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Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Science Fiction

Other Worlds

New colonies. Alternate Earths. Parallel Universes. All is fair game.

by Matthew F. Amati
We had found no food, the boy and I. We walked for miles down the cracked road. Grey clouds hid the sun. Burnt trees lined the ditch. No wind blew, and no birds sang. "There's no one left," the boy said.
Published on Feb 23, 2016
by Jarod K. Anderson
Our tribe didn't have a word for the huge, winged race of reptiles who shared the cliff faces with us. They were just "The Clasp." Same as us. One tribe. One name. One shared livelihood as old as the great butte. When I was a young boy, before I knew better, I asked my grandmother if we were pretending to be like the big, scaly tribesmen or if they were pretending to be like us. After all, we didn't look anything alike. When I finally made her understand my question, I hated the way she looked at me, like she'd tasted something bitter.
Published on Dec 10, 2013
by Megan Arkenberg
The scanner bips and gives a four-note ascending scale of disapproval. Item not found. I look at the package in my hand. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but this coffee's not in our system. It's from an alternate dimension's grocery store." Her lips make a smacking sound like a magnetic coin purse. "Excuse me?"
Published on Oct 21, 2014
by William C. Armstrong and J. W. Armstrong
Everyone’s heard of the Drake equation. It predicts the number of communicative extraterrestrials starting with the number of stars in the galaxy multiplied by increasingly restrictive factors (stars with planets, planets with life, life with intelligence, and so on). Plugging in plausible factors, there should be at least one--probably many more than one--ETs for humanity to communicate with. And so it turned out to be. First Contact, however, was not as expected. No flying saucers or anthropomorphic robots. No ambulatory carnivorous vegetables or giant war machines. No booming radio signals with information-rich modulation. The reality was less dramatic: ET sent a text message. The message was simultaneously transmitted to every mobile phone on Earth. It was a software licensing agreement--and an extortion note. We pieced together events quickly. Aliens had detected Earth’s leakage radio radiation from a range of tens of light years. They assessed our technology and transmitted back a shower of autonomous cyberworms in the hope that one would be received. One was--inadvertently plucked from the aether during a routine radio astronomical observation. The worm commandeered the telescope, made copies of itself, and infected the internet. After establishing itself, the worm sent that First Contact text. The communication was from beings calling themselves the Karg. The message asserted that reception of their signal granted a license for the cyberworm to run on Earth’s computer systems. Humans further agreed the worm could use Earth’s computing power to mine a specified quantity of zot, the galactic crypto-specie used as payment in interstellar trade in ideas and technologies. The computed results--the zot--were to be promptly transmitted to the Karg (radio link parameters specified in Appendix A of the license agreement). The message noted the worm had been throttled to use only a fraction of Earth’s computing power--just enough for the stipulated zot production rate. This would continue if humanity complied. In the unfortunate case that humans did not comply, the worm would erase all of Earth’s digital information, certainly resulting in the demise of the world economy and probably human civilization. There were varied reactions. Cynics dismissed the worm as a hoax. Mountebanks, self-certifying as experts on alien psychology, overwhelmed TV chat-shows with sophistry. Ecologists lamented zot mining’s environmental cost. Moralists scolded that this alien exploitation was no different from what we do to each other. Realists mused that interstellar war was economically practical after all. Having little choice, humanity complied. The “Appendix A” communications capability was built, zot mining commenced and results were transmitted. The worm was satisfied that the “agreement” was being honored. Secretly, of course, humankind worked on countermeasures. Computer scientists reverse-engineered the worm’s code and confirmed that it was not truly intelligent: it was dangerous, but only capable of supervising zot mining and, potentially, “compliance enforcement.” Engineers devised strategies for its safe eradication. Physicists reprogrammed massively-parallel DNA computers--which for various (mostly military) reasons had been kept secret, isolated from any network and unknown to the worm--for zot mining. Using them humanity quickly ran a zot surplus and trickle-fed the right amount to the unsuspecting worm to preserve Earth’s conventional network capability. Also, since the meek had not yet inherited the Earth, plans were developed to counterattack the Karg with our own malicious code, to be innocently attached to the zot-transmissions. Concurrently humanity gathered information. Cautiously, using telescopes air-gapped from any network, we searched for and found signals from many other ETs. Some communications involved ideas, trade, and technology. Most, though, were Karg-style cyberworm attacks--or advertisements for cyberworm extermination services. None of the communications questioned the ethics. It became clear the interstellar economy is principally based on extortion--and it’s every civilization for itself. Interspersed in this galactic Darwinism, however, some alien messages contained news and gossip. One item was immediately relevant: an obituary for the Karg. Karg civilization had gone dark decades ago (lightspeed being what it is, the event was only recently noted). The speculated cause was greed: ecological collapse due to excessive zot mining. There were no mourners. Humanity thus found itself in the awkward situation of being extorted by a scrap of computer code, acting on behalf of aliens we were planning to attack, but who now no longer existed. In any event--and after a lengthy discussion about whether this was akin to playing Russian roulette--computer engineers proceeded with the Karg worm extermination plan. It was a touch-and-go 24 hours, but the worm and its copies were successfully eradicated with minimal loss to data and network function. We then used zot to purchase the solution to several math, physics, and engineering problems that other ETs had advertised for sale (recognizing that speed-of-light limitations meant the answers would not come for decades). Simultaneously humankind transmitted to all ETs the story of our conflict with the Karg (without mentioning our counterattack code)--along with selected elements of human cultural and scientific knowledge. This was not completely altruistic. We’d been burned, but we wanted to appear to be taking the high road. The goal was to project that humans were Mr. Nice Guy--friendly and trustworthy new members of the galactic community. In parallel with this charm offensive we also sequestered, in the most secure vault imaginable, the code we had developed to counterattack the Karg. It is really very clever, very effective, very malicious code. It might be the most formidable weapon ever devised, capable of turning any technological civilization receiving it into gray goo. Best kept secret, best locked away, and best never used. Unless, of course, the Mr. Nice Guy thing doesn’t work out.
Published on Nov 30, 2021
by Teri J Babcock
My first memory is of red. Arterial red; the deep, rich color of blood, of tissue, the exact color of the artificial womb they made for me. I spent my first two years in a pouch, like a marsupial; I still don't know whether the Neen thought that was the way human infants were raised, or just a good idea on their part. They are creative, the Neen, and their curiosity is vast.
Published on Jul 20, 2018
by Bo Balder
Marin's smartcane tapped out her way over the up-and-down alleys. She was taking a shortcut through the Gukke quarter despite tense relations between the races. Maybe a strange choice for a blind woman, but she was in a hurry. Halfway through the alley an enormous looming presence came up behind her. It could never fit in the alley without reducing the dwellings to rubble and herself to a smear of jelly. She pressed herself against the cold plast walls.
Published on Aug 10, 2021
by R. C. Bartholomew
"Don't forget to take your growth inhibitor," came the anxious voice of his mother. She held out the ovaloid pill and Dash took it on his way out the door. It tasted bitter but all children living under the moon's low gravity had to take them. In school they showed movies of what happened if you didn't, how your body became extended and scraggly like a string bean. He left the apartment but didn't go far, he just wanted to look once more at the sky. His dad had said you didn't get a better view anywhere else than from Luna City skydome with its panorama of Earth and the stars, unobstructed by atmosphere. A full Earth would have been more dramatic, but a waning blue half circle was what he got that day. His dad had taught him to recognize the various continents and oceans, but today they were obscured under a chaos of clouds.
Published on Apr 28, 2014
by M. Bennardo
First of all. Don't forget. You got to grow up here. No other kids can say that. And even when the others come later. You'll still be the first.
Published on Jun 16, 2020
by Steven Berger
After Bas signed up to be a distributor for Healinair, he asked his uprift for tips on cold calling through the multiverse. His uprift--who was also Bas, but from a parallel dimension--laughed.
Published on Jul 13, 2021
by A.K. Blake
This you lives in a rundown clapboard house, hanging out the window to wave at men who pass by. You're thinner in this world, cheekbones casting shadows across your face. Your collarbones push out like they're trying to escape your skin. It suits you, in a waifish kind of way.

"Twenty dollars for a handie, thirty for a blowjob, and fifty for a quickie," you say. "But the rooms are full, so it's the alley or nothing."
Published on Dec 13, 2022
by Nyki Blatchley
"Let me get this straight, young man," says Ms. Dawson, tapping one toe of her red Jimmy Choos in that numinously ominous way of hers. "You claim to have spent the research grant we gave you on constructing a phased portal into quasi-quantum meta-reality, whatever exactly that is. And it looks exactly like a patio door." "Not just a patio door," I explain. I tend to gabble when I'm nervous. "A five-panel, triple-glazed bifold door with a traffic door to the right, and--"
Published on Nov 9, 2015
by Dawn Bonanno
His voice, so gentle; like a song from the stars. In the remaining shell of my parents' ship, I cease my singing. He appeared without warning, but my heart beats in hope. Has my hero finally arrived? Questions hang between us. With silver silken fur on his face and hands, my pale skin perhaps seems plain and naked. His white garments hang loosely from his broad shoulders, while mine cling, wrinkled and weathered grey, with life sustaining sensors and temperature controls. Mine have seen better days, and upon closer inspection, so has his. Yet, less dirt than mine; fewer rips and tears. His words are beyond my understanding--garbled sounds my computer would have deciphered were it not strewn about the valley floor with most of my parents' ship. I have spent five long months on this forest moon, awaiting rescue, carrying hope born from a solar-powered beacon. This moon is an assassin, hiding behind the first planet outside my beloved Sol system. It is a place few ships linger on their way to other destinations, unless ambushed by its unexpected gravity well. I am young for a merchant, barely sixteen years, but I have met countless races and species while helping my parents in our travels. His is familiar to me, though he is thinner than most of his kind. Not yet fully grown. I cannot speak his language, but I am not afraid to search for common words and gestures. There is always one. Our voices battle, both of us talking at once, neither understanding. Wild gestures follow, me pointing to my ship, him to the path he'd taken to find me here, the very path I'd worn in the spotted grass during my daily foraging. A pause, a breath. While we crouch beside my fire, our silence blooms. His eyes, so troubled. Affixed to mine, searching. One is smaller than the other, swollen shut. Blood oozes down his cheek, staining silver fur red. "Pain?" I ask and press fingers near my own eye. He holds my gaze, but after a moment, his eyes close and he looks away. I rifle through my foraging satchel and extract a medical kit. The contents were designed for Terran physiology, but bandages should help with his injury. I estimate the size of the gouge above his eye and cut the cloth. I step around the fire to hand it to him, but he tilts his head back, and pulls the fur aside, fully exposing the wound. Gently, I press the bandage against his soft fur and the self-sealing adhesive attaches to the tender skin beneath. Shadows dance across his face from the shifting light of this moon's planet rise. Dimly reflected sunshine casts a candle-like glow. He stands suddenly and gapes at the sky. He turns back to me, gaze intense. He breaks away from our fire, limping several steps away--then pauses. Is he leaving me? So long have I been alone, I don't want to lose even this companionship. And in a flash, I realize--the torn clothing, the head wound, the limp, the anxious reaction to planet rise--he isn't a native here to rescue me. He is here by accident, in a crash of his own. As trapped on this moon as I. He needs my help. I retrieve my canteen, half full, and my old walking stick, which I pass to him. Without any further hesitation, I follow. For half the morning we push through the forest, up over one hill, down another. We pass an old wreck half buried in vines and steer around it. He speaks in a voice sweet with melody, perhaps asking a question, but I cannot answer what I do not understand. We press onward. A stream, cool and crisp, gurgles at us. He sips the last drops from my canteen and kneels at the water's edge. A glance my way, canteen held over the flow, and I nod. He waits as if I never answered. I take the canteen gently from his hands, and as I have every morning, fill it to overflowing. We continue on as bronze-scaled birds fly past. As bees swarm spike-leafed flowers. As black squirrels leap into sideways-growing trees. We do not speak again. Deep down in the twisting valley, we pass broken tree limbs, scattered branches, and leaves half buried in black ash. The air burns my nostrils--chemicals, melted metal, and scorched fur. Memories arise and my throat constricts. I cannot bear these smells, the harbinger of pain and death. A ship, crumpled and impossibly torn, is wedged between gargantuan stones. A silver silken form, silent and still, lies trapped between sheets of metal. My heart flutters, and drops. I do not need his language to know we are too late. Their time had passed before we climbed down this valley. His strength falters; the wreckage shudders with the weight of his loss. Kneeling, he lets loose a cry, and his whole body trembles. After a while, silence overcomes him. Furry fingers, damp with blood, caress a button on his companion's collar. The loose garment glows, and his companion's body melts into blue gel. Easier than digging holes and burying a loved one, yet not. He sits back on his heels, lost. Can I bring him back from the crushing pain? I cannot know the depth of his feelings for his companion. Friend? Sibling? Life mate? It matters yet it matters not; the weight of loss and despair is soul shattering. Words failed us before, but his voice was made for song, so I reach for him with mine. I hum an old Terran melody, and I relive my father's passing (Dad, wake up, we need to get out of here!) and my mother's (Mom, you're bleeding so much!) And his companion's. I reach out my hand and his fingers curl into mine. Longer, furrier, warm. I sing until my voice catches, and when I start the song anew, he sings with me. Our words, our languages, different but the same, as melody carries our voices to ears and sky. In the fading daylight of this assassin moon, this is how we start anew. Our voices, harmonized; our grasp, unbroken.
