20 Years Later

I remember the day the news broke that they had found the cure for cancer. Of course, that’s just how the headlines appeared. They hadn’t really found the cure for cancer in extenso, but they had determined a relatively safe course of treatment that would, in essence, “turn off” cancer in a person’s body. What they didn’t realize, at the time, was how that would affect us in the long term.

See, what happens when you genetically modify a person’s cells to…

Forgive me. I have been so used to talking to myself lately, I sometimes go on at length when I don’t need to. You don’t need to hear from me what happens when you genetically modify a person’s cells, do you?

But you are wondering how this all played out. Well, after a few years they realized that being able to turn off cancer was a doorway into a whole new world of medicine. Fiddle with the process a little, target a different kind of cell structure and bingo! You’ve eliminated viruses. Everyone gets the shots, and suddenly no one dies of cancer or viral diseases anymore. Ever.

The results weren’t so obvious at first. See, it didn’t stop children from growing, so no one would have noticed if there hadn’t been such a dramatic drop in the birth rate. Even that was hard to spot – it took so long for everyone to be inoculated, and there were of course those people who refused, or who refused for their children. You get the idea.

But after a few years it was plain to see – something very bad had happened.

You might be asking at this point why we didn’t do an awful lot of trials and check everything very carefully before we went ahead. I’d like to tell you we had a good reason. We didn’t. Sometimes we are very, very careful, but then once in a while something takes hold and it just goes and we don’t stop. Happened with cars. With television. The internet. Vaccines.

Well, that was all twenty years ago. Aside from the hippies who held out against the shots, no one has had a child for at least fifteen of the last twenty years. I don’t have to tell you what that does to a population. You can see the evidence world round. No one aging and no one dying of diseases or old age, and no one being born. Once upon a time you might have thought it would take us a hundred years to fall apart. Not even close.

Anyway, that’s about all I have to say. I don’t have better answers than that. There aren’t many of us left here, so that’s why there was no resistance when you came. Believe me, I say with a tinge of irony – do you do irony where you’re from? – that you don’t have to worry that we were wiped out by a disease. Unless hubris can be called a disease.

******

Here’s the idea: Write for fifteen minutes, edit for five, and see what you come up with. Jon and I are trying it out for a while. Feel free to join the fun. This was my entry for tonight.

The Final Shape

“From vistas uncharted return, from beasts unslain escape, from skies unknown learn what shall be your final shape.” Darrin shook his head, eyes gazing at the fire.

“You know it’s all fake, right?” Pol grinned.

Darrin raised bushy eyebrows.

“The entire quest. Send us out when we turn sixteen. Discover what it takes to be a man on our own in the wilderness. Nothing’s going to happen. ‘Uncharted vistas’? Like hell. We’ve mapped the entire solar system. There’s nothing left to map. ‘Beasts unslain’? Name me one creature that’s ever escaped our hunters. ‘Skies unknown’? That would take sailing out to another star, and we don’t have the tech for that. Won’t for a long time.” He spat. “The whole thing is just a stupid tradition. Make men of us? Hard to be men when everything’s been done.”

Darrin tightened his lips. Wasn’t worth it to fight. Pol didn’t believe. He never listened to the stories. He lay down. Nothing would happen until the fire died down, and that would be a bit. Might as well get some sleep while he could.

Pol laughed. “You actually think something’s going to happen?”

Darrin rolled over in his sleeping bag.

Pol mocked for a while… and then finally gave up. He drank some more from his flask before settling down.

Darrin awoke with a start. Embers glowed in the fire pit. No moon lit the sky.

But the camp glowed. A hooved creature moved toward him. Calloused hands reached down toward the fire and spoke words that cracked against Darrin’s ears. Orange eyes fell on him. “Son of man. The contract must be respected. Would you see the vistas?”

Darrin sat up. Leathery wings folded against the creature’s back. Antlers spread above its head.

“Where are they?”

“In shifting lands, son of man. I will take you there, but I will not bring you back. You must find your own way.”

Darrin glanced at Pol. He snored in his bag.

