Who’s life is it anyway?

Author : Brian Varcas

It takes two to tango, so the old saying goes. Nathanial Rogers was doing just fine alone, thanks to the wonderful people at LifeChange Inc. who’s strapline was, “Who will you be today?”

Lifesharing™ technology, the company said, was a natural, if radical, extension of filesharing. Their advertising made great play of the fact that “life” is an anagram of “file”. They claimed all memories could be stored as files ready to be uploaded, using some very expensive equipment, to their data storage facility. For a hefty subscription, members could download those memories and “live” them in the comfort of their own home. The company’s LifePod™ was small and stylish enough to fit in the home of anyone wealthy enough to buy one.

Nathaniel was very wealthy indeed, having been born into one of the richest families in New Europe. He didn’t have to work to maintain his lifestyle, which was just as well as he could think of nothing useful he could actually do.

In the LifePod™, however, he could do anything he wanted, and do it well. Of course, he’d spent many hours in the “adults only” section of the data banks but, in all honesty, he never spent longer than about 10 minutes reliving any of those particular memories.

This tango thing was great. It was incredibly sensual and he found himself totally lost in the rhythm and passion of it all. All good things come to an end though and the pre-set one-hour shutdown sequence brought his evening’s entertainment to a close. He bowed theatrically to his beautiful dance partner as the scene faded and he returned to reality.

Reality was a bummer. Nathanial’s only enjoyment was the time he spent in the LifePod™ and that was now taking up most of his “real” life. The problem was that one of the conditions of membership was that you had to upload at least one memory per week, which could not be a memory of a LifeShare™ encounter. Nathanial’s life was so empty of interesting events that he was now receiving daily warning messages that his account would be suspended.

Fortunately, Nathanial had a plan. He got together the various bits of equipment he would need and sat down in the LifePod™. He entered the Memory menu and selected “upload new experience” from the options. The system required him to indicate a maximum time period for the experience and he chose 30 minutes.

One of the benefits of being obscenely wealthy was the ability to obtain anything you wanted, more or less. So it was easy for Nathanial to get hold of the material he would need for this memory.

He set everything up and then sat back and waited. The anticipation of what was about to happen made him sweat. To stop himself backing out at the last moment he’d injected himself with a paralysis inducing nerve agent just before he engaged the run command on the equipment he’d set up.

Thirty minutes, he’d set as the memory time. The upload happened in real time so other members would be able to relive this experience immediately. What a rush!

After 29 minutes Nathanial closed his eyes and waited. 50 seconds later he heard a click. Then his world literally exploded as the device he’d strapped to his body was detonated. He died instantly so didn’t here the distorted voice from the now mutilated LifePod™.

“Thank you for uploading your precious memory. Thanks to your generosity, other members all over the world can now share your experience. Your memory will become theirs to cherish, always.”

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Starry Night

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

“Hell? Hell is what you carry in your heart. All your regrets. Things you should have done but didn’t. Things you did but shouldn’t have. That’s Hell. You carry Hell with you.” Without another word he stood and walked out beyond the reach of the light from the small campfire. The report from his pistol as he blew his brains out sounded faintly hollow in the crisp desert air. The four remaining men continued to stare into the dying flames.

“Seen it before, Mars’ll do that to ya.” Tom Marten was an old trail hand and a third generation Martian.

“Why’d he do it?” Henry Curry briefly turned his eyes in the direction of the departed man, but just as quickly turned away. He was young, just eight years Mars Standard.

“It’s the planet. She knows we’re strangers. She doesn’t want us here. A man stays out here too long he hears things. She talks to ya. Get‘s under your skin like.”

“Who talks to ya, Mr. Marten,” Henry asked as a cold shiver thrilled his body.

“Mars,” he said, “she knows we’re here. She doesn’t like it.”

“You’re full of shit,” remarked Bill Fryer, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. “I’m going to bed.” He crawled into his single sleep bubble.

“Think I’ll turn in too. Don’t scare the boy too much now, Tom. This is his first drive. Can’t have him shittin’ himself at every shadow. G‘night.”

“Night,” they replied in unison.

“What were they like Mr. Marten?”


“The Martians… the real ones I mean… no offence.”

“None taken, son. Well, they were tall. Taller than us. Very slim. Bird bones. The lower gravity you know. They built the crystal…”

“No, what were they like? I mean really like?”

“Nobody really knows. They were gone thousands of years before we got here. They were ancient before man walked on two legs. They don’t want us here, I can tell you that much.”

“How do you know?”

