Thursday, February 23, 2017

Microstory 524: Trackstar Uses Chemicals to Enhance Speed

No one in the world is faster than Alderic Krusen. That statement is meant to be taken literally, not as hyperbole. Just two months ago, when the track season began at Red Mountain East Tertiary School, Krusen was an unexceptional athlete, by his coach’s standards. He was good enough to make the team, but certainly no star. His parents saw his joining as an opportunity for him to stay in shape. They describe him as having grown up as a very active boy, running all over the neighborhood, unable to contain his own energy. They were worried, as exhausting as it was to keep up with him, that he was losing that as he grew older. He started getting more into video games, television, and other more sedentary activities. They thought he needed to get out more. He wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the prospect, but he seemed trust their judgment, and was willing to give it a shot. Things changed just over a month ago. Krusen began to show signs of obsession. He would frequently skip class to workout, or run laps, and could often be seen training at night. His teachers gave him a little flexibility, not so that he would perform for his school, but because they collectively believed it to be in the best interests of his emotional state. What they didn’t know was quite how far he would take it.
Even after all this hard work, he was still not one of the best on the team. He was still not the fastest. And it was becoming clearer every day how important to him that was. His behavior began to change more. He started distancing himself from his friends, and failing to come to class almost altogether. He continued to pass tests, and do excellent on his home assignments, but he no longer showed any interest in academic studies. And then one day, it happened. He teammates describe a completely different person walking onto the field that day. He was dressed differently, sported a new haircut, and even carried himself unlike the old Alderic Krusen. He had managed to change how people perceived him in nearly every way, and he knew it. He invited himself to a practice race that he was not scheduled to be a part of. The student he was replacing didn’t seem to mind all that much, so the coach let it happen. The buzzer went off, and the racers did too. Krusen just stayed put, crouched at the starting line, featuring a full game face. He wasn’t exhibiting overconfidence; it was more like it didn’t matter to him when the race was supposed to start. He was going to run when he was good and ready.

The other racers were nearly halfway through their first lap before Krusen finally took off. At first, he was running at about the same speed as he normally did. Then he was moving faster, and then as fast as their top runner. Then he was moving even faster. And then he was moving faster than the previous record-holder for the fastest person in history, Velita Giese. And then he was moving faster than physics says any human should even be capable of running. Spectators say that he would have lapped his teammates twice, and crossed the finish line, by the time they finished their first lap. They were not able to find out, though, seeing as that the other races were too astonished by what was happening to keep going. For one brief moment, Krusen was ecstatic at finally having won a race. Then he looked around, then at his watch, and his face changed. He lowered his head under his shoulders, having presumably realized his mistake. After questioning by his coach, his favorite teacher, his parents, and even detectives of science, Alderic Krusen revealed that he did not complete the race on his own. He had first injected himself with some kind of unique drug that increased his speed. He turned the performance-enhancing drug over to the authorities at SDS, absolutely refusing to reveal its source. Insiders say that scientists are currently analyzing the drug to determine its properties. What Krusen did was illegal, but it could have potentially astounding applications in a number of fields. We will update when results are released from the laboratory.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Microstory 523: The End of Time…Travel

Time travel has been corrupting the fabric of reality for an incalculable amount of time, or so says the Linear Timeline League. The LTL is a nonprofit organization, that doesn’t really exist. Numerous attempts have been made to create it, but all have failed. All incarnations of it exist only within the collapsed version of an alternate reality. It’s quite clear to most that, every time someone succeeds in creating the LTL, someone else goes back in time to stop it from happening. In response to this frustration, a second and separate organization was created; this one called TimeFire Anonymous. Unlike the LTL, the TFA is run by a mysterious group of people equipped with incredibly impressive and productive temporal manipulation technology. Their manifesto, which you can read in full on their website, cites the LTL’s faults. They were unable to legitimately promote the concept of a linear time-only reality, because they are just at an inherent and inescapable disadvantage. The TFA, on the other hand, has chosen to fight fire with fire.

