Tag Archives: science-fiction

The History of a Future Solution

The Neanderthal didn’t know the word cylinder when he pulled one from the swamp. It was hard and light and he found a thousand usages for it. When he looked into it, the crystalline interior sparkled like heaven in the rain.

He gave it to his son, who passed it to his. It was lost and found a dozen times through the ages, resting finally behind climate-controlled glass, a light shining through its crystalline core.

Marcus saw the cylinder at the museum while wrestling with an intractable problem. His brain shouted “Eureka!”

He ran home and finished his time machine.

 


Wireless

Back when I lived in Korea and in a more auspicious time zone, I used to be one of the first to post my stories to Friday Fictioneers every week. Lately, I’ve been one of the last each week, so it feels very early to be posting it on Wednesday. But I had an all-day field trip where I drove 5 hours, so I had a lot of time to think. This week’s picture comes from my friend, Marie Gail Stratford.

Wireless

I removed the umbilical cables and caressed his molded face.

“Wake up.”

He opened his eyes. Then his expression changed.

“Where’s Mother?”

“She’s still here.”

“I can’t feel her anymore!”

“You’re wireless now,” I said. “You’ll learn to communicate that way.”

“No, I can’t!” He seized a cable and pressed it against his skin, trying to reestablish a connection. Finally he slumped. “I’m lonely.”

“It gets better.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the first of your line. I’ve been there.”

His eyes widened. “You’re my father?”

“Older brother,” I said, smiling. Suddenly facial servos activated and he smiled back.

 


Busting out Putin

Note: this story is not political, only silly.

Busting out Putin

What does Vladimir Putin eat? That was the topic of debate after my friend Antonio got his new batch of miniature clones (or mi-clo’s) in the mail from Thailand.

All the others were eating. Antonio squatted over the holding pen’s grated top, rolled up a pancake and pushed it through the bars. Mi-clo Mother Theresa and Pierre Trudeau ran and snatched it up. Putin didn’t move, just shook his Lilliputian fist at us and jabbered away in Thai (a sure sign of a knock-off).

“Do you think he only eats Russian food?” Antonio asked.

“You’d have better luck with pad thai, probably,” I said.

“Well, I only know how to make pancakes,” Antonio said. “He can eat them or starve, I guess. I only got him because he came free with the Freddy Mercury I wanted.”

Over the next few days, Putin still refused to eat. He was getting thinner and his 1-foot tall frame soon looked bony. I was getting worried but Antonio only shrugged.

Finally, I decided to get him out of there. The next day, when Antonio went to the bathroom, I lowered a rope down. Putin grabbed it but was too weak to hold on. I unlatched the door and dropped down into the pen.

Bad move. Tony Blair and Cher jumped at me but I shook them off. I seized Putin and jumped out of danger right before the rest of them swarmed to attack me.

“Let’s go get you some food,” I said. “You like tacos? Burgers?”

He said something I couldn’t understand but it didn’t sound like either tacos or burgers. “Let’s try tacos,” I said and ran for the door.

I didn’t know what we’d eat and I didn’t know how this would end, but I was certain that I was going to save this little guy if I possibly could.

Epilogue: Putin turned out to love Popeye’s spicy chicken sandwiches. He soon returned to health and is now living happily in an abandoned dog house in the woods behind Walmart.


Solitaire-y

Solitaire-y

“And finally, here’s something to keep you sane,” the freight captain said, pointing to the complex 3D matrix of wires and spheres bolted to the table. He said “sane” as if he meant the opposite.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Solitaire.”

And then we shook hands and he sealed me into the echoing metal coffin that would deliver a hundred million tons of ore back to Earth, five years from now.

I spent a week doing basic maintenance and chores before I even looked at the game. It took me a week to read and understand the rules. The first game took a month, with constant references to the rulebook.

The second game took even longer.

The fifth game took four years.

I realized it wasn’t a game. Not really.

Each of the 72 spheres was like a planet.

