Extreme Synesthesia

Author : Ali Simpson

“Sew him up…and we’ll see what happens.”

The letters were crunchy and a distinct scent of Fritos wafted from them. Dr. Paul Marshall’s name tag would go great with bean dip, Leroy thought. He smacked his dry lips and squinted against the bright light hanging above the operating table. A dull pain pulsed slowly on the top of his melon, but otherwise, he felt fine.

“Can I have my 500 dollars now?” Leroy slurred at the watery figures standing above him. Someone was having a hell of a barbeque nearby. “And some chicken?”

One of the figures flapped his arms like an ungainly seagull, fat on scraps from Coney Island. “It worked! We’ve got one, sir. We’ve–”

Dr. Marshall shushed him. He put a hand on Leroy’s shoulder as he struggled to sit up. Leroy grasped Dr. Marshall’s nametag and sniffed. He scratched his stubble and stuck his gray tongue out to taste. The doctor swatted him away and grumbled about the fat one’s exuberance. He motioned to his fat colleague.

Leroy slapped his hand over a sudden sharp pain on his head. He felt fresh stitches. Tastes rolled over his tongue in tangy waves and a thousand smells swirled in his nostrils, tickling every oily nose hair. Ms. Lamar at the Italian ice stand, strawberries. Annoying kids in the park where he slept, spray paint. Bongo player on the A train 23 years ago, chives and pine and concrete. Wednesday was booze, last Saturday was copper. Leroy groaned, when he looked up, the doctor and his colleague were gone. He slid off the table and shuffled out of the operating room. Leroy concluded that the abandoned warehouse he was in was not a hospital. He had been scammed.

Cages holding lumps in ratty jackets lined the opposite wall. People like him were trapped in there. They were drooling and vacant like they had been lobotomized by damn dirty apes. They smelled like barbeque. Pork. Leroy picked up a rusty piece of scrap metal from the floor and crept toward the nearest door. From the same door, Dr. Marshall emerged carrying a clipboard.

“We thought you would be our breakthrough.” He scanned the clipboard, “Mr. Leroy…Vonnegut IV… Sadly, extreme synesthesia was not achieved, you’re no manmade savant.”

Leroy glanced at the caged veggies and pork chops. “Neither are they. And I’m going to sue your balls off man. There was nothing about brain surgery on that form and my nose feels weird.”

Dr. Marshall was still and gave him a cool glance. “I’m sorry,” he said.

Leroy’s nose tingled. The fat colleague in a white lab coat flapped behind him with heavy chains in hand. Leroy tangled them with the scrap metal and fled, bowling over Dr. Marshall.

He ran through a dark hallway, out a dark door, into the outside. The smell of the New York summer pumped through him with each dusty gasp.

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Butter Side Up

Author : Sam Davis

Personal Log of Dr. Marcus Milton

163 Years After, Archeological dig site 10.

This room was different from the last six. In fact, this room was different from anything either John or I had encountered. It took quite some time to even open the door, so well had this person sealed himself in. Inside we found a treasure trove of artifacts from Before. It was fantastic; we knew that we would get to spend months working on the categorization.

The Klien counters barely went off in this room and the dust was almost imperceptible. Whoever lived here had been prepared. Probably some sort of survivalist nut worried about…well who knows actually. One of the documentations we found was an audio account about a war with zombies. Our analysts later concluded that it was fiction, however it could have been exactly what this person was afraid of, why he lived so long.

The fear that had apparently dominated his life (I say his because the skeletal shape is larger indicating what we believe to be a dominance in development built to protect the child bearer) had also encouraged him to gather a large amount of canned goods as well as a projectile weapon of some sort, and presumably munitions though much of what we suspected he had stockpiled was now spent. Such a combination probably allowed him to survive just long enough to decide that the situation was hopeless, which lead to his suicide.

Shame really, because from what we’ve been able to gather from his rather primitive journal type device, assuming of course that it was at all accurate, had he stayed alive another few months the Sweepers would have been through and picked him up and he might have been able to explain everything. He could have stopped the war and everything that came after. He could have saved so many lives. Damn shame.