Other counter-time travel agencies exist, but all of them are dedicated to protecting the timeline in a more ad hoc capacity. They have no ambitions to stop temporal manipulation altogether, but to prevent crime, or bring criminals to justice. The TFA finds their inaction to be abhorrent, and is actively looking for a way to end time travel completely. Many believe their endeavor to be meaningless, even with their willingness to play by the same rules as everybody else in the galaxy. What technology could one even possibly invent that’s capable of halting time travel? One second of a dip in power, and one person can slip back in time and prevent this hypothetical device from being built, forcing its creators to start all over again. The simple truth, in the eyes of the TFA’s detractors, is that the cat is out of the bag. Once time travel was discovered, it could not be undiscovered. Sure, maybe the moment in the timeline that it happened has changed—it’s even likely that this has happened, with few people even knowing about it—but fathoming a galaxy where it doesn’t exist at all is not something most people can fathom. The laws of logic shouldn’t even allow the possibility. Enter Panikon, stage left.
The Panikon is a hypothetical machine that would be enfixed to a certain point in time. It cannot be tampered with, and it cannot be stopped. Once it’s created, much like time travel itself, it cannot be uncreated. It would send a single both forwards, and backwards in time, reversing every instance of temporal inconsistency. It would indeed accomplish what most believe to be impossible; stop time travel from being discovered. Once activated, we would all go about our days without having any inkling that time travel was ever a thing. TimeFire Anonymous claims to be close to this one final solution to what they consider to be the “problem of nonlinear timer”. I’m not sure if this is true, but this journalist feels the need to take this opportunity to voice her support for their effo—TIMELOCKS FOR LIFE! SUCK IT, TFA!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Microstory 522: Anakro Biotech Reawakens Extinct Animals

Biogenetic engineering firm, Anakro Biotech has been working on a top secret project for the last few years. Rumors milled about that they were developing an illegal human subspecies, but the president of Anakro, Stoyan Kirchner has made an official announcement, assuring the public that this could not be further from the truth. The following are his opening statements.

When I was a child, I would sneak out of the house and visit the city’s Museum of Natural History. I thought I was pulling a fast one on my family, and the guards I stealthily snuck by to get into the building. What I found out later was that they were all in on it. My parents bought for me a secret season pass to the museum, and all the guards knew that I was actually meant to be there. They must have had a few good laughs at my terrible impression of the Agent Kangaroo cartoon as I was trying to avoid detection. I was never very interested in the future, though I recognize that a lot of what our company does involves solving the world’s problems for a better tomorrow. What I’ve always been fascinated by were extinct animals. I find it heartbreaking every time I pass a model of a northern mandible shark, or a painting of blue eyed finty. These were amazing...glorious specimens, and one thing they had in common was that they were both destroyed by human expansion, among a great deal many others. It may not be sexy, and it may not further progress for the human race, but I’m passionate about this project.

At this point, the president directs a tech to open the curtain behind him. This reveals a tank with a single swimming shark, above which is a cage with a bird in it.
The first blue eyed finty in 230 years.
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Manny, the first northern mandible shark since 1725. Above it, that ball of feathers skipping across branches and stones, is Fendor, the blue eyed finty. He’s named after my favorite high king of the Straight Arrow fantasy book series, and I promise you that he is not in distress. Fintys are known for their inability to stay in one place for too long. If they don’t find food in ten seconds, they leave...evolution’s way of playing the odds. This world has not laid its eyes on the blue eyed variety of finty since the first industrial revolution in 1598. These are just two examples of what we’ve been working on in the Special Projects Division of Anakro, engineering species that were lost to time by experimenting with trace DNA, and anecdotal accounts. They’re the only ones we felt would be comfortable enough around an audience. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be releasing information—and yes, pictures and video—regarding our other new friends. A team is also putting the final touches on a proposal for the Worldwide Animal Guard, hoping to develop ways of reintegrating these new, but old, creatures into the ecological framework. I will now be answering questions.

