Welcome to your future.

Spaceships. Jet packs. Laser guns. 


Fifty years from now, the future will still be shaped by the mundane, the stupid, and the petty, living side by side with the Big Ideas. Dirty, shining, poor, glorious, filthy, and wonderful. 50.YFN is where we tell our future's story, hangover and all.

In its short life,
50.YFN has already become a very sharply defined setting, with unique language and history. Because of the ongoing storylines and broad geographical setting, we strongly recommend using the archives and category tags before throwing yourself in the deep end. Read the guidelines, take a look around. There's a truly talented pool of creators breathing life into our world Fifty Years From Now.

You are welcome to be a part of it.

And remember:

This is not a land-grab. There's no turf.  If you're a new writer, you have the same access to Brooklyn as I do, and as much an opportunity to leave your imprint on it. Don't be intimidated. Leave your brand on the future alongside everyone else. It's your world too. 



by Monk, New York City, NY, USA

Danny Felder hears his dad's girlfriend slam the front door, screaming Estonian in a pitch that scrapes the spectrum heard only by dogs and orbital surveillance equipment. His father meets her in the living room, where the battle unfolds something like this:

Her: "Little Indian bitch stole my phone!"

Him: "The one I got you last week?"

Her: "With a gun, she stole it! What kind of country is this where old ladies rob their social workers at gunpoint?"

Danny shakes his head. He helped his father pick that phone specifically because it was one of the few models with local memory. She insisted, 'In Estonia, all systems hacked. I want phone holds my information in hand. No netmemory. I want the real thing.' His father, technological prowess of a mildly intoxicated sea-otter, relegated research to his smarty-pants son. Who doesn't hate his prospective stepmother so much as reserve her to a pantheon of Demon Bitch-Goddesses, drawn from his father's generous lineage of mistresses and candy wives. Now Svetlana has lost all her contacts, afloat with some well-armed dowager in the Bronx wastelands who has either sold it for diabetes medication, or is making calls to the Pacific Rim. 'Which is what you get, buying high-priced toys for low-class hookers,' Danny thinks. 'Hey, dad, why not get her a new, more expensive phone to make it up to her? And maybe some jewelry, so she knows how petite you think her ass is.' He sighs, scratches his chin, comes away with a handful of mottled white skin, and smiles.

The treatment is working.

Brushing a curtain of skin flakes from his shirt, he disrobes, heads to the shower. The Felder penthouse is equipped with real water showers, a rarity even here, on the Upper East Side. Danny's private shower qualifies as a minor World Wonder, ranked just after World's Fastest Orbital Transport. Twenty-six individual jets of chemically purified water from delicate rotating pipestems blossom from the smooth ceramic walls. The twenty-seventh pours water from the ceiling with the tenderness of the Virgin Mary or the fury of Poseidon, depending on Danny's mood. Today he goes for gusto, those twenty-six jets working his body like a shiatsu, shower floor soon carpeted with great irregular sheets of dead white skin. Danny lets the shower work him while he motions at the wall for communication options. He goes for 'nonverbal', and is greeted by projected avatars that slide across the shower curtain like an oil spill. He spots a well-armed Orc, yellow canines dripping blood (Marty); a pulsing red sphere (Zhang); an ultra-retro Bugs Bunny (Amit) and finally; a balled up kitten (Diana!!!). He waves his fingers and the shower lights with a glyph for 'good morning! how r u?' The kitten uncurls, and Diana responds with a blueish, sort of unenthusiastic glyph indicating that she got his message, acknowledges Danny is indeed alive and marginally sapient, but doesn't really want to pursue a conversation. Satisfied he got that far, Danny signs off, enthusiastically scrubbing excess skin from his arms and thighs.

Diana is the living embodiment of all that is good and pure in Danny's universe. It took half of forever to get her chat ID, tortuous nights of playful coaxing before she added him to her buddylist, and he's not about to make the same mistake every other adolescent male has made by getting pushy. No, the goal is to get her to want him. He's gone weeks trying everything—anything!—to rubix cube his way into her life: livetattoos squirming all over his body, metal fins in place of hair, not bathing, webbed ear like batwings, flashy media embedded all over his face, organic grafted fangs, nylon muscle implants, androgynous traits, bullying other kids, sports, a replacement eye with built-in movie projection, and an on and on in almost infinite combinations. Combing her preferences had been damn-near impossible until she added him to her buddylist, gateway to her personal mediavault, which included all sorts of stuff on past lovers. She had a thing for desis—South Asians—in all shapes, sizes, and genders.

Danny is not South Asian by even the broadest definition.

So while he sleeps, a tiny signal transmitter in Broca's Region of his brain has been receiving modular wave signals from NYU's Eastern Language Department. He awakens each day with a new language mastered: Pashtun, Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Indonesian, and Filipino-Creole, thus far. His dermatologist's gene therapy is clearly taking, and by this time he steps out of the shower and towels off, he will be a smooth brown. It'll take a few days for eye pigmentation to respond to treatment, so until then, his blue eyes will look sort of exotic; and yeah, it might look a bit like he has dandruff throughout the day. But otherwise, when he meets Diana in the cafeteria for lunch, he'll be able to pass as up to five different South Asian nationalities. It cost a lot of his dad's money, but what the Hell else is the old man going to spend it on: his Estonian whore? Danny's needs are greater.

It's not easy being 12 years old.


Last Stand in Red Hook

by iago, somewhere in New York

"Ain't gonna hurt nobody…we're just dancing, baby…"

That's uh, that's some group, turn of the century, pre-turn of the century. Happy times. Happier times? Not for me, they weren't. Of course, my ass wasn't living yet, so ain't no happier times before I'm living, right? But ain't no happier times during I'm living than now I'm living, know it?

They forgot about us, know it? Wrote us off. Wrote us off early--Second Depression early. Worried about The Littler Bigger One coming down over here, worried about tsunami whipping us down, called us The First Line of Defense and pushed back inland. And oh, the folks living there thrashed their teeth and begged and cried about the need to stay protected, the need to come up, and the liberals, the liberals were just as bad, hollering and crying about abandonment, about New Orleans before Katrina, then before Alina, then before Gertude, and before Claxton did that last lick of what they'd call damage. We can't just abandon Red Hook. We can't just call it The First Line Of Defense and forget the people who live there.

But they did call it that. And they did forget us. And they saved us, saved our lives.

You're too young to know about any of those names. Hurricanes, they were. And earthquakes. Lots of storms, lots of earth, lots of shifting and shaking, just like Second Stand's hips. You saw Second Stand shaking when you came this way, didn't you? Fine woman. My woman. We got saved by being The First Line of Defense. Only we didn't look at the geography quite that way, know it? We inverted it.

We're making stands out here, not against nature, but against those folks back on the inside. And you know what? We live longer. And you know what? We live better. Know it. We live better. You know why? Because they wrote us off.

In the old days, the real olds, this country, this land is your land, this place was obsessed with frontiers. New places to discover. I think that's what killed the heart of it off, a lack of new frontiers. Sad the rest of the world got dragged along with it. But The Hook, that's our frontier. Once they left us out here, but they decided to still "protect" us--the way they say it, protection is what we need--once they left us but decided to keep us safe--haha--once they did that, we frontiered ourselves.

So me and Second Stand, we could do what we wanted, stand in the rain, sleep in the rain, make love in the sun. We walk at our own pace, hands in hers when we want them there, off to find others when we need, you know, others. We stumbled into utopia out of their disaster of having too much.

