© Sue Vincent
Eleven-year-old Keel watched his thirteen-year-old sister Alina from behind as she trudged down the alleyway. "C'mon. Don't wanna b late," she signaled.
The thin, waif-like boy, walking through January’s half-frozen muddy puddles in dirty, sandaled feet, dressed in over-sized khaki shorts with hems down to his shins, and a ratty green sweater made from an old Army blanket, heard her synthesized voice and simultaneously saw the text on his head’s up.
"Geek off. We've got time," was his caustic reply. He had slowed so he could look at Gemmi’s tagging, he was pretty sure it was her work, freshly painted on the old bricks. He was oblivious to the cold breeze from behind, blowing his matted, tortilla-colored hair with violet tips (all that was left of last November’s dye job) into his eyes.
"This is more important than your hotties for Gemmi." She impatiently grabbed his wrist, causing him to regard his sib for the first time that morning. She covered the holes in her thin, coffee-stained white tank top with a black leather vest, the one she ripped off from the dying multiplex in the burbs last month. There were just as many holes in her black yoga pants (she liked retro), and if he’d listen to her actual voice instead of what came through the interface, he’d have heard the faint, metallic click as numerous piercings colliding in her mouth when she spoke.
Screenshot from Facebook
I’m currently creating a story for an open submissions at Zombie Pirate Publishing called “Full Metal Horror 2,” a sequel to last year’s anthology, which by the way is doing fabulously, both in seller’s rank and reviews at Amazon.
Anyway, I’m creating the tale more or less from scratch (it is very, very loosely based on a very brief tale I developed here not too long ago) and thus, I had to do a fair amount of research (and it’s not over yet).
The story morphed in my imagination as I thought of the “practicality” or the original concept, and it’s become a sort of a “Silent Running” / “Alien” / “The Martian” / “Passengers” meets The Donner Party / “Lord of the Flies” / Jeffrey Dahmer / Fagin … well, kind of.
I spent the better part of last Sunday designing an interstellar spaceship including its habitats, command core, ancillary spacecraft, even firearms and robots (still need to fine tune a bunch of things), plus looking up famous serial killers and cannibals.
Sounds pretty lurid.
Exterior shot of the Suyash Cybercafe in Mumbai, India
Twenty-seven-year-old Alicia Vasquez rapidly manipulated the keyboard in front of her at the cybercafé in Mumbai, not far from Mahim Bay. She’d left Ranbir at a local cinema watching that superhero movie while she arranged for the two of them to join the next Chadar Trek. The fellow who’d died of a heart attack a week ago in Ladakh had put off most of the tourists, at least temporarily, so she was able to get a discount.
However, that man, wasn’t just a man, he was resistance, like her, and his death wasn’t accidental. Alicia would use Ranbir as a pawn, planting an electronic signature on him indicating he was the agent, not her. If the ancient alien machine hidden in the Tibb Cave detected the sign and attacked, she’d have time to plant the detonator, ending the ancient alien invader’s resurrection forever. Long live the human resistance.
I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.
Today, the Pegman takes us to Mumbai, India. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, has such a long and rich history, there are many stories that could be told. I looked up news items for Mumbai and came up with Dead trekker’s family urges caution from “The Times of India.” Apparently, a 35-year-old man participating in the Chadar Trek, a ten-day hike across a frozen river bed at extreme altitudes with temperatures reaching -35 degrees F, and with hazards such as oxygen deprivation, perished of a heart attack near Tibb Cave.
With no disrespect to him or his grieving family, I used this as the jumping off point for my wee tale of the potential revival of an ancient alien threat and the long-lived human resistance attempting to eradicate the last strongholds of the extraterrestrial machines.
Find out more about the trek at MountainIQ.com.
Oh, I used the Suyash Cyber Cafe as the scene for my story.
To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.
By the way, now that my first two short stories have been accepted for publication, I’ll probably have less time for many of these online challenges, as I’m redoubling my effort in creating tales to submit to anthologies and periodicals. I’ll still be around from time to time, though.
Promotional image for Zombie Pirate Publishing’s “World War Four” anthology
Remember a few days ago when I announced that one of my short stories was going to be published in Zombie Pirate Publishing’s anthology World War Four? The accompanying graphic stated that there would be a “Special Guest” author’s work included in the project.
Late yesterday (in my time zone), Adam and Sam at ZPP posted a brief video on Facebook (it should play in a new window or tab when you click the link, even if you aren’t logged into Facebook) announcing the author.
Promotional image for Zombie Pirate Publishing’s “World War Four” anthology
Fantastic news. On the heels of receiving an email saying that my first story was accepted for an anthology on Sunday morning, yesterday, I received the following:
Thanks for contributing to WORLD WAR FOUR. When we started Zombie Pirate Publishing in 2017, we could not have guessed at the enthusiastic support we would get from writers around the world. WORLD WAR FOUR received more than forty submissions. We thank you for your contribution.
We really enjoyed your submission Joey and would like to inform you it will be included in the publication released March 1st. Congratulations!
Yes, Adam Bennett and Sam M. Phillips at Zombie Pirate Publishing accepted my short story “Joey” for their World War Four (yes, you read that right) anthology, due to be published March 1, 2019.
