Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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*MARCH 2016 MICRO STORY CONTEST - STORIES ONLY

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message 1: by Andy (last edited Mar 10, 2016 12:01PM) (new)

Andy Lake Science Fiction Microstory Contest (March 2016)
** STORIES ONLY **
The theme* for the month follows this note from the competition's Creator/Director, Jot Russell:

To help polish our skills and present a flavour of our art to other members in the group, I am continuing this friendly contest for those who would like to participate. There is no money involved, but there is also no telling what a little recognition and respect might generate. The rules are simple:

1) The story needs to be your own work and should be posted on the Good Reads Discussion board, which is a public group. You maintain responsibility and ownership of your work to do with as you please. You may withdraw your story at any time.

2) The stories must be 750 words or less.

3) The stories have to be science fiction, follow a specific theme and potentially include reference to items as requested by the prior month's contest winner. The theme for this month is posted below.

4) You have until midnight EST on the 22nd day of the month to post your story to the Good Reads Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion. One story per author per month.

5) After, anyone from the LI Sci-Fi group or the GR Science Fiction Microstory Discussion group has until midnight EST of the 25th day of the month to cast a single private vote to Jot Russell () for a story other than their own. This vote will be made public once voting is closed. Voting is required. If you do not vote, your story will be disqualified from the contest. You don't need a qualifying story to cast a vote, but must offer the reason for your vote if you don’t have an entry.

6) To win, a story needs at least half of the votes, or be the only one left after excluding those with the fewest votes. Runoffs will be run each day until a winner is declared. Stories with vote totals that add up to at least half, discarding those with the fewest votes, will be carried forward to the next runoff election. Prior votes will be carried forward to support runoff stories. If you voted for a story that did not make it into the runoff, you need to vote again before midnight EST of that day. Only people who voted in the initial round may vote in the runoffs.

7) Please have all posts abide by the rules of Good Reads and the LI Sci-Fi group.

8) Professional comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated by any member in either group and should be posted to the separate thread that will be posted at the end of the month and all voting is complete to avoid any influence on the voting. Feel free to describe elements that you do and don't like, as these help us gain a better perspective of our potential readers. Remarks deemed inflammatory or derogatory will be flagged and/ or removed by the moderator.

9) The winner has THREE days after the start of the new month to make a copy of these rules and post a new contest thread using the theme/items of their choosing. Otherwise, the originator of the contest, Jot Russell, will post a new contest thread.
______________________________

*Theme for the March 2016 contest:

Theme: Truth – particular, abstract, ambiguous, relative, absolute, disputed, lack of…. any way you please

Required Elements: A non-Earth or very-different-Earth setting
Forbidden elements: Tears. Guns. Miracles.

The thread for comments is here:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 2: by Chris (last edited Mar 03, 2016 08:35AM) (new)

Chris Nance | 434 comments Beware the Visitors
by Chris Nance

Illustrious Archon, I humbly come to you with a dire prediction in the form of a tale too fantastic to be true, for the truth is oft times veiled by shadow. You may ask, Excellency, who is this humble creature that kneels before me, begging an audience, and I should reply that I am no one…just a grain of sand in the desert, though I felt it my duty to bring to you the gravest of news. I shall tell you a story of a voice that came to me in a dream, or at least I considered it so, for I was readily in my bed and nearly asleep. Softly it said, “They are coming.”

Surely, I was startled and replied, “Who can this be in my room at night?”

“We are friends,” was the simple reply.

So in my anxiety, I asked, “Which friend comes to me without warning to disturb my sleep?”

“We are you and you are us,” it stated.

“How can that be?” I wondered. “For I am certainly here and your voice is not mine, to be sure.”

“We are Sularian and you are Sularian. Not exactly you…but you all the same.”

“Indeed?” I asked. “Why is it I cannot see your shadow in my darkened room?”

“We are the mere voice of ourselves from a dead world…an echo of our people lost to extinction.”

“Now I know you do not speak the truth,” I replied. “For I am standing here in my room. I look out my window and see my familiar Prism Peaks diffusing the starlight across the landscape. I too, assuredly, hear the wind through the whistle brush. If you are in actuality the voice of Sula and what you say is true, that ours is a world now dead, how can it be so?”

“Veritably, ours is a future that, for you, remains unwritten. We have come to save you from a dire fate. Now, your mind is aptly open. Perhaps if the eyes of others were so, we may save even ourselves from a bitter fate.”

“Very well, Echo of Sula, what message have you for a modest astronomer?”

“Beware the visitors. They have traveled afar and come bearing peace, yet carry within them such suffering and death that none will survive, though not of their intent. What begins as one Sularian will become two, then four, then all of Sula.”

“Death? Suffering? Can that be right?”

Humbly, Archon, I’ll explain that I was next struck by revelation in my mind…visions of a rocket, slender and polished white. It was marked by a crook, serpent, and broken triangle, proceeded by red lines on a white field, beneath a starry sky. Then, I suffered upon a plain littered with our kin, my own skin marked by boiling wounds the likes of which none on Sula had ever seen. “Turn your eyes to the heavens,” I was told.

And truly, Magnificence, that was the last word. I was so shaken I could not sleep through morning. Beginning my regular tasks, the whisper in my mind was nearly lost to the day, and would have otherwise been discounted as a dream, had it not been so vivid. Regretfully, I kept it secret, for who would believe me, and of that I beg your forgiveness, Excellency. Rightly, for three months I studied the heavens with a diligent eye and fading expectation, my experience waning.

Then, on the eve of the Trisolar Eclipse, I discovered a spot in my telescope, the flicker of light where none had been before. At first, I thought it to be a defect in my lens, a speck on polished glass, yet it reflected the suns like the moon and I knew the truth. Highness, I was the Sularian that detected the approach of their vessel and it has taken me better than a month to secure an audience in the presence of your radiance. I have heard the talk that travels amongst our people and, while I am nothing, an unassuming astronomer from a modest cast, I beg you with humility to turn them away. For I have seen their avatar clearly in our mutually strained communications, a lengthy ship bearing the mark of stripes of red and white beneath a star filled sky. The crook, the serpent, and the broken triangle are surely letters of their alien language. Alas, I foresee a clandestine doom and if we indulge these people from Earth, we shall surely perish.


749 words


message 3: by Paula (last edited Mar 01, 2016 02:39PM) (new)

Paula | 835 comments Truth at the Cross-Trails

Copyright © 2016 by Paula Friedman


If you have a bother—sorry, a brother—you’ll understand. Don’t ever go with a bother to a cross-trails on Earth-P.

“Go down any path!” my little brother Bolly commanded, eyes bright-shining, shouting in the purple-pink Earth-P atmosphere, same as he’d always yelled back on Earth-1. “Any! Any! Any! Go go go!”

So I climbed on the green-seat of my Purple-People-Popper ™ scooter, and I scooted off, brother Bolly on his Killer ™ to my right, and down the trail we rolled, maybe half the neighborhood kids running alongside us, down through T’hronga swamps and Calli-mo copses and sawedgrass glowfields high to every side, all pinky-gold beneath the sky.

“Go down to where a path meets another coming sharply either way—from left or right,” said Bolly, like a grown-up, then, again sounding like his silly self, “THEN say. THEN you will see.”