And kid, this is what I'm trying to tell you--there are pockets. You'll find pockets. I don't know what brought you here to the Hook, but you found the Last Stand. You found the Second Stand. You found The First Line of Defense, and for you, kid, I think it really is your First Line. You've got pockets to find.

I bet you're looking for a woman. Am I right?

Last Stand is right. Last Stand knows it.

She's out in the world, kid, know it. She's somewhere in the pockets.


The Working Man Blues

by R. Soon, Atlanta, GA, USA

The Cuyahoga River had caught fire when he was a toddler; Barry didn't remember too much from then, but every day when his train crossed the chipped concrete bridge, with its supports mutely bearing their streaked scars, he was taken for a brief but often painfully interminable moment back to the second time it happened. He usually closed his eyes when the train came around that bend nowadays, but he could still feel with three decades twice daily of memory yielded up by his ever-aching body when it crossed over the river, and the fire lit anew in his mind anyway.

Barry had been a proud, dedicated manager of a temp agency at that time, and ironically one of the only people remaining in Cleveland even back then with a benefits package attached to his position; ironic, indeed, given that the only way to get a steady check these days was to sign up for Halliworks, and there wasn't a more permanent job than that, not unless you were able to escape the camps and get far enough away fast enough. Only the lazy bastards doing chemical reclamation at the river and around the Case site tended to run off, though, and neural running speed governor implants prevented repeat attempts. Halliworks was the only thing sustaining the remains of Cleveland's economy, both in providing work and in redeveloping the city's infrastructure from the ground up. Sure it was dangerous work, but it had to be done.

But Barry didn't think about all that. He was too old to escape arthritis and the occasional mini-malaria bout, nevermind the horrifying security patrolmen with metallic tentacle-things for arms, rumored to all come from the same recruitment office/lab in New York. Besides, at 70 years old, with eight teeth, bad knees, and no neural or physical implants whatsoever, he was happy just to have a comfortable bunk and regular meals.

Nah, better to keep his place as Senior Building Inspector with the Halliworks Westlake camp. He was the one who came up with the idea of using amplified soundboxes to pacify guerrilla residents who refused to sell their houses and business properties, and the 60% cut in surface operations casualties along with the huge boost in live-capture recruitments catapulted him out of the Erie Tunnelpass project, whose survival rate was frighteningly low, to a relatively cushy management job. So what if he couldn't leave? He was doing right by Halliworks, and they were doing right by him as far as he was concerned. Five more years and he would even be eligible for retirement if camp recruitment kept pace.

But five years was still five years off. Today, it was cloudy outside, though he knew as well as everyone crowded onto the incongruously sleek and clean passenger train cruising towards the mothballed Old Lakewood/W.117th St. Station that the clouds didn't do a damn thing for your skin. He studied as he did every day, through the Solaplex window, the quiet, dusty streets, where every single mailbox and old newsbox in sight was shorn entirely of its paint by the stealthiest but most dangerous of the sun's rays, further removing them from his more distinct childhood recollections. Things have sure changed, he mused for the thousandth time, and the train rocked back and forth lullingly on the warped track rails, encouraging his mind to wander. He often mulled over his day's work of testing buildings for integrity at this stage of the daily journey, but sometimes less comforting thoughts crept in.

The second time the Cuyahoga erupted in hellish flames was five years to the day after the first day of the weeks-long Case Riots. Barry shuddered, but nobody on the traincar looked at him; life in a camp housing 11,000 people taught everyone to mind their own business. The riots, they were bad. Bu the poor guy the news van caught staggering up Euclid, that monstrous eyeball-looking thing that took up part of his head….

The trees growing back along the tracks fell away, and earth gave way to gravel along the bridge's path. He had been more lost in thought than usual, and having not closed his eyes in time, they were now fixed on the mesmerizing landscape around the twisting, winding Cuyahoga River.

Dominating the view on the Flats riverbank, a tall, majestic experimental biofuel facility left much of its shell, though one wall had blasted clear across the river, four pieces smashing some cars parked along Canal Rd. and one biting deeply into the eighth floor, the eighth floor of all of them!, of the Federal Corporate Management center, right where his dear, hardworking son had….

Barry shuddered again, harder this time. The fire had spread from the contaminated cooling system, the news said, and the river had plenty of fuel topping it off to blaze on down to the mouth, violently combusting everything too close to the water's edge. A fine blue dust had begun raining on the Flats and along the banks due to some chemical mixture catalyzed by the fire, and it was later decided that this blue dust was why all the plants and trees down there, even those away from the water, had died off with nothing ever growing back. And he vividly recalled the bridges being blocked off by police for a panic-stricken month, and the reports of a renegade driver heading off across the Shoreway only for a 30-foot chunk of concrete causeway to break off and fall, taking him with it down into the deadly water.

Barry hated how clearly all the images glowed in his mind, even has he fought to pull his gaze away from the now-empty site of the FCM building, seeing so sharply the jagged brick disc clutching at the eviscerated tower's tattered, ripped Solaplex windows once again. He hadn't tried to identify his son's remains, on the advice of the rescue squad at the scene, but imagination-driven nightmares had plagued him for a full three years anyway.

His traincar shook over a rail joint, and he squeezed his eyes shut. When he dared to open them again, the river was past and the train was off of the bridge, heading into the final tunnel leading to Halliworks Central Station.


Vermont Avenue + Adams Boulevard

by Ike Moses, Los Angeles, CA, USA

"El Poco Grande," she began, carefully, with one hand commanding motorized blades and the other directing a laser. Concentration sweat laminated the faded serial number on her forehead, "It wasn't no earthquake."

"Oh yeah?" Jawan raised an interested eyebrow and urged the punchline, "What was it then?"


Southern California remains a popular tourist destination, even after its incidental secession from the Union. Granted, most who come here really want to be in the States, but for some the Southland is as close and as far as they want to be from Sam. There are less Germans, with fanny packs full of euros, visiting the Walk of Fame; but there are more Sudanese Jihadis, full of American resentment, trying to win back the confidence of other Arabs. They were the CIA's dry-snitches for most of the Arab-American Wars, but Southern Sudan's liberation broke the alliance.

Jawan had to resist shaking his head. He didn't want that nonsense landing anywhere near his shoulders. The slightest neck swivel would fuck up his hairline, though. He ain't disagree that much. Holding very, very still, he screwed disapproval into his lips and said, "You on one, 'Maine."

"Think about it, Juan," Tremaine precisely traced the beginnings of an acute crescent above Jawan's left temple, "An earthquake is caused by friction. The friction is caused by placas going head up. They run into each other, not away from each other, 'stand me? They make mountains, not islands."

"They made this mountain fall into the pienche Pacific," Jawan didn't understand why he was getting so frustrated, "If Poco Grande wasn't an act of Allah; who did it, how, and why?"

"I don't know how, and I don't know why, but I know who," Tremaine paused, not for dramatic effect, but to review her head work, "Same fools who blew up them levies way back when."

Ready for a subject change, Jawan called out to the shop, "Who winning?"

A group of men shielded the wall-screen, only allowing Jawan to see the ball occasionally fly over their unshaped-up heads from his chair. The game was broadcast live from the Coliseum, about a mile south, so Jawan was unsure if the audience roars he heard came from the speakers or the stadium itself. Somebody shouted back, "It's tied. One up."

When Tremaine finished, Jawan surveyed his dome in the mirror, stretched, and brushed phantom hairs from his clothes. He tipped the barber in won and pesetas, grasped her hand, leaned an elbow into her chest, and said, "A'right 'Maine. See you next viernes."

