Decisions were Made

The machine folds light and sweeps along its wave to the moment that has been indicated. It is beautiful, this journey. The spectrum of colors sweeping by outside the hatch, amazing enough to affect dreams for a lifetime. Not that the pilot would know, though, for the engineers who designed this machine chose not to include windows.

“Windows were not important to time traveling.”

The fuck they aren’t, the original pilot argued, but for naught, and now he needs to wait to see. But as all things must, the machine stops, and when it completes its measurements the door opens with a hiss.

Outside is a pine-needle carpeted forest and the smells and sounds of the ocean.

“So, this is the past?”

The high-pitched voice startles the pilot, and he looks over at the occupant of the crafts second command chair. He doesn’t recognize the blond man with shoulder-length ratty looking hair, and a thick brow line that would make head butting quite effective. He wore rough-looking leathers and smelled like wiping was not an option.

“No, it’s really more our present. It might have been the past, but we corrupted it and stole it when we got here.”

The pilot finds himself concerned with that answer and how he was able to conjure it.

“What about the future?”

“There is none until we go there, but once we do, it will also become the present.”

“So wait, are you saying we can write history.”

The pilot thinks about it for a second and decides, “time isn’t a line where moments can be picked.”

“Time is certainly not a line.”

The pilot nods in agreement and says. “Time is like consciousness mixed with light, but once light touches something and it becomes visible, then it is no longer theoretical but functional.” And he stops, realizing the man in the other chair had just stopped talking also.

“Did we just—” the pilot begins but is interrupted.

“What about if we go out there and meet a man? What happens to him?”

“He is both alive, now because we are here, and dead once we leave.”

“What if we go back further in time.”

“Then there is a possibility he will never even be born, or for that matter that the Earth even exists at our point in history at all.”

“How likely is that?”

“We came here in a time machine. Imagine if it were discovered. Humanity would advance almost instantly. But only technologically. We’d still struggle with morality, as in our time. Primitives adjusting to limitless potential and all that.”

“Do you take the savage off his pristine island homeland and make him be a part of society, or do you leave him alone for fear that if you give him too much tech, he would either go crazy or die?”

“Exactly.”

“Exactly what?” The pilot is confused. He is both asking and answering his own questions.

“This is exactly what happened.”

“What?”

“The Savage went crazy.”

The words hit him, and it’s painful. He remembers now climbing into the machine and the doors closing, and then what?

“You became an infinite version of yourself, knowing everything that can be learned and knowing nothing at the same time.”

“So I am Schrödinger’s Time traveler?”

“No, you are a fool who ruptured time.”

As if his words made it so, beyond the carpet of pine needles, what would be sky, fades into a black. The black then encroaches on everything, seeming to eat the ground as it comes.

“What’s happening?”

“Nothing is happening.”

“No look, that! That is not nothing!”

“No, that is vacuity. That’s the rupture, and what it leaves behind is null, where there was always a sum.”

The words leave the pilot’s mouth also just as he decides to take action, orientate, and punch in his own birthdate.

“That’s not going to work.”

“Why not?”

“Because you don’t exist anymore.”

But the pilot hits the red button anyway because red buttons always mark the end, and that’s exactly what happens.

A Cave, a Dwarf, and a Stupid Caterpillar

“Stupid Caterpillar,” the wizard whispers, his voice echoing into the cavern as if the darkness were hungry for something to eat besides silence. He follows the utterance up with a stomp of his slipper. In the small sphere of blue light cast from the top of the wizard’s white-oak staff, the dwarf can see the smooshed little corpse.

“Why did you do that?” The debate was finally over, he no longer had to play mister nice dwarf. As an excuse, they have been lost for days and out of food since the last of the hardtack was eaten, who knows when. Time is meaningless as they wander, looking for a way out. He wonders if he can even find an exit. They could very well be lost forever. Are they lost forever? If so, it may just be his fault, his being the wizard who hired him in first place as a guide.

“I will tell you a tale of small things that eat big things.”

“Please don’t.” Endless prattle was all the wizard had been good for so far, and maybe if he lived a better life, forged a better reputation, so to speak, he wouldn’t have had to seek the gold the old fool was offering a guide. Take me into the mountain. As a hill dwarf, he lied and said he could do what was required, and now here they were, beyond lost.

Too obtuse to hear the dwarf’s plea, the wizard pushes on, “A worm to some. A sliver of life that, if consumed, ravages the insides of its victim. Victim? Maybe, but that is really not fair. Its victims are attempted murderers after all. Maybe one might consider it karma even.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“It starts slowly at first, with this tiny string of nothing taking over blood vessels and airways and eventually even thought. It Breaks down systems that took hundreds of millions of years to perfect. That still are works in progress. Which makes me wonder, maybe it’s the apex predator we human’s like to think we are.”

