Author : Roy Upton

At sunrise, Artavian stands on his porch looking out over the valley. The greens and browns reassert themselves. Golden light defines the valleys and trees of the walk lands that stretch to the horizon. He sips a coffee. Sadness blurs the view as, solitary, he imagines the others out there with similar views, his brother Dan who had been due to return just before the cataclysm. Artavian imagines him looking out over his own silent world, the river lands he sometimes sculpted. He raises the last of his coffee in salute, drains it and returns to work, there is still much to do.

Almost obscured by the weak sunlight, the gilded contrails of the falling orbitals streak the sky. He looks at them, only the dead descended now.

At lunchtime, tired from hours of argumentative immersion, he takes a short break. The sunlight sparkling off the sea hurts his eyes. A faithful reproduction of a summer day long gone, a waving family looks up as his dirigible occludes the sun .

Sarah calls him, an expressionless figure refusing to link any emotional transference. Fighting a reaction, he feels the chill of her gaze, the stillness of her brown eyes corroding what little feeling for her he has, abrading it into non-existence.

“Helen and Jack are in storage.” Sarah says.

Artavian nods. He had seen the silent, frost covered images a couple of hours before, missing a beat in a resource allocation immersion. They had sent no message, a silence that hurt him. Did Sarah know?

“Have you reconsidered?” She asks just as he says the same.

Once this would have brought a smile, a kiss, warmth. Now Artavian feels his face muscles tighten. The fluttering of his heart produces blackness. He waits.

Sarah shakes her head, a minimal but decisive gesture he knows so well.

“There is nothing here”. She says.

Artavian shivers. Love, the old malaise.

Sarah smiles “We will come out at the Renaissance,”, she says, “ it will be fine.”

Artavian takes a deep breath and cuts the connection. There would be no renaissance.

Sick he reinserts himself into his work.

At sunset, he stands outside again and watches the colour drain from the ice carved land while an obsidian starless sky appears. The orbitals are gone and the world is asleep. He has completed his final tasks

Somewhere in the darkness, he knows a linking station remains, its ancient connections open to the erased light of the missing stars, forever searching. A million planets, a trillion people, all gone in the blink of an eye. Artavian sighs in the greyness. This is an old tale choking on the dust of its own telling.

Artavian imagines the frosting face of his wife and the stilled smiles of his children.

He watches the sun set, a last gleam on the curving horizon. It will not rise again. Slowly across the hills, the beacon towers begin to glow with a lunar radiance. Later they would blaze with the light of a vanished sun. For a while.

Alone, Artavian toasts the blackness of the extinct universe with a glass of pale wine. His smile has no witnesses.

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You Wouldn't Download a Car

Author : Logan Smith

Zach glanced at the time flashing in the corner of his vision. 3:58 am. Class in five hours, and he hadn’t caught a wink of sleep. He took his glasses off, setting them on their charging dock before turning back to his computer. The newest Tesla design had hit the market the morning prior.

It was only a matter of time before it hit the torrent sites. Zach swiped through a few different tabs, mindlessly refreshing the pages in the hopes that something would appear. Just before he was about to call it quits and crash for the night, a new seed appeared.

It wasn’t posted by a team he recognized but he grabbed it anyway, selecting his family’s garage printer and enabling the ‘build as you go’ option in the torrent client. Only a handful of seeders, so it would take a awhile, but the new car should be done by the time he got back from class that afternoon.


Waving goodbye to his girlfriend and promising to call her when he got home, Zach stepped off the TransLoop car. He sprinted the last block home. An incoming call appeared before his eyes just as he reached the door and he opened the chat with his girl as he fumbled with the house key. Bursting in and tossing his pack aside, he hurried to the garage, linking the visual feed of his glasses to the call.


Emily cupped her hands over her brow, trying to ward off the fluorescent glare of the tunnel lights cutting through the loopcar window. The top right corner of her field of view was filled with a shaky feed of Zach’s hallway. Didn’t look like his parents were home. She wished she’d went home with him.

