Friday, 16 December 2011

99) Family Time

    Out behind their house, only six years old, Mom and Dad and baby son Junior, only four years old, take in the night while sitting on their swinging bench. There’s no soft whoosh of traffic in the distance, the highway is several dozens of miles away and thousands of feet below. There’s only the keening song of cicada, the percussive whine of crickets, the occasional muted dog barking off in the distance, and the slow rhythmic creak of the swing.
    All at once they ooh and ahhh as a large meteor streaks across the sky. It burns yellow then blue, all the while splitting off into smaller and smaller fragments until it finally disappears in a bright flash of white.
    “Oh, mommy wassat?”
    “That’s a falling star, honey.”
    She laughs a little and says, “Mmm, it’s a celebration honey.”
    Dad chimes in, “Of the great and humble, kind and virtuous King Barley the Sheep.”
    They both stare as his crazy proclamation and Jr. laughs first then mom giggles too.
    “No joke,” Dad continues, “King Barley was the best king ever. He’d let little boys stay up late and everything.”
    Junior squeals “No, sheep can’t be king.”
    “Hmm, why not?”
    “They’re not person people?”
    “Oh, ok then. What if he was only king of the animals?”
    “Umm, I guess that’s okay. But why was he king?”
    Above his head the adults have a quick wordless conversation with their facial expressions. You want to tell the story? I can’t think of anything. Is it bed time? No, not yet. Ok, I think I got something. Thanks, love you.
    Mom says, “Once upon a time, back before people.”
    “A long time ago, huh?”
    “Back before people it was only animals and it was wild. There weren’t any roads or cars…”
    “Or houses?”
    “Back before houses, or airplanes, or anything human a sheep named Barley came along.”
    “Was he the king?”
    “Not yet, he was a simple sheep, but he wanted everyone to get along. You see, Barley had noticed that when we work together, when the animals worked together, they got things done faster and better than when they fought.”
    “Like you and daddy fight.”
    “Kind of, but with more claws and teeth.”
    Junior laughs.
    “What’s so funny?” Dad says.
    “You and Mommy with big teeth.” And he waggles his fingers out of his mouth miming giant fangs and everyone laughs.
    Mom continues stoically, “It was hard going, but eventually Barley the sheep convinced every kind of animal to work together. And once everyone saw how prosperous, how well everyone was doing, they decided to make him king.”
    “But why the falling star?”
    “I was just getting to that, Mr. Impatient Pants. So, Barley wasn’t a magical sheep, he was only really smart and knew how to get people to trust each other. And for a long time, longer than any sheep had lived before, he ruled with a kind hoof and a gentle nose and the best listening ears. But he aged, as everyone does and eventually he died.”
    Dad chimes in with a heart felt, “Awww.”
    “Eventually even the gods in the stars heard of Barley’s triumph and they were so moved that they sent most beautiful stars to rain down on the Earth in thanks for his good work.”

Thursday, 15 December 2011

98) Security

    All I can see is a wall of flames up the closed transom, all I can smell is smoke, all I can hear is the useless fire alarm blaring away. I look back into the meeting room where I’m stuck and smoke is starting to seep under the door. I frantically strip off my shirt and pants and shove them in the crack to stop the smoke from coming in. But maybe I shouldn’t have done that. I rummage through my now smoking pants and find my cell phone.
    I go back and open the window, not only for fresh air, but to see a tiny slice of blue sky out beyond the towers of the city. I hear sirens, hundreds of feet down below and I think maybe about jumping. I’d certainly land with a splash.
    I flip open my phone and scroll through my contacts list. Who do I call? Mother, Father, any of my sisters, grandparents, aunts or uncles? My wife. Her cell phone number is one of the few I have memorized, it’s only one digit off from mine.
    It rings and rings and rings. The firemen have turned off their sirens and the fire alarm has been shut off. I wonder idly if the fire has been cancelled, if they can do that. But I have to cut off that stupid thread of thought as her familar voice mail picks up. I think that maybe it’s better this way. Then they can play the message for everyone, even though it’s only for her. Without thinking about it I know what to say, the Rumi poem I memorized for our ten year anniversary:
        The springtime of Lovers has come,
        that this dust bowl may become a garden;
        the proclamation of heaven has come,
        that the bird of the soul may rise in flight.
        The sea becomes full of pearls,
        the salt marsh becomes sweet as paradise,
        the stone becomes a ruby from the mine,
        the body becomes totally soul.
    As I finish the poem the epensive wooden doors at the end of the room finally fall to reveal an advancing wall of flame and thick black smoke. It licks up the ceiling and in less than a heart beat the heat hits me hard. I can’t do anything but fall out of the window. The cell phone slips out of my hand and floats in free fall next to me. I don’t try to catch it. Through the rush of air I can almost hear the mechanical voice on the other line asking me to press buttons. I am eerily calm.
    And all too soon the ground slams up into me. It doesn’t hurt.
    In big friendly red letters the words “GAME OVER” pop up in front of me and I slide off the VR set from my head. Disbelief falls to the ground and shatters and I’m back at work, goofing off.
    Only a few minutes has passed in real life even though the dreamy weight of death is still heavy on my mind. I slip the VR set back into my desk, close the drawer, and take a deep breath. The snuff games aren’t my favorite, I prefer animal rides or ancient cities, but my hacked set only works on shuffle. In fact, my death, the businessman’s death has put me off of VR entirely. I look at my watch, still another fifteen minutes until I need to do my rounds and make sure all the doors that need to be locked are locked. I hate being a security guard.
    I try to distract myself by watching an old black and white television. The set is made of green plastic with a smooth bubble shape. It has several dials, but only the volume works. The figures on the tiny lit screen works their feeble magic on me for about five minutes. Someone is chasing someone else in a car, there’s explosions and screaming.
    And then like a good rat I fish out the VR set and put it back on.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

