I bet you thought I forgot about you, didn’t you? Perish the thought!
I’ve got a special treat for you today, especially for those who like tech-inspired horror!
& EMERIAN RICH
H.E. ROULO, TIM O’NEAL, JERRY J. DAVIS, EMERIAN RICH, BILL DAVIDSON,
DANA HAMMER, NACHING T. KASSA, GARRETT ROWLAN, DAPHNE STRASERT
PHILLIP T. STEVENS, LAUREL ANNE HILL, CHANTAL BOUDREAU, GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ
As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future?
Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?
A sneak peek inside…
LAUREL ANNE HILL
I count the bioengineered maggots in the Petri dish. They glisten like bean threads wet with broth. Thirteen? What the fuck is going on? Yesterday, I inoculated this tissue culture plate with a dozen medical maggots. Tallied the larvae before and after placement onto this cozy bed of cells. Now, yesterday’s twelve little buggers add up wrong. I adjust the OptiVISOR on my head. Time to count again.
My inner tension presses the ball of my sore foot against the gel cushion in my shoe. Ouch! Damn splinter from my apartment’s shitty deck. Never go barefoot to water outdoor plants in the dark. I jiggle my headband magnifier, then shift my butt on the laboratory stool in front of my biosafety cabinet. This week, I’m totally responsible for the setup of the Project 12/Maggot Strain 39 experiments. One maggot, two, three… Please, don’t let this be a screw-up. I can’t afford one.
Eleven, twelve, and… Crap. Yesterday I accidentally added one larva too many to this container. No, the other forty-nine plates I set up yesterday were fine—like all the plates I’ve done during the past three months to test the safety of the bioengineered medical maggots. I took charge. I was careful. I can’t have messed up. My lips clamp together hard.
Flies lay eggs. Eggs hatch maggots. Maggots metamorphose into flies. Nowhere in that stupid life cycle do larval flies, even bioengineered ones, reproduce. Ever. Twelve maggots cannot suddenly become thirteen. I groan through my surgical mask.
Maggot Strain 39—my project—just became a top priority at Maggots are Medics. Nobody’s told me how that strain might clean wounds better than any other. What the shit am I supposed to do with my inconvenient observation?
I glance toward my electronic notebook on the adjacent lab stool. The blank square box near the bottom of the laptop’s screen awaits this morning’s final entry. Documentation of my maggot miscount will reveal only one truth to my employer. The counting skill of Assistant Scientist Christa Landers sucks.
“Undiscovered truths spring from the unexpected,” the voice of Dr. Camus lectures from the folds of my gray matter. I can almost see my former professor’s eyelids twitch. “Always record the exact results you observe.”
Easy enough for Camus to preach the rules for ethical and unbiased research. His position at U.C. Berkeley isn’t in jeopardy. But the rumor mill here claims my job at this company might be. My employer plans to reorganize the research department soon. Still, I try to be a good scientist. Since my junior year at U.C.—practically ages ago—I’ve never falsified a lab result.
My heart pumps in double time. Blood pounds at my temples like sticks hammering Taiko drums. Rent to pay…my student loan… I need to keep this job. One little data point won’t matter, will it?
I enter the number “12” in my lab notebook. What am I doing? I must correct this. But Dad died last year. Mom depends on the money I send her. I clench my stomach muscles and close the file.
“You still here?” co-worker Traci Reed calls from the adjoining gowning room, her voice as welcome as a bowl of sugar-coated spit. “I thought you’d forgotten to sign out again.”
Oh, great. Leave it to Ms. Perfection Reed to serve up trouble with a side order of sarcasm—just as she did in high school. I’ve got to help one of these maggots do a vanishing act, and fast. Which critter, though? The wiggler nearest the plate’s edge is fatter than the others, and at least a half-centimeter long. A definite outlier.
I pull a disposable lab-wipe from the dispenser box and set it in my lap. One gloved hand manipulates a tiny pair of tweezers and the other raises the Petri dish lid. With a single quick motion, I pluck the obese larva off the cell culture and deposit the insect onto the paper tissue. My nitrile-covered fingers wad the wipe and squish its contents. I reach for the small biohazard bucket in my biosafety workstation. Wait. Better to dispose of this somewhere it could never be accidentally discovered. Like the five-gallon receptacle near the door. Even better, the toilet?
“Everything okay?” Traci asks through her surgical mask as she enters the lab.
Crap, what should I do now? No way, while I’m sitting, to slip the tissue into a side pocket. I stuff the offending evidence down the Tyvek shoe cover on my nearest foot. Not in direct contact with my skin, of course.
“Everything’s fine,” I say. Mission accomplished.
Tracy shrugs. Today the pudgy strawberry blonde wears a pale yellow clean-room jumpsuit instead of the standard white the company provides.
“None of our inmates squirmed out of their dishes last night,” I say as I stand. Let Traci figure out if the maggots are cleaning up necrotic tissue without harming healthy cells. She’s the cell observation-and-testing specialist. “I’m done for the morning. Lab’s all yours.”
A tingle shoots across the arch of my injured foot, as if the squashed maggot has gone exploring. No chance of that. Maggot Number Thirteen is as dead as last year’s failed romance. I step toward the degowning room airlock. The ball of my left foot itches and stings. That stupid splinter has worked its way in deep.