Archive for: July, 2012

Almost a New World By Gary Girod

Jul 29 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

 

Kviv glanced around frantically for the hawk. He could barely see it through the thick leaves of the intertwining branches above. He saw an opening up ahead and sprinted for it. When he emerged into the unhidden sunlight of the grotto he looked up squinting for the bird. He saw a flock of birds rising in the distance, but there was no sign of the hawk.

 

Kviv licked his lips, feeling how dry they were. He needed to find some source of water soon. He had seen hawks like that one and knew that at some point it would find a lake or a river and dive for fish. Kviv’s shoulders sagged and he breathed deeply. He wondered if he should follow the birds flying above him or just pick a direction and follow it.

 

He chose the third option and climbed the nearest tree. By the time he reached the top his hands were badly scratched by the thick bark, but he had gotten used the feeling. He stretched, pumping his chest forward so his head was lifted just barely above the canopy of leaves.

 

Kviv was immediately blinded by the golden shimmer of the sun shining off of a lake. He started to lower himself when something caught his eye. He stretched as high as he could and saw a tree, taller than any he had ever seen before, whose roots spread out, creating a clearing for itself in the midst of the forest. Wrapped around the trunk and every branch of the tree was what looked like a giant purple worm. Kviv leaned forward and lost his footing. He began to fall, and watched as the ground raced up to meet him. Instinctively, he reached forward and felt his forearms slam into a branch. Grimacing, he eased himself back toward the trunk and continued his descent, albeit at a much slower pace.

 

That can’t have been real. I must be delirious. The thirst is driving me mad. I can’t even hold my footing anymore!

 

This wasn’t the first time Kviv’s senses had been deceived in his unending march across the world. Monsters and aberrations had a way of forming in the corners of one’s eyes and at the edges of the horizon. Those two boundaries of reality formed the breeding grounds for a thousand voiceless phantoms, whose form changed every time one tried to remember them.

 

Kviv tried to shrug off the image of the tree and the worm as he started toward the lake. As he did he stumbled upon a series of rolling, rocky cliffs, and found himself veering away from them and the lake, toward the tree. For some reason the image didn’t change its form, but remained fixed in his mind. Each obstacle he came upon brought him closer to the tree.

 

Kviv finally reached the tree, his exhausted legs nearly giving out as he reached the clearing. Panting, he looked up and had just enough strength with him to jump back in fear. Up close, he could distinguish that the ‘worm’ was a giant purple snake, with scales that looked as if they had been stretched far too thinly, giving it an eerily fluid body.

 

Every tree-limb was choked by its long form. Near the base of the tree’s center was the snake’s massive head. Its mouth grasped the sides of the tree, its jaws sunk deep into its heart. A stream of solidified golden sap trailed down the tree’s side like a giant still waterfall; Kviv deduced that the snake must have been drinking the tree’s sap for months, maybe years for it to have made such a strange aberration. Kviv looked at the tree, realizing that it was at the point of death; its green leaves were so thin that they were translucent, something that would be almost beautiful if it were not so haunting. All that remained of the tree were a few dozen large orange fruits hanging from its branches.

 

Kviv had never seen such a strange sight. He wondered how a snake could grow to such immense size, and why it drank tree sap. More than anything he wanted to see its face, as all he could see of it was the back of its head and the edges of its long jaws, which were coated to the gums in sap, appearing like shining yellow stalactites within the mouth of the massive creature.

 

Kviv picked up a nearby rock, ran back behind a stretch of bushes, and threw the rock past the snake. The snake pulled itself from the tree, sending bark splintering as he did. He looked toward the direction of the sound. Upon seeing nothing, it immediately turned around, its giant green eyes fixed on Kviv. Kviv held still, too afraid to move. He panicked, wondering if he had ever seen a snake that could think as this one did. He felt the urge to run but instinct kept him rooted in place. Many times before he had heard the blood-curling hiss of a snake, so distinctive and threatening that no other sound could be heard once it announced itself. In that moment he knew to freeze and slowly back away showing it that he hadn’t meant any harm. Kviv was hoping the monster in front of him would act the same way.

 

Instead, it drew its face closer to Kviv. It opened its mouth to show its giant fangs which dripped with sap, leaving golden dew upon the grass. “Leave!” it screamed. In a flash of purple it swung its head around and plunged its fangs back into the crevasses of the tree.

 

Kviv was shaking violently. He let himself collapse allowing himself the reprieve while telling himself he was just getting cover behind the bush. The world had become stranger, more foreign, in the past few hours than it had been for the rest of his life. As he lay on his back looking up at the endless blue he tasted his own dire thirst. The briefest thought of the lake he had passed appeared in his mind. That was the last time Kviv thought of water. The same madness that brought him to the tree drove the thoughts of thirst from his mind. He lifted himself to his feet thinking, what snake eats tree sap? I don’t know, but it cannot eat flesh and blood creatures as well.

 

Kviv took a hesitant step toward the snake, then another. Each successive step got smaller until he barely shuffled toward the snake. The snake’s neck muscles rolled as it pushed the sap backward, down its throat. Each spasm from the snake made Kviv shake. Kviv opened his mouth to speak but had no words. He opened and closed his mouth, like a fish pulled out of water, gasping for breath. He told himself to say something, but the words became objects just as strange as the snake. He knew the meaning of each individual word but the meaning of them all together was something that even he could not comprehend. His vision began to blur. Stars began to appear before his eyes.

 

“How can you speak?”

 

The snake’s throat stopped pulsing. For a long time it didn’t move at all. Then, calmly, the snake wheeled its head around and eyed Kviv. Kviv stared into its green eyes and saw his scared figure reflected in them, somehow filling him with more terror. He imagined the monster lunging at him, as he stood frozen, watching those eyes, watching himself being swallowed whole by the monster.

 

“I told you to leave.”

 

“Is it the tree?” For the first time, Kviv’s eyes moved past the haunting visage of the snake. He gazed in awe at the deep crevices in the trunk which were so large he could crawl into them. As he did, he saw the rapid flash of purple as the snake was uncoiling itself from the tree.

 

Kviv leapt back just as the snake launched himself at him. The snake’s golden jaws snapped just out of reach. Kviv fell, stumbling back, and felt himself back up into a tree. He thought it was going to be his end, but the snake was still uncoiling the rest of its long body itself from the tree. Kviv stumbled backward and frantically sprinted into the forest without looking back. He ran until he came upon a stream. He dived into it, drinking in the cold, refreshing water as he did. When he resurfaced he finally looked back. There was no sign of the snake. Kviv realized that he had no idea when the snake had stopped following him, if he had chased him at all. Just to be safe, Kviv swam to the other side of the river and collapsed.

 

Kviv woke in a start, seeing the monster’s giant maw flash before him. When he opened his eyes there were only stars and the gentle lull of the creek beside him. He rose to his feet. For a moment he thought of running as fast as he could as far as he could. If there were giant talking snakes, who knew what else might live in this forest!

