EDITORS NOTE-PROTOTYPE

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

This is the first issue of Pluto à la Mode, the prototype. The issue was posted while watching the Colts and Patriots square off in the NFL playoffs. Maybe next time I’ll watch a sci-fi movie. Maybe Gattica? Or Minority Report?  If you’re wondering where the name for the sci-fi mag came from you’ll have to wait a while (sorry). In the future I hope the website will be upgraded, and maybe someday have its own domain. I’m proud of the writers who contributed to this issue for writing great stories.  In December a Garth Edwards tweeted to me that he had a strange dream or vision, he wasn’t sure which it was, that detailed humans working in a factory for aliens on another planet similar to earth. He also tweeted a website to me that related the dream/vision great detail. After reading the story, which was complete with illustrations, I decided this was one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read. I asked him via his e-mail and twitter if he would like to write a fictionalized version of the story for PALM. He never got back to me. Did the aliens abduct him? I hope not. Do I believe in aliens? I’m not sure, but I do believe they’re a possibility. Hopefully, Garth doesn’t check his e-mail very much. Read about Garth’s Dream.

~Kevin Maple-Bacon, Editor

ABANDONED BY TAYLOR EATON

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

I used to laugh at the lines in my mother’s face – the ones that creased the skin around her mouth when she would read the discipline reports sent home from my school.

“It’s not polite to laugh at people,” my mother would tell me, the phrase worn out from repetition. Each time she said it to me, she would move her hands across her cheeks, as though to smooth away any signs of her deterioration.

I didn’t care much for her manners. They only elicited more hiccuped laughter from my unwrinkled mouth. Even then, I knew her morals were as outdated as the lines on her face. All of it a mark of her age, which amused me to no end.

The discipline reports sent home were only the beginning of things. Every family received them. Signals to our parents that something was wrong. That action beyond the scope of typical parenting needed to be taken. That we were becoming a problem.

“What are we going to do?” I once heard my mother ask my father, my ear pressed to the cool steel of their sleeping unit rather than to the soft cushion of my pillow like it was supposed to be at that hour.

“Not much that we can do,” my father said. “We don’t even understand what’s happened to these kids.”

When I heard that, I had to cover my mouth to stop the laughter. It was all so funny then. How was it that they didn’t realize it was them? It was their fault we were different. They were the ones that had chosen to leave their home, to sail across the galaxy and start anew. They were the ones who decided to have children on a planet that wasn’t their own. Had they stayed on Earth, had we been born and raised there, we would have been different. Or rather, we would have been the same as them. But we grew up atop a different soil than they did, under a different sky, in the light of a different star, breathing a different air in a different corner of the universe. How could we not have ended up so different from them?

As we grew, it became apparent that our generation was another breed. The next—and ultimate—step in evolution. The first of a new species. Only human in the sense that we came from humans.

By the time our parents realized that, so had we.

When we became aware of what we were, we began shedding ourselves of anything that belonged to our parents. All the manners, all the dealings with money, all the religion. All the things people do when they know that one day they’re going to die.

Our path was different from theirs. While our Earth-bred parents lived in trajectories that distributed vitality in the shape of a bell curve, our existence looked like a steady incline when charted out. A consistent and unwavering diagonal line that eventually plateaued but never fell. We became stronger as we grew older, until one day in our twenties, we just stopped. Never aging. Never weakening. Never dying.

And so with our futures uncertain, but entirely different from that of our parents and everything they knew, we started pulling away. Rebelling. Seeking freedom from what they wanted us to be. We denied their teachings, heckling our instructors until we stopped going to school altogether, no longer needing their histories or conventions. We took what we wanted from stores without paying. We took joy rides in restricted planes and spacecrafts. We found drugs native to the planet and delighted in them. We stayed outside during the dangerous solar flares from the nearby star. We burned down new construction sites just to see what an untamed fire looked like. Without the threat of death, we had no boundaries. Unlike our delicate and fragile parents, we were untouchable. And that frightened them.

“We need to fix this problem,” our parents said to one another.

“How? Earth won’t send the reinforcements necessary to…subdue them.”

“What does it matter when they can’t die? Reinforcements would be useless.”

“You would kill our own children? Take human lives?”

“They are not children. And they are certainly not human.”

No, we weren’t exactly human. But we were their children. It wasn’t that we wanted to hurt them or frighten them. It was impossible for us to know the extent of our actions when the consequences did not apply to us.

