A Pox On This! - The stories


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Tell us which you preferred:

Aboard the Unpredictable Enberg 9
1
17%
The Look Of Death
3
50%
Revelations
1
17%
A Pox on This!
0
No votes
Teach
1
17%
 
Total votes : 6
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Post May 03, 2020, 06:58:10 AM

A Pox On This! - The stories

We have five tales of the plague... Tell us which you liked.
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Post May 03, 2020, 07:01:10 AM

Aboard the Unpredictable Enberg 9

by Sergio "Ente per Ente" Palumbo

What was going on with Enberg 9?

This was what Harry Icker, the technician that piloted the single-seated spacepod - which had left Space Station Khor 4, owned by the Fredericks Company - had to find out.

There had been an infestation of malfunctions and damaged circuits affecting the robotized satellite named Enberg 9. This problem seemed to be connected to errors in other circuits of smaller satellites meant for 7G communication. The 7G troubles were considered unimportant as that system would soon be replaced by the new 8G standard. But Enberg 9 was a completely different matter: the satellite had the possibility to broadcast both signals – old and new - and would become very profitable for the Fredericks Corporation.

As the problem affected more and more satellites, technicians like Harry Icker called the expanding problem the ‘Space Plague’. It would appear unexpectedly to assault parts of small robotized objects orbiting Earth, preventing them from being controlled by the owners, turning them into something else – into what exactly was difficult to say from a distance…

With all the infernal viruses men like him had been forced to deal with in the past, this new problem had proven to be something much worse, so that even the name Space Plague didn’t seem to be extreme enough for such an unexpected malfunction, unprecedented in computer science.

Whatever might be going on out there, it had to be stopped. This was especially true since the plague could infect an increasing number of unmanned satellites now in orbit. Surely, nobody wanted to have a huge chunk of the Space Wide Web shut down, as it connected most Space Stations and the first four Moon Colonies. Enberg 9 was also in charge of security communications for the defensive military web - so this was important to both Earth Headquarters and the Fredericks Company.

The modern satellite system was built upon ideas from the so-called “Space Race” started 140 years ago, when competing countries had tried their best to put machines into space that were bigger and better than competing countries’. But that had been over a century ago, and by now scientists who had worked on those ancient projects would not have been able to recognize the C-belt with all its thousands of satellites.

When Harry docked his spacepod beside the satellite – although the instrumentation aboard the Enberg 9 hadn’t properly replied to his commands so the maneuver had to be done manually - he opened the cockpit and got out. He was wrapped in his bulky spacesuit, and his forward-facing camera studied everything on the surface.

Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, but all that changed as the man opened the hatch to the inside of the satellite itself.

“What the hell!” Harry exclaimed, though no one could hear him.

It seemed that most of the circuits had been completely and strangely rearranged. New web paths had been created while others had been excluded. Who would have done this? Was it an assault by some secret group, or a league of rebel hackers, or some countries that had never accepted the rule of the New United Earth Government? It was obvious the culprits would need to face charges.

‘This will be a difficult job. I can’t have it completed today,’ the man thought. Then he decided to consult Space Station Khor 4 about what to do next. As the technician tried to be in touch with his superiors, he discovered he was offline. Something was stopping communication…

Through his visor, his blue eyes noticed something else very unusual. Some cables and connecting wires on one side of the satellite were suddenly moving on their own, aiming at his body. They lurched for his spacesuit, on top of the open hatch, like protuberances of an unexplainable creature...which is when everything changed.

No!” the man cried out, but it was too late. In his last moments of free-thinking, Harry figured out that this was not the action of a human technology. It was something otherworldly with unknown purposes.

The man knew the bad situation he was in had to be dealt with immediately. But how? This technology seemed to be very evolved, much more advanced than Earthlings’. How could they stop it, unless they just destroyed it? But might that be seen as an act of war against unknown adversaries?

The cause of the damage to Enberg 9, and the satellite system in that portion of space, was now clear. The entire web was rearranging itself according to the plan of some alien mind, probably, maybe the same alien mind the spaceman’s body was presently being modified by.

What Harry didn’t know was that the takeover of Enberg 9 was only the first step. The rearranged instrumentation of the statellite had been waiting for the next player to arrive. What it needed was a human, so it could make that man its own, an unwilling part of what Enberg 9 had been turned into.

What was being created – by mixing the body of poor Harry and the rearranged robotized mechanisms of the satellite itself - was something completely new: part alien machine, part human.

Once the infestation and fusion process was completed, the lonely spaceman was linked to a chunk of other instruments, the main circuits, the long-term storages, powerful processors and several plugs. He was now connected directly, or indirectly, to every part of the Enberg 9 itself, a newly born creature that could be executing instructions more quickly than any computer ever made by men. It had several strange programs all open at the same time. The unusual being crawled out of the hatch of the satellite, and started moving outside, looking for other objects orbiting nearby. Staring silently at the darkness of space, and standing tall, his mouth began opening and closing continuously, emitting strange signals, completely incomprehensible to human ears.