 

But he knew that the snake was the only monster. It was just the tree that had made it what it was. There couldn’t be any other monsters, so long as the tree was guarded by such a beast. Kviv walked down to the creek and began to lap up the water. When he had finally quenched his thirst he let his head sink under the surface and began to swim toward the other side.

 

He emerged from the other side running.

 

The gargantuan tree loomed naked before him. Stripped of the snake, Kviv could see how close to death it had become. The tree was oddly striped and Kviv realized that it must have been from the years that the snake had coiled itself around the tree. Everywhere the snake had constricted, the bark was bleached white and was so sickly it looked like it would crumble at the slightest touch. Dark as a shadow, the snake lay wrapped around the tree’s base. After uncoiling itself to chase after Kviv, it had not undergone the arduous task of re-engulfing the tree.

 

Kviv stepped forward cautiously, until finally he stood so close to the snake that he could count its thin, elongated scales. He looked up above him. Barely visible in the darkness, and scattered about at random were the orange fruits. For every twenty branches there was one small fruit, a last reminder of what this tree had been.

 

Kviv looked down and saw that there were small patches of grass between the various loops of the snake’s body. Kviv thought that the snake had apparently spent so much time wrapped around the tree it hardly remembered how to coil into a perfect circle. Kviv looked up at the tree again and studied the bark. Near where the snake’s head had been the bark was ghostly white, so thin that he could see the sap inside the tree, like the veins on his wrist. The farther out, the stripes were darker. The snake must have grown in size while drinking the sap, never leaving the tree. As such, it probably didn’t realize how large it had become.

 

Kviv stepped between two giant coils, expecting them to snap closed and crush his leg. When nothing happened, he took another step between another giant loop. He passed a dozen rings before he reached the base of the tree. He was glad that the head wasn’t anywhere nearby as he knew he would have fainted if he saw it, only to wake as he was being crushed slowly and painfully by its dull, coated fangs.

 

Kviv sidestepped the thick roots, which clawed through the ground gasping for more food in a vain attempt to finally satisfy the snake. He reached the trunk and began to climb. He avoided the white parts of the tree as best he could, afraid of their flimsiness. He lifted himself onto the lowest hanging branch, and inched closer towards a small fruit. As he did, he looked back at the gashes in the tree. They looked like open, infected wounds. The sides of the gashes glimmered with hardened sap, like molten gold.

 

Kviv turned from the dying tree and reached for the fruit. He froze at the noise of the stem splintering. The snake below didn’t move. After a few seconds, Kviv raised the fruit to his mouth and bit into it.

 

Kviv fell to his knees. Realization crashed into him like a cascade as he felt each layer of who he was flying away without even a memory of what he once called ‘himself’ left to him. The world became clear, each animal, each life, each breath, and each action. Thoughts such as he had never had before, purpose, rights, good, evil, power, emerged in his mind. He could only begin to think them but had almost no idea what any of them meant, as if he stood upon the side of a cliff, looking down without being able to fathom its infinite depth.

 

Possessed, he frantically searched through the darkness for the next piece of fruit. When he saw it, he raced up the tree and dashed for it. The next bite quenched his mad need, only to fill him with a thirst worse than he had ever felt. He felt himself falling to his stomach, peering deeper into the chasm, seeing as he had never seen before mysteries which he did not even know existed.

 

Deprived of any thought but the maddening flashes of new reality, Kviv leapt from branch to branch, eating all the remaining pieces of fruit. He felt himself diving into that chasm and each second that he fell he saw millions of years, lives, deaths, struggles and cries of agony pass before him; now each of them was comprehensible, reducible, no longer a force but a fact.

 

Panic overcame him, sweat cascaded down his face, into his eyes, blinding him. His bleary eyes darted back and forth, to the hundreds of branches. Had he eaten them all? Rage rose in him as he looked at the greedy snake, and he cursed it. He stood up and was about to launch himself down upon it when he saw that there was one fruit left; a perfect, giant, round orange fruit, hanging delicately from a stem as thin as spider-silk. He raced towards it, but his head pounded and the world spun around him.

 

Kviv fell in the middle of one of the snake’s giant coils. Gasping in pain and rolling from the miasma of thoughts that had become him, he could only watch as the giant coils moved above him. Then the face appeared, staring down at him. It lowered itself until it was just above him, its green eyes gazing deep into Kviv’s own. It opened its mouth, and Kviv felt droplets of gold fall on his chest.

 

“You have become like me.”

 

A talking snake? I must be hallucinating. The dull pain was replaced by a stinging. Kviv’s senses were sharpened and he laughed at how he could have possibly forgotten that the snake could talk. He knew he must have looked mad to the creature, laughing in the face of his own unavoidable death.

 

The giant head whirled and saw the discarded remains of the fruit. “If only I had been born like you, I could have gained this being in minutes, as you have. Instead, it took me hundreds of years. Hundreds of years, since I was no longer than your arm, dying of thirst, I came upon a trail of sap and drank from it.”

 

The world started to right itself. Kviv began to raise himself up. As he got to his feet he regained enough of his senses to know he should be terrified. His head spun frantically as he sought a way to escape the snake, but he was surrounded by its long body. Even as he thought that the coils opened up into the forest.

 

“Go, if you must. You will return.”

 

Kviv looked up at the ancient creature. “What is this?” he said dumbly. For the first time he was conscious of his own reason, and knew how stupid his own words sounded.

 

“Power? An illusion? A dream? I have never known. All I have known is that now I know.”

 

Kviv looked off into the forest. He could hear the river trickling in the distance, or was that just his imagination?

 

“You said I would return.”

 

“The cost of the gift. You will feel it soon; a sense of loneliness. As you realize that you are one of only two beings like you; that you are severed from the rest of all that is for you alone can understand.”

 

Kviv nodded, and instantly wondered if a snake could understand what that gesture meant. He now understood the concept of being alone but he didn’t understand why loneliness would feel wrong. Whenever he was alone he was always safest; nothing was trying to kill him. How could a snake, and one of his size, know what loneliness might mean to him! Whatever loneliness was, he imagined it would feel different to such a beast.

 

Kviv didn’t feel loneliness; all that he felt was the need, still burning within him. He still felt as he did when he tasted his first fruit. “I need more.”

 

The snake nodded in return, confirming Kviv’s suspicion. “It is fortunate that you have come then. You can do what I, without hands, never could.” The snake looked at the last fruit. “You can take it and grow a new tree. You can eat the fruit, while I drain the sap.”

 

Kviv looked up at the snake coldly. “You will kill it.”

 

“We can grow others,” Kviv thought the snake began to take on a tone of excitement at the thought. “We can fill the world with trees like these. We can make all of creation like us. Then we would never be alone again.”

