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Flash Fantastic!

No. 17March 2005

By R. Perez

The wolf-sized beast with the head of a pigeon and the torso of a cocker spaniel pecked at the chunks of stale bread Dave tossed at it. An autumn breeze blew a smile across Dave's lips and cheeks. "Maybe this is the Pij-ines that announced its flight path on Mike's windshield". The thought comforted him. "The SOB deserves a lot more than that".

Dave realized that his smile had warped into a scowl. He glanced at his watch. "Just a few more minutes and I'll have the opportunity to change it all".

Shortly thereafter, a broad shouldered man in a black suit wearing a hat that looked like the child of a fedora and bowler approached the bench.

"David?" he said as he extended his hand.

Dave raised himself to shake his hand and replied, "Mr. Crane?"

"Yes, pleased to meet you."

They both seated themselves on the bench. "Beautiful day, isn't it?" Mr. Crane said, "Oh! And look, there's one of our first lines." He pointed to the Pij-ines. "You know, more than one tightrope-walker owes life or limb to our curious little creation."

"Can't say the same for Pig-ines" David retorted.

Mr. Crane knew he had to nip this in the bud. Pig-ines had been the source of much Bio-ethics controversy. "Those are Splicegen's sin against nature. Omnigene doesn't make animal guardians. All our products undergo extensive eco-engineering, biodiversity simulations, and of course, very scrupulous genetic analysis. I can only speculate about the precautions of our competitor, but if they think an oversized pig-rottweiler isn't going to thwart an innovative burglar, then they're one gene short of a mutation. The only thing those beasts are good at vacating is their bowels."

Dave inhaled deeply. He had let it happen again. He blurted out something that had little relevance to his goal. This would probably be his only chance to talk to a willing Omnigene salesman, and he was wasting time chattering about transgenic organisms.

"Okay, let's vacate the small talk," Dave said. Mr. Crane instinctively tensed at Dave's brusqueness.

The nerves in Dave's stomach twisted. He'd be as quick as he could about it. "I'm going out on a limb," he said, groping for the right words to get his request across without making himself appear like a total moron, "and I want to get to another limb. Ah, a higher limb. You see, and the tree isn't a tree. It's," he lowered his voice, and then mumbled "intelligence."

Mr. Crane's befuddled gaze greeted Dave. "I want cognitive gene therapy!" Dave blurted. His volume startled him.

Mr. Crane glanced from side to side to confirm the vacancy of the park. He leaned toward Dave, the way conspirators do before they plot to overtake the world, and whispered, "If you maintain that volume, the only jeans you'll be dealing with will be the ones in your closet." He pulled back. "Besides, it's not like climbing a tree. It's more like planting one. You have to cultivate it, if you want it to grow." He paused. "Actually it's more like making yogurt than it is growing trees."

Dave took his turn at looking puzzled. "So, I can end up spending fifty years of work for dead tree and some sour milk?" he protested.

"Not entirely," Mr. Crane said, "Let's take this one thing at a time. Our technology is like yogurt. We use your brain (the milk) and add viral promoters (the bacteria) that deliver code to your existing neurons. The code restructures the neurons to work the same way the donor's did. Thus, producing the yogurt. Basically, you're getting better brain chemistry. And that's where the cultivation comes in. You won't have new knowledge, but you will have the same mental capacity of the donor or donors. So, if you choose a writer, for example, you won't get a voluminous vocabulary, but you will be able to develop one quickly, and the words you do know won't be on the tip of your tongue, they'll be somersaulting off."

"What about the consequences? What if I get fired? What if pastor Irving finds out? What if? What if I get caught and have to serve time in the V-cell!?"

Mr. Crane read the concern on Dave's face. "Look, if you're worried about legal issues, for an extra 10,000 euros, we can fly you to Germany."

Dave squirmed. His chest felt as if turned into an icebox. "I'm not sure about this," he said.

"You're sure," said Mr. Crane in a soothing but stern voice, "that you're tired of milk that's quickly turning rancid."

Dave nodded. Mr. Crane enthusiastically flipped his case open. "We have an array of donors. You can choose up to two."

Dave peered inside the suitcase. There were hundreds of rows of ovals each with a name and five-digit number below them.

"Is Da Vinci in there?" Dave asked.

"I'm afraid we don't have the Da Vinci code," replied Mr. Crane. "We only have Twentieth to Twenty First Century donors."

Dave scanned his options. "How much for Einstein and Norris?"

"Excellent choice: a physicist and a novelist. That's a very good combination."Mr. Crane typed the codes into a hand held digital assistant. "900,000 euros," he said.

Dave frowned. "I can't"

"We have an excellent payment plan," interrupted Crane, "I've taken the liberty of scanning your uni-chip. You can afford it, if you take them here."

Dave tentatively reached for the bb-sized tablets Mr. Crane had removed from his case.

"You'll feel some effect instantly, but it takes about two days before the upgrade is complete."

Dave swallowed. The answers to thousands of unsolved riddles, word-games, and math problems zoomed into focus. "Aha!" he said. Mr. Cranston smiled.

"I've done it! I'm as smart as Frank Norris and Albert Einstein. I've become...," Dave frowned, "Damn it! I've become Frank Einstein!"

