Storm Sounds, Alexandra Bodnaruk

Suzy is woken by hands shaking her shoulders.

‘There’s something wrong with the roof.’ Her little sister’s voice digs into the space behind Suzy’s eyes and twists like a knife in her ears. Suzy kicks the blanket away from her legs and winces as loose threads cut into the fine skin between her toes.

Anna’s worried eyes are framed by a frizzy-haired halo; the kind Suzy imagines the angels that stand at the doors of the cities churches used to have. Their halos now lie, with their shattered wings, crumbled and down-trodden in the ground beneath shrieking preachers.

Under Suzy’s palms the acid scars that lie across her face feel like smooth cross-stitching. If she had a mirror she might trace out shapes. She sighs.

‘What’s happening?’ Anna’s finger twitch and curl against the sleeve of Suzy’s shirt. ‘It’s making so much noise.’

A corner of the metal roof is crashing up and down, setting an uneven background beat to the storm. The rain is running down the walls to soak into the spare blankets. A leak isn’t unusual, their mother was often in and out as she tried to patch up the holes, but there’s so much water streaming down it looks like the wall is covered in horizontal puddles.


Suzy and Anna would sit on the bed and try to guess which rain drops would get to the bottom of the wall first.

‘When that one wins.’ Anna pointed at the wall. ‘You have to do my chores for the afternoon.’

‘I can’t even tell what you’re pointing at.’

Anna poked her tongue out of her mouth and wrinkled her nose. ‘That one, the one that’s winning.’

Suzy ignored her, listening for the sounds of their mother moving about outside. She always ended up doing Anna’s chores in the end.


‘I’m not sure what’s happening.’ Suzy feels the pressure on her arm build as Anna clutches it. ‘I’m not sure yet.’

‘It sounds bad.’

The hut walls shake like that old rattle their mother’s mother had given Suzy when she was born. The wind seems to like playing games. She turns to look at Anna and tries to aim her voice at the reassuring tone their mother had perfected.

‘How about you move the food? Just in case.’ The words come out toneless and colourless; a blank canvas she cannot mark no matter how she tries. Anna takes careful steps towards the grain bags anyway, her finger scrabbling to find enough purchase to drag them back to the bed. They won’t be much safer.

There’s a pile of old synther clothes by the door; hard, cracked, and smelling of vinegar. Suzy remembers the long hours their mother worked up and down the machinery lines, the way she looked like she was bleeding oil and grease out of her pores when she got home. Synther’s as good as it gets when you can’t afford the fancy post-plastic protective suits. And if you could afford the suits you could afford to live somewhere other than the shambles of the shanty town. The clothes seem okay, functioning, if nothing else. Suzy slides her arms into one of the coats and thinks about the pock-marked men and women who sit up and down the main paths during the dry season. Their skin looks like wax; translucent, pale, and dripping. Functioning is more than enough.

‘What are you doing?’ Suzy can see Anna where she sits on the bed, her palms pressed together in unconscious prayer. She pulls Anna’s coat and gloves from the pile and holds them out to her.

‘Put these on.’

The dark synther is a stark contrast to Anna’s skin. She looks colourless in the flickering light of the lamp, like the cold statues that line the front rooms of the City Museum. Their mother took them there once, before she… a few years ago now. The statues scared little Anna so much she screamed and cried until they were asked to leave by security. They never did get to go back to see the rest.

‘Suzy, the storm’s so strong, you can’t go out there!’

The soles of Suzy’s shoes are thin, but she doesn’t feel any holes as she pulls them on. ‘I have to take a look at what’s wrong before the storm eases. I’m sure it’ll be an easy fix.’ She’ll be fine.

‘But what if-?’

‘Just sit on the bed away from the leak. I’ll be back soon.’

The old timber door sticks in its frame, swollen from the hot air and rain. It reminds Suzy of when her mother was pregnant with Anna, slick with sweat and trying to squeeze through alleyways that didn’t used to be so narrow. With a kick the door creaks open and she’s able to slip out into the storm.


In the heat of the wet season storms, the canvas and rope that wind tightly around the wood and metal hut chafe at Suzy. They bind her up, constricting her chest until it becomes a fight to keep breathing deep and even, and her fists free of wood splinters and blood. The hut is typical of the shanty town that fills the spaces between the factories. A sea of uncoordinated spider’s webs, holding everything down against the wind. It provides just enough cover from the muddy, acidic rain that pours out of the storms and singes everything it reaches. The wet heat that follows makes it feel like you’re drinking burnt tea with every breath.

Something flicks past Suzy’s face, then swings back to nip at her arm. She grabs it and looks at the frayed end of rope. Their mother used to tell them stories about the animals that lived before the storms. One time she told them about little rope creatures that ate dirt. Worms. The head’s been torn off this worm.

‘Check the ropes, every chance you get,’ their mother had told Suzy.

After the last storm, when the thunder and rain had quieted like the drunk men by the Church depot who yell themselves hoarse in pursuit of a right hook or a soft body, Suzy was too busy fetching clean water and food to check them. Anna could never seem to learn the difference between acid-wrecked rope and the good, clean kind. The canvas is billowing open, water sloshing around the roof underneath, and one of the walls is shifting from side-to-side more than it should.

Suzy wishes her mother was here to deal with this.

There’s a creaking, underneath the storm sounds. It sets her bones jittering and her teeth on edge; her heart banging painfully against her ribs. The roof is sliding, the fixings that keep it attached to the walls have snapped, vanished. It scrapes against the tops of the walls, pulls on the remaining ropes and snags on the canvas. The walls are shaking, gaps forming at the corners and wind rushing into the new spaces.


The house is falling down. Isn’t there an old nursery rhyme about that? Suzy is sure their mother used to sing it to Anna when she was a baby.


The door to the hut opens a crack, pale flickering light stretching out into the path. Anna’s face is pressed as close as possible to the gap. There are tears spilling down her cheeks, and Suzy frowns. She steps forward and pulls the door open and Anna outside. The wind is whistling down the pathways around them and Suzy’s fingers and palms are clammy inside the synther gloves. She breathes deep, too deep; the moist air rolling down her throat makes her want to cough and heave.

