Water Striders

insect water strider

Skri water walks over to me. “Lookit – those things are on the island again.”

The short-limbed creatures watch me from the shores. I do not bounce as if to play, do not acknowledge them. Instead I reach below the surface to grab a chunk of algae. “I thought nothing lived on land.”

“You know what the elder says?” Skri leaned in close. “She thinks they’re monsters.”

The materially-rich monsters move as if to avoid scaring us. There’s something knowing about them, something intelligent, but they’re absent the holiness of water.

I shudder. Nothing with a soul walks on land.

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This sci-fi flash was written for the November 7th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch. Water Walkers was the theme this week, and that made me think of water strider bugs. I invented an alien that is bigger, intelligent, and walks on water. The land creatures are supposed to be us treating the aliens like animals on a National Geographic.

Though I guess you could just read this as from the viewpoint of actual water striders, lol.

***Edit: I realized this also fit the prompt for D. Wallace Peach’s November Writing Challenge. Perhaps I will get off my lazy bum and write something special for it – but perhaps I will just let this one linger as my response. 🙂

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Blind Faith – Flash Fiction Challenge

green pine trees covered with fogs under white sky during daytime

The Story So Far… 

Vessix accepted her parents’ plans to sacrifice her to the gods after her father lost the vein of gold in the family’s small mine, since a blind person couldn’t support herself in their society. They left her at the temple where all the ill and infirm waited for the gods to come eat them, and Vessix remained at the altar with an ancient, dying man. Late that night, when the door to the temple unlocked and jangled open, the local god entered and ate the man who lay dying, but spared Vessix on the grounds that blindness wasn’t a death sentence. It took her home, gave her breakfast, clothes, a place to sleep, and a psychic duck as a pet. Now the duck urges her to escape and proclaim the god as false to the people of the town – will Vessix listen to the duck’s heretical words, or will she search for real truth? Stay tuned to find out!

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This was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Story So Far, which has to contain a duck!  My story so far is based off a story I started but quit. The reason I quit was because it relied too heavily on Wizards of the Coast (D&D) copyrighted property, and it was destructive enough that I could even get in trouble for it as a fanfic. So I quit because I literally couldn’t share it. Still, this summary doesn’t contain those elements, but it does contain a duck!

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Arecibo

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“Well, it’s definitely a message. It’s binary, very clear, quite ordered.”

The head of the agency tapped the desk.  “You have a translation of it?”

“Yes sir, we think it’s decoded.” She handed him a block. “There were 1,679 blips. If the message was purposefully sent, the number probably means something. Since it’s semiprime, we set the message onto a 23 by 73 grid and raised the grid spaces that were ‘on.’ The patterns clearly indicate a message.”

He swept a tentacle across the braille. “We really aren’t alone in the universe! It has the numbers one through 10, then a code of sorts. What’s it say?”

“Get your FREE bottle of male enhancement pills from Crazy Joe’s NOW.”

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This was written for the Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #111, translation. The original Arecibo Message was a 23 by 73 binary message launched from the Arecibo Observatory as part of its opening ceremony in 1974. Intended to be a publicity stunt more than anything, the message was nevertheless an informative thing indicating the presence of life on Earth for anyone who might be around to receive it. But, knowing us, we’ll send another in a few years advertising penis pills, ’cause that’s the way we do.

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Strawberry Mint Lemonade

cold cool drink field

Jack sidled up to the bar where a single woman sipped her drink.  The shimmering lights of the disco ball moved over his face as he waved down a bartender.  “Whiskey.”  The bartender slid the glass over.

She bit her straw seductively.

“What’s your name?”

“Strawberry.” Her voice had a strange accent. “Strawberry Mint Lemonade.  Good to meet you, Whiskey.”

He chuckled.  “My name’s Jack – whiskey’s what I’m drinking.”

The beautiful woman tilted her head further than natural. “Is not saying of humans, ‘You are what you eat’?” She grabbed him by the wrist. “What does ‘Jack’ taste like?”