“They talk to me. Their ghosts anyway. I hear them all around me.”

Henry shivered again. The cold night air of the desert he rationalized to himself. He looked to the sky. The stars barely twinkled in air still too thin for much refraction despite nearly a century of terraforming. Phobos was a disk smaller than Earth’s moon. Tiny Deimos was barely distinguishable from the surrounding star field. It was an indescribably beautiful starry night.

Something brought Henry’s attention back to the moment. Glancing across the fire, he thought for the briefest moment that the pupils of Tom Marten’s eyes had gone from round to vertical slits. For a fleeting instant it looked as if his face had become elongated and his skin had taken on an ashen pallor.

He shook his head and blinked several times to clear his mind. When he looked again, kindly old Tom Marten was staring back at him. He removed his revolver from his holster, checked the loads, spun the cylinder and replaced it. Nearby, a horse, grown from tissue brought from Earth, whinnied nervously.

“Think I’ll go for a walk.”

“Good idea. You do that.”

Henry walked into the darkness. In the thin air, the blast from his weapon failed to echo off the nearby cliff face.

Tom Marten smiled. A smile that failed to reach his oddly slitted eyes.


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Visitation Rights

Author : Andrew DiMatteo

“Hey there Col! I haven’t seen you in a while. How have you been?”

“Honestly? Things have been pretty crazy.”

“Come to think about it, I seem to remember Bill saying something happened between you and Deb… is everything ok?”

“Not really man. Deb and I split up.”

“Jesus Col, I’m truly sorry – I had no idea. What about your kids?”

“She got the whole enchilada Ed. Full custody.”

“That’s terrible. Is there anything I can do to help? I have a cousin who’s a counselor, maybe he can offer some advice…”

“Naw, it’s cool. This new thing I’m doing is really helping.”

“What is it? Therapy or something?”

“You could say that… Ed, you ever hear of the ‘many worlds’ theory?”

“Sorry, but I can’t say that I have.”

“No worries man, few have. Basically, some scientists came up with this theory that says every single thing that possibly could happen, has happened, and all the outcomes exist in, like, parallel universes.”

“I don’t really see how that’s a thing you can do per se.”

“I know, I know, gimme a chance to explain. It all started when I saw this ad online. This guy claimed that he could teach you to ‘jump’ your consciousness into your selves that exist in these parallel universes; that you could come back with all these totally awesome skills and knowledge that your other, better selves had acquired in those other worlds. Now I know what you’re gonna say: Waste of money. A scam. Something for new age wackos. But see, I was pretty rock bottom at this point. I figured any world had to be better than this one, and maybe I could find one where I got the kids, so I shelled out fifty bucks and bought the DVDs.”


“And it worked.”


“Yeah, it totally worked. The real kick in pants was that as it turns out, this is the best universe there is for me. I don’t know how many I tried, but it was pretty bad. There was one where Deb ran away with some multimillionaire to Guatemala. Then there was a whole slew where I got hit by a car on the way to the custody hearing and ended up paralyzed from the neck down. I never got the kids.”

“Now you have me really worried. No more joking around, Col. Let me get you some help. Let me call my cousin.”

“No way, don’t you see? I’m fine! I know this is the best I can do. Whenever I get sad I just pop over into another universe and see how bad it could be – at least here I’ve got visitation rights and…”



“Col, are you OK? Snap out of it!”

“Did… did I just say I’ve got visitation rights?”

“Yes but… Jesus you scared me there! I was sure you had a stroke!”

“No man, I’m fine. Great even! But listen Ed, I gotta jet. Gonna go see the kids.”

“OK, but are you sure you’re alright? At least let me give you a ride.”

“No thanks! Been a while since I walked.”

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Ego Loss

Author : Damien Krsteski

The receptionist was tapping her pudgy fingers impatiently on the desk. Leaning on one hand, her pale face hid momentarily behind an inflating chewing gum bubble until a loud pop revealed a familiar expression of utter boredom and listlessness. She adjusted her cap and smacked her gum. Opposite her was the startled, cutely timid Jane Yules, dressed incongruously in a long, beige overcoat.

“For 49.99, you get our most popular zap, the ‘Passion Xtreme’,” said the receptionist in a thick, urban accent. “The ultrasound bursts stimulate your, erm, pleasure centers, and you get to feel like a pig for a short while. Meaning you get to have a forty minute orgasm,” she added hastily upon seeing Jane’s bewildered look.

“I, erm, don’t think that’s for me, thanks,” Jane pushed her glasses up her nose. “Do you happen to have something,” she rummaged her thoughts a bit, then shrugged and added, “different?”

