Monday, March 18, 2013

The Cost

By Nick Silverpen:

Receipts here suck, in the fact that you see it drop, the amount of money you have left, 
crumpled up paper 
bringing on sweat.

“You’ve X Dollars Left” 
or a twenty turns to a ten
turns to a five
turns to a few cents

and then thinking crap
where did all of my money go

Makes me think, 
that whatever we buy
is being frugal really worth it
but there are bigger things
purchases we have to worry about,
stuff that looms like an umbrella
and limits your sight in the rain.

I look at my receipt, 
and think where did my money go,
why couldn’t I have held out my hunger a little longer,
why couldn’t I’ve eaten what I already bought?

Soon that X, as big as it may loom,
is in the end, a definitive number, trickling closer and closer to zero

and mooching,
it works for only so long,
but why do we have to lose, and have to watch another number gain?


By Janus:

High Price
I still remember, long before that tragic mistake. God I remember, a happy life, joyous feelings--the world made sense back then. But that was before, and this is now, the price has been paid and that price is my innocence--no longer am I blinded by the veneer of kindness, or entranced by the spell of justice. There's no such thing, mercy, justice, compassion--just meaningless words that we made up to pacify ourselves, make ourselves believe that there's something worth fighting for. But the truth is, there's nothing in this world that can be possibly worth such a high price.

I look at the crumpled piece of paper in my hand, but I can barely bear to look at the ink staining the pages. What a momentous joke all of this is. When something can be ripped from you so cavalierly, as though nothing really matters. It kind of puts thing in perspective, honestly. We're nothing--we're less than nothing, mere specks in the cosmic dance, blowing back and forth, dancing for masters we can hardly comprehend. A commander gives an order and a soldier follows--but does the soldier know why? Does he know about the multitude of generals sitting around and discussing how easily his life can be thrown away? I doubt it. Nobody wants to think about that.

But this piece of paper in my hand won't let me forget, won't give me peace or understanding. There's no longer any respite from the darkness that lurks in our hearts, it's all played out in the words on that paper.

Finally I can bear it no longer, there's no hiding from what can plainly be seen in my hand. I sigh heavily and read the ink-stained paper.

Seventy-five dollars--seventy-five dollars on shoes? I thought it was a buy-one get-one off sale. The cost that was far too high has been paid...

My kid had better be friggin' happy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


"Youth", by Nicolas Joseph/Nick Silverpen

The woman stood along the riverbank, her feet crunching along the grasses that were slowly on their way from the dead brown. The urn was tipped over, ashes pouring out. With a grim look, she shook out the last of them into the water, and turned away, a dark expression over her face as she walked through the spring grasses to her village. At last, the bird was dealt with, and soon enough, it would barely be a memory.

Forms may be changed, but ultimately nothing can be destroyed. The ashes followed the stream as it wound along, yet the ashes stuck together, somehow unable to drift apart. The current carried them in silence, flying through the water and away from the dumping site. The ashes of the phoenix mixed with the springtime waters, and in the trickle that could be heard, its fire was still there. Water did not dampen its spirit. 

The woman though she had done the impossible, a most atrocious deed- but one cannot fight fire with fire. But the spirit of the flying flame held the ashes together, as it coursed down the river. Its caws came in the trickles, and the animals emerging cocked their heads as they eyed the pollution. There was definitely something different about it; the fear for the wellbeing of their homes they knew it would not affect, but there was a sense of energy that the animals could feel.

The river eventually wound to a marsh, where the low tide pulled the water from the stream. The damp ashes collected in a mudbank. Despite the season just beginning, it was surprisingly warm, the sun spilling down into the reed  grasses that lined the marshes. A breeze still pushed, cool and reminding that there was still a ways to go. It dipped into the mud, and touched upon the ashes. With the slightest tickle, the water began to separate from them, and one by one the ashes picked up as the phoenix began to fly once more.


"Young Again", by Will:

The forest was dim, even in broad daylight. A few bright rays slanted down through the thick roof of leaves, but the band of monks paid no mind to their surroundings. The path stretched on through the tree trunks, wide enough for four men to walk side by side. There were eight of them altogether, all robed in gray. Hoods covered their faces. They had no need for sight.

In the midst of the group rolled an ox-drawn cart topped by an iron cage. It was not a large cage--only the height of a man, and half that across--but it was very dark within. The bars were thick, criss-crossed with many symbols. A lock was set in one side, but it was rusted shut with age and disuse. The monks trudged along in their thick cloaks and paid the cart no mind.

For a moment, the ox stopped and sniffed, its dull eyes widening. The monks stopped as well, and one of them near the front lowered his hood. White eyes peered into the gloom, and then suddenly he raised a hand. There was a flicker of light, and the trees on either side leapt into sharp relief as power flashed forth—

--But then it stopped abruptly. The monk let his arm fall, his face pale as his eyes dropped to stare at the arrow that stood quivering in his chest. A long moment passed, and then he fell forward. At once the other monks leapt into action, but it was too late. Another volley of arrows hurtled from the brush, and four more fell pierced. There was a thunder of hooves on the path behind, and riders came into view. One of the monks flew toward the cage, hood flapping back as he raised both hands in a sign. But then an arrow buried itself in his shoulder, and he collapsed against the bars as the horsemen came up alongside the cart. One of the riders grabbed the ox’s halter, holding the terrified beast steady.

