banner art above by Charles Carter

Monday, March 23, 2020

Porris in Wunperland

by John Shirley      


            Whenever Lo He “Larry” Chan worked late in the high energy physics lab, the janitor seemed to make it a point to come in and harangue him. Glancing up from his work, Chan heard the floor polishing machine outside the lab and glimpsed Randy Porris passing the little window in the door.  
Porris would soon be in here, yapping away about how western civilization was going down the tubes just as Spengler said it would and how applying Ayn Rand and paleolibertarian Austrians like Hans-Herman Hoppe would get us back on track. Then Porris would wind up with the Barack Obama was an enemy of the United States rant and true conservativism recognized that survival of the fittest was synonymous with liberty; he’d end with “liberals are eating are at the root of western culture.” And then he’d start over.
Chan was raised in Singapore to be polite and culturally tolerant, but it was getting difficult to bear.  Porris would pretend to clean the lab as he ranted, so theoretically he had a right to be there. Chan thought about working elsewhere. But everything was intricately set up here. He preferred to put in a couple hours after everyone else had left the high-energy physics lab, because he had more access to more equipment. And he was close to the next-level tachyon breakthrough. Plus, Richard had left him, had gone on without him, and it was hard to be alone in the evenings…when he and Richard used to sit on the couch and talk about work and life and…
          Chan didn’t want to think about Richard Arnold Samsen. He just wanted to use the tokomak field to confirm his capture of the tachyons he needed for the next excursion. Another issue with Porris is that he was a janitor with an engineering degree—he’d been fired from a couple of firms for ranting and demeaning the women there, and he’d ended up a janitor. But his engineering degree and a little knowledge of science might make him dangerous, looking over Chan’s shoulder. Suppose he realized what Chan was working on here? None of the other PhDs working at the University knew the whole story—Chan pretended to be far behind where he really was. He was worried about how his discovery might be misused. He had begun to think that perhaps it should never be revealed.
As he bent over the displacer—his own design, a flattish silvery octagonal piece of equipment inscrutable to the other researchers—Chan winced hearing the click of the key in the lab door.
Porris backed through the door, starting to drag the floor polisher in after him.
“Randy, pleaseI really can’t have anything as noisy and vibrational as a floor polisher going this evening,” Chan pleaded. “Just—dust or sweep or something. Carefully, I beg of you. And do close the door behind you.”
Porris shrugged, and replaced the polisher with a broom. He forgot to close the door.
“The door, Randy. If you please.”
          “Okay, whatever. It’s not like it’s top secret.”
“How do you know?” Chan said mildly. He checked the tokomak feed to the displacer as Porris made fitful efforts at sweeping.
After a few minutes, Chan glanced at him, distrustful of the way Porris seemed to be staring at the linkage connecting the tokomak to the displacer plate on the floor.
 Porris was a pudgy man, with wide hips and narrow shoulders; pale, with little splashes of rosiness on his cheeks, and jet-black hair that contrasted dramatically with his very white skin. He had black mutton chops—he’d said once something about Gilbert and Sullivanand his hair was parted in the middle. He peered at Chan’s equipment with black eyes and said, at last, “Whatever that is, you’re really making progress. You look like a guy who’s making the final touches.”
Chan shrugged. “Final touches are never final.”
“So, you’re from what, Singapore?”
Chan sighed. “Yes.”
“You are kind of young to be a professor.”
He’s wondering if strings were pulled, thought Chan. “Am I? Would you mind getting the dust bunnies from the corners please? They’ve piled up atrociously.”
“I shouldn’t be doing this menial stuff,” Porris grumbled. He took a little hand-held vacuum cleaner from his belt and stalked angrily to the corner nearest to Chan. “I am a systems engineer.” He vacuumed for a moment, and then fiddled with the device. “But, you know, they had to find some excuse to get me out of there to give my job to…” The rest was a mutter.
“There’s an odd contradiction in what you libertarians say you believe and what you call for,” Chan said, in a carefully friendly voice, as he removed the transfer cable from the displacer. Chan had decided to get the rant over with so Porris would eventually leave.
Paleolibertarians,” Porris said. “What contradictions?”
Chan straightened up from using the vibrational attuner on the displacement platform—the attuner probably looked like a tuning fork to Porris, though between the tines of the fork was a small translucent screen flickering with data. “I mean, Randy, you insist on extremes of firmness at the borders, an end to asylum refugees, troops everywhere to enforce this…But you speak darkly of ‘statists,’ people who insist on having a state, a nation defined by something other than culture—statists are a bad thing, you say. But what are you doing but firming up a state, when you reinforce the borders and call for troops?”
Porris sniffed. “Special exception. Emergency situation.”
