Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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July 2018 Microstory contest - STORIES ONLY

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message 1: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1045 comments The following rules are from Jot Russell, moderator for this contest:

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 goodreads (GR) 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.

4) You have until midnight EST on the 22nd day of the month to post your story to the GR 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 send me a single private vote (via GR or to author.jotrussell@gmail.com) 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 GR and the LI Sci-Fi group.

8) For each month, there will be three discussion threads:
a) Stories - For the stories and the contest results only.
b) Comments - For discussions about the stories and contest. Constructive criticism is okay, but please avoid any spoilers about the stories or degrading comments directed towards any individuals. If you want to suggest a change to the contest, feel free to start a discussion about the idea before making a formal motion. If another member seconds a motion, a vote can be held. I will abstain from voting, but will require a strong two-thirds majority to override my veto.
c) Critiques - Each member can provide at most one critique per story, with a single rebuttal by the author to thank the critic and/or comment to offer the readers the mind set of the story to account for issues raised by the critique. Critiques should be of a professional and constructive manner. 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, I will post the new contest threads.

**********

Theme: The family road trip

Required elements:

1) An unexpected detour
2) A mechanical failure
3) "Are we there yet?"


message 2: by Tom (last edited Jul 07, 2018 09:35PM) (new)

Tom Olbert | 1099 comments WHERE THE ROAD MEETS TOMORROW
By Tom Olbert

Summer 2018

The summer sun shone bright over the space needle, amid the bustle of Seattle, WA. Harvey Walcott smiled, savoring the sweet, greasy taste of a cheese burger at an outdoor table at Great State Burger as his wife Julie playfully wiped a bit of ketchup off his chin.

He took a sip of beer, the gentle, warm breeze rustling his hair. Harvey was a happy man. Even his two kids hopping about and squealing and squirting each other with ketchup bottles didn’t bother him. He was a happy man. Oh, it had been a long struggle up the corporate ladder of the oil business, but things were finally going his way. No more troublesome government regulations, no more late nights doctoring science reports on ecological destruction and climate change. The company’s good fortune was his good fortune. He’d been so overjoyed with the fat bonus he’d pocketed, he’d decided to dust off the RV and take the wife and kids on a cross-country road trip.

It had been a pain when the motor home had broken down on the road and they’d had to make an unexpected detour to Seattle, but what the hell? It was a great sea-side city and a great vacation spot. Yeah…Kurt Vonnegut had been right, Harvey thought. Life was a series of moments. Just concentrate on the good ones and ignore the bad, and you’re all set. “To us,” he said, clinking glasses with Julie.

As Julie ordered ice cream cones for the kids, Harvey glanced through the local paper, barely noticing some item in the science section about a neutron star slipping into a black hole’s gravity well, and the theoretical possibility of time ripples, whatever that meant. He took another bite of his burger. The air seemed to shimmer, and he felt a sudden jolt, like riding in a train as it goes off the rails. He squinted in the sun as the date on his newspaper changed again and again before his eyes, years and decades rattling by as the paper blurred and changed into a screen, then into a holographic image projected from a small device on the table top. The year the holo projection displayed was 2123.

The sun blazed down hard, the air like a furnace. The ice cream melted into milky streams dripping off the kids’ fingers. The taste of delectable, greasy meat and melted cheese turned into the bitter tang of reconstituted synthetic protein. Spitting it out, he tried to wash the foul taste out of his mouth with a swig of beer. He spit that out, wincing at the vile taste of synthetic alcohol.

The news holos swirling around him conveyed scenes of California wildfires spreading into a raging inferno, consuming what remained of Los Angeles. Tornadoes tearing the city of Dallas into rubble. Boston underwater. New York City swallowed into a tidal wave, the Statue of Liberty collapsing. Farms and orchards withering, fishing boats rusting on acidic, lifeless seas while starving multitudes turned to cannibalism. Harvey winced and looked away in disgust from the scene of bleached human remains littering the deserts of Utah and Arizona, like some sun-scorched African savanna.

He started and looked up at the sound of wild screams and the sickening smell of charred meat. His blood ran cold at the sight of starving masses frying themselves trying to get past an electrified barbed wire fence. Government security drones resembling gargantuan black flies blasted down scores of the bony, howling wretches with concentrated bursts of micro-wave radiation. The kids shrieked in horror as hordes of the savages broke through, their teeth bared, their eyes wild with hunger. Julie screamed.

