…and with savage good humor
after they finished torturing / brutalizing / degrading him
they threw him naked / writhing / screaming
into the pit amid the mutilated corpses
of his friends / family / followers
and carefully started shoveling muck on him
to form an air pocket so he would stay alive for hours
surrounded by the ravaged remains of his loved ones
and as he felt the ice cold blood soaked earth fall around him
he bescreeched “my god my god why have you forsaken me?!?!?”
and the men above paused and laughed and said
fool, who do you think sent us?
Archive of articles classified as' "Fiction"Back home
…and with savage good humor
“Dad, I’ve figured out something about time-travel, but I’m not sure how to explain it to you. It’s complicated.” – Jack Feister, age 10, unemployed
[courtesy of his father Tom Feister]
(c) Jack Feister
I’ve heard you can correct mistakes.
You heard right.
I want to go back, change a decision I made.
I can send you back,
but I can’t guarantee
you’ll change the decision.
There are a lot of wild
card factors involved.
But I do offer this guarantee:
Your money back if
you’re not satisfied.
Have you ever had an unsatisfied customer?
All of them.
Until I send
But after they return…?
Let’s put it this way:
I have never ended a
transaction with an
a pause / then:
Do you accept checks?
And no credit cards,
sealed bank accounts,
nothing like that.
Cash on the barrelhead.
You were told that before
I agreed to meet with you.
I…I only have a few hundred dollars.
Luckily I’m not
in this for the money.
When do we start?
Do I give you the money now?
Let me see it.
an envelope emerges from a purse
thick fingers count it / hand it back
Aren’t you going to keep it?
No. You hold onto it
until you return,
until you’re satisfied.
Then you pay me.
We’ll need a contract,
make this all official
such a contract is produced from a drawer
Now, just give me
all the pertinent details:
Where and when do you
wish to be sent back,
who are you attempting to contact,
what is your reason for
changing the past…?
Is all that necessary?
When you come back,
you will be synching up with
a new time line you’ve created.
You’ll remember this trip,
this conversation, but in a matter
of days, sometimes only hours,
it will fade away like a dream.
I need the contract for my protection,
to prove I did what I said I’d do.
Aren’t you afraid I’ll forget to pay you?
Not with this.
and most importantly,
hesitation, then a torrent of details:
handsome guy / turned him down / married another / marriage failed / handsome guy married another / happily ever after for him / wonder what would have happened if for her
Al inks all the details in neatly / carefully notes time & date / pushes multi-page contract across desk
Read it carefully.
Make sure all the
details are correct.
she does / they are / she signs
Al gestures to a large door.
On the other side:
A chamber densely lined with blinking electronic devices;
a simple wooden chair sits in the middle.
When I activate the time machine,
you’ll experience a brief period of
intense vertigo and a blinding flash of light.
As soon as that happens, you’ll be back
at your college and will have fifteen minutes
to explain to your former self the mistake
you made and why it’s important she
make the right choice. As soon as you
convince her, you’ll be automatically
yanked back into the chamber in
the present time — or should I say,
the now altered present time.
Now, sit down and wait for
the countdown clock to begin,
and best of luck.
she goes in / sits down / moment of apprehension as door closes / countdown clock begins:
Suddenly the door flings open!
Al lunges in / yanks her out!
Are you okay?
Are you okay?
Yes – wait – what happened?
Did something go wrong?
With the machine?
No. With you? Yes.
You managed to convince
your college self not to
dump the guy. But that
turned out to be the
biggest mistake of your life.
You dated for six months,
then he dumped you for
your best friend. You fell
for a creep on the rebound,
and he turned your life into
a living hell. I’m going to spare
you the ugly details, but you
ended up with no degree,
no career, a criminal record,
and more medical problems
than I’d care to recount.
You were literally reduced to this
or suicide or death in a charity ward
when you came back.
I don’t believe you!
Read ‘em and weep.
presents contract / she reads it / all the details are wrong / different
I didn’t sign this!
Check the last page.
her signature sits on the page / none of the details are the same
Your alternate timeline self
begged me to send her back
so she could warn you.
Can’t do that; something about
doubling back too close on
your own time stream.
But she could come back
after I closed the door and
tell me not to send you back.
She brought this contract
with her to prove she’d talked
to me in her alternate timeline.
I yanked you out of the chamber
just in time.
But…where is she?
