“Science news: Octopuses came to Earth from space as frozen eggs millions of years ago” by Caroline Grand-Clement

Visitants
by eric persson

Image by Eric Perrson

(after an article by Ciaran McGrath in Express)

i am too colorful for their
fragile eyes so i
hide in empty
vases, shapeshift into
silent pride.
they have called me
too complicated
on eight different occasions
& eight times i have
screamed back coward.
afraid of what they cannot
figure out they have broken
my hope to ever find
a home again. i orbit
around this planet of blues,
seep into its belly,
resurface only to wrap
my arms around their
sorry throats.
i am an alien
with too many arms &
not enough bones in my body
to call it a graveyard.

 

 

 

Caroline Grand-Clement is a seventeen years old, half-time poet, half-time student at an international school in Lyon, France. She dreams of art in any form, falling stars & late night conversations. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beyond the Shallows, an anthology by L’Éphémère Review, Rose Quartz Journal, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram @octopodeshearts.

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“Surface Tension” by Gary Hartley

Visitants
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Image: Tracie Cheng

The oil has spilled and we know it is coming. It will not be contained. There will be no expertise right there where it happened and none when it arrives, because it is us here, just us, with no expertise. Beaches await dark blankets and dead feather beds.

Over there, the robots are heading our way, from inland and on planes and from the places that the majority can only describe in terms like ‘nowhere’. We have made eye contact but not acknowledged each other meaningfully. We reap some benefits at this point of course; they have not pulled their guns and we might well venture to imagine that they never will.

We comment more and more on things, often with tenuous-at-best grasp of said things. Mute, we type everything out. We ensure there is no nervous tension this way, no silences for our eyes to take in.

Soon, the water shadow is upon us, part of our lives. We cannot sit on beaches and sip fizzy drinks and hope for, if not the best, not the absolute worst things all at once.

Smaller and smaller issues we find worthy of commentary. We let nothing go unexpressed; grasping opinions and acceptable formats from what was once dead air. As we tap tap we flick glances at colleagues and rivals and that’s, naturally, the same thing.

The once-living creatures and the floating plastic bottles are now the same sort of ephemera, croutons in abandoned soup that no service industry staff member will be seen dead collecting on a tray for improved aesthetics.

We see the briar pit and we want so badly to stick in it, for the experience firstly, then to tell friends and strangers and strangers as proxy friends, maybe go on to pitch it as a long-form work. The effect of the sun’s rays on the semi-liquid blackness is beautiful in a way. We do not vocalise, mouths stuck in rigid ohs as we ponder the lexicon of disaster.

There will be no humans coming to take our jobs, nothing that convenient. We will not be able to shout at their strange languages and funny clothes. Hard loss pollutes memories, but there will be some recall of this as the epoch when we could have done the solidarity thing, but dodged it for reasons that seemed practical at the time.

Near-dead bird can’t fan off the gloomy gloop, wings now in the hands of those flight non-experts that can be bothered with ideas as old as intervention. Solvents in the water, nothing ever solved but we pass comment, of course. Takes so hot the soles of our shoes melt, molecules creeping towards a water-bound family reunion of sorts.

Slip slapping in as ever, the sea, stoic in just another of its doomsdays. They say the ship’s been plugged. The robots don’t mind either way as they stare into mirrors, aspiring for more convincing emotional reactions. Their makers say the loving machines will clean up messes in future, there will be nothing like this, this all-too human thing. Their creations nod and smile; practice could possibly make perfect. The only sticking point might be price, but we’ll cross that smart bridge when we’ve coded it.

It never mattered that we had no expertise. That ship had sunk and the library had long shut. Not in my day, those thoughts and words that came before, those laughable irrelevances. Speak now or forever something bad. We comment and comment again, wondering if there’s an economic angle to this paragraph or the next. Everyone else is thinking the same thing. We might write about that too – shrink-wrap the new news, string it out to whatever word count is vogue.

It is what it is and a dozen or so other stock phrases for courage. Keep eyes closed, leave all communication devices on the sleeker-than-ever-before sand and do what’s necessary. The time for stepping in was yesterday and you blew it in a long, bad conversation – the only way is out. We walk into the oily water, watery oil, first ankle then waist-deep. The gloopy weight feels a bit like armbands, meaning it’s that time again. It’s time to wonder if it’s OK to feel reassured.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

Gary W. Hartley is from Leeds, but has lived elsewhere for some time. He used to co-edit The Alarmist magazine, and has a book of poems out on Listen Softly London Press. He communicates into the digital void via Twitter: @garyfromleeds

 

 

 

“WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE GREAT FISH CAME GNAWING?” by Cavin Bryce

Visitants
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“To Bloom Not Bleed” by The White Deer

The Earth existed then as one all consuming ocean spotted with a single island near the equator. It was a thin strip of sand only four feet in length at its widest point, but warm and soft so the native boys never complained. The sky was only ever perfectly covered in thick, morphing clouds. It rained incessantly.

