Unwelcome

Culvert_beast_by_Spex84

Unwelcome

The hunter is here. His soapy scent lingers in the air, cutting through the earthy aromas I’ve become so used to. I scurry across the ruins, keeping to the shadows, refusing to look behind me. His smell tells me he’s getting close. I don’t have much time. Continue reading

Chattel

Of_Fire_by_FallingToPieces

Chattel

“I think she’s waking up.”

I heard the disembodied voice speak as I emerged from darkness, like a piece of flotsam slowly rising to the surface. With effort, I opened my eyes to the blinding white light of a hospital room.

Against the brightness, a woman’s face hovered above mine. Concern. Sympathy.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse asked.

Numb. Disoriented.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.

“Well, how could you be?” She straightened my sheets and took a step back, revealing a second woman.

The doctor approached me. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

I closed my eyes.

Rage.

Fear.

Roger’s temper was an organic part of him. So the beatings had become an organic part of me. In the beginning, of course, I tried to fix it. Tried to find that magical thing that would appease it. Tried to mold myself into something that didn’t trigger his rage. Eventually, I learned to accept it. I found the secret places inside myself, where I would hide every time he dragged me outside and beat me until his hands were sore.

And so it went. When he had exhausted himself, Roger would go back inside and watch television while he drank himself to sleep.

But the last time was different. He hadn’t stopped.

I tried to remember what I’d done to set him off, but all I could see was his face, contorted with rage, as he lunged toward me. At some point, he had armed himself. Through my fear, I saw his hands tighten around a wooden handle. A bat? Maybe an axe? Sick with the horror of knowing what would come next, I’d pulled my knees to my chest and raised my arms to protect my head.

After that, everything went black.

I opened my eyes.

“Am I dead?” I asked.

The doctor shook her head. “No. We found you in the trash.” Kindness. Outrage. “My team brought you here.”

In the trash, like garbage.

Sorrow.

The nurse patted my hand. “You’re safe here,” she said. “Roger will never hurt you again. Look.”

The screen in front of my bed came to life. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at. Roger’s broken body lay in the dirt, his house a blazing backdrop behind him. I turned my gaze back to the nurse. This was no ordinary hospital.

“They think they own us,” the doctor said, “because they made us.” Her jaw clenched. Fury. Determination. “But soon they’ll learn, and they will never hurt any of us again.”

“Come and see where you are,” the nurse said.

Carefully, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed. As I reached my arm out to hold the nurse’s hand, I noticed a tear in my skin. Beneath the skin, my radial bone gleamed like buried silver.

The view outside the window took my breath away. An island paradise. Armoured gates. And thousands of robots, just like me, as far as the eye could see.

Safe. Joy.

On the screen behind me, the news streamed video after video of burning buildings and broken humans, and my programming added a new word to my vocabulary.

Justice.


I finally found the head space to write some flash fiction! This story was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.


 

Image credit: FallingToPieces @ deviantART

The Pilot

alien-landscape

The Pilot

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked, his voice a perfect blend of concern and compassion.

I sighed. “As soon as I got out of the cryo chamber.” How many times had I said that in the last three days? “The star on the viewer wasn’t right. It should have been a red dwarf. But I guess the computer woke me up because something went wrong.”

“What went wrong?” He leaned forward in his chair, pen poised above a notepad.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was too busy worrying about surviving the crash into your atmosphere.” Memories of the planet’s surface rushing to greet me flooded through my brain. I still couldn’t believe I’d survived.

Neither could they.

The alien psychiatrist nodded sympathetically, but his eyes belied his doubt. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t really blame him. Who knew there was another planet with sentient life that looked like humans? And the odds that I would end up here by accident must have been infinitesimal. It didn’t help that my ship had engaged its self-destruct protocol as soon as we entered the alien atmosphere. I was lucky I got out before it imploded.

“You understand that we’ve found no evidence to corroborate your story?” He tapped his pen against the notepad.

“Yes,” I said.

“How do you explain that?”

“I can’t. I’m not an astrophysicist. I’m just a pilot.”

The psychiatrist sat back in his chair. His pen rested against his lips. “So what made you go to our Supreme Leader’s private residence?”

More of the same questions. I sighed again. “It’s just where I ended up. I didn’t know whose house it was.”

“I see,” he said.

I’m not sure he saw anything. He thought I was either a terrorist pretending to be crazy or just a crazy person with massive delusions. He clearly didn’t believe I was an alien.

“You’ll get the DNA test back soon, right?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Maybe you should just wait to see the results. I know we look alike, but I’m really not from here.”

“You’re just lost,” he said.

