Sunday, 28 November 2010

This Pit

Between number fifty-three Fox road and number fifty-seven should have been number fifty-five. Obviously. That stood to reason. It had been there yesterday. They had witnesses.

There was certainly the space for it. One house-sized gap. There just wasn’t a house. Or the land it had stood on.

Just a hole. A gaping pit.

Detective Sora Tanaka leaned over the edge and looked down. It was just like the picture in a book she had as a child, a cross-section of the top layers of the Earth’s surface. All it was missing were little colourful fact boxes by each of the strata.

Actually, that wasn’t all it was missing. It was missing a house. And Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne, their son Jack and their Bulldog Lady Eleanor von Chocolate (Chocks for short).

“Careful boss, don’t know how stable that is.”

“I can’t see the bottom.” She replied without moving back.

Sergeant Browning left the constables keeping the crowd back and walked across the lawn to his detective. On the way over he picked up a chew toy, a red rubber Winston Churchill, and then he tossed it over the edge.

Sora looked at him and raised an eyebrow, “What part of ‘not disturbing the crime scene’ and ‘vital evidence’ involves throwing things into a one hundred percent genuine bottomless pit?”

“Hardly evidence, boss. They had a dog.”

“Attended many house-nappings have you, Browning? You know what constitutes evidence here, do you? And what’s up with your fingers?”

“Counting, boss. The evidence still hasn’t hit the bottom yet.”

“Genuine bottomless pit. I told you. Or, you know, it was made of rubber.”

Browning at least looked a little cowed at that. He picked up a red tricycle that was turned over beside him. It had a moulded smiling cartoon face on the handle bars and someone had stuck stickers of skulls on the seat.


He put the bike down. And this was the most promising sergeant they could assign her...

“So how do you go about stealing a massive hole, boss?”

“They didn’t steal the hole, sergeant. That’s the only thing they left behind. The question is, who even could steal a house?”

“Close.” A new voice commented. “Still not quite the right question though.”

They both looked to their left, where a stranger now stood peering down the hole. He had unruly dark hair, stubble and a tan trench coat. He looked like a TV detective. The constables at the cordon didn’t seem to have noticed someone had passed them.

“Who are you? What are you doing in my crime scene?”

“No.” The stranger said slowly, pondering, “No, someone has stolen your crime scene, detective. And the question should be, why?

“Hmmm...” He patted his pockets and looked around, as if he had misplaced his keys.

“Sergeant, escort this gentleman from the scene, would you.”

“I don’t, um,” The stranger carried on as if Sora hadn’t spoken, “I don’t suppose you’ve seen a rubber toy around here? Probably a primary colour, probably a political figure.”

Browning actually blushed as he glanced at the hole.

“Oh, you didn’t...”

(John Xero talks Strangers and Pitfalls in micro-fiction.)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

This Merry-Go-Round

He holds his hand up for silence.

I know what he is about to say. I already know what happens next.

He will be right, and then he will be wrong.

“We’ve done it! We have the proof. Ladies and gentleman, today we have made history.”

We did it. Despite the naysayers claiming we would blow up the world, we went ahead and we did it. And we didn’t blow up the world. Not exactly.

There is cheering and back slapping. Hugging. Unusually high affection among usually reserved people.

I should warn them, but I didn’t before, and so I can’t now. I am just a passenger on this merry-go-round.

We had the science all worked out. It was just a case of going through the motions to prove it. Round and round and round and smash. There it would be. And there it was, now. Proof.

We were right. Science was right.

The high spirits falter and people begin to look confused. They move as though viewed across a lagging network, in jumps and starts. Real people popping from one place to the next without going through the spaces in between.

The world cracks. Perception falls apart.

Everything becomes shattered.

Rushing stuttered fragments.

Splintered snapshots.

Reality stumbles.

Then suddenly,

everything is ok again.

I am at the back of the room, pondering the nature of history. I am away from the instruments; this part is for the project head, this part is his triumph.

He holds his hand up for silence.

I know what he is about to say.

(John Xero rambles)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

These Memories

Rita looked down at her life.

“This is it?”

It lay in the palm of her hand; still, unassuming. A dull, grey cuboid. Four by ten by twenty.

Her life. Eighty cubic mils.

And it didn’t even need to be that big, that was the ridiculous thing. The actual storage element was a tiny fraction of that whole.

Ergonomics, marketing and whim were a greater factor in defining the scale of her life than the centuries she had lived, the skies she had flown, the worlds she had discovered.

No more glory. Everything was reduced to subterfuge.

(author's babble)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

This Empty Space

Grant smacked the side of the console with his hand.


“You already said that.”

Linda glanced briefly in Grant’s direction, her lips quirking in annoyance. It bothered her that he clung to old, pointless mannerisms. She thought it showed an inability to control his impulses. She had explained to him a number of times that the console was just a screen; that the scanning, the processing, the extrapolations were all done half a kilometre away in the ship’s Kore. Physical force to the console was pointless; the only thing it could possibly achieve would be to damage the console itself. But still, Grant would hit it every time it didn’t behave as he expected. After six thousand, four hundred and thirty nine years she thought he might have learnt. But no, it was the same as with the food tubes, the same as the discarded synth-skins he left on the floor. He never had any personal consideration toward her.

“Look for yourself.” He said.

She pulled his feed onto her secondary console.


“That’s what I said, remember. Twice.”

Grant rolled his eyes. Linda always thought she knew best. She was always telling him how he should behave without any respect for his personality, no matter how many times he pointed out he wouldn’t have been picked if any of his deficiencies (her word) would have threatened the mission. Six thousand odd years was a long time to spend in close proximity with someone who behaved like a Victorian housekeeper. He knew what mattered and what didn’t. It didn’t matter if he hit the console; it didn’t matter if he left a little nutri-paste in the tube and it really didn’t matter if he left his worn synth-skins on the floor, since the bots would get them (that was one she really couldn’t let go of).

They looked at the screens. Then they looked at each other; really looked at each other, for the first time in thousands of years.

The scan was definitely active. The minute particle trail the ship always left was there, for a short distance. But that was all. And that was very wrong.

“Shutters?” Grant asked.

Linda nodded and motioned at her screen.

The shutters, immobile since they had left the solar system, slid silently aside, as smoothly as the day the ship had first spun its engines up. Outside, where distant galaxies should have been visible, there was nothing.

They rotated the bridge around the circumference of the ship, a six hour journey. They said nothing. There was nothing to say.

There was nothing to see.

“We should wake them up.” Linda said. Eventually.

“And tell them what? That not only did Earth disappear while they weren’t looking but now the whole universe has gone.”

“Maybe not so bluntly.”

“Let them sleep.”

“You forget the protocols.”

“No, you forget what it was to be human. Let them dream.”

(author's chatter)