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The Biggest Political Achievement

by John M. Carlson

January, 2032

“This week marks both an end and a beginning,” President Connors said. He paused, and smiled to himself. This was a nice touch in his speech. He could imagine the great presidents saying something like this. Not that he was a great president. He wasn’t, and he knew he wasn’t. But he’d made good use of his position for his personal gain, and that was all he cared about.

“This week my presidency ends,” President Connors said. “Meanwhile, the Moon Base will open. Today we live on the moon, and tomorrow we will explore planets far away!

“I am pleased to announce that President-elect Ames and Congress have asked me to continue my career in public service on the Moon Base.” Of course, they had no choice. They knew he wanted to move to the Moon Base, and they also knew he’d end their careers if they didn’t do what he wanted them to do.

Indeed, when he’d started packing for his move, the first thing he’d packed was evidence that could destroy the careers of almost every politician in DC, and even put many of them into prison. That evidence would be useful in case he needed to persuade someone on earth to do something once he was established on the Moon Base.

***

The Moon Base impressed Connors even after he’d been living there a month. It was a large and comfortable place to live. Almost like living on a cruise ship, except there was no deck. Eventually it would be self-sufficient, thanks to large greenhouses, which would be good if earth got wiped out from climate change or nuclear war.

The Moon Base was the biggest achievement of his entire political career.

He sipped a glass of champagne, and thought about a decade before. At that time, earth was becoming less and less livable, thanks to climate change. (Which he’d been partly responsible for, given the policies he’d supported during his career. But, unlike big polluting corporations, planet earth didn’t make big campaign donations.) Other problems, like the chances of a big war, were getting worse, too. It would be nice to escape earth and all of its problems.

One night, he was thinking about old science fiction movies about space travel. Inspiration hit, and he came up with the idea of building the Moon Base. It was hardly a new idea, but he thought it might be finally possible with the technology and political climate of the era. He’d get it built by the US, selling it on the grounds of “science” and “a step into space—the last unexplored frontier!” Then, after the Moon Base was built, he’d move there before earth became totally unlivable.

Connors glanced at the clock on his walnut desk. It was about time for the news. He picked up the remote, and turned the TV on.

“A major storm system is headed towards California,” the news announcer said. “It is expected to be the most devastating storm in history.”

I’m glad I retired here, and not back home in California! Connors thought, as he poured himself another glass of champagne.


John M. Carlson lives in the Seattle area. His stories have appeared in a variety of online publications. More of his work can be seen on his website: http://writerjmc.blogspot.com/

Featured

Beyond the Trees

by Benjamin Locke

‘Come on Alex, Final Departure!’ Seth’s voice came jumbled through the thicket.

‘Be right there Seth,’ returned Alex, pulling down the visor of his helmet and slamming it shut, taking a last long look at the planet he called home. The moment he and Seth had trained years for was finally upon them. The first men to step on to another planet, the new frontier of human exploration, XR019. They would be heroes here and they would be aliens there. He took a long deep breath through the assisted airway of the helmet and stepped off the platform, the adrenaline of reality finally beginning to course his veins.

‘All systems checked, ready for departure captain.’ Seth relayed followed by the scheerk of the intercom.

Captain Alex Montgomery took his seat at the head of the cockpit and fastened himself in, ‘Ready for liftoff Lieutenant.’

The men paused a moment and looked at each other, raising a fist before their faces. A symbol of solidarity, something only they understood between them. It said this is it friend. We’re in this together, let’s bring it home!

A sound like the earth itself was imploded roared through them as the rocket engines burst in to life and everything around them shook like a chandelier riding the waves of the San Andreas fault. The men finally retracted their hands and clung on for their lives as their ship propelled them toward the unknown.

The journey took only a few hours but when finally the ship hit XR019’s atmosphere, it lit up the turquoise sky in a shower of brilliant yellow. Creatures never seen before far below, looked on in awe and fear as their sky seemed to be ripped apart.

The landing was rough and when the craft eventually ground to a halt, they looked at each other with a shared expression of concern but also joy. They had made it yes but would the ship be able to carry them home or would they be trapped here until rescue could finally arrive?

The captain clawed at his harness and ripped himself free. ‘Lieutenant, see if you can get that door open, I want a full eval and status report as quick as you can.’

