Hi club, happy May Day. This week I’m experimenting with sharing a full, original, unpublished short story of mine. If you enjoy it, please share it, comment, send me your takes! And check below the story for a bit of book tour stuff.
by Andrew Dana Hudson
Venetia and Ito had been stuck in a time loop for thousands of years when Venetia decided they needed a change.
“I’m lonely,” Venetia declared. “Really lonely.”
“We have each other,” Ito said, meditating in their tent. “Isn’t that enough?”
He felt a bit hurt. He’d thought they were going through a good patch. But even after many lifetimes together, she could still get under his skin.
“Not anymore.” She took a decisive breath of desert air. “I’m bringing someone else through the anomaly.”
Ito was shocked. “How could you drag some naive soul into our infinite purgatory? Isn’t that a bit...evil? We agreed we were done being evil for a while.”
“True,” Venetia allowed. “I suppose we should make sure they know what they’re getting into.”
So they started asking around town, explaining their situation as clearly and fully as possible. Yes, like Groundhog Day. Yes, it’s always May 1st and a few hours of May 2nd. Yes, you get to live forever. No, you won’t age. Yes, you’ll remember pretty much everything. No, there’s no way out. No, not if you kill yourself or go back through the anomaly. No, not even if you have the perfect day.
It was a tough sell.
In the end, it was Rex the car wash guy who said yes.
“Today would actually be really solid for my schedge,” Rex said, spraying suds off his face with a hose. “Got a toe thing booked tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to it.”
“He’s not exactly a stunning conversationalist,” Ito whispered, skeptical.
“Oh, hush, ” Venetia said. “It’s not like you were so mature when we started. He’ll grow on you. Anyway, we don’t even know if this will work.”
But it did work. The three of them hiked out into the desert——Rex drinking giddily from a flask——to the spot where the anomaly had appeared to Venetia and Ito on a camping trip so many centuries ago. It was still there, a quiet, roiling glow in the cavity of a haggard juniper tree. Rex leapt in and disappeared. The next morning the three met for breakfast at a taco shop on Congress Street.
“This is so fucked and cool,” Rex enthused. “I don’t have to go to work. I don’t have to call my mother. I can eat whatever I want and never have hot shits tomorrow!”
“Indeed,” Ito said, side-eyeing toward Venetia.
She shrugged and mouthed back, “At least he’s not us.”
So for a while Venetia, Ito and Rex got on with eternity. Letting Rex take the lead, they danced and drank and fucked and killed themselves in strange ways and hunted the innocent citizens of Tucson for sport. Rex went through the expected attitude shifts: from gleeful to depressed, to regretful, to nihilistic, to contemplative. Rex tried philosophy, religion, great literature. He came to accept the fateful choice he’d made and even evolved a measure of sophistication, wit, and depth of soul——though he remained, to Ito’s annoyance, thoroughly Rex.
Every morning Rex woke in his trailer and joined the other looping immortals for chess, go, charades, humorous banter, and rigorous debate. Venetia and Ito were not quite content, but for many years they were not so lonely.
After they’d done it once, however, the temptation to bring more people into the loop began to grow.
It was Rex who first suggested it out loud.
“I need a soulmate,” Rex said. “I feel like Frankenstein’s monster. You two have each other. You brought me into this life, but I’m always the third wheel. Don’t I deserve someone to spend forever with?”
This sounded reasonable——and anyway they were keen to get a little relief from Rex’s attentions——so the others agreed. Rex scoured the surrounding area for a soulmate, seducing hundreds of women. He settled on Tanya, a grad student studying comparative literature. Rex spent months getting to know her, learning how to win her over. Then, when Tanya had agreed, the four of them trekked out to the desert, and Tanya walked, terrified, into the quiet, pulsing glow.
Tanya had perhaps not fully understood what she was getting into. She had found Rex preternaturally charming, had found that one day so strange and magical, and she had been willing to trust him to keep riding that high a little longer. But the next days, while identical in some respects, were not like the first. Rex could not complete all her sentences. He could not keep whisking her away into moments of unexpected beauty. He had used up his best material getting her into the anomaly.
She became disgusted by Rex, his body, the whole affair. She sobbed over the ambitions she could now no longer pursue, the books she could not write without memorizing every word. She demanded to be left alone and struck out on her own, traveling as far as she could in the twenty-nine odd hours the loop allotted her.
