The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe - 1842

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The "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death".

Ozymandias by Horace Smith

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon. READ ON →

Darkness by Lord Byron

Darkness is a poem written by Lord Byron in July 1816. That year was known as the Year Without a Summer - this is because Mount Tambora had erupted in the Dutch East Indies the previous year, casting enough ash in to the atmosphere to block out the sun and cause abnormal weather across much of north-east America and northern Europe. This pall of darkness inspired Byron to write his poem. Literary critics were initially content to classify it as a "last man" poem, telling the apocalyptic story of the last man on earth. More recent critics have focused on the poem's historical context, as well as the anti-biblical nature of the poem, despite its many references to the Bible. READ ON →

Thundarr the Barbarian – Magical Mystery Treasure by Sheila Shillingburg

From Thundarr.com, Thundarr the Barbarian - Matical Mystery Treasure is the second of two fan fiction stories by Sheila Shillingburg.

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THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN: MAGICAL MYSTERY TREASURE
By: Sheila Shillingburg

CHAPTER 1
POST APOCALYPSE

In the near future, a comet broke loose from its predetermined orbit, and streaked through space. It passed too close between the earth and the moon, tearing away some of the Earth's protective atmosphere. The moon shattered under the sudden burst of gravitational pull.

Down on the earth, things were no better. The earth quaked, volcanoes erupted, tsunamis washed away beaches, and whatever else happened to have been built there. Every sign of civilization was either destroyed or laid to ruin.

After a thousand years, people re-built their lives from the destruction. Like the mythical phoenix, a bird that rose from its own ashes, civilization began its slow return.

But, the new world that emerged was one rather primitive by our standards. A brutal, savage world of slaves, super-science, and sorcery. One man, a slave by the name of Thundarr, burst his bonds to fight for freedom and justice. Accompanied by the beast-like Ookla the Mok, and Princess Ariel, the sorceress who had helped Thundarr to free himself, he set about righting the wrongs of the future, and challenging the absolute rule of the tyrants. Armed with a powerful, magic sun sword, given to him by Ariel, and a hair-trigger temper, Thundarr was well equipped for battle.

Unfortunately, his knowledge of the past was limited to the few remnants he saw about him. A broken streetlight here, a priceless BMW--now smashed to bits and pieces--there. Although Thundarr and Ookla appreciated the learning of the past, and those who remembered it, they were ignorant of it. Only Princess Ariel knew anything at all about the vanished world. Her grandfather had taught her to read, and she had read almost every book in the library of her stepfather, the evil wizard Sabian. So, it was Ariel who knew the tales whispered by the ruins.

Thundarr the Barbarian – How to Catch a Vampire by Sheila Shillingburg

From Thundarr.com, Thundarr the Barbarian - How to Catch a Vampire is the first of two fan-fiction stories by Sheila Shillingburg.

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THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN: HOW TO CATCH A VAMPIRE
By: Sheila Shillingburg

CHAPTER 1
ENTERING LAS VEGAS

Horse's hooves pounded the ground, and a trio of riders crested the hill. The lights of the desert oasis were beginning to come on, creating a twinkling labyrinth. The blond leader of the trio looked over it all. The beast-like creature woth him growled a question.
"People of the past enjoyed a sport called gambling," the raven haired woman with them began in explanation. "They created this town for their habits, and called it Las Vegas."

Their leader, Thundarr, made a move as if to turn away from the twinkling valley. "Maybe we should find a calnmer oasis," he suggested. But, his horse whinnied in protest.

"It's getting late, Thundarr," Princess Ariel said. "And, we're going to need a place to camp for the night."

In the animalistic tongue of his people, Ookla pointed out that this was the first oasis they had come to after days of riding. Their stores of food and water needed replenishing. Thundarr agreed that his freinds were right, and turned back to the futuristic Las Vegas.

The future had not been kind to Las Vegas, as it had not been kind to the rest of the earth. A comet had passed too close to the earth, shattering the moon; and tearing away some of the earth's protective atmosphere. The comet had lkong gone off into space, but left Earth in ruins.

After a thousand years, people rebuilt their lives from the ruins. But, the new world that emerged was one rather primitive, by our standards. A brutal world of slaves, super-science, and sorcery.

Tales of a Blood Earth by Steven Montano

In the time after The Black, humans battle against the onslaught of the vampire armies of the Ebon Cities.

In a desolate patch of remote wasteland, a young woman named Rooke, part of a group of prisoners held by the corrupt prison wardens called The Revengers, struggles to stay alive. Ordered to unearth a terrible chamber of ancient power and hounded by once-frozen vampire savages, Rooke's journey into darkness will reveal forgotten secrets of the conflict that has brought The Black to our world.

But will Rooke survive long enough to tell anyone?

This 9,300 word short story originally appeared as a web-fiction series at www.bloodskies.com. This newly compiled edition also features new cover art and a sneak preview of Book 3 in the BLOOD SKIES series, "SOULRAZOR", coming March of 2012!

View Steven's other works at BloodSkies.com.

