The Price of Adventure

stop sign

© Björn Rudberg

“Sign seems a bit kloogie.”

“Maybe we should turn around, Randy.”

“Where’s the adventure in backpacking if you worry about every little sign, Marcia?”

“I’m just saying…”

“Come on. The sun will go down in an hour.” He grinned and then marched forward.

“I knew this was a bad idea,” she muttered and hurried to follow.

Then the world violently flickered around them. “What’s happening.”

“I don’t know. Maybe…”

The flickering stopped and landscape became heavily forested when it had been rocky before.

“Welcome.” There was a man calling to them from ahead. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

Written for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Friday writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 98.

I’m sure this sign is perfectly legit where ever it was taken, but it sure looks odd, especially the “leg” from my point of view in the U.S. Also, the “face” on the sign looks kind of alien. I let that rule my imagination when I crafted my wee tale.

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

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The Lyrid Event

photography

© Ted Strutz

A small group of amateur astronomers had gathered at Ted’s farm outside Garden Valley to photograph the Lyrid meteor shower that year. It was late and just about everyone had gone back to Boise, taking their cameras and telescopes with them. Only Ted’s trusty old Nixon was on its tripod still aimed at the heavens.

Ted had a dark room in the shed out back but he’d never get to develop the film. Everyone had photographed something unusual from the farm’s unique vantage point that night and they all died within a week.

Ted was next.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. Mine is 96 words.

The camera pointing up reminded me of when I took Astronomy classes at UNLV during the early to mid 1970s. Sometimes we’d go out to the desert at night to look at different stellar phenomena through telescopes and to photograph some of them.

The Lyrid meteor shower is typically observed every April and this year will be best seen in the early morning hours of April 22.

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

The Signal

full moon

Full Moon photograph taken 10-22-2010 from Madison, Alabama, USA – Found at Wikipedia

The lunar rock was about the size of a bowling ball and weighed almost eight kilos, one of the larger samples collected during the Apollo missions, but it had never been examined until now. Within weeks of it returning to Earth with the Apollo 17 crew on 19 December 1972, it had vanished from its storage area at the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility in Huston, Texas.

Federal investigators were notified when, after the death of wealthy art and antiquities collector Lawrence Rodriquez, it was discovered in a private vault located under his Boca Raton mansion. It was believed to have passed from one private party to another between the mid-1970s and 2001 when Rodriquez acquired it and locked it away with other illegally obtained artifacts. That was in 2011. Now, four years later, Leo Warner requisitioned it for study by his team.

Unfortunately in the nearly forty years since it had gone missing, it had been carelessly handled and allowed exposure to air, contaminating the surface of the specimen. However, it was still possible that the interior was preserved and to that end, a small core sample was about to be taken.

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The Chimera Problem

windmills

© Jules Paige

The first settlement on Hansen’s Planet was zealous about shifting totally from nuclear energy to renewable, sustainable, “green” energy within the first twenty-five years after arrival.

The problem was no matter what they tried, the indigenous bird-like creatures they called “Chimera” seemed just as zealous about committing mass suicide using their “green” technology.

“Various solar panel designs didn’t work because they’d fly into the concentrated light and burn or smash into the photocells, Bill.”

“Anita, I was hoping your Wind Turbine design would discourage them, but they’re flying right into them through the inhibiting air currents they generate.”

Bill Anghal was the Colony Planner and Anita Kahn was Chief Engineer, but they and the design team couldn’t develop a “Chimera-proof” power generation system.

“What are we missing, Bill?”

“I’ve got it!” They turned and saw Rolf Ingram running up. The eclectic scientist had been studying the “suicides” for months.

He arrived out of breath. “Look,” he wheezed. Deaths…not random…bodies form…patterns.”

“What?” Bill and Anita both grabbed at his iPad.

“Damn. The patterns formed by the Chimera corpses…” Anita let her voice trail off.

“Right,” Rolf leaned over her shoulder. “It’s a language. The Chimera are intelligent. They’re trying to communicate.”

I wrote this story for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of December 31st 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for writing a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

The image immediately made me think of all of those wind turbine farms, and then I thought about the problem they pose to birds and bats. I did a small amount of research looking at articles such as Will Wind Turbines Ever Be Safe For Birds? and Wind farms are hardly the bird slayers they’re made out to be—here’s why as well as Solar Farms Threaten Birds and Why Solar Power Is Good for Birds. Like it or not, there is no such thing as a 100% safe form of energy generation for the environment and wildlife.

So what happens on another planet when the first established colony settlement wants to go totally green avoiding the mistakes of people on their mother planet only to discover that a native life form insists on exterminating itself using your best efforts at sustainable power production?

