The Assessment

An essay by Doctor Riya Khan, as provided by Farah Ghuznavi
Art by Justine McGreevy


I’m not crazy, you know, even if they’ve sent me to you for an assessment! That’s the first step they take with any behavior considered deviant. But the real reason is that my husband wants me committed to a Rest-and-Reprogramming facility. It’s for “self-protection,” he’s told the Meditechs. For his own protection is what Jai actually means.

The consequences of marrying a much younger man crystallised with my daughter’s arrival. Jai didn’t want to be a grown-up, let alone a father. Asian cultural conventions still favour women marrying “mature” men. But I had realised that men never grow up anyway. So their age at marriage is irrelevant.

Yet despite my passion for working with Artificial Intelligents (or AIs, as the robots I had spent my professional life crafting were more commonly known), I found myself missing human companionship. I chose Jai because I’d spent too many years soaring in that lonely space above what they once called the glass ceiling. I’d made more money from my robotics patents than I could ever spend, even in our enhanced lifetimes. I yearned for a family, for motherhood. Was that so strange?

My male range-mates were all married. Most had multi-stage families by then. Their wives just kept getting younger, until some had daughters the same age as their latest marital trophy. Little was said beyond the inevitable eye-rolling that accompanied the “men will be boys”-type comments. Yet Jai was considered my aberrant consolation prize, the rich female singleton’s “joy-boy.” Dowry violence and female feticide have been relegated to fragments of past shame in the New Subcontinent, but some visceral attitudes linger insistently on, ignoring the fact that the welcome mat wore out long ago.

Once I held Maya in my craving arms, I didn’t care what anyone thought. I used eggs that I had frozen nearly two decades ago, but carried her internally instead of seeding her in one of those ubiquitous bio-capsules that litter the maternity units these days. “Risk-free reproduction,” they call it. Pain-free as well, of course. But then, why do it, if you feel nothing?

The Assessment

So I knew what was coming when Jai brought his humanoid robot home, ostensibly to help me with childcare. He called her “Pammie.” She was modelled on some ancient TV show about lifeguards that my husband insists was once the most popular tele-video programme broadcast on Earth. Whatever!

My problem was that I felt too much. Maya was premature, tiny and vulnerable. So after surreptitious advice from an older Helptech that the colostrum would make her stronger, I set aside my inhibitions and went ahead.

But when I continued breast-feeding, Jai claimed that I was reverting to a primitive state. And of course, nothing scares us more in the 25th century than the idea that we have anything in common with our backward ancestors!


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016 collection.


Born in 2253, in the region of the New Sub-continent once known as Bangladesh, Doctor Riya Khan is one of the greatest scientific minds of our times. Renowned for her work as a roboticist, Khan has pioneered multiple breakthroughs in her area of specialization, including the development of adaptive Artificial Intelligence. Author of several works considered standard texts for robotic students, Khan wrote the New American Times bestseller Adventures in Robo-Psychology, based on her experiences as troubleshooter for I-Corp, the largest global producer of Artificial Intelligenta. Currently on a leave of absence for personal reasons, Khan lives with her husband Jai, and baby daughter Maya, in Upper Bengal-Uru.


Farah Ghuznavi is a writer, newspaper columnist, and development worker, whose writing has been widely anthologized in the UK, US, France, Canada, Germany, Singapore, India, Nepal, and her native Bangladesh. Her story “Judgement Day” was awarded in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2010, and “Getting There” placed second in the Oxford University GEF Competition. Farah was Writer in Residence with Commonwealth Writers in 2013. She edited the Lifelines anthology (Zubaan Books, 2012), and subsequently published her first short story collection Fragments of Riversong (Daily Star Books, 2013). Her Facebook author page is at: https://www.facebook.com/FarahGhuznavi


Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at http://www.behance.net/Fickle_Muse and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.


This story originally appeared in Fragments of Riversong.


The Assessment is © 2013 Farah Ghuznavi
Art accompanying story is © 2015 Justine McGreevy

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Reconstructing Visual Memories from Brain Activity Using fMRI

An essay by Dr. Bertram Vu, as provided by Michael Goldstein
Art by Dawn Vogel


Abstract

Data recorded in the visual cortices using fMRI technology can provide reconstructed visual images and video to within 95% similarity to what the subject actually witnessed. Even after an appropriate delay between witnessing the event and performing the brain scan, the images were able to be reconstructed with greater than 95% accuracy. This experiment provides a way to extract information from prisoners and enemies without the need for interrogation or torture techniques.

