Tag Archives: BeKindRewrite

Thirst

Old tongues whispered, gingerly moving in tomb-dry mouths, dead languages spilling forth in a surrusation. Their absent-eyed – literally absent, just sockets, skeletal, sunk-back in rotten-flesh faces – meanderings begun to take shape, to take form, their feet tracing arcane patterns in the dust, shuffling shoggoth dancing.

Their voices grew stronger – long aeons passed in that cramped corridor, long aeons measured in microseconds, shadow-voiced creatures gaining strength – the skin relatives finding one another in the darkness, cooing and whistling, their voices growing stronger with each breath – that I am forced to take, oh God, trying, trying, desperately not to breath, they can hear me, they can hear me. They can’t.

The walls close in, slick-wet-screaming.

Slick-wet-screaming, voices-whip-and-whisper, shadows stroke the back of my neck.

Bumble bees kiss flower beds, and the wind whispers – flesh-blood-bones-marrow-suck-slurp.

The crooners surround me, violent promises spill out, not-spoken, but still heard.

The fields open around me, and the sun is hot. Too hot. It splits on the horizon, cracking egg-yolk flooding my mind.

I too thirst.

 

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Swift Justice

 

“Define ‘divine’.”

The man scratched at his head, ran his fingers through the stubble on his chin, the downy fluff on his cheeks that passed for sideburns as he searched for an answer that might make sense to someone with no knowledge of six thousand years of mythology, unstained by organised religion.

“Um…” he trailed off, losing steam. “Well…”

She stared back, in naked innocence – he diverted his eyes, taking in the room surrounding them.

It was immaculately clean – a stark contrast to his own dishevelled appearance – the spines of books stared out at him from their shelves, and he could see a murky reflection of himself in the polished stone-mirror floor. She smiled, in gilt-edged guilt, both her and the room showing a taste of her life, ultramoderation.

“You don’t understand it either, do you?”

Her question settled into the fabric of the room, hollowly echoing from the walls, like the call of the tame, forcing its way into his wild life.

She moved slowly toward him, her smile now uncertain, shy.

She was a trap. He understood it now. His uncertainness turned to steeled determination, a call for swift justice rang out inside him.

“Are you human, madame? Or a trap, a temptation sent me by the Devil?” His eyes roved the shelves. Books on computing and engineering. Books of heresy. His hand reached for the Bible, bound to his chest. He touched it, reverentially, as his other hand sought the pistol at his hip.

He delivered her swift justice, and left the smell of cordite gun-smoke and sparking electronics on the floor.

 


 

 

 

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The Elevator Club

“Welcome to the Elevator Club.”

As greetings go, it wasn’t all that ominous. I mean, I’ve heard worse; “I’ve been looking for you”, or, “We need to talk” are pretty terrifying ways to start a conversation. But the Elevator Club was different. It was almost funny, a group of men in well-pressed, well-fitted suits that you could tell were expensive, just by looking at them, standing together in the elevator.

They just carried on their conversations, which was also weird – people usually fall silent when someone walks into a lift, but the hubbub of the Elevator Club just kept murmuring, mingling into the sound of the elevator’s motors.

It didn’t stop – the elevator that is.

Level 27 flicked passed, the light behind the number still illuminated. I turned around, and the man who spoke to me just shrugged.

“I was level 14,” he said, waving his hand toward the doors.

The fluorescent lights overhead just hummed, beating down on us with oppressive, ultraviolent light.

“But when you got in I felt the urge to leave just disappear.” His blue tie seemed to glow.

At level 47 one of the men twitched, he was older, and seemed distinguished, stepped forward, his hand extended.

He stopped, and the elevator began to descend, counting its way back down through the floors.

“I don’t know how long they’ve been here,” he said to me, indicating the men pressed against him.

“They won’t talk to us late-comers,” Blue-tie said to me.

The older man studiously ignored him, examining his fingertips.

“You should feel special,” he said. His voice cracked as he whispered.

“How long have you been here?” I asked him.

He echoed me, his face twisted into a sneer.

I can’t remember. It can’t have been long.

“Level 27,” the elevator said.

I didn’t want to get off.

The light behind the numbers flickered, on-off, on-off, on.

The elevator kept going down.

