FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - May 2017


Writing challenges, flash fiction, interesting anecdotes, amusements, and general miscellanea.

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Post April 30, 2016, 08:53:44 PM

The "It Just Keeps Getting Meta!" Challenge

- Winner -


Distorted Reflections

By:
Sergio Palumbo



I have rarely – if ever – rearranged the contents of the cabinets inside my mother’s house, nevertheless all the furniture in her home, but when I had to do this, well, everything turned out to be really exhausting and it took many long days to make neat and get it all done. It was something that she couldn’t do anymore because she was very old - so I took over the duty.

Actually, I would never have thought about moving that stylish mirror near her front door, but there was no other space available to put the bookshelves, so I chose to hang it on another wall.

I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to it at first: it was nothing more than a mirror, and not in perfect condition by any means, though it was very pricey and a person might notice it at first sight. I also tried to clean it while moving it, but there was a small black stain – not much bigger than a large dot- on its surface that simply wouldn’t go away, so I gave up and left the spot where it was. It seemed to be something inside the mirror anyway, instead of a stain on its reflective surface.

After a while what amazed me were the new images that were reflected in the mirror, once I had put it in a new corner of the foyer. In fact if you looked at it from exactly the right angle, you might think you saw something inside the mirror itself. And there were also strange distortions all around that black stain, which didn’t make any sense at all!

Great was my surprise when I decided to have a closer look at the dark spot and discovered that you could actually see through it… A completely different world seemed to lie past that stain, a sort of alternate history setting, maybe!

Over the course of the following days, I got used to watching it for hours, using an old magnifying glass, attentively staring at those mountaintops and valleys I could clearly see now. I was amazed at how wooden wagons appeared to go through the pass, stunned by all the colorful people who came and went, some new strange animals, and so on. Incredible views!

Eventually those distortions made me ponder over the whole thing and think about other possibilities… Given my knowledge of physics, could it be a sort of quantum black hole? Or a mini-wormhole leading to another place? Why not? The problem was of course: how could this be possible? And why had this strangeness occurred inside that mirror?

Many strange questions were running through my mind, which were no more incredible than the things you could watch by carefully using the magnifying glass. Maybe I should have called some scientist, or perhaps I should have informed some newspaper about it - but I doubted that anyone would have ever believed me, and reasonably of course.

Then, one evening, my sister came to visit my mother - something she almost never did, as a matter of fact. She didn’t care too much about her parent, especially now that mother was really feeble and old. Once she was inside the house, she threw her fur coat over the mirror itself, saying that there was no other space available on the coat rack - which wasn’t true, of course, as she just liked to do as she pleased, without any regard for anything else.

That was why the mirror fell down, breaking with a crash, because of the excessive weight. This was something disastrous, as a matter of fact! Not that she would have behaved differently if I had told her to pay attention, of course. Alas - I knew her all too well…

“What’s done is done, accept it…” was all she said. I stared at her as you might look at a selfish person with no respect for her mother’s things, or someone who had never accepted that she should be held accountable for anything that went wrong over the course of her life. But I knew that she never cared about anything except herself, truth to be told.


What was even worse was that the magical characteristic that strange mirror once did possess had disappeared, as I ascertained as soon as my sister left the house - taking the newspaper and a big book of mother’s for herself while quickly exiting the home, without saying good-bye! Now there was no way to see that alien - or alternate - world again by means of the magnifying glass, given the break that had split the surface of the mirror into several parts – including the small stain. Now it was gone, forever…and no one else had ever seen it except me! I was certain that no one else would ever believe in such an extraordinary find if there was no evidence left, certainly…

I decided to collect all the glass pieces and put them in a box, for the future. Maybe one day I would find that something was still in there, that it was possible to look at that strange world another time through part of the remaining black stain, or maybe not…Who knows? The fact is that I simply didn’t want to throw all those scraps away as if nothing had ever really happened. Because it had happened, though strange it might be!

While moving the box, a quote by that ancient French writer, Nicolas Chamfort, came to mind. ‘There are two things that one must get used to or one will find life unendurable: the damages of time and injustices of men.’ Or of your deplorable sister, anyway, I told myself, before closing the box with those unusual contents when that evening ended.

That was going to be a different world nobody would see again, and all the discoveries that might came from it -one day- were lost forever. Nevermind the researchers of the truth, or of some alien planets/ alternate realities, anyway...


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Post April 30, 2016, 09:04:40 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

The challenge was to tell a story involving the murder of a disliked person named Wesley on the International Space Station.
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:06:02 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

It Couldn't Be Helped...

By:
Sergio Palumbo



“Wesley is dead!” It was the voice of the female astronaut named Davina that reached the other four who were having lunch.

“What the hell,” replied Frank, the graying Commander with a worried expression on his wrinkled face.

“Yes, it’s true – he’s dead! - come and see!” said the 32-year-old woman.

So all the remaining astronauts left the Habitation Module and hurried to the ESA Lab where they immediately spotted the floating body of Wesley, the mission’s scientist. His expression was that of a lifeless corpse.

“Are you sure?” Gebahard, the NUSAF Manned Spaceflight Engineer inquired of her.

“See for yourself!” the woman exclaimed. “He’s dead – although I can’t understand why.”

“I’ll take a look,” said Robert the Pilot, moving forwards. He wondered why the Medical Monitoring Program that collected health data at regular intervals from ISS crewmembers, hadn’t reported the death right away. After a few touches, and a closer look, the bald man confirmed it. “Yes, it’s true.”

“How? Why?” was all the Commander could utter.

“Aneurysm. He died almost immediately.” Robert was very experienced at examining patients; after all he had been a professor for most of his life before becoming a full-time astronaut when he was 46. He had a deep knowledge of medicine and had been on board since 2030. Up till now a major medical emergency had never occurred on the ISS, but many scientists at Ground Control had long wondered what would happen if it did. “There is nothing we could have done…”

“So this will be a shock for the viewers back on Earth,” the Commander said. “Maybe this will actually increase interest in the ISS…”

“You’re not showing much regret about this Commander?” the woman retorted.

“Well don’t tell me that you cared about him…” the other made it clear.

“Okay, maybe I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean…”

“I, didn’t like him either,” Andrew, the tall fair-haired Payload Specialist added.

“He had bad manners too…” the Spaceflight Participant revealed.

“So, it seems that nobody here liked him, but he was a fellow crewmember, nonetheless…” the Commander stated. “And this is going to blemish our space mission, as people will not be talking about anything else.”

“Indeed, you’re right,” Gebahard nodded. He was a member of American military personnel specifically appointed to the ISS to follow a few projects on board.

“I’ll call Ground Control,” Frank said, cutting it short.

-----------------------

As Gebahard was moving back towards the Habitation Module, he thought of what had happened. He had received some precise orders from Earth, so the death couldn’t be helped.

Since the moment he had been warned about what Wesley had on his mind, he knew that he would need to act quickly, within the first three days of the space mission. Investigations had found clear evidence about what the dead scientist was really after. But Ground Control had found out the truth after their shuttle had already docked at the ISS and nobody wanted to cancel the space mission because of what they had discovered.

Apparently, Wesley had planned to release a virus on board that would kill all the other crewmembers as a terrorist action. That event would shock the planet, as everyone would think that NASA was unable to protect the safety of their astronauts. This might stop activities in space for years, in fact, who knew if they would ever start up again?

So he was ordered to act and he did as commanded. There were many substances that might cause such deaths and he had made use of the one that would raise the fewest questions. Causing an accident while the scientist was busy in his spacesuit wasn’t the best option, as it would put into question the procedures of Extra-Vehicular-Activities aboard the ISS. That was something nobody wanted at Ground Control.

On the other hand, making Wesley die because of an accident in the Esa lab might have dangerous results and the entire Science Space Program would be stopped at once. Beyond that, they didn’t want him to become a martyr.

When he came on board he already had that virus inside his body, ready to be activated as soon as a hidden fictitious capsule was opened, and so all of them would die, with the disastrous outcome becoming known everywhere. So, his goal now was all about understatement: another cause of death, though uncommon among astronauts, would better serve his purpose. And the substance known as Killer-Act, put into Wesley’s Zero-G rations, was the best plan. So this was what Gebahard had done.

He was not a hero and not a victim of bad decisions of the space mission team. It was just an unexpected death that was rare, though it might happen to anyone at anytime.

Of course, there were other reasons why he might have been ordered to use a second dose of that substance. For instance there was one of astronauts on the ISS who might send video messages against the war in South America. There was someone else who had expressed critical political views against the New Alliance over a Central African dictator who had caused the destruction of several freedom fighters’ bases. There was another crewmember who publicly disapproved of the military experiments that were underway on board to maximize the fatality possibility of a science-engineered flu. There was one astronaut who was ready to speak openly about secret events by an alien species that were currently re-shaping the other side of the Moon itself, unbeknownst to the public at large.

After all, astronauts were famous people whose opinions might have an undue influence on public view.

“Always work for the good of Earth, the growth of Mankind and the improvement of science of our country, crewmembers…” the NUSAF Manned Spaceflight Engineer told himself while positioning his body on his bunk so he could have a restful sleep. “Or you could all die! And I do mean all of you…”


The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:07:03 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

An Eye for an Eye

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



"I'll get you!" the Russian shouted.

As Basil swam through the still air, Dimitri was close. He could hear the Russian's labored breathing, wrenching himself through the Unity hatch, only a half-meter behind. Basil propelled himself through the strong, machine shop smell that permeated the Columbus module. Bouncing through the turn at Harmony node, the engineer poured himself in his brown coverall uniform through the opening into Japan's gray Kibo laboratory--straight into the body of Wesley Amundson, an American scientist. The force of the collision knocked him into a spin toward the far wall of the module and stopped Basil in mid-air.

"Bloody hell!" Basil barked just as Dimitri plowed into him from behind. The two tumbled toward the side wall.

"Damn!" Dimitri's blue pants and white t-shirt were soaked with sweat. He shouted to Wesley, "He's beaten me again! I'm never racing this crazy Brit any more. He can get from Zvezda to Kibo faster than any man alive."

Wesley's black sweater and gray pants seemed snagged on the Velcro strips on the wall, but the aloof scientist had his head turned up toward the ceiling, away from them. A plastic food tray that smelled like peanut butter and grape jelly floated nearby.

"Sorry about that, chum," Basil offered. "Didn't see you there. All right?"

As usual, Wesley didn't answer.

"Wesley?"

Dimitri scoffed. "See? He won't even look at us now. He's getting worse!"

Basil floated over to him. "Are you ok?"

One glance at the frozen look of horror on the man's face and Basil knew he wasn't ok. "I think he's dead."

"What?" Dimitri searched in vain for a pulse. "He's dead, all right, and cold. This happened a while ago... He's wet. Could he have had a fever?"

Basil looked down. "We have a bigger problem."

Clutched tightly in the dead man's hand was a black Marakov 9mm pistol, which should have left the station in the last Soyuz lander. Basil wondered, "Why would he have stolen the gun?"

Basil realized, Wesley was scared. This was murder.

Basil looked at Dimitri. Dimitri looked back at him, and then to the gun.

Basil swallowed hard. The pistol was exactly the same distance from both of them.

He searched Dimitri's face. Dimitri was a military man, a pilot, and would have trained with that pistol as part of the Soyuz emergency gear. Basil, on the other hand, while technically mission commander, was an engineer from Britain, where only the army and certain policemen had guns. He felt distinctly at a disadvantage.

Dimitri's hand reached out. "I think I should secure the weapon."

Basil's own hand slid on top of the Russian's, stopping it. "I don't think that would be best right now."

Dimitri broke the uncomfortable silence. "Why did you kill him? I did not think you could do such a thing."

Basil turned toward him. "I didn't kill him, and there's only one other person on the station until the next re-supply, and he hated Wesley."

"Not just me. Everyone hated Wesley. Always interrupting everyone... pushy, smug. Wouldn't eat with the rest of us and had to have his special meals for his weak stomach, and none of us could touch them. He would float past my bunk all night long, back and forth, muttering about how terrible it was onboard, but how glad he was he'd lost his sense of smell so he didn't have to put up with my odor anymore. How was I supposed to ever sleep? He acted smarter than the rest of us, and Mission Control always sided with Wesley on everything, even when he was wrong. That is, when you could get him to do something!"

Dimitri gaped. "Are you trying to trick me? You killed him. Why else would he need a gun?"

"No, I didn't."

Basil thought very hard. "How about this. You take the gun from his hand, but then you give me the bullets. That way neither of us has to fear it being used on either one of us."

Dimitri stared at him. "Why are you trusting me to take the gun? Before I gave you the bullets, I could shoot you."

Basil shrugged ever so slightly. "You're either going to kill me to cover your tracks or you won't, but I know that without me, you'll be all by yourself up here... You're afraid of being alone."

Dimitri stared into Basil's eyes, then reached for the gun.

* * *

Down in a Mission Control break room, blonde dietician Anita Welhomme poured a fresh packet of Italian dressing that smelled faintly of garlic on the new variety of greens with chopped nuts that she bought from the lunch counter. On her phone, she read the headline, "NASA scientist dead on the ISS."

Munching loudly, she thought, Never tell the person who makes your food that she's not a real scientist, and ugly. She knows how to blend acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine, and rubbing alcohol in your food to make you irritable and paranoid until you can't take it, and then there's the peanuts you're deathly allergic to. All of these are available on the station, and should be untraceable.

Just then, a man in a blue coat marked 'FBI' sat down in the chair across from her and glanced at the article she was reading.

"Funny," he said. "Astronauts train so much together and live in such close quarters that you'd think they'd get on each others nerves so badly they'd be ready to kill each other, but instead they form a bond like brothers, and are inseparable. They're heroes." He looked at her face. "Anyone who would break a bond between heroes truly deserves to die in exactly the same way."

Something's not right. She looked at him, then down at the remaining bits of her salad. Chopped Barbados Nut? It couldn't be. She sniffed the garlic odor. Lily of the Valley? ...It's all toxic.

She looked back at his face.

His smile was just ghastly.


The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:08:02 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

Sitting Ducks

By:
Michele Dutcher



“Wesley is dead,” she screamed at my face, as if it made any difference.

“And this should concern me why exactly?” I asked her quietly, waiting for her to slap me.

“It was probably Doc. He always hated Wesley. You could at least give him last rites or something. You are a freaking priest.”

