Be Careful Who You Resurrect

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The side of the candle read ‘Apple-Cinnamon’ scented.  I replaced it on the table, just as Tony wanted it, but said, “You can’t use your mom’s stupid candles for this.  I don’t think any ghost would answer to the call over a candle with all that perfume in it.”

“What do you want me to do?” Tony asked.  He turned the pages of the ancient grimoire in his hands, looking for further instruction.  “You got the pig’s blood, then?”

I put my backpack down and drew out the Cool-whip tub full of blood.  “Yeah.  What do we need to do with it?”

Tony put on a pair of gloves, opened my little container, and dipped a finger into the ooze.  “I’m surprised you didn’t have any problems getting it.”

I just shrugged.  “Butcher said he didn’t have many requests for blood, that most of it just got bleached and drained away.  So he gave me some.”

Tony ripped a couple sheets of wide-rule from a notebook and placed them just before the candle.  “Alright.  What ghost you want to see first?  Has to be someone you know is in Hell.”

“Hitler!” I said.  “See if he’s as hard to kill in real life as he was in Wolfenstein!”

“Yeah!” Tony agreed.  He dipped his finger back in the blood, this time drawing more onto the latex, and wrote the name ‘Adolf Hitler’ on the pages six times.  “Oh spirits, bring us who we requested!”

He pinched the candle light out, and the room fell to darkness.  It was quiet, only the pitter-patter of rain on the window.  My hackles raised, and I got the feeling I wasn’t alone.  A chill ran up my spine, goosebumps forming all over my flesh.  I whimpered, but steeled myself by holding onto the back of Tony’s desk chair.

Without warning, the lights in the room flicked on.

I squealed and fell into Tony’s lap as he screamed.

At the door, hand on the switch, stood Tony’s mom.  She tapped her foot, letting the toe of her high-heeled shoe make angry clacks against the wooden floor.  “What are you doing, Tony?”

He stammered too much, so I answered, “Resurrecting… resurrecting Hitler.”

His mother rolled her eyes and stomped over to see what was on Tony’s desk.  She grabbed the two sheets of notebook paper, crumpled them, and threw them in the trash can.  She turned her attention, then, to the leatherbound volume by the side and snatched it up.  “You obviously didn’t turn to the appendix – Hitler’s one of those irredeemably evil people that our Covens unanimously elected to seal into Hell.  And wide-ruled paper?  You should know better than this.”

I felt my heart rate increase again.  Tony’s mom was… a witch?  That was so strangely hot.

“Aww, Mom,” Tony whined.  “You won’t teach me anything.  I was doing the best I could.”

“By resurrecting Hitler?” she asked.  “No.  You’re grounded, young man.”

I crawled off Tony’s lap and shuffled my way to the door.  “Uh, yeah, dude.  Uh, I’m just gonna go home.”  I dashed away, didn’t look back to see what Tony or his mom said, didn’t wait to see if his witch mom would call my normal-ass mom and get me grounded, too.

***

This was written for the Rachel Poli Time to Write prompt.  Rachel Poli is extremely popular and active on Twitter, but I think she’s not widely followed in my little corner of WordPress.  Check her out – she has a ton of interesting writing-based materials! 

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Are You Polyamorous With Your WIPs?

It happens to the best of us.  We’re booking it through writing a book, then – WHAM! – it hits you like a box truck going under 11-foot-8.

You have another book you want to write even more.

Strategy One: STAY THE COURSE

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You’re so close to finishing that book.  You’ve got to stay on track, got to get that done so you can start editing, submitting, publishing, etc. etc…

In this case, you decide to keep working on that book.  It hurts – your mind feels the pain of trudging through a story you don’t want to write.  You must simply hope the story doesn’t suffer like you are.

If you’re close enough to the end, this strategy works out.  You’ll reach the end triumphant.  But, if you’ve got a little longer to go, each day causes you consternation.  That other book’s still lingering, dying to be written.

