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Sunday
Jun252017

Prophet

Ryan flipped through the box of old report cards, a history book with a ripped cover and several spiral notebooks filled with notes and doodles. Feeling nostalgic Ryan picked up the red spiral notebook and began to flip through it thinking about all his high-school friends who he had rarely seen in the last decade.


There was to a series of remedial math problems, some notes about the hundred years war and various doodles. But what drew his attention were a series of notes passed between himself and his best friend Jim. He hadn't talked to Jim for almost three years and considered calling his friend, but it was late so he continued to flip through the conversation in the notebooks.


About halfway through the book Ryan came across one of their old games. The two would take turns predicting things about the others life. Ryan didn't remember exactly why they had stopped only that something was said that made him angry so they stopped.


Looking back over the page and a half of notes he was drawn back into the ten year old conversation. The first thing he saw was that he said he would marry Heather. Heather was a girl in their homeroom who had annoyed me more than anyone in the world. He had assumed it was a joke because he knew how much Ryan disliked her and forgotten about it in college when he met another girl named Heather. They had been married for almost five years and things were great. Still, it was a fairly common name.


The next thing Jim wrote was that Ryan was going to be a doctor. That was another obvious miss. The site of blood made Ryan sick. But in college he had discovered a love for history and was about to receive a doctorate in history. That was a bit harder to ignore since Jim had been right twice.


Still, it wasn't exactly perfect so Ryan tried to dismiss it as him simply seeing patterns in the data, but it was sill strange. So he began to look more carefully at the others things his friend had written. He had picked out the nickname Ryan's wife used, the city he now lived in and several other minor points.


What sent a chill up Ryan's spine wasn't any single prediction. It was that every one of them was right. Then he found the page that reminded him why they had stopped their game. Jim had insisted they predict the other person's death. Ryan had said that Jim would die at ninety from a heart attack. Jim had written that Ryan would die on November 16th 2015 in a car accident. That was only a few weeks away.


Ryan dropped the notebook and fumbled for his phone and dialed the phone before remembering it was almost midnight. Jim answered the phone on the first ring and said, "How's it going Ryan?" Before he had the chance to say anything. Ryan knew it was probably caller ID, but it still unnerved him.


"I was just looking at an old notebook. I found something a bit odd. You wrote I was going to die on the Thursday after next," Ryan said, already planning to lock himself in his room for the day.


"If you're taking the day off you should come over for pizza and movies," Jim said. That seemed like the worst possible idea. Was it possible Jim didn't know he had been correctly predicting things? Or perhaps he knew but there was nothing that could be done about it.


"I was going to lock myself in my room and read a good book that day," Ryan said. He didn't really want to admit how spooked he was and Jim wasn't making it any easier by treating this like it was nothing.


"You can't waste a whole day on a game we played in high school. If you're taking off a day why not have some fun?," Jim said.


Ryan really wanted to say no, but there was something about his friend's tone that suggested he should go. And he trusted Jim. He had always looked out for Ryan. So over the next week he tried to forget about the prediction of his death. He also updated his will, bought flowers for Heather and called his parents.


During the evenings he read some old history books with new interest, specifically those about Nostradamus and others who claimed to have prophetic powers. Was it possible there really were people who could see the future? It seemed more likely than it had. But, if Jim could tell the future why did he live in a studio apartment and work at a gas station?


By the time he was driving across town on the 16th he had convinced himself Jim was playing some bigger game. Perhaps he knew some reason that Ryan had to die today. But he trusted Jim enough that he didn't try to take a different route to his friend's house or even buckle his seat belt. If he was going to die he would die.


But nothing happened. There was no car accident, no screeching of breaks. There weren't even all that many cars on the road. And while he looked carefully as he crossed the street to go into his friend's apartment he felt a bit silly. A few coincidences and he had convinced himself Jim was magical. But after some time thinking about it logically none of his predictions were that amazing. Common names and jobs that were only true if you interpreted them in a specific way. It was only the last, the exact moment of his death that was truly impressive and it seemed that Jim had guessed wrong in that case.


Once inside Ryan couldn't help but being pleasantly surprised by his friend's sense of humor. Jim had picked out three movies to watch Crash, Speed and Mad Max because Ryan was clearly in the mood to watch a bunch of car accidents. But the danger seemed over so Ryan relaxed and had some pizza while they watched cars crash into each other.


Then at almost exactly two o'clock Jim turned off the DVD player while a bus was making a jump off of a freeway ramp and switched over to the local TV station without a word. That seemed odd to Ryan, but he watched he saw the police chasing a truck through his neighborhood. The large truck was almost completely out of control. It turned and careened down the street hit the curb then swerved into Ryan's house smashing through the wall of Ryan's bedroom.


While the police rushed up and handcuffed the clearly drunk man Ryan saw his demolished bed on live TV and looked at Jim.


"Well that's odd. Who would have expected a car accident in your bedroom?" Jim said, and he held out the box of pizza so Ryan could take the last slice.


"I don't understand. You should be rich," Ryan said.


"Would you have called me if I was rich?" Jim asked.


Ryan thought about it for a moment and he honestly couldn't answer, but Ryan suspected that Jim knew the answer. If he was running a company or had even won the lottery Ryan wouldn't have wasted his time with fantasies and certainly wouldn't have come over to his house for pizza and movies on a Thursday. So Ryan took the pizza and grabbing the remote and turned the movie back on.