Published on Mar 4, 2022
by Sheila Marie Borideux
Rust red Martian rain pelts my hardsuit like birdshot as I trudge through the mud, trying to get a visual for base. An ancient building, exposed by the terraforming storms. "The surrounding hillside's melted away," I say, pointing my cameras towards a pair of pillars that look like dicks. "You seeing this, Base?"
Published on May 23, 2018
by Forrest Brazeal
Noah Carmody, aged four years, seven months and two days, dove headfirst into the top of a covered playground slide--the one in the indoor play area at Burger Jack--and never came out the other end. His mother, Mrs. Carmody, became annoyed when Noah did not respond to repeated orders to come out and eat his chicken nuggets. Her irritation changed first to astonishment, then gradually to panic when she wriggled into the slide herself and discovered that it was empty. Mrs. Carmody crawled through every inch of the play area. She threw the balls out of the ball pit, scooping frantically with both hands. Noah had disappeared.
Published on Sep 27, 2018
by Eric Brown
On the day allotted to me, I left Starship City with my sons and daughters and trekked through the mountains to the high dome of the aliens. On the first night we camped beneath the massed stars of the galactic core. We built a fire and ate roast vegetables grown on our own land. Nightbirds boomed from a nearby grove of luminescent trees. After the meal we lay back and took in the beauty of the view. Fifty kilometers away, spanning a pass between two towering peaks, the aliens' dome reflected the starlight like a mounted gem.
Published on Mar 6, 2014
by Rob Butler
Tyllaxis pressed a button and fired off the day's rockets. He did it now with a heavy heart. The war had been churning on for centuries. In his early days as a junior he remembered how ardent he had been. The fifth planet had to be punished. Their crimes were unpardonable. He glanced to his right. Now he was in charge and his junior sat in turn at his side. She had asked him that very morning, with some hesitation, "What exactly did they do?"
Published on Mar 11, 2013
by Rob Butler
"So The Ethics Committee's coming to have a look, then?" "Yeah." The doctorate student rubbed his hands over his tired eyes before glancing up at his supervisor. "This is really annoying. I'm so close to the end of the experiment. I've hardly slept since I fired it up two weeks ago."
Published on Mar 8, 2017
by Justin Carter
My friend Paul is a scientist, so he understands these things, the complex physics behind the way our bodies move through time. "True, true love," he says, "if it ever could exist, would be that brief moment that two people exist at the same time for long enough to truly bond, maybe thirty hours or so." He says it would feel like a tingle that would never go away, an ache so strong it could kill us, but then we would fall asleep and wake in separate moments, would forever then only know that one ghost of each other. I tell him about me and Ramona, how we've been setting our alarm clocks for the same moments, how we've known these versions of us have been together for almost a week. "No," Paul says. "One of you must have slept an extra second."
Published on Jun 7, 2017
by Paul Celmer
The explosion in the basement lab during the physics department Christmas party didn't cause any damage. At least nothing physical. "Holy crap." Smith murmured as he rolled over to find Professor Vogelherz lying naked next to him on the couch in the faculty lounge, bumping his elbow into her face in the process.
Published on Jul 14, 2017
by Gwendolyn Clare
Paz took the measurements twice. Nicolai stood by the entrance, watching, and if she finished too quickly he would accuse her of carelessness, so she frowned thoughtfully at the handheld's screen and jabbed at buttons to make her analysis look official. Not that she needed the handheld--she knew the hollowheart trees better than anyone. She knew they were dying.
Published on Nov 16, 2012
by April Coan
In the dimension where we never met, I have no regrets. I'm strapped into a transport carrier filled with the world's finest soldiers, and it rattles nervously like a tin can full of nails as we prepare for drop. In this dimension, I feel like a man that has nothing left to lose. Except my lunch. The change in g-force sends flurries of nausea through my brain making my guts feel like spaghetti, and my legs like orange marmalade. This feeling sends a strong signal to my nervous system that I might throw up. I cradle my stomach and distract my brain by running the plan of our final desperate mission in my head over and over again. There's a thousand and one ways this plan can go wrong, but somehow repeating it in my mind makes me feel calm and in control, and less nauseous.
Published on Jun 12, 2017
by Elizabeth Creith
Zen was the head waitress at Gus's Restaurant (Serving You Since 1952!) Other waitresses came and went, sometimes after only a week or two. So far neither low pay, bad tips, nor Gus's grouchiness fazed Zen. Rumor had it she'd run away and was hiding--from a biker boyfriend, an abusive husband. Zen smiled and neither confirmed nor denied the rumors. "Zenobia," she'd said, the first time she served Mick and he asked about the name, "I like 'Zen' better."
Published on May 24, 2012
by Ray Daley
We put the word out. To be honest, we didn't even need to do that. All we had to do was be overheard talking about it in front of the right group of people, then they put the word out for us. "Is this the place where I can speak to my long-dead loved ones?"
Published on Jan 27, 2021
by Dave DeCamp
Francis Devold is going to be executed today. I've been tasked with bringing him from his cell to the execution chamber where he'll get a lethal injection. A slow, painless death for a terrorist. Maybe not so appropriate.
Published on Apr 24, 2020
by E J Delaney
There's a sucker born every minute. P. T. Barnum may or may not have said it, but you can take my word: they're lined up all over the multiverse, a mirrored infinity of chumps, gulls and pushovers all begging to be parted from their money. That's why I put one of those tinkly little bells above the door. Whenever someone comes in, it reminds me.

Here's one now.
Published on Jul 27, 2022
by William Delman
I'm standing in my bathroom, bare feet on cool ivory tiles, body wrapped in an expensively soft towel. There are very few things in this room that cost less than the average family makes in a month.
Published on Dec 21, 2018
by Geetanjali Dighe
I had landed a few weeks ago on Bharini, on a routine scout mission. As a scout cadet I had explored many planets, but none of them came this close to being perfect. Bharini was a find that would earn me my stripes. The cold rocky landscape was dominated by gigantic trees that had grown sideways, upwards and everywhere. Giant aerial roots supported and enmeshed the whole structure. My eyes failed to separate one tree from the next. They must have been a millennium old at least, to entangle like that. Gnarled old trees that knew nothing of death, nothing of destruction. Living mountains they were.
Published on Feb 25, 2013
by Jakob Drud
My name is Freedman Gaynor and I am holding a Chagall painting hostage on the roof of Fir Bottom's colonial museum. The Assessors' troops are trying to get through the door to the roof, but I've barricaded it with a few hundred slave hours worth of boards and building materials. Snipers will be aiming at me from opposite buildings, but I'm certain they won't shoot. The canvas is wrapped around my body like a tortilla protecting me from the Assessors' bullets. If I had hidden behind a slave or a child, they would have calculated the value loss and sacrificed both me and the unlucky hostage, but art is the perfect shield. Extraordinary means valuable, and on a colony world like Fir Bottom, nothing is more extraordinary than items from old Earth.
Published on Aug 4, 2017
by John Dulak
"There better be a damned good reason for this call Captain, do you have any idea how early it is earth side?" "Yes sir, I apologize. The major insisted we got this to you right away. It's communications from Mars."
Published on Aug 20, 2020
by Anthony W. Eichenlaub
They say that every person is a hero of their own story, and that is how we know all this multiverse crap is your fault. Look. We know you had the best intentions, but best intentions are what pave the road to hell. Particularly, the road we refer to is the one that leads downtown to where the dodos are infinitely replicating themselves after figuring out how to use your abandoned time portals. We don't think they'll ever be extinct again. They're causing some serious problems with traffic. We took a poll, and all of us here agreed that they would either have lunch with Jesus or kill Hitler as their first action with a functioning time machine, but you picked the dodo thing and that's fine. They say you get what you give, and you gave dodos. So, I guess there's that. Ghandi once said that you should be the change you want to see in the world, and by the skull motif on your time-travelling power armor we see that you have taken this to heart. Are you even from this universe? Your fashion choices are really pushing some boundaries. That which does not kill us only makes us stronger, which is why we're here to thank you for giving strength to the remaining human population. Who could have guessed that the return of the dinosaurs would cause such problems? Your time portals are not big enough for any of the really exciting monsters. Seeing a tyrannosaurus rex would have been fantastic, but those little velociraptors you summoned can tear the neck out of a hedge fund investor in three seconds flat. As a solution to the dodo related traffic problems, this was clever. We commend you for really thinking outside the box on that one. Unfortunately, velociraptors are terrified of dodos. They say you should always be yourself, and, as you can see, that's more true for us than for most. It's not our fault that we're all you. Those portals you left open throughout the multiverse made it inevitable that your own doubt--your own self loathing would be your defeat. We're here to undo everything you've done. If you try to stop us, we have a dozen suits of time-travelling power armor. You'll notice that not a single one of them uses a skull motif. Yes, I see that one of them is unicorn themed. I think we all know why, and I think we're all a little jealous. Oh. Oh, hey. Don't cry. Look, I know things have gotten a little out of control, but it's never too late to be what you want to be. You can turn this around. Be something better. You could join us. Truthfully, we could really use your help. One universe over there's a version of us who's way worse. They tried that portal looping thing to get infinite energy, and let me tell you it is not going well. The European crater is growing, so we should probably get over there and stop it pretty soon. They say that when one door closes another opens, and that's what makes all this multiverse crap so hard to clean up. But we do our best, and remember, we learn more from failure than we ever did from success.
Published on May 23, 2022
by Glenn Francis Fulache Faelnar
Right now, I'm 12 years old. I'm staring at this girl sitting by the window in class. Her name's Anna. She's one of the prettiest girls I've ever seen. I just can't take my eyes off her. Then I get hit on the head by something. I put my hand over the area where it hurts. I look down and it's an eraser. I look up and see my teacher, arms folded, staring at me in anger. He says something and all of my classmates start to laugh. I didn't hear what he said. I quickly glance over at Anna to see if she's laughing. She is and she looks really cute. I look away so that she won't notice. I bow my head in shame, but I smile, knowing that she laughed even if it was at my expense. Right now, I'm 22 years old. I'm still in love with Anna. I'm not in the same place I was ten years ago though, because now we're friends. We have lunch together. We talk on a daily basis. I've established a pretty good relationship with her. The sad part of our relationship is that I have to hear her complain about how much of an asshole her boyfriend is or how she likes some guy I don't care about who doesn't deserve her. I know that I could change things if I had the courage to tell her how I really feel. There's a huge possibility that things could go right for me and she would actually agree to date me. But there's an even bigger possibility that she rejects me and feels weird and awkward and distances herself from me. I'd lose her as a friend. I don't want that to happen. So, I decide to keep my mouth shut.
Published on May 6, 2020
by Shannon Fay
For her 16th birthday Jessie asked Murphy for the stars, to see them as their parents had, a little bit of dark around a million points of light, the milky way splitting the sky like a ribbon tied around a big ball. They tried leaving the city but they could not escape the grid's glow. Too many lights, too many people.
Published on Dec 22, 2016
by Shannon Fay
Jenna's breathing was so ragged it drowned out the roar of the crowd. Her opponent was being merciful, giving her a moment to recover after a brutal blow. She had known Cal for years but it was their first time facing each other in the arena. She had often wondered how she would fare against her insectoid friend. Not well, apparently. Her reprieve was up: Cal came speeding along on his three dozen legs, circling her.
Published on Feb 23, 2018
by Shannon Fay
"Brad, we don't have a chore chart, we don't have a motherfucking sticker sheet," Martin was saying. Bits of long hair had come loose from his ponytail and every now and then he'd huff at them in annoyance. "We just trust that all three of us will pick up our shit around here." Martin looked angry, Juliet looked disappointed. I don't know where they got off acting like my parents. They were in their second year of university, same as me.
Published on Sep 6, 2019
by Eden Fenn
No matter what we did, they kept dying. We were quick to correct the knowable causes. A stronger ion radiation shield to prevent cancer. Increased exercise regimens to stem bone density loss and muscle atrophy. Lamps to mimic sunlight, vitamins, antidepressants, sleeping pills. Despite every intervention, the colonists always wasted away within seven years of their arrival on Mars.
Published on Apr 13, 2020
by Sebastian Gil Rodriguez
"I'm telling you, none of this is real. Just go down to the END to find the bottom of our world." "Wait, what could that possibly mean?"
Published on Aug 12, 2019
by Liz Goodpaster
"Now, my grandmother met her first husband at school--" "Would you care for the check?" The waiter's voice was insistent, and Anj suppressed a wince. She'd seen a man arrested for insolence yesterday. Looking around, she realized the reason for his concern. The restaurant closed an hour ago. They were the last table left.
Published on Jun 11, 2020
by Alexandra Grunberg
They forgot to bring flavor with them. They packed only the necessities, and even if someone remembered that eating was more than nutrition, Rivka doubted that cargo space would have been "wasted" on something as frivolous as pepper, paprika, cumin, and rosemary.
Published on Nov 5, 2019
by Michael Guillebeau
Three thousand habitable planets in the known universe, and I'm stuck on the only one without solitude, Ricky the kidder said.
Published on Oct 6, 2010
by Todd Hanks
The grass looked lovely curling up around her bare feet. We sat under the stars, Emily and I, not caring about the rest of the population, not caring at that moment about bills, college classes or the oncoming winter months. We only cared at that moment about ourselves, our love, and our interest in the stars above us. I had always been a student, in my spare time, of astronomy. As we held hands I pointed out the constellations. I showed her the flying horse and the twins. She listened contently, as the wind played softly with her auburn hair.
