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A Modification And Application Of Variola Major To Impart Limited Precognition Within Individuals

by H. R. R. Gorman

A modification and application of variola major to impart limited precognition within individuals

S. Monroe and B. Van Buren

Submitted to the American Chemical Society, 01 Nov 1911.

Dear Sir,

Since time immemorial, mankind has imagined a power beyond himself and believed thaumaturgical abilities were within his grasp. It has recently become evident there may be scientific, not magical, sources of enhanced abilities. The enclosed findings prove the potential use of modified variola major to produce limited precognition within select individuals.

Beginning with the works of Lister1, Pasteur2, Koch3, and others, germ theory has become a cornerstone of medicinal research. Ivanovsky discovered the tobacco mosaic virus in 1892, and several viruses have been filtered and identified.4 Paschen identified varicella and vaccinia, two diseases thought highly similar to variola, in smears from pustules of sick patients.5 It is thus conjectured that variola major and variola minor are caused by viruses rather than bacteria. This assumption was used in the preparation and study of materials.

In addition to these theories, traditional American herbalism inspired our research. Plants native to North America with traditional herbal uses were selected as part of the modification process. As shown in the results section, it is statistically likely that the sodium perborate and ilex vomitoria incubation contributed to the psychological and physicochemical effects of the virus.

  1. Methods and Materials.

1.1 Modification of variola viruses.

Pustules of 146 variola major patients and 113 variola minor patients were lanced in Baltimore sick wards. These samples were pooled until >0.5 pounds of secretions of each virus were obtained. The secretions were then ultrafiltered in the same manner as Negri.6 These isolated particles then underwent overnight incubations as noted in Table 1. They were then transferred back into a normal saline solution.

Solution #Component 1Component 2Component 3
1Sodium PerborateOsmunda cinnamonea 
2LyeOsmunda cinnamonea 
3Sodium PerborateOsmunda cinnamoneaAralia quinquefolia
4LyeOsmunda cinnamoneaAralia quinquefolia
5Sodium PerborateIlex vomitoria 
6Dilute Hydrochloric AcidIlex vomitoria 
7Sodium PerborateIlex vomitoriaAralia quinquefolia
8Dilute Hydrochloric AcidIlex vomitoriaAralia quinquefolia
Table 1. List of Modifications of Variola.

1.2. Dosing and Application

Ads published in local newspapers invited qualified doctors to apply for participation. Qualification was determined for this study based on ability to maintain accurate records in a scientific fashion, ability to administer treatments subcutaneously, and an immune status to variola. Forty doctors were selected for participation.

Doctors loaded a bifurcated needle with around 0.02 ounces of fluid. Each doctor was supplied with at least two control doses (containing no virus) and two active doses (containing virus). On average, each doctor applied 6 total doses. One outlier physician treated 71 patients (35 control, 35 with virus, and 1 accidental exposure event). Doctors monitored subjects over the course of the next month or until any disease had run its course.

Recipients of the treatment were selected by sheriffs at local jails or prisons. One deputy was exposed during the course of the study. 257 individuals participated. 128 subjects received placebo, 64 subjects received a variola minor inoculation, and 65 subjects received variola major inoculation. Each modification condition was tested on 8 patients. The accidental exposure case was a ninth study of solution 5 on variola major. All subjects who expired during this study were cremated and their remains safely disposed of.

A second study was conducted with thirty patients, ten inoculated with control solution and twenty inoculated with solution 5 modified variola major. This was conducted at the Baltimore facility in an isolated ward by the authors. Patients for the smaller study were offered $100 to anyone willing to participate and be hospitalized.

2. Results.

2.1 Rate of infection and fatality in solution screen.

100% of the subjects infected with solutions 1-5 and 7 exhibited symptoms of variola major or variola minor. Viruses treated with solutions 6 and 8, containing hydrochloric acid, showed reduced infectivity.

The first Variola symptoms appeared on day 11. The first death occurred on day 25 and the last on day 37 with a random distribution of fatalities between (Figure 1). Discounting subjects that had been treated with solutions 6 and 8, which did not seem to contain active virus, 68% of the subjects survived. These numbers are in line with prior experiences with smallpox outbreaks.

Figure 1. Fatality of treatments by solution type for variola major.

1 of the 64 variola minor subjects fell to the disease. This is within the 1-2% fatality expectation of this lesser form of smallpox.

One control patient died on day 34. No examination of the corpse was allowed prior to disposal, but the doctor’s notes assure us the subject had no fever, lesions, or other symptoms of smallpox prior to his death and disappearance. As this death occurred after the maximum incubation period for variola, the the overall findings are unaltered by this data point.

2.2 Instances of precognition.

Only subjects injected with solution 5 modified variola showed precognitive abilities. Consequently, results shared in this section will consist solely of information gleaned from those subjects.

One individual was exposed accidentally to variola major. Upon this accidental exposure, the subject was isolated in his Mississippi jail. The doctor noted that the accidentally exposed man made two predictions while in pain from the disease. One, the doctor’s wife would leave him by the end of the day, and two, the doctor’s pastor would be gored by a bull the next morning. Both occurred as the sick man predicted.

The doctor then brought the subject a list of horses set to race that Saturday at the local track. The subject described the horses’ finish orders. To prove his hypothesis, the doctor bet $301.20 and won $5,203.41 after all races. The subject died the following day. The doctor subsequently innoculated 70 additional patients.

The second precognitive subject received treatment from a doctor in Alabama. The pox-blinded subject predicted that a local man would commit a murder-suicide that night. Newspaper clippings collected by the doctor indicate this occurred as predicted. He predicted the sheriff’s daughter would be caught in the act with a male of low standing, and that the man would be hung for it. The doctor went to the sheriff’s house to warn him, but the deeds had already been done. The patient predicted two more things. One prediction was, quote, “Woodrow Wilson will be elected president,” and the other was not recorded. Instead, the doctor alluded to it within a thirteen-page-long diatribe against temptations of Satan. At the time the data were recorded in 1909, it would have been impossible for an Alabama prisoner to know that a man named Woodrow Wilson would be elected governor of New Jersey. We believe the mistaken use of “president” may have been an effect of the patient’s ignorance rather than sign of imperfect precognitive abilities.

The subject died mysteriously on day 45, and the doctor was arrested for unknown reasons. He was released after two weeks’ holding time.

No other instances of precognition were noted during this initial solution screen. Both instances were caused by solution 5 on variola major.

2.3 Additional study using solution 5 modified variola major to confirm instances of precognition.

The large-scale screen indicated solution 5 modified variola major to be of continued interest. A second batch of modified virus was generated as described earlier. Volunteers were collected and treated as described in the methods section.

Zero of ten control subjects fell ill or exhibited precognitive abilities. Data from health screens indicated no changes throughout. It was concluded that the control solution was not the cause of this psychological effect.

Of those treated with the experimental solution, 30% succumbed to the disease. Three of these six fatally infected patients exhibited precognitive abilities. Another patient was blinded but survived and maintained precognitive abilities. On day 109, the door to his isolation ward was left unlocked, and he wandered out. He has not been recovered.

Secretaries recorded everything spoken by the subjects in order to maintain a record of any prediction. All predictions made by the patients were proven true with the exception of those predicted to occur in the far future. Table 3 summarizes the predictions.

