Tag Archives: Science Fiction

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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Sorcerers, Magicians, and Warlocks – What’s the Difference?

We are a bit spoiled for choice, in the English language. When we need a word, and another language has one that’ll do the job, we’re quite happy to appropriate it – words like schadenfreude, or (my personal favourite) l’espirit de escalier (“the spirit of the staircase”, which is the French term for that moment that you come up with a cunning riposte, moments (or hours) after it’s too late.


But, crucially for the discussion I’m about to have with myself, and that you can see right here, right now, on the screen of the device of your choice, is about synonyms. And then we’ll get into the cool stuff people should put into their fantasy novels bit. That’s coming, I promise. And this little bit about synonyms leads directly into it.

It’s not much of a tangent.

Now, the synonym group that I want to talk about in particular are words that are related to practitioners of magic.  Continue reading

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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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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?

Continue reading

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Great Worqs

So, I received an email the other day, out of the blue.

The company it came from is called Great Worqs, and they were asking me to share their concept around, and see if you guys are interested. Basically, they are a company that links writers (that’s us, you guys!) with film makers (that’s some other people over there). Seems pretty cool – I know I’ve got something I’m considering sending over. They’ll be launching their new website in March, at SXSW.

They’ll be choosing a film (or three) to win a £100 prize, so there’s that, too.

Short films are cool.

Go check out their website: www.greatworqs.com

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Bang Bang

He came in from the cold.

“It’ll grow on you,” they said.

Horse-shit.

The little fire sputtered in the grate, blue-grey smoke coiling. He spat at it, and went to the sink, washed his hands – the water ran brown beneath his fingertips, and the walls seemed to close in on him, fake stone walls, fake wooden floor, fake fire. He turned up the thermostat.

They did the whole place to look rustic – which was another thing that pissed him off. Why hide the technology beneath this facade of another planet’s past? It’ll grow on you.

He looked out the window – a thin screen painted onto the wall of the hab – staring at the rambling pumpkin vines and the spears of maize that thrust into the dirt of this rock, a stake, claiming it for humanity. The replicator hummed, and dinged – false nostalgia for an age he had never lived in. The machine could create food from its surrounds, and it could do it in silence. It should do it in silence.

He glowered at it.

It didn’t make him feel any better.

The wind, he knew, howled outside, but you couldn’t hear it through the layers of glass and heavy plastic and gold that sprouted on the walls of his hab.

There was a knock on the door, but he ignored it.

He was down to the last bottle. Amber-gold, precious beyond anything else. He’d already been reprimanded for trying to disable his replicator’s copy-protection. He didn’t even care what brand of whiskey it made, so long as it made whiskey. It didn’t.

There it was again, that knock on the door – so sorry to be impolite, the knock said, I don’t mean to interrupt. The colony’s psych-bot knew all the door codes. It’d get inside eventually.

He found his hammer, and set to waiting.

 

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Swashmarks – Fifth in The Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Future Contest!

A Mermaid – by John William Waterhouse

Ah, that’s where I went wrong –

I linked to the main page of the Flash Future magazine, rather than directly to my science fiction short story, Swashmarks

You can read it, right HERE!

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Strange News From Another Star

The waves break on the black-stone beach.

The pebbles rattle as the water pulls back, gargling.

The dead sun overhead is slowly stripping the atmosphere away from this rock; it’s been forty-six days. There is nothing new to report.

#

Day forty-nine, by the Terran calendar. The concepts of ‘day’ and ‘night’ have no meaning, beneath the technicolour consumption going on upstairs. Day and night have no meaning, shadows are stretched, muted, changed – there is more than one shade of black. Black has no meaning, anymore, as subtle purples and blues and reds seem to erupt from the pebbles on the shoreline like flowers. Is this something I should report? It feels more like an isolation experiment than an exploration – maybe it’s both.