97) Playground

    “Who’s beast are you?” The girl on the playground asked me. I told her I was my own beast and she ran to her mommy, afraid. She almost fell and then looked back at me. 
    My mother called me a beast when she bailed me out of jail, must have been the fifth or sixth time that summer. It wasn’t that bad, I’d only bitten off part of the other kid’s ear that time.
    I asked my lover who her beast was, she pointed a claw at me. Good mouth on that one, what a waste she didn’t last as long as the others.
    In prison I make sure I’m in solitary. Here’s where I find peace, pale yellow concrete walls. Here’s where I wait until I can hunt again, hibernating.
    Today men in suits came to ask me questions. They showed me pictures but wouldn’t let me keep them.
    I know one day the men in suits will come again and take me away. They will have a special job for me, a job only I can do. And I’ll do my best and be the beast again.

    I ran away from him on the playground. And in that second of fear he entered my mind like a sharp thorn. I was still running and suddenly taller and stumbled a step. I turned back to look and he was still there, I was still there. I couldn’t tell him I was him, too many adults were around.
    Her memories come back like to me like a picture book. There was mommy and doggy and daddy and bampa and nanna and the big house and we all lived there.
    I did well in school. Everyone paid attention to me and let me do what I wanted. People didn’t run away or beat me. My thing’s different too. Gone, cut out like I always wanted. And the new one feels even better.
    There’s so much you can learn when people leave you alone. Everyone’s afraid of me, but in a different way than before. I can take what I want and it’s expected of me to conquer. Men pave my path to greatness. I go for the money, I go for the power, enough power to finally search for myself, the original beast.
    I’m forty years old when I get confirmation of his location. Grey hairs on my head. I think I might like to go completely white like that Australian starlet. Like with children you have to be a chameleon in this playground. Look like one thing, act like another. Cognitive dissonance can give you that hair’s breath of advantage.
    Many people do what I tell them. I feel them like fingers and toes. When I finally see myself again behind the mirrored glass I will certainly smile.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

96) Moon and beyond

    On every black and white television screen across the developed world people watched the tiny capsule hit the moon, a tiny white plume of dust. Footage came from the orbiting station manned by world famous philanthropist, scientist, and experimental airplane pilot Sharia Goldberg.
    From any main street you could feel the rapt silence as Sharia explained the purpose of the capsule. It was not only a foothold in space, but it was a home away from home. He explained that the capsule contained several types of small machines that would burrow down into the rocky layers of the moon over the next century and prepare for us caves and support systems so that we could live on the moon and manufacture ships to explore even more of space.
    A millennium later the political tides caused by the new international Moon colony had worn smooth any difference between us an them, we were all too connected to think otherwise. Travel between Luna and Terra was taken for granted. The colonies became the destination for the newly wed and the nearly dead, and then families. Then expansion and independence. Eventually the whole solar system became a backwater.
    A few millennia after that and we were gone. Our floating cities lay fallow and our broadcasts were mute. Only our artificial flora and fauna had any chance at carrying on the flame of intelligence in our absence. One animal in particular, the smart koi, flourished. Originally intended to maintain Lunar aquifers and aqueducts they were able to plan ahead for their own safety and communicate their plans to others. And more importantly, to build.
    The Koi created their own culture, made their own discoveries, their own first step into space, and naturally made their own mistakes. Eventually they died out. Eventually another sapience rose and fell, then another and another and another, beating through geological time like the fluttering heart of an adolescent in love.
    The blue green twins of Terra and Luna spun through space around their parent star until he bloated and died. When the pressure waves hit Luna huge feathery thistle downs burst out from her body. They sailed out into space carrying the seeds of life and civilization. Each puff of ionized gas pushed them in random directions and they drifted, silent, cold, and alone into deep space, waiting patiently to find another home.

