This post is short fiction. My short fiction, actually. I’m going to post a few of these in lieu of a “real” blog post, because I’d like to share it with you. Be warned that some of it may not be for those who are squeamish.

This was written for a friend of mine. He was going to write a work of fiction containing multiple, short vignettes, set in the Tachyon: The Fringe universe. The subject choice is his. The writing is my own. Enjoy.


Some people just burn
Like a Roman candle

Some people just see the burning
They can predict it… Unfortunately, they go insane.

Some people see… nothing
They just didn’t get lucky yet.

There aren’t many of us left, now. We used to be a vast, sprawling, brawling race of explorers, warriors, adventurers, and an all-around great bunch of people. Now, we’re just the moldering remnants of the once-great sails of an ancient ship of the line. Tattered, torn, rotting away – yet valiantly trying to keep our heading in the teeth of the gales of history. Yet nothing we attempt can possibly return our crew to our decks – we’re adrift, despite our best efforts. We are an anachronism, yet futilely struggle on, oblivious to the fact that nothing we attempt can possibly affect the outcome.

The human race, he pondered, is reduced to this, now. We’re nothing but a huddling group of frightened children, sheltering inside our walls, while the wolves howl outside. We desperately try to convince ourselves that the wolves are merely a figment of our collective imaginations, so we do nothing but share the warmth in our little bodies, awaiting something we know, deep down, is inevitable. We still try to make believe that the day will never come – when the wolves find their way inside, and devour us all.

He knew he was a little mad already. That, he also accepted. It was the way things now were. Those who didn’t burn, were doomed to know when the others would. Those that neither saw, nor burned – they were, simply, not yet dead. Nothing more, nothing less. Welcome to the human condition.

It began with the visions, long ago. Some began to see the flames. It was written off for a century or more as simply a product of stress, environment, an unbalanced mind, or simply as “the unknowable” – the favorite bastion of the psychiatric community. Until the Burning began. Oh, it didn’t begin all at once. It took quite some time for the first discoveries to be made public. It happened so fast, you see. First, you saw them stiffen, as if rigor mortis set in at a blinding speed. The nimbus appeared. Their eyes opened wide, as if they saw all the mysteries of the universe unfolded to them – then, it happened. Almost too fast for the human eye to register, a white sheet of flame began to consume the body. Beginning at the extremities, working its way inward, the flame races in, leaving only a haloed afterimage in your mind’s eye. Then, without a sound, without a trace – they’re just… gone. During the initial stages, the theories abounded, and the scientists treated it like a cheap tabloid stunt. Then, the frequency increased.

At first, you see, it only happened once or twice a decade. With the speed at which it occurred, you couldn’t really be sure you saw what you saw. It was freaky. It almost never happened around heavy electronics, which people lauded as a deterrent to the Burning, for a while. So there was never a good-quality image to break down and analyze. Later, though, we had more images of it than we could stomach. Because, you see – it took a large majority of the cyborgs first. Maybe they were just attuned with it, somehow. We still don’t know. There’s nothing like the internal data from a cybernetic eye watching it’s bodies’ own limbs vaporizing – I have to say that much.

All of them didn’t go up, though. It skipped around, like some insane wildfire. Here, a mother holding her child’s hand on a shopping trip. The child’s hand wasn’t even hot to the touch, seconds afterward. A man walking down the promenade, freezing, staring into nothingness, and immolating. Right in the center of a throng of chatty shoppers. It finally reached galactic attention, though, when the pilot of a bulk freighter went up while on approach to GalSpan headquarters. A quarter of a trillion creds went up in flames that day. It became real, then, it seems. I don’t know. It was over 450 years ago. I’m something of an anomaly now, I suppose. I’m a sane Prophet. I can tell you, just by looking at someone, the exact date, hour, minute, and second that someone is going to Burn. We’re all Chosen for something, they tell us, now. Some to Prophesy, some to Burn. Some still even die of old age. The odds are only about 50-50 now. 50% of the human population, if the figures I have aren’t lying, are slated to Prophesy and go stark raving mad, or go up like a firecracker. Only 200 years ago, it was only 5%. If that doesn’t bode ill for our race, I don’t know what does.

