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Hawklad
May 3, 2003


Who wants to live
forever?


DIVE!

College Slice

Stasis
2177 words


"It was like time sped up," Josylen says. "One minute they were there, and then it was like....all gross and smelly and, like, fluids and stuff."

"C'mon Joss," Chelsea says. "Those were our parents."

"I know. Sorry. It's hard to think about, you know?"

"Yeah. Let's not talk about it."

"I miss them."

"Me too," Chelsea says. But truthfully? Most of the time they're just faces in a picture frame on the mantle. Three years is a long time when you're ten. A long time to be ten.

Because she's been stuck at ten years old since that day she buried her parents on the hill. Three hard, long years, stuck in time.

Ever since it happened Chelsea keeps waiting for something to change.

But nothing ever does.


#


The water bucket bumps against her knee as she treks back towards the house. It has rained a lot lately, and the cistern is filled nearly to the brim. Enough that Chelsea will be able to draw a small bath later, once the sun has warmed it. A rare treat. They have to be so careful now, so careful about everything. Billy, Josylen's pet goat, has come down with a mysterious sickness and has stopped eating. He just lies in the dirt, drawing shaky breaths as patches of hair fall out and his insides leak from him.

The grain in the cellar is starting to get thin. Chelsea knows she'll have to make another run to town at some point. The thought of it makes her tummy clench. The last time, kids from the grocery store had followed her back and—she steals a glance over to the hill, where two fresh dirt mounds only recently have begun sprouting grassy weeds—well, she had cried for days over what she'd done.

That was life now. Josylen, Marcus, and her. The three of them are her whole world. She's the oldest so she gets to be in charge. She's the protector. It's supposed to be every kid's dream, a life of freedom without grownups telling you what to do. But most of the time? It hard and it sucks.

Josylen comes out the back door holding Marcus's hand. His round face breaks into a wide grin when he sees her coming up towards the house.

'Furs-dee," he says, pointed one stubby finger towards her. "Wah-dur."

"That right, little brother," Josylen says. "I told you she'd be right back." She reaches down and tousles his hair. Chelsea sets down the bucket and Marcus dips his cup into it and takes a big, sloppy drink. He's been getting thinner. At least compared to the rosy, cherub-cheeked toddler he'd been back when everything changed. Of course they're all like that. Life was lean and hard now. They were all thinner.

But not any older.

Marcus was too young to understand what was happening. He didn't remember when the skies rained pink dust, carrying the alien virus to infect the Earth. Chelsea sometimes looked back through the stack of newspapers by the fireplace. It was sad. It reminded her of how the world used to be, with her parents, her friends, school. Easier times. Pictures of concerned politicians trying to calm a panicked population. Scientists, some struggling to unlock a cure, other desperate to communicate with the aliens ships in the sky. Nothing worked.

Then all the grownups died and left them behind.

Chelsea dealt with what was left of their parents. Her parents. She shuts her eyes to chase away the image.

She picks up the water bucket.

"Chore time!" Her voice has a sing-song cadence she doesn't feel inside.

"Aww, Chels, we've just got up," her sister protests.

"Lots to do today. The carrots need thinning, there's trash to scatter, and you wouldn't believe how bad the coop smells."

Josylen wrinkles her nose. "We should just eat one. Chicken would taste so good tonight!"

"We barely have any good layers left, Joss. And you know we need the eggs."

Which reminds her again that they are low on feed, and the chickens don't do well on a diet of just scrap. Another reason to head into town.

Tomorrow, she thinks. Maybe she will go tomorrow. Or the next day.


#


Marcus is down for his afternoon nap and Josylen is sitting at the kitchen table drawing when Chelsea finally gets around to pouring herself that bath. Clay dust seeps from her skin as she sinks into the water, surrounding her with a cloud of dusky copper. There's an old, dry bar of soap in the dish. She slowly drags it across her skin.

Chelsea rubs at the sores on her torso. They itch and burn as the water washes over them. Their growth has been slow but persistent over the past year. She tried using some creams from her parent's medicine cabinet but nothing helped. Probably just some sort of vitamin deficiency, like how pirates used to get scurvy. But the vitamin C pills from the kitchen cabinet haven't helped.

A memory from before arrives unbidden. Her mother, running a warm cloth up and down her back as she sits in this very tub, playing with a plastic shark toy. Chelsea scoops some bubbles from the bathwater and reaches up and dabs her mother's chin to give her a beard. She giggles.

"You look like Colonial Sanders!" And her mother laughs and scoops bubbles onto Chelsea's face.

"My goodness, Chels! You need to shave that beard!"

And they giggle together and her mom wraps her in a warm towel and carries her to bed for storytime. The memory warms her, but it disappears as quickly as it arrived.

Then she is alone in the half empty mildew-stained tub.

Absently, she picks at a sore on her side. This one is larger and more developed than the others. It's the first one and the largest, on the left side of her abdomen. It has a dark black center from which a dab of pus leaks out. Chelsea give is a hard scratch and then looks in alarm as the black spot suddenly doubles in size. The red skin around it twitches, then contracts, squeezing the black part so that it gets pushed out, like a black worm being disgorged from the sore. And that's what it is, a oily black worm that breaks off and starts twisting and spasming in the water.

Chelsea screams.

She jumps out of the tub. The alien thing wriggles its way to the edge and begins oozing up the side of the tub towards her. She smashes it with the bar of soap again and again, until it is just a dark smear slowly leaking back down into the dirty water.

"Chelsea?" Josylen knocks at the door. "Chels are you okay? What happened?"

She gathers a towel around herself.

"I'm okay—I just saw a rat, that's all," she replies, her voice shaky. "I—I'm fine."

Her scream has woken up Marcus in the next room, and she can hear him crying out. Quickly she dries herself with the old towel. Blood is coming from the sore on her abdomen, a tiny hole punctured in her side. She presses the towel against it to staunch the flow.

She looks at herself in the mirror. There are still more sores.

They are spreading.


#


The leaves crunch beneath her tennies as she moves towards the back of the store. It's the middle of the night, and she is a long way from the farmhouse. Her bike and trailer are carefully stashed in the woods at the edge of town in case she needs to make a quick escape. Chelsea tries to calm herself. She's made this trip dozens of times, and only once has there been a problem.

But that was last time, so her hands are sweaty and the shotgun trembles in her grip. Its solid weight both reassures and intimidates her. Chelsea knows she will use it, if she needs to. She's done it before.

Last time.

She doesn't know how many kids are still holed up at the grocery store, how desperate they might be, whether they patrol the streets at night.

For now the streets are quiet save save for the low warble of an owl in the distance.

Chelsea reaches the feed store and pulls softly on the rear door. Rats and other creatures skitter away as the door creaks inward. She moves quietly, filling her satchels from the sealed plastic bins. Oats, cracked corn, chicken , enough to last several months if they ration carefully. The light from the moon filters in through the broken glass windows in the front, and Chelsea can see that someone has been here. Display racks have been knocked over and merchandise is strewn across the floor. And the feed bins are low, almost empty. She has to reach deep to fill her bags.

Worry gnaws at her gut. She hurries out the back door and up the hill to her bike. She stashes the bags in the trailer, and is about the mount for home. An itch in her side stops her.

Another memory, this one from just a few hours before. She is singing a lullaby to Marcus as she puts him to bed, gently rubbing his back.

"Five little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away," she whispers, gently rubbing his back. "Mother duck said quack, quack, quack, quack..." her fingers passed over a tiny, familiar welt and her breath catches sharp in her throat.

"...but only four little ducks came back."

She pulls his shirt up a bit and sees it. Red with a black center.

Just like hers.

Chelsea leans heavy against her bike and sighs. She pictures the pharmacy in town, it's white, gleamings aisles loaded with every type of medicine possible. Surely something there would work on their sores? Kill whatever is growing inside them?

The pharmacy is next door to the grocery store on the far end of Main street. But what choice does she have? She is their protector now. She's in charge.

Chelsea checks that she has a round loaded in the breach and makes her way into the center of town.


#


The pharmacy is dark and quiet as she slips inside. Like the feed store, it has been ransacked many times over. Chelsea heads straight for the counter in the back, where the prescription medications are held, behind the bent metal gate that once separated it from the rest of the store.

Pill bottles are scattered everywhere, most opened, empty. Frantically she scans the shelves for creams or salves, but there is nothing. Someone has been through here and left little behind. Still she searches, trying desperately to read the labels in the dim light. But it's too dark and the labels don't help anyways, so she sets down her shotgun and simply starts tossing everything she finds into her backpack.

She's desperate. Maybe something will work? She can't let her brother and sister down.

She's their protector.

The front door to the pharmacy creaks open.

Chelsea drops flat to the floor. Her heart stops. The shotgun is on the counter behind her. She slides herself towards it, trying hard to make no noise.

"Is anyone here?" she hears a voice. A boy's voice, quavering. Nervous.

She reaches up for the gun. A flashlight beam criss-crosses the empty store.

"I heard you," the voice says. "Don't be afraid."

The cold metal greets her fingertips. The shotgun. She pulls it off the shelf and grips it tight. Memories of what happened last time erupt unbidden in her mind. The recoil of the gun, the flash of red as the shells impacted his young body.

Footsteps approach.

"I know you're here. I won't hurt you. We want to help."

Then he's there, rounding the corner. A flash of recognition. It's a boy she knew, once, from school.

Josiah.

He looks the same as she remembers from Ms. Derrien's class. Of course he does.

She levels the gun at him.

"Wait,' he says. He holds his hands up in the air. "Chelsea? Is that you? Oh my god it is."

She breathes. Lowers the gun slightly.

"Your cheek—" he says.

She reaches up and feels a newly forming welt. Tears corrode her vision.

"I know, Chelsea. You're not the only one. You're not alone."

"My little brother," she begins. "He's sick too."

"So was Charlie. My brother. We didn't know, then. So he....he died. But we can stop it. We have a cure. Promise. Let us help you."

The tears flow freely now. She can't stop them. The gun quivers in her hand.

"There's no cure," she says. "It is growing inside me. It will kill us all."

His face is so hopeful, so innocent.

"No. We can cure it. We used medicine from right here and it works. I—we can teach you. You could join us."

She is their protector. Their everything. But what life is a life alone, afraid?

She takes a leap.

"Okay."

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Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



https://thunderdome.cc/?story=5527&title=Colorado+Star

Djeser fucked around with this message at Dec 28, 2017 around 20:22

Solitair
Feb 18, 2014


Collective Soul
1298 words

(Removed on the off chance I can rework and publish it.)

Solitair fucked around with this message at Dec 28, 2017 around 20:00

Chernabog
Apr 16, 2007



Two and the Same.
2505


Dr. Nisha Khatri let go off the samples, shattering them against the rocky beach into hundreds of pieces. She watched with horror as the world came to an end. The brightness of the explosion faded and an enormous black cloud expanded rapidly across the sky, engulfing the entire Earth in darkness. She held on tightly to a palm tree, bracing for the impervious winds that were sure to follow. The wall of air hit her in full force nearly tearing her away from the tree's bark. When the wind calmed down she finally let go, exhausted.

“We need to get up higher!” Nathaniel yelled.

Nisha nodded instinctively despite knowing he wouldn't be able to see her through that pitch black darkness. She switched on her flashlight and saw him picking up his backpack and rope.

“Let's go,” he said.

They made their way up the mountain as fast as they could manage, though climbing with such a small amount of light had proven to be more challenging than they had anticipated. As they advanced, the sound of crashing water roared louder in the distance.

