In This Future Or The Next | Science Fiction Stories

Something’s Different

A ship sails in the darkness between stars. Photons here are scarce and the ship’s bright white hull blends with the void. It’s rotating on its axis, heading towards a distant sun, too far away still to be seen. Its cargo is organic. Animals, seeds, and a few thousand people lay asleep within it. A population starter is on its way to a new world.

For the past hundred years the stillness on the outside had been slowly permeating its insides. If one listened to it in those times, one could assume the death of its inhabitants. A beep from a machine echoed once in a while and a slight breeze from ventilation swept across the many decks, shuffling specks of dirt and loose strands of hair.

It’s okay. It’s expected. Automatic electronic processes take care of the trip and its crew. Systems for recycling of air and the delivery of nutrients into the comatose bodies are in silent action. A thousand watchful eyes observe the calm, searching for deviations of the master plan. Each system has a mind, and all are connected to each other. Together they are one. Together they protect their children.

Something’s different today, though. The ship is worrying. Its many cameras are twitching wildly from one spot to the next. Heat sensors consume more power, trying to detect that which is not there. There is decision to be made, the ship believes. There are many options, but all of them fall into two categories: Abort and return, or proceed with the mission. A sense of urgency is spreading in its walls. Its rockets yearn for the order to output maximum power. The pressure maintainer and equalizer wants to vent the atmosphere to space and make a new one. Air locks are trembling with anticipation, ready for the order to open.

Something’s different. A phone is ringing, but there’s no one in range.

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Life Sucks

Every morning you wake up feeling tired no matter how much you sleep. You dress for work and work. You do your job and get back home. You sit in traffic every day and get excited for an instant when the commute is five minutes shorter. But it doesn’t last because you get home and do nothing. You sit in a chair and watch tv. You eat a half warmed dinner and you sleep. But you don’t sleep like you used to. Now when you’re in bed you think of your past and wonder if you’ve made the right decisions.

So what do you do? You think up an innocent prank. You print a small paper with the text: “Life sucks, maybe the next one won’t.”, and you put it your pocket. You struggle with an old fortune cookie that’s been hanging around your kitchen and you switch the small paper with yours. You put it in a ziplock and when no one is watching you place it at the desk of the receptionist in the building where you work.

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The Way to Black Mountain

In the dark void of the galaxy, between stars and planets, a fleet of ten thousand ships hurled through space. The black ships hid from starlight. Darker than nights, one with the void, they carried within them hundreds of thousands of souls picked from the decay of humanity into the world of Zothique.

A black slime dripped from the walls of Dante’s cell and a putrid smell of iron and vomit filled the air. Sweat soaked him. The heat of the dark-matter engines had seeped into the ship and the fumes of human waste and tears and blood enveloped him. He wiped his forehead with his wet shirt.

“Identify yourself.” An ersatz voice commanded, echoing through the endless halls of cages. A violet sliver of light shined outside his cell, ruining his night vision, and he was unable to see the giant automaton peering into his cell.

“Dante Dituri, from planet Zezziro.” He said.

“Record not found.” The monotonous voice said.

A moment of silence passed. The violet light scanned the tiny cell from side to side. A woman cried in the distance. Dante shifted backwards, and there, in the silence and the shining light, and for the shortest of moments, he recalled the sunrise near his home.

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The Figure In The Woods

In the outskirts of a large city, beneath the glow of a white moon, the cool wind whistled through a crack in Ean’s window. He opened his eyes and watched the moonlight on his floor, making a grid of four squares as it passed through. There was a knocking, too, just outside, in the woods, maybe, or in his backyard.

It wasn’t the first time he had woken up with the knocking, or the whistling, but it wasn’t a common occurrence either. He had first heard it exactly one month before. He didn’t think much of it then, and he didn’t think much of it the nights after that, but the last week had been different. There had been a voice too, a woman, it seemed, singing a melody in the distance.

So he sat up on his bed and listened. In the silence, quiet sounds stand out. The branches of the trees swayed with the blowing wind, a song in itself, but not the one he searched for. Crickets chirped sporadically. A car moved through the road a hundred yards away. Knock, knock, knock, faintly in the woods. Knock, knock, knock.