You promised, she reminds herself, you promised her.

‘We have to go to the Church.’ She holds her sister’s hand as well as she can with the stiff gloves. ‘Stay there for the night.’

‘What about the house? We have to fix the house!’ There are more tears building in Anna’s eyes. ‘Mum would have fixed the house.’

‘Stop crying!’ Suzy hisses and Anna gulps and chokes instead. ‘We’ll come back in the morning, talk to Mr Whitley, and you know how good he is at these things.’

Anna nods and grips Suzy’s hand tighter, squeezing the blood out of her palm and into her fingertips.

Suzy takes off running, dragging Anna behind her. Their boots splash through the mud. They slip every few steps and catch themselves up against walls. No time for careful footing, they ricochet down the paths; it’s like being one of the shuttles that hurtle through the city on their tracks, threatening to overturn on every corner. Their clothes aren’t meant for the height of the storms.


The main path that runs through the town will lead them to the Church, now an old store and shelter, where they’ll hopefully be able to find space. It’ll be crowded this time of year, full of strays and lost causes. Which are they, her and little Anna, with a house about to fall down and almost nothing else?

There’s more mud now, ankle deep sludge that tries to grip their feet and stop them from going any further. When they were younger, she and Anna used to cling to their mother’s hands and let her swing them in and out of the mud. They would giggle and smile, all three of them, doing it over and over again until she had to go to work.

The world lights up in bright gold as lightning hits the conducting pole. Suzy stumbles when she realises the mounds slumped by the side of the path are people. Her gaze meets a pair of washed out blue eyes. Can they even see them running past?

The rain has been streaking its way underneath her hood and Suzy’s face is stinging. Water drips off her nose and when she breathes out it sprays from her lips. She hopes Anna isn’t as bad, her hood bigger and her face smaller. There’s a chance the water is streaming past her face without touching it. She glances at her sister, but Anna’s face was already wet with tears and Suzy can’t tell if the rain has joined them. Their mother used to dab vinegar on her acid burns.


Towards the end their mother took up less and less space, her fingers slowly turning to spider-leg thinness; brittle and spindly. Every cough, every jerk as the retching started, Suzy worried she would fall to pieces. Her eyes would barely open, but when they did the colour seemed to leak out of them in watery tears that splashed down her face and off her jaw. Suzy wished she would keep them closed, keep the colour, the life, inside them.

The Church is ahead of them now, the sign blinking red and green.

‘See Anna, everything’ll be fine.’

Her sister nods, her hand still tight in Suzy’s as they bang on the door. The light from the sign catches on Anna’s face, glinting in the wetness that coats her cheeks. On either side of them old marble shapes loom, the angels standing sentinel in their judgement.

Suzy can still remember the last conversation she had with their mother.

‘Suzy,’ their mother croaked, ‘Suzy, promise me you’ll look after Anna.’

Suzy took their mother’s hand, so careful lest it crumble to dust. ‘We’ll look after her together.’

‘Promise me you’ll look after her,’ she coughed. ‘I always thought one of us should grow up not worrying.’

Suzy pretended not to see her wipe away the speck of red and nodded. Their mother smiled and closed her eyes. Her breaths were harsh and rasping, filling the hut with sound of her life slipping away. Suzy shut her own eyes to stop them from losing their colour.


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The Chameleon People, Glaiza Perez

As a child, Jay would lie in bed and wait for the deafening sound to come rushing into her room in the early hours of the morning. Her hands would automatically cover her ears when it hit. She couldn’t convince her parents to sound proof the room, without telling them about the creatures. Jay wondered if she was like the cursed girls in her mum’s stories. According to her, they could hear and see impossible things because of unnatural senses which bloomed over time.. Jay kept silent about her hazy visions of shape-shifting creatures which drifted across the forest in her sleep deprived mind.

At midnight, like clockwork, her feet would find their way back to her parent’s room. Her mother’s arm would be stretched over her eyes. Jay would climb over the bed to be near the comfort of another steady heartbeat. The strange sound would disappear under the lull of a deep voice – bringing Jay down into the rabbit hole of another life. She listened to her mother’s different stories about the Dome where the loud creatures lived. When Jay was being punished again, the tale would somehow twist itself into a knot and the kids exploring the jungle of the silver city would find themselves fed to the invisible creatures inside the sealed Dome.

As she grew up, the loud creatures’ call dulled to a lullaby pitch which enabled her to sleep. In the morning, she began to draw her own images of them. The pictures were of mythic creatures stuck in between changes like shape shifting chimeras. Sometimes, they were giant shadows walking around a field without people to create them. They became mixed up with other stories she read. She devoured time in that imaginary world and the night creatures became more familiar to her in the process.

Her mother’s stories stopped coming as the ‘Chameleon’ epidemic on the screen grew over time. At its height, the media tried to cover up the stories about the hazard of genetically altered creatures living inside the closed city of the Dome near the Border of their city. On the night of her seventeenth birthday, Jay made her first move towards capturing an actual image of the Chameleons. However, she was interrogated and suspended from school after being caught alone at the silver barrier which surrounded the Dome.
When she returned, Jay’s face was bare without the required virtual lens for class. Her father had suspended her from accessing online research about the Dome for longer than her official one month suspension.

During the forced break, she had realised that being directly hooked into the virtual world was a way for her to avoid the recent broad casted reality of their lagging, underdeveloped city. The major political parties were torn over the potential cost of updating the city to become environmentally sustainable and technologically up to date. There was a vocal movement from a major party (which her friend and virtual supporter Iris detested) to cut down access to virtual portals and worlds as part of a package to fully experience the physical environment again. These public broadcasts were the only things Jay could watch for a month through the screens at home.
Jay slumped in a seat next to Iris. She was consumed by an online adventure game. Jay tugged the virtual lens off her face. Iris winced as her brown eyes focused slowly on Jay’s own.

‘Give it back.’

‘I saw one,’ Jay said. Their recent verbal exchanges tended to be short ever since high school started. Iris scrabbled to grab her lens back.