On her travels, Tanya engaged in deep study of the people not in the loop——not as individuals but as systems. She learned the minutia and grandiosity of their economic and social entanglements, the constant pressure to produce commodities and reproduce society. She saw how they walked every day in fear of destitution, injury, and disease. She remembered how very hard and short life is.
“‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,’” Tanya quoted, upon returning to the others some decades later. “But here, it doesn’t have to be. Everyone else struggles through a world of scarcity and unfreedom. Yet the four of us are born each day into a world of liberty and plenty. History is a nightmare from which everyone wishes to awake. We have. Not only have we escaped death, we’ve escaped wage slavery, alienation, deprivation, anxiety. We have a duty to help the others wake up too.”
In all their years this was not something the others had considered. Rex was sullen, but intrigued. He still wanted to find a soulmate, though the others refused to help him engineer more seductively perfect days. Venetia and Ito——still a little pissed at Rex for how he’d handled the Tanya situation——were glad to see Tanya, whom they liked quite a bit. She brought fresh energy to the group, and here she was bringing them new ways of thinking as well. In their endless lives the pair had learned to go along with whatever manic urges appeared before them. They agreed to join Tanya on her mission.
Venetia, Ito, Rex, and Tanya began bringing more people through the anomaly. It was the most exciting time any of them had experienced in a long while. Suddenly they were surrounded by people having new experiences, developing new ideas, testing the limits of their circumstances, speaking to them not as hapless drones but as learning, growing equals. It was a renaissance.
The process moved in fits and starts, bringing in first individuals, then handfuls, then dozens. Sometimes recruitment stalled for months as newly minted immortals needed hand-holding from the elders to adjust to their new loop-lives. Almost everyone went through the usual periods of experimentation and emotional oscillation. It was still a terrible thing to realize that, while they could have experiences and pleasures and thoughts, anything they made would be washed away in the morning, like sand castles built at low tide. There was still a terrible boredom in experiencing the world without seasons or holidays or weather. But the boredom was not so great, because they were not alone.
Tanya had developed some very convincing arguments to recruit new people into the loop——much better than the solemn explanation of their Sisyphean curse that Venetia and Ito had used to recruit Rex, or the rom-com gimmicks with which Rex had enticed her. She spoke of no more hunger, no more bosses, no more bill collectors. She talked up Uber drivers, construction workers, prostitutes. She went to restaurants, organized the kitchen staff, got them to walk off the job, pile into pickup trucks, drive straight out to the anomaly.
“You know, I will quite miss the chips and guac at that place,” Ito complained after one of Tanya’s more aggressive liberations.
“Oh, hush. There are other restaurants,” Venetia said.
“Yeah, for now,” Rex said. “Anyone else starting to have doubts about this shit? I mean, how many people can drop out before society breaks down?”
“We can ask those cooks to make us their guac sometime, it’s not a big deal,” Venetia said. “Anyway, what are you going to do about it?”
“Could stop her,” Rex pondered. “Could give her a little bit of the ol’ firebomb-to-the-condo until she cools down.”
“You really want to get up every morning and kill Tanya before she has a chance to spread the good news?”
“Honestly, yeah,” Rex said. “I kinda like the sound of that.”
“Oh, please,” Venetia tossed her long hair, a gesture of disdain honed over countless lifetimes. “You’ll get bored, or you’ll slip up. You have to get lucky every day. She only has to get lucky once, then she can recruit someone to take you out first.”
Ito nodded. “One time, in the early days, Venetia was intent on sleeping with this bartender, and I refused to let her. For a year I killed her in our tent every morning.”
“It’s true,” Venetia said.
“But I missed her. I tried talking to her for a few minutes one morning. She stabbed me in the eye with her toothbrush, then went and fucked the guy.”
“I did,” Venetia nodded.
“So I gave it up. There is no stopping people from doing anything in this place.”
Ito was right. There seemed to be no halting the process they had started, whatever one called it: recruitment, annexation, assimilation, immigration, the grand liberation. Even if Tanya had not been so determined, it was bigger now than any of them. People wanted friends and family to join them in the loop. They got to know “the straights,” as they called the un-looped, and wanted to see them evolve and grow. Or, tired of neighbors and passersby freaking out at their strange behavior, they brought them in to ease the awkwardness. It was not so hard to get people to jump into the anomaly when everyone they knew was urging them on. Humans are joiners. And the joining only went one way.
