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Fiction Fragment Friday

There is no big story this week on what inspired Fiction Fragment Friday. I often have recurring dreams, but nothing like what is in that story. My recurring dreams tend to be about having to go back to high school. Still they are frequent so I started with one line about recurring dreams and just explored where the story went.


               “I had the dream again.”  I tried to say it without any emotion.  Like it was an everyday normal occurrence that didn’t bother me in any way.  At that point is almost was an everyday occurrence.  I had the same nightmare at least twice a week with each time getting just a little bit clearer after I woke up.  When they started a month prior, I could barely remember anything of the dream.  Then I started to remember broad concepts.  By this point I couldn’t forget most of the dream with only specific details eluding me. 

               “The one where I die?”  She asked it like I could be talking about anything.  No concern in her voice for me or herself.  It was like I mentioned some trivial thing I had read in the paper.  I suppose that was my fault.  I had only told her about the dream a few times.  She had no idea how often it came or how traumatizing it was to experience. 

               “Yes, the dream where you die.  Have I told you about any other recuring dreams?”  I immediately regretted my words.  They came out too harsh.  I was tired and lashing out at her.  It was my fault she didn’t understand the weight of it. 

               “Sorry.  I didn’t realize the dream bothered you that much.  It’s just a dream.”  She came over and took my hand in hers.  “I’m right here baby and I’m not going anywhere.”  Then she moved to hug me, and I let her.  After a moment she pulled back and looked into my eyes.  “Why is this dream bothering you so much?”

               I sighed and lowered my head.  “Ok, lets sit down though.”  I led her back to the kitchen table and sat down across from her.  “I’ve never told you this because I didn’t want you to think I was crazy.”

“But you are crazy dear.  That’s part of why I love you.”  She was smiling as she said it.  She still just didn’t get it.    

I pulled my hand away and slammed it onto the table.  “It’s not funny.  I’m serious here.”

“Ok, hon I’m sorry.  I was just trying to lighten the mood.  I can see you’re really upset though.”  My outburst made her look like she had been physically struck.   

“You know my mom died when I was eight.  My brother when I was in my twenties.  I’ve lost aunts, uncles, and grandparents.”  She nodded acknowledging that she knew.  “Well, a month before each one died, I started having a dream about it.  I don’t just dream about them dying, I dream how they die.  Each time the exact way they die in my dream is how they die in real life.  I usually even have some indicator in the dream about what date it happens on.”

“Are you sure that your mind isn’t just playing tricks on you?  Dreams are crazy and it’s easy to see things in them after the fact.”

“No, it’s not that.  I thought maybe the first time.  I was just too young.  I was there when my brother died though.  I wasn’t in my dream.  I went there because I knew when and where it was going to happen.  I wanted to try and save him.  I got stuck in traffic though.  The car had already hit him a few minutes before I arrived.”

“I always wondered why you were downtown that day.”

“Yeah.  So, you see these recurring dreams aren’t just dreams.  They are glimpses of the future.” 

“So, let’s say I believe you are having prophetic dreams about my death.  Well, you are telling me about them so we can avoid it this time.  Let’s make a plan and that should help you feel better.  When and how do I die?” 

“Last night was the first time the date was clear. “I looked down at my hand under the table holding my gun.  “You died ten minutes ago.” I pulled the gun up and squeezed the trigger.  Bullet after bullet struck her knocking her from her chair onto the floor.  I stood from my chair and walked around the table to look at the body.

My wife’s body was twisting and writhing.  Something under the skin was crawling around trying to break it’s way free.  Her jaw hinged open allowing a grey oozing creature to slide onto my kitchen floor.  Without hesitating I emptied the rest of the clip into the thing.  That was when I heard the whimpering.

“What happened?  Why does it hurt so much?”  In that moment I realized that my wife had still been alive even though the creature had taken her body.  I rushed to her side the tears flowing and I blubbered apology after apology.  It was too late though.  I looked up at the clock on the wall just then remembering that it was ten minutes fast.

I awoke in my bed drenched in sweat.  It was the recurring dream again.  The details were all so fuzzy.  I clearly remembered what time my wife died in the dream.  Looking over at the nightstand I realized that it was two minutes after that time.  The image of a grey oozing creature also came clearly to my mind.  Well, this thing was going to pay.  I reached into my nightstand to grab my pistol before heading down to the kitchen to meet the thing that had replaced my wife. 

Arrival

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story is another one that was inspired by a dream. In my dream I had just arrived in Hawaii to a new job. I was shocked by the size of the ships on the ocean compared to the size of ships on the Mississippi river back home. Some of the lines in this story were actually things I said during the dream. Naturally I took the idea and put a Science Fiction twist on it.


     As I step off the shuttle and onto the docks, I can’t help but wonder if I might have made the biggest mistake in my life.  Sure, I’m good at my job and I’ll pick up the work, but what do I know about living on a space station?  I’ve never lived more than fifty miles from the home I grew up in.  I am feeling completely lost staring out the window when the woman next to me speaks. 

     “They’re big, aren’t they?”

     “Huh, oh the ships.”  It takes me a moment to figure out what she is talking about.  I’ve been watching the large freighters while lost in my thoughts.  “Yeah they are.”

     “I’m from Kansas.  We never had anything larger than a transport shuttle.”

     I glance over at her and immediately notice that her complexion is as pale and freckled as my own.  “Hey we can be sunburn buddies.”  I’m cringing the moment the words come out of my mouth.  That was such an awkward and ridiculous thing to say.  I need to clarify it.  “You know because of the red hair and all.”  Ugh, why can’t I just shut up?  I’m making it worse. 

     “Uh, yeah, I guess so.  I do burn pretty badly.  Not really a problem up here though.”  She gave me a chuckle, but I know it was out of pity.  This must be a good person the way she is going out of her way to make me more comfortable instead of just calling me the idiot I am. 

     “What brings you up here?”

     “Oh, I’ve been working up here for over a year.  I just remember how scared I was when I first got here.  I felt like a fish out of water.  Sometimes I like to come down to the docks and watch the new arrivals.  It helps remind me just how far I’ve come since Kansas.”  She seems so sure of herself that I struggle to imagine her feeling as lost as I am.

