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I tell aka , a short story encapsulated in a single post. Themes are usually science-fiction adjacent.

Rating is generally PG; some may stray into M rating but will be CW'd. Some adult themes may be present; there is little to no violence, sex scenes, nudity, drug use, coarse language or horror.

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We find the dead space hulk adrift at exactly the location the distress call said it would be. At least it would have been the location if they had transcribed the galactic what9words tag accurately. Instead of cheese.whisk.radian.runs.infrared.petal.nuance.fun.dirge, they’d reported cheese.whisk.radian.run.infrared.petal.nuance.fun.dirge, which was a location at the heart of a star 540 light-years away.

We shake our heads and report back to base another misspelling tragedy.

It was a technological civilization, but not spacefaring. As near as we could tell, they didn’t even have satellites around their planet.

When we got within visual range we realized why: the world was so massive that no reaction—chemical or nuclear—could get a rocket out of that gravity well.

We settle into synchronous orbit, transmit a hello, append our files on materials engineering, and set about printing a space elevator.

It’s going to be a long first contact.

Sl’een met Khukhh at the interplanetary entomology conference in Tokyo.

“Fascinating how they change behaviour when they reach a certain density.”

“Indeed. They become gregarious, aggressive, and they can strip a whole grain field in minutes.”

“Hard to believe they’re just grasshoppers.”

“Grassh—? Oh, I thought you were talking about the humans.”

Ravi bursts in. “I’ve done it! My time machine works! Everybody’s going to want one. I’m gonna be rich and famous!”

I shake my head. “Sorry, no, that’s not how it works. You’re going to sell exactly one, to a Chinese businessman who will reverse engineer it and flood the market yesterday with cheap knockoffs. History, such as it will become, won’t even remember you.”

Ravi pondered. “Then I’ll sell it for a fortune. If I can’t be rich _and_ famous, at least I can be rich.”

We board the dead space hulk. It’s been lifeless for centuries. We start replacing corroded cabling to get life support functioning. Then we restore communications.

There’s a final unsent message in the buffers. We put it on screen.

From: Chief Engineer Nani, Cargo Vessel Akkadia
To: Copper merchant Ea-nasr, New Ur
Subject: Complaint about quality of copper in new CO₂ scrubbers

We turn the screen off. It’s a tale as old as time.

I read his file. He was too lucky in his investments for it to be down to chance. I suspected that he’d travelled back in time to make it rich. So I’d gone back a decade to catch him, undercover.

We encounter each other on a crowded commuter train. I strike up a conversation.

“Did you get today’s Wordle?” I venture.

“Not yet,” he responds.

In a trice, I cuff him. “You’re nicked.”

The Galactic Imperator (Long May Xe Reign) issued a decree. I must translate it to all of the lesser languages of the Empire and inscribe it in titanium to last for eternity.

Vulgar Orion? Done. Centauri Creole? Done. Earth Standard? I do not know this backwater. I visit the machine translation portal and enter the decree’s text. I get back:

TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR: The address for the database cannot be found.

What a weird script! I shrug and start inscribing, shape by shape.

“Our 14th century time-tourism business is booming.”

“It’s nice having visitors from the 21st century. They’re so … clean.”

“I’ve just got one request.”

“Hmm?”

“Can you please stop telling them you’re called Tiffany? It shatters their sense of authenticity.”

“But that’s my name! It’s a perfectly normal 14th-century name.”

“Maybe you could use—it’s short for—?”

“Theophania? Ugh, Theophania is my grandmother, I’m Tiffany!”

ht @s0 for the original idea, who bought a hobby knife that came in impenetrable packaging.

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I’m so excited, my time machine has finally been delivered! I go to open the sturdy box and find a combination lock keeping it closed. What the…?

A much older version of me strides in the front door. “Here, you’ll need this.” I am handed a sticky note with an eight-digit code, then Older Me walks out again.

How many years did it take me to get into this box the first time?

I haven’t had a dog in years. But when I did, Polly would bury tennis balls in the back yard. Sometimes I dig them up when gardening. I carefully rebury them.