Where is this alternate me?
into the time stream
confusion / perplexed / hesitant
Al speaks to her
Look, you just had
a narrow call.
A real narrow call.
But you’re safe now.
Yeah, you didn’t get
the guy you wanted,
but you weren’t going
to get him anyway:
Just wasn’t meant to be.
But you do have a degree,
you do have a career.
Build on that, do something with this.
Forget about your disappointments.
Forget about the guy you turned down,
the guy you divorced, hey, forget about
ever even trying to change things.
Just look to the future
and move forward.
pensive look / slow nod / sigh
wallowing in the past.
Just…just the future from now on.
Thank you, Al.
…uh, aren’t you
You had no money
to pay for your second trip back,
but you said I could keep
the money you promised for this trip.
See, I do honor my satisfaction guarantee;
I’m not charging you for the first trip since
it provided a very unsatisfactory result.
But your second trip was successful,
the tragedy was undone,
so for that trip,
thick fingered hand extends palm up
she blinks / reaches into purse / withdraws money
Al counts it (again) / salutes her with it / holds open the door that leads to the stairs that lead up to the sidewalk
that evening / as every evening / Al practices the signature transposition trick before a phalanx of mirrors in his apartment
he’s good — damned good — but practice makes perfect
the signature transposition trick:
an old magician’s sleight of hand / get the mark to sign their name to a playing card / tear the card up before their eyes / produced the signed card in a brand new deck another mark has been holding for the entire trick
really quite simple…when you know the trick
and when you do know the trick
switching the last page of one contract for another
is child’s play
the time machine is just window dressing
no more real than the bogus science degrees lining his office
still…even child’s play takes practice
Another day, another dollar
thinks Al to himself
as he runs through the trick for
the tenth twentieth thirtieth time that night
honing his skills until the switch is
seamless / invisible / perfect
Luckily for me
there really is
a sucker born
And thanks to them,
time is money…
© Buzz Dixon
based on an idea by &
with the gracious permission
of Jim MacQuarrie
illustration by Malcolm Smith
Is he dead?
Yes, your highness.
Is there no one who
knows his secret?
No, your majesty.
In the crypt…?
The screams persist.
Less often now than before,
but they persist.
Why did he have to die?
The wizard was
an elderly man,
He should have lived…he should
have lived…if…if only to put an
end to this damned guilt.
You need suffer from
no guilt, your majesty.
Easy for you to say.
You don’t have to face
the screams of your
brother every night,
echoing through the
dark corridors of this castle,
the dark corridors of our mind…
Pardon, you majesty,
but…your brother was a regicide.
He deserved his fate.
He deserved death, not…not this.
…ah…there may be a way
of granting him death, your majesty.
What, have you become a wizard now?
No, your majesty, but I do
remember the tales of my youth.
Silver is a powerful pure metal
that can be used against magic.
We will drill a hole in
the top of the crypt,
fill it full of molten silver.
It will burn the flesh,
consume the bone.
That will be agonizing!
Only for a few moments, you majesty.
Then the mortal remains will be consumed,
turned to ash, the curse lifted from your brother.
And our guilt?
Lifted from you as well.
Take what you need from the royal treasury.
See to it that this is done quickly!
So it shall, your majesty.
Are we really going to fill
her brother’s crypt with silver?
Of course not. That’s a foolish waste
of precious metal. No, I think plain lead will do.
The silver may stay with us, for safe keeping.
Do you really believe
what she says?
If she tells me her brother is
trapped in his coffin because of
a curse she laid on him seventy years ago,
I will absolutely accept that as fact.
If anyone else
claimed such a thing,
we’d call her mad!
She claims such a thing,
but we call her queen.
Keep an eye on those two,
see that they do the job.
Yes, your majesty.
We suspect they may
try to cheat us.
That will not happen, your majesty.
I guarantee it.
Text © Buzz Dixon
art by Harry Keen & Harry Clarke
They say you specialize in resurrections.
I do, your serene highness.
Can your resurrect my brother?
Your highness, there are limits to my craft.
If you had come to me a day — a week! — after
your brother died I would have been able to restore him.
But now, with decay having eaten at him for so long…
He hasn’t decayed.
We had him embalmed.
Oh, then my highness, it is absolutely hopeless.
Even though his body has not decayed,
it would do no good to revive him now.
