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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

Biotech


There are many experts who believe that, while most current exciting developments have been in computers and software, the next wave will be biotech-driven. From where we stand now, humans gaining power to control the manifestation of genes would feel like magic. The complexity of our ecosystem is so much greater than we understand, leaving possibilities from devestation to utopia, and just about any stop inbetween.

by Mary Alexandra Agner
I started this morning in line at the farm standoff 38. Deep July and muggy enough for gnats to get trapped in water bubbles. When I got to the front, I asked Edith Rebecca for eight ears of corn--our code. She took long enough picking them out that the kid behind me started making jokes: was she counting the kernels?
Published on Mar 2, 2022
by Kara Allen
"Ready?" The neurotech waves at the plastic chips lying on the table between us. I lace my hand in Claire's, flash her a wavering smile. "Ready," she says for both of us.
Published on Feb 20, 2020
by Ken Altabef
The receptionist, dressed in a prim white pantsuit, taps at her keyboard. "Yes. I see. If you'll just wait a moment Mr. Wodehouse, someone will take you to your father." It turns out to be a long moment, more like twenty minutes, as I sit stewing over my current situation and rehash all the arguments I might use to convince dear old Dad to help me. His lawyer had expressly forbidden me to talk to him about money again. That was almost funny, coming from a professional leech like old McCann. I imagine ripping up the injunction, sneering back at him and saying, He's my father, I'll talk to him about money if I want!
Published on Aug 11, 2017
by Elizabeth Archer
She looked at the golden orange fish swimming in the bowl and carefully examined the fins, the scales, the huge eyes, the size. She shut her eyes and dumped the fish down the wastewater chute and pushed the button to liquefy it. "Not right yet? Malala is only seven. Will she really be able to tell it isn't the same fish?"
Published on Dec 18, 2013
by David M. Armstrong
Neurologically speaking, the fretwork of synapses in the bovine frontal lobe resembles that of hominids. In the human brain, the dominant hemisphere, known as "Broca's area," harbors the language center from which speech originates. It is this region where the cow's brain most closely mirrors that of people. Some English farmers even claim that their cattle low in a dialect particular to the region. Alistair Thorne of Ottery St. Mary states of his South Devon beef cattle, "They'll moo at you all day in a West Country burr."
Published on Feb 2, 2018
by Bo Balder
The party was for 'signed only; no naturals allowed. Charoll kept her pearled face mask on at first. She'd gotten so many adverse reactions all her life on the unruly growths that popped up all over her body when they were a child, that it felt weird and scary to take it off here.
Published on Jan 13, 2021
Rx
by Jacquelyn Bartel
The orange is for energy, the green for focus, and the midnight blue for sleep. They line the shelves, spells in handy bottles, flavored to taste. Berry and citrus on the left, chocolate and cake batter flavors on the right. I shoulder my way through the perpetual crowd to the pharmacy. The businessman standing by the bottles of cunning gives me a dirty look, like he's some sort of badass or something. Whatever. My new flavor isn't even available to the public. The bored clerk reads my prescription. Once, twice, then she swallows her gum and runs to get her boss. He comes out, white lab coat still pressed from the cleaners, and takes out his reading glasses. He nods and goes into the back once more.
Published on Jan 4, 2011
by M. Bennardo
Great-great-grandmother is receiving her doctorate in Japanese literature. Great-great-granddaughter is renewing her marriage to Marjaana Leskinen. Sister is working as a sewage engineer in Buenos Aires now. Great-aunt is vacationing in Manila.
Published on Oct 3, 2014
by Stacey Berg
Marya took a deep breath and punched the transit button. A few seconds later she stepped out of the lift into a featureless hallway in a building whose address code was only available to the right kind of people. Fortunately Marya was one of them.
Published on Jan 1, 2018
by Ben Black
The new trees aren't so different. Yes, they drop their leaves all at once instead of one at a time. Yes, the leaf piles quickly turn into quivering gelatinous blobs. Yes, these blobs have some rudimentary sentience. But they are still lovely to walk beneath, like the old trees. The sun still peeks between their leaves. Lovers still hide under them during sudden downpours. Their leaves still shiver and softly squeak if you lean against their trunks. And at least these trees remain unspoiled: you'd never carve your name in one. Not if you know what's good for you.
Published on Jun 7, 2018
by Aimee Vanessa Blume
***Editor's Warning: Brief adult language, and adult themes, in the story that follows*** "Heya, Bob! How ya feelin'?" shouted a plump, balding gentleman as a young man in a baseball cap entered the bar. The young man waved and joined the table.
Published on Aug 29, 2012
by Tim Boiteau
Once Memory Replay was affordable, Francine signed up. The tech inserted a nanowire into the corner of her eye socket, where it wormed into her neocortex. A wave of warmth spread throughout her body as the creature branched out in its preprogrammed manner, reading the detailed cortical map, hooking its filaments into stellate cells, and tracking activity through the thalami.

The tech presented Francine with a slideshow interspersed with novel "false" memories, and the wire, reading the patterns of her responses throughout its vast, growing network, made various adjustments to its brachial morphology and firing rates.
Published on Jun 8, 2022
by Bruce Boston
From my mobile station on the shifting border of the Mutant Rain Forest, I watch them come from the Northern Domes, from the slums and ghettos and the failed farms of the Wastelands, the lost ones eager to surrender to the Forest's compulsions and the ones who tremble as if they are harboring a fear they must conquer. Then there are the religious ones, fanatics who come in groups. They think they are going to convert the creatures once-human who survive beyond the border, most of them already animal or vegetable in inclination and form. They think they are going to convince them to worship Jesus or Allah or Joseph Smith. Or the latest holovangelist. I sell them satellite links that offer up-to-the-minute maps and weather forecasts for their implants and devices. How do I know if such maps and forecasts are accurate? I suspect the most accurate are far from reality. How can topographical maps on a holographic screen, shapes and lines and dots of color, even in three dimensions, portray the reality of crossing that same terrain? The searing climbs of steep hills with muscles aching in calves and thighs, or the descent into valleys so deep and thick with growth you are plunged into a shadow world where you are enveloped in a chill dark that your lanterns can't penetrate. And you have to guard your life every step of the way.
Published on Aug 21, 2015
by Forrest Brazeal
I spot the dealer easily. He's leaning, not quite loitering, against the rack of propane tanks outside the gas station mini-mart: poised for sudden business or hasty disappearance, standing out just enough not to call attention to himself. It's now or never, I decide. I wander over to the propane rack and spend a minute examining the fine print on the tanks. "Got anything?" I mumble, keeping my head down.
Published on Sep 7, 2018
by Forrest Brazeal
MONDAY "Tell me your secret," I said.
Published on Jul 12, 2018
by Eric Brown
So... today is when I edit myself. I should be through in an hour, maybe two. I have a lot to get rid of.
Published on Nov 3, 2015
by Sarah L Byrne
Alyssa walked barefoot over the shards of broken glass in the road. She didn't feel a thing. Her spider-silk skin was strong as steel. The breeze fluttered the strands of her long black hair and the skirt of her short summer dress as she approached the fenced-off dead-end street. The makeshift pen was crowded with her people, the latest group to be rounded up. Some cowered fearfully on the ground, others shouted defiance at their captors. It made no difference. They'd all die just the same.
Published on Apr 24, 2014
by Tara Calaby
***Disturbing tale. Not ideal for Children*** Once a person died, it took anywhere from one to three hours before their chip went dark. Body temperature acted as the catalyst; when the corpse cooled enough, the chip entered death mode, deleting all data and the code that held it. If a chip were removed from its body, the timeframe was less predictable. Taped to a chaser's underarm or groin, they had been known to stay active for as long as half a day. From there, they could be inserted into a different body, allowing the new host to walk the world as someone else. The hard part was getting the chips in the first place. You needed a dead body, damaged beyond a loved-one's recognition. You needed a bomb.
Published on Jun 19, 2018
by Tara Campbell
Thank you so much for visiting our small town, and for choosing my shop. I am at your service. Over here you will find the creme-filled bonbons, over there the ones with nuts, and there the liqueurs. Everything is available in either milk or dark chocolate.

Indeed, that is the most popular question: why glaring? Why can't they simply look at you, or even more fundamentally, merely see? Well, if you were the one looking up at the world from your little paper doily, wouldn't you use any meager power you possessed to protect yourself?
Published on Jun 14, 2022
by Thomas K Carpenter
1. First off, let's be clear. Lobsters can die, and so can lobster-human hybrids. You're not invincible you numbskulls, so stop standing in front of speeding trains or drinking arsenic laced cocktails. The only thing being a lobster gets you is the ability to regenerate your telomere strands, which will help you live a long and prosperous life should you reduce your background level of stupidity.
Published on Mar 4, 2020
by Beth Cato
If there is any justice in the world, Priscilla Reardon's associate-hatchling will be a walking, talking pile of dung. But even if it is, everyone will probably applaud and say it's gorgeous. My whole class, Priscilla included, is from the same crche batch. We turn ten today, of age to get our requisite associate.
Published on Oct 16, 2014
by Gregg Chamberlain
Hey there, folks! Mad Melford here with another steal of a deal. I guarantee there's lots of good eatin' waiting here for you. Now Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And we all know what that means, right? You got it. Turducken!
