Welcome to flash fiction… Monday? Well, I’m a little off-schedule at the moment. Spent all weekend replacing one of the atmospheric engines on the ol’ spacecraft, and then the cloaking device started glitching, so I had to go pick up a spare from Tau Ceti IV. Dull trip. Very dull.
Anyway. Normally I do storying on a Friday, but this week I couldn’t make my abduction story fit in with Chuck Wendig’s prompts (*shakes fist at Mr. W*) so I’ll see how it goes next Friday, and if it still won’t fit I will WRITE IT ANYWAY! Because I am 12% rebel.
In the meantime, here’s a small flash-fic I wrote for another challenge, the topic of which was ‘escape.’ This piece was inspired by something that happened in the office today, so if we were still inventing something-punk, this might be officepunk.
But it’s not.
Just Press Send
Gilbert straightened the tie of his suit and stepped into the offices of M.K. Insurance Services. It was his second week on the job, and he was still trying to make a good impression with his boss, Mr. Potts. It wasn’t an interesting job, or an exciting job; twice a day he did a coffee run to the Starbucks on the corner (but always the east corner, never the west corner, because Miss Sandringham didn’t like the way the west corner Starbucks frothed up their cappuccinos), and when he wasn’t fetching coffee he was filing away documents (alphabetically, which suited him fine, because numerical systems confused him) and sending the occasional fax to the Finance team downstairs, or Head Office, or sometimes even The Police.
No, it wasn’t the best job in the world, nor the most glamourous, nor the best-paying job either. But it was a job, and so far he was coping with it. Ever since he’d left school, it was difficult for him to keep a job. He’d never been the brightest student, achieving below-average grades even though his attendance record was perfect. He didn’t really like Maths, computers confused him, and though he enjoyed English, he’d struggled to understand what was going on in some of the books that had been set as school exam pieces.
Inside the office, he took the elevator to the fourth floor, to the Customer Service department where he worked. It was a small team; just Mr. Potts, Miss Sandringham and Gilbert himself, and Gilbert enjoyed the quietness of the office, except when Mr. Potts was shouting at a customer. He did that a lot. Customers, he said, were like plagues of rats; the moment you got rid of one, another came along.
Gilbert was first in the office. He was always first. He made a point of being here before the rest of the team to show that he was Eager and Dedicated. He’d put those things on his CV, so it seemed only right that he do the things that it said on paper. If something was written down, you had to obey it. That’s why laws were written down, and safety instructions. Because if you didn’t do what it said on paper, you could get into trouble. His mam had told him that, when he’d been just six years old.
“Morning, Gil,” said Mr. Potts. He came striding into the office, grey hair slicked back, navy suit all freshly ironed and smelling of expensive cologne.
“Morning Mr. Potts,” Gilbert. He didn’t particularly like being called Gil, but Mr. Potts was The Boss, and you did not argue with The Boss.
“I have to attend a meeting with the head of Marketing,” said Mr. Potts, and he handed a piece of paper with numbers all over it to Gilbert, who tried not to flinch at the sight of all those digits. “Fax this down to Finance then fetch the coffees. I’ll be back in half an hour.”
Mr. Potts disappeared with his shiny briefcase, and Gilbert turned to the fax machine. He didn’t like computers, but the fax machine was okay. You just dialled the number and pressed send.
0–2-0–8–2–5–5–2–3–5–6 — SEND
Gilbert jumped out of his skin at the sound of the voice coming from the fax machine. It was bleeping ominously. It didn’t usually bleep like that.
“Hello? Is anybody out there? Can anyone hear me?”
“Miss Sandringham?” he asked.
“Hello? Hello? If there’s somebody there, please pick up!”
With no better idea, he picked up the receiver on the side of the fax machine and held it to his ear.
“Hello? Miss Sandringham? It’s me, Gilbert.”
“Oh, thank God! Listen, Gil, you have to help me!”
“Where are you?”
“I’m inside the fax machine.”
Gilbert’s eyes widened, and he took a step back, almost dropping the receiver in the process.
“How did you get inside there, Miss Sandringham?”
“I was using the fax before I left the office last night, when I got sucked inside. I’ve been in here for hours! My roommate must be so worried about me not coming home… God, I hope she hasn’t called the police. Listen, Gil, you’ve got to get me out of here.”
Gilbert, recognising the difficulty of getting someone out of a fax machine after they’d been sucked inside, began shifting from foot to foot, trying to decide what he should do. What if he made the problem worse, and got Miss Sandringham stuck in there forever? He’d definitely lose his job over that.
“Um, Mr. Potts will be back in half an hour. We should wait until he comes back.”
“But I’m so cold and alone, and it’s so dark in here. Please, Gil, I want to be free. If I have to wait another minute, I swear I’ll go insane.”