I instinctually ran a finger along the inside of my collar. “It won’t make a difference. Live or die, you and I are the only ones left now, and we’ll soon be dead or worse. Whoever killed him did Wesley a favor.”

She crumpled into a chair in front of my desk, as if the truth had hit her in the gut like a curled fist.
“But I loved him,” she finally squeaked out.

“You hated him as much as you loved him – just like the rest of us. It was all science with him – all black and white, right or wrong.” I tried to sound compassionate, more out of habit than sincerity.

I turned away from Elisa and gazed out a transparent plate facing the surface of the Earth. One side of the heavens over the planet was bathed in sunlight and the other side was covered in darkness. The black side sparkled with constant forks of lightning exploding inside the clouds, spreading one right after the other like electrified demon claws raking over a black velvet blanket. The side of the planet facing the Sun was dotted with hundreds of explosions, the force of blasts shooting debris into the ionosphere.

“They’re coming for us, Father,” she finally said. I could feel her eyes looking up at me. “The last thing Wesley told me was that the navigator had spotted four of their ships on the radar – ships on a course to intersect with the ISS.”

“I wondered how long it would take those soul-less monsters to notice us floating here in this tin can. I suppose they won’t consider their work complete until Earth is transformed into a replica of whatever environment they come from and all Earthlings are dead.” I stepped away from the window and walked over to where Elisa sat, placing my bottle of Bushmills on my desk. “At least the screaming is over…” I said, trying to comfort the girl, kneeling beside her chair.

“It was a good thing when Wesley turned off the radio signals coming up from the surface,” she agreed.

“Two days of trying to tune in on anyone surviving was enough. I suppose our alien demons enjoy hearing the cries of humans, killing us slowly, lapping up our blood.”

“Do something, Father – you must do something... Daniel, please. Those creatures will be docking here in a few minutes. All the others are gone, most done in by their own hands, the cowards. But I am the biggest coward of all. Please, save me.”

I looked down on her lovely freckled shoulders, thinking of the times I had thought of allowing my hand to simply brush the curls away from her young neck. She had loved Wesley and I had loved her. Did I love her enough now to do what needed to be done?

I quietly took out a syringe filled with fluid, one of two I had been handed by the doctor on the second day after the alien capture of Earth. I could hear the space-dock being triggered by the alien ship. The gears were wheeling; there was a sudden whoosh of air. I began to sing gently, so I wouldn’t hear her breathing stop. “Michael row the boat ashore, Halleluiah. Michael row the boat ashore, Halleluiah.” I plunged the needle into the base of her spine. At least she would be going to heaven, but my murderous hands had condemned me to hell.

Why hadn’t mankind ever made it off this infernal rock? Why had we made genocide of the human race so easy? I could hear their shrill voices coming through the station, checking one room after another. I wondered what they looked like. I wondered if they had a god, if they had someone like me who blessed their vile works.

I took out the second syringe, aiming it at my aorta with shaking hands.


The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:08:56 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

An Incident in Space

By:
George T. Philibin



Wesley was dead. No doubt about that! Olga felt his pulse, checked his breathing and finally realized the Wesley her secret lover was no more. Her American dead. How could this be! Only a few minutes ago he smiled and lived. This could only be the doing of Lin’ Tze Long, that dark haired Chinese physics that conned her way up there by having her father–The Director of New Financial Matters of the People’s Republic—open up a region in China to American businessman Mark Groper, the first cousin to the American President George M. Bowers. That’s how she got up her, and not by her academic standing!

Yet, it couldn’t be Lin. She’s been outside working on the solar panels, and couldn’t possibly have gotten in and killed Wesley. No, she couldn’t have been the one.

Blood from the knife wound started floating out of Wesley’s stomach. The air exchange system slowly drew the blood towards an inlet, but Olga’s mind wasn’t on that. She turned around, and facing her were John Kelly and Georgio Giamoni!

“What the hell did you do!” John blasted out. “What the hell-- did you do!”

Olga glided backward and managed to turn sideway. “It wasn’t me mo. . . believe me it was not me--- I found him this way,”

“There was nobody between you and Wesley! You must be the one who killed him,” Georgio said.

The three faced one another, silent and motionless as the death of Wesley sank in. Two eyes were fixed on Olga and her eyes jumped back and forth between John and Georgio’s.

The long- thin-screwdriver-type prob with its handle protruding out of Wesley’s body, looked almost alien. It wasn’t designed to kill, yet it served that purpose as if by design!

“Please, please you must believe me–I didn’t do it! I swear on Mother Russian that it was not me!” Olga said. “I loved Wesley!”

Behind John and Georgio a voice uttered: “My, God what happened?”

Major George Dickens looked over the murder scene. Olga’s eyes filled with tears while John’s eyes narrowed and his pupils thinned themselves into snake eyes, long and thin. Georgio’s dark eyes hid any expression that fell onto them, but his brow became flushed.

“Nobody killed Wesley! Somehow, Wesley must have slipped and the self-tapping-screwdriver drilled into him. Look--- I told NASA that might happen, but no! They never listen to us English!” Major Dickens said.

It was true. The self-tapping screwdriver was still turning inside Wesley body!


An face looked into the port window and saw Wesley’s body motionless with blood oozing out.
A scream echoed over the radio, and all heads turned toward the port window and saw Lin look.

“You killed Wesley you Russian peasant! Wesley said you wanted him just for the results of the experiment that he proved correct. Wesley didn’t love you, he saw through you that’s why you killed him!” Lin said. Her screams over the radio couldn’t be heard on earth.

“It was an accident!” Major Dickens said.

“You all are in on it! You all killed him!” Lin screamed. She turned and jetted over to the solar panels.

“I don’t know but I don’t have a good feeling about this!” Georgio said. “I never liked her–she reminded me of paparazzi. . . always looking at me!”

“You take Wesley away from me I take this station away from you!” Lin screamed.

“What is she up to?” Olga said.

Before Olga’s words stopped ringing, the space station’s arm swung into the solar panels and knocked half the panel out!

“My God—she’s gone crazy!” Major Dickens screamed.

“We’re all going to die!” John said.

“She’s using the remote to operate the arm!” Georgio said.

“Let me break her connection!” Olga said. Olga floated over to a computer console and typed in a command. The arm stopped within a second afterward.

“Her air will be running out soon, she’ll have to come in,” Major Dickens said.

“Ahhhh,” Lin screamed. “That will not stop me!”

“Yes, I loved Wesley!” Olga said. “I’ll love him until the day I die. He hated you and your smug attitude. He also hated everything Chinese!”

All eyes became wide and large as they turned toward Olga and the words that jumped out of her mouth! Never before did they hear such language! And she continued!

“You were not women enough for Wesley! In a million years you would not be women enough for Wesley, no never!” Olga said,

Lin blasted back in Chinese and whatever she said, felt like a hurricane blowing in. Again and again Lin blasted at Olga. Louder and longer and louder and longer until she was out of breath.

“You were not women enough for Wesley!” Olga said over and over again.

Major Dickens caught on first: “Good strategy, while she screaming she isn’t wrecking anything and her air should run out in not time with her usage now, good move Olga!”

He was right. Lin low oxygen supply alarm sounded. She had no choice but return, and as she fought the urge to enter the she realized that if she didn’t she would die.

Lin kept up her screaming at Olga and her oxygen ran out as she entered the air lock.

By the time they got her suit off, she was unconscious. They handcuffed her and gave her a sedative.

Georgio said it best: They test us for everything before we come up here, except the one thing that makes us all human– jealously.


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Post April 30, 2016, 09:10:34 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

- Winner -


Where's Wesley?

By:
RdotTornello



Wesley Stephano Rici, a Ph.D chemist and one of the world’s tops most chefs, was absolutely scared of flying. He would actually drive or take the bus from NY to the Cape rather than fly. What and why was he doing working for NASA as the head food consultant/scientist for the space program?

When a reporter asked about that one day, he answered, “ It’s my duty as a citizen, the freedom to create like no other and the fringe benefits are fantastic.” He patted the news reporter’s butt as he saddled up close to her.

He was also the most obnoxious person on the planet not to mention some of his other socially predatory traits. His reputation with women other than his wife was legendary.

++++

ISS Commander, Russian Colonel Natasha Bytatytsove, turned to her co-pilot U.S. Major Ricki Somers and said, “ I hear that the ISS program hired a world renown chef that everyone hates.”

Ricki replied laughing, “Yeah, he’s a pig. He claims he slept with every wife and girlfriend of the ground crew and orbital staff except one.”

“We in Russia heard that too and the money says it has to be the head of security.”

Major Somers turned red. Changing the subject said, “Russia, Japan, China and the US are sending freighters full of food and supplies for the holidays. We won’t be able to store it all on board.”

“Just leave the Chinese and Japanese freighters docked to the unfinished sectors. We’ll unload the rest our goodies first. I heard that your chef prepared a surprise for us. I’m looking forward to meeting him. Her eyes were sparkling. “Food, drink and a little recreation is what some of this crew could use. You agree major?” Asked Natasha with an evil grin.

“I’m a married woman and…”

“You didn’t deny my opening comments,” laughed Natasha. She gave Ricki a pinch and a wink.

++++

After unloading the two freighters:

“Commander there is no sign of Wesley the Chef. He’s on the manifest. The hatch was open when we got to the Space X capsule but he wasn’t to be found,” said one of the crewmen.

“He’s here just keep looking. He could be anywhere. When you find him bring him to my quarters,” ordered Natasha.

Three hours later:

“Rickie was a bit worried and said, “Natasha, still no sign of him. Now what?”

Natasha added, “Maybe he went EVA she said smiling. She had been briefed regarding his fear of flying, and that he had been ordered to make the jump in the spirit of international good will.

“This is the commander speaking. Listen Wesley we know you’re hiding on board. Just get your butt to the command center so we can meet. If you don’t I’m not promising what sort of mess we’ll make of your superb culinary art.”

The crew had been looking everywhere. “Maybe he road the Chinese or Japanese freighters up,” offered another crewmember.

“No, he hates to fly. He just like to cook and screw,” responded Ricki.

Natasha looked at her and nodded. She leaned over and whispered to Ricki, “I hear tell that his food is considered ‘pantie droppers’ by some of his dinner guests ”. She couldn’t help but laughing.

Ricki looked at her and stood up to her full 6-foot height and said, “as a matter of fact, yes his cooking is that good. May you be so lucky. I’m going to get the holiday dinner ready. I’ve seen him cook more than a few times. I think I can handle this. He’ll show up. He’s just a big scardy-cat when it come to any flying.”

Dinner was the best that they had ever had. There were enough left-over packets to go around for a few more meals. Still, there was a no show from Rici. The Commander decided to look for him herself. Not only was this getting annoying but also it could prove embarrassing and politically, she had no idea.

“By god that was the best meal I’ve had. How did he do it? The turkey was great and beef/pulled pork shepherds pie was so tender. The vegetable tasted like they were just picked. How the hell did he preserve the food and wine so well? Major you take control of the station. I’m going to locate Chef Wesley the weasel Rici and have a few words with him personally.” As she got up, floating, turned to the major. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. We just heard lots of stories about Wesley. There must be a lot of people who would like to see him ‘jump from a window’ as we used to phrase it decades ago.” She added, “You’re correct, his cooking is THAT good.”

Ricki turned to Natasha and said, “Yeah he’s made a lot of enemies. My husband threated to kill him a few times as did almost every other jilted lover or spouse. But by god can that man cook. This meal was one of his best. You know what I’m guessing? He’s got enough money, I bet he paid someone to get him off the flight, fake the manifest, and he’s back on the planet eating, drinking and screwing. That bastard, I did want to see him.”

Natasha just laughed. “Considering we looked all over I would tend to agree. I’m going to have a look at the Space-X freighter. Who knows maybe he’s cowering in there somewhere. And if not, then I’m going to call NASA and ROSCOSMOS and have what you call an APB for put out for your cook-lover.” She thought, I’d like a piece of him too.

Natasha floated down to the air locks and looked at the open hatch to the Space-X freighter. She thought, what idiots some of these ground service people are. Hand scrawled on the inner capsule hatch was DONNER-CAPSULE Bon-Appetite. She thought, Americans, they can’t even spell DONOR CAPSULE. It’s a wonder they ever got off the ground.


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Post May 01, 2016, 09:45:11 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

The challenge was to tell a story set in a Museum of Earth, 300 years after the Sun mysteriously disappeared.
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Post May 01, 2016, 09:45:56 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

A Day at the Museum

By:
George T. Philibin



Melvian said, “This is the first intact museum–the word they used–that we have discovered on any alien planet. And may I draw your attention to this two wheeled vehicle.

“Our translators have determined that it was called a Harley Davidson, and many of our archeologists are convinced that it was used for transportation, but also it seemed to belong to a religious sect or clan. Groups of these machines would move together, and the humans often wore totems on their back identifying them as to what sect or clan they belonged to. We also have identified other two wheeled vehicle, but they never mixed with the Harley Davidson machine.

“Now we have this Wesley. As you can see like all human he was extremely ugly, and our historian believe even by human standard he was extremely ugly! This Westley stopped existing when in orbit about this planet, and our historians have given us the possible reason: His ugliness when cramped together in a small pod, drove the other humans insane, and they stopped him from being, or killed him as the word was known in their language. Unlike us, when part of them stopped being, the whole also stopped being. They didn’t have the ability to regenerate from one of their cells into a new whole being. I know it’s hard to imagine not being anymore, but humans had that trait! Once this Wesley stopped being, he was gone forever.

“We never figured out why some of their females show themselves more than others! Observe this picture call Mona Lisa. It appears completely covered by material not grown out of her. Now this picture on the cover of this Play Boy. It is her true outer layering! She does not cover herself with materials from the planet. Yet, they both are females according to our historians that are specializing in this museum. It is baffling to us why?” Melvian said.


“Melvian what are those images over there?” Curator said. “Are they leaders?”


“Do you mean those statues as the humans call them?” Melvian said.

“Yes, I believe that is the right word according to the guide book,” Curator said.

“They were leaders,” Melvian said. “We are intensely studying them for they are the ones that directed many cultures and religious sects on this world that was known as Earth. Unlike us, they needed a central figure to guide them, tell them how to live and think. Most humans obeyed their orders--- a few didn’t and many just went along with the wishes of the leaders without challenge.

