Tag Archives: io9

Pink

Alien Jungle – Alex Haas, via io9

It was everywhere. The sky, the trees, the broken outlines of the shadows that he saw flicking through the magenta leaves. The scabs on his arms – he scratched them through – pink, pink, pink again. He sucked at the wounds, tasted the festering, stained his teeth pink; but he could not see it, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter.

He knew that it did, no matter how often he told himself it didn’t.

His damn teeth were pink now too, inside the cave of his mouth.

He heard their chirruping – they had yet to close in. Yet they were coming closer.

He dragged his knife along standing-stones and tree trunks, through beds of flowers and dug it deep into weird, twisting lichens. They all bled pink. He wiped the blade – pink – on his pants. Damn this place, damn this pink jungle.

He stumbled again across his scratch marks on the stones.

The gibbering came closer.

He dropped the knife.

Fell to his knees.

The bird-like voices came closer again.

He gave himself to them.

His purple-pink innards spilled onto the forest floor.

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The Spider-Hunter

Spider Hunter – Nikita Veprikov

It’s a lonely life. I walk between the worlds, travelling along the veneer of civilisation – that’s all they’ve got, out here on the Fringe. The webs that bind such isolated communities are slender, and blow in the wind, unattached. They live, between wars and raids and feuds. If you can call it living.

They need me.

Or so they think.

The number of villagers that die each year from spider attack has never been high. It’s the number of spiderlings that they find terrifying. 3000 eggs per laying. Not many of those survive, whether from birds or wasps or from flames. There’s something in the way they move that the villagers find terrifying. Creepy.

So I walk, between the worlds of the civilised and the wild, bow in hand, regret in my heart.

I shoot to kill, but I leave the little spiderlings to live.

Otherwise I won’t have any reason to come back.

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The Unicorn

The Rabid Unicorn - Minna Sundberg

The Rabid Unicorn – Minna Sundberg

It spreads.

From one to another, at the breeding grounds,

leaving only

the wreckage of majesty

and the hunger

of the beast.

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The Red Star is Blazing, Hungry and Bright

Ship's Cat - Keith Spangle

A constant droning surrounds me, an eternal, humming hymn of solitude and solace. The red giant looms, dwarfing the fleet hanging in motionless orbit. The airlock hisses open and closed – there is no-one there. There hasn’t been anyone there for almost as long as I can remember.

An expedition was organised, the ship echoing with false bravado as the eager scientists donned their lightweight exo-suits and prepared to brave the void. A monolith, an unnatural stone finger was detected, scrapping against the thin Ionian atmosphere below. First contact, even if it was with a long-extinct alien race. First contact.

The airlock hissed open and closed – the advance team departed, their shuttles disappearing like shooting stars down toward the alien artefact, sliding down the giant’s gravity well. A secondary team departed, when contact with the first was lost.
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Time is on Her Side

Time hung heavily, the weight of each passing moment the weight of glacial aeons, eternal. She sighed, collapsed, broken on the divan – the world passed her by, drowning in the eddies she created in the rivers of causality. Off-kilter metronomes sounded, burning incandescent against her consciousness, calling out the passing seconds with varying degrees of fidelity. She was late, she was early.

 

She was always dead on time.

 

Death sunk further into the soft cushions, breathing – pointlessly, she was an eternal, constant, universal idea. Anthropomorphised. She didn’t need to breathe.

 

Her cell phone rang, echoing out, interrupting her reverie.

 

She reached out and turned her hourglass over.

 

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Statues

Tatsuyuki Tanaka, via io9

They came, unexpected, will-o-the-wisps, darting, phosphorescent between the stars. A starship the size of a can of Joker Cola, one million uploaded minds in a desperate rush to avoid their failing, fallen star.

 

A computer virus overcame the asteroidal workshops, the first we heard of it was when the semi-autonomous factories began complaining about misinterpreted instructions. They wouldn’t have been the first paranoid computer minds. We ignored them, for a while.

 

Until the first incursion.

 

A meteor shower, incandescent flames painting the sky, an Impressionist masterpiece, for all the world to see. We stared at the ground, for the most part, waiting for some “radical” art group to claim responsibility. We only had to wait until morning.

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Suicide Booth

The door creaked slowly behind him – a world decayed, falling apart, another bitter twist of the knife in his back. Metaphorically, of course, a steel tooth could no more bite through his shiny metal ass than an illness could fell him, no more than love could touch his micro-processors.

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Barber-shop Blues

 

“Couldn’t tempt you with a perm today, Hardy?”

 

One of the things I like most about Horatio’s is the banter. The way he tends to take the piss, just a bunch of blokes having a laugh. It’s coming up on forty years that he’s been trimming, shaving, hot-towelling in his Art Deco salon on the corner of Victory Parade. Near on forty years of sweeping the clippings, of rough, calloused fingers parting and combing their way through greying columns of men – each of us needing something different to drag us through the day, each of us getting the same short back-and-sides week in, week out.