Another flash leapt up, and an archer came flying out of the underbrush, pierced through with light as the two remaining monks stood back to back, white eyes blazing. But they were not fast enough. Another horseman came pounding down the path behind them, and a sword gleamed in his hand.

It was over quickly. The soldiers filed out of the woods and formed up around the cart. They parted as the last horseman finished cleaning his sword and rode closer. The rider dismounted, pulling off his helmet. His hair was gray, his face hard, but there was mirth in his eyes. He carried himself casually. One of the soldiers approached.

“They were Old, my lord. Just as we expected. None escaped.”

“Good. The hard part is over then, I think,” the gray-haired man replied. He dismissed the soldier, turning his attention to the iron cage. Two strides brought him up to the cart. The body of the monk who had tried to seal the thing away lay motionless on the wooden side-board. The man heaved it off, away from the bars. Something stirred within the confines of the prison, and a shape like a hand drew back where it had been touching the blood-stained body. The gray-haired man peered into the darkness, and a voice spoke:

“You needn’t fear,” it said. “I am grateful, in fact. That sealing would have been...painful.”

“Painful, yes,” the man replied. “I’m glad we could be of service to you, but I could not have you taking another man’s body like that.”

“You are wise, I think. As wise as the Old here perhaps, though somewhat...sharper.”

“I regret that they had to die, but time is short.”

“Oh? Time is nothing to me.”

The man smiled, “Maybe. But I think you are weary of that cage.”

There was a sound like sniffing, and the shape shifted in the dark, moving closer.

“Will you...let me out, woodsman?” Two points shone behind the bars. Two points like eyes, but the gray-haired man knew that they were not eyes.

“Of course not. An Old god has not been let loose for centuries. What mischief you would cause!” He laughed to himself, and there were answering chuckles from the group of soldiers.

“True enough.” The voice sounded resigned. “Well then, what will you do? Not take me back to that dreadful sanctum again, I hope.”

“No, no. Nothing like that,” the man answered. “We shall make a pact with you.”

“A pact? Ah, I have not made a pact for many, many years. Tell me, what sort of pact?”

“That you shall aid us once, in our time of need.”

“Aid you? That would require a great offering indeed.”

“Indeed, and so I offer blood.”

“What blood?”

The gray-haired man gestured to the robed corpses upon the ground.

“Theirs,” he said.

“Oh, no. There is no power in Old blood. Not anymore. It is useless to me. But in Young blood, hmm...” the shape inside the cage moved closer still. The points of light widened, and there was the sniffing sound again. “Yes, there is power in the blood of the Young race. I shall have that. Not much. Only a drop. A drop for my aid.”

The man chuckled, considering for a moment. Then he raised one gloved hand, clenched a finger in his teeth and pulled off the leather riding glove. A knife slid from its sheath and ran along his finger. One droplet shone red upon the metal tip. He held it up in front of the cage.

“One drop for the god of fire and stone, and we shall have your aid.”

“You shall have it, when the time comes. I am bound by my word, woodsman.”

“You are.”

The blade flicked out, and the droplet flew off into the darkness behind the bars. The gray-haired man stepped back, a grim smile upon his face as he watched. All of a sudden, a sound like a mighty wind rose up, and there was a crowing noise, as of many birds. Fire flashed dimly behind the cage-bars, and then a hundred, hundred flaming shapes flashed to life and sprang upward, flapping, out of the cage, up through the smoking canopy of leaves. Up, up, and vanished in the sunlight far above.

For a moment, no one moved. No one breathed. The forest hung still as the light faded away. Finally the gray-haired man stirred.

“Leave the cage,” he said, turning away. “The bodies too. We have what we came for. The fire and stone are our allies today. Now...let the war begin.”

He smiled, sucking on his cut finger as he returned to his horse.

“And I almost feel young again.”


 "Letting Go", by Rob/Janus

He couldn't really say he was sad to see it go.  I mean it was just a stupid ratty old teddy bear--something he hadn't played with or even thought of in absolute years.  I mean sure he remembered back when it was the the best thing that ever happened to him--back when it was his only friend...but that time was long since past.

Jack looked at the sad little thing in his hands, the matted and dirty fur, the single remaining button eye.  He remembered, he remembered back when this silly little bear was the only thing that mattered in life, back when this bear made sure he got to sleep every night.  Heck, he even remembered the thing's name.

"Bunsen burner" he found himself whispering.  He never really knew why he named it that, it just seemed like a funny name and a funny word in general.  I mean it wasn't like he went on to become a great scientist--honestly, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he probably just named it that because when you're a kid the word "buns" is funnier than just about anything.

Jack paused for a moment, sighing deeply as he held the bear.  It had kept him company through some of his best and worst moments in life.  Flashes of rain, of darkness, of fear, of heartbreak all flitted through his head as he held the bear.  This silly little object literally had been his life for so long--but it was also a life he hadn't lived for a very long time.