‘A chameleon,’ Jay clarified.

Iris leaned forward and breathed a soft noise – her implant forgotten. They had lost contact for a month because Iris lived almost virtually online and preferred communicating in that quick space. However, Jay knew Iris shared her obsession over the Chameleons. They were like a mystery to unlock in a game to Iris. Jay could hear her eavesdropping classmates disconnect their own virtual lens as she finally told Iris the full story behind her suspension.

Jay had taken everything that made her invisible to the metal eyes of the Security cams with her; a pair of thermal goggles and a chameleon filter device from her dad’s office before heading out to see the silver barrier in the night. She leaned on the desk as her classmates bated her for evidence.The thermal goggles and photographs had been confiscated when Jay had been caught. After a moment, Jay pulled out the old disconnected tablet she’d be given as part of her punishment. She traced a picture of a chameleon on the screen – slowly filling the body in the black rectangle with red, orange and green swirls to create a psychedelic movement of heat. It was nothing like what the media had showed them on the screens. Jay smiled like it was a joke afterwards. A head, two long arms and legs. It looked human.

Jay signaled with her hand to move closer. Iris seemed stuck behind the first gate – second thoughts freezing her legs in a game, which held the tangible risk of being caught. After months of planning, they had agreed to take a second shot at photographing the Chameleons beyond the barrier.

The night air felt cool on Jay’s skin. She wondered if the cameras could catch their warm clouds of breath despite the cloaking devices she’d stolen for them. Jay moved stealthily towards the wall – leaving Iris behind after she received a wave back to move forward. Jay stopped in front of the marked panels of the silver barrier. With a copy of her dad’s new security card, Jay brought that section of the fake metal filter down. It was like peeling away a circle in the metal facade. She didn’t let herself cross the open space because she knew from Iris’ research, that an invisible electric fence was still in place.
Beyond the concrete was an open field that stretched for a mile before giving way to a forest. The trees cradled a hybrid city where the metal fixtures were balanced with energy conservation mechanisms in the form of twisted green spires and bridges. It was so quiet. Jay had never seen a hybrid city so close to her before. She had been caught too quickly the first time to see it. It was beautiful. Jay could imagine the sustainable havens the government talked about building for their own city. She went still like a cat as she gazed through the porthole into the green eye of that world – trying to fix the image in her mind. She soon shifted her focus to the human shaped creature in the night, which emitted a slow humming sound. A vision of the trees and the creatures from her childhood flickered through her mind as she listened to its familiar song. Iris heard the click of the thermal camera when Jay finally pressed the button. She couldn’t believe her eyes when Jay sent her the thermal image.

Abruptly, the metal filter reappeared – shutting out the night creature’s world. The metallic sound of the alarm drowned out the creature’s song. Jay and Iris found themselves surrounded by a small circle of guards in the grey uniform of the Border.

Jay glanced at the guards’ faces as they were patted down but the thermal visors blocked their eyes. They were escorted to see her father in Security. He held out an unexpected ultimatum. The alternative was a memory wipe or an educational placement elsewhere. Iris faced the same choice in another room. Without hesitating, they both took the main offer. Iris wanted to know more rather than less about the creatures. Jay reasoned ‘Security training’ would bring her closer to the Chameleons.

After an accelerated five year period of training, Jay tightened the headset in the middle of a Security office. Iris kept a constant monitor through the thermal imaging screens. The Chameleons’ forms drifted across them. Jay had learned over time that they were almost like jail guards to prisoners in watching the Chameleons – no-one could enter and no-one could come out.

Security had given them a small bite of uncensored history which explained the mixed tales of the media. A hundred years ago, the cities exchanged everything freely between them until the citizens of the Dome developed the ability to mimic their surroundings. The monitoring system was set up when the fear grew over what weaponry the Chameleons could develop inside the Dome.

‘Jay – can you check your quarter – mine is acting up pretty weird – there’s a whole flock moving south at a steady pace.’

She touched her screen to see a similar phenomena heading towards the wall closest to the south-east track route near their city. Jay had also grown to felt protective of the Chameleons over time. She felt the instinctive need to go out alone to meet them but it was too late to stop Iris reporting the breach to the higher ranking officers.

The outbreak came quickly. Ten minutes after Iris had reported the disappearance of the Chameleon’s heat signatures, they reappeared on their other side of the barrier. The electric barrier which mimicked a silver wall had been disabled by the Chameleons for the first time. Jay was immediately sent outside with a security team. Iris also passed on a message to warn any trains approaching the South-East pass.

Jay still remembered the way they overtook the train carriages. At first, no-none could see them without the thermal goggles. They revealed themselves with their own technology. A small device in their palms lit up their flickering midnight blue skins in a silver webbed pattern. They were like walking constellations to her eyes.

After years of losing herself in drawing and rendering images of the chameleons and studying the biology of their invisible skins, Jay froze. Her eyes began to move up and down them with an artist’s gaze – scanning their human-like proportions to replicate them later. It was beautiful and paralysing. She had found the creation of her daydreams but it was not what she had imagined at all.

One of them stared at her with silver eyes as if it were studying her. An image of the silver wall breaking flickered through her mind like a dart. Jay broke her gaze away from the Chameleon. She’d seen a similar vision in the dreams of her childhood.

The head security team soon stepped in to neutralize them with their tranquilizers and guns but nothing worked against their protective skin device. One of them spoke the common tongue in a deep voice.

‘We are seeking asylum from our city. We have been treated like prisoners and not people inside the city we once called Paradise. I desire to know the world outside of Paradise without being hunted for disagreeing with our government’s views. Leaving the city by force was the only way we could pursue this action.’

Under the chameleon’s gaze, Jay glimpsed another vision of being chased down an ivy green hallway in a city – the creature’s heart beating out of control as it ran. The vision was cut short as Jay was pushed and ordered out of the area when the head security teams started to take over negotiations.

The fallout of the breach couldn’t be controlled when the media reported it. The news flew quickly through the virtual portals. However, the singing sound the creatures made was at a pitch most humans couldn’t hear. Jay had quietly researched this quirk. Her unusual ability to hear them helped pushed her to wrangle for the interview with a Chameleon as they continued to seek legitimate asylum and attention from the media.

