Cipher Codex – The Departure

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Mrs. Judith Applesmith, professor of Old English studies, currently on sabbatical. checked her watch as the taxi pulled up in front of their house. “We’re early,” she said.

“How early,” Mrs. Barbara Applesmith, Judith’s wife, computer programmer, specialty cryptology, asked.

“Just a couple of minutes.” She leaned forward to speak to the driver, “Can we wait here a couple of minutes?”

“Sure, the meter’s still running,” the driver said.

“That’s fine we may not be staying anyway.” The driver nodded. She sat back in the seat and said quietly to Barbara, “Do you think it’ll make a noise?”

Barbara glanced out at their house, “Depends on whether it’s an exchange of matter or –” a thunderclap interrupted her.

The driver jumped in her seat and looked at the sky, “Weather report didn’t say anything about rain.”

“Ok so it’s a one way transport of matter through time,” Barbara said. They exited the cab and looked at their house from the sidewalk. “From the outside the damage doesn’t look that bad.”

“Dear, the garage is sagging,” Judith said.

“I was talking about the house. You can see part of a hole in the side but it’s not collapsed.”

“Yet. I’m going to look inside. Stay here and be ready to call for an ambulance if the house comes crashing down on me.” She gave Barbara a peak on the check, strode up to the front door and peeked inside. The ovid hole in the wall stretched almost the length of the living room. It curved up into the ceiling and down into the foundation. There was also a similar hole in the floor boards around a shallow divot in the foundation. In the ceiling a hole opened up a view into the upper floor. These holes, she knew, were not separate events but rather the end result of an egg shaped chunk of space being transported somewhere else, somewhen else, by the machine those two kids, twenty-somethings really but they looked so young to her, had built in her garage with her funding.

“Whoa, that’s weird looking. It’s like a negative space picture,” Barbara said looking over Judith’s shoulder.

“I thought I asked you to stay back.”

“And let you have all the fun? Not a chance. So, what do we do now?”

“I don’t like the look of the ceiling so we’ll stay in the apartment for now. I’ll call a contractor and see about getting some supports put in and a tarp over the garage. You can start emailing physicists and engineers the first page of notes about the machine. We’re off the book from here on out. It’s up to us to save the kids from the past. Somehow.”


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Memory Box: A Walk to Forget

This is the link to my second “interactive” story.  It’s pretty linear but because it deals with changing memory I wanted to be able to show that happening in the text. There’s nothing to download, the story should work in most browsers.

Memory Box: A Walk to Forget

In case you don’t want to go through the twine story I’m adding on a plain text version below.
Continue reading

Getting My ID

So, a couple of years ago my driver’s license expired. I put off renewing it because I’m just bad at taking care of things like this. The previous time it expired I was able to renew online but when it expired this last time I had to go into the DMV to renew it. Today I went to get an ID card because I haven’t owned a car in more than nine or ten years so I don’t see the need to have a driver’s license.

I took the bus for the first time in a while. I rarely go further than my job or the superstore where I shop, both of which are within walking distance of my home. It was weirdly nostalgic to ride past almost every place I’ve lived in the last fifteen years.

Because it has been more than two years since it expired, I needed my birth certificate and other documents to prove my identity. To get a birth certificate you need to show your DL or ID but you can use other documents to prove your identity as well.

I honestly thought today was going to be a struggle to get my documents because I’m trans and haven’t changed my name or gender marker. I don’t pass perfectly but generally I get treated as a woman. Having average looks helps sometimes. Also I don’t have like guy clothes anymore so I couldn’t try guy drag. I have some polo shirts but no pants. I gave up on pants a couple of years ago. Skirts are just more comfortable, cooler on hot days, and can be layered on cold days.

Anyway, all my worrying turned out to be for nothing. I got my birth certificate with no problems. At the DMV, the woman didn’t comment about anything. I didn’t get misgendered at either place. I don’t think either of the women I talked to used a honorific at all which I don’t mind but is a little odd for Texas.

Memory Box: Working Daze

Below is a static version of my first “interactive” story.  You can find a twine version here.  It’s my first attempt at something like this.  Wednesday’s story is a sequel to this one and has a bit more interactivity.