I twirled a finger at him, but he didn’t answer, so “Away, away,” I sang, and “Hey-hey-hey” sang Bolly, and lots of the kids piped along, even little Lilli Beth, though she was having trouble keeping up, with her squiggle-feet (being half-Martian). So we sang, happy and free, all the parents at home or at work, “settled in, solid colonists, joyful,” as Daddy always said at the biweekly work-sings, with Mom in her Mom-seat and Bolly and me, faking smiles, right beside them. Everyone smiles at work-sings, smiles and eats ice cream, and “You are BORED!” Bolly whispered to me last time, and I said “No, I’m not,” and “Yes you are,” he said, and “No, YOU’re bored,” I said, and “Anything you say,” he whispered, “goes DOUBLE for you,” and I said “No, for you,” and he “For YOU, including that!” and I “No, YOU, including that,” and he “No, YOU, including . . .”

But anyhow, here we were, and Lilli Beth hung onto one of my peddles as we slowed. The pinky-purple air smelled green; flowers gleamed, high as we were where we halted in the cross-trails, all around.

“See here? The paths cross,” I told Bolly.

“Do they cross sharp?” Lilli Beth’s bother—brother—asked.

“Sharp enough,” Lilli answered, “for me.”

“No they don’t,” he said.

“Do, too.” That was Bolly.

So I said “So?” and, before he could, “So what?”

“So you’re a big liar,” Bolly, after squinting and leaning forward on his Killer for a minute, like measuring the paths-crossing angle, replied. “Great big liar, that's the truth. Big big.”

And I began to grow. I felt myself lift off the Purple-People-Popper™’s seat. I saw the flowers, with the little bothers, Lilli Beth, and other little people, way below.

“I’m not,” I cried. “That isn’t true.”

And ZIP! I was back on my seat. Everyone was big again.

“No,” I shouted, angry. “Bolly, you’re the liar. Little, little you. And that’s the truth.”

And there he was, like a . . . like a worm, really. Tiny as could be—or not quite, but I didn’t want to try farther—and him wiggling around in the sand. Sand boulders, they must be, to him. Or maybe big as Earths. Maybe, if . . .

OOOPS! There he was again! Big as life. (Before I could even say “If Earths could get TRULY big!”)

And “Now you’re gonna get it!” Bolly shouted. “Now you’re gonna really, truly—”

And Lilli Beth began to shake. “I’m scared,” she said.

“No you’re not.” That was her bother.

“Yes, I am.”

“Not.”

“Am.”

“She’s lying,” said Lilli Beth’s bother. “Truth is, she’s chicken.”

And there was Lilli Beth lying out on the cross-trail, all spread out, steam coming up from her golden-fried wings, and . . .
. . .

Gee, of course we should’ve all skedaddled out of there, but hey, she smelled so good.

Bolly tasted best, though. Guess I really am quicker than he was. MUCH quicker than Lilli Beth’s bro’. Only problem was, these feet couldn’t do peddles, these wings wouldn’t fly, and I couldn’t make this beak begin to make a “Truth” or even a “Tru-” sound. And an Earth-P cat, big as a lion, purring with gleaming eyes, came closing in toward me. And oh, I truly, truly, TRULY wished I was a pterodactyl-P, like the chicken-Ps’ ancestors here--and I squawked it aloud.

Listen, all fur aside, that kitty went down well once I skewered it onto my bloody, novice beak.

(746 words total)


message 4: by Richard (last edited Mar 01, 2016 04:14AM) (new)

Richard Bunning (richardbunning) | 1 comments Tomorrow's Truth

"The pursuit of truth is exploration. We don't know where it goes, only where it is now. We are always in truth, in sincerity, in what we know as fact. You have heard all mine many times. There's nothing left in me to give you. Ever last memory has been extracted long ago. You have my truth, which will never quite fit yours however long I suffer. I can never match the exact true you believe I know."

"Dear chap, it is today that concerns me, not all your yesterdays. You must see that I've no choice but to make you give up the truth so that if necessary I can adjust my own. You say that you're not the terrorist, but simply a soldier fighting this country. That is exactly why I'm giving you a comprehensive chance of rectifying my misconception. I'm giving you time to prove the State wrong, impossible though that is. That requires that I torture you, to hear every last gasp of truth unpolluted by your free will. I need to extract the grain, the germ of truth from your soul."

"I've told you my story. You've heard every detail I recall. Waterboarding was enough; you already had every truth weeks ago, not that I'm terribly aware of the passage of time. All the torture since and all that's to come cannot add to what you know."

"But don't you see Lyndon, only I can be the judge of that, for how can you truly trust your reading of memories when you are so consumed by pain. Only I can judge when the truth has emerged from under all your true lies. I'm sorry, but I simply have to keep going."

"Life can appear as tough for the torturer as for the victim. However, I beg you to let me go, show a little compassion; let the last of my blood stain your floor. My arms, my legs, even my penis, and both eyes have already been cut away. Another cut won't change anything outside."

"Unfortunately, from your perspective, assisted suicide is still illegal in Britain. But I promise to not keep you alive beyond what nature allows provided I'm satisfied that you have told me everything. You see I am a humanitarian. However, we need to keep you going a while longer. I have a pig's heart, ready and waiting to take over duty from your broken organ. The Doctor is on her way."

"A biological engineer rather than what I truly call a doctor."

"Yes, yes, exactly. Felicity is a wonderful engineer. They do so well with simple medicine despite the fact that the State forbids fortification with religious miracles, hope some call it. Just pure 'engineering'! No holistic heresies!"

"You also forbid tears, and punish us more for there release, but there are tears. And so it is with miracles, because even when in pain we dream. To prevent that you'll have to remove my frontal lobes, and possibly even cut back all the limbic system, through the cerebellum, right to the stem of knowledge. Only when you get to nothing will you know you have seen the grain of truth."

"Oh how right you are. Intelligent prisoners are so much fun. The art is doing all that without stroking you too much. Haha! The brain needs to be kept as healthy as extremes of stress will allow."

"Yes, even what is left of me can see the funny side of that. Trauma just short of causing ischemic or haemorrhagic damage is a craft. But please, just ask your questions again and if any answers don't match, then I'll understand why I need to live longer."

"Okay, I'll ask again, for the last time quite likely, but of course, I don't yet know if that is true."

"I need to help you."

"Excellent! Then I'll begin... Why did you refuse to burn your copy of Einstein's 'On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies'? You know full well that the state has banned all scientific lies."
"Because I couldn't hold a light, to any truth. Armless! I apologise to the State for my weakness."

"I'm sure we're making progress, even though I'm convinced that you still lie. No firing-squad for you just yet, I'm afraid. Anyway, there is ever less of you to shoot at. Hahaha. It might then be best to put the cells that remain into DNA Rom memory. Then you could serve the State forever."

Richard Bunning © 2016 (749 words)


message 5: by Jack (last edited Mar 01, 2016 09:58PM) (new)

Jack McDaniel | 219 comments SAPIENT RIFT

Jack McDaniel

I die at the end of this. It isn't a dignified death, nor is it particularly painless. Can any death be dignified or painless? I don't know. All I can say for certain is that the dead are dead and I will be counted among them soon.

***

Dr. Rachael Carson sat on a piece of the rubble that surrounded her and consulted her heads-up display. She had another thirty minutes in the radioactive environment then her suit would begin to lose integrity. The exoarcheologist was among the first on Innusa, one of the habitable planets within local space, at least it had been habitable.

One hundred years before, at the beginning of interstellar travel, Innusa had imploded, nuclear winter and toxic levels of radiation fallout had destroyed all life and made it nearly impossible to visit or study. There were twelve habitable planets within the region - what eventually became known as the Consortium - and there was so much that was new and different to discover that little attention was paid to the dead planet. But now they wanted to unravel the mystery.

