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DAILY SCI-FI
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

Aliens


Yes, of course here be little green men. But not only these. Extraterrestrial life can and sometimes should be almost unrecognizable. Luminaries from Carl Sagan to Madonna have noted that the odds against humanity being the only sentient form of life are astronomical. Yet, as noted in the Fermi paradox, there seem to be no signs of aliens in reality. (Of course, with the recent discoveries of many hundreds of planets orbiting other stars, perhaps that will change. Stay tuned to your favorite science fact websites.) Science fiction writers have stepped into the void, providing entertainment, humor, and cautionary tales. Here are those that have appeared in Daily Science Fiction:

by Mike Adamson
No one knew why they came, and in the end, it didn't matter. They came, and that bald fact alone was all the human race needed to know. We could deduce certain things about them. They were bold, they were advanced, and they were not given to subtlety. They had a single, obvious message for us, and they hit us over the head with it. They must have been monitoring us for many years because when the day came all they had to do was show themselves and leave everything else up to us.
Published on Jul 6, 2018
by Lisette Alonso
You don't expect him to be beautiful. You don't expect him at all, but still he waltzes down on a beam of light that shoots from a spaceship disguised as the night sky, striations of indigo reflected on its hull, periwinkle brushstrokes mimicking the cirrus clouds. This alien looks like he should be an actor. He is a heartthrob. If you were thirteen instead of thirty-five, you'd have glossy magazine pinups of him papering your bedroom walls. You look at him and it makes you think of cascading waterfalls, the sun setting on a calm ocean, fawns frolicking in a forest clearing. You are already so lucky just to be able to glimpse him. How more than human he seems. His delicate cheek bones. His long tapered fingers. Just enough facial hair to look rugged but not unkempt.
Published on Dec 13, 2016
by Brenda Joyce Anderson
I bleed. The "scientific studies" have finished now, and my captors allow visitors to crowd round my cage. They stare. Their shocked, rapt faces and hushed conversations tell me what I already know. This color is new to them, never before seen. The color of my blood. The color of love. At least it is, where I come from.
Published on Feb 6, 2019
by Kelly Sauvage Angel
The moment Sebby arrived at the overlook atop King's Bluff, she sloughed off her backpack and plunked herself onto the gritty, yet somehow smooth, limestone. Though the guidebook had deemed the trail "difficult," she hadn't found the climb much more than "invigorating." However, her feet hurt like hell. "You going to be okay for the trip down?" her big sister, Bronwyn, asked after taking a long pull from her Camelback.
Published on Dec 20, 2017
by Tony Ballantyne
"Why did I have to bring my wife in here with me? I'm not a child!" The doctor was a young man, freshly shaven, with a warm smile.
Published on Jun 14, 2016
by Jason A. Bartles
I stand in line to buy a beverage, tuning out the halitosis and manufactured perfumes that bristle against my wattle. Its purpose is not to keep us cool. We don't perspire like the humans, always leaking fluids from every crevice and fold. They must find it uncomfortable to live on this planet, adapted to colder climates as they are. Our wattles are finely tuned to detect minor changes in the wind, whether it be the oncoming storm or the return of springtime.

"Hey," says a human behind me.
Published on Jun 30, 2022
by S.A. Barton
"Of course they do," Daniel said. He punched the Power Off key on the remote so hard the knuckle of his thumb turned white. "Dear," Rosetta said, warning.
Published on Dec 12, 2014
by James Beamon
A five minutes break is not enough break. Sets run from twenty to twenty-three minutes, depending on the combination of unintelligible howlings playing. We only have one working animatronic man, who we call Rusty, left to provide relief for me, Kelly, Rog, and Ryan. Although we're down two band members, and we have more time individually with Rusty, we still have to forage food and attempt to sleep through this infernal racket. Point being, it's extremely difficult to escape when we're only able to plan in five-minute bursts.
Published on Nov 11, 2014
by James Beamon
When the cows started wearing toupees, we laughed behind their backs. We weren't going to be impolite about it. All of us understood the n'ermer were an advanced alien species, not really cows. After all, they walked upright, had four-fingered hands instead of hooves and wore clothes--these shiny garments which looked like tracksuits or garbage bags, depending on style. Still, they had cow fur, cow faces. After six months on Intergalactic Space Station Cooperation we had gotten used to them. Then these advanced beings with the cow-like fur and faces started wearing human hairpieces and walking through the space station like it was a summer fashion trend. How could we not laugh?
Published on Feb 9, 2016
by Cassie Beasley
We expected them to be better at it. The aliens. You've only got to go to the movies to know that we expected explosions, telepathy, ray guns. We thought it would be something drawn-out and gruesome, or maybe quick and painless. But either way--big. The invasion looked bad in the beginning. On the first night, we saw weird damn flashes in the sky over the gulch, and the sound of the ships made lightning crawl across my shoulders. Earth's cities took some damage, but it didn't make much sense. They went for bridges and highway overpasses.
Published on Jan 8, 2013
by Sarah Beck
I have traveled through many galaxies and seen many planets. But the most amazing is in a small yellow star system, its only inhabited planet. Much of the surface is liquid water. The life forms are all carbon-based. It isn't terribly remarkable--at first glance. I only stumbled on it by accident. I was trying to take a shortcut in my normal route. And I was regretting, it, too. I've never been the best at coding destinations, and my shortcut was costing me an extra thousand ticks. But there was nothing to do but wait it out and spend the time coming up with excuses. I'd told the administrator that I'd been trapped in a black hole the last two times. They probably wouldn't fall for it a third.
Published on Jun 22, 2018
by Anatoly Belilovsky
I have some words to say. Some will be new to you, loanwords from her language. Attend, I shall endeavor to explain. She was my adversary.
Published on Mar 5, 2019
by M. Bennardo
I heard you got a cat. I heard you named him Charles. I guess you didn't know that I do cats too? I played all those games you wanted, all those black-blond-red-brown-bald-headed strangers. But you never said you wanted a cat. I could have done that too.
Published on Feb 20, 2013
by Lou J Berger
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE We proudly announce our sixth diplomatic expedition to Sol III with a scheduled arrival on their worldwide Spring holiday of revival.
Published on Feb 15, 2016
by Bruce Boston
By the time the government released the Alien for public consumption, he was already famous. Over the next several months--as he traveled, appeared on talk shows, at universities and public forums--his notoriety continued to grow. During this time the world through which the Alien moved was one of affirmation, ceremony and celebration: elegant parties, the finest food and wine, rides in limousines and flights in private jets. And always a rush of friendly words and smiling faces.
Published on Nov 21, 2019
by Keyan Bowes
Feathers? What do you mean, feathers? Kate asked her co-worker, taking a bite of her honey-ham sandwich. Arent you eating? Were due back in fifteen. The spring breeze blew Nellis hair into her face, and she brushed it away impatiently.
Published on Oct 19, 2010
by Jacob A. Boyd
Jane woke Kim. "You were dreaming," Jane whispered from the top bunk. "Twitching."
Published on Mar 17, 2011
by Andrea Bradley
Monday This year I'm playing Aleysha in the Treaty Day play. She's the President's daughter. It's the best part I ever got and it's all because I got an "A" on my Ancient Earth diorama project.
Published on Mar 26, 2015
by Tanya Breshears
May returns to her familiar place to grieve, a moment she once spent on a sunny hillside, flat on her back with her face to the sky, fingers twisted in the grass like she might soon be flung off this spinning planet. She supposes it's telling that her most comforting moment is a human one.
Published on Jan 20, 2017
by Eric Brown
Roberts climbed the hillside and approached the forest, moving stealthily. For the past two hours he'd stalked the wise old stag up the valley, only for it to move off every time he came within range. He'd paid a thousand pounds to tramp the sodden glens for the privilege of bagging his first stag, and now twilight was descending. The cold wind lessened as he entered the woodland's musty gloaming. A silence descended too, broken only by his footfalls through the dry undergrowth.
Published on Oct 7, 2016
by Eric Brown
I visit your planet from time to time, but it really is too painful. My race is immortal now, and our client races are immortal, too, or have transcended bodily form and exist in virtual realms, which is immortality by another route.
Published on Jan 30, 2012
by Georgina Bruce
***Editor's Note: Adult Language*** It's not like we didn't try. A little tentatively at first, a little too gently, I'll admit. We'd never done it before. We hadn't even seen one, only heard them scratching around in the bushes at night. But we understood what we had to do--it's our duty as citizens and all that. And after a while, we really got into it. I had the big stone mallet from the shed, Bridget had the kitchen knife, and we got into a rhythm. Smack, stab, smack, stab. And Bridge went a bit crazy, going stabstabstabstabstab, and then I took over with the mallet, gave it a good going over. It was brutal, honestly. So it should have died right there and then.
Published on Jun 24, 2013
by Rob Butler
The lead mission scientist started packing up her equipment. It was time to leave for her next assignment. A pity, as this world was one of the most beautiful she had ever seen, and she had enjoyed her time breathing fresh air after the staleness of deep space. She closed her eyes and let the warm wind winnow through her hair and across her skin. Then she gazed out at the salty waves rippling in across the tidal sands below. A long line of her footprints stretched across the silty strand. A parallel set led back.
Published on May 23, 2019
by CURTIS CHIH-YU CHEN
"You lose," Lieutenant Darrow said. "Again." He tipped over Erin's game piece, the one they were calling the king. Ton-Gla-Ben wasn't exactly like chess, but the mechanics were very similar, and the actual Quggano names were mostly unpronounceable by humans.
Published on Sep 19, 2014
by Carrie L. Cadwallader
K'loth bends his face to the basin and washes. The first washing of the day is for the Gods. One is the Goddess. Two is the God. Three is the Shadow. The water drips from pale blue tentacles above his mouth that move in the motions of prayers he has said every day since attaining his majority. Three is a sacred number.
Published on Nov 23, 2013
by Meg Candelaria
"Lead with 'the dog lives'!" the publisher said. "You sure about that, boss?" the writer asked.
Published on May 27, 2021
by Justin William Cary
"Hi. I'm the Press Secretary. Nice to meet you at last. I have never spoken with your kind before," The Presidential spokeswoman seemed at a loss for what to do next. She was not sure if she should stick out her hand or if there was some other more appropriate form of salutation. The creature across from her saved the moment, gesturing for her to sit so the interview could begin.
Published on Jul 31, 2018
by Stephen Case
There is a reason we treat them this way, girl. It is time you heard. Maybe next time, with this knowledge, when an Embodiment asks to taste your skin you won't act the fool and give offense. A long time ago humans had the idea there was a God out there somewhere keeping an eye on us. Different people, different cultures, had different ideas about Him/Her/It/Them. But even those of us who tried to pretend we had outgrown such beliefs couldn't help feeling down deep that somewhere there was something meaningful and significant about the human story. We believed our place in the universe and our relation to it meant something. We felt we were not an accident.
Published on Oct 5, 2018
by G. O. Clark
The message arrived on July 4, 2051. It came from deep space, thirty light years distant, picked up by radio telescopes around the world. It wasn't the first message Earth had received confirming the fact of alien life out there, but it was different, not the usual set of random numbers. This new alien message was crystal clear, and it blatantly stated in plain English, "We are coming to annihilate you." The "you" of course being the human race. Earth had a cosmic bulls eye painted on it, and bloodthirsty alien monsters had us within their sites. It was assumed they were more technologically advanced than us, which meant bigger and better weapons, and presumably faster than light drive to freely roam the galaxy. The message was precise; total annihilation, no prisoners, no why or wherefore. No details on how they intended to do so, or even a date to mark on our calendars for the end of the world. The message lasted five days, then went silent.
Published on Jun 9, 2015
by Krystal Claxton
She had my teeth. I hadn't expected to recognize myself in her, but when she greeted me, her maroon lips parting into a crescent, there they were. My teeth. White, flat, and surprisingly human. I forced myself to look into her too large eyes as her warm, seven-fingered hand wrapped around mine. Black with purple specks, like a neon vision of the night sky, the almond-shaped organs took up the greater part of her face and were irrevocably her father's.
Published on May 31, 2012
by Neal Allen Cline
"But I didn't KNOW she was an alien!" The doctor just stared at me.
Published on Sep 26, 2019
by Michael Collard
"Just a little help" "Nope"
Published on May 24, 2021
by Tina Connolly
"It's the perfect crime," said the little green man. "You need a million galactic credit units to pay off your gambling debts. And I need to be rid of my third horizontal living companion. You know what they say about those." The little green man waggled his antennae and nudged Spacetrader Dan in the ribs. "Take my third horizontal living companion. Take him... please!" "I don't know," Dan said dubiously. He had been on his second cocktail when the little green man invited him into his unmarked ship with the promise of more cocktails and a business proposition. Dan knew little about the newly-discovered aliens, but he liked business propositions, especially when they came with paper umbrellas. "How did you know I need a million GCUs?"
Published on Apr 29, 2019
by Tina Connolly
THE MEET CUTE It is necessary to first show your two romantic leads meeting in a ridiculous yet stimulating fashion. For example, say that your human has a good job, like she is the president of Earth, and your Galthgearian is a humble cruise ship director, working on a craft sailing through a previously-thought deserted sector of space. Now, let's say the craft is forced to stop and refuel outside the Earthling's bedroom at night, where she is taking her routine midnight pleasure stroll. They accidentally collide together under a starry sky, and, after the initial pain and swearing and detangling of limbs, the human might remark on what slimy tentacles the Galthgearian has. In return, the Galthgearian compliments the Earthling's delectably bulbous nose. This turns out to be a cultural mishap (these are fun to write and go over quite well with readers), and the human stomps off.
Published on Sep 9, 2019
by Tina Connolly
Beth was breaking down book boxes in the backroom on the day he left. She ran her box cutter down taped seams, split the tape with slashing strokes that ran into the cardboard, ran through the corrugation, frayed bits of brown into fringe. She had thought she would not see him again. Thought he would return to his home a billion miles away and never say goodbye. Leave her to her own decisions.
Published on Dec 12, 2011
by Caroline Couderc
Part of the attraction for the emissaries of planet Donar was a visit to the zoo. At ten sharp, the driver stopped in front of the compound and the delegation of six ambassadors and one host boarded the elegant chrome craft. "We've been really looking forward to this," ambassador Kellhoum said to the state secretary. "We haven't had any zoos on Donar since the uprising."
Published on Mar 1, 2016
by Matt Cowan
1. It is not because you are damaging the planet almost irreparably, laying waste to the very flora and fauna that your survival depends on. We have our own planet.
Published on Mar 13, 2018
by Matt Cowan
The little girl lies hunched over in the rain, crying, yet nobody stops to help her. I take an involuntary step forward, and check myself. A couple of indistinct faces from the crowd pierce the downpour and look at me as if I am mad, then hurry off into the descending grayness.
Published on May 13, 2021
by Jay B Cutts
Tom was visiting his Uncle Roy in the small farming community of Jamesville. His uncle handed him two foam pellets. "Get ready to stick these in your ears, Tommy. At seven sharp every evening we test the Alien Attack Early Warning System sirens. Don’t want to get caught with our pants down like those poor folks over in Danstown, Lord save 'em.
Published on Apr 25, 2019
by Dave D'Alessio
Hello. I am Glarb, and as should be obvious from the fact that your planet lacks intelligent life forms based on hexalateral symmetry, I am what you would call an alien. As we proceed, let me remind you that to me you are the aliens. Your dominant species has seen too little of the universe to realize that the universe does not revolve around yourselves. We come from the Federation--no, not the silly entity portrayed in your entertainments. As Navigator Blurk says, "Prime Directive, my excretory gland."
Published on Dec 25, 2015
by Shae Davidson
Nestled in the hills two hours south of Pittsburgh, the town of Pine Grove has been all abustle since the Visitation. Why do our new friends love this little corner of the Mountain State so much? 1. Main Street's many antique shops attract Rigellians who want to absorb memories without harming a living subject, as well as Andromedans in search of shiny spoon-like objects.
Published on May 16, 2019
by Colin P. Davies
Sometime after sunset on a blustery evening in late summer, with the offworlders' orbital station a small bright misshapen moon over the choppy water of the river and the glittering barges of the loyal rich fighting at their moorings, a slim girl came skipping over Westminster Bridge like a leaf carried on the wind. She danced down Belvedere Road, her pale face bobbing though the crowds, and ducked into the alley beside the bookies. In a ground floor apartment, Melinda watched her Dad, Brian Johnson, former cop, rush from monitor to monitor, press a button here, enter a code there, as he followed the girl from street to street. "She thinks she's won," he said. "If she thinks at all."
Published on Feb 1, 2013
by John Parke Davis
The first time I saw the artwork of a knid, I was twenty-five. By that time, I had grown used to them, seeing them standing alone at a bus stop, a small cleared out circle around them; watching them sitting by themselves in the park contemplating ants or trees or the paint peeling on a bench. The stooped, fragile little creatures had grown more prevalent in those days, but were still fairly rare, even in the larger cities. I had spoken to one once, and of course, "spoken to" is the right phrase, since they don't speak back. It was at a college party, one I was too old to be at. The knid was there as some kind of joke among frat brothers, and when I was drunk enough to approach it as it huddled in a back corner, I asked it how it felt about that. It turned its eyes to me and nodded its head, as they do. I smiled at it, and it waved its mouth tentacles lightly in what I took to be a friendly gesture.
