Posts Tagged ‘Bradbury inspired’

17th February
2012
written by amber

Little Dead Town

He pulled into the little dead Martian town, stopped the engine, and let the silence come in around him. Inside the dome, nothing moved and light barely penetrated through the scratched plasteel.

Coral dust formed dunes in the narrow streets and drifted through the open doorways of the houses. Footprints from decades’ worth of visitors lay undisturbed by wind, ever since the breach in the dome had been repaired.

The house numbers were faded but he found his great-grandparents’ house easily, the first house on Walnut Street. The house was tiny, of course. Fitting 50 families and an air plant and heat exchangers and greenhouses beneath one small dome had put space at a premium.

The door opened directly onto the street, without an airlock. No one had anticipated that the plasteel dome could be pierced by anything short of a bomb or a meteorite. Chances of either had been astronomically small, but a meteorite had come.

On Walnut street, all the houses had only one room. They had been for families like his great-grandparents, with grown children no longer living with them or young couples who had no children yet. One room serving as bedroom, living room and kitchen, with a minuscule bathroom behind a curtain.

He needed to do no more than step through the door to see them, two wizened figures in the fold-down bed.

Everyone said it had been a mercy that the accident happened when most people were asleep, but he always wondered how many could have slept through the sudden lack of oxygen and bitter cold.

The meteorite storm had knocked out planetary communications and so it had been nearly four weeks before the ghost town had been discovered, bodies already transformed by cold and dryness into mummies.

No one had considered any grave in the sere Martian dust to be a better resting place than here, in the village of their plans and dreams among their fellow pioneers, the people of New Chengdu.

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. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

16th February
2012
written by amber

A Visit to Mars

I’ve been here three weeks, I’m due to go home in four days and nothing much has rung false during my visit until the last few days. I mean, two people up in their 50’s decide to move to Mars and start an air farm – that’s a life-changing experience. So if they seem more energized, more enthusiastic, younger, why should that surprise me?

But it’s more subtle than that. They are fearless in a way that alarms me. They’ve always been bold. The businesses they had on Earth all were gambles and they saw them through, made them work. Retiring to Mars in yet another risky venture is characteristic. But more than once during my visit, I’ve seen them nearly walk out the door without their breathers. I swear, the other day when my mother did this, she snuck a glance my way to see if I’d noticed. She looked guilty.

They’ve brought the local oxygen level up to 5% but that’s not nearly high enough for going out without a breather.

And they go out all the time without warm suits. Yesterday, it was a record 98 below and Dad came into the kitchen from the porch, slapping his hands together. I swear, his fingers were so white I thought they’d break off if he slapped them any harder.

“Dad! Did you go out without your suit?” I knew he had – it was still hanging on a peg beside the door.

“Oh, I just dashed over to the greenhouse. It’s not very far.”

“But Dad – it’s 98 below!”

“Well, I guess we’re just used to it. Putting the suit on is such a hassle. But don’t you try it. You’re not acclimatized like we are.”

I thought to myself that maybe they’re getting too old to be doing something like this, a little senile, forgetting they’re on Mars, not Earth and that extreme cold and airlessness are not things you just get used to. That they can kill you.

Or, I ask myself in the middle of the night, based on very little evidence, suppose those two people in the next room, asleep, are not my mother and father at all?

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. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

In this Ray Bradbury-inspired story, the borrowed line is the last line of the story.

15th February
2012
written by amber

Four Bodies

The four bodies lay in the sun. They were small, they were green, they weren’t Martians.

Josh thought they were Martians.

“Come on, Josh,” I said, “we’ve been on the planet for ninety-eight years now and no one’s ever seen anything like this. No evidence that anything more than bacteria extinct a million years ago lived here.”

“So where did they come from then?”

Well, that was the question, wasn’t it? The question for me, as sheriff of my county, and Josh, being my deputy, wasn’t going to let me off the hook.

Before I could answer, he served up his theories. “Either they’re from here, but they’ve been way underground or somewhere else we haven’t looked yet. Or else–” He noticed me rolling my eyes and spoke louder, “Or else they aren’t Martian, in which case they must be aliens from someplace else. It’s not as if we’d have any way of knowing if an alien spaceship was coming into our atmosphere, would we?”

He glared upwards, which is what we were all doing recently, venting our spleen skyward, to Mother Earth up there somewhere, the source of all our discontent. No doubt they were discontented with us as well, the orphan colony nearly 100 years old and still sucking at mother’s tit. We had resources to burn, but nothing they wanted and needed badly enough to pay to bring it up through our gravity well. They were happy to send us prisoners for the Hellas penal territory and wacko religious compoundists, but they preferred to trade with the developed asteroids. There were voices back on Earth, louder and louder every year, saying we should be cut off all assistance to ‘make it on our own.’ If they got their way, well, I didn’t even want to think about it.