An arm touched his shoulder and he turned and looked into the loving eyes of his wife, Emily.
"You okay?" she asked with a sad smile.  He genuinely wasn't sure how to respond, opening and closing his mouth a few times before simply shaking his head and indicating the bear.
"She kept it." was all he managed to get out.
"Of course she kept it, Jack." she said softly "you were her only son."

As she spoke he remembered, remembered when he had first woken up and seen the bear on his pillow.  The same bear that he had been asking for--the same bear that he'd been begging his parents to get for months.  He remembered a sensation of utter joy and glee as he'd run down the hallway to his parents room.

But that was then, and this was now.  The boy of yesterday had given way to the man today, and that man had a duty.
With another heavy sigh and a gentle peck to Emily's cheek he walked from the small room and into the now empty main hall.

"Hey mom" he whispered softly, holding the bear tightly to his chest. "I just wanted to say...I just wanted to say thanks." he paused, collecting himself.  "Thanks for everything.  Thanks for Bunsen Burner--thanks for being there for me--thanks for making my life worth living.  You were the best mom I could ask for...and even though I might not have always told you that....well, I always knew it."

Speaking his piece, he left the ratty little thing on top of the closed coffin and walked from the room.  The boy of yesterday was gone, and with it his childhood things.  But soon the man would have children, and with them would come new youth. 


"Arrhythmic", by Legolover-361

“And these are supposed to work?”

The questioner, Rodney Garfunkel, was somewhat taken aback by the street dealer’s assuring laugh. “Believe me,” said the dealer, flashing a perfect smile and delivering his best impersonation of an infomercial announcer, “with the rate at which these things are flying off the shelves, there’s no question. We’ve received no complaints yet! It works, or your money will be returned — guaranteed.”

Rodney closed his fingers around the capsule of pills, burying it in his palm as if hiding it from the passing New York City crowd, and removed his elbows from the wooden counter of the dealer’s stand. “Right,” he said. “So, uh... how much will this cost?”

“For the veritable Fountain of Youth in pill form? Seven hundred eighty-five dollars.” The dealer paused. “And ninety-nine cents.” Rodney inhaled sharply. “You aren’t getting a better deal anywhere else, I assure you!” insisted the dealer. “There’s a reason these things are only possessed by the rich. Consider this my little piece of assistance to a middle class man.”

He was good: Rodney was digging in his pocket for his debit card before the dealer had finished speaking. “You take debit?”

“We take payment,” said the dealer, whipping out a card reader. “The manner of said payment can vary greatly.”

“...So you take debit.”

With a sigh: “Yes. We take debit.”

Rodney swiped the card, waited for the transaction to clear, and bid farewell. The capsule of pills slipped into his pocket, and he swore he felt his heart skip a beat. His doctor had diagnosed him with heart trouble on this day, June 14, one year ago.

* * *

When no one in the office seemed to be paying attention to Rodney’s cubicle, he retrieved the capsule from his dress pants, still unwrinkled as if newly ironed, and examined it. The container was a dull gray that muddled the pills’ true colors, but Rodney could ascertain through his glasses the pills were white. Oh, how he despised needing glasses to read.

He licked his lips and placed the capsule back in his pocket. Not now, he told himself. Later, when he got home, and his wife was inevitably taking her pre-bedtime shower, he would take a pill. His research indicated the medicine’s effects would take several days and half as many pills to appear, but when they did...

Rodney was only sixty-seven, but he felt old. His dad had died from lung complications at sixty, his mom from heart failure at eighty-nine just two years ago. The memory of her funeral and his halfhearted eulogy still rang clear in his mind like the tolling of the church bells that day. His parents were returned to the Earth, but he would prolong his reunion with them a little more.

No, not now! Rodney shoved the capsule deeper into his pocket and sighed, then returned to the presentation he had to write for the PR department’s meeting in a half-hour.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


An Isolated Branch by Tekulo the WindWriter

I am the most important person in my life.  Well, that is to say, I suppose that’s true.  It’s not that I completely love myself or anything, it’s just that I can’t think of too many other people that are, well, in my life.  I would probably give a generic answer like “My mom” or “My dad” but I know that’s just not true.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I dislike my folks or anything, but I hardly see them nowadays.  My childhood to me seemed pretty standard:  Two parents, a house and a family pet.  That was really it.

I never really had a group of friends to call my own.  Back when I was in school I normally ate lunch alone every day.  My mind was preoccupied with the next assignment set in front of me by my professors.  Sometimes it would be about Shakespeare or Pavlov or maybe Wilheim Wundt.  Most of them are blurs nowadays.  Still, it’s not that I never had fun.  I love things like jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, the occasional video game here and there or some show on TV like Doctor Who.  I also read a bit here and there.  It’s not the greatest reading list in the world to be honest.  They’re mostly just mystery novels that I find here and there in the library.

Well, truth be told I’m out of school now.  I’m working at a factory down in the city.  It’s not the best of jobs, and certainly not the most impressive paycheck, but it gets me through to the next day.  I live alone, by the way.  It’s a small apartment downtown.  The rent isn’t too bad, so I never needed a roommate or anything.  Actually, the place would be pretty cramped with one.  I’d love to get a dog, but the building doesn’t allow animals, not even with an additional fee.  Too much noise travelling to the neighbors, I guess.