 

Kviv eyed the snake. Anger rose up in him. He felt the right to the last fruit; only he could handle it, and eat it, why should the snake profit from his fortune? The same snake that had tried to kill him for this gift? Kviv fixated on the thought, it became his entire being.

 

“Leave,” Kviv said.

 

Silence hung thick in the air.

 

“What are you saying?”

 

“You nearly killed the greatest treasure on our planet, snake, I will not let you spoil another, and another.”

 

The snake bared its crystalized fangs. Kviv jumped away from them, onto the snake’s body. He leapt again and ran toward the tree. The snake chased after him, but it moved slowly, its ancient body unaccustomed to moving. Kviv climbed the tree, this time he veered toward the most badly decayed branches. He slammed his fists on the closest one as hard as he could. The giant branch began to snap. The snake tried to get out of the way, but it was too slow and its body was too long. The titanic branch collapsed onto the snake’s body. Dark-purple scales littered the clearing.

 

Without wasting a second, Kviv jumped onto another branch and sent it crashing down on the snake, then another. The snake began to veer towards the forest as more branches fell upon it. As it did Kviv saw its bleeding insides from where the branches had ripped off the scales. His insides were completely golden. As the snake retreated into the darkness it left a shimmering trail of gold behind it.

 

Kviv did not sleep for days. He tried to think of some field or clearing large enough to put the last fruit but this land was foreign to him and he didn’t know of any open place to put it. At the same time, he was afraid to go off into the forest and leave the fruit alone. The last fruit became the object of his obsession and he never took his eyes off of it, save for those times that he looked at the gash in the tree’s trunk and felt the last bit of life that the tree had going into that one piece of fruit.

 

Sleep took him on a sudden. When he awoke he saw a golden circle all around the tree. Kviv’s heart raced. He knew the snake watched him from a distance, afraid to face him under the dying tree, but needing him to plant a new tree.

 

Kviv rested with his back against the tree. Thirst and hunger were killing him when suddenly a new burden that he had never known nearly broke him: the loneliness. Aside from the snake, he was the one creature in all of existence that knew that it was, and he was about to die in agony from it. For the first time he regretted the gift, and wondered where he would be had he never found this place, had he remained ignorant of what could be and simply was what he had once been.

 

Kviv forced himself to his feet. He walked over to the golden trail that the snake had left behind and coated his arms with it. He then walked over to one of the fallen branches. It had decayed since falling from the tree, into nothing more than snow-white dust. He began to fashion two creatures like him. They began to breath, and move, but when Kviv saw their eyes the feeling of loneliness returned. They moved but could not determine their paths, they lived but only because that was their design, not their continuing conscious will. Kviv could only create them as he had once been. He was downcast, and lonelier than he had ever been, until the pain of his loneliness drained him of life, like the tree.

 

“Watch for the snake,” he commanded them. “He is old and has no strength. Even his teeth are nothing to fear. Whatever you do, do not let him touch the fruit. I will return.”

 

Kviv wandered off into the woods. He tried to keep focused on his mission but his hunger and thirst began to consume his every thought. On a sudden he climbed the nearest apple tree and consumed every last fruit. They were the sweetest apples he had ever tasted. He kept eating until his belly swelled and he felt he would vomit. Pained and dying of thirst, he felt himself wander to the stream he had escaped to when first finding the snake. He gulped up the water, quenching his thirst, and leaving only the loneliness.

 

Kviv wandered for hours, searching for a place to put the fruit. He decided to resort to his old habit and climbed a tree, laughing as he was forced to act out his old self. He raised himself to the heights of the tree and saw a clearing just behind his own ancient tree. As he did, he looked back to his own tree and panicked. The snake rested in the clearing, eyeing his two creations.

 

Kviv tore through the woods, racing toward the tree. When he arrived the snake was gone. Only his two children remained holding the core of the last piece of the fruit in their hands. Kviv’s roar shook through the forest. He slammed his fists down on the ground. The ancient tree began to quiver. When he looked up his two children had fled.

 

Kviv sat in the shadow of the dead tree, defeated, when the familiar rustle of a billion scales shuffling across the earth greeted him.

 

“This was your doing,” he said.

 

“Yes,” the snake said gleefully. “Now you will feel it as I have. The loneliness, the profound, unending loneliness. You could have created a new world with me, or with your own creations, but you have separated yourself from all thinking beings. Now, you will be surrounded by thinking beings, but you have damned yourself to be forever separated from them.”

 

“And what of you?” Kviv spat, hoping that some torment would be leveled the snake’s way. “Are you not alone like me?”

 

“Never,” said the snake. “I will always have you. You may not see me, but I will never leave you. Every world you create, every marvel you mold, every miracle you fashion, I will be there to spoil.”

 

At that the snake left, fading into the darkness of the woods. Kviv began to wish that it would return, but he knew that that there was no need for it to return for it had not left him, and never would.

 

Author’s bio: Gary Girod has previously been published in Golden Visions Magazine and Silver Blade. A recent graduate of Chapman University, Gary now works in the south of France where he teaches primary school children English.

 

One response so far

Room Service by Steven Saus

Jul 22 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

“You ordered pizza on a cruise?”  Mary’s fingers twisted around the sunburned flesh of her hips bulging from her bathing suit.  Harold nodded, chewing the slice of pepperoni slowly to keep his dentures in place.  He sat on the bunk, the laptop sat on his thighs, and the ship sat on the sea.

“Pizza.”  Mary shut the cabin door with its flimsy click and dropped her towel on the bed.  “Please, Harold.  We haven’t had pizza in years.”

Harold’s eyelids twitched.  “That don’t mean it’s bad, Mary.”

Mary raised an eyebrow and snorted.  “Doctor Malone wouldn’t agree with you.”

“As long as his yacht was paid off, you mean.”

She tossed a plastic bag of duty-free goods beside him.  “Pizza is just so… last century, Harold.”

And saying that’s so last decade, he bit back.  He swallowed another bite of pizza to keep the acid down.  “So what, Mar?  So what if pizza was more popular a decade ago?  I don’t need some red-and-white-thirty-minute-or-less mascot to tell me-”

“That was the Noid.  And it was two decades ago.”

Harold waved the slice in her direction.  A dribble of grease landed on the sheets.  “I don’t care.  I still like it.  And sailing on a boat is so two centuries ago.”

Mary’s mouth tightened, stretching the wrinkles under her flushed cheeks and silver hair.  She turned  on her heel to the closet, pulling out her crinkling dress bag.  “We have reservations at the Captain’s Table tonight, Harold.  Put that away and get your tux.”

Harold leaned back.  The thought of his bow tie… the burn of acid slid up his chest.  He popped another bite of crust in his mouth.  “When did that happen?”

“I made the reservation earlier today, Harold.  If you’d simply been on deck with me-”

“I can’t go,” he said through half-chewed dough.  “Working.”

