Themes: Horror, Demons, Suspense
It came in the night. A rage-filled howl shattered the peaceful air of the valley, screaming its promise of pain and death. Zihao’s eyes flew open. He pushed himself up from his futon and grasped the hilt of his sword. Fear clawed at his stomach; he fought against it, and won.
He slid down the ladder from his treetop hut. The demon’s taint was in the air, oily, charred, a bitter stench of fire and blood. It was faster than Zihao had imagined; piercing screams told him it had already reached the village.
She felt it before she saw the first clouds shadowing the horizon. The gentle breeze changed swiftly, picking up speed, gusting through her feathers, urging her, fly! fly!
“Storm!” she screeched as she wheeled through the turbulent currents. “Storm!”
A thousand others took up her call, joining her dance on the swirling zephyrs. Far below, in the rocky cove, hunting seals heeded the call and moved to the safety of the shingle beach.
“Storm!” she screamed at the floating wooden animal beneath her. But the pale-faced creatures standing on it merely waved up at her, deaf to her warning.
Every other Sunday I’ll be publishing a drabble about, or from the perspective of, a bird. This week’s bird is the ubiquitous Gull. What’s so special about the gull, you ask? Here are three facts which you may not know about this noisy, often annoying family of birds:
- Gulls can drink salt water! Their exocrine glands allow salt to be excreted through their nostrils, so whilst drinking salt-water is a big no-no for you and me, gulls manage quite well.
- Gulls are monogamous, and their mating bonds usually last throughout their entire lives. In this, they do better than some humans!
- Hybridisation between some species of gull is quite common, making gull taxonomy a particularly tricky subject.
I like to imagine that to the first European settlers reaching America’s shores, the sight of gulls nesting along the coast would’ve been a measure of comforting familiarity in an otherwise strange and dangerous land.
To view previous bird-related drabbles, click “A Bird’s-eye View” above, or select it from the Short Stories section of the menu at the top of the page.
Themes: Science-Fiction, God, War
“Are we doing the right thing?” Fran’s voice quavered around the laboratory. “He’s been gone for so long. What if we can’t bring him back? What if something goes wrong? So much has changed since he was last awake—”
“We’re doing the right thing,” Miner broke in. Brows furrowed, he stared at the computer terminal as his fingers danced over the holographic keyboard.
As she watched his fingers work, Fran marvelled at a new thought: when Adam had last been around, there had been no holographic keyboards. No holographic technology at all! How strange the world would seem to him now.
Themes: Fantasy, Fairies, Myth
Mother and babe slept soundly, she beneath a grey blanket and the child nestled in a crib at the foot of the bed. The glass of the bedroom window pane fogged with the heat of Saoirse’s breath as she stared in at the pair. The sleeping woman was fair and beautiful, exactly Odhran’s type. He always picked the finest mortals to bear his offspring.
Saoirse shifted, working feeling back into cold muscles. The plates of her dragon-scale armour flexed to allow movement, and she subconsciously brushed her fingers along the hilt of her starfire blade.
In her poem, “Superpower”, Jade M. Wong asks (probably rhetorically):
If you could have any superpower,
What would your superpower be?
And because I’m one of those contrary people who immediately has to answer rhetorical questions, I thought I would answer in verse!
Source: [Poetry] Superpower
If I could have a superpower
A power of any kind
Without a doubt, I think I’d pick
The power to read your mind
I’d use my power for selfish reasons
To get ahead in life
Win millions on TV gameshows?
Hell yes, I’d do it blithe
But I think, as well, I’d use my gift
To try and do some good
That coma victim, now her family know
How she sends them all her love
Fiction’s greatest crime detectives
Would have nothing on me
“Miss Scarlet with the axe, your Honour?
She thinks we didn’t see”
And come to me for help rehoming
Unwanted dogs and kids
“No sir, they wouldn’t treat ’em right
Don’t listen to their fibs”
Then I would make a name for myself
Tell folk what they already know
“Of course he’s cheating, look at his face!”
On the Oprah Winfrey show
At the end of the day I’d go to bed
Knowing I’ve done my best
Sure, I can lead a horse to water
But change is up to the rest.
Themes: Horror, Documentary, Mythology
Season 1, Episode #8: The Wild Life
Co-hosted by Dr. Cynthia Wessler and Dr. Dave Kydel
Cynthia: Ask a man to name a fearsome animal, and you’ll likely hear Great White Shark or Box Jellyfish, perhaps Funnel-web Spider or some variation of Bear. Admittedly, they’re all great contenders for the world’s top spot in the fearsome animal category. However, Dr. Kydel and I have travelled all the way out to the depths of the Amazon Rainforest to introduce you to a creature that’s sure to start featuring quite heavily on that list.
