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So She Made Planets

She can create planets on a whim.

She’s had this ability for as long as she can remember. She can recall the first time she made a star, while playing outside one soft summer afternoon, at her daycare, waiting for her mother to come and pick her up. Everyone acts like it’s something special, but it isn’t, not once you’ve done a hundred thousand times, it becomes just as mundane as any other talent or skill. She can remember sitting with some other kids during lunchtime in elementary school, wowing them with her abilities to be able to create meteors from thin air. She became a magic trick; something kids asked for at their birthday parties, something adults used when out of town family members dropped in and wanted an experience. But she didn’t mind, she liked the attention, and she liked showing off her abilities.

There’s no life on her planets. They’re barren and cold, desolate, uninhabitable. All of these things are small, no bigger than a softball, but still, they’re hers, and she loves them. She spent a lot of her teenage girls in her bedroom, record player on repeat, laying on her back on the floor, just reaching up into the air above her face and creating entire galaxies. A black hole here, a milky way there, a star system, an asteroid field, you name it and she’d make it. She could entertain herself for hours with this. As with all novelties though, it faded with time. Life overtakes hobbies. The things that make you happiest fall by the wayside, even if they’re magical and not mundane in the slightest. She had to study. She had to date. She had to graduate, get into college and get a job. Not because she wanted any of this, but because everyone told her to.

“Making stars isn’t going to guarantee you a future,” they’d tell her, “People want real work skills.”

Resume after resume, essay after essay, lecture after lecture…spending countless, sleepless nights in the school library, trying to finish that paper due the following morning and instead finding herself blipping whole new worlds into creation in the palm of her hand, with the flip of her wrist. It got to the point where it didn’t bring her happiness, because it wasn’t what was “supposed” to bring her happiness. Marriage. A family. A career. Those were what happiness was to be reserved for. Not making stars. Not making planets. After a while, she’d spend all day long at work, come home and go to sleep. Go out with friends. Go out on dates. Soon she never made stars at all.

And then one day, she found she just didn’t want to, and this upset her even more. How could something so special, something so many people had, at one point in time, fawned over her for and told her was unique, was a gift, become so…so boring and unwanted? Even to the person who controlled said gift? Nothing lasted. People came and went. Jobs began and ended. Now she just sits on her bedside, in the dark, in her pajamas, repeatedly making planets and stars and meteors for the sake of doing something, anything at all, and not feeling totally and completely useless.

And then one night, she made a planet, and it was inhabited. This had never happened before. The people on it, they appreciated their existence, they thanked her graciously, they’d needed her to be. She was useful. Important. They enjoyed what she’d given them. They enjoyed her. She was loved. She created another and another and another, filling her bedroom over the following weeks with tiny, inhabited planets, and finally accepting this was who she was. She wasn’t like all the other people. She could do things they couldn’t do. She could make planets.

So she made planets.

And she was fine with that.

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Nice Girls Don’t Burn Ants

I remember sitting at the kitchen table, listening to my parents tell me why what I was doing was wrong. How it was scaring the other children. How I needed to stop doing it. I thought to myself, ‘Well, what about the boy who wants to poke people with scissors or the girl who pulls other girls hair?’ but the thing is, it didn’t matter. I’d been singled out, solely for making the decision at age 8 that I wanted to burn ants with a magnifying glass at lunchtime instead of playing with the other kids.

I remember being forced to see the school psychiatrist; a smarmy, smug woman with shoulder pads and an eighties hairdo with large wire rimmed glasses, who asked me why I did what I did. What made me want to kill ants? I just shrugged. I didn’t have an answer. I was 8. I told her, “Why not?” because really, why not? She asked me why I didn’t prefer playing with the other children, as if social interaction is all that matters in this world. I told her I didn’t like them. She asked if I wanted to burn them too, and I was horrified. Who would want to burn other people?!

I remember being told by my older sister, “You’ll never get a boyfriend if you continue to burn ants,” to which I thought to myself ‘good’. I’d rather burn ants than care what some stupid boy thinks. I remember kids signing my elementary school yearbook when I graduated 6th grade, ‘Have a nice summer, pyro!’ and wondering what pyro even meant, then upon the discovery of its definition, why they chose to associate it with me simply for burning insignificant insects. I remember being in middle school and having people walk by and ask how many ants I’d burned today, even though I didn’t do it anymore.

I remember getting an ant farm in my freshman year of highschool. I ordered it from the back of a science magazine I’d begged my parents to subscribe to. It was 11.95, and it arrived in less than a week. I set the ant farm on my desk, and every night when I did my homework, I’d do it in front of the ants. I drank my first beer in front of the ants. I had my first kiss in front of the ants. I lost my virginity in front of the ants. When I went away to college, I took the ant farm with me. I still have an ant farm. It’s been 30 years since I’ve burned ants for a few weeks in elementary school. Some of the other students I knew ended up in prison, ended up dead, or ended up never graduating. I burned ants, and they made it a huge deal.