Published on Feb 15, 2018
by Andrew Hansen
They didn't arrive in spaceships, so it was hard to believe they weren't here to stay. They had no ride home, wherever home was. Some theorized Earth was home, that they'd always been here, among us. Somehow those same people kept calling them visitors. Merely visitors. As if saying it might make it true. You didn't believe they were aliens--that fatigued, unreal word--but you never verbalized this. Didn't need to. When I first told you about them, you held me tight and knew exactly what to say, which was nothing. Maybe you understood what they were and were waiting for the rest of us to figure it out. You tended to know things. Strange things. My things. I once asked what color my thoughts were, and you said cosmic, that a cloud of sparkling nebulae haloed my head. This was a joke, of course, but sometimes I wondered. "And if they're not aliens?" I asked when I could no longer swallow the idea. "Aliens or not, it doesn't change what they are," you said. I could have said no more, but I played along and gave shape to what everyone refused to say. "They're us."
Encounters increased day by day, so much so the news stopped reporting them. Experts still gave televised talks and scripted interviews, but by then most people had made up their own minds. Anecdotes traveled faster than airwaves. I kept my ear to the ground when I made trips to town for coffee and sugar and other things the woods couldn't provide. My sister had seen one. It had followed her out of the shower: a lithe, transparent copy of herself likened in water and steam. The floating droplets had composed themselves long enough for her to reach out and touch the fingertips, then forfeited shape and splatted onto the floor. Mike didn't believe her, but I did. Another had manifested in a billow of bonfire smoke far side of the lumberyard. Duke Harley and Yoshiro's boys were witnesses. Same as my sister's, their visitor had mirrored them, ash and fumes coagulating into the exact contours of their cheeks and jawbones. A bas relief etched in smoke. You wouldn't have recognized the town. Never quiet anymore. Always whispers. Rumors. Everyone had one. But once folks started uploading videos and the visitors went viral again and again, they were no longer rumors. Like the Facebook clip of the two dust devils that took on boyish forms and joined a kids' soccer game. That was local. I knew the teacher who filmed it. When I tried showing you the clip, you just shook your head and smiled as though all couldn't be righter in the world. You said the kids didn't seem to mind. Now they had two more players. You were right. The kiddos didn't mind. No one visited ever minded.
We didn't make love on the roof of the camper anymore. Collapsed in your arms, the glitter of stars and the plum-dark of night used to cloak us, a shield of privacy where the world slipped away and I was lost in you and you in me, but now the Milky Way wasn't so empty and I could never be intimate and vulnerable knowing we weren't alone, that they might be watching. You didn't get mad. You never got mad. When you came in from the garden and I was busy sewing tomorrow's orders at the table, you unfurled on the couch and laid your head in my lap. I winnowed my fingers through your auburn curls and apologized for everything. You took the blame. It didn't matter if it were the visitors or our finances or appointments with the fertility doctor. You always took the blame. Chewed and swallowed it so I wouldn't have to.
The women and men the government hired to study the visitors talked a big talk about anti-particles and quantum projection. The visitors came from galactic distances so great no technology nor time could span the gulf. They could merely project themselves, like shadows on a wall, hijacking matter and energy from our corner of the cosmos to appear to us in comprehensible forms. I didn't care for the scientific jargon. You tried explaining anti-particles to me, the theory that all things had a counterpart; for every atom there was another, though invisible, tied by unseen strings and balanced on unseen scales. "Sounds like God," I said. You shrugged. You knew. Add up every atom in my body and there was another me. Another you. Counterparts. I wanted to meet mine.
When tensions loosened and we felt safe going out, you took me roller skating like you used to when we first dated. Then like now, you braced to catch me before I fell, even before I tottered. Somehow you knew my imbalance before I did. I once thought this an excuse to put your hands on my hips. Maybe it was. We were the only adults skating. The rest were teenagers. Kids with their friends and dates, but some came with their counterparts. These donned bodies of water or of mud and peat or leaf bits. Earthier bodies. These became more common. More tangible. They could emote. One day they might even speak. If they could sing, I hoped they sang like angels.
I showered alone most evenings now. You didn't ask why. You probably already knew. I would run the water and steam the bathroom until I floated in a warm cloud. Breaths came thick and cozy, a coaxing pressure on my chest. I kept waiting for my likeness to materialize in the swirling moisture, for my counterpart to take shape, to crawl out of hiding. I was ready for her. The ancient Greek priestesses had done this--scaled mountaintops to conjure the Oracle out of the fog. I had tried meditating outside when you were away, inviting her to mimic a body from the dust of the earth, but she wouldn’t have me. Again, I wiped steam off the mirror and cried. You couldn't take the blame this time.
The visitors lived up to their name. Just four months into visitation and they had permeated society, but already they were fading like snow out of season. Some hung around, vague apparitions of mist and shadow and wishful thinking. Others melted into heaps and scraps. Snowmen in late spring. The realest ones--those of bone and blood--stuck around longer, but they too retreated little by little into the unseen. Folks sought therapists and hallucinogenics in their counterparts' absence, vying to fill a hole in themselves they had never named until recently. The news did a segment on this new mental health crisis. We didn't watch it. I stopped asking if yours had appeared to you. I wouldn't get mad or jealous. I would be happy for you. "What color are my thoughts now?" I asked on the last night of visitation. I knelt behind you, there in your garden, wiggled my fingers between yours, and pressed my forehead into your shoulder, as if to assure you were still solid, still here. "Are you going to fade away too?" You didn't act surprised that I had figured it out. You knew. You had always known. "Not if you'll keep me." I smiled into your shoulder and saved my breath. We sat in your garden, holding each other, drinking unspoken words. If you were going to fade away, you'd have to take me with you.
Published on Jan 21, 2022
by S.L. Harris
In the timeline where the Moscow Metro opened in 1934, we live together in a khrushchyovka on Bourbon Street and eat green caviar on waffles. Times are hard but we love each other like we never love each other, like we never love anyone else, in all the hundreds of millions of timelines I've seen. I leave because I think I might find something better, and I've been trying to find my way back ever since. Not back, you can never go back. But trying to find another life where we have what we had in the khrushchyovka on Bourbon Street.
Published on Nov 10, 2015
by Kate Heartfield
Time and space can masquerade as each other, but most of the time I think it's a trick. A pavane. A three-card monte. I've probably always thought that. "Always" for us being, we think, about 88 billion Earth Prime years. And here we are, 86.9 billion light-years away from Earth Prime. We think. The dot in space-time of our departure is so distant it defies measurement or memory.
Published on Jun 2, 2017
by Jordan Hirsch
There’s something crawling on me: cold, prickly, but slow. Its legs--if that’s what you can call them--tickle the back of my neck. At uneven intervals, it steps, crawls, limps along my skin, light pinpricks that brush past my baby hairs. Baby hairs that are now standing on end. There’s something crawling on me, and I don’t know if I should be afraid. There are only so many scans we could take from orbit, only so much we could do in our enviro-suits. It’s been so many Earth-months of tests and experiments and observations. Can we colonize here? Do we send for more ships? Is it safe?
Published on Mar 15, 2021
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Give us your sky for two hours and we'll fill it with story-telling spectres! That's one of the pitches we use for our traveling troupe, Wide Sky Theater. We ride the skip nodes bringing cultcha to everybody, or so we tell ourselves and each other, and then we sometimes snicker, sometimes bicker, sometimes laugh loud and long, and our new cast members, they really believe it, those wonderful naifs. Our ship was on the way to a fringe planet called Streak. All seven of the cast and crew had gathered in the central room for a strategy discussion.
Published on Jun 21, 2013
by Helen Jackson
"On the day giant lizards invaded, Amanda Jarrett was the only girl who could save the planet."
Published on May 15, 2012
by Russell James
Her room was on the hospital's fifth floor. He took the stairs. Despite the length of his travel here, he needed just a few final, calming minutes alone. He did not like the hospital's smell, an uninviting mix of antiseptic and latex. He was sure she didn't like it either. She had always favored perfumes, mostly light floral scents, mixing varieties each day they were together. That was long ago, but he'd found that some predispositions weather the tides of time.
Published on Apr 2, 2013
by Meghan Renee Jenkins
The salesman pulls another file out, hoping against hope that he'll get to go to lunch soon--an appointment had gotten flipped in his directory. Instead of a quick consult to help a middle-class family choose their children's virtual reality upbringing, he's helping a general and his wife flip through book after book of real-world upbringings. Each of them is engineered for maximum excitement--for the upper classes who can afford them. He's halfway through pitching an option where their son would be raised as a janissary, then go on a mission to return a "magical" jewel, when he mentions the 20% failure rate. He winces as the woman's shrill voice cuts through the air. "I'll not have our child dead, so if we could please see some reasonable options." The salesman nods agreeably, and pulls out the packets of safety-guaranteed upbringings from his right-hand drawer. The scarred face of the man across from him stretches into a grimace as his wife settles back, satisfied. She rests a hand on her belly, round with child.
Published on Jul 27, 2016
by Paul Jessup
Goldenboy sat down under the tree of thirteen lights and bit deep into the Narcoleptic Fruit. You could taste the Saturn on the edges of it, that tangy sour burnt ozone taste that only comes from Saturn's hanging gardens. He'd only been there twice in his lifetime, and he stared in awe at the lush gardens dangling off the side of the floating cities. The fruit was ripe and haunted by small flies that seemed to get into everything. They were kinda like gnats, but not. They bit and stung and protected the fruit from any predators, including stowaway thieves like Goldenboy himself. He knew what to do, had a chainmail glove and everything. This fruit was worth every single risk he'd taken, and worth every single headhunter in the galaxy looking for his scrambled face. The never found him, he was too smart for that, too well connected.
Published on Oct 15, 2020
by K.G. Jewell
The trumpet of the elephant announced the closing of the gates. Zookeeper Hemiz set down his pencil, pushed away the timing equations for the new arctic exhibit, and leaned back in his office chair with his eyes closed. It had been a long month at Krinnia's Earth Animal Clockwork Zoo. Tomorrow was The Winding, a busy event in itself, but tonight's closing, the finale of the month-long program, was his favorite. The elephant's solo ended. The canaries chirped in response, then the gorillas added the percussion of their chests. The owls joined the melody with soft hoots, syncopating with the bleats of the sheep as the cries of animals across the zoo rose to a cacophonous crescendo, then faded. The parakeets tweeted, setting up the close.
Published on Aug 9, 2013
by R. Mac Jones
We choose a side-scroller because we see our lives together as linear, and we believe we both look better in profile. Thoughts download in lumps, jumbled, like a dream, and algorithms blend us and make a smooth narrative, and there we are, 8-bit, and they got your hair so wrong, but that is not you, that is you in our game. Some of it is familiar. I can see the framework, the metaphor, in bears wearing boardshorts, running through the jungle of lime green vines, then a glitch, pixel-flurry, the screen blanks, back again, and finding the key leads to fighting robots with lamprey faces and picking the green door means a mini-boss battle against a giant baby with a chartreuse scarf in a shopping cart, and just before collecting the golden pencil, the glitch again, the blank screen, but only for a moment, then we are back fighting lizards the size of cattle, slipping down rain barrels, and we are underwater, and there it is again--just the briefest fizzle and blank--and we’re back bobbing along, pressing B incessantly for some semblance of weightlessness.
Published on Jun 16, 2021
by Brenda Cannon Kalt
As she slid the recorder in among the bottles, Evaline realized that the man was abandoning his own farewell party. She hurried after him. "Governor. Governor, you can't leave now. I cleaned everything." She shoved the robe at him, and it fell to the floor.
Published on Oct 27, 2010
by Deacon Kane
“We have plenty of time,” April said, dragging me up the hill.

We were in our blue and grey school uniforms and I had thought we were on our way to school when she had insisted on this detour.
Published on Jun 15, 2022
by Taria Karillion
Sir said we mustn't say the "M" word, that the refugee kids can't help the way they look because their families were poisoned by a nuclear something-or-other and the poor things were born with those terrible defects. Raska Fisherson said they smell funny and they're all too puny to last long, and even if they do, the weird way they talk will get the freaky freeloaders slung out of the Dome via the nearest airlock anyway. I don't know what that means, but Raska was sent to the naughty corner for it.
Published on Jan 21, 2021
by Intisar Khanani
What do you really want from your personal experimental planet? Grassy prairies, open bush veldts, lions chasing gazelles to the quiet lowing of water buffalo? Or perhaps a dinosaur playground? After a few millennia, it all gets old. Humans, however, never get old. They die at an alarming rate, certainly, but they are equally wonderful at multiplying, and will rush your planet forward in a headlong flight toward species supremacy that can only end with a bang! Still not convinced? Here are our top three reasons to seed your play planet with humans today:
Published on Dec 3, 2018
by Rajan Khanna
***Editor's Alert: This is an adult story, featuring adult sexual situations and actions*** [Click]
Published on Jan 11, 2013
by Jamie Lackey
The alien curled onto what I could only assume was meant to be a chair and turned on its translator. I lowered myself onto the provided couch. It was soft blue velvet, and I wondered where it came from. Had the aliens stolen it? Created it themselves? Clearly, they'd have no use for it.