Seth, already free of his seat nodded to his captain and headed for the cabin door. Alex tried to contact mission control but was met only by static and clicking. No use. He tried throwing switches here and there. Lights lit up and went out, the console danced a brilliant dance but gave him nothing more.

‘Sir,’ Seth called from behind, ‘We’ve taken some damage to the rear of the ship. The hull has not been breached but comms are down.’ He took a breath and continued, ‘engines seem stable as far as I can tell but I’ll know more when we get outside.’

Alex nodded, ‘Thank you Lieutenant, let’s see if we can’t get out there then shall we?’ The men smiled slowly at each other. The joy of discovery seeming to bubble up over the fear of being stranded millions of miles from home.

They raised their fists once more in silent communication and Alex added, ‘Let’s get this mission done old friend.’ The mission being a recon. Life on earth had turned sour and the human race was looking for its new home. Their job on XR019 was basically to be Guinea Pigs. Test the atmosphere, look for signs of intelligent life however small and report home.

The airlock door between them hissed and a cloud of vapour shot around the edges. The door lifted free and the first light of XR019 hit them. Alex took a breath making sure his helmet was sealed and lead a first nervous step through the opening, his heavy boot crunching underfoot on the dense forest floor.

Outside their suits the air was close and full of moisture. The sounds of giant crickets and other alien insects rang through their helmets and for a moment it seemed like any other country walk back on Earth. Except it wasn’t. The chirping was so loud and fierce, like nothing you could hear back home and the trees, the trees where a sight to behold. Each of them taller and wider than General Sherman, the largest tree on earth. The men simply stood a while, mouths agape with awe.

‘Lieutenant, what do we know about the atmosphere?’

Seth was tapping away at small keyboard mounted to his left wrist. ‘Air seems stable, Oxygen levels high. Simulation reports a 99.19% chance of human survival.’
No sooner had he finished, Alex reached under his helmet and pulled at the release mechanism.

‘Sir, what if…’ Seth began but Alex cut him off with a raised palm.
The face of his helmet lifted free and he breathed the rich air for the first time. It was satisfying and somehow sweet. The air in the suit was good but had a tendency to dry out the throat like an over air-conditioned gift store on international drive.

Adrenaline overcame him again as his rationale realised there was a 0.81% chance he had just breathed poison but as the air rushed in and out, the pounding in his temples gave way to euphoria.

‘Come Seth, shall we embark on the greatest adventure in human history?’ Alex said, holding his hand out toward the great unknown, leading the way beyond the trees.
Then, the chirping stopped and gave way to a voice, a voice so very…Human.

‘Boys! Dinner’s ready!’

The men, no longer men but boys looked at each other frowning. Alex took off his tinfoil and cola bottle helmet and discarded it inside their scrap-wood and cardboard space craft.

’Scheerk…Lieutenant come in. Adventure awaits…after Cheeseburgers!

The boys laughed and smiled and ran through the scrub land until they found the back gate of the Captain’s house. The greatest discoveries of human history would have to wait until after dinner.


Benjamin is a fiction writer living in Yorkshire, England. He writes anything from High Fantasy to Supernatural Thrillers and is a big fan of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Find free stories and more on his website, benjaminlockewriter.com

Never Again

by John M. Carlson

I really can’t afford to be here! Rick thought, as he sat down at his favorite table in his favorite restaurant.

Indeed, he knew he’d be lucky if he could avoid having to go back onto his college ramen diet. At the same time, though, he wanted to have a nice lunch to celebrate the fact that his divorce was now final. Of course, there was the small matter of alimony (which was why he’d probably be eating a diet dominated by ramen soon). But the miserably unhappy marriage itself was ended, and he was free to move on.

He sat, thinking of the marriage that had just ended. Never again, he thought. I’m done with relationships!

Of course, he’d said “never again” when his last two relationships had ended. But this time he meant “never again” when he said “never again.”

Indeed, he thought, it might be best if no one had relationships. Based on what he saw with his family and friends, relationships more often than not seemed to end badly for all concerned. A bitter divorce if one got married. Or if one was only dating there would be a vitriolic breakup. But maybe he was just cynical.

