New Thing #1

The skin of the girl's thighs glowed under the sterile flourescent light - nearly jumping from the pages Tomas had unfolded.

In the still, quiet air of the station's night cycle, the plastic sheets were a window looking out on a nearly forgotten place - laid carefully on the console before him.

Somewhere warmer, somewhere open and free. Where the light of a real sun shone, and the sweet smell of the slim redhead's skin may have mingled with that of the living grass she lay on in the picture. A place that existed somewhere as surely as did the young woman and that cocksucker of a photographer that once got paid to spend hours taking her picture.

But to a young man, living in a metal can in the blackness of space - far enough out that the entire galaxy, and within it, the small section that man knew, could occasionally be seen as a disc shaped cloud through a porthole, the woman and the grass and the world where it grew may as well have been a pleasant dream. One barely touched through the foggy thoughts of what the station's chronometer said was early morning.

For the purpose of maintaining morale, the medical staff made sure Tomas and his hundred or so co-habitants had access to enough electronic porn to fill the station countless times over, were it ever to be printed out. But he liked keeping a magazine or two in his footlocker while he was deployed. Something he could hold in his hand and look at on a page. Something that he could have some physical connection to - even if it was just turning or smoothing a page.

It was real, to an extent, and he enjoyed the private process of unfolding the carefully tucked pages, smoothing them with his hands as his gaze slid over them...

This was a ritual he enjoyed often during the brief moments of privacy that station life afforded. One of the only perks of pulling night watch for a week was the guarantee that he would be the sole crew member in the command unit - an area that no one save the station Commandant could enter without his authorization as Officer of the Watch.

Needless to say, the Commandant worked days.

Tomas leaned forward to turn the page and as he did noticed something peculiar about the reclining redhead. A spot on her stomach, just above her navel had begun to flash red. Peeling back the page to reveal the gauges that he was supposed to be monitoring, the young Ensign noticed that an indicator labeled "Gyro 2" was flashing.

Folding the magazine gently and placing it under his seat with his right hand, he used his left to call up a status report for the malfunctioning unit with his right. He moved without any real urgency - even a serious malfunction involving one of the station's 20 gyroscopic stabilizers wouldn't affect the crew at all, and might not even be repaired unless two or three others failed in the future. It appeared, in this case, that the offending unit had become unbalanced for some reason, and had shut itself off - following the protocols set by the station's master computer.

He pressed another button and a monochrome waterfall of numbers began cascading down the display screen on the far wall.

Just as he was entering the malfunction into the next day's maintenance log, another red light on the board in front of him winked into life, and another, and another seconds after that. Tomas was reaching to call the engineering deck when he felt something unprecedented.

The station moved.

It started as a low rumble he barely felt through the soles of his boots, but soon became a teeth-jarring rattle that knocked him to his feet. It subsided for a moment
....and then was back stronger than before. His head hit the console on his way to the deck. Then, just as suddenly as the shaking began Tomas felt something new...in the pit of his stomach...he was lifting from the floor...

Orange overhead lights pulsed now, and a klaxon was sounding.

From somewhere else in the station, he heard a violent sound, a distinctive sound, a moaning that spacers dread. The wail spread quickly through the station to the walls of the command unit. It was the sound of metal bending, buckling, of something big tearing away as the station's superstructure screamed in protest.

Tomas couldn't believe his eyes. Both he, and the compartment he was in were, for lack of a better term ... growing. The nearest bulkhead, which once appeared just a few feet away, almost in reach, now looked to be more than 20. Even more surprising was that he still felt like he could come close to touching it...His body, like the room around it, appeared to be stretching and warping outward.

The effect was, quite simply put, nauseating. Accordingly, Tomas vomited.

One by one, the hard plastic faces of the control consoles around the room began to crack - then shatter. It wasn't clear at first, but after Tomas heard something whiz by his ear he realized that the rivets in the bulkhead, put under pressure by the swiftly and inexplicably shifting geometry of the station, had begun to squirt violently from their slots between the plates of the exterior walls.

Damage reports from other parts of the station crackled through the loudspeakers in the console....stated in the calm but firm female voice of the station's computer.


Clinging to the lip underneath the command console - floating in formation with the tiny spheres of weightless blood from his gashed forehead - Tomas did the only thing he could think to do. A testament to his humanity, if not his acumen as a junior military officer, he keyed the com link to Headquarters on Earth

- and called home.