By Christopher Pierson

She tended the eggs with other hatchery workers under the watchful eyes of the Mater. Sun had risen, focused through the roof of the hatchery.

She was the first to hear the helicopters. She begged the Mater to let her greet the Men, see what they thought of the tiny settlement they had been allowed to build on the African veldt.

“No,” the Mater told her. “Our responsibility is to the eggs. These hatchlings will be the first to see Sun from the day they are born.” They all heard the first explosion. They chattered fearfully-except for the Mater who quickly calmed them down and handed each a pack in which three eggs would fit. From outside came screams and the howls of wounded three-horns.

The Mater pushed her and the other workers into the blinding African day. “Run,” she said. “Don’t look back.” She ran though smoke and flying debris. A wounded three-horn nearly crushed her in its death throws.

She ran. She did not look back.

The pack shifted heavily on her shoulders. She wanted to remove it, but was afraid of losing the three eggs it held. Three of fifty, she thought. She imagined the others crushed in the hatchery rubble. A small, scrubby bush provided the only cover on the veldt. Breathing heavily, she knelt beneath it and finally looked back to see black smoke pouring into the sky.

In the distance a herd of wildebeest grazed, moving closer.

Sun moved toward the horizon. A gentle breeze brought little comfort.

A wildebeest sniffed at her and continued grazing.

As her breathing slowed she remembered with growing sadness the swell of pride she had felt when she realized hers would be the generation that would return Home. Pride became concern with the realization that Others had populated their ancestral Home. They called Home Earth. She tried to pronounce the human word. It came out in a strangled garble. Her voice had more in common with the birds flying overhead. She never could say the human words.

The teachers had taught the curiosity of human races, the fracture-lines of nations and how Men learned to throw things at each other to gain advantage one over another. War was the human word the teachers managed to say. The children were taught to say Death-from-a-distance in their own chirping tongue. The boys, particularly, had laughed at the notion. “How can you kill from a distance? You grapple prey and kill with claw-blades.” But she had now seen Death-from-a-distance and she had yet to see a Man.

Sun set angrily beyond the horizon and she felt hunger. Reluctantly she removed the backpack, relieving her sore shoulders, checked the coils that warmed the eggs. Reassured, she removed the claw-blades from a side pocket in the pack and affixed them to her wrists and ankles. She was hungry and as the first stars appeared in the sky she stepped onto the veldt and moved silently toward the grazing wildebeest.

By Barry Hollander

The blue sky matches her eyes, or so you think; a closer look and there are dancing flecks of yellow that really don’t belong. Her sundress has flowers, sure, but look harder and those plants resemble the ones that lure insects deep inside with the false promise of nectar.

It’s too bad you didn’t pay better attention at that first meeting. A blind date, and you were the blind one.

Later, she pours drinks in her kitchen while you sit on her faded couch, an uncoiled spring stabbing up like a proctologist examining a cavity you’d prefer remains unexamined. She hands over a drink and sits, sipping at her own glass of something red, a tiny pink umbrella poking out the top. Who keeps tiny pink umbrellas at home? But damn she’s pretty, even with the yellow eyes, even a dress now full of plants bloated from their bug feast. She says something clever, tosses her drink down in a single gulp that sends the umbrella parachuting to the floor, then she inches closer. It’s so important that first kiss, like the SAT of a relationship: no one expects a perfect score, but you’ve got to do well if you want to continue to the good stuff.

That dress, those eyes, you’ve seen enough bad horror movies to know what comes next, about how a kiss becomes a nibble becomes a bite, and not the good kind, or maybe she’s crazy and with luck it’s only the wild kind of crazy that leaves you sore for a few days but not dead. That’s important, the not-dead part, but it’s been so long between women now that you owe your right hand a night out on the town, a dinner and a movie and maybe a ring so it can dress up for special occasions.

As you teeter on the precipice between getting laid and getting dead, she draws you close, her tongue slipping into your mouth. There’s a line there somewhere and you cross it, that fuzzy line where free will takes a vacation, where rationale choice becomes a mere abstract philosophical concept, where your body takes over and your mind decides, “Oh what the hell, I’m going to Disney World.”

So what’s the kicker?

After all she has those yellow eyes, that strange dress. And don’t forget the pink umbrella. No normal person keeps pink umbrellas at home.

Later you lay naked in a tangle of sheets (How did you get from the couch to the bed? Does it even matter?) and mull this over as she snores, an arm thrown across her eyes to block out a slant of light from the bathroom. You slide out of bed, ease the bathroom door closed behind you, feeling as good as you’ve felt in years. A quick bit of business and you take care not to flush, not wanting to wake her.

Then a quick glance at the mirror: You see stubble in need of a razor, hair in need of a comb.

And those eyes.

Those yellow eyes.

THIS ISSUE OF FLASH FANTASTIC -- "Genetic Yogurt" is ©2005 by R.Perez.  "Sun" is ©2005 by Christopher Pierson.  "Those Yellow Eyes" is ©2005 by Barry Hollander.  All contents of Flash Fantastic 2005 are edited by Art Brown. Please send all submissions to FF editor, Art Brown.  Final formatting and additional graphics by Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Crazed Fanboy dotcom and Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.

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