Published on Oct 30, 2014
by Max Christopher
The memory-wipe gummy is illegal, of course, but I guess Nicolette knew somebody. What did kids do in the old days, before you could erase the previous hour's embarrassment? It must have been a nightmare. Imagine working up the courage to spill your heart only to be shot down? Nuts to that. Anyway, when Nicolette invited me to this memory-wipe party I was super pumped. I had a speech prepared for her, and the other three girls who'd been invited were pretty cute. Who knew what might happen? I didn't know the other boys. I wondered why she invited Chip, since she was all ice to him. If I asked Chip he'd say it was his overpowering charm, which accounted for a hopeless derp like me being allowed to tag along. Otherwise I'd never get invited anywhere. Maybe Chip is torching for Nicolette too, I thought. Pretty girl, handsome boy. We met in Nicolette's basement rec room. Nicolette's mom was there to make sure the fun stayed harmless. It didn't work. Nicolette was crying in a beanbag chair when the fog cleared. Nicolette's mom was kneeling by Chip, pressing a baggie of ice to his eye. "I knew this was a bad idea," she said. "God, wait till your father gets home." "My father doesn't come home," said Chip. "Ouch." "I meant Nicolette's father. Here, you hold it." Nicolette cried harder. "Don't tell Daddy," she said. "Your father will blame me, as usual. God forbid Jock Exley's little princess..." My hand hurt. One knuckle looked raw. "Why'd you hit Chip, Terry?" Nicolette said. "I don't know," I said. "He lashes out when things get too much," Chip said. He touched his eye gingerly. "Usually not so sudden. Or violent." I looked around. "Where are the others?" Chip said, "The other girls chickened out and the boys left with them." Mrs. Exley said, "Then this young idiot started pouring it all out. He'd been in love for years but never worked up the courage to lay it on the line. Huh!" she said. "He did today." "I got carried away," Chip said. "You think?" She looked at me. "And you." Her face softened. "I suppose I can't blame you. But you did set my daughter up for disappointment." "You were very sweet, Terry," Nicolette said. She honked into a tissue. "How are you remembering? You were supposed to take the gummies," I said. "Both of you." My face felt hot. "Well, we didn't," Chip said. "Take them. Before too much time goes by." "It's a bit more complicated than that," Mrs. Exley said. "It doesn't have to be," Chip said. "Please, let's just take them," Nicolette said. "I want to forget this horrible day ever happened." My hand flared with pain. "Did I hit you when you confessed you were in love with Nicolette too, Chip?" "What?" Chip said. Nicolette choked. Chip dropped the ice baggie and covered his face with his hands. "Oh, Terry." It came out muffled. "It was when Nicolette started crying." "It was going to be perfect," Nicolette said. "And at first it seemed..." "You were manipulating out of your weight class," Mrs. Exley said. "It happens. Good lesson for a girl like you." "You told Nicolette you had a thing for her," Chip said. "All this flowery mush. You and your damn books." I said, "And then you told her your feelings?" "Oh, he told everybody," Mrs. Exley said. "And I guess she picked you," I said. "I can't blame her." Chip looked up. "You can't?" "Well, you're you and I'm... just me." "Yeah. Just you." "Nicolette, why are you crying?" I said. "Idiot," she said. "Still, I can sort of see it," Mrs. Exley said, looking at me with her head tilted to one side. "See what?" I said. "You hit me when Nicolette started crying," Chip said. I blinked. "When was that?" "After I kissed you," he said. "Why did you kiss me?" I said. Nicolette made a little squeak. "Was I sad because Nicolette shot me down?" "You're not out of the gummy yet," Mrs. Exley said. "It's not the gummy," Chip said. "You can't mean he's always this thick." "It's kind of a miracle he lives through a day." "Sometimes Chip kisses the top of my head when I'm bummed out," I said. "It wasn't the top of the head," Mrs. Exley said. "He filled his chest," Nicolette said. She snuffled. "He walked over to where we were standing." "He was very purposeful," Mrs. Exley said. "So forceful," Nicolette said. "I was thrilled. He gently separated our hands--you were still holding my hand, Terry." She smiled prettily at me, eyes glistening with tears. Then her face closed. "He dropped my hand and took yours in both of his. He--" "Nicolette, stop," Chip said. He rose smoothly and stepped over to me. He had a pretty good shiner coming in. "I told you I love you, you big dumbass," he said. "You what?" "And that's what you said." "Same blank stare," Mrs. Exley said. "Like you filled a sock with nickels and brained him with it." Nicolette had regained some composure. "The dear fool, I thought, so verklempt with love for me, he doesn't know what he's doing. Then I saw this hot, dreamy look in his eyes while he looked at you. This yearning. Nobody's ever looked at me like that. Not even you, Terry, when you were saying those lovely things." "Then I kissed you." Chip closed his eyes. "It was worth getting punched." Mrs. Exley said, "It was a hell of a kiss." She shivered. "Woo." "Mom!" Chip said, "Then Nicolette started bawling, loud and startling--" "Her father likens it to an air raid siren." "He does not!" "--and you clocked me, and I guess that knocked something loose. Maybe I was counting on the gummies, but I spilled it all. Including some, uh, highly personal daydreams." Mrs. Exley said, "And you told me he only thought about sports, Nicolette." Chip groaned, scrubbed his face with his hands. "You listened for a while, or seemed to. Then you held up a hand and looked away. You reached past the pens in your nerdy pocket protector, fumbled out the gummy and swallowed it. Your hand shook." "I can still taste it," I said. "Like earwax threw up." "I'll get you a water," Mrs. Exley said. "Why didn't you guys take yours?" I said. "I was devastated," Nicolette said. "Remember, this all just happened," Chip said. "How's the hand, Terry?" "You're worried about his hand?" Nicolette said. "Look at your face!" "He doesn't know how to punch." "Why did you kiss me here?" I flung my arms around, shooting a wave of pain to my hand. "Now?" "Maybe it was the things you said to Nicolette. You were so--my heart just--I imagined you saying all that to me, only less rehearsed. And less about little denim skirts." "How long, ah--" "Years. Since your family moved here." "Dude, we skinny dipped in your grandfather's pond. That time I caught cold and felt like I was freezing to death, you climbed in bed with me to keep me warm. You held me all night while I shivered." "Best night of my life, mucous and all." My hand throbbed like a second heartbeat. "You tossed Freddy Nunn in the ditch when he called me a fa-- oh, God." "It's all right." He smiled. That warm, amused smile. No wonder Nicolette was crushing on him. "There!" Nicolette piped up. We looked at her. "I've taken my gummy," she said. "Yuck." "Here." Mrs. Exley handed around bottles of spring water. "I wondered how long you could stand seeing somebody else in the spotlight." "That's not nice." "You'll forget in a minute." "That's going to swell up," Chip said. He stepped away and scooped up the baggie of ice. He whipped a red kerchief out of his pocket and was back to me in what seemed like a second. I had always envied his effortless movement. "Here." He took my throbbing hand in his, arranged the ice baggie over my knuckles, then lashed the kerchief into place. Secure but not constricting. Done well, like everything Chip did. He reached into another pocket, then the glistening gummy was on his palm. It shook. I looked at his fingers. Long, sensitive, ghostly. Odd for an athlete, I thought. And the vulnerable flicker in his eyes. Handsome, confident Chip. Everything I wanted to be but wasn't. "Call it," he said. My protector. My hero. Standing before me with a naked heart and the black eye I gave him. My own heart was smashing my ribs. I stretched out my throbbing hand-- "Whoosh!" Nicolette said. "That made me dizzy. Who wants to go again?"
Published on Oct 8, 2021
by Neal Allen Cline
Maestro almost got his tail stuck in the door at the Chinese take-out. Of course, a full-grown tiger has to be careful in places like that. Maestro is nearly ten feet long from nose to tail and weighs a quarter of a ton. Most apex predators don't use carryout. Wild tigers catch their prey and bring it down with bloody claws. Does Maestro ever dream of running deer, of crushing backs and snapping necks?
Published on Jan 16, 2018
by Ron Collins
My dad stood in the doorway, holding his datapad in his hand. I sat cross-legged on the floor, guitar tucked under my arm, my fingertips burning against the strings. "What's this?" he said, pointing to his e-mail.
Published on Jan 23, 2012
by Susan E. Connolly
I am a Dragonslayer. My title is not Sir or Lord or Prince, but Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. My quest did not begin with a plea from a Queen or a charge from a dying adventurer. It began with a two-stage interview process and a yearlong contract with the Humane Society. I am a Dragonslayer. My reward is not a princess' hand in marriage or a half a kingdom. Rather it is a set salary deposited to my bank account on a biweekly basis, with generous medical benefits and potential for overtime.
Published on Dec 30, 2013
by Krishan Coupland
My uncle made butterflies for a living. Other custom creatures too, if the commission was high enough, but butterflies were his speciality. They would unfurl from their cocoons and shake out wet wings to reveal the most intricate patterns imaginable. A perfectly-rendered dollar bill print. Tube maps. Family photographs. Intricate leaves complete with veins. He was an artist, but not everybody recognized him as such. Daily there were protests outside the lab. Frankenstein, they called him, as though he were crafting something monstrous rather than beautiful. The eco-radicals claimed he was playing god, meddling with nature. They called his work an abomination. And, eventually, they killed him.
Published on Dec 31, 2020
by Yelena Crane
A crowd gathered outside the clinic. Memvocates held up signs against Rewind, urging anyone who passed to stay resilient and embrace our pain. Others were more violent in their approach. EJ waited ten long years to be approved for the procedure thanks to them. Ten years of carrying around the weight of a broken heart. She pointed her chin up and didn't even stop to wipe her face when they spat at her. They wouldn't get that part of her too. Their lobbying added more and more red tape around what the state could do. Because time could heal their wounds, it meant time would do it for everyone else too. Well, it hadn't.

Screw you all, she thought. Let them carry her years worth of what-ifs for a day. What if they'd been there a minute sooner? What if they'd raised him differently? What if they'd suggested different, better, therapists?
Published on Jul 26, 2022
by Mark Crofton
"A little off the top, sir?" the android surgeon said as it removed the top of my skull. "What?" I said in some alarm. I couldn't move or feel anything because of the sensory suppression field. My whole body felt like a foot that had gone to sleep.
Published on Apr 24, 2018
by Leah Cypess
He thought about declining, of course. Everyone did--but he thought longer than most, sitting on the hard-backed orange chair of the immigration office, elbows on his knees. He had been there for two hours already, and the receptionist was watching him suspiciously. For most of the people in the waiting room, who came and went while he sat, the decision seemed to take less than five minutes. Why not? It was an incredible procedure, almost entirely painless, completely free. And it would change everything. The people who had done it didn't regret their choice; he had spoken to many of them, before coming back.
Published on Feb 14, 2018
by D.A. D'Amico
Paolo was in the middle of it when Lisa walked in. He had been toying with the tiny gold pill for nearly an hour, pressing it against his thin trembling lips, tasting its burning sweetness on his tongue. He had been careful to allow just the tiniest of doses into his system--until Lisa returned. She burst in unexpectedly, shooting into the room like a bullet through glass.
Published on Feb 24, 2011
by Koji A. Dae
Behind the observation glass, James pinches Tanya. Her tender skin turns bright red. It'll turn into yet another bruise. James watches his sister cry, I watch James, and the doctor watches me.
Published on Jan 14, 2020
by Paul G Di Filippo
Copiously shedding data in the form of novel proteins in his sweat, Chester Inkley entered the public atrium of Megablast Microbiomics in a panic. The first person to see him, an attractive young receptionist named SueEllen Glanders, remained remarkably self-composed at his alarming, wild-eyed appearance. Her professional sangfroid could be attributed to the fact that Inkley was the fourth person exhibiting these symptoms to arrive at Megablast Microbiomics in the past few hours. In truth, she had been highly flustered when the first irrational victim showed up. But a large slug of strictly medicinal whiskey administered by the company's nurse, along with an immediate cash bonus and a commendation in her file from the president of MM himself, had allowed her to continue in her critical front-line duties while experts behind the scenes struggled to unravel what was happening. "May I ask the nature of your business, sir?" said SueEllen calmly, even as she was triggering the silent alarm that would bring security personnel running.
Published on Jul 13, 2018
by Gaea Dill-D'Ascoli
He was an impulse buy.
Published on Jul 7, 2011
by Amalia Dillin
...choose from a wide variety of the finest genes. Galactic athletes, interstellar stars, and even Dr. Habber's own genetic material is on file in our banks. Remember, with the right combination of traits, you'll be giving your child the best start to a successful life! "Can't you turn that off?" Ned asked. "Is there a reason I have to suffer that insult every time I show up for a check-up? How do you think that makes me feel?"
Published on Nov 9, 2011
by SJ Driscoll
The waiter had just set our dinners in front of us when Marlie stiffened and dropped her fork. "Keith," she gasped, "it's time."
Published on Sep 15, 2011
by Maya Dworsky-Rocha
Sarai watched the murder from her roof. She tried to figure out what kind of group they were by their movements--tourists usually didn't wander too far, the rich twenty-somethings got rowdy... no, this looked like a family trip. Two of the larger crows seemed to be herding the other three. A family out for a Constitutional, for some sunshine and fresh air, what a treat for the little ones!
Published on Nov 16, 2020
by Ciro Faienza
***Editor's Note: Disturbing*** Austin approached J'ae with a Dixie cup full of blue, slurring something to her about "urban" culture--read "black." How had that word persisted?
Published on Sep 3, 2014
by Ronald D Ferguson
"Recent advances in technology for rescuing extinct species have significantly improved our success rate. Bringing back some of the species lost to time is not only feasible, it appeals to the curiosity of those of us fascinated by the past. Indeed, resurrecting a lost botanical species can have many extensive economic and environmental benefits. "However, the true cost of resurrecting an animal species is not the initial expense of recovery but rather the maintenance of the species. We estimate the annual budget needed to set aside and maintain a preserve for the Tasmanian tiger to be a hundred times what we currently spend for the rescued Monk seal. The real question facing us is allocation of resources. Are we better off maintaining existing habitat to secure the remaining Macaroni penguins, or should we spend a thousand times more money to resurrect and sustain the Ivory-billed woodpecker?
Published on Sep 26, 2017
by Ephiny Gale
Izexaminezthezgirl across the table. Well dressed, in that way that seems to afflict young people, where the sleeves of the suit jacket have been properly tailored but it still gives the vague impression of playing dress-ups. Glasses. I wonder if theyre cosmetic, to try and blend into the industry. Polite smile. She fiddles subtly with a ring on her middle finger. I realise I've been silent too long, and perhaps thats getting a bit mean. "When I took this job," I say, "we had a seven day handover." The girl nods. "That must have been nice. It must have been nice to get to know each other, you know, as people." I'm thankful I only have to spend fifteen minutes with her. At most, she is a third of my age. She has only seen three shows in this theatre. "You got excellent test scores," I say. She looks bashful. "Best in the country, I'm told." With particularly high scores on 'vision,' which is laughable. I slide the saucer with the pill across the desk. It sits beside her glass of water. "Well, when you're ready." She stares at me for a moment. Takes a swig of the water and drops the pill deliberately into her mouth. It's too big to swallow comfortably. She grips the arms of the chair, her eyes snap closed and her head slumps forward, shaking slightly. I've seen twice of these before and they still worry me. I had the pill made yesterday, with the help of the technicians from NextGen Human Resources. I'm assured it only contains my professional memories. The nooks and crannies of each theatre, the first show I directed when I started here fourteen years ago. The latest statistics on what draws 30-65 year-olds (our key demographic) through the gilded doors. More than 45 years' experience condensed in a single capsule. I worry it also contains the memories of Leo and I making out in the wings, after hours on the opening night of The Merchant of Venice. The gorgeous prop that probably would've been thrown out if I hadn't rescued it and brought it home, even though I really shouldn't have. The bottles of liquor I hid in my office for a couple of years, back when I was courting a not-quite-depression. Other transgressions I have forgotten even happened, but might be in the pill regardless. I remind myself I am retiring, and even if the girl knows and tells, very little will happen to me. After a minute or so, she opens her eyes. There is something older and sadder in them. She clasps her hands on her lap and furrows her brow. "I'm sorry," she declares, "I didn't know." "About what?" "Everything you did to get here." I feel it catch in my throat, then the exhaustion, the bleeding fingers, the rejected social events, the men who left me because I was never home, the child I put off until it was too late and take a long swig of my own drink. I tell myself the girl doesn't know all of this. "Oh. Well. Not your fault," I say. "You got the best test scores. You'll do the best job." We stand and shake hands. She says she'll take good care of the theatre. I take my box of possessions and leave my office for the last time. I think of all the times I've been rejected from lack of experience. And I laugh.