“Another thing that confuses me is how you can be as concerned as you are with fluoride in the waterand also you say you like fishingand yet you’re unwilling to regulate industries that pollute water. Pollution which has been shown to cause cancer in people and damage fish populations…”
“The free market will sort all that out! It works like thisas Hoppe says…”
And then Porris was off on a long, convoluted series of flimsily linked rationales that would take him at least twenty minutes to unspool. When he was done, Porris seemed angry. “Roy Flenner said you could be a spy for the Chinese communists. I mean, I’m not jumping to that conclusion but…”
Chan smiled and shook his head. “Am I! I wish someone had told me! But maybe I should send them an invoice, if I’m owned a paycheck from them…”
“Go on and laugh. What is it you’re hiding here? I’ve been taking notes.”
          “Notes you say! That’s intrusive. Not sure the university would like that.” Well, this was alarming. His secret could be ferreted out into the open if Porris was noisy enough. It was nothing to do with China but it certainly was explosive. “I’m from Singapore, not China, I’m not a communist, and it’s sounds like you’re the spy around here.”
          “So you say.”
          “Anyway, look—it’s pretty obvious you have this suspicious attitude toward me because I’m an Asian immigrant. If I were from Norway and doing the same work it wouldn’t seem suspicious to you.”
          “Now it’s the old ‘you’re biased’ baloney they used to push me out of the job because people can’t handle the truth!”
          “You have a distorted view on the world, for sure, Randy. And I can prove it to you.”
          “Oh yeah?”
          “You want to see what my work is about, yes?”
          “Sure. But…”
          Chan took the risk. He had to find a way to deter Porris from crying up his secret work—most of it secret even from the university. “I’m working on time travel. And not only have I succeededI’ve used it. I’ve traveled to the future, several times. Can’t do the past except, won’t work, it’s essentially set in stone—except you can travel back to the starting point from the future, to a split second after you left.”
          Porris gaped at him. He had very yellow teeth. “You’ve traveled to the future?” He laughed a sneer at Chan. “You’re a liar.”
          “Don’t blame you for thinking that. Just loan me your watch. You’ll get it back unharmed in ten minutes.”
          “What? It’s the most valuable thing I own! My uncle gave it to me. It’s got an inscription on the back!”
          “I promise it’ll be returned to you intact. If you want proof of time travel, bring it here, set it on the displacement plate.”
          “Which is what?”
          Chan waved a hand toward the inch-thick silvery octagon on the floor; it was just big enough for a man to stand on. “Right there. I give you my word I won’t hurt the watch.”
          Tugged along by curiosity, but ever so reluctantly, Porris set it his watch on the displacer.  
          “What time does it say on the watch?”
          “Eight-seventeen p.m.”
          “Very good.” Chan took out the attuner from his lab coat, adjusted the data on the little touch-sensitive screen, and pointed it at the displacer. A green spot appeared on the attuner’s little screen. He then took the controller from his other pocket.
          “What’s that? A TV controller?”
          “Adapted for my use. Now, step back, several steps.”
          Porris took a few steps back, bumbling into a steel work table. He scowled at Chan. “Why do we have to step back?”
          “Keep your eyes on the watch.”
          Porris looked but shook his head. “I think I want it back right now
          Chan pressed the button, and the air grew thick; it seemed misty for a moment, with the only clarity just above the displacer. There was a soft hum and an indefinable sense of discomfort…
          And then the watch and displacer vanished, a pop sounding as the space the two devices had occupied suddenly emptied and the air rushed in to fill the vacuum.
          Porris stepped forward, goggling at the empty spot as the mist vanished. “You’ve disintegrated it!”
          “No. It’ll be back. What time does it say on the wall clock?”
          “Looks like eight-eighteen. So what? Where’s my watch?”
          “Give me ten minutes.”
          “There must be a trap door of some kind.”
          “Feel free to look for one.  Now, let me explained to you why Keynesian economic works, though it has to be modified to include taxing the wealthy pretty vigorously. Government investment in small businesses, government loans to help start-ups, money to state programs…”
          “Keynesian! Why it…what?  Porris was triggered by that, as Chan had hoped. He was practically apoplectic.
          “Not only that, but there’s good reason to believe that giving anyone underfunded a base income has a far more beneficial effect on the economy than negative.”
          “You think you’re going to convert me to communism?”
          Chan couldn’t help but chuckle. “It’s capitalism. I don’t even like the term ‘Democratic socialism.’ I prefer to call it regulated capitalism. And I’m a capitalist! I hope to be rich from a couple of inventions I’ve patented. But we need regulated capitalism, as a football game needs rules—”
