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A Hidden Life

It’s one of the year’s best and most distinctive movies, though sure to be divisive, even alienating for some viewers, in the manner of nearly…


Bombshell is both light on its feet and a punch in the gut.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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The Thinking Molecules of Titan: Ending by Gary Bowers

Editor's note: This is a continuation of a story Roger was working on when he passed away. This ending is one of many we received. To read Roger's beginning to the story, from the end of which each entry picks up the thread, go here. Illustration by Krishna Bala Shenoi. This is one of five endings we're posting this week. Vote on this week's endings here.

Gary Bowers writes:

"Put it on the speakers."

They listened. It was dissonant and repetitive, but all had heard worse that passed for music. The word forlorn came to more than one of their minds.


"'Belittlement Fugue in Z Minor' by Sally Airy," Mason offered.

"'Take Your Time Machine and Kill Me Yesterday' by Hank Williams the Fifth," Alex rejoined.

"Nope," said Claire.

"'Nope' by whom?" asked Alex.

"Nope as in Nope, it's not a song at all," said Claire. "I changed my mind. I've got work to do; please excuse me," she said quickly on her way out the door.

The rest of her cadre shrugged into their beers,


Two days later Claire summoned them to her workstation. She was wearing the same clothes as before, and had obviously slept little if at all.

"You better sit down for this, kids."

Those who were standing sat.

"I had a suspicion. I'm not sure it's been confirmed, but it fits, sort of, and the new tech I've rigged up will in time give us a confirm-or-deny. But I don't want to be coy: There's a hacker in them thar ammonia, and HeSheItThem be hacking us; specifically, our prayers.

"I listened and listened, first to what you heard, then to the new data as it became available. And when I'd beaten my intellect-head against the wall enough, I finally stopped listening with my forebrain and started listening with my old, reptilian brain. And I heard despair.

"It is despair so profound that it throws off echoes. And it is these echoes that the molecules reflect. THANK GOODNESS, I quickly add; if we heard the original, we might all be looking for a cliff or a razor blade."

"What in pluperfection does all that have to do with hacked prayer?" Mason queried.

"Making a long story criminally short, our prayer—human prayer—is largely based on yearning, yearning for what is not and may not be meant to be. When we pray most sincerely, our yearning achieves action-at-a-distance COMMUNICATION. With…" and Claire cleared her throat and looked defiant, "…GOD."


A general derisive scoffing ensued.

"SHUT UP and listen!" Claire shouted.

"I didn't say God exists. But there is something to thought, to a specific KIND of thought, that seems to transcend Matter-Energy. When someone really, REALLY wants something, the whole Universe can hear that yearning: it goes everywhere, infinitely fast. And the Titan entity has found a way to receive that information.

"The molecules, the echoes, are obvious in the cold ammonia sea. They are also here on Earth, but temperature, pressure, and chemical mix make them much more subtle. But the 'new tech' I mentioned has found a trace of them here.

"Claire, how do you know they're hacking OUR prayers, and not their own?" asked Alex, whose small voice indicated he was mostly convinced that Claire was right.

"The echoes come in flavors, Alex. I can't explain it yet, but human prayer tastes different from Titanic prayer. Thank goodness for THAT, too: their yearning makes ours look like sunny daydreams.

"And that's why we're being hacked, by the way. They like us; they think we're cheery and cute.

"And—God-or-Whoever help us—they want to pay us a visit…"

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