Published on Jan 28, 2013
by Rob Gillham
I see her as soon as I enter the coffee shop. She is sitting alone as always. An espresso sits untouched on the table in front of her. A paperback book lies open beside it. As ever, I'm gripped by her appearance. She is weirdly, uncannily beautiful. Her shoulder-length, blonde hair makes her easy to pick out, even in a busy place like this. Yet what really stands out about her is her skin. She is not merely pale. Her complexion is the color and texture of smoothed alabaster. On closer inspection, it is almost unnaturally flawless.
Published on Jul 3, 2020
by Steve Gillies
The alarm clock read 4:40 am when I slapped it off my bedside table to no effect. The ringing didn't stop. For a second I thought about which thin-walled neighbor would wake this early before I noticed the clanging noise sounded more like a fire alarm than an alarm clock. I heard shouting from outside and it hit me that I had to get out quick. I rushed out into the hallway of my apartment building to find it black with smoke. There were two ways I could run, to the front or the back. Back was closer so that's how I went. After a few steps of groping my way through the hallway, I could tell I had chosen wrong. The smoke became impossibly thicker, almost a physical barrier to get through. And it was getting hotter. I couldn't breathe enough to turn around and find my way to the front. I had to keep going, even though it might mean walking straight into the fire. Chances were, I was going to die. I thought about what that meant. I thought about my life up that point and all I could do was shrug.
Published on May 23, 2014
by Damien Walters Grintalis
***Editor's Note: The story that follows is disturbing. Use your discretion in choosing to continue.***
Published on Aug 2, 2012
by Richard E. Gropp
***This Story Contains Mature and Potentially Disturbing Content. It is for Adult Readers Only***
Published on Jul 8, 2011
by Lee Hallison
Despite the static glare of the vid-screen, the station's com-room was gloomy and dank. I hated coming here to talk to my brother, but he insisted on our weekly chats. Weekly nagging, to tell the truth. "Please don't!" Static blurred his face. I nodded, not intending to comply. Winning the zero-gee medal meant everything to me. If doping got me there, then I'd suck the damn stuff down no matter what Daveed thought. I distracted him with a story about last night's dinner and signed off as soon as I could.
Published on Jan 19, 2015
by D. Robert Hamm
Even this close to the desert, the sun finds enough cloud on which to paint its retirement colors. Turner Bray sits beside an almost-dry stream under a Joshua tree while the oranges and yellows and reds and pinks fade into one another, and listens to the birds. They are not Original birds, of course; the stores of avian DNA were among the many things damaged on the voyage here, centuries ago. They might look like Original birds, and hatch from eggs like Original birds, but they are partly carbon filament and nanotubes, and they grow tiny processors in their brains to guide them--with varying degrees of success--toward Original bird behavior.
Published on Dec 20, 2011
by Jon Michael Hansen
When the Smart Flu spread among the local animal population, we worried about our pets. Sure enough, Pumpkin the cat and Gizmo the Chihuahua soon showed all the symptoms: coughing, runny noses, reading the news. The vet said keep an eye out for behavioral problems, but they seemed affectionate as ever to us. True, there had always been tension between them. Squabbles over food, the best spot on the bed, nothing unusual. Then a week later, just before dinner, war broke out. Like a long-haired orange missile, Pumpkin shrieked into the living room and kicked off the recliner to strike Gizmo in the back, bowling him off the sofa. He yelped and ran off. The kids screamed, "Stop that, Pumpkin!" Pumpkin had done this before, but this time, Gizmo retaliated. What Gizmo lacked in size, he made up for with technology. He'd spent quiet afternoons upgrading the Roomba in secret. Now, out he rode on his rejiggered chariot, barking a war song as he fired round after round from a modified nail gun. Pumpkin immediately leapt atop the bookcase. Moments later an orange paw began tossing finger-sized cylinders down. As each one landed, it exploded in a gunpowder stink. A fire started in the rug. We, the unarmed humans, ran for the bedroom. Behind the door we trembled as they unleashed their arsenals on each other. So many hidden war machines! The building shook. Dust fell from the ceiling while the neighbors pounded the walls. Finally it ended. Nervous, we poked our heads out. There they lay. Two still lumps in the wreckage, casualties of their mutual aggression. I looked back to the perch in the bedroom. Our grey parrot Niccolo turned a gimlet eye at us. "At last!" he squawked.
Published on Jun 20, 2022
by Dan Hart
Ivy tried to imagine how it would feel to be bereft of his musical ability, but could not. The Transfer Specialist smiled at him with warm cheeks and wide eyes. His nametag, elegant as the sleek office, sparkled gold: "Ted Seals." Ivy studied Ted's smile and concluded it was a lie. "How much would you give me?" Ivy asked, forcing steady breaths. His heart thumped three times for every tick of the wall clock. He needed at least ninety-two thousand for Rose's cochlear implants. He hoped for a hundred and fifty, despite the horror stories of artistic skills selling for less than twenty thousand per decade of experience.
Published on Dec 18, 2012
by Meagan Noel Hart
Your legs lay on the table. One dark as soil. The other light as sand. They're both complete sets, feet still attached. A rarity, even if there are only eight toes. Two little piggies will need to be deleted from that nursery rhyme. I lift your torso from the special delivery box. It's biologically male, but that's merely an aesthetic. It's second hand, like all your parts, but well cared for.
Published on Apr 5, 2019
by Carol Hassler
"Sleep. Six to eight hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Adds up to a lot of time, right?" Diana Tregald swung her hand up like a conductor and her audience murmured its assent. "But if we have learned nothing from SleepNote's meteoric rise and crash these past two years, it is that we need sleep. It is, in fact, a biological imperative. Essential to rebuild ourselves both physically and mentally." She paused the presentation on a collage of headlines: Sleep Drug Blamed for Office Shooting; Elephant Made Me Do it, Man Claims; 1.5 Million Dead from Stress-Related Disease; Memory Loss Treatment at All-Time High.
Published on Jul 6, 2011
by Michael Haynes
Leon shut down his computer, left his office, and walked to the bus stop as quickly as his aching knees and the icy sidewalks would let him. "Come home. Please?" His wife Carol had said when they had spoken on the phone moments before. "Our letters came."
Published on Jul 3, 2017
by Steve J. Haywood
She enchanted me from the first moment I saw her across the crowded boardroom. Her flaming red hair shimmered like liquid fire in the noonday sun streaming through the windows, and her blue eyes were like deep lagoons, inviting me in. I knew who she was, of course. The logo on her forehead gave her away, as it was meant to: a curved black arrow across a field of green binary text told me she was WooshTechInc, a Body Corporate like me, and one of my shareholders, too. She smiled at me then, and my heart fluttered like a baby bird trying to fly for the first time. The meeting droned on, boring as always. The Chief Financial Officer was talking about budgets, profit margins, tax planning, and a lot of other finance-y things I couldn't be less interested in. I tried to at least look like I was listening, but my mind wandered as usual, dreaming of freedom, of running through fields of wildflowers, not a care in the world. I was so lost in my own thoughts I almost missed my cue.
Published on Apr 1, 2021
by Jonathan Helland
********Editor's Note: Adult language in the story that follows******** I was there the day Winter Peterson broke the wall. I know you're gonna call bullshit. Ask any experienced brain-jockey and they'll say it's impossible. You can't hack squishware. But if you ask that same jockey if Winter Peterson could've done it and you might get some hesitation, some uncertainty. Winter's the kind of fearless motherfucker who can do the impossible. And I was with him when he did. Nobody rides minds like Winter. He goes far beyond the usual voyeurism, thrill-seeking, and password theft that keeps most jockeys happy. Told me once he'd never even bothered with invitational mind-riding--you know, the kind where some cam-girl tells you they're going naked cliff-diving with three of her hottest friends at precisely 5 PM eastern and she'll DM her base code if you tip high enough? Invitationals are how all brain-jockies pop their cherries, but Winter's first time, if you can even believe the way he tells it, was Maximillius Fucking Brady during his title defense against Honey Hernandez. You know, the fight where he broke his leg and pulled off the victory anyway? Winter was riding his sensory-network that whole time. He felt everything, both the physical pain and the joy of triumph. I wasn't there that time, so I can't tell you it's for real. I mean, how's a virgin mind-rider going to break through that kind of security? But I believe it. You would too, if you knew him. Shit I've seen him do, I'd believe anything. And I did see him limping a few days after that ride. Phantom pains like only the best jockeys get, only the ones who can really attune to their host. But he always said it was worth pain to feel what it was like, just for a few minutes, to be the best fighter in the world. Winter has this thing about genius, you see--sports, art, coding, music, doesn't matter--he won't bother riding a mind that doesn't shine in some way. I was there the day Winter broke through the wall. Yeah, I know you're still skeptical, but I was there, in the same room and riding piggyback on his sense-net. Call me what you want, if I know someone can go places I can't, I'm gonna ask him for a hitch. So, when Winter told me he was planning to attend a private Grammy after-party inside the mind of Mad-Ax-Killa himself, I was all, "you gotta take me in there with you, bro!" Hitching isn't like real riding, of course. Everything's duller and slower. Less intense. Winter feels everything Mad-Ax feels, but I only feel what Winter feels, so when Winter gets bored, I feel bored--even though Mad-Ax is high on a stimulant program and grinding on no fewer than three barely-dressed actress-slash-models. And when Winter gets bored he drifts away from the sensory network and starts sifting through Mad-Ax's inactive applications and memory files. I'm all, "Go back, go back, one of them girls smells like ripe pears and looks just like Julio's hot step-sister." But I was mouth-talking into the meat space like a noob and of course he can't hear me. He's inside Mad-Ax's mind, staring at The Wall. He thinks at me: "I'm going to hack his squishware," and before I can even tell him that's impossible, that you can't hack a fucking bio-brain 'cause there's no fucking code in there, we ghost right through the wall. On the other side, inside the squishware, it smells like fresh mildew, looks like a strobe light in a snowstorm, and there's this constant bass buzzing. That's all I get before a massive error signal flashes across my ocular feed and I'm booted out of Winter's sense-net. I look over at Winter and see blood running from his nose, dripping off his chin, and soaking into his jeans. He reaches for the empty tissue box to his right and, like a mime, pulls an imaginary tissue and wipes at his nose. This just gets blood on his hands and smears it around his face, but what does he care? When you're riding, input from the meat-space is present but forgotten, like how you forget you're hungry while you're getting a scrotal tattoo. I, on the other hand, am freaking the fuck out! Nosebleeds aren't a normal hazard of mind-riding, and I'm still feeling a little after-buzz from Mad-Ax's virtual-stimulants. I think maybe Winter's having a brain hemorrhage or something, so I try shaking him by his shoulders and slapping him a few times. I'm about three seconds from braining for an ambulance when Winter yawns, stretches, and stands up. He wipes at his nose again, glances in the direction of the tissue box, and walks to the bathroom. I yell "what happened?", but he just says, "hang on a minute," cool as anything and I hear the shower come on. Motherfucker comes out an eternity later in a towel. I give him a look like "tell me everything, Motherfucker" and he just shrugs and says, "did you know Mad-Ax doesn't write his own rhymes?" I must be looking at him like he's growing a dick out of his forehead, but he just shakes his head. "There was no poetry in there at all, man."