Once outside, he heard the parlor explode with disappointment and celebration. Some asshole held a "Gol!" shout for like 45 seconds. Jawan didn't turn around to see the replay. He hopped on his bike, checked there were no trucks or tanks approaching, and swerved across all four lanes of Vermont Avenue, dodging opposing cyclists as he headed southbound. He didn't mind coming out this way for a cut, no matter how many foreign 'hoods he had to pass through to get here. He needed a Friday ritual: the weekly round-trip to Tremaine's shop and back gave the day some meaning. Besides, it was difficult finding a barber he could trust. Tilt your head back into the wrong sink and you'll sit up without it.

Jawan sprint-cycled until his bike was charged, then sat back to cruise, going easy on the twist grip. He tried, unsuccessfully, to find a pattern in the neglected asphalt's alligator cracks and potholes. At the corner of Exposición Bulevar and Vermont he was forced to yield to the drunken mob of 'stizos and negros that trampled Expo Park, the streets, and the reappropriated Universidad del Sur de California campus. He hated having to stop there, with the emerald dome of la Mezquita de Omar Iban Al-Jattab noticeably absent over his right shoulder.

He remembered the night it happened. Not just him, everyone who wasn't in the masjid that night remembers, because everyone was looking. Angelenos used to give stars jaded regard, but now stars made them anxious. The lights and the smog keep the heavens far away from the City of Angels, so if you see the sky, the sky is falling. That night the star came from the east, just above the palm tree horizon, and grew in intensity for a couple minutes. The star didn't come from heaven, of course, but from a coastal town that used to be Bagdad, California. It was the first American ballistic missile in a brief campaign that caught sleeper cells while they slept.

According to Sura 2:160, Allah is the relenting, the merciful. But Jawan needed a relentless, vengeful god. His faith had collapsed with the dome to his right, and this intersection was where the failed structures of his life stood, or laid, or whatever that mostly demolished building was doing. Instead of sitting there thinking about another missed Jumu'ah, he decided to slice through the crowd of cerveza-fueled football fans. Agitated by Jawan's intrusion, some spectators threw food and drinks at him. He caught a little with his shirt and khakis, but they missed his head, so he didn't really trip.


King of the Californias pt II

by Monk, New York City, NY, USA

With the promise of trials at the Hague's High Court of Human Rights, Los Angeles's warlords seem finally to have run aground. Recent captures of narcoterrorist Willis "Grip-Up" Tollridge in his Brentwood fortress, and Ricky "Tweaks" Neuman of the notorious San Bernadino Popular Front have stricken powerful blows to LA's infrastructure of violence. With elections around the corner and international aid pouring into the provisional civilian government, the beleaguered island nation seems finally to have found its footing, after close to thirty years of continual bloodshed. But even with these victories, many claim the war-torn nation of 12 million cannot truly begin its healing, as war criminals such as Kelvin Black, Lucien Cree, Darlanda Stuart, Jesus Cruz, and Rolando Montoya are loose. The infamous 'Inglewood Five' have been sighted as far away as Vanuatu, luxuriating in wealth generated over decades of brutal exploitation and oppression. And while the provisional government works tirelessly to rebuild and reconnect Los Angeles's diverse communities, they do so knowing the funds to effectively perform their job are sitting in banks on the other side of the globe.

Oakland, in particular, seems to have a lot of loose cash these days.

Ask anyone out West, and they'll tell you the monsters of Los Angeles made off with billions, leaving their countrymen in squalid, sometimes medieval conditions. Where have they gone? The nations of CariCom want nothing to do with them. The United States, Alaska, Canada, Brasil, and Quebec have all issued warrants to seize on sight anyone from the High Court of Human Rights' wanted roster. Hugo Ranieri's capture in Buenos Aires last month effectively flushed out the war criminal populace of Argentina. For the discriminating fugitive, the Western hemisphere has all but shut its doors. Yet nestled between Canada and Federal Mexico, the Northern Republic of California has taken a stance that has made it enormously attractive to Los Angeles's oligarchy-in-exile. With no official stance regarding the upcoming international tribunals, nor any existing extradition treaties with their neighbors, Prime Minister Benny Pivens has eliminated even the possibility of extraditing admitted war criminal against their will. And so Oakland, NoCal's largest functioning metropolis, has become haven to some of LA's wealthiest absconders. Paramilitaries, gangsters, murderers, narcotics cartels, and slavers have found new homes in any of the twenty luxury hotels to spring up in downtown Oakland these past three years. With all this new money pouring in, new banks pop up almost daily to accommodate new offshore accounts, and the Californian peseta is currently one of the most traded currencies on the international market.

Money, they say, makes the world go 'round. And that is the topic du jour as evening falls on Oakland's Palma de Baía hotel, where we watch the sun set from Cecilio Goncz's private rooftop suite. Overlooking the gutted shell of Goldengate Bridge Memorial, Goncz has set aside his trademark sunglasses, revealing milky white eyes behind nictitating membranesm installed for protection against pepperspray (and worse).

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages," he says, inhuman eyes set on the Bay. By the time it dawns on me that he's quoting Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, he's facing me, looking for some kind of response.

The worse part about his eyes is you can never tell exactly where he's looking. When the silence becomes awkward, he chuckles, grafted alligator teeth adding signature menace to his smile. Goncz's mythology swirls with tales of missing journalists. I sip my mochatini and smile back, trying to look impartial, unshaken, never happier in my life than for the tracking culture injected before I left Chicago. I ask about his money.

"Money?" he smirks. "Homey, I don't have two centavos to rub together. Money implies income, and baby, I have none. I spread it around. Charitable causes. Rebuilding efforts here in Cali. LA didn't want me anymore, hey, peace. Move on. That's life. But this?" He motions to the Bay. "This is California. Home."

I remind Mr Goncz politely that by his own admission he technically only lived in California for a few years before the Little Big One separated Greater Los Angeles from the continent, and devastated the rest of the West Coast. And that one night at the Palma de Baía costs two weeks my salary.

"You don't get it, do you?" he asks sadly. "California, that was the American Dream. 'Go West, young man.' Cowboys. Indians. The Gold Rush. Hollywood. Blondes. Money. Fame. Live fast, die young. All that shit. When you reached the Pacific, you knew you'd achieved something, you'd made it. The earthquake broke something fundamental, you know? In people's hearts. We felt that shit in LA, homey. Believe that. When the Little Big One hit Cali, that was the American Dream got strangled right there. Now, I can't fix things in LA like I want to, so I brought my money here. And yeah, I got a nice pad, but like I said, I'm paying to fix a lot of broken things."

I mumble something about nobility, which I hope isn't taken too snidely as I want to live to finish my drink. Then I ask how that relates to his quoting Smith.

His trademark smile resurfaces, tone reminiscent of the journalism professor at Northwestern who flunked me. Twice. "No one cares how the job gets done, homey, or where the money comes from. Just so long as it gets done, and the money's there."


They still sing The Yellow Rose of Texas

by Zesi, Atlanta, GA, USA

Mexico/Texas border, the Rio Grande

La Frontera still sings her promises to sus amigos al sur, she, seductive, beautiful, dangerous.

The cruelest part is looking across the river, grand, the landscape no different than the one your feet are planted in, the promises loom larger than the life you had at home. A house of your own, big and clean, your kids, a dog even. A new car that purrs like a kitten as you drive it. Your career back, the schooling flooding back after years of disuse. Water in pipes, and streets that smell like air instead of the shit at home.