Read Tales of a Blood Earth below, or download in mobi (Kindle), epub, or PDF.

 

TALES OF A BLOOD EARTH

one

 

 

Rooke saw red water and black skies.

She was dizzy. Her lips were dry and cracked.

The trees behind her formed a dark wall. Dirty golden light tried to break through the charcoal clouds, but couldn’t. Bodies crawled and toiled in the shadows on the bleak plains.

“Dig!”

The mud was as black as coal. Shards of shattered rock and blanched bones shifted in the crumbling morass. Her hands bled. Blisters and cuts riddled her pale skin beneath the ebon muck.

The air smelled of sulfur. To the west, the dark land went on forever. They dug holes at the edge of nowhere.

Rooke closed her eyes, just for a moment. In her mind, she escaped back to the swamp, where she used to hide on hot summer days and wait for miniature crocodiles to float by in the water so that she and her brother could catch them. They were quite good at it, really.

That was before she’d become a prisoner. Chattel of Black Scar.

A rod struck her from behind. Pain flared down her back. Rooke cried out.

“I said dig!”

There were twelve prisoners in all. Rooke was one of the only humans; most of the rest were Lith, Doj, or Gol. They weren’t allowed to speak, and as far as she had guessed they came from different cell blocks of Black Scar. She’d never seen any of her fellow diggers before they’d been put on the ship that morning, and when the day was done she doubted she’d ever see any of them again.

Revengers were close by. There were two men and a woman. Rooke didn’t know their names. The Revengers never told the inmates their names. They wore tight-fitting leather armor with enameled black shoulder plates, tall boots, and leather gauntlets. One of the men paced the ground in front of the diggers, his boots slurping in the cold mud. The other two stood on the ridge just in front of the line of trees, watching, joking about which prisoner would be the first to fall down from exhaustion and drown in the mud.

Rooke was sixteen. She’d been a prisoner in Black Scar for only a few weeks, but it felt like a lifetime. It was a dank and bottomless place, a dark and subterranean hell filled with violence and fear.

It was just as bad there, on the fields of dark mud. They might have been near Blackmarsh. There was no sign of civilization anywhere. The airship had brought them there, and those that survived the day-long dig would be flown back and dumped into their cells with a few scraps of whatever hadn’t been eaten by the other prisoners.

She dug, her hands numb. She tried to think again of the swamp, and of her brother, but she was afraid if she did that the Revengers would somehow know, and she would be struck again. So she dug, and tears made black from the mud ran down her face.

A Plutonium Record by Maria Stanislav

This would be done in the memory of all musicians survived by their art...

The world has ended. Not entirely - it never really does that. Yet many things would never be the same again. As time goes on, people try to restore some semblance of the normality that used to be. Yet while everyone is busy trying to rebuild their own lives around them, some things lie forgotten, everyone's and no one's at the same time. Is it any surprise that the first person to remember about them is someone who has no life left to rebuild? Back in the old world, music had never failed to be of invaluable help to her. In the new one, she can repay the favor.

Visit Maria's site at https://thecoffeeclef.wordpress.com.

Read A Plutonium Record below, or download in PDF here.

 

To John and Patrick
(probably the entirely wrong place for a dedication)

Some say we are the cursed generation. On some days, I am sorely tempted to agree. After all, we have faced global warming and ensuing climate chaos, the gradual destruction of the ozone layer and the melting of ice shelves. We have seen innocent numbers become symbols of the death of thousands, and female names growing to be associated with disasters. We have experienced trepidation as the end of the century and the millennium coincided, and some follow-up on that as different calendars forecasted their own versions of the apocalypse.

Did it make us less cursed, or even more so, that we tended to laugh in the face of all that? Too many fears, too many tragedies – could anyone blame us for becoming maybe a bit more callous than was appropriate? Callousness can be both a blessing and a curse, in my experience. We could make fun of things we were supposed to be afraid of, and it helped. To an extent, at least. Because all those scares, they were hardly sufficient to earn us the name we could have bragged about under different circumstances, as did some X-ers, and then Y-ers, and as would the Z-ers, if there were a generation Z. But the real reason we were dubbed cursed was the fact that among the things we had witnessed was the end of the world. Even for us, that was rather hard to laugh off.

I lay the pen down and stretch my fingers, clenching and unclenching the fist a few times. Three years, and I still have trouble writing with my left hand.

Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo by Eighty Six The Poet

Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo is a one-thousand line post-apocalyptic novel-in-verse about a zoo on the day no one showed up, narrated by a captive turkey vulture. Written in 10 by 10 format. Episode 2: "Cathartes Aura on the Road from Nowhere" is due to be released in August, 2011.

Visit Eight Six the Poet's site at http://eightysixthepoet.blogspot.com

Read Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo below, or download in mobi (Kindle), epub, or plain text.

Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo
Published by Eighty Six  
Copyright 2011 Eighty Six
 
Chapter One
 
Off day at the zoo.  No one came to work.
The gates were not unchained.  No tourists tapped
At the glass, grackled, squawked, mimicked the birds.
And we were never fed.  Three times a day
They liked to throw us parts: legs furred with hooves,
Hindquarters with the tail, heads with antlers
Or horns attached.  Every beak grab a gland
And tug, twist, flap with all your appetite.
Get your gutful before they pull the corpse.
End of show.  But the gawkers, they loved it.
 
Pressed their cheeks and faces into the glass.
Strobe shots from lenses and flashbulbs.  Big-eared
Buck-toothy profiles uglying my view,
Laughing in languages, throwing chocolates
At the children and monkeys running loose.
Sketch artists with pads on easels, scratching,
Brushing, crushing graphite into pulp.  Bent
Foreheads and frowns.  Crooked caps and wire-frames.
Grunting and waving off kids, they stop, stand
To smoke, to hiss and nod at their markings.
 
But no one today.  No chap-stick blowfish.
No high-pitched docents.  The straw-hat lady
Did not enter with rake and bag, cooing
Like a dove, whistling like a finch, to scrape
Feathers, dung, and coughed meat from our sawdust.
The two men with the cart did not roll up:
One strangled the garbage while the other
Snapped on fresh plastic.  The can overflows
With half-eaten dogs, unwanted lunches
And fly-buzzed cans stinking outside our cage.

The Prophet.com by Brent Knowles

This is a story about the early years of the post apocalyptic hero Wanderer and tells of his search for his missing wife. He has not yet found his battlesuit and his foes in this tale are his fellow humans, the ones, like him, who have survived the end of days.

This story was originally published in END OF DAYS: AN APOCALYPTIC ANTHOLOGY VOLUME 2 published by Living Dead Press.  You can see more of Mr Knowles work on Amazon.

Read The Prophet.com below, or download in mobi (Kindle), epub, or plain text.

 

THE PROPHET.COM
by Brent Knowles

The helicopter disappears beyond the horizon and Wanderer returns his attention to the laptop sitting awkwardly on his knees, sharing space with a can of cold beans. He digs into the beans with a plastic spork as he views the web site behind his dust-covered screen. A photo of a large man with wide, powerful eyes, stares back at him.

It surprises him that these remnants of the old order linger still. Web sites: illusory constructs, full of ideas and utterly lacking in physical substance -- devoid even of the paper reality of a book. Of course, they too will fade eventually as power grids collapse and the servers of the world die. Well enough. As long as this one site remains, even if only to goad him.

He snaps the laptop shut, drops it into the bag where he carries his dwindling supply of batteries, and stands up, stretching, bones popping back into place. He takes a moment to stare across the badlands surrounding him and with a heavy sigh he picks up his equipment. There's less than when he started out. He walks. Dust rolls across his boots.

Figures approach Wanderer. He watches them out of his sun-squinting eyes as his hand drops to his gun but he does not worry. They are Scavengers and he is not a corpse. He watches them disappear into the sand dunes and wonders where they came from. Would they trek from Calgary all the way out here? Unless-

Adrenaline raises his pulse. Taking a swig of dry water from his canteen he carries on, wiping a callused hand over his bearded face and catching the pearls of water that cling to it. Ducking his head, he plows through the field of wind towards his destination. He walks for the day. Dusk comes before Salvation. But he knows it is near. He can smell the metal in the air, can almost taste it. That night he sleeps restlessly on sharp earth.

Bad Hand Man by KH Koehler

In the post-apocalyptic world of the Skillet, fourteen-year-old Jake Stryker lives a miserable existence as an indentured slave to the Crayton clan. Then the Bad Hand Man blows into town and Jake's life changes dramatically. But is it for the better?

See more of Ms. Koehler's writings at http://www.khkoehler.com.

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– Shuffle –

A murmur went up in the town of Gehenna the day the Bad Hand Man rode in. He came in out of the Skillet on a massive, barrel-chested Suffolk as black as a raven’s breast, its nostrils exhaling smoke and sand like a machine on full power. The horseshoe-like symbol of the Regency was imprinted upon its riveted breastplate and sat between the creature’s flat, triangular ears. The creature bared its teeth at passersby, and those who saw creature and rider at first glance swore one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse had arrived.    

Then the blinding white sun was refracted by the animal’s joint rivets, and the scouring wind plucked at the edges of the rider’s duster to reveal a dusky purple silk lining. Women took their laundry in early that day, and the First Church of the Divine Restitution welcomed fifteen new Believers into its folds. The bingo parlor was closed for the first time in almost ten years.

What had been visited upon the town of Gehenna was no Horseman, yet its presence was no more reassuring.

Gehenna waited and watched.

Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior – Movie Script

					THE ROAD WARRIOR SCRIPT
M A D   M A X   I I
B Y
TERRY HAYES
GEORGE MILLER
BRIAN HANNANT
(T H E   R O A D   W A R R I O R)
April 13, 1981
THE MONTAGE
BLACK AND WHITE ACADEMY FORMAT
la.	THE WASTELAND.		DAY.
Flurries of dust and sand swirl around us as we move
through an eerie, barren land.  The only sound is the
howl of a rising wind.
Ahead something looms out of the storm.  As we approach
we see that it is the rusting remains of a massive oil
pump.
The wind drops to be replaced by the voice of a very old
man.  This Is the Narrator:
NARRATOR V/O
The vision dims and all that remains
are mememories.  They take me back -
back to the place where the black
pump sucked guzzolene from the
earth...
DISSOLVE.
lb.	ANOTHER PART OF THE WASTELAND. DAY.
Out of the dust storm emerges the ancient wreck of a
prime mover and fuel tanker.  It is partly charred, its
wheels and sides studded with metal crossbow bolts.
NARRATOR V/O
And I remember the terrible battle
we fought - the day we left that
place forever...
DISSOLVE.
1c.	A  HILLTOP IN THE WASTELAND.	DAY.
A warrior, dressed in leather and steel, stands on a
hill crest.  This is MAX.  Behind him is a strange road
vehicle:  two engines and a seat mounted on a chassis.
NARRATOR  V/O
But, most of all, I remember the
courage of a stranger, a road
warrior called Max.  To understand
who he was you must go back to the
last days of the old world ...
FADE TO BLACK.

Falling Skies Prequel Web Comic

In the heart of Boston, following the devastating events of an alien invasion, history professor Tom Mason and his sons meet up with the 2nd Mass, a militia group determined to wipe out the aliens. But with the militia's supplies running low, Tom must locate an old friend to equip him and his team in order to ensure the survival of the human race! READ ON →

Jailbreak by Harry Shannon and Steven W. Booth

"Jailbreak," co-written by veteran writer Harry Shannon and newcomer Steven W. Booth, is actually the first chapter of a new briskly paced weird-western-zombie-apocalypse novel. This 5,000 word section has already appeared in "Best New Zombie Tales," the charity anthology "Dead Set," and is in also Harry Shannon's Stoker-nominated collection "A Host of Shadows" from Dark Regions Press.

The new novel, also starring Sheriff Penny Miller, is tentatively entitled "The Hungry." It will be released as an ebook and trade paperback late summer, 2011.

Read "Jailbreak" below, or visit the Amazon product page to add it to your Kindle.

 

"Say again?" Sheriff Miller slid worn boots from the edge of the desk, slammed them down on the messy floor. The antique office and jail were in the middle of yet another round of remodeling. Paint cloth whispered. Dust rose, spread and slowly settled. The old style radio crackled with static. Outside, night was spreading like a dark blanket over the little town that crouched further down the road.

"I said, he killed Miss Barbara by the library, Sheriff," Deputy Bob Wells said. He spoke rapidly, baritone voice thick with panic. "He killed her with his bare hands, so I shot him."

"Slow down. Shot who, damn it?"

A long pause. More static. "It was old man Grabowski, Sheriff. Sure as shit."

"Lazlo Grabowski is dead, Bob."

"I know."

Sheriff Penny Miller blinked and straightened her long legs. She leaned forward over the desk, stomach tingling. "You okay, Bob? You been drinking?"

"I ain't had a drop, Sheriff, I swear. It was the strangest damned thing I ever saw. Old Grabowski came out of the bushes while I was talking to Miss Barbara. Looked like shit, some sort of zombie. He tackled her and started...biting. I tried to pull him off her, but his arm came right out of his shoulder. Jesus, blood come out of her quick as a double-dicked bull pissing on a flat rock. Miss Barbara was screaming. He wouldn't stop, so I shot him. He kept on biting anyway. I shot him again, in the head this time, and then he quit."

The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged) by John Varley

This is the best story and the worst story anybody ever wrote.

There’s lots of ways to judge the merit of a story, right? One of them is, are there a lot of people in it, and are they real. Well, this story has more people in it than any story in the history of the world. The Bible? Forget it. Ten thousand people, tops. (I didn’t count, but I suspect it’s less than that, even with all the begats.)

And real? Each and every character is a certified living human being. You can fault me on depth of characterization, no question about it. If I’d had the time and space, I could have told you a lot more about each of these people … but a writer has dramatic constraints to consider. If only I had more room. Wow! What stories you’d hear!

Admittedly, the plot is skimpy. You can’t have everything. The strength of this story is its people. I’m in it. So are you.

It goes like this:

Your Blinded Hand by Tennessee Williams

Suppose that
everything that greens and grows
should blacken in one moment, flower and branch.
I think that I would find your blinded hand.
Suppose that your cry and mine were lost among numberless cries
in a city of fire when the earth is afire,
I must still believe that somehow I would find your blinded hand.
Through flames everywhere
consuming earth and air
I must believe that somehow, if only one moment were offered,
I would
find your hand.
I know as, of course, you know
the immeasurable wilderness that would exist
in the moment of fire.
But I would hear your cry and you'd hear mine and each of us 
would find
the other's hand.
We know
that it might not be so.
But for this quiet moment, if only for this 
moment,
and against all reason,
let us believe, and believe in our hearts,
that somehow it would be so.
I'd hear your cry, you mine--
And each of us would find a blinded hand.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

"I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" is a postapocalyptic science fiction short story by Harlan Ellison. It was first published in the March 1967 issue of IF: Worlds of Science Fiction. It won a Hugo Award in 1968. It is one of the ten most reprinted stories in the English language.