***

Did anyone expect something that wasn’t weird?  Also, I’m finding that I have several stories about a flirtatious meeting where the female ends up being cannibalistic or something like that.  I need to branch out a bit!

Anyway, this was written for the May 30th Carrot Ranch prompt, Strawberry and Mint.

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Ice, Ice Everywhere, But Nary a Place to Skate

Space

Fourchad took the first step on planet Khione, entirely blanketed with ice, ripe for exploitation. They’d melt the ice and create water for the colony.

Brevard scraped a sample of the ice into her scanner. “Something’s not right.”

“What is it?”

“Water has unique physical properties – the weight of your body should add enough pressure to turn the ice into water and cause you to slip.”

Fourchad’s heart skipped a beat. “If it’s not ice, what is it?”

“Scanner says carbon dioxide. Dry ice.”

Wind chilled their hearts and the dead planet. They didn’t have the fuel to leave.

***

This was written for the May 23rd Carrot Ranch Promptno ice.

This was based on a chemical engineering practice test I once took.  Suffice to say this is about water’s physical properties and the weird slope of the solid/liquid line on the PT diagram. Carbon dioxide, dry ice, won’t melt due to pressure, so you won’t slip on it.

 

The Last Forest

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I plodded into the forest with a tape measure. The age of a tree couldn’t be divined without coring, but I don’t have that equipment. Size will have to suffice.

Grandma once told me that the forests hold memories and grudges. She taught me how to ask forgiveness from the apple tree in the backyard, to seek the oldest tree for the absolution from a grove.

I decorated what limbs I could with prayer tags. “Please, don’t leave. Please grow again.”

It didn’t work, but maybe that wasn’t the oldest. A lot of trees had a five inch diameter.

***

This was written for the May 16th Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge. Inspired by Japanese kodama and buddhist prayer tags, I wrote a story about what I imagine to be a girl in rural China who lives near the last existing forest. Yaaay, global warming…

The Bone Forge

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Hot.  Flames singed at his flesh.

Pain. His arm ached when he tried to cover his eyes, and his side throbbed with constant, stinging pain.

Alfred whimpered and remained lying down.  “Oh God,” he asked, “My God, why did you forget me?”

“Forget who?” asked a voice.

The light in the room changed as an old woman with wild, grey curls sticking from her messy bun pulled a curtain open.  She placed a hand on Alfred’s head, taking the chance to examine him.  She grabbed a pen light and tested his pupils’ dilation.  “Hmph.  That bootup was supposed to be a test.”

Alfred’s rapid heartbeat and breathing slowed.  “Where am I?” he asked.  “I take it I’m not in Hell?”

“Depends on how much and what kind of Hell you believe in.”  She flipped a switch, and the gears behind Alfred slowed.  The hot fire dimmed.  “This is The Bone Forge.”

Alfred swallowed.  “No.”  He lifted his painful arm, mechanical gears whirring.  His right side, down to the lung and diaphragm, had been replaced with computerized versions.  His body stung where his nerves and blood intersected with the machine’s circuitry and pipes.  “This can’t be happening – I said no resuscitation, no experiments!”

“Oh, get over that.  I haven’t paid attention to paperwork in months.” The old lady tsked, then unhooked a few electrical cords from Alfred’s body.

“I fought for our freedom,” Alfred said.  “I was supposed to die for it, too, not become a… a mechanical zombie!”

She kicked the brakes on the gurney and moved the IV bag such that it hung at his head.  “I can still cut the power to your brain, if you want.  You’re not able to survive on your own, not for long.”

“Will they let you do it?”

“‘They’ don’t have any say in it.”  She pushed the gurney through a door into a cool, dark hallway.  Some of the lights flickered, some remained dark.  “General Applequist surrendered his army three days ago, and our glorious Revolution’s about to be downgraded to just another civil war.  The only people who would care if I pull the plug on you are our enemies, and them only because they’re jealous of my tech.”  She shrugged.  “I don’t care.  I expect they’ll find me guilty of war crimes at my trial, and I’ll let them take my life.  Better than them taking my secrets.”

