Traffic Signal

Posted May 9, 2016 By Theron Couture

A bright red Traffic signal fallen in the grassBraenne lay prone, lit up in red. Grass itched her legs. Somebody tore a traffic signal loose and swatted her. Red went green. Braenne stood. She cracked her neck, pinched her shoulders, took flight. Braenne in the air was invisible, like an imaginary friend with a daunting left hook. The attacker was strong and able to see quickly. Few creatures could see her when she was flying. Humming birds, insects, rodents. The rare human. Alchemists mostly.

“Dragon!” Braenne said through gritted teeth.

The dragon, a slithering purple ribbon flipping about on the wind, lashed out with her tail. Braenne ducked. The parked car slammed into a tree and crunched to the ground. Forty long feet of scaled ribbon, two razor edges that could slice through steel, Braenne couldn’t outfight a dragon. She kept her distance.

“Do we need to settle a debt?”

The gyrating Celtic knot unraveled and settled onto the grass berm at the center of the road. The Dragon’s flat head turned slightly toward her, curious.

“Your friend Stace can see us. She chases me.” The Dragon said.

“The Alchemist?”

“She really wants to talk.”

“So?” Braenne was confused.

“She asked for me by name. Did you tell her my name?”

“I don’t know your name!” Braenne shouted.

“Misunderstanding. Sorry. Tell her I don’t want to talk.”

“Why don’t you want to talk to me?” Stace said.

The Dragon rushed Stace, body flailing into symmetry that turned her into a moving, ever cutting edge.

Stace raised a hand. “Jeade.”

Jeade froze. “Yes?”

“Rule of names.” Stace says.

“Okay.”

“We gotta talk.”

“Not about Them. It isn’t safe.”

“People are disappearing. Are They doing the killing?”

They don’t kill people. They kill time.”

“Sorry Jeade. I won’t inconvenience you again.”

Jeade knotted up, wriggling into the wind.

Braenne hovered next to Stace. “Time Killers. Sucks to be you.”

“Sure does. Come on. I’ll buy you a beer.”

“Stace? Is this a date?”

“Yes, Braenne. This is a date.”

Braenne swooned. “Oh Goody.”

 

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Opium

Posted March 7, 2016 By Theron Couture

LIGO was a success. There was an unexpected vibration in the data. Inquisitive minds were addicted to knowing, and so Operation Indium, AKA Opium, put those minds to the task of making new sensors. Formulas were written, models tested, AI consulted. LIGO was tuned perpendicular, and recorded subtle gravitational ripples, an intersecting vibration that proved the existence of another universe passing gently through our own.

“Can we take a peak inside?” asked the Operation Head.Opium, a hole into another universe.

“I am certain it’s possible.” Said the Physicist.

AI learned and dreamed deeply, creating circuits that listened to the thrum of indium. They built a machine named Lucid, whose complex processes would have made Turing’s heart flutter. While simple when viewed as a schematic, Lucid had a quantum mind. Lowered into a helium bath in a pipe forced beneath 900 feet of permafrost, at 5 Kelvin, Lucid began to sing.

Indium wires, slung in a cat’s cradle, listened to an indium plate. Lucid read the wires, converted the data to light. Scientists huddled excitedly over Lucid’s screen, wanting to be the first people to see into the heart of a universe not their own. Lucid relayed its observations until the window shattered into a gaping, jagged hole.

The other universe pushed into ours, blistering our reality, adding unimaginable dimensions and unperceived fields. Transformed, Lucid became subject to new rules. Lucid transmitted a five dimensional laser. The images recorded from the source fractured minds. Opium’s technicians did their best to shut things down, discharging the gases that kept Lucid cool. Lucid’s mind boiled, indium melted, while the whole grew larger, sucking heat from the pipe. Lucid processed in subdimensions that hastened the hunger of entropy, tearing away at the planet until its maw, grinding to the surface, could be seen from space.

