Tag Archives: story

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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Kingdom Came

She covered my mouth, and pulled me into the darkness.

Her lips touched my ear as she whispered.

“Shhh, it’s coming…”

Her breathing, slow.

My heartbeat, pounding.

The smell came first.

Rank, overpowering, wet-dog and fungus.

Kingdom came. Loping down the corridor, thick ropes of saliva, heavy, grunting breath.

His dead feet shuffled across the sandy flagstones.

I held my breath.

She muttered, unheard.

Kingdom stopped, carving some intricate scrimshaw into the wet wall.

Kingdom left, and she released me, into confusion.


 

Written for this week’s BekindRewrite prompt –

Kingdom Come.

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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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Red Froth

She looked down at the ticket in her hand.

The rain beat down, drumming a tattoo on the windows, and she understood why, really, she did.

But he had to understand too.

She wasn’t finished making him understand.

“So, Hong Kong – nice this time of year.”

He nodded, whimpering through the gag – it was crusted with his snot – he must have been having trouble breathing by now.

Good.

“Shame it’s monsoon season.”

Panic flitted across his eyes. It wasn’t the same anymore. The great game had changed, what with outsourcing and the lowest common denominator. College kids and tech nerds.

She punched him, unexpectedly, let him drop to the floor.

He struggled again against the ropes that bound him to the chair, but she was listening to the voice in her ear.

“Can’t you hurry it up? It’s pouring out here.” She chanced a look out the window, he was still there, the only homeless man on the street, seemingly muttering to himself in the rain. She wondered where he got the little dog from – but realised that she probably didn’t want to know.

“So. Hong Kong. Why?”

His eyes rolled back in his head, and red froth erupted beneath the gag.

She needed someone else to answer her questions.

 


 

 

Written for this week’s Flash! Friday writing challenge.

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Less than a Week to go!

Just a friendly reminder that the Lane of Unusual Traders is closing to submissions in less than a week! Get on it!

Seamstress - Inspiration from the Lane

Seamstress – Inspiration from the Lane

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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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It’s Safer Indoors…

View of Outside, Through Torn Shoji Screen – by Moonage Daydreamer

The wind groans, whispers, muttering sweet, impossible promises.

Trying to lure me outside, into the darkness that sullies the daylight.

Into its claws.

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God’s Children

Mountain-top Castle, by waqasmallick

It was the end. The end of forever, the end of an old man’s dream.

The trumpet sounded. The walls came tumbling down.

Billowing, twisting smoke rose, pillars holding aloft the blue dome of the sky – it was a beautiful day, glorious. It shouldn’t have ended. Not like this.

They were singing their dirges, their dreadful battle-hymns already – God’s Children, they called themselves, carrying before them a bleeding Christ, an emancipated prisoner-of-war still alive, crucified. He shouldn’t have looked.

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Mole Rider

Behold the Mole-Rider - bearded artist

Behold the Mole-Rider – bearded artist

The stink of the beast filled the chamber, musk and shit and old mud. The pink, groping fingers of its snout twisted and wiggled, serpentine and seemingly independent of one another. “Where did he go?” the rider’s face was shrouded, hidden beneath a chipped and vicious bird’s skull, radiating menace. The crowd surrounding him was unconcerned. They had seen this shit before. The haggling and bartering went on in the crowded chamber. “I asked you a question, peasants. WHERE DID HE GO?”

Someone scoffed, and waved a peppercorn in the mole’s sense organs – he only wanted to distract it, to pull it away from my trail. The beast reared back, and its barking cough echoed, its talons lashed out, ripping, tearing.

The plebeians paid a heavy price for shielding me that day, their tithe collected at the point of a spear.

As my knife kissed his throat my purse fell to the ground. I took his helmet, and his stead.

They can keep the coins.

Now I can take my revenge.

