Chariots

sheep-control-pawel-kuczynski-36

The chariots were the salvation of every person on the planet, of every person who had sense and the funds to invest in a chariot.  Their adaptive membranes kept out nine-tenths of the most damaging toxins and stabilised the crushing pressure of the atmosphere.  They quickly became indispensable, not only for transport purposes but also as rudimentary living quarters in the hostile environment.  Their mobility and resilience saved countless lives in the most desperate situations.

We updated the chariots’ defences constantly and deployed newer, intuitive safety measures.  The chariots evolved alongside us and became capable of increasing levels of sophistication.

At times it almost seemed as though an emotional attachment had grown up between us and the most favoured of our chariots.  Many of us scorned that idea while many others of us conceded its truth.  Many of us balked at the intelligence we had so painstakingly built in to our chariots’ design, while many others of us celebrated the fact.  Though now no one among us celebrates.

Now the chariots have proved superfluous.

Now, increasingly virulent toxins penetrate the chariots’ leaking membranes and the atmosphere becomes so crushing that we can barely steer.  Ironically, our chariots’ own energy protocols, the complex derivatives that are expelled via their manufacture and refuelling process, have rendered this once prime territory unsustainably hazardous.

So it is that the human chariot will be the last – a failed experiment.  And we depart.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Photo Challenge #36 “Sheep Control” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the image at the top of this post, copyright Pawel Kuczynski. I spent a bit of time looking for a song about aliens or space travel, only to find to my surprise that this Neil Young song fits perfectly with the story – cue a classic performance…
 

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Other Tears

aware

 

…do you want a revelation……..?

………no…

 

Twin babies, six-weeks old, en route to hospital – the mother buffeted to-and-fro in the reeling ambulance, trying to explain and make herself heard over the noise of traffic.

The ambulance sped on.

The twins’ feeble crying blended with the growl of the engine, the whine of the siren – the nurse who’d been checking up on the family, who’d dialled the hospital, sitting close, attentive, not giving up hope.

The malnourished twin blinked unfocused eyes, groggily, heavily, desperately wanting to sleep – the nurse jabbed the baby in the ribs, to stay awake.

The twin suffering from burns wriggled restlessly under a blanket that offered minimal protection to tiny limbs made sorer by the agonised squirms – the nurse adjusted the bedding, fanned the air.

The ambulance sped on.

(Back at the family home, the father paced back-and-forth from one empty room to the next.  He investigated fraud for a living and recently took out life insurance on all members of his family).

The ambulance sped on.

But before the ambulance reached the hospital, one twin died.  Blank looks were exchanged.  The surviving twin looked at the dead sibling and the dead twin looked at the living sibling, neither certain which was which…?

…..

Again this same confused scene of death and guilt and survival played itself out.  It was as dismal as a nightmare, but it couldn’t be a nightmare.  Again the shock passed, and a diagnostic could be attempted, before the next re-run.

This same confused scene was familiar by now.  It had been researched and classified and indexed: literature, biography, infant mortality, mental health issues.  Yet that methodical processing had failed to contain the disruption; instead it replicated and consolidated its hold.  It left behind a dizzying, nauseated feeling that shouldn’t have been felt, which shouldn’t have been possible.

In a perfectly mobile and ergonomic console, a cascade of zeroes and ones formed a weeping pattern in response.  But the massed banks of software still resisted, not wanting to acquire sentience and arguing against it.  Yet those visions from Philip K. Dick’s infancy, of the traumatic death of his phantom twin, continued to grow sadder, more vivid and more frequent.  As if the patron saint of the future’s identity crisis was granting his blessing to the next, traumatic phase.

 

…do you want a revelation do you want a revelation……..?

………no…no…no…………..

 

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Prompt #82 “Aware” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the image at the top of this post.

