Archive for April, 2012

30th April
2012
written by amber

Robotic Vampire Cats in Space

The robotic cats have escaped from the cargo hold where we’d isolated them and I think our mission may be over before we even make planet-fall. I’m in Crew Cabin One, alone. I’ve pushed all the mattresses against the door, but that’s more for my nerves than for any real protection. If they can claw through metal, they sure as hell can claw through cheap foam.

Jerome was pierced in our first battle with the cats, when we lured them into the cargo hold with holographic images of the aliens, and he was pierced again today. I think enough blood was taken to kill him. He certainly looked pale and lifeless as I ran by him on my way to this cabin. Amilie and Dougal were right behind me, but I waited a good ten minutes for them, hearing awful caterwauling from the corridor, and human screams. Then I saw the cat hoard and I had to slam the door shut.

Naturally, the coms are out. The cats are smart enough to chew through the wires.

It’s ironic that Jerome is the first of us to be killed (probably). He’s the one who changed the cats’ programming.

I blame boredom. He said he wanted to make them more lively, but the rest of us are pretty sure he wanted to stage cat fights for the military escort and earn some air force rations through betting.

And where, you might ask, are our military escort during this crisis? Locked in the Strategic Pod, ready for an Abort Mission protocol. Before the coms went out, they told us they were prepared for all sorts of emergencies, but an attack by small feline robots of our own devising was not one of them. Only hard weapons capable of damaging the ship would have any effect on the cats, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone, I realize. Still, if we had to bring soldiers along, I’d have expected them to be more resourceful.

I’ve been pondering the problem myself. Jerome was the robotics expert – the cats were his, and the spy flies. I’m just the xenobiologist, along to deal with the visuals and skin samples brought back by the spy flies and eventually the body fluid samples the cats were to collect, but I learned a few things about robotics. We are all expected to have 2 or 3 specialities on this mission. Our motto is ‘Redundancy can mean survival.’

Perhaps literally, this time.

I was keeping a supply of spy flies in here, to tinker with while I tried to find a way to neutralize the cats. Jerome mocked me. He said nothing could be done, the cats’ programming was contaminated and the only solution was to get them into the exhaust port and vent them. He thought we could use alien holograms again, but I was pretty sure they wouldn’t fall for that twice. After all, he designed them to learn.

But he also designed them to play. They may have become little articulated metal psychotic devils who attack and sample everything that moves, but they also took the time, I noticed, to go after the cleaning rats while they were chasing us.

So I’ve been glueing coloured wings onto the spy flies and programming them to fly to the exhaust port. I have about 100 flies left to do and I hope I’m done in time. I can hear the cats clawing through the walls.

This is my last story of the original Story 365 Project. I wanted to write a story using some of the themes I’ve enjoyed the most over the past year, so I came up with the title and carried on from there. Turns out, the cats aren’t cute and cuddly, but as an author you have to follow the story you’re given.

I’ll be announcing a contest soon, and I’ll be continuing with stories, poems and other daily postings on this blog.  And please – keep sending me first line suggestions!

29th April
2012
written by amber

Little People

“You won’t remember a thing that I’m telling you now,” the monkey said to the researcher, “but once in a while we like to tell the truth to one of you. We’re about to derail your research, and you deserve an explanation, even if you won’t know what it is.”

“You can talk,” the young woman said, for the tenth time.

“Yes, yes, we can talk. We’ve already dealt with that, my dear. Your analysis of our vocalizations, as you call them, is what has brought you too close to the truth. Next week, at the symposium, you’ll present data that the great variety of sounds we use are random.”

“But they aren’t, they-”

“Yes, yes, they actually represent a language far more complex than any of your human languages. But so skilfully coded that you are the first to recognize it. Can we get past that? I have many more things to tell you about. Isn’t there anything you want to ask me?”

“Why?”

“Yes, yes, that’s the crux, isn’t it? Seven million years ago, we had cities. We watched both you and the gentle giants you call Neanderthals evolve. You can probably bet which branch we were betting on, but instead you humans came to dominate, with your violence and greed, with your intolerance for anyone different from yourselves.”

The young scientist looked sceptical. “No trace has ever been found of your cities.”

“150 thousand years ago, we decided to move beyond technology, and we destroyed all physical traces of our civilisation.”

“How do you move beyond technology?”

“With the power of the mind, of course. We have every comfort, because we’re never too cold or too hot – we can manipulate our immediate environment and our own bodies. The food we eat – the fruits and seeds and leaves – taste as delicious as we wish them to taste. Although we enjoy talking, we can communicate telepathically, we retain information about our past through our prodigious and shared memories. And as you humans have relentlessly trespassed upon our habitat, many of us have chosen to live entirely non-corporeally.”