     “Is it everything you thought it would be up here?”

     She lets out a laugh.  “Not even close.  I was desperate for a new start so I took the job.  The guy told me I would be matching people to right ship for them.”  She chuckles again.  “Then I get here and find out I’m a cashier selling cruise tickets to long lines.  It wasn’t exactly the glamorous new life I had hoped.”

     “Do you regret coming up here then?”

     “Not for a moment.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  Those first few months I thought about going back home every day.”

     “Why didn’t you?”

     She stares out the window for a moment before answering.  I wonder for a moment if I have said something wrong or stepped out of line.  “I guess it was because that would have felt like defeat.  I was too embarrassed to go back and have everyone know I couldn’t do it.  Then after a few months everything just seemed to click.  Now this station feels more like home than Kansas ever did.”

     “That’s a bit of a relief to hear.”

     “Oh, living up here isn’t for everyone.  For me though this is where I belong and now, I can’t imagine every living planet side again.  It just fits ya know.”

     “Not really.  I’ve never felt like I fit anywhere.  I’ve always been on the outside looking in.”  The words just come out before I really think about them.  Deep down I know they are true though.  They are thoughts that I have never given voice to before. 

     “Well, you can’t get much more outside than this.”  She motions around the dock.  “At-least not without a spacesuit unless you want to die of exposure.”

     “I think I’ll pass on that.”

     “Suit yourself, or just stay in the station.  Whatever.”

     “Wait a minute are you trying to get back at me for that stupid sunburn buddies line?”

     She holds her thumb and index finger very close.  “Little bit.  Mostly I’m just trying to distract you from the panic attack you looked like you were about to have before I came over.  You would be surprised how many people take one look out that window and completely freak out.”

     I don’t want to admit that she is right so I change the subject.  “So are you still a cashier?”

     “I’m head cashier,” she says proudly while standing up a little straighter.

     “Oh, and what exactly does a head cashier do?”

     “Well, when I’m not coordinating the schedules, it is my job to come down to the docks to meet our new recruits that have no idea that the job they accepted is not nearly as glamorous as they thought.”

     A sudden realization hits me.  “Oh no.  You don’t mean..”

                “Yep, time to go new guy.  You have orientation to do.”  Her smile is met by my frown as I think very clearly about the wording used when they recruited me for this job.             

First Contact

Fiction Fragment Friday

Before I get into the story this week I want to talk about Worldcon. This past weekend I went to the 80th World Science Fiction Convention held this year in Chicago Illinois. It is a fiction and writing convention that travels around the world and I will make a point to attend any time it is close enough to drive to. This was my second time attending and much like the first I left energized with so many projects in mind.

This year I took part in writing workshops which was a new experience for me. The story you are about to read came from a workshop on examining alien perspectives. This is just a quick story using some of the through processes and questions we went over in that workshop.


     The first time I encountered humans I couldn’t help but think that they were the dumbest creatures to ever exist.  They came out of the sky on a screaming ball of fire making a horrendous ruckus when they smashed into the ground.  Every survival instinct I had warned me to avoid the area at all costs.  Like my momma always thought though I sometimes have more curiosity than brains.  I just had to see what had come down from the sky with my own eyes. 

     I might have been curious, but I was also careful.  I moved through the woods as silently as I could.  I knew the sound of the impact would draw most of the predators, but there was always the chance of a straggler waiting for someone like me to come investigating.  Smaller predators that also feared the ones who would be drawn to the new arrival.  I dropped down on all sixes focusing each step to make sure I didn’t make any undue sounds.

     I arrived in the newly created clearing and took in my surroundings.  The metal thing had crashed into the ground and skid across it for a while before coming to a stop.   Small fires were burning all along the path making me worry for the safety of the forest itself.  I thought for a moment that nothing could have survived, but then a hatch opened, and I got my first look at a human.

     Humans are very different from us.  They walk exclusively on two legs and are at-least double our height when we stand on our hind legs.  At the time I thought they were faceless and bulky, but later discovered that they were just wearing protective clothing.  They don’t have fur like we do and their skin is very soft.  Without the clothing they would freeze during our nights and their feet would be cut by our ground.  I don’t know how such a weak creature could evolve, but their technology seems to make up for their physical limitations.

     Three humans came out of the flaming wreckage.  They made sounds with their mouths and seemed to communicate with these sounds.  The predators with their extremely sensitive hearing would have no problem finding them.  I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were out there.  Waiting for the right time to strike these strangers and turn them into a meal.  I decided in that moment I had to help these poor stupid humans.

     Reaching my mind out to them I tried to communicate.  Their thoughts were completely foreign to anything I had ever experienced.  I saw their world, technology, and learned that they did indeed communicate through sounds.  How they thought and experienced reality though was completely foreign to me.  The most frustrating part was that they had no telepathic ability whatsoever.  I could connect, but they had no frame of reference for communication in that fashion.  It took us years to finally be able to communicate with them properly, but that is s story for another day.

     I could see the predators growing closer to the humans and feel their presence in the mind web.  If I was going to help them, I only had moments to do so.  One of the snarling tree beasts pounced towards the sound of the talking human.  I knew they were not aware of my presence since I had remained very quiet, but there was no way to get there without making noise.  I shot out across the forest and heard beast take off following me.  It could not be helped.  As I entered the clearing, I leaped and curled myself up into a ball slamming into the creature just in time to knock it off course.

     This was when I learned of the dangers that Humans could represent.  Each of them pulled out a weapon of some sort.  I had no frame of reference for it at the time, so it just looked like a bent pipe they were holding.  Beams of energy shot out from them slicing the oncoming beasts into pieces.  It was a massacre, but I couldn’t quite feel sorry for the creatures that have so long tormented us.  The human I had saved stepped between me and the oncoming horde with his weapon and continued to yell sounds at them.  Of course, they did not stop because now they knew where he was.  These humans did not seem to realize the beasts could not see.  At the last moment it used the weapon saving my life and its own. 

