The nearest cloud cluster was sixty miles away, almost an hour’s journey if Bombay went at top speed. A fruit trader had seen it on her way to Sabon-Gari, floating lazily across the azure sky. “You don’t see that often,” the trader had said to the crowd, grappling her basket of mangoes. “A whole cluster, untethered, unbothered, what a sight! So you see why you have to buy my mangoes, they’ve been blessed by clouds!”
Whit got lost in 1971 and couldn’t find her way back. She hit the fail-safe button but nothing happened, and meanwhile she kept getting thrown off by all the foreign landmarks, which turned the city into a maze. The Embarcadero Freeway, this wall of reinforced concrete, cut across the waterfront, with a view of the half-finished Transamerica Pyramid and the scorched ruins on Alcatraz. On Ocean Beach, scores of people squatted among cardboard
Ursa Major got right the fuck out of our universe on the very afternoon she learned there were other options. It was the lucky break of her life that she just happened to be there, a short sprint from one of those points where the alien aethertrain briefly punched through into our world: a multidimensional mechanical worm intersecting our reality as a rush of vaguely boxcar-like shapes.
Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Would you like to? Stowaways is a groundbreaking work of memetic art that, when originally premiered, raised an ethical controversy about the consensuality of artistic experience. In the 2060s researchers developed information-dense images that could deliver code to the biocomputational apparatus of the human mind, raising memetics out of the low-brow world of social media to the plane of high culture.
This Brian has blue eyes. It’s too bad, because everything else is the same—the dark wavy hair and high cheekbones, the slight wrinkle under his right eye. Even his beard is combed in the same neat, identical rows. He was so close. So, so close. For a moment, I fantasize about choosing this Brian. He’s almost perfect. Hell, I even prefer blue eyes over brown ones.
The wide yawning sky. We stare at unfamiliar stars, seeking familiar patterns in their strange configurations. Here is a cup and there a bear. A queen reclined and all the fish in the endless seas. The universe is more boundless than we know. Maybe than we can know. We left everything behind for this, everything. We won’t return home—can’t return home.
“It’s not working,” Tsayaba says. She shakes her head in disgust. “Kai!” “Just wait,” Ouma says, adjusting her scarf with shivering hands. “Yi hankali. Give it a minute.” It’s a cold, dusty day—harmattan season is so unpredictable now, even with the weather drones they balloon up from Zinder and Niamey. The sky is choked gray, so full of dust that the sun is a smeary yellow blob that makes Ouma think of a lemon candy.
Attached, please find your personal company-issued Breathing Apparatus, for immediate use within all corporate campus unfiltered air locations! This includes all outdoor locations, such as: the parking lots; the parking garage; the smoker’s hut; the paths between the buildings; the shuttlebus waiting area; the tennis court; and the corporate golf course.
“At least when I tell the fucking machine I don’t want pickles, it remembers that I don’t want pickles. Now, what goes on behind the counter is another story. They hire people who can barely read. But at least I’m trusting my order to something intelligent.” The man was talking into his phone, but the four people working in the kitchen could hear him. POS141 could hear him, too. All three of them had heard versions of this speech every day since the ordering kiosks had been installed. Quickly and quietly, the staff made his food. It was hot, fresh, safe, and contained no pickles.
I only met Mr. Compton once, but he was easy: fifty years old, twice divorced, thin black hair with gray roots, expensive off-the-rack suit, office shoes with rubber soles, an expensive gold watch on one wrist and an expensive smartwatch on the other, sunglasses inside, a smile on the outside. He told me that he loved “hot jazz.” He told me that he had never truly been in love. He told me that his favorite film was Breathless. These were all lies, but lies are much more revealing than the truth. Truth is molded by the real; lies are shaped like our souls. So I could see Mr. Compton very clearly