Tag Archives: science fiction

Exodus. Flash Fiction.

Margaret leaned back, tilting her head up towards the sky as she watched the ships launch. She held her breath as they rose through the sky, then finally she released it in a long sigh. She could hear people shouting and screaming on the streets, cheering at the rockets overhead. Margaret didn’t feel their joy, Owen was on one of those ships. She always thought there’d be more time, that they could take things slow. They signed up for the lottery together, dreaming of a life built among the stars. They never thought that only one of them would be picked. He had tried to back out, give his spot to someone else but she insisted, she didn’t want him giving up his future just for her. It wasn’t fair or right to ask that of him. The planet was too full, to make life possible for everyone, some people had to go, that was just how things were. New planets were being seeded across the galaxy, the rockets would ferry them to the great ships and from there they’d start their journey. For Owen the journey would pass in a blink of the eye but she would be long dead when he finally reached his new home. Part of her understood those celebrating below and she did want to join them, all this space, this freedom. Almost half the population were leaving the planet, maybe now those left behind would have a chance, after all the earth could support their numbers now.

Margaret heard the door behind her open, she didn’t turn to look, she couldn’t seem to take her eyes from the sky. She felt hand on her shoulder, “He’s better off up there.”
“I know.”
She heard him sniff, “you’re mother would have loved to see this. She’d have loved to be up there, going on such an adventure.” Margaret didn’t look at her father but she reached up and took his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. She felt a sudden wave of guilt, she had been so focused on going she hadn’t spared much of a thought for who she’d be leaving behind. In all her fantasies of life on a new planet with Owen, her father had just been there, part of the scenery. He never signed up for the lotto, he said he couldn’t bear to leave behind their small apartment, the memories there. He sat down beside her and pulled her into a hug and together they looked up at the stars.

The Sickness. Short Story.

John walked down the empty street, his breathing was slow and heavy, each breath came with a wheeze. Occasionally he would stop and hawk up a lump of phlegm, spitting it onto the ground. He ignored the twin streams of mucous running from his nose. He’d been sick for two weeks now and it seemed like he was the last person left in the city. When rumours could still circulate he’d heard the other cities weren’t fairing much better, at this stage he could be the last man anywhere. He was tired, so very tired but he kept going. Around him the street lights began to grow brighter, it was dawn. He started coughing, each cough tore at his chest, his vision started to swim, John stumbled forward then dropped to his hands and knees until the fit passed. He spat on the ground again, ignoring the flecks of blood that streaked through the mucous. Slowly he got to his feet, that alone took almost all of his strength, but he was nearly there now.

He stopped outside the door, it was smaller than he remembered, less imposing, about eight foot tall and ten feet wide. John went to the small computer screen at the side of the door. He’d soon find out if he was right or not. He pressed a few buttons before he found the option he was looking for. He clicked open, a woman’s voice spoke from the wall, startlingly loud in the quiet “Opening the door will expose you to harsh conditions outside and may mean your death. Should the doors fail to re-engage it would mean the destruction of this city. Do you wish to continue?” he clicked yes. His throat was sore, each time he swallowed it felt like he was swallowing razor blades. He hadn’t spoken since Matilda died a few days before, he wasn’t sure if he still could, most people couldn’t at the end. A siren started blaring from the door as red lights began to flash, “I require identification from the highest ranking member of the community. Please look directly into the camera for your retinal scan.” John moved closer, here went nothing. The computer scanned him and quickly located his profile, “John Henry Adams, you are cleared to open the door.” he stared at the screen, he didn’t expect it to actually work. So it was true, he really was the last one left. There was a loud, high pitched whine followed by a deep grinding noise, the ground around him trembled as the door opened. How long had it been sealed? Someone somewhere must have known but he didn’t. He knew what had been outside, before the bad things happened. He knew that there had been life, animals and trees and plants but now there was nothing left but great desolate plains, filled with nothing but ash and death. Still, he wanted to see it, before he died, feel wind on his face, see the world that they had come from. Besides, what did it matter now? He was dead already, he was just waiting for his body to get the message. The door revealed a large room, thirty feet by forty, it was brightly lit by intense flood lights, empty biohazard suits lined the walls. He stepped into the room and as soon as he crossed the threshold the door started to close again. The voice spoke, “Warning: Once you leave the city limits you may not be able to re-enter depending on your level of contamination.” John ignored the voice and shuffled across the room to the final door, it was as large as the first, there was another computer pad here, “please confirm retinal scan.” John moved closer to it. He was feeling weak now, he didn’t have much longer. He leaned against the wall as the computer scanned him, “Retinal scan confirmed. Door will open in five minutes.” John let out a surprised gasp that turned into a coughing fit. Did he even have five minutes? He shuffled to the edge of the door and leaned against the wall, letting it support his weight. Slowly he began to slide down it, he didn’t have the energy to stop himself.

As he waited he wondered what outside would be like, no one had been outside since the city had been officially opened all those years ago, when the doors had been sealed and humanity had been saved. He could be the first human to go back outside since then, all transport was done underground via railway and they had everything they needed in the cities. A siren started blaring, startling John from his thoughts, had it been five minutes already? There was a rush of cold air as the door opened and the air flooded into the room. He breathed deeply then started coughing. His vision swam, darkness crowded the edges of it as bright spots of black and red danced across everything. Finally the coughing slowed, then stopped. He felt light-headed and dizzy, but he wasn’t done yet. He tried to stand, but his legs quivered and shook before coming out from under him. He waited for a moment, getting his breath back, he rolled onto his stomach and started to crawl. His hand reached outside and hit something cold, but surprisingly soft and slightly wet. He peered out at the expanse of green in front of him, it was magnificent. He dragged himself from the doorway, feeling the wind on his face, flowers dotted the grass along with trees, reaching towards the heavens. The sun shone down, warm and comforting.

