Archive for: May, 2017

A Crime of Fiction by D. A. D’Amico

May 28 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

“What’s this, grandpa?” The flat triangular object in Mike Picardo’s hand seemed to smother the dim hospital lighting against its dark surface, charging small golden symbols beneath. It appeared out of place among the worn clothing and faded trinkets the old man had begun to pack.

His grandfather glanced up from the edge of the bed, watery blue eyes moist and rimmed with red. He looked lifeless and ancient, a shell of the retired spacer who’d spun tales of the early days of galactic exploration, thrilling his grandchildren with adventures around other stars.

“What do you have there?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Picardo held the obsidian shard closer to the jaundiced overhead lights. “It looks almost alien.”

An unsteady hand grasped for the object. “It is alien. It’s Unuai.”

“The Unuai vanished about the time humans entered the galaxy, Gramps. There are no Unuai artifacts. Nothing exists of them except ruins.”

“Give it here.”

Reluctantly, Mike complied. His grandfather’s wrinkled hands caressed the shard’s dark center. A holographic image appeared, leathery masses of bruise-colored flesh slithering around a cone-like base. Three large eye sacs bulged from the top, and a gaping beak ground soundlessly back and forth.

That’s a Unuai.”

Mike gasped. “Where’d you get this?”

“It’s mine!” The old man jerked the artifact, and the holograph vanished like a magician’s prop. “But I’d give it back if I could.”

His words trailed off, a sullen grumble Mike couldn’t quite understand. Surely his grandfather couldn’t have gotten the object legally. It’d be priceless. “How’d you find this?”

“I traded a Unuai for it.”

“That can’t be true.” Mike sat beside him, placing a hand on the old man’s shoulder. His grandfather’s skin felt like cardboard, bones jutting like the struts of an umbrella beneath.

“Are you calling me a liar, boy?” The old man’s voice rose.

“I’m not saying that, Gramps.” Mike rushed to calm him, hoping the noise wouldn’t alarm the nurse. “But you must be mistaken. There are no Unuai.”

“Not anymore.” The old man slumped, his thin shoulders sagging, head lowered. He looked as though he’d been folded for storage. “Not anymore… because of me.”

“I don’t understand?”

“I commanded a mapping vessel in the early days. It had no name, just a number, and a three man crew of scientists. We were looking for life, intelligence, someone to tell us we weren’t alone in the universe.”

He stood and busied himself with a flat felt-covered tray holding a collection of military medals. Mike recognized one or two, but was embarrassed he didn’t know more of his grandfather’s rich personal history.

He thought the old man had forgotten about him, but after a while his grandfather turned and continued speaking as if he’d never paused. “And we found them. On an expedition to investigate a promising and newly discovered moon orbiting Iota Horologii.”

“Found who?” Mike didn’t like where this was going.

“Found the Unuai, of course. They didn’t live there either. They were exploring.” The old man sighed, confusion playing briefly over his wrinkled features as if he’d just remembered something he’d forgotten for a very long time. “They don’t dream, you know.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“They don’t have notions of “what if”, only of what is or isn’t. Civilization, society, technology, spaceflight–it all came as part of a natural progression to them, the next logical step in their search for resources. They never glanced at the stars in awe and wonder the way we do.”

“Wait. Back up. You really met a live Unuai?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you.” His grandfather picked up the artifact and moved it back into its box. “Our ship met one of theirs around that star. It was a one in a million chance, and the worst thing that could’ve happened.”

Mike sat heavily on the edge of the bed, his thoughts spinning. None of this could be true.

“We taught each other, learning to communicate. They were friendly, but naive. They didn’t understand lying. They had no concept for fiction. We didn’t realize what we’d done until it was too late. They were just too different.”

“What did you do?” Mike’s skin grew cold. He had visions of murder, his grandfather involved in some secret galactic war. But it couldn’t be true. The old man was just spinning a tale, the way he used to when Mike was a boy.

“We didn’t know they’d treat it the way they did.” The red around the old man’s eyes had darkened. His lips trembled. “I thought they’d study it, use it to understand the differences between us and them.”

“What did you do, grandpa?”

“I don’t think it was the things themselves, but our ability to conceive them.”

“Grandpa…”

“Remember the time I took you to the circus? You were seven or eight.”

Mike nodded. “I remember. Where’s this going?”