****

At the start of the day, take my seat in the cubical farm. The cable to the memory box sits coiled on the desk where I left it yesterday. I pick up the plug and raise it to the jack behind my left ear. It slides in easily and locks in place with a click. I wait for a second before I feel a slight tingle and goose pimples race down my arms.

<////////////////////////////////////////////////>

Random policies and procedures stack up in my mind. Generic memory caches never integrate evenly. I turn on my computer and begin working. An insurance claim form appears on my computer screen and the policies about approving or denying the claim unfold in my memory.

So, this is what I do, I think. I look over the claim and deny it. It’s easy because I’ve never had to do it before. Maybe if I had spent day after day reading forms like these it might begin to wary on me. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen one and the policies are fresh in my mind. Except that’s not true.

Five years in this cubical farm. The second function of the memory box, memory deletion, keeps us workers from planning or having moral objections to what we do. It’s almost impossible to have second thoughts about something you barely have first thoughts about. The company probably say it uses the function to protect client data. All I remember of each day is sitting down in the morning and getting up at the end of the day.

A computer could do this job but memory caches can’t be hacked. By using a zombie workforce the company has made their decision-making system a black box. Even former employees can’t tell you what gets a claim approved or denied.

I’ve probably had these same thoughts every day for the last five years.

At the end of the day, I press the red button on the memory box.

<////////////////////////////////////////////////>

 I pick up the plug and raise it to the jack behind my left ear. It slides in easily and locks in place with a click. I wait for a second before I feel a slight tingle and goose pimples race down my arms.

<\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\>

I feel a shock and smell over ripe bananas. The green light is lit, it’s the end of the day time to go home. I pull the plug out of my jack and neatly coil the cable on the desk. I stand up and pick up my lunch box.

“Hey, Frankie how’d your day go?” Rob the guy in the next cubical asks as I walk by.

“Fine, I guess. I earned fifteen credits.”

“Fifteen credits? I only managed twelve today. My back is killing me.”

“My back used to hurt too on long days. I got an office pillow it’s a godsend.”

“I’ll look into that. See you tomorrow.”

“See you,” I say and walk away.

Knocking on the Airlock Door

The last person in space heard knocking on an airlock door.

You pulled yourself through the empty space station toward the sound. Again you heard the knocking. Three thudding knocks. You reached the airlock before the knocks sounded once more. Through the window, you looked into the airlock. No one was in the airlock. Not that you expected anyone to be there since you were the last one left on the station.

Left behind when the emergency evacuation order came through and there were one too many people for the return capsules. Everyone had stared at each other in horror as you all realized someone would have to stay. There was no fighting, no posturing, no exceptions. A simple lottery, short straw stays, was improvised with strips of paper. Everyone drew and you lost.

The knocking happened again you to pushed away from the door startled. As you impacted on the wall behind you, you realized the knocking must be coming from outside the station. Some part of the station has come loose, you thought, it could damage something if I don’t secure it. You had several months of air and supplies but it would be all worthless if something knocked a hole in the station.

You went through the nearly impossible task of putting on an extravehicular suit and mobility harness alone. There were latches and seals and straps that were not meant to be closed from inside the suit. For an hour, you struggled with it, all the while hearing the repeated knocking. At first, you cringed at every knock hoping the station could take the hits. By the time you were suited up and ready to cycle the airlock, you had started counting the seconds between the knocks.

As the air was evacuated from the airlock, silence descended around you. You clipped a safety cable from your suit to the inside of the airlock. The outer door swung open and you carefully exited. You looked around for whatever had been knocking against the station but there was nothing. The airlock was at the far end of the station, away from the solar panels or cross modules, meant for docking with the shuttle. The robot arm for moving cargo from the shuttle was locked down, unmovable.

Your safety cable suddenly went slack. By the time you finished turning, the outer door was closed. By the time you reached the outer door, the inner door was open. You struggled with the outer door but safety systems prevented both doors from opening at the same time. Carefully you made your way around the outside of the space station to another airlock. It also refused to open. As did the third airlock.

Stranded in space, locked out of the station, floating with limited air, you began to feel hopelessness creep into your mind. For an hour, you stared into an airlock window willing the inner door to close. Then you saw a shape move past the open door. Just a blur in your vision but it was something. It, you realized, was what had opened the airlocks. It was what had been knocking. It was what you let in.

