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Issue 64: The Novella Issue

Issue 64 Cover for WebMax Ross, “Nobody Remains in the Garden”

“Something long-stifled within him, a third lung in his chest, had expanded and taken in its first breaths. Yes: it was as if his entire life he’d been breathing underwater through an oxygen tank, and now, in clean hotel rooms, he was able to remove the tank and breathe of his own accord. He’d surfaced. But his oxygen supply for the other world—the world Gail lived in—was now exhausted. All that he’d built he must tear carefully down. His marriage, his fatherhood, his friendships, his bank accounts, his house, his wardrobe, his desires, his moods, his self-conception—all would be altered.”

*

Chantal Aida Gordon, “Fulfillment”

“The Chairman made an approving noise. His eyes drooped down to the side, then back up at me. I said, ‘Speed-acc for retrievals is up over twenty points. Program should be ready for broader testing in two weeks. Then we sell it for a shit-ton.’ On the big screen he was bent over typing on his tablet as we waited. Everyone in the room was breathing visibly, in an animal way. After the initial shock of the data spills—which dragged on for two years; I dimly saw the tail end of them in preschool—people became, predictably or unpredictably, much less easily embarrassed. Being a victim of DoxxAll was like giving birth to yourself, I speculated one night to my fellow students over beers at Rocket to Venus. During the data spills, people were forced to be naked in front of the whole world. So even as they declined to share personal things, they acted, in their professional lives, with audacity. AI took over for emotional communications. You type in a request, look in the Veriteyes, and within seconds a message is sent to your spouse’s AI with suggestions for after-work conversation or to have a gin martini waiting at eight. Maybe no tech on her birthday this year, James.

‘Goodbye, personal mystique,’ Roya said. Her remark now inspired a new question from someone else in the room.

‘Discretion’s still part of many people’s lives. How will we—?’

The Chairman looked up and smiled, content as a friar.

‘We’ll tell them, “Fuck your Discretion.” Or something gentle like that,’ the Chairman said.

More laughter. Someone clapped. I watched Ellery’s toes curl over the edge of her sandals like shrimp on a cocktail glass.

I hung excitedly over the voice station for one more second, then sat back in my chair, beaming.

You are my miracle baby, Ben mouthed when everyone else was looking at the screen.”

*

Christie Hodgen, “The War of the Worlds”

“Occupy Wall Street is a joke, you tell me during our weekly phone call, a joke that’s gone on too long, a joke whose punch line, if and when it arrives, can’t possibly justify the time it took in coming, the anxiety and then the boredom it produced in its own making. ‘All these protestors,’ you say, ‘are like cousins from out of town, college dropouts trying to find themselves in the city, knocking on your door asking if they can sleep on your couch. And at first you’re kind of charmed by the gleam in their eyes, their flannel shirts and their fingerless gloves, their wool caps and their rucksacks, at first you look at them and remember yourself at the same age, the plans that you had, so you take them in, you feed them, you listen to their complaints, you offer bits of encouragement and advice, cookies, power bars. But then a few weeks go by, and every time you come home from work there they are, just hanging out, just bullshitting, taking up more and more space, their clothes sprawled on the floor, their folk music trembling in the air, and then they start asking if their friends can hang out, and soon enough you come home and you’re apartment’s full of kids, you’re choking on patchouli and incense and clove cigarettes.’ Here, you laugh. You are always cracking yourself up. ‘Until one morning you’re like: All of you, get the fuck out. And you start throwing their shit out the window.’”

 

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