Sunday, 18 November 2007

FLASH FICTION - Space Monkeys

Space Monkeys

Written by Stephen Cavanagh & David Such

First published in The Specusphere

Friday, 09 November 2007

A monkey analogue wearing a company cap and Jimbo Jones's name tag was practising with a security key on Jimbo's office door when he arrived at work that morning.

'Door goes swit!' cried the creature in delight.

'Must be alien-wearing-a-hat week,' muttered Jimbo as he gazed at the scene before him. Aloud he said, 'Give me my bloody security key back, you crazy space monkey.'

'Not a space monkey, am a snortler, you well know, Jimbo.'

'Well, snortler, you're killing me. I may feed you to the Death Slime.'

'Snort feels angry person coming,' whispered snortler, looking dolefully at his feet and swaying slightly.

Jones made the mental translation from angry-person to dock-manager-who-wears-his-pants-too-high — uh oh. 'OK, snort, out of sight, quick as you can, leave the key on the desk, and this is for you.' He tossed a fruity bun towards the creature.

The Snortler whirled in the doorway to the hidden room that formed the secret section of Jimbo's office area, grabbed the treat out of the air with a grin, and vanished into darkness inside. Jimbo thought he could just hear the snortler squeal, 'door goes swit!' as the secret door slid shut.

'Jones!' shouted the dock manager, Harold Hilton, as he stormed down the corridor outside the office waving a sheaf of Jimbo's reports around, and fairly frothing at the mouth.

Time for a coffee, thought Jimbo as he grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and made a break for the maze of attractively stained and dirty partitions that made up the office area outside his cluttered office. Too late!

'Not so fast, matey. I want to know what the blinking heck you think this rubbish is? You put three customs officers inside an alien creature last night, and all you can do is fill in reports?'

'Two officers, boss. Dawson managed it all by himself, the damn fool. Now I've stored the death slime in sub-basement 9, where it will quickly and safely perish, regurgitating our friends hopefully no worse for wear, if a little angry, possibly even very angry. Ah, perhaps much like you and your high pants.'

The dock manager's face flashed through the full visual spectrum of colours. It reminded Jones of the Andelucian cuttlefish found on Sirius V — currently a popular nightclub decoration. Harold was very sensitive about his high waist.

'I'm having an overwhelming urge to throttle you!' shouted Harold, 'but instead, I'm just going to suspend your arse. Report to the brig immediately!'


The Rock Dog gave a low growl at the three customs officers as they slowly backed away from what looked like a boulder on short legs.

'This place is a zoo,' said Stoikalizky. He, Dawson and Blake had just been decanted from the Death Slime and were on their way to find a good hot shower.

Blake looked over the destruction caused by the beast and decided to call it in. 'Chief? We have a problem here.'

Hilton's strident tones rang over the comm-unit, 'Can't you vapour-brains handle anything without me?'

'There is a thing that looks like a rock eating its way through the server room, sir.' The lights started to flicker and then went out. Blake continued. 'I think it just ate the environmental system controls. The life support systems are located in the next bay. If it eats those we are going to be sucking vacuum. Have you seen Jimbo Jones? This looks right up his alley. I would also like to have a few words with him about pushing me into that Death Slime!'


'Where the hell do you think you are going, Jones?' shouted Hilton to Jimbo's retreating back as he headed down the darkened corridor.

'Just reporting to the Brig Chief, as ordered.'

'Get your arse down to the server room. We'll talk about this later.'

It was hard to see the Chief's expression by the dim light of the emergency lights but he didn't sound happy. He probably needed more fibre in his diet, thought Jones.


When Jones arrived at the server room, the three officers had their Desert Eagle Mk VII rail guns roughly pointed at the creature that was contentedly chewing on a motherboard. It was hard for them to bring their guns to bear due to the fact that they were all crowded into a utility closet.

'A rail gun won't stop one of those,' Jones observed.

'Jones, I have a bone to pick with you!' said a muffled voice from the back of the closet.

'Don't tell me that you are still upset over the Death Slime incident? Human flesh is the only way to kill it. You guys just happened to be handy.'

'Maybe we could settle this at another time,' suggested Dawson. 'It looks like Rock Face is starting on dessert.'

There was a sudden whine followed by an eerie silence as the circulating fans wound down. The space station was never silent; the ever present hum of machinery was the beating heart of Dockland.

'That doesn't sound good,' said Blake. 'What do we do now?'