You waited, staring through the window until you saw it flash by again and then you knocked on the airlock door. It returned to the airlock. Long arms with too many joints pulled it into the airlock. You knocked again. It flinched back before jerking forward to stare back at you through the window. Large multicolor faceted eyes regarded you from an alien face. You knocked again. The alien tilted its head in an almost human gesture and then it left the airlock.

For the next several hours, you continued to knock trying to get its attention but anytime is passed the airlock it would only glance inside before continuing on. With your air supply almost exhausted you began continuously knocking on the airlock. It came then and watched you for the longest time. When you began to labor with each breath it moved closer to the window. The last thing you saw was its eyes staring at you without apparent care.

Scrying Stew

The woman stares into the murky pot watching the patterns of grease and spice swirl on its surface.  “Would you like to know your future? The visions are quite clear at this time,” she asks.

You hesitate. The future is uncertain. The nation to the north demands tribute and threatens war with the other northern nation. The land here has become dry and farming is harder every year. Rain is coming some say. The land here is done others say. The south territory is empty but untamed. To the east, the sea stretches beyond the horizon. To the west is the edge of the world. You know that soon you will have to choose a path to follow.

“Umm, ok,” you whisper.

The woman’s eyes open wide as she smiles revealing too many teeth. She gently picks up the ladle and stirs the pot in a figure eight. “I see a war. A battle.” As she talks the rising steam blows in your eyes, her words fade from your hearing and the vision springs into your mind.

You will lead an army against the north. Their defense will be weak. Astride a body covered battleground you will walk.

“Burn the bodies,” you will yell and your soldiers will obey. Bodies will be piled and set a flame. From one pile a still living man will crawl out. A soldier who tried to play dead after the first assault hoping you will pass over him. He will crawl from the bonfire of his comrades and beg for mercy.

You will grab him, lift him to his feet with one arm, and shout, “This one laid among the dead. This one hid from us among the dead. This one belongs to the dead.” He will scream and thrash but you will be too strong. You will feel nothing as you throw him back onto the pyre of his brethren.

“Hey hey!! What did the boss you about reading the future in the stew?!” the busser a shouts at the cook. “Look at this young lady. She looks all a fright. What did you tell her?”

“Only the truth.” She quickly fills a bowl with stew from her pot and slides it in front of you.

“Get back to work and no more future reading.” The woman moves to the next table and offers them bowls of stew. He turns back to you apologetic, “I’m sure whatever she told you won’t come true. Would you like a roll on the house?”

You snap back into the present moment. “Yes, thank you.” He nods returns with a small roll.

The stew is hot and full of spices. You catch glimpses of other battles as you spoon meat and vegetables to your mouth. You dip your roll in blood soaked fields. You lift the bowl to your lips and pour a final pyre into your mouth and let out a small burp of satisfaction. The future is uncertain but you’ve made your choice. This land is dying but you will not abandon it and its people. The coming war will be your war. A war that you will win.

But for now, you have homework and chores to do at home.

***

Author note: This started as an attempt at writing a story in future tense. Of course, english doesn’t have a future tense for verbs so all you can do is add “will” in front of them. I originally wanted most of the story to be in future tense but writing “will” in every sentence felt too repetitive, so the frame story expanded.

Cousin Came to Visit

desertcityicon

My handheld began softly beeping. I tapped it twice to silence and cancel the alarm. I slid off my bed and began rooting around in the “not too dirty” pile of clothes on the floor. I picked up and sniffed a sports bra. Oh god, that stinks! I tossed it into the actually dirty pile of clothes. I gave up looking on the floor and just pulled out a clean sports bra and underwear from my dresser. The sports bra fit extra snug, flatting out my chest nicely. Not as flat as a binder but I didn’t have one of those. Yet. A loose t-shirt and a pair of track shorts covered enough skin to make me decent.
I unlocked my bedroom door, slid it open, and walked into the kitchen. Mom was already in there drinking coffee at the table. I grabbed the small sauce pan off the wall, half filled it with water, cranked the handle into the red, and set it on the stove top. From inside the refrigerator, I plucked two eggs from their carton. I dropped the eggs into the just boiling water and glanced at the wall clock.