“Like I said, we are studying them, and the more we study them the more we become convinced that they were innate followers. Even their highly intelligent humans often fell under this trait, and that is one reason our historians are stumped. We don’t understand their minds, we don’t understand their emotions and we don’t understand their cultures or religions.

“Some of their leaders are put there by their fathers and families. For centuries in some areas of this Earth, clans or families have ruled uninhibited. But we have discovered that people have been given the right to select their leaders in certain areas.”

“Who was that man with the hair under his air-intake organ always with this one arm raised up,”
Curator said.

“Why, we believe that he was this Adolf Hitster or something similar to that sound. We believe that he had a medical problem and his arm would fly upward as a nerve twitch. According to all reports many other around him had the same nerve problems! Sometime their arm would fly up in unison. However this clan or sect didn’t appear long on Earth.”

“And what about that statue over there?” Curator said.

“It’s name was Trump,” Melvian said. “Notice that his fur on the top moves often. It tried to become leader but this female called a Hillary stopped him. It was a big fight but this Hillary won! Yet, when she beat him, she took him in and made him as assistant! We are perplexed over that one!” Melvian said.

“This place is a nothing! There’s nothing interesting in here! Where’s the monsters? Where’s the great stuff? What are you trying to con us with? I want my money back! You hear me!” Curator said.

“Yeah, I want my money back too!” Alternats said. Others in the group also demanded their many back!

The members of the tour group rushed Melvian who quickly disappeared behind a curtain.

When some of the group managed to get behind the curtain, they saw Melvian and his partner racing away on the Harley Davidson as they looked out the back door.
As Melvian sped down a road, his partner yelled, “We got us a whole lot of money! Man do we have the money now. We can slip down south and set up another con. By the way, how did you come up with this one?” Sultonet Melvian partner said.

“When I first found this place, a sign grabbed my interest. I studied it for a week. I finally translated it and it was a name, P.T.Barnum. Then when I managed to translate something he said, it all came together for me,” Melvian said.

“What did he say?” Sultonet said.

“A Sucker is Born Every Minute.”


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Post May 01, 2016, 09:46:50 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

Unearthed

By:
Joey To



"The line is so long!" – "Didn't you know the Emperor is visiting today?" – "Mummy, I want to snack on something." – "Hurry up, this isn't a ride."

"Actually, it is a ride of sorts," mumbles Penny as she marches by the entire queue. After all, Earth Museum is on a rock which is supposedly propelled along on what was the Terran orbit.

Reaching the entrance, she extends her pale arm with the wrist-comp attached. A pastel-white hand grips it and runs the scanner over it.
"The purpose of your visit?" the guard asks, his slit pupils narrowing. He's also nametagged "Dave".

Penny frowns. "My special journalist's pass not obvious enough?"

Dave simply stares down at her. Even for a vampiric race, he's cold.

Penny shifts her eyes to the floor. "Root beer. Can't get enough of it."

"Fair enough. Just don't get too close to the Emperor. He probably doesn't appreciate your so-called conspiracy theories. But don't worry, I find your articles quite entertaining."



The queue for root beer snakes around the corner. Great. Penny glances at her wrist-comp: graphs constantly orange if not red. At least she's getting anomalous background radiation readings, whatever they mean.

She strides through the "Beauty" section—rolling her eyes at those reflective grooming planes, masking powders and fake ocular lens—and straight to "Technology". She laughs at the bulky holo-projectors.

//…to your left is Mr. Mini-Fusion, a domestic generator manufactured just prior to…//

Penny scoffs. What kind of idiot race installs fusion units in their residencies?

//…Emperor is arriving at Airlock Three. Those who wish to…//

Patrons rush off. Penny's lips curl. She sidles over to a heap of junk, a Terran artificial satellite. She taps her wrist-comp for a wireless connection to the thing. The download begins…

//…this navigational satellite was used by Terran miners throughout their star system. It is hypothesized that the mysterious disappearance of their sun and planets 300 years ago was due to over-mining…//

Penny huffs. As if over-mining can cause that. She turns to see Dave heading towards her. Satisfied with the download progress, she shuffles away. She can use a root beer but time to interview the Emperor first.



Penny slips through the crowd and, in an unthreatening manner, holds out her wrist-comp to the Emperor, his retinue trailing closely. She sees Dave back off.

"Will you be discussing inter-planetary immigration policies at the conference later today? Perhaps adopt stricter controls?" asks Penny.

Without even a glance at her wrist-comp nor slowing down, the Emperor grins, baring his fangs. "My dear Penny, we have a duty to help others… at least when we're not sucking the life out of them."

The people chuckle.

Penny's wrist-comp beeps. They stop walking. She glances at the data displayed and smirks. "According to Terran satellite telemetry, it appears that just prior to their sun and Terra 'mysteriously' disappearing, our fleet of cruisers were near the system. You were already Emperor then. Any comment on that?"

Gasps cascade around them.

The Emperor maintains his grin. "As much as I appreciate your investigative skills, I do have a schedule…"

And as the Emperor mutters something about forwarding her research to his experts, Penny feels very lightheaded.



Penny's eyes flash open, the words "Entertainment" high above her. She sits up. Alone. This is obviously the new extension, yet to open.

"Would you like a game of Twister?"

Penny whips her head around to see a uniform almost as ostentatious as the Emperor's retinue. His nametag: "Melvian."

Penny peers around him to see Dave obstructing the exit. She rises, rubbing the back of her neck and, looking around, sees a colorful dial and a pad with colored circular patches.

Penny frowns and points. "We're too flexible to be challenged by that."

Melvian shakes his head. "I'm the curator. I have doctorates in anthropology and history. Your race is hardly flexible. The Emperor eats everyone within the military's reach. And as you know, even when he acts 'charitably' with his current immigration stance, he only lets in those who threaten your way of life and then uses that as an excuse to launch more military campaigns."

Penny continues frowning.

Melvian smiles, holding up a wrist-comp. She looks down. It's hers. Well, not anymore.

Fascinated by the screen in the corner showing the Terran gladiatorial game called "Football" and a play known as "Blitz", Penny grits her teeth and bolts straight for the curator.

Just as Dave is about launch himself at her, blue pulses streak by his head. And hers. Penny's eyes bulge at the Emperor's guards with their assault rifles. "Aren't you with them?"



Penny, Dave and Melvian sprint out of "Entertainment", through "Law and Justice" and into the airlock docking section.

Penny glowers at the two who have trouble keeping up. But weapons fire is a great motivator.

"Sorry… just wanted your wrist-com… didn't think it'll come to this," utters Melvian. "What did you do exactly?"

"Emperor just doesn't like me." Rounding the corner, Penny notices the strain on their faces. "You two aren't—"

"Yeah, we're Terran," says Dave as another pulse sparks against the bulkhead. "Our ship is ahead."



Melvian sighs at the fast-shrinking Earth Museum. "We made use of our fusion-powered holo-projecting and cloaking technology to hide our solar system. Your Emperor never worked out what happened exactly."

He hands back the wrist-comp to Penny.

"But we had trouble cloaking the sun's emissions during the most intense part of its cycle," adds Dave, wiping powder off his face. "Someone started the museum and we played along, a way to monitor your race's interest and help maintain our cover."

"Now what?" asks Penny.

"Our colleagues will take care of the museum. This can be explained away," answers Melvian.

Penny squints. "I meant me!"

"Oh… umm… live on Earth. Saw those barred cells in the 'Justice' section?"

Penny nods.

"Feed on our criminals, do us a favor. We have plenty of root beer."

Penny tries not to grin but her fangs start to itch.


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Post May 01, 2016, 09:47:47 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

The Last Flicker of the Sun

By:
The Dark Angel



I dreamt of returning to this place and even though I'm standing where it happened, it is a wistful remembrance, enveloping me in the human emotion of guilt. I can never shake it. This cold barren rock is a fitting analogy of my heart.

Melvian, the planet's curator that I built after the disaster, has been slipping in and out of sub space as visitors arrive to stand in the ruins of a once great people. I turned him off. I began drafting its schematics a few days before Wesley was murdered.

I am pensive as I stand feeling the melancholy wash over me. Three hundred years has not chased it away.

I remember standing...

...terrified...

(crying)...I still am.

*
"Welcome dignitaries, scientist and honored guest to the Space Telescopic Science Institute, who is hosting this demonstration provided by Tachyon Communication Industries, the leader in wormhole digital transference technology. My name is Dr. Daniel Sorenson, a professor of planetary science at the Global Space Institute of Technology."

I began to drift in thought, 'he was just too damn handsome to be a scientist. His chiseled frame, his dark blue eyes, I could get lost in there'. Oh.

"What we are going to observe on the planetary viewer, is the opening of a miniature wormhole, no larger in diameter than a dime. This will be performed by a team of engineers from Brussels. We have a video conference set up with them from here in California.

This will be the closest wormhole ever artificially created near the Sun. This wormhole will be used for communication and digital downloads virtually at the speed of light. Tachyons can easily zip out of its super compressed form with its maximum speed limit unchanged." Daniel spoke with ease to the audience.. He turned and gave me a glance.

"Angelina," Daniel spoke to me, while I was day dreaming. "Angelina..." he spoke again and I snapped out of it.

"Yes, I have the trajectory calculations Dr. Sorenson," I said this as my eyes wandered...aimlessly...checking him out. 'Don’t look at him there, don't look at him there, don't look at him...oh, I've gone and done it. Damn, I'm doing it again. Did he see me do that?

Embarrassed over my roving gaze, I inputted the calculations and sent the trajectory coordinates to the scientists in Brussels.

Moments later, we saw a swirling movement of particles enlarged on the screen to the sounds of surprise and amazement from the eyewitnesses to this breakthrough event.

Suddenly, the wormhole began to expand, faster than we could react. Space debris began to be pulled into the wormhole at an alarming speed.

"What is happening?” Dr. Sorenson shouted to the lead scientist in Brussels, utilizing a split screen on the viewer.

"The trajectory calculations you sent us were off!" Dr. Bellman, the authority in interstellar phenomenon shouted. "The miniature wormhole is being expanded at an expediential rate. The other end has opened up into a Quasi-stellar black hole in the center of the galaxy."

"What can we do to close this end of the wormhole?" Dr. Sorenson asked anxiously.

Dr. Bellman spoke, "It appears this wormhole has opened up inside a black hole with a gravitational pull 20,000 times stronger than the sun."

Physicist Dr. Gordon Arterton of the European Space Agency interrupted the two-way conversation stating that the gravitational pull of the super massive black hole is one million times more massive than the Sun.

As they spoke, the sun began to be pulled into the event horizon at a point too close to be saved.

Everyone watched as the sun tore apart, its matter ripping into fragments, bleeding towards the wormhole, which acted as a funnel for the massive black hole on the other side of the opening. The fusion within the sun created coronal mass ejections producing shock waves, sending gigantic solar flares towards the Earth, annihilating thousands of miles including people, animals and plant life.

I watch...too scared to realize what I had done.

In seconds, the sun was gone.

*

It took eight and a half minutes before the sun's final light in transit reached the Earth and then the sun just flickered out.

The humans put up a valiant fight for survival, building dome communities using geothermal heat for energy.

Photosynthesis halted immediately. Most plants died in a few weeks. Large trees, survived for several decades, thanks to slow metabolism and substantial sugar stores. But without sunlight, the oxygen generated by plant life ceased.

With the food chain's bottom tier knocked out, most animals died quickly, except for scavengers, which picked over the dead remains until the cold killed them.

Within one day, the average global surface temperature dropped below 0°F. In a week, it was –100°F.

The top layers of the ocean surfaces froze over, but the ice insulated the deep water below and prevented the oceans from freezing solid. The Earth became a mother ship for the creatures of the deep, but after 50 years, they too died.

Without the gravitational pull from the sun, Earth could no longer remain in its orbit and sailed off in a straight line into space. Free from the sun’s gravity, the Earth continued traveling at the same speed, approximately 18 miles per second into that eternal night.

The Earth's gravity kept everything on the planet grounded. All that remained were buildings and discarded possessions. Many other life forms came to view what humans held dear - appliances, toothbrushes, televisions, and computers - technology that made life easier...or did it? Was it the drive for newer technology that caused mankind's downfall? Did humans have to know everything?

Daniel never knew I was an alien in the form of a human woman. (crying) I would have told him.


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Post May 01, 2016, 10:02:01 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

Consensus Reality

By:
Eddie Sullivan



Melvian was worn out, his tentacles were killing him. Shuttling sentient beings back and forth through the museum all day really took it out of the Rigilian. If he had to do another twenty years of this his spolak would give out long before he retired. He locked the front door and started back to his office by way of the gift shop. Trilia was there and she beckoned him over to the counter.

“I have on dish of real Terran fudge ripple left. It is yours if you want it.”

“I would rather have a Snorlak fizz.”

She grinned with her lower mouth, mandibles in the up position. He was aroused by this. It would make sense to mount her and spray her with his glokenshaz so she could replicate. It had been such a long day though, maybe tomorrow.

“A bit early to be hitting the Snorlak, isn’t it? Just have a Rum and Coke or two. That way you can pilot yourself home.”

Her concern for his well-being was attractive enough to make his glokenshaz twist and throb. He needed to say good bye or else he would get caught up in a replication session that would just leave him more tired. It would also lead to something that Trilia had gleaned onto from an old Terran archive called “cuddling”. That would be a nightmare. The thought of her inside him licking his cerebellum was uncomfortable.

“Well, I need to go. Things to check on don’t you know. Have you seen Wesley?”

The android Wesley was made to resemble a real Terran male from three hundred years ago. The data running his personality matrix was downloaded from the private diaries of one of old Earth’s greatest and most beloved celebrities. He was a heroic astronaut who had given his life to save their primitive orbiting space station. The true shame was he had died just before the Tremulon Empire made first contact. Many believed he would have known better than the ridiculous Earth ambassador who had greeted the Tremulon advance representative by tightly grasping his rectal tubes and shaking vigorously. The war that had come from that had all but wiped out their civilization. Many believed that it was an accident. The Terran Holocaust Museum was here to remind them that new civilizations must be embraced by the Galactic Commune carefully. A misunderstanding could again lead to disaster.