                This young ones is how we first met the humans.  Since their arrival we have been able to gather in larger numbers without fear of predators.  They have helped us create defenses as well as hunted those that once hunted us.  Their numbers grow each year and those we can communicate with them now I worry what will happen when they run out of space.  We must ever be vigilant for some day those weapons that have devastated our natural enemies may be turned on us. 

A Guide To Surviving Being A Henchman

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story comes to you from Worldcon in Chicago. As always the experience is extremely inspirational. This is inspired by so many things I don’t think I could list them all.


     Being a henchman isn’t as bad as you might think it is.  I mean sure we get beat up a lot and I have had more concussions than a professional wrestler.  The pay is pretty good though when we don’t get caught.  If we are caught the supers never show up to testify and they certainly don’t file all the necessary paperwork.  Even the bottom barrel state assigned public defenders have no problem getting the charges thrown out.  Worst case you do a little time and get three squares a day.  Easy work and if you have half a brain, you keep cash stashed away where they won’t find it. 

     Don’t get me wrong it is dangerous work.  The super villains that hire you don’t care about the cops, but you must.  Unlike the heroes they have no problem shooting you.  Now though we have to worry about the anti-heroes.  Guys that want to think they are heroes, but also have no problem killing you.  One of them shows up you just run.  Worse than them though are the crazies.  The villains that pay you to work for them, but also might kill you themselves if they get bored.  They always get bored.  So, no it’s not safe work, but if you are smart you can mitigate the risks. 

I’m going to let you in on my secrets.  Here are my five rules for surviving being a Henchman.

  1. Stay Anonymous.  Never do anything that makes you stand out from another henchman.  Don’t talk too much, don’t wear unique costumes, and definitely don’t ever speak to the crazies.  Fade into the pack and try your hardest to avoid being noticed.  When all else fails just remember to keep your trap shut. 
  2. Never Take Credit.  Repeat after me, “He made me do it.”  Make sure you have some sob story involving mind control, blackmail, or whatever bullshit you can come up with.  Doesn’t matter just act all innocent and grateful for being freed.  They won’t believe you for a second, but they can’t prove it in court without the hero there testifying. This gets difficult when you do something good.  You will want to shout your successes to the world, but remember you are not the super villain.  You are just a henchman.  If they start thinking of you as someone with potential, then they start paying attention to you.  
  3. New Guys Are Stupid.  This is just a fact.  They don’t know the score yet and you can use that.  If an anti-hero shows up you just gotta yell, “Get’em” and the new guys will run right at them.  Doesn’t matter that you aren’t in charge they follow orders.  While they are doing that you can run the other way.  The boss wants something well you make sure the new guy gives it to him.  If he isn’t happy with what he gets, then he’ll take it out on them and not you. 
  4. Always Have An Escape Route.  Whether it be on a job or in the base always have multiple plans to get away.  When things go bad, and they inevitably will know exactly how you are going to get away.  If you have followed the first three rules you will be so far below the radar that they won’t even notice you are gone.  
  5. Death Traps Are Stupid.  If you get the chance just shoot or stab the hero.  They will escape otherwise.  The boss won’t stick around.  Just tell em the death trap did it and clean up the body.  Make sure they get all the credit for the kill that they would have let slip through their fingers. 

That’s it.  Follow those simple rules and you can survive being a henchman. 

Of course, the more successful you are the more likely you will draw the attention of the IRS.  For that you need to buy my, “Henchman’s Guide to Personal Finance.”  At only $19.99 you are almost committing a crime just buy buying it.  Act now and I’ll throw in, ”Picking a boss for the discerning henchman” at half price. 

Back to Class

Fiction Fragment Friday

This story was inspired by a dream. At this point I’m forty-two years old, but I still occasionally have dreams that I’m back in highschool. I even have a recurring dream about having to go back once a year every year. I’m not sure if this is just due to that period in life being rather traumatizing or something in my head that just tells me I’ve never accomplished anything even graduating. I never have a dream of being in college though I do have dreams frequently about returning to past jobs.

In this case I had a dream that I was just returning to class. In the dream I was in the wrong desk and when called out made a comment about it being two years since I had been in class. In the dream this was due to the pandemic and in person school had not occurred. I woke up with that moment fresh in my mind and began to twist a Science Fiction world out of the comment. I did more world building in my head than made it into the story, but I hope I gave enough that it can be understood.


     “You’re in the wrong seat.”  Mrs. Henderson pointed out the latest of the many mistakes I had made that morning. 

     “Sorry.  It’s been two years for me.  I have no idea which desk I sat in.” 

     She let out an audible sigh.  “That’s right you’re one of them.”  The way she said them with such disdain struck me.  I knew that some people didn’t like the dreamers, but I hadn’t faced it personally from someone I knew yet.  Until now it was just an abstract thing on TV.  Having it directed at me by my previously favorite teacher felt like being punched in the gut.  She pointed to a desk.  “Second row, third seat.”

     As I moved to my assigned seat my eyes wondered around the room reading the other student’s expressions.  There was a mixture of reactions.  Some seemed to look at me with pity, some were staring at Mrs. Henderson, but a few were looking at me with disgust.  Of course, I have no idea what was going on in their heads so it all could have just been me projecting what I expected to see.  One girl stood out though.  Her eyes were alternating between looking down and glancing around the room.  She was also taking note of the exits.  I might have been projecting with the rest of the class, but I knew that instinctual situation assessment.  She was another dreamer. 

     I settled into my assigned seat and tried to ignore the stares.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t remember the girl’s name.  I supposed we had never really interacted before, but now we had something in common.  It was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.  Someone who could understand what I was going through.  Roll call continued without incident and when it got to her I made a point to write down her name.  Nancy Johnson.  Unlike me she had remembered where her seat was.  Thankfully the rest of class went without incident. 