“I told you we should've gone earlier!” Nisha screamed over the thunderous noise.

Nathaniel didn't reply but he hurried his pace. As the tsunami approached the sound became louder and the sea breeze scent stronger. Had they not chosen to ignore the warnings they might have stood a better chance of surviving the initial nuclear impact. However, they knew that even if they survived the impact, the ensuing radiation would wither and doom the entire Earth.

Nathaniel intercrossed his fingers and helped Nisha climb onto a boulder.

“Give me a hand,” he said as he extended his arm towards her, “just a bit more.”

Nisha lowered her arm but it was too late. The water came crashing down on Nathaniel in a tumultuous rage, swallowing him whole. Nisha was pushed back. The waterline receded quickly and she emerged unscathed.

“Nate! Nate!” She yelled.

There was absolute silence. Nisha scanned the lower levels of the mountain with her flashlight. There, she found Nate, laying over a rock with his head bleeding. She climbed down and put her fingers on his throat. He did not breathe but there was still a pulse. She pinched his nose and began breathing life into his mouth. After a few repetitions he violently coughed the water within his lungs. Finally she bandaged his head wound. She leaned down and kissed his cold lips.


A chirping bird woke her up. The sound was comforting, it meant that at least some animals had survived. She knew that without sunlight they would die eventually, but perhaps some life on Earth would be able to go on; Maybe some bacteria would survive or even some deep sea creatures. Then again they would have to deal with the radiation and the obliterated ecosystems. Life itself was at risk of extinction and it was a shame that no human would be left to study the post-apocalyptic evolution of the remaining species, if there were any.

Everything was still dark. Nisha brushed her wet black hair away from her face and turned on the flashlight. Nathaniel was still on the floor where she had left him; still unconscious, still breathing. She turned around and saw an infinitely long tentacle coming from the sky, it's faint white glow contrasting against the stark blackness of the sky. At the tip of the tentacle was a smooth white orb that slithered across the air towards her. She fell back and screamed.

“What the gently caress is that?”

She grabbed a rock and threw it at the orb. It dodged effortlessly and continued moving towards her. Nisha stood up and sprinted away but tripped on a rock. The impact on her elbow caused blood to trickle down her forearm.

“Leave me alone! What are you?” She said as she turned towards the creature.

The tentacle quickly wove around her like a coil, the orb stopping before her eyes. A face formed on the sphere's surface as if it had been extruded from a ball of clay, an exact replica of Nisha's face.

“What the gently caress is that? Leave me alone! What are you?” the creature repeated.

“That's my face! You don't get to use it,” Nisha protested.

The fake version of Nisha frowned, then released its hold off her and recoiled across the air towards the backpack that lay on the floor. Two tentacles emerged from the back of the head and it began rummaging through Nisha's belongings. It pulled out a camera, inspected it for a moment and tossed it away. Then a pen. It grabbed her logbook and deftly scanned through the pages.

“Knock it off! First you grab my face and now my things,” Nisha said as she caught up to the creature.

The tentacle turned towards her but remained silent and motionless. Nisha hesitated but walked up to face the creature. At that point it wasn't like there was much to lose: she could die to that monster now or in a matter of days to the radiation. A couple of minutes passed bu the creature didn't move or react.

“Well, I don't have time for this,” Nisha said as she abandoned the creature and walked towards Nathaniel. “Maybe I do but it doesn't matter.”

“I have synthesized your language. We may now communicate without impairments.” The creature finally said in a mechanical voice.

Nisha turned.

“What do you want?

The creature remained silent and motionless once again, eyes unblinking. Nisha frowned. The skin of the alien began bubbling like boiling water and a humanoid body was spit out from the underside of the dangling head. It was smooth and glassy and featureless. Even though it seemed functional the creature remained hanging from the sky, still connected to the tentacle on the back of its head. Nisha gagged.

“I apologize for the communication delay. My brain was thousands of light years away, and while I have the means to send information faster than the speed of light it still has its limitations,” the creature said.

“Your brain…. was what? Light years? I don't even know where to start.” Nisha's face held an expression of fascination and confusion.

“Oh yes indeed. I just made a new brain over here. It is located within this fake body.”

“You put what where? Oh, just forget it! Can you like… change to another face? Talking to myself is creeping me out,” she shivered. “And for heaven's sake, can you land on the floor? It looks like you are in the gallows with that thing coming out of your neck.”

The creature's facial features shifted along the orb's surface until they no longer resembled Nisha. At the same time the creature landed on the floor.

“I apologize, mimicry usually works to incite dialogue.”

“It's not mimicry if you do it half-wrong. And stop apologizing…” Nisha paused.

“I don't have a name. I am a brain of the universe.”

“God?”

The alien smiled awkwardly. While its spoken language was perfect its body language was not.

“No. I am sentient but not omniscient. My senses are limited to the reach of my probes, such as the one you saw earlier. You and I are two of the same, I'm just more developed.”

“Oh great!” Nisha, replied. “Well, I'm gonna call your advancedness 'Sen', for sentience.”

Sen made a reverence with a hand gesture Nisha could not recognize.

“So what brings you here anyway?” She continued, “I don't know if you noticed but the Earth is undergoing a bit of an apocalypse.”

“Precisely. My probe caught an energy spike that was unaccounted for. That is usually a sign of intelligence.”

“If you can call this intelligence,” Nisha waved her open palm through the darkness.

“Hm...”

Sen closed its eyes. Rays of sunlight broke through the smoky sky, revealing a second white tentacle that sucked the polluted air around it. A whirlwind of smoke and dust followed its every move as the air began to clear at a steady pace.

“That is amazing! You are siphoning it.”

“Not siphoning, processing. We don't want to remove the atmosphere.”

Nisha nodded.

“Unfortunately I can't do anything about the radiation. The remaining humans will have to wait it out.”

Nisha's face of excitement turned sour.

“So we are hosed either way. I'd be shocked if the nuclear winds didn't poison me already.”

“I apologize, I have done what I can.”

Nisha's dark brown eyes wandered off into the distance. Her analytical mind had always tried to anticipate the future, to stay one step ahead. To be prepared for every probable possibility. But nothing had prepared her for a nuclear war breaking out from nowhere, nobody had been. 'It won't happen' everybody said. 'The leaders know what's at stake'. They sure did.

The reality of the situation was that neither she nor anyone could fix it, apparently not even Sen, an amazing creature that most biologists wouldn’t have even dreamed off. And here she was sulking instead of taking advantage of her last few moments on Earth.

“I know,” Sen interrupted her thoughts, “You have many questions.

“Did you just read my mind? Are you telepathic?”

“No, I have met many other beings around your level of development and they usually think in a similar fashion. Telepathy doesn't exist. And besides, talking is a telepathy of sorts.”

Nisha cupped her chin between her index and thumb.

“Alright, here it is. I am the only one of my species, I don't have a gender and don't reproduce. I do evolve however. While my sentience does not go all the way back to the big bang – that's what you call it here on Earth right? – I can trace back my existence for millions of Earth years. I am quite possibly the oldest and most intelligent being in the entire universe. My body spans across many galaxies. Obviously that is huge for a human, though it is not much in regards to the universe itself. What you see right here -talking to you- is just a diminutive appendage. Every fraction of a second I make millions and millions of computations to ensure none of my appendages run into a star or meteor or black hole. And all those calculations are without considering the sensory data I collect simultaneously. As you can imagine, interpolating your language and speech patterns from the small sample provided is something within my computational possibilities. As a matter of fact, right now I am communicating with several thousand beings across the universe.”

“So you are God,” Nisha replied, “What could you possibly want from Earth? Or from me? I'm not even a spec of dust to you.”

“As I said earlier, I am a brain of the universe. I'm here to experience, anything and everything. And you are too. I know what it is like to feel pain and so I try to diminish it. Unfortunately I don't think I can do anything else for Earth. I cannot bend the laws of physics.”

Nisha lowered her gaze.

“Though I do have an offer to make you. And everyone in this planet who will take it.”

“Go on.” Nisha said.

“I can assimilate you, absorb your body and consciousness into my own. My organism can withstand the radiation.”

“No! That's horrible.”

“I know how it sounds, but you would not die, your mind would still be your own. It would just be integrated into my own. I am like a colony for consciousnesses. Imagine all the planets and galaxies you could see, all the wonders in the universe. All the creatures you could study. There are endless words out there still waiting to be discovered.”

“If all you want is to assimilate other beings why don't you just go ahead and do it? It's not like I have any power to stop you.”

Nisha crossed her arms.

“It does not work that way. I cannot take an unwilling mind, nor I would want to. If the assimilation is rejected it will cause death to the subject, and a minor but not negligible disruption to my systems.”

Nisha sighed and lifted her gaze towards Nathaniel. Even if he survived the head trauma the radiation would get him eventually.

“Can you save him?” She pointed at Nathaniel.

“And anybody else who's willing,” Sen added.

“I will take my chances here on Earth. I can't… be assimilated. But please, save him.”

Sen nodded and closed its made up eyes. His expressions had already begun to resemble human ones. Hundreds of thousands of white tentacles appeared on the sky, spreading through the air like thunderbolts moving at a glacial speed, dividing and branching off towards different locations around the world. The land darkened under that canopy of tendrils. Sen walked towards Nathaniel and extended his arm.

“You understand this could kill him right? I do not know if his consciousness will accept the assimilation, though his weakened state could prove favorable.”

“Do what you can,” Nisha's voice trembled.

Sen lowered his arm. From its palm emerged a bubble of white material which engulfed Nathaniel. The bubble drained back into the tentacle leaving nothing behind where Nathaniel had been. Sen's features began twisting and changing into those of Nathaniel. His long protruding nose appeared, then his split up chin and wide eyebrows. The white skin changed its hue as if a drop of blood had been dripped onto a water surface, his freckles and imperfections popping to the surface of the skin.

Nisha gasped.

“Is that really you?” She said.

“Yes and no,” Nathaniel answered, “I'm still me but I'm also so much more. I cannot describe it.”

He extended his arm.

“Come with me.”

Nisha grabbed his fingers and let them go, then walked around him. She caressed the tentacle attached to his skull.

“I don't...” She hesitated, “this is so weird.”

“It's still me. Remember when we first met? How I screwed up your experiment? I thought you'd never forgive me, but then you did.”

Nisha smiled, then closed her eyes. A mantle of warmth and excitement enveloped her.


Nisha swam in a stream of consciousness. Some people she knew were there along many many more she hadn't ever met. The vast majority of the consciousnesses were alien, and they were all hers as much as she was theirs. In the blink of an eye she understood all the mysteries she ever wondered about and many more she hadn't even known existed. She knew of stars and planets situated millions of light years away and creatures that seemed to be pulled out of a dream. It was as if thousands of doors had been opened and all the knowledge had come pouring in into her psyche. As wondrous as this knowledge was, there was something that stood out to her: the perfect understanding of Nathaniel's mind. Their minds had melded together while still retaining their individuality. They were now two and the same and the entire universe was open to them.

llamaguccii
Sep 2, 2016

THUNDERDOME LOSER


The Long-Winded Shortness of Breath
Word Count: 372

We can hardly breathe.

The whir of machines never stop. Pumping, pumping, pumping nutrients into and out of our systems, inflating us like balloons and then squeezing us dry again. Our voices squeak. They crackle, out from our pores like the laughter of… We don’t hear sounds. We pulsate, vibrate, out from ourselves and onto one another. Love is a soft, steady hum, anger is an artery bound to burst. We are covered in arteries, tiny, little leaf-life veins, a million fingers sprawled on the surface of our chests as we lay stacked on one another, never grasping anything.