You look over, and you don’t imagine what’s coming to you. You creep as you’ve been warned, you steel yourself as you’ve been warned, you hear the sweet sucking of the mud and you are so close, and your foot is poised to go onto the other side, and you would take a breath and savor this moment if it weren’t dangerous and illegal, so you put your foot down al otro lado, and then you swear La Llorona has come to take you away, because there’s no other explanation, your brain beats like your wild heart in your skull, but you keep going, you made it this far and others haven’t, and you take another step and she cries some more, and your ears hurt from her singing, and your ears ring with her song but you try to keep going, slower now, and too late. The border patrol comes from out of nowhere, you think, but they’ve known you were coming for 10 miles now, were hoping that your burst eardrum would be enough. They pile you into their van and drug you, they tell you in español that they’re going to make you talk, these men who mostly look like you and your brothers, and you think “If only!” but before you could think “I could stay awake!” your brain slurs like the mud you were in before you took that step. They ask you about your name and where you are from, and you tell them more than they want, but they get what they need. You talk as if they were friends or cousins calling from far away, you tell them the good home things in your haze of euphoria. You talk about how you love to comb your lover’s black hair in that far town, you tell them that it is harvest time and they should come to visit you, because they make the best tortillas where you live, it’s the love they put in it you say. You tell them that they should look up Antonio, remember Antonio?, he’d be sure to show them a good time; he can drink, sing, and dance with the best of them, and he never ever gets tired, never. One says, “Shit! We got a talker,” and bemoans that the drugs they g ive aren’t strong enough to shut you up. They tap tap in their computer and out comes what looks like plastic toothpick. They slice your arm and put it in deep as they can in your flesh banks and blood rivers. It is sewn again with care, and they clean it, they are Americans after all, now, and your death on their watch could mean another job if the right person catches them. You cross the border back when you are not awake, you change hands into those of your own gobierno, who read the plastic chip and tie a yellow hospital band around your arm with your hometown and state typed in impartial Times New Roman. You wake, and hope that the Spanish you hear is that of the border, but the pain in your arm, the pus stained cotton ball you pull out your ear, and the hospital band let you know that you won’t be joining those who sing The Yellow Rose of Texas.

If you had been better off, you would have taken the Zen meditation class offered by the coyotes. If you had been smart, you would have pressed the ones with the scars on their arms and the double crossersm who gouge their chips out for a new chance at the dream. If you had been lucky, that might have helped. But they are shipping you home in the special Mexican postal service van for human freight returned to sender. And you will have to pay them back for your return trip. This has been arranged by the governments of your and the otro lado.

They know you’ll try again.

“When the Rio Grande is flowin’, the starry skies are bright,
She walks along the river in the quiet summer night:
I know that she remembers, when we parted long ago,
I promise to return again, and not to leave her so.

She's the sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your Clementine, and sing of Rosalee,
But the yellow rose of Texas is the only girl for me.

Oh now I'm going to find her, for my heart is full of woe,
And we'll sing the songs together, that we sung so long ago
We'll play the banjo gaily, and we'll sing the songs of yore,
And the yellow rose of Texas shall be mine forevermore.”

The Man who woke the Panther—Mason Dickson

by David W Parrish, Jr., Ft. Worth, TX, USA

The organ rose and signaled for everyone to get quiet. David Parrish, III, his son David Parrish, IV and his grandson, David Parrish, V rose for the tribute to Senator Mason Dickson, the first African-American to serve as Mayor of Fort Worth, TX and the former junior Senator from Texas, again the first African-American to hold the position. It was at that moment the cybercast emanated from the big screen in the sky.

"Senator Dickson was arguably the most important Politcal Figure in the State of Texas in the 21st Century. Dickson was a former church pastor who took the Texas political scene by storm by coming from out of nowhere to win the Mayor's race in 2015. A task he accomplished by harnessing the power of the Web…which had been freed from the grip of Big Cable and The former Bells by Former President Obama.

Mason Dickson won his first election by knocking on the door of each and every resident of Fort Worth and explaining to them what his goals were. He talked about the years of Fort Worth and Tarrant County sleeping in the shadow of Big D, Dallas. He talked about how the Cowboys and the Rangers were already in Tarrant County. He talked about how most of Tarrant County's newest residents were former Dallas County residents. He reminded them how much positive press had come from a wildly successful hosting of Super Bowl XLV. His daily podcasts were entertaining, his position papers on how to move Fort Worth into the forefront of not just the Metroplex but the entire Southwest.

Once in office, Mason realized how powerless the people really were. He took the oath of office on a Monday and by Thursday he was awash in proposals from the big money establishment interests trying to build on the success of Tarrant County's tourism and natural gas proceeds to elevate the national profile of Fort Worth. While in the past, such objectives would result in ruthless gentrification, Mayor Dickson utilized the vocal nature of his constituency to hedge his bets. While detractors would say that he was in the pocket of big business, the reality is that after an entire history of neglect, never had a Fort Worth mayor even attempted to cash in the favors he garnered from even the side deals he brokered with developers and use that money to elevate things like mass transit. Fort Worth went from having one of the worst mass transit systems in the country to one of the best, despite having insufficient topography for underground transit. It was the risky move of utilizing the Solar Hybrid Bus, a technology that leaked out of a newly opened Cuba that Mayor Dickson embraced fully and without compromise. He arranged for a spinoff of Bell Helicopter to build the buses in the city of Fort Worth by exchanging tax breaks for a high school program that trained workers in high school and transitioned them right into college in exchange for a 4 year commitment from the company to work the assembly line. From there the development flowed fast and furious all over the county.

From there, the legend of Mayor Dickson lingered under the radar. In a national media still transfixed by scandal and celebrity, Mason Dickson stayed about the business of wielding the Sword of capitalism for as much good as possible. Aside from the Obama administration, the federal government had been on a non-stop descent into oligarchy, where the Dow stayed on the incline at all costs and no job was safe from outsourcing. The earnings divide between the rich and the poor went from a gulf to a canyon. Those in the underclass who could get their Evel Knevel on and jump the canyon did so by any means necessary. The middle class existed by sheer force of will. You had those in the middle class who scraped by just well enough to be included in the American dream, and you had those who were treading water, but had no hope of retirement.

Mayor Mason Dickson transferred his popularity with the big money interests and the people to a romp in the US Senate Race of 2028. Even on the National Stage, Senator Dickson kept Fort Worth Close to his heart, orchestrating similar exchanges to benefit both ends of the economic spectrum. Senator Dickson took the opportunity of the national stage to voice the importance of bringing Southern California back from the brink of complete anarchy. Mason Dickson was never an ideologue, which drove members of both parties crazy. He was a darling of the Independents, who never did get organized enough to start a third party, choosing instead to straddle the fence in either party as it suited them. While over the course of the 21st Century, politics grew to be more and more like bloodsport for public consumption, in reality, certain figures navigated the vast territory between the two extremes to provide enough leadership to accomplish enough basic reform to stave off the long rumored decline and fall of the United States empire. Very little was made of his race, despite the fact that race relations remain a flashpoint for much of society. Fort Worth and then Texas came to view Mason Dickson as a GOOD Black man, to be trusted, as long as nothing bad happened. That left Mason Dickson the unenviable task of navigating THAT divide as well, the divide between Blacks and Whites and others and the internal Divide between Blacks who had achieved and Blacks who hadn't.

While it should be noted that the United States on many levels has devolved into a hodgepodge of Hyper-materialism and strife between neighbors, The nation still stands tall as an ideal of democracy even as we approach our nation's tricentennial.

It is therefore on this the 22nd day of July, 2057 that we honor The Honorable Mason Dickson, Mayor of Fort Worth, and United States Senator from the State of Texas for his contributions over the past 50 years."

At that precise moment, a laser billboard lit up the sky in his memory….scrolling his accomplishments across the Fort Worth skyline.