John rested against the tree trunk, he couldn’t go any further, this was it for him. He ran his hand through the grass again, how long had it been like this? How long had they been kept cooped up in the cities? He wondered if anyone else knew but that didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone anyway. He closed his eyes, each breath coming with a wheeze and phlegmmy rumble. Nearby he could hear something moving towards him, he was too tired to feel fear, what did it matter now? A large creature appeared, walking on thin, almost delicate legs. It had brown and white fur, large eyes and slightly pointed ears that stuck up form the top of its head, it leaned down towards him, sniffing curiously. Slowly, gently he reached out and placed a hand on its side, feeling the warmth of it through its fur. He smiled, then closed his eyes for the last time. A second later his hand dropped from the creature sending it bounding off with a graceful leap. John’s chest fell still and with the sound of birdsong in his ears and the feel of wind across his skin he slipped away into the darkness.

Entering the Void. Short Story.

Brenda scowled as the cameramen moved around the room setting everything up. To her right a reporter was chatting with Johnny. The last time Brenda had seen Johnny he’d been full of excitement and ceaseless chattering, now he was pale, his eyes seemed slightly too wide and his shoulders were hunched. She smiled to herself as she passed them by, going out her way to do so, as she past him she leaned into Johnny and muttered “if you’re going to throw up get it in the bin, thanks.” and continued on before Johnny could reply. She felt immense satisfaction at the look on his face, the reporter either hadn’t noticed or chose to ignore her remark. Brenda may have had some of her power wrestled away from her but she could still kick out anyone she pleased. Anyone that was, except Johnny. She looked at the computer screens in front of her, her team were working steadily, checking and double checking everything. She wasn’t concerned with a malfunction or a mistake, the team knew this procedure by heart and could do it blindfolded if needed but still she felt a faint thread of unease winding its way through everything else. This Johnny character was a wild card, he hadn’t been chosen specifically, hadn’t been vetted as the best candidate for the job, no he was here because of a god damned internet contest. She shook her head in disgust feeling the old anger rising again. It should be her god damn it. She pressed a few buttons, fingers slamming into them. She turned from the computer and stepped over a few wires to check the two metal doorways, they were arched, looking almost like empty Gothic window frames. The metal on them was thin, only a an inch thick, but it was more than enough.

Across the room a reporter nudged a cameraman beside her and nodded towards Brenda, “What’s her problem?” The cameraman shook his head, “How the hell do you not know who that is?”
The reporter shrugged, “I don’t need to know, I just need to say the line and that’s it.”
“That’s Brenda O’Connell. The one who invented this machine? The reason why we’re all here.”
“Huh. I thought she’d be older.”
The cameraman shook his head, letting Karen’s inane ramblings wash over him. She was right, she didn’t need to know anything, she just needed to look pretty and say the lines. It didn’t stop her from being any less infuriating, at first Victor believed the whole stupid cute reporter thing had been a shtick, something to get her more fluff pieces but after working with her for two years he’d found that she was exactly who she presented herself as. A pretty woman with nothing between her ears and no desire to be anything else. He knew why they’d sent her here today, they expected failure and wanted a pretty face to soften the blow, to tell the audience they can’t get it right every time. No one here really expected it to work, he’d chatted to most of the other cameramen and reporters, standing around the large table filled with stale pastries and lukewarm coffee. He wasn’t so sure though, someone was backing this with an awful lot of money and a good deal of publicity, why would they bother if they didn’t think it’d be a successful test? He suspected that this wasn’t the real first test, they’d have to have done it before to iron out any kinks and make sure it wasn’t fatal. Johnny broke away from the reporter he’d been talking to and seeing her moment Karen went over, expecting Victor to just follow. He sighed and went after her.
“So, are you nervous?”
“Well, yeah I guess. I mean who wouldn’t be? The first person to be teleported anywhere! I just hope all the pieces come out right!”
Karen chuckled softly, “So, Johnny what made you enter the contest? Did you ever think you’d win?”
“That was the goal, after all it was a competition, but no never in a million years did I think it would be me. I thought they’d choose someone with a background in science, maybe someone in better shape than I am. When my name came up I could barely believe it.”
“You’re married right? How did you wife feel when you won?”
“She was thrilled but a little worried, Anna is always so supportive of everything I do…”
Victor tuned out again.

Brenda pressed a button and felt herself relax a little as a gentle rumble started beneath her feet, the machines in the depth of the building were running smoothly, she scanned the screen quickly, looking for anything out of the ordinary, but all systems were fully operational. She smiled again, this time it looked almost predatory. She went to Johnny and pulled him away from some blonde reporter, interrupting them babbling at each other. “I’ve just started the machines, it will be time soon, are you ready?” He nodded, “Good. Please stand in the staging area for now, it won’t be too much longer.”
Johnny went over to where she had pointed, a small area marked off with strips of tape. “We’re about to see the first attempt at teleporting a human being, if this is successful it will revolutionise the modern world.” Brenda ignored them, of course it would work, what kind of idiot would she be if it hadn’t been tested all ready. As far as anyone outside of the project was concerned Johnny would be the first human through the teleportation gates. They’d never hear of the men and women who had been paraded through it, one after another as they worked out kinks. All in all twelve men and three women had gone through, none of whom had been Brenda, much to her annoyance. She should be the first officially recorded person through the gate, all those cameras should be pointing at her, after all it was her invention, her discovery’s that allowed them to get this far. She knew she’d be remembered but that wasn’t enough, it burned that Johnny would be the first person through, his idiotic smiling face immortalised in textbooks and film for the rest of time.

