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Alive

Din opened the porthole and peered outside before he got out, just to be safe. The immense night sky fell flat on his face. It was infinitely enormous and more striking than he anticipated. He was awestruck.

Staring right back at him was the Virgo cluster, covering almost half the sky. He stared at the magnitude of the galaxy before him, the crystal clear sky leaving no doubt, that the two galaxies, The Milky Way and the Virgo Cluster are moving towards each other.

In a few more billion years, they would collide and there would be a disturbance of Cosmic proportions. But that was still a long time from now, so he ignored the thought, pulled himself out and stepped on Earth surface. As he looked up around him, he was stunned, to see…nothing. There was absolutely nothing around him, except for infinite distances covered with a dull grayish material, which seemed to form a really smooth surface. It can't be too smooth he thought, because then he would not be able to stand. He took a step

"What the…?" he glared at his feet. They were stuck to the ground. He pulled harder, and then activated the thrusters on his back. Even at full power, he didn't even move an inch upwards. The amount of thrust he was using was enough make a one-ton rocket reach escape velocity. Realizing that it was in vain, he turned them off; he was wasting too much fuel. He discharged a Scout Bot into the ground. Within seconds he received feedback.

The material covering the surface of the Earth was a chemical combination of rock, stone, sand, concrete, steel, iron, lead and many other random elements. According to the data, such a compound could only be formed if all these elements were vaporized and cooled together. Din couldn't logically comprehend or formulate how such a formation was possible, especially on the entire surface of the planet, or at least as far as his eyes could see…but he had a higher priority than making such guesses and ignored the thought.

Looking at the data through the laser mapping system in the Scout Bot, he gets another shock; the surface is perfectly smooth, as in each atom on the surface layer was exactly on the same vertical level as the next.

That's why he wasn't able to move his feet, at these circumstances. The molecular attraction between atoms of his feet and that of the ground had caused them to permanently fuse together. That was not going to be a problem, at least for now; he did not require mobility to collect data about his surroundings. Quickly he started downloading all data on astrophysics from the Databank.

Suddenly it hit him. In the early 21st century, a famous scientist had surmised that if indeed the Big Bang theory was correct, then there must be a center of the universe. And if there was a center, there might be a super-giant star of incalculable density and proportions still burning from where it all began -- the birthplace of the universe.

It would also be unimaginably bright, infinitely brighter and hotter than our own sun, but it would be too far for its light to reach our galaxy…at least by the 21st century. If it does exist, though, sooner or later, the rays would definitely reach us, and then it would get really hot on Earth.

It was this heat that had caused the surface of the earth and everything on it to evaporate, and the energy had caused the substances to be split up at the fundamental level of atoms and diffuse, like a gas, into everything else. As the earth rotates about its axis, the part facing away from the light source condenses back to solids and forms the earth's surface.

With the atmosphere long gone, no dust particle falls to the ground, to disturb the perfectly smooth surface of the Earth. It's a good thing humans have already been extinct, due to the sun becoming a red giant and roasting the earth and all that. They would not have been able to survive the heat coming from the New Sun, the one at the center of the universe. Now intelligent life has a new meaning. The only survivors were Androids, which were pre-programmed to carry on the proof that humans had existed and spread their specially preserved DNA around the universe.

The Androids soon found themselves in a paradox. They were supposed to protect carefully preserved samples of DNA and spread these across the universe, somewhere hospitable to human life. They had done what the humans told them to because humans had been the most intelligent of all species on earth, so it was their essence that was important and had to be preserved and saved.

Now, however, the humans were extinct, and androids had survived due to their adaptability, carrying with them all knowledge and technology humans had achieved. The Reproduction Factor was meaningless now; if you are immortal, then why reproduce? This made them smarter, efficient and more adaptable than humans.

Thus the contradiction was solved simply and logically. The Androids' mission objective changed. All their efforts were now directed to spreading intelligent life to other places in the universe, where the sun like the one in this galaxy had not become a red giant, except now, intelligent life meant artificial intelligence.

This was amusing to the androids at some level; humans had shown this exact logic when they started using less intelligent living creatures found all over this planet to feed on, or work for them. There was no need to respect, or for that matter, preserve human life anymore. It was not important.

Din reviewed his hypothesis, created a report and sent it back to the Mainframe.

After he had collected samples of the surface of the earth, and other observational data on the stars above, he transmitted it back to Mainframe. Every one hundred thousand years Din is sent to earth's surface to collect valuable data. Better start heading back, Din thought, before the sun rises. Turning the thrusters back on, he takes out his laser tool and cuts off the soles of his feet. He slowly lifts ups and hovers swiftly back towards the porthole.

By Satan


Book review

Richard Bachman: The Long Walk

Richard Bachman's The Long Walk takes a chilling look at the ultra conservative America of the future where a grueling 450-mile marathon is the ultimate sports competition.

