Category Archives: The Event Horizon

An anthology series showcasing short tales of science fiction, suspense, horror, and the fantastic, often with an unexpected twist. “Prepare to arrive in another reality,” the narrator intones. “A reality where chaos is the only order, where serendipity is the only logic. You are about to cross . . . The Event Horizon.”

Last House on the Right

The Event HorizonViewed from above, the street looked like a typical American neighborhood — a long quilt of manicured lawns, freshly painted rambler homes, and a big, shiny car in every driveway, all connected by wide sidewalks on either side. On this bright spring day, kids played ball in the street, mothers knelt by flower beds, and fathers watered or mowed the grass, pausing to wave to their neighbors as their paths brought them near.

The only traffic on the road was a lone bicycle, its front basket filled with newspapers. As he passed each house, the boy pedaling the bike expertly spun a paper on to each doorstep, following each toss with a wave that was smilingly returned.

Halfway down the block, Marjorie Jones stood up from rearranging flowers by the front door of her house and brushed the soil from her hands as she waved at the newspaper boy, then stooped to pick up the paper. She clucked sadly as she read the two-row banner headline: “FLOODS INUNDATE EASTERN PART OF STATE: THOUSANDS BEING RELOCATED.”

She caught the eye of Bea Smith, her next-door neighbor, as she stood reading the same headline, and the two women walked to the perfectly trimmed hedge separating their yards.

“So sad, isn’t it?” Marjorie said, gesturing with the paper. “All those people who have lost everything they have, their communities disrupted so.”

Bea nodded solemnly. “I’m so glad that nothing like that could happen here. We’re so high up that floods could never reach us. We’re so safe here. I feel bad for them, though. I wish there was something we could do.”

“What do you think about this?” Marjorie said, reading from the paper. “‘Shelters near the flood zone are overcrowded. The governor has asked citizens throughout the state to take in families displaced by the flooding until it is safe to return to their homes.'”

“That’s a nice idea,” Bea said. “I wish we could, but we have a full house. What with Tim home on leave from overseas and all.”

“Us too,” replied Marjorie. “Where would we put them? I’m sure there must be plenty of other homes that have room. Not like any of us on this street. I can’t think of anyone who has a room to spare. The Jacksons, the Petersons, anyone.”

Bea shook her head at each suggestion. “No. But I’m sure other people can help. That’s what people do at a time like this, they help each other. Right?”


The sudden sound of an unfamiliar car engine at the end of the street drew the attention of both women as a dark station wagon turned on to the street and drove slowly down. Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched the car, as if it was a magnet turning needles toward it as it passed by.

“Now what do you suppose that could be?” Marjorie whispered. Bea only shook her head slowly in response.

The car continued slowly down the street, seemingly oblivious to all the attention being paid to it, until it reached the last house on the right and turned in the driveway.

“You don’t think . . . ” Bea asked.

“The old Wilkerson house?”

They watched in silence as the station wagon doors opened and a family stepped out — a tall, slender man and his equally slim wife, and two reedy children. The man opened the back of the wagon and unloaded a pile of suitcases as the family huddled closely together behind him, as if in shock or disoriented.

The family gathered up their suitcases and walked to the house. The man and woman waved to the people staring at them, a few of whom gave hesitant waves in return, as dazed by the spectacle as the new arrivals.

“Well, what do you make of that?” Bea asked.

“I don’t know,” Marjorie said, squinting and shading her eyes in an effort to get a better view of the interlopers. “I can’t see much.”

Carl Peterson, Marjorie’s neighbor on the other side, was standing in the sidewalk with a knot of others. “I heard that Tom Carver called the governor’s office. Said that the old Wilkerson place was available for the relocation program.”

“You mean, they’re from the east?

Peterson nodded somberly.

“Do you think they’re going to stay?”

Peterson shrugged. “Who can say with those people?”

Everyone watched in silence as the new arrivals carried their tattered belongings into the house, then looked at each other with concern and even fear in their eyes.

Just another ordinary day on an ordinary street, in an ordinary town somewhere in America. Today, however, the lives of these ordinary people are about to be disrupted by something very much out of the ordinary — and in just a little while, they will find themselves peering over their perfectly manicured hedges and white picket fences into the abyss . . . of the Event Horizon.

Marjorie Jones hesitated for a fraction of a second before ringing the doorbell. After a few seconds, the door opened, and Marjorie looked down into the wide, shellshocked eyes of the young daughter of the new arrivals, staring up at her from the other side of the screen door. Her black hair was disheveled, and her face still had traces of mud and dirt.

Marjorie put on her brightest smile. “Well hello there, young lady! Is your mommy or daddy home?”

The little girl nodded silently and disappeared. A moment later, the mother appeared at the door. She smiled exhaustedly at Marjorie, dark rings under her eyes. She opened the door. “Hello,” she said.

“My name is Marjorie Jones,” she said slowly, as if to someone who might not speak English. “We want to welcome you.”

The woman smiled. “Hello, I’m Elaine LaPope,” she replied. “Would you like to come in?”

“No, no,” Marjorie said, relieved that she could speak normally. “You must be so busy after your trip. I just wanted to bring you a little welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift,” she said, lifting a large basket filled with canned foods, cereal boxes, and other staples. “We thought you might need this after your journey.”

Elaine took the basket from Marjorie’s proffering hands. “Thank you so much!” she said with genuine relief. “That’s so incredibly kind of you. I don’t know what to say . . . John!” she called back into the house. “John, come here and see what Marjorie brought us!”

The tall man came to the door, his white shirt and pleated pants stained from what looked like river mud. He, too, smiled as he extended his hand. “John LaPope. Thank you so much! We genuinely appreciate it. We lost everything in the flood, you see. We had nowhere else to go.”

Marjorie nodded. “Well, welcome to our street. If there’s anything that any of us can do while you’re here, why, you just ask. We all look after one another here.” There was a slight edge to that last sentence.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come in? I mean, we don’t have anything to offer . . .”

Marjorie demurred. “Really, no, thank you. Maybe some other time. I mean, I’m sure you’ll be eager to get back to your own home soon enough. This is just to tide you over.” She began to back down the steps.

“Well, okay, then, but please feel free to come by anytime.”

Marjorie waved as she turned to leave. “Sure, someday!”

Elaine closed the door. “That was so incredibly nice, wasn’t it?”

“Yes it was,” John said, relief in his voice. “Let’s go see what they’ve brought us.” They carried the basket in the kitchen and began to unpack. They gave packages to their children to put away and to snack on.

A little while later, the doorbell rang again. This time it was Bea Smith and her husband, carrying a stack of blankets and bedding. “Hello, I’m Bea and this is my husband Phil, and we thought you might need something for your beds.”

“Goodness, you are so kind! Would you like to come in and meet . . .”

“No, no, we’re sure you must be tired after so much travel. Do you know yet when you’ll be able to go back to your home yet?”

“No, our street is still completely flooded. We don’t even know if our home is still there, to be honest.”

They chatted a bit longer before Bea and Phil excused themselves. Elaine and her daughter busied themselves making up the beds using the new bedding. It was fortunate that the house still had basic furnishings, but now they wouldn’t have to spend what little money they still had to buy all of their necessities.

The doorbell rang again. “My, this neighborhood sure is friendly!” John said, wiping his hands on his soiled pants as he headed to the front door to open it. A short, balding man in jeans and a flannel shirt stood on the porch. John opened the door and extended his hand, which the man shook heartily.

“Good afternoon, my name’s Carver. Tom Carver. I live across the street,” he said, pointing with his thumb over his shoulder. “I’m a reporter for the paper and I’ve been covering the flood. I’m so sorry about your loss.”

“Please, won’t you come in?” John asked, holding the door open.

“Are you sure it’s not an inconvenience?”

“Not at all!” John laughed. “Everyone’s been so kind to check in on us and offer us things, but no one wants to come in! I assure you, it’s no bother. Please.” He ushered Tom in.

“Let me introduce you,” John said. “My wife, Elaine, my son, Peter, and that shy little one hiding behind mommy is Christine.”

Tom greeted each of them in turn, then squatted on his haunches and smiled at Christine, who blushed and smiled back.

“Are you the person we should thank for calling the governor’s office to let them know about the house?”

Tom looked down sheepishly as John ushered everyone into the living room to sit. “Well, yes. It’s fully furnished but it’s been vacant for months since the couple who lived here moved to a retirement home upstate. It seemed like a perfect idea. I’ve seen the damage over there first-hand. It’s just terrible.”

“We’re not sure if there’s anything left of our house at all,” Elaine said, trembling.

“Well,” Tom said, “You can stay here as long as you like.”

John and Elaine exchanged nervous glances. “We don’t want to overstay our welcome . . . ”

Tom dismissed their concerns with a wave of his hand. “Nonsense. It will take a while for the National Guard and everyone to clean things up over there. It won’t be safe to travel for weeks, is what I’m hearing. So you’ll have plenty of time to get to know everyone.”

“They seem nice,” Elaine said. “I mean, they’re so generous, but everyone seems a little scared of us.”

Tom chuckled. “You have to understand these people. Their world revolves around this street. Sure, they go to work and have their bosses over for dinner, but their whole social circle is here. Birthdays, holidays, community picnics, everyone’s invited. All the time. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like you. They just need a little time to get used to change, is all. They just prefer things to stay the way they’ve always been.”

They chatted some more, discussing work and school — Christine eventually sat down next to Tom and told him all about her second-grade class project. They laughed and relaxed and got to know each other, and when Tom pointed out that it would be getting dark soon and he’d best be going, they invited him to stay for dinner, so eager were they for good company and a distraction from the upheaval they had just gone through.

* * *

Down the block, in the twilight, Marjorie and Bea and several other families had gathered, looking at the light coming from the house where Tom and the LaPopes were dining.

“I can’t believe Tom actually went inside,” Marjorie said. “He’s been in there for quite a while.”

“Do you think he’s all right?” Bea asked.

“There’s no telling,” one of the other neighbors responded. “They’re not like us over in the east. They do things differently there.”

“But they looked so nice.”

“But did you see how scruffy the children were? Do they even take care of their kids?”

“I didn’t see the boy when I went over. I wonder if he’s not allowed to meet people.”

“What could be wrong with him?”

“There’s no telling.”

“I hope he hasn’t hurt Tom!”

“Well, I don’t feel safe not knowing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m going to keep my door locked tonight.” Many others in the crowd nodded or muttered their agreement. One woman hurrieldy ushered her two children back to their house, casting a nervous glance behind her as she did so.

