Scientists and their toys are a dangerous mix

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“How does it spread?” Alicia asked. She willed her trembling hands to stillness.

“We don’t know,” Toby replied.

“Where did it come from?”

Toby shook his head. “We can’t even begin to guess.”

Alicia slid open her desk drawer, rummaged around for a few moments, located two miniature liquor bottles, gin and vodka, unscrewed the vodka’s cap, and downed the entire bottle in one gulp. She opened the gin bottle and queued it up. Alicia glanced numbly at her 2017 Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics, which hung alongside a photograph of her and Freeman Dyson. “It’s a virus?” …

She stood on the edge of new birth

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While most people spent their time evading death, Evelyn Chen died to find time.

Her neurons fired from the feed. Growth. Zettabytes streamed into swelling spaces of her ever-expanding mind. Evelyn understood her mind was simply a projection of the brain. The human brain had a life cycle-like a protostar, but the mind was more like the universe itself: An ever-expanding spiral, limitless. That’s what made these datafeed sessions valuable. Her mind would live on far after her brain would expire.

Studies in Pre-Eminent Humanoids: Epoch 1E. Tau17. SolisYD (unconfirmed), the information shot through her synapses. From the writings, it…

A family tries to escape a dying world

Photo by Bill Adler

Isabel’s eyes opened wide when she heard the front door lock click.

“Daddy’s back!” Isabel bent at the knees, coiling energy in anticipation of a dash to the door, but Angeline pinched the back of her blue and white striped dress from her perch on the sofa, holding her in place.

“Don’t run, sweetie. You’ll get hotter. That’s not good for you.”

“Okay, Mommy.” Isabel walked across the living room in exaggerated slow motion, lifting her feet high and swaying her arms like a windmill. Angeline could see rivulets of sweat running down Isabel’s neck, depositing lines of salt in…

If you think dogs are magical, that’s because they are

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On the edge of the village of Llangwnadl, Ansgar dragged a sled carrying a large, flat stone across an open field, the tall grass crunching under the sled’s weight. He walked slowly, because he was weary from hauling stones, which he had done for endless hours every day. Blisters dotted his feet, and where the rope chafed his hands, his skin ached with raw redness.

But sorrow weighed him down, too.

On each trip he passed by Evelina’s hut, where she sat on the porch sewing clothes for her neighbors. …

What story would she write on the last page?

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Autumn leaves rustle across the manicured lawn, and you rest on the park bench, bemoaning the state of your world. It’s good to some, harsh to others, but fair to none. You come here to escape the constant roach-crushing sporting event on replay in your apartment. Someone should breed a dog that eats roaches.

Rent is three weeks late. Your landlord is probably anxiously awaiting your return, eager to berate you. He doesn’t like you. The feeling is mutual.

Your stomach rumbles, but all that’s at home is a 7-month-old bottle of Italian dressing in your fridge, an old lemon…

Where has Ella gone this time?

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Skipping Squares is the sequel to my flash fiction, , which was published by . Some readers wanted to find out what happened to Ella, so I bring you this expanded version.

I stood in the kitchen doorway and asked my wife, “Did you buy Ella an hourglass?”

“She has an hourglass?” Mia continued to stir whatever she was cooking, and shrugged. “It’s not my doing. Maybe she traded an hourglass for one of her thousand pandas.”

“I’m not sure a glass object is the best toy for a nine-year-old, because if it breaks we’ll be cleaning up sand…

Nobody knew what the aliens wanted

Photo by Bill Adler

The rain had just stopped in New York City when the colossal spaceship arrived, blotting out the sun and sending hundreds of thousands of cell phone camera-wielding looky-loos into the streets.

A bright red energy beam from the ship instantly incinerated them.

The same horrific scene repeated over London, Tokyo, Moscow, Delhi, Rio, and other cities.

The fiery beams vaporized women, men, children, police officers, taxi drivers, lawyers, messengers, tourists, dog walkers, postal workers, nannies, and food vendors, who had been doing nothing more than taking photos with their phones.

For six hours after what CNN called the First Planetary…

Some people aren’t meant to be grownups

Photo by Bill Adler

“We don’t have any more space for your artifacts.” Static electricity popped along the carpet as Marie shuffled in her slippers to the bookcase on the far side of the living room. “Baseball mitt. Stuffed panda. Out-of-date globe with the wrong countries. Lionel train engine. Winnie the Pooh drinking glass.” She picked up each object as she named it. “Lego dragon.”

“Don’t touch the dragon!” Tony yelped. It took Tony over a week to assemble his first Lego dragon when he was eight, and then another week to construct this one as an adult. “It’s fragile.”

Tony hated it when…

Writing a novel is a mysterious process

Photos by Bill Adler

The bedroom clock blinked 4:35 a.m., its red LED at war with the white light radiating from my Kindle. As I powered it off, I felt a light go out in me, too. I’d just finished reading Dime Store Crime by Lynn Gardner, one of the most sensational novels I’d ever read, and now it was over.

Dime Store Crime, a thriller in which a homicide detective saves both himself and New York City from ruin, was a perfect balance of plot and character, action and exposition.

Though sleepy, I was hankering to start a new Lynn Gardner book. So…

Don’t mess with cats

Photo by Bill Adler
Listen to an AI-generated reading of The Kitty Litter Scenario

“Mr. President, there’s a high probability of a terrorist attack in the United States today.” The national security advisor’s voice resonated sharply, even at 3:35 a.m.

The president glanced at his soundly sleeping wife, who was oblivious to the phone call and the urgent crisis that loomed over America. He hoped she was continuing his dream of the two of them sunning on the deck of a yacht somewhere in the Caribbean.

“Yes, Bob,” the president said.

“I can brief you in the Oval Office in twenty minutes, sir. Your…

Parson and the Chanticleer

“People can die of mere imagination.” ― Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

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