Butch

T

here is a strange light outside, hovering over the woods behind the back fence. Through the gap in the boards, I watch as it darts back and forth like a huge humming bird. I want to alert Food Giver, but barking is not permitted. Thankfully, he steps outside. I must be quiet, but now I can show him!

“Butch, walkies!” Food Giver says. I love walkies! He attaches the leash to my collar and opens the gate. I stop and point up at the light over the woods. “No dawdling,” Food Giver says, smacking my paw. “We can practice shaking later. It’s walkies now.” I try to point again, but Food Giver tugs on the leash, and I must follow. Read more…

Countermeasures

I

t was around my fourth or fifth win that I noticed casino security watching me. A gigantic man in a black turtleneck was casually chatting with other players, but every time I put down a bet, his shaved, bullet-shaped head turned my way. I could feel him probing the area with his mind, the energy sparking across the table like static electricity. My winning streak was about to end.

The fact that the guard could focus his mind was nothing short of astounding. From the nonstop flashing, dinging, and buzzing of the slot machines to the quarter-scale roller coaster, The Big Queen, running continuously a hundred feet over the players’ heads to the showgirls strolling the floor in costumes with hardly enough cloth to cover a Barbie doll, everything in The Royal Giant Casino added up to one big distraction. It was a wonder that anyone could concentrate long enough to place a bet.

I was doing my best to blend in with the other players. I was dressed as your typical Vegas tourist in my Giants cap, a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, and some oversized sunglasses that, I had hoped, would keep anyone from recognizing me. But apparently it hadn’t worked. You win a little too often, at too many places, and people start to get suspicious.

It was time to make one last bet before I cleared out. Better make it a big one. I placed eight thousand dollars on twenty-three, half my night’s winnings. The dealer called “no more bets” and spun the wheel. He carefully placed the little, ivory ball, spinning it in the other direction. The ball gradually lost momentum, bouncing across the numbered slots, its dance finally coming to an end in twenty-three.

The dealer called “Black thirty-five!” I was about to protest, but sure enough, the ball was now sitting in the next slot over. Somehow, it had moved.

“Looks like a TK,” I thought. I scanned the other player’s bets. A few people had won low-paying outside bets, black beating red,or odd beating even, but no one had bet on thirty-five. “It must be the guard. He’s not just psychic security – he’s a counter-psy.” Read more…

Roscoe and the Anti-Television

O

ne night, in the middle of an October thunderstorm, a raindrop ripped a hole in the sky. This raindrop was different, as big as a freight train and made of silver. It dropped through the hole and fell without a sound. At one thousand feet, it froze, hanging in the air. Far below it stood a ramshackle farm house, broken shingles and cracked windows barely keeping out the rain.

From its pointed tip came a beam of blue light. The light pierced one bedroom window, then the other. The raindrop turned and sent another beam of light to the far side of the farm. The light vanished and the hole in the sky sealed shut. The raindrop hid behind a cloud, waiting. Read more…

The More Things Change

“And then, to get at your grandmother’s brain, I would saw off the top of her skull.” Paul smiled at the sea of horrified faces. His students found twentieth century medicine utterly barbaric. Just hearing about historical surgery was disturbing, but he had also provided three dimensional illustrations. Poking a finger into the projection, he pulled the image out of the way and the next one slid up into view. “Today, it’s much simpler. The latest magnetometers can detect the magnetic field emitted by your brain from clear across the room. Direct electrical stimulation of the hippocampus can cause you to rapidly relive your memories as your life literally flashes before your eyes. We record the electrical activity of these memories, and…”

Christine was in the front row again. This week, her hair was pink. Her skirt was black and silver, a starry sky wrapped around her legs. Apparently she had just come from art class. Her neck and arms were sprinkled with blue specks, the results of her frantic, almost violent painting style. It looked as if the air conditioning were on too high again. She had goosebumps down her arms, and her nipples were… Read more…

Jumper

Jumper

Sixteen stories to the street. That has to be enough.” David jammed the crowbar into the door frame and pulled. The wood cracked and snapped, pieces falling. Tossing the tool aside, he retrieved the wine bottle of from the top of the stairs. There were a few mouthfuls of red left. Couldn’t let it go to waste. Read more…

Dull Science Fiction Novels

Dull Science Fiction Novels

Just because it’s science fiction doesn’t make it exciting. Here, then, are some science fiction novels that are guaranteed to put you to sleep.