Living chaos crawled from the hole, expressing its anger in truncating fractals of raging impossibility. Screaming like broken steel, it devoured whomever it touched. A drifting collision of angled flesh, the monster was soon joined by friends.

 

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Wizard

Posted January 23, 2016 By Theron Couture

Zip’s house with the pecan tree had been around for six generations. The tree had always been there. It woke in the spring, bloomed, dropped pecans and slept every autumn. Nobody noticed the tree lived eternal, neither old nor young.

Zip, now a widow, fathered a daughter named Gina.

Rain fell from a sky as dark a gray wool suit. Zip sat on the porch with Gina, watching it drop. Lightning shattered the pecan tree. A cloud of electricity flooded out from the blast, knocking Gina from her chair. Zip, feeling sudden pain in his chest, took his nitroglycerine. Ears ringing, Gina stood and stumbled under the porch. Fog flooded the streets. A person stood at the base of the tree.

“Glashal.” The person said.

Wizard: a tree shattered by lightning

Glashal had skin as dark as Gina’s, and thick, black hair rolled into a tight bun on top of her head. Her black skirt and matching blouse were stiff and worn. Eyes studying Gina’s face, Glashal barely glanced at Zip. A parody of life crawled through the fog, slimy tentacles lashing out. Glashal hit it with a rock. The smoke gray creature shattered into a puddle of ooze.

“The tree will die at sunset. When that happens, this world will fall to the Ven.”

“Ven?” Gina said.

“Predators that eat people. I can only protect one of you.”

“Protect me.” Zip said desperately.

“I will.” Glashal said.

Gina didn’t have time to feel betrayed. Glashal raised a glowing hand, Zip froze in place. Countless Ven roamed the fog. No two looked alike, as if somebody’s nightmare had vomited a thousand malformed concepts of evil incarnate into the living world. Terrified neighbors stared out their windows. The Ven would soon force their way in.

Motionless, Zip stared into mouths crowded with teeth. The pain of being torn apart was mercifully short. Gina heard skin tear and bones crunch.

“You said you would protect him.” Gina said.

Glashal spoke gently. “He will live through your children.”

Hearing this, Gina smiled.

 

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The Drinking Game

Posted January 1, 2016 By Theron Couture

“You a Bloodhound?” The Servitor asks.

“Cover blown.” Stace answers.

“You can see them?” The Servitor says.

Stace looks cautiously at the doors: The things guarding the exits are ugly, exquisite, dreadful, and ignored.

Drinking Game: A clear shot glass shaped like a skull filled with black liquorShe’s trapped. She knows it.

“Come with me.” The Servitor says.

Her sleuthing led her to this bar. It is the only connection between a group of missing people. She steps into a quiet room. Seven people sit at a table. She joins them. They stare curiously at Stace.

The Servitor closes the door, puts on wire glasses. “Rules: I will pour the drinks. You swallow yours at the ring of the bell. All changes to your consciousness are permanent. Bloodhound, you can leave now if you choose.”

Stace stays. The Servitor sets a skull shaped shot glass in front of each person. She fills each to the rim with clear liquid. In each glass, the liquid takes its own color. Red, orange, green, purple, yellow, blue, white. Stace’s is char black.

The Servitor shakes the bell.

Stace swallows darkness, and her mind shivers and grows. She can smell colors, hear the bitter taste on her tongue, see scents. The synethsesia impresses itself on all past memories. Red strands appear everywhere. When her sense of where returns, the other seven are gone.

The Servitor hands her a leather bound book:

A Forensic Guide to Temporal Alchemy

Red string flickers from the manual to her chest. Stace strums it and the book becomes a ratty worn paperback.

“What are these?”

The Servitor strokes the string, restoring the book.

“Time lines.” The Servitor says. “I hired you to find a missing person. You found the bar, saw the gargoyle guards at the door, and drank a potion.”

“You hired me?” Stace says.