 

Limp, the body of Gorrister hung from the pink palette; unsupported—hanging high above us in the computer chamber; and it did not shiver in the chill, oily breeze that blew eternally through the main cavern. The body hung head down, attached to the underside of the palette by the sole of its right foot. It had been drained of blood through a precise incision made from ear to ear under the lantern jaw. There was no blood on the reflective surface of the metal floor.

When Gorrister joined our group and looked up at himself, it was already too late for us to realize that, once again, AM had duped us, had had its fun; it had been a diversion on the part of the machine. Three of us had vomited, turning away from one another in a reflex as ancient as the nausea that had produced it.

Gorrister went white. It was almost as though he had seen a voodoo icon, and was afraid of the future. "Oh, God," he mumbled, and walked away. The three of us followed him after a time, and found him sitting with his back to one of the smaller chittering banks, his head in his hands. Ellen knelt down beside him and stroked his hair. He didn't move, but his voice came out of his covered face quite clearly. "Why doesn't it just do us in and get it over with? Christ, I don't know how much longer I can go on like this."

It was our one hundred and ninth year in the computer.

“If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth…” by Arthur C. Clarke

"If I Forget Thee, O Earth" is a short story written by Arthur C. Clarke and first published in 1951 in the magazine Future. It was subsequently published as part of a short story collection in Expedition to Earth in 1953. The title is taken from Psalm 137:5 — "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem" — which consists of the writer lamenting over his exile from Israel by God. The themes in the story exploit the anxieties prevalent at the time regarding nuclear warfare.


When Marvin was ten years old, his father took him through the long, echoing corridors that led up through Administration and Power, until at last they came to the uppermost levels of all and were among the swiftly growing vegetation of the Farmlands. Marvin liked it here: it was fun watching the great, slender plants creeping with almost visible eagerness toward the sunlight as it filtered down through the plastic domes to meet them. The smell of life was everywhere, awakening inexpressible longings in his heart: no longer was he breathing the dry, cool air of the residential levels, purged of all smells but the faint tang of ozone. He wished he could stay here for a little while, but Father would not let him. They went onward until they had reached the entrance to the Observatory, which he had never visited: but they did not stop, and Marvin knew with a sense of rising excitement that there could be only one goal left. For the first time in his life, he was going Outside.

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov

"Nightfall" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, about the coming of darkness to the people of a planet ordinarily illuminated at all times on all sides. It was later adapted into a novel. "Nightfall" has been anthologized 48 times, and it has appeared in six collections of Asimov's stories. In 1968, the Science Fiction Writers of America voted "Nightfall" the best science fiction short story written prior to the establishment of the Nebula Awards in 1965 and included it in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964. 

Read below or download in plain text


 

If the stars should appear one night in
a thousand years, how would men believe
and adore, and preserve for many generations
the remembrance of the city of God?'

EMERSON

Aton 77, director of Saro University, thrust out a belligerent lower lip and glared at the young newspaperman in a hot fury.

Theremon 762 took that fury in his stride. In his earlier days, when his now widely syndicated column was only a mad idea in a cub reporter's mind, he had specialized in 'impossible' interviews. It had cost him bruises, black eyes, and broken bones; but it had given him an ample supply of coolness and self-confidence. So he lowered the outthrust hand that had been so pointedly ignored and calmly waited for the aged director to get over the worst. Astronomers were queer ducks, anyway, and if Aton's actions of the last two months meant anything; this same Aton was the queer-duckiest of the lot.

Aton 77 found his voice, and though it trembled with restrained emotion, the careful, somewhat pedantic phraseology, for which the famous astronomer was noted, did not abandon him.

'Sir,' he said, 'you display an infernal gall in coming to me with that impudent proposition of yours.' The husky telephotographer of the Observatory, Beenay 25, thrust a tongue's tip across dry lips and interposed nervously, 'Now, sir, after all -- '

The director turned to him and lifted a white eyebrow.

'Do not interfere, Beenay. I will credit you with good intentions in bringing this man here; but I will tolerate no insubordination now.'

Theremon decided it was time to take a part. 'Director Aton, if you'll let me finish what I started saying, I think -- '

'I don't believe, young man,' retorted Aton, 'that anything you could say now would count much as compared with your daily columns of these last two months. You have led a vast newspaper campaign against the efforts of myself and my colleagues to organize the world against the menace which it is now too late to avert. You have done your best with your highly personal attacks to make the staff of this Observatory objects of ridicule.'

The director lifted a copy of the Saro City Chronicle from the table and shook it at Theremon furiously. 'Even a person of your well-known impudence should have hesitated before coming to me with a request that he be allowed to cover today's events for his paper. Of all newsmen, you!'

