Eternal Dreams

Author: William Norberg

Dreams. Were they pleasant? I can’t remember… Sleep used to come easily in the darkness of the night. But now I trudge endlessly through choking shadows. Where neither sleep nor death will come to me mercifully. Naked, cold, starving.

A sickly dark green sky dimly paints these barren rocky lands, where nothing grows and nothing chirps. High up above stalks a maddening pitch black sun. Dark as a punctured hole in the sky. Looking into its abysmal gap I can’t help but ask: “Is this a dream?”

Was life a dream before this? I can’t remember… But deep within my well of faint memories, I know that it was not such a torturous fate as this. For if I close my eyes pictures dance across my blackened mind:

Golden fields and shimmering blue rivers. Luscious green carpets of trees lining towering mountains. Warm and cozy houses filled with jolly… Creatures? What were these creatures called? They were people. They were men, women, and children. I’m a part of these beings, yet I can’t remember our names… It’s long lost and forgotten. Washed away in the eternity spent roaming these dark and sinister wastelands.

Did we deserve this? YES, a memory whispers within me. We found something which we should have left alone. Something which came from the stars, from the outer reaches of the black gulfs of the cosmos. It was sleeping. It was dreaming.

I vaguely remember that day. The day we landed on the red planet.

I…I can’t remember much of what happened. Perhaps my mind has spared me from the horror? I remember the sight of a strange black rock deep within a cavern of the planet.

It was not natural, not from this world. Its shape was perfectly round and showed no sign of damage or markings. It looked untouched. It consisted of something abysmal and pitch black. It absorbed all light reflected on it, appearing as a hole in existence. We had observed it in a variety of ways, and data showed that within it was an unconscious stream of thought. We knew something was slumbering within.

We opened it. Burned through its shell which melted into a seemingly magmatic liquid which upon contact with the red ground vaporized into thick black smoke.

I remember seeing a dark shape crawling out, slithering out. Then it’s all a blur… My eyelids grew heavy as lead, colors faded to nothing but grey, then black. Out from that choking darkness came a monstrous voice whispering in my ear. It spoke in an unknown tongue. A terrible, deep, and ancient tongue: “Fhtagn…Fhtagn… Nglhu’gh afla’nglui ai’f… Mglw’nafh fhtagn ee’ghui zhro ai’f…”

The words twisted and squirmed within my fading mind, as if alive. They began to speak from within me, translating a fraction of its meaning: “Dreaming…Dreaming…Stars aligned at last…”

Dreams. I can’t remember their beauty or meaning… All I know is that I’ve roamed these lands of shadows for eternity. My ears hurt from the cries and moans echoing between the barren cliffs. Naked boney figures cling to the rocks, desperately seeking a dark crevice to crawl into. To hide from the demonic voice rumbling in the sky where a black sun hangs.

No sign of day. Only eternal night looms over these accursed lands. Soon I’ll go mad myself, and cry out and chant with these insane creatures:

In the dreadful dream, he waits,

Laughing at our eternal fates,
Grinning cause it’s way too late,
We peeked into the cosmic gate,
Never shall we ever awake…

It was sleeping. It was dreaming… And we awoke it…

Do You Require Translation Services [x] click to close popup

Author: Samuel Stapleton

We work with law enforcement often, but we’re not cops. We work with business beings from every populated system, but we’re not economists. We work with medical professionals, but we’re not even versed in basic first aid. In our cheapest job, we paid our client. In our most lucrative job, we matched the yearly GDP of Thebe in a few hours. Whether you’re impressed or not is up to you, but hopefully we have your attention…

My name is Verun Lapzuli, and my robotic partner is RemmyIII, or RIII for short. Welcome to the Translation Offices of Asteroid 47.

We have one rule. You trust our interpretation, or you hire someone else. And…well, we kind of have a second rule. All parties involved hire us, or nobody hires us. So, two rules. Look, we do language not mathematics okay?

My partner and I don’t just translate words though; we translate context, we translate body language, we translate intentions, we translate emotion, or the lack of any or all of those things and more. In short, we translate meaning.

When you’re a colonial Martian speaking with an asteroid-mining redneck American who just ended a conceptual explanation with a haughty Capiche, Amigo? via holodeck…you don’t need an app. You need us. Click here for client testimonials.

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When you’re conducting business with an Illythianwrack near the celebration of Kabadule and they say ‘Normundi’ in quiet agreement at then end of negotiations surrounding specific terms of a deal…any app can tell you they said, ‘we agree to these terms until death unbinds us from them.’ But you would need us to inform you that the relaxed posture, quiet tone, and soft smile indicate that your terms are so offensive the Illythianwrack have just implied your imminent, mysterious, and overly-unconcerning death. If you choose not to believe our translation, that’s your choice. Click here for client testimonial.

If you missed it…please carefully re-read that last example until it clicks. If it still doesn’t click…you should definitely hire us.

