Archive for November, 2011

24th November
2011
written by amber

On the Star of the North

The slave ship coasted past the square-sided breakwaters marking the entrance to a magnificent harbour. The wailing of the captives rose to a crescendo with the realization that their journey, with all its hardships, would soon end with the separation of families and friends, with unknown destinations possibly harsher than what they’d endured so far.

Ned turned to Tara and spoke softly, urgently, “I’ll find you, wherever you end up.” He clung to her, weeping, as a green hand oozing black tears clawed her from his embrace, tugging her towards the females’ side of the ship. The black tears burned, so Tara wrenched herself from the grip and quickly ran to where she was supposed to be. Ned trudged to his side of the ship without any urging.

Men and women, boys and girls, they were shackled with thin silvery chains, as gossamer as jewellery, but strong enough to resist all attempts to bend or break. When the slaves were secure, the Star of the North, a cruise ship co-opted by the aliens to collect their unwilling workers, was snugged to the pier and a mob of security robots swarmed on-board.

It was Ned’s first sight of Vancouver since he’d fled to Guatemala to escape the invasion. Five years had made a huge difference. It was as if the city had never existed. Not a high-rise could be seen and a forest of growing trees and other greenery crowded the shores. Around the harbour, white spheres of various sizes floated, connected by glimmering ped-ways. These, he knew, were the aliens’ homes. Once the alien family groups had purchased their slaves, the homes would float away to their various target areas.

He’d been expecting a scene like the slave markets he’d seen in TV documentaries. After the horrible food and the way they’d been crammed into the cruise ship’s suites to sleep five and six on the floor without mattresses or bedding, he knew that kindness was not in the alien’s behaviour set. But there was no vast hall with haggling buyers crowded around raised platforms where naked humans cringed. Instead, as each human passed through the entry to the largest sphere, an alien stepped forward and unclipped him or her from the cue, then walked away with its new acquisition on a silver leash.

Ned didn’t see where Tara went, but he was taken by a glowing bulbous entity whose resemblance to the white spheres was almost comical, had Ned retained a shred of humour. After passing through the large sphere, they followed the ped-way to another sphere, nearly as large. Several dozens of humans were already there. Soon, the entry irised shut, and he could feel that they were underway.

An unchained man stood before them, dressed in a shining golden suit which indicated his position as a willing cooperator with the aliens. “All of you were employed by Canada’s oil industry, so you have been chosen to be sent to the target area, Fort McMurray, where you will work to restore the environment there until it is returned to its pristine state.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

My thanks to Barb Galler-Smith and Josh Langston, from whose novel, Captives, I’ve borrowed a first line for this story.

23rd November
2011
written by amber

The Girl With Appaloosa Hair

A white buzz cut with black spots of varying size – that’s a fashion statement, but not one I expected. I check her photo on my notebook. She’s wearing a hat, looking cute and maybe a bit punkish, but not this punk. One ring in her nose then, not the bristling cornucopia of metal she sports now.

I think I’ll wait at the bar for a few minutes more, finish my Scotch, decide if I’m going over to the table where she waits. I told her I’d be wearing a blue sweater, and I am, but I’m an old hand at this sort of thing, so I’m wearing a jacket over the sweater.

She’s a medical supply company representative, or at least that’s what she said she was. That’s what I am too, or was. My first ‘lie’ was not telling her that I’m currently unemployed. Has she lied to me too? Is covering up that hair-do a sin of omission or commission? How does she keep her job looking like that? Or is she also unemployed?

Having the same job may be one factor that piqued my interest, but it certainly wasn’t a deciding factor. Cuteness, sense of humour, agreement on major issues such as religion, politics and sex, love of the outdoors – those are the most important things to me in a relationship. And we’ve had such a good relationship, over the Internet. Chrissie has a great sense of humour and a refreshingly fresh take on modern culture, it’s been a real pleasure corresponding with her. I’ve loved every single movie and tune she’s recommended, and she professed to enjoy my taste in movies, books and music too.