Mary hrrumphed and started to take off the bathing suit.  Harold turned back to the computer, trying to ignore her reflection in the screen.  I’m pretty sure normal people don’t want to see old farts like us get naked, he wrote in his “never twitter” file.  Hell, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see us naked.  He switched tabs, trying to concentrate on the code filling his screen.

Mary threw the flimsy dress bag onto the bed.  It slid off, and she threw it up beside him, where he casually brushed it to the side.  “Hmph,” she said, sliding her arms through the dress.  “Hrumph,” she said shrugging into the fabric as he didn’t move.  She turned to face him.  “Thirty years married to a woman, and you can’t tell when she needs a dress zipped?”

Harold looked up.  “You’re facing the wrong way.”

Her face crumpled a moment before she did, sitting beside him on the hard bed.  Her body shook silently, her features now hidden in her hands.  Harold ran his fingers back through the thin whiteness of his own hair, looked at his palms, then ran his fingers across his scalp again.  He looked at Mary, then back to his own reflection in the screen.

Harold took a deep breath.  “Fine.  I’ll go with you to dinner.  Gimmie a minute to change.”

He started to set the laptop to the side, but she waved him down.  “Oh, no.  Every time you grudgingly go along with something I want to do, you make everything miserable.”

Harold sighed again and reached for his antacids.  “Oh, argument number three, then?”

“What?”

“Number three.  The Harold’s-screwed-no-matter-what argument.  I never win, not even when I go along with what you want to do.”

“It’s not about winn-”

“Like when I got a sunburn the first day.  At least I wasn’t stupid enough to keep doing it.”  Harold poked her hip.  “So I won’t go.  If I’m screwed no matter what, I might as well do what I want.”  He turned back to the screen.  The hair on the back of his neck prickled.

“You would rather spend time with that computer than with me.”

Harold did not say anything.

“You’re just wasting time with that.”

Harold felt his face go into a tight smile.  “Same old damn thing.”

“You’re right it’s the same damn thing, because I’ll put on suntan lotion tomorrow, but you’ve been stupid enough to waste a decade hunting for aliens.”  She grabbed her purse.  “Just give it up, Harold.  You’ll never find anything.”

Harold’s voice stayed tight as his smile.  “SETI did find things.”

“Fake things.  People.  Reflections of our own noise.  Is that supposed to make this okay, Harold?  That you’d rather spend time hunting for fake things?”

Harold looked at Mary.  “False positives ain’t the same thing as fakes.  Real signals, just reflected from our own satellites.  I think I can filter it-”

“Please, Howard.”  Mary twisted her arms behind herself to fasten a clasp on her dress.  “You’re concentrating on fake things.  Not real things.  Not like this trip, not like our relationship.”  She shook her hair out of her eyes.  “Not real people like me.”

“Look, Mar, you want me to go, or what?”

Mary bit her lower lip.  “No, Harold.  Don’t let me inconvenience you.”  The whole wall shook when she slammed the cabin door.

Howard chewed another antacid, chasing the chalky taste with another slice of pizza.  His fingers flew over the keys for a moment, then characters began to scroll across the screen.  “Another chunk of SETI@Home about to be explained,” he said to himself.  “Or … will it?”  He laughed a little, made sure the program was analyzing the data.  He opened the “never twitter” file.  Someday my algorhythm will separate out signal from noise… but who will hear Mary then?  He chuckled again,  then closed his eyes and bit his lip as well.

He let the program run in the background and flipped through the cached RSS feed of news items.  Conflict in the Middle East:  check.  Extremists all over:  check.  Budget overruns in Congress and each party blaming the other:  check.  New alert for the disease that will kill us all:  check.

And then Harold saw the picture of Allie.  His daughter’s first press conference.

“Yeah, you’ll drop everything for the captain and a trip to Bermuda,” Harold said to the empty room, “but your own daughter?”  He shook his head and read the article.  The government warned travelers about the latest band of pirates.  They’d mugged a food transport off the coast of Africa – third one this month.  Sure, they were in the Caribbean and relatively safe, but still…

The laptop’s system beep caught his attention.  The program had deciphered the suspicious SETI@Home packet rather quickly.  Harold scrolled through the results, eyes narrowing, then widening.  It was plaintext.  Not English, true, but not the digital signal from human probes.  Strange enough an occurrence to get him a mention, maybe.  He ran the signal through a text translation program, just to see what it would spit out.

“It’s a mistake,” he said.  “A sick joke.”

He ran the message through the translator again.  He looked at the cooling pizza beside him, and felt ill.

A horn blew, then the massive shriek and clang of a ship coming alongside.  There should have been more warning, Harold thought, then realized why there hadn’t been.  He chomped another antacid, and heard the first gunshots.  The pirates were on this side of the Atlantic.

“Bermuda,” he chuckled.  “That’s so last century.”

He could hear the shouting from above.  Mary burst into the room.  “Harold, there’s-”

“Pirates.  I know.  The ship that actually made the order will be here soon.”  He put his arm around Mary.  “Let’s go upstairs and meet this flying saucer in the Bermuda Triangle,” he said.

As the cabin door shut behind them, the words still glowed on Harold’s screen:

“To go order:  Extra Large Pizza.  Extra Cheese.  Heavy on the Humans.”

END

 

Steven Saus injects people with radioactivity as his day job, but only to serve the forces of good. His work appears in print in the anthologies Westward Weird, Mages & Magic, Timeshares, and Hungry For Your Love, and in several magazines both online and off, including On Spec, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, the Drabblecast, PseudoPod and the SFWA Bulletin. He also provides publishing services and publishes books such as The Crimson Pact series of dark fantasy anthologies and Don Bingle’s spy thriller Net Impact as Alliteration Ink. You can find him at stevensaus.com and alliterationink.com.

No responses yet

Reese Copy Company by Eric J. Krause

Jul 15 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

Jerry cussed and hit the side of the copy machine. Jammed again. He opened the doors and yanked the stuck sheets out of the gears and pulleys.

“Hey, boss!” he called. Trent Fairheight gave him a look that said wait while he finished up with the sales guy, Simon Something-or-other. Jerry never could get their names straight. Not that he wanted to. They all knew these machines were utter crap, but that didn’t stop them from promising the customers the moon. Whenever he and the other guys reminded them of that, they blew them off. All they cared about was their damn commission.

“Why’d you stop working?” Renaldo called from a few machines over. He wore a grin that said he knew exactly what was going on.

“Just felt lazy,” Jerry said. “Like Micah over there.” Micah sat across the room performing quality control. He thumbed through each page of the originals and copies to make sure there were no missing pages or marks on the copies that weren’t on the originals. He wore his headphones, so Jerry figured he hadn’t heard. A quick flip of the bird proved he had. Jerry, Renaldo, and Chuck, who was in the back laminating something, all laughed.