In the rubble she had found a piece of readable crystal that her suit was able to decode and project onto her tablet. Well, she thought, looking around at the ruins, at least we know the Innusa were technologically advanced. She also surmised that the Innusa hadn't made it beyond the Sapient Rift. This, she thought, might be the proof that validated her theory.

She continued reading, excited.

***

I would like to claim that I died in pursuit of something greater than myself, in service to family or community, but that isn't the case. Like many, I came to realize this much too late, past the time when salvation was possible.

Salvation. How I hate that word. It is nothing more than an excuse to avoid responsibility. Our societies and our Gods are all predicated on it. We can't see past it.

There are three all-powerful deities worshipped on this planet, each confined to its own continent, each viewed by its followers as the one true God. None of them have ever been present, none involved, just a bunch of legends and stories. How strange that seems now, knowing I will die shortly. Why did we never question this? Why didn't we see what was in front of us? Each God an absentee landlord, each confined to a specific culture or region. How could we not see how illogical that was? And each of them so intolerant of the others. My heart aches for my species.

***

So, it was the Sapient Rift. All intelligent species reach a point where their technology, population density and resource usage becomes so great that they can destroy themselves and their planet. Sapient Rift Theory states that a large number of species are unable to cross the rift, this divide. Gods, avarice, power and stupidity have been speculated as reasons for this. Until now it had never been documented.

***

Our arsenals of nuclear weapons were no less a deterrent than any others. We chose to die rather than to submit to a different God. The details of the rise of one God over another are not insignificant. But I won't allow their names to sully the truth, because they would sully the truth. Our religions bend the facts to their perspective, turn facts into malleable things. But the simple truth is this: the planet’s resources became scarce and the population too large. And when one continent has more resources than the others its way of thinking becomes THE way of thinking. Hunger, fear and anger are the fuel of hatred.

My state found this unacceptable. My God did, too. In His name we launched the first salvo. Now we pray to Him to protect us from the retribution that is arcing across the skies. It is the final retribution, unleashed by all three gods to defend what is theirs.

Now perhaps you understand what I mean when I say there is no dignity in my death, and it isn’t painless.

***

The sun was faint, everything was painted with a blue tint. Carson thought of the millions of lives needlessly wasted, the people who would have walked in this area, dined here, or watched children playing and laughing in the midday sun. Confronting the truth of her own theory was painful, surprisingly so, given the Innusa were a species she had never met.

“Just once,” she whispered, “I wish I was wrong.”


message 6: by Heather (last edited Mar 23, 2016 05:26AM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments "In Quest Of The Golden Compass Or: The Hemispheres Experiment"
by Heather MacGillivray © 2016 (750 words)


PROLOGUE:
Being Earthlings we engage with Truth like the players we are in that high-stakes game. Although Absolute Truth exists it does 'its existing' inside a dimension we can't fully enter; a Golden-universe unto itself, the God-universe.

Humanity's hand: we each construct sets of non absolute truths, sufficient for our small-worlds, by deconstructing "Absolute" so as to re-imagine, re-name "Absolute" as, "Religious," "Scientific," "Whatever-ish" (truths), the authoritative (shinier) alternates for our own (weaker) reflections-of-God'; faux strongmen for engaging the God-universe.

Among new, once-new, new-again and perennial (constructed) truths, some 'ring true.' Doesn't the biblical prophecy, "For now we see through a glass darkly ... but then shall I know," retain a 'ring of truth?' We juggle and trade the resonate (universe-splitting) truths like currencies, yet only 'half-glimpse' their ancestral form, 'Absolute Truth' as a distant prize; worth fighting for only when we're fearful of loosing the hope it offers.




Der-lin's role as data compiler for the Eastern offices of the Hemispheres Experiment was gratifying but stressful. Looking down into the noise and movement and colour filling the Beijing street, below her window, soothed her; drifting into childhood memories of the ancients, their red banners catching the day's golden rays as twisting dragons of (fine-wood framed) gauze in green, blue, red and yellow, and the throng, snaked towards the podium area. 

One hundred years prior, in 2088, the voluntary segregation of Earth's population into two groups had mirrored a 'change-your-location' vote, a last ditch 'attempt-at-survival' choice between two *HUMANITY'S ULTIMATE TRUTH* alternatives; creating a dividing line down the middle of Earth. (A century-long analysis of the thrivability of each Hemisphere's preferred truth had ensued as "The Hemispheres Experiment." Its quest: create Earth's best Truth compass for navigating the Galaxy.)

The dividing line zig zaged vertically. Everything within 7000 kilometres due East of (then) Norway, Finland, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Libya, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Angola, Botswana, South Africa (and the corresponding Polar longitudes) became "the Eastern Hemisphere," the rest "the Western Hemisphere."

A person "went West" if voting for *HUMANITY'S ULTIMATE TRUTH* to become that: all things bright, shiny and new (b,s&n) be the building blocks of the future. "Travelling East" was the alternative vote. Open-minded towards the b,s&n, it added an important "also": the root of all truths went deeper, to original knowledge; the knowledge of the ancestors and archetypes (the k of a&a.) At stake: for the thriving truth Hemisphere a century hence, a Golden Compass; precisioned object d'art.

Some b,s&n voters, crossing paths with k of a&a believers, said, ironically, "You're un-original, superstitious, hampering Earth's progress!"

Their k of a&a opponents countered, "You're dangerous; covertly consulting archetypes, while overtly denying the dimensions they inhabit, within you! "True Science" implies "Acknowledging-ALL-Truth!" You're not Galactic exploration-ready. But once "Your Science" catches up then you'll love crossing over multiple dimensions ... just like the ancients!"

From debate change grew. "Let's see who thrives?" emerged world wide as a respectful greeting and reply between people.

There was freedom to cross "truths' line" as long as sector rules were obeyed. For Eastern Hemispherians, just writing "g*n" could attract six months rehabilitation. Move West, and being 'so irresponsible' as to not own physical weaponry mandated dueling with state trained, protectively outfitted, official aggressors.

Any long term success of The Hemispheres Experiment hinged on the line-of-truth holding. Generally, both side's individual Hemispherians respected The Experiment; what with Earth on the brink. Der-lin's worry was the Collective Mind. Perennial, anomalous sub-groups have always urged populations to blunt their precision weapons - which nowadays were those needed for Galactics: lateral; critical; philosophical; and respectful thinking.

Turning from the window Der-lin poured water from an ancient urn into a cup. Reinvigorated, her thoughts returned to the matter at hand.

Today's date, 8/8/2188, was auspicious; 'eight' was lucky and today the one hundredth anniversary of the Hemispheres Experiment's inaugural vote. Week-long celebrations had commenced, opening the grande rounde of discussions to decide, firstly this: "had that Experiment saved one half of Earth?"

If "yes," then Earth's thriving half would terraform other planets guided by their compass of thriving truth; honed during The Experiment. (If "no winner"? No-one could steer Earth's warring truths, worsening resource shortages, fantastic technologies and incompatible Galactic-colonization policies!) 

Der-lin spoke quietly to the smiling ancestors then stepped onto the podium with the data that might, if Truth be known, establish the Eastern Hemisphere's thriving status. The grande rounde of discussions, 'to re-glimpse' the Golden Truth, for humanity and all the universes, had, if nothing else, begun. 


message 7: by Marianne (last edited Mar 23, 2016 05:37AM) (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments Mystery

There is always a Door between Sleep Fall and the Dream. This one has glittering gold hinges and fine tracery on the oval knob, which depicts a dead eagle, sharp talons pointing up toward infinite darkness. Muffled sounds reflect off the unseen side of the Door’s smooth black surface. I cover the Symbol, my only hint to what lies beyond and push into the Dream.