Monday, 12 December 2011

95) Near Crash

      I sat at in the pilot’s chair, a useless fish. In the sea I would have been a bad ass with my sharp spines and whip like tail. But a blue fin tuna cannot work any human technology regardless of the time or place. Since I was the only one on the airplane still conscious it was up to me to save the day. Thankfully I could still breathe, a real tuna would have been half way asphyxiated by the time I had flopped my way into the main cabin.
    My name is Reginald and I’m a budget bodyguard. This particular job had me working for a group of brownies from a small town named Orlaska. Though brownies are a spirits it’s more of a slavery since they have no money. Lucky for them, and unlucky for me, I owed their king a big favor. So they got my services gratis on this trip over to the human world for negotiations. Except that there weren’t going to be any negotiations if I couldn’t bring down the plane safely. Thankfully whomever had planted that sleeping spell onboard hadn’t anticipated me. And if I couldn’t not be a fish it wouldn’t really matter.
    The way I got my curse, and I guess you can call it a blessing too as it keeps my rent paid, is fairly short. And as we have a little time before I become something else, let me tell you.
    I was an impetuous youth. We all are, aren’t we? We know how the world works and what we can get out of it. I thought that since I had that old book of spells and a magical birthmark that the world was mine for the taking.
    Sure, some of the easier and cheaper spells worked fine. But if I had bothered to read all the way to the end of it, like my master had said, I wouldn’t be in this mess. It turns out that the book was booby trapped with a bit of a practical joke. A permanent practical joke.
    Several years into my quote-unquote mastery of magic and I was curing the sick and killing trolls for a hefty fee when I found my mana getting a little dry. I was getting colds, bowel movements were more difficult and they were garishly bright colors. Even though I could have afforded a top tier magician I had to choose a budget shaman to fix me up. Rent was due.
    We met on a dark and stormy night. His teepee smelled old and musty. He looked like he hadn’t moved from his seated position for years. His voice was a dry crackle, “How can I help you, young man.”
    Having grown used to the respect from others by being a high class wizard I was a bit snotty and didn’t really think to answer his question fully, “I’ve been cursed.”
    “Oh? How’s that?”
    I described my symptoms, but didn’t mention the book. I had somehow imagined that admitting the use of a grimoire would prove that I was only a rank amateur. Though, thinking about it now, I don’t know why I was worried about impressing a crusty old dream-walker.
    As I finished he raised his hands, I assume to cast a spell. And at that very moment a bolt of lightning flashed through the guy’s cramped and cluttered home.
    This is where it got evil.
    When I woke up I was home again, a rented duplex on the soft lands in Miami. Turns out that the book didn’t like me trying to mess with what it was doing to me so, as its bound servant I returned to it as soon as a spell was formed to try and remove its influence from me. I didn’t know it at that time. As I continued to try and cure myself additional layers of protection were activated.
    First I was returned to the book. Three times I was returned to the book. The fourth time I was stripped of my ability to hold mana for any appreciable amount of time. And that one stung. Without a job and within a month I was out on my ass. The final trap was a kicker. Any spell cast on me would have unpredictable effects. It’s not quite as good as being magic-proof, but it was something I could leverage into a job.
    So, the timed sleeping spell turned me into a tuna. Considering the size of the spell and the two hundred people it put down I figured I had a good twenty minutes as a fish. That would be well before anyone else woke up on the plane, like I said, mana just doesn’t stick to me.
    Oh, where’s the book you say? As a fish I’m not sure where it is on me, but as a human it resides as a very fine silver bracelet around my left hand. Turns out the book doesn’t mind its self being changed into something else. Go figure.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

94) Wizard Construction

    “No, no, put it further out so you can see it from the street like I told you before. What? Of course it matters. No, use the metric wand. Yes, of course, ok, fine do it your way see who runs out of mana halfway through the job. I’m sorry, I didn’t know your father lost his mana on the battle field. Look, I was in the war too so don’t get snippy. I know you went to school for this, but I’ve been raising buildings since the turn of the millennium… Ok, great, thanks. No, I didn’t. Yes, you’ll do fine. No, I’m not mad at you, this is just business. Right? Right. Ok, Danny, talk to you later.”
    Grand Warlock Forego Esq. put down his phone and turned back to me. His eyes burned bright green then dimmed. He stared at me for a good long minute. I squirmed in my seat. Then a broad and not completely unhealthy smile crossed his face. He said in a mellow tone, “So, Kerrie, says here you want to work here for Forego Construction on my survey team.”
    My palms sweated, why was he asking? Of course I wanted to work for him, that’s why I was here. Maybe it was a test. Oh, god, better answer or he’ll think I’m a deaf mute. I tried to speak, but my mouth was completely dry. A mousy “Yes, sir” finally squeaked out of me.
    “Good good. Here at Forego Construction we always need fresh meat.” He laughed. I cringed inside, but kept my spine straight.
    “As you know my great great great grandfather started Forego Construction shortly after humans left Africa in the late Pleistocene and we’ve been the number one name in magical buildings and fortifications ever since.”
    He continued on for several minutes unfolding the glorious history and holdings of his company across the countless centuries. And it was impressive, but I’d heard it all before, had it nearly memorized. I’d watched all the corporate videos and read all the brochures. It wasn’t exactly boring, but I needed the job. I thought he would take that as a given and wondered why he was trying to sell it to me.
    When he finally finished his epic retelling of the company’s history he said “So, Kerrie, tell me… why shouldn’t we hire you?”

