Krapp’s Last Email Part 2 by William Gosline

Scratch that. One: a message from Sagittarius A*.

It had to be a mistake. Everyone knew there was nothing there but a black hole pulling at the  starry fabric. It was the center of the solar system, for crying out loud.

Yet, there it was. A single, solitary bright point of light indicating that a message “for his eyes only” had come from that most improbable of locations. Despite himself Krapp’s interest was piqued. He loved a good mystery. Maybe it was a Trojan horse; some crackpot organization or hacker syndicate had faked the message so that a curious recipient—more credulous and naïve than Krapp, of course, and unable to resist the temptation—would open it. Some older citizen not used to receiving such incredible messages.

Well, Krapp hadn’t been born yesterday. He wouldn’t fall for such shenanigans. The message would remain closed.

For now.



Krapp decided first to get rid of any messages concerning extraterrestrials, especially those pesky Andromedans. It wasn’t that he was a xenophobe. Some of his best friends were aliens. Back when he had had friends, before he had become a social shut-in just as his wife had warned. But really, what was out there for an old fellow like him these days? Nothing but sin and debauchery, where were the values he had grown up with? When a man had only two or three wives his whole life?

Oh stop it, you old fool. He told himself.

“Promotions/social: xenons.” He commanded, then: “Andromedans.”

The array changed and Krapp plunged down the rabbit hole.

As usual Faux News had the most ground-breaking up to the micro-second news. Quite a few of their messages purported to provide incontrovertible, irrefutable evidence that President Pushkin had been kidnapped by the Andromedan Intelligence Agency. Krapp knew he should just erase all these, but…. One message opened a video feed of President Pushkin with a sackcloth over his head, was being forced into a spaceship! Another message contained a link to an article written by an well known vegetable clone expert claiming that President Pushkin had been grown in a vat on the prison-planet, Andromeda IX!

It only got worse.

The thing that claimed to be President Pushkin had felt the political pressure to prove he was the real, and had released his entire genomic helix in order to quiet the accusations, but the Faux News pundits reminded readers like Krapp that those things could easily be faked.

Krapp shook his head. What should he do? He had promised himself he would just delete these damn messages and be done with it, but as a citizen of the United Countries of America, he felt conscribed to ascertain whether his homeland was being ruled by an alien clone or just a naturalized Russian centenarian!

He took a deep breath, and once more, duty triumphed over common sense.

“Promotions: Andromedans/Interstellar.”

A few lights twinkled at the fringes of the Milky Way. He brushed his fingertips across their virtual vellum. Golden boxes appeared containing truncated synopses.

“Do no delete—this messa….”

“This is Magnus Magnuson of Faux Ne….”

“Ignore this message at your own per….”

“The real President Pushkin needs your hel….”

Krapp paused tremulously at the last. The ‘real’ President Pushkin. Was this evidence at last of his duplicity? There was only one way to find out.

He highlighted the message and tapped it two times.

The interface went dark. Somber strings thrummed. In the far corner of the screen a distant planet drew closer. A chorus chimed and the music rose in crescendo as the orb, whorled with white clouds and glossy blue seas grew ever nearer until suddenly—

Silence, broken by a single voice: “Andromeda XIV. That is what we in the Galactic Federation call this bright jewel at the edge of Federation space.”

The voice was vaguely familiar. Wait… was it that Pan-Bollywood actor, the one who had begun his career on Big Baba? Krapp could not for the life of him remember his name.

“But to the natives, the name of this green gem loosely translates as ‘Eden’. Once a barely understood planet at the edge of the galaxy, Eden now forms the beach head against Andromedan aggression!”

And then Krapp was in virtual free fall, plummeting through the clouds to the planet’s surface. His stomach lurched, tricked by the P.O.V.

The voice continued: “Former Secretary of Galaxy, Priscilla Pinkerton, has lived among the natives for many years. She knows the real President Pushkin, the generous and big-hearted man that he is, and in his glorious name she is begging you, she is pleading with you….”

Krapp leveled off perhaps a hundred feet above an alien village. Just outside, a spacecraft landed. A dock swung down disgorging a platoon of alien warriors. They raced towards the peaceful settlement, firing purple ray guns at the fleeing villagers.



“DO NOT DELETE THIS MESSAGE. The Edenians depend entirely on your generous-“

“Delete!” Krapp roared.

And everything disappeared: the earnest narrative, the flame jets spouting from the fungal hovels, the smoke billowing from the strange topiaries.

Krapp unbunched shoulders dripping sweat. He couldn’t believe the content nowadays! Did these damn kids think everything was just a video game? He certainly didn’t want to see the slaughter of innocents one million light years away, even if it was just in simulation.

