I help the other castaways push the raft into the ocean. It’s a big raft that took us an entire week to build — we used the wood from the signaling tower that I’d pulled down the week before, waving too enthusiastically to a passing cruise liner.
The others gasp, scream, and wade back to shore as the raft breaks apart and the wood is pulled out to sea by a strong tidal current.
The egghead scratches his chin. “I don’t understand it. My design should have held up to a sea voyage of weeks, if not months.”
I stand next to him and stare at the disappearing wood with a concerned look on my face. “I don’t get it either. I made sure all the ropes were nice and dry, just like you said.”
The captain’s face turns red, and he takes off his cap and slaps me with it repeatedly. “The ropes had to be wet!”
He chases me down the beach, getting in a few more slaps, but I lose him pretty quickly — he’s a bit overweight. When I’m sure nobody is around, I make my way to the rock pile where I’ve hidden my satellite phone, and dial a pre-programmed number.
A voice distorted by software answers. “Howell is still on the island?”
“I’m doing my job.”
“We need more time to secure his remaining assets. We still haven’t–“
“I don’t care what you’re up to. You know the deal. I call Switzerland once a week. A new deposit in my account, we stay on the island. No deposit, I call the Coast Guard.” I hang up the phone.
I slink back into camp where the castaways are sitting around a campfire. Some of them smile at me: the captain never stays mad for long, and Howell and his wife are really good-natured for billionaires. I get less-friendly looks from the two young girls: the wannabe actress from California who thinks she’s God’s gift to men, and the Iowa farmgirl who I’m pretty sure is one of the original Children of the Corn.
The egghead is so busy planning that he doesn’t even notice me. “… No, my meteorological observations indicate that by the time we gathered sufficient buoyant material for another raft, the winds and currents would no longer be favorable for a sea voyage.”
The others look down in silence, but perk up as the egghead snaps his fingers and jumps to his feet.
“That’s it! This change in the weather will bring the Japanese Tuna Fleet to these waters in approximately one week. I will design an artificial lure which simulates the tuna’s natural prey. We’ll carve messages on the lures. The tuna will eat the lures, the fishermen will catch and process the tuna, they’ll read of our distress, and they’ll come to our rescue. The only flaw in my plan is that the fishermen aren’t likely to understand written English.”
I clear my throat. “I can write Japanese.” The castaways cheer me. They don’t know that I can write exactly one phrase in Japanese kanji, and it’s a crude statement about the activities of one’s mother with American servicemen. Even if those fishermen spot us, they’ll leave us high and dry.
Threshold by James Pratt. Two engineers go inside an alien artifact. One goes into a panic, while the other takes no action other than speaking calmly. I found it kind of weird that neither character had much response to the state of the other.
The Pallbearers of the Light by Brennen Neithercoat. The universe is ending, so naturally we get to read a story about a man’s relationship with his wife.
Out of the Void by Ian Broderick. A ship arrives back at Sol, to find all the other planets there, but Earth missing. No explanation.
The Texture of Time by Dara Marquardt. This story contains what might be the largest single infodump I’ve ever read, which included diatribes on obesity, recycling, abortion, and imprisoning drug offenders. While reading the infodump, I wrote a story in my head about a man who is trying to read an infodump before he dies of old age.
I got a brief laugh when the author used “gorillas” in place of “guerillas”, but then the people in the story suddenly ended inner-city crime (which hadn’t previously been referenced) by outlawing vigilante activities. I can’t decide what’s the most wrong with that: A) Vigilantes attack criminals, so ending vigilante activities would probably increase inner-city crime. B) Vigilante activities are already outlawed. C) Inner-city crime is by definition illegal, so outlawing things doesn’t seem to be working all that well to begin with. D) If you think of something worse, leave me a comment.
Very Little Risk by Aaron Katzmarek. A story about a hit man who uses cobra venom.
Madness is a Seed that Sleeps in the Space between Your Ears by Graeme Tennant. The sole resident of Mars, sent there to star in a reality show, goes crazy.
Amber’s Box by Kaley Keane. A widower gets a “talking box”, which is like an AI with his deceased wife’s memories and voice. For a while, it’s boring as people talk about nothing, then it’s confusing when later in the story, it turns out that the “box” was actually a robot with appendages that had been moving around and doing physical things. There is some redeeming stuff at the end, but not enough to make up for the above.
I was disappointed in this issue. I was expecting something better, because I knew that other issues of the magazine (which I haven’t read yet) have featured authors such as Nicholas Rossis and Richard Ankers, whose stories I’ve enjoyed. Perhaps I’ll give another issue a shot, and see if I get better results.
Leave a comment below about any of the stories, about Nonlocal Magazine, or about my Gilligan’s Island intro story. How long before you figured out I was Gilligan? Evil Gilligan, I suppose, kind of like my favorite Star Trek episode where the crew meets their evil counterparts, except Spock isn’t that much different.