He kept talking for a little over nine minutes, sometimes over Porris’s protestations, giving examples of modified capitalism and socialized medicine that worked well in other countries, offering to show him charts, challenging his sources.
          “Now let me explain to you—” Porris began.
          Then Chan interrupted sharply, “Quick! Look at the floor where your watch was!”
          Porris looked. “What? It’s not…”
          The mist, the blur, the odd discomfort in the air—and then the displacer materialized, Porris’s watch lying on it.
          Porris’s mouth hung open. “That’s…it’s…a duplicate…”
          Chan said, “Pick it up and look at the time. It’s safe. The process is completed.”
          Porris bent over and snatched up the watch and looked at it. “It says eight-seventeen—now eight-eighteen…”
          “Look at the wall clock.”
          “Is that your watch and is it running properly?”
          “Yes, yes, it’s running, has the same nicks and the inscription—but I’ve seen stage magic before, Chan. Mirrors, whatever. A gimmicked wall clock.”
          “Face it, time passed for us but not for the watch. It travelled ahead through time, ten minutes in an instant. Do you really think we haven’t been arguing for ten minutes? Really? Think back.”
          Porris opened and closed his mouth several times.
          “Now…I’ll show you something else. I’m going to vanish—try to touch the spot where I was, the instant I go, so you can see it’s not mirrors or whatever. Then wait two minutes. Count to a hundred-sixty.”
          Chan stepped onto the displacer, adjusted the attuner…
          And hesitated. Suddenly he found himself thinking of Richard. If he sent Porris into the future, would he be doing the very thing Richard disapproved of? “Some technology should be banned,” Richard had said. “Suppose they find a way to use it to go back before their own time? Or suppose they go forward and attack people there, or bring a disease with them—or the sick ideas of our own time? Humanity isn’t ready for it, Larry. We need to use it for one more trip—and then destroy the displacers…”
          They had argued bitterly over that. Chan had worked on the time displacers for years. And then there was Richard’s desire to abandon the 21st century entirely. They’d broken up over it. Richard could be so judgmental…
And he left me alone, Chan thought. With a little flare of anger, Chan pressed the button on the controller—
          And for a moment the lab, the room, Porris—the whole universe vanished. He experienced the familiar but still quite horrible sense of infinite nothingness looming over him; about to destroy him.
          Then the lab snapped into place around him. Chan gasped, feeling sick, as usual, though he’d only gone a couple minutes ahead in time. He was, as usual, a bit dizzy.  There was the usual vinegary smell that followed a time trip, and the dispersing mistiness.
          “Did you…count?” Chan asked hoarsely.
          “Yes. I did.”
          “So—you see the process does me no harm. Just a little dizziness—a moment’s disorientation. It passes quickly. I can prove to you that you’re wrong about economics and social forces, Randy. It so happens that people who think like you are going to take over. Utterly free markets, no taxation on the rich because their trickle down is ‘so very vital’…Immigration squelched…Your racial and cultural values in place…Complete privatization, no regulation of industry, no concern for greenhouse gases…You can see it all in person! The displacer follows the time current closely so you’re carried in space tooI can send you to another place on Earth as well. And there is a professor in San Francisco, in the early 22nd century—he knows all about the machine. He’s sworn to silence, of course. He’ll guide you around. Tell him I said not to lecture you. You can see for yourself if it works or doesn’t…Think of it! Your peoplevindicated! And you’ll come back here after a short time, no worse for wear.”
          Porris shook his head, putting on his watch. “I don’t believe you. For all I know you’ll adjust that thing to electrocute me.”
          “Nonsense. There isn’t room for both of us or I’d go with you.” There were several displacers but he thought it better if Porris went alone. “You just saw me travel in time. Look—you could share in the Nobel Prize for this as a fellow experimenter!”
          That got Porris’s attention. “Would you put that in contract form?”
          “If we can write it up quickly. The energy vectors won’t be suitable forever…”
          They went to the PC, tapped out a quick contract, just one page. Porris made some changes, then they printed the contract out and signed it. Porris photographed it with his phone and then sent the contract to his cousin Will’s email. “Will’s a lawyer. I hope he’s sober…”
          “Very good.” Chan was pretty sure the contract would end up meaning nothing at all. “Step onto the displacer, please, while I adjust the time setting…”
          Porris went to the displacement plate but stopped short of stepping onto it. He licked his lips. “This is insane…”
          “It’s your big chance, Randy,” Chan said, making the adjustments. “Be honest with yourself. You’ll never be more than a janitor if you don’t go through with this.”
          Porris grimaced. “I don’t know…” But he stepped on the displacement plate. “I guess…wait! You know what, this is too dangerous. Let’s take it to the university board first and—”
          But Chan pressed the button on the controller.