So, that’s my life.  It’s not too much, but I can’t just up and die now, can I?  Right now I just live day by day without anything too eventful going on.  Sure, if you watch the news, then the world seems anything but uneventful.  Still, I’m not one of those victims cursed with a disease or a missing limb or anything like that.  My health is generally regular.  I’m certainly not a body builder, nor am I a weakling.

I guess it is funny to think about, but it’s really just me.  That’s it; alone in an apartment with a job that pays rent.  I guess I should be lonely or something, but to be honest…  I’m content living the way I am.  I wonder if that makes me selfish or cold or something like that?  Well, if I am, then I’ve never taken any notice of it before.  Well, that’s just life, I guess.  It’s not as grand as everyone being a hero or a villain or a sidekick.  I’ve never seen myself as any of those.  I’m just me.

Temple by John 55555

A glimmer of light pierced the shattered dome. It was broad daylight outside, but one would never guess that from within. The darkness was nearly absolute.

There was still gold and silver leaf on the various adornments. Somehow it had never been stolen. The lure of gold was less than the fear of this place. To step over the threshold meant death, or worse. So the stories go.

This place is evil, and even though it's time of corruption is long past, it's book is not yet ended. It must be cleansed. And what must be cleansed is structural, so it will fall with it's cleansing.

High on the mountain, it was quite a journey to reach here. Once it had been thought a pilgrimage, though it was more like the blind leading the blind. Into greater darkness.

I gripped my staff more tightly, and struck the ground with it once. twice. A third time. A light shone from the stone embedded in its head.

The light was dim at first, and flickering, like a candle on a windy day. Then it suddenly steadied and grew strong.

The edge of the circle of light was a hard white against the blackness. It spread, slowly but surely, crawling over the seats one by one, and the walls.

And as it rolled across the floor, the blackness was purged, and with it the stain of evil that filled this place. The chairs nearly crumbled under it, some did. As it began to light the walls, and the began to fall too pieces, I stood my ground. The dome above me leant to one side, and cracked anew.

The light was brilliant now, and the blackness was weak, now it was the candle in the wind.

All at once the dome fell down, the walls too damaged to support it. As it fell, the light shone upon it, and it crumpled to nothingness, and a mere grayish dust fell upon me.

The sunlight streamed upon the wreckage. I dusted myself off, and slung my staff over my shoulder for the journey down.

A days work done. A stain cleaned off the world.

Temple by Alex Humva

It was perhaps the most frightening moment of her life.

She stood in the middle of the forest, possessing nothing but the clothes on her back. In front of her rested an impossibly large stone structure, years of growth having covered it in grass and leaves. It had taken her five days to make her way through the woods to this spot, where the elders had said the Great Spirit would reveal to her, her purpose in life. Now she was here, and she wasn't sure if she truly wanted to be here anymore. While nothing about the temple was exceptionally frightening in and of itself, the atmosphere that surrounded it was... dark. The environment sounded threatening, the simple chirping of birds now sounding like raven caws.

Maybe her family was right. Maybe she should simply do what she was told; fishing wasn't such a terrible job, was it?

No. She had to continue. She had to know what she was truly meant to do. With a bold breath she entered the temple, noticing a torch positioned near the door. Picking it up she lit it with a deft motion, looking around at the interior. There were no rooms to speak of, instead, simply a vast and open chamber. Hesitantly she prod softly across the stone floor, wondering who could of created this structure. Never before had she seen stones cut so large; how could one transport them, nor less build with them? Perhaps witches of another time?

She reached the center, looking down at the floor, then up at the ceiling. Magnificently carved memorials rested there; pictures of ancestors long since gone, scenes of war so elegantly depicted. It all had that look of freshness, though. No grass grew here, no weeds sprouted through the rocks nor leaves blew in. How could that be?

She knelt on the floor, pressing her face down into the direct center of the chamber. And she waited. Waited for hours, until the sun had set and the stars had come to greet her. Silence fell over her world as she remained motionless, waiting. She knew it could be some time. She knew that others had spent weeks here.

Finally, it came to her. It was an... odd sensation. A sort of knowing, like she had learned for the first time what a color looked like. It was clear to her, now, what her task in life was. She would never see her family again, for now, it was her duty to tend to this temple. To keep it clean, to watch over it, and to become one with the Great Spirit. It was not an easy life, but it was not a hard life. It was existence in the spiritual sense. She would continue to tend to the temple until her days were used up, and then, the cycle would continue. Another from her tribe would come, and they too would tend to the temple.

And that was fine

Temple by Harvey Nuile

Think . . . think . . . think . . .

I drummed a tattoo against my temple with one finger, eyelids tight shut, lips taut. I was deep in concentration . . . and deep beneath the planet’s surface.

You expect that thinking would be easy in pitch darkness, but it’s not when you’re surrounded by such an unnatural stench and when you know that you’re running out of air. Instead of open and limitless, the darkness was stifling. And then there was that constant susurration to suggest that I wasn’t alone.

Think . . . think . . . think . . .

There had to be some way to escape. I had felt my way along all the walls, which were more than I could count. The room was shaped like a polygon the sides of which I could not determine in the darkness. And they were all bare.

