sci-fi bites

Time Travel Suicide Therapy

Cleopatra's Death

“Can I help you?” Dax stood up and quickly covered the screen with his body. It was five minutes to closing time and he wasn’t interested in helping on yet another bored teenager, or house partner, or grandpa, or history student, or whatever to fulfill their sick time travel dream. He had his own problems, thank you very much. “Dr. Ooren sent me,” the girl said, walking into the lab, keeping her eyes on the floor. She looked like she was still in her teens, perhaps a first-year college student. She was fidgeting and pulling down the sleeves of her oversized gray sweater over her hands and fingertips. She was thin, with dark circles under her eyes, and she didn’t look like she wanted to be in his lab any more than Dax wanted her there. Which was not at all. “We close at five.” Dax pointedly glanced at the time displays on the wall. It was just about five in the afternoon. He had already loaded the jump for his own time visit — he allowed himself several exquisite minutes of suffering every Friday evening, after closing hours. He was treasuring his chosen suicide, taking his time, enjoying every…

Shifting Sands

Shifting Sands

The wind howled northward, as normal for this time of the year. The angle of planetary spin resulted in a decreased amount of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere during this portion of the orbit cycle. The atmosphere precipitated onto the surface as ammonia and water snow, lowering the air pressure, creating a stable gale south to north. The sands shifted and shifted again. A tip of a stone structure, worried by years of drifting particles, poked slightly above the surrounding dunes. “There!” The man called to his companion over the radio built into his environment suit and pointed at the tip of a hexagon. The atmosphere of this planet wasn’t breathable…yet. “It could be just another freak of nature,” the woman, similarly dressed, said. “There are stones all over this plateau. This one is perhaps a bit more regular…” “I know. I know,” he interrupted yet another pointless discussion on how his obsession with finding the remains of some long lost civilization was just a corny fantasy, all evidence just a fluke of the abrasive nature of the endless shifting sands. He lifted his hand to his chest, where underneath several layers of protective clothing hang a small intricately carved…

Word Magic, narrated by Mariah Avix of 600 Second Saga

cool word

Word Magic is a short story prequel to a larger piece of fiction I’m working on about language and its power to shape the world. I love Mariah’s work — she brings magic to my stories and to those of other writers. Please visit her site and subscribe to her work. In the meantime, enjoy this story and follow along with the text below. Word Magic “But I hate that name!” The boy tried to squirrel away from his teacher. “I didn’t ask for your opinion before assigning it to you, Acolyte Will. Names are bestowed based on a quality of need, not emotional preference.” “But you said the best words fire up emotion–” “Your name will do so… in time. Now, you have to get back to work. How many words have you discovered today, Acolyte Will?” The boy stopped squirming and settled down. He looked excited to share his lexical discoveries; it must have been a productive morning. Seeing the boy’s enthusiasm, the teacher settled down next to him. The boy had real word magic talent. It was true that he was lazy and unpredictable with it yet, but he was only a few years old still. In…

600 Second Saga: The Test

The Test

It was beside me on the bed when I woke up — the little bag to pack my most cherished belongings before leaving to take the test. Our dorm has eight living in one great room and none of us heard anything in the night. No one ever does. This is the second time this week. The other bed is still empty. The news of my test spreads like lightning. People are differential, but mostly avoiding me. What can they say? “Good on your test, bud. Wish it was my turn…not.” We live for the test. Years go by, sometimes, before a person gets visited in the night by the bag messenger. We’ve all heard stories of people spending their entire lives without taking the test. That’s the worse fate, I guess. But it’s not mine. I’ll take mine today. I have a whole day to myself to say goodbye to my friends and teachers, to the only family I’ve ever known, to the only place I remember ever living. I don’t have much to pack. We are all issued identical uniforms and supplies. That’s why the bag is so little — I can only take a memento or two…

Another Wave of Refugees

Refugees

“Another wave of refugees is arriving,” the TV news announcer said in a grave voice. George Tiggleson, the news anchor for XWTZ Christian Voice of Americas, has been practicing this voice — deep, resonant, with a slight lamenting quality — for almost twenty years. This voice got him this job. “Are we as a nation ready to take responsibility for thousands of new souls? Can we feed them? House them? Educate them in our ways?” He paused for dramatic effect. His viewers were 90 percent against accepting more refugees. He’s been hammering home the message of astronomical costs of dealing with them. And it’s been working. “But we can’t just turn them away, George,” said George’s News Hour guest, Dr. Varsaad Volhard. “Where will they go? It’s a death sentence–” “Hold on there, Dr. Volhard.” George didn’t let her finish. His viewers hated her “hollering”. The more he put Dr. Volhard down, the higher his ratings got. “We’ve accepted into our bosom almost twenty-five thousands souls so far. That’s more than any other country in the world. Haven’t we done our share? Why do American people have lay out their hard-earned money over and over again? Where would this end?”…

Flight #008: Miss

Miss

“Sir. Sir.” “What?” I am having a hard time opening my eyes. I always take a sleeping pill before getting on a plane. I’m a light sleeper, and Tokyo to San Francisco is an impossible flight for me without a little pharmaceutical assist. My throat hurts too — dehydration. “Miss,” I try to wave off the insistent flight attendant. “Do you mind bringing me a glass of water please? I’m feeling a bit off.” “Sir?” she tries again. I make myself pay attention to her. “Water?” I make my face and voice communicate the urgency of my request. “Unfortunately, sir, I can’t do that right now.” “Oh.” I rub my eyes clean of the sleeping gunk and look at the woman. She doesn’t look familiar. I usually make it a point when I fly to get to know the flight attendants in my area of the plane. It’s just a polite thing to do. And then I take my pill, and off to the lullaby land for me. “Sir? Unfortunately, I can’t give you water right now. But I do need to do a few basic neurological tests–” “What?!” Well, I’m up now. I fly all the time on business;…