     After class I headed to my locker for the first time since waking up from the coma.  I stood there just looking at the lock and realizing I had no idea what the combination was.  Part of me wasn’t even sure it was the right locker.  To add to the frustration the hall was crowded, and I was feeling extremely overwhelmed.  I couldn’t help but look at everyone around me and analyze everyone as a potential threat.  How could I possibly hold this position with so many unknowns?  Recognizing the thought, I stopped and took a deep breath trying to center myself.  I was in school not on a battlefield.  I wasn’t trying to hold any position I was just trying to make it through my first day back. 

     My hand moved to the lock and I found that muscle memory remembered what my brain couldn’t.  My body had not been away for two years after all.  Only my mind.  I still feel disjointed sometimes expecting my body to move like the genetically altered one my mind inhabited in the future.  Everything seems so slow in comparison and all my senses are dulled like I have a bag over my head.  My body says this is all normal, but my mind says it is wrong.  The disconnected feeling Is not just disorienting it make you wonder if anything is real.

     “Hey.”  I jumped at the voice suddenly behind me.  My instincts told me to either strike or run for the stairs to get higher ground.  Thankfully my body was slower and instead I just spun and backed into my locker.  It was Nancy from Mrs. Henderson’s class.  “Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

     “It’s OK.  Just something I need to get used to again.”

     “Yeah I can’t even imagine.  You said you were there for two years?”  I give her a nod.  “Wow.  I got killed in less then three months.”  She suddenly had a very nervous expression on her face and started looking around the hall.  “Uhm I can’t believe I just blurted that out.  I hope nobody heard.”

     “They don’t know?”  I was shocked.  How was she able to keep it a secret.

     “No.  My parents don’t even know.  I was taken on a Friday.  Then I died so quickly I only missed a day of school.  I was home alone all weekend, so I wasn’t even admitted to the hospital.  I haven’t told anyone until now.”

     “Not gonna lie I’m jealous.  By the time I was taken it was all over the news and they had started the registry.”  I was not happy about being on lists and having mandatory counseling sessions.  I mostly just lied during them anyway.  Telling them that everything was fine when in reality I have nightmares, anxiety, and the occasional panic attack.  They are just looking for a reason to distrust us.  Especially if the rumors are true and some of us are developing powers.

     “Uhm, I need to get to class.  If you want to talk sometimes though I’m here.  Only others like us can understand right?” 

     “Yeah, same for you.” 

     As she walked away, I focused all my attention on her.  She way typing away at her phone.  I listened not with my ears, but with my mind.  It came in softly at first, but soon I could see through her eyes at her text message. 

     “Contact made.  He bought it.  Acting lessons paid off.  Target was there two years so should have good intel for the masters.”

                I let out a sigh.  So much for the idea of a kindred spirit.

Glittering Vampire Surfer from Atlantis

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is not good. If it is then I have failed in some way. Years ago I was trying to come up with a story idea for NaNoWriMo. I was given the completely unhelpful suggestion of a Vampire Surfer from Atlantis that glitters in the sun. Well this week I decided as a joke to actually write this horrible story. Not as a novel obviously. No this joke is worth a flash fiction, but would not be worth a novel.

Enjoy or cringe at “Glittering Vampire Surfer from Atlantis”.


     The ocean air felt incredible against my face.  There is nothing better than those few moments sitting on your board before the wave hits.  That moment of anticipation where you know that you are about to face the fury of mother nature and become one with it.  The adrenaline starts to rush through your body preparing it for what is about to occur.  It is the greatest feeling in the world until it gets surpassed by the feeling of riding the wave itself.

     I should have been in my zone, but instead I was distracted.  Camera drones were zooming around the sky making sure every angle was covered.  This wasn’t just any weekend ride it was the twelfth annual Northshore Big Wave Invitational surfing competition.  The biggest surfing competition in the county.  My nerves were high, but I knew deep down that there was no one who could approach my skill level within three states.

     That was when a bright light blinded me for a moment.  I looked to the board next to me and saw a young man pull his shirt off.  The light gleamed off of his skin and his hair flowed in the wind.  It wasn’t just gleaming though.  It was glittering in the sunlight.  His skin was actually glittering.  A sinking sensation filled me as I started to come to a realization.  My eyes moved to the board for confirmation and let out a curse.  It was indeed an Atlantean design.  My confidence was shattered as I realized what I was facing.  I was about to compete against a Teenage Glittering Vampire from Atlantis.  Their skills at surfing were legendary. 

     You never know how good you really are until you are truly pushed to your limits.  I was about to be tested in a way I had never been before.  If I could win everyone would know the name Noah “Backbreaker” Minnow.  I was the best surfer alive and I wasn’t about to let some undead discoball from under the sea show me up.  Bracing myself for the coming wave I focused on what was really important.  This wasn’t just some surfing competition anymore.  It was good vs evil.  Living vs undead.  Perfect tan vs glitter.

     I tried to focus on my own surfing as the wave came up on us.  With a solid pose I rose up bouncing along the top of the wave.  I knew I should focus on my own performance, but I couldn’t help bug glance over.  The glittering bastard was standing on one leg in a crane kick pose.  He actually pulled off the kick while riding his board.  Well two could play at this game.  I reached down and grabbed the sides of my board.  Straining my muscles I went into a handstand while riding the gnarly wave.  I turned forward and back doing a careful spin on the board. 

     Confident that I was winning I glanced over at the vampire.  He was doing a one handed hand stand with his legs bend back at the knees.  I cursed knowing I had been outmatched again.  I needed to do something desperate to win this competition.  It really wasn’t a fair contest.  I was the best a human could be, but he had supernatural abilities and all the knowledge of Atlantis on his side.  My mind raced trying to figure out what advantage I might have over him.  I would have given anything for a wooden stake in that moment. 

     I only had one more move to try and push me over the top.  I stood up on my board and braced myself.  I lept up and did a back-flip on my board.  This is my most difficult stunt, but it wouldn’t be enough so as soon as I landed I immediately did it again.  Three back-flips in a row without losing my balance.  I had never done even a double flip before.  I glanced over with a smirk on my face.  In that moment I was convinced that I had the competition in the bag.

