Science Fiction?

And remember, shoppers, wearing masks helps everyone.

Kate hardly heard the announcement as she squatted on the fissured floor. It had played five minutes before; five minutes before that; five minutes before that; five years before that.

Don’t forget to stock up on hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.

Her breath fogged her vision; cleared; fogged. She remembered when panic first hit; when people rushed to stores for cleaners, supplies, and even frozen pizza. Crazy to think, half a decade later, of running out of sanitizer. Everyone brewed his own, fumigating what remained of the landscape.

Are you immunocompromised?

“Then you’re dead,” Kate mumbled into her mask.

Try our grocery pickup: FoodCorp prides itself on offering grocery pickup, right outside the store!

“But not delivery,” Kate sighed. Too bad, really, about delivery. It’d been nice while it lasted. Groceries, radios, cars, the mail -all of it, brought right to where you lived by someone who didn’t take it for himself. Or, someone who didn’t get killed by raiders.

Associates: it’s the top of the hour.

Kate stiffened. More time had passed than she’d realized. Throwing caution to the winds, she lay on the grubby floor and scrabbled underneath the shelving.

Please ensure your areas are neat and tidy for our customers.

Her glasses scraped and scratched. Straining, she felt an edge of curved, sealed metal. It spun at her fingertips but moved closer. She grunted; pushed; spun; strained; shoved. A dust-grimed can of chili rolled in front of her floor-laid face.

Thank you for shopping at FoodCorp!

“Thank you,” she muttered, coughing into the fabric across her mouth. She clutched the can to herself, raised herself, glanced around herself. Shoppers’ shadows walked across her memory as she retraced her steps down the empty, broken aisle. Had it really only been a few years since sunlight? Shining linoleum? Aproned workers sweeping? Smiling customers that moved their shopping carts aside to let yours through?

Please, come again.

Kate shoved a molding display shelf against the wall and climbed. After peeking beneath it, she lifted the ragged Welcome to FoodCorp! banner and crawled though a hole in the brickwork.

Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash

©2020 Chel Owens

Anarchists and Aliens

Despite overwhelming evidence of humanity’s intelligence and observational abilities, Dr. Straussnüd’s research covering the period shortly before the collapse of civilisation appeared to lead to one conclusion: that people failed to utilise said abilities in order to avert subjugation and demise.

For, for what other reason did the records he had unearthed bear markings of carefree ignorance on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?

When a literal invasion of alien species flashed its conscience-altering devices, they had not followed admonitions. Why? Once informed, audio records proved their leaders to have yelled, “Shield your faces!”

Straussnüd frowned. He required further study.

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Photo by Miriam Espacio on Pexels.com

I’m not sure where this came from, but it’s in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

April 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that declares, shield your face. It can be a knight of old, a doctor, or a senior citizen. What is the circumstance? Who makes the declaration? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 14, 2020. Use the comment section …to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens

The Terror in the Suburbs, THREE

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Better late than never (I hope!), this story moved from Joanne the Geek’s Part I to H.R.R. Gorman’s Part II. Both are included, then continued, below:

ONE (Joanne’s Part)

One sunny afternoon Jennifer was happily walking along the footpath only to find a crowd of people suddenly run past her in abject terror. Mystified, she managed to stop one of them. They were pale and seemed terrified.

“What’s happened?” she asked him.

“This portal opened up and these creatures from another world appeared. They were huge with long tentacles and large legs like leathery tree stumps.” he exclaimed. Jennifer let him go, and he ran off in terror following the others.

“Right.” she said. Someone had to do something about this, she thought. She strode off home. She went into her bedroom closet and fished out her old battered cricket bat. “I’m going to hit those freaks for six!” She stomped out of the house.

Jennifer walked down the road until she could see a glimmering portal that pulsed with a bright light. Before it were either two or three creatures that were as tall as small office blocks. They had dark leathery skin, massive tree stump legs (as already mentioned), long protruding arms, and their heads were a mass of long writhing tentacles. Jennifer watched them, and instead of feeling scared, she felt angry. She walked towards them until she was sure she had gained their attention.