“Your cousin Hannah is arriving today,” Mom said.

“I know. You’ve only been reminding me for the last week,” I said.

“Lucy–”

“Luke,” I said to remind her.

“Right, Luke. It would be nice if you came with us when we picked her up.”

“Ok, do I have time to eat?” I glanced at the clock again. Wait, was the minute hand right on the four or a little before it the last time I looked.

“She doesn’t arrive for a couple of hours.” For a few minutes, neither of say anything. “Maybe you could take her flying later,” she said.

“I can’t just take the tug out for joy rides.” I grabbed two slices of bread and set them in the toaster.

“Why not?”

I counted off the reasons on my fingers, “One: it’s technically company property until I finish paying it off. Two: fuel costs money. Three: it has heavy weapons that I don’t want her accidentally firing.”

“I can give you money for fuel.”

“You have a few thousand laying around for a half hour joy ride?” The toast dinged and I set them on a plate to be sliced.

“No. It costs that much to fly?” she asked surprised.

“Yeah. Most contracts have fuel allowances so I only have to cover part of the fueling costs but it’s still expensive.”

“I didn’t know. Your eggs are done.”

I quickly turned back to my eggs and cranked the pot handle back to the blue. The rolling boil stopped. After a few seconds, I reached into the warm water to pull out my eggs and set them in egg cups. I carried the eggs and toast to the table, grabbed a spoon, and cracked the top off my first egg. It was fully hard boiled. I sighed.

***

The land here is dry, arid, dusty, sandy, barren, did I mention dry. Nothing but scrub brush can grow out here but that means land is cheap. One of the reasons my parents and I moved here. The other being the job opportunities in the City. The City is everything the surrounding land is not. Tall, clean, cool buildings, green parks, water fountains. It’s a man-made oasis in the desert. My parents have jobs in the city but we live outside it. I said land out here is cheap. In the city, everything costs more. Even with their fancy city jobs, we can’t afford to live there.

The bus station was just a small ticket booth next to a series of canopies. Several buses waited for passengers to get on or off. A crowd of people waited nearby for their bus to arrive. It’s hot but not any hotter than usual. Dad was wearing a casual tunic over light pants and sun hat. Mom had slipped on a cream colored maxi dress and wrapped a blue scarf around her head. I stood apart from them with my flight jacket over t-shirt and track shorts, aviator sunglasses, and work boots. I wiped the sweat from my forehead back into my short hair.

To most people, the jacket looked like a bad idea on a day like today but it kept me cooler than not. It’s designed for the variable temperatures a pilot might encounter. Flat gel packs with nanotube filaments regulate the temperature of the inner layer of smart foam. Basically, if I’m too hot it pulls heat away from me and if I’m too cold it warms up. That the chest and back parts end up looking like body armor is just a bonus. The arms even have transparent pockets on the inner arms for handhelds. I have pants with the same tech for when I accept contracts that take me to the upper atmosphere or higher but they don’t look as cool.

Hannah’s bus arrived a few minutes ago and we were waiting for her to make it out of the crowd to us. She pushed through carrying a bag and pulling a second smaller suitcase on wheels. Mom waved and she waved back

“Oh, look at you. You’re so tall,” Mom said while hugging her. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen the rest of the family outside of pictures or videos.

“Hey cuz,” I said and slapped her on the shoulder.

“Hey,” she said looking me over. I haven’t put a picture up online since before I shaved my head. It’s grown out a little but it’s a radical change from how I looked before.

We piled into Dad’s ten-year-old sedan and head home. Mom spent the trip home grilling my cousin. How is her mom doing? Did her sister get into college? Has her other aunt found a job yet? A hundred questions that could be answered by email but asking a person just feels more right. Even I asked a few questions about our other cousin.

***

After we got Hannah settled into my room, Mom suggested I show her the tug. The tug is my ship. It’s just a cargo hauler that I’m leasing-to-own from the shipping company. For a cargo hauler, it’s nothing special, just a two person cockpit attached to a cargo frame with thrusters stuck on the sides and rear. The underside of the cockpit is a patch of unpainted armor because I had to have a rotted out section replaced and I haven’t bothered to repaint it. I kind of like the junkyard look it gives my ship.