Melvian was the expert, the Terrans logic came naturally to him. He could explain why they used popsicles to soothe the ailment known as hemorrhoids. The intricate military applications of the deadly smart phone were obvious to him. Earth’s biographical series of their last president, “Jersey Shore” was his favorite selection on the historical channel. The curator felt a personal duty to be as in tune with humans as possible. Unfortunately no matter what strides he made toward compassionate synergy with the culture of old Earth one glaring shortcoming was insurmountable. Every night he felt the overwhelming urge to kill Wesley.

And kill Wesley he did, night after night. Shooting, strangling, and burning him were the ways that he ended him most nights. Variety came in the form of decapitations or small explosions. It vexed Melvian so much that his failure was so large. He understood every aspect of the lost civilization’s culture so well, even their religious instructional documentaries , their sacred “hardcore pornography”. Why could he not love Wesley like all the others that passed through these sacred halls.

The android came into view with his mop and bucket. He insisted on ritually purifying every surface each night with water compulsively. Tonight he would electrocute Wesley while he mopped the floor. Ultimately it did no harm. The bodies went into the simulator and were used for materials so there was no waste. The personality back up was downloaded wirelessly precisely at closing time so the android never recalled he had been destroyed. It was a wonderful loop hole which allowed Melvian this extravagantly anti-social behavior sans consequences.

As he got closer to Wesley he heard the labored humming, wheezing breathing the bot imitated. Apparently the real Wesley had been blessed with a condition known as asthma which was a sign of intelligence and virility to humans. The sound of it grated on each and every nerve in Melvian’s futowx. It was a miracle to him that he could wait till the end of the day each time to end this vile pile of Nurgud dung. He felt bad about thinking that way though, guilty of near blasphemy against the most beloved figure in the galaxy.

The power cord that had been surreptitiously stripped at a strategic spotted in the middle lay across the display of tabasco sauce, a unguent that Earth mystics used to rub in their eyes to give themselves visions. He trundled by Wesley with a nod. He heard the front door click closed as Trilia left for the night.

“Hey Mr. Melvian! Whatcha doing? Can I help ya? I would do anything for a friend you know!”

Melvian turned to him so they were face to snokel.

“Why yes Wesley! Could you please go grab that cord and put it away?”

The android promptly sauntered over with a cheery spring in his step. It was then that Melvian tipped the bucket of water that he left on the floor between them. The momentum of the spill sent the water toward Wesley. A moment later there was a flash as the current flowed through the water into Wesley. Melvian watched as Wesley convulsed and burned from the inside out. It brought tears to his eyes. He felt shame, but he also felt an overwhelming sense of right. Something deep inside him, some symbiotic Terran consciousness told him that Wesley was an abomination. Despite all he knew about their history and that Wesley was their most treasured member, he knew better. Wesley must continue to die. He was a monster. Melvian hated him.


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Post May 01, 2016, 10:03:41 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

All We Can Do...

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Opening hours at Museum Earth were daily from 9:00 to 18:00, and the planet was easy to get to if you happened to visit the old-fashioned Solar System. Obviously the surface itself had been completely changed since when it had been a habitable world where an alien species known as Humans once resided - along with many varied colorful animals.

When you reached that, there were many choices you could make, depending upon your preferences. For example, the diverse cultural life of Africa was revealed through everyday objects and works of art since the most ancient times. The Museum’s collection of over 500,000 African items included archaeological materials from across the entire continent. So it was best to have a good look at them if you wanted to form a clear opinion about how human life had been lived through the centuries in the many countries that once were present on this continent.

Another choice were the specific regional cultures that had spread through South America, before and after contact with European travelers during the sixteenth century.

The Asia exhibit was also a must-see, whose strong regional differences had long been connected through trade, commerce and shared religious systems. In addition to increasing variations in language, the holo-depliants said that Asia had developed localized cultural networks, patterns of government, technology and styles of artistic representation that were indeed noteworthy.

All these artifacts looked incredible, given the primitive species they came from, or so thought the pale-skinned bipedal curator named Melvian. He eyed the few tourists who were presently watching some pictures on the wall of a house that had long been abandoned, certainly since his own species the Gennd-le had first arrived. They were now in charge of overseeing the entire planet.

At a certain point, one of the robed group of twelve-legged, greenish-faced aliens called Spzyle, who had come to spend an entire week on this lost world, moved away from the others and addressed the massive head of the curator himself. He was probably a male, though Melvian really couldn’t tell.

“May I ask you a question, sir?” the other asked the curator, while staring at his pronounced brown facial features.

“Of course. I’m always happy to be of help.”

So the Spzyle tourist said, “I’ve heard that this planet had about eight billion intelligent inhabitants when it all happened, and billions of other animal species…Is that true?”

“Yes, indeed!” the curator smiled and replied in a mild tone. “You’re certainly right.”

“And, the time when it happened, I mean, the disappearance of the yellow sun of this system…wasn’t that just 300 years ago?”

“Yes, this is true as well,” the Gennd-le nodded.

“Could you enlighten me about the process the planet underwent when your spaceships came? The way all of this was preserved…”

“Of course. The way our high technicians work is very simple: at first they create an alternate source of power and heat to balance out the lack of energy coming from the sun that has disappeared. Then they simply spread it out in order to make the surface maintain the necessary climate. Then they expand their operations to leave every single living being - plants, animals and humans - stuck in the same place they were in when the process started. That way they can maintain the color, appearance and vividness the subjects had before they all were immobilized leaving them suspended exactly as if they still were alive. Though, they are not, obviously. There’s no better way of protecting the image of this planet and its many species as they looked when we arrived. Just like an old-fashioned holo-picture!”

“I see…” the tourist said. “I imagine there is no other way. This was a planet so beautiful in its glorious days of life, at least from the holo-videos we’ve seen!” the guest pointed out.

“Yes, correct… All the members of our species can do is preserve what we find, as we branch out into space…” Melvian said in a low tone.

“What’s next?” the Spzyle starkly inquired of the imposing curator.

“I’ve been told that our industries are planning on acquiring systems in the Gray Sector, where they’ll reach another yellow star called Virginis 61. Once there, our energy ships will feed on that sun, transferring all its energy into the great hypocells of our spaceships. At that point, the stored energy will be brought to our system where it will be used as an energy supply for our civilization to grow better back on Mother Planet. In the meantime, the appointed historians sent there will do their best to preserve the main – and the only habitable - world in that Sector, not too differently from what they did for Earth three centuries ago, along with other space systems we’ve absorbed. It’s a good way to keep the memory of an alien world fresh even after that life has been forced out of it once and for all, due to the destruction of its sun and the planet’s climate and overall conditions.”

“So, this is how your species keeps upgrading…”

“Suns are valuable and we need them in order to sustain our people and our space exploration. But we are always eager to preserve as much of the planets as we can, so that at least a memory of those primitive aliens will always be at the disposal of our historians, and of other alien tourists like you, my dear. Just like some mummified bodies.”

“Thanks for all you do in the interest of history!” the other exclaimed.

You’re welcome!” the curator uttered in a pleased tone.

“Now, I must go. There are so many other continents to visit, and only a few free days left before going back to work.”

“Yes, indeed! But please, take your time, as none of these primitive creatures are going anywhere. Not anymore…” the Gennd-le administrator conceded, with a peculiar sneer on his merry face.


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Post May 01, 2016, 10:05:38 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

- Winner -


Heist

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



The tumbling sound of Jenga blocks across the large room surprised the thief. His best eye darted around to look at a frustrated Nibo female at the demonstrator station. He could see that under her thin, lime-green tunic, her ample frontal glands were enlarged, perhaps from her failure to stack the blocks. She had long legs, and that suited him fine. He had a thing for bipeds.

He brushed off his museum nametag and slid over. "Having trouble?"

Her fair skin blushed, a trait he found delightful. "A little. It says even Earth children could master this test. How could a child have done this?"

"Ah," he realized, smelling the tantalizing scent of Jaklo perfume on her. "Humans had an extra joint just before their hands called a wrist, making them extremely dexterous for a vertebrate species. They had another one in the middle of their legs, called a knee."

She boggled. "Amazing. They must have looked ridiculous when they walked."

He gave his most charming smile. "I know, right?" He flourished a tentacle in greeting. "I'm Rinn."

She shook his appendage and smiled shyly back. "I saw your nametag. I'm Kira."

"So very pleased to make your acquaintance, Kira." He secreted a powerful batch of pheromones in her direction. "May I help direct you to a less... frustrating section of our lovely museum? We have scores of Earthly delights and devices throughout the structure to amaze even the skeptical of critics, let alone a sophisticated beauty like yourself."

Kira blushed again. The sight of it made him quiver. "Come now," he prodded, "what would most captivate you?"

She looked coy. "I don't know. What is the greatest treasure in the museum?"

His eye couldn't help but glance back over across the room to the entrance where Curator Melvian stood, talking with a patron. "So many items are on display... It is hard to say which is the greatest."

She touched him gently, just above his third tentacle. "There must be something we can see, something... in private."

Rinn tittered. "Oh, you've convinced me." Her pupils were dilated, so he concluded she absorbed the pheromones. He began to slowly slide his third tentacle up the skin on her forearm. "Truth be told, the greatest treasure of Earth is on display, but it's hidden."

Kira raised her eyebrows. "Why is that?"

He whispered, "Because it's scandalous."

She pressed her body close to him. "Then I must see it."

***

The antechamber at the far end of the museum was kept dim to better show off garments in the lighted display cases.

"What's all this?" Kira asked.

Rinn chuckled. "Clothes for Earth females."

She looked. There was a thing that looked like a narrow table in the middle of the room, and two big displays on the wall. The larger was filled with odd, pointy footwear. Kira pointed. "What are those?"

Rinn frowned slightly. "They called them... what was the word... still-let-toes, I think. They seem quite impossible to wear, but their females all seemed to want them."

The second display was filled with fabric items. "And these?"

"They were called undergarments. Thongs, briefs, bikinis, hipsters, adhesives, Bandeaus, corsets, minimizers, maximizers, nursers, pushups, racerbacks, softcups, strapless, and underwires."

Kira boggled. "Why so many kinds?"

"Earth females made it extremely difficult for males to mate with them by wearing all these at once." He smiled. "Imagine trying to get past layer after layer of underwear! They called it playing hard to get."

"That's madness."

He smiled slyly. "Quite, and that lead to the creation by males a tool made of horn. A 'shoe' horn. We've never found the bones of the shoes who grew these horns, but one of the tools is there, in the case, just behind the black leather pumps, as they were called. It helped the male move aside the layers for his proboscis. When a male had one he would tell the female he was horny."

She peered at it, fascinated. "Really?"

He 'innocently' stroked her arm and gestured to the table in the middle of the room. "Oh, yes. In fact, females made it so difficult that they would often have to see professional sex workers, called doctors, on these special mating tables to be impregnated. You can see the footrests at the end, called stirrups."

Her eyes glistened. "Could I see the horn more closely?"

He pretended to be shocked. "I'm really not supposed to open the cases."

She lay down on the table, placed her legs into the stirrups, and slowly ran a hand over the tunic covering her glands. "Please? I simply must see it."

One of Rinn's tentacles darted out and poured into the antique Earth lock on the case. Pressing all the pins to their proper position, the lock popped open. "If you must."


Two minutes later...

Melvian clamped his hand over his eyes. "What are you doing?!"

He heard the sound of a female shriek, two bodies hitting the floor, and a person running toward the exit that led to the spacecraft docking hall.

Melvian paused what he hoped was long enough for decorum. "Is that you again, Rinn?"

***

Shoehorn still in hand, Kira punched in a departure code and reclined in her pilot's chair. Her one-person ship rapidly propelled itself away from the museum.

"Greatest treasure of Earth..." She was still blushing from being discovered, but she couldn't help but grin. If a little fooling around was all it took to get the horn...

She clucked her tongue. "Easiest heist ever."

***

In the commissary, Melvian stuck a spoon into his fudge ripple ice cream and scolded, "Rinn, if news of this got out, it could give the Museum a bad reputation."

Rinn scoffed and twirled a replica rum and Coke. "The unfertilized eggs I took from her ovaries will provide enough to pay our rent for three months. Your dream museum is expensive, old friend."

"Rent is good, of course, but..." Melvian frowned. "We only have thirteen shoehorns left."


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Post June 07, 2016, 10:15:00 AM

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words Challenge

The challenge was to write a speculative fiction story inspired by this image, drawn by our own Long Fiction Editor, Lester Curtis:

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Post June 07, 2016, 10:15:50 AM

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words Challenge

Compañeros de Armas…

By:
Sergio Palumbo



As Alexandre Núñez walked over the last hilltop, he saw below his feet the crystal formations that stood in the large open area. Those transparent structures, of varying sizes and heights, were very peculiar because their atoms were arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a crystal lattice that extended in all directions, with flat faces of specific orientations.

These were not simple crystals, however, as they all had figures stuck inside that were easily visible from the outside. The figures were the corpses of dead soldiers – soldiers like Alexandre himself had once been - who had been inserted into these strange coffin-like materials and left in the open, as a sort of very strange burial ground. This area served both as a memorial and a warning to all people still living on this small planet.

Strange to say, it was the winners who had defeated these soldiers that had erected this odd burial ground with one clear purpose: to show everyone what happened to anyone who tried to oppose their rule…

Alexandre Núñez was saddened, even becoming a little twitchy. It had been ten years since he had left this world, while the place was still being invaded. He had been one of those soldiers when the indigenous species of this Space Sector had fought to defend themselves and maintain the right to be free from alien oppressors. But they failed eventually and their world had fallen under the bloody rule of the newcomers who had conquered the small military forces that protected this place.

While staring at the structures, and looking at the corpses that were kept inside each one of those, the Spanish former soldier slowly remembered the reason why they were different sizes and heights. In fact, his troop had been made up of mercenaries from different species, coming from many star systems, who had joined forces with the locals in order to help them defend their planet. For example, there was a yellowish tall biped named Huljm with his almost spherical head and two very short hands, who had been the communication officer in those days; then, there was Thusb, a giant-sized Fruelem ( about 17 ft. tall… )from a small moon of a gas planet, who was an almost unbeatable hand-to-hand fighter; and also that slender though well-muscled four-legged commander, who could easily hit any target with both hands at the same time if he was given high-energy pistols or modern rifles.

Alexandre Núñez had been the only human of the group, though highly valued for his previous experience as a space soldier, having served in the Earth Military before choosing the life of a mercenary. The pay had been better and he could select what place, and which side, he wanted to support willingly.