[The grainy, green video shows the face of a young man with a close-cropped haircut and a large gash over one eye - sparks intermittently illuminate chaos, wires, scattered equipment in the background. His face is framed by tiny spheres, weightless drops of blood]

hello...HELLO!...Oh God.......this is...this is DeepStar.....DeepStar calling....do you hear me?........Christ Jesus God........UH.....something's happening....something...I don't know......we hadn't moved or anything since...uh... ever.......Jeezus 7 months... 7 months I've been up here.....something happened........The instruments....crazy...I don't know...I wasn't looking, OH GOD, I did this, I'm sorry if I did.........
what?...what....is.....[picture drops].........ITS GETTING BIGGER, EVERYTHING, WHY IS IT BIGGER? WHA......



Letters II

He uncurled himself from the bus seat slowly, feeling every joint in his body protest as he brought himself to standing...

It had been a long night and a longer ride, he felt.

He was used to the feeling of being held in - confined to a space that most people would find impossibly inadequate. He had spent the last seven years behind bars, after all. What, then, was a few hours on a bus.

With his shoeboxes of letters clutched under his arms, he made his way down the aisle of the Greyhound bus - passed passengers still sleeping, and the empty seats left vacant by the people who had decided to get off to stretch their legs or grab an early morning soda from the gas station's mini mart.

He was the only one leaving the bus at this stop. He was glad to go.

Honestly, he didn't know exactly how long he had been riding for. He vaguely remembered it being dark, and light, and dark in turn. He remembered noticing that the bus had gone over mountains and through valleys - through cities and small towns.

Mainly he noticed that the people around him had changed. People he had watched intently for the first few hours of the ride were no where to be found. Now, strangers sat in their seats. He didn't care so much, he just noticed. Much like he noticed that it was now time to get off.

His time on the bus made him realize how much of himself was still in prison. How easy it was for him to settle back into the pattern of dissasociating himself from what was going on around him -- how easy it was to be there without being there. That's how you get through years and years behind bars, you watch it happen to someone else and you barely realize it when its over. You take yourself mentally to somewhere else, and only come back when something in your body tells you you need to.

As he looked around at the gas station, and the stark mountains rising close beyond it; down the main street of the town where the bus had stopped - he felt like he was finally home. He had only been here once before, really for just a fleeting moment. But he had let his mind drift here often while his body was locked up. Over the past years he had adopted this town, while it stood and grew, oblivious to his feelings. But this was where it all had started, and where he knew he had to return.

The strap on his duffel cutting into his shoulder brought him back from his reverie. He adjusted the load and walked on towards the center of town.



The letters he had written to himself from prison were strewn piled in front of him on the kitchen table.

There were about fifty.
He had served seven years.

He hadn't seen them for quite some time. He had no family left so he had paid a friend to recieve them and collect them unopened. The friend had come through and had kept an eye on his mail for all that time - squirreling the letters away in shoeboxes as they came in.
Dear Me,

you're the only one who I can think of who might one day want to read what I'm going to write down. I don't know what exactly what it is going to be yet - but I know most of it is likely to be strange. I've arrived where I am today because of a lot of reasons. Some of these are pretty normal - many of them are strange. Overall the strange things, I think, outweigh the normal ones. But you'll be able to decide when you, er, I um...we get out, I guess.
When he had been released, the friend's house had been one of his first and least ceremonious stops. He had walked from where the Greyhound dropped him off, through sleepy, suburban neighborhoods, across the scraggly lawn and up to his friend's door - to knock loudly on the metal security grate.

After a time, he heard footsteps in the house. Then the door opened wide enough for one eye to peer out.

"S' you're out, huh?" was all he got by way of greeting. He expected nothing less.

" 'Peers so, I guess."

"Good! Uh,..good for you. (pause....pause some more...a breeze ruffles the trees.) "Reckin' y'all want what ah've been a-keeping for ya'."

"You reckon right."

Footsteps shuffle away and in a few minutes return.

"Here they are. Last one I got was last week. Should I be lookin' for any more?"

"Nah, that should be the last - for now, thank you again."

"Don't mention it...but we're done, yeah?"


"I said don't mention it."

A package door opened in the security grate and three shoeboxes were fed out quickly. The door behind never opened more than just wide enough for the boxes to fit out. They were out almost before he could get his hands under to catch them. And by the time he had them stacked in his hands to carry, the door was shut ... and the eye and the arm that fed them out were gone.

