Tag Archives: dystopia

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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They Dug the Graves in the Sand, Shallow Graves

I suppose it’s my grandmother’s story, more than mine.

I’m famous – because of something a young woman did a lifetime ago.

It’s my grandmother’s story, but it’s also mine, because without it I wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t be here, and you certainly wouldn’t be talking to me.

It’s my grandmother’s story. But she gave it to me. So it’s mine now, too.

You can’t call it re-entry, can you, if it’s the first time you’ve crashed through that particular planet’s atmosphere. That wasn’t really a question. I do wonder what that sensation is called – when the dull roar begins, and you feel it, rising through your bones, and it threatens to shake your landing capsule apart. When you see a planet swell and grow in front of you, and you feel so important – we are the first! – yet so infinitesimally small.

What do they call it, that feeling, when you know that somewhere, beneath you, waiting for you, lie the smashed lander and the wind-picked, sand-scoured bodies of the first crew?

What do they call that? Because, it seems to me that words like ‘dread’, or ‘terror’, or ‘gut-twisting-agony-mixed-with-excitement’ don’t quite make the grade. Like none of the words we have can really even come close to those types of feelings. What’s the word for that feeling you get when the voice of Master Control finally comes through, riddled by the static of having to cross two hundred and twenty five million kilometres, give or take a few, their voice pulled apart by the gulf of distance between you, delayed by twenty minutes? You manage to – eventually – process the fact that those men and women who left the safety of wide-open horizons and air that you can breathe and trees and other humans three months before you did are now gone, smashed to pieces and martyred on the surface of Mars?

What do you say to news like that?

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Footprints in the Dust

She traced her hands along the labyrinth’s walls, feeling the same cold, smooth stone against her fingers, counting the locked doors along the path – she always walked in the same direction, the red carpet beneath her feet soft and pilling, following the same twists and turns through the corridors, the path she had left in the dust. The fluorescent lights hummed overhead.

Sometimes repetition is meaning.

Fine particles of dust rose up with each footstep, like little clouds, swirling around her.

She coughed, and the dust devils danced away, catching the light. Her trail meandered out in front of her, when first she walked these corridors she was in a daze, stumbling. Now she took care to walk in her footsteps, trying not to leave another trail. That could be confusing.

Zala stopped, and watched the doorways ahead of her intently. Her footsteps stopped not far from here, and she knew she was supposed to go on. Usually one would hum open, the lights inside pulsing white-blue-green in invitation. She could wait.

The lights behind her began to switch off, a slow series of thuds, echoing her heartbeat. Thud, thud, thud, thud-thud-thud-thud-thud. “No!” she screamed, and began to run backward, into the dark. No doors slid open, no lights beckoned. Her fingers groped for the doorway that she had come from, the solid silver that had kept her safe and guarded the room where she had woken up, nestled in a cloak of wires and tubes, bathed in dull, orange light.

Her knees gave out from underneath her, and she slowly sunk to the floor. “I’m not ready yet,” she whispered into the blackness. It seemed to understand her, and the low hum of the electric lights echoed again through the labyrinth. A lone light glowed just ahead.

“No,” she said again. “I’m not ready yet.”

But she was. She knew she was.

Eventually she got up, and trudged toward the light. The dust beneath her feet was scattered, and her footprints were no longer visible. The lights hummed on as she approached them, and thudded off behind her. A door slid open to her left. Zala kept walking, each step leaving a fresh imprint in the dust.

“How long?” she asked. No one replied.

She kept walking, until the lights no longer switched on before her, and another door opened to her left. This one pulsed white-blue-green. Stepping through the doorway she devoured the food left for her, and with greasy fingers swiped at the button to close the door. Tomorrow she would ask her questions again, even if she would never get answers. Because sometimes repetition is the meaning.

“How long?” she asked, in the middle of the night.

“How many others?”

There was no reply.

The computer banks hummed beneath the sound of the electric lights, and Zala kept walking, each footstep dislodging new clouds of dust.

Each night a new doorway opened in the walls, always to the left, always to the left.

Each night she asked the same questions.

Each night until she came to a darkened door, open on her right.

She had noticed the footsteps in the dust.

“How many others?”

The doorway yawned, with night behind it. The room it opened onto seemed cavernous, with wire stalactites dripping sparks and smashed glass glittering like diamonds. There were no others, not anymore. The skeleton hung dead-straight in the still air, and she disturbed the dusty footprints as she ran. The computers kept the air free of microbes, and still, still as vacuum.