Published on Jun 24, 2011
by Seth DeHaan
Our home always smelled like blood. My father spent his days among meat and his nights ensconced in the aromatic mist of it. We lived above the shop--he and me, Mother and my sister Fennel--in three small rooms built of knotted pine, boards stained in the colors of our livelihood.
Published on Nov 30, 2011
by Seth DeHaan
Tom wakes in a rush of fear--as every morning--and motion triggers react to the flicker of his eyelids, flooding his small room with light. He takes immediate inventory of the space: The door, closed; the tripwire, undisturbed.
Published on Jul 4, 2012
by C.M. DiGirolamo
When the monsters came my one useful skill was knitting. I made grey mitts to keep my little sister's fingers warm. I made slouchy caps to cover my shorn head which my father still tut-tutted and sighed over. I made scarves to keep my hands busy so I did not slap away his affectionate caresses. After all the schools and workplaces and shops were closed--they had infested the gutters and eves of the city's narrow streets--I made double thick hats and mittens and traded them for ration bars and cans of beans at market. I mended things. "Why do you treat yourself like that? Why do you do that to your pretty face?" Dad asked in his wheedling voice. He grabbed my hands to keep me from picking at my acne scars. He held my wrists too tight. He stood too close. He called me by the name that made me itch in my own skin. I smelled him on me and I scratched and scratched.
Published on Jul 22, 2019
by P.M. Dooling
The protestors were gathered out in front of the barbed wire chain link fence that kept me and my kind separated from humanity. We had come to Earth only three years earlier. A blink in our lifetime. Blown into Earth's atmosphere by a solar flare. This planet, with its teeming life had not been our intended destination--but we were here now.
Published on Nov 3, 2016
by Nicky Drayden
Seven security gargoyles stare at me from atop the elaborate sandstone columns lining the casinos walls. Their sharp eyes and oversized talons flex ever so slightly in anticipation of snatching up cheaters like unsuspecting prey. Theyve moved closer since I first sat down at this slot machine, the only place in the casino that hadnt had line-of-sight thanks to a fortunate arrangement of overgrown palm fronds and the gritty haze from a gaggle of feathered Gwiffahs smoking silvawax from a hookah. But the gargoyles have been swarming to my location ever since my machine passed 87,000 kalax, its blinking lights and wailing sirens announcing my winnings to the entire casino.
Published on Nov 10, 2010
by Nicky Drayden
Being a little curious doesn't make you a deviant. On Vero-Avalon Station, with its hundred and fifteen sapient species, it'd be weirder not to wonder about the alien biology of your cohabitants. You see them in the mess hall, slurping up trans-dimensional slugs, gnawing on Yuvvian bark, sipping pink clouds from see-through thermoses, and dining on the finest spiced lava rock this galaxy has to offer. You don't blink an eye when a proboscis appears from a rift in space-time and oozes purple acid onto freshly killed Frall. And when an Undulite consumes its still living mate right in front of you, you don't judge. You're something of an amateur anthropologist, after all, and a curious one at that. Curious enough to enter through that doorway, the one with the symbol on the front that you can't quite decipher. Not the symbol of the humanoid man, nor the humanoid woman. Not the generic fish symbol for the aquatics. Not the avians, nor the giant blue placard for the restroom designed especially for the spatially challenged.
Published on Jan 3, 2011
by Nicky Drayden
Dr. Gianna Nero played the recording back for the fifth time, noting the odd inflections and guttural clicks in Breva's message. A smile curled up at the edges of her mouth as she caught the double entendre that no one on Earth would notice except her. In less than twenty-four hours, twelve billion people would hear Breva's message--a message of peace, hope, friendship, and excitement over the impending meeting of their two races. He expressed his desire to extend gratitude for humanity's generous offer to share their planet with the sSuryn, who'd lost theirs to a fungal blight that decimated their ecosystem. Gratitude was the word that snagged Gianna's attention. In addition to the literal translation, it was also a colloquialism for the sSuryn's biological equivalent of a female orgasm. Breva had never explicitly said that, of course, but Gianna had gathered as much from their conversations over the last decade. Establishing a rapport between the sSuryn and humans required unprecedented tact from both sides, but they still managed to express their feelings for each other in buried messages. Yes, behind his dignified demeanor, chiseled features, and sharp tongue, Breva Harathla was nothing but a flirt.
Published on Nov 8, 2013
by Nicky Drayden
MEMORANDUM DATE: 3.18923 of the Galactic Equinox 7B
Published on Oct 25, 2016
by Paul Ebbs
I go to the grave after the service on Sundays. I leave Cal with Florence, our neighbor, and walk the dusty trail up the hill alone. It's ok because Cal enjoys the time with Florence; she plays games with him much better than I can. I'm not, I guess, that kind of father. My old man was the same, no less loving but emotion didn't come easily to either of us. You might, if you wanted to make something of it, call us both distant. I just suppose it rubbed off on me.
Published on Jun 19, 2012
by Shoshana Edwards
I look at my toes every day now. It is my morning ritual. I know they are whiter at the nail tips. I know the toes are longer. He gets up, pees, and comes to look. He tells me I am imagining things, that my toes are the same as they have always been. He kisses my feet, and he offers to bring in the measuring tape. I refuse. If he is right, then I am going insane, and if he is wrong, then I am changing. Either is unacceptable. My hair is changing too. I keep it short, close cropped and curly. But it is knotting in the back, and the curl is gone. He says it is just age; he agrees that it has changed. But he says I'm not changing. He loves me. I think he sees the same person he married, all those years ago. I was slim, vibrant, athletic. We danced the limbo at our wedding, bending until it was no longer possible to get under the poles we used from the chuppah.
Published on Mar 30, 2021
by Dorianne Emmerton
We float. Jenny says she's only floated before while in water. There is no water where we come from, though Jenny says it was plentiful in her land. She drank it. She swam in it. She washed with it. Jenny complains about the lack of washing, although she says our rurr "hydrates" her. Our translator stumbles over the word "hydrate" but, given context, we believe it means that consuming rurr enables her body to live. We are unsure how that differentiates from "nourish," the word she uses for the sotolf she places in her mouth and grinds up with her strange white teeth.
Published on Aug 26, 2019
by ANNE Patterson FRIEDMAN
Emjid was thrilled to be using human eyes. As he pushed his cart down the aisle, he turned his head to the left--a joy with a twistable neck--and savored the red of tomato-paste cans. What fun! "Excuse me, sir."
Published on Dec 16, 2010
by Karina Fabian
Sally blamed the drill bit stuck in her tooth. She didn't blame the dentist. It happened sometimes. The tiny little bit broke and got stuck. Nothing for it but to fill the gap and go on. If her roots were thin and twisted, it wasn't his fault.
Published on Jan 11, 2011
by Joshua Fagan
Ever since the DarkMouth of Saydeer opened over the Nevada desert, we've lived under constant threat from the Saydeerian Brood-Hoards and their duplicitous human-imitating doppelgangers. I don't know about you, but every time I enter a room and have my DNA scanned to make sure I'm not a Saydeerian, it really brings me down, not just because of the existential threat to humanity, but also because the scanners are so grim and depressing. Well, today, we're going to do something about that. Hello. I'm Marla Corbet. Thanks for tuning in. Today on Marla Corbet: Living we're going to spruce up some of the absolutely necessary protective measures that keep all of you safe from the invaders.
Published on Mar 2, 2020
by Joshua Fagan
"The first rule of diplomacy is to know what the other party wants better than they do." In my head, I could hear the voice of my old professor, and his advice had served me well in the past. Knowing the Alpha Centuarian psyche stopped them from destroying Earth. Normally, aggressive alien civilizations wanted money or precious gems. There was one civilization that just wanted a recording of Beethoven's Fifth. Once you know what they want, you can drive a hard bargain. But the Plumarans were different. We gave them mountains of gold and priceless works of art, but their rampage did not relent.
Published on Sep 21, 2020
by Shannon Fay
She was the only other girl in Entomology 101. When it came time for introductions, she smiled widely and said: "Hello, Earthlings. I'm Aurea, from the Antennae Galaxy." "She's a weirdo," Mark G. said a week later. "Even when we were on a date, she kept up the whole alien schtick."
Published on Nov 23, 2020
by C.C. Finlay
Daniyah Howard, Dani to her friends, the executive assistant to Outgrabe Corp's Senior Vice President for Alien Technology Commercialization, entered her boss's office, where she found him hunkered on the floor across from the Morytober ambassador. Face to something-like-a-face. While Dani was permitted into the SVP's office as needed, for example to deliver the board report, which was still printed on paper like a bank statement for dinosaurs, she was also obliged to wait quietly until noticed. Sometimes that could take a while.
Published on Mar 6, 2015
by Eric S. Fomley
We leach from them. Not because we are better than them, but because they are better than us.
Published on Jan 17, 2019
by Eric S. Fomley
Dear Editor(s), Please find attached my 16,345-word document "Adapting to Dothranji Occupation: The Cultural, Societal, and Political Ramifications of Dothranji Rule" for consideration in your Science Fiction Magazine.
Published on Feb 18, 2020
by Eric S. Fomley
Dear Grinjib, Thank you for letting us see your story, "How Grinjib the Eternal will Destroy Earth with his Fleet of Space Demons." We very much appreciated the opportunity to read it. Unfortunately, we have decided to pass at this time.
Published on Aug 5, 2021
by Milo James Fowler
They say you never see the one that kills you. But they might have been referring to weapons fire in an open battlefield, not a plasma charge on a crowded lunar tube. He sits facing me, and the way he's looking me right in the eye, I have a feeling this will be the end. With the close proximity, I'll see his green hand reach for it, concealed beneath his double-breasted, razor-sharp pressed suit.
Published on Oct 26, 2011
by Susan Franceschina
Marcia was super pissed. Who the hell do they think they are? She stormed into her bedroom to get dressed. She tugged on a pair of jeans, which wasn't easy since she hadn't really taken the time to dry off. The sweater she slipped into instantly became damp around the neckline because of her uncombed wet hair. She cursed and decided to call Randy.
Published on Jan 9, 2012
by H. L. Fullerton
SHARE THE FUNNEST ITEM OF CLOTHING YOU'VE WORN. At the party someone, I forget who--we were all wasted by then--asked, What's the funniest item of clothing you've ever worn? It wasn't quite the non sequitur it sounded. Gertie had decorated her place with those cheesy conversation starter napkins. You know what I'm talking about--the ones with screwball questions or ubiquitous dares scrawled across them, the kind that don't actually pick up a spilled cocktail, but dissolve into doughy clumps that leave colored smudges on your hands and clothes. Those.
Published on Oct 13, 2017
by Alex Gorman
Joseph blinked open his eyes and groaned, stretching his arms out wide and running his hand over the rumbled sheets. He turned his head. His wife was gone, leaving only the impression where her body had lain the night before, a shadow of her curves in the old mattress.
Published on Nov 14, 2013
by Joshua Grasso
The sun passed behind the clouds, enveloping the buildings in shadow. The woman entered the shadows, too, pausing in front of a striking art deco facade to stare in wonder. The crosswalk began to beep with warning. Horns honked impatiently as she blocked the intersection. She didn't seem to notice, her gaze drifting from window to window to the very top. A car buzzed past, the driver shouting some obscenity in its wake. She shook her head as if shooing a fly; she only had eyes for the building. A cop noticed her, could tell she was from out-of-town. But more than that, she seemed out-of-place, foreign. A tourist from somewhere without cities and traffic. Her faded floral-print dress and white hat set askew on her head reminded him of a painting come to life. Everything about her seemed borrowed somehow, a note-perfect copy of the original except for one thing. It didn't fit. Not here, and not on her.
Published on Nov 9, 2020
by Briar Gray
"Say you had a time machine." Marcus was waving his hands around like a madman.

"It's a time machine?" Agent Cal Rosen asked, sitting up in his chair.
Published on May 10, 2022
by William Greeley
Dr. Arroyo sighs. It's over. NASA has shut down, SETI has folded, the donors have forgotten the cause, the computers are out of date, the telescopes are old and broken. The decades of silence had defeated his mission. How many billions of dollars had SETI spend over his lifetime, searching the sky for something, anything, some little sign that they're out there? All of Dr. Arroyo's life was spent listening for a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence in the vast universe. His career was looking to the sky and pleading, "Speak to us. Please, just one bleep of signal. We're waiting."
Published on Dec 22, 2011
by R.W.W. Greene
The Poet, a mound of lime-green flesh in a tank of 35-degree Celsius ooze, squelched. Its cilia rowed slowly to keep its massive body centered and upright, navigating the torpid jets that kept it oxygenated. The ooze smelled like horse sweat and roses, and the Poet gurgled when it laughed to itself. Its nucleus, the center of all of its art and its nervous system, drifted like thought inside its dimpled membrane. Amelia lifted her hand to her mouth and swallowed the pills inside. She coughed politely.
Published on May 5, 2017
by Alexandra Grunberg
"I'm sorry, I just don't think you're right for the part." Michael Poksi shuffled the resume in front of him to the bottom of a large pile of resumes, the result of a disappointing casting day. He stared at his watch and sighed. 5:45. If the train was not running late, he might just get to see the last ten minutes of the game. His team was probably losing, it was a bad season, but that was all the more reason they needed his moral support.
Published on Jan 9, 2013
by Jenna Hanchey
We knew it was war. When they arrived, sleek and silver, streaming across the night sky. At least, here in the US we did. That’s what matters.
Published on Aug 31, 2021
by James R Hardin
Illiterate extraterrestrial extortionists! Not the way we'd hoped our first contact with an alien race would go.

The spacecraft had hung in geosynchronous orbit above the eastern United States for three weeks. Then one day the mayor of Brandenburg, Kentucky, reported that a large box had suddenly appeared about two feet above the surface of High Street and dropped to the ground. Something resembling a large, clunky laptop had fallen out of it before the box vanished. A message was displayed on its screen: "WE STUDY YOU KNOW MUCH KNOW GOLD FORT KNOX GOLD RARE WANT GOLD."
Published on Nov 15, 2022
by E.O. Hargreaves
It's late at night and the coffee is gone. Rubbing an eye, I peer at the clock and then Mount Hayden, framed by the open window. The frogs are loud, so loud in this damned heat, but the mountain doesn't mind. It snores contently--no wait, that's my husband; the mountain squats quietly over the indigo horizon. There's violence everywhere--the news is on, but then a ghastly green light splashes over Mount Hayden. Through the window with a craned neck, what I see can't be what I really see.
Published on Sep 21, 2017
by Colin Harvey
Garcia met her at the entrance to the network of tunnels running beneath the radioactive remains of the Pentagon. "Major Sparrow." Garcia offered his hand. "Thanks for coming all the way from Huntsville."
Published on Sep 13, 2010
by Kelly Haworth
My first kiss was not normal. It wasn't under the bleachers, or in the back of my car, or in the halls at school. It was in a deserted house, with my parents still at work and with tears wetting his iridescent face. His eyes had turned purple and he told me he was going to kill himself. So I kissed him. What else could I have done?
Published on May 8, 2015
by Michael Haynes
I met the old man a week after his 100th birthday. His nurse let me into his apartment and left without speaking. "You're late," were his first words to me.
Published on Dec 26, 2016
by Karen Heuler
The alien came over the hill elongated, with a gravity belt, leaving behind all thoughts of home, armed to the teeth, scared and young. All superior officers dead; not sure of her mission; wishing for home.
Published on Jul 13, 2015
by Jim Hill
Sure, you could say I left the door open, But can't we, for a minute, discuss the fault, Of that which followed me home?
I mean, just because something is open, It doesn't give you permission to enter. So, if you want to blame me for this, Particular space invasion, maybe, just maybe,
Assign some responsibility to the beings, Who charged in without regard to what, Was on the other side of the wormhole.
Sure, you're going to suggest I should've Done the same before stepping through To their system, but what I did, I did for science. What they did, they did for vengeance.
(Please don't ask, "Vengeance for what?")
Published on Oct 7, 2021
by Jack Hillman
"Let me get this straight," Harry said, gesturing to the empty shelves behind him. "You want to buy four shelves worth of nothing. You'll move it to your ship and replace it with nothing from your ship and you'll give me this in exchange." Harry tapped the gleaming metal of what looked like a bar of gold with one finger. The alien Corlani was upright, bipedal, and oxygen breathing. From there, the differences from humans added up quickly. But Harry had gotten used to seeing aliens at his little curio shop in the desert. Corlani liked the desert, for some reason. Maybe it was because their appearance resembled a cactus, needles and all. Harry guessed it reminded them of home, but nobody knew for certain what their home was like.
Published on Jul 18, 2016
by Sylvia Anna Hiven
Thorn had seen so many orbs on their journey. Some were large, some small. Some were red and scorching, some cold, craggy rock. But in this swirl of light, the thirdly orb looked different. It was the color that caught his eye: blue and green, with wisps of white swirled around it. He stopped for a star blink, taking in the soft colors and the perfectly round shape.