“They had a smartiebot there, one of those games where you’d challenge the robot and see if you could stump it. You’d just learned Algebra, and you were feeling smug, like you knew everything.” He put his hand over Mike’s. His skin felt cool and dry, like an old glove. “But the smartie displayed things you’d never seen before, equations that made stellar navigation look easy.”

“I’d cried.” Picardo whispered, reliving the old shame.

“You tried to tell me the smartie was making it up, but you knew. An insurmountable chasm had opened between what you understood, and what was understandable. You were crushed. It was worse for the Unuai. At least you could grasp what you were missing. Imagine suddenly realizing there’s an infinite universe of experiences forever beyond your reach. How would you feel?”

“And you did this to the Unuai? How?” Picardo could hardly breathe. He clenched his hands into tight balls, knuckles white with tension.

“I thought they’d understand us better if they could see how we illustrated our experiences through fiction. So I gave them my reader and my science fiction collection.”

“You gave them books? So what?” Picardo felt he’d missed something.

“Time travel, galactic war, death stars… We don’t really believe this stuff, but we’re able to suspend our disbelief in order to enjoy the tale.” The old man’s voice faded. “The Unuai had no choice. They couldn’t disbelieve. Like that day at the circus, a gulf opened they could never cross.”

“Geez, grandpa.” Mike glanced out the small window, squinting as if he could see armadas of Unuai ships fleeing from the galaxy, their people terrified by the inconceivable imaginations of man.

He was starting to believe in spite of himself. “This is huge. Is anyone working on it? Are they even looking for the Unuai?”

“Oh, we’ve got people out there all right. If the Unuai are still in the galaxy, we’ll find them eventually.” The old man fingered a colorfully painted model. The spherical toy was a miniature of the very ship he’d crewed so many years ago.

“What do we do when we find them?” Mike asked breathlessly.

The old man sighed.

“We try to convince them it was all some bizarre misunderstanding, a translation error. We do what we’re good at, what we’ve always done. We lie.” He stared at me, his eyes suddenly bright. “We tell them a story they’ll believe this time.”

Bio
My writing credits include:

Daily Science Fiction
L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future, Volume 27
Crossed Genres
Shock Totem

Member: SFWA, HWA

http://www.dadamico.com/

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St CATHERINE’S SHORELINE By Sean Mulroy

May 21 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

St Catherine, Great Barrier Reef

  18th December, 11:45 PM

 

On the island shore of Lady Gilford colourful fireworks were being set ablaze. The smoke created by their explosions slunk across the ocean, weaving along it like a thoughtless traveller. A large white cruise liner could be seen slinking through the vapourish substance with various multi-coloured lights flashing aboard.

This was close, within eyesight, yet felt far away from where Angus was on the hard sand of St Catherine’s shoreline. As Dr Angus Goodwin sat on the tropical beach, alone and sober, with no light besides the moon and only a few bent palms to keep him company, he felt the heavy burden of his work more than usual.

All the tourist commotion beside Lady Gilford could have been on his laptop-linkup and still have been no more real.

A decent sized firework went off and startled the lone researcher. He looked up and saw debris evaporate, then glanced below those dying lights to that dark patch of water he had come down to the beach to see.

It was where the bank receded and the deep water began.

This whole coast was studded with rock pools and underground caves, making it a choice hunting and breeding ground for octopi. Less than a month ago Angus took his last dive into the depths of the dark water; not liking what was found.

Rising from the ground, not even bothering to brush sand from his pants, Angus felt it time to retrieve his phone and turn it on. He stared at the screen with glee; there were no missed calls or messages. No one wanted him.

 

The scientist’s home was the only structure on the small island; two old caravans joined together made the sleeping and eating quarter, next to these was a large corroded steel panelled cistern, a discarded remnant from the 1940’s, which was currently being used as a lab. As Angus approached faint fireworks could still be heard, voices also.

The cruise ship must be passing this way.

Opening the hatch to the tank he walked in; inside were a few computers and monitors, a couple of graphs and charts and one long wooden bench strutting the length of the enclosure. On top of the bench were five fish tanks, one of them very large. Four were empty, still having sand, coral polyps and other dead crustacean looking substances in them; but no water. The place reeked of the sea and sea-life.

The largest tank was filled with clear water and fresh algae and red rushes that all twirled in a water tornado as the creature inhabiting the tank swirled around dragging its tentacles along the cylindrical walls of its prison.

