The Trap

closing in

From “Star Wars” (1977)

He was already in a fetal position, but the walls kept closing in. His muscles were stiff and tight from the pressure. He was about to be crushed. He could barely breathe. He wanted to scream, but there wasn’t enough air.

“What am I going to do?” It was a desperate thought. “How am I going to get out of here?”

He wanted to give up, let the pressure destroy him, but he couldn’t. He had a wife, children, grandchildren who would be devastated if he died. He had to continue, but how?

The pressure continued. The walls seemed to wrap themselves around him, like form-fitting steel or stone.

“I’ve got to find a way to make the pressure ease up, but I can’t!”

Nothing worked, not TV, not books, not booze, drugs, porn. Nothing.

He had no way out but he couldn’t give up.

The receptionist’s voice shook him out of his living nightmare.

“Mr. Moore, Dr. Carlton will see you now.”

For all the good counseling would do.

The Woman is Africa

black woman art

From: Clipart Kid

It’s been over forty years and I can still remember her. She’s probably forgotten about me completely, and I don’t blame her. I didn’t make much of an impression.

“What do you think of it, Jeff?” Diane showed me her completed art project. “Think she’ll get first prize in the Senior Art Fair?”

It was our Senior Year in High School. I’d been taking art classes there since I was a Freshman, and she’d transferred from Tucson at the beginning of the year.

“I think it’s great. Is it a self-portrait?”

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The Man Who Walked On Venus

Venus

Artist’s concept of Venus’s forbidding surface. (ESA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

“How’s the weather down there?” Jeremy Howard heard Amy Jefferson’s voice in his ears accompanied by just a hint of static.

“Hot.” He chuckled. “472 degrees Celsius. Atmospheric pressure equivalent to being 900 meters under the surface of the ocean. The wind speed is 710 kilometers per hour with gusts up to 750.”

“Sounds like a wonderful vacation spot.”

“You’re welcome to come down and join me, Jefferson.”

“Not a chance, Howard. This one’s all yours.”

So far it was light banter, but Jefferson was monitoring Howard’s telemetry and she was starting to get worried.

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Bee Drones

robobee

© Eijiro Miyako

It had been forty years since Eijiro Miyako and his colleagues at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology developed the first generation robo-bees. Pesticides, land clearing, and the effects of climate change had resulted in a steady decline in the bee population. Without bees, many plant species, including crop plants from apples to almonds, could not be pollinated and reproduce.

By the tenth generation of the tiny drones, they were self-replicating, self-repairing, solar-powered dynamos. They did not replace the natural bee population, but they greatly enhanced pollination efforts, allowing flowering plants to survive and finally to thrive again.

Each individual robo-bee’s AI formed a collection of nodes, which, when linked to the population of drones as a whole, formed an intelligence that was arguably sentient.

The problem was finding a way for the natural bee population to either develop an immunity to what was killing them so they could increase their numbers to a viable level, or eliminate the causes of their die off.

The drone AI quickly realized the cause of the die off of bees, and many other environmental problems, was the human race. Robo-bees could go even where the natural bees could not, so the almost complete extinction of humanity was ensured by swarms of millions of these tiny assassins.

I read a story yesterday called Robotic bee could help pollinate crops as real bees decline at “New Scientist,” and thought there could be another side of the story.

This is a pretty grim outcome, and hardly superversive, but if you push your biosphere too far, the biosphere will push back.

Redemption in a Playground

photo prompt liz

© Liz Young

I used to be like this junk. Drinking, smoking, a broken plastic person. A terrible father. A worse husband. Disreputable, divorced, self-destructive. But that’s before they were born. My grandchildren. They made me believe in myself because they believe in me. Now the man I was is just like this stuff, discarded. I’m sitting on this hill watching them frolic on the playground in the park below.

“C’mon down and play with us,” Johnny shouts.

“Yeah, Grandpa. Push me on the swing,” Cindy adds.

I stand up and walk toward my redemption.

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioners challenge. Based on the photo prompt above, you’re supposed to write a complete story of no more than 100 words. Mine came in at 93.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

A Sky Filled With Hope

israel from space

Photo credit: NASA/Barry Wilmore – Israel from space

Each of the 1,038 nanosatellites that launched from the Satish Dhawan space port in India was hardly larger than a milk carton, but these small, inexpensive spacecraft, originally designed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, were the hope of mankind.

Avi Salomon and Havah Tobias stood in Mission Control and watched the monitors as the nanosats reached their initial orbits. The “father” of the project, Professor Dan Blumberg, received a remote feed at Ben-Gurion in Beer-Sheva.