To watch the full announcement, please see the embedded video below. [Not approved for Earthan viewing].

Monday, February 20, 2017

Microstory 521: Vampir-Human Hybrid Baby Dies

On an unusually warm winter’s day in Raglin Park, a kaidas broke free from its leash and ran after a miacid. It started hopping over its new friend before headbutting it, which is how most goats get to know each other. The miacid was curious, but older, and more restrained. Still, the miacid eventually warmed up to its buddy, and suddenly pushed it into a nearby pond to show both dominance and affection. Their owners watched with smiles, both confident that neither of their pets would do anything they weren’t supposed to. That was how Walter Whitaker and Jovita Daelman first met. Walter is a vampir, and Jovita a human, but they were close to the same age. They met up for tea the next day, and things started escalating. Over time, the two of them fell in love, and two years ago, they were married at their special spot in Raglin Park. Both of them wanted children, but always knew that they would not be able to conceive one together. Humans and vampirs are not genetically compatible. There have been rumors of hybrids in the past, but scientists have been unable to corroborate these claims. And so, Whitaker and Daelman were content to adopt, which they did in the form of a five-year-old boy named Oscar.

They were recently thinking about expanding their family when a miracle happened. Daelman discovered that she was pregnant. They flew to a specialist in Iceland to confirm her condition, and learned that it was completely true. This was the first legitimately recorded case of a vampir-human hybrid. They remained in Iceland for the duration of the pregnancy so that a team of specialist could care for Daelman and her unborn baby girl. According to rate of development, Daelman’s due date was approximated at ten months after conception. This splits the difference between a standard human gestation period of eight months, and a vampire’s of twelve. The pregnancy went swimmingly, and the family was excited for the next chapter in their lives. The baby was born with no obvious medical conditions. It possessed characteristics of both human and vampire. Overall, it was a happy and healthy baby. Then things took a turn. The infant’s blood was trying to use both iron, and cobalt-magnesium alloy, in order to carry oxygen throughout its body. This was causing the body to reject all oxygen flow. In layman’s terms, the organs were unable to extract the oxygen properly, because they were confused about what methods to use. Little Adela Bryn was unable to breathe for herself, and was placed on a permanent respirator for two days. Unfortunately, not even this was enough to keep her alive, and she succumbed to her condition last night at 18:07 CCT. The family thanks all followers of their story, and will announce memorial services at a later date. They have revealed that they will not adhere to the customary four-day tradition.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 30, 2115

Click here for the 2017 table of contents.

Things were awkwardly silent when Mateo was sent back to his own body in 2114. He found himself lying on the ground, the movement of the sun making it clear that time had passed while they were in the past. Their bodies had just been left there in the present, empty. They were all now waking up, and struggling to get to their feet. Atrophy, Mateo guessed, was responsible for their muscle weakness. Fortunately, none of them had left their bodies by the beach at low tide. Or no, maybe someone had, because someone was missing. Oh no, that’s right. His mysterious daughter, Kivi never existed. Mateo looked over to Lincoln, wondering whether he could remember Kivi from the other timeline, but Lincoln gave nothing away. Arcadia was right about the other thing, that there was someone with them he didn’t recognize.
“Is everybody okay?” Leona asked, having recovered physically faster than most.
“That was, uh...” Horace said, “not pleasant.”
“I—” Mateo started to say, but a few others had intended to speak at that moment, and were talking over each other.
“Well,” Samsonite said, “I think that Mateo should be the one to speak, if he so chooses.”
“Thank you, dad,” Mateo said. He realized he had never called him that, nor was it entirely true. He was like a stepfather he barely knew, standing right next to a birth father he barely knew, while the adoptive father he did know was dead. “Unless anyone has any objections, it might be best if we put a general moratorium on the Ashton Kutcher Experience that we all just went through.”
“The what?” Xearea asked.
“The butterfly effect,” Leona explained.
“Oh,” Xearea replied.
“I believe we should institute a—and forgive me for this—don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Please, do not be afraid to disagree with this.”
It didn’t look like anyone wanted to talk about it either. Vearden was nodding, “yeah, I think that’s probably for the best.”
“I...” Mateo didn’t know how to bring it up, especially after his declaration. “I do feel I need to say...” He pointed towards the woman only he apparently saw as a newcomer. “I do not know this woman.”
She looked to her left, and then to her right, and then she pointed to herself. “Me?”
“Mateo, that’s Angelita Prieto. Mario’s wife?”
“Mario has a wife now.”
“For a while now, from our perspective, and yours,” Mario explained.
“Okay. Um...could everyone just...go about their day, so I can get to know my new step-mother. Sorry I don’t remember. Time travel, right?”

