The Spire

Author : Philip Berry

They came every week to worship. In well-ordered rows hundreds of thousands of adults and children shuffled in to take their places. The church’s interior stretched beyond the limits of normal vision. Its spire, converging gradually above them, faded to grey. Clouds had been seen to form up there.

Sam Ten-Kassal, eleven years old, was exceedingly bored. He did not see the point of it. Since his fourth birthday he had been attending services but only mouthing the words and miming the rhythms. He became self-conscious whenever he tried to join in with the supposedly rousing hymns. The words made no sense to him. He just looked at his feet.

On this day three blue-robed ushers were waiting by one of the three thousand arched exits in the east wall. Two interposed themselves between Sam’s mother and her son. She had always hoped the sheer size of the congregation would disguise her son’s non-conformity. But no.
“A few hours, that’s all we need,” reassured the third usher, standing back.


“Do you know who I am?” asked the green-robed clergyman.
Sam shook his head.
“I am Foban Talenka, bishop of this county.”
Sam was unmoved.
“And do you have any idea why you have been brought here?”
“Because I don’t sing?”
“Ah! That is part of it Sam Ten-Kassal. Part of the problem, yes. Yes.”
Sam was unsettled. What else had he done?
“But not all. Your lack of enthusiasm in the church is perfectly understandable, but we – I mean the ushers living in your community – are concerned that your broader attitude to science and religion has been undermined, we do not know by whom. What do you say?”
“Well, I don’t believe in the things we are supposed to be singing about.”
“Good. That is honest. So I would like you to observe a service from one of the high halls. It might help you understand.”
Sam was escorted away and up, via curved walkways that crossed architectural caverns and bridged deep chasms. Shallow, sticky gravitational fields held his feet firmly when a ramp’s gradient increased. He passed laboratories, libraries, accommodation blocks and austere recreational spaces – benches and alcoves amid lush, mature vegetation.

The hour of the third service arrived.

Sam was shown into a room that bordered the inner aspect of the spire. A small window, unglazed but imperbeable due to a safety field, looked out onto the great nave. The sound began to build, and despite the safety field he had to cover his ears. The mist in the air began to swirl and agitate; the concentration of sonic energy was creating weather. But it was not sound that caused the most remarkable effect. It was mental harmony. Sam knew all about affect-waves, the barely perceptible signature that human minds leave in space-time when stirred to emotion. They had little significance in everyday life. No technology had been developed that was sensitive enough to measure these ripples – a good thing, it was said, otherwise you’d have people wandering around reading each other’s feelings. But now, as the congregation came to together and sang its collective heart out, Sam saw rivulets of energy glow on the masonry, a web of light, the energy of a third of a million minds on the same emotional wavelength focused into the spires tip from where it… Sam did not know. Out. To the world, to the mills, the machines, the houses.

Foban Talenka entered the room.
“So, Sam, will you join in now? Will you give.”
Sam nodded.
“But I still can’t sing.”
“No matter. Believe. That’s all I ask.”

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Author : O. G. Patterson

The dark sky flashes with the colorful bursts and flowing sparkles of a new year. I watch as flickers of light pulse through silhouettes of houses and trees, then scatter across the black lake water. I watch as the heavens light up with the end of a long year and the beginning of a fresh one. They do not know. No one knows. They celebrate while I brood. They drink while I plan. They party, make love, sleep and dream while I plot. They make resolutions. I make mine too. It will be soon.

I go to bed for the last time.

The dawn brings with it the hope promised at midnight. My hope is not the world’s hope, is not the same hope that rushes to brush the past away. My hope is for a truly new beginning. I leave my bed unmade. There is no need, today. I ignore the coffee, do not eat breakfast. Instead, the workshop, the project, the end of the world will be my meal, my sustenance. After I turn on the machine, give life to it, there will be no more need for food.

I gaze at my creation, my aluminum child. My trembling hand quivers scant centimeters from bestowing both life and death. The button flirts and flashes its eager face at me. Just a few seconds more. The timing must be perfect.


I am no god. Of course not. The mere thought trickling through my mind makes me chuckle. No, there is no god. Only science.


Only the ultimate certainty: that of playful atoms, frisky elements, quantum frolicking. Yes, oh yes, physics. I had made love to physics, caressed it, manipulated it, and choked it to submission.


They thought they knew physics, the others, “so-called” scientists. They did not know the truth about energy. I know.


They did not understand that they were wrong, wrong about it all. There are no laws, no precious rules. I will show them.


I press the button.