“It’s looking very good, Professor.” Tobias spoke into her microphone. “I think we will be successful.”

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Angel’s Eve

© Sunayana | MoiPensieve.com

© Sunayana | MoiPensieve.com

They rode through the city on their scooters on Angel’s Eve just before midnight. They rode through the avenues just as their parents and grandparents had before them.

The streets were filled with celebrants and anticipation. They could only hope that this would be the year she would return.

The clan Dunnmerry rode the lanes, waved at the crowds, and shouted “Happy Angel’s Eve.” The people in the crowds waved back with the greeting, “May she return to bless us.”

The brightly lit banners, all white and feathered, adorned every boulevard and byway. Just a few minutes left. The Dunnmerry riders arrived in the square. They got off their scooters and looked up expectantly.

Midnight came but not the Angel. They would have to wait another year and hope she would return to free them from the occupiers. The lights went off and a voice crackled out of loudspeakers all over the city.

“Return to your homes. Maintain order. Work begins in the mines promptly at 6 a.m. by order of the Commandant.”

Written in response to FFfAW Challenge-February 14, 2017. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story, based on the photo prompt above, between 100 and 175 words, with 150 being the ideal target. My story comes in at 173 words.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

World Under Glass

biosphere 2

© Sascha Darlington

The history of Biosphere 2, supposedly the world’s first self-contained biosphere, was always surrounded by scandal. The first mission couldn’t scrub the CO2 out of the air and illicitly vented it. The second ended with a horrific battle in upper-management. Biosphere 2 entered the 21st century under the guidance of Columbia University, using it for climate change research. The project had been sold to new owners, owners with the correct vision, ethics, and science. Now they declared that after five years of exquisitely correct execution, they had created permanently self-sustaining environments.

Tourism at the Oracle, Arizona site was booming as the Luna and Ares domes were being prepared to be removed and taken by wide-load flatbeds to the Virgin Galactic launch site near Mammoth. Then they were to be mounted on massive Helena V rocket boosters. The Moon’s first colony dome will arrive within days, with its human and animal population arriving the following year. The Mars colony dome will become fully operational five years later.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Biosphere 2 project, and was disappointed by the continued failures and scandals that followed it in the 1990s. It looks like the technology has improved drastically since then, but I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to create a 100% self-contained sustainable artificial biosphere. If we could and if that environment could produce everything it needed to support a population with no external inputs for an indefinite future, then colonizing the Moon and Mars would only be the beginning of a new era of human space exploration.

I wrote this story for the Sunday Photo Fiction – February 12th 2017 challenge. The goal is to use the photo prompt above to create a flash fiction story of no more than 200 words. Mine comes in at a mere 166.

To read more stories based on this prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Huastec

Av 5, Mexico City

© Google maps

Humberto waited until the rest of the workers knocked off for lunch. Then he went back to the part of the lot they were working on where he had found it. His mother was Aztec and named him Xochipilli after the god of feasting. His father forbade the ancient ways, so over the years, he met with other Aztecs in secret.

Mama taught him about their history and gods, which is how he recognized the stone figure of Huastec, the life-death idol concealed in the rubble. Who knows how many centuries it had been buried? He wrapped the figure in a small tarp and hid it in his truck. Huastec was a sign, a sign of the return of the rule of the Aztecs. Tonight, Xochipilli would meet with the others and plan. They would rise up. The first human sacrifice in centuries would take place next month.

huastec

Huastec – Brooklyn Museum / Creative Commons-BY

Written for the What Pegman Saw weekly photo writing prompt based on a view from Google Maps. The challenge is to use the image to write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. My story is 148. I did a 360 degree turn on Google maps and came up with a different view. I looked up the history of Mexico City and it has a significant Aztec presence. Then I looked up Aztec history and wrote my tale. I’m including a photo of Huastec for reference.

To read other stories inspired the what pegman saw, go to InLinkz.com.

The Mysterious Mummy

mummy

Stephen Voss – Smithsonian Magazine

The Tenth Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series

Landon had been bored and sleepy until the plane began its final descent toward Cairo International Airport. Then his face was glued to the window taking in every detail of a city that was over a thousand years old. Grandpa was sitting next to him, enjoying his eight-year-old grandson’s enthusiasm.

They had planned this vacation for months, ever since Grandpa read Landon the “Goosebumps” book Return of the Mummy by R.L. Stine. Grandpa actually had a friend in Egypt named Issa Salib who was an archaeologist, a person who studies history by digging at ancient sites like the pyramids, examining what they find…

…like mummies.

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