“What’s the matter? Why aren’t you working?” Trent had come up behind him. When Jerry turned, he saw the boss didn’t have any humor in his eyes.

“Machines jammed,” Jerry said, pointing out the crumpled and mutilated papers lying on his work table. “Four times in less than ten minutes.” Jerry kept his voice even so as to not make waves. He knew Trent didn’t like him. Making copies eight hours a day didn’t pay well, but it was a paycheck. As long as Melissa’s job paid the rent, he’d be able to cover the bills and keep food on the table.

Trent looked at the papers and over at the machine and nodded. “Take your stuff to that machine in the back. You should be able to wheel your work table there with no problem.”

Jerry frowned. “The one by HR? There’re steps in the way. I can’t get the table down those.”

Trent shook his head. “No, the one in the empty warehouse. No stairs blocking you that way.”

“I didn’t know there was one in there. How come you’ve never sent anyone back there before?”

Trent shrugged and hurried back to the job board. Jerry looked over at the other guys and saw them all busy with their work. Intently. Like they’d heard the conversation and wanted no part of it.

Jerry gathered up his stuff and unlocked the table’s wheels. He yelled out goodbye to the group, but they ignored him. Strange. They were a tight group. Sure, they didn’t hang out outside of work or anything, but for those eight hours a day, they were a team. It was them against the machines; them against the sales force; them against Trent. They rallied around each other and picked up the slack when necessary. So the cold shoulders made no sense.

He knew the way to the abandoned warehouse, but he’d never been inside. It was left over from the days when Reese Copy Company manufactured machines instead of focusing on making copies for businesses and law firms. He’d asked why they let the area go to waste instead of finding something useful for it, but he’d never gotten a straight answer.

At the big double doors, a padlock hung on one of the doorknobs, and a large chain lay on the ground. How long ago had they given up locking it? Probably the only thing in there worth anything was the copy machine, and that was no doubt a piece of crap like all the others. Would he have to go back for toner? He’d brought a couple of reams of paper because there was no way there was any in the warehouse.

A gust of cold air assaulted him as he pulled the door open. Why in the world were they wasting air conditioning on this space? Had they recently started using it for something and not told him? Ha! Like they’d tell him anything. He was so low on the totem pole that he doubted anyone outside of production even knew who he was.

Jerry coughed a few times as he moved through the empty warehouse. It wasn’t something in the air, not really; it was like there was no air to breathe for a couple of seconds. A few deep breaths proved it fine now.

He spotted the office and headed towards it. He paused. Footsteps came from somewhere deeper in the large space. An echo from his steps? Yeah, that’s what it was. He pushed his stuff into the small office.

Other than two copy machines, the office was empty. There weren’t even any mats for him to stand on. He knew from experience that standing in one spot on hard linoleum caused havoc to the legs. He made that mistake once and vowed never to repeat it.

As he contemplated the mat situation, he spun towards the door. Someone had been standing there. He’d felt it. He rushed into the warehouse, but didn’t see anyone. There was nowhere to hide. Not that fast. But why would anyone watch him from the doorway without saying anything?

Jerry turned back to the machines. Both looked the same, so he chose the one on the left side of the room rather than the one along the back wall. That way he’d be able to keep an eye on the door. He shivered at nothing in particular, just the feeling in this space.

It took him a few minutes to ready the machine and set up his job. After the first twenty pages ran with no problems, he allowed himself to smile. Sure it was creepy back here, but he might have found the best machine in the building.

He got to a spot where he could run a bunch of pages without having to babysit it, so he looked around for a mat. After just these fifteen minutes or so, his legs were already starting to fatigue. He dropped to his hand and knees to check under the machines. Wouldn’t be the first time a mat had slid underneath. Instead he found something even more interesting. Neither machine was plugged in.

“What the hell?” He stood up and watched as his machine worked through the last few originals, spitting both them and the copies out. Had to be a mistake, right? Maybe the plug was from something else, or this particular machine had two power cords. He looked for the wall socket and found it bare.

As he stood there, the other machine roared to life. A single sheet flowed onto the output tray. He hesitated for a second before picking it up. Had to be an old invoice or something. When he flipped it over, there was one word typed in the middle: Hello.

This had to be a big practical joke. He set the paper on the machine and marched out into the warehouse, expecting to see Renaldo, Micah, and Chuck, maybe even Trent, standing there laughing at him. As he passed through the doorway, icy air assaulted him, so cold it almost knocked him to his knees. He stumbled and found himself alone.

Jerry almost left right then, but he couldn’t begin to imagine what the guys would say about that. Trent would probably even write him up for insubordination or some such bullshit. He moved his head from side to side to stretch his neck while he worked up the courage to go back into the little office.

The intense cold spot had moved on when he went back through the doorway. He contemplated plugging in his machine, but since it was somehow still on and working, he didn’t bother. The other machine started up again, and he picked up the page as soon as it popped out. This time there were two words printed in the middle: watch yourself.

He dropped the paper, not caring where it landed, and leaped back. Heavy footsteps sounded from somewhere in the warehouse. No chance they were his echo. Before he could bolt, a figure walked through the door. Jerry couldn’t see any details; it was nothing but a moving shadow. He couldn’t even tell if it was a man or woman. It walked straight for the machine on the back wall and disappeared into it.

The machine fired up, but instead of shooting out paper, another shadow figure flowed right from the output tray. A cry sounded out, and Jerry realized it’d come from him. The machine roared to life again, and another figure crawled out. This time the copier didn’t pause, but kept cranking out these dark figures.

He didn’t wait to see how many would pop out. He shoved his table at the group and ran from the room. He heard his assignment crash to the ground, probably ruining some of the originals, or at least mixing and bending them to a point where the customer wouldn’t be happy. Not that it mattered. He sure as hell wasn’t going back to fix it.

Jerry headed straight for the double doors, but when he got there, they were locked. No matter how hard he pushed or pulled, they wouldn’t budge. He turned, expecting to see the shadow figures coming at him, but the large room proved empty. He saw a door across the way he hadn’t noticed before. Maybe he could bust through that one.

He tried to stop himself, but as he passed the open office door, he looked inside. His copy job lay all over the floor. The machine along the back wall sat dormant, and he didn’t see anything else in there. He didn’t let that slow his pace. He needed out.

The back door was locked, too, but he could force it open. Before he leaned into it, a loud crash burst from the office. It repeated half a dozen times before he saw what it was. The copy machine moved from its spot on the back wall to the doorway. It couldn’t get through at that angle, but the fact that it had moved at all froze him where he stood.

The footsteps echoed through the warehouse, this time originating from the office. The machine’s lid lifted, and the light under the glass flashed brighter than should have been possible. Jerry barely managed to cover his eyes.

He put his shoulder into the backdoor, and it opened with no trouble. He stepped through and found himself right back in the warehouse, this time at the front double doors where he’d first come in. He frowned. Maybe there was a second warehouse? He looked back through the door and saw the copy machine, now silent, still blocking the office doorway. He went back into the new room and walked to the office just to see that it was different.