The cockpit seats two, pilot in front and gunner behind and above, but I can and usually do fly solo. The turret on top of the cockpit has full range of motion and is controlled from the gunner seat but I have a cheap auto-targeting computer wired into it. It’s pretty good at lining up shots on things in the sky but it can’t really tell friend from foe so it just shoots everything. In the front, under the cockpit are a couple of cannons I can control and fire from the pilot seat. They have limited range of motion but at least I can see what I’m shooting at.

The tug stays in an empty field a few hundred yards from the housing rows. Another guy keeps his ship out here too but we rarely talk. He’s twenty years older than me and a company lifer. The company has been great for getting my license and training but I hope to do more after I’ve paid off the ship.

On my handheld, I entered the access code for the cockpit and it popped open. I reached up and grabbed the lowest rung of the ladder built into the side of the cockpit. The landing gear is supposed to retract to a mid-level when the cargo frame is empty but the controller circuit with multiple settings cost more than the one with just two. I pulled myself jerkily up the rungs until I could stand on the lowest rung and take a short breather.

Hannah started a slow clap. “That was … That was almost not pathetic. I’ve seen three-year-olds climb faster than that.”

“Shut up,” I yelled down but I was laughing between deep breaths.

“Why don’t you have a ladder or stairs or something?”

“I had a pool ladder but someone stole it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, but no one around here has a pool so I don’t know why they wanted it.” I climbed the rest of the way to cockpit edge. “Ok, your turn.”

“What?” she asked.

“You want to see my ship you have to climb up on your own.”

“Come on. You don’t have a rope you can throw me?”

“Nope.”

She looked up at the ladder and stretched out her arms. The lowest rung was just out of her reach. “I can’t reach.”

“Jump. It’s right there.” She reached back up, jumped, and grabbed it. “There you go now just climb up.” I watched her struggle up rung by rung until she could stand on the lowest rung for a breather. “Not so easy is it?” I asked.

“Shut up,” she said between breaths. After a couple of minutes, she climbed the rest of the way up. I showed her where to step to reach the gunner seat without stepping on the console. I showed her the basic controls and let her swing the turret around but kept the guns offline.

My handheld buzzed. I flipped my arm over and tapped on the screen to discover what set off the notification. I have to take a certain number of contracts in a month in order to maintain my lease agreement but this week I had planned on staying mostly grounded while Hannah was staying with us. Only a high pay and short distance contract should have made it through the filter. Huh, moderate pay and short distance. I should send my cousin home but it’s a short ride and no threat level.

“Hey, you want to take a short trip?” I called back to her.

“To where?”

“There’s a contract I’m to take. You want to come with.”

“Can I?” she asked

“Sure, it’s an easy run. Might be boring though.”

She thought about it and said, “Sure.”

“Ok, strap in and don’t touch anything.” I tapped on my handheld to accept the contract and sent the location data to my ship’s computer. A flight plan appeared on the main monitor. I tweaked the path to keep us clear of the western border and transmitted it to Flight Control. I flicked a few switches to ready the engines. They rumbled to life behind me.

A minute later, a voice spoke through my headset, “Tug-1407 you are cleared for take off.”

“Tug-1407 cleared for take off. Thank you, Control,” I replied. I grabbed the controls and took the ship straight up to cruising altitude before turning and heading for the pick-up site.

I heard a muffled “Fuck!” from behind me. I didn’t need to slam us down in our chairs but the rest of the trip is going to be pretty bland. It only took a few minutes to reach the warehouse outside of the city where the cargo was waiting. I connected with the ground crew and got a landing pad assignment.

“Now what?” Hannah asked as I set down and shut off the engines.

“Now, we wait for the ground crew to load the cargo. Could be five minutes could be two hours.”

“So, this is what it’s like to be a pilot?”

“No, this is what it’s like to be a cargo pilot. Once I get my full certifications and pay off the company I can start applying for real pilot jobs.”

“Like what?”

“Like with the space agency. They always need pilots on the moon.”

“Have you been to space yet?”