“But Mr. Potts said I have to go for coffee!” he wailed. Why did these things always happen to him?
“No, don’t leave!! Please! Yours is the only voice I’ve heard since last night. Please don’t leave me alone in here.”
“Okay, Miss Sandringham. I don’t know how to get you out, but I won’t leave you alone.”
“Thank you. Will you… sing me a song? To cheer me up?”
“What should I sing?”
“Do you know ‘I’m a little teapot’?” Miss Sandringham asked. “It was my favourite when I was a child.”
He did know it, and as he broke out into the first verse, he heard Miss Sandringham crying. The poor woman. Her sobs sounded almost like choked-back laughter, but of course, nobody would be laughing if they got trapped inside a fax machine.
When he reached the end of the song he sat down beside the fax machine and started again. He would sing for as long as Miss Sandringham was stuck in there. He just hoped Mr. Potts wouldn’t be angry when he got back from his meeting and found no coffee waiting.
In case you were wondering, the incident in the office involved someone sending a fax, and a girl on the other end picking up the receiver and saying “Hello? Hello? Hello???” each time sounding more and more desperate, to the point where I thought, ‘My god, she’s actually stuck inside the thing.’
…you had to be there.
Hello and welcome. Today’s Friday Flash Fiction Challenge, courtesy of cornpunk creator Chuck Wendig, is to click a ‘random title’ link, pick a title that tickles your fancy, and write a flash-fic based on it.
Today’s story is the fourth instalment of my abduction trilogy (now a tetralogy, I suppose). I hadn’t intended for the story to last this long, but I have fun writing it, and apparently people have fun reading it, so I hope this latest addition doesn’t disappoint. It’s more dialogue-heavy than most of my other pieces.
Anyway, I’d like to know what you think! (This comes in at 1000 words exactly)
The Days Out of the Body
I woke up. That, in itself, isn’t unusual. After all, I wake up on most days, unless I’ve gotten overly familiar with a bottle of scotch, or overdone the codeine. Both are known to happen, from time to time.
No, it wasn’t the waking that was unusual, but the fact that this is the second, or possibly third, time that I’ve awoken today. And I’ve woke up on an alien spacecraft.
The little fuzzy purple alien is looking at me, each of its three eyes blinking in turn as it watches me push myself to my knees and wibble incomprehensibly a bit as my brain attempts to catch up with my body. Since my body is probably orbiting the Earth at 90,000 feet, it takes a few minutes.
“What happened?” I ask eventually.
You passed out, the alien thought at me. Your shell had almost reached its termination point.
“Is that just alien-speak for ‘you’re dying’?” I demand. Anger bubbles inside me. The aliens have been taking me from my bed since I was seventeen years old, and now they’re about to take my life. Granted, it’s a pretty shitty life, full of weird places and cheap scotch, but it’s the only life I’ve had and I’m proud of all I’ve done with it. Do you know how hard it is to keep a steady job when you wake up in different parts of the world three or four times per year? ‘Oh, sorry I’m late Mr Jones, but I’m in Andorra,’ just doesn’t really cut it as an excuse for not being at work.
“What have you done to me, you little purple bastard?!” I lunge for the alien, but suddenly, it’s no longer there, and I’m looking at empty space. Or rather, looking at what I suppose are stasis chambers, housing the myriad ‘shells,’ as my abductor calls them.
I have done nothing which you have not volunteered for, the alien thinks. I turn, and find it standing behind me. I really want to punch its lights out, but my motor control is still a bit wobbly. I suspect I might fall over if I try for another grab.
“You’re trying to tell me I signed up for this?” I scoff. Damn alien’s crazier than me.
Yes. Exactly. You and I are the crew of this ship. It blinks its green eye at me. Our mission was to come to Earth and observe the humans. To preserve as much of their lives as possible. To achieve this, your consciousness was downloaded from your body into a shell. This was the first. The alien lays a purple fuzzy hand on the stasis chamber of the Neanderthal man. Each shell is given false memories of a childhood, but is sent to Earth whole, in adult form. They only last twenty Earth-years. Thirty at most, if we’re lucky. Then we have to download you into a new shell.
I stand up and look at the hundreds, nay, thousands of stasis pods lining the walls of this cavernous room.
“Bullshit,” I say. “You expect me to believe I’ve been all of these people?”
It is the truth. You have been many things, over the past thousands of Earth-years. You have been an Emperor, a Queen, a priestess of Ma’at, a Roman soldier, a Greek physician, a Chinese philosopher, an Anasazi chieftain, an African-American slave, a Victorian Eunuch, a—
“Whoa, slow down, fluffy. I was a Eunuch?”
Well, a Castrato. A very famous singer, as a matter of fact. The alien looks apologetic. It was your idea.
