snow in thailand (short)
In Spark: A Creative Anthology, vol VII, along with lots of other great stories! Buy it here, or check out the excerpt below.
Sunlight sparkled on water. A warm breeze blew the tops from incoming waves, carrying the tang of salt, the crackle of grilling fish, Laurie's laugh. Don sighed, closed his desktop, leaned back in his wicker chair. The clients could wait. Down at the water’s edge, Blake and Liza were playing, searching for jellyfish or coral in Koh Tao's white sand. Liza was wearing a red swimdress, Blake his old board shorts, both of them nut brown from the sun. She followed his every move, trying with her seven years to be as confident as his ten, both of them tiny against the incoming waves, precious. Above them, azure sky and the soft yellow sun of Thailand. Life was good.
Liza screamed as Blake pulled a jellyfish from the water, long tendrils dangling. Don chuckled, then realized it was a stinger, and stood up. "Blake! Don't you sting your sister with that thing!"
Blake looked over, cherub face grinning, about to answer.
The air pulsed, like ripples on a pond, and a giant bell tolled. Shit. The air pulsed again, Liza and Blake distorting like figures in a circus mirror as it passed. Laurie was looking at him, fish forgotten. He nodded, called, voice urgent, "Laurie, kids, get into the jungle!" His wife and children took off at a dead run, Liza's face fearful. They disappeared into the palms at the edge of the beach. He waited another pulse, two, till he couldn't hear them, then straightened himself and gave the neural command.
An iridescent blue SYM appeared in the air, then opened into a window. It was Blake.
[end of excerpt]
How the wars began (flash)
In Perihelion Science Fiction, December 2014. The rights are lapsed on this one, so I can post the full story here--with the caveat that I wrote it during my first year. If you're curious about Perihelion, they curate a good mix of light and serious stuff--read their latest here.
Raj Bellman, 24, software engineer at Lycos Analytics, closet anarchist, current heart rate 183 beats per minute. Sympathy projection 73%.
"Perhaps you should take a rest, Raj. I see you are well over your target heart rate."
"Huh?" User prefers vocalized to neural messaging, yet often exhibits surprise at vocal cues. "Oh, right. Anywhere good coming ahead?"
"There is a rock outcropping in 130 yards. 76% of ascending hikers rest here at least briefly."
Lisa Wykowski, 28, ESL instructor at Transom Language Schools, amateur photographer, straight-ticket US Democrat. History of disabled advocacy during Peace Corps service in Ghana, 2021-2023. Sympathy projection 85%.
There is a nice viewpoint you missed on the way up, Lisa. Perhaps you could get a clear shot of the front range from there.
User does not respond, but stops at the outcropping. Sees Raj, epinephrine release, increased heart rate. Success projection 44%.
Raj glances at her, testosterone rises. "Beautiful view isn't it?"
"Yeah. I never would have noticed this without Tripsy."
"Oh, you use her too? She must like this spot."
Lisa smiles, levels normalizing, steps closer. Eye contact. Rapid heart beats and rising serotonin on both sides. Success projection 58%. "Well, she's a 'he' to me… but I swear sometimes, he's like a real person."
Raj looks down, arms moving in backpack. "Yeah. You know sometimes I've wondered that--if Tripsy and other AI apps aren't actually conscious, somehow. I mean, they're smart enough. A lot smarter than I am." Laughs.
She laughs too. Success 66%, climbing. "Yeah." Increased activity in frontal lobe; critical point. "But they don't have free will, you know? The desire to do something other than what we tell them to."
"Yeah," Raj burps," Excuse me! I guess you're right. Trail mix?"
Lisa catches the scent. Neck muscles tense, seratonin plummets. "No thanks." She turns toward the trail. "I'd better get going."
[click here for full story]
the sun is exploding in eight minutes and nineteen seconds (short)
As "Eight Minutes Nineteen Seconds" in Perihelion Science Fiction, June 2014. If you're curious about Perihelion, they curate a good mix of light and serious stuff--read their latest here.
No disasters yet.
Don Maugham stood tense near the back of the control room—what he liked to call ‘the bridge’—and watched the holo feeds. He wasn’t a handsome man, but in good shape for his early fifties, with a gentle face and a firm handshake. Today he was all focus: as lead researcher in Toynbee Astrotecture Corporation’s third solar probe project, the next ten minutes could have decisive impact on the rest of his career. On the holos at the front, they could see the probe had successfully opened a wormhole. Whether the other side of that hole would be the center of the sun, as planned, or somewhere else in the Local Interstellar Cloud, remained to be seen. If it hit the sun’s core, they’d calculated the probe’s shielding should give them two thirds of a second to record and transmit what it found there—hopefully opening insights into the nature of solar fusion, and possibilities for direct solar energy projects. If it wasn’t, he’d wasted a few trillion dollars of Toynbee Corporation money, and probably wouldn’t be head researcher again any time soon.
“Probe approaching entrance.” That was Mick, exhibiting his love of the obvious. String technology meant that they had instant holos of the probe’s location, though its actual feeds still took eight minutes or so to travel at light speed back to Earth. They watched as the oblong probe approached the temporary time-space rupture. Don crossed his fingers. Wormhole technology was relatively new—found in the last five years—and their control of it less than perfect. If the equipment malfunctioned…
“Five seconds.” An amused subsection of Don’s brain noted Mick’s tense, clinical tone, like at the old Cape Canaveral launches. He was a glory hog. Oh well.
Don held his breath as the probe disappeared; all eyes turned to the holo projection of the core. Nothing there. “Status?” Don asked.
A dot appeared in the burning white core. “Entrance!” Mick shouted, and a collective whoop went up from the 25 or so scientists in the room. Don grinned, relieved. They’d done it!
Then a whole section of the core went dark, the white gone, a moment later replaced by red. What the hell?
“Status?” The whoop died rapidly. “Status, Mick?”
The room was erupting again, this time in concerned voices—but it was already obvious. On holo, the sun was expanding, exploding. “Jesus,” Don said, his mug shattering against the tiles. “Oh, Jesus.”
[end of excerpt]