Caraway the fairy was puzzled by her mother’s story. “Now that you’ve lost your first tooth, you should place it under your pillow. The Tooth Human might come and leave you a surprise!” She had never seen a human, and vowed that she would stay up and see what the Tooth Human looked like.
If the red giant star Betelgeuse replaced our sun, it’s edge would extend out near Jupiter. The gas surface is nearly vacuum, but the temperature is nearly as hot as the filament of an old style light bulb. Not too bad for the surface of a star. Your spacesuit, more an ultra hardened, body-shaped spacecraft, keeps out the heat. And you get cool oxygen through the umbilicus provided by the mothership. Somewhere, just under the surface of the star, something is generating a regular signal. As you’re lowered down, something, possibly a meteor, snaps the line and you fall deeper into the sun. The supply line seals off and you drift downwards into the star. You fall for two days, your supplies running out, when you suddenly slow, and touch, feather-light, on a metal surface that extends for kilometers in every direction.
Was he autistic? Perhaps. But he’d done pretty well for himself, making his way to the state senate. He always practiced his speeches in front of the Frog Prince and Dr. Dodo, his stuffed childhood friends. Froggie always cheered him on enthusiastically, while Dr. Dodo offered good advice. It was the evening before the big speech when he discovered his maid had sent them out to be dry cleaned.
All four of her Grandparents had Alzheimers, and she had the genes as well. As a child, watching the lose their minds terrified her. When her parents started becoming forgetful she set about computer mapping every neuron in her head, partially as a hail-mary backup, partially as a record for future generations. The mapping went so well she could watch “her” mind become sentient. Finally she could talk to “herself.” The biggest problem: her model, while self aware, had no memories.
In a world full of super-powered heroes and mutants, Towser, the Kim Il-Sung of crime, rules the underworld of Concord, CA (pop 122,000) with an iron paw. The town isn’t big enough to gain the attention of the big guns, like the Scarlet Crossbill. And when the Electric Artichoke was found short-circuited in a vat of mayonnaise, none of the up-and-comers were interested in taking him on. But after defeating all other canine-themed villians, The Blue Cat decided she was going to stoop to his level. The problem was, no one had much information on Towser, or his secret origins. And every time she got close on his tail, he would be gone before she could attack. She began to wonder if someone else had invented him, as a cover. Wasn’t the idea of a super-intelligent dog ridiculous?
We know about identical twins, where a fertilized egg splits in two; half-identical twins, where an unfertilized egg splits in two and is fertilized after the split; and fraternal twins where two distinct eggs are dropped at once and fertilized separately. A newly discovered phenomenon is superfecundity, where a second egg drops a day to a week after the first, and is they are fertilized separately. This also allows the possibility of being fertilized by two separate fathers. This would explain how the young lady who got drunk at two separate frat parties found herself pregnant with twins who were of different races and body types. The boys had to figure out how to navigate their lives together as brothers.
By 2032 every child in the first world has received at least one drone helicopter for their birthday, Christmas, or Bar Mitzvah. Kids in the third world build their own out of scrap plastic and old iphones. Nintendo comes out with a headset that tracks the user’s eye movements, and the video screen and headsets provide an immersive experience. And tied in with a microphone for livechat, they teleconference after school to go immersively swooping and gliding around town. Each drone can carry a couple of pounds payload. A detective has to go into the world of drone hackers when someone starts hijacking drones to deliver bombs to unsuspecting people. To complicate matters he must fight off journalists and pundits who discover the “evils” of drones in kids’ lives.
Along with our alien allies, we have studied the universe to a great depth. There is definitely a multiverse, that we cannot penetrate, and there appears to be signs of intelligence within those other ‘verses. One of the most ready signs is “The Prime Signature.” This is an incredibly large prime number that starts with pi (to the 42 millionth place), followed by the number “e,” followed by “phi,” and the square root of 2. There is growing evidence that our particular universe was not an accidental cosmic creation, but that our physical laws were written from scratch so that our universe is providing energy to another ‘verse. They are sucking power & matter from our universe through the laws of gravity. Black holes are seen as evidence of their need for material from us. There is talk of sending through something destructive as a way to indicate our existence.
