Single Journey - Multiple Travellers

By Ed Errington

sfgenreAdams does not know why he should be chosen for this venture. He has no recollection of applying anywhere, or entering any ballot. He is to be the first pilot on the mission. Resigned to his fate, he takes comfort on hearing other candidates will follow him later. 

In the search for less significant knowledge about the human body, scientists uncover what becomes known as the capsula — a second skin surrounding and (presumably) protecting the human frame.  Surgeons dismiss the idea of a second skin. If such a frame did exist, how is it they never encountered it during surgical procedures? Truth be known, many surgeons are embarrassed because they have failed to notice it. Not their fault of course — the capsula is invisible to the naked eye.

It takes the accidental use of an ocolliderscope to reveal the capsula’s existence. Follow-up tests reveal a distinctive oval shape to the capsula that stretches from head to foot over the human form. It also possesses an orange luminescence which may explain why it has failed to show as anything but a slight blur during CT and MRI scanning. The capsula has a density and yet adds no weight to the human host. Without its accidental discovery, hu mankind would have remained ignorant of its existence.

A decade late r, and after much research, scientists conclude the capsula occupies both a time and space of its own — unique to its host. They further speculate that each and every individual must necessarily travel within their own capsula at a particular speed. Scientists determine speed and direction are dependent on the host’s age, socio-cultural context, personal circumstances, chemical makeup, and the degree of stress generated at any given time.  These observations are broadened to acknowledge that animals — water, air, and land born species — must also possess a capsula.

Given accumulated scientific knowledge, Adams is recruited by scientists working at Capsula International. He agrees to observe and report back on his journey through life with the help of the newly discovered capsula. He is given special contact lenses so he can see his own capsula.

Scientists begin mapping Adams’ journey from the starting point of his late-forties to his death sometime in the future. His feelings, thoughts, and factual observations are to be closely monitored and shared with Capsula International. Scientists hypothesise about the impact, if any, capsula consciousness (without the aid of hypnotism or undue mindfulness) might have on the quality of Adams’ journey through life. 

At the very outset of the research, there is no agreed capsula speed. Instead, scientists suggest Adams should determine his own speed — after all, this research is to be about his experiences. He will be assisted by the impulse power of passing time along an individual trajectory — interpreted as Adams’ continuous present.  

There is an official send-off. Adams indicates his readiness, and given the nod he pushes towards his early fifties. At first, he finds it hard to breathe when the capsula moves at an alarming pace. As the last few birthdays in his late forties disappear, he wonders where all that time has gone. He briefly considers if he has grown richer or poorer in his economic investments, interpersonal relationships, and self-worth. Overarching these preliminary questions is one much deeper: has he grown one smidgin wiser with age? 

Feeling depressed with his own response to the question, the capsula becomes awash with negative thought — swamped by an inner darkness: Adams sees a slipstream of his own fleeting encounters with the world — within it swirls a boiling sea of unresolved issues — mountains of ‘to do’ lists.

He blinks and is already in his mid-sixties — working in the mail department of a large company.  Someone needs this doing now, but his boss needs something else done now. Customers add to his pressures — complaining about everything and about Adams in particular. 

There is a holographic clock that hovers around the mail department — reminding the workers who they serve. Adams notes how time moves painfully slow in this dull, boring, stressful existence. A few years into the journey and Adams is accelerating into his late sixties. Realising the apparent speed of lived time is governed by his perception as the traveller, he nevertheless seems to lose all braking power with no time or space for deviations. For Adams, life is a linear track leading towards an inevitable grave.

Late one evening, Adams is sitting alone by a winter thermos-pod - wondering where, whatever it was, all went, and where he was when it happened. He realises — now or never — he must slow down the capsula. If perception is the key to controlling the passing of lived time, then he must change it.

Thoughts jump into his head: ‘relax for goodness sake.’

Once he would have been able to relax without hesitation, but how long ago was that? It certainly seems a very long time ago. Teens maybe? Earlier? All Adams’ working life has been spent identifying and achieving key performance indicators, agreeing to meet the company’s ever-changing goals. The gap between his own personal well-being and the pursuit of someone else’s targets has never been so glaringly wide. At his company’s behest, he has met every challenging assignment — at whatever hour, and at whatever cost to his health. He faltered when the opportunity for promotion had been there — albeit momentarily. He appeared weak, he procrastinated, distrusted his own abilities, and suspected a lack of workplace support.

With these thoughts in mind, Adams closes his eyes — attempts to relax. As he does, the frenetic capsula slows down. With eyes still closed, and looking out beyond himself, he sees familiar faces pressing themselves against the capsula. Some are smiling lovingly, because they are happy to see him. Others, clearly angry — contort their faces with hate, loathing or fear.  All are clearly aware of him and the significance of his journey. Adams is surprised to see his deceased parents appear alongside distant family members. Friends still missed encircle his capsula — as do older, long-forgotten companions on life’s journey. 