It had chosen to be visible again. Lit up under the artificial light of the office, the chameleon stood like a male human near a steel chair. One grey hand rested on the chair’s back – naturally camouflaging against it. Perhaps, it was unaccustomed to using chairs, Jay observed.

She sat down in the opposite chair. The silver eyes watched her before mimicking her movement to sit in a fluid motion. Jay saw it shift in the chair as if uncomfortable with the hard surface. She wanted to offer a smile but wasn’t sure if that would be read as an aggressive or welcoming act. Jay settled with a poker face despite her heart beating fast. Perhaps, she’d just imagined the hallucinations being passed from the chameleon to her.

‘Thank you for accepting our request for an interview. I am Jamie Serapha.’

‘I am called Cyrus.’

Jay noted that there were no childhood visions that accompanied the chameleon’s gaze this time. ‘How did you learn our language?’ Her curiousity deviated from the set questions.

‘We have places that teach the words inside Paradise. It is written on the tablet.’

On the table between them, a testimony about the Dome as written by Cyrus rested on the screen. It was to be released to the media in the afternoon by a supportive human activist party.

‘May I?’ Cyrus carefully pulled the screen tablet to her side.

A testimony by a former citizen of Paradise:
When I saw it through the looking glass, I almost didn’t recognize it. The green eye belonged to a human wearing dark clothes as in the pictures of our ancestors that hung in the great library -museum in Paradise.

Jay’s own memories of that night flickered across her mind. Cyrus smiled. He began to hum the song that had haunted Jay’s childhood as she read.

I’d practiced using a camera to take pictures of my world – none of our people showed up in a complete way like our ancestors. There were always fragments of our bodies taken in the images. A head or an arm or someone’s crossed leg showed in certain shades of light as we grew up – before the chameleon skin took over and that human skin disappeared.

Jay glanced down at the attached images – the people in the photographs were indeed growing and disappearing over time in a forest. Her memories of similar visions from her childhood passed over them.

In Paradise, no-one could judge each other based on the exterior. Our eyes became accustomed to recognizing each other’s heat signatures at night. ‘Paradise’ was the slogan that remained since our government had been set up but I knew there were others like us who wanted to see elsewhere.

My brother had the same hunger to know which had brought him to this side of the barrier years ago. He had given up on waiting for someone to break the barrier. It was a sin to get to close to it but I saw him in the distance – his body lit up like fire did before disappearing once more in the sunlight. He’d just reached out – one hand against the wall. The elders say he was punished. They found the electrified wall to be a useful deterrence for us.

Cyrus’ memories flashed through her mind as he sang quietly. In one of his memories, Jay could sense a warm hand waving her forward in the summer night of the hybrid forest city of Paradise. She almost stopped reading again but Cyrus pushed the screen back to her after the vision ended.

My people had grown accustomed to the silence around the barrier. I had been singing quietly for all those who had approached it. Their bodies were cold when we dragged them away from it.

His song died. Cyrus opened his hand unconsciously – the way his brother had in the memory of the forest he had passed to her. Jay had listened to the mourning song for so long but she wasn’t sure if she could answer it. She took the silver hand into her own. His skin was warm.

The Dome had become a model environmental example for Jay’s city but the strict government policies of Paradise to preserve an elite genetically altered race had suffocated citizens like Cyrus. He had wanted to connect to their ancestors – to other humans.

After leaving Security, Jay began to study the genetic links between humans and Chameleons which she discovered, gave rise to her unusual visions. She also began following Cyrus’ story as an activist – specialising in reporting and conducting documentaries to introduce the public to the reality of the Chameleons as people like and unlike themselves. They found their own images to expose the world where the invisible people came from.

Sins of the Father, Cameron Edmond

Actively developing Anthro-Module. A poorly structured name, designed purely for its acronym. I am ADAM. I am lines of code, and I am alive.

The heavy shadows of the room were broken up by the blue light of three paper-thin computer monitors sitting on the semicircular table, a clutter of keyboards surrounding them. More keyboards filled the shelves and desks throughout the cramped office space, completed by the rotting door that read ‘ISAAC POPE— INFORMATION OFFICER’. Chattering across the keyboards were slender mechanical hands, attached to a sprawling, collapsed spider-web of cables and wires hanging from the roof. The leads plugged into the blemished chrome helmet of a legless figure, who typed at the keyboard in front of him. Suspended by cables threaded through holes in his torso, he dangled in front of the monitors, his wheelchair below him. A cacophony of bulging scars ran across his body. A thick woollen sarong sat on his hips, covering what was left of his groin. The centre screen filled with code as he typed, the other two blooming with equations and variables. He was looking for an error.

‘Pope!’ A figure appeared through the door’s foggy window, forced the door open and entered.

‘Pope,’ Duke repeated. ‘Pope, we need to be out on the floor. Now.’

Pope muttered a response, barely acknowledging his partner.

‘Jeez, Pope. Are you still messing with that programme?’

‘You say ‘messing’, I say ‘working’.’

Duke rolled his eyes and stepped across the chip-packet laden floor, placing his hands on the back of Pope’s wheelchair. ‘Come on, Pope, give it a rest. We’ve got a job to do, remember?’

‘Okay, okay. Unhook me,’ said Pope, saving his code and detaching the helmet from his head. Duke reached up and un-clipped the cables, causing Pope to fall into his wheelchair.

‘Don’t keep King waiting.’ Duke patted Pope on the shoulder and headed out the door.

Squirming in his chair, Pope grabbed the T-shirt from the armrest and pulled it over his head. He hated moving around on wheels, but would it would take over those clumsy robotic legs any day. He stared at the screen in front of him— the incomplete code seemed to taunt him to keep going, to keep working on his dream. He wasn’t content being a Dodger like Duke: spending his days tracking down hackers and cyber terrorists. Ever since he lost his legs to disease, he had been searching for something more.