Published on Aug 21, 2013
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
My special talent was pissing people off. That wasn't the technical term for it, but that was what I was good at. You would think there wouldn't be much demand for this talent. That would be you, wrong again. On a station like Confetti, where three different alien-to-each-other races came to celebrate their very varied holidays and religious rites, there was a lot of bumping into each other's sore spots. People in the service industries needed to be difficult to irritate. If an administrator wanted to test an employee's capacity to suck up the pain and keep on smiling, hey, enter me. I dressed in my best I'm-not-going-to-be-here-long-enough-to-take-my-consequences tourist garb, and went to my next job. The Rikrik were about to arrive in masses for Recombo Night. I went to the Lerva Bar, a place that specialized in Rikrik beverages, comestibles, and behavior-cushioning. Bypassing the hostess, who would have led me into the human section, I went right up to the serving platform, though Rikrik custom dictated that patrons, both human and Rikrik, be led to an exchange nest and wait for a server to approach. A server would only approach when every Rikrik in a nest raised the topmost appendage in unison or when every human in a party did the same. The bartender didn't flinch or otherwise indicate that she had noticed my bad behavior. I asked her to make me a fruit squash, and she whipped one up and presented it with a smile. I sipped and grimaced. "This tastes too distil," I whined. "I want the color a bluer green. The ploorberries are too ripe. Do it over." Genera, the bartender, was human, like me, and unlike me, she had a great fake smile. "So sorry, sentient," she said. She took my drink, poured it into the recycle obliette, and started making another from scratch. I leaned back and surveyed the bar. The walls were interlaced trilla vines spangled with glowing flowers, and the ceiling was aflutter with their mirrored leaves, flickering in a soft, constant, artificial wind. Light spots flashed and danced across the floor and walls. Small snaky fliers from Rikrik darted through the upper air. Sometimes they encountered each other, entwined, and fell writhing to the floor, swapping out sections of their bodies in the same process the sentient Rikrik practiced. The air had an acrid taint, the acid tang of too-ripe pineapple. Just as Genera was about to add the comet spice to the second coming of my beverage, I said, "Wait. A spiktor fell in. I can't drink that." "I assure you, sentient, we have more than adequate pest control at Lerva," she said, her voice unruffled. "We do not host spiktors here." However, she poured that drink out as well and built me another. I could have gone for yet another sting, but the drink smelled great, and I was hungry, so I took it from her, and it was so good all the proportions of flavors perfect, a bouquet on my tongue I could not bring myself to complain. I felt I'd already stretched my stress application enough. I even complimented her on drink. The faint telltale lines of irritation at the corners of her eyes smoothed away. Three Rikrik rolled into the bar. Their bodies were like uneven tubes, with accordian pleats in them, randomly bulging here and there, with parts in various colors one was red, pink, chartreuse, and orange, another green and yellow, the third blush, lavender, and blue, all the results of previous recombos. Their tool-using limbs were highly flexible, and wrapped around them as they rolled. They burbled like Terran guinea pigs. "Greetings, sentients, and welcome to Lerva," Genera said in passable Rikrik. "How may I serve you?" "Do us the honor of the first slice," said the three of them in unison, only each voice was half a tone flatter than the last. The clash of harmonics drilled into my skull. "It would be my honor," Genera said. The Rikrik writhed and rolled into one of the nests, then raised their topmost appendages. Genera got out a shining metal box almost two meters long and laid it on the bar. She pumped current through it, then opened it and extracted a tool, the Key to Everything. Its narrow blade was a conglomerate of emerald, sapphire, and ruby. "Are you a registered slicer?" I asked her. "Of course." "Have you done this before?" "Sentient, it has been my honor to perform this duty for seven Recombo Nights now. I trained under the great slicer Bitterwind. Worry not." I chugged the rest of my fruit squash, a disgrace when true appreciation would have me sip once every few minutes and savor each sip for some time before essaying another. "You don't want to do that." She lifted the blade, which was almost as long as she was tall. Her smile didn't fade even then, when I challenged her in the rudest possible manner. The Rikrik waved their appendages again, more agitated this time. "We await our first slice," one of them said, which was out of ordinary, too. They always spoke in unison, especially this close to a recombination. "You endanger my guests, sentient," Genera said quietly to me. "They are losing synchronicity." "I need another squash," I said. "Sentient, I need your patience," she said. She gave me a stern look, the lines by her eyes etched deep now. She stepped around the bar and went to the nest. "Show me you are aligned," she said to the Rikrik. Three appendages rose and wagged. One moved a little more slowly than the other two. "Retune, honored guests," she said. I wandered over to where she stood in the slicer position, her feet on the mosaic of a fractured circle, watching the Rikrik, who rolled back and forth, tapping each other with their lower appendages. "While they're doing that, could you make me another squash?" I asked. "This time, I want one with coco water in it. And stirred so the layers separate only slightly." "Sentient, please step back. You are interrupting a sacred rite." Three appendages rose from the nest and moved in perfect unison. Genera lifted the blade and sliced it down into three bodies at once. She carved again, lifting sections from all three of the Rikrik with the flat of the jewel blade. She flicked the blade. The sections, still dripping the faintly blue blood of Rikrik circulatory systems, rose in the air. With a swift strike, she drove the sections down, each into a different body from the one it had begun in. Her movements were deft and assured. She toed a button that closed the top over the nest and initiated the healing mist. The Rikrik would spend a few hours in hibernation and integration and emerge later, their characters and bodies slightly altered. Genera was a slicing genius, a pleasure to watch as she worked. Her next move flowed from the others she had finished. Later, she would claim it had been an accident, and on the playback it looked accidental as well, but nobody as skilled as she makes that kind of mistake. # "Hey, Pala," said a voice with bubbles in it. I groaned and pressed my hand to my belly. I was lying in the usual bed at ReVive. My usual tender, a Zeloglob named Stasha, waved her eye stalks at me. "How many eyes do you see?" she asked. "Three?" Stasha had seven eye stalks. She could retract them at will. "Three is correct!" Stasha's eyes danced around each other in dizzy-making spirals. "Another successful revival!" she aspirated. "I don't feel right." "Well, you won't. No telling whether you ever will. Look at this." Her upper arm, frilled with finger stalks, gestured toward my stomach, and one of her other arms moved forward, holding a magnifying mirror. She used an eye stalk to gauge where I was looking so she could position the mirror within my view. My belly, which had formerly been a uniform brown, had a narrow diamond band of new colors in it: lavender, rose, and green, like a small kite just to the left of my navel. I lifted a hand and brushed it across my new and alien body part. There were no discernable seams or separations. Perfect blend, the result of skillful slicing. I groaned again. No wonder my stomach was roiling. "She's been arrested, but she claims innocence. She did it with the Key to Everything. We had no idea that could work across species." "Will I will it settle?" "There's still activity at the wound site, heat and fleshknit. It seems to be integrating. Nobody's sure what the upshot will be. The boss has put you into retirement so we can study you. That's temporary if you recover all right. For now, you belong to me and Malmurum." All seven of her eye stalks focused on my face, hungry, I thought, to read my next expression. Stasha was obsessed with human emotional reaction to stress. She loved studying it, which made her a perfect recovery agent at ReVive. She was a poster child for schadenfreude. I gave her the satisfaction of another groan. # The problem with being a professional irritant is that sometimes you do manage to irritate people beyond sense. They break. They fracture. You discover where they don't work by pushing them past their limits. My job came with the best worker's compensation insurance in existence. Not many people rose to my level of inciting ire. The bosses always brought me back after one of my successful failures to accurately gauge someone's limits. This time, though, I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to get back in the game. Ever since the incident, I've been hearing burbling voices whispering just too soft for me to make out the words. They are not quite tuned to each other. Their harmonics clash at the edge of my consciousness, and I'm having trouble focusing. Pisses me off. END
Published on Nov 20, 2012
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I was the only one alive when the Picti found our shipwrecked shuttle pod. Sang, Tadala, and I had jumped through the wrong skip node on our way back to the mother ship. We landed on a planet we found on the other side of the uncharted node. Our rescue beacon probably couldn't reach anyone we knew. The pod had supplies and air for only five days.
Published on Jun 15, 2018
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I grew up on Kata Skip Station. Seven skip nodes lead here. My parent and I run SpiceFire, a restaurant catering to the Four Known Races. We have four separate kitchens and four special chefs who set the menus; we have four species-specific dining rooms, and one big common area where all can eat together.
Published on Aug 14, 2019
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
It was my turn to wear the mask, but my egg-sister Linney wouldn't give it up. She'd been wearing the mask all morning, set on Smile, and it was a test day, too. Everyone thought she was so pleased and relaxed and Earthy. I am wretched at tests, but the mask would have helped. I flunked my Calm test that morning, scored medium low on Earth Facial Expressions, and got a fifty in grooming because I didn't know how to put on makeup. The mask has its own. Maybe I depend on that too much, even though I only get to wear the mask half the time I'm awake.
Published on Sep 8, 2011
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
My boyfriend lives inside me. Okay, so he's not really a boy; The Druklad don't have the same genders as humans. And since we're different species, we can't reproduce, so who cares about genders anyway? Not that I want children. I am proud to be a drone and an Ender; my gene line ends with me. The universe doesn't need more of me.
Published on Oct 30, 2020
by Liam Hogan
They saw our message and so they came. Across the City, perfectly synchronized with the end of the Queen's Speech, doorbells chimed, knockers... knocked, and letterboxes flapped. Afterwards, it was clear that not every home had received the Christmas Day visitors. Only those with turkeys too big for the assembled families, tables with space for another guest, or two, or three.
Published on Jul 25, 2017
by Audrey R. Hollis
“It’sztheirzshapezthatzdecideszit?” “Notzprecisely,”zIzbegan,zandzthenzstopped.z“Peoplezgetzdegreeszinzthis,zyouzknow?” “Howzinteresting.zButztherezmustzbezsomezsortzofzcommonzunderstanding.”z I waszbeginningztozregretzever having invited my coworker. T loved the dogs, was fascinated by the barbeques – “You don’t usually cook openly; I thought fire was taboo – “ and focused their intense stare on each person who looked their way. Which was, in a word, everyone. “Sometimes it’s their shape but sometimes it isn’t. People get to decide now, but they didn’t before,” I said. Talking to T was exhausting. They’d paired us up because Americans were famously rude – direct, as the diplomats would say – and the aliens more than matched us in that regard. Which is why the rest of my international team of scientists were happily sleeping while I was teaching an alien how to unfold a cheap lawn chair at five in the morning before the Rose Parade. They’d wanted the aliens to experience culture. If they meant opera, they should’ve asked somebody else. Five hours and a hundred questions later (T was curious about the health code, pavement, rule of law, street preachers, and everything else), the first float began its stately march down Main Street. “So sometimes it is their shape and sometimes people decide but always, the people who are women wear the outfits with the tassels?” “Only if they’re in marching band,” I said. “How interesting,” T said. Late one night at the lab, T let slip that they’d been forced to take a class in diplomacy before they were allowed planetside. The only noticeable effect was that T substituted ‘interesting’ for incomprehensible, ludicrous, or risible. Anyone’s guess which one this was but reviewing the sentence that had just come out of my mouth, I’d pick risible. “So, in this ritual, the bands show everyone their talent to celebrate the youth of the year?” “Yes,” I decided after a minute. Close enough. “There’s also a football game.” “I would like to go to a football game, paint my face, and wave a fake human hand.” I laughed. “I’ll take you sometime, T.” “It is interesting. To see you spend so many flowers.” “They’re beautiful floats,” I agreed. T had a massive head that seemed heavy in the way of elephants. It gave them an uncharacteristic gravity considering their personality consisted of an insatiable appetite for knowledge and new fart jokes. When they scrunched their forehead the way they did now, wrinkles piling up one on top of another, something had upset them. Float seven rolled past, topped with a gigantic dinosaur who snapped towards us, teeth gleaming with lilies. If our visit to the Museum of Natural History last month was any indication – we’d nearly been kicked out due to excessive enthusiasm – T should have been thrilled. Instead, their face was more wrinkle than smooth and the tentacles at their sides had twisted into curlicues. “It is expensive?” “I think so?” “How interesting.” I handed T the program booklet. I’d never have taken them to a bullfight and I’d even put off going to football games because I was certain they would divine that the players hurt when tackled. The aliens were so sensitive to our pain that I was ashamed it had taken me so long to develop a corresponding empathy. I had somehow messed up by taking them here. I gazed around. There were two children, of indeterminate age and gender, pushing to be in the very front. A man with a sign walked along the curb, shouting about Jesus. A woman on a float threw us pens, while the band marching behind them - the people who were women in tassels and skirts - lifted their instruments to the sun and started to play. I waited until the band had passed. There was no point in being polite to somebody who did not value or practice it. Perhaps to them, politeness and directness were synonymous. I had a difficult time ascertaining whether these qualities were unique to T or came from their culture, the language barrier, or the terrible sense of urgency which the aliens carried with them, whose cause we had not yet discovered. “What’s wrong? You look upset.” “It is very expensive. And I don’t think you have so much left to spend.” “We make our money at the treasury,” I said. “I’m sure the people who organize this have plenty.” “But where do you make the flowers?” “I’m not – I don’t know.” “Is your planet so rich that you can afford to kill flowers in such large numbers for sport?” “Our planet is dying,” I said. Americans are blunt, scientists doubly so, and the numbers emerging annually did not leave much room for ambiguity. “You are killing it,” T corrected. “I thought it might be rude to mention it, but since you brought it up. You are killing it quite quickly.” I rubbed the back of my neck. The nature of the human race was written on the surface of our planet, in the chemicals in our atmosphere, and the composition of our water. Yet they had still landed their ships, one in each capital city of every country. I thought it in my mother’s voice, ‘what must they think of us?’ Perhaps I should have taken them to something older than opera, Oedipus, or one of the other great plays about patricide. I imagined T there saying, is it always the people who are women who weave, who weep? And yet, one of the children grabbed the other’s hair and gave it a yank and the sun still shone and everything smelled of hot dogs and sweat. In front of us, a float shaped like a giant clump of fruit sailed by. It was difficult to hold death and the scent of hot dogs in my mind simultaneously. T was watching me. I couldn’t meet their eyes. “We’re working on it.” “Working?” “On fixing it.” Both children were seated together on the curb now, their scuffle forgotten. T uncurled a bit, serifs rather than springs. “Would you like help?” “We’re desperate for it,” I said. Perhaps I shouldn’t have. We were still negotiating. But it was plain we were desperate. We’d wounded ourselves and yet didn’t possess the capacity to leave. A float with a tropical landscape and indifferent dancers passed us, followed by a band who had flown here from Tokyo. The people who were women wore capes. I said, “Can you help us? Will you?” “I’m not – I don’t know.” Curlicues again. “Bargaining chip?” “Our biggest.” We watched the next float go by. “You don’t like it though,” I guessed. “It…pains me.” T had used that exact expression a few times. I suspected it didn’t translate quite right. “Let me know. If there’s anything you can do.” Curlicues and then straight, limp tentacles. “I will.” “Whatever they’re offering you, it isn’t enough,” I said. I’d been following the negotiations on the news. Getting each country to agree had been like trying to set toddlers in a straight line. “I’ve been authorized to negotiate with individuals,” T said. This, in the midst of the festival atmosphere, was treason. To my country, anyway. “What could I possibly offer you?” “They said you used to work on weapons. Before you switched to theory.” I closed my eyes. “Yes.” “I was surprised to learn how much we had yet to discover in that area.” My voice was a whisper. “Yes.” “We can halt the damage. Freeze the ice sheets. Calm the storms. Just until the negotiations are through. We can ensure that nothing is irreversible.” “You would use it – “ “As leverage,” T said. “One fewer thing to ask for in the negotiations. We have been informed that asking for military secrets is…not done.” “Do you think they assigned us together so you could offer me this?” I ask. It was a question which was answered by the asking. “Or your interesting taste in cultural events,” T said. The band in front of us lifted their trumpets to the sky. For once, they all had the same uniform, the same long, puffy hats, and each high schooler looked equally uncomfortable wearing them. “The answer is yes,” I said. T tilted their head back, tentacles reaching toward the sun. “The changes will begin now.” I swallowed. The next float was an actual pool full of sea creatures. They must have felt so far from home in the clear water, nothing but air on all sides. END
Published on Jan 12, 2018
by George Hurst
As Captain Edward Becker came down the corridor, he spotted Kayinadar bouncing up and down on his tentacles. He thought that might be a sign of impatience, but he hadn't had time for a full briefing yet. First Officer Shen was beside him. "Kayinadar." Becker said cheerfully, "sorry to keep you waiting." He didn't go for the handshake--he'd tried that earlier and there'd been a lot of confusion.
Published on Dec 26, 2019
by Kelly A Jacobson
To understand my story, you must first understand me--not in the philosophical sense, but the physical entity that is "me," the way that my identical atoms are contained in their random motion. Imagine a balloon filled with helium, only there is no balloon. Imagine a cloud, only without the liquid droplets. This must be difficult for you. You humans like solidity and a visible evidence of strength. But you must accept that our strength is a direct result of our instability--or it was, before "our" became a concept, a memory, a thing that I light at the heart of the balloon of me whenever I need to burn. Good.
