Author : Stivi Cooke
They didn’t think about that…
In all the plans, all the awesome designs, the mind blowing concepts, all the calculations, the deals, the engineering and finally the launch… they forgot that part…
As humanity reached out to the planets and the asteroids, landed and started to colonize the Moon (china), Mars (America), Titan and europa (India); we built bigger and better, faster and more powerful spaceships.
But time and distance still play god’s game…
Even at the speed of light and depending on the relative positions of Earth and Mars it would still take between 12 and 21 minutes to get there and Pluto would take about 23 years to reach at that ultimate speed.
Now we were stretching outward, past the solar boundaries, deep space… a emptiness equal only to death perhaps…
Oh, sure we knew people would have a lot of time on their hands, trapped in a steel can with no way to pop outside for a smoke, a fresh pizza or a long stress reliving soak in a bath. Moreover, we had great stores of entertainment – music from forgotten times, books from every genre imaginable – all of mankind’s knowledge and wisdom too.
We choose our crews carefully for compatibility. The accommodations like a five star hotel. Meals that were banquets. And oh! That exquisite music… always that music…
Now we were on the way to Alpha Centauri, the engines silently screaming at full ignition.
They forgot that… people’s favourite stuff… no-one listens to all the music in the world or reads all the books or watches all the movies… sooner or later, we prefer stuff… again… and again… and again…
I couldn’t listen to the captain’s David Bowie music anymore, the flight navigator’s hip-hop was the first to go, then the engineering boy’s reggie and samba collection was discreetly destroyed. The medical doctor and her nurse’s operatic themes were the worst… how many times could I listen to Aida?
And they forgot that as we travelled at the edge of light’s limit’s, any upgrades to our entertainment collections would never catch up until we reached landfall…4.3 light years away… always racing towards us with a gap between us and the music because they didn’t start sending the new stuff until we were clear of Mars…
To save space, the collections were implanted in our mind supplements, constantly linking to the ships computers and of course the sound systems. Well, who wants to wear headphones for four years? The music seeped out in spite of the soundproofing.
I loved it at first but a year later it started to grate on all our nerves… we stopped listening so often… then began to retreat into our private rooms but it was a big ship. You had to go out and do things so you couldn’t not notice the tunes. Unavoidable really, as we started to exhaust each other’s conversations and opinions, which we heard a million times before.
I snapped around October in the third year. Killed them all – had to, didn’t I? The music was in their heads.
Now I’ll arrive in a years time, serene, glowing, happy and comfortable in my work grooving to Grand Master Funk… and it’ll take them another eight years to come for me.
Author : Denis Bell
Morbid fear, for God’s sake. Driving home from the shrink, Hugh turned on the car radio in an attempt to blot out the thoughts churning in his head. The radio was tuned to WPB. It was Science Monday and they were discussing Hugh’s least favorite subject in the whole world, that and some weird new invention. It sounded like something out of The Twilight Zone.
“… process is rather complicated. But I can describe the basic functioning. The machine takes in a few drops of the subject’s blood. Performing an analysis on the white cells, it is able to determine the precise moment of the subject’s death.”
“Remarkable! But is the machine reliable, Morty? It would be unfortunate if a person scheduled to die say, twenty years from now, were to take up bungee jumping then end up plunging to his or her death next week.”
“As it happens, the technology is far from new. It was developed by DSSR in the late fifties and been in use ever since. The point is that in almost sixty years there is not a single instance where a prediction made by the machine has turned out to be erroneous. It appears to be infallible.”
The interviewer audibly gasped. “But the implications of such a device are… staggering! It will change the world. Why haven’t heard about it until now?”
“The project was highly classified until very recently. A group of us felt that– I’d prefer not to comment further on this.”
Hugh had heard enough. A machine that tells you when you’re going to die. Just what he needed. Hugh knew his own make-up and constitution only too well. He knew with the certainty of roast beef that if he ever encountered one of these contraptions it would be the end of him. Hugh suffered from hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, weakened arteries, a genetic predisposition to stroke and seizures… news of his imminent death would surely kill him. Right there and then. Right on schedule.
