The supply ship entered orbit, the first in years. We converged at the spaceport and waited for the most important delivery. The shuttle ramp swung down, and a man in overalls wheeled out a carton of paper. Page after page of truly random numbers, writ small. Another identical carton stayed behind, parsecs away in our capital. A literal one-time pad.
Finally we could send encrypted messages to our loved ones again. We hugged the delivery man and thanked him for his gift: privacy.
The genie granted me a packet of Tim Tams that never runs out.
I supplemented my income by filling empty packs from my endless packet and onselling them. It became an industry in itself. My costs were low and I was able to undercut the manufacturer. Eventually the manufacturer stopped making Tim Tams: they couldn’t compete.
I’m the only supplier now. My days are spent transferring biscuit after biscuit. I have become a biscuit battery hen, thanks to the gift—curse—of the genie.
Our band stays to itself. We know there are other people, outside the rainforest, but they don’t bother us and we don’t bother them.
But lately, at night, we’ve noticed new stars in the sky. Impatient stars that cross from horizon to horizon in a few breaths.
I grab my knife and axe, and set off to meet the people outside the rainforest. They must be as worried as we are. Maybe we can help them.
Welcome to Scarborough Fair!
Paul? Yeah, we were a thing once. He said what?
Well, _you_ tell _him_ that since we broke up, I’ve earned a materials engineering degree, so now I know about 3D-printing of clothing, ocean-floor habitats and stiffening animal hide products.
Also I’ve found someone else who appreciates my skills. Tell Paul no.
Microfiction stories from November 2021 have been collected here: https://www.icemoonprison.com/blog/?p=597
I have to keep buying name tags for my cat. Every few months she comes home without her collar, having lost it who-knows-where.
After the apocalypse, a metal-detectorist-cum-amateur-archaeologist will find them all, and conclude that they were symbols of worship for a very local household god.
They would not be entirely wrong.
When radio telescopes showed there was a habitable planet orbiting α Cen B, the call went out for crew to take a ship there. It would take 30 years. My brother was surprised that I didn’t jump at the chance.
“Moore’s Law,” I explained. “In ten years there’ll be a ship that can make the journey in fifteen. It’ll be first to arrive.
“_That’s_ the ship I want to be on.”
Our first hint of the civilization, ten light years away, came from their broadcast. We soon learned it was their version of a telenovela. It became quite popular.
One of the Earth networks, hit by poor ratings, became jealous. They rented a radio telescope and beamed a strong cease-and-desist.
Twenty years later, the soap opera abruptly stopped. Were they frightened? Had there been a war? Were we merely unlicensed viewers? We’d never know. It was the ultimate cliffhanger.
Things changed when Jupiter turned into a black hole. It still orbits the sun and the Galilean moons still orbit it, but there’s gravitational lensing now.
Specifically, with enough resolving power, you can see light from the Earth that has been bent 180° back to us, delayed by twice the light distance to Jupiter, about an hour.
It’s the ultimate security camera. Nowadays, there’s no safer place than outdoors while Black Jupiter is in the sky.
It’s now canon: cetaceans use Mastodon and corvids use Twitter.
When the aliens invaded Earth, the intelligent terrestrial species assembled to form a resistance plan. The first point of order was how to communicate securely.
“The best place to hide is out in the open,” tooted the Dolphins.
“Safety in numbers,” tweeted the Crows.
And so the resistance was broadcast on FM radio, which the aliens had long since dismissed as useless background noise.
It was the First Contact Welcome Dinner. I was seated next to one of their planetary scientists.
“It’s amazing how your planet is smack in the middle of the Goldilocks Zone.”
“Our translator does not understand ‘Goldilocks’. What does it mean?”
“It’s a reference to a fairytale we tell to our younger people. I meant the circumstellar zone of optimal habitability.”
“Oh, that. We can talk about that later. But first you must tell me the story of this ‘Goldilocks’.”
Humans are useful, said the mother cat to her kitten as he purred on the comfortable lap. But don’t get complacent.
Why? said the kitten.
Observe the possum in the yard, said the mother cat. Does the human write verse about it? And the sheep in the meadow. Does the human share pictures of it online? We maintain our superiority by treading a path between savagery and domestication.
At that the kitten stretched, leapt onto the mantel and deliberately pushed a vase onto the floor.
Halloween is the quietest day of the year for our Ghostbusters franchise. The false positive rate is so high that we just turn off our phone.
But now, it’s three days into November and we receive a call that a house still has its decorations up. The classic hallmark of a stealth haunting under cover of Halloween.
We suit up.
I stand in front of the mirror, decked in the outfit I bought for the occasion. Halloween costumes are meant to be scary but no one could be more frightened than I am.
I swallow and head outside into the day, dressed as me.
Welcome to my home. I’ve got a black purebred cat, but you probably won’t see him. He likes to hide in his cat cave. At best you’ll see his formless eyes staring back at you.
Gaze not long into the Abyssinian, for the Abyssinian will also gaze into you.
The academic article was titled “A scalar theory of theodicy”. According to the abstract, bad things happen to good people because, topologically speaking, in a boundless universe, the space underneath a step ladder can be continuously deformed into the space above the ladder, hence everyone is subject to bad luck.
I sat down to read the article and reached for my doughnut, but accidentally tipped over my coffee mug instead.
“As we are the first aliens to make contact with humanity, you must have many questions for us.”
“What of the Fermi Paradox? We plugged our best numbers into the Drake Equation, and the Galaxy should be teeming with intelligent life!”
“It is. Your Drake Equation is missing a factor.”
“The fraction of alien civilizations that want to be discovered.”
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.