The Window

Author: Alzo David-West

Marcus had witnessed several incarnations of himself in the course of his forty-one years—a guarded child, a romantic teenager, a tired tutor, and a tolerant husband of Madeline. She barged into his study, upset about their quartet of preadolescents and the dishes she wanted him to do.

“But I’m going through some formulations, Madeline,” he said from his desk.

“You and your inane formulations,” she retorted. “Always your formulations. When are you going to start working again?”

“Madeline, I worked straight for fifteen years. I need a break now.”

“A break indeed, while I’m here with the little terrors and the bills.”

“You can go out for a walk, Madeline.”

“With this pandemic raging? You want me to get killed? And who will look after the children when I’m gone? You? Why, you can’t even put the spoons back in order.”

“Please, Madeline, I’m burned out. I just want a little rest.”

“Two months, and you want a little rest. Why—”

He refocused on the formulations he had been working on for the past four and a half years. They were difficult years, with his anemia, indigestion, sinusitis, and Medusian supervisor who had no care for illness. And then the contract ended.

He looked up. Madeline was red. He turned to a montage of photographs he had arranged on the study wall, Hockney like, photos of himself and Madeline when they were exchange students living together in North America twenty-two years ago. The couple had known better days, even if they were not always the best of times.

Ah, Madeline, he thought to himself, if we only knew what we’d become.

She left the room. A crepuscular ray poured through a window. He reached under the desk, brought out a complicated device with a solar panel and a chronometer, activated the mechanism, and redirected the spectrum onto the pictures. An irradiation unfurled, and beam streams like florets, warm and hot, expanded. Space pulsed and bent, and the montage opened.


Somewhen, an eighteen-year-old boy and a twenty-year-old girl were walking in the evening, on the campus of a small-town college in eastern Massachusetts.

Page 314

Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“The Atrox is a perfect blend of artificially grown organics and 3D-printed cerametal. Able to withstand impacts that would crush a man to pulp, regardless of whether he is in body armour or not.”
General Navores looks back down into the glass tank.
“It’s very small, Cedric.”
Inside, a strange reptilian/feline hybrid displays greenish-white flesh between strips of a blue crystalline substance. It moves fast, changing direction like a startled fly. Tiny claws and needle-like teeth flash as it snaps and slashes at the air.
“That’s the beauty of it, sir. Fantastic infiltration capabilities, low noise, the option to use it for scouting ahead of primary mission groups as well as in active combat roles. It’s resilience allows it to be delivered by unorthodox methods, such as hollow shells or missiles, in addition to drones.”
The General sighs. This is the problem with boffins. So invested in their creations they become blind to any realities that might limit the applicability of their work to the real world.
“Cedric, I see the scouting potential, especially with that glorious video output.”
He gestures towards the three-by-three 4K widescreen array on the far wall, showing him the little monster’s less than flattering view of himself, its creator, and everyone else in the room: all thermal blurs and targeting icons.
“But active combat? Have you created a mouse-sized soldier to carry a sawn-off .22 while riding in a tiny saddle?”
His staff chuckle.
Cedric frowns. He stops watching his creation trying to kill invisible opponents, then points to the fat volume on the table between the General and his staff.
“Page 314.”
The General looks at him.
“You haven’t read as far as page 314.”
The General directs a glare at his staff. They respond with a selection of gestures intended to convey ‘we read the summary’ and ‘we were waiting for a digital copy’.
He turns back.
“What did I miss on that page, Cedric?”
“Readiness considerations.”
The General grins.
“Like needing the opponents to be lying down?”
Cedric chuckles, then fixes the General with a withering stare.
“No, they can pyramid up a soldier faster than that soldier can reload. What I’m referring to is the figure at the foot the page: I have two million Atrox ready to deploy.”
The General’s eyes go wide. He watches the little terror move like nothing he’s ever seen before, and lets his initial feeling of discomfort bleed through and blossom.
These things are going to revolutionise warfare – or end it.

The Triangles

Author: Kathleen Bryson

You had been murmuring in your sleep about a particular breed of polygon for weeks, but – you being you – you never wanted to talk about it over breakfast.

Isoceles, I wondered, woken beside you and your apnea machine, sirens sliding like butter outside, eliding so you couldn’t tell stops or starts, what does he mean? It was the eighth time the ambulance concertos had returned. I closed windows at night and had done so since April 2020; I couldn’t bear the dark scratchy sirens.

We had been walking – be-masked, be-goggled – along the canals when you finally chirped up after an entire month of polygon-sleep-talking. And you only spilled the beans because we both saw the shining triangles flicker on the water, and the materiality of them was inescapable.

Your index finger had a trigonometry of its own.

They were technically pyramids, the glory of 3D, but I didn’t point this out. I chose my battles during this extended, shaky time. The grim pandemic dissection had leapt on in vitro as the months became a year, then eighteen months, then the three and a half years in which we currently found ourselves floundering. 2024. Can you fucking believe it. I certainly can’t.

