The Iron Writer Challenge #22 – 2013 Summer Solstice Open Finals

coconut land crabThe Iron Writer Challenge #22

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

2013 Summer Solstice Open Finals

 The Authors: 

Steve HarzA Francis RaymondM.D. PitmanTony Jaeger

The Elements:

An Incubus

An 8 track tape (be specific)

The Towers of Silence

Coconut land crab from Nuie Island

KingsfoilSteve Harz

Steve Harz

You sing me morning dove lullabies on a Kingsfoil night

after spending the day with my hand in your back pocket

watching your Ferris Wheel halo and cotton candy smile and

thinking that our love is as fragile as a shopping center carnival goldfish

or as angry as a South Pacific coconut land crab so close to the coast

where we spread out beach towels and look past the waves to the west

It is no secret that you are my Achilles heel kryptonite

in our combat boot love affair rich with

depth charge kisses and camouflage espionage

and rather than hitching a ride from a funeral procession

we hotwire a 1976 Duster and its racing stripes and snakeskin roof

and when we can’t drive another mile or town

we click the dashboard mounted player to track 1 of

‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’

driving between sunsets and city limits arguing which one of us is which

and questioning whether our love is still green and growing or dry and gone

my words gasoline and your touch a lit match

needing to set fire to ourselves in order to have light to read the map

that will take us back to the shore where our love can bloom or at least tread water

or to the middle of the planet where it will die among the empty sand dunes

but not knowing which we throw our rope from our Tower of Babel to a Tower of Silence

and walk the tightrope between misunderstanding and the bleaching bones of the dead

where my fear of dying alone is replaced with a fear of dying without you

we become each other’s’ incubus and succubus hovering in unison and

trying to spawn a fulfilling forever from erotic evil dreams

and scraping the dirt beneath us while prowling for hope

refusing to throw in the beach towel as we’ve done too many times before

Armed and DangerousMichael Pitman

M.D. Pitman

The heat of the late Sunday morning warmed Mick’s face as he stepped outside to load his 1965 Mustang convertible for a picnic with his girlfriend, Jody. She was five steps behind with a black vinyl case.

“So, why do you not have a CD player in your car, again?” Mick and Jody have been dating a few weeks, though he’s told her before. He stopped and turned.

“Because a ‘65 Mustang was the first to have an 8-track player standard.”

Jody rolled her eyes after Mick turned around to place the picnic basket in the backseat. Jody placed the case next to it.

The radio sounded after Mick started the car: “The Harrison police department is looking for a man accused of beating a clerk at a gas station, leaving him in critical condition. The suspect, a white man in his mid-30s, was last seen wearing jeans and a gray tank top shirt. He covered his face with a red bandana. Police say he is considered armed and dangerous.”

As if he didn’t hear the news, Mick pushed in his Fleetwood Mac 8-track tape.

“Wait. Did you hear that?” Jody turned off the radio. “We can’t go to the park with that lunatic out there.”

“The nearest store is at least three, maybe four miles away. Don’t worry about it. The odds are slim we’d run into him.”

It took about 10 minutes to drive to Miami Whitewater Park. They walked from the park’s rear parking lot to a secluded part of the park. They set up their spot in a patch of sun just off the bike path and a dozen feet from the tree line.

“You got the cards?”

Jody pulled out a pack of Trivial Pursuit cards from a jean shorts pocket and waved them. She gave half the deck to Mick.

“The hardest ones?” Jody asked.

“If you can find a hard one.” Mick smiled.

“This creature is also known as the robber crab or palm thief and is native to Niue Island.”

“What the heck?”

“I take that is an, ‘I don’t know.’”

Mick tossed a slant-eyed glare. “Okay, what is it?”

“Coconut land crab.”

“Whatever.” Mick shuffled through his cards. He flipped one over and smiled. “The better known name of this in German folklore is Alp of Teutonic.”

Jody shook her head in humorous disgust. “Okay, let’s go with easier questions.”

“It was an incubus, by the way.” Mick smiled slyly as he giggled. Jody threw a grape.

As Jody looked through her cards, and Mick stared intently at her, their sunny spot took on shade.

