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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

Virtual Reality


Of all the science fictional tropes this may be the one we are slamming into headlong at the most blistering pace. Go to Second Life, play with your friends vie Wii, even share virtual messages in a bottle on your iphone. Take a look at the amazing motion capture on Microsoft's new gaming technology. It's happening. The effect on societies, and the all-important individuals within them, is far less clear.

by Philip Apps
"Daddy?" "Yes, baby girl."
Published on Nov 27, 2017
by M. H. Ayinde
You’ve done it. You’ve won! You squeal in excitement.
Published on May 28, 2021
by Robert Bagnall
I have an avatar. I am forty-three years old. I am balding and thickening around the middle. I have a mediocre job with a mediocre company which has outward ambitions to be in the top twenty in their sector in five years, but inwardly merely wish to be still in business. My ambitions mirror theirs.
Published on Jun 18, 2014
by Peter M Ball
***Editor's Note: Adult Language in the adult story that follows*** They've been together long enough for this to become ritual: Deanna Sable in the clawfoot bath, head resting against the curve of the tub, her fingers coiled around a Stuyvesant smoked down to the filter; Kirk seated at the door, bare-chested and nursing his third beer, drawing what comfort he can from the proximity to the cracked tiles. Watching one another, half a smile shared between them, looking for new ways to fill the idle silence.
Published on Nov 15, 2013
by T.Z. Barry
Please answer each question by circling "Yes" or "No." Question 1: Is it possible the technology to create a digital copy of your consciousness will be invented within your lifetime? (Yes / No)
Published on Aug 1, 2018
by James Beamon
Aaron ran down familiar streets. He slayed the familiar monsters. His shoes clinked on cobblestone. Here it was Victorianesque: ornate brick buildings lurching into gray overcast skies, narrow shadow-filled alleys, steam boiling out of grates. For his part, he wore a dated dark suit under a gray high collar overcoat and a top hat--all of it weightless.
Published on Jan 18, 2019
by Mike Buckley
Published on Jul 13, 2016
by Mike Buckley
Published on Jul 14, 2016
by Mike Buckley
Published on Jul 15, 2016
by Maggie Clark
The tour boat stopped two blocks updream from their final attraction, the long-term sleepers' zone rendered in immaculate detail: airships, nine-dimensional manifolds, labyrinthine menageries filled with improbable birds and beasts. Everything viewed prior, generated off shift-work, appeared cartoonish along the fuzzy border between mental matrices, and small chatter gave way to genuine oohs and aahs as the boat lurched, then settled at its edge. Cash turned to give the tourists better shots, the whirs and clicks of meme-drives like persistent mosquitos too lucrative to swat. Headache? came Jezi's voice through the brain feed.
Published on Oct 9, 2015
by Matt Cowan
We apologize for the interruption in network coverage. Please be advised that normal service will resume shortly. Do not be alarmed. All is well. You may feel confusion, and a tightness in your chest. This is normal. Try to relax. Breathe.
Published on Jul 30, 2019
by Koji A. Dae
The protective foam case around the tablet is cracked, but its thickness makes the tablet easier for Grace's arthritic hands to grasp as she searches for the power button. The tablet is slow. It was an old model when she bought it for Steven over fifty years ago. It's a miracle it still connects to the net at all.
Published on Aug 31, 2020
by Dustin J Davis
***Warning: Story Content Mature and Disturbing Near-Future.***
Published on Aug 10, 2018
by J.R. Dawson
You ask me to tell you a story. So I sit on the floor next to your bed, and I tell you the same story I told you last night and the night before.
Published on Sep 17, 2019
by Gunnar De Winter
She splashed some water in her face and stared at the mirror. Good morning, Toni.
Published on Feb 22, 2017
by JD DeHart
When the duo passed him on their way into the attractions, they paused and he said, "Help me," as the female leaned close.
Published on Sep 11, 2014
by William Delman
"Remember, keep him talking." Doctor Hofstadter's cobalt eyes are glued to mine, her expression serious as a funeral mask. "You can help him make a better choice." Her concern feels as real as her hand on my shoulder.
Published on Mar 5, 2020
by Peter S. Drang
Hellfire consumes my flesh... Lord Parrington laughs... I choke... the world becomes an indigo swirl of partial differentials.... "Snap out of it, lady."
Published on Jan 8, 2020
by Karl El-Koura
MichaelzDudlaszlimped out of his car, which had rescued him from the alley and brought him to the roof of his house. Moving quickly despite the pain, he took the elevator to his basement and unlocked the large room where he kept his reality machine or, to be more accurate, the virtual mirror-copy of the reality machine. He undressed, ignoring the protests from his bruised and aching body, then sunk into the sleek, bath-like pod until every part of him, including his face, was covered by the warm blue liquid. Immediately he felt the pod's large tendrils envelope his body and head, holding them immobile while the small tendrils slunk through his nostrils and into his brain to do their delicate work (or to undo it). He closed his eyes because of the discomfort, waited to feel the shift and for the large tendrils to release him. When he did feel the shift -- something like a sharp, instant head-splitting shock which was the result of the tendrils either implanting or removing the neural sensory infusers from his neocortex -- he sat up and coughed. Usually he allowed the small tendrils to withdraw gently on their own, but this time he grabbed them and tugged, and they fell into the bath in a stream of snot and blood. One of his eyes was still swollen shut. After the first year with it, he'd begun to deactivate more and more safety controls on the reality machine so that everything in the virtual world felt more and more authentic, and the consequences (thanks to the efforts of the large tendrils) carried over into the real world. Except that when things got too crazy, he could always step out of the virtual world, take a break and heal, and decide if he wanted to reset the world or dive back into the heap of trouble he'd created for himself. Like now. But he didn't want to reset the machine, he wanted to destroy it. And not because things had gotten really, really bad - no, the problem was that his grip on reality was starting to slip; more than once lately, he'd found himself confusing the real and virtual worlds. He needed to destroy the machine. Even if it had cost him all of his substantial life's savings. Because whereas others who could afford it (not many) commissioned exotic virtual worlds where they traveled the stars as captains of starships or fought other gladiators in Roman arenas, his virtual world was more pragmatic and more complex (and had cost a lot more). His world was modelled precisely on the real one, and in it he could do whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted. For as long as he wanted. And that was the problem. He'd lost days to the thing, days giving free rein to the full force of his temper, which in the real world he was always restraining. Days doing awful things; days gobbled up by this playground for his anger and frustration. Days. The pod didn't care the tendrils supplied the nutrients he needed (cleverly keyed to when and how much he ate in the virtual world), and the bath cleared away his urine and feces. Presently he emerged from the pod and, shivering and dripping blue drops across the marble floor (which instantly sucked them up and disposed of them), he went to the back part of the basement, to the storage where he almost never ventured. From there he retrieved his dad's old sledgehammer. Michael had promised himself that he'd stay away from the machine, to allow his mind time to rebalance itself. But he couldn't stay away. In fact, just like he'd figured out how to disable more and more safety protocols, lately he'd been spending longer and longer in the virtual world, like an addict increasing his dosage to try and catch the same thrill. He returned to the large room where he'd had the pod installed, the sledgehammer held tightly in both hands. Even now the machine called to him with its warm bath and tendrils. That pod-and-tendrils was custom built for his body and his brain, and had little to no resale value (especially after the illegal modifications he'd made). So his choice was destroy it once and for all (he could never afford another one) or be under its power for the rest of his life. The grip on the sledgehammer was starting to hurt his hands. What are you waiting for? he asked himself. What are you fu-- With a loud grunt, he raised the sledgehammer and slammed it down on the pod, again and again, cracking it in two and in three and in four, unleashing his temper on this machine that had stoked the fire of that anger so many times, spilling its blue fluid and tendrils like the blood and guts of a large animal. Only then, with one eye growing wide and wild and one eye still swollen shut, did it occur to him to wonder which machine he'd broken. End
Published on Jun 1, 2016
by Shannon Fay
Though there was a bowl of hammer pills in the living room ("Hammer pills! For a quicker than liquor buzz!") Cora elbowed her way through the crowd and went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine. Getting drunk the old-fashioned way always calmed her down. It gave her that warm fuzzy feeling of being a child again and stealing fingers from her dad's bourbon bottle. The party seemed to be a success. People were laughing, talking, dancing. Some of the more attractive/confident guests were playing spin the bottle in the corner (What were they, twelve? Not that Cora was any expert on what people did at parties). Her mom would be so proud of her, playing hostess, drinking socially rather than alone on the couch. "Oh Cora," her mother had sighed after catching teenaged Cora sneaking into the liquor cabinet once again. "Drinking alone is just too sad. Drink with friends and no one will say boo."