Strategy Two: IF I CAN DO JUST THE TIP…

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Finally, you must give in.  It was just too much, and you felt like continuing the original story was going to fail anyway.  Sure, first drafts all need editing, but you wouldn’t want to look forward to what you’d have to edit…

Just a couple chapters, just enough to get that new idea down, and you’re back to your old story.  If you can write just a little on this ‘other story,’ then you’re much more likely to come back to it and remember what a great idea it had been.

But there’s a risk with doing this.  Sometimes, those chapters are like a gateway drug.  This new book is so enticing, so fun, and offers new challenges and plots.

Strategy Three: ASK FOR A THREESOME

Ok.  You can handle two books at once.  You were so far ahead with the first one, anyway, that they’ll end up finished at about the same time.

You’ve got the skills.  You’ve got the will.  Now all you need is a little more leeway with that timeline you’d originally had to get that book finished.

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Strategy Four: FULL ON INFIDELITY

That first book was never what you wanted anyway.  That book was predictable garbage.

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So don’t feel bad for leaving it for something new.  Sometimes you just need a break, and sometimes it’s simply good for you.  It’s better to write something new, something less likely to be published/finished/loved, than to write nothing at all.

…Right?

***

I recently went through this full cycle.  I was almost done with American Chimera, my latest novel-length project, when I got completely distracted by something that doesn’t deserve to see the light of day.

Have you ever cheated on your novel?  Do any of these steps resonate with you?  Let me know in the comments!

Chemistry and Peace

Everyone who knows me probably sees my name and thinks, “Oh, it’s the prompt nut.”  You’re right.

One thing I’ve realized since curating a page detailing many prompts is that there are LOTS more prompts out there that you might not know about.  So, until I either get tired of it or run out of prompts to talk about, I’m going to start an effort to highlight some of those prompts which don’t get enough love.

Today, I’m showcasing Write Now, a prompt that hasn’t seemed to come across the radar of my corner of Writing Blogs.  The objective of Write Now is to encourage people to write something for 5 minutes or more in a stretch.  The prompt for February 19th was:

“The award she received was unexpected and, some thought, undeserved.”

***

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I made this picture using UCSF’s Chimera and PDB file 1BNA.

The award she received was unexpected and, some thought, undeserved.

The audience seemed unhappy at her receipt, but they clapped nonetheless, beamed with false smiles on false faces.  She took to the podium, received the golden statue, and bent the microphone to better receive her speech.

“Thank you,” she said, her harsh tones causing the speakers to crack and whine.  “I never expected to win an award for my work in biochemistry, even though my discoveries have really been effective.”

The audience knew what she’d done to receive the Nobel in chemistry.  And the old people didn’t like it, either.

“Since Global Castration efforts have gone into effect, my nanobots have systematically hidden from any attempt to destroy them.  They have killed any sex cell, foetus, or human with genes they find inadequate.  Because of this, all of humanity is stronger, and we can now face the effects of global warming without having to sustain the dregs of society.”

On her way back to the seating in the room, the Peace Prize winner came up the stairs.  “Bitch,” she said, then clocked the chemist and took the prize away.

The Chase – #Haibun

adorable animal animal photography animal portrait

The water of the creek smells clean, like something that has trickled out of the water table and onto leaf litter.  I lap it with my tongue, tasting with care, then drink to slake my thirst.  I hear thunder rattle through the mountain pass, and lift my head to sniff the air.

Scent of saltpeter
Humans chasing their quarry.
Danger stalks these woods.

***

This was written for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday #124 – Game and Trouble.   Synonyms are in bold!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Book Review: Judas Unchained

After reading the first book in this 2-part series, I wasn’t especially looking forward to Judas Unchained.  While I must say that this second book brought a lot of the elements of mystery from Pandora’s Star together, the end was rather predictable and some portions of the book(s) seemed utterly unnecessary or long.  This review is also unnecessarily long.

