Kendra Moody 19 Grand Junction Colorado What pushes my buttons: I read a list of characteristics a while back that explained the most common styles of distorted thinking; someone who ignores positive and only sees the negative, someone who refuses to accept any other mindset beyond their own, someone who will press their opinion until you give up and begin to nod. I can’t think of anything that bothers me more than someone who cannot step out of his or her own perspective to see anyone else’s. What makes you want to wake up each day: Well, at the moment I have a whole life ahead of me that I know little to nothing about, I figure every day leading up to my future is just a stepping stone required in the journey to the person I’m meant to be. I figure there’s no reason for negativity when something better is coming in only a few short years. Who is your biggest influence: A lot of people have heard of the monk that burned himself alive on June, 11, 1963, they’ve seen the photo or heard a brief explanation in history. But when I saw the photo I was instantly enthralled; I looked up the man and learned many inspiring things about him, in short, he was trying to save his way of life by making himself a public example for a dictator trying to remove his beliefs to replace them with his own. Ever since then I try every day to make myself a humble example of my beliefs and never press them on anyone else. I want nothing more than to believe in myself and my way of life as much as Thich Quang Duc did in his. If you could tell the world one thing: I would say not to give up on humanity, it’s easy to say the world is corrupt and the government has ruined our country. It’s easy to point fingers and tell everyone you’re done trying. At some point the world will wake up, but you can’t expect it to happen if you’re standing idly by just like everyone else. Instead of waiting for everyone else, start with yourself.
The Haunting Harvestmen By: Kyle Byers The Hunting Harvestmen
Each of Marcus O.’s hands began piling the silverware onto an empty side dish. He scraped the remaining food into the The refectory filled with cerulean wall-panel light for eight particle rearrangement bin before setting the dishes into the hours of every sixteen hours that passed, which acted as sanitation unit. a reminder to Captain Marcus O. that human beings ate “I felt like indulging. Hell, Tako, we are almost home. I and slept at regular intervals. He could change the lighting thought we might celebrate.” settings for every other section of the ship, but the coming “Yes, well, with your spending habits we won’t have enough and going of UV light in this area was unalterable. funds to restock for another excavation.” In one of his three left hands, the only hand that “We are trucking well over 200 million worth of Helium-3, was grapefruit pink, he held a spearing utensil that he used Tako. You damn digital miser.” to lift cubes of breaded Pacific Giant Octopus tentacle to “Hmm, yes, and for a responsible man that would provide his mouth. His right hands collaborated in holding the enough to get from Neptune and back three times. But plate steady and pinning down the tentacle with another let’s take into consideration your shore-stay habits. I could spear while the last hand used a thin razor to cut a piece delineate on exactly where your funds went last time, and I off and trim it into a two-thousand-four-hundred miprobably should since there is little chance that you rememcrometer cube. He stared straight ahead while he took in ber, but for the sake of civility, let’s not get into it; would you the aroma of spiced warmth from the stir-fried vegetables just give me the benefit of the doubt that projecting myself that stewed around the tentacle in a pool of soy sauce and directly into whatever part of the ship you may be in would ink. He chewed and swallowed each cube slowly before he give you considerable psychological unease after a time.” allowed the next cube to depart from the plate. While he They had left the refectory and made their way to the ship’s chewed, his limbs were still, frozen; the moment he was largest deck that housed cargo and the harvesters. In the ready for his next bite, however, there was a multitude of narrow corridor Marcus O. had noticed how Tako failed frenetic movements: the hand bringing the meat to his to walk around a stack of crates, instead he passed straight parted lips, the hand cutting a new cube, the hand that through them. Trying not to grin, Marcus O. began gripbrought a napkin to wipe away the juice that dripped onto ping the crates two at a time with two arms supporting the his chin, the two hands holding plate and food still against bottom of the crates, two arms holding them steady at the the vibration, and finally the hand that scratched a spot on middle, and two arms lying on top. his scalp near the temple that twitched every time he ate. Tako was pretending not to notice the reason for the orgaFootsteps echoed down the