Apart from the one moment, every detail is completely sharp and totally inconsequential–the brand of beans and the color of the blanket in which he was wrapped–all unimportant in light of what we actually discovered there. Our philosophers were oh so pleased that we actually brought back a relic that could be analyzed and understood. What’s more is that we knew it must be important for this lone “survivor” to keep it with him through the three relocations that he mentioned in his journal.

John and I were given honors for our discovery. That was six months before the translation was finished and about a year before the first signs of dissent cropped up. We thought we were kings and we lived like it. Pity he became a Calvinist. He and the other heretics of Fev’n were eliminated three months after the war became official.

I remember now, John almost lost it due to his excitement and touched it. We didn’t know what book it was. Hell, we didn’t even know that it was a book at the time. That it was The Book. The Book that made all of us think, that made all of us make a choice: Calvin or Hobbes?

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The Dillinger Act

Author : Lillian Cohen-Moore

My marriage was a good idea while it lasted.

I know my more romantic neighbors, the idealistic journalists who wanted interviews–they all said The Dillinger Act was what ended it. Legally, it’s not untrue to say that. Mikaela and I ceased to be united in legal terms when the Act passed; Mikaela was deported the same day as all the other non-citizen spouses. December 25th, 2085.

I’ve been called a lot of nasty names, by the pro-homeworld faction. I’ve betrayed homeworld by marrying an off-worlder, an off-worlder whose planet broke from ours, broke from our government. We offered them protection and advancement, scientific marvels and astounding mathematical insights.

But Earth didn’t want to be under our thumb, and made noises. Earth broke the Galay Accord, and we came down on them every way we could.

And we came down on everyone who supported Earth: starting with the forced annulment of every marriage between someone from homeworld and a citizen of Earth.

A week before they passed the Dillinger Act, Mikaela told me she’d been sleeping with one of my students. She said the ‘fire’ had gone out of our marriage and she was bored. I started drinking too much, after that. She acted like a truant child, difficult and prickly at home, when she was home at all. It was an entire academic cycle, spent in that holding pattern, before the deportation day arrived. She came back long enough to pack and tell me she’d never really enjoyed the sex, before they took her away to the docks.

I watched the live feed of the deportations. I know her. It wasn’t because she loved me anymore. She knocked that official in the face on the way off planet out of spite.

Mikaela had always fought like that—if she couldn’t win the argument, she’d at least try and look as if she didn’t deserve it. I’ve sat up late, drinking and watching her on the news, on the evening shows. She always wanted to be famous–though, as much as I love her, I have to say that she looked pretty wretched on the last newscast. I never realized how brassy her last hair colour was till I saw her on the news.

It was in principal, that I was wronged by my government, when they punished me for taking an alien wife. But privately, I acknowledge the truth: that my alien wife wronged me just as much, in a far more personal fashion.

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Combat Botanists

Author : William Tracy

The moonless night was interrupted by a bright flash of light. A demolition round gouged a neat twenty-meter hole in the jungle. A light jumper craft settled into the fresh clearing.

A group of people emerged from the vehicle, lights casting hazy cones in the muggy air. “The liverwort was reported less than ten kilometers from here. Let’s move!”

Beneath the shadow of the jungle canopy, plant growth was thin enough to easily walk through, and the party fanned out among the trees. Nobody knew if the newly discovered plant might have medical uses, or whether it might produce an enzyme capable of catalyzing biofuel production, or if it would even be useful at all. All that mattered was that the Northern Union had to get the plant before the Pan-Alliance did.

After two hours of searching, the party found what it was looking for. A botanist scaled a tree trunk to a height of three meters, and scraped from the trunk a sample of the tiny epiphyte for genetic sequencing.

They hurried back to the jumper. “Let’s go—the package is on its way!”

Inside the craft, status lights winked in lockstep with the biocomputer’s nervous system. The jungle outside dropped away, and the jumper sped toward the coast.

“Damn. Company’s coming!” Four dots appeared on the radar. In the distance, enemy ornithopters rumbled faintly.