We heard our parents’ concerns, though we never developed any of our own. After all, they couldn’t touch us. We couldn’t die. And where that frightened them, it excited us. Our actions escalated. We staked out our own land. Built our own wild society. We broke into their weaponry and destroyed their schools with high-powered lasers. We were suffering from a thirst that couldn’t be alleviated – hungering always for some sort of meaning. Wanting for something more. And then, one night, we killed someone. One of them.

It happened during an eclipse, a common occurrence on this planet due to the many moons that orbited our world. It was a man, old by our standards, his hair greying at the temples and his joints starting to stiffen from a lifetime of overuse. And I remember that the skin around his mouth was starting to wrinkle, just like my mother’s.

Perhaps the man had thought it would be safe to come to our territory when there was no light, assuming that we would be asleep. Or maybe he thought he could sneak in under the cover of dark. Whatever the reason, his mistake was in thinking that we operated like his kind did. Instead of staying inside and functioning by artificial light like our parents did, my peers and I reveled in the utter darkness that came from an eclipse. We ran about in the dark, shouting and laughing, blindly racing hovercrafts and marveling at how they burst into flame when they crashed into one another.

I was laying on the cool ground, enjoying the last waves of excitement that came from jumping into total blackness from a low-flying plane, when the nearby star began to emerge from behind the moon that had eclipsed it. That was when I heard the shouts.

“What’s happening?” I asked some of my friends as they went running past.

“There’s an old man here!” they yelled, not slowing down.

Curious, I followed them to the middle of our town where the shouting grew louder. Our parents never came to visit us on our part of the planet – they were too frightened. And after what happened that night, we couldn’t blame them for being so.

As the moon drew entirely away from the star overhead and light flooded our half-constructed buildings, I stood in a crowd of my peers, watching as the old man was dragged to the top of a bit of scaffolding.

“Please, I’m only looking for my son,” the man cried out, searching the crowd with panicked eyes. “Please! I just want him to come home! His mother is sick! She’s dying!”

If his son was present, he did not step forward, most likely embarrassed by this mention of mortality. Many of us felt this way – ashamed to have come from something so weak – though we never voiced it.

Someone from the crowd yelled “Send him flying!”

Others laughed and soon the phrase became a chant. Someone produced a pair of anti-gravity boots that were passed up the scaffolding and strapped to the man’s feet. From where I stood, I could see that the speed on them was turned up to its highest setting. And then, the people holding the man let go.

The crowd cheered as the man screamed, the boots propelling him upward at an unrelenting pace. His body twisted and turned, making his flight through the air erratic and awkward. And then the boots ran out of power, cutting out about seventy feet above the ground. The yelling intensified as he fell back down to the planet’s hard ground, people scattering to get a better look.

There was a sickening thud and then a collective silence as we all took in the sight of the man’s body, crumpled and motionless on the ground.

We all say it was a mistake. That we didn’t realize it would end that way. That it was a joke spun out of control. That we didn’t think he’d really die – how were we to know he had never learned to manipulate the speed on a pair of anti-gravity boots? But really, we wanted to see it. To see what it was like to be afraid. And what it meant to die.

That was when an alternative occurred to our parents. Or perhaps it had always been an idea alive in their minds, but until then it hadn’t been an option.

If they could not change us or do away with us, they would leave us.

So they piled their aging bodies into their spaceships and fled back to their old chunk of rock. They took all their ships, took all their fuel and maps so that we couldn’t follow them.

We pretended for a long time that the abandonment didn’t affect us. And that neither did the death of that man. We carried on, seeking more, not knowing what we needed. But in their leaving, our parents gave us something. For the first time in our existences, we had a purpose.

It’s been nearly two centuries now, but the hurt has not dulled. Not for any of us who watched our parents fly away. We’ve replicated their sciences and added some of our own. We’ve built ships and educated our offspring about their grandparents. And now, we’re going to Earth. Angry, abandoned children looking for answers and apologies. Children grown into gods.

What we will feel or do when we get there, I do not know. But I am certain that I am, for once, terrified. I am terrified of seeing the wrinkled skin of the elderly that walk the Earth’s surface. For what once brought me so much amusement now only breeds pain in my chest, dredging up memories of my mother’s aging face.

Taylor Eaton is a Southern California native whose writings can be found in various forthcoming publications, as well as on her website, littlewritelies.com, where she posts weekly short fiction. You can follow her at twitter.com/tayloreaton where she tweets about writing, wine, and nerdy things. 