The Book

Judas Unchained51waWAjvOpL
Author: Peter Hamilton
First published in 2006 – this was a book one of my friends owns and wanted me to read.
Amazon Link

This book, like the first in the series, is incredibly complex and just filled to the brim with information.  You can’t really let up paying attention to the book, because you’ll have to spend time re-reading to understand the next passages. While marvelously and incredibly put together, I found Judas Unchained to have too many foundational premises to be truly enjoyable.

Non-Spoiler Review

As the puzzles from Pandora’s Star are unleashed here, I wondered if the two books had originally been written as a single behemoth and were published separately simply because of the sheer mass of the two of them.  The book didn’t really spend any time summarizing what had happened in the prior volume, and I was glad I had the opportunity to read them back to back.  If you do go into this series, definitely get both books before you start.

In Pandora’s Star, it felt like nothing really got tied up or explained.  About halfway through this book, though, some of the more intriguing elements to this mystery started coming together.  When I had the information to know what was going on, I started enjoying the book a bit more.  I felt like the buildup had finally paid off, and I was being rewarded by… knowing the ending.

Which was a letdown.  Because the revelations happened at about the middle of the book, I had a long, long bit of reading to do before the end, which happened pretty much as I suspected it would.  If you put the two books together, the climax and denouement happened at the relative ratios you would expect, but that translated to about 100,000 or 150,000 words of falling action and resolution (see more in the Spoilers).  There were also entire characters and storylines in the book that I found incredibly unnecessary.

Overall, I can see why people who are into this sort of thing (like the friend who lent me the book) would like it.  It’s incredibly complex, rich, and full of sci-fi coolness.  But when you have a book that contains massive amounts of unnecessary scenes as well as an abrupt ending to the first volume, I’m willing to call this one ‘not worth the time I spent.’

SPOILERS REVIEW

This book was basically a sci-fi mystery, so if you think you might want to read an incredibly complex sci-fi headscratcher, don’t read the spoilers.  You might even rather read my review for Pandora’s Star first.

Anyway, Judas Unchained finally paid off in terms of giving me something for all the buildup.  I was pleasantly surprised by the continued greatness and growth of the Mellanie character, though as the story wrapped up, I couldn’t figure out why the SI cared about her or anyone.  Mellanie, despite starting off as a gold-digging college student, became an excellent investigative reporter who was absolutely instrumental in saving the human race.  I’ve never seen a character like her come off so well in a book before, and I do have to credit Hamilton for that (despite the weird part where she decided to marry the boy Orion, who I took to be… 14?  I was absolutely displeased with that).

The character I was most excited to see come up again – and who, I must say, signaled the coming of the most exciting piece of both books, was the astronomer who had been abducted, killed, and memories subsequently downloaded into an alien body.  The ‘Bose motile,’ as he was known, was imperative to solve the Prime situation and recapture the villainous MorningLightMountain.

Even with all the above, though, I barely scratched the surface of the part of the book that commanded the majority of the wordcount.  The Starflyer, who turned out to be an evil alienPrime (an offshoot of the Primes of MorningLightMountain), was revealed and killed in a somewhat satisfying manner by the end of the book. I did feel like the humans were cutting it too close, and there simply was too much information floating around for centuries that the Starflyer was real.  When the mystery finally got solved, I didn’t believe the characters when they said the Starflyer’s motivations were too perfect to be figured out.

Plot hole #1: if the alienPrime Starflyer was, as theorized, left outside the Dyson Alpha and Beta barriers when they were erected, why did it travel to Commonwealth space?  Why didn’t it just turn around and open its own barrier?  Was it afraid of the Anomines?  If it had hundreds of years of food supplies, why did it travel so far anyway?  Its motivations were basically garbage.

That’s leaving out another important event.  In a long, boring, incredibly unnecessary portion of the book, Ozzie figures out how to recapture the Primes and stop genocide.  At the very end of the book, he and the Bose motile go to Prime space to try and rehabilitate MorningLightMountain by introducing emotions to it.

That could never work.

Why?