“A couple of times, the tug can make low earth orbit but it burns a lot of fuel. The view is … the pictures they show us aren’t enough. It’s so much bigger than the pictures make it look.”

My comms beeped. “Tug-1407 we are ready to load your cargo container.”

“I copy. Go right ahead.” In the rear cameras, I watched as the rectangular container is slid underneath the cargo frame. I felt a slight jolt as it reached the back of the cockpit. The cargo hooks lowered and grabbed the container and green lights came on letting me know they had a solid lock. “Cargo hooks engaged,” I told the ground crew. The truck unhooked from the container and drove away. I restarted the engines and took off, slower this time so the ground crew wouldn’t complain about me. Once I got to altitude, I headed for the first nav marker of my flight plan. I could have engaged the autopilot but I like flying the tug myself and I needed the hours of unassisted flight.

“So, how are you doing in school,” I asked once I was level and flying more or less in a straight line.

“Fine. B’s and C’s,” she said.

“Just B’s and C’s?”

“I’m passing, ok?” Hannah snapped at me.

“Sorry, I was just teasing.” For a couple of minutes, I flew in silence. “Parents giving you a hard time about your grades?” I asked gently.

She didn’t answer right away. “They don’t know how hard it is. School, work, everything.”

“You got a job?”

“Yeah. In the mall, at the ice cream shop.”

“No kidding,” I tried to sound encouraging, “That’s great and you’re passing all your classes. Sounds like you’re doing ok.”

“Not as good as you. How much money do you make doing this?”

“Enough to make my lease payments, pay for fuel and repairs, and a little left over to help around the house. Cargo pilots don’t make a lot of money unless they own their own ship which I don’t. Yet.”

“You dating anyone?” she asked.

“What?”

“Are. You. Dating. Anyone?” she asked again enunciating each word slowly.

“No.” I paused thinking about how that question had become more complex over the last few months. “Not since high school. I’ve been busy learning how to fly. What about you?”

“No.” We lapsed into silence for several minutes. We reached the first nav marker and I adjusted course toward the second. She broke the silence, “How long is this trip?”

“About four hours round trip.”

“Oh.”

“How about some music?” I flipped my arm over, patched my handheld into the ship’s headsets and queued up something with a good beat to help us pass the time.

***

Author note: So that’s it. The whole story. Nothing much happened but I really liked writing this story. It’s longer than most single part stories I write and I thought about cutting it in two but felt it was better as just one story.

This I think my first time explicitly writing a trans guy. I hope I did ok on that front.

This started as a dream that I slowly reshaped into what you just read. I can’t remember what my dream was anymore, this story ended up taking it’s place in my memory.

The New Interview with a Vampire Part 3

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“We are back talking to Monica the commander of the space mission to Kepler 186. Why don’t you tell us a little about Kepler 186,” the host prompted me.

“Kepler 186 is a star system about five hundred light years from Earth. We’re heading to the fifth planet out. It is slightly bigger than Earth so higher gravity but we think has a chance at being human habitable.”

“How habitable are we talking? Sunny tropical beaches?”

I chuckled. “Not that sunny. At noon, Kepler 186 is barely brighter than our sun is at sunset.”

“Sounds like a perfect place for vampires.”

“That’s something we’re going to find out. We honestly don’t know if it’s just our sun that will burn vampires or any sun.”

“The scientist at the space agency haven’t run tests? Have they tried using sun lamps?” The audience laughed.

“Ha, no most of the testing with sun lamps was done a couple of hundred years ago.”

“Was that when vampires became public knowledge?” she asked.

“Not exactly. There have calls to go public since before I became a vampire. I saw several during my first century but they always got shot down by older vampires afraid humans would try to exterminate all of us. It was a valid concern so no one went beyond suggesting we go public.”

“What changed?”

“IDs.”

“IDs?” the host asked.

“Yep. In 2234, the Global Identification System changed its encryption schema and made it virtually impossible to create new fake IDs. It was common at the time for vampires to change identities every forty to fifty years. Suddenly it looked like we were going to be locked out of human society and forced back into haunting abandoned buildings. Without the appearance of legal identification, we couldn’t own property, we couldn’t have jobs, we couldn’t receive mail, we couldn’t travel. It was the end of the world for us. Then someone suggested we go public. This time the idea wasn’t shot down right out of the gate. There was a year long debate weighing every possible pro and con. And in the end, enough of us said yes.

