Visiting Mom

Author : Gray Blix

“So, dad, did you think about what I asked you the last time we chatted?”

“I don’t want to think about it.”

“Come on, join me tomorrow. It would make me so happy to talk to you both, like we were a family again.”

“But it wouldn’t be the same, because… because, you know.”

“She’s dead. It took me awhile to be able to say that out loud.”

“How can you do it, talking to the dead? Seems ghastly to me.”

“It’s nothing like that, dad. It’s just a video chat, like this is. You’ll see me on half of the screen and her on the other, and I’ll see you on half and…”

“It just seems wrong, unnatural.”

“It’s science, like your defibrillator implant, and then your bypass, and…”

“I should have been the one to die first. That’s how it was supposed to be. The older one dies and the younger one has the house and the insurance and the investments. She was supposed to live on.”

“You can’t plan life and death, dad. There’s too much beyond our control. But now this technology is able to preserve our cherished memories of loved ones.”

“Those are the words from the commercial. Why do you do those commercials?”

“Because I believe in this. I want others to experience what I have, the joy of communicating…”

“Yeah, that’s what the salesman said in the hospital. I told him ‘No way,’ but you went behind my back and did it. You gave them her brain.”

“They did a brain scan, dad, to capture memories. They used our old home videos to synthesize her voice and mannerisms and build a 3-D model. You’ll be surprised at how life-like…”

“A ghost. It’s not right to disturb the dead.”

“She’s resting in peace, right where we buried her, you and I, at Memorial Park.”

“Then where is that thing you visit?”

“In the cloud, dad.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I just call her, whenever I want, wherever I am.”

“And what do you talk about?”

“Anything. We reminisce. I tell her about what I’ve been up to lately, my girlfriend, my job.”

“You told her you work for a company that resurrects the dead?”

“I don’t work for them, dad, I just did a couple of commercials as a satisfied client. I write software for a living. Games. You know that.”

“Wait. Does she know she’s dead? Did you tell her?”

“No. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe, but we don’t talk about that, about the accident.”

“That’s why you want me to be there next time you visit? You want me to tell her she’s dead?”

“Of course not. Talk about the life you shared, all those memories, all that love. And it’s amazing, dad. She stores new memories, so you can continue where you left off next time you visit.”

“I can’t ‘continue’ where I left off, because she’s dead, the love of my life… there’s no more love…”

“I love you dad.”

“Oh, yes, of course, I didn’t mean… I love you, too, son. And I’m so grateful to you. All those months after the accident. You nursed your old man back to health.”

“Hey, we were pals. We had some good times, huh?”

“We did. We did. But you moved away. Why do you have to live so far away?”

“My work, dad. But we kept in touch with video chats, and I came home when you were sick.”

“Right there at my bedside after my last attack. I couldn’t have pulled through without you.”

“Uh, Dad. You didn’t pull through.”

The Hair of Nazareth

Author : Beck Dacus

The year is twenty – twenty seven. An archaeologist squats in the dirt, staring stupidly at a hair pinched between her fingers. An outside observer would have no idea that she was marveling at her way to bridge science and religion.

For years she had felt like she was forced to choose between science and religion. That the two would never agree. She was told that evolution was a bunch of lies spread by the devil, despite the fact that all the pieces fit perfectly. She was told that the universe had been spontaneously made, despite the fact that it was beautiful and logical in a way she felt only an intelligence could design. They were like two parents that couldn’t stop fighting, and she just wanted them to compromise and accept her.

And this could be the key to it. This hair, buried in Nazareth, would end the argument. There would be a second coming, but it would not be accomplished by magic. Jesus would return through cloning.

The Bible had been correct. Jesus would return from the dead. She would take him to America first, and he would circle the globe in that direction. He would come from the east, no matter where you were.

There was the matter of Judgement Day, as that would most likely not happen. But much of the Old Testament would come to be realized. And it would be accomplished using science. He would not magically return from the heavens, as predicted. He would be brought back using an orderly, proven procedure. He wouldn’t remember anything from the year zero, either.

The perfect compromise. The two would agree, and she could live in peace. If the involved parties weren’t too stubborn.

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Science Fair

Author : Mark Thomas

The teacher flexed the piece of moulded plastic.

“I used our 3D printer to make it,” the girl said. Her heels were placed tightly together and she wobbled her hips back and forth nervously. She was new to the school and always tried so hard to impress.

The teacher rotated the model in her hands. The back was a concave shell, as if it was a large sophisticated cake mold, but the front was an incredibly detailed rendering of a partially dissected dog. Anatomical parts were labeled, but not with childish terms like “tummy.” This model referred to the “zygomatic arch” in a peeled section of skull and “adipose tissue” underneath a flap of skin pulled back to reveal glistening intestines. A “tracheal cyst” prompted the teacher to touch her own neck lightly.

“You don’t like it, Ms. Green?”

“Lilli, it’s absolutely stunning.” The girl smiled broadly.

The school board had a variety of physical simulations for students who were too squeamish to perform actual dissections, but nothing of this quality. Ms. Green brushed her fingers across a hind leg and could feel the texture of the fur, and the tiniest striations in the tendons. There was a breeder’s tattoo in the left ear, partially hidden by a fold of skin. Ms. Green had to look at the hollow back side of the model again to convince herself that she wasn’t examining a real cadaver.

There was a polite knock on the door then the principal quietly entered the room. “Hello, Ms. Green,” he said, nodding stiffly, then turned to the young woman. “Hello, Lilli.” The student smiled broadly and fidgeted in her new shoes. The principal met Ms. Green’s eyes. “Um. How’s it going?”