The blonde Senator in a white sun dress grabs my right hand and pulls me along a malachite corridor, down a flight of ruby stairs and drags me into an onyx auditorium lined with sapphire seats. We take our place with other anatomically odd men and women, who listen to a crab-clawed Senator. He snaps and clacks with each howl of perceived injustice, his shell glasses wobbling in time on his too pink nose. The Senator beside me shakes her head in fury, her twisted ivory horns stabbing the air with her protest.

Nonsense. Total nonsense. All of it. I rise and walk over to a block of rose marble. I insert the blue plastic rectangle, which I have apparently held in my left hand since I crossed the threshold, into a horizontal cut in the stone.

The power to the speaker’s scallop microphone suddenly cuts out. On the wavy white curtain behind him, a movie begins. A comedy. Biting, crass and funny. Real life, not pretend life, and very incorrect.

Crab man shrieks and his lobster guards bolt toward me. I leap up on an alabaster plinth. “You are all liars!” I thunder, the sound of my voice making the screen hum in agreement. “You wear your faults and know it not!”

The unmodified actors in the movie step out of the play and drift down to the Senate floor. “Liars! Liars! Liars!” they chant.

Everyone is boiling over with rage now. Claws and horns collide. A butterfly lands on my shoulder. She caresses my ear with her proboscis and taps out her coded message: We can always depend on you, Trickster.

An innocuous door forms before me. I make my escape.

Air rushes into my lungs as I gasp, awake and grab at nothing. I drop from my bare bunk onto the metal floor of my spaceship, which gently shakes and creaks on the ledge of the ice canyon where it has lodged. Only one flickering florescent light remains to illuminate the cabin that has shielded me from the cold of an inhospitable world.

My stomach growls with hunger. I crawl toward the steel table where, so long ago, I laid out my survival supplies. Only three packets of nutrients and sleep tablets are left. I haul myself up and settle on a ledge that juts out from the smooth wall.

A series of hyena sounding hoots reverberate against the ships outer hull. They always seem to know when I am awake, and they must be insane with the thought that they cannot reach me.

“A va fangool!” I curse. A clawed appendage strikes the metal as if the beast outside understood the insult. Horns scrape in repeating arcs under the ship’s belly. Maybe, one day, whatever a day is on this world, they will break through and feast upon me. As old as I have gotten in my unwanted exile, they will find me filthy, tough, and chewy. That thought comforts me. “A fanabla!” I shout, my spirit flashing with courage despite the hopelessness of my situation.

I reach into the pocket of my threadbare cargo pants and remove a vial. It still glows a poisonous blue. I have never considered drinking its contents because I believed in the Hero’s Story.

But I have spent more of my life between Sleep Fall and the Dream than what passes for Reality. Terra has forgotten me. Maybe it is time I forgot Her.

Three bags full. Three tablets. Three more chances to sleep, then wake.

The beasts scream. The winds howl. The ice moans.

Between Sleep Fall and the Dream, where does Time go?




Word count from Word Perfect 672


message 8: by Dean (new)

Dean Hardage | 82 comments Truth
Dean Hardage ©2016

Albert had finally received the news he’d been awaiting for the last five years. The Sage would see him today. When his sojourn began on this strange and different world he would have jumped for joy. Now there was only muted satisfaction and recognition of the inevitable. The thought caused him to recall his arrival and subsequent residence so far from Terra. He looked around at the austere chamber he inhabited and smiled slightly as he let his mind drift backward in time.

Albert J. Alexander was a mega-millionaire several times over owing to the incredible speed at which he thought and acted as well as his ability to see the commercial applications of new technology that no one else even considered. As happened with so many successful over achievers Albert reached a point where success no longer held any attraction for him. He began to study philosophy and religion, seeking some purpose or reason for his existence and finding little besides ancient homilies and myths. Nothing made enough sense to satisfy the need for answers, for some purpose, for the hidden truth that he felt was just beyond his ability to perceive.

In the process of his studies Albert had come across references to an alien that was supposedly able to help each individual discover his or her personal truth. He’d found out where this sage lived, seen any number of glowing anecdotes from supplicants who’d gone to seek his aid. Albert decided to follow up on this information and chartered a transport to a star system some ten thousand light years away from Terra.

He resumed is mental review of his life since arriving, the initial disappointment of being denied a meeting with the Sage, his anger that spilled over into threats and attempts to intimidate the attendants before he realized the only way he would accomplish his objectives would be to do as his host required.

That day he was assigned to his small cell, traded in his active-fiber, temperature and humidity regulating clothing for a simple robe and sandals. He also abandoned his business activities for days of introspection and meditation.


At first the exercises chafed upon his normally high-speed personality and he had not been able to empty his mind of all of his business concerns. That was, until he realized that’s all he had…business concerns. The realization that there was no single person in his life that was as important to him as his next acquisition opened his mind and he began to take his contemplations more seriously and spent the next five years on self-examination.


Now that he was getting what he came for it was almost anticlimactic. He rose and followed the attendant that had summoned him. Albert was ushered into the Sage’s chamber and invited to sit on a small stool about two meters from the platform where the Sage sat. The Sage was not human or even humanoid. Multifaceted eyes, chitinous exoskeleton, and three pars of limbs bespoke his insectoid origins. Albert met this with equanimity and waited patiently for the Sage to speak.

“You have been here for five of your years. Why have you stayed?”

Albert had never considered that question and took some time to examine himself as he had been taught before answering.

“At first it was to ask you the meaning of my life.”

“And now,” the Sage asked?

“To find it for myself.”

“What have you discovered?”

“That only I can give my life meaning. That only where my life meets others will it be of true significance.”

The Sage’s mantis-like head bobbed in agreement.

“Then you need no longer stay here.”

Albert nodded.

“Farewell.”

Albert smiled, stood and bowed before leaving the chamber. As the door closed behind him the Sage’s attendant appeared from a hidden entrance.

“How did we do off of him?”

“Enough to keep the place running for a century,” replied the attendant.

“Such silliness, thinking they need a ‘truth’.

“Most of them convince themselves they’ve found it before they ever talk to you. What would you have told him if he’d still asked for his?”

“He snores and his feet stink.”

The remark was met with a hearty laugh before the attendant went back to his duties and the Sage prepared for his next supplicant….

Word Count via MSWord: 720


message 9: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Lichtman | 247 comments Wolf at the door (408 words)

The littlest pig lived in a house made from structurally engineered bamboo. When the wolf peered through the huge, triple-glazed window, the pig was doing yoga. Behind him was a standing desk, with an expensive-looking computer on it. The wolf rapped sharply on the window with his paw, as he hauled out his cigarette lighter, and a can full of accelerant. Then he set the house on fire. No point in wasting breath.

The startled pig hot-footed it down the interstate, with his titanium-cased laptop under one arm, and his partially rolled-up yoga mat under the other. The wolf shook his shaggy head, then followed at a more sedate pace.

The second pig lived in a house made entirely out of glass and chrome. When the wolf arrived, he could see the resident ungulate talking to his younger brother, who was gesticulating wildly. "Two for the price of one," thought the wolf to himself. He lobbed a rock from the conveniently located rock garden through the nearest window.

"I'm calling my lawyer," the middle pig shouted, through the jagged hole in his window that the wolf had made. Then both pigs took to the road, the younger one still clutching his laptop and yoga mat, his brother holding his smartphone tightly to his ear, and speaking tersely into it.

The oldest pig resided in a house that had been specially built for him by an internationally-renowned architect, whose name everyone knew, but nobody could pronounce. It consisted of angular sheets of remarkably reflective metal, joined together at peculiar angles. The wolf whistled in appreciation, and touched one sharp edge with his paw. It drew blood. He stepped back a few paces and sucked on his finger, while pondering his next move.