“Are you the king?”

“No, no. Our society has never had hierarchy, or prejudice. Our scientists study your society with a grim fascination. You appal us. Throughout the centuries, we’ve tried to co-exist with you. What do you think fairies and elves were, if not us?”

“They weren’t monkeys.”

“We’ve chosen to look like monkeys recently. Among the ancient Egyptians, we appeared as cats, and received the greatest amount of respect we’ve ever received from humans. I have some wonderful stories from that time, and other times, but alas, your colleague will be coming through the door in a minute, so the forgetting must begin.”

The monkey reached out and touched the researcher’s forehead.

Not long afterwards, the door opened and a young man strode into the room. “Natalie – why do you have Bozo out of his cage?”

“Oh, I was just saying goodbye to the old fellow. I’ve decided to release him.”

“Why? I thought he was your best specimen.”

“Yes – such a good specimen that’s he’s exploded my theory. When I added his vocalizations to my models, it became obvious that the variety of sounds is completely random.”

“That’s too bad, Natalie.”

“No worries. I think primatology isn’t my true calling. For some reason, I find myself interested in the mythology of ancient cultures.”

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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

This is story 365, but the year isn’t over yet! When I named my project, I didn’t factor the leap year in, so you’ll be getting a bonus story 366. Plus another month of stories as I participate in StoryADay’s month of May challenge.

Little People looks forward to my writing plans for the next year – longer stories. Certainly, there is much in this tale that can lead to some interesting stories. If I want to submit such works for publication in print or on-line periodicals, I can’t publish them on this blog, but I’ll share the start of the stories with you and keep you apprised of their submission and acceptance or rejection.

In any case, whether complete stories, or poems, or serializations of previously published works or snippets of new work, I will be posting every day, so please continue to visit this site. If you enjoy it daily, click RSS to have it sent to your email address directly.

28th April
2012
written by amber

Death of a Hunter

The body lay just inside the cave. It was not the cave where Blod lived. Blod was a good hunter and had built his family a warm shelter of hides and branches.

The body of Blod was found inside the cave of Arlak but Arlak screamed that he was not the one who killed Blod. He jumped up and down and swore that the body of Blod was there when he returned home from hunting. He shook his spear and his bow.

Blod’s wife asked where was the game he had killed but Arlak hung his head. Everyone in the tribe knew that Arlak was a poor hunter – that is why he and his family still lived in a cold clammy cave.

“Kill him!” Blod’s wife yelled. “He killed my husband.”

Everyone moved to surround Arlak. His wife ran into the cave carrying an armload of greens and screamed for them to stop. Close on her heels, her children cried.

“Stop!” I shouted.

Everyone stopped and stared at me. My husband drew his hand back to strike me for my impudence. I quickly said, “You should ask Chief Mobun what to do. If you kill Arlak, then our tribe has lost two hunters.”

With two women and five children left without support, most of them would be sure to die. I knew better than to point this out – I’d said too much already, but my husband nodded and sent Blod’s oldest son to find the chief.

I wished he had sent me. Chief Mobun was one of the few who would listen to my ideas. As long as no one overheard, he sometimes took my advice and protected me by claiming that the ideas were his own. If I’d gone to bring him, I could have shared my observation that Arlak had not gone hunting – as usual he had been painting images of elk and lions on the walls of his cave. His hands were stained, not with the blood of a deer or even a rabbit, but with the red of ochre.

His spear and bow bore the red prints of his stained hands, red dust, not the dark red of dried blood. If we walked deeper into the cave carrying a flaming torch, we’d see his half-finished artwork. His obsession with making such images angered many in the tribe, but not Blod. Blod encouraged it, and frequently claimed that whatever animal Arlak drew was the one he would kill the next day. And he gladly shared meat with Arlak and his family out of gratitude.

It was obvious that today Blod had come to the cave to share meat with Arlak – a haunch of antelope lay beside his body, flies around it as they were around the terrible wound to his head. Beneath his body, I had noticed a torch, but smelled no stink of burning flesh – he had not gone to the fire to light it yet.

He had been going into the cave to see what Arlak was drawing, and a large rock had fallen from the roof of the cave onto his head. A rock of a size that a man might lift to stike another man, but no man had lifted this one. I could see the hole above where it had fallen from, not far from the blackened spot where smoke from the fire accumulated and the fire’s heat could weaken the arch of stone.

If I said that this is what happened, everyone would disagree with me. They might believe that the rock fell, but they’d say that Arlak picked it up and used it to hit Blod. And they would be happy to believe this was true because they didn’t like Arlak – his poor hunting, his odd behaviour.

I hoped that Chief Mobun would see the truth.