I rub my fingers against my aching head. “Alright. Say I believe this. Any of it. Answer me this; Why? Why come here, and have me pull the strings of some marionette shell? Why abduct me from my frigging bed?!”
All good questions. The alien blinks each of its eyes in turn. I think it’s trying to decide which question to answer first. The reason why we do this is simple. Our species… you could call us chroniclers, I suppose. Galactic archivists. We preserve the historical and sociological aspects of primitive species.
“Why? The folks back home get their jollies watching Fred Flintstone bash Wilma over the head with his club and drag her back to his cave for sweaty caveman sex?”
Do you have any idea how many sentient species die in their infancy? The alien asks. I don’t know whether the question is rhetorical, so I keep my mouth shut. The answer is ‘a lot.’ And it’s not just in this galaxy; it’s in all galaxies. So, millions of years ago, we took it upon ourselves to preserve as much of these species as possible. So that some record of them exists. So that in another million years, those which survive their infancy and make it into space, can see what we have created and continue our mission.
Despite the warmth of the ship or whatever, I shiver. I’ve never been much of a believer in God, but these aliens sound as if they’re playing at being the big creator fairy in the sky. I wonder what the Pope would say, if he could hear all of this.
“Okay,” I say, feeling like I’ve just managed to wrap my head around what Fuzzy’s telling me. “So you send someone down to the planet all incognito to watch what’s happening… then what?”
Several times per year, you are returned to the ship and your memories of your time on Earth backed up in case of critical brain-failure.
“Oh. Right. Of course.” Critical brain-failure. I should have guessed. “So, you’ve got my millennia of memories. I get that. I don’t really believe it all right now, but I get it. So… what’s with the collections of dead-people stuff?”
Ahh. Yes, that. I was rather hoping you wouldn’t ask about that, just yet. The alien blinks its red eye, and turns to the door. Please follow me.
Today is Friday, which means Chuck Wendig mysteriously pulls an idea for a flash-fiction challenge out of some mysterious hat of mystery, and other people write things.
The theme of today is “something-punk”. So that I may continue my story from the past two weeks, I have created abduction-punk. I hope you enjoy it.
Half-way to Home O’Clock
My eyes flicker open.
I expect to see all sort of strange torture-technology; probing devices, mechanical arms terminating in saws and drills, little grey men wearing hygienic surgical masks and wielding 12-inch needles.
I don’t expect the comfortable bed. I don’t expect the same faded pinstripe wallpaper I’ve been falling asleep to since I was fourteen years old. I don’t expect the Dark Phoenix poster fixed tenuously to the wall by clear tape. It looks like my room. It smells like my room (40% damp, 20% unwashed clothes, 40% last week’s decomposing pizza—so sue me, I’ve been in Guatemala of late, and it’s not like I can afford a maid). I’m not used to waking up in my room after an abduction, though. Aliens are inconsiderate bastards. So, just to make sure, I perform a visual scan.
Clock on the wall which is always four minutes slow no matter how many times I set it; yes, that’s mine. Curtains of differing lengths because my poor old mom couldn’t sew to save her life; check. Decrepit alarm-clock on the chest of drawers which sounds like an air-raid siren when it’s going off; it used to make my neighbours nervous, until they realised our town didn’t have an air-raid siren. Strange purple alien stuffed toy in the corner; new, but feasibly mine. Ancient oak wardrobe with a wonky door—
At that moment, the purple alien stuffed toy moves. It walks forwards, its three eyes watching me, and I notice it has eight fingers on each hand. I close my eyes, and utter a magical mantra to myself; thisisn’trealthisisn’trealthisisn’treal.
I open my eyes again. And it’s real.
The alien is standing beside my bed, all of three feet high and covered in fluffy fur, like some sort of Ewok that’s been maliciously tie-dyed by hippies. It has no ears that I can see of, and each of its eyes, spaced evenly in its head, are a different colour; one green, one blue, one red. I say the first word which come to mind.
“Wagh!” I utter, as I shoot backwards across my bed, scurrying like a terrified four-legged spider.
Do not be afraid, I hear, though the alien hasn’t opened what I assume to be its mouth. I will not hurt you.
“You’re an alien!”
That is relative.
“And you’re not green or grey! Aliens are supposed to be green or grey!” I realise that I’m pointing at the alien, making wild and hysterical claims, but I don’t care. This one fact I know; aliens are not supposed to be purple. And I cling to that fact as my lifeline.
I could change my external colour if you would feel more comfortable with green, the alien thinks at me, its blue eye blinking slowly.
I laugh, because I’m crazy. I’m talking to an alien, so I must be crazy.
“More comfortable? Do you know what would make me feel more comfortable? Not being abducted from my bed several times a year and not being dumped halfway across the goddamn Earth! And what are you doing in my bedroom?!” Not that I regret the Phoenix poster. She’s hot.