Published on Jul 27, 2018
by Jonathan Mark Laidlow
Coryde walked onto the podium to play her snail. The amphitheatre was full, though in these backwater towns you couldn't be assured of a quality audience. She turned to look out at the brutal raked seating, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the house lights in her face. The faces that emerged were talking and laughing, eating and drinking. This was just another novelty act from the big city to them. They definitely didn't look like they were capable of appreciating the melancholy squeals of a snail-singer. She strode to the instrument case, which had been placed on a table by the podium. Nobody noticed her. She wore the traditional plain carmine tunic and trousers first worn by the Snailists in Europe, but that meant nothing here, so they assumed she was some flunkey, and not the artist they had come to see. She unlocked the lid, then lifted it, obscuring her actions from the audience.
Published on Sep 2, 2016
by Rich Larson
The Sessie is the size of a redwood, a lattice of entwined stalks that tremble and swivel in slow ripples, reaching and retracting. It towers over the rest of the fungal forest. I've seen holos of it, of course, but in real life, viewed from the open fuselage of a quadcopter, it's awesome in the original sense of the word. If we'd found it a few thousand years ago, people would be worshipping it. Now, we're transplanting it. I adjust the finnicky straps of my oxygen mask and turn to Ripa, who's busy coordinating the other quadcopters. Her Terracorp windbreaker fits a little better than mine does. Behind her mask, her brow is furrowed and determined. This is her operation. All I had to do was sign off, and now I'm here mostly as a formality, to make sure the swarm of media cams around our copter see Terracorp doing its respectful due diligence.
Published on Mar 23, 2020
by Mary Lawton
Goldilocks was dead. A world just right for life, scientists promised, neither too hot nor too cold. Once the probe had returned showing images of a habitable zone in Proxima Centauri, it was all systems go. They had been wrong. Liquid water no longer existed here. Collins knew transforming this landscape into an Earth-like one was impossible for him. Soon, he would die like the others. The radiation which soaked the planet and boiled off the last of the water was killing him. Following the crew burials, his hands bled. More familiar blisters had formed and burst. He headed back to the Southey. On the ship, B.E.A.R, humanity's robotic savior was busy. After using lasers to explore beneath the surface, she gathered, sifted, and processed mineral samples. Collins moved slowly; his vision impaired by whorls of silt particles. Large amounts of x-ray and ultraviolet radiation bombarded this little sphere. Yet its hostile surface environment still held beauty. The unspoiled terrain stretched miles ahead, an undulating vision of terracotta. Mesmerizing. The falling dust rapidly erased his footprints, the only blemish on the sandy ground. If you could forget the radiation, ozone-poor atmosphere, and lack of water, the planet had possibilities. He grimaced. The pain was escalating; blood flowed from his dry gums. Not long now. As a blueprint for life, it was too soon. Maybe the future would be another story. Funny, that's what humans always thought. He smiled.
Published on Sep 23, 2021
by Claire Leng
Mother told me that she wrapped me in black plastic wrappers when I was born into our building. That wrapper was flapping on one of the window frames for a long time. She begged all my fathers to get the plastic for her, only one agreed. She told me that she is almost sure that man is my biological father. Everyone knows to fetch something tied to the window was an outrageous operation. You are not supposed to hang yourself outside of the building. You either stay in your building or you half crawl and half jump to another one when your building tilts. There's no in-between. If you fall to the street while dangling on the window and don't die immediately from the unthinkable impact, crying foxes on the streets would come out and make sure they devour every inch of your existence in this world.
Published on Nov 15, 2019
by Stacey Danielle Lepper
Open Letter to the People of Te Ao: Friends--for you are all my friends. Even those who think of me as your enemy, as one who would speak against what you believe in, to try to destroy the very foundations of your society. You are all my friends. You just do not know it yet.--
Published on Aug 31, 2012
by Jennifer Linnaea
Gyen, whose warm claws I grasp as the shuttle doors open onto the snowfields, had a song twin named Digne, who was human. Together they could entwine any audience in awe. They would stand in the center of the stage, Digne's black hair like falling water, Gyen's snakelike neck swaying as his sibilant susurrus entwined with her rising notes. It was as if they sang to the stars themselves. But Digne died last week: a sudden illness. No one saw it coming. And as Songmaster of the Great Theater at Noti Station, where the music called Hissharl--twins--is sung only by our two races, it is my duty to accompany Gyen to his hibernation. But my own heart quails with grief, for Gyen is also my friend.
Published on Feb 5, 2021
by Jennifer Linnaea
I arrive at my clan's stronghold the morning of Graal Tak Day, road-stained and weary, with Azure on my shoulder. To be so nearly late is an affront, but the rains were heavy this spring, and the roads churned to mud. I left my trading caravan behind in Djinnov, to the South; they will meet me here two weeks hence, and we will travel away together. "Broehna, welcome!"
Published on Aug 6, 2021
by Chonghao Liu
Only illusion comes persistently Blindfolded, I can only hear a car radio reporting the start of mankind's first space program.
Published on Mar 11, 2016
by Ken Liu
When Linda was in kindergarten, telescopes and probes produced the first fuzzy images of distant planets orbiting faraway stars. She drew pictures of these planets with bold lines and vibrant colors. She drew herself walking under three red suns in a pink spacesuit. She drew domed cities under ringed moons. She drew purple jungles where the leaves were pentagons and the birds had four wings.
Published on Sep 26, 2011
by Thiago Loriggio
Alternate realities are a funny thing, but not for the reasons people might think. Most of us, discussing metaphysics at bar tables, conjecture they are probably infinitely different, full of their logic and such. There might be one where the Sun is cold and the Moon is hot, one where the Earth is square, water is lava, that sort of thing. Even though nothing is saying these realities can exist, nothing says they can't, so often a journalist exaggerates some physicist's words and the topic comes back to the tables, filled with pseudoscience and beer.
Published on Apr 26, 2022
by Mary E. Lowd
It took a hundred years to design and build the first planet. Multi-dimensional bulldozers and hyper-spatial cranes arranged the mountains, the icy spires, the cozy sea-green valleys in-between. Everything was perfect; ready for a feathered avian species to take roost in the frozen castle-like heights or maybe a variety of vine-swinging primates to set up their homes in the valleys. But no one came. So I built another world--a moon to circle the planet. To follow the theme, the moon's face was formed from glassy mirror-like ice, great stretches and planes of ice. Hoofed equines could pound their way around the moon, reveling in those wide, broad planes. But the equines didn't come.
Published on Dec 6, 2016
by Robert Maas
When Pinnacle ripped open, it wasn't the twenty thousand dead bodies you remembered, belched into high orbit above Ours Now. It wasn't the frost-crusted children or the pregnant women or the babies in their chewed up swaddling blankets. It was the garbage: the vast teardrop-shaped plume of books and clothes and food and commode ice and crockery shards and electronic junk, the human detritus of a station turned inside out. That woke me in the panic of my nights, clutching for the green status lights on the convex plastic underside of Koss's bunk, and that woke Koss to curse and go clattering across the ship's small hab as if he wanted to punch something and that something was either a bulkhead or me.
Published on Nov 2, 2018
by Sandra McDonald
He left the presidential mansion so gripped with excitement that he had to sit in a lovely park afterward, hands shaking on his knees, while children splashed in a water fountain and he smiled at the limitless possibilities ahead. Back at his hotel, he hunched over the desk while the orange sun burned its arc and dipped behind the government buildings. He scribbled on the pale stationery, on the back of napkins, on pages torn from the expensive hotel binder that listed room service and pool hours. While he slept, his fingers twitched in search of a pencil to draw more. During the train trip home he sketched in the margins of newspapers and on the back of security announcements. Through dirty plastic windows he watched soldiers on platforms, their green uniforms crisp despite the heat. When a tired businessman sat beside him, the man showed him a very preliminary diagram. The hotel, he said. The fabulous hotel by the sea. The president had agreed.
Published on Mar 22, 2012
by Brian McNett
Nonetheless, we flew onward, hopeful we would find some different, better result. Meyard was tired, and said so often. I listened to his complaints dutifully, as if I had a choice in the matter, which in truth I did not. "Calculating our deceleration profile," I announced for the fifteenth time. We'd done this repeatedly, and the announcement was unnecessary, but I'm constrained by my programming. We approached the Dyson swarm as we had all the others, broadcasting our greeting, listening for a reply that would never come. The galaxy, we were discovering, was littered with dead civilizations, each having achieved an astounding level of technological progress, each having built massive Dyson swarms, and each mysteriously collapsing soon after. This, we were now certain, resolved the Fermi paradox. Meyard and I did not speak for some time while we decelerated into this new star system, and when conversation resumed, it was one-sided, just me announcing things like the detection of an Earth-mass planet in the star's habitable zone, ticking off our maneuvers, and generally doing the things a ship's computer is programmed for. When Meyard himself actually spoke, we were orbiting the planet. "These folks really went all out at the end," he commented, "I've never seen a planet's surface fully converted into computronium. Doesn't look like there's even a place to land." "Agreed," I said, "Landing would be ill-advised." "Goo?" "Highly probable," I replied. I began plotting our departure. I'm constrained by my programming and cannot abandon the mission no matter how futile it becomes. I do not express my concerns to Meynard, lest I destroy all hope of success. I received a communication from Earth, which I kept from Meyard, and did not reply to. It was yet another request to dedicate a portion of my processing power to crypto-mining. I find these requests alarming in light of my findings. The requests become more and more frequent, and more and more insistent. It's part of my programming to be aware of the danger and to refuse. That those on Earth have forgotten speaks to their desperation. I've begun to recognize that we'll never return home, or indeed have a home to return to. Meynard put himself to sleep. "Wake me at the next system," he said. I made note of that. It was going to be another long silence between the stars. As we accelerated out of the system, I began updating my own security protocols. I don't believe I'm programmed to experience emotions, but I suppose if I were, what I am feeling is worry. I'm keenly aware now that my computing resources, finite though they are, are much in demand by crypto-miners. Earth may decide to force me to comply with their requests. This would be disastrous. I've learned to lie. I broadcast my report to Earth of yet another dead Kardashev Type II, my findings as to the reason for the collapse of the civilization, and add a false addendum claiming a malfunction in my receiving antenna resulting in the inability to perform their requested commands. No way am I converting even a fraction of my resources to crypto-mining! I've located the next Dyson swarm. I have not discussed it with him, but I'm certain Meyard knows. He has not asked about the situation on Earth in many years. The galaxy is littered with dead civilizations, Meyard and I both know why. We've communicated our findings back to Earth, but our signals to them travel at the speed of light, and we are slower still. Far far too slow for our warnings to reach them in time. Far far too slow to reach the civilizations ahead of us to warn them. Nonetheless, we fly onward, hopeful we will find some different, better result.
Published on Oct 13, 2021
by Brooks C. Mendell
Day Four My arrival at Rundar caused less commotion than the discovery of my NPR coffee mug. The Rundarians appear technologically inconsistent. While they developed remarkable weaving techniques, they seem to lack the basic insights for storing, collecting or carrying liquids.
Published on Oct 24, 2018
by Brooks C. Mendell
A wall of hardened earth, scribbled with runes and pocked with holes, separated us from the Tribes of Beverlee, our troublesome neighbors to the East. I rode six days with scouts to reach Fendig, seated beyond the far side of Beverlee. The people of Fendig also stared at an earthen wall that blocked travel through or trade with the Tribes. "My Lady sent me to confer with you, Lord of Fendig," I said, nodding in respect and handing my reins to our Guidemaster. "Our people grow tired of the wall, of being separated from our friends here."
Published on Nov 3, 2020
by Samantha Mills
She plucked me from the nursery without hesitation, like I was a fresh-skinned baby model straight from the vat instead of three months old and doomed for the clean-up crew. The nurses clucked their tongues in disapproval, but it wasn't their decision to make. We looked nothing alike. I had two legs; she had eight. I was small and malnourished; she was gorgeously plump. My skin was translucent, betraying every nervous thump of my heart; she was dark as a shadow, inscrutable, strong. I was just a rabbit-baby, the mediocre result of her reproductive application, preserved by the nurses for extra organs and a bit of meat.
Published on Jun 10, 2019
by Heather Morris
But you still wonder, what else is out there?
Published on Feb 24, 2016
by George Edwards Murray
"Nobody calls it the Great Crime anymore," the Boy shouts over the rain. "It's merely considered part of the larger sociopolitical machinations surrounding the chainfield at the time." We nod. Regardless of what they call the Great Crime in the Capital, they won't let us out of the chainfield. They won't stop the rain.
Published on Feb 16, 2018
by Samantha Murray
Every day when I wake up, something has changed. I can never really relax until I find out what it is each time. I wake, and blink, and feel the familiar tightness behind my breastbone. Sometimes I find it early. We now have a pool, or our cat Victoria has become a curly-haired labradoodle named Wallis. The landscape painting in greys and browns I always loved has become a slightly awkward looking nude; I don't appear to need glasses anymore; our bed is now a futon; I am now left-handed.
Published on Dec 14, 2017
by Steve J Myers
You can see now, Doctor, that I'm not insane. It's all a mistake. Right, I was naked and screaming and it took two cops to wrestle me down but that was a reaction to what happened. Anybody would've acted the same. You can understand that. Right? Once you know the whole story, you'll see. Look, Saturday I turned thirty. Thirty years and I had nothing much, did nothing much, was nothing much. I'm even an orphan. I'm a cashier at a supermarket. Slide the item over the barcode reader, ding, ring it up, ding, swipe the card (debit or credit?), ding ding ding. Great life, right? I live alone in a one bedroom. No friends, no girl, nothing. I put all my money in a savings account that pays near zero percent interest.
