The Time Machine
It was me who gave her the permission to leave, not him. He said nothing, and for this he can never forgive me. When he needed it the most he lost his voice.
It came back though, soon enough, when she heard her long awaited cue. She sidled up to him, patted his shoulder, held his hand, touched his face.
“A clean sweep is what we need,” he said. “It’s what she would have wanted.” He smiled. “Anyway, love, we’ve got a new family to take care of.”
I said nothing.
And her? She sees me only as a useful inconvenience. A babysitter to her brood. A babysitter to the life that will bind them together forever.
And months later, what am I to them? A reminder of a past they’d both prefer to forget. A cuckoo in the nest, a parasite hovering over the cocoon they have woven. I am not wanted, and do my best to fade into the background. I’ve learnt to stay silent.
And what of my friends? I grew tired long ago of their pitying looks, of their awkward silence.
But I have no need of friends, not when I have the time machine.
Did I find it by accident, did a dream make me seek it out? I’m not sure.
“Where do you want to go little one?” it whispers.
“Anywhere but here,” I reply.
“Lie down and close your eyes, and we will travel.”
I’ve been forward and back, but never present. Sometimes I inhabit another’s body, another’s mind, or I am me. And sometimes, on very special days, I see her again.
For Those Who Believe
by Nod Ghosh
For those who believe in spirits, no proof is necessary.
For those who do not believe in spirits, no proof is ever enough.
A dead man calls through the crenellated confines of the centuries. He is a sculptor who fashions the form of love through his fingertips. He calls to a woman caught in web of a hundred rebirths. He moulds her feminine form under his palms. His fingers will fade to dust. He holds her taut breasts against his chest. Breasts of stone. He kisses her lips and they soften to buds. Oleander and hibiscus. They ride on the oil of their love. He will call to her over centuries. Millennia.
Aaah jaaow, aaah jaaow.
He calls to Neel Kamal. Come to me. Come to me. Their love denied, wrenched apart when her father sees the shadow of her face in every statue. Statues of stone. Crumble to dust. Statues of flesh decay.
Her father puts the sculptor to death. Immured. His final torture has its own word. The sculptor takes hours, days, weeks, how long – to die, confined in stone and mortar? Yet the greatest torture of all is to be wrenched from his only true love. He sees her in stone.
He sees her in the silent darkness of his tomb. He sees her, but she isn’t there.
When the spell is broken, a thunder-strike reveals the crusted bones of his fingers.
Fingers that have faded to dust.
And she – a young bride, caught in the shadow of deceit, cries in the arms of another.
For those who believe in spirits, no proof is necessary.
For those who do not believe in spirits, no proof is ever enough.
by Clarissa T. H
Sunrise was approaching. That is the apex of my day. Sunrise and sunset. The two moments that allow me a few minutes of direct sunlight. That is my life, locked away for no reason in a small stone corridor with iron doors in each side. I guess I should thank my incarcerators for building my gaol in an east-west position. A north-south wind could have made my life even harder.
So I lived there since I can remember, born in a calaboose, damned to a pathetic, colourless, or may I say, unicolour existence. I wasn’t alone though, lots of brothers and sisters lived with me, but to be honest, their conformism, more than that, their happiness with our shitty situation only made my loneliness deeper.
We were a green family; not like this new trend of ecologically correct beings, literally green. And they seemed happy with that! I dreamed to go out, to be pink, purple, blue or maybe…yellow and black, like the fairies that would occasionally visit. So many times I wished upon them, but they never listened. And now, as the sunset approached, my left cheek started to feel the heat. I looked at all of us, so together, so rooted to the ground, so green and wished once more: please, let moss fly too.
by Steph Ellis
He left the gate open. Deliberately. He allowed the passer-by to see a glimpse of light the other side, a hint of what lay ahead. He made sure the grass looked a lot greener. It was only window dressing after all. Who can resist an open door? That peek round the corner, the illicit thrill of trespass.
He shrank back to the Inbetween.
“’Ere, look.” A youth’s voice.
“Come on. Might be summat worth knicking.”
“It’s nearly curfew,” said another.
“Don’t want any bother, that’s all. Jonesy offered me a job …”
“Yes, me,” said the other voice. “And I’m not going to screw this up.”
“Right then, Billy boy,” said the youth. “You’re on your own.”
He pushed the gate back, entered the Inbetween.
Billy gazed round warily, he should’ve realised there’d be someone lurking in the shadows, waiting. Hadn’t he done it often enough himself?
“I’m here, Billy. Come and sit awhile, keep me company.”
“I ‘ain’t sitting next to no perv.”
“Oh, I am no perv. But if you want to get out of here, then you must give me your story.”
“My story? What d’you mean?”
Billy moved towards the voice, uncomfortable at the hunger he detected there.
“All who enter the Inbetween,” said the darkness, “must tell me their story. A story in return for release. A bargain, yes?”