Published on Feb 22, 2021
by Dev Jarrett
I've always hated the zoo. Being the youngest in the family, though, I don't get a lot of choice. My brother loves it; he gets to see these animals in pens made up supposedly like their natural habitats, all from the safety of the well-swept sidewalk. He gawks, he makes faces. He taps on the glass of some of the enclosures. Mom and Dad are fascinated as well. Dad tells us he never had anything like this when he was growing up. He's fond of telling us about how his father was a farmer, and hardly ever took them into the city. Mom always takes photos of any of the animals we see, and when we get home she tries to paint pictures of them. They look sad. The paintings are pretty bad art, but she likes to do it. To me, visiting the zoo is no fun. It's gross. It stinks and it's noisy. When I mention that to my brother, he makes a face at me. "You stink," he whispers. His large eyes squint at me as he says this, and then he smiles innocently. "Dad, he's being a jerk," I say as we pull into the parking lot. "Am not. She is." "Come on everyone, let's go," Dad says, ignoring us both. "At work I heard they've got something new this week." We get out and make our way to the entrance. They say it's a miracle. After all this time we've finally found life on another planet. Scientists have brought many specimens back home to study--and are bringing more every day, it seems--but the creatures, really, have become just another tourist attraction. Some of the zoo enclosures are larger than others, with big moats around them to keep the animals with long teeth and claws inside. Can't have them running amok, attacking the patrons and eating the children. Other enclosures have big domes of net stretched over them, to keep the creatures from flying or climbing out. Still other enclosures are inside buildings, because some animals have special requirements: they need more heat, or live underwater, or whatever. The new animal was supposed to be a big deal, but we can't see it. Not a single hoof, or claw, or antler, or whatever it's supposed to have. The spaces between the rounded, red stones in its enclosure are empty, and the badged zoo staff member standing by the sign assures us that the animal is just shy, and as soon as the creature gets used to his new home, he'll be visible. Maybe it just doesn't like being on display. Who could blame it? With the new animal display a complete letdown, Dad's in a hurry to get to his favorite place. "Come on! We don't want to miss it." Oh, but Dad, I do want to miss it. I don't say it, though. I let myself be dragged along in their wake, like litter spinning in air currents behind one of the big ships. It's feeding time. I shudder. It's a popular attraction, and I don't really know why. In one sense, I suppose I get it. They're the closest to us, genetically, so there's that fascination. I've heard that some get angry about it, saying things like, There's no way I'm descended from that! But that's not the way teachers explain it to us. We just have similar signatures in our makeup. They show rudimentary intelligence. Dad checks the time and gets more agitated. "We're going to miss it if you don't get moving!" When Dad opens the door of the green building, the noise and the scent hit us like a physical blow. We enter just as zookeepers begin the feeding. Bright-colored fruits and vegetables tumble out of small tubs onto the floor of the enclosures, and the shrieks spiral even higher. At this end, the ones with tails swing from perch to perch. About halfway down, we can see the big black ones with the silver backs on one side and the red ones with long hair and huge cheek pads on the other side. But Dad passes by those enclosures, going right to the end. The large enclosure where they keep the highest form of creature from that planet. In the habitat, several of them fight and scream over the food they've just received. Three females, two males. Different colors, different shapes. One sits apart, eyes hooded morosely, until he sees us. He stands slowly, then approaches the glass. His head is smaller than ours—the teachers say they have smaller brains than we do. His body, arms, and legs are longer, though. He walks upright, just like us. A strip of dirty cloth is wrapped around his waist. He stares at us for a moment, then presses a large hand to his side of the glass. Five widespread fingers. My big brother puts his smaller, gray, six-fingered hand to the same spot on this side of the glass, giggling. "Mom, take my picture!" Mom begins to raise the camera, then stops. The creature's eyes go back and forth, from Dad, to Mom, then to me. Searching. "Please," the creature finally says, "Please...let us go back home. Have pity. I miss my wife. I miss my children. I miss... Earth." His green eyes are wet, and water droplets trail down dirt-streaked cheeks into a tangled mat of facial hair. "Did you hear that?" Dad says, amazed. "This one's learned speech." "Come on, Dad," my brother says with a sneer, "they just mimic. They can't learn our language." Dad turns back to the creature, who shudders as he takes another breath. "Please," the pitiful creature says again, his chin quivering. "Take us back home, or just let us die." I run to a trash receptacle, my bare feet slapping the cold tile. I vomit into the drum. My mother's cool hand reaches out to me. She strokes the back of my smooth gray head, and I know she understands.
Published on Nov 9, 2021
by Kelly Jennings
I was on my way home from my night job when I heard they'd found life on Mars. Algae, I thought, wearily. Fossil bacteria. My night job, my other job, not my full-time job, which was unloading trucks at a warehouse, this job was tutoring Exceptional Teens in Broken Arrow for five hour five days a week, from five to ten p.m.
Published on Apr 14, 2014
by Patrick Johanneson
Stella Laine, deputy head of Human Resources, tented her fingers, looked me in the eye, and said, "Your time on Earth is nearly up, Benjamin." For a couple seconds I couldn't stop blinking. Finally I got my eyelids back under conscious control, and, with what I thought was a heroic lack of quaver to my voice, I said, "Do you really have that kind of power?"
Published on Aug 3, 2011
by Tom Jolly
The alien splayed a group of five tendrils above its body, extended from the primary bulk of its multicellular colony. The saurian in the room nodded to the alien and said, "The Amass gives its greetings to you," then looked back at the group of humans for a reaction. Its English was perfect, with a slight London accent. Will Ember, leader of the European League of Nations, glanced around at the other world leaders in the Parliament meeting room, taking his cue as the appointed speaker, and replied, "Thank you, Miss Charaka, for offering to perform the translation for all of us. As you might guess, learning that there are seven other sentient species in our stellar neighborhood was a bit of a surprise for us." He redirected his gaze to the gesticulating blob before him. "We return the Amass' greetings, and welcome it to Earth."
Published on Nov 27, 2015
by Tom Jolly
This is my first encounter with the Tarak species. They are insectoid, enclosed in a brightly colored exoskeleton, but anatomically arranged much like a human. I watched the video about them without paying much attention. They have two rows of holes—breathing orifices—along the sides of their bodies, and small rows on their heads. Their mouths look like a small machine, reminding me of a tiny paper shredder, so I presume they eat food and process it somewhat like humans do. Their eyes are dark, round orbs, larger than human, and so the light in the room is kept dimmer than I like, and brighter than the Tarak likes. We are still too close in size, shape, and function to be comfortable with each other, but this meeting must be done. I hear the Tarak's name, but cannot pronounce it with my human mouth and never try. I do not know whether the Tarak is male or female, or neither or both. When I talk on my own communicator to my team, I catch myself calling the Tarak "him." No one has corrected me yet.
Published on Dec 9, 2019
by Steven Kahn
Beneath the oldest rainforest in the world, Bakti walked quiet as a jungle cat. Three more hours to check his traps before nightfall. Ndari, equally stealthy, accompanied him. Bakti had warned her it was too dangerous, but her green eyes sparkled at the challenge. "Why?" she had asked. "Why more dangerous for me than you? I'm just as swift as you. My eyes and ears just as good, and I'm better with a rifle at fifty meters."
Published on Nov 15, 2012
by Jennifer Stephan Kapral
The blood beneath the Alien's aqua skin rippled in waves. His immune system operated in overdrive, fighting all the microbes recirculating throughout the aircraft. The woman next to him in 36C kept coughing into her hand and then moving wrinkled magazines around on her tray table. Vibrant green and neon orange specs surrounded her, covered the table, and occasionally floated near him to mix with other specs in the air. He was trying very, very hard not to create an incident.
Published on Jan 29, 2019
by Malia Robin Kawaguchi
The reporters keep asking how we could possibly have missed them. "Little green men in our backyard, and the eggheads at Steward didn't even notice." The press just eats that story up. So when I talk publicly, I start with the fact that we're not SETI. We're astronomers. Plus, the observatory is closer to Tucson than Phoenix anyway. Not to mention, it's hard to notice something that's always just there. I mean, they were here for a thousand years.
Published on Jul 7, 2014
by J.Z. Kelley
... the First Lady later wrote, she "felt a sort of maternal responsibility to the other American wives in the consulate," and especially to Mrs. Smith, the "pretty young girl" the translator had married not three weeks before his appointment. We can imagine her watching with growing concern as the translator's wife returned both the first and the second course to the kitchen untouched. She would have waited until the Embiilid servers carried out the third course, the clatter of their servingware providing a little cover for private conversations, to lean across the table and whisper, "My dear, while I admire your restraint, surely you can wait until tomorrow to begin your diet. We don't want to offend our hosts."
Published on Apr 29, 2022
by Chris Kelso and Gio Clairval
A foreign body has infiltrated one of the pods in the cargo hold. My Margarets, my beautiful babies, are in danger. A screen flickers into life, and my oversized heart bumps against my exoskeleton: Margaret S’s faceplate is sitting crooked. There’s something beneath her oxygen mask, something squirming around inside the cracked O of her mouth. Noise like a stridulating cricket. This is the disease that will warp my children. This will be my fault. *** All day long I scythed through the gravel bed of stars in a jagged cliff of metal called The Hieronymus Bosch. In the cargo hold, I carried my newborns frozen in cryogenic twilight. My Margarets had to be suspended in pods of amniotic fluid for twenty days after birth, until their blood and tissue re-fused properly. Birthing them had been no small feat. I felt the pangs of prolonged labor even now. That said, I enjoyed the fullness of hard, noble toil. Looking at the dry placental blood mortared across my palms, the complex process of creation came shrieking back at me. Both my states—godly and human—remained in hypostatic union. The Insects dubbed me the Motherlord of Genocide, an intergalactic serial killer. Such an inaccurate summation of my principles. I will tell you the truth: I loved each of my brand-new children equally, even though I spotted better adaptive features in some of them. My little darlings, I would support them all. To seek motherhood is to accept forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. My many hearts, that is. Those that beat steadily and those that stumble. *** Manning The Hieronymus Bosch was not the solitary existence you might expect. My computers chattered all the time, monitoring the brood’s progress. *Margaret A’s mesoderm has formed into muscle.” Scroll of data appeared in mid-air while the Medical Entity’s deep contralto crooned, “She has achieved thalamic brain connections.* All the onboard Artificial Entities chimed in: *Congratulations!* I wiped a tear of condensation from the lid of Margaret A’s capsule. Such expressive features. *There is nothing insect-like about this one,* said the Cultural Entity. Vast approval from the other computers. The moment we land on our planet of destination, I’ll begin to age, and I will eventually die, but I’ll be glad to disappear knowing I got my babies to a safe place, where the Insects can’t reach them. **** *We are 490 light-years away from exoplanet Kepler-5e,* the Navigation Entity announced. *It is, by all accounts, perfect for the family to prosper* said the Exobiological Entity. *Liquid surface water and a strong plasma environment at high altitude . . .* Fresh, breathable air, too. Sustaining life there would be the easy part. Just the thought of my Margarets finally being able to survive without faceplates set my heart aquiver. I’d spent a long time pregnant–ten thousand years in fact. I am a patient being, resilient. I waited decades before I could see the first sonographic image of my brood because of my ballooning mat/pat body (you try staying slim with that many fetuses growing inside you). In their newest form, my infants were perfect. I had to cut them with blades, mould and rearrange the flesh until my knuckles were swollen knots of bone, but we got there, together we got there. Each Margaret was unique, and the adults would be specimens with their own individuality. It was our last chance to get it right. I would be judged on this mission’s success. Meanwhile the Insects raced in pursuit. You see, I was their creator, too, but they had since renounced me. My rebellious progeny knew I intended to build a harmonious society, in which each creature would find itself where it ought to be, just in the right place. Through their multifaceted eyes, they saw me as an anomaly. It turned out I would be the only unharmonious being in a world of equals. *** The ship’s biopropellant engines buzzed like dragonflies. The Insects. I couldn’t forget them, no matter how hard I tried. Once you create something, it’s impossible to destroy it for good. You tether yourself to your creation. I had tethered myself to eternal darkness, cannibalistic impulses, twitching antennae, ichor and honey. Each with a fixed purpose, each similar to the rest of its cohort. I recalled the Insects’ elegance. If we didn’t make it to Kepler-5e then, there would be beauty even in mutual betrayal. *** The infection has spread from Margaret S to all the other pods. Maybe my Margarets and I will get to our destination, alive yet cursed, them a batch of tainted creatures, me a useless husk laced with shame. No, it can’t be. I’ll fight. *Instructions?* cry my computers. Battle hormones flood my system. In my head flashes explode like snakes lashing out. Kill the bugs. Kill them all. I won’t undo my little ones, though, won’t open the capsules to their rotting death. But maybe I should. Unleashing a spoiled litter over the nurturing world would turn my mission into treason. Should I live to see the little monsters multiply and seek out their ancestors to consume them with acid shot through with sweetness? Kill the bugs. Or accept a cloying death like going to sleep in a bed of molasses, spreading myriads of eggs with tiny claws that will cling and pierce skin and bones to deliver waves of caressing insectile chromosomes. My onboard Entities recite the Book of Abstractions: *Mother cherishes all her . . .* Squash these little buds of love gone to waste or embrace their six-limbed perfection, and learn to slay my enemies in a different, augmented, regimented way. I extend my hand, seize Margaret S’s capsule, take in the baby’s warped beauty and cry.
Published on Feb 28, 2018
by Michelle Ann King
Anton drew his legs up underneath him. The car seat was huge and puffy, and the leather made a breathy creak when he moved. It sounded like it was sighing. "How much longer?" he said.
Published on Jul 25, 2014
by Michelle Ann King
Jana found the body--stumbled across it, literally--on the beach, sticking out of the grey sand like a sculpture. Or an art installation, like the ones they used to have in the streets and parks back when this was still part of civilization. Something commemorative, or symbolic, or just beautiful. The body wasn't beautiful. Although there could have been an argument for commemorative. Somebody died there, after all. And that wasn't an everyday occurrence. Not any more.
Published on Jan 5, 2015
by Floris M. Kleijne
Dr. J.J. Corr & Dr. A.B. McQuarry (Institute for Advanced Exobiological Research, Titan) Journal of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT)
Published on Jan 17, 2020
by Edward G Kratz
************Editor's Note: Adult Story************* The Incident:
Published on Dec 11, 2019
by Jamie Gilman Kress
Lynn, her fragile focus on the painting broken, stomped to the door and yanked it open. Her irritation scattered like ashes. Her daughter stood there, escorted by a man in the crisp blue-purple bodysuit of an Emissary, those humans chosen to serve as the middlemen between the Stretchies and humanity.
Published on Feb 19, 2016
by D.K. Latta
"Picture this: an astronaut arrives on another world, searching for mineral resources. There's an unanticipated snag. Specifically, the exhaust from his stabilizers destroys the crops of a local farm lord. The astronaut did not anticipate encountering inhabitants, and is improperly trained for the encounter. Words are exchanged (through translation devices, of course), tempers flare, and the earth astronaut utters what is construed as a challenge. The farm lord has him placed at the base of a volcano, knowing that molten rock will pour over him. The air is thick with sulphur and radiation levels are beyond human tolerance. What does he do?" Edward shifts slightly in his chair. "The whole thing seems a bit farfetched, don't you think? After all, it was an accident. Hey, is that it? The correct answer? The whole scenario is invalid because it's based on a false premise?"
Published on Nov 17, 2010
by D.K. Latta
There was a lingering smell of smoke in Chanthrows' nostrils, like the acrid stink that stays with you even hours after the campfire has died. He was laid out flat, while overhead the night sky glimmered as with a thousand stars. He had never seen a sky like that before. Then he realized he had never looked up from the surface of this world before. And with that realization, his eyes snapped wider with a start. It came back to him now, like a wave slamming him against the surf. He remembered his flyer--part of that armada orbiting permanently overhead, those glints of reflected sunlight that created the illusion of a firmament full of stars. He remembered his flyer's stabilizing engine being clipped by a rookie flyer moving in too close. He remembered the rookie bursting into a fireball and his own flyer plunging down into the atmosphere. Down into the world that was the closest thing his people knew to Hell.
Published on Feb 21, 2012
by Markus Lauerer
We've had a hard time accepting the fact that our first and only contact with an alien civilization must ultimately be considered a failure. Our overwrought imaginations simply hadn't allowed for the possibility. All the books and movies we had loved as kids and still treasured as adults--nostalgia endowing them with an authority they probably did not merit--had ingrained in us some very specific ideas of what to expect from an extraterrestrial visit: technological marvels heralding an era of unimaginable prosperity, metaphysical insights that would fundamentally change our understanding of the universe, cold-blooded extermination of the entire human race. A true paradigm shift, in any case.