 

 


 

The Elevator Club was written for this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts:

The Elevator Club

and

Ultraviolent Light

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The Department of Divination and Diviner Control

It was a dark matter.

That the subject painted it in rainbow hues didn’t change the tone, which was surprising in itself. Bright green paint entwined with crimson (the world serpent, the blood of its victims), vast swirls of cerulean blue (for the sky, the day before it burned).

“So…what, exactly, is this?”

His partner gave him an blank stare, before turning her gaze back to the walls, covered in thick paint and thin finger-marks.

“Ok…dumb question. But where is it?”

That was another dumb question. But it was an excusable one.

They were an odd pair, but that was a given. The Department of Divination and Diviner Control tended to attract the peculiar. He was short, and some might describe him as ‘swarthy’. She was tall, ‘willowy’. Her powerful, him diminutive. They didn’t attract as much attention as you’d expect.

The little boy had been in their care for some time – it took a while before little ones made helpful predictions; it could take a while before they were even noticed to be prophets. After all, to a toddler, the fact that the sun was going to rise tomorrow is pretty big news.

The sun would come up tomorrow.

But the Department would have to work hard to ensure it came up the day after that.

 


 

Written for this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: Fingerpaint Prophecy, Dark Matter, Blank Stare and Odd Pair. Let me know what you think! 

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Angel Watch

“Why do they call them Angels, then?”

The old man spat, a lump of phlegm quivering on the dirt beside him – he turned his attention back to the gun he was cleaning, eyeing down the barrel.

“It’s the look of the beast, boy – great white wings, you see?”

Of course, it wasn’t just wings. Their language sounded like heavenly choirs, and their faces glowed with beautific, serene smiles as they slaughtered.

“Well, we’ll be ready for them,” the boy said, sighting along the muzzle of his pistol, winking at the sky, “won’t we, Uncle?”

The old man grimaced, and turned his head – he couldn’t look the boy in the eyes.

He knew the bullets weren’t for the angels.

 


 

 

Written for one of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: Angel Watch

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Claws Red, Fangs Snapping

Terry Whidborne's latest sketch

Terry Whidborne’s latest sketch

She drew her cloak tighter around the ragged edges of her breath, trying to disguise the rapid rise-and-fall of her chest. She pulled her face-mask closed, to hide her lolling tongue and to cover the sound of her panting. To conceal the spatters of blood and the tracing lines of intestines on her skin-suit.

 

Voices rose up  behind her, shrill and panicked, reaching a crescendo as she turned the corner.

 

She had to convince herself to slow down, to control her footsteps. The wet cobblestones shone, and seemed to guide her along her path. She caught her breath, crouching down against a rough-scaled wall – she left a patch of crimson on the stone as she moved. Her tongue arrowed out from between razor-sharp teeth, picking loose scraps of gristle and fat, tasting the flavour of him on her lips. She smiled, a withering smile, and was disappointed that she had no-one to direct it toward. No matter. She let her mind replay the gory scene from which she had so recently fled, and the smile returned.

 

She saw the signal, the twin spirals in the sky, clouds-where-there-should-be-no-clouds.

 

Claws red, fangs snapping. 

 

The memory was not quite as delicious as the act.

 

The spirals, the disguise, the soon-to-be-dead.

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Uncertain Certainty

“Uncertainty is worse.”

That’s what the guard had said, shrugging his shoulders. The loose-fitting black hood was an attempt at anonymity. Even though the same three men had looked though the bars each day, eight hours apart. The certainty of uncertainty had been welcome, really. Knowing that today was not to be the day you died. The certainty was far worse.

The sunlight was like a slap to the face.

“You are all the same,” he said, his hand resting on my shaking shoulder. “You all think you are invincible, invisible. But we catch you in the end.”

The rope swung from the scaffold. They hadn’t bothered to clean the shit from the floorboards.

“Any last words?” His breath was hot on my neck.

“And so the flowers screamed.” A coded phrase, my final plea.

He laughed, a boyish tinkle, odd coming from such a large man.

“They do little one, they do.” His hands reached out to encompass the prison’s garden, the neat rows of borlotti beans and staked tomatoes, the sprawling pumpkins and regimented stands of silverbeet. The droning of bees filled the silence he seemed to encompass with his gesture.

“They scream for your blood. We gotta fertilise them somehow.”

