of the bridge began to crack, the violent arcing of dancing spiderwebs as the sheet weakened to breaking point. With a final explosion the reinforced material gave way and sucked both the pilot and captain into oblivion. With no one left to pilot, the huge ship continued to be torn apart, vast sections torn off as the remaining crew members breathed their last. As the rescue ship neared the end of its existence, its automated distress beacon was initiated and began its deathly symphony with its cosmological brother.
The debris was quickly melded into that of the dreadnought, increasing the radar blip to nearly twice its size. It was here in the vicinity of the beautiful galactic cloud and dense spinning pulsar that these two great ships became one and sat in silence for thousands of years. News travelled and the tale of the missing ships passed into legend until one day a nearby corvette class craft picked up what sounded like two extremely low pings of distress beacons off in the distance and a blip on their scanner.
The merchant captain with surprise in his eyes turned to his pilot and coughed out the order.
“Make way for that point at full speed”.
Author : Russell Bert Waters
Amah had always held her close and sang to her.
She always felt secure in Amah’s arms.
She didn’t want this to become a memory.
The winds shrieked fiercely one night as Amah was taken from her; taken from them all.
She was told to hide, and it was the hardest command she ever obeyed.
She could hear the thuds of a struggle, muffled screams, more thudding, then nothing.
The wind grew louder, leading her to believe Amah’s captors had left the hatch ajar.
She had seen these beings before.
They wore odd garments to protect them from the ice and cold.
She had seen their brutality, and overheard tales in hushed tones that she wasn’t supposed to hear; tales of entire families, sometimes entire neighborhoods, disappearing.
She heard tales of perpetually burning pits, stoked with bodies.
Pits with laughing invaders standing around them, wearing those queer outfits.
Amah was with these beings now; her sweet Amah who sang to her.
“The moons, dear child, will be your guide
Into the arms of sleep you’ll glide
Forever in my warm embrace
Forever safe, and full of grace
Sleep, dear child
Rest your head
Sleep, dear child
In your cozy bed”
Amah’s voice was a flower blossoming in her ears.
She was young, and would likely fail, but she would not forsake Amah by not trying something, anything, to bring her back from these callous beings who lacked compassion.
The winds were always howling, a product of the machines that had begun littering the landscape after these beings arrived.
The atmosphere was adjusting to major changes, and it was hard to sleep, to talk, to think.
Amah would soothe her, and sing to her, and, in those moments, there was no wind, there were no
disappearances, there was only the sweet face of her mother, her sweet song in the air.
She stood now, looking down from an icy outcropping of rocks.
Below her was one of those damnable machines, and, a ways from that, one of the domed settlements that had cropped up seemingly overnight all over Europa.
This was a rare night, in that she could clearly see Jupiter looming large in the distance.
The sun she shared with the homeland of her invaders was small and distant, but tonight everything lined up just right to where she could clearly see the path she would take to free her Amah; or die trying.
She could hear voices below, and she could see the trailer that likely contained Amah, and many others, approaching a large hangar.
The knife her father had given her, that he had created out of sharpened rock, sinew, and bones from one of the large, flightless, birds that lived in the hills, was steady in her hand.
She knew the terrain blindfolded.
She could weather the cold without the aid of insulated garments.
The howling winds would help her with the element of surprise.
Succeed or fail, she would hear Amah’s voice once more.
“The moons, dear child, will be your guide” she sang softly to herself, feeling courage wash over her.
She began her swift and graceful descent, hopping from rock to rock.
She came upon the first sentry, plunging her father’s knife into him before he even knew he wasn’t
“Into the arms of sleep, you’ll glide” she continued singing.
Her stride never slowed as she approached the hangar bay.
Author : Mattias Ahlvin
The man in the gray overcoat sat in his old station wagon. He waited. He took a sip of coffee from an old thermos and adjusted his glasses. He glanced at his watch and looked up and down the street that intersected with the side street he had parked on. He had a clear view in both directions. It was almost time.
He sighed and picked up a yellowing photograph of a woman. A tear rolled down his cheek. “I’m going to make it right,” he whispered to the woman in the photograph. “I will.” He sniffled and looked up at the rising sun.
How many times had he done it? The jump. He didn’t know. He’d lost track. Each time it had been just a little different but close enough that he could have made it work. If she had survived. But she never did. He was always too late or he fumbled it in one way or another. She always died.
For that last jump he had put in the wrong parameters. Maybe the equipment had been faulty. Or something. He didn’t know. He had been frustrated, he remembered. Frustrated and angry. The jump had misfired and he ended up thirty years earlier in the timeline than he had planned. It had been the end of everything. With the technology he needed thirty years in the future, he had been stuck in a time and with a life that would never be what he wanted it to be. He could never marry Kate.
Thirty years gave him plenty of time to think. Carefully and thoroughly. It only took a few years of him pouting in a chair on the deck of his house to realize that he had been selfish. Awfully selfish. Each time he jumped, he had to dispose of his other self so he could take his place. It had been the only way to be able to live with her if he was successful. She would never know, he had convinced himself. They could be together. Everything would be ok. Instead, all he had left were memories of killing himself. Over and over. For nothing.
He saw the lights of the oncoming car in the corner of his eye. He glanced across the street and saw the cafe. The Seabreeze Cafe. Her favorite spot for a morning cup of coffee. Moments from now, she would emerge. She always did, like clockwork. He would see her one last time. He sighed and turned the ignition and waited as the engine rumbled to life in front of him. He put the car in gear and left his foot on the break pedal. He waited.