     The sparkling vampire from Atlantis then pulled off the single greatest stunt I had ever seen.  He pushed up from his one armed handstand and did a double-flip in the air before landing on his other hand.  Then he did a triple flip only to land back on the board in a flamingo pose on one leg.  Finally he spit out a solid stream of water from his mouth.  I knew in that moment I had been defeated. 

                I stood on the second place podium accepting my award.  It was supposed to be my year, but first place was stolen by a monster.  Well I knew what I had to do.  That was the beginning of my two year training mission.  I have not set foot on a surf board since that day.  In fact I chopped up my surfboard to create my bandoleer of wooden stakes.  He took my hobby from me, but in doing so gave me a new purpose in life.  My new goal is to become the best vampire hunter in the world.      

Silver Waves

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week I have started answering writing prompts on the GamersTable Discord. These daily prompts come in the form of a picture that we are supposed to use for inspiration. When I started today’s it kind of got away from me and before I knew it the story was too large to post without splitting it up.

I am so pleased with this story that I wanted to get it in front of more readers so I decided it would be my Fiction Fragment Friday for the week. I do not know who created this image or I would give them credit as well.


                I watched waves of silver water lap against the shoreline.  I could hear birds overhead and smell a slightly sweet scent coming from the ocean.  The exobiologists had given a long and boring presentation that morning presenting theories on why the water was silver, but I zoned out at the first mention of dinoflagellates.  The fact that there were four competing theories on the cause pretty much told me they didn’t actually have a clue but would never admit it.  I have never had a problem with someone not knowing an answer, but I get annoyed real fast when they won’t admit it.  We were 60,000 light years from home stepping food on a new world in a binary star system.  Some things were bound to be different, and we needed data before they could give us any real answers to how this world worked.

                “Commander Oliver I’ve got the initial reports from scouting teams one through five here for you.”   My aide to camp Jessica Barton stood to my left side holding out a data pad.   Like everyone on the expedition she wore an airtight suit meant to protect the environment from us as much as it protected us from the environment.  If she noticed that I had turned off my filter to smell the ocean she didn’t mention it.  Honestly, I’m so disorganized I don’t think I could make it to the head on time without her let alone complete the thirty reports I have to fill out daily.  They certainly never mention paperwork in the recruiting ads. 

                “Excellent Miss Barton.  I’ll read them fully tonight.  For now, how about you give me the summary?”  I could see her smile through the helmet window.  I had no intention of fully reading scouting reports and we both knew it.  I trusted her to do so though and if there was anything that I actually needed to know she would ensure that I did.  That is her role.  Mine should be back home planning raids on the pirates hiding out in the asteroid belt.  I was being a bit too effective for Admiral Scott though.  If you asked me, he needed to be removed from duty.  He could not be impartial when his son was one of the pirate captains that I had made a particularly strong example of. 

                “So far, we have classified seventy-three new examples of biological specimen.  I would give you the breakdown between plant and animal but the Jeffries refuse to do so until they have performed more tests on each specimen.  They say that this is a new planet, and we should not try to shoe-horn these beings into strict categories that may not even apply to this world.  We have one ton of water and minerals loaded onto the shuttle to take back for further analysis.  Finally, the drone corps have completed the 3d virtual representation of the surrounding fifty kilometers from our landing site.”

                “Excellent.  It sounds like we are making good progress then.  I will have to talk to the Jeffries against about their attitude.  I understand wanting to be thorough but if they keep this up, they are going to put us behind schedule.”  Mr. William Jeffries and his wife Carol Jeffries were two of the biggest sources of headaches that I had in my crew.  A pair of married exobiologists that fed into each other’s perfectionist tendencies.  No report was ever ready to be submitted from them until I demanded it because there was always another draft they could be doing.     

                “There is one more thing Commander.”  I turned to give her my full attention and motioned for her to continue.  “Survey team six has requested your presence at their site.  They wouldn’t give me any details, and just said they would only talk to you.”

                “Well, that is entirely unacceptable.  I hope you are up for a hike because we are indeed going to pay them a visit.”

                “We sir?  I figured I would stay in camp and coordinate.”

                “Normally yes, but not this time Miss Barton.   No, this time I want to send a message.  That anything they want to say to me can be said to you and I will not tolerate insubordination.”  I could tell that she was not thrilled about the idea of hiking out to the site.  Knowing her as well as I did, I suspected it was more the loss of precious work time that bothered her more than the physical activity.  She felt that she could be doing more back at camp, and she was probably correct.  If I didn’t address little things like this definitively though I would have more incidents.  Keeping these scientists in line was like trying to herd cats.  It made me miss dealing with pirates where my natural instinct to just shoot them was typically the right one. 

                 The hike to expedition six’s dig site took us two hours.  I have always enjoyed hiking, but something about this one lacked the joy that I usually experience.  If I had to guess, I would say it was the environmental suit.  Having a system that regulates your temperature and provides water the moment your body needs it ensures that you never actually feel the difficulty of the hike.  You can’t really push yourself.  Since I had turned back on my air filters, I couldn’t even smell the nature around me.  It felt more like virtual reality training than an actual trek across and alien world.

                Upon our approach Dr. Ichika Honoka approached us.  I know she is a scientist of some sort, but I have no idea what her particular field is.  This was only the second time I had met the woman.  I put on my most stern expression knowing that its effect was severely hindered by the helmet.  “Dr. Honoka it is my understanding that you were unwilling to provide your report to my aide and requested I personally come out here.  I would like to know right now why you feel that you are above following my protocols and too good to talk to my aide.”  I tried to make the anger in my voice cover for the limited ability to express myself facially.

                “Commander Maxwell, I assure you that this has nothing to do with your aide or any ego on my part.  What I have discovered I was unwilling to document or send in any form of communications whatsoever.  I believe when you see what I have to show you then you will agree that my discretion was warranted.  Now if you are done trying to impugn my honor can we save you trying to put me in my place until after you have seen why I asked you specifically here?”  Despite myself I couldn’t help but like the feisty doctor.  While I don’t like having my orders questioned, I hate yes people even more.  I found myself hoping that her discovery did not disappoint because I did not want to lower my opinion of her. 