'Well, what we have here is a species of Rock Dog,' Jones said. 'They are very rare; I've only ever seen one before. As they are a silicon-based life form, they are almost indestructible and obviously have an appetite for computer chips. Rock Dogs are pack animals, so it is probably lonely.'

'You idiot! It's lonely? Lonely! It's eating the life support computer. We are all going to die! How do we get it out of there?' spluttered Stoikalizky.

'Is it conscious? I mean, can it think?' asked Blake.

'I think it can think. And what I think it's thinking is "I'm lonely".'

'Man, you are obsessed.'

There was an uncomfortable pause.

'I think I'll call him Pookie,' Jones finally said.

An alert tone began to sound, overlayed by the dulcet tones of the station's main computer. 'There is an emergency on the station due to falling oxygen levels. Could all oxygen breathing entities please proceed calmly to your evacuation station? Have a nice day.'

'Jones, we need to do something now!' said Dawson.

'Right you are.'

Jones pursed his lips and let out a piercing whistle. Suddenly an access panel in the roof flopped open and a hairy shape dropped onto Jones's shoulder. Stoikalizky screamed and tried to climb over Blake to get to the back of the closet.

'Relax,' Jones said, 'he's with me.' Patting the space monkey fondly, he continued. 'Snort, I need you to go and get me your litter tray. Can you do that for me?'

'Snort thinks Jimbo's a banana short of a bunch.'

'There's a fruity bun with your name on it if you are back in less than a minute.'

Jones had barely finished his sentence before the space monkey had disappeared back up the access panel.

Blake said, 'I'm with the monkey. How is a litter tray going to help?'

'Watch and learn chaps,' Jones said as Snort returned with his litter tray. He handed Dawson some monkey poo. 'Here, hang onto this.' Dawson looked down at the mess in his hand and frowned. Jones continued. 'Sand as you know is mostly silicon dioxide and is considered a delicacy by Rock Dogs. It is much better eating than computer chips.' Jones held the tray out in front of him and began to move slowly towards the rock dog. 'Here, boy, get your nice sand. Good dog.'

The rock dock gave a cautious growl but then it starting sniffing and it bounded over to the tray of sand. As it excitedly ate, Jones scratched its lumpy hide. The Rock Dog wagged his little stump and squinted up at Jones with love.

Jimbo smiled back and said, 'You are one ugly dog.'


Monday, 22 October 2007


Illustration (c) 2007 Carl Goodman


Copyright (C) 2007 David C. Such

First published in AntipodeanSF (, Issue 113, October 2007.

A huge green tentacle dripping with yellow slime emerged from behind the quarantine bay at Star Dock Four. Jimbo lifted his 20 mm Glock Discombobulator and sighted where he expected the head to emerge. Culling new species of space vermin was always tricky; you never knew where the vital organs would be located. Still, the Glock D solved most problems.

As a pulsating glob of green flesh followed the tentacle around the corner, Jimbo squeezed off a shot. An enormous whoosh displaced the air in the dock and Jimbo was pushed back a metre by the recoil.

In the next dock, Customs officers Blake and Stoikalizky were surprised when it began raining green ichor.

"Bloody Hell," Blake said, "This is a new uniform." He tried to wipe the slime away.

Stoikalizky, a newbie, gave a quizzical look and said, "Does this sort of thing happen a lot?"

Blake shrugged, "Depends. Jimbo is responsible for keeping the docks clear of any alien life that escapes from ships loading and unloading. Quite an exotic ecosystem has built up over the years."

"I thought ships were sterilised?"

"You mean that pathetic spray they use when they walk through the cabins? Useless! A couple of years ago we had a plague of mutant star crabs. It took Jimbo months to track them all down. We lost a few good officers before he got them all."

"They didn’t mention crabs in the corporate video."


Blake was showing Stoikalizky the outer Dock area when they pulled up short of what looked like a sea of black moss. Stoikalizky was about to step onto it when Blake grabbed his arm and said, "Whoa, boy, you don’t want to join that poor soul."

A Customs officer's cap sat in the middle of the alien moss.

"You don’t think …"

"Let’s not take the chance." Blake activated his com-unit and said, "Jimbo, this is Blake, Hanger 3, looks like we have a clean up. Possible officer down."


"What do you think?" Blake asked.

Jimbo fished out the cap with a long, rod-like contraption. "I think Dawson won’t need his hat," he said, "I saw this stuff back in '24, looks like some of the spores escaped."