It probably served him right. He should have known better than to open the damn messages! Krapp just needed to get rid of these messages and be done with it.

But that single message, drifting at the universal cynosure, still whinged.

“Isolate Message/Sagittarius A*.” he said, almost hushed.

Everything else disappeared.

Krapp’s Last Email Part 1 by William Gosline

This story is inspired by the famous one act play, Krapp’s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett. Thanks to Harris Levinson for introducing my High School English class to this singular work.

Once again, I have the pleasure of collaborating with photographer and graphic artist, Bill Draheim. In previous collaborations, and in the spirit of Chris Van Allburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, Mr. Draheim would provide me photographic works to which I would write short stories. This time, the process was reversed. I provided the story and he came up with artistic pieces to match its flow. We hope you enjoy our newest effort! 


One night, a few months before she left for Nepal with her post-menopausal adventuress group, Bianca turned to Krapp as they lay in bed.

“Don’t disappear, Krapp.”

“Hmmm?” Krapp’s eye did not leave the page of his artifact paperback.

“Don’t get old,” his wife said. “Certainly not on my behalf.”

“Just because I don’t go on crazy trips…,” and his voice had sputtered out in that way it did when he didn’t want to talk.

“That’s not what I mean,” she said.

But he had already frustrated her, and the conversation was over.

Later, while he was telling her why he didn’t want to go onto the Æthernet—it was too labyrinthine, he said, using an artifact word—she reminded him of their short conversation that  night. He pretended that he had forgotten. She, of course, had not.

“This is what I was talking about!” she exclaimed, meaning any number of things.

“Really, well I, you know…,” *sputter*.

“There are all kinds of data visualization methods nowadays, Krapp.”

She pulled out her SamWay tablet.

“I’m just not crazy about—” he said, but this time she wasn’t having it.

“I’m leaving in a few days,” she said, scoldingly. “What if I can’t call you where I’m from? What if I can only get ahold of you through FaceSpace or MyBook?”

Krapp vaguely recalled having a FaceSpace account in his younger days, but as notifications of grandchildren’s birthdays had given way to digital obituaries, he had gradually drifted away. Disappeared.

Just like his wife had said.

“Alright.” He surrendered.

Not one to gloat, Bianca got straight down to business. “Okay, let’s try something simple. We’ll  chart what you’ve eaten this week.”

And in the next few minutes she took stock of what Krapp had consumed (he chose not to tell her about all the bananas) and input it into an incredibly user-friendly system with a facility remarkable for her age. In minutes, the content of his meals that week was rendered in bar graphs, spirals, concentric rings, pointillist clusters, impressions, maps clotted with dots and cones and rods and….

Eventually he conceded and bought a Direct Interactivity System. Together, they set it up.



That had been a long time ago.

On her trip a freakishly huge snowstorm hit the mountains. Some trekkers, his wife among them, simply disappeared. The irony was lost on him for many years, buried beneath a grief so immense that its very totality confounded any estimation of its limit. Krapp only noticed it upon attempting even the smallest action; for example, the lifting of his aged body from the bed—he taught himself that he must rise in the morning—happened only through considerable effort, as though a thousand years hung to his frail bones.

It had taken years for him to regain his vigor, and this returned only in part. Things that before had been easy were now hard.

Like checking the inbox of his email account.

It was this Herculean task that he prepared for that morning after he’d awakened, drank his coffee and eaten a banana.

He wasn’t entirely in error to think of it as something against which his nerves needed to be steeled, his mind and body prepared. In the twenty years since his wife had disappeared, the world had changed. At the time Bianca had been right. Data visualization did made information processing easier.

But these days it was an entirely different affair. After the formation of the Galactic Federation, the information superhighway had gone interstellar. Suddenly the news was not just of your garden-variety terrestrial dysfunction, but of alien warlords invading galactic outposts, broken treaties between xenon civilizations, disputes over empty stretches of space, and the increasingly common UFO visit to Earth’s city-sized mega-malls, presumably to stock up on the cheapest goods in the galaxy. In no time at all, information from the far reaches of the solar system was just a mouse-click away. Junk mail, accordingly, had gone from a manageable trickle to a deluge.

He doddered over to the D.I.S. and settled into his rolling chair. A finger run across the screen returned tipped in dust. He uncoiled the wires and plugged the eight-prong cord into his temple. He clipped the diodes to index finger and thumb, and dropped the glossy shield.

Krapp could feel his blood pressure rising. There would be thousands of messages waiting for him. Tens of thousands.

He pressed a button. The console hummed. The shield blackened and then…

Row upon row of stylized envelopes appeared, suspended in virtual space for as far as the eye could see.

Krapp swiped his hand. These first letters slid off to the side, quickly replaced by others.