Published on Mar 11, 2019
by N.T. Lawrence
The alien was found on the fifth planet, circling a dying star. The creature, like the star around which its home orbited, was fading. Every human in the system fought for a chance to question the creature, however it was old and tired and said that it would only allow one person to question it. In the end a drawing was held to determine who would have this amazing opportunity. The winner became an overnight celebrity. He was swamped with messages demanding to know what he would ask the last of this great race. Finally he issued a statement, he would ask the meaning behind one of the race's most commonly found written symbols. The language of the alien had so far been impenetrable to human analysis. The only information that could be gathered was how frequently symbols were used. For some reason this symbol dominated their writing. It was discovered carved into stone walls, long abandoned holographic projectors shone the symbol, in one prominent instance the symbol was blasted into the side of a moon, so that any passing spacecraft could see it from orbit. For centuries debate had raged over the symbol's significance. Some felt that it must be the name of the alien's deity. Others felt that it was the unified theory, the long sought after scientific explanation of all aspects of our physical universe. A small group of people even began a religion based around the symbol. When the contest winner announced that he would question the alien about the symbol's meaning, the human population waited with baited breath.
Published on Mar 15, 2018
by Christine M Layton
No one heard the crash the night it came to Earth. There were no alarms or calls to the police. The wreckage was actually discovered by a couple searching for the perfect picnic spot. There, in the middle of a clearing, the saucer stood out against the ground. A spray of soil showed the force of impact the ship must have made when it crashed. "Oh Clark, don't go near it!" The shining curve of the saucer filled Marcy with dread. "It could be dangerous."
Published on Jul 28, 2014
by William Ledbetter
The boy was hot and tired, yet still his dark eyes waged war to stay open. He stared at me, draped over his mother's shoulder with his black curls plastered to a damp brow and eyes drooping in time with the rise and fall of the French horn. Anemic applause pattered through the park when the piece ended and someone came to the mic and announced the next selection. Even a small breeze would have helped, but Pearl blazed down with full summer intensity. It was smaller and whiter than Sol, with a light that washed out most colors, leaving stark shadows and giving everything a slight photonegative effect. The generation ship builders had matched the spin gravity to that of the new world, but the light had remained analogous to Earth. Most of those around me had been born on Margarita so didn't even notice, but I'd never get used to it.
Published on Apr 18, 2016
by William Ledbetter
A wintry blast followed the bearish man into the Grover's. He growled, stomped snow from his boots, then waved as greetings filled the tiny bar. Annie stopped in the middle of making a whisky sour to stare as he shrugged out of his heavy coat and hung it up. Jose nudged Ed and nodded toward Annie, then they both laughed. She glared at them, finished making the drink and sat it in front of Bianca, whose hair was pink again this week.
Published on Mar 21, 2017
by Mary Soon Lee
Let's pretend this is about two other people. Call them Ada and Jane. Ada was an overweight, sarcastic software engineer, fed up with people assuming that because she was black she must have dodged drug-dealers on the way to school. Jane waited tables in a Thai restaurant, the customers barely noticing her even when they placed their orders. But Ada noticed Jane, and ate at the restaurant every Saturday for three months before finally asking her out. Soon after, they moved in together, and everything was as close to perfect as anything ever is. Being with Jane brought out Ada's paranoid, protective streak. She stockpiled food, water, batteries, and first aid supplies in the basement. She bought life insurance. She analyzed consumer safety reports before buying Jane a Volvo for her daily commute.
Published on Jul 5, 2019
by Mary Soon Lee
First Contact wasn't like any of the scenarios I'd ever read. I'd spent twenty years out in the belt and beyond, trying to persuade Texans to negotiate with Muscovites, Oligarchists to listen to Chinese Technocrats, the Separatists to even acknowledge the existence of the Anarchists. Getting all of them to sign the aid-in-distress treaty for space emergencies had driven me prematurely gray.
Published on Dec 18, 2020
by Marissa Lingen
The Notable Earthlings series is brought to you by Gronklorf and Fizzoom. Gronklorf and Fizzoom's Notable Earthlings! Buy the whole set for your spawn!
Published on Oct 20, 2014
by Jennifer Linnaea
The alien's heartbeat thuds staccato, its breathing ragged as I step to the edge of the Plaza and survey the assembled throng. Before us they whirl and meet; their fighting arms or the intricately waving spikes of their tails entwine, then slide aside, deftly, every interlocking movement in harmony with all the others'. I draw the alien, this human, close against me and it sags there as if it wants to fall, its eyes locked on the spectacle. "Now we cross," I say, and step into the fray.
Published on Nov 6, 2018
by Candice R. Lisle
"I am Kell. I am ready for my tour," the alien said. "Show me the bounty of Earth.:" Jeanette, his tour guide, thought that Kell looked like a swamp monster, but he seemed nice. The fish market in China Town was loud, bustling, and smelly. Immediately a merchant appeared and pushed a live sea urchin into Kell's webbed hand. "Delicious," Kell said. "I must bring some back home with me." Waving goodbye to Kell as he boarded his spaceship loaded down with a bag of sea urchins, Jeanette mused that this was just the beginning of the invasion of Earth.
Published on Jan 13, 2022
by Ken Liu
Welcome, Curious Volunteer! You've taken the first steps on a path that we hope will be rewarding (financially and spiritually) for you as well as the human race:
Published on Feb 19, 2014
by Mary E. Lowd
The spines on S'lisha's neck twitched, but she kept them from extending into a thorny display of her anger. The spaceship captain wanted the boxes of robot arms on his cargo deck rearranged yet again. If he'd explained himself clearly in the first place, it would have saved so much time. S'lisha seethed silently and imagined crushing the spaceship captain with his own cargo. "Wow, the captain sure got on your nerves," Malcolm said. "You looked like you wanted to tear his head off."
Published on Nov 25, 2015
by Brian K Lowe
He went on and on while we all stared at the picture on the TV. I thought it looked just like when Klaatu landed in that old movie, "The Day the Earth Stood Still," the black-and-white one. I thought, "Grinpa would like this," because he was the one who watched that movie with me on cable. Then I remembered his fallen-in face, with his eyes closed, on his hospital pillow.
Published on Oct 11, 2010
by Barbara Lund
Addy's physics lesson taught her that everyone and everything is made up of molecules, and the space in between them. Unfortunately for her test scores, quantum physics went over her head, but fortunately for the rest of the world, that lesson stuck with her. Addy started noticing the space in between.
Published on Oct 9, 2018
by Zack Lux
The chaos began with a whisper. An astronomer in Hawaii spotted it first: a faint red glow from Alpha Centauri.
Published on Jul 7, 2021
by Benjamin MacLean-Max
It sounded like rain, fire, frying onions. It filled my head, summoning memories of the heady scent of rain caught on pine needles, sinking into mossy loam; of embers sent, glittering, up into a starry night; the taste of onions caramelized in butter. It was none of these things, of course. The sound was coolant vaporizing against the outer layer of the crystal viewport. Piped at high pressure through a spiderweb of tiny capillaries in the crystal itself, the faint blue liquid flitted across the window every few seconds. It cooled the crystal, which would otherwise crack under the heat of the swollen star beyond.
Published on Oct 8, 2019
by Danny Macks
The other guy at the hotel bar was the friendly type, grey at the temples, with the stocky blue-collar build of a man who never lifted a barbell in his life, but could still bench-press me over his head, just the same. "Bill Butcher," he said, extending a meaty hand. I shook it and gave him my name.
Published on May 25, 2020
by Hal Maclean
An earlier version of this article stated, "Alien invasion fleet" rather than, "Meng Liberation." We regret the error.
Published on Oct 8, 2020
by Lisa Mason
The alien impregnated me this morning. He has impregnated me ever since I could first conceive, his scientific syringe filled with the fertilizing fluid from an anonymous male of my own kind. The alien waited two weeks after I gave birth to another son, whom I named Ralph, before the alien took him away to the slaughterhouse to be butchered for his delectable baby flesh. At least my son will die quickly, spared our life of imprisonment and shame. Rumors say the butchers will cut my son’s throat. Bleeding to death is slow and painful. But lately the aliens have attempted to make the slaughtering of us more humane. Rumors say these days the butchers will shoot my son in the head, which will result in his instant demise. With the aliens’ wars and civil unrest, though, can they spare the ammunition on slaughtering my son? I wonder. I’m guessing not. The knife it will be. Oh, it will be a humane knife. That the aliens care about whether the slaughtering of my son is humane will have to be some consolation for me. It doesn’t always go like that. Some of my sons are raised up, fed rich food to fatten them, harvested of their fertilizing fluid, and then they’re taken to the slaughterhouse. My daughters, one and all, are raised, fed rich food, and then they’re impregnated by the aliens. Like me, they will be kept continuously pregnant until they reach the end of their fertile life. Like me, the numbers tattooed on their ears will fade with age. They will give birth to stillborn babies. They will become of no more use to the aliens. Then they will be taken to the slaughterhouse for butchering. Am I next? I have a tiny memory of my mother, of her sweet face, of her big brown eyes filled with compassion, with sorrow. Of my father, I know nothing. The alien impregnated my mother with his scientific syringe by injecting the fertilizing fluid of an anonymous male of our kind into her womb. And thus I was conceived and born. Why do the aliens imprison us, rob us of our peaceful lives, of our children? For the rich, fatty fluid my mother and I and my daughters produce from our teats. Fluid meant for nourishing our own babies, but our own babies only get a taste of it before they are taken away. The aliens take our rich, fatty fluid, all of it, for themselves. The aliens crave our thick, silky nutritious fluid. Rumors say the aliens’ own mothers produce only a thin, sour fluid from their teats. The alien mothers’ teats’ fluid may be enough to nourish the aliens’ babies in a time of need. But in prosperous times, the alien mothers and their babies prefer the thick, rich fluid we produce. Imagine if the alien mothers produced delicious fluid from their teats! How the alien mothers’ world would change! The aliens conquered us and enslaved us long ago and, with their conquest, discovered ways to ensure the flow of delicious rich fluid we produce from our teats. The aliens, rumors say, concoct all manner of gooey garnishes, and lush slabs of fat, and sweet desserts from our thick, rich fluid. The aliens’ relentless exploitation of my womb, of my teats for their delectation, for their gain has worn me out. I’m weary. I’m growing old. Today my teats are red and sore and rashy from the aliens’ machines’ incessant squeezing. Squeezing me three times a day until I want to cry out, “Enough!” But it’s never enough for the aliens. They crave more. The alien who impregnated me this morning looks me over. He runs his hand provocatively over my rump, fondles my teats, and says to his coworker, “She’s done.” I know what that means. That means the alien will take me to the slaughterhouse and butcher me for my flesh, which is fat and soft from years of indolent confinement in my prison cell. My flesh, as inferior as it is, will be cut off my bones and will be roasted or baked or ground up and fried. My flesh, worn as it is, is much prized on the aliens’ dinner tables. I want to cry out, “No, not me! I’m pregnant again! Soon my teats will flow with the rich fluid you crave.” I try to communicate with the alien, try to appeal to him, but my voice emerges from my throat only as a soft, sad moan. For a moment, the alien looks at me with compassionate eyes. For a moment, I hope he’ll spare my life. For a moment, I envision him opening the door to my prison cell and allowing me to go, to stroll into the green grassy fields of my dreams. To free me from this torture, this prison. The alien shakes his head, ties a rope around my neck. A noose. The alien says, “Time to go, Bess.” I try not to cry as he leads me away. END
Published on May 15, 2019
by Sadie Mattox
I've learned a few things since my first race with the Martian. I learned clothes are nothing but extra weight. I strip off my shirt and kick off my skirt until I'm standing, shivering, in my skivvies. They used to be pink, only having been passed down through three sisters has turned them grey, and my Nana says that's what happens when stuff gets old whether it's panties or people. Lan Delson skipped out to watch the race. He sits at the top of the hill with his elbows on his knees, waiting. I spy my kid sister thinking she's smart, hiding behind a tree, leaving her shadow stretched in plain sight. The other kids would just have to hear about it later, I guess.
Published on Dec 24, 2012
by Bruce McAllister
l. Establish trust between yourself and the child. Let the child smell you.
Published on Jan 11, 2018
by Bruce McAllister
The Martians come back. This time they’ve had their shots. They trash a dozen big cities and, just to keep things even, a lot of useless English countryside. What brings them down isn’t cruise missiles, armed drones or tactical single-K nuclear devices (such weapons leave unsightly marks on their machines, but these can be polished out). What does it is the torrent of email spam offering solutions to erectile dysfunction and tinnitus received by the Martian mothership’s server, and then, to add insult to injury, the crude ransomware installed in the ship's system by four middle-aged Bulgarian hackers because a Martian functionary, totally unaccustomed to the notion of backup, opens an attachment that doesn’t look at all deceitful. The hackers now have the Martians’ list of one thousand other worlds worth invading, which has taken them a painstaking millennium to compile, and the hackers want 14 trillion dollars US in bitcoin to give it back. Martian currency or Antarrean slaves will not be accepted. “This is going to take time,” the Martians say, and the invasion hits pause while they start trading with various Earth entities to come up with the money. It's very slow work because of trade agreements, incorporation laws, currency fixation formulae, risk-mitigation binding, and other regulated interactions we Earthlings are quite proud of. In the end, the Martians just throw up their tentacles and leave, as they should.
Published on Mar 10, 2022
by E. Lillith McDermott
"Have you noticed that dogs don't howl anymore?" She paused the movie, a sub-par remake of War of the Worlds, walked to the window. He slid off the bed, followed. On the street below, another firetruck and a police car slow-rolled their way through the four-way stop. The red and blues flashed across her face. He leaned against the wall and watched the emergency strobes turn her into an alien goddess--skin reflecting purple, eyes sparking red. "I guess I never thought about it."
Published on Aug 11, 2016
by Matt Mikalatos
"I believe we have found your temporal lobe, which means you should be receiving translation now." "We call that Wernicke's area," Sgt. Eastwood replied, wondering if the translation went both ways.
Published on May 5, 2014
by Matt Mikalatos
Dear 8B, I may have accidentally laid eggs in a human. What is the proper way to inform him of his impending role as my children's first meal?
Published on Sep 16, 2015
by Matt Mikalatos
Corbalk: The conflicting emotions created by First Contact (used especially in reference to a homeworld-centric species).
Published on Oct 22, 2015
by Mario Milosevic
Pardon me for my impertinence. I do not wish to impugn or malign anyone on this committee. I appreciate your considerable hospitality towards me and my family. How are they, by the way?
Published on Nov 1, 2010
by Mario Milosevic
Whenever I kissed him, but especially that first time, he tasted of metal: copper and steel. Strange, but not unpleasant. The smell of his spaceship clung to him. It was a mixture of flowers and rotten garbage. Again, strangely uplifting. I don't know what made me want to plant that initial kiss. He had crashed in the hills above my house. I had seen his craft cut the sky open, a luminous wound like a surgeon's scalpel track, oozing light instead of blood.