corridor that led to other parts nization of the crates as he kept on about long space trips of the ship. A man walked in through the doorway of the without any human contact, and how even though his refectory. He was a smaller man than Marcus O., and he company was artificial, it must come as close as possible to wore a plain white suit with a dark cyan tie. Marcus O. emulating a real person. And how many men experienced couldn’t help but snicker. space-madness without these “facades.” “You have really gotten carried away with announcing your Marcus O. put a hand at the bundle of projected polygons presence through these antecedent sensory facades.” that appeared to be Tako’s shoulder. “I understand, Tako, I “Would you prefer I appear here and there at random, or am sorry I brought it up. I just meant your corporeal audio move through the ship like a ghost?” has gotten so much more believable.” He was attempting to “No. I prefer the deception.” be genuine in his gaze into the hologram’s eyes. Tako let the “Well then quit gibing or I will simply communicate with subject drop. you from the ship’s amplifier until you begin to think I am Marcus O. finished moving crates into securely bolted an omniscient being all around you.” enclosures that would ensure their safety upon re-entry and “Which is closer to the truth, isn’t it Tako?” landing on Earth. After that they worked together to repair Tako pointed to the artificial limbs with disdain and said, the damaged stabilizer that had ruptured a hydraulics line “Producing far too much food for one meal, using the during the extraction of Helium-3 back in the tempestuous Grappler to assist your eating, and lounging in seventy-five winds of Neptune’s atmosphere. Tako stood below Marcus degree heat. Don’t bother me about using technology for O., who dangled underneath the large conglomerate of convenience when you are abusing at least three rules of metal and tubes while using his other four limbs to patch conservation for your lunch.” and realign, using tools that plugged into his Grappler.
Tako called up instructions now and then to make sure the job was done correctly, and when Marcus O. was finished, Tako moved a service ladder by radio to allow Marcus O. to climb down. Tako could have completed the patch on his own in half the time if he used the Grappler. Without the clunky human controller, the suit was more agile and more precise, but Marcus O. had often voiced his displeasure in being reminded that the ship was perfectly capable to complete the job without him at all. The lights in the deck went dark and then flashed yellow four times. The light momentarily disrupted Tako’s signal, and he phased in and out of existence with the flashing light. Tako’s stance went awkwardly rigid; his eyes glazed over with incontrollable stillness. “Captain, we are receiving an unknown signal from the surface of Mars.” “Bring it up, Tako.” Tako lifted his hands up mechanically and brought with them a window. It was as though Tako sliced the air with an electronic knife that split reality away from the projection. The window grew from his fingertips until it was the size of his torso. Marcus O. looked at the screen which was undulating and fuzzy. Nothing appeared to be happening on the screen, just snow. The speakers on the ship relayed the fuzziness as well, but then a small voice could be heard within the fuzz. The voice was speaking a language that Marcus O. didn’t know. He was familiar with most the languages that were prevalent in the system, but these sounds did not jar his memory of any of them. As he stared into the screen and listened to the strange noises he felt a disorienting pop within his mind. The screen was not fuzzy anymore and there was an image being displayed. A still image: there are two figures standing next to one another. They have their arms outstretched and reaching across one another. Their faces are obscured by masks, and it is impossible to see the expressions on their faces. Each figure has one arm invisible behind the other figure, but out of the two visible hands it is clear that they are clutching the other about the naked chest. The figure on the left wears a mask with white feathers that cover the head and neck completely. There is a green pearlescent stone in place of where there should be an eye. The feathers form a mo-hawk at the top of the mask, and where the ears should be there are large gold rings drilled into the mask. The other figure wears a mask of a long snouted furry creature with long thin teeth that protrude from the end of the snout. This mask is turned more towards the viewer, which allows both eyes to be seen. The eyes are rubies, and the pointed triangular ears stick up off the head. The fur of the mask is red and white, but it is swirling in spirals across the fur. Both the figures also wear gloves on the visible hands. The feathered mask figure wears a glove of white cotton, and the figure in the toothed-snout mask wears a glove of black leather.