“Jesus,” he muttered.



Most of the envelopes plunged from sight.

Krapp’s hands trembled. His heart raced. What had just happened? It took him a long, sweaty moment before he realized what had happened: He had been so long absent from the Æthernet that he had forgotten any spoken word was construed as a command.

Those messages remaining on the screen would be from the world’s hundreds of Christian offshoots. Many would herald the end of the world, an event Krapp remembered having happened a few times in his long life already.

Well, he didn’t need salvation. And even if he did, it wouldn’t come via email.

“Delete,” he commanded.

Just like that, they were gone.

He thought next of how he might best categorize the remaining messages. He decided. He would trim the off-world hullaballoo first.

“Visualization: interstellar channels. Milky Way,” he commanded. A black and white image of the solar system appeared, sparkling with thousands of glimmering lights dispersed among the many stars. The closer to earth, the more condensed the clusters. The earth itself was awash. Each represented a message sent from that part of Federation territory.

“Exclude terrestrial.”

The white-hot clump of messages clustered around the earth disappeared. He brushed his virtual fingertips over those that remained, and brief synopses popped-up: political messages asking for support in other-worldly elections; businesses promoting products only available from gaseous planetoids; advertisements for off-world picture brides with ‘complementary morphologies’. Only a few had been sent from the outer limits, none whatsoever from the center….

Scratch that. One: a message from Sagittarius A*.

NEW: Greetings From the Wasteland by Rachel Gardner

As most of you know I collaborate with several writers. One of whom is Rachel Gardner.

Rachel has a great gift of bringing my images to life with endless twisted macabre. We shift our roles; I sometimes provide images for her stories, and in turn she provides stories for my images.  It's a pleasant, rewarding experience that I look forward to cultivating throughout my career.

For more of her work go to: Greetings From the Wasteland 

Please enjoy,



Illustration provided by the excellent Bill Draheim

The story of China’s first true red glaze is a well-known and probably apocryphal tale: a rooster wandered into the vent-holes of a royal kiln. The smoke from its cremated body starved the fire of oxygen, creating the first recorded instance of the fabled “ox-blood” glaze. The emperor was struck by the color and demanded more. The potter did all he could to replicate it but in the end, despairing, flung himself into the fires of the kiln. Thus was ox-blood obtained.

That is where the tale, apocryphal or not, ends in most tellings. But there is a further chapter that is not often repeated. For there was another potter.

This potter rivaled the man who flung himself into the kiln, coveting the color that dripped red from the funerary pots. Now ox-blood was all the rage in the imperial court, and so this potter set out to replicate it. After careful examination of the circumstances around his rival’s death, the potter concluded that human sacrifice was needed. 

In the country there was no shortage of beggars, vagabonds, orphans, human detritus that would not be missed. The potter’s first experiment buckled under his enthusiasm; too many bodies stacked like kindling put the fire out. His next attempt, a single beggar, yielded only three ox-blood specimens. 

The potter’s mania grew like a rash. In his haste to fill the kilns, his craftsmanship became sloppy and haphazard. The potter began insisting he heard a voice coming from the kiln itself, the cracks and pings whispered to him over the sleepless nights he fed it with firewood. The kiln he had was not enough. He must build a more magnificent kiln, one that bit into the hillsides like a dragon. The potter dug and plastered and bricked until his fever dream was made flesh and the dragon-kiln stretched 2½ li into the surrounding countryside. He had servants fill the kiln to bursting and, as the last man delivered the last cup the stack, he bricked up the entrance and set fire.

They say the heat from the kiln boiled a nearby lake. They say the agonized wails of the servants reached the capitol. When the potter cracked open the kiln, he found half the pieces were ox-blood. Not good enough. 

The potter continued his experiments until the country was stripped of passer-by. With diminishing outside influence, the potter grew deeper into his mania. No longer content to speak, the potter claimed the kiln beckoned him with shapes in the fire, indicating the next sacrifice. His eyesight dwindled as he stared deep into the white-hot belly of the kiln, pots exploding from the thermal shock each time he removed the spy-brick. Each new setback only strengthened his determination. He finally made his most audacious claim to date: he would deliver to the emperor an entire kiln-full of blood red pottery. Audacious because if he failed to deliver he would forfeit not only his but the lives of every single member of his family. 

The allotted interval passed. Officers of the crown set out to the pottery works to find the compound devoid of all life. Curious and malformed lumps of clay occupied the stands that should have held elegant vessels. The officers followed a large patchwork bloodstain to the rear of the compound, where the last bit of motion remained.

The kiln had been bricked over not with stones but skulls. The potter complained that he could not yet make the delivery as the kiln would not reach temperature, sightlessly tossing log after log into the cold firebox.