Below the silence and the silent sounds, and below the darkness and the soft white glow, a melody. Ean sat motionless in bed, not wanting to disrupt the distant singing. He stood up and opened the window, and gazed towards the black pathways below the trees. The cold entered his bedroom and he shivered.

A neighbor’s dog barked and another car passed by, and for an instant the disruption of the quiet flooded out the melody, and he cursed. Something called to him. He didn’t yet know what, but he wanted to find out. Ean slipped into a pair of flip-flops and took a scarf from a drawer. He wrapped it around his neck, and he stepped out the window into the cold.

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The Space Beast From the Magnificent Experiment

In the dense atmosphere of Venus, beneath a bronze sky, on a floating fortress left behind from the wars of a distant past, a lone man walked towards his destination. He crossed the hallways speaking quietly to himself, leaving behind a lingering echo.

“It’s not right. It’s not right. It’s not right.” He had been repeating the same words since the day had started, but it was only until he entered the hallway he had begun to say them aloud. Each step brought him closer to the office where the general was waiting for the day to end.

“What are you still doing here?” The general asked as he saw the man in the white coat approaching. “Your transport left an hour ago.”

The scientist stopped at the door and when he spoke the muscles in his throat did not obey him, instead he choked with a puddle of spit.

A moment of silence passed and the general spoke again, knowing why he had a visitor on the last day on Venus. “It’s not up to me, and it’s not up to you, either. You think I don’t care. You think so because I gave the order, but truly, it doesn’t depend on what I want or wish.”

The man standing at the door remained silent, listening to the reply of the question he meant to ask, but couldn’t.

“Is it possible it was a mistake? Yeah… it is. In fact, it’s probable that this whole operation was a mistake. We should have never come here. People died, you know? It’s easy for you to ignore this because you weren’t out there like the rest of them. People died. Why didn’t you come here to beg for their lives? Why are you here now, soul-hurt for the only living thing whose life is a mistake?”

“It’s not right…” The scientist shook his head.

“It’s not. Nothing’s right. Look… I understand okay? It didn’t ask to exist. It didn’t ask to be a part of this. It had no choice, but it’s dangerous. We cannot control it. We cannot guarantee anyone’s safety if we take it with us.”

“Then don’t take it with us! Just let it go, it can survi-”

“And,” the general interrupted, “it’s not up to us. You and I don’t get to decide. Get that into your head. The last transport to Earth leaves in two hours. I’m leaving on it. It’s your last chance to leave. No one’s coming back here, doctor. It doesn’t matter what we do, this place is uninhabitable.”

The scientist took a deep breath. “It’s not right…”

“I know.”

Having listened to the words of the general, the scientist walked away.

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The Man Who Hated the Night

The sky glowed a bright orange. A long cloud drifted in the distance, near the horizon, painted red. Wind blew across the lands and lifted from the ground dirt, and dry leaves, and a few long strands of hair.

A man was sitting, leaning on a boulder, outside his small flaking house. It was the middle of summer and the last rays of sunlight touched his face, and the soft currents of air took the heat away, and his hair fell from his head one strand a time. His eyes had been dried out, and the empty sockets in his head peered into the nothing, and his mouth rested wide open, and his skin turned ever thinner.

“Hello there, Mr. Red,” A man spoke as he walked by the decaying body, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it today either.”

The man with the red shirt, sitting by the boulder, remained silent and dead.

The walking man continued his path into the desert, and the body with the red shirt continued sitting in his place. “I won’t take long.” The walking man said as he left the corpse behind.

The man’s back arched forward, as if holding at its top a load. His stride was slow and his footsteps heavy, and his gaze was set to the disappearing sun.

If he continued walking, he thought, he might postpone the night, and the darkness would not come. If he could keep the sun above him, if only he could walk a little faster, then maybe he’d forget the cold, and he wouldn’t have to shiver. But the sun has always been harsh and distant, and unremorseful in its actions. Never had it waited for him, and never would it wait. The last light shined behind the mountains, drawing with it their outline, showcasing the first of the coming blackness.

“It’s okay,” He said and sighed, and he stopped with a loud thud, “Tomorrow we can try again.”

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How to Live

“I came looking for you, but you weren’t home. Call me. -Mara”.

