Here are the stories from the Summer 2007 call for fiction:
by Christian Verotik
The grey sits amidst myriad black boxes… they look like televisions, but that’s just a contemporary reference… wires running from an infinite number of sources below the grey. Each wire plugged into some area on the grey’s body.
They transmit an infinite number of possible realities.
In the grey’s head, he computes probabilities based on these infinite number of references.
The most likely possible event to occur is recorded for the hive mind.
The hive mind transmits this information down through the aethers to the chosen members of the human race who are able to communicate with the hive mind from 3rd dimensional reality.
Obviously with an alternate number of possibilities, there are an infinite number of wrong answers.
The greys must realize this fact, so why would they still transmit this flawed information?
The greys do not understand one basic conceptualized fact about humanity, namely that we are not logical beings. We are guided by emotions.
The merging and verging time-lines. So inexact. Each one shattered by the introduction of the X-factor, unseen and unrealized by the greys, in their emotionless, logical exactitude.
Our creators are completely unable to understand us, and seem quite stymied by the fact that even after being created in their images, the lures of the flesh, our very physical existence (the opposite of their own) has made us so alien to them.
Our own existence, within linear time, has made it so that we are able to change. The very notion of time which we are trapped by, marching each day on our path to death, allows us the one thing our creators can never experience.
They can never change. Time flows in an infinite number of directions with them. They exist in the past, present, and future simultaneously. They know all possible paths. There is no free will that comes with omniscience.
So, they sit in their dark, black rooms plugged into their meta-technologies, observing every moment of the chronosphere without cease, searching for the most logical options before acting.
Perhaps, in the end, the infinite number of options available to them, with their need for perfection, has left them so they are totally unable to act.
You look into their large, almond-shaped, black eyes… like pools of viscous oil… and see noting but sadness.
Their very knowledge has led them to be alienated from existence. They embody loneliness, even within their hive mind. Reaching out to connect with beings that they can never understand. Their own creations.
If they knew what sadness was, perhaps they would cry.
But, yet, before we judge them too harshly for their hyper-existence, perhaps we need to look at what they have to offer us.
At the same time that they are unable to understand physical concepts such as “love”, they are also unable to understand concepts such as hatred, violence, war. They exist in a completely self-sustainable, self-sufficient spiritual existence. They create no pollution. Their technology created thought-forms, completely powered by the spirit. They’ve evolved beyond concerns such as food and sex.
They are above and outside such things. From the One is many, from the many is One.
They exist and reproduce solely on belief.
The grey sitting amidst the boxes begins to flicker, his eyes close, and when they reopen, I realize that a new grey has transmogrified in to the room in place of the original grey. They are all of one body and mind.
The grey who was originally in the room will have transmogrified into another body within the web-complex where the greys rest.
They don’t sleep as we think of the term, but they are pure mental-spiritual energy, and they need to recharge.
So, this leads to the ultimate question… what is their purpose? Why do they exist?
The most ironic aspect of the greys is that they don’t have any more answers than we do. They’re not gods, they’re just higher on the evolutionary scale. They’ve evolved beyond the physical. On the spiritual plane, existing within the 4th dimension, they don’t know any more than we in the 3rd dimension when it comes to questions about purpose.
These are immortal beings, with an infinite amount of time to ponder these questions, and they still have no answers to offer. Humanity can’t even begin to comprehend this. That’s why they give pat answers to those who meet them in-between. They try to give us some purpose beyond the need to consume and produce. They realize our meaninglessness has led us to self-destruction, and that we’re taking the biosphere with us.
I’ve really begun to wonder if there even are any answers. Perhaps the only answers to be found are the ones we fool ourselves into believing in this world. These answers have no continuity with anything before or after life. The questions all die along with us, buried in our graves, never to be spoken again.
They fear us. We fear them, because they are us.
When will duality end? When will the physical and the spiritual finally meet? Neither of us are whole beings. This is why I cry as I stand here watching the greys, seeing what they understand.
The grey looks up with those haunting large black eyes, our entire universe hidden behind those lenses, and I read absolutely nothing on his face. He quickly returns to his task, checking and rechecking every instant of creation, making notes in the hive-mind to pass on to us on the physical plane when we ask them our questions… forever waiting for the right moment to finally act.
I feel a tugging at the base of my skull. I want to cry out, “Please, take me with you!”, but I must be a silent observer, like them. I am not allowed to ever speak or taint their pure world with my virus.
I turn and leave the room, to return back to my physical shell.
As I blur past the web complex and the incubation chambers moving at the speed of quark, I see the frail, ghostly beings swaying. The failed hybrids who are more spiritual than physical, unable to exist in our physical world, but not a part of the hive mind. Like a leper colony amongst the greys. Forever reaching out, wanting to feel something, but they exist in a world of gossamer. Their hands pass through their world.
I don’t want to leave. I feel more comfortable with them. But, I’m a failed hybrid too, more physical than spiritual. Trapped between worlds. Trapped to exist between the two worlds until my physical shell dies. Existing in a world that’s far too real, that can never touch me. Wanting to communicate, but unable to speak.