A mad man, thought Billy, but he’d humour him, give him what he wanted. He failed to see how the darkness grew with every hateful action, every guilty confession, how it was swallowing him whole, how the fires were already burning for him in the Beyond.
“You can go now,” said the darkness. And he opened the gates for Billy.
The Bone Man
by Lee Hamblin
He is known as ‘the bone man.’ His real name got buried long ago, lost amongst the earth that he shovels – day in, day out. He lives in a space once a small chapel, a place as damp as it is dark; a place sunlight was never permitted. He lives alone, but for the hundreds of souls he has laid to rest; and they are always close by.
Every day he sees tears, and pain, and not-so-final goodbyes. But sacred ground comes at a premium. In three years from the day he lowered them, he will exhume them, that is his charge.
For those who cannot pay cannot stay; and this is a simple village, with simple lives – and the many cannot pay. They once had faces: teacher, baker, fisherman, thief – good people, bad people, happy people, sad. He will shake the bones loose from their suit; personal artefacts returned to the tearful in black.
And the bones, what is their fate?
The priest will wrap them in muslin and hand them to him, and he will take them to the bone house, or throw them into the pit by the cliffs.
‘The bone man’ is abhorred. ‘The bone man’ is feared. Mothers cross the street if they see him coming; children pulled close, told not to go near him. He is a reminder of death. He is unkempt, blackened by earth and sun, and numbed by alcohol, his only friend.
Children call him ‘the bogeyman.’
Mothers will warn them what will happen if they are naughty boys and girls. Of where they will be taken, and left for the night.
Of bone soup they’ll be fed, and sharp bones for their bed.
Of dark and cold and voices. And him.
Of teaching you a lesson, my child.
by Cath Barton
He appears in front of me, between two blinks of an eye. I see his feet first. Clown’s feet in big shoes. They flap as he walks towards me. His white mouth stretches into a grimace and he holds out a hand. He’s shaking and I feel his fear. I take his hand and it’s stone cold. I want to say how cold it is and that I can give him gloves, but he shakes his head and glitter falls from his curly hair, falls onto his feet and onto my feet. And then we’re running together, hand in hand, his shoes slapping on the ground, and we dodge the people who turn and stare and – I’m glad about this – his hand is warming up.
We’ve run into the castle grounds and I know where he’ll be safe. I lead him there, my sad clown. I’m thinking about how I’ll cover him with dry leaves while I go and fetch a blanket. But he’s shaking his head again, he’s reading my thoughts and he waggles a finger back and forth. I want to say he needs a blanket, but he snuggles into the leaves and I can see that he doesn’t. I try to pull the gate closed but it’s so old and rusted it won’t budge. It’s getting dark now and I tell him I have to go home.
People are shouting in the streets but I ignore them. I go to bed but I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about my clown and about how cold his hand had been.
In the morning I go back. There are sticks, broken sticks thrown over the leaves. They look like broken bones. I blink and he’s standing there, just for a moment. Glitter lands on my shoes. I blink. He’s gone.
ON MY INDEFINITE INSECURITIES REGARDING THE EXISTENCE OF A
by CHARLES L CROWLEY IV
Dear living room with two doors and no windows, I lie up against your wall and wait for the dirt and life, the worms wriggling below me, to rise up and swallow me—swallow me whole.
Days old take out piles up in the corner. I reach to see what I can find.
I could walk up to either door and leave.
At any time. Always at any time. Anything can always happen at any time.
But not here with me. Cause I won’t let it. I’m too busy rocking up a storm in my head, waiting on some self-pity to rain down through your roof and ceiling to me.
“En el nombre del Padre, del Hijo, del Espíritu Santo—good morning demon-love, my afterlife fortune cookie.”
I dig my fingers in the dirt and look for the worms that take so long to find me.
Fortune Cookie: “One day you will love someone again.”
I loved someone once and they told me they loved it when I ran red lights. So, for days I drove straight on through them all, until I was dead and dead and dead again.
Now I’m sitting between two doors, not sure which I’ll ever take.
Please love me. Or please tell me I’m out of time.
If time is an issue, you know…I never really knew how things were supposed to go anyways.
Maybe, one day, both doors will close and I can lay banged up in the dark and finally forget my body. And all the bodies I’ve left burned up at the intersections of it all.
Take out’s gone bad.
I’ve gone bad waiting.
Amen Tina Turner.
Nosferatu or Nostradamus or nosotros bebimos mucha tequila esta noche….
The Price of Omniscience
by George Huntington
Once the research was in place, the only obstacle to further human progress was the lack of mineral resources. So we looked to the stars, conquered them and brought them down to our level. With our reach extending to the heavens we grew bored and looked to ourselves. Our technology being what it was, we had the ability to push our minds and bodies beyond their limits. An aggressive escalation of augments and implants changed what it meant to be human. But outstripping the others by far was the human-computer brain interface.
