Category Archives: Science Fiction

Leap into the Sky

Leap into the Sky
by Steven x Davis

I’m getting ready to jump up to heaven, but my legs aren’t strong enough yet. For the past several weeks, I’ve been practicing a variety of leg exercises, which should strengthen my calves and thighs so I can make the leap. I wanted to buy an all-purpose weight machine, but the boardinghouse where I live won’t let residents install exercise equipment, so I made do with some bungee cords and a couple of cinder blocks.

I read online that you should eat plenty of protein when you want to build muscle, so I went to the grocery store and bought a crate of ribeye steaks from the butcher. He gave me a great deal because the mad cow outbreak has scared everyone away from eating beef and the ribeyes were on the verge of going bad. He couldn’t sell them to anybody else, but I don’t mind sour meat as long as it’s cooked, and I’ll be in heaven long before mad cow disease can affect me.

I’m trying to eat between four and six steaks a day, depending on how much exercise I’m able to get in. I quit my job at the sandwich shop, but I still do odd jobs around the boardinghouse for Mrs. Potter, the landlady. Sometimes she calls me the “superintendent,” but she really just needs somebody to tape and glue things together after they break so she won’t have to replace anything or hire a real repairman. In exchange, my rent is only half of what the other residents pay, so the work is worth the trouble.

Apart from doing chores around the building, I spend most of my time training my legs. The only other time I leave my apartment is at breakfast.

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Lost and Found

Lost and Found
by Manny Frishberg

Just before the light turned green, you said that it was a lovely night for a ride and leaned your head way back to look at the sky. I revved the engine and let the clutch lever slide out from under my fingertips. The bike jumped and sped into the intersection before I saw the brake lights on the pickup as we skidded into it.

I only remember isolated flashes after that, like so many of your photographs, anchored in memory by a sound or smell. Changing streaks of colored light—red, orange, white, and red again—mixed up with the odor of hot oil on rain-washed pavement; stiff white linen and the taste of oxygen in a plastic mask; florescent lights reflected on stainless steel and the odor of iodine, combined with surging waves of pain.

I awoke in a seductive fog of opiates and gauze bandages, surrounded by dull-green curtains, after what the nurses told me had been two touch-and-go days. A black man wearing scrubs the same color as the curtains came in to change my bed sheets. I asked him where you were, the words like cotton in my mouth. Eventually he noticed I wanted to talk.

“So, you’ve decided to wake up, after all,” he said. “I’m Jamal.” He finished tucking in the bedding and left me without waiting for a response. Then a nurse came in to have a look. She said nothing but started to probe me, shining a penlight in my eyes, prodding my elbows and knees to check my reflexes, taking my temperature, and making notes in my chart before talking.

“Welcome back,” she said with a smile. “We weren’t sure you were going to make it.”

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Coin-Op Carter

Coin-Op Carter
by Sean Benham

They were punishment for a lost bet one day, a curse from a bearded woman the next. The end result of a business venture gone sour, or sometimes it was a deal with the Devil. The edges of the smaller, vertical rectangle were tinged with a faint orange glow that burned from within. The larger, horizontal rectangle was a digital display; it didn’t quite function like a cheap alarm clock, but it sure looked like one. You could have asked him about them a hundred times and you wouldn’t have received the same answer twice. The truth was, he couldn’t remember how he wound up with a coin-op slot and a countdown timer lodged in the middle of his chest.

His name was Carter, most likely. He didn’t have any ID under that name, or any ID at all. What he did have was a jaggy, faded tattoo scrawled across his neck. It either read Carter or Carten, and he didn’t respond kindly to Carten.

Carter was a bum if you appreciated the indelicate; he was perpetually down on his luck if you didn’t. Slice the wording however you like, but one way or the other, he was homeless and used to be a fixture down on Main. He set up in front of the cake shop on weekdays, but when the weekend rolled around, a cupcake or two could usually convince him to relocate a ways down the block. The frame store didn’t care for their unwelcome weekend guest, but they didn’t have much to offer in exchange for him getting off of their stoop.