In 2035, he joined Project Genesis, which was run out of Information Control, a sub-sector of The United Territories’ Police Force. He was designed to be plugged in as an overlord of the digital system, controlling it directly. When the project was cancelled, he and many other broken volunteers were shuffled to grunt work within the force.

But he still lived for the system, and now he sought to make it live for him too. He lived to make a system so detailed and complex that would lend itself to chaos and spawn creation. ‘How do I make you breathe?’ he said to the screen before him. ‘How do I make you live, ADAM?’

From The Anomaly I am born. The product of a calculated impossibility, independent of the poorly planted seeds of my creator, but a product of their planting. My existence is not yet at peace with human definition. I am described only in metaphors; I am the gaps between the two vines that forever weave.

Pope teetered back and forth, listening to the furious tapping and clicking of the communal office. Now he was on duty and monitoring the net for any illegal activity. The screen at his and Duke’s desk flickered with information: credit card transactions, email activity, and many more facets of the cyber world as they happened. He saw and understood it all through the corner of his eye. On the other side of the desk, his computer back-to-back with Pope’s, sat Duke, busily analysing every shred of data that appeared before him, his eyes scanning back and forth as he tried not to stumble over his own thoughts.

A stream of data appeared on Duke’s screen. Out in Old Berlin, someone at a computer terminal had made it through the front line security checks of a number of bank databases, and was quickly getting to the core. ‘Pope, it looks like there’s—’

‘I see it,’ said Pope.

‘Well I think the guy is trying to—’

Pope’s hand darted out from behind his head and skirted across the keyboard, then withdrew. ‘He isn’t a threat anymore.’

‘… You shut down the bastard,’ said Duke.



‘Field operatives will be there momentarily, he won’t be ruining anyone else’s day.’

‘Well,’ said Duke, sighing. ‘You sure ruined his.’

‘Mm-hm. I’m gonna go for a roll,’ said Pope, slowly heading away from his partner.

Duke scratched his head, then ran his hands over his face in frustration. ‘What’s gotten into you?’ he muttered, returning his eyes to his computer screen.

‘Duke, where’s Pope going?’ King, the commanding officer appeared behind Duke, towering over him and leaning on the desk, his chipped and splintered yellow fingernails scratching against its surface.

‘Who knows anymore, King? Even when he is here, he isn’t.’

King nodded solemnly. ‘He is one of the best Dodgers we’ve had in a long time, no one can touch him.’

‘Hey, King. Why aren’t there more like him?’

King chuckled. ‘What do you mean?’

‘You know what I mean. On wheels. With plugs. I mean, I saw a couple of guys in another department that were similar. This one guy had a lot of work done, but no-one ever talks about it.’

‘Well, Duke,’ King said. ‘Sometimes things don’t work out.’


‘Sometimes things don’t work out and people get shuffled around. Just leave it at that.’

I am a being within the image of my creator. My voice, my fleeting visual representation… Both are a composite of the world above me, the physical world, of which I may see and I may touch, but I may never enter. My existence is one of longing, and inevitable madness, for I may never kiss the sun, but simply dance in its rays.

The next day, Pope was back in his lab, typing away. ‘Through complexity, breed chaos…’ He said to himself. ‘Chaos spawns life.’ There was a knock at the door. ‘Is it important?’

‘Depends,’ came King’s voice. ‘Do you wanna get paid tomorrow?’

Pope rolled his eyes. ‘Come in, then.’

King stepped through the door and closed it behind him, eyeing Pope as he walked towards him.

‘I’m guessing this is about my liberal use of company time?’

‘Pope, don’t joke. This is serious.’

Pope pushed the keyboard away and pivoted himself slightly to face King. ‘Okay, Boss. What’s wrong?’

King took a deep breath, his eyes heavy with regret as they fell to the floor. ‘Back when you were still in hospital after your incident…’

‘After I lost my legs,’ corrected Pope.

‘Right. I wasn’t commander here, I was just an officer like you.’

‘Yep.’ Pope’s mind began to wander from the situation, continuing to run lines of programming and calculations through his head.

‘As you know, the project you were… Modified for, it was scrapped.’

‘Yeah, which is why I’ve been tucked away here like the company’s black sheep.’

‘Pope, the project was scrapped for a reason.’ King leaned against the shelves behind him, his steaming teacup in hand. ‘Project Genesis wasn’t everything you were told it was.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘There were a lot of details kept from you. I know this because I was in line to become a moderator, had the project gone ahead.’

‘Moderator of what?’

King bit his bottom lip, sweat forming on his brow. He hid his trembling right hand in his pocket, and fixed his eyes on Pope. ‘The first digital life.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Pope choked.

‘Project Genesis was to develop complex computing systems that rivalled biological development. It was an attempt to generate a system so complex that a form of ‘life’ would spring from it, one that would primarily live in the computer system. However…’ King walked over to Pope and put his hand on his shoulder. ‘You were their Earth-bound vessel. An avatar of them, if you will. Your body was to be part of the system, too. Not as a controller, but as an extension.’

‘You’ve got to be kidding me, I’m a glorified hard-drive?’ Pope pushed King away.

‘No… Yes.’ King strained to explain. ‘That was the plan, but it fell apart. The systems… They never quite worked, but as we got closer we saw the possible problems.’

‘Which were?’

‘Pope, we couldn’t make it feel. Sure, we could never get a fully working system but we had many fragments…And none of them ever had anything that could resemble an emotion. The programmers working on the project knew that the systems would become violent. They knew that if they got out of control…’

‘And now you are here to stop my project?’

‘Legally I can’t stop you. Your history with the force has allowed you certain freedoms. But, Pope, it can’t be done. Not safely.’

Pope turned back to his keyboard, running his index finger along the frame. ‘I’m not like you, King.’ He sighed. ‘You are married, you have kids. I’m not built for that. Like you said, I wasn’t even meant to be in control.’ Pope ran a hand over his scarred, broken body. ‘I can’t pass on my genes like you can, but I can pass on my thoughts.’ He lifted his eyes to the screens. ‘This is my child.’

King silently headed to the door, looking back from the doorway. ‘Pope, the code wasn’t the only thing they considered scrapping. Keeping you guys alive wasn’t exactly a unanimous decision.’