Published on Mar 10, 2017
by Mario Milosevic
INTRODUCTION You are on the winning side of a prolonged and bloody interplanetary conflict. Congratulations! You can thank your planet and its glorious principles, your commanding officers, your buddies in arms, and yourself. Now for the next phase. You have been ordered into Cleck, the battlefield planet, to help restore order and civil society. You will encounter alien races and alien customs. Many of these will be confusing. Whats worse, many of them will be dangerous. This booklet will attempt to help you with both situations, as well as prepare you for your mission. This booklet is encrypted so only you can read it. Do not fear a security breach if it should fall into alien hands, however, do exercise prudent caution and discretion in its use. It is to your advantage to study the contents of this booklet very carefully. Your life may depend on it. Also, remember at all times that you are a representative of Earth. Please uphold the highest standards of morality and conduct. SOME HISTORY You are on Cleck to do a a vital job, namely: secure the planet. Of course, this simple statement does not convey the full flavor of your duties. Allow me, in this short space and in my own way, to explain more fully the parameters of your mission. Your duty on Cleck is to remove any Stewn left behind after the final battle of the war. As you may or may not know, Stewn are descended from Clex. Centuries ago the Clex developed space travel. Some of the Clex left their planet to colonize another. Those migrant Clex evolved into Stewn. A few years ago, the Stewn returned to the planet Cleck to claim what they thought was rightfully theirs. This included massive mineral deposits, which the Clex have since graciously offered to us in exchange for cleaning up the Stewn. This is indeed a fortunate circumstance for which we as a planet can be grateful. All we have to do is come in and mine it out. After the Stewn are gone. It goes without saying that the Stewn invasion of Cleck was completely contrary to accepted norms of interstellar law. Earth stepped in to stop the invasion and right a terrible wrong. Our motive was the restoration of justice. We lost a lot of good people in the process. Some may have been your comrades. But it was worth it. The Clex needed us. They really did. So here we are. Revel in your duties. Accept the accolades that are sure to be showered upon you. EQUIPMENT TRANSLATOR. You have been issued a translation device. Keep it on your person at all times. The Clex are a touchy species. If they believe you do not understand them, they are liable to grab you with some vehemence and may inadvertently tear off one of your limbs. This will upset them terribly. Also, make sure your translation device has fresh batteries. GOGGLES. Air on Cleck is very moist and has a high acidic content. This does not bother the Clex, but will make your eyes burn if you are exposed to it too long. The specially designed goggles you have been issued will alleviate this problem. MRE. You cant eat Clex food. If you tried, it would eat you. Bring your own food. The above items are in addition to your standard gear, NOT a replacement for same. FIRST CONTACT Clex have very long tongues. Two of them each. Upon first meeting you, they will extend one or more of their tongues, place them on your person, and taste you for several seconds. Do not be alarmed. Few of your fellow soldiers have succumbed to the corrosive juices that coats a Clex tongue. And the ones that did werent wearing proper gear no matter what rumors youve heard. After the tasting, be sure to spit on the ground. This is their custom, and by doing so you convey the message that you respect their customs. Your spitting will elicit strange buzzing noises from the Clex. Our intelligence has convinced us that this is their equivalent of laughter. It is an indication that they appreciate the expulsion of saliva. Use this fact to help you. Those soldiers who do not spit sometimes end up in sick bay with severe injuries. CLEX CHARACTER We know youve heard stories about the Clex. That they are cowardly, that they eat children, and that they will not defend themselves. Dont you believe it. It has been widely reported that no Clex has ever been seen eating its own child. Not once. Also, while it is true that they cowered in their cities while their enemies, the Stewn, rained destruction across their planet, when it came time, the Clex were very willing to help us defeat the Stewn. They offered us unlimited access to their food stores, even though we could not eat any of it, and they tended to some of our wounded when we could not get to them. A few of those even survived. You may also hear rumors that the Clex resent our presence. Nothing could be further from the truth. They respect our fighting ability and our amazing spirit and skills. The cold hard truth is this: Clex can fight but usually choose not to because of their religious beliefs, which include a strong pacifist streak. Recall our devotion to religious freedom. It is a cornerstone of a humanitarian society. Do not mock or criticize the Clex for adhering to their religious principles, even if it puts you in danger. Youre a soldier. You live for danger, right? Remember, we are here to help the Clex, not to judge them. FAMILY LIFE After initial contact with a Clex, you may be invited into their homes. Accept the invitation gracefully. The Clex couple constantly. Several times a day. Your presence in their house will not deter them. Try not to comment. Also, try not to watch. For your own good. Once in a Clex home, you will be pounced on by their children. Do not be alarmed. Few of them are lethal. Slimy and smelly, but not lethal. Clex generally have many children. Each house will harbor at least a dozen, often more. This does not mean they breed uncontrollably. On the contrary, they could in fact have dozens more children than they do, but they restrain themselves to help preserve the resources of their planet. Such an attitude is well worthy of our respect. You will sometimes be offered one or more of their children as a gift. If this happens, you must immediately hit the button on your translator marked with the big NO in bright red glowing letters. The phrase that comes out of it will be the Clex version of the following: I greatly appreciate your kind offer but must decline at this time. I hope you understand. Practice hitting this button rapidly and accurately. The Clex like to sing. At first their songs will be hard on your ears. Think of pigs going to slaughter. Mixed with fingernails on chalkboard. Sound disgusting? Well, music is an acquired taste. Youll get used to it. FIELD WORK Although it is fun and instructive, not to mention horizon broadening, to spend time with aliens and alien culture, do not forget your reason for being on Cleck. Be as polite as necessary to the Clex, but keep your wits about you and focus on the mission. Which is killing Stewn. The best way to kill a Stewn is by blunt force. You have been issued a metal baton for the purpose. If you should lose it, a heavy stick will do. You can find an abundant assortment of good strong sticks in the Cleck countryside. They will have thorns on them. Wear your gloves. Stewn used to congregate in great flocks, gathering in more or less exposed locations to launch their attacks on Clex houses and towns. That was before we defeated them. Now they generally cower in caves and such. This one fact solves the issue of telling a Clex from a Stewn. Clex are our friends and greet us openly. Stewn hide. Burn this fact into your brain, because, honestly, theres no other way to tell them apart. They look almost identical. I dont need to tell you that looks can be deceiving. Clex are our friends. Stewn are our enemies. Very simple. By the time you see them, the Stewn will be mostly unarmed. Many will be feeble from lack of food. After all, we cut off their supply lines. A good number of the Stewn will be close to death when you find them anyway, so you may think of your actions as being merciful. Humanitarian would be a good word to keep in mind. Especially when you return to Earth after your mission and are asked about your activities by civilians. Remember not to disturb the Clex while you go about your duties. They do not like to be bothered with such things. The Clex, as you may have surmised from what you have read so far, are a very refined and honorable species. They are expected to be a great help to us when we gather our forces to invade the Stewn home planet. With luck, you will be part of that campaign, but do not get ahead of yourself. That is at least a year or so in the future. SOME CAUTIONS Occasionally a Clex will offer to accompany you on your missions. This is a tricky situation. In general it is best to discourage such participation; however, certain individual Clex can be persistent and persuasive. Here is the problem: Once a Stewn gets within smelling distance of a Clex, all its latent hostility and murderous intent rises to the surface and you have a very dangerous Stewn on your hands. The remedy is to keep Clex away from Stewn. If a Clex offers to help, use your NO button. If that does not work, allow the Clex to come with you, but dispatch it at your earliest opportunity. Away from any prying eyes. You will thank yourself later. SOME FINAL THOUGHTS Rumors are a part of military life. We understand this. We know you hear many distasteful stories about Clex society and Clex as a species. Try to ignore these. They will only poison your attitude and make you reluctant to carry out your very important duties. Remember that the Clex are our friends. As such, we do not betray or hurt them unless absolutely necessary for the good of the mission, which, ultimately, is for their good as well. Use your superior intellect and killing power with discretion. Harm a Clex only when circumstances make all other options unfeasible. THANK YOU Finally, on behalf of a grateful planet, which will benefit tremendously from your brave and necessary mission, let me offer my heartfelt thanks for your unselfish and unflinching duty. You make us all proud to be human.
Published on Jun 14, 2011
by G.M. Molnar
Nobody tells you about the dark side of Xenoanthropology. The seedy underbelly. They just don't. It's all fancy degrees and exotic climes and "you're doing a great service for humanity, Professor," and then you're smack dab in the center of a Jimbonarian strip club watching the extraterrestrial equivalent of a Chippendale dancer. But you're getting ahead of yourself.
Published on Sep 20, 2019
by Christian Monson
Gebra Mahara has found a suitor, but he lives on the Geborian home world, three star systems away. Mahara has chosen my own love Arina to be carrier, and so soon I must bid her farewell. "It's not fair," I say to Arina. We're lying in our hammock next to the artificial lake outside Mahara's palace. "She could choose anyone to be carrier. Why you?"
Published on Aug 25, 2016
by Irene Montaner
The Fermi Paradox stopped being a paradox the very moment that Tinder was hijacked. The proliferation of profiles with pictures of unearthly creatures with unspeakable names was considered a hoax at first. Until the first of them landed on our planet. A short but well-built humanoid with fully black eyes and a round mouth filled with several lines of sharp teeth. He might have passed for one of us but his cone head gave him away. He had come for a date with a lonely girl who lived in a Scottish suburb. He liked the whiskey but not the girl and having drunk too much of the good thing, he was zigzagging his flying saucer across the sky, unable to even reach the stratosphere. That's when the authorities spotted him. Of all the useless stuff on the internet, the aliens had to focus on a dating app. It turns out that outer space is as cold and dark as it seems to us and most extraterrestrial folks are looking at us for some tender loving and a warmer home. They have been probably mislead by all our bragging about our abilities in and out of bed. And our soppy love songs as well. But apparently that's enough for some.
Published on Nov 19, 2018
by Lisa Nohealani Morton
I've decided to blame the aliens for the way my petunias died without blooming this year. Everyone blames them for something. The business journals blame their disinterest in trade for the length of this recession; the financial community is supposed to be in shock over the fact that Earth isn't "galactically competitive." The Catholic Church blames them for the precipitous drop-off in Mass attendance.
Published on Jun 1, 2012
by Templeton Moss
John poured another measure of wine into Greg's glass. Greg accepted it gratefully and took a sip. The hand that wasn't holding his wineglass was holding Cindy's hand. He was reluctant to let go as the feeling of her hand in his gave him confidence and courage, both of which he would need tonight.
Published on Jan 22, 2021
by Samantha Murray
He wore her heart on his sleeve. It was where he kept all of his trophies. Stitched into the ceremonial garment that proclaimed him Gar-rag the Victor. He had seven now; seven life organs from seven species from seven planets. Seven was lucky, he knew that too, and he held himself with more than his usual pride.
Published on Oct 15, 2012
by Samantha Murray
1: Where a Monster Moves In Next Door to Marnie. "You shouldn't call them that," says Carl, her son. It doesn't really make sense to call them monsters, but somehow the name has stuck. They look human, mostly. Some small differences; they are very pale, their noses are small. And then the eyes. They remind Marnie of cartoons of people--manga maybe--where the eyes take up most of the face. She knows that in infants and young animals large eyes are designed to bring out protective and nurturing instincts. She remembers when Carl and Callie were babies, and how she would look into their eyes and drown in love. She does not find the monster endearing.
Published on Apr 2, 2014
by K. C. Norton
Love does funny things to you. I know that. Still, I'm not prepared for the little tendrils of skin that come shooting out of me. They're like translucent moles, but much too long and skinny. Plus they have minds of their own. "I want them gone," I tell mother.
Published on Dec 19, 2014
by Kurt Pankau
Ever since the DarkMouth of Saydeer opened over the Nevada desert, we've lived under constant threat from the Saydeerian Brood-Hoards and their duplicitous human-imitating doppelgangers. I don't know about you, but every time I enter a room and have my DNA scanned to make sure I'm not a Saydeerian, it really brings me down, not just because of the existential threat to humanity, but also because the scanners are so grim and depressing. Well, today, we're going to do something about that. Hello. I'm Marla Corbet. Thanks for tuning in. Today on Marla Corbet: Living we're going to spruce up some of the absolutely necessary protective measures that keep all of you safe from the invaders.
Published on Mar 3, 2020
by Jez Patterson
"We have to smother it on all over. Otherwise he'll dry out. Think of it like human babies weaning onto solids. They can't produce their own mucus until they're three years old. The dependency helps reinforce the bond between child and... Moira? Are you alright?" "I can't do this, Geoff. I mean... look at me." Her sleeves were rolled up, but Lyam's baby-gloop was dribbling down her forearms as she held her hands out from her sides like a surgeon ready to operate but who'd overdone it on the disinfectant hand gel. Geoff laughed.
Published on May 2, 2013
by Gordon Pinckheard
Two tentacled viscous lumps, a Leader of the Imperium and its offshoot, had most of their eyes focused on the large grey creature beyond the metal bars. "They call it an elephant," the Leader said. "That big thing on one end is called a trunk, not a tentacle. It has only one. The little thing is useless; that's a tail."
Published on Aug 6, 2019
by Gordon Pinckheard
The scientists had anticipated that it would be difficult to communicate with aliens, but they were prepared. This was their first, and achieving communication, although difficult, was ultimately straightforward, though time-consuming. They had connected the Alien up to their best technology and led it through volumes of audio and video at high speed. Drugs kept it alert. Now it could converse, and they were proud of what they had achieved. Its craft had drifted across England, and--before it reached the sea--landed in a field outside Liverpool. It had promptly been cordoned off by the police and Army. The scientists arrived in time to prevent the Alien from being harmed by trigger happy troops and escorted it to a reception area set up in a nearby prison. The Alien's body bore the marks of the tumultuous entry into Earth's atmosphere; portions of its surface skin were torn away, its limbs severely damaged. It was secured in a cell, doctors did what they could for its wounds, and it was connected to the teach-to-talk devices.
Published on Jun 29, 2020
by John Post
1. Post: "Ariana Grande: Thank You, Next" in the MUSICVIDEOS subcommunity Comment: The way in which the spoken words cohere with the "beat" gives me pleasure. I love the Ariana Grande and her wonderful music, almost as much as I love the Justin Bieber or the rapper Eminem, whose lyrics are straight "flame."
Published on Dec 17, 2019
by Jennifer R. Povey
"I don't get it," Marius was saying. "They're...." Prue shrugged. "Aliens." She stretched a bit. "They probably think we work the way they do."
Published on Mar 29, 2019
by Stephen S. Power
1. Explaining to your kids that they're all still siblings, no matter which of your wombs they came from. Besides, most days you can't remember who came from where yourself.
Published on Nov 28, 2016
by Stephen S. Power
Our attack on the Earth city was quick, efficient and effective, but I should have made it more beautiful. When my fleet unfolded at the edge of space and I saw the world for the first time through my own eye, I realized Earthings also appreciated the higher aesthetics. The webs of blue-white light gripping the world resembled the glowing streaks of hopeful lovers darting during a mating swarm. The electromagnetic fountains bursting from countless points around the planet recalled puffs of infrared pheromones. The Earthings used darkness in surprising ways, too. Vast stretches of land, cold as oceans, gave the surrounding lights a flirtatious whimsy not unlike the way my latest lover gave its wings an ultraviolet flicker, coaxing me to chase it into the depths of night above the swarm.
Published on Sep 16, 2019
by Conor Powers-Smith
Dr. Allison Brophy stared up at the hundreds of bizarre forms arrayed around the semicircular amphitheater. Dozens of species--dozens of worlds--must have been represented in that crowded tableau. She avoided studying them too closely; the strange rainbow of unearthly shades made her eyes ache. Speculating about how she would even begin to describe their alien body schemes for publication in a scientific journal sent her mind reeling through endless, baffling labyrinths of inadequate adjectives.
Published on May 5, 2015
by Ken Poyner
Everyone knew how the Meritones wage war. In their opposing masses they gather a few furlongs apart and--like two lone piano top spiders on opposite sides of a metronome--hurl their songs at each other, each new canticle more violent and ragged than the last, each round more shockingly different from the one formed and cast from the other side. Quickly, what was an oration of similarities becomes a maelstrom of disharmonies, a clash of individual notes, a tearing of melody upon anti-melody. Their conflicts can last for days. Little by little, common soldiers are worn away either able to abide the striking sound of their enemy's songs no longer; or pulled into fatal exhaustion by the work of collecting and thrusting skyward their own harmonies.
Published on May 14, 2015
by Ken Poyner
Three blue nipples fluoresce in the dimming light. She looked more human at the bar. Perhaps a little long, a bit more angular, and the set of tentacles on her sides at the waist were obvious, but tasteful. You might imagine her an earth girl in a really good costume. Halloween perhaps. A quick trip together down a destination tube, her between me and the panel to hide the code, to this commercial room. Trust is not needed: I'll be gone in the equivalent of a few Earth days, shipped out with the rest of the dazzled crew, a man on a mission in a fresh uniform. I will be a memory she might save only for the potential to sharpen her sales pitch to Tellurians or to stretch out her wickedly whispered reputation.
Published on May 7, 2020
by Ken Poyner
You have to pay extra to ensure you have all of the Nanurian's attention. They say that once you have put out the additional cash and she physically zeros out any other trans-dimensional connections, the focused passion is almost bone crushing. But, since you exist in only this dimension, and she can project into dozens of dimensions at once, do you really defensibly know that you are renting the full force of her being? She curls on the suspended couch and smirks. Maybe she simply cruises at half speed early on as a sucker-sell, advertising a higher priced performance for later. Maybe she is doing this performance simultaneously in four or eight or sixteen dimensions, dragging--all at one time like a bag of abandoned kittens --half a dozen customers to bridled or unbridled ecstasy. You can wonder about it, but not for long. When her dorsal ridge slips boxing blue and her cross nano-cilia begin to wantonly whisper, her mere touch--at the premium price--no matter how it was ultimately justified, no matter whether all of her is collapsed to only you or shared with a dozen cross-dimension untallied crewmen--sends you waning in and out of furiously blind bliss and personless pleasure. If you have been fooled, you will count the days until you can afford to be fooled again. This is not so alien as you were told it would be. Look, you did not know she could do that with an access port. And you wonder how many other clients hidden in multi-dimensional physics are thinking the same thing. Then, ecstatically, you stop wondering.
Published on Oct 5, 2022
by Cat Rambo
When Bjorn and his fellows were selected to supply context for the alien overlords who kept insisting they were just there for the Earth's own protection, he'd expected something different. Warriors in exo-skeletons, four limbs with a laser in each, maybe machine intelligences with scalpel-like fingers. Instead, he found, they were soft.
Published on Mar 28, 2013
by Wayne Travis Rambo
When your ship came into our space we sent drones to discover what you were. They could not tell us, only saying you were an intelligently designed asteroid with a creature inside. They said you were safe, and we could not have known how wrong they were. We launched ourselves on wings made of thoughts and flew to you, quick as quarks. A thousand bodies, we flew with one mind. We came to the simple asteroid you traveled in, made of aluminum and dust, a hollow bubble of your own waste. We slipped inside, sliding thin bodies in between the molecules of your container. You were unable to perceive us and we unable to hear you.
Published on Mar 27, 2015
by Robert Reed
Ask people what they believe. Approach them on the street or at work, or better yet, visit their homes at dinnertime. Carry clipboards and tablets along with bright unthreatening smiles. Beg for a moment of their time and some careful thought. Tell them that you are doing a survey, and when they seem agreeable, pose one question. "What would it take to conquer the world?"