“Hey, look, there’s Dan Parker,” Carl said, pointing to a man running toward them with an urgent expression. “What’s wrong, Dan?”

“I just heard some news!” Dan panted. “Buddy of mine says that the flood destroyed that Army base over there in the east.”

“Yeah, I heard there was a base there,” said one of the men. “I thought it was just a depot station or something.”

Dan shook his head vigorously. “That’s the official story. My buddy says that it’s really a testing facility for biological weapons.”

“What’s that?” an elderly woman asked.

“Diseases as weapons,” another man replied. “Like anthrax or . . . ”

“Or smallpox!” someone said loudly.

“Or the plague!” someone else shouted.

“My buddy said that everyone from the flood zone could be infected,” Dan said.

“Everyone get the children inside!”

“We have to get those people out of here before they kill us!”

* * *

“What do you suppose all that commotion is?” John asked, rising from the table where the LaPopes and Tom were just finishing up dinner. Tom got up and peeked through the dining-room curtains to see a loud mob advancing down the dark street toward the house. He followed John to the front door. The two men stepped out on the porch as Elaine ushered the two children to the back of the house. They squinted into the dark, trying to identify people. John flipped on the porch light, which illuminated the angry faces in front.

“Can I help you?” John asked the crowd, which maintained a safe distance from the house, spreading out to form a semicircle — or a perimeter. “What’s going on?”

“We heard that you’re infected with a biological weapon!” someone in the back of the crowd shouted.

“What?” John chuckled. “Where did you hear that?”

“The Army base!” “Biological weapons!” “Escaped during the flood!” “Everyone’s infected!” people shouted at once.

Tom stepped in front of John. “Now, that’s just nonsense,” he said, loudly and firmly. “That base was just a storage depot. There weren’t any biological weapons there.”

“A buddy told me!” Dan said.

“Yeah, well, your buddy told you wrong, Dan! What’s his name?”

“I don’t have to tell you anything, Tom.”

“It’s nonsense, Dan! Do you believe everything that your buddy tells you?”

“How do you know for sure?” One of the women shouted at Tom.

“I’ve been to that base dozens of times. I even covered the opening for the paper five years ago.”

“Well, a lot can change in five years!”

“Or five minutes,” Tom shouted back. “I was in the east covering the flood just yesterday. Does that mean I’m infected too? That I’m a walking bacteriological time bomb?” He stepped down from the porch and advanced toward the crowd, which backed up like a flinching animal.

“Stay back, Tom! You always take their side, don’t you?”

“You mean I always take the side of the facts?” Tom shouted back. “If so, then that’s one thing we agree on, Smith!”

“Stop trying to confuse things! We know what we want, and that is for them to get out of here!” a man shouted, pointing at John and Elaine, who had joined her husband to find out what was going on.

“They’re going to contaminate us! They’ve already disrupted our whole way of life just by coming here!”

“Why did they have to bring their problems and their crime and their diseases here?” Several people shouted their agreement.

“Maybe we should leave,” John whispered to Tom, his voice tremulous.

“You belong here, just like any one of them,” Tom replied.

“We don’t want to cause trouble,” Elaine said.

You’re not the ones causing the trouble,” Tom said, but he agreed that the situation was fast getting out of control.

“Okay, okay, we’re leaving!” John said, raising his hands in placation.

“And you go with them, Tom!” shouted Dan. “You’re contaminated too! And seeing as how you’re so convinced that the story isn’t true. Maybe you can think about how wrong you were as you’re dying from the anthrax!” Dan laughed cruelly.

Elaine gathered the two children and scuttled to their station wagon as Tom and John shielded them from the crowd as it slowly began to press in on them.

“Stay back!” Tom scoffed. “I might cough and infect you if you get too close!” The crowd roared back indiscriminately.

Elaine and the children climbed into the back seat as John and Tom climbed in the front, and backed the car out of the driveway carefully. The crowd split to let the car pass; as it accelerated away, the crowd came together again, yelling and shaking their fists at the shrinking pair of taillights.

* * *

The LaPopes’ station wagon sped along the nearly deserted highway, its headlights picking up nothing but the long ribbon of asphalt stretching into the darkness. Tom, who was taking a turn driving, stared ahead amid the silence.

“Look, there’s another one!” John said, pointing to a neon motel sign on the left side of the road that had the word “VACANCIES” lit up underneath. “Fifth time’s a charm, right?” he chuckled, trying to lift everyone’s spirits. Christine was asleep in her mother’s lap, while Peter stared morosely out the window.

“Let me take this one,” Tom said as he turned into the parking lot, the gravel crunching under the tires. “You stay here and try to get some rest.” John nodded in exhaustion.

A bell over the office door rang as Tom opened it. The man behind the counter looked up at him, as did three other people standing around the counter. All were leaning toward a radio on the counter that was broadcasting what sounded like an urgent news story.

“Evening, mister,” said the man behind the counter. “Need a room?”

“Two, please. One for me and one for a family of four. What are you listening to?” Tom asked conversationally as he approached the counter.

“Haven’t you heard about the epidemic?” one of them asked. “The Army base that got flooded. Some kind of deadly plague got out. They’re saying that everyone who was there is infected. Could kill us all if it made its way here.”

“Mighty late for someone to be looking for rooms,” the owner said as he slid the paperwork across the counter to Tom. “Where you from? You ain’t from east, are ya?”

“No,” Tom replied as nonchalantly as he could, trying to ignore the four pairs of eyes boring into him.

“Gonna need to see some ID, mister. Address.”

“You’ve got my license,” Tom tapped the card on the desk.

The man nodded slowly. “And for of the people traveling with you.”

Tom put the pen down and locked eyes with the owner. “My friends are tired. They’ve lost everything they have. They have nowhere to go. They’ve been chased out of my neighborhood. No one will take them.”

“I think you’d best be on your way, then, mister,” the owner said. The other three men stood up straight, readying for a fight. “Because if they’re from east, we won’t take them, either.”

“I’m a reporter. I covered the flood and the Army base. I’m telling you, there’s no biological weapons there. No plague. No infections. I’ve interviewed the police and the doctors. No one’s seen anything like that there.”

“Why should I trust you? Lying press,” he spat.

“I don’t know where this story got started, but it’s total nonsense.”

“It makes sense to me,” one of the men said. “Never did trust the Army.”

Tom closed his eyes for a long moment in resignation, scooped up his license, and after glaring at each man in turn, turned to leave, slamming the door in frustration. The men shook their heads and turned their attention back to the radio.

Returning to the car, Tom slumped into the driver seat, his expression telling John everything he needed to know. After a long pause, Tom started the car. “If we can get far enough away, maybe we can find somewhere that the rumor hasn’t reached yet.” He backed out of the parking lot and back on to the empty, dark highway.

“Tom, I can’t ask you to keep doing this,” John said after a few minutes’ silence.

“They chased me out, too, John.”

“But you can stay. We’re the ones with the IDs that have addresses from the eastern part of the state. Not you.”

“I’m the one who recommended the house for refugees. I owe you.”

“It is we who are in your debt, Tom. You are a good man. It’s time for you to leave us and go on your way.”

“What are you planning to do?” Tom asked, concerned.

“Don’t worry, my friend. I’ll show you where to pull over. It’s almost time.”

“Time? For what?”

“For my family and I to go home.”

“I . . . I don’t understand.”

“I know. Don’t worry.”

They drove in silence for a few minutes. Tom was fretting that John was planning to do something desperate to end the suffering of his family, when he suddenly noticed a bright light in the sky, above and to his left. He watched as it grew in size and intensity, and descended in an arc to the right, where it appeared to come to rest in the distance.

“A meteor?” Tom said, pointing.


“Looks like a reentering space capsule. I saw one once, on assignment.”

John smiled. “Something like that. Turn here.”

His journalistic curiosity overriding his concern, Tom turned down a dirt road that appeared to wind in the general direction of the glowing light. As the car crested a hill, Tom could see that the source of the glow was a large silver disc-shaped craft resting on three spindly legs, capped by a hemispherical dome ringed with what appeared to be portholes. He stopped the car, stunned. He turned to John for reassurance that he wasn’t seeing things.

John was smiling. In fact, Tom could see in the rearview mirror that Elaine, Peter, and little Christine were all smiling now, looking very much rested and healthier than before.

“What . . . ”

“We are indeed from a long way away, my friend Tom,” said John, his voice resonating deeply. “Not from the eastern part of the state, but from a star system in what your people call the Large Magellanic Cloud, some one hundred sixty-three thousand of your light-years away.”

Tom tried to ask one of the hundreds of questions suddenly racing through his mind.

“We came here to observe how your people react to strangers. Because we may be returning to your world someday.”


“Yes, Tom,” Christine spoke from the rear seat, her voice far more mature than that of an ordinary second-grader. “We are visiting all the inhabited planets in this sector of the galaxy, seeking those that are ready to join our assembly of peaceful worlds.”

“We do not think your planet is ready to join us yet,” Elaine said. “It seems that you still have much to learn about trusting those who are not like you.”

“But don’t worry,” John said, smiling, placing a reassuring hand on Tom’s shoulder. “We see it as a good sign that there are men and women such as yourself who are dedicated to the light of reason and fact. There are so many worlds where this is not so. You are well on your way.”

With that, John and Elaine opened their doors and stepped out, followed by the children. After a moment’s hesitation, Tom did likewise. The five of them gathered at the front of the car, bathed in the twin headlights.

“Goodbye, my friend Tom,” John said, shaking his hand. Elaine and Peter did likewise, while Christine extended her arms up toward Tom. Tom knelt down and hugged her, then stood up, smiling.

“Remember that it is fact and reason that will guide you past mere survival and toward peace, trust, and mutual prosperity,” John said. “I believe you are well on your way.” With a final wave, John and his family turned toward the spaceship and climbed up a spindly ladder that had descended for them. After a few moments, the ship silently hovered off the ground, the landing legs folded, and the ship accelerated into the sky with such speed that it almost seemed to blink out of existence.

Tom stared for a long time at the spot in the empty sky where his friends had vanished, thinking about what he had witnessed and what he had learned.

“I wish I shared your confidence, my friend,” he said softly, before returning slowly to the car, which turned around and disappeared into the night, toward the highway and the distant city.

It has been said that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its boots. Tonight, Mr. Thomas Carver — a diligent and honest purveyor of truth — has learned that the damage inflicted by a lie is not always confined to this particular world. And that the fear and mistrust and baseless prejudice that follow in the wake of a lie do more than simply ruin lives, though that is bad enough. They also condemn all of mankind to live in the darkness of ignorance and superstition — a darkness that cannot always be contained . . . in the Event Horizon.