  • A Clockwork Orange Julius
  • The Invisible Manager
  • Atlas Shrugged, Sighed, and Wallowed in Regret
  • A Song of Ice and Fire and Wind and Rain and Dirt and Trees and Pine Cones and Waffles and…
  • Ringworld & Other Places to Take Your Fiancé
  • Foundation, Lipstick, Blush, and Empire
  • Stranger in a Strange Land’s End Sweater Vest
  • A Wrinkle in Trousers
  • Fahrenheit 45 and Partly Cloudy
  • Ender’s Game Goes Into Extra Innings
  • Something Wicker This Way Comes
  • Have Spacesuit, Won’t Travel (Also Have Motion Sickness)
  • 2001: A Honda Odyssey
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the New Jersey Turnpike
  • Flowers for Algebra Homework
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mattress (Part 14 of the Napping Astronaut Chronicles)
  • The Stairs My Destination
  • Jurassic Parking Garage
  • Do Androids Dream of Taking Tests in Their Underpants?
  • 1984: The Mondale Campaign
  • I, Robert
  • The Lost World – No, Wait, There It Is. …Well, That Was Easy
  • The Andromeda Stain Remover
  • Journey to the Center of Ohio

Bonus: Dull Scifi Movies!

  • Backgammon To The Future
  • Soylent Chartreuse
  • Brunch of the Living Dead
  • Forbidden Planetarium
  • OboeCop
  • The Months and Months and Months the Earth Stood Still
  • The Fifth Element: Boron

Jack

Jack

The clock in Jack’s brain woke him up at dawn. He pushed open the door of his charging closet and joined his team’s single-file line out into the muddy parking lot, where they were loaded onto trucks. Inside the filthy, rusty trailer, Jack took a place next to what might have been his twin. Both Jack and his double were about nine feet tall, canary yellow, and made of steel. Their large, bullet-shaped heads were featureless, save for a pair of glowing eyes. The only difference between the two was that Jack’s serial number was 66-55-321, while his double’s was 11-34-334.

The truck pulled into the parking lot of Goebbels Elementary School, and Jack and his team were unloaded into the cold. Dark clouds stained the morning sky a dirty gray. It looked like rain again.

The foreman was a short, portly man with hair like a laurel wreath and skin like a sausage casing. He was the only living person on the site. The Collective only hired humans for supervisory positions. It was cheaper to employ mechmen to do the actual construction work. The machines were perfectly obedient and worked constantly, with no need for bathroom breaks.

“Is everybody fully charged?” the foreman yelled. “It’s going to be a long day, and I don’t want anyone running out of juice in the middle of it! Alright, we are here to build the kiddies a new football stadium. The foundation has already been laid, so we can get started building the frame. You two jacks, get the masonry from the supply truck and take it over thataways.” Jack’s twin walked off to the pallets of concrete blocks, but Jack was still, staring silently at the tiny man barking orders. “Move it!” he screamed. “Hey, idiot, didn’t you hear me? Go get the pallets!”

“Perhaps you should have him run a diagnostic check,” a helpful cement mixer suggested.

“Or maybe I’ll just reboot him, right in the ass.” The foreman paused to think about what would happen if he fell behind schedule with yet another construction project. He might be demoted back to garbage mech supervisor, and have to spend another twelve years watching greasy robots empty dumpsters. “C’mon, Jack! I need your help here, buddy. Please.”

Finally, the machine began to move. Jack trudged across the parking lot and pulled a pallet from the supply truck. Even though he could easily carry three in each hand, he lifted just one, shuffling slowly towards the construction site.

“If I didn’t know any better,” the foreman thought as Jack lumbered past, “I could swear that machine just sighed….” Read more…

Trip of a Lifetime

Trip of a Lifetime

T

he Westinghouse Building was ten stories of shining glass, an award trophy offered to the sky. The sun glimmered behind it, but the light seemed to penetrate it like a prism. Across the street stood a man in a bulky jacket the color of desert sand, Walker McMartin. As he watched each employee arrive, he made a tick on a mental notepad. “And the woman in the yellow pantsuit makes forty-three. That’s everyone! Time to get started.”