Markham, Illinois

by Dud Lawson, Columbia, MO, USA

(begin auto voice transcript)


Naw, I wouldn’t say what I do is illegal. I mean, really, I think I’m doing more of a service than any harm. You can go ask any of the people around the neighborhood, and they’d probably agree with me.

Ever since the Second Depression, anything that stimulates the economy is welcome…so as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, pretty much nothing is illegal. That is until somebody starts enforcing laws against it. And trust me, the Feds got a lot bigger problems to deal with than anything I’m doing.

I mean, cigarettes are 'illegal', but I guarantee if you go down to the govvie-shop on the corner—right now—that the upstanding government employee behind the counter is gonna sell you a pack of smokes. Sure, it might ring up on the register as a pack of gum, and you might have to leave an extra hundred on the counter, but you can get whatever you want if you look to the right places. And for people around here, I’m the right place.

I guess the feds’ hearts were in the right place when they started the Government-Regulated Commerce Initiative, but by that point they had already dug a hole too big for them to climb out of. What was supposed to be a New New Deal really just destroyed more local businesses. So now, the only stores within walking distance are the equivalent to government-owned 7-11’s. Remember those? Nah, before your time. I mean, they should have thought this shit through. Really, people need more than beer, coca-cola and potato chips to survive. I tell you, this country does everything backwards. They just don’t know what to do with us.

What? Naw, I don’t deal with any of that. I don’t do guns, drugs, stolen shit. Just stuff you need. I make sure that I’m as legit as possible so that in case they ever do start locking people up for internet trading they don’t get me on anything serious.

So yea, I admit there is a risk, but so many people depend on me for things around here that it’d be selfish for me to stop.

Basically, I saw this coming like, 30 years ago. My wife likes to joke that I predicted the Second Depression, but really I guess I wasn’t that far off. Right after the President signed the papers to start US.Net, I knew something was gonna happen.

I mean, 'free nationwide wireless internet' sounds great. The future was supposed to be here for everyone, “eliminating the technology divide between the rich and the poor.” But all-in-all, US.Net did more harm than good. Because the Government developed their own networks instead of building upon existing ones, almost every internet provider went under. Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their jobs, and who knows how many foreigners lost their outsourced ones. Who cares, even. Global economy my ass.

On top of that, the money to pay for all those micro-satellites and shit had to come from somewhere. And who had to foot the bill? Us. At first it was just going to be a 3% tax on all items purchased over the internet over state lines. That was doable. But then it was 4%. Then 5%. For a while, about ten years or so, everything was good. It seemed like things were gonna stay that way, but then the Little Big One hit California, and well, we all know what happened there.

20 years later and we’re sitting at 30.5% federal taxes on every Goddamn item you buy online from out of state. And that’s in addition to all state taxes already in place. And that doesn’t even include shipping. I tell you, (laughing) if the stock market were still functioning, anybody that had stock in UPS would be a fuckin’ gazillionaire.

So anyway, in around 2025 or so, when the increased internet tax was just rumors, before everything started going downhill, my wife and I took a couple years off of work, depleted our savings and traveled around the country. Then we quickly and quietly set up a legit bank account in all 48 contiguous states. She was against it at first, but she had no clue my plan would work this well. Hell, neither did I. While the govvie-shops hurt everyone else, all they did was make shit easier for us.

What happens is someone comes to me saying they want something they can’t find at any of the Govvie Shops. They pay me cash, bring me the link online, I buy it online from my bank account in that state, and boom. Only state taxes paid. Loopholes are great when they’re big enough to jump through

Yeah, had I really been able to predict the future I woulda known not to even worry about staring accounts in California, New York and like 5 other states.

Huh? Well, of course I charge a fee. This is how I make my living. Look at it this way, you can buy something yourself and pay almost a third of the cost in taxes or come to me and pay a tenth. It’s a no-brainer. This community would crumble without me.

My name? No, I’m not gonna give you my name. What’d the point of that be? I mean, it’s not like I’m even gonna be able to let you live after stenog-recording this conversation."

(end auto voice transcript)

Running from Daylight pt. I

by Dominick Brady, Atlanta, GA, USA

"Settle in there, y'all. Two outs, now. Two outs!"

I always enjoyed juggling coaching duties and manning the solar cooker. You know, being in command of things. The first Saturday in June is an informal family reunion of sorts for the Bobbs, and this one began no different than most. A post dawn breeze rustled in the
needles of sun-bleached pine trees bordering the Lena side of Washington Park, bringing with it temporary relief from blood-curdling heat. Children's laughter echoed across the park in-between rhythmic slams emanating from the knife fight disguised as a domino game in the
covered picnic area. A gust of wind pushed wafts of dust up from the infield as sweat poured from Karim's chin, and painted the corner of the leather base-bag, mixing with flecks of earth into a maroon paste before quickly baking into moon-like craters. Karim proceeded to inch
further and further from the bag toward second base.

"I see you! I see you, boy! No stealing today! Play fair, now! We 'posed to be kin out here," I said, infant son, Gideon, cradled in my left arm, attempting to shield him from the shriek of my voice.

The plumes of dust thickened. I strained to monitor the game from the inadequate shade of a dying dogwood near my post at the solar cooker. The crack of the bat pierced the early morning air, followed immediately by a dull thud. Making my way back to the cooker, I began
placing the leftover jerk chicken in recycleable containers. That's when I heard mama scream.

Hotlanta had become nearly unbearable over the past few decades. Bitter cold winters and sun-scorched summers paired to bring the reality of climate change harder than anyone expected. With the ozone depleted over the city, being exposed to sunlight during the daytime
became the venture of fools and the forgotten. Atlanta's bold plan for an underground highway system as an answer to traffic blight might have seemed backwards thinking five decades ago, but due to recent climate related events, the Metro Atlanta Subterranean Highway System
or M.A.S.H., made Atlanta the primary artery for shipping and the logistical hub for all things east of the Mississippi. Nowadays, Georgia 400, known to many as the Atlanta Autobahn, The Cobb Cloverleaf, and the i-285 Perimeter, made way for belated green space, housing for prisoners and the unemployed: the frying pan's saving grace from the fire of life unprotected above ground.

Speeding along the M.L.K Tunnel, my blood-soaked hands slide about the steering wheel. "It's going to be alright, Mama. Keep applying pressure to his head," I reassured her.

"I can't, my hands keep slipping. There's too much blood!"

When the fly ball struck my father it broke his nose. For most this isn't a major problem, but for an elderly man surviving on vascular nanites and blood thinners it could be deadly. I glanced over at Gideon to make sure he was doing okay. My wife continued to sooth him, her narrow fingers slowing stroking his budding locs.

"Mama calm down…you're scaring Gideon. Everything will be okay. Trust me," I said looking over at Gideon, wondering if he knew what would be expected of him.

The history of the baobab

by Ibrahim Elkhalifa, Khartoum, Sudan

For as long as the semi-arid soil had existed, baobabs had stood tall. Wide and imposing.

Its deformed branches shaded animals and people, its trunk craved out to hold rainwater for the inevitable droughts.

Its sour chalky fruit was soaked for drinks, brewed for more potent drinks by moonshine brewers and enjoyed by children who sucked it and spitted out its black seeds.

Its bark was an essential ingredient for numerous remedies and its leaves soaked in water, alleviated period pains.

The baobab is associated with spirits, griots and assigned great spiritual Importance.
Most young people today have never heard of a baobab, let alone seen one.

The decimation began in 2026, when an Italian furniture designer on Safari was struck with the quality of the Baobab timber.

An international race for Baobab wood began and this rare tree slowly disappeared from the landscape.