Those closest to Adams’ very being bring a lump to his throat. Tears well up from a point deep inside Adams’ well-guarded psyche. He is about to cry, but is distracted when water cascades on to the capsula.  Adams realises that he and the capsula are moving together as one — along a singular plane, in one direction. Aware that he is no longer alone, Adams opens his eyes in time to feel a great loving warmth as the capsula moves him gracefully into comforting sunlight. 

Yesterday, doubts, fears and stress found their way into Adams’ vulnerable mind. He felt the drag on the capsula’s motion as dark, depressive feelings pulled him down, taking away life’s breath, squashing his energy, and bringing the capsula to a complete halt. 

Being more aware of the different capsula speeds generated by high and low feelings, Adams searches for a moderate life pace. One that is neither too fast causing him to reach the end of his life prematurely. Nor one that is too slow resulting in torpor, laziness, indifference, or emotional stultification. He hopes to perceive a speed of existence that allows him to encounter and appreciate deeper human experience. In essence, he wants to declare a life well-lived. This must also encompass opportunities for deliberation on his unique journey. So far, he has only reflected on bad experiences — as an abandoned lover — as a loser of friends to cancer — and as a regretful repentant. 

So, Adams deter  mines to bring balance to his life by reflecting on the good things. Which of life’s encounters has he enjoyed the most, and why? More importantly what does he remember of love? Those who loved him — unconditionally and those to whom he gave love? The capsula slows down — allowing positive thoughts to strengthen his mind. 

The capsula maintains its trajectory towards Adams’ own inevitable passing. He cruises resolutely into his mid-nineties. The likely point of Adams’ departure appears one summer morning while he is smelling flowers in his garden. The world appears as it has always done on this summer morning: people drive to work,  children get out of parents’ cars at the school opposite Adams’ house, grey nomads head for their coffee haunts. And on warmer days, shoppers flee in the direction of air conditioned malls.

Adams returns to the house, sits down and continues composing an email to his last surviving friend — Larry. These two have spent the last sixty years writing to each other — comparing parts of shared and non-shared lives, jobs long gone, relationships, ambitions (reached and/or thwarted). More recently, their collective reminisces have been punctuated by awkward bits about what each is, or is not doing — now — in the present. The past has always proved easier content for them both to negotiate. The present sits uneasily in their active minds and failing bodies.

Part way through his email, Adams inadvertently glances into the mirror and notices for the first time just how worn his capsula has become. He has never mentioned the capsula to Larry.  Would it make any difference to Larry’s life — telling him about it? Has knowledge of the capsula made any difference to Adams’ own life?

‘Yes, it has,’ Adams mutters. ‘So, maybe, I will mention it. Now, don’t rush me. Where was I? And what did I come in here for?’

Looking out through the now darkening contact lens, Adams notes a point on the horizon never spotted before. The point seems to be getting bigger — travelling at speed towards him. Even so, the dimness nurses uncertainty — Adams is not sure what he is looking at. 

Adams does something he has never done before: he tries looking at his own pre-past through the contact lens.  Where did he come from originally, before this life, and why? He wants to know about the vast expanse of pre-birth experience that must have happened on his journey thus far. But, all he sees is dark purple vapour. Its opaqueness extinguishes any ideas Adams held about looking so far back. Straining his eyes further, he makes out a few points of white light aflame in the purple void. An inner voice tells him these lights are his own enlightened insights gained in this life. These are what the ancients call: ‘the glow worms of acquired wisdom.’

Aware that the oncoming point is getting decidedly bigger but still no clearer — Adams takes stock: the pre-past is invisible to the traveller, the present is dimming rapidly, and yet the future is always the present when it arrives.  Adams meets his inevitable earthly ending, and the capsula releases a signal that reaches out to the descendants of those original scientists at Capsula International. 

Attached firmly to this signal is a list of hopes for a better future. A future Adams knows he will never see.  He makes a humble plea for humans to make time and space for each other; to respect one another; to live in racial harmony; to promote equal rights and social justice for all; to live in mutual trust with dignity; to be altruistic, ethical, moral and compassionate in all circumstances. But above all else, he appeals for unconditional love. 

The pilots following in Adams’ footsteps read his plea for greater humanity. For them, and future generations, Adams’ message gives hope that they and all humanity might become more enlightened on their own singular journey through life — with or without a capsula.

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About the Author

Ed Errington

ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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AntiSF & The ASFF

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Please visit the ASFF website and consider joining for up-to-date info about Australian SF cons, awards, competitions, and to receive the Foundation's newsletter, Instrumentality, and more.