He strolled calmly down an alley, whistling a tuneless melody. Wandering around to the front door, he paused to salute the doorman, a chubby fellow in a slate gray uniform and bowler hat. “Morning! Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“Good morning, sir.” The doorman gestured to Walker’s jacket. “Sorry to be a bother, but you don’t seem to be wearing a badge. If you could just show me your I.D. or a visitor’s pass, I would be glad to buzz you on inside.”

Picking up the whistle where he left off, Walker reached into his sleeve and withdrew a thin, ceramic knife. He buried the blade in the doorman’s ample stomach, pushing it in until the fat rolled over the handle. The doorman wouldn’t die for a few minutes, but he would be far too occupied with bleeding to go anywhere.

With the doorman out of the way, Walker could buzz himself in. As the doors swung closed behind him, his pockets produced another useful tool: a miniature arc welder. He sealed the metal security doors and continued into the main hall. Six security guards rushed towards him, their boots pounding the tile. Walker reached for his daisy chain.

Read more…

To Be Alone

To Be Alone

R

ichard Crenshaw was a writer. Well, in a way. He wrote for TV. Not anything people considered their favorite show… He wrote what people watched while they were waiting for “something good” to come on.

By the age of thirty-seven he had made just enough money to retire. So he did. He bought a house in the middle of the Nevada desert. His friends in California thought it was to far away to bother visiting him, which Richard didn’t mind at all. Real people weren’t nearly as entertaining as the ones on TV. They weren’t as attractive, they weren’t constantly saying witty things, and most of them had personal problems that lasted longer than half an hour. Worst of all, real people made demands. They wanted phone calls or emails or, sometimes, physical contact. Things like that could be massively inconvenient. But the folks on TV would always be your friend, and all you had to do was watch.

Richard never watched the shows that he had written. His dialog was bad enough as words on a page. It was even worse coming out of the mouths of the surgically-enhanced talking props on the screen. Instead, Richard watched other shows. All the other shows. Everything and anything that came on the tube, as long as his name wasn’t anywhere in the credits. Watching the product of his feeble talents and rather limited imagination was too much for him to bear.

One particularly hot afternoon in August, Richard was sitting in his enormous, overstuffed recliner, watching the television. He was just about to go into the kitchen for a snack when he noticed a rather odd reflection on the screen.

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Southern Fried Squid

Southern Fried Squid

“W

e are outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outclassed!” Stephen Mallory slammed the table with a white-knuckled fist. “The North commands six ships to every one of ours. If we do not build more, with heavier guns, we will never break the blockade!”

President Davis lowered his eyes and chuckled. “I would give you the money, sir, if you would kindly tell me where to find it. Shall I tax old men whose farms are burning? Or mothers still mourning at their sons’ graves? As it is, most southerners have already spent the gold in their teeth.”

President Jefferson Davis and Virginia Governor John Letcher had gathered a collection of military leaders at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond to discuss the future of the fledgling nation’s fight to free itself from the north. In addition to Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory, there were a number of scientists and engineers.

Near the back of the room, a man in a rust red coat stood and slipped his fingers into his suspenders. He was a head taller than anyone else in the room, his size further exaggerated by a stovepipe hat. His chin sported a goatee shaped like an Indian arrowhead. “Gentlemen, I do believe I can be of service. For those of you who are unaware, I am Wesley Chase, former college professor, current inventor, and lately, the Confederacy’s finest privateer. I have already written to Governor Letcher about my idea, and he has expressed some interest.”

Mallory gestured for the maid to bring a fresh pitcher of water. “How many ships do you have under your command, Mr. Chase?”

“Only one, sir.”

Mallory laughed. “One? This must be a hell of a ship! Well, after the pirate saves our navy, perhaps we can fill our cavalry with horse thieves!”

“Quiet! Quiet!” Letcher growled. “A privateer he may be, but this young man is the son of my secretary. He practically grew up in my home. I know he will prove himself useful.”

“As I was about to explain,” Chase said, “I have made a startling scientific discovery that may prove useful. I have already used it to capture several merchant vessels. You are probably unaware of the fabulous nature of my exploits, due to their far-flung locale. The Union Navy has been watching over the Atlantic trade routes, even offering escorts to the ships carrying the most expensive cargo. And so, I traveled where the Union would never follow me: the waters of Antarctica.”

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