It seemed impossible, though. A blood test? It had to be some sort of joke. But the radio, why would they–
He almost laughed out loud when he cottoned to it. Almost, but not quite. Today’s date – April 1, 2013. Morty.
Last year was that report of life discovered on the dark side of the moon. He’d just seen Independence Day and lay awake night after night for a week worrying about an alien invasion. The previous year saw him peeling rubber along 90 East. Half of California had fallen into the Pacific. All those calls from people with family in LA and Frisco…
What a day! First a condescending little weasel of a shrink, now bozo radio pranksters. Hugh felt that he could kick their asses all over town. Felt light and heavy at the same time. This time next year he was going to be in bed with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
In the studio, the interview was winding down. Richard Morton nodded apprehensively as the interviewer thanked him. It seemed they’d done a dangerous thing going public with this. Intimidation … threats … Dr. Morton was a bold thinker but not a bold man. He never would have had the nerve except for one thing – he wasn’t due for another thirty years.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
He scanned the desolate horizon through ancient hollow eyes from beneath the brim of a very weathered top hat.
All around him was the smoldering ruin that had once been the world of man. Endless heaps of scorched garbage and piles of twisted and rotting corpses were set against the background of a burnt orange sky that was peppered here and there with wandering radioactive clouds.
His thin cruel mouth turned up in a macabre grin showing off two rows of sharp yellow stumps. His skin was old tanned leather stretched impossibly tight over its frame. A few wisps of long white hair danced in the hot breeze from beneath the old top hat.
Also flapping in the wind was his long dusty overcoat. It blew open revealing an intricately carved and well-oiled leather gun belt. The pearl handled revolvers were now back in their holsters, still searing hot but finally silent.
He laughed aloud and it sounded like a rusty tin can being torn in two. Turning and stepping over a dead rat his cracked leather boots with their jingling spurs took him to his nearby waiting steed.
The rigid framed Shovelhead leaned at a rakish angle. Its lone bullet headlight and springer front end gleamed nearly as much as its chrome spoked wheels. He threw a long leg over the carved leather saddle and grabbed the ape-hanger handlebars with his spidery fingers. Then the mighty beast roared to life with a single kick from his pointed black boot.
Flames belched from the slash cut pipes and a great rumbling noise rolled across the decimated landscape. He threw back his head and laughed again, the rusty tin can sound now augmented by a thick slimy gurgling. He turned and spat a glob of pure blackness and it hit the dead rat squarely, singing its fur.
His thin fingers pulled the clutch lever in and he kicked the bike into gear. As the big machine lurched forward and away, its blasting exhaust pipes blew debris in all directions. Then he changed gears and accelerated and the mighty rumble of the big V-Twin engine grew louder and higher yet, still there was no one there to hear it but him.
And as a fading red iron-cross shaped taillight disappeared down a bombed out highway, the only sound louder than a tricked out Shovelhead skull bound for glory, was the rusty laughter of the devil himself. His work here was finally done.
Author : Britny Musson
I was singing in my sleep again.
“And then there was none, and then there was all.”
My throat is dry but the words still manage to croak out. Something is different, today. My sleep is being compromised, my mood is shuddering under the weight of my transition. I try to stretch against the small space, pressed my limbs in every direction. It feels good to move again. It was sweltering last time. I breathe deep and watch as my day of blinking lights begins.
My stomach takes a dip, the room brightens for a moment, blinding me. They like to catch me off guard through transport. Its safer that way, they say. That weak feeling gnaws at my stomach and behind my eyes, I can feel the nausea building.
The tubes are snaking in, the speaker crackling to life, repeating its usual greeting.
“Good morning, Madeline.”
I know time frames don’t matter here. I need to work through the feelings they are inserting but the sleep keeps trying to jump in front, asking for more. I’m ravenous inside and I can barely manage to keep anything sated. The energy is festering in my veins, seeping into my bones like acid, making them pliable and complacent.
Something changes, moves just out of the corner of my eye. I hold my breath, listening to the clicks. There are too many and they are uneven. He’s home. I tried to feel for his name, my tongue rolling dryly over my teeth. Travis, they called him. I think that’s right.
