Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Hope of Humanity

This is but a sample of this story.  The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.

The year was 2081 and so many of the social problems humans had faced over the last hundred years were still a pretty big problem. Most people were still poor, corporations still ran the government, and politicians were constantly caught with prostitutes of both sexes, living and dead. When politicians weren't blowing each other's personal lives completely out of proportion for political gain, they were starting wars with other countries. Sometimes, they would even start wars with people inside their own country, but those were usually ideological. Perhaps the biggest and worst change was that the polar ice caps had melted and much of the Mojave Desert was now prime beachfront property, and the air across the globe tasted like you were sucking on a tailpipe.

As pressing and horrible as those issues were, they really didn't enter into the minds of John and Mildred Bates. They were working class and average in most ways. John worked a standard 60 hour work week and, to help make ends meet, Mildred picked up 39 hours a week, part time, working at the deli counter at the local, national chain grocery emporium. Even with all those hours, supporting their modest household and single child, John, Jr., was a difficult exercise. After the mortgage, the bills, the poor tax, and their basic needs, there wasn't a lot left over for leisure, though they had saved up their pennies for quite a while to afford the sizeable Ramjac brand HD television that provided the centerpiece for their living space.

Each night after work, John Bates would settle into his favorite tattered easy chair that he was still making payments on, he would crack open an ice cold beer, and watch his immense television. Despite his disinterest, he seemed to watch the local, nationally-syndicated-for-the-region news. Little John, Jr., just before bedtime, would sit cross-legged in the space of carpet between his father and the television, transfixed by every image shown on the high definition display.

"Tonight, we have a special live program for you from science reporter Kurt Sanders."

"Mildred! Can you grab another beer for me, love?"

"This is Kurt Sanders, and I'm here at the Monsanto Space Center in Cape Canveral, Florida, reporting live for a momentous occasion, both for science and for mankind."

"Yes, dear! I'll grab another can from the ice box."

"With me, I have Doctor Thaddeus Quentin, chief architect of Project: Humanity, brought to you by Exxon, which is launching in a rocket in T-Minus 8 minutes."

Mildred arrived a moment later in the living room with John's beer, putting it in his hand and leaning down, pulling the foot rest on his recliner up for him. He sipped the head of the beer that had flowed over the lip of the can, paying far less attention to the launch than his boy was.

"What we're doing is really quite simple. The top minds in the world have created a 60 year plan to fix the problems of the world, hunger, disease, war, and monetize those solutions for their sponsors...."

John, Jr., blinked. At seven years old these concepts were still just a little too abstract for his innocent little mind. He'd been hungry before, but he couldn't understand how it could be a problem since food seemed so readily available. And he didn't think disease would have been a big deal because whenever he got too sick, he would be taken to the emergency room. And war was something cool that his dad had showed him in movies. But he was appropriately naïve for his age, like all boys his age should be.

"And what we're doing is quite revolutionary in order to solve the mortality problem and allow these brilliant minds and captains of industry to oversee their plan to the end and beyond."

John slurped his beer, worn to the bone. Mildred listened to the broadcast from the kitchen where the smells of a cooking dinner were all consuming.

"...and could you explain to our audience at home how you plan to conquer 'the mortality problem'?"

"Time travel," the good doctor said as he flashed a sparkling grin at the camera.

This is but a sample of this story.  The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.

Monday, May 17, 2010

GUEST STORY: Prometheus' Bastard Step Son

Jason Young is back again with another story.  This is the first chapter of the novel he's currently working on.  You can read some of Jason's stories available on the Kindle here.

Be sure to check out my recent collections available on the Kindle.

I woke up on the deck of a sinking ship. The parts above water were engulfed in flames. The heat was melting me from the inside. As I watched the ship burn I could see the exact same ship sailing off into the sunset, like an eerie vision of a world that should have been.

How the ship came to sinking was a mystery to me. It wasn’t until later that I realized I couldn’t explain how I got on the ship in the first place. My mind was clouded to everything except preserving my life. Though my body was bleeding and damaged, I jumped into the cold water and somehow managed to come on shore.

The word Aegis was written on my bleeding hand in black ink. It meant nothing to me, and that’s when it struck me. My past was nothing but the slumber that I awoke from. As if I were born again, I looked at my past with the same darkness that comes when looking into the future. I crawled into the street trying to find some shelter from the cold, but I never made it.

