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Playing War

The damp foxhole eight-year-old Peter was crouched in had been punched into the dirt road by a solitary shell, possibly misfired from a gun of monstrous proportions. It was a grey early spring morning. The snow had turned into a cold rain, but Peter was not perturbed by the icy water seeping into his tattered shoes or the face numbing blasts of wind. He kept his eyes fixed on the edge of the forest sporadically pulling the trigger of an imaginary machine gun to cut down wave after wave of snarling Russians as they emerged from between the trees.
“Na na na na na,” the boy chattered to simulate the sound of machine gun fire.
“Reload!” He shouted before pulling the invisible bolt back to resume firing.
“Na na na na!”
“How’s the defense of our village going soldier?”
Peter looked over his shoulder and saw two soldiers with rifles slung over their shoulders. Each of them clenched a burning cigarette between their lips. Their gray uniforms were baggy, and they kept having to lift up the bri…

Idle Time

At the age of sixteen, Justin didn’t have the emotional capacity for anything eschatological. As an organism he was in the growth phase of life that was going to culminate into a physical and mental prime. The end was so far out of sight for Justin that to him the concept of dying was so abstract he considered it to be more of a possibility than an inevitable conclusion.
Armageddon was a term with a definition he knew in the academic sense, but in practice, the destruction of civilization was not a set o circumstances his developing mind could adapt to much less comprehend. Even as he lay in bed playing a game that immersed him in the charred remains of a city infested with bandits and irradiated monsters the far bleaker reality that existed above the layers of rock and steel. The global typhoon of fire immolating the word was the last light on earth and once it burned out all that would be left was the cold dark shroud of nuclear winter.
Besides the move to the underground quarter…

Long Live The Emperor!

The old man paced back and forth, the time it took to cover the eight feet between the faded white walls was extended by his shuffling pace. He ran his bony fingers through his wire-thin white hair and mumbled into the stale air of the sparsely furnished room.
“Block the sea lanes and deploy an airborne force behind their defensive line!” he ordered his phantom military chiefs. “I want air strikes covering the landings,” he added decisively.
The whithered geriatric issuing orders to an empty room was a decaying relic that had the misfortune of outliving his purpose. His dissolving mind kept him living in a world of memories a waking life closer to a dream than reality.  He spent his dwindling existence conversing with ghosts and fighting battles long since won and lost. Empires devoured Emperors, but he had outlived the intrigued and vanquished his foes, and now when it was most apparent he couldn't understand what a misfortune that may have been. The end of his reign was anticlim…

Informed

Commerce, education, and most importantly the creation, distribution, and consumption of information previously human endeavors had been usurped by the alternate universe that is the sum of every digital device that keeps its human users connected to the rapidly encroaching reality of an omnipresent network that bound the world in its fiberoptic web. The world once a place far too large and complex for any single human to understand could be condensed and reshaped into something for rapid electronic consumption. Information drowned out reality. Inevitably the masters of the information industry engineered a final break between the physical world and the world of information, and that’s when Crystal Ball was born.
“It’s an AI program designed to generate news twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.” Adam explained to the little camera lens embedded on his laptop.”With a click of the mouse, the 33-year-old programmer turned whistleblowing rouge took it upon himself to sacrifice his l…

One Step Ahead

Cassius was on his hands and knees frantically crawling through the long grass as it gently swayed in the late summer breeze. His horse was standing on the side of the stone road indifferently grazing while his rider muttered and cursed. Cassius was a messenger who had been charged with delivering the most valuable trophy in the whole of the empire. Failure would mean death.  Of course not before some unimaginably cruel torture that could only be devised by the sort of minds suited to wield imperial power.
He looked at the empty bag with its lose rope that was meant to hold it shut limply hanging to the side. He threw it on the ground in frustration and stomped it into the dirt. He couldn’t understand how the knot had even come undone. It had to be the work of sadistic gods who of all the people in the world seemed to take a particular delight in tormenting him. This final bit of mischief was their grand finale, and surely they’d be chuckling as they watched his head roll along the m…

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Crimson Dust

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The distant world with its surface of crimson dust was like a blood-stained ornament hanging in the heavens that attracts with a magnetic force the violent impulses woven into the superficial artifice of the reasonable human being. That macabre association perhaps just as much as reasonable proximity was what compelled the mightiest civilization to seek a new home in the bosom of their celestial god of war.
Justin was just eight years old, but from the time his developing brain was able to understand language, it was filled with fantastical tales about the great utopia their ancestors built among the stars. Despite the naivety of his age he never had any reason to doubt the ability of his forebears to accomplish such a feat. He grew up in the ruins of a world they had abandoned because it was no longer good enough, and the civilization they had discarded was far beyond anything Justin’s people could being to comprehend let alone hope to ever match in any regard. In just a few hours J…

Murky Water

The three-story house of paper and wood with its multiple slanted pitched roofs, square windows, and sliding doors was built in the traditional Japanese style. Despite the delicacy of the structure it had somehow survived the storm of fire the conquering army had rained down on the rest of the country. Ornamental paper lanterns were strung up along the front of the building, and a bulky gas-powered generator kept the interior so brightly lit the electric yellow glow cast distorted human silhouettes on the paper doors. It was a bastion of decadence and debauchery that stood out in stark contrast to the charred landscape where limbless beggars quietly held up empty wooden bowls, and emaciated war orphans scavaged any sustenance they could from the growing piles of refuse choking the streets.   Dejected masses of disbanded imperial soldiers with no army and no home drank themselves to death regretting having missed their only opportunity for an honorable death. The balmy summer air was t…