The floor was dusted with sand, which I had sifted fruitlessly. There was no way of telling how far away the ceiling was, for I could not reach it and I had nothing upon which to stand but the floor.

Think . . . think . . . think . . .

Secret door? I’d searched extensively.

Explosives? If I had any. . . .

Smash through a wall? With what?

Think . . . think . . . think . . .

There had to be escape. There had to be a way out. There had to be an answer.

I just had to think!

Think . . . think . . . think . . .

And then I had it. I realized there were only two ways out: up . . . or down.

I folded my legs beneath myself and drew a long, deep breath. I brought my hands together before my face in the darkness. A smile played across my lips.

All I needed was to think.

God's Face by Eli Otter

“O God, you give strength to to the weak, riches to the poor, and bring faith to the sinner’s heart,” a voice intoned, repeated by others as I walked ever nearer. The complex before me was huge, and yet it was enclosed even farther by an outer wall, gates placed among it facing to the North, the South, and the East and West.

“Your love is all-encompassing, your word guides our lives, and your spirit watches us always,” I heard the voice call out again, even as I entered the gate of the inner court, seeing the altar before the temple, looking upon the lavers nearby. Even as I stepped within I knew I was not supposed to be here, and yet I knew I must carry on.

“Your mercy gives us life, your grace knows no bounds.”

I stepped past the altar, continuing yet further, each step telling me to go faster, and the space between each step telling me to turn and run out of here, to hide what I had done from all others. Past the porch, past Jachin and Boaz, I could see the gold-plated interior of the temple, and the barest fringe of the veil at the bottom.

“You are all powerful.”

Up the first steps, I have given into the first compulsion, to go faster. I fly past the pillars, bursting into the Holy Place, all those still within turning to look upon me with seeming horror. Oh, the light, the light, how it burns my eyes, yet what visions I see! Angels stand among men, smiling upon me, gesturing me on further.

“You are the one true God, and we can do naught but worship you, our most holy fa--”

Too late they try to stop me, the men, the angels having held seemed to hold them back. I burst into the Tabernacle, looking upon the Ark within, even as the High Priest rushes in behind me. I see a fire above the Ark, resolved into the shape of a man, and I see approval in his posture.

I can not stand, I am rendered to my knees, and pulled back out. They drag me out, far past the outer courts, where I cannot soil the Temple’s holiness, yet ever before me I see a face of smiling flame, a cleansing fire that has rendered me pure within, if not without, dirtied from being pulled on my knees through the sand.

“What did you see?” one of them asks me, forcing me to look at him. I compose myself, smiling, even, as I feel the touch of steel upon my throat.

“I saw God’s face,” I told him. “And he smiled upon me, for I have succeeded in his task.” I feel steel’s cold touch fade into warmth as it draws away my blood, as they drop me on the sands.

And even then, I can see God welcoming me into the highest of heavens.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Terminal by Legolover-361

It was easy to comprehend the news, even while floating at an odd angle above the computer terminal Evan had accessed. The hardest part was looking away again.

Evan Dole:

The San Antonio branch of Jefferson Health regrets to inform you that your wife, Renee Patricia Dole, died soon after childbirth. We offer our deepest condolences for your loss.

Your baby son is healthy and is being monitored at the hospital for the next week, at which point he will be given to your wife’s parents. Your wife informed us that you had agreed with her on the name “Daniel”.

We suggest contacting your parents and hers as soon as possible to arrange a funeral for Mrs. Dole. Again, we offer our condolences.

-Dr. James Smith, on behalf of Jefferson Health

“Dole?” A knock on his bedroom door: Gordon Lightfoot, Evan’s bunkmate. “Dole, I don’t know if you heard, but your monitoring shift is on — I’m off on lunch break—”

Gone. Like a candle extinguished. Like Evan’s hope of returning to Earth to see Renee’s eyes once more.

He inhaled.

“Coming,” he said.

* * *

Monitoring aboard the ISS Kepler was, though imperative due to the space station’s location in the asteroid belt, mostly dull work. Evan’s shifts were mostly in the aft monitoring room, but in his travels around the Kepler, all the monitoring rooms were dim and cramped. His tasks were as follows: Keep his eyes on the computer screens, make sure no red lights are flashing, and be prepared to activate the emergency klaxons should a red light start to flash.

The only thing worse for Evan than losing his wife would be to get killed by an unnoticed asteroid puncturing the Kepler and never seeing his son.

He suddenly realized he was imagining scenarios for his death. Goodness, he was thinking too much. But how was one supposed to stop thinking?

The blinking lights remained stubbornly green.

* * *

“You haven’t eaten.”

Evan shrugged from his position about a meter above the floor and sideways. Rico Gonzales gazed at him a second longer before turning back to the heater and popping out his food tray. “Mm,” he said. “Astronaut mashed potatoes. They’re better than real potatoes because they’re in space.”

“‘Better’ isn’t the word I’d use to describe it,” Gordon interjected.

“‘Better’ is how you ought to describe it if you want to survive on it.” Rico munched and tried to look satisfied at the same time; his attempt failed. He swallowed quickly and asked, “But, Evan, seriously, are you all right?”