This is not your bedroom. It is a replica of it. I thought it would make the transition easier for you. It has always helped in the past.
“What transition? And what past? I’ve never been here before. I mean, well, I’ve been here, but I’ve never been here. If you know what I mean.” The alien looks at me in what I think may be a curious manner. I can’t blame it. I’m not even sure I know what I mean.
You have questions. You always have questions. Before I answer them, however, I will tell you of our history, because this will answer many of the questions you have, although it will inevitably raise more. It always does.
“I’ll listen,” I say, “but no funny business. I can do karate, you know.”
You attended four lessons when you were nine years old, and quit after you broke your little toe, said the alien, with its weird brain-voice. It didn’t sound particularly impressed.
“How do you know that? Did you download that information from my head?”
Quite the opposite. I uploaded it into your head in the first place.
I blink. “Come again?”
I know of your memories because I am the one who created them. You are not actually a human being; the body you inhabit is merely a shell, and it is not the first shell you have occupied.
I realise I’m not the only one who’s nuts around here. Maybe the little purple alien is high on space rocks, or maybe this is just their M.O. – how they get humans to fall for their lies.
“I’ve heard enough. Send me back home,” I demand.
The alien… sighs. You are home. Come with me, and I’ll show you what I mean.
I don’t trust the alien, but I don’t have many options. I can stay here in this facsimile of my bedroom and stare at my Dark Phoenix poster, or I can follow the purple guy and maybe get some answers. And as much as I enjoy the curvy hotness of the Phoenix, I’ve been looking for answers since I was seventeen. I follow the alien out of my room, or my not-room, whichever it is, and down a long, dark, eerily lit corridor.
We come to a room that reminds me of display-case cavern, only this time it isn’t items displayed, but people. It’s like walking into a cheesy costume store; there’s everything here from Victorian ladies to toga-wearing Romans, from Native Americans to scantily-clad Pygmies.
I shiver in my bunny PJs. Despite the fact that these people seem to be sleeping peacefully, there’s a macabre feel about the whole thing, like I just walked into an alien version of Madame Tussauds. I hate mannequins and their ilk; they give me the heebs.
“What is all this? Did you abduct these people?”
The alien shakes its head and blinks its red eye. These are not people. These are shells. Specifically, they are your shells. You don’t recognise them now, but these are all the people you have been. These are your past lives on Earth.
I stand in front of one; a man with a heavy brow, wearing a fur loincloth and carrying a cudgel. An ancient Neanderthal man. It’s laughable. Ridiculous. It looks like some museum display piece. But as I stand there, a flash of something comes to me; I see a herd of huge, red-furred elephant-like creatures—mammoths, I realise—slowly cross an endless plain of golden dried grass, and I suddenly know what these flashes of visions are.
They’re my memories.
Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge? Check.
Today I used this link to generate the following scenario:
The story starts when your protagonist wakes up in the wrong bed.
Another character is a pilot who is hiding a body.
The result is me using all I’ve ever learnt about Spanish from the TV in a story called…
This Abduction’s Bed
I get abducted by aliens.
Most people laugh when I tell them that.
It happens three or four times per year. I’m taken from my bed, beamed up or whatever to the mothership, possibly probed, and then returned to the Earth. The problem is, aliens—my abductors, at least—aren’t particularly choosey about where they return me to. First time it happened I woke up in France. I don’t speak French, and I hate snails, so that was a challenge for me. Second time it was Australia, and then Japan, and then Uzbekistan; if you’ve heard of it, you’re already doing better than me. I didn’t know the damn place even existed, until I woke up there.
Have you ever been to Guatemala? I hadn’t either, before today, when I woke up in a goddamn temple, of all things. I kid you not. Opened my peepers and found myself lying on some bloody stone slab in what looked like an Indiana Jones set. I suppose I’m lucky there weren’t any snakes around… or tourists. I hate tourists. Didn’t used to, but that’s what happens when you’re forced to become the world’s (probably) first unwilling tourist.
Guatemala’s nice. I’ve managed to find myself a little village, about three hours’ hike through the jungle. Hot, sweaty, trees, birds, you get the idea. Don’t know why, but ever since the little grey and/or green men started taking me, I’ve developed homing-pigeon-like senses. All I have to do is think of a place, and I know the direction it lies in. Even if I don’t know the name of the place, or anything more about it except “the nearest village that has indoor plumbing.”
Sometimes I wonder if the aliens are downloading information into my head. Maybe I’m their human puppet, dancing on their radio-strings. I really have no memory about what happens once the white light engulfs me, so it’s entirely possible they’ve installed a computer in my brain. Or at the very least, an amazingly clever Satnav.