Saturday, 10 December 2011

93) In the post

     I knew the wind whipping snow around me ruined any sense of direction. I had taken a bearing that morning on the second day of my journey, but I was sure I needed to take another. I pulled out my gps, I had been going more than ninety degrees and several hundred yards off. I reoriented and continued on my way through the frozen wasteland.
    I had set off from my small town in the middle of nowhere with a postcard, the first mail in months. A cartoon turtle on one side said ‘Visit Sunny Florida’ and on the other side was a set of very accurate coordinates. Very inconvenient coordinates. Our long distance post man, Gerald McManus, was out with the flu so it fell to me to trek a hundred miles into the wilderness.
    No matter how antisocial you think you can be there’s someone who’s taken it the tenth power, and they all live up here. They’re separated from each other by miles of frozen tundra in the fall and winter and spring, and miles of mosquito infested bogs in the summer.
    To celebrate the fact that I’d made it halfway I noshed on some jerked beef and sipped some skin temperature water even though it wasn’t lunch time.
    The next thing I remember I was coming to in a plush recliner in front of a fire. All of me was warm and I never wanted to see snow again. That life was a farce, this life in front of the fire was all there needed to be.
    Then I remembered my job and checked my pocket. The postcard was gone. My heart sank, I’d be fired or worse I’d have to come back up here again. I sunk further into the chair and shivvered as something cold and wet ran down my neck. I followed the trail up and pulled the ice pack away from my head. I touched the spot where it had been resting and yelped a little as I touched the big knot on my head.
    A tinny voice buzzed from the side of the room, “I’m sorry if my assistant was a little too enthusiastic, young man. Sometimes he doesn’t know his own strength.”
    I turned my head towards the voice, but couldn’t see anything but a wall of books.
    A bolt of pain shot through my side and up my neck. I kept from yelling out that time. I said, “Who’s there?”
    “I am Doctor Henry Latch Esq. You are now talking to me through remote microphone. I am several miles away on business in sunnier climes. My assistant Henry was tasked with surveying the perimeter of my summer home to keep a look out for deliveries or spies. And, yes, I did take that post card from you as I am its intended recipient. And I apologize, but now that you’re in my house I cannot allow you to leave.  I should be there in a few months. I can talk to you later about your personal effects. Otherwise, please, make yourself at home.”

Friday, 9 December 2011

92) Curfew

    “Gotta get home, gotta get home, gotta get home.” you say, over and over again. You notice people in the train car are looking at you and you repeat your mantra silently in your head, hoping in vain that it will help somehow.
    It’s five minutes from curfew, and you’re ten minutes from home. No way are you going to make it even if you had the spring legs from your next stage.
    You squeeze out of the train car between late night adults with their proud wings out, taking up too much space and heading to the pubs to drink them selves silly. You’re the first out of the train’s sliding door, but it doesn’t matter. You’re first through the turn style and running up the escalator, but it doesn’t matter. You look down at your watch as if that would help to turn back the time. Your heart races and your thorax burns in embarrassment.
    Once you leave the train station you can see the town’s church, your home for the last few years, just beyond a copse of decorative trees in their familiar swirls. You run faster than you’ve ever ran before and you think maybe you can make it.
    You run red lights and you hop over parked cars. You barely avoid a epileptic larva from the Builder Caste. The main dorm approaches you with its blank and shining white facade which represents the pure heart of Light, or at least that’s what the brochure said. It’s far better than living on the streets, than staying with the parent, or earning a living in the aphid mines. You only have to hold on for a few months until you can molt then you can get a courier job and a tiny room share in the city where the real action is.
    You think you can hear the locks slamming shut from a hundred yards away and you wonder if the stories the other individuals in your instar told you were true. They can’t be true, you think. Rules are for children. You think you can sleep inside the covered doorway and apologize profusely in the morning.
    You finally get to the front door, huffing and puffing, the tender flesh between your plates pulse an angry red. You’re two seconds late.
    You try the door, but it’s obviously locked. You bang on it a bit, but give up when it starts to hurt your fists. Then there’s a slight hissing from above you. You wonder what it is.
    As tiny drops of bitter smelling mist hit your exposed carapace you remember a mumbling old nun telling you about the way they clean the building at night. It’s part surfactant and part hormone. Now you remember why the nuns said that if you’re out past curfew it’s better to find somewhere else to sleep.
    You look up in the sky at the still bright line of the McDonald Space Elevator. The last bit of sun shine glints off the top well after night has begun down at the surface. Then you hear the buzz of the cleaning beetles and run for your life.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