The battle for this planet his troop was hired to fight for was, truly, similar to a movie made on Old Earth, his home planet. The movie’s name was The Magnificent Seven and it was about a Mexican village which was periodically raided for food and supplies by plunderers, until the villagers finally decided to hire gunfighters to protect them.

Their last stand on this world hadn’t lasted very long, anyway. Once the powerful starships of the Nlehkls had reached the orbiting position, they had dropped their gas bombs, and everything was soon over. The members of his group of experienced mercenaries had quickly fallen to the ground, as lifeless bodies, having been easily killed by the attackers.

The gas bio-weapons that were dropped had piggy-backing fatal viruses that immediately recognized the specific alien genes they could attach to. These viruses had done their bloody job: the bio-weapon bombs had been enough to wipe out their entire group, thus leaving the alien locals without any defensive measures. So, their civilization had been wiped out and the winners had built that burial ground, with all the remains of the mercenaries who had dared oppose them.

They are over hovering right our heads …” Thusb had told them that day.

Instruments say they are dropping their bombs now…” Huljm had pointed out, turning to the giant-sized Fruelem.

Get ready!”, “They shall not win!”, and many other orders and bad curses had followed. The man could still hear those imprecations in his mind, and the words of his fellow soldiers as they struggled to move forward while enveloped by their bluish exo-armor uniforms, their high-energy always guns pointed ahead of them. Their eyes – at least the pupils of the soldiers that had eyes, as some members of other species of the troop relied on their second sight… – were attentive and ready to open fire as soon as their enemies showed off.

As the graying former soldier reminded himself of all of those events, memories of battles that had happened so long ago, he had a breath of air and made a strange face.

Of course, he would never tell the families of those fallen mercenaries that it was he himself who gave the aliens the exact DNA sequences of every single member of their military troop beforehand, so they could use the specific bio-weapon to hit and damage the genes of the defending soldiers deployed on the surface.

He had given the gene sequences of everyone except him - as Alexandre Núñez, had survived, though only by betraying those he fought beside. After all, weren’t they all paid warriors whose services were available to the highest bidder? Weren’t mercenaries allowed to choose which side they wanted to fight for, according to who could offer the most compensation? And wasn’t the poor attempt of these locals desperate from the beginning? How could they think they could really win? So, the man had just acted in his best interest, of course…

As he moved away, ready to go back to his hotel, his left arm was showily raised to the sky, as if he was finally taking leave of his dead fellows below who once had been his ‘Brother in Arms’


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Post June 07, 2016, 10:17:00 AM

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words Challenge

Is Bigger Really Better

By:
George T. Phillibin



It’s the year 2030 and ten yeas since the Las Almoson super collider went berserk, the biggest one in the world and built in Kansas. The collider went super-wide open when fully-charged up and out of control. It changed half the world into a four-or-five-dimensional reality, if that’s what this new realm is. Nobody knew for sure, but the remaining world as was known slipped back into almost the dark ages. Europe was no more and most of Russia and Asia were gone----- into the new realm that the accident caused.

What exists in this new realm can’t be measured or even seen clearly, but something exists there. Is it God? Is it the God particle? Is it Satan?

Professor Standly felt the cool breeze rush over his collar as he held on to his staff atop the hill overlooking the border that separates the new reality from the old. Today the sounds that emitted from the new realm sounded like chugs or thugs, and the visual appearance? Are they buildings clustered together? Or reflections of the past that are no more and never will be again, or are they just allusions being projected out beyond the limits of this new and undefinable reality. Whatever is there can’t be changed by him or anybody else that has remained alive in the old realm!

It was a very crude method that Professor Standly used to determine whether the new reality was gaining ground into the old or remaining fixed at its present location. He had very little to work with now. The city he once lived in gone. His university engulfed into the new realm. No electricity yet, and the search for food took up much of everybody’s time, but the survivors of the new world were slowly organizing and for once all worked together in harmony. Professor Standly’s lived within a settlement of old trailers and motor homes. Mail service had just been re-established and commerce started. Things were looking better.

Chester, his pet eagle trained by him and his small band of survivors over the last few years, tested the boundaries of the new realm once a week. Chester would fly toward this new reality, and once he sensed it, he would return to Professors Standly’s arm immediately. Professor Standly timed Chester’s flight, and the time interval gave Professor Standly a good estimate. The time interval never varied more than a few seconds over the last two years, but today it took Chester over two minutes longer then usual.

Professor Standly checked his figures again and again and he finally concluded that the boundary of the new realm had ebbed back by more than a mile. The new realm was shrinking.

Collins!” Professor Standly screamed.

Collins came running up to Professor Standly. “Give me you binoculars,” Professor Standly said.

Collins stood like a tree beside the Professor, grinning and waiting for the Professor to say something. When the Professor did speak he screamed: “There’s a town down there. With horses and wagons. And a train with an old steam engine pulling it. We have to get down there and investigate!”

Professor Standly pointed back toward the settlement. He motioned to Chester, and Chester took off flying toward Professor Standly’s target. “He’ll go back to the settlement now and rest atop the oak tree.”

Professor Standly and Collins slipped down the embankment and made their way over to the railroad tracks. Once there they followed the tracks the short distance to the town, and the sun felt good on their backs and the railroad ties looked new—as if the railway bed were just made.

They entered town, looked around and slowly walked down what appeared as main street, but the street was dirt with no sight of concrete or macadam anywhere. The sidewalks wooden; what surprised both were the horses tied to hitching posts and the men in this town were wearing gun belts!

“It’s just old shacks,” Collins said. “Look at this place! We have more things----what the hell? What are those two doing”

Two men were walking down main street. It was high noon. Everybody stood still on the sidewalks and watched. They glared at each other. Seconds turned in hours it seem as the two stood motionless but attentive to the other’s every move.

Bang! One of the guys fell over dead, and the other one genuflected to all that were watching on the sidewalks. He finally said, “Drinks are on me fellows!”

“A-Are they making movies again?”Collins said.

Professor Standly didn’t answer. He started walking again, looking at everything that he passed. Two guy laughing together grabbed the dead man and dragged him off the street. One could be heard saying, “We’ll leave him beside the store in the alley. They’ll find him.”

Professor Standly stopped. He looked up at a banner proclaiming the beginning of a festival that is in it’s first years. Collins also stopped and stared wide-eyes at the banner, and quickly looked at the Professor and then back to the banner.

“I argued and argued! Every country decided to build a super collider! A Bigger one then the other’s built. Bigger and bigger and bigger like they were copying the biggest roller coaster race!
We got a bigger one--- no we now have a bigger–not for long cause we are building a much bigger one! Well, the biggest one did it! And here’s the result of their ignorance! Just look! See how experiments can bring unknown results!” Professor Standly said.

The banner flapped in the light breeze but the event that it announced could easily be read. Professor Standly said, “Well, Collins would you read it out loud? Yes? No? Okay I will----Dodge City’s first community festival. 1871!”


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Post June 07, 2016, 10:18:03 AM

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words Challenge

A Man of Science

By:
Michele Dutcher



The magician stood head and shoulders above the crowd as he walked through the throngs of people in the small village. Men and women in their thirties could tell the thin figure was elderly by how he towered over them: old people were tall and young people were short. This upside down fact was a reflection of the hard times that had befallen the planet since scientists had brought on the current ice-age almost a century ago. There was only enough food to barely keep alive the small population left. So the reward of 10 bags of tubers seemed like a fortune: and all a person had to do to claim the prize was make the crystal river sing again.

The magician carried a falcon on his left shoulder whose face was hidden under a small leather mask. Having a bird that size travelling with you was usually enough of an oddity to bring a good meal in any ale house, as birds had also fallen victim to the harsh weather conditions since the ice age began, becoming basically extinct. Scientists had brought on the freezing weather by fragmenting the moon, supposedly to quickly cool the surface of the Earth and slow down Global Warming, but the effects of decision could be seen on the faces of the starving crowd that the magician moved through now. People hated scientists – with good reason.

The tall stranger added his name to the roster at the base of the hill overlooking the crystal river. He watched others climb the hill and say ancient magic words, barely remembered words like, “democrat, socialist, republican, neo-nazi, baptist, catholic” - all words that had no real meaning now except as echoes from a happier time. No one, however, could make the crystal river below them sing, no matter how hard they tried.

When the tall magician’s turn came to try his luck, he used a walking stick to push his old body up to the tree standing at the top of the hill. For a moment he looked over the beautiful crystal field below him: hundreds of see-through mathematical forms, shot up from the base of the cliff, some as tall as 40 feet. Once long ago, they had produced wonderful clear tones that floated over the village beside it and drew in audiences from across the globe. But the river had fallen silent two generations ago. Beauty and mystery had left the world, forever it seemed – hence the huge reward to anyone who could bring it back.

The magician raised his arms, startling the huge falcon that flapped its wings, slowly lifting into the air, flying across the crystals in front of the man. “Gross national product,” he shouted. “All shipment prices are based on destination.”

Then the long dead music of the crystal river started slowly at first, as one tone sounded which triggered another and another. Within thirty seconds sound filled the air that was similar to the ringing of an army of magnificent crystal bells. Even the falcon appeared to enjoy the music as it flew south for a moment and then north then south again…before eventually finding its way back to the tree behind its owner.

When the cheering had died down and the magician had descended the hill into the crowd’s loving embrace, he had five of the bags of potatoes loaded into his cart – giving the other five to the crowd. Later, as he was ready to close his eyes for the night, lying alone on his cot, the magician saw a shadow pass across his tent, blurring out the light from the campfires outside.

“May I come in?” whispered a voice softly.

“I was just getting ready to sleep,” he answered back quietly.

“I will only take a moment of your time,” came the soft voice a second time.

He put his feet on the ground, sitting up. “Enter.”

The figure pulled a stepstool from a corner of the tent, before pushing back the hood of the cape she wore. “I enjoyed your music today…” the woman began. “But I don’t believe it was magic.”

The old man’s eyes widened a little with interest. “You heard my words that brought the crystals to life. I shouted and the river of gems began to sing.”

“Tell me if I’m wrong but I believe your spells were just a ruse. I believe the wings of the huge bird you carry with you pushed enough air downwards that it started a chain reaction inside the crystals, allowing them to vibrate and produce the music.”

The magician was obviously shocked beyond being able to speak, but he was also pleased at the maiden’s insights. “What do they call you, my dear?”

“Elem,” she answered. “I was named after my mother.”

The man nodded with affirmation. “I once knew a woman named Elem who lived in these parts.” He looked at her in the dimness of the tent and smiled. “You must not use terms like vibration and chain reaction my dear. People will accuse you of being a scientist, which is most dangerous during these perilous times.”

“It doesn’t matter what they call me, I can no longer stand the smallness of the minds that surround me. Allow me to travel with you. You have five bags of potatoes –I know how to cook potatoes a dozen different ways.”

“And when the potatoes are gone, Elem? – what then?”

“The potatoes need never be gone. We can farm them together, heating the tent, growing them in boxes. I will prove my worth given the chance. And we can talk about the world, and what makes things tick. We can reason together, where no others can hear us.”

The old scientist smiled to himself, secure in the knowledge that he would finally have someone to pass his knowledge on to. “You can sleep in that corner of the tent,” he told her as they began their journey together.


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Post June 07, 2016, 10:18:49 AM

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words Challenge

Oooh Look Shiny!

By:
Eddie Sullivan



“What is it?”

Chauncy shook out his feathers and picked at something under his wing. His claws tightened to maintain his balance on Rick’s shoulder while he did so. It may have even hurt despite the padded shoulder of the tweed jacket he wore. Chauncy didn’t care he was a bit overly familiar for a familiar.

The man, a first class wizard in retirement, looked out at the giant crystal spires. He shook his head in a way that was not so unlike his bird companion’s earlier display, just slower and more resigned.

“You found this when?”

“Yesterday master. It seemed strange but I didn’t think much of it.”

“A quarter of a square mile of giant crystal shafts appear in the middle of my woods suddenly and you don’t think much of it?”

“Not really. Then I realized it was scaring away some of the rodents and other vermin. I have to eat so I figured maybe you could do something about it.”

“I should turn you into a chicken you know.”

“Bah. You need me. If I didn’t fly patrols and such you would have to come out of that hut and interact with the world. You don’t want to take your nose out of those books long enough to do that. It would be all right if they were mystic tomes but..."

“I like romance novels ok? So sue me.”

“So tell me great wizard what is this thing?”

Rick smirked at the bird. Then he turned and smirked at the structure.

“You won’t believe me.”

“Try me, slim.”

“Well,” he drew it out a disproportionately long time, “it’s shite.”

“Poop?”

“Yup, fairy poop to be exact.”

The bird leaped off his shoulder and into the air. Several minutes went by as the hawk soared around the jagged crystal peaks. He perched on top of one of the highest and pecked at it. Accomplishing something he leapt off and soared down coming to rest on the shoulder patch perch once more.

“HEBER. TABK IT.” The bird waited while Rick placed his hand under his full beak.

“Umm. Thanks, but why would you get me a piece after I told you it was shite?”

“So your telling me a two or three hundred foot fairy, weighing Odin only knows what, came romping through these woods and took a giant, jagged, crystalline crap. Neither of us knew any better, not me out patrolling or you with your wards?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I didn’t say it was one fairy’s crap; I just said it was fairy crap.”

“Huh?” When a hawk looks at you impatiently then you truly understand an impatient look, till then you have no idea.

“Lots of them go. They go on top of the other guys and then so on and so on. It is like coral. How did you think fairy quartz got made?”

“I dunno. Never cared. By the way coral?”

Rick thought for a moment. Of course a hawk who was born and raised then made a familiar in Vermont would have no concept of coral. He concentrated on the idea of coral putting all he knew of it as quickly and succinctly into his projection as possible. Then he launched it into Chauncy’s mind.

“There.”

“Huh, who woulda thunk so many things like to build with doo-doo and skeletons. This world is so weird once you are sentient. Sometimes I wish I could just be a bird again.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“Nah you’re right. Too much fun doing it this way. So then these fairies are little things?”

“Yes. But…”

“Tasty perhaps?”

“Yes, but…”

Just then an audible buzz began and quickly grew in volume second by second.

“OH, OH. Is that them? Dinner time.”

“Has it not occurred to you how many fairies each taking a crap that weighs less than an eighth of a gram it would take to make that?” He flung his hand out dramatically at the crystal spires.

The buzzing grew so loud that they could have barely heard each other if there communication wasn’t partially psychic.