Other than the mask and gloves they are wearing only identical green swimming shorts. They are short enough to be children, but the thickness and stubbiness of their legs and bare feet suggests they may be midgets. They are standing in front of an obscured pool. It is a blue-water filled pool that has tiles all around the inside. The tiles are shimmering yellow. Each figure has a foot off the ground over the water, and they look dangerously close to toppling into the water. Around the pool is a ring of cement. Each figure has one foot placed firmly on the bumpy texture cement. Above and beyond the pool is blue sky. There is vibrant green grass creeping up to the cement. The sun is not seen, but the brightness and vibrancy of the colors suggest that the sun is extraordinarily bright that day. Captain Marcus O. began speaking in tongues. But it was not an uncontrolled glossolalia channeled by some deity who was attempting to speak through him. He began repeating the message in the language he did not know. Tako simply stared at Marcus O. with those haunting, unblinking eyes. They continued on in this state of incoherence for an indeterminable time that swallowed the entire ship. There was a dream in that gullet. There was a prophecy of the future that swam in the belly of the message being relayed. It was a premonition of Marcus O., the captain of not a mining vessel but an unparalleled war-machine. It would be the past in seven years. The absolute nothing for the man, who slept on a grey sofa with a tiny red blanket tossed over his bare feet, would teach him of a different kind of perfect vacuum. There could have been a time when he would have been a decorated captain in charge of one of the most dangerous ships ever built. But there was and could have been an incident with an alien species on a planet in the Sevlon system. It was possible he was stripped of his rank and left to rot in the slums of Earth’s forsaken cities after using a civilian escape ship as bait. It could have been a civil war among the miners and harvesters of the outer planets rebelling against the industrial corporations of the inner planets, which left Marcus O. torn to take a side, and eventually he could have been labeled a traitor. Then it would be a life of hiding under a fake identity that he could never have had. Perhaps he would eventually find himself addicted to the multitude of mind-altering substances that would leave him unmotivated to break free from the monotony of living hand to mouth. An awful strangeness brought the stillness of the dream alive. The captain jerked from his slumber of lavish blue imaginings into his dank apartment room. The message from the aliens, the enemy who never unveiled or became real, was on his lips. The words he hadn’t been able to shake since he heard them. The image of the struggling midgets that Tako held in his forgiving arms. But it was not the message he was hearing. Not in truth. In truth it was a noise was like an alarm.
He had been sleeping all day, and his mind was clumsy in its realizing the sound was only a fire alarm. It went off weekly because one of his more careless neighbors would poorly operate a command on the particle rearranger that was obsolete and prone to malfunction anyway. Smoke filled the halls in swirling tendrils from underneath doors. With the building’s struggling ventilation design there was little another neighbor could do but open their room door and scream down the hall, “Is it real?” The windows in the apartment that still worked were usually boarded up anyway. The captain’s windows were not boarded up, nor was there any glass in them. They were simply gaping holes that he never dealt with, even during the harshest winters. Years of deep space and cutthroat officers had left him with a tolerance for the cold and cruelty. The alarm continued to sound, and he wondered how long it would be before central intelligence saw the alarm in their system and dispatched firefighter bots. The bots would arrive and disable the alarm, and maybe blast an innocent with flame retardant liquid if they were standing anywhere near the apartment that set off the alarm. The captain had twice been doused simply for striking a match to light his cigars while the bots were on the same floor. It was a few more minutes of unbearably loud buzzing until he heard a siren screaming through the airways outside. He heard the firefighter bots anchor their vehicle to the side of the building about two floors down, which made it the 20th or 19th floor. He felt that was a far enough distance away to be safe having his cigar that sat wedged in the arms of an action figure that resembled the captain. The little plastic man held the cigar instead of a tiny rifle that had been intended to sit in the toy’s arms. Perhaps the toy industry started making replica action figures based on living heroes with tremendous profit to the military, who claimed they owned the toys of the soldiers because they wouldn’t be desirable to be made into toys if they weren’t in the military in the first place. Or perhaps the captain had programmed a particle rearranger to make plastic replicas of himself in his megalomania. The captain had kept his toy to remind him that he lived in a world of lunacy. But more than likely he had found the toy and scrawled his own name on its chest. He sat looking at the little nametag on the uniform that had his name: O. Right before he had placed the cigar in his mouth a knock came at his door. He stumbled over the night table, recovered, and cracked the door open. A shiny metallic face without any features stood in the hallway with a fire extinguished pointed up at his face. “There has been an outbreak of warthogs in the building and you are required to evacuate the building immediately.” The machine then went down the hall the next door and began knocking. He could hear the message being relayed to the person in 2134. The captain shrugged and undid the chain on the door.