Just then, the sun came out from behind a bank of clouds. The radiant heat, reflected from the house, focused precisely on the spot on which the wolf was standing, fried him instantly to a crisp.

The pigs ate roasted wolf steaks for weeks, although the oldest pig was occasionally heard to mutter that the meat tasted gamey.

There are two morals, dear reader, that one may draw from this tale.

The first, is that authors should not overly anthropomorphize, as it is unseemly. Mea culpa.

The second is that there's little point in scrutinizing this story, in order to determine which characters are the heroes or the villains. It's simply a pig eat wolf world sometimes.


message 10: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
New Terra
by Jot Russell c2016

The rain passed and displayed a rainbow. Above the hilly, green horizon were amber clouds that cleared to reveal the planet's binary moon. We exited our crippled vehicle to gain a better view of this foreign place.

I held my wife's hand in hopes of using the beautiful scene to calm the bitter feelings between us. I felt an icy shutter and expected her to withdraw, but reluctantly, she accepted the gesture.

"At least it's beautiful,” I offered.

“You stranded us here!”

“I didn't intend on crashing. We hit some type of gravitational wave.”

She released my hand. “There's no such thing as a localized gravitational wave!”

“Apparently there is, somewhere over that way,” I pointed.

“First, the subspace transmitter mysteriously burns out, preventing us from getting a message back about a fertile planet that can host countless people from our dying world. And then, when I suggest we return home with the news, you instead talk me into landing first and purposely maroon us here; insuring no message will ever be sent back!”

“That's not true.”

“Your version of the truth, not mine."

"There are no versions of the truth."

“Ha, you want truth? The truth is that I don't love you; never did. I only married you to make it into the New Terra program. When I learned of the Federation's plan to send only married pairs to the twelve systems, I sought you out.”

“I know.”

“You know!? When did you know?”

“I always knew. But I also knew that I loved you and figured if you were willing to take this trip with me, then I was willing to let you keep your little secret.”

“But all those nights?”

“I enjoyed each moment, and you seemed to enjoy them too, at least part of the time; perhaps the times that you thought of him.” I turned and started off towards the source of the wave.

She ran to catch up and pulled me around to stop. “What do you mean, him?”

“It's okay. I've known about the two of you for some time.”

She let go of my shoulder. “I'm sorry.”

“Don't be, and besides, I'm the one who should say I'm sorry. After all, I'm the one who marooned us here.”

“So you admit it!”

“I only admit the truth, and it's somewhere over there.” I turned in that direction.

I could hear her steps behind me in the wet, grassy surface. Ahead was a loose scattering of various trees; some of which bore fruit. About a kilometer from the crash site, I noticed a strange angling of the trees in the direction of the path ahead. As we grew closer, I realized there was no large structure or mountain. Instead, there was a crater, whose grassy surface disguised its perfect semi-spherical shape.

“You believe me now?”

“What is it?”

“An artificial singularity.”

“How come we can't feel it?”

“Because they turned it off.” I started to back off from the ledge.

“Who's they?” She asked, and retreated as well.

From beneath my feet, I felt a sudden vibration that quickly gained in strength. I turned and jumped towards the base of a nearby tree. As I wrapped my arms around its trunk, I felt the sphere's force pulling me towards its center. I looked over and tried to grab the hand of my wife, but was too late. She was swept off her feet and got sucked into the black hole at the sphere's center.

With only a glimmer of hope, I released my other arm. As I fell, the light changed to streaks of colors that quickly grew in brightness until I was emerged within a weightless realm of pure white. Without reference, I could no longer tell if I was moving.

From around me, “Which truth do you choose?”

“To be with my wife.”

“But she does not choose to be with you.”

“What did she choose?”

“She chose to return to a time when she could choose to follow her heart.”

“A time? Then return me to when we first met.”

The colors formed and gave detail to my surroundings. I smiled in recognition and turned to gain sight of her approach. My smile faded as I realized she wasn't coming.

“Hope you find your truth,” I whispered.

Outside the conference, a number of Ph.D. students were eager to ask me questions.

One said her thesis was on singularities.

I smiled and asked if she cared to discuss it over dinner.


message 11: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 969 comments Fantastic story! I loved it!

Best,

Justin Sewall


message 12: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 169 comments Fly Free

I had heard enough. The more the synthohol was consumed, the more xenophobic the stories became. If they weren’t bipeds, they were baaaddd. The dying words from a soldier I helped long ago echoed in my ears: “The truth was lost. Long before the first shot was fired. Don’t ever let the truth get away. Don’t ever be silent when the truth is at stake.”

I banged my mug on the table for silence.

“All of us were enemies at one time in the past. If someone had not backed down, given up their prejudice, gave into trust, we would still be.”

In the brief silence, I launched into my tale.

“We lost almost 40% of the power from Northern array of our solar generator. As soon as it was light, I followed the transmission cables in that direction.”

“As I cleared the ridge and headed down into the crater, I saw the problem: most of the array was in the shade. The dark cloud overhead was thousands of the native bird. Normally they come out at night to avoid overheating in the fierce sun and travelled in much fewer numbers. As I stepped into the shade, I immediately felt cooler.

“You mean the Avains? It would hardly do justice to call them mere birds,” Shand pointed out.

“Well, that’s true. They do have a twenty-foot wingspan but they like to fly pretty high, so we thought they were like our hawks or eagles back home.”

“Midway between two transmission towers, there was a tangle of wires. I grabbed my equipment and hiked toward the knot. But is wasn’t a knot. As I approached, I realized the knot was a dozen Avains moving in a cluster. At the moment I noticed them, they noticed me. A few opened their wings and took steps in my direction.

"We stood staring at each other for almost a minute. More accurately, they were looking down at me and I was staring up. When my neck started to ache, I shifted position and they did, too. One blocked the morning sun and I could see more clearly: A pouch, hung by a strap around one birds neck. As I glanced around, I saw most of them had similar pouches. Intelligence. The one nearest me deftly swung its pouch onto a wing, reached in with its beak and pulled out something shiny. A knife? A tool? Even unarmed, they could easily take me.

"But they didn’t. I took a step forward, then another step. They stepped back or to the side. In the middle of tangle was one of them. It must have hit the wires at a pretty good clip. It wasn’t very tangled, but it was struggling and unable to pull the cables off of itself. I noticed a quiver and waved a scanner. The system was still live. The poor creature was being electrocuted.

"I open my case, flipped open a clear cover and hit the big red button. The creature sagged to the ground. When I looked up, the one with the shiny object was less than a dozen feet away, looking at me intently. I also noticed the circle had closed – I was surrounded.

"I took a moment to study the Avian in the wires. It was big, with a wingspan over two dozen feet. I walked around, trying to find a good spot while ignoring the constant motion as they shifted around me. I pulled on a cable, trying to get them off. Suddenly there were one on either side of me, tugging with me.

"When it was free, it rose to its feet. I and the strange creatures stood face to face. I’m sure I was as odd to it as it was to me.
Finally, it seemed like it nodded at me, then beat its wings and launched into the sky. Then all the Avians flew away, creating gusts of wind that nearly blew me off my feet."
---
Several years later, I was scouting another crater when the rover went off a cliff. I don’t remember much, just waking up in the habitat. The crew said they found me outside the airlock when they went to look at hundreds of Avains circling overhead, casting shadow over the building, over me.