I can hear the voices now. Murmurs growling against the metal. I settle into the vibrations as the volume rises.
“You have visitors today,” says the voice from the speaker. I chuckle, the sound rattling in my ribcage. They always made it sound like a vacation. The few times I get brought forward. Sometimes it was a group but other days there is only one. Travis is there most times.
“Why?” I asked, shifting uncomfortable. The bottom of the capsule dip. There is a silence for a moment. A gentle static before the last of the adjustments settle.
“They like honesty. Be a good girl this time…please.”
The screen powers on and I can see them standing there. There are five of them, the uneven clicks make sense. Honesty is supposed to be the most desired of concepts, the most delectable of situations. It hurts, stinging like lemon juice in cuts you didn’t know existed. It thrums against the surface, scratching at itself and everything around it.
They visit us because they want that pain. So they keep us as we are. Be a good girl? I forgot how to be quiet, to be still and calm. Even now, I can feel the anxiety rushing into me. The words are forming a queue in my brain, bursting and crashing against each other with frivolity, blocking the gloom that hovers around the corners.
“If I was a good girl, I wouldn’t be here in the first place.”
The screen powers off. I can feel the air shifting around the chamber as the first half slides open.
Travis stalks forward, the sharp snap of metal jarring my heartbeat. His hair is darker today. He smiles as they bring in the table.
“Are we ready?”
I feel the pinch as the needle slides in. The room sinks and sparkles as the metals grow brighter. I wonder what they are upgrading this time. It never takes. I’m always the same.
Author : Sean Kavanagh
The 3rd Planet-Formation Cadre sounded like an impressive title, but Dhan – like the others in his team – knew all it meant was that they were civil servants. Civil servants who got to fly about the galaxy seeding life on far flung barren planets, but all for mid-grade pay.
For six weeks now they’d been on this foreign world, hopping by shuttle from place to place, carefully laying the foundation for plant, animals – and if all went to plan – in the few thousand years’ time, intelligent life.
The hot desert and saline sea by their current site was depressing. Dhan did his work quickly during the day and retreated to the cool of the base camp at nightfall. Boredom was always deadly, so Dhan had his faithful notebook into which he’d pour his writing every night. It was the kind of mental safety valve all intergalactic civil servants needed.
The final week passed and the drop-ship appeared from the sky on schedule. Dhan waved as it flew over, and then scrambled to get his kit. It was his final mission of the tour. Next stop: home.
As the drop-ship slowly trundle into orbit Dhan had a broad smile on his face. Not only was his tour up, he’d finished writing his novel. His hand went to the bag to get the book. It wasn’t there. A quick search of the various pockets of his kit bag came up empty. He’d lost it. He’d really lost it. Dhan looked out the window as the planet below got further and further away, along with his notebook.
His friend Demy was watching Dhan all the while.
“What you lost? “
“Book, “ said Dhan gloomily.
“Ah, just forget about it. You can buy another. “ Demy closed one eye preparing to sleep.
“No, not that kind of book. My book. Something I’d written. “
“What, like a diary? “ Demy now had both eyes closed. “ Don’t worry, I won’t tell. They don’t even fine people anymore for cultural contamination on these new-build worlds. Well, not much anyway.”
Dhan threw his bag aside. “It wasn’t a diary, it was a…novel.” The last part came out quietly, partly through embarrassment.
“So that’s what you were writing! “ Teased Demy. “Honestly, you’re probably better off without it. And if it was any good, you can re-write it. “
“I suppose. “ Dhan slumped down in his chair. “I hope it doesn’t cause any problems. “
“Like what? “
“You hear stories: people who dropped toothbrushes or painkillers and ended up messing up the development of whole new societies. “
“Nah, that’s just tall tales,“ said Demy. “Stuff gets lost on foreign planets all the time. And nothing happens. Nothing. But maybe don’t report it, you know, just to avoid the paperwork. “
“Thanks Demy. “
“No problem. Demy exists to make life easier for all his workers. “ He yawned. “So, what was the title of this novel? “
“The Bible .“ Said Dhan.