#

Where is Terra? Maybe I should ask the computer. The purple-blue-black-red-green sky is holding back the stars – in its death-throes the star has captured this planet, it’s now tidally locked, one side ever facing the monster in the sky that is peeling away the atmosphere in vast swathes. I sped over the dark side coming in to land, a featureless mass that suddenly gave way a twisted sun-line. New flowers open up daily on the beach; I’ve moved the rover away from the shore. They shine like gemstones, in the multi-coloured rain, but disappear when I stretch out my hand. The computer cannot tell me how long we have before the atmosphere is gone. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.

#

Further from the landing site now. The pebbles are gone, replaced by a fine, grey sand that clogs the rover’s ventilation system and lays a soft silt on my instruments. Vacuum-sealed my arse. The flowers don’t seem to grow here in the highlands. I’ve lost track of the days that have passed, and the computer doesn’t seem to want to contribute to the conversation. The baleful, dying eye of this system is finally starting to sink beneath the horizon. I can still see no stars. When sleep overcomes me, the rover drifts to a stop; when I wake, it begins again. Or I hope it does. There is no ‘day’, no ‘night’. I sleep when I must, that is my night. When I awaken the sun sits lower on the horizon. Are we moving in the night? There is no night.

#

We have been moving at night. When I woke we were still moving. The computer won’t tell me why. It just hums, idiotically. I want to turn back. The sun has sunk even further, barely poking above the edge of the world. Fuck, what day is it? How long have I been here? The dust is everywhere. The computer would know how long it has been since we landed. It was never supposed to keep moving at night. I want to turn back, back to the sun.

#

It’s so dark here, so cold. The stars shine like solid points in the sky, like stones. Sometimes the dust whips by, thrown up into the sky by the wind, by the rover’s tires. Strange shapes form in the clouds. I want to see the sun. I’ve taken to leaving the lights blazing, even though there is nothing to see but dust. The lights burn only to illuminate the depth of the darkness. I want to turn back to the sun. The internal lights only illuminate the dust that’s settled inside the cabin. The computer won’t let me get out, no matter how much I beg. I don’t care what day it is. There is only night, now. Turn back, turn back. Let me out.

#

I can feel it growing inside of me. Fuck, did I say that aloud?

#

It’s still, here, at the outer edge of the blackness. So quiet, now. The sun has begun to peer over the horizon, blessed, beautiful.  I shoved a screwdriver into the computer – can you still hear me, you bastard? Are you still recording everything I say? I hope so, you fucker. I can feel it growing inside me. I am not ashamed, anymore, not a pinch of guilt. I can feel it  growing, I can feel its tendrils plucking their way through my veins and arteries, gently fingering my nervous system, ossifying and crystallizing my bones. I am waiting, little one.

#

A bloom pokes through my eye – it hurt, at first. It doesn’t now. The sun is here, and the beach. There is less water, or whatever it is. It looks like water. The sun is here – brilliant, purple-blue-black. I am a seed, or a meadow, and I am waiting for the flowers to grow.


Written for this week’s TerribleMinds flash fiction challenge: the Random Song Title Challenge. The song I got was Blur’s Strange News from Another Star. I also managed to squeeze in some of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: pinch of guilt and multi-coloured rain. Let me know what you think! 

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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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World’s End

There are so many ways

to destroy a world.

But in the end

his native violence took hold,

and he tore it apart,

to the screams

of millions.

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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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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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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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Some Interesting Anthologies…

Lily Fairy – Luis Ricardo Falero, 1888

So, I’ve stumbled across a few interesting short story and/or flash fiction anthologies recently, and thought maybe I should share the love…

Here you go!

Deadlines, July 31

The Lane of Unusual Traders (Flash Component) – Tiny Owl Workshop

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…

Monsters and Maps – Cricket Magazine

Cicada’s out to fill an upcoming issue with krakens, ogres, and other beasties, literal and figurative. We’re interested in the monstrous as dangerous and strong; in monsters that lurk without and within. Monsters may show up on maps (especially weatherbeaten old sea charts), though largely as shorthand for the uncharted and unnamed. We’re interested in the way maps help navigate the wilderness, inspire exploration, and track relationships, spatial and otherwise.