Turning the generator on, four fluorescent lights buzzed bright along the roof, the creature stopped swimming. A wooden stool with three legs was in front of the large tank. Angus stood on it. Clicking a panel connected to the tank bubbles inside, which had been running steadily, calmed down to a slow heartbeat.

Unlocking the lid and screwing it in a counter-clockwise fashion the tank opened. Two black protruding eyes on a bulbous head half submerged above the brim of the water. The weary man stared down and smiled.

“It will be dinner time soon Wanda,” he said.

Rolling up wet sleeves and placing a hand in the tank Angus stroked the jutting cartilage between those protruding eyes of the coleoid cephalopod then ran grimy fingers down the front of the gelatinous creature. After tickling the octopus he held his hand out flat on top of the water. A collection of tentacles slithered over the hand claiming it as their stronghold.

Angus gripped tight as if shaking hands, Wanda flexed back.

 

Queensland, Australia

 21st December, 09:15 AM

 

Dr Livingston sat forward. He had that silly grin he always carried around; it was more noticeable today though, probably because everything about today was as fake as it. “…High time you returned back to the world and re-joined the living. You’ve been couped up on that island for four years now. A fresh start would be good, maybe take up teaching…”

“Paul the place is a global tourist Mecca,” said Angus impatiently. “Believe me its impossible to go crazy there, I’m never really alone.”

The boardroom was too large, as usual; one rectangular vacuum of empty space. All necessary mod-cons were in abundance; the latest 100inch LCD monitor, panel controlled air-conditioning as well as dimmer lights, a built in electronic projector along with bored under-worked overpaid department staffers whose only delight in coming to the meeting, which could have been done just as easily over the phone, was the fact they’d get a chance to use the new coffee franchise downstairs.

“I know, I know,” said Dr Livingston. “But this isn’t 2012; you’re going to have to come up with more than this if you want the CSIRO to continue funding.”

Angus stood up, he wasn’t familiar with the strange male and two female executives on the other side of the table but he had worked with Dr Livingston and knew him. “I realise my work is slow, but that is only because so much of it is to do with breeding and mating cycles. It’s a one man show out there. I only need money for equipment and the lease on the land. Just give me till November next year; that would be enough.”

“Angus…”

“Just look at this,” Angus went over to the end of the table and stood by the large tank, inside Wanda gently moved about on the bottom. He picked up a plastic white and black chessboard he had brought with him. “Watch,” Angus lifted the chessboard to the side of the tank and held it there. Wanda swam up beside it and using her tentacle suckers stuck herself to the chamber wall opposite the chessboard. Her greyish brown skin was watched by government viewers as it went from its natural hue to the same monochrome colours of the chessboard. The white and black squares appeared on Wanda’s skin, exactly corresponding to their place on the board.

“Controlled bioluminescence,” said Angus. “The amount of abstract mental-functioning required must be immense. Now watch this…”

“Yes, it is impressive even after repeated viewings…” interrupted Dr Livingston, stroking the thin stubble on his chin while trying to appear stern. “…But we need to see progression. Listen we’re tight for money, and you know that…”

“Of Wanda’s litter one or two has survived, I have them electronically tagged…”

“Dr Goodwin,” said the female exec directly opposite Angus. “You must understand that even though your work in teuthology is of interest to some in the scientific community it has none commercially. Out on the reef it’s all about eco-tourism, management and the zoning plans, permits; we must put our resources into tackling these. Octopus psychology is…”

“Intelligence,” reiterated Angus. “Cephalopod intelligence is my field. In particular language…”

All the board-members chuckled at that.

“…These creatures use light and flashing colours to communicate complex thoughts. Such patterns may be deciphered with…”

“Yes,” interrupted the woman again. “Well anyway, as I was saying, all secondary.”

Angus took the chessboard away. Wanda sank to the bottom of the tank and curled up there. Her skin began to pulse a light red.

“Yes Angus, something for you to think about,” reinforced Dr Livingston. “A plane will be ready around two-thirty this afternoon to take you and your pet off the mainland and back to St Catherine. You will hear before the weeks out what is to be done. However I would start getting your affairs in order, heh.”

Angus found he could do nothing but concede.