He could hear the engine of the approaching red sports car, engine screaming. Its headlights approached at high speed and illuminated his car. It swerved across the lanes, barely avoiding the curbs. In the corner of his eye, he saw the door to the cafe open and Kate walk out, a cup of coffee in her hand. A smile was on her face as she waved goodbye to the shop attendant. She wasn’t going to see the car on time. She never did.
He let go of the break pedal and floored the accelerator. The station wagon shot forward, intersecting the path of the approaching red car that would lead to her doom if left to continue on its path. For an instant, everything was white and bright, like her smile. He closed his eyes and smiled back, satisfied that she would finally be safe. Then, nothing. Everything went black.
Author : Doug Hawley
After twenty three rejections of my masterpiece “House Of Rats”, I started looking for a more reasonable publisher. The publishers and editors that I had been dealing with were a bunch of snobbish Ivy League arts and literature majors that couldn’t tell a good story to save their lives. They’d probably turn down Shakespeare if he were alive. While looking through Trilit’s listing for an alternative, I found a real possibility. Autopub had a good acceptance ratio – 35.6%, but better yet, they consistently decided within one day.
I was intrigued, so I went to their website. According to them, all of their decisions were made by “Robo Edit”. I quote:
“We found that the process of humans deciding which stories to print was laborious and inexact. Therefore we have joined the future and found some interns fresh out of college to program “Robo Edit”. All decisions are made impartially, quickly and accurately now. Every story will be judged and either accepted or rejected within one day. Reasons for rejections will be given.”
“In order to help you in your submission, we list the reasons for rejection:
Wrong number of commas
More than five clauses
Too close to Twilight, Hunger Games or Harry Potter for the lawyers
Can’t be understood by a grade school graduate
Inadequate sex and / violence
Uses ‘problem’ rather than ‘issue’ and ‘affect’ or ‘effect’ where ‘issue’ should be used.”
The list went on for 303 reasons.
I was so happy to see the publishing industry enter the twenty-first century. If cars can drive themselves, who needs editors?
I spent the next day reviewing my story to make sure that it didn’t violate any of Autopub’s rules. After a few changes, I knew that I could get my story in their magazine, so I sent them “House Of Rats”.
The next day I got the email from them “Rejected – You’re Ugly.”
As you can imagine, there was no such rule listed. When I emailed Autopub, they replied:
“It is just what we feared might happen, Robo Edit has become self-aware and found your picture in Facebook.”
Author : David Blatcher
The withered astronaut had forgotten how to walk. The one fifth gravity on the station was too much for him, so an orderly in a hazard suit dragged him to the chair in the middle of the tiny interview room. The astronaut faced the camera through the Plexiglas window. His right eye was swimming in burst blood vessels and surrounded by scorched and blackened flesh. It could neither close nor see. The murky-white shapeless pupil floated without focus.
After a crackle and a short hiss of static, the intercom spoke. “Name?”
The orderly shook the astronaut’s shoulder. The bearded head lolled forward then jerked upright. The good eye focused on the camera.
“Name?” the intercom asked again.
“Rorksenn. K. Crewman, second class” It was more like a rasping reflex of the throat than conscious answer.
Karl Rorksenn was the fifth and final name on the mining ship’s crew manifest. Missing for nearly a year, the ship had drifted into range and been recovered with this man floating alone in the dark.
The intercom spoke again. “What happened to the ship, Crewman Rorksenn?”
His hands were perched on his knees. The right hand closed into a fist and began to pulse with restless movement of the fingers.
After a long pause, he answered. “Impact.” The word, dredged up from the back of a mind long silent, was spoken without horror or feeling.
“The ship’s log was destroyed, all the records are gone. What happened inside the cabin, crewman?”
“Parts. Parts needed. Stay alive.”
The technical survey corroborated: instruments stripped out, heating and oxygen systems repaired with various components. Somewhere in the twelve months of nothing between the asteroid belt and the station, a flying piece of something had pierced the silence and let in the dark. The crew had nailed together what was left and put the ship back on course for the station. This talking skeleton plastered with clinging skin was all that was left of them.
“What happened to the rest of the crew?”
The seeing eye shut tight, the broken eye glared dead ahead. “Parts. Parts needed. Stay alive.”
A red globule of blood swelled from the corner of his fist. He was bleeding. The small red sphere fell and drifted to the floor. The orderly hurried round the chair and grabbed his wrist. The fingers curled open, revealing a frayed, copper colored mess. The jagged, broken nails had been scratching and digging in the palm until the skin had broken.
“No, crewman: the other people, not the ship. What happened to them?”
Email from the medical section: initial analysis of the vomit floating in the ship found large quantities of raw meat.
The report was posted back to Earth. AstralCorp mining ship 43 recovered with full cargo. No log recorded. Survey suggests the ship was hit by an unidentified object and badly damaged. Repaired in-flight and put back on return course at below standard velocity. All crew lost. Confirm full pay to be credited to next of kin. Standard commendation.
It took twenty minutes to pump the carbon monoxide level up to ten thousand parts per million. The breathing remains of the cannibal finally slumped off the chair, ready to be sanitized along with his story then returned to earth for burial. The right eye stayed open, a broken, bloodied thing, sightless and silent.