Posts Tagged science fiction

Jack of Hearts: Jack


A Jack of Hearts with an X and the words 'in the world'

The following is a sequel to Ten of Hearts: Double You.

A fair-haired man enters and plays a flashlight over the room. He stops dead as the light finds the face of the oldest of us.

I fight to open my eyes against the burning light. Before it blinded me, I saw something tantalisingly familiar in the man’s gait. When my eyes finally consent to staying open, they see only a bright light against darkness.

The light falls with the sound of a collapsing body, and spreads a gloomy half-light across the floor. I rush toward the unconscious intruder. It’s Jack, or almost Jack… he seems older. I stroke his forehead until his eyes also manage to open again. He looks at me as though he is lost in a familiar place.

After a minute, he pulls away abruptly. “Cat, I killed someone. Did you see?”


The others’ reactions remind me that we are not alone in the room.

“Get away from him!” I squeal. I’m eight. I don’t want the big me to be killed. I run toward her and try to drag her away, but she doesn’t move. A six-year-old me comes to help.

“What?” This time it is the man who is surprised. I look at him defiantly.

“He tried to kill me first! I’m a good guy… I think,” he protests.

I look at the big me. “It’s okay,” she says. “I know him. He won’t hurt us. His name’s Jack.”

I relax my grip, but stay at her side.

We listen to the rest of his story.

“About a year and a half ago, I woke up to an old man trying to inject me with something. We struggled, and eventually I injected him with it. He went to sleep immediately. I watched him sleeping. He looked like my grandfather. God, it was awful, thinking I’d killed my grandfather.” His voice is beginning to quaver. “So I tried to wake him, I tried so hard…” his words clump into sobs.

We watch, trying to make sense of the new layer of strangeness. Trying to remember our lives, trying to get back to them.

“But now… I went to heaven anyway…” Jack manages to squeeze past the lump in his throat.

The youngest of us starts crying with him.

“Heaven?” I’m the oldest. The oldest in a group of time-travelling versions of myself. What does that mean? “I was there too, wasn’t I?”

“Yes… yes, of course you were there… you know, don’t you?”

I see my worst fears in his eyes.

“While I was fighting the man, he said… he said, ‘you don’t know how much you want this.'” He paused to find enough calm air to speak again. “After it was over, I realised he was right. You were already dead. I’m so sorry…” Jack buries his face in my lap and weeps.
For a while we just sit there, watching him cry. He is a stranger to most of us, but we can’t help feeling his grief, and mixing it with own for our lost lives.
“Hey, were you in virtual reality too?” I ask. I’m ten, and I’ve been thinking hard to take my mind of my sore knee. It hasn’t really worked, but I have some ideas.

This gets through his despair. “Smart kid… you know all about VR? I used to make virtual reality stuff. I made a lot of money from it. So yes, I’ve been in it.”

“No, I mean… cool, you know all about it? This thing I’m wearing, it’s a virtual reality suit, right?”

Jack looks at me for the first time. He picks up the torch and points it at each of us in turn. “Holy… how many of you are there?”

“Ten”, I say. “I think we were in virtual reality, or else we travelled in time…”

“I don’t think… I don’t think people wear things like that in heaven. Hell, I don’t even believe in heaven! I think you’re right! Let me have a look at that.” He speaks with a new-found jubilance. He gets up and walks toward me.

He sits down next to me and starts examining my suit.

“Wow, it’s… this must be… how did…”

I scream in pain as he prods at my left knee, and instinctively bend it away from him, which makes it hurt even more.

“I’m sorry, I…”
Some of us cry in sympathy, some in surprise.
“She has a broken kneecap. Do you have any painkillers?” I say. At 18, I’m the second eldest.

“I think so… let me go check.”

“Wait!” I call after him. “Check where? Where are we anyway? Can we go with you?”

“I guess so…” he replies. “You’re… I’m at a retreat, from technology.”

“Already?” I remember suggesting the idea to him; it would be a giant art project, an adventure in the past. I walk with him toward the door.

“I’ve been here for about three and a half years, but there was…”

I feel a gentle tension pulling me back inside, the tingling I used to get at the top of my head when I ran too fast and breathed too little. The cable linking me to the ceiling is fully unwound.

Jack looks up at the cables for the first time, and follows them up with his flashlight. The light is too weak to reach the top. “Wow,” he gasps.

“Please…” calls the ten-year-old. “It hurts!”

“Okay, I’m going to get some stuff. I’ll be right back,” he promises as he leaves.

Here we are again, ten hearts, one name, alone with ourselves. Twenty hazel eyes staring into the darkness. A few more facts and millions more unknowns.

To be continued

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Ten of Hearts: Double You

Here we are. Ten hearts, beating silently. Twenty legs, some abruptly collapsed onto the floor. Twenty hands, grasping at lost sensations. Ten heads, linked to flexible cables suspended from above like the strings of ten marionnettes. Twenty hazel eyes, staring into the darkness.

Twenty eyes which were just moments ago watching gummi bears leap around
on a screen, watching the world whiz by from a swing, watching the teacher form the letter W on the blackboard, tracking an approaching ball, streaming tears from the pain of a broken knee, gazing down at polished shoes on the school stage while the students clapped, closing in embarrassment for a first kiss, glazing over in front of an educational video, closing in rapture during an embrace with our soulmate, opening wide in terror.