Published on Aug 4, 2014
by Shannon Fay
It took several blows before the monster stayed down. Even then I kept swinging, the axe head moving like a sped-up metronome. I didn't stop until my knees started to buckle. Only then did I put the axe down and survey my work. The red stain on the floor was a familiar scene, except instead of a young woman a middle-aged man lay smeared on the ground. It was over. No more visions, no more being plunged into the mind of a serial killer at the moment of kill.
Published on Jan 10, 2017
by Ronald D. Ferguson
"I speak for the President." Drugs make the words difficult to say, but the man asked about my job. "He's not the press secretary, but our sources say he regularly sees the President. Hmm. Charles Milford. Top security clearance. Maybe a speech writer. He'll do."
Published on Feb 11, 2013
by Ronald D Ferguson
"I told the boy's parents there was no hope, but so long as he has brain activity they won't give up. Poor kid. He's only fourteen." "Doesn't matter. His body is shutting down. Kidneys are already gone. We can prolong it for a few days, but we can't repair so much trauma. Still maybe there's something...."
Published on Mar 27, 2014
by Nick Fink
If you find these tablets, we hope that you will be able to decipher them. Unfortunately there is little chance that language as we know it will survive the sands of time. There is also a slight issue with legibility since these words are being scribed by the light of a micro laser. In short, our race has run out of time. Generations of squandering precious resources and constant abuse of the environment has created a poisoned planet that cannot recover. Those who have not yet died from the radiation will soon perish from lack of breathable air. Even the elite will not be able to purchase their supply because we no longer have the materials to purify it. To my knowledge, our team possesses the last known reserve and it shall be used to carry out this final mission.
Published on May 31, 2018
by Michael R. Fletcher
Alex Baker - UNPLUGGED. Thursday, Oct 19th, 2023. 9:45 pm
Published on Dec 9, 2011
by Eric S. Fomley
You’re in the living room this time, but the horrible look on mom’s face is the same no matter which way you play it. Her bottom eyelids swell with tears as her mouth hangs open. “How?” Her voice cracks. It hasn’t gotten easier. You’re pretty sure someone’s wringing the air from your lungs. “It was an accident. We snuck out to do an orbital walk. We were just messing around and his suit ripped. I tried to patch the leak, but he couldn’t breathe. We were too far away from the airlock. I couldn’t save him.” This time she sinks to her knees and screams. Your vision blurs as you stand over her. You don’t know what to do, what to say. This is all your fault. The door slides open and you quickly end the program. Mom walks into the empty holoroom with a smile on her face, until she sees yours. “Hey, what’s the matter? Where’s your brother?” You swallow hard.
Published on Oct 21, 2021
by M. J. Francis
Insert coins for more Sanity. My hand lingers in my pocket, fingertips contemplating the burden of coins.
Published on May 12, 2015
by Carl Gable
"I'm not sure, Doctor. I want to be fully open with you, but I am afraid of how this is going to make me look." In fact, the man speaking looked terrible. He was maybe fifty years old, shoulders slightly stooped, with a receding hairline, but one could be forgiven for thinking he was older, the way his hands were shaking as he clasped them in front of him. Across the table was a meticulously dressed woman in her forties, hair pulled back in a bun and a look of tempered concern on her face. She held a small notebook, open to a page already a quarter full of handwritten notes. "You are worried I might think you're... crazy, Mr. Hollis? Don't be. There is no 'crazy' here. Only problems to be dealt with. Yours may be comparatively minor. Believe me, I've heard it all."
Published on Dec 11, 2020
Art
by Anastasia Gammon
This has been the most difficult commission of my career. I've been to corners of the dark web I didn't know existed and talked to people running identity protection software that messed up my system for days. But I did it. I found the only licensed digital reproduction of Van Gogh's The Starry Night on the entire Virtual Reality Network and I sold it to Victor for an eye-watering price that I definitely earned. "It probably would have been easier to find the real thing, hey?" he jokes as our avatars stand next to each other in his digital apartment, admiring the bunch of pixels I've spent the last two months of my life tracking down. I laugh. "Yeah," I tell him. "Probably." He transfers my fee and we make awkward small talk while I wait for the number in my account to update. Then we say goodbye and I log off, thinking if I never see his avatar again it'll be too soon. I do enjoy the surprise on his animated face in the second before I go offline though. Most people never bother these days, so it must be a novelty for him to watch my avatar wink out of existence. I tell people the walls of my digital house are so sparse because I sell all the good art to other people. The truth is, it's because I'm old fashioned. I still like to spend my cryptocurrency in the real world. I have filled my real home with things only I will ever see. And Victor was right, the real thing was so much easier to find.
Published on Sep 12, 2021
by Stephen Gaskell
Passing Mr. Lao's office, she noticed he'd left his door open. On the far side, light spilled through the margins of the door that led outside. Maybe it was a sunny day. She tried to remember the feel of sunlight, the sensation of almost looking into the sun, the shape of the clouds, but her mind was full of the pixelated forms.
Published on Oct 4, 2010
by Preston Grassmann
Erwin stands outside the door of his house/her house and wonders if his wife is home/not home. He has just finished another long day of theoretical discussions about cats and boxes and he just wants to sleep. He knows that whether or not she is there depends on the observation of that morning's event. In quantum entanglement, if the measurement of one entangled particle is known (clockwise), the other will have an inverse corresponding value (counterclockwise), no matter how far apart they are.
Published on Jun 4, 2014
by A. T. Greenblatt
One First and most importantly, believe you're doing the right thing. Tell yourself this guide will work--tell yourself whatever you need to in order to step into your POD, close the door, hook up, and log into the game. After that, act normal. Wear your avatar like the mask it is.
Published on Oct 19, 2015
by Gregory John Guevara
My most treasured memory is not my own. It hangs on my dresser, captured in a stained glass bubble. I bought it for a week's worth of work. It was not an easy find. There are laws in place to prevent people from slapping a memory piece on an infant, so I had to go through the black market. But it was worth it.
