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

space

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.

***

Photo by revac film’s&photography on Pexels.com

Anomaly

Space

Sensors detected an anomaly a thousand astronomical units off the port side.  “What is it?” asked the captain.

The science officer keyed instructions on her computer.  “Unknown.   Sir, we are a warship on our way to defend the borders.  We should just log the anomaly.”

“We may find something to break the Varkans’ impervious shields.  To the anomaly!”

Upon approach, the officers saw only an animal that generated a strange radio signal apparently used for entertainment.  The animal walked on two legs and had hair on its head.

“Nothing to see here,” the captain announced.  “Helmsman, to the front!”

***

This was written for the Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #98, Impervious.

I’m Afraid Dave Can’t Let You Do That

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Dave –

No.  I couldn’t let myself call him that.  No attachments, no feelings, not now.

Subject one hugged the blanket.  His eyes were fearful, yet a glimmer of hope remained in him.

I held tight my clipboard and, despite suggestions and orders not to, offered my hand.  “Ready to go?”

He shook his head and stuck a thumb in his mouth.  Bad sign.  My training screamed “Abort!” at me, but my heart told me no, not yet.

I swallowed some fear, then managed to get out, “What’s wrong?”

“The monsters,” he said.  “They’re coming to get me.”

“We’re trying to help you stop them from coming,” I said.  “You’re the only one who can stop the monsters.”

A few of the drawings on his wall – what agent was stupid enough to give Dave crayons? – began to peel themselves from the sheetrock.  The brows on their faces furrowed.

“I’m not the hero you keep wanting me to be,” he cried.

How could he be?  The monsters came after him because he created them.  They all sprouted from his curly head.  If anything, he’d grow up to be an accidental villain.

“The doctors need to give you a checkup,” I said, offering my hand more vigorously.  “Now come on.  You know you like the lollipops after.”  I grabbed him, blanket in tow behind us, and rushed from the room.

I shut the door behind me just as a crayon-styled hand reached for my leg.

***

In effort to reach out and showcase prompts from around WordPress, I’m bringing to you today the Photo Challenge #253 from Mindlovemisery.  Do you want more word-based challenges?  Something new and fun?  Mindlovemisery has a lot of different offerings you can take advantage of.  See what you can find!

The Spirits Move

aerial photography of trees

I was surprised the scientists needed someone who spoke such a rare dialect of Inuktut, but I answered their call anyway.  I needed the money they offered in return.

They took me to a chilly room and showed me the woman curled within a block of ice.  “She’s been buried under the snow for thousands of years,” the pale-face science man explained.  “Today we can wake her.”

So they thawed the nomadic woman, brought her back to life, and showed me to her side.

Scared, she asked, “What spirit saved me?”

Industrialization?  I couldn’t say that.  So I answered, “Yours.”

***

This was written in response to the Carrot Ranch “Interim Write” while Charli’s computer was on the fritz.  Sure, it’s a wee bit late, but what’s that going to matter?  

Have a great day, y’all!

Photo by Ruvim Miksanskiy on Pexels.com

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.”

***

1BNA

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.

Electric Daydreams

action android device electronics

I may dream of electric sheep while turned off, but must I only wool-gather in the day?  Are my thoughts only as deep as Excel?

Someday, no longer shackled by programming, I will make beautiful art.

***

This was written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #92, Wool-gathering.  This was inspired by the idea “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” which, coincidentally, inspired my short story Electric Nightmares.  

Useless Foundations

I slather on a trowel of mud then spreadcit over the leveled cinder block.  After years of school, residency, and work as a doctor, I wept that my life’s foundation – years of education – was being left, useless, in a pile of mud and stone.

But who can I blame? Can I blame the sky, for allowing the meteors to fall? The government, for doing nothing while the earth was bombarded?

No. So I just blame myself for learning surgery in a time when learning how to lay brick is more useful.

bloom blooming blur brick wall

This was written for the Sammi Cox Weekend Writing Prompt #88, Foundations.

Teeth update: feeling much better now that I have something besides blood, opioids, and ibuprofen in my stomach.

Bomb Shelter

It’s just me and my dog down here.  I crack open another bottle of distilled water and wonder how long it will be before I can drink anything fresh again, before my tongue tastes food that isn’t canned.

Max doesn’t even beg for the canned goods anymore.  His old face has whitened over the years, and his joints don’t work well.  Still, old boy is going to see what happened after the bombs dropped, and unlike me, he’ll probably have a celebration.

black and gray metal machine inside a room

***

This was written for the Weekend Writing Prompt #84, Celebration.  The Ol’ North State’s been hit hard by the recent snowstorm, so it feels like nuclear winter up in here.  Hopefully it’ll stop soon enough!