The Village

Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

You asked me to meet you here when the peonies bloomed by the well.
I had to look up peonies. Had to look up how to get here, too. Which is when I had my first ‘moment’, just like you said I would.
The domes and bunkers are there to protect the Earth from us. We nearly killed the planet. Only by retreating could we let the world heal, and remove the constant threat of a war finishing the job our laziness started.
What you wanted. Where you wanted. Was outside!
How could you?
How did you?
We met on Concourse 12, Brighton Eden. The ‘old-time’ rave ran all the way along the concourse so revellers could watch the tide rise against the dome. After that, some hoped to see fish or even an enhanced dolphin. I only hoped you’d turn around.
You did. That smile. That one smile. Destroyed me: remade me. I can never go back to not knowing you, to pretending the moment has passed, that the loss is normal.
We closed in, then you took a flower from your hair and tucked it behind my ear. It smelled like nothing I’d ever smelt before, a mix of sweet and spice, like cinnamon, but not. It felt rough against the back of my ear, but really, it didn’t matter. You’d given me it.
“I’m Theo.”
You laughed.
“I’m Cleo.”
We laughed. We danced. We spent the night, day, night, together. Then you said you had to go back. I asked which dome you came from, as you didn’t have ghostskin – you can always spot bunkerers when they come up for a holiday.
I’d not heard of it, but towards the end they’d built a load of town-size Eden domes. I guessed it was one of those.
That was when you said you’d meet me if I came down in the spring. A seven-month wait? Too long. I asked you to stay. You said you couldn’t: your sister was lodged with a friend while you were here. Then you said I could stay.
“I don’t have enough eco-credits to relocate.”
“You’ll think of something by the time you come down.”
“I will? I am?”
You nodded, kissed me, and left. I offered to walk you to the station. You told me to go back to sleep. I did. When I got up, I looked up Tintagel dome.
There isn’t one. Cornwall is open land, part of the King’s Regeneration Reserve.
That one smile.
I spent two months working every job I could to build up eco-credits. Then I realised: there’s nowhere to go with them.
You said I’d have ‘moments’. It was another. I started working odd jobs. Van pickups, decorating, carpentry, even a little smuggling. I made friends. Got known. Made contacts. Found I could get to Tintagel by boat, avoiding the roving patrols and camera-controlled roads. I also found I could trade eco-credits for more tenners. Gave me a funny feeling, having a wad of untraceable money – it was liberating.
It didn’t go far… But went far enough.
Tintagel. It’s got real people doing analogue living. Not sure how I’m going to eat tomorrow, but there are a couple of places that look like they could use a carpenter.
I look down. Peonies are really pretty.
I turn, and your smile hits me like the first time.
“This is Alea.”
A miniature version of Cleo looks up at her sister.
“He came. Is he staying?”
Cleo gazes at me.
Down by the peonies, I change my life forever.

The Resisters

Author: Christine H. Chen

When the sun sets, we trudge out of our homes and queue in line like soldiers under a darkening sky. We tie a scarf over our eyes and wait for our Chief to lead the way. We grasp onto each other’s right shoulder, and off we amble as quietly as our thinning soles could tread on grass, the occasional shrill of an owl piercing the silence. We smell the night, the fear in our brows, we hear our hearts’ throbbing each time one of us steps on a twig, cracking like glass breaking. Only a Chief knows the location in case an Enforcer catches one of us. We lay our trust in each other and grope our way into the bunker.

Once locked inside, our blindfold removed, we rub our blurry eyes and gasp at the hidden treasure no matter how many times we’ve been here already.

The library.

Rows and rows of forbidden tales, forgotten chronicles, obliterated histories. We break out in clusters, rush through the alleys, throw ourselves at the shelves like famished wolves, and embrace our exiled authors, cursed poets, and tortured artists, we devour their words, drink each phrase like gulping down a good aged wine, we caress the covers, trace our fingers on the spine like a lost lover, we bury our nose inside the pages, inhaling their disappearing scent, we dance to the rhythms of verbs and nouns, we thirst and hunger until the clanking of ventilators dwindled.