“I wish I could read those comments.”

“Actually you can. Someone compiled the discussion into a book after we were recognized as full citizens in 2262. It’s titled Road From Out the Coffin. Horrible title but the content is good.

“How did that lead to scientists running tests on vampires?”

“Right got sidetracked for a second. Basically, some of us revealed ourselves to doctors around the world and let them run whatever test they wanted on us to prove we weren’t vampires. Of course, they got odd to weird results back but couldn’t prove we weren’t vampires. With this wide range of doctors saying “I don’t know what these people are but they aren’t normal human,” we went to specialized labs and continued the cycle. We wanted scientific proof that we, vampires, existed. After several years, everyone was stumped on how our bodies worked but we had detailed reports that they did. Then began step two: petitioning the World Government to recognize vampires as legal citizens with all the rights and protections that entailed. We wanted to be people, not monsters anymore.”

“Is that how people saw you? As monsters?”

“It was ingrained in society. Except for some novels written during the early twenty-first century, vampires have been portrayed as blood sucking murderers. We were that at one time but over time we stopped killing and even stopped having to forcibly take blood from people. That was probably what helped our case the most.”

“You had blood donors?”

“Actually yes. In the 2100’s, some vampires established a worldwide blood bank.”

The host’s eyes widened. “Wait, the World’s Blood Bank is run by vampires?”

“Well, not anymore. It started as a small front to get people to donate blood that was then sold to local vampires on the side. It worked so well that they got vampires around the world to invest and opened a network of vampire controlled blood banks under the name World’s Blood Bank. Then a couple of years after they had started a series of hurricanes and tsunamis and an earthquake devastated local blood supplies around the world. Someone in a hospital somewhere remembered hearing about The World’s Blood Bank and called up to request some blood.

“There was mild panic online that our blood supply was going to be exposed. The vampires running the blood bank decided they couldn’t not help. They had been collecting world wide and felt like they had plenty to spare. Then more requests came and then more. It seemed like the whole operation was going to collapse but then people started donating in mass. Their false image as a blood bank for the world became reality. The vampires set up a corporation to control the blood bank’s finances and set up a board of doctors to monitor day to day operations. They set up small private clinics around the world that could request blood and distribute it to local vampires. Our detractors tried to use this against us, calling us leeches on the world’s blood supply but all the vampires in the world use less than one hundredth of a percent of the blood used in hospitals around the world.”

“Wow. I just donated blood last week.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Well, we’re almost out of time so do you have anything else you’d like to say about the Kepler 186 mission? What do you hope to learn or see?”

“I hope it is habitable. Earth is going to be here for a long time but humans might not. In the last five hundred years I’ve been alive, I’ve seen several man-made ecological disasters. Humans are getting better at cleaning up their messes but it just takes one mess too big to clean up to wipe us out. Too many eggs in one basket. So we’re heading out to find new homes for humanity. This is just the first of several vampire led missions to distant stars. We’re the first wave because we can sleep must of the hundreds of years it will take to get there. The hope is that by the time we get there and can send a message back new forms of transport will have been developed. My greatest hope is we arrive at an already populated planet.”

“You’re giving up your life for humans?”

“A few decades ago a conversation started about what would happen if all the humans died and only vampires survived. The discussion ranged from creating human farms to cloning blood to creating synthetic blood. There are many ways we could keep living if you wiped yourselves out but none of us want that world. Several of us were already in the space program and we suggested finding more worlds for humanity and us to live on. It seems very selfless but really we don’t want to be alone with only each for company.”

“Thank you, Commander Monica, for your time and service.

“Thank you for having me on.”

“That’s all the time we have today. Thank you for watching and don’t forget to donate blood.”

The show’s theme music blared one last time as the audience clapped.


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The New Interview with a Vampire Part Two

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The lights came up and the theme music played. “We are back and we are speaking with Monica who was about to tell us what the vampire community was like in the twentieth century.”