Published on Dec 22, 2017
by Erin M. Hartshorn
Sally patted her grandmother's shoulder. "It's time to go." "I don't want to. I can still be useful."
Published on Nov 3, 2011
by C.J. Heckman
It was supposed to be a vacation. That was how it started anyway. Like most first timers, I had some concerns. I had heard all the nightmare stories. People plugging into the sim and never coming out. At least not until their savings dried up and they were pulled out by force.
Published on Jun 29, 2021
by Aubrey Hirsch
Now if we, like those characters in recent movies, discovered specific clues in the world around us suggesting that we do in fact live in a simulation, we would of course consider those clues carefully to see what they say about how we should live our lives. --Robin Hanson Listen. We're fairly certain it's true. The laws of the universe just don't make sense the way they should and it's more and more apparent with every atom of gold we run through the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and every electron we smash up at the Large Hadron Collider that we are living in a universe especially constructed for us. And, since we all know infinities cannot be constructed, we must conclude that our universe has been simulated.
Published on Aug 30, 2011
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Sitting on the fence between dreams and reality, Annie peered into the swirling storm of other people's nighttime imaginations, looking for her mother, who had died eleven years earlier. Sometimes they managed to connect in dreams, although Annie wasn't sure if it was Real Mom or a Mom from her imagination. Annie hadn't asked Dream Mom questions Annie didn't know answers to and Real Mom might. She had enjoyed her encounters with Dream Mom, who was free of the dementia that had claimed Real Mom's last six years. Sharp, sometimes cutting, always opinionated and bossy, Dream Mom had given her good advice about moving into the retirement community of manufactured homes on the edge of a small lake. Annie lived in a house free of history now, clean of memories of the abusive husband who had made her life so difficult. Here in her new home, she reconnected with all the artistic pursuits Morton had beaten out of her. She was painting watercolors again, and gathering with musicians on her back patio. And she had found someone to love. Carola squeezed her hand. Annie remembered what she wanted to do tonight. "Mom?" she called into the maelstrom of spinning dream fragments--a train rolling across an arctic landscape being pursued by a shambling creature; bunnies driving a chariot pulled by chickens and lizards; a cafe full of creatures who weren't human--"Mom?" "Use your heart string," Carola whispered from reality, and Annie remembered what Carola had told her about delving into the dreamlands and beyond, to where death took people. Carola said a cord stretched from Annie's heart to everyone she had loved and lost. She touched her chest and stared out into the populated wilderness until she saw a red thread stretching from her heart into the dreams. She closed her hand around the thread and tugged on it. "Mom." Dream Mom rode a brown-and-white pinto pony out of the midst of the dreams. "Annie," she said, and slid off the horse's back. "Thanks, Dawn Treader." Mom stroked the horse's face, then pulled an apple out of a pocket of her colorful muumuu and fed it to the horse. "Daughter, are you all right?" "Yes, I'm lovely. Mom, is that really you?" Mom laughed the full-throated laugh Annie hadn't heard in years. It had only happened once a year or so, when Mom could rise from her misery and enjoy something wholly. Annie's heart warmed. "It's me enough," Mom said. "How can I help?" "Mom." Annie tugged on Carola's hand, pulling her astral self to the fence. "This is Carola. Yesterday I proposed to her, and she said yes." "How wonderful!" said Mom. She kissed Carola. "Congratulations, Annie. Happiness at last." Annie smiled through her tears. This couldn't be Real Mom. Real Mom wouldn't have been happy about Annie's choice. Maybe Real Enough Mom was better.
Published on Nov 1, 2021
by Jonathan Holmes
I don't understand. All I did was fix her. All my life--since before I can remember!--you've been telling me to take care of Emmy, and I have! I do! Better than anyone. I always make sure she's got food and I take her everywhere I go and make sure she's ok. She almost NEVER gets hurt when I'm watching her, and ok, there was that one time, but that wasn't my fault! She just stuck her hand in the maker--how was I supposed to know she'd do something like that? Everyone knows you're not supposed to--it says so right on the front!
Published on Sep 9, 2015
by KJ Kabza
Terry bit the inside of his cheek again. He felt disconnected from himself, from this single-window room. In fact, it wasnt like a hotel room at all. More like somewhere between a forgotten closet and a prison cell. Despite the neutral colors, the telephones dark cradle gave the rooms nature away. Listen Terry began, slowly. No, I know, said the voice of Margie. I know all about it. They scan your brain, take your memories of your spouse, and make a program you can talk to--just once, one year later--to say goodbye. For closure.
Published on Nov 11, 2010
by Michelle M Kaseler
From the cavernous walk-in closet, I survey the master bedroom of a person I’ve never met. Seven-year-old Sadie Jenkins sits by my side, but neither of us are really there.
Published on Feb 9, 2021
by Shari L Klase
Susanna closed her eyes in death and opened them to the glittering, golden streets and pearly gates of Heaven's entrance. There waiting for her were her mother, sister, and grandmother. She knew all along that they would be there. After her initial registration by St. Peter and some paperwork, she rushed into her mother's arms. "So wonderful to see you," Mom said.
Published on Oct 15, 2014
by Rich Larson
It was an aching white blank, with little fissures where code leaked out like drizzling rain, but nobody seemed to notice except Adelaide. "Nina, look," she said at recess, on the squeaking playground swings. "The sky's got a glitch." She kicked out hard, trying to soar high enough to touch the faulty firmament.
Published on Feb 9, 2015
by Rich Larson
Cassie's six month contract passed like a fleeting dream, and then she was awake in neural recovery, sipping out of prepackaged cups of water and letting a bot festooned in yellow smiley face stickers check her vision, her balance, her reflexes. The wallscreen across from her showed a blue sky where the puffy white clouds spelled out date and time. She'd gone under in March and now it was August. Her mother was not there to harangue the human doctors and exhaust the administrative AIs, but Cassie had known not to expect her. Not after Cassie arrived home for holidays with fresh gauze scarving her neck, her skin still puffy around the shiny white neural notch that would let a digitized human consciousness sit at the top of her spinal column and inhabit her, move her, be her.
Published on Sep 29, 2015
by Rich Larson
"Come on, Bea. I said I was sorry. Can't we just roll back?" Bea is sitting on the couch with one hand clenched between her knees, the other propping up her head. She is staring straight ahead, but her Stream is shielded so Tyus can't tell if she's watching a show or messaging her sister or just staring straight ahead.
Published on Jun 5, 2018
by Jon Lasser
The best part of working for the circus is free carousel rides.

Each horse bears her into another life. On the black mustang, she works as a marketing executive, whatever that is, in a glittering city of spires. On the roan, she lives by her wits the alleys of that same city. In the pumpkin carriage, everything goes black until she comes back into herself. Maybe she's dead in that one, or maybe she never was born.
Published on Sep 15, 2022
by C.J. Lavigne
1. You need to get to the market, but there are dragons waiting. It's all right; you know how to deal with dragons. You've been thwarting them all your life. You know the rules: don't reveal too much flesh. Don't try to hide. Don't contradict a reptile when it is speaking, but assert yourself early, and often. Smile. Never smile too much, or too widely. Be polite. Be bold.