#

Suddenly, it was night. Harvey found himself sitting behind the wheel of the motor home, stalled on the interstate, the Seattle skyline visible in the distance. The newspaper on the seat beside him was dated 2018. The radio was on. “Leading scientists conclude the time ripple effect has passed,” the announcer declared. “Moving on to sports…” Harvey switched off the radio.

“Are we there yet?” his son muttered, half awake.

“No, we’re not there yet,” Harvey said softly. I hope to God we never are, he thought. As Julie called for a tow, he turned to her. “Jules…Is that offer your brother made me of a partnership in a renewable energy start-up still good?”

“Probably,” she said quietly. “I’ll ask.”

He softly took her hand and looked off into the night.


message 3: by Chris (last edited Jul 11, 2018 09:47AM) (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Tripping

I remember stumbling upon Pine Valley as a kid. It was during one of our regular family trips and we decided to try someplace new. So, we headed to California, not exactly because we had some burning desire, but rather because we laid out a large map and tossed a dart. San Diego was where it landed.

Now, I should tell you that my dad was very destination oriented, and wasn’t about to stop anywhere in the desert along the way. Much more scenic, we hurried right for the mountains basically skipping past the sand and the heat. Of course, I was seven and had definitely contributed enough of the obligatory ‘are we there yets’, recalling it as the trip where Dad taught me to pee into a bottle, so we could “just get there.”

We were crossing high over the mountain divide, along I-8 from Yuma to Alpine, when the unexpected happened. “Damn,” my dad cursed, limping our vehicle into tiny Pine Valley and intentionally easing off the main road because, he remarked cynically, “You just can’t trust people nowadays.”

Climbing out, he saw the problem right away, then leaned back in. “It’s flat.”

“Don’t we have a spare?” my mom wondered.

He shook his head. “This was the spare…pretty much brand new! Should’ve been just fine to make it all the way and home again.” Then he stared down the empty dirt road, back toward the freeway exit and Pine Valley. “Well, I suppose we could check for something in town.”

Of course, I was more than eager. We’d been traveling for hours without a break and I could definitely use a good distraction. So, we headed off.

Pine Valley was a sleepy little town nestled atop the mountain pass. My dad called it a ‘one-scoop town’ because it only had one ice-cream shop…that and one gas station, a small hot dog stand, not even a restaurant, and a tiny community post office. There was a small general store and a few houses, but the town was otherwise unremarkable. “I’ll head over to that garage, there,” Dad said. “Maybe they’ve got something we can use. You guys grab some ice cream.” He handed me a five dollar bill. I was elated.

My strawberry cone was amazing and about halfway through, my father happened back. “Any luck?” Mom asked.

“Nothing. Kind of strange. I gave the guy the model number, an SGC, pretty common, really. He just stared back at me like I was crazy or something. Shook his head, wide-eyed, and didn’t say a word. So I asked if he had anything similar but it was like he was frozen or something.”

“Funny, the lady at the ice cream window reacted the same way. Didn’t even look down when she scooped it, almost like a robot. Then, when we offered to pay, she demanded we ‘Just take it.’”

“Something odd about this place.” Of course, at seven years old, I hadn’t a clue what he meant. The town seemed so peaceful and normal enough. “Let me try that store over there, see if they have something.”

“How’s that going to help?”

“Well, it’s that or we’ll have to call for a tow.” He took off, and was back faster than we expected, a proud grin on his face.

“Well?”

“Got it!” he replied. “Well, at least it’ll do.” He tossed a small object into the air before catching it again. “Something about the people in this town, though. That lady at the counter, I almost thought she’d pass out. Even asked if she was okay, but she barely nodded. Let’s go.”

The quick fix took just a minute and we pulled away.

“You think we’ll make it now?” Mom worried.

“I’m not sure. Charging a flat capacitor is easy with the right parts, but these 9 volt batteries are a poor substitute. Might be better if we just head home for now. Better safe than sorry.”

I was so disappointed.

“Tell ya what, we can stop off at Nebulon on the way to see the pit-monsters, though.”