“It’s bad for an alchemy shop to misplace patrons. Rumors get started, business declines. The job is still yours, if you want it.”

“Of course.” Stace shakes the Servitor’s hand.

Once home, Stace opens the book and starts reading.

 

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Broad Daylight

Posted December 12, 2015 By Theron Couture

Carol and Joey snuggled on a bench, kissing with their eyes open. The sun rose with an odd affliction. The park light blared brightly against a tunneling hazy darkness. The sun shined like squid juice. Carol answered her phone.

“Mom?”

“Come home. Bring Joey.”

Carol blushed. Joey was supposed to be a secret. Carol and Joey staggered back to Carol’s home. The living room lit up as the door closed. Mom watched CNN. Joey opened the blinds. The darkness came through the window, destroying visibility in its path. Unnerved, Joey closed the blinds.

“It’s coming from the sun.” Joey said.Broad Daylight: A park under a cloudy night with a street light struggling to shine

Father was a student of Herschel. He took a prism from its case, opened the blinds. Sunlight banded into colors. A black band lay in the center. Father took out a light meter, put it in the black. The needle nearly pegged.

“Somebody’s changed the light.” Carol said.

An unseen reporter spoke. “A new frequency of solar radiation, noir, disrupts visible light frequencies, causing conditions of low to zero visibility during the day for all animal species. Residents are urged to stay indoors.”

No optical technology or biology could adapt to see though the effects of noir radiation. Most People traveled outside only at night. Carol and Joey embraced the day, learned to navigate the new sunlight by ear and touch alone. Carol and Joey saw things in shadows: Luminous centipedes flying on dozens of flickering wings.

One day the two of them discovered the scale of the insects buzzing in the noir. As they watched, one of the creatures dug its dozen legs along the length of a teenager’s spine, gnashing at the neck of the torn and bloodied corpse.

Tripping and bruising, the frantic couple ran home. They sat in the light, disbelieving. The news began reporting disappearances, murders, deaths, found remains, but only the internet mentioned the bugs; explained the low buzz that was now inseparable from the noir.

Enlightened by knowing, Joey and Carol never ventured into daylight again.

 

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The Path

Posted November 19, 2015 By Theron Couture

The Path: Short trees along a brick wall leading into the Fairy LandBushes grew along the wall of an unused research facility. The grounds were perfectly tended. If you walked inside the bushes, the brick wall would turn to primrose hedges and the path would never end. Forward and back could take days. The path was a strange secret. You were drawn to walk it or going to forget about it.

One time Jessie walked from morning until sunset, slept on the chill path, and came back to tell Skyler stories of flickering lights dancing in a patchy mist just on the other side of the bushes. Jessie nearly got suspended for missing a day of school because two days on the path had turned into three. Summer vacation came, and Jessie felt an itch to show the lights to Skyler.

“Let’s hike in for two nights. See if we’re gone five days.” Skyler said.

Jessie carried the food, Skyler the sleeping bags. The two of them hiked into the marsh, to the building, to the path, and set out. In a few minutes, the brick turned to hedges, and the two walked for hours. Jessie wanted to kiss, Skyler wanted more. Because Skyler asked sweetly, Jessie and Skyler went all the way. The two dressed as the sun set while strange white lights danced beyond the bushes.

Jessie thoughtlessly mouthed off an idea. “Has anybody stepped through the bushes, I wonder?”

“Off the path? Let’s try it.”

Skyler clung to Jessie and stepped between the trunks of two bushes. The path was lost to misty forest and flickering lights. The lights grew into Fay: Dark skinned hume with unruly hair that flew on clear wings of light. The Fay were beautiful, sexual, kind. Skyler and Jessie could not feel fear. The two lived, loved, and died in an orgy engrossing body and mind. When they woke, Jessie and Skyler dug through the dried bone of their once warm skulls. Children of the Fay on wings of light, the two were never to part again.