“You’re right, Josh. They must be aliens, Martian or not. Take some photos now, then we’ll haul them back to the village and Doc Smith can do the autopsies. I’ll just go up on the hill there to get a line of sight to phone it in.”

I knew that in my absence he’d take more photos than the official ones and I knew his photos would be smuggled off planet as soon as he could manage it. And I knew I’d let Doc Smith bungle the autopsy and then somehow the bodies would mysteriously disappear.

I didn’t know who was behind this hoax, but I’d play my part happily, to buy Mars a decade or two of wonder and investment from the home planet.

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. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

14th February
2012
written by amber

The Canal

A man walked along the bank of a canal. The canal had been dry for many years. Indeed, there was some debate about whether it had ever held water.

On either side of the canal, fields stretched as far as the man could see. The crops grew beneath a special mesh designed to hold in the oxygen and heat they were generating, these things being as important to the nearby villagers as the fruits and root vegetables were. The man was in charge of the crops, and he was worried. The water for the crops was carried by pipes beneath the ground, and in the storage tanks he had just enough water to last four more days, no longer.

He’d been outbid in the water auction by the first golf course to be built on Mars.

This situation had not sprung upon him unexpectedly. He’d known for years that it was coming.

Earth’s domination over Mars had ended 15 years ago, when the colonists seized their own government, and the new leaders were all entrepreneurs who felt that Martian businesses should compete in a ‘fair market,’ without the imposed restrictions Earth had legislated to make it possible for the planet to be developed in an equal manner, not solely by rich individuals and corporations. But now the water subsidy for agriculture and the unaffiliated villages was over, and life was about to get very difficult indeed.

However, the man was not without his own resources. He was an expert at crop development, having designed the generations of plants which had sustained the village with protein, carbohydrates and essential nutrients as well as air and heat for so many years. His latest project, a style of chokeweed devastating to any short grass crop was just months away from fruition.

But that wouldn’t be soon enough. He’d hoped that his attack on the golf course could be anonymous. The chokeweed, being of similar genetics to grass, wouldn’t be traceable to him, but the crude weapon he had for now would leave no doubt as to its village origins.

The first protein plant he’d made, the chickendendron, had been a notable failure, the laughing-stock of two planets, except for the unfortunate villagers who had to live near the things when they uprooted themselves and crawled together to rot in fetid heaps.

Looking around to see if anyone was watching, the man slid into the canal and ducked under the fence onto the golf course, his bag of seeds in hand.

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. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This is the third story in Bradbury week, with all the stories inspired by lines borrowed from The Martian Chronicles.

13th February
2012
written by amber

Sam Parkhill

Sam Parkhill motioned with the broom, sweeping away the blue Martian sand. He opened the door of his general goods store and guided the sand out the door, then he followed it and swept it off the sidewalk.

“Come on in,” he said to the tourists. “I know you’d like to hear what it was like when Mars was young.”

They shuffled in, nine of them, and he found them chairs around the pot belly stove in the middle of the store. They gaped at the cans on the shelves and the bins of pickles and crackers in front of the counter, at the racks of shovels and rakes along the back wall.

“Frontier wasn’t much of a town back then, but we got by with hard work and pure stubbornness. And not only were we struggling just to survive against the elements, but there was kind of a range war going on too. Because the countries back on Earth were in too much disarray to keep order on Mars, all sorts of different groups were colonising and exploiting and disputing. Just over that hill there–” Sam pointed out the front window and the tourists obediently looked that way.

“That’s where the New Randists were mining copper, putting all kinds of deadly dusts into the wind that blew our way. And on the other side, the great philanthropist, Thadeus Payne, was installing his first Air Enhancer, which was later blown up by the Natural Mars Society.”

A distinguished older man put up a hand. Sam nodded at him and the man asked, “With a whole planet to chose from, why did the early settlers decide to put themselves into such close proximity to each other?”

“Good question, sir. This rift valley was determined to be the easiest to dome over. That’s how we expected to make the planet fit for humankind – by doming and using Air Enhancers. We didn’t predict that lungs could be grown that would allow people like yourselves to walk around and do just fine in the Martian atmosphere. Now, if there aren’t any more questions, please feel free to poke around the store and look at everything. There’s peppermint sticks for the kids in the jar next to the cash register. Then you can mosey on down to the saloon or the blacksmiths or the newspaper office. But don’t forget that you’re all expected back at the Ranch house for a barbecue lunch followed by a barn dance. Plus we have a rare treat for you folks. Frontier was built for more than tourists – we always hoped that a Martian film industry would develop eventually, and now, 300 years after Frontier was established, the first Martian western is being shot and you’ll have the opportunity to dress up in period costumes and be part of the film.”

The tourists stood. Some moved to thank Sam and slip him a tip, others wandered deeper into the store. A small boy, his forehead wrinkled with puzzlement, whispered to his mother, “If Sam’s been here since Mars was young is he 300 years old?”

“Oh honey, no one lived on Mars back then except robots.”
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. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This story was inspired by a line from Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Martian Chronicles.’

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