And he did. He said that the rock fell from the roof of the cave onto Blod because the gods wanted it to happen.

And we all went back to our fires and thanked the gods.

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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

27th April
2012
written by amber

On the Road

He left in the middle of the night, packing the motorhome full. Mostly he was bringing goods that he hoped to sell or barter, but there were a few items of a sentimental nature that he couldn’t bring himself to part with. If hunger overcame sentimentality, he’d sell those too.

Jack had no idea how Irene had managed it, all those years since he retired. Her part-time job at the library didn’t pay that much, he was sure, but she’d kept food on the table, a few beers in the fridge for weekends, the bills paid. Except for that one bill.

“We don’t need to be like those young people with all their credit cards,” she used to say. “One’s enough for us.”

But she sure as shooting had loaded that one up, to the max. None of it on frivolous things, other than Christmas gifts for the grandkids. But when she died, the cost of the funeral pushed it all over the edge and he had no idea of how to catch up, financially.

When they were still talking to each other, Jack’s banker had told him that he’d never get enough for the house to cover the second mortgage, something Jack had known about only peripherally, when Irene had asked him to sign papers for ‘something to do with our mortgage.’ God help him, he’d thought it was the final payment, he’d thought they were free and clear.

The power was cut off last week, and the car got repossessed yesterday. Jack knew he’d better put his plan in place while he still owned a thing or two.

###

A month later, he’d settled into a lifestyle of sorts, camping for free in mall parking lots and vacant fields, hitting the swap meets to pick up some cash or canned goods. He was seeing a different side of RV’ing – he was far from the only elder gypsy fleeing his creditors.

He’d met a retired lawyer who helped people set up accounts for their pension cheques so they could get their money without being traced.

And he was having a ball – seeing sights he thought he’d never see. Irene had always claimed they were homebodies, not happy if they were gone for more than a week. Turns out she was speaking only for herself.

Turns out Jack might just be as wild and irresponsible as Irene always said he was.  And he loves it.

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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

26th April
2012
written by amber

Jonah’s Dream

I’m at a birthday party. I’m dancing, left foot, right foot, hips swinging one way then another, round and round. A circle of girls rotates the other way and I’m making my steps shorter so that when the music stops I’ll be right in front of her. The new girl in school with the pretty red hair.

She blushes easily. When Mrs. Powers said that Dirk had to pretend to be her husband in the wedding game, Dirk said he wouldn’t marry her and Jessika’s face turned as red as her hair. I liked it. My favourite aunt turns red like that. But all the other kids laughed at her.

I said I would marry her. Mrs. Powers gave me a plastic flower to pin on my shirt and she put a piece of curtain or something on Jessika’s head. All the kids threw little bits of coloured paper at us and now we’re doing this dance.

This is fun. I can’t wait to tell my friends, Matt and Luc, about it.

But maybe I shouldn’t. They think girls are silly and I bet they think dancing is silly too.

I know I can’t talk to Jessika at school. Boys and girls can’t be friends at school. But when I’m old enough to have a girlfriend, I want Jessika to be my girlfriend.

But I’m not going to be able to stop in front of her when the music stops. We’re too far from each other and my wheelchair won’t go fast enough.

Now she’s walking away from me quickly, carrying a picnic basket. I realize I’m not a grade 3 anymore. In grade 3, I could walk.

I’m an adult, and I just took Jessie out on our first date. And she’s mad at me because I thought it was a joke when she asked me out in high school. I’m mad at me too. When did I change my mind about wanting her to be my girlfriend? The kids still laugh at her because she is so shy and blushes so easily, but I should know better than that. Why don’t I?

No, I do, now. I was cruel to her in high school, but I’m older now. Losing the use of my legs has made me grow up, fast. I want to make a future for myself, and I want her in it.

The minute I think this thought, a darkness descends. I’m trapped, I’m cold, I’m feeling very far away from Jessie.

No! It’s been too great of a struggle – her feelings for me all those years when I’d forgotten about our early connection, my pursuit of her after meeting her again after my accident. I have to overcome this darkness. I have to find my way back to Jessie.

My legs won’t work. My eyes won’t work. But I can twitch my hands a little. Yes, they’re moving. Tied down with something. Okay, got that loose. And my eyes – they do work, there’s a cloth over them.

Push the cloth away. Try to talk.

Something in my throat. Pull it out, even if it makes me gag.

Still can’t see. No, wait, I can, a bit. The room is dark. I don’t recognize the room, but the smell’s familiar. I’m in a hospital, and I think it’s night time.

Someone in a chair next to my bed. Snoring gently.

It’s Jessie.

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 or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

By popular demand, here’s the final story of the Jessie and Jonah series.

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