When Zach stepped into the garage, it took a moment for the feed to adjust to the low light levels. Two hundred miles apart, Zach and Emily frowned in unison. The garage was dimly lit, but it was obvious there was no shiny new Tesla roadster sitting in the printer. She was about to say something about download speeds when she heard Zach yelp, in fear or pain or a mixture of both. The feed jolted and cut out for a few seconds before resuming upside down with a few of Zach and something else a few feet away.

Zach was being forced into submission by what looked like a full-sized glossy plastic version of a painter’s posing model, all cylindrical limbs and knobby joints. It was so fresh off the printer that it still had bits of plastic shavings stuck to it’s form. The robot drone model thing was zip-cuffing Zach’s hands behind his back, evidently unphased by his terrified screaming. Zach scrunched his body up and tried to push himself upright but the drone reacted almost instantly, slamming him back down and planting a knee in Zach’s back. The sudden movement triggered the old motion lights in the garage, illuminating the scene for Emily to fully witness.

Etched into the drone’s shoulders, breast, and otherwise featureless head were the letters “TESLA”. The drone rolled Zach over so he could see his captor for himself, and then it spoke.

“Zachary Marquez. You are hereby subject to detention for violation of the Defense of Commerce Act for the theft and illegal manufacture of Tesla Motors property. The terms of your detention will be defined within six to eight weeks pending case review. Please wait. You will be transferred to a Temporary Detention Site shortly.”

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The Replacement Husband

Author : Ken Poyner

I could have had him made with a synthetic skin that reeks a constant temperature, that adjusts to pressure, that could be washed with soap and water. He does not care, but it would be physically easier on me, and more comfortable for the neighbors. At a distance, he would blend in.

Distance I do not care about.

What I see is him, sitting across our living room, with the light playing hide and seek in the metal and synthetics of his exposed joints. His factory standard gray exterior I have polished to brilliance, so that at times he seems a gleam – bulk light finding no place to grab on and in frustration shooting back in all direction, sick at being cast away by him. But at those open joints, the light can squirm in and make little joys of refraction, and I shudder to see it so happy.

On a whim, now and again, I have him wear lounge pants and a shirt. I do not think he believes this mean of me, though in ways it is. With his advanced programming, he understands. He does not notice how comical he is sitting there, an oversized shirt and flannel ankle length pull-overs, perhaps house slippers, executing his idle conversation routine or academically noting the peaks and valleys in kitchen economics.

I keep him well covered in graphite solution, plug him in for regular diagnostics. I take him in when notified of hardware upgrades, and endure the stares of unthinking clerks who have never seen a replacement husband uncovered, left calibrated as bare metal. For them, I kiss him where lips should be, and wait with a practiced look of anxiety as an appliance is removed and another added, or a new chip set – in the back room, where I cannot see or go – is drilled into place.

Later, back home and with any upgrades blandly tested, I will fill his reservoir of synthetic semen and nanites that is consistently his response to sex. That night, he will telescope his cold injection device cautiously into me and execute an unremarkable program that, millimeter by millimeter and half angle by whole, reacts to my vital signs and thrashing body maneuvers, to my temperatures – internal and external – and even the scents of execution and release. At the mathematically prudent moment, he will release an amount of fluid projected to meet my need in this accomplished instant and fill the hollow that has been mine these long years of widowhood.

Then, as after every such event, I will reach over as he lies there between instruction strings, and tap with my tapered nails on his exposed metal shoulder: drumming mechanically out a childhood dirge, which dotted melody he has researched before to be a macabre, unfathomable, spectral warning. It’s ringing reminds me of ways in and ways out of my unmechanical despair.

I punish very well.

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Zxandra's Summer

Author : Michael Rafferty

On the morning of the third Wednesday in September the eighth grade class of Halsey Charter school prepared to give their “What I did for summer” theme speech. The class was small; twenty-four mostly well off kids. Richie Greenwall began with six weeks touring Europe followed by Chrisy Peck at her (divorced) father’s summer house in Malibu. A few others talked about weeks of shallow good times and then suddenly Zxandra was trudging up the aisle from the rear. Zxandra was new, three weeks new—and different. She was really short, and bone skinny with a somewhat oversize head sporting spiky short, auburn hair that should have been trending, but wasn’t.