This comparatively small adaptation to our nervous systems allowed for the possibility of connecting to any computer system or database at any time. No longer just at our fingertips, we had but only to think it and the information would be there. Access to all of history, art and culture was grasped and seized upon with a frenzy. It was not long before everyone had one; they were even installed at birth. Every human born that decade had the inborn capability of consuming all of the world’s media at once. Often they did so.
The detrimental price of this near-omniscience was predictable. It was addictive. In addition to the pure ecstasy experienced by linking up with 10 billion other consciousness at once, we had the ultra-stimulation made possible by the interfaces. The total knowledge from instant to instant of everything happening in popular culture. Pre-implant minds can scarcely conceive of it. Nobody who had felt that was prepared to give it up. In looking to ourselves we spiraled inwards. As our media thrived our species died. Though what it meant to be human long ago expired.
By Jan Kaneen
I walk there every afternoon, after lunch. Have done for twenty years. I find the wide skies and noisy willows a huge relief and it’s good to blow the cobwebs away, just for an hour or two. I walk through the village then down to the river.
The Ouse earns it lazy name whatever the weather, turning its usual corner. Walking the field, the Pug lady nods. We pass most days. She has green eyes, emerald really, that always catch the light. Her short curls change colour in the wind so they’re warm honey then corn dolly yellow, like my Mary’s used to be before they became brittle wisps of frizz.
She says, ‘What a blustery day.’ The Pug wags its tail. I stroke its head. It feels like velvet.
Walking on I sigh with relief, glad for the fast moving clouds. They widen my perspective, give me space to think, so I can be somebody else, just for an hour or two. I walk on, crossing at the iron staunch. I never see anyone on this side, over the river, beyond the deserted flood plain, past Tick Fen.
You can see for miles it’s so flat, though the hidden ruin only becomes visible from 100 yards away. The grey stone has camouflaged green over the years and the black iron gates rusted to ochre. It looks different today. I walk faster, trying to work out why, starting to panic. The outside is the same but the light has changed.
The light is shining through it.
Almost running, I see that the nearest gate is open. I stop, my heart beating in my head, shining my torch inside, dry-mouthed, horrified. The mattress is gone, the board over the far gate is gone and her manacles lie shattered on the floor.
by James Turner
I lay the guns out on the cold bed sheets from smallest to biggest. All loaded, with the safeties off. She had a name for everyone, but I couldn’t remember them all. I gave them other names to remind me of the time we spent together. The black one on the end, I call raison. From the time we shared a bowl of rum and raison at the ice cream parlour.
The next one along, with the wooden grip is Neil. That was after the time we drove across town with the windows down and listened to Tonight’s the Night. The long one with two barrels is Lauren, which she held in her lap when we watched The Big Sleep at the drive in.
I feel the cold metal of the guns and I think about how she held them. The hard skin of her hands, her fingers holding them close. That powerful grip on the handle, turning her knuckles white, as she teased the trigger. I watched her at the shooting range, as she left holes in the heads and hearts, of those paper targets. She wanted me to leave holes too, but I never did.
I never fired a gun in my life. I hold up Neil, and apply pressure to the trigger. I try to understand the excitement she felt holding this thing in her hand. But there is nothing. I was never interested in her guns. I was only interested in her.
by John M. Redoix
Donald Cooper, a security guard for the Blackbow Nature Reserve discovered a strange wooden door while on his usual night shift route. A perfectly normal door, as later examination concluded.
Yet Cooper claimed that, upon opening the door, he was blinded by a bright light and lost consciousness.
Upon waking up, he found himself sitting in the seat of an airplane. An extraordinary claim, but not one ever got to elaborate on. Cooper passed away due to a heart attack while being interviewed by the chief of security.
Here is that interview:
COOPER: “Oh, don’t mind me. Just an old man and whichever mental illness that’s probably going down in that noggin’ of his!
CHIEF: “Just tell me what happened, Coop.”
COOPER: “Well, it was like a movie. I can still picture it.
I’m sitting in this plane. No other passengers, just me. I’m in a slick suit, whiskey in hand, you know what I mean, eh-heh? I’m also wearing sunglasses for some reason. I’m feeling pretty young. Not too young, though.
There’s a briefcase next to my feet.
Oh, right – stewardess next to me, too. She’s saying something. Something about doctors. I don’t think I’m paying attention. I remember her mentioning her own daughter.
And then I–
CHIEF: “…Coop? Cooper, you okay?”
Cooper died at the age of 75.
On November 24th 1971, Donald Cooper was found unconscious on the bank of Washougal River. He’d suffered brain damage and had no memory of how he got there. All he had was the name “Cooper”.
Earlier that day, a man calling himself “D. B. Cooper” had hijacked a Boeing 727, demanded ransom money, and leapt out of it shortly after his demands were met.
Neither the ransom nor Cooper has ever found.