Brenda looked over the screens again and seeing that everything was optimal pressed the final button. A hush fell over the room as the doorways either side filled with blackness, spreading from the top down, one of the cameramen gasped. The darkness didn’t shimmer or shine, it just was, Brenda looked away, it still made her eyes water a little, her brain trying to make sense of that impossibly black doorway. “Johnny, we’re ready when you are.”
He nodded to himself, then took a deep breath and approached the door.
“The teleportation should be practically instantaneous, it will take the same time no matter how far apart or how close together the gates are.”

Brenda felt a faint thrill of anticipation in her stomach, everyone else who’d gone through it had described it as a little disorientating but it truly was instant. Johnny paused in front of the gate, “Here goes nothing.” Brenda winced a little, that was what he wanted to say? Nothing about what a leap forward it was for mankind or the start of a new chapter? She shook her head slightly and looked down at the computer screens, trying to hide her disgust.

Johnny stepped forward, he expected to feel something as the darkness hit his skin, some kind of resistance, maybe even a wetness, but there was nothing. He strode forward and through the doorway. Johnny found himself surrounded by the darkness, a ripple seemed to spread through it, like water hitting a puddle. The darkness came alive, millions, no billions of things writhed over one another, glistening in the darkness as they reached upward with grasping hands, their heads turned up towards him. Their mouths opened wide as they moaned and screamed, one looked at him, two empty eyeholes staring up at him and then he started falling towards them. He hit the writhing pile of things without feeling anything at all and then he was through. Light, sudden and cleansing, the darkness around him began to break apart, it shattered instantly and he saw the wall of the lab. Around him people were shouting and cheering, Johnny raised his fists in the air and jumped, already the memory of the journey through was gone, leaving nothing behind but a sense of exhilaration, it had worked, it had really worked.

Survival. Short Story.

Vincent walked through the scattered corpses, around them dying fires were smouldering, a thick haze filled the air. He didn’t pause or look at their faces, it was better not to know. When it had began all those long months before he had seen his first dead body, it haunted his dreams, but these bodies were nothing now, just part of the backdrop. It had been a teenage boy who was running just ahead of him when one of the monsters grabbed him. Vincent hadn’t paused, hadn’t stopped, he just kept running, it was the only thing he could do. He made it another twenty steps before something sailed over his head and landed in front of him with a heavy thud. It was the body of the boy, his head ripped from his shoulders, a gaping hole where his stomach should have been. Vincent had been sure he was next, kept expecting something to grab him but nothing did. That night the scene played over and over again in his dreams, the boys body crashing in front of him. When Vincent finally woke from his nightmare he’d just enough time to turn and vomit onto the ground beside him rather than over himself. How many people had he seen killed since? How many bodies? It was an endless parade of death and destruction. He’d seen people torn limb from limb, screaming all the while, he’d seen people killed in the blink of an eye, a giant stone falling from above and crushing them. He’d seen buildings collapse and burst into flames and somehow he’d managed to survive it all.

Vincent kept walking as the military moved in, this was the truly dangerous part. If they noticed him, noticed that he was broad shouldered, that he was still strong, he would face a seemingly simple choice, join the army or die. The truth of the matter was it would be a death sentence regardless of how he chose. The army had been throwing men at the things since it began and still they kept coming. It was all humanity could do to stay ahead of them. He ducked into a dark and half collapsed alleyway, two children, a boy and a girl, were picking through rubble, the girl glared at him as he past while the boy kept rummaging. Vincent kept them in sight until he rounded the corner, it was always better to have your guard up around the kids, they tended to move in packs and didn’t mind using the knives they liked to carry. He moved through an old apartment building, it was leaning drunkenly against its neighbour, looking as though it would collapse any moment. As he moved through what was once the lobby he could hear the noise of people above him, those too stupid or too poor to go anywhere else. Not him, so far the only thing keeping him alive was being on the move. He’d met plenty of people in the last city who told him it was safe, that he should stay, find somewhere and hunker down until it was all over. Three weeks ago it had been destroyed entirely, last he heard there was nothing left but a smoking crater. He picked his way over bits of concrete and rubbish, it looked like someone had attempted to move it all to the side but had given up partway through. Vincent paused at the front of the building, looking out at the rubble strewn street, people were already coming out to scavenge after the last attack, some were crying and shouting as they dug, but most worked silently, looking for food or anything valuable. At one end of the street stood a tall, gangly boy in a green, ill-fitting uniform, it looked as though he had borrowed the clothes from his father and the tightly gripped gun was almost comically oversized, he had wide, staring eyes that were starkly white against his grey, dust covered skin, Vincent guessed he couldn’t be older than thirteen. Vincent stepped from the building and headed off in the other direction keeping himself hunched over, the kid wasn’t exactly threatening but when dealing with someone that young, that untrained and that scared, you never really knew what you were getting into. Somewhere to his left there came a deep, throaty cry and Vincent froze, already people were beginning to scatter, someone ran past him, knocking him down as they went. Vincent scrambled to his feet and started running.

Vincent watched the city burn, people streamed past him in a steady flow, he could still make out people fleeing the city, dark shapes lit only by the leaping flames behind them. The gunfire had stopped, the army had abandoned they city around the time Vincent had made it to the outskirts. Vincent turned from the city and started walking again, he had lingered too long here, growing complacent, he needed to keep moving, needed to stay ahead of the things. Some people were talking, but most trudged forward with their heads down, many of them carried nothing having no time to grab any of their meagre belongings.