DayPatientPredictionPotential Prediction-reality discrepancies
172Author would break a fingerAuthor heard prediction prior to occurrence; author may have influenced outcome
2011Three birds would become trapped in the hospital within a day 
212Horse race prediction 
2311A woman in room 103 would die in childbirthDeath occurred a few minutes following childbirth
232“Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be destroyed in 1945.”Exact quote; far future
2417“Edward VII will die on May 6th, 1910 at 11:45 pm London time.”Exact quote; prediction made February 3rd 1910
258“Slavery will be outlawed in China.”Prediction made January 3rd 1910; slavery outlawed in China on March 10, 1910.
2517Horse race prediction 
268Female nurse’s husband would cheat on her 
288“A German scientist obsessed with space will invent a machine that will take an American to the moon in 1969.”Exact quote; far future
3117Horse race prediction 
3917Detailed description of secretary’s sexual deviancyHad occurred in the past as well
4717Mid-term election results 
6017Florence Nightingale’s death on August 13th, 1910Prediction made March 11, 1910.
7317Horse race prediction 
9017Leo Tolstoy’s death on November 20th, 1910Prediction made April 10, 1910.
10817Horse race prediction 
Table 3.

All predictions possible to come true at the time of this writing did. Horse racing predictions produced a total of $10,450 in winnings, all of which were donated to the local mason’s lodge.

3. Conclusions.

Variola major and variola minor were successfully modified using a combination of plant extracts and chemicals. A modification using sodium perborate and plant extract ilex vomitorium generated a virus capable of conferring precognitive abilities to exposed humans. 20.7% of subjects treated with the modified variola major virus made various predictions that were proven true.

Until now, prophecy has remained outside human control. With the results of this investigation, it seems possible that humankind may have produced prophets in ancient times or in backwards regions of the world. Civilized man, however, will soon be able to grasp events that are yet to come. We may be able to avoid terrible fates or even shorten the wait for the second coming.

Several future studies are needed to make full use of this proof-of-concept work. It is of unequivocal importance to determine how long the effects last. As of yet, it is known that at least one patient continued to make successful predictions up to 108 days following treatment. As part of this study, determinations of how to control and hone these abilities would be necessary.

It is necessary to determine how to channel these predictions into useful actions. Prophecy is useful only if new decisions can reduce bad outcomes and maximize good. The immutability of the future must be determined.

Acknowledgements.

The authors would like to thank Dr. J. Polk of Mississippi for his work. He maintained scrupulous records on nearly a third of the total subjects in the initial screen. This paper could not have been completed without his invaluable assistance.

REFERENCES.

  1. Lister, J. “On the Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery.” Lancet. 1867; 95 (2418): 4-6.
  2. Pasteur, L. “De l’extension de la theorie des germes a l’étiologie de quelques maladies communes.” Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences. XC. 1880; 14: 1033-1044.
  3. Koch, R. “Die Ätiologie der Milzbrand-Krankheit, begründet auf die Entwicklungsgeschichte des Bacillus Anthracis.” Cohns Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen. 1876. 2 277: (1–22).
  4. Ivanovsky, D. “Uber Die Mosaikkrankheit der Tabakspflanze.” Bulletin Scientifique Publie Par l’Academie Imperiale des Sciences de Saint-Petersbourg / Nouvelle Serie III. 1892; 35: 67-70.
  5. Paschen, E. “Was Wissen wir uber den Vakzineerreger?” Munch Med Woeachr 1906; 53: 2391-2393.
  6. Negri A. “Ueber Filtration des Vaccinevirus.” Z HygInfektKrankh. 1906; 54: 327-346.

~

Bio:

H.R.R. Gorman fashions dark stories by night and makes drugs by day as a pharmaceutical process engineer. He grew up in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina and was the first person in his family to attend and graduate college. He obtained his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in chemical engineering and now has come back to North Carolina with his nuclear engineer husband and vicious attack-Pomeranian. In between processing pharmaceuticals and delving into fiction, Dr. Gorman likes playing Dungeons and Dragons. You can find more of his writing in the Dark Divinations, Lethal Impact, and Collective Fantasy anthologies.

Philosophy Note:

This fictional artefact is presented as a scientific article with research beginning in 1909 and published in 1911. It was inspired by medical atrocities such as the Tuskeegee Syphilis Study, the Henrietta Lacks story, and the North Carolina eugenics movement. All of these events were conducted by people who at least claimed to believe they were helping humanity as a whole, but many others suffered in the meantime. I explored the slippery slope between helping others and helping self by examining how a pair of doctors, presumably working for the common good, could turn people into the more clinical entity of “patients” or “subjects” in order to do their work. The fictional artefact presents the work of physicians who discovered a cruel method of predicting the future. While they take the theoretical high road by not keeping their winnings at horse races, they still use their findings to justify further research into the precognitive effects of their modified smallpox.

The Warbler Of Surgeries

by Darryl A. Smith

NOTICE: This form is subject to biennial federal review and not to be used or issued after fiscal year 1908.*

Board of Medical Melodists on Invasive Procedures, Issuer Portals Potomac, D.C.

INFORMED CONSENT TO SURGERY FORM*

For

PAIN MANAGEMENT

By

WARBLE ENABLED DISSOCIATION

The United States’ MedOrphic Relief and Fleet Abscissions Act (MORFA) of 1884 equips informed consent twofold for: 1) remedial external displacement on a temporary basis of bodily consciousness in, 2) any legal medical procedure involving surgical incisions whose time-to-reclusion by swiftest safe strokes exceeds 30 seconds. Specifically, §§3.1.6 and 3.1.7 of the Act provide most fully for such consent through regular and relevant updates to its internal historical brief on awareness delocalization via sung distraction, patient-targeted and tailored. With these amendments placed in digest herein, patient is encouraged to read this consent form attentively and entirely before initialing and/or signing it. This should be done in consultation with patient’s physician and medorphist both. If you will have signed it, you may experience this form asynchronously or in an otherwise non-linear fashion. This is normal.

1. PROCEDURE: I,          Percival Roundtree                                                     [Patient’s name], for the following procedure(s), give consent to warble-enabled dissociation (hereafter referred to in kind as “enwarbling”/ “WED”) from waking pain during surgery:     Corrective reduction to previously amputated lower left leg                             [Description of procedure(s)].

2. RISKS (STANDARD): As with all surgical ventures, in the absence of profound nervous intervention, the dolor of corporal agony due to cutting penetration of the physical body and its internal manipulation is indeed unavoidable and characteristic. However, with sure application of WED techniques such extreme pain is statistically rare. Enwarbling during invasive procedures of all kinds is a time-tested medical utility with a proven efficacy of over 60 years. Absent unplanned disruptions to patient’s ability to hear during enwarbling, or to warbler’s ability to sing, no kinetic pain beyond mild discomfort should be experienced. Patient agrees, however, that in such unforeseen circumstances surgery shall continue to completion though pain of an excruciating nature is likely to be endured. Please note that whether one experiences kinetic pain during enwarbled surgery or not or whether upon emerging they simply do not remember experienced pain of this kind is still a matter of conjecture and ongoing study.