“Humans?”

“Well, maybe some dwarfs too, I guess.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I fed you one, already.”

“You what?”

“Did I neglect to warn you? Yes, you see, I’m hoping once it takes over, I can finally have the guide I paid for.”

Oddity on Brain (inspired by art from C0laj)

Unaware of irony, the oddity wakes in the Dreamlands and holds the shape of a nameless sponge diver.

Why?

It forgot and fell asleep like this, and now it wakes to find itself thinking of owning a personalized existence.

How?

The brain in the diver’s head that the oddity now holds in his hands. This tool allowed the creature to breach the barrier, a barrier that should never have been crossed. Nameless soul, destined to fill the belly of an Old One, eventually. Like us all, he had little hope for anything more. The Old Ones, who will also die when time stops, never considered that the Oddity might gain sentience. It was just not an option. Because nothing matters. Nothing collects, and it becomes more nothing eventually. In fact, everything will be eaten by the void that kills time when that moment comes. Even me, even the Universe.

It’s destiny.

And nobody beats destiny.

Does it know this?

The oddity?

The hunter?

The murderer of hopes and dreams, the monster that comes and never stops?

Yes.

It doesn’t, even as this and other thoughts race through the mind in its hands, a mind usually empty.

An empty mind might just be a better mind. 

Maybe.

Maybe that’s whats needed, in the grand scheme of things, less thought- because thinking almost always causes problems. 

Such a waste of opportunity, though.

The connections and synapses of the marvelous tool in the oddity’s hands, fire. Even so far from Einstein’s brain, broken as it were, floating through the many millions of realities, it finds itself connected to infinite potential.

Gates and connections.

Connections to what? Gates to where? The Universe? Me? A conduit to knowledge and existence? The Old Ones themselves?

It becomes too much, so I demand, “Will you stop?”

Confused, the oddity almost drops his treasure forcing a tentacle from his delusion to slither up and point at itself.

“Yes, you, the joke with a brain. A thing made to hunt and kill by instinct alone, holding the most technological perfect thing ever spawned by the joining of chaos and the cosmos. 

“Er der, human?”

“Don’t take it personally, my man. You aren’t meant to know the joys of knowledge, only hunger. But you’ve ruined that, haven’t you? Now that you are more, and the question asserts itself, what will we do about that?”

Barry Golds and the Very Very Bad Memory

When human launches into space, they will undergo the type of violence normally reserved for death.

And Commander Barry Golds thought he was going to die.

So, situation normal.

But he didn’t, and after a career trying to get here, he is aware the bit of engineering wrapped around himself helped, but that help was fading fast.

His head hurts, but he doesn’t mention it, instead using crew downtime in route to Moonbase Artemis as an excuse to argue with himself.

The answer he keeps coming back to is he has no right to be here.

NASA makes pains to ensure chaos stays off missions and doesn’t rear its ugly head. And this is one of the reasons why. Also, coincidentally, why there are no former Defensive linemen in space. To much chance of a hidden head injury and no telling what that particular condition could do to a person during space travel. It was unknown if the CTE injury might suddenly appear in aggression or, worse, hemorrhage.

So they try avoid issues by wrapping up every mission appointment process with enough redundancy to fill months with busy work.

It was hard to slip through.

But astronauts have gotten through with jealous psychosis, criminality, bad eyesight, and now, worse.

NASA was government, and government was foolish.

The newest addition to NASA failings is that Ben Golds has a head injury. Not from tackling fools on the gridiron type CTE, just the kind caused by the beginning phase of dementia. And he knew it and tricked the NASA tests because it was his turn to go to space and nothing was going to stop him. He tricked legions of doctors whose only goal was to get him into admitting he was experiencing problems.

“Look, Commander Golds, we are here for you and the safety of your crew. If you are experiencing any symptoms, please, let us know.”

But Golds smiled and said, “look at me doc, I am in the best shape of my life.

Which was a lie. He was in better shape ten years previous when he could remember for certain if he had worked out or not.

That was the first sign, doing things because he wasn’t sure if it had happened today or yesterday or a month ago.

“Barry, how many times are you going to work out today?” his wife asked, coming into their home gym just as he set the bar back on the bench. The set hurt too bad for her to be wrong.

“Just this once,” he lied, knowing it but not knowing how he couldn’t remember working out earlier in the day.

He worked his mind too hard, memorized too much stuff, he theorized.