“You must not enter darkened doorways.” The computer voice leapt out at her through the darkness. It still refused to answer her questions. “I cannot protect you there.”

“How long, dammit? How long?”

The lights went out, and new ones lit up before her.

She left her footprints in the dust.

“Twelve years.” She had lost track of how many days she had been walking, of how long it had been since the computer had closed off the med-bay and sent her on this forced march, this migration. “You were in cryogenic hibernation for twelve years.” It was the only night that stood out in her memories; it was the only one that was different.

“Twelve years,” she replied. “How many others?”

The computer stayed silent, content only to turn off the lights behind her as she passed.

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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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Hugs

Sunday Sketch - Terry Whidborne

Sunday Sketch – Terry Whidborne

Mother was right – their fur was so soft, and the creatures just seemed so trusting…like they’d never seen a human before.

Well, Mother always has been a crafty hunter – they’d never seen her before, hidden. The shot rang out. Blood-stains marked the russet fur. But it would wash out.

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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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Promised Land

Caution: Radiation Controlled Area. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by Oleg.

The door groaned closed, and Brother Ponder groaned also, dropping onto one arthritic knee before it. He shivered beneath his cloak, and ran gnarled fingers over the rusted hinges, whispering his solemn thanks.

For each drop of the sacred ointment he chanted prayers and blessings, his fingers tracing delicate ruins as he massaged the oil into the metal. This door had kept them safe for so long, through careful attention and the proper ritual. His father had taught him the words and the motions, that had been passed down the generations. Keep the faith, say the right words, sing the right songs and the door would hold.

He whispered his thanks, and moved on to the next doorway.

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Ashcan Comics Needs Some Help!

So, Ashcan Comics (a Brisbane-based, independent comics publisher) needs your help.

They’ve got a huge backlog of comics, and need to free up some space in their warehouse.

And make some cash so they can keep printing cool comics, can buy tables at cons…all those sorts of things that I have no idea about when it comes to being a publisher.

My short story UTOPIA is illustrated in Issue 9. Is that a graphic short story? I don’t know.

Awesomely, they don’t just publish super-hero comics.

If they publish them at all. Mine’s sci-fi (surprise!)

Anyway, buy some. Help an indie publisher out!

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The Boys are Back in Town (part 3 of 4)

Stormtroopers Advancing Through Gas – Otto Dix, from his Der Krieg series

In flying drones

and limbless children.

In falling bombs

and chattering machine guns.

Beheaded men, stolen women.

In your talk of peace

I lurk.

Glory, honour, destruction.

I am in you.

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A Sort of Justice

Southwyck House, by Kibwe X-Kalibre Tavares

“Who in the name of Hell was that?” The gunshot echoed in the hallway, deafeningly loud – I lay face-down on the floor, counting the seconds, counting my blessings. A fist-shaped hole punched through the wall above my head. It bled slowly, trickling plaster down to cake in my hair. “I’m gonna need a bucket of tea after this.” It sounded like a whisper, even inside my head.

“Third Precinct,” the Boss said, “bastards. They’re trying to snatch the case.” He stood up, adding the roar-and-click, roar-and-click of his hand-cannon to the sound of shrieking civilians. The leaning walls of the capsule hotel were grimy, the rust-water pooling on the concrete floor. Shells hissed in protest as they hit the puddles. My own gun shook as I drew it, caressing the fingertip identifier. There was no way we were going to lose this case to a bunch of pricks like Third. We had only a glimpse of the corpse as it lay there on the cold floor – I had no fucking idea what was going on there.

And neither would Third, if I had anything to say about it.

The Boss flicked a flash grenade around the corner – visors down, we chased after it.

“Second Precinct!” I shouted. The Boss just shot one, clean through the top of her head.

“Looks like a double homicide, eh, Constable?”

“And it looks like we found our prime suspect, Boss.” I grinned beneath my helmet. All he could see were my teeth.

And my baton, as it swung down.

The first victim’s lower intestine was looped around his neck, and an ankle was missing. As well as a couple of his teeth.

This bastard from Third would pay for that.

The Boss would come up with his usual, intangible proof.

And the killer could keep us in a job.

Continue reading

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Another New Non-Fiction Piece

Photograph by Melissa Toh, reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Licence.

I’ve got an article up on The Lifted Brow (yikes!), a brief history of hacking:

What Colour is Your Hat? From Phone Phreaking to Political Hacktivism.

Check it out, let me know what you think!

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Speculative Fiction is World Literature

300px-War-of-the-worlds-tripod

Or at least that’s what I’m arguing over on Gate 37. Click the link, the more people that read it, the more I get paid! Tell your friends!

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Stronger

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he wheezed, as they peeled him from the rack and swung the rusty gibbet closed.

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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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Today

Man

I’m too

tired

To do anything

Other than write

This crap poem

Today.

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Book Review: Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths in Bloom is a fascinating collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories, from the opening and Nebula nominated sci-fi story, TIDELINE, which was deep and beautifully moving, even though it’s about a crippled war-machine, to the novellette-length title-story, SHOGGOTHS IN BLOOM (obviously from the Cthulhu mythos), including magic realism/urban fantasy stories like ORM THE BEAUTIFUL and THE HORRID GLORY OF ITS WINGS, or the detective/noir of stories like IN THE HOUSE OF ARYAMAN, A LONELY SIGNAL BURNS and CONFESSOR. I could just name all of the stories in this collection as being fantastic – it is seriously that good.

All those links above take you to those stories that are freely available, click some, you’ll thank me afterward.

I’m not going to waste to much time talking about these stories and how I felt reading them, or how I interpreted them, because I want to keep them for myself, honestly.

Click through on some of those short stories, and then either click this link: Shoggoths in Bloom for the Book Depository (free shipping, world-wide. Cheap prices. Well, cheap for Australia or Continental Europe), or head into an independant book-store (my personal recommendation.)
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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.

Continue reading

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Book Review: Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes

“Don’t let anyone tell you that Apartheid has nothing to do with South Africa now. Those roots run deep and tangled and we’ll be tripping over them for many generations to come.”

 

Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes, is a brilliantly written dystopian science fiction novel, set a mere fifteen minutes into the future, as the saying goes.

Split between four entwining narratives, Moxyland follows the lives of four South Africans: Kendra, an art-school dropout and ‘sponsor baby’ who’s been injected with nanobots and branded, as part of a viral marketing scheme by a gen-mod company; Lerato, a tech-company worker infected with AIDS at birth, who is looking for a way out of her mid-level corporate job; Tendeka, a revolutionary, fighting against the corporate-elite and the police in a bid to reveal the true toxicity of the world; and Toby, a narcissistic blogger who streams his life in his ‘Diary of a Cunt’. Their worlds’ collide, again and again, throughout the novel, as the dystopian world they live in, a world where the South African Police Corps administer electric shocks through the populace’s SIM cards and issue 24-hour disconnects from the internet, and thus almost everything in Moxyland, from buses and the underground to apartment buildings and hospitals. Alongside their genetically modified Aitos (police dogs), the police are a less-than benevolent presence, and menace the people.

It is brilliant, and terrifyingly predictive, summoning a future where terrorism, fear and a false sense of security have forced the people to accept these impositions into their daily lives. The spirit of the Great Firewall of China, of the draconian police measures inflicted on citizens in the Western world, and peoples’ fears of genetic modification and of the terrifying disconnect are combined and born into the world in Moxyland, and stand as a warning as to where our world is heading.

A great read.

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Patience

Nuclear Winter Recon. CC photo by Paul Hocksenar

 

Countless days, endless nights.

The slow click of the Geiger counter.

Awkward, stretching silences.

The flicker of electric lights, the hum of the generators.

The stink of diesel, of unwashed bodies.

We opened the door onto snow – snow, in Brisbane! – and had to fight the urge to run out, into those wide-open spaces. Who knew what waited for us, out there in the snow. The little ones had never seen the sky. They sat, terrified, huddled inside the fallout shelter.

Their fear was infectious.

The second day: Hoarfrost lay in the doorway, the Geiger’s voice shrill, chirruping. Deformed trees cast stunted shadows, skeletal fingers reaching out to snatch away our shelter, our security. The corpses of cars and collapsed houses, long ago picked clean by drifting looters.

We had heard their cries for help as they bang bang banged against the heavy steel doors.

We raised our voices, to drown out theirs.

To drown out the past, and sing in our future.

 


 

 

 

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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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