~

Introduction

Accurately reconstructing what a subject has witnessed is a difficult task. For centuries, extracting information has relied on clever interrogation, pharmaceuticals, and brute force, or–in extreme cases–a combination of all three. Recently, human intelligence (hereafter, “HUMINT”) has relied on progressively gentler techniques. This is known as the “catching more flies with honey than vinegar” method. Despite an improvement in both the quantity and quality of information, its efficacy is still limited by human stubbornness and the natural uncertainty regarding witness testimony.

Despite the leaps forward in scientific progress in the last century, there is still a large gap between HUMINT techniques and available technology. In this paper, I present a new method for extracting information from subjects that eliminates the difficulties associated with subject willingness and the uncertainty of witness testimony.

Modeling dynamic brain activity is difficult, particularly when noninvasive methods are required or preferred. Currently, the best tool for noninvasive imaging is functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (hereafter, “fMRI”), which measures brain activity in real time by recording changes in blood flow. Blood flow in the brain is directly connected to neuronal activation, meaning that recording the hemodynamic changes within the brain gives direct insight into the areas of the brain in use.

This experiment took place in two separate parts using four different test subjects. The first part provided proof of concept, while the second was a full-scale test.

~

Reconstructing Visual Memories from Brain Activity Using fMRI

In both subjects, I was able to match the recorded local motion energy to one of the predicted models. This allowed me to reconstruct what the subject had seen with 95% accuracy, giving me the information desired without requiring the subject to cooperate.

Materials and Methods

For proof of concept, I placed two subjects in an fMRI scanner and recorded their brain activity while showing them six different high definition color videos. Each video was shown ten times to ensure proper encoding. The hemodynamics of the posterior and ventral visual cortices were encoded into voxels–three-dimensional versions of pixels that record volume, image, and position (in relation to neighboring voxels)–and given values for local motion energy and direction of flow.


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016 collection.


Dr. Bertram Vu received his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Vu is currently the Department Chair and a Principle Investigator of the Human Intelligence Development Group at Global Domination Solutions, Inc. He currently holds two patents for a portable fMRI machine.


Michael Goldstein dabbles in science fiction and is a gunner’s mate in the US Navy. He is also pursuing his degree in mathematics. Between all this, he somehow finds time for his very patient and very supportive wife, Ellie, and daughter, Avery.


Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and an editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Although art is not her strongest suit, she’s happy to contribute occasional art to Mad Scientist Journal. By day, she edits reports for and manages an office of historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business and tries to find time for writing. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. For more of Dawn’s work visit http://historythatneverwas.com/.


“Reconstructing Visual Memories from Brain Activity Using fMRI” is © 2015 Michael Goldstein.

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The End of the Beginning

An essay by Professor D’arby Swanson, as provided by Sean Kavanagh
Art by America Jones


I stood in line at the patent office, my device, my little miracle, bundled up in its box in front of me. It didn’t look like much, but I had burned my way through three grants, a marriage, and several friendships to make it work. Progress has its cost.

The buzzer sounded. No 55 flashed up on the board. My ticket was no 57. Soon.

A man came and sat next to me. I didn’t like the look of him. His briefcase was large–a little TOO large–the sort of thing you’d hide espionage equipment in. Was he scanning my device? Was he scanning me? Trying to get my secrets before I could patent them? These people …

I moved to another bench seat on the other side of the Patent Office, alone once more. Away from the mind reading mechanism or whatever it was he had in that bag. I wasn’t stupid. No. My rivals would do anything. Anything.

Buzz. No 56. One more to go.

Then, the old lady came and sat opposite. She smiled. SMILED! Who smiles at strangers? I held my device closer to me and checked in my pocket for the paperwork to file my patent.  I’d been up all night filling it in. Reading it. Re-reading it. All correct, every last detail.

She smiled again.

Why, I asked myself, was an old lady in a patent office?  What had the old crone got that was worth patenting? In fact, now that I looked, she wasn’t carrying anything. Not even a bag for her paperwork. A psychic? That was it. They’d sent a psychic to read my mind. Maybe she was working with the man with the bag? I could imagine the scam: she read my thoughts and he recorded them on a machine in the bag. Or maybe she was his back-up, sent in as I’d moved out of range of his equipment.