With the rise of a maker culture and random brilliant people creating things in their garage, a government organization comes up with a plan to tap into those independent thinkers. They notice how items from Star Trek: communicators, PADDs, even quantum teleportation, have come about driven by fan love. There are thousands of fans trying to create light sabers, even though they are ridiculous & impractical.They start salting science fiction films with devices they want to see built. They provide the imagination (and some production money for the films) in a long term goal of prodding brilliant fans to create impossibly difficult objects.
The journalist had been traveling to the country for since he was a boy, and knew some of the old revolutionaries for himself. While waiting for an interview with the newest members of the party congress he wanders the hallway, looking at the portraits. Originally there had been photos of the old guard, grizzled and missing teeth—hard, blunt men. The photos had been replaced with paintings, showing them as clean, upright visionaries. Their successors wore suits, clean and pressed. The portraits of the latest generation showed politicians who were primped and sculpted, soft-handed and hard bodied. No match for the hard, blunt men he had seen in the countryside on his way here.
As an art project, a dad creates lurid tabloids starring his kindergarten-age children, as if they were celebrities. He details their affairs, their battles with alchohol, their fights with the paparazzi, etc. It’s so dead on to the real thing, such a perfect commentary on talentless celebrity, that it becomes a viral hit. People start stalking the kids and the parents. The goverment investigates the dad, and the paparzzi are there to feed on it. Everyone is watching as the horror of their celebrity spirals out of control.
Story: An Uncertain Inheritance
An Uncertain Inheritance
© Tony Jonick 2007
Lillith shrugged, lifting the wide shoulders of her lilac jacket in feigned nonchalance. “As if I’d want the sword anyway.” She sighed and rolled her half-lidded gaze towards the shelved walls of the lawyer’s office.
Samael glared under his thick red brows. “Pretending you don’t care doesn’t matter anymore,” his liver-gray lips sputtered out the words. “Father is dead. The opinion of this—this functionary doesn’t matter.” He motioned dismissively towards Mr. Twist.
Lillith pursed her gray lips and lifted her sculpted red brows as she turned her head back towards to her twin. “Then let’s pretend I want The Sword of Multiplicity as much as you. Mmm, yes, There’s power in it. But what would you do with it? Steal a gold coin, keep doubling it until you can buy out some bankrupt kingdom? In six months you would be hanging in chains in your own dungeon, a prisoner of nobles whose daughters you’ve soiled.” Her words slithered in derision.
“What about you?” He grunted. “Fawning slaves to twist? Orphaned children to whip and caress as they praise you? Perhaps you’ll swap it to some flatterer for an eternal glamour! I can see you old beyond your years as some withered insect posing as an angel.” Samael turned to Mr. Twist, who was himself like some praying mantis behind his table. The lawyer, in his crop-waisted tail-coat and short black fez, dipped his head slightly.
Mr. Twist’s narrow legal office consisted almost entirely of papers and dust. Papers were piled upon dust piled upon papers—shelves and cabinets and columns of paper and dust. There were depositions from shopkeepers whose islands were lost beneath the seas; treaties between tribes of warring dinosaurs; patents for spinning straw into optical fiber. Only the enchantments of the room kept the papers from breaking down into dust, or more dangerously, the dust breaking spontaneously into paper.
“If I may present a possible solution?” His thin voice clattered upwards posing a half-question. “There is more than the sword in the listing of your father’s possessions.” He adjusted his pince-nez to focus up from the scroll of paper for a clearer look at the bickering couple, the brother and sister separable in appearance only by gender.
They waited for him to speak. Among the long-lived ones there was a cat-like patience when a possible advantage was offered. Mr. Twist scrolled the thick, mottled will in his long fingers. “Besides the lands and belongings—minor estates and major titles, motor cars, cursed jewels, etc.—there is a listing for ‘an uncertain mirror.’”
Samael snorted and tossed his head. His red hair shook in short wavelets. “As if I’d want that.”
“Another piece of dross from Father’s collection,” Lillith informed the lawyer. “Give it to some home for aging transvestites. It’s bound to give someone a laugh.” Her face, framed by her red tresses, was twisted in a sardonic smile.
“Within the purview of my offices, I took the liberty of bringing both mirror and sword with me from your father’s home.” He patted a tiny, gray envelope next to the will. Before him the siblings shifted uneasily. They eyed each other with the sour contempt of spoiled familiarity, like a spiteful married couple.
With a chitinous nail he flicked open the small envelope’s flap and drew out the large mirror by the corner. The mirror was a rudely-thick sheet of mercury-backed glass, about the size of a supermarket tabloid, framed with art-deco vines in gilded angularity. Where dusty sunbeams drifted down upon it they were reflected brightly back in a wavering-scattering of multiple colors, like tropical fish swimming through a coral reef. “I do have some papers detailing accounts of previous owners,” Mr. Twist informed them, setting the mirror on a stand facing the couple. “What your father called, ‘an uncertain mirror,’ I believe was called—” he let out a series of screeching, clawing sounds that hung in the air. “That is, ‘the Mirror of Opposition.’ It was infused with power several thousand years ago by a Brother in an order of Tormentors. His writings are to my left if you wish to see them.”
“We did enjoy looking into this once,” Samael spoke with an evaporating wistfulness. “When we were children.” His eyes were turned away from it, as were his sister’s.
“What good is a mirror that tells a lie?” Lillith asked. When she turned to look directly into it she saw her face twisted into wretched maleness. It was her brother’s face staring back at her. In the reflection the brother and sister’s positions were reversed, showing themselves in each other’s place. They appeared to be sitting cross-legged in a meadow on a summer’s afternoon, a field of wildflowers extending in each direction. The sight made her ill with loathing. She remembered other things they used to do in front of this mirror, trying to shock each other. As adolescents it had amused them both to watch themselves, as each other, perform explorations and commit violations upon each other’s bodies. The each still bore the scars of caresses and piercings.
“Until the mirror, I had been confused by the particular phrasing of the will.” Mr. Twist broke her reverie, spreading his hands wide over the paper. “Your father left everything to his only natural-born child.”
“What!” Samael barked, starting up in the chair. “Twist, enough vagaries. This will is a yard long. What exactly does it say?” He snatched the paper from the lawyer and looked it over, his lips working as he read.
Lillith stood and stepped next to him. In the mirror, the reflection showed Samael rising, stepping over to the reading Lillith. Butterflies floated around the flowers at their shins.
“This is a mistake!” Lillith snapped. “‘I, Ganiel, also known as the Prince of the Bronze Mountains, Lord of the Glass realms, leave all of my titles and belongings, listed below—to my only natural born child.’ This is ridiculous! There are obviously two of us.”
“So I thought,” Mr. Twist nodded. “Until the mirror.
“We all know about the sword’s unique abilities,” he continued. He opened the small envelope again and this time drew out a long, thin, white blade of Middle-Eastern appearance, about three cubits long. He held it with one hand, edge up, on his blotter. He lifted a tiny ginger nut cookie from the cloisonné bowl on his desk, and ran it along the razor edge of the sword. With a slicing sound, two complete ginger cookies now sat on the desk, one on each side of the blade. “The Sword of Multiplicity.” He lay the blade flat.
Lillith began to chuckle lightly. “But do you know the history of the sword, Mr. Twist?” She stepped away from her brother and sat on the edge of the table near the lawyer. She slowly ran her finger along the flat of the sword, tracing out the intricate seals. Her lilac nail was reflected in the bright metal. “We all know the story about King Solomon. How he was presented with a child and two mothers who each claimed it. Solomon proposed cutting the child in half. One mother clutched her heart, while the other claimant, enemy of the true mother, was delighted. Solomon knew which was the real mother and gave her the baby. The false mother was taken away in chains. From stories like that, the proles declared Solomon was wise.
“Of course, my dear Mr. Twist,” she purred, “Solomon’s wisdom was greater than that. He was perhaps the greatest human magician ever. The problem of the child gnawed at him. Any ass could threaten to slice a baby. The problem lay in appeasing both mothers. He wondered what it would be like to see the same child raised by two women—one who adored him and one who despised him. The ultimate nature vs. nurture experiment. And so he—” She suddenly paled and looked at the blade. “He made the sword of—” She turned towards her brother, her pointless attempt at kittenish seduction forgotten.
“By all that twists and bites…” Samael was pale as well. “Nature vs. Nurture.”
“And so the mirror,” Mr. Twist nodded. “I believe your father only had one natural child. After he used the sword to make the two of you, he put one through the mirror. A boy—or a girl—in opposition to the other. He could witness for himself a variation on Solomon’s theme.”