We pity you.

You who pluck and pull us apart, from one another, from ourselves. You who drag your clawed tentacles across our grooved backs as we cling to the planet that bore us. Do you know how it feels, you who have bones and blood and guts… Do you know how it feels to be gored open? You peel our spines, weave them together, like our broken bodies somehow give you strength.

We have feelings, too.

Maybe not like you, not sick and twisted and useless and wasteful. No, we don’t aim to please. We don’t cry or bleed, but we make love to ourselves. We feel the cells of our bodies, nimble and strong, reproducing, growing, expanding out into ourselves. We don’t need you. We don’t need each other. We are self-sufficient, self-sustaining. We, meek, mild and thoughtless are superior.

You hate us.

You who strive to prove your worth, to band and expand and become something. How tall you are. How noble. How soft and sweet the words you whisper are to one another. How swift the cords you cut dissolve between your calloused hands. So you tread us, you consume us, you use us, you disregard us.

But you’ll never be able to be us.

You’ll never be able to be alone, truly alone in the universe. You’ll never be content to not gaze upon a starry night. To not have eyes to see. You’re so obsessed with being noticed. You are nothing. And we are everything. Tucked in tight within ourselves. We listen to the movements of time, the ballads of existence.

Those who cannot hear sleep soundly.

Metrofreak
Mar 17, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Expansion (665 words)

Eric had always been a city boy. Between lovely townhouses, dorms and his tiny studio apartment he was more than used to living in what amounted to broom closets. Despite all that, however, he could not bring himself to be comfortable in a jail cell. It was grey, cold, and moldy. There was an echoing drip somewhere behind the east wall, which would be tolerable if it wasn’t the wall with his cot.

Eric dragged his hands down across his face to pull at the tired, slack skin. He slapped himself in the cheeks a bit to ward off the tiredness, then shoved his face between the bars and sucked in a lungful of fresh air.

“LET ME OUT OF HERE!” he screamed. The sound echoed through the police station.

“Quiet in the back!” the guard called back. The words were muffled, as though he hadn’t bothered to turn his head.

“You can’t leave me in here with that thing!” Eric shouted. He looked behind him at the brown mildew-smelling mass of mushrooms that was his cellmate.

“Don’t make me shut you up!” there was the sound of a hardcover .

Eric let it lie, after a tense moment, there was a sound of a page turning.

“Do not mind me” the fungus said with a voice like an overloaded washer. It was a massive thing, filling up a good half the cell. Floor to ceiling in one corner, half a wall, mushrooms the size of his arms, each quivering and pulsing independently.

Eric tugged his face out of the bars and stared at it. “Stay the gently caress away from me.” he said. He backed into the opposing corner. It was unusual to see one of these guys… pods? Things? Didn’t matter. It was unusual to see them outside of the cities. Generally small towns didn’t stand for them.

“Hostile, much? I am not doing anything to you, friend.” dust-like spores puffed out of it as it spoke.

“You’re not my friend.” Eric said as he pulled up his shirt to cover his mouth and nose.

“Fine.”

Leaning against the bars began to hurt his back, so Eric moved to the cot. He sat. Then he lay. Then he sat again. Eventually, he broke the monotony and the silence.

“Ok, look. Sorry. Bad day. Let’s start over. I’m Eric, and you are?”

“Cyrrovaen” it rumbled. “What are you in for?”

Eric scratched at his unkempt jawline. “Tresspassing. Which is bullshit, yeah I got evicted, but it was on trumped up bullshit, and the dick still had my stuff. I’m not proud, but hey. Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

“So, you were arrested for being somewhere you were not wanted?” Cyrrovaen puffed.

“Well, yeah. You could put it like that.” Eric said.

“I know the feeling.” Cyrrovaen said. “I was arrested for loitering. Happens a lot to us.”

“No poo poo?”

At this point, an officer walked up, another, lighter brown fungus flowed behind him in a strange wave of sprouting and shrivelling mushrooms. “Cyrrivin!” the officer yelled. “You made bail!”

The door opened. “It’s Cyrrovaen, actually.”

“I really don’t give a crap. Get out of here.” The officer opened the cell.

Cyrrovaen rose, or more accurately, it grew its way out of the room. Instead of locomoting like an animal, as a distinct being, it grew in the direction it meant to go, and left shrivelled little mushrooms in its wake. The two fungi drifted down the hall and out the door, puffing little clouds at each other all the way.

“One second sir, I’ll grab the scraper. Take care of this mess.” The officer tipped his hat before dissapearing around a corner.

Eric lay down.

One of the mushrooms rumbled. “Goodbye, Eric.”

He looked at it. He didn’t know how those things perceived, but he felt like Cyrrovaen might still be here in some capacity. “Goodbye, Cyrro.”

“It’s Cyrrovaen, actually.” the fungus replied, as the officer returned with a scraper and a dustpan.

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Six of one, half dozen of another.

Grimey Drawer

Loud until silent by Jay W.Friks
Word Count: 1436


A low hanging bank of dust sat on the ruins of Suleiman al-Halabi. A narrow trench sat beneath that cloud of vaporized wood and metal which ran to a cellar occupied by old Omar Haj and his waning provisions.
The young couple that had found refuge with him hadn't come back. The latest string of cataclysms had taken their lives. Of that, there was no doubt to Omar.
During a particularly loud bombardment, the trench opened in between the apartments north of him in a straight line to his underground safe house.
He could see a single line of light, it blinked like an eye with every dust cloud that flew over and into it. He Had taken a peek outside his hidden door behind a row of dumpsters.
It was a straight line. He didn’t know how something so perfectly shaped could exist in the time he lived in, where anything that resembled order and definite placement now ran and hid or shouted and cursed the land with fiery death.
He hadn't built this for such a long term crisis. He hadn't expected his son to never make it, nor his wife, nor to give asylum to a couple lost in the ruins, even though he felt desperately lonely.
The bombs had become more numerous than people that was the scariest part of everything.
He had forgotten was silence was like and now he too would have to leave, his water was down to half a bottle of Aquafina and some rainwater that barely covered the base of a dog's dish.
His food , a half a bag of granola and a stale piece of jerky that was more like leather than anything now.
His outhouse, built to expel fumes and provide a decent way to relieve oneself was max capacity and the pipe he had fixed to rise above the dumpsters over was long ago bent as the fumes didn't leave entirely.
He thought he'd give it one more day then it was die outside Aleppo or die within it.
------
Something called to him, "Omar." He thought it was fever dream and wrapped himself deeper into his hole ridden sleeping bag, "Omar. Tell me what I want to know."
No, there was someone here. He looked up at the iron grate and door to the surface. He climbed the ladder and the voice called to him again, "Omar. I'm here."
A light shun from the perfect crack in his wall. "What? What is this?" He backed away, confused, wondering if it was soldiers, rebels or looters, "I want you to tell me something."
Omar crept closer, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, there was no way anything could fit into that crack let alone see him from above, " How are you doing this?"
"I'm not doing anything but watching you. Usually all of you rush by so quickly we can't get a look but you've been in my line of sight so long that I decided to reach out."
Omar crept closer and peered through the crack, a creature with translucent skin that emitted a soft yellow light was peeking through the crack.
It's one facial feature was a circle of darkness he would have mistaken it as a mouth except it moved as a sphere in a socket.
The creature spoke through its skin, a undercurrent of fluid was bubbling behind its thin blue flesh with every syllable.
Omar held his mouth in horror as he gaped "I seem very odd to you I assume. If it helps, this is is very odd for me too. But try to take it as a gift, I know I have."
"What...what are you?" "I live on another version of your world far removed from the time it resides in.
Once in awhile my planet aligns with a past version, we have the technology to slip through cracks in reality so that we can observe those versions.
Usually we don't have an opportunity to study one up close for so long as our best vantage points are to hard to process information from.
We need a certain kind of opening to peer in and and they don't occur on our side.” Omar said, "Are you an alien?" It shifted its body, as if uncomfortable with the response,
"Well. To you maybe. You're more like an alien to me." Omar wondered if he was still sleeping or if the fumes had made him delirious, "How can you speak like me?"
"I have observed many cultures, and had plenty of time to learn. Please let me ask something." Omar felt giddy with confusion, he responded promptly,
"Sure. I will answer all your questions. I might as well before i get bombed out by the planes and mortars."

"Good. Good. My elders will reward me if I can bring some new archival knowledge to them. “
It stopped speaking. Perhaps gathering its thoughts. Than the crack widened and split further and Omar was pulled through.

-----------------------
Omar stirred from a deep chill. He grabbed for his sleeping bag and touched something wet. He saw a face of a cycloptic glowing monster in his mind's eye and heard an echo of apology,
“Sorry Omar, we’re out of phase it seems. That place seemed destined for destruction so I think this place is better.” He rubbed a row of painful scars along his cranium.
The wetness was a pool of water. He was in a lush green land where little pools of clear water dotted the landscape.
The stars lit up the area along with the full moon. He stood up shakily, nursing a headache. He heard another echo,
“We wanted to know more about your minds and how they adjust to centuries of survival so that we could compare our own."
He remembered a strange liquid being poured into his head and lights shining from within his eyes.
"We have found those answers and saw something in there you wanted, so we thought we’d try to at least accommodate that in your new home.”
Omar stumbled through the lush landscape until a small batch of lights emerged behind a few hills.
They were adobe like buildings with a bubbled windows of a dark brown glass. He knocked on one and it sounded strange.
A pair of hands grabbed him as he fell and helped him to a soft bed. He fell asleep and had nightmares about the nights in the shelter and the fear of being buried in rubble.

He awoke again, it was warm. He was in a room with plaster like walls and a little decoration of something resembling rubies and silk hung above him.
He had been left somewhere else by the creature. His head felt much better, the scars had turned into vertical bumps, the aliens could operate in his head with little recovery time.
He opened the door to the dwelling and remembered the gentle hands and the door with the odd sound. It barely made any, that was what made it odd.
The people here who owned this house were dark as obsidian and wore a short wool like coat of dark green textures. They had soft eyes and their pupils resembled frogs.
There ears were much smaller than a human beings, round like quarters and slightly lighter in skin tone.
They approached Omar excitedly and offered him a bowl of water. He took it and drank it, his throat was beyond parched.
He asked, “More please.” He said it softly, his voice had been strained and soft since a previous bombing had scorched his throat with smoke.
They looked at him quizzically because his words were most likely foreign. A female said, astounded ,”You speak our language.That’s wonderful. Me and my husband were worried that an alien would be hard to understand.”
The male grinned “Of course. You must have observed us for awhile.” Omar wondered if the real aliens did something to his brain to allow this. The female cranked a spigot and its sound was softly muted.
“Is everything here so quiet.” Omar said, “What do you mean? That spigot is a bit loud if you ask me.” The female replied.
Omar looked about at the world he now inhabited. The wind was gentle, the grass rustled, the house didn’t even drone with the few electronics he saw when he was inside.
This world was designed relative to the people and they were quiet. Much more quiet than the people of his time.
He knew there would be no bombs, no guns running at night, no planes scarring the ears with their turbines. Getting his brain examined was worth being around people and not bombs.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


1700 words

Sound

archive

flerp fucked around with this message at Mar 14, 2017 around 05:28

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


The Grand Escape From Humanity (~1560 words)

It was in an Inca temple in South America that I first came face to face with the jellyfish-god. Floating in a great pool, its soft, gelatinous body shimmered. It had a flat, broad head like a mushroom-cap and long, luminous appendages, organs with purposes I could only guess at. It was unlike any earthly thing I had ever had on my dissection table, and yet it reminded me of that - a simple jellyfish.