When we found the rower, it was six miles away, much too far a walk with the limited oxygen I'd had with me.


message 13: by Dorthe (last edited Mar 22, 2016 11:35AM) (new)

Dorthe (dortheaabom) | 8 comments Truth Or Dare

"Hello, handsome, let me buy you a drink. Barista, another one of those for my new friend – no, make that two, it does look good. Never could resist green bubblies.
It's been a long couple of weeks, I can tell you that. Been travelling all over this world, and not much to show for it. And now I'm sitting here waiting in a bloody spaceport for the next ship homewards. Just like you, I guess.
But this drink is good, just the ticket. Well done, barista.

I did have a funny experience the other day, though. You see, I collect entertainments for a station on my home world. Ideas for entertainments, that is. Can't just take the whole thing as is, what with different species and genders and all that. The jokes don't translate.
I know, now you're gonna ask why not just download the stuff, go through it in the comfort of our own home world? You may not believe it, but it's actually cheaper sending an operative out there – out here – than running the equipment to get a decent long-range signal. Most stations only broadcast within their own systems, if even that.

Anyway, there I was, interviewing this local station manager, going through their programme. And this game show comes up. 'Truth Or Dare', they call it, 'TOD' for short. The participants are a mix of volunteers and criminals – or alleged criminals, I should say: they have this complicated game thing instead of proper law courts.
So, a participant comes in – murderer or mason, hijacker or housewife, nobody knows – and gets their neural implants hooked up to the system. The participant chooses a reward, and the game show host/ess names a punishment to match. The larger the possible prize, the more excruciating the fee, even up to capital punishment. Can you believe that? Ordinary people risking torment and death to win a prize.
Barista, get us another round of drinks.

Of course, it's gotta be the desperate who sign up for this, and folks with a secret death wish. Maybe those who think they deserve to be punished, but can't figure out how to go about it themselves. I mean, everybody is guilty of something. You can't lie, you can't win. One thing that really gets me, though, is how they can leave the punishment of criminals up to chance? The game has to be rigged, otherwise if the bad guys could walk away with a big bag of credits, where's the protection of civilians?

I'll give you an example or two, show you what I mean.
First, there's this female – think it was a female, at least, hard to tell with purplies – no offence. She names her prize, a fairy tale wedding including a honeymoon on the banks of Eurotas. The host/ess counters with branding in seven places on the body, nothing excluded. The crowd roars, the female goes a little bluer. The cards come up, all shown on the big screens; the female stops just in time, the dealer gets the same number – house wins. Truth Or Dare. So the host/ess asks what exactly happened a week ago with that sexy stranger, and the female goes almost grey. You can tell the wedding is off if that particular truth comes out, and if she chooses the torture, the wedding is off anyway.
Stupid. How could she have thought that incident was buried deep enough in her mind to not be found?

Next up is a shifty-looking character. Prize: complete immunity and a passport. Punishment: the gibbet. Cards are drawn, house wins again. Question: where are the diamonds? Character protests innocence, is led away, gibbeting is shown on big screens.

Now, I am beginning to wonder if the house always wins. Safest way to play it, of course, but it would give the game away, so to speak.

In comes the third participant, a handsome young thing like yourself, very calm and collected. Prize: two million credits. Punishment: decapitation. Cards are drawn, participant wins. No question, no truth. Participant walks away.

And that's where I'm thinking the game must be rigged. If this person was guilty or even accused of a felony worthy of capital punishment, they can't just let him off scot-free, with credits to boot. Can they?"

...

The handsome stranger in the bar stands up, thanks our host for the drinks, looks at his expensive chronometer. "Honestly couldn't say," he says and walks off, briefcase in hand, towards the departure gate.


message 14: by Thaddeus (last edited Mar 22, 2016 08:10PM) (new)

Thaddeus Howze | 47 comments The Race by Thaddeus Howze

The medicinal stink of the space station hospital filled Carl's nostrils. It made him think of death. He always hated hospitals. Never as much as he did right now.

“It’s been a few days since he woke up. Can we see him?” The older man stood straight, tall and more than a bit menacing to the overworked doctor who seemed to almost disappear in his shadow.

The doctor frowned, the corners of his mouth pinched downward as he tried to find a way to say no, diplomatically. “I would rather you didn’t. He still needs time to adjust to his condition.”

“Has anyone told him...anything?”

Seeing himself in a situation where nothing he did would be right, he erred on the side of his self-interest. No telling what happens to people who say no to these types. “Not a word. We did as you instructed. You’ve got five minutes. Go slow.” He nods at a Sisterhood nurse who leads the two of them into the ICU.”

“You have two visitors, Vincent. Remember, five minutes, gents.”

A sound, just a whisper, rattled from across the room. “Who won?”

“Damn Vincent. You wake up from nearly dying and the only thing you can ask is…”

“Fuck you, Carl. Who won? Did Bobby beat me?”

“What do you remember?”

“Not much. I remember coming around that last turn… The raceway was singing to me. 'Faster, go faster. Is the best you can do, Vincent? You don’t really want to win. You're a loser.' But I did want to. I was retiring, no one had ever taken the Kessel Run three times in a row. I wanted this. I needed this.”

A long gasp for breath, deep, painful; cracked ribs resist, the pain highlighting memories.

“Go on.”

“I always knew where Bobby and Pauley were on the raceway. I can just feel them. Bobby was next to me as we came into the straight-away. That last ring. Only one of us could fit... I knew they would peel off. They were all over me, Pauley on the left, Bobby on the right. I was in the zone, I could see everything. I would take them in the last second - but that didn't happen, did it. Why can't I remember?”

“No.” Carl’s anger with Vincent drained away. The two brother-in-laws never got along. This was not the time for their rivalry. The question still hung between them.

The older man had Vincent’s face plus thirty years. Eyes hard, like flint, his face fiercely proud of his son. “You did good son.” His hand rested softly on his son’s shoulder. He was happy he could give his boys a life different than the Family demanded. They were brilliant racers. No racing family had even done better.

“Pop? What happened? Why can’t I remember?”

“You might not remember a lot of things for a while, Vinny. Just know we love you, no matter what happened.”

“You might, but it wasn’t your husband he killed.” Pop winced. He was tolerant of their relationship even though he disapproved, he could not deny his son anything. He embraced Carl like family, as best he could.

“It was an accident, Carl. You can’t blame him for what happened.”

“I can. I do. I won’t ever forgive you for what you did.” 

The memory came back in flashes, spinning wildly, losing control, having only a split second to choose which of his brothers would die. Oh, god. Pauley!

He started coughing, a dry gasp, choked with the memory of what happened. The nurse rushed back into the room. “Out.” Her eyes cut them from the room like a blade. 

“When are we going to tell him?”

“What? The truth?” Pop looked at Carl, a threat of violence in his mein. “Never.”

The funerals for the two Minetti brothers, Paul and Robert were held two weeks later. Vincent died two weeks later, the Minocs, those most soul-less of gamblers, say from grief, others thought from the burden of the price of his win. 

The truth was simpler. Carl couldn’t keep his word. His pain wouldn’t let him. 

Pop knew. The Family demanded vengeance. It would be within his right.

But Carl was all he had left.

He did what had to be done. The truth demanded it.

He had all of their names etched on the Trophy.

He buried it alongside Carl on the planet below.

734 words.


message 15: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Kraftchak (smkraftchak) | 123 comments The Truth that Binds (748 words)
copyright by S.M. Kraftchak

Tirna flipped her mother’s pendant between her fingers. It wasn’t quite the same, but she hoped it worked. She hadn’t watched the alien landscape for nearly an hour. Her chest tightened as she remembered the forged words that had sentenced her to this remote penal colony; it had been a calculated risk. She had turned her life upside down and paid a high price to get here. No one could know the truth. More than her life depended on it.