The story’s conclusion was one idea I had for an answer. An intelligent alien race that couldn’t think of any other way to communicate except by how they arranged their deaths.

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

Refuge Lake

resort by a lake

© A Mixed Bag 2013

Marco felt creepy whenever he made a delivery to the resort in the Sierra Nevada’s. Scenery changed from alpines and mountains to high desert and a salty lake.

He got a bonus for doing the run every month. He never knew what he was hauling. Once he arrived, he was paid to get drunk and play with barmaids. Next morning he drove his empty rig back to L.A.

The resort and wasn’t on any map. Whenever he got close to the place, his GPS went nuts.

One night after making a delivery, he tried talking to the local girl he’d had sex with.

“Say girl, what goes on here?”

“We’re just visitors, refugees starting a new life.”

“You look more Swedish than Syrian. Who you kidding?”

“Just go to sleep and don’t worry, boyfriend.”

When she was sleeping, Marco got up and looked out toward the lake. People swimming even at this hour in a glow under the water, but they weren’t exactly people. The light got brighter, then it broke the surface and sailed up into the heavens.

Marco muttered, “Refugees, but from up there.”

He turned around. Marion was standing behind him, nictitating membranes fluttering across ichthyic eyes.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for December 3rd 2017. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

The image reminded me of a high desert lake and Mono Lake, CA is about the strangest lake I’ve ever seen. This doesn’t look like Mono Lake, but I wondered if I could somehow make this place not as it appears.

I saw that the truck to the left hand side of the frame said “Thermo-Express,” and a quick Google search turned up a trucking company from Los Angeles by that name. I doubt it’s related to the truck in the photo but I decided to use it anyway.

A salty lake with no inlet or outlet, a place that should be in the Sierra Nevada Mountains but then the terrain abruptly changes. A resort not on any map and that doesn’t register on GPS.

If alien refugees needed a safe and isolated place to settle and make a life for themselves, maybe it would be like this. They’d still need supplies from outside though, but for the right price and certain other incentives, maybe a driver could be convinced not to pay too much attention to what he was delivering.

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

Audrey of the Sewers

 

sewer

© A Mixed Bag 2014

“Hey, kid.”

Twelve-year-old Jeff Edwards was crossing the street when he heard it.

“Down here.”

He looked down at the sewer drain.

“Come a little closer.”

“What the…?”

“Wait! It’s not what you think.”

Jeff stopped. The drain was securely grated so he figured nothing could get out. Then he felt something. A little vine had wrapped around his ankle. He pulled but was stuck.

“No, stop!”

“C’mon, I haven’t had a descent meal in forever. Getting tired of rats, mice, and dead goldfish.”

“Somebody help me!”

The vine got stronger, growing sharp spines.

“Just a few toes, I promise.”

“Ka-chunk”. Jeff saw Old Man Henderson slamming his ax down on the vine cutting it in two.

“Run, boy.”

Jeff jumped to the sidewalk.

“Figured this thing’d grown back by now.” He was wearing a metal tank on his back. The sexagenarian grabbed the tank’s hose by the nozzle and sprayed liquid into the grate.

“No. Please. Crap, that hurts. Stop.”

The plant’s voice faded. Jeff looked and saw nothing green was there anymore.

“Damn plant,” cursed Henderson. “My neighbor Seymour dumped it in the sewer but the alien keeps coming back. Herbicide’ll put it down. Best run along, Jeffy.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for 12 November 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

When I saw the sewer grate, I immediately thought of the 2017 film It based on Stephen King’s novel. I’ve never seen the film and never will (mainly because I don’t find being scared to death entertaining), but I’ve seen the advertising and the image of the clown peeking out of the sewer drain in the gutter is iconic.

However, I didn’t want to just re-write the same story and seeing a bit of plant life growing out of the grate, I took a look at the 1986 version of the movie Little Shop of Horrors based on the off-Broadway play and starring Rick Moranis as florist Seymour Krelborn.

In that movie (which I’ve never seen either), Seymour used an alien plant he named Audrey II (the original Audrey is his girlfriend) to draw business to his florist shop before realizing that the plant liked to eat human flesh and blood. The film ended when Seymour electrocuted the plant which destroyed his shop. Subsequently, he and Audrey married and settled down in the suburbs. However, a smiling Audrey II bud can be seen among the flowers in the front yard in the movie’s last scene.

I decided to extend that idea, having Seymour find the bud and flush it down the toilet. Audrey II survives, but old man Henderson, having discovered the carnivorous plant and realizing what it was, keeps it in check each spring with his ax and a tank of herbicide. He’d been working in his yard when he heard Jeff scream and, knowing what happened, grabbed what he needed and put Audrey II down for another year.

