“Well there’s your proof.” Riley slapped Gus on the shoulder. “The Earth is flat.”
Gus stumbled back away from the edge, overcompensating for Riley’s slap.
“I told you he was smarter than you,” Violet chimed in with her hands on her hips. Her parka’s drab green somehow looked feminine despite its bulk. Riley shook his head and gave his attention back to the chasm.
Gus approached the edge again, cautiously. He got onto all fours, then on his stomach, and leaned his head out over the cliff of ice edging the world. Gus kept the bulk of his body firmly touching the snow and ice—as far back as possible from the infinite drop. Only his head hung out over the edge of the world. He pulled out his phone and started snapping pics of everything in sight.
Riley picked up a couple of handfuls of snow, molding them in his hands. He stepped up to the edge without taking precautions and dropped the snowball, watching it disappear into the sky-blue nothingness.
“I was expecting something more spectacular,” Riley admitted. “It’s just like looking up, … except you’re not.”
Sarah languidly woke up to what she thought was the smell of chocolate. Bill rolled over in bed and looked at her. “Could we have hot chocolate for breakfast?” he asked. She took a moment to scrutinize the situation. No one was making hot chocolate. Why did they wake up wanting chocolate?
“They’re doing it again!” said Sarah.
“What?” said Bill.
“They’ve changed the ether,” exclaimed Sarah.
Two days later, I wake. I over slept, again. My first instinct is to roll over. The straps hold me back. I’m salaried. If no one’s complaining, I get paid. I consider unstrapping myself, just to roll over. Then that little voice warns me, where does it end?
I unstrap myself from the hammock, and sit up. The Spud’s gravity is too weak to keep me in bed all night without straps. (“All nights,” I verbally correct my singular thought.) I hate the straps. I can’t roll over with the straps. Sometimes I sleep in the dust just to avoid the straps.
“What do you think is in it?”
There had been a solid five minutes of silence between the two boys before Alex finally asked the question. Another minute passed before Andrew gave him an answer.
“My first guess would be a dead body,” he replied as they continued to stare at the coffin sitting in front of them.
Artatra stormed down the five hundred black marble steps to his laboratories and warrens. It was utterly intolerable, the restrictions under which he worked. That a mind such as his should be yoked to an unimaginative, plodding, stupid . . . well, not stupid, exactly. That was the problem! If the Presence in the Throne was stupid, it could be worked around. The mind behind that mask was sly, it was well-ordered, and it knew far more than it rightly ought. It was unimaginably worse than stupid—it was a functioning mind that lacked vision.
I wanted to growl at the man boarding ahead of me- a real growl, like one of those extinct jungle cats projected at the zoo. I bit my tongue, though, worried that mimicking extinct felines could potentially get me committed. Instead, I protected my bulging belly from his wayward elbows as he fought through the small crowd for first place in line. I didn’t want my little girl brain damaged because someone had hit the snooze button too many times.
I shivered. The air this far below was so damp. It seeped through my tunic and bored its way through my muscles until it reached my bones. I hated the tube.
“Everybody’s in a hurry, huh?” The woman beside me murmured. She was also pregnant. Of course.
A few candles flickered in the room, casting shadows on the curved wall. A rabbit here, a house there, assorted flowers and even a wine glass. A thousand different shapes wandered the room. They were just pieces of paper suspended from string, mere ornaments guided by a mobile above, but the candlelight made them more. It brought the shapes to life.
It unnerved her.
“Take your time,” said the Whispering Woman. The words were no encouragement. You only came to the Whispering Woman if you were desperate. Desperation didn’t exactly breed patience. The girl wandered between shapes and string, chewing at her lip. None of them called to her. They all seemed random and unconnected, both to one another and her life. She thought about grabbing one at random and being done with the whole, terrible process, but then her future would be decided.
Gerald saw the shadowy figure twice before; drifting between corpses in no-man’s-land, wavering in the dark. Nerves, he convinced himself. But this time, as it stood in the trench only feet away, there was no easy explanation.
His rifle leveled on the intruder.
Behind the folds of hood topping the black-robed figure, an even voice answered:
“So, you can see me.”
From behind the chimney on the rooftop, I watched them move in. I was careful not to slip on the mossy shingles, always so careful. They had a truck full of human stuff. There is a mom and a dad, and a little girl they call Miranda. They have a white feline. They call it Mister Jones, and already it knows of me. Tonight I will get to work.
Major Pax’s bony hand rested next to Sam’s eliminated white pieces. A light bulb illuminated the chessboard they battled on to pass the years.
A bomb from a previous conflict had started the war, a mindless mechanical device that exploded at an unfortunate time. They—the Blancs—took less than an hour to launch the missiles from the safety of their cubicles. The Noirs did the same, and the thriving world was gone.
Sam had to contact each Blanc citizen to determine his or her status. He had compiled a list of numbers to call long ago, but had forgotten the original source or if it was in a particular order. Sam started calling once the radiation levels allowed.