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"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.

The Trip

Christine Layton lives in the Chihuahuan desert. Her nonfiction writing can be found on Cracked.com and her fiction writing can be found aboard an alien spaceship in another dimension.

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."
"I'm just going to take a look," Clark said calmly. He walked slowly toward the ship.
The saucer was made of metal that gleamed in the mid-morning sun. When Clark reached the space ship he peered into the dome. Then he turned and started to call out to Marcy. And then he vanished.
Just one month later there had already been more than a dozen attempts to examine the wreckage. Everyone who came close to, or touched the strange ship would suddenly disappear into thin air. The story was an international sensation. Claims that it was a hoax were disproved as again and again people vanished when they came close to the crashed saucer.
There were many theories about the disappearances. Some thought the ship had a self-defense mechanism that would eliminate anyone who tried to touch it. This theory had inconsistencies, though. Sometimes a person would walk around the ship two or three times before they disappeared. Other times they would disappear immediately, without even coming close enough to touch the ship itself.
Others saw the space ship as the beacon for a new religion. They came to worship at its perimeter and wait for the answers to all life's questions. There were a few who saw it as a form of judgment. "Let he who has not sinned step forward and touch the vessel," they preached. And none who had gone so far were worthy.
Martin Pope and his colleague Neil Albertson were both men of science. They were fellow physicists at the local university. And yet, they could not reach a consensus on the mysterious crashed space ship. Riding in Pope's car toward the site they discussed the anomaly.
"Sloppy science," Albertson declared. In the passenger's seat he shook his hands. "There is absolutely no proof for a separate dimension."
Pope kept his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road. He replied evenly, "There's one way to prove it."
Albertson gave his colleague an exasperated look. "Disappearing into thin air proves nothing to those left behind."
"Are you so certain it's something bad?" Martin Pope asked with a calm patience.
"No! I'm not certain of anything. That's my point." Albertson bristled. "You keep insisting we've made 'contact.' You say it's a gateway to another dimension. Where's the proof?"
Pope drove on in silence for a moment before he responded. "I think it's an escape hatch. They knew they were crashing and they activated a doorway to their dimension, or their world. And the doorway is still standing open. Each of the people who have vanished so far could very well be standing on a new world, speaking to a new race. It's an almost overwhelming thought!" Pope gripped the wheel as he spoke.
"And if it's not?" Albertson said. But Dr. Pope didn't reply. He was lost in his own thoughts. They drove on.
When they arrived at the site, Dr. Pope and Dr. Albertson had to navigate through the reporters and spectators who were crowding the woods.
"Martin... I'm begging you to reconsider. Don't do this. It's not any kind of a scientific approach. It's, well it's ludicrous!" Albertson tugged at his friend's arm.
Pope loosened his tie and shook his head. "You're right." He said. "It's not a scientific approach. It's a leap of faith." He pulled away from his friend's grasp and began to walk slowly into the clearing.
One by one everyone turned to look as Martin Pope deliberately removed his glasses, folded them, and placed them in his shirt pocket. He began to walk across the clearing to the saucer.
"Martin, don't!" Albertson's voice was a hoarse whisper, but it seemed to echo above the silent crowd.
Pope reached the space ship. He lifted a tentative hand and touched the cool shiny metal. The hair on his arms prickled. Pope felt a warm heat begin to spread through his core. He looked up.
As Albertson watched from the crowd, a smile spread on Martin Pope's face. Small at first, but it grew until it showed a beaming radiance. Martin looked like a man utterly at peace with the world. He looked beautiful. And then he vanished.
Moments later as the onlookers receded from the spectacle, Albertson lingered at the edge of the clearing. He stared at the place Martin had been and he tried to think about where his friend might have gone. Could it be possible? Could Martin really have transported to another dimension or another world? Was his friend now walking on the surface of Mars? Was he being greeted by the ambassador of Venus? Albertson's gaze slowly tilted upward. He stared up at the evening sky and pondered the immensity of space, and the vastness of possibilities therein.
Up in the sky, the aliens leaned forward in their seats. "Look there," the first said. "That one's looking right at us. Do you think he sees us?"
"No. The cloud blind on our ship is excellent. He can't see us," the second replied.
"I guess not. I do like the cloud blind. And you were right," the first said. "The flying saucer decoy is a good draw."
"Counting that last one I'm up to 9. How many have you zapped?"
"Nine! I'm at seven. The next one's mine." The alien leveled his disintegration rifle and they sat back to wait for the next human to approach the decoy. It had been a good trip so far.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 28th, 2014

Author Comments

This story was inspired by the inimitable classic The Twilight Zone, where every narrative has a twist and every protagonist is doomed from the start. If we believe alien life exists in the universe we must also consider the strong possibility that those aliens don't give a damn about us. In the end, love of the unknown is always an unrequited love.

- Christine M Layton
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