Last spring, one of them sprouted. It’s now a hardy tree, it looks a bit like a rubber plant, and it looks like seed pods are forming.

Maybe I should get another dog.

It's the 250th year of the reign of our robot queen Andrea I. A jubilee year.

I am tasked with deciding what precious substance will be the formal term for this anniversary. It must be rarer than silver (25), gold (50), or platinum (70). My—literal—predecessors picked plutonium (100), promethium (150), and oganesson (200, when a gram of it was produced at great expense).

This was never a problem with our mortal monarchs.

I choose antimatter. I will deliver it to Andrea myself.

Record broadcast message. Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is the cargo starliner Knai-Hak. Our engines are inoperative and we are on a collision course with a rocky planet. We do not expect to survive. There appears to be carbon-based life on the surface, not sentient, and we regret the extinction-level event that we will cause. Please do not attempt to recover our cargo of iridium; may its anomalous presence serve as a reminder to future visitors to this world. Message ends. Send.

We’ve known for millennia that the moon is drifting away from the earth. An unavoidable consequence of this fact: one day there would be a last ever total solar eclipse. That one day is today.

We lucky few line up along the path of the eclipse, a metre-wide ribbon of land on top of a high plateau. Totality will last barely a second.

I stare through the filter and try not to blink. My grandchildren will want to know what being here was like.

Earth used to be a great place to go. You’d take your flying saucer to some remote place, get high on their sucrose, land in front of some unsuspecting drunk human and demand they Take You To Their Leader. Such fun!

But Earth’s changed. Now they have ubiquitous video surveillance, most humans even carry a portable one, and there’s nothing more embarrassing than seeing yourself on their instabook feed the next day.

The past is a different planet. You can never go back.

FAIRY CIRCLE
NO STOPPING

says the sign on the road. Sure enough, I am passing right through a huge ring of mushrooms, the road a textbook diagram of a chord.

Disregarding the sign, I pull over, engine running, and get out to take a snap with my phone.

As I return, my car starts to drive off. I run, but it lifts off the ground, then circles higher and higher until I am not sure I am seeing or imagining a speck in the sky.

I belatedly realize that I should have taken a video.

“87th floor, room 24,” says the hotel receptionist as I check in.

“87?! How tall is this hotel?” I exclaim.

“Oh, it’s only two floors up,” she smiles, “but we skip unlucky numbers, and there are a LOT of those around the world.”

“Did you know 87 is unlucky for cricketers?” I joke as I reach for the key.

She frowns, pulls back the key. “Your floor is now called—[typing]—the 111th floor.”

I am about to say something about the number 111, think better of it, and accept the key.

We return to camp. It’s been disturbed. “Snow leopard footprints,” I declare.

A dismayed Susan cries from the tent, “It ate my fur coat! My wedding ring was in the pocket!” There are tufts of fur all over the snow, but no ring.

“Not to worry,” I reassure her as I rummage through the Jeep, “I have just the thing.” I pull out a small rectangle of carpet and plop it on the ground in plain sight. There is no greater temptation to a cat with a hairball.

“Now,” I announce, “we wait.”

History lesson: the temple at Abu Simbel was relocated to higher ground in the 1960s so that it would not be submerged by the artificial lake formed when the Aswan Dam was built. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Simb

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Under cover of darkness, I return the idol to its rightful place in the Temple at Abu Simbel.

The air fizzes and Dr Vogel appears. He points a gun at me. “I’ll take that.”

“Wherever you take that, I’ll find you!” I challenge.

“Au contraire! I am going to take it back to 1960 me, when I was here hunting for it.”

“I wouldn’t do that. Lake Nasser wasn’t—“ but he is gone. He’s going to materialize before the Temple relocation, sixty metres above ground level. I hope Vogel can fly.

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Chinwag Social

Consider this a friendly, local pub. Make yourself at home, bring your friends, have a good time! Meet new people, have a laugh, enjoy the ambience, and the Oxford commas.