Halfway down the hallway he had passed several confused looking people who were also reluctant to leave their apartments. There was little or no reason to suspect that the message was accurate, so he made his way to the 20th floor to see what was really going on. The Warthog ships of the war were all destroyed he was fairly sure. He remembered the first time he had seen the Warthogs: it was on the Harvester with Tako. They had nearly been killed by an unexpected attack from the rebellious dissenters that had started the five year war. When he came out of the stairwell, he felt a momentous crash that shook the building. There was dust and pulverized drywall around the next corridor. There he found a crumpled firefighter bot with a crushed face. Its neck sparked and its limbs twitched spasmodically. “The damn things think my dogs are warthogs or something, they say that they have to be detained and taken to an animal preservation.” A man, covered in sweat, stood at his apartment door. His chest was rising and falling in great heaves. He had busted the skin open on his right hand knuckles. Behind the man was a monstrous dog that looked more excited than angry. It was enormous. Its head came to the man’s waist, and if the dog were to stand on its hind legs, it could have reached eight feet tall. Inside the apartment the captain noticed two more beasts hiding in the shadows. Bending down to the bot and nodding, the captain said, “Alright.” The captain put his foot against the machine’s head and pulled on the faceplate. It popped open, and inside was a network of wires and tubes. He pulled a tiny black box from the head, and spoke into it. “Hello? Anyone left in control of these damn things? They are going nuts up here.” A human voice answered him through the black radio, “Yes, we see the report as a warthog outbreak. There is a high probability that is an error… We have lost control momentarily of the bots in that building. Some kind of interference. We are sending a police squad over. Stay inside and lock your doors.” The man with the dogs mumbled something and went into his apartment. The captain thought he was going to take the advice, but he reappeared with a steel mace that resembled a baseball bat in his arms. For the first time the captain took a long look at this man. It was Tako. The body was different, but the facial features were identical. The captain hadn’t noticed the three bots that had come up behind him. Three fire extinguisher guns fired at the same time, which had enough force to hurl the captain backwards onto the floor. Stunned, he tried to react and get out of the way of another blast, but the man who looked like Tako had already stepped in front, swinging the bat wildly at the machines.He connected once solidly and the bot’s head snapped sideways. The next swing hit another bot in the arm just as a spray of green flame retardant fired.
The spray crashed into the chest of the third bot, sending it into the wall, covering everything in green goo. The captain’s face was freezing cold with the goo on him, and he wiped it off as quickly as possible. By the time he got to his feet the three bots lay in the hallway as their bodies were pounded again and again by the metal bat until one of the metal arms reached out and quickly snatched the bat. Two of the bots were dented, but functional, and now one held a large metal bat. Not that it needed the weapon, a swung metal arm would do just as much damage, but now it had reach. The bots stood just over three feet high, and so they seemed less menacing than perhaps they should have; the captain was still distracted by the man who looked so much like Tako, and so when the bot took a swing at him, he didn’t react. The meat of his arm felt like it was going to explode off his body, bone popped, and the captain stood a little dumb-founded. Tako’s dog leapt out of the apartment and began dragging the captain inside by the shirt. It wasn’t really getting anywhere until the dog’s owner grabbed the captain too, helping the dog. Once the captain was inside the door, they worked to get it shut. The door cracked against a bot arm that was thrust into the door way to prevent it from shutting. It was an arm with one of the built-in fire extinguishers. The green slime flicked out and covered the men and dogs. The giant version of Tako threw his shoulder into the door, and it broke the arm. They took a few moments to breathe as the bots hammered against the door. It was holding them back surprisingly well. More sirens could be heard from outside, and the captain knew it would only be a few more minutes before a squad arrived and neutralized the haywire bots. There was a smell of burning rubber and plastic in the apartment, and the captain realized this must have been where the alarm was triggered. He got to his feet and looked around the living room. There were work-tables covered in electronics equipment and long rows of tools stretched out all over the floor. The man noticed the captain’s stare and said, “It was one of my projects. It short circuited and started a small fire. Wouldn’t have been so bad, but I had to use small microwave pulse to kill the electricity right when the bots arrived. I think it was the pulse that made the bots go crazy.” One of the work-tables had a charring hole in its center with a black box smoldering on the floor below. “What was it?” “It certainly wouldn’t win me the Peace prize. The box that exploded was a high frequency signal catcher so that I can watch Mars satellite television. You know the shit on Earth is barely worth any attention.” The man looked a little worried, and the captain realized the police would certainly snoop around for the cause of the fire. The captain went to the man’s kitchen and pulled a toaster from the counter with his working arm. He brought it back, and removed the housing plate with one of the man’s tools. Out in the hall a few electric rail guns could be heard firing. The captain took the illegal satellite box, and removed its cover as well.