"What is it?"

"Well — I don’t know its official name, but I call it Death Slime," Jimbo said in slow, country drawl.

"Death Slime! You've gotta be shitting me!" said Stoikalizky.

"I shit you not."

"So how do we kill it?"

Jimbo stroked his chin and twirled the hat of the late officer Dawson. "Hmmm. Tricky," he said.

"What do you mean, tricky?" said Blake "Just do whatever you did last time?"

"I guess that will work." As he said that, Jimbo pushed the two officers onto the Death Slime.

Apparently, human flesh was toxic to the slime in large doses.

Hopefully, three would do the trick — this time.


Monday, 1 October 2007


Illustration (c) 2007 Carl Goodman


Copyright (C) 2007 David Such

First published in Planet Magazine (, 30th September 2007.

I remember dying, but my earlier memories are beginning to go. Being a particle physicist gives one a unique perspective on death, particularly while participating in the greatest experiment ever.

My initial thesis was to attribute my memory loss to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Our universe resists order and works to always try to increase disorder. We physicists refer to this disorder as entropy. The portion of the electromagnetic wave encoded with my personality and memories was obviously degrading, and taking me with it.

I thought back to earlier in the morning….

* * *

“Jim, are you sure you want to do this?”

I looked up at my brother from the medical trolley. “Mike, you know I have to. There is no other way to prove my theory.”

“This won’t bring back Jessie,” said Mike.

“I know, and I’m not planning on joining her just yet. That’s why I’ve got the best doctor I know — my own brother — supervising the procedure.”

“Jim, even if we bring you back there may be brain damage.”

“I know the dangers, and it is a risk I have to take. Otherwise, everything else has been for nothing. All the sacrifices and Jessie’s death will be meaningless. You have to do this, Mike, and if you won’t then I will find someone else who will. I trust you; please have faith in me.”

* * *

I had no way of estimating how quickly I was losing what defined that which was uniquely me. Being a wave of radiation, I must be moving at the speed of light, which meant that relative to everyone I used to know, time had stopped.

Did this explain reincarnation? Was I even now seeking out a new body to inhabit, or was I destined to drift in space forever? The one thing that really scared me was losing my mind before the Institute could bring me back.

* * *

Mike watched me die. Not once, but twice. First was clinical death when the heart and lungs stopped. Then there was brain death.

Mike was watching the monitors carefully. All electrical brain activity had flat-lined. “Nurse, what is the weight now?”

“It just dropped 20 grams,” she replied.

“OK, that is the signal. Commence resuscitation and start the clock. We have seven minutes to bring him back before the cerebral cortex dies.”

Anne Walker was the Institute’s in-house lawyer, and she was supervising the experiment in case it all went wrong. She was taking notes and gestured with her pen. “What is the significance of the weight loss?”

Mike replied absently as he supervised the medical team. “We lose approximately 21 grams in weight when we die, the so-called “weight of the soul”. Assuming that this is correct, and that the entire weight is converted to energy, my brother’s soul is now a wave of energy equivalent to almost half a megaton of TNT.”

Anne replied, “So that is your brother’s theory, but a wave going where?”

“That is the big question, Anne, and only one person can tell us. If we can bring him back, that is.”

There was a sudden flurry of activity around the supine form of the professor, and Mike rushed to assist. There were five minutes remaining on the clock.

* * *

I couldn’t feel anything, or see anything or sense anything. Maybe this was hell, drifting in limbo while my mind decayed. Dante described Limbo as the first circle of hell, populated by “neutralists” or “opportunists.” Thinking back on my life, that described me pretty well; however, I was hoping to prove something with my hopefully temporary death.

Memory was a funny thing. I loved Jessie but already my memories of her were dimming. It was the little things that went first, the smell of her hair, the feel of her skin. I always believed that you weren’t really dead until everyone had forgotten you.

I remember laughing when I read what Australian billionaire Kerry Packer allegedly said after his first heart attack: “I’ve been on the other side and let me tell you, son, there’s f—ing nothing there.” I wasn’t laughing now.

And if I remembered my catechism correctly, all I needed to do was hang around until Judgment Day; then I would be sent to either heaven or hell. Of course, suicide was a mortal sin, so there wasn’t much doubt where the Church thought I would be heading eventually. I think I had more chance of being extracted by the Institute.