The street was quiet. He began the walk back to where the Greyhounds stopped.
Friends like these....


ISLAND - Part 3

"Damn stick."

As Jerry worked his way deeper into the interior of the island, the jungle closed in. The damp air seemed to grow warmer and more stifling with each step he took away from the beach. As he walked, thorny vines tore at his tattered clothing and scraped past his exposed skin.

In his opinion, the thorns were one of the island's most ridiculous features. Which was saying a lot - since Jerry viewed the whole place as more or less completely ridiculous.

The snakes he could understand, having seen enough such jungles in movies and in TV programs to understand that they were lovely places for snakes to be. Without being particularly science-minded Jerry was still savvy enough to gather that oppressive heat, the high humidity, and the presence of a preponderance of hanging vines available for impersonation were all things that classy snakes looking for new digs would find attractive.

The island's interior had these in spades - marking it, as far as Jerry could tell, as an environment ideal for snakes looking to live their snake lives in style, have loads of snake babies with one another, and generally get along in various other snake ways together.

From personal experience Jerry could tell that impersonating vines was an activity that gave snakes particular joy - especially the large ones who, Jerry had discovered, were especially fond of hanging near steep or slippery spots on the trail where they might be accidentally grabbed by passers-by. Most notably those wearing loafers not particularly suited for off-road travel - who happened, for this reason, to often need help regaining their balance.

The results were usually hilarious, if you happened to be a snake.

So, while Jerry could accept that the snakes had a definite and particular place within the jungle's overall motif - he thought the thorns clearly exceeded the boundaries of good taste. They were emblematic, he felt, of a larger flaw in the overall design of the jungle itself - which he had found to be an almost gaudy celebration of themes of annoyance and physical discomfort in all their various shades.

A flaw he was going to be sure to bring to someone's attention - as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

He hoped that it might once things calmed down for him a bit.
He had been finding most of his free time lately spent wrestling with the issue of Not Being Dead, and had found little time for anything else.



The cowboy poked at the dying embers of his fire.
Mesquite scented smoke rose in wisps from the glowing coals.
The fire's light had dimmed, and the desert beyond the tiny campsite was bathed in the silvery-blue glow of night.

That was the thing about the desert, the thing about it at night. Darkness could never take it over.

During the hours that the dark of night held dominion in the streets of the towns, and under the boughs of the forest - The desert pushed back at it with a phosphorescence all of its own. The reflection of moonlight and starlight was enough to ensure that night would never rule completely over the desert's sand and rocks and scrubby brush.

From where he sat at the dying fringes of the campfire, the cowboy watched the desert's light creep in as the fire's light receded. The remnants of his dinner snapped and popped within the now empty can in the heart of the coals.



"It's a freedom balloon," Bigby said and gazed proudly at the oval shape in the sky.

"A freedom balloon? I've never heard of such a thing before," I said back, squinting against the glare.

Above us the white shape hung motionless, high in the sky enough to be slipping in and out of view behind the clouds. from this distance it looked so very small but somehow the way it hung completely motionless above us as the clouds crawled by was eerily menacing. In truth, it looked like a giant white blimp - one that was in no particular hurry to be anywhere but directly above us. It didn't take me long to figure out what I thought about it.

"I don't like it," I said, still not quite understanding why.

"What do you mean you don't like it?" Bigby gaped. My response didn't sit well with him. He didn't often have to deal with ideas that were different from his.

It was because he was a real patriot, and he truly loved our country.

"I just don't," I said gazing down at my shoes now, "It makes me feel funny. Someone should take it down."

It made me feel silly to tell Bigby I didn't like it. Bigby always meant Business, and he felt things with Conviction.

He got a real kick out of my reply and slapped his knees,

"Funny? Ha! What would be funny would be someone actually taking it down. It's important. It watches over us. You know it has more than 10000 cameras on it don't you? Think about it, most casinos in Las Vegas have less than that. 10000 eyes looking down on you every day and night to keep us safe. - That's 5 thousand security guards - airborne security guards, isn't that something?"

I still didn't think so, but I wasn't about to press the point further.



These are some new words.
They are provided here for your enjoyment.
We thoroughly apologize for the recent lack of new words.

Our supplies had dwindled to a scary level - and we didn' t have many to spare.