“Oh c’mon, it’s not the end of the world mate,” laughed Dr Livingston. “A break will do you good. How about visiting one of these tropical holiday destinations you’ve been living right next door too? Seriously though, we need people with your skills here on the mainland. We’ll talk about it more when you’re ready to come back, anyway…” Dr Livingston patted his lap and looked up slowly at everyone with that schoolboy grin; he was happy with what had been achieved. “I think that just about wraps it up ladies and gentlemen; this meeting is over, thankyou Angus for coming. And thanks to you Miss Fu and Mrs Chandler and Greg I know your busy, thanks again.”

Angus shook every ones hand; he didn’t harbour any ill feelings towards the bureaucrats. Even so he was glum and later on in the day could not remember if he had actually managed to manifest a fake smile while farewelling his jury.

Dr Livingston remained seated. This was a signal and both men waited for the other members to leave; watching impatiently, waiting for them to throw their empty Styrofoam coffee cups in the bin and go. When all had Dr Livingston pulled his old student aside.

“For Christ’s sake try and get a report finished. We and others are interested in your work, although personally, I do not believe you deserve that attention. If you don’t get something down in writing about what the hell it is you’ve been spending taxpayers’ money on out there, and soon, you can kiss your career as a research scientist goodbye… I can’t believe you asked for even more money,” the good doctor took a break to rub his chin then continued. “I’ll see you in a coup’la weeks or sooner, preferably. And remember don’t forget that plane, two thirty sharp…”

Angus glanced over at Wanda. She was still in a foetal position curled up on the bottom of the tank but her body was now entirely a deep stable purple.

 

Tinmura Airstrip is an open spacious stretch of land. Grass and heavy shrub litter the wide-lane. A small two-room shack near the head of the runway marks the only standing structure on site. The rest of the airfield being made up of overgrown grass and the damaged rusted parts of abandoned cars that lay in it. The airport has not been used regularly since the Second World War but is still government owned and operated. Every few weeks a lorry of Cessna’s or other light aircraft can be heard taking off and landing on the asphalt.

It was ten past three now and there was still no sign of any plane or a pilot. Angus sat on the old veranda out front of the broken-down station building. Wanda in her tank was next to him. She was slowly becoming agitated, swimming around fast. Angus had no more feed for her. The afternoon was very hot and humid even though grey storm clouds were heavy in the sky. Part of the Great Barrier Reef could be seen. An out-of-focus snake, its rough skin jutting out of the water creating endless islands until where the skin receded to hide under the surface then return again as a ring of sandy peninsulas.

Angus looked at his phone, no messages. Ringing Dr Livingston ten minutes ago had been met with an answering machine where he’d left a message.

Pointless to get angry and ring again.

It started raining.

“Great.”

The rain hit Wanda’s tank, she seemed startled; it gradually grew heavier.

“Well Wanda I don’t think we’ll be going back home to Catherine tonight.”

Picking up the heavy tank he moved it closer to the wall of the station, seeking cover from the rain.

“Unfortunately this will have to do. Gotta leave you here girl, sorry. I’m gonna run up to the highway and across to the local and wait there until I get some news.” He tapped the tank. “I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait out here but I promise you’ll be back with your babies in no time.”

Angus put up his right hand and moved it from side to side. “Bye, bye,” he said.

At first Wanda appeared disinterested; all her tentacles just swayed lightly like a long coral garden shaken by the undertow of strong waves. Then an individual tentacle struck out and repeated the action Angus made.

With that Angus darted through the rain and away from the runway. His form was soon swallowed by it and could no longer be seen. The rain pelted down, striking Wanda’s cage ever stronger. Rivets of fast moving water slithered over the glass of her sky and just kept coming until they covered everything.

 

St Catherine, Great Barrier Reef

  23rd December, 07:40 AM

 

Twelve years as a marine biologist, a lifetime of study, devotion, interest; these thoughts weighed on Dr Goodwin as he grappled with his fear of swimming and diving alone. The dinghy tugged over water, lapping each wave, helped on by the four-stroke outboard engine. Within moments of the boat being unmoored it was over the dark patch.

7:49 am

Dropping anchor the scientist watched it hit the ocean hard then fall into its arms and descend slowly until out of sight. The sun was emerging from behind clouds, by the time Angus returned to his boat the sky would be empty of them. For the last time he opened the cage he had built for his test subject. He threw the plastic lid recklessly far out to sea and then just left the tank open.

