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

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.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

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.

Only on WeTheMindThinkers.

Phalloids

“Phalloids” (1971)

Phalloids

an L.L.L. Burlap short story

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The Phalloids had spoken.

But could they have been wrong?

After all, they had been mistaken before, hadn’t they?

Hadn’t they… ?

They hadn’t.

Father had given his life for The Phalloids all those years ago, he fought bravely against the forces of The Mindreading Elite, telepath warriors, a sect of unbelievers. The Phalloids couldn’t be wrong, lives were lost and that couldn’t have been in vain.

“You are the destroyer of The Phalloids. Phalloids are we.”, The Phalloids had said.

How could this be?

Without The Phalloids, our proud city of Phalloidia wouldn’t even have a name!

Or Phalloids!

The very thought gives me chills.

Without them, how would we know of the future? How do you live without knowing what comes next?

Besides, we rely on Phalluid for literally everything. No Phalluid, that creamy, seemingly endless white nectar The Phalloids bless us with every morning, would mean nothing to water the crops, nothing to drink, nothing to wash ourselves with, nothing to make our water taste better.

Chaos.

I can’t let this happen. I won’t.

I will destroy The Phalloids after all.

They were right…

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Look out for more L.L.L. Burlap short stories ONLY on WeTheMindThinkers.

Milk Planet — a real-life science fiction mystery

Few texts in science fiction have such mysterious pasts as Milk Planet. An unpublishable, incomplete masterpiece, its author and the approximate year of writing remain unknown to this day.

Theories abound, readers…

 

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CHAPTER ONE

 

Lucas Lactusen rampaxxed the florg.

His vehicle dashed with rain, he rallied on into the night. The road, barely visible through the layer of translucent white that built up on his windshield, appeared now here, now there. Now left, now right, Lactusen pitched as best he could to follow the snaking concrete.

He switched on the vehiCall and punched in an ident. The rain pounded relentless.

“Michael, it’s Professor Lactusen. Please, please call me as soon as you get this. This is big – really big.”

Lights swung past and he swerved to miss.

“I’ve stumbled onto something. Something incredible. I –”

Lactusen fell silent, peering forward. He dulled the motor to a purr, slowing in advance of the obstacle ahead. Slowing in advance of the impossible.

There, in his headlamps, oblivious to the storm – there, in the middle of the road, a cow.

Coming to a stop, the Professor kicked open the door and pulled his jacket over his head. Ducking out, he ran through the storm to the impossible creature.

He needed to see it; needed to see it close up. He needed to see that it was real.

Lactusen was soaked, the malt smell of the rain permeating down to his skin. The animal turned its head slowly, stupidly.

“Hey there,” he said. “Hey there, beautiful. Where did you come from?”

This was ridiculous, Lactusen thought. It had to be a fake – a hologram, a clone – or he had to be hallucinating, dead. Because no-one on the planet had seen a cow for a hundred years.

And then came the screech. Lactusen turned, spotting the lights blearily through the rain. Lights, from another vehicle. Lights facing straight at him.

The vehicle shot forward; milk seared upward in arcs from either side, like great white wings.

And the cow moved its head slowly, stupidly.

 

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