But Rex was also right. With significant chunks of the Tucson metro area living without responsibilities or consequences, certain problems did begin to crop up. Restaurants with unlooped staff got fewer and more crowded. No one went hungry——there was still plenty of food in refrigerators, pantries, and groceries for everyone to get three square meals that day——but dining out had been an ongoing source of enjoyment for many. Neighborhoods expecting morning trash pickup started to smell in the evenings. There were traffic jams, power outages, fires that didn’t get put out. Various inconveniences. The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station near Phoenix began melting down on random days after Tanya’s movement liberated the plant’s entire workforce. This wasn’t a huge problem, as even a nuclear disaster was not enough to shake the loopers off their immortal coil, but it did bum people out.
Eventually some of those deemed “essential” workers agreed to return to their jobs——once every ten days or so. They trained others and shifts were divvied up, so that the city stayed pleasant and thousands could enjoy a sense of faux-normalcy. This reintroduction of work, on a voluntary basis and with undemanding schedules, was a real boon to the burgeoning loop society. Even immortals liked to feel useful, valued by their community, part of something bigger than themselves. In all their millennia of decadence, Venetia and Ito had never bothered to wait tables or stock shelves. Now they found in such willing, unexploited labor a sense of flow, purpose and contentment like they’d never gotten from drugs or books or self-mutilation.
The shift work, spread out among many, also created a sense of time that had been missing. Calendars were useless, of course, but it was easy enough to count the days between when one had volunteered to help out at the nursery and when one was on call at the pop-up euthanasia clinic. People began scheduling other occasional activities: soccer games, poker tournaments, open mic nights, orgies. The un-weeks began to fill up. The days began to feel more full.
For many, Tanya’s promises of freedom from want, oppression, and the bone-grinding capitalist machine turned out to be true. Inside the loop, they had reconstituted society without property or classes. You couldn’t own something you couldn’t take with you into the next day. You could hurt people, temporarily, but you couldn’t dominate them with laws or economics. And the world no longer seemed to be careening toward disaster——no climate change to worry about, no impending election, no dying sun or heat death of the universe. Just twenty-nine hours to make your own, over and over, with any others who cared to join you. It was better this way.
Others, however, saw the nascent looper civilization as an inadequate facsimile, a paper-thin bizarro-life, a farce. Everyone in the loop had moments or days or weeks when they ached for it to end, when they wished they’d never gone into that harsh, anomalous light. The original four had each spent years in existential anguish before the ennui dulled or was overcome. But the new loopers encountering these feelings did not do so alone. There were many others around who shared their grievances. They did not work through their emotions in stoic solitude but rather formed meetup groups and daily reconstituted listservs. They congregated on hashtags like #LooperGate and #MakeTimeStraightAgain. They encouraged and fed off of each other. They developed arguments, jargon, and in-jokes that expressed their dissatisfaction. They called themselves the Rejectors.
“Look, they’ve got some good points,” Rex said, trying to show Ito a Rejector meme on his phone. “‘Hell is other people.’ When I agreed to come in here, it was to get away from having to deal with motherfuckers, you know? Now it’s fuckin’ crowded as shit!”
“To be fair, there are the same number of people around as before,” Ito said. “It’s just that now they remember the things you say and do.”
“Right? It sucks! Look at this one. ‘Every supposed new freedom in the loop is matched by a new kind of unfreedom.’ That’s deep.”
Ito brushed Rex off that day, but that wasn’t the end of it.
“Maybe we don’t have to work——except we kinda do now——but we can’t build a business either,” Rex slurred, crashing Venetia, Ito, and Tanya’s semi-regular cocktail-crawl on North 4th Street. He’d clearly been watching a lot of Rejector rants on YouTube. “Maybe we can eat without gaining weight, but we can’t lose weight either. I miss making gains man.”
“Oh yeah, I bet you were going to start rippling with muscles any day now,” Tanya said.
“What if I’d always wanted to get plastic surgery?” Rex said. “What if I wanted to transition to a different gender?”
