Brevity is the width of soul.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


There is neither sun nor moon in the sky, and the shifting arrangement of the starlike lights above spells something so terrible about their true nature that you prefer to keep your eyes low, to the rotting bodies on the ground begging for a more permanent death. Running across this landscape, through hills of bones and slow-moving rivers of too-transparent water, you evade and pursue things designed as allegories to speed, hunger, and sharp teeth, your own flesh and instincts tuned to the scent of pain and the sounds of silent ambush. This goes on for a second and a hundred years.

And then you wake up, aching and sweaty, and you think yet again about killing yourself. You were told this could happen. The retirement of necronauts is plagued by nightmares, and the suicide rate approaches eighty-five percent.

Nostalgia weights you down as unfamiliar and oppressive as the beating of your heart.


Friday, April 27, 2007


Half of my job was knowing where and when those things would happen, so I was already waiting next to the door when the zombie lurched into the bank.

I pushed him against a wall and put my hand over his brow. I could do it from a distance, but physical contact helps the process. Then I sent the full force of my will into his mind. You are alive. It only took a few seconds for his lapsed hypnotic programming to be reactivated. Zombies don't have much brains to fight with.

As I stepped back, the zombie shook his head, mumbled "excuse me", and lurched toward an ATM queue.

Just in case, I thought it would be a good idea to reinforce the programming of everybody in the bank. You and everybody you see are human. They believed me, of course. As I said, zombie brains aren't very good against hypnosis.

My work done, I lurched out of the bank to grab a bite for lunch.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Far Away Countries

'Go to hell,' she said to me when I suggested another trip. 'Alone.'

Then she stormed out of my office, practically snarling to anybody who got in her path.

Did I feel insulted? Hell, no. I'm in the exploration business, and explorers are impulsive by nature. The thing inside them that makes them throw things at me -has happened once or twice- is the same thing that makes them explore. It's not the tons of cash we all get out of it. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, would face the kind of horrors they do just for a paycheck, no matter how fat.

They go because they have to. I knew she would.

And I was right. Two weeks later she was again on the road, riding hypnotic cocktails and cortical induction fields, exploring everything in her past her mind had ever blocked out to keep her sane, looking for the plot for our next blockbuster movie.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Nota Bene

She was smart, and she had seen The Sixth Sense, so she eventually had to ask.

"Are you a ghost?"

"No," he answered, "I'm an hallucination. Is that going to be a problem?"

She thought it over. "No, I don't think so. Come, let's go back to bed."


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Social Engineering II

As forwards went, it was a very clever one. It had multiple levels of encryption, and you could only read the first lines. You had to do something -say, buy a small item from a certain store, put a code in a web form-, use the result to decrypt the next part, and forward it to whoever you wanted to.

It was a clever twist, and, social networks being what they are, you often got the forward back, a few steps ahead.

It was fun.

And as people filled web forms, logged into strange servers, or did any of the myriad bizarre things the forward prompted them to do, the device kept coming closer to completion.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Assisted Reproduction

The reinforced door blows and commandos in black gear start streaming through the hole. It's the third time this month. You'd think a transnational secret research consortium would be more of a secret.

Their leader finds you and aims his gun at your head. You can hear shots from outside, surely the laboratory's security detail coming to capture your assassin. It doesn't matter - he doesn't look like he planned to come out alive from your lab anyway.

"You are the one who wants to raise the monster, aren't you?" He wants to talk. Most of his kind do.

"I'm the leader of the Telekinesis Gene Project, if that's what you mean."

He snarls at you and presses the trigger. The gun jams, and he is slammed against a wall by an unseen force, together with the rest of his troops.

"Son of a bitch," he snarls through the pain. "You already created him."

"She hasn't been conceived yet," you correct him as you collect your glasses from the floor. "But that's only a minor inconvenience for her. Eve, please let them down."

She does. Will do. Has done. The distinction matters to you, but it won't -it doesn't- to her.

You could ask her to tell you how many more attacks there'll be before you can create her, but you aren't particularly curious. You already know you will succeed.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Retirement Home

It was a horrible, decrepit, bleak house. It had to be; it was where they stashed the old spies, the one who had worked in the unsanctioned ops of agencies identified by gestures instead of acronyms. The men, women, and things who knew too much to be left outside, but also too much to be killed, in the outside chance that their knowledge could become useful some day.

And the day had come. I needed their knowledge. One man's, in particular.

The problem was that I worked for the Opposition. It wasn't as if I could just knock at the door and invite him to grab a coffee. Not that they'd let him out anyway. The street panic that would ensue would call too much attention upon the zone.

I knocked at the door and opened it, crossing the threshold into the cold dark. A gun cocked against my head.

"Hello," I began to say. The gun fired before I finished the word, killing me instantly.

"Hello," said the man. "Welcome to the House of Ghosts. I'll get you to your room."

I nodded, stepping over my cooling body. The infiltration part of my plan was finished.

Now I just had to acquire and exfiltrate.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Odd Results

Three point five against one. Seventeen point two against one. Thirty-eight point six against one. A hundred and twelve point zero against one. The physicist turned off the machine and rechecked all the parameters of the quantum impossibility experiment.

She made a minor adjustment and restarted the experiment.

Two point two against one. Twenty-three point seven against one. Ninety-two point three against one. Two hundred and seven point seven against one.

As the machine repeated its experiment automatically time and again, the accumulated odds that they were living in a fictional world kept growing.

She'd just have to hope it wasn't a short story.


Friday, April 13, 2007

When it alteration finds

The search parameters are very specific, but you find a practically perfect match. You approach her; the exact situation and words aren't precisely the ones in your plan, but you have made it flexible enough. Soon you are dating.

A month passes. Two. You still follow the plan.

So far your actions and hers match your logs from your last relationship. Until the tenth week, when the previous one left you; you do something different this time. Hopefully this one will stay.

If she doesn't... Well. You'll try again.

They used to leave you before the third week.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When you think about it

After many years of grueling work, Johnny Gupta had achieved his goal: complete conscious control of his autonomic functions. It was an irreversible transformation that gave him near-superhuman powers, and the constant air of having something else in his mind.

Breathe in... Breathe out... Breathe in...

It was a good thing he didn't need to sleep.

Breathe out...


Monday, April 9, 2007

Life Cycle

Toshiko's heartbeat slowed down, too weak to be normal for a healthy thirty-five years old logistics expert. The sensors hooked to her chest detected it, but the machine had been notified that this was a death she had desired and sought, so no alarm was raised.

Her heart stopped. Following an ancient tradition of honoring the willing end of a life, the devices waited respectfully until the legally defined conditions for death were met. Then, in accordance with the Japanese Demographic Emergency Act, resuscitation procedures were initiated.


Saturday, April 7, 2007

Climate Change Report

It was winter, and as the confused fields blossomed in the unseasonable warmth, we knew we would have another year of hunger.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Trees Burning Silently in the Middle of the Forest

We all get a copy of a novel as a gag gift our first day here. You know, the one where firemen burned books. Amateurs.

We take care of people. Their bank accounts. Their birth certificates. The things they owned. Whatever they did in their jobs. The memories they left in the people around them. Everything they touched is scrubbed and rebuilt until all evidence they ever lived is deep in our files.

If their crime was truly heinous, we go further than that: we erase them from our records, and then we go to a nice room in the fourth floor of our building, the one with lots of plants, and we erase them, and what we did to them, from our memories.

And they never existed.


Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Bridge Project

It was mankind's most complex and difficult engineering feat ever attempted. It made the Channel Tunnel look like a ditch, and the ISS a rocket hobbyist's summer project. A hundred billion dollars, ten thousand scientists, years of development, and, perhaps surprisingly, success.

Eve breathed in for the first time and cried. The stark hospital light reflected into tiny rainbows against her small, fragile-looking wings.


Sunday, April 1, 2007

De Rerum Natura

She's beautiful, yes. But there's more than that.

"Beautiful" doesn't say anything about the way her eyes light up with joy when they meet yours. How her smile is always comfortable and easy, necessary and offhand, like telling your problems to your best friend. How her body and face are imperfect in precisely the right way to make it easy to imagine her over the breakfast table, her still mussed hair falling over smiling eyes.

This is why fashion designers pay lots of money for your work. Other specialists can also create beautiful digital models; actually, it has been years since live models were last used. They just couldn't compete.

But you are the only one who creates digital models people can fall in love with.

This is also why fashion designers have to pay lots of money for you to accept to work.

Your heart breaks every time.