I felt a push at the small of my back, urging me to go forward. It was unnecessary: I had come by accident, but the crowd huddled around the pool would not let me leave. Empty cups rolled around on the stone floor.

The being in the pool turned towards me.

And the high priest turned towards me, speaking his own language with a fervor even I could pick up on. My translator whispered in my ear, close enough that I could hear the wet sounds of his mouth.

"He says that the Eternal Fish fell from the stars in a blaze of light. It likes water. No air. It doesn’t talk language known to us. It can rebirth itself again and again. We feed it to make it help us.”

I nodded as if I understood.

“You can touch.”

With the mood in the temple so desperate and urgent, it felt like an order. I bowed down and reached out, letting the tip of my index finger disturb the surface of the pool.

As if it sensed the miniscule vibration I had sent through the water, the jellyfish-god darted towards me.

In the distance, I heard a cannon go off.

My heart leapt at the dull boom, a reminder that my people, the conquistadors in the street, were approaching. Worried glances were cast in the congregation; the high priest alone was unshaken.

"If it remains here, it will be killed,” he said, pointing to the water. “But it knew this.”

The cannons fired again, and I thought that I could hear distant shouts as well. Once the soldiers came, we would take even the gold decorating the high priest's headdress. When he bowed down, the feathers of birds of paradise reached the floor and dragged through dust and sand.

As I watched, the jellyfish convulsed. Tentacles broke, separating into segments that floated to the surface. Its main body moved like a pig's bladder inflated with air, bulging this way and that. The glistening membrane stretched to what I thought were its limit, and then beyond. Mysterious fluids rose in swirls of blue and green.

I clutched the strap of my bag and listened as thousands of footsteps and gunshots and bodies dropping and cannonballs landing and bricks falling rose to a crescendo, a drumroll greater than anything the ceremonial drums in the temple could ever produce.

The natives around me seemed to do the same.

Their god ruptured. At first the crack was small, like a clean scalpel-cut. Then it deepened and widened. Organs burst forth as azure globules, soft purple masses and bronze entrails of all kinds. I stared into the pool, unable to see anything beyond the biological debris and the foam on top. Hands brushed against my shoulders and arms as we all crowded around the basin.

We waited.

A woman's shrill scream was left to sound and resound outside with no reaction from any of us.

Then, at last - a stream of bubbles broke the still surface. At first it looked like another broken part of the once enormous body, but then it moved and swam towards the edge of the pool. People stretched their arms and hands towards it, and a white head poked up, dragging itself across their skin. The whole creature resembled a maggot, and they lifted it, placed it in a pot of water in a wicker basket and brought it to me.

Before I knew what had happened, the jellyfish-maggot, the unearthly thing, lay in my arms.

“It is the very same being. Its body has been renewed,” said my translator. “Now, take it and keep it safe.”

The doors to the sanctuary opened, Spanish tongues and Spanish boots spreading profanity across the temple. I told them I was their countryman. They did not ask about the wicker basket, and I went through the doors and out on streets that were shadows of what they had been before, though there were no shadows with all the fires and torches burning.

I do not know what happened to the people in the temple.

***

The jellyfish-god stayed with me as I crossed the sea. It was my secret. My spoils of war, growing bigger each day in a glass aquarium.

I poked and prodded it: One of the maggot-body's ends had split apart into an array of fronds that might one day become long arms.

I fed it.

My attic room was built of dark wood, the roof slanted so that little sunlight came through a small window. On the floor, empty cages contained only empty nests and useless notes. Gone were the animals I had studied. All I had
left were a few starved goldfish and prayers. I then fed the goldfish to the only thing that mattered.


The jellyfish learned to hurl itself against the glass when I came into the room. Spirals of its strange blood swirled in the water.

Feeding it became a ritual.

Experiments showed that fish and fat was always devoured in an instant. It opened a mouth between the arms, and its insides were the color of amber. Salt water, too, invigorated it – just a few drops made it gain several centimeters. When I watched it, I saw my own reflection in the glass. I began to see meaning in the way the jellyfish moved its arms, and it fed me: I gathered the liquids that it bled and smeared it on my hands. I drank cerulean and red, and each time it felt like I had just had the best night’s sleep in my life and a strong whiskey at once.

I stood in front of my window not caring for the fact that I could barely see the view through the dirty glass. The brick houses and plants and people all seemed sick now - bound to break apart.


There was a splash of water as the jellyfish threw itself against the side of the aquarium. Vials of its blood came dangerously close to rolling off the table. There weren’t enough vials yet, and the jellyfish-god was still too small…

I went down to the sea, far from the polluted harbor, with both arms wrapped around the tank. The jellyfish grew agitated. It lurched this way and that, and I brought it further out into the surf in response. For a moment, it seemed like it calmed down.

The water reached to my shins. It was such a bright, warm day, and I felt a strong urge to swim as I gazed at the horizon.

Then the jellyfish gathered itself for a last attack and tipped the aquarium over. I tried to catch it, but felt only its soft body spilling between my fingers. For a moment, it quivered in my grasp, dripping, deflating – and then it had fled, carried outwards by the waves.

It floated for a while, easily visible as a blot of purple and blue in the green and grey. Then it sunk. I saw tentacles squirming. Instinctually I looked for a net, for anything that would prevent this miracle from becoming lost to me.

I tried to follow it, running along the shore, glimpsing an occasional limb or the ridge of its head carving a path through the water.

It swam. It was alive, but leaving.

***

I drank the last vials and went to the coast again.

They say the air there should be so good for your health, but I could not feel it. It seemed to me one long, cold mist. Bones ached more and more as my body broke - not like the jellyfish-god broke into colorful, magnificent pieces to be reborn again, only a steady and very human decay. If I found it again, I would drink the creature dry, fill a cup with its ichor as the Incas did.

But I could not find it no matter how often I went to the sea.

I looked for falling stars and listened to sailors. Were there missing fish or fishermen who never made it home?

I tried to warn them that if they saw an iridescent body gliding through the waves, dragging long tentacles after itself, they should stay away.

I dreamt of the beach crawling with little white and grey larvae. Maggots eating the world one fish, one seal, one sailor at the time. (The Incas practiced human sacrifice, after all).

Sometimes I saw glimpses of it, and I knew that it was devouring whales out there. It was free and far enough away to wave at me with those limbs - almost inviting me, teasing me with those glimpses. I thought about the grey-and-purple splotches growing on my skin. And as leaving the seaside grew harder, it began to dawn on me that I had released something terrible into the world.

One morning I went down to look for amber and found the unmistakable color of its blood-like liquids coming in with the tide.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Always delete. Just in case.

Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at Jun 8, 2017 around 19:03

Killer-of-Lawyers
Apr 22, 2008


*snip*

Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at Jan 3, 2018 around 03:55

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Last Flight of The Konstantin
2630 Words

Captain Baran slid himself through the jungle of wires he created and out from under the navigation console. He was soldier by training, but hoped he remembered his engineering course well enough to get the computer back online.

“Well, Sklyx,” he said, “here goes nothing.” He arched his eyebrows at the creature he rescued during his escape from an abandoned alien museum where he spent better part of ten thousand years frozen in stasis. Sklyx resembled a cross between an ant and a mantis, and stood waist high to the Captain. Under the bright fluorescents of The Konstantin’s bridge, he noticed for the first time that Sklyx’s shell shimmered with an ever-changing pattern like an oil-slick.

Sklyx returned his hopeful glance by rubbing its two feathery antennae together to produce a cheerful sounding song. With that, Baran punched the button on the console. The navigation display lit up, and both edged closer and closer as it ran through the boot-up sequence. The projector kicked on and a holographic star map filled the cramped space.

Baran slumped in the pilot’s chair as he saw large parts of the map filled with flickering glitches and scrambled flight paths. It was too much to hope for. The time in storage must have corrupted the data.

He cupped his hands over the bridge of his nose, index fingers pressed into the corners of his eyes. Just like the flight computer, there were gaps in his memory. His training was intact, a few details of military service; but he couldn’t recall the circumstances of his capture. Nothing personal. So much of his life just missing. Deep down, he knew there wouldn’t be anything left of his former life, anyway. Ten centuries will do that. He was alone, now. At least the hum of The Konstantin through his chair was familiar. But a few memories to hang on to would go a long way. Byproduct of cryo-sleep, he supposed. There must be something he was forgetting. Maybe in more skilled hands, the repairs —

The clatter of arthropodal legs on the steel panels under the console roused him from his ruminations. Sklyx was wedged under the nav panel. Its pointed abdomen stuck out, waggling furiously. The star map flashed and went dark.

“Sklyx,” Baran shouted as he lurched forward in the chair. He froze as the map flicked back to life. The Konstantin’s location blinked clearly in a bright, red contrast to the the cool blue of the starfield. “What did you do?” he asked. The question began sharply, but the anger was replaced with awed disbelief by the time he finished.

Sklyx kept waggling and his back legs slid furiously, unable to find purchase on the metal floor. Baran smirked as he realized his companion was stuck. His hands hovered, one hand on either side of the Sklyx’s hind-quarters as he took a breath. The oil-slick patterning shifted wildly. Then he grabbed the creature. Its shell was cooler than the air, smooth and dry. The fluctuating patterns spiraled around his hands, waves of rainbow color pulsated from where his fingers made contact. He pulled, and Sklyx popped free from the maintenance hatch and back into Baran’s lap as they fell backwards through the hologram.

“Calm down, Sklyx.” said Baran with a chuckle. “You were panicked, that’s all. I don’t know what you did, but you got the computer working again. Nice job, buddy.”

Realizing it was free, Sklyx’s patterning slowed to gentle ripples. One of its antennae brushed against Baran’s cheek and he felt a tingle like static electricity.

“OK, that’s enough now.” Baran hefted Sklyx off and got to his feet. There were still gaps in the map’s data, but now they could plot a course. The Konstantin’s fuel gauge indicated enough power left to make a jump or two, and hopefully find a station capable of making repairs.

Sklyx clacked its mandibles excitedly as it gestured with its antennae towards a star cluster not too far away. An binary system, but the name designation was still garbled.

“What’s there? Is that home?”

Sklyx sang an upbeat tune, the feathered antennae vibrated so quickly the air rippled, distorting the hologram.

“Well, that’s where we’ll go, then. Sound good?” Baran tapped a series of commands in the console and the starmap updated indicating their course towards Sklyx’s planet. He didn’t remember the computer working this fast when plotting a new route. Surely, Sklyx couldn’t have made improvements to the computer? No way of knowing.

He supposed the atmosphere there must be compatible—then again, maybe these creatures didn’t breathe at all. Sklyx might be friendly, but he wondered about the rest of its race. Hopefully they wouldn’t try to eat him on sight. Then a more sentimental thought hit him. He wondered if Sklyx had a mate, or family of some sort. Did they live long enough to be waiting at home, holding out hope that Sklyx might one day return?

There was one way to find out. Baran locked in the flight path and the hum of the engine grew to a rumble then a high pitched whine. Motion trails flew from his hands, Sklyx, and the ship all around him, like looking at a mirror through a mirror. Then everything froze. For a moment, even his thoughts stopped. Then the wormhole was closed behind them and space returned to normal. Dead ahead, Sklyx’s planet glowed under the spectrum of dual stars.