The alienPrime had altered its own DNA to become more like the species it met in Dyson Beta.  It had also spent centuries among humans, messing with their DNA and their memories in order to absorb and manipulate politics.  If after all that, the alienPrime could not be rescued from pure evil, why would you ever think MorningLightMountain could be? It’s ludicrous.  They should have just killed all the Primes.  Do they seriously think genocide by slow starvation is that much better than genocide by supernova?  Ridiculous. Not only that, it was proven by Ozzie and Bose that travel through the barrier is possible through the Silfen paths.  MorningLightMountain isn’t truly imprisoned, and it will kill everyone without hesitation when it learns to make use of them.

Anyway, it was a very ok book.  I never plan on reading them again, but there were parts I found incredibly creative.

Next week:

I’m looking forward to this next mid-aughts adventure: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell!  I’ve seen the BBC series, so that will probably cloud my judgment, but oh well!  Super hyped.

The Grave Planet

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“That’ll be a day’s rations.”  I slid the broken toaster across the steel table to her.

No longer so dinged, rusty, and scratched, even a cursory glance showed the quality of my handiwork.  She picked up her goods and frowned.  “My neighbor said you fixed his for free.  Why are you charging me?”

I wiped my greasy fingers off on a towel that hung on a drawer handle behind me.  “A week ago I decided to be like the rest of you and make this place do.  Even if I want to go home, I can’t without the entire crew.  I’m not the captain, so I can’t just order you all to action.”  I tossed the rag back down, letting it swing against the cabinet.  “I have to start getting payment for my work.”

The colonist, until recently a science officer on our exploration vessel, took out her electronic notepad.  She tapped a couple buttons and smirked.  “Well, at least you’re finally coming across to seeing sense.”

“It’s not by choice that I’m doing this.”  I moved over to another bench, taking up a personal computer that someone had ripped from their old ship quarters.  I turned it around, trying to figure out how to fix it without the structure of the ship nearby.  “There was never a vote to colonize.  We just left the ship, and most of you didn’t want to go back once your feet touched the ground.”

She laughed as she went to the door of my little cave, holding her toaster tight.  “You’ll see that everything’s fine.  It’ll be ok – you’ll get over your fear soon.  There are no such thing as ghosts.”

Once the makeshift door closed behind her, I groaned.  At least she didn’t prod or poke fun, but her faux pity didn’t sit well with me.  I gritted my teeth and reached for my tools, giving extra care not to harm the computer I worked on.

My tool slipped out of my hand.  I tossed it against the wall.

This planet seeped despair.  The vegetation, though complex, grew small and weak.  The green leaves quickly faded to deathly brown, and the skeletons of ancient trees reached up only part of their old height.  The animals and alien creatures that had once inhabited this planet still haunted the place.  I could feel their malevolence with every breath, the grave planet entombed with the dead of an ancient race.

The breathable atmosphere, reasonable weather patterns, and similarity in size to our faraway home attracted us to this planet.  After years of traveling, searching, and living cramped inside our ship, the chance to stretch our legs and breathe the air of a planet once more was too much to ignore.

I should have voiced my opinions then.

I closed my eyes and took up my tool again, continuing my work.

***

“This is goodbye.”  My mother nuzzled up against me and pulled me in tight, close to her.  The scent of her perfume clung to my uniform.  “I’m so proud of you.”

I gulped.  After months of training, backing out now would never do.  “It’ll be ok.  I’ll be back home eventually, and I love you, Mom.”

She gave a brave harrumph.  I may come back home, but time dilation due to faster than light travel would mean she’d likely not be there to greet me.

Then again, I may not come back home.

She wiped her nose, removing the mucous.  “Don’t let any of the aliens kill you.  Fly smart, fly safe, and fly fast.”

I nodded and moved around her.  Smoke bellowed out of my ship’s engines.

“I’ve got to go, mom.”

She held me tight, planted her lips on my forehead, and I broke from her hold.

***

The rolling, dusty sound of the wind carried over the entry to my cave.  I listened to my door jar as the planet’s lonely voice whined for attention.

Rattle.  Ratta-rattle.