Vincent stopped and sat against some rocks. His feet were tired and sore, around him he could smell food cooking over the campfires that dotted the area, his stomach grumbled sullenly. He hadn’t eaten since the day before, but he had gone longer without food. He had been moving with the others from the city and they swarmed across the countryside, picking everything clean. He didn’t know where he was heading, he wasn’t sure if anyone really knew or if they were just following the signs to the next city. A small family huddled around a fire nearby, he watched as the mother passed food to her children, the mother looked up and caught his eye, he saw a flash of fear and she moved closer to her children, Vincent looked away. He wouldn’t take their food, he wasn’t a thief and he wasn’t that desperate, not yet. He stood from the rock and started walking again, ignoring the protesting pain in his feet. If he kept following like this he’d never get anywhere, he’d just be another desperate refugee, penned into a resettlement camp or conscripted. Besides, there was safety in numbers, but it could also attract the wrong kind of attention, all those people, weak and frightened, would make easy pickings for anyone or anything that decided to come along. Vincent spotted an apple on the ground, a glint of green that had mostly been buried in muck, he pulled it out of the mud and quickly wiped it down, the green skin was smooth and unbroken, though he knew he’d have eaten it even if it was half rotted. Vincent ate it quickly, trickles of juice running down the side of his mouth, already things were looking up.

Settlers. Short Story.

Sandra pulled the door open, she ignored the squawking voice of the secretary to her left as she barged into the office, President Grayson was sitting behind his large desk, framed by a larger window that looked out over the valley, the green lie framing him perfectly. He looked up from his work, startled from thought, his pen freezing mid-stroke. “Sandra, what’s-” before he could finish his question she slammed down the basket of vegetables, the top of it was covered by strands of wheat, their golden colour was spotted with dark red and black spots. “It’s spreading. It’s still spreading and you’re doing nothing about it.”
His receptionist was standing near the door, “I’m so sorry President Grayson, I tried to tell Minister Williams that you were busy.”
“That’s OK Amanda, I have some time to meet with her, thank you.”
Amanda left the room, closing the door quietly behind herself.
She grabbed the wheat and slammed it onto the table, then she started pulling fruits from the basket, apples, pears, carrots one after the other and each had those same red black spots. “We’ve been trying everything to keep this stuff under control and nothing works.”
Grayson sighed and put the pen down, “I know. We’re looking into it and working as fast as we can but we’re not set up for this kind of research or development, not yet. There will be an announcement about it today. I am well aware of how bad the problem is, look.”
He gestured at the window behind him, they were standing at the highest point in the valley, Sandra stepped around the desk and looked out, she felt her stomach drop, first at the height then at what she saw. She put her hand to her mouth, she could see the infection from up here, the dark stains against the green of the trees and the gold of the wheat.
“It isn’t just you and your farm, it’s the whole valley. Hell, probably the whole planet.”
She turned to him, face pale, “How? I thought this kind of thing was tested for”
he shrugged, “The planet was seeded about twenty years ago, since then everything has been growing without problem. All the tests showed it as perfect. We don’t know what this is or why it’s spreading. It isn’t like any fungal or bacterial infection we know of on Earth. They may have similar colourings but they act in a completely alien manner, its spreading pattern is unlike anything we’ve seen before, it spreads against prevailing winds, it spreads to fields miles away. Tonight we are introducing a new measure, any crops found to be infected will need to be destroyed, it’s the only chance we have for stopping its spread, conventional methods just aren’t working.”
Sandra stumbled from the window and sat down heavily, “How fast does it spread? It only started appearing in the last week or so.”
President Grayson shook his head,, “It was first discovered two and a half weeks ago, Elena Jacobson found it in her strawberries and it has spread like wildfire since.”
“What if we can’t stop this?”
“Well, we’ll still have the animals so that should keep us going until we can get to the bottom of this. I’ve sent a distress call to Earth, it should arrive in a year. We just need to survive two years and we’ll have a solution.”
“I don’t know if we’ve got that long. I’ve heard rumours that Jensen’s cattle showed some signs of the infection. I went to go check but he denied it, I just thought it was rumours but what if it isn’t?”
“Jesus.”
“If this has spread to the animals then we don’t have two years.”
President Grayson shook his head, “Tonight I’ll announce the introduction of rationing. I’m also calling for people to can and store any fruit, vegetables or meat they can. The more we can stockpile before the rot gets to it the better.”
Sandra looked at him for a moment, “Do you think we can survive this?”
“What choice do we have?”
“How did something like this happen? Why didn’t it show up on any tests?”
The President laughed, “Do you know how expensive this mission was? Sending humans to a habitable planet? They sent out machines to test the atmosphere, to test the ground, they planted seeds and once they confirmed they were growing and growing well that was all they needed to know. Everything else would be learned on the fly. Those tests looked for anything that might immediately endanger human life, that was all. Hell, on the other side of this world there’s a species that look similar to wolves, only they’re the size of elephants. This was simply the safest spot for humans to build up a community and build up our defences. We weren’t given the supplies or equipment to deal with this kind of threat.”
“Well why not? Shouldn’t that be the first thing to be sent with us?”
“The more advanced equipment is to come with the second wave in ten years, once we’ve tamed this place a little, we’re just here to clean the house and turn the heating on.”
“How could they have missed this?”
“It could be a long life cycle, like the Cicada’s back home. Sure it’s poisonous to us, but maybe it isn’t poisonous to the local inhabitants. I’ve already been sending out foraging missions, we’re still testing to see if they’re edible but that’s a slow process, it wasn’t to start until the next wave and we won’t fully know if it’s safe or not until someone eats it. Even then what kind of problems could it bring down the road? Disease? Cancer?”
Sandra sat back in her chair, “What will we do? What the hell can we do?”
The president shook his head, “We can hope, we can try to survive. Nature has a way of balancing itself on earth, perhaps the same is true for here. Maybe the infection will stop on its own or we’ll stumble on a solution. We’re not out of options yet. I’ve already sent for help, it will take a while to arrive, but it will arrive. We have safe drinking water, we still have food supplies, there are still plenty of earth native plants in the area that are uninfected. We do have a fighting chance, no matter how hopeless it might seem.”
The buzz of the intercom startled them both, “President Grayson, you’re three o’clock has arrived.”
“Thank you Amanda, I’m just finishing up here.” he released the button, “I’m sorry Sandra, but I can’t miss this meeting, I should be done around four if you would like to wait. I’m going to announce this to the Ministers at five, then to the rest of the settlers at seven tonight.”
“No, I have some things I need to check on now. I’m going to go see where else it has spread to.”
President Grayson nodded, not bothering to point out he already had people do that. Sandra was stressed and when she was stressed she needed to keep herself busy.
Sandra stood, as did President Grayson, as she reached toward his hand her eyes moved past him to the valley below. It had only been a short while she had last looked out but it seemed as if the rot had spread even further. She felt a wave of nausea building at the back of her throat.
She left the office, already planning where she would go next. President Grayson glanced out the window, he tried to put a brave face on it for Sandra as he would for everyone else, but from what he’d been told so far it wasn’t looking good for anyone. He pulled his eyes from the large spots of blight in the green of the valley, he could feel the tightness in his chest and a small squirming snake of anxiety constantly moving inside his stomach. His next appointment walked in, “please for the love of God tell me you’ve good news.”
The man glanced down at the ground, “nothing particularly promising yet but we’re exploring some new avenues that we think could be effective in-” it would all be in the report later, he knew Kevin, knew by him that they had nothing. He nodded at all the right places, pretending that Kevin’s fake jocularity was working, that he truly believed they would be saved and still that snake writhed in his stomach.