 

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Interesting Spec Fic Markets for August and Beyond!

Toy Shop (Sirens) – Simon Cottee, for The Lane of Unusual Traders

Just some interesting speculative fiction markets I’ve come across this month, with a deadline sometime this month – I thought it’d be nice to share. All of these markets are pro-paying, by the way, unless I mention otherwise:

 

The Lane of Unusual Traders (Short Story component 1500 – 3000 words) – Tiny Owl Workshop, 31st August

The Lane of Unusual Traders is a world building project. The aim is to write or otherwise bring the Lane, the City of Lind and the world of Midlfell into existence through stories, illustrations, comics and, well, through whatever other creative means present themselves as the story grows.

The story begins in a lane known only as The Lane of Unusual Traders.

The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography (less than 5000 words) – Unlikely Story, November 1

 Genre isn’t particularly important to us—speculative, mainstream, slipstream, and the unclassifiable tales in between—we’ll read anything; all we ask is that the stories feature Information Technology as a prominent element of the tale. The focus of the magazine is Cryptography, so we’ll give preference to stories that involve cryptography (of course), ciphers, data privacy, surveillance, hacking/cracking, and so on. We’re interested in stories that demonstrate an understanding of the real technology, rather than pseudo-magical uses of information technologies which substitute “hacker” for “mage” and “source code” for “incantation.” We’re also interested in the wildly fantastical and surrealistic.

This Patchwork Flesh (under 7500) – Exile Editions, 31 August

This Patchwork Flesh is meant to be a wider lens on underrepresented stories, and on underrepresented voices. A chance for readers who identity as one of the many facets of QUILTBAG, or pansexual, fluid, and so on, to see narratives where they are not sidelined, where they are not depicted as secondary characters, always foils, aids, or victims of, or to, “normative” figures.

The Lost Worlds (up to 17,500 words) – Eldritch Press, December 30

“The Lost Worlds” will be a anthology in the Steampunk Horror Genre devoted to the post-apocalyptic theme. Send us worlds rebuilt by steam powered engines and mechanical marvels. Send us characters we can root for as they fight the good fight

 

Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide (3000-6000) – dreaming robot press, August 31

We’re looking for stories that: Have a main character a middle grade reader (ages 9-12) can identify with; Show a diverse set of real characters; Are well written, fun to read and encourage a love of reading science fiction; Tell of adventure, space, science. Give us rockets, robots and alien encounters, and we’re pretty happy. Steampunk, time travel, weird west and alternate history are all fine. We’re especially looking for stories: Where the main character is of a population that has traditionally been under-represented in science fiction, e.g. girls, people of color, differently abled people; Where the main character has agency, exercises it, and isn’t just along for the ride.

 

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The Shadows of the Jungle

Hunting Time – Filip Dudek, via DeviantArt

“What’s the fucking time-stamp on that picture? Does anyone know?”

The image staggered and jumped – overlaid with a static-fuzz, the jump-suited soldiers were barely visible, flicking in and out of phase with the shadows of the jungle. Had they realised that the mech was dead? He certainly hoped not.

“Janice! Janice! Get down in the turret now! And somebody go and bloody warn the others!” Was it too late? Shit, he hoped not.

The image looped, in his peripheral vision, over and over and over again. There were kids inside the factory – sure, they’d done their best to make it seem decrepit, had pumped a slurry of sewerage and grey water and algae into the roof to dampen their heat signatures, to hide from the drifting satellites, hangovers from before the war was won. From before the world was lost. There were kids inside the factory. That was why it was soldiers, this time, not drones or tanks. Infantry. Quislings, they’d already adjusted to the new regime, they’d already betrayed their own species.

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In the Hard, Red Earth

Escape From the Gold Mine – image by Filip Dudek, via DeviantArt

I’d built myself a refuge in this town – a stranger, but not the strangest one. The bronze star blazed, errant, shrouded in the falling dust beneath the wooden promenade that ran down main street. I didn’t know why I’d taken the job – I’d been so long retired from the Pinkerton Detective Agency that I’d forgotten what it was like. Forgotten that the glamour was only temporary, that the truth meant sighting through a rifle scope at three in the morning, watching the last, whispering embers of a fire burn low, choosing your moment and hoping you’d chosen the right man. Meant scanning bounty posters, trying to decide which price was worth the effort of snatching away another man’s life. I forgot that you forget how much a man is really worth, to his children, to his wife – forget it until after the flash and bark out the muzzle of your gun and the spray of black-red blood fireworks into the sky, how the new widow collapses to the ground, weeping, as if only to remind you. I’d travelled to escape my previous life, fleeing from the towns, each covered in blood I’d shed, from New York to California. To Australia, to the red-dirt and spinifex forests. I still saw spilled blood.