Published on Apr 22, 2022
by Terra LeMay
Srenzhadzazsensezof foreboding. He'd had it since puberty, as chronicly troubling as acne, and equally insignifant along the spectrum of possible problems his life could offer. By thirty-two, he'd almost reached a point where he could ignore it (like his acne.) He'd met a woman he liked (her name was Hope, but he liked to tell himself that it wasn't her name that had attracted him) and he hoped to marry her. He was going to ask her. But his sense of foreboding had him putting it off. Hope lived in rural Maryland. Seventeen hours, by car, from where Sren lived. They'd never met in person. They communicated by internet and smart phone. Emails, instant messages, and status updates on social media sites formed the core of their relationship. They didn't often talk by telephone, but they had once or twice. Hope had a nice voice. Nothing like the voice of that one audiobook narrator Sren likedKateGod, he could listen to her read the dictionary! Not so nice as that, but Hope was pleasant and soft-spoken. She sounded kind. Disadvantaged by his sense of foreboding, Sren worked from home, assembling tiny widgets with even tinier tools his company had provided. He was paid per widget. He spent many hours alone at his kitchen table, pinning plastic cogs to thumb-print sized aluminum plates, and tightening them down with a special screwdriver. It was, in all likelihood, the most boring job in the universe, just the same work over and over, but too fiddly to do without paying close attention. As a result, Sren had taken up listening to audiobooks and podcasts to entertain himself while he worked. This, in turn, had led him to search for ways to listen to books no publisher had bothered to convert to audio. If only Sren could've synthesized Kate's voice! He'd have much preferred if all audiobooks were narrated by Kate. He might've asked Kate to marry him instead of Hope, if he'd ever figured out how to meet her, but he hadn't. Sren met Hope by chance, in an internet chat room on a private forum for text-to-speech conversion enthusiasts. His sense of foreboding had flared up fiercely the day he'd entered the text2speech chat room, but he'd been working hard to ignore it. A good thing, too. He and Hope had discovered they had a lot in common. She was responsive and sensitive. She always replied to his messages with thoughtful, encouraging messages of her own, and when he first brought up the subject of sexting, embarrassed, thinking she'd laugh at him or be offended (but thinking also of how often he masturbated while looking at the selfie she'd sent him) she'd responded with immediate sexual overtures. Sren was sure he loved her. He was absolutely certain of it. But that sense of foreboding had been chewing at him doggedly, and though they'd been in a committed (and monogamous!) long-distance relationship for several years, Hope had made no impatient noises about meeting with Sren, or moving along to the nexy phase of their relationship. Sren had begun, with some hesitency, to bring up the idea of childrendid Hope want to have any?but she hadn't thought about it! Did Sren? He didn't know. He'd been an only child, himself, and the thought of sharing his space and Hope's affections with another little being filled him with well, a sense of foreboding. Hope agreed. (The entire conversation took place across a sequence of days, in messages exchanged by phone or computer, as usual). She wasn't certain either, but she could definitely see the advantages to remaining child-free. What about living arrangements? Sren owned a home, inherited from his parents after they'd passed tragically within a week of each other, having contracted an obscure form of the flu during a trip to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. What do you mean what about living arrangements? Hope had asked. And Sren had hemmed and hawed and finally come around to saying that he didn't want to sell his parents' home if it came down to it. He'd grown up there, had many fond memories, and didn't want to leave it behind when he married. Oh, of course, said Hope. I would never expect you to! "Then if we married, you'd leave your employment and come to live with me?" "I'd have to, wouldn't I, or you'd have to sell your parents house!" (This time they'd been speaking on the phone, while Sren walked along the edge of his yard kicking pebbles into the grass.) Then she laughed, a sweet, bright sound (nothing so musical as Kate's laugh, though,) and Sren realized with a sinking feeling (of foreboding) that he had not actually proposed and she had not actually accepted. He couldn't think of a graceful way of just coming out with it, though, and he let the subject drop. So did she. It was months before he felt confident enough to bring it up again, and when he did, he took another tact. Maybe we should meet, he typed into his computer's message window. Maybe we should! she replied. But where would you want to meet? he asked. And when? Oh, I don't know. Won't you lose money if you travel? You only get paid for the widgets you make, not the ones you don't. (LOL.) She was parroting back to him his own words, which he'd often used as explanation and excuse for times when he had to cut their conversations short. You could visit me, he suggested. I could! But when? We could watch for a sale on airfare. You could visit when the fares are cheap. She agreed. And Sren watched the fares rise and fall, rise and fall, on Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline. She never brought it up again. Sren's sense of foreboding grew. And grew. One day, he could take it no longer. I have to see you! he wrote. He wrote it in an email, so he could draft and redraft, without the temptation of hitting send before he had fully formulated his thoughts. I have to meet you! We've been calling each other lover for years now, and we've never met. What if there's no chemistry? What if when we talk in person and don't click at all. I love you more than breath, but how do I know I really love you, when I've never met you. Maybe I just love the idea of you. She wrote him a long, thoughtful reply, gently reassuring. Of course they should meet. Of course they should. Whenever he liked. And so it was, Sren's sense of foreboding became so large that he had to take anxiety medication. But he did, and at his therapists encouragement, he also took the steps necessary to meet the love of his life. He'd been sending her holiday and birthday gifts for years. He looked up her address, bought tickets, and flew to Maryland. He swallowed Xanaxes by the handful as the taxicab made its way along lonely highways. Then he arrived. HOPE said the sign: Human Ostensible Personality Emulator. We're there when you need us. A.I. friends for loneliest number.
Published on Dec 26, 2014
by Mary Soon Lee
My father has become panda, my mother elephant. They are altogether out of place in my living room, for all my mother tries to look at ease, gripping a tea bowl in her trunk. It's their third visit since they were uploaded. "Would you care for mung bean cake or more bamboo?" I ask, still too angry to be anything but polite. "Bamboo would be lovely," my father growls. We chat about the weather (warm) and the stock market (volatile) as if we were strangers, and I want to deny that it's really them embodied in animals, but the satisfaction in my father's eyes, the apology in my mother's are unmistakable. Hong Kong is perpetually flooded, half the world hungry, but my parents have outdone themselves, not merely uploading themselves when their own bodies grew decrepit, but ostentatiously selecting endangered species. After an awkward half an hour, they get up to leave. My father bows his head to me, and my anger wobbles or shifts-- I want to hug him, to bury my face in his fur, to tell him I'm glad he came over-- I want to ask my mother's advice about work, to tell her about my girlfriend-- The moment of weakness passes. Keeping my distance, I dip my head fractionally and open the door. END
Published on May 26, 2022
by Alex Livingston
To read the Dear John letter, I had to throw something away. To free up some memory in my apartment. As I slapped one of my bedside lamps into Recycle, I wondered if breaking up had been easier when people had physical bodies. Before we all uploaded ourselves. Before the Simulation's inviolable objects-per-owned-volume policy forced you to get rid of a thing you loved each time you wanted something new. But I didn't want anything new. I only wanted to know why David had left me.
Published on Apr 16, 2012
by Mary E. Lowd
It feels strange to me, deep in my stomach, that I can't find my ten-year-old girl in real life--but that, maybe, I can find her here. My hand shakes on the computer mouse as I log in to Second World, using one of the default avatars--a woman with straight blonde hair like a plastic shell and the expressionless face of a crash-test dummy. I try messaging my daughter through the in-game chat window right away, but my message bounces back. I check for her name, "fluttercat," on the online user list, but it's not where it should be between "flutter14" and "flutterkid." My throat constricts with a swallowed sob, but I refuse to believe this tenuous connection to my missing daughter won't pan out. Maybe she's set her status to "hidden."