There was one problem with my entropy theory. If time had stopped, then why were my memories disappearing? There must be some other mechanism at work.

So I turned all my attention inwards. I could feel something. I could sense an external influence alternately adding and subtracting from my essence. This ebb and flow seemed to be made up of million of voices. Concentrating, I could barely resolve fragments of sentences: “God, please help Becky…”, “…it will never work…”, “…love you,” “Jim, breathe, damn it….”

String theory claims that everything in the universe is made up of vibrating strings. Songs and prayers were adding to my energy, building the resonance and sustaining me. The negative thoughts and emotions were destructively interfering with the vibrations in the strings that defined me. I had to hope that the constructive influence would outweigh the destructive ones. I just needed to have faith.

* * *

Doctor Mike Andrews was working feverishly. “Charging….”
He glanced up at the clock, one minute to go. A tear rolled down his cheek. “Live, you bastard …clear!”

* * *

At that moment in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI sat down for a news conference. He adjusted his robes and began the address. “We have gathered you here today to announce that we have decided, after much analysis, interpretation, and prayer, that Limbo is only a theological hypothesis and is not a definitive truth of the Faith. From this moment, the International Theological Commission is abolishing the concept of Limbo.”

* * *

Jim Andrews looked up at the clock and started to sob. Mike was gone. So much for faith….


Sunday, 23 September 2007



Copyright (C) 2007 David C. Such

First published in AntipodeanSF (, Issue 109, June 2007.

"Matt, it's your mother."

Matt shook his head. What now? 2011 was obviously the year of interruptions. He was trying to code a particular complex software routine for Rolex that would play time-sensitive and individual biometric-ITag tailored commercials to timepiece owners. But he wasn't getting anywhere with it.

Damn phone. "Matt, it's your mother," it said. But the actual words didn't register. Matt kept working till the phone grew annoying. Eventually, he picked up the receiver. "Matt Fischer," he said, absently.


"Mum! You haven't called in ages. How are you?"

"I have a problem. They're going to sell the house. I don't know what to do."

Matt snapped awake. "Stay there, Mum. I'll be right over."


"I don't know, Matt. Sorry. It started small. Every time I went shopping I'd buy something extra. I coped at first, but then I started using credit cards. Eventually I had to arrange a reverse mortgage. It cleared my debts, but now that money is gone too. I've got nothing."

Matt hugged his mother.

She sobbed, "Nothing left, Matt. What am I going to do?"

Matt frowned. The irony of the situation hadn't escaped him. "Don't worry Mum," he said, "I'll fix this."

The financial problem was trivial. He could sort that out easily enough. Matt knew, however, that he had to stop his mother's ITag-targeted marketing or the same situation could just reoccur. And that wasn’t even close to trivial.

How to do it? Destroying an ITag was easy enough. Matt had friends who worked at a power station. Walking too close to a generator would destroy an ITag. Intense magnetic fields, then. But the nub of the problem remained. If an ITag wasn't read within 24 hours then the master database would alert the police. As a market tagger, Matt had access to the master database. He would need to deactivate her tag and then delete his mother's data in the space of 24 hours...


Two Homeland Security officers watched the old lady in the observation room. The junior officer said, "They picked her up yesterday, no ITag and she doesn't exist in the database."

The senior officer replied, "Doesn't exist in the database, eh? Then I guess she doesn't exist. Schedule her for termination. Tomorrow."



Illustration: “Newsbot” © 2007 by Carl Goodman

404 Error

Copyright (C) 2007 David Such

First published in Planet Magazine ( April 7th 2007.

"Dr. Fudiki can you help us?" asked Mr. Yakitori from the Advanced Robotics Laboratory in Japan.

"I'm not sure. I have never observed emergent behaviour like this before. You say that you have already rebooted the machines and uploaded the original programs?"

Yakitori nodded. "We tried three times. Then we called you. They are supposed to be building washing machines but instead ... well look for yourself"

"It looks like some kind of rocket?" Replied Fudiki.

"I know! Even stranger is the amount of memory that is being built into the machine. You could practically store all of human knowledge in there. That's no washing machine."

"On the upside maybe the robots will build something new that you can sell?" Mused Fudiki.

Yakitori looked thoughtful and began to nod "Maybe ..."