From Above. Flash Fiction.

Woo! Friday! Hope everyone has had a good week. Still not feeling the best, but definitely better than I was, still feeling pretty wrecked. Had a good week though despite that, my sister, brother in law and niece were over to visit for a few days so was great seeing them.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

________________________________________________________

Roberta watched in silence, the camera panned around the large metal cube. It had appeared just hours before, slowly descending from the heavens. Scientists and military were already cordoning off the area and running tests. An announcement had been made confirming that it was of extraterrestrial origin but that there were no life signs on the ship. The news had been playing that same few statements on a loop as they circled around the cube. Roberta felt the breath catch in her throat as she watched a long, thin panel open in the side of the cube, the reporters were squawking about something happening, but they weren’t sure what yet. As she watched the people in the vicinity of the cube started to fall, they writhed and clutched at their throats, then they lay still. The screen switched back to a pale and frightened looking anchor, “We are getting reports that people within close vicinity to the cube have collapsed and unconfirmed reports that those in the vicinity have died. Again at this point we do not know-” the screen went black, “Our ship is badly damaged, we are on a direct course with your planet, we do not have the resources to repair our ship. You do not have the resources to repair our ship. Our atmosphere is poison to you, your atmosphere is poison to us. If we do not terraform your planet our species will die, terraforming will be complete in twenty four hours. We are sorry.”

the screen switched back to the anchor, she was staring wide eyed at the camera. She looked off screen for a moment, a thin sheen of sweat appearing across her face, “We have confirmed that the message just played was from an extraterrestrial source. We have also confirmed that those close to the cube have died.” outside there was a screech of tires, then a loud crash. Roberta ran to the window and looked out on the street, she could see the wreckage of a car, people were collapsing on the ground, writhing and struggling to breath. She felt a faint tickle at the back of her throat. Roberta coughed, then started wheezing, her head started to spin, she stumbled from the window and collapsed onto the ground.

Dead or Alive. Flash Fiction.

“Are you sure he’s down there?”
“We tracked his ship to this planet, it would have landed about three days ago, it’s still showing on our scanners. Should we send a team down there?”
Meredith looked at the screen in front of her, “It says here this planet is off limits, fundamentally incompatible with human life forms.”
“We can do a global scan, see if we can detect any life signs that match a human.”
“How long will that take?”
“Planet of this size? Seventeen hours max, that’s with the settings only looking for something vaguely human. If you want to get more in depth it’d be weeks.”
“Well, start scanning for now.”
“Right away Captain.”

She looked through the file, it really did seem like everything on this planet was fundamentally incompatible with humans, the air was just about breathable but it would do damage to the lungs resulting in death within a week. Most of the life on the planet was poisonous to humans and the atmosphere was too thin meaning without the right protective gear skin cancer would develop in as little as three months. Chances were good the fugitive was already dead or well on his way to dying but he was a slippery one and smugglers and criminals had been known to use off limit planets for their base of operations. He could have had a base set up there already, few air filters and a well stocked cupboard could see him in hiding for months. She couldn’t in good conscious send people down there. She opened his file again, Frederick Boland, wanted for pretty much any crime you could think of, born and raised on one of the so called independent frontier planets, wild places were law was just a myth. Meredith shook her head, personally she believed everyone would be better off if they just nuked all those planets from space, nothing good ever came of them, they were just breeding grounds for scum. An alert appeared on the screen, she opened it and quickly scanned the message, “Frederick Boland is to be captured or killed at all costs. He cannot remain at large. Do whatever is necessary.”

Meredith closed out of the message, she’d received orders like this in the past but usually they were for people who dabbled in things like arms or drug trading, she could see nothing that would elevate Frederick above your average scumbag from the frontiers. Still, orders were orders. She glanced through the planet profile, no intelligent life and the probability of it evolving was slim, she’d be well within her right to just destroy everything down there, once they had confirmation of course.

“We found him. He’s sheltering in some caves not too far from the ship, the scanners had a little difficulty picking him up, if they hadn’t been updated in Sig we’d have never found him.”
“Can we destroy that cave system without doing too much damage to the surrounding area?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“Prepare the cannons and fire when ready, once the cave system is destroyed spray the area with blasters.”
“And firing in three, two, one.”
Chances were good that destroying the cave system would kill him, but if not the blasters would get him. If anything triggered them they’d explode releasing a toxic gas.
“Direct hit. Cave system has been destroyed. Sending blasters to area now.”
Meredith opened up Fredericks profile, she made a quick note of what happened then marked him as deceased, whatever he’d done didn’t matter now, she’d done her duty and there was one less scumbag in the universe.

Survival. Short Story.

So the storm has past and everything was pretty ok. Thankfully there was no major damage around us, no cars destroyed or trees pulled down, unfortunately my sister and brother-in-law werent as lucky, they’d a few roofing slates pulled off the roof and there’s a hole in it. They did keep their power though which was great!

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Keith listened to the radio, straining to hear what was being said above the heavy static. “Anyone… Don’t…Think.” he shook his head, he couldn’t make any sense of it, but hearing another human voice did give him some measure of relief. It felt like an eternity since he had last heard someone speak though in reality it had only been four days. He stood from the small desk and went to the window, the sky was carpeted in thick, heavy clouds and the rain was still falling heavily. They had talked about weather disruptions before it all went to shit, he had been sitting on his couch, watching TV when in the distance he could hear a rumble, the TV flickered once, twice, then the power went out. A few seconds later the entire house was shaking, he could hear glasses smashing in the kitchen, things falling in his bedroom. He stayed where he was, paralysed with fear, when the shaking finally subsided, he stood and went outside. He couldn’t see it, though he knew what the swirling vortex looked like, he had seen it on the news the day before, some new kind of weapon they were saying though it was still unclear as to who was attacking.

He had tried to get into town but his shitty car wouldn’t start, not that that held any great surprise, it had been on its last legs for almost three years now, hell he was surprised he had gotten this long out of it. He had enough food supplies for another two weeks, that was when he’d normally make the next trip into town. The nearest neighbours were about a two hour walk, he hadn’t gone to them yet, he was afraid of what he might find once he got there. The McKenna’s were nice enough people but they were religious nuts, he didn’t want to think about how things were playing out over there. It seemed better to just wait until things settled down a bit. After all it couldn’t be the end of the world, there were too many people, it was a disaster, a tragedy that would scar humanities conscious for millennia, but it wasn’t the end of the world. People would rebuild, they always did.

Keith had taken to keeping himself busy, there was no TV any more, his power had never come back and the generator was only big enough to keep the fridge and chest freezer going. The radio would do for now, he had plenty of batteries stocked up, though he limited his listening to a few hours in the evening. He would sit, fiddling with the knob, searching for any voices until eventually he would end up where he always did, with the garbled and staticy transmission. He figured that it was just someone out there talking for the sake of talking. There seemed to be no real narrative or repetition to what they were saying. They didn’t sound overly distressed either. Everything would be fine, it was just going to take some time, that was all. A voice came through, it was only for a second, “taking people from their homes, I don’t know where they’re taking them, I-” the static came back, stronger than before. He frowned, it was a different voice, it wasn’t like the one he usually heard. He quickly grabbed the radio dial and started turning it slowly, searching for the voice but it was gone. He sat in front of the radio for hours, easing the dial back and forth, every time he caught a hint of a voice he felt his heart jumping into his throat and his fingers would grip the dial so tightly they hurt, but he couldn’t find it again.

Eventually night came and he decided to stop, it was too dark to see much of anything in the room, the clouds were obscuring the moon and the stars outside, rain still hammered against his windows. He got up carefully and made his way to the small kitchen table, there he felt along its surface until he found the box of matches. He struck one and looked away as the match flared to life, carefully he lit a candle, then another, the two would have to do, he didn’t know when, if ever, he’d get his power back. The broadcast earlier on had rattled him, more than he was willing to admit even to himself. For the first time since this all began he moved around the small house and closed the curtains making sure there were no gaps as he did so. It was dark outside, too dark to see much of anything and he was afraid now that the light from his windows, however faint, might act as a beacon to anyone outside. He told himself it made sense to close the curtains, there were plenty of people who had lost their homes, everything they had, they’d be on the move and god only knew what desperate people might do. He was out here alone and he wasn’t in the best shape of his life either.

The night passed without incident, in the morning he opened the curtains again and stared out at the grey, rainy day. In the distance he could see thick plumes of black smoke rising into the air, despite the rain it was fairly still out with little to no wind. The smoke was coming from the direction of the McKenna’s. He wouldn’t be able to get to them in time to do anything, all he could do was wait and see if any of them had made their way to him. It was probably just an accident, that was all. Their kids were always rough housing with one another, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of them knocked over a candle or lamp. Besides, the youngest one had gotten in trouble before for playing with fire, he’d managed to set an entire field of grass alight two years ago, they’d just barely been able to get the blaze under control before it managed to do any real damage.