                “By all means Dr Honoka please lead the way.  If I find out that you have wasted my and my aides time coming all the way out here though I will be immensely displeased.”

                “I assure you I have not, but you most certainly are not going to be pleased by what I have to show you.”   She turned and led the way towards a cave entrance.  They had set up spotlights around the site that were not yet needed in the light of the double suns.  She handed me a flashlight.  “My apologies for not having the site fully lighted yet, but upon my discovery I banned the work crew from the cave.”  It was only then that I realized her entire expedition had been working around the camp and no one was coming with us. 

                We did not go far into the cave before she stopped and shone her light ahead.  It appeared she was not going any further.  This put me on edge suspecting some sort of trap.  It would not make any sense for a scientist on my expedition to try and ambush me, but years of training are hard to deny.  I moved forward with caution through the small walkway and into a cavern.  My light reflected off the glass of an environmental suit helmet.  There on the opposite side of the cave slumped to the ground was a body.  The helmet glass was shattered, and I could see the face underneath was severely decayed.  Jessica let out a gasp at the sight from behind me. 

                “If we are supposed to be the first people on this planet then where did he come from?”  I asked wondering the question out loud. 

                “Sir the nametag.”  Her voice was shaky and that concerned me.  In all our years working together I had never heard her startled.  I didn’t think that anything could phase her.   I looked down at the nametag on the suit and saw it said Maxwell.  The rank insignia matched my own. 

                “Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?”  Annoyed I approached the body.   Shoving my hand through the broken helmet I pulled the dog tags from his neck.  There staring back at me was my own name and serial number.   “I don’t understand.”

                From the tunnel came Dr. Honoka’s voice.  “I do not understand either, but the problem is quite fascinating.  I trust you understand my discretion now?”  I just nodded at her not quite ready to speak yet for fear of my voice cracking.  “Well then how would you like me to proceed?  No one outside of the three of us have seen this so far.”

                “Keep it that way.  Anything you need to get me answers is yours.  No one else goes in this cave though.  Find something else to keep your people occupied with.  Congratulations doctor you now get to brief me on your progress personally twice a day.”

                “You will have to forgive me for not shouting in joy, but I would hate to cause a cave-in.”

                I moved to leave the chamber but stopped and turned back to her.  “You best not.  If you get yourself trapped in here, I’m afraid I can’t risk sending anyone in here to recue you.”  I continued on with far more questions than answers.  For the first time on the entire mission though I wasn’t thinking about pirates anymore.      

A Letter Home

Fiction Fragment Friday

I have mentioned before that I like exploring the different options for story telling that flash fiction provide. This week that is in the form of a letter. I thought about expanding it and providing the answer to whether the recipient ever actually receives the letter and how they react to it. That would have been more typical storytelling though and I wanted something different.

This story is not particularly deep or introspective. It should be just a little bit of light reading.


Dear Angelica,

     I’m not sure if this letter will ever reach you, but I needed to write it anyway.  Part of me feels like even writing it is an admission that I have given up hope of being rescued.  I can’t quite accept that we will never see each other again no matter how unlikely it seems.  If that is the case though you deserve to know the truth.  I cannot continue taking the risks I am in hopes of getting home without knowing that I at least tried to make things right with you.   

     Considering our last argument, I do not think you will be surprised to learn that I am not in fact a middle manager for a tech startup.  Techuserve is actually just a shell corporation cover for a classified project.  Many private companies and multiple government agencies knew pieces of the larger puzzle, but less than twenty people knew the full truth.  I was an agent picked out to travel through time completing research missions and artifact extractions. 

     I know that is hard to believe.  It sounds like something out of science fiction, but I swear I am telling you the truth.  You caught me in so many lies over the last few months we had together and I’m sure you were thinking the worst.  I couldn’t tell you the truth though because it would have put your life in danger.  I should not be writing you this now, but I felt the circle needed to be closed. 

     My last mission was to rescue a collection of art that was lost to the Nazi’s during World War 2.  By rescue I mean break into museums and steal them myself sometimes hours before the Nazis arrive.  It is not a safe job since basically everyone in the world is against me.  I am very good at what I do though, and my encyclopedic knowledge of history played a large part in my being recruited for this work. 

     Time travel sometimes makes me question everything I know about reality.  When I am not doing research, I am going back in time to make items disappear before the Nazis can take them and make them disappear.  The result in the end is the same.  The item is gone, and no one ever finds it until I bring it back to our time.  So I can’t help but ask if the Nazis ever really did take them.  Was it always me who took these items?  Am I just completing a loop of making them disappear so I can go back to rescue them?  Would they have actually gone missing if I had not gone back?  Is everything that happens actually predestined to?  When I think about things like that, I can’t help but get a headache. 

     This last mission went extremely wrong.  I ended up getting shot by a museum guard and was not able to get to my extraction point.  By the time I reached the time machine the clock had run down and it returned without me.  I expected an extraction team to come back for me when I didn’t return, but that never happened.  I’m writing you this note two years after my failed mission with no sign of rescue.  I am making one last attempt to get home, but if it doesn’t work then I’ll have to build a life for myself here. 

     Do you remember that scene at the end of Back to the Future Part 2 where Marty receives a letter from Doc delivered by Western Union?  Well, if you received this letter then it turns out that actually works.  I am sending letters to you as well as my coworkers.  With any luck they will receive them and know where to pick me up.  Just in case I can’t come back though I am sending you a key to a safe deposit box and the bank’s address.  I paid it up through what should be next year for you.  Inside you will find some collectibles that I have bought brand new.  I may not be able to be there for you, but I can ensure you never have to worry about money another day in your life.  I also hope this will serve as the evidence that my story is true. 

     I am sorry that I will not be there for the future that we had planned.  I couldn’t have you thinking that you were abandoned though if I could help it.  Please make the most out of the time you have left and never tell anyone what you have read here.  They will kill you if they suspect you know. 

                                                     I love you with all my heart,

                                                                         Justin 

Cattitude

Fiction Fragment Friday

After a few more serious stories lately I wanted something a bit lighter this week. As frequently happens I sat down to right and did not have inspiration. I then realized that for me sometimes all I need is a good starting line and the rest will just flow. I focused all my creative energy on coming up with that one line and from it you have this story. Enjoy.