Published on Sep 18, 2012
by Robert Reed
Saturday night was scheduled to be our game night. Except that nobody ever told me the schedule. My son was unfolding the Monopoly board. My wife claimed that we had talked this through days ago. I claimed that I'd been more preoccupied than usual, which was the truth. I explained to both of them that I couldn't play just now. JB was waiting for my call, and this was important. My son ignored me, sorting money and cards into neat piles, while my wife stared at me in that special way of hers. "Give me five minutes," I begged.
Published on Feb 3, 2012
by Luc Reid
Dear Persons Who Have Evolved on the Earth, Please excuse this interruption of your fascinatingly disturbed culture. We will attempt to communicate in one of your languages, but it is difficult to adapt our reference-laden, parenthetical, simplest mode of communication to your clumsy face-noises and adorable little picture-symbols.
Published on Sep 9, 2013
by Michael Adam Robson
Argos scanned another slice of the night sky, searching for secret messages written in the swirling stars and nebulae. Over the years he had learned to link with other telescopes in orbit, and larger facilities on the ground, extending his own limited senses. He didn't think his creators would mind--he was doing this for them, after all. They had tasked him with a very important mission! With his hundred unblinking eyes, he drank in the visible spectrum, the smoldering red embers of ancient dwarf stars, the blistering blue of new giants. He looked for subtle shifts in their light and motion, hints of planets in orbit. He tasted spectroscopes, hungry for hydrocarbons, thirsty for water.
Published on Apr 29, 2021
by Ian Rose
Ship's record of the Assembly colonial warship Eraedia, timestamp 2-18-5-8023. Recovered after the Slaughter of Pramis, 8023-25. Begin transcript: 1. The Judge
Published on Jun 26, 2014
by N. R. M. Roshak
Because in the years since their spaceship landed and they streamed out onto the steppe by the hundreds, they have not attempted to communicate with us even once. Not by voice, scent, radio, microwave, light, vibration nor by any other means we could imagine.
Published on Jun 13, 2017
by Spencer Sandoval
Day 1: This morning, our satellites picked up a radio signal originating from somewhere near the edge of our galaxy. A couple of us think it's more than the usual static background noise we sometimes pick up. Maybe a lot more. We've decided to keep it quiet until we can understand what we're actually hearing. But I think I'll tell Molly. She'll probably be more excited than I am, and that's saying a lot.
Published on Mar 25, 2014
by Jason Sanford
The plains rolled out before Aiesha, all buffalo grass and forever sky drowning to the dusk's easy light. Aiesha sat on the weather-worn porch of her grandpa's farm house, flipping page after page of her history textbook--unread, the words blurring to elsewhere. Away! they whispered. Go! they sighed. Despite this urge, Aiesha knew she was stuck. Might as well sink her boots through the porch's half-rotten planks and never move again.
Published on Apr 1, 2011
by Erica L. Satifka
The telltale heat signature lights up Foster's screen like a Roman candle. "That one," she says, pointing at the blocky warehouse. Two interns peel off and barrel down the hill to where the second vehicle is parked behind a stand of trees. A few minutes later, Foster hears a muffled gunshot. The orange splotch on the screen slowly fades.
Published on Oct 17, 2017
by Peter A Schaefer
Felton Bruder paced in his boxing shorts and sweats. His manager looked up from his phone. "Easy, champ. Relax. This is just like any other fight you've been in, alien or not." "You know it ain't." Felton kept pacing. "Every other fight, I've seen the fighter in action. This 'Bayaran,' I don't even know what he looks like."
Published on Jan 5, 2017
by Peter A Schaefer
He surprised her the first time they had sex. After that, she watched him more closely. Now that she knew what to look for, she could see little irregularities, barely curiosities if she hadn't been suspicious. He brought his food into his mouth with his lips more than his fork, and he barely seemed to chew. His bathroom breaks were infrequent at best. He only ever smelled of his aftershave or deodorant, never of sweat or musk. She confronted him after a week. "So, how long have you been pretending to be human?"
Published on Feb 9, 2017
by Rene Sears
The vitamins stick in my throat worse than the old pre-natals, but I force myself to swallow. The babies need the nutrients, and they'll suck them right out of my body whether there's enough for all three of us or not. I make sure to switch them every time so each child nurses on a different side in case one breast produces more milk. The invaders don't care if Christophe gets as much as the other one--he's only human, after all--but I do.
Published on Jan 14, 2014
by Katherine Heath Shaeffer
Our alien overlords meant us no harm. I understand the frustration and resentment that this sentiment will no doubt inspire.
Published on Jun 5, 2012
by Mitchell Shanklin
Once upon every time, in the thin spaces wedged between possible realities, a species of poets swims behind the stars. Naturally, they spend most of their time gathering inspiration. Even with five nostrils, each the size of a small galaxy, it can take thousands of years for a poet to catch the scent of a ripened world. It is not a simple thing.
Published on Jun 5, 2020
by Alex Shvartsman
The investigators arrived in the morning. Father Laughlin and Father Sauer trudged through the dense, chilly fog from their shuttle to the spaceport terminal just as the twin suns of the Tau system began to paint the eastern horizon in yellow hues. "Thank Christ you're finally here," said Abbot Fierni, who was waiting for them in the relative warmth of the terminal. "I've been bombarding the Vatican with messages for weeks. He's on to The First Epistle of John by now and should be finished within days. I fervently prayed that you would arrive in time to witness the miracle firsthand."
Published on Dec 27, 2012
by Alex Shvartsman
We listen to the spidersong. The spiders are far away, just at the edge of our senses, whispering a haunting and beautiful melody into our minds. The grown-ups are oblivious, as always. They are having several conversations at once around the campfire, laughing and gossiping. It's a nuisance because we can't enjoy the spidersong nearly as well, not with all the distraction. We use a reliable trick--we have Sheila ask for a story. Sheila is the youngest and she hates to speak using words even more than the rest of us, but we nudge her along, and she tugs on old Jens' coat. He is only too happy to oblige. Kids and grown-ups alike gather around the fire. Everyone else quiets down and settles in to listen to Jens.
Published on Oct 17, 2011
by Marge Simon
Let's say she obtained a green card, stating she was a formerly a resident of the Isle of Man. She got away with it, too. No problem for a confident young woman and being attractive helped as well. As she was already a fine specimen of humanoid, any slight difference was easy to mask. We don't know how such inter-galactic travel in so short a time was possible, but we suspend our disbelief. Surely we can only guess why she selected a small college in the northeastern USA. Perhaps the scholarly population would best suit her species' intents and needs for intellectual study without attracting attention. With that in mind, let's say she joined an online dating service. Within due time, a certain shy young man happened upon her photo. After a brief exchange, they arranged to meet. When all's said and done, there is no logical explanation for the rest of what happened.
Published on Jan 22, 2018
by Marge Simon
A giant silver ship burst though the Great Blue Dome and hurtled toward the earth. There was an explosion that shook the ground. The native found her in the wreckage. He prodded her with his foot. She whimpered, so he squatted down to watch until she coughed and sat up. He tried the signal for friendship, but her eyes narrowed and she struggled to stand. Back a few paces, he squatted again, curious. Her hair was very long. He liked that. None of his kind had hair so long. It was a sign of great beauty. Her skin was a strange color. Not the same as his, but not offensive to behold. And her eyes were the color of the sky in contrast to his own, which were the normal deep red.
Published on Dec 1, 2011
by Brent C. Smith
Have you seen her? Shesztallzandzslenderzandztiltszherzheadztozthezsidezwhen she studies you. Her face is a mosaic of mismatched pieces: eyes too large, mouth too small. Her spiky copper hair brightens to red at the tips. Completely natural, or at least Ive never seen it change. Shes not pretty, but she has one of those faces that you notice. The kind you sneak another peek at when you think shes not looking. She fascinates. The first time I met her, I was stopped at a light, drumming the wheel, in a hurry to get elsewhere. She stood, hunched in a downpour on the curb looking lost and bewildered. I rolled down the window and asked if she needed a lift. She shrugged and folded herself into the passenger seat. I asked where she needed to go and she shrugged again. Im just visiting here, she said. Something about her intrigued me, even then, so I said, You can stay at my place. She smiled as if the gesture was new to her. I loaned her a t-shirt and pants that were only a little too long to replace her wet clothes. She emerged from the bathroom, exotic wrapped in plain. The t-shirt she wore inside-out, and somehow that appealed to me. I said nothing. I invited her to stay as long as she liked. She shrugged. Im only visiting, she said. But she stayed, and the rhythm of her presence settled in my space. We climbed to the roof of my apartment one night, and lay on a blanket, looking at the stars. She pointed them out and gave them names Ive never heard and wove stories about them. A garden world orbits that one. It has red flowers as big as your head that drift in the breeze. There is the home of a childlike race ruled by a near-immortal. I listened to her made-up stories and ran my palm along her pale skin until her slender fingers entwined with mine. Where are _you_ from? I asked. Far away. She pointed to another star and spun a tale of a restless traveler who once lived there. She talked nonsense as she drifted into sleep next to me, the smell of her skin--like cinnamon turned sideways--comforting in the dark. Simplicity suits me, she would mutter, or, I wish I could stay. When I woke her up to ask what she meant, she would look at me with her near-violet eyes and shrug and close them once more, leaving me to watch her pulse dance a little too slowly in her throat. Her quirks enamored me. The way she nibbled at her food as if each taste might surprise her. Or how she stopped to smell each item we passed in the store. Her insistence on finding Aldebaran each night, and how she grew despondent when clouds obscured it. I would pull her head to my shoulder and whisper old songs in her ear until she fell asleep. I sensed mystery in her and asked questions, hoping to discover her secrets. She listed the elements that made up the food we ate, the air we breathed. I asked her how things worked and she told me: the television, weather patterns, the space shuttle. Where is Canada? I asked, or, Who was the first man on the moon? She shrugged and sang along with the radio, her voice adding notes between notes in a way that disturbed me even as it sent shivers through my skin. The smallest things fascinated her, everyday happenings so common Id forgotten to notice them. A lone dandelion. Sun against the universe of grass. Fog glowing with streetlight as it rolled up from the bay. Discordant cricket music in the last moment of daylight. She never cried, or belly-laughed, but over time I learned to sense her excitement, or anger, or when she was tired. Only a week ago, her eyes turned dark and her mood, melancholy. Whats wrong? I took her hand. What can I do? She shrugged and smiled at me and traced a line down my cheek with a cold finger. Youve been everything I came here for, she whispered. She grabbed my hand and pulled me outside and we walked in the park where she gathered fallen leaves. To remember, she said. This morning I woke up alone. My t-shirt lay folded, inside-out, in her space, and the not-quite smell of cinnamon lingered on her cold pillow. Coffee languished cold in the pot, ivoried with yesterdays cream. I drive slowly now, scanning every face along the streets. None of them are her. None of them can ever be. I struggle to remember how I lived before her. Shes strange in ways Ive never known, but she fits me. No one has ever made me feel more human. Have you seen her?
Published on Jan 23, 2014
by Lesley L. Smith
"Your cold shouldn't preclude you going down to the planet, Liam," the Doc said. Peppermint candy, chocolate milk. I was used to tasting words, or more specifically, meanings.
Published on Dec 29, 2014
by Marlan K Smith
There are those who said that the Tourists had been appearing long before we had noticed, arriving at each solar eclipse to stare up at the darkening sky with obfuscated faces. Some say they arrived in vehicles shaped like saucers or cigars, while others say they teleported, or entered through some sort of wormhole. Either way, they were here, albeit briefly, and ignored us for the most part. A few in the scientific community said that they understood why--our moon is, after all, 400 times smaller than the sun, yet also 400 times closer than the sun. This ratio gives the Earth nearly perfect solar eclipses, perhaps the only perfect solar eclipses in known space. They said that our solar events were something of a unique curiosity, so why wouldn’t Tourists visit. When asked why we only see the Tourists now, fringe groups with radio shows shouted conspiracy theories and government coverups. But other groups suggested that maybe they just didn’t care, that maybe we were so insignificant they simply didn’t mind if we saw them or not. Others said it was a trap of some sort. One group wondered if maybe they wanted to communicate with us, but maybe the solar radiation did something to make language impossible for them. If that was the case, asked skeptics, why didn’t they just communicate at night? Then there are those of us who simply wanted to know more about them. We watched with interest through drones and cameras from a distance as close as the military blockades would allow. We’d share these pictures on Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook, blurry images of tall, thin, robed figures, covered in translucent cloth that, depending on who you asked, covered cogs, wheels, tentacles, crab legs, dozens of smaller creatures in a stack, one giant snail foot, springs, or roots. A few individuals claimed to have met the Tourists, but nobody believed them. We hardly believed anyone anymore. Only one person had met them, in fact. When Harold Lancaster PhD, Exobiologist, and researcher for Cambridge, met them, he spent approximately ten minutes posing questions. Some say that the Tourists responded in perfect English, others say Hindi, Spanish, Swahili, or Mandarin. Depending on who you ask, the conversation was short or long, was humorous or solemn, was full of insights or completely baffling. When Harold Lancaster’s body liquified in his plastic suit, speculation emerged that it was because he had asked too many questions, or that the Tourists gave off some yet unknown type of radiation. Others suggested it was because the UK government didn’t want him to share what he had learned and that they had assassinated him, while some suggested that the information shared by the Tourists was a kind of weapon in of itself. A few said it was simply because Harold was just extremely annoying. People who knew Harold confirmed this, but others didn’t believe them. When the Tourists left, as they typically did after every eclipse, whether it be Indonesia, Greenland, Idaho, or New Zealand, they always left something behind, usually small things, like the seven-sided metal bolt that was discovered in the grass by a seven-year-old Argentinian boy named Jesus Navarro. It is said that before he stopped breathing, the bolt allowed him to walk through walls. Some claimed that Jesus appeared as a vaporous figure in a sweat shop outside Bangkok. Then there are those who believe Jesus Navarro never existed at all. A woman named Martha Green in Idaho Falls fed a story to reporters that she had discovered what looked like an antique typewriter in her barn a month after the eclipse in August 2017. Martha claimed that when she had approached the object, it continued to rise upward, turning slowly inside out, until it vanished through a small burning hole in the wooden roof. These discarded objects were suspected to be weapons by some, while others saw them as trash, objects discarded by the Tourists, so advanced we had no chance of understanding them. They claim the objects were as advanced to us as a Styrofoam cup is to an ant--useless and wasteful, and completely beyond our comprehension. Another group suggested these were a puzzle, designed to test us. So, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to collect them all, or at least as many as they could. A Chinese billionaire, who went by Z_Ma began collecting these discarded objects, paying anonymously, and in Bitcoin, and some say the people who successfully sold to Z_Ma never had to work another day in their lives. People claimed that he or she was a celebrity, or a businessman, or simply a front for a government agency, or that he was actually a team of hackers, or an alien himself, or that he was a fifteen-year-old engineering prodigy. In the end, he said he had collected enough in five years to make something wonderful. Z_Ma announced that the partially assembled device would make the freight industry obsolete and usher in a new Golden Age of shipping logistics. Another video claimed that it was a gateway to wherever the Tourists came from, or that it was just a hoax. Depending on who you ask, the video of his was staged. Doubters mentioned on comment boards that if you check the IP address, you can clearly see it wasn’t from China, but rather, was uploaded in Russia, routed through Brazil, and then made to look Chinese. It was said that if you looked closely at the pixels, you could see flaws in the editing that proved it to be fake, that the device was never turned on at all. People said that the resulting incident was staged, that the three-million Chinese citizens who erupted into steaming geysers of blood never existed in the first place, that the families of the victims were crisis actors, or that the strange, glossy, flattened ground was all CGI, a trick by the Chinese government. Even after every metal object within a 500-mile radius was turned into a perfect sphere, and every building transformed into a glass cube that hovered three inches off the ground, when water rose skyward for a week, it became hard to deny that the event had, in fact, happened. The destruction could be seen from space, though some say the satellite imagery was faked as well. Z_Ma was dead, or not, or never existed to begin with, or was spoofed and impersonated by 4Chan, or deepfaked, or transported to the Tourist home world. Some disagree. In the end, people still watch eclipses, still watch the Tourists watching eclipses, still collect the trash from the Tourists watching eclipses, or so they claim. Some say the Tourists only wanted to see something they hadn’t seen before, that they only wanted to be left alone while they watched. I am inclined, at least, to believe that much.
Published on Jan 28, 2022
by Christina Sng
Its face is still. I peer warily at the body sitting at the bottom of the sea, half-shrouded in shadows. My heart pounds in the dark, bubbles escaping to the surface just as I long to, but cannot.
Published on Feb 4, 2019
by Alex Sobel
"Hands up or I'll vaporize all of you," Dan says. He doesn't intend to, but years of pretend play with his friends takes over and he puts up his right hand in a fake gun shape, thumb pointed upward, one finger out, the five remaining fingers curled into his palms. "Can you try it again, but this time maybe... give us more?" says one of the three men behind the desk. Is he the casting director? They all look the same. "You hate this man, really sell it to us."