I moved as far down the bench as I could.

The End of the Beginning

“Please sir, no, not again—”


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016 collection.


Professor D’arby Swanson is a member of faculty at Oxbridge University, concerned with the study of very peculiar particles. He is currently on sabbatical from reality and engaged in more exotic personal projects of invention.


Sean Kavanagh works in commercials and TV, as well as being a prolific writer of his favourite form of fiction: the short story. He has published three anthologies on Kindle, as well as having stories published on 365 Tomorrows and in the 81Word fiction anthology. You can see more about him on his blog: http://seankavanaghauthor.blogspot.co.uk/


AJ is an illustrator and comic artist with a passion for neon colors and queer culture. Catch them being antisocial on social media @thehauntedboy.

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Now Available: Winter 2016

Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016If you’d like to read our stories before they appear on the site, plus get exclusive content that doesn’t appear on the site, perhaps you’d like to check out Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016! It’s available most places ebooks can be found, plus a few print book vendors. Here are some links:

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Jack the Giant-Killer: A Species Traitor?

Presented to the Journal of Ahistorical Archeology by Professor T. Phineas Munbar, Ph. D., Fellow, A. A. A., as provided by Dave D’Alessio
Art by Errow Collins


Giants were apparently more common in the past then they are today. The Bible refers to giants, as do Greek mythology, the Torah, and Dante’s Inferno. However, the first three date to thousands of years BCE, and the giants of Inferno are dead. Today “giant” is less a description than a sobriquet; for instance, wrestler Andre “the Giant” Roussimoff stood a mere 7 feet, 4 inches tall, shorter than basketball players such as Manute Bol and Shawn Bradley (each 7 feet, 6 inches), neither of whom was called a “giant.”

One of our best sources of information on giants is the story Jack the Giant-Killer (note 1), in which the titular hero encounters eight giants and kills seven of them in various manners. There is sufficient detail provided in this memoir to allow us insight into both the biology of giants and the nature of Jack himself, which will lead us to a new theory of the hero.

Jack’s Eight Giants

Jack is described as the son of a farmer in the general area of Cornwall, England. He has contact with King Arthur, which suggests that he lives in or around the year 700 CE and comes from a Celtic background. He launches into a career in giant killing as a financial venture, as he is offered the treasure belonging to a giant as an incentive to kill him. Later, his motivations will include self-defense and the desire to support his master, who is identified as “King Arthur’s only son.” (note 2)

In order, Jack meets:

  • Cormoran, who is reported as living on the Mount of Cornwall. Jack digs a pit, lures Cormoran into it, and then slays him with a pickaxe blow to the head (note 3);
  • Blunderbore and his unnamed brother. Blunderbore captures Jack in revenge for the killing of Cormoran; Jack improvises a dual noose, strangles the two giants into immobility, and then kills them with his sword;
  • An unnamed two-headed giant of Welsh extraction, who is portrayed as being not very bright. Jack tricks the Welsh giant into killing himself;
  • An unnamed three-headed giant that Jack describes to his master as “his uncle.” By pretending to be the giant’s cousin, Jack tricks the giant into giving him his entire fortune, and his coat of invisibility, cap of knowledge, sword of cutting, and shoes of swiftness;
  • An unnamed giant who carries a large iron club. Jack uses the coat of invisibility to get close enough to the giant to slay him with the sword of cutting;
  • Thunderdell, a two headed giant who comes to avenge the other dead giants. Jack tricks Thunderdell into chasing him onto a specially weakened drawbridge across a castle’s moat. The drawbridge collapses under Thunderdell’s weight, depositing him into the moat, where he founders until Jack, using a team of horses, drags him out and slays him with the sword (note 4); and
  • Galligantua, a giant who is allied with a sorcerer and keeps two griffons to protect his castle. Jack uses the coat of invisibility to sneak into the castle, deciphers a riddle predicting the overthrow of the giant, and cuts Galligantua’s head off with the sword of cutting as the giant stoops to pick up a club.

So, of the eight giants, only the three-headed giant survives, albeit without his most precious items or fortune (which Jack gives to his master).


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2015 collection.


T. Phineas Munbar is the current holder of the Benjamin Knout Chair of Extraordinary Esoterica at Bodmin Polytechnic Institute. His book, Rock Cornish Game Hens: AElfraed the Great’s Shock Troops, has been described as, “…ensuring that the author should never be considered for tenure, anywhere, at any time.”


Dave D’Alessio is an ex-industrial chemist, ex-TV engineer, and ex-award winning animator currently masquerading as a practicing social scientist. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Stories in the Ether, and the Copperfield Review, as well as the upcoming anthology Altered Europa and, of course, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.


Errow is a comic artist and illustrator focused on narrative work themed around worlds not quite like our own. She spends her time working with her partner on The Kinsey House webcomic and developing other comic projects when she’s not playing tag with her bear of a cat. More of her work can be found at errowcollins.wix.com/portfolio.

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That Man Behind the Curtain: November 2015

We put up a tiny, tiny fake tree and put ridiculous ornaments on it.

We put up a tiny, tiny fake tree and put ridiculous ornaments on it.

Welcome to our latest installment of behind the scenes!

The Money Aspect

Amounts in parentheses are losses/expenses.

Hosting: ($17.06)
Stories: ($135.00)
Art: ($245.51)
Advertising: ($20.00)
Processing Fees: ($16.61)
Printing: ($1o.99)
Donations: $49.00
Ad Revenue: $1.01
Book Sales: $24.82
Total: ($813.54)
QTD: ($1,360.68)
YTD: ($11,503.31)
All Time: ($38,372.45)

As per usual, I try to list costs for art and stories under the month that the stories run on the site rather than when I pay them. (This does not apply to special content which does not have a specific month associated with it.) Sales are for sales when they take place, not when it’s actually paid out to me. I also cover Paypal expenses when paying authors and artists as best I can. Paypal has made it more difficult, so I’m not as capable of covering international fees.

Sales are down. I have yet to figure out how best to market us during the post-Thanksgiving extravaganza, but I run into a few problems. The first is that I’m not a fan of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Second, we don’t exactly have a robust shop and we don’t do any of our own sales. Third, I’m not able to offer discounts through Amazon and I price the print books as low as I can go. Coupons for Smashwords are my main option, and that’s a little lackluster.

I do participate some affiliate programs for places like Amazon, iTunes, Powell’s, and Smashwords. I’ve considered doing a “shop with a mad scientist promotion” but haven’t followed through.

Submissions

We were closed to submissions in November. All time acceptance rate remains 48.84%.

Followers

Number of followers in social media as of the end of last month. In order to better promote backers through Patreon, we created a new Mad-Scientist-Journal-only Patreon. Trying to have a single Patreon that reflected both my own writing and Mad Scientist Journal was proving to have some problems. Since the change, not everyone has moved over to the new Patreon, so our number of followers has been adjusted to reflect that.

Facebook: 1,046 (+17)
Twitter: 417 (+9)
Google+: 58 (-1)
Tumblr: 115 (-1)
Mailing List: 44 (-1)
Patreon: 6 (-4)

Traffic

Our traffic was down further in November. We had a total of 798 visits. Our traffic consisted of 448 users and 1,232 page views. Our highest day of traffic was 49.

This month’s search engine terms were sadly lacking, and mostly spam. So this month we have the return of “ebay 1979’s quilt patterns”.

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The Letters of Dr. Walter Matheson

Letters by Dr. Walter Matheson, Ph.D., as provided by Jennifer Mitchell
Art by Luke Spooner


Dated 12 June 2015

Dr. Walsh,

I have made a discovery that I think you will find of interest. While collecting water samples with my research assistant, I came across a small species of jellyfish. To me they seemed unremarkable, but I allowed Henry to collect several of them. He took them home to keep as pets, and I completely forgot about them. It turns out that Henry did as well, the poor jellyfish. He came in to the lab upset, and I said to him, you fool, you’re supposed to feed them. I thought that was the last I would hear of these creatures, but of course, if it was, I would not be writing to you.

The day after their death from starvation, Henry brought his tank to the lab. Something curious had happened–jellyfish polyps had appeared in the tank, and the corpses were missing. This was potentially more interesting than our water studies, so I allowed the tank to remain in the lab.

We continued to observe the tank for several days. Over this time, the polyps matured into adult jellyfish. Henry was convinced that these were the original jellyfish, returned to life, but I raised the possibility that they may have simply reproduced before their deaths. Henry is a bright lad, but not always a voice of reason.

Convinced that I was wrong, Henry drained the water from the tank, killing the jellyfish, and flooding the floor of the lab. I was horrified, but he insisted that he would prove me wrong. He refilled the tank with salt water and we waited. The limp jellyfish floated on the surface of the water, and nothing happened. I decided to fire him just as soon as I could find a suitable replacement.

When I arrived at the lab the following morning, the jellyfish were gone. Where the corpses had floated, there were more polyps. In the following days, they regrew into adult jellyfish. At this point, I was convinced in Henry’s theory that these were the same jellyfish that we had originally captured, returning to their earliest stage of life upon death. To be sure, we repeated the original experiment three more times, and each time, the jellyfish returned to their original, living state.

I look forward to receiving your insights into the subject.

Your old friend,

Walter.

~

The Letters of Dr Walter Matheson

The day after their death from starvation, Henry brought his tank to the lab. Something curious had happened–jellyfish polyps had appeared in the tank, and the corpses were missing. This was potentially more interesting than our water studies, so I allowed the tank to remain in the lab.

Dated 17 August 2015

Dear Dr. Walsh,

At your suggestion, we have confirmed that the DNA of the jellyfish remains unchanged after their death and rebirth–these are definitely the same individuals. A wonderful discovery for science! My paper on the subject will be printed in Marine Genetics Journal next month.

For the present, I have abandoned my water sample project and am focusing all of my efforts on advancing knowledge of the jellyfish. I have hired another assistant with more knowledge in this area to assist Henry and myself. We are trying to isolate the sequence of DNA that allows the animal to be reborn upon death.

I will be quite busy with this project for the foreseeable future, so it may be a while before I write again.

 

Walter.

~


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2015 collection.


Dr. Walter Matheson, Ph.D., is a Canadian oceanographer and marine biologist. He is famous for his studies of ocean water, jellyfish, and most recently, for committing many murders in the name of science. He is serving a life sentence in a maximum security correctional institution.


Jennifer Mitchell is a Canadian writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Born in 1722, a homemade time machine has allowed her to write stories for the people of the future. She has been abducted by aliens twice. Do not approach Jennifer, because it may be her identical evil twin, NotJennifer, who is a wanted criminal in six galaxies.


Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.

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S. D. Evo.

An essay by Harry Campbell, as provided by Domenic diCiacca
Art by Ariel Alian Wilson


I knocked and walked in. “Jamie!?”

“That you, Harry?” she called from the front room. “In here! Grab a beer, bring me one.”

She was drying her hands when I joined her. She’d been fussing with her aquarium, the big one, cleaning the filters or adjusting the flow. I handed her a beer. “Aw, not the mutant guppies again! I didn’t understand the first time you explained them!”

“No, this time I’ve got something even better.”

Jamie likes to bring her work home. I shooed a kitten from a chair and slouched down on it–the chair, not the kitten. The kitten climbed my leg and claimed my lap, giving me a surly look with eyes so young they were still blue. The tiny thing settled down and began to purr. Cutest thing you can imagine, with white paws and black tipped ears and dust bunny grey hair. Its neck looked damp, so I scritched its back. “This another of your projects? Been cutting into poor defenseless kittens?”

Jamie did not rise to the bait. “I splice genes. I sculpt DNA. My work is sub-cellular,” she said in an even tone. “I haven’t used a scalpel on living tissue since I was an intern. But I have a scalpel, so keep talking.”

I grinned. I love visiting Jamie. She’s like a mental smorgasbord, I always leave stuffed full of ideas. One of her grad students once described her as an “approaching storm.” I think he meant it as a compliment.

Jamie sat in a chair across from me and leaned forward to stare intently into my face. “We’re rats in a cage. There’s too many of us. We’ve got to get out of the nest and fly before we destroy ourselves. We need a Diaspora, colonies, seeds on the wind. Trapped in the nest like this, we’re not in danger of extinction in a thousand years–” She tapped my knee to emphasize the point. “–we’re in danger now.”

“You’re mixing your metaphors. Or you’re designing flying rats.”