“He is not worthy.”

“He won’t be a man?”

“Every human child ages, but not every boy becomes a man. You have the opportunity to take a new shape, but it will take pain. And wonder. You have enough of one, and you will have the chance to learn the other.” One of its hoofs stamped the dirt. “My time on your sphere grows short.”

“Take me there.”

In the morning, Pol found the camp empty. He shook his head. “Coward. Probably called for his daddy to get him.”

“Oh, I was gotten, but not by any father of mine.”

The deep voice startled Pol. He spun.

Darrin stood, cloaked in the tattered remains of his clothing. “I know my shape now. And I know yours.” He shook his head. “I hope whatever children you may have take on a better shape.”

I wrote for fifteen minutes, edited for five, and this came out. I’m pretty happy with this! 

Make It Last All Year

Michael’s feet thundered as he rushed into the room. “It’s coming, mom! The Festival!”

His mother nodded and stabbed the screen on her phone again and again with a steady finger.

“Come on! Come on! We gotta get ready!”

“It’s not that big a deal, Sam,” she muttered.

“I’m Michael!”

“Right. Anyway, it’s not that big a deal.”

“We gotta celebrate!”

“Sam, stop tugging on my arm.”

“Michael!”

“Yeah.”

Michael stomped out of the living room, and then his flurry of feet propelled him to the kitchen. “Dad! Dad! The Festival! It’s almost time! We gotta get ready!”

“What?” He looked away from the tv, knife in hand, herbs arrayed before him.

“The Festival! Can we do something for it?”

“That’s really not the point, Spud.” His eyes slid back to the screen. “Hm. I missed it now. How am I supposed to make supper if I don’t know how to not bruise the cilantro? You wouldn’t want bruised cilantro on your smithen’s pie, would you?”

“Dad, how are we gonna celebrate if we don’t get ready? Are we gonna decorate?”

“Spud, you really don’t decorate for the Festival.”

“Are we gonna give presents?”

“Hm? Look, I’m trying to make supper. Why don’t you go bother your sister?”

Michael slunk out of the kitchen.

Sam giggled when he asked her about the Festival. “Mikey, we celebrate it every day! It’s like the song goes, you’re supposed to make it last all year.”

He scratched his head. “I thought that was Christmas.”

“Whatever. Anyway, I gotta get back to Sarah. She’s got some things going on.”

A knock sounded at the front door.

“I’ll get it!” shouted Michael and the stampede of elephants that seemed to pound from his feet. He flung the door open. “Grandpa! Did you come for the Festival?”

The man with the mustache rolled his eyes. “Mike, I don’t celebrate that old thing. No one does anymore!”

“But we studied it in school! Everyone did!”

“The Festival of Apathy is hardly a day worth getting excited about. A special day to not care? A day to do nothing? Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Grandpa shook his head. “Your dad around?”

“In the kitchen.”

Grandpa tousled Michael’s hair and walked past.

“But I wanna celebrate it,” the boy muttered. “It sounds like so much fun. Then I get to not care…and that sounds like the best day ever.”

I felt like writing something a little slapdash in fifteen minutes… here’s the result. Take it for what it is… a fast writing exercise! 

Well… nevermind, then

Tonight I recorded a story. I formatted it. I uploaded it.

Oh. That didn’t work. Let’s try that again.

No, still not uploading. Why not?

Oh. I need to pay to upload MP3’s, apparently.

Which means… I’m looking for a different outlet. So, keep tuned. We’ll try something different soon, I hope!

It’s a little dusty in this here blog…

It’s just that musty blog smell…

Greetings, gentle listeners!

It’s time for yet another phase of Seeking the New Earth! Last time we initiated the site, we checked out books that no one should write. It was fun! And then… life.

My father-in-law passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, causing me to, well, focus on family matters. And then the holidays hit, and well, since I’m a pastor, I got to be rather busy. And in January, I went and wrote a rough draft of a novel. That left little time for posting anything here!

But… an author needs a public platform, and I’ve decided to stake that claim here. And that platform needs content!

And thusly… I’m back for another stab! Continue reading

The Kid’s Guide to Hitchhiking (Stephanie’s Version)

“Extend your right pollux.” The little thumb uncurled away from the palm. “Good. Excellent progress.

You may relax.” The scientist rocked back in his chair, a pleased smile on his face. He pushed his thick-rimmed glasses to the bridge of his nose. “It’s nearly time for you to give it a try.”

“Doctor,” the patient said, rocking from side to side, “when will I be grown up?”

The doctor smiled. “Soon. Your range of movement is coming along well. We just need to replace yourvoice box and upgrade your skin.”

The little automaton clacked its metal teeth together. “This is good news.”

The doctor frowned. “Let’s upgrade that voice box first. Yours still has the whiny tone of a human.” Hegestured to the small automaton’s pivoting cranial device. “Release.”

The little automaton raised its phalanges to the flap securing the cover to the voice box. It peeled thecover away, and exposed the flashing little device that allowed communication. The doctor reachedin—“This will only take a second,”—and removed it. He replaced it with a much thicker device. “Now,recite the Allegiance Pledge.”

“I pledge allegiance,” the now-deeper voice recited haltingly, “to the Power which gives life to all Cybers. And to the Dictator, who wields the Power and has commanded the Transformation, I give my body, my mind, my life.”

“Well done. On to Skin Replacement, then the World.”

The little automaton hurried over to Skin Replacement, clacking its teeth as it ran on its new steel joints instead of the cumbersome bone and ligaments. Hours later, it emerged free of human skin. It touched its latex covering. The covering sprang back and settled into a smooth surface. “Efficient,” the tinny voice said. It followed the path laid out by its internal GPS which flashed signals to it thorough its ocular devices.

Once outside, it snapped the pupils nearly closed against the 120,000-lux light source. After the software could compensate against the light, it walked to the side of the long paved road. It extended its pollux as far as it could and waited. It was small for an automaton, but its programming told it that humans preferred to pick up smaller automatons.

So it thrust the right pollux out toward the road. Cars began coming. One, two, then a large group.

One slowed and the humans examined it with a cold eye. With a shake of their heads, they kept going.

It stayed still, adjusting only to tilt its head slightly. This time, a car slowed and stopped. The human lowered the window. “Are you claimed?”

“Negative.”

The man who had spoken to him made his lips go up at the ends. “At our house, we say no. Can you learn?”

The automaton searched his database for words that matched the term ‘no.’ “Yes.”

“You were very young when you were turned.” The mouth was now turned down.

“I am the newest Cyber.”

“Poor kid. Bet you didn’t even get a chance to play with toys or suck on a bottle.” He sighed and pushed a button. The rear door opened. “I claim you.”

The automaton entered the vehicle. “How may I address you?”

“You’re too young to call me by my first name. Let’s give ‘Dad’ a try.”

“Very well, Dad.”

“What do I call you?”

“I am Cyber 249-30.”

The man’s lips curled down more. “You don’t have a name?”

“You may give me a new moniker.”

“Then I will call you Child until I find a name that suits you.” The man revved the motor, and the two sped away to the Dictator’s city.

Child. The database told him the most common synonym was a word pronounced “kid.” “I would prefer the synonym of ‘Kid.’”

Dad nodded as he showed his identification at the city gate. “Kid. Fair enough.” As the gate opened, Dad glanced at Kid. “Kid, do me a favor.”

“Yes, Dad?”

The man’s mouth turned up again. “No more hitchhiking.”

This story shouldn’t have been written… but I wrote it anyway. 

This story was written by Stephanie Moran, a friend of the site. 

The Kid’s Guide to Hitchhiking (Brandon’s version)

What follows is a description of pertinent information catalogued in this packet. For further details, see copies of documents and photos included in the packet.

ITEM 1: A MISSING PERSON’S REPORT

MISSING PERSON’S REPORT

Name: Jason Stephenson

Alias/Street name/Nickname: Jase

Race: Caucasian

Age: 15

Date of birth: 4/26/1999

Last Seen By: Samantha Stephenson, mother

Last Seen Date: Friday, 8/1/2014

Last Seen Time: Approx. 8:30 a.m.

Missing Person Reported by: Samantha Stephenson

<additional biographical data listed on actual report, attached>

REPORTING PERSON’S NARRATIVE (Brief narrative of the facts surrounding the missing person report): Jason was reported missing by his mother, Mrs. Samantha Stephenson. Mrs. Stephenson reports that Jason has been acting withdrawn and secretive for some time. When confronted, Jason either becomes belligerent and shuts himself up in his room, or laughs and passes it off as being preoccupied with school matters. On the day of his disappearance Jase was leaving late for school and was scolded by his mother. He never reported to class.

Jason disappeared between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. central standard time on August 1 and has been missing for approximately two days. Jase is described as a Caucasian male with shaggy, wavy brown hair that covers his ears. He is approximately five-foot and eleven inches in height and has green eyes. He was last seen wearing a green shirt depicting the “Legend of Zelda” video game logo, khaki cargo shorts, and flip-flops.

Jase does not appear to have any scars, tattoos, or noticeable birth marks. He was last seen carrying an army fatigue patterned backpack on his shoulder, and a surgical mask and a bag of raw asparagus in his hands.

*****

ITEM 2: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farraday

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Tuesday, August 5

Message: Hey Mike. I’m going over this missing person’s report for the Stephenson kid when wouldn’t you know it, I see Boltman come walking in with a camo backpack just like the one described in the report. They found it stashed by the creek near his house, so I figure it must be his. All it had in it was a notebook with just a few pages of writing. I had Boltman take some pictures and he should be bringing them over to you now. Weird stuff. Are all the kids into this crap these days?

Regards, John.

*****

ITEM 3: PHOTOGRAPHS OF HANDWRITTEN TEXT IN NOTEBOOK, TRANSCRIBED HERE. SEE PHOTOS.

Alright, kid, here’s the deal: no matter what your parents or your teacher or that professor who talked on the documentary have to say about it, there is such a thing as time travel. And yes, it is possible for even a kid like you to hitchhike his way across the Stream. But if you’re going to do so, you have to know the rules.

1 – The consequences of your actions are yours to live with. This is the most important thing for you to get your head around if you’re going to hitchhike through time. There’s no guy in a phone booth who’s going to show up and fix your problems, nor some crazy haired scientist in a fancy car. It’s you. And call it karma, call it cause and effect, call it God, call it what you like, but whenever you mess around in the timestream, it has a way of coming back to you. So make sure you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it before you do it.

2 – Bring your own food. Seriously. You do not want to know what happens when you eat food from a time period your system can’t handle.

3 – Bring a mask. A standard hospital mask is okay. Actually, people will stare at you far less than you think. Or you can head to any time after 2267 when everyone started wearing the invisible body shields (but don’t look for them after 2584, they became unnecessary). Similar to rule 2, you don’t want to pick up the Spanish Flu or the plague or something. Watch what you touch, too.

4 – Don’t take rides from people who don’t look human. Chances are they come from after 3176 when major body modification became standard. It isn’t just the human appearance that went out of style, if you know what I mean.

5 – Always eat asparagus before you go. Maybe mix it up a little and eat some even when you’re not going, though, or else your parents might get suspicious. Unless they’re in on it, then it’s no big deal. Either way, you’ll need the sulfur for the jumps, so eat it, and bring some with you. Don’t worry about the smell when you go to the bathroom, that’s normal.

6 – Don’t sweat causality. Whatever you’ve read, there’s no such thing as a paradox that destroys the universe. Or at least, the universe is still kickin’ and I’ve done plenty to mess it up. And as far as I can tell, I’ve never prevented my own existence. Just don’t treat the world like a playground, alright? We all have to live here too.

7 – Don’t kill famous people. See rule 6 above. The world isn’t your playground. And it’s easy to get lost if you make big changes.

8 – Clean up after yourself. It’s pretty normal for there to be anomalies here and there; people who remember things that didn’t happen (I laughed so hard when I first heard “Mandela Effect”), anachronous artifacts (ever hear of the antikythera mechanism?) and so on. Just try not to leave a trail of mysteries in your wake. It’s not the problem the theorists of the 21st century or those Synchronism activists of the 31st century make it out to be, but it’s a little like leaving trash on the trail of Mount Everest. It just makes it worse for the rest of us.

9 – Don’t tell other people about your jump spot. It’s no big deal, I just think people should have to discover them for themselves. Kinda like solving a mystery book, you know?

10 – Never talk to a guy named Michael Swan. Never. Ever.

11 – Always remember the exact time, date, and weather when you left. All else fails, you get yourself a Stream Almanac, you look it up and show it to whoever you’re riding with. 99 times out of 100 they’ll get you home.

12 – Have fun. It’s supposed to be an adventure, right? So live it. Chase your dreams, kid.

13 – Almost forgot: Don’t ask anyone to take you back more than ten thousand years or so. No one will, and they’ll probably get mad at you. And if they’re willing, they probably aren’t trustworthy. Or they’re crazy. Probably from going back too far. Stick to know history, is all I’m saying.

14 – Came back to add this, hope you see it: Don’t lose this notebook.

*****

ITEM 4: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Wednesday, August 6

Message: Did you pull that backpack out of evidence? I wanted to look at it again and when I went down there Bronte said she couldn’t find it. No signature from anyone pulling it. What gives?

*****

ITEM 5: A PHOTOGRAPH

Description: A man, approximately six feet tall, with shaggy, wavy brown hair, wearing a surgical mask and a green t-shirt, walking in a downtown area. The two towers of the World Trade Center pre-9/11 can be seen in the background.

*****

ITEM 6: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Monday, August 11

Message: Hi Mike. I’m not sure if this is just someone’s idea of a joke, or what I’m supposed to think here. I opened an envelope and out came this picture. That’s it. No note. Made a couple copies, went down to evidence to turn it in. Asked Bronte about the backpack, and she had no idea what I was talking about. Didn’t remember us looking for it last week, but there it was in the lockup. I had her pull it out for me and it was just like I remember it, except for this: the last time I looked at that flipping notebook there were only thirteen of those “rules” written in it, but now there are fourteen. Last one reads: “Came back to add this, hope you see it: Don’t lose this notebook.” Can you look in your photos just to see if that’s in there? I feel like I’m losing my mind here.

Regards, John.

*****

ITEM 7: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Tuesday, August 12

Message: This has to all be one big stupid joke, Mike. I hope you’re not in on it, like it’s revenge for that time I put your car on the roof. I just talked with the Stephenson lady. She claims she doesn’t have a son, and never filed a report. Also, the backpack is gone. Again.

*****

ITEM 8: AN EMAIL

From: Det. John Farrady

To: Cap. Michael Swan

Sent: Tuesday, August 12

Message: Captain, I am sorry to trouble you, but there seems to be some kind of paperwork confusion here, or perhaps someone is playing a practical joke. I have here on my desk a missing person’s report with a variety of evidence, most of which is signed by myself. However, I did not file this report, nor am I familiar with this evidence. As far as I can tell, the people mentioned in the report don’t exist, or at least, they don’t live in the Denver area. When you get a chance, please stop by my desk and we can sort this out.

Sincerely, Det. Farrady

*****

*****

Begin Recording: This is Captain Michael Swan of the Denver Police Department, and I am submitting this packet to… whoever you people are, and I hope you’ll take it away from me and never let me see it again. This packet was left sitting on an empty desk in our department yesterday, with no indication who prepared it. All I know is that we have never, to my knowledge, had a “Detective John Farrady” working for our department, nor has my car ever been put on the roof. None of the evidence listed in the reports is in our lockup. As far as I’m concerned, this is either a practical joke or some government business that I want nothing to do with. The only reason I’m bothering is because a guy who identified himself as Jason Stephenson over the phone gave me your address, told me to record this message, and to mail it all to you. So here you go. Enjoy. (END RECORDING)

***********

This story shouldn’t have been written… but I wrote it anyway.