The Konstantin circled into orbit, and the readout indicated breathable air. More importantly, signs of life. “Are you ready, Sklyx? We’re heading down.”

Sklyx hopped to the co-pilot’s chair and its antennae stretched towards the viewscreen as they entered the atmosphere. Foreign mountain ranges and oceans grew larger as the ship descended and Sklyx grew more excited. They’re not foreign to Sklyx, Baran realized. This is its-his?-her? home. Maybe they didn’t even use pronouns like that. It was Sklyx’s home.

Sklyx ran to the airlock before the ship even settled on a rocky patch of soil protected on three sides by low hills. Baran popped the hatch and out bounded Sklyx. As Baran exited, Sklyx dropped to the ground. Mandibles clacked and legs tapped rhythmically on flat stones in time with a slow bowing of Sklyx’s antennae. The Captain felt the rumble of the low frequency call in his feet as it reverberated through Sklyx’s body and into the ground.

It grew stronger and louder, and Baran realized it was coming from deep under the soil. Closer until even the metal of The Konstantin clattered on the stony turf. Then the ground erupted all around them as burrows reached the surface and they were surrounded by hundreds of Sklyx’s species.

Sklyx scrambled up and spun around, momentarily ecstatic, tweeting a high pitched vibrato. Sklyx froze in place before drooping in dismay. The silence weighed heavy, and Baran finally realized none of the Sklyx-species returned his friend’s call. None of them could. Their antennae were gone.

A few stumps and stubs of antennae remained, wiggling impotently. This wasn’t evolution at work. They were intentionally silenced. Butchered. Baran felt rage boil in his throat like acid, but he too, was unable to communicate with them.

“Sklyx,” he implored, “what do we do?”

Sklyx returned his question with the grim note of a plaintive violin. Baran felt the despair in it, and the hardened military man crumbled inside. The anger drained to a sick pit in his stomach. He reached towards his companion and placed a hand on Sklyx’s serrated foreleg. The iridescent pattern, this time, swirled towards Baran’s hand, and where he touched was like the eye of a storm.

But their moment of mourning was cut short as they heard the buzz of engines in the distance. Another ship moved towards them, and from the sound, Baran knew it moved fast.

He negotiated the ranks of Sklyx’s brethren as he ran for The Konstantin. Rather than burrowing for cover, they seemed paralyzed. Baran called for his companion to follow, but Sklyx too, was paralyzed.

From the cover of his ship, Captain Baran drew his sidearm and flipped the safety. Like everything else, the nuclear pill that powered his weapon was nearly depleted, but it was still good for a few shots.

As the unknown vessel approached, he caught a song similar to Sklyx’s and understood why none of the native species could move. The call somehow subdued them, in the same way Sklyx could summon the others. He hadn’t considered it until now, but Baran seemed to understand the gist of Sklyx’s calls, and gleaned the meaning on some basic level. How could the creature convey human emotions he would recognize through song? It must be more than that. They might be some sort of empathic group consciousness. He was just picking up on the fringes of the cloth, but the Sklyx-species here seemed inextricably woven together. The entire species mutilated to prevent uprising, and however they were bonded, that was being hijacked.

But the time for introspection was over as a helix-shaped craft whistled overhead. The spinning ship generated the hums that froze Sklyx in place. Baran ducked under the short atmospheric aileron and hugged the hull of his ship. An aquiline wedge of a ship floated over the crest of the hill and touched down near The Konstantin. Its own landing door dropped open and Baran leveled his pistol.

Two humanoid figures emerged, shining in the harsh light. For a split second he thought they might be robots, drones of some kind, and he wrapped his finger around the trigger. But as they came closer and passed through the shadow of their shuttle, he saw human faces through their windowed helmets.

He felt his bile rise at the same time he felt relief. Helping Sklyx lead directly to finding other people, but he didn’t expect them to be the subjugators of Sklyx’s home planet. Time for some answers.

“Freeze. Don’t move,” Baran shouted. They spun to see him huddled against his ship, gun aimed squarely at them and complied. Captain Baran rose slowly and walked towards them with a measured pace, never lowering the pistol. He was close enough to make out their features, through their visor-glass. “What’s going on here?”

They couldn’t disguise their surprise as they saw him, and the closer of the two struggled to speak, as though she had forgotten how. Then he heard her voice in his head, muffled like a staticky intercom. “This is The Konstantin! How did you . . . where did you find it?”

“What do you mean?” Baran replied. “It’s my ship. I’ve been the captain since. . . .” But he didn’t know when. “How are you doing this? Talking to me?”

She seemed confused at first, then answered like it was obvious, “Through our implants.” Her intonation rose at the end, as if a question.

“Keep going.”

“Umm . . . we harvest the antennae of the Talam and once processed they’re implanted around the speech center of the brain. It enables telepathic communication. You wouldn’t be able to hear me if you didn’t have one. Everybody has one, they’re implanted at birth. So. . . .”

Baran ran his hand through his greying hair and felt the thin stripe of a scar on his scalp. It couldn’t be. “How dare you. This isn’t right.”

“Look, we’re just administrators, OK? Farmers, basically. We’ve been here for generations. Thousands of years, harvesting the Talam. They’re just bugs.”

“They’re not—” Baran couldn’t restrain his anger any longer and fired a shot into the ground near their feet. The soil evaporated under the blast to a small, hardened crater.

“OK, OK,” she said, as the two raised their hands in alarm. “Calm down. No one needs to get hurt. Just come back to plant with us and we can work something out. TalCorp keeps the location of this planet a closely guarded secret. I’m sure we can get you anything you want to keep it that way. Pretty clever of you, stealing The Konstantin to get the coordinates.”

“That’s my ship!” Baran retorted.

“Can’t be. The Konstantin’s been archived on Earth for thousands of years. One of the first warp drive ships. The entire planet’s a museum nowadays. Captain Baran was the brave explorer who discovered the Talam. I wasn’t even sure it was real. Never been to Earth.”

His own people turned him into what? A monument to his own achievements? Baran felt the edge of madness creeping towards him. His head spun.

“Enough.” he said. “Turn off that signal. Free Sklyx. The Talam.”

“We can’t. It’s a subconscious process. We generate the subdue signal and it’s amplified through the rebroadcasters,” she said, gesturing towards the helix-shaped device floating overhead. “Our implants are designed that way.”

Whether by nefarious design, or degradation from cryo-sleep, Baran couldn’t remember any of this. It must be true, they didn’t have reason to concoct such a lie. “Take me back to your base,” he commanded, and marched the two back onto their shuttle.

“Send the coordinates to The Konstantin.”

The woman closed her eyes for a moment. “It’s done.”

“Now release Sklyx. They’re paralyzed.”

“I told you, we can’t. Once we leave the area, the Talam will be able to move again, back to their breeding tunnels.”

Captain Baran was at his breaking point. If this was the way humanity turned out he had enough of it. “”Off the ship—”

“But—”

“Out!” The two ran down the ramp to the stony ground outside. Baran took a deep breath and steady his nerves. He checked his pistol charge. Then he fired. One shot, and the man dropped. Second shot, and the woman fell beside him. The gun’s energy was spent, and so was Baran’s.

The signal stopped and in a matter of seconds, the Talam returned to their burrows, leaving Sklyx standing alone, staring at Baran.

Cautiously, Sklyx approached him, and edged around the slain humans. Baran felt emotionless. His mind was blank. He closed his eyes and concentrated on Sklyx. Can you hear me?

The reply wasn’t like talking to the people. It was fuzzy, odd. But he understood. Yes.

I’m sorry, Sklyx. I’m going to put a stop to this. That’s not even your name. What should I call you?

It is good. Sklyx is the song of our bond. It is not my name, but what is between us. Yes?

We have a long road ahead. Will you travel with me?

Yes.

“Thank you, Sklyx. I’m sorry.” Baran boarded The Konstantin. Not enough fuel to get to another system, but enough to achieve his current purpose. He activated the remote pilot. The coordinates to the processing facility were already programmed. He took one last look around, then climbed out. He solemnly closed the hatch for the final time.

Baran and Sklyx rose high in the air aboard the TalCorp ship, and far off in the distance, they saw the spires of the plant. With a few console commands, The Konstantin lifted off the ground and made its lonely way towards the compound. They watched as it shrank to a dot. Then there was a blinding flash and The Konstantin was no more. The facility was no more.

Sklyx’s song echoed through the cabin of their acquired ship. Baran felt comfort and hope. He worked his way through the ultra-modern computer, with a little luck (or he hoped not, telepathic intervention), found the flight plans that would take them to the corporate headquarters world of TalCorp. He set it as their heading. He asked Sklyx again if he wanted to stay here. Sklyx continued the hopeful song for another moment before Baran deciphered a lucid thought from: I can hear the eggs. They are strong and growing. They will wait. We must save them. Let’s go.

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

DOUBLE BEEF ACTION

More Human Than Human
words: 2288

The vastness of space contains everything you can possibly imagine. Innumerable stars, dwarf stars, supergiants, pulsars, binary stars, in every color you can see, and some you can’t. Ice planets, desert planets, earthlike planets. Nebulae, alien species, undiscovered chemical elements, it’s all out there. We have the pictures to prove it.

Mostly, though, there’s nothing. We had learned that lesson daily, for the last three years.

“Anything on the scanners this morning, Liz?” She was seated in the craft’s command seat, a few screens arrayed above a set of controls and below a window about the size of a car windshield. I held a cup of coffee out to her.

“Morning? By which star, Sayid?” She huffed, and took the coffee with both hands. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“By the sun, of course. It’s 7 AM in California.” I stuck my wrist out, on which was a mechanical watch with a leather strap. “Normally, I’d be out at El Porto right now, catchin’ a swell.”

“Yeah, well, those days are long gone. And according to the scanners, not likely to return. There’s nothing for several hundred thousand kilometers.” She paged through several different readouts on the display screens, and I saw for myself. Nothing, indeed. Not even a loose asteroid.

“How long until our next jump?”

“Three days. Waiting on the computer.”

For a long time, I stood there next to Elizabeth, staring out the windshield. Here and there tiny dots of light, stars poking through the thick black blanket of nothingness, like someone had spilled glitter and missed a few specks. It had been a year since we’d seen a planet, six months since we’d seen a space station.

“I want to go home, Sayid.”

“I know.” I squeezed her shoulder softly. She laid her hand on top of mine. “I know.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There were four of us, in a craft the size of a mobile home. We were all refugees, Liz, Meiko, Marshall, and myself. In 2095, the UN discovered it was easiest to give refugees a spacecraft, some brief training, and shove them off into space. For the first year, we bounced from station to station, trading work for goods and services. We didn’t need food or water; the Double-Wide, as we’d come to call it, could fly indefinitely, as well as produce food and water, as long as we were careful to conserve and recycle, and occasionally fly by a star to recharge our batteries. What we needed, what we couldn’t get elsewhere, were books, music, human contact. We had space travel, but nobody had thought to create space radio stations.

We needed to find a home. Only, we couldn’t stay anywhere the UN had already claimed. So we kept moving. In the beginning, we’d see a station after only a week of flying. Six months in, though, the intervals grew to two weeks. Then a month. Then two months. Then not at all. We’d reached the end of the line.

A trader in a post over the Spearhead Nebula had given us some interstellar coordinates, said he’d heard of a cluster of stars and planets that way, habitable and unclaimed. Two and a half years into our quest for a home, this was like the sight of the surface to a drowning man. We swam hard for air.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Whoa poo poo, guys!”