We have interacted on Skype, so this isn’t actually our first face-to-face meeting. And I have to say, in retrospect, she must have been deliberately hiding her appearance from me. It was more than a hat, it was some kind of scarf wrapped around her head, but I was so excited to be talking to her, hearing her beautiful voice, seeing her sparkling eyes and her sexy mouth, I didn’t really notice that I wasn’t seeing her hair.

Is she testing me now – flaunting this hair, these piercing, those tattoos on her upper arms and her chest? Will I pass the test? I know I like her, but the way she looks tonight, I can’t imagine introducing her to my friends, to my family.

I signal the bartender for another Scotch and hunch over, hiding my sweater. What am I going to do?

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

22nd November
2011
written by amber

The Clockwork Cat

Being born in modern England and being saddled with the moniker ‘Leonard’ has been difficult. The name isn’t British, obviously, and it harks back to the Renaissance. For God’s sake, it’s 1815.

My mother named me Leonard because she wanted me to be an inventor, like the famous da Vinci, he of the flying machines that didn’t fly and the weapons of war never proved on the battlefield. He did do some lovely drawings.

Oddly enough, I did become an inventor, through a most curious means. My father was the groundskeeper for a wealthy man. When I was old enough to work, my father convinced the lord to allow me to serve as assistant groundskeeper. Mostly I hunted rats. They were the bane of my existence – I fought them with foul poisons, mad terriers and complicated devices. None worked well.

Four years later, when I was 12, my father died and the lord promoted me to head groundskeeper. Lord Worthall was intrigued by the new scientific advances and he provided me with every modern discovery, for my workshop. We were both determined to end the rat problem – not just for the lord’s estate, but for the entire country.

My clockwork cat was a marvel, all its joints articulated, its metal claws sharp and deadly, tipped with toxins, its prismatic eyes able to focus on prey and activate a pounce.

But until I found the dust-encrusted ancient leather book in the top room of an abandoned tower in the corner of the lord’s hunting woods, I lacked the secret of animating my Michelangelo Mouse Killer.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

I wrote this story at the Pure Spec science fiction convention, an homage to the steampunk genre.

21st November
2011
written by amber

Returning Home

I really shouldn’t have done that. My leg was cramping and I moved. Only an inch or so but I brushed against some debris that fell against some other debris with a thud. I freeze and peer through the hedge I’m crouched behind and see that he’s looking at me now. Luckily for me, at that moment and not too far away, a cat that’s been crouching in the wreckage makes a break for it and the Undead’s attention turns its way.

I curl inward, not moving, not breathing. A piece of sharp metal is pressing into my back and a sensation of warm oozing blood, possibly imaginary, worms down my butt crack.

What to do now?

What I want to do is go home but earlier today I learned what a mistake that is. The Undead return first to their homes. It was bad enough when my deceased sister came scratching at the door, but the house’s previous owner – gone these thirty years – was unimaginably horrible.

I think that when I can finally wriggle my way out of this pile of crashed cars and broken store fronts undetected, I’ll go someplace that no one has ever considered to be their home – the graveyard.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

Thank you to Roy at the Pure Spec convention for providing this first line.

20th November
2011
written by amber

My Lady’s Favour

She jumped down from the tree, her green skirt flaring out to cushion her landing. Whisking her long red braid over her shoulder and sheathing her arrows, she disappeared into the undergrowth.

“What was that?” Elric demanded of Robert the Younger.

“It looked like a girl,” Robert replied, looking equally as dumfounded as his friend.

They turned to stare at the immense dead body lying across the creekbed, the scattered water from its falling spread for many yards in all directions. The giant’s toppling had sounded like the falling of an enormous tree.

“She looked familiar,” Robert mused. “When I was young-”

“You aren’t but eight summers now.”

“I mean very young. Two or three or four. I was playing in the woods, picking flowers, catching butterflies. I caught a lovely red and green butterfly, but as my hand closed around it, I heard a a tiny voice cry out. I opened my fist and there she was, a perfect little girl in miniature, weeping and pleading for her life. Naturally, I let her go.”

“Naturally,” Elric scoffed.

“Well, she did offer a favour in return but I forgot all about her until we annoyed this giant.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

I would like to thank Nicole at the Pure Spec convention for providing this first line.

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