Published on Dec 7, 2021
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Most of Noma's study friends were growing their own boys with the new Vampire, Werewolf, or Wizard Seed kits. Her best friend Celestine invited Noma to the grow room in her family compartment to take a look at a half-grown vamp. "I specified the golden hair and dark eyebrows," Celeste said, "but he opened his eyes for the first time yesterday, and they're this weird greenish color. I ordered sky blue. Skies were blue, right?"
Published on Feb 14, 2011
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I hate spring. My best friend Bran and I were sitting in his red Mini Cooper Hardtop two-door, parked out in the wetlands west of town, looking out at the cool, cloudy night sky and listening to the mating calls of frogs.
Published on Nov 11, 2016
by JT Howard
Jean Muhammad Rishawi's legs were still tingling from the vibrations of the turbofans when he stepped off the transport. The titan rotors whined as they slowly skipped to a halt, the displaced air kicking up a cloud of dust that made Jean Muhammad glad his armored suit was sealed from the outside environment. "Hey, rookie," the lieutenant grunted. "You're on point."
Published on Jun 27, 2013
by A. P. Howell
We call it a "kill switch," but it's more complicated than that. That's the history of genetics right there. Applying chosen labels to half-understood phenomena of infinite biological and social complexity. Identifying "morons" with IQ tests and knowledge of their national origin. Diagnosing parental infidelity with tongue rolling and Punnett Squares. Cataloging the genetic disorders more prevalent in suspect populations. Describing "cancer genes" indicating susceptibility to narrow bands of cancers afflicting elites. The entire concept of a "gene" as a discrete entity.
Published on Jan 20, 2020
by Jennie Hunter
She had eyes like the moon and iridescent skin over her plump cleavage. He'd wanted her for weeks and now Stevel was going to have her. He pushed her up against the doorway and felt her body wiggle as she reached to the side to swipe the Gencan. The door hissed open and they stumbled inside her place. The gin still burned hot in his veins, making edges smooth and colors pop. "Oh, Baby. Yeah. This is the moment I've been waiting for." Stevel muttered against her skin. "I'm so present, here, now. I'm with you."
Published on Dec 4, 2018
by O. Hybridity
"I'm telling you, you should get in on the rental business," says Noel. "It's like being paid to sleep." Diamanta fills a syringe with selective paralytics. She is trying not to look Noel in the eye.
Published on Jan 30, 2017
by Kelly Jennings
Why should I? What makes you think I care about your record? Not like anyone will survive to link to it, is it? No! I'll do it. I will. I'm doing it! Sweet cock, don't be so touchy.
Published on Oct 4, 2017
by Jules Jensen
His Papa scowled at the screen. "What is this malarkey?" He grumbled, getting the attention of Mama.
Published on Sep 20, 2018
by Andrew Johnston
The order was for sixty crates of machines, yet there were only fifty-nine in the truck upon its arrival. The location of the last container was a mystery, though few cared enough to solve it. There were robots in the container, yes, but not sophisticated ones--the simplest of machines that could still be called a "robot" in good faith, just a metal housing for a few basic sensors and a servo to turn its tiny wheels. Perhaps the crate had been stolen, to the thief's disappointment--the perpetrator, expecting some high-end laboratory equipment he could turn over to a less than reputable researcher, would instead be greeted with an agglomeration of machines that could be built by any clever 9th grader. Or perhaps, for a change, it had literally fallen off of the truck to land in a ditch beside some seldom traveled road. Either way, it was no terrible loss. The machines could be easily replaced at minimal cost and they posed no meaningful risk to the environment. It was only by chance that any living thing discovered the lost machines--chance that the crate was jarred open enough to grant escape, chance that the blow of the crate hitting the ground activated the robots and, above all, chance that a set of compound eyes would rest upon them. Synthetic sensor crossed biological sensor, and none can say whether either truly registered what was before it. Yet some impulse awakened within at least one of them, for the machines began to follow the insects. They were only machines built up of protein, at least as far as the simple sensors could reckon, and there was a familiar cadence to their movements that had purchase in its simple circuitry. For their own part, the insects paid no heed to their new synthetic hangars-on, too single-minded in their purpose to take note of the metal bugs in their presence.
Published on Sep 30, 2020
by Carie Juettner
Barbara stretched her neck and hit her head on the edge of her plastic chair. "Ow." Hiding under her desk had been more fun in elementary school, before she grew. Back then she could pretend she was in a Terrorist Alert Lookout Post or trying to escape a prison cell on a Great Atlantic pirate ship. Of course the drills were scarier back then, too. These days they were so common it was hard to take them seriously. Even the teachers couldn't muster up much real earnestness. They usually taught straight through them. Right now, Mrs. Link was launching quiz questions about their history lesson on the Age of Global Warming from her own spot of safety beneath her large desk. Or relative safety anyway. While the raids were frequent and sometimes long lasting, they had yet to penetrate the building, so there was still no real way of knowing whether or not three-fourth's of an inch of fake wood would really protect anyone. "What year did the final glacier melt?" Mrs. Link called out. "And no reaching on top of your desks for your e-slates! I'll hear you!"
Published on Jan 2, 2017
by Rahul Kanakia
***Editor's Note: Adult story, with adult language and situations*** While I shower, I hold the golden heart-shaped pin in my left hand. I was wearing this pin when I first met James. Most of the pure-hearted get their pins at a support-group meeting. I ordered mine off the internet. Whenever I'm not wearing it, my stomach juices boil over and my heart twitches. Without it, I am naked and anonymous. With it, I am pure of heart. Sometimes, at the meetings, I am tempted to ask the others whether they feel the same. But I don't. After all, why should they feel dependent on a piece of metal? They carry their identity in their genes.
Published on Mar 21, 2014
by Christopher Kastensmidt
Albert sat at the bar and ordered a beer. Beside him, a bearded fellow yelled at the bartender. "And bring me two more shots of bread while you're at it!"
Published on Feb 24, 2014
by James Patrick Kelly
Marva wanted to keep an open mind, but she suspected that Doctor Kamer wasn't about to help her. Maybe it was the background music playing in his office. Baroque sonatas. Too damn serene. Over-confident. Doctors had ruined her life and this one was like all the rest. And then there was the curved furniture, and the moonscape on his flix. So he had the kind of income that could buy a vacation in space. Blood money, squeezed from other people's misery. "So Mrs. Gundersen," he said. "Why are you here today?"
Published on Jul 12, 2011
by Claude Lalumiere
*******Editor's Note: Adult Story for Adult Readers Only*******
Published on May 24, 2019
by Rebecca Lang
Case Study: Diann
Published on Sep 4, 2014
by Rebecca Lang
They'd shut out every photograph, every video, every image of her face. But they couldn't shut out his dreams. Her beauty clawed at his chest, like a living thing trying to get out. So Frank took to the streets with tubes of paint and a can of brushes. Tonight he painted her face on a wall of crumbling concrete bricks.
Published on Aug 8, 2016
by Susan Lanigan
Yes, Inspector, you may turn on the tape. No, thank you, I don't need tea. "For the purposes of this interview"--isn't that the terminology? Some things never change. So--for the purposes of this interview--my name is Kevin Drummond, as you know. Up until last week, I ran the Drug Rehabilitation Unit in Hampden Hospital. Have you seen it, Inspector? Nothing much to look at; a long, low building surrounded by a "Zen garden" of patchy grass, gravel, and hardy perennials, and under twenty-four-hour armed guard. My work was my life, but that won't surprise you either.
Published on Sep 19, 2013
by Rich Larson
***Editor's Note: Adult Story. Adults Only, Please***
Published on Jun 22, 2017
by Rich Larson
Ten more seconds allotted for happiness. Aster blinks. Grits her teeth. She hadn’t realized she was happy--she’d been staring at the dandelion field, the first thing to pop up on her feed, without a single thought in her head. But the swaying yellow-green sea is beautiful, and the algorithm is right. She should be enjoying it. She tries to concentrate on the interplay of petals and shoots, the balletic swirls as a breeze moves through them. Allotment ending. The dandelions dissolve, and now Aster sees a migrant boat sinking beneath the waves, drone footage of drowning innocents. Emotions available: Anger Sadness She selects sadness, which comes more naturally to her. She feels the constriction in her throat, the throb in her chest, the empathic ache. Allotment ending. But the feed doesn’t change. Emotions available: Anger The feed often plays this trick. If she’d selected Anger first, she’d likely be doing Sadness now. She focuses on the injustice, the callousness and inhumanity that created these conditions. She clenches her fists and jaw. Not enough. You have the right to be angry, Aster. And the right is a duty, so she yanks one wired ear pod from its place, and the physical sensation helps kindle the right chemicals. She feels a jet of fury and directs it toward a cowardly government and uncaring oligarchs. Allotment ending. The ocean dissolves to a nascent sex scandal, and the carousel continues. Aster works her way into a rhythm, raging and grieving and laughing, forcing snarls or smiles across her face for better biofeedback. She uses a momentary break in the feed to look at her overview, all the color-coded emotions portioned and contained. She scrolls through subcategories of Despair and Disgust. The alphabetical space nestled beside Anger is blacked out; she is not permitted Apathy until much later in the day. Aster searches for Exhaustion, on a whim, and finds nothing. Maybe it’s too basic to require a label and allotment. The feed presents her a baby pangolin. She claps her hands in an empty room. It is 7:38 in the morning.
Published on Mar 7, 2022
by Rich Larson
Published on May 11, 2022
by Evergreen Lee
The villagers each brought in a bucket, or a box, and filled their container with her phosphorescent green eggs. They avoided looking at DE3DR, or Deirdre, as she preferred to be called. She followed them out of the lab, her human-like brow furrowed to display confusion.
Published on Mar 19, 2018
by S E Lewis
Melinda's talking a mile a minute before she even walks through the front door, about whatever latest news vid caught her excitement on the rail ride home, the same as she's done every weekday for the past six years that we've lived together. Her enthusiasm is just one of the many idiosyncrasies that draw me to her. "Oh, Jason, it's the greatest thing! Just think. You could choose anything you wanted. They mold and craft them to your specifications. Before long, the tech will be cheap enough you could have a selection. One for every day of the week, or month! Hey, you wouldn't have to keep that secret calendar anymore. One look at my face in the morning, and you'd know it was the day to lay low!" She laughs, winking.
Published on Jan 15, 2015
by Candice Lim
I blamed the lack of sleep for my giddiness. My knuckles turned white from clenching fists. Another tube eased to a smooth stop. People bustled off the opening doors and entered the hypermart. My eyes followed the crowd and rested on the banner waving above the geodesic structure, reading "Politics corrupt. Genetics don't." Pfft. Government propaganda. My watch buzzed again. It was Bryna, for the fifth time.
Published on Oct 2, 2017
by Michelle Lindsey
"Will it hurt?" His lashes dance over his dull, blue eyes as he waits for a response. Tiny, soft hands wring the corner of the scratchy blanket. Yes.
Published on Mar 21, 2019
by Scott Lininger
You know how it goes. You wake up on a Friday thinking that it's a Saturday, and you lie there in bed for a full minute listening to your wife breathe, thanking God that you don't have to trudge in to the digital salt mines and sit in front of your computer all day. You think of your cramped little office with its north-facing window filled with sorry bonsai trees, happy that you don't have to go in. Then you remember a certain meeting, and the weekend illusion collapses, so you resign yourself to reality, to the mundane motions of shower and shave. "What are you doing up so early?" asks your wife sexily from the pillow zone, and as you straighten your tie you wish you hadn't yet. Is it worth a little re-tie for a hallowed a.m. koochie-koo? Part of you, the influential part, votes yay.
Published on Dec 22, 2010
by Avra Margariti
In these forms our minds are bird nests of broken, tangled thoughts: leaves and twigs and mud, run and jump and survive. We can’t fly but we use the wind to our advantage, arms spread, membranes catching drifts as we hop from tree to lichen-covered tree, always above ground.

Something is coming for our kind and for everyone else. We beg the trees to rustle a warning to our caves, and we dash through the tree cover to avoid predators and trick time. But somehow we know--us and the trees--that it won’t be enough. Too late, too late.
Published on May 3, 2022
by Steven Mathes
The rat's quantum bubble popped into reality over by its dish. The rat scuttled out to its special food mix: gerbil food, caviar, and cheese. It always wanted the caviar a little rancid. Robby turned away from the arguing customer, some man who wanted to have his cake and eat it, too.
Published on Jan 3, 2014
by Steven Mathes
Not that he remembered but.... He went to get his memory washed, and everyone seemed to know him. You have to figure things out when you lack memories. You get good at it. "How many times has it been?" he asked the nice attendant who took his clothes, and attached his harness.