He switched the two devices, and replaced the toaster on the work bench. “Tell them you were working on a new toaster that exploded. And, “he tossed the cable box in the toaster shell, “put that in the kitchen. The worst you will get is a fine for negligence.” “Yeah, that is quick thinking, thank you.” The captain nodded, and moved to the door. He opened it slowly, and saw a bot fleeing down the hall. A man in a grey uniform and helmet was running after it. He snuck out of the door, and made his way to the stairs. There were panicked people running this way and that. As he left the hall, he looked back as the police were banging on the door of the man who looked like Tako. He came around a corner and met the fleeing bot. The bot was cruising at high speeds; the little wheels spinning fervently in the tracks. The uniformed officer chasing the bot had already fired his rail gun without concern. There was a blur of destroyed metal, and the last thing the captain saw was a disembodied bot head sailing straight into his. Bright light melted into darkness. It was odd to him that the first sense that returned to him was hearing. It was Tako’s voice, and it was saying something about a cruiser approaching them quick. Marcus O. opened his eyes. He was back in the refectory, lying on the table with Tako standing over him. “I used the Grappler to drag you in here. Captain, are you alright? We are currently evading attacks from an unknown cruiser. I need your orders.” Marcus O. had a head full of rocks and noise. He was slow to swing his feet off the table. Once he could finally stand he staggered to the control deck with Tako following behind. The Grappler was attached again and he felt the awareness of the new limbs returning to him. He used the arms to steady himself on the walls several times. “I have never seen a craft of this sort,” said Tako. “They fired on us, and I began evasive maneuvers.” Marcus O. felt to be acting outside of his own will. He knew the actions to take because they felt like they had already been taken. Choice was a roadmap that he had already studied for a lifetime. There was no hesitation as he slowed the ship, jettisoned the entire cargo of Helium-3 and controlled the ship to move away from the attacking cruiser. Tako tried to object but then sat in stunned silence. Marcus O. waited patiently as the cruiser circled in front of them and began firing round after round of energy beams. The ship rocked back and forth with the explosions. The cruiser came by for a final attack. Marcus O. reacted. He targeted the ship’s mining laser on the jettisoned Helium-3 just as the cruiser approached. The Helium-3 burned with an engulfing blue light, swallowing the cruiser. There was an explosion within the explosion and when the Helium-3 had burned away there was nothing left but pieces of broken metal. Marcus O. turned to face the speechless Tako. “What was it?” asked Tako.