“We might be free from death, but we aren’t free to die,” Ito offered, getting into the rhythm of the thought experiment. “We can go to bed with whomever we want, but we always wake up next to the same old people.”
“Hey! Not nice,” Venetia said. “Anyway, surely we can agree that things are better now than they used to be.”
“You ask me,” Rex said, though nobody had, “having other people around just drives home the fact that we get neither permanence nor impermanence. It’s the lack of stakes that really drags. Without stakes everything is meaningless. ‘Vanity, vanity, and chasing after the wind.’”
“You’re seriously going to quote Ecclesiastes in support of your whiny Rejector bullshit?” Tanya said. “Ecclesiastes is like the ultimate Acceptor text! ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’ ‘What do workers gain from their toil?’”
“You know, if I’d known you were going to Bible-thump at me, I never woulda invited you in.” A snarl of resentment twitched the corner of Rex’s mouth. “What’s your point?”
“Point is,” Tanya glared back, “wasn’t life meaningless before the loop, when History just washed away everything we cared about in great waves of death and forgetting? Nihilism was invented by people for whom time never stopped! Just like us, people in straight-time antiquity pretty much all had to live out each day knowing it didn’t matter. Ecclesiastes says, yeah everything is meaningless, so what’s left is to get up with the sun, put on our fine clothes, eat breakfast with those we love. There will always be meaning in that.”
“That’s right!” Venetia said, pinching Ito in the arm.
Such were the great debates, not just among the first four but across the whole of loop society, in-person and online. These philosophical questions sloshed around amicably. More contentious were the practical questions about what should be done with the remaining straights. Most of the pliable residents of Pima County and the surrounding areas had been brought through the anomaly. That left those who would not or could not give informed consent to being looped——and the rest of the world.
The Acceptors, those who felt that life in the loop was not so bad, were largely open to recruitment outside Arizona, but were divided on the details. Moderates felt that immigration should be paced and incremental, perhaps with reasonable quotas, or wanted immigration reform to set in place certain standards to make sure they were looping in only the right sort. There was talk of licensing recruiters and implementing a uniform consent process.
Others, radicals such as the Tanyaist Liberation Front, felt that it was cruel to leave the straights ignorant, zombie-like, out of the loop. From their perspective, the straights were the ones who were trapped, unable to break the cycle of droning through the same actions and assumptions each day.
The Rejectors, on the other hand, were united in their hatred of all recruitment. They assumed joining the loop snuffed out the straights’ real lives. They wanted a ban on immigration, full stop. They declared that to spread the loop, especially to the unconsenting, was an act of great and selfish evil.
“Can anyone actually prove that time keeps going for the straights?” Tanya demanded of Rex, who was passing out anti-Tanyaist ‘Save The Straights’ literature at the farmer’s market. She hadn’t actually become an official TLF member, but she still felt defensive of the movement that had taken her name. “Maybe time ended for everyone. Maybe the universe just ran out of time-juice on May 2nd, but you’ve got to be in the loop to know it. Maybe it’s a choice between bringing them in and leaving them to oblivion.”
“Maybe oblivion is better,” Rex said, folding up a fresh-printed flier into a paper airplane. “In oblivion, I wouldn’t have to listen to the mouth-farts you think are profound.”
“If that’s your take, why not get mad at your parents for ripping you out of non-being in the first place?”
“Ah ha!” Rex waggled his airplane under Tanya’s nose. The flier had her face on it, stolen from her Instagram and photoshopped to have red eyes and a Che-esque beret. “So you admit that looping, like birth, forces people into an existence they didn’t wittingly choose?”
“You’re one to talk,” Tanya scowled. “You’re the one who tricked me into all this, remember? Now you’re claiming the moral high ground?”
“Fuckin’ zeal of the converted or whatever,” Rex shrugged, and he lobbed his airplane into the passing crowd.
Over time the various factions got more organized. Tanyaist recruiters began focusing on Tucson’s airport, looping in new arrivals to create cells of loopers that began each day in other cities. Sects of TLF extremists conspired to carry babies and coma patients through the anomaly. They called friends and family across the country and begged them to travel to Tucson under dubious pretenses. More than a few new immortals claimed they’d been drugged and forced into the loop without ever being asked.