         A horrid vast emptiness. Infinite nothingness. Porris was unable to scream—there was no air—
          And then a room snapped into being around him.
          Feeling ill and depressed, as if everyone he’d ever known had died, he looked around as the mist that wasn’t really mist cleared away…
          A man was staring at him in surprise. “Cabra, fonta m’po eyes, yahno!” the man exclaimed. He was a tall middle-aged man with a long face, receding hair, a lantern jaw, pouches under his reddened eyes. He wore one-piece clothing with a pattern on it resembling a suit, and not in an ironic way.
          “What?”  Porris’s voice was hoarse. “What’d you say? Are you the…?”
          “Sorry. Took me a second to recall the American dialect of your time…Ah, I am Professor Scarnek. And you?”
          Porris was looking around at the shabby basement room. It smelled of mold. There were various jerry-rigged devices cobbled together here and there against the concrete walls. A naked bulb flickered in the ceiling.
 “Me? I’m Randy Porris.” He stepped off the displacer. “Where the fuck am I?”
          “The basement of my house in San Francisco, California. I assume that Chan sent you, yahno?”
          “Yes. Uh—yah. Not no. Said I was to tell you not to lecture me, just show me how, uh…He claims…God my stomach hurts…he claims that the current society here…wait, when am I again?”
          “It is now June 7 in the year 2145 A.D.” He sighed and muttered, “I’d say ‘C.E.’ instead but you might report me.”
          “2145? I’m not going to believe it until I see the flying cars and the…I don’t know.  But I need to see it.”
          “Flying cars? There are some small luxury helicopters in use but only the Wunperz have those. If you want a good view of the area you and I will have to see if there’s a roller working. I do have some transportation left on my U-card. I’ll show you around if you give me your word you won’t say anything about this lab. I have some contraband material.”
          “Yeah, see, alreadythere wouldn’t be any contraband material in a true libertarian society.”
          “Oh, I suppose that’s right,” said Scarnek, giving a morbid chuckle. “This way.”
          They climbed the rickety plastic basement stairs and emerged in a house that seemed smaller than the basement. Somewhere a rattletrap air filter hiccupped. The walls appeared to be vinyl. There were stacks of old books along the walls, and soiled old art prints, looking like they’d been cadged from a dumpster. “People still read physical books now?” Porris asked. “I’d a thought it’d be all on a screen.”
          “Some do. I collect physical books. There aren’t very many left. Most of these will come apart if you try to read them. The percentage of people who can read anything to any real degree is very small now.”
          They squeezed past stacks of books and magazines and a door, recognizing Scarnek, hummed and sputtered and finally decided to open for them.
          “Good. It’s working today,” Scarnek muttered, leading the way onto the street. “Otherwise we’d have to go through the side door. More dangerous.”
          Scarnek paused on the grubby plastic sidewalk and glanced at the gray-brown sky. “Doesn’t look like it’s going to rain.” He coughed. “Good thing. When the wind’s blowing from a hundred square miles of refineries, Porris—there’s a toxic rain. You don’t want to be out in it. They haul the bodies of a number of homeless off next morning. Ah, there’s a roller at the corner…”
          It was murky, humid, and itchily hot outside. A sheen of sweat instantly covered Porris’s face. His eyes stung as he puzzled over the crooked, slightly bowed buildings around them. They looked almost cartoonish. “People design buildings crooked now?”
          “Oh, they started out looking more or less straight. But construction regulations were dropped, after the Free Market Act and they eventually sag. These buildings are plastic amalgam. Stuff mined from old landfills and culled from the sea.”
          “You sure as hell live in a grotty neighborhood, Scarnek,” Porris said, stepping over a moraine of sludgy trash.
          “This is one of the better neighborhoods outside the Wunper bottles. But there’s no street cleaning anymore. The company that’s supposed to do it just—doesn’t. It has a twenty-year contract. Everything is privatized, you see. Fire department—very expensive to get them to come. Water. It’s undrinkable without a heavy-duty filter. Gas-lines, all hospitalization, electricity, all privatized…Most people can only afford part-time electricity…”
          “Oh, come on, if it’s privatized other companies will offer better services to compete.”
          “Except it doesn’t work out that way. They’re influential, connected companies, so no other companies are offered a chance to compete and even if they did it would take years before the first contract ran out so it never happens and the company privatizing a public service cuts corners or barely does the job at all and acts with incredible arrogance toward consumers and…I could go on.”
          “You’re not supposed to lecture me.”
          “Your remark contained an implied question—which I merely answered. Some answers are a bit complex, you know.”
Porris was feeling dazed, unable to accept that he had travelled in time, yet unable to deny it.
“There’s the roller. Only a two-seater. All I can afford…”
The small self-driving vehicle, a dull oblong of plastic with three wheels, was sitting at the curb, a wing-door invitingly open, the car murmuring something about remembering to renew U-cards. “We are now accepting a quart of blood for two days renewal.”
          “Did it say a quart of blood?” Porris asked.
          “Yes, for people who can’t afford to pay for their transportation cards. The blood is sold overseas somehow. TransportCo has a special rolling clinic. I don’t give them blood. I have some money wired to me from overseas, just enough to get by…”
Scarnek climbed into the roller, and Porris squeezed in opposite, so close their knees touched. “No seat belts…”
“They claim there’s no need, as the rollers supposedly can’t crash into anything but of course that’s not true. It’s a corner cutting feature.”
“So, you get money from overseas?” Porris asked, unable to keep the suspicion out of his voice.
“Finland, actually. They value me as a historian.” Scarnek drew a card from a pocket and held it up for a scanner. “We are going to Fisherman’s Wharf,” he told the machine, and with a few stomach-wrenching false starts it jolted into motion. “Yes, without that money I’d be on the street. Pensions were privatized and then faded away when no new ones were given. And with universities eradicated—”
          “What? Eradicated?”
“Yes, public universities—all gone. There are only private schools now. Not many of those. Hard to get a job there if you’re not a wunper, even if you have enough money to pay for it.”
“What’s this wunper thing?”
          “It’s from ‘the One Percent’.” He pointed up a steep hillside as they trundled past a side street. “See those houses, up top?”
“They look like they’re in bottles.” Big curvy glass enclosures shaped to follow the outline of a row of houses.
          “Yes, the ship in a bottle effect—they’re all in the same ‘bottle’ of transparent metal. Well, that’s where some of the wunpers live. Our hermetically sealed elite.” He chuckled. “They have much bigger bottles, in other places—Bel Aire, much of Manhattan, the Vegas Holy-Hive, large parts of San Jose. Only the soopa-reech live in the bottlesthe moneyed 
elite. Except, there are some lower management types who inhabit a servants’ hallin pretty good conditions, relative to the average person outside the bottles. That’s what passes for the middle class now. And service people…rather poor, but safer than those of us outside the bottles. About fifty-five per cent of working people live in the factories they work in, robot-repairers being the lucky ones with private rooms. Most of them are actually replacements for broken automation…The ability to understand the machines has badly deteriorated along with the available education…”