“So there is a lot of dinner?”

“You buffoon. We need to run, we are dinner.”

Rick turned on his heel and shot off back in the direction of his warded hut. His legs pumped as fast as he could get them to go. Chauncy had took off the minute Rick turned to run. Apparently the wizard’s word was good enough for him to go on as well. The bird had a significant lead on the man in their dash back to the hut. The buzzing got significantly louder. Rick never turned to look, but Chauncy landed on his perch by the door long before his master arrived. His keen avian eyes saw the swarm closing in on the man. There were thousands, possibly more of them in the swarm. They would have been cute if it wasn’t for the sharp and seemingly randomly placed teeth in their mouths. Chauncy still would have eaten some if they appeared in lesser numbers. What made him feel nauseous, which he would tell almost anyone never happened to a raptor, was the eyes. Each little bastard had glowing red eyes, just glancing at them you could see the hunger and hate radiating out.

“Rick, run faster please. I need you to open this door. Will the hut hold out?”

The fat middle aged wizard huffed up to the door and threw it open. It was very timely too because the little monsters were close enough that their wings beat could be felt as it changed the breeze. Rick ran inside and Chauncy flew in after him. The door slammed shut behind them and the wizard gestured activating the wards. A boom sounded as the swarm hit the wards.

“That Chauncy is why everything odd in the woods is worth mentioning. Have we learned anything today?”

“Yeah. It is the little shite that you should pay attention to, it builds up.”

“Buffoon.”


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Post June 07, 2016, 10:19:34 AM

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words Challenge

Demons Who Sing and Dance

By:
Daniel Johnson



United States Government, Pentagon Ready Room: September 2017

General Alexander Betrayor, a burley, dark haired man, entered the National Security Council ready room for a meeting with United States Intel Director Sherman Huffstetler, to discuss the Russians accidental incursion into trans-dimensional travel and its rapidly unfolding consequences. Director Huffstetler was a quiet man, wearing black-rimmed glasses and a pencil pouch in his shirt pocket. He studied people and often kept his opinions to himself...but not today.

"Director Huffstetler, let me have the Russian to English translation of Project Armageddon."

"It’s not conclusive General. No one has demonstrated a device that allows humans to travel faster-than-light through different realities."

"And yet, Russian scientist Dr. Sergei Ivanov (Sir-GAY, Ee-vah-NAWF) has done so," General Betrayor said looking at the document and then back to Huffstetler. "When Dr. Ivanov raised up into a particle stream while checking for a dysfunctional part of the accelerator equipment, his body came into the path of a high-energy proton beam moving at the speed of light. Before he phased out of our existence, he reported seeing a light brighter than a thousand suns and yet felt no pain."

"Damn Russians, better technological advances for killing dissidents.” The Director of Intel saw everyone as enemies.

Huffstetler continued, "For example, the Russians Molecular Destroyer weapon kills large groups of people by extracting water vapor from the surrounding air, freezes it, and fires ice projectiles inflicting mass causalities. In addition, it fires a stream of super cooled air at close range. Anyone hit by this is briefly incapacitated, but if the victim is hit by any standard weapon fire during this period of vulnerability, that person will shatter."

A woman dressed in a business suit wearing a string of pearls about her neck, walked into the room setting a stack of papers on the table as she sits down and orders the two men to take their seats.

"Okay, how much time do we have?"

“Madam President, we don't know," the general said replying.

"Well, how do we plan on getting him out of there?" she asked showing impatience. "If I understand this correctly from my briefing this morning, the Russian scientist is now an integral part of the dimension he is presently in."

“Yes mam,” both gentlemen answered.

The President cleared her throat, "And you're saying now that this scientist incursion into this spiritual dimension, is causing all other parallel dimensions to collapse in on themselves, eventually destroying life in all other dimensional realities. If that is correct, then we need to get him out of there.”

“We can recreate the dimensional incursion sending someone else in to retrieve him," Huffstetler said looking at her intently.

The president was not feeling confident where this was going. "Lets get the National Security Council and my cabinet in on this. We'll meet in twelve hours at the particle accelerator facility in area forty-nine. We can't waste time. Find a chipped subject and program him on what he is to do...that’s if he makes it to the other dimension alive.”


Particle Accelerator Facility: Area Forty-Nine

Scientist Dr. Mikhail Dmitriyev (Mihk-eye-EEL, Dih-MEE-tree-yehf) walked into the control room and sat behind the console. There was a panel of scientific experts and politicians ready to witness the attempt of the incursion into the unknown parallel universe where the Russian scientist was lost.

Speaking with a heavy Russian accent, Dr. Dmitriyev addressed the people in the room. "The scientist who traveled to another dimensional universe became a part of that reality without a way of escape. What we are about to do is open a quantum vortex and transport our intelligence agent to the precise coordinates where the Russian scientist was relocated by the particle accelerator stream and then retrieve him. When they are back in our dimension, we will seal the rift and heal the incursion."

Director Huffstetler adds, "We have implanted a communication device into our agent, so we can continue to program him in the other reality."

As the particle accelerator increased to light speed, Dr. Dmitriyev began setting the coordinates for the quantum jump.

A vortex began opening and within seconds, it pulled the agent in.


Land of Shadows and Dreams Faintly Remembered

The agent stood in the alternate dimension, communicating with Director Huffstetler on what he observed. “I see tall crystalline buildings fading out of existence, appearing no longer habitable by creatures of flesh. The stars and the silhouette crescent moon are fading as well. The landscape is barren, except for a semblance of a realm that had once flourished.

The trees look desolate, appearing barren and cold. I see a lone man, a talisman standing in the wintry dusk amidst dark, devilish spirits swirling about, who are taking the shape of large black birds and then fluttering away to possess more human shells by seduction and fantasy. I don’t know how I know these things, I suppose it’s intuitive knowledge.”

Dr. Dmitriyev said urgently to the agent, “Grab hold of the talisman and see if he is our comrade scientist. If not, ask him if he has knowledge of him.”

The agent walked over to the man and placed his hand on his shoulder. When the talisman beast turned around, he tore open the agent’s chest and began drinking his blood. The agent became a human sacrifice to stay the portal. Without warning, millions of grotesque spirits flooded through the dimensional vortex entering Earth’s realm and into the bodies of the president, the politicians and scientists in the room, possessing and controlling them. They will own this reality, ‘our reality’ and this fantasy we call life.

The war for the minds of humanity in every reality is in its eleventh hour of consummation… and hell will follow.


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Post June 07, 2016, 10:21:00 AM

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words Challenge

- Winner -


Fair Trade

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Arun watched Windmere climb higher in the sky. The hawk flew away from their tiny, green and brown oasis, disappearing over the field of pale-blue abominations that stretched to the horizon.

A single tear rolled down Arun's wrinkled cheek and onto his old brown coat. Windmere had been a good bird, a good pet.

Perhaps he'll find one last mouse. At least he's free.

Arun would never be free. The Crystals would never let them go, never let him escape their noise in the woods. There were no more woods.

He felt the Crystals' hypnotic, bass drone more than he heard it anymore in the hardening earth under his worn boots. It was a steady hum, carried on the wind and pulsed through the very ground. It was everywhere, and it never stopped.

"Why do you call to me?" he asked a pillar building from the torn ground near him.

They never answer. He tapped the pillar with his staff. It crumbled to dust. Almost immediately, the tip of a new Crystal emerged from the remains. In a day, it would be a foot tall. Some reached over thirty feet high.

Carola's voice behind him cut through the hum. "It's me they call to. They come for me."

He looked back at her, standing tall above him. "I fear it will be worse than before."

"My branch will fall. I will die."

That's the way of magic. Give and take. He shook the thought from his head.

Carola asked, pensive, "Can't you make them be quiet?"

"I could no more silence them than I could you, my dear."

"Where did they come from?"

He sat down upon the ground and leaned back against her trunk. "You've asked me that a thousand times and I still do not know the answer. When the long light appeared below the moon, the Crystal spores grew thick in the air, and they have spawned ruin ever since."

"Will the rest of the Seven come to help?"

"No." They're all gone.

***

He remembered her youth.

"Why do you tend to me?" Carola asked. She was a mere sapling then.

Arun's eleven year-old self smiled as he pulled weeds nearby. "I'm apprenticed to become one of the Seven Guardians."

"Mother said you planted me here."

"Yes."

"Why?"

"When I first held your seed and heard your voice inside it, I knew that I would love you. I planted you at the edge of the woods so I could always see you."

She paused, considering. "Then I will give you my first limb. You will need its magic to protect the whole woods, not me alone."

Arun gasped. "Seeds only come from the first limb. You will be barren."

"You will not become one of the Seven without its magic. They do not have children, so we will be the same."

At the time, he thought it was a fair trade.

***

The last leaf on Carola's last branch was speckled with tiny Crystals. It was almost time.

Arun's eyes scanned the circle of pillars around them as they slowly pressed in. The rough grooves in his staff dug deep into his hands. The moon was almost in alignment. He could feel the power building.

Carola was hesitant. "Do you wish you had a child?"

"You ask me this now?" He paused. "At times. Do you?"

"I do."

A broken cry from directly above pulled him from his thoughts. He looked up to see Windmere tumbling from the sky. Arun dropped his staff and clumsily caught his long-faithful companion, himself falling to his knees.

Cradling the hawk like an infant in his arms, Arun saw Windmere's face was crusted with Crystals, his eyes barely able to open. Tiny blue shards shone from between his feathers. His talons were thickly covered, useless.

The bird fought for breath.

"Oh, Windmere." Arun's voice choked in his throat.

Windmere's head rubbed in affection against Arun's shoulder. His pet let out one last lungful of air, more a sigh than a gasp, and died in Arun's hands.

Arun's trembling hands set his friend upon the hardened ground. Immediately, Crystals began to sprout up around him.

"No!" Rage like Arun had never known welled inside him. He seized his staff and light so bright it burned his eyes blazed out of it. He rose, and with every ounce of magic, every bit of fury, and all the emptiness inside himself, he cast the spell.

"Be gone!"

He struck the butt of his brilliant staff against the Crystal-covered ground at his feet. A thunderous blast of light billowed out from it. As the brightness struck the Crystals, they burst. The white-hot magic radiated outward, turning them to dust for a much further distance than before. Arun could not even see them anymore.

He leaned on his staff, gasping from the effort, his ears ringing.

With a terrible crack, Carola's last branch fell at his feet. Her trunk was now bare, save the scars from where he had beaten back the Crystals before. Each time a limb lost, until she had no more.

He wept. All her pain was his doing.

***

Arun used his staff to scratch out a grave. In it, he placed Windmere and Carola's last branch. Abruptly, he snapped his staff in two over his knee and dropped both halves in the hole.

"No more magic. The Seven are gone."

His tears tumbled as he pressed dirt on their grave. "If the Crystals return again, let them take me. I have no one left to live for."

Finally, he sat beside the simple mound of dirt, spent. Alone.

The mound moved, just a little.

From it, a twig arose, and from that, a single leaf sprouted. The bark was the color of Windmere and the leaf a brilliant green.

A voice called out like when Carola was young. "Father?"

Arun gasped. "Are you Carola's child?"

"I am, and more."

He rejoiced. Magic was give and take.


Arun named her Hope.


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Post July 15, 2016, 11:03:04 AM

I Feel Like A Monster Challenge

This 1st-person challenge was to tell the story of a person who would change into an unpleasant were-creature later tonight.
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Post July 15, 2016, 11:03:41 AM

I Feel Like A Monster Challenge

Coup Garou? Nah, Rougarou!

By:
Eddie Sullivan



“Dad! I don’t want to stay at Grandma’s!” She was still cute when she was being annoying. It was hard to take a nine year old who dressed like she mugged a clown seriously, no matter how mad she got.

Some days I wondered which is harder being a single Dad or therianthrope . The kid was going to have to deal with it, always, every month for the past six years. It was the only way.

“Kiddo, I have my retreat tonight. Please don’t make me go through this again. It is unavoidable. If you go along without any baloney then I will take you to the fun park on Saturday.”

“Fine.” She said it, but her expression said the negotiation wasn’t quite closed.

I grabbed her bag and mine and went toward the door. She hung back petting the cat for a minute in her typical show of minor defiance which could always be quickly turned to a mea culpa if accused of disobedience. Eventually she followed to the truck. My mom’s house was just twenty miles away so we had plenty of time. The old lady was just happy to spend some time with her grandchild.

We pulled up and I gave the horn a honk. No time to get caught up in any prolonged conversation. I had plenty of time but staying on schedule was tantamount to avoiding disaster. I noticed that another truck had stopped down the street when I pulled over. Suspicious, but plausibly a coincidence, the spot where he stopped was popular with bird watchers . It was near a field where hawks congregated to hunt.

The pipsqueak leaned into the front and gave me a kiss, then grabbed her bag and darted out of the car. She got to the door just as Mom opened it up. I gave them a wave and drove off.

The other truck was obviously following me. It was preferable that he was following me. I certainly didn’t want him lurking back around my mother and daughter. Chances were great that whoever he was that he wouldn’t be a threat to me.

The road that lead to my “rural” property wasn’t easy to find. It was completely over grown except for my passing this way once a month nothing disturbed the foliage. It was easy to miss, so I sped up hoping to go down it before he saw me turn. I was pretty sure I gave him the slip. There was little fear about him doubling back and bothering Mom and the kid so I continued on.

I had just finished grabbing my bag and unlocking the entrance when he pulled up. He was holding a pistol but didn’t seem to familiar with it.

“Marvin Griggs?” he said.

“Yeah that’s me. Do we have business friend?”

“We aren’t friends. Me and my boys, this is going to be our territory now. You go on down the stairs there and don’t try anything.”

“You want to go down there? With me?”

“Ayup.”

“Out of a sense of fair play I feel like I should tell you that you don’t want to do this.”

He snorted. “I’ll worry about that.”

So I went. I don’t know if he understood that the gun was all but useless, but hey whatever. We got to the end of the stairs and he pressed the gun into my back and pushed me forward into the subterranean room. I put down my bag and it clinked loudly.

“Listen whoever you are, would you like a drink? I have several bottles of whiskey here. I usually like to get blotto before I have to deal with these nights.”

He was paying attention to me when the door slammed and the auto-lock engaged.

“What the he..”

Apprently whatever information he had about me didn’t include what happened down here.

