Daily Archives: July 30, 2012

The Countdown Begins

I can tell that we writers have a lot in common. Specifically, that we have procrastination in common, judging by the several entries I’ve gotten today! 🙂

Two more goodies for you right now — ready?

At Journey’s End

by Jeffrey Hollar

500 words

They were the fifth, and quite possibly the last, generation that would call The Great Ship home. Every possible scenario to extend their journey had been thoroughly researched and subsequently discarded as unworkable. The simple truth was the great behemoth simply had no more to give.

Equipped and outfitted for a voyage expected to last no longer than one year of ship’s time, she was now halfway through her 237th year of travel and unlikely to see another.

Scarce three months into their trek, she was seized in a solar storm of unparalleled intensity and flung willy-nilly through an uncharted quantum singularity. She emerged into an area of space that neither her databases nor her crew had any knowledge of.

Nearly all The Great Ship’s systems had suffered damage of some sort. The most telling were to the primary and secondary propulsion systems, astrogation systems and planetary sensors. In essence, the ship was a great bird with a badly-broken wing that’d lost its sense of direction and was unsure where it might be safe to land.

The final indignity was that this space appeared reasonably devoid of potentially-habitable planets. With little choice, they resolved to make the best of fate and so began their search.

Of the legion of lives lost along the way and the myriad of worlds deemed unsuitable, little more need be said. The explorers continued onward despite all obstacles, always believing that “home” would be the next world they encountered.

Colonists aged, babies were born and their numbers remained constant if a bit diluted. Every passing year more secondary systems were cannibalized to prop up their sagging primary counterparts until no more secondary systems remained. Environmental controls faltered and the end of the voyage could be precisely calculated. A date and time were computed beyond which The Great Ship would live no more.

Morale onboard was at an epic low point and some had even begun to discuss whether euthanasia was a viable means to extend their trip. In this, their darkest hour, they glimpsed the first feeble light of dawn in their latest scans.

There remained one planet within range that could prove their salvation. Nothing hazardous was detected by the limited sensor data and a decision was made. They must, at long last, make landfall and call their exodus done. And so they did.

The planet proved wondrous beyond their wildest expectations. The climate was almost perfectly agreeable with projected long growing seasons and relatively mild winters to be expected. Air, soil and water quality were exemplary. This was, at long last, home.

They bedded down that night for the first time under planetary gravity, breathing air not endlessly recirculated and lulled by the sounds of actual terrestrial fauna.

Sadly, they had no way to know the joy and relief swelling their hearts was echoed by the swelling of gravitational abnormalities within the core of their new planet’s sun. The end of the world was mere days away for those who’d travelled so long.

A DARK PATH

by J. Whitworth Hazzard

500 words

“I want it done!” General Franco slammed his fist down on the lab bench, scattering calibrators onto the floor.

A tense silence filled the room as the scientists froze.

“Your Excellence,” Dr. Escobar said, “we’re very close. We need…”

“You don’t need anything else.” General Franco picked up a monitor and smashed it on the floor. “You were given everything. Time, money, materials, and the best minds. Yesterday, it worked. And today, when the American tanks are crossing our border, you doubt. How can this be?”

“Your Excellence, what you don’t understand is…” Dr. Reynaldo put his hand on the General’s shoulder only to be cut off mid-sentence.

“Never tell me I don’t understand,” General Franco spit the words. “If we don’t stop the Americans, we’ll lose everything we hold dear. Your family, my family, our way of life, our great nation…all destroyed! Now. Does it work?”

“Yes, but you can’t…”

General Franco drew his sidearm and shot Dr. Reynaldo in the heart. A lab technician screamed, as Dr. Reynaldo slumped over General Franco and fell to the floor. Dead.

The General held the pistol and walked over to Dr. Escobar—the ranking scientist in the group now—and placed the hot barrel against his temple.

“Does it work?”

“Yes,” Dr. Escobar said. His face twitched, and the beads of sweat poured down his face.

“What concerned your ex-colleague so much that he was willing to die?”

Dr. Escobar snapped his fingers excitedly and a white-coated technician brought over a stack of printouts. He flipped through and found the chart he wanted to show the General. “Your Excellence, the device works as we suspected. We can transport troops and machinery in the time-space compressed dimension to anywhere on the globe. The ancient text was correct in that respect. But our last test produced two unexpected results.”

General Franco looked over the graph. “Go on.”

Dr. Escobar traced a line on the paper, “The energy expenditure to open the portal has been dropping geometrically, but the last run it spiked negative when we shut it off.”
“Meaning?”
“The portal is stabilizing, your Excellence. The instruments detected the dimensional rift open for 0.23 seconds AFTER we shut down our side.” Dr. Escobar wiped the sweat from his forehead. “If the trend continues the portal may stay open entirely on its own. More worrisome is this anomalous frame of video from the probe. We’ve run fourteen crossings and never seen anything like it.”

A video monitor flashed and a red smoky landscape came into view, pixelated by static. In the corner of the image, was what looked like one half of a reptilian eye.

The General lowered his weapon and spoke calmly. “Two battalions will begin transport at 0700 hours tomorrow morning. You will open the portal on my command, so they can begin their mission. As a special treat, I’ve ‘invited’ your families to watch your glorious success. Do we understand one another? Yes?”

“Yes, your Excellence.”

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The Last Day

Is it 30 July already? What happened to the summer?

Never mind. I hate summer. Autumn can bring its apple cider, I’ll bring the Captain Morgan.

Forget the end of summer — it’s the End of the World! Just a few short hours left to get your entries in for the fabulous End of the World Flash Fiction Contest. So far we’ve had meteors, strange plagues, unexplained seismic activity, and snapshots of lives about to be snuffed out. What will you add?