They looked up. A man wearing blue jeans and a dirty gray tank top towered over them. Cash overflowed his bulging pockets, and a red bandana hung around his neck. His white knuckles wrapped around a baseball bat stained red along the barrel.

“I got a question,” he said in a gravelly voice. He looked at Mick. “Are you ready to lie in the Tower of Silence?”

He lifted the bat with two hands over his head, and as his face began to distort with force, pulled the bat down.

The Paradox of ChoiceA Francis Raymond

A. Francis Raymond

The cast scuttled into the chamber carrying Kaheru on their backs. A black magnetic tape bound her legs, foreclaws, and pinned one of her antennae against the side of her mouth. Attached to the tape, dragging behind her, was the object that ensnared Kaheru – a moldy green 8-track cassette. The top image was faded, but enough ink on the side was readable:

“BREAD: BABY I’M A WANT YOU”

Tane sighed. “What have you gotten yourself into now, Kaheru?”

“Maybe it’s a new weapon,” cried out one cast member.

Kaheru didn’t tell them she knew exactly what it was. Well, not exactly. It was a human relic and after her years of human study, she used it to attempt to conjure up an old human. A crab from the only other surviving cast of Coconut Crabs, from the Island of Niue, claimed to have succeeded and provided instructions. It didn’t work.

“Please, get it off me,” begged Kaheru, free antenna drooping in embarrassment.

Tane flicked his antenna, disgusted at her smell. “Now, Kaheru, you know we can’t do that. This object is of amazing antiquity. We will not damage it.”

“Take her to the Tower of Silence,” he ordered.

The chattering cast quieted instantly. No one ever went to the Tower. Sea Eagles, the world’s other remaining great predator, ruthlessly warred with the crabs for eons. Atop the tower, exposed, meant certain death by their enemies.

*****

High on the tower, one of only a few known human-created structures left, Kaheru was deciding whether or not to cut and destroy the artifact on her own when “it” appeared.

It looked human, according to surviving pictures Kaheru had seen. It had arms, a head, legs and an appendage she didn’t recognize dangling between its legs. But she didn’t expect to see wings.

“Greetings!” The cloud of thunder and lightning accompanying his entrance started to dissipate. “I am Odacas! Incubus and…” he looked around and saw Kaheru.

“I uh, am looking for some women,” he said.

“Women?”

“Yeah. They conjured me. I must impregnate them.”

“I might have conjured you.”

“You?”

Kaheru explained the humans were long gone, her own predicament, and as much recent history as she could. Apparently, Odacas had been away from some time.

“I was last here…” he turned to look at the stars in the sky. “Wow, it’s been at least two million years.”

“You look disappointed,” he continued. “Was this not your intent?”

“No, I wanted to meet a human.”

“Oh. Sorry. Well, I should get back and impregnate a few. Get the population numbers back up so they don’t die out…”

“Can you take me back to the time of the humans?” Kaheru asked.

“You might not like it. They, uh, eat your kind,” said Odacas.

Kaheru thought about it. Death, ripped apart by the talons of an Eagle, unable to defend herself, or the possibility of survival but more probable death, in the hands of her beloved humans.

“When can we leave?”

World of Wonders, Episode NineTony Jaeger

Tony Jaeger

“I don’t think we should do this,” Ang Number Six said. “We’re tampering with forces we shouldn’t.” His voice echoed through the warehouse.

Number Nine tapped Six’s forehead, “That’s how we got into this mess in the first place – using the God Machine Ang stole. We’re human, and now what? I’ve woken up the last six mornings,” he gestured to his genitals, “standing completely erect, with a feeling in my chest that I don’t know what to do with. We’ve started hiding our bodies with ridiculous clothing; started acting in ways we never did before we got souls, and I intend to find out what to do about it.”

“Stop, both of you. We agreed that this is the most logical thing to do.” Thirteen stepped between Six and Nine, placing a hand on their chests. He didn’t know why; he thought the contact might calm them.

“We have the items for the ritual,” Nine said. “Let’s just do it.”