Published on Jul 10, 2012
by Dan Malakin
Veterans are most in demand. The rawest memories, brutal and blood-sticky, they're what people want. The movie studio found Josh through the veteran's register, then did research. No friends, no family, an old alcoholic living on disability. His life lost to the pain of the past. They're the ones with the best stories to tell.
Published on Oct 5, 2015
by Avra Margariti
My online friend is writing an essay about the depleting bee population. I look out my bedroom window at the lavender bushes. Fuzzy insects land on dainty purple blossoms. "How come our bees are all alive and thriving?" I ask my parents during homeschool.
Published on Jan 27, 2020
by Bob McHugh
Admit it, the idea has occurred to you before. Maybe this entire world revolves around you. Maybe everything is an intricate illusion. Maybe you're the only actual person on a show about your life that the universe watches. You quickly dismiss the thoughts, never vocalizing them. Only sociopaths and narcissists would think such a thing. That was Rick's idea. It's not egotistical at all to have those thoughts. They're right. The clues are all there. But Rick suggested that we make such a thought seem self-involved. We created platitudes about humility and instructed our craziest characters to articulate similar theories so that you would be ashamed of forming your own. Rick turned out to be right.
Published on Mar 24, 2016
by Nick McRae
The God-King of the East lay at her feet, one arrow jutting from the gap between his bronze cuirass and his skirt of studded leather, another through the eyehole of his crested helm. She had fulfilled every part of the prophecy.
Published on Apr 22, 2016
by Cosmo Mercurio
When I cut this cord, it will seem terrifying at first. But it is for your own good. The mechanics of it don't matter; I barely understand it myself. Some kind of malevolent signal. There are others like me who seem to be immune, but most of us go insane or kill ourselves. Not me; I have the curiosity of a cat. I spent years trying to identify it. And when I did, I refused to die until I traced it to its source. And then instead of dying I spent twenty years more working my way up in the facility. All the while pretending, all the while eating cat shit with a smile.
Published on Feb 21, 2019
by Dany G. Zuwen
Sam knew Elena wanted him to leave his dead wife. He peered up at Elena's eyes. Her squint of disapproval egging him on, he opened the door to the Room. The bright light scorched his eyes like when he was little and stared at the sun and Mom said it'd blind him. But eventually, after the door closed behind Sam with a metallic click, his sight adjusted.
Published on Oct 24, 2012
by Megan Neumann
Sarah sticks the needle in her arm and falls backwards, feeling the pain of the wound and the soft sheets of her bed. It doesn't hit her immediately. Several minutes pass as the nanites travel through her bloodstream and latch onto her brain. To Sarah, those minutes last an eternity. Each time she injects, the wait feels longer than the time before. She craves for the connection to be initiated, to be alive with the world again. The nanites will attach to the neurons in her brain and enable a wireless data connection. The interpreter software she installed months earlier render the webpages as something that can be interacted with by thought alone.
Published on Jul 15, 2015
by Gemma Elizabeth Noon
***Editor's Note: Adult language She manifests about three feet away from him, a moment of static and then a perfectly formed human being. She is a blend of his favorite aunt, his primary school teacher, and the barista in his local coffee bar. She is pretty, in a nonsexual kind of way. She is as bland and nonthreatening as the plain white room they are standing in, and he knows instinctively this whole staging point is designed to put him at his ease.
Published on Jun 24, 2014
by K. S. O'Neill
Maddy's working a half-day even though it's Friday. She gives me a smooch and looks sideways at the cameras in the kitchen. "They're off!" I tell her, rolling my eyes a bit.
Published on Jul 3, 2014
by Xander Odell
Every morning Mom says, "Today is the day I get my new body." And I lie and tell her, "No, Mom, that's tomorrow."
Published on Nov 24, 2020
by Aimee Ogden
Sure, I'll state my name for the record. It's Maggie Rodgers, with a D. Like "and Hammerstein," not like "Mister." Where should I start? All the way at the beginning? So, on paper the project was called the Supersimulation, but privately, we called it "The Nine Bajillion Names of God." Hard to get research funding under the auspices of an inside joke.
Published on Aug 28, 2018
by Mary Ogle
Nathaniel remembers this. The leather wrapped around the steering wheel stays cool beneath his grip. His fingers are clenched tight and his hands are losing feeling. Now they are as numb as the rest of him. He knows every dip and crack in the hard-packed dirt of the road. He knows which tree branch will strike the roof of the truck. He knows he will kill a man. Nathaniel doesn't try to swerve when the hunched figure steps out in front of him. He remembers this. He doesn't flinch when the body flies up and over, hitting the windshield and leaving jagged cracks that disfigure his vision. The sound of the body rolling off the hood is like an echo and his feet leave the pedals as the truck rolls to a stop.
Published on Dec 21, 2015
by Brian Gene Olson
Mr. Capen's Comparative World Literature Class Quiz 1
Published on Apr 10, 2017
by Jez Patterson
Styler leaned towards the clock and pinched something from the air. I felt the room move. Everything move. She held it out to me and I dropped the paper plane I'd spent all afternoon folding and refolding and never getting right. "A second," she said, pushing my grasping hands away and plucking the handkerchief from the top pocket of my jacket. Pinstriped, my suit a perfect miniaturized copy of my father's. Styler wrapped the second in it, made me put it in the inside pocket, the one that carries things closest to your heart. Usually a man's wallet. Figures.
Published on Apr 11, 2017
by C. Richard Patton
You are there again. Near the rock. In the blackness; in the void. I know that it is you, even though I cannot see that it is you. I know it is not me. I am not there. Not there, where you are. You slump against the rock. It is a small, unnaturally round, boulder. It supports your back as you recline against it, uncomfortably. You roll to your left, twisting, and push off the rock, into a standing position. You lift one foot, place it on the rock, for reference as much as for support. Your faded trousers, cut off below the knees, show a gap of hairy calves above sandaled feet--or they would if it were less dark. You still wear your glasses, useless though they are in this continual night. You have no shirt; you are comfortable enough and you are easier for me to monitor without it. You step up, onto the rock. With this exertion I can sense that you are in good shape, your muscles are lean and your joints smooth even though you have begun the second half of your natural lifespan. You step carefully off the rock and amble forward into the dark.
Published on Aug 8, 2012
by Nina Pendergast
It's the chance of a lifetime. Or at least, that's what they tell her. She only knows that the cameras are rolling and the company has been planning this for months and she is, in actuality, nothing more than a glorified guinea pig. The first woman to experience simulated time travel created from pieces of her own memory. "Due to the simulator's design, we really have no idea what kind of experience you'll have," her boss explained to her several days earlier, ten minutes before the final press conference. "We loosely control the setting and structure of the environment, but as for dialog, interaction, character realism..." He leaned back in his chair, arms crossed casually behind his head. "That's where you come in." She imagined herself as the last point on his checklist, a tidy box to be filled in, imagined him thinking: See, it's done. Look what I accomplished. She nodded, but the words "character realism" left a bitter edge in her throat. It'll be me in there, she thought. My fourteen-year-old self.
Published on Oct 25, 2013
by Stephen R. Persing
"It's always a beautiful day." Those words, not spoken but thought, fell across Ward's mind. He even noted, with a chuckle, that the "voice" in his head had the same Massachusetts accent as he did. It spoke his language; anything to make him feel at home.