“Right. Well, the vampire community I entered into was almost completely online in secret groups on Facebook, password protected forums, and private websites. The internet, as limited as it was in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, allowed us to make connections, share info, negotiate territory. There were a few who had open journals or blogs but most normal humans dismissed them as works of fiction. A hundred years earlier, hell fifty years earlier, I would have been lucky to know more than three other vampires.”

“Why was that?”

“Mostly it was geography and lack of wide spread communications. Vampires rarely collected in groups larger than two in a city. A moderately sized city with an average crime rate in the twentieth century could support one or two vampires without their feeding creating a strong pattern. More than that and people start to notice and then concerned citizens start burning down houses.

“The exact number of vampires a city can support scales as the size of the city increases. New York City had a couple dozen dispersed throughout its boroughs. By the time I entered the community there were twice that many who regularly flamed each other online about intruding on their territory. I say community but they were about as cohesive as the trans community at the same time.”

“Trans community? What was that? A community of transportation fans?” She smiled and the audience chuckled.

“Ha, no. It’s an arcane term from the twenty-first century. So … it’s not important.”

“No, go on. I’m interested in hearing about this trans community.”

“Ok. I’m what was called a trans woman.”

“What’s that?”

“It meant I am a woman who was born with a penis.”

“So … ?”

“At that time any person with a penis was considered male and a man and any person born with a vagina was female and a woman. Anyone who didn’t fit into those narrow definitions was made to fit.”

The host recoiled slightly. “That’s hideous! Sex and gender don’t work like that.”

“No, they don’t but it was the general belief of society at the time. There were those like myself that defied the norms and demanded to be respected as our true genders.” I paused as memories bubbled to the surface of my mind.

“But to get back to the vampire community. For two hundred years not a lot changed for us. We stayed hidden, some of us made new vampires, some of us disappeared. Most times a vampire would announce their intention to walk into the sun but sometimes a vampire just disappeared. We could never be sure if they had killed themselves or just dug into the earth and fallen asleep.”

“What do you mean fallen asleep?”

“That is a quirk of vampire physiology. We can enter a dead-like-sleep that can last for centuries. It’s a way for us escape the world for a while. A vampire doesn’t have to kill every time they feed. It was actively discouraged as early as the second century in parts of Asia but that attitude wouldn’t come to Europe until around the seventeenth century. Vampires before that would feed on small communities until they were all dead. Then they would find a safe place and sleep until more people moved into the area. In the last seven hundred years, it has been rare for a vampire to overfeed on a population in that way, so sleeping away the years has become a voluntary affair. Vampires from older time periods sometimes do it because they can’t cope with the way the world has changed.”

“Have you slept any years away?”

“Only a year in the twenty-fourth century. I was reading “The Blue Death” by Gabbalta Joennes and didn’t want to wait for the next book in the series. So, I took a nap until the sequel came out.” The audience laughs.

“Really? You slept for years just to read the next book?”

“I was three hundred, almost four hundred years, old at the time. Honestly, I had lost the thread of what life was supposed to be. I had realized I had time to read all the books I wanted. I wasn’t wasting my time reading day after day because I had all of eternity before me. So, I spent ten years reading book after book trying to catch up with all the books I had neglected to read in the previous three hundred years.

“And then I read “The Blue Death”. It was the first of a promised series and I loved it. I spent five months re-reading just it. The sequel was to be published in a year so I took a nap to pass the time. When I woke up, the second book had been published. I was ecstatic to read more until I saw a note in the front of the book. The author had died in an accident. Another writer had taken her mostly finished manuscript and notes to completed it. There were no plans to continue the series. I read the new book and it was good but I could sense the hand of the new writer subtly guiding Gabbalta’s brilliant prose in slightly more conventional ways. I …,” I blinked and glanced around the studio suddenly back from the memory I had been reliving. “Oh, I got a little ah caught up in that memory. I didn’t mean to go on so long about that.”

“You looked like you were someplace else while you were telling that story.”

“A hazard of having a perfect memory. Our memories can seem so real we get lost in them.”

“You remember everything from the last five hundred years?”

“Everything I’ve experienced. Don’t ask me about historical events cause I rarely paid attention to the news. I’m barely better than grade school history book.”

“We have another break for our sponsors and when we come back Monica will tell us about her mission to Kepler 186.”

The lights dimmed and the music played.


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