It was hard to have to stop something when you hadn’t finished, when you were so involved and so close. Today destiny would have to wait or whimper and die.

Zipping up his full body wetsuit, flippers being pulled on, goggles also, oxygen pack clipped in; he was ready but still he waited. With one movement the engine was turned off, it idled slightly, choked and coughed, then died.

The lone figure’s un-gloved hands reached into Wanda’s tank and grabbed hold of the creature; both hands hardly fit over her bulbous head – she was then gently put into the sea.

Flexing out her body to the full so that she looked like a psychedelic star, now a free citizen of the sea again, Wanda gently propelled herself downward into the deep blue with a few heavy thrusts. Angus quickly squinted at the sun then kicked himself into the water back-first. The oxygen pack gave him weight and he gained a steady descent. Wanda was next to him, moving into that part of the glade where she’d been caught. Angus followed her.

Checking his tracker Dr Goodwin knew where the two surviving cephalopods were located and by his guides direction so did she. This physiographic province that only ten years past seemed untameable was now virtually nonexistent. Most of the life that once flourished here had left. It was possible for a pod of octopi to survive but strange to see happen.

The two offspring that still lived had developed a strange mode of existence. They would stay in the rock gulley of section R12 of the glade then at around two-thirty every afternoon would leave and quickly feast on some of the copepods or larval crabs then just as quickly return to the labyrinthine rocks of section R12 and stay there till the next day. They did not move on to choicer regions of the reef but stayed where Wanda had been departed from them.

This strange eating and hiding pattern of survival would very soon doom them, just as soon as a predator got wind of it.

Electronic trackers will last another week or two at most, thought Angus. Then wear off, stop working or more likely the creatures themselves through some method will dislodge them. He sighed.

Wanda darted and swooped into a fissure in the rock. Dr Goodwin swam over to the opening. He looked inside. The tracking-device showed the young were in this vicinity and through the tunnel in the rock he could see a weak blue light flashing softly.

The coleid light always pulsed that colour when the cephalopods were in company with each other. Dr Goodwin’s brain raced, but he stilled his nerves, reminding himself that, for now, he would have to forget his ambition. Wanda raced out of the tunnel quite suddenly, brushing slickly against the side of her releasers stubbly face.

She swam into the openness of the glade, stretched out fully, dark blue buds flashed and moved in many straight lines along her tentacles. They emanated in concentric circles through her fat main body as she swam up to where the sun shone strongest into the underwater glade. Wanda just hovered there, then levelled herself vertically and stretched wide out like a pulsating star. The dark blue buds rushed through her, she turned slowly, peacefully, with the currents of the ocean until her eyes and Angus’ met. Then the blue buds ceased and Wanda’s eyes became Angus’ eyes. It was like Dr Goodwin was looking into a mirror. The image Wanda copied was clear, geometrically near perfect. Then Wanda showed the lab, the five fish tanks, the long bench, the chessboard; finally Wanda showed St Catherine and her briny shoreline then something else. Something from her home? Lights in fathomless darkness, beautiful colours lost in the inky deep.

Is that what you see out there Wanda? wondered Angus and knew he’d never get an answer; almost accepted he wouldn’t either.

The rich blue buds returned and the images were gone.

A very small fluorescent gelatine head protruded from a fissure deeper down and then burrowed back into the comfort of the hard rock.

Wanda kept swimming till she was roughly halfway between the glades silt mattress and the ocean surface then she stopped. Like an electric charge her skin pulsed in quick successive blue colours. The soft gelatine head below Angus protruded again and with a swift movement sprung forth from the rock racing to the centre of light that its mother now was. Another gelatinous head poked out of the same rock gulley and much more cautiously swam to its sibling and mother. As it ambled awkwardly through the water buds of a weak blue colour rapidly moved through its form; travelling the length of it.

The scientist watched as the two charged atoms circled the nucleus. Wanda then started to slowly move away from the glade with her children following. They continued past the glade reaching the end of St Catherine’s shore and started travelling out deeper. Angus decided not to follow. He looked up to the sun shining through the oceans surface. It would be around eight-thirty he thought; they’d just be starting to open all bars and attractions on Lady Gilford.

Scanning along the meeting place of carbon and liquid; he found the shadowy substance of his boat. Flexing out as much as possible, giving into the unseen strength of the current he then allowed it to pull him swiftly upward and back into the world.