The repair business came in spurts.  During the next lull I needed to reinforce my door.  For now, I pulled my blanket up around me and crept out of bed.  The lights came on automatically, brightening slowly from a dull warmth to a more appropriate shine. The door moved more, but the lights banished the ghosts from my room.  I shivered, cool air of the night coming in through the cracks around my door.

Rattle.

I held the door still, and the rattling stopped.  An extra bar and the rattling would probably stop, perhaps a rubber gasket to seal from the air that came in.  I let go of the door.

Ratta-BOOM!

I jumped back from the door, starting a bit before I realized the noise couldn’t have been caused by my release or even my abode.  I flicked open the lock and pushed down on the metal latch, then pulled open the steel door taken from the room on my ship.

The colony – a collection of alien-hewn caves and portions of metal salvaged from our ship – appeared in good condition.  The colony’s lights remained off and dim for the night, and the air smelled as fresh as it had the first day.

Movement above me made me look upward.  Something in the sky, far up above me, sparkled.  It streaked quickly down and the flames grew in intensity.  Somewhere, probably a few miles to the southeast, the source of the light probably landed.

Quickly I receded into my abode, blanket still wrapped around me.  The lights turned themselves off when I clicked, and I fumbled blindly on my tables.  Eventually I came across an old, metal tube, and clasped it.  I expanded the telescope, now certain I had the right object, and returned outside.

I looked up, the last of the fiery remains in the sky, and trained my sights on it.  I turned the ancient tool, focusing the light in the lenses, and blinked.

“No.”

Ghosts or no, the ancient whispers of the windy planet were the least of our worries.

I moved the scope to the right, left, up, and down.  I closed it shut with a snap, then hurried to the Captain’s cave.

***

I held my breath.  Though not as solid as portrayed in pop culture, the rocky barrier at the outer edge of the solar system loomed large ahead of our ship.

We kept the lights, both internal and external, off during this perilous part of the journey.  Even the heat that kept us alive and that was emitted by our computers had a chance of giving us away, but this was our best and possibly only chance.

“I don’t see them,” she said, her voice a mild, hushed whisper.  She closed the shutter on the window, what little light that came from stars instantly cut off, and handed back my telescope.  I held it tight, glad to retrieve my heirloom.

I wanted to peek out the shutter.  I wanted to chance looking through the glass, but I knew the risk we’d taken by opening it in the first place.  “They haven’t said anything yet.”  I put the telescope in my bag, removing its temptation.  “If the aliens were going to stop us from leaving the system, you’d think they’d have shown up by now, right?”

I could hear her move, perhaps with invisible answer.  “The first ship we launched came back saying we’d all be killed if anyone left.  ‘Stay home, spaceman,’ they said.  What if that was our only warning?”

“Then we’ll know if they spotted us because we’ll be dead.”  I swallowed, then reached a hand out to her.  “I told my mom not to be afraid for me, but I’m scared now.”

“Me too,” she said.  “I just wanted to explore the universe.  I don’t want to get in some alien’s way or colonize a planet they want for themselves.”

I heard her choke, a sound larger than what we were allowed right now.  “Sometimes I wonder if signing up to explore for the rest of my life was a good idea.”

I took her and clenched tight, letting her know I was there for her.  “We’ll come back home.  We have to, if we want to give our knowledge back to our people.”

“It won’t be home anymore.”  I heard her sniffle, felt her shake.  “Everyone we love will be dead by the time we get back.  We may just as well never return.”

I paused a moment, the released her and gave a nice rub.  “Aww, don’t say that.  That’ll mean the aliens have found and killed us.  The ship’s well put together, and we’ve got plenty of mechanics to keep it running.”

She cracked open the shutter again.  “Running…”

***

“You can’t be serious.”  He blinked his eyes.

I reached to his computer and dimmed his lights, hoping nothing leaked from his office outside.  “The computers picked up the explosion.  I saw the falling debris, and I used my telescope to see them.”  I released my breath, then took in a new one.  “The aliens are here.  I saw their ships – beautiful, like arrows – and they’re fighting above us.  If they finish battling each other and notice us, we’re dead.”