The next time I woke up I was in a hospital bed. At first they didn’t know I lost my memories, they just thought I was crazy. In their defense they were probably right. Once they found out about my amnesia they sent me to a special ward they called re-education. Not to treat the amnesia, but to train me to live in the real world. Re-education had its own building, and not a tiny one either. One of the orderlies told me it had more patients than the rest of the hospital combined.

They had a very specific program. They started by saying they wouldn’t release me until I understood, which wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds. They showed me examples of the new world, pounded them into my head. I didn’t have any memories of the past, but the vague impressions I kept couldn’t prepare me to cope with what they showed me. The world is full of shadows now, things that aren’t real, things more bizarre than dreams. It’s as if the world changed while I was sleeping, but they tell me it’s been like this for over two years now. They call it the Day the Earth Tore Apart, or D.E.T.A. for short.

The science behind the whole thing eludes me. They’ve told me some theories, but no one really knows. Everything on Earth has separated from itself, as if there were two Earth’s sitting on top of each other the whole time. Now there are copies of everything. Every human being has a double, every animal, and every inanimate object. They told me I was a member of Earth-1, which means I can only physically interact with that Earth’s inhabitants. Earth-2 is on a separate wavelength than ours. Both worlds can see and hear each other, but they can never touch.

When your in re-education, the first thing they make you do every morning is get into a tub of the other worlds water. First your hands, so you’ll understand the water will never get you wet. You can’t even feel a difference in the air. Then they hold your head under until you’re willing to breath. Some people think it’s refreshing to sit under the phantom water for hours, but I had an opposite reaction. Sitting under the water made me sick. To me it represented the life I lost.

Like I said, the world is full of shadows, an entire world of ghosts. You can’t trust the water; you can’t even trust the ground beneath your feet. The world has changed, but my mind refuses to. The world doesn’t make sense to me. The Earth’s population doubled in a single night. I’m glad I can’t remember it. It sounds like hell. The similarities between the worlds will fade in a few generations, but I have a theory that it’s just going to make things that much worse.

Since I’m a part of the first generation it leaves me with a pretty big question. Where’s my double? The person that walks around Earth-2 that looks exactly like me. No one from either Earth came to claim me from the hospital on my release. Maybe he’s dead. Maybe he drowned in the shadows. They tell me that the suicide rate has doubled every year since the split. They tell me that if your double kills itself, you have a seventy percent chance of killing yourself in the next 48 hours. They say it’s worse than losing a twin. Most of the time they do it together.

None of that matters to me though, I never knew him. As far as I’m concerned we’re separate people. I was doing some reading and in this book a scientist said if you look at a picture of yourself sitting on a beach taken ten years ago, not a single cell that composes your body that’s holding the picture would have been on the beach that day. It got me thinking, if that’s true what are we really? Organic vessels filled with memories of the past? And if that’s the case, I’m nothing at all.

It took a long time before they finally released me from the hospital. They take the word “re-education” very seriously around there. They even go over the obvious. They devoted an entire lesson to communication. Why we can speak to people from Earth-2 in person, but why we couldn’t call them on the phone no matter how much we tried. And so on through the whole ridiculous process.

Because of my peculiar situation they deemed me unsuitable for work and got me on a government program for “people with disabilities”. I just had to fill out some forms and the government would pay for me to drink the rest of my life. I didn’t argue with them.

They never found out who I used to be. They took to calling me Aegis while I was at the hospital. Since that’s the only name I’ve ever known, I decided to make it permanent. I found a place downtown where they couldn't care less if I had a real name or not. Aegis suited them just fine. A real shit-hole, not like the upper class shit-holes near the racetracks, but a real bona fide dump. The landlords are real pricks too, but honestly I can’t complain. Having people to hate almost makes me feel like a real person, and I need all the help I can get. The world around me is too fucked up. Other than the cigarette and alcohol industries the rest of the world pretty much just went to shit. The city is filled with violence, gangs run the city. Law and order are unachievable ideals. It’s not that they don’t try; it just doesn’t blend with the anarchy. It’s easy to lose yourself, especially when you don’t know who you are.