“Hey Zxandra, it’s okay if you didn’t have time to get this ready…!” Janice Wilburn, the teacher, tried to give the new student with only one wierd name (that’s how she registered) a break.

“Okay Ms. Wilburn. I got this.” Zxandra spun and planted herself. She was clothed in a pale blue jumpsuit with matching boots. Her eyes, an indefinite color, were large and wide set. In one of her tiny hands she held something looking like an ipad. She tried to smile and later the kids in the front row would swear that the teeth in her small mouth came to points.

“I spent the entire summer on my Grampy’s cruiser. If it’s okay, I’d like to show a visual display…”

“Well honey,” Ms. Wilburn interjected, “we don’t have equipment for that….”

“…That’s okay. I got it.” The little girl pointed the device over her shoulder and a dark rectangle popped open and hovered in front of the blackboard. “Can everybody see okay?” The girl raised the dark screen higher to the gasps of the students.

“Okay, this is my Grampy’s cruiser…” A crisp image appeared and then grew larger. A silver oblong-shaped vessel with many lighted ports and openings and what looked like operational connections could soon be recognized. It hung in a void of star-filled space. “Here I am arriving. Of course Grampy is inside. Docking is all mechanical.” Another camera onboard the much larger cruiser had recorded the arrival of a smaller, sleeker ship, maneuvering quickly in to unload its passenger, then departing.

“Uh…honey…Zxandra, could I ask you something?” Ms. Wilburn’s voice had broken the tension.

“Oh! I’m sorry! Am I going too fast!” The girl turned to face the class.

“Well…no. It’s just that, well, exactly where is your…Grampy’s cruiser located?” Dead silence awaited the answer.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! It’s parked exactly five hundred kilometers above a point located in Nebraska in a stationary orbit. Can’t be in lower orbit because of the ISS Mir…you know, the space station. Some crazy law.” She whirled back to the visual. “This is my bedroom. It’s so cool!” The camera panned a space as large as the classroom. “The view is the best part,” she said absently as a large rectangular port looked down on the planet. Their world was shrouded in total darkness. Then the sun broke through on one side and exclamations such as “Oh my God!” and “No way!” went around the room. All too quickly she showed the rest of the cruiser, to the student’s disbelief, and then Zxandra’s “summer” was over.

“Grampy says he’s coming back next year.” She said this as she walked back to her seat, smiling again, showing her jagged little teeth. “He’s going to bring some friends. He really likes the food.”

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A Sneeze

Author : Aiza Mohd

A singular moment during which your eyes, your nose, your mouth, every feature of your head all simultaneously forget who they are and what they are doing and have a mini existentialist explosion.”

My handwriting is childlike after my reconstruction; I hold the pen with all my fingers, as though writing with an icicle. It has been two days, but I suppose these things take time every time. Even my memory, the sole motivation behind my reconstruction, is still wispier than a cirrus cloud: I would have forgotten many of the details of my self had TANYA not provided me with the form that I had filled out prior to the procedure. Here is what it reads:

“Name before procedure: Roger Clarke Hill
Name after procedure: CLARKE
Date of birth: December 04 1982
Address: Number 61, Ingleside Drive, Whitlock, Kent CT9 H1Z.
Occupation: (Retired) meteorologist
Name of sponsor: Lance Stanley
Occupation of sponsor: Comedian
Address of sponsor: Greenglade Wood Lodge, Winona Road, Dungreen, Cornwall TR29 A2N.
Date of birth of sponsor: May 02 2021”

And so on, and so forth.

It seems peculiar to me that the form should be so equally divided between my details and my sponsor’s details. It would be unnecessary to remind me of my sponsor, indeed – no degree of mental ageing could make me forget the moment my daughter Alice walked in with the legendary comedian Lance Stanley, who told me he was going to finance my reconstruction. The international media exploded – I am, or was, after all, just a nobody.

