Although this masquerades as a short story, it actually crams the known universe inside your neural network.  Each pixel barrages your retina in photons arrayed to convey a trillion trillion trillion bits of information.  Glimpsing the first letter of this story has made you want to invest a month’s credits into our bank account, but hey, at least we’re honest.

After reading this far, you have the knowledge of three races from the Milky Way’s more intelligent arthropods stored in your brain.  How many of your friends can boast that?  (Shortly, all of them.  You will convince them to look at the first letters of this story, and they will soon sink a month’s credits in our accounts.)

All you have to know about your new knowledge is how to access it.  At present, this technology is limited to Random Access Memory—that is, it may require green tea on your Great Aunt Betsy’s veranda or a quiet afternoon of clinking dominoes at a local café, but it will all surface sooner or later, whether you want it to or not.  In clinical experiments, 98.9 % of those about to be crushed by pillow-rock monsters on the planet Xartan are able to recall the necessary escape data in order to skedaddle in time (unfortunately, in the same trials, only 3.4% were able to retrieve data on man-eating orchids, lying in wait just around the corner–a problem our programmers are working on as we transmit this data to you).

Of course, next year around this time, you will have innate desire to purchase The All-New Complete Guide to Complete Guides, 2.0–updated to prevent your desire to buy our competitors’ viral Complete Guides so that you don’t go into bankruptcy buying various guides.  Those that do have a 27.6% probability of becoming schizophrenic, hydrophobic, and apoplectic.

That’s it!  The last of the data is loaded.  Enjoy you new life to the best of your ability.

Her husband said, “Don’t kill it. They don’t mean any harm.” She was pressed back in the corner, her hand over her heart, which was thumping so hard it should have burned right through her blouse, and he was bent over the thing on her desk, extending his hand.

“There we go,” he said, and he turned and extended his palm toward her. “See?” She saw. She couldn’t breathe. It crept from the end of his fingers down to his wrist. It lifted its legs like a woman folding a sheet, snapping it out in the sun. Her head jerked back and hit the wall.

He said, “Phobias are merely mental blocks. You need to work your way through them.” He lifted his hand up under her nose. Tears started to run down her cheeks. She could feel them running cold down the line of her jaw and dripping off her chin. He didn’t even notice, for a moment. And then he said “Oh, Julie.” He shook his head and left the room with the thing twitching in the palm of his hand.

She dreamed that night about spiders. They ran down the walls in streams, flowed around the bottom of their bed as if it were a rock in a river. A fountain, a waterfall of spiders sounds like nothing, magnified a thousand times; a whispery, bristly-legged nothing at all, made of legs and tiny eyes. They poured out their bedroom door and cascaded down the stairs, where the living room lights were still on.

In the dream, she didn’t move. The curtains fluttered in their wake, and the bed rocked, just a little bit, and the bedroom door shuddered. Her sheets glowed white beneath her hands.

Would it be worse if she woke up and found her husband’s body wrapped in silk, hanging from the corner of the living room? Or if she woke up to find him snoring on the couch with his mouth open? She laid in bed after she woke up, trying to decide which she hoped for most. In the corner, a spider lifted its legs exactly like an angry woman casting a curse at midnight, and spun a web.

Lorna and Matthew chose the Saturday before Easter. She thought it was romantic to imagine their union in close proximity to a time of renewal and growth. He was glad their anniversary would be a date he could remember.

“Do you, Lorna?” and “Do you, Matthew?” and “You may now kiss your spouses,” and the hard part was done. The guests sat back down as the chipping tech stepped forward.

“Lorna,” he said. “Being from out of state, you may choose not to be chipped.”

“No,” she said. “Oh no, that’s why I moved here. If Matthew’s got to have one, then so do I.” She clutched her husband’s arm. “We’re in this together.”

“I understand.” The tech presented a waiver for her to sign, then pulled a palmtop from his pocket. “You should sit down; this can be very disorienting.”

Lorna sat in the first row, next to her mother. “I thought there was an actual chip. You know, something you put in my brain?”

He tapped at the virtual keyboard above his hand. “It’s all wireless these days; we just load the new parameters into your google.” His palmtop emitted a friendly chime. “Now think the words ‘Accept Marriage Chip’ so your brain won’t treat it as malware.” Her mother patted Lorna’s hand awkwardly as her eyes went blank for a moment.

“Okay,” said the tech when she sat up straighter. He turned to Matthew. “Your turn.”

He’d said ‘I do’. He’d said ‘until death’. Here it was, the program that would ensure their love would last. Matthew bit his lip, then sat next to his bride and waited to live happily ever after.

The outlaw walked into the fairybar.

“Gimme all you got,” he shouted at the waitress.

He didn’t have a gun, but the fairy knew better than to argue. She glowered at him but emptied the register on the bar.

“Put it in the bag. There, that’s a good girl.”

The waiting-fairy’s wings fluttered from fright and her hands tightened into two white fists as the man retreated towards the door. She was a properly brought-up fairy, not one of those changelings spoiled by humans, and pacifism ran through her blood, from her butterfly wings to her pink ballet points.

The outlaw surveyed the room with a smirk.

“I don’t believe in fairies,” he said. The waitress gasped as a customer dropped dead on the table. “That’ll teach you girls,” the man said. “I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies!” Customers fell like flies.

“I don’t believe in outlaws!” the waitress shouted, trembling hands digging into her pockets. Her cheeks turned crimson and the hairs on her head stood on end, charged with negative energy. She felt bad karma swelling inside and realized she’d have to go through a session of crystal cleansing to get rid of it afterwards.

The outlaw guffawed. “That won’t work with me, I’m not a sissy little fairy.”

“Will this work?” The fairy took a miniature gun from her pocket, which, to the outlaw’s dismay, expanded into a full-sized AK-47. She cocked the rifle and let the man realize how badly he’d screwed up. Then she fired.

The fairy sighed: she felt too good. Crystals alone wouldn’t take care of her homeostatic imbalance but she didn’t look forward to two hours of Om Mani Padme Hum.

Auto Draft

by Rudi Dornemann

Auto Draft

by Rudi Dornemann