On this island lived a pack of feral boys, the last of the humans. Their skin was honey colored, a hue reminiscent of sunlight refracted through amber. The boy’s sported differentiating features spare their skin tone; the colors of their eyes, shapes of their bodies, and thickness of their hair all varied greatly

In front of their beach was the ocean and behind it existed a world of vines and trees. Eyes of all sizes watched them from both the ocean and the forest. This observation was constant. Sometimes, these glaring eyes carried voices with them, starving voices from a dead world. If ever they wandered too far into the brush, or the ocean, the boys were quickly hunted and ripped to shreds by the monsters that watched them from afar.

At first the boys would travel deep into the jungle, swim out into the blue expanse of the ocean, in an attempt to uncover any evidence of their forgotten past that may still remain undamaged. Many of them perished during those endeavors, and the curiosity of the remaining children was eventually made obsolete by the drive to live. Their food sources were thinned to tiny fish, the children of colossus parents, and an assortment of berries. The boys ripped into the slick bodies of fish with a near animal instinct and consumed everything raw; scales, flesh, bones, and fins, everything but the eyes. Even the youngest of the pack would snap the head off of whatever he could catch and slurp their organs up savagely.

Water was collected in crudely woven baskets, or in containers that washed onto their shore. The largest of these containers was labelled: 2% Skimmed Fat. It held a lot of water.

 

 

One of the boys was named Gardner. He was gentle, with soft eyes and a light touch, one of the few who took initiative to look after the smaller children. One morning he woke up before all the other boys and waded into the shallow water bordering himself and the great beasts. There, he rinsed his hair and stared into the rising sun’s rays. He heard the whispers of lesser creatures, as one always did when they neared the water or forest. They whispered promises of a kingdom in the sky, above the infinitely raining clouds, where he would reside after death. The sirens talked of a place where hunger and pain didn’t exist, where the sun kissed your skin. Amidst these whispers came a great booming voice that drowned out the lesser creatures.

“It’s over,” the dominating voice said.

“What is?” Gardner thought.

“Your life. Your species.”  Gardner scoffed. Nothing could reach them on the shores.

“Come, boy, swim out here and see what is left of your people.”

He hesitated, straightening himself in the shallow water.

“Come, come and see why you are so content on your puny island.”

  ⧫

The rest of the boys awoke to see the eldest of them paddling out into the ocean. They screamed bloody murder at their comrade. His name, Gardner, clung to the moisture in the air, vibrated with the force of their confusion and sadness. He hoped, as he paddled, that they would be safe without him.

When Gardner reached the trench he turned to the shore of his beach. He could see nothing but a blur, heard nothing but distant screeches and pleads. When he looked down into the ocean, he saw nothing but an encompassing blackness and jagged rocks. As he plummeted into the water, deeper and deeper, there still was nothing but rock and water.

“You lied to me,” he thought, “there’s nothing here.”

“And that is what’s left. My siblings and I, along with the boars and great apes, consumed your civilization long ago. Out of sheer pity, we have allowed your pack to survive all this time on that pitiful island.”

Dead, glowing eyes each the size of the moon appeared suddenly from the blackness. Beneath them, a mouth cracked opened and revealed aisles of jagged teeth that emulated, in size and shape, an ancient mountainscape.

“We can’t stand to see life so idle any longer. Before you were demolished, your people found meaning in activity. It is cruel to keep you like this, unchanging and unmotivated.”

It was hard to admit, but the beast was right. Day after day the boys ate, washed themselves, and played. Then the next day they did it again. It was all without purpose, without an ounce of understanding.

Inside the intestines of the monster, Gardner saw entire cityscapes in crumbles. There were vehicles and neighborhoods, even entire islands floating in gastric acid. Memories of a time long ago flooded Gardner’s brain. He remembered his brother, his mother.  He hoped that this beast would take his home in one fell swoop and that none of this brothers would feel any pain. There was the slightest feeling of hope, as his last breath oozed from his lips, that he would see them again in that place where it never rains.

Walmart World Heritage Site by Wes Bishop

Cyber Pamphleteer: Imagined Stations

In the distant future, a Walmart in Cleveland, Ohio is a World Heritage Site. It is at an excavated and preserved location where people vacation and teachers march their students to see how their ancestors lived. A reenactor, blue vested and labeled “How Can I Help You?” greets the crowds like a jovial clown. They ask how tall people are as they shuffle into the museum, and when people answer they smack their head and feign ignorance.

“What did you say? I don’t know metric!”

People laugh and try to convert the distance they’ve traveled into “Standard.” The reenactor assists. “You can call me JANET!” they say, pointing to their identification badge. “I’m here to help!” ‘Janet’ then explains that although happiness and civility were required by all Walmart “team members” it was not always so simple. “Our ancestors had an elaborate, yet very subtle, way to communicate. Civility was the ideal, but often short tempers were the norm.”

To illustrate, another reenactor, labelled “BRAD,” walks up and Janet and Brad begin yelling about the price of an item. The crowd watches in wonder.

The tourists continue past Janet and Brad and see displays of ancient tools, television remotes and eBooks, as quaint and exotic as stone tools and wooden teeth. Maps are stretched across one of the renovated walls depicting the rise and fall of the commercial empires. The “Age of Walmart” is central, and shows its expansion from the American South to the entire globe, highlighting the problems and benefits it brought to various people in uneven quantities, before collapsing in on itself as the display explains, “empires are bound to do.”