So I’m sitting just outside this little village, underneath a sort of palm-leaf parasol, sipping what probably passes for a mojito. The locals don’t speak much English (they do, however, understand wild-gesticulation for ‘please give me a mojito’) but I just asked the local barman if guacamole is made in Guatemala and he looked at me as if I was nuts. Though maybe that’s something to do with the fact that I’m still wearing the fluffy bunny jammies I got abducted in last night. Not my fault. I’m sure he would wear fluffy bunny PJs if he had to endure Canadian winters.
As I’ve been sitting here, a little biplane has just pulled up on what they laughably call an air-strip. This is my ride out of here, and not a moment too soon. This mojito tastes suspiciously like snail. Maybe it’s French.
The pilot jumps out of the plane, a tanned guy wearing a straw hat and a pair of shorts with a mango motif on them. This does not instil me with confidence. I like my pilots to wear suits, or at the very least, proper shoes instead of piecemeal leather sandals. But beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose, so I approach him with my best disarming smile.
“You my pick-up, yes?” he asks, in broken English.
“That’s right. Just take me to anywhere with an international airport, and I’ll pay you handsomely.”
“Si, Si. Refuel first, otherwise we go nowhere. Si?”
“Si,” I sigh, wiping the sweat from my brow and wishing my jammies weren’t so stifling. I speak fluent Spanish, now. And French. Even know a few words of Chinese. You pick up these things, when aliens play Russian Roulette with your life.
Curious about the state of the plane, I peer into it, and notice a sole inhabitant within. The guy’s obviously a tourist, white-grey skin, huge black sunglasses perched on his nose, massive straw hat on his head. And, weirdly, he’s opting to stay in the plane whilst the pilot refuels, instead of coming out to sample the local snail-juice. God, he must be baking in there; it’s into the nineties here, and that’s in the shade. Airtight metal fuselage like that is enough to cook meat, in this weather.
Wait a moment. White-grey isn’t the normal colour for human skin.
“Hey, I think this guy’s dead,” I call to the pilot.
“No, no ha muerto. Is alive,” the pilot returns as he hauls a large canister out from behind the bar and over to the plane.
“Loco,” I hear the barman say to the pilot, making the universal sign for ‘crazy’ beside his head.
There’s definitely a strange whiff coming from inside the plane, I can smell it even from here. But I shrug, and wait for my pilot. What do I know? I’m just a tourist.
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.”
Aka, Ramadan! Good luck to all you human beans out there who’ll be spending the next month fasting.
Friday is my favourite day of the week. End of the working week, start of the weekend, and a chance to write a piece of flash fiction without having to come up with my own topic! Yes, it’s time for another of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges.
This week’s challenge involved using an RNG (in lieu of a d10/d20) to pick some stuff from some lists. What I came away with was:
Genre mash-up: Magical Realism and Erotica (argh!)
Must include: A locked door, and A key made of bone.
Fate, right? I randomly generated a locked door and the key for it? Pretty weird!
So, my story. The protagonist is actually a character I made up for a fan-fiction I’m currently writing. Or, should I say, she made herself up and beat me over the head until I promised to put her in a story. I gave her two chapters out of nine, which she was quite happy with, but I thought I’d bring her out of semi-retirement to appear in this little piece. As you can probably tell, I don’t normally write erotica. Or romance. I’m pretty crap at writing anything like that, which probably means I need to write more of it to get better. But anyway, enough ramble. Story. 999 words.
A shroud of thick white mist had descended upon Washington D.C., cloaking the city in a moist, chilly blanket. Men turned up the collars of their coats as they hurried through the streets. It was a night perfect for clandestine meetings, for secret-sharing and exchanges—the fog was a screen, hiding individuals from the prying eyes of others.
The moisture clung to Talon’s skin, hair and black figure-hugging clothes, but she ignored it, her concentration focused on the front door of the building across the street. Even before the fog had rolled in, she’d been in a grim mood. She hated coming here, to America—too many memories for comfort—but she had no say in the matter. She went where MI6 sent her, and today they’d seen fit to send their frog across the pond.
A black sedan rolled up through the fog, coming to a stop in front of the building. Talon stopped slouching against the alley wall, stood up straighter, her eyes straining through the mist to pick up every scrap of detail. A suited man got out of the car, hurried towards the building’s front door, and was admitted by the heavy guarding the entrance.
The car pulled away, disappearing into the white night, and Talon left her watching place in the mouth of the alley. Her footsteps as she crossed the road were quiet, and as she reached the sidewalk she reached out with her mind, touching the thoughts of the door guard. Into his brain she implanted an image; an empty street, nothing to be seen or heard. Withdrawing her mind, she reached for the handle, opened the door, and slipped inside.