    “I’m not entirely sure I’ve built this Tower of Silence perfectly,” Thirteen said, studying his InfoPad. “It’s small. These articles were vague on the exact build. I’ve got the three interlocking circles traced with the blood of the Nuiean Coconut Crab, and the incantation, all of the important things to summon Ang’s spirit. Except his body.”

    “I have Him.” All eyes locked on Number Four. One and Two placed a canvas bag onto Thirteen’s workbench. Four, Ang’s favorite of the doppelgangers, unzipped the bag, revealing His pale, blood-drained face. Four smiled fondly and brushed a strand of hair away. “One, Two, put him atop the tower. We’re doing this.”

*****

A gout of fire erupted from the Tower, accompanied with the acrid smell of burning flesh. When he realized it was Ang’s body that was burning, Six vomited. His stomach emptied itself while his ears were filled with evil cackling. Six’s curiosity won over his stomach; he looked up to find Ang’s spirit standing, bound by flame and smiling. Six looked into Ang’s cold, lifeless eyes.

“I knew we shouldn’t have done this,” Six whimpered.

Nine stepped forward, ignoring Six. “Creator, we don’t know what to do. We’ve been. . . feeling. Sadness, happiness, lust.”

“It’s intense, and –”

“Frightening.”

“And wonderful.”

“But what are we supposed to do with ourselves?”

The room fell silent, but for the 8-track tape playing Spiral Architect – Ang’s favorite song.

Ang’s spirit laughed sadly. “God banished me to Hell for giving you souls, and you ask me what to do with life? Live, you idiots! I’ve been burning in Hell, and you ask me what you should do? Live!” Ang screamed at them as his charred corpse rose. It spun in the air and became whole again. Burns settled into flesh and became clean. Color erupted across the corpse, and breath filled its lungs.

Ang’s body and spirit became one. He jumped down from the tower. “As for me,” He said. “I’m going to go get laid. A lot.” Ang, the reincarnated sex demon, strolled from the building.

“Did… we just bring Ang back to life?” Four asked.

“I think so.”

Thirteen shrugged. “Damnedest thing.”

The Iron Writer Challenge #21 – 2013 Summer Solstice Open Preliminary Round, Joseph Conrad Bracket

Flying Bicycle

The Iron Writer Challenge #21

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Open

Preliminary Round

joseph_conrad

Joseph Conrad Bracket

The Authors:

Guy Anthony De MarcoDani J CaileA Francis RaymondGenevieve Dewey

The Elements:

An Electric Flying Bicycle

A Doppelganger

Atlantis

An obscure Black & White Television Drama/Comedy

When Humanity Becomes IrrelevantA Francis Raymond

A. Francis Raymond

“There’s more to the doppelganger program than simply creating a replica of yourself, sir. It’s a subset of the Atlantis project which is a subset of the Grand Colonization project, sir.”  Simon escorted Sir John Crantor, senior member of the council, through the laboratory. He cast a sideways glance at Crantor, “But you knew that already. Sir.”

Crantor was the last of the council to walk through Simon’s lab. The rest had their doppelgangers created sometimes six or seven times over already.

Crantor remembered they named it the “doppelganger project” for a reason. It was more palpable than simply calling it another cloning project.  As if Simon was reading Crantor’s mind he said:

“But we’re not creating a simple clone. We take the best of you and the best of your ancestors and create someone, that while bearing an uncanny resemblance to yourself, also possesses a unique mix of intelligence and creativity.”

“Something the Atlantis project has lacked,” said Crantor.

Simon smiled and motioned Crantor to a seat. He waved his hands over the table top and a hover screen appeared. Crantor looked at Simon in profile. He looked eerily familiar.

“And it doesn’t have to be an exact physical replica,” Simon continued. “Many of the other council members decided it was less disturbing if in addition, eye color, hair color and even skin color changed.”

On the screen, a video displayed several people in clunky hovering contraptions, predecessors to modern modes of travel.

“This would be the most interesting of your ancestors, sir. The inventor of the electric hover bike.”

Crantor nodded. He was familiar with his family line and knew his doppelganger would include this and the man who created an ancient black and white television show called “Run For Your Life.”

Running is what Crantor wanted to do right now. As the senior member of Project Atlantis, he didn’t think he should be any more hands on. But with failure imminent, stronger measures had to be taken.