The first thing to go is the roof. I wave at it as it tumbles upward. The trees, with trembling skeletal fingers like mine, arch upward, straining to escape the constrictive earth. There is a roar, a whoosh. The lake water across the way bursts upward, a cloud of rain that falls on the sky. I rise up, too, flying, soaring, and rushing upward as if I am meant for this. Others, too. Cars. Boats. Walls. Neighbors. I gasp at surreal reverse rainstorms with specks and globs of civilization rising to the heavens. More debris now. Earth and rock, chunks of them, larger and larger sections. Higher and higher I fly. I spread my arms wide, laughing. Too high for details now, yet I see sections, plates, continents separate, orange jagged veins of the earth’s molten heart spreading like shattered glass.

I was right. I proved them wrong.

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This Is The Most Important Job You Have To Do

Author : Danielle Bodnar

Listen. In the basement, there is the shelter. You’ll find everything you need: canned goods, camping gear, cell phone, travel router, multilingual slang phrasebook. Inside the phrasebook there is a list of numbers and letters. This is the code to unlock the time machine – the big black box at the far corner of the room. Put on the jacket that hangs on the chair by the bed. It might be cold. Inside the inner pocket of the jacket is a tablet with inter-dimensional GPS installed and an electronic spanner. It’s an old one, but it should still work.

When you get inside the box, go to the control panel. The correct coordinates have already been put in. You’ll be back home, albeit 50 years earlier, in no time. How do I know it works? I’ve tested it before, of course. With apes, like the first spaceships. You’ll be the first human to go back. But forward – unfortunately, you can only go the long way round..

Try and stop it. Tell the world that the comet is coming. You’re a bright young kid, get into the best university you can, study astrophysics. Don’t worry about papers – I’ve already forged some for you. I plan for everything. You will find these in an envelope, also in the inner pocket of the jacket. Don’t look for yourself thirty years later. And for the love of science, don’t come looking for me, ever. If you succeed, this will never have happened, but right now it looks like you’ve failed. It’s all right, though; we can try over and over again, forever if we have to. Katy, this world is too beautiful to lose like this. I have faith in you, but this is an inevitable event. If you think you can’t stop it, advocate for humanity to travel to the stars. Maybe you can save some of them. I have included a list of coordinates of the closest inhabitable planets inside the phrasebook, page 116. But don’t reveal them unless this is the course you must take.

Don’t worry about me. I brought you here without meaning to. I had every opportunity to keep you away from danger, and I didn’t take them. I knew it was coming, that it always would come, but I waited too long. I thought, with all my intelligence and clout, I could swoop in and save the world at the last minute. Genius that I am, I let Hollywood delude me. This is the least I can do. I know you can do it, Katy. You’ve been a tremendous help in my research. The others always nodded along to everything I say, but you spoke up. You asked questions. But I shut you out. I should have listened to you before, told you what I knew, but it’s too late now. Another thing – don’t wallow in regret. Lucky for you, Katy, you can try again.

Don’t worry about Muffy – she’s safe in her carrier in your room, right where you left her. No time. You must go alone. Hurry; it will be here in half an hour. I’m old, Katy, so old. My life is lived. Please go. Now. I’m so sorry.

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New Under the Sun

Author : Janet Shell Anderson

All our executions are political. Of course, that makes them right, and no one rich or well-connected dies.

The poor man’s on his knees in his orange jumpsuit, with the red waves of the pitiful surf of this prison world, Kepler 435b/Gilgamesh, behind him, a red pseudo-gull that doesn’t know what’s going on overhead, and the tall masked figure in black with the knife, sword, whatever, beside him. I don’t look. It’s live, popular on homeWorld. Millions watch.

Here, not so much.

Back in the cells, Joker watches and laughs, although next dawn, out in the red desert, he dies. Joker’s a politico, hard to like.

Being a woman, I have to be a guard here (unless I’m a prisoner which would be unthinkable). Or at least I don’t want to think it.

Gilgamesh’s the best prison planet, has big-time criminals like Joker and nobodies like Freddie Graywhale. Our trials are fair; our executions quick. Now, though, this new information about time, what it is, how it works, makes the death penalty problematic. My cousin has proved time is circular. So if someone is executed, what’s the point? Do they come back? Can they sue?

The new physics had to come from Kepler 435b/Gilgamesh of course, not the homeWorld, because my cousin George Poorbear’s here. Why is he here? That’s another story. I’m here because I’m his cousin; it’s an honor. Doesn’t feel like an honor.

George shows all the worlds that time is not as linear as we think. Past. Present. Future. Lined up? No. George replaces Albert Einstein. Knowing George like I do, this is hard to believe.