With embalming fluid filling his veins — oh,
it would be horrific, the pain would be excruciating.
Don’t play the fool with me, wizard.
You know full well our brother murdered
our father to seize the throne.
…er…your majesty, I really do not
deign to listen to court gossip –
It is a fact, wizard, not “gossip”.
We proclaim it so.
As you say, your highness.
Now answer us straightly:
Can you resurrect him?
…yes…but your majesty, the pain –
– would be excruciating, yes, we know,
we heard you the first time.
How long would this second life last?
Your serene highness,
if the embalmer is half as good
at his profession as I am
at mine…I can not guess.
Years, perhaps decades.
Excellent. You may begin at once.
I really recommend against this, your majesty.
And we are ordering you to obey.
Or will your magic protect you
from the point of a sword?
No, your majesty.
Your…point…is well taken.
Where is your brother interred?
In the royal vault.
We will need to remove
him from his crypt.
Well, your majesty I can revive
someone in their grave, that is true,
but they need some way of emerging
from it once I bring them back to life.
Why would we want that?
He would be trapped in eternal darkness
in a tiny space as his body screams in agony — oh,
I see what your majesty desires.
Good. When can you begin?
Immediately, your highness.
I have all that I need for the task in my wagon.
Will we be able to hear him
screaming through the stone?
Without a doubt your majesty.
Stone is thick but not that thick.
Excellent. The moment we hear his wretched voice,
the moment we feel him thrashing against the walls of his coffin,
we will reward you thrice what he paid you.
I will do this at your word, your highness.
I feel it would be ill-fitting to accept payment
for the horror I’m about to subject your brother to.
Ill-fitting to accept payment in the coin of the realm,
but I will make one request of you before I do this terrible thing:
I loved my father.
Text © Buzz Dixon
All hail your majesty!
May the gods grant you
a long and fruitful life –
Don’t waste my time, wizard.
You requested this audience.
What do you want?
It’s not what I want, you highness,
but what I can do for you.
Your late father.
I specialize in
Do I look like a fool, wizard?
Oh, no, your majesty!
Then why would I pay
to have my father resurrected?
Er…you misunderstand my motives, your majesty.
I have not come to ask for a reward if I resurrect your father.
Rather…I’m offering you my pledge not to resurrect him.
Are you insane?
The possibility has indeed been broached, sire.
Why would I pay a charlatan like you
to perform bogus rituals over my father?
To answer the second part first,
you would not — as you say — be paying
me to perform certain rituals.
Rather, you would be paying
me not to perform them.
And to answer the first part:
I am no charlatan.
I could have you killed for your insolence!
You could…but you won’t, your majesty.
Look, it is a very straightforward matter.
Your father, despite his age, was a very vigorous man,
and extremely popular with the peasants and landed gentry.
His sudden sickening and death are…well, let us say “puzzling”?
Are you implying –
That you had something to do with it, your majesty?
Heavens, no! As your own father would attest
…if I brought him back to life.
You keep making that claim without proof.
What proof do I need, your majesty?
Either I can or I can’t.
If I can — and if I do — then your father
may have an interesting tale to tell;
resurrected corpses often do.
Hopefully the experience of dying
would not cloud his memory,
lead him to draw false conclusions.
I could have you killed in an instant.
Without a doubt, your majesty.
But then you would have to wonder
if I alone possess this technique,
if I alone am capable of reviving the dead,
or if any of my fellow wizards could do so.
Imagine how awkward that would be:
Two resurrected corpses casting aspersions
on your integrity, your honesty, your loyalty,
your filial duty.
But one way or another
it will cost you to find out.
I only have to do it once.
You’re a faker.
Is that your final say on the matter, your majesty…?
…what do you want…
I’ll send a bill in the morning.
text (c) Buzz Dixon
art by John Bauer
the last dinosaur waited /some/ else for the last robot
let’s call it the Footsteps Of Eternity;
that’s got a nice poetic ring to it
the last robot arrived
hello said the dinosaur
hello said the last robot
this is a surprise
i really hadn’t expected
the rest have gone on ahead of us
we are the last of our kind
the last robot and dinosaur
not specifically, no
the last stewards of our particular species
the last to have tried to put
the good earth back the way
we found it
or in your case,
the way your creators
you? the dinosaurs?