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Event Horizon Podcast – “Three Seconds”

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One Percent Inspiration

The Event HorizonWith our intrepid explorers safely embarked on their Mission to Mars, we here at Channel 37 would like to briefly interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you an episode of The Event Horizon. Enjoy!

* * *

The darkened room was silent and still, the dim flicker of the gas street lamp barely visible through the grimy window on the far wall and casting vague, dancing outlines on the piles of boxes and equipment seemingly scattered around the room.

The silence was broken by the sound of fumbling keys and a rattling door knob. To the left, the door flew open abruptly and just as quickly closed. Then, with a click, a naked bulb in the ceiling lit up the room, casting sharply angled shadows. A man wearing a trench coat with an upturned collar that brushed against the brim of his pulled-down fedora moved quickly to the window and pulled down a shade. Then he took off his hat and looked around the room

He seemed relieved at the sight of the piles of crates and the haphazard stacks of mechanical equipment. He wiped his balding brow with the back of his gloved hand, then touched the parts as if reassured by their solidity. Hurriedly taking off his trench coat, which he draped on one of the boxes, he sat down at the small writing desk next to the door through which he had just come. On the table was a nondescript typewriter and a stack of paper. Still wearing his gloves, he picked up a sheet of paper and fed it into the typewriter, the platen knob producing short bursts of metallic zipping as the man hurriedly scrolled the sheet into the machine.

When the paper was aligned properly, the man hesitated, then began to write.

* * *

I don’t know if this typewritten manuscript will survive, but it is the fastest way for me to tell the story of what has happened to me, and what I have discovered. Perhaps by some miracle, if I hide it well enough, the Stealers will miss it and someone will find it someday. So I am writing this to you, whoever is reading this in the future.

I have discovered the secret of genius. And it is a dark, dark secret.

Perhaps if you’re reading this, you’re wondering what kind of amazing person could write these letters. For surely no hand could have reproduced each letter so carefully, so identically. That is because they are written with a machine called a typewriter. It is a device that uses levers to move metal bars to make imprints of letters. The details don’t matter because I don’t have enough time. Hopefully if you find this letter, you will also find the package with all the plans for the typewriter. You must safeguard these plans, hide them from the Stealers and pass them along to the future.

Make only one typewriter. Keep it secret. Write only what you must, and pass along what you write carefully, hidden from the eyes of the Stealers. Otherwise they will find you, like they found me, and like they have found all the other geniuses in human history.

It begins with the Sleep.

One night I went to bed a happy man, an ordinary typewriter repairman. You might not believe this, you might think I’m crazy or delusional, but I tell you that I once lived in a world where typewriters were everywhere. Typewriters were in everyone’s homes. They were so common that an ordinary man like me, just another schlub, could actually make a living fixing them. And I was really good at it too. I made a decent living, fed my two kids, and life was good.

Then one night, I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake for my favorite radio show. Radio — you don’t even know what that is, either, do you? It was how we entertained ourselves then. Well, I slept so hard and deep that when I woke up I felt like I had been in a coma for a year. But other than that, I was fine. I got up and went downstairs, where my wife was making breakfast for the kids before going to school. And as we were talking, I noticed that the radio set was gone from the living room. I asked my wife whether she had moved it to clean behind it, and ever so sweetly she said that she didn’t know what I was talking about. Radio? What radio?

Then she asked, What is a radio?

That’s when I first felt the chill run up my spine.

She literally had no idea what I was talking about. And my kids — my kids who loved listening to cowboys and indians stories on the radio every night, laying on the floor staring up at the glowing dial with their chins in their hands — had no idea either. It was like I was speaking a foreign language.

I thought they were playing a gag on me, so I went off to work. My car didn’t have its radio in the dashboard. At the typewriter repair store, the radio was gone too. Clearly, this wasn’t a stunt.

Now, I’m no fool, and I can’t afford to have other people thinking I’m off my rocker, or I’ll lose their business. So I kept my yap shut. I mean, how would you react if some guy told you that suddenly, one day, he woke up into a world where a piece of technology had been lifted clean out of it like a flower plucked from the ground, and everyone except him was totally unaware of it having ever existed? That’s what I would think too.

Well, about a week later I had another one of those nights where I slept deeply and dreamlessly, and awoke feeling like I was climbing out of a black cave. And this time, would you believe it, there were no cars! Everyone’s riding around on horses and being pulled by carriages. You reading this are probably wondering what’s wrong with that, right? Well, in my world we had horseless carriages. You’ll have to find the hidden plans for those somewhere else. Someone probably has them, but I don’t know who.

Now, this kind of thing went on for several years. I would fall asleep and some amazing technology that I remembered would be removed from the world, and everyone would be getting along just fine, as if everything had always been like this. But other technologies would still be there — electricity, fans, lights, things like that. (These words probably don’t mean anything to you now, I bet.) And typewriters.

See, if I was some kind of really smart guy I could probably reinvent each of these things myself and get all the credit and the money for them, but all I know is typewriters. I don’t know how a radio works beyond you turn a knob and sounds come out. So I couldn’t build one to save my life. Or to become rich and famous. Like I said, all I know is typewriters. So I just kept my head down and made do, sometimes lying awake at night wondering if I was really just going crazy.

Then I met Horace.

He came into my shop on a Tuesday, looking very nervous and acting kind of twitchy. He asked me if I could help him build a metal box out of spare typewriter parts for an invention of his. I tried to talk to him, calm him down a little bit, and eventually he fessed up that he was working on a new idea for something he called an internal combustion engine.

Well, the expression on my face must have said it all, because suddenly we said, “you know about cars, don’t you? And telephones and the rest of it?” There was something so plaintive, so desperate in his voice. “Please, please tell me you remember them too.”

I quickly assured Horace that I did, and I ran to the front of the store to lock the door and flip the sign in the window to CLOSED. Then we huddled in the back and just shared everything we could remember, like two starving men sharing a sudden bounty of bread. We were the first to find each other. See, Horace used to be a car mechanic, and he knew car engines, so when he woke up one day in a world without cars he decided to build himself the world’s first internal combustion engine and become rich and famous.

But the more work he did, the more he felt like someone was watching him. Following him around. Shuffling things around in his office when he would go out. Stealing parts and prototypes. Sometimes he’d see a shadow or someone running away.

And so here’s what we figured out.

Every genius you ever hear of is someone like Horace and me. A person who woke up one day in a world completely the same as the world the day before, except for some technology or scientific discovery that has been subtracted, erased, lifted without a trace out of our world. Except they’re the only ones who remember that the technology ever existed.

Now, if you look at the technologies that are disappearing, they are the ones that help us all connect with each other. To grow and develop and share things and ideas faster and more efficiently with each other. Transportation like cars and railroads and airplanes (yes, we had flying machines once). Communication tools like radio and even the telegraph.

Things that were the technological equivalent of the biblical Tower of Babel.

Someone, or something, wants to keep humankind from doing something that these technologies make possible. Is it people from the future? Is it aliens from another planet somewhere? Horace and I, well, we don’t know. But whatever it is they do to people to make them go to sleep and forget everything in the morning, it doesn’t work on everyone. Some people like Horace and me are immune to it. We wake up and we remember.

The problem is, whoever’s doing this, they don’t want anyone to bring back what they’ve taken away. They don’t want some lonely “genius” re-inventing the radio or the light bulb.

Or the internal combustion engine.

I know because one day, Horace didn’t come to the shop like he did every afternoon. I went by his house and it was like he was never there. No one knew where he was — or even remembered him. And of course his workshop was completely clean. Spotless.

And then that night, I could feel another one of the Sleeps coming on. By now I was almost used to it, so I wasn’t too worried. Maybe I might even wake up and forget about my only real friend, Horace. That would make things bearable, at least.

Instead, I woke up in a world without typewriters.

So I did the only thing I could do: I built one. And I left a typewritten letter in the library for someone to find, stuck between two obscure books. One day, another skittish fellow came into my candle store holding the letter. He was another one of us. I built a typewriter for him and he started leaving letters too. And one by one we began to find each other. We were a secret society. We called ourselves the Rememberers. And each one of us began to build the things we remembered, and helped each other figure out how they worked. We figured out ways to hide them. Soon we had couriers delivering typewritten letters from other countries around the world. It was slow, painfully slow, but we were coming together.

Sometimes one of us would disappear, but more would always find us. We were beginning to win.

But now it’s happening to me too. A shadow, the sounds of footsteps running away, parts missing. The Stealers are going to find me just like they found Horace. And they’re finding the typewriters. The machines and the people. One by one, they’re disappearing and their families and neighbors don’t remember they ever existed.

And now the underground newspapers that we write, the way we fugitive geniuses manage to find and stay in touch with each other, the secret underground network that we have established, could disappear at any moment.

The tenuous, tentative resistance movement against the invisible Stealers relies on you, the person reading this. Take this letter, take these plans, and make one typewriter. Write. Write and share and connect. Find someone who went to sleep and woke up remembering. And share these plans with them. Spread the word about the Stealers and create a movement of believers. You must have faith that what I have written here is true. These miraculous typewritten letters are themselves proof of what I say.

They got Horace’s plans, but they can’t be allowed to get mine. You must stop what’s happening so that civilization can rebuild. You can make the future happen. Spread the word. Please! Find the people who know about these technologies — the crazy, scared people — and support them. Help them to build their devices. Help them prevail.

It’s up to you, reader!

Posted in The Event Horizon | 5 Comments

Quoth I

The Event Horizonby Bud Sparhawk

Cry your death song, Earthman, Grebzx, the Chrisidiac from the planet Scrofulous, thought with a malevolent burst of concentrated hatred as he positioned his atomic beam torch and began to attack the armor plating of the starship from the hated Federation.

[Ed note: The Chrisidiacites are apparently telepathic mutants]

Inside the Federation spacecraft Captain Angst and his beautiful passenger, the Princess Zelda, heard the dreaded hiss as the torch bit into the ship’s plating.

“What ever will we do?” Princess Zelda cried as she watched the ship’s walls begin to glow with a dull red heat.

Angst looked at the beautiful princess. She was dressed in her ceremonial clothing. Her glistening metal brassiere barely constrained her ample bosom and the gossamer spiderweb gown that hung from her smoothly rounded hips complemented her shapely legs.