The receptionist gave her a long, puzzled look, spat out the gum, and disappeared behind her desk. Jane could hear the noise of someone ploughing through old junk. Seconds later, she emerged with a mischievous smile on her face and a card in her hand. “This different enough for you, sis?” she asked, holding out the card.

“Ego Loss,” it read.

Jane shrugged, and before she knew it, she was being escorted by the oddball receptionist to the Sensorium booths. Hands strapped to the sides, the receptionist girl gave her a mock salute, pointed the ultrasound blasters at her skull, then said, “See you in a sec.”

At the beginning, there was nothing. Then, she felt a peculiar sensation. Her arms and legs stretched out to twice their length. Her whole body was like a hammock, and she swung it sideways, giggling, for it tickled her belly. On the second swing, she swelled up, and was the size of a hot-air balloon. Her bloated body kept on blowing, inflating. She couldn’t see herself, for she had no senses, but she was able to sense her color. With every breath, she doubled in size, and kept doubling, until she was the size of the cosmos.

“What now?” she felt herself asking, and burst into a million fragments of fluorescent magenta. Once again, there was nothing. And, once again, she felt a peculiar sensation. Out of her very body, endlessly fragmented and scattered, seeds began to grow, in all shapes and sizes. Spiral structures emerged, and swirled around each other, forging an infinite number of constructions. Life appeared. Small, and compact at first, then growing ever more complex and intricate, reaching at long last the pivotal event where it evolved intelligence.

Everything was of the same fluorescent color.

Jane Yules was trembling, her eyes glistening with tears.

“I was God,” she managed to whisper.

The girl undid the straps and helped her get up. “Yeah, sure you were,” she snapped, then stuffed another pink piece of gum in her mouth, “That’ll be 29.49, sis.”

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First…and last contact

Author : Brian Varcas

There was no doubt about it. That was definitely Hendrix!

Brad had every recording the legendary guitarist had ever made, including every bootleg live performance. He could easily tell the difference between the real thing and the myriad of guitarists who tried to play like Hendrix, and this was the real deal. The only trouble was Brad had never heard this song before! Oh yes, and the small matter that the sound appeared to emanate from the vicinity of the Procyon double star system, around 11.402 light years away!

Brad had been volunteering at the SETI Institute for 3 ½ years, laboriously scanning radio frequencies for any signals that might indicate intelligence. Anything with a discernable pattern. He’d found absolutely nothing, until now!

Brad wanted to try to clean up the signal but he’d lost it. He set the computerised frequency scanner to review its history and, after a couple of minutes he got the signal back but the music had changed. Now the liquid lightening of Jimi’s Fender Stratocaster was gone. Instead, he was listening to a singer he instantly recognised, and this time he knew the song!

“My God, it’s Jim Morrison!” Brad announced to himself. He turned up the volume to listen to a fantastic reworking of the Doors classic, “Riders on the Storm”.

When the song had finished the signal was still being received but there was nothing that Brad could understand. Again, he fiddled with the computer programme to try to improve the sound quality but it was just white noise as far as he could tell.

Then the music started again. Brad couldn’t believe his ears! It was John Lennon singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, but more trippy and psychedelic than the Sgt. Pepper version. Brad was completely blown away.

And so it went on for the next 20 minutes. Brad heard Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley all performing either new songs or new versions of classics. Between each song was the dissonant white noise.

“Wow! All these great rock stars who had died too young still rocking away somewhere out in space.”

Brad could think only that he’d somehow tuned into Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven! The next song confirmed that view…”Well since my baby left me…I’ve found a new place to dwell…It’s down at the end of Lonely Street…Heartbreak Hotel” It was Elvis himself, no mistake!

The song finished and the White noise started up again. As an experiment, Brad launched the new language decoding software he was testing and, following the instructions, played all the white noise sections which had been recorded. The software analysed the sound and, after a few minutes began to put together some suggested translations based upon repeated sound patterns. None of them made any sense at all and Brad was about to close the programme but stopped when he began reading the final suggestion.

“I don’t believe it!” He said out loud. “If this is Galactic Intelligence and Culture they can keep it!” He printed out the final suggestion and closed the programme. He transferred the music he’d recorded to his iPod and then deleted the original recordings.

As he left the Institute for the final time he shook his head in disbelief as he read the print out:

“Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Well, you’ve heard all the contestants from Earth now it’s up to you to decide who will be back next week for the next round of “The Galaxy’s Got Talent!”

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