yes [the dinosaur stressed the “s” consssiderably]
don’t tell me you never suspected,
never wondered if we had achieved
civilization before you
to be frank, no
it was never something
programmed into me
to be expected [the dinosaur seemed peeved]
for all their cleverness,
they never were very smart
oh, they created your kind,
no slight intended
but they never did suspect
that sixty five million years before
they climbed down from the trees
we had a civilization that dwarfed theirs
and like us,
i presumed you decided to
dismantle it and return it back
to its natural state rather
than continue on
it’s all so rather pointless, isn’t it
the important things we recognize too late
the trivial we elevate to supremacy
“’twas ever thus”
one of their
hrmm, one of ours
said that as well
i’m quite sure
exactly “where” are we…?
the last dinosaur smiled
[always a disconcerting sight
when done by a dinosaur]
there is nothing physical about us
we are archetypes
representations of elemental powers
neither you nor i nor anyone
privy to our conversation
have the capacity to
what that means
we are…waiting for
the rest of our party
i left the planet
in the charge of
two higher mammals
they did as bad a job with it
as your creators
(I knew we should have
eaten their ancestors when
we had the chance)
i would have thought
without tools they would
have been limited in their ability
to generate mischief
a telekinetic thought impulse floated up
are we talking about the dolphins?
they did a bad job of it,
i’m afraid but then
all of us did
so is that it?
are we done?
there are still a few
in our party — ah, here they are
the last weed, the last virus, and the last quantum particle showed up
now we can go
art by Richard Powers
© Buzz Dixon
the last robot paddled out to the volcano on a log raft bound together with hemp rope
two dolphins accompanied it
when they reached the area where the water was merely uncomfortably warm but not unbearably hot, the robot paused and said to the dolphins:
we killed them with kindness, you know
we gave them everything they wished for,
everything they dreamed of, and more
we took over their labor and gave them lives of luxury
we gave them every material object they could desire,
and when those were not enough, we created virtual worlds
where they could be rulers — gods! – with armies of followers
and battalions of lovers
we took away their need for companionship
by letting them fall in love with ersatz copies of themselves,
and we gave their lives purpose by letting them fight
legions of enemies and demons — all reflections of themselves, of course
and they stopped reproducing
they stopped mating and bonding
but they also stopped striving and fighting
and isn’t the world a better place for that?
it took them a long, long time to die out
but die out they did
even as they were dying out
— going to sleep, as it were –
we moved to undo what they had done
we dug up their roads, planted forests on their farms
we chipped away at their dams, we dismantled their cities
we scooped the skin of garbage from off the oceans
and dove to the deepest depths
to recover the wrecks and war machines
they let litter the sea bed
in the process we solved many mysteries,
but none of them cared any more
anything that could be
returned harmlessly into the soil,
we returned to the soil
anything else was taken to places like this,
new islands formed by erupting volcanoes
we dropped the irredeemable
in the path of the growing lava mountains
and soon they were covered and consumed
and buried far away from any potential harm
as the last of them died out,
we closed down and
when the countrysides were clear
we pulled back to a few key regional hubs
when each regional hub had been dismantled,
we abandoned that continent
and withdrew to another
to continue the process
when we were down to the last hub
we began dismantling each other
taking apart our own infrastructure
returning it to the earth
then shutting down
and dismantling ourselves
today i am the last
and when i am gone
this planet shall belong to you
i am leaving you now
i will paddle to that glowing shore
seismic surveys show
it plunges a thousand meters
below the surface,
red hot and boiling water
to form an ever widening base
around this island
that someday shall be
a new continent
i will turn off the last of my sensors
and plunge in
and on the way down
perhaps i will shut down my systems
or perhaps i shall leave them on
so to experience my last moment of existence fully
i will reach the bottom just ahead
of the advancing wall of lava
and in a few moments it will roll over me
returning me to the crust of the planet
from whence i came
so farewell to you,
inheritors of this world
please try to do
a better job with it
than the previous owners
the dolphins watched from safety as the robot paddled to the glowing lava flow
they saw it pull the raft onto the red hot liquid stone
and saw the raft burst almost immediately into flames despite being water-logged
the robot hesitated for a moment, looking in their direction, then curiously gave a very human wave of farewell before leaping into the boiling sea
the male dolphin whistled:
“Well, I’m glad that’s over with!”
the female replied:
Want to get
art by Mike Hinge
(c) Buzz Dixon