                I think my cat might be trying to kill me.  I know that might make me sound paranoid or a little bit delusional.  It is because of how crazy that sounds that I don’t say so lightly.  Most of my evidence might be circumstantial, but I have enough at this point to talk about it.  I’m going to present my case and let you be the judge.  Tell me whether I’m crazy or if my life is truly in danger. 

                The first instance was when I woke up and found her curled up laying on my throat.  All her weight was pressed into me, and it was the gasping for breath that woke me.  She went skittering across the room and hid when I jerked up.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  Cats sometimes curl up and lay on you while you sleep and that is perfectly normal.  I figured it had to have just been bad luck that she was on my neck and not my chest. 

                The second time I was in the shower.  I was all lathered up and had a bit of soap in my eyes to things were kind of blurry.  I rubbed at them looking down just in time to see her stick her head into the shower and drop a mouse at my feet.  It was not dead and started flopping around in the water.  In panic I jump back completely losing my footing and falling.  It was extremely difficult to get to my bedroom and get dressed before calling someone to come drive me to the hospital.  I had broken my ankle, but I was not going to call someone for help while naked.  Again, at the time I just thought that cats bring you gifts sometimes.  I always thought they brought you their kills, but maybe they sometimes bring you living gifts.     

                The third time I was driving.  I have no idea how she got into my gym bag, but halfway to the gym I suddenly had a cat on my shoulder, walking across my chest, and completely blinding me to the road.  I swerved and slammed on my breaks almost causing a major pile-up on the highway.  I finally got myself calmed down and my heartrate returned to something that I didn’t think was going to kill me.  When I looked over there, she was in the passenger seat.  She was just sitting there licking her paw and rubbing it over her head.  Seeing me watching her she just meowed.      

                The fourth time was when I started to get suspicious.  I was standing at the top of the stairs taking my first step down to the basement.  Out of nowhere she came running full speed and launched herself into the air.  All her weight hit my back for a moment before she bounced off.  Thankfully she doesn’t weigh that much.  It wasn’t enough of an impact to send me tumbling down the stairs, but the shock of it did make me stumble.  I had to grab the railing to stabilize myself and even then, I did manage to twist my knee in the process. Looking around she was no where to be found. 

                I awoke to a cat butthole in my face.  Sure, that wasn’t going to kill me, but it was rude, so I thought it was worth mentioning.  It helps build the case from a behavioral track record.  If she is willing to do that, what other horrible things is she willing to do to me?  That was so not ok.      

                The fifth time was yesterday.  I had left my laptop open when I went to bed.  I know that she likes to climb on the keyboard, but I was just too tired to think properly.  When I got up, I saw that the internet browser was on google.  The phrase in the search bar was, “How to hire an assassin”.   Maybe that could have been some huge fluke of autocomplete, but if so, how did all those tabs full of the sites that were returned end up getting open.  Also, I know I have one click ordering turned on for Amazon, but how did it just happen to open to a 10-pound bag of catnip for her to click purchase on?  Something smells fishy there and it is not the case of tuna that Amazon delivered on Monday.

                This morning I got out of bed and stepped into what felt like a sea of razorblades.  In fact, it was little, tiny plastic pieces that all had the “Lego” logo on them.  When I stepped backwards, I stepped onto a layer of marbles.  If my bed wasn’t there to fall onto it could have been very bad.  The Legos had come from downstairs where all my kits had been knocked of the shelf and scattered.   She had to have dragged the pieces upstairs to create the minefield in my bedroom.  The marbles are a bigger mystery.  I didn’t know that I owned any.  When I checked my Amazon order history a few moments ago I found that I had somehow ordered a 300-piece set two weeks ago.  I’m pretty sure I did not make that order and I know I never opened a box containing them. 

                I looked over at my cat who was sitting on my nightstand meowing for attention.  There was a glass of water I had brought to bed with me sitting right in front of her.  She locked eyes with me and raised a single paw.  “Don’t do it kitty” The paw swiped forward knocking the water glass to the floor.  She turned lifting her hind to display her butthole and then jumped down leaving the room with what I could swear was a satisfied swagger.

                So that is my story.  I’m pretty sure that my cat is trying to kill me, but I could just be crazy.  What do you think?  Also, who are you and how did you get into my living room?  Why do you have a folder labeled target with pictures of me in it?    

The Fall of Outpost 37

Fiction Fragment Outpost

This week is another story that grew from the first line getting stuck in my head. I don’t know what triggered me to think of it, but there it was and I needed to tell the story of that line. I did not know where it was going when I started. I did not even know the setting or genre and while writing I included and removed lines that changed that setting multiple times. It could have been fantasy, science fiction, or post apocalyptic at any point in the story.

I will want you that while my stories are usually light hearted this one is not. It will not be a funny read or an adventurous romp.


                “Quickly, reinforce the north wall it’s about to come down.  South wall, keep one guard and everyone else move to support the north.  East and west give me some good news.”  I moved through the outpost shouting my orders.  The siege had been underway for over an hour and the situation was starting to look damn depressing.  We were barely holding on with no help in sight.  If they managed to breach any of the walls, we were as good as dead. 

                “East wall reporting.  No buildup on this side.  They’re taking pot shots to remind us that they’re out there, but that’s about it.  No organized pushes in over fifteen minutes.”  The woman giving the report sounded hopeful.  If she had seen the state of the north wall she would not be holding onto that hope. 

                “West wall reporting.  We’re screwed over here.  Constant push that we’re barely holding back.  They haven’t made it to the wall yet, but they’re getting pretty damn close.”  His report was pretty much what I expected.  The attack had come from the northwest and hit us first thing before breakfast.  My people were tired and hungry, but adrenaline works wonders to keep you moving. 