But I believed in these veil shapes hovering above the water, glimmering like rivers and then darting up straight in the sky and breaking all known laws of physics. The shapes had been in mainstream news. Not drones but alien spaceships. Obama gave a UFO interview to the New York Times about it. The Pentagon released the files and the videos. We knew what they were.

We gazed at the glistening pyramids that finally, mercifully, disappeared into rare air. No one else walked along the canal path, and with a measles-infectiousness level of airborne eighty-three feet in the latest variant, that was good.

“Scalene,” you said.

“I always liked that word,” I said.

“You’re being obtuse.”

“More a pyramid shape,” I said at last, as I’d been itching to do. You rightfully ignored me.

“I’ve got,” you said, “a hypothesis about them. All these pyramids showing up,” you continued, self-correcting, “all the UFO press releases. They’ve got it all wrong.”

“You know this, how?”

Your eyes skimmed over poplars mirrored, but the triangles weren’t there.

“What are they then? Russian military, Chinese, US special-ops?” In 2008, I once saw twelve black helicopters land like spiders on a Portland skyscraper.

“They’re humans,” you said, “the time travelers we’ve been waiting for. Our species, the future. The blurry sparkles are just them messing with dimensions, they haven’t fine-tuned the trips yet; we can see their marks. Tourists. Rich posh kids. History students doing MAs. They’re coming back to a historical time to sightsee the pandemic, which is why reports have shot up since early 2020. And now even more.”


The triangles were back, the teepees on the water. That’s when you grabbed for my hand and rubbed my knuckles and you kissed me. It was so good to feel your face, it always was during this time with endless masks. And you kissed me again. You said, “I think more sightings because something even bigger is going to happen, more terrible and historical than even a pandemic; I don’t mean to trouble you,” you said, we watched the pyramids lick once more the water.

“I wonder what the tourists think of us at this very moment. Doomed and tragic?”

“Let’s give them a show,” you said. There was a charming light in your eyes, a reflection off the moving waters. And I kissed you back, a cool prim smooch.

A Green Apple

Author: Paul Colby

Hirvath led the way down a narrow valley in the highlands of Euclid. As he approached the foot of a cliff, he looked up into the white sky, threaded with bands of purple cirrus. The Archivist trailed him by five or six meters, taking his way more slowly over the chunks of granite.

“Hard to believe these aren’t real,” he grumbled.

“Who says they aren’t?” Hirvath countered.

“Not real like Earth rocks,” Berizad said, treading sideways. “Not like the ones you touched in the old, old days, when you were called Hervey Rule.”

“I knew those rocks with the nerves of my fingers. Same as these. The same way a future generation will know the rocks of Paragaia.”

Hirvath stopped at the edge of a creek bed and waited for his companions to catch up. There were four of them, ranging in age from the Archivist who was part of the first generation born in space, to Volna, recently graduated from the Astral College.

“Is this the place?” Berizad asked, casting a skeptical glance at the towering cliff, barren except for a scattering of lichens clinging to rock ledges.

“Close enough,” Hirvath said. “I only have to take a few more steps before I reach the dissolution zone.”

His words were followed by heavy silence. In the distance, a rock fell from the cliff, and all of them waited in suspense until they heard the muffled report of its landing.

“To my right,” he indicated, extending a finger. “In the hollow formed by those rocks.”

Clearing his throat, the Archivist said, “Our plans, gentlemen … Time for us to go ahead. We might as well begin with Volna.”

The young man reached inside his tunic, took out some sheets of paper, and began unfolding them.

Hirvath stopped him with a sharp shake of his head.

“No, I’ve set it all behind me now. I’m done with all that I once knew, done with the memories of Hervey Rule and Hirvath. I stink of death already.”

The silence deepened again as the elderly man looked at each of his companions in turn. He turned to gaze one last time up the face of the mountain; turning back again, he held out his upturned palms. One after another, the men who had accompanied him placed their palms over his. Then Hirvath stepped into the hollow between the stones, drew his right hand across his midriff, and the man who had once been Hervey Rule disintegrated. The leftover particles streamed through a tube on the invisible wall of the projection compartment, and then only the four companions were left.

“Now?” Volna asked cautiously.

“Yes, you can begin,” Berizad said grimly.

“As the youngest,” he said, “I have less personal experience to draw on, so Hirvath gave me a memory of his own to share with you.”

He began reading what was scrawled on the paper: “ ‘When Earth first disappeared …’ ”

“Wait a minute,” the Archivist said. “Let me see that.”

He took one of the sheets from Volna’s hand and ran his finger along its surface. “It’s like new,” he said. He held up his finger. “Look. The ink isn’t even dry yet.” He held onto the paper a moment longer, reluctant to part with the last remains of his mentor and friend. Then he handed it back to Volna.