Initials: __________

3. ALTERNATIVES: Although unconventional due to lack of demand and in turn of development, anesthetic ether—a complete consciousness inhibitor—has been since 1842 the standard alternative in matters of surgical pain. It is your right to this substitute method of pain management. Although in cost the option for enwarbling never exceeds that of ether by more than 600%, the former is rarely valued at less than 250% of the latter in most states. Should patient wish to wave the default payment exemption for treatment of an injury due to a natural disaster, this may be further incentive to consider the anesthetic option. Be advised, however, that ether narcosis confers no hyperconscious or transpersonal opportunity, certainly not of any comparable acuity to Stillpain enwarbling. It does not utilize patient pain as WED does in order to “fight like with like” to transcendental effect. Even unlike basic semi-precursory biochemical analogous to enwarbling such as dimethyltryptamine, fungal psilocybin, hormonal 5-hydroxytryptamine, etc.—to which numerous medical experts have favorably compared the sonorous Pain Warble of ‘nerve-chant tripping’ as their natural ‘vocalic descendant and aural distillation’—anesthetic ether is a strictly reductive intervention. Within the surgical context, its application merely “cancels consciousness” outright in an oblivion of auto-absenteeism. It does not expand and heighten self-awareness and world entanglement through pain with surrounding densities on that well-known cosmic spectrum ranging from somatic to subtle bodies.

            Patient is further advised not to base their choice of pain-management options on famous surgical outcomes of apparent prescience arising from enwarbling. The principle that correlation does not equal causation applies, for example, to the apparent coincidence of a number of patients who days earlier “predicted,” while pain-enwarbled, the 1842 Cap-Haïtien earthquake the first year WED techniques were applied and recorded. And whether many thousands would otherwise have been lost rather than that few score who were under that efficacious warning sent days prior to the event one may, of course, never know.  The same applies regarding those patients claiming to have seen these millenary dead in some other timescape wherein none could be put on advanced guard. Certainly, many have maintained that ubiquitous press around this spectacle, in particular, was the efficient cause of the eventual triumph of song-depersonalization techniques of pain management over U.S. physician Dr. Crawford Long’s incipient application of ether anesthetics. This is due to concurrent psychical discoveries of ultimately metamedical benefit within the so-called ‘occult’ (now ‘entanglement’) discourse in altered states of consciousness through constructive—i.e., non-pathological—dissociation, to which pain interdiction has thus far proven the most reliable vehicle.

            So, too, is patient advised regarding the 1883 event at Krakatoa. Although it is ostensibly due to WED predictions that we possess audio of the occurrence from all over the world—whereby ordinary citizens globally were able to prepare for it and render their own recordings—this may yet be owed to other than those scattered individuals who claimed sensitivity to the biosphere and issued warnings through their possible surgical clairaudience.

            I hereby choose to decline anesthesia. Initials: __________

4. BENEFITS: Enjoy Stillpain. As we know, pain is that vaunting procession of helical nervous shockwaves of a clockwise orientation wound round an energy field of toroidal topology. Warbling is the synchronic anticlockwise-amplitude to pain whose meta-cancellation interference creates an effective standing wave of tolerable—even hospitable—static burden which patient may occupy for the duration of surgery. Like a drum, the solar wind beats upon the magnetosphere of the traveling Earth. Yet at the bow shock front, where swell meets swell, there is a quietude, a placidity. Similarly placed, stationary within that storm’s eye of pain—a pain within pain—the patient may look outward from it with effects of consciousness similar in nature to the uncanny field effects experienced inside such tempests. An empathic ecstasy rather than absorbing agony characterizes the experience, resulting in myriad possible extrapersonal interchanges.

5. CARE TEAM: I authorize my practitioner and enwarbler to perform this procedure. I accept that they will be assisted by a care team which may include: singers, restrainers, technicians, shamans, medical device specialists, and a surgical team. This team may include other attending surgeons, warblers, residents, fellows, medical and melodist students, or other allied healthcare professionals. Initials: __________

6. OBSERVERS: My practitioner and/or enwarbler may allow observers during my procedure. These may include corporeal and non-corporeal entities. They are not part of the care team and will not participate in providing care. Initials: __________

7. FILM, PHOTOGRAPHY or PHONOGRAPH RECORD: I understand film, photography or phonograph records made as part of my treatment and/or diagnosis may be used for clinical education or professional publications. If used in this way, I understand that my records will be edited so that I will not be identified (referred to as “de-identified”). Film, photography, or phonograph records will not be used for any other purpose without my authorization. Initials: __________

I DO NOT authorize my de-identified film, photography, or phonograph records to be used for clinical education or professional publications. Initials: __________

Signed                                                                     Percival Roundtree                      [Patient]

Signed                                                                     Eudora Hughes, M.D.              [Physician]

Signed                                                                     H. Edward Lewis, W.D.         [Medorphist]

********** ONLY PHYSICIAN AND/OR MEDORPHIST ADDENDA **********

TO BE ATTACHED TO THIS FORM

POST-OPERATION COMMENTS

OUTCOME:               Surgery successful. Patient enwarbled 1 hour 17 minutes prior to surgery; emerged 2 hours following closure.                                                                                          

DURATION:                         3 minutes, 47 1/2 seconds                                                                            

PAIN:                         None but Stillpain reported                                                                         

PROGNOSIS:            Patient expected to make full recovery. Recommend follow-up in 4 weeks.

W.E.D. EXPERIENCE (IF ANY):   Prior to partial loss of left leg, patient was federal agent, special detail as on-site witness of occasional disasters credibly precognized by public members late of surgery reported for emergency alert. Upon its evacuation days prior, patient assigned Golden Gate City morning April 18 of last year as Lead Recorder ahead of the great earthquake which has recently razed much of that metropolis. Although all usual precautions by him and his team were taken, patient sustained lamentable injury by a felled tree described by all as appearing ‘out of nowhere’. Crisis triage performed on patient during ground shocks and aftershocks. On-site surgical conditions sub-optimal. Absence for patient of melodist support for amputative pain relief. Removal of limb below knee would have been sustainable but for these adverse conditions. Interstitial necrotic advance due to inapt severance necessitated cleaner recent removal of leg above knee joint 8 months on from seismic calamity.

Patient elaborates W.E.D. experience during surgical enwarbling as follows:

‘I return there. We don’t know where it comes from. Our base is in the city’s namesake park well cleared in advance of any trees or other falling threats. We hear a close, stifled cracking just prior. However, with the wild cacophony already resounding all about us from the momentous quake in progress, even such proximal splitting sounds add but little to the ambient din. I feel at my leg the awful crush of the thing as the full force of its midsection impacts the tremulous ground unhindered. Seeing this, and to no avail, my recording companions—one a physician—are at me almost immediately in mutual struggle to displace the trunk-length from off me. By this time the main quake seems to subside. Yet a paroxysm of aftershocks in series are keeping the ground unreliable with our exposed observation party outside its fortified post.

‘That we might regain our safe cover and preserve ourselves thereby, the decision is made through muted looks alone to quickly score and remove the extremity and, though fast as it goes, it seems still a foul eternity of grievous agony as my leg is detached from just below my knee where the tree has got me. But almost in shame for its further demise, I have broken off a modest branch and am being encouraged to bite down on it—there—for control through my own cropping which it in turn has caused. Suddenly, I find myself in the other place—the place where the tree will come from. It is a year from now, I believe, from this second surgery I am experiencing. I am outside again. Far away. 

Something from above explodes. The loudness. The light. Heat and all-pressure from the sky. Oh, no. The Tunguska Skyrise Tether. What grand force has snapped it twain? —The great umbilicus to near-orbit, secured among the vastness of the Interserfstat forest that keeps by counterweighted tension a first empyrean metropolis from snapping away into oblivion. The high band, it will be consumed from above by the Thing’s shattering fire. Upward, the flame will traverse the ribbon and ignite its works to consume the habitat. Yet one—this lone timber beneath its devastating blast—is pushed back to a year ago from here. It falls on me in Golden Gate City. Here I am, put under—no, put all ‘round—in this surgery. I will go there. You tell them now: Evacuate before midyear next.’                     