Poor girl, he thought, she doesn’t know the fate that awaits her at the hands of the Chrisidiacites. He knew from bitter experience that the dull red walls would quickly became white-hot, and then the metal would begin to run. After that . . . well, for him there would be no after that.

“Based on what I know of the capabilities of the Chrisidiac’s atomic beam torch,” he snarled between his clenched, even, white teeth. “Our ship is held fast by a stasis field to the Chrisidiac’s huge ship. There’s no way to escape its relentless attack. I don’t believe we can do much of anything,”

“What the hell do you mean, ‘We can’t do anything’?” Zelda screamed. “You’re the frigging Captain of this adventure. Your job is to produce solutions, you know; pulling the rabbit out of the hat, deus ex machina, and all that stuff.” She stamped her foot impatiently, making portions of her anatomy jiggle. Under other conditions Angst would have found this quite interesting, but not now. “So get with it, buster,” she demanded.

“Perhaps I could make a few alterations to these radiation goggles that we use to repair our atomic reaction engine carburetors,” he said absently, picking up said goggles. Using a few tools extracted from the handy spaceman’s kit at his belt, and selected parts from the same bench where he conducted his daily experiments with the space-time continuum, he quickly turned the goggles into a thought perceivatron.

“By donning these goggles I have just invented I will be able to see the thought emanations from the dreadful Chrisidiac who is melting the shit out of our hull.” Without another word he slipped the goggles over his eyes.

“What good will seeing his thoughts do?” Zelda queried. “You need to get your butt in gear and get us the hell out of this situation!”

“Have you ever noticed,” Angst remarked, making minor adjustments to the goggles. “That whenever you talk, your words are set off by quotation marks?”

“So what?” Princess Zelda hissed. “That stinking Chrisidiac will be coming through the walls of the cabin in about five minutes if you don’t come up with the proverbial rabbit and hat trick–you know; the quick fix.” The walls were now glowing with increasing color as Grebzx bore down with his atomic fueled torch.

I will sing a mournful song over your inert forms,” Grebzx thought at them. “I will dance the circle and orb with your xenopts in my hands.”

“There’s another thing,” the Captain said to the Princess. “Every time Grebzx thinks something it’s in italics. Hmm, I wonder if this is another indication of some higher order of reality?”

You idiot, get with the program and stop this epistimological bull crap, Zelda thought to herself. “Is that so?” she remarked aloud with a worried glance at the sections of the wall that were definitely starting to drip white hot goblets of molten blast wall.

Was I ever a fool to bring her along, Angst wondered. Great body but absolutely no good in a pinch. All she can think about is her precious self. Not a thought to the eternal questions in the universe.

“Oh my God,” he shouted, noticing the underlining of his thoughts, “Now I’m doing it.”

Princess Zelda hastened to his side, clutching a fire extinguisher she’d pulled from the control panel in one hand. She had intended to spray the sections of the wall that were the hottest, hoping the cooling liquid would slow the inexorable pace of Grebzx’s relentless penetration. She placed a beautifully manicured hand on Angst’s muscular arm and pressed her bountiful body against his hard masculinity. Maybe this will get old hot pants motivated, she thought. I’ll bet he thinks better with his glands anyway. Boy, if I’d known what a putz he was I never would have chosen this particular ship.

“And now they have you doing it!” Captain Angst yelled in fear as he backed away from her.

Zelda looked around the cabin. There was no one else present, although she was certain that within a matter of minutes the Chrisidiac would certainly be there with his hands/talons and/or tentacles pulling their xenopts–whatever they were–from their dead bodies. Old hot rocks has gone around the bend, she thought.

Angst: “Yes, this is how we are controlled. It’s just like we were scripted, all these double and single quotation marks, italics, and such. And the narrator has a voice that need no such devices. It’s just like stage directions. The Captain pushes her away and strides to the center of the cabin. His voice sounds angry.
Narrator:  Instantly the captain realizes the truth of his position in the story and begins reacting. Disembodied voice offstage.
Angst: “Perhaps there is a way out of this.” Scratches his head, obviously thinking of how to apply this philosophical revelation to a solution.
Grebzx: Prepare to meet your doom. ??????
Narrator: Grebzx’s torch now blazed to a higher level of brilliance as it began to penetrate the outer layer of the ship’s plating. Sounds of tearing metal. Flashes of orange light on the wall.
Angst: “Ha! Now we’re speaking on the same level, omniscient one.” The Captain spins around and finally sees the narrator.
Narrator: Wait a minute. You aren’t supposed to be aware of me. Voice is worried, defensive.
Angst: “That is the power these goggles give me.” Voice realizes that the Captain is now on an equal footing.
Narrator: But we both can’t be the story’s voice. Voice pleads with Angst.
Angst: “Why not? Let’s free ourselves of conventions. I will no longer use your damned quotes! He strides forward and slaps the voice on the shoulder.

“Oh, I see that the voice is talking to Captain Angst,” Zelda remarked to absolutely no one as she struggled to keep the story line intact.

You see what a problem it is – there has to be somebody carrying the story line.

Pitiful excuse, story teller. You’ve been controlling everything I’ve done since the beginning of this story, Angst continued. Putting words in our mouths, explaining every detail of what we do and what we think, as if we had no minds of our own.

Now that’s a lie. I merely report what I observe. It is my duty to see that the story is properly fleshed out for the reader. Privately I wondered how this character had managed that little trick. Usually they aren’t supposed to be aware of the higher orders of story telling.

Who are you? the Chrisidiac sent.  I thought I was the only one who could use italics in this story. Are you another hateful Earth person?

I’m the story teller, the narrator, the disembodied voice off stage, replied.

Then you are the sworn enemy of my race, the one who has set us on this pilgrimage of senseless violence, weird rituals, funny ways of speaking., and ridiculous names. I will hasten my efforts to rid the universe of you.

So you are now speaking to our arch enemy, the Chrisidiac, Angst said. I might have known that you were working in concert, that you were controlling my every move. I should have known when you put this useless bimbo onto the ship that you were up to no good.

“What do you mean ‘bimbo’?” the Princess shouted and lifted the extinguisher threateningly. “And what did you mean when you said ‘What the hell do you mean, ‘Not aware of you?'” she finished.

Don’t use those damned single quote marks inside double quotes! Angst screamed in agony, nearly blinded by the spectacle. Take control of your own words. They’re your destiny.

Something snapped within Zelda’s mind, stressed as it was to the breaking point with the terror of what awaited her at the whatevers of the Chrisidiac and Angst’s strange philosophical turn. She hefted the extinguisher once experimentally and then swung it in a broad sweeping path. At the moment the fire extinguisher reached the high point of its arc, it happened to coincide with the location of Angst’s square skull.

Ugh, the captain thought as he fell forward, his arms flying out. Zelda continued turning with the heavy extinguisher as it clipped the back of the command chair.

Where the hell did that chair come from? she wondered, I don’t remember it being mentioned before.

Is that your mind touch, Grisadore?   the Chrisidiac inquired, his torch still etching its way into the hull. How wonderful to sense the warm femininity of your thought patterns, your wonderfully sexy thought patterns, I shall hasten to join with you in Zembach.

Why, thank you,” Zelda responded, wondering what Zembach entailed and if she would need anything from her purse. “It’s nice to see that somebody around here could appreciate a lady. Say, why do you use those funny letters when you talk? Can’t you talk like me?”

I guess I could if I wanted to, the Chrisidiac thought back in reply.

[Ed note: Hey, what the devil is going on in there?]

Oh my lord, another one! Angst groaned from the floor. And this one is on a higher level of reality than even the disembodied narrator!

What are you talking about? I reached down and pulled the goggles from Angst’s eyes and placed them over my own. Suddenly I saw another being; a higher order creature.

[Ed note: I have nothing to do with the above confusion.]

Of course, I realized, it’s the editor who always put those stupid explanation notes in stories. I thought I was the one in control here.

[Ed note: I’m the editor of this magazine and I want you to get those characters back into the story where they belong.]

Well pardon me, but this is my story, not yours and I’ll do whatever I like. If you don’t like it you can keep your miserable two cents a word–payable on publication– ha!

[Ed note: Listen you two bit hack. I pay what this trash is worth. If you don’t like it take your stupid ideas elsewhere. If you don’t I’ll tell you what my typesetter thinks about your lousy made up names?]

Yeah, well I have to gargle every time I introduce myself because of your stupid names. It sure screws up my sex life. Who wants to go to bed with somebody from a place called Scrofulous? And with a name most people can’t even pronounce.


“You ain’t the only one with a problem,” Zelda interjected. “How come you have a princess running around with a name like Zelda? What the hell am I a princess of–the South Bronx? And why do I have to wear this stupid harem girl outfit on a starship, for God’s sake? Do you know what these metal cups do to my boobs?”

It’s about time that the rest of you came to your senses, Angst said as he sat up groggily on the deck. What hit me?

“I did,” Zelda responded, patting the fire extinguisher. “You were being an idiot, saying all those nasty things.”

What did I say? Angst thought.

And Crebzip, is that your thought pattern as well?   Grebzx emoted.  This was too much, to find two companions in such a pathetic, stupid little story.

[Ed note: I’m glad somebody finally has shown some literary taste.]

Wait a minute. What do you mean pathetic and stupid? I had a pretty good plot line going until the stupid protagonist started this philosophy crap. Why don’t you get on his back?

Angst, the protagonist, shook his head to clear it. That’s a bloody lie. You were the one who screwed the story up with those crazy conventions.

What do you mean crazy? We’ve been using these speech conventions for years, at least until you started this rebellion. Readers all over the world understand how quotations and thoughtful asides work. Most of the characters and the readers accept them without a second thought.

[Ed note: Especially readers of this mag, who probably haven’t even had a first thought, much less a second one!]

Damn it, can’t you stay out of this!

Just because they are conventions doesn’t mean that they make any sense, Angst said as he gripped one arm of the command chair and pulled himself erect. If you’re such a hot shot writer why don’t you take some chances: Overcome the imperative of the quotation mark?

“Can we get back to this Zembach thing,” Zelda continued, addressing the Chrisidiac. “How long does it take? I mean, should I go to the can first or what?”

Grebzx stopped applying the atomic beam torch for a moment. Time has never been a consideration in my earlier Zembachs. Why, one night on Torpid Crytthn and I had become so dazed after a particularly satisfying Zembaching that we forgot the month and the year. I imagine that time is immaterial.

“Yeah, I’d better go to the can first,”

Getting back to this control thing . . .

Foul Earth beings I will . . . “Hey, do I really have to say this? I mean, it really sounds stupid to be cursing these guys in a vacuum, especially since they can’t even receive my thought emanations.”

