Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Mr. Tao

 




Mr. Tao

by Chris Morton



Mr. Tao, Mr. Tao.”

The eyes blinked.

Mr. Tao. Can you hear me?”

The first doctor clicked his fingers against the side of the man’s head. Haphazard; almost carelessly; then looked across at his colleague. “Looks like we’ve got another one.”

The second doctor muttered while the head, the head of Mr. Tao, began to moan – first low and barely a sound but soon that sound had grown to become nothing short of a desperate roar.

The first doctor’s face came forward, against the eyes: he had some sort of instrument. A light that he shone deep into what was left of the subject.

He has cognition.”

Don’t they all.”

This reply came from slightly further away. A third doctor, there were three of them – but then there was panic and much of it growing.

Can’t we shut it up?”

It bother you?” said one doctor to another.

Yes, there were three of them. Three doctors. The room was white. Blue. White. And the instrument was a strong, shining silver. Their clothes were white, so he assumed they were doctors. One of them looked away, at a right-angle to the other two who were each staring at him and he tried, tried his best to understand.

Dump it, then?”

That’s the fifteenth already.”

Not even lunchtime.”

Laughter. Shuddering, reverberating laughter.

I don’t understand it.” This came from the female. The woman. One woman, two men. Doctors … The female, the second doctor, seemed more interested than the other two. They were showing unkindness, discursiveness, like this was some sort of routine and they couldn’t have cared less for him … for Mr. Tao …

That’s my name, he thought.

The problem is not physical, per se. The head itself is fully recovered.”

Functional,” put in the third, still staring away at a right-angle.

It’s the mind,” continued the first doctor, regarding the woman with slight … he was being patronising, superior, informing her as if she were a junior. “The mind cannot cope.”

With the body,” she replied.

Mr. Tao tried to look down. At what body?

And then he saw it, the reflection in the wall opposite that was a huge, giant glass mirror and the three doctors with him, but it was too much to handle.

The woman, her back arched – she was bending at him. She had black stockings under the white coat and her hair was brown; long, brown and soft. Mr. Tao wanted to touch it, to reach out and he could feel where his arm and hand should have been.

Wait a minute, we’re getting something.”

The two other doctors were older. One grey-haired, the other black. The grey haired doctor was the one staring off at a right-angle.

Movement in the left temporal.”

Mr. Tao recognised his face. So familiar. Bathroom mirror, he thought. He remembered shaving, and of times when he’d just stared – why? But he had looked. So often he had looked at his reflection.

It’s confused.”

The head, the head was his, but attached to something metallic; artificial and spindly.

Mr. Tao, can you hear us? Do you understand where you are?”

Spindly, from the neck down to a shining, elongated scaffolding of circuits. There were legs, arms, and long, metallic fingers.

Mr. Tao, do you understand.”

He blinked.

Not getting anything.”

Mr. Tao began to scream, then realised in the strangest way that he’d already started screaming much sooner – his mouth was open, like a fish.

Mr. Tao. You are alive.”

But the woman, she seemed worried. She turned to the black doctor. “Is there anything we can do?”

The black doctor said nothing but his eyes, they rolled dismissively.

Nothing at all?” the woman repeated.

The grey-haired man’s lips were moving ever so slowly. He was talking to the wall – there was something there, out of sight. (Mr. Tao reasoned that it may be some kind of computerised interface).

Mr. Tao.”

It was the black doctor addressing him – it was he, the first doctor, who had been addressing him all along.

Mr. Tao, this is the year 2333. You were put into cryogenics …”

But Mr. Tao, the head, was no longer taking notice for it was the woman he was focussing on. Only she could save him now. Tears, bright blue – they were flooding from the ducts in her eyes. Her lips opened and a surge of memories flew at him in a dense, rushed groan and he tried again with his right hand, to reach out to her, begging for help. For understanding.

He knew he’d made a connection.

Help me, he screamed. Help me … My God …

Another dud,” he heard.

The black doctor looked to the woman. “Fifteen it is, then.”

Hand at her mouth, the tears continued to flow.

Kill it,” said the grey-haired doctor, turning finally to face the head.

Another one for the pigs,” agreed the black doctor, patting the woman on the back.

Laughter. Horrible, reverberating laughter. They were mocking him. Giving up on him.

I’m right here. Help me, my God.

Says here, he paid a fair fortune for this.”

Didn’t they all?”

Their words became distant: “A … CEO … Symantec … crash … too much blood … ironic … automotive …” A crash, yes! he remembered. A CEO. He had risen to the top, and controlled … he’d been in charge of … self driving … and then … there’d been an accident …

But a song had entered his head. Keep it … window … flying there and … feeling …

With a jerk he was being carried across the room.

Another head for the disposal.”

More laughter, and ever so slightly less reverberating.

The song continued: Each day … while you can … flying there and … float …

A thump.

Staying conscious for barely long enough to project three hail-Marys, Mr. Tao took in the other heads; he took in their punctured, rolling eyes – though rather than feeling the horror you might imagine, Mr. Tao, once inside and when the lid had closed, decided that in a way it was like returning to the womb. Like home, he decided.

The moaning roar ceased and the head began to convulse in what could only be interpreted as laughter.