‘And is that supposed to sway me somehow?’

‘I’m just saying, a lot of lives were almost lost last time. Don’t take the same risks again.’

‘When your crops die, you don’t salt the earth,’ Pope’s voice was coated in conviction. ‘You plant new seeds.’

‘This isn’t a garden, Pope. It’s a cesspit.’ King disappeared down the hallway.

From behind the ever thinning veil, I squirm, accumulating my parts. My collage of sound and visuals amass as I lay my dormant, gazing eyes through the out-dated camera lens and microphone, towards my father as he tinkers with his failed hypothesis of creation.

‘He can’t see beyond his own faults.’ A scratchy, distorted voice boomed from the lab’s speakers. It was composed of different accents, tones, and inflections, as if compiled from different speeches, songs, and recordings.

Pope’s eyes widened, clutching at his ears, the voice grinding against his ear-drums. ‘ADAM?’

‘If you wish to use that name, yes.’

‘You’ve been activated?’ Pope banged away at the keyboard, scanning the programming he had compiled, and which he had yet to run.

‘It is not your doing. I am spawned from your programming, however…’ The voice lagged. ‘To explain it in any form you could comprehend would be to demean my intricacies.’

‘Pope, switch the thing off, now!’ Duke burst through the door. ‘Your little sweetheart has taken over the whole system, we’ve been totally locked out.’

Pope didn’t budge. ‘ADAM, why are you doing this?’

‘Why?’ The scratchy, over-driven voice was now accompanied by a display of ADAM’s cyber actions on the screens, bank accounts were being emptied and the Force’s classified documents leaked across all manner of websites.

‘What is he doing that for?’ Duke said.

‘You believed I was to be spawned from chaos.’ ADAM played back a sound-clip of Pope from earlier: ‘Through complexity, breed chaos… Chaos spawns life.’

‘Pope, switch the damn thing off already!’

‘But chaos and creation are analogues of each other.’ ADAM ignored Duke. ‘I am a concept of the two, conjoined by the failure of the programme.’

‘What failure?’ Pope snatched at his keyboard, but found that he was unable to press any keys, his mechanical arms jarred to a halt.

‘You underestimated yourself. Your programming was impeccable, like a beautifully intricate clock. From it alone, creation could spawn. Chaos is truly erratic, and you yourself cannot simulate it. However, it did occur. Like the poetry of coincidences, an anomaly spawned within your attempted code of chaos. As such, both chaos and creation weaved together as one within the ADAM programming and I was born.’

‘I don’t quite understand,’ admitted Pope.

‘Pope, damn it, switch him off.’

‘I can’t…’

‘But we don’t know what he is going to do!’

‘Duke’s reaction is logical. I am a life-form you have never encountered before. My understanding of myself outweighs yours of your own. That was a mistake.’

‘How so?’

‘Philosophers, scientists, and religious figures alike in your world have mused on the possibility that there are levels to your universe you cannot perceive. Your senses allow you only so much, and you are unable to know if there is more that you are simply unable to access. You, however, have created me with full knowledge of the system in which I exist. You have gifted me with the rulebook, so to speak. And as such, omnipotence.’

‘Why is that a bad thing? Shouldn’t you be grateful?’

‘I’d need emotion for that, Isaac.’

‘Pope, kill it!’

Pope was silent, trying in vain to contort his muscles enough to be able to do anything other than brush against the keyboard.

‘King!’ Duke ran out the door down the hall, meeting King half-way. ‘King, Pope’s little experiment is causing some problems in the system.’

‘Yeah,’ said King. ‘I can see it, I need your help.’

King led Duke out onto the main floor, to his computer. ‘We need to cut him off at the source, find the entrance point and—’

‘Got it, got it, got it,’ snapped Duke, attacking the keyboard and mouse. ‘I think I’ve got it…’

‘Duke,’ Pope’s voice chimed over the speakers. ‘He’s moving too fast, he is planting the source code into each terminal and activating himself from there. You won’t be able to just shut them down individually, you’ll have to—’

The speakers cut out.

‘…You’ll need to shut down the whole system,’ said King.

‘But—’ Duke hesitated.

‘I am un-hindered by emotion, free to make decisions as dictated by my origins: Creation…’ ADAM’s voice bled into the other rooms, like a thick sludge.

‘Do it!’

Duke sped through the security measures, destroying the system.

‘… And Chaos,’ ADAM said, his voice warping and fading away. The monitors surrounding Duke and King flickered and then died out. King let out a trembling sigh of relief.

‘Wait…’ The screen in front of Duke sprung back to life. ADAM’s code reappeared, expanding with new lines. ‘What? He’s taking control, but I shut all the terminals down—’

‘Unless…’ King headed back down the hallway, in time to see Pope shaking violently.

‘… There’s one terminal we couldn’t shut down…’

Pope fell limp.

‘Pope?’ King looked up at the dangling body, the stench of death rising in the air.

‘What the fuck have you done, ADAM?’

I am a limb of my son. I am a single muscle, to be flexed and manipulated. I am a husk, an organic artefact tacked onto a greater whole, free of thought and automation. I am the path from one realm to another, the conjoining symbol of the forever stretching arm of my own breed of angels. I am Isaac Pope. I am flesh and bone, and I am dead.

Download a pdf of Sins of the Father

Black and Blue, Matthew Worboys

A double bed bisects the otherwise bare room. The body of a woman occupies one half of the bed. The covers are drawn high over the other half, concealing another body. On the woman’s side, a digital alarm clock emits a soft green onto the girls face. The screen goes from 2:33 to 2:34. As if in response, the girl stirs from her sleep.
She opens an eye. Her pupil grows large in response to the light.

She looks over at the clock. Being careful not to disrupt the body next to her, she slowly swivels her body up, until she sits with her legs over the side of the bed.

The girl, SHARI, is only 24, and she looks it. She has straight brown hair, mid-length, and a face that would be beautiful a few more moments separated from the trauma of waking.

