No corporeal mind could comprehend the Cloud in their base form. Looking directly at them was like looking at the Milky Way but from a vantage point many light years closer to the centre than the Earth could claim to be (hence the unoriginal designation for these entities). Human fiction would call them shapeshifters although the Cloud themselves considered that a vast oversimplification. However, since humans were at least a couple of centuries away from meaningful contact with any other off-planet species, the Cloud felt no need to clarify the issue.
In any case, human ignorance allowed them to continue observing select test subjects. There were interstellar treaties banning such observation, but the red tape involved in investigating any such breaches in an obscure arm of the galaxy meant that no real notice was taken of the Cloud’s activities. They were currently attempting to understand the nature of “desire”. The humans called it “sex” or “making love” but what made it particularly interesting was that it seemed to go beyond a physical or even emotional act in certain cases. It created waves on a plane the humans themselves seemed totally unaware of. For a race as advanced as the Cloud, this primitive but intriguing issue did serve to lighten chronic boredom.
They had a very promising test subject at the moment: a woman who had attempted suicide after the death of her husband. They had saved her life and one of the Cloud had taken the physical form of her non-extant husband. The woman had mostly accepted the simulacrum, even if she occasionally seemed to question her sanity. The simulacrum proceeded to perform regular sex acts with the test subject and all was proceeding satisfactorily until an unexpected hitch was encountered.
– Pasha (despite their advanced state of being, the Cloud had once been a very hierarchical species and such titles had remained even after they had become anachronistic), the Agha involved in the experiment is proving intractable.
– What exactly is the issue, First Kiaya?
– They are refusing to have the test subject terminated now that our observations are complete.
– But she would have died anyway had we not interfered.
– Yes Excellency, but the Agha insists they have become attached to the creature. They wish not only for the woman to be spared but also to remain on Earth for the remainder of her natural lifespan. They are threatening to cite a breach of the Non-Interference Treaties to the High Council if we do not allow this.
– It is most irregular but I suppose we can allow it. Make sure the Agha understands they are responsible for avoiding any… what is that human expression… fuck-ups. And that they are stuck in this forsaken backwater until the creature dies of natural causes.
– Are you sure we have to move and change name, Daniel?
– Yes, Rosie. We need a new beginning.
– Daniel… Sometimes, I know I’m crazy… Part of me feels like you can’t be Daniel. Not because I remember you dying, but because you really love me. The old Daniel, he didn’t, he kept cheating on me. He didn’t hold me as if I were precious like you do. He didn’t talk with me for hours or make me feel warm and safe… And I don’t remember you having blue eyes.
– But you said it was your favourite colour? Don’t worry, it’s normal to be confused after everything you’ve been through.
– I just worry you’ll leave me because I must be crazy.
– Never happening, love. Let’s just plan to be crazy together.
365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.
The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.
"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."
We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.
Voices of Tomorrow
Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.
If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org