Plugs

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Archive for the ‘Jason Erik Lundberg’ Category

The Day the World Went Away

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Rajeev stared at his screen, open-mouthed. Everything outside his lab — plants, animals, land masses, oceans, stars, dark matter, everything — was gone. Disappeared. Nothing. Null. The world, the entire universe — with the exception of Rajeev, the Tesseract Project lab equipment, and the complex pod-like machinery of the Bridge — had just winked out before his eyes.

Frantically check the equipment, the connections, the hardware, the software, but all operational, no malfs. Diagnostics on all Bridge systems: everything working at peak efficiency. He looked toward the lab door, thinking maybe he could just glimpse outside, maybe everything’s still there and the equipment couldn’t recognize that it was malfing. But what if it was true, and the seal created by the closed door (and the atemporal nature of the Tesseract lab itself) was the only thing keeping him existent? Could he risk it?

His mother and father in Singapore, his three younger sisters in London, Mumbai and Melbourne, his goldfish. Everyone he’d ever known or cared about. Siara, the transition bioprogrammer, responsible for genetic coding and resequencing for native blending in to altunivs, object of unrequited attraction, her long fingers, her wavy hair, that delicate mole at the corner of her left eye.

Rajeev looked to the Bridge, the size and shape of an ATM cubicle, bowed outward and penetrated by clusters of wires, tubes, ducts. It was still active, still humming monotonously, still connected tenuously to the multiverse. But for how long? He’d never used it himself, was only a transition tech, shuddered at the thought of being destroyed at the atomic level, forced through a wormhole, then rebuilt in a place like home but different. Horrifying experience, but a way to survive.

He scanned his screen for an infinity of altunivs, swiping through a cloud of causation, until he found his destination, its only point of divergence being that he (or the altuniv him) had asked Siara out six months ago, and they were currently living together. Rajeev would need to take care of his doppelgänger, but he’d deal with that later. He started the transition sequence and set a two-minute delay, and the Bridge revved up slowly; by the time he was inside, it would whine to an ultrasonic shriek, but he wouldn’t hear it.

Walk over, open the heavy door, hiss of pressure, step inside, close the door, sit down on padded naugahyde bench. Breathe. The light intensifying, the light. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Again. Gasp. Nothing. Gone.

The sequence over, and the Bridge powered down slowly, smoothly to rest state. The lab and pod empty. A knock on the lab door. Swing inward. A flash of wavy hair and a small mole at the corner of the left eye. A voice saying, “Hello?”

Creative Commons License

This piece is just one in a 23-part linked narrative called Fragile, which will take a liberal interpretation of the song titles (but not the lyrics) of the masterful Nine Inch Nails double-album The Fragile. To read the other chapters in this series, click on the category “Fragile” below.

Somewhat Damaged

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Nothing, then the slow accretion of atoms pulling together, describing form, mind, body, bones, muscles, sinew, organs, and connecting tissue, as the transition recalls Vahid’s original pattern, reassembles him in this strange place. His new skin tingles, intensely sensitive, nerves afire with renewal. He flexes various muscles, and notices that he only has two arms; a mistake by the transition team, or a deliberate act so that he more fully fits in with this altuniv? Regardless, he will have to get used to the handicap.

As his vision coalesces, he sees concrete flooring, wooden pallets, yellow construction equipment, and endless metal racks full of cardboard boxes, dimly lit from high above by standby lights. Nighttime, in a closed warehouse. He’s made it.

He moves quietly to the far end of the warehouse, to the assigned drop location. The canvas messenger bag contains the clothes, sandals, tablet, and mobile phone planted by Vahid’s handler, as well as bottled water, a pair of energy bars, and three hundred local dollars in various multicolored notes.

Ravenous from the transition, he tears the foil from the energy bars, gobbles down the food, gulps water to wash it down. The clothing is snug, but fits well enough. He thumbs on the tablet and gets the safehouse address and a digital map with directions from the warehouse to the safehouse, only a few blocks away.

Vahid stows the tablet back in the shoulder bag, finds the exit (unlocked), and emerges into a sultry tropical evening, the air full of Southeast Asian food odors: curries and ginger and exotic fruit. He proceeds only as far as the end of the dusty lane before being spotted by a thuggish youth on a motobike chatting up a made-up young woman the same age. Upon seeing Vahid, he raises two arms, two arms on one side, and shouts, “Freeeeeak!”

And the others appear from nowhere, from around corners, from shop doorways, from the shadows themselves, each and every person four-armed, like Vahid himself before the transition, and he doesn’t see the first rock as it strikes above his right eye, nor the others as they connect with his knees, his left ear, his stomach, his kidneys, his two useless arms. In this place where he should blend in completely, he is surrounded, so fast, how do they move so fast, and before the first lead pipe or bat or length of board beats down, Vahid only has time to curse the transition team and his own willingness to make the worlds a better place.

Creative Commons License

This piece is just one in a 23-part linked narrative called Fragile, which will take a liberal interpretation of the song titles (but not the lyrics) of the masterful Nine Inch Nails double-album The Fragile. To read the other chapters in this series, click on the category “Fragile” below.

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