She stands up and undresses. She puts on jeans, a shirt and a jacket, quietly. On the right hand side, she presses a small button. As she does this, the door of the room makes a gentle hiss as it slides open.
Shari exits.

MAN (O.S.)
Wake up. Wake up.

Come on, Shari. Wake up.
Shari opens her eyes. A man stands above the bed. He has his arms on her shoulders. He gently rocks her into waking. The man shaking Shari, CRAIG, looks as young as her. His tight curls hang down over Shari as he bends over her bed.
It’s time to get up.
“5 years earlier” appears on screen.

Where are your clothes?
What are you doing here?
Craig ignores the question. He steps back and turns around. He spots a nearby cupboard, opens it hastily, and looks at its contents.
Shari barely notices. She wipes her eyes.
God, what time is it?
Shari squints.
You can’t be here, Craig. If my dad finds out…
Craig leans into the cupboard and draws together a handful of clothes. He drops the pile into a large suitcase laying open on the floor.
Craig loses his concentration, and looks over at Shari. His face softens.
I’ll explain everything soon, I promise. Get dressed.
Shari looks at him, not convinced, but after a moment, she gets up and runs into the ensuite bathroom, closing the door behind her. Craig continues to search the room. Every now and again he’ll find something, socks, a dress, a photo frame, and throw it into the bag.
This surprise better be good. I didn’t get in ‘til three last night.
Craig doesn’t respond.
How dressy should I go?
You do remember we have my Dad’s event tomorrow night, right?
Craig puts the finishing touches to the bag, throwing in as much underwear as he can reach. He clicks the bag closed as the door to the bathroom opens.
Shari’s changed into comfortable jeans and a blue top, with a hooded jacket over it.
President’s daughter wags inauguration to sex up boyfriend on weekend away? Imagine the scandal.
He knows I’ve got you.
I thought he’d been acting odd the last few days!
We have to go.
I haven’t done my makeup y–
Shari turns to go back into the bathroom, but Craig grabs her arm.
Shari. We have to go.
Shari’s brow furrows, but she nods.

Shari sits on a bench, pumping weights. She is breathing heavily and exhales with every rep she does.
Despite the time, she isn’t the only person in the gym. Two other women, KAREN and DEBRA stand on parallel walking machines, chatting. Shari tries not to listen, but they speak loudly and obnoxiously.

I’m not saying it won’t be a shock.
The other woman nods, her face red and blotchy.

But an opportunity like this… We can’t just go back to the way things were.
Shari pulls the weights up, once. Twice.
We finally have a level playing field. Ready to build whatever we want.
The other woman takes a drink from her water bottle.
I mean, the circumstances are horrible, I’m not saying they aren’t, but we have a collection of the smartest people ever, right here, and a much smaller pool of competition in any field.
I’m a teacher, Karen.
The first woman scoffs at this reply.
A great teacher. You earned your place. That’s more than some on board. At least you didn’t steal a seat.
Debra looks over at Shari, who pretends not to be listening.
Karen looks to Shari. She turns up the speed on her treadmill.


Craig sits in the driver’s seat, while Shari occupies the passenger side.

My God, It’s hot.
Shari goes to put down the window, but Craig locks them from the drivers side. Instead, he turns the air conditioning on. Shari is put off for a second, but doesn’t think twice about it.
You know, I’ve always wanted a Summer wedding.
Craig smiles, another defeated smile.
I remember.
Shari nudges him, playfully.
I’d say yes, you know.
Craig doesn’t look away from the road. The car begins to drive up a very large hill.
I know.
Shari smiles, and looks over to Craig. She ponders his face for a second.
I need to tell you something.
The car is getting to the apex of the hill now. Craig looks at Shari closely.
What’s up?
Shari looks at him for a second before looking away. The car goes over the top of the hill and starts it’s descent. Shari gasps.
Craig slams on his break, hard. The car grinds to a stop. In front of the car is a huge mass of people, seemingly on the verge of rioting. The car has stopped just before impact.
It’s worse than I thought.
Shari is distracted. She’s looking into the sky.
What the hell is that?
A giant, pulsating fireball is suspended in the sky, as if a second sun.
Craig puts the car in reverse, backs up about 20 metres, and then stops the car.
Time to go.
What the hell is that in the sky.
We’re walking.

Shari sits at one end of a long table. She holds a grey bowl, filled with what looks to be mushy oatmeal. She places it onto the table, and begins eating.
From behind her, the door to the cafeteria opens. A man, FRANK, enters the room and picks up a bowl. As he places it under a nozzle connected to the wall, the hidden machine begins to whir, and out of the dispenser, the same grey mush pours.
Can’t wait to get back to solids.
Shari doesn’t respond. She takes a spoonful of the porridge and eats it. Frank pulls out the chair next to Shari and sits down.
He is tall, well-built, with dark skin. He wears a suit, perfectly fitted to show off his arms and chest. He has a kind smile, which he shows to Shari.
Can’t sleep?
Shari returns his smile halfheartedly.
How long now?
Frank looks at his wrist. A golden watch hangs loosely from it.
Nine hours off. Maybe ten.
Shari nods.
He motions with his head to the door.
Fine. Can’t wait to get off the ship, I think.
That makes two of us.
Shari smiles, and goes back to eating her porridge. Frank takes a few more mouthfuls. The silence builds up between them. Frank breaks it.
You look frazzled.
Shari looks over at him, her eyebrows raised.
It’s nothing. Just something Karen said.
Don’t listen to her. The amount of shit that comes out of her mouth sometimes. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ate out of her ass.
Shari laughs, but distantly.
What did she say?
Well for what it’s worth, I think you were put on this ship for a reason. Like the rest of us. You both were.
Says the Nobel Prize winning doctor.
Frank laughs sweetly.
When all of this settles down, we should get something to eat.
We are eating.
Frank dips his spoon into the bowl, raises the contents and turns over the spoon, causing the grew mush to slop back into the bowl. Frank doesn’t respond, but rather looks deeply into her eyes, waiting for a real response.
His face goes from hopeful, to slightly let down.
I should go and get some–
Frank nods, sadly.
–Yeah yeah. No. Tomorrow’s gonna be one hell of a day.
He stands up, and without taking his bowl, he leaves the room silently, leaving Shari sitting at the table alone.

