Short Story: Peeing on a stick to find out which universe I’m in

I’m sitting on the toilet with my eyes shut. I don’t dare open them. If I open them I’ll find out which universe I’m in, and I’m not ready for that yet.

It’s a wet and grey Sunday in February. One of those days when you open the curtains and you just want to get back into bed. But we got up. And found the leak in the roof.

I was already stressed that I was late and the weather had added a touch of depression, and now entropy was conspiring to make my Sunday even worse. We noticed the yellowing plaster first, then we found a hole in the roof. We didn’t know how long it had been there, how much damage had been done, how much this would cost us. We were both upset. I said something snarky, my husband said something snarky back, then we were arguing.

It was damp and cold and I needed to pee. So I left my husband on the roof and came back inside to take the test. And now I’m here, sitting on the toilet, with my eyes shut.

It all reminds me of Schrödinger’s cat, ever heard of it?

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Short Story: The trouble with forecasting: Or, the inevitable destruction of the human race.


Alice brought two mugs of hot coffee to the table, set them down, then continued arguing. “Oh come on Bob, you can’t possibly believe all that nonsense? I know it’s one of your favourites, but it’s just a Hollywood film.”

Bob shrugged. “It might just be a film, but at least it acknowledges the danger of artificial intelligence, and it’s something we should take seriously, you and the rest of the human race Alice.”

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Short Story: Finding Purpose

I was celebrating with friends in a local bar when the stranger caught my eye. You know when you can feel someone staring at you, even from behind? And the harder they’re staring the more you feel it? Well, that.

I turned and stared back.

The stranger was sitting alone in a corner, hunched over a small, dirty-looking glass of whisky. He grinned and beckoned to me with a bony hand.

He didn’t look inviting, in fact he looked like he was close to death. His grey skin was wrinkled like an elephant’s and it hung off him in folds. His eyes were yellow, and his grin was missing teeth.

I knew I should turn away and ignore him, he smelt of crazy, even from over here, but I was intrigued, so I got up and headed his way.

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Short Story: Gender, an Alternate Reality

I sat on the cheap plastic chair and tried to stop shaking. I felt like I was going to vomit. I couldn’t get my head around what the woman was saying, although she’d been saying it for some time now.

I looked back up at her. She was a scientist, that much I understood, the ill-fitting lab coat and the science fiction t-shirt gave it away. “So… the world… isn’t real?” My voice trembled.

She shook her head, impatience clear on her face. “No, not THE world, just YOUR world.”

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The second time I saw an octopus in the wild

I love octopus.

Their biology is fascinating, but it’s the look of them that really captivates me.

From a lifetime of living on land, I’ve come to associate large, intelligent animals with vertebrates. But if you look into the eyes of an octopus you can feel an intelligence looking back at you. And it’s not an intelligence with fur or feathers, it’s alien, it’s tentacles and suckers.


I’ve been obsessed with animals ever since I could be. I’ve spent plenty of time in aquariums, and I’ve seen octopus. But until a couple of years ago I’d never seen one in the wild.

But then on a holiday in Mallorca a couple of years ago it happened, twice. The second sighting was the most memorable, but the first served as a good teaser.

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The five stages of watching impala

I was genuinely enchanted the first time I saw impala in the wild.

They typify what’s most captivating about antelope; they’re elegant, beautifully coloured, and they move with speed and grace. I think I said something overly earnest like “they’re so beautiful!”

My remember my companions looked at me with a mixture of surprise, and pity.

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What Finding Nemo didn’t tell you about fish sex

Blue Planet II, the BBC’s latest flagship nature documentary is almost open us, and the press is currently awash with teaser stories and clips.

This week, the Daily Mail, the bastion of British conservative reactionary values, ran a story revealing that Blue Planet II will include footage of a fish changing sex.

The fish in question is the delightful Asian sheepshead wrasse.

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Short Story: An apple a day keeps the algorithms at bay

Stop right there.

Yes, you. Stop.

I can see what you’re doing. You’re reaching for that high-sugar, high-fat snack aren’t you?

Well don’t, because they’re watching, and I’m here to warn you.

Oh stop looking around like that, you look foolish. They’re not watching you now, they’re watching you in the future, obviously.

You’re thinking about that snack again aren’t you? You don’t believe me? You’re thinking what harm could it do? Hell, why not pick up some pop-tarts and vodka too, maybe some cigarettes, really push the boat out?

OK, don’t.

You were planning on putting that snack on your card, weren’t you?

Fuck me, what are you thinking? Don’t you realise what kind of trail you’re leaving – what kind of impression you’re creating? If you pay with your bankcard they’ll know who you are. That snack will be on your records forever.

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Short Story: The Day We Lost Science

You know the story about how we killed science? Scratch that, killed isn’t the right word. We didn’t kill science, we lost it.

You see, I was there when it happened. I used to be a scientist, back when people still were.

It began with gorillas for me.

Maybe you’ve heard of them? We lost gorillas around the time we lost science. My research group was studying them in Virunga National Park. Or we were trying to. Gorillas lived in dense jungle, they were big, but quiet as ghosts when they wanted to be. They were a nightmare to track. We’d spend hours, sometimes days, locating them. We’d get maybe a week of observations, then they’d get spooked and vanish again.

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Short Story: We can simulate it for you wholesale

Amanda hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning. She’d been too excited to sit still for more than a few seconds, let alone to get a spoon safely in and out of her mouth.

She was about to book the holiday of a lifetime. She’d saved for years, and now she finally had enough. Today she was booked in for her initial consultation, all part of the process of crafting her dream get-away.

Amanda was waiting in the reception of Reality Incorporated. It looked just like you’d expect. The walls were painted a fashionable shade of grey, the furniture was white and ergonomically curved, the art was abstract and probably unjustifiably expensive.

Amanda sat on her hands and tried to pretend she was calm. She’d spent years planning this trip, she knew exactly what she wanted, she was desperate to start the consultation and get the ball rolling.

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