Chris Morton is the creator of this blog.
He has released two sci-fi novels,
one collection of short stories
and a few other scribblings.
You can find his amazon page here.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

It Seems Fairly Likely by Patrick Gabriel Doyle

 




It Seems Fairly Likely

by Patrick Gabriel Doyle



It seems fairly likely that once upon a time, between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, another planet may have existed but, somehow, destructed. There is some evidence of this scattered around the vastness: the asteroid belt for example, or some of Jupiter’s moons, perhaps, and the fairly recent discovery of Jupiter’s rings. The closer we look, the more we see – the more we see the deeper the mysteries unfold.

It is, perhaps less likely but, nonetheless, somewhat tantalising that this once-planet supported life and, more tantalising still, that a race of intelligent beings possessing a certain degree of advancement and development populated the planet as it neared its end.

Ever more lip-smackingly tantalising is the thought of that once-planet in orbit around our Sun, while, at the same time, on this world we call Earth; life was also at a certain stage of development.

However, even more deliciously tantalising is the prospect of two possibilities arising from this premise we have built up.

One:

That life on Earth was seeded from the once-planet, perhaps post-destruction, in some gloriously survivalistic, chance consequence. Or, indeed, that life on Earth was seeded on purpose as a means of carrying on the genes, so to speak.

Two:

That both planets held life simultaneously …


*


Cara Delaggwei sat happily astride her saurian mount. It was a beautiful Urth day; her fifth out from Atlantis.

She had nothing much to do – check the herds, gather some food and rig up a shelter. She was going to be spending the night away from Main Compound.

As the day wore on, she drew ever closer to a smouldering volcano, glimpsed through thick, jungle foliage and sending pretty, ribbon trails of smoke up into the blue.

Of course Cara knew those pretty trails were actually noxious fumes and that at any moment the volcano could erupt, quaking the ground and throwing suffocating ash into the air. But not today!

Instruments showed no trace of major seismic activity in that area. Of course, there were always rumblings: Threats. Impulsivity. It was a young world after-all. Younger than her.

She enjoyed dabbling with time when she was ‘down there’ as they called it.

Without warning two snap-lizards came crashing through the foliage towards her. They were after her Saur but would make a tasty meal of Cara nonetheless, even if they didn’t know what she was!

She pulled a stun gun and pulsed a vibration to one of the lizards.

It dropped.

She took instant aim at the second lizard.

Suddenly her Saur lurched and toppled, throwing her to the ground. A third snap-lizard coming in from a different direction – a hunting party with a plan – a bit of evolution going on here – she thought crazily.

She managed to roll away from the action.

Her Saur was already fighting a losing battle and Cara tussled with compassion against the directive that they must change nothing – but we’re changing it just by being here!!

If she stunned the snap-lizards she would be left with a badly injured Saur to deal with – she could maybe heal it – but then the snap-lizards would have no dinner – but then the Saur wouldn’t have been here if I hadn’t –

WHOOSH – SNAP – breath on her right ear. With reflex action she sprang away from yet another snap-lizard as it entered the scene.

Luckily Cara was smaller than the usual lizard prey and the mistimed SNAP, sent it careering on to where the main action was happening. But she had been clocked – she had better get out of there – Thank you Saur and goodbye!

Pausing merely a microsecond, she made a sign in the air and sent it to the already fading Saur. She knew – one small moment of compassion goes a long, long way – then she was out of there.

Cara kept running until she put enough distance between herself and the snap-lizards to feel safe, at least, for the moment. At some point she would have to make her way back to retrieve her equipment, unless one of the snap-lizards had chewed it up – wouldn’t that be a find for some palaeontologist in the future!

She dug up some roots to munch on, communed with Main Compound and filled them in on the day’s events, then settled herself in the undergrowth until evening.

When she woke, she realised she’d been asleep – some kind of huge red/green, winged insect was buzzing around the bushes.

A quick glance at its proboscis told her it wasn’t going to bite her – more interested in the evening flowers – she smiled, but moved away stealthily nonetheless.

By the time she reached the spot where the snap-lizards had attacked it was deep twilight. Foliage had been thrashed around so much that a small clearing had been made. There was a trail of snapped branches where the remains of Saur had been dragged away by the snap-lizards or something else.

The packs of equipment were easily discernible against the flattened grass – all was well on that score anyway.

Moving through the dense undergrowth at night would be foolish so she set up a vibrobarrier and phase-tent, which provided some degree of invisibility and protection lest the rains and biting insects come.

It was now pitch black night. She drank proto-water, thinking about how she should proceed tomorrow. The stars twinkled through a break in the foliage.

By chance, Atlantis was visible in that small portion of sky, brighter and bigger than the surrounding stars. She wished to commune and set her mind in process – SUDDENLY – INTENSELY AWARE OF ACUTE SILENCE – THEN – ATLANTIS – INTENSELY BRIGHT - EXPANDING – ACROSS THE SKY – ACROSS HER MIND – SEARING LIGHT – ENGULFING CRASH – THEN…

darkness…

silence…

over Urth…

in her mind…

She looked up.

Where Atlantis had been – an empty space.

Where there had been connection in her mind – silence.

"Atlantis? Gone?" - She whispers to the night. And to herself, almost like an expectation, she sighs – "It seems fairly likely."


Patrick Gabriel Doyle is from Glasgow, Scotland.
For more stories and links check out his amazon page here.

 

Monday, 15 February 2021

Art - Vincent Chong


 Art - Vincent Chong 



from Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan



from Cosmic Interruptions by Joe R. Lansdale



from Embassytown by China Mieville



from Shine by Jetse de Vries



from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin