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.”


The Event HorizonFor hours, the chatter of crickets had been the only sound along this stretch of night-time highway until the sound of a distant car engine gradually emerged from somewhere off to the right. As the sound grew, a glow from the same direction began to eclipse the moonlight. The sound and light increased swiftly until a large black Buick sedan thundered by, barely visible in the dark behind its bright headlights. In its wake, nothing but dim red lights on the tail fins and the Dopplered strains of watered-down AM-station jazz.

Inside the car, a large man thumped the steering wheel to the beat of the music and hummed loudly and off-key. He wore rolled-up shirtsleeves and was sweating in the mid-August night. “Ahh, there’s nothing out here in the middle of nowhere,” the man growled, running a beefy hand through his iron-gray crewcut. “Got to stay awake somehow. Have to make it there by nine o’clock.” The man looked at his watch. “Can’t be late.”

He picked up a map off the passenger seat and nearly tore it as he tried to locate the road. “Lousy gas station attendant. ‘Just down the road a couple of miles,’ he says. ‘Just a couple of miles.’ Yeah, well that was forty-five minutes ago and I haven’t . . .”

The headlights briefly landed on a neon sign for a motel along the side of the road. As the car passed, the driver caught a glimpse: “ARE YOU TIRED?”

He laughed mirthlessly as the sign disappeared behind him into the dark. “Yeah, you better believe I’m tired. On the road three weeks and I can’t make any sales in this lousy stinking county. Does Harris listen to me? Nah, of course not. ‘Last chance, Worthing,'” he says to me. ‘This county is your territory. Make some sales or don’t bother coming back.’ Lousy . . .” He hit the steering wheel again. “Like that kid knows how to make a sale. Up there in his air-conditioned office instead of out here closing deals. Well, buddy, I’ve been in the business for twenty years! I know how to make a sale! Lousy stinking county . . . ”

“But it’s all about to change, just you watch, Mister Smarty-Pants Harris. When I get to Central City I’ll swing that new client of yours and make my quota for the month. I’ll show you how it’s done. Yeah.” He laughed with exaggerated confidence. “Even Edwina will finally shut up. ‘When are you going to make it big, Walter? You keep telling me that the next one will change everything. When do we get the sofa you promised me? The kids need new shoes, Walter. New shoes don’t grow on trees, Walter.'”

Worthing shook his head to bring himself back to the present, and fumbled with the map some more. “Where the devil am I?”

Ahead, a sign for a roadside diner a few miles down the road announced, “YOU’RE NOT FAR NOW.”

The man laughed derisively. “Yeah, sure. I never get anywhere on time. No matter how hard I try, I’m always late. But I can’t be late for this one. Can’t get lost this time.” He threw the map back on the passenger seat. “There’s got to be a sign somewhere on this godforsaken road. There aren’t enough signs. Why aren’t there more signs to tell me where to go? Sometimes a man loses his sense of direction in life . . . ”

In the headlights, a sign for a church blurred by. “MAYBE IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT, WALTER.”

Stunned, Worthing jammed on the brakes and pulled wildly over to the shoulder, kicking up gravel. He sat there for a second, replaying in his mind what he had just seen. After a few seconds, he released the brake, turned around, and drove back to the sign.


He rubbed his face and eyes as the shock wore off, then shook his head and laughed ruefully at himself. “Great. Now I’m seeing things.” He put the car in gear, turned carefully around onto the highway, and accelerated into the night.

Meet Mister Walter Worthing, age 47. Occupation, traveling salesman. Like many men in his profession, Mister Worthing is overworked, underpaid, and chronically late to his next appointment, which always seems to lie just past the next town, the next sales pitch, the next lucky break.

Tonight, however, Mister Worthing will find himself for once arriving at his destination on time. For this particular appointment is with his own destiny, which he will meet just a little further down the highway, just past a lonely crossroads and a sign that marks the county line . . . of The Event Horizon.

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Vox Populi

The Event HorizonThe spotlights followed the young dancer she walked across the stage amid thundering applause, green lights flashing wildly on the scoreboard on the wall behind her. She paused one more time to bow deeply in evident relief, then disappeared behind the curtain.

The jazzy interstitial music swelled and the the spots swung back across the stage. A moment later, they captured a figure walking onto the stage, his shiny blazer reflecting the dazzling white light. The man walked confidently to the center of the stage, clapping for the dancer, as the applause swelled ever louder. As he took the microphone off its center-stage stand, he raised his other hand in a gesture that both thanked the audience and asked for silence.

“Wasn’t she wonderful, ladies and gentlemen? And not a bit of it was original, of course. Every move, every note borrowed from others, mixed together with the approval of her friends! And judging from the scores I see behind me, our audience approves too.” The crowd burst into a fresh wave of clapping. “And now I’d like to bring out our next guest on tonight’s edition of ‘Popularity,’ the show where the young of age and the young of heart get to vote on who’s hot and who’s cool — and who isn’t allowed to stay.”

As the music and applause died down, the host continued more somberly. “Next up, ladies and gentlemen, we have a very special contestant on ‘Popularity.’ He is said to be the last of his kind, a man who has survived in our society against all odds, a man who by all rights shouldn’t even be here anymore. And tonight, you will have your chance — and of course your duty — to decide whether he will continue to the next round of ‘Popularity’ — or leave us. Will you welcome, please, John Smith!”

The spotlights swung across the stage in the direction the host pointed, and landed on a pale, thin man as he stumbled out onto the stage. The man shambled in the direction of the host as the sound of laughter rose above the applause. When he reached the middle of the stage, he turned to face the crowd but could discern only row upon row of shadows behind the bright stage lights that reflected off his round spectacles. He raised his hand in a futile effort to shade the light and see into the audience — knowing that in the crowd was everyone he knew.

There’s an old saying: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” It may be a good rule to live by, but history has shown that it tends to apply only when the consequences promise to affect the judge as much as the judged.

This is a story about a society that has turned judgment into a game, and about a man who has the misfortune of being unpopular in a world where ‘popularity’ is a necessary precondition for survival. It’s a world that could happen tomorrow, but for the moment, at least, it is safely nestled in one of the darker corners . . . of The Event Horizon.

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Brain Child

The Event Horizon“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice, Doctor,” the nervous young man said as he extended his hand.

As the doctor shook the man’s pale hand, he noted that it felt unusually cold. “Certainly. From your phone call it sounded rather urgent, and I just happened to have a cancellation.” He gestured for the man to sit on the leather couch in the center of the spacious, oak-paneled office.

“Thank you. I think it is urgent.” The man bolted for the sofa and lay down, folding and unfolding his hands repeatedly on his chest while the doctor sat, retrieved his notebook and uncapped his pen, and looked at the man expectantly. While he waited, he sipped from a cup of coffee on the chair-side table.

The man seemed to have trouble knowing where to begin speaking. He stared anxiously at the fireplace, as if the warm glow of the flames could melt his fears.

“Why don’t you start by telling me what you do for a living?” prompted the doctor after a beat.

“Well, that’s part of the problem, doctor.”

“What do you mean?”

“You see, I don’t really know what I do. Or who I really am.”

The doctor put down his notebook and looked over the rims of his eyeglasses at the man fidgeting on the couch. “Do you mean that you are suffering from amnesia?”

“No. Yes. well, that is, I don’t really know if that’s what it is. I know that yesterday I wrote advertising. Then I was a screenwriter.”

The doctor chuckled. “It’s not uncommon for creative people to feel as if their identities are intimately bound up with their work . . . ”

“No! That’s not what I mean!” The man sat upright and turned to face the doctor. “I mean, one minute I have a job in an advertising office, with a secretary and a boss and friends who I’ve known for years, and then . . . poof! They’re all gone. I’m in another building with different friends and a different boss, and I feel like I’ve known them for years too! But I remember the other people, but no one knows them. And then then the next day, I wake up and I’m on the train going to somewhere completely different, as if that was normal!”

“That’s very unusual.”

The man laughed sardonically, desperately. “You’re telling me, doc! I’d say it’s ‘very unusual’ to wake up with a blonde wife and come home to dinner with a redhead!”

“Now just calm down . . . ”

“I can’t, doc!” The man pulled out a handkerchief and patted his damp brow. “This has been going on every day for years. Or days. Or minutes. I don’t know anymore! My whole world keeps changing. I can’t go anywhere, do anything anymore!” He began twisting the handkerchief in his hands. “I’m afraid to leave because I can’t be sure that I’ll find out that the place I left isn’t even there anymore! Everywhere I leave disappears!

Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed,”‘Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.” Of course, Emerson’s point assumes that a man knows whom he is quoting. Case in point: young Harold Blank, who until recently was quite sure of the words he spoke.

Now, Mister Blank finds himself untethered to past or present, and quite fearful that he may have no future. As he is about to discover, the existential paralysis from which he suffers can only be treated by an extended stay in the special care ward . . . of The Event Horizon.

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Three Seconds

The Event Horizon“T – minus five minutes and counting.”

“All systems are go, repeat, all systems are go.”

“This is mission commander. Recheck all systems and calibrate time keeping devices.”

“T minus 4 minutes and forty-five seconds…mark.”

Time. The only commodity we cannot buy or sell. The most precious aspect of life. The one thing humanity cannot manufacture. Yet some are not satisfied with the time they are given. They must claim more, or even take time from elsewhere. Trying to beat the immutable law of time opens a gateway. A gateway that leads to… The Event Horizon.

“T minus four minutes… mark.”

Glenn Kasner adjusted the electrode on the right side of his chest. He knew the monitoring was essential for the mission, but it was just plain uncomfortable. Actually, sitting in the chair for another four minutes before they threw the switch is what made Kasner squirm.

Why couldn’t they just get it over with, thought Kasner. As a physicist at Recalcitrant’s Applied Physics Division, Kasner explored a possible glitch in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He developed a way of not changing matter into energy to transcend time.

His experiments were proven somewhat successful. He sent several inanimate objects through time. He was able to send his paperweight two weeks into the future. He even sent a couple laboratory rats with great success. Of course, it was now time to try it on humans.

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Love Charm

The Event HorizonThe sign of the run-down looking store read, “Nevets: Purveyors of Mysteries of the Universe Since 4.”

Bob Wilkerson tried to find a safe place to park. He worried about getting a ding on his new Studebaker Commander Starliner. He found a nearby “safe” spot and walked to the address. He paused reading the sign, assuming several of the digits fell from the date. He could not find what hours the store was actually opened. He tried the door. It opened.

The line between myth and reality can sometimes become blurred. Facts and figures can deceive and mislead. Truth can be turned inside out. All these elements, in the quest of true love, can lead to the door of…The Event Horizon

Stepping inside, his way was blocked by a bright polished brass grate over an interior door. He tried to pen it and found it locked. He turned to leave.

“Greeting, effendi,” a voice called from within the room. “If you wish to come inside you must first removed your shoes.”

Bob looked around and saw a small bench, he sat. He thought he was being stupid being here, but Eddie said these people had all sorts of things that might help. And he was a little desperate. The moment he took off his shoes and placed them on the empty rack, he heard a click from the grate.

He stood touched the grate, it opened with a slight metallic squeal. On the other side of the grate stood a short man, dressed in a brown robe and wearing a headdress most common to the Sikh religion.

The man smiled. “Greetings, effendi,” he said. “Welcome to out humble establishment. I, your servant Sahir, am most honored to help you in your needs.”

“Is Mr. Nevets in?” Bob asked.

“Oh, I am so saddened that he is not here to greet you, effendi. He is travelling to nether regions to replenish our supply of diminishing goods,” Sahir said. “I shall humbly to help you in this most important occasion.”

“I am told that this store has access to items that are both magical and practical.”

“You have great wisdom of both these facts, effendi. Is there something special you require?”

“There is a young woman, at my office that I wish to impress. I have become, somewhat infatuated with her.”

Sahir smiled and held up a finger. “Ah, yes, I understand, effendi. I have just the thing. It has been know to work wonders with the opposite sex. Just one moment, please.”

Sahir disappeared leaving Bob to explore. The store held quite a few fascinating objects. He found a dusty glass display case with a silver bottle inside. The bottle appeared to be filled with an odd substance.

“Ah, pardon, effendi,” Sahir said wiping the dust from the case. “It has been too busy to clean of late.”

“What is this?” Bob asked.

“It is from the first sale that Nevets ever made. Money from that sale was used to open stores all over the universe.”

“Really? What is it?”

“This was a substance ordered by the wise man Balthazar for a long journey. It is known as Frankincense.”

“You mean this company really started in the year 4?”

“That is what I have been told, effendi. I was not there at the time,” Sahir pointed out. He held up a heart shaped charm. “I believe I have found that which you seek.”

Bob reached for the item, Sahir pulled it away.

“No, sorry, effendi, you must not touch. It is very powerful. You should only touch it when you are ready and only after I have explained all the dangers.”

“Dangers? What kind of dangers?”

“Ah,” Sahir said. “There are several. This is a very strong charm that acts very quickly. I guarantee that the young lady in question will be immediately smitten by love for you. Yet you must be aware that using this charm may cause a change in you.”

“What kind of change?”

“One never knows, I am afraid. These changes may be temporary or they may be permanent. This charm affects all differently.”

“Are you sure it works?”

“It has never failed.”

“How much?”

“Ah, effendi, this charm is not for sale. All we can do is rent it to you for a short time. It must be returned after it has accomplished its task. We only charge a small service fee.”

“I want to use it, Mr. Sahir.”

“Here, fill out this form and attach our fee. You must only put this on when you will see her within an hour. As you approach her, you must tap the charm three times.”

“Seems simple enough, Mr. Sahir,” Bob said. He took the charm, leaving the form and left.


Three days later a young woman walked to the door. She looked trying to see the hours. Not seeing them, she transferred the cat to her shoulder and pulled the door open. She found herself in a wood paneled anteroom sealed by a large brass gate. She saw the sign about removing her shoes, and did so. The gate clicked and she pushed her way into the store. She saw a small gentleman wearing a robe and a turban.

The man bowed as she walked in, “Greetings and welcome to our humble establishment. I am your servant Sahir and am happy to assist you.”

“Is Mr. Nevets in?” she asked.

“I am sorry to inform you that Mr. Nevets is on a buying expedition in nether regions to replenish our supply of diminishing goods. During his absence he appointed me to serve in his stead.”

“This cat wondered in our office yesterday morning. I see by its tag that it must belong to Mr. Nevets.”

“No, I am afraid that Mr. Nevets or this establishment has not owned a cat in nearly three hundred years.”

The young woman seemed miffed. “The tag clearly states that this should be returned here.”

Sahir examined the tag. It was a bright polished silver charm in a heart shape, engraved, “Return to Nevets” on one side.

“Ah,” Sahir said. “I assure you that this cat does not belong to use. The return notice is meant for the charm.”

“The charm?”

“The little silver tag belongs to Mr. Nevets.”

“What about the cat?”

“That depends on you.”

“Well,” she hesitated. “I really like this cat, and it seems to like me. Would there be a problem keeping it?”

“Not at all. All I would require is the tag; you certainly can keep the cat.”

She removed the tag and handed it to Sahir. “Here that snokums, we can be together after all.”

“The cat’s name is Bob,” Sahir said.

“Bob?” the woman sneered. “That reminds me of that creepy guy in accounting.”

“You may name him whatever you wish.”

The meeting of love and magic can upset the delicate balance of the universe. Forces such as these can sometimes lead to unfortunate results. Bob Wilkerson used an unfailing charm to force an unwilling love. Yet, the result was what he was promised and less than he hoped for. Such are the tales of…The Event Horizon.

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The Event HorizonThe elderly man stared at the swinging pendulum of the grandfather clock, unconsciously counting each tick and tock as he had done every evening for years. Without losing count, he looked around at the floor-to-ceiling oak bookcases lining his darkened study. He grunted as he struggled up from his deeply padded leather reading chair and shuffled over to the case in the far corner. He reached out a bony, pale hand to take down the first volume.

Like every other volume in the man’s study, the one he held was bound in yellow leather, marked only by a gold-embossed year printed on a red stripe on the spine. Then he shuffled back to his chair, his knees popping as he sat back down, and turned on a green-shaded reading lamp next to his chair. The cone of light pierced the gloom, catching dust motes that scarcely moved in the still air.

Just as the man prepared to open the volume, there was a knocking on the study door, not much louder than the ticking clock.

“Mister Canby?”

“Yes, Miss Thorne,” the old man replied, his voice as dry and dusty as his study.

“Would you like your tea now?”

“Yes, please.” The door opened and the maid brought in a single cup of tea and placed it on the table next to the man’s chair.

“Just the way you like it, sir.” Miss Thorne tried to sound cheerful, but it was hard keeping the sadness from her voice as she looked at the slumped figure of Canby sitting alone with nothing but his memories.

“Thank you, dear,” he whispered. “It’s time once again for my anniversary ritual.”

“Very good sir.” She almost placed her hand on his shoulder in a gesture of sympathy, but remembered that he hated being touched, and so kept her hands folded in front of her. Then she turned and left the study, and closed the door behind her. Once again, there was nothing but the sound of the clock as Canby looked at the volume in his lap. Slowly, reverently, he opened the first volume in his lifetime’s worth of handwritten journals, and began reading the first entry.

“Today I met the most wonderful girl quite by accident,” the first entry began in exuberant script. “We were both boarding the trolley at the same time, and I nearly stepped on her skirt. We had the most delightful conversation. I feel so happy that I want to write about it. I feel my life has changed, irrevocably, for the better.”

Canby flipped ahead to the next entry. “Despite my promise, I didn’t call on the sweet, charming girl that I met on the trolley yesterday. I fear I am too shy. Perhaps tomorrow . . . ”

Canby sighed, picking up his tea cup and staring at the clock while he sipped it.

We are what we know. Or, at least, that’s what we are told since childhood. Our memories are the building blocks of our identity. But when our earliest memories are regrets — like those of Mister Archibald Canby here tonight — we risk building our identities on foundations of sand. However, as our Mister Canby is about to discover, sand is also a very useful raw material.

Canby found his vision blurring as he continued to read entry after entry filled with regret and missed opportunity. He brusquely wiped away the tears as he looked around the shelves. He knew exactly where all the key moments were. Volume 2, page 94: he hears from a friend that the young lady he met on the trolley has moved out of town. Volume 6, page 74: he reads in the paper that she is engaged to a wealthy lawyer. Volume 34, page 127: Canby listens on the radio as the lawyer is inaugurated governor. Volume 37, page 14: the lady, by now a mother of three handsome and successful children, opens a hospital. His bookcases are a map of his regret.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, he thought — as he did on this date every year — if he could somehow talk to himself as a young man and convince him to overcome his shyness just that once?

His counter-argument was always the same: she lived a successful and famous life as a happy mother, the lifetime chair of the hospital board, a patron of the arts, who gave back so much. She would not have been able to do those things had he wooed her, he had convinced himself. No, she had been better off without him.

This evening, however, he decided nonetheless to let himself dare imagine what it might have been like. His doctor had said he might not have another anniversary like this in which to try.

Canby put his tea down and closed his eyes.

* * *

The young man adjusted his cravat for what seemed like the hundredth time as he strolled up the street toward the young lady’s house. He nervously glanced at the back of his carte de visite, on which she had jotted her address after their trolley ride and the lovely conversation they had shared.

The house was a modest one, set back from the road enough for the flowers and freshly-trimmed bushes to spread out. They seemed as happy and bright as the young lady.

He paused at the gate, then with a final nod of assurance opened it and walked up the steps. He cleared his throat as he knocked on the door.

A moment later, the door was opened by a beautiful young woman. When she saw him, her face brightened. “Archie!” she cried out. “Please come in!”

* * *

Shortly after dawn, the maid knocked on the door and carefully entered the study. “Mister Canby?” She could see him asleep in his chair, smiling peacefully. “Poor man,” she said quietly. “Fell asleep reading again, did you?”

She opened the drapes to let the morning sun flood in the bright, pastel-colored study. The maid busied herself watering the flower pots hanging on the walls and covering the grand piano that dominated the room.

“Here, let me take that for you.” She lifted the scrapbook from his lap, glancing at the headlines of the newspaper clippings. “Dahlia Morningwood, Archibald Canby to Wed.” “Lady Dahlia Canby Opens Hospital.” “Internationally Famous Musician Archibald Canby and Family Tours America.” She glanced at the photo, showing a young Mister Canby and his beaming bride with their three children. “Pianist Archie Canby, with his beloved wife and children . . . ” She closed the book carefully and returned it to the bookshelf with all the other scrapbooks of his busy, full, and happy life.

Canby stirred, stretched, and yawned.

“Good morning, Lucille,” he said.

“Good morning, Mister Canby. Mrs. Canby will be down to breakfast soon. And your grandchildren are waiting for you.”

Down the hall, running feet could be heard heading toward the study. “Grampa! Grampa!”

“Where are you, my little rapscallions? I’ll catch you this time!” Canby bounded out of his chair and ran out of the room. Squeals of laughter echoed into the study as Canby caught and hugged his grandchildren.

Lucille smiled and shook her head. “He has the energy of a man half his age,” she said as she dusted. “Love will do that to you, they say.”

The blueprints that we use to build the architecture of our memory can, with effort and determination, be altered. First, however, you must apply for a permit, which you can find in the planning office . . . of The Event Horizon.

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The Orb of Souls

The Event HorizonThe lady Carolyn Dunnington of Durham re-entered the exhibition hall after the tour. The other guests had gone to their champagne and hor’dourves in the reception hall at the Louvre. It was time to work.

She could not believe her luck or the stupidity of Louvre for inviting her here. She thought it was known that her title was just a cover. Her real name was Penelope Wilton, aka “Penny Whistler” the notorious art and jewel thief.

Penelope Wilton is about to make the score of her life. What she doesn’t realize is that some things are best left as they are. Penelope is about to find out that her plan is taking her to… The Event Horizon.

She wondered if her name or file was expunged by the Nazis while they occupied Paris. Maybe it was randomly burned in the war. Yet for the last seven years, she and the Louvre had effectively ignored one another. She wondered if the Rubens’ she switched before the war still hung there. She kept the original hidden behind a Cézanne that she legitimately purchased at an auction in New York.

Still, checking out her work before retiring is not why she came. Tonight was an incredible opportunity. Not seen since the mid-20’s, the Louvre had a special showing of the rarest of all gems, the Orb of Souls.

The Orb of Souls was found in ancient Persia by the trader know only as “Nevets” between the time of Christ’s birth and death. It was said to have placed his soul in thrall and cast him in eternal slavery. Rumors always persisted that this Nevets still lived as a slave to this day. Certainly the Nevets’ stores were found just about anywhere. Penelope thought that this was just Arab traders cashing in on an old myth. Perhaps this myth was invented by some conglomeration.

Still, the Orb of Souls had value. Incalculable value! Enough value for an aging jewel thief to come out of retirement. She approached the entrance to the gallery.

“Pardon me,” she asked the guard in a perfect Oxford accent. “Is this where they keep ‘The Village Fête’ by Rubens?”

“Oui, Madame. It is near the special exhibition.”

“May I go see it?”

“But of course. You do not wish to be at the reception?”

Penelope laughed. “When you get to be a bit older, all that seems much too frivolous. I am here just for the art. But then you work here. Tell me, do the paintings really talk?”

The guard laughed. “Go, listen to them. If you need assistance I will be here, Henri will be at the other end.”

Fools! She thought. You joke when the one of the world’s biggest treasures is about to disappear.

She walked around the first display. The gem was in a case between the fourth and fifth. Neither guard could see it from their stations. Idiots!

Between the second and third displays she knelt down. She placed her purse on the floor, out of sight of the guards. She removed her everyday items and placed them as if they were tossed about. She was careful not to make a sound. She continued walking making sure the sound of her heels resounded of the marble floor.

She reached the fourth display. Her rendition of the Rubens work hung with pride. She bent down to take a closer look. She smiled, the fourth villager from the left played a penny whistle, her trademark. She wanted to laugh at the ineptness. But now was not the time.

With the greatest of care, she removed her shoes. She laid them both on their sides. She then approached the Orb of Souls.

The glass case was not sealed. There were no alarms anywhere. The Orb lay on a small pad. It seemed smaller that the pictures for the last exhibition. Looking back at the Rubens, she had an odd feeling. This is too easy and too perfect!

She again looked at the gem. The Orb of Souls was dazzling; colors swirled and danced. It seemed to look like an opal with the fire of the finest diamond. She decided she had to have it no matter the risk.

Still wearing her long silk evening gloves she tried the glass case. It moved easily with no alarm. She bent over the glass top to slide her other hand in. she lifted the gem, still no alarm. She held it in front of her, mesmerized by the display.

Looking to make sure all was clear; she lifted to her mouth and swallowed it. She had to gulp several times to get it down.

When it was down, she pushed the glass over, slow enough to by herself a few microseconds. She threw herself down next to her shoes and screamed, “Help! Help!” the exact second the glass shattered.

The guards came running. “Madame! Are you all right?”

Penelope made a big show of trying to get off the ground. She stared at the display.

“My God! They stole the Orb of Souls!”

Henri ran to seal off the gallery. The friendly guard help Penelope sit up. She looked around. “He stole my purse!”

“Who?” the guard asked.

Penelope acted as if she were panicking. “Someone just flashed by. I heard something at the Orb of Souls display; by the time I looked he stole my purse and knocked me over.”

“Do you require medical assistance?” the guard asked.

“I don’t think so.” Penelope tried to stand. “I think I may have twisted my ankle. Do you have a place to sit?”

“There is a bench here,” the friendly guard helped her sit.

“There is no one here,” Henri said. “He must have gotten away.”

“I am sorry, I must have distracted you. I’m sure he must be in the building. Find my purse and maybe he will be there.” Penelope suggested.

“Monsieur Girard, will be here soon, Madame. He will need to ask questions.”

“Of course. It happened so fast, I didn’t get a good look.”

The wait seemed just a few seconds. There was a rattling at one of the gates. “Henri, Claude!”

“Ah, here he is now,” the guard she knew now as Claude said.

She heard the rattling of the metal gate and then approaching footsteps.

A large, sweating man in a rumpled suit came and stood in front of Penelope.

“Madame, I am Jacques Girard, head of security here at the Louvre. I am sorry that you were caught in this situation. But as prudent, I will need to ask some questions.”

“Please, Monsieur Girard. I will try to help as best as possible.”

Girard took a pad from his coat pocket, he motioned to the bench. “May I join you?”

Penelope smiled, “Certainly.”

“First I must ask is you are all right?”

“Yes, I think my ankle may have twisted, but otherwise I’m fine.”

“May I have your full name?”

“I am the Lady Carolyn Dunnington of Durham.”

“Ah,” Girard said.

“That name is familiar to you, Monsieur Girard?”

“Yes, I must say it is. Monsieur Nevets insisted you be invited.”

“There really is a Nevets?”

“Yes, I have met him myself. He will be picking up his gem later this week.”

“You sound confident you can find it.”

“He will not escape. As soon as the alarm sounded, all exits were sealed. It is just a matter of time. I know all the hiding places here, my lady.”

A commotion disturbed the conversation.

“Monsieur Girard, we have found the lady’s purse,” Claude announced. “It was dumped over near the exit.”

“Do not touch anything Claude; the police might want to check for fingerprints.”

I feel bad for the valet at the entrance, Penelope thought. I dropped my purse, just so his prints will be all over it. It doesn’t pay to be a gentleman.

“Is there anything you need from it now, my lady?” Girard asked.

Penelope shook her head.

“Tell me about the thief.”

Penelope stood and hobbled over to her shoes. She put them on and held out her arm. “He’s about this tall. He was dressed in black. That’s about all I know.”

Girard wrote in his pad. “I think he was about 5’9” by your description. Was it a black sweater, black shirt?”

Penelope sat next to Girard. She felt hot. She shook a little.

“My lady, are you all right?” Girard asked.

“I’m feeling a little strange.”

“You are coming off a traumatic event. Do you smoke? Perhaps that will calm your nerves.”

“I don’t often. Perhaps a cigarette will calm me down.”

Girard reached into his coat. “If you don’t mind, I have a Turkish blend.”

Penelope reached for one of the cigarettes. Her hand shook as she placed it between her lips. Girard lit a match and held it to her.

Why am I shaking so much? I have been in this situation before. I have no problem lying to the police.

Girard joined her in smoking. They sat on the bench is silence.

Penelope’s shaking became stronger. She felt very sweaty. Her breathy became almost gasping.

“Do you need some water?” Girard asked.

Penelope could only nod.

“Claude, could you get Lady Carolyn some water?”

“Of course, Monsieur Girard.”

Penelope watched as Claude opened the gate. She saw Girard give Henri a look that sent him to the other gate. When they were alone, Girard moved closer to Penelope.

“I am sorry, Penelope. But rest assured that it all will be over soon.”


The gate clattered open once again. Claude returned with the glass of water. He stopped at the bench, where only Girard sat. Next to him were the clothes that the Lady Carolyn was wearing.

Girard reached into the pile. He pulled out the Orb of Souls. It was twice as big.

“I think Nevets will be quite delighted to see that his plan worked,” Girard said.

“It’s a shame,” Claude replied. “She seemed nice.”

Penelope Wilton wanted to make the ultimate score. Little did she know, she was the score. Be careful what you wish for, it may get you, especially on…The Event Horizon.

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A Man of Destiny

The Event HorizonMy friend Harold Appleby always knew he was meant for something special. But it wasn’t until he was in his early thirties, when the Mysterious Object suddenly appeared, that he believed he’d found exactly what that “something special” was.

Now, before you think I’m just another one of those reporters peddling a “day in the life” story about the most famous physicist of our time, or a disgruntled relative with a scandalous story — not that there aren’t some good stories to be told, mind you — let me just set the record straight. I’ve known Harold since we were both in first grade together, and even then it was pretty apparent that he couldn’t wait to grow up and be taken seriously. Not that he didn’t have a sense of humor; he could make fiendishly clever practical joke machines out of classroom bric-a-brac or toys abandoned on the playground. Like the time he made a cannon that sprayed melted bubble gum wads and hid it in the marching band’s tuba. But even when he was doing things like that, it was like he was carefully studying how everything worked. And none of his gags ever failed to work.

The thing about Harold was that he had this amazing brain, but everything else about him was perfectly ordinary. He came from a family that had no college; his dad worked in a shoe store and his mom stayed at home raising him and his five brothers and sisters. His mom always said Harold must have been born under a lucky star, and that he had been a surprise gift. He read comic books and traded baseball cards with the rest of us normal kids. But all of a sudden he would get this look in his eyes, go off and build an engine that could heat a house for a week using nothing but three drops of cooking oil, and then come back and play dodge ball with the rest of us. He was just that kind of a kid.

So when he would talk about how he had a destiny but he didn’t know what it was yet, nobody teased him about it, but nobody took him all that seriously, either. I mean, you just had to know Harold.

All through high school, Harold was the top of his classes in science, math, shop, anything technical or brainy. It was like he was made for it. Art? Forget it. Literature? When he recited Brutus’ speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in front of the English class, he sounded like a stuttering robot. But ask him to calculate the date and place that a comet would appear if it had a such-and-such elliptical orbit, and he could do it as easily as if he was reading a box score. After a while, people stopped trying to stump him; it just got boring.

So naturally he was courted by the best science universities. But if you’d think Harold would leave our small town behind in his rear-view mirror, you don’t know Harold. He wanted to stay near his mom and dad so he could take care of them, and he wanted to stick around with his lifelong friends. Most of us never went to college (heck, I probably wouldn’t have even finished high school if he hadn’t tutored me in math and science), but that didn’t bother him. He didn’t lord it over on us how smart he was; he would help Old Man Rooster patch his roof or carry Mrs. Bovasso’s groceries home from the Shop-n-Save just like always.

They had to build a satellite campus of MIT in Jeffersonville just so they could have Harold. That’s how much they wanted him. Put our town on the map, helped steer hundreds of kids toward careers in science who would have ended up pumping gas for a living. But that’s not why Harold did it. He just didn’t want to leave home.

I asked him once if he thought that maybe it was his destiny to get the MIT campus built for the town, and he looked at me like I was from another world.

And then the Mysterious Object appeared.

Astronomers looking for asteroids spotted it first: a large cube just sitting there exactly one light year away. Spectrographic analysis showed that it was clearly made from refined metals and plastics, and it was quite probably hollow considering its mass-to-size ratio. Well. You can imagine the questions. Was there life on board? Where did it come from all of a sudden? Naturally, they called Harold to lead the team charged with figuring it out.

No one expected the answer that Harold would give.

They say that when Harold had his first look at the Mysterious Object through a telescope, he started to laugh, then grabbed the nearest sheet of paper, took a pen out of his lab coat, and in about ten seconds came up with the most outlandish theory anyone had ever heard. The Mysterious Object, Harold explained to his bewildered colleagues, wasn’t from another planet.

It was from the future. From exactly 1,400 years to the day in the future, to be exact. And it was from Jeffersonville.

People thought Harold had finally gone nuts, until he showed them the math. Now, I’m no scientist, so Harold had to really dumb it down for me. But here’s what he told me. The location of the Mysterious Object was exactly where the planet Earth would be in 1,400 years. See, the sun actually moves through space, and all the planets that orbit the sun go along for the ride. I did not know that, and I bet you didn’t either. But anyway, if the Mysterious Object were to somehow stay perfectly still, not only would the Earth be swinging by that exact spot on Tuesday, February 3rd, 1,400 years from now, the piece of Earth that would be smacking into it would be the Jeffersonville campus of MIT.

Now we all know what happened after that. The drive to explore space. The international agreements to launch colonies on the Moon and the Lagrange points. The end of the energy crisis. Peace, harmony, and plenty for all of humankind. All because people wanted to get to Mysterious Object before the Earth did, and to find out what secrets Harold (no one had any doubt that it was his idea) had left there. He always did inspire people that way.

No one was surprised when Harold invited all his family and friends from Jeffersonville to attend the ceremony where he was awarded the Nobel Prizes for Physics and Peace simultaneously, and later when he was inaugurated the first President of Earth in the UN Building in New York. After the inauguration ceremony, at the party, I saw Harold alone in a corner quietly sipping his Champagne with a smile of satisfaction. So I went over and nudged him on the shoulder, and asked him if the thought he had finally found his destiny. He nodded. Then I teased him and said I bet he knew exactly what we’d find in the Mysterious Object when we eventually got there. He shrugged and said that’s not why he was smiling. He said he had just figured out the best practical joke of all time, and he was going to let me in on the secret. No one, not even his closest colleagues at MIT, knew about it yet, he said.

I’ll always remember his exact words, and the wicked grin of a six-year-old prankster that he wore when he said it.

“It wouldn’t be enough for them to just send the Mysterious Object back to our time,” he said. “Wouldn’t they also want to go back a little further, and make sure there’d be someone around who knew exactly what he was looking at?”

As Andre Malraux once said, “When man faces destiny, destiny ends and man comes into his own.” For one Harold Appleby of Jeffersonville, this statement certainly applies. Tonight’s tale is simply a reminder that some people have to look a little farther to find their destiny. Some look to the stars, others to the wisdom of their fellow man, or to the eyes of their loved ones. Fewer still feel the urge look the farthest of all, to the outer rim — of 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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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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