Mateo spent the rest of his day getting to know Angelita, who generally went by the name of Lita. They had apparently met when Mario was on a sort of vacation-slash-sabbatical in 2017 Spain. Yes, as it turned out, Mario was sometimes awarded breaks. Lita remained in her time period while Mario was working, traveling back and forth in time. He would sometimes be gone for days at a time, but no longer than that. Their timelines started running parallel so that, when Mario was gone for x amount of time, Lita would not see him for that same amount of time, as if he were doing nothing more than traveling out of town for business. Ten years later, they were both plopped onto Tribulation Island, but a few decades in the future. They both had memories of living here ever since.
Upon landing in 2115, Mateo found Samsonite to be missing. During breakfast, he spoke of Samsonite, and tried to give everybody a good idea of how they knew him. Aura was the most hesitant, but she trusted that Mateo wasn’t just straight up lying to everybody. Leona and Paige both had distorted memories of him, thanks to the remnants of his that they had never taken off. Leona was wearing his hat, while Paige was wearing his wedding ring, and those were enough to keep him tethered to their personal reality.
After breakfast, they spread out to get water, or tend to the fire. Mateo found Xearea hastily scribbling on a piece of paper with both hands. When he touched he shoulder, she flipped out and tried to stab him with the pen. Once he stepped back and gave her some space, she went back to her project. This was another trance. The instructions were probably too complicated to be spoken. When it looked like she was nearing completion, he raised his arms, and his voice. “Huddle up!”
Everybody stopped what they were doing and came over. Xearea, still in the trance, handed Mateo a list of their names, paired up together. She then looked to the crowd and spoke in that same creepy monotone the others had. “The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is a personality test designed to separate people into sixteen distinct categories. Though Samsonite was not technically a teacher, he did have a latent passion for helping people find their potential, enrich their lives, and achieve their goals. I have put you into groups of two. Each of you will teach your partner something you know, while learning something they know. My vessel has written further details, but it will be up to you to devise a legitimate test of accomplishment. You will have today to devise your lesson plan. School starts tomorrow, and your respective tests must be passed by the end of July 2, 2117.”
After the speech, Xearea started passing out slips of paper to everybody that explained what they were supposed to teach their partner. Mateo was the one with the partner list, and so he read it off while the real Xearea was coming back and recovering. “Okay, I guess we should all find quiet places to talk. Give your partner an overview of what you’ll be teaching them before starting the plan. Arcadia said nothing about keeping the lesson plan from your partner until you start, so I would say you can work on it together. Afterall, you have to know how versed in the subject they already are.”
Mateo’s birth father, Mario raised his hand. “Um, I don’t have a partner.”
“There’s an odd number of us,” Leona noted.
Mateo turned over the list to the other side. “Oh yeah, it says here you have to jump through time and find someone to teach and learn from. I don’t know if you will be able to find them yourself, or if you’ll be assig—” He chose not to finish his sentence after Mario suddenly disappeared. “Good luck,” he said after a preparatory sigh.
Xearea took Mateo by the hand and walked him into the forest. “Do you know where we’re going?”
“I thought you did,” Mateo said as he was watching Leona move off with Vearden. He carried with him the least education, so that made sense. But what would he be teaching her?
“I do know, I just don’t know what kind of memories you have of this place. Do you know what’s here?”