So yes, I suppose I’m something of an oddity. I’m 28 years old, I’ve had the Sight since I hit puberty. If you’re going to Prophesy, you’re normally mad by age 22. More males than females can See, while more females burn. Statistically. But when you’re talking billions of deaths every year, the numbers aren’t exactly important. I’m also an oddity, because I still fly. They grounded most interstellar travel after the Space Burnings 75 years or so ago. Pilots had done historically well prior to that – some attributed that to the high concentration level required to become an accredited pilot. The Space Burnings changed it all, though. Roughly 12 million spacefarers all Burned within 7 hours, in every nook and cranny of the known galaxy – over 82% of the then-current licensed pilots. The Tach system is still operational – barely. The network keeps degrading, and those of us that are left play Russian roulette every time we make a jump. In an existence like that, though, things like that ceased to matter a long, long, time ago.

Let me write this down, while I’m still lucid. Most people with the Sight are already a little mad shortly after they discover what they are doomed to become. I was, a little. My father refused to let my Sight interfere with our family business, and he trained me to fly, as he had both of my brothers. They both Burned, shortly after their first solo jump in Dad’s miner. I told them they would. We’re wrong about 7% of the time. They figured they’d take their chances on those slim odds. I don’t blame them. If you’re going to go, why worry about it? If I look into your eyes, and I see the flames – I know you’re going to go. If I concentrate, I can tell you precisely when. If I really, really meditate on it – I may even be able to tell you where. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. Trust me, every theory under the sun has been advanced, and nothing explains it.

I, on the other hand, have lasted well beyond the usual threshold for Seers. Maybe it’s because I’m a pilot. Maybe it’s because I’m a real rare item – a fighter pilot. Who knows. All I know is, I’m still mostly there. As much as fighter pilots usually are. As the grid slowly deteriorates, our kind are heading toward extinction. Along with our decline will follow the once-great Human civilization. Our latest colonies are already guttering candles. Over 90% of the Fringe’s population is gone, with the highest Burn rate anywhere in the galaxy. “He has formed me from the dust… and to dust I shall return.” I have a sneaking suspicion that the Corporate sector colonies will be next. Just like a Burn – extremities first, then inward, to the center.

Anyway, yeah, I’m a pilot. I’m wondering how long this will last, though. Just this last week, I’ve seen flames everywhere. They are all telling me that the inferno will begin in roughly 3 hours from now. Now, that isn’t anything new. I’ve seen mass Burns before. I’ve even predicted them. This time, though, I saw the flames in the eyes of a Seer. That doesn’t happen – but it did. I keep seeing the guilty stares when they look at me, too. There’s a time for everyone. The Burning taught us that. This might be everyone’s time. I’m trying to deny it, still. I haven’t seen anyone’s eyes that WERE NOT filled with flames. Even the ones in the mirror.

So, I’m flying. Well, not quite true. I’m sitting. Sitting roughly 20 meters from where I was born, actually. It’s fitting, I think. So, here I am, maybe listening to the very last Twilight Jack cube in the entire galaxy, and waiting to die. I closed my eyes not too long ago, and I fell asleep. How anyone could do that while waiting to die, I don’t know. But I did. My chrono shows 4.8 minutes left to the time I, and every other Seer, predicted. I really don’t know what to say. I really do hope someone finds this message cube, one day. Obviously, if you’re reading this, someone did – and someone is still alive. As for every other person in the surrounding 5 sectors, we’re dead men. I suppose it’s just now sinking in. I don’t believe it, further than on the intellectual level. All I know is, I’m still in my Archangel. There’s no better place to die, for me.

2.4 minutes. So, I guess these are my last words. What do you give yourself as a eulogy? “Alas, for he isn’t dead yet?” I really don’t know. If you’re reading this – I’m glad I got to talk to you.

Whoever you are. .6 minutes. In closing, all I can say is this. I’ll type as it happens. Maybe I can, I don’t know, describe it, as it
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