Lifting her head at the sound of the microphone clicking three times as it had every hour of their thirty-six hour journey, she watched the wrangler’s yellowed grin widen just before he spoke.

“Rise and shine, you worthless bunch of nothings.”

Tirna rolled her eyes wishing he had tried just once to be original in his taunts that had forced all but her into sleep-depro.

“We’ve arrived at Paradisio. Time for everyone to disembark. There’s nowhere to run, so don’t even try. Don’t worry, ya’ll get your beauty sleep when you’re dead.”

Pretending to shuffle along like the others, Tirna, the only passenger still alert closely watched their wrangler. With her hair in her face she observed everything without giving herself away. Her fingertips absently measured the lump on the inside of her wrist. The time release good-night drug buried under her skin was all that kept her body and mind alert with no more than thirty minutes of sleep at a time, and it was almost gone. Tirna blanched at the thought of the strident warning about its side-effects once it wore off. It would last, it had to. If she fell asleep before she reached her…

Their new homes were all perfectly identical white side-board houses standing shoulder-to-shoulder as if forbidding them to pass, except…one had fake flowers (of course nothing grew here) blooming in the yard. Tirna knew that had to be her mother’s home.

Calculating her distance from the nearest wrangler to the house steps, she lunged toward the house, made the top step, and was pounding on the door before the wrangler even looked up from his girlie vids.

“Mother! It’s Tirna. I’ve come to rescue you. I can prove you didn’t kill that man.”

Tirna would have fallen inside when the door suddenly opened, if the callous hand of the wrangler hadn’t seized her elbow at just that moment.

“Mother, tell the truth. Speak into this. It’ll prove you’re innocent,” Tirna shouted, yanked her necklace off, and shoved it at her mother’s stunned face.

“Come on, you. We’ll see if you still have this much energy with a few days less rations.”

“Tirna, what are you doing—”

“Mother, I’ve come to rescue you. Just speak into the pendant. Tell the truth and they’ll have to let you go free. We can leave and go home together. Tell them you didn’t kill that man.”

“Enough of your nonsense, now.” The wrangler began dragging Tirna down the steps. “Of course Lora’s a murderer, or she wouldn’t be here. Just like you. Now, don’t make me do something you’ll regret later.”

Tirna yanked her arm free and clambered back up to her mother’s feet. “Just say you didn’t kill Olivet Nash into the truth verification pendant. They’ll have to believe you and set you free.”

The older woman pressed her lips together as she looked between the swinging pendant and her daughter. Twenty years had turned her five year-old into a beautiful woman. The corners of her mouth turned down and then she said, “You stupid girl, of course I killed Olivet Nash.”

“The respondent is telling the truth,” stated the swinging pendant.

Tirna slowly stood. Her mouth gaped as she looked up at her mother.

The wrangler crossed his arms and gave a long, loud, belly laugh. “I could have told you that. And now it seems, like mother, like daughter.”

“No!” Lora looked up at the wrangler.

“Sure as the sky is red,” the wrangler said pointing up and then used his fingernail to pry something from his front teeth.

“Why Mother?”

“Did you?” Lora stared at her daughter’s face.

“Yes, I killed a man, so I could come here and free you.”

“The respondent is not telling the truth,” stated the swinging pendent.

“Why did you kill Olivet Nash?”

Lora turned to go inside and then said, “He raped me. I couldn’t have you find out the truth about your father.”

“The respondent is telling the truth.”


message 16: by Andy (last edited Mar 23, 2016 02:06AM) (new)

Andy Lake Emotional Pathology

Jorg Ragnussen, Emeritus Professor of Emotional Pathology stepped to the podium.

He looked across to the empty chair where his opponent in the debate should be. It was a tactic he recognised. Her lateness was a contrivance to disconcert him and focus emotional attention on her eventual arrival. He could deal with that.

He looked around the audience in the room, then made a sweeping gesture towards the billion avatars watching from afar, acknowledging their applause and interest.

“For nearly three centuries we have been developing affective computing to enable machine intelligence to recognise, interact with and respond to human emotion. Endowing it with emotional sensibilities. We need to stop, review and rethink what we are doing.

“The truth is, all emotion is pathological.

“You may say, ‘We are creatures of emotion’. But emotion has an evolutionary context. And the context of human existence has changed.”

He gestured towards the outward signs of his implants. Then he summoned a series of holo-images illustrating the vast range of neuro-controlled prostheses and devices in common usage, of replicators and the artefacts they produce, of vast cities in space, of new lands of health and plenty.

“Our emotions evolved as spurs to action and reaction, to decisions for fight or flight. We no longer need to fight or flee. Nor fear the lack of anything. Nor fear that others will take what we have.

“What of happiness? Of pleasure shared? Happiness carries its shadow, the fear of its loss. The surge of chemicals that boost happiness cannot be sustained. If they are artificially sustained, the result is addiction. That brings its own set of problems and dysfunctionality.

“And what of morality and justice? For millennia the human race has been misled by conflating right and truth with whatever makes us feel good – ”

The door of the theatre swished open as Amira Yu, Professor of Hyper-Affective Cybernetics and Founder of the Empathic Grid, made her entrance. Ragnussen stopped mid-sentence. He had not seen Amira in person for many years. Older now, she carried herself with great style and elegance. His counter-affective implant routines noted the impact of her charisma, and adjusted accordingly.

As expected, Amira had interrupted the flow. Ragnussen smiled, and gestured for her to speak.

“Without emotion, we live a lie,” began Amira. “My learned colleague feels that it is by controlling emotion that we have made the advances we have. My thesis is this: The greatest advance in human history is the great leap we have made in understanding each other, by being able to upload and share our emotional state to the Empathic Grid, to receive feedback and support from billions. You don’t agree, Jorg?”

“I think the Empathic Grid has sent emotionality spiralling out of control. Billions of people waste potentially productive lives wallowing in a half-real emotional melodrama. It has slowed the advance of humanity.”

Amira smiled. “Let us test your doubts about the Empathic Grid. Will you join the Grid, just for ten minutes, for a thought experiment?”

The audience near and far signalled overwhelming approval. Jorg smiled. He had been expecting such a stunt, and was confident he could withstand any planned demonstration. Now connected, he felt the wave of emotional reactions to his arguments, to his perceived coldness, but also to his perceived honesty.

“Jorg and I have a long history, as colleagues, rivals, opponents – and lovers! Do you remember our liaison with affection, Jorg? Ah. I see. Affection, plus confusion and consternation. Me too!

“Now – I would like the young gentleman in the third row to stand up. Can you tell us who you are?”

A young man in his early twenties stood up. “I am your son. And his son, you told me last week.”

“Yes, Luke is seven months younger than the years that have passed since we ended our affair. And it had to end. You could not disrupt your family at that time, nor did I want you to. And since then ….” She shrugged.

Jorg’s face had turned white, then reddened. His inner turmoil was shared with the billions on the Grid. Waves of emotional support and shared emotional experience sought to comfort him, while his counter-affective routines sought to neutralise the emotional flux.

“Should I have told you? As time went on your fame grew, I feared that we – Luke and I – would be emotional encumbrances to you.”

Jorg was regaining his emotional equilibrium, his professorial balance. “Amira, is this true?”

“Do you want it to be?”