“Well, there were tons of buildings that have since been torn out of time, and you people don’t remember them. I think the Colosseum replica still exists, and I know we had a few huts on the other side of the island.”
“That’s not all,” Xearea said with a smile.
“Then what?” The smile was contagious.
“I think I’ll let you be pleasantly surprised. It’s the only true sign of civilization that we have here.” She kept smiling as she led him through the forest for well over a mile, never letting go of his hand.
When finally they had arrived, Mateo knew that she had been right. He was surprised, and it was actually kind of exciting. It was a gigantic driving course, even larger than the ones in the real world. There was even a raised highway, and building fa├žades along the ‘city streets’. “Holy shit.”
“Holy shit is right,” Xearea agreed.
“When did who build this?”
“We don’t know. Vearden found it when he was out hunting many years ago.” Ah, hunting. That was probably what he was teaching Leona. “Nanotechnology obviously created it in a short amount of time, but we didn’t hear anything. You haven’t even seen the best part. She took him over to the only real building, and lifted the overhead door. In it, he could see dozens of cars of all makes and models, from all time periods. This was just the first floor of three, and it looked like there might be underground levels too.
“When this place was the hub; in the timeline that I remember, Baudin once spoke of adding a driver’s ed course, along with a garage like this. Theoretically, salmon could drop by and check out a car like a book from a library. If they were from a time before or after human-operated vehicles, or if they were going to be assigned a class they weren’t certified in, we would teach them.” He started rubbing his fingers on the hood of a 1967 Chevy Impala. “He never built it, though. I wouldn’t have been available for more than one day a year; if that, and the powers that be sent the emissary to inform him they wouldn’t allow it anyway.”
“It’s obviously more interesting to watch salmon struggle to learn something strange on their own.”
“Exactly. So why is it here now, in this timeline?”
“Maybe Arcadia commissioned it to be built,” she suggested. “She probably knew what most, if not all, of the expiations were going to be.”
“Yeah, maybe. Or maybe it’s proof that you can’t ever tear someone out of time completely.”
“Like a giant remnant?”
“A remnant that you can drive.” He was still eyeing that Impala. “Don’t know about you, but I could use a break.”
“Well,” she started smiling again. “This is nonstop for you. I get yearlong breaks.”
“I don’t need to design a new curriculum. I already know how to teach someone to drive.”
“In that case, let’s just...have some fun.”
“So you don’t know how to drive!” Mateo called over to Xearea as they were cruising down the highway with the windows down.
“Never needed to. I was turned into the Savior before I was of age, and it didn’t matter, because we don’t have human-operated cars in my time!” She called back. “And can we close the windows?”
“Yeah, okay!”
She just stared at the door.
“It’s that knob thing by your knee!—You turn it!—No, the other way!—There ya go. First the bag.”
“How did you survive the early 21st century?”
“We used buttons by then. This car is even older.”
“Then why are we in it?”
“You feel that vibration?”
“That’s why. They got rid of it in new cars.”
“Gee, I can’t understand why.”
He smiled. “That’s okay. It’s not for everyone. I’ve forgotten how good it feels to have this...”
“Average sized-penis?”
“Power,” Mateo finished, ignoring her remark. He then changed the subject, “so what you’re you gonna teach me?”
“I’m not allowed to say.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“I’m not allowed to say,” she repeated.
He knew he had to let it go, so he just kept driving. They drove a few more cars before the novelty wore off. Then he left her alone for the rest of the day so she could work on her own curriculum.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Voyage to Saga: Flipsides (Part V)

Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).
Click here for the previous installment...

Vearden was sleeping soundly in his bed. He was dreaming of getting Saga back. All his efforts led to success, and they were happy. But then suddenly the dream started draining from him, and he woke to find himself becoming increasingly wet. At first he thought it was sweat, and then he thought it might have been something else, which was weird because he had never thought of Saga like that. After a few more seconds, though, he realized that the wetness was not coming from him. His hotel suite was gradually filling up from water, presumably coming from some other time and place. It had soaked through his mattress, and was overcoming his body. He jumped out of bed and started wading through the water in an attempt to get to the door. The water was up to his waist when he finally gave up trying to open it. He struggled over to the bathroom door. It did open, but it was filling up with water as well. It was then that he decided to give up. He lifted his feet and started floating on the rising surface. The Shepherd probably wasn’t trying to kill him, but if she was, so what?
The water was salty, burning his eyes as little drops splashed into his face. Before he reached the ceiling, he took a deep breath, and then let it out so as to sink back down towards the floor. He opened his eyes just enough to see the furniture disappear little by little. The walls broke away, and the floor turned to sand. Then the sand dropped away from him, leaving him in the middle of nowhere. The ceiling was gone as well, so he finally swam up and broke through to freedom. All around him he could see only ocean...and also some kind of platform. He instinctively swam over and pulled himself onto it. A machine buzzed over and started looking at him. There appeared to be a camera on it. Must have been some kind of surveillance drone.
Two people reached down and pulled him farther from the edge. “Are you okay?” one of them asked.
“Can you breathe?” asked the other.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Vearden answered. “Where am I?”
“Well, we don’t know,” said the man.
“They don’t tell us these things,” the woman added.
Vearden coughed a little and sat up. This was only one of a whole bunch of platforms, floating varying distances from each other, with no real land in sight. “Were you kidnapped?” he asked.
“Heavens no,” the man said. “This is a challenge.” He helped Vearden up and pointed at the drone. “Smile, you’re on camera. Millions of people are watching you crash this party. Where the hell did you come from?”
“This is a television show?”
“Well, it’s a web broadcast, but yeah,” the woman confirmed. “More specifically, it’s a reality competition.”
Vearden looked around again, for no reason in particular, just to get his bearings as best he could. Another drone zoomed in from the sky. It opened its aperture to release a holographic image of a man. “Contestants,” the hologram said. “This is an unexpected visit, and I recognize the novelty in it. The producers and I have decided that, since there is no rule against it, this newcomer may help you in this challenge, if he so chooses. He can only, however, help one of you. You have five minutes to plead your case, at which point you must get back to the challenge, regardless of the decision. If you’ve not left this platform by then, you will forfeit the challenge.”
There was a brief pause after the hologram flickered out when they didn’t know what to do, or say. Then the woman scoffed. She started stretching and warming up. “I don’t need any help. I’m a freakin’ fish. You’ll just get in my way. She dove into the water and began to swim to the next nearest platform.
“I could use your help,” the man said. “Philomena is a surfer; I’m a judge. I have no idea what I’m doing here.”
“What’s your name?”
“Daniel...I’m Vearden. Do people die in these challenges?”
“It’s not happened before.”
“So this isn’t like, you win or you’re executed type of thing? This isn’t some post-apocalyptic sport that the new authorities have imposed on the impoverished?”
“Of course not. Have you never heard of Flipsides?”
“I guess not.”
“It’s like Survivor meets Big Brother meets the NCAA Championship Tournament. So will you help?”
“That’s why I’m here. Tell me what to do.”
Daniel protected his eyes from the sun and looked out to the horizon. “Do you see that sky-slash-ocean-colored blob on that platform over there?”