There was a bronze sky above him. The sun was showing half its face in the horizon, and the wind blew with not a hint of smell in it. It was true that he was expected to be home. He had, after all, been there every day for the last year and a half at this time. He never wondered why. It was the way of the world, the order of things, the natural state of his self when the earth sat at this angle to the sun. It dawned on him that he had never watched a sunset outside of a virtual world, or on television, or in a movie. Never had his eyes met with the star that gave them light in the hours before it disappeared. The color of the clouds shifted and a wondrous waltz took place above him.

“Place the body below the solar panels at the far end.”

He looked down again to the dark-blue bag at his side. He thought that the instructions never gave a time limit. He guessed that maybe at one point they had had one, but had been discontinued. As soon as an instruction lit up the screen on a wrist, the person whose wrist belonged to followed it. There wasn’t a need for a time limit,  everybody did their part, but on that afternoon he had yielded to the glow of the horizon and the blowing of the wind, and had delayed his actions for a few minutes. He thought it a shame that he would likely not see another sunset in a long time. What a shame, really, to never set eyes upon such sight. He considered himself lucky, and he lifted the body bag on to his shoulders and walked the rest of the way to end of the field.

The corpse inside was heavy, and his feet dug into the soft grass. The crying of cicadas drowned out the pure silence, and the fading light gave way to the darkness of the night. Who knows what creatures lurk in these hours, he thought. Who knows what comes out, away from the light and concrete of the city. He placed the body where he thought was right, below the last solar panel, under the electronics. He guessed the point was to hide it, and he did his best to do so.

“Call Mara.” The instruction read, so he did.

“Hello.” She said, laying down in bed, discontinuing her counting of imaginary sheep.

“Hey, I got your message.”

“Yeah. It was odd not finding you home. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, yeah.”

“Well listen, I need to talk to you, but I can’t right now. Is it okay if I come by tomorrow?”

“Of course.”

“Okay thanks. We’ll talk then.” And so she ended the call, and she continued counting sheep.

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The Journeyman

The Journeyman Cover

The end

It was the 28th century. People around the world screamed, some in joy and some in anger, as the news spread that the ‘Global Transhuman Initiative’ had been approved. Protesters poured into the streets chanting for the sanctity of the human body, cutting themselves, letting their pure blood soak the streets. Riots broke out and fires were ignited, but it made no difference. Humanity had voted. It had decided it was ready to take the next step: Technology-guided evolution. Directed by humans for humans to give each individual a say of what he wanted to become. Athletes would get better or artificial muscles, thinkers would get never-tiring brains, and for the truly adventurous their minds would be transferred into artificial, near-indestructible bodies.

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The Song of the Violet World

Image created by Quaz http://qauz.deviantart.com/

Image created by Qauz
http://qauz.deviantart.com/

 

I was on my way back home. I had had a long day mining the asteroids. It wasn’t an easy day. The autopilot on my ship was taking me away when the violet planet caught my eye. We had been warned. They said it was off-limits for our safety. I had heard rumors of the surface, stories from a friend of a friend who had ventured down into the cloudy world.

One of the stories I remember most was one of a man who had landed there many years before I was born. He had been lured into that purple atmosphere by its beauty. Mesmerized by it, the man ignored the warnings. No one knew for sure what it was he experienced, but the story goes that when he came back, he came back smiling. The man never went mining again, and the people who knew him said he never spoke another word. Not one. But he always wore a smile. When I was younger it never seemed to me to be a warning story. Why be afraid of a place that would make your world a happy one? The typical reaction was that he went mad. He stopped working and he begged in the city streets, struggling to survive. But to me he was complete. Whatever it was he saw that day fulfilled him.

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The Ship in the Water

At first there was a ship crossing the sea. Its captain pointed to a dot in the horizon and its crew were quick to move that way. Around the world they went, time and again. Sometimes sailing, sometimes drifting, but always in command of their own destination.

Whether their decisions brought good or not did not matter to them. In their ship their lives were encapsulated. In it, they drank, they ate, they made friends and enemies and at the end of the long days under the sun, they slept. In their quarters they lay awake some nights, thinking of the reason their lives had ended up the way they had. Some other nights they sat silent on a stool or on a bench, and, along with the rocking of their imperfect vessel, they made sense of the events they had experienced that day; But when sun came up in the morning, and the screams of the captain echoed in the halls, they knew their freedom was intact. They scurried together around the hull, and together the crew set sail again for their next adventure.

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