“Don’t laugh. Someday we’ll be designing people to live in space.”

“Akk! That is disgusting!”

“What?”

“Just picturing what a human adapted for space might look like. Eeww!”

She laughed, a rich and lovely sound. “Yes, by the time we’re able to live safely in deep space, selfolution will have changed us considerably.”

“Wait. Evolution?”

“Selfolution. Or S. D. Evo. Self-directed evolution. If we can’t change the environment, then we will have to adapt to the environment. Fill an ecological niche, or a planet’s worth of niches, by choice. It’s evolution’s next step. The inevitable next step.  Someday women will have babies tailor-made for Mars. Which reminds me. I want to show you something.” She took the kitten over to the aquarium and dropped it in.

“Hey!” I jumped up, headed to the rescue. But the kitten sank calmly to the bottom, pushed lightly off and began chasing guppies. My chin must have bounced off my boots. “It’s breathing under water!”

S D Evo

She took the kitten over to the aquarium and dropped it in.
“Hey!” I jumped up, headed to the rescue. But the kitten sank calmly to the bottom, pushed lightly off and began chasing guppies. My chin must have bounced off my boots. “It’s breathing under water!”


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2015 collection.


Harry Campbell was born somewhere just south of James Bay in Ontario, Canada. He is a construction engineer who considers a bridge (any bridge) to be the epitome of functional design. He collects guitars and teapots as exemplary examples of form following function. He pumps iron for sanity’s sake and never expected to get married.


Domenic diCiacca was born in Edinburg, Scotland, once lived in a mining town in Ontario, Canada, and now lives on forty acres in Missouri with a dozen horses, a red head, and too many damn cats. His hobby is making his wife laugh.


Ariel Alian Wilson is a few things: artist, writer, gamer, and role-player. Having dabbled in a few different art mediums, Ariel has been drawing since she was small, having always held a passion for it. She’s always juggling numerous projects. Currently lives in Seattle with her two cats, Zippy and Persephone. You can find doodles, sketches, and more at her blog www.winndycakesart.tumblr.com.

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Containment of the Last Queen

Selective Notes of Hooper Jon’th’n Lee, Ph.D., as collected and retold by Alby Darling
Art by Leigh Legler


I remember the first night like it was my last, the rain drenching us so thoroughly as you’d think you were made of the water. The moon was full and it was doomed to be the worst storm in years, if not a quarter of a century. It was, by all accounts, perfection. The crew was full of fear, I can still see it in their eyes, the way they saw death on the horizon, oh silly ones, if only you had realized then that death comes from the deep.

I was coated in what I called armor, though it was nothing more than the regular sort of diving suit dressed with moonstone and blue lace agate. Something to shimmer in the water. To draw attention. I could already hear them singing. Oh, most of the others couldn’t–I’d been well enough to hire the deaf and the rest to stuff their ears with beeswax–but it’s a sound I shall never forget. Even if I could coax it out of the lab now, to hear it full and powered on the open ocean? Like a dream. Like poison. Like the willingness to drop to one’s presumed fate with nothing to save your soul but a length of industrialized carbon rope tied to a ship’s mast.

Some might have called me ill for what I searched for, oh, they could say a great many things on and about it. But I was only ill for a moment, just that moment, and it was the kind of madness I shall savor until the end of days.

Then there was the cold, the dripping soul-binding shock of cold that only salt and storm water could fill you with, the kind of cold that somehow made the air you’d just come from seem warm, even if you could not tell up from down or ship from sideways. I waved and then I went under. It was impossible to see, always so dark, as to be expected, and with my body tugged here and there in the current, I was as helpless as I could possibly be. Good. That screamed bait. It screamed eat me. What didn’t like a free meal after all? And I sank. Sank. Sank. I remember the water too, getting darker, or should I say thicker? I was reminded of the squid ink I kept in jars, the kind I played with ever so much to torment the cuttlefish in preparation for what might come.

If only that had actually been of some use.

Containment of the Last Queen

My goal then, was to get eaten. And hope too, then, that the rope did not break. Or at least, that’s what my mind told me. My body? Stiff as a board, and I was helpless to watch, to watch them turn to watch her turn, lazy and like a judgment of days, tail glowing now, even brighter than before, and then I could see her face.