ENCOUNTER BY N. MACFARLAND RODGERS

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

The blue clouds of dust and gaseous wastes swirled violently several kilometers above the metallic crags below. The silvery tips of the rocky landscape jutted out in every direction. As the rays from the alpha sun swept across the masses of minerals and crystals below, a few sparse portions of the rocky towers began to desolidify from the intense heat and rain down into the gullies at their bases. The glare from the two distant suns reflected off the top of the immense domes of the space colony GammaGoddard IV.

Inside, rising apartment buildings, speckled with scurrying inhabitants, sparkled gently in the fraction of glow let through the shaded, glassy panes of the canopy above. In the center of a transportation tube hanging between two of the largest centers of commerce in the colony, a young, Earth-born male was about to be introduced to his very first non-humanoid being.

“Calle, I want you to understand something. Eroch is very different from anyone you have ever met before,” warned Calle’s father.

“I know, Dad. You’ve only told me about him three million times,” assured the eager boy.

“Alright. I just want you to be ready for this,” he returned.

The two stood patiently at one of the monorail’s stopping terminals and watched for the unusual physique of a Templarrond to emerge from the sliding doors.

Calle Benson had lived his entire twelve years of life on Earth—except for the past three months. He and his father moved to GammaGoddard IV so that Mr. Benson could keep his job as a solar research technician. Calle had met several other of his father’s alien co-workers, but all had been humanoid and very much resembled the natives of Earth. He had been waiting for this moment as long as he could remember.

The boy looked up in awe at the immense creature slowly emerging from the sliding doors of the monorail trail. A busy-looking man rushed around the large, tan tail of the beast, trying to jump through the doorway before Eroch could get there. A plump lady further back in the train holding her daughter’s hand whispered something to her child and motioned her away from Eroch’s moist hand reaching out for the handrail. A teenage boy in a metallic dress suit was cut off directly in back of Eroch. “Lousy Temp,” mumbled the boy. Eroch’s bug-like head swiveled a full 180 degrees. “Sowry,” boomed the alien’s dark, contrabass voice, attempting to mimic human speech to the best of his ability.


“Eroch! Hey, let me help you, bud,” said Mr. Benson, reaching out to his colleague’s stubby hand. The two beings looked strangely compatible to Calle as they slowly walked across the terminal.Eroch’s gaping mouth widened as he spoke, “Yoo most be Colle.”

Staring dumbly at the giant slug-like body of the creature, Calle answered quietly, “Yeah. Hi.”

He met the being’s extended hand with his and was shocked at Eroch’s gentle grip. He was also startled by the slimy coating of the alien skin; however, the moisture evaporated within a few seconds of contact, much to Calle’s relief.

“Tonight we’re gonna go to the HoloMax and play some of Eroch’s tapes of his home,” announced Calle’s father.

“I’ve hod zem tranzlayted to yor longwayge,” said Eroch.

“Great!” exclaimed Mr. Benson. “Should we head there right now, then?” He waited for a reply, but then offered an alternative. “Or should we treat Eroch to some good ol’ human cuisine?”

“Oh, thonk yo, bot I’m afraid I hov an onusual doiet,” explained Eroch.

“Well, then, I think Calle and I can hold out till after the films.”

The motley trio wandered through the crowded cylinders connecting the buildings on every side. They walked past droids of every shape and size, holographic advertisements, and bustling elderly people in hoverchairs. Without fail, every human managed to lift up his eyes and glare at the prominent visitor. Very few of them had ever really known a Templarrond, but everyone had heard the rumors—anything from the Temp’s habits of eating children to their tendency to flatulate flames. But Mr. Benson knew that Eroch was a genius and had helped their corporation in countless ways. He trusted Eroch.

The three friends, upon reaching the HoloMax, reserved a room and watched Eroch’s family in 3D surround-sight. Calle looked all around at the projections of Templarrian architecture and landscapes. The Templarronds on the tape all seemed extremely intelligent.

They emerged from the high-tech theater several hours later and went back to the Bensons’ apartment. Calle and his father got comfortable on their couch. Eroch explained that he was content to squat on the floor, which was just as well, because none of the Bensons’ furniture would have held up under the weight of the alien. They discussed the tapes and chatted about their recent experiences. Eroch enjoyed the view out to the shiny stalagmites protruding from the rough surface on the planet outside. He expressed a desire to wander out in the mountainous terrain just beyond the plexiglass, a dream that could never be fulfilled had he been a human. But there were some advantages to being a Templarrond.