91) Protest

    “Good Morning, my name is Tracy LeBar, I’m here with channel Star news, and I’m down here at St. Mark’s Place in front of the New London Government Health agency’s main building. In a scene reminiscent of the previous century’s class war sit-ins on Earth but with more prosthetics and wheel chairs. We’re here among several thousand protesters who have been camping here peacefully here for the last two weeks.”
    Pull back to establishing shot of encampment, traditional tents, rapid fab shelters, and foam houses are packed closely together on the field until they meet the road about a hundred yards away.
    Cut to commercial. Then back to Tracy walking among the protesters. She turns the microphone to a healthy looking young woman with a sleeping baby in a pram.
    “Hi Ma’am, do you have a moment?”
    The mother smiles back beatifically. “Of course.” She wipes away a stray lock of hair.
    “Can you tell us why you’re here?”
    “Sure, we have a great system here. People get healed and we have the longest lives in human history, you know. But the quality isn’t always there. Sometimes it takes too long to regrow an organ or fit new limbs. And I’m here protesting for my son here who will benefit the most, you know? I’m a nurse and I see a lot of the waste and profiteering that goes on on the other side.”
    Cut to microphone on a young man with sparse beard growth. He holds up a mecha hand and flexes the delicate fingers.
    “Yo man, I built this thing myself and it’s way better than the crap they hand out at the hospital. But, like, I have a degree in engineering so I can do this. But I’m too young so I can’t get a job doing it, you know? So I have to get a minimum wage job flipping burgers and I can only do that part time. Hell, I was fired from my last job for making the fryer warm up 20% faster. What’s wrong with this world? I mean, I can help, but no one wants to pay for it. And the people that run shit. Also, I’ve heard there’s secret technology they’re not even releasing to us.”
    Cut to middle aged man in suit in a wheel chair.
    “Yea, I’m a postal worker, corporate. I probably deliver your mail, up there at Star Networks. I lost my arm to a letter bomb back in ‘78.”
    He holds up his mechanical arm that doesn’t look as fancy as the earlier one, it’s covered in thick pink plastic. He flexes his fingers for the camera and they look eerily non human.
    He continues, “And now I hear they have the technology to give me my arm back. Not a transplant from a dead body, but my own flesh and blood. I heard they knew how to do this years ago, but they’re not releasing it because it’s too easy to do at home and they can’t make a profit off of it. All I want them to do is release the data, you know? Why should they get even more profits from our suffering? They already own 50% of the planet. They already have a monopoly on health care. Why should they continue to scrape us for every credit they can when all I want to do be whole again?”

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

90) Free on Moon

    “Luna 5, this is Beta Seven Construction, please respond, over.” I was late, but I didn’t think I was that late. I had finished emergency repairs to a large mirror array at the North end of Mare Frigoris and was looking forward to getting out of my suit, a warm shower, and some solid food.
    All that came back was static. That was fine, it’s a fairly hairy frontier country on the edge of space. Communication networks get overloaded, antenna get hit with micro meteorites, all sorts of things can go wrong which is why I didn’t worry until several hours later when Luna 5’s broken dome appeared over the horizon.
    My mind raced trying to figure out what had happened. It didn’t look like a meteor strike and we have several layers of defense and this kind of destruction shouldn’t be possible. Then I noticed a glimmer off to the East about a hundred yards away. I drove over to it and tried my radio, “Luna 4 this is Luna 5 come in, over.” I tried the other three bases, but got the same response. I stopped my cart, got out, and stood next to a black and twisted piece of the dome.
    “…” All that came back was hissing white static.
    Finally some sense kicked in and I swapped over my visor to infrared. The edges of the broken dome were hotter than the rest. I looked back at Luna 5 and I could see a huge plume of the lost air fading up into space like wind swept hair. My last meal rose in my throat with the cloyingly sweet taste of synthetic beef.
    I switched over to the emergency frequency. “S.O.S This is Frank Wu Seven at Luna 5, repeat this is Frank Wu Seven and Luna 5, come in, over.”
    “…” No response. Either all four of the other bases were down or our com system had been wasted. I didn’t like either possibility so I double checked my own systems. They were working fine.
    I was hungry, thirsty, tired and without supplies. My home was gone, tens of thousands of my friends and coworkers were gone. I was afraid to go in to see all the carnage, but I needed to go in to stay alive. I pumped some de-tension and go-within into my blood stream at heroic doses.
    The place was a horror show, but on the neuroleptics it felt cardboard thin. I don’t think I could have saved myself any other way. Everywhere there were blackened bodies curled up in pain, random limbs,  and the dried out and mummified. It seemed like a horror show you’d see at a festival or fair. I almost expected someone to pop out from a corner and come at me with a chainsaw spraying fake blood. Eventually I found some rations, bottles of water, and tanks of air. The com room was blasted away so I had to still rely on my suit’s radio which was still silent.
    I found a dark supply closet and fell asleep in that. I was shielded from radiation better than my suit alone, but when I woke up I had forgotten to drug myself. I thought everything was okay until I got up and opened the door and the previous day’s images came back at full force. And it wasn’t a crepe paper show to scare children, it was my loved ones. I had recognized three of my fellow Frank Wu clones, The Bio Chamber’s cat, and one of Lily’s clones, the pale blue number on her neck obliterated by burnt black char.
    I fell over with a soft clunk and cried and wailed for at least an hour. Tears and mucus in a suit is a serious no no, but I couldn’t help myself.
    Eventually I picked myself up and drugged myself, this time with some caffeine too so I could get a move on. I scavenged some more supplies and left the habitat.
    I drove down to Luna 4 and it was the same story, blasted out dome with a fading plume of air diffusing into space. Luna 3 was the same as well, but their com room was somehow intact. Behind my numb haze I was probably jumping for joy, but in the moment it was only another series of mechanical functions to perform.
    “S.O.S. This is Frank Wu Seven at Luna 3, please respond, over.”
    I repeated myself several times. When I was about to give up the radio hissed into action, “Luna 3, this is Terra 1, we hear you. What is your status? Over.”
    Instead of relief I felt nothing besides the changing gears in my head. “Terra 1, everyone is gone, the domes are destroyed. I think I’m the only one left, over.”
    “Luna 3, we are at war with hiss… crzzt… “
    “Terra 1, please repeat, over.”
    I stared at the equipment which had just been full of life and let me touch home for an all too brief second. I felt a rumble through the ground. I ran to the bulkhead wall. It’s a good thing I did as a red hot cloud of debris ripped through the corridor off to my left. The ground shook again and knocked me to the floor. A third explosion picked me up, threw me into a wall, and knocked me unconscious.
    The next thing I knew was the taste of blood in my mouth and a spinning headache. I tried to get up, but my leg was pinned beneath a large piece of debris. I pumped in pain killers until the limb turned icy then numb. I pulled and pulled but I couldn’t get free. I labored for hours denying that fact. Eventually I did the right thing, the only thing I could do to survive, and amputated.
    I took a while deliberating, it’s not something you want to get wrong. I eventually decided that right above my knee would be the optimal spot. I programmed the procedure into my suit and let it do its grisly business.
    A local anesthetic went in at the site then the suit pinched around the area and sealed it off. Then, like a shot, a super heated circular steel guillotine snapped into my flesh, cauterizing it, sealing it from airless space, and freeing me from several tons of steel and concrete.
    After spending a few minutes recovering from the shock of watching a bit of me be cut off I pulled myself out. The stump tingled, but that was it. I crawled to an open space and saw what had happened. My mind boggled. I wasn’t an investigator, I was just a third level technician. I couldn’t imagine who would want to destroy the moon bases. They were an international effort. We even had chapels of every religious stripe.
    I found a twisted bit of metal to use as a crutch, hobbled back to my cart, and headed out for Luna 2, guarded but hopeful.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