Saturday
Jun172017

The Science of Magic

Marrillo read the dusty, leather bound book slowly. He was still convinced he had made a mistake. These were the same spells and ideas wizards had been using for a thousand years and everyone said the rituals to perform magic were random. It simply wasn't possible that hundreds of wizards had spent their lives learning these spells and missed the connections. Every wizard learned from his first lesson that magic had no order or set rules. Spells were born from the chaos of the universe and the only way to discover more was through random trial and error that could take a lifetime to learn a single spell that might not even be useful. But Marrillo had found a pattern. It wasn't a clear pattern yet and he didn't understand it completely but the closer he looked the more of those small connections he saw. He already had theories on how to make a dozen different spells and he was even able to guess what they might do. It was a power that generations of wizards had dreamed of.

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Saturday
Jun102017

Lure

Paul slammed the newspaper on Cedric's desk and said, "How the hell did the newspapers get this before me?"

You’d have covered it up. Someone had to make sure people knew," Cedric answered.

"I would have studied it! We can't just announce something this important when we don't know anything about it except that it's a fish," Paul said.

"A fish found in ice from Europa," Cedric said.

"The President gave a speech today announcing a manned mission. A hundred billion dollar trip. Billions we should spent on schools, hospitals and public infrastructure!" Paul said, his eyes bulged, and the vein in her forehead throbbed.

"We're at the heart of the greatest discovery in human history," Cedric said and ran his finger over the newsprint photo of the perfectly formed fish which looked more alien in print than it had in the laboratory.

Paul stood up, the red disappearing from his face and he said "We’ll be celebrities."

Cedric glanced at the black and white picture and said, "You're right," then he paused for a minute and said, "But you know I don’t like being in public. I'd rather you take the credit, like the other times. I'll stay here and study the fish. Someone has to get a skin sample."

Paul looked at the picture for a few seconds then said, "I thought you were angry about that, but if it’s what you want."

 

***

 

The news anchor droned on about half a dozen subjects but, like everyone else on the planet, Cedric was only interested in the shuttle in orbit of Europa. It held twelve men and women ready to complete the greatest scientific mission ever created by mankind.

The mission had done a lot of good in Cedric’s opinion. Countries were working together like never before and the research for the trip had improved recycling and manufacturing techniques. But all of that was secondary to the real mission. They were here to explore an ecosystem that was advanced enough to have fish and as the massive ship began to descend towards Europa Cedric began to wonder if he had went to far.

That was because Cedric knew they wouldn't find any fish. There were no fish. In fact there had been no signs of life at all.

When they discover that there would be a witch hunt. And since it was Paul who had taken the credit for Cedric's work it was Paul who would be blamed and no one would ever question Cedric who had never been allowed to have his name on anything connected with the small rubber fish that was currently in the Smithsonian.

 

Saturday
Jun032017

The Park

From time to time I visit a small park south of my hometown. It’s a fairly average park with a baseball field, a small river, picnic benches and a few miles of paths that meander through the woods. It is those paths that brought me to the park. I like to bring a small lunch and a book and wander from bench to bench. It's a way for someone who spends too much time at a computer to get outside and exercise without being to bored. Not that the park doesn’t bore me. That’s what the book is for. It’s also why I noticed something odd. Not that I really thought much about it at first. It was simply a story I told myself to keep my mind busy, but over time the other explanations began to disappear.

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Friday
May262017

An Eternity

 

Fear threatened to overwhelm Sean the helmet was attached to his head. The psychiatrist tried not to admit that fear even to himself but how could he not be afraid. Two men had been driven insane by the device he was wearing but it was his job to heal them and the only way he could start doing that was to understand what had caused the insanity.

 

He had already sat in the chair for almost two hours as they monitored his brain waves and adjusted the machinery to it. He had done his best to put the others at ease as he waited. He told jokes to the scientists as they attached monitors to watch his heartbeat and told the nurse about his cat. He only dropped when they pull the straps tight over his arms so he couldn't injure them when he began thrashing.

 

"The machine will turn off automatically after thirty seconds."

 

"And if I take my thumb off the button it will turn off immediately," Sean said.

 

"Correct. Start whenever you want."

 

Sean took three deep breaths. He didn't understand the machine well. He thought not knowing might help protect him. What he did know was that it was designed to let him see the paranormal world. A spirit world which had driven two trained paranormal investigators insane.

 

After a few seconds he pushed the button and waited, uncertain what to expect. The room became fuzzy then cleared. The room was no more than twenty foot square and held hundreds of people. They moved slowly passing through each other and never showing any sign that they saw any of the others.

 

As the machinery continued to power up the walls faded away and the landscape came into view. It was a flat, white plain filled with millions of people none of them interacting with any of the others. How had this caused men to suddenly become violent? They had recognized something he hadn't? He tried not to think about it too much. Better to think about it when it was less real.

 

But as he watched the faces. No one looked up, no one spoke and no one smiled and Sean began to understand.

 

These people were here because there was no place else to go. This was all there was. To wander isolated and alone in a world without even landscapes to entertain and to do it for eternity. If there was a God he didn't care and the truth began to eat at Sean's mind and as he let go of the button he began to pull at his restraints.

 

"You have to let me out." Sean said as he struggled against the bands of cloth which held him down. The image of those people wouldn't leave his mind, an eternity with no hope, no joy, with nothing.

 

The thought continued to push inside his skull while he continued to pull against the straps unable to face knowledge that no matter how long he lived, no matter what he did he would end up in that endless nothingness.