Let them laugh and sneer all they want. Then, everyone will really know what lies beyond the edge of light.
Could Liam be alive, or is it just a sick joke? When the secretive Baru Family offers exorbitant pay to transport two simple crates, Jaydon senses something is off. He takes the job, knowing if he can deliver the cargo, he and his family will be set for life. He has no name, nor needs one. Every rock, tree, mountain, and sea: he knows it all in detail. He has no memory of how he arrived on the planet, only a blissful love of his surroundings. When the starship comes, his life makes a dramatic change. This short story offers an intriguing view of the future, one filled with wonder, fear, and fantastic locations.
She looked down. An Other man and an Other woman were riding in it, driving.
The machine was large and silver. It would fit a bed. The thing must have ripped through the surface. She had never heard of that. She looked closer, and the Other man and the Other woman were carrying a baby, and they had a look of terror and tenderness on their haggard faces, pale from the cruelty of underground life. Anne pulled out with a curled fist, and they had no chance to escape.
The restraint work of the Other authorities was always impressive in its brutality. The Others were monsters when it came to crime and punishment and angrily excised any difference with savagery. A remorseless circle of exalters, at least 30 of them, were coiling in on the fleeing Others. How long did they have? She looked back, flipped up.
The Other man smiled at the Other woman for some obscure reason, cooed over the infant. She flipped back and the round group of the sinister exalters crept in, and then they all slowed, out of screen. She flipped back up and the strange machine had vanished. She curled up more.
The machine had crashed into a boulder, and the Other woman with her baby were burning horribly inside the wreckage, and the Other man, thrown clear, lay dying on the gray sand. He was staring at her across the galaxy right into her eye. Two hours and 17 minutes had passed. Time was always distorted by drifting over the Other, what with a 36 hour, 17 minute, 54 second day.
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Culture shock is always worse coming home. His face, on Skype, was the haggard face of a begging administrator on one call after another. Was there profit in that rickety old machine somewhere? Was there some kind of profit in that? Nobody needs us here to show them a new wonderful thing. The moon shines wonderfully every evening. Nobody needs 70,ton telescopes in the sky to show them a place they have never seen before. If we want to keep an eye on, we have to find useful, profitable Otherness. Not the new and wonderful. Got it?
The wreckage was still smoldering gruesomely on the viewer.
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The corpse of the Other man had already been cleared away. The machine, which must have been cobbled together in the underground, chuffed and spluttered smokily.
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And there was no way any of it could ever be profitable and marketable. Anne called Lee, a colleague from graduate school who had worked on subterranean history, and if she was recalling it right, even something with machines. He was living in Cairo these days, she thought, some kind of assistant professor at the uni there. This guy is here—this whole scene is here—because there needed to be four speaking characters and I needed more dialog.
If I were just writing it myself, I would probably cut the whole section. He was older, more slovenly than she remembered, but it had been nearly 10 years. She reached him at a Shisha bar on Tahrir Square. The adjective sucks? I find a better adjective or cut the adjective altogether. If you cut an adjective in one place, you have to put in an adjective somewhere else, and putting in that adjective somewhere else alters the balance of sentence length, paragraph length, paragraph length variation, and so on.
The hitch in his voice swelled awkwardly, stringently, into a silence. The envy reached through the phone. Anne remembered.
Lee had only managed a lousy archival job 15 , rustling in year-old tapes for culinary elements. All the best dishes had been transferred years ago. Lee paused, recognizing that his scholarship might matter, realizing that the Other existed, was existing, and he understood it, understood it usefully. People get bored with mysteries after awhile, for sure. And then there was an article a couple of years ago, out of the unit at Oxford. So what can you tell me about your breakout? She would be fired for a leak, even with Lee, even for a story no one cared to hear.
Systems grow stricter as institutions decline. If there is nothing profitable or marketable in a thing, it must remain a secret or it has no value at all. One way of looking at this algorithm is as an editor. She found them in the viewing room, watching a new storm roll ferociously over the cornfields and the apple orchard.
She sat beside her father in the noise of the rain that filled her ears like a cloying syrup. It was the first time that day that anyone had cared what Anne thought. At that very moment she just wanted to listen to the rain.
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Remember that? What are they called? The storm ripped the sky, harsh as a lash against her eyes. Her dad was proud of her, but she could tell he cared less for the Other world—the distant miracle, a sign however remote that we were not alone in the universe—than whether she would be able to move out now that she had a job. She was about to tell him about the nightmare chase of the burning woman and the dying man and the baby they took with them when her mother roused, and Dad shushed and began to sing:. Did you know this poem was actually written by a person?
A woman named Jane Taylor — Twinkle, twinkle 18 , little star. Twinkle, twinkle little star How I wonder what you are. He picked up his wife and carried her out of the viewing room to bed. Anne was alone, more alone than before. The exhaustion of the day accumulating inside her, she was glad of a half-dark room and a storm.
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As a child, to be even a cog in the celestial machinery would have been enough. She loved a whole other world, miraculously reflected in a skypiercing eye. She was middle-aged now: There was only light, moving through emptiness, trapped by machines No one wrote with a pen; they just tapped thumbs. Anna recalled when airplanes offered a selection of magazines, back when meals were free and there was no photo ID requirement. Hawaii was her first vacation in years. After crawling over the couple to return to her seat, she resumed writing in her notebook.
The man beside her stared at her.