PRIORITY ADVISORY: Though no registered pre-vision from enwarbling has to date exceeded an event by more than a fortnight, patient report is deemed credible owing to several factors including patient’s occupational standing and reputation. Further support for such credulity is evinced upon now completed examination of patient’s leg prosthesis subsequent to surgery. Wood of prosthetic verified as derived from fallen tree and confirmed by arborists as non-native to California; as consistent rather with makeup of the Siberian Dahurian larch, species Larix gmelinii of the boreal woodlands of specified region. Recommend issue of global general alert. Should event occur, further recommend patient’s W.E.D. observation be included in subsequent digest update to relevant sections of the U.S. MORFA Act.

END ADDENDUM – PATIENT W.E.D. CONSENT FORM

“Stillpain is still pain if still pain”

~

Bio:

Darryl A. Smith works at the crossroads of religion, philosophy and Egyptology. He hails from Southern California and teaches Religious Studies at Pomona College.

Philosophy Note:

As best as possible I’ll sometimes groggily record what brief snippets of dreamt music I may recall upon waking. This story comes from the playback of one such unaccountable melody croaked into a bedside recorder before going back to sleep. Both the frequency and enigma of these episodes has surged in the last two years, and I’ve increasingly puzzled over the relative power of song vs. pain. Are those of us who live more outside the mainstream allopathic medical regime in a better position to know? This story prompts conjecture about the further limits of song and its like beyond the petro-pharmacological studio. Given its likely inevitability, could we be having a better relationship with our pain than life within that studio might otherwise suggest?

Related reading:

Edward Bruce Bynum, Medical Background to the Perennial Science of How Darkness Enfolds the Light, Dark Light Consciousness. 2012.

Amy LiKamWa, et al. The Effect of Music on Pain Sensitivity in Healthy Adults, Arts & Health. 2020.

Giovanni Martinotti and Eleanora Chillemi, L’Odissea: ovvero la raccolta di icaros sciamanici in trance estasica, Rivista Di Cultura Classica e Medioevale, 55(2), 299–318. 2013.

Syphilus, Sisyphus

by Leonardo Espinoza Benavides

The case of humanity proved interesting.

            From the historical material collected and safeguarded, it was a poem written by the Italian physician Girolamo Fracastoro that allowed us to assign a narrative origin to this. His verses said that, in a European meadow, a shepherd named Syphilus contracted a strange new disease, after disobeying his gods in the midst of a foreign invasion. Syphilis sive morbus gallicus ended up naming the so-called “French disease of the Earth” after its protagonist, as well as humanising and giving conceptual form to the pathology.

            The impact on civilisation of a condition perpetuated by sexually transmitted contagion had irreparable repercussions on the psyche of the species. Wood carvings such as Albrecht Dürer’s Der syphilitische Mann and ballads such as Juliane Keats’ La Belle Dame sans Merci are evidence of the collective tribulation. Scientific efforts found the culprit: a bacterium, of the spirochete type, which they called Treponema pallidum pallidum, transmitted solely and exclusively between people, without affecting any other form of life on the planet. It was the Japanese microbiologist Hideyo Noguchi who later demonstrated the presence of the germ in brain tissue. The sexuality of the population was restructured in the neurological and mental apparatus of its individuals. An unavoidable nightmare, as so was dreaming. The case is a clear example of a check between nature and life.

            Effective forms of diagnosis were invented, relentless antimicrobial treatments and even the disciplines of dermatology and venereology were perfected. There was every possible form of prevention, from physical barriers of leather and latex to drugs that controlled the momentum of the relentless libido in the most at-risk sectors (which ended up being the whole world). Entire institutions dedicated to the monitoring and control of syphilis. The efforts, however, were described by humanity itself as a labour akin to lifting a rock up a mountainside only to see it fall at the end of each day.

            The moment when it became public knowledge that the spirochete had become resistant to the latest therapies has been postulated as a cultural turning point. Famous was the speech of the Chilean academic and physician Félix Salvo, before the high commissioners of the World Health Organisation, when he assured the triumph of the pathogen, “The Great Pretender,” which paled the complexity of other known infections, viral, bacterial, fungal, whichever it was. Humans had no use for arsphenamine and penicillin after only a couple of years of their development. Apparently, the cytoplasmic protein A filaments of the bacterium—which moved like a corkscrew—interacted with the indicated chromosomes of the micro-organism to mutate it. They never knew for sure. Humanity did not have the time or the determination to continue the epic. In its defence, there are many current hypotheses that vindicate this disappointment in favour, rather, of a resolute acceptance. Eternity as an illusion awaiting an end point.

            The case of humanity leaves no sentient species indifferent, including those that are radically different in their way of reproduction and preservation. It is impossible to predict the history of the next Syphilus; its moment, its time and the colour of its meadow.

            All the other extinct civilisations that we have managed to study in that particular region of that minor spiral arm of the galaxy ended their chronologies, directly or indirectly, because of warfare. The only species that did not succumb to war was humanity. After eleven thousand years since the first settlements in the Tigris-Euphrates alluvial marsh, humans, in short, opted for a grand final orgy.

~

Bio:

Leonardo Espinoza Benavides (a.k.a Leo) is a Chilean physician-writer, always in conflict with the concept of sleep hygiene (which he hopes to achieve). He lived for a few years in the United States and now in Santiago de Chile, currently trying to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Philosophy Note:

As a dermatovenereologist, it never ceases to amaze me—every time I treat a new patient with syphilis and then the many cases of reinfection—that this fascinating spirochete can still be treated with a simple and common penicillin shot. The Sisyphean part of this narrative is what evoked the rest: what if the history of syphilis with humanity had been different, if it had not been a pathogen that seems to not even try to defend itself? This story takes this idea to the extreme, in terms of the cultural outcome it could’ve had.

How I Became A Willow

by E. E. King

We learned the secret to eternal life. Hand washing.

This was the catch.  We had to wash our hands continually. We had to eat through straws. Pay others to attend to our bodily needs. Because if we were separated from soap and water we would perish, overcome by a sea of bacteria. Sunk in a tide of virus.

Those we paid to feed us were doomed to die, but that is nothing new. The poor have always bathed the rich.

And so, society evolved into two classes, the washed and the unwashed. The clean and the unclean. The saved and the damned.

Still, it wasn’t much of a life. Stuck at our sinks, we designed computers we operated with our toes. We converted our mirrors into screens. We wore virtual reality googles. But no matter how clever the sensoround, or how compelling the avatar, eventually, over centuries, we had to confront the reality. We were the doomed. The dammed. The isolated. Alone.

Some of us tried to reach out, metaphorically. We tried to become friends with our caretakers, but that always ended in death. Besides, by then our minds had changed. We were unused to conversation anywhere but inside ourselves.

And so we began again. We Invented mechanical feeders but that only increased our loneliness.

We had our keepers make biodegradable soap, so that we could venture out into nature. Carrying portable washbasins strapped to out chests, we were wheeled, or driven, to lakes, rivers, and tide pools. By then, over the decades, we had lost use of our legs. Only our hands, clean and ever moving, remained strong.

It was better, this connection with field and stream. But even the most biodegradable soaps are slow poisons. And so, we turned to plants. My favorite was the ceanothus flower, which only needed to be rubbed to produce a foaming wash.

We sat with our toes in water, scrubbing, creating a foam of flowers. Our feet grew red and long, weaving into riverbanks, drawing nutrients from the soil, and holding firm the shore. Others wept, and our tears filled ponds, creating new seas. Our roots spread and touched and linked and connected, to each other and to the plants we had considered so very different from us.

And so, the world was born again. And we were not alone.

~

Bio:

E.E. King is an award-winning painter, performer, writer, and naturalist. She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals. She’s been published widely, including Clarkesworld and Sci Phi Journal. Her stories are on Tangent’s 2019 and 2020 year’s best stories. She has been nominated for five Pushcart awards. Check out paintings, writing, musings, and books at: www.elizabetheveking.com and amazon.com/author/eeking

Philosophy Note:

I am more and more convinced that all beings, plants included, communicate in ways we don’t even conceive of. They have evolved longer- then can turn sunlight into food. This tale deals with that idea – the concept of evolving into plants, as well as the inevitable inequity of human society.

Apocrita

by Cooper Shrivastava

The day the last drone of the old generation dies becomes the Feast of the Renewed Eye, and the whole hive comes alive in dance and drumming. They pour from the ziggurat, every last bee tumbling claw over eyecluster, burning their feet on the sun-soaked sand outside. Today is the day the adult generation comes of age, and the youths are assigned houses and castes. Today is the day they drink the honeypus from the back of the Prophet-Queen. Today is the day they see the vision of the afterlife and are rewarded with knowledge of which of the six combs—two of world, two of heaven, two of underworld—will be their eternal home.

Today is Ruzig’s last day as a costumer. After the ritual, he and the other costumer bees of the older generation will become drones, and chosen members of the youngest generation will step into their shoes. Ruzig has never flown under the hot sun to search for pollen and nectar; his life’s work has been the hummingbird costumes arrayed before them, the symbol of Sygyzmur, god of his House. He has been a costumer since he ascended the southernmost side of the ziggurat and joined the House of Red Orb, leaving behind Aurzosh, Oddi, Uhar, his childhood friends.

Ruzig looks at the other costumer of the House of Red Orb, Agba. Together they tie off a costume, while the warrior wearing it sips nectar from Agba’s open mandibles. They move to the next warrior, chitin becoming feathers, exoskeleton becoming endoskeleton, compound eyes becoming simple lenses, mouthparts adapted for chewing and sucking becoming a beak with the tongue torn out, as the warrior becomes an avatar of Sygyzmur, the god of diplomacy, sisterhood, and the six cardinal directions.

Agba goes to the front of the swarm of the House of Red Orb, and Ruzig loses sight of him. He is still tying off a great golden hummingbird skin, which has taken on an almost punishing lustre under the sun’s rays.

To the left of Ruzig, the House of Map begins their dance, their warriors outfitted in the skins of beetles, the avatar of zTriibigzz. The rattle of wings both living and dead shakes each of the tiny hairs that grow on Ruzig’s body until he
can’t feel or hear anything but the House of Map. Ruzig feels as if the ground, the ziggurat, the whole world is vibrating. It has begun.

The bees of the House of Red Orb begin to crawl towards the ziggurat but the holy form is missing one hummingbird: the last costume is still clutched in Ruzig’s front claws, as the warrior meant to wear it has disappeared on ahead
rather than risk missing her one chance to taste honeypus.

Ruzig swivels around in alarm. These rituals are his holy responsibility, and he cannot expose the colony to the disfavor of Sygyzmur by failing to complete the set.

At the base of the structure the bees spin and then smack the ground, and the drumming intensifies. The Prophet-Queen has emerged from the top of the ziggurat and Ruzig is stricken with awe. He has loved her from afar, as all bees do, for his whole life, and the momentousness of this occasion suddenly strikes him, overpowering his fear of being left behind and his worry for the dance and the costumes and sacred geometry, and even overpowering his fear of what vision he will see of his afterlife.

She is gigantic, and the six pimples on Her back are swollen and ripe for bursting. Her antennae are large and pendulous. Her thorax is scarred from the fight with Her sister-Queen when She seized the hive. Her spermathica is full from Her recent mating flight. Soon there will be larvae. She flaps Her wings and the bees vibrate in ecstasy, roll on the ground, wave their antennae, share nectar mouth to mouth with one another.

The pace of the drumming accelerates further, and the bees of the younger generation start to push forward, converging on the ziggurat. Ruzig is left at the outskirts of the staging area trapped by the oncoming flood of younger bees, but unable to move without abandoning the heavy costume of the hummingbird god.

He pulls it along the ground behind him, frantic, allowing the sunset orange and lemon peel yellow feathers to drag on the ground, as the younger bees come racing up behind him. His heart breaks to think each house will reach the top of
the ziggurat with six sets of six dancers except for Red Orb.

The fastest of the younger bees has reached Ruzig, and steps on the wing of the hummingbird costume as he races by. He gets behind the costume and pushes with all his might, but he is no warrior bee, and it merely flops over. The young ones are upon him; Ruzig can’t protect the costume from their furry mass.

But then he sees a single body turning around, a warrior from the House of Orchid. The warrior leaves his swarm and takes to the air, managing for several long seconds to look away from the Prophet-Queen, and to come zipping low over the heads of the assembly to where Ruzig is huddled near his trampled costume.

Aurzosh is immediately recognizable even after all this time; his bony mid-tibial spurs, his slender hind basitarsus, his corbicula clean of flower pollen for the occasion. He nudges Ruzig with his forelegs, but the air is too saturated with odor plumes and pheromones and vibrations for them to communicate.

Aurzosh nudges Ruzig again, grabbing the costume in his mandibles. Ruzig is stunned. He is seeing two wondrous sights today: the Prophet-Queen, and member of the House of Orchid who is willing to take on the costume of the Red
Orb, willing to take it on for Ruzig’s sake.

They heave the costume over Aurzosh’s head and let off prayers of odor plumes from their tarsal glands. They are almost, but not quite, close enough to smell each other. Ruzig vomits nectar from their comb’s collective stomach into
Aurzosh’s mouth, and he can’t imagine it tastes good, he is a poor honey-alchemist, but Aurzosh swallows it and trundles through the crowd of young bees, with Ruzig in his wake.

Aurzosh doggedly pushes bodies out of the way. He will not take flight, for he, like Ruzig, will not destroy the sacred symmetries. Ruzig grabs the tattered tail of the hummingbird costume in his mandibles and lets himself be pulled forward, until his feet hit the waxy steps.

They are getting close, and Ruzig’s tiny heart pounds as he thinks they might make it after all. Aurzosh is climbing faster now, overtop the other bees so his legs land on furry bodies rather than the tacky wax of the ziggurat. He can see the great white pustules on the Prophet-Queen’s back; he is closer to Her than he ever has been before!

Ruzig’s eyes are fixed on the Queen, and that is why he doesn’t notice as fast as the other bees do. Bees take to the air from the sides of the ziggurat, disrupting the sacred geometries. For a moment he is consumed with rage at their
heresy, but then a shadow falls over him and Aurzosh, who have finally reached the middle tier, just steps below their Queen.

The shadow forms the shape of a paw, but with five long fingers and no claws. The warrior caste is fully in the air; even Aurzosh has shed his costume as they attack the intruder, but to no avail. It picks up the Queen in its monstrous grip
and pinches Her holy body upside down over a giant tub.

Ruzig watches on in horror as the pimples express. Six bursts of pus gush from her back, and into the monster’s collection tub, their prophetic power dissipating. The warriors are attacking frantically, and the workers and drones join
them, but it is too late. The Queen is tossed to the ground by the five fingered monster, Her holy body rolling through the dust.

The bees of the six houses swarm and sting, but the monster casually bats them away. Ruzig is in shock. Twelve warrior bees bear the body of the Queen back underground to the safety of the hive. She waves Her limbs in distress, the six burst pustules on Her back still oozing liquid. They are honorable bees and do not try to taste it.

The monster has retreated, taking their future with it in the tub. Ruzig stands on the ziggurat alone. All around him the hive is flying and mourning and moaning; the monster is gone and there is no one left to sting.

He does not know what he will become, only that he will no longer be a costumer. He does not know what he will face in the afterlife. He looks up into the red sun, so hot it burns his eyes, and searches in vain for the face of Sygyzmur.

~

Bio:

Cooper Shrivastava is a writer based in New York City. She was a member of the 2019 Clarion Writers Workshop, and her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Heavy Feather Review and Tor.com. She is currently working on her first novel.

Starborn, Starbirth

by Liam Hogan

The tired old star burns fat and hot and slow. Now, as the end approaches, as firestorms flicker and die and are born anew across its roiling surface, as, at its core, helium ashes are squeezed and the heat there builds and builds, stuttering with the idea of something new, we detach ourselves from the fields in which we have gambolled for countless aeons, where we have long feasted and bred, diving deep in our displays of courtship, kicking up great tendrils of supercharged plasma through which to leap and skip and dance, filtering out the heavier elements as we do. Now, we drift outwards, cooling rapidly in a vacuum that is thin and cold and hostile, hardening our hearts as we majestically unfurl our vast, fragile wings. Gossamer thin, we float past rocky planets, long stripped of their seas, their delicate atmospheres, whose once molten centres are hardened and still. There was life here, we are amused to note. Brief, faltering life, as ethereal as the waves from a solar flare, as short lived as our mating songs.

And on we riders go, to the next planet, the next rock. Life fled here when its cradle had grown too warm, too barren, too polluted. A brief respite only, a staging ground for the next tentative step. And on again we and the echoes of it drift, past the remnants from the solar system’s ancient creation to the next planet, to the moons that circle like clockwork around the gassy giant, itself too small to ignite, too cold to offer us any real sustenance. Though a few of us try anyway and are quickly swallowed by its dense, unpalatable clouds, wings ripped away and for a moment flaring bright, the imprint swiftly forgotten.

The giant, and its lesser neighbour, will feed the inferno that is yet to come. The shock-wave might perhaps briefly fire them into life, before stripping the clouds of gas, leaving them stunned and stunted in the dimming afterglow, finally exposing whatever those dense clouds conceal.

We wonder whether the life that is not our life ever attempted to go there, or escaped further still. There are no signs of it in the cold, outer fringes. Perhaps it went instead in search of new planets to taint, daring the void between the stars as we too are about to do. Perhaps we will catch up with it, beyond the point where the solar wind is snuffed out by the much softer, but more extensive, interstellar medium. Beyond the insubstantial border where you could truly be said to have shed the bounds of the star that even now is just a baleful, fat, reddened point. Perhaps. But there is no hurry.

Looking back, we watch as our brethren gather, our number too numerous to count. There is a sweet-spot, a place we all hope to be when the moment comes. Some will time it wrong, they always do. They will fill their bellies a little too full, rise a little too slow, too late, engorged and still soft and fragile, their wings only partially unfurled when the cataclysm comes.

Others have left too early. Billions of years too early, tired perhaps of waiting. They haven’t got very far and they will be cold and perhaps dead by now. Pushed only by the last beats of a burning heart, slumbering for an eternity, dreaming of what might have been.

This too is the way.

Only a few of us, a handful of the myriad, will fall upon more fertile ground, many millennia from now. But all of us will ride the death of the star we grew up on, and in, letting its final, dying light push us far out into the unexplored galaxy, looking for new homes, new stars, new life.

Rarer still, perhaps only once in a generation, one of us might find themselves not captured by another star but instead, surrounded by a veil of interstellar gases. With their wings stretched so thin it will be as though they’re not there, they will begin to turn, the steady rhythm creating eddies and gathering in more and more of the tantalising dust. Only one rider will sing the song of becoming as she slowly retracts her wings, cloaking herself within the thickening cloud, spinning faster and faster and faster until, the cosmos be willing, she gives birth to a brand new star.

~

Bio:

Liam Hogan is an award winning short story writer, with stories in Best of British Science Fiction 2016 & 2019, and Best of British Fantasy 2018 (NewCon Press). He’s been published by Analog, Daily Science Fiction, and Flame Tree Press, among others. He helps host Liars’ League London, volunteers at the creative writing charity Ministry of Stories, and lives and avoids work in London. More details at happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk

Silica Field Study SOP

by E. A. Lawrence

CONGRESSIONAL DISCOVERY EXPEDITION

AUTHOR and DIVISION PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Zephraim A. Mallory, Jr., P.hD

MISSION DATE:  2467_1.42.8

CDE CARRIER: PEREGRINE

CDE CARRIER DEAN: Zephraim C. Mallory, Sr., PhD

RESEARCH DIVISION: XENOANTHROPOLOGY

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE OUTLINE FOR: FIELD STUDY INTERVIEWS

ON: SILICA [14.03.49.60.22.23]

WITH: Social Amphibian Ectothermic Digitigrade Biped Society

INDIGENOUS SELF-APPELLATION: Wannana

IN: Southern Hemisphere, Central Riparian Region, Bordering the West Coast Beta Ocean

DURING: Quinquennial Vernal Precipitation Event called “Anamee”

BACKGROUND: The Meteorology Division defined that five years are needed for Silica’s atmosphere to gather enough moisture from the ice caps and scattered seas for one planet-wide storm season. The xeric environment recedes, the seas rise, and the seeds thrive in loamy sand. The plants are efficient. Cell growth from germination to maturity in the Southern cirronns, a photosynthetic plant similar to the Bambusoideae, is effective enough to capsize a poorly placed hover ferry because it grows 91 cm an hour; operators must use care. It is strongly recommended that no field work be attempted until the cirronn groves are mature.

Silica is dominated by amphibious life forms. It is likely that Silica was an aquatic or at least a more water-abundant world between 1 to 2 million years before present. Based on the magnetic fields of the poles and the geologic record, it is probable that Silica’s axis of rotation shifted.  This cataclysm triggered widespread extinction when abundant terrestrial freshwater became a quinquennial sight. The amphibian vertebrates underwent an adaptive radiation event and two dominant species emerged (see related CDE Argos Geology & Paleontology Dual Division Ground Science Report, by Pichard, J. & Mallory, Z.C.): the omnivorous, sentient Wannana and the alpha-predator rotpar. These species differ genetically by 2.5% of novel genetic code (see related CDE Peregrine Biology and Xeno-Linguistic Division Co-Report, by Mallory, Z.C. et al). Wannana do not resemble rotpar beyond an equivalent camouflage of nutrient dependent chromatophores that facilitate dermis ranging between cirron-grove-green and loamy beige in color. At 3 meters tall, the average Wannanan towers over human field researchers but though obligate digitigrade bipeds, they prefer to crouch when casually conversing and human researchers are able to communicate with them well. It is comfortable for humans to read their wide, round faces. The Wannanan expressive brow ridges are hypothesized to facilitate a copacetic degree of micro-expression during conversation and their language is effectively translated by our software but the word Wannana is consistently translated as “dreamer” regardless of context.