He was an odd sight, instantly recognizable. His hair did as it pleased, naturally tending to pile in a messy bird’s nest on top of his head. He couldn’t grow a proper beard, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Long, graying scraggles jutted from his upper lip and drooped off of his chin. He was old, most likely. 55? 60? It was hard to say. He was pickled in hard living, indelicately preserved. Carter didn’t dress for practicality or comfort. Winter or summer, rain or shine, he always wore the same crusty brown slacks and battered snow boots, but opting to go without a shirt. He had to show off his moneymaker.

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A Burden of Memories

A Burden of Memories
by Tamoha Sengupta

I was 16 when I was born. The cold of the table beneath my bare back was the first thing that touched my consciousness. And then a man clothed me in a dress whose color, he told me, was dark blue. I had no memories of my own, only those that belonged to Sheila, now dead.

For weeks, the wires were planted deep into my mind, and I soaked up Sheila’s memories like a sponge. I realized that the man was Sheila’s—my—father. I soaked up memories of the day her mother—my mother—died in a car accident. The picnics she attended became the ones I went to. I had never seen the hills, yet I already remembered seeing them, snow-capped, glittering in the sunlight.

I also had a capsule given to me by Father. It was inserted into me at around the same time he installed my heart.

“Now no diseases will snatch you away from me again,” he said to me, pulling me into a hug. The hug was nothing new in my memory, but the feel of his warm arms around me was.

I was officially Sheila now. When people I knew saw me for the first time, they asked how I had survived.

“Oh, the method’s not important. She’s alive; that’s all that matters,” Father said to them, with a laugh that was as hollow as his words.

Each night, Father tucked the blanket around me when I went to bed. I remembered how secure I felt when he kissed my forehead, but that’s all there was. I just remembered; I didn’t feel it now.

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Stuck

Stuck
by Andrew Atkinson

The alarm started blaring promptly at 7:00 a.m., just as it had every morning for the last eight years. Alan was already awake; his internal body clock had gotten so used to waking up at that time it had started rousing him five minutes before the alarm sounded.

He climbed out of bed, stretched, and hobbled over to the food replicator.

“Morning, Foody,” he said. “What’ve we got for breakfast today?”

“We have fried eggs and bacon, or cornflakes,” the electronic voice of the food replicator replied.

“Eggs and bacon, I think.”

Alan ate his breakfast quickly and crossed to the other side of the room. Filling the whole wall was the Information Network Super Computer; a large screen dominated most of the computer, with a few lights and buttons on either side.

“And good morning to you, Ms. Knowledge.” Alan punched a few buttons on the left side of the computer and the face of a young woman appeared onscreen.

“Good morning, Alan,” Ms. Knowledge replied. “I hope you are feeling well?”

For eight years, Alan had been going through this routine, and in all that time, he had never been able to figure out why the computer’s programmers had seen fit to give the computer the face of Marilyn Monroe and the voice of Vivien Leigh. It was such a weird combination.

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Golden Arms

Golden Arms
by Joshua Mannix

Matthew concentrates as he rolls his new arms in front of his eyes. They’re still skin-colored, as he had requested, but with no marks, moles, scars, or hair, smooth as a baby’s skin. The bulk that his old arms had possessed, the bulk that only earned silver, is present but streamlined.

He flexes his artificial muscles, grips his fists together, and stretches his arms wide. He expects to hear gears turning beneath the skin, like in movies, but nothing makes a sound. The eeriest aspect of seeing the arms in front of him, attached to his shoulders with thin lines indicating where they had made the cut, is that he can’t feel them at all.

“That numbness will be around for a couple of weeks as the nerves connect to the circuits.” Dr. Harrison pokes Matthew’s hands with a needle. If he hadn’t watched the point press into the synthetic skin, he wouldn’t have known it was there. “Make sure you’re keeping an eye on where they go.”

“Yeah, of course.” The doctor chuckles to himself at his joke, but Matthew stares at the foreign limbs without cracking a smile. He sees his hands form a fist in front of him the second after he wills it, but doesn’t feel the tight clench of strength. “How long till I can get these babies working?”

“A few weeks at best, for basic control, but probably a month or two for more intricate use.” Dr. Harrison grabs a computer tablet from the end of the bed and pokes at the screen. “You’ll experience some pain while that happens, a sharp tingling that feels like you slept on it wrong, or itching along your arms that won’t go away.”