 

Paint peels from the walls like skin from sun-burnt shoulders, the buzzing hymn of the neon tubes blazing, casting misshapen shadows eerie across the cold marble floors. Dust bunnies bounce, ignored behind the cracked leather of couches – Horatio’s own personal failure, the women’s annex mouldering, clamouring for un-given attention in the corner of the room. Each Friday my eyes skitter and bounce, trying to avoid the conversation trap awaiting us.

 

It wasn’t Horatio’s fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, as far as we could tell.

 

Didn’t stop the pogroms though. Didn’t stop the flames licking at the edging of the world.

 

We reached an unspoken agreement, in the end – after the beast welled up inside the collective chest of mankind. There was nothing we could do but carry on.

 

Stiff upper lip and all that.

 

There were some who shouldered the blame, in the beginning. The mercantile mansions and chemical factories set ablaze, throwing long tongues of fire into the sky, pouring ever more pollutants into the night.

 

“Couldn’t tempt you with a perm today, Hardy?”

 

I shrugged gently, so as not to disturb the lurking beast we knew lived within all of us. I shrugged gently, so as not to break the illusion. With a flick of the wrist he spun the heavy plastic sheet around me; I felt him come closer.

 

It had been twelve years since all the women died, twelve long years of seeking solace where it lay – not my sort of thing, for mine it was a relief when they left, finally we men could get on with our business unhindered, it left us solidly grounded, I thought.

 

I felt him move closer, felt his lips against my ear.

 

“Kiss me Hardy.”

 

How could I refuse? It wouldn’t be fair.

 

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Mr Gulliver

The Favourite

The Favourite

“Mr Gulliver says you look beautiful today, Mummy.” Mr Gulliver is my little Susannah’s imaginary friend, the latest in a long line. I’m not sure I like him as much as I liked the twins, Molly and Jane, they were such sweethearts – as far as figments of the imagination go. Molly and Jane, they sat at the table like good little girls, even if Susannah would constantly chastise Jane for chewing with her mouth open. There’s nothing abnormal about having imaginary friends, Dr Lievre has assured us, especially for a girl as lonely as poor Susannah. Being a princess can be a lonely life for one so young, and with no suitable children in the kingdom for her to play with she needs to create her own friends. It is the sign of “a robust imagination.”

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Some Warmth Behind the Wall

“Comrade, do you think we can make it?” The wind slowly fingered its way through ruined factories, sending will-o’-the-wisp snow-clouds intruding into the men’s overcoats, waltzing between the dense overhang of crumpled office towers. Yesenin turned to face his companion, the tumbling reek of home-grown tobacco billowed into his eyes, a reflection in miniature of the boiling sky overhead. “Comrade Pasternak, how much further must we travel?”

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Ambassador Gern’s Report

The Szechuan smell of garlic and peppercorns, the fiery red flavour of chilli, balanced against an eruption of ginger and sesame – Gha’l Zhauo. Flame-tongued is the nearest translation.

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Substance K

The sky was set ablaze by a single point of light, a roasting oven filled with dry heat. His feet set down against something hard – rock, the gods be praised, solid underfoot.

A chorus-line of high-pitched harmonies, entwined, sinuous, screeching out for attention.

                Terrible trip. It felt like weeks, like months – the slow refilling of his hydraulic joints, a millennia of aches and pains. It felt like eternity, but that’s Substance K for you. K’ral and the gang must’ve left him to burn off these hallucinations…

                Just enjoy it.

Play with these toy cars and the squishy, screaming apes.

by John Brosio

Just a quick story for this weekend’s io9 writing prompt (the groovy image above.) I also squeezed it down to 100 words – a drabble – to qualify for Chuck Wendig’s latest Flash Fiction Challenge over on Terrible Minds.

Comments and criticism always welcome!

And, perfect timing, I just wrote a little thingy about under-represented monsters

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I Only Have Eyes for Her

They called me a genius, a creator, a madman. Each new day saw the next chapter of invention, the birth of something new. The crowds would flock to my windows, the streets flooded with the press of humanity, desperate to see, to look, to observe. The world has changed, and each plastic doll was a revelation, stretching my artistry to new horizons. Clockwork gave way to electronics and electronics gave birth to three dimensional printing, to the Democratisation of Design! Stuttering needles, jaggedly dancing above the chamber, the semi-viscous pools of resin, dully reflective.

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The City Slumbers

 

Radislov Zilinsky

 

The city speaks to me, each night, as the rich smell of wood smoke and the eternal thunder of cascading water embrace me, guiding me to my dreams. It takes a conscious will of effort to notice it standing forever above our heads – the Forbidden City, stretching silver fingers high, as though man in his hubris had tried to reach out and grasp the heavens. The city calls to me as I wake, long shadows flung like teeth across our village in the light of dawn, it calls to me each night as we light our fires, golden-tongued flames thrown-up as shields to guard against its presence.