Black storm clouds threatened rain. I stooped, grabbed at that icon of law and order forgotten, felt it cold in my hand. Almost before I realised what I’d done. In the eyes of the townsfolk, just claiming the badge made me the law.

I looked into the whore’s twisting, chameleon eyes, and I told her I could help.

That was my first mistake.

 

#

 

Trevor’s Rest squats, like a thirsty toad, between the watering tower of the railway and the endless, windswept desert. Wood and horseshit and dirt, the lowing of cattle and the ignored ranting of apocalyptic churchmen – that’s the truth of Trevor’s Rest. It’s on the graziers run, from the monsoon swept north where the cattle winter to Melbourne, and then on to the shipping lanes back through the Empire. There was gold here, once. The people who found it are long gone, back to what passes for civilisation, either further West, through that long desert to the far coast, or back East, passed the Great Dividing Range. Beyond the Black Stump. Nowhere.

A few grizzled prospectors, a handful of roaming, hard-drinking ranchhands, the occasional corroboree of Aboriginals. There’s the Bank, and the long-abandoned Constable’s Office. Three pubs, one of which served as whorehouse.

The girls were always busy.

The Aboriginals came to the area to follow their songlines, their Dreamings. The dronings of didgeridoos and the sharp beating of clapsticks came out of the desert. So did the shrieking.

Not long after the gold diggers left, the ground opened up, a bottomless ditch, a chasm down to the centre of the earth. The new townsfolk came up, their bedraggled feathers and bloodstained armour-plates marked them as outsiders, but so were we all. Most shrugged it off, eager to welcome the incursion of new gold and fresh whores. The click-clack of talons joined the stamp of leather boots, and keeping the peace became a harder prospect.

 

#

I’d only just pushed open the door of the Constable’s Office, had only just pocketed the badge and picked up a broom when she came bustling through the door, her eyes wild and ragged, bird-of-paradise feathers stuffed beneath her cloak, as though she were trying to hide herself. As though it wasn’t obvious what she was. As though anyone cared.

She was looking for someone. They always were. The shadows chased her into the room, swirling, threatening. They danced, with the dust motes.

“I’m really not interested,” I said, as she walked in from the street, “just looking for somewhere warm, somewhere empty, to hang my hat.”

“I’m not in the detective business, not anymore.”

She convinced me otherwise.

 

#

So there I was, against my better judgement, on the one day of the year that it rains in Trevor’s Rest, staring at the bowels of the abandoned gold mine. Listening to the thwack of bullets into the drowning mud, feeling the heavy gaze of a frill-necked lizard, drunk on the early morning sunlight. I’d already seen enough, enough to know I was too late to save him, the whore’s – Gillian’s – little boy. Cultists, here in a place where Heaven met Hell and decided on an uneasy armistice. Hadn’t they noticed nobody cared about their little rituals? That the pit was already open, and those that spilled out just wanted the same things that we did? You didn’t need a sacrifice to bring back up the demons.

They were already here, and were whoring and gambling and drinking, just like the rest of us.

I worked up some magic of my own.

Gunsmoke is an incense of its own, an offering.

The voice of their guns was muted, a whisper rather than a shout.

My own gun spat venom, and flames.

I was too late to save the little boy.

We buried him, in the hard, red earth.

 


 

 

 

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The Monsters Close In

Castle ruins – IIDanmrak, via DeviantArt

She peered out, from behind the latticework web of her fingers. The stone engravings seem to come to life, to leap from the walls, to sing and whistle and dance in the softly guttering candlelight. She stares, through her fingers, as the carvings come to life, cavorting. The flames of the candles bow with the draught, as though accepting the invitation to dance. The girl cowers in the church’s nave, as the noise of the past washes over her – the solemn, chanting processions of priests, the flames of passion and desire burning in the eyes of the peasants, the blood spilt in defiance of the laws of sanctuary.