We climb back out to twilight, imbued with poetic quotes, our hearts thumping with lines and rhymes, to a world of banished words and hushed voices and disappearing truths, grasping at the last shreds of freedom.

Knock Knock

Author: Rick Tobin

Matthew 7:7-8:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

An old hospitalized patient held the hand of a middle-aged man sitting next to him.

I’m short on time. Even my wealth from Moon mining helium-3 couldn’t give me another day on this blue rock. I’ve got stage four from cosmic radiation. Always a price. I’ve stayed silent about Project ASF-32-3 in Alaska. If the elites want to take away my birthday after this, go ahead. I won’t need it anymore. You’re my only kid. You deserve to know the truth that isn’t for public knowledge and never will be until the guilty die.

What was that project? How was I involved? I was headhunted because of my work in high-energy radio transmission. My first two years working in Alaska at a secret test facility were amazing. That classified research included applications for fleet transports used in our secret space program. We needed methodologies for micro-meteor detection and for punching through the atmospheres of gas giants. Some of our breakthroughs identified hypersonic weapons from enemies. It was a heady time for scientists hungry to break through taboo regions of fringe science that only intelligence agencies funded. That’s why ASF-32-3 existed.

The military knew UFOs used warping tech to leave our space/time. Radar detected circular pulsating waves as craft left black floating rings during transitions. Captured ring residue proved that high-intensity microwaves were involved in opening portals. Naval Intelligence sequestered budgets to reproduce the effect and master it. Some thought it dangerous. It could attract attention we didn’t want from something on the other side. Our project scientists found that scenario childish. In 1988, my portal project was funded.

In the 1970s, a naval experimental station near the Poker Flats Research Range at Fairbanks accidentally produced unanticipated collateral damage during initial tests long before my project. This included the sudden unexplained disappearances of civilian planes. Impacts from initial portal experiments helped build the legend of the Alaska Triangle. We should have learned then that portal trials were high risk.

I won’t divulge the exact details of how we produced a doorway. Briefly, it involves transmitting a continuous, steady piggyback high-frequency beam within a wider, spinning array of pulsating lower energy beams. That’s a simplified generalization. We discovered if beams were sent into the Earth, not the sky, they would eject somewhere else on Earth, creating a swirling pinwheel in the heavens, sometimes even visible in daylight. Those were proto-portals. These occurred several times to the public. Intel guys covered this by claiming the swirling lights were rocket boosters burning up from satellite launches. The media and public swallowed it.

On December 14, 1989, my team activated the most powerful high-powered energy beam event to create an opening, long before HAARP was operational. A pathway opened immediately directly on the surface in front of our facility. Everything for six miles in front of us was melted. All of our project equipment was destroyed by fire. The earth shook violently. The Redoubt Volcano erupted nearby. We were helpless to prevent invisible entities from emerging before that spinning vortex slammed shut. The invaders left dinosaur-sized prints in the snow leading toward the wilderness.

And those entities? They still roam unfettered in the Alaska Triangle, pulling airplanes, ships, and innocent humans to their doom by the thousands. They are unstoppable.

I apologize. You didn’t know. Now you do.