At the present time no baobab trees are recorded as existing.

This decimation is noted as being the fastest of its kind, due to the rarity of the tree.

From the African Encyclopedia 2057 7th edition.


Manchester Boulevard + St. Andrews Place

by Ike Moses , Los Angeles, CA, USA

"Where you from, loc'?"

Jawan didn't reach for his piece. The question came from close enough range to determine he had already come up short. Getting caught slipping like this wasn't what worried him—all Angelenos eventually fall on the active plate beneath them—he worried about who might catch him.

He turned and saw two young men approaching on a single hybrid-electric bmx. The man on the handlebars cradled an old-fashioned Russian assault rifle, making it fair to conclude that they weren't a pair of census takers. The rifleman was a lightweight with sinews and muscles woven so tight that Jawan almost thought his flesh was made of Kevlar. He convinced himself that even if he did get the drop on ol' boy riding bitch, the bullet would have been wasted anyway.

It wasn't until the bike stopped, a yard or so in front of him, that Jawan got a good look at the pedaler; another teenager whose wrinkle-free icegrill matched the cold clarity of his navy irises. The men were now close enough for Jawan to read the ink flashing across the gunner's bare torso: "TINY TOON W/S ROLLIN NIN3-OW3 NAYBAHOOD CRIP." Every letter "I" in this alert was represented by an arrow pointing down. He noticed live graffiti on the crumbling stucco behind the bike team was broadcasting the same information, in synchronization with Tiny Toon's tattoos. A never-ending R.I.P. roster scrolled up Tiny's left forearm.

"S'wrong, homie?" Tiny questioned as he jumped down from his perch with the rifle pointed in the general direction of Jawan's sinuses, "You forgot where you stay? If you can't remember, I got a place you can rest at. Right across from The Forum."

Jawan had family there. At least he did before strays scavenged the mausoleum ruins.

"The 89th side of St. Andrews," Jawan answered to the rifle barrel.

"Don't act ignorant, my nigga!" Tiny's patience waned, "Who you with?"

"I live alone, 'migo!"

Tiny pressed the muzzle hard into Jawan's clavicle valley and asked with even breath, "You ain't registered to vote yet?"

Jawan choked a "Nah," keeping his answer short in fear that an excuse would insult the man who held an AK point-blank at his Adam's apple.

"Wacco!" Tiny called back to the bike pedaler without breaking Jawan's eye-contact, "La tableta. Tráigalo aquí."

"Símon," Wacco obeyed. His loose t-shirt reluctantly followed as he hustled over with the tablet in hand. After thumping the transparent plane a few times he asked Jawan, "¿Cho nombre?"

"Jawan. Or just Juan. Jawan Morgan."

Wacco seemed irritated by the irrelevant information, but he continued recording Jawan's personal data with dutiful disinterest. The tab's clear interface allowed Jawan to see Wacco's hand movements from the other side. Images were only projected on the front, however, so Jawan squinted to read what was reflected in the kid's glazed lenses. Upon completing the application Wacco turned the computer over to give Jawan the opportunity to review his answers. Jawan nodded before glancing at the screen.

"Now, what set you claim?" Tiny directed the question with more muzzle pressure to Jawan's neck, darkening the hickey above his collarbone.

"Get this shit off me!" Jawan loc'ed out for a moment and slapped the rifle nose toward his shoulder, "We both know ain't no petró in that AK!"

"You sure about that, cuz?" Tiny replaced the muzzle at Jawan's neck and said, "Claim a goddamn party!"

"¡Soy independiente!"

Wacco sucked his teeth and sighed, "Mark-ass moderados."

Tiny flipped the rifle and thrust the butt plate into Jawan's solar plexus. As he did this he mocked, "¡Soy independiente!" He then knelt near Jawan, who now stood doubled over, and said, "Fuck you think you is? Americano? You think you a 'stizo or some'n? You a yamp-ass 'yate! An independent nigga is a dead nigga. Align yourself or resign yourself, home!"

Jawan didn't rush to catch his wind. He felt like his body was laughing at a joke he didn't get, leaving him painfully confused. He did understand that this sidewalk on St. Andrews was not the place to figure it out, though. When the air came back, he huffed, "What if I want to bang Trays?"

"This es democracia," Tiny shrugged, "Be a Tramp all you want. Just don't come on this side of Manchester 'cause it's Tray-K e'yday."

"Fuck that," Jawan said, knowing all other options would mean relocation as well, "I'll roll with Rollin'."

It wasn't clear if Tiny and Wacco approved or disapproved of this choice, but they allowed it.

"Hang it from the left side," Wacco said, handing a blue flag over to Jawan, "'Cause it's West Side, fuck the rest side."

There was no more ceremony beyond that. Wacco raised the computer to Jawan's face for a video signature. Seeing himself in the tablet's mirror-mode, unable to decide on an expression between his raised brow, flared nostrils, and twitching mouth made Jawan feel like even more of a buster. He composed his mug and gave his verbal consent.

With that the voter registrars extended the thumb, index, and middle fingers from their right fists, to signify N-Hood affiliation, then remounted the bike. Tiny said, "You still need to be initiated, so we'll swoop you in a few days. Until then, remember: Neighbors don't need favors."

Wacco chimed in, "And N's don't need friends."


The Deegan Pt. II

by Monk, New York City, NY, USA

A standard paingun is about the size and shape of an old billy club. Non-lethal, barring occasional heart attacks from the sudden, intense sensation of full-body burning caused by a 94GHz millimeter wave. It is the standard peacetime sidearm of the NYPD, powered by a fuel cell that nominally offers up to five days' juice, 2,356 yard range, and a networked targeting system plugged into the old ATHENA surveillance satellite for around-the-corner shooting and nighttime auto-targeting. It's a beast of a weapon, ruggedized for melee as well, with an enforced ceramic frame, integral shock baton function, and retractable bayonette.

Unfortunately for Detective Anton Choudry, those little beauties are tagged and tracked every time they're checked out of the 50th Precinct's weapon locker. So, for his purposes, he relies on the fallback: a twenty-four year old version with cracked plastic casing held together with duct tape. Thing's got the form factor of an old assault rifle and uses disposable batteries that have to be replaced every time it's fired, like a shotgun. It's also about as conspicuous as a samurai sword. He'd use the less obvious slugthrower he keeps as a throwaway piece, but he's saving it for an unspecified special occasion. Ballistic weapons are even harder to come by these days than disposable weapon batteries.

From the undercover police van, he spots his guy coming out of the Deegan Motel, dressed in dirty white kaftan, bright red Rocketeer™ boots, and one of those animated dragon belts everyone under 30 seems to be wearing. Bailey Avenue hasn't had more than three street lights since the mid-1990s, so the broad four-lane street is sort of ideal for an ambush, lined on the west side by a century of carbon monoxide-poisoned trees and the Henry Hudson Parkway, on the east by burnt-out old warehouses, a few trucks, and the two-story Deegan. Choudry's target tugs his robes a little bit to get them across his widening gut. He's gotten all the right body modifications, marking himself with blood red skin and goat horns jutting from his forehead. Very recognizable, Les Diables Nordiques, but not necessarily the smartest gang. All bodymods have drawbacks. Grafting external bone, for instance, increases sensitivity around the modified area, like a new piercing.

So when Choudry hits him with the paingun, it's like pouring lemon juice and saltwater onto fresh third-degree burns.

Guy doesn't even scream, just makes a gurgling sound before hitting the cracked pavement, clawing at his face until skin comes off. Choudry jogs across the street, kicks the guy in the face a few times to stop his thrashing, throws him over his shoulder, and takes him back to the police van. Loads a stimulant into the handcuffs, checks that the remote works, then snaps it onto the guy's wrist, looping the other hand to the van's back door.

Choudry sits back for a second, staring at his prisoner. 'This is the guy who killed you, Pete,' he thinks, reaching absently for the soundbox in his pocket, musing what blackout, the final mystery high, feels like. Consoled that he hasn't tried it yet, absently wondering if it's the last line to cross before he's beyond salvage.

"Okay," he croaks, fumbling at the tiny black remote, jolting the guy with a stimulant through his handcuffs. "Wake up, dickbag. We've got some talking to do."

When the guy rouses, his worldview has narrowed to the barrel of a gun. Choudry knows he's got his attention. "Remember me?"


"Then you remember my partner," Choudry smirks.

The guy nods. "Nous n'avons pas voulu dire pour n'importe quoi mauvais de se produire—"

"We're well past good intentions, jackoff. Pete's dead, you pulled the trigger, and you and I both know that as of right now, you're never going to see the inside of a courtroom. Your boss is lubricated like the fucking space elevator," Choudry says. His voice shakes. He's more surprised by that than anything. The guy gets very quiet, stares at the paingun. Choudry continues. "So here's how it's going to go. All Pete's accounts are mine now, you understand? Whatever you were paying him to keep out of your little thing in Melrose, you pay me now. Double. Once for me, once for my partner."

"Ce qui?" the guy spits. "Merde! Ce n'est pas juste!"

Choudry kicks him in the face. The guy spits teeth onto the van floor.

"Double, you understand me? Or I kick that fucking door open with you cuffed to it and go for a little drive," Choudry says. The guy nods mournfully, and Choudry smiles. Not for Peter Singh, who was a liar and a douche. But for the upgrade he's planning on the soundbox singing to him quietly from his pocket.



by Nichole Perkins, Los Angeles, CA, USA

“They wanted more boys, you see,” Marie began, cradling her steaming cup of green tea like the treasure it had become. It was one of the bribes I had to use to get her to talk to me today.

“The war in Iraq, the Little Big One, all of it took so many of our boys, our men, and then the water became infected. Men started dying. Women began having…” she looked around, even though we were the only ones in her studio. “Women began having periods for months on end.” Her forehead folded on itself, the wrinkles hiding the ruins of her former identification number.

“I was 20, maybe 21. Had really started enjoying sex the way it should be, you know, and then I got my period and the shit just lasted and lasted. The third month, I cried myself sick for a week. They’d started rationing tampons!” She looked up at me, and for a moment, I saw panic in her wide eyes before she remembered the now. She lowered her untouched tea and reached out for the basket of peaches—another convincing gift—with her left hand, a hand with four tallies sliced onto its back.

She noticed my glance and tucked it beneath the table.

“Four miscarriages,” she confirmed flatly and turned her head to the window.
I waited, unwilling to speak. Her eyes chased dust motes dancing before the glass pane. I jumped when she abruptly pushed her chair away from the table and approached the window with a salt shaker from the makeshift lazy susan. She layered the grains against the windowsill before returning to her seat.

“The witches—they have to count the grains of salt before they can come in to steal your babies,” she advised, a tilt to her head.

I kept my face neutral. She sipped her tea.

“The bleeding stopped during the fifth month. They came for me during the sixth. My room was very nice, very comfortable. I yielded three, but there were four who knew the best way. They’d give us a month to recover when we lost one. Everybody lost one. So many girls killed themselves that they shortened it to two weeks, but then we’d die from bleeding. So they gave us a month again.”

Marie traced the final notch carved into her hand.

“I ran away after I lost Bliss. One of them—he liked me. I had to kill him, but I think I liked him, too. I made it to Refuge, in former Watts. It took three weeks. There were a lot of Sisters with eraser burns across their foreheads. I was home.”

She picked up her tea, and I knew the interview was over. It was as much as she was willing to give and more than I thought I’d get.

As I climbed onto my bike, I looked back and found her sprinkling the doorstep with salt.


W. 228th Street, between Kingsbridge Avenue + Broadway

by Monk, New York City, NY, USA

With a kind of smoldering magnesium heat, Tiny Schwarzbaum is reminded once again why he hates pairing. It's not Big Bug he hates, pumping data from the TacWomb in the precinct basement. Tiny's never met his partner. As far as he knows, Big Bug is just some crippled shlub floating in a saline tub with nutrient feed in one arm, catheter up his putz, and sensor machines from the NYPD's Unified Tactical Platform where his face and shoulders should be. The poor bastard's whole world is a network of unmanned aerial drones, broad-spectrum scanners strapped to stationary balloons, and a time-share with the Port Authority for the antique Anti-Terror Hazard & Espionage Net Assessment satellite in geosynchronous orbit above the city. Somewhere in the maze of bacterially-grown circuits and artificial neurons that make up his prosthetic upper body, is the pairing mechanism that let's poor Big Bug communicate with Schwarzbaum. So how can he hate? Big Bug is just a messenger.

What six-foot-seven Schwarzbaum hates is the crawling sensation every time his partner squirts strategic goo through the ether: feeling of ticks and fleas at the back of his skull. For instance, Schwarzbaum feels fairly John Wayne-ish standing over his eighth kill of the afternoon, the middle of this big old abandoned mattress factory on W. 228th Street. Then Big Bug shoots him an overhead infra-red scan indicating the guy he actually came for is huddled behind an nearby aluminum door, with a heat source Big Bug announces as a Magnetic Accelerator Cannon. All of Schwarzbaum's three-hundred and eighty-four pounds of swagger evaporates into the creepy crawlies. Roughly then, the hate starts pumping, and his brain starts shutting down in segments, starting with Patience, then Self-Control.

"Such a way to make a living," he mutters, flexing the segmented metal of his prostheses around the the aluminum door's hinges.

By then, Big Bug drops a kind of siren alert that the MAC is powering up, and while he may mean well, it goes off like an instant migraine. Schwarzbaum, kraken of the fighting 50th Precinct's (nearly) vestigial Vice Squad, quite literally staggers. The segmented chrome tentacles where his arms should be writhe like garden snakes. Pairing doesn't give him eloquence to express himself meaningfully to Big Bug. Instead, he remembers what it was like to have hands, envisions callused hairy mitts clearly, and has them fold neatly into two great 'fuck yous', which he sends tumbling down the pipeline. Big Bug responds with something like bruise-colored lights. Schwarzbaum tightens his shiny tentacles around the door, and pulls.

And there is Mitty Baptiste, narcotics chief of Jesus Christ's Ecstatic Army of Truth, foxholed behind a desk that looks like some kind of military surplus salvage, the MAC's tripod planted neatly at its center. Schwarzbaum is stupid with hate at this point, and doesn't waste time with peaceable parlay. Baptiste's JCEAoT has run enough rainbow-colored powders through the Bronx's under-12 demographic to fuel a continuous hallucination through the next millennium. His addled minions have torched the Bronx's oldest masjid, three Mormon temples, a Sikh community center, and the regal old Catholic Church up by Castle Hill. The more mature members of his militia (which is to say, the ones who have survived Baptiste's unique cocktail of religious frenzy and low-grade chemical run-off) have turned to running numbers, hacking Federal data trunks, identity invasion, prostitution, organ-theft, and racketeering. The Organized Crime Task Force has tagged Baptiste as the kind of virulent human plague New York City can no longer tolerate.

But worse, he hasn't split his profits with the proper authorities at the 50th Precinct.

Meaning whatever gripes Tiny Schwarzbaum has about pairing will have to wait until he's got Mitty Baptiste by the throat.

And squeezes.


178th Street and Grand Concourse

by Monk, New York City, NY, USA

Steps over nodding vagrants in the stairwell and makes her way up to the client, cursing the Bronx with every step. The building's a century old, sandwiched between a rusting megamall half-finished twenty years ago, and an abandoned brownstone that leans ominously to one side, propped by an aching wooden brace. The stairs creak, rusted gaps between floors. Litter. Smell of fermented piss and liquor. Cannabis, tobacco, burnt plastic. Yellow police webbing on some doors, animated black text rolling across its surface, gentle voice repeating, 'This is an active crime scene. Trespassers will be violated. Please move along.' By the time she reaches Sanghita Choudry's apartment, she's very comfortable with the idea of running back to her native village in Estonia. Screaming.

She knocks a few times at the old aluminum door, caked with chipped paint and silver graffiti, kicks a rat off her foot, and is finally answered by the sound of locks and chains unbinding themselves. The door wheezes open and there is the dowager Choudry, shrunken turnip woman in faded red sari, thick spectacles, beaten sandals, and a bindi that looks almost exactly like a bullet wound, halo'd by smog-colored hair. She asks if her visitor is from the city's Senior Services.

"I am."

Mrs Choudry ushers her into the generous foyer, walls stained with curious brown stains and familiar pock marks. Adjacent is a living room saved from total darkness by numerous candles. Small table in the corner with framed prints of family, most of them tinted sepia from the huge, moldy hole in the ceiling, rotting beams and pipes exposed. Beaten couch in opposite corner, upholstered in surplus bedding, bulge of bare springs beneath. Smell of curry and cooking oil.

"Oh, thank goodness you came," Mrs Choudry says sweetly. "My telephone has not worked for days—I was afraid you had forgotten about me!"

"No, ma'am," she replies coolly, her accent a series of clipped vowels and rolling Rs. "But it is a big city. We get backed up from time to time. You say your phone is not working? Because another social worker from the city was supposed to be here last week."

"I can't get the battery to charge. My son keeps saying he will come by with a new phone, but he is a policeman for the city, and he is so busy..."

"I see," the social worker says, producing an orange plastic kit from her knapsack. "In here, you will find a number of emergency items for cases like this. A wind-up net receiver for emergency broadcasts, several high-density vitamin bars—"

"Oh, I can't eat those," Mrs Choudry blushes, "they give me the winds."

The social worker's teeth grate. "...a flashlight, pepperspray, and here, a spare phone with up to four programmable contact numbers."

Mrs Choudry takes the phone, inspects it. "This is paper."

"It is disposable, yes."

"But what if I get it wet?"

"It is teflon-coated, Mrs Choudry. Waterproof."

"But what if the battery goes flat? How will I call my son?"

"It runs off your body electricity, Mrs Choudry. If it isn't getting reception, there are instructions in the kit to—"

"Oh, I can't read English."

The social worker curses the luck that landed her on American shores. She wanted Buenos Aires. Paris of the South. Warm weather. Tropical drinks. Mercifully few senior citizen. And only a single national language. "The booklet is in Urdu, as well, Mrs Choudry. Page seventy-three."


"Would you like to show me around, Mrs Choudry?"

"Oh! I'm being so rude! I would offer you tea, but I've been so short on money..."

"I've come with a packet of green stamps for you, Mrs Choudry, and can escort you to the local ration station if you need me to."

"Oh my! They sent a police officer?"

"Ah, no."

"You're armed?"

"I understand your concern, Mrs Choudry, but green stamps aren't really money. I shouldn't need a gun to escort you."

"Oh, child, you are so sweet, but the welfare office on Burnside is much too dangerous for you, then!"

She looks at her surroundings, accepts Mrs Choudry's wisdom. The elderly woman shows her the barren kitchen with its empty pantry, broken appliances, and modest crank-powered hotplate. She dutifully records it all on her phone, time-stamps everything, and returns to the foyer, where she begins assembling the forms and fetishes of proof that New York City has not been delinquent caring for their elderly.

"Your phone," Mrs Choudry asks sweetly, pointing to the social worker's purse, "was it expensive?"

"Not very," she responds, producing a black plastic pad. "I need you to place your thumb here to sign off on my appointment, Mrs Choudry."

"But the phone is new?"

"What? I bought it last week."

"Ah," the old woman says thoughtfully. "And how are you getting home, dear? It's getting so late."

"I suppose I'll take a cab."

"They only take cash up here, I'm afraid, child."

The social worker sighs impatiently. "I have cash, Mrs Choudry. Now, your fingerprint, please?"

Mrs Choudry smiles, blinking owlishly behind her thick spectacles. The social worker stares back, oblivious to the old woman's right hand, which has somehow produced a chrome and wood thing from the innards of her sari.

"It is getting late, dear," Mrs Choudry says sweetly, plucking the thumbprint verifier from her social worker's hand. "But as you said, those green stamps aren't really money. So if you could kindly leave your cash, that lovely new phone, and that pretty gold cross you're wearing on the table, that would be delightful. Quickly, my child. This is a very old pistol, and between my shaky old hands and its hair trigger, I can't promise it won't just go off and splatter your pretty little face all over my wall. Thank you, dear. It's so nice knowing the city cares enough to send you people to visit an old woman from time to time."


Dying From Too Much

by James Peach, Nashville, TN, USA

I've got 12 hours to live. I've managed to do things in the last 24 that most people spend their whole lives fantasizing about. Some of them I did so that when I do die, people will say, "Herman was a good guy in the end." Other things I did because most people spend their whole lives fearing the consequences. Most of the things I did because I just don't give a fuck now. Why should I?

I've stolen.

I've killed.

I've hurt myself.

I've eaten until I threw up. Four times.

I've given homeless people thousands of dollars. That was gonna be for a new game system.

I told my moms that I love them. Susan didn't care. Nokia didn't understand why I did it. She didn't think about it very long, though, before her soundbox finished charging and she went right back to what she does best, which is getting high.

I haven't done any drugs, because if there's nothing there after you die, it just isn't smart to waste the time I have left as a high retard. Besides, I can't think of any I haven't already done.

It's not fair, but there's really no time to cry about it. Not my fault, anyways, and I can't change it. The only person that may be able to fix me wants more money than I can get in time without doing things to myself that would completely negate my will to live anyways. If it weren't my own life that was ending, I might be amused that our very own local kingpin is also the most capable doctor in the country. I admire his drive, though. I had three jobs, but this guy…….Ah fuck that. Fuck Doctor Edgar.

People are telling me that there was a time when people in the poorest parts of the world died before they hit my age because they didn't have enough. I'm dying because we have too much.

All of a sudden, dying a high retard is sounding really good.

Later on, I'll go sit at Riverfront Park to watch the fireworks. Most people in Nashville don't remember why we have fireworks this time of year. I do, but I think it's stupid. Nobody throws a parade when a beaten child grows up to beat his kids, so why shoot fireworks on the fourth?

I hope hell isn't as bad as that dramatic reenactment they did on the news last week.

The realization of the stupidity of all of the things I wanted to be when I grew up is just now hitting me. If I weren't dying, I'd go back to school. I could've had my masters by now. I don't regret the way I did things, I'm just saying.

Well, it's about time to wrap it up, I guess. I'm gonna stick this note…….Shit, I dunno where. I want someone to miss me. Maybe as my last good deed, I'll go to the hospital and die there, so I can save people the struggle of schlepping my ninety-pound body to the crematorium. Hopefully, they'll see me and say, "Thanks, man. That was considerate."

I won't even see puberty. Goddammit.