89) Crack and Follow

    I yelled at my laptop and banged my fist on the table. Even though the only other two students in the lab at 3am had their headphones on they gave me withering looks. I ignored them and went back to my problem. Everything I tried was coming apart at the seams. I couldn’t tell if I was hungry or full or needed the toilet.
    A chat window popped up from my roommate, that kind of guy that never takes classes that are too difficult, “hey bro you still up? come down to ferocious for some after party!1!!1!!”
    “Yeah, maybe.” I typed back.
    “lots of drunks chicks maybe even your type, lonely loll ;)”
    Drunk? Random walk? Wiener Process? Lectures from the previous year in statistics and fluid dynamics bubbled up into my head.
    I ignored my roommate’s message and loaded up my raw data again. The raw data that the University’s basement quantum computer had politely churned out for me in an instant. Its fifteen million q-bits had been mine for a solid millisecond at the beginning of the semester and I was still trying to work out what the resulting thirty terabyte state meant.
    I had asked the computer to factor a large sequence of huge and possibly prime numbers, but the results that came back looked like the nastiest noise I’d ever seen. I spent twelve weeks trying to make sense of it. My advisor was getting pissed, I was getting pissed, but the numbers didn’t want to do anything sensible.
    Later that afternoon back in my dorm room after I had implemented the new search parameters I took a disco coma nap while the computer churned away.
    A few senseless hours later my terminal dinged, like a snap I woke up and rolled over to its glowing screen.
    I stared slack jawed at the results. It didn’t make any sense, it went against all intuition. I’ll reproduce it here if you don’t believe me, see attached binary for raw data and initial program filters.
    It says, “86% Disc0unt! bUY V16A-RA & LEV7IRA T0DAY!!! One Day Shipping!…”
    You can see the message go on and on for several more lines in the same fashion.
    I’ve pinched myself, but it doesn’t make any difference. I’ve checked and triple checked. I’m considering taking a fail in the class because no one anyone is going to believe me, ever. There’s no way, no way in the world.