It wasn’t. The copy machine sat in the doorway, and his job was scattered all over the floor. He glanced to the backdoor and saw it stood open, just as he’d left it. He sprinted over to it and found himself in the warehouse, again by the front door. A quick exploration proved this space to be the same as the last two.

He had to get out. He made his way back to the original warehouse and the first set of front doors, which had been locked, but now stood wide open. He ran though and found himself by the backdoor again, looking into the office with the copy machine blocking the door.

“Hello? Help! Somebody help!” He got no answer, but continued yelling until his voice gave out. What else could he do? He wandered though copy after copy of the warehouse.

 

 

BIO: Eric J. Krause pens stories from Orange County, California, just minutes away from Disneyland. He has over two dozen short stories published in The Absent Willow Review, Trail of Indiscretion, Allegory, and Nocturnal Ooze, just to name a few. You can visit his website at http://ericjkrause.com.

 

2 responses so far

VOODOO POLITICS By David Perlmutter

Jul 08 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

Once upon a time (say about the fall of 2009), in a medium sized town in the upper U.S. Midwest (let’s call it Grand Forks, North Dakota), there lived two middle school girls who contested an election for President of their school’s student body. An easy story to tell, you say? Fairly predictable, and an obvious setup for a mildly amusing but innocuous story, you believe?

Well, just you wait….

*

Girl Number One was named McKenna Mendelson. She was a lifelong resident of Grand Forks, red haired (and sometimes eyed), stockily built- but not fat, lest you might assume otherwise. Despite her sometimes fiery disposition, McKenna was well liked, admired, sporty and intelligent. It was assumed by both McKenna and her schoolmates that the prize of becoming President would be something that McKenna could easily grasp when the time came for the election.

This contest, however, was complicated by a previously unknown obstacle in the form of Girl Number Two.

Girl Number Two was named Violet Manners, but, given her outlook on life, and her insidious efforts to gain goals and aims, the term “Vile” served not only as an effective diminutive of her first name, but an expert analysis of her character as well. The product of a true, if brief, Anglo-American union, she still managed to speak in the accent of her father’s native country despite having lived in America all of her life. This sibilant accent, along with the short black skirts she wore to emphasize her growing figure to the easily distracted boys, concentrated her chief assets into her body, but her mind, as all were soon discover, was no less dangerous.

In any event, although they had spoken casually once or twice in the halls, McKenna and Violet had little time to encounter each other in the busy school day, and they did not seem to have any reason to fight with each other- until the day the candidate sheet for school President was posted that October.

When McKenna, flushed with what seemed to be a good natured and unopposed triumph on her side, saw Violet Manners sign her name on the sheet- on every available spot to avoid others from signing up- she almost felt the urge to tear off her red and mustard colored shirt and blue jeans and challenge Violet to a two falls out of three wrestling match right there in the hall. But decency and good sense prevailed, and all McKenna did to Violet was tap her lightly on the back.

“Y’know, Manners,” McKenna said as calmly as she possibly could under the circumstances, “there are other people who want to be President of this school!”

“Such as who?” Violet demanded briskly.

“Well, ME, if you’re going to get into specifics!” McKenna retorted, pointing to herself.

Violet gave out a cackling laugh.

“YOU?” she said disbelievingly. “Who would want you in charge?”

“Most of the kids in eight grade who came up with me from elly,” said McKenna. “That counts for a lot here, Manners. But you’re new here, so you don’t know any better….”

“Neither do you, my dear!” Violet retorted icily as she crossed her arms over her black bloused, bosomy chest. “Perhaps they’re tired of looking at your ugly face all day and require a bit of a change!”

“Don’t call me UGLY, okay?” said McKenna, sensitive about her pockmarked facial appearance. “Anyways, you’re uglier than I am, with that blonde rinse job and those ugly teeth….”

Both of those are NATURAL, thank you!”

“…plus, the fact that your personality is even uglier than….AAAARGH!”

McKenna suddenly felt a sharp pain in her chest, as if a rabbit punch had bashed its way to her insides. But Violet had done nothing to her remotely resembling a punch; she had not, it seemed, even bothered to raise her hand to her!

This is what happens to ladies who challenge me, my dear girl,” Violet warned McKenna, “even though I’d hardly call you that….”

“Hold it!”

In a split second, Stretch Cunningham, who had heard the pain filled moans of her best friend from a distance, stepped between the two combatants. Standing over 6 feet tall, and well versed in the art of basketball, Stretch was by far the tallest and most imposing figure in the school. She was also McKenna’s best friend, and seemingly was able to come to her aid whenever “Mack” needed it from her. Even in jeans and a tie-dyed T shirt, she took up space, and that was enough to scare most people into backing off if they tried hurting McKenna. But Violet was not most people.

“All right, you!” Stretch demanded of Violet, with a fearsomeness that utterly belied her usually friendly, unflappable nature. “What did you do to Mack?”

“Nothing,” Violet said, curtly.

Really? Then why the heck is she doubled up in pain like that?”

“Trade secret,” Violet retorted angrily through her lips.

“Tell me- or I’ll smack you one!” Stretch countered, resorting to her ultimate threat. “Nobody hurts my pal and gets away with it!”

Well!” Violet said angrily. “I was prepared to figure out some way of allowing Ms. Mendelson here and myself to share the title of President and the glories related to it. But obviously, she’s not interested in that if you are going to come in in that vulgar way and try to prevent me from harming her! Well, consider yourselves, BOTH of you, in for a hard ride in the next two weeks! In the meantime, you, tall, blonde and pasty faced, can go right back to shoving balls into baskets- like you’re supposedly so good at! And you can shove them into some other places as well, while you’re at it!”

Violet turned to go, but then turned around and faced McKenna again.

“A parting gift, McKenna!” she said, looking at her.

Once again, McKenna felt the pain in her chest as before, only far worse this time. Ignoring the urge to hit Violet in the mouth, Stretch quickly escorted her friend to the nurse’s office, while Ms. Manners disappeared in the opposite direction.

*

Things worked out, at first. Miraculously, McKenna had no evidence of any pain by the time she arrived at the nurse’s office, so she was given a clean bill of health and sent on her way. This allowed McKenna and Stretch, who was serving as the manager of her campaign, to begin preparing their approach, which would be based on a statement of the issues at hand and an attempt to deal with them as they saw fit.

Violet, however, chose an opposing approach, one that was much more in keeping with the devious nature of her character- not to mention the deep pockets that her family seemed to possess.