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 265

Change Day
By Maree Collie

Corona Virus
By Daniel Mackisack

Crazy for Crab
By Kyosuke Higuchi - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Fate of the Nameless Child
By Alistair Lloyd

Livingstone
By Rudy Diaz

Lone Orbit
By Roger Ley

Same Journey Road
By Ben F. Blitzer

Sew It Is Said
By Michael T Schaper

The Big Able
By Shaun A. Saunders

The Origins of Magic: The Thief Who Slept, Died and was Dreamt
By Benny Thang

The Thief
By Kevin J. Phyland

The Touch of Her Hand
By D. Milne

To Our New Home in the Stars
By George Nikolopoulos

White Peach Village
By Umiyuri Katsuyama - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

The Contributors

marcus rockstrom 200Marcus Rockstrom (often known as Mac) is a writer and editor who has spent the last ten or so years bouncing between jobs for either profession as opportunity and circumstances have dictated.

For several years he was a content producer and editor of the online Games Magazine at The Australia Times, and has also done work in book editing, copywriting, transcription, articles and endless amounts of proofreading.

While professional work is rewarding, his true passion is found in the fiction of fantasy, sci-fi and other grand tales. As a lifelong nerd, it has ever been his desire to create the sort of stories that have enthralled him all through life.

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Zac Galfridus is a public servant who is lucky enough to be married with two daughters, been to Burning Man, seen himself on Rage, knows a few people who are currently working hard to save our civilisation.

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nancy cunningham 200Nancy M Cunningham is an aspiring writer who lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her family and several spiny leaf stick insects.

Nancy currently works as an agricultural research scientist and takes inspiration from science and nature to write across genres including crime and science fiction, historical, romance as well as short literary fiction.

She has been published in Tulpa magazine and in an anthology of short historical fiction ‘Easter Promises’.

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malena 200Malena Salazar Maciá was born in Havana, Cuba, where she still lives today.

A winner of multiple literary awards, she has authored several books, including Nade (2016), Las peregrinaciones de los dioses (2018), and Aliento de Dragón (2020).

Translated by Toshiya Kamei, Malena’s short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, The Future Fire, Mithila Review, and elsewhere.

Steve Bellavia was born and raised in Adelaide, but these days he can be seen trudging around Melbourne.

He has two kids, one wife, and zero pets.

Another one of his stories can be found at: <https://365tomorrows.com/2019/09/29/deicide/>

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Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

Colin has branched from non fiction to fiction.

If you liked this, check out his short story collections now on sale on Amazon Kindle: 100 Breaths (10 stories that occur in 5 minutes, the time it takes to breathe; you guessed it; 100 Breaths) and I M A G I N E (6 longer short stories about people getting what they want... or are they?)

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victoriachapman 200Victoria has worked in the metal manufacturing industry as an industrial chemist since leaving school but views those past 33 or so years as merely a stop gap until she figures out what she really wants to do when she grows up. She discovered the joy of words after encountering “Ode to Autumn” by Keats in 1985, and has been jotting down anecdotes, short stories and essays to amuse herself ever since.

A self-identified ‘nerd’ with an insatiable curiosity towards whatever attracts her attention, she also enjoys drawing, yarn crafts and learning new things. Victoria lives in Melbourne with her husband, son and too many cats.

This is her first formally published work.

deb sheldon 200Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum. Some of her titles include the horror novels Body Farm Z, Contrition, and Devil Dragon; the horror novella Thylacines; the romance-suspense novella The Long Shot; and the collections Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories, and the award-winning Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work 2017”). Her short fiction has appeared in Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, Midnight Echo, Breach, AntipodeanSF and many other well-respected magazines. Her fiction has been shortlisted for numerous Australian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in various “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit her at <deborahsheldon.wordpress.com>

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eugene samolin 200After a decade playing music as a bass guitarist, Eugene Samolin turned his attention to writing in 2015. Shortly thereafter, a mystical revelation infused him with an abundance of creative juices. He’s been writing esoteric tales of fantasy and science-fiction since then.

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ed-erringtonFollowing two decades of working in the area of scenario-based learning (particularly speculative scenarios) within the university sector, Ed maintains an interest in Futurology. That is, evidence-based suppositions and theories about potential trajectories of humanity, science, technology and civilisation into potential futures. 

‘Download 505’ was inspired by a range of BBC articles on the advent of weaponised clones in military arsenals and their potential impact on humankind.

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ProfilePic 2Natalie has tried everything from Air Traffic Control to Zoology, but writing has been the one constant across all the years.

She had her first publication in Antipodean SF and can still remember the heady excitement of that first acceptance.

She is eternally grateful for that first flush of encouragement, and is proud to be one of the regular contributors.

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kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.

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AntipodeanSF September 2020

ISSUE 264

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Download AntiSF E-Book

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AntiSF's Narration Team

timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <alistairlloyd.com>.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

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