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Finale

Mark Cole hates writing bios. Despite many efforts he has never written one he likes, perhaps because there are many other things he'd rather be writing. He writes from Warren, Pennsylvania, where he has managed to avoid writing about himself for both newspaper and magazine articles. His musings on Science Fiction have appeared in Clarkesworld and at IROSF.com, while his most recent story, "Let's Start from the Top..." appeared in Daily Science Fiction.
"How about this: they only think they've been kidnapped by aliens. They wake up in their beds and realize they dreamed it all."
"Been done." the Director said without much interest, letting a long slow plume of smoke escape from his lips.
"Okay... Then we could have some military types--a General, I guess--step out of a hidden compartment and reveal that it's all been a test of some sort... you know, some kind of psychological test, to... to..."
"...Find out how well they react under stress?" someone on the far side of the table suggested.
"...Yeah, like that."
The Director thought about it for a long moment, then shook his head. "No."
"How about this... They escape from the saucer, setting off the self-destruct mechanism. It blows up, leaving no wreckage, no trace that it ever existed..."
The Director snorted. "Sounds like some old Roger Corman movie."
"...All just a practical joke?" one of the Assistant Directors asked.
"And someone built a realistic flying saucer to pull it off? Who'd believe that?"
"...It could be a movie set.... Maybe they just stumbled in on the making of some sci-fi flick..." the youngest and most inexperienced assistant suggested.
The director snorted. "Oh, Puh-leese!"
"...An episode of the 'X-Files'?"
"I said NO."
The room fell silent, except for the tapping of the second unit director's fingers drumming on the top of the conference table.
"Nothing?" the Director asked, looking around the room. "No one has any other ideas?"
The others stared at each other, but no one spoke.
The Director sighed and got up from the table. He walked over to the small door at the far end of the room and pressed a button. A steel plate shot up out of sight and he stared through the tiny window at the humans in the chamber beyond.
"Okay, so we'll just set them loose with a big gap in their memory...."
"Like we always do."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, December 31st, 2015


I've always loved the story that suddenly dumps everything you thought you knew about it on its ear and then reveals the real story that you never noticed was there all along. Many of my favorite authors--like G.K. Chesterton, Frederick Brown, or Randall Garrett--shared that love. After all, it is one of those classic patterns of storytelling that is probably as old as mankind.

Sadly, they can also be a hard sell. I've had such stories rejected because the reader thinks I should have made the situation clear from the start! I'm not quite sure what this says about us, but I'll admit it leaves me a little worried about our future.

What good is a world where mystery, awe, and surprise are too confusing?

- Mark Cole

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