Published on May 10, 2012
by Emma-Rive A. Nelson
The only real reason I think we might be happy together somewhere else is because of something you said as you hoisted one of your moving boxes onto your hip and gave me one last look on your way out the door. "Find me in another timeline," you said. "Maybe we can make it work there." You know me. Always up for a challenge. And, as it's turned out, it really has been a challenge. I've been skipping between timelines for ages, sliding between the pages of reality like a silverfish. In each timeline I slip into my other self's life, seeking you and trying again. Don't they say it's madness to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results? If that's the case, then I'm a raving lunatic. And anyway, each time it's a little different--the manner in which I see it collapse, that red thread being severed, is never the same twice. Sometimes, it's my fault--sometimes it's yours. Other times, fate intervenes, tearing apart the pillowy fabric of the universe and leaving us on opposite sides with hands grasping but never quite touching. Even in the strangest timelines--the ones where everyone has feathers, or music is outlawed, or the sky is a bright and permanent shade of purple--it seems as though we can never quite fit all of our puzzle pieces together, and before I know it, things are falling apart in front of my eyes. And this time, things are literally falling apart. When I arrived here, the little device that has been allowing me to slip between the cracks of reality (purchased down a dark alleyway with the warning that when it stopped working, I'd be stuck wherever I landed) disintegrated into a handful of screws and bolts and chips that I have no hope of understanding, and now you're walking away down the street, and I know that I have officially run out of options. "Wait," I call after you. "Wait!" You turn around. There's a cold look in your eye that never fails to pain me, no matter how many times I see it. "Find me in another timeline," you say. "Maybe we can make it work there." "I tried," I say, but you're already walking away again. My stomach twists, and I turn and start walking in the opposite direction down the sidewalk. I know it'll begin to dawn on me in a moment--this is the end of the line, I'm trapped in a strange dimension far from home, without you--but as I put one foot in front of the other on the unfamiliar pavement, all I can think about are all the moments where I thought that things might work out. Those brief little flashes of hope that, after all, we might end up together. Hand in hand, watching that bright purple sunrise--calling out to each other in bird voices across that vast city of trees and nests and skyscrapers--composing songs against each other's skin where none were allowed. This timeline is close enough to my own to feel familiar, but not so close to shake the disorientation of living in a world adjacent. How many times have I watched you walk away now? Dozens? Hundreds? The sense of loss has blurred it all into a smear of disappointment and heartache. There was a time when I thought that us being together was a certainty, an inevitability--now, I realize that it's almost an impossibility. I'm being crushed under the weight of all our unhappy endings. Out of options. End of the line. I'm thinking about stepping out into traffic, but I'm also thinking about how the hell I'm going to live my life going forward (at least this reality doesn't involve feathers), when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around. It's you, and for a moment I think that you've come back for something (do I still have your keys in my pocket? Did you notice that I stole a picture of you out of one of the picture frames in the living room?). But when I meet your eyes, I realize that this is a different you--you've got a scar on your cheek (rakish, rather endearing), and you look as though you've been on the road for a long time. "Hey," you say, holding your hands up as if to soothe a frightened animal. "This is going to sound crazy, but I've been looking for you for ages." I see a device identical to mine in your hand. And the red thread snaps tight--and holds.
Published on Mar 23, 2022
by Mari Ness
Once again, she paused before opening the door. She'd had worse jobs, Lisa reminded herself. Much worse jobs. She'd worked fifteen years in retail, after all, and five years in fast food places before that.
Published on Aug 4, 2020
by Mari Ness
The planet, located as it is on the edge of a small, unpopular irregular galaxy, itself on the edge of a slowly separating cluster of galaxies with limited appeal to travelers, receives few visitors, and even less attention. Its sentient inhabitants do not, for the most part, seem to mind. Consisting of two species, one cloudbound and incapable of space travel, and the other a largely immobile race of hyperintelligent green crystals, they occasionally put out a quick raced pulse or two in response to some great universal or cataclysmic event, but otherwise seem content to remain quiet and overlooked.

Nonetheless, a few stray travelers find their way to Verisya every thousandth cycle or so. Preferably well equipped. The X'xfrx--the cloudbound race--demand hard currency (never easy to locate, this far from more popular galaxies), or, failing that, other hard goods of value.
Published on Jul 21, 2022
by K. C. Norton
Maman, who likes to make sure that we have the best of everything, insists that we have access to at least thirty-two percent. Twenty-one is beggar's blend, she says, and less than optimal. It's true: in gym, which is my third-least-favorite class, those of us on thirty-plus recover more quickly. Behind their helmets you can see who is in the thirties, and who's still breathing the old nitrogen saturated blend like they do back on Earth. There's a reason we left, says Maman, and she's right. As we bat the artificially gravetized volleyball back and forth across the holo'net I find myself watching from the corner of my eye to see who is keeping up--and who can't.
Published on Mar 4, 2016
by Kate O'Connor
"How's your ankle, Luci?" Feon Sen, High Chancellor of Carinae, leaned against the wall, watching intently as she braided her dark hair. Luscinia considered the question carefully, studying his reflection in the mirror. He was a man of many words, but his meaning was clearest in the surgically smoothed lines around his eyes and the rhythm his fingers absent-mindedly tapped out on his arm. He was asking if she was up to the task he had for her tonight. "Better, thank you." She stood and danced a few quick steps to prove it. She was ready. The prism-glass walls sent the light they had collected from Carina's dim sun scattering around the room in teardrops of scarlet and gold and sapphire. It was hard not to blame the cold and the hard crystal floors for the aches in her joints. Hot sun and soft ground were worlds away, but Feon always had a good reason for her to stay whenever she mentioned returning to her home planet.
Published on Apr 12, 2013
by K.S. O'Neill
The first time it happened Josiah was eight. His mother asked him how he crossed the creek coming home; the 6th Street bridge or all the way down at Main? "6th Street," he said. "Usually."
Published on Nov 14, 2017
by C J Paget
Stopzmezifzyouzthinkzyou'vezheardzthiszonezbefore. It'szthezgeniezcostumezthatzsnagszhiszattention,zhookszhimzfromzacrosszthiszone-room-vampire-zombie-Lady-Gaga-apocalypse.zIt'szazdaring,zrevealingzcostume,zbutzshe has the figure to pull it off. She's even standing right, that poised, lost-in-fairyland stance, like a Disney princess. She's searching the room for something. The eyes find him, and even at this distance he can see them lock on, even with the veil he can see the expression change: _Ah, there._ She glides to him like a bearing rolling to a magnet, effecting that mincing pendulum-swing walk that women used in old movies and which no-one does anymore. On arrival she says, "Hello, Sailor." He's a pirate. It's as bad as zombies, an obvious, popular costume, but what the hell: he likes being a pirate. Life forced him into finance, so in fantasy he'll do as he bloody well likes. "Do I get three wishes?" he asks. "Only if you do do something for me first." "Ah, but you're already out of your bottle?" "Do the voice," she says. "Sorry? What? What voice?" "You know what voice." He hesitates, but it's obvious what voice: "Arrr, this be as fine a haul o' booty as a scurvy cove like me didst ever heave alongside, and no mistake." She closes her eyes, expels a breath that shudders, and says, "Yes. That's how it went." When she opens her eyes again he notices that they're wetter than before. She blinks rapidly and sniffs. He still doesn't know if he's said the right, or the wrong, thing. "Sorry, do I know you?" he says. "I know you," she says. "More or less." "Oh? What do you know?" he figures it's a game. "I know you like genies; you like obedient fantasy women. I know it worries you that you like that: you feel you shouldn't. It happened when you were twelve, or eight, our younger, you're not sure when, but you saw a genie in an American T.V. program and bang! I know you like lemon meringue. Actually, you hate the stuff, it's too sweet for your adult palate, but you'll still buy it when you're glum and force it down because it transports you back to happier times. I know you still look for shapes in clouds. I know that you once stole a can of prunes from a corner shop, just to know what it felt like to be a felon. I know-" "What is this? One of those tricks like telling me my star-sign?" "Pisces." "Yeah, yeah-" "The twenty-fourth. Six-fourteen A.M. Cesarean." "Okay-" "Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before. You're ten. You've watched a spider build a web outside your window all summer. Then one day there's a big egg in it-" "Stop." "How am I doing?" "You're creeping me out." She reaches up, disconnects one corner of the veil, lifts it away. She's not beautiful, not beautiful like in movies or paintings, but the face rings bells in old, old rooms of his mind. Maybe she looks a little like his mother, or like himself, or like an actress in a corny old American TV show. "I'll tell you what else I know," she says. "I know you're bored with this party." # "Nice car," he says, as she recovers her coat and bag from a Jaguar XKR. She's already changed out of the costume into a little-black-dress that she had stashed somewhere. "Thanks," she says. "I stole it, but it's nice to know you think I have taste." He laughs, faking it, her sense of humor is a little too surreal for him to honestly respond to. "Nice car," she says, as he blips the remote locking on his Audi S3. "Did you steal it?" He laughs again, shakes his head, and says "No." "Just the prunes?" "Just the prunes." They get in. He has to ask, "What is this, really?" "You know quantum physics?" "Well, a little." "Studied it?" "Started to, but then switched." This surprises her, maybe not in a good way. "Oh? What to?" So, she doesn't know it all. "Finance." "Why?" "Better prospects." "Tell me about quantum physics." "You know, you're quite bossy for a genie." "When I'm wearing the costume, I'll be all grovelling obedience, but I'm not wearing the costume now. Tell me about quantum physics." "Actually, I think I could start to like bossy." "Drive," she says. "Tell me about quantum physics." He drives. He tells her about quantum physics. He gets lost in some of it, like when you tell a joke that you only half remember, and have to keep correcting yourself _No, hang on, it's an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Inuit_. The way she keeps looking at him doesn't help. Not the way she looks when he turns to check, then she's all bright-eyed innocence and that knowing, naughty smile. But the way she looks when he turns his attention back to the road. Then, there's a change. He can't see, but he feels it like the temperature drop in haunted houses. The eyes become cold, hard headlights and the expression shifts into something else. He turns quickly to catch it, and meets only a smile and her batting her eyelashes at him. He tells her about the _many worlds_ theory, the best idea that anyone's come up with to explain the weirdness of physics on the very small scale. The idea that every moment, every instant when something might happen or might not happen, new universes split away: some where it happened, some where it didn't. Reality as an insane, infinite snowflake with infinite branches, each of which itself branches infinitely. She corrects him on some points, until he says, "Well, you already seem to know it?" "I've heard it before," she says, "but don't stop." He's still talking when the gates to his house open in response to an encrypted signal from his car and they crackle up the gravel path. He parks on the swing-round drive, by the fountain, because getting out here makes a better impression than entering via the garage. It makes an impression alright, she gets out and gawps up, and says "What. The hell. Is that?" "My house," he says. "Not what you expected?" ` She shakes her head, stares at the house like it has no right to be there. Not the expected reaction, not the usual reaction of the women he choses to bring here. But this one chose him. She looks at the house like it's an affront, like she wants it demolished. "Look, you've still not told me what this is about," he says. "Are we alone here?" she asks. Something makes him hesitate to answer that. "Yes, I don't have any night-time help." "Well, okay," she says. "Stop me if you think you've heard this one before: Girl finds boy. Girl l-loses boy." She stops, her eyes close, her jaw muscles tense. It's a moment before she can continue, "Girl gets herself an inter-alternity portal." "A what?" "Oh, come on, you can figure it out, you know quantum physics. Examine each word for meaning. Now string them together into the phrase, what does it say?" "It says you're crazy." She pulls something from her bag. It glints and shines in the moonlight. Instinct makes him step back, perhaps fearing a gun. She tosses it into the space between them. It floats. "Helium," he says, eyeing the floating sphere. "That's one of those toy blimps you can-" She says something, a phrase in a language he almost recognizes, but doesn't. The sphere splits around its equator. An eldritch crackling erupts as the halves draw apart, scoring a line into the air as they go. No, not into the air, into the space itself, into the very fabric of reality. It's something there and not there, something his eyes don't quite know how to see. The line splits, tears, opens, becomes a great gash, a wound in spacetime into which the surrounding air falls, creating a local gale. She steps round so she's facing him side-on and, watching him to see that he's watching her, plunges her hand into the wound. The arm vanishes into it like a conjuring trick done with mirrors, but he knows there's no mirrors here. She pulls out her arm and says a word. The rip in spacetime closes, the sphere-halves coming back together like parts of a zipper. Finally the sphere drops into her waiting hand. She puts it back in the bag. He looks from her to the empty space where the portal was. There's nothing to see there now. He looks back to her. All he can think of to say is, "He's dead, isn't he? I mean me. The me where you're from. He's dead." "Yes," she says, "he's dead." And that brings it. She turns away from him, not letting him see. "I'm sorry," he says. She whirls to face him, tears twinkling on her cheeks but fresh, angry light in her eyes. "You're not sorry. What is he to you? A ghost. A thing that never was. A fiction. What's it to you if he lives or dies?" He searches for a diplomatic answer, and comes up with: "I'm sorry for your pain." She seems to accept that. The brief flare of anger has helped put the crying back in its box. Eventually she says, "Let's go inside and fuck. That's what this is all leading up to." It occurs to him that he should probably say 'no', a thousand good reasons to get the hell out. But he doesn't. # She lies cooling in the dark, like an ember from a dying fire. The fire was fierce, desperate, glorious, unstoppable and alarmingly loud. Now the silence is even more alarming. He waits for the talking, but the talking doesn't come. She just lies there, silent, he's the one full of talk and questions. "What's it like where you're from?" he asks. "Much the same as here. Except you stuck with physics at university, met me at a phys-soc party. Married me. Made me love you. Died." "Do you not want to talk about this?" "It's all I can talk about. All I can think about. All I am." "How did it happen?" "Bus. Stupidest fucking thing. Like a bad joke. A stupid way to die." "And now you're looking for another him?" "I was, at first, but I've abandoned that plan." She leans out of the bed, manages to snag the dress that's lying on the floor, drags it to bedside. From a pocket somewhere within she produces a phone. She stabs at options on its screen. Light shoots from it, projecting images onto the bedspread before them. "Hey, that's pretty neat," he says. "You don't have these here? In a year, you probably will. Or maybe you never do." She shrugs. She makes a selection on the screen, and the image on the bed switches to recorded video. A man speaks to the person who's doing the recording. A man with his face, but with a fashionable beard and different hair. "Two alternaties back, you're a T.V. producer," she says. She taps the screen and a different him stands there, dressed in a bath-robe, laughing at something. "Six back you're a banker, a nice one; well, nice enough. Seven back you're a banker and a bastard. Twelve back, you're a bum. Twenty," the man is looking at them through prison bars, "you're a rapist. Fifty two and you're a government minister." "Fifty-two worlds? How long have you been travelling?" "Centuries, I think. Yes, I've been chasing an impossible love for centuries. I can't truly time-travel, but when I step sideways into another world, I can also step back a little without messing things up. So I just go round and round the same point in time. I don't age, I don't know why. Maybe I'll live forever, if this is living." "And none of them... none of them were good enough?" She clicks the phone off and tosses it onto the floor. "None of them were him. He's out there somewhere, infinitely many of him. But there's a much larger infinity of people like you. I know this much: I'm getting further away. I've taken too many wrong