The pulsing sound of soft music filtered into her ears, at the same that her nose was assaulted by the floral scent of perfume. She sneezed, and mentally cursed the bloody stuff. Why some women saw fit to drown themselves in perfume, she had no idea; hadn’t they heard of bathing?
Her footfalls were silent as she walked down the carpeted corridors, following the route she’d memorised from the schematics given to her by her handler. As expected, she found herself entering a large open-plan room, and felt a moment of revulsion over the decadence of it.
The sofas peppered around the room were finished in the finest velvet, the tables which held crystal glasses all fine, rich oak, and the single chandelier seemed to be cut from flawless diamonds. Candles in sconces around the room didn’t illuminate, as much as soften the contours of all within. The women wore very little clothing, but what they did wear was sheer silk and satins, exposing maximum flesh and leaving very little to the imagination. Disgusting, thought Talon, but honest. There was only one thing on sale here, and both the girls and their clients knew it. There were no hidden agendas, no thoughts of back-stabbing or blackmailing, no political scheming; just men who wanted pleasure, and women who were paid handsomely to provide it.
A few people noticed her, her black outfit which covered every part of her body except her head marking her clearly as an outside, but before they could speak out in surprise, she insinuated images into their minds, transforming herself within their thoughts into one of the nubile barely-dressed beauties. Men and women alike fell for the illusion, and Talon was free to move around the room at her leisure.
The schematics had been accurate; she found the alcove easily, though it was obscured by a long blue velvet curtain, and tried the door handle. It didn’t budge, of course, but she’d come prepared for that. From a small pouch attached to her belt she took out a small white key, one that had been carved from bone. Human bone. She had no idea where her handler had got it, and she didn’t particularly want to know. The key slid into the lock, and when she turned it, there was a quiet click. Talon smiled, and stepped through the door, closing it behind her.
The back rooms. The music was louder, here, all sensual melodies winding around steady pulsing beats. A strange contradiction; the walls of each room were sound-proof, but the doors were mere wood. Every door she walked past brought a new pair—or sometimes, trio—of voices, of the sound of giggles and slapped flesh, moans of pleasure mounting in volume and speed, each groan and laboured grunt adding to the crescendo of sexual excitement that followed the tempo of the music.
Twenty years’ worth of telepathic training was only barely enough to keep out the thoughts and feelings which assaulted Talon’s mind. Her mental barriers were stressed to their limits as she pushed out the feelings of unrestrained pleasure, the thoughts of what men were doing—and how much more they wanted to do. She focused on her mission, on her objective, on the feeling of the sharp bone key digging into her skin as she closed her fist around it.
Finally, she found the room she’d been searching for; the master suite. Tensing, she kicked the door, flinging it open, but nobody heard. Everybody here was too wrapped up in their own gratification. Even the pair inside the room took thirty seconds to cease their coitus, their sweaty, pounding bodies stilling as they realised they were no longer alone. The woman, shock marring her painted Jezebel face, pulled away from the man, covering herself with a blanket. Her partner leapt to his feet, not even bothering to hide his still-hard erection.
“What the devil do you think you’re doing in here?” he demanded.
“The devil didn’t send me, Senator, but please give him my regards when you see him.”
She drew her gun from its holster, and pulled the trigger.
* * * * *
Three days later, Talon bought a paper from a street-seller, and glanced at the headline. ‘Murder Suicide; Prostitute Kills Prominent Senator, Then Self.’
She smiled, and set off to the airport.
Friday Sunday and time for another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge! This week’s topic: Bad Dads.
Not something I have experience with, so a little outside my regular zone, but I would just like to add, for any Marvel employees reading this, it is totally a work of my own creation and absolutely not inspired in any way by any psychotic anti-hero origin stories. Please don’t sue me.
Her Dying Wish
Wayne Milton laughed, a happy, unrestrained sound, as musical as the glass which shattered and fell tinkling to the hard concrete ground. The laughter was infectious; it spread from him to Two-Knives Tommy—eldest of the gang at seventeen, and its de-facto leader since he’d kicked the shit out of Mincey (aka, Michael Mincer) three months ago—to little Johnno, the twelve year old baby of the gang, and from there to the rest of the young men who comprised the South Side Skrimmers. None of them knew what a skrimmer was, except that it sounded cool.
“Betcha can’t hit that top one!” said Two-Knives, pointing at the highest window in the abandoned factory; the only one untouched.
“Yeah? Watch!” Wayne said, a grin creeping across his face. He looked around for the right sort of rock. Not all rocks were good for throwing; they had to be the right size, shape and weight to travel any distance. Finally, he found one, and he knew it was the right rock for the job by the way it fit so well into his hand, like it belonged there. He pulled his arm back, moving the balance of his body to one leg, then launched his arm forward, releasing his crude missile. It seemed to fly on wings… but fell several feet short of its mark.