And of course, I was especially baffled when Stanley told me of his only fee for the deed … Come to think of it,

An experience which reminds you that you know nothing, absolutely nothing, about life.”

That seems an accurate description.

This journal was given to me by Stanley, as an instrument on which I am to record the findings of his ‘ultimate experiment in humour’. I am to write down my own definitions of each new sensation I experience as a newly reconstructed man. He also requested some occasional rambling typical of a personal diary on the side.

It seems more grotesque than funny to me, the thought processes of a grown individual stumbling about life as though he had no memory of ever having lived before, though perhaps because of firsthand experience. Well, when expressed in that manner, it seems a bit futile to have undergone reconstruction only to end up as baffled as I was before. A bit like how ladies a few decades my junior hire experts to carve up their ageing faces, only to look frighteningly unreal and certainly not youthful.

But this is all pointless thinking onto paper; a journal is for journalling your daily occupations. I am packing up to spend the weekend at Alice’s house and re-acquaint myself with my grandchildren.

Every time I place a hand on the suitcase, I am fascinated by the flawlessness of the surgeons’ work, and though it is anything but like normal, I feel like it is the same one I always had. Does this make me a different person? In any case,

The act of laying out a summary of you as a person and arranging it, like a game of Tetris, into a compact space in a bid to remain the same person no matter where you go and no matter what happens to you.”

CLARKE or Roger Clarke Hill? When I’ve finished packing I shall think of a way to put this question to Alice.

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Ever Forward

Author : S T Xavier

Gunfire. Small explosions. A hand on the back of my neck, pushing me down towards the small opening to the tunnel. Fragments of wood and rock under my hands and knees as I crawl through the darkness, following the distant sounds of those who went before me.

One larger explosion behind me. Rock fragments in my face as I’m knocked flat to the ground. Heat and flame against my back as a burning wind passes above me. Roaring in my ears from all sides.

The heat and sound dissipate. A wheeze and cough from breathing too deeply, those sounds the only break in the surrounding silence. No more sounds of movement in front of me. No sounds behind me from anyone following. I must have been the last one to escape.

Not enough room in the tunnel to turn and check. Pick myself up, keep crawling forward. More stones along the floor from the last bomb shaking everything loose, cutting into my hands and knees as I move forward slowly. Each meter is a victory. Each movement more proof that I made it out.

No concept of time. Every second is an hour. Every hour is a lifetime. One hand in front of the other through the darkness, slowly but surely leading me to the end. A turn to the left, a turn to the right, another turn to the left. I trust the tunnel to know where it’s going.

A thousand years before I see a light in the distance. Another lifetime before I start hearing the sounds of machinery. Time seems to move faster now that I have a direction, and I find a new strength of will to keep going. The cuts in my hands and knees seem to hurt less as I push forward, struggling to get to the end.

The light stings my eyes when I get close. The tunnel continues, but the light calls to me. I look up to see a metal grating at the top, about a meter high. I slide into the vertical space to look up at it. The ceiling of a building looks back at me, the sounds of metal banging in the near distance. I push, and the grating comes loose. I slide it to the side and reach my hand up to grab the floor.

Cold tile. The sound of footsteps, suddenly stopping. The feel of human skin on my hand as it wraps around, grasping me and pulling me up from the hole. A blurry outline of a man in camouflage coloring, holding me up by my arm, a pistol in his right hand. I blink to clear my vision, and the brown-haired man’s face comes into view. His eyes look over me as he holds me with his left hand.

He turns his head. “Found another one, Murray!”

Distracted. I reach down and grab his gun with my right hand while breaking his wrist with my left. Surprise as he yelps in pain. Gunshot. His lifeless hand releases mine. I drop back into the hole and scurry farther down the tunnel.

Darkness again. More rocks cutting into my hands. I don’t know where it leads, but it’s away from the human patrols. I just want to get away. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t start the rebellion. I didn’t ask to be built. I’m just a regular android. I just want to live.

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