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2015 collection.


Originally a mildly inept anthropologist, it is said that one winter, Hooper Jon’th’n Lee got lost in the world of folklore archives and never came out back the right way around after. This, of course, would require a viewer to have a sense of “right” or “wrong” way around, a moral code which Hooper seems to have completely dissolved off in his quest for proving that if one looks hard enough, they can still trace what he calls “The Echos of Apeiron.”


Alby Darling is a former frequent-traveler and current resident of New Jersey, where they spend their time predominantly involved with the organizing of shelves. Besides being addicted to short-form writing and drafting novel outlines, Alby is fond of pepperjack cheese, songs that don’t make any sense, and mythologies related to aquatic beings.


Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.

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Apocalypse Babe

An essay by Eloise Dustmote, as provided by Marlee Jane Ward
Art by Scarlett O’Hairdye


When you live just a few clicks off the contamination zone, it ain’t a simple thing to meet babes. I mean, I’m not fussy or nothing, but I do have my standards. I like a higher teeth-to-bare-gum ratio and that don’t leave me many options, yeah? And sneaking off for a quick one just isn’t easy as all that. It’s hard to slip in the tongue when you’re both wearing particle filters.

~

I’m leaning over a booth, wiping the same spot on the table and staring at the void again. Late at night I’ll get to staring and it’s like the formica tabletop drops down and I can see past it to infinity. I know I should be filling the syrup bottles, but I’m gazing right at forever and it’s vast like … like …

I drag myself outta the void and look up through the window. All day I’d been thinking that a storm might be brewin’ and I’m right. Sure won’t be any customers tonight, not when the sand is like to grate your skin right off. I sigh.

The floodlights outside illuminate nothing but dust swirling. It twirls and grates against the window and it’s like I can see shapes in it, sand turbines spinning, a mouse tail curling, the outline of a man. The man-shape moves and I blink. Am I hallucinating again? Shit, I hate it when that happens.

Thump. A hand, right against the window.

I rush to the decon room, step quick-smart into the haz-suit we’ve got set up for emergencies, and in no time I’m out the door, feeling my way along the wall until I right trip on the lumpen body collapsed-like by the window. I’m but a scrap of a thing, even so, I get him by the leg and drag him towards the door. He comes to about halfway there after a few good clunks over rocks and such and makes his own way into the decon room. I go through first and let him catch his breath, clean up while I go inside.

“Evenin’,” I say, handing the stranger a menu as he slides, clean and free of dust, into a seat at the counter. He’s got five day stubble and a big leather jacket that he shrugs off, revealing a fine set of arms that bulge out in the all the appropriate places.

“What were you doing out in that storm?” I ask, and he looks up at me with hazel eyes and I kinda drift off into them. I picture him humming through the border zone on a hack-slashed solar-powered Harley, air and dust streaming over his particle filter and through the fuzz of his buzzed hair, the sky behind him blazing brilliant red with the nuclear sunset …

“Miss?” he says.

Shit. I been staring at him for who knows how long. He looks at me like he’s wonderin’ if I’m not a bit touched in the head. Well, maybe he’s right. Maybe the lonely has scrambled my brain like a double serve of eggs.

Apocalypse Babe

The floodlights outside illuminate nothing but dust swirling. It twirls and grates against the window and it’s like I can see shapes in it, sand turbines spinning, a mouse tail curling, the outline of a man. The man-shape moves and I blink. Am I hallucinating again? Shit, I hate it when that happens.


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2015 collection.


Eloise Dustmote is an orphan and waitress who works at a diner on the edge of the contamination zone. A whiz with a spatula and a deft hand on the grill, she’s happy to brew you up a fresh pot of coffee as long as you clear decon in a timely fashion. She digs daydreamin’, babes, and SPAM, in that precise order.


Marlee Jane Ward is a writer, reader, and weirdo from Melbourne, Australia. She’s a Clarion West Writers Workshop alum, took second place in the Katherine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction awards for 2014, and her debut novella is shortlisted for Seizure Online’s Viva La Novella. She has a lot of thoughts and feelings that she overshares at http://marleejaneward.com. She digs cats, babes, and food, in that precise order.


Scarlett O’Hairdye is a burlesque performer, producer and artist. To learn more, visit her site at www.scarlettohairdye.com.

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