These stories were posted on Mastodon in October 2021.
It was touted as the first true cure for jetlag: a machine that put you into stasis for up to 24 hours. You stepped into it after landing, and it paused you for whatever length of time was needed to resynchronize your body clock with local time.
No one travels any more, of course, but I still use mine twice a year. I pop my kids and pets in there each spring and autumn so that they don’t wake me at oh-god-o’clock after the clocks change for daylight saving.
Our travelling circus rolled into town a few days ago. We have two jobs. By day, we perform, and I like to think we are pretty good at that.
The other job is more of a community service and it can only be done at night. We make ourselves available to bands of children who are convinced that something sinister is going on at our circus. The kids never forget their adventure and they tell stories of us to their children.
Both jobs now done, we pack up in the morning and move on.
I used to believe in the inexorable advance of progress, that society’s annoyances would gradually be engineered into oblivion.
Then one day I casually mentioned to my grandmother about how USB plugs—contrary to the laws of physics—had to be rotated at least three times before they were properly seated.
She responded, “So you’ve never tried to put the first corner of a fitted sheet on a rectangular mattress, then?”
I no longer have faith in progress.
It was the most exquisitely preserved Cretaceous fossil ever found. Right down to the skin: we could see every detail of texture and—miraculously—colour.
We sent it off to the synchrotron for detailed 3D imaging. When the scans came back, they surprised us. The pigmentation wasn’t inside the skin but on top of it.
None of us could explain this, until we showed it to the only woman on our team. She paused about two seconds and concluded, “Makeup.”
My friend Ciarán has a shop: he sells nothing but four-leaf clover merchandise. Real ones, in tiny green pots, crystallized with sugar, or pressed dry in cards.
“You must be the luckiest man alive,” I say as I glance around me. He beckons me into the back of the shop. Row after row of hydroponic planters, fed with biological stressors and RNA viruses, ensure that his crop is almost entirely four-leaf clovers.
Ciarán grins. “Good luck is too important to be left to mere chance.”
“As we are the first aliens to make contact with humanity, you must have many questions for us.”
“What of the Fermi Paradox? We plugged our best numbers into the Drake Equation, and the Galaxy should be teeming with intelligent life!”
“It is. Your Drake Equation is missing a factor.”
“The fraction of alien civilizations that want to be discovered.”
The academic article was titled “A scalar theory of theodicy”. According to the abstract, bad things happen to good people because, topologically speaking, in a boundless universe, the space underneath a step ladder can be continuously deformed into the space above the ladder, hence everyone is subject to bad luck.
I sat down to read the article and reached for my doughnut, but accidentally tipped over my coffee mug instead.
Welcome to my home. I’ve got a black purebred cat, but you probably won’t see him. He likes to hide in his cat cave. At best you’ll see his formless eyes staring back at you.
Gaze not long into the Abyssinian, for the Abyssinian will also gaze into you
I stand in front of the mirror, decked in the outfit I bought for the occasion. Halloween costumes are meant to be scary but no one could be more frightened than I am.
I swallow and head outside into the day, dressed as me.