Silican organisms reproduce synchronous to the Anamee. Both the Wannana and rotpar depend on the cirronn groves as well as the dynamic riparian ecosystem bordering the Beta Ocean to survive. Like the majority of Silica’s terrestrial animals, the Wannana estivate in the sand during the inter-Anamee years. Rotpar hunt and scavenge on the wing, in the water, and even in the sand without aestivating on the scale of the rest of Silica. The only amphibian on Silica with true flight, in appearance a rotpar resembles the extinct amphiuma of the North American southeast of Earth, with a conical head on the end of a muscular, serpentine neck. Rotpar have a long tail with a keratinized terminal spine. The anterior legs are short with excavating claws; the powerful posterior legs terminate in talons. The rotpar are obligate carnivores, highly intelligent, and opportunistic apex hunters. A wurnn, the juvenile rotpar, is a diminutive version of its parents. Rotpar fathers guard the growing wurnns while females hunt, and occasionally bring food to the males guarding their eggs. Every step the wurnns take is within sensory range of the father. However, the rotpar offer no recorded interpersonal nurturing behavior to their young. Rotpar actively hunt the Wannana. All field researchers engaged in Wannana interviews must follow standard off-ship safety practices with particular emphasis on wearing full personal protective equipment and working in teams to avoid injury (see Peregrine Field Safety Checklist, edition XII, sub-section 4, Predation Avoidance & Survival).

During Anamee, the Wannana congregate in the riparian zone parallel to the sea to dance, sing, and reproduce. Prior studies conducted by the CDE Argos and earlier work done by the CDE Peregrine have documented the natural history of the Wannana but have succeeded in only minimal xeno-anthropology. Couples mate and lay their eggs. However, the complete metamorphosis of Wannana-tadpoles to metamorphs must occur beneath the sand during estivation. Wannana-tadpoles have been observed burrowing beneath the muddy pools to estivate as the Anamee ends, using their powerful, fatty tails to propel them underground. During Anamee stubby-tailed metamorphs emerge at half their adult size and act familiar with their adult caregivers who do provide parental care. The females and post-Anamee metamorph juveniles guard the eggs at night, when the young wurnns and Rotpar females hunt. Guarding behavior consists of performing fierce threat displays of vocalizations and twirling cirron-trunk stave weapons. The guardians circle the eggs in shifts, relieving each other to sleep, eat, and otherwise relax. The mature male Wannana care for the elderly and act as sentinels of the eggs within their individual rookery pools.

Though the rotpar hunt the Wannanan rookery pools daily and the Wannana vigorously protect their eggs to a sufficient degree, they do not retaliate with lethal violence against the rotpar even after observed high depredations of eggs, Wannana-tadpoles, and metamorphs. Numerous observations and encounters with the Wannana provide evidence for a hunter-gatherer society with distinct language groups, complex social communication culture, and sophisticated cirron & bone-based tool use (see related reports from both the Peregrine and Argos Biology Divisions by Mallory, Z.C. & Goodel et al), but no formal Xeno-anthropology Division study has been conducted to better understand Wannanan culture. The landmark Mallory & Goodel studies posited in their respective Discussions that the societal development of the Wannana is constrained by the lack of surface time to technologically develop effective agriculture and long-term survival infrastructure to overcome the incredible predation of both the rotpar, meso-predators, and the harsh environment of Silica. However, their post-autopsy descriptions of Wannana physiology describe a large brain to body ratio as well as complex brain physiology that both Mallory, Z.C. and Goodel admitted defies an easy analog to known physiologies described by CDE missions. Given the complex social behavior evidenced in previous missions that suggest estivation acculturation due family-group behavior despite a presumed absence of direct contact. No artificial subterranean structures have been found on Silica during numerous geologic studies.

KEY QUESTIONS: How does a culture persevere when it is active only one-year for every five spent estivating? How do Wannanans complete metamorphosis and acculturation to their social band during estivation? Are there structures in their brains or body that allow for a way to socially function?

PROCEDURE: This is a broad scale procedural outline to direct plans on site.

  1. Arrive five days post-Anamee (coordinate with Meterology Division)
  2. Set up operations in the same area explored by both Mallory, Z.C. and Goodel to facilitate data comparison
  3. Make contact with Ziarrara (see attached photo)
  4. If Ziarrara is unavailable, Xharrara or Syggl, her kin are also good contacts
  5. Ask to be guests
  6. Interview every host group member and take detailed notes
  7. See attached interview form from the CDE Argos Xeno-Anthropology division mission to Alpha Centauri
  8. Offer every development stage possible of the host group the emotional imaginary communication set
  9. The more mature individuals show most curiosity about visible media, especially watercolor paint
  10. The adults are more interested in building bricks, pliable textured metals, and felt boards
  11. The metamorphs are most interested in the beeswax-based polymers
  12. The interests of the Wannana-tadpoles are unknown but will be explored 
  13. Catalogue and discuss all products of both steps five and six to build relationships and answer key questions
  14. Assist in everyday food gathering and predation avoidance activities to the safest extent possible
  15. See reports from both the Peregrine and Argos Biology Divisions by Mallory, Z.C. & Goodel et al for a comprehensive list of possible hazards and means of navigating same
  16. Ask individuals with whom a rapport has been cultivated to complete both EEG and MRI testing over the course of various stimuli like emotional imaginary communication, ordinary conversation, and song.
  17. Offer to share all results and be explicit about activities to build trust
  18. If possible, explore how the estivation process is prepared for and conducted

PROPOSED RESULTS ANALYSIS & FUTURE DIRECTIONS: A full portfolio of imaginary communication projects as well as all interview notes and brain activity records will be tabulated for analysis by both the Peregrine Statistical Division and its Analytic A.I., Quest. The results will be prepared to present at both the CDE Conference at Io and the Intra-galactic Research Symposium. A better understanding of cultural development in a periodically xeric, high-predation-risk environment and the intersectional role of physiology, ecology, and social behavior in survival will enrich the Xeno-Anthropology discipline across diverse worlds. Silica is a singular world in the experience of the CDE. Creative approaches to cross-cultural communication are necessary to truly understand a society that defies easy comparison to known terrestrial experience and there is much that we can potentially learn to inform future CDE missions across multiple worlds.

~

Bio:

E.A. Lawrence’s fiction has been published in the anthology ROAR 7, edited by Mary E. Lowd and in the August 2020 issue of Electric Spec. She lives with multiple sclerosis and many fountain pens in the upper Midwest of the USA. When she’s not writing fiction, she works in academia as a scientist to support medical research.

The Furry And The Damned

by E. E. King

Gerald was a sculptor, gifted with the fires of creation, cursed with fathomless canyons of despair. Unable to extricate himself from a lightless, twisting passage somewhere in his frontal cortex, he shot himself.

He’d come back as a graceful tortoiseshell cat.  The thing was…  it was after all, the Island of the Damned …he knew he still had it in him – the ability to mold a hunk of clay into something beautiful, something alive …if only he’d had opposable thumbs.