That, at least, was some consolation.

“Sheesh,” Dad sighed, “that town was strange. I mean, everyone was tripping, staring like you were missing one of your heads or had lost a tentacle. And who doesn’t carry spelnoid-galvanox capacitators?” He shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe we should just cross Earth off our list.”

Pulling into the sky, I vaguely heard the sounds of sirens as we eased into the clouds.


message 4: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1045 comments Vacation Escape

“Are we really going on a vacation Daddy?”

Talus Fried looked down at the soft doe eyes of his little Sophia and tried to hide the panic in his own.

He scooped her up in his big, strong, tattooed arms.

“Yes of course we are my princess.” Talus lied. He gently stroked her cheek.

“Where are we going Dad?!” An eager voice called from the respite room.

“Never you mind son. It’s a surprise.” More lies.

“Talus, are you sure about this?” His wife Moira asked in hushed tones.

“Yes of course I am!” he hissed, and was instantly sorry. The feverish packing of their small cargo ship was fraying his nerves.

Moira turned silently away.

“Why are we taking so much stuff Dad?”

“Instead of asking me questions, why don’t you get over here and help me pack the Odyssey.”

Talus tossed his son a large duffle bag. “Those are your things Ehtrain. Get them stowed in the extra cargo pod. Move it!”

Ehtrain staggered slightly under the weight of the well-worn bag, but deftly pivoted and let the bag’s momentum get him underway.

A brilliant flash illuminated the sky, shining through every window of the house, then disappeared just as quickly. A distant rumbling soon followed.

So…Talus thought. It’s begun.

“Hurry children! We need to get going so we don’t miss our jump window!” He moved them along into the cramped passenger quarters of the Odyssey and strapped them in.

Moira returned, her simple house clothes replaced by an old uniform and form fitting body armor under a dark cloak. Talus allowed himself a quick glance.

“You look good.”

“It’s more snug than I remember.” Moira shifted her breastplate.

“I’m not complaining.”

“Focus please husband.”

“Yes wife.”

Successive rumblings built one upon another, until it was a continuous, deafening roar.

“Go go go!!”

Moira strapped herself into the navigator station as Talus leapt into the pilot’s seat.

“No time to preflight!” yelled Talus. “Charge drive coils and prep to switch over once they’re at fifty percent.” Moira flipped the appropriate switches in rapid succession.

“But, they’ll burn out…”

“Just do it!!”

They could both feel the rumbling through the Odyssey’s deck plates.

“Are we going on vacation now Daddy?” asked Sophia sweetly, oblivious to the oblivion reigning down from the heavens.

“Yes Sophia. Right…now! Moira punch it!”

She pulled the throttle back hard.

The cabin lights flickered, then went out and the engines failed to ignite as the drive coil energy dissipated in a wailing groan.

Sophia whimpered while Ehtrain rocked quietly in his seat.
Talus banged on the flight deck computers.

“I told you it would burn out!” said Moira accusingly.

“Oh yeah? Well I didn’t become the best blockade runner in the Home Fleet without learning a few tricks!!”

Talus ran back to the cramped engine compartment as the Odyssey rocked steadily on its launch pad from the orbital bombardment.

“Sensors indicate a blockade around the entire planet. We’re cut off!” He could hear the panic in his wife’s voice.

“We’re taking a detour. Punch in these coordinates.” He rattled off a string of numbers he knew by heart.

“But, there’s nothing there!” Moira protested.

“It’s a pirate jump point. Please honey trust me!!”

The Odyssey lifted dangerously high on one side and crashed back down on its landing gear. Talus could hear his children screaming.

He shunted power from every other ship system into the drive coils and began the charging sequence again.

Settling back into his seat he looked over at his wife, fear contorting her otherwise beautiful face.

“Fifty percent!”

This time Talus reamed back on the throttle, nearly tearing it from the console. The engines sputtered, coughed, then caught in a blaze of drive plasma.

The Odyssey rocked skyward, the only pillar of fire moving contrary to the ones scoring the surface of their planet. Sophia squealed with delight. Ehtrain vomited into the space sickness bag.

“Commerce interdictor directly ahead!”

“I see it! I SEE IT!”