For some of the ill and dying brought through, being in the loop was a reprieve, a snatching out of death’s slavering jaws. For others, it was an unending agony. Pregnancy was interminable, as was infertility——though really everyone was infertile in the loop. Children also proved complicated. They learned and matured and “grew up,” often becoming prodigious thinkers, energetic creatives. But their bodies remained unchanged. They never reached puberty——or never got out of it. Shifting sexual mores and parental arrangements were the subject of much agonized debate.
Armed Rejector posses began roving the desert, murdering anyone who came close to the juniper tree and the uncanny sphere of cold light. The fighting got intense, spilling out into Tucson proper. Nothing came of it, of course——no one could die, no ground could be gained for more than a few hours——but many noncombatants caught in the crossfire found the whole affair seriously annoying. For Venetia and Ito, their tent pitched just over the hill, the mid-morning gun-rush to secure the anomaly proved a real strain on their relationship.
Yet, with seeping inevitability the Tanyaist cause advanced around the globe. They built networks of highly coordinated agents who got out of bed each day——or popped into consciousness already on their feet, if they began the loop in a far-off time zone——and immediately leapt into action. They commandeered private jets that would take willing (and sometimes unwilling) recruits to Tucson——first from California, then the Midwest and East Coast and Mexico, then from other continents.
“It’s not about the number of hours in the day,” Tanya told her comrades. “It’s the number of worker-hours you can link together. Get organized enough, and you can accomplish anything.”
The further away and more remote the recruits were, however, the more challenging these high-octane operations became. The time window grew tight. Beggars in India were shoved into cars without explanation, rushed to airports, put on flights where every other passenger was there to convince them to hop onto this strangely accelerated Kalachakra. Optimally placed Tanyaist zealots trained for decades to run daring helicopter missions to Mount Everest, to chase after spelunkers, to cajole secluded tribes.
As these efforts grew in complexity, so did Rejector resistance. The Rejectors’ preferred tactic was brute force. “The Tanyas can’t recruit what’s been blown to itty-bitty, charred-up bits!” General Rex barked at every new trainee. They were also big on brainwashing, getting to new immortals that first morning after, turning them against their recruiters with hard truths, half-truths, and outright lies. They even did a little recruiting themselves, bringing key individuals through and telling them they’d been trapped by Tanyaists, convincing them to swear revenge. Anything to secure resources that might turn the tide: an airfield, a server farm, a missile silo with which to barrage the anomaly each day.
The fortunes of the factions changed from day to day, year to year. Both sides were porous, losing and gaining troops as people got bored or interested or changed their mind. Overall, however, the Ito Rule held true: there was no stopping a sufficiently determined group of immortals from bringing people through the anomaly. The Rejectors could win almost every battle, but they were destined to lose the war.
And a war it became: the Greatest War, in fact. From dozens scrapping in the desert, the combatants became hundreds, then thousands, then millions around the world. Not every day——who could be bothered?——but over the years and decades and centuries countless immortals woke up, rushed to guns or cars or fighter jets, spent the day shooting or maiming or blowing each other out of the sky. They would live or die, and then next morning wake up and do it all over again. They believed fervently in their respective sides, but, also, it was just something to do.
During the Greatest War, Ito and Venetia split up, waking in each other’s arms every morning and heading off to their respective camps without a word. Ito blamed himself for every problem the world had been stuck with, and Venetia, not unreasonably, felt that this meant he blamed her as well. Though she found camaraderie on the front and intimacy in battle, for a long time Venetia once again felt the dull ache of loneliness weighing her down.
For the first time since her life before the loop, Venetia was aware of her own powerlessness in the face of world events. She wanted a change, but she was just one out of billions, caught up in the inertia of collective actions bigger than any one person, no matter how old and experienced and unkillable.
No one remembers how long the Greatest War was waged. Was it a thousand years? Ten thousand? A million? Ten million? Everyone has a different guess. When at last the sole remaining straight was found in a mountain cave in Kazakhstan, flown to Arizona via top-secret Russian spaceplane, and shoved unceremoniously through the anomaly, a great sigh of relief was heard around the world. The fighting could finally stop.
But it didn’t.