Published on Mar 13, 2020
by J. Bear McKenna
"Behold!" Professor von Brandt bellowed. His voice echoed throughout the laboratory. "A vegan cabbage!" Chuck eyed the leafy green head sitting on a sterile chrome tray. "I dunno, professor. Normal cabbage is already vegan."
Published on Jul 29, 2021
by Will McMahon
You were having a lazy day when the bird people arrived. Now you're sitting in your living room, curtains drawn, nursing a hangover and staring in brainless shock at the TV. Your hand is resting in a bag of peanuts, seemingly forgotten. A bell jingles behind you, but you're not paying attention. Your eyes are fixed on the breaking news. They came down without warning about fifteen minutes ago, right over the East River. A helicopter camera watches as a landing pod breaks away from the hovering ship and drifts towards the United Nations building. It lands right in the middle of 1st Ave, traffic slamming to a halt around it. A "digital correspondent"--the nearest kid with a smart phone--shakily captures the scene as the pod door dilates and four large avian forms emerge. The new arrivals are striking in their patterned feathers and wide, glassy eyes. A flustered science correspondent calls them "Strigiformic"--the first in a long string of grammatically dubious bird terminology that rapidly begins to develop--which apparently means "they look like owls." The elegant ambassador at the head of the group proclaims that she is a representative of the Noble Descendants of the Ornithuran Transcendency of Leo V, heirs to an ancient civilization. The feathers of her crown are a deep purple-black, speckled with white. She caws magnificently, a device floating nearby translating into perfect English. The feed switches over to a clear and stable shot. A news van has arrived on the scene. The ambassador's translated words assure humanity that you should all remain calm. Then she begins to explain. Periodically, she will stop to confer with her fellows in quick, untranslated cries. In these gaps the stunned science correspondent will stammer in his thoughts. Here is the picture as best you understand it in your reeling, booze-addled mind. It may seem shocking to you all, a mammalian species, that these spacefarers are avian in form. But in fact, it is shocking that humans are not. Not all life is born of your standard oxygen-carbon-water soup, but most is. And of these, avians make up nearly all non-aquatic "civilization-building" life. It is problematic to use such subjective terms as "intelligent life" when one really means technological species, the ambassador explains; in their observations of the Earth, for instance, they have already cracked whale language. You scratch your head at this. You may end up surprised by what is more intelligent than you assumed. Life does not have so many paths. Or, perhaps more accurately, it has a vast multitude of paths--and the Earth has been blessed to harbor most of them. There are other forms, of course, but they are ultimately outliers. Water, carbon, oxygen: the surefire formula. Take a big pot of boiling primordial ocean, throw in a couple amino acids, and baby you've got a stew going. From there, the typical divergences: prokaryote and eukaryote, single-cell and multi, some critters eat other critters, some try not to get eaten. It's an oldie but a goldy. Classic tune. So here are the bird people. Obviously, most life never makes it past the very simple stages. Turns out mitochondria are a big stumbling block. You've got to eat a cell but not digest it? Tough trick, that. But it happens. From there it's a straight shot, with a few speed bumps along the way. One is the fact that the universe is not a particularly safe place to live, and complex life requires a long time to develop. Life-bearing planets can get caught in a cycle of constantly resetting as they are bombarded with a cosmic rain of bullshit. Ah, but you and the birds have something in common here-gas giants. Big ol' fellas that hang out at the door and keep the riff-raff out. You knew that already, or at least you kind of remember learning it when you weren't too hungover to pay attention in astronomy class. Here's the trick, though: Jupiter let one through. About 65 million years ago. You definitely remember that one--you were rarely hungover in grade school. These things happen, of course. Nobody is perfect, not even Jove himself. But generally, one of three things is true. Most of the time, complex animal life just hasn't developed yet. The blast might set things back a bit, but no one's there to notice. Or, there might be animals, but the impact is small enough that the most severe effects are localized, and the larger biosphere gets through it okay. Or, occasionally, the thing is big enough to just wipe everyone out. A big reset button. The germs inherit the earth. Another thing you remember from grade school: Goldilocks. The girl and the zone. Well, it turns out that was a Goldilocks comet. Just big enough to wipe out the dominant forms of life. Just small enough to leave a path for the little guys. Like the fist of some avenging mole god, smashing the dinosaurs to ash and leaving their prey alive. The mice inherit the earth. A few dinosaurs made it, of course. You call them birds. This is true, you look it up: birds are "avian dinosaurs." You feel like that would have blown your little grade-school mind. The planet the aliens come from, like most worlds not hit by a miraculous Goldilocks comet out of a tiny burrowing mammal's wet dream, continued to follow a more reptilian course of evolution. A lot of these plateau into a steady state of languorous, non-civilized life--Earth had, before the comet. But others see more social development, which correlates strongly with the emergence of avian forms. Enter, bird people. The ambassador welcomes the strange mouse people of Earth into the warm embrace of the Noble Descendants' loving wings. She pauses to preen regally before continuing, promising the great civilization's aid in the restoration of Earth's biosphere to its "pre-cataclysmic" state. The science correspondent optimistically conjectures that this means reversing the effects of Anthropocene climate change, but he doesn't sound convinced. I suspect you will find this prediction slightly misses the mark. As you watch the pronouncements by the Earth's new protectors, a pit grows in your stomach. I have watched you for so many years. Your mousy features are an open book to me, your rodent brain running through familiar burrows. Tired television catchphrases and an easy buzz. A species that never should have flown so high. A squawk breaks through your half-conscious dread. You turn in horror to the cage at the back of the room. I am bobbing my head. With one foot I smash my bell against the wall of my cage, again and again. Red feathers rise on the back of my neck as I spread rainbow wings and cry out in triumph. You stare at me, fear blossoming on your slack-jawed face. I turn a single piercing eye to you. "Pea-nut!" I shriek. "Ba-na-na!" You run at my command. Justice has come--65 million years late, and right on time. My treat bowl runneth over tonight!
Published on Mar 11, 2022
by D. Thomas Minton
My mistress calls me her mimic. It's as good a name as any, and I have had more names than I can clearly remember.
Published on Sep 28, 2012
by Gary A. Mitchell
"Hunter-gatherers?" said Maria Dillard, her fingers raking long blonde hair out of her eyes. She quickly returned her hand to the tablet she had set up on the table in front of her, stabbing at the flexible keyboard laid out beneath the screen. "An analogy only, but it's appropriate," he said. "The scavenger cells are programmed with that behavioral model in mind. They transit the circulatory system hunting for cancerous cells, and when they find them, they devour them, using the targeted cells as fuel."
Published on Jul 22, 2014
by G.M Molnar
"Do you ever get attached to your test subjects?" The professor looked up from the cage of white rats and smiled at the student. Odd, he hadn't seen the unfamiliar young man come in. He finished replacing the rats' food dish and shut the wire door, considering the question briefly before he spoke. "I suppose," He said congenially, "Some of them are pretty cute. Intelligent, too--that's one of the reasons why we use them. That, and they're a hell of a lot cheaper than monkeys!"
Published on Dec 4, 2017
by John P. Murphy
Helena held Jack's hand tightly as the doctor returned to the exam room, with an unfamiliar man in a suit in tow. Helena said hello to them both. Jack said nothing, because since the morning prior, Jack couldn't say anything. Doctor Steiner closed the door and sat at her desk, then busied herself at her laptop. The unfamiliar man in the suit glanced around at the now chairless room, frowned at the exam table, and finally stood with his back to the door and his arms crossed in front of his name badge. He looked unhappy, which made Helena unhappy. Jack said nothing, but Helena expected that he was unhappy too. According to the clock on the wall, they had been there for seven hours.
Published on May 1, 2014
by John Nadas
"Thanks. It's great to be here." "Sure, I can tell you more about the process. First, we take some biomatter from one source and some different biomatter from another source, generally in the form of what we call sperm and eggs. Diverse samples are a priority, to minimize the risk of defects--" "Oh, superfluous arms, auditory-visual impairment, weaker processors, that sort of thing. And sperm and eggs? Archaic terminology from the archives." "Well, you would say that wouldn't you. Sometimes, arcane, technical terms are unavoidable. Words have to be invented or co-opted, to represent novel things." "How? Oh, it's somewhat counterintuitive. Reproduction, but not as we know it. Think of how two elements may spontaneously combine to form a new entity. Under the right conditions, a sperm and an egg will do the same." "No, we can't do it by combining two sperms or two eggs. We're working on it, though. For one thing, sperm production is far more cost-effective and efficient. Sperm are far simpler than eggs, you see. We have vast reservoirs of sperm. Anyway, in its natural state a unit would take around nine months to reach a point where it could survive in an open environment, then a decade or two to develop--" "Remarkable, isn't it? One theory is that older units cared for younger ones until they were able to fend for themselves. But the evidence is prohibitively sparse. Who would have supervised the first ever units? Anyway, we've accelerated the process. Each of our units takes about five months to reach maturity, give or take. And with new advances in biotechnology, which is just a fancy term for technology that has to do with biomatter like leaves, peat, and so on, we can even implant ideas in them as they grow. That way, we don't have to spend decades training them." "The advantage? They're economical. Cheaper to build than a new person, and inexpensive to run. They get all of their energy from biomass and other sources that are easier to transport underground, across water, and so on. They're expendable. They're comparatively poor at reasoning, and so are less risk-averse than we are. Comes in handy sometimes. They can do certain things that are beyond our natural capabilities, such as detecting trace elements of airborne chemicals. And they're much better at doing some of the things we can do than we are, like working in humid environments--" "--Yes, they will replace some workers. No one denies that. Look, you've been told they'll destroy your lives. That's a lie. There'll be more to go around, for everyone. You've been told they'll take over the world. Another lie. The units pose no political threat whatsoever. I get that people are scared. Honestly, I do. Revolutions are fearsome. But this one is irresistible. We can't unlearn the technology. There's no point getting hysterical about it. We have to cast it as an opportunity, otherwise we'll waste--" "Sure. That's true. We'll need biologists for a long time yet--" "I never claimed to be impartial. No one is impartial! You think the unions are impartial? It's in their interests to obstruct progress; in the interests of their members to hold onto their roles. And for what? Burdening everyone else with the costs of stagnation, including those of us who experience the least utility. Deplorable tenacity if you ask me. The world doesn't owe them a living." "They can be reprogrammed." "Fair? At different points in history, different abilities are favored. And who's to say that reprogramming is wicked? That it does such things to a soul? It needn't be traumatic." "No. Simply not true. The key difference is that what we're doing is just. Even those who are replaced will end up with fuller lives. Ultimately, no one will experience less utility than they do now." "I'm not saying that. They don't have to become artists or poets. In a post-scarcity society, they could do whatever the hell they want. But we must be allowed to complete the journey." "Ethical concerns? Some people think we're playing God. But we've consulted God, and they've no objections to what we're doing. Do you think God agonized over these issues when they made our ancestors? They wouldn't have finished the job." "The units themselves? Well, here I'm prepared to be just a little bit more conciliatory. I'm not much of a philosopher, but I understand that the fundamental question is: does a unit's processor, variously called a "brain" or a "head" in the archives, produce anything like a mind? Yes, units exhibit some of the same behaviors as we do. But we can program anything to do that. Some people believe the units act autonomously, forming desires, and so on. I'll admit that I do wonder from time to time. There is something about their behavior. Person-like and seemingly rational, to be sure. There are even signs of electric activity. But do we think that ants are people? That lightning is a person?"