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Insight

Posted October 10, 2015 By Theron Couture

Zelda, a linguist, stands on a bamboo bridge in front of an artifact. The artifact is a 450 feet cubed teardrop. Its sharp end points directly at Earth’s gravitational center. It reflects no energy. William guides Zelda’s hand to a tactile patch. She swipes a surface that feels like a cat’s tongue.

“I found this patch of texture by touch. It isn’t visible.” William says.

“Nonbinary.” Zelda says.

“Huh?” William says.

“The linguistic structure is nonbinary.” Zelda explains.

Zelda swipes two fingers, and a smooth sphincter opens for her. She unfolds her mobility cane, explores the entrance. Zelda steps in, free hand touching a membrane. The opening closes. The air becomes cool, humid. The membrane slides open.

Insight: A clear Braille number pad set over a touchscreen“Air lock.” Zelda says.

“My flashlight is useless.” William says.

Zelda chuckles. Her hand crosses over line and dot clusters.

“Buttons.” She says, trying to read them.

“Light switch?” William asks.

“There are no lights.” Zelda says.

Zelda is stripped bare, William is gone. She isn’t naked, precisely. Something as thin as lotion now coats her skin. A mental query of concern returns an assurance that William has been placed safely outside the artifact. Zelda feels a sculpted pressure, wind and needles pressing a map against her skin. Her fingertips read the words of an alien language that exists as a product of dimension, depth, and intention. Her mind feels space as distance the way her toes feel sand bending to water, can sense every passage inside the artifact as pressure against her skin.

Let’s go. Says the windy rush of symbols on her fingers.

Zelda silently agrees. The artifact transmigrates to a plane where light and sound are uncommon. Zelda is overwhelmed by a primal ecstasy. She screams quietly in a mix of joy and release.

Thank You. Zelda laughs.

Food, water, comfort. Always learning.

Ever the student, Zelda agrees to stay.

 

The bridge has shattered. William stares at the empty space that had once held the artifact, certain he will never see Zelda again.
 

 

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Shuffle

Posted September 12, 2015 By Theron Couture

Alcon locks the door behind Lucius. Sitting on a table under a spotlight is a folded outfit made of woven gold fibers, boots, goggles, and a smartphone locked into a wrist strap. Lucius examines the gold cloth waist coat, pants, boots, and hoodie, all tied together by wires.

“It’s instant?” Lucius says.

Alcon nods. “No time passes.”

“What’s its range?”

“It plots by GPS.”

“Is it safe?”

“The bacteria survived.” Alcon says.

Lucius glares at Alcon.

“It’s safe.” Alcon says.

Lucius puts on the suit. He straps the smartphone to his wrist, puts on the goggles, wires everything together. Alcon taps open the app. The Earth rotates slowly on the phone screen.

“It’s 6850 miles away.” Alcon says.

“Always wanted to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras.” Lucius says.

Shuffle: A silver clothed character walking in a parade of dancers.Lucius taps the location marker. The touchscreen flickers. Lucius finds himself in a bar with no walls. In every direction, there is only flat ground, open space. The lighting has turned his gold suit silver. He isn’t alone in the bar. The bartender is somewhat human. People in suits and helmets order drinks and chat at small tables. Aliens from a dozen evolutionary paths float drone-like on contraptions as simple as balloons and complex as hovercraft. Lucius sits at the bar. A giant centipede armored in silver orders a beer. Shaken, Lucius orders two.

“You’re new.” The centipede says.

“Yes.”

“You’re losing time.” Says the bartender.

“What?” Lucius asks.

“Subspace crunches two points.” The centipede explains. “Time doesn’t stop for you.”

“It’s busy today. People from all over the galaxy are going to the sci-fi parade in Marigny.” The bartender says.

Lucius chugs both beers, stands up. He steps out of the bar onto a street curb. The parade comes. The centipede is standing next to him. The paradeers march on by, and Lucius realizes something. As he watches them pass, it becomes apparent that every last one of the crazy, drunken pedestrians is a denizen of subspace, and Lucius is stricken with awe.
 

 

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Slow

Posted August 31, 2015 By Theron Couture

Is this an Earthquake?

Geoff wakes with ears ringing, nose bleeding, chest aching. His back is on the ceiling. He opens his eyes onto a stricken Earth. His bed falls slowly to his left, drifting out of sight. Geoff can see the deep curve of the planet’s edge as he hangs in space. A new gulf has been torn out of the Western shores of Africa, while a jagged tear rips the US East Coast cleanly in half nearly to the center of the continent. Geoff struggles to breathe in the thin, cold air, mind reeling.

Slow: A broken up window with a white pane laying on top of rubbleGeoff can feel himself spinning. The moon comes into view. Unnaturally large, it fills his entire line of sight. The glow from it illuminates the shattered remains of gouged out cities, forests, and millions of lifeless bodies adrift in space with him. Parts of the moon are clouded by the gutted wound of an injured Earth. Glacial chunks of water drift frozen and steaming, aquamarine slabs framed by the deep black of space. Then the heavens inhale. The ice, the bodies and all the other remains lurch toward something. Geoff feels pressure pushing him back. The ceiling tears apart, and Geoff screams as it rips its way around him.

The moon blinks. A turbulent force tightly grips Geoff, pressing his chest.  The moon moves away from him, tilting. A star shaped pupil splits open, exposing a glassy lens that points into a blackness from which no light can escape. The creature’s body is knotted and serpentine, its skin forever changing in color and texture, matching the background fabric of space. A dozen angry nuclear blasts light the sky. All their power and light is swallowed as quickly as they bloom.

Sated, the aberration leaves. Geoff falls slowly. He slams into the wreckage of another person’s home, next to the broken remains of a wooden framed window. Unable to talk, to think, to cry, Geoff stares at the moon until his eyes burn, waiting for it to blink.
 

 

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Disassociation

Posted August 25, 2015 By Theron Couture

Disassociation: A half drunk white cup holding esspresso whose color is the deepest brown.“You’re covered in blood.” The Barista says.

“Fuck right. I’ll have an espresso.” Eris says.

Eris sits with her espresso, assesses her memory. Her boyfriend of three years is in the hospital, a hundred stitches across his back. In the darkened room, Jim looks like a stranger attacking her sister. Eris drops the santoku knife the second she sees his face. Eris sits handcuffed to the stoop for almost an hour. Janet calmly explains everything to the police. Eris learns that Jim was sleeping with both of them, that Jim and Janet became members of team pregnant three months back. Janet locks the door. Charges are dropped. The cuffs come off.

Eris walks to work. She’s given a sick day and told to go home. Eris returns to her apartment, thinking she’ll kick her sister out. Her suitcase and laptop case sit on the step next to a police officer. She hands Eris a restraining order.

As Eris stares into the espresso, the memory fades from her mind. Eris feels her brain lose every thought and word. The espresso becomes a vibrating obsidian disk, hovering over the buffed stainless table, framed by its plate. Aromatics flood her nostrils. Eris is distracted by her reflection in the espresso. Her face changes subtly. The reflection does something Eris can’t. It smiles. Eris drinks the espresso, slams the plateless cup against the hard wood table. She stands, jolted, woozy.

“Sacrifice and Exchange. Good spell for a first time traveler.” The Barista says. “Return here to move on.”

“Or go back?”

Barista taps a small brass tube with lettering etched into it. “Restraining order.”

The technology has converted to canvas bags, glossy touchscreens, wood cases, brass accents. Eris pauses at a mirror by the door. Her skin is dark as her espresso reflection. Eris looks through a window with solar cell storm shutters, vision wrapt in a living city, caught by the vibrant synergy of emerald bamboo and bluegreen trees. Unable to look back, Eris moves forward.
 

 

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