Banking hard to starboard at the edge of space, Talus avoided a hail of deadly projectiles and energy weapons.

“Open jump corridor now!”

Moira confirmed the coordinates in the navigation computer.

“Execute!” ordered Talus.

A blue tear erupted in the fabric of space, the Odyssey appeared to stretch into infinity, then was gone.

***
“Honey? Honey!”

“Hmm, what?”

“I said exit 25.”

“Oh…”

The Honda Odyssey hesitated at the intersection, turn signal still blinking.

From the back seat, Sophia piped up.

“Dad, are we there yet?”

(750 words in story) Justin Sewall © 2018
Reviews/critiques welcome


message 5: by C. (last edited Jul 22, 2018 08:32AM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Are we there yet? By C. Lloyd Preville
Copyright © 2018
(746 words)

Davis Kelly Cole and his wife Ruby, from their orbiting luxury cruiser, contemplated the panoramic view of her gas-giant home world. They were there for a meeting with her race of floating nanorobots calling themselves the “Eight Supercolonies.”

On his first visit two years before, he asked permission to marry Ruby. Now, they wanted to have a child. But since Ruby’s microscopic nanorobotic elements were mechanically incompatible with his own cell-based biology, they were requesting a nanorobotic offspring, programmed with a mix of their physical and mental traits. Davis always wanted a daughter.

The same avatar as the last time appeared, a human dressed in a neat formal business suit, coalescing out of thin air. He was handsome--with a seasoned face and longish, completely grey hair. The eyes were intelligent and wise. He started without preamble. “Mr. Cole, Ruby tells us you wish to request we create another independent entity. Why would we allow this?” He looked annoyed.

Davis realized this was an unexpected and daunting detour. Below them was an immense nanorobotic intellect floating in the dense atmosphere, flickering and cross-communicating with electronic-like speed and precision. It was probably the smartest planet in the galaxy.

“Because she will be loved and cared for as our daughter.”

Ruby caught his eye, smiled fondly and added, “We wish to have a family like humans do.”

“Mr. Cole, you have, as you humans say, taken a wrong turn. We do not wish to create a race of independent nanorobotic entities. Ruby separated from the Eight Supercolonies only to study the human race. Your marriage was entirely unexpected.”

Davis countered, “Do you not agree that the entire eight colonies is a single entity by structure and function?”

“Yes, of course, Mr. Cole. We are a near-real time communications grid. In effect, we’re one organism.”

“Well, then, if Ruby and I wish to create a new nanorobotic entity as an offspring, would that not significantly increase your population?”

The Avatar smiled sardonically. “Of course, Mr. Cole. But we do not measure our species by counting entities, but by measuring the bandwidth of our communications. The more thought, the more effect. Your species does not work that way.” He sat back in his chair, satisfied.

But Davis was not finished. “Ah, yes, bandwidth is important. But so is the number of points of view. Our species has diverse points of view, which facilitate a wider consideration of options, creative problem solving tactics, and parallel independent thought processes. Your species does not work that way--would you agree?”

“We do differ significantly in this regard. However, we have no interest in retooling our society to think as yours does. What is your point?”

“Simply this: Ruby and I intend to bear an offspring which would give you a remarkable opportunity to see if by merging our two radically different mental architectures, we might produce a superior intellect. Would not such an experiment be of interest?”

There were seconds of silence as the massive processing grid of the Eight Supercolonies was brought to bear on the question. Finally, the frozen face of the avatar smiled. “Yours is an excellent suggestion, Mr. Cole. We congratulate you on your decision to bear an offspring with Ruby.

Ruby and Davis embraced and both shed tears, his mostly salt water, hers mostly glycerol.

* * *

Davis and Ruby stood at the laboratory window, gazing fondly at their daughter. She had Ruby’s tall, Asian supermodel features even at only an apparent six years of age. But when she finally opened her eyes after the extensive work was concluded, Davis’ icy grey gaze appeared. Like her mother, she was a shape-shifter, but she was also programmed with Davis’ intellect. She had his sense of curiosity, his dislike for structure and conformity, and his generally bad attitude.

They decided to name her Rose.

Ruby spoke first. “Rose, your father and I travelled a long way for you. Our greatest achievement is to bring you independent life. We wish you to become our beloved daughter. Will you join us in life’s journey?”

Rose didn’t move on the bed, but spoke slowly, carefully. “You have invited me to join your family, for a life’s journey?”

Davis spoke this time. “Yes Rose. We wish to experience life’s journey with you.

Rose spoke again, more naturally this time. “Then I have a question.”

Ruby asked, “Of course--what is it, Rose?”

Rose smiled at the ceiling and asked, “Are we there yet?”


message 6: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1278 comments Mod
A Guy Called Alm
©2018 by Jot Russell


“Are we there yet?”

“Ten minutes.”

The young scaly male glared at his father. “You said that ten minutes ago!”

Alm laughed, “Yeah, and I’m going to say it again in another ten minutes.”

The youth spit out his tongue out and it grazed the small ear of the father, before retracting a meter back into youth’s mouth.

“Little sh.., don’t make me come back there!”

In the back of the submerged vehicle, the sister rolled her eyes at mother before plugging her headset back in.

“Honey, watch out!”

Alm served to avoid hitting a pinstriped craft that cut him off.

“That mother-”

Jarrel quickly put a hand on Alm’s arm. “Honey!”

“He cut me off!”

“Well, let it go. Hey, what’s that ahead?”

“What the?! Just when we were making good time. Looks like a truck broke down in the channel. Of all places...come on!” Alm protested.

“Can’t we just go around?” asked Jarrel.

Alm thought for a moment, Can’t take the surface river; that’s freaking suicide. He stopped to think, An extra hour with a nagging wife and two ungrateful kids? Now that’s suicide!

He nodded, “Sure, we can go around.”

Their small Gremlin diverted up and the driver of the craft ahead of them who had cut them off mumbled to himself, “Where do you think you’re going?”

Jarrel smiled at the lack of traffic, until the light caused her to realize their proximity to the surface. “Where are you going, Alm?”

“To the campground, where else do you think we’re going?”

“And which channel do you plan on taking to get to the Seismic Gardens?”

“I’m taking the river.” Alm said firmly.

“YOU’RE GONNA DO WHAT?!!!”

“Relax, it’s only five minutes through the river and there hasn’t been an incident in a while.”

“THAT’S BECAUSE NO ONE GOES THAT WAY!!!!!”

“You always said we need a little excitement.” He said, as they dove through the surface of the water.

Jarrel screamed, “GETTING EATEN BY MAGNAFORIANS IS NOT WHAT I HAD IN MIND!”

The father scanned the surface quickly, preparing to reverse back into the depths.

“Holy squid, the surface! Nice job Dad!” Jag said and smacked his sister out of her false nap.

Shreek’s eyes opened wide. “Like, oh my God, Dad! What the hell are you doing?”

Alm completed his scan and pushed the craft into the river’s mouth, trying to hide the majority of the vehicle under the waters. “I’m taking the family camping, even if it kills us!”

Jarrel glared his her husband, “It better not kill us or I’ll make sure you go first!”

Alm nodded some level of respect toward his wife, while trying to spend most of his attention on the horizon in front of them. “Jag, keep an eye out back. Let me know if you see anything.”

Jag was happy to be given an actually useful assignment. “Sure thing, Dad.”

“Girls, you mind checking the sides?”

Shreek nervously pulled off her headset and focused her fear on the window. As she watched, a Magnaforian leapt off a distant hill. Maybe it didn’t see us? She thought, but only for a moment.

“Dad! THERE’S ONE COMING!!!”

Alm gave a quick glance over to confirm the siting. “Shit!” he said, and floored the peddle.

“Dad, there’s something behind us, too.” Jag said.

“Another Magnaforian?!”

“No, it’s a craft. Someone else is trying to get through, too.”

“Well, I hope they have a fast one.”

“I think so, Dad. He’s gaining on us.”

Alm cursed his underpowered vehicle, “Come on you freaking Gremlin.”

Shreek squealed, “Dad, it’s almost upon us!”

Alm looked over again at the massive creature, back to the approaching craft and then to his wife, “I love you honey.”

Jarrel looked around at him in bewilderment, but still spoke the words, “I love you, too.”