“It was the first attack of an alien species from Sevlon that has come to start a war with humanity in which I will make a terrible decision to lure out their mother ship with a civilian ship filled with escaping earthlings. A man under my command will heroically fly his ship straight into the mother ship and save humanity at our most desperate hour. “It was also a fellow miner from Triton. They were the first to discover that the outer planets are on a collision course with the inner planets, and this was the first act of war. They are going to kill anyone bring raw materials to support the corporations of the inner planets. We would have been killed as a declaration of their intent to kill anyone willing to support the inner planets. “It was also neither of these things.” “Captain?” asked Tako. “I don’t know what is happening because the past is unreliable. How should I tell you what the present means if the past is disintegrating? I find myself with one effect and an infinite option of causes. Would it make any more or less sense to you if there was one cause? I could tell you which cause I prefer, but it would only be a conclusion based on predispositions and biases. “Tako, I found you in the future raising the largest dogs I have ever seen, and I stopped a robotic army of firefighter bots from killing you and your dogs. Does this mean that you will someday cease to be a holographic projection from the ship’s computer? I can no more tell you what that future meant than I can tell you what this present means.” “This is because of the transmission we received before the attack. I am having trouble accessing that area of my databank. The message must have thrown you into a kind of phenomenological crisis. Like all artificial beings, I am programmed to deal with paradox. You are struggling to put logical reason into a potentially meaningless event. There has been no intelligent life discovered in the universe, so your claim about aliens is illogical. There is also no socio-economic sign of feud between the inner planets and the outer planets. The solar system is in harmony.” “Is your data correct? It is just as possible for your memory to be as corrupted as mine. You’re mind works from a much more reliable system, but it was designed by man. How can we trust your memory any more than mine? You admit that you have no data on the message we received. There is no way to tell for sure that anything has come before this moment, and if nothing came before now, then now is not happening.” “Come with me to the particle rearranger. I have an experiment that should help. There is always a cause for every effect.” But Marcus O. wouldn’t move. He eventually kneeled and let his body fall flat. He lay on the cool steel grate floor..Tako shook his head, “No, no, you can’t quit now.” Tako accessed the Grappler’s controls and brought the machine to life on Marcus O.’s back. The four arms pushed up and swung over so that he was now lying on his back.
The arms then began pulling forward one by one, dragging Marcus O. all the way to the refectory. Tako spoke to him as he made his crawling journey, “Captain, cogito ergo sum. And even though the past may be unreliable, you still have the faculty to comprehend what is happening to you now.” “Yes, but the moment I have a thought it moves from being in the present to being in the past. Every single passing second I am falling further and further into the past, and thus further and further into the unknown.” Tako dialed up a specimen on the particle rearranger while Marcus O. lay on his side on the floor. When the dialing was complete, there was a susurration within a black box on the table followed by a ding. Tako used the Grappler to reach up and open the box, which moved Marcus O. into a sitting position, his back against the table. The Grappler hand returned with a living octopus. It was small, fitting comfortably in the hand of the Grappler, and it had several dark spots with blue rings on its white grainy body. “Captain, this is a Blue-Ringed Octopus, one of the most venomous animals known to Earth. It contains enough venom to kill 26 adults.” Tako let the Grappler drop the octopus on Marcus O.’s chest who sat dumb founded. He felt a sharp pain as he was bitten, and then a cold spreading numbness. Tako had already been dialing again, and when the ding went off the Grappler removed the octopus with one hand and retrieved a hypodermic needle with another. Marcus O. struggled to speak. Tako said, “The neurotoxins in the venom are paralyzing your body, and soon your respiratory system will cease to operate as well, and you will suffocate to death. This is a demonstration in cause and effect. I have the antivenin in the Grappler’s hand. All you have to do is tell me that you want to live, and you can have the antivenin.” Blue had started to creep into the cheeks of Marcus O., and he made an attempt to snatch the antivenin, but his arms were already numb and useless. He found he could still speak. He said, “Tako, this proves only that existence is the avoidance of death.” “But with your logic how can you be sure death exists. If the past is undependable this antivenin couldn’t work, could it? And how could you be sure anyone has ever died? Embrace the fact that there is no true way to be sure of anything. You have to continue to struggle against the ultimate void that awaits you, or go to it now.” “Okay Tako, you made your point. I want to live. Give me the antivenin.” “Say it again, Captain,” whispered Tako. “I want to live.” “Again, Captain,” said Tako in a loud voice. “Damn it Tako, I want to live. You hear me, I want to live. I want to live!” The Grappler brought the syringe down into his neck and pushed the plunger down. The antivenin was injected.