Keith tried to keep himself busy through the day but he kept finding himself staring out the window at the smoke, which now looked like nothing more than a dark smudge across the sky. The voice on the radio was completely gone now too, there was nothing but static. He spent the afternoon looking out towards the McKenna’s, the smoke had disappeared but still, he couldn’t seem to look away. He expected to see the family of six walking along his road at any moment, tired, wet and perhaps soot stained, but otherwise unhurt. They didn’t arrive that evening, nor did they arrive the next day or the next.

On the third day after the fire he saw someone on the road, they were crouched slightly and moving slowly, at first he thought they were injured, he went outside, raised a hand in greeting and yelled, at the sound whoever it was crouched down lower and ran off into a patch of trees. Keith scrambled backwards into the house and locked the door, he had expected whoever it was to call out for help, not run away. He checked that the windows were locked too, though they wouldn’t do much to stop someone who was determined to get inside. Keith kept circling the windows, moving from one to the other and peering out, it would be dark soon and after that he wouldn’t be able to see anyone approaching. The rain had finally died off, but it was still cloudy outside, once it darkness fell it would be almost absolute. He looked out the front window again and his breath caught in his chest, there was a group of men marching down his road, they wore all black, even their faces were covered by masks, each one held a gun. Keith s heart started hammering in his chest, they weren’t moving incredibly quickly but they were moving steadily, they’d be at the house in no more than ten minutes. He grabbed a bag, the biggest he could find, and stuffed it with some canned food, he threw in a box of matches and some clothes. He didn’t have any real survival supplies, no tent, no sleeping bag. There wasn’t time to grab anything else, he slipped out the backdoor, not bothering to lock it behind himself, then he took off running.

When he finally stopped he was gasping for breath, he looked behind himself and was relieved that he couldn’t see his house. Once his breathing had slowed he started walking, who ever they were he had to stay ahead of them. Occasionally he would look behind himself to make sure there was no one following. He turned and looked again, he stopped and stared at the large plume of thick black smoke in the distance. He felt a bolt of nausea, he hoped that the McKenna’s had seen those men coming. A gust of cold wind shook him from his thoughts, he turned and kept walking. He couldn’t think about the McKenna’s, he couldn’t think about his house. None of it mattered now, the only thing that mattered was surviving.

Church of the Divine Sight. Short Story.

Hi everyone, waiting for Ex-hurricane Ophelia to hit at the moment. I’m expecting everything to be fine but just wanted to write a quick note in case we lose power or something like that for a prolonged period. I should be back on Wednesday with another short story, but if I’m not it’s because of Ophelia and should be back on Friday at the very latest.

Hope everyone is safe!

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Jacob kept his head down and walked past the Surveyors, most people did the same. Even now after all these years the pitted scarred tissue where their eyes should be made him uncomfortable. They didn’t smile as he passed, but none of them made a move to stop him and really that was the best he could hope for. The Church of the Divine Sight was still considered a fringe religion despite the steadily growing popularity Jacob himself hadn’t been to any of their services yet but as more time passed he felt the need to go. Not for any religious reasons but because he could see the fervour with which people believed and it frightened him. People were dissapearing from the streets, unbelievers mostly and usually they had last been seen with some of the priests. People would dismiss the rumours almost as soon as you brought them up, their eyes darting around the room quickly to be sure that there was no one else listening. The priests wore long black robes and had shaved heads, though he knew little about them he assumed they had taken some kind of vow against pleasures of the world. All of the priests bore shaved heads, men and women alike for there was no distinction made between the two, and all had gaunt faces, he suspected that underneath the robe their bodies would just be skin and bones. Jacob jumped as he felt a firm hand on his shoulder, “Excuse me sir, can you come with me for a moment?” He recognised the harsh raspy voice that all the priests seemed to have, he turned slowly, already the crowd was parting around them, everyone was looking away. “I’m sorry, I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment.”
The priest smiled, “Don’t worry, we won’t keep you long.” The priests grip tightened on his shoulder, it was just on the edge of painful.
“I’m really sorry but I’m afraid I can’t.”
The grip tightened again, “I insist.” Two priests emerged from the crowd and stood either side of him, both grabbed his upper arms, their fingers squeezing into his flesh, Jacob knew he would have severe bruises their tomorrow, if he lived to see tomorrow.

The priests had practically dragged him from the street and into an office building of all things. They brought him through a pair of large double doors, past a row of empty reception desks and into an elevator. As the doors closed Jacob found his voice and outrage, “You can’t do this to me! I didn’t do anything wrong or illegal, this is kidnapping! This is illegal!” He ripped himself free from their grip and started pressing buttons on the panel but they didn’t seem to work. He turned around and faced the priests, they didn’t say anything, their faces were passive. “Let me out of here right now. I swear to god if you don’t I’ll hurt you.” he took a step forward, raising his fists, one of the priest’s hands darted out and caught him in the jaw. Jacob stumbled backwards, bright pain blossoming along his chin, he felt a little disorientated and already his jaw was starting to swell, “You can’t do this!” The elevator stopped and the doors opened behind him, one of the priests, the same one that hit him, shoved him backwards and through the elevator doors. Jacob stumbled and fell to the ground, as he watched the elevator doors closed and the priests disappeared from view. As he stood up two men entered the small waiting room. The room itself had wall to wall white carpeting, the walls were painted white with large strange symbols painted across them in black. These men weren’t priests, they wore dark suits and had matching haircuts, they looked like FBI agents from a movie. The men stood a few feet from him, their hands clasped in front of them. “We are sorry for the way you were brought here. You have been chosen.”
Jacob rubbed at his jaw, “I was kidnapped off the streets and assaulted and you expect me to go along with what ever bullshit you’re selling? No, you’re letting me out of here right now.”
“I’m afraid we cannot do that. You have been chosen.”
“I don’t care, let me out of here right now, this is illegal, you can’t do this.”
One of the men smiled slightly, “You can cooperate or not, though it will be easier for you if you do.”
The other of the men reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a syringe, he uncapped it.
“What are you going to do to me?”
“We’re going to show you the truth. The ultimate truth.”
Jacob took a step back, “I don’t want to see it.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
The man holding the syringe nodded, the other man tackled him before he could react. He felt the sharp sting of the needle then a second later everything went black.