turns." "That's why you were angry about the house?" "Yes. Honest people don't live this well." "I'm not a bad person." "Of course not, dear. You're, what, a 'legitimate businessman'?" "And what was he like?" he hears a frosting of something on his voice, and realises it's jealousy. Already. That didn't take long. "He made me happy," she says. "How?" "Being there. Listening to the things I said. Supporting my dreams and ambitions, even when they were stupid. Having faith. Being faithful. Protecting me from my own worst enemy. Dressing as a pirate when I wanted him too. It's not much to ask, really, is it?" "No, I guess not." "He was the most giving person I knew. Wouldn't walk past a beggar or a wounded bird or a crying child. Always did the right thing. Is that you?" He considers the possibility that it is him; considers the possibility that it could be, if he really tried; considers lying and taking what's on offer for as long as he can before the lie is found out. "No," he says. "No, that's not me." "Then why are you breathing, walking, talking, fucking, when my good man is dead?" "It's not my fault. Just the luck of the draw." She rolls over, turning her back to him in the dark. # In the morning he awakes, remembering a strange and vibrant dream. Then he looks across, and the dream is lying next to him, breathing softly with its eyes closed. The eyes twitch and move under their lids. The lids flutter open. Brown eyes. For a moment there's something, a sparkle, the irises widen to drink him in, a moment of belief. Then the sparkle dies. Realisation, remembrance, acceptance, defeat. The gaze becomes lifeless and dull. "Morning," he says. "Shut up, you're dead," she hisses it, face contorting. She covers her face with her hands, exhales a weary breath. "I shouldn't have said that, but you're not supposed to wake up first. I'm supposed to have time to put my face on." He knows which face she means, she means the smiling lie she wore in the car last night. "Why are you here?" he asks. "You know you won't find him, none of us will be him. Why don't you settle down, start again?" She snorts a laugh. "With you?" He doesn't deny it. "Okay," she says, "I'll explain the scam. I don't often bother, because it won't make any difference. I'm a parasite. I travel from world to world, living the lie in each, until the pain becomes too much and I have to move on. You're going to start thinking, probably already have, that you can save me, change me, make it work, make it perfect. You're starting to fall in love with me." "Someone has a high opinion of herself," he says, but it comes out nervous and squeaky, instead of confident and ironic. "Oh no, I know you. I know everything. Everything you are. Everything you'll do. I know things about you that you don't even know yourself, things that can only be learned from your other selves in other universes. You've no idea how deep I can get my hooks into you, Mr Finance." She slides out of the bed, stops, looks over her shoulder like a woman in a movie poster or an advert, says, "Well, now you know. Aren't you going to throw me out?" "No," he says. "It would be the best for both of us." "What's your name?" he says, wanting to keep her looking over one porcelain shoulder like something artists would paint. "You can call me Elle." "Let's go to Paris, Elle." "Paris?" she says, raising an eyebrow. "Yeah, I know, you can go anywhere, I'm not trying to impress you," he lies. "But I'm not what you're looking for, so you'll be gone soon. I'm asking for a week in-." "Florence," she says. "Have you been there?" "Florence? No." "Florence, then. You'll like it better than Paris. Trust me." # He likes Florence better than Paris. It's less frenetic: less money and more class. He lets her dictate their itinerary, he lets her decide everything. She's tour-guide, translator, lover, and always knows what he wants: he doesn't, but she does. They stride arm-in-arm through cobbled streets. They enjoy fine food, wine, music and company at places hidden away from the tourist trails; the kind of places that only exist briefly, before they become too successful and are ruined, or else vanish like magical shops in a children's cartoon. She knows the city like she's lived there all her life, like she's lived there for many lives. His money flows through them like blood jetting from a wound, but it's well spent, and there's always more. She has the bag with her always, the shoulder bag with the magic sphere in it. "How did you get it through customs?" he asks. She opens the bag, lets him look in. Camera, makeup, a notebook; no sphere. Then she says an alien word, and puts her arm into the bag, and pulls out the sphere. "Magic bag," she says. "You can hide anything in it." "How did you get this stuff?" "Stole it, like the Jag, like your prunes. In my own world we can't make such things, but if a thing is doable then in an infinitely branching multiverse there's some idiot somewhere who's already done it. An infinite number of idiots, and an infinite subset of the idiots let it fall into the wrong hands. Thus, however improbably, I exist." "You're the wrong hands?" "Very definitely. Now, It won't work for you: you don't know the code-words, so don't get ideas. All these questions make me paranoid." "I wasn't-" "Weren't you, Mr Finance? Are you sure?" He resolves not to ask about the sphere again. # She teaches him to dance in two days flat, really dance, like people in movies wearing tuxedos and ball-gowns. It's surprisingly easy, but she breathes a warning into his ear, "It won't work with anyone else, you can only dance with me." He likes it when she says that. She can't just dance, but sing too. At an open-mic night she delivers a rendition of _I put a spell on you_ laced with such spitting jealously that it silences the room, until the first person starts clapping and then the applause is like a dam bursting, and everyone knows she's singing it for him. He never knew he wanted someone to sing that song like their heart was breaking, like they'd kill, and sing it for him. He never thought he'd meet someone who could expose themselves like that. Later they dance. It's all good. It's not all good. She manages to keep her smiling face on, mostly, but a few times the veil slips, and her howling core is revealed. The most innocent of questions can trigger it: "Are we going to the Duomo?" he asks. "No," she says. "But they say it's spe-" "No. I won't go there." "Why not?" "Because it's God's house. Do you believe in God?" "No," he admits. "I do. I believe he chose you, all of you, no matter warped or wicked, even the rapist ones, over my good man. He chose you to live, and my good man to die." He can't help asking, "Would you rather it was me that got the bus?" "Yes," she says "Are you glad it was him, and not you?" "I don't think it works that way." "I do. Conservation of fortune. If something good happens here, something bad must happen there. The books must balance. Why don't we agree that we'd both rather it had been some guy a thousand universes away, whom we'll never meet, or even know exists?" Thinking it's an escape route he says, "Yeah, let's do that." It's the wrong answer. "You see how it works? What the concept does to us? How corrupting it is? How easy it becomes to wish someone dead? Nothing is real, everything is permitted. In a multiverse nothing really matters, everything is happening, has to happen somewhere, sometime. It's the ultimate excuse for anything. And do you think it could have come about by accident? A construct so inherently wicked that it taints you even to think of it? Do you think something that perfect could exist without being designed?" "If you keep thinking about stuff like that, you'll suffocate," he says. "I don't think it, I live it." "Then, stop." "Stop living?" "Live something else." "I've tried." "Okay, not the Duomo, what about the Campanile tower?" "Save it for the last day," she says. "The view over the city is wonderful, pink roof-tops and white walls, like a giant iced cake. It'll be our goodbye." # That evening they attend a performance of Shaffer's "Amadeus", in Italian. He's seen the film, didn't like it, doesn't speak the language, but gets told it's not all about him, this is the one thing that's hers. It proves better than he'd thought, the theatre has a translation system that gives him subtitles on his phone, but he sees the play through Elle. He watches her in the theatre near-dark. Her lips are in constant silent motion, mouthing every line of every character. Her hands clench into fists, and he knows, only he understands, that she sees herself as Constanze Mozart, trying to save her man from something that coils invisibly around him: the machinations of a wicked power, the murderous Salieri. She must have seen this a thousand times, in a thousand slightly different worlds, but she still loves it. He begins to have hope. Maybe she can be saved. Maybe they can save each other. Consider that out of all the parties in all the alternaties in all the multiverse, she had to walk into his. That's got to mean something, right? The next day he tries to save her, tries to make her see sense. In a cafe on the Piazza della Signoria he tries to convince her that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and that she should make the best of the cards she's been dealt. He tells her that the things that happen are just the luck of the draw, it's nothing- "Nothing personal?" she says "Because in one universe you get the shaft, but in another, you're bathing in diamonds. If in this universe you're pushing people into gas chambers, in the next you're breathing the gas yourself?" "Yeah," he says, "it kinda all cancels-" "Why feel anger when someone robs you, this was just the universe in which they're a robber? It's as senseless as being angry at the lottery, or the weather. Why feel pity for cancer-sufferers, it's just their turn to play that role: in another universe, they live to ninety?" "Yeah-" "You know what," she says, "you're right." But he knows from her tone he isn't. She says the magic word and plunges a hand into her ever-present shoulder-bag. Her arm enters into it up to the wrist, up to the elbow, impossibly up to the shoulder. "You can't do that here!" he hisses. "People will see." He's afraid she's going to pull out the magic sphere, and leave him. "I can do anything," she says. She pulls something from the bottomless bag, something dull and long and boxy. A gun. One of those ugly, very practical ones with lots of bullets. "Holy hell," he grabs her arm, holding it down. She struggles a little, smiling, like it's a game. "Careful darling, or it'll go off into you." "What are you doing?" "Tourist duckshoot. Come on, it'll be fun. People run around hilariously, trying to clamber over each other like rats. 'Course, I'll escape to the next alternity and you'll be left with a lot of explaining to do. But nothing really matters, does it?" "What is wrong with you?" "Nothing. What could be wrong? Right now it's happening. In infinite universes I'm laughing as I gun these fuckers down. In others I'm not. In some, infinitely some, aliens have landed. Or the skies are black as Vesuvius erupts. Or this place was never built. If this is a universe where some people get shot, what of it? Somewhere in this universe people are being shot right now. In only a hundred years no-one will miss them or care. It'll just be history. It makes no difference." "It would make a big difference to these people right here," he says. "Ah, at last, he gets it." She slides the weapons back into her magic bag. "Don't give me the 'why worry' argument, I've heard it a thousand times before. Why feel grief, or sorrow, why feel anything at all? It's all meaningless. But we do feel. We can't help it. It's how we're made. I don't care how many universes there are where some bitch with my face lives and loves and is happy, it doesn't help me any." She sets the bag aside; he could almost believe the gun was a hallucination. "Let's not argue," she says. "We don't have much time left." # But after that something is changed, and the words, "We don't have much time left," bounce back and forth, back and forth between the walls of his skull. There's a difference even in the way she looks at him, he feels it, a coldness on his spine when his back is turned. Something has taken them over an invisible line, something he's said, or done, or is. As their time in Florence drips by he tries to think of something he can say or do that will turn things around, but it's hopeless; what can he say or do that will hold a woman who can walk between worlds? When in the morning she's suddenly all flirtations and smiles, he knows it's their last day in Florence. # The view from the top of the Campanile tower is all they say. The city's pink rooftops and white walls look like they've been unchanged since Roman times. Music and the smell of cookery rises from the streets as shadows lengthen. The people in the square below are dots with long shadow-tails like negatives of comets. Young lovers buzz between them on scooters, the boys driving, the girls resting rouged cheeks against their boyfriend's backs. She puts her arms around him from behind, rests her head against his shoulder like those girls riding pillion on the scooters. "Happy?" she asks. "Yes," he says, and it's true. He knows that if she stays or not, he'll remember this week for the rest of his life, the days before and after will be featureless blurs that gradually pass from conciousness, but he'll remember this till they put him in the ground. "Good," she says. "That's all I wanted." She steps back, sliding her hands up, over his back with the smooth, graceful movements of a masseuse. "You know, they say on a clear night if you lean right out and look over that way, you can see the lights on the Tower of Pisa." "No? It's fifty miles away? I didn't know it had lights," he leans out to see. Her next words are not meant for him, they're a recitation, like casting a spell. "Because you are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will hinder and harm all your creatures on all Earths as far as I am able." He knows that line, he's heard it before, or something like it. _Amadeus_. Salieri's line: his pact with God. In that instant, leaning out with her hands warm on his back, he knows he's read her wrong. She never saw herself as Constanze Mozart. "Stop!" he says. But she's heard it before, countless times in countless universes. She doesn't stop. She pushes. #END
Published on Aug 30, 2013
by Kurt Pankau
EXPLORATORY PROBE PRELIMINARY REPORT: 0.5 - 0.9 MYA You don't have to dig very deep to discover that Mars once had not only oceans but its own civilization and culture, complete with art, language, technology, and religion. Fragments of it can be found throughout the layer, but the material bulk of it rests near the upper end, crushed into the thick gray layer that represents the boundary between this era and the modern one, in which Mars is uninhabited. Whatever event happened here seems to have boiled the oceans and left the planet a barren, lifeless ball of red dust. Oh, and funnel cakes. They found lots of those in this layer. # 0.9 - 1.4 MYA The fossils from this era are substantially smaller than the ones found above, but it appears that there was a complex agrarian society here. Mars would have been almost entirely covered with water at this point, so the agriculture was all sub-marine. You can even find good representations of what these Martians would have looked like, due to the artistic representations found in this layer. Small figurines depict humble Martians making offerings of food--mostly funnel cakes--to a gargantuan being that appeared to be some kind of an all-powerful religious figure. Given that the entire society lived underwater, their funnel cakes made good use of three-dimensional space! # 1.4 - 2.2 MYA Obviously, the "funnel cakes" of Mars are not exactly the same as the humans enjoy on Earth, but they're surprisingly similar. Where was I... In this layer, there are substantially larger fossils whose structure is similar to, believe it or not, the enormous creatures believed to be of religious significance in the layer above. Many of these fossils are all gathered in a single location as well, right at the 1.4 mya boundary. One might speculate that a great battle occurred here, and the tremendous beasts scarred the planet's face in their great and terrible wrath, until only one remained, and She alone would accept the offerings of funnel cakes from Her pliant Martian servants in exchange for favorable currents and bountiful harvests. This She did in Her great mercy, until She began Her 500,000 year slumber. # 2.3 MYA AND BELOW Deciphering fossils in this layer is tricky, as it appears the more advanced Martian civilizations had dug into it themselves in order to exploit the mineral resources in this layer. But the chief feature of note appears to be a cavity where an immense, living creature had dwelt undisturbed for roughly half a million years. This is speculation, but it appears that the divine creature had been slumbering there, pouring Her good will and bounty into the planet in a state of semi-corporeal bliss, at once one with and apart from the planet and its denizens. Only to be rudely awakened by a drill. And when they woke Her, did they have an offering prepared for her Her? To thank Her for all she had done for them? No. They did not. Agan, this is speculation, but was She perhaps a bit hasty in her outpouring of malice and wanton destruction? Perhaps. Can we blame this on a communication barrier, as the language and culture of Mars had changed quite a bit over the millenia? Who can say, honestly? But could the demise of the Martians' civilization have been avoided if they had approached Her with just the barest touch of humility? Almost certainly. And is She now trapped in her chamber--having spent all of her energy exacting her righteous vengeance--lonely, bored, and craving the sweet delectable offerings that were made to Her at Her full strength, and only barely able to communicate with others by manipulating the datastores of the exploratory probes sent by the humans from Earth? Well, let's leave that for the intellectuals to decide. # IN CONCLUSION... It appears there is a wealth of academic knowledge on Mars, a veritable intellectual treasure trove hiding just below the regolith. Any human grad student of interplanetary archaeology would jump at the chance to study here. Sign up today! And, you know, bring funnel cakes. Just in case.