Monday, 5 December 2011

88) The Plague

    I sat down at my tiny breakfast nook in my tiny apartment with my bowl of Capt’n Crunch in rice milk and flicked on the little black and white television I have there. The morning news talking heads prattled on into comfortable noise and I dug into the treacherous meal. A successful breakfast of Capt’n Crunch requires that one take every jaw movement with mindfulness. It’s very zen that way. Several missteps in a row and their sugary deliciousness will rub your gums or pallet raw.
    It wasn’t until I’d nearly finished my bowl that I noticed the talking heads had been blathering about the same thing the whole time. It was a subtle change from the usual political debacles and local news interest. In their place were interviews with scientists, sanitation workers, and concerned citizens talking about cockroaches.
    Now I’m not a bugophobe, hell I’ll catch spiders and let them out my window with a reprimand, but I had a roach crawl between my legs one balmy summer and I loathe the things. I’m impressed with their survivability, but they’re so damn nasty.
    Since my cheep little TV only got one channel I clicked it off and ate the rest of my breakfast in uncomfortable silence, listening to myself think.
    Would I get that build out on time? Do I need groceries? Did I pay rent this month? I think I did…
    Later, out on the street and well on my way to work I noticed something strange. Every third or fourth person was walking in a daze with snot dripping out of their nose. With the first few people I thought it was allergies and that they were particularly uninterested in personal hygiene. It’s a big city so it’s not like I would point that out to strangers. But after the tenth person with gleaming clear snot coming out their nose I was concerned and began to walk with my arm over my nose. It wasn’t until I saw that every other person needed to blow their nose that I noticed this glazed over look in their eyes and a strangely erect posture like they were proud of their runny noses.
    I double timed it to work at that point and was careful to hide my skin under my shirt when opening doors. Safely inside the building I breathed a sigh of relief. At my desk I logged into my terminal. I had a project that was due before lunch so I jumped into it and ignored my usual loafing around news websites. I slipped on my headphones and rocked out to some tracks from the band CSS, a friend had sent me them. The music and the code shoved everything else in my head out into the aether. I was in a serious groove, it was my art, there’s a reason I’m paid the big bucks.
    I finished the code and passed it off to the Q&A for testing. I was on fire and there was another tasty project in my inbox. I jumped on it and was coding until well past 1pm. Lucky for me the tea cart lady was trollying by. I flagged her down and got myself a prawn sandwich, a bag of crisps, and a soda then I was quickly back into the world of semicolons and recursive functions as I shoveled fuel into my face.
    Time passed and I made a significant dent into the project, a controller driver for a class of medical equipment, dry, but a good challenge. The day came and went, but I didn’t really notice. 
    Close to the end of the work day someone touched me. The shock nearly set me into a fit. People at work know not to interrupt me without some warning. I turned around, ready to deal out some severe nerd rage, but it was my supervisors boss, Alice, a tough big city woman everyone knows not to mess with. I tamped down my anger and instantly noticed two things, one she was smiling like she was in love and two that she was still holding the naked skin on my arm.
    I deftly slid out of her grip and rolled back in my chair. Edged into my cubical I didn’t have space to run away, but it was instinctual.
    She said in the sweetest voice that was equally music to my ears and eerily out of character, “Hey, come on, you gotta check this out.” She took a step back and motioned for me to follow her.
    Instead of running like I should have I followed her to the full wall glass windows at the end of the floor. Usually it’s a meeting area but the chairs and tables had been moved out into the hallway or pushed against the wall. Everyone in the office was there in various states of undress cuddling on the floor or holding each other. It was too much for me but I couldn’t look away at the horror of their naked flesh, these previously sane people that I had shared polite office space with for the last five years. But now that whole pretense of boundaries and personal space was gone. I hadn’t noticed it before, but Alice hadn’t been wearing anything below her austere business jacket and she was a big woman.
    I slowly backed up into the hallway until I noticed what they were looking at. It was well pass sunset, but up in the sky a orange red and purple luminous trail of clouds was dancing in the sky. It started well behind the city’s skyline. It continued up and over us and I assumed it continued past the horizon behind us. My skin crawled as the clouds literally danced like spastics. These huge diffuse collections of water vapor, brightly colored against the black sky danced and twisted, betraying their size and all reasonable expectations.
    I stood there, rooted to the floor, my logical brain flip flopping. I sneezed and someone laughed. I wiped a trail of mucus from my nose and it felt really good. That ecstasy of slight friction continued to grow from my nose and face and spread out to my whole body until I was a warm sack of pleasure in a human form.
    I looked back out the window and the moving clouds echoed the waves of warmth in my body, here then there, wave after endless wave.
    Someone from on the floor reached up and held my hand and a bolt of pure white love shot through my arm and straight to my brain. I looked down and it was the normally be-speckled and aesthetically repulsive Barry from accounting. But now he was another divine human, another child of the goddess and pure. He was smiling and I knew exactly why. I crumpled down to the floor and embraced him.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

87) Free Jump

    You double check your suit, clips and locks, pressures and dials. Everything’s set. Then you look out the door of the shuttle and it’s sublime. The Earth is huge, and though you have watched the training video the size and brightness of the Earth hits you with a religious weight and you have to look way for a breath, away from the unblinking eye of the Goddess.
    Your instructor pats you on the shoulder and you hear him over the radio, “What a sight, eh?”
    You reply, still a little in awe, “Yeah, wow. I never knew it was that big.”
    He just laughs and says, “Ten seconds, you ready to go?”
    You say, “Yeah yeah yeah!” And give him two big thumbs up and look back out the cargo door. It’s still the Earth, huge and bright and sacred, but that initial embarrassment is gone and you can make out North America from under the cloud cover. Your bowels loosen up a bit as you contemplate the size of the jump you’re about to do. You’re 110 Kilometers up in the Thermosphere.
    A count-down pops up on your visor, “8,7,6…”
    You grab the sides of the door and lean all the way back like your were taught. The count down blinks red “3,2,1…” and you jump.
    Nothing changes in front of you, the Earth is still the same size. But bringing up your rear view the shuttle shrinks down to nothing quickly. After years of sky diving you kind of miss the rush of air even though you know up here your ears burst if they were exposed.
    Slowly the Earth begins to grow until all you can see is green and white and brown. It’s a long twenty minute ride until your chute will open.
    Random thoughts flitter through your mind. You wonder how your kids are doing, what’s for dinner, what you’re going to get your mistress for her upcoming birthday.
    The altimeter flashes for a second as you pass 90Km. Then the suit’s automatic systems kick in, your joints lock, the blast shield comes up on your visor and the video camera kicks in and even though its all fire you can make out some land masses.
    The rumbling of the atmosphere is rough enough to make your normal cast iron stomach lurch. Before you can control yourself you feel acid crawling up your throat and kick yourself for not taking your instructor’s advice and going without breakfast, but that ham and cheese croissant and peppermint mocha were so tasty. There’s nothing to do about it and the worst thing that can happen happens, you throw up in your suit mid drop. It stinks and the smell stings your eyes.
    You miss your cue, three soft beeps, to override the suit and fly through the air doing stunts and generally enjoying your self, which is why you took the trip in the first place. Then the suit goes into dead locked emergency backup mode to make sure you get to the ground safely in another fifteen minutes.
    ‘Well, that’s fifty grand down the tube’ you think to yourself, chagrined.