The Bensons left Eroch to sleep in their living room, grabbed a couple of sandwiches, and prepared for bed. A few hours later, as Calle dozed off in his silk covers, he heard a grumble from another room. He lay awake. He listened. Another inhuman growl rolled in from the living room. It had to have been Eroch.

Calle was just about to call for his father when a shadow appeared in his doorway. It was Eroch. The mass of slimy flesh on his abdomen swung around and struck Calle in the face. Calle tried to beckon the computer to turn on the lights, but his mouth was pinned shut by pounds of moist flesh. Suddenly a juice oozed from Eroch’s tail onto Calle’s tender skin. A searing pain shot through the boy’s nerves. The grumbling returned. It was much louder now. In a matter of seconds, the small human’s skin was completely corroded. The giant predator placed its body on top of Calle’s remains and ingested its kill in one smooth enveloping gulp. One last grumble erupted from the murderer’s inner organs as a stream of blueish flame shot out of its posterior end.

Eroch took two large bounces toward the Bensons’ window and swatted it with a powerful blow from its tail. He repeated the process twice more. Mr. Benson awoke at the thuds emanating from his son’s bedroom. He rushed to the scene and looked in horror at the stains on the floor. He watched helplessly as the final swish of the demon’s tail smashed through the glass, sending the entire apartment’s supply of air screaming through the jagged edges of the smashed portal. In a second, Benson was sucked into the low-pressure, noxious atmosphere of the inhospitable planet as Eroch wriggled out onto the rocky terrain and bounced away remorselessly into the distance.

N. MacFarland Rodgers attended university at Penn State, where he studied English and film/video. After graduating, he spent a decade in the film industry, including seven years in Los Angeles, California. He has since returned to his native Pennsylvania, where he currently resides with his wife and two dogs just outside Philadelphia. When he’s not writing web content or reviewing food on What’s Good at Trader Joe’s? and What’s Good at Archer Farms? he’s usually hiking one of the tri-state region’s many parks, watching Netflix or gaming.

2 MICRO-FICTIONS BY JOEY STAMP

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

GANYMEDE
In front of cheering crowds, Lieutenant Commander Hadley and his crew of Earth’s five best men and women launched their voyage to Ganymede on July 12th, 2061 in response to an alien radio transmission. Near the middle of the asteroid belt the alien transmission abruptly cut off. Driven by their curiosity, Hadley and his team voted to press on towards the last known location of the signal. On their expected arrival date of March 4th, 2075 the ground crew on Earth revived just one final transmission, “Radio signal trap, ship destroyed, crew dead, hostiles coming for Earth. They look human.”

POST-APOCALYPTIC REFLECTION
A cracked mirror reflected the final image of humanity. A worn down trailer lined with dusty white walls. A foggy window filled with empty destruction and firestorm snowflakes raining from the sky. Flashes of bright yellow-green light spilling onto the stained floor. A wooden crib, vacant. A Labrador’s corpse, half eaten. A stained mattress, half used. A pot of water on a stove, still boiling. A knife on the floor, dipped in dark red. The last man, screaming wordless agony. The last woman, stomach open, lying in a pool of blood. The last son, still.
Joey Stamp is a New York City based writer/director. He wrote the Book and Lyrics for “Marley: A Musical Tragedy” produced by The Cabrini Rep; his adaptation of “The Winters Tale” titled “What’s Gone and What’s Past” with Abstract Sentiment Theatre; his short play “American Dream” that was featured in the Short Play Lab at Roy Arias Studios; and he was featured as one of five playwrights in The Dirty Blonds 24 hour play festival with his play “Eightball”. When he is not working in the theatre world he is busy writing fiction stories. Visit his website at joeystamp.com 

Our Blog Is Live

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Greetings nerds, geeks, and dorks. Our blog is live. It exists in another dimension.

We’re on Twitter

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Pluto à la Mode is now on Twitter. We’ll be tweeting news from the website as well as science fiction miscellany. Follow us: @PlutoalaMode

Pluto à la Mode ~ Launch December 1, 2013

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

“Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ray Bradbury appeared in a hologram that was projected above my house.  They told me to create a science fiction magazine for the internet.”—Kevin Maple-Bacon, editor in chief.

Science fiction stories coming soon.

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