“Look I don’t know where you freaks are from, but I’m not letting monsters like you take over our world. We’re already have enough monsters here to deal with.” she told them while thinking of the current assortment of world leaders. “So be warned. I have my cricket bat!” She held her cricket bat aloft in front of them. The monsters stopped in their tracks, as if unsure with what they were dealing with.

Ge dthrth dltyz fkywfhg sdhtu!” the one closest to Jennifer said. As it spoke, from what Jennifer assumed was it’s mouth, the ground shook around them.

“Nope. Didn’t catch a word of that! Go back through your portal now, or I will take drastic steps!” she warned them. The ground shook around her again, as they all seemed to be laughing at her now. “Well I did warn you!” She gripped the handle of her bat with both hands and began running at them. As she ran the cricket bat began to glow…

TWO (H.R.R. Gorman’s Part)

The earth, which had shaken as the monster spoke, began to crack beneath her feet. Roots split and shivered as something beneath the ground pushed itself up.

Jennifer rolled to the side and held her cricket bat at the ready. The bat glowed even brighter now and tingled in her grip.

Once the earth had sufficiently broken up and the thing beneath the surface was visible, the monster pointed at it. Its tentacles writhed in a flurry as it said, “Ue kthgyn wysdht dhutyk!

Up from the earth rose a transparent sphere glowing a faint blue. Two humanoid figures stood inside the bubble, and one flicked his fingers to cause the bubble to dissipate. The man, robed in a smooth, blue cloth and a rosy sash, raised a slim hand against the monsters. The hand glowed brightly.

Wkusdth grnsthyk pyblsdth, shtrydk sythyd,” the monster said, somewhat morose and pleading. Some of the creepy eyes on the ends of tentacles looked to Jennifer as if begging. The monsters retreated into the portal once more, and the fantastical apparition disappeared.

A thin woman, her ears long and pointed like the man’s, stepped from the bubble she’s appeared in and put her hands in a prayerful position. She bowed to Jennifer, smiled, and said, “Chosen one, we have protected you now, for you will soon do much to save us from those creatures.”

The man stepped off after her and licked his lips. Though he possessed an otherworldly beauty, Jennifer noticed his teeth were all small and sharp. Or was she just imagining things?

“And just who do you think you are?” Jennifer asked. She still held up her bat, noticing it retained its glow…

THREE (Chelsea Owens’ Part)

In fact, the bat glowed the same faint blue as the slender beings’ orb. Jennifer wondered, briefly, at the connection between her beloved bat, the tentacled invaders, and these new, Vulcan-like humanoids.

“There won’t be a need for that,” the male’s voice said from a much closer position.

Her heart jumped and she looked up. His odd teeth appeared sharper and more menacing from less than a meter away. Of course, the menacing part might have been his hungry mien and continued advancement toward her.

Jennifer stepped back, once. She raised the pulsing bat. “Rack off, ya Smurf!” She swung at his face like an American gangster. *Thwack!*

The being stopped, shocked. A bat-shaped indent took up the entire side of his head.

“Chosen One?” the female asked. Jennifer heard the surprise in her voice. “What do you do?”

Jennifer glared, raising her only weapon again. “I’m not going to let you EAT ME!” she yelled.

A rippling sound of smothered grinding came from the female. It may have been laughter. “But, Chosen One,” she began, “Intraoral adherence is vital to defeating our enemies. It’s just one bite… ”