“Haha, crap shot!” Two-Knives mocked, though he himself had never come that close to smashing the window.
“It’s ‘cos my arm’s tired from throwing rocks all day,” said Wayne. “I’ll do it tomorra, before school.”
Two-Knives pulled his face. He’d dropped out of school at fourteen, and fallen off the grid. Social workers didn’t bother going to his family’s house anymore; even when his parents were home, they were too hung over to function. “Let’s see what’s goin’ on at the park,” he suggested.
Wayne nodded. There was usually something to see at the playground. Or at least, usually somebody to antagonise. He liked the feeling that came with making other kids cry, enjoyed seeing them run to their parents with soil in their hair or grazes on their knees. It was vindication for all the times he’d cried himself to sleep alone in his room, his aching sobs going unheeded.
As they walked, the rest of the group fell in line behind Two-Knives and Wayne. The leader produced a bottle of vodka from his bag, taking a swig before passing it on, whilst Wayne pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and sparked up, enjoying the taste of tobacco as he took a long drag. This was the group way; they shared their spoils of war, things they’d stolen from shops and supermarkets, and Wayne knew how lucky he was to have found such good friends. Military families moved around a lot, and he’d only been here five months. Making friends was difficult, but the Skrimmers had accepted him easily enough. Probably helped that he had quick fingers, and a mean left-hook.
By the time they reached the park, Wayne’s mind was buzzing in a warm alcoholic haze, and half the smokes had gone. Two-Knives elbowed him, and nodded at a teenage girl playing with her fluffy white dog near the jungle-gym. Wayne smiled and nodded. A game of keep-away sounded like fun.
Halfway across the park, Wayne froze in terror. That voice. The Skrimmers stopped and looked back, and Wayne risked a glance over his shoulder. His father was storming across the green grass, his face all dark, furious thunderclouds. He was still wearing his USAF uniform, which meant he’d only just got back from work. Trying his best to surpress the terror, Wayne attempted to pocket the packet of smokes, but only succeeded in dropping them on the floor.
The Skrimmers scattered, and Wayne remained frozen on the spot. Even if he’d not been too terrified to move, he wouldn’t have run. He knew that running would have made his father angrier. It was better to stand still and accept what was to come.
“I told you to stay in the house, Wayne,” his father said, bending down and picking up the packet, pushing it angrily against Wayne’s chest. “Instead you steal my cigarettes and spend the afternoon playing truant? Don’t think I don’t know what you’ve been doing, and—is that alcohol on your breath? Have you been drinking, boy?”
Wayne shook his head, but his father grabbed his collar and hauled him out of the playground, frog-marching him down familiar streets. The neighbours stopped and stared, and Wayne was forced to listen to a familiar tirade. So disappointed in you. Irresponsible. Ruin your future. Bring shame to your family name. Vandalism, drinking… ought to call the police.
They reached home, and Wayne was slammed into the front door, winded. Then he was slammed into the wall. He didn’t know at what point the walls became fists; he closed his eyes and tried to block out the pain. His father wanted a response, but Wayne wouldn’t give him one. No response he could ever give would be good enough for Lieutenant Colonel Bradley Milton.
* * * * *
Brad Milton put the flowers on the grave, and crouched down in front of the tombstone. Every time he failed his family, he came here to beg for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry, Mary.” Unshed tears moistened his eyes. “I promised I’d raise our son to be a good man, but every day, I feel like I’m losing a little more of him. I can’t talk to him, I can’t make him see sense… I don’t know what else to do. I wish you were here. You made a better mother than I do a father. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better… next time.”
He kissed his fingertips, touched them to the tombstone, then left. Back home, his son was waiting for him, a living reminder of his greatest challenge, and his greatest failure.
Today’s Friday Flash-Fiction challenge by Chuck Wendig. 20 ‘psychic’ powers were listed, random number generator picked me number 14: Aura Reading.
I admit, I went slightly over the 1000 word limit, but it feels like the shortest piece I’ve ever written. It’s a rough excerpt of a fiction novel idea I’ve been throwing around inside my head for the last couple of years (slightly tweaked to fit the Aura Reading requirement). I don’t know why, but this piece makes me feel sorta grey inside. I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know your thoughts.
Langley Brooks followed the police officer through the bustling halls of the precinct. Business was booming today; the whole building was filled with cops escorting people around, some of them cuffed, some of them drunk, some of them sobbing. It hurt Langley’s eyes to see them all. Vibrant auras danced around them, some held close to the bodies like a mother holding a child to her bosom, other auras expanding out to a distance of a foot or more. Each one was a miniature sun of swirling, ever-changing colour, coming from some unknown source within every person. It was enough to make Langley wish he’d brought his protective dark-glasses, and he cast his eyes down at the floor in an attempt to protect his vision from the aural assault.