My eyes open. The images of my home fading away to be replaced by the strange world around me. Knowing that I can never find my home, I feel nothing.
by Kelly L.
“Downtowns are dying,” my sister tells me.
We are riding an escalator that will stop a month from now and will never move again. The escalator is the old-fashioned kind with wood slats that vibrate comfortingly under our soles. We step off on the second floor and make a sharp turn to begin our ascent to the third floor.
“People don’t shop downtown anymore,” my sister continues, telling me something that I already know and see. The store will be closing soon because of dwindling crowds downtown. Not only do people not shop downtown anymore, they don’t work or live here either.
“But we still shop here,” I say.
“We don’t shop here. We go here. We don’t buy anything.”
She’s right. There is a difference. This is a novelty for us, not a trip made out of necessity. Our arms are as empty as the city streets.
We reach the third floor. I see lights turn green outside. There is no traffic to move.
I want this place to stay open, regardless of its lack of purpose. It’s part of my childhood that I don’t want to be just a memory. When I was little, I used to come here with my mother. While she was shopping for perfume, I would wander away, crawling beneath the garment racks, and I wouldn’t reemerge until I could hear her voice border on frantic as she called me.
“Department stores scare me, actually,” my sister says. She continues to the fourth floor escalator, so I follow.
“I don’t mind them. Why do they scare you?”
“I just always imagine what they’re like at night, after everyone’s left. When I was a little kid, I thought the mannequins would come alive and talk to each other at night. Sometimes I still think about that and it creeps me out.”
Soon it would always be like night at the store. The building would surely sit vacant for years to come, as most buildings in this city were already doing. There would be nothing but ghosts of the people who used to shop here. An inch of dust would collect on the perfume counters, with no customers to complain about it.
“You’re ridiculous,” I tell her.
We hop off the escalator. This is as far as it will take us. The ride is over.
My sister continues on to do her shopping, but I lag behind, wanting only to move forward if the escalator can carry me.
Next to me is a family of mannequins, dutifully modeling as I’d seen them do for years. Soon they won’t have a job to do.
I survey their frozen faces. I wonder if there’s a soul, a chance of rebirth, behind those cold, dead eyes.
(I Believe in) Travelin’ Light
by J. Robert Novak
Nearly thirty years old, and I’ve finally discovered the key to happiness.
It’s all about reduction, really. Lynn taught me that. Break your life down to only the elements that you absolutely need; discard the rest. It makes sense. Why hang on to one-hundred CD’s you’ll never listen to again? Why worry about the surround sound system… the one that always shorts out during the loud action scenes? Why have more than a dresser, a closet, a suitcase full of clothes?
The suitcase is now in the trunk of the Tempo, with all the clothes I will ever need. A selection of 30 CDs is in the front seat, kept neatly in a small CD rack that lies on its back. The CD rack was Lynn’s idea, too. She loved order. That’s why she could never love me. Well, that’s one reason, anyway.
I remember when she told me she was taking off for New York. I begged her to stay in town, where I might at least bump into her on occasion. She just sighed and said in her slow, clearly enunciated words (as if she were thinking carefully about each sound before it passed her lips), “Nathan, this has nothing to do with you. I’ve just… got to get away from here. You need to quit blaming yourself for everything that happens in the world.”
She was right, too. Guilt is another thing I’ve learned to cast off.
Back at the car, I realize that I’d better leave soon, before I get trapped into an embarrassing confrontation. I take a quick inventory.
What I’m taking with me:
* The CDs (Belle and Sebastian for rainy days, Dylan for the sunny ones, Arctic Monkeys for the road)
* One week’s worth of clothes
* Detergent to wash said clothes
* Enough money to get by once I’m settled (approx. $2000)
Maps of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York (On second thought, I don’t need ’em)
* Food for the road
* What’s left of my sanity
Walking back into the house, into the bedroom, I stop at my overstuffed bookcase and pull The Rules of Attraction, The Great Gatsby, and The Collected Stories of Raymond Carver from it. I also make a quick stop to the other bookshelf in the living room to grab Watchmen and Blankets. I think Lynn would agree that books are a necessity. I almost grab a picture from the entertainment center, but think better of it. This is a fresh start; I don’t need any reminders of the past.
I stuff the books in the trunk and take one last look around. This house is out in the middle of nowhere, and the woods nearby crackle and shake with wildlife. I almost feel sorry that I’m leaving this town, the cornfields, the deer running through my yard when I get home from work, but the city calls. That’s one thing Lynn and I had in common: we were never at ease in the suburbs — even less so in places like this.
I think I’m ready to go when I look down at my hand. Oh! One last thing to take care of. I head back to the living room, quickly. As I place the ring beside my note, I hear her car pull up. It’s almost too late.
I make a bee-line to the car, ignoring my wife’s angry pleas. I don’t even look her in the eye when she accuses me of running off with Lynn. I turn the radio up as begs me to stay, or to let her in the car.
What? Take you with me? There’s no room for you. Besides, I’m traveling light.