After The Machine Stops

Author : Jason Frank

I’m in my office, the big one on the top floor, minding my own business and he just walks in without knocking. Hey, we might have just had a revolution but there’s still a right and a wrong way to do things. For example, storming into my office with a sour look on your face and then yelling at me with a tone of voice I don’t appreciate is not the best way to stay on my good side.

“Fred,” he says, “we have to rethink the Copacetitron. We have to turn it back on, now.”

“What?” I shout at him. He’s not supposed to call me Fred, not anymore, nobody is. I didn’t risk my life leading the Eight Departments against the Kindlys of the Serious Commission so I could be called Fred. Comandante, now that’s a title fit for a man of my accomplishments. That’s what I’m supposed to be called, whether or not I told anybody that yet.

“Fred…” (again with the Fred!), “Fred, I know that shutting down that evil, mind bending machine was the whole point of our uprising, but listen, we have to turn it back on, right now. I don’t know, maybe we can turn it down gradually over the next couple of weeks. I just know that turning it off suddenly was the wrong move.” That whole not calling me Comandante thing is totally a crime. Ignorance of the law is no defense, regardless of whether or not I told anybody about it. The law flows out of me like my exhaled breath, the steaming exhalations of the Comandante.

He’s got that look in his eye, I know it pretty good, like he’s going to keep talking. I let him go, he can dig his own grave as deep as he wants it for all I care. “Look, just look outside,” he says and I do.

I knew he was off but looking outside just proves it. The city looks better than it ever did. The lovely fires are bringing out dramatic shadows and angles I never could have imagined. Down the way, I can even see a guy crucified up on the hands of the big clock. Now that must have been damn hard to do and I almost tear up thinking about all the ambitious go-getters we got down there.

“Fred!” he says again, louder this time. I’m going to have to say something to him, that much is clear. He starts walking towards me with some kind of look in his eye I can’t identify. Better safe than sorry, I always say. That’s why I put together this fine club, a stick anyone of Comandante level would be glad to call his own. It’s got a bunch of nails through it at odd angles. Its lack of symmetry really stirs the soul. Anyway, I start hitting him with it (I really should give my club a proper name like, I dunno, Darlene or something). All kind of roses bloom on his face. I think maybe I hit him for too long, mostly because my left arm cramps up something fierce.

I look down at him, my little brother, the brains behind our rebellion. What happened to him? We shut down the evil Copacetitron that was, we all knew, messing with our heads in a manner most indelicate. For some reason, he just couldn’t deal with the reality of our liberation. Oh well, you couldn’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. We were free now and we had to start acting like it.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

No One Ever Considers the Unforeseen Consequences

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“Tell me again, Welin, why you have to lie to the Captain?” asked the temporal assistant. “It doesn’t seem right,” she added with disgust.

“You’re not seeing the big picture, Molly. It’s not about a single ship; it’s about what happens afterwards. Malum’s great, great grandfather was working in the engine room of that ship. By killing Alexander Pravus five years before he fathered Malum’s great grandmother, we’ll ultimately prevent Malum’s birth, and save the lives of millions of innocent people that have been butchered since he’s seized control of the planet. I would prefer to have killed Malum as a child, but his scientists have set up temporal blockades that go back more than a century.”

“What if Pravus survives the sinking,” countered his assistant. “Have you thought of that? There is no guarantee everyone will die.”

“It’s a chance we’ll have to take. Please, Molly, it’s now or never. His henchmen could discover our laboratory at any time.”

With tears beginning to form in her eyes, she acquiesced. “I hate you for making me do this,” she cried. “Do you even know what you’re going to tell him?”

“Yes, Molly. I have it all worked out. Now please, time is running out.”

“Okay, damn you. Clip on your wings before I change my mind.”

Minutes later, a ghostly image appeared over the Captain’s bunk. “Captain Smith, wake up” it sang softly.

The groggy captain rubbed his eyes as he struggled to comprehend what he heard. “Who is it?”

The semitransparent apparition floated in mid-air, its wings beating rhythmically in slow motion. “Why have you shut down the engines?”

Suddenly terrified as he realized it wasn’t a dream, Smith’s trembling fingers clutched the covers to his chest. “It…’s too dangerous,” he answered.

“No, Edward, it’s not. Would God ask me to come to you if it were dangerous? You must believe me. It’s your destiny to complete this voyage as quickly as possible. Now, go to the bridge, and resume your original heading and speed.”

“But, Gabriel, please. It isn’t safe,” Smith pleaded.

Welin raised his voice and pointed an accusatory finger at the frightened captain. “Do not question the Holy Father. Do as he commands, or suffer his wrath. Now, GO, or spend eternity in damnation.”

Reluctantly, but obediently, Captain Smith scurried form the bed, put on a robe, and headed toward the bridge.

At 11:40 PM, the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg. From that instant forward, no one remembered the original voyage, where the Titanic had steamed into New York harbor 18 hours behind schedule. Instead, the new reality was that the Titanic took 1,517 souls to the bottom of the Atlantic, including Alexander Pravus.

Although Dmitry “The Slaughter” Malum was never born, there were unforeseen consequences in the new timeline. Adolph Hitler wasn’t killed in WWI and subsequently rose to power, America reached the moon before the Soviet Union, the European Union collapsed, and then, in a desperate maneuver to lash out at the entire world, North Korea unleashed The Doomsday Plague. By 2048, there were no humans alive to invent time travel to rewrite history a second time.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Eleven Days Since…

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

She sat in a corner of Starbucks, talking on her phone. In the window behind her, the Earth was just setting. Her short blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail which she twisted nervously.