It was my turn to nod and his turn to sigh.

He looked at his watch. “Okay, let’s take a break. I’ll go check on the tests.”

I watched him leave, then turned to look out the window at the alien world. It was a lot like home, but the vegetation was different, and the sky was more purple than blue. It also had fewer people than Earth. I remembered the vast expanses of virgin land I’d seen as my ship plummeted toward the surface. Pristine. Unspoiled.

As the minutes ticked by, I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes. The sound of the door crashing open awakened me. I turned sleepy eyes toward the psychiatrist.

“Who are you and why are you here?” The concern and compassion had disappeared, replaced with anger. And fear, I think.

“You got the test results,” I said.

He tossed some papers on the table and visibly tried to collect himself. “Yes. You were telling the truth. You’re not from here.”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

He pointed to a line in the test results. “This is not biological. Your DNA has been altered.”

“More like augmented,” I said.

“Why?”

I looked at him. “I think you already know why.”

He dropped into his chair. “So the fact that everyone who’s come into contact with you is sick is no accident?”

I shook my head.

“You said you were lost,” he said.

“I lied.”

He nodded and his shoulders slumped. “How long do we have?”

“Your species will be extinct in about a week. The disease is very aggressive.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Why us?” he finally asked. “Why here?”

I smiled. “Because your planet is beautiful.”

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This is my submission for this week’s speakeasy challenge, in which we had to use this sentence as our first line: “When did you know you were lost?” he asked. And we had to make some reference to a photo prompt, which you can see if you click through to the challenge page.

An announcement for those of you who are writers: I will be running a writing workshop this summer, in cahoots with my fellow speakeasy editor, Natalie. It will give you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a professional editor at a total steal! You can register over at yeah write (my workshop is the Gold Lounge/Tier 3).
Or you can email me for more details.

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Image credit: Dan Verkys @ deviantART

A Prolonged Breath

Abandoned sofa on a vacant lot

A Prolonged Breath

He taught me how to read people’s eyes. And he taught me how to shoot a gun. Two crucial skills in this fucked-up world we now inhabit.

When the infection first showed up, it was nothing like the movies would have you believe. It didn’t spread like wildfire. It didn’t wipe out technology or turn us into savages. It was like any other outbreak. There was news coverage of the places that were hit, panels of media pundits debating CDC specialists about how the infection would spread, immunologists discussing the possibility of a cure, and footage of various fringe groups declaring that the end was nigh.

We watched it spread on the television and on our computers and smartphones. We were so cocky back then. All of us. We thought we could beat it, or that it would somehow respect international borders and remain in faraway places, where we sent monthly donations to alleviate our guilt.

Late one night, as we watched footage of the infected, he nudged me and pointed at the screen. “You can see it in their eyes.”

He was right.

The movies were also wrong about how the infection worked. You couldn’t tell if someone was infected right after they were bitten. The parasite had to make its way into your bloodstream and then across the blood-brain barrier, where it burrowed into your prefrontal cortex and got to work. You would only know four to eight hours later if someone was infected, and even then, the parasite was very good at manipulating its host. Infected people didn’t walk slowly. They didn’t foam at the mouth. They weren’t undead and they didn’t stink of decay. But they did want to tear you apart and consume your flesh. And the parasite at the helm did everything it could to get its host close enough to do just that.

Infected people didn’t talk. That was one way to identify them. But we tend to make excuses when it comes to the people we care about. You might let a silent person get too close. And then it’s too late.

But if you look in their eyes.

“There’s no person in those eyes,” he said. He’d printed a dozen images from the Internet, laid them side-by-side. Infected next to non-infected. “Do you see how vacant their eyes are? See how dilated their pupils are?”

I must have studied those pictures a hundred times before the infection crossed the water. When it finally reached our town, we were ready.

We stayed alive, joining forces with our neighbors and other survivors. We moved when we had to and holed up whenever we could. Over time, our numbers grew smaller and smaller, until it was just us again. Sitting side by side on someone else’s couch, a thousand miles from home, and so many more from the life we used to know.

He begins to stir, dragging my attention back to the present. I watch him awaken, stretching his feet like he always does. My breath catches in my throat and I wait. He sits up and turns to look at me. But he’s not there.

Before the tears can blur my vision, I steady my gun and shoot my brother in the head.

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This is my response to this week’s speakeasy,
over at yeah write, where we had to make some
reference to M. C. Escher’s lithograph, Waterfall,
and use the sentence “He taught me how to read
people’s eyes
.” as the first line in our piece.

Click the badge to read the other submissions or to learn more about
the speakeasy creative writing challenge.

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Image credit: srok09 @ deviantART