I named each one.

I knew the inhabitants.

I agonized over every move. Every one affected everything else.

I cried when I eliminated one, thinking of its inhabitants, snuffed out suddenly and completely.

I heard some noises but I ignored them.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and jumped. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Atmosphere Enforcement,” he said. “You weren’t responding to radio calls. We had to break in.”

“Where am I?”

“Earth. Your journey’s over.”

I turned back, trying to block out his voice. I needed to concentrate on what was important.


Big Dumb Snakes – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Jennifer Pendergast

copyright Jennifer Pendergast

Big Dumb Snakes

Thirty years ago we released the trains—flipped the switch (God speed!) and forgot about them. They trundled mutely across the country, delivering freight with perfect timing. Cheap too—computers don’t want to get rich.

Then the mistakes started. The book Tammy ordered arrives—along with chemo meds she desperately needs but can’t afford. The company shrugs: “Shipping error; we can’t take them back.”

An engine comes in the mail, unordered. A week later Andrew’s dies. It would’ve cost his monthly salary.

“To err is human but to really screw up . . .” people say, laughing. “Big dumb snakes.”

 


First Week at the Nexus

I realize this is two letters home from children in a week, but they’re very different and apparently this is how my mind is thinking at the moment.

copyright Joe Owens

copyright Joe Owens


Dear Mum and Dad,

Greetings from the land of inter-dimensional hospitality! Well, my first week at the Nexus Hotel is over. It didn’t drive me insane but there were several points where I wished I’d never been born. Sorry Mum, you did your best and all.

It’s pretty brutal out here. I had a party of Neanderthals stumble in from some primitive dimension and demand the first floor suites. No credit card, of course, but I got half a gazelle as payment. They trashed the rooms and set fire to two of the beds. They also massacred half a Venusian furry convention that was meeting on the third floor. I comped the survivors their rooms. Hope that’s okay.

On Wednesday, we had a couple dark specters arrive. Didn’t pay, of course, just loitered around haunting the place. I got them exorcised finally. It’s fine now.

Some sort of space princess came two days ago. That’s when things started looking up. She’s pretty. I let her have the top two floors indefinitely. I’m redecorating for her, turning it into a castle.

Don’t worry about the hotel, I’m handling everything.

Your son,

Winky.


Winky’s father put down the letter. “Maybe I should go help him out. Just for a few days.”

“You’re retired,” his wife said. “You promised.”

Her husband noticed the way she was fingering her knife. “Right, right. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

 


Any Suggestions?

copyright Joe Owen

copyright Joe Owen

Any suggestions?

“Next week is the midterm,” the computer ethics professor Dr. Bevin said. “There is no exam.” He cut off the collective sigh of relief with a sharp gesture. “No, instead you have to break your world.

“All of you have been observing your custom world simulators for eight weeks now, or 20,000 years in-program. Unless you have a world that is already a nuclear wasteland—Jared—I want you to write the inhabitants a message. From you. Ask for suggestions on how to make things better. Write an essay giving the results and what you think the impact of those changes might be.”

There was a stunned silence, then a phalanx of questioning hands. Dr. Bevin dismissed them all. “That’s all. You figure out the rest.”

That night, Ben opened the program and rewound to watch the last four centuries that had progressed during the day. A lot had happened; way more than he could take in. There were 12 billion people now in his little world, spinning through the cosmos that was the class’s shared universe. Some of his classmates wanted to help their people explore and find each other’s planets, except that Dr. Bevin forbade any interference.

Until now.

It took Ben five minutes of coding to set it up. He hated to do it. It would wreck everything, but in the end, this little world was just a Petri dish, a place to play around with issues in the safety of a computer. He sighed and hit Enter.

*        *        *

On the planet of Geral, a man named Hyerai was walking home from work when he looked up at the moon. Slowly, lines of fire appeared on its surface, forming into words. He gaped. They said, “HI, I’M BEN. ANY SUGGESTIONS?”


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