          “Factory dormitories? Like those Foxconn factories in China?”
          “Just like that, yes. China now uses automation, much more successfully than we do, for all such things.” They rolled by a group of ragged teenaged boys who seemed to be trying to strip a broken roller half up on the curb. Other people—white, brown, Asian, mixed racewere hurrying along past boarded over shops; they all wore painted close-fitting clothes, with personalized gas masks dangling around their necks, just in case; they tended to keep squinting worriedly up at the sky. Other rollers passed by, the riders looking grim. Something juddered overhead and Porris looked up through the sun roof; a small helicopter of some kind whooshed not far above, following the street. Its underside seemed to be made of ornately intaglioed silver.

          Scarnek made a tsk sound and muttered, “Oh sepsis-fuck, now what…”
          The roller was slowing to avoid something piled in the street—an awkward, soft looking pile of…
          “What the hell! Those are bodies!”
          “Yes,” Scarnek sighed. “Apparently there was a hypoxia cell sweeping through here. We haven’t had any for months. They’re sort of like the dead zones you had in the oceans in your time, but they’re in the air. They’re a consequence of climate change oceanic acidification—the ocean produces a lot of our oxygenand too many rainforests gone, too much plant habitat paved over—not enough oxygen produced. That’s one reason for the wunper bottles. We’re lucky the cell has passed on…”
          “How long have these bodies been there?” Porris asked, as the roller zigged and zagged to avoid bodies.
          “You notice the flies? Several hours, probably. The companies tasked to remove them are always dilatory. By the time they get here it’s too late to harvest organs.”
The roller bumped over something. Porris looked back. “Did we just run over someone’s arm?”
“Oh yes, the rollers are supposed to know better but they’re not very well made, really…Ah, and speaking of the glorious results of privatization—look!”
          They were passing a burning tenement building. Flames gushed out windows, and black smoke huffed; the outer walls of the plastic amalgam building bubbled from the heat. Someone was screaming. The building collapsed inward on itself…
          “That thing’s totally out of control!” Porris blurted.
          “No public fire department
and whoever owns the building couldn’t afford to pay the fire control company. Let’s hope someone adjacent did, or the fire could spread from one building to another. They take out whole blocks that way. Even if fire control came, it’s purely robotic, and only about a third of their robots function.”

          They left the burning building behind, and Porris turned back for a final look. The ornate helicopter was hovering near the building, it’s copter-blades fanning the fire. Porris turned away, an odd, sick feeling inside.
          Twenty minutes more, and the roller pulled up at Fisherman’s Wharf…


          “The bay looks…wrong.” Porris shook his head. “Like…”
          “Sluggish? Glutinous?”
          They were leaning on a metal rail overlooking the bay. The dingy light showed waves that never quite reached peaks. There was no foam at all. The jellied waves were low, slick, and silent; seeming to rise and fall in slow-motion. Porris saw no seabirds, not even gulls.
          “It’s mostly close in, a littoral phenomenon,” Scarnek said. “Apparently when global warming and pollutants changed the ocean’s chemistry, it became extra acidic, more in some places than others, and that killed off most species of fish and sea mammals—but boosted a type of small jellyfish. They multiply hugely, and then they die for lack of food, and some enzyme in them combines their bodies into a mat a couple of meters thick.”
          The sea glopped, and there was noise from a crowd behind them, but mostly it was eerily quiet. “There used to be sea lions at the Wharf.”
          “There—you can see the last traces of one.”
          The clouds had parted enough so a shaft of sunlight hit the sea, lighting up the contents of the translucent jellyfish layer. The skeleton of a sealion was trapped there, slowly undulating with the dullard waves.
          Sickened, Porris turned away and shaded his eyes to look toward the piers. Two of them were covered with shantytowns of tents and plastic wall-sections. Dark figures shuffled about.
          “Ah—you’ve spotted one of our local ‘retirement communities’,” Scarnek said, his voice bitter. “In your time there was Social Security—not anymore. Most elderly end up on the street, and those who aren’t killed for their few belongings manage a sort of life in places like that. You can eat that muck on the sea.  The old ones know where the wunper-dumpsters are hidden, too…”
          Porris turned to look at the shuttered restaurants—one of them had smoke coming from it. He glimpsed a squatter’s cooking fire through the windows. There was a limousine pulled up on the street, passenger doors open, and there stood a handful of sleek, blond, tanned people in old fashioned, finely tailored clothing, watching three street performers. Above them protective drones stood guard and recorded the event. Porris could make out both guns and cameras on the larger drones.
The gaunt performers, two ragged men and a woman with long matted hair, and much torn two-piece tights, were doing something like line dancing while singing a song that went,
“Here’s the dreeble where the feeble etta-by
 Here’s the gripple where the pipple multiply…”
After several more verses the song rose to a loud high pitch, with the words,
“Herezer azzes, hopey pazzes!”
And at that they all dropped their pants, showing grimy genitals and toothpick legs.
“Huzzah hobahz!” shouted one of the wunpers and they began to throw bits of food, bread and cheese and synthetic meat. The performers lunged at the food—without bothering to pull up their pants—and stuffed as much as they each could in their mouths, cramming some into pockets for later.
“It’s like when people fed bread to seagulls here,” Porris said dazedly.
There was a chorus of squealing off to one side, and Porris turned to see five grubby children chasing an emaciated raccoon. As he watched they cornered it between a rusty dumpster and the wall of a disused restaurant. And commenced beating it to death with broken pieces of concrete.
“Oh god that’s cruel,” Porris murmured.
“Would Ayn Rand think so?” Scarnek asked. “They’re only fighting to survive. They’ll saw that thing up between them and either roast it themselves or take it home to family. Protein is hard to come by.”
Porris turned a glare on Scarnek. “Drop the Ayn Rand cracks. You know nothing about her.”
“As a matter of fact, since she was so influential, I wrote a critical biography of her—”
There was a yell of pain from one of the kids. Another kid had hit him with a stone. They were fighting over the dead raccoon…
Just as a large van with flashing lights pulled up, and two uniformed men in darkly visored helmets got out, guns in hand. A chyron ticker impregnated in the media-paint of the vehicle’s doors said, “SFSecurityCo…rioters disperse…SFSecurityCo…”
“Most people around here can’t read that warning on the door,” Scarnek remarked dryly.
“Rioters, cease!” the men shouted.
The children didn’t hear them. The cops opened fire, their smart-guns squirming in their hands to aim precisely—and neatly shooting two children through the back of their heads.
The other kids screamed and ran. The wunpers clapped and cheered. “Bravo!”
“Good Lord,” Porris burst out. “They shot those kids down! They weren’t dangerous.”
Keep your voice down or you'll be arrested, at best, Scarnek whispered. They are encouraged to shoot rioters--that is, the people they choose to call rioters--and they do the headshots because it's really all about harvesting the children's organs. FSecurity sells them overseas. A refrigerator truck will be pulling up in a minute. Grimacing, Scarnek rubbed his eyes. You know, what you just saw is just the 'magic of the free market', Porris--
Okay, Porris said, through clenched teeth. I've had enough of this bullshit. Obviously, you're showing me the worst things around--I haven't seen the best of it. 
“The best of it? Like the people throwing bits of food to the performers?”
“And—maybe you made up the antecedents of this, maybe it was liberals—”
Scarnek sighed. “Come on, let’s get the roller before someone else does. It’s not healthy to hang around during a harvesting.” They hurried toward the parked roller. “Look, Porris, you don’t have to believe me. I can’t offer you a library. There are none. But there’s a place where you can use my card to access anything you want. The history is all there. All this traces back to trickle-down theory, Ayn Rand’s deification of selfishness, libertarianism in a perverse collaboration with the Christian right, corporate control, the failure to deal with greenhouse gases, and—maybe most of all—a takeover of the internet and most other media right-wingers.”
“Then somebody didn’t actualize market theory the way they should’ve, goddammit!”
“It’s just that an unregulated society can sound like a good idea but no one is equipped for the real repercussions when things get worse and worse.”
“Just get me back to the displacer and send me home. You can do that, right?”
“He would’ve set it for you to go back next time you stepped on it. Perhaps it’s for the best. Don’t bother trying to warn people about all this—historical time has momentum and it’s almost impossible to divert. The old ‘Sound of Thunder’ idea doesn’t really work out…”