“That’s called a jelly frog. It’s a genetically engineered amphibian with a severe health defect. If it sits—oh, there it goes,” he interrupted himself when the blobby thing jumped up and fell into the water. He went on, “if it sits in one place for too long, it’ll die. The weight of its own little organs start to crush each other, so it has to frequently get back in water. Unfortunately, its gills don’t work if it doesn’t keep moving, and they suffer from diminishing returns, so it has to jump back onto land to breathe regular air again.”
“So it’s constantly on the move.”
“Yes, and the object of the game is to catch it.”
During Daniel’s explanation, Vearden was watching Philomena swim from platform to platform. She couldn’t just swim right to the one where the frog was, because she wouldn't be able to see it, and she couldn’t stay in one place too long, because the frog wouldn’t. It was designed to be tiring and frustrating. Maybe it wasn’t even winnable, but it looked like Philomena was getting close, so they better get going.
It was then that Vearden was able to see it. There was a distortion above the platform that the jelly frog was on at the moment. He started looking at other platforms to see if it was just an illusion, and found another distortion above a second platform in a different direction. But it was just these two. “Can you see that?” he asked.
“We better go, or I forfeit.”
“The blur just above the frog. Can you see it?”
“No, I can’t see anything. Maybe you just got too much water in your lungs.”
“No, this is for me. This is why I’m here. Come on.” Vearden jumped into the water.”
“That’s the wrong way,” Daniel called down to him.
“Just trust me.” He began to swim past the next platform over.
“Can you predict its movements?” Daniel asked.
“Just trust me,” Vearden repeated. He could hear a splash behind him. Apparently Daniel was following his advice.
Evidently, the platform they had started on was the starting line, because it was far more stable. He was able to pull himself on it, and stay standing, as needed. These other platforms were a lot more trouble, though. Every time he pushed down on the edge to get himself onto it, it would just turn up and slip him off. “This is impossible!” How was Philomena even doing it? She wasn’t struggling at all. Oh, that’s right, she was a surfer. “She has an unfair advantage!” he cried once Daniel had caught up to him to try to get himself on.
“She has a literal advantage. She won an earlier challenge, which gave her the opportunity to pick the place. Not all challenges are in the ocean.”
“Well, we have an advantage too,” Vearden said. “We have each other. Go try to get on the other side. I’ll hold this side down.”
“Good idea.”
Their plan worked, and once Daniel was on, he spread eagle on it to hold balance while Vearden climbed on as well.
“Okay, now what?” Daniel said. “Do we just wait for it to come?” He looked out to spot the frog. What he saw was Philomena, who had just reached the platform the frog was presently on. “Oh no, she’s gonna win!”
“Remember what I said about trusting me?”
“I did, and I lost because of it. Even if the jelly frog gets back in the water now, she won’t have far to go. It physically can’t swim this far out.”
“I want you to jump...that way.” He pointed towards the distortion, which was a couple of feet away from the platform. The other distortion had followed the frog to its new platform, confirming Vearden’s suspicions about it. Daniel clearly still couldn’t see either of them.
“The hell are you talking about?”
“If you jump, you’ll win. But you gotta go now, or you really will lose.”
“This is stupid. What’s that going to accomplish?”
He decided to change tactics. “If you do what I say, you could win this. If you don’t believe me, then you’re too far away to win, so who cares whether you jump or not? Might as well take the risk.”
Daniel looked back to Philomena. She was pulling herself onto the frog’s platform. She was this close to getting it.
“Fine,” Daniel relented. He prepared himself, then jumped right towards the temporal distortion, disappearing into it, and suddenly appearing through the exit distortion in the distance. He was surprised for a few seconds, and needed the time to find his balance, but he knew he had to get over it. He bent down and scooped up the jelly frog just before Philomena’s hand was on it. Fanfare rang out from the hovering drones. Daniel had won. Vearden smiled as he sat down on the platform. He then let himself slip into the water, but instead, he found only his hotel bed.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Microstory 520: Lone Survivor of Plane Crash Missing