The last System Census peaked at 10,318 spoken languages. But nobody knows how many body languages, dialects, accents, cultural references, contextual clues, etc, exist. An AI tried to calculate the number once. We would print you the number the AI came up with for the estimate of how many misunderstandings occur during each business day, but the number requires over six hundred Standard System Datapages (SSDs). We just can’t fit that on our holocard.

We appreciate you taking the time to access our advertisement in your preferred language. Feel free to look at any of our 9,876 other language options. Before you go, please remember…you trust our interpretation, or you hire someone else. Unaelewa?

Disclaimer 1 of 53: The Translation Offices of Asteroid 47™ will not be hired for cases involving: open criminal proceedings, communication between spouses, or ex-spouses. Any case involving politicians (because we can’t understand you), or any children under the galactic age of 3 (baby-talk is not a recognized language according to the supreme court ruling from 2089 (Harry vs Blrupppzzs-mammlm)). The Translation Offices of Asteroid 47™ retain the right to deny contracts for reasons other than those listed*.

Soul Tether

Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

When they first met, it wasn’t the clumsy exo-rig she was using to navigate the university halls that caught their attention, or the baggy tie-dye jumpsuit her body was hidden inside. It wasn’t the way the students parted around her as the red sea, respectful and yet indifferent to the alloy and carbon fiber elephant in their midst. It was the determination of will that creased her face, in stark contrast to the brilliant tranquility in her eyes.

She was undeniable in the space she took up, and yet still somehow invisible to everyone around her.

They alone, however, were transfixed.

She had to stop in order to not mow them down, and they stood staring at each other for what seemed like eons before either of them spoke.

That was twelve years ago, and they’ve been, quite literally, inseparable ever since.

Her rig allowed her to exact coarse motor control over her body, a body that disowned her before she was old enough to form memories of anything different.

Her mind was exceptional, she’d designed and refined the neural interface and mechanics, evolving it iteration after iteration over years, licensing discoveries to interested parties to fund her own further development. The university was her forever home, her laboratory, her savior, her prison.

She’d never felt anything, not really, not that she could remember. She knew what it felt like to have someone touch her face, or run their fingers through her hair, but she’d never known how it felt to touch someone else, anything else, her nervous system having been disconnected from the neck down since childhood.

They worked on the neural interface together, she directing them, using their hands as she had previously used apprentices and interns. The first implant she installed gave them blinding migraines for weeks, but the second was much gentler and allowed them to control her rig with her, and in time it allowed her, through them, to touch things and feel them with their fingers, feel the grass beneath their bare feet, the sand in-between their toes.

Their interlinked neural interfaces meant they could feel how she felt when she experienced each new thing through them, constructive waves of the joy of discovery compounding the endorphin rush they fueled in each other in a form of gentle feedback loop. It was intoxicating.

They couldn’t be more intimate, more vulnerable, more exposed to each other than they were like this.

Twelve years. They traveled together, newly able and eager to visit places together she’d never dreamed of visiting, places she would never have dared to go.

On the night she felt the end coming, they stayed together, coupled, interlinked, as one until the very end.

She’d pleaded with them to disconnect, fearing, knowing that her death would be their death too, but they were insistent.

When you love someone that deeply, you can’t let them go through something like that alone.

They had experienced everything together, they had to share this one last thing.

Besides, they couldn’t imagine living without her.

Beware the Sages

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The observation tower runs up through a hollow tree. Not sure which was here first, but it sure looks real. From the top, you can see damn near to the horizon in all directions.
A view which is, no matter where you look, shades of green spotted with the occasional gap or tall ruin. Makes me wonder why they put it in. Unless you like watching treetops, the only early warning you could get is of attack by aircraft or giants. I scramble back down.
“Could be an army coming at us under the trees, but looks calm.”
He nods and gestures toward the can of sliced peaches he’s set at my end of the table.
“Fill yer boots. We can weather the winter here, I reckon.”
I pull the ring on the can and lose myself in the flavour of something that tastes better and wetter than MREs. Draining the syrup to the last drop, I place the empty can back on the table and wave my eating knife about.
“How d’you find these places?”
It’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask for the last year or so, but never got up the courage. Guess I was still star-struck. After all, how many orphan kids running wild through a post-apocalyptic wasteland get partnered by Levi Skills? I used to watch his webshow about survival after the SHTF. I was never able to afford the fancy stuff he came up with, but his basic skills and mindset schooling went so deep it became instinctive.
He looks up and grins.
“Been wondering when you’d get round to that.” he puts his empty down, then stretches.
“Started to see the way things were going a good few years before it all went to hell. Like you, I came up through the foster system. Never had much that I couldn’t pick up and run with. Figured out to do anything except shelter in place or hunker down with neighbours, you needed money. Serious money. The sort of money I would never have.
“I spent what I had on a webcam, then started shooting what I knew in a copse out back of the garage where I worked. After a while, I picked up a reputation. Other survival sites started linking to me. So I started coming up with bigger projects, whole bolt-holes and hideaway builds. Got all my info off other people’s sites, just dressed it up for the videos using the back of a wall in the garage yard and some stuff stolen from a nearby building site. People started asking me for help, so I started advising them on sites and such. Got invited to a lot of them – always passed on the ones where the folks involved knew what they were doing. Just in case someone asked a question I couldn’t answer without access to real experts.
“Naturally, a few people took issue with my shakier ideas. I took them down and pedalled them to the eager as ‘secret survival knowledge for the serious prepper’. My basics were as solid as any. The advanced stuff was theory, lies, and…”
He stops and looks at me.
“Those ‘secret survival tips’? A whole range of stupid things to do in confined spaces that will kill you and any who hide with you. That’s why the smart folk called me out. The smug folk thought the smart ones were only jealous, then spent their money building shelters that became caches for me after they died.”
Holy shit.
“The lower level that’s flooded?”
Levi nods.
“Full of drowned amateurs.”

Gilded Cage

Author: Rick Tobin

Nondescript gray gruel drifted over the worn stainless spoon stirring in a prisoner’s brown wooden bowl. Two ragged, worn men sat facing each other, heads bent down toward a stained wooden picnic bench, one lifting a metal water cup to dilute rancid flavors from his throat.

“Miguel. Quietly,” the larger man whispered across the meal. “They’re listening. Two months. News from the Brazilian?” Anderson pulled his drifting, greasy locks past his eyes while making brief hand gestures on the table, indicating where guards were standing. Miguel put one finger out, tapping it lightly.

“La sangre,” he whispered. Miguel pulled his worn sleeve back, exposing his scars from constant IVs.

“You mean, blood?” Anderson’s eyes widened as he pointed, slowly, to his heart.

“Si, es la verdad, sangre oro.”

“Maybe to make sure those women aren’t infecting us. God knows why they force us on them. Get that fat kiwi broad again?” Anderson choked back some stew, thinking about cramped mating pens with guards prodding, forcing coupling.

“Muy horrible…you call…nightmare?” Miguel rubbed his neck, rolled back his shirt collar, exposing bite marks.

Anderson sat back quickly, as if struck by an invisible hand. “You said oro…you mean gold…like golden blood?”

“Si, Anderson. I have the golden blood. You?”

“For God’s sake, that’s it. They took us because we have no antigens. Why…why would they?”

His questioning stopped as guards descended on them. Soon, a feeding area door opened to exude a man in a doctor’s uniform with military epaulets.

“So, Anderson, always the curious one. We’ve watched you. If this one figured it out,” he pointed at Miguel, “It won’t be long before everyone knows, even the women. You can let them go, guards.” The doctor waved thugs off two seated men.

“Explain, asshole!” Anderson turned. A machine gun barrel pushed into his face.

“No, we can’t have that, sergeant. Step back. They’ll settle down. I’m Doctor Evans of Space Command. You, and Mr. Hernandez, are some of our treasured guests. You’ve guessed half the reason, but not all.”

“Treasured guests?” Anderson growled.

“I assure you; my superiors ordered these Spartan conditions after our failures with genetic alterations and artificial insemination. Your kind has complicated reproduction issues. We couldn’t afford to lose a single rare golden blood donor, so…this last alternative. Those pitiful women are just like you—here against their will. We need offspring with dominant genes, ensuring a continual breeding stock.”

“You Nazi bastard…” Anderson reached out before a baton slapped his hands.

“This is about species, not race, Anderson. You see, gentlemen, we have a narrow six-year window. We’re moving an army to Mars to neutralize recent Chinese incursions. Dominance battles are coming. Casualties need universal donor blood supplies from available healthy sources on Mars… babies you’ll make. There are only fifty of you left on Earth. We can’t have that resource wasted.”

“There’s no pit in hell deep enough for what you’re doing…and those women!” Anderson spit at Evans.

“Really? Such bravado. Consider your eventual benefits. Apophis is a planet killer. That asteroid got close last pass, then changed course, so we stepped up Mars migrations. If you aren’t on Mars by 2036, you’ll die. Be assured, you assets will continue mating there, and eventually be crowned heroes. For now, get used to that bitch from Auckland. We need her. She tends toward twins.”

The Aliens Finally Find Something Edible

Author: Ken Poyner

So what: a fleet of alien starcraft sets down in Ohio and lets us know we are not alone in the Universe. Okay. Our rent is still due. The last of that special jam we bought at the farm store just over the state line has soured. You still prop yourself up on one pillow to say that if I am to be done so quickly, maybe I shouldn’t start at all. Yes, I am curious to see what they look like. Yes, I wonder what they came here for. But, as far as anything else – technology transfer, minerals trade, the philosophy of space travel – someone at a higher pay grade than mine will decide all that. My focus is on keeping my lousy job, and when engaged with you in the spearpoint of passion remembering I am not alone. We will get back out to that farm store – it is only a twenty mile mostly straight-line drive down a tourist trap road. We could go next time I have a weekday off. Be angry with me if you like. You know I will make it up to you. Or try. But just now, let’s turn on the television and see if they are interviewing those new aliens yet. I am spear-point curious as to what they could possibly want with us, why we are interesting to them. I would think they would want something and not come so far just to visit.