ARIA: Left Luggage
By Geoff Nelder
Today, Jack caught a bug at work. He catches a bus home. By the time he disembarks in the desert town of Rosamond, all the other passengers and the driver have fuzzy heads. Jack had caught an amnesia bug, and it’s infectious.
Imagine the ramifications:
The passengers arrive home, infecting family; some shop en route infecting everyone they meet. The bus driver receives more passengers giving them change for last week’s prices and today’s amnesia. Some passengers work at the power plant, the water treatment works, the hospital, fire station. All shut down in weeks.
One man, Ryder Nape, realizes what’s going on, but can he persuade friends to barricade themselves in a secluded valley, hiding from the amnesia bug?
“Geoff Nelder inhabits Science Fiction the way other people inhabit their clothes.”
— Jon Courtenay Grimwood
“Geoff Nelder's ARIA has the right stuff. He makes us ask the most important question in science fiction--the one about the true limits of personal responsibility.”
Robert J. Sawyer calls ARIA a “fascinating project.”
“ARIA has an intriguing premise, and is written in a very accessible style.”
Wednesday 22 April 2015
The code didn’t open the staff door at the zoo. It buzzed back at him making Lester
grit his already gnashing teeth until a voice-activated intercom asked him for his
“You know who I am, Eddie. Just open the fucking gate.”
“It looks like you, Lester, but where’s the funny one-liner?”
“I’ll give you one when I see you. Have you changed the code?”
“Not since last week. What did you punch in?”
“Four nine three six.”
“Bloody hell, Lester, that’s last month. Try six two two three, and smile or it won’t
He wrote it on an envelope he found in his pocket. Lester’s vision blurred as he
changed into his work clothes. He shook his head but that brought on a dull headache.
He’d boasted about his excellent health. A one-hundred percent attendance record.
Wow, but today, he crashed into a chair in the staff canteen, sending a coffee across
the table into Charles’ lap.
“Hey, Lester, watch my paternal potential with that hot drink!”
“I’m doing society a favour to stop more clones of you running around.” Others shut
up in shock. Charles was easy going but had the respect of his staff.
“You’re due some holiday leave, Lester. Take a break. Those chimps are getting to
Lester, elbows on the table, rubbed his head. He needed to do something for one of
the chimpanzees in his care. The more he tried to remember, the sharper the pain
stabbed his brain. He shouted bugger off to everyone, hung his head, and left.
He walked an hour into Chester’s city centre. Alongside the River Dee, he rented
a boat, rowed upstream into the Cheshire countryside way beyond his hour’s hire period
and idled the day away in a fuzz.
Thursday 23 April 2015
A quieter man, Lester arrived back at the staff entrance the next day. He found the
envelope in his pocket and punched in the code.
He recognised old Brian and stroked his black and grey hairs, sharing affection.
He looked at Isabella, another chimp, sat in the corner of the same enclosure, and
an emotion tugged at him but in vain. Lester read her information board, which told
him she’d come from London Zoo. He assumed some other keeper was responsible for
her welfare, medication and emotional needs.
Isabella watched Lester with Brian and waited for some personal attention but didn’t
get it. Every day, Lester cuddled her. Every day, he gave her extra titbits. Every
day, he inserted something sharp in her arm. Every day, he made his utterances. He
had stopped. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Twenty miles away a large articulated truck stood idle next to a refrigerated warehouse.
A loader should have driven his forklift, whistling while filling the truck each
week with green bananas, apples, and bags of ground nuts. He hadn’t turned up. Neither
had the office girl, whose job was to oblige the orders to be fulfilled and relief
loaders to be ordered. The driver hadn’t arrived. The ingredients of the hungry animals’
a la carte menu started to rot.