Many were trapped on the island. The furry and the damned – thumbless painters, caterwauling sopranos. Dogs and cats searching the island for inspiration and other prey. There was danger in every bite. There was no way to be certain who a rat might be. What undiscovered Milton lay behind sharp, yellow incisors? What Michelangelo peered from small rodent eyes? It was bad enough not to be able to create…but to destroy by dinner was both horrible and banal.

Once, after picnicking on a particularly feisty, russet mouse, Gerald remembered that the mouse had been missing its left ear. What if he had just eaten Van Gogh? Gerald had always worshipped Van Gogh’s mad, vibrant brush strokes, his almost sculptural dimensionality, his vibrant hews. He recollected a crazy, starry look in the mouse’s eyes.

Gerald lay awake on the cold gritty sand, stomach, and heart aching. The next day he was a wreak. He needed at least fifteen hours of sleep a day just to feel feline.

He became a vegan, dining on sea grass and kelp. But his stomach growled and his vision dimmed. Gerald recalled reading, when he was still able to read, that cats lacking the taurine found in meat and fish go blind. Gerald’s whole world was form and light and color. Blindness was worse than death, worse than murder. Also, the sea grass made him vomit.

That very night he went hunting. Limping on cooling sands at twilight in search of sustenance, Gerald did not hear the soft padded footsteps behind him. He was grabbed so quickly, and was by then so weak, that at the first pierce of needle teeth, this heart gave out. He did not even have time to notice, before final darkness descended, that the hungry, red furred, coyote who snatched him was missing its left ear.

~

Bio:

E.E. King is a painter, performer, writer, and biologist. She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals. Check out paintings, writing, musings and books at: ww.elizabetheveking.com and amazon.com/author/eeking

Three Scores And Ten

by Ramez Yoakeim

Nearly blind, the farmer navigated the forest floor by touch. Her gnarly fingers scattered the snow from the flaring trunks of ancient pines, in search of tubers and hardy mushrooms. When the concussive booms of atmospheric entry scattered the accumulations off the branches, she lifted her head, as far as her hunch would permit, and looked with milky eyes towards the horizon, and the arc of fire splitting the heavens.

The curious farmer followed the rivulets of molten snow up the low hill, to the cratered grave of the cometary fragment, where it lay sizzling from the ordeal of its extra-solar journey.

She caressed the fractured glassy exterior, and scraped her liver-spotted skin on the shard-riddled interior; sparing the meteorite’s fragile molecular passenger Sol’s lethal ultraviolet deluge.

Grim soldiers came knocking but the farmer’s sole surviving son answered only in grunts. Two weeks passed before he first noticed the beginnings of his mother’s metamorphosis. It took three-months more for her back to straighten, eyes to clear, and hair to regain its long-lost chestnut luster. Though imperceptible day-to-day, a crone more vibrant than blushing maidens could not go unnoticed by the villagers for long.

Word spread, drawing dour white-coated men brandishing tools to prick and prod, analyze and scrutinize. Within merely a year of its earthfall, the molecular traveler unveiled itself, for it never intended to remain hidden.

The cellular rejuvenation it imparted obviated the need for division, and the unavoidable accompanying risks of DNA degradation and runaway growth. Intensive study ensued, charting the molecule’s many boons. From immunity to pathogens, to heightened mental acuity, and elevated cognitive function. Medical types and philosophers alike whispered breathlessly, shyly pondering the demise of humanity’s most ardent foe. Short of accident or foul play, what avenues to those endowed remained for death to intrude?

A dozen months passed before the mighty could refrain no more. They drank thirstily from the interstellar gift’s fount, drawing the ire of all. Those once ailing at death’s door reemerged from intensive care wards flaunting vigor no surgeon’s knife nor physician’s elixir could bestow.

Overnight, those living under the yoke of presidents-for-life had an eternity more to lament their woes. Aspiring heirs to billionaires were left rudderless and distraught.

Clamoring masses–witnessing the monopolization of the ultimate prize by those who already owned everything–thundered in the streets. Make whole our broken, they roared, cure our ills. Let the heavens’ gift lift the downtrodden and lame, as it once did a gnarly penurious farmer.

Voices long-practiced at casting doubt on the tumult of a convulsing planet in the throes of calamitous change, suddenly discovered their inner conservationists. How could Earth cope with billions of immortals, with a billion more added every decade or two? Responsibility, stewardship, and stability all demanded that the miraculous gift be rationed; restricted to a few.

Only those who had earned favor may partake of life everlasting. Only those deemed worthy could be permitted to turn away from the indomitable Reaper. Prove yourself then, before praying for a reward, the mighty exhorted, as if the miracle was their own.

A pervasive ranking system sprung to judge the worth of all. Do as told and rise, fall short and have solely yourself to blame. For privation, infirmity, and death. Climb then, with your worthiness score, the rungs of an endless ladder, sprouting more steps than the stars.

Kicking those below and clawing at those above, humankind set to climbing, gleefully imagining eternity attained. Until the all-consuming race to the promised immortality spluttered to an uncertain fearful halt.  Long since grown accustomed to the benefits due the first immortal, one morning the farmer failed to arise from her slumber.

Shock and disbelief ensued. How could she perish? Had she been poisoned? Was it even possible to envenom the perdurable? Could her silks have spelt her doom? She had indulged to surfeit, the glitterati droned, eaten to excess, strained to exhaustion, rejoiced immoderately, lived too fully. Surely, the fault was none other’s but her own.

The autopsy showed frayed arteries and veins, liquified organs, and the decayed vitals of a crypt postponed. Cells once rejuvenated by the molecule were undone by its machinations; deconstructed to constituent biochemical ingredients. What it once bestowed, and more, the molecule slyly reclaimed.

Whilst they sought its largesse, none questioned whence it came, or to what end. Turn away from the gift horse, they insisted, avert your gaze from its mouth. With death within the stride, however, they dissected the horse; hide and all, uncovering isotropic timers buried deep within the molecule’s intricate innards.

All told, one hundred forty-four thousand received the molecule’s pourboire. Presidents and prime ministers, queens and princes, billionaires and celebrities, grifters and sycophants alike awoke to tidings of certain doom.

Frantically they counted the days since they received the molecule’s bequest, and the days that then remained till their eternity ended. They spared no effort searching for an antidote. At first, one that retained immortality while diffusing the accompanying fuse. Failing that, means to purge the molecule altogether, reverting to what once had been. Finally, any means to stave off a resurgent death; even if only until dawn.

The molecule’s makers’ aim had been to depopulate the earth, ready it for those who sought to conquer it with nary a photon beam. Using instead an irrepressible ailment disguised as a boon.

Their failing, and humankind’s grace, had been in gravely overestimating our community mindedness. Cooperative we might be when requisite, but only as a molehill stands at the foot of the Everest of our greed. We proclaim commonwealth even when our biology demands we hoard every advantage within grasp’s reach. Even those that spell our ruin. The farmer’s son witnessed the internment of her remains alone. After, in their old hovel, he retrieved a shard she hid in a wall, and pricked his finger. Then again, to be sure. It mattered not the manner of death he met, if for three scores and ten months he lived secure.

~

Bio:

Ramez Yoakeim’s academic research once involved engineering perfectly believable details out of nothing. Fiction seemed like the obvious next step. At one time or another an engineer, educator, and entrepreneur, these days Ramez devotes himself to charting humanity’s future, one tale at a time. Find out more about Ramez and his work at yoakeim.com.