Published on Dec 9, 2013
by Andrija Popovic
Camille knew the moment she picked up the package a Mirror Man would hunt her. They infested the shopping districts. Shoulder forward, she pushed down the crowded street. The consumers parted around her. Focused on their personal networks and visual clutter editors, their early warning systems guided them away from collisions. No one could see her. She was a blocked object. No one saw the dirt on her boots, or the cracks in her third-hand leather jacket, or the ribbons on her dreadlocks. No one saw the personal network contacts in her eyes flashing red every two seconds.
Published on Oct 16, 2015
by Conor Powers-Smith
***Editor's Note: Cursing in this story*** "This is where the magic happens," Louis said.
Published on Aug 16, 2013
by Cat Rambo
When he realized how upset his wife was, George wondered if he might have miscalculated. Normally a quiet and loving partner, she was unpacking the dishwasher with a great deal of clattering and muttering. "It's not as though you even ever dated her!" she said, slamming a series of mugs into the cupboard.
Published on Jun 27, 2014
by Cat Rambo
It's dark and I'm here alone. Not entirely dark. My fire casts a tiny wavering circle on the sand. Out in the darkness, I hear waves crashing on the beach.
Published on Mar 23, 2015
by Liam Randles
Acres of bodies stretched out before him inside the holding pen. Lifeless human forms inside large glass cylinders, naked as they day they were born. A pink viscous liquid preserved each figure as they were on the day of their immersion. Wires and cables connected to chest cavities and fixed to temples, hooked to monitors on the outside displaying abstract information. The same glazed expression across every face: a sloppy smile, a faraway stare.
Published on Mar 15, 2022
by Don Redwood
"They found inconsistencies in your memories, Harmony. Even more than last time." Her lawyer's words wound Harmony's throat and squeezed. It wasn't just the hint her asylum appeal had failed, putting her one step closer to being sent back to Earth. It was the conjured image of immigration officials scraping through her brain with a fine toothcomb; tutting, smirking and taking damning notes. "They think they were fabricated. At least, they can't exclude that." Harmony shook her head. Even she couldn't exclude that. She could no longer tell what was real from what wasn't; where she was from where she'd been; where she'd been from where she'd been made to believe she'd been. "Of course they were fabricated. That's what they did to me on Earth. They--" Her lips quivered silently around a rabbit hole of horrors. And all of a sudden, she was back there, in the shrinking eye of a tornado of flying cockroaches; then elsewhere, stumbling through a desert after an ever-retreating oasis; then elsewhere again, on a conveyor belt winding through a series of metal contraptions, each more elaborately brutal than the last. "Stay with me, Harmony." Harmony focused on her surroundings: the soft glare of the LED window; the slight sheen of the white plastic walls; her lawyer's eyes, gently fixed on her own. "I know what you went through, Harmony. But they're finding glitches in your memories of your captivity and the simulation procedures themselves. Mostly visual oddities, some continuity errors.... They say the whole thing could have been simulated. They think you've done it all to yourself." Harmony snorted. No one who'd glimpsed the nightmares she'd lived through could seriously believe they'd been self-inflicted. "What about you? Is that what you think?" Harmony regretted the accusation right away. She was glad her lawyer didn't dignify it with a response. "What about the scenarios they ran? Where they simulated sending me back?" "Your fear was authentic, they accepted that. But they say even with false memories, your fear would be real, as long as you believed it." Harmony felt the futile rage she always felt when faced with callous, untouchable power. The same rage that got her into this mess--by flagging her as a probable dissident back on Earth. "So why in God's name did they put me through that shit?" How hard it had been to lie there, MRI scanner clunking and crashing around her; to sit while they shaved her scalp, syncing her EEG with their electromagnetic field; all the while fighting flashbacks to those times she'd been strapped down for the same procedures. How hard it had been to go back, to really believe she was being sent back to Earth to face the same nightmares all over again. And for what? To taste her fear, proclaim it real then dismiss it as proving nothing? Her lawyer shrugged with a grim smile, but Harmony knew the answer. To make her life difficult. To make her give up. She filled her lungs deep, until twinges of pain flared between her ribs, then sighed. "So what's my next move?" Her lawyer blinked, slowly. When her eyes reopened, they were shining tears. "I think this is the end of the road, Harmony. There's one further avenue of appeal, but honestly, I can't advise pursuing it. The success rate is negligible, and this process is traumatizing you all over again. Your memories are just getting more fragmented. I've seen this before. They've probably already got you wondering if you actually did fabricate everything and wipe the evidence. They'll see those doubts. They'll hold them against you." Her lawyer was right--Harmony was doubting herself, but not like that. She was wondering whether she might still be on Earth; whether this was all another illusory misery. After all, toying with her capacity for disgust, pain, and hunger hadn't been the worst of their manipulations. It was the more subtle tortures. The family they made her believe she had, only to write them back out of existence. The time she came round in a forested psych facility, to be told by a reassuring doctor it had all been a bad psychotic episode, finally over. And she'd believed it--until the son she'd never had arrived to pick her up. The resulting swirl of confused devastation was as raw as ever, and now it span round her. She wanted to speak her son's name, relive moments, mourn his memory, false as it was. She clenched her fist and curled her toes, but still her face crumpled with a long, dry sob. "It's for the best Harmony. They can wipe your traumatic memories before transport. And I know a charity that offers new IDs, face and fingerprints included. You'll be safe. You'll feel safe. You'll be happy." Harmony considered this proposed blissful ignorance. Even dwelling on it calmed the turmoil of her memories. A solution was within reach. It felt inevitable. But really, was it any different to what she'd fled? Hadn't her torturers promised a life free from pain, as long as she let them rip from her the roots that fed her rage? She summoned those memories now--her mother's arrest at a peaceful climate protest; the long, protracted trial that cleared her of terrorism; their bittersweet reunion after two years of separation. Painful as they were, Harmony cherished these memories. They made her who she was. She narrowed her eyes, studying her lawyer for some hint of duplicity, but her face was unflinching, unchanging, except for her eyes which shone wetter than ever. In the end, it didn't matter whether her lawyer was friend or foe; whether this was reality or more virtual torture. The answer was the same. Her doubt only strengthened her resolve. "Lodge the appeal. I'll show them what's real. I won't break." Her lawyer smiled, a tear finally spilling onto the swell of her cheek. "No, you won't." The smile stayed just a moment too long. "Will you?"
Published on Feb 4, 2022
by Robert Reed
***Editor's Warning: Adult-Themed Story, for Mature Readers Only***
Published on Aug 13, 2016
by Melanie Rees
The curtains billowed as a cold gust swept through the open window. Unknown voices whispered on the breeze with a metallic tincture, sending chills down Miranda's spine. "Someone's out there," she said.
Published on Sep 17, 2013
by Mike Reeves-McMillan
Meredith looks up from her second Scotch and meets the gaze of a tall man, straight dark hair, blue eyes. He smiles, and glances away almost immediately. Shy. He's just her type. Though she doesn't remember ever going out with a guy this good-looking.
Published on Nov 17, 2016
by Alter S. Reiss
"I can't actually change the way things are. More than anyone else can, I mean." The shop looked like a crappy antiques store, not like what Jane had expected, and the guy looked like some college kid working at Target, not like... whatever someone who could change reality should look like. It'd all been some stupid prank anyway, and Jane had made an idiot out of herself again.