Published on Sep 14, 2018
by D.A. Xiaolin Spires
They collected our salivas--they did, with their gleaming fifty mirror-crafted eyes, their shards of cilia from their wrists. They let our spittle drop into beakers--drip, drip. When the beakers filled up, they poured them over an infinitely rotating sphere--so agate pink and startling. Our collected slaver congealed against the stones' touch. They began to chisel into our discharge with lasers, though it would not break, not fragment, just bend a bit.
Published on Sep 19, 2019
by Steve Stanton
Destiny drove him forward like a taskmaster from the bus, up the grand entranceway into the ballroom at the Civic Centre, past the sign-in table where he received his laminates and loot bag, onward to his publisher's booth in a back corner. There it was: the fabled anthology, bright with colour but creepy enough to grab his attention. He picked up a copy to examine it closely, saw his name on the cover, third from the top, felt a surge of satisfaction. His first sale as an author. "Do you like science fiction?"
Published on Feb 7, 2011
by Joy Frances Stephenson
"We have scorched the snake, not killed it," pronounced Professor Dupree. Captain Cullen gave him a sharp glance, but it seemed he was just being pretentious as usual, quoting something--probably Shakespeare, that was his favorite. Why a starship needed a dramatist-in-residence she had never understood. She looked around at the VIP passengers gathered for her briefing.
Published on May 12, 2017
by Andrea G Stewart
1532 Mayberry Lane New Haven, BR 83623
Published on Mar 13, 2014
by Christopher Stieha
Long flash. Six second pause. Long flash. Two second pause. Flash. Six second pause. Long flash. Two second pause. Flash. Darkness was settling over the meadow, punctuated by short flashes of light. Some came from the meadow, while other flashes responded from the edge of the forest. Adam and Amy sat on the blanket, watching the call and response between the fireflies. As it grew darker, the flashes of light became more numerous.
Published on May 12, 2016
by Leanne A. Styles
"Mom, Dad," I said, "Bryn has something he needs to tell you." My brother then said the words all parents dread.
Published on Jul 4, 2017
by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman
We have returned to the alien world which defines us: for thousands of years, we've been told that this turquoise globe is home.

Thanks to electromagnetic field propulsion, it has taken us just three Terran years to arrive. That is nothing compared to the one-way, intergenerational voyage from here to Proxima which our ancestors took. They left this planet, knowing that they themselves would never be coming back, or even landing anywhere at all. It took their descendants half a millennium to reach Proxima. Endless centuries have passed since then. I think of these pioneers: I am their ambassador.
Published on Aug 12, 2022
by Molly Tea
The first time Zadie visited the coffee shop, Rahni was in the midst of explaining for the fourteenth time that no, they did not sell alcohol, no, not even an Irish coffee, to an old woman with glossy curls as springy as a vintage movie star's. Rahni never got snappy, exactly. In a place like Bean Days, with its London mix of tourists, do-gooders, grouches, and absolute weirdos (all of whom could overlap) anyone with a short temper would not have lasted long. But Rahni was tired. Because really? Alcohol in a coffee shop?
Published on Aug 9, 2019
by Steve Rasnic Tem
The two officers at the front door looked doubtful. Maybe it was the late hour. Maybe it was the less-than-pleasant neighborhood. Maybe it was the short shorts Clarence had fashioned out of aluminum foil to shield his naughty bits from alien rays. He didn't mind their skepticism--he'd been laughed at before. Which he might have tolerated better, frankly, if it hadn't been his therapist snickering through their last session.
Published on Oct 15, 2013
by E. Catherine Tobler
Document 75e: The Properties of Mr. Smith and Xm. Mesfaris Translated from the Noveana by [redacted]
Published on Oct 1, 2015
by Alice Towey
After the war, Emily takes the train to Seattle. The trip would be faster by boat, but the train is more practical, and the war has made her a practical person. (Once she would have flown, but she puts that thought from her mind.)
Published on Aug 17, 2021
by Brian Trent
Sparg had difficulty making pancakes, but he was trying. In the empty apartment, he clutched the silver bowl with one tentacle to hold it steady. With another, he attempted the far trickier business of whipping the batter as he'd seen his owners do many, many times. The bowl was bigger than he was. The counter was sticky with flour, egg, and ink.
Published on Aug 6, 2013
by Jean-Louis Trudel
"This is how the takeover will happen." "The conquest, you mean?"
Published on Sep 1, 2021
by James Valvis
The alien sat, if you called it sitting, in my tree house as I tried to explain the game of Monopoly to him. "No, no, no," I said. "You're stupider than Billy Ailes and he's been left back twice. Boardwalk is yours. You bought it and you own it. You just can't give it up. Maybe you can sell it, but if you hand over all your properties you'll lose the game."
Published on Dec 11, 2013
by James Van Pelt
"That woman is asking about you again, Dustin," said Lucienne, the grad assistant. She'd braided her hair into a blonde rope that hung down her back. Like all his grad assistants, she didn't look old enough to drive. Dustin ground the heels of his hands into his eyes. The morning sun slanted through the lab, and he realized he'd forgotten to sleep.
Published on Aug 15, 2014
by Marcus Vance
"I couldn't give up meat because I like the flavor too much." "Sure, livestock suffers. But it's the circle of life, ya know? We're designed to eat meat. Been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years. It's the taste that calls to us."
Published on Mar 28, 2019
by Marcus Vance
Giant neon koi swam through the intersection, followed by a banner for a dry-cleaning service. Never could remember what the place's name was, but I always loved driving past Fifth avenue for the fish. Tonight was no different.
Published on Apr 7, 2021
by Gregory Velloze
The Ending And they told me his story, read it for me backwards, and said that for me they would do the same. For progeny and ancestors of the Retromens had communicated with their caretaker, studying him as he studied them, generation for generation. Their lives were brief, ephemeral and short, but beautiful and longing for something greater. And there among the dendritic swarm, I heard his voice. And through his work, my father was reborn. As I studied the Retromens, every shock sent along the communicative wires revealed a plethora of thoughts, fleeting and brilliant, spread out and shared along a hundred thousand generations, and reserved in place for a hundred thousand more. For the first time in my life, I didn’t care what the peer reviews would say. They could call my work the grief-stricken madness and say I would be better off talking to the wind, but my eyes were opened. I would hear none of it. And though I was hesitant, I left my current projects to study the Retromens. My colleagues thought I was crazy, and to be honest, I almost agreed with them. “Finish my research,” my father said, “I need you to finish it,” Repeating his one request, he reminded me again and again, and every time I left the hospital, of what I ought to do. Over the course of his stay in the hospital, I visited him daily, frustrated with the lack of change in medical science. Not enough had changed to save his life. When receiving my doctorate, I was surprised by a turn for the worse in his health. It was Pancreatic Cancer, and in a few months he would be gone, and he knew he was not much longer for the Earth. I learned that he was always right. He was laughed out of universities for believing he was communicating with these small hive minds of microbiomes. My mother said that he would speak to a lump of moss if it glowed enough, and during the early stages of my career I sided against my father with the establishment of our field. My father had kept Retromens in a tube for study, as their powerful minds contained the legacies of both their ancestors and progeny. With a computer connected to send and read impulses, my father believed he was communicating with them—even though he thought their perception of time was more fluid. And he called them the Retromens. They were small and nearly unicellular, similar to nematodes in their simplistic physiological structure. But their minds were surprisingly well organized and were almost in synchrony with those of their communities. My father told me, long ago, the story of a species beyond the stars with a lifespan so quick, that its forward and backwards were one and the same. They lived over their split moments, brief yet powerful, their milliseconds containing many millions of memories that could be studied—memories preserved forwards and backwards over generations. The Beginning
Published on Oct 28, 2020
by Marie Vibbert
Jody climbed the rusty ladder to the apartment roof, Mick behind her making the metal vibrate with his heavy male steps. His face was close to her ass, which embarrassed and thrilled her. He was the hottest guy in the whole apartment complex. She was already imagining kissing him on the sun-warmed tarpaper. She turned, breathless, to help him over the lip, blushing, sure the climb had been half foreplay. "Cool." Mick gazed past her over the rooftop. Then he walked away from her and sat down against an air conditioner housing. He got his phone out.
Published on Feb 10, 2020
by Sean Vivier
It rained as they set foot on Titan. Liquid methane rolled down Bruce Villareal's suit and left a puddle beside the ice that served for ground. He noted Samira Boutros beside him, and her suit glistened wet with methane as well. The place abounded in it. Why else mine the moon for it? Mountains of ice loomed beside an entire lake of liquid methane. Beneath the impenetrable orange sky and the dark methane clouds, they saw the azotosomic native lifeforms as they swam in the lake and gathered the methane in their sacs, only to disgorge their burdens on the frozen land. Slaves to the human colonists.
Published on Oct 29, 2018
by Desmond Warzel
Another battle had been decided in humanity's favor; another system reclaimed from the Squids. Another tiny pseudopod now extruded outward from the amorphous boundary that marked where human territory left off and Squid territory began. Similar victories had been coming with such speed and frequency that, for the first time in living memory, there were hopeful whispers of an end to the generations-long stalemate and a final victory for humanity.
Published on Mar 4, 2011
by Izzy Wasserstein
Darren showed up at 7:35. I'd been at my terminal for an hour by then. He had a bruise on his cheek--a new one--and bags under his eyes. I pretended not to notice. "One of these days I'll get here before you, Felicia," he said. Not likely. I liked to be out the door before Morgan woke and back after they fell asleep.
Published on Nov 4, 2020
by Daniel Scott White & E.E. King
Notes from SETI Meeting #894 Dear Members, at last we have an answer. After years and years of searching for life on other planets, we have finally heard a sound. Sadly, it was a scream, the last gasp of a dying race. "Radio waves" whispered the alien into some interstellar translator. It was lightyears beyond our technology. It offered instant comprehension but was in no way alive. It was an intergalactic hearing aid, unobtrusive without personality. The aliens had no Siri, no Alexa. Their technologies didn’t need names, they were extensions of self, extensions to hearing, sight, and movement. It was easier to make progress when you didn't worry about AI, the intelligence I-- we-- they had created taking over. There were no issues of personhood or slavery. No, Alexa is just as alive as you. No discrimination biased on algorithms. How much they could teach us. But they were gone. They contacted us post-mortem, leaving us with a hologram message. It was like life but a little more flickery. The creature was long, elegant and silver, like mercury, like liquid beech, like a silent scream. "Radio waves." It cried. Its whisper was the susurration of wind, echoing through empty hallways. "Your radio waves are killing us. And we are not the first. "Since the first radio wave was cast into an empty night each note traveling on and outward, every frequency disrupting something. Each I Love Lucy episode, every Beatles song dealt a death blow to some distant species. You searched and searched, sending probes into distant galaxies looking for intelligent life, but with every varied oscillation another race, another planet, was gone. Currents innocuous to you have killed everything." The hologram showed us incandescent worlds, now uninhabited rock. "How many civilizations have withered under the power and reach of your signals?" The image faded leaving us alone.
Published on Mar 3, 2022
by Alison Wilgus
Ada lies on her back, her face inches from the cathedral's ceiling, and dabs at soot with moistened cotton swabs. The left elbow of the Virgin Mary looms above her, a patch of rich blue pigment emerging, the latest in a blossoming field of color she's coaxed out of the gloom. When Ada was a child, a project like this one would have warranted a team of conservators, a documentary film crew, a commemorative book of befores and afters. In her adulthood, the Calm has settled over Earth like a woolen blanket, and our interests have shriveled and retreated to our doorsteps, our driveways, to rooms with curtains drawn. The cathedral no longer holds services, and Ada tends to its treasures alone and unobserved. Or she did, for a time. Some months ago, when an angry handful organized themselves enough to launch artillery into orbit, the Calm ground an acre of their makeshift barracks into a smear of dust and blood. Now three hundred self-determined soldiers shelter beneath the cathedral, watched over by a host of marble angels. And by Ada on her platform, listening to their boots shuff on the stairs down to the catacombs.
Published on Jul 8, 2016
by John Wiswell
His name is not "Fiend." His people don't have proper mouths, and so anytime Clarissa says his name it sounds wrong. Human mouths make it sounds like "Fiend." The homonym is unseemly, but he puts up with it for her. He'll put up with anything for Clarissa. "They'll adore you, Fiend," she says, sitting up in her wheelchair to fix his tie for him. "Just be yourself."
Published on Nov 4, 2016
by Rebecca Adams Wright
***Editor's Warning: Even Humor can be disturbing, and for adults only***
Published on Jan 14, 2013
H
by Jeff Xilon
Upon command, the squad members inject the H and begin the final check of helmets, armor, ammo, guns, grenades, knives--not once, but twice, three times, again, and again--waiting for the H to kick in ...I think it's... so they can storm and swarm yes, we're coming on-line the bunker-cave-fortress as one writhing, flailing, shooting lock and load, we're going in, cutting, chopping, tearing mass of warrior drones we smell them because the H subsumes the human and connects soldier to soldier with a cocktail of virus and microbe devolving them evolving us to the level of ant soldier swarms and they we strike shoot, tear, cut, kill as one multi-body human-hydra of death and I we am are here to observe shoot, tear, cut, kill and they we are baptized in their our unholy bond with blood, and bile, and worse and as we yes are slowing down our frenzy for we are victorious and they are dead, dead, dead I wonder try not to think about... how any of us ...how do I... carry the guilt and responsibility of an ant-swarm-like human-hydra when the H is gone and we are I am staring at our my ceiling...alone.
Published on Apr 30, 2015
by Caroline M Yoachim
Five days after my mother dies, I push her into the ocean. Her body is a darker blue than mine, iridescent and nearly purple. Her carapace is brittle, and it shatters beneath the force of the waves. Her body breaks down into a coarse grit that washes up onto the shimmering blue sand of the beach. My mother's ghost is easy to find, for she had one leg shorter than the other five, which gave her an odd way of scuttling. I spot her quickly, dancing in the sea foam where the water meets the sand.
Published on Oct 8, 2012
by Caroline M. Yoachim
My best friend growing up was a Splitter named Cobalt. She was nicer than the human kids--they called me Stump because my left hand has no fingers, or Puddle-lover because I spent so much time with Cobalt. Splitters are shape-shifters, but they come from a world with low gravity, so on Earth they get squashed flat to the ground, like puddles. Cobalt got her name because no matter what color the rest of her was, her edges were always blue. She was embarrassed about it, but I thought the blue was pretty. I remember the last time I played with Cobalt. We were hanging out in the debris from a collapsed building. I collected nails and dropped them into her puddle, and she stretched them into thin strands and wove them together to make a crown. We were going to play at being royalty, but my mother called me in for dinner. Cobalt let me take the crown. I wore it to bed that night, and dreamed I was a queen.
Published on Aug 26, 2013
by Ree Young
A simple story about hobos and the kind-hearted strangers they find along their path.
Published on Sep 8, 2010
by Tim Yu
July 17th, 2059: Aliens are coming. Something about a NASA probe getting evaporated by giant circular disks somewhere near Alpha Centauri. Governments around the globe have gotten together and announced a permanent truce. In the face of this existential crisis, it was heartwarming to see that we were finally putting aside our petty differences to form a truly unified humanity. The aliens won't be the end of us!
Published on Jan 26, 2021
by Steve Zisson
The G'narlons were coming any moment for the harvest. Dawnte liked to wait as long as she could, almost to the last minute. She didn't want her son Charlie to be away from her any longer than he had to be.
Published on Apr 29, 2014
by Jason P. Burnham
The only thing saving Dr. Claire McClintock from certain death was the alien's misunderstanding of human units of measure.

"No, no, I'm afraid you've located the wrong human," Claire said through the alien's translator apparatus, a black, plastic-looking thing that was wrapped around the creature's solitary, pink forehead tentacle. The rest of the alien looked downright humanoid, excepting the forehead tentacle and its blue skin.
Published on Sep 21, 2022
by k. b. dalai
Roger swiveled his chair to gaze out his study window, half-seeing his wife's garden bloom into spring, relishing the down time. The doorbell rang and Roger smiled, listening to his wife Ann plead to their ten-year-old son to quit stomping down the stairs three at a time. Five minutes later, Mike Watson, Roger's boss at the National Reconnaissance Office, walked into the study, shutting the door behind him. Roger noted with disgust Mike's bulging attach case. "No way, Mike, this is my first weekend off in over three months."
Published on Apr 22, 2013
by Jetse de Vries
WARNING: trying First Contact can cause genocide, xenocide, death, injury, and/or mysterious disappearances. CAUTION: trying First Contact can cause enslavement, colonialism, frustration, bafflement, extreme cultural diffusion, and/or enlightenment.
Published on Nov 11, 2013
by jez patterson
It wasn't necessary to read the scientific studies showing that humans possessed a high level of intelligence and a complex and expressive language--it was these precise qualities that made them such excellent pets. Of course, "pets" didn't really do justice to their function. Their ability to empathize whilst also being creatively unpredictable made them excellent companions in stimulating the elderly and animating the lonely.
Published on Dec 23, 2014