Aton dashed the newspaper to the floor, strode to the window, and clasped his arms behind his back.

'You may leave,' he snapped over his shoulder. He stared moodily out at the skyline where Gamma, the brightest of the planet's six suns, was setting. It had already faded and yellowed into the horizon mists, and Aton knew he would never see it again as a sane man. He whirled. 'No, wait, come here!' He gestured peremptorily. I'll give you your story.'

A Pail of Air by Fritz Leiber

"A Pail of Air" is a science fiction short story by Fritz Leiber which appeared in the December 1951 issue of Galaxy Magazine and was dramatized on the radio show X Minus One in March 1956. The story is narrated by a ten-year-old boy living on Earth after it has been torn away from the Sun by a passing "dark star". The loss of solar heating has caused the Earth's atmosphere to freeze into thick layers of "snow".


 

Pa had sent me out to get an extra pail of air. I'd just about scooped it full and most of the warmth had leaked from my fingers when I saw the thing.

You know, at first I thought it was a young lady. Yes, a beautiful young lady's face all glowing in the dark and looking at me from the fifth floor of the opposite apartment, which hereabouts is the floor just above the white blanket of frozen air. I'd never seen a live young lady before, except in the old magazines—Sis is just a kid and Ma is pretty sick and miserable—and it gave me such a start that I dropped the pail. Who wouldn't, knowing everyone on Earth was dead except Pa and Ma and Sis and you?

Even at that, I don't suppose I should have been surprised. We all see things now and then. Ma has some pretty bad ones, to judge from the way she bugs her eyes at nothing and just screams and screams and huddles back against the blankets hanging around the Nest. Pa says it is natural we should react like that sometimes.

When I'd recovered the pail and could look again at the opposite apartment, I got an idea of what Ma might be feeling at those times, for I saw it wasn't a young lady at all but simply a light—a tiny light that moved stealthily from window to window, just as if one of the cruel little stars had come down out of the airless sky to investigate why the Earth had gone away from the Sun, and maybe to hunt down something to torment or terrify, now that the Earth didn't have the Sun's protection.

Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke

"Rescue Party" is a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, first published in Astounding Science Fiction in May 1946. It was his first story that he sold, though not the first actually published. It was republished in Sir Arthur’s second collection, Reach for Tomorrow and also appears in The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke.

Who was to blame? For three days Alveron's thoughts had come back to that question, and still he had found no answer. A creature of a less civilized or a less sensitive race would never have let it torture his mind, and would have satisfied himself with the assurance that no one could be responsible for the working of fate. But Alveron and his kind had been lords of the Universe since the dawn of history, since that far distant age when the Time Barrier had been folded round the cosmos by the unknown powers that lay beyond the Beginning. To them had been given all knowledge—and with infinite knowledge went infinite responsibility. If there were mistakes and errors in the administration of the galaxy, the fault lay on the heads of Alveron and his people. And this was no mere mistake: it was one of the greatest tragedies in history.

The crew still knew nothing. Even Rugon, his closest friend and the ship's deputy captain, had been told only part of the truth. But now the doomed worlds lay less than a billion miles ahead. In a few hours, they would be landing on the third planet.

Once again Alveron read the message from Base; then, with a flick of a tentacle that no human eye could have followed, he pressed the "General Attention" button. Throughout the mile-long cylinder that was the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, creatures of many races laid down their work to listen to the words of their captain.

"I know you have all been wondering," began Alveron, "why we were ordered to abandon our survey and to proceed at such an acceleration to this region of space. Some of you may realize what this acceleration means. Our ship is on its last voyage: the generators have already been running for sixty hours at Ultimate Overload. We will be very lucky if we return to Base under our own power.

"We are approaching a sun which is about to become a Nova. Detonation will occur in seven hours, with an uncertainty of one hour, leaving us a maximum of only four hours for exploration. There are ten planets in the system about to be destroyed—and there is a civilization on the third. That fact was discovered only a few days ago. It is our tragic mission to contact that doomed race and if possible to save some of its members. I know that there is little we can do in so short a time with this single ship. No other machine can possibly reach the system before detonation occurs."

August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury

"There Will Come Soft Rains" is a short story by science fiction author Ray Bradbury which was included in the collection The Martian Chronicles. The story takes place in the city of Allendale, California, which is uninhabited during the course of the story as well as the house in the story, which is the only one left standing. The story details the daily tasks of a robotic house after its inhabitants have died in a nuclear war. The title comes from Sara Teasdale's poem, "There Will Come Soft Rains", which also treats a post-apocalyptic setting.


 

In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty. The clock ticked on, repeating and repeating its sounds into the emptiness. Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine!

In the kitchen the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk.

"Today is August 4, 2026," said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, "in the city of Allendale, California." It repeated the date three times for memory's sake. "Today is Mr. Featherstone's birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita's marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills."

Somewhere in the walls, relays clicked, memory tapes glided under electric eyes. Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o'clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one! But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels. It was raining outside. The weather box on the front door sang quietly: "Rain, rain, go away; rubbers, raincoats for today…" And the rain tapped on the empty house, echoing.