By now the last remaining piece of his humanity seemed to clearly be lost...
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Post May 03, 2020, 07:02:38 AM

The Look Of Death

by Michelle "Bottomdweller" Dutcher

The old woman hated to go out her front door, but she had no choice. She had to get food, she had to go to the market and find out how the rest of the world was handling the plague that had overtaken her world.

But she hated to go out. Besides putting on her gloves, she hated her ‘gift’ - especially at a time like this. Sybilla put on her black robes, hoping they would make her virtually invisible. Perhaps if she piled on as many layers as possible, the death wouldn’t be able to seep in. She had left her shoes beside the door and she put them on last, finally opening the door, then stepping out and locking the door behind her with a large skeleton key.

Sybilla had always lived in London and it had been very good to her. It had provided her a job she needed it, supplied her with a husband and children. But now, since her second husband’s death, and since her children had moved to the countryside, it seemed dank and black and smelled of death.

While walking to the marketplace, she passed young people who were on their way to the river to play in the waters. She tried to avert her eyes, but her gaze fell onto a boy in his teens who was wearing light clothing. He would soon be dead; she could see it on his face – the green glow that she so feared.

It was her ‘gift’ - if one could call it that. Throughout her life she had been able to see a green glow take over a person’s face the nearer they got to a deadly situation. It had first happened when she had seen a man in a field next to her mother’s house, working with a mule to clear the fields. As he took off his hat to wipe the sweat from his brow, the girl saw a green aura blocking out the man’s face.

“What’s wrong with that man?” she had asked the friend she was walking with. Her friend shrugged, seeing nothing unusual – just a man hitching-up his mule for a day’s work. “Why does he have that green glow over his face?” Sybilla was surprised when her mother told her the next day that the mule had bucked, kicking the man in the chest so hard that her neighbor died that night.

Her friend told her parents what Sybilla had told her about ‘the green glow’ - and Sybilla never played with that friend again.

“Sybilla,” pleaded her mother, “you must never again tell anyone about this aura you see. They will accuse you of witchcraft, of putting hexes on people. You must keep it to yourself.”

The woman had usually kept it to herself, even when she wanted to tell people how close they were to death. At first, she had thought that – maybe if she told them to be careful, they would listen to her and avoid whatever tragedy was about to befall them. But she had been unable to save anyone, even her husband – whom she had warned when he she saw him wearing the green aura. But his luck had been no better than all the others she had seen over the years and he had died of as well.

Sybilla looked at the boy again. She could barely see his eyes or mouth; the green vail was so dark. “Be careful today, young man,” she said, grabbing his arm to get his attention. He merely pulled away and laughed at her, telling her to be careful herself, and quickly rejoining his friends.

As she walked through the marketplace, she saw dozens of people with green faces. The sickness was in this marketplace – probably best to extra of whatever she needed. Some of the merchants were laughing with customers, others were weak and sat on stools behind their produce, only moving when forced to. She bought her vegetables from one of the booths where the keeper had no such green glow. Before she could leave the booth, the man offered his apologies before softly smacking her cheek. “You had a mosquito on your face, so I killed it.”

They both laughed for a moment in the absurdity of the action. “Thank you,” she laughed, remembering it felt good to laugh.

Getting home finally, she put away her food and took off her outer robes. She was so busy thinking about what she would cook first that she didn’t notice the reflective surface in the hallway as she passed by – the one that displayed an old woman with a tinge of a smile and a deep green glow over her face.
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Post May 03, 2020, 07:04:49 AM

Revelations

by Vates

"Oh my God! An angel, a freaking archangel!"

Judy looked up from her game console and over at her friend Emilia.
"I'd thought you'd be working on your school project on that Italian
singer and songwriter. What's his name again? Ralph Benedetto? I didn't
think you'd be doing Christian superstition."

"I am. And the name's not Benedetto. It's Branduardi. Angelo Branduardi."

"Ah, is see. And being called Angelo makes him an angel?
Italy must be crowded with angels."

"It's not that. Well, it is also. But you see," Emila started,
pointing at something on the screen of the laptop she had been working on,
"here it says, the name Branduardi actually has barbarian roots.
From Brandward."

"So it means fireman?"

"Uh? Ah no! Brand means sword. Brandward, swordkeeper" Emila explained.
"Angelo Branduardi - Angel Keeper of the Sword. You can't say
'Archangel Michael' more clearly than that. - well except by actually saying
'Archangel Michael', I guess."