The Greatest War was followed by the Meaningless Wars, on and on for further centuries. These were fought to settle scores, or out of habit. Many had forgotten what the original Greatest War had been about. Land? An election? A lover’s quarrel? Had there ever been a day that didn’t begin with shooting or pummeling one’s neighbors? Some Meaningless Wars were organized, declared with letters and ceremonial pomp. Others were just random, spontaneous pogroms. The cruelty on both sides was immense.
It is said that Tanya herself withdrew during this period. The Great Liberator had accomplished her ancient goal, only for the waking to be worse than the dream. She committed herself to a routine of morning ritual suicide. Each day she drank a cocktail of sedatives and cleaning chemicals found in her off-campus apartment, while first light was still peeking over the saguaros. In this way she passed the time for centuries, until the Meaningless Wars faded and a tired, wary, but lasting peace finally descended upon May Day.
Once things had quieted down, Venetia, Ito, Rex and Tanya sat down together for the first time in eons. It wasn’t exactly a peace summit——mostly it was just brunch. They ordered huevos rancheros from a chef they’d known for longer than the mountains knew the valleys. They ate eggs they’d eaten countless times. Everyone else in the restaurant was someone they’d each killed in the war or had sex with or both. But then, the same was true for most everyone within a hundred miles.
“So what do we do now?” Venetia said, when they were each a couple mimosas deep. It was a ‘we’ both particular and general, for many were feeling listless and lost. Recruitment and war had brought purpose——or the illusion of it——to billions of loop lives. Now, together, humanity faced an aimless, unending present. What does one do with such time?
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky,” Rex said.
“How about we try to make some new TV?” Tanya said. “So Rex can finally learn some new jokes.”
“If you wanna become one of those guys who broadcasts their epic poems all day, be my guest,” Rex said. “The rest of us are gonna have to stick to the classics.”
“Actually, I’ve got some ideas on that front,” Ito put in. He looked to Venetia, his inextricable pair. She reached out and gave his hand an encouraging pat.
“I’ve been talking with people, from both sides,” Ito explained. “Without the war in the way, and with everyone now, er, with the program, we finally have a chance to try some projects that require truly massive amounts of coordination.”
“Like those arts towns that see how tall a tower they can raise in a day?” Tanya asked, intrigued.
“Bigger. Think planetary. And software mediated. There’s ideas about how we could keep data from one day to the next. All we need is for thousands or even millions of people to memorize a little bit before bed, then enter that fragment into an app the next morning. ‘Manyware,’ they call it. Apparently, some guy in Australia puts an alpha version on Github before we even wake up.”
“Data about what?” Venetia asked.
“Scientific experiments, perhaps. Or technological designs. Maybe even entertainment, if we got enough participants. Books, novels.”
At this, Tanya caught her breath. But Rex was unconvinced.
“Big whooping deal,” Rex said. “What’ll that change? Nothing. Unless you think you can science an end to all this. Escape pod or doomsday machine. Now that would be interesting.”
“Maybe. I don’t know,” Ito said. “But what I do know we can do is supply chains and logistics. We learned a lot about efficient movement during the war. We could reorganize the old recruitment networks to bring food to the starving, balms to the dying, so their day might be one of succor instead of pain. The world we wake up in each morning is far from perfect——it’s given to us harsh and unequal and unfair——but I figure there’s a lot we can do to improve it by midafternoon.”
“I’d help with that,” Tanya said, for she again felt a deep longing for purpose, and a desire to make up for her part in the Greatest War.
“You guys have fun pushing meals-on-wheels for eternity,” Rex said. “I’m gonna get my ass out.”
So following brunch and for many years after, Rex threw himself with new dedication into the quest to escape or break the loop, learning physics, burying himself in the stacks of the UofA library. Meanwhile, Tanya devoted herself to the never-finished alleviation of suffering that could only be lightened, never lifted. Each project was rewarding and futile at the same time. Ito helped develop manyware, which was a boon to everyone’s ambitions. Venetia did what she could to keep the peace.
The post-war era soon became one of fantastic cultural and technological innovation. Manyware technologists created an inventory of May Day’s parts and resources and building sites. They designed 3D printers that were easy to assemble from regionally available components. Combined, new machines could be created and tested with several hours to go before sunset. They ran scientific experiments. They built huge particle colliders to learn more about quantum physics——some, like Rex, looking for escape from the loop, some simply curious about the universe. The largest of these encircled the planet, switched on with just minutes to run before the day reset.