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Sacks, Stones, Streams

Sandy Skoglund

 

Shadows cavorted in the silvery half-light, slinking apparitions, caterwauling in alleyways. Beneath flickering neon rainbows – sudden illusions in florescent green, lacerating the night.

Hundreds of them. City streets overrun by these pocket-sized predators, a dozen litters birthed at once. Water cooler debaters recited their lines, unable to decide on the cause. An experiment in genetic engineering escaped onto the streets, some inexplicable conspiracy. The glow-kittens didn’t seem to care. Only a cat could lick its genitals with dignity.

Denial followed disbelief, ignorance led not to fear but to complacency. Front-page news is quick to become a page eight opinion piece, destined to fade into obscurity with the next big thing.

Cats grow quickly, from kitten to cat in less than a year. A cure to the plague of vermin who follow in the footsteps of man, as this new silent death stalked sewer tunnels, ever-hungry. “Let them hunt!” the grapevine twittered, parroting the laws of population dynamics. “The bubble will burst!” bankers and real estate agents chuckled, commuting into the city center.

Too cute to be feared, their adoption was inevitable. Crooning cat-ladies, ripe to be taken advantage of, the squeaking of can-openers replaced the now-silent mice.

We figured them out, in the end. Under UV they appeared in at least fifty shades of grey, their homeworld bathed by an ultraviolet sun, their disguises under-researched in their haste to this bonanza.

We treated them as we had always done, as pharaohs, as little emperors with inscrutable, private whims.

Once declawed they’ll be easy enough to round up. And if we don’t let the cats out of their bags we can dispose of them in the traditional way.

 

This story was written for the always excellent io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt. I also managed to squeeze in this week’s 3 word wednesday prompts Lacerate, Dignity and Ripe. Comments and criticism always welcome!

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Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

He’s been taking this form for the last week – he always says something like “the more hands the merrier,” or tells us how “handy” it is.  It seems to make paying attention that much more difficult, when he inserts puns into our lessons. “Many hands make light work,” he’ll mutter, as though he were talking to himself, as though we don’t notice him looking around the classroom for some response; the same reason he wears that ridiculous hat – hoping someone will mention it, that we’ll strike up a conversation.

Never look up from your notes. If he catches your eye he’ll smirk, come walking over for some “one-on-one time.”

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The Jungle Reclaims All

The biggest problem with time travel isn’t the journey, it’s the arrival. The jarring, absolute silence as you tear through the space-time continuum, the draining loneliness as your cerebral comms go dead for a heartbeat. The impotent panic that something has gone wrong, that you’re the only survivor. It’s been thirty years since a catastrophic re-entry, but as static envelopes your brain you can never remember just how long it has been in meat-space.  It’s unpleasantly like being drunk – from the glass of water’s perspective.  But you go where you have to, nestling into the fabric of time. I understand, but that doesn’t mean I’d do it all again if I get a reset.

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Monster Hunter, Second Class

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His eyes shone red. Through the swirling shadows, cast long by the guttering torchlight, I saw his chest rise and fall, through the eerie silence I heard his heavy breathing. The mist lay, a heavy, goose-feather blanket slung over the swamp. I stumbled, over the moss-slicked corpses of once-mighty giants, seeking the dry scraps of land between murky pools. The stench of decay rose from the mud as my heavy iron boots sunk ankle deep beneath the surface. The death of the cicadas’ songs – I knew my quarry was near.
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Legs

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They came, disguised as the planet’s dominant species. We burrow our way deep beneath the earth, raiding the captured energy of the sun, burning again what had died more than three hundred million years ago. Poisoning our skies with the black breath of dead dinosaurs compressed into oil and into coal. They came, hunting for resources, for the resources we had already half consumed. More and more deeply we drank at the wells, straining tar from sandbanks to satisfy our thirst, pumping tainted water into our aquifers beneath our feet. Unknowingly powering the traffic jam of an invader’s fleet.

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Justice Served

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Image by Nikyeli Seyev

She sat, waiting as the crowds swirled in an unending milieu, a swirling riot of colour and change. A seemingly infinite sea of humanity washing over her, threatening to drown out any sense of individuality or purpose. He had noticed her immediately – he noticed everything, his processors recording the flickering of neon pink and chameleon green billboards, selling everything from Grenzo’s Hamburgers to the Senator’s latest unfulfillable promises. Scanning each surgically-enhanced face, logging each mote of dust that spun, trapped for a moment beneath the hellish gaze of artificial suns cast high in the firmament. The cacophonous beat of a million heartbeats, the shuffling of two million feet.
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