Alfred winced as she pushed his gurney over a threshhold.  The room he entered had barred windows, and the morning light shined through a light dust that swirled in the room.  He could still smell the smoke from the bombings, from when the front had raged just at the edge of Diamond City.

His lip quivered.  Pain echoed through his cheek, so he lifted his left hand – still human, not machine – and felt the smooth mechanics.  “Can I look at my face?”

The old woman sighed, but she turned the gurney to face the cracked mirror on the wall.

Alfred turned his head away from the mirror.  “God didn’t forget me.  He purposefully turned away.”

“Believe about God what you want, but don’t forget this.”  The old lady put a hand to the bed, just next to Alfred’s mechanical arm.  “Your country never gave up on you.  Not when you were a fresh recruit, not when you fired your gun, not when half your body’d been blown apart on the field, and certainly not now.  Now, do you want this new life your blessed, dying country gave you, or should I leave you on the gurney’s battery power for a few hours and let you make your final prayers?”

He swallowed some saliva.  “Plug me in.  I… I want my mom.”

She grabbed the man’s cords and transferred the power to the wall outlet.  “We’ll try to reach her, sweetie.  Let me get you a book to read in the meantime.”

***

This was written for D. Wallace Peach’s monthly Speculative Fiction Prompt.  It’s looking to be a *hot* prompt, so join in before the deadline!

If you enjoyed my sci-fi tale of cyborgism, consider reading my novella, If I Only Had No Heart.  It’s a horror tale about a robot cult that encourages cyborgism, and it has a lot of feelings and themes in common with this flash fiction.

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

Interstellar Cargo

space

The computer hitched the wagon to the back of my train. I brushed my finger against my moustache, then handed my electronic clipboard to the customer. “Your wagon will be delivered two Earth days from now at Elysia. Sign here, here, and here.”

The customer scrutinized the contract. “Says here you’re not liable for pirate attacks.”

“For cargo shipped out there, ma’am, I doubt anyone would insure the goods. I’m driving my tug out to Elysia, and you can either hitch your wagon or not. Simple as that.”

She pursed her lips and scrawled her mark on my board. “This is important medicine.  You must make sure it arrives at Elysia.”

I closed my board. Medicine – almost always code for drugs. “I’ll do my best, ma’am.  The Interdimensional Roads are a treacherous place, but the law’s cleaned them up some recently. Maybe it’ll be an easy drive.”

“Thank you, sir.”

I harrumphed.  Easiest way to be a good pirate was to also be a good deliveryman.

***

This Wednesday, I chose to feature the prompt #FOWC, Fandango’s One Word Challenge. A daily prompt with astounding participation rates, thus is a great one to check out if you don’t have a set schedule for your blog. Today’s word was Wagon.

But There’s Plenty of Silicon

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The dry sand ran through my fingers.  The lonely star’s light, so much hotter than that of Earth’s sun, beat on my brow.  “Computer, is there any water on the planet?”

“The water vapor in the air is in the parts per million.”

I tossed the sand back down.  “You were ordered not to land or wake us until a livable planet was found!”

“The oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere is breathable.  There is plenty of sunlight for solar power, silicon for computational purposes.”

“But we’ll die! You can’t do this to us!”

The computer calmly responded, “Beggars can’t be choosers, Captain.”

***

This was written for the April 11 Carrot Ranch Challengebeggars can’t be choosers.  Inspired by my father in law’s desire to talk with me about 2001: A Space Odyssey last night, I wrote about a computer who likes to see the humans begging on their knees…

 

The Party Bus

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Everyone attending our party seemed to be drunk, or well on the way, as the music blared and the lights blinked.  I looked up at the clock near the chauffer, figuring we were getting close to our destination.  I nervously rifled through the duffel bag under my seat to ensure the tubes inside hadn’t tangled.  The doctor was riding on the bus, and, after watching her down a couple beers, I worried she wouldn’t deal well with bungled tubes.