Evan thought his glare would be enough to dissuade the other crew members from speaking more on the matter. He was wrong. “Suck it up and eat,” said Gordon. “I know you’re homesick, but your wife isn’t going to appreciate you coming home skin and bones.”

“My wife is dead.”

Evan only realized what he said after he said it. Gordon stopped. Rico looked uneasy.

Gordon was the first to break the silence. “Oh. I’m... sorry, mate.”

“Your kid?” asked Rico.

Evan’s throat was dry. “Alive. Fine.” Suddenly, socializing made him feel sick. He floated to the doorway, saying, “Excuse me,” on his way out of the break room. Gordon and Rico, to their credit, said nothing more.

Hopefully they didn’t hear Evan’s sobs before he shut the door to his bedroom.

* * *

The next twenty-four-hour period — it was hard to call such periods “days” when, in space, there were no sunrises or sunsets — passed with agonizing sluggishness. Evan could have counted each second if he so desired. Gordon and Rico said nothing to Evan, though he could hear them muttering to each other in the hallways.

The other two crew members of the ISS Kepler, Irena Markovich and Sally Rhodes, must have heard the news from Gordon and / or Rico; they offered their condolences around the approximate time of midday, though the sunlight didn’t comfort Evan now any more than it would have at midnight on Earth, and the words felt hollow as though the emotion that ought to have been there was absent. At least the two women tried to sound sorry, which in itself was a challenge.

Evan didn’t cry again — what use were tears against death? — but he did spend a lot of time in his room, reading poetry. He normally didn’t read poetry, but he felt he needed something beautiful in his life. Yes, space was beautiful, but after so long in a thin capsule in the middle of it, it had become the norm. Besides, space was what had kept him from Renee’s side.

Challenge by John 55555:

The man looked around the walls of his prison yet again. Left wall, front wall, right wall, back wall. He did not neglect the floor and the ceiling either. The marks etched on the wall indicated that he had not lain here long. Two weeks, a little more. At first he had hewn his marks carefully, spending time and making them rather pleasing to the eye. as he suspected his eye would dwell upon them long and often. But the time spent quickly peaked and fell to the absolute minimum.

I wonder." he said to himself, "if those marks represent me as a man? have a dwindled to the bare minimum, in a mere sixteen days?"

His head fell to his hands, and he ran his fingers through his dirty hair. The light that fell upon it was just as scattered and unwashed.

"Four walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." fell from his lips.

"Stone walls" The words came back to him, in a corrective tone.

He rose to his feet in an instant. "Who is this? Who comes bearing the first human words I have heard in this place?"

"Human? There I disappoint you. But I cannot help my nature and cannot justly be condemned for it."

The man gestured ineffectively, his gestures, once strong, might too have fallen to the bare minimum. "Who in this dungeon is not unjustly condemned?"

A low, somehow bluish laugh flowed through the chamber, its source impossible to distinguish. "Do you now change the golden rule? Do unto others as has been done unto me? That is a poor maxim indeed, it has ruined much and will ruin much more."

The man slumped back to his bench, ceasing to look for the origin o the voice. "No, no. that was never my motto and I resolve that it never shall be. May these stones gall me and this light the that reminds me bear witness."

"Good. Perhaps all is not lost for you, Sir Knight, the title you once merited. For even words without meaning have their ripples."

"What are you, that speaks to me as one speaks to a child? A ghost, a legend that has gained substance, a priest who walks among the hopeless, if in spirit only?"

No laugh greeted this, almost to the surprise of the knight. "I am all of these in part. That is my challenge. And this is yours. To stay a man and a true knight in the deepest dungeons of the world. For your time here."

"My time? Is that not a prophecy? Am I to leave this place that saps my soul?"

"No, no. That hope is not yours to have. Perhaps you will be rescued in life and body, or perhaps the heavy hand will merely take your soul, when the time comes."

"This is your challenge. No true knight is permitted to deny any just challenge. And this is just."

The knight rose slowly. Then knelt in the mud.

"I accept this challenge."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Scientific Experiments

By Eyru:

The air was still.

One might have even said, John reflected, that time had ceased to exist. Everything was as still as stone; every timer and fluid-filled vial and computer screen refused to change, even as the seconds changed.

He knew the seconds were changing because the watch on his wrist still ticked relentlessly. It had been his father's; it was gold with an ivory face. It had to be wound. That was why it still worked.

It was ironic, John supposed, in a detached way that would have surprised him in its audacity had he not felt so detached, that all of his advanced equipment and machinery, despite being cutting-edge technology, had been felled in an instant, while the gadgets of yesteryear still moved, still kept perfect time.

His brown eyes flickered from the empty glass incubator -the one shattered half to pieces- to the far wall. The row of computers were just so much trash now, scattered around the hole in the wall, but they wouldn't have worked had they not been destroyed. Nothing worked.

Except -he glanced at his watch. Time still moved. And where there was time, there would be consequences.

How could he have known? he wondered in a bemused way. Of course, he had expected success, but this wasn't the particular success he had dreamed of, really.

Seventeen ripped IV's dripped chemical solutions into the floor, millions of dollars' worth of biological engineering going to waste on the polished metal.