Subversive Fairy Tales – The Book Smugglers

What We’re Looking For:

  • DIVERSITY. We want to read and publish short stories that reflect the diverse world we live in, about and from traditionally underrepresented perspectives.
  • Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult audience submissions are welcome. Good speculative fiction is ageless!
  • Creativity & Subversion. We love subversive stories. We want you to challenge the status quo with your characters, story telling technique, and themes.

The Journal of Unlikely Entomology – Unlikely Story

Beautifully-written fiction, characters that grab us by the throats and refuse to let go, worlds that draw us in and demand to be explored. 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 meet the requirement of the theme of the issue. For The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, this means bugs.

Blue‘ – 101 Fiction

Anything and everything blue. Literal or figurative. The sky, the sea, a pair of eyes, the pattern on an oriental plate. A desultory mood, a filter, a way of seeing the world. It can be an impression, or a synaesthetic scent. It doesn’t have to be the focus of the story, and you definitely don’t have to use the word ‘blue,’ so long as it is identifiable and recognisable. It could be a topaz necklace like tiny icebergs strung together, or the flash of turquoise from a kingfisher’s wings.

We do loosely hold to four genres – science fiction, fantasy, horror and surreal – but we’re generous in our interpretation of those. If the story grabs us, shakes us, scares us, excites us, sings to us in some way, that’s the important thing.

 

There you go. Good luck, and maybe I’ll see you in one of those anthologies, our stories rubbing shoulders!

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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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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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No Such Thing

Shark Isle – by Kendrick See, via io9

The sky cleared, and it breached the surface of the cloud-sea, sending cirrus and cumulonimbus waves down its flanks, torn and whisked into wisps, trailing behind.

“What in the name of Hell are we supposed to do with that?”

“You cannae be serious, Captain?”

He was.

The rigging snapped in the teeth of the breeze, and the semaphore flags flitted up and down the mast, passing secret messages between the Captain and the other ships in the fleet as we prepared to set out to the hunt. The wood of the bow creaked as we tracked across the wind, staying well out of sight. You have to use primitive tech when it comes to the Pistrix saxum in general, let alone a beast of this size. You have to rely on wood and wind and bravado – you have to duck beneath their ampullae of Lorenzini, their famous detectors of electrical activity that riddle the snouts of all types of shark. The early settlers of this world soon learnt that lesson. Entire communes consumed, sending out signals to the passing monsters, eat meeat meeat me. The sharks obliged.

“Lift the anchors, and away!”

His gravelled voice was almost a whisper. The ship’s cat stretched and padded away, its whiskers bristling as it ignored him, along with the rest of the crew. They looked at me for confirmation. You can no more be a retired Captain than a retired Pope.

I nodded at the bristling Captain. “Carry on, son.” He turned to the crew, and they sprung into action, hauling up the anchors, whipping the galley-slaves, prepping the harpoons. What the boy didn’t know would, in this case, come back to hurt him. But not just yet.

We slipped onto the cloud-sea, using the scudding clouds as cover, dancing between rock pillars and the shoals of smaller rock-fish. Approaching the great beast from behind, riding its slipstream. The crew muddled about their tasks, keeping close to the Captain, ready to spring into action – awaiting my command.

The shark ignored our approach – we were no threat, not to a monster that vast, but that wasn’t the plan. As he gave the order for the crew to man the harpoons they turned on him, leaping. He whimpered, collapsed into himself. The semaphore flags fluttered, spreading the mutiny from ship to ship.

Quick hands moved the supplies, from the ships to the creature’s back.

Our wandering days are done, and my incompetent fool of a boy was bricked into the foundation stones, to protect the village, although the beast should do that work well enough.

It had to be done. After all, like father, like son.

And there’s no such thing as a former Captain, just another man, biding his time.

 


 

 Written for 

&

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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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