Andrew stopped talking to his friends and sat down next to me with a grin on his unshaven face.  I’d only met him because we’d been forced into the same room several times during the past few months, but I guess he turned out to be nice enough. Now that we were both desperately going through the same procedure, he was the only other person who understood.

Unlike me, though, Andrew didn’t ooze anxiety.  He chatted with his friends, laughed with his family, and relished this party.

I wished that I could partake in the party my friends had planned for me and forget about everything else, but Andrew and I weren’t allowed to have any alcohol in our systems.  Sweet forgetfulness, just a bottle away, could not be touched.

“We’re almost there.”  Andrew rubbed his hands together and clapped his thighs. “You ready?”

I gritted my teeth and tried not to sound weak when I replied, “No.”

Andrew lifted an eyebrow and tapped me curiously.  “I saw you going through your bag.  What’re you missing?  You’ve signed all the legal forms and had the list for over a month.”

I turned my face away from Andrew and let my forehead rest on the window.   Niggling thoughts slipped into my brain, telling me to back out.  As I watched my college friends take shots, I clenched my fists and clamped my jaw tight, jealous and lonely.  Though this trip was planned to be about me and Andrew, it was really for everyone else.  No one wanted to talk to the sober guy who was coughing and hacking on his way to his last cancer treatment.  I didn’t want to remain sober and be reminded that I wasn’t like them anymore, that I’d become fragile and helpless.

The bus stopped, spewing out its drunken passengers.  Lars, my best friend from high school, balanced himself by leaning on the seats as he scooted by me.  “Gonna miss you, man.  Wish you could come to the wedding, but at least this way you’ll be around for the divorce in a year or two!”  He nearly fell as he laughed, grinning before following the line out.

My mother and sister came next, champagne glasses in their hands as they bustled forward, arms locked.  Mom patted me and smiled, a bit tearfully, while my sister said, “See you in a couple of years!”

If they saw me ever again, they forgot to say. I coughed, struggled with my bag, held my gown prudishly, and walked out of the bus with Andrew. Though his face was pale, he was far stronger than me, making me wonder why he had decided to go through this. He could have staved it off for a couple of months.

I looked over the field, stationary machines littering the manicured grass.  A lovely creek babbled nearby, but it wasn’t there for me. I wouldn’t notice it while I was here.  Since I wasn’t allowed shoes, I’d gone barefoot, which I promptly regretted as I walked through the field, morning dew wetting my feet.  I could only console myself by believing mold wouldn’t grow as long as I dried them off well.

The drunken partiers all crowded around two clear, plastic boxes suspended by straps over two freshly dug holes in the ground.

I took out a towel from my bag and dried off my feet before stepping into my box, wrapping the hospital gown tight to hide my backside.  The fermented smell of beer on the doctor’s breath made me uneasy as she stuck me with an IV taken from my bag.  I drew the breathing mask out and over my face, then spent a moment despising the catheter that made me so uncomfortable.  I slowly reclined my painful, beleaguered body onto the foam pad in the bottom of the box.

“I don’t want to do this,” I said to Andrew as he reclined in his own box.

“Why not? Medical science is advancing rapidly. They may come up with a cure while we’re put under, and if not, medical expenses become painless burial expenses. What’s not to love?”

Andrew lay down in the box as the straps lowered him to the bottom of his hole.

I coughed, blood hitting my mask, and sunk into a concrete liner within the hole.  I felt my heart beat hard and fast as the walls rose beside me, the box hitting the concrete beneath.  I looked up at the people who’d attended my wake, celebrating that I’d arise after the doctors discovered a cure for my cancer.

Waking up hadn’t happened often for others who’d chosen this route.

I tried to claw out as the doctor screwed the clear lid over me, my friends and family waving goodbye in return.  My eyelids felt heavier, my hands weaker, my attempts at escape useless.

“See you in a few years!” my mom’s drawling voice slurred out. “I’ll miss you!”

I coughed, unable to respond, as a shovel full of dirt covered my box.

***

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