John put a hand over his eyes -and pulled it away, dark with blood. He'd been cut. By what? No matter, really. There had been a lot of things that could have cut him up as his prized creation escaped, ripping the tubes from its body and shattering its glass prison with a bestial roar before making an exit through a foot-thick wall of metal and concrete.

And don't forget the EMP blast. That had been unexpected, but very interesting to watch. It hadn't affected him, of course -though Jensen, he belatedly thought, and his pacemaker were probably both dead now.

And the computers. The machines. The instruments. All dead.

His watch ticked, counting off the seconds, measuring the progress of time. And as the march of time went on, humanity was sure to progress, wasn't it? Scientific advancement and all that. It was how the world worked. Until your own genius backfired, of course. That couldn't be helped.

He could vaguely hear sirens now. That was good. The monster could be tracked, and brought back. The opportunities he would have to study, to measure, to count and to predict. It was a scientist's dream, to be sure. What more could he wish for?

Jensen would be disappointed though. Or, at least, he would be if time hadn't stopped counting for him. But that was how science worked. John chuckled. You had to stay at the forefront, or risk getting left behind.


By Nick Silverpen:

Dume jerked his hand back from the circuitry board, swearing something from before even his time. His words showed his infuriation at this panel. It wouldn’t go, it wouldn’t progress... this machine refused to work. Everything else went smoothly but this. With a glum expression he cracked his tired knuckles and stared infuriatingly at the problem once more.

He snagged the wire with a finger, and paused. It was all this just to get back to normal... all this work just to restore Metru Nui. If they had put all of this work into progressing the city... but there was some desperation he had always felt, to meet need’s ends, a burst of panic that only came when one was trying to show their competence. Somehow, when everything was running smoothly, like it had in his era, there was never that motivation, never such a desperate need to go the extra mile. The Matoran simply had to make a quota, and if the Vahki did not come after them, they were happy.

“Have some confidence, Dume,” came a voice. The Turaga of Fire whirled to see Norik in the doorway, a small smile on his face. 

“I’m just not used to it like this,” he replied, massaging his temples through his mask. “This one panel has been plaguing me for weeks. I’ve gone through every tablet I can find here, but nobody left any answers to this malfunction!”

“What was the point of being a Turaga?” the mutant asked the elder. With only the response of a confused Kanohi, he chuckled. “Let me rephrase- Why did you become the leader of Metru Nui then?” 

“There were situations,” the Turaga answered slowly, not understanding how this related to a circuitboard. “And the previous Turaga was not likely to last much longer.” 

“But you wanted to solve things on your own,” the Rahaga said. “You didn’t want to relive the past. You wanted to shape the future with your own ideals.” He paused in thought, and wandered over to the panel. “Just have some faith. You can’t rebuild Metru Nui in a day. It takes time, and progress comes naturally- even though it’s not at the pace that we want, it happens eventually. In fact, I bet one day you will miss this blasted panel, in the face of something larger.” 

The Turaga slouched, something very unheard of from him. He supposed the Rahaga was right. This may be a minor snag, nothing in comparison to the Dark Hunters that once pestered the city. Why should a wire weigh more importance and cause more aggravation than them? Sighing, Dume closed his eyes and felt the power of his Kanohi Kiril guide him. There was more to it than that, he supposed, looking at the canister that was nestled above the circuit board.


By Hubert:

Smoke fills the room. Heat washes over you. The air is stale. Everything is burning. It has disappeared, and soon the entire world will be covered in ashes.
And you are responsible for this.

You should never have agreed to test the thing. Conducting experiments on the more stable ones had been fine, but you should have drawn the line at the chaotic object, no matter how valuable the experimental data had been. You had been a fool – you let the dreams of scientific revolution take hold of you; you let your ambitions blind you. Now, everything would die in the flames.

It had appeared to be stable when it was first tested. Nothing drastic had occurred. So you had continued on with the experiment. Even when it began emitting strange signs, you ignored them; even when your instincts told you to just stop, you ignored them.

Everything burned because you JUST. DIDN’T. LISTEN.

The world would pay for your mistake.


By Dual Matrix:

Proven wrong.

Something had went seriousely wrong, green slime filled the whole room, and shards of glass and strange liquids laid all over the place.

What would've normally been a normal educational experiment had now become a disaster.

A disaster which could hower win the nobelprize.

A feature which was considered inpossible by worlds most smartest persons was now done in a classroom, by a teacher who didn't even knew his formulas.

Life, one of worlds most complicated things was created, and on what scale...

Out of nothing it came but it stood now bedore them, in reallity and in their dreams, astonished they looked while the being moved around the room, searching for food.

A slime, a living slime, it sounded to good to be true.

If it was even true, and not a daydream dreamed by an ordinary student.

Which of course ended out to be the right theory, the smart guys in their white suits were not proven wrong.

The world was happy.


By Legolover-361:


Chemistry: the study of matter, its various forms, and how all interact with each other. Chemistry is the backbone of reality. Chemistry is in everything.

Chemistry was somewhere in the fate of Michael Rondo, probably. Maybe he could blame everything on that noble tenet of science.