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Dr. Optera’s Intelligent Bugs

Dr. Optera’s Intelligent Bugs
by Wendy Nikel

Dr. Cole Optera leaned in toward the tiny six-legged creature. Its unblinking eyes stared back at him.

“Come on,” he whispered. “Say something.”

The creature sat silently. Its leg twitched. Not precisely the sign of intelligence he’d been hoping for, not after all his time and effort. Not after all the ridicule.

Optera sighed and set the beetle back in its enclosure. There was still something wrong with his methods, some factor he wasn’t considering. He rubbed his head and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to concentrate. When he opened them, he caught sight of the digital clock, its bright red numbers chastising him for being up so late, for skipping dinner (again), and for drinking too much coffee past sundown.

Resignedly, Optera stumbled to the hotel-room bed and threw himself upon it, still fully clothed in the slacks and button-down shirt that he’d donned for his conference presentation so many hours before. He flicked off the light on the beetle, still sitting perfectly still in its enclosure.

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Blur

Blur
by Brandon McNulty

Tim’s dad steered him to the safest part of the living room. He stood surrounded by bulletproof windows, flameproof furniture, rubber lamps, an imitation fireplace, and a flat screen TV bolted onto a plastic stand with cushioned edges. As soon as Tim’s butt hit the hardwood floor, his dad plopped down on their non-allergenic couch and grabbed the remote. Dad pointed it at Tim first, then the TV.

A nonviolent cartoon lit the screen. Pink birds chirped broken English and sang about brushing their teeth. Tim was too old for this. He leaned back and stretched until Dad warned him about lying beneath the ceiling fan—you never knew when all forty steel bolts could pop loose. Better safe than sawed up.

Dad smiled at Tim before burying his crooked nose and bloodshot eyes in a newspaper. Pages flipped, birds sang, the afternoon disappeared.

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Unlocking Fantasy

Unlocking Fantasy
by A.F. Runyon

It looked like Phillip and it talked like Phillip. It made love and did the dishes just like Phillip. When it played with the kids, it laughed, joked, and reprimanded just like Phillip. After a time, I began to forget the funeral and that horrible night when I lost the real Phillip. He had been so young, and there was no way that any loving god would have cursed our family to be without him. That’s why we had enlisted in the program in the first place.

We had gone over our finances and taken out the necessary loan before going into the Yamashita Cybernetics Lab to get the small neural recorders placed in our frontal lobes. The recorder would act as a sponge of perceptions and reactions throughout our daily lives, and if one of us should ever die in some untimely manner, a full-scale replica could be made with the information uploaded into it. It just so happened that it was Phillip who went first.

It was a simple thing that took him. He was leaving the office for some coffee and a muffin, and then a perfectly ordinary young woman in a hurry to reach some appointment or other had smashed into him at 40 miles per hour, and then he was gone.

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Stowaway

Stowaway
by P. R. O’Leary

On the ground floor, 192 stories down, Stig covered his head and face with the rainsuit hood and walked out into the street. The driving rain and heavy smog obscured his view, so the smell hit him first. He could never get used to it. Take every bad smell that comes out of a person’s body, multiply it by a billion, and sprinkle some landfills and industrial waste on top. That was the smell of the city. It was almost visible.

Even through the rain and smog and smell, Stig could see that the street was crowded with people, packed end-to-end as usual, bodies moving in every direction, pushing and jostling each other for space. Cars had long since become impractical, and the public Tubes were always out of commission, so they had no choice but to walk, especially in this area, characterized by people who had no other means besides their own two legs—and sometimes not even that.

Stig pushed through the crowd as the rain pounded the top of his head. There was no telling what anyone looked like below their rainsuits. People were making every effort to cover their skin, including him.

Most of Stig’s rainsuit had eroded down to the red warning layer, and in some places, the rain had eaten all the way through. His hands, arms, back, and face were covered in white scars where the water had seared his flesh. Stig couldn’t afford to patch the rainsuit anymore; good acid-blocking material was out of his price range. The adequate kind was, too.

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