The man and woman stared at each other. Mr. Twist could see the thoughts running through their heads—their identical thoughts. “I do not know which of you is the original. You both are, I suppose, just one is a different gender.”
Their silence continued as they approached each other suspiciously. They lifted their warm hands uncertainly and pressed them together, their identical fingerprints meeting. They stood close, staring at each other with a curiosity they hadn’t felt in many years.
Mr. Twist’s dry voice rasped. “However, while entertaining, this does not settle the matter of the will. He leaves everything to his child.”
The two faces hardened at once.
“And I do not allow violence in my office.”
They turned to him as one. “What do you suggest?” was sneered out.
The lawyer stood and picked up the sword, letting the point hang. He stepped in front of the mirror, raising it towards the glass, off-angled from perpendicular. The steel reflected off the mirror which reflected off the steel. Oddly, the lawyer’s reflection was only of his stick-thin self in his tailed jacket, his room surrounding him like a cloud. Despite his drawn angularity, he held the long sword lightly, as if it weighed as little as a lath of wood. As he plunged the sword into the glass, it’s reflection slid silently out, at an equal and opposite angle. With a flick of his hand he threw the hilt into the mirror and caught the reflected hilt as it exited. He held it up, looking along it’s high length at the seals, twisted inside out from their original configuration.
“The Sword of Singularity,” he said softly, and brought it down swiftly between the two siblings.
The child of Ganiel, Prince or Princess of the Bronze Mountains, Lord and Lady of the Glass realms, heir to the possessions, stood before Mr. Twist. It’s medium-long red hair flowed in waves alongside it’s face. Depending on the angle of the light its features were delicate or defined, soft-skinned or hard. It looked at itself in the mirror and saw only itself.
“You’ve taken a terrible risk doing this,” the heir said. “Even if we—I—reverse the sword, I don’t see how we could separate ourselves. Just make copies, or now, identical reflections.” It contemplated itself, proud and spiteful at once. “If we are not pleased with this form, I may decide to destroy you.”
Mr. Twist opened his hands. “As you will. But I had an obligation to my client to deliver his goods to his child. My duty is done.” He re-opened the envelope and inserted the sword and mirror. “The keys to your estates are also within. I have my fee. Thank you for your patronage.”
The lawyer delicately ushered the heir from his office. The simple wooden door opened onto the echoing basement of a parking garage, where two sports cars waited. The door’s outer side, sheathed in painted steel, read “Electrical Panel Access.”
As the heir stood, determining which car to take, Mr. Twist grasped the purple glass doorknob on the outside of the door. With a scrape of sparks, he removed it, leaving the steel unmarred. Inside his office he closed the door severing the connection between his office and the garage. His next client would use another handle on another door, and step into the office.
Without any sound but the padding of his feet, Mr. Twist stepped back to his desk, folded the will, and lay it upon a dusty pillar of paper. He then proceeded to eat both ginger cookies.
Paul McCartney asked a chauffeur how life was. The man answered he was so busy, he’d been working eight days a week. Bingo, another idea for a song. For both of them. Paul & the Beatles had a hit in America with the song, though it never caught on in England. But the chauffeur also wrote songs. The truth was, he was an amazing song writer, but was too damn busy to ever finish anything properly. He was getting on a bit when he heard his kids playing the song, and it rekindled his thoughts & desires.
In 2016, trying to avoid a repeat of Obama’s first debate performance, the exhausted candidate took a caplet of Focisin, a newest legal ADHD drug. She did great. Another caplet before the second debate, another before the first meeting with Congress, and she had a pattern in place. Before the news leaked of her habit, half the house members had quietly started taking it, and a mental arms race was on. There was no advantage to be won in negotiations with the Chinese, since they used it as well. When it was discovered to shorten life span, everyone turned to younger politicians. The big question was how to go back to becoming merely normal.
For the first time physicists are coming up with realistic equations saying warp drive might be possible. It turns out we’ll need to get away from massive objects. The problem is the Oort cloud is thicker than we thought. And at a distance of one light year out, it takes a three-generation ship to travel that far enough to clear the cloud. One woman has survived from launch to warp ignition, and seen civilization on the ship change drastically.