Michael’s home desk was covered with a mess that apparently hoped that it could lessen itself by spreading across the entire wooden surface. The halo that a dingy lamp cast on the table was centered over a slip of paper: a phone number, then call me ;D — the winky face still caught Michael’s eye, even under the cover of dust it had amassed during Michael’s absence.

His mom and younger brother were out shopping, and his dad was at work. Michael was glad: He didn’t want to feel the tangible aura of pity his parents exuded, and his younger brother’s cluelessness about the issue was almost worse.

It all started with the chemistry behind the operations of the human body. (Or was that biology?) Hormones were the primary suspect in Michael’s attraction to Leslie Williams, one of his fellow students in high school. Michael hadn’t dated much, so when she became the one to start flirting, he decided to test the waters.

They were warm. The resulting relationship was just as warm.

Leslie. Her dark, shoulder-length hair and aquamarine irises couldn’t compete with her radiant smile and matching personality.

In Michael’s mind, “Leslie” and “love” were pure synonyms.

He picked up the slip of paper with Leslie’s phone number and, pinching it, crumpled it into a ball and grimaced.

They’d applied to the same university: He majored in Engineering and she in English. They’d dated, naturally. Michael could still feel her eyes on him as if from afar.

Michael had told his parents over the phone that she might be the one before getting a call waiting signal and answering it.

Dead. Cause: car crash. The doctors had tried to save her, they really had, but she had suffered from internal bleeding. This wasn’t as simple as a dissection in high school biology; this was the real world, human biology, life and death.

Yet Michael still couldn’t justify Leslie’s death.

When he thought about it, what was Leslie but a collection of different sorts of matter, woven together in an intricate fashion as to attract another sack of carbon and H2O? Was there anything more to her than that?

Yes, he decided. So he took off from college to make time for her funeral. Tomorrow he would deliver a short speech to a gaggle of mourners in black clothes and tears. Public speaking had never been his forte, but he would try for Leslie’s sake. She would say, What’s the big deal? It’s just talking, only to more people.

He had been suggested by his college roommate a psychiatrist to visit but had declined the recommendation. He was fine. He was fine, right?

Another slip of paper was still in Michael’s pocket: the phone number of the psychiatrist. He fingered it absently, still staring at Leslie’s number and wondering how long he would last before exploding from the force of all the tears held within his body.

Maybe he would visit. Just an experiment.


By Eli/Kal Grochi:

“Yes, yes, that’s all very interesting, but what is it?” one scientist asked the other beside him, as they observed a pod filled with an odd substance, similar to amniotic fluid. Occasionally a couple bubbles floated to the open air at the top of the pod, where one long tube led off into a series of other, smaller tubes.

“I’m not...entirely...sure,” the other conceded, rubbing anxiously at one hand. “It’s a mass of nervous and muscle tissue. That’s all I can really say.”

The second nodded, looking into the pod. Floating within was some form of gelatinous creature, with a weight reading of nearly three hundred kilograms. Tubes were branching off of it, weaving together and connecting to become the one larger tube up above, which, upon exiting the pod, branched apart again.

The flesh appeared to be nearly perfectly clear, perhaps a little translucent instead. And it seemed, oddly, to be suffering no ill effects from having the aforementioned tubes being stuck within it. It merely continued to...exist. A large mass of muscle and nervous tissue, sitting on the floor of a pod filled with faux amniotic fluid., that wasn’t right. The entity hadn’t even proved sentient., it wasn’t. It was supplied with all that it needed via the fluid. There was no reason for him to be thinking this...

“James, James, did you hear what I was saying?” the scientist in charge of the experiment growled, snapping a hand in front of the other, who snapped out of his reverie.

“I’m sorry,” he replied. “I was just thinking. Please, continue. Just what did you do to make this?” The other scientist seemed slightly surprised, though he just shrugged before continuing along.

“I extracted pure nervous tissue and muscle tissue from various animals, until such point as I had sufficient amount as to conduct a study. Later, I was able to synthesize them, and combine them into one large amount. Think of how this could revolutionize the medical industry, James!...James?”

The second scientist had already lost focus on the experiment lead, his gaze drawn again towards the mass of tissue in front of him. He’d noticed that the tubes were pumping backwards, but the entity didn’t seem to be losing any mass. He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, wondering what was happening, but thoroughly unable to voice his suspicions; this was much too interesting to ruin it with sound.

So hungry...

Wait, what? No, he wasn’t hungry, this wasn’t right...

So bored...

Some of the tubes were moving violently, the other scientist was trying to pull him away, yelling something.


The tubes burst open along their seams, more of the entity seeming to drip out like long tentacles. It had been replicating itself...

Suddenly sanity was brought back to him, his fully lucid mind screaming at him to run, run, the other scientist doing the same. He didn’t have time, though, before they were grabbed by the seeming tentacles, one thought blaring through their minds.



“We can never let something like this happen again,” one man said, looking upon the bloody spectacle of the two scientists, ripped apart, and the mass of that they lay within.

“The next time some scientist wishes to try this, fire him. Kill him, if you have to. I want all records of this expunged. Understood?” The one assistant nearby nodded, moving off to comply with the orders.

But not before dropping a small amount of the substance into a jar for holding a sample. Pulsing like a beating heart.