Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

First Flames

by Jeff Stone

Wilson sighed and bowed his head. "Not yet, I suppose."

"I'd say not ever."

"Excuse me for saying so, sir, but that seems a bit presumptuous."

"I'm not suggesting annihilation. Not yet."

"How magnanimous."

"I figure they'll accomplish that on their own soon enough, Wilson."

"How long have we waited, Commander Simon?"

"Who knows? You know as well as anyone early records are inconclusive. When the thought was first posited is anybody's guess. Did those who sparked the first flames watch the embers rise and wonder where the smoke went? Did the one who invented the wheel fear riding it off the edge of a supposed flat planet, and did he believe there was only a dark vacuum beyond? Or did he imagine there were other planets, and perhaps other intelligent forms of life?"

"I appreciate my appointment to this position, sir, but I must admit sometimes you're insufferably pessimistic."

"I'm also the commander of this mission. I must be realistic. I say we turn back before we're discovered. These creatures might not be as advanced as us but they're obviously aggressive. If one of our scouts gets exposed, it could be disastrous. Just look what the dominant species has done to itself."

"Yes, I know, but we haven't been without our own conflicts."

"Certainly, but not to this extreme."

Commander Simon activated his communications badge. "All scouts began extraction procedures immediately. Confirm message receipt by numerical designation."

First Officer Wilson followed Simon to the debriefing room. "Sir, I understand your trepidation, but none of our scouts have aroused any suspicion. Some of their findings have been as inspirational as anything I've ever seen."

"Wilson, I realize you want to learn as much as possible, but you can't be serious."

"I am. Listen to this common phrase, which appears to be like a mantra of sorts for many: 'Kindness becomes its own reward.'"

"Admirable idiomatic manipulation but too many of the species have acted out of accordance with these sentiments."

"And we haven't?"

"Yes, but we’ve learned from our mistakes. That's the difference. Too many of these creatures haven't."

"Don't you think we could develop a synergistic relationship with the most enlightened among them?"

"It's too risky. Look, Wilson, I appreciate your goodwill, but my decision is final."

Dockery Wilson stared at the documents he'd retrieved from the scout team's transmissions. The art displayed something he'd never seen. These people were not as technologically advanced but they seemed to have a more refined vision of the essence that transitioned into the next phase, whatever that was.

His peers had recorded transmissions believed to be from the deceased yet they still seemed to understand much less about spirituality than these people Simon held in such low regard. Wilson thought the two worlds could help each other, but he knew Simon had decided to depart.

When the debriefing ended one question gnawed at him. "What do they call this place, Simon?"

"Earth, Wilson. Earth."


2016 Jeff Stone

Bio: Mr. Stone taught for fifteen years. In March he released Lighting Strikes Twice, on Channillo. More of Jeff Stone's flash fiction can be read at the WordPress blog "Rolling the Stone. "

E-mail: Jeff Stone

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.