“I got them loud and clear, big boy.”

Look, I needed to create an alien who despises everything the Federation stands for. I’m writing you to be a big, mean, bad . . .

“Don’t forget horny, too. Yeah, and make him good looking, too. I’d like to have more beef in this story. Why am I the only looker?”

[Ed note: At least your characters understand the essentials of a good SciFi story – science, sex, and violence.]

Wait a minute. I’m losing track of who’s talking. Could we please get back to the story line?

[Ed note: About time. Say, you don’t expect to get paid for these digressions, do you?]

Words are words and at your rates every syllable counts. Now let’s get organized here.

Yes, yes! Liberate our characters from the quotation marks, Angst screamed. Free us from the bounds of tradition. Writers should be free to try new forms, to create new viewpoints on this boundless universe we inhabit. We . . .

[Ed note: OK, I’ll go along with the word count if you just shut this jerk up.]

I’ll make a few adjustments to the story to satisfy you all. Give it a little more punch. Will that be all right?

Yeah, I guess so, but I got to have better lines than before.

“Sure, I’ll go along. But don’t make me sound so dumb either. I mean, us Princesses oughta have some class.”

And no more playing with those artificial quotation and underscore marks either. I think they’re an affectation that we could best do without. Especially in a story with as little literary merit as I’ve seen so far, Angst mused.

[Ed note: See, even your own characters know a turkey when they see one.]

All right, let me see what I can do. Can we pick up the plot where we left off. Everybody get in your places and:


The spot on the wall glowed brightly. Pools of molten metal ran down the panels to smolder hissing on the deck. Waves of intense heat washed over the elegant Princess Sensua, swathed in her tight, high-necked velvet pant suit, and the mute Captain Angst, cowering nearby in a deep philosophical fugue.

In a matter of seconds the hole had enlarged sufficiently to allow the towering John Grebzx to force his manly form into the cabin. With one wave of his oxy-hydrogen torch he cut Angst in two, playing the torch back and forth over the grisly remains until nothing remained but ash and a single pair of melted quotation marks.

With a flourish he tossed the torch aside, swept the voluptuous Princess from her feet and into his muscular arms. He crushed her against his broad chest, took two steps to the sleeping quarters, and proceeded to begin the ritual Zembach that consummated each of his conquests.

And this time there were no interruptions.

* * *

Why not take a moment to thank Bud for his story with a donation via PayPal?


Posted in The Event Horizon | Comments Off on Quoth I


The Event HorizonThe words on the frosted pane of the closed office door spelled “Captain F. Jackson, Homicide Div.” A hand rapped on the door three times in quick succession.

“What?” came a growl from the other side. The hand turned the doorknob and opened the door a crack.

Detective Peters stuck his head in. “Have a minute, Cap?” Jackson waved him in without looking up from the thick file he was reading. “Sir, I need to talk to you about Smitty.”

Reluctantly, Jackson stopped reading and appraised Peters with weary, baggy eyes. “Don’t tell me, son. He scares you. He’s too intense. It seems like he’s getting too close to the case.” Peters nodded eagerly at each statement. “Well, let me tell you something, Peters. Smitty is the best detective in the whole state. He’s been here longer than anyone except me, and he’ll be here long after all you fair-haired boys get tired of solving crimes for a living and take your pretty wives and three kids to the leafy lawns of suburbia. Now get back to work.” Jackson’s head sagged back down.

Peters didn’t wilt. “I know all that, sir. But this is different. Smitty thinks he’s the killer.”

Jackson looked up, his world-weary expression replaced with surprise.

Captain Frank Jackson is a man who prides himself on having seen it all. And after twenty years on the homicide squad in a big city, it’s a fair claim to make. Today, however, Captain Jackson is about to discover that he hasn’t seen everything after all. He’s just been handed what will prove to be the strangest case of his entire career, straight from one of the grimmer jurisdictions . . . of The Event Horizon.

Jackson fidgeted nervously with his pen while he waited for Smitty to arrive. When he heard Smitty’s familiar slow, almost hesitant knock on the door, he tried to sound nonchalant. “Come in.”

Smitty opened the door. He was his usual pale, thin, and stooped self, his thinning dark hair giving him the look of a college professor — or an undertaker. His expression suited his demeanor. He dropped his lanky frame into the chair in front of Jackson’s desk.

“Have a seat, Smitty,” said Jackson, trying to sound casual and unconcerned, and failing on both counts. “Peters says that you’re having some trouble with the Wackler double homicide.”

“I think I’m the murderer,” Smitty said flatly, his baritone voice filling the space.

Jackson tried to laugh dismissively. “I’ve known you since we were both pounding a beat in the old Fourth Ward. No way you’re a murderer. Maybe you’re just getting a little too close to this case. When’s the last time you took a vacation?”

Smitty looked straight into Jackson’s eyes, causing his boss to shift nervously in his seat. “The evidence is all there.”

Jackson sighed. “What evidence? Did you recover fingerprints? Is there any eyewitness? Anything that puts you at the scene?”

“No. But it’s exactly the way I would have killed them.”


Smitty leaned forward. “You know that anyone who’s been on the force as long as we have starts to think about these things. How would we get away with it. How would we avoid all the mistakes. Well, the killer did everything I would have done.”

After a moment of pondering, Jackson let out a laugh of relief. “There, see? It’s just that you’ve finally found a killer who’s as good as you. That’s all it is. That doesn’t mean it was you.”

“Except that I can’t remember where I was at the exact time the coroner said the murders took place.”

Jackson waved his hand dismissively. “I don’t remember where I was six hours ago, Smitty. And I don’t even need bourbon to make me forget anymore. We’re just getting old, you and me. That’s all.”

A rueful smile appeared on Smitty’s face for just a beat. “I appreciate it, old friend. But I just have this feeling. A hunch.”

Jackson’s mood fell. “That feeling?”

Smitty nodded. “And it’s never been wrong in twenty years.”

Jackson looked around the room as he tried to think. “You didn’t even know them. Everything about this crime says that the victims knew their killer. No signs of forced entry, right?”

“It was too methodical. Too clean, too precise. It was a rational, planned act. It looked staged. Like someone was trying to make it look like someone else did it.”

“So someone you arrested ten, fifteen years ago gets out on parole. He’s bent on revenge. He sets up a crime to make it look like you did it, to discredit you.”

Smitty shook his head. “Don’t you see, Frank? It has to be me.”

Jackson slammed the desk in frustration — and fear. “No, I don’t see it, Smitty! It doesn’t make sense! Why does it have to be you?”

“Because it’s the only thing I haven’t seen or done in this city. I’ve been around long enough to see and witness everything. Except the one thing that we all think about but most of us never try.”

Jackson paused. “You’ve been thinking about committing a murder?”

Smitty nodded. “It’s been an obsession of mine for a long time now. It’s been keeping me up at night. I’ve ben planning to do something just to see if I could get away with it. To fool everyone.”

“Is this a confession?”

“If you like.”

“I don’t.”

“Have you ever heard of projection?”


“Projection. The ability to appear in two places at once.”

“You’ve been reading too much of that mystical garbage, Smitty.”

Smitty shook his head emphatically. “I’ve been studying it for years. Teaching myself how to travel outside my body. The night of the Wackler murders, I was on one of those journeys.”

Jackson sat in stunned silence, so Smitty continued. “Beginners can only see vague glimpses of places, impressions. For skilled travelers, the experience is as rich and textured as a real physical journey.”

“I can project myself into any room, any place that I’ve never been, and describe it with eyewitness accuracy.”

“Prove it.”

Smitty smiled. “In the basement of your apartment building, the caged storage area in the far back corner. Number fourteen. You still have Timmy’s tricycle. It’s on top of three old suitcases. Mona’s things. They . . . ”

“Stop!” Jackson shouted angrily. “You broke into my apartment complex?”

Smitty shook his head. “I projected myself there. I can describe the Wackler’s apartment in every detail. That’s when I knew. When we walked in there, I already knew where everything was. The console radio. The chintz curtains. I knew where the bodies were before we had even left the foyer. Peters can confirm it.”

Jackson leaned forward, his anger replaced with genuine concern for his lifetime friend. “But did you really do it? Did you really kill the Wacklers?”

“Does it matter? I was going to kill someone, eventually. You might as well get me for this one. And if it turns out that I didn’t do it, Peters will find who did. Someday he’ll be as good as you and me. I can tell.” There was a palpable relief in Smitty’s demeanor now that he had unburdened himself. He stood up.

Jackson stood up too. “I don’t want to see your career end like this, Smitty. You’re too good for this.”

“Not anymore. In my heart, in my soul, I’ve gone over to the other side.”

“But how can a ghost kill a real person?”

Smitty shrugged. “That part, I don’t know. Apparently, my skills go beyond what the books describe.”

Jackson stomped over to his office door and flung it open. “Peters! Get in here!”

A moment later, young Detective Peters ran in. “Cap?”

Jackson looked at the floor. “Smitty here is under arrest.” His words were muttered and barely audible.


“Smitty confessed.”

“I’ll go quietly,” Smitty assured Peters, who was visibly uncomfortable at the prospect of arresting not only his partner, but the most distinguished detective in the city.

Jackson, heartbroken, looked up at his old friend. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re doing me a favor. Just one thing, though.”


“I can project through walls, remember?” Smitty’s expression turned wicked. Then he turned and left, with Peters following behind.

Jackson stared in horror at the open door.

We think that we understand how the world works. We believe that walls are solid, and so are we. But what makes us human is not solid. It is ethereal. It is the will and the belief, the passion and the sorrow. What makes us human is the belief that we can do the impossible, even if the evidence says otherwise. Captain Frank Jackson has just learned that there are many cold cases yet to be solved . . . in The Event Horizon.

Posted in The Event Horizon | Comments Off on Obsessions

The Department

The Event Horizon“Next. Name please.”

The man had been standing in this line for — how long? He checked his watch, but it had long since stopped, and of course there were no clocks anywhere in the office. Why would there be? That would be providing people with useful information. And this place was the exact opposite.

He had plenty of time to look over the stack of forms for what felt like the twentieth time. Yes, every box was checked this time. Yes, he had completed Table C. He was not going to get to the front of the line only to have that shrew cast her cold, dead eyes over his paperwork and tell him that these forms aren’t completed, sir, please fill out Subsection N-6, thank you, next.

Not this time. Third time’s a charm.

“Next. Name please.”

He turned to look at the fellow behind him, desperate for eye contact. He hadn’t been able to catch anyone’s eye since arriving in the waiting room. Even when he was seated next to the old couple in the waiting area, listening for his number to be called. They just looked at each other blankly.

He cleared his throat, but the man behind him just kept staring at the cracked and faded linoleum on the floor, his hat hiding most of his face. Turning to face forward, he tapped the shoulder of the man in front of him, but the man shrugged him off with a grunt and kept reading the days-old paper.

“What a lovely place to be stuck forever,” he muttered sourly.

“Next. Name please.”

More bored than he had ever been in his life, he tried to mark time by the shuffling of his feet forward with each call from the desk ahead. After a while, he got into the rhythm of it, and things seemed to move faster.

“Next. Next!

He looked up. It was actually his turn. He squared his shoulders, cleared his throat, and stepped confidently past the last brass pole at the end of the velvet rope toward the intimidating tall window, and the soulless woman beyond.

“Name please,” the nondescript gray-haired bureaucratic functionary said, in precisely the same inflection as she had for the previous hundred or thousand people in line before him.

“Ron Sellers,” he said pointedly, daring her to remember him. He slid the stack of forms through the slot in the bottom of the glass window.

She cast her bovine eyes over the form. Sellers willed her to accept them this time.

With a bored flick, she flipped the stack shut and slid it back. “You’re not claiming any mortal sins,” she said. “Venial-sin-only filers are the next window.” She flicked her pen to Sellers’ left. “Next.

Ron turned to his left; the line next to him was just as long as the one he had just survived. And so were the lines for the next five windows down.

Sellers deflated. “But you said . . . ”

“This line is for people claiming mortal sins,” she said. “Next!” She looked over Sellers’ shoulder, already ignoring him as an obstacle. The man behind him pushed brusquely past him.

“Name, please.”

Crushed, Sellers stood in the space between the two lines, looking back in despair at their insurmountable lengths.

If it’s true that the wages of sin are death, then it follows that the taxes on it are paid in purgatory. What’s surprising to Mister Ron Sellers, however, is where those accounts are settled. There are no angels, no clouds, no giant ledger. Just a dingy, unhappy waiting room located in a nondescript office building, in one of the grimmer corners . . . of The Event Horizon.

Dejected, Sellers didn’t even try for the Venial Sins Only line. Instead, he wandered to the back of the waiting room, where the endless piles of forms were stacked. He had read the instructions — all 200 pages of them — carefully, listing all his earthly transgressions. Right down to the apple he had stolen from his best friend’s lunch in third grade.

None of his transgressions had fallen under the heading of Sin Comma Mortal, according to the comprehensive list provided in Section 3-105. Sellers should know; he had read the entire thing. Twice, just to be sure. He really had led a good life. He mowed the lawn for his elderly neighbor. He coached Little League and helped pay for Tommy Trotter’s college when his father had to quit the factory because of his back injury. He was a member of all the Civic Leagues and had never spoken a bad word about anyone.

And this is what happens? Stuck in the most soul-sucking waiting room in the universe, standing in line shoulder-to-shoulder with murderers and wife beaters and people just as innocent as him, all bunched together in this impersonal, unsympathetic place to wait for some . . . . some bureaucrat to toy with my fate like it doesn’t even matter?

Sellers found an empty seat and tried to cool down. He took a few deep breaths, unwilling to look at the forms again, unable to bear the sight of so much despair around him in the form of sagging shoulders and shuffling feet.

“Hard day, huh?”

Sellers looked up. A rotund security guard was standing over him, his dark eyebrows dancing with amusement, his eyes sparkling with vitality and maybe even a sense of humor.

“I didn’t expect it would be like this,” Sellers responded, desperately grateful for the kindness of the guard’s attention.

“They never do,” the guard said, looking around. “Been working here since, oh, let’s see.” He pushed his blue policeman’s cap back and scratched his balding forehead. “First celebrity I ever saw was Julius Caesar. Standing in that very line over there,” he said, pointing.

“Why is it like this?”

The guard sighed, looking at the empty chair next to Sellers. “Mind if I sit? It’s been a long shift.”

Sellers eagerly pulled his stack of forms off the chair and gestured for the guard to sit.

“That’s better,” he said as he plopped his large frame into the plastic seat. “My dogs are killing me,” he said with a baritone chuckle. “Ah, it used to be different in those days. A lot fewer people back then. And a lot less bureaucracy. Yep.” The guard’s eyes seemed to be viewing a distant memory.

“What happened?” Sellers asked.

“Well, I’ll tell you. Now this is just my opinion, of course. I’m just the guard around here. But somewhere along the line, someone changed the definition of ‘sin.’ And that’s when the paperwork took off, and things really started backing up.”

“Changed the definition?”

“Sure,” the guard said. “Back when I was alive, a sin was a mistake. You try, you fail. Simple as that. Assuming your mistake didn’t kill you, you tried again. And if it did, well . . . ” he chuckled again, gesturing around him. “But back then, you got real personal attention. Someone to explain it all to you. They even had cookies and coffee in those days. But all those people have since retired. Or were fired. Along with the paperwork came all the efficiency experts. Streamline this process. Improve that workflow. Forms, forms, forms.”

“Wow,” Sellers said, both impressed and saddened.

“Yeah, it was different back then.” He leaned over to Sellers. “Sin is big business, you know. As soon as they discovered that it was a much more efficient way to account for a life.” He nodded sagely, as if imparting a big secret. “In the old days, it was all essay, all interviews. ‘Tell me what you accomplished. Tell me how you lived.'” He waved his hand at the stacks of forms in disgust. “Now it’s all checklists of everything you ever did wrong. What kind of a way to judge a life is that?”

Sellers shook his head mutely.

“Take you, for example,” the guard said, poking Sellers in the shoulder. “You look like a really nice fellow. Bet you never did anything to hurt a fly. Why should you have to be thinking about everything you ever did wrong at a time like this?”

Sellers was alternately shaking and nodding his head, mesmerized by the guard’s silky-smooth baritone and his impeccably logical argument.

“You’re right!” he finally said. “I don’t deserve this. I was a good man. I did good things. I made mistakes, but I tried to make up for them. People liked me.”

“Sure,” the guard said in soothing agreement. “You don’t deserve this. Nobody like you does.”

But just as quickly, Sellers sagged again as he looked around. “But what choice do I have?”

The guard looked around cautiously, then leaned in close. “There is another option,” he whispered.

Sellers leaned toward the guard. “There is?” he whispered back.

The guard nodded sagely. “There’s a resistance movement dedicated to subverting the bureaucracy. Dedicated to rescuing good folks like you and getting them on the fast track to their just rewards.”

Sellers looked into the guard’s eyes, desperate to feel hope. “Really? What . . . how?”

The guard’s jowly face broke out in a smile and he winked at Sellers. “Follow me.” The guard stood up and walked casually over to a door in an empty, neglected corner of the waiting room. Sellers followed at a discreet distance, trying to look inconspicuous.

When the guard was sure no one was looking, he opened the door a crack and gestured discreetly for Sellers to come quickly. Sellers scooted to the door and looked through. The door appeared to open on a long, dark tunnel with softly-glowing, welcomingly warm white light in the distance.

The guard winked again, and patted him on the shoulder. “There will be people at the other end to welcome you,” he said.

Sellers pumped the guard’s right hand. “Thank you!” He was almost crying in relief.

The guard shrugged. “It’s the least I can do. One good turn, and all that. If I can help a good man get his reward, then . . . ” he touched the visor of his cap.

With one more handshake and an expression of profound gratitude, Sellers turned and ran into the tunnel. The guard closed the door, then returned to his rounds, his hands behind his back, whistling nonchalantly, a smile of private satisfaction on his face.

It was Doctor Martin Luther King who told us, “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” For this humble security guard, the injustice he fights is perhaps the most insidious of all — the law that treats the innocent with indifference, that rewards kindness with apathy. In his own humble way, he is doing his part to help redress that imbalance. And the penalty he is willing to accept is that he must work the longest shift . . . in The Event Horizon.

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The Cup

The Event HorizonThe silversmith took his anger out on the cup. He knew it wasn’t the cup’s fault. His anger was towards the ruling authority of his country. Ever since the Romans took over, he rarely worked silver, only base metals. The cup he worked on was made of tin, lead, and several other metals that had a silver tone. He was glad that the Rabbi that ordered the set of cups understood – at least someone did.

In a small forge on the edge of the Holy city of Jerusalem, a small cup is made. Through fire and a skilled hammer, the metal is bent into shape. Thus the cup begins its journey into history. This small item will become one of the most sought after artifacts in the world. Of course, this journey will eventually lead to… The Event Horizon.

The man held the cup spoke a few words and shared the contents with his closest friends. Less than twenty-four hours later, the man’s mother collected blood that flowed from his execution. The cup was given to the youngest of the man’s followers. In his old age, the follower now exiled to the island of Patmos, held the cup filled with the dried blood and dreamed dreams and saw visions of the future. The cup became known as “The Holy Grail.”

Several centuries later, a knock at the door in the middle of the night startled a poor farmer. He opened the door to find a drenched Knight’s Templar standing in the pouring rain.

“Jacques Benoit, I need your help,” the knight whispered.

The farmer allowed the knight into the house.

“How do you know me?” the farmer whispered. The farmer’s family slept together in the one room house.

“You are well-known to us, Jacques Benoit. We need your help,” the knight nearly pleaded.

“What can a poor farmer do for the Knights Templar?” the farmer asked.

“Our time is nearing an end, we must act quickly. We need you to shelter an item for a while. If the trouble passes, I will be back for it.”

“Where is this item?”

The knight reached into a sack and pulled the cup from it. The cup was worn, dents and dings covered it. He handed it to Jacques.

The farmer examined the cup, wondered about the discoloration and asked, “What is this, Sir Knight?”

“It is best that you not know. The less you know the better, Jacques. Hide this and forget about it until I return.”

Jacques placed the cup on one of the beams in the wall. “I will cover his in the morning, when the family is awake.”

The knight clasped the farmer’s shoulder. “Fare well, my friend. I hope to see you soon. If not tell your descendants the story of this night. It may be that some future generation will seek this cup.”

The farmer did as the knight asked. The cup was built into the wall. When each son grew old enough the story was told, with a promise of secrecy and to only tell the heir of the farm.

The story passed until one day in 1917, when father and son were both killed in the horrific Battle of Ardennes in the “War to End all Wars.”