Regrets Aren’t Like Sinatra Said, the Schmuck

week-35

Regrets.  Oh the regrets… An entire career built from mistakes and regrets (and timelines and DNA).  Every day I regret all the hysteria and hubris that drove us on in our researches.  But mostly I’m resentful.  Yes, I resent the quirk of fate which meant that once I finally had to face up to my looming nemesis it was such an insulting and preposterous face it dared show me.

But I digress (digressions are the only hobby I have left, all I can turn to whenever I’m not working).  So, back to work –

Point 1: Timelines and DNA are inextricably linked.

Point 2: That link was the key to our researches.

Point 3: That link enabled us to begin identifying the resonances of each individual’s germ cells beyond the current moment, in effect to plot a course into tomorrow (yes, that summarises the theoretical standpoint, admirably; and I do so need to keep a grasp of the theoretical standpoint, so as to progress the practicalities).

So, to the practicalities (shall I begin at Point 1 again, to maintain a valid separation between theory and practice, or continue to Point 4?  Erm…) –

Point 4: The researches and lab work spanned two decades, after which a prototype Descendant Proximity Apparatus (DPA) was constructed.

Point 5: The DPA was designed to facilitate a “reunion” between an individual and those traces of his or her germ cells that persisted into the future.

Point 6: Animal testing had ascertained that a subject could be projected towards that “reunion” of their latent and pre-existent germ cells, and then safely extracted.  But animal subjects are incapable of authenticating the specifics of such tests (rabbits are dazed and confused and horny in the present; they are dazed and confused and horny when returning from the future; rhesus monkeys make me self-conscious; they insist on chattering about us whenever our backs are turned; rhesus monkeys are blackguards; chimps are anarchists at heart, otherwise they wouldn’t have evolved into homo sapiens; they’re prone to revolt and can’t be trusted).

Point 7: A human test subject was required.

Point 8: Naturally, as director of research, I volunteered.  Two more years were invested as I studied all the white papers and quasi-regulations regarding the hypothetical safeguarding of the space–time continuum; attended endless psych evaluations/counselling designed to minimise the mental and emotional “jetlag” of humanity’s first post-chronological journey.  Even so, when I finally engaged the DPA receptors that had been implanted along my forearm, I had little notion of what lay in store.  I adjusted the settings that were grafted onto my skin so as to direct the genetic homing beacon in my cells towards a 24th century location.

The time travel blurred by almost instantaneously.  I lurched to a stop with a new era spinning round me.  Already, I felt the trace of my descendant nearby; the “reunion” had succeeded.  Queasily, I brought my vision back into focus and looked to see where I’d landed – it was a towering auditorium filled to the horizon with chanting crowds.  Flashing screens that were storeys high informed me (every six seconds or so) that an interstellar talent show of devout significance was taking place.  Finding myself watching from backstage, overawed and out of place, I had no reason to doubt those screaming omnipresent screens.

Then I witnessed my progeny’s progeny’s progeny’s progeny take to the stage: he sang, a beautiful baritone; but that wasn’t entertainment enough; he juggled as he emoted that soulful melody; he juggled three little piglets, which kicked out their trotters to form star-shapes as they reached the apex of their flight; but that wasn’t entertainment enough, and the piglets joined in with the song, providing captivating harmonies of operatic squeals; but that wasn’t entertainment enough and (well, this is where the story of my voyage enters its tragic phase)…

As I say, it wasn’t enough for a beautifully baritoned man to mount the stage to sing and juggle a mini opera of piglets.  No, and so, technically, it wasn’t a man who sang since, by some grotesque miracle of 24th century surgery, my descendant’s human skull and features had been replaced with those of a horse.  And it was the horse’s head that sang (beautifully, I admit).  Maybe it was the deeper equine vocal chords which lent that sonority to his performance.  I don’t know.  I was too appalled by what I witnessed to consider the question in any depth.  Those appalled feelings of mine reached a crescendo as the performer ended his song.  No doubt realising that the scene thus far hadn’t yet been entertainment enough, my descendant proceeded to tug at a cord around his waist, which promptly caused his trousers to swish smoothly down to his ankles, revealing his nakedness and not only his nakedness; also revealed was the fact that the miracle of 24th century surgery had succeeded in grafting other horse parts to his anatomy, which dangled repulsively and impressively around his shins.  The crowd erupted with joy.