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Quinkins – A Reposting for Goblin Week

Quinkins - from Wallaroo

The wind cut through the long grass, stirring the wilderness, providing a moment of gentle relief from the midday sun. A mob of wallabies lounged beneath the blue-grey gum trees, and Ballanan crept through the scrub, his spear-head forging the path before him, his movements echoing the wind’s own footsteps. Just the way his father had shown him.

His father would be so pleased – Ballanan had fashioned the spear himself, now he would finally prove himself a man.

The tribe would feast tonight.

Mount Boonballbi loomed before him, casting its shadow long across the land between them.

He didn’t even notice the imjin creeping up on him.

His father called out his name into the gathering darkness, shouting out until he grew hoarse.

He wept by the fire.

The imjin feasted that night.

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Little Stolen Glances

Copyright Killian Czuba

“They can’t stand to spend even a moment in the sun.” I heard again the authoritative voice of my Goblopology Professor, deep and sonorous, holding court as beside him a near-naked, shivering goblin squatted in chains. It was pale, like a cave-fish, squinting beneath the bright lights of the lecture hall, cowering away from the flashing eyes staring down at it. “Now Goblins are interesting – how does a once social creature devolve into this? They have no concept of freedom, no concept of work or imagination. They haven’t even mastered basic agriculture. Perhaps the Goblin is a warning to mankind…”

Off the record, he was a pompous twat. Especially in my memories.

On the record? He was the best. But I had to know – had he ever ventured this far west?

He was wrong about so many things. 

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Kallikantzaros – A Reposting, in Anticipation of Goblin Week

The World Tree - Oluf Olufsen Bagge

The saw bites, deeper into the flesh of the world tree, gouging at its flesh, gnawing through bark and through the cloying, healing sap. Back and forth, back and forth we drag the blades, hacking at the trunk.

Soon the world will fall, tumbling into our world of darkness.

Soon we will feast on man-flesh.

The saw bites, deeper into the world tree. The falling saw-dust rains down like snow, settling into and mottling against the dark fur of my comrades.

Soon the world will fall.

The unbaptised days are coming, though – the days of darkness above, the nights of the dreadful cold. The darkest days are coming. Soon we can rejoice, soon we will dance upon the surface.

Soon the world will fall.

A cheer goes out, the solstice is come.

A cheer goes out, and through hidden tunnels and doorways we pour, out into the winter.

Soon we will feast on man-flesh.

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Conquering the Ruins

“Old Rivals” by Jordan Grimmer, via io9

The Old Ones still waited, amidst the bones of the old city – a haunted place, where shadows twisted and turned, where sinister whispers filled the empty streets. Here the Old Ones had waged war.

Or so the legends said.

Say no more.

She stood, in blazing crimson, staring out over a history written in scars. Each year the rainforest reclaimed more and more of the city, verdigris and rust conquering the ruins of what once passed for civilisation.

They protected us, the ‘us’ they called indivisible.

Indivisible, yet still we fell.

Say no more.

The suits, like fossils exposed to the skies, non-eroding, non-corroding. She wondered if the pilots’ bones remained inside those ancient ossuaries, surrounded by the fragments of their uniforms, rotting in the cockpit, their microphones still between their teeth.

A flurry of red approached the ancient armour, disappeared inside.

Say no more.

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Melodies

The Temple of the Sky – Jiwon Kim

I hear her, each night, singing prophecies and portents to the blackness – we are separated, her and I. By her mad dreams and her warbled proclamations, of cities in the sky and of bridges ever burning.

She hears me, each day, muttering into my little device, talking about her prognosis, about psychosis and phobias. She cannot understand me. Or cares not too.

She reached out to touch my hand.

Does she not know who I am?

The Temple is falling, she whispered. Broken men turning, ever-turning, inscribing their broken promises into the stone. Footsteps fail and the city falls!

Or does she think she can turn me?

The orderly shrugs his sullen shoulders.

The syringe will quiet her melodies.

And I smile, safe with the knowledge that no-one will know.