Since the dawn of man, there have been two questions that no one has ever been able to answer. The first, what is death? And the second, why can’t people die on the eighth day of the eighth month of every year? For however long in the ancient world, people were not even aware of the phenomenon of The Day of No Death. It wasn’t like people were keeping track of such things. If somebody died, and they weren’t a part of your life, you probably didn’t even hear about it. Long after we had come up with our standardized calendar system, based on the rotation and revolution of the planet, people started noticing, however, that something was different on the eighth day in Asher. Had we noticed before, we probably would have based our entire perspective on time around it. As it stands now, the Day of No Death has become a multinational holiday, set aside to remember those we’ve lost to the devastation of war; a day of observance that we call Verren. It is a day marked by fasting, solemnity, and spirituality. It is also when it’s literally impossible to die.

Most people accept the Day of No Death without question. They go about their lives without thinking about it too much. They drink their tea, get on public transportation, and go to work. Some, however, are more curious. Cults have sprung up here and there, trying to push the boundaries. But most of them end in tragedy. First off, a day without death says nothing about a day without pain. Furthermore, it is possible, and quite common, to ultimately succumb to injuries, and die on the ninth day. In fact, most countries consider mortal boundary testing to be illegal, and will prosecute any violation of on life, regardless of what day it is. Still, after all these attempts, not a single person have ever died on Asher Ashto...that is, until last week.
Drummond Breckenridge is a salesman from Oklahoma who was just coming back from a business trip in Jacksonville, hubbing in Kansas City, when something happened that never has before. He woke up in the wreckage of the airplane, having not seen what happened. The plane had crashed, and everybody was dead. Everybody...except for Drummond. One hundred and twenty-one people were on Flight 5683, with service to Jacksonville, and only he had survived, even though it was Asher Ashto. Academics from all fields—from biology to religious studies—have been trying to figure out why anyone was able to die on the one day out of the year when that should not be possible. They have come up with nothing in the last few days. Nor can they explain why Breckenridge survived. Nor they can ask him now.

Breckenridge was being interviewed by a group of reporters near his Kansas City hotel when he suddenly disappeared. Some of the reporters claim to have seen him literally vanish before their eyes, while others saw some kind of flash. Though it was dark at the time, and no one knows for sure what happened, what we do know is that Mr. Breckenridge has not been seen since. Below, you’ll find a picture of Drummond Breckenridge, and a tip line to call if you have any information regarding his whereabouts.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Microstory 519: Humans Claim to be From Another Galaxy

Yesterday, a mysterious space vessel appeared in the upper atmosphere of Slrdr. It managed to land in the middle of a bloodfield, and suffered a great deal of hull damage, but all occupants have reported nothing more than superficial wounds. Several passengers and crew members stepped out of the ship, all of them human. They were immediately taken to the nearest infirmary and treated, but were soon able to meet with an emergency council for a debrief. They claim to have traveled to other galaxies before, but originate from one they called Lactea. The council has released an initial statement on their findings, as spoken by Vizir Shalie Yorton.
Apparently across the entirety of these other galaxies, humans are the only intelligent species. Subspecies, tangent species, and superspecies live alongside their standard form of human, but they are all derived from the same basic genetic code, and were all ultimately genetically engineered. The visitors had never heard of Slrdr, nor could they fully understand that we are not genetically related to humans, but they were not shocked by the news. They’ve all been raised with the idea that they were created in their God’s image, and had simply never had any reason to wonder whether God might want to create a peoples unlike herself. I found the visitors to be kind and accommodating. We first wanted to know if they were stranded in our galaxy, but they said that it was their role in the universe to go wherever fate took them. They treated their arrival here as a sort of planned accident, and currently have no intention of leaving anytime soon. They asked us questions as well, and were particularly fascinated by the idea that Slrdr have eight genders in total. I remember learning in history class of the first time Slrdr made contact with humans, and having to explain our weird alien genders to them. Not in my lifetime did I think I would have the wonderful opportunity to experience a similar scenario.

The Vizir has also said that their conversations are not over, and though the visitors do not represent Lactea in any official capacity, that this marks the beginning of relations with our exciting new neighbors. Historians and experts are currently looking through records to find out whether this Lactea actually refers to the same home galaxy as our other most recent visitor decades ago, Amelia Earhart. The visitors are unsure of this. Meanwhile, they have already expressed an interest in seeing more parts of our galaxies. A tour is presently in the early planning stages. Check back on our domain to find out if your planet is lucky enough to have made it on the list. You may one day soon meet an entirely breed of humans.