I snapped to immediately. I had been rereading East of Eden for the fifth time. It was still great. But anything that rated an exclamation—though Marshall was no stranger to coarse language—was either dangerous, beautiful, or extremely important. I grabbed Meiko, who was practicing the piano on her headphones and hadn’t heard, and woke Liz from her nap, then jogged to the cockpit.

Marshall didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. The display screens told the story quite clearly: there was a planet, earthlike, habitable, unclaimed, right in the middle of the sector we were headed to.

“Whoa poo poo is right,” I said. I hadn’t cursed since my childhood. I’d gotten slapped by my mother for that. Nobody slapped me now.

For 30 minutes, nobody moved a muscle. We just watched the numbers drop on the screen, as we approached our warp-drop. The warp screen was up, so we couldn’t even see outside. We just… stood there.

A small, soft voice broke our reverie. It was Meiko, ever the voice of reason. “We should strap in, for warp-drop.”

Then, we waited. It took 10 minutes for us to drop out of warp and for our cruising engines to re-engage, another 10 for our scanners to complete a full scan of the sector. Only then did our warp screen drop, and we could see out of the windshield.

There it was.

A planet.

Hospitable to human life.

Uninhabited by humans, thus far.

Completely unclaimed, according to the computer.

Home, perhaps.

I cried. Not the slow trickling tears of small emotions like happiness or sadness, but the river of tears that comes with hope, and joy, and relief. Liz smiled the wide smile of success, hugged herself to me tightly. Meiko tried to remain demure, but even she could not contain her excitement, so she smiled and blushed like I had never seen.

gently caress yes.” Marshall, on the other hand, was not one to mince words.

We wasted no time. The computer had already plotted a possible landing spot, so we set our course and headed down. We had spent three years preparing for this, hoping it was an eventuality and not a mere possibility, and now here it was. There was work to be done, so we set about preparing for our first—and hopefully only—surface landing.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“What if this is it?”

“What do you mean?” I shouted across the aisle to Liz. Atmospheric entry created a hell of a racket.

“I mean, what if this is home? What if we stay here? The four of us. What does this mean for us? What will we do? Will we ever see another human? Will we be the only ones to ever find this place?”

I’d spent three years in space, searching for a home, and I had never asked myself even once what would happen if we actually did. It wasn’t that I had dismissed the questions, they had just never even occurred to me. Those are the questions of someone with a home to think about. Home for us had been nothing more than a theory, a hope. You don’t question hope until it’s impossible or realized.

“I don’t know,” I said, and grinned like a maniac. “But I’m excited to find out.”

We landed soon after in a broad flat plain, the kind you might find in many places on Earth. Trees edged a wide expanse of grass, and a river cut through the plain, running from a mountain range to our starboard side. Everything looked just like something you might find on Earth, except for the color—the sun overhead was a large, and blue, and the light it cast was the same.

“Come on,” I said, and shouldered my pack. “We’ve got a planet to explore.”

Marshall, Liz, and I headed out of the ship, while Meiko remained behind. “you got us, Meiko?” Liz asked. Meiko replied in the affirmative. We set off toward the tree line. The ship computer had identified a clearing there with some sort of activity.

We walked in relative silence. But for the color, the planet felt like Earth. The trees looked like Earth trees, the grass looked like Earth grass, the air felt like Earth air. It was actually… disconcerting. We walked between trees, just like each of us had, back on Earth—only here, the light from above was blue. Excitement, though, never left the air. The clearing the ship had identified was coming up, about a half mile away. we quickened our pace.

Soon, we could see it, through the trees, a wide circle of light. What was in it, we could not quite make out, but there was certainly movement. We could hear it. Rustling, banging, what sounded like—voices? I held up my hand. We stopped.

“I thought the computer said this place was uninhabited,” I said, quietly.

“It did,” Liz replied. “Sayid, I don’t think those are human voices.”

He listened closely. She was right. There was an unmistakably voice-like quality to them, but not the kind of voice any human possessed. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s be real careful here.”

“Hold on. I got this.” Marshall set his pack down, took out his camera, and set off for the edge of the clearly, stepping softly on the grass underbrush of the woods.

I fidgeted nervously with the straps of my pack while we watched Marshall, but soon he was back. His face was scrunched in thought, but not fear.

“What’d you see?” Liz asked, finally.

“I’m… Not sure. Not animals. Not humans. Aliens, I guess.” Marshall shrugged.

“You guess? What does that mean? If you saw aliens…” I didn’t finish my sentence. Marshall had turned his camera around and shoved the screen in front of my eyes. On it were, well, aliens, I guess. They were short four-legged creatures, brown in color. But it was their eyes that declared them unequivocally a level above animals. One of the aliens was clearly looking at the camera. “Come on. I’m not about to make first contact completely unprepared.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We came back the next day. We’d decided during the night that we needed more information, that we needed to study these creatures before we attempted to make contact. We brought cameras, recorders, notepads. We didn’t have many tools, or much expertise, but we weren’t about to jump in blind.

As we approached the clearing again, we spread out. It was a large clearing, and we wanted to get as much data as possible. I found a spot and pulled up my camera, focusing and zooming on the inhabitants of the clea—“Is that a human?” I heard the words come out of my mouth, but I did not believe them. I zoomed in tighter. It certainly looked like a human. It was dressed like a human. All around it, the brown four-leggers skittered to and fro, moving things, talking (I assume they’re talking), and this human just stood there. It looked familiar. It looked… Kind of like Marshall.

I heard a cry of surprise from the other side of the clearing. Liz began to walk toward the Marshall twin. “Liz, wait!”

I broke for the clearing. The Marshall twin turned to look at me, and I have never felt more revulsion than I did at that precise moment. His head turned around, all the way around. His eyes—intelligent eyes, fully inhuman eyes—entered my very soul. I fell to my knees and vomited into the intergalactic blue grass.

I then watched in horror as the creature turned it’s alien eyes back to Liz, and one of it’s Marshall-cloned hands reached out and slowly pierced the flesh of Liz’s midsection like a blade.

Time stopped. I couldn’t move, couldn’t scream. Liz was frozen, impaled on the arm of the nightmare clone, mouth open in the prelude to a scream. All around, the brown creatures watched us with inhuman eyes.

*CRACK*

The explosion of wood on flesh ripped me from my terror-stasis. Marshall stood over Not Marshall, a length of alien timber in his hands. He slammed the branch into the imposter’s head, several more times.

I scrambled to my feet, and rushed to Liz. She was down on her back, her hands clutching her abdomen. I scooped her in my arms and began running without a word.

“Meiko! Meiko, do you copy?” I shouted into my comm unit.

“Yes, Sayid,” came her reply, calm, quiet.

“Get the surgery ready!”

“Yes, Sayid.”

My legs pumped hard across the soft, blue-tinged, earthlike turf. I noticed, for some reason, as I ran, that the trees on either side were not quite like Earth trees. Their bark was smooth, and their leaves were actually blue, not blue-tinted.

Meiko met us outside the door of the ship. I rushed Liz inside and laid her on the surgery table. Meiko began working immediately, implacable and stoic. Her deft hands flew over tools, sensors, Liz’s body, and soon she began barking orders at me.

Marshall had entered the ship shortly after me, and slammed the door shut behind him. He threw himself into the cockpit, and minutes later we were lifting off.

I stared at Liz. She had gone unconscious. I wondered. What had possessed her to go into that clearing? What had come over her?
Only, I didn’t wonder. I knew. A minute later, it might have been me.

“She’s going to be fine.”

“What?” I looked up. Meiko was looking at me with big eyes.

“She’s going to be fine. The wound is shallow.”

For the second time in as many days, I cried rivers. This time, Meiko joined me. I reached an arm around her, and we both sat on the ground, and cried for a long, long time.

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003


Landings
878 words

Navigation was by flattened trees, each beech trunk a compass needle straining for the point of impact. With every step their picks and chisels were heavier, the mud thicker. Delia arrived first.

“Hurry,” she called to Muzz, his spindly figure a ways in the distance, picking its way through the blast-zone rubble with high, elastic steps. He was too far behind to hear.

It was, indeed, a landing. Five meteorites embedded in the earth. One shipping container sized lump of rock and metal for each of the shockwaves that had slammed through their little shed, shaking dust from the rafters and leaving Delia puking into the sink.

As she’d rinsed her mouth out with the cloudy water from their well her chest remained tight. Depending on what they were made from, with just a wheelbarrow load of material could buy their way into Greymouth, or maybe even one of the parts of Christchurch that still had running water.

There’d been a landing in the outskirts of Shenzhen a few months ago. They’d huddled close to their wee transistor to hear the news. Tens of thousands had converged on the spot, fighting and crawling through a burning graveyard, clamoring for scraps of precious metal from the space-forged missiles that had levelled half the city. Now there was one on their doorstep, in the middle of nowhere in the shittest backwater on the west coast. And she wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.

Muzz had looked at her, two fingers rubbing each temple to ease his headache. “I don’t want to go. I don’t trust them. Why have they come?”

Delia picked up the radio. “Murray Patrick Johnson, you load the tools into the ute right now or I will shove this thing so far up your rear end you’ll poo poo Kim Hill on Saturdays.”

So they’d parked as close as they could, walked the rest of the way, and there she was, close enough to touch it. There were still choppers at Burnham, she’d heard, but they didn’t need long. Just crack off a few chunks of the flaky cobalt ore, drag it back to the car, and hope for some gold or platinum.

She swung the sledge and surface disintegrated into powder, spraying up in her face and hurting her eyes. She licked her lips - it felt like charcoal but tasted like the tip of a battery. Once she’d spat it out of her mouth and worked it from the corners of her eyes she looked at where she’d struck. It was a smooth, grey mirrored surface, that she thought she could see shimmer slightly under the surface as she shifted her gaze. It didn’t look like any metal Delia had ever seen.

She pressed her fingers to it. It was pleasantly warm, and after a few seconds the shimmer, barely noticeable before, gathered at her fingertips, growing until it was a clearly visible white-green light. She allowed her whole palm to rest against the side, and the glow traced her hand, remaining when she removed it. The whorls of her fingerprints and the lines on her hands remained imprinted in ghostly light for a few seconds before falling away, descending into the depths of the rock.

Whatever it was, it was expensive, so she swung at it again, and despite the vibration that ran down the handle and hurt her hands a crack opened up. She didn’t have to work hard with her chisel to shatter chunks of the brittle material, which fell away, revealing another smooth layer.

Delia gasped. She was looking at a star map. The Southern Cross was unmistakeable, but as she looked up and down she could see every star in the clear sky above picked out in front of her. Then the bottom star of the cross, the brightest one, blinked out. The others followed, one by one, until what was a starscape was an expanse of matte black. She didn’t even have to raise a tool, as the black crumbled to dust.

This time it was symbols. A series of hieroglyphs, a cross, an exclamation mark, fell away one after the other as a fissure quickly burrowed towards the center of the meteorite. Then letters - D, A - moving so quickly she could barely read them - N, G - she could see crystalline forms knitting themselves together, as rock crumbled faster than new letters could form behind them - E, R. She moved her body close to the form, feeling the rock respond through her woolen jersey and sweat pants.

That’s when she heard helicopters, but when she looked for them the sky was threaded with green fire, fingers of Aurora grasping the world like a bauble. The lander had gone still, quiet, dead, whatever you wanted to call it. How many millennia had it lay hidden in the Kuiper belt, and what was it doing ending its life in front of her?

Muzz arrived, panting, sweating, breathing air, pumping hot blood through his veins, and salty water out his pores. At their feet was a pile of varicolored metal shavings and chunks of ore. She gestured and they got to work loading them into their backpacks. As much as she kept one hand tight on Muzz’s skinny shoulder, and one eye on the sky.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


Submissions are certainly closed at this point. Those poor souls with no story yet, redeem yourself!

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


Interprompt: in the spirit of prompts of old, kindly trash talk the gently caress outta everybody in the thread.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


this is the dumbest loving interprompt we've ever had.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



rome with some high tech bullshit in it is the dorkiest neckbeardiest sort of setting and the only way it could be dorkier is if you tried to slap pokemon or gundam onto it to make it even more palatable to nerds

poems are a real good way to confuse the judges into thinking that you did a good job by farting onto the keyboard, putting a bunch of lacunae and throwing in some rhymes

people who use a rustic voice are just looking for an out so they don't have to worry about choosing their words well and they can just rely on some lovely stock trope voice

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


i love every1 tho

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


Djeser posted:

poems are real good

yeah i think so 2

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



flerp posted:

dogs suck and i never want to see one

agreed

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

this is the dumbest loving interprompt we've ever had.
6/10 WHERE THE gently caress IS MOUSE

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

6/10 WHERE THE gently caress IS MOUSE

IN THE loving HOUSE

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Bad Seafood with the first ever interprompt story and call for fjgj in week 1

Bad Seafood posted:

It was the hour.

Broken lanterns illuminated the great cage, goons hanging from every bar, between every cranny. Their unwashed mouths carried the hum of the electrical current through the coarse fibers.

The chant broke out.

"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"

And spread.

"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"
"Some dudes enter, most dudes leave!"

Martello, Stuporstar, and Nautatrol descended upon the combatants amidst the tribal beat, the cries for blood and death.

It was time. It was judgement.

SurreptitiousMuffin
Mar 21, 2010

I got it wrong. Look, I'm well aware I got it wrong and uh, I got it wrong.


YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON'T FJ?

YOU SEE, JUDGES?

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON'T FJ?

YOU SEE, JUDGES?

don't be so mad, chester

dreadmojo
Oct 23, 2010



Legit Cyberpunk

SkaAndScreenplays posted:

IN & for my recidivistic tendencies towards failure lately.

I am very happy this prompt came up...

i am very happy noone spent on an avatar for you to waste by toxxfailing again

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


JUDGMENT
All stories were read in Judgemode, though obviously I could identify a few people based on the pictures that I remembered and stuff.

Dishonorable Mentions:
  • The Long-Winded Shortness of Breath by llamaguccii - This was less a story and more a diatribe. The prose was fine, if a bit overdone. It tried to have a different perspective, but didn't really say anything interesting. I think it could have, if it had been a story.
  • More Human Than Human by BeefSupreme - This read like an attempt at sci-fi by someone who has never read/watched sci-fi. It was not interesting, was missing good characters, had a nonsensical story, and lots of other problems.
  • Landings by newtestleper - It was a confusing mess, and as soon as the single interesting thing in the story happened, ended. This really came off as rushed (and probably was), and probably wouldn't have ended up here with a good revising and editing pass.

Honorable Mentions:
  • Colorado Star by Djeser - This story had good humor, fun characters, good voice, and a strong message.
  • Shells by Dr. Kloctopussy - Here is something that really hit on the human side of contact, with sympathetic characters and strong emotions.

    Both of these stories were well written, concise, solid, had well developed characters, and both were strong candidates for the win. In other weeks, they probably would have won.

Loss - Loud Until Silent by Jay W. Friks - The prose was atrocious, and it was riddled with errors. It didn't know its own setting well, didn't have much interesting to say, and was confusing.

And the winner is...
Win - Five Years After Christmas by Thranguy - This was not the strongest in terms of writing; it's characters needed some work, and it needed some revising in places. However, out of the all the stories, this was by far the more interesting and memorable. It explored contact in a way I hadn't considered before, and really engages the reader to think in terms of conceptual changes. Finally, it also nailed the ending in a satisfying way, in a story that was not easy to end.

The middle varied widely. I'll be critting all stories, including the above, in more depth in a separate post.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010

'Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.' -Samuel Johnson

Thunderdome CCXXXVIII: Lie to Me

Okay, we've had several weeks in a row of easy-to-write-for prompts. It's time to spend a little time in the literary deep end with a technique that can be very tricky to use just right, but powerful when done well: the Unreliable Narrator

There's lots of different kinds of unreliable narrators in fiction. There's the narrator who doesn't really understand what's going on, either by being a small child or not particularly bright. There's the narrator who holds an incorrect belief that leads him to completely misinterpret everything that's going on. There's the narrator who is actively deceiving the reader. There's probably lots more. You can start with wikipedia if you want more ideas: Unreliable Narrator

I'm going to try to read these as though I don't know that the narrators are untrustworthy. You should absolutely write them for an audience that doesn't have that information.

Writing with this method is often going to involve a twist ending, so a few words: a good twist ending makes the reader re-evaluate everything that has gone before. A bad twist ending renders everything that has gone before pointless. A good twist ending raises the story's stakes as they resolve. A bad twist ending lowers them or reduces them to nothing.

You can ask newtestleper, Crabrock or me for flash rules if you like.

1600 words.

Signups Close 11:59 PM Pacific Time Friday
Submissions Close 11:59 PM Pacific Time Sunday

Judges:
Thranguy
newtestleper
Crabrock

Entrants:
Metrofreak
Dr. Kloctopussy
flerp
Djeser
Beef Supreme
Killer of Lawyers
Erogenous Beef
sparksbloom
The Cut of Your Jib
Chili
Deltasquid
llamaguccii
Okua
Chernabog
Hawklad
Solitar

Thranguy fucked around with this message at Feb 25, 2017 around 02:33

Metrofreak
Mar 17, 2009

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I'm in.

...or am I?

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


In it to win it. <-- incorrect belief.

that's the joke

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


in

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013



Hey, Thunderdome.

I know you guys don't read much, but it's cool to read. Particularly, it's cool to read Jorge Luis Borges's The Form of the Sword. It's not even 2,000 words long, and it's relevant to this week. (Okay, you got me, the narrator is unreliable.) Go read it. Spoilers for the story below.

Okay, so, it ended on a twist. The narrator was lying the whole time. BUT, this worked. Why does it work? It's because the twist adds to the story. It doesn't invalidate any of it; it all still happened. More importantly, it was all still relevant, because the whole story was about Vincent Moon. The twist doesn't reveal that he was actually a dream, or a kid playing pretend. It doesn't bring in something new, all it does is switch two of the characters, and suddenly the story has a deeper meaning.

Oh, also I'm not in. Haha it's a joke. Us Thunderdomers, jokers all. Hahaha.

I'm in.

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

DOUBLE BEEF ACTION

this prompt sucks

i am in



one of those is a lie (because I am an unreliable narrator) you can choose which one



these are all good jokes everyone

Killer-of-Lawyers
Apr 22, 2008


In.

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007

DOUBLE BEEF ACTION




can we trust these guys what do u think

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


In.

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


In.

Deltasquid
Apr 10, 2013

awww...
you guys made me ink!


THUNDERDOME


BeefSupreme posted:

More Human Than Human
words: 2288

The vastness of space contains everything you can possibly imagine. It sure does. This sentence makes me wonder what of the everythings I could possibly imagine will be the topic of this story, which is exactly how I felt before reading the first sentence. Innumerable stars, dwarf stars, supergiants, pulsars, binary stars, in every color you can see, and some you can’t. As in, stars I can't see, or colours I can't see? Ice planets, desert planets, earthlike planets. Nebulae, alien species, undiscovered chemical elements, it’s all out there. We have the pictures to prove it. Okay, you've given me examples of "everything". I was hoping for some sort of twist at the end of this paragraph but nope, it's all just a list of things you can indeed find in space.

Mostly, though, there’s nothing. We had learned that lesson daily, for the last three years. I'd say this raises questions, but not good questions that drive my interest in the story. Mostly "Why are you telling me this?" I know space has a lot of things and even more void. Is nothingness going to be a central theme in your story? You could have condensed everything up to this point into a first sentence and sprinkled something uncanny or interesting in it.

“Anything on the scanners this morning, Liz?” She was seated in the craft’s command seat, a few screens arrayed above a set of controls and below a window about the size of a car windshield. I held a cup of coffee out to her.

“Morning? By which star, Sayid?” She huffed, and took the coffee with both hands. “Thanks for the coffee.” I believe the "she huffed" is a continuation of the sentence before and doesn't need to be capitalized. Wait, rereading this, it probably isn't. But the wording makes it look like you made the old-school mistake of using "huffed" as in "she said" when "said" would suffice. Either introduce a line break to let me know her huffing is a new action, or just use the verb "said". And finally, mornings depend on location on a planet, not on the star. As Sayid even specifies in the next line, so you know this. I don't think spacefarers would make this mistake in idioms or jokes.

“By the sun, of course. It’s 7 AM in California.” I stuck my wrist out, on which was a mechanical watch with a leather strap. “Normally, I’d be out at El Porto right now, catchin’ a swell.”

“Yeah, well, those days are long gone. And according to the scanners, not likely to return. There’s nothing for several hundred thousand kilometers.” She paged through several different readouts on the display screens, and I saw for myself. Nothing, indeed. Not even a loose asteroid.

“How long until our next jump?”

“Three days. Waiting on the computer.”

For a long time, I stood there next to Elizabeth, staring out the windshield. Here and there tiny dots of light, stars poking through the thick black blanket of nothingness, like someone had spilled glitter and missed a few specks. It had been a year since we’d seen a planet, six months since we’d seen a space station. Okay I guess emptiness is a theme then.

“I want to go home, Sayid.”

“I know.” I squeezed her shoulder softly. She laid her hand on top of mine. “I know.” I didn't realize the line about California was supposed to hint at his longing to home until you told me in IRC, but this spells it out pretty squarely anyway. Up until now I still am not sure what the characters are trying to achieve, except "go home", maybe, because you didn't tell me where they're trying to go or what they're trying to achieve. I don't know why they can't because they have a functioning hyperdrive and everything.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There were four of us, in a craft the size of a mobile home. They had food for 4 persons, for at least 6 months on this thing? We were all refugees, Liz, Meiko, Marshall, and myself. In 2095, the UN discovered it was easiest to give refugees a spacecraft, some brief training, and shove them off into space. What in the actual gently caress. But that's probably the reaction you wanted from me. Anyhow, that's not quite a "discovery" but rather "policy." For the first year, we bounced from station to station, trading work for goods and services. We didn’t need food or water; the Double-Wide, as we’d come to call it, could fly indefinitely, as well as produce food and water, Okay that takes care of my question as long as we were careful to conserve and recycle, and occasionally fly by a star to recharge our batteries. What we needed, what we couldn’t get elsewhere, were books, music, human contact. We had space travel, but nobody had thought to create space radio stations.

We needed to find a home. Only, we couldn’t stay anywhere the UN had already claimed. This is kinda weird. Plopping refugees into claimed yet uninhabited worlds would be a lot more sensible. So we kept moving. In the beginning, we’d see a station after only a week of flying. Six months in, though, the intervals grew to two weeks. Then a month. Then two months. Then not at all. We’d reached the end of the line.

A trader in a post over the Spearhead Nebula had given us some interstellar coordinates, said he’d heard of a cluster of stars and planets that way, habitable and unclaimed. Two and a half years into our quest for a home, this was like the sight of the surface to a drowning man. We swam hard for air.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Whoa poo poo, guys!”