“That isn’t opening till nine in the morning pal. You and your gun are stuck in here with me and my whiskey.”

His face looked angry then it seemed he thought better of it.

“So this is where you hold out on the full moon. Bet you think you are so clever. Well Mr. Griggs you aren’t the only werewolf in town anymore. I am going to shoot you with these silver bullets, drink your whiskey, holdout in your lair, then tomorrow take everything you got.”

“Is that so?”

“Yup. And my boys are going to change right outside your kin’s house and take care of them tonight. And you can’t stop it.”

“Hmm. Interesting.”

“I figured you would take it worse.”

This had gone on quite long enough.

“Well before you start shooting I should tell you a few things so you understand the situation.”

“Really? This should be good I reckon!” He waved the gun encouraging me to speak.

“I am not here to keep from killing my daughter and mother. They can and will change tonight too. I am here to prevent from mating with them. While I certainly maintain enough control to not kill them when I change, I hate to have any weirdness between us and they are the only others around since my wife passed. Cancer for fifty years eventually won.”

“That is sick.”

“Hey I agree. That is why I am locked up while I am still in my right mind before each change Sucks to be the Alpha.”

“My three boys will still wipe the floor with an old female and a pup.” He seemed so confident. I hated to ruin his moment.

“The other problem is wolf ego. You know that there are other changers than werewolves right?”

He seemed to start to realize as both our muscles began to twitch under our skin.

“I’m not a wolf. Your boys are as good as dead. The silver in that gun is useless. And you my friend are in for a world of hurt. There are worse things than wolves.”

His howls wouldn’t be very wolf like.


The End
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Post July 15, 2016, 11:04:27 AM

I Feel Like A Monster Challenge

For the Love I Have for You

By:
Sergio Palumbo



The rondavel lies in the middle of nothing. Round in shape and made with materials that can be found locally, the walls of the simple house are partly constructed from stones. The floor is finished with a dung mixture to make it hard and smooth, but there is nothing to suggest that this house is anything more than a worn-out, meager abode. This is all that I, Ludvonga, can afford, and in an area as wild as this one, between South Africa and Swaziland, anyone would agree that I am lucky just to have any place to live.

It’s only me and my son, Darshana, living here. There is no one else with us.

It’s late evening and the sun is already going down outside, leaving the dusty dry plain bereft of its rays before the oncoming night. I stop cleaning my swarthy hands in the kitchen, which also serves as a sitting-room and bedroom, and I walk to the wing of the small house where my 1-year-old son sleeps.

I look at him, towering over his small body in all of my 6-feet-tall height, and he looks back at me.

“You’re my son, you’re my pride, and I…” I say. Then I can’t continue any further.

The baby replies, or so I think, by using his infant-like sounds, those dark eyes now wide open and staring at me. “Uh-huh…dada…me…Uh-huh…”

“I don’t want this to happen to you…I love you, my son…” I insist, though I am uncertain if Darshana will ever understand what I’m trying to tell him - just as I can’t figure out what his funny little noises and sounds truly mean.

People usually say that even if your child can’t talk yet, he does have a language of his own. Babies tend to cry a lot and my son is typical in this regard. After all, it is the only way he can communicate with me at present. Decoding baby talk is not an easy task…

The fact remains that whenever one of my kind - or better of my peculiar were-kind… - transforms himself into a were-leopard, he just loses control and his mind is not human anymore. While in this state his beastly urges and the call of blood rule over him, and he behaves wildly and violently: any other member of his species, whether a child or an adult, is perceived of as a dangerous opponent. They become a rival for food, competitors for survival in the wilderness that stretches nearby.

The region has been experiencing a terrible dry year, killing off most of the prey in the surroundings, so there is no way to find anything eatable to fill my stomach. I can try to leave my baby hidden somewhere, putting him in a secluded place where he might be safe when I turn into the were-leopard I truly am and go hunting. Perhaps he can stay there until I can regain my humanity, until I have hold of my mind again, when the transformation is over.

Usually when the time comes, it’s the mother who takes the baby away from the arms of the were-father who is no more capable of controlling himself. After all, among were-leopards, it’s the father that is the true predator, and being fierce and unruly is what he needs to be in order to prevail against others, to secure his own survival.

But in my case things are very different, unfortunately. My wife is dead. She was a were-leopard like me and she lived with me here, far away from other humans who might be afraid of our kind. But she passed away because she was assaulted by another were-beast some months ago. And now the duty to look after my son is all up to me…

At times, leopards - and were-leopards…- kill their own cubs when there is scarcity of food. It’s a law of nature, and I am a wild were-best, though unwillingly.

While the desire for meat grows inside me, as soon as darkness fills the plain outside and wraps the whole sky in it, and I know that I’m starting to turn into a were-leopard, I also know what I have to do. Not that I have not considered my next actions in depth, anyway.

It is time! I reach for the largest knife in my kitchen, grabbing it securely. Then, with both my hands, I put it under my chin, and painfully start cutting my skin, letting my blood flow out, quickly dropping to the ground. It only takes a moment before my life begins moving away from me, and I feel confused and faint.

I do this so that my were-beast side won’t come out and attack my baby Darshana, killing him and eating him to ensure my survival - as usually happens in such desperate cases under the Moon, when there is no other prey nearby, and the beastly hunger moves you.

In my last thoughts, a clear image is before my eyes: the image of my baby whose young senses have awakened. Even if Darshana is a baby, it’s known that his young were-mind will be stimulated at once, and his sense of smell will be attracted to the tasty blood that comes out of my body. He will be capable of slowly getting up from his pallet, crawling over to my corpse, and eagerly feeding on it.

This is how my son will survive, and might have a chance for the future, until the rain comes - and any prey that comes with it arrives.

So, be it as I say, my son. Feed on what is left of me, and grow stronger, much stronger, before I can unwillingly feed on you, and regret forever for what I had to do to stay alive for one more day...


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Post July 15, 2016, 11:05:14 AM

I Feel Like A Monster Challenge

Do Astronomers Dream of Electric Octopi?

By:
Joey To



Now I've done it.

Papers are scattered. The telescope is still in the same position and the dome shutter is wide open. It must have happened around 00:14 when the moon was at the so-called zenith.

And my clothes smell slightly burnt. At least my chair is warmed up, not to mention the two slices of pizza on the desk.

The computer is still functioning and the screen is on. The moon is now setting and the time is 05:16. Thank God I was the only one here. Better clean up.

Actually, before that, need to check the recordings…

Good, the observations are all there. Now I better clean up before somebody sees it.

"Hey, what happened?"

Oh look, it's Ted. With a suspicious glare.

"Nothing, I slipped and swept the folder off the desk."



"My social media has been hacked!"

Don't know what's going on but the office is practically screaming. Last month, it was their downloaded MP3s getting wiped and now it's their social media. Seriously, don't they have any work? Just as well I don't use it.

Gotta get coffee.

Of course, Ted eyes me from his cubicle. He has probably reported me already. I know he wants my position. I have to work out what's going on with me.

Last month, it happened at home. Actually, it was the night before the full moon. I was watching TV when I glanced at the moon through the window. I felt a tingle followed by a surge. Then it was as if I saw every television program between then and the morning news. Man, it was boring. Woke up on a very warm sofa with singed pajamas. Of course, it happened again on the full moon and the night after that.

But this month, I didn't look at the moon. I'd made sure.

Ted is still eyeing me. How should I handle him? Ah, I know.

"You alright, Ted?" I say. "Wanna ask me out on a date or something?"

His eyes dart away. Ha! Nothing quite like rumors of a married man asking out another man. Oh wait. How do I know he's married? I don't talk to him nor care. But I somehow know his wife's face.



It's official. I don't need to look directly at the full moon. A HD-quality live image does it. That was what happened at the observatory and that was the night before the full moon. I tried it at home last night with a live feed of the full moon on my laptop. And it happened.

I remember a bit more of it now. It was like I had tentacles spreading through the web via each major hub. I saw connections across cyberspace to home computers, phones and infrastructure…

I'm trying it again tonight, after I get home from the office. It'll be the last opportunity for this month given it's the night after the full moon. This time, I'll get a live feed from another timezone.

The boss waves me into his office and tells me that I have been uncharacteristically messy at the observatory.

"Really?" I answer. "Even if that's true, I clean up at the end of every shift."

He smiles. "I understand but I can't be negligent about the health of other employees. Just thought I mention it."

I smile back. "Well, as long as they're not negligent about my health. After all, I have the shortest turnaround for assignments and we wouldn't want that to change. Just thought I mention it."

I then walk out.

That Ted bastard.



I scoff down two microwaved lasagnas and call up the live feed from another timezone. It seems I'm out for up to five hours when it happens so if this works, I can still get enough sleep afterwards. And I can schedule and optimize future trips with—

Yes.

So much trash but so much goodies. Bank accounts, classified government stuff and oh, it's Ted's social media account.

Seems like I misread him. Yes, he's got a wife. Must have seen her in one of my previous trips. Ah, his mother-in-law is sick and is in need of cash. That explains his desperation for my position and pay.

But he's still a rat bastard.

Fine. I'll take a few cents from various bank accounts across the country, including my own to avoid suspicion, and transfer it to Ted's wife.
Now, time to hack into his social media and add a few colorful comments about our employer. That'll get rid of him without putting his family onto the street.

—Astrea is the most poorly managed research centre ever!
—They can't even format their servers properly.
—And the coffee tastes like month-old sandwiches.

Time to open a separate bank account for myself and—

Can't. Move.

I spread my limbs but it's like firewalls or something clamping down on me and obscuring my view to the web.

Hang on, the architecture looks familiar… That's right, Military Cyber-Def Project #193. "A search-and-destroy active barrier," I say to myself.

"That is correct," a voice states. "And you are an asset."

My tentacles throughout cyberspace are chopped one by one, faster than I can thrash new ones out. Still, I hack through the barrier lattice while scanning for any helpful details… Project #295.

"Now you see," says a voice, "how focused radiation through your television last month combined with ionospheric augmentation and lunar gravitation has given you abilities beyond our initial estimates. And we want you contained."

I keep reading.

Ted. Ted. Ted.

"And Ted set it up?!" It wasn't a real question. Ted is an operative. I'm the unknowing subject.

I peek around the closing barrier: Ted is online at home, trying to delete my comments. I whip at the lattice one last time, piercing it in several spots.

"How?" says the voice incredulously.

Probably the microwaved food but I don't care. Now that I know how to make one of me, I'm taking Ted with me.


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Post July 15, 2016, 11:06:23 AM

I Feel Like A Monster Challenge

Love Lost’s Price

By:
Andrew Massey



It is said that revenge is a meal best eaten cold. But who is the diner?



‘No stop, please! You can’t do this!’ she screamed, struggling futilely against the chains that held her fast, ‘Please!’

I leant closer to her, to that face once a thing of beauty now repulsed, to the body once cherished now hated, to her, my only, my beloved now polluted, never to be. My tears scorching fell on her, my laboured breath shifting the dark strands of hair caressing her cheeks.

‘I can and I will,’ I pushed through clenched teeth, ‘and for the rest of your life you will remember, you will feel my pain, my suffering, my heartbreak. Forever you will know how you destroyed me.’

‘Please, oh god forgive me, I’m sorry, I’ve told you I’m sorry, it was nothing to me, I was weak, it was just once and he …’

‘And that is enough!’ I screamed, pulling away from the arms seeking to hold me, back, back and away. Eyes burning, vision blurred, with my heart pounding to escape my chest I flung my head back and howled in primal rage to the darkened sky above. ‘Everything I gave you, all of me, solely, totally, you were my dream, my fulfilment, my all and you throw it away on him?!?!’

I lifted my arm from inside my coat pocket, the menacing form of the syringe glinting in the first wan touch of moonlight. I stepped closer again, bearing the syringe above my head on outstretched arm as a banner, a totem of hate and pain.

‘And this, this is my response. All that is evil, all that is deformed, vile, repulsive and hated lives within to twist and burn the human form to the degenerate! All that is needed is the moon and the flesh!’ I leered viscously at her, shaking, still shaking with rage.

‘Don’t do this, I don’t deserve this, I still love you, I do, I still do! We can still be together, forgive me, please. It’s not right to do this to me, to make me …’

‘Shut up!’ I screamed, ‘You?! Oh no, oh no, not so easy, not so simple.’ with which I sent the syringe lancing down into my neck, thrusting burning pain as I hammered it home, the seminal genetic bearer coursing through my veins. ‘This, this is for me, and for you to know and see and feel and suffer as I will, through me. Love me? Love me!?! Then love what you have made!’ with which I threw the key to her chains at her feet even as I felt the first shattering impact run through me.

She lay crumpled against the tree, held up by one chained arm, crushed. ‘What have you done? What have you done to yourself, to us?’

I tried to laugh but the pain arcing through my arms changed it to a whine, a piteous animal whimper. My arms tore out of my shirt and coat not through muscle but in a distended, twisted, wizened tangle curling back on each other, knuckles huge and torpid with pain, fingers clenched inwards as arthritic claws drawing blood as yellowed nails sunk deep into palms.

‘Each full moon, each time I will be transformed to this, to a thing that shows the ugliness, the pain you bought me, a remin …’ I screamed anew, falling in a crumpled heap to the ground. My face slid down to lie loosely hanging on the frame of my skull, a green folded flaccid sack of putrefied flesh punctured only by huge cracked teeth piercing lips, ‘… always, always.’

She had her chains off and was now beside me, holding me as I lay there. ‘No, no, no you can change it, fix it, tell me you can fix it’ shaking me, crying, ‘tell me you can fix it, tell me!’

‘Never, no, it cannot be undone.’ I managed to mumble, waves of nausea making their way through me. My spine twisted and compressed with a crack that seemed to reach the mocking moon above, shattering the night. My legs bowed, buckled, the left shortening even as the right twisted through ninety degrees, its curve matched only by the bowing of my back. A final crack, a final nightmare blaze of pain and my neck shrunk, dropping my head to my shoulders, my skin changing to a bloody mess of open scabs and coarse hairs. It was done. I pulled myself painfully to all fours, unable now to stand let alone walk, vomiting as my stench reached my nostrils. I turned to see her face, whitened, uncomprehending, revolted beside me.

‘To remind you’ I spat out slowly from crippled lungs and deformed larynx in croaking, rasping speech, ‘of my pain, the pain you bought me, how cheaply you threw it away. Once the moon has left I will change back, but each full moon this’ with which I tried to laugh, ‘will return.’