“How long will you be gone,” she asked. There was a hint of desperation in her voice.

“But Europa is so far from Earth, what does it have to do with us? So a colony was attacked. We don’t know those people. What did the Asiatics ever do to us?” Her voice quavered.

“Look, we can go to Venus. There’s no war there. A nice leisurely life in one of the Sun Domes…”

She began to cry. Tears streamed slowly down her delicate face. “What… what happens if… if…”

“I don’t give a fuck about the insurance, Tom. What’s going to be left to bury anyway.” She pulled the phone out of her ear and held it away as she screamed into it.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I love you so much,” She sobbed into the phone.

“Just please come home safe. Why did you have to join? Why? Don’t you love me? Didn’t I love you enough.”

“I know, you’ve got to go. I love you with all my heart. Please come back to me. Please come back.” She pulled the phone bud from her ear. She curled her legs under her and wept silently. She drew in ragged breaths.

In a fit of pique, she threw the phone from her. It slammed into a corner, where the battery fell out. A battery that had been dead for eleven days.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

A Matter of Taste

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The invaders had left automated sentries in charge of the human race. They’d really cleaned Earth up. All animals, vegetables, and water were being managed expertly for maximum freshness and yield. They left the precious metals in the Earth alone. They weren’t nearly as valuable to the universe as they had been to us before the invasion.

We’d been kept as a slave labour force. Every single living thing on the Earth was a commodity to be exported besides us. Because feeding us plants or animals would literally eat into the aliens’ profits, we were only allowed to eat each other. They’d really done a good job. Human meat had never known such diversity of preparation. Pudding, steaks, burgers, crispy-fried, protein bars, gelatin, even a type of ‘skin salad’. Those of us old enough to remember the old ways were horrified. What scared us most is that the children didn’t seem to mind. They accepted it as reality and ate their fill.

We planted the seeds, tilled the fields, harvested the crops, and loaded them into the produce ships. We raised the animals, fed them, cared for them, and herded them into the meat ships. We diverted the rivers into small dams that led gushing into the water ships.

The horrible thing was that they aliens weren’t raping our planet. They weren’t squeezing it until it dried up and broke. They were carefully managing the output so that Earth could produce enough to feed entire planets but would always replenish. The irony was not lost on us.

We were here eternally, eating ourselves and keeping the process going under the threat of punishment from the machines left to keep us in line.

The machines that were now coming over the hill and questing for us. To our left, a gout of flame found an empty silo where the seniors were hiding. With a chill, I realized that the machines were probably programmed to start with the elderly but they’d leave the children. I hoped the tale of our tiny rebellion would be spread as myth amongst the survivors.

The juice of nectarines ran down my chin, mixing with the blueberries I had eaten earlier. All of us huddled in the darkness, reeking of fruit and vegetables. Today would be the day we died but we all had a belly full of what was worth dying for.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows

Rule 34a

Author : Michael Bagen

Hobbes lowered the Polaroid, blinded Carla giving him the finger.

“I just woke up and I’m hung over. Please die and leave me that picture to dispose of.

He ignored her, turned, and dealt the image like a playing card onto the scanner.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Carla, not his lady or even his friend, slid on tight jeans and buckled her belt. Hobbes ignored her, tantalizing though it was. She leaned over him, loose tank top billowing over her cleavage as she looked down.

“What the hell are you doing?”

He was scanning in her photo, point of fact. Blue dots appeared on the image. He was doing something else too. The computer made a buzzing noise, sifting through massive amounts of data. The fan vainly fought to dispel the heat.

“What’s it working on,” she asked.

“Sifting data and repelling viruses, mainly.” He looked up at her. He kissed her on the cheek, an act that had made her recoil in horror.

“I didn’t fuck you last night and I’m sure as fuck not going to now that I’m sober.”

“I know,” he said, turning his attention to the screen, “Have you ever heard of Rule 34?”

Rule 34—If it exists, there is porn of it.


“Good.” He took a deep breath, lighting a bracing cigarette. “Little known fact. Did you know that there are a limited number of facial casts recognizably unique to the human eye.”


“As of the year 2025 with its omnipresent cameras, be they in cars, banks, toilets or phones, we have been able to record an estimated 10 percent of the human population engaging in sexual acts that are now publicly available for download. One in every 10 people on earth. So mathematically, after we reached the point where 10% of the population is equal to or less than the number of facial casts, we get what?

“I don’t know,” she growled, sensing that she would not like it, whatever it was.

Hobbes’s computer struck gold and sang. Hardcore pornography erupted vile, raw and creative on screen, the face of Carla ecstatic at the efforts of some well-hung professional.

“Son of a bitch, you stole my face and–”

“Guess again,” he sang, “Rule 34. If it exists, there is porn of it.”

Carla braced herself against the sides of his chair, hissing spit and tobacco juice in his eyes.


“If there are more pornographic actors actual or incidental in the world than there are facial casts, then it becomes a mathematical certainty that…”

She stumbled backward.

“Yep. If you exist, there is porn of you. For every face, there is at least ten other identical faces in the world. And at least one of them, like this girl here my dear Carla, got fucked six ways to Sunday on…what do they call those things, anyway?”

“It’s a sedan chair you unbelievable fuck!”

Hobbes, pimpled, fat, having spent $100 on vodka just to get a woman into his basement abode, smiled serenely as she rose, dead but for the hate and jabbed a lacquered black nail in his direction.


“Every 5th man on Earth has seen that video. He has seen an image of himself fucking an image of a woman he is statistically ensured to be in eyeshot of.” Hobbes gently laid a kiss upon angry Carla’s knuckles. “Peace be with you.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows