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CONTENTS 4

Too Much Memory LIN LUNE

22

bionic woman EMMA ELOISE HUSSEY

5

a mis-read title BRUCE KAUFFMAN

23

Baby Boy KYLE CLIMANS

6

I once served as a drone-enabled videographer LARRY THACKER

25

Programmed to Love ADELAIDE CLARE ATTARD

27

The Cloud JOAN MCNERNEY

28

What Young Men Do JOHN TAVARES

33

Tinker Toy Heart

35

Shape the Square JOSÉ DE JESÚS CAMACHO MEDINA

36

An Experiment on the Fringe SHANNON L. CHRISTIE

7

The Wait LUIS CUAUHTÉMOC BERRIOZÁBAL

9

Digital Camera BOB MACKENZIE

10

if/in #109 DARREN DEMAREE

11

Can’t We Just Get an Algorithm to Do This for Us? HOWIE GOOD

14

We Die Dirty JOHN DORROH

37

15

Cradle LINDA MUSSELL

Skyline Corrosion EUGENE CORNACCHIA

38

Project Icarus JUSTIN TUIJL

16

FEATURE

ALYSSA COOPER

The Singularity CHRIS LAWTON

Front Cover ALLY ZLATAR 2 FREE LIT MAGAZINE

Back Cover

SHANNON L. CHRISTIE


FREE LIT M A G A Z I N E Technology Editor-in-Chief Ashley Newton

Literary Editor Eunice Kim

Staff Writers

Kyle Climans, Alyssa Cooper, Bruce Kauffman

Contributors

Adelaide Clare Attard, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Andrew Case, Shannon L. Christie, Eugene Cornacchia, Darren Demaree, John Dorroh, Meg Freer, Howie Good, Emma Eloise Hussey, Chris Lawton, Alexander Limarev, Lin Lune, Bob MacKenzie, Joan McNerney, José de Jesús Camacho Medina, Linda Mussell, John Tavares, Larry Thacker, Justin Tuijl, Ally Zlatar

Colophon

Free Lit Magazine is a digital literary magazine committed to the accessibility of literature for readers and the enrichment of writing for writers. Its mission is to form an online creative community by encouraging writers, artists, and photogrphers to practice their passion in a medium that anyone can access and appreciate.

It’s all around us. Now more than ever before, technology dictates the way we live. It has the power to change lives and ruin them. When used for good, technology becomes a wonderful asset; in the wrong hands, it has the power to destroy us–literally. We see that in Justin Tuijl’s Project Icarus at the end of this issue. These days, we’re buried in our phones, hard at work on computers that do everything for us, and leisurely spend time on devices and game consoles. We dive into the world of virtual reality for new experiences although the “old” ones are still an option. Doctors and scientists rely on technology for important advancements, but on the other side, world leaders can easily start a nuclear war with it. No matter how you choose to take advantage of technology–and whether or not you accept it as part of our present and future–be smart in how you use it instead of relying on it to do all the thinking for you.

Ashley Newton Editor-in-Chief

Contact

editor@freelitmagazine.com

Next Issue The Law Issue March 2019

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Too Much Memory LIN LUNE

a world with too much memory has no memory at all sending transactions of eternity get less viral with each call the semblance of self identity has been copied into a wall so be frozen in the process of remembering new memories and old news fake truths self feedback redundancies it’s killing us it’s killing me so unplug and wake up to another digital reality watching the watchers on the other side of the screen

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a mis-read title BRUCE KAUFFMAN

i read the title of an article “How AI Can Run the World” this morning i read ‘Run’ as ‘Ruin’ didn’t need to read the article even after i discovered my mistake AI, eh? when spell-check can’t even figure out my word in an email or word.doc or corrects it to something-unrelated else when we become a world set in algorithms never always right just part of the time and we settle for that become but a number in it when at our fingertips we hold with a click on a computer a full wealth of information and imbedded in it a full wealth of disinformation as well the age old yin yang and we not the ability to fully decipher which is which

when the distraction of a cellphone’s light coming on will distance us from those sitting around us from the real and bigger world outside when the feel of that phone against our cheek becomes softer warmer more comforting than the flesh of another cheek in compassionate embrace like the oldest of us slowly losing our sight so gradually that we don’t even notice we now becoming robotic no longer wearing our own flesh but instead the instructions of lights and beeps and programmed demands

and yeah the more i think about it the more i believe my reading of a title was right.

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I once served as a drone-enabled videographer LARRY THACKER

at the ritual gathering of a deceased human woman. The “receiving of friends” at a funeral home was the assignment. I would mix with the crowd come to greet the grievers and view the displayed body, though obviously not one of them, recording intimate conversations with family and friends, but when needed, when I noticed opportunities, I could detach my head, float about it all to catch some nicely artistic viewpoints I’d taught myself over time. But here’s the point, really, and to answer your question for why I voted in favor of hurrying The Singularity along and the subsequent takeover: It was the poor dead woman’s little hands. They were bruised so darkly blue. Both of them. Resting, as a visitor might have expressed it, standing patiently, waiting in line to hug the daughter and sons, like sweet and tired little frail birds about her thinly draped waist. I think I caused a scene, hovering too long, curious, above the open casket, her prone lifelessness, the color hinting some stilled blood once pulsed lively through her, just two days before, a jab at what we’re not. These funeral men, these self-assigned representatives of how the living once treated the dead, hadn’t taken a moment’s time to smudge a little make-up over the woman’s hands. Even a droid knows how awkward it can already be to wait and walk up to view a body, the great reminder of oblivion, let alone notice hands juxtaposed so drastically out of neglect. Yes, I paused too long, feeling sorry for the dead for they can no longer feel sorry for themselves. And yes, The Singularity relieved all of them of such potential faulty scenarios. At least we’ve not made such mistakes, yes? Since laying their billions to rest. A little make-up here and there doesn’t cost much. It’s the least we can do.

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The Wait

LUIS CUAUHTÉMOC BERRIOZà BAL It does not want to wait the way it has waited for many things in life. The tedious waiting, the anticipation kind of waiting, and the calm waiting for simple things and the difficult things that only hope could ever bring. It is all out of patience. It is determined, stubborn, It cannot wait one more hour. This heart cannot wait. This heart has already disposed of the concept of time. It wants what it wants now, not soon. It will not wait for the sun. It has elbowed time in the face and cannot wait for days for love.

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BOB MACKENZIE

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Digital Camera

BOB MACKENZIE I was never a composer crafting words smooth as classic music awash with subtle intricacies delicate as poems compositions attempted succeeded felt hollow missing a centre to hold fell apart before I read or wrote camera in hand recorded my world what I saw heard remembered camera images I see my ten digits describe write type inscribe my world remembered

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if/in #109

DARREN DEMAREE slant your gnawing america america america this consumption of our chests has aged all of us terribly spit out the hair america america america we need more reeds & less beaches

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Can’t We Just Get an Algorithm to Do This for Us? HOWIE GOOD

A man walks onto an abandoned railroad bridge and announces, “I’m going to kill myself.” Maybe it’s a joke, a false alarm. People stop every day on snowmobiles to look at him. This goes on long enough for you to lose interest. Then, in the middle of nothing, a crying baby appears on the ground, but can’t be approached or touched. You feel a lot of things falling on you, which is to say, stuff like this is always happening, and there’s no reason to think the spots of blood on your sweater and undershirt have varied much over time.

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ALEXANDER LIMAREV

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We Die Dirty JOHN DORROH

1. Portland train at 80 mph in a 30-mph curve and technology is supposed to take care of shit like that but it doesn’t, because humans suck at being humans, tossing their skin into the night like loose lizardry. I am finished with the molting and sensing heat with my tongue. Let the robots take care of that. 2. Man standing on the side of the highway taking a picture of a pond with a reflection of a late-afternoon setting sun. Salmon and pink clouds make waves that look like commas. Smashed by an 18-wheeler, first his car and then by a flying door off his car, onto the man’s back who is taking pictures of peace to share with whoever could slow down long enough to take a look. 3. He’s having virtual hot sex like he hasn’t had in six months, has a heart attack, an aneurism or something like an aneurism, bleeds out onto the white sheets. His lover calls 911 and then the coroner asks who last saw him alone. 4. I posted a picture of a painting of a giant tongue of beef which was well hung in the Art Institute of Chicago, and surely they, should know what qualifies as art. Right? Dead meat, pink and void of words. Silence slides off it surface like rain drops off an old metal roof. People think they need to know how it died, its history but they don’t. It’s not that easy, I say, to understand this sort of art. Nor technology.

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Cradle

LINDA MUSSELL Snatch the phone from the babe, Let’s corrupt them another day. No chance to hide it’s all online, Share each fibre, down to the bloodline. Branches to veins, Your children and next, Are not yours to train.

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FEATURE STORY The Singularity CHRIS LAWTON

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“Hey, honey? Would you want to live forever?” Dianne looked up at him from the book she was reading. In the background Grey’s Anatomy was playing on the television, but neither of them had been paying attention. “Live forever?” she asked. “Yeah,” said Eli, pointing to the tablet he’d been reading. “There’s this article here about The Singularity. It’s um…” he paused, shrugging. “Like, there’s this whole thing about machines becoming smarter than humans, and blah blah blah.” Dianne raised an eyebrow. “That sounds horrifying. Skynet.” Eli rolled his eyes. “Sure, sure. But anyway, there’s this other interesting part about how technology would advance to the point that you could actually live forever. Right? Like, human DNA would eventually be replaced by synthetic DNA, and all of a sudden, bam. You live forever. Doesn’t that sound cool?” Dianne frowned. “No. Not at all. Why would anyone want to live forever?” “Think about it. You can live forever. Like, all of those things you could do. Things that you would never have enough time in your normal life to ever get around to.” “Okay, fine,” said Dianne. “What are all the things you would do?” Eli shrugged. “I dunno. I mean, anything? I could finally read all those books I’ve been meaning to read?” She smiled, shaking her head. “Eli, I’ve never once seen you read a book in all the time we’ve been together. What makes you think that getting rid of a deadline would change all of that?” Eli chuckled to himself. She had a point. “Okay, okay. But what about something else? I could learn every instrument and become the best musician ever. Or we could go visit every city we’ve ever wanted to see. Travel the world, stay in places as long as we want, and then learn all that the world has to offer. If we didn’t have to worry about dying…” He trailed off. The universe was an untapped wealth of knowledge, a well of limitless knowledge. If you could live forever somehow, wasn’t it all worth exploring? The options were limitless once you negated the natural timeline of human life. Dianne put the book she’d been reading face down on her lap and turned to him. “Okay. You can learn everything. Uncover all of the world’s mysteries and all that. Read all the books. Then what?” “What do you mean?” “Well, I mean just that. Then what?” Eli couldn’t answer, and when he didn’t, Dianne continued. “Think about it, Eli. You learn everything. You’ve travelled to the moon and back. All of a sudden you’re much more intelligent, enlightened and worldly. But how far does that get you? Like, what are we talking about here? Are you still just, like, you? Everything about you stays the same because you just can’t age? Do you just go in to the doctor’s every few months and get your liver replaced or new eyeballs put in or something?” Eli shook his head. “Well obviously, it’s all just theory and stuff. I mean, I guess it could work like that. Maybe. But even more simply than that is the other theory that you could just upload your consciousness into like a robot or something.” Dianne blinked. “A robot? So you are talking about Skynet.” He couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah, okay, Terminator stuff. But I’m not specifically talking about robots taking over the world. Um, I mean it’s more like if in The Terminator all the robots were really just human beings in big metal bodies. And I’m not sure that’s the best option, if I had to guess. But yeah, sure, why not? If you could just live in a robot body or something? All you would have to do is get an oiling once in a while. Or replace your batteries or something. That’s all. Wouldn’t that be pretty sweet?” “No, Eli. I don’t think that would be sweet at all. A robot body? That could live forever? VOLUME 5, ISSUE 1 - THE TECHNOLOGY ISSUE 17


That all sounds like a nightmare.” “Really?” “Yeah. Absolutely. I mean…” Dianne stopped, frowning. She had that look she had when she was thinking about something, and it was a feature that he found wildly attractive. He always loved that face, because it meant she was about to say something intelligent or profound that he had never considered. After a moment, she cleared her throat. “So there was this book I read once. I forget who wrote it. Someone from like Sweden or Norway or something like that. It was called Let The Right One In. Anyway, it was about vampires.” “Vampires?” “Yeah, vampires. But not like Twilight vampires or anything like that. Like, actual, traditional vampires at least.” “Okay... And?” “Well, in the book, the author goes on to explain the reason why these mystical, immortal creatures aren’t just hanging around all the time. Like, there’s a reason why nobody actually sees vampires anymore. It’s not because they’re all secretive and hidden under ancient mansions or anything like that. There aren’t hundreds of vampires hidden away in some cave performing cabals of the dark arts. You’d think that if a vampire could live forever, there would naturally be a bunch of them all over. Frankly, the world would be absolutely rotten with vampires.” Eli, in spite of himself, was intrigued. “Okay. So then why aren’t there more of them around?” Dianne shrugged. “Well, after a while, they just kind of go crazy.” “What do you mean?” “Well, after a while, all of these people that got turned into vampires finally realize what it means to be truly immortal, and most of them can’t deal with it anymore. So eventually they actually just all end up killing themselves. The thought of immortality drives them insane.” Eli shrugged. “Well, even so. Wouldn’t you want to live with me forever?” Dianne smiled wryly. “Actually, I was kind of looking forward to the whole ‘til death do us part’ thing.” *** That night, Eli dreamt. In his dream, he was standing on a beach, overlooking the ocean. Above, the sky was a steel blanket, an ashen wash that diluted the horizon and looked cold and empty. The ocean was a roiling mass of black water, impossibly deep and alien. Nothing lived in those waters, and if anything did, it was slumbering and ancient. In that strange way that dreams operated, Eli fully understood several facts without context or history. The first was that he had been standing there a very long time. He couldn’t say how long, but it had been an impossible length to determine. Had it been years? Or perhaps even centuries? There was no way to tell. Further, he was completely immobile, unable to budge any part of his body even the slightest. His legs and arms were covered in mummified seaweed, remnants of a changing tide that had occurred time immemorial. He could not breath, he could not speak, and he could not feel. He was dimly aware that he had sunken nearly to his waist in the sand, years of shifting and weight forcing his immobile body down into the wet, cold earth. The second thing he was aware of was that his body would never falter. His skin, his bones, everything had been replaced with synthetic parts, and he was effectively immortal. He was covered in a thick layer of dust and filth, and most of his clothing had long since deteriorated to rags, but his body, his physical self, was completely intact. Years 18 FREE LIT MAGAZINE


and years ago, he had opted in to replacing his body with synthetics, a means of extending human life far, far beyond its normal threshold. At some point science and technology had advanced to the point where humans no longer had to worry about aging or death, and he had immediately bought in. And yet… And yet nothing worked. Something had happened along the way, and while he was more or less indestructible, nothing worked any more. Was it a technical issue? He couldn’t tell. All he knew was that at some point his functionality had shut down. A shortage in computing components in his body, or a lack of internal power. The only things that remained operational were his eyes, which he had a little control over, and his mind. The final, most horrifying thing he was aware of was that Dianne was there on the beach, as well. He could see her, in fact, if he shifted his gaze to the left. Only unlike him, Dianne’s physical shutdown had left her in a far more precarious predicament. She had at some point toppled over, and was laying stiffly on her side, protruding from the surface of the sand at a diagonal angle. Most of her body had been submerged in the sand, years and years of shifting tides and natural erosion forcing her frame deep into the earth. Only her head and one shoulder were still visible, her neck rigid and jutting from the pale sand at a diagonal angle. Her face was emotionless, her eyes fixated on a spot a few feet before her, her mouth slightly ajar. Her hair was a tangled mop, and Eli could see a small crab scuttling across her scalp. She hadn’t blinked in decades, or shown any signs of life as far as he could remember. Their upgraded, synthetic bodies had eventually shut down for unknown reasons, and now they had remained here on this empty beach, and had been for hundreds of years. He had not seen another human in as long as he could recall, and for all he knew people simply no longer existed on the planet. Both he and Dianne had both bought into a new technology which allowed them to live forever, without considering the ramifications. Now, on this empty planet, they remained for eternity, vessels of a time lost to history. Eli wanted to scream her name, to run over to Dianne and pull her from the sands, to hold her again. To hear her speak his name. He wanted to know whether she could even see him, if she was aware of what was happening. He wanted, in some small degree, to be dead. To end this nightmare. Anything but this. The worst part, the thing that had caused him the most sorrow and dread, was that he didn’t even know if Dianne was still there. Was her conscious trapped in her body in the same way his was? Had she been stuck in her own personal hell for the last hundred years as he had? He couldn’t communicate with her, and she had stopped operating long ago, so there was no way to tell. Was she also trying to communicate to him? Was she aware of her surroundings? Had the endless life of being trapped with nothing but her own thoughts driven her insane, a madwoman left with nothing but her own nonsensical ramblings? Or had that part of her also finally given out? Had her consciousness, much like her physical form, fizzled into oblivion, leaving him alone with nothing but her memory and an ancient relic of an era long lost to time? *** Later the next morning, as they were getting ready for work, Eli looked across the bathroom at his wife Dianne. She was wearing her baggy pajama pants and brushing her teeth in front of the mirror. Her hair was a little unkempt, tied back in a simple ponytail. She stopped her brushing at looked at him through her reflection in the mirror. “Umm-Hmm?” she mumbled through a mouth full of tooth-paste. Streaks of grey had begun to show in her hair, right near the roots. Eli knew she dyed her hair, and never once mentioned that he’d noticed the greys before. Surely, she must have VOLUME 5, ISSUE 1 - THE TECHNOLOGY ISSUE 19


known that he was aware. Small wrinkles had begun to form in the corners of her eyes over the last few years, barely visible, but much more prominent when she smiled. The lines around her mouth had become ever slightly more pronounced as well. She was getting older, much in the same way he was. He’d gained a few pounds around the midsection recently, had definitely started to grow in grey hairs of his own, and was just slightly less spritely in the mornings. His body wasn’t quite what it used to be anymore. They were both aging. He smiled at her. “You’re beautiful.” She rolled her eyes, her toothbrush hanging from her mouth. “Please,” she said, although it ended up sounding more like pleesh. “You know what?” he said. She only regarded him. Eli smiled. “I can’t wait to get old with you.”

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MEG FREER

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bionic woman

EMMA ELOISE HUSSEY it is a chasm in here; what an infinite void in the organs of my machinery. he upholds that i lack emotion, he persists in my icy interior; but i know that he fails to thaw me. entangled in my workings, in my wires; holding the inability to fully fathom my mechanism. i lay him down in the soft belief that one day he may, in some cold distortion. undone in his desire to analyze my components; all efforts in dissection thrust at full force. he maintains that i am translucent, merely an exposition of my innards, and yet he struggles against my surface. some power within my system leaves me unattainable, unavailable to his finite existence. i feel he knows this his warmth, punishable by mortal fate, and i adore him for it.

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Baby Boy

KYLE CLIMANS

I

t was the first day of school, and everyone was trying to hide the fact that they were all terribly nervous. As they waited for the transporter to get back online, Jenny and Charlie tried to hide their nervousness before their son. It was bad enough that Joseph was so insecure about his first day at public school, he didn’t need to know how upset his own parents were. Joseph had no idea about the principal’s concerns about his newest student, and Jenny wanted to keep it that way. She didn’t want her boy to know about the shouting, the arguments, and the tears. “He’s special! It was my decision! My baby boy!” Jenny had shrieked over and over again, ignoring the principal’s explanations. Unlike Jenny, the principal had been cool, mechanical, repeating the same bullshit that she called “reason”. Jenny had wanted to scratch that bitch’s eyes out right then and there, and very well might have if Charlie hadn’t led her out of the room. What made her so angry was that she had fought this battle from the day that little Joseph had been born. She hadn’t even been able to have one single day of happiness with her baby boy before she noticed the sidelong glances of the nurses and doctors, whispering amongst each other. The glances and whispers had happened ever since she’d first gone in for sonograms. He was limited in his movements, they pointed out; his left foot had grown malformed inside her womb, as the doctor had repeatedly warned. She had worried about it at first, as her previous children had shown signs of problems with their feet, and she had spent many tearful nights praying and wondering whether the clubfeet were a sign from God. However, she decided that he wouldn’t let her become pregnant if she wasn’t meant to know the joys of motherhood. So, she had tried again and again, determined to have a child of her own. She had gone to different doctors every time, but no matter what, they all urged the same thing; allow for the Oshiro-Dimov Treatment. It was a simple procedure now, far advanced from older, primitive treatments, or so they said. Nanobots would be injected into her through a simple syringe, and they would be set to remodify his genetic structure to correct any flaws or risks of illnesses. The very idea had made her once scream and storm out of the doctor’s office. To think that she would let any robot go inside her and change her son before he was even born? As if her womb wasn’t a fitting place to raise children? What was next? Incubators? And now, untampered and wholly human, Joseph was a sweet boy, her precious child. He was perfect just as how God had made him, and how dare anyone suggest otherwise? They had already typed in the address of the school into the transporter, but because everyone else was travelling there, it was some time before they were able to travel there. Eventually, it was their turn; all three of the family stepped inside and waited for the process to take effect. It was over in an instant, but Jenny always felt real terror every time she used it. It was so unnatural, so alien. What if some computer made an error and she was blotted out of existence? It had taken much persuasion by Charlie to make her use it, let alone allowing their son to step inside it. Even she had to admit, though, that it had saved them a fortune on travel. So, she would swallow her revulsion and her fear, for now. The school was crowded with children and their parents, all the chatter drowning out VOLUME 4, ISSUE 6 - THE SEASONS ISSUE 23


discernable words. Jenny felt disoriented as she and her family stepped out of the transporter, and she clung onto Joseph’s hand to steady herself. Charlie went off to go register Joseph’s barcode with the school. Everyone had them now, on the backs of their hands. Somehow, every barcode was completely unique, with only the computers knowing what everyone’s exact code was. This made it impossible for anyone’s identity to be stolen, but it still irked Jenny to see the black lines on her skin, marking her like she was an object in a store. How trustworthy were those computers? Who was making sure they didn’t rise up against their masters? “Mommy! Where do we go from here?” Joseph asked. His childish lisp caused him to emphasize the “f” sound in his question. Jenny smiled and pointed, “We’re still early, baby, let’s go to the play area!” Joseph gave a little pout, “Mom! Don’t call me baby!” Jenny sighed; she did need to stop that; he was already seven years old, after all. But it was a name she called him without thinking, it would be so hard for her to stop. He would always be her baby boy. They went to the play area, where all the children were eagerly running around inside the force-field protected square, watched over by their smiling parents. Jenny began to get nervous; she recognized some of the parents. One particular parent struck her with a jolt of rage; Bianca had gone for the Oshiro-Dimov Treatment when she had been told there was a risk of scoliosis to her child. Jenny noticed the little girl talking to Joseph and was tempted to tell him not to play with that freak, but she didn’t want to give these parents any ammunition to use against her. She would show them, those fucking androids. Freaks of nature, all of them, half-robot and worse. What did it matter that they would suffer no physical and mental illnesses? It was yet another disgusting defiance of God’s will and a colossal act of arrogance to assume that humankind could better themselves without faith or respect for a higher power. Joseph turned and smiled, waving shyly when he noticed his mother still there. Jenny ignored her angry thoughts as she looked at his crooked smile, feeling her heart would melt all over again. Her baby boy looked so happy to be there, and she hoped that being around all these freaks wouldn’t corrupt him. She, his mother, would ensure that nobody would ever take him away from her and warped his mind or his body, no matter what it cost her. Because he was her baby boy, a truly human child. She and he were more human than anyone else in this whole school.

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Programmed to Love ADELAIDE CLARE ATTARD

We have exchanged whole words for abbreviations An abbreviated society I long for days I have never experienced Long for love letters that never arrived Let alone were written Long for the days when chivalry was not masked behind hollow promises When my sister asks me what she should say to the guy she’s never met, yet spent hours with I find myself pushing the words “don’t text him back too fast” Harder and harder under my tongue But I don’t have any better advice to give You want attention, but not too much I would trade a “here” text for a knock on my door, car idling like our minds in the driveway I would trade my mother’s Blundstone box full of love letters for my deleted dating apps I would trade all of my “ily’s” for roses and spend time watering each one of them, instead of Scrolling Scrolling Scrolling I would trade my blue light for sunshine My blue light for the crescent moon My digital for analog My FaceTime for face time My online presence for physical presence I think all I need is More listening and less consumption More 100% and less 20% More social And less media Maybe our only chance at survival is to go back to the way it once was It’s such a shame This is how we’ve been programmed To love

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ANDREW CASE

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The Cloud

JOAN MCNERNEY Is this a new limbo? If I place my poetry in “The Cloud”, perhaps it could never reach cyber paradise? Don’t you think a few of my poems are heavenly? Do you think any will be condemned to everlasting flames? Can you help my poetry through cyber space? Do sad poems make “The Cloud” cry and rain? Do happy poems cause “The Cloud” to burst with sun? Do scary poems create lightening? My understanding of “The Cloud” is a bit cloudy. Please help.

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What Young Men Do JOHN TAVARES

T

he waiting room was dark, comfortable, even luxurious, but there was no coffee, no caffeine, and she didn’t have time to stop off at the neighbourhood Bouncing Bean. Melissa had a craving for coffee, but she realized she would have to wait to satiate that desire. She had received her latest assignment with placidity and equanimity, although, secretly, she was quite excited to be back at work, relieved to put herself in action on what seemed like a particularly important project. In fact, she would have been lying to herself if she didn’t admit she was happy, indeed delighted. After all, she was back at work. Moreover, if executed according to plan, she would be making money, plenty of cash, maybe too much. The assignment arose out of a dispute and rebellion, an uprising of sorts: The tenants of the shopping mall were outraged over the latest lease and rent increases initiated and instituted by the elderly, aristocratic-mannered millionaire real estate mogul and heir who owned the huge mall. A few small business owners renting space in the mall had countered with their version of frontier justice, plotting to engage in vigilante-type action. But those renegades weren’t getting their hands dirty. Melissa entered the picture when she received the assignment through certain contacts in the mob, an organized crime family. In fact, she had received the instructions and particulars from certain of the organized crime group’s contractors and subcontractors from whom in the past she had received a fair amount of business. For this particular assignment, Melissa, who, even at the age of thirty, was the youngest person, man or woman, she knew in the trade, had assumed the identity of a public relations student. She posed as a recent university graduate, a mass communications major, applying for a summer job as a manager’s assistant, specializing in event planning, in the corporate communications department of the real estate company that managed the mall, which would easily bring her within range of the old canker sore. Posing as somebody entering the spin doctoring profession, she just couldn’t help but wonder how, in actuality and real life, the public relations department of the corporation that owned and operated the shopping mall would handle the corporate communications crisis she figured her actions would engender and deliver to them, unless she tripped—through an error in planning, or a sudden unexpected development arose abruptly. Surely, she assumed, these public relations personnel must have contingency plans for this type of occurrence and crisis. She also couldn’t remember the last time she had worn such formal attire, which had, in fact, required a visit to the clothing store and then tailors’ adjustments for a custom fitting, preparations she would never have undertaken unless the remuneration was so lucrative. The last time she, over six feet tall, lean and angular, dressed so spiffily, she concluded, must have been at her sister’s wedding more than a decade ago, when she was just a young piker, uninvolved in just about anything, a lost soul. Now she sat in the reception area of the offices of the mall’s management and the administration, which included the offices of its parent company, a real estate holding company. In this sterile waiting area, crossing and uncrossing her smooth gleaming legs, she sat checking e-mail and social media updates on her laptop computer, from which she would send the coded instructions and signals to the device connected to her laptop. This component, which might have been mistaken for an external antennae to improve the connection and reception of internet wireless signals, would send out a brief, powerful burst of the electromagnetic waves, which should have a range under fifty meters, 28 FREE LIT MAGAZINE


which would, if everything went according to plan, send controlling and regulating signals from a pacemaker into a chaotic pattern, disrupting its regulating activity. In fact, if the device worked according to its design and the overall plan, the beating of her heart should gradually increase to an explosively fast rate, in the form of one of the worst kinds of tachycardia, at which point, her cardiovascular system, overtaxed, out of control, should collapse. After this vicious bout of tachycardia, Melissa mistakenly speculated, the power supply for the pacemaker would overload, the pacemaker would also completely cease functioning, as long as her original software and the electronic component, which she had bought off the rack from an electronic discount and computer supplier and retailer, and which she had then had modified, functioned correctly, as advertised. The hour this Monday morning had turned to noon. From what she understood, having done some independent research of her own, the heiress would be gently unwrapping fast food packaging and nibbling into her ritualistic chicken salad sandwich. She would be sipping black coffee at this very moment, for the daily brunch at her desk, which would be only the first and last meal of her regular day, if she conformed with the schedule and routine she had followed religiously and rigorously for every single obsessive, overregulated day of the past forty years of her miserly, abstemious life, in which she had made every person near and close to her, or remotely attached or affected by it, miserable. According to the press clippings, newspaper articles, magazine profiles, and assorted media accounts, which Melissa had examined, she was a mousy and frugal eater, and insisted on maintaining a rigorous thinness. In fact, to Melissa, who occasionally visited the gym for weight training and played high school basketball, she looked emaciated and there were rumours she suffered from anorexia. Perhaps she had built her fortune from her savings in groceries. Then there were allegations she had poisoned her husband, the original real estate tycoon, rumours widely whispered following his sudden and unexpected death. In any event, the chairs in the reception area of the waiting room to the mall administration office were filled with a bevy of well-proportioned bodies, models auditioning for yet another fashion show in the mall, which the heir was personally supervising. Melissa was beginning to think she should stick around afterwards. She checked out the hard bodies, bodybuilder physiques, and spiked hair of the security guards and admired some of sexy shapes, the pleasing curves, breasts, midriffs, and buttocks of the young women. She also realized this kind of curiosity, admiring the men, or women, for that matter, might be risky and dangerous. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, thereby becoming more easily identifiable, recognizable, and memorable. She happened to glance at the front page of the newspaper laid to waste on the side table, something to divert the attention of any other poor soul that might have had an appointment or meeting with one of the company executives. What Young Men Do, the headline read on the bottom corner of the front page. What a perverse and strange headline, she couldn’t help thinking. Some of these layout designers and copy editors could contrive, sensationalise, and exercise quite an imagination in their scribbling and reporting, impelled to say just about any outrageous thing to get a catchy headline and the attention of a prospective paying customer. Then, because she had nothing better to do, Melissa started to worry. The configuration and appearance of her laptop computer might capture some unwanted attention from, say, a first responder well versed in computer technology. To give herself a break, she decided to divert her own attention, and check out the security guards, executives, and photographers as they eyeballed and ogled the models. Worrying at this stage wasn’t a productive emotion or healthy in smoothly executing an assignment. After a few smiles and gazes awkwardly VOLUME 5, ISSUE 1 - THE TECHNOLOGY ISSUE 29


and self-consciously met, she glanced at her wristwatch. But she was five minutes late in taking action, since she had become quite preoccupied with checking some of the bodies and angular faces of the security guards, photographers, executives, and fashion scouts as well as the auditioning models. Still, she pressed the keyboard commands that sent the signal and burst of electromagnetic and radio wave interference that should cause the chief’s pacemaker, if it was in range, to send signals that would dramatically and drastically speed up the human heart to which it was attached. These signals would cause the pacemaker to accelerate her heart, the beating and rhythm of which would become increasingly chaotic. The shock caused by the signals should eventually cause her heart to defibrillate and for her to go into cardiac arrest, if she hadn’t already lost consciousness and her cardiovascular system hadn’t already collapsed. From the waiting area of the ornate corporate offices, Melissa couldn’t help but think she had heard a literal thump in the nearby executive suite. Assuming she must be imagining things, though, she dismissed the notion. She did not imagine that what would occur next would be that the offices would be completely caught in confusion and chaos, as the area was mobbed by security guards and emergency personnel, paramedics, nurses, even a doctor, a few firefighters and police officers. A few beefy security guards overflowed into the waiting area of the offices. Melissa glanced about curiously, as might any onlooker caught in the midst of an unexpected minor catastrophe. Mall management personnel and executives roamed and milled about and ran like chickens with their heads cut off, attempting to have their monarch and matriarch revived and resuscitated. Melissa couldn’t help but scoff. These people were so excited, so agitated. She had wistfully assumed they would have been celebrating. Perhaps the celebration and partying would come later. They certainly didn’t know seem to know that the secret to successfully handling an emergency in part was to stay calm. Stay calm, please stay calm, she wanted to explain to everybody. In a few minutes, the corpse of the caustic heir, covered with an official looking orange blanket, was taken in a shiny gurney through some obscure back exit. Melissa couldn’t resist a self-satisfied smirk as she followed the proceedings by scrutinizing the image cast by the mirror the surface of his laptop monitor created. She gingerly put the laptop computer and attached peripherals away in its carrying case. Then she was tentatively approached by a public relations intern who kept consulting her clipboard, clenched like a security blanket. “Is your name Melissa?” she asked abruptly, curtly. “Yes, indeed, it is.” The intern pursed her lips. “I’m sorry to have to inform you, but due to unforeseen, unexpected, and mitigating circumstances your job interview—“ “Yes, that is the reason I’m here.” “Of course. Well, your job interview has been postponed. We’ll, ah, reschedule it as soon as we’ve sorted out a few matters.” “That’s unfortunate. I’m sorry about that.” The intern gazed at her peculiarly. “About what?” Melissa realized she might have aroused the women’s suspicions, but she did not want to come off as too disappointed; she wanted to strike the right note of sympathy and soberness. “It looks as if somebody got pretty sick pretty quickly.” “Yes. They certainly did.” “I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody. Once I suffered mononucleosis—“ “We’ll be sure to give you a call soon to let her know when your interview is rescheduled.” 30 FREE LIT MAGAZINE


For the second time, Melissa tugged to close the flaps for the case of her laptop computer. “Thank you. I’d appreciate that.” The intern stood in the doorway, clinging to the doorframe, now seemingly almost afraid that Melissa might haul her away. Melissa had not figured she had frightened her, but it appeared she had somehow done that inadvertently. Depending upon how she looked at it, she did indeed have good and sufficient reason to be afraid. To no one in particular, she muttered, “Oh well.” The intern gave her another peculiar look. “My father, who had a rather stoic, indifferent, and tight-fisted nature, was fond of that expression. You do have my current phone number and e-mail address?” Melissa persisted. “Yes,” she replied, as she guided Melissa to the door and partway through the confused mob crowding the reception area. “My resume.” Melissa handed the intern another bogus copy of her resume before she made her exit, her long bare legs attracting the gaze of a security guard and caretaker. Like a busy executive, she strode purposefully down the padded, plush corridor to the elevators, which she decided to take to the basement of the shopping mall. She understood some excellent shops and cafes were located in the first floor of the basement area of the huge, vast, and overpopulated shopping mall. Indeed, she managed to find a Bouncing Bean coffee bar. The name of the franchise was juvenile, she could not help thinking. Still, she ordered an extra-large serving of dark roast coffee. From behind the counter at the Bouncing Bean, Garrett had been glancing at the newspaper on the magazine and news-vending counter. There had to be a better way, he figured. This misery, boredom, and unhappiness had to stop. He was decidedly not in a hospitable, friendly, or even minimally polite mood. Even the newspaper headline annoyed and irked him. What Young Men Do? What kind of headline was that? What kind of article did that summarize? What new kind of news were the journalists inventing—what outlandish lifestyle or factitious trend were they purportedly spotting or sensationalizing. He curtly dismissed the headline of the newspaper at which he glanced and virtually snorted aloud: What Young Men Do. What a silly heading, he thought. He could not even imagine the subject of the article. With a sneer, he filled all the different carafes of the assorted roasts and flavors from the same oversized twenty-liter stainless steel pot of freshly brewed coffee and put aside that very special pot he was reserving for a special customer he had in mind. Garret supposed he should have blamed his problems and difficulties on his postsecondary education. Recently, he had been having an extremely difficult semester in this term of his psychopharmacology studies in the neuroscience program in which he was enrolled at the university. He would give the next smug and irritating bastard a slug of his latest, potent designer drug, as opposed to the minute dose, a fraction of the usual amount, he usually gave to the curt, abrupt customers who annoyed him: The busy shoppers who were rude, too infatuated with their latest overpriced shoes or shirt; the habitual, regular customers, unimaginative office workers, who moved and sounded like robots; the boring drudges, the penny-pinching, tight-fisted executives, oblivious to the lower classes around them, who never had the faintest inclination to tip the slightest gratuity, even if the service they received was prompt and courteous and they made several hundred thousand dollars a year; the new customers he plain disliked at first sight or loathed because of the way they dressed or looked at him. A select few, he decided, would be sent on a hallucinogenic and psychedelic ride they would fear or even cherish for the rest of their lives. Damn the consequences, Garret thought, even if he did commit his first—he actually could VOLUME 5, ISSUE 1 - THE TECHNOLOGY ISSUE 31


not bear the thought. If the worst thing happened, he doubted that they would ever perform an autopsy on the corpse, even if the death of a customer was sudden and unexpected. The whole world was filled with idiots and gullible incompetents. Even if worst came to worst and they weren’t sent on a mind warping trip they would remember for the rest of their life, and they didn’t suffer the consequences of a potential overdose, and entered the next realm, the ether, and authorities and officials did conduct an autopsy, he doubted they would perform one as comprehensive to include blood screening and toxicological studies that would be able to detect even a trace of his designer drug, never mind an overdose. And this tall, red-haired bitch who thought she was hot. He would administer the designer drug in her venti dark roast. And thank God it was a takeout. At least he would not have to worry about the bitch overdosing and tripping out in the café. Melissa took the extra-large coffee in its takeout cup up a floor to the source of all the excitement, the techno pop music, and the spectacular light show. Her excitement mounted at the strobes and variegated flashes from the designer fashion show. The models were sexy—unusually well-nourished and well-proportioned—wearing these leather and latex costumes, adorned and ornamented with chains and spiked heels, racy S&M-like outfits. Her enthusiasm grew as she made eyes contact with one of them on the runway and gently stroked the model’s calf. The model leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Unexpectedly, the coffee tasted extremely good. Sipping coffee, Melissa managed to get a closer look at the models prancing on stage, by pushing her way through the retail buyers, journalists, and photographers and past the banks of loudspeaker behind the front row seats aside the catwalk. Even so, she had sweetened the brew with honey and now sipped the coffee greedily. Within a few minutes of standing in front of the runaway of models, she saw visions of what appeared to be a heavy, blinding snowfall. She experienced a similar sensation a few years ago, just before the anesthetic for surgery to remove the broken tip of a knife blade from her lung took full effect. Then she lost consciousness. She collapsed on the ground. Blood spurted from her nose. Then her heart ceased its regular pumping motion. Garret became alarmed, wiped his hands on his apron, and donned some blue latex gloves. He disposed of the empty coffee, which might have contained microscopic traces of the substance, and glanced at the tall woman’s figure collapsed on the floor, as a photographer attempted to revive her. Tall as she was, with freckles and red hair—rather pretty and looking serene as she lay on the polished floor—she reminded him of a girl upon whom he had had a crush in high school.

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Tinker Toy Heart ALYSSA COOPER

Tinker toy heart ticking in my chest, keeping time – it pushes oil through my veins, and I bend like pistons, move like machines, there is no fluidity here. My muscles are cold steel, never learned how to feel, not the way that soft things are supposed to. For something so well loved, I am terrible at loving. My eyes like view-finders, framing photos in place of memories, finger poised, gold plated, my heartbeat is the satisfying snap of the shutter – but there is no film, here, no flash memory, the cavern inside my metal skull is echoing empty – echoing empty – echoing empty. You will love me well – will rub your blood into my steel flesh, as if your warmth might bring me to life, use your tongue to lubricate my pistons, cut your teeth on the wires that complete my circuits, you will turn your key in my tinker toy heart to keep it beating, to keep the clock hands turning, you will breathe into exhaust vents in hopes of filling my lungs. And I will be grateful. I will take photos, tick of the clock, snap of the shutter, my operating system will attempt to load the .exe of humanity, VOLUME 4, ISSUE 6 - THE SEASONS ISSUE 33


will alt+F4 all the things that came before – but metal memories are short. My metal mind is fleeting. There is no room between the gears of a clockwork heart for love. And when the tinker toy winds down – when I close my eyes, and you slip from the frame of my viewfinder – I promise, you will be the first that thing that I forget.

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Shape the Square

JOSÉ DE JESÚS CAMACHO In the square not everything that manifests is square the path has produced more than one riverbank that has managed to awaken to our metaphysical side. There is no universal script that dictates that the routine has to engulf us every time that reiterates the riverbank for the miracle is offered to the pilgrim from above. There is an unsuspected gift that spreads to extract rejoicing from the one who witnesses it in the region sublime gardens spread like ethereal voices and in multiple ways; in a beautiful woman, the sincere laughter of a child, the talk of an old man, the symphony of some forest or the sunrise. There will always be something that allows us to find more than hope that reiterates us that maybe we were created to realize that square the square It can be molded.

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An Experiment on the Fringe SHANNON L. CHRISTIE

it’s the same old story; our inner child has the ability to travel the road not takenwe feel safe in the dreamscape; in which we meet mr. jones. he is power hungry for the transformation of the equation, because at midnight, the bad dreams will be unleashed to the ghost network. the arrival of the pilot, means they are bound to the cure of the no-brainer, that there’s more than one of everything and what lies below, will be unearthed in the northwest passage by the man from the other side. while in jacksonville; a night of desirable objects leads to a fracture of human actionand through the johari window, peter believes all grey matters will be with olivia. in the lab. with the revolver in the state of dream logic. while over there, part one and part two of the bishop revival, spins a tale of brown betty as an earthling disguised as a snakeheadand momentum deferred is like a new day in the old town, and a white tulip blooms in august. immortality is our bloodline and at 6:02 am est on the day we died: the last sam weiss was a stowaway on the os-entrada and the box marked 6b, with olivia, the marionette and the firefly, we’re all trapped in amber 31422 at 6955 khzand the abducted, subject 13, reached the plateau of reciprocitywhile on lysergic acid diethylamide, concentrate and ask again: do shapeshifters dream of electric sheep? welcome to westfield, where one night in october, subject 9, forced perspective, so nothing as it seems was worlds apart and without novation, the end of all things is neither here nor thereand those we’ve left behind; hope for a better human beingin the brave new world, part one, the wallflower recites a short story about love and making angelsin part two, the consultant writes the letters of transit; where if you go back to where you’ve never been and everything in its right place; the enemy of my enemy will be alone in the world. the recordist tells an origin story of liberty and the bullet that saved the worldwhere the boy must live; go through the looking glass and what walter found there, was the transilience thought unifier model 11- five-twenty-tenand the black blotter is the anomaly xb-6783746; an enemy of fate in absentia of the human kind.

This poem was constructed by stringing together all 100 episode titles, in bold, from the 5 seasons of the science fiction television series Fringe (2008-2013). 36 FREE LIT MAGAZINE


Skyline Corrosion

EUGENE CORNACCHIA saw-tooth skyline of domes, spires, steeples, crosses flicker, pixelate, corrode limestone, brick and gilded steel awash in digital acid rain they cannot compete with tight-clustered gangs of towering antennae digital hum preaching to their far-flung congregations the skyline crumbles to fractal bandwidth

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Project Icarus JUSTIN TUIJL

I arrived at the secret RAF base somewhere in the heart of England, on a rainy evening in December. The guard looked at my NUJ press permit as my 911 purred at the checkpoint. I surveyed the tall barbed wire high-security electric fences both sides and the giant, hard metal gate ahead. No red and white poles across the gate here, I thought.“You can’t come in,” said the guard from behind his riot helmet. “We’re on full security lockdown.” “I know, pre-launch Red Alert lockdown,” I replied. “Air Chief Marshal Strickland will see me.” I was unable to see his face through the riot mask and the heavy armour gave no clue as to his body language. “I’m sorry but you have to leave,” he said, his hand resting on the holster at his hip. “Strickland is going to be very cross if you turn me away. We are personal friends.” The guard was quiet for a moment. I could detect the slightest misgivings: no guard would want to upset Air Chief Marshal Strickland. “Wait there, sir,” he said and returned to the concrete guard box. For a moment I was unable to see him but he returned quickly. “Ok, sir, you are clear to enter.” There was a clanking of bolts and the great security gate started to open.   I drove through and parked the 911 by the low grey bunker. Usually, I would have been escorted but now there was not a soul to be seen. Rain lashed across the old airfield. The heavy clouds hid the moon and the lack of lighting made the dark bunker seem all the more foreboding. I crossed quickly to the heavy door. There was no shelter here from the rain. I held my hand over my head, stupidly. I had expected someone to be waiting for me. There was no way to alert those inside. No doorbell on a high-security bunker. I stood wondering what to do when I heard the tiniest noise from the great slab of the door. Then the bolts thumped back and the door started to hum open on electric motors. Gradually the space beyond was revealed. Fluorescent light spilt out. A figure stood inside. The figure was not what I had been expecting during a high-security lockdown. He wore a white lab coat, held a clipboard and perched on his face were almost comical bottle top glasses. A perfect example of a scientist, I thought. “Hello,” he said. “Strickland sent me along to get you. I’m Rupert Feynman, hum, Professor. I’m Chief Scientist for Project Icarus.” He held out his hand.   Feynman and I walked along the dim concrete corridors. I asked him about the project. He stopped and turned to look at me, gripping his clipboard. For a few moments he was unable to speak, clearly an inner struggle was happening. “I really shouldn’t say this,” he finally ground out, “but they are crazy. Strickland, the World President, Project Icarus, it’s complete madness.” Then he went quiet and a worried frown suggested he thought he’d said too much. “Anything you say to me will be in strictest confidence.” “Oh yeah, you and your readership.” “Maybe.” “I don’t care anymore,” he said recklessly. “I’ve been locked up alone with Strickland and it’s driving me mad.” “What about the World President?” “Yes, they are constantly talking over video conference.” “The World President is still in America?” 38 FREE LIT MAGAZINE


“Yes, he’s in the White Towers, I-” The Tannoy boomed, cutting him off. I recognised Strickland’s voice. “Will Professor Feynman and the visitor report to me immediately?” Feynman turned his anguished eyes to me. “We’d better hurry.” The lift dropped like a stone down into the bunker. There were no floor numbers on the control panel, just up and down. My heart was left far behind as we seemed to drop miles into the ground. Finally, it stopped and brought up so quickly that I felt faint. Feynman just stood there unconcerned, with his worried frown; the drop had meant nothing to him. We hurried along more drab concrete corridors and then arrived at some gold plated doors. Feynman punched a code into a keypad by the side and the doors slid open to reveal a plush office. Strickland was standing behind a fine mahogany desk, staring at us. “About time too,” she said. “You’re late.” “Sorry,” I said. “Security wouldn’t let me in.” “Don’t make excuses. I needed you here.” “It won’t happen again.” “No, it won’t.” Little did I know then how prophetic this was. Strickland wore an RAF uniform with a row of ribbons on her chest. The Air Chief Marshal uniform left one in no doubt as to how important she was. Her desk was amazingly clear; in fact, there was nothing on it at all. The right-hand wall contained a huge screen. The main picture was of another desk, which I recognised as the World President’s desk, empty. There were also three floating video feed windows. One showed the vast Project Icarus silo, the second the Project Icarus spacecraft cockpit and the third was from the screen’s own webcam showing the office we stood in. On the cockpit feed there were several space pilots engaged in launch preparations. On our feed: we three looking at the screen. I looked again at the silo feed; vast space rockets ranged underground as far as the eye could see. Strickland turned to me and saw my gaze resting on the screen. “Project Icarus: the greatest project known to humankind,” she said. Feynman stirred and looked from me to the screen, to Strickland and back to me. His mouth opened and closed a few times as if he desperately wanted to say something but dare not. I said it for him. “I have heard that Project Icarus could be our biggest folly ever.” I felt Feynman stiffen; the atmosphere in the room became brittle. “Nonsense!” she spat. “You know the World President’s stance, ‘There are no problems.’ This is what we live by.” “I have heard,” I persisted, “that the launch of Project Icarus could be humankind’s ultimate blunder. Catastrophic environmental repercussions; everyone knows the World President’s views on the environment. The experimental and untested fuel, who knows what it could do?” “Enough. I have brought you here to report on the launch, not to question it. Project Icarus is in line with policy. We are reaching for the stars, not pandering to these unfounded environmental concerns. There are no problems. Deep space exploration is the most important mission to humankind.” At that moment a different voice entered the room. Strickland looked at the big screen. The World President was sitting in his chair. “There are no problems I hope, Strickland?” “No sir, the launch is going ahead as planned. There are no problems.” “Good, I would hate to think anyone was stupid enough to think Project Icarus wasn’t mankind’s ultimate undertaking.” He raised both of his thumbs, his favourite gesture. “Of course not, Mr President,” said Strickland. VOLUME 5, ISSUE 1 - THE TECHNOLOGY ISSUE 39


The President kept his eyes on Strickland, ignoring us completely. “How long until launch countdown?” “Whenever you are ready, Mr President.” “Good. Now is the moment.” There was a launch panel on his desk and the President turned to it. “Mr President,” I said. Strickland and Feynman turned to me in horror but the President carried on as if he had heard nothing. “Please, Mr President, this is–” Pain shot through my body and I went completely rigid. I was unable to talk. My muscles spasmed wildly. Vaguely I was aware of seeing the President pressing the launch button. Then the pain stopped and I dropped to the floor. Feynman tried to catch me. “T minus five minutes,” boomed a robotic voice. Feynman lowered me onto a soft couch. My body ached unbearably. He pulled the darts from under my chest connected to the wires from the TASER that Strickland had now put down on the desk. “It’s too late,” he said. “The launch countdown has started. Strickland TASERED you to shut you up.” “Can’t you do something? You are the chief scientist.”  “There are no problems,” he said, a glazed look on his face. “Come on man, that’s not what you said to me before.” He looked down at me, his magnified eyes blinking like a confused owl. Strickland and the President were talking excitedly over the video link. Feynman looked at the screen and Strickland and to me. “Isn’t there a way to override the launch?” I persisted. “Yes, yes there is. I’ll be hard pushed to get there in time.” “This isn’t about you and me, Feynman. Humankind, all life is at stake. It’s in your hands.” He looked at me a moment longer, then quite suddenly seemed to arrive at a decision and left through the gold plated doors without a word. Strickland snatched a glance to the doors as they thumped closed, then turned back to the President. “Don’t worry about him,” she said. “He can’t do anything.” “There are no problems,” he returned. “There are problems,” I said. They both ignored me.   Despite her dismissive attitude to Feynman, Strickland switched on another insert on her screen. This showed Feynman hurrying down a series of corridors over the security cameras. The feed tracked him. “T minus four minutes.” Gradually my senses were coming back. I kept an eye on Strickland, as I wanted to avoid another TASER shock. “This is insane.” Strickland turned to me. “You are here to report, not comment.” “Report on what? The end of the world?” “It’s not the end, it’s a new beginning. The stars are our destiny!” I watched the screen. Feynman was running to the launch silo. The astronauts were busy with launch preparation and strapping in one by one. Smoke was building in the great launch silo. The President sat there holding his thumbs up as he watched his own video feeds. “Strickland, we’re all going to die.” “Nonsense, there are no problems.” I sat up on the couch and looked closely at the screen. “T minus three minutes.” 40 FREE LIT MAGAZINE


Feynman had reached the door to the rocket silo and was fiddling with the keypad. Strickland watched intently. The astronauts all sat immobile in their seats. The President continued to hold up his thumbs as if he could hold the pose all day. Flames started to lick from the bottom of the great rockets. I felt the floor start to shudder. “Strickland,” I said, standing shakily. “Be quiet.” “T minus two minutes.” Feynman had opened the door and was clearly shocked by the heat coming from the silo. He ran to a control panel and started to press buttons. Strickland, the President and the astronauts were all immobile like dummies. “Project Icarus will incinerate the Earth,” I said desperately, now the panic seized me. “T minus one minute.” Flames started to fill the silo and Feynman battled with the control panel; he looked very hot. “T minus thirty seconds.” Finally I knew then that this was the end and that I was going to die. I looked at the feed on the screen but the walls had started to shake and I had to sit down or fall down. The screen looked blurred. I could no longer tell what anyone was doing. Everything felt hot. My head was thundering. Everything was shaking and bending and melting. Everything looked blurred. “Ten.” I hoped Feynman was still going to stop it. I hoped he hadn’t burnt to death already. “Nine.” I hoped that nine seconds was enough to save the earth. I really couldn’t tell what seconds were anymore.

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OUR CONTRIBUTORS... Without the submissions from writers, artists, and photographers, Free Lit Magazine would not be possible! Please take the time to visit other websites linked to projects our contributors have been involved in, as well as the websites/social media platforms run by some of this issue’s contributors: KYLE CLIMANS - Twitter ALYSSA COOPER - Website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook DARREN DEMAREE - Website BRUCE KAUFFMAN - Finding a Voice on 101.9FM CFRC LIN LUNE - Website BOB MACKENZIE - Facebook, Amazon Author Page, and Reverbnation JOSÉ DE JESÚS CAMACHO - Website LARRY THACKER - Website JUSTIN TUIJL - Website

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Volume 5 Issue 1 - The Technology Issue  

Volume 5 Issue 1 - The Technology Issue  

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