Second Variety by Philip K. Dick

"Second Variety" is an influential short story by Philip K. Dick first published in Space Science Fiction magazine, in May 1953. It is one of Dick's many stories in which nuclear war has rendered the Earth's surface an uninhabitable, gray ash pile, and the only things remaining are killer robots and a scattered humanity.

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The claws were bad enough in the first place—nasty, crawling little death-robots. But when they began to imitate their creators, it was time for the human race to make peace—if it could!

The Russian soldier made his way nervously up the ragged side of the hill, holding his gun ready. He glanced around him, licking his dry lips, his face set. From time to time he reached up a gloved hand and wiped perspiration from his neck, pushing down his coat collar.

Eric turned to Corporal Leone. “Want him? Or can I have him?” He adjusted the view sight so the Russian’s features squarely filled the glass, the lines cutting across his hard, somber features.

Leone considered. The Russian was close, moving rapidly, almost running. “Don’t fire. Wait.” Leone tensed. “I don’t think we’re needed.”

The Russian increased his pace, kicking ash and piles of debris out of his way. He reached the top of the hill and stopped, panting, staring around him. The sky was overcast, drifting clouds of gray particles. Bare trunks of trees jutted up occasionally; the ground was level and bare, rubble-strewn, with the ruins of buildings standing out here and there like yellowing skulls.

Tupac Shakur and the End of the World by Sandra McDonald

The worst part – well, one of the worst parts, disregarding the collapse of modern civilization – is that it was my own stupid choice to leave Florida in the first place, and here I am spending my last days trying to get back there. I don’t have the Creep yet but let’s not pretend I’m special or mysteriously immune. I’m not the plucky heroine of a summer blockbuster who will find true love (shaggy-haired Brendan Fraser would be nice, or Daniel Craig with his icy blue eyes) and then become matriarch of a community of ragtag survivors. I’m just me – Susan Donoghue, thirty-one, former textbook writer, currently hiking down I-95 in North Carolina armed with a .45 handgun, pepper spray, and a hunting knife. I won’t let anyone touch me.

Let’s not pretend, either, that I’m on anything but a fool’s errand. My sister Marie, her husband Mike, and my baby niece Monica are probably already dead. The best I’ll be able to do is bury them. Take their hardened, Creepified bodies and put them in the dirt, then drop down beside them.

With me on this southbound hike are Lazy Lamar, Crazy Chris, Tipsy Tina and Jumping Jack. The alliterative nicknames were Tina’s idea – some trick she used to do as an icebreaker when she used to teach equal opportunity seminars in Baltimore.  The only one I really trust is Jumping Jack. He and I left Brooklyn eighteen days ago. He’s a lot like Brendan Fraser, except gay. He wants to die in Miami.

“Only eight hundred and thirty miles to South Beach,” he says as we pass signs for Rocky Mount. He’s got a map and a handheld GPS that only works sporadically.  The weather is overcast and cold this October day, maybe fifty degrees. I really hope it doesn’t snow.

Finis by Frank L. Pollack

Finis is the story of a new star that is discovered which turns out to be a new, hotter sun. It is a short, but hard hitting story which shows a man and woman, who stay up the night to watch the expected new star arise. Though published in 1906, it is set in the future of the mid 20th century.


 

"I'm getting tired," complained Davis, lounging in the window of the Physics Building, "and sleepy. It's after eleven o'clock. This makes the fourth night I've sat up to see your new star, and it'll be the last. Why, the thing was billed to appear three weeks ago."

"Are _you_ tired, Miss Wardour?" asked Eastwood, and the girl glanced up with a quick flush and a negative murmur.

Eastwood made the reflection anew that she certainly was painfully shy. She was almost as plain as she was shy, though her hair had an unusual beauty of its own, fine as silk and coloured like palest flame.

Probably she had brains; Eastwood had seen her reading some extremely "deep" books, but she seemed to have no amusements, few interests. She worked daily at the Art Students' League, and boarded where he did, and he had thus come to ask her with the Davis's to watch for the new star from the laboratory windows on the Heights.

"Do you really think that it's worth while to wait any longer, professor?" enquired Mrs Davis, concealing a yawn.

Eastwood was somewhat annoyed by the continued failure of the star to show itself and he hated to be called "professor", being only an assistant professor of physics.

"I don't know," he answered somewhat curtly. "This is the twelfth night that I have waited for it. Of course, it would have been a mathematical miracle if astronomers should have solved such a problem exactly, though they've been figuring on it for a quarter of a century."

Shards of Glass Part 1 by Fred Koskin

Title: Shards of Glass, Pt. 1
Author: Fred Koskin
PF Date: 523 Days
Location: Barcelona, Spain

Attribution:
This Work set in the World of Depleted – http://www.worldofdepleted.com/
Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 United States License

 

Shards of Glass. Part 1.