Dave: As you may know, habitat loss in the Amazon basin is responsible for forcing animals into conflict with humans. Once, jaguar sightings were rare, but now the predatory large cats prey daily on children from local villages. However, there is one creature that has only just begun to emerge from the depths of this south American jungle, and that creature is the Cannileech.
Themes: Noir, Crime, Detective, Parody
Word Count: ~550
Detective Kitty Salva ran a manicured fingernail across her bottom lip as she contemplated the pile of char steaming on the bed in front of her. Some enterprising junior investigator had drawn a white chalk line around the pile, and every few seconds a few fragments of charcoal would trickle down in a black avalanche, blurring the white chalk to grey.
The sole witness to the… incident? Crime? Kitty wasn’t sure yet. But the sole witness, the baker’s wife, was currently exercising her right to be a crumpled, sobbing heap. Kitty couldn’t blame the woman. Hard enough to see a man burned alive. Harder when that man was Mayor of Yew Nork City. Harder still when the mayor was your lover, and your husband didn’t know about your affair. Kitty’s sympathy ended right there. As soon as Box News got wind of this, Mrs. B. Aguette would become famous for all the wrong reasons.
In 1966, James Brown sang “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”—a song which goes on to detail the various accomplishments of men, such as inventing the electric light and making toys for unhappy children. Women and girls get a mention too, but only as a prop for supporting man’s ego whilst he does all of his inventing.
We’ve come a long way since 1966. Though sexism is still a global issue, and women are in some places and cultures considered inferior in many ways to men, considerable progress has been made. In many countries, women can—and are actively encouraged to—study subjects which would previously have been denied to them; subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Time to take a look at James Brown’s song and see how it holds up 51 years after it was originally recorded. Let’s take a look at some of women’s accomplishments over the years:
“You see, man made the cars to take us over the road”
Sarah Guppy made the suspension bridges which carry the cars (and the roads on which they are driven) over the gaping chasms.
“Man made the train to carry the heavy load”
Marie Curie. Need I say more?
“Man made electric light to take us out of the dark”
Serious illness can put you in a dark place, but those dark places are a little brighter thanks to Gertrude Elion advancing drug treatments for leukemia and organ transplant rejection.
“Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark”
Ellen H. Swallow Richards was a pioneer in water sanitation standards. Think of her the next time you’re pouring yourself a cup of delicious germ-free tap water.
“Man thinks about our little bitty baby girls and our baby boys
Man made them happy, ’cause man made them toys”
Chemistry was child’s play for Rosalind Franklin, the woman who discovered the double helical structure of DNA.
“And after man make everything, everything he can”
But is man as prolific as Dr. Giuliana Tesoro, who held 125+ patents in her lifetime?
“You know that man makes money, to buy from other man”
No list of remarkable women in science would be complete without Stephanie Kwolek, whose Kevlar keeps men (and women) safe on the streets and in war zones, so that they can come home and continue the cycle of purchasing!
International Women’s Day is about celebrating the successes of women, raising awareness of gender inequality, and pushing towards greater equality in all aspects of life. Remember, women aren’t just 49.6% of the world’s population; they’re also mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters, cousins and friends. They’re teachers and innovators, doctors and and soldiers—you name it, women are doing it.
Even if you’re not involved in IWD activities in your local community, there’s still plenty you can read online. Check out the official IWD website and #BeBoldForChange, and have a look at some fascinating statistics related to gender inequality on the UN’s IWD homepage. If you’d like to learn more about women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, check out any of the links in my list above. You might be surprised by some of the stories you read.
Personal Log: Captain Aloysius Wren
There’s a saying my great-grand-pappy liked to churn out when things weren’t going his way: Up shit creek without a paddle. It’s a saying I’ve only had to use three times in my life—until today. As figures of speeches go, it’s a pretty damn apt one right now.
I’ve nobody to blame but myself. Shouldn’t have tempted fate by taking a shortcut through the Voltire Nebula. Ten days off our journey versus the possibility of crossing paths with pirates. Sounded like a no-brainer at the time. Figured we could sneak past any smuggling ports or listening posts. Avalon’s small and quiet. Should’ve been easy, but I guess someone looked out the window at the wrong time and made a visual on us.