Judy nodded, then started singing "She's found a singing, talking, sleeping,
walking archangel..."
Something green suddenly appeared in front of her face, making her stop.
Judy plucked it out of the air and looked at it. It was a toy chameleon
that only a second ago had been sitting peacefully next to Emilia's laptop.
"All right. But tell me, what would an angel be doing in Italy. Apart from
visiting the Vatican, probably?"

Emilia again pointed at her laptop. "Bring warning maybe. Here look at the
first line of this song. 'Sono io la morte e porto corona'"

"Death bearing a crown," Judy interrupted her, "that's nothing new. Isn't it
just another way of saying 'Valhar morghulis' as they say?"

"That," Emilia answered, "is just what I'm afraid of."
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Post May 03, 2020, 07:07:14 AM

A Pox On This!

by Jontrue

The sun set brilliantly over the alabaster hills of Ronnin. Never before had Motia seen the sky so clear. The veins of glimmering ore streaked up and down the cliffs like rainbowed spiderwebs. Never before had she experienced such grief and awe simultaneously.

“Maybe it is better this way.”

“What do you mean?” A caramel toned voice from behind her replied. She loved the sound of his voice. It was decadent and sweet, and she could feel herself getting lost as she let it wash over her.

“This, you know, everything. The planet is recovering.”

“It is a gorgeous sunset,” he said with the sound of his smile dripping from his words. He wasn’t talking about the sunset at all and she knew it. From where he was standing the afternoon light cut through her dress like a razor; exposing every detail of her seductive silhouette. His arms wrapped around her from behind. Her head fit perfectly under his square jaw. She arched her back into him as they both basked in the last light of the day.

A sudden change in posture betrayed her true feelings “Is it wrong for me to feel happy? I mean, all of those people. I know, everyone is somebody’s baby, but look at what happened. As soon as we stopped abusing nature she started to recover.”

“You know, Love, this is what our ancestors had every day.”

“You’re right. I never looked at it like that. Those greedy bastards were more concerned with piling up stacks of money than preserving the fucking planet. When did we lose it? When did we become so numb to our surroundings that life seemed normal eating fast food three times a day because we were too busy trying to make the oligarchs richer to take care of ourselves? How did we ever get tricked into thinking that was the best thing for US? How could I ever be so stupid.”

She turned around and buried her face in his chest. His fingers tangled deep in the roots of her hair, pulling her close against himself.

“It wasn’t you. It was them, Love. It was the lies we were all raised to believe. How can a child know that it’s not okay to spit on the floor if no one ever teaches him?”

“You always have the grossest way of explaining things.” She snarled in mock anger. Stan could always tell when she was pretending to be mad because her nose crinkled. There was nothing as cute as a nose crinkle when she was actually angry. “So what do we do now, smart guy?”

“I’m sure in a few weeks the government will get supplies out.”

Motia pulled away, this time in actual anger. “Are you stupid? There is no government, not anymore. Not in the sense that we have ever known it. We’re on our own.”

“If that were true, don’t you think they would have made an announcement.” The sound of his own stupidity burned his ears.

“Sometimes I don’t even get you.”

“Okay, let’s say we are on our own. What do we need? Food, water, safety. We have enough food for the next week in the cabinet, maybe two if we make it stretch. We’ll have to make a plan to get more.”

“The Descot’s, Jimmy and Reta, across the street. I haven’t seen them for a few days. I think they’ve bugged out. If it comes to that, we can break in, take anything supplies that they might have left behind.”

“Have you thought that maybe you haven’t seen them because they died in there? We go in there, and it’s just as likely we pick up the virus as it is that we find something worth eating. No, if we are running this scenario we should grow our own food.”

She looked up at him in disbelief almost tripping over her words, “Alright, number one, do you even have any idea how long it takes to grow food, and numero dos do you have some magic seeds that will grow this food that’s going to keep us alive stored up your ass, Farmer Brown, or have you thought about that?”

“Reign it back a bit. There’s no reason to fight each other. Not until I have to eat you at least.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” She pushed him with all of her weight like she had done a hundred times before. It never meant anything more than her disgust. Normally, he stood like a boulder at twice her weight. He had never moved an inch before, but this time was different. She caught him off balance, and to her shock, he fell backward. Unable to do anything but watch, Stan fell back into the corner of the patio table severing his spinal column from his brain. She watched as his body bounced against the concrete, and his strange contorted face stared through her.
Motia looked around to see if anyone had witnessed the accident. It was an accident after all, but would anybody believe her? Prudence won out over the shock; outweighed the devastation and grief that would soon follow. She sized him up and mumbled to herself, “Waste not want not...” She grabbed him by the wrists and started on the arduous journey through the back door, and down to the basement freezer. Just as she crossed the threshold into their home the kitchen display flickered into life.