Up ahead, Alm saw a ripple of water on the surface to suggest an elevation change below, and glanced back at the craft which seemed ready to hit them from behind. “HOLD ON!” he shouted.

The trailing craft bumped them in the rear, trying to push them aside. Alm rolled the craft to the right and down into the deepening section of the small river. As they bounced again through the surface, they could see the Magnaforian flying away with the grasp of the racy, pinstriped vessel.

Jarrel looked at Alm. “Is that the guy who cut us off?”

Alm nodded. “Poor fool,” he said, as they reached the ocean inlet.


message 7: by Jon (new)

Jon Ricson (jonricson1) | 61 comments Funny Bone
By Jon Ricson

"Hurry up Billy," his father scolded. "You're going to miss the opening speech!"

"Sor-ree!" Young Billy Denton said hopping and skipping (and zipping) on his way back from the bathroom. "It was a long trip on the MagLev from London you know!"

The whole family were science buffs, so they had made it a family vacation to Zurich Expo 2105, the most advanced science fair in the history of the world. They first took a two-hour jumper flight from Philadelphia to London, then the MagLev to Zurich.

His dad tsked. “That was just two hours. I think it was all that soda you drank!” Boys will be boys.

Billy sat next to his sister, who scooted away from him in disgust. "You better have washed your hands!"

Her mother shushed her and directed them all to settle down and listen to the speaker. A large crowd of over 2000 people from all over the world were gathered in the grand hall.

"I know what you want to ask me." The old man stood looking out at the crowd. "Are we there yet? Is Artificial Intelligence truly and finally within our grasp?" The old man coughed quietly in his hand.

"Can we indeed build a world of intelligent life that thinks individually, works together, loves each other, lives and dies, and even...gives speeches."

There was light laughter. Billy looked at his mom quizzically. The old man spoke loudly.

"The answer is...!"

This is where the science conference (and the Denton's family vacation) took quite an unexpected detour.

The crowd gasped as the professor started to shake violently, feebly trying to grab onto the podium. Finally, he got a grip. Gritting his teeth, he steadied himself.

"The answer is, we already have. And it's time the world realizes it."

The crowd began to murmur, with some shouts of doubt and a few loud laughs.

The old man looked out into the crowd. "If you were born after 2094 and before 2097, please stand and raise your right hand."

Ten-year-old Billy stood up and raised his hand quickly, as did many other children close to his age who had come with their parents or from schools around the world that had brought classes to the conference. Billy's mother looked at her husband with concern.

"Now, please take your left hand, and find your right elbow." The old man smiled, but with impatience in his eyes. "Now, please take the elbow knob...and turn it to your right."

Billy’s sister gawked in horror as she watched her brother turn his elbow “knob” a full click to the right. He immediately closed his eyes and froze.

Shouts and shrieks erupted from the large crowd as every child with their arm raised stood frozen, right arm raised, and left hand on their right elbow "knob", eyes shut and motionless. A few teetered but were held up.

"What's the meaning of this!!" Billy's father cried, then he turned to his son and quickly turned the elbow knob back to the left.

"Yes, yes," the old man nodded. "Please help the youngster close to you and turn their elbow knob back. Some disgruntled engineer's idea of a joke I'm afraid. The funny bone..."

All around the crowd, nine and ten-year-old children snapped back to life, looking at everyone strangely and wondering what the fuss was about.

"What you just witnessed was a slight defect that causes a mechanical failure in those specific models, and a recall will be issued of course."

A man close to the podium yelled at the old man. "Are you saying our children are robots!?"

"Of course not!" the old man shouted back. "We're all robots my young friend."

And then the old esteemed scientist's head popped right off and rolled across the stage as his body fell to the floor shaking, coming to the natural end of its ninety-year life cycle.

The Dentons never forgot that particular family vacation. The funny bone recall, and of course the Expo itself, was just the beginning of what has now become known as “The Awakening”.

Life cycles have now been expanded to 120 years, and heads no longer pop off.


message 8: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 401 comments Future

It was our last road trip, a seaside town hop that ended at dawn on a street in Lewes, Delaware. Dad coded, his obesity and stress finally felling him in the front seat of his gold 57 Chevy. He whispered his final request. “Go on to Rehoboth, my sweet Boo Quark! Find Zanzibar! He will know --”

What? The secrets of the cosmos?

No thanks.

Two years prior, my mother had died suddenly from a stroke as she hunted the boardwalk for the fabled fortune telling machine of their youth. Turbaned and bejeweled Zanzibar floating on a scarlet flying carpet had predicted their happy marriage. She had discovered, to her distress, that the fortune wielding automaton had gone missing. One day, a blast of wind and lightning had ripped him from his hidden moorings. He had sailed out in a fiery arc over the Atlantic.

Had Zanzibar now somehow flown back to the beach? Not likely. It probably just took the management time to find a replacement for the rare novelty. But when did Dad get the scoop on Zanzibar’s return? Had his plan for this road trip been to pay homage to my mother with a visit to the prognosticator?

I kissed Dad’s cheek as he expelled his last breath. “Are we there yet!” I cried, shocking the paramedics when they arrived with my ritual response for any journey’s end. Now, our perennial game had ceased forever, for I was an orphan.

I was free.

It felt strange, this new status. But this was life, and there was no escape from the reality of finality.

We had been nothing if not quirky as a family. It was too bad my parents had missed the 60s. All the flower power, incense and metaphysical musings would have been the glorious accessories of their Paradise on Earth. That a random, meaningless Universe had spat out a logical, scientific daughter had baffled them no end. But as parents go, they had been amusing and kind. I know I could have done worse. Because of that, I knew Rehoboth and the search for Zanzibar awaited. So I ordered Dad packed on ice for the duration and set out for the beach to fulfill his wish.

But the car would not start. It too took a last ride, but hitched to a beaten tow truck emblazoned with a naked woman called Betty Bin, who gestured for favors.

A resident kindly chauffeured me to the boardwalk, a madhouse in July of young, old, noise and shopping. Arabian music, all whistles and drums, wafted down the beach. At the far end of the boardwalk floated Zanzibar above a stepped concrete platform.

Arms folded, bearded and bedecked in his finery, the fortune teller knelt on his hovering carpet, a neat trick probably created by the use of magnets.

“Come! Give your money to Zanzibar and gain your fortune!” he wailed in a bad Middle Eastern accent. A spectator threw a green token onto the rug. It vanished before landing, an excellent display of showmanship.

Zanzibar’s dark eyes glowed white. He threw back his head, and cackled, “ It is as always. You lose your money on foolish things!”

The crowd snickered. From seemingly out of nowhere a yellow receipt floated down to the unhappy recipient of the fortune, who scowled and stomped off.

I passed a dollar bill to an attendant, who gave me a token. The crowd tensed in expectation of another reading by the master. I raised my arm.

“Boo Quark does not need to fling tribute!” Zanzibar shouted.

The crowd moved back as one in surprise; I dropped my token in amazement.

Preplanned by Dad. This had to be preplanned by Dad.

“What does Zanzibar want then,” I answered. A murmur swept through the crowd. I’d give them a great show if that was what they desired.

Zanzibar’s eyes glowed. He pointed at me with one hand and at the carpet with the other.

What the hell.

Before the attendant could stop me, I dashed toward the automaton and raced up the steps. I flung myself onto the buoyant carpet.

Zanzibar smiled. “Ignition commence!” he roared.

A blast of wind and lightning struck.

The spectators dropped.

Zanzibar and I soared into the sky as I clung to the carpet for my life.

“To the stars! Boo Quark!” he declared, and a protective sphere of pulsing light suddenly enveloped us.

As the Earth receded beneath me, so did my fear.

I embraced my future.

Zanzibar laughed.

Wordperfect Word Count: 749


message 9: by Greg (last edited Jul 22, 2018 07:14PM) (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 200 comments What I did on my Summer Vacation…

My family is pretty average, with two fathers, an inner, outer and middle mother and eight offspring.

My brothers do what they always do: fight. The two oldest were smacking each other with their tentacles and got two more to join in. My older sister, with her usual lack of interest, asked “Are we there yet?”

I was regretting not going into hibernation mode when my inner mom spoke her usual, empty threat: “Don’t make me turn this ship around.” It was true she was navigating, but my first father was piloting and he wasn’t about to give up.