The young man again began reading: “ ‘When Earth first disappeared from the viewscreen, I suddenly recalled the time my sister fell from the apple tree, clutching a green apple. This is how it happened …’ ”

Space & Aces

Author: Josh Jennings Wood

So Johnny settled into the diurnal mechanics of this place: the slip of water down the bathroom drain, a little like the roaring strain of boosters heard from inside the cockpit’s vacuum; the music of birds, in and out of earshot as they rode the waves in a similar manner to his one-time travel. The surprises of this place were wondrous, paired so often as they were with ordinary pleasantness.

A son, now—and two daughters who doted on him with an attention he was unfamiliar with. A son with whom he fought, as he had as one, but with whom he made up—another gracious unfamiliarity.

Once, the boy had gotten hold of his dogeared and de rigueur copy of S&A—the virtual textbook of his class—which usually lay unnoticed in the glass cabinet of the living room like the decorative relic it truly was now. The boy had puzzled over its odd marks—the diagrams that did not conform to the logic he had been raised to believe, the slash of diagonals the adult explained as the dry echoes of a distant shore, to satisfy the child’s mind, though Johnny could still them dance.

He marveled at the thinning strands, sprouted hard as an exoskeleton at first. The reflex expressions that had come under his control—felt in his bones, as they say. Further comfortable with every novel custom, his memories drifted less distinct from his mind, until he was able to wonder—that day when he had turned all but empty-handed to watch the clouds ripple unnaturally, though so distinctly no local eye would have known how to classify the anomaly, and heard the whispers of “foolish” and “failure” on the new wind—was it not he who had won after all.

Family Night

Author: Leon Taylor

Despite the sheets of cold rain, Barry hummed a cheery off-Broadway tune as he straightened his loud red tie. “Don’t forget your umbrella,” his wife said.

“Won’t need it. Marty is picking me up.”

“And don’t forget Family Night. Try to come home a little early.”

“Yes, ma’am.” When Ellen turned her back, the stock broker slipped a scrap of paper into the mailbox of the household robot, Stephen. He could have sent email, but a handwritten note seemed compassionate.

“See ya tonight,” Barry said to his wife. He was short and blonde, with thin lips perpetually twisted, as if at life as a perpetual joke. He dashed from the banging front door to the white SUV, newly scrubbed, where the lissome Monica, in a tight new miniskirt, waited at the wheel.

“Free at last,” he said, and kissed her on the mouth.

“Did you tell her?”

“Of course.” Well, he as good as told her. It was all in the note. She would read it, cry, and devote herself to raising their nine-year-old son, Chris. A win-win situation. He kissed Monica hard.

“I made reservations on Southwest for a flight to Reno this afternoon,” she said when she could breathe again.

“Perfect. Say, couldn’t you just pull over for a little while?”
Perusing a beginner’s Spanish grammar, Ellen waited five minutes in case Barry returned for a forgotten sandwich. Today was the day; she didn’t want a confrontation. With sweaty pudgy fingers, she brushed back her frowsy auburn hair, already graying, and pulled from the closet a bag crammed with books. It would be her study schedule for her first year of freedom. She was 35, time that she made something of herself. Maybe she’d become a professor of something. Barry could look after Chris: He’d always been a family man. She hurriedly stuck a long typed letter into Stephen’s mailbox, overlooking the scrawled note already there. After double-checking the contents of her bookbag, she lugged it to the front door and the drenched street corner, and hailed a cab.
The sun was shining when Chris returned home from the neighborhood school. He looked like his father, except for brighter eyes and a hint of a paunch. “Mom, I passed my algebra test! Where’s my chocolate? Mom?”

“Mom isn’t home yet,” said the robot. The parents had bought it to clean the house—maids cost a pretty penny in Brooklyn—and to amuse Chris with its clown’s face painted in red and white.

“Where is she?”

“I am not programmed to answer that question. Want to play checkers?”

“No.” Stephen always let him win. “Let’s watch TV.”

After The New Flintstones, Chris went to the front door. The lawn glittered with green, freshened by rain, but the sun was setting on the empty street.
“Where’s Dad?”

“I am not programmed to answer that question. Want to play chess?”

“It’s Family Night. I’ll play Dad when he comes home.” Chris set up the chessboard and studied it with his chin in his fist, like his father. He picked out three figures and danced the king and the queen in a circle with their bravest knight, Sir Chris.

After thirty long minutes, he sighed, put the chessboard away, and plopped down into his giant beanbag to watch TV.

Stephen brought him a hot chocolate. As the robot bent over, Chris saw its bulging mailbox. He pulled out the two missives, read them, read them again, and swallowed hard.

“Don’t cry, Chris,” Stephen said, grinning like a clown. “Mom will be home soon. Don’t cry, Chris. Dad will be home….”