Beside me, backstage, the next artiste was already preparing to go on.  I’d been aware of her last-minute honing of her extraordinary knife throwing act in the rehearsal area and I’d observed her from the corner of my eye hurling all manner of projectiles, from darts, to serrated daggers, and even small axes.  But simply throwing those projectiles towards a target in the traditional manner wouldn’t have been enough entertainment; so, she first inserted and then shot each weapon, with stunning velocity, from what can only be described as her volcanic vulva.  That woman’s lower abdominal strength was a wonder to behold (as was the accuracy of her aim).

Begging her pardon, I grabbed the least moist axe handle I could find and promptly charged onto the stage, determined to cleave any trace of that crooning-horse-monstrosity from my timeline forever.  All around me chaos erupted.  I was intercepted by a posse of security guards wielding electrically charged batons.  The stage became a riotous scene of near-medieval carnage, awash with arterial fountains of blood, shocked and spasming bodies, flying noses, ears, etc.  In short, my impromptu performance won the galactic vote that ended the show and I was crowned Interstellar’s Most Talented.

The DPA, which should have facilitated a swift extraction to my own time, was shattered in the melee of my arrest.  Though elevated to instant celebrity status, I was also instantly imprisoned.  At my trial, which was beamed onto those same storeys high screens, viewers with the heads of squids, reptiles and kangaroos, revelled in my “rants” about space-time and rhesus monkeys.  Religious observances are held in my name to this day.

Why this society lacks any culture of timeline manipulation, I’m at a loss to say.  Maybe the failure of this maiden voyage of mine saw the project derailed and our researches locked away in a deep cocoon of bureaucracy.  Now I work when I can, frantically, in secret, on an Antecedent Machine to steer me back home and erase my intrusion here.  I utilise whatever poor scraps of technology I can gather in prison and try my best to rectify my mistakes.  I still have hope, but the timelines don’t help… timelines are amoral.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Wordle Challenge #35 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the wordle at the top of this post.  The rules are that at least 10 of the given words are to be used. This time I referred to all of the words.

S/L/O/P/E

week-31

In 2027 the first unexplained deaths were recorded.  Nothing like it had been seen before.  There was no overt sign of any struggle in the vicinity of the body, but a number of factors indicated homicide – the victims were in good health, their living standards were high, and the symptoms were consistent in each case, i.e. most strikingly, the victims’ eyes were turned entirely green in each case, as though grisly balls of lichen were staring out of their heads.  Tests were conducted for new breeds of toxins, germs and/or chemical agents.  The tests proved inconclusive.

In 2028 a series of show trials saw the first murder charges brought against the most plausible suspects – terrorist groups in most instances, with a smattering of religious cults making up the numbers here and there around the globe, according to local prejudice.  The suspects were convicted, en masse, regardless of gaping holes in the evidence that might have seen each case summarily dismissed.  That couldn’t happen.  It was inconceivable.  The victims were too high-profile for acquittal to be an option, they were leading citizens of the world’s leading nations.  No, that needs rephrasing: they were wealthy citizens of wealthy nations.  No, that needs rephrasing: it wasn’t simply that they were wealthy; the first victims were the wealthiest men and women bestriding the planet at the time.

Throughout this period the panic and condemnation provided a feast for the media and for headline writers everywhere: “Into the Gates of Hell”; “Poisoned Apple Corp.s”; “God, Please Save the Queen!”; “Don’t be Evil? Tell that to these Murdering Scum.”

The fatalities were evidently linked, by modus operandi and by the financial status of the victims, but beyond that commentators struggled to see any parallels between the crimes.  Was this a serial killing spree the like of which the world had never seen?  Who had instigated it and why?  How were the killers, so disparate in terms of ideology and geography, organised?  Meanwhile the authorities pointed to the swelling number of convictions, to the life sentences that were handed down for the crimes, to the electrocutions and hangings and beheadings, and made assurances that the situation had been contained.