I’m well adjusted, I have a nice job, I’m married and make a decent living. I’m happy, but I did learn something from this. It taught me that curiosity is deemed ‘dangerous’ if it’s something that isn’t within the norm. I encourage my children to be weird. I encourage them to explore and discover, to be who they want to be and I’ll never ask them why. Asking them why puts doubt in their mind. “Am I really that different? Am I…wrong?” I don’t want to do to them what everyone did to me.

Be weird. Be creative. Burn some ants every now and then.

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You Left Us Little Choice

Derek Fisher and Sandy Price were cruising through a parking lot, attempting to find a space to park so they could go inside and eat dinner. They’d been dying to try out this new place, ‘Spoonfed’, for weeks now. They finally had saved up some cash to do so, and had made am 8:00 P.M. reservation for that evening. Derek checked the time on his car dashboard again as Sandy circled around once more. It was now 7:47 P.M. and Derek sighed, leaning his elbow against the door and rubbing his forehead.

“Don’t worry, it’s gonna be fine,” Sandy said.

“This is the highlight of our week. Do you realize that? Do you realize that this is…this is our…our night out? And…and you can’t even, like, it’s fucking frustrating. We don’t get weekends off work because we need the money, so this is what we have to do. Scrimp and save. Daydream about eating a fucking restaurant. THAT’S high class for us.”

“Derek, don’t do this,” Sandy said, sounding exasperated, “I know it’s annoying, I know, but we’ll find a spot. It’s a parking lot. Granted, it’s a public, free lot but still. There may be some competition but we’ll find a place. It’s not a thing to get worked up over.”

“I just, I don’t…I don’t think you see what I’m getting at here.”

“I see exactly what you’re getting at here,” Sandy said, “And I agree. This is sad. This is our fun. We don’t get glitz and glamour and champagne and we don’t get to even go to a country club once a month or something.”

“Like you’d ever be caught dead at a country club.”

“My point is, you’re right. But it still isn’t something to get upset over, especially when in a few minutes, we’ll be sitting down to a table and enjoying dinner,” Sandy said.

“I guess you’re right,” Derek said, “I’m sorry.”

Sandy pulled around again, and this time they spotted a spot. They both perked up immediately. Sandy started to push a little bit more on the gas and as they were halfway to it, another car pulled in. They stopped, sitting in the idling car, and Derek could barely breath. They watched a well dressed older couple get out of the car, which was a fancy Lexus, and Derek balled his fists up.

“Are you. fucking. KIDDING ME,” he snarled, getting out as Sandy grabbed at the back of his shirt to keep him in the car, but to no avail. He leaned on his door and looked at the older couple. He whistled and that got their attention; they both turned and noticed him.

“Excuse me,” he said, “We’ve been driving for…god, a half hour I guess now, trying to find a spot and we found this one and we were about to park when you swooped in and took it from under us.”

“Oh, well, we’re sorry, we didn’t know,” the older man said, looking back from his car to Derek.

“Well, is there any way we could get you to give it up? This is our one time out in a long time, we both work all the time, we just want to have a nice dinner. We…we don’t have the money to pay for a garage spot or we would. We’d be so grateful if you could-”

“We’ll be late for our reservation,” the older man said, helping his wife into her coat.

“But you can just go down the block and get a garage spot. You can pay to do that. We can’t but you can.”

“Just because I can pay for it doesn’t mean I should. This is free, public parking. I’d like to take advantage of that.”

“But you don’t HAVE TO!” Derek shouted, “Do you not see the…the problem here? The problem isn’t that you took a space we were about to take, the problem is that you CAN pay for parking, but you just WON’T. We can’t even do that. We could BARELY afford this dinner! Why not spend the extra bit of cash if you can afford to?”

“Because I don’t want to,” the older man said.

“What’s your name, sir?” Derek asked.

“Peter,” he said.

“Peter, hi, I’m Derek. Listen, you work. I work. You make money. I make money. The difference is that you came from a generation when work actually allowed you to survive. I don’t. See, people my age, we don’t have that luxury. We barely have any luxuries to be honest with you, but when we do, it’s like the end of the fucking world for us. It’s like your team winning the goddamn Superbowl. You know what I mean? Did you ever have a time in your life when you had to save for something? Maybe like, when you were young parents and your kid needed braces, but you weren’t making enough yet and so you had to save every last penny?”

“Yeah, it’s something we’ve all been through,” Peter said as his wife applied some lipstick, clearly annoyed at having to wait out this conversation.

“Okay, well, take that and multiply it by ‘forever’. That’s our reality. We don’t have the whole ‘work your way up’ thing at jobs anymore, alright? That…that doesn’t exist. We live our lives in perpetual saving mode. That’s just how things are for us. And you can’t say it’s because we don’t apply ourselves. God knows we try.”

“Nobody’s saying you don’t, but what I am saying is this; you will get there. Be patient.”