This floor was no different to any other police station floor. Tiled. Grey and white alternate stone flags. The cleaners did their best, but the brown patches on the white tiles told a thousand stories. Over here, a drunk had bled from a gash on his head taken when he’d fallen over. Over there, a girl—prostitute, probably, high on coke or heroine—had fought against her restraints which had cut into her skin, showering the floor in crimson drops. In the corner two boys had stood slumped against the wall, sullen and defeated as blood dripped from half a dozen shallow cuts—their knife-fight had not been serious enough to warrant a visit to the hospital.
At least, that was how Langley imagined the brown stains had got there. The yellow ones were easier to judge; vomit. Drunks, most of it. Some of the stains fresher than others. Just like every other station.
He was led by the officer to a door, which had ‘observation room 3’ written on in wonky lettering. Only two other officers were inside that room, plus Langley’s guide, which was a blessed relief. Their auras were smaller, held close, but spikey. That was cops all over; the more experienced they got, the better they became at not showing their auras. The spikes were like tree-rings; one for every year of service. One for every year of seeing the worst in humanity. One for every year working with the no-life drunks, the child-abusers, the drug dealers, the gang-members, the prostitutes and their pimps… the list went on.
The man who approached Langley was familiar to him, and he had the smallest aura, and more spikes, than anyone else in the precinct. His age-lined face looked particularly haggard today, but there was a tiny, fervent light in his brown eyes.
“Langley. Glad to see they sent someone I know.”
“Chief Norton,” Langley replied, a small nod of his head to show his respect. “What have you got?”
Norton turned and looked through the large one-way glass panel. A man was sitting cuffed to the chair in the interrogation room. Langley observed the suspect for a moment; clean-shaven. Well-dressed. His shirt buttoned to the top, but no tie; that, of course, would have been taken by the officers upon his arrest. None of this mattered. It wasn’t what Langley had been brought here for. There was only one thing Norton wanted from him.
“Wife-killer,” Norton said. It was only because his aura had twenty or so spikes in it that he was able to say that without emotion. The colour did shift slightly, though; from dark purple to dark red. His anger was understandable; Norton was a family-man. “He denies it, of course. We have enough evidence to lock him up for life.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Langley replied, glancing at the prisoner one last time before turning his attention to the chief. “You were right to call me. Not a single sign of an aura around him. Nothing at all; not a hint of fear, nor a single thought of regret. He’s an Antipath alright.”
“I knew it!” Those three words were filled with righteous vindication. Norton turned to his lieutenant. “Go and fetch me an X26 form, and alert the on-call doctor. Tell him to bring the injection kit, and then inform the coroner. I’m sure he’ll want to remove the brain for study before the body is incinerated.”
The lieutenant left, as eager to see justice dispensed as his superior officer. Silence reigned for several moments inside the observation room, and then Norton turned to Langley.
“How do you think they do it?” the chief asked him. “How do they slip through the net?”
“I don’t know,” Langley said. The testing of children on their fifteenth birthday was the best method of weeding out the Antipaths—known in previous decades as Psychopaths and Sociopaths—but there were always a few who escaped detection, proving that no system was perfect.
“Well, however they do it, we’ll have one less to worry about after today, thanks to you.”
“May I use your bathroom?” Langley asked.
“Sure, my friend. You know the way.”
Langley left, his body moving on autopilot. The brown stains were a blur as his feet carried him down the cold tiled corridor, to the men’s bathroom. He made it just as a sweat broke out across his brow, and he steadied himself against one of the sinks, glad that the bathroom was devoid of people and their auras.
He turned on the tap and splashed cool water on his face, letting it wash away the sweat. Looking up into the mirror he saw his own empty blue eyes looking back. No aura danced around his body, no nimbus of colours which spoke of his mood. He, like the Antipath he had just condemned to death, was devoid of that spark of humanity.
Where would he be now, he wondered, if the tests administered to him on his fifteenth birthday hadn’t picked up his own Antipathic tendencies? If he hadn’t undergone the rigorous years of training to help him develop and hone his latent Seer ability? Would Norton still call him ‘friend’ if he knew that Langley, too, was an Antipath? Would the ‘normals’ turn on those like Langley, if they learnt that every single Seer was merely an Antipath lucky enough to have been found young enough to train, by the tests?
He didn’t know, and he hoped he never would. With a last look in the mirror, he wiped the water from his face and returned to the observation room. He couldn’t protect a murderer, but he could at least watch as justice was administered to the nameless man. It was a debt Langley owed to him; to all of them. If not for the grace of God and the Antipath Testing Bureau, death by lethal injection might have been his own fate.