And she stared at him, sad, “Barry, you’ve done been in here three times already. It’s not safe to work out this much.”

But life is far from safe, and he deserved at least one mission before he retired and made to fly hops to Hong Kong for the rest of his life.

And then the reason why he shouldn’t be in space comes into view again.

He almost doesn’t look down at the only reason to go to space, to begin with, the vision of Earth floating further and further away as they made their way to the moon.

But a hopeful flutter makes him do so anyway.

Maybe this time, reality will return.

He looks and again finds the spot on the world where Australia should be, but still blank.

He hears the heart monitor he is hooked up to, spike. It goes so high he gets a call from Houston.

“Golds, heart rate is spiking like crazy. What’s going on. Eden? Get a visual on Golds.”

Eden pipes back, “Shit Golds, are you okay? Guys– ah fuck he just popped.”

Puke rolls out of Golds mouth. Every single crumb he crammed into after being told he could eat, and he did because they make them go up hungry. He is more okay with throwing up in space and floating through his own sick-up then he thought he’d be, because, at the end of it all, he Gets to die in space. Something no one in NASA had quite figured out yet.

Sky-fishers

It’s the whisper in the clouds. The swift turning and movement of frozen water.

“Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” she whispers, wishing she could take back wanting to impress him.

Luke pulls the ripcord on the power-glider, and the small gas engine chugs into life. With an obvious fake-smile, he turns back and shushes her, “Don’t worry, I have a plan.”

And as if it matters, he shows off the evil-looking spear as he grabs his cords and sprints air born.

With a sigh, she follows his lead and is air born also. Soon enough, she falls into an easy formation with him, and all she hears is her own revving engine and the roaring wind as they approach the unaware creature.

Then the signal and Luke begins a dive that takes a chunk out of its flank, just enough to wound and draw attention, as the shark grabs her school mates chute and shakes.

Fool, she screams, following the boy is he falls through the clouds. She knows her words are eaten by the wind, but curses again, hoping he had time to pop his reserve.

Cloud sharks be damned, she decides, setting her sights. The old lore was right, when the ancient hunters made the North West safe for flight hundreds of years ago, this is what they did, tapped into their brutality, and killed. She thinks of her dad and all the pilots back in Seattle, all in danger. Their way of life, fishing the clouds, at risk. As she approaches the huge fish, she clenches her own spear ready for what’s to come.

A fight to the death.

Waters of Black Glass (art by C0laj)

Hungry, he pulls the oars again, and Domenicos Theotokopoulos, Dom to most, allows the little rowboat to drift to a stop. Certainly not the world’s ugliest man, though it was a close contest, he decides, here is good enough. 

Dom is work-a-day ugly, the kind where his days are separated by a hangover, a bottle, and an empty bed. But on this moonless night, regardless of the rumors and bodies washing up on the beaches each morning, he didn’t have money for rotgut, or food, or anything, so he rowed out into the gulf to make some. He guesses the distance gone, brushing sweaty, oily hair from his pockmarked face and by the lights thrown by Tarpon Springs, judges the reef must be close enough to start work, so does.

He has to trust his instinct because the water lays under him like inky black glass, and all he sees is his fist-abused mug peering back. Thick humid air is still and nearly unbreathable under a sky covered in swirling white clouds mixed with flashes of blue heat-lightning. The only sound is the briny-water slapping the side of his little wooden-boat and the fear echoing in his heartbeat. He fights an urge to go home, but instead calls himself a sloppy deilós and decides he would rather eat tomorrow and continues the preparations to go under. Last, he equips his dive helmet, checks his hose for kinks, and with none, climbs over the side of the little boat. 

He submerges in a hail of bubbles and, weighted to do so, falls fifty feet to upset the sandy bottom below. Soon it clears, and he moves to where he thinks the reef might be. With each step, he is freshly blinded by a storm of sand and is forced to move slow and deliberate. 

And as the sand clears one last time, he almost dismisses the face of a woman staring back at him. He corrects himself, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen stares back at him, skin flecking iridescent, lips black and glossy, glossy like her deep soulless-eyes.

She fans her tail over a bare chest and smiles a mouth filled with vicious fangs. Compelled, Dom decides, oh well, and removes his helmet in anticipation of her hungry embrace.

Tick

Tick-tick-tick, I count ticks, and wish I didn’t.

I am at 90,000 when the security bell sounds, and the doors to the Death Wing clang open. I know it’s something for me. I am in the pre-execution holding cell, sometime tomorrow, I’m told, the governor will make his final decision on the matter of my life and death, like he is the one that owns my soul. Torture would be making me wait. So I wait.