BIO: Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle, Australia. His fiction has previously appeared in Perihelion Science Fiction, Every Day Fiction and Oblong Magazine among other publications.

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Archaeological Expedition by David K Scholes

May 14 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

I looked out over the wastelands of what might have once been a civilised world.

“There’s nothing left to tell us of the nature of those who might have once inhabited this world,” I communicated. “Nothing of their science, their technology, their arts, their culture, their languages, even their physical appearance, nothing__nothing at all.” My telepathic communication trailed off, the disappointment in it obvious to all participating in our expedition.

I could see, early on, that this small world was going to be the greatest archaeological challenge any of us had yet faced.

Early on we had tried to take images of the past of this world using our time cameras.

We had sent insta probes to every corner of the world but there was a down time point about 10,000 solar orbits ago that our cameras could not penetrate. More recently than then the images of the past we captured were identical to those of the present moment.

Except for a brief period just about 10,000 solar orbits ago. A past time image taken here showed large tracts of the surface where the ground was fused and far worse than this evidence of the use of a planet busting weapon. One that thankfully, didn’t completely live up to expectations. Though it still did a lot of damage. My suspicions were that faced with a planet buster the locals tried to defend themselves using thermonuclear weapons.

Apart from this small window of time suggesting the use of thermonuclear and a planet busting weapon it was if someone or something had attempted to completely cover up what had happened here.

Had our time camera discovery inadvertently picked up something that was supposed to have been covered over? Or worse still had this brief snippet actually been left as a tantalising clue or even a taunt of some kind?

Even before we had arrived here we had wondered. Many worlds have a tendency to send out unmanned probes into interstellar space. We had detected nothing of this kind on our approach here. More significantly though we had encountered nothing in the nature of light speed communications emanating from this world. If they had been capable of such to have brought a halt to such communications spreading out through interstellar space would have been a formidable feat. Suggesting something on a parity or more with us.

* * *

In past archaeological expeditions we had occasionally come across races with a penchant for inserting secured capsules into particular secure physical locations for recovery in later time periods. These capsules had some capacity to resist the degradation caused by the passage of time and contained various artefacts and items representative of the time periods in which they had been buried. Time capsules if you will.

Here on this world we had been reduced to this approach to try and learn something of this place. Trying to locate any time capsules that might have been left by the former indigenous civilisation. The relatively small size and obscure/unusual location of potential capsules could easily have been missed by our initial broad based scans of the planetary surface and even core.

At first this approach had seemed promising.

Two small capsule containers were detected deep in bedrock on opposite sides of the planet yet on their recovery they contained just a small amount of black granules. The metallic capsules themselves had been left undamaged but the residual contents were valueless. Even our technology could not tell us what the black granule residue might once have been.

Then we found something. A frail looking damaged metallic container and within it several crude storage devices consisting of magnetic tape containing sound recordings.

We listened oh so carefully to the sounds we were able to pry from the devices. There was sound with an apparently musical inclination that we simply could not translate into anything that had any meaning for us. References to: lovin ya baby and shake your booty and endless repetitions of same were totally lost on us. Even though we had the best known universe translators. Also we could make no sense of a small bound collection of parchments called “book of jokes.”

“Someone’s toying with us,” I said this time my communication was not a telepathic one to all of the expedition. Rather a crude non telepathic verbalization to only the senior executive officers gathered around me. “Undamaged time capsules with nothing in them. A time capsule with pure rubbish suggestive of cultural pygmies inconsistent with thermonuclear weapons?”

“They, the architects of whatever happened here, could still be watching events now?’ asked my head of security utilising the same form of communication that I had.

Frankly I didn’t know. If they were I suspected that we were being observed from afar. Something we did may have triggered an awareness. Perhaps even the use of the time cameras. There were people in the Universe that resented the use of time cameras making our archaeological expeditions sometimes unpopular.

Just at that moment something came through at the telepathic level to all of the expedition. It was so faint a telepathic signal that some of us detected it and some did not. Though it registered on our communication systems.

It was laughter, laughter as we understand it and might occasionally engage in.

Somewhere – someone or something had the temerity to be laughing at us. I decided that by our standards it was a mocking, derisive form of laughter.

Try as we might and with all of our highly advanced technology we could not detect the source of the deriding telepathic laughter. Nor in all the time we had been here had we been able to determine anything at all about the nature and identity of those who destroyed this world.

Perhaps the author or authors of that laughter thought that we might pack up and go in frustration. We did no such thing.

Instead we redoubled our efforts to find out something more about those who once called this world home. Something aside from the fact that they may have had thermonuclear weapons and may have been cultural pygmies.

It took time but in the end we finally found something of this civilisation. A large time capsule buried very cleverly. Such that even those who mocked us from afar had apparently not uncovered it.

The capsule was made of an unusual bio metallic compound that approximated the security of a grade 3 force shield. Something that I was pretty sure was probably beyond whoever once lived here. Had someone or something else acted in the past to preserve some record of this world’s indigenous civilisation?

The capsules contents appeared totally undamaged. Among them audio and audio-visual recordings made on slightly more sophisticated storage devices than we had encountered earlier. Also physical writings contained on bound collections of many pieces of parchment. Also there were a range of artefacts and scientific and technical items in the capsule.

We gleefully distributed these materials among the expedition for examination. It was a most productive time.

* * *

Later we stood astride the very highest point of the waste land that was this world and we listened for a very long time to the various literary and musical works that we had uncovered in the time capsule.

My Deputy Expedition Leader wanted to undertake an audio to telepathic conversion but I cautioned against it. Somehow it didn’t seem right. Not on first listening – perhaps later for the benefit of the advanced races that I knew would be interested. We could preserve the original medium but also have the works in telepathic tape form. Yet I knew instinctively that something would be lost in the translation.

* * *

I do not know who or what destroyed this civilisation. Or whether they or someone else attempted to cover up what was done here. However I do believe that someone or something else intervened to preserve the time capsule that we ultimately uncovered. To preserve some record of those who lived and died here.

As the commander of a major Treen archaeological expedition these matters are ultimately not my responsible. Yet we are not an insignificant race and at our disposal are quite formidable law enforcement and military agencies. At my request some of those agencies will be here quite soon. They are all very good at what they do.

Our archaeological work here is not yet done and we will cooperate with our military/law enforcement agencies when they arrive.

We tirelessly scour this world for whatever else we can find of those who once lived here and called this home.

I am eternally grateful to whoever made it possible that the Multiverse will be able to share in some aspects of the race that was extinguished here. Most particularly in their literary and musical works. My first impressions that they might be cultural pygmies were quite wrong of course.

Now the Multiverse can share in the great literary works of the likes of Proust, Joyce, Melville, Shaw, Tolstoy, Homer and others. Also it can rejoice in the great musical works of the likes of Grieg, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bach, Wagner, Chopin, Mozart and others.

Though we have not yet finished here and may yet find more – what was uncovered thus far in the single time capsule has been enough for me to pronounce this archaeological expedition a success.

End

Author Bio

David has written over 170 speculative fiction short stories in the 9 years he has been writing speculative fiction.

His publications include six collections of short stories and two novellas. All of which are on Amazon.

For some years he has been a regular contributor to the Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Antipodean SF, and Farther Stars Than These sites. He has also been published on a variety of other sci-fi sites including Bewildering Stories, 365 Tomorrows, the WiFiles, and the former Golden Visions magazine.

He has written three sci-fi series: the 12 part “Alien Hunter” series for then Golden Visions Magazine in 2011/12. The “Trathh” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site in 2012/13 and the ‘Human Hunter” series also for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site in 2014/15.

He is currently well advanced in writing a new (as yet unnamed) collection of speculative fiction short stories.

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WITHDRAWN By David Perlmutter

May 07 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

I.

I’m not supposed to be here, I told them. I’m not one of them.

One of you, I mean. I mean, really, I’m not. I’m a human being….

Yeah, go ahead and laugh. This is the thanks I get for trying to be like you and….

Ah, now you want to know how I got in here. Fine. I’ll tell you….

II.

I always had a fascination with you cartoon characters from when I was young, you know. And it didn’t seem like anything in the mundane world was working out for me, anyhow. No family left, friends and work nonexistent. You know how it is.

So I came out here to L.A., to find you guys. Well, actually what I did was to enroll in the film history program at UCLA first, to make a search for you guys seem like a more legitimate enterprise and less of the fruitcake enterprise people in the non-academic community would make that out to be if I told them. What I wanted to do was to take a camera out here in the ghetto, do some anthropological research you and get the proof that I needed to finally prove that you were all real. Get my Ph.d, a full time academic job, financial security. Happily ever after, huh?