[750 words]


message 17: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Time's up! Please send me your votes.


message 18: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Votes still needed from Chris, Greg, Thaddeus and Sharon.


message 19: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Kraftchak (smkraftchak) | 123 comments For anyone interested- not that this group necessarily NEEDS this but I'm always on the look out for new advice. This is a 3 part video series done by Autocrit, via Bookbaby. It looks interesting.

https://www.bookbaby.com/free-guide/a...


message 20: by Heather (last edited Mar 25, 2016 10:46PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments Thanks for that info, Sharon. I'm just listening now to the first of their free videos. Its on dialogue and helpful to me.

I'm looking forward to the other two of the free videos ... and then, dependent on cost, which isn't immediately shown - it just says you can sign up for a free trial - it looks like getting even further into what autocrit has to offer could be very helpful.


edit: actually I just found the prices of the different price plans: $5, $8, or $12/month (US dollars that would be) billed annually ... it was at the link called "Pricing", oddly enough! :)


message 21: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus Howze | 47 comments Sent mine to you Jot.


message 22: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
First Round Finalists:
Truth at the Cross-Trails by Paula Friedman
Tomorrow's Truth by Richard Bunning
Sapient Rift by Jack McDaniel
Wolf at the Door by Jeremy Lichtman
Truth Or Dare by Dorthe

Votes Needed From:
Jack McDaniel
Dean Hardage


message 23: by Jot (last edited Mar 27, 2016 01:54PM) (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Finalists:
Wolf at the Door by Jeremy Lichtman
Truth Or Dare by Dorthe

Votes needed from:
Richard
Marianne


message 24: by Paula (new)

Paula | 835 comments Since we don't have, to my recollection, a Paul in this group, I'm wondering if that is a typo here for my name. If so, please note that I already voted for Jeremy's story.


message 25: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Sorry Paula, my mistake.


message 26: by Paula (last edited Mar 27, 2016 11:46PM) (new)

Paula | 835 comments No problemo, Jot! :)


message 27: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
The winner has been posted.


message 28: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
First Round Votes:
Chris Nance => [no vote - disqualified]
Paula Friedman => **Jeremy, Andy, Marianne, JJ
Richard Bunning => **Jack, Chris, Jot, Marianne
Jack McDaniel => [Greg,] Jot, Carrie, Dean
Heather MacGillivray => [Greg,] **Paula, Jeremy, Thaddeus, Dorthe, Jot, Richard, Chris
Carrie Zylka => **Jeremy, Marriane, Jot
Marianne Petrino => **Paula, Dean, Jot
Dean Hardage => [Chris,] SM, Jot
Jeremy Lichtman => [Greg,] **Dorthe, Jot
J.J. Alleson => Andy, Jot, Dean, Dorthe, Jeremy
Jot Russell => [Chris,] **Richard
Greg Krumrey => [no vote - disqualified]
Dorthe => JJ, Jeremy, Andy, Marianne
Thaddeus Howze => **Richard, JJ, Andy, Dean, Jot, Jack, Chris
S.M. Kraftchak => **Dorthe, Greg, Jot, Thaddeus
Andy Lake => **Jack, Jot, Richard, JJ, Marianne

First Round Finalists:
Truth at the Cross-Trails by Paula Friedman
Tomorrow's Truth by Richard Bunning
Sapient Rift by Jack McDaniel
Wolf at the Door by Jeremy Lichtman
Truth Or Dare by Dorthe

Second Round Votes:
Chris Nance =>
Paula Friedman => ***Jeremy, Andy, Marianne, JJ
Richard Bunning => **Jack, Chris, Jot, Marianne
Jack McDaniel => [Greg,] Jot, Carrie, Dean; ****Dorthe
Heather MacGillivray => [Greg,] **Paula, Jeremy, Thaddeus, Dorthe, Jot, Richard, Chris
Carrie Zylka => ***Jeremy, Marriane, Jot
Marianne Petrino => **Paula, Dean, Jot
Dean Hardage => [Chris,] SM, Jot
Jeremy Lichtman => [Greg,] ****Dorthe, Jot
J.J. Alleson => Andy, Jot, Dean, ****Dorthe, Jeremy
Jot Russell => [Chris,] **Richard
Greg Krumrey =>
Dorthe => JJ, ***Jeremy, Andy, Marianne
Thaddeus Howze => **Richard, JJ, Andy, Dean, Jot, Jack, Chris
S.M. Kraftchak => ****Dorthe, Greg, Jot, Thaddeus
Andy Lake => **Jack, Jot, Richard, JJ, Marianne

Finalists:
Wolf at the Door by Jeremy Lichtman
Truth Or Dare by Dorthe

Third Round Votes:
Chris Nance =>
Paula Friedman => ****Jeremy, Andy, Marianne, JJ
Richard Bunning => Jack, Chris, Jot, Marianne
Jack McDaniel => [Greg,] Jot, Carrie, Dean; #**Dorthe
Heather MacGillivray => [Greg,] Paula, ****Jeremy, Thaddeus, Dorthe, Jot, Richard, Chris
Carrie Zylka => ****Jeremy, Marriane, Jot
Marianne Petrino => Paula, Dean, Jot
Dean Hardage => [Chris,] SM, Jot
Jeremy Lichtman => [Greg,] #**Dorthe, Jot
J.J. Alleson => Andy, Jot, Dean, #**Dorthe, Jeremy
Jot Russell => [Chris,] Richard; #**Dorthe
Greg Krumrey =>
Dorthe => JJ, ****Jeremy, Andy, Marianne
Thaddeus Howze => Richard, JJ, Andy, Dean, #**Dorthe, Jot, Jack, Chris
S.M. Kraftchak => #**Dorthe, Greg, Jot, Thaddeus
Andy Lake => Jack, Jot, Richard, JJ, Marianne; #**Dorthe

Winner:
Truth Or Dare by Dorthe


message 29: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Two emails were sent to Chris and Greg with time extended a little to give them a chance to vote. Certainly the alert method on goodreads is not as good as it was in LinkedIn, so I am open to discussion about how to resolve this.


message 30: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Lichtman | 247 comments Long weekend. They may have been away.


message 31: by Marianne (last edited Mar 28, 2016 06:06AM) (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments It having been Easter and my husband having been ill, I never noticed that a vote was due from me until today as I did not check my emails. My bad. I would have cast my vote for Dorothe, so no problemo :)


message 32: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 221 comments Like Jeremy & Marianne said - holiday weekend and I think with the end of the contest falling the way it did, just bad timing.


message 33: by Andy (new)

Andy Lake BTW - I sent in some mini-critiques with my vote.
Jot will no doubt post anon if anyone is looking for some feedback/appreciation.


message 34: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 221 comments Me too! I have feedback for every story.
Not sure if Jot will post them or if I should post them myself?


message 35: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 434 comments Sorry, I didn't get the notifications. I'll see if I can link the site to a different email address and see if that solves it.

Anyways, congratulations Dorthe! :)


message 36: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 434 comments Okay, I hope I've corrected the link to my email so that I should be getting them better now.


message 37: by Dorthe (new)

Dorthe (dortheaabom) | 8 comments Thanks, Chris!


message 38: by Andy (new)

Andy Lake Carrie - you want to post your reviews first?


message 39: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
I posted the reviews on the Comments thread.


message 40: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Zylka (carriezylka) | 221 comments perfect thanks Jot!


message 41: by Paula (new)

Paula | 835 comments Should we perhaps do an extra day for first-round voting when the last day of first-round voting is a major holiday (religious or secular) for any group member?
Note we have people here of Christian, Jewish, and--I'm pretty sure--one or two other religious/ethnic backgrounds, and from at least 5 nationalities; if we allow up to three religious/ethnic and two national holidays per subgroup, this will be mildly complex but quite do-able, with advance notice to Jot and the group as a whole.


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