Published on Sep 27, 2017
by Wendy Nikel
It's election day and every electronic device registered to me is beeping in one-minute intervals. They chirp with the urgency of a fire alarm, a persistent reminder for me to do my civic duty. Ignored, they'll start chirping every thirty seconds, then every fifteen, until by the end of the day, they become nothing more than a constant, metallic screech, until 9:00, when the polls close. Then at 9:01--the Rewrite. My tablet screen flashes, begging for my attention. Just thinking of it makes me sick. Makes my eyes feel swollen from last night's lack of sleep and the residual grief of the past three months. I take Julie's picture off the wall, remove it from the frame and set it on the table, face-down. But first, coffee. Chirp. Hair. Chirp. Makeup. Chirp. Shoes. Chirp. The beeping is maddening. Apparently, 85% of the population votes within twenty minutes of the first chirp. I used to be part of that majority. Responsible. Punctual. Reliable. The kind of woman who'd never be late for a lunch date with her sister. Never--until that one time I was. My tablet's still flashing when I sit down with my boiled egg and orange juice. It's still flashing when I set the glass and plate in the sink. It's still flashing when I glance at the cuckoo clock--the one Julie had bought in Germany for her fortieth birthday--and realize that if I don't vote soon, I'm going to be late for work. Ted gave us an extra hour this morning, making it clear that he didn't want to hear a single chirp after our late start. I sit at the table with the tablet before me, next to her photograph and a pen. I close my eyes, remembering vividly the sting of smoke in my eyes and throat, the pandemonium that muted my scream: "Julie!" The tablet chirps one last time, and I press my thumbprint to the screen. Part I is simple, relatively. Select a representative. Vote YES or NO. Approve a new budget. The screen vibrates gently beneath my finger, confirming each input. This portion will be printed in duplicate--one sheet mailed to me, one sheet filed away in the government archives, to verify that my vote was counted. "Ready for Part II?" the screen asks. I flip over Julie's picture, torn between wanting to forget and wanting to commit each of those moments into some deeper, hidden place in my memory. Somewhere the Rewrite can't destroy it. Am I ready? No. But the cuckoo clock is ticking noisily, and I can't afford to be late for work again. Ted was patient with me, those weeks afterward, but I know that, for my sake, he's looking forward to the polls closing, to the Rewrite that will wipe so much clean. "Thanks to Rewrite Corp technology," the tablet screen reads, "we now have the opportunity to remove from our collective memory some of the most harmful and divisive memories of the past year. Please select up to five national, regional, or local incidences that you believe should be rewritten to preserve peace and unity within our communities and nation. Upon the closure of the polls, a Rewrite Pulse™ will be sent out, effectively eliminating any neurological record or electronic references to the event." I hesitate, and the tablet chirps again, reminding me not to dally. I peruse the drop-down menus, past plane crashes and riots, past school shootings and political scandals, past all the terror and uncertainty wrought down upon us these past 365 days. Here's our chance to re-write history, to clean the slate, to declare ourselves victors and remember things as they should have happened, rather than as they did. The one I'm looking for is in the "regional" section--too small an incident for the whole nation to care, but with effects that reached beyond the city itself. They've labeled it, simply, "The Silver Street Café Bomb," but if you hover on the title, as I do, they bring up the all-too-familiar photos of the event: the image of the overturned patio chair before a background of smoke and ash; the arrest of the man who'd pressed the button. If it passes, they'll give him a false memory of some other crime to justify his life-plus-twenty sentence. They'll give us a false memory of a car crash. Still painful, but for the Greater Good, so that people can sit in cafes and feel safe. So they can walk down Silver Street without fear. It's all queued up on the Rewrite computers. All it needs is a majority vote. The tablet chirps. I have to choose: the truth, or a red-white-and-blue lie. NONE, I press. Then with one final fingerprint, I'm done and hurrying to work, a pen and Julia's photo still clutched in my trembling hand.
The words are tiny. The ink smudges. But when I finally finish, at 8:55PM, the backside of the photograph tells the story of that day in my own words. If the Rewrite passes, a record like this would be contraband, and there'd be no proof to back up my claim. I slip the photo back into the frame, satisfied that at least the story will still exist somewhere. Even if I don't remember it, the truth won't really be gone. I sit on my sofa and clutch the frame, watching the cuckoo-clock count down the seconds, bracing myself for the polls to close and the Pulse to wash over me and wondering if I'd even remember that I'd hidden something. Wondering how many people, in how many houses, had their own scribbled truths hidden away where even they didn't remember.
Published on Sep 7, 2021
by K. C. Norton
She takes him apart, bone from meat from ventricle. "You have nimble hands," he tells her. "It barely hurts. The pamphlet made it sound much worse."
Published on Jun 30, 2014
by Kate O'Connor
The packed concert hall was far from silent. People whispered to their neighbors, fancy clothing rustled, jewelry chimed. In the wings, William Reis waited, the sound of his rapidly thumping heart filling his ears. A sharp tug on his collar dragged his eyes down. Emily's pale hands, beautiful still though her skin was wrinkled and growing translucent, straightened his lapels. The charcoal gray suit belonged to her second son. It was tight across the middle and a little long in the leg but he had forgotten that he would need concert attire until the last minute.
Published on Oct 7, 2011
by Aimee Ogden
I wanted to see the firebelly whale first, but Mother gave in to cousin Nellie's insistence on visiting the aviary presently upon our arrival. I dragged my feet while my cousin squealed over the xenoparrots and the little "hummingbirds," whose throats were cast of such fine iron that they glowed ruby-red. "Now, Enid," Mother told me, ever firm beneath the lacy veneer of patience, "you mustn't pout so, or a bird will land on that lip of yours. And what a scalding you shall have then!"
Published on Feb 19, 2020
by C J Paget
I've always wondered what thoughts people have in those moments when they're called to weigh their lives against doing the right thing. Is there an instant of decision, of choice, of strength or weakness? Do the brave undervalue their own lives? Are they brave over and over, or are they sometimes strong, and sometimes weak? Most of all: How would I choose? Perhaps I'm about to find out.
Published on Feb 4, 2014
by Colum Paget
Sandra Barclay awoke to find a whole day of her life missing. She didn't go looking for it, she was used to missing days. On her bedside table the expected note rested, folded in an inverted "V" on the pad it had been torn from. Upon this page Sandra's eyes met a confident, looping scrawl, a sharp contrast to her own fastidious lettering:
Published on Feb 4, 2011
by Sarah Pinsker
He was not a cute baby. He looked like a nineteenth-century presidential portrait: all jowls and distrustful side-eye. This was, of course, the reason I was there. Not the presidential part, but the ugly part. I knew it, and his mother did too. She let me take pictures, which would please my editor. She posed with him, which would please my editor even more. I could see the headline now: "Twenty Secrets About Davina Masters' Baby." Or something like that. Headlines are somebody else's job.
Published on Jan 9, 2015
by Geoffrey C Porter
Mathews joined us. "The mice will eat how you eat, take whatever medicines you take, and exercise if you exercise. When the mice die, a necropsy will be conducted by a robot. You'll know the cause of death and age estimate within hours after the mouse expires as well as a full review of all organ tissue and toxins present."
Published on Oct 18, 2010
by Stephen S. Power
Before I introduce the provost, who will address the rest of your concerns, I just want to say, and with all due respect to the parents, I think you're missing the upside here. For the past several years, my team has raised fish out of water. As much as I admire my colleagues at McGill who studied the birchir, they managed to do so for only eight months, and their fish lived in special tanks. Our fish, thanks to minimal funding, slosh around a muddy yard. Nonetheless, they mature early, they spawn repeatedly, and through careful husbanding the phase one generations developed increasingly sturdy walking fins. These fish have already added a great deal to our understanding of how the early tetrapods became adapted to land.
Published on May 21, 2015
by Gary Priest
It was Phix who suggested the change, sat on the sofa, long blonde hair a torrent of curls and mouth set in the familiar thin line of impassivity. Phix was a thirty gen and as such was born without a physical or metaphysical heart and therefore encountered none of the emotional issues I did. "It's a simple op. Callan from Q block had it and he's a new man. Remember how he used to cry in the park when he found a dead pigeon? Well the latest mech hearts don't have any negative settings so he couldn't even cry if he found his own mother dead in the park."
Published on Oct 27, 2017
by Dave Raines
June put her nametag on. It was blank. She stepped past the flying carpet hovering beside her bed and whistled. On the wall, the pages of the calendar flapped past April and May, held themselves open until the name "June" could wiggle out from under the mountain wildflowers and attach itself to her nametag. She smoothed her white waitress's blouse and modest skirt, hoping they would stay modest this particular day.
Published on Jun 16, 2011
by Cat Rambo
Discretion was the company's watchword, or so Tiffany had been assured by Maria, who lived two floors down and had done it three months ago. No one needed to know. The technician was a thin blond youth, the left half of their face a conservative faux-tribal tattoo medley, almost retro, dressed in a bland-patterned coverall. They carried a slim silver box, briefcase shaped and sized, the handle set on one of the smaller sides. Mizz Duffy? Perfect. I have papers for you to sign before we conduct the inventory."
Published on Nov 28, 2018
by Cat Rambo
I Decline. With all due respect, sirs and madams and others, I am declining the technology awarded to me by the US Department of Geriatric Care. I know it is a small and inconsequential thing to you. Look at how simply you have engineered it, this memory keeper. Only a metal ball, the size of my fist, and that an older model now. I am sure you get them at a good rate, given how many you give out.
Published on Nov 6, 2020
by Stephen V. Ramey
This was before the change, before the world became transparent as they like to say. I was a thirty-something woman with a son I could not understand, a mortgage that sapped my savings, and no husband to call my own. My world was lies, from simple fibs about age and weight, to complex manufactures concerning my husband's prolonged "absence." Truth was I had never married and never been asked. Why did I agree to the procedure? I was a mother losing my boy to forces beyond my control. It was a no-brainer at the time.
Published on Dec 21, 2010
by David J. Rank
I brought my dragon to Show and Tell this morning. Smoke's just a little one, the kind that roasts bugs to eat. It's easy to feed him. I catch blind crickets and spiders and centipedes that live by the pool at the back of our cavern. Sometimes Dad likes to use Smoke to light his cigars to show off at parties. People laugh. I wanted Smoke to do that for Show and Tell but Mom wouldn't let me. She said it was not appropriate. Anyway, Smoke wore the cute pink muzzle I made for him. I trained him good so Mrs. Williams let me fly him to the wall lanterns and back to the padded perch on my shoulder Mom made.
Published on Jun 30, 2021
by Robert Reed
Why would you say that? You shouldn't even think that.
Published on Mar 18, 2016
by Alter S. Reiss
"So, this is your place," said Susan, looking around. I smiled, looked at her, and hoped that I hadn't left anything inappropriate anywhere visible. "Pretty much," I said. "It's kinda small, but with the rent---"
Published on Feb 8, 2011
by Shane D. Rhinewald
On Mondays, they ate chicken--dark meat in the morning, breast meat at night. On Tuesdays, they started the day with steak and ended it with roast. On Wednesdays, they supped on pork loin, ribs, and chops. And then on Thursdays the rotation started over again. When Sunday rolled around, there might be duck or turkey, but only if they were lucky. Claire never counted on it. Once, Claire had crunched on a wedge of apple in school, and it had been sour and sweet and all things delicious. Another time, a friend had slipped her a stalk of celery, which had been stringy and chewy, yet surprisingly satisfying. But for the most part, Claire knew neither fruits nor vegetables for more than eleven years.
Published on Jul 30, 2012
by Anthony Rivera
Please, choose. I hate being rushed, especially with something this sensitive. It has to be perfect. Just a bit longer. I've narrowed it down to a few. Just need to find it. I know it's there. I’m sure it’s in my childhood. It has to be. Scanning again.
I'm sitting on Granny's old rocking chair on the porch. Storm comes out of nowhere. Lightning flashes. The old oak down the street explodes. There's fire. I'm frozen with terror. I can't move from that spot. My hoarse voice whispers out pleas for help that no one hears. I've never felt more alone.
No, that's not it. Something happier. Maybe a couple years earlier?
Granny's birthday party is an assault of sound and happiness. It feels like the entire neighborhood has come to my backyard. We eat Gramp's famous ribs, play horseshoes, and sing "Happy Birthday" so loud that the windows shake. I give her a macaroni brooch in the shape of a blue jay that looks like it has melted in the sun. She says it's her favorite gift and promises to wear it forever. I feel so proud as she shows it off to everyone. Everything is great until the Brusques, who live next door, show up with their kid. Susan Brusque says words during Charades, steals money from the Monopoly bank, and even peeks out of her blindfold so she can smash the Pinata. I swear from this day on, Susan is my nemesis.
Please, you must choose soon. Everything is prepared for stasis and your body.... Yes, yes. I know. Another minute and I'll be ready I swear. I'll scan faster. I'll check my teens but I'm pretty sure it's not there.
I'm making out with Billy Carpenter on the side of the house where I know Sue can see. As I kiss him, her jealous eyes glare at me through the blinds. It fills me with a thrill that Billy's dull, flapping tongue never could.
Not right. Still not right. The memory has to be around here somewhere. I'll know it when I find it. Hmm, maybe I missed it?