Just to make sure everyone’s entries are getting spread out to the ether, I will post them as they come in (two at a time, the exception being from 5-10 EST when I will be slinging beers and contemplating the apocalypse).

The first of today’s entries is by Eleni Sakellis, a fabulous writer and lovely woman I met at the Writer’s Digest Conference in January. The second entry is by the fantastic Stacy Bennett-Hoyt — enjoy these delicious morsels of flash fiction.

Honeymoon at the End of the World

Eleni Sakellis

496 words

The waves crashed on the shore just outside the balcony of the honeymoon suite. Maggie nudged her sleeping husband.

“Brian, something’s wrong,” she said.

He got up and opened the balcony doors. The sun had changed color.

“An eclipse?” Brian asked.

“I’ve seen an eclipse. It doesn’t turn the sun purple,” Maggie replied.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Come back to bed.”

He stepped out onto the balcony, into the eerie purple light, and disappeared.
“Brian!”

Maggie screamed. Brian barely caught a glimpse of the giant alien spacecraft that beamed him up.

“That fills our quota of humans. What should we do with the rest, captain?”

“Oh, just incinerate them,” the captain replied.

“No! Wait! Don’t!” Brian cried out.

“This human understands our language, captain.”

“Please, I beg you! Don’t incinerate them!”

The captain hovered over Brian, who was tied to a metal slab.

“The slave amuses me. I am glad we chose him over the female,” the captain said.

“Please! Save her instead of me!” Brian said.

“You would sacrifice your life for hers?”

“Yes! Yes, I would!”

“But does she possess your facility with alien languages?”

“Yes, she does.”

“He lies, captain.”

“I know it, fool! Your gift is rare, human. I cannot part with you so easily. Forgive me,” the captain said.

“Wait! Can’t you save my wife, too?” Brian asked.

“One more human won’t make much difference, captain.”

“Silence! I am addressing the human. Even if I ‘save her,’ as you put it, you will never see her again,” the captain said.

“But she will live. That’s all I care about,” Brian said.

The captain placed a tentacle on Brian’s shoulder. It reminded Brian of the delicious grilled octopus he and Maggie ate for dinner last night in the taverna by the sea. The captain sensed Brian’s thoughts and laughed.

“You have moved me, human.”

The captain pressed a button with another of his tentacles and Brian’s wife appeared.

“I hope she fetches a good price in the slave markets,” the captain said.

“You never said anything about slave markets!” Brian shouted.

“Don’t worry, human. She will live.”

Maggie ran to embrace her husband, but a guard restrained her. The captain raised another tentacle. The guard let her go. She threw her arms around Brian.
“I thought you were dead!”

Maggie kissed him over and over, while the captain watched. He wiped a bit of slime from his three enormous eyes. His subordinate approached him.

“The planet’s resources are absorbed, captain.”

“Good. Proceed with the incineration,” the captain replied.

“Why incinerate the planet if you already absorbed its resources?” Brian asked.

“We use the energy to power our ship, human. Say farewell, my pets,” the captain said, patted Brian and Maggie on the head, and pressed another button.

Brian missed the end of the world. He averted his eyes and held Maggie when the flash of light incinerated the planet.

Third Time’s A Charm

by Stacy Bennett-Hoyt

500 words

Joel’s fingers curled around the small box in the pocket of his baggy shorts. The sun was hot and his sweaty fingers stuck to the wrapping paper a little. Sweat ran down his back and trickled along the sides of his face. Not all of it was from the heat.

It was Abby Swanson’s birthday party. He watched her ponytail bounce through the crowd, her brown hair tied up in a yellow ribbon so large it shaded her neck. You’d think a bow like that would look corny, but not on Abby. Tendrils of hair escaped the bow, curling in the heat.

The present had been wrapped three times now. The first time he had wrapped it in Christmas kitten paper. But he was too nervous to give it to her and hadn’t even said hello to her the whole week before winter break. For Valentine’s Day, he had torn off the kitten paper, wrapping it up in red hearts. Again, he chickened out, spending most of Valentine’s Day in the boys’ room retching. He was the most miserable cowardly boy in the whole middle school. Now, the box was covered with colored balloons. Mom said third time’s a charm.

Inside was a delicate silver fairy necklace inset with colored gems. Abby liked fairies. As least, he thought she did. After all, what girl didn’t like fairies?

When Abby started opening presents, her green eyes sought him out. His mouth dried up; his heart pounded. The thought of handing the box to her in front of everyone left him weak in the knees. He seriously thought he would puke. In a panic, he headed for the gate. Abby appeared at his elbow as his sweaty hands struggled with the latch, putting her hand on his arm. She asked him to stay for cake but he couldn’t. He wanted to tell her that he liked her but he was certain she could never like him back because of what a coward he was. Embarrassed, he left without a word.

At dinner, his parents were upset. Something in the news had scared them. They kept talking about the “end of the world.” But he was too busy thinking about Abby to worry about it. Today, he had been so close.

That night, he unwrapped the necklace and held it in his hands. He prayed that he’d wake up with the guts to walk over and hand Abby the necklace. Then Mom popped her head in to say goodnight, something she hadn’t done since he was very little. She sure was freaked.

Joel woke unusually early. A strange glow from the window drew his gaze. His heart froze at the mushroom cloud blooming in the distance. The world was completely silent, but not for long. In his last seconds, he found his courage but there was no time now to run to her door, to kiss his sweet Abby before the end. Heartbroken, his fingers crushed the fragile wings still in his hand.

 

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