She has taken sanctuary here, but the men will not honour it.

She knows that much.

This church is old, worn-down, long-since defiled. The walls are tumbled, fallen, the stained glass shattered, the gold-plate lifted and the saints defaced. The wind pushes its fingers through the leaning doorway, and the statues’ blind white eye flick toward her.

She whimpers. A man has walked through the doors. The gargoyles and angels seem to whisper, telling him where she hides, promising him her flesh, her provisions and her life, in chains.

She draws her rifle, beneath their holy faces.

The gunshot echoes beneath the vaulted roof. He falls, blood erupting from his chest as the marble demons look on.

She makes the sign of the cross, and feels the monsters close in.


 

 

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The Lady Pauncefoot

An Airing - Niroot

An Airing – Niroot

“It’s simply glorious – I love her mottled flanks, they do so set off the damask patterns of the paliquin.”

“Why thank you, Marjorie, my dear – I’m quite sure your Walter could arrange something similar for you.”

The great beast shivered beneath the pale British sunlight – it was a world away from the dense Indian rainforest from whence it came. The fruits of the Empire were too often plucked, and sent to bloom in the Home Counties.

It was inevitable that the fruits of the forest would wilt in less-clement climes. Its heavy bird-feet patrolled the immaculate gardens – it could not stomach the harsh British greens, and so the Lady Pauncefoot filled her garden with birds-of-paradise and pineapples, stunted gingko trees and stinking durians. It preferred the moss hanging from bearded trees and the lichens between the cobbled footpath.

It was losing weight, pinning for the monsoon rains and the swarming hordes of Swamis.

They burned the forests, to drive it out, they cast heavy nets over its sprawling shoulders and dragged it to the ground – it was simpler to catch the infants, but the British ladies preferred the frantic colours of the wild to the calmer, tamed beasts.

Lady Pauncefoot mourned the death of Aadarshini, her riding beast.

Her husband sent for another.


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Research Mission

Ten Drunk Aliens – Rafael Vallaperde, via io9

The bright neon set the room alight with false cheer – it threw garish, flamingo-pink and pulsating, electric blue, it stretched out false shadows, purple-black and threatening behind the haze of e-cigarette vapour, a poor cousin of smoke, now forbidden. The three aliens tried to peer through the tequila-enhanced murk as the bartender refilled the implausibly small glasses – how have we become so intoxicated from such a small amount of alcohol?

Oh well.

They will try to figure that out later. The rough-cut edges of lime and a desert of salt surrounded an oasis of spilt, evaporating Mexico. The fumes stung their eyes, and the noise of the jukebox seemed solid, a vibrating wall of sound, percussive, infectious. Their disguises were perfect, skin-cultures grown from DNA samples – clothing pilfered from the endless rows of empty houses that populated the daylit hours, an invisible nation.

There were some incidents, certainly. The wrong tone, the wrong inflections – but most humans ignored them.

Now they could begin their scientific analysis.

Trens curled his tongue at one of the natives.

Her mate didn’t like that.

Another incident that now needed reporting.

They’ll figure out how to calm the indigenous intelligences later.

All they need to know now is how to spill the tequila into the shot glasses.

They’ll figure that out quickly.

 


 

 

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She is Coming Back. I Know it.

Sunday Sketch - Terry Whidborne

Sunday Sketch – Terry Whidborne

She told me she was coming back.

I believed her.

I believed her when she said it, when she told me she was finished with questing – when she said she was going out again, for the last time. Again. She said she would take me with her, that I was big enough and bad enough and tough enough to make it.

She left without me.

Mamma, where did you go?

She left without me, strode into the early morning horizon.

She left me behind – but she is coming back. I know it.

She promised.

I’m still waiting, Mamma.

 

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Mr July

Mr. July on the Gas Mask Hunks 2014 calendar – for the Terrible Minds FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: THE STOCK PHOTO WHAT-THE-PALOOZA

Mr July loomed above the laminex kitchenette, as though observing the stained faux-marble and ignoring his hosts. He heard everything they said to one another, of course he did, he was right there. He heard the bitter, whispered arguments, the empty threats and the solid silences that flew between them.

He had been on display for so long now, they had forgotten to flip to Mr August – he had heard them decide to wait, a broken calander is right, they said, every seven years. They had also forgotten about leap years, he knew. How quickly civilisation declines.