What I didn’t realize was that it was pretty easy to actually become one of you. Or that it would actually be me becoming one of you instead of just studying you….

III.

Don’t ask me about how I managed to find the way here to your land, or how it was that I actually managed to pass by the carefully guarded boundary between fiction and reality. A girl’s got to have some secrets in her life, after all.

So I got in, and I stood around gawking around, like some dumb tourist, at how two dimensional everything is around here. Literally. When they say you guys have no depth, they mean it. No offense.

Not much going on around here during the day, which is when I first came in. I wondered why that was, why there were none of you around on the streets then, but I eventually figured it out. Putting you guys on the air during the daytime is a big mistake, I found out. You’re creatures of the night.

Oh, yeah. Drinking, partying, getting down, all kinds of that serious shit. Even the kids, for God’s sake. You must have some superhuman way of taking and giving that stuff. And now I got it, too.

I was trying to be all discreet and stuff, the best way you can when you’re not one of you and all that. I stood in the background in one of those clubs, like some sort of wallflower or something, and boogied around while some rock band calling themselves the Rubber Hose or something like that put down a fat groove that got everyone dancing. Enjoyed myself, and hoped to buttonhole some of you into talking into my tape recorder for my academic purposes later, when…

I got bit. And changed.

Some two-bit creature with fangs for teeth took a nip out of my index finger. As I watched the blood fall out of it, it happened.

I lost my physical depth, and became two dimensional- and flat- like you.

I got skinnier and taller.

My tits ballooned out of my chest.

My eyes narrowed into tiny points of black.

My hair got brightener and shinier, and my face prettier than I was before.

Suddenly, I was one of you. And, for that one moment, I felt accepted as a ‘toon in ways I would never be as a human being.

I felt like I was invincible, and that nothing was going to happen to me that would hurt me. You know what I mean. You risk your lives recklessly all the time. On camera, that is.

The next thing I knew, I had found the two most handsome guys on the floor (not hard to find in the crowd of anthropomorphized uglies that it was), and demanded, loudly and stridently, that they service me on the floor, out in the corner, right then and there. Being typical ‘toon guys with no brains, they were more than happy to oblige me.

We’d barely gotten started, however, when the cops raided the joint.

How was I to know that the kind of partying they were doing was illegal, even here? And, especially, that the kind of sexy fun I was going to do with those guys- and our combined mighty ‘toon powers of endurance- was even more illegal than that?

IV.

Turns out you ‘toons are even stricter regarding transient strangers than we are where I come from. They didn’t even give me a chance to plead my case in court. I told them, I don’t belong here, and tried to tell them I was really a human being who got changed, but they didn’t listen.

Happens all the time here, the judge said. And, especially given what you were thinking of doing, we’ve got no reason you’re actually pretending to be a human being, not a ‘toon.

 That set me off. I loudly insisted I was a human being, damn it, and if they didn’t believe me, they could put my name in at UCLA- which don’t take any ‘toon students- and see for themselves.

No dice. Not only did I get arrested and fined, but they put me in this straightjacket here and sentenced me to the loony bin, where I am now with you.

The bloom’s off the rose now, I’ll tell you. I’ve seen and heard enough of you people to make me want to go back home and never come back. I’ll rather take my chances with real human beings than you shallow, self-centered jerks.

The trouble is, I don’t how to get back home.

Or if there’s any possible way for me to resume being a rational, free-thinking human being like I used to be.

But you’ll help me find a way out of here and back to normal.

Won’t you?

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Bio:

David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The holder of an MA degree from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and a lifelong animation fan, he has published short fiction in a variety of genres for various magazines and anthologies, as well as essays on his favorite topics for similar publishers, including most recently SFF World.com. He is the author of America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.),  The Singular Adventures Of Jefferson Ball (Chupa Cabra House), The Pups (Booklocker.com), Certain Private Conversations and Other Stories (Aurora Publishing),  Orthicon; or, the History of a Bad Idea (Linkville Press, forthcoming) and Nothing About Us Without Us: The Adventures of the Cartoon Republican Army (Dreaming Big Productions, forthcoming.) 

 

 

 

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