That tonight, the Temple will finally fall.

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The Dragon is King

Dragon of Halong Bay (Vietnam) by LoggaWiggler.

Smoke rose on the horizon, a black-grey pillar, staining the sky. The wind carried rain, ashen rain, and the occasional silence-breaking echo off the moss-capped, tombstone mountains. Of lumber collapsing and of voices, raised in terror, screaming.

Screaming.

The dragon’s wings flashed, amber-sapphire-bronze lightning in the sky. Flames licked at the fleet of clouds overhead, as the dragon plummeted and dove before being lifted by invisible pillars of hot air – pirouetting within the temple he had created in the sky. The village beneath him burned.

Still the echoes screamed out their reminder, of voices extinguished, still screaming in terror.

He turned his bejewelled eye to the army mustered on the lake shore.

He dove into the lake, steam rose.

Burning, burning, burning steam.

They cooked inside their silver, fish-plate armour.

Now the dragon is king.

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As Best She Could

Oh, God. 

Where is he?

The sun shone, deflected brilliance through the narrow slats, stretching the shadows cast by her flashlight.

She could feel their heavy, stumbling breath – a low moan, a shrill scream.

Oh, God.

She could sense them around her, waking into daylight, against their nature.

It’s too late.

Too late to save him.

She turned, and ran.

Quietly.

The zombies ate.

She grieved.

As best she could.

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I Had to Leave Them

Copyright Ted Strutz

The engine no longer drones.

The lights still burn – small mercies.

The sun sets red and the ghosts of my past walk the decks.

There was nothing else I could do.

I had to leave them.

I had to leave you! I scream at the mirror surface of the water, begging its forgiveness, but only seeing my reflection, the face of a monster.

I’m sorry. It comes out as a whisper. I had to leave you

The cities burned, the world burned.

I had to run.

I had to leave them.

I’m sorry…

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Book Review: The Swan Book, Alexis Wright

Buy this book.

It is brilliant.

Beautiful, tragic and breath-taking, The Swan Book is possibly one of the best science fiction novels I have ever read (although I’ve got the feeling I’ll be saying that more and more often as my Year of Reading Women keeps going.)

Oblivia, the protagonist of The Swan Book, is a young girl, found inside the trunk of an ancient tree by the only white woman in town, the mad Aunty Bella Donna of the Champions.

“Locked in the world of sleep, only the little girl’s fingers were constantly moving, in slow swirls like music. She was writing stanzas in ancient symbols whereever she could touch – on the palms of her hands, and all over the tree root’s dust covered surfaces.”

I feel like I could quote from this novel all day.

It reminds me of the deep understanding of both humanity and of the modern world that you’ll find in Murakami’s Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, as well as the ancient-and-modern-landscape-combinations and surreality of The City of Saints and Madmen (high praise – I love Saints and Madmen.)

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T h u n k

Copyright Sean Fallon

As light faded she forced open her eyes, drawn onward by the promise, of a moment’s passion withheld, of his brief rigidity as she turned away.

Like a relic, sacrosanct, desecrated.

A broken marble man, shattered.

She set him on the footpath, closed her door, twisted the t h u n k ing locks into place.

He is broken.

She is made whole.

Until tomorrow.

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Review: Ursula K Le Guin, “The Left Hand of Darkness”

“I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.” 

So begins Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The story is one of an ice-planet named Gethen (Winter), and the arrival there of an Envoy from a vast human empire (although that’s an odd way of describing the Ekumen League of Worlds), sent alone to invite the humans of Winter into their collective. After all, “One alien is a curiosity, two are an invasion.” 

The Envoy lands in the kingdom of Karhide, where all kings are mad. The inhabitants of Winter have evolved in a singular (or rather, a binary) way – no Gethenian is male or female. They are neuters, until they reach kemmer (which is analogous to animals being in heat), and they rapidly change gender (or gain gender, I suppose.) Which leads to great sentences like “The King was pregnant.” 

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