                This was not working.  We were cutoff from escape except perhaps to the south, but we had no where to go in the south.  No one knew what was happening so we couldn’t expect help to come from another outpost or from the main settlement.  We had enough food and water to last for days, but my people needed the time to use those supplies.  It was painfully obvious that we would get weaker as time went on, but they had the luxury of setting the pace and would only get stronger as they further entrenched themselves in the surrounding woods.  If we were to survive long term, I needed a plan that would be a game changer.  Unfortunately, that kind of plan was not forthcoming. 

                I moved to the north wall team to assist with the reinforcement.  The wooden outer walls had taken quite a beating.   It had holes in spots, and we were wasting a lot of water putting out the fires that kept popping up.   I held a 2×4 in place as one of my men nailed it up into the wall.  Physical labor wasn’t the best use of my time, but it needed doing.  That made me feel a bit more useful and sometimes a bit of distraction can help letting my subconscious work through issues without my conscious thought processes getting in the way. 

                “Jackson, get me our fasted horse and our best rider.”  We needed help and it wasn’t going to come if we didn’t get the message out.  The southern wall was either clear or there was a vicious ambush waiting.  As I looked into the young woman’s eyes, I knew that I was either saving her life by sending her away or sentencing her to a horrible death.  It is times like those that make me hate being in command.  “What’s your name?” I asked her.

                “Jamison sir.  Racheal Jamison.”  She was young and nervous but stood in perfect attention.

                “Your mission it to ride out the south swing around and get to another outpost.  The settlement needs to know what’s happening so they can send help and our communications have been jammed since just before this began.”  I watched her try to project a brave front.  “Let me be perfectly clear.  Your mission is not to kill any of them.  Your mission it to stay alive and get the hell out of here.  You move fast and you don’t look back.  Am I understood?”

                “Yes Sir.”  She seemed slightly calmer, but I if she wasn’t nervous then I would have known I was sending the wrong person.  I didn’t need a hero I needed a messenger.  I pulled two guards off the east wall to watch the south gate as it opened.  The last thing we needed was a rush at the gate.  She left with no incident though and the gates closed behind her.  I watched her ride into the distance knowing that she might very well be our only long-term hope.

                Things continued with little hope for the next hour and then they got bad.  A jeep with a mounted machine gun came roaring out of the west.  I have no idea how they got it running or what they were using for fuel.  I had only seen a working motor vehicle twice in my life though I had of course heard stories from my father growing up.  He said he was a car guy before the world went to shit.  To this point they had only used light firearms and arrows, so I was completely unprepared.

                The large bullets shredded holes in the west wall.  “Ignore the vehicle and aim for the driver,” I screamed as I took a spot on the wall and returned fire.  The Jeep had a large, reinforced battering ram attached to the front bumper that smashed into our wall.  The wall had been sturdy, but between the bullets and the force it crumbled down around the vehicle.  I watched at a broken board impaled the driver through the neck covering him in blood.  His body spasmed and it must have sent is foot against the gas pedal.  The Jeep continued to push forward through the debris finally coming to a stop on its side just through the wall. 

                For a moment everything went silent.  The yells and screams from the north were gone and the gunfire had stopped.  Then there was a wail.  The sound echoed through the woods being picked up by more and more people.  As a wave they rushed forward pouring out from the trees on the west.  The forces that remained on the north started shifting towards the west as well. 

                “Focus your fire.  There are a lot of them, but they have to get through a small hole.  That’s where you aim.  Don’t worry about anywhere but that hole.  Anything that tries to come through it is dead and just doesn’t know it yet.”  I tried to sound confident, but I did not feel it at all.  I grabbed the closest person and had them help me flip the Jeep back up.  If the gun still worked, it would be a huge help.  I told myself that if we were about to die, I was taking as many of them with us as I could.

                The gun did not work.  The barrel had been bent when it flipped over and taking one look, I knew it was more likely to kill us then them if we tried to use it.  The Jeep also did not start so any hope of using it to draw them away was dashed as well.  I thought about pushing it into the hole, but there just was not time.  They were filling the hole already and my people could not take the time to stop firing or we would be overwhelmed.  As it was even with constant fire, we were only moments away from being overrun as it was. 

                I made the only call I could.  “The outpost is lost.  Anyone not actively engaged I want you on horses and out the south gate.   The rest of us are going to buy you as much time as we can.”  I knew we didn’t have many horses, but maybe a few of my people could get to safety.  I wasn’t going to be one of them though.  I took my place just behind the jeep and joined in the shooting.  To my surprise very few of my people accepted the offer to run.  Most took up positions and stood firm against the invaders.  It made me proud, but I also felt sorrow they I was not bringing them home alive. 

                We were soon overwhelmed.  There were just too many and we had to take time to reload.  Our ammo was limited to begin with and there was not one free to bring more from the armory.  Sharp searing pain filled my shoulder when I went to reload.  I looked own to see an arrow sticking straight through it.  I could see the poison staining the arrowhead along with my blood.  It would have been worse if it hadn’t gone all the way through, but it still burned.  My gun had gone tumbling from my hand with the impact, so I was unarmed when the savage leapt over the top of the Jeep and drove me into the ground.  His fists pounded into my face until my vision went blurry from blood in my eyes.  I was relieved when everything finally went black, and the pain stopped.

                I woke on a makeshift infirmary bed.  Most of the pain had come back and I could tell my face was extremely swollen.  I looked over to my shoulder and though it was blurry I could tell the arrow had been removed and I was bandaged up.  “How are you feeling?”  I didn’t recognize a caregiver when you hear one.  I didn’t know if she was a doctor, a nurse, or just a volunteer.  She was helping the patients though. 

                “How many?”  I asked.

                “Odd first question.  How many what?”       

                “How many survived?”  It was the only question I really needed answered.  I saw my messenger going from bed to bed and talking with someone.  I knew she had brought help, but I had already fallen before they arrived. 

                The woman lowered her head.  There was a pain in her voice that had nothing to do with physical injury.  “Including you and your messenger there were seven survivors.”  The outpost had a compliment of fifty people before the attack started.  We had lost forty-three people who looked to me for leadership.  I had one last thought before letting the pain overtake me and slipping back into unconsciousness.  Why was I still alive when forty-three people who deserved life more were dead?

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