Unfortunately, he, in the interests of saving on expenses, rented an old ship with a shaky hyperdrive. It didn’t even have a spare set of plasma injectors, so when the only set we had started acting up, he had to drop out of hyper space and make an emergency landing.

No Rings of Artarious. No Lava Pools on Metarious. None of the sights we were looking forward to seeing. Our detour took us to a water-soaked dirtball of a backwater planet called Earth.

“Everyone should have on their shielding belt. It will make you look like the inhabitants of this planet and should protect you from anything less than a plasma cannon,” my second father advised us.

“Hey everyone! Stay out of trouble and remember where we parked,” chimed in my first father as he set our flying tenement down in the middle of a cornfield.

Off to the side, we spotted a homo sapiens watching us land. It opened its jaw and allowed a small burning object to fall out of it’s mouth and began rubbing its eyes. By the time it looked again, my outer mother engaged our cloaking shield and it saw an empty field.

My sister pulled out her recording pad and, with her usual superior attitude, already had the creature classified: “Inforious Dentus Sapienus – The North American Redneck.” Sure enough, a scan revealed a genetic makeup lacking diversity and a strong desire to express opinions without sufficient knowledge.

I really hoped we wouldn’t be here long.

My fathers decided to split up so they could find the parts we needed. My first father, in his usual style, made a beeline for a nuclear reactor. Number two went cruising automobile recycling facilities.

Before our mothers could rein everyone in, my two oldest brothers and the youngest disappeared.

Our fathers returned, almost simultaneously and began modifying the alien technology to work with ours.

Somewhere, on the edge of the biggest ocean, technicians raced to shut down their reactor. Somehow, its fuel control system failed catastrophically.

A while later my older two brothers returned. One was carrying a bunch of metallic disks and laughing about “primitive games of chance.” The other staggered in with a container made of fused silica that was half-full with an intoxicating carbohydrate.

My youngest brother was still missing. Good thing our belts give off a distinct energy signature. He had been kidnapped by some humans and taken to a place they referred to as “Area 51.”

My second father got that look in his eyes. I was just glad it wasn’t about me this time. He took off in our speeder/interceptor and said “Warm up the engines. I’ll be right back.”

We got a message a from him few hours later to lift off and hover. We didn’t understand why until we saw him on the horizon coming straight at us with a bunch of ground vehicles hot in pursuit. He crested a hill, flew off a cliff and landed solidly in a cargo bay.
--
My youngest brother told his inner mother, “I think I left the tool kit on Earth.”

“Son of a Snarkian Snake! the aliends probably figure out how to build their own hyperdrive. There goes the neighborhood! Don’t tell your fathers.”

My oldest sister held out a specimen jar and told her outer mother, “Look what I got for class!”

She responded, “Homo Sapiens are an invasive species. You’ll have to get rid of it. And don’t tell your teacher about it.”

My oldest brother said to his first father, “I’m pretty sure I inseminated one of the alien females.”

“Don’t tell your mothers!” he answered.


message 10: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1278 comments Mod
Voting details:


First round votes:
Tom Olbert => ****Marianne, Jot
Chris Nance => ****Marianne, Tom, Greg
Justin Sewall => ***Tom, Chris, Marianne
C. Lloyd Preville => ****Marianne
Jot Russell => ***Tom
Jon Ricson => ***Tom, Greg
Marianne G Petrino => Jot, Chris, Greg
Greg Krumrey => ****Marianne
Carrie Zylka => Jon, C, Jot, Tom, Greg
Sharon Kraftchak => Chris, Tom, Marianne

Finalists:
Where the Road Meets Tomorrow by Tom Olbert
Future by Marianne G Petrino

Second round votes:
Tom Olbert => ****Marianne, Jot
Chris Nance => ****Marianne, Tom, Greg
Justin Sewall => #*Tom, Chris, Marianne
C. Lloyd Preville => ****Marianne
Jot Russell => #*Tom
Jon Ricson => #*Tom, Greg
Marianne G Petrino => Jot, Chris, Greg; #*Tom
Greg Krumrey => ****Marianne
Carrie Zylka => Jon, C, Jot, #*Tom, Greg
Sharon Kraftchak => Chris, #*Tom, Marianne

Winner:
Where the Road Meets Tomorrow by Tom Olbert


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