Posts Tagged Fiction

Fortnightcap: …And Taxes

…And Taxes

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The cameras were on her again.

The cameras were almost always on her anymore, and she still wasn’t sure how she felt about it.  It was patronizing to be sure, but there was a certain honor in it as well.  She’d become, at least she supposed, a bit of an international celebrity in the last few days.  It wasn’t the way she ever wanted to be famous, but just one moment in the sun couldn’t be too bad.

Ah.  A moment in the sun.  That would be nice.  Perhaps she would ask for that this afternoon.  It was supposed to be nice out.  Then again, it was always nice out now that weather was scheduled rather than forecast.  And that was the part of it that made her uneasy, the part of it that made her wonder if she wasn’t getting out at just the right time.  Technology had made so many of the inconveniences of life so much less inconvenient.  Raw materials were now available at the flip of a switch.  Weather could be controlled so that nice picturesque snowfalls happened only with two weeks advance notice.  People didn’t have to work anymore to get the things they wanted, now they could devote more time to leisure.

Then they had gone after the certainties of life.  Taxes were abolished two decades earlier when everything became essentially free.  Was it any wonder they went after death next.

The nanobots were little miracle workers.  That’s what she’d been told.  By doctors, by the media, by her kids, by anyone who came in contact with them and suddenly lost any sign of cancer, of aging, of heart disease.  Hell, the damn little things even kept everyone’s muscles toned according to user defined settings, allowing everyone to be as fit as they wanted with no work.

But they couldn’t fix everything.  One by one they attempted to cure the other diseases, and they managed to cut many of them off at the path.  But some people were just too far gone for the cures, for the nanobots.  And in the end, a decision was made that they couldn’t save everyone.

She was cold.  She was always cold anymore.

She’d heard she was the last one left.  The last of the Uncurables.  There’d been two, a lady named Margaret down in Texas had been holding on for awhile.  It was a sort of rivalry, at least that’s the way they played it on the news.  Sick bastards, treating her death like it was some sort of sport.  Some sort of game.  She knew there’d be celebrations when she went, and that’s the part she hated.  That’s the part that kept her going, if just to spite them.  Want to be excited that death was conquered?  Well just pardon me while I keep going on living.

It would certainly be nice to go outside this afternoon.  She’d have to remember to ask her orderly when he came around again.

And so, the last of the mortals settled in for her mid morning nap, satisfied that the party would be held off at least one more day.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: Take Me Back

Take Me Back

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

One day Virginia wasn’t there anymore.

There were no warning signs, there was no explosion or noise, it just wasn’t there.  We watched on the news, horrified, from our hotel room in Philadelphia, realizing that everything we owned and everyone we knew was in Virginia.  And now Virginia wasn’t there.  There wasn’t even a great slagheap that could be sifted through, examined and tutted over.  Instead, drivers headed southbound on 95 were leaving Baltimore and thirty minutes later passing through Rocky Mount.  Physicists were interviewed on the news, asked their opinion about the anomaly, and all were stumped.

Support came in from around the planet.  Rallies in world capitals, people waiving blue flags and holding up signs “Today we are all Virginians.”  No.  We’re Virginians.  The last of a dying breed.  We’ve been asked to check in with the government, an attempt to figure out how many people died.  Did they die?  They’re certainly gone, and no one is quite able to find them.

My parents.  My in-laws.  It’s overwhelming.

People want to donate money, but they’re not sure where to donate it.  The Red Cross can’t do anything, there’s no one injured to help.  There are promises to rebuild, but rebuild what and where?  People are starting to ask questions.  Fox News broke the ice by pointing out there are now two Democratic senators who don’t actually represent a state.  MSNBC pointed out that there’s also eleven Representatives, eight of whom are Republican, in the same position.  I’m glad to know that people are really caring about the important things right now.

The news here in Philly has interviewed me several times, the real live Virginian in the city.  How did I escape?  How do I feel?  I don’t have answers for them.  I didn’t escape, I was just on vacation, some sort of horrible and fortunate and devastating coincidence which means I’m here while Virginia is gone.

People want something to blame.  Terrorism is brought up.  Radical extremism.  Divine retribution.  Sunspots.  Vaccines.  Global Warming.  Everyone has some theory, which doesn’t help in the end.  When all is said and done, everyone is wondering if it could happen again, and after some hemming and hawing no expert going on the TV can say anything other than “I don’t know.”

So here we are.  My wife has family in Maryland willing to take us in until we can get our feet under us.  I don’t know how I feel about being that close to where Virginia is supposed to be, but there’s nowhere better for us to go.  Perhaps we’ll go west, live on the California coast.

So wish us luck.  And remember Virginia.  People are already forgetting it.  A celebrity did something stupid, the Middle East got three percent more dangerous, and the loss was gone.  People don’t talk about Virginia anymore.  I appear to have misplaced my Virginia’s drivers license.  I’m trying to keep remembering it, but it all feels like a strange fever dream.  Is it possible that there never was such a place?

No.  It had to have been there.

Right?

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fornightcap: Paradox of the Crowds

Paradox of the Crowds

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

“Of the what?”

“The crowds.  Paradox of the crowds.”  He walked through a lab that was strewn with equipment, some of it burned out, some blinking, some new in box.  Past the computers, past the camera, past the schematics.  “Look,” he said, finding an empty space of white board he drew a circle.  “There are some events that are considered historic events, we can agree on that, right?”

“Right.”

“And one of the reasons you want to invent time travel is so you can see some of them?”  He drew a line pointing in to the circle.

“Well, it’s not the only reason, but–”

“But you do want to see them.  So if you want to see them, why wouldn’t some other time traveler?  Or hundreds?  Or thousands?”  Line after line, until the circle resembled some deformed spider.  “If time travel is ever invented at some future point, we’d see massive crowds of people showing up to witness these historic events.  But they’re just not there.  Therefore time travel won’t ever be invented.  Not by you, not by anyone.”

The inventor’s face fell for a moment.  Then rose again.  “Disco demolition night.”

“What?”

“1979, the death of disco.  The Chicago White Sox hosted a double header, planning to destroy any disco record the fans would bring between the two games.  Nearly 100,000 people showed up.  An impossibly big crowd for that kind of event.”

“Why would time travelers want to see that?”

“It’s infamous.  Be a part of one of the worst ideas in baseball history!”  He was waving his arms around, excited now.  “The inauguration of Barack Obama.  First black president.  Impossibly huge crowds that choked the Mall, and then were gone.  Surely there could have been a few visitors from out of time, not just out of town.”

“I don’t think–”

“No you don’t!  You just find reasons why not!”

“Look, if you want to keep up with this insanity, be my guest.  I’m not going to be part of it.”

The inventor watched as his visitor left, then got back to work on the pieces scattered around his lab.  The crowd, watching from a distance, cheered then quietly dispersed.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: Long Way Home

Long Way Home

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Tracking the parts down. That was the challenge. Professor Fitzsimmons had sourced so many of them without documenting origins or purposes. For seventeen years I could only follow the money trail, going through his credit card records and requisition orders. So often this left me with odd metals, minerals I’d never heard of, assemblies that were little more than fanciful black boxes. I could only guess at some of their functions, working from notes that ranged from formalized files and patent applications to the back of stained napkins.

Through it all, one thing has kept me going. The letter delivered by the bewildered courier, little more than a yellowed scrap that his company had in its possession for two and a half centuries.

It’s above my work bench, and reads simply “stuck in 1784.”

The machine worked. The note was the evidence of that. But something had gone wrong, something had broken and the professor couldn’t get home again. No one believes me. I show them the note, they call it a forgery. Time travel is a fiction. I’ve been told this more times than I’d care to count. Every cliche has been thrown at me. All I need is that letter.

The scrap of letter came along with documentation telling me the day, but not the time, it had been delivered to their central Boston office. Seventeen years of work, what would one day of waiting around be? With the machine complete, I stepped inside, and stepped out again in the late 18th century. The machine was in perfect shape, there was no reason it wouldn’t be ready to go for another trip.

So I found the firm.

And I waited.

Just after two in the afternoon there was a man who looked exactly as I’d remembered. For me it had been seventeen years, for him it hadn’t been even that many days. I let him enter the firm to drop off his letter, no need to create paradoxes after all. When he came out again, I approached him, arms wide.

“Professor Fitzsimmons!”

His face fell, looking back at the firm.

“Yes, they delivered the letter! I’m here to save you.”

I pulled out the scrap that had kept me going, and handed it to him. He panicked, turning it one way then another in his hands. “Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the rest of it?”

“This is all I got.”

He crumpled the paper, threw it to the ground in disgust. “There was more. You weren’t supposed to come.”

“You said you were trapped.”

“I am. And now you are too. Time travel. Look, there’s a past already in existence that you can travel back to. But the future. The future is amorphous, it doesn’t exist, so you can’t travel to it.”

“But,” I tried to work this out. “We’re not going to the future. Only back to the present.”

“This is the present now!”

“So how do we get back to 2011?”

“There’s only one way: wait. We can only take the long way home.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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