I just wrote this tale for the fun of it, mixing a serious horror movie with a horror-comedy musical.

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

Epilogue: Key Out of Time

key out of time

Cover to one of the paperback editions of Norton’s 1963 novel “Key Out of Time”.

Circa 1333 BCE – Egypt

“So you’re the legendary Sennedjem, called the Overseer of Tutors, Father of the God, Beloved of the God, and Fan-bearer of the Right Hand of the King. Such illustrious titles for a glorified teacher.”

“And you Ross Murdock, can only see and hear me because who I was, the legend and the man, was recorded in an alien artifact over 3300 years before you were born. Thanks to an extensive telepathic session with similar but dissimilar aliens, you are able to interpret that recording through means even a man of your experiences would find astounding.”

The 21st century time traveler and former professional thief didn’t seem to find it strange that he was standing on a balcony in a palace overlooking an ancient Egyptian city, and yet the city was not a ruin, but a living, breathing community of men and women, from the very young to the very old. He was dressed as he expected to dress when not on assignment, yet the man called Sennedjem was attired as an 18th Dynasty Egyptian.

“You brought me here to tell me something, Sennedjem. What? You’re an alien?”

“Hardly. I am as human as you are and we have something else in common. We both know about aliens and time travel.”

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I See You: An Alternate Ending

bridges-dickinson

Lloyd Bridges and Angie Dickinson in the 1970 made for TV movie “The Love War”.

Allan didn’t need the glasses to read and he didn’t even need them to survive, not anymore. He had written an app so that it accessed the camera on his phone, letting it perform the task of detecting his adversary automatically.

He took a seat in the back of the coffee shop where he had a clear view of everyone coming and going. He had ordered the establishment’s trademark latte more to blend in than because he liked it.

To the world around him, he looked like a middle-aged man, blond, athletic, bronzed from the sun. He could have just finished a game of tennis or golf.

In front of him was a mystery novel by a well-known author whose name was, as they say, a household word. And yet Allan couldn’t have told you any other books the writer had penned. Like the latte, it was camouflage. Even his name was misdirection and subterfuge.

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I See You

bridges1

Actor Lloyd Bridges in the 1970 television movie “The Love War”.

Allan didn’t need the glasses to read but he did need them to survive.

He took a seat in the back of the coffee shop where he had a clear view of everyone coming and going. He had ordered the establishment’s trademark latte more to blend in than because he liked it.

To the world around him, he looked like a middle-aged man, blond, athletic, bronzed from the sun. He could have just finished a game of tennis or golf.

In front of him was a mystery novel by a well-known author whose name was, as they say, a household word. And yet Allan couldn’t have told you any other books the writer had penned. Like the latte, it was camouflage. Even his name was misdirection and subterfuge.

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The Visitors

spaceship

From “The Invaders” television program (1967-68)

The strange irony was not lost on David Vincent when his car’s GPS device failed to lead him to the all-night diner off the old state highway and instead revealed a horrifying discovery.

“Damn it.” The young architect, driving through a remote area of Arizona after meeting a developer at the proposed site of a new data center, wanted to grab a cup of coffee before continuing his drive back to Los Angeles. It was after midnight and he was exhausted. Instead of a hot coffee and maybe a pastry, he found a restaurant closed for over a year. No town, not even a gas station within miles.

“I can’t make it. Got to get some rest.”

He pulled his Audi R8 off to the side of the building and after stepping out to relieve himself on a dying shrub, returned to the car’s interior and prepared for an uncomfortable nap in the front seat.

At first he thought he was dreaming. There was a shrill sound getting louder, fluctuating in tone. David opened his eyes and looked out the windshield. Off to his left, around the corner of the building. Bright, multicolored lights. He got out and hiding in the shadow of the old diner, peered around the side.

It was big, about the size of a two-story house. A short cylinder flaring out at the bottom. Three…no, four landing struts. It was setting down. There were windows in the top part of the cylinder. He could see figures moving inside. Then a light shone down one of the landing struts. Stairs. Figures were coming out. People. No, they couldn’t be.

“It began with a closed, deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy…Now, David Vincent knows that the invaders are here. That they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.”

The Invaders was an American television show that ran on ABC in 1967-68 and starred Roy Thinnes as David Vincent, a man who had witnessed the landing of an alien spacecraft and learned that their intention was to invade and take over the Earth.

The last bit of narrative above in italics is taken from the opening title sequence and was dramatic as heck to me when I was thirteen years old.

I was reminded of the show when I read a piece of fan fiction earlier this morning, so I decided to recreate that opening for 2017. Below is a YouTube video of the show’s opening sequence. To find out what happens to my version of David Vincent next, read The Hidden.