I snapped to immediately. I had been rereading East of Eden for the fifth time. It was still great. But anything that rated an exclamation—though Marshall was no stranger to coarse language—was either dangerous, beautiful, or extremely important. I grabbed Meiko, who was practicing the piano on her headphones and hadn’t heard, This is a good humanising detail though I'm not sure about the prose. Stating "and hadn't heard" is a bit on the nose. and woke Liz from her nap, then jogged to the cockpit.

Marshall didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. The display screens told the story quite clearly: there was a planet, earthlike, habitable, unclaimed, right in the middle of the sector we were headed to.

“Whoa poo poo is right,” I said. I hadn’t cursed since my childhood. I’d gotten slapped by my mother for that. Nobody slapped me now. This section has a lot of short sentences that start with the subject.

For 30 minutes, nobody moved a muscle. We just watched the numbers drop on the screen, as we approached our warp-drop. The warp screen was up, so we couldn’t even see outside. We just… stood there.

A small, soft voice broke our reverie. It was Meiko, ever the voice of reason. Urgh that's some serious telling. “We should strap in, for warp-drop.”

Then, we waited. It took 10 minutes for us to drop out of warp and for our cruising engines to re-engage, another 10 for our scanners to complete a full scan of the sector. Only then did our warp screen drop, and we could see out of the windshield. There's 5 instances of "drop" and "warp" in 99 words or so here. It feels clunky and distracting. Surely you could have thought of more evocative words in what is supposed to be an emotional moment?

There it was.

A planet.

Hospitable to human life.

Uninhabited by humans, thus far.

Completely unclaimed, according to the computer. Yes, I get it.

Home, perhaps.

I cried. Not the slow trickling tears of small emotions like happiness or sadness, but the river of tears that comes with hope, and joy, and relief. Liz smiled Don't use a verb for its own noun, if that makes sense. Smiling a smile, dreaming a dream, etc. is clunky. the wide smile of success, hugged herself to me tightly. Meiko tried to remain demure, but even she could not contain her excitement, so she smiled and blushed like I had never seen.

gently caress yes.” Marshall, on the other hand, was not one to mince words.

We wasted no time. The computer had already plotted a possible landing spot, so we set our course and headed down. We had spent three years preparing for this, hoping it was an eventuality and not a mere possibility, and now here it was. There was work to be done, so we set about preparing for our first—and hopefully only—surface landing. Excellent, your protagonists actually start doing something instead of sitting around and giving me backstory. Don't get me wrong, if I weren't critting this I would never have gotten to this part.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“What if this is it?”

“What do you mean?” I shouted across the aisle to Liz. Atmospheric entry created a hell of a racket.

“I mean, what if this is home? What if we stay here? The four of us. What does this mean for us? What will we do? Will we ever see another human? Will we be the only ones to ever find this place?”

I’d spent three years in space, searching for a home, and I had never asked myself even once what would happen if we actually did. It wasn’t that I had dismissed the questions, they had just never even occurred to me. Those are the questions of someone with a home to think about. Home for us had been nothing more than a theory, a hope. You don’t question hope until it’s impossible or realized.

“I don’t know,” I said, and grinned like a maniac. “But I’m excited to find out.”

We landed soon after in a broad flat plain, the kind you might find in many places on Earth. Trees edged a wide expanse of grass, and a river cut through the plain, running from a mountain range to our starboard side. Everything looked just like something you might find on Earth, except for the color—the sun overhead was a large, and blue, and the light it cast was the same. So is this Earth then? With a blue sun?

“Come on,” I said, and shouldered my pack. “We’ve got a planet to explore.” This line is like something a child would say. Or a bad tourism poster.

Marshall, Liz, and I headed out of the ship, while Meiko remained behind. “you Capital letter. got us, Meiko?” Liz asked. Meiko replied in the affirmative. We set off toward the tree line. The ship computer had identified a clearing there with some sort of activity.

We walked in relative silence. But for the color, the planet felt like Earth. The trees looked like Earth trees, the grass looked like Earth grass, the air felt like Earth air. It was actually… disconcerting. We walked between trees, just like each of us had, back on Earth—only here, the light from above was blue. Excitement, though, never left the air. The clearing the ship had identified was coming up, about a half mile away. we quickened our pace.

Soon, we could see it, through the trees, a wide circle of light. What was in it, we could not quite make out, but there was certainly movement. We could hear it. Rustling, banging, what sounded like—voices? I held up my hand. We stopped.

“I thought the computer said this place was uninhabited,” I said, quietly. Apropos nothing, this would make a good first line for a short story.

“It did,” Liz replied. “Sayid, I don’t think those are human voices.”

He listened closely. She was right. There was an unmistakably voice-like quality to them, but not the kind of voice Restating this is redundant. any human possessed. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s be real careful here.”

“Hold on. I got this.” Marshall set his pack down, took out his camera, and set off for the edge of the clearly, I think you meant another word than "clearly" here but for the life of me I can't figure out what it was. Probably a noun instead of an adverb. stepping softly on the grass underbrush of the woods.

I fidgeted nervously with the straps of my pack while we watched Marshall, but soon he was back. His face was scrunched in thought, but not fear.

“What’d you see?” Liz asked, finally.

“I’m… Not sure. Not animals. Not humans. Aliens, I guess.” Marshall shrugged.

“You guess? What does that mean? If you saw aliens…” I didn’t finish my sentence. Marshall had turned his camera around and shoved the screen in front of my eyes. On it were, well, aliens, I guess. They were short four-legged creatures, brown in color. But it was their eyes that declared them unequivocally a level above animals. One of the aliens was clearly looking at the camera. “Come on. I’m not about to make first contact completely unprepared.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We came back the next day. We’d decided during the night that we needed more information, that we needed to study these creatures before we attempted to make contact. We brought cameras, recorders, notepads. We didn’t have many tools, or much expertise, but we weren’t about to jump in blind.

As we approached the clearing again, we spread out. It was a large clearing, and we wanted to get as much data as possible. I found a spot and pulled up my camera, focusing and zooming on the inhabitants of the clea—“Is that a human?” I heard the words come out of my mouth, but I did not believe them. I zoomed in tighter. It certainly looked like a human. It was dressed like a human. All around it, the brown four-leggers skittered to and fro, moving things, talking (I assume wrong tense they’re talking), and this human just stood there. It looked familiar. It looked… Kind of like Marshall. Okay so this is a planet of shapeshifters? IS only one of them shapeshifting? Do the trees shift shapes?

I heard a cry of surprise from the other side of the clearing. Ahh this is what you meant instead of "clearly" earlier. Liz began to walk toward the Marshall twin. “Liz, wait!”

I broke for the clearing. The Marshall twin turned to look at me, and I have never felt more revulsion than I did at that precise moment. His head turned around, all the way around. His eyes—intelligent eyes, fully inhuman eyes—entered my very soul. I fell to my knees and vomited into the intergalactic blue grass. This is kind of a weird sentence. Also "intergalactic" is not a word to throw around like it just means "alien".

I then watched in horror as the creature turned it’s alien eyes back to Liz, and one of it’s Marshall-cloned hands reached out and slowly pierced the flesh of Liz’s midsection like a blade.

Time stopped. I couldn’t move, couldn’t scream. Liz was frozen, impaled on the arm of the nightmare clone, mouth open in the prelude to a scream. All around, the brown creatures watched us with inhuman eyes.

*CRACK* Nice SFX.

The explosion of wood on flesh ripped me from my terror-stasis. I thought there had literally been an explosion, with fire and stuff. I don't think "explosion" is a word that fits well here. Splintering, perhaps? Or "the explosive sound of"? Marshall stood over Not Marshall, a length of alien timber in his hands. He slammed the branch into the imposter’s head, several more times. I like this Marshall dude.

I scrambled to my feet, and rushed to Liz. She was down on her back, her hands clutching her abdomen. I scooped her in my arms and began running without a word. Multiple times you've used "began X-ing" and that makes it all sound a bit undecisive. Also, don't overuse limbs as subjects of verbs that people do, it's a bit weird and you do it several more times in this story.

“Meiko! Meiko, do you copy?” I shouted into my comm unit.

“Yes, Sayid,” came her reply, calm, quiet.

“Get the surgery ready!”

“Yes, Sayid.”

My legs pumped hard across the soft, blue-tinged, earthlike turf. I noticed, for some reason, as I ran, that the trees on either side were not quite like Earth trees. Their bark was smooth, and their leaves were actually blue, not blue-tinted.

Meiko met us outside the door of the ship. I rushed Liz inside and laid her on the surgery table. Meiko began working immediately, implacable and stoic. Her deft hands flew over tools, sensors, Liz’s body, and soon she began barking orders at me.

Marshall had entered the ship shortly after me, and slammed the door shut behind him. He threw himself into the cockpit, and minutes later we were lifting off.

I stared at Liz. She had gone unconscious. I wondered. What had possessed her to go into that clearing? What had come over her?
Only, I didn’t wonder. I knew. A minute later, it might have been me.

“She’s going to be fine.”

“What?” I looked up. Meiko was looking at me with big eyes.

“She’s going to be fine. The wound is shallow.”

For the second time in as many days, I cried rivers. This time, Meiko joined me. I reached an arm around her, and we both sat on the ground, and cried for a long, long time.

All right then. I can't particularly say I enjoyed this story very much. The first half was neither interesting nor poignant, and essentially tried to justify the entire set-up and hinged on a lot of contrivances to do so. How is sending 4 people on a self-sustaining ship more cost-efficient than having, say, a space station in orbit above Earth? They're refugees, not criminals. At least, I don't think they were. You don't banish refugees. You dug yourself into a deeper and deeper hole, trying to justify and explain things that are unnecessary. And that's the crux of the first part; you didn't need to tell me anything of this.

Start on the planet, throw some lines in there about finding a new home, let the reader come up with a backstory of what happened to the characters.

Secondly, on the planet, there were parts about them walking through the forest and trees and stuff. Just like on earth. Perhaps you could have played up how uncanny it is instead of telling me. Establish an actual threat of sorts.

Then they see the aliens.

They leave, and go back. Ok.

Then the aliens shank somebody, and they get back to ship.

So yeah, our protagonists barely do anything here. Marshall steals the spotlight by actually taking care of the obstacle you presented the crew with. And in the end nothing's really changed, except Liz will have a scar I guess. It feels pointless, and your story didn't tell me anything interesting other than "refugees are treated like poo poo" but in a way that defies plausibility rather than evokes sympathy.

You gave your characters some semblance of personality that shone through now and then, but Sayid seems the most boring one. There's no character development except for Meiko who learns how to cry.

Blaise Pascal once ended a letter with "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter." Do you identify with this statement? Because I feel like you rambled some ideas about a story with a message in the first part, noticed nothing happened, and shoehorned an action scene in at the end. And then you ran out of time to revise it and actually give me an interesting story.

I suggest you think about what you're trying to tell me, as a theme or message. The first part seemed like it was about loneliness and emptiness. Then yeah, give me a story where people actually want to do things, on this spaceship, have some sort of isolating conflict with each other, and use the setting to drive that point home.

Or have a horror story on a creepy planet and make sure it gets weird. And have some sort of reason the protagonist can't just gently caress off somewhere else, like a crash landing or fuel trouble or whatever.

But you told me two stories that felt really disconnected and only one of them had a message you wanted to tell me (the boring one) and only one had actual things happening right at the end (the pointless one).

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The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

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