She looked at me, broken, silent. My pain was now hers, and would always be. And that pain doubled as I returned from creature to human, human to creature, always with the pain, the torment, for the rest of my life. I still loved her, I knew I always would. ‘I love you’ I whispered gently, crawling towards the edge of the woods, ‘that is my real pain.’

She sat staring after me. ‘And Kathy I will always love you.’


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Post July 15, 2016, 11:07:08 AM

I Feel Like A Monster Challenge

Mr. Grump

By:
Michele Dutcher



“Hey there Jose’ – I didn’t see you standing there,” Mr. Grump shouts at me. The 73 year old man is standing in the middle of an over-the-top suite on the top floor of a skyscraper in an American city. He is sitting at a wooden table piled high with legal documents, with another man, younger than he is. “Did you bring the tacos?”

“Of course, Mr. Grump. My name is Eddie, sir, and I’m happy to serve you.”

The old man looks at me, a waiter, quizzically. “Dark hair, black eyes, dark skin…”

“Yes, sir. I am of Hispanic descent, but my name is Eddie, Sir, not Jose’.”

Mr. Grump takes out a twenty dollar bill, folds it in half and stuffs it into my front pocket. “From now on your name is Jose’ – okay, Jose’?” He takes the platter of tacos and plops them on top of the piles of paper on the table. “Was there something else, Jose’?”

Although quietly fuming, I am able to motion to a bottle of champagne also on the cart. “Where shall I put the champagne, Mr. Grump?”

A tall blonde woman wearing a satin lounging suit steps out of one of the bedrooms. “In here, please.”

While pushing the cart into the bedroom, I can hear the two men talking. The younger man says: “Now this lawsuit – with the family who installed the carpeting in your building – wouldn’t it be easier to just pay them what you owe them, than to have them take you to court about it?”

Mr. Grump takes a bite of a taco before answering. “Sure it would be easier – but they disrespected me, the Grumpster! How dare they ask for their money when the job was done? I would have paid them eventually – I have Billions and Billions of dollars. They should have just let me pay them when I got around to it. Now they’ll have to wait for a decade while it goes through the courts. Eventually they’ll give up or die – either way I win and they are taught some humility.”

The woman inside the bedroom whispers in a heavy Eastern-European accent, “Don’t mind him. He means no harm, really. He’s just old.” She takes the bottle from the silver cask and pours herself a glass, all the while looking me up and down. “Champagne my dear?” she says, holding out a second glass.

“No thanks,” I tell her as politely as I can. It is only my first week on the job and I don’t want to tarnish my reputation by dallying with the patrons – although the offer is enticing. I decide to take another look at the naked pictures of her online, at my leisure.

Suddenly a man’s voice breaks in, the Grumpster himself. “Don’t mind her, Jose’. She’s bleeding out of her whatever – she can’t do anything right now anyway. Empty promises if you know what I mean.” He lets out a bloodcurdling laugh, knowing he has humiliated this woman. “Just leave the cart.”

I back out of the bedroom and notice the clock on a wall in the foyer. It’s already 5 PM: time for my shift to be over, only a short time now before nightfall, before the full moon rises.

“Now what shall we do about Pocahontas…” I hear Mr. Grump say as I close the door behind me.

I walk down the hall to the freight elevator where I push the button to the lobby floor. As I am whirling downwards I can hear my friends running through the pipes in the wall. My hearing and smell is becoming hypersensitive. It won’t be long now.

I re-enter the world of humans as I walk into the kitchen.

“How was your first adventure with Mr. Grump,” Marta, one of the female prep-cooks asks me as I walk past. “And Mrs. Grump?” She grins at me with a mocking expression.

“I delivered what they wanted…” I tell her, joking with her. “Well, mostly…”

I take off my apron and go to the timeclock where I am getting ready to punch out when Marta comes over as well.

She takes off her hairnet, and I can tell she has amazing red hair although it is pinned up close to her head. Her hazel colored eyes pierce through me. “It’s time for my break. We can go up on the roof if you want.”

I check the time on the clock. It is an hour before the sun sets at 6:07. We punch out and get on the employee elevator together, going up to the roof. The evening is clear and crisp, perfect for sitting and talking on an autumn day.

We’re having a cola together, looking out over the city when Marta begins to confide in me. “A couple of years ago, while I was running food to the rooms, Mr. Grump made a pass at me. Most of the rich guys do, but he was very aggressive. I wish I could build a huge wall between me and rich men around here.”

“A great wall, a strong wall…” I say to her. We start laughing together, but I can feel the hate for this man burning inside me.

“Time for me to get back, Eddie. But thanks for listening,” Marta tells me as she kisses me on the cheek and I know what I have to do.

I sit for a while, watching the sun go down and then one by one the stars come out and then there is a sky full of stars. The moon peaks over the buildings on the East shore. I feel myself changing as my friends show up, jumping out of the pipes and holes in the walls – hundreds of them squeaking with their tiny furry feet scraping against the concrete on the roof. My whiskers twitch happily, knowing that we will soon feel Mr. Grump’s warm blood flowing down our furry throats.


The End
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Post July 15, 2016, 11:08:10 AM

I Feel Like A Monster Challenge

When You Get Caught Between the Moon and New York City

By:
The Dark Angel



'I'm lying here, waiting for Angel to come home. How am I going to tell her?' He sighed.

'Am I living a lie? We all have dark secrets hidden within...don't we? I've got to tell her, whether she believes me or not. I know she suspects something. I smell when I come home on the mornings after. She doesn't seem to mind.

How did I get to this place in my life?

We live on one of the many dingy streets in Manhattan. Pimps beating hookers outside our building - cop sirens - dogs baying at the moon.'

He wistfully looks out the window. 'It is only a few hours before nightfall. The dawn has always brought me a respite from the chaos that tears apart my anguished mind. Many mornings I've come home, weakened, my blood-drenched skin telling a story of a night without control and no remembrance of my actions. Only news reports the next day painting a picture of the beast, which leapt across rooftops, terrorizing people who in their own way were themselves human creatures of the night.'

He contemplated his fate.

Jack was ruggedly handsome with brown fur-like hair often shadowing his steely, piercing blue eyes, unusual for his dark skin and hair color.

'Our apartment is nasty, there are rain streaks down the pale green walls; brown splotches on the ceiling; roaches scurrying up the walls; rats mating underneath my clothes scattered across the floor. I'm too depressed and tired to get out of bed most of the day. I wait on Angel; she brings some happiness in my despair, which is palpable.'

He sadly looks about. 'We barely have money for rent so we can't afford luxuries like electricity and running water. She borrows water from the neighbors for us to drink and occasionally washes our clothes in the sink. She uses the bathroom at work and then waits until her next shift or when she's out and about. The janitor lets me use his down the hall.

Our furniture is in disrepair. Second-hand stores have turned down accepting them when I've tried to pawn them.

I haven't bathed in days - or shaved.' He laughs to himself. 'Shaved,' surprising himself at the irony, 'like it's going to matter in a few hours.'

The lock unlatches, the sound of keys dangling and the door swings open.

"Hey baby, you still asleep?" She sees his naked body stretched out on the bed; half turned toward the wall. She likes seeing his bare butt, especially when he walks through the apartment or as he gets out of bed. "I got some decent tips today. I bought us some spaghetti and sauce. Couldn't afford the meat, it has gone up. Better than beans, right?"

Angel looked worn in the face from living a life of necessity, but there was still a lot about her to arouse a man. Dark hair, worn with bangs across her forehead and the deepest black eyes that a man could stare into forever. Her body, beautiful to caress; time refusing to fade her pleasing countenance. And there was that joy that lit the hearts of those for whom she smiled.

Jack leans up on one elbow. "I got to talk to you."

She continued. "You told me first of the year I wouldn't have to strip at the club, that you'd get me out of there by summer. Baby, we can do better."

"Yeah," Jack said despondent, feeling he was no-good.

"I'm not pushing you, but I'm afraid something's going to happen. Too many drug deals. The manager is forcing some of the girls to turn tricks. I've been lucky."

Jack said angrily. "I'm no good! You see if your mother will take you back. I'll get the money to get you home." He lowered his head. "I'm afraid too."

Angel rushed to the bed and lay beside him, gripping him, silently sobbing. "I won't leave you, Jack."

They lay together - motionless as they drifted off to sleep.

***

Suddenly, Jack awoke violently. He felt his skin growing tight, like electricity was coursing through his body. He jumped out of bed stumbling onto the floor.

"God no!" He clawed towards the window leaving gouge marks on the floor. It had turned night and it was beckoning him. He had been asleep during the remaining hours before dusk. He couldn't see the full moon...but he felt it.

His mind was metamorphosing into a wholly carnal beast, instinctively craving sex and violence; not being able to distinguish between the two.

"What's happening?" Angel awoke with a start.

Jack punched through the glass window climbing out onto the ledge as Angel ran to him, placing her arms about his waist. He retained enough of his rational mind not to strike her, but his grasp of sanity was slipping.

"You don't understand, I got to get out of here!" He tried to push her away. She held him tighter.

"I'll keep stripping baby, you don't have to do anything, just stay with me."

The transformation was rapidly morphing his body into an animal; his ears and fangs now protruding, his claws like long serrated knives. "I...am...a werewolf!!! Stay back!"

Increasingly aroused, she stared at him with a wide-eyed gaze as the beast within surfaced through the man she thought she knew. "I need to get away," the man wolf growled. "I don't want to hurt you!"

As his clothes shredded and fell unto the floor, she saw his body grow in size; muscular; covered in fur like hair. She glanced directly between his legs, her eyes widened, breathlessly she screamed, "All...right ba-by...come to mama."


The End
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Post July 15, 2016, 11:09:17 AM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?

- Winner -


Mickey's Dream

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



I slid the thin slices of russet potato into what used to be my grandmother's cast iron pan over a flickering, blue propane flame. In no time, the smell of simmering onions, garlic, salt, and pepper wafted up from the old Sears stove in the middle of our simple, mobile home. The smell seemed strangely fitting with the old wood paneling lining the kitchen around me. It was simple, yet still homey, and off the grid.

Paul liked it that way. His old flannel shirt was warm around me, and reminded me of when he put his arms around me.

I missed that so much.

I heard the scratch and creak of the old, metal screen door. He's coming in and will want to eat. "It's almost ready," I said. "By the time you wash the mud off your feet, breakfast should be on your plate."

***

It started so simply--shavings tumbling up into the air as Paul turned the small piece of cherry wood mounted in his antique, foot-powered lathe. His strong leg pumped up and down on the long pedal, spinning the wood faster toward the point of his steel-tipped gouge on his every downward push. I liked how strong his legs were, how strong all of him was.

He had a row of short spindles he'd already finished set out next to him on his workbench.

"Whatcha making, hon?" I asked, slipping my arms around him from behind and holding him, my head leaned against his shoulder blade.

He was quiet for a moment. "They're for a crib."

"A crib? For who?"

He turned around and held me. "For us. I think it's time we needed one."

OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod. I practically bounced up and down. My eyes watered. "Do you mean it?"

"Mickey," he said, "I mean it. I love you."

I dream about one all the time. Our child. A little me or a little Paul.

***

Paul melted down some of Nana's old silver necklaces and added an inlay accent stripe around the outside of the crib. He did it for me, because Paul knew I loved silver. I also liked to think it would be a little like Nana was wrapping her love and protection around our sleeping child.

That crib glistened beautifully in the corner for two years.

Unused.

My housemate scarcely looked at me while he ate, and soon there was little for me to do except pick up the empty plate. How did it come to this? We were so happy.

The door banged behind him, leaving me alone to wait for the night. The relentless ticking of the clock on the wall was like a prison sentence, knowing the damned moonlight was coming, tonight. There was nothing I could do but wait for it.

***

Rain snarled on the skylight in our bedroom as we climbed into bed. I wore a camisole that was deliberately two sizes too small and my sexiest panties.

Paul sat at the edge of the bed, looking out the window. The rain was slowing down. I snuggled up to him and blew in his ear.

"Let's try again to make that baby," I said in a husky voice.

He looked at me, surprised. Men can be so unobservant.

I smiled and kissed him, but then he looked out the window again as if he'd heard something.

I put my hand to his bristly cheek. "Honey, whatever it is outside, it can't be as interesting as what we've got going on in here... or am I not looking good anymore?"

He smiled back and we tried again while the last of the rain pattered to a stop. I loved feeling his hands on me. So strong. So rugged.

When he reached his moment, he began to howl like I'd never heard him before. I opened my eyes to look at him in the broken moonlight--but it wasn't him!

It was something all hairy and vicious-looking, not my Paul.

I kicked and rolled, trying to get off the bed. It grabbed me from behind, and its teeth dug into my shoulder. I shrieked at the pain, nearly hyperventilating.

When it let go, it threw me toward the corner, smashing headfirst into the crib. Wood broke to pieces underneath me.

Blood ran down from my forehead into my eyes. I couldn't see.

It roared, moving in. It's going to kill me!

I grabbed one of the sharp pieces of the crib and stabbed blindly at it.

It made a weird gurgling noise.

I wiped my eyes and looked. The broken crib piece stuck out of its neck. I remember seeing its silver stripe glistening in the moonlight, dark red blood pouring down around it.

A few moments later, the inhuman thing fell in front of me and changed into Paul. Paul, not a monster.

He had no pulse.

"Oh, my God!" I screamed. I killed my husband! I killed him!

I started to sob, hysterical.

***

I shuddered with the memory of it, but memories were all I had.

I stared at our son nervously pacing at the edge of the woods, waiting, and I wished I had known more that night, like that since he was born with it, he would stay in that form until puberty. If nothing else, I would have screamed a lot less when he was born.

I dreamed last night about what he'll look like. Will he look like Paul? Will he have the same handsome glint in his eyes? Will he just be like an innocent boy?

If only that damned moon would hurry.

Until then, I cooked and cleaned when I wasn't working, and put plates of food out on the floor for him. He understood me, but that's as close as we got to being a regular family. My unique 'time of the month' was the only time I got to really spend with my son, running and hunting through the woods together.

A wolf pack of two.


The End
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Post August 07, 2016, 05:19:34 PM

The 'How do I Love Thee?' Challenge

The challenge was to tell a speculative fiction story of a love-struck bad poet.
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