“Well, Lilli was just about to explain how her family’s 3-D printer works.” Pause. “It’s obviously more advanced than the machine that produced key rings for our school’s future technology unit.”

“Oh yes,” Lilli giggled. “Our printer has the eight universal colors in a dispersal fan. It mixes layers of mineral pigment with a clear gel– that’s what makes the viscera look wet…” She stopped suddenly at the sound of a loud anguished sob which seemed to come from an adjacent room. There was an uncomfortable pause, and then Lilli asked the principal “was that Mary?”

He nodded.

“Is she the girl who ran out of the gym, crying, when she saw my project?” Lilli looked puzzled.

The principal cleared his throat. “Uh, yes, she did.”

“Was she unwell?”

Ms. Green answered. “Lilli, she thought your project looked an awful lot like a family pet, and it upset her.”

“Oooooh,” Lilli said, as if suddenly realizing something important. “Is that why she screamed Amos when she ran out of the gym?”

“Uh, yes,” the principal said. “I believe that was the animal’s name.”

There was another knock on the office door.

“Sir.” Mr. Brown, a young social studies teacher leaned into the room. “There’s a problem.”

“Yes?” the principal prompted, nervously.

“It’s Tyler, again. He and his father are setting up his science fair project. It’s more video footage of his neighbors at the townhouse complex.”

“Oh, my God,” the principal said.

“It’s the conspiracy theory thing– aliens are among us. He’s playing the free speech card.”

“Yes, I’ll be there in a minute.”

Mr. Brown retreated back into the gym. Lilli quietly moved near the water cooler and observed the adults.

The principal rubbed his zygomatic arches. “Ms. Green,” he said tightly, “don’t you vet these projects?”

He opened the door and strode out of the office.

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Variations on a Theme

Author : Lauren Triola

In Universe A, you meet as children. You become high school sweethearts. You live happily ever after.

In Universe B, your family moves out of the country before he moves to town. You never go back. He marries your childhood friend, only knowing you through pictures and stories.

In Universe C, you meet at the grocery store in college. You both pick out apples at the same time. There are enough for two. You part ways, never speaking.

In Universe D, you had to use the bathroom before shopping. You get there a minute later than he did. You never meet. You always feel something missing.

In Universe E, you live on the Moon. He lives on Mars. You’re pen pals.

In Universe F, there was a run on apples. You both go for the last one. You both laugh. You chat. You get dinner. You get married. Sixty years later, you die within a week of each other and are buried together.

In Universe G, he had a bad day. He yanks the last apple free and stomps to the register. You flip him off. You never speak.

In Universe H, your friend meets him instead. She sets you up on a blind date. It doesn’t go well. You marry the waiter.

In Universe I, there are lizards. Humans do not exist.

In Universe J, your friend marries him. He’s your friend too. You don’t tell either of them about your crush.

In Universe K, they get divorced. You stand by your friend and never see him again.

In Universe L, you see an obituary in the paper. You don’t know the man, but you think it’s such a shame when people die so young.

In Universe M, you have super powers. He is your nemesis. You destroy New York.

In Universes N through T, everything is perfectly normal, but you were never born.

In Universe U, you’re allergic to apples. You meet at the cash register instead.

In Universe V, he breaks your heart. You still love him, and you hate yourself.

In Universe W, there are zombies. He does not exist. You rule Australia.

In Universe X, you work at a coffee shop. He visits frequently, but neither one of you musters the courage to do more than flirt.

In Universe Y, it’s you who has the bad day. You steal the last apple. You never speak to each other.

In Universe Z, you meet as children. You become high school sweethearts. You both plan to go into physics together in college. He dies in a car crash on graduation night. You cry for weeks after the funeral, tinkering with theories to try to distract yourself, wondering what life would be like if things had been different…

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Author : Suzanne Borchers

“Armpits must stink, be hairy and itch,
While snot pours down the hooked- nosed witch.”

Threading his fingers through his hair, Robert squatted next to his prototype. The Poet224 bot definitely needed more work. Okay, his rhythm and rhyme senses were in play, but what could be done with word choice? Robert opened a panel behind the bot’s right ear to gain access to language boards. He pulled out a blinking tri-pin and replaced it with new one.

“Poet224, create a poem and recite it aloud.”

“There once was a mare named Snow White
Whose eyes were a color quite bright
She jumped over a tree
To follow a flea
And managed a circular flight.”

Robert beat his head with a fist. This bot was his last chance to sell his idea that poetry could be produced by anyone using a computer–that technology could do and be anything for anybody–and that music, art, and all the former creative expositions were rubbish. His PhD thesis in Computer Science was not wrong. He had spent 23 months on it, and time was money after all. He wanted the college’s Google Seat of Technology post!

Perhaps he should start small and build up a scaffolding poetic intelligence. “Poet224, create a poem of three words and recite it aloud.”


“You stupid piece of crap!” Robert paced around the bot. “You have intelligence, knowledge, plus a special emotion-chip stored in your artificial brain. You should be able to produce a simple, rational poem. I must have forgotten something.”

Poet224 swiveled its head to watch Robert circle.

Robert stopped pacing, and then he laughed. “That’s it! Time! I have lots of time! I’ll let Dad buy the academic post like he wanted to months ago, and then I can work on this thesis forever!” He reached down and placed Poet224 on the recycling bin’s conveyor belt. “Poet 224, create a poem and recite it aloud now, you hunk of shit.” Robert left, slamming the door behind him.

Poet 224 spun his head around to watch Robert leave, and then he swiveled it back to watch the approaching door of the recycling bin open.

“The irony of Time
lies in that moment
when its epiphany
dies unknown.”

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