Published on Jun 21, 2019
by Alter S. Reiss
"The large primates--chimpanzees, baboon, gorillas, and others--pose some of the most serious challenges we face. They are social creatures, and they do not do well alone, no matter how carefully their habitats are prepared. Unfortunately, the radioactive and biological agents used in the war have left both individuals and populations critically fragile." Thus far, Greg hadn't said anything that his audience didn't already know. They were listening, of course--when Greg Lee talked, people listened. He rushed through the details of the problem. While the war-born diseases had been aimed at man, many of them could be caught by any primate, and a single spore could spread through an entire population, leaving every member dead or permanently injured. In addition, less dominant members would seldom have mating opportunities, and because of the condition the apes were in, many of them could not survive any sort of physical conflict within the group. "Robotic surrogates have been tried," he said. "They've failed. Robots can physically impersonate the apes, and can engage in child-rearing for young produced in artificial wombs. But more complicated interactions are beyond our abilities. Chimpanzees who act almost, but not entirely, like other chimpanzees can be even more stressful than solitary confinement. For this reason, that avenue has been largely abandoned. But in recent months, I have solved this problem." That got their attention. Even Professor Szolt, who seemed to spend most of his time sitting in a corner smoking his pipe, put it down to hear what Greg had done. "The problem is that we were working too hard on trying to emulate chimp behavior. It's just too complicated, too organic for our current levels of AI. But rather than explain what I've changed, watch." The video began, focusing on a young male chimp, lame in one leg, and with the scars of spotting flu on his face and hands. He ambled among the trees, amidst a troop of other, healthy-looking chimpanzees. But rather than being pushed to the periphery, even the adult males cowered submissively when he grabbed for their fruit, and the highest status females would groom him. "That was Jicama," explained Greg. "A 7-year-old male removed from the experimental troop at Mahale Mountains, where he was not integrating well. And, as you've seen, he's now thriving with a robotic surrogate troop." There was a confused babble of questions and admiration. "No," said Greg. "No, I haven't made any significant changes in the surrogate's programming. All I changed was the dominance patterns. The social primates live in deeply structured hierarchies, and as it turns out, behavior that is confusing or upsetting coming from equals and superiors is much more acceptable from subordinates. In another experiment, I've established that a robotic surrogate that does nothing but stay in one place and chews on leaves will reduce stress in solitary primates, if it responds submissively to all challenges." Professor Szolt was in the process of tamping down the tobacco in his pipe, and he almost dropped it at that. Everyone else clapped for a long time, and agreed that it was a wonderful breakthrough on a very important problem. As usual, the calibration on Dr. Anderson was off, so that her hands did not actually come into contact while she was clapping, and as usual, Greg didn't notice.
Published on Jan 10, 2022
by Peter Roberts
It was a beautiful day, bright and almost cloudless. Sunlight slanted through the tall windows that ran along the east side of the gently aging, 60's-era Sciences Building. The effect, Vikram sometimes thought, was like being in an open corridor in a cloister. He was heading back to his office, having just refreshed his cup of tea, when the door of the Department Head's office opened, and the great woman herself stepped out. Vikram knew that this was not a coincidence; it never was. "I just saw your paper in Physical Review, Vikram. I thought it was very well done. However..."
Published on Feb 16, 2016
by David Paul Rogers
When Rigel first read of the “discovery,” he keyed in the eye-roll emoji and kept scrolling. The idea that the world was only a simulation had been around for centuries. The notion was at least as old as Plato, who used the fame of his former teacher, Socrates, to promote his own wild ideas. Today, Rigel thought, Plato would be the king of internet conspiracy theorists. If the existence of Flat-Earthers defied explanation, try dealing with one who might claim it doesn’t matter if Earth is flat or round because the entire material world is only a projection. Rigel still didn’t worry when rumors began to circulate beyond weird corners of the internet, when whispers and comments were heard in offices and on street corners. Graffitists took up the idea: Repent, for the world is a simulation and the end is nigh! appeared in colorful spray-painted letters in alleys and occasionally on pieces of high-profile real estate. Similar-themed NFTs were auctioned online for unbelievable prices. Rumors have a way of turning into reality. Even after it was widely accepted that the world was only a simulation, things seemed mostly normal for a while. Soon, however, people started to get careless. Jobs were neglected. Breakfasts and dinners were not cooked. Lawns went unmowed, bills unpaid. Let the simulation deal with the simulated consequences as best it could, people decided. Did I program the world to be this way? they asked. No? Then if you don’t like how things work, talk to the Programmer. Nobody knew who that was, of course. Rigel, meanwhile, went to work every day at his ordinary job as an accountant at the regional office of an unremarkable mid-size corporation. He did start to record the various changes in his old-fashioned blog, A Cultural History of the End of the World. Blogs were hopelessly out of date, he knew, but he’d been blogging since before “social media” became a one-size-fits-all term used to dismiss internet fads. He wasn’t about to stop now. Soon, more serious problems were allowed to fester. Bridges collapsed. Children wandered into traffic. Launch codes for nuclear arsenals were forgotten. Yet when people were confronted about the consequences of their irresponsibility, nonchalant attitudes persisted: why worry--where was the harm in a little simulated death and destruction? After all, none of it was even real. The tenor of perceptions changed, Rigel noted in his blog, after the stranger came to town. Nobody noticed when he quietly checked into the hotel, but soon the stranger was seen taking pictures and making notes, and whispers began. A few people later told reporters the stranger had questioned them about dirty streets and crumbling buildings and littered parks and alleys. They answered, since it was all just a simulation, what did any of it matter? He nodded and made more notes, refusing to say anything specific about his origin or purpose. “Just a routine report on the progress of the experiment,” he said. “We all have to justify expenses, you know.” Apathy was gradually replaced by paranoia. Three days after the stranger arrived, he disappeared and was not seen again. People worried even more seriously when the shortages began--food and medicine, fuel, electricity, things that did actually make differences in everyday life. No one panicked until that last morning, when the sheriff issued orders for everyone to stay inside. The sun rose, briefly, but soon the sky turned black. Inky, moonless, midnight black. A rumbling, crackling roar was heard from the edge of town. The ebony sky extended horizon to horizon and swallowed the town, dirty streets and all. Rigel pointed his phone out the window of his apartment and recorded the spreading darkness. It rolled down the street like fallout from a mushroom cloud, everything in its path vanishing quickly as five-year-old balance sheets through the office paper shredder. So now we float here in nearly absolute darkness and empty space, Rigel wrote, with nothing to do but stare at words that blink around the black horizon: This Simulation Discontinued. Reprogram Pending. I'll be happy if the new simulation just has food and water, he typed, determined to blog till the bitter end. I hope the reprogramming starts soon. Empty space is quite cold and I am rather hungry. Thirsty, too. And the battery on my phone is dying.
Published on Nov 22, 2021
by Kaoru Sakasaki, translated by Toshiya Kamei
Mrs. Yamano had told us about you beforehand. She said a new kid would soon be joining our class. His name was Satoru, a middle school student like the rest of us. An accident left you paralyzed, so you would be coming to school encased in a robot body. That’s all she told us. Mrs. Yamano is nearing her retirement, so you can’t fault her too much for being a bit old-fashioned. Even so, when the word “robot” came out of her mouth, it sounded antiquated. At first, I thought she was pulling our legs. When I first saw you, Satoru, the word “robot” flashed into my mind. On TV, I had seen kids attending classes remotely, but the technology in use seemed more sophisticated. Some wore android suits while others rode highly individualized mechas. To be honest, your robot looked like an older model, because some parts were hardly painted. But it’s far more advanced from any so-called robot from the previous century.
Published on May 7, 2021
by Erica L. Satifka
On days like these, when the boredom reaches down Park's throat like a debutante's finger, it's all he can do not to hop on his board and hoist a hearty double-middle-finger salute to this crummy slice of consensus reality called Home Sweet Home. He'd do it too, if he knew the subroutines wouldn't reel him in, fish-flopping on the macadam. No way in hell am I going through that again, he thinks, shuddering.
Published on Jul 4, 2014
by Erica L. Satifka
Monday: Slide a steak knife up your sleeve. Smile when you enter the office through the plate-glass window that faces the sidewalk. The glass will shatter, but it cannot harm you. Because you, my friend, are a Winner.
Published on Sep 10, 2014
by Erica L. Satifka
After Tina's parents got divorced and she and her mom moved to Earth, she spent summers with her dad in the hyper-labyrinth of Ganymede Station 9-B, in a far-off world called reality. She'd liked it when she was twelve. She'd run all up and down the corridors of the Station, oblivious to the milling engineers and bureaucrats, until the spider-like structure of the All-Seeing Eye jabbed a syringe into her neck and put her gently to sleep. But now that she was older, she was so over it.
Published on Oct 2, 2015
by Darragh Savage
The resurrection was, in its early days, a little underwhelming. Here is my father: imperfect in the living room, where light renders his manifestation wan unless the shades are drawn, but vibrant and perfected in Space (as we all are). He looks a little younger than me, which I find strange, so we adjust his settings until he is appropriately gray.
Published on Mar 22, 2019
by Peter A Schaefer
Susan wasn't comfortable playing, not after Dan read that you had to name your piece after yourself, and she said so. "It's just a game," they said, and so she played. It was a game where you moved your piece around familiar if generic locations: home, the library, downtown, and places related to school: class, the cafeteria, the athletic field, and behind the bleachers. Since it was just a game, Susan made choices she'd never make in life. That's why she skipped class with Dan behind the bleachers. When she kissed him in the game, she blushed in real life. She smoked a little, drank a little, tried marijuana. Her grades were fine, but her game-parents grounded her more than once. The consequences didn't matter to her, but her friends grew judgmental.
Published on Dec 8, 2016
by Alex Shvartsman
I move through the aisles slowly, with the casual gait of a bored shopper who's there to kill fifteen minutes while his spouse is trying on shoes across the street. Someone not likely to make an actual purchase and, therefore, ignored by the salespeople. I disregard the flashy displays of electronics piled up high and the enticing discounts. Instead, I study the cameras, the location of the clerks, and the security tag detector equipment by the exit.
Published on Mar 12, 2012
by Susan Taitel
The set looks exactly like her apartment. Down to the smallest detail. Except it’s larger and the walls can be moved to make room for the camera crew. There is no angle they can’t shoot from. The actress who will be playing her wife doesn’t look much like Katherine, but she’s got the same gap-toothed grin and has obviously studied her mannerisms. The first run-through is full of mistakes and flubs and goes much later than scheduled. Afterward, she goes home to her real apartment. Katherine is still up, waiting to reheat the Chicken Tikka Masala she made hours earlier and to hear how it went. She recounts it for her, exaggerating the errors to the point of farce. They agree that to greenlight it would be absurd. Katherine goes to bed and she soon follows, relieved that the experiment has come to an end.
Published on May 3, 2021
by Clive Tern
While we ate, the news warned of power outages. Hopefully we'll make it through the night. The world may be warmer than thirty years ago, but it still drops to forty degrees overnight, cool enough to need the heat on. After tea we sit on the couch.
Published on Sep 7, 2016
by R.L. Thull
Jackie pulled into the drive of a blue rambler with thirsty brown grass, her next assignment. She always took the company van on her runs, a nondescript white box without rear windows, and--for discretion--side panel branding that vanished as she neared her destination. The company had an app for its field employees with all the relevant details--the subject's name and birthdate and photo, the home and work addresses. And of course, the cover story.
Published on May 4, 2018
NPC
by James Van Pelt
For the right fee a player can enter the virtual MMO, Castles, Wights and Heroes, permanently. So my girlfriend and I did. We left mundane lives, let the technicians wire us into the game.

"There is no coming back," the company rep told us.
Published on Apr 6, 2022
by Marie Vibbert
Disclosure: I was not paid for this review, but I did receive a free copy of "Jesamie: 0-39" by Interpolative LifeLogs LLC in exchange for my honest review of the product. Jesamie's life was recommended to me by fellow fans of "Twenty Day Cleanse" and "Monk for a Month" because of my interest in ascetic meditation.
Published on Aug 30, 2018
by Leslie What
"Heat the mac and cheese when the timer beeps," said their mom. Andrew loved her voice, She sounded like the hospital elevator woman who announced every floor. "Could I take you to Show and Tell?" he asked.
Published on Jun 19, 2019
by Ian Whates
***Editor's Note: Adult story with adult language/themes follows*** Her figures were tumbling, which was a disaster. Numbers in the top left hand corner of her field of view continued to fall in quick-fire ones and twos--the countdown to obscurity. Taylor didn't get it. She looked good, she knew she did.
Published on Nov 13, 2014
by Filip Wiltgren
Everybody finds this letter eventually. It's in the terms of use. What you do with it, is entirely up to you. First, the specifics. Yes, this world is made just for you, all the content procedurally generated moments before you encounter it. No, we can't tell you why you chose this particular world, or why it was chosen for you. We cannot confirm if this was a desired outcome, or if the world is created from a random seed. All we are contractually obliged to tell you is that this world exists, and so do you. What you do with this information is entirely up to you.
Published on Nov 19, 2020
by Brian Yamauchi
"What are you thinking?" she asks. I wrap my arms around her shoulders as the waves roll onto the beach. The California sun falls toward the horizon, and the autumn breeze cools our wet bodies.
Published on May 19, 2014
by Christie Yant
***Editor's Warning: Brief adult language, and graphic details of dying and death live here.*** I never saw my mother's body after she died. The man on the other end of the line asked me if I wanted to--whether they should delay the cremation so that I could make the two-and-a-half hour drive up the coast to where she lay in storage. Pale and spotted with bright red cherry angiomas, her sides striped with purple scars from multiple kidney surgeries and her arms mottled with worn red gashes where the tremors had caused her to scratch herself, I had seen enough of my mother's body when she had been alive.
Published on Oct 18, 2012
by Kenton K. Yee
The curtains were shimmering behind a moth's silhouette jostling over the doctor's head. "If you can't, turn yourself in first thing tomorrow," he said. "They'll come get you if you're not accounted for by eight. Personally, I'd do it myself."
Published on Dec 8, 2017
by ana gardner
The verdict surprised no one. It was the sentencing they'd come for; the reason they'd packed themselves into the sweaty old courtroom, wall-to-peeling-oakwood-wall, five hundred bodies gripping iClickers, slurping in eager unison from their NutriShake rations. The judge banged for silence and the accused stood. Breaths stopped. A thousand eyes fixed the Hi-Fi Sentencing Widescreen, stretched tall and black behind the judge's seat.
Published on Jan 28, 2020