 

Before the Fall, the name of the “GLasS SAmurai” had been one that commanded respect from hackers around the world, despite his personal career choices.

In hacker culture, there were Black Hat hackers (who caused mischief and mayhem with their skills), White Hat Hackers (who broke into places just to prove it could be done, but without causing harm), and then there were the samurai. The samurai (or “cowboys”, as they were sometimes known due to Gibson's Neuromancer) actually used their skills to work for a living. They would hire themselves out to a corporation (or, occasionally, a government), and either help make their employers “bullet-proof” against Black hats or engage in corporate espionage against competitors. The former use was legal, while the latter was not. However, any corporation that could afford a samurai also kept enough lawyers on retainer that any espionage allegations were quashed or paid off before any government agencies ever caught wind. Of course, the fact that this samurai was largely considered a “ghost” because no one could ever catch him in a hack didn't hurt. As such, he had had the respect of hacker society that saw most cowboys as corporate sell-outs.

Getting Business Done by Jojo Stratton

Title: Getting Business Done
Author: Jojo Stratton
PF Date: 363 days
Location: Just outside Macon, GA, USA

Attribution: 
This Work set in the World of Depleted – worldofdepleted.com
Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 United States License

------------------------

PROLOGUE

It has been 363 days since The Fall; since the world was thrown into a "dark age" as technology, political order and even basic needs have been decimated, overthrown and destroyed. Life continues, but it is a life very different from before The Fall. Less than 11% of the World's former population still lives; riots, war, disease and chaos, having claimed so many. Those left have begun to realize the World did not just stumble or trip to be picked up and dusted off, sent on its way; no, the World fell and shattered. Slowly people are adjusting, changing, trying to live. Instinctual survival, an autonomic function coded into most species' DNA, is a key motivator for trying to continue in this fractured nightmare, but there are other reasons to live too. Some selfish, some altruistic, some dark and all archaic as the way of life that forged those motives, that birthed those now orphaned souls is dead and gone.

Business as usual takes on a whole new meaning in this razed world as the 'usual' was crucified when the world was depleted.

Getting Business Done

"Black false hellebore is known for its emetic properties. It was often thought to be useful in inducing labor. Hmm, I should use this to make some tea for Josephine," Minako murmured as she turned the page to reveal another series of columns filled with herbs and their medical properties. "I know, I know, Minako play nice."

She rubbed at the bridge of her nose, the book flopping to her chest as she pushed up a bit more on her makeshift bed, the flame from her candle wafting in the faint breeze her book had made. A thunk and then a moan came through the wall behind her head. She closed her eyes, an exasperated look growing on her face.

"Oh god baby that's…" the words degraded into another moan. After a moment the feminine voice once again picked up, filtering through the thin wall. "Lower..."

Minako was tempted to bang on the wall, but she knew better. She knew there was more than a quick lay going on in the next room. With a heavy sigh, the released breath ruffling her dark bangs, she picked her book up and tried to ignore the sounds from the next room as she let her eyes readjust to the low light level once more so she could continue her reading.

By the Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benét

Set in a future following the destruction of industrial civilization, the story is narrated by a young man who is the son of a priest. The priests of John’s people are inquisitive "scientists" associated with the divine. They are the only ones who can handle metal collected from the homes (called the "Dead Places") of long-dead people whom they believe to be gods. The plot follows John’s self-assigned mission to get to the Place of the Gods. His father allows him to go on a spiritual journey, but does not know he is going to this forbidden place.  Published in 1937.

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The north and the west and the south are good hunting ground, but it is forbidden to go east. It is forbidden to go to any of the Dead Places except to search for metal and then he who touches the metal must be a priest or the son of a priest. Afterwards, both the man and the metal must be purified. These are the rules and the laws; they are well made. It is forbidden to cross the great river and look upon the place that was the Place of the Gods—this is most strictly forbidden. We do not even say its name though we know its name. It is there that spirits live, and demons—it is there that there are the ashes of the Great Burning. These things are forbidden—they have been forbidden since the beginning of time.

My father is a priest; I am the son of a priest. I have been in the Dead Places near us, with my father—at first, I was afraid. When my father went into the house to search for the metal, I stood by the door and my heart felt small and weak. It was a dead man's house, a spirit house. It did not have the smell of man, though there were old bones in a corner. But it is not fitting that a priest's son should show fear. I looked at the bones in the shadow and kept my voice still.

Then my father came out with the metal—good, strong piece. He looked at me with both eyes but I had not run away. He gave me the metal to hold—I took it and did not die. So he knew that I was truly his son and would be a priest in my time. That was when I was very young—nevertheless, my brothers would not have done it, though they are good hunters. After that, they gave me the good piece of meat and the warm corner of the fire. My father watched over me—he was glad that I should be a priest. But when I boasted or wept without a reason, he punished me more strictly than my brothers. That was right.

After a time, I myself was allowed to go into the dead houses and search for metal. So I learned the ways of those houses—and if I saw bones, I was no longer afraid. The bones are light and old—sometimes they will fall into dust if you touch them. But that is a great sin.

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