 

~~~~~

Don’t kill me, but I nominate Ruth to have fun continuing this story.

 

©2020 Joanne Fisher, H.R.R. Gorman, and Chelsea Owens

The Distant Future?

Sar hadn’t asked for the label. Yet it read the words, printed as real as antique monitor messages, across the eyes of its odious foreperson, Grug: Safebreaker’s Daughter.

Safebreaker?

Daughter?

Sar was neither. It knew that its donors had worked as Chief Containment Coders, and it was as sex neutral as the suncycle it’d slid from Birthing to Intubating.

Still, Sar would do Grug’s dirty work. The barely-above-cyborg-level-of-computing foreperson forgot one imperative fact: that Sar, like all others of its training, always ran monitoring equipment.

It wondered what excuses Grug would blubber to the High Council later. Sar smiled.

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Seen in future times for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week: the safebreaker’s daughter. Join in!

August 29, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 3, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit:
Image by Jonny Lindner from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Old World Customs

Zrolt bent in half; crinkled his tentacles. Although he lacked the same appendages as the assembled dignitaries, he hoped his efforts at imitating formal gestures passed.

A bright figure, resplendent in the same hue that graced Zrolt’s planet’s bog pits, crinkled its breathing orifice in response. Zrolt’s translator told him this meant pleasure. Or amusement. Or, in 14% of cases, djr,osk.

He hoped it did not indicate djr,osk.

The bright figure spoke, moving more of its appendages as it did. Zrolt ingested a gland, a sure sign of boredom. Why did these sort of functions always entail old world customs?

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In response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt to write a story about old world charm.

August 22, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm. It can be nostalgic or irreverent. You can invent an “old world,” return to migrant roots or recall ancient times. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by August 27, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit: Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Smells Like Reanimated Spirits

You’re at a burial, dressed in shoes you didn’t have time to polish or lace up correctly. It’s a grey sort of day, overcast with rain coming soon. They’re lowering the casket into the ground and all you can do is stare at the stubborn knot in your shoelaces.

Someone lights up a cigarette after the service is over and you move away to avoid the smoke. Your heels slip into the soft ground and you get mud on the hemline of your clothes. You stop to catch your breath after a long day and close your eyes. You smell rain in the air.

There’s a piano you can hear in the nearby chapel playing a soft tune. You think they’re playing “Amazing Grace” and then it changes. A sudden thought strikes you: “I must get back into the car before the last note. Once the last note plays, it’ll start raining.”

You’re heading back to the car when you see a man standing at the fence. He’s dressed in overhauls and a flannel shirt, looking directly at you. You glance away but are drawn back by the man’s intense stare. He’s holding something in his hand. A letter? A book? You can’t tell. You feel you must find out, before the last piano note…

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Dodging headstones and mushy half-buried plots alike, you walk to the fence. And the man. Conveniently, they are both in the same direction. As you walk, you wonder at the prevalence of recently-turned earth. Just how many people have died lately?

The eerie piano playing from the chapel plays background beat to your even tread. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” will do that to a person, even if it’s a piano cover version and therefore lacks that awesome bass guitar.

Your attention draws back to the overall man who is fascinated with staring. Some people clearly need a hobby, especially since there are a lot more interesting things to stare at than a muddy-hemmed, sneaker-clad burial-crasher like you. You get closer and closer, noting his lack of blinking; his lack of attention on a bird that poops on his shoulder or on a passing dog that relieves itself on his trouser leg.

Just before you call out to him, his image blips and reloads. He is a clean, staring man again, proferring a flat object that is meant to look like a book. Thunder rumbles nearby, and he finally glances to the grey and heavy clouds. His gaze returns to you, who have stopped just before the projection of him.

“244224,” he says, monotone. “42,” he adds. Then, “2442.” He beeps.

You roll your humanoid eyes, reminded of how your familial assigners could not be happy with a short sequence like all the others. “Yes?”

“Precipitation imminent. Nirvana ending. Accept reanimation.” *Beep*

Your eyebrows raise. “Reanimation??”

“Affirmative.” He pauses, then remembers to *Beep!*