They were running out of fuel and tinned food, “How long can a man be expected to live on evaporated milk and SPAM, Linda?” She couldn’t answer him that, so instead she shrilled out about the official warnings and nuclear winters. Their arguments increased as their waistlines shrank.

She coughed, hacking black-red onto the sanitized benchtop.

He went out, into the dust-storm, leaving her behind with the thunder-claps of the locking door.

She collapsed, after six weeks.

Mr July watched her rot on the floor.


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Out of the Darkness

“Jozin z Bazin” by Sergey Kolesov

The beast rose up, out of the darkness.

Its gaze was flame, fire burning, burning bright.

I heard its roar, through my humming song, the one I like to sing.

It scares away the sun. One of my madman’s tricks.

The beast floundered, wailing, screaming. Stuck in the mud, never go in the mud.

Stuck in the mud.

It felt hot, but cold, heavy – I couldn’t lift it.

I pushed it under. To put it out of its misery.

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Revenge

Revenge – Kakotomirai

An alien! The first, ever! It appeared, early one morning, or the night before, floating serene, above the city. Its tail disappeared up, into the clouds that swam around it, swanlike, drifting in the breeze, buffeting against the vast bulk of the creature. It just hung there, opalescent, non-responsive.

Not even the missiles could awaken it – that was dangerous, but it never pays to argue with military men. Puckered, blue rosebuds flowered on its hide, illuminated by orange-red blooms of flame, and black pillars of smoke rising into the sky. The beast just floated, suspended in mid-air, impossible.

The excitement wore off – which seemed unimaginable, at first, as people stopped in the streets and craned their necks skyward, as they flooded the city from around the world, desperate to see, to stare, to imagine. They left, eventually.

The colossus just hung in the sky, not moving.

Life went on – what else could we do?

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Contraband

Cyberpunk RPG – Dmitry Sorokin

The ‘droids stalked between market stalls, heedless of the soft-falling rain. We stayed indoors.

There will always be someone who disobeys the directives. It’s hard not to, in some ways – they write the laws in ways that seem to encourage different readings, in ways that encourage the search for loopholes. The profit involved is astronomical. Literally.

The trade in human meat to the outer system was easy to stop, at least on the surface. Take out a couple of middlemen, one or two of the big players, raid the alien settlements around Jupiter. They hated us, hated the concentration camps and the ghosts of the living, the holographic guardsmen and the ‘droids enforcing our rules. The cartels recovered from their loss of business, began shipping other products. Everyone loves contraband.

The trade in alien meat was less easy to control. There are a thousand spaceports on Terra, and a splashdown can happen anywhere wet.

And they taste so damn delicious.

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Monsters Upstairs and Below

Octopad – Silikone

The voices came, gurgling up the drain-pipes, snatched-at, growling, shadow-whispers.

The rain fell. The floodwaters rose.

The voices came, now indecipherable, like shattering glass, a guttural howling, a scratch against a pane of glass.

Still the waters rose.

We hunkered down, upstairs in our apartment block, surrounded by the recluse and his three cats, our next-door-but-downstairs neighbour, Raj, and his wife. She was heavily pregnant. She spoke no English, but filled the room with her bird-song native language, her swollen belly and the smell of bubbling curries. Bottled water and tinned beans, mixed with her spices.

We looked down, to watch the monsters swim in the streets; I had difficulty swallowing, as I watched them gorge outside, these new faces  for the voices down the drains.

We waited. For the waters to subside, for the monsters to submerge.

For the food to run out. Theirs, or ours.

We eyed each other, hungrily, monsters upstairs and below.

 

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Grey Clouds

Post Apocalyptic City – Peter Siegl

Giant nautilus shells, trailing grey clouds and death in their wake. First contact.

These tentacled hunters, a flotilla adrift on some unfelt current, feeding.

We hid, like rats in the walls, like the terrified mammals we were, engaged in silent, gestured conversations.

Are they still there? He glanced up, nodded.

We’re running out of food. We’re running out of water. She mimed understanding, shrugged, as if to ask what he had expected. They drifted nearer.

I can’t make the baby stop crying.

I can. He smashed its head against the rubble.

She screamed, her voice echoing through the ruins.

He ran.

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