“Good evening, Ronnin. This is Ron Beskal reporting on the emergency broadcast system. I am pleased to announce that a cure has been found for the deadly plague that has taken the lives of so many, and it is as simple as some eye drops that you take for a week that give you immunity to the disease for the rest of your life. It’s estimated that the world will go back to some semblance of normality within the month. More details to follow. As always, stay strong and stay safe out there.”
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Post May 03, 2020, 07:08:22 AM

Teach

by Lester Curtis

I'm me now again, all me, Sally Clarkson and nothing but. But I wasn't, for a while--quite a long while, actually. Anyway, they've asked me to write my story, for the archive, so this is it.

***

I don't remember waking up--or going to sleep, for that matter, but as if out of nowhere I was aware of my alarm clock buzzing. And when I rolled over and looked at it, it took me far longer than it should have to realize it must have been buzzing at me for over forty-five minutes.

I only know that now, looking back on it; at the time I couldn't even remember what the noise was for or how to stop it. I knew there was something I was supposed to do. I turned the covers back and swung my feet out of the bed and sat up, reaching for the clock--and noticed I was dressed, somewhat, in shorts and a sweatshirt. I realize now why that felt different: I always sleep in the nude.

The strangest thing was the utter silence in my head; no news, no music, no advertisements.

I still had to silence the clock, but it took me a few moments to find the button and pull it out. I got up and went into the bathroom, and saw my reflection in the mirror, my hair messed up and a pillow-crease on my cheek. The sweatshirt had something written on it:

TИA⅃ꟼMI

I couldn't make sense of that, but there was a piece of paper taped to the mirror, and in my own handwriting it said:

You're not going to know what to do. Follow the instructions and you'll get help.

Now,

pee

wash hands

then go to kitchen

When I got to the kitchen there was another note from me on the table, held down by a bead-chain with some keys on it and a folded-up piece of paper attached with a safety pin.

READ THIS THROUGH ALL THE WAY ONCE, then do the steps in order.

Put this around your neck

Bagel and juice in fridge--eat

Then, leave the apartment and lock the door behind you.

TAKE THIS NOTE WITH YOU BUT DON'T TAKE ANYTHING ELSE.

DO NOT TAKE THE NECKLACE OFF. Bend down to lock the door. Door key is the one with the square handle. Turn it clockwise until it stops, turn it halfway counterclockwise and take it out.

Facing the door, turn right and walk to the end of the hall.

USE THE STAIRS TO GO DOWN. Stairs are on the right. Four flights down.

Door says LOBBY. Open it, turn right, go outside.

Outside, turn left and start walking toward downtown. CAREFUL WHERE YOU STEP.

Find a police officer or a firefighter. Go with the first one you meet. The folded-up note on the necklace is for them.

* * *

There was no traffic moving at all. Lots of cars, buses, and trucks, all still and silent in the streets, but lots of people meandering aimlessly on foot. One person on a bicycle rode right into the back of a bus and fell down, then staggered up, crying.

* * *

They took me to a building where I had to walk through a kind of back-and-forth labyrinth, and all the walls, floors, and ceilings were covered in fine wire mesh. It looked like it was installed in a hurry. All the light came from little lamps hung from the wire here and there.

That got me into a room full of very confused-looking people (which I'm sure I was too). A nurse came to me and had me sit down on a bench along the wall with everyone else. She shone a little light in my eyes and asked, “How old is your implant?”

“I--I don't know ...”

“Hm. Well, let me look at this, okay?” She unpinned the note from the necklace and read it. “Yep; eight years.” She looked at me and said, “Don't worry; you'll be okay, but you'll have to be here a while.”

“Well--what happened?”

“A virus. A computer virus; they're calling it the Doomsday Bug. It infected your neural implant, and it's slowly deleting everything in it.”

“I'm ... I'm losing my mind?”

“Part of it. Slowly. You began to realize it in time and wrote this message for yourself. You're a clever girl.”

I waved a hand at the walls and ceiling. “What's all this stuff?”

“The mesh? We're in a Faraday cage. See, the neural implants don't just communicate wirelessly; they get their power that way too. The mesh stops all that, and if the implant is starved of power long enough, it goes into permanent shutdown.

“Now, it's going to be frightening for a while, but the organic human brain is pretty resilient, and over time you'll get back everything you had before the implant.”

* * *

Books. Real paper books and old non-electronic records of all kinds, that's what's saving us all, and walking, and bicycling, and experiencing nature outside, and eating food that doesn't come from machines, and making music with acoustic instruments and our imperfect natural voices.

It's been over a year now, and I've found myself again--I was a teacher before the tech collapse, and I'm a teacher again now. And the loss was horrific, but ... we're going to make it. And this time, we'll know better.
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Post May 03, 2020, 10:33:19 PM

Re: A Pox On This! - The stories

My vote is in.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
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Post May 05, 2020, 03:12:25 AM

Re: A Pox On This! - The stories

My vote is in, too...

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