Project Atlantis was the classified arm of the Grand Colonization. Settlers had stumbled upon ancient, human-like civilizations on several worlds that appeared to have simply disappeared, “in a single day and night of misfortune,” the original report read. Revitalizing these “colonies” to take advantage of the existing infrastructure was the only way colonization would succeed.

Doppelgangers looked human, but they were partly robotic. With twice the intellectual capability of humans, ten times the strength and endurance, they were needed for sophisticated “grunt work.” Initial objections included concern that more doppelgangers were created every month than babies. Creating a more capable version of a human being in almost no time at all seemed… unnatural.

Crantor wondered when doppelgangers would truly outnumber humans. Five or more created for every human who was duplicated over the last year added up to a lot of pseudo-humans to keep track of.

“Where’s your doppelganger?” he asked Simon.

Simon waved his hand and the viewscreen went black. “At some point, it becomes irrelevant, doesn’t it, sir?”

Old Boy NetworkDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

“I’ve finished!”

Thomas was surprised to see an old man covered in dust and cobwebs coming through a secret door in his office’s bookshelf.

“What the…? Excuse me?”

“I’ve finished! I’ve finally sorted out those problems. Episode 5 is ready!”

The dusty old man threw a screenplay onto his desk.

“Excuse me? Episode 5? Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“Who am I? Who are you?”

“I’m Thomas Thimbleton, scheduling and programming. And you?”

“Roger Cribbins, writer, ‘The Corridor People’.”

“Who? The what?”

“Roger Cribbins, ‘The Corridor People’. I know I’m a little late with the re-write but there were a few problems I had to iron out…”

“’The Corridor People’? Is that some new ‘Office’ spin-off? Hang on a minute, I’ll check.” Thomas checked his database. “ Late, you say? You’re 47 years late.”

“Oh, really? I am a bit peckish. Mmm, I’ve lost a bit of weight, too. Do you happen to have any sandwiches, by chance?”

“I think… you’re well over your deadline on this one. But saying that, as I can see from here it was a good series. So, I’m all ears. What have you got?”

“Oh, it’s fantastic! I’ve set this episode on the mysterious and unknown island of…Atlantis!”

“Atlantis?”

“Yes, it’s a mythical island, not many people know about it in popular culture yet…”

“You’ve been locked away for too long, Roger. Back in 1966 maybe, but now…”

“Anyway, one of the characters, Kronk, discovers the mythical island and also a secret spiritual chamber where he meets his evil doppelganger whom he finally defeats in the closing scenes.”

“Well, I don’t think anything to do with Atlantis has any audience ratings potential at the moment…”

“What? It’s all the rage!”

“No, it isn’t.” Thomas picked up the screenplay. “What else is in this? Does it include any cooking?”

“Err, no.”

“Any gardening, perhaps? Or DIY?”

“DIY? What’s that? Err, no, at least I think not.”

“Any computer gadgetry?”

“Computer?”

“Technology.”

“Yes! In the final scenes there is a chase sequence on futuristic, fantastical, electric flying bicycles! That would need some incredibly difficult special effects, of course.”

“No, it doesn’t. We can do that now. Three Czech engineering firms created a working prototype quite recently. It was all over the net.”

“Really? The net?”

“This isn’t so futuristic anymore, Roger. Let’s have a look at you…well, you’re not gay. Are you a Christian?”

“Err, no, I’m with Crudential.”

“Well, I’m afraid that your screenplay doesn’t meet the present demand from our audience.”

“Oh, I see. Shame. Sorry, but what was your name again?”

“Thomas Thimbleton, Thomas Thimbleton junior.”

“I thought so! I went to Eaton with your father, old Snotnose.”

“Don’t you mean Thomas?”

“Yes, yes, of course. Thomas.”

“Why didn’t you say so earlier? I tell you what, come back next Monday. I’ll have the contracts all ready by then.”

“Super, fine by me. See you then, dear boy.”

“See you then.”

They sealed the deal with the usual secret handshake.

Land of the DobiegangerGenevieve Dewey Heaston

Genevieve Dewey

Dobie was honored when he was chosen as the first person to ride the new Czech invented electric flying bicycle outside of the testing chamber. At least, he liked to think it an honor and not just because his father was a famous inventor. But, seeing as that was the last thing he could remember before being trapped in this alternate world, it was a shady sort of honor. No one liked to think of themselves as a lab rat. Option B was the Gods had stuck him down for hubris and that was why he was in Atlantis. In fact, he preferred Option B as an explanation because it seemed mythically appropriate and was more comforting than Option C; that Dobie had just finally lost his mind. Also, he didn’t actually know if it was the same Atlantis of legend. The residents just called it Atlantis which was hardly proof that it was The Atlantis. In any case, he refused to accept being trapped in his own Land of The Lost and was determined to escape today or die trying.

“Pretty slick contraption there, Mister. What’s with the fans?”

Dobie turned at the edge of the cliff and did a double take. The man in front of him looked exactly like Bob Denver from Gilligan’s Island. A younger version, but the same man right down to the oversized ears and dopey grin. And maybe it was a trick of the light but he looked almost…grey.

“I’m Maynard. What’s your name?” Gilligan’s doppelganger asked.

“I’m Dobie,” he replied, shaking the stranger’s hand.

“Dopey?”

“No, Dobie. My dad named me after his favorite TV show growing up, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis?”

“Huh. Never heard of it,” Maynard said and scratched his head—exactly like Gilligan would have done. Dobie tried desperately not to stare.

“I’ve never actually seen it either. Black and white. Before my time,” Dobie replied faintly. “Listen…you lived here long? Why is this place called Atlantis?”

Maynard pointed at the bike.

“Can I have a go at it?” he asked as if he hadn’t heard Dobie’s questions.

“I suppose, but it doesn’t fly anymore.”

“Fly?! Bikes can’t fly, Mister. You knock your head or somethin’?”

“It’s just been invented. Took it for a test ride and somehow I ended up here. It runs on batteries. But the Lab will be wondering where I am so—”

“What kind of batteries?”

“Dunno. Probably somewhere between a bored housewife’s Hitachi and a car battery,” Dobie joked.

Maynard scrunched his brows and his mouth parted slightly.

“Nevermind,” Dobie said. “Anybody ever tell you, you look exactly like a young Bob Denver?”

Maynard mounted the bike and turned. His face had transformed with a sneer. “It’s short for The Atlantis Project. Your dad traps his favorite things like in a snow globe.”

“My—my dad?”

“So long, sucker!” Maynard shouted as the bike soared off the cliff.

On second thought, Dobie decided…Option C did have a nice ring to it.

The RescuersGuy Anthony De Marco

Guy Anthony De Marco

Breathing heavy, Joseph pumped the pedals of his aerobicycle harder to clear the trees at the top of Rocky Ridge. Virginia followed close behind on his six, staying in formation despite a large flock of crows erupting from the branches in droves.

“We have to hurry, Ginny!” said Joseph. “I can hear the train coming!”

Even though Virginia was riding a doppelganger of Joseph’s aerobicycle, she wasn’t out of breath. She weighed far less than her best friend, and it didn’t take as much energy to keep aloft. “I can hear it too,” she yelled over the props. “We only have a few minutes to derail it!”

The train popped out of the tunnel that cut through the ridge, belching a steam and coal dust cloud so dense that Joseph had to bank hard left to avoid it. Virginia flew straight through, emerging with wide black streaks on her face and clothes.

Joseph almost panicked. “Ginny! I thought you were done for! Drop your grenades in front of the train or we’ll never get your little sister back from those dastardly kidnappers!”

Virginia pedaled harder and tilted the props forward. She reached into the woven plastic basket attached to her handlebars, withdrew a soft and wormy apple, then dropped it. The apple drifted down and impacted the polished brass smokestack, making a big pulpy smoosh while the other half bounced off into the dense bushes alongside the track.

She pulled up hard and circled back to Joseph, who had just landed roughly in a small grassy clearing. Deftly dropping next to him, she pulled a fresher apple from the basket, took a big bite, and said, “Well, so much for Charlotte.”

Joseph burst out laughing so hard, even Virginia had to crack a smile. “Yeah, that’s true. You have to learn to lead more when you drop those grenades. You did better this time.”

