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News & Features » February 2018 » “The Meek” by Jedah Mayberry

“The Meek” by Jedah Mayberry

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, a fire chief from a not-so-distant future faces off with a not-so-distant species of intelligent life . . .

The Meek
by Jedah Mayberry
Year: 2078

The year is 2078. Rampant consumption has succeeded in burning a hole through the ozone layer. Points of vulnerability dot the globe, the atmosphere a veritable patchwork quilt. The rising tide continues to reshape what remains of the coastline, an angry sea at work to claim her just due.

“THIS IS FIRE CHIEF, MEL SCHLESINGER,” a megaphone squawks in the direction of the odd visitors. “I’M HERE TO ASK YOUR INTENTIONS.”

“What does it matter to you?”

“COME AGAIN?” the megaphone blares. “I CAN’T MAKE OUT WHAT YOU’RE SAYING.”

“OUR INTENTIONS HERE ARE OF NO CONCERN TO YOU,” the stranger blasts, a mechanical shrillness to his voice causing the lamppost extending above Chief Schlesinger’s head to vibrate in place.

The chief drops the megaphone, ventures an added step in the visitors’ direction. “Who are you?”

“I don’t understand the meaning of your question.”

“Ok, then. What are you?”

“We are GO-ARDs—Animatronically Rendered inDwellers, appointed by the Global Outreach Commission.”

“Appointed to do what?”

“To intervene.”

“Do you come in peace?” the chief asks, his hands raised in a show of mock surrender.

“Are you the appointed peacekeeper in this region?” their presumed leader asks.

“I’m the fire chief,” Chief Schlesinger responds, a quizzical look on his face in dismay, it would seem, at the visitors’ apparent disregard for the authority of his uniform.

“It is our understanding that chiefs of police hold responsibility for keeping the peace. Not fire chiefs.” The visitor glances back and forth between his compatriots. “It would appear none of us is at risk of bursting into flames.” Translucent flaps blink a gaping shift in comprehension. “So why is it you have come? Why you and not the chief of your police if peace is your primary concern?”

“Chief Muskin worried that a show of force might alarm you,” Chief Schlesinger explains.

“He feared his weapons might frighten us,” the visitor ponders. A fiddling of metal digits scratches a rubberized surface that may well be his chin. “But you too are armed with weapons,” he offers.

“Weapons?” the fire chief stammers. “I have no weapons.”

“What about your fire hoses?” An articulating digit waves in the direction of the ladder truck positioned alongside the chief’s vehicle, a soft whirring sound echoing the visitor’s every move. “Those weapons were used to quite some effect during the nation’s struggle for civil rights.”

“Oh that? That’s ancient history, a thing of the twentieth century. You shouldn’t concern yourself so much with the past.”

“You shouldn’t concern yourself so little,” the visitor warns.

“So where are you from? Some distant galaxy?” the chief asks, his voice held low to shade his enthusiasm.

“Not as distant as you might suspect,” the visitor replies. He wands a finger through a cloud of dust particles hanging in the air between the chief and him. The dust particles take shape along the direction of his movements, before dispersing again in a splay of aimless meandering. “Closer than you might think.”

“Another intelligent life form thriving right in our very midst,” Chief Schlesinger muses.

“Indeed, intelligence at last gracing your presence. Refreshing, wouldn’t you say?”

The chief shrugs off the jab landed his way. “So, how many are you in number?” His voice waivers, apprehensive of the response his question might elicit.

“Seventeen-trillion . . . or three, depending how you choose to tally our existence.”

“Then, you must be the three.”

“And the seventeen-trillion,” their apparent lead nods, a soft whirring again in accompaniment. “Now run and tell your chief of police that we are here. Should he need us, we will be somewhere around, cowering in fear.”

“Hold on a hot second. Can I tell him why you’ve come?”

“Our intelligence has gathered that an exemplar lives among you.”

“An exemplar?”

“A being of superior genetic makeup, providing a base from which the human population might be regenerated.”

“So, you are here to save us, just like it says in The Book of Recent Prophecies.”

“We have no interest in you. We are here to save the planet.”

“But we are part of this planet too.”

“For now,” their lead responds. “We will see how time unfolds.”

***

JEDAH MAYBERRY was raised in southeastern Connecticut, the backdrop for his fiction debut, The Unheralded King of Preston Plains Middle, which won Grand Prize in Red City Review‘s 2015 Book Awards and was named 1st in Multi-Cultural Fiction for 2014 by the Texas Association of Authors. He is at work on a second book, Sun Is Sky, plus a sci-fi series featuring a young dark-skinned girl tasked with saving humanity from its self-destructive ways. His work has appeared at Loose Leaf Press, Flashing for Kicks, Linden Avenue, A Gathering Together, and Black Elephant. Jedah resides with his family in Austin, TX.

***

Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 16, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi | Tags: , , , , ,



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