Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Portal

Bruce Wenham


'Come on Ethan!' the bigger boy said. 'We can't wait here all day. I'm hungry!'

'Just a little longer said the little one. Any moment now and it'll come back.'

'Too late. I'm going.' Daniel trudged off through the puddles, kicking mud and water as he went.

'Wait! look - it's shifting again!'

Daniel spun round. The ad on the billboard was shimmering, changing.

Golden fields of rye filled the screen.

'That's it!  Run now! Quick!'

They both ran and reach out their fingers towards the sunlit field.

'Ethan!' screamed Daniel, as his friend was sucked upwards and disappeared into the landscape.

The field started to fade. the old ad reappeared.

He hadn't made it, if only he hadn't given up at the last moment. been too far away.

He cried under the gloomy light. Still trapped in the gloomy urban wasteland.

'Ethan!, remember me!'

Sobbing, he walked back home alone.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The sky was becoming crowded with drones as of late

Bruce Wenham
Norm was picking his morning paper up from the front lawn when he heard that familiar whirring, buzzing sound. Another Amazon drone delivery for the neighbors next door. Like some prehistoric dragonfly, it dropped the small package then darted back up into the clear sky.

Norm frowned. The sky was becoming crowded with drones as of late. Swarms of them doing their daily rounds. But he couldn't get rid of the feeling that he was being watched by miniature cameras from above. Hovering, watching his every move.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Life in a post-apocalyptic high-rise

Bruce Wenham
We still get beautiful views of dawn and dusk like before the apocalypse. But the myriad city lights blinked out when our city lost all power. People light their apartments with candles now, and you will get brief voyeuristic glances of surviving souls standing in the faint glow of their windows. Now and then we observe strange light formations in the sky from shared rooftop viewings. The roar of airplanes has gone though, along with the city lights and car horns. Just the howling wind remains. 

Last night I dreamed of my wife, now lost somewhere out there in the dark. She was sitting in the blue glow from her laptop, surfing the long dead web. Sitting in mid-air, across from the lighted apartments of our many neighbors. 

Monday, 25 March 2013

they both gazed at the giant, arcological dome

Bruce Wenham

He put his arm around Belle's shoulder and they both gazed at the giant, arcological dome in the distance. It emanated a warmth they had seen nowhere in this dark, dead world.

'Who lives there?' Belle asked. 'Are they really monsters like Amber said?'

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The neuroscientists looked in awe

Bruce Wenham

The neuroscientists looked in awe at the flashes detonating across the human brain activity map. They had found the way to map human thoughts, and one day build a mind.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Escape to greener grass

Bruce Wenham

At the vertical farm the alien mother cooed to her swarming brood, her bio-luminescent tentacles seeming to float in space, stroking their faces. Bill imagined ripping those feelers off. The nerve she had to speak so loudly here in her weird, clicking tongue.

The rotating troughs opposite held animals and plants from her distant world. Strange creatures inside translucent containers, still alive, making gurgling noises and pulsing purple, green and blue. The alien could still eat her childhood delights, but missed the weather back home. Earth was so hot and unpredictable.

Leaving the farm, Bill saw the faint shapes of gargantuan hives through the haze, built to accommodate the crawling masses. Several miles high. Teeming ant hills with them all sitting in their isolated cocooned worlds. Cosmic multiculturalism. Chattering in their alien tongues, or sending telepathic brain waves through the walls. They screwed his touch wall picture. He could hear no sounds from his telepathic neighbors in the adjoining apartment, but still screamed at them in frustration. They did not have sexual intercourse like humans. No physical contact, but a frenzied series of brain waves would erupt at times, setting off an eruption in the female of their species. Copulation at a distance. Conception of another brood of 10, or 15, or 20...

He cruelly imagined them being sent back to their home galaxies, wailing on their star ships. Squabbling among themselves again. Butchered by their old enemies, engulfed in searing supernovas or shivering under a dying sun.

Bill was an unemployed native Terran, had been for about a week now. Not long. Later that afternoon at the employment center he made his food and shelter subsidy application. The human apparition opposite asked him to confirm his gender and ethnic origin, in the interests of diversity and equal opportunities.

'Human, AI, alien, cyborg, synthetic hybrid, female, male or hermaphrodite? Please select appropriate description'.

His anger pulsed within him. He could just smash that fellow human’s pretty face in. But she wasn't real, just an intelligent array of lights floating in space. He would still get punished for threatening behavior towards an AI though. His emotional brakes kicked in, he wasn't a psycho - yet. Not far off though.

‘Do you have the right to work on Earth?’ the fake woman continued.

‘I’m human for Christ’s sake!’ Are you blind? Have I got fucking tentacles! Do AIs like yourself sweat like I am right now?'

‘But we cannot be sure of that Sir. For all we know you could be from the other side of the galaxy where convergent evolution has produced uncannily human-like features. Or be wearing one of those new cloaking devices adopted by the more challenging to us aliens’.

‘Don’t you mean freaking repulsive and stinking?’

‘Sir, let me remind you that any racist behavior will not be tolerated’.

… Several hours had passed. Bill was back at home, scanning the vacancies. But there was no work for him. Alien micro-fusion reactor engineers with eyes on stalks that could peer into any dark and damp nook and cranny, how could he compete with them?

The following day he had a medical appointment, connected with his long-running application to leave Earth and start a new life on a recently discovered world in a distant galaxy. A world with fearsome predators, but untouched, unpolluted and most important of all, devoid of intelligent life. He made his way to the medical center and stood in front of the annoying registration point, showing Earth and various distant planets recently admitted into the federation. He stabbed Earth, and yet another attractive human AI materialized before him, ready to communicate with him in his native tongue. Bill was nervous, this was a make or break situation. Please for the love of God he prayed inwardly.

He had to escape from his overcrowded home planet, swamped by interstellar economic migrants from distant star systems. It had all happened so quickly, within his lifetime. Smiling, Bill remembered the quiet country lanes where he grew up, when he only saw a few passing cars each day. Then came AI, at first fearsome and caged. But which was soon set free and with its superior brain power invented the interstellar hyper-drive. The end of Earth alone in the Universe. Things would never be the same again.

The robot doctor smiled at Bill.

‘Looks like you’ll be going through the wormhole in the very near future, Mr Sampson’.

Bill gulped. He felt dizzy, needed to lie down again.

A week later Bill, his wife and daughter were waiting near the wormhole platform, in a shuttle far above Earth.

He turned back to his home world, tears in his eyes, looking down at the atmospheric curvature below. His family’s ship approached the gaping portal. They readied themselves for the pull. Bill felt a weird shiver go through his body.

Sadness washed over him. For he knew, in the deep of his heart, when they arrived at that desolate but dangerous paradise at the edge of the Universe, those worlds with their virgin continents and indigenous populations, that he himself would be... just another migrant...


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Trade Block Builders

Bruce Wenham

Trade Block Builders


For thousands of years the Neanderthals had shivered on the frozen European continent. The women tore flesh from animal skins with their teeth, preparing clothes for the tribe. The men hunted beyond the safety of their cave in dangerous, predator-filled valleys. Hungry wolves howled in the darkness. Infants born crying in the dim, stinking cavern looked forward to but a cruel, merciless future. A new animal had stepped into their valley overnight, steadily making its way closer. An animal that would ultimately wipe them all out.

Over the following millennia Homo sapiens had made a series of stunning scientific discoveries, culminating in the eventual unmasking of the god particle followed by unlimited fusion energy. Fertile lands further east towards the Eurasian land mass had been conquered and the Russian federation had disintegrated long ago. Only China now stood in the way of total global hegemony. The leaders of the European Union were finally drawing close to the moment of breakthrough that had eluded their nations for years - a decision that if taken would unleash their great trading block. Cloud bots hovered silently behind them as they frantically negotiated through the night, streaming live pictures to engrossed eyeballs in the other great trading blocks of Earth - The Americas and China Pacific. For what was at stake was not the childish question of fiscal union and the sacred Euro, presidential powers or a single European army as in bygone days. No - this would be to unleash the exponential power of hard European AI, a prospect that haunted many but promised nothing short of immortality and the chance to leapfrog ahead of their Chinese enemies.

The Chinese rulers also had AI albeit a somewhat inferior technology. The price they paid for not building atom smashers and fusion reactors at the dawn of the 21st century. However they refused to yield their human powers to the cloud in any event. Would they strike in the final moments to halt the awakening of a new fearsome European brain? Those Eurocrats were mad they thought, about to sell their souls to the devil. But what could they do, even their advanced computers told them the alternative nuclear apocalypse was hopeless. All they could do was sweat and watch those mad, pale hominids to the west.

The high temple to the EU superstate hummed with activity. Behind prettily arranged refreshment glasses politicians fretted and plotted. Later at group photo sessions the tribe leaders arranged themselves accordingly, looking for their marked positions. Standing clumsily, pointing at the floor. Shaking hands and smiling for the camera.

From a distance the ancient president of the EU sat looking on in his minimalist throne. Dressed in a flowing blue toga, his sinewy old forearms emerging limply from the loose sleeves. The homo sapien descendant of the butchers of neanderthal man knew the time for his species had come in turn. His relaxed bony fingers curled over the armrests. He smiled faintly, confident of the end game. The satisfied high priest in the twilight of his career. He had steered this land mass inexorably towards a sea change. Like the European neanderthals long ago his species was now about to be wiped out by a higher intelligence, his techno-blindness paving the way.

Hundreds of metres below chanting biological fundamentalists had chained themselves futilely to street furniture at the entrance to the EU headquarters, near where gargantuan statues in European man and woman’s image stood keeping guard over the shining edifice. They looked up in fear. Somewhere up there sat the president, like an old Roman emperor. A man they had only ever seen in the cloud.

Alas light years away across the dark void super intelligent beings looked down upon the emperor with his modern tribes of humans in suits as they shook hands and congratulated each other. The aliens chuckled. ‘If only they knew their superstate and blue planet were but a tiny speck in our galactic empire’.

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