“Yeah, but not good enough.” Virginia tossed the apple to her friend, and he took a bite right next to hers. “What evil will we be preventing tomorrow?”

Joseph chewed for a bit, and then grinned. “We’re going to the beach in the morning with my Uncle Scott. I foresee Charlotte getting kidnapped by wicked mermaids from Atlantis!”

“Wicked mermen, you mean. I’m going to be the skipper of that giant submarine from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” She began to pedal, speeding up the propellers while slowly rolling forward. “Let’s see how Atlantis likes a depth charge dropped right in the middle of their town square!”

Joseph spun up his blades, falling behind Virginia’s aerobicycle. “They have an impenetrable dome! It’ll bounce off.”

“No, they don’t! Or better yet, I’ll race you to the barn.” Virginia pushed herself hard, and Joseph fell further behind, huffing and puffing while whining about Atlantis’ pending missing defense.

“Last one there gets to kiss my fictional sister on the lips!” she hollered. “Tongue and everything!”

Virginia laughed as Joseph’s wailing “eeeew, that’s gross” caught up with her.

The Iron Writer Challenge #21 – 2013 Summer Solstice Open Preliminary Round, Virginia Woolf Bracket

Flying Bicycle

The Iron Writer Challenge #21

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Open

Preliminary Round

virginia-woolf

Virginia Woolf Bracket

The Authors:

Tony JaegerJim WrightKyle B StiffA. B. Bourne

The Elements:

An Electric Flying Bicycle

A Doppelganger

Atlantis

An obscure Black & White Television Drama/Comedy

Spaceman!A B Bourne

A.B. Bourne c. 2013 all right reserved

Submitted to Iron Writer Summer Solstice 7/7/13

Three minutes.  Charles Lincoln sat on a stool next to the cash register of Carroll’s Shoppe: Antiques, Collectibles and Whimseys.  He tapped the thinning soles of his brogues on the metal legs.

Shortly, Harold Carroll, proprietor in chief, called  “You’re in charge, Charles.  Do take your nose out of that magazine, please.  Inventions and Inventors.  Try ‘initiative’.  That’s what will get you far.”  He left to post letters in the Cotswold village.  This would take 53 minutes.

Charles was decades younger than Harold Carroll, yet aware that he was not the last word in authoritative methods for getting far in life.  Charles had worked for Harold for a number of years, and would for many more.  Dust was gathering on his future like it coated the headboards lined six or seven deep along the back wall of the Shoppe.

But these 53 minutes were his.  Once Charles had sipped tea from a porcelain cup – its dangling paper ticket claimed it had been used by Admiral Horatio Nelson.  In a floor length oval mirror, Charles toasted with his left hand. He hoisted the other across his chest, a medal pinned sideways, not a stump.   The mirror added six inches to his 5’6” frame.  His cinnamon hair looked soaked by ocean spray, not pasted to his forehead from neglect.  Once he spent the entire hour undersea in a diving helmet a Cousteau had used in a search for Atlantis.   In the mirrors, his long nose showed purpose.  His chipped uneven teeth looked earned.

Charles flipped up the edge of a tablecloth, revealing a brown box.  A single brown wire reached to the wall.  Charles pointed the mirrors at the old television.  When he pressed a button, the box sprayed black and white dots.  “Men Into Space” began playing.  Charles kneeled before Ed McCauley as he went to space yet again.  Charles studied the hero’s long nose, and his flattened hair, post-landing.  When he grinned his teeth folded on each other.  Charles crouched beside the screen and faced the mirrors.  In each, the same man looked back. In some he wore black scuffed brogues, but in others, spaceboots.

The doorbell chimed.  Charles ripped the cord out of the wall.  It snapped.  His doppelganger faded into black and white spots.

Harold sighed.  “See you tomorrow, Charles.  Lots to do, lots to do.”

There never, ever was.  Charles hung his head.  He shuffled to the back of the shop where he had tucked his bicycle early that morning.  He backed it into the small courtyard and swung his leg over the seat.  He began pedaling. Then he pushed a button below the handlebars.  Six horizontal wheels began to turn.  The bike lifted into the air, Charles atop it.  He would be home to his stone cottage on the other side of the village in time for tea, and would return to the Shoppe the next morning.

Future CommoditiesKyle B Stiff

Kyle B. Stiff

Niles, majority stock owner of Honkersdotcom, sat on a park bench waiting for delivery of his animated portrait. He couldn’t wait to see what his old friend, the great artist Ishikawa, had created.

Niles thought about other animated portraits made for Ishikawa’s wealthy clients. All were simple, elegant, melancholic, and expensive beyond belief. The CEO of Peacetime Arsenal (and inventor of the militarized electric flying bicycle) owned a tasteful piece that showed him viewing a lush Martian garden. His profile, marked by a sense of contentment, slowly turned away from the viewer before looping. And the power-broker behind Obscurity Inc., makers of cutting-edge, all-new black and white dramas designed to fit seamlessly alongside “actual” older vids, owned a piece that showed her standing in a stark, artfully lit foyer, where she gracefully touched a mirror before the image looped and the viewer was left with a sense of timeless space and curiosity concerning the value of the piece. Niles desperately longed to own a serene image of himself engaged in some inscrutable activity!

Niles saw Ishikawa approach, but his excitement waned when he realized it was only Ishikawa’s doppelganger, a reduced-intellect clone created to run errands for a genetic donor. Niles himself had dozens of doppelgangers finalizing deals all around the globe.

The doppelganger handed Niles his piece, then stared at him. Shaking, Niles took the black tablet and powered it on, heart fluttering at the thought that he would soon witness something so elegant that only a fortune could acquire it.

The portrait showed Niles strapped to a table in a dark, filthy restroom. He saw masked figures adjust a hose trailing upward from his stomach and leading to a glass jar. Someone turned a crank, an engine roared, Niles wailed and strained at his bonds, then his intestines were sucked into the jar with a sickening splat. While more innards collected through the high-pressure hose, spittle flew from his blubbering lips.

Then the image looped.

“This isn’t what I ordered!” Niles shouted at the doppelganger. “There’s nothing elegant about this! It’s revolting!

The doppelganger blinked. “Every client says that. My owner told me that you wanted something that matched your preconceptions. Instead you got something unexpected. But your preconceptions are free, right? If you’re handing over money, why not expect something unexpected? Why not view the image and try to imagine the smell of your insides as they burst forth?”

Niles watched the awful image repeat once again. “Listen, clone. This won’t do. Your owner and I are friends. We used to-”

The doppelganger quickly shook his head. “My owner sold many memories from his younger days to collectors. An artist doesn’t get to live an easy life bloated with happy memories. Not like you do.”

Niles felt himself sinking because he knew he would show the piece to acquaintances and praise its daring statement. They would nod thoughtfully and his real opinion would be lost in a typhoon of stupid chatter. Like Atlantis he would sink and be forgotten. As if on cue the doppelganger smiled.

World of Wonders, Episode SixTony Jaeger

Tony Jaeger 

Ang leapt from the top of the building, cursing as he did. Unconsciously, his grip tightened on the sack holding the stolen God Machine. The world stretched below him, seeming much, much further down than ten stories. More like a hundred stories, which would still kill him, but Ang didn’t like waiting for death.

As he plummeted, he turned his body to face the river, hoping his timing was right. Otherwise, no matter how far he actually fell, the result would be the same. Wind whipped at his hair, threatening to take the Stetson from his head. The sidewalk rushed upward, seeming eager to welcome him.

Nine Atlantis-series fliers sped by beneath him, one of them flaring its fans to stop. Ang smiled. He landed squarely on the seat behind Ang Number Four. The flier whined, its engines straining to compensate for the extra weight.

The flier carrying Ang and Number Four sped forward, easily catching up with the pack. Ang Number Sixteen had retrofitted the gang’s fliers with advanced mech, powering the flying ‘cycles with electric power – an advantage over what the police, with their diesel fliers, would send after them.

Sirens blared in the middle distance, rushing closer. “Speak of the devil and he shall appear, huh, Number Four?”

“Affirmative.”

“Gods above, I can’t wait to get you plugged into the Machine.”

“Affirmative.”

Ang shook his head, smiling. “Well, we’re not home yet. Let’s get there, shall we?”

“Orders received: escape and evade. Evasion pattern Delta.”

The speeders around him tightened into a triangle formation, its point forward and low – the formation optimized the engine output, speeding up the unit. Buildings whipped by, faster and faster. Amazed people stood at windows, mouths agape, watching the formation of seventeen Ang doppelgangers – cyborgs, really – speed by, faster than any fliers they’d ever seen.

“Disperse in 3…2…1… Execute Command.” Ang Number Four said calmly.

Formation broke as the first gunshots cracked. Eight fliers dispersed, some weaving between buildings, some pulling sharply up, and others diving. Angs Three and Eleven spun out, crashed into a building and exploded. Shrapnel from Eleven’s body cut into Ang’s chest, but he only felt pain in his heart.

Bullets whizzed past Ang’s head. Number Four juked and weaved, his movements erratic but precise. Ang looked back, seeing that the police fliers had taken the bait and dispersed, following his doppelgangers. With their cybernetic brains, the other Angs would have no problem ditching them.

A bullet caught the left engine. The flier spun, losing altitude. Ang Four reached back, bracing Ang against the impact on the street. Despite Number Four’s effort, Ang was thrown from his seat and impaled through his belly on a rod from the engine casing broken free.

“Master!”

“Take the God Machine…” Ang gasped, struggled for breath. “Become. . . Human. . . Live.”

“Command Accepted,” Number Four said, and dashed away.

Ang didn’t have to wait long for death. He greeted it with a smile.

The world faded from grays to black. The voice of God said “WORLD OF WONDERS WILL BE RIGHT BACK, AFTER THESE COMMERCIAL MESSAGES.”

He’ll Have To GoJim2013-0216

Jim Wright

Fergus gazed over the coruscating expanse of the Persian Gulf. From his vantage point, high above the Atlantis, Palm Hotel in Dubai, he could take in the marvel of the palm-shaped manmade islands. His face broke into a mad grin as he experienced the exhilaration of flying. Dozens of airplane and helicopter flights paled in comparison to soaring above the glittering landscape on his nuclear powered electric flying bicycle. He knew he’d never wait in security queues or exchange boarding passes for a seat again!

A quick glance at his wrist told him it was time. After months of surreptitious watching, he knew the man’s habits as well as he knew his own. Everyone knows about doppelgangers, but Fergus was shocked when he first saw him. He’d been looking in a shop window at television sets after his died in the middle of a particularly exciting episode of Whirlybirds, an old black and white adventure series. At first he thought it was his reflection staring back at him, but then the man moved quickly out of sight.

Why had he moved so quickly? Was he trying to hide from Fergus? The malignant seed of suspicion was planted and grew as he saw the man every day. Suspicion grew into mistrust, evolving into a plan to get rid of the interloper. He didn’t belong. He had to go. With the idea firmly established he had only to plan the deed.

Fergus landed the bicycle on the roof. Time was passing quickly. He had to get to the beach before the stranger arrived. He watched the sunset every night from the same desolate stretch of rocks. This would be his last one.

 Sitting on the bench a few hundred feet away, the voice of Reason returned. “Why do you want to harm that man? He’s never done one thing to you, Fergus!”

“True, he hasn’t. But he’s up to no good I tell you. Why is he always in the same place as me, looking as much like me as I do myself, even down to the very clothes on his back? Answer me that and I’ll be off quick as a wink!”

The voice of Reason fell silent. “Sure he’s quiet; he didn’t have a leg to stand on, did he? Ah, there comes the devil now. Just let him get settled in his place and I’ll be behind him before he knows it!”

 Fergus reached around furtively and slipped the knife neatly below the rib cage and gave a quick upward thrust, just nicking the aorta. He felt an odd sympathetic pain as the blade did its work. Holding him close, he could feel the man’s life force leaving him. Why was he feeling weak, too? He dropped the limp body to the ground.

“I’ll just have a quick lie down. The heat of the day must’ve gotten to me. Just for a minute. What’s all this wetness on my shirt? I’m sure to be seen on the way home!”