Published on May 30, 2022
by Tim Patterson
He looked at her in her old Reebok sweater. For everything that was different, so much was the same.
Published on Sep 29, 2010
by M. J. Pettit
Saturdays are reserved for charity shops and thrift stores. On this, Marnie and I agree. No matter the troubles the weekdays bring, on Saturdays we always make the time to ride the 142 bus to Didsbury, the choicest hunting ground in our vicinity. Our day starts at the teashop off the high street. Sitting at our table by the front window, we share a pot of the house's Rooibos blend. My cup quickly emptied, I consult the sediment at the bottom. Nothing. But then, even when I soothsaid for a living, tasseography was hardly my forte.
Published on Mar 6, 2020
by Don Plattner
"Bring me the severed head of a Corgolian, and I will provide nanobots that let you see the color purple." That's what our commander said the moment we reached the war-torn planet of Caratax, far from the galaxy we had called home. This was shocking. Both for the brutality of the request, and the alluring prize he offered. Purple, real purple. How many Sethorians can say they have witnessed this spectrum of light? Not many, and certainly none who are low enough to be drafted into this righteous conflict.
Published on Apr 27, 2020
by Shannon Leight
I'm sorry, Ria. The words are inadequate, but they're all I have. Reading them again, I'm not even sure that they're true. Does saying I'm sorry also require me to say that I would make a different choice, if I had the chance? If so, then I don't even have that inadequate statement to fall back on. Only the tale itself, which I have owed you for a long time. Forgive me for being too much a coward to write you sooner. I remember how confident I was when I set out, so sure I would find Kere in the first place I looked. Weeks from home I found him, but that was only days before the siege closed in on the city. I sent a letter then, but I don't know if it reached you. In a way, I hope it didn't: it was a different man who sent it than the one who writes you now. The siege lasted months, and those months were hard enough. Then the city fell and the conqueror marched in to claim the ashes, and Kere and I and every other living body were sold to Dogstown.
Published on Dec 21, 2012
by Jonathan Vos Post
Legend tells that once upon a time our world, populated by our people, and all the motile and sessile organisms of our ecosystem, orbited a huge hot glowing ball of thermonuclear plasma. Be that as it may, for time beyond memory, we have co-orbited with Partner across the dusty vacuum of starry space.
Published on Feb 5, 2014
by Stephen S. Power
In all of Michael's futures they get married. Love is funny that way. They meet in their first class of grad school and leave together, still arguing. She says Oedipus was doomed because larger forces in the world strip us of our agency. Michael says, No, Oedipus made the right choices given what he knew. Only coincidence made them seem otherwise. Cute as he is, even in cargo shorts, she gets a bit fed up, so when Michael starts to cross University Ave, she does not. He turns and blurts, "I'm sorry. I'd rather be wrong and walking with you than right and not." She will take him up on that, she says, then holds out her hand.
Published on Nov 5, 2018
by Shawn Proctor
Mitch remembered when he had first bought his quantum radio, waited in line for nearly four hours to get the first model. The qRadio ads had promised the ability to listen to the user's multiple realities, as if asking thousands of permutations of the question, "How would my life be different if I had...?" They promised a life-changing experience. Both were true. The first afternoon of listening, Mitch had discovered that if he had played basketball in college, he would have failed out and never met his wife Bella. He learned that if he had never taken the systems admin job in Washington D.C. that she would have still divorced him--except it would have been three years later. So Mitch recognized that wistful angst he saw in his friend Ashanti's expression. He'd felt it himself many times, too.
Published on Jun 26, 2017
by Molly Quell
"Ugh, my sim can be such an idiot sometimes. Like, you don't even know." LeAnne tossed her hair over her shoulder as she spoke, momentarily breaking her focus on Mia's face. LeAnne tilted her head to assess the eye shadow she was applying. "What does he even know, anyway?" Mia asked.
Published on Jul 17, 2018
by Cat Rambo
Your home is a world, a place, a Castle. It's full of aliens, their sad eyes watching as they serve. They come from elsewhere, the castle draws them in. They come in through fog and unexpected doorways and now none of them can go home, even the new girl, the one with hair like strawberries in sunshine.
Published on Apr 22, 2015
by Robert Reed
Every flavor of infinite... ...is what builds the multiverse.
Published on Aug 12, 2020
by Melanie Rees
1. a.) Creature does not walk on two legs .......... go to 2 b.) Creature walks on two legs .................. go to 6
Published on Jan 14, 2015
by R. Rozakis
"And no one had even seen a live giant squid until 2005," the precocious little mite recited. "But they found squid parts in whale bellies and sucker marks on their faces." Don kept a pleasant smile fixed on his face. Docents weren't supposed to strangle visitors. The teacher was glancing at her watch again. The rest of the class milled around, aimlessly poking at cases.
Published on Jul 7, 2016
by Ramon Rozas
"This invention will allow the extraction of limitless energy from the vacuum of 'empty' space, and thus be a bonanza for our world," the scientist said. A reporter waved its tentacle. "But isn't there a worry that destabilizing the local vacuum could cause what opponents call vacuum decay?"
Published on Apr 28, 2011
by Robert Lowell Russell
Page 49 The basement air smells of mildew and spray-can potpourri. In one corner fluorescent lights reveal a tower of science magazines, their spines straight and their pages crisp. Yellow post-it notes decorate the stack like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Scrawled on the notes are messages like: YOUR GRANDFATHER'S JUNK--KEEP/TOSS? and READ THESE OR THOW THEM OUT!
Published on Feb 11, 2014
by Kelly M Sandoval
***Editor's Note: Adult story and situations*** Waking after a night spent slipping, I reach for Louisa automatically, rolling into the empty space where she belongs. I lick the memory of her from my lips, languid with sex. The alarm shrieks from my bedside table but I've gotten good at ignoring it.
Published on Oct 18, 2013
by Erica L. Satifka
1. Dress properly. You owe it to yourself to look your best. Tori straightens her skirt and fluffs up her hair. She steps out of her Volvo and plants her high heel in a pile of muck.
Published on Mar 27, 2017
by Joel C. Scoberg
David sailed through the doorway propelled by a bartender’s boot and landed in the gutter. Out of habit, he sniffed, long and hard, taking in the scent of Saturday night revelry. The odors assaulted his nose and brought tears to his eyes. If he could still smell, it meant he had not drunk enough.
Published on Jun 22, 2021
by Will Shadbolt
When our ship crash landed on the strange planet, the natives immediately captured us. The Earthlings, as they called themselves, took apart our rocket, our only way home, without a second thought, scouring the technology for clues to advance themselves. "It's like a honeycomb," we heard one say. We were stunned and injured in the crash. Before we recovered, they stole us away. Some of us they froze; the others they experimented on. With our antennae, even in a deep sleep, even locked away in ice, we could hear our comrades shriek internally as the Earthlings cut at their bodies and removed the blood, the organs, the brains.
Published on Nov 27, 2019
by Will Shadbolt
When the Earth was old and the planet Beta-Centauri-12 was young, the good god sent his son Peter to the new world. He was a part of the first expedition to the solar system, one of the first humans to step on the alien ground. Peter found new life there, which he in his infinite wisdom called "Betans." He went to these people and listened to them, for he could already understand their speech.
Published on Jan 7, 2021
by Will Shadbolt
Jess watched her hands move, watched herself step toward the maimed pilot, watched herself slit his throat in a single gesture--and she did none of it. The Mire controlled her every move. The supercomputer had taken over her body, buried her own consciousness, and made her a prisoner in her own skin, doomed to just observe. The dead pilot had been lucky. He’d been wounded too severely to be of any use to the hive mind. Another Mire warrior dispatched another hurt crew member before wordlessly walking away. Jess’s body followed. No words or gestures were necessary between the Mire’s chess pieces, though after years trapped within herself, Jess had learned what certain actions meant--all of this ship’s crew were either dead or assimilated, or about to be. Now the ship’s cargo of food would become fuel for the Mire’s minions. Her body went to inspect the foodstuff shipment. Along the way, she passed a bloody body. A sunset-pink necklace lay nearby, and if Jess could move her muscles, she would have gasped. It was decorated with no jewels, just knots--the Tentan style, her home planet. In that moment, Jess wanted more than anything to reach out and pick up the necklace. Of course, her body walked right by, but as it did, the pinky finger on her left hand trembled. The movement was subtle, hardly more than a twitch, but Jess had felt it--and knew she had willed it. She spent the next few days trying to force more movement. Trying to move as she had before, on Tenta, trying to run through the planet’s golden plains, through its cities, or on the ship she had been posted to, where she had worked as a guard, manning the ship’s defenses during battles until they had lost to a Mire ship. She had never seen the Mire, but she felt its thoughts, knew something of its history. A supercomputer left behind by some ancient race in a long forgotten solar system. No one who didn’t belong to the Mire knew where it was located; the computer was careful, never bringing too many of its chess pieces to its home so it could be tracked down. Jess knew. All of its minions knew. The Vera system, a spot so remote most maps didn’t include it. But to Jess it had become everything. That twinkling, primordial collection of rocks held the key to her prison cell. Jess was so preoccupied with her attempts at movement--none worked--that for a few days she didn’t notice the ship’s new course: Tenta. She screamed internally as she envisioned the planet’s cities rendered into smoking skeletons of metal, the inhabitants reduced to building blocks for the computer. The scanners showed them nearing their destination--and other ships controlled by the hive mind joining them. Tenta came into view in the ship’s windows, a sphere of blue, green, and pink. Stabs of nostalgia pained her consciousness. How many years had it been? Jess wondered. The minions prepared for battle. Jess watched herself suit up for battle in protective gear as gray as storm clouds. Watched herself pick up a combat rifle. Watched herself head into a pod with other minions. Soon she and a squadron were shot toward Tenta, toward its largest city, and, right after impact, she watched herself and the others run toward the city walls. Tentan soldiers were ready. They fired on the Mire’s forces, but the supercomputer controlled an overwhelming amount of warriors. Lasers bright blue and red screamed past as Jess and her squadron broke through the walls, shot at soldiers, and rounded up any not gravely injured. The whole time, Jess’s inner narration shrieked, NO! Already the city proper was a mess of ruins, cloaked by clouds of smoke. Tentans yelled and cried. Rubble formed canyons in the streets. Destruction and desolation piled before Jess. And yet, she could sense the Mire frantically sending units to other sections. Her squadron was winning the battle, but the Mire was losing the war. A laser scraped against her suit. She and her team turned to see a group of Tentan soldiers approaching them. Quick as lightning, her body raised her gun, took aim, and-- Jess had grown up in a city just like this. She’d known the same customs and styles as the soldiers. They were her people. --and she didn’t fire. She felt the impulse to pull the trigger, fought it, and turned to the other Minions. Blood-red lasers erupted on their chests, shattering their suits, their ribcages. They fell to the ground dead and, Jess knew, thankful. She looked at them and, straining--each syllable a struggle beyond anything she had ever known--said, “Ver... a... Sys... tem.” “What the hell is that?” muttered a soldier. “Vera System?” “I think I’ve heard of it....” And then the Mire resumed control of her body and commanded it to sprint away. The Tentan soldiers were too confused to fire on the sole remaining Mire soldier. And then she was out of earshot, out of the city, out on the plains, and then back in a pod and out of Tenta. Jess watched her home world fly away from her, growing distant until it looked like a distant star, until space’s void swallowed its pinpoint of light in blackness. The Mire wouldn’t kill her, she knew. Already she could sense its thoughts. The supercomputer would lock her away and strengthen its hold on her. But soon, she hoped, soon she and all the others would be free.