He now remembered back to when he was 12. Back then, relationships seemed so crazy. Then, he became a teenager…and suddenly the most important thing imaginable was having a girlfriend. Relationships remained hugely important even to the present day, even though he’d learned from bitter experience that today’s relationship was tomorrow’s expensive trip to divorce court.

I understood something at twelve that I think I forgot: how crazy relationships are! he thought.

Oh, well. At least, his last relationship was finished, and he’d never, ever, ever have a relationship again.

***

After lunch, Rick headed back to his apartment. A woman was moving into an apartment down the hall from his. She was, Rick noted, very beautiful.

“Hi!” she said. “I’m Danielle!” She smiled a smile that absolutely glowed.

Rick introduced himself. They chatted a couple of minutes. Rick could sense she was interested in him. Very interested.

A few minutes later, Rick headed down to his apartment. All he could think about was Danielle.


John M. Carlson lives in the Seattle area. His stories have appeared in a variety of online publications. More of his work can be seen on his website.

I Was Something Then

by Helen Chambers

The face of tomorrow slides away from my grasp, like catching a glass rainbow on a tablecloth. Tuesday? Wednesday? I expect you told me, but the cobwebs in my brain tangle the connections. In bright shafts of sunlight, I recall the hiss and flick of grasses scratching on my boots. We walk and willow trees dip their fingers into the river where the blue sky and our reflections are trapped gazing back at us. I am warm, too warm and I try to take off my shawl, but the others push it back on my shoulders.

I’m singing, with the others, crowded together, too hot. That song – you’ll know its name. You watch us. They say I mustn’t wave. I must pretend I don’t know you. So silly. Just sing. I know all the words. I was something then. I sang solos, proud and alone, with a strong voice. I have to stand behind the others now and I can’t see.

No more singing, that’s sad. I’m too hot. You take off my shawl, tuck my hand under your arm. Perhaps this is where the man’s daughter leaves. He looks old and sad. My daughter went. Lying in her pram watching the sun fluttering through the leaves. Tiny fingers, big round eyes.

You look old and sad. Did your daughter leave too?


Helen Chambers is a short story and flash fiction writer from North East Essex, UK, who dreams up ideas whilst out walking by the river. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Essex and she won the Fish Short Story prize in 2018. Helen has several publications, many of which you can read on her blog: https://helenchamberswriter.wordpress.com

Life-Size

by Abigail Barnett

A spectacled woman sat at the counter this evening. She handed Garrett the art museum’s friends-and-family-discount slip.

You’re here far too often, she said through her thin lipstick smile. You’re practically an exhibit yourself. They both laughed.

Garrett brought the slip of paper into his pocket and back out again. In and out it went as he passed the marble sculptures and empty stairwells. Garrett liked the new mixed media exhibit. He told the dragon carving so.

Garrett paused at the impressionist paintings, tracing the pattern of their curling frames with his eyes.

It’s too cold outside for you, he told them. His boyish fingers hovered above their white and citrus strokes like an orchestra conductor.

Then his hand jerked and he was pulled by the weight of his own body down the hallways. Shoulders swaying, eyes open to all the colors he knew that he knew. His body lilted from wall to wall, as if floating homeward around the corners.

Perhaps the last visitors saw him: one green coat swimming past the last guests. Perhaps a bejeweled grandmother glimpsed his white shoes flash on the hardwood floor. Perhaps the intercom announcing five more minutes didn’t reach the far corners of the museum. Perhaps there was one pair of gleeful footsteps echoing off the metal sculptures. Echoing off the glass cases. Echoing between the massive canvases. Echoing echoes. Perhaps it was only an echo.

Perhaps that’s why a stray man in blue uniform paused. He hovered over the last light switch. He couldn’t remember the install of a new exhibit back here: a life-size young man frozen mid-stride beneath the red glow of an Exit sign. The figure’s eyes were closed, one hand in his pocket, glancing backward as if he’d heard the security guard approaching. His other hand glinted, clearly made of plastic, above his shoulder; a sort of final wave.

Modern art, muttered the security guard. His own footsteps echoed away. They were the only sound for a long while afterward.


Abigail Barnett is a senior Psychology major at Corban University in Oregon. She didn’t know she enjoyed writing so much until she took a Creative Writing class on a whim last year. You can find her at one of Oregon’s many coffee shops (in the next two weeks before graduation), probably pretending to be a hipster and drinking far too much espresso.