On the verge of exhaustion—wrung out by emotion—Porris stalked back and forth in the lab. He’d returned seconds after he’d departed, to find Chan standing just exactly as he’d left him. Chan was not surprised to find Porris in this state.
“You can take wipe that smug smile off your face, Chan!” Porris growled. “The world the libertarian right envisioned was interfered with, sabotaged! But it has to right itself! A hundred years past Scarnek’s time free markets will have it worked out!”
“What a man of faith you are!” Chan said mildly.
“Okay, maybe two hundred years,” Porris said, shrugging.
Chan patted him on the arm. “You look tired. Let me offer you an energy bar and some juice…and an alternative travel plan.”
They sat at a worktable, and Porris sullenly ate part of an energy bar and drank some cranberry juice.
“Who the hell likes just cranberry juice,” Porris muttered, making a face after he drank some.
“It’s apple-cranberry, actually. Richard got me into drinking it.”
“Who’s Richard?”
“My partner. We…” The words my partner did it; triggered a stunning flash of realization. He would never find another Richard Samsen. Richard was the love of his life. Trying not to think of him, day after day, just wasn’t working. He made up his mind. Whatever he had to do to go back to him…he would do it.
“Doesn’t matter just now,” Chan said. “Here’s what I suggest. We both go two-hundred-seventy years in the future, together, and see how it all worked out. If your social theory worked out in the end or not. Do you want the truth, or not? Seeing is believing.”