The jumper launched two missiles. They spread leathery wings for guidance, and rocketed into the night. An ornithopter cried as it went down.

A flickering light appeared in the sky behind the aircraft, a projectile launched from an orbital missile platform. “Here comes the package!”

The jumper crossed the shoreline. The black waves below reflected the running lights of the jumper—and the rapidly approaching ornithopters.

“Package here! Cover!” The jumper crew bent away from the windows and covered their eyes. The night lit up as the neutron bomb detonated, wiping away the rare liverwort and its jungle home.

The ornithopters were still gaining on the jumper, and began opening fire. “Hang tight!” The jumper began evasive maneuvers, rolling sharply.

Then, three jet biofighters peeled down from the sky. Their strong wing muscles flexed around polymer fiber skeletons, giving the airplanes fine control that would make an inorganic aerospace engineer weep. In minutes, the biofighters gunned down the remaining ornithopters and returned to formation.

Soon, the fighters and the jumper touched down on a waiting carrier. As the air crews disembarked, a clamshell roof closed over the flight deck. The aircraft carrier sank beneath the waves, and swam away.

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The Titan Consortium

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“Okay, Mister, er…,” Phillip Richfield glanced at his monitor, “Rousseau, what’s the crisis? Is something wrong with the orbital elevator pump?”

Soren Rousseau, one of the many “facilitators” hired by The Greenhouse Gas Project, had only been on Titan for six months, and this was his first encounter with the Director of Operations. “No, Mr. Richfield.” He took a deep breath to calm himself down. “It’s more important than that. We need to shut the entire methane transfer operation down. Titan’s oceans contain an indigenous life form that the original survey team missed. We need to preserve their habitat.”

“Life form?” questioned Richfield. “You mean there are fish swimming in these oceans?”

“Uh, no sir. It’s more like proto-bacteria. Still, it’s the first case of extraterrestrial life ever detected. Their existence will revolutionize the field of exobiology.”

“Did it ever dawn on you that the bacteria are something that we introduced into Titan’s oceans?”

“Yes, sir. I had the chemistry department check some samples for polymerase chain reactions. There weren’t any, so their biochemistry doesn’t contain DNA. It can’t be Earth-based contamination.”

“Well, I say that it is Earth-based contamination. Son, let me explain the big picture to you. A hundred years ago, the sun entered a long-term phase where solar irradiance started steadily decreasing. If we didn’t do something to maintain the surface temperature of the Earth, it was going to turn into a giant snowball. The Greenhouse Gas Project was created to collect and deliver the equivalent of one trillion cubic feet of methane gas to the Earth every week in order to produce enough greenhouse gasses to sustain the average surface temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re already behind schedule, and you want me to shut down the project to save proto-bacteria. It’s not going to happen. There are billions of human lives are at stake. Now, get back to work.”

“With all due respect, Mister Richfield, I can’t in good conscience sit quietly while you destroy the greatest scientific discovery in history. You’re going to force me to go public.”

Richfield smiled. “Is that so? Well, I guess you haven’t read the fine print on your contract. Because it cost billions of dollars to transport and support the people on Titan, the government has given us extensive leeway pertaining to your ‘civil rights.’ As a consequence, we own you for five years. You have no say in the matter. So, effective immediately, you’re being reassigned to a survey mission in the Oort Cloud. Now, go pack up your personal effects, your shuttle will leave within the hour. And don’t think about using the radio, your privileges are revoked.” He pressed an intercom button. “Yukos, please have security escort Mister Rousseau to his quarters, and then to the shuttle bay. He’s going on special assignment.”

Two burley security guards came into Richfield’s office and forcibly carried Rousseau away, amid his vehement curses and threats. Richfield then called the Director of Transportation. “Mikhail, I need a favor. I’m sending a disgruntled employee on an extended survey mission. I need his shuttle pre-programmed to take him to the Oort Cloud. Also, you’ll need to disable his radio.”

“Sure thing, Phillip. I’ll take care of it myself. What’s your preference this time: reactor malfunction, carbon dioxide poisoning, decompression?”

“He’s a decent guy, Mikhail, but misguided. Let’s make it quick.”

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