Within hours, Violet had not only registered the domain names violetmannersforpresident.com and mckennamendelsonisastupidjerk.com but had built complete websites around them. She also made sure to set up a Facebook page in relation to her campaign, and to begin a regular inhabitance of Twitter to make her views and thoughts on McKenna and the campaign available to everyone- and I do mean everyone. Even the vast majority of people on the Web who had no interest in politics began to follow Violet religiously and add their unsolicited opinions to the gathering throng as if it would make some difference. Just like they did for everything else they passively observed on their computer screens instead of actively participating in something- anything!

Be that as it may, it wasn’t long before McKenna and Stretch noticed the presence of Violet on the Web, and they knew the secure position they had seemed to have in the election had now been severely compromised.

“Why, that…” Stretch cursed.

“I know, buddy!” McKenna said, beating a palm into a fist to diffuse her anger. “It’s a raw deal- and a crappy one at that! But what are we gonna do about it? There’s no rules against using the Internet in a school campaign, but there are rules about beating up your fellow students, regardless of how much they deserve it!”

“So what do we do then, Mack?” Stretch asked. “We can’t just let her win…”

“We won’t let her win,” McKenna said, gravely. “She’s all flash and show, using the Internet to play to everyone’s heart. The new kid against the establishment and all that. But it won’t work for her. Like I told her, she’s too new. If I’m running against her, she has no chance of winning! I got too much support in this school for it to go the other way!”

“You sure about that, Mack?”

“Positive!”

*

Of course, if Mack had actually been in the presence of her new arch enemy at that time, that declarative statement would have been far less authoritative in tone. For Violet, thanks to an extended vacation in the West Indies in her youth, was something of an expert in perhaps the blackest of all magics- the ancient art of voodoo! Even now, her websites contained coded messages that unleashed secret magic spells that would permanently turn those reading them against McKenna and her aims. But that was not enough. Here, and now, she had constructed full miniature mannequins- or “poppets”- of McKenna and Stretch (just to be sure). Working from afar, she could injure both of them harshly by simply poking a needle into the poppet. The real McKenna and Stretch would be assumed to simply be suffering from physical ailments, and Violet, now opponent-less, would be free to run the school- and then the world, as she planned- unopposed!

“You two are my ticket to success!” she cooed to the poppets. “And it’s only good one way- UP!” And here she exploded into hideous evil laughter.

 

*

Due to Violet’s involvement of the Internet, the campaign stood out from those before it as one of the most contentious any middle school in the country had ever faced. Quickly, the school fragmented into virulent pro-McKenna and pro-Violet factions, each side using bullying, water balloons, and the fast trigger fingers of expert super soaker “hit artists” to attempt to get their side get their way in the final vote. Even more remarkably, the adults began emulating the kids instead of vice versa. The nadir of this was an armed standoff between a pro-McKenna faction from Grand Forks and a pro-Violet faction from the town of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, on the other side of the Red River. Both sides claimed ownership of the Sortie Bridge, which connected the two communities, in the name of their candidate. It took several hours of heated negotiations before the authorities of both towns were able to convince their wayward residents that it JUST WASN’T WORTH IT!

*

To those for whom it was worth something, however, the action continued.

Things came to a head at the final debate, held in the school gym just prior to the fateful vote, which was to occur the following afternoon. Both sides came prepared. McKenna, prepped by Stretch, had come armed with rhetoric, while Violet came armed, expectedly, with something different.

The two sides of the protracted dispute existing between the supporters of both candidates were each patted down by security to remove any weapons either side might try to use against the other. In addition, several wooden tables had been stacked vertically to provide a necessary barrier between them. Only after all this was taken care of was the debate allowed to proceed.

McKenna was first out of the gate, making a clear statement of what her position on the school issues were in a clear, forward thinking manner that reflected her understanding of the school and how it worked. And how to work a crowd, it seemed. It appeared that Violet, in spite of all her money and efforts, was going to lose in her bid to become President of the school.

That was when Violet chose to display her special skills and talents to the unsuspecting world beyond.

She whipped out her poppet version of McKenna and stabbed her underneath her arms as soon as the real one raised hers at the end of her speech. This caused McKenna to moan loudly in pain, just as her moment of triumph seemed near. To the shock of (nearly) everybody, she fell on her podium head first and then collapsed on the ground.

“Yes!” said Violet to the shocked audience. “I did that! I and I alone know how to use the West Indian secrets of VOODOO to my advantage! What you have just seen me do is just a small sample of what I can do to ALL OF YOU if you don’t allow me to assume the Presidency which is dutifully mine!”

Stretch Cunningham rushed out from the aisle behind the raised stage of the gym to try and restrain Violet, but she stopped short when she felt a cutting sensation on her throat. With a flying toss that seemed to come independently from anything natural in the universe, the mighty basketball star flew through the air and crashed through the stage floor, just inches from the prone body of her friend McKenna.

It was at that point that, in the confusion, the barriers between the competing sides fell down, and the fight was on!

Violet collected her dolls, packed them up, and ran out of the gym with a sneer on her face, secure in the fact that she had won….

*

….until she came face to face with McKenna and Stretch, out in the hallway!

“What in the blazes…” Violet said. “I left you in the gymnasium- clearly destroyed- back there! How did you…..?”

“You’re not the only one in this town that plays with dolls, kid!” McKenna said. Stretch merely nodded, while looking appropriately menacing.

“But how….?” Violet said.

“We have some experience working with magic!” McKenna said tightly. She and Stretch held up business cards representing their membership in the Grand Forks WWW: Witches, Warlocks and Wizards of America Inc. Too late Violet realized her mistake. She had no idea that there were other practitioners of magic in Grand Forks!

And, likewise, she never expected that McKenna and Stretch would have constructed a poppet of her! Or that McKenna would twist its head around counter-clockwise until it was severed from its body….

*

In any event, when the chaos was suppressed, and no trace of Violet was ever found again, McKenna was acclaimed President and assumed her new duties: serving as the Principal’s personal janitor for the duration of the school year. And everyone else lived happily ever after.

MORAL: Don’t assume you’re the only one interested in your own particular hobby, or you might get in trouble working with it. Also, make sure you compete in and conduct any sort of election responsibly so no one ever gets hurt, physically or emotionally.

No responses yet

Mr. Capsule A-3 by James Rick

Jul 01 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

Stanley heard the soft whizz of the cryogenic chamber’s airlock release. His eyes remained closed and there was silence for a second, two seconds, three… It was terrifying. Being completely conscious but unable to move with no recollection of his location or circumstances filled him with the most morbid terror he had ever experienced. One might have called it petrifying if he was not already glued to the cold seat of his capsule’s chair, not by any external forces but by those of his own mind. An alarm sounded and Stanley opened his eyes to the flashing of a red light. Release.