Chan and Porris snapped into the year 2289—and found themselves in what appeared to be a loft converted into an art studio. Drones fluttered, swooped, glittered—many of them had wings—and formed abstract shapes in the air, directed by a tall, broad-shouldered man using a control glove. He had let his hair grow out, Chan saw—his glossy brown hair fell past his shoulders. His work outfit was a 20th century mechanic’s blue overalls he’d brought with him to this time. Chan felt his heart leap, watching him at work. Then the man seemed to notice the odd atmosphere the displacer had brought; the fading mist that wasn’t mist. He turned as Porris, hunched over, groaned and shook his head.
“I hate these goddamn time trips…”
“You won’t have to do it again, Randy,” Chan said, taking in the wide smile on the sculptor’s face—it was a relief to see that Richard was pleased to see him. Sunshine glowing through side windows seemed to make a nimbus around him.
I’m a dippy romantic, Chan thought.
Richard opened his arms and Chan rushed into them. A wave of shuddery release went through him, both pleasure and pain.
 “You’re here to stay?” Richard asked, whispering in his ear. “Last time we talked, you said…if you came to this time…”
“Yes. I’m here to stay.”
“That’s good. But if you want to be with me you know the one condition…”
“I’ve changed my mind—I’m ready now.”
“It can wait. Who’s your friend?”
“Hardly that. This is Randy Porris…” Chan stepped back from Richard, keeping hold of his hand. “I told you about him. Trickle-down theory, libertarianism mixed with Trump’s anti-immigrant thing, white nationalism—the whole shebang. I promised him a chance to see the alternative…” Chan gave Richard a significant look. “I think he’ll…stay.”
Richard raised his eyebrows. “Really! Well, wonderful!”
“Randy,” Chan said, “this is my fiancéif he still feels that way. Richard Samsen.”
 “You met your boyfriend in the future?” Porris walked over to a pitcher of water on an elegantly restored Victorian table. “Can I have some water?”
“Water? Certainly!” said Richard. “Tu casa mi casa.”
 “We met in 2015, in Berkeley,” Chan said. “September sixth.”
“This water safe to drink?” Porris asked, looking doubtfully into the glass.
“Randy here just came from Scarnek’s era,” Chan said.
“It’s a whole new world, Randy,” Richard said. “Drinking water is clean, the air has finally cleaned up—they just got that done about fifty years ago. We’re feeding and employing whoever needs it. Education is free. Healthcare if free.”
“Oh god. A liberal fascism!” Porris shook his head and drank some water. “That’s…good water.”
“It’s not fascism, it’s a global democracy. The USA has sovereignty the way, say, California did in the USA in our time. But it’s one worldwide Republic. We do have some firm global laws—and as a result, women are completely equal with men everywhere. Of course, progressives were able to take advantage of the tragic fact that the world your people created ended up creating a giant petri dish for a half dozen new plagues. People died by the billions. That led to revolution. And those with the cures were the more progressive countries, Randy. The European Union, principally—and South Africa, Australia, Japan, other parts of Asia. And India after the big revolution there. The survivors listened to the people who saved them. The wunperz are quite gone—but there are still people who can be wealthy to a reasonable degree, if they work hard.”
“This is all your story, man,” Porris said, clacking the glass down on the table.
“Come out with us and see—we’re in San Francisco, and it’s rebuilt, green with parks. Everyone has work but no one has to have it—but you see, we have capitalism! It’s just carefully regulated. There’s still some extreme weather but we’re moving into a new climate system nowgreenhouse gases are under control. Energy is clean—we finally figured out fusion, we use solar extensively.”
“Yeah, right. You’ve been brainwashed.”
Richard smiled with an empathy that had always moved Chan. Richard Samsen had been a sociology researcher as well as a sculptor in the 21st century…
“You keep talking about ‘we’,” Porris said. “But how long have you been here?”
“Oh, by we, I mean—decent people. Empathetic, environmentally aware people for whom social justice is as natural as going to a party or taking a swim.”
Porris snorted. “I think I’m gonna be nauseous here.”
“We’re still cleaning up the mess left by your society—still cleaning the oceans, still using DNA to reconstitute key animal life, still trying to re-educate pockets of lunatic religious fanatics.”
“Yeah, I knew it. Forced re-education camps!”
 “No, no—we give them food and water and other resources in exchange for voluntary education time in their own homes. We’re gradually winning them over. We’re not without spirituality, after all.”
“And this society is tolerant,” Chan said. “They have an archipelago of islands where everyone is some variety of anarchist! Long as they don’t pollute or tyrannize women, they can do as they please!”
“So, you made the free thinkers move to remote islands!”
Richard shook his head. “It’s a free choice. We do arrange the air travel if they want to go. But look—let’s go out and look at the world—see it as it is now! We’ll start locally and go wherever you want. It’s not a utopia—we have all kinds of issues. Population control is one. Then there are people who are born psychopathically predatory—what’s the right thing to do with them? There are still murderers about! And some people go off and form small autocratic societies, and cults. We don’t let them develop dangerous weapons, and we don’t let them abuse women. But should we intervene in other ways? And what about space travel? Some want to go, some don’t. There are arguments about all these things and more. But first—how about some lunch?”
“Richard’s a great cook,” Chan said.
“Oh, naturally,” Porris muttered.
But Porris enjoyed the World Cuisine lunch.  
Later, when they returned from a long day of touring and talking to random people, Porris was quiet, taking it all in. He was awestruck by the transformation San Francisco had gone through since Scarnek’s time. He was stunned by holographic coverage of the world government’s council meeting—the black woman world president; the argumentative representative from the People’s Democracy of China; the consensus that carried the day.
Back at Richard’s house that evening, seated around the Victorian table drinking wine, and enjoying exquisite lab-grown meat—slaughterhouses were quite forbidden—Porris stared into his wine, scowling.
“Flying cars,” Porris said wonderingly.  “I saw real flying cars…”
Richard nodded. “There was an influx of scientists from India and Pakistan to the New USA, about forty years ago, and one of them figured out how to control Casimir force for levitation. I’ve almost saved enough money for one…”
Chan and Richard sat across from Porris, holding hands. “Larry, we can be married in New York and do a honeymoon tours of the canals of Manhattan,” Richard was saying. “And—I just want to say I was wrong to leave without you. You had a career, big plans in 2019 and I wanted you to abandon them and just go to a better world with me…And it was selfish. When you let me go—when you sent me to the world I wanted…the look on your face broke my heart.”
Chan smiled wanly. “You thought I’d follow you, eventually. And you were right.”
Richard laughed softly. “I hoped! But you know, to seal the deal—we should finish up here.”
Chan nodded gravely.
Richard got up, went into a tool nook off the studio, and returned with two ten-pound sledgehammers.
Porris looked at them nervously. “So that’s how you weed out people like me?”
“What? This is for the time machines,” Richard said, handing a hammer to Chan. “I don’t think mankind is ready for time machines. And Larry doesn’t feel you should go back—you might dig up his research, I take it and—who knows?  Trust me, Randy. You’ll be better off here…”
Porris watched open-mouthed as they went to the displacers—and smashed the octagons into small pieces.
Then they tossed the hammers aside—and kissed.
Porris groaned. He pounded down the rest of his wine and poured some more. “Trapped in a liberal paradise!” he sobbed. “Christ almighty help meI’m in Hell!
Porris put his face in his folded arms. Richard came over and put a hand on his shoulder. “Randy—we’re going to a party. Lots of people there—many different points of  view. Do you want to come?”
Porris sighed, sat up, and wiped his eyes. He felt strangely…better.
“Yeah, okay,” he said. “Why not?”


The End

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                                                   Attn: Monday, March 30
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feat. art by Jason Barnett

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Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sean Padlo's

Sean Padlo's

Sean Padlo's exact whereabouts
are never able to be fully
pinned down, but what we
do know about him is laced
with the echoes of legend.
He's already been known
to haunt certain areas of
the landscape, a trick said
to only be possible by being
able to manipulate it from
the future. His presence
among the rest of us here
at the freezine sends shivers
of fear deep in our solar plexus.