The captain brought up information on his computer.  I leaned over, seeing that it was data from the listening posts, and that the microphones had picked up the explosion.  “I asked electrical to reduce power production and all the computers to keep the lights off until morning.”  He pointed to me with a pencil.  “Tomorrow, you lead an expedition out to the debris field.  I want to know what kind of aliens are fighting above this planet, and if there’s  a chance they’ll come back.”

I nodded.  “Yes, sir.”

***

I felt the ground – it’d been years since the last time I’d done so – beneath me.  The radiation stung slightly, but I’d live.  Nothing a few med packs couldn’t handle, nothing a bit of soil treatment wouldn’t cure.

I breathed in deeply, then took a step further.  The air sat heavily in the lungs, whipped wickedly over the ground.  Twisted metal spiraled upward, melted into useless chunks that corroded and rusted.

Shaped stones sank into the ground at even intervals, tightly packed together.  I scanned further out, the field of dirt and unnatural carvings continuing out as far as I could see.  Behind me was the same thing, a few larger, stone monuments erected in the empty field.

I walked to a cave.  The square entry, hewn from a marble, no longer housed a door, but it could be repaired.  It smelled musty and ancient inside, but these cave-like structures could easily provide shelter for a few days.

I coughed and turned on my flashlight.  The cave walls were lined with drawers, each tiny and labeled with a faded, scratched tag that glimmered in a fools’ gold alloy.  I took the handle only to break it off, but the lock – mechanical, simple, ancient – had similarly degraded.  I pried the drawer open, and dust flew out at my face when it soon fell clattering to the ground.

Ashes.

***

I trembled.  The debris field burned hot with fire, the explosion destroying several of the thousands of endless tombs that covered the grave planet.  My team held close their lanterns, carried tightly their rations.  The wind whispered and wailed hateful sounds, cautioning against error now.

I reached down and pulled up a piece of duller metal, finding it still warm to the touch.  Underneath the soil had been scorched.  I sighed and picked it up, putting it in my bag.  “The pieces are too small in this area.  There’s nothing we can learn from this.”  I looked to my small team, each of their faces fearful.  “Get as much metal as you can.  We can use it to repair our ship.  I’m going to go a little further, see if there’s something bigger.”

“But what if the aliens see us?”

I spat on the ground.  “This was always a bad idea.  Always.”

I marched up the hillside.  Tombstones – definitely tombstones, definitely rocks that marked the placement of alien bodies – lined every inch and crevice.  In the sides of the mountain, where it was too steep to place the larger stones, the ashen drawers were carved.  Bones, degraded textiles, meat, and alien jewelry sat in coffins that my feet tromped over.

At the top of the hill, I saw the largest mass of the ship.  It sat in flames in the next valley, so I waved my team on.  “Careful,” I said.  “Take cover if anything moves.”

The cockpit of the tiny, alien ship glowed red with lingering heat.  Nearby, made of what seemed to be a strange, brown leather, was a piece of furniture that I had to assume once held the alien’s body.

It wasn’t burned, but nothing sat there now.

My heart throbbed quickly.  “Scatter,” I ordered.  “Get back home.  The pilot survived, and the colony’s too close by.  We’ve got to liftoff.”

One of my troop shook her head.  “They’ll see us.  We have to hide.”

“We can’t send back a message.  We have to go-”

All of us clung to each other as we heard movement.  Metal rattled, and strange lungs coughed.

A body rose from the wreckage.  It was tall and slender, walked on two appendages, and used another two appendages to remove some of its clothing.  It cut a parachute off from its back and shook out a last, bulbous appendage that was topped with fibers.

What had to be eyes, white with dark, circular centers moved rapidly.

I chirped, whining, scared.  I felt the tentacles from my friends clench me tighter.