I lose count waiting now for my visitor, annoyed because 90,000 was the longest I have ever counted to.

I start again, because a week ago I decided that if I don’t look at the clock set in the middle of the wall opposite my cell, then I can imagine time has stopped, and they won’t pull me and make me decide whether I should fight to avoid dying or just go with it, because fuck-it, death happens regardless of a souls ownership. So instead of looking, my evil mind keeps track by counting.

I feel the presence of my visitor looming, but ignore it, pretending to be busy, because dying is hard. I work my eyes over a bit in the book of Matthew, fear the one who can kill body and soul.

Kill body and soul.

It’s the nightmare of my death that I know I don’t own my soul anymore, or my actions, and I wait for the presence to instruct me. Stand against the wall, put your hands here, something, something, are you going to kill yourself? Do you know you are subhuman? Piece of shit? Murderer?

I know what defines my existence, but nothing comes, the presence doesn’t say anything, and I find myself looking at the words Body and soul over and over counting the ticks of the clock.

I get to 1234 and decide to look up, and I see a man I once held as a baby.

The transformation is instant. I don’t want to die. I want to take it all back even the time I’ve spent alive and go back to those sweet moments when this man was firstborn, and he slept on my chest warm and safe.

I meet his eyes. They are blue, like mine. His face, like mine and her’s. His mouth, a stern thin-line, and it makes me think of a cop asking, do you know why I pulled you over?

I know why I got pulled over, I gave permission to the warden for family to visit, but knew they wouldn’t. I expected to die, never seeing or speaking to my son, ever. I look at the stern man and his close-cropped hair, and I feel both fear and a longing. I don’t know which would be worse, the words, I hate you and am looking forward to your last smoking twitches, or daddy I love you.

I stand up finally, still counting those ticks of the clock as if they alone are keeping me sane. I am up 4568, when I stand opposite the bars. He can reach in and touch me if he wants. The priest I get to talk with, on the hour, will grab my forearm when we pray, and its almost as good as I remember sex being.

The man who looks like me and her doesn’t move to touch me, or to take his eyes from my face. And that’s best. It seems he is trying to memorize everything about me. I want to ask, what do you see, but don’t. I know already, this is his right to stare and be here and talk if he wants to.

When my count gets close to 10000, he asks the question I knew he would ask.

“Did you do it?”

I turn and lay my eyes on my bible, knowing he doesn’t need an answer, he knows the truth already. The whole world knows. But with my back turned, I nod, and fifty ticks later, I hear his footsteps work their way back toward the gate, which buzzes open and closes with a clang.

I know I will see him one last time, him and the rest of her family, and I am okay with that, all I want to keep is my soul, but know Lorraine already has claim on it.

Hungry Hungry Universe (Art by C0laj)

As a force of turmoil and chaos, The Universe, the canvas for all things in existence to frolic on, is nothing and everything in between. As rumpled fabric, it does not recognize its moments as coming or going. The Universe is. And that should be enough. But as everything and nothing, The Universe decided long ago to seek solace in the experiences of those that suffer because they are forced to be. The brightest experiences are those that are fraught with pain and disappointment. Freaks and the unlucky that lurk inside moist, forgotten folds where life can form. Soft juicy donuts filled with thoughts and feelings. Like berries for The Universe to pluck and devour, thoughts, acts, and history. 

All so delicious.

Maybe it’s by design they are so well hidden within the canvas they play on, but as sometimes happens, one makes itself known. A being in an orange jumpsuit needs help. So the Universe does the opposite and stretches the fabric between realities to give the creature made to hunt an easier path to its would-be prey.

It must be done carefully, so that the membrane doesn’t break, and it works. The Oddity thinks it dreams still, seeing the crumb floating on his back in the vastness of space, lost like all the best crumbs are before they are found. The oddity’s stomach growls at the sight and lunges as if birthed through the miasma that is dark matter. He fights to free himself, and The Universe liberates it of the physics that keeps everything else locked down. 

And then, the fireworks of conflict. 

So much in so short an amount of time.

Oh, the bliss, this conflict, and The Universe revels. But, regardless of which victor’s soiled vinegar of a destructive lifeforce fills its soul, The Universe is forced to sit back, beg for more and more feelings, thought, and experience. More more more. More anything to distract from the ever-expanding snap that will all too soon end in entropy.

More weird tales @ bryanaiello.com

Nameless

A nameless boy stares into the night sky. The moon, also known to some as Pheobe, glows speculative there and waxes the small world of his tribe into a new hunting season. The last before the snows come. An important one for the small band of sapiens if they are going to survive until the flowers come again.

Now, even at night, the ground lay open as in daylight because the night spirit’s generosity was in full plumage. With the extra light gained, the boy wonders if a hunting party could forage nonstop. Forage and hunt with less incident and accident, less loss. 

Unless the rains come early once again.

Then it would be too late. The clan should try for more, when the days are still warm. Until they can’t, because can comes at a premium.

Tonight is windy with a sting of chill in the air, but the boy, staring out into wilderness, doesn’t complain. He is fine with the weather, as long as it stays dry.

He wouldn’t complain, though, even if it were raining.

He doesn’t have the language to allow him to complain, yet. Death exists as a solvent for complaints. There is nothing but 98 degrees of body friction to look forward to. This was life. It was accepted.

Meat, shredded into edible portions, dried in trees, roots were eaten along with fruit and herbs, immediately. Hunger was a constant pang, dieting for the sake of making the food last, that was the only day to day stress, energy consumed for the sole task of collecting more energy. This was the boy’s life in a nameless place once upon a time ago.

He will be never known. He will forever be Nameless. His place in history, forgotten the moment he becomes burdened with age and can’t keep up, left behind to watch as scavengers pick still breathing flesh.

On this night looking at the moon, feeling invincible, he decides he must do the unthinkable if this year less of them are to die. They need more, more time, food, more everything.

Being nameless in a nameless group, one can only identify the others as the emotions they stir up. The one who shares his bed, Love, a slow-calm-beating of his heart. The boy who he hunts with, Brother, a comfort, a knowledge like he is safe, protected. The man with the black hair streaked with grey, Leader, and a deep angry sorrow swallows all of his happiness when he lays eyes on him.

Leader squats at the opening to the small outcropping of rock that will be the home for a while. Leader is smart. He acts as if he can control the winds and the direction in which to follow food. The nameless boy clenches, and his shoulders coil into piles of muscle. His mind works on the problem of Leader, and because he has no word for the revenge he seeks, decides: this is the only way

He is an unproven killer who must kill tonight.

Nameless does not feel remorse over this decision. 

Many seasons ago, when the nights were longest, he watched the man he knew as father get bludgeoned with a rock over scraps of meat. He knows this is how it works. He also knows that the sounds Leader will make as he realizes his breath isn’t coming easily anymore will be terrible. If he is lucky, Leader will die before the wilds have at him. The nightmare of death attacks his resolve, but Nameless knows his decision is final. There is something to this killing that feeds his soul and puts a purpose behind his existence.

An American Revolution

The sunset and the smoke from the fire mix with the already perfect September warmth and makes the boy of fourteen forget the group’s intention. He finds himself having actual fun. The bottle of moonshine gets passed to him, and this time he takes a nip, noticing none of the men care.

He coughs, and his throat and mouth get ready for vomit, but he begs it back, and green-faced finds his mind turn to why they are really camped out in the Northern Virginian woods and waiting for 4 am to arrive.

The fact turns so hard in his mind that at first, he rejects it, thinking, something has to happen to stop them.

Maybe sensing an ebbing resolve, The General speaks. “Some say there is a revolution in the USA every four years. That the United States elections, act as peaceful coups, where even though our president is elected out, or serves their two terms, they are then escorted off the White House lawn by armed guards and for the rest of their lives are watched by those same armed guards, politically enfeebled and basically a hostage to their legacy, and political affiliation for the rest of their lives. We are just speeding up that process a bit.”

A bit is two years earlier than legally expected.

“Would a mob storm the White House and replace a sitting president with an actual general? We got the goods, boys. We got God on our side!” The redneck-trash hoots after and spits moonshine into the fire through the gap of teeth in his upper jaw.

The fire explodes in response.

In the flaring light, the boy looks over to the general.

An old marine that looks rough enough to cut diamond. He struggles to his feet, grabs the bottle and takes a swig of his own. Coughing after, he tries to say, “I don’t think so. Actual violence here would be a stretch.”

“We did it once,” The Professor responds, condescending the great man, even though everyone knows the general has a Ph.D. in American history and a law degree to match.

“Doubt enough people want to kill their brothers and cousins to do it again. We are a peaceful people who just like being prepared.”

“Is that what this is?” The boy asks, tapping a dirty finger against the titanium haul he sits on top of. Inside, a device that splits a boron atom into two and evaporates matter like it were paper. “Peace and preparedness?”

The old man laughs, his face scrunching and bouncing to show off its lack of elasticity. “Of course, there are always outliers. Moments that our enemies will do their worst. But most people won’t get involved, unless under duress.”

And the boy’s eyes slide off the professor, an uneasy tightness filling his belly.