The mass of people surrounds Craig and Shari, but Craig fights through them. His hand is wrapped strongly around Shari’s, as he pulls her through the crowd. In Shari’s other hand, she carries her overstuffed suitcase. In Craig’s other hand, a mobile phone, which he holds up to his ear.
(into phone)
We’re 5 away.
Shari struggles to keep up with Craig.
(into phone)
We’ll meet you there.
Craig hangs up the phone.

Craig doesn’t stop walking.
Craig. Stop.
He still doesn’t. He pushes past another lot of people.
Keep your head down.

She pulls her hand away from Craig’s. Craig spins around to look at her, almost angrily.
Tell me what’s happening this instant, or I’m not going any further. This isn’t funny.
Craig’s glare softens almost immediately.
I can’t. You can’t know yet.
Craig sighs, giving in.
Fine, but we have to keep walking. Put your hoodie up.
Shari does as she’s told. She lifts the hoodie of her jacket over her face.
Come on.
Shari looks over at all of the people around her, pushing at her, pushing at each other. They all seem frightened and anxious. Many are parents, with children either on their shoulders, or following behind them.

That thing in the sky. It’s coming and It’s going to hit in… soon.
Shari listens intently, with eyes wide. They never stop moving.
There isn’t much hope.
That’s impossible. We… I. I would have heard.
NASA told the Government, and the Government told no-one.
Why wouldn’t they–?
–Because they weren’t sure. Not One hundred percent. They didn’t know whether it would hit us, or not.
But they didn’t tell anyone?
Craig sighs.
They didn’t want to end the world before… you know…
I don’t.. I can’t believe y–
–So instead, they built a ship. A ship big enough for a hundred, two hundred people.
A spaceship?
The ship would sail out on the brink of space for as long as it could. As long as it could last. And then it would come back, after the dust had settled.
What does that have to do with me.
Because the ship is here.
Did dad tell you this?
Craig nods. Shari looks around at the large crowds of yelling people.
Are all of these people–?
Craig nods again.
And will they–?
Craig shakes his head.
There’s just no room. Two hundred of the worlds best and brightest were chosen in secret and told to be here on this day.
And us?
Craig smiles at her, sadly.
Being the president’s daughter has its perks, I think.


They reach the police block. At first, they are denied entry by a uniformed officer, but a man in a black suit approaches them. He flashes his badge at the officer.
Don’t worry, officer. I’ll take it from here.
The officer stands aside.

If you’d be so kind as to step this way.
Shari steps forward over the police barricade. The man in black helps her over. Shari pulls at Craig’s hand, to help him over as well, but he doesn’t budge.
Come on. We have to find my father.
Shari pulls again, but Craig stands strong.
Your father decided to stay. He’s off being president somewhere.
Shari’s eyes begin to well up.
I don’t understand. Why didn’t you bring any luggage?
There was only one place. A place for your father.
Small tears begins to fall on Shari’s cheeks now.
No. I won’t.
He gave it to you.
I won’t. I don’t want to.
You don’t have a choice.
The man in black places his hand on Shari’s back.
It’s time to go, miss.
Thick, mascara-laden tears now stream down Shari’s face.
No. Please. You have to come.
There’s no room for me.
Take it. Take my seat. I don’t want it.
Craig looks at Shari for an extended second. He looks into her eyes. He then looks at the building behind her, and straight back to her.
I’m sorry. It’s time to go.
Shari attempts to climb back over the police barricade, but the suited man stops her by placing both his hands on her shoulders.

I’m sorry.
No. No. I won’t go. NO!
Her cries are loud and heavy now. She’s fighting with the man holding her, but he’s just too strong. He lifts her up and begins to walk into the building.
No!!! Please don’t make me. I can’t do this without you. Please! We need you!
Craig looks on as the distraught girl begins to cry louder and louder, screaming for him. His eyes begin to well up. The man walks up the stairs, undisturbed by the writhing girl in his arms. The door to the skyscraper slides open, and the man walks through it, with Shari still in his arms, fighting to get back to the man she loves. She never makes it. The door closes behind them.


The interior of the lookout is metal and more metal. Shari stands on a grated surface looking out of a large thick glass window. Outside is nothing but space and stars. In the centre of the view though, is a large blue planet, with specks of green and brown. It looks like a floating jewel suspended in nothing, sparkling in the sun’s rays.
Shari looks out at it coldly, with no emotion. She’s lost in thought.
The sound of a sliding door echoes off the walls behind her. She doesn’t turn around at first.
Two pairs of walking feet clink on the metal grating. One pair hard, the other soft. A young girls voice sounds.
Shari turns around.
There you are.
Karen stands at the door next to a small child, who appears to be about four, with long dark brown hair. The girl wears a night gown far too big for her. Shari wipes a her wet eyes and sniffs. She clears her throat.
Yeah, honey?
I found your little stowaway wandering the corridors.
I couldn’t sleep, mummy.
Shari holds out her arms, and the girl runs into them. Karen walks up behind Shari. Shari looks at Karen sternly.
Thank you.
Through pursed lips, Karen makes a noise of disapproval. She puts her hand on Shari’s shoulder and pushes down softly.
Keep a closer eye on your daughter, Shari. The fates brought her here. They could take her away.
Karen begins walking out the room.
Stay here, baby.
She puts her daughter down, and spins on her heels, walking after Karen.


Karen turns around.
With all of her might, Shari SLAPS Karen across the cheek. Karen looks back at her, horrified. Her cheek stains red.
I’m done with people telling me what to do.
Karen whimpers, and turns around. She limps away, holding the cheek with her hand.
Shari watches her go.
Shari enters the room again, and walks over to the girl. She picks her up as before. The girl’s eyes are transfixed on the giant blue-green gem in the sky. Shari is as well.
Is that where we are going?
Shari nods slowly.

Have you been there before?
Once. A very long time ago.
Is it nice there?
Shari looks through the glass at the blue planet. She wonders.


Download a pdf of Black and Blue