The alien grunted and pulled an object from its hip.  I recognized the creature’s brown, peachy skin from descriptions given by our species’ first captain.  The alien pressed a button, then spoke, “I am Captain Bill Aster of the 502nd battalion of Terra Nova.  How dare you defile our home?”

My friends shoved me from our pile, squelching as my body – bulky, compared to the alien’s, and brilliant orange – spewed forward as representative.  “It wasn’t our choice,” I said.  “We just wanted to explore, just see what was out there.”

“I recognize you.  You’re some of those curious little aliens, from iota sector.”  The machine translated a laugh, but the eerie sound the alien made in the background caused me to shiver.  “Those dirty rat bastards from New America reported that they’d told you to stay home, and you disobeyed their unusually wise advice, didn’t you?”

I wrung my tentacles together.  “Is it even fair to keep us jailed? Confined to our home planet?”

“Out of all the planets you could have settled, is it fair you chose Earth?”  The alien stepped forward, a tiny appendage pointed at me.  “This is the planet every species but yours spawned from, and it’s the planet to which our dead of Terra Nova deserve to be buried on.”

“It’s ok,” I protested, waving my tentacles in surrender. “We’ll leave! I swear!”

“I don’t let the New Americans live or die here, not if I can help it, and those mongrels can claim genetic heritage to Earth.  You think I’m going to let some dirty alien away with defiling our graves? With disrespecting our dead?” It reached the empty hand to a new object in it’s belt.  “I hope you don’t have blood, otherwise it’s going to spill all over our soil.”

“No, please, we didn’t mean any-”

But ghosts can only whisper and hide, and the tales of the dead – even my own – only blow over the fields and tombs of the grave planet.

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

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“All dis for jus’ a speakeasy.”  Detective Banks spat, surveying the grisly scene by the garage.  “Deez gangsters are despicable.”

A beat cop with Tommy gun in hand nodded.  “Yeah, all four of the shooters had to’ve been real bad guys.”

“All four of ’em?  Where you pullin’ that number from, kid?”

The beat cop shrugged.  “Nowhere.”

“Old ladies in the ‘partment cross the street says four cops did it.  You know anything ’bout that?”

“No.”  The beat cop sneered, held his Tommy gun a little higher.

Detective Banks spat again.  “Case looks unsolvable.  Now, clean this mess up.”

***

This was written for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge for February 14th, Valentine.  And what can be more Valentine’s than the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, save for the martyrdom of saints? 

Historical Info: On February 14th, 1929, some of Capone’s south-side gangsters teamed with a couple corrupt cops to slaughter 7 enemies in the North Side gang.  Though there were suspects in the murder, none of them were ever arrested due to lack of concrete evidence.  In this flash, I make the connection between rampant police corruption – which Chicago had at the time – and the unsolved mystery.  

Elephant and The Lord of All

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Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

When the world was young and the Lord of All was old, all the animals were the same.  Every creature was a simple thing, just arms and legs on a useless barrel devoid of strength, claw, or wing.  The animals saw the lush world created by the Lord of All, and they rejoiced with what they had.

When the Lord of All was satisfied that each animal had been given the opportunity to think about the world, a decree was issued.  Every animal was to come from across the plains, walk through the tundra, and rise out of the oceans in order to approach the Lord’s Throne.  There, they could ask for any gift they wished.

Everyone knows the story of Rabbit, who asked for strong legs to run fast and ears to hear well, or the story of Wolf, who asked for great senses of smell and sharp teeth to better hunt Rabbit and all the bunny offspring.  You may even know the story of Mouse, who asked for quick multiplication and stealthy movement.

What you may not remember was that the Lord of All had deigned it appropriate to put the Throne at the top of a tall mountain.  Mouse, even with such a strong gift as innumerable numbers, found it difficult to leave the mountain after receiving the gift.  The mountain was steep, and a great snowstorm made the way treacherous for Mouse.  As the world became white, Mouse found a small house in a tree and, discovering it was no longer occupied, moved in.  Though Mouse surely multiplied, the food was scarce.  The weather was cold.