When Jacob woke he was strapped into a chair and unable to move, the men were standing either side of him, just at the edge of his vision. On of the men stepped forward and pressed buttons on a panel to the left of him, he couldn’t quite see what was happening. He heard the sound of gears and then a helmet was being lowered over his head. A bright light appeared, sudden and blinding, Jacob yelled and closed his eyes, the light got bright and brighter, his eyelids doing nothing to protect his eyes. Colours started appearing in the white, large swirls, his screams grew louder and the lights started to shift. Blood ran from beneath the helmet and coated his cheeks like tears. Jacobs body shook and jerked in the chair as he screamed. After a few minutes the helmet began to rise, Jacobs face was gaunt and pale, there was scarred, twisted flesh where his eyes had been, his hair fell about him on the ground. One of the men checked his pulse while the other unstrapped him. “Welcome Brother Jacob.”
Jacob looked around the room, he could see everything clearly, the two men beside him weren’t men at all, they hulked and towered over him, crouching to fit in the room. He nodded at them both, then spoke, his voice raspy and hoarse, “Thank you for opening my eyes.”

Close to Salvation. Short Story.

Larry gazed up at the sun above him, he licked his dry, cracked lips with his thick, heavy tongue. It had been so long since he had last had a drink, almost two days now at this point. Yesterday he had come across an old dirty bucket that had been filled with rain water, he had been tempted but the algae that covered the surface and the tiny wriggling things had put him off. Now he would give anything for a single sip of that water. He had been foolish to think he could survive out here, what did he know about the wilderness? The closest he had ever been to nature had been sitting out in his parents back garden on a nice day. Hell he hadn’t even been to the beach in years. He had been safe where he was, he’d still have water and food, though that would have run out in other few days anyway. In the distance he could hear the rev of an engine, his heart beat faster and he quickly broke into a shuffling run, he needed to get somewhere safe, some kind of shelter, before they spotted him. Even at full strength he wouldn’t be able to take them. He didn’t know exactly who they were but he didn’t need to, he had already seen what their kind did. The strong survive, the weak perish, that was their motto. He’d seen them run down an old man, he watched from his apartment balcony as the old man had struggled to get away, watched as they gave him a head start, then all took after him at once. The old man made it another five, maybe ten feet before they caught up with him. He didn’t want to see what happened next but he couldn’t look away and as he watched they beat the old man to death before tearing him limb from limb. At least Larry hoped he was dead at that point.

He had always thought that at the core of it people were good, that if there was any kind of mass disaster people would group together, try to help one another out. He was wrong. Or maybe the sickness just took all the decent people. He had watched as they broke into stores, sometimes they didn’t even take anything, they just broke the windows because the whim had struck them. He had seen them going into apartment buildings, making their way up through the floors. Sometimes they’d come out with someone, sometimes kicking and screaming, other times unconscious. He knew it was only a matter of time until they did a sweep of his building and if that happened where could he hide? His apartment was small and minimalistic in decoration, white floors, white walls, smooth clean lines everywhere. The day he saw the old man was the day he left. He packed a bag for himself, stuffed it with food and bottled water, then at night he snuck out, moving through the city slowly, listening to every sound and praying it wasn’t one of the gangs. He had made it out easily enough and then he’d just kept going, he didn’t have any place in mind or any real plan. It seemed like an adventure and, like all adventures, it was just supposed to work out for him. He was supposed to come across lakes and rivers as he needed them, perhaps a friendly farm house or two that had managed to survive or avoid the sickness. Perhaps he’d find a small town, a group of people trying to claw their way back from the apocalypse, people who wanted civilisation, peace.

He was going to die out here, in the middle of nowhere, all alone. His throat was dry and felt as though it was sticking to itself, what little saliva he could gather was thick, more like mucous than spit. He had stopped sweating sometime ago, he knew that was a bad sign but he couldn’t remember why. His brain was slow and fuzzy and the only thing he could really focus on was the constant, screaming thirst.

Larry lay on the ground, he couldn’t go any further, he had collapsed a few minutes before, ahead of him he could see the shimmer of a lake, could hear the waves lapping against the shore. Slowly, painfully he reached out and grabbed a handful of grass and he began to crawl. The progress was slow and each movement took more and more out of him. He had kept his head down and just focused on moving forward, he looked up again and saw that the lake appeared no closer, he let out a low moan, he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t go any further. He was going to die here, alone and so tantalisingly close to his salvation. No. He wouldn’t die here, he couldn’t. This wasn’t going to be the end of him. He started moving forward again.

Larry lay on the warm ground, his breathing came in low, laboured gasps. The water was so close, maybe a fifty feet, but he had nothing left to give. He reached out and tried to pull himself forward, he didn’t move. He reached out again, trying to adjust his grip. He tried to pull again but he felt the clump of grass sliding through his fingers. There was a sick, steady throb in the back of his head. The water of the lake gently lapped against the shore, a cloud rolled across the sun sending cooling shadows across the land, somewhere a bird called out, Larry let out one last gasp, then he lay still