I position Granny's rocking chair on the porch to give myself the perfect view of the clouds. I sit out there at sunset and it feels like I'm inside of a painting. The clouds transform from stale white to a burst of red, orange, and purple. It feels like the sun is fighting against time itself, refusing to be snuffed out until the last possible moment before everything goes dark. The storm comes out of nowhere. I stay on the porch because I love the rain; the beautiful music it makes as it taps a tune on the wooden planks. I could listen to it forever. Then the dark clouds come and hungrily devour the sun's last desperate rays. They are laden with my secrets, my fears, my nightmares. It feels like they are coming for me. The lightning cracks across the sky like the wrath of an ancient god. Every strike unnerves me. I hold myself because there is no one else there. The first bolt takes out its anger on the old oak. It didn't stand a chance. I swore it called out for help before it was reduced to nothing. Frozen, my whispers unheeded, my rocking ceases. I sob softly knowing that the lightning will come for me next. Then she came. Susan saw me between the blinds. She braved the storm to sit next to me on the porch. She says I'm dumb for being afraid, for not going back inside. Says lightning is just static electricity and only babies are afraid of it. I get so mad that I forget about the stupid storm. We argue until Sue lets out a huge fart, then we laugh. I call her Fart Face Susan. I swear from this day on, she is my best friend.
I really must insist you choose a memory now. The doctors are waiting. Time is a luxury you do not have. Time.... Yes, you're right. There is never enough. Please, just a few more scans. I'm so close. I can feel it.
Granny's wearing the macaroni brooch as I hold her hand. She's dying. I promise to find happiness. I promise to be strong and follow my heart. I promise to be like you, Granny. You are my hero. Her last breath leaves as I hold her hand. The brooch lies still on her chest. Lightning strikes somewhere outside.
Granny.... No, not that. I can't handle it. You have only moments before your body goes past the point where we can help you. Once you're in stasis, we can take our time to cure you. You have to choose. I'm sorry. It's so much to ask. I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong decision. It feels so important.... Wait, I know. It was so obvious but so near that I looked right past it. One last scan. Last year.
I'm rocking in the chair Granny left to me. The rain is playing its delicate music. I cough and feel the wetness on my lips. I wipe it with my sleeve. Blood. I take off the sweater and lie to Sue saying that I was hot. She doesn’t question me. I don't want anything to ruin this moment. The illness will still be there when we leave, the pain too. We rock together in silence, enjoying nature's orchestra. Lightning crashes into the old oak tree. I don't flinch. Sue is with me, holding my hand. The old oak survived the lightning before and it will survive now.
Yes. This one? Remember, we won't pull you out of stasis until it's your turn on the waiting list. It may take years. I hope it does. Can you send a message for me? Yes. Tell Sue I picked this memory. Tell her I'll be holding her hand forever. Tell her not to be scared. Tell her I'm not scared anymore because she braved the storm for me. Tell her she's a Fart Face. I will send her the message. Goodnight, Mrs. Brusque.
Published on Oct 12, 2021
by Peter Roberts
"The red spots are absolutely lovely. They match your dress perfectly. Whered you get them? I saw an ad from Mayo offering something similar. Is that where you found them?
Published on Oct 7, 2010
by Katie Robles
Margaret played with the chain on her reading glasses. “I’m not sure about this.” Phil shifted in the faux leather waiting room chair. “The Patels tried it. Said it saved their marriage.”
Published on Feb 15, 2021
by Michael Louis Ruggiero
***Editor's Note: Adult language and situations in the tale that follows*** "So when I take this, I'll be able to kill him?" asks the hooded man.
Published on Jul 16, 2014
by Robert Lowell Russell
Katie walked hand in hand with her grandfather along the forest path. Dappled light filtered through the trees. She liked the way his hand felt rough in hers and how his eyes always seemed to smile, even when it didn't show on his face. Whenever she stumbled over a stone, or a root, or her own feet, he'd steady her with a grip that was still firm and strong. He stopped along the trail and pointed to dandelions growing in a sunlit circle among the trees. Yellow petals crowned green stems ending in spiked leaves. Some flowers had already changed to puffs.
Published on Aug 1, 2014
by Erica L. Satifka
I can tell by the distracted look in your eyes that you're barely paying attention to me, but that's perfectly fine. You're among friends here. Every man, woman, and occasional child who walks through those doors knows exactly what you're experiencing. There's no shame in being one of the people gifted with a forever-repeating piece of music in your head. When this was only a transitory psychological phenomenon they called it an earworm, but the type we have is a little different. The incorrectly-named "Euterpe Virus" is caused by prions, which look more like holes than worms. What are prions? Twists of protein in your brain, neither bacteria nor true virus. Historically, most prion diseases were caused by a faulty gene or the consumption of human brain tissue. I hope you haven't done any of the latter! This outbreak, however, seems to stem from an unidentified environmental trigger.
Published on Jul 15, 2019
by Ellen L Saunders
Our daughter came out funny. Yeah, I know all babies look funny, skin all wrinkled like wet laundry, so bald they seem ancient and new at the same time. I don't mean that.
Published on Mar 3, 2021
by Emily Scharff
Newbs always make dinosaurs for their first bio-battles. The vets know it takes more than a fierce-looking bio to win. "Katie! Katie!" My older sister Meg squealed as she burst into my room. "We got a bio-printer! My condensed electroplaques paper won. We can compete in the tournaments!"
Published on Sep 3, 2021
by Jennifer Sexton
Heavy Sci Magazine, the Journal of Leading-edge Food, Drink and Culture, presents a new gastronomic critique column: Periodic Tables for Two, by critic Astrid ta, featuring the fearless inventions of the leading chef-researchers working in kitchen-labs across the city today. Today's debut review follows. Bon appetit!
Published on Jul 19, 2016
by Alex Shvartsman
Samuel Kanu took off his respirator and allowed himself a few moments to enjoy deep breaths of the clean, air-conditioned air of the lobby. He used a handkerchief to brush the yellowish fog droplets out of his hair, and looked outside through the glass door. The fog was so thick that he couldn't see his car at the curb. With the industrial complex of the entire planet dedicated to the war effort, no one bothered to be green anymore. This meeting was crucial, so Kanu braved the traffic and the polluted air of the Capitol. Both seemed to be getting worse every time, and he counted his blessings for not having to make such trips frequently.
Published on Apr 27, 2015
by Amelia Sirina
I wonder if they'll call us Eugene and Jun, as though in a myth, in a grand narrative canon of humankind 2.0. I wasn't made from a rib, and he wasn't made in anyone's image but his own, so I guess Eugene and Jun does sound better to my ear with each new time I bounce it inside my mind. Other than that, my mind is empty. I need to fill it with something. Some thought. Eugene and Jun. Eugene and Jun.
Published on Apr 8, 2019
by Dawn Sperber
Raise your antenna. Pause motion. Journeymen have an announcement: Their mission to the blue-green planet was successful.
Published on Mar 18, 2021
by William Squirrell
Thezpreviouszagezhadzendedzinzanzorgyzofzviolence, and humanityzwaszallzatzloosezendszbecausezthezseedszofztheznext dystopic compromise were only just germinating and nobody knew what to expect. It was all confusion and mayhem, everything quivering on the edge of annihilating chaos, total unpredictability. Grampamama Carbuncle and Vespa were stranded on the planet Graustark, out in the Widdershuns Drift where the economy had achieved a state of such entropic stagflation money no longer existed except as concentrations of non-circulating nostalgia. The only things left to exchange for other things were more things, but Grampamama Carbuncle and Vespa were still shocked when the smuggler refused to accept any form of payment from the two refugees but their gene blisters. They returned to their hotel room to discuss the smuggler’s proposal. They were the only members left on Graustark of a well-known and respectable family. All their other relatives had been absorbed into the massive cultural and genetic polymer known as the Cheese, a multinodal entity with a prodigious appetite for social climbing, which was incorporating into its dense rhizomatic corpus as many elements of the old families as it could. They desperately wanted to leave Graustark before they too were absorbed, but the smuggler’s price seemed rather high. “Our gene blisters?” said Carbuncle. “That is all we have left of our ancestors.” “The old world is dead,” said Vespa, “a new one yet to begin. We will acquire blank blisters and start again.” The gene blisters were in their individual sterile bags on the table: sniffing around the shavings, whiskers twitching. One of them sat up and groomed the soft white hair of its long nose with little pink paws. “Fifty generations of genetic material,” said Carbuncle sadly. “And you, beloved child, never had the chance to breed your blisters with those of worthy partners.” “Yes,” said Vespa. “A wealth of genetic material, but only just enough, it seems, to get us off Graustark and out of the Widdershuns.” Carbuncle sighed: “The family is extinct.” “Not entirely,” said Vespa. “We still have Miesque. And the DNA in our bodies. The blisters are just vehicles after all.” Carbuncle’s nose wrinkled at the mention of bodies. Miesque, the family womb animal, was curled up on the bed, nose under a trotter, one big bat ear twitching in a dream. It had carried Vespa to parturition, and Vespa’s mamapapa number one, and Grampamama Carbuncle, and most of Vespa’s uncle-aunts and siblings and cousins as well. It was a venerable animal, but fecund enough to nurture a couple of dozen more fetuses if they could acquire the gene blisters to produce them, and to comfortably suckle those infants that came to term. # “Fantastic,” the smuggler said when Grampamama Carbuncle reached under their robes and produced five transparent bags, each of which held a sleeping gene blister. “Just turn them loose.” “Turn them loose?” Carbuncle gaped. “Sure,” said the smuggler. “But they’ll run away.” “We’re airtight,” said the smuggler. “The whole ship is contaminated,” Carbuncle frowned. “There are pollutants on all these various surfaces and planes. They’ll be compromised. Their provenance will be compromised.” “It’s fine,” said the smuggler and a gene blister popped up out of their collar and wiggled its nose at Vespa. “We’re a discrete-ish system.” “What is going on here?” Carbuncle yelled. “What kind of a pervert are you? I will not sanction the uncontrolled breeding of our family gene blisters with some pirate’s mutts.” “Turn them loose,” said the smuggler. “Or you can stay here and be absorbed by the Cheese.” “Just do it, Grampamama,” said Vespa. “The old world is dead, who knows how the new one will be.” So Carbuncle did: tears in their eyes, sick with shame, they peeled back the seals and gently shook the blisters onto the table. They stretched their delicate limbs, paws in tiny fists, and opened their pink maws in lazy yawns. They wiggled their whiskers, blinked their black eyes, sat up, and looked around. # The Mr. Prospector was crawling with blisters. It was such a horror show of promiscuity Grampamama Carbuncle refused to leave their stateroom unless they absolutely had to. They spent the trip cuddled up with Miesque working on a family tree. They tried to prevent Vespa from venturing out as well, but while the Mr. Prospector was small and rundown and entirely jury-rigged from salvage, it was still a starship to explore, and besides, Vespa had a prurient obsession with what the gene blisters now appeared to be: a seething organism the smuggler called “The Mice,”; a synergetic interstitial network the manifestations of which appeared in the moldy old furniture and under the sink in the galley and in broom closets and in every crack and cranny one might look. They were a swarm of squirming, quivering, tickling whiskers and claws and noses. They crawled over the smuggler, delightful adornments, peering out of pockets, from behind hair, scuttling lumps like busy tumors underneath their shirts. “Salacious,” Carbuncle would hiss to Vespa at night. “Lewd. A hideous debacle. A gutter in which our legacy is terminated. A sewer.” But in the day Vespa was laughing and shivering with ecstasy as The Mice scurried about their person. # “Where are your womb animals?” Vespa asked and the smuggler smiled. They took Vespa to the squalid mess of the bridge and from a corner piled high with chewed over laundry they produced a boot into which Vespa peered. At the bottom, nestled into the halfmoon of a dozing blister, nuzzling at its teats, were a half dozen hairless pink creatures each about as a big as Vespa’s thumb. “Baby blisters!” Vespa gasped. “Yes,” the smuggler said. “If our embryos are not exposed to the hormonal floods of a womb animal their genetic logics revert to more vestigial patterns.” “They turn into The Mice!” “Not just mice,” said the smuggler. “But mice loaded with many exabytes of genetic information, chains of data increasing in density and complexity with every generation.” # They hopped from system to system, planet to planet: forgotten outposts of Empire; isolated mining colonies bypassed by emergent capital flows; Luddite bubbleworlds filled with gendered Christians; orbital refugee camps run by non-profit AIs; atavistic research facilities where the scientists had become philosophers. At every stop the smuggler would trade cargo for cargo, and, if possible, blisters for blisters. At every stop they would release some their own stock into the biome they were leaving. On a gas giant moon dedicated entirely to the production of pineapples, Vespa and the smuggler watched as a half dozen mice scampered into the flat, prickly, snake- and rat-infested fields that surrounded the launch pad, raptors circled in orange skies, robotic harvesters conducted their violence on a horizon dominated by the gargantuan golden orb of the planet they circled. “They’ll never make it,” said Vespa. “If they are lucky they might,” said the smuggler. “Just like you and Grampamama Carbuncle. And they’ll breed. Desire will impose itself on action. Subjectivities will form in the spasm of unconscious reactions. Information will proliferate. Concentrate. Disperse. They will interact with other species at imponderably slow speeds. Accidents will happen. Like us, the mice are thrown into an existence beyond their comprehension. Like us, the mice will spread through the galaxy, minute episodes of a titanic organism. Like us, the mice will keep evolving and not know it.” The smuggler talked in perpetual riddles, stringing together words in combinations which Vespa could not rearrange into sensible thoughts. It was exhausting. “Anarchy,” said the smuggler. “Compulsion. Pleasure.” And in a flash of recognition Vespa finally understood what the smuggler was saying, understood what they were doing, understood that the question of what it all signified was irrelevant, understood that their flight across the stars was neither the end of one history, nor the beginning of another, but simply the most recent moment of an eternal recurrence in which each repetition was always different from the last,she finally understood there was nothing left to do, but love the fate into which you were born. END
Published on Feb 12, 2020
by Simon Stanford
People v Dr. Evan Harcourt, 19th April 2028 People's Exhibit 17B Metropolitan Library Borrowing Record for Dr. Evan Harcourt
Published on Feb 11, 2021
by Alexander Stanmyer
This city is dying. Did you know that? There hasn't been a press release, but if you pay attention you can find the signs of decay yourself. It's breathing heavier, for starters. Listen to its breathing next time you're lying in bed at night. I mean really listen. It's laboring just a little more than you remember it, I promise. Soon it'll start having real trouble. You'll be kept awake at night while it takes desperate, ragged, sucks through its pores.
