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Exercise #22: Lead Line: “I was so tired that night, I fell asleep with my clothes on…”

Contrary to every science fiction or horror movie stereotype, they came at about 11:30 in the morning, not in the dead of night. I guess, strictly speaking, it was the dead of night somewhere, because they touched down simultaneously in at least three dozen places around the globe. But it was 11:30 a.m. here, and the last thought I remember having before I heard the shriek of something very large braking in the atmosphere was, “I should think about lunch.”

And then, like everyone else, I raced out of the building to find out what was making that awful noise, and I saw a huge gray cylinder streak across the sky pushing a wave of white heat ahead of it, trailing a stream of white vapor. It slowed noticeably as I watched. The sound of its passage diminished until all that was left …more

50/50 Fall 2008, Exercise #5: Windfall

I showed up for my appointment at four o’clock. They kept me in the waiting room a little longer than usual. My favorite nurse looked apprehensive when she came to escort me back to an examining room.

“Mr. Raymond, I’ll need you to strip down to your underwear and put on this gown,” she said. She made no eye contact.

“What’s with the ‘Mister Raymond,’ Jennifer? I thought we were on a first-name basis.”

“I’m sorry, Mister— I’m sorry, Jack,” she said. “I have a lot …more

50/50 Exercise #38: Threshold

Your Lordship, Madame President, my esteemed colleagues, ladies and gentlemen: You have by now read the report of the field team assigned to observe Species 287B, and I do not wish to take up the valuable time of this conclave in further discussion of the recommendations of that report. I ask indulgence, however, to draw your attention to some of my own observations of the subject species and to ask you to consider the broader question of the relevance of our Charter to this particular case.

As you are aware, our evolutionary anthropologists theorize that every race of beings that approaches sentience …more

50/50 Exercise #12: A Letter to the World

Dear Dad,

I have about 30 minutes left to tell you everything I need to say, and there’s no way it’s enough. God, I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll just dive in with a couple of minutes of background information, how I got to be typing this letter right now, and then I’d better get straight to the message I’m supposed to deliver. That’s the important part, but it also seems pretty important (to me, anyway), that you have some reason to believe that I haven’t gone completely out of my mind and run off to Belize like I always talked about doing.

This symbol means negation. This isn’t part of the message per se, but they say it’s important for you to know this if you’re going to understand all the rest.

No time for the whole story, so here it is in a nutshell: I was sitting on the picnic table on the patio, and I heard a noise down in the woods, a kind of crackling sound. …more

50/50 Exercise #9: Resistance

When I am 18, I will go up on the surface to fight beside my brothers. My mother says that she needs me too much to let me go sooner. She says that she cannot tend the plot of hydroponics beds by herself. Every day she tells me what a good worker I am. She wants me to believe that she could not produce our quota without my help.

I know what she is afraid of. She knows that most of our people who go out there never come back down below.

I cannot wait until I am 18, so I fight in the ways that I have found to fight. It is not much. …more