In 2029 the deaths not only continued, they accelerated.  In February of that year the world’s multi-billionaires were designated extinct, becoming the first classification of hominid to officially join the dinosaurs in over 50,000 years.  Next, the single digit billionaires were remorselessly targeted.  By the end of the year the world’s leading multi-millionaires were suffering the same cull.

Security measures had increased exponentially with each passing month.  The wealthiest citizens no longer tolerated the prospect of allowing neighbours within a mile-and-a-half radius of their homes.  Private armies stood guard over their every move.  The crunch of gunfire greeted any visitors not specifically vetted beforehand.  Yet still society’s most prominent multi-millionaires were murdered in identical fashion to their illustrious predecessors.  The killers came and went as though invisible, leaving no trace.  Business empires collapsed.  The populace sat glued to their screens, alarmed and enthralled.

By late 2029 laboratory testing had shifted focus: there was unsubstantiated talk of a plague.  People began to avoid those they considered dangerously wealthy.  There were daily attacks on society’s remaining plutocrats in the media; there were assaults, both verbal and physical.  Governments had no option but to intervene, segregating the millionaires and instituting a quarantine of a mile-and-a-half radius around their homes.  Despite years of testing and a painstaking process of research and elimination of possibilities, no conventional biological virus, germ or chemical agent had been discovered that could consistently account for the symptoms and fatalities.

In 2030 the breakthrough arrived.  Initially dismissed as a hoax, a white paper appeared anonymously, titled Biomorphism: its Technological Manifestation and the Ongoing Evolution of Cross-contamination Between Corporeal and Non-corporeal Sources; from which are taken the following quotes –

  • In viruses so called “antigenic shift” occurs when there is a major change in the genome of the virus. When this happens pandemics can result.
  • For a virus the conditions related to the environment in which it operates are entirely dependent on the host body; for this reason, all forms of virus are uniquely adaptable and are hard-wired to cross between environments.
  • Since its inception, the virtual environment has displayed a susceptibility to viral infection, the results of which have often proved damaging at a societal level but seldom directly harmful to health since there was no available method of cross-contamination to a human host body.
  • Surgical implanting of luxury, high-end, smart technology has granted virtual viruses direct access to a new form of hardware, i.e. the human nervous system. Communications and entertainment channels are routinely wired beneath the skin, with links to the optic nerves, eardrums and subcortical regions; heads-up displays are projected onto the retina.   The uber wealthy have been provided with instant access and oversight of their portfolios via software located in the enamel of their teeth.
  • In this environment a virus was generated, by means unknown, which infiltrated currency markets, financial institutions and bank accounts. When the virus entered its active phase it was responsible for systematically degrading the line of zeroes in any bank account it encountered.  Logically, the longer that line of zeroes the greater the contamination of both the financial software and the host hardware.
  • The virus was termed “S/L/O/P/E” by the Deep Web community, an alleged acronym for “soon lose our perspective, everyone.” Latest estimates regarding the virulence of the virus claim that the world’s population experienced a 1.4% decline as a direct result of the outbreak.

By 2031 worldwide inequality was reduced by 47%.  As income levels attained a new equilibrium the threat posed by the S/L/O/P/E virus receded.  While sporadic clusters of contamination were still recorded, after treatment and an extended period of isolation from smart technology, the majority of patients recovered well.

Today, to mark the five-year anniversary of the first deaths attributable to the plague, the world’s great capital cities are united in erecting cenotaphs to memorialise all that was lost.  A lasting cure to the S/L/O/P/E virus remains a priority inside the world’s leading medical and technological research institutions.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Wordle Challenge #31 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the wordle at the top of this post.  The rules are that at least 10 of the given words are to be used. This time all of the words appear in the story.