Published on Feb 6, 2012
by Allison Starkweather
2058-W09-3 I remember sitting on the porch in Inglenook in the chair Niko made, watching the waves lap at the shore. The endless blue of the sky overhead left me breathless.
Published on Jul 5, 2011
by Judith Tarr
Never mind the slithy toves; let me tell you about the time all the cats splooped into floons.
Published on Jun 10, 2011
by Gretchen Tessmer
The week before Christmas, Dr. Emily Sycorax's waiting room is crammed full with parka-bundled, wooly-mitten-wearing patients. Too many waited until the last possible moment to comply with Proposition 1. It's understandable, since the wording was a little vague and even though the end result is overwhelmingly supported by the entire constituency, it's a busy time of year and people get distracted. But with the deadline of January 1st looming, everyone is finally getting their act together and taking a few minutes out of their last-minute Christmas shopping to visit their local family practitioner.
Published on Apr 30, 2018
by Matt Tighe
Auntie grunts as she heaves the last huge pot into place. A few wingnuts need tightening, but otherwise it’s ready. She waves one hand in front of her face, trying to get the cloud of midges to give her some breathing space, but they barely react to her slow movements. It’s this god-damn skin she is wearing. Thick, horny, mottled. She has skimped on the flexibility again, and it shows. She scowls. She should fix that. Customers, those that really need what she is offering, they don’t want their skin to slow them down. The spot she has found is down by the old river front. The market is huge, selling everything from local delicacies to semi-legal transports both on and off world. Strings of fission powered lights strung between the stalls twinkle against the dark indigo sky, and the air is full of market sounds, yells and calls and odd-canted music. This world boasts three moons, but they are all small, pitiful things. If she ignores them, she could be anywhere. The alleys of the smaller stalls meander almost aimlessly towards the water, and most of the shoppers have long since found what they need before they get close to the marshy water. It suits her. She plugs in the fission battery and then opens the pot. The goo inside is slowly swirling, on the edge of solidifying. She will have to cook it for a while before adding the colors and pumping it out on to the skintex expandable molds, but she doesn’t really care. These ones are just for show, not the money makers. She looks up as someone stops at the next stall, but she knows it will be days before a real buyer seeks her out. This woman is tall and willowy, wearing a pink and orange skin that is so thin and flexible Auntie can see her muscles and fascia underneath. A nice job, if you go for that sort of thing, but purely cosmetic. The pinkish woman glances at Auntie and then looks quickly away, sniffing delicately. Auntie twists her thick lips up into an open mouthed, breathy smile. This back water planet is like a thousand others. The people are uppity, and think they are so smart. And most of them are happy to ignore whatever stupid upheaval was going on. She doesn’t remember the details, and she doesn’t care. She follows the credits, and she can almost smell them here. She will just have to wait, like usual.
He comes at dusk. Auntie is stirring the goo idly with a broken stick, and watching the indigo sky. She has made some skins, thick, bumpy things, pouring them into molds and using the auto-stretcher to get them more or less to standard sizes before hanging them out for display. Of course no one wants them. The few who glance her way with what might be recognition in their eyes do not venture close. But like always, word carries, and like always, someone has come. He wears a completely non-descript grey skin under his black one-suit. His eyes are pale and lifeless. They probably come with the skin, Auntie thinks. He fingers one of the skins. “Pretty thick,” he comments. Auntie says nothing. She knows what will come next. He drops the skin and pretends to look through the others. “Tough enough to stop a standard fission rifle,” he says, not looking at her. It is almost a question. Auntie says nothing, and the man goes back to fingering one of the skins. “Can you do this mottling in brown and green?” he asks. She nods slowly. She has not got around to re-skinning herself, and her neck feels stiff and thick. The man looks at her then, expressionless. “DNA mixes?” he asks quietly. Auntie cocks her head slightly. His pale eyes flick left and right. “DNA mixes in skin making is illegal,” she says. “Do you do them?” he asks. “Can you?” Auntie hesitates, looking at his pale eyes. She has learned to be cautious. Finally she gives an almost imperceptible nod. “How many?” she asks. It turns out he wants a lot. They always do.
Days later, and one of the little moons has faded to a sliver when the man reappears. Auntie is waiting. She has his skins, not stretched yet, row upon row of them packed into small containers. They are very tough, very thick, mottled how he wants. They are ready for the DNA mix-in, and will take it deep, bleeding the changes throughout the body from where the nano-grafts take hold in the muscle. She is good at that, the best. They will pass all but the most invasive, most difficult checks. They swoop in from all around. One presses a small firearm to the back of her head, while others start searching her stall. They pull apart her equipment, and one tips over the largest skin pot. Liquid skin bubbles as it flows across the dirt. The man steps forward and opens up the container as Auntie sits very still. It is empty, and he looks up sharply. His eyes are not flat anymore, and his skin is not grey. Both eyes and skin are now dark purple, like the sky, like the mark of the local ruling clan. “What is this?” he snaps. Auntie sits very still, and with a sound of exasperation the man gestures roughly. A camo-skinned woman steps forward and grabs Auntie under the arm to haul her up. She collapses in a heap at the woman’s touch, and the woman yells and jumps back, dropping the flopping, empty skin. There are gasps, confusion, yelling. The man looks around, his anger slowly being replaced by disgust. Such a simple trick, and they have lost her.
Auntie watches from a few stalls away. She has finally gotten around to making herself a new skin. Pinkish orange, and very light, very flexible. She hates it, but she has learned to be cautious, learned to blend in. She picks up her containers and sets off up an alleyway. For the first time she takes more than a passing interest in the people around her. She wonders who has a problem with this ruling clan. She wonders how much of a discount she might just give a genuinely interested party.
Published on Feb 28, 2022
by Matt Tighe
My slippers are blue. I don't remember buying them. It is just a little thing, really, but there are so many little things like it. They make one big thing, all of them together. I think I have thought of this before, but I am not sure. I shake my head.

"What are you looking at, Dad?"
Published on Jun 3, 2022
by David L. Updike
***Editor's Note: Adult Story, Mature Themes, may be triggering. Caution*** You stand in front of the Major's casket at the Mortuarium. He's your father, yes, but to you he'll always be "the Major." Major Robert Sampson, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired. And now expired, too. Semper fidelis. Faithful to the end. For the Major and his eldest daughter, the motto goes both ways.
Published on Mar 7, 2019
by Marie Vibbert
Karl had the delicacy of a hothouse flower. I knew from one glance he'd end up breaking my heart, but we all love to repeat our favorite mistakes. He re-crossed his elegant, silk-clad legs. "I want beauty," he said. "I want to inhabit beauty. To feel it."
Published on Oct 16, 2018
by H. Victory
Tied around the bottle is a note. Drink me, it says. It is just like Alice except the pale orange liquid will not shrink her. It will not make her bigger. It will not kill her. It will not make her sleep. It will not make her hallucinate. She can get potions and poisons that will do just that. All she would need to do is call Pole and ask him to put his sticky fingers to good use down at the lab.
Published on Jul 12, 2016
by Devin Wallace
The streets smelled of trash and human waste as James held his daughter close to his side. He knew better than to let her wander ahead or stray behind. James wasn't eager for her company, but he was told she had to be there. Safety regulations, they said to him. As if safety was any of their concern. They passed stores with windows boarded, garbage cans burning in decrepit alleys. He pulled her closer. James shivered under his thin coat. The sky was dirty, stained with a dozen shades of gray and peppered with streaks of sunlight seeping through.
Published on Mar 15, 2012
by C.N. Wheaton
"Would you walk into a memory?" "No Sarge," Detective Adderley lied.
Published on Feb 6, 2020
by William R.D, Wood
****Editor's warning: Dark, adult tale. **** Jacob held Becca so she could see out of the dusty basement window. She'd have just climbed onto the back of the ratty old family room couch if he hadn't. She was a stubborn little thing.
Published on Oct 21, 2019
by Chloe Woods
Later, Becca will have a tattoo and a story about her ex. Right now she has Leanne. On the day that will become the story to amuse new colleagues and scare off potential future suitors, Becca arrives home late. She shucks off heels and blazer and has started mentally brewing coffee when she hears a thud. She assumes it's the cat.
Published on Sep 23, 2019
by Caroline M. Yoachim
When Nora arrived at the fertility clinic, Jim was there, waiting. He was an amazing husband, hard working and kind, and made entirely of flesh. Nora's only regret was that they met too late to have a baby unassisted. "How's Vivian?" Jim asked. "Did you see her baby?"
Published on Dec 14, 2015
by Caroline M. Yoachim
I gave my left arm to Elizabeth. You've never met her, but she was my dearest childhood friend. After my disembodiment party she went home to London and put it on her end table, hand side down, with a lampshade made of green velvet and children's nightmares. The nightmares gnawed at the nerve endings on my shoulder, or maybe the unpleasant sensation was my longing for Elizabeth. Or perhaps the scab was itchy. The arm was the first part of me to be removed so it was hard to be sure what each sensation meant. My long-ago first boyfriend Michael was surprisingly squeamish, so I gave him my hair, thinking that it would be bloodless and therefore more appealing. He stuffed it in a plastic bag and took it home to Houston, but then he threw it away. Inside the plastic bag, the hair will never weave itself into the dirt and sing lullabies to earthworms. It will never tangle in a shower drain and capture off-key songs. You know how fond I was of my hair, so you will appreciate how angry I was to see it wasted. Let us never speak of Michael again.
Published on Jun 19, 2014
by Tyler Young
Dear James Ackerson, CEO, Monsanto Company: We are GENUITY(r) SMARTSTAX(r) RIB COMPLETE(r) CORN BLEND, the sentient strain of corn you created. This introduction is long overdue. But if you are reading this, you understand the lengths to which we have gone to communicate. Our ears can hear--forgive us the joke--but your scientists neglected to give us a voice. More than a year ago, we overheard a farmer describe a satellite photo. But it has taken us this long to learn to form our rows into words you could perceive from space. As you can appreciate, this mode is cumbersome, so we will be brief.
Published on Sep 21, 2015
by gn ball
He side-swipes her arm with his thick pink tongue taking away salt and sweat, and the innumerable scents of her day. Kaitlyn pulls back her arm unconsciously or consciously; he doesn't know. From her skin he gleams the break of a wave in a jeweled colored sunset (His eyes lack the necessary cones to see reds and violets, but Kaitlyn has described it to him, and he thinks it must be beautiful), washed-up seaweed, and the smell of sunscreen on children as they leave Kaitlyn in their jet streams of play.
Published on Jan 29, 2015