Konstantine Paradias & Edward

Konstantine Paradias's

Konstantine Paradias is a writer by
choice. At the moment, he's published
over 100 stories in English, Japanese,
Romanian, German, Dutch and
Portuguese and has worked in a free-
lancing capacity for videogames, screen-
plays and anthologies. People tell him
he's got a writing problem but he can,
like, quit whenever he wants, man.
His work has been nominated
for a Pushcart Prize.

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz hails out of the shattered
streets of Philly destroying the air-
waves and people's minds in the
underground with his band OLD
FEZZIWIG. He's been known to
dip his razor quill into his own
blood and pen a twisted tale
every now and again. We are
delighted to have him onboard
the FREEZINE and we hope
you are, too.

Daniel E. Lambert's

Daniel E. Lambert teaches English
at California State University, Los
Angeles and East Los Angeles College.
He also teaches online Literature
courses for Colorado Technical
University. His writing appears
in Silver Apples, Easy Reader,
Other Worlds, Wrapped in Plastic
and The Daily Breeze. His work
also appears in the anthologies
When Words Collide, Flash It,
Daily Flash 2012, Daily Frights
2012, An Island of Egrets and
Timeless Voices. His collection
of poetry and prose, Love and
Other Diversions, is available
through Amazon. He lives in
Southern California with his
wife, poet and author Anhthao Bui.


Phoenix has enjoyed writing since he
was a little kid. He finds much import-
ance and truth in creative expression.
Phoenix has written over sixty books,
and has published everything from
novels, to poetry and philosophy.
He hopes to inspire people with his
writing and to ask difficult questions
about our world and the universe.
Phoenix lives in Salt Lake City, Utah,
where he spends much of his time
reading books on science, philosophy,
and literature. He spends a good deal
of his free time writing and working
on new books. The Freezine of Fant-
asy and Science Fiction welcomes him
and his unique, intense vision.
Discover Phoenix's books at his author
page on Amazon. Also check out his blog.

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee. He has been
a Romantic poet for as long as any-
one can remember, specializing in
the composition of spectral balladry,
utilizing to great effect a traditional
poetic form that taps into the haunted
undercurrents of folklore seldom found
in other forms of writing.
His poetry has appeared on the pages
of such publications as SPECTRAL
CTHULHU, and a poem of his,
"The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner,"
won the Rhysling Award for long-form
poetry. His collection of weird balladry
and Jack tales, THE LAY OF OLD HEX,
was published by Hippocampus Press in 2017.

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff is the author of the
following books: Ring of Fire (Eraserhead
Press, 2018), Flesh Trade (co-written
w/Edward Morris; published by Create-
Space, 2017), Punk Rock Ghost Story
(Deadite Press, 2016), Amazing Punk
Stories (Eraserhead Press, 2016),
Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich (Eraserhead
Press, 2014), Hunting the Moon Tribe
(Eraserhead Press, 2011), The Vegan
Revolution...with Zombies (Eraserhead
Press, 2010), and Screams from a Dying
World (Afterbirth Books, 2009).
David is a hardcore vegan and tireless
environmentalist. His contributions to
the punk horror scene and the planet in
general have already established him
as a bright new writer and activist to
watch out for. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance.

Sanford Meschkow's

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)

Gene Stewart's

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.
When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found here.

Paul Stuart's

Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.

Rain Grave's

Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -

Icy Sedgwick's

Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth

BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and

G. Alden Davis's

G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.
He's also the best friend I ever had. He
was taken away from us last year on Jan
25 and I'll never be able to understand why.
Together we were a fantastic duo, the
legendary Grub Bros. Our secret base
exists on a cross-hatched nexus between
the Year of the Dragon and Dark City.
Somewhere along the tectonic fault
lines of our electromagnetic gathering,
shades of us peel off from the coruscating
pillars and are dropped back into the mix.
The phrase "rest in peace" just bugs me.
I'd rather think that Greg Grub's inimitable
spirit somehow continues evolving along
another manifestation of light itself, a
purple shift shall we say into another
phase of our expanding universe. I
ask myself, is it wishful thinking?
Will we really shed our human skin
like a discarded chrysalis and emerge
shimmering on another wavelength
altogether--or even manifest right
here among the rest without their
even beginning to suspect it? Well
people do believe in ghosts, but I
myself have long been suspicious
there can only be one single ghost
and that's all the stars in the universe
shrinking away into a withering heart
glittering and winking at us like
lost diamonds still echoing all their
sad and lonely songs fallen on deaf
eyes and ears blind to their colorful
emanations. My grub brother always
knew better than what the limits
of this old world taught him. We
explored past the outer peripheries
of our comfort zones to awaken
the terror in our minds and keep
us on our toes deep in the forest
in the middle of the night. The owls
led our way and the wilderness
transformed into a sanctuary.
The adventures we shared together
will always remain tattooed on
the pages of my skin. They tell a
story that we began together and
which continues being woven to
this very day. It's the same old
story about how we all were in
this together and how each and
every one of us is also going away
someday and though it will be the far-
thest we can manage to tell our own
tale we may rest assured it will be
continued like one of the old pulp
serials by all our friends which survive
us and manage to continue
the saga whispering in the wind.

Shae Sveniker's

Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.

Nigel Strange's

Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.

J.R. Torina's

J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.

K.B. Updike, Jr's

K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)