“No, no, see, Peter, we WON’T. We won’t because the middle class doesn’t exist anymore. That isn’t a thing. It’s a piece of the past,” Derek said. They heard a car door shut and Derek looked back to see Sandy getting out on her side.

“Derek, come on, let’s just go,” she said, “I’m hungry.”

“I’m-I’m in the middle of something here,” he said.

“Derek?” Peter asked, “Can we go now? We really do have to catch a reservation.”

“Peter wait,” Derek said, chasing after them, “I just want you, if nothing else, to at least recognize that you can pay for the parking. At least admit that to me. Because see, when you say you don’t ‘want’ to, that’s different. You guys, you have choices. You grew up with the options. We don’t have choices or options. That’s why if we had the money, we’d spend it, because we don’t really know a life with money, and all we know is how life is without it. That’s why money makes no real difference to us, not in the abstract.”

“Money doesn’t make a difference?”

“No, ugh, how do I explain this,” Derek said, shaking his head.

“I think what he means is that…it’s like when you live your life in poverty, ok? You don’t know what it feels like to NOT live in poverty, so therefore without the concept of spending money, you feel like spending money isn’t really that bad a thing. It’s like being a kid and saying, ‘I can’t wait to grow up so I can stay up all night like mom and dad!’. Get it? That sorta thing,” Sandy said.

“Yes,” Derek said, snapping his fingers, pointing from Sandy to Peter and his wife, “Yeah, no, that’s a great analogy Sandy, thank you. This is what I’ve been trying to get through to you.”

“We’re leaving now, Derek,” Peter said, taking his wifes hand and leading her through the parking lot.

“Poverty isn’t preferred, Peter!” Derek shouted after them, “Your generation used up everything, hiked up the cost of living and holds those under it to the same standards! It isn’t fair! Fuck you Peter! Fuck you and fuck your fancy car and your fancy clothes and your wife! Fuck your mcmansion!”

Sandy sighed and shook her head.

“NOW can we go?” she asked.

“I don’t get it, how can they NOT care? About the problems their own children, or people their childrens age, are facing?”

“Because they’re not facing them themselves, Derek,” Sandy said, “They got a free ride, and they don’t see anything as being hard because it wasn’t for them. Simple as that. Now can we go? Inequality isn’t part of a full dinner.”

“Yeah. Alright.”

As they got back into their car, a homeless man showed up at Dereks window and knocked on the glass. Derek rolled his window down.

“Can you spare a dollar?” he asked, and Derek reached into his pocket, pulled out a dollar and shoved it into the homeless mans hand before they drove off. Sandy grinned.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she said, “I wouldn’t have called you a hypocrite.”

“I know,” Derek said, “But it’s still the right thing to do.”

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Edit Depressive Settings? Y/N?

At some point in the future, they will be able to edit your brain.

It will become a standard procedure, almost as common as botox injections or breast implants or even dental surgery. Cosmetic, but on the inside. Surgery to make you more mentally appealing, more mentally stimulating, more mentally capable. They will give you a paper with a list of things you can check off that you’d like to have removed. Each one will have varying prices, depending on the severity of the problem and the problem itself. Severe clinical depression, for example, would cost around $1200, but a more minor depressive state may only cost half that.

Imagine being able to walk into a hospital with a mental illness or a way of thinking and walk out completely different; now able to assimilate yourself into whatever group you’d like with no qualms. It could be covered by insurance. It could be done on a routine basis. Imagine being a new person anytime you wanted. This, along with general cosmetic surgery, it’d soon be hard to distinguish who anyone really is and what they really believe. It’s a slippery slope, as is any editing of the human condition. All at once full of promise and hope and yet tinged with danger and fraught with worry. I know I for one would take advantage of it. If I could walk into a medical facility today, say “here’s $300, please lower the anxiety level in my brain by a good percentage”, and walk out finally capable of dealing with social situations of any kind in a normal way…why wouldn’t I go for that?

They say that’s how you lose yourself. They say that depression, anxiety, any way your brain functions is what makes up who you are but what if you’re unhappy with who you are? Change is difficult. Change via medical routes is much, much easier, if one can afford such a delicacy. Perhaps, like many things, it will only be available to the rich. Or perhaps there will be a fractured group; some of the more ‘interesting’ mental health issues will only be available to be edited by the rich. The possibilities are endless, and thus, terrifying. Editing ones brain could become the ‘1%’ thing to do. And while it could have its benefits as well as its drawbacks, there will always be those opposed to anything that makes us ‘less human’. The naturalists. The ones who are against 3D printed attachments and prosthetic limbs.

People with violent tendencies could have those edited out if they wished. People with abhorrent sexual fantasies could have those wiped away if they so desired. People with homophobia, racism or sexism could have those things taken right out. Homogenized, at what the conservatives would surely call ‘a liberal brainwashing at its finest, most literal form’.

Yes, at some point in the future, they will be able to edit your brain.

What a grand future we’ll live in.