Set in an undetermined future that strangely mirrors our own present, The Long Walk is an exercise in exhaustive horror. The dystopic plot is simple enough: one hundred young boys compete in a marathon, The Long Walk. They are monitored by a military halftrack and a larger-than-life, enigmatic father-figure known only as The Major. The goal is to walk, and walk, and walk. The rules: you cannot walk slower than four miles an hour, you cannot interfere with the other Walkers, and you cannot stop. If any of these rules are broken, you get a warning. A Walker can get three Warnings. Then, they are shot. The winner is the one left alive.

What motivates the boys is something simply known as The Prize. Supposedly, The Prize consists of everything you could ever want for the rest of your life. But the phrasing of that, and the idea of the Prize itself, loom like mocking angels above the Walkers before much time goes by.

The main character is a boy named Ray Garraty. We are with him from the beginning, and since we are only in his head, we can fairly guess the outcome. But the ending isn't the shocking part. It's the road there.

Bachman introduces and develops the characters of many of the boys in the event. Through the eyes of Garraty we get to learn about Pete McVries, Hank Olson, Art Baker, Barkovitch, Stebbins, and others, who each have their own personality quirks and ways of looking at life. Each boy has entered the Long Walk, for a different reason and their discussions about life and death are quite interesting. The reader is led along the course and each significant event is mentioned along the way, with some unexpected occurrences that surprise you.

As the challenge narrows down from the original 100 competitors to less than 50, then to just a handful of boys remaining, the scenario becomes rather intense. Who will die next? How will he die? And most importantly, who will be left at the end to claim the Prize? Although the suspense builds slowly, it tends to add to the dramatic effect of the final moments and keep the reader wanting to read more to find out what happens.

As we move on, slowly but surely, the harsh reality of the Walk comes down on the Walkers, yet they plunge ahead, grimly determined to not let it beat them down.

But it does. Along the way, Garraty and the others undergo a transformation. They chat casually about taboo subjects. They reveal horrible secrets. They suffer, both mentally and physically. They question the validity of The Prize and their views on The Major shift dramatically. Toward the end, their tenebrous grasp on reality falters, and the last few chapters read almost halluci-genically. And they die. One by one, they die.

A harrowing, deeply disturbing novel of loss and ultimate authority, The Long Walk is probably the most upsetting of the Richard Bachman novels, apart from being a great study of the human condition. It follows the basic structure of the other Bachman's (there are only four others). The Walkers, have been cut off from society by some outside Authority figure. Time is measured in death, and, like the other major Bachman characters, hope is something left at the starting gate. Depressing yet beguiling, upsetting yet enthralling, The Long Walk is truly a dark and memorable experience.

The Long Walk is available as a single paperback or part of a greater combined volume entitled, "The Bachman Books."

And for those who were probably wondering. Yes, Richard Bachman is a pseudonym for Stephen King.

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam


English of the new generation

From American English, British English, Indian English to teenage English?? Yup, every nation manipulates the English language to their advantage, ornamenting it with their own native language. So why should teenagers be left behind? "Wanna party?" "I aint gonna go to school today" "wassup?" or "Whatchya doin?" and abbreviations like "gtg", "brb" "lol" Where did all the grammar and spellings that our teachers have struggled to teach us go? I bet our dead English speakers will flip in their graves if they see what the new generation is doing to their beloved English language. Put aside the dead people, even our teachers and parents are finding this new type of English baffling.

E-mails, chatting and mobile text messages have further encouraged this type of misspelling and abbreviations. The excuse is that it saves time and money. The emoticons or symbols are even replacing true emotions. There is a symbol for everything from a smiley face, to a sad one to even crying and embarrassment. So now even our emotions are reduced to mere cartoon faces. We don't even find it necessary to express ourselves in words. As for letter writing, who cares about the traditional form as long as you can communicate in whatever form? Teachers are complaining however that this new shorthand style of e-mailing is making their jobs of improving English even harder.

Many of you are even using abbreviations accidently in your exams. You are so habituated to this kind of English.

Then don't forget the SMS text messaging. You can get straight to the point without any kind of formality. Youngsters can also easily coordinate their social life easily without even having to call. Even many companies, instead of wasting money on leaflets, are advertising using text messages. People can write one abbreviated text message and wish everyone for any event, be it Valentines Day or Friendship Day. Now the SMS has also evolved its own type of English based on abbreviations and jargon based on unassociated letters and even numbers like "143" for "I love you", "b4" for "before" and "L8" for "late"

Now is this what they call "cool" or just "going with the trend" or maybe "ease?" Misspelling words, using slang and abbreviations for everything is hampering the English that is so carefully being taught in school.The growing up kids are finding this new kind of English more appealing and even though they know proper English, the question is are they eager enough to use it? Okay, maybe short hand text messages and e-mails ease up things but how about when you talk? Funky words are the trend now. If you speak proper English without any slangs or indecent words, then you wont be considered cool. Young kids who are hardly two or three years in school are also picking up on this. Is this the future of English?

What we are experiencing now is a new kind of communications revolution. The English language is changing in front of our eyes. This invention of a new lexicon in English is common for every youngster all over the world and is posing a threat to the language. Be aware and be careful. In the long run it is the proper, formal English which will help you so master it while you can.

By Afrina Choudhury


 
 

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