You look back and around at all the mounds of dirt, and swallow. It’s not easy considering the difficulties the body emulators had in transferring your normal shape to a humanoid form, but you manage. The sky growls again. A spot of earth near you seems to as well, but perhaps it’s the simulated imagination you’re equipped with.

Whipping back around to the hologram, you place your right forearm directly over the outstretched object in its hand image. The flat object glares a red light of warning. You realign. Still red. The growling from below ground is definitely not just your imagination now and you grit your teeth in frustration.

“Please align to shape,” the ‘man’ intones.

You try again and get the angry light again.

“Please align to shape,” he repeats.

Just as a very visible hand claws through the mud to your side and just as the final lingering notes of the piano are played, the tablet magically accepts your forearm’s outline and turns blue. “Code accepted.”

Your humanoid form releases a sigh of relief just before dematerializing. Your normal self, meanwhile, has a final, comforting thought. I am so glad that finally activated. Earth’s a real downer during a zombie apocalypse.

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From the story prompt beginning shared by the highly-imaginative, amazing, wonderful, and fantastic Peregrine Arc.

You can play, too! The submission window closes on April 12.

 

Photo Credits:
Daniel Jensen
Wendy Scofield

Crescent Illusions

“Hey! Wait up!” Pal gasped out the request, to no avail. The strange boy turned the edge beyond his view, taking all sight and sound of his movement with his retreating form. Pal leaned over his knees in crouched, deep-breathing pain from the chase. His heavy gasps echoed inside his helmet.

He’d need to keep going, he knew. He only had a few tics until -too late. Before his ground-pointed eyes, everything shifted and morphed. If his headgear were not equipped with anti-vertigo software, Pal would have retched at the twisting, swarming, mixing colors and land forms. He had no idea how the boy he pursued, apparently unencumbered by gear, could continue on through these conditions. How the boy could move so quickly. How the boy even existed, really.

Pal looked up from the sky beneath his feet, noted the re-orientation of his surroundings, and promptly crashed to the surface above him. “Eurgh,” he groaned, feeling the sluggishness and some of the bruising while his suit’s systems kicked in. He rose as it mended; scouted around.

Before this last shift he had been skidding around contoured shapes that rose from sand-like material. The ambient light had been annoyingly bright, yet also a pleasant shade of pink. Now, Pal noted, he seemed to be in a city. This city was unlike any he’d been in before, but not unlike images he’d studied at elementary training. “These are buildings,” his memory heard an artificial instructor note. “Homo sapiens sapiens inhabited and busied itself within these structures.”

Keeping his feet moving forward, Pal tilted his head back. The buildings reached beyond his sight. What a miserable, backwards way to exist. He supposed all species must start somewhere, but could never understand why his ancestors’ timeline progressed from perfection to disaster. Why had his progenitors constantly sought what was worse?

He heard a sound and snapped to attention. A face with large, crescent eyes peered at him from around a building just ahead. The boy.

Pal sprinted without thought toward his quarry. The boy rushed from hiding and pulled ahead, as he had since Pal first materialized and saw him. Both ran down the middle space between the tall, tall structures to either side. The ground felt soft, appeared white. Pal could see his footfalls leaving imprints in the material, though the boy’s odd tread did not. The dark shapes to either side seemed to melt away from them as they passed; no, they were melting away. Pal glanced right and left as he ran, witnessing the anomaly.

He wondered, yet again, what this destination really was. Clearly, it was not merely a physical location. No location they’d researched had behaved as this place did; morphing, moving, and melting like a living optical illusion.

Pal knew he was nearly at the end of his exploratory tic and would dissolve back to Central soon. He set his jaw, determined to gather more information before that happened. Since the ever-changing location proved intangible for collection purposes, Pal sought to catch the one constant he had encountered: the boy.

His suit worked overtime to compensate for energy and nitrogen loss. At his current rate, he would exhaust both and need to rest as he had before. And before that. And, before that. Surely, this time, he could draw near enough to catch the boy. Surely, he could get answers to return with.

The atmosphere darkened. A sound similar to a loud clap came from ahead, from the boy. To Pal’s surprise, the sky in front of them both molded into a dark sphere upon the dark of the air. Totally black at first; an outline of winking light grew to shine from the base and sides of the sphere.

As they drew nearer, Pal felt himself drawn to the new anomaly. Literally. The sensation felt like the projection arm of a spacecraft. He fought a natural panic, but explorer training calmed his initial reactions. “Always act decisively within your means,” another memory of an artificial instructor intoned. Pal ran on.