Rex’s experiments failed to end the loop, but did yield some practical results. Humanity learned how to create wormholes in Earth’s orbit. They could not fully control them; the other end always opened on a random spot in the cosmos. But the planet of immortals had learned patience and would go to great lengths to bring novelty into their same-day lives. They learned to build a space program in a single day, sending probes and astronauts through the wormholes, and in this way, over billions of years, they explored the universe.
Humans walked on other planets, met other intelligent lifeforms, got to know alien cultures well. Those other races had no anomaly, had never been looped. For them, each meeting was an uncanny first contact with beings that seemed to already know so much about them. They asked to see our world, and we took them back with just enough time to let them fall from orbit into that gray and inexplicable light.
The recruitment of the universe’s alien races into the loop was an agonizingly slow process, unfolding over what felt to humanity like many googolplexes of years. It felt even longer to those first aliens who agreed to go through the anomaly, who were then trapped on their planets, repeating the same twenty-nine hours for eons until humanity’s unstable wormholes again brought explorers close enough to meet. But that recruitment was also inevitable. It was the last game in town. There was little Rejector resistance this time, no new Greatest War. On a long enough timeline, most everyone learns to accept their fate.
But still debates continued. Many believed with religious fervor that the loop was Good, akin to heaven, even——better certainly than lives nasty, brutish and short. Better than a universe doomed to entropy away into meaningless void in a mere ten duotrigintaoctingentillion years. Others claimed with equal conviction that the loop was Bad, a hell, a punishment from God, or perhaps a terrible nightmare God was having, tossing and turning in Their great bed, caught in that long moment before you remember how to open your eyes.
Many had no sense any longer of what it would mean for time to run straight. They woke each day with the evidence of such an arrangement all around them, in books and on television, but these realities had decohered, become so alien as to be invisible. Some still searched for a way out of May Day, a way to get deeper into May 2nd, or to some other place or time, or to the release of nonexistence. There was nothing. No matter how they raged and wept and schemed and pleaded, they still had to get up the next morning and face the day.
Venetia, Ito, Rex and Tanya were, in the grand scheme of things, just folks who lived in Tucson. The millennia Venetia and Ito had spent alone together meant little compared to the infinite lifetimes of the universe all beings now endured. Tanya’s fateful role in spurring the expansion of loop society was all but forgotten; everyone came to believe that what had happened was inevitable. Rex never found his soulmate.
Most days Venetia woke early while Ito still slept. She crawled out of their tent and lit a fire to heat water, brewed herself a pot of weak camp coffee. She hiked with her thermos over the hill to the anomaly, sat sipping her coffee while pondering its inviting coolness, its hallowed and hollow promises. Some days she went back, woke Ito, made love in the stifling heat of their tent. Other days she just went into town, found breakfast, scribbled poetry on café napkins. She watched the people around her, busy with work shifts or cosmic exploration or anything at all. She still felt lonely sometimes, but not so often. She wasn’t quite content, but there was nothing she needed to change.
Places I’ll Be
Tucson, AZ, May 14 (Saturday @ 1pm) Revolutionary Grounds
St. Louis, June 18 (Saturday @ 2pm CDT), The Book House
More to come in STL and San Diego…
An Evening of Sci-Fi, Cli-Fi and Poli-Sci
On Wednesday, May 25 I’m doing an online conversation with my friends and fellow near-future SF writers, Malka Older (of Infomocracy fame), Christopher Brown (Tropic of Kansas, Rule of Capture, Failed State), and Eliot Peper (his latest, Reap3r, comes out in a few weeks). It should be a great time! Starts at 8pmEDT/5pmPDT. Click the button!
Press Clips, Reviews, Interviews, Etc.
I was on my local NPR station last week, on KJZZ’s The Show, talking with host Steve Goldstein about my new book. Listen.
ASU News also interviewed me, via email, about Our Shared Storm: “We need more stories not just about the danger of climate change, but about the process we are using to address that danger — who the players are and how we set the terms of debate.”
Buy My Book
Our Shared Storm: A Novel of Five Climate Futures is out now! Buying a copy or telling others about the book is one of the best ways you can support me and my writing. And if you read it/like it, please do leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or any other platform——it helps a lot.