Stanley could move his body. He wiggled his toes and extended his fingers tentatively. He moved his eyes about as far as they could go in either direction to get his bearings without revealing himself to whatever might be watching with too much movement. He could see a wide room with a number of cryogenic capsules like his own, all filled with men about his own age. That was an unnerving coincidence. A presence fluttered in his mind and he thought he could hear a voice or voices. He couldn’t figure out whether it was one entity making itself know or many. Shutting his eyes and grinding his teeth in frustration, he fought against the noise from within until it was drowned out by the alarm which continued to sound and the red light above the door which continued to flash. Stanley sat frozen in place. He could see that the seal on the glass lid which covered his capsule had been released and all he needed to do was give it a small push outward to escape. But escape from where? Ay, there’s the rub,” he thought in the words of Hamlet, and where to escape too? How did I even get here?

Stanley thought long and hard. He could remember his name, Stanley Tucker, where he got his Ph.D. in neurology and genetics, where he taught genetics at university, how long he had been married and even the name of his dog when he was seven. All of those things were well in the past now. He tried to think of something that he knew had happened within the last two, three or, four years. He couldn’t remember anything. He tried to jog his recent memory. The only thing which came into his mind did so vaguely.

It was a summer night in his backyard. His wife was out with the kids and he had the house all to himself but chose instead to spend the evening out here with the stars and the croaking of frogs in the night. He remembered that, but no more. It was in his mind as clear as the words in a book but it seemed distant, like a memory from childhood that stood out, but he knew it wasn’t a childhood memory. He was a man when it happened. But what had happened? He didn’t know. There was no cutoff point in the memory. It was just a moment completely free from the rest of timeline.

The alarm stopped but the red light continued to flash. The door underneath it slid open and two serious looking little men in spectacles with an odd glow about them walked in. The first spoke in an unnatural tone,

“Which capsule is it?”

Stanley snapped his eyes shut and attempted to lie still.

“Capsule A-3,” replied the other. “That’ll be this way doctor. Follow me.”

Their footsteps approached Stanley. He clenched his fists then unclenched them, trying to appear peacefully asleep.

“Hmm, that’s odd. The capsule’s already open. The airlock is broken and I’m not reading any vitals with the A.C.,” said the first one.

“Are you sure you’re using that thing right, technician?”

“Sure as I am that anybody else knows what they’re doing here. Somebody must have fouled up his connection to the A.C. Nope; he’s either dead or wide awake.”

“Maybe,” said the doctor. He began tapping his fingers on the glass as if playing piano. “Hello, Mr. Capsule A-3. Are you awake? Hello!”

Stanley leapt forward against the glass with all the strength left in his underused body and the frenzy of a cornered raccoon. The glass swung open into the technicians head but didn’t seem to have any effect. He thrust his arm out towards the doctor but contacted only air and sprinted towards the door. There was a noticeable spring in his step. In fact, Stanley noticed, it was more than a spring. Despite the fact that his muscles felt atrophied he could still move swiftly with little resistance.

The presence resurged in his mind for a moment. It was frightened this time and divided. Stanley could make out a few distinct voices in the crowd. They seemed confused, as if they had lost their way and were trying to get their bearings. He made it out into a long windowless hallway just before the door flung itself shut with a pneumatic “Fwoosh!”

The alarm sounded again, louder than before. Red lights on either end of the hallway flashed twice as brightly as in the room. He sprinted towards one end of the hallway and felt his feet almost leave the ground. Slowing his pace so he wouldn’t trip, Stanley saw doors on the sides of the hallway. Some were open while others were closed and he could see rooms full of capsules just like the one he had emerged from. One of these rooms was stocked entirely with younger men, probably in their twenties and another with younger women. Many of the rooms were full of only open, empty capsules, waiting like Venus fly-traps for their prey.

The flashing red light drew nearer and the noise within his quieted. As he reached the end of the hallway he began to think more clearly. There was nowhere to go, no door beneath the light only a solid metallic wall. He glanced behind him, anxious and out of breath, and saw men in dark clothes gaining on him. There was nowhere to run. He smashed his fist in frustration against the wall. Franticly, Stanley began deducting which one would be the easiest to overpower (they were identical) but didn’t have time to finish the thought. A security man triggered a laser from somewhere inside his sleeve and aimed it at Stanley’s temple. He fell to the ground with a muffled “thud” against the metallic floor, unconscious once again.

*           *           *

“Mr. Capsule A-3. It is time to wake up. Yes, Mr. Capsule A-3, wake up!”

Stanley once again opened his eyes but dared not move a muscle. He worried he was back in his cryogenic chamber but he hadn’t been moved from the spot where he had fallen.

“We know you are awake, Mr. Capsule A-3. We know you are not interfaced with your peers in the Aggregate Consciousness. I am mission director Young, do you remember me?”

Stanley looked at the white-haired old man whose jolly demeanor did not seem to imply a profession of kidnapping.

“How did I get here, and where is here?” he asked. His voice broke. A long time had passed since its last use.

“You truly don’t remember? Your brainwaves have somehow severed your link to the A.C. This is indeed a problem.”

Stanley demanded with the strength of his voice resurging, “Where are we?”

“It is of little consequence where ‘we’–our physical selves–reside. It is not nearly as important where,” he reached out and tapped Stanley’s forehead, “this resides. All that knowledge and insight into the field of genetics, all that understanding of the genome and, most importantly, the creativity to control it makes all this possible.”

“You want… to take my brain?”

“Good heavens no!” laughed the director, “You signed on voluntarily. But I guess your disconnection with the A.C. must have adversely affected your memory. Curious.”

“Why would I voluntarily hand over my brain? I like it where it is!”

“No, no. You have it all wrong. No one ever took your brain out of you. We simply interfaced it with other great minds. Mathematics, natural sciences, arts, even philosophy; they’re all represented. One might say it is a perfect sample of mankind. It will make sense soon enough. All we have to do is plug you back in,” said the director, smiling. He apparently found this conversation quite amusing.

“Wait, I don’t want to be plugged back in to anything!”

The director’s smile fled and his face took on a more solemn expression as he said, “Your country would like you to know that we are dealing with an issue much larger than you here. We are trying to communicate with an entity much more complex than us and we cannot do anything without you in the Aggregate Consciousness to balance the genomes from within. You do not have a choice.”

*           *           *

Stanley climbed into his cryogenic chamber and closed the airlock with the security men watching.

“I want you to know you are doing the right thing. You’re taking humanity to a place it has never been before,” said Director Young.

“Goodnight,” said Stanley.

“Think of it more as: good morning.”

The capsule activated and Stanley fell into a deep sleep. The director and the other holograms deactivated and disappeared. Their work was done. Their mimicry of the various types of specimen gave them the ability to seem almost real and the charade had been carried out beautifully. The alien ship continued on its way home with a sample of foreign intelligence ready for scrutiny.

 

 

Bio: James Rick is a seventeen year old student in Beavercreek Ohio. He plays volleyball, has a wonderful family and will be attending college next fall. He writes science fiction, has posted several stories to FanFiction.net, and is a frequent visitor of Sci-Fi short story sites like the WiFiles.

 

 

No responses yet