The Electric Owl – Chapter I

The Electric Owl (1982)

or

Bot Hunter

or

Do Bots Dream Of Bi-Horned Unicorns?

Electric Owl Red

a Ragle B. Gumm novel

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All owls are electric.

To a certain extent.

But what if they weren’t owls?

This was the subject of Aardvark Magnussen’s ground-breaking scientific research. Anything could be genuinely electric, in theory. This, however, had yet to be proven.

Until now.

Aardvark had made an electric owl and this meant that, not only was his experiment successful and he therefore possessed tangible scientific proof but now it was time for the next step.

“Damn this headache.”, he complained.

Perhaps he was overworked, perhaps it was the stress. After all, his horoscope had not been particularly encouraging for this month.

“You will find the key. You will not like what the key will unlock.”, it said.

Petal Pladd was a telepath, her head was literally bigger than most people’s. Her predictions were, unfortunately, never wrong.

A few Martian poppy seed pills should do the trick, he concluded. They’d put him right to sleep and he wouldn’t remember Pladd’s cryptic nonsense in the morning.

After popping five pills, Aardvark sat down, dimmed the lights in his laboratory and fell asleep quickly and quietly.

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Dick Richards felt nauseous.

He’d just awoken from a particularly unpleasant dream: he was pregnant with a bi-horned unicorn, he was bleeding inside and out. The blood was white, like milk, and smelt like trees.

He heard a faint sound, was it raining outside?

Looking up, he saw, in the distance, the faint blurred curves of a naked woman surrounded by steam.

His wife Nat was showering.

Ex-wife, he corrected himself.

“Where’s that goddamned Happy Sink?”, he thought. Lighting a death stick blindly, standing up with a wobble. He twisted the tap, set it to “perky” and closed his eyes.

“If you’re confused, hun: it’s the poppies. You took a handful last night. “, Nat said all the way from the shower pod. “We made love again. You should set that thing to “perky” next time. You were drunk.”, she added.

Too early for poppies.

Never mind. She was a quick dresser. She’ll be out in a minute.

Coffee.

Coffee sounded good.

He smiled a little, just thinking about it.

If only coffee was still around…
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Dick’s fly-bike was hovering higher and higher, but not fast. He was in no hurry to get to this next job.

Dick was a bot-hunter: he hunted bots, bots that got out of hand somehow. It didn’t help that they looked like anyone else, like flesh and blood human beings. They paid the rent, though, and the imitation-coffee. Three-hundred floor apartments don’t come cheap and neither do those rare artificial beans.

The client was Aardvark Magnussen, some crackpot Swede with way too much money and way too much power, Dick thought smugly. In a way, Dick owed his whole livelihood to Aardvark. After all, the latter did build the first bot and all bots since.

I’ve been cleaning his mess for years. I hate him. But let’s face it: without Magnussen, I’m nothing.

This depressing realisation left Dick beaten.

Why did I choose “perky”? Perky never lasts.

Dick had never been this high-up.

He didn’t even know that a fly-bike could reach the clouds.

So peaceful up there.

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The inside of Magnussen’s office was vast and nearly empty save for a single desk and a winged creature perching on top of it, silhouetted by the Sun.

I had never seen an owl, Dick realised.

Those eyes…

He could hear the sound of footsteps heading in his direction but somehow, he just couldn’t look away from the animal.

“Mr Richards.”, said the female voice coming from somewhere on the other side of the room.

“Yeah.”, was Dick’s vague reply.

“We weren’t expecting you here so soon.”

“That a real owl?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On what you mean by ‘real'”.

Dick gives her a puzzled look.

“And ‘owl'”, she adds.

This was a good-looking gal. The classy, sophisticated type. And she was looking at Dick with a mix of disdain and curiosity. Sad thing was: it was probably a bot.

“You’ll have to wait, Mr Magnussen is still… away.”, she instructed Dick bluntly.

“You got a name?”

“Emily. Anything else?”

There was that disdain again.

“No. I’ll just wait.”

Emily leaves the room as Dick sits facing Aardvark’s desk. The owl flies to the other side and lands on the absent inventor’s chair.

Date with an owl, there was a first, Dick thought as he lit up another death stick.

“You can’t smoke in here, Dick.”

Dick takes a quick look around the room: he is alone.

Did I hear something?, he wonders.

“It’s a bad habit and it bothers me.”

That voice again.

Either Dick was losing it or someone was playing an elaborate prank on him. Neither pleased him much.

“Whoever this is: mind your own business.”, Dick said to the room.

“Oh but it is my business.”

Dick now started losing patience.

“What in the…”

“Death sticks aren’t good for you. Believe me.”

Just then, Dick’s attention turned to the only moving being near him: the owl, who ruffled its feathers and turned its head towards him just as the voice spoke. Quietly, Dick extinguishes his cigarette on the desk, watching the owl as he does it.

“Thank you.”, the voice said.

The owl blinked.

It couldn’t be…

“Mr… Magnussen?”, Dick asked.

“Yes.”

“What have you done?”

“We mustn’t speak now.”

“You’re…”, a stunned Dick interjects.

“My experiment is not complete, we will speak later.”

“W-word is you’ve made a bot. I’m looking for it.”, Dick persists.

This time, there is no answer.

Dick sits back, looking at the owl in disbelief just as Emily walks into the room. The owl promptly flies over to her and sits casually on her shoulder. Dick stands up, still stupefied and points at the owl.

“That owl!”

“I suppose you’ve figured it out.”

“I knew Magnussen was eccentric but I would have never expected he’d do something like that.”

“It’s all in good fun, Mr Richards.”

Dick takes a second to stare at her in puzzlement.

“In good fun?!”, he asks incredulously.

“The possibilities of bot technology are endless, that’s our motto.”

Dick shakes his head absently, he doesn’t reply.

“Maybe I could take a message?”, Emily suggests politely.

The owl defecates on her, she doesn’t react.

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Dick Richards is standing outside a noodle stand in the rain, chewing on a chow fun enchilada looking morose. He opens the newspaper to find several advertisements relating to space travel, promoting inter-planetary migration.

“The very idea…”, Dick thought, “Fleeing like cowards when we’ve got a perfectly good planet right here.”

Dick always believed in fixing one’s own world before contemplating another. He chews down some of that soy sauce and cheese and dumps the newspaper on the counter. He feels a slight tap on his shoulder.

“Vous have a rendez-vous, old bugger.”

Dick recognises the voice: it was Jacques Smith, another bot hunter. Dick could never stand the guy, or understand him with his confusing French Cockney accent.

Still, the man technically outranked him.

“I’m eating.”, Dick threw in a deadpan tone, before turning back towards the counter.

Jacques this time places his hand on Dick’s shoulder.

“Drole, sonny Jim. Le Commissaire wants you, innit?”

“The Commissionner?”

Jacques slyly grabs Dick’s chopsticks and proceeds to eat one of his jalapenos.

“Oui.”

Dick makes a face.

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Look out for Chapter II soon.

Only on wethemindthinkers.wordpress.com

Daughters Of Uranus

Daughters Of Uranus (1974)

Daughters Of Uranus

a Gustav Belland short story

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Uranus was fertile.

And so they were born.

Out of Uranus, our fate was sealed and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it.

The search for extraterrestrial life had reached its peak in the early 3000’s when scientists invented a teleporting device powerful enough to project human beings onto other planets. By recreating the Big Bang in a contained environment, Man discovered the source of life: the first cell, which scientists called “The Seed”. It is this Seed which paved the way for the creation of the Explorium, a gate capable of allowing a person to travel to distant lands without the need for a spacecraft.

Some planets proved problematic: Mercury was hot, Mars was boring, the Moon wasn’t a planet.

Dr Fredrick Thomson led the expedition to Uranus, assembling a team of capable astronauts and explorers with the common goal of unlocking the mysteries of the ice planet once and for all. Among them was Sharon Lang, an expert on Uranus, playboy astro-physicist John Tucker and decorated space traveller Rick Kirkstrom.

The team would enter Uranus and bring back samples.

Who knew that such a simple mission could go so wrong?

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It was a Sunday morning, Dr Thomson had assembled the departing trio in his office for a final meeting before sending them through the Explorium.

“Thank you for coming.”, he said in a welcoming tone, “I’m sure you all can’t wait to get going!”

“I went to the bathroom, so I’m happy now!”, John replied confidently.

After an awkward silence, Dr Thomson continued.

“This mission should be straight-forward but nothing is straight-forward with science. I wanted you all to keep that in mind, when you’re out there. While we have been fortunate enough to learn a lot about other worlds, we have never penetrated Uranus and there is very little we know about it.”

“You expecting some nasty surprises up there?”, Rick asked before Sharon also showed concern.

“Is there a problem we should know about?”

Dr Thomson smiled.

“There is nothing to be worried about. I simply urge you, all of you, to stay focused on the mission at hand. Distraction is dangerous, in space.”

Rick and Sharon share a slightly puzzled look as John picks his nose.

Shortly after the ominous meeting, the team were standing next to the Explorium in their full space gear facing the leader of the United States who, in the spirit of an impromtu photo op, had agreed to wish the crew well on their adventure.

“Have a beautiful time up there, folks. And I mean that, I really do. I got a lot of astronaut friends, a LOT of astronaut friends, believe me. I know astronauts. Nobody knows astronauts better than me. You guys are great. Have a great time up there. I mean that.”, was President Frump Jr.’s obligatory speech.

Everyone shook hands, pictures were taken and Dr Thomson stepped forward.

“This is it: you are about to be the first people to step inside Uranus. Make us proud and be careful.”, he said.

After a countdown, the Explorium was turned on and the crew was soon walking through the pink, jelly-like portal.

If only they had known…

Sharon was the first to walk on Uranus, the others soon followed.

“It’s cold over here, what the fuck?”, John said.

“John, do you realise that those are now the first words ever spoken in Uranus?”, Sharon responded with a cold stare.

“What’s your problem?”

Sharon shakes her head and keeps walking.

Around the explorers, nothing but ice, wind and fog. White hills and mountains on the horizon and, in front of them, a blank canvas. The sky was electric blue with a slight greenish shade.

“We have reached Uranus, over.”, Sharon spoke into her receiver.

The response was a broken buzzing, no discernible word.

“God damn it.”, she complained.

“What’s wrong?”, Rick asked.

“Audio’s out. I can’t hear a thing from back home.”

“Maybe they’re busy and shit.”, John remarked.

Ignoring John’s last comment, Sharon and Rick keep on walking through the slippery, violently cold environment. Eventually, they come to a large puddle. A thick brown liquid is oozing out of a circular cracked hole.

“Let’s take a sample and get the hell out of here.”, Sharon decided, “I don’t like this one bit.”

Sharon hands John a small vile.

“We need some of that mud: go get it.”

“Why me? I’m an astro-physhism!”, John complained.

“Your father’s an astro-physicist, you’re a rich kid with shit for brains. Now go get the mud before I tell everyone you shit your pants yesterday in the cafeteria.”

“Yes ma’am.”, a beaten John replied, picking up the vile.

As John approaches the puddle, Rick starts filming the surroundings with a small camera and Sharon gets on one knee to examine the frozen ground. Suddenly, she sees something move under the ice.

Startled, she stands back up.

“Rick!”

“What is it?”

“I… saw something.”

Sharon then tries to contact Earth again.

“Come in Houston, come in Houston. This is Sharon Lang. I have encountered a life form. We are coming back now, over.”

She turns back to Rick.

“We gotta go.”

“What about John?”

“Oh right…”

She turns to the puddle but John is nowhere to be seen.

“John…?”, she whispers.

Without warning, the ice breaks underneath her and she crashes through the ground screaming. Rick starts to run towards her.

“Sharon!”, he yells.

Noticing the cracks on the ice, Rick stops running and takes a few steps back. He stands there for a while, silently, not knowing what to do. The only sound is now Rick’s heavy breathing and the wind around him.

“Sharon…”, Rick says under his breath, with a lump in his throat.

The ground starts to shake.

The puddle bubbles.

“My god…”

Brown liquid promptly shoots out of the puddle like a geyser. Rick watches, in shock, as the mud falls back down turning a lot of the ground and the astronaut himself brown.

“Come in Houston… come in Houston…”, he mutters into his microphone, terrified.

Once again, faint static is the response.

Out of the puddle a sphere slowly pushes through: it stays floating in mid-air above the hole for a moment before flying towards Rick.

Rick starts to run back towards the portal and the brown sphere follows unhurriedly. Rick runs faster and faster, slipping and sliding on the ice.

“Come in Houston! Request assistance right now! I am being pursued by a… an unknown life form!”, he speaks into his mic in a panicked tone, out of breath.

Nearing the portal, Rick eventually slips and falls on his front, cracking his helmet a little in the process. The sphere quietly picks up pace. Noticing this, Rick stand with great difficulty and starts to run again. He soon realises the sphere is about to catch up to him and he runs faster than ever before, dropping his camera to allow himself more room.

He finally leaps into the portal and lands back safely on Earth.

On the laboratory side of the portal, Dr Thomson leaves his seat and runs up to Rick.

“Oh no…”, he says to himself, concerned.

A few other men run to Rick and help him sit up, Dr Thomson tries to see who is inside the suit as the helmet is cracked and covered in frost.

“Who is this? John? Is that you?”, he said, “Where are the others?”

Not getting an answer, he signals to one of the men to remove the helmet. The obstruction is quickly disposed of and a hyperventilating, pale Rick is revealed: his hair has turned white.

“Rick! It’s me: Dr Thomson. You’re home! You’re back! It’s alright now.”

An oxygen mask is placed over Rick’s mouth.

“He’s trying to say something…”, Dr Thomson remarks.

Rick, who is breathing a little better after a few seconds, pushes the mask away and gets nearer to Dr Thomson.

“Shut… it… down!”, he struggles to say.

A cloud of horror lands over Dr Thomson’s face: he stands up.

“Shut down the portal! Now!”, he yells.

But it was too late: the sphere suddenly pushes through the Explorium and, in a few seconds, it is on Earth, floating above a group of scared, confused technicians and scientists.

“What do we do, doc?”, an assistant asks, frightened.

“I don’t know…”, Dr Thomson replies.

A sound booms out of the jiggling sphere, everyone covers their ears.

Rick finally stands up, holding the oxygen mask to his face, inhaling.

The sphere bursts.

The brown liquid splashes over the people, the walls, the floors, the ceiling as a thick smoke and a foul stench fills the entire room. Those who didn’t pass out are either coughing or holding a handkerchief to their mouths.

Two glowing silhouettes appear in the middle of the room.

The smoke finally clears to reveal two young bald women, fully naked. Everyone looks up, without saying a word. The women scan the room quietly, intensely.

You could hear a pin drop, at this point.

Without warning, one of the women speaks in a strange accent.

“We are Uranus.”

There’s a beat.

The other woman opens her mouth: countless brown bubbles fly out.

The bubbles stick themselves onto the bodies of everyone in the room, turning every individual into a large brown sphere.

Rick picks up his helmet and quickly walks up to the main control panel.

“What are you doing?”, Dr Thomson asks with desperation in his eyes.

“I’m ending this.”

Rick activates the Explorium before slamming the control panel with his helmet over and over again. Dr Thomson attempts to stop him.

“You fool! You’ll kill us all!”

“We’re already dead, doc. Look around!”

The control panel short circuits and the Explorium partly bursts out of the magnetic field holding it together: it is now a vortex sucking everyone into it. Rick and Dr Thomson grab onto the edge of the control panel as the people around them, some of them brown bubbles, start flying into the pink, fleshy spiral. The two women struggle to remain standing and they are soon sucked in also along with all their loose bubbles.

“I can’t hold on for much longer, Rick!”, Dr Thomson yells out.

Rick tries to move along the control panel in order to reach the wiring going up to the generator. With his right hand, he goes to pull one of the wires but his other hand slips. Luckily, he manages to hold onto the wiring, which he starts to dismantle.

“Help… me!”

Dr Thomson loses his grip and starts to fly into the portal just as Rick successfully turns off the power. The Explorium and its vortex disappear. Rick falls to the ground and turns around: he sees only the bottom half of Dr Thomson’s body wiggling around in a bloody mess.

Rick takes a deep breath, stands up and leaves the empty room.

He walks around the corridors of the building aimlessly, as if in a dream. He looks around the rooms and finds no-one, had they been sucked in as well?

Wanting to get some air, maybe smoke a well deserved cigarette, Rick exits the building. He is surprised to find completely lifeless surroundings, with nobody in sight. Cars have their doors open but no drivers or passengers.

Rick feels a cold wind blowing.

And then…

A snowflake.

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More from Gustav Belland soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

You Are L.

 You Are L. (2012)

You Are L Poster

a Malcolm M. Milon short story

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I’ll never forget the look on that man’s face, the first time I met him.

If you can call someone coming up to you wide-eyed and star-struck meeting someone.

He was a stranger and yet he seemed to know me, like a fan recognizes a popular actor or singer. Now, I’m not talking about a shrieking, Beatlemania type of fandom. I’m talking about that quiet, awkward, shy, slightly frightening respect that neither the fan nor the star truly understands.

I just couldn’t pinpoint what I could have possibly done to warrant such fame.

By any standards, my life had been an average, dull, bordering on mediocre one. Married once, divorced, no children, working in a cubicle, speaking to clients on the phone day in, day out. No ambition, frankly no interest in taking any unnecessary chances.

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I first met the man at my local café. It was a Thursday morning. I pop by there daily before heading off to work so this was just a day like any other.

He was sitting close to the entrance. I walked in, ordered the usual, a double espresso and a cereal bar, when he stood up, as if under some sort of spell, and slowly walked up to me. I tried to ignore him. I guess I just thought he was heading towards the counter, ready to order something.

Then I heard my name. ‘Leo?’ he said.

When I confirmed his suspicion, his eyes lit up and I perceived a slight smile form on one of the corners of his mouth.

‘Do I know you?’ I asked.

I didn’t know him. I knew that. This was just my way of breaking an uncomfortable silence. His reply sent a chill down my spine.

‘No. But I know you. Probably better than you know yourself.’

Whatever that meant, it did not sound promising. It was the kind of thing that a stalker or a hitman would say. My natural reaction was to get out of there as quickly as possible. I mumbled some nonsense about being late, grabbed my coffee and headed for the door. But the man had anticipated this, and stopped me in my tracks.

He grabbed my arm, just above my right elbow and held it firmly. When I turned to him, ready to struggle my way out of his grasp verbally and physically, the look in his eyes had switched to a troublingly stern, serious stare.

‘If you leave, I won’t be able to help you.’ is what he said to me then.

The urgency in his tone of voice, which sounded genuine, coupled with that worried look of his, I must admit, piqued my interest somewhat.

What did he mean? Was I in trouble? Why would I be in trouble? Who could be behind this?

All these questions swam through my head and, in all honesty, I was curious to find out what this strange individual knew or what he thought he knew.

‘What do you mean?’ I inquired meekly. ‘Sit down. Let’s talk.’ was his simple reply.

Still hesitating, I obliged him and sat down. There was another awkward silence and then he spoke.

‘This is going to sound strange, I’m well aware of that. Just… hear me out, please. This isn’t a joke.’

After an uncertain nod, I finally asked: ‘What’s this about?’
Because, why not be direct at this point?

‘Your name is Leonard Windell, you live about 25 minutes away, Chinatown, Yan Tin Apartments, number 30, third floor. You have a pet fish and, despite what you tell people, it does have a name: Bob. You have an ex-wife, you haven’t seen her in years but still dream about her from time to time, nightmares mostly. You come here every day, same time.’

‘You’ve been following me?’

‘I didn’t have to. I’ve seen what you’ve seen. There is a site, your site, LeonardWindell.com, where everything you do, everything you are is recorded and put on display. I am bringing this to your attention because I think you need to know, because I would want to know. Unless, of course, this is all your doing, somehow.’

What was all this? This was a prank. It had to be. Probably someone’s idea of payback for whatever I may have done to him or her. Or part of some twisted radio show, designed to humiliate complete strangers. Basically, joke or not, I wasn’t laughing.

‘You’ve been listening at my door, speaking to my friends, to people who know me. I am not impressed or amused. Whoever you are, leave me alone or I will report you and you can be sure that I’ll press charges.’

I promptly stood up and walked out the door. Ignoring the man’s desperate pleas to believe him and to let him show me the proof of this so-called site. Behind me, I could hear the door of the café slam open: he was following me. As infuriated as I was, I decided to handle things as calmly as I possibly could. Not saying a word, I stopped walking, took out my mobile phone and dialled for the police. In front of me, I could see the man holding his smartphone up like it was some kind of meaningful trophy. Glancing at it, I saw nothing more than the street’s reflection on the phone.

Except… it wasn’t a reflection.

What I could see on the phone was the man holding up that very same phone. I was seeing what I was seeing on that screen. Which meant that, either someone had placed a small camera at the centre of my glasses’ frames or there was something really wrong here. I tried taking off my glasses but this made no difference. Not knowing what to do, I told the man to leave me alone, to stop what he was doing, and I ran all the way back to the office.

There, the plan in my mind was to forget about the whole thing and get back to saner, more mundane occupations. But what if that man was to walk in right now and make a scene in front of all my co-workers? It was impossible to focus knowing that, at any moment, this could all come back to haunt me.

Maybe I should go online and take a look at that website, the URL’s easy enough to remember. Unless that’s what they want me to do and I’m being tricked into something.

My phone vibrates: it’s a text.

I pick up my mobile and take a look, the text reads: “Do it. It’s not a trick. Alan.”

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The man had not introduced himself to me officially back at the café but I knew it was him. How he got this number and how he knew what I was just thinking a second ago, that I was a little more confused about.

Typing in the site address was the most stressful thing I’d done up to this point. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a huge mistake and would cause every computer here at the office to implode somehow. My ring finger finally pushed down on the ENTER key and, to my surprise, the Millennium bug I was expecting did not happen.

The home page I was facing looked mostly bare: a black background with links to the left of the screen, the site title at the top and nothing in the middle. These links got my attention pretty quickly. The first one under “Home” was “About Me”, under it was “Contact”, under that was “Blog”, then “Pics”, then “Videos”, and finally “Quotes”. Oddly, looking at the site, I felt somewhat appeased. This was not a professional-looking page and nothing on it seemed too Earth shattering, nothing a healthy lawsuit couldn’t cure. This was clearly the work of an obsessive amateur, nothing more.

Clicking on the “About Me” link unfortunately confirmed that this site was, indeed, about me personally. Here was a full biography complete with my birth date, which school I went to, my first real job, my ex-wife’s name and all I’d achieved up to this point, which really wasn’t that much at all. Anyone could have pieced all this together so I wasn’t much intimidated. Besides, this seemed more and more like the work of a disgruntled friend, or ex-friend, rather.

The “Contact” page explained the text. My mobile number, along with my landline and every single one of my contact details were on here. This was certainly one

thorough stalker with a lot of time on his hands. Clicking on “Blog”, however, brought back an uneasiness I had pushed away, I thought, for good. Here was a constantly updated account of what I can only describe as my thoughts. These short posts seemed to date back to even before the Internet. Scrolling down, I found a blog post from 1980 which read:

“Went out to a new Lebanese restaurant today. Food was nice. Service was slow. Didn’t leave a tip. I don’t like leaving tips. Don’t know why people still leave tips.”

I remember that night. I didn’t even own a computer then! The last, most recent post eerily read:

“Checking out the site. Feeling confused and a little freaked out. Maybe I should call the police.”

Maybe I should call the police.
I had to leave this page. I had to click on anything else.

“Pics” was next and hardly made me feel any better about anything. There was a huge list of sections, which included standard stuff like “Photographs Taken”, but also the likes of “Photographs Almost Taken” and “Photographs I Wish I’d Taken”. Other sections were more general: “People I Know”, “People I Met”, “People I Love”, “People I Hate”. Literally everything I’d seen since birth had been documented. Even my most intimate moments, even people I’d seen naked, no matter how fleetingly, from celebrities on TV to myself.

I started to feel nauseous at this point, no doubt this was, by now, updated on my “blog”.

I checked: it was.

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Reluctantly, I clicked on “Videos” and, again, found a whole range of sections. This time, it looked like every single moment of my life had been recorded, all from my point of view. Pretty much everything I’d ever experienced seemed to be on here. The video footage was raw and unedited, the quality of the image occasionally decreasing, even changing altogether for older videos. Some of those looked like they were shot on an old VHS camcorder or even black and white film in the case of clips dating back to the 1950’s.

The “Quotes” section, much like the “Blog” section, was a collection of updating text. This time, everything I’d ever said seemed to be on here from my first words to my conversation with Alan and a random ‘Hello’ to one of my colleagues on the way to the office just now.

‘Boo’, I said out loud, testing the site.
Sure enough, the word “boo” appeared on the screen seconds later.

This was more than just a website, it was obvious. What it was I did not know and I couldn’t even start guessing. A project of this magnitude would have to involve generations of people not to mention a small camera and sound recorder implanted into my skull from birth.

I couldn’t work until all this had been resolved somehow. I had to do something. There had to be a way into the site.

Scrolling down the home page, I finally find a “Sign In” link. The site asks me for a name and password. I type in my name, the password I use for my emails and it lets me in. I click on a link called “Account” and, finally, I get the option to “Delete My Account”.

I click on the link. Everything goes dark…

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More from Malcolm M. Milon soon.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

Edelweiss Space Magic

Edelweiss Space Magic (1963)

Edelweiss

by Simon Simmons

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119 years ago, on Planet M, the unthinkable happened.

When young Edelweiss awoke on the first Tuesday of February, she had no idea that this day would change her deeply, forever.

Number 85, her mother-droid, had just finished making grey berry pancakes and had called her down for breakfast.

“Today. Is. Now.”, 85 announced.

Floating out of her silky pebble bed sheets, Edelweiss slowly made her way down the rocky stairs and into the gravel kitchen, her long, flowing white hair glistening softly in the low gravity like a sea nymph coming home for Christmas.

“85: give me syrup.”, she said.

85’s mouth opened, liquid flew out.

“85: stop syrup.”

85’s mouth closed, the syrup stopped.

Just as Edelweiss was about to take her first bite of 85’s pancakes, the Magenta Siren rang. It rang all over the house, all over the city, all over M.

They had returned.

They were the Magicians: strange beings from another world, from the skies, come to Planet M, no doubt, to enslave its people. That was the general belief, anyway. 6 years prior, a Magician ship crash-landed, its crew was lifeless, dead, but judging from the amount of artillery and technologically advanced death machines they had brought with them, their intentions seemed clear: destroy and colonize.

This time, the M-ians were ready.

On Planet M, different sirens meant different things: Cyan meant “GOOD”, Gold meant “HIDE” and Magenta meant “GATHER”. “Gather” called all the M-ians to rally together at a specific point on the planet surface and expunge a foreign, potentially harmful entity together.

The Magenta Siren had never rang.

The last time the Magicians had landed, they weren’t perceived to be a threat at first so Cyan rang. The M-ians hid on the other side of the globe and waited for further instructions. It was only later, when it was deemed safe to inspect the crashed ship that those instruments of death were found.

Edelweiss was almost there.

She was nervous but ready, whatever danger lay ahead, she would tackle it with all the might of a thousand Suns.

When she arrived at the meeting point, she saw nothing except her people and rows upon rows of  father-droids, all aligned around a single vacant point.

Could this have been a false alarm?

Just then, she saw it: the enemy ship.

It was small, shiny and it was landing.

“Activate. Cloaking. Device.”, said the largest and most silver of all the father-droids.

All droids suddenly opened their mouths as transparent beams of transparent light blasted out converging into one single point high up but still far below the Magician ship. The cloaking device was a precautionary measure. As long as there was still a chance that the imminent threat at hand could turn out to be benign, the attack would wait.

Any sign of a weapon of any kind, on the Magicians’ side, would, of course, suggest antagonism and prompt instantaneous retaliation.

“Charge. Eye. Beams.”. the droid leader commanded.

Edelweiss and her M-ian brothers and sisters therefore began charging their eyeballs with pure energy. A simple blow from all these eye beams at the same time would annihilate any foreign object. The cloaking device had made the M-ians and their droids invisible to the Magicians.

Now there was only waiting.

The ship was close, very close, even closer now.

Edelweiss’ eyes were starting to hurt.

It landed.

What felt like an eternity passed by before the doors of the ship shooed open. The first Magician to exit looked nothing like those before him: bulky, white, round.

It was like an oversized child.

Words were heard, in a strange language, but they were too faint for anyone to hear. No sign of a weapon as yet. They were floating but not like the M-ians, their steps were clumsy and pathetic.

Were these Magicians children?

Underdeveloped versions of their predecessors?

Or had their predecessors, in fact, travelled back through time from their own future?

After all, the original ship had looked much more advanced than this one which, come to think of it, certainly had a much more primitive, fragile structure to it.

Danger!

The Magicians were holding something, it looked sharp.

The head droid raised his arm, readying us to release our beams should his arm come down in a single clunk.

But something seemed out of place.

These Magicians could barely walk, how could they possibly harm us with a weapon this visibly flimsy and inferior?

The item in question was soon planted onto the surface: it was a small pole with some sort of fabric attached to it.

Was it a bomb, a peace offering or some sort of random decoration?

This kind of odd behaviour continued until they finally picked up some rocks, returned to their ship and eventually disappeared into the skies near-silently.

The M-ians were signalled to stop charging their eye beams. Edelweiss closed her eyes and the intense pain she was feeling began to subside. When she opened them again, everyone had gathered around and over the object left by the Magicians.

It appeared to display stars.

Stripes and stars.

Whatever this meant, one thing was sure: they came twice and they would come again.

And when they do: we’ll be ready for them.

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More from Simon Simmons soon.

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Over Thair

Over Thair (1979)

Over Thair

an Abraham M. Moon short story

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They came for hair.

I know that now.

There are things that, here on Earth, we take for granted. Things which, in a world unlike our own, can translate as treasure.

Three days ago, when the Moon invaded, we were unaware and unprepared.

The idea of life on the Moon had been long dismissed as “silly” and “too far to check again” and our attention soon turned to Mars. Little did we know that a race of mostly liquid entities lived and thrived deep beneath the Moon’s hard structure. Despite our many studies, we remained blind to these beings’ existence and the Moon’s inner secrets.

Had we known three days ago that 80% of the Moon’s core was, in fact, covered in hair, perhaps disaster could have been aborted.

The Moon People, much like us with water, had been digging for hair for Millennia. It was their gold, their home, their food.

Their all.

When the Moon inexplicably stopped growing its own hair, desperation soon settled in and the Moon People began to panic. With their imminent destruction in the cards, they had no choice but to dig up to the surface, where they had avoided to venture to because it was cold and had a weird smell, to seek answers.

There, they found a flag.

A flag they did not understand.

Nonetheless, they concluded that the nearest planet was probably to blame so they set out on a voyage which could, and should have meant certain death.

The Moon People were a brave Moon people.

But they lacked hair and we had it.

Their interplanetary floating took centuries. To compare with the Earth’s timeline, suffice it to say that Christopher Columbus discovered America the Thursday prior to their departure.

Now, the year was 1999 and here they were: weak and hungry for hair.

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The long, uneventful and immensely slow trip had starved them and driven them to madness. Returning home with hair was no longer their mission.

Their new mission:

HAIR.

And lots of it.

Like mere liquid, hair-hungry zombies, they soon roamed the Earth in search of hair. Rendering anyone they encountered smooth all over. For head hair was not the only type of hair they were after. They wanted it all.

Cattle died of shock, cats of cold…

Chaos.

On the second day, the military intervened but no amounts of advanced weaponry could stop them. Bullets and big bullets just passed right through. Giant sucking devices and giant drying devices were brought in as alternatives but the Moon People had become too powerful. Somehow the hair they had consumed had made them undriable and too strong to be sucked by anything.

The third day was critical.

Earth was balding, fast, and it looked like nothing could ever stop those lunar devils. Then, an ageing Swedish physicist and aspiring boot collector by the name of Lukas Jarlsson designed a rocket which would be filled to the brim with hair and piloted by unwitting automatons (also filled with hair). Once inside, the Moon People would be trapped there and sent back to their cold, lifeless, hairless home. The spacecraft would then auto-destruct and the Moon (and its people) would be no more.

The plan was set in motion the very next half hour.

After a particularly tense build-up, the rocket finally launched with the Moon People inside. They had been lured inside thanks to Jarlsson’s last minute idea to pave all the roads of Stockholm with hair all the way to the rocket’s Moon People-shaped entrance. Many sacrificed their lives and their hair for this cause.

The Swedish people would never forget that day.

As the Moon People left our atmosphere, we Earthmen and Earthwomen looked on proudly, happy to once again be safe.

The Moon did not explode as planned, that was unexpected.

We all assumed the Moon People died of natural causes or perhaps simple gluttony during the voyage back.

We were free again: that’s all we needed to know.

But Lukas Jarlsson had not been seen since the launch. Could he have been left inside the rocket accidentally? What would happen to him? Would they use him to grow hair for them forever? Would they devour him?

It did not matter, his life was a small price to pay for our hair.

Our beautiful hair.

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More from Abraham M. Moon soon.

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WWV

WWV (2006)

WWV

a Lazarus Pitt novel

Written at the same time as Max Brooks’ “World War Z”

Extract from Chapter XII

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The war had begun.

It had begun and now it was.

It was and now it remained.

Would it ever end?

We didn’t think so.

Maybe our squadron was just being particularly pessimistic. Or perhaps we were right to not be hopeful. The things we’d seen, experienced, could still not be explained and none of us could see a bright future on the horizon.

Doomed.

Joining the army wasn’t an easy decision. Don’t get me wrong, there was never any bad blood between me and Uncle Sam or anything, it was just the idea of going out into the unknown and facing potential death I couldn’t get over.

Then they came flying in.

This was an enemy like no other we’d ever faced before. Now, not only our country was at stake but our entire world! There was no way I could have just sat back and watched it all happen live on CNN, without doing anything. What if this was the end? What then? What kind of life would I have led?

No. If they want this planet, they’ll just have to go through me.

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Where am I?

The whole point of this covert operation was to invade the enemy base not hide all around it and lose each other. There I am, stranded in this ghost town, with no means of communication and no direct support.

That’s just great.

All around me are seemingly empty barracks. They had built a wall around the base on top of which their soldiers fired at us relentlessly. I had to see one of them, I had to see what we were dealing with.

I approached one of their soldiers, who was lying dead next to his weapon and, to my surprise, I found a young woman, not in uniform. Actually, she was naked. Naked and covered in blisters. Not only that but both her wrists were attached to the very machine-gun she was firing from.

Why?

Then I heard it: a rumble coming from inside one of the nearby tents. I ready my weapon instinctively and start walking towards it. Whatever was in there, it was safe to guess it didn’t want me around. Then again, what if the rest of my team somehow went ahead of me and took refuge in one of the tents?

I tap the end of my rifle on the ground three times, pause for a moment, then repeat. This was our code, our way of alerting each other, of letting us know that one of us was near without attracting unwanted attention. This time, there was no reply.

Whatever was in there: it wasn’t one of us. And it was, most certainly, hostile.

One Mississippi…

Two Mississippi…

THREE.

I run in, spouting out orders:

“Get down! Get down! Hands on the gr-”

Empty.

I move in further into the tent, as I try to decipher what could have possibly been the source of the sound I had heard when suddenly, the ground breaks under me.

My heart tightens.

My rifle: gone.

I’m falling.

Darkness.

The fall wasn’t too deep but deep enough that the landing cracked my knee. Struggling not to scream, I promptly bite my sleeve. If this was a trap, I had to buy some time, gather my thoughts before the attack. The pain was intolerable. I had also scraped my arm during the fall and I could tell by the moistness on the other sleeve of my uniform that I was bleeding.

I fumble around the darkness for my rifle.

Finally: I reach it.

I shakily stand up and start limping forward, down a deserted, unlit corridor. I start to feel dizzy, sick, but I push all of that aside in my mind. All that matters is the mission. I’m expendable, I know that, but if this is some sort of underground lair I’ve discovered, it’s my duty to make sure I bring as much carnage and panic to the place as possible.

And just like that, I saw something lying in front of me I wish I had never seen.

It was Smithey.

My teammate, my brother.

What have they done to you?

There he was: lying on the ground face down with the bottom half of his body missing. Gnawed off, it seemed.

Oh Smithey…

We were gonna raise chickens together.

I approach my friend, get on my good knee and turn his body around to face him when, suddenly, his eyes open.

“V…”, he said.

“Smithey! Y-you’re…”

“V…”

“What is it, Smithey? Tell me, I’m here!”

“V…”

Smithey died in my arms just then.

What could he have been trying to tell me?

A name, perhaps?

I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer. I had to go forward, move on with the mission. I say a quiet prayer for my old friend and keep on walking.

Those bastards are gonna pay.

Still limping, the pain more unbearable than ever, I finally reach some sort of large storage area: long, flat rectangular boxes, everywhere. Boxes upon boxes just sitting there, in the dark. Weapons? Missiles?

What were these monsters plotting…

I step closer to one of the boxes and go to lift its lid, making sure to keep my gun pointing in the right direction. I start lifting the lid when I hear a voice calling me from the corridor I had just walked from.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you”, the voice warned.

I promptly look up and, upon seeing a shadowy figure standing in the distance, I point my weapon at the stranger with every intention of shooting.

“Get down on the ground! Now!”, I yell out nervously.

“It is unwise to shout.”, was the calm reply.

The dark figure steps forward.

“Stay where you are!”

They stop.

“Don’t step any closer. I mean it.”

“I mean you no harm…”

The silhouette steps forward once again and I shoot. This causes no reaction whatsoever.

“Now you’ve done it.”

Some of the boxes around me start moving.

“What are you?”

Finally, out of the shadows, walks a familiar face.

“General Lohman?”

“That’s right, soldier. I’m a night-walker. Always have been.”

“But… Smithey…”

“Smithey got sloppy. We’re attracted to sound, we love it. Can’t get enough of it. Couple of misfired gun shots in the dark, that’s all it took. They jumped him, tore the poor bastard in half right there and then.”

“What the hell are night-walkers?”

“We live in shadow, we feast upon the blood of those who try to come between us and our destiny. The world belongs to us, soldier, we are evolution and nothing will stop us.”

“You’re wrong. You’re a mistake, a failed experiment. We’ll win.”

“You’re a good kid, soldier. Resourceful. I have a proposition for you: help us. Be our eyes during the daylight hours and you will be spared. I can guarantee that.”

“Then what? Say I help you: what will be left for me? I’ve seen what you do to humans when you’re done with them. ”

“You’re far more valuable to us than you realize. If there’s one thing we night-walkers will always need, it’s humans. I organised this personally, I wanted you to find us, I wanted you here. You’re the best we’ve got, soldier. Think about it: it makes sense.”

I look at the monster and smile.

“You’re right.”

I start applauding the General as loud as possible and, in a heartbeat, I see his hopes of a human mole shatter in a thousand pieces before him. The boxes around me rattle, shake and finally burst open sharply, like overcooked raviolis.

“Nooooo!”, Lohman cries out as the cavernous ghouls jump towards me, their fangs wet with hunger.

It does make sense.

There’s nothing like the sound of a deceived vampire.

Nothing.

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More from the iconic Lazarus Pitt soon.

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In The Between

In The Between (1990)

In The Between

an Ian McCanus short story

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It was their last meal and the Torhns had lost their appetite.

Their world was about to end, the two black holes on either side of their planet were about to tear it apart, split it, right down the middle and that’s all there was to it. No amount of food could change that. Even the Schgleg they were about to consume knew something was amiss.

” Go, shoo.”, Yichn ordered.

The Schgleg, feeling unwanted, slimes out of its tray and leaves the table.

“What’s the point?”, Yichn asked rhetorically, “It’s all going to end anyway.”

Her husband, Gnok, had no answer for her.

“You’re upsetting Igli: calm down.”, he answered.

Little Igli was only 300 years old, she had no defined idea about what was going on. She had just wet herself, though.

“I don’t care! It’s the end! I can do what I want!”, Yichn continued.

“That’s not true, you have a responsibility: you’re her mother.”

“Oh blow it out your flaaagn…”

“I know how you feel but you can’t let it get to you, let’s just finish our last meal with dignity. As a loving family.”

“A loving family? You think I don’t know about you and Griil?”

“W-what do you mean?”

“Oh forget it…”

Gnok turns to his daughter, wiping the urine from her face.

“Go to your room, Igli. Mummy and daddy need a moment alone.”

“Wammy?”, replied the infant.

“That’s right. I’ll be in there to tuck you in right away. Just give me a couple of months, ok?”

“Wakay.”

Igli leaves the table and walks to her bedroom leaving a trail behind her. Gnok turns back to Yichn and gently places his tentacle on her shoulder.

“You’re upset, I understand that. But we have to make the most of our time together, while we’re still alive. The planet is splitting in half, that doesn’t mean we should do the same.”

Yichn promptly knocks his tentacle away with her paw.

“That’s just it: maybe we should do the same! After all, if nothing means anything, why shouldn’t we? Why should anything?”

“Yichn, calm down…”

“Why?! Why be calm? Who is there to wake up? Besides you?”

“What?”

“You’re the one who needs waking up! You’re asleep! Asleep from the truth!”

Yichn stands up. Now hysterical, she starts to turn purple as her antennas vibrate from side to side (a sign of stress). Gnok walks to her slowly, trying to calm her down.

“Settle down, Yichn. You’re having a breakdown…”

“You’re asleep, they’re all asleep!”

Gnok moves his tentacle towards her.

“There there, it’s gonna be alright. Just give me your paw and we’ll talk.”

“Don’t touch me!”

“I’m not gonna hurt, no one is…”

Just then, Yichn opens her third mouth and bites Gnok’s tentacle hard: she eats half of it. Gnok screams, flapping his remaining tentacle around the room, breaking vases and glasses in the process.

“There there…”, Yichn says in a dark monotone, “It’s gonna be alright.”

Yichn falls on top of Gnok and devours him on the spot, her mouths taking large chunks out of him with every single bite. Gnok struggles and screams throughout, his orange blood splashing over every family portrait, every inch of the room.

Minutes later: Gnok was no more.

Meanwhile, Igli is lying in a puddle in her bed, counting Niays, her favourite animal. Yichn knocks gently on her door and walks in, still completely covered in blood and foaming at the mouths.

“Hi honey, you asleep?”

“Weelp.”

“You are asleep, aren’t you…”

“Wilry.”

“Hungry? I’m hungry too.”

There’s a knock at the front door. Startled, Yichn gets up and goes to answer it. Igli continues counting Niays.

Before opening the door, Yichn enquires:

“Who is it?”

“It’s Poyng! Open up! One of the black holes imploded in on itself. It’s gone! Our world is safe!”

Trembling, Yichn finally opens the door.

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More from Ian McCanus soon.

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