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We met over celebratory drinks. Our work was worthy of the Nobel Prize.
Only—Svetlana pointed out—there are five of us, and Nobels are awarded to at most three laureates.
The next morning, Svetlana was found dead.
The police say it was an accident, but I’m not taking any chances. Now I only meet with Harold, Keiko, and Gabriel in public. The silences are awkward: we all know that while there are still four of us, there will be no Prize.
“Captain, we have scanned the planet. It is forty thousand kilometres in circumference.”
A pause. Then: “Curious.”
“It is exactly forty thousand kilometres in circumference, within the limit of our sensors.”
Another, shorter, pause. Then: “Q! Show yourself!”
The pixie, had it been born in the age of roleplaying games, would be classified as Chaotic Good.
It had just finished visiting Leibniz in his dreams, having sown a seed.
Now it was off at superluminal speed to see Newton while he slept.
Thanks to special relativity, both had a valid claim to have discovered calculus first.
The glossy dramas tell you that as a werewolf you turn when you’re hit by the light of the full moon.
Poppycock. it can be overcast, you can hide in a concrete bunker wrapped in tinfoil, and you still turn. Not once a month, but twice, once at full moon, once at new moon.
Lycanthropy is nothing but spring tides.
I’ll never understand Japanese counter words, I swore, as I cleaned up after dinner.
They’re just so arbitrary, I complained, as I put away the long slender utensils in the top drawer.
How could the purpose of a thing affect its noun class?, I muttered, as I put the mixer and blender back into the appliance cupboard.
Why would the language be like that?, I grumbled, as I filed the flat thin recipe book in its spot on the bookshelf.
The concept was alien to me.
The next demon looked more like a machine than anything. But looks are deceptive. I met its eye. “Can you talk?”
“Can you walk?”
“Yes…but not here.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“Autonomous algorithms rely on perspective analysis. Need parallel lines. These lines do not converge properly. No training data.”
I made a note in my book: keep the pentagram; it binds them.
Mum tends to adopt every waif that turns up at our hearth: the jackal with the wonky leg; the abandoned caracal kitten; my father.
Dad’s not much better. He can’t walk far, so he stays around and nurses every single seedling of wheat. He saves the best seeds each year. Such a sentimentalist.
Now it’s time for us to migrate, but the jackal won’t follow us, we’ve had the biggest crop I’ve ever seen, and I’ve never seen so few rats as this year. Would it be so bad if we stayed?
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence came up empty. So we lowered our sights and began the Search for Extraterrestrial Life. This too was inconclusive. Chemical signatures in spectra could indicate life, but could also be inorganic in origin.
Then, one day, we found a signature that was unmistakably from a civilization that had recently poisoned its world to extinction.
Annoyingly, we could still not answer the question of whether we were currently alone in the universe.
[Poll] Would you watch this movie?
[Caption: Scientifically Accurate Pictures presents]
VO: In a world… [camera flies over ammonia clouds] …with a reducing atmosphere… [fade to black] …comes a tale of forbidden chemistry.
[Cut to hunky man in exosuit] He was from an oxygen-rich world. [Pan to a sultry green lump] She had no bilateral symmetry. They had potential—too much. [Zoom in on a voltmeter gauge which goes full scale. Fade to white.]
[The words REDUCTION and OXIDATION slide to reveal the title: R E D O X]
The household god was content for many years. It held pride of place in the garden, tended by its sole worshipper.
Then the worshipper passed, and went to another deity. The household god found itself unceremoniously dumped on the nature strip.
The next day, a hard rubbish scavenger happened upon a perfect garden gnome. It was odd: when he picked it up, he felt calm; enraptured. He paused and turned as he tucked it under his arm, sure that he heard a disembodied contented sigh.
bad pregnancy outcome, #MicroFiction
Why do witches have black cats? No, it’s not because we wear black ourselves and we prefer a cat who sheds black hair.
It’s because people are prejudiced against black cats, just as they are against us. We are blamed for the random misfortune, the overheard secret, the unfortunate miscarriage. We have a familiar bond that only outcasts can share.
Also, in my case, Midnight is all they had left at the shelter. You know?—he hardly sheds at all.
We can’t say much about this dead civilization, but they understood albedo.
Every summer they painted their village white, to reflect as much of the hot sun as possible.
Then six months later they painted their village black, to absorb as much of the feeble winter heat as they could.
Oh, one other thing is that you can say about this civilization is that it lasted exactly 341 years, and that it ended during winter.
alcohol reference, #MicroFiction
It‘s hard to find my exact home timeline. This one’s pretty close.
On the plus side, in this universe electrons were assigned a positive charge. Doubly good, they defined π as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius.
Less cool is the absence of any kind of mint. And, darkly, all cats are literally grey.
I think I’ll stay here a while. Until I have a hankering for a mojito.
Thingvellir—we write it Þingvellir—is the valley where the people of Iceland have gathered every year since 930 CE. It’s a rift valley, right on top of the mid-Atlantic ridge, widening at an eye-watering 2 cm per year thanks to plate tectonics.
Which may serve to explain the silly ritual we observe as we greet each other there.
“How was your journey, Jón?”
“It feels longer every year, Sigríður.”
Imagine how tedious this joke will be in another thousand years!
When time travel became cheaper than road travel, logistics companies initially took a hit. But they adapted.
You can choose to have your parcel delivered overnight, or you can have it delivered back to you in perfect condition twelve (or more) months in the future.
Today I’m using the service to store away all my 1990s clothes and have them returned in 2030 when—hopefully—they are back in fashion again.
When I was young, my visions were crystal-clear. But now that I’m older, I’m finding that I can only focus on distant events.
It wouldn’t be a big deal, but being a seer is my job.
It’s time. I take a deep breath and push open the door of the thaumoptometrist.
My big brother caught me idly carving some marks into a tree. “What’re you wasting your time on now, sis?” He was always trying to unsettle me.
I had to think quickly. “The shapes are…sounds,” I ventured. I pointed to the six symbols in turn and improvised: “Fff…uu…th…a…r…k?” I met his eye.
His gaze broke first. “Whatever, sis.” He left, dissatisfied.
I turned back to the tree, thought some more, then set to carving more runes.
I bought a potted cyclamen for a bit of colour in my house.
When I got it home I read the label which said that cyclamens like to be indoors during the day and outdoors at night.
That seemed like a lot of effort, so I put it in my Klein bottle conservatory, which is both inside and outside, and the plant can choose for itself whether it wants to be in or out.
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.