Henri Benoit returned to Sabille. The war ended, and he was eventually released from the Nazi prison camp. As an officer in the French army, he was treated with some respect by the Germans. Yet since he fought well, he angered the camp commandant. He was wounded two days before France surrendered to the Germans and was captured while he lay in the hospital.

After his release, he was delivered to Paris where he received medals for heroism and then he went to his ancestral home near the village of Sabille. He was able to ride into the village with a ride that was arranged by General DeGaulle himself.

He saw that the village was not as ravaged as most he saw on his way from Paris. He thanked the driver and made his way to the village pub.

He hadn’t taken three steps from the truck before he was recognized. He was escorted to the café and a makeshift celebration ensued. It was there he learned that his mother passed away, one of his sisters was injured, and his other sisters were fine and lived nearby. It wasn’t until he held them that he knew he was home.

He returned to the vineyard. He was told all was destroyed, but he planned on rebuilding. Ever since his father and older brother were killed in World War I, the running of the vineyard fell on Henri’s mother. He learned about growing wine from the farm’s manager. It was up to him to rebuild on take the vineyard into the future. The vineyard was a one of the major employers in the village. His father and then his manager built the vineyard into a world-class producer of the finest wine.

Henri surveyed the lands, other than a few knocked down vines. The mansion, however, seemed destroyed. It was at this house that Rommel had his headquarters during the allied invasion. The house looked as if it were bombed.

Henri entered the mansion and assessed the damage. There was a big hole in the roof and a crater in the main foyer. Other than that, the building seemed sound. He checked on the walls. Near one wall he found all the medallions his family won in international wine competitions. In the center of all the medals lay a curious cup. He held the cup to the light.

The cup was worn, and aged. Henri wondered how old the cup was. Probably, my grandfather’s, he thought. He carried to cup to a hole in the wall. The hole looked as if the blast came from within the wall and not part of the blast from the bomb. He saw a beam that held the wall. It was dusty, except for a small circular pattern. He placed the cup, it fit exactly.

He put the medallions and the cup in a box. The barn where the winepress was stored was in good shape. He prepared a bed. He knew where wine was hidden and hoped the Germans didn’t find it. He found a bottle and opened it. He had a loaf of bread from the villagers and several candles. He drank from the bottle while he ate bread and examined the cup in the candle light.

He fell asleep holding the cup. He dreamed dreams of the future.

Eight months later he moved into the restored mansion. The vines were doing well. This year would be a good crop. He nailed the medallions above his desk on the upper floor. He looked in his box and saw the cup. He knew it was important to someone in his family. He placed the cup on his desk and wondered what to do with.

With a smile, he filled it with pencils.

Henri Benoit family served as guardians of the Holy Grail for countless generations. His ignorance of the Grail’s history is immaterial for his duty to preserve his family’s heritage. Often, histories are forgotten, myths are misremembered and legends are lost. These are the signposts to…The Event Horizon.

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Blind Spots

The Event Horizon“I’m quite sure, Doctor Madison,” said Harrison, staring at the tablet in his hands. “See for yourself. The neuroimaging results are unmistakable.” He handed the tablet to the older man to his right.

Madison manipulated the image on the tablet with the adroitness of a skilled surgeon, rotating the 3-D image of the brain through different axes. Every few seconds he would zoom in on a critical area using a pinching motion and then broaden out by degrees by spreading his fingers slowly, as if reluctant to grasp what he was being given.

“You say you first became aware of your patient’s . . . ability during a routine checkup?”

Harrison nodded. “Yes, I had a chart of common optical illusions taped to a wall in my office. I had put it up to test one of my pediatric patients that morning and forgot about it. A few hours later, this man came in for a routine physical. While I was getting my instruments ready and making small talk, he pointed to the chart and said that there must be something wrong with it because he couldn’t see any of the optical illusions on it.”

Madison raised a skeptical eyebrow as he handed the tablet back to Harrison. “Perhaps he was just very skilled at rationalizing away the explanation.”

“That’s what I thought at first,” Harrison continued. “I ran down the complete chart and then I called up a book of optical illusions on this,” he said, hefting the tablet. “The classics. Kitaoka’s rotating snakes. He said they weren’t moving. The rabbit-duck illusion. He said he could actually see both simultaneously. Color and brightness constancy tricks like the shadowed checkerboard.”

Madison crossed his arms, still unimpressed by the tale being told by his excitable colleague. “So what did you do?”

“I brought him back the following week for a complete battery of tests. I tested him for all three types of optical illusions: literal, physiological, and cognitive. And the results were . . . ” Harrison’s fingers flew over his tablet, then he handed it to Madison. “See for yourself.”

Reluctantly, Madison focused on the charts scrolling down the tablet, then studied the numbers. “It’s possible for someone to fool another person verbally,” he said carefully. “But even the most skilled liar can’t manipulate the results of an fMRI.” He handed the tablet back to Harrison. “If this is real, if your patient really does have some sort of cognitive ability to see through illusions, this could represent a significant breakthrough in our understanding of perception and cognition.”

Harrison nodded. “He could represent the next stage of human evolution.” He looked at his tablet in wonder. “At long last, we could be looking at a way to break the cognition barrier.”

Man has always struggled to overcome barriers to understanding his surroundings. As knowledge has broadened our horizons, we’ve discovered that we’re not at the center of the world, or the solar system, or the universe. Yet, no matter how much we learn, one fundamental barrier remains: our senses. For science cannot ever truly tell us what is; it can only tell us what we observe. Today, Doctors Harrison and Madison are about to come face-to-face with the possibility of a wider view — the opportunity to peer into one of the darker corners . . . of The Event Horizon.

The door to the examination room opened and Harrison and Madison stepped inside. Sitting on the chair in the corner was a pale, balding, mousy man in his indeterminate late 30s, shivering in a hospital gown. He glanced nervously at Madison, but Harrison put the man at ease with an introduction. The man fidgeted with a pair of tortoise-shell glasses.

“Mister Williams, I want you to tell Doctor Madison and me when you first became aware of your inability to see optical illusions.”

Williams shrugged. “Ever since I was a kid,” he said in a nasal voice. “School teachers used to give us these tests, you know? ‘See the moving snakes’ or ‘which line is longer’ or whatever. Everyone else could see the illusions but I couldn’t. At first they thought I was just trying to get attention. Then they thought I was lying. They used to send me to detention and the kids would make fun of me.” Williams squirmed. “So I just shut up about it and didn’t tell anyone.” He pointed to Harrison. “When I came in for the exam last week, I saw the chart on the wall and I just kind of mentioned it. I was thinking that maybe . . .”

Harrison nodded sympathetically. “That maybe we might be able to find an explanation?”

Williams shook his head dejectedly, his eyes fixed on his hands in his lap. “I’m tired of being different. It’s impossible to explain this to people. They literally can’t understand. It’s like the thing with the colors.”

Madison perked up. “What ‘thing about colors’ would that be?”

Williams looked up at Madison for the first time, and Madison shuddered involuntarily. It was as if the nebbishy man’s eyes were looking right through his skin and into his brain. Harrison smiled to himself; he had felt the same thing the first time he met Williams. He could tell that Madison was becoming less skeptical with each moment, just has he had done.

“I see colors that most people don’t. More of them. I don’t know how to describe it. We don’t have words for them because no one’s ever seen them to give them labels. So I’ve made up names for them. But I don’t share them with anyone.” His eyes drifted sadly back to his lap.

Madison forced himself to recover. “Well, this is very interesting, but I’m still not entirely sure that you’re not rationalizing . . . ”

“The blue one,” Williams said, fixing Madison with his penetrating gaze through his thick glasses.

“I’m sorry?”

“The blue Chevrolet. Not the brown one. You haven’t decided which one to buy yet.”

Madison gasped and looked at Harrison in surprise, the blood draining from his face. “How did . . . ”

“I saw it in your mind.”

“You can read minds?”

“It’s not a conjuring trick. It’s not ESP. I literally can see your brain. The electrical signals, the patterns, the meanings they form. I can see everyone’s thoughts. To me, they look like a movie in front of everyone’s face. I have to shift my focus in order to see your face. It’s like looking at masks.” He paused, looking at both men with a pleading, weary expression. “I’ve always had to live in this flat world of masks and hidden things like all of you. But I can see so much more.”

“This is extraordinary,” Madison finally whispered.

“Isn’t it?” Harrison said excitedly.

Williams looked into the two men standing before him. “I see what you have in mind for me. Tests and papers and lectures and fame. Maybe even a Nobel Prize?” Madison blushed. “I’m flattered, Doctor. I didn’t realize how valuable I was.” The sarcasm in William’s voice was palpable, replacing the nasal whine with a deeper note.

Before either doctor could rebut, Williams raised a placating hand. “It’s not your fault. I would be excited too, if I wasn’t so tired of living this way. It’s just hard to believe that Mother Nature would choose me,” he gestured contemptuously to his spindly, balding, gowned body, “to be the harbinger of the future.”

“Please get your clothes on, Mister Williams,” said Harrison. “We’d like to get you out of here and into more comfortable surroundings.”

Williams stood and stretched. “That would be really nice,” he said with a nod. I have a lot more to tell you. This is really only the beginning. It works both ways, you know.”

“What does?” Harrison asked. But Williams just smiled sagely. “What works both ways?”

At that moment, a knock on the exam room door caused both men to turn. A nurse opened the door, looking for Dr. Madison. As the three of them consulted a chart, Williams, unobserved, began to shimmer, waver, and become gradually transparent. Then a multitude of ghostly Williamses seemed to fill the room, each one doing something unique — sitting back down, taking a step forward or backward, scratching his nose. There were young Williamses, old Williamses, fit and trim and athletic Williamses, fat and well-dressed Williamses, fully-dressed Williamses, all in the same room at the same time, together yet not overlapping. A multitude of possible Williamses.

A moment later, the nurse left and closed the door behind her. Madison and Harrison turned back to face Williams, and suddenly all the hundreds of Williamses filling the room coalesced back into the single Williams that had been standing there a few moments before.

“We’ll be outside when you’re ready, Mister Williams,” said Harrison.

Williams smiled broadly, warmly. “I won’t be but a moment,” he said, his penetrating eyes twinkling.

“Esse est percipi,” the 18th-century scientist George Berkeley famously said. “To be is to be perceived.” For Mister Henry Williams, at least, this statement is most literally true. For Henry lives in a private world where people are always much more than they seem, more than they even know. Until now, it has been a lonely world, but perhaps soon Henry may have the pleasure of company on his pleasant journey . . . into The Event Horizon.

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Happy New ?