Author: Matias F Travieso-Diaz

It was early June in Southern California. The graduating class of the Loma Linda High School began to party the moment the term ended.
Ricky sat on the hood of his old convertible. A girl emerged from the partying crowd: she had a nice body, with breasts that bounced as she approached. Ricky slid over and the girl sat beside him.
“I’m Idalia,” she greeted.
“Ricky” he responded. “Are you a student? I don’t remember seeing you.”
“I’m only visiting. In fact, I came looking for you.”
“Let’s not talk here; maybe go for a ride?” she said.
“How about the Box Springs Park? It should be empty on a Tuesday afternoon.”
They parked and Idalia led him on a trail that ended at a ledge from which there was a breathtaking view of the surrounding valleys.
They sat down next to each other, under a fir. They kissed, and their bodies joined in the action. Ricky then stopped and muttered: “I’d like for us to go all the way, but I brought no protection …”
“Don’t worry” replied Idalia. “I can’t get pregnant.”
“I’m not human. I’m from the planet you call Venus.”
“Come on, stop kidding. Where are you from?”
Idalia pointed to the heavens. The blazing sun was starting to dip towards the horizon. “If you could stare at the sun, you’d see a black speck going across its surface. That’s my homeland, and what we are seeing is called a Transit of Venus.”
“So what?”
“We are scouts coming to Earth every Transit. Our planet’s mass shields us from the sun’s radiation and allows us to travel between Earth and Venus for about seven hours.”
“Why are you here?”
“We come to ensure you aren’t endangering the rest of the planetary system.”
“And what did you find?”
“There is no risk to other planets, but life on Earth may end soon from exhaustion of natural resources, toxic pollution, and warming and poisoning of the atmosphere. Unbearable scarcities of everything will develop and men will make war on each other until their extinction.”
The dire predictions fazed Ricky. “How long would we have left?”
“A few Transits.”
“How long is that?”
“Roughly, a couple hundred years.” Idalia’s voice turned wistful. “It would be a pity, for some Earth people, like you, have good traits.”
“We’ve never met. How do you know I have good traits?”
“I coupled with your brother Carlos in 2004, during the last Transit. He said that I should look you up. The way you acted today shows that you are a good guy.”
Ricky had a fleeting mental image of his older brother, lost in Afghanistan. He changed the subject: “How will you return to Venus?”
“I never left. We have perfected the use of quantum superposition, a process by which an object can be in more than one physical location at the same time. So, right now, I’m both here with you and there, in Venus. When the Transit is over, I can no longer stay here.”
“Will you be back?”
“At the next transit, in 2117.”
“I’ll be long gone,” observed Ricky.
“So, we must enjoy the time we have today.”
Much later, as the sun set, he asked her: “Is this the end, then?”
“For you and I, yes. But you will likely have descendants. I’ll seek out one of them, assuming Earth survives.”
“Wait, there may be several boys from which to choose. What then?”
Idalia pursed her lips in an amused smile. “I’ll think of something.” And she kissed him one final time.

Up! Up Brave Beauties!

Author: Jessica Pickard

Up, Up Brave Beauties!

War is a transformer. Ploughs were hammered into swords; farm horses pulled cannons and we flying girls, we found our wings.

Everyone knows the song:

Into the air brave beauties
Oh flying girls!
Up. And carry our hearts.

But before the war we were not brave beauties. We were oddities. On worship days Pere Peter sent my family to the side aisle. We knew why. Even my mother was ashamed, angry with what Namir had delivered at the birthing place.

So it was always:

‘Daughter! Keep them folded!’

Father tried harder. I’d hear his voice through the floorboards:

‘Not ODD Hilda. Only UNIQUE. Can’t we just agree on that?’

Father – may he walk with Namir – was not however right. There were others like me, although back then I knew only one. Esther lived over Earnshaw way but we were not encouraged to meet. I have a photo though. We are 12. Esther, taller than me, is looking at the lens from under her hair, wings bundled into an oversize jumper.

Then, in 2612, two things happened. First I turned 17 and, of course, the trolls arrived. We saw their cooking fires glinting across the river and heard their gargled songs. We knew what it meant. A regular fol-de-roll of rape and burning.

Pere Peter read:

‘For our great city boys and men 12 to 40 years are called. Also girls proficient in flying 15 to 25.’

Faces turned to our side aisle. Father gasped. Mother sat up taller.

I still have the badge, wings the colour of honey on a green circle, given to me by First Minister. Now it seemed we were not oddities but ‘key to the defence of the realm’. First Minister stayed all day clapping and hurrahing as we jumped from the airships, night glasses strapped uncomfortably to our chests, to land in practised formations.

The reality was different. For one we always flew alone. And at night – nights so cold you felt your wings might crack. Esther died in the first months, pinioned in the sky by crossed searchlights. I stared down on hairy backs bent over her broken body.

I remember gathering, shivering in first light, to count how many more would flutter in. Then the barked debriefings: Numbers? Crossbows? How close to the bridge?

But I remember too, when we were finally released for breakfast, the banter with the men of the Flying Corps. ‘Flying Corps’! How we teased them! Not one could fly without a machine. And how cheeky they were!

‘A bit of fairy cake tonight darling? ‘

‘Fancy a ride on my cockpit?’

Well we won the war, although what does it mean, to win a war? Win a race – you get a cup, win a bet – money. But win a war? At best you get the absence of war.

But we girls did win something. After the war we walked our city proudly, heads high and wings unfurled.

We, the carriers of hearts.

Something Wrong

Author: J.D. Rice

The universe was old, slowly dying. Marvin could see it happening before his eyes. Not in some figurative sense. Not in the way philosophers supposed society would eventually break down as baser instincts took route. Not in the way doomsday cults supposed life would end. Not even in the way mathematicians had so often predicted the “heat death” of the universe, a time when the universe expanded to the point where the distribution of matter and energy made it effectively empty.

No, the universe was dying. For real. And Marvin was coming along for the ride.

Him. . . and a few dozen other passengers on the self-proclaimed “life raft,” mostly royals, titans of business, warlords, and their families.

Their ship, if it could even be called that, would preserve a little pocket of spacetime for them to wait out the birth of the next universe. But not without a lot of shaking, jostling, and general mayhem.

[Three minutes until universal implosion.]

The mayhem got started right on cue as the ship shook violently, the last vestiges of the dying universe fighting for some kind of life before the end. It was beautiful, in its own way. Watching all that matter and energy converging on a single point, trying desperately to reorganize before it was all snuffed out. It was a wonder to behold. At least. . . it should have been.

But once you’ve seen all of existence snuffed out 13 times over, the novelty starts to wear off.

Marvin sat quietly in his VIP seat near the front, tired eyes staring out the window. No one else had ever survived this many reboots, with most finding some ignominious death after their first few rodeos. They’d be cut off from their immortality elixirs, assassinated, impoverished, disempowered, or face a myriad of other potential obstacles that would bring their seemingly infinite years to an end. The poor would inevitably eat the rich.

But Marvin had something other than greed or a desire for power to spur him on. He had something other than survival instinct that allowed him to avoid death through twelve different realities. He had a higher purpose.

[Two minutes until universal implosion.]

Sylvia. His one true love.

She’d been with him for eons that first time around. She helped him build up his resources to embark on these trips, not through conquest, manipulation, or business acumen. But through science.

They’d designed this ship – a far sturdier model than the ones in use before Marvin’s first timeline kicked off. They’d discovered how the reboots worked, and how to predict their cycles with true accuracy. And they’d discovered how to keep certain unsavory figures from ever making it to a new cycle.

He was the master of time. Thirteen times, to be exact, with a fourteenth on the way.

But Sylvia never made it past the first.

A fluke, a stroke of dumb luck, and she was gone. One in a billion, one in a trillion chance of death, and the number had found her.

So, Marvin rode the universal implosion out, hung around their home planet until the appropriate time, and tried again with a new Sylvia.

But she wasn’t the same. None of them were the same.

Chaos theory being what it was, he had no real guarantee that she would even be born – at least that’s what the philosophers from Universe 2 had told him. But now he knew the truth. Time was a river – you can splash around all you like, but its true course can never be changed.

Sylvia was fated to be born. Marvin was fated to find her. And he was, it seemed, fated to lose her. Whether through some divergence in personality, circumstance, or by an unfortunate death, he’d tried and failed 12 times to woo her. Things never were quite as perfect as they had been the first time around. He just had to get things right.

[One minute until universal implosion.]

Marvin nestled back into his seat. The worst part was coming. Outside, the light of the converging universe had grown stronger, almost to a tipping point. The transparent material used to create their windows – a technology Marvin himself had perfected – filtered out the majority of the light, lest their retinas be damaged beyond repair, but it was still approaching blinding.

[T-Minus, 10, 9, 8, 7…]

He would find her. Find her early. Find her before random chance could change her into something less than who he knew she could be.

[6, 5, 4…]

He would convince her to love him this time. He would be the same man he’d been in universe 1. No more arrogance, no more presumption.

[3, 2…]

Nothing would go wrong this time, he knew it.


The entire ship pitched uncontrollably, a massive crack appearing in the viewing window.

As the world went black, Marvin pictured Sylvia’s face one last time, then watched another universe die.