We’ve got problems on this clean, well-packaged, well-presented, low-populated prison planet Kepler 435b/Gilgamesh, with its red star dunes, a thousand years old, and its sitcom lizards, who can talk but never say anything worthwhile.

We’ve got believers and unbelievers.

We avoid them. Some believe time is circular; some don’t.

I’d like to deal with George face to face, but having created both the believers and unbelievers, George is holed up in some fortress on the edge of the Anvil of the Heavens, a wasteland no one wants to travel. The believers and the unbelievers are getting ready to have a war, George thinks.

My prisoners cry, beg, offer money, every kind of sex, diamonds which will melt in your hand, pizza. You can’t imagine. Some of the other jailers get so tired of it they hang the prisoners before their due dates.

I won’t watch another death. I’m disgusted by it. My Somalian cat, who can talk but won’t, helps me patrol this afternoon. The sky’s red and dim, and the desert’s bitterly cold.

I’d like to have a universe that makes sense.

I go among the prisoners to one cell.

“Hey, Freddie. I’m going to let you out. Your wife sent the money.” I push the button, and my deeptime keyless lock pops the door open. One click. It’s important not to do more than one click. George was very specific about that. More than one click does something else.

Freddie Graywhale grabs me around the neck, kisses me. I walk him to the exit toward the transport.

The desert’s serene in the slanted light. The cat and I patrol; puffs of red dust rise. Somebody killed a man I loved in these low red hills. I don’t know who killed him. Somali knows. Maybe someday she’ll tell me. Probably not. Our somedays are running out. We need a change.

I’ve got the deeptime keyless lock. George talks about Calabi Yau Manifolds, pieces of space so small you can’t imagine them, where time goes backwards, sideways, upside down, for all I know. George’s always talking about things like that, and when I ask him about my lover, it’s more Manifolds. No answers.

I walk with Somali out in the red desert. Maybe George’s right. Maybe not.

I’m letting all the prisoners free. I may even talk to the cat Somali. The deeptime locks open everything, change everything. Will anyone remember the past? Will anyone find the future? Do they even exist?

At the very least the deeptime locks will open up the Calabi Yau Manifolds. It’ll be fun.

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God Complex

Author : Tristan Krahn

It was a miracle of science, a triumph of the Human mind over nature that allowed them the chance to be gods, but it was careless hubris that destroyed them.

The Large Hadron Collider, the largest particle accelerator on Planet Earth: ten billion dollars worth of high energy hardware; the world’s most expensive science project. It was here that the most cutting edge physical breakthroughs in Human history became realities.

It was here, one hundred meters below the Earth’s surface, in a twenty-seven kilometer circular tunnel, that Humanity’s brightest minds verified a generation-old prophecy. First described by the luminary of particle physics, Peter Higgs, the discovery of his namesake field was a crowning achievement, not only for particle physicists, but Humanity as well.

The Higgs Field: the field underlying the entire standard model of physics; the field that gives particles mass by interacting with and slowing down these particles each to a point where their wave function no longer vibrates at the same frequency as light and other mass-less particles, allowing them to interact with each other and form the basic elements. This field, finally discovered by a machine that smashes particles together so hard that the resultant debris actually mimics, for a brief nanosecond, the conditions present just after the Big Bang.

The Large Hadron Collider had, in short, succeeded in creating tiny short-lived universes, thus bestowing godhood on the Human race. For, with each collision that resulted in a momentary Higgs Field, a new universe was born and lived out its natural progression in the fraction of an eye’s blink. To the physicists, it was no more than a few nanoseconds to live and die; to the tiny universe, it took tens of billions of years.

This marvel of science should have bred humility in the physicists that represented the Human race but instead it bred a god complex. Now that Humans could create whole universes, they wanted to see if they could manipulate the conditions just enough that they could create a tiny fleeting version of their own universe. Not only were they playing god, they were trying to be their own creators.

What would they do when they succeeded? Would they build a shrink ray and draw straws to determine which egghead would play diminutive ambassador to a synthetic analogue universe? They would have to act fast, in the space of a few picoseconds, if they wanted to interact with the analogue’s Humans. Perhaps they could beam the universe into space using quantum teleportation and somehow expand the universe so that humans seeking a holiday in an artificial analogue universe could simply go into deep space, cross a barrier and be within a smaller but virtually identical universe to their own.

It was a miracle of science, a triumph of the Human mind over nature, but in the end their hubris did destroy them. For, as they had hoped, the physicists truly did create their own universe. Due to the infinite nature of probability, it was by mere chance that they created the exact universe they existed in. Before they even had a chance to examine themselves, the tiny universe annihilated, taking the entire human race with it, casualties of their own god complex.

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