His wrist beeped a warning: a mere moment till dissolvement.

He strove to move more quickly but his speed was no longer his own. The boy and he were being pulled inexorably toward the eclipsed horizon. The buildings melted faster. Pal’s treads in the groundstuff deepened and blurred. His visuals clouded somewhat at the edges as he tried to keep the boy in sight.

Another beep sounded, then another. It was time.

Just as Pal’s body began to piece to data for dissolving, he saw the most unusual illusion of them all: an inverted flip of boy, buildings, sphere, and sky. Where once he knew the dark outlines of running youth and landscape; Pal saw the whitespace image of a gaping, grinning face. A face that swallowed the boy. A face that looked at him.

 


Written in response to D. Wallace Peach‘s extremely popular prompt. She just might get all 300 daily responses posted before she decides that April would be a good time for a vacation…

Bio-Enrichment

“Whatcha got in your lunch, Bi890?”

“Nothin.'”

“C’mon. got plain ol’ Wondermeat again. You can’t have anything worse than that.”

…*Sigh*

“Hey, humanoids! What’s for lunch?!”

Greets, Bi880. I’ve got Wondermeat again.”

“Too mortal, Bi896! My parental unit sent me One Smart Cookie!”

No way!

“So future!”

know. Pretty spaced, yeah? …So, whatch you got, 890?”

“He won’t say.”

“Why not?”

“I just don’ wanna.”

“We won’ tell.”

“Sures. C’mon, ‘noid.”

*Sigh* “Homemade chicken noodle soup again.”

“What?! No way!”

“What is that stuff?”

*Sigh*

“It’s okay, 890.”

“Yeah, ‘noid. -not all parental units know what’s good for ya.”

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A futuristic conversation about enrichment bio-engineered for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt:

January 10, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the idea of enrichment. Use many of its different manifestations or explore reasons why it matters to the character. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 15, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit:
Sara Dubler

Skinwalkers, XLVIII

Perhaps it was the archaic thumbs-up gesture of Pul that confused Nathan. Perhaps he was, quite reasonably, diverted by the auburn-headed receptionist in passing her office space on his way out. Perhaps the waiting presence of Rex‘s barely-functioning Transport outside surprised him.

Most likely, all three distractions combined with his current mental load to lead to his lack of judgement.

Nathan stepped down the impressive staircase of Carapace, took a sharp turn to walk away from Rex’s attentions, walked down the citypath in an inattentive rush, and hurried right across a busy trafficsection.

He had a half-jiff to regret his short list of life accomplishments before a food transport permanently ended it.

THE END

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XLVII.

Skinwalkers, XLVII

Only a half-tick or so passed during Nathan’s second time in the dimly-red room, but his senses felt more heightened than before. He’d simply ignored Caill after securing Quý’s loyalty the first time. Now, however, he felt obligated to keep Caill’s actions in his sight. He also knew he needed Pul as witness. Accordingly, Nathan voiced an occasional question to one or both, or ensured he wandered nearer to Caill than necessary.

It was a long half-tick.

Once he saw six complete samples packaged and delivered via their automated bays, Nathan felt relieved enough to sigh -though only inwardly. The sly Caill was not the sort of prowling beast one ever let his guard down around. She made him nervous enough to sweat right out of his rented skin.

He smiled, knowing he literally could not sweat. Though exorbitant, the endoscopic sympathectomy he’d endured last planetcycle had literally saved his skin.

Caill appeared just as fortunate. Perhaps. Nathan knew her smooth mask was not wholly natural; it couldn’t be. He had not, however, been able to examine it closely. Anytime he drew close to her, a creeping sensation tickled at the danger centers of his mind. Something there was not right. As he and Pul exited just behind Caill and once again made their way to the landing of the lift; Nathan recalled, at their very first interview, a recoiling gesture Caill made at his mention of absolute biodermal fusion.

Curiouser and Curiouser, he thought; a phrase his grandfather had been fond of saying.

“Excellent work, Nathan Reed,” Pul praised, stopping outside the transparent doors. He pulled one open and held it for Nathan. Nathan exited. As he followed suit, Pul laughed. “Though, you already told everyone that.”

Nathan gave the man a slow, acknowledging nod and a somewhat smug lift to the left side of his mouth.

Pul smiled sincerely and exhaled in a happy manner. He reached forward with his comm and activated the fern-covered panel. *Ding* sang the lift and the wall slid open to reveal its empty interior. “You will be messaged,” said Pul, in dismissal.

Nathan strode forward and then turned back to face Pul. To his surprise, Pul gestured a thumbs-up just before the doors closed.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XLVI.
Read to Skinwalkers, XLVIII.