Friday, 2 December 2011

86) Mary's Vacation

    Mary got up a few seconds before the alarm went off in anticipation of another perfect day. She popped out of bed and slapped the clock just as it was beginning to wail. She scrubbed her teeth, flew through her morning stretches and skipped into the kitchen for buttered toast and Vegemite that should have just popped out of the maker. Except the familiar smell wasn’t there, that salty tang and light burnt smell was replaced by a fresh grassy smell.
    Her heart sank and the long forgotten tightness of depression in her belly started to creep back in. She shook it out and faced her fear of losing the routine that gave her life a steady keel and walked into her little nook of a kitchen.
    And from the platform of her maker box gazed out at her the most adorable bright eyes set in a round little twee face made of white fuzzy cuteness, a tiny tea cup sheep. It gave out a weak little high pitched bleating sound and moved to jump off the platform, but found the ground too far away.
    “No, no, no, not today. Why today? It’s Thursday. Thursday isn’t special. What are you doing here?”
    It looked back at her and bleated, this time it was more of an old soul kind of be-in-the-now sound. Then it folded down on its nubby little knees and sat on the maker box platform disturbing little piles of still dissolving support structure.
    Mary stood there for a minute, seething at the injustice of it all. Today was supposed to be like every other day. Today is like every other day. Today is supposed to be like yesterday. No matter how often she repeated that mantra the stark reality of the tiny little lamb could not be ignored.
    She walked over to the lamb in the box and it pricked up its ears expectantly. She frowned at it and punched up the box’s display. She scrolled through several pages of errors in the log file and eventually found the only name, one James Savage. She made the box print out a receipt with James’ name on it and shoved the slip of paper into her pocket.
    Mary unceremoniously picked up the lamb, brushed off the remaining little flakes of support material and set the animal on the ground. It bleated again, accusingly.
    “Look you little fuzz ball, Jimmy got their wires crossed and printed you out here. I’m not the animal type. Hell, I’m not a vegetarian, but you wouldn’t even make a light snack.”
    The little lamb looked up at her and said, “Blaaaa.”
    “Can’t it just wait until I have breakfast? My blood sugar is low.”
    Mary sighed and rubbed her face. The lamb walked over to her and softly bumped into her ankles.
    Mary said, “Fine, I give up. Fine, ok? We’ll find your owner right now. Ok?”
    “Come on.” Mary walked to her front door.
    The lamb bounced over to Mary as she held the door open and looked up at her with those tender loving eyes. She shooed it into the hallway, closed the door behind her and walked to the elevator. The lamb was right behind her the whole way.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

85) Snoot the Faery

    Snoot dragged the last of the crab apples back to his tree, he pulled down his well worn glamour over the doorway and fell into an exhausted heap on his sweet sweet quarry. This pile of fruit would net him at the market many many gold pieces as human world fruit is always a delicacy. 
    As he slept he dreamt, and he dreamt of the human world. He was a businessman with meetings to go to and important calls to make on his cell phone. He had an expensive car and a beautiful wife in this terrifying dream.
    Just as his boss was about to give him a promotion Snoot woke with a start and scrabbled over his precious fruits anxious that some human was on their way to take away his hard work. Eventually the warm summer air and the darkness folded him back into slumber. From there his dreams were calmer and subdued.
    Snoot woke with the first bird calling. He stretched and yawned and sorted through his bag of tricks for the right spell to get him and his precious apples back into Fey, the land of the faeries. Little did Snoot know, but a squirrel also lived in that tree. And this squirrel was mighty hungry.
    Eventually Snoot found the spell and unraveled it. He sighed because he had forgotten how long and complicated it was. He started casting it and lost himself in the ritual that would take him home.
    While Snoot worked the squirrel quietly crawled his way down the inside of the empty trunk. As you know squirrels are a sneaky and immensely paranoid species.
    After several arduous minutes Snoot finished the spell. He wrapped the spell back into his bag and clapped his hands in satisfaction. He adjusted the bag’s straps and swished up some spit to activate the spell. He breathed a sigh of relief and hocked a big glop on to the floor. At the very same time the squirrel jumped out of the darkness and tackled one of the crab apples.
    Snoot screamed, but it was too late. The magic crackled around them and slipped them off to Fey.