The cries of the youngest hit our ears before our eyes have adjusted. A sound made by one, forgotten by some, not quite familiar to others. We begin to see each other, ourselves. Some recognise past selves, some gape at the slow recognition of future selves. Some are too young to know that the others have separate thoughts.

We look at each other questioningly, trying to find the right words to say, and wondering whether we need to say them once they’re found.

“Are you me?” I say. I’m twelve, nearly thirteen. I think I wished myself here, to escape the humiliation of standing in front of assembly with my art prize.

All are unsure. Those close to each other in age answer similarly. All who answer answer positively. We are Cat Diesch. We were born on October 10, 2010 to Rose and Macy Diesch. We have no siblings. We enjoy painting, fireworks, and nectarines. We are sitting in a dark room with nine other versions of ourselves, at different ages.

More questions follow. Did we travel through time? How can we travel back? Did we die? Did we all break our kneecaps at ten years old? Only the last gets an answer, so we quiz each other on our lives. We all lived the same one. We each lived it until August 10. Each in a different year, always two years apart. The younger ones are warned not to play rugby, for a broken kneecap is painful.

Very painful. I am ten, and though my world disappeared, my knee still hurts, and my eyes are still streaming with tears. “I want to go back to the hospital,” I plead. Nobody says anything; we know that we have no answer. Less than an hour ago my leg was in a splint, now it is covered with the same smooth, squishy black fabric as the rest of our bodies. As an older me comes to comfort me, I notice the cord linking her to the ceiling unwinds so that she is free to move toward me.

A recently-read novel is still fresh in my mind. “It’s like some kind of virtual reality suit. Do you have that in the future?” I ask my older selves. The one who spoke first says, “Oh yeah, like in… what’s it… World of the World Builders!”

The older ones smile at the spark of a much-enjoyed book lighting up their memory.

“Nothing like this.” I say. I’m eighteen. I tinker with the graphics for the virtual reality software my boyfriend is making for his Master project. He just uses goggles, earpieces, gloves, and some basic neural stimulation.

We ponder in silence for a while, watching the two youngest play together. Our thoughts are like ten flautists playing different tunes, each trying to make sense of the same shrouded score.

“Did I stay with Jason forever?” I ask. I’m fourteen, and I know Jason and I are meant for each other. But after exchanging puzzled looks, my older selves burst out laughing.

“Jason… oh my God, that kid? He was…” They stop when they see the look on my face.

“I remember,” says a sixteen-year-old me. “It feels important now, but believe me, it totally isn’t.”

“And you end up with someone much better,” say the two oldest in unison.

“Who?” I ask. “What’s he like? Is he cute?”

The click of a door interrupts our retrogressive reminiscence.


To be continued

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Three of Hearts: Chpamnorbosg Eiurnyngillyng

Three of hearts showing the ALICE TPC, with tentacle monster and the word \'Prévisible\'. A spectacular view of the interior of the ALICE Time Projection Chamber (TPC) - the world\'s largest. It measures the trajectories of the thousands of particles emitted in heavy ion collisions with sub-millimetre precision.A lad at a fair who was lacking directions,
found a booth which was offering temp’ral projections.
“We’ll show you the future, we’ll show you the past,
you’ll gape at the first and you’ll gasp at the last.”
Being fond of projections, and not short of time,
he sat in the chamber and paid in the dime.
There were buttons for films of both pre- and post-diction
in all sorts of genres; he chose science fiction.

Way out behind the shroud of night,
beyond the Milky Way
the sothnax live in perfect time,
not slaves of night or day.

They see the world through two stalked eyes
one each of time and space.
What humans see as future time
is just a further place.

In such a world it’s rather hard
to pull off any capers,
a fresh-made scheme is by that time
already in the papers.

But one mad sothnax killed and fled
without the slightest plan
without the slightest thought that time
flew faster than he ran.

For since a lengthy moment he
was blinded in one eye,
the police approached, and just in time,
the killer found out why.

For all the speed a photon has,
it’s far outpaced by souls.
For all their pow’rs to see through time,
they can’t see through black holes.

And so the killer’s soul escaped
and made its way toward Earth,
to steal a dying egg in time
to steer it back toward birth.

Their unforeseen collision forced
the dying human soul
to think it was not yet its time.
They fused to make a whole.

But enough with this fiction of tempo-transmography,
Our fact-hungry viewer went next to biography.

Chpamnorbosg Eiurnyngillyng
Lived a life of greed and killing
then he got in a mother
and started another.

And with that our young lad was left thirsting for more
so he pressed on the button that said ‘film d’amour’.

roses are red,
sothnax xanthose.
One soul mates a sothnax,
two soulmates arose.

Such soulful emotion was too strong a homily,
So to lighten things up he selected a comedy

An alien thought he was winning
till he got into trouble for sinning
So he came down to Earth
underwent a new birth
and completely forgot his beginning.

Just for fun our lad moved to the edge of his chair
then selected a horror and braced for a scare.

She screamed bloody murder
as the monster interred her
and without an escape route
she was juiced like a grapefruit
but the killer’s black soul
sped to make a black hole
to escape being observed
an escape undeserved.

And he grew as a boy
with no thoughts of the ploy
till the day he was found
by a bloodless bloodhound

And our hero could see that in fact it was he,

and they came in the stall
and forced his downfall
he screamed a waul
lost the brawl
lost all

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