Visitors also learn about the twenty-first century literary figures Danielle Steele (no relation to the twenty-third century political assassin), and James Patterson (relation to the twenty-fourth century space explorer). There is even an exhibit talking about the early “smart phones.” People coo and awe, blinking their eyes as they capturing pictures to upload to their virtual streams.

“Look everyone! We’re at the Walmart World Heritage Site!”

The thoughts form, are released to the world, and slip into the collective consciousness.

In one “aisle” a visitor brags about how they and their partner have traveled to over twenty different World Heritage Sites. “Now, this is a great place and everything, definitely a symbol of culture, but if you really want to see something go to the Starbucks in Atlanta. It’s one of the few left in the world and they actually let you stand in line to get something to drink!”

A family from Tokyo nod their heads in interest.

“I mean, just think of it,” they continue, “having to wait in line for something? It really made me think about how our ancestors had to live. Absolutely amazing.”

“Well,” one of the Tokyo visitors replies, “that really is something, but we just got back from the Chennai Memorial.”

The woman stops and nods her head gravely.

“They have it set up so these invisible wires will play the voices of those who died in the attacks. It’s really eerie. Kind of like walking through a garden of the dead. In fact, we saw them installing the new hologram feature when we were there. Soon you won’t just hear what the people said on their phones during the attacks, but also the images that were captured. It will be just like you were there.”

In the aisle next to them people look at the displays of things called “bar codes.”

“This was a consumer society,” Janet informs them. “People of the past consumed to live, to enjoy, and to stabilize some of the specific national economies. As such, our ancestors here in the American Midwest, specifically, devised elaborate and sophisticated rituals to ship, display, and purchase goods. Our world heritage site is a testament to that history!”

There is also an exhibit that displays the ancient sign of—

bathroom

Janet tries to explain.

People ask repeated questions.

Janet tries to explain some more.

No one is able to understand.

Further from Janet is another reenactor, this one though does not wear a blue vest, but instead has a dark hooded sweater. The material is soft to the touch, and the reenactor’s pants are made from the same material, only it is a faded red.

“Yes, one of my ancestors was fairly active in this period,” the reenactor explains to a group of students. “They robbed— that’s stealing the money from people like Janet and Brad over there who worked for the commercial empires— several stores, just like this Walmart here, before being stopped by the law enforcement.” The reenactor continues, explaining that their dissertation, soon to be published by the prestigious McDonald’s Press, will argue these criminal figures where culturally necessary transgressions against the major commercial empires, so that the empires could foster a sense of fear and sympathy to legitimize their power over society.

The students listen in wonder, secretly thinking about how they would have fought the empires too if they had been alive in those ancient days.

“Although, my ancestor would not have necessarily robbed one of these stores,” the reenactor continues, gesturing toward the expansive warehouse market. “In fact, they targeted what were called ‘gas stations.’ Much smaller. Easier to manage. They took the money from nearly seven of those establishments before being caught by the government.” To illustrate further the reenactor puts on a mask from their pocket and pulls out a handheld weapon. The reenactor points it at Brad who is walking by and suddenly the weapon spits smoke as it screams to life.

The students recoil in morbid fascination, simultaneously enthralled yet horrified. Brad falls to the ground bleeding and screaming as the students blink their eyes rapidly.

Blink, blink, blink.

Click, click, click.

The entire scene unfolding for the world to witness.

“HELP!” Brad screams in pain. “HELP!”

“Where’s the mother fucking money!!!” the reenactor yells.

And then just as the violence unfolding in front of the crowd becomes too much, Janet intervenes, placing a stabilizer over Brad’s forehead, and the blood instantaneously reenters their body, the bullet holes evaporating one by one. The three stand, hold hands, and bow to the audience.

The crowd, by now not just the original students but also the family from Tokyo and the bragging frequent travelers, loves it. They have never seen anything quite like it before. One tourist adds to their visual upload, ‘Wow. I’ve seen reenactments before of battles at Gettysburg, and Okinawa, and Sydney, but nothing like this. The violence was so intimate.” Before posting the tourist adds a link to the reenactor’s ancestor, the one who robbed seven smaller “gas Walmarts,” and include archival footage of the ancestor’s court trial.

Towards the end of the day, before the site closes for the evening, Janet, Brad, and the reenactor tell the crowds that in just a few weeks they will be recreating an event called “Black Friday,” and that the tourists could, if they wanted, come and participate in the trampling of a Walmart team member. The audiences listen with fascination before returning to pushing the shopping carts around in frenzied circles, laughing as they nearly miss one another.

Finally, the families shuffle out to leave, stopping at a number of “fast food” recreations where they eat an authentic twenty-first century meal. They laugh at the grotesquely oversized drinks and bitterly salted fries. Children marvel at the hard plastic figurines that come with their food. Leaving, they see the final exhibit, a dedication to something called a “cart corral.” The sign openly admits historians don’t know why it was used, considering the store’s entrance was only a mere walk away. The sign concludes it is one of those many things lost to the sands of time.