“Oh, Lord of All!” cried Mouse.  “Help me!  I am trapped on your mountainside!”

The Lord of All replied with a voice of thunder, “I cannot leave my throne.  There are two animals left to ask for their blessing, and I must give everyone a fair chance to get what they ask.”

“But, Lord of All, I might die!”

“Many Animals I have created will die.”

Unbeknownst to Mouse, another creature climbed the mountainside.  It heard the cries of Mouse and the thunderous replies of the Lord of All.  Elephant redoubled its efforts to climb the mountain and eventually made it to the Throne.

Elephant entered the room of the Lord of All and bowed.  It had not yet received the gift of Animals, and it sought to change that.

The Lord of All smiled with fiery countenance.  “Elephant!  My friend.  I have long awaited you to ask your gift – what would you wish?”

Elephant raised its head and looked to the Lord of All.  “I wish to be tall enough to reach the house where Mouse is trapped, strong enough to carry Mouse’s house, and dextrous enough that I can keep care of that charge.”

“Oh?” The Lord of All frowned.  “Your gifts weren’t meant to be helpful to others.  They are to help you compete, help me determine which animal chose most wisely.  Why not ask for claws like Lion?  For a beautiful coat like Mink?  For a hard carapace like Beetle?”

“But Mouse is suffering,” Elephant pleaded.  “You said you would give me whatever I asked for, and I have made up my mind.”

The Lord of All harrumphed.  “Very well.  But know this – you will lose most of your sight, and from now on, Mouse will frighten you.  That is your curse for requesting a gift I don’t approve of.”

Once Elephant was grown to impressive size and given a long trunk, it rushed down the mountainside to where Mouse was shivering.  Elephant knocked on the door and said, “Hurry – get out of your house!  I’m going to try to save you.”

So Elephant pushed the house out of the tree in order to place it in a safe crook on its back.  Mouse remained quiet on Elephant’s back until they all got off the mountainside and were safe on the flat plains.

After Elephant came down from the Mountain, there was only one animal that had not yet asked a gift of the Lord of All.  I suppose the Lord of All is still waiting – Elephant wouldn’t give Human the directions to the Throne.  Therefore it is up to us not to forget Elephant’s sacrifice to save Mouse, up to Humans to do right by all the animals that the Lord of All refuses to protect.

***

This was written for Diana Wallace Peach’s monthly Speculative Fiction Writing Contest for February 2019.  I feel like mythological stuff has been pretty common, and I have to admit being inspired by a bunch of the previous responses!

Though… I almost named the deity in this story Frith, for those of you who get that reference…

Our Lizard Overlords: A Sonnet

artistic blossom bright clouds

Nary a day may pass that I don’t weep,
Considering your scaly hide beneath
Some guy’s soft flesh used as your body sheath.
So before I pray and lay down to sleep,
I consider how your anger must seeth
As foul human cattle turn Earth to heath.
I’ll turn off my computer with a beep
And stop spreading lies about your intent.
The lizard man in human flesh is kind,
A good reptilian father to his
Underling livestock filled with malcontent.
Accept your lot and I’m certain you’ll find
Falling in love with master is your fate.

***

This petrarchan love sonnet was written for the weekly Terrible Poetry Contest sponsored by the inimitable Chelsea Ann Owens.  This week, we were inspired to write a love sonnet.  I don’t believe in lizard overlords nor many conspiracies such as this, but I find them funny and suitably distasteful.  7-11 was a part time job.  

Secrets – #Senryu

heart shaped red neon signage

My heart beats so fast
What ignites this keen craving?
Your hidden secrets?

Let me uncover
The essence of your power
And relish in it.

By gaining your trust,
I become vulnerable,
Naked, and open.

My heart beats so fast.
What ignites this keen craving?
My spilled secrets?

***

I wrote this scandalous thing for the Valentine’s-Day ready Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday #123. The synonym words are in bold.  This is four senryu, and I’m not sure the repetition at the end is really allowed, but I thought it gave exactly the feeling I wanted it to. 

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com