Post apocalyptic art by Albert Goodwin, 1903 – a work in the public domain
Gray-haired, burnt-skinned Santos had forgotten the number of times he had appealed to the Glow for an end to his journey through the hell lands. He couldn’t fool himself with the placebo anymore, and so as he put out the campfire and slipped on his rucksack, the dull pain in his right knee became his rough companion with each step, thanks to the oblique scar left by the direwolf last Fall.
The old woman he encountered in one of the shelters reclaimed from a flatlands hell crater had tried to minister to him, but the scar tissue had already formed, and her potions were far too weak to repair damaged cartilage. Being maimed didn’t bother him as much as the fact that having to leave her alone again, she died two days hence, probably by the same pack that had struck at him, as evidenced by the sign of the carrion birds circling above her hut.
But heartstrings weren’t something he could afford. She had refused to go with him when he asked. The reluctant ranger told her the plague to the East was spreading by rats and sand hares, had consumed his community, and that the only safety was his destination, the half-mythical city beyond the western foothills. But she said she’d made her peace with the high desert and the hell lands. Her husband and five sons had died during the first disaster, and being of prairie stock, she chose to stay, to tend their graves, living off of a meager garden, wearing sackcloth and ashes.
She never said her name or how long she’d been alone, but he kept seeing her face, cut and grooved with wrinkles like a river delta as step by step, limping, praying to the Glow with each gasp of pain, he kept walking.
“I can’t do it, Erickson. I’m no killer.” Rafael Isaiah Johnson had traveled back in time 172 years to stop a global extinction event and save the human race, but the man he hoped to enlist as an ally, Austin Randolph Erickson had another idea, a murderous one.
The two men, one a Hispanic-African-American who wouldn’t be born for another 135 years was standing in the other man’s kitchen between the refrigerator and the stove, the exit to his back, while the opposing person, a white American man of Scandinavian ancestry was facing him and holding out the butt of a loaded semi-automatic Glock 20. The drawer to his left and second from the top was still pulled open.
“You’ve got to do it, Johnson. I believe you. I believe all of the holographic evidence you brought with you, that my unborn son is the key in time, the critical element in preventing the reversal of the effects of climate change. Take the gun. If I don’t exist, then he won’t be born.”
Computer monitor wallpaper
Suspended from the airlock by his thick umbilical, Astronaut Jonathan Weaver watched the ring of illumination inside the enormous hollow tube code-named “Oumuamua” move away from him toward the other end of the spinning alien habitat, creating the illusion that he was now in early evening. The forty-two year old Air Force Captain, weightless because he was positioned near the center of the tube, marveled at the view. Essentially, the interior of a massive cylinder was filled with atmosphere that included clouds, with the entire rim covered with soil and water that supported farms, forests, lakes, rivers, small mountains, and even buildings and highways. And yet in the fifteen minutes since he had gone EVA inside the object, he had detected no sign of life.
“Weaver, this is Nguyen. Any change in your readings?” Danielle Nguyen was a civilian pilot and exobiologist who had been put in command, and at thirty, was the youngest member of the hastily assembled mission. After the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii had located Oumuamua eight months ago and determined it was approaching the sun from outside the solar system, NASA, in cooperation with two private space exploration companies, had quickly adapted the Argonaut spacecraft, originally designed for a manned Mars mission, to intercept human history’s first visitor from interstellar space.
Image credit: iStock – Found at numerous sources including thepromiserevealed.com
Vanessa struggled to climb out of the Salubrious Pod, sickly yellow and greenish jelly oozing off of her smooth, dark skin. She rolled over the low rim of the tub onto the cold metallic floor of the eight-by-twelve foot featureless chamber, her nude body dimly illuminated by the few flickering light tubes in the ceiling ten feet above. She shivered as the gel evaporated, and she watched a thin mist rising overhead from her body, though some of the goo clung to her short-cropped black hair, and she blinked as one drop fell from her lashes into her left eye.
“Good morning, Captain Chapman. How are you feeling?”
They’d made Sophia’s voice feminine, but the echoes coming from multiple speakers in the ceiling still made her sound inhuman.
“Like shit, Soph.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” The AI’s reply was meant to communicate concern, but of course, as a machine, she felt nothing at all. “It is important you recover from hibernation quickly. There is a situation.”
Photo credit: Anurag Bakhshi
Kurt stood on the cliff overlooking the tiny Southern California. It was 30 miles west of Santa Barbara and it was all his.
“It looks so peaceful from up here,” he said just to hear something besides the wind. Even the gulls and squirrels were gone, having deserted this doomed land if they could or otherwise having died, just like all the people.
He rubbed his left hand over his short-cropped gray and white hair. “Well, guess I’d better get to it while I still have daylight.”
He knew the National Guard had sealed off everything between Santa Maria and Ventura north and south, and Bakersfield to the east. No one would imagine anyone would want to stay in the danger zone with them, but Kurt did. His family was down there, what was left of them, and now that he’d wired the whole place to blow, he’d exterminate the last of the infected. He wasn’t planning to escape. His wife, kids, grandkids were turned into something like zombies or vampires by the mutant virus. Only he was immune. Standing in town with his back to the ocean, he pressed the remote and the next California wildfire began.
I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge hosted by Susan. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.
I chose this theme for no particular reason other than it was what popped into my head. Although the limited word count didn’t allow for it, I set my tale in the small southern California town of Gaviota. I’m sure it doesn’t look like the image above, but I needed a location that was small and isolated.
To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.