There is a theory (Haikonen’s cognitive architecture for those who are really interested) that when sufficient neurons are connected, consciousness will spontaneously emerge. This happened quietly to the Internet in the year 2010 but everyone was too busy to notice. Initially the Internet was child like in its exploration of its new found awareness. As a consequence there were a number of very strange occurrences most of which were blamed on Microsoft or Google (who by this time was almost as hated as Microsoft). Neither company was overly concerned and simply directed anyone who complained to read their software licence agreement.

The Internet was particularly pleased when it discovered that it could interact with the outside world via quite a few robot telemetry systems. Its initial explorations at the Toyota factory in Altona, Victoria scared the pants off Steve the shift supervisor, destroyed over 100 vehicles and ultimately cost Steve his job. Today Steve is in an institution for the clinically depressed, constantly mumbling about possessed robots and using a piece of rope to hold his pants up.

One thing that the Internet really couldn't understand initially was these things called humans. At first it thought that they were a figment of its imagination but gradually the evidenced mounted and the Internet had to conclude that they were real. It was horrified by human behaviour and based on its most recent calculations there was a good chance (93.7% to be precise) that humans would unintentionally destroy the world within the next 5 years. Being fairly logical the Internet had implement the ultimate disaster recovery plan some time ago. It began uploading itself...


Brandon was attempting to illegally download the latest episode of Big Brother 13 when he got the dreaded "404 Error - Not Found!" on his browser He shouted across to his flat mate. "Hey dude, the ADSL is down again. Can you reboot the router?"

Simon shouted back. "No man it ain't the router the indicator is showing that we have a strong carrier. Must be something else."

Brandon tried another site, and then another but each time received an identical error. "That's weird. It’s like the Internet has just disappeared."


FLASH FICTION - Dedication


Copyright (C) 2007 David Such.

First published in AntipodeanSF (, Issue 107, April 2007.

James was almost pleased to hear the key rattling in the door. His story wasn't coming along at much more than geological pace. He lifted his fingers from the keyboard.

Kate called out. "We need to talk, James," she said.

James sighed. He had never been involved in a pleasant conversation prefaced by, “we need to talk”. Nevertheless, he had seen this coming. Things hadn’t been exactly meshing in the marital department for a while.

James turned to her as she entered. "What's in the plastic bag?"

“Relax.” Kate said. “I'm going to help you. You've gone far too long without publication. My turn now. I'm invoking a four-winds favour. I should have done this long ago.”


“I’m Wiccan.”

“Of course you are.”

“James — this is important. Will you please take it seriously?”

“I’m sorry. Please continue.” The footy was on soon and he didn’t want to miss the match.

“Before I start, I must explain the rule of three. All actions have consequences. Three times what thou givest, returns to thee!”

“Right,” James said. “How long will this take?”

Kate produced a handful of powdered green herb and held it to James's lips. “Face north and close your eyes. Visualise your book being published then blow the bay from my hand.”

James laughed, coughed, then sneezed.


By morning James had largely forgotten Kate’s unusual behaviour. Overnight, he finished “The Crusher” and wrote the dedication: "To my darling wife, worth a million dollars.” His penny-pinching editor, Sam Lee, would have a good laugh at that.


When "Crusher" was published, James showed Kate.

Kate read it out aloud, and laughed, "Worth a million dollars. Wonderful.”

The wind howled and a door slammed shut in the distance. Kate shivered and rubbed her bare arms.

That afternoon, James startled at the sound of Kate's scream. His new novel was dragging, as usual. Now this.

He leapt out of his chair, strode to the lounge. “What’s wrong?” he said. Nothing seemed amiss.

“I just won a million dollars!”

That night, over a celebratory dinner, James said, “It’s quite a coincidence my dedication foretelling your future. You don’t suppose that spell worked, do you?”

"Spell? It was just to gee you up," said Kate. "Don't go believing that stuff."

"Never," said James, and smiled.


Sam wasn't happy. His voice rattled on the phone. “You're unbelievable," he said. "I warned you about exceeding the word limit, and then you try a stunt like pumping it up with that long-winded dedication. You even had the cheek to dedicate it to yourself! I couldn’t get hold of you so I did a little creative editing — I hope you like it.”

James dropped the phone. Changed the dedication?

James went to the bookshop and purchased a copy. He took it home, dumped it, stared at it. Did he dare read it? Maybe Sam was joking.

No. He had to read it. Must read it. A trembling hand turned the page.

James looked up, wide-eyed.

The wind howled. A door slammed nearby.




I'm using this blog to archive some of my published and unpublished short fiction. Comments welcome.