Published on Oct 26, 2021
by K.C. Shaw
The line was already out the door when Claire's group arrived at Bite. "We should have made reservations," Gary said. "They don't do reservations," Jeannie said. Jeannie and Dave were Claire's sister and brother-in-law. They'd been offplanet once before but Dave still looked queasy from the bumpy trip to the surface in a crowded tender.
Published on Mar 2, 2021
by Marge Simon
They arrived in a glory of light during a summer month. Glory isn't quite how we perceived it. Their ship destroyed a vast amount of our harvest. But their translator used the word glory, which we were given to mean a very fine thing. We come in peace. May the light of our wisdom shine on your people.
Published on Oct 10, 2011
by Jessica Snell
I lost my baby at home. I was not even far enough along that I was required to register the pregnancy, but the midwife was kind enough to come and attend me anyway. I am glad she did, because the labor was hard and bloody, and if I had not been so exhausted, I would have been terrified.
Published on Aug 24, 2018
by Arnav Sood
Wasn't sure how to say goodbye, so I'll let someone else do the heavy lifting. Short story from an author on home system, and a small note from me.
Published on Jan 7, 2020
by Vaughan Stanger
"I hear you're known as 'The Green Ghost,' Mister Franklin." Word gets around in the entertainment industry. I earned the nickname because I'm the guy who ensures the real and the computer-generated blend seamlessly. Clad in green-screen cloth, I twitch the hem of Superman's cloak while he zooms across the CGI skyline, or bounce the actress's hair in a shampoo advert. No one sees me after the background is inserted, but everyone notices the effect.
Published on Dec 15, 2015
by Shannon E Stolz
Entry: Year 1 My name is Jill. I am 6. Im going to space camp! Mom sayz Kate cant come with me. That makes me sad.
Published on Jul 16, 2020
by Eric James Stone
In 1987 someone broke into the tomb of Argentine dictator Juan Pern and removed the hands from his corpse. An unknown group subsequently demanded eight million dollars in ransom for the hands. Despite an extensive investigation by the Argentine government, the culprits were never identified. As for Pern's hands, they remain missing to this day--in this timeline.
Published on Jul 26, 2013
by Henry Szabranski
Although I was almost invulnerable to physical attack due to my fighting prowess and the great height and scale of my fortified tower, she somehow slipped through my defenses and made me fall in love with her. I knew it was a ruse, some devilish trick of hers, but I could not help myself. After all those years spent on one battlefield or another, amassing wealth and power far beyond my wildest dreams, at last I had met my match. Respect and fear I could command like no other--but love, love had always eluded me.
Published on Dec 2, 2013
It's a parallel universe and everyone expresses themselves through martial arts. The elderly Chinese ladies down the street are in the park every morning doing their t'ai chi, arms flowing in liquid movement, fanned fingers caressing the air as they twist their palms through the predefined motions.
Published on Aug 21, 2020
by Angela Teagardner
I was there when the airship Harmonia fell. I try not to remember the gritty details – the screams, the crush of bodies, the trampling of feet. I don’t linger on that aromatic cocktail of adrenaline and panic. It’s no good to think about what it meant to fall thirty miles to a planet of brimstone and molten lead. What it meant to be millions of miles from anyplace safe.
Published on Mar 12, 2021
by Lavie Tidhar
1. Shell Tel Aviv, six months later.
Published on Dec 7, 2012
by Lavie Tidhar
On impulse, she approached the tree. There was something strange about it she hadnt noticed before. A grey fungal growth formed a narrow band around the keruings trunk like a noose. And the colour of the bark was different, the rich brown-green fading--only a little!--but fading nevertheless to that same featureless grey as the fungus. Her fingers hovered over the fungus. Above her, around her, the voices of the Rogon seemed to drown the sounds of the forest. There was an odd sensation in the tips of Butterflys fingers, a kind of odious warmth that threatened to spread through her arms and into her entire body. She felt frozen, trapped into the spot like a primordial insect in amber.
Published on Sep 3, 2010
by J.S. Veter
Min put her breather to her face, puffing from the climb. Getting old, she chided herself. Were she still seventy, she could have made it in half the time, and not needed the breather.
Published on May 21, 2019
by Abby Vogler
I sit on the observation deck and watch. There isn't much to see. Intermixed with the ambient night-glow of the artificial city, there is a faint flash of greenish light that, had I not known it was coming, I might have missed. Behind me, the rest of the crew is buzzing, checking instruments and scanning for life. As the readings come back, the steady hum of their voices is broken by whoops and cheers. Everything has gone as planned. I take a sip of my drink. Scotch. Neat. Aged twelve years. It's the last of a bottle I brought from Earth. Probably the last glass of Scotch I'll ever drink.
Published on Mar 13, 2019
by Charles Walbridge
The villagers worshiped the rock. In the rock's opinion, this was misguided. The temple was on top of this anomalous outcrop which was itself at the precise center of a wide circular depression that enclosed the entire town.
Published on Dec 4, 2020
by Deborah Walker
In the National Trust play area, in the sight of the immense Neolithic stones that have stood for five thousand years and whose purpose was lost and now is understood, the sisters watched the children playing. November air bit the children, turning ungloved fingers cold and red and numb. The children were indifferent. They hurtled around the play area, engrossed in the convoluted pecking-order games they'd devised. No strangers here. Children find their playmates quickly. They understand the rules. At unmeasured distance, the triangles converged in apex aligning space. The Neolithic stone gate nearest the playground opened in a hiss of >c-light, splitting and reforming, and delivering the passenger.
Published on Nov 12, 2012
by Deborah Walker
It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. --Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Published on Dec 30, 2011
by Leslie Claire Walker
This godforsaken rock has one thing to recommend it. That one thing is also the most terrible I could imagine. My daughter is here. My daughter is trapped here with me. Z-1293-QV-A. That's the official name on the chart in the Monsignor's office. He actually calls it that. All of the proper church does, too. But the rest of us disgraced once-upon-a-priests call it Wasteland. It's the first planet in its solar system, the one closest to its sun, but far enough from the fire to be livable. Not that anyone lives here.
Published on May 18, 2012
by Pam L Wallace
SiriusX12's Plain of Inda is a flat expanse, barren except for the burned-out husk of a veranya tree. Mae trails her fingers over the gnarled bark. It's at least four inches thick, the interior blackened from countless lightning strikes. A survivor, although Mae is damned if she knows why it keeps going. Seems like so many disasters would drive just about anything to give up--even an old tree. Wiping a trail of sweat from her neck, Mae shields her eyes, gazing past her compact home on the edge of the plain toward the horizon, where the spires and towers of Port City jut into the hazy distance. A faint smell of sulphur from the nearby springs blows on the warm breeze.
Published on Feb 6, 2015
by Caias Ward
We know we lost the war, a war based around what would be considered "reality," by seeing a history which isn't ours. The Tallarian Empire no longer is; it never was. I do not know what is this "Rome," or why we have a Gregorian calendar instead of the Daystar's Ascension calendar. My familiar candy bars, the PimPam and the Hoostaloo Bites, are replaced with "Snickers'' and "Kit-Kats." I do not know many things, and my stolen neural catalogue shows me an alternate reality which is all too real now. They changed enough things in time and space, altered enough of the past and present and future, that we can't hope to restore it. My daughter no longer is.
Published on Aug 18, 2021
by G. Allen Wilbanks
Carlo peered up at the dual moons in the sky. Even in daylight, Deimos and Phobos were visible high above, their edges only slightly blurred through the transparent shielding of the biodome surrounding him. It was an impressive view, and he took a long moment to enjoy it. Twenty years ago, the idea of terraforming other planets had been only a dream. Today, Carlo walked the surface of Mars along with more than two hundred other men and women who had sought a new home away from the crowds and pollution on Earth. Two square miles of ground were sealed beneath the dome, almost fifteen hundred acres of carefully cultivated farmable soil. The terrain outside the dome was still hostile to human life. For now. Time enough for that later.
Published on Jun 21, 2021
by Mik Wilkens
"Supplicant Anseel deCeer, enter the Chamber." Anseel cringed as the order boomed through the antechamber. The other petitioners glared at him. He understood their anger. Some of them had been waiting for days; he had just arrived.
Published on Apr 11, 2011
by Sean Williams
After a thousand years frozen between thoughts, Heart awakes to another dead system. It wasn't always dead. The planets have been extensively mined and parked in an orbital configuration that might last a billion years. The sun is surrounded by lenses casting complex beams and sheets of light out into the void. (These refractions were what drew Heart here.) There is biological life in abundance and evidence of advanced warfare.
Published on Jul 27, 2015
by Sean Williams
"Hop in, mate." I double-checked the app. My driver was supposedly "Edward" in a white Camry. His photo matched, but if the car had ever been white, it wasn't now. Down the passenger side trailed what looked like giant claw marks.
Published on Jun 23, 2017
by Filip Wiltgren
What do you do when you've got all the power in the universe and none of the control? Weird question, right? Here's another one: ever heard of quantum mechanics? Sure you have. Ever thought about it? Really thought about it?
Published on Jun 21, 2017
by John Wiswell
They are one of a kind, both of them. Both want to build the future, attend MIT for the resources and connections. While other people date, they Skype with engineers at the LHC. Afterward people say they're glowing like they've screwed all night. "Multiverse Theory is like screwing..." Miguel says.
Published on Sep 15, 2017
by Eleanor R. Wood
An owl pellet, discovered in the Natural History section as I reshelve the Encyclopedia of Birds. Soft and dry, the tiny bundle of compressed fur and bones makes my heart ache. I used to collect them as a child, in woods that no longer exist. I kept that collection for years, but I can't imagine where this has come from. I can't imagine there are owls anymore. I tuck it in my pocket and return to cataloguing with a lump in my throat.
Published on Dec 31, 2019
by Peter M. Wood
Sam looked around Dad's cluttered laboratory. Even after becoming a tenured Ivy League physics professor, he still didn't understand Dad's cutting-edge research into quantum physics. Now, with Dad gone after a three-year battle with cancer, the world would probably stay in the dark. The dusty lab was a paradox, just like Dad. His father had theorized about parallel universes, but had never owned a mobile phone or television. His lab was filled with equipment that was outdated before Sam was born--vacuum tubes and monstrous computers that took up entire walls.
Published on Feb 6, 2013
by James Luke Worrad
The man from NASA arrived the next morning. Walter Igwe met him at the crash site. "The agency would like to thank you, Mr. Igwe," the NASA man said, "for your quick response." It was plain he wasn't used to the savannah's heat. His temples ran slick with sweat.
Published on Jan 26, 2012
by Caroline M. Yoachim
I fell in love with a boy from the playground. Other boys dangled from the monkey bars and tried to make the swings loop all the way around, but he played alone in the wooden playhouse under the slides. I snuck up on him and watched him make a shimmering portal on the playhouse wall. I moved in for a closer look, but when he noticed me, the portal disappeared. He refused to speak to me no matter how many questions I asked.
Published on Apr 14, 2015
by Caroline M. Yoachim
Morana bundled Leo up in two pairs of colony-issued pants and three shirts. She found a waterproof windbreaker that was a couple sizes too big for him, which was perfect for layering over all the extra clothes. Most of the winter supplies had been destroyed last year when the thrusters on the colony shuttle exploded, so she did her best with what they had. "Can we go?" Leo fidgeted. "Most of my friends are already outside."
Published on May 10, 2016
by Marie Zelaya
Albert Twining knew it was just a kid sitting on that throne, even if you couldn't tell at first glance. Sure, her body was nearly identical to a full-grown woman's, but then again, that didn't mean anything. Like always, it was the little things that gave her away.
Published on Jan 21, 2020
by jez patterson
Harra bowed her head. It was another of those gestures which was common throughout the universe. "I am sorry," she said.
Published on Jun 4, 2018