Sullivan’s Ark – Flash Fiction Piece
Friday. Chuck Wendig. Flash Fiction. If you don’t already know what this means, click here.
Today’s challenge is to pick one of the winning ‘last lines’ of a story, and make it into the first line of a flash fiction piece. Mine’s actually a tiny excerpt from a long-time WIP that’ll probably never amount to anything because I have a billion other things I’m working on and like better. But I hope you enjoy this anyway!
(For the record, I say it’s an excerpt, but it’s only ever been in my head until now. This ‘excerpt’ was supposed to be a part of the second book which will never materialise, and hasn’t been committed to word processor until this moment)
She closed the book and watched as it turned to dust. A piece of ancient history, now nothing more than crumbs of paper. Very little from The Before lasted long. All she and her people had of that time, now, was stories. Words which were spoken could never crumble.
Genna left the cold metal table, and returned to the hole she’d found which had granted her access to this place. She crawled back through the dark tunnel, retracing her short chthonic journey to her own home. As she poked her head out of the hole, the merry blue-domed sky of Ark greeted her, and she checked the position of the sun. It was visible through the dome as a disc of orange which tracked unerringly through the sky, and right now it was about an hour off over-head. She had time, yet, before her parents would expect her back.
Leaving the rolling fields and crystal clear springs of Ark once more, she crawled back through the tunnel, conscious of how much colder it was when she hauled herself out on the other side. Colder, and darker. If it wasn’t for her nightstick, she doubted she would have seen much of anything, and she definitely would have missed the book.
For six weeks she had been coming here, exploring this place, but she had yet to find anything of interest. The stories of her people said that this had once been the heart of Ark, the place where the dome got all its power from. What that meant, Genna did not know. This place had been buried by earth long ago; the result of a land-movement, perhaps?
She followed a yellow line on the wall into a room she’d never visited before. It was empty, save for a large rectangle, and she stood on her tiptoes, placing her hands on the top of it to try and pull herself up. That’s when something happened. The rectangle became bright, like the sun, and light filled the room from small circles in the ceiling above. A humming sound started which hurt her ears, and she dropped her nightstick so she could cover her ears with her hands.
Mist, of all things, began to spill forth from the rectangle, which was separating into two halves, and a body became visible. As the mist parted, the body opened its eyes and the rectangle moved of its own accord, tilting onto its end. A man looked around the room, then stepped out of the tomb-like structure.
Genna gasped. She had never seen the man before, but she had seen his likeness. He was the Sullivan, the creator! His image was cast in stone in the very centre of her village, but nobody had known exactly who he was, where he had come from, or where he had gone. The Sullivan’s hair was white, his face a crater-valley of wisdom-lines, and his eyes, milky-blue, focused on Genna. She bowed her head.
“Forgive me, Sullivan, for intruding on your resting place,” she said.
The Sullivan chuckled. “Resting place? Sounds rather grim. No need to apologise. I assume the situation’s dire, otherwise you wouldn’t have woken me. Is it that damned generator? Adam warned me the Mark III might not be up to the job, but I have higher hopes.”
“I’m sorry, Sullivan,” she replied, head still bowed in fear and deference, “but I do not know any Adam or Mark.”
“What’s your name, girl?”
“Well, Genna, how can you not know who Adam is? Adam Burgess. He designed the nuclear generator which runs this ark.”
“There is a man named Burgess at the village.” She dared to look up at the Sullivan. “But his name is Tenvar.”
“Tenvar? What the hell kind of name is that? Sounds Indian.”
“I don’t know what Indian is,” she admitted.
“Huh.” The Sullivan scratched at his craggy chin. His body looked rather small, now that she’d gotten used to it. Sort of… frail. In an elderly way. “Well, I suppose the stasis unit did its job. This Tenvar chap must be a grandson of Adam, perhaps. Tell me, Genna, have the communications teams managed to establish contact yet with the other arks?”
“Other arks?” she asked, completely confused. What did he mean?
“Ah, I see. Perhaps you should take me to an adult.” Genna nodded. Yes, that sounded for the best. “Before we leave, though, tell me; what year is it?”
“I don’t understand,” she admitted. What was ‘year’? All she knew was Ark. Everything was the same, in Ark. Each day like the one before it, and the one which would follow it.
The Sullivan shook his head. “Kids today. VAL, what date is it?”
A woman’s voice spoke up from nowhere, and Genna cowered in fear. “The year is 3056, Professor Sullivan.”
The Sullivan sank to the ground, his face almost as white as his hair. His mouth moved, but no words came out.
“Sullivan!” Genna ran to his side. “Are you ill?”
“A thousand years.” His words were a whisper. “It’s been over a thousand years since I stepped into this stasis unit. Everybody I know… the scientists, the best and brightest minds of our time… gone.” He grabbed at her arm, his grip painfully tight. “What went wrong? The volcano erupted; we all saw it on TV. The computer was supposed to let us know when conditions outside the arks became habitable once more. The generator was never supposed to last this long!”
Genna shook her head. Her people’s ancient stories told of a volcano, and a man named Sullivan who had built the Ark to save them. But that was all she knew, and none of Ark’s two-thousand people had ever been outside the dome. To leave the dome was death. Everybody knew that.
“Come on,” she said, helping Sullivan to his feet. “I’ll take you to my father. He’ll know what to do.”