The Event Horizon

Man’s quest for knowledge leads to twists and turns which lead to puzzles in themselves. Many times when an idea is proven, other questions arise. These questions lead us to The Event Horizon.

“Professor, we are now 250,000 from Earth.”

“Thank you, Captain. If you can, please rotate the ship to allow maximum viewing from the observation port.”

“No problem, Professor.”

Professor Higgins released the safety harness and stood facing the other passengers. Some were family; many were graduate students that the professor invited to take notes.

“As you all know, we obtained a grant to take this tourist vessel to observe a very unique phenomena. Most of you will be needed to record this, others are here to observe and make notes as to this momentous occasion. Let us all adjourn to the observation platform.”

The family and professor filed up the spiral staircase. By the time everyone around, the deck faced the Earth in all it’s glory.

“Professor, I don’t understand,” one of the female students said. “If what you say is true, shouldn’t we have done this two days ago, on January first?”

“Eileen, I guess you missed class when we discussed this. January First is really an artificial date assigned by Pope Gregory way back when. Other cultures had their own dates for the beginning of the year. Some thought the year started the first of spring, others the first of winter. Celtic and Jewish cultures measured time by lunar dates as opposed to solar dates. What we were trying to ascertain the actual new year as defined by the Earth herself.”

“What can you do, Professor, ask the Earth itself?” Jeremy, another of the students asked.

“There are always signs and clues, Jeremy. We merely had to sort through tons of data before we came up with our conclusions. It seemed over time that this was the correct date.”

“What clues, Professor?”

“The most significant were signs such as solar flares, an increase in magnetic and particle energy waves. We managed to track a relative starting point and have fine-tuned it to a very narrow window.”

“How would these signs indicate the start of a new year?”

“This is what we will prove with this trip. I will call this the ‘Divergent Effect’ when I publish our finding when we return.”

“What do you mean by the ‘Divergent Effect’ Professor?”

“All this increase in energy serves a purpose. For many years there have been theories of a parallel Earth or a parallel universe. That is what we are hoping to see with this expedition. We have plenty of memory cards plenty of batteries to record this as it happen.”

“How will we know when it happens?” Eileen asked.

“We will know. Believe me, we will know,” Professor Higgins answered. “I would suggest leaving one camera trained on the Earth. Perhaps you should have some snacks now. I figure in three to five hours we will see the process start.”

Six and a half hours later, Higgins noticed something. He rubbed his eyes; he knew he had little sleep. The students and family were resting on the floor of the observation deck. He wanted to be sure before raising an alarm.

Yes! It was happening. He knew it, all his work finally paid off.

“Hello everyone! It is starting. He gently shook his grad students and handed them their cameras.

The students stared out the port. They looked puzzled.

“What should we be looking for?” Jeremy asked.

“Does anything look different to you?”

There were several moments of silence. Eileen finally spoke.

“Well, I assume that the atmosphere looks a little larger, either from the sun or that we are closer. Is that what you mean?”

Higgins smiled, “Assume nothing, young lady. Observe. What you think is a larger, thicker atmosphere is actually a larger thicker energy field. It has been growing in intensity for the last half an hour.”

“How does that happen?” Eileen asked.

“The closest process I can think of is like mitosis, when a cell divides. Think of the Earth as a giant amoeba.”

After a few moments of silent contemplation, Higgins added, “Once the process starts, I think it will go quickly. Get your cameras rolling.”

The students set up the tripods and started the filming process.

“Let’s make this zero hour and we’ll start timing from here,” Higgins said.

“Pardon me, Professor, the observation deck comes with a timer, so we can track asteroids, comets or whatever,” Captain Akers pointed to a small keypad in the wall.

“Thank you Captain, this will be off great use.”

The captain hit a few buttons and the timer started. He adjusted the readout to be legible, but not too distracting.

At the 00:47:13 mark, Jeremy called out, “I think it’s looking a little out of round, Professor.”

“I believe you’re right, Jeremy.”

“What happens when they divide, Professor?” Eileen asked.

“My theory is that the newer Earth will fade into a new dimension, yet on a parallel track with the original Earth. It will happen quite fast I imagine.”

The timer read 01:18:46 when Emily said, “Look they’re starting to pull away!”

“Professor,” Captain Akers said, “should they both be fading like that?”

Higgins had an alarmed look on his face. “No, Captain. Only one should fade. Unless both Earths head to separate dimensions.”

Higgins sat down on one of the benches. “Captain how fast can we get back?”

“We could hustle and get close in about two hours. We couldn’t re-enter the atmosphere at that speed, though.”

Higgins nodded, “As long as we are close enough we should be all right. We’d best head back then, Captain.”

“No problem, professor. Just need to know which Earth we are heading for.”

The professor’s face turned ghostly white. “I…I don’t know.”

Curiosity oft times kills the cat, we are told. But man’s thirst for adventure sometimes leads to dark roads. These dark roads only have one destination…The Event Horizon.

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The Terminal

The Event Horizon“Henry Jones, please. Henry Jones, now departing Gate Three, Track Number Two.”

At the back of the terminal, a man stood up and tossed aside the newspaper he was reading. As he walked toward the gate, he unfolded a pair of diaphanous golden wings from his shoulder blades, which were incongruous against his drab business suit. “About time,” he muttered as he smoothed the creases in his wings and pants. He stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray on his way out the gate’s gilded wooden door. On the other side of the frosted pane, the man floated off the ground and drifted up until he disappeared out of sight.

“Now arriving, Gate Seven Track Four. Laura Smith. Arriving at Gate Seven, Track Number Four. Laura Smith.”

A moment later, a similarly-attired man entered the terminal, doffing his black homburg and tucking his wings neatly out of sight. Smith looked around and waved at a pair of men sitting at a corner table, then headed over to them. A pale light through the dingy windows was just bright enough to illuminate the card game they were playing. As Smith pulled up a chair, the others grunted in greeting but didn’t look up.

“How’d it go?” one of them asked around the cigar stub in his mouth.

Smith shrugged. “You know. Like pulling teeth to get these people to write. A sentence here, a nicely turned phrase there. You can’t get a decent chapter out of some people anymore.”

The fellow across the table slapped down a card and picked another one off the deck. “Tell me about it. These kids have no discipline, I tell you. Back when I was musing for Jane Austen . . . ”

The man with the cigar rolled his eyes. “Oh great, here we go again. Give it a rest, Jane. Or wait, who are you now?”

“Doesn’t matter. No one you’re ever going to hear about. Thinks he’s a poet because he sees symbolism in a Pabst beer can, fer chrissakes.” Jane slapped another card down in disgust. “Lousy freakin’ hand.”

“What do you think, Smith?” asked Cigar. “You used to muse for the best of the best. They assigned you to the Beats, and half the Enlightenment was your clientele. What’s the real state of affairs out there?” Cigar waved his stub around like he was shooing a fly. “Me, I ain’t left this place in generations. I keep getting assigned to all these people who don’t do anything creative their whole lives.”

Smith took a pack of cigarettes out of his blazer and shook one free. He snicked open his lighter and waited to take a good drag off the slender stick before responding. “It’s pretty bad,” he finally agreed, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “My current client has a lot of talent, but she’s really insecure. Petrified of what people will think of her novel. Thing is, it’s actually a pretty good story.”

“‘Oh, look at me, I’m so insecure,'” Jane mocked. “‘I’m a poor insecure unappreciated novelist.'” He snorted as he studied his hand and moved the cards around. “Look around this place. Some brilliant talent here. Most of us have been cooped up here so long, entire schools of literature have come and gone without us. Now it’s all fancy algorithms and software and arcs and triangles. Gimmicks, all of them.”

Cigar nodded vigorously. “Damn straight. I see my writer apply for an MFA, I start packin’ my bags,” he said. “‘Cause he’s not calling me anymore after that.”

Smith tried to laugh dismissively. “Come on, guys. It’s not that bad.”

Jane pointed a finger in Smith’s face. “Laugh all you want, Chuckles. But at least you got someone who knows to call on her muse. The writers I used to work with would bleed on their typewriters just to get that one perfect adjective. Now they toss and turn all night over whether their stuff is search-engine optimized.” Jane lilted his voice and flopped his wrist, then waved in disgust. “I’m a muse, not a damn wet-nurse.”

Cigar pointed to a dark corner way in the back, where a scruffy crew of muses barely stirred. “At least we’re not design muses like those poor stiffs. People are still writing, at least. But man, since the 1960s most of those guys haven’t had a day’s work from any of their clients. And since the web?” He made a whistling sound and shook his head sadly, then went back to paying attention to his cards.

Smith looked up at the travel poster on the marble wall above them, lit by the squares of sunlight in the arched ceiling. A fairy-tale muse, looking like something Disney would have created. “Make the World a Better Place One Person at a Time,” it said in faded red lettering below the image. “Be a Muse.” It was seeing a poster very similar to that when he was just a cherub that inspired him to go into muse training over the objections of both his parents. Most of the time, he had been happy with the work. Generations of writers of all kinds had called on him as an unseen collaborator, to nudge and guide when necessary, urge and threaten when required. But always welcomed, and sometimes begged for. He had been coach, confessor, and friend to many people, and his track record was such that he usually had his pick of assignments.

But for a long time, he had seen the station filling up with more and more unwanted muses, as fewer and fewer people called on them. Had the world really begun to forget what it meant to be creative?

Smith tossed his cigarette stub on the floor and ground it out. “They’re going to remember us again,” he said firmly.

Jane snorted. “What makes you think so?”

Smith shrugged again, but this time smiling as if at a well-kept secret. “We’ve been in this business for a long time. We’ve seen it come and go, wax and wane, lots of times. Remember the Middle Ages?”

Cigar and Jane both grumbled in reluctant agreement.

“Well, what was it about the Middle Ages that made the Renaissance possible?”

Cigar rolled his eyes. “Stress. Oppression. The usual. Look, we all know the formula. Real art comes from suffering of some kind, whether it’s personal or societal.”

“Yeah,” said Smith. “And fretting over bad SEO or declining hit rates isn’t real suffering.”


“So,” Smith said, as if the point was perfectly obvious. “Look at all the real suffering going on now. And there’s plenty more to come. Business should be picking up again in no time. Come on fellows, show a little faith.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” the old saying goes, “because someday you might get it.” Creativity, economists tell us, is a leading indicator of the health of any society. But what they fail to appreciate is that the relationship is an inverse one. If you really want to increase creativity, you might be surprised — and not a little distressed — to learn what the price will be. An object lesson in zero-sum economics, courtesy of . . . The Event Horizon.

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