300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #20 -- VICTORY TO DENISE TANAKA!

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Ursa major

Bearly Believable
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THE CHALLENGE:


To write a story in 300 words or fewer
INSPIRED by the image provided below, in the genre of

Science Fiction, Fantasy, or other Speculative Fiction




THE RULES:

Only one entry per person

All stories Copyright 2016 by their respective authors,
who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here


This thread will be closed until JANUARY the 10th
-- as soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story

Entries must be posted no later than JANUARY the 31st 2016,
at 11:59 pm GMT



Voting will close FEBRUARY the 15th, 2015 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)

You do not have to enter a story to vote -- in fact, we encourage ALL Chronicles members
to read the stories and vote for their favourites

You may cast THREE votes


NO links, commentary or extraneous material in the posts, please -- the stories must stand on their own


PLEASE REMEMBER THIS IS A FAMILY-FRIENDLY FORUM


For a further explanation of the rules see Rules for the Writing Challenges


The inspiration image for this month is:

Mr Orange beach image.jpg

Image credit: Mr Orange
 

Rafellin

Independent Author & Publisher
Joined
Oct 29, 2013
Messages
514
Location
West Sussex, UK
Anything For a Quiet Walk

“It looks like an island, doesn’t it?”
“Well, yes. It’s an island.”
“It’s not.”
“Really? Then what is it?”
“A monster. Our forefathers told us to watch it.”
“You mean Griefsender’s Doom? That’s a fable.”
“It may be ancient, but it happened.”
“Elder Lemuel, I don’t chatter like the firekeepers. I tried it on with the warchief’s niece. Walking you is my penitence.”
“And there I was, hoping for a disciple to enlighten.”
“I’m only here for the day.”
“A single kenning, then?”
“If it gets me a quiet walk for the rest of this very long beach, yes.”
“If you see the island spewing clouds, grab that niece you like so much and run to the mirror dome on the far side of Mount Kenthualha. Don’t think; just go.”

Seventy-four years ago, an old man had that strange chat with a sullen teenager. It stuck in the boy’s mind, and he told it to a girl he sought, amongst other things. When her pregnancy was revealed, the warchief exiled them both.

It was a hard trek from the coast to the big city. But my father was born into a loving home and grew to be an engineer. He thought nothing of the tale my grandfather told until Griefsender Isle blew itself to pieces in an eruption that echoed around our world. The skies went dark, the temperature fell, and winter didn’t end.

My father led survivors to the coast in a desperate gamble: to find the ‘mirror dome’. He was sure it was a survival habitat remaining from a previous cataclysm, its purpose absorbed into legend.

Fortunately, he was right. I was the first of many that have been born under Lemuel Dome.
 

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
Supporter
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Messages
2,667
The Beach of Time – Unaired* Episode of The Twilight Zone
(*abandoned mid-production, season 2, 1960)

(Rediscovered footage of the troubled production...present on set: Rod Serling; Richard Matheson; film crew; and four costumed actors – a couple wearing tattered swimwear, a stern-looking spaceman, a fish/man mutation. The set suggests a deserted coastal beach. The swimsuit-wearing male actor emotes to the camera…)

“...end of Man.”
“CUT! Dammit, Bill, over here – NOW!”
“Certainly Rod...you noticed too? The chubby actress missing her cues?”
“Shut up, Bill. What’s your line where we stopped?”
“ ‘...here, at the ass end of Man.’ ”
“No! It’s ‘here, at the Ascent of Man!’ ”
“Hmm... ‘Ass end’ works better, Rod.”
“Shatner, stop changing my goddamned lines!”
“Richard, calm down. Bill, you’re a failing actor...we give you lines, you speak them – as written!
“Okay, but this is the ass end of dialogue.”
Matheson lunges and grabs Shatner’s throat; Serling karate chops Shatner’s spine – he crumples.
“That’s it, *cough*... I’ll be in my room drinking.”
“Back in fifteen, Shatner, or your role goes to the fishman...that Irish guy who hates trees.”
Fishman waddles forward.
“The name’s DeForest – that doesn’t mean I support clear-cutting forests! It’s a given name, not a nickname! Up yours, Serling, I quit!”
(Fishman storms – waddlingly – away, to a telephone at the production desk. A gaffer dials for him...)
“You, spaceman...Nimrod-”
“It’s Nimoy, you troll! A nimrod’s a bungling idiot – a Nimoy’s an accomplished actor who performed Shakespeare recently in Poughkeepsie.”
Serling: clap...clap...clap.
“Just read this line, Macbeth.”
“ ‘Finally, love...here, at the Ascent of Man.’ ”
“PERFECT! Wardrobe – find Nimrod a swimsuit.”
(Telephone call: “You’re my agent, get me respectable roles! No science fiction, no Shatner – ever! Dammit Tim, I’m an actor, not a fishman!”)
“Boss, Shatner’s back.”
“SERLING! My dressing room mirror’s too small – AND WHO THE HELL KEEPS HIDING MY GIRDLE?!”

(Film ends.)
 
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Juliana

Juliana Spink Mills. "No capes!"
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Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
4,793
Location
Connecticut, USA
Fish Kids


The fish kids were back.

Trapped by sheer cliffs and the oncoming tide, Jaz pulled her legs onto the small ledge and huddled against the hard stone. The cool night air trailed goose bumps down her arms and legs, and she stifled a shuddering sob.

The white forms of the water babies crawled onto the sand, fins and tail morphing into limbs when they left the water’s edge. Sharp fangs gleamed in the moonlight as blank, expressionless faces turned this way and that, scenting for blood. Her blood. The blood that had dripped and trailed all the way to the cliff face and now formed a nasty crusted smear on her leg.

Jaz pressed her knuckles hard against her mouth, willing herself not to scream, or even breath too loud. Willing the whole thing to just go away and be a nightmare and nothing else.

“Throw him to the fish,” Alec had said when they killed Big Paul. Jaz had laughed wildly as they rolled him off the rocks and let the tide carry him away. But the sea had a taste for blood, and now they were both gone, Alec and Big Paul. She was alone, and the waves were hungry.

The fish kids found her scent. The hot, pulsing, coppery scent of her blood. They gnashed their sharp teeth as they scrabbled at the cliff face with their rubbery pale skin, soft from water life, and Jess prayed to the stars above that they wouldn’t find the strength to claw their way up.

But the stars had no mercy, and the sea was a ravenous beast. The nearest fish kid began to climb.
 

J5V

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
81
Plagiarism

The beach washed up complicated emotions for Ella. She stood at the highest point of the dune, where the path cut through the grasses. Here, she’d enjoyed holidays to her grandmother’s house by the sea. Here, she'd eaten ham and home-made chutney sandwiches and cake. Here, she’d found Gran sunbathing, but not breathing.

"You’ve done a good job, Dave."

"Thanks Geoff. I aim to please! Do you have the Springer Spaniel asset handy? I’ll need a male and female, same litter."

"Yeah, in the index. I’ll make them."

The breathing sound of the waves invited her down to the beach, its grains glistening in the sun. As she picked her steps down the gentle avalanche, she saw the familiar yellow beach umbrella. "Gran!" Her strides lengthened, until she stood panting, one foot on the beach towel. "Hey!"

"You should have told me you were coming, Ella! I’d have brought a picnic. There’s a spare slice of Inspiration Cake if you want some?" Gran pointed at the cool-box under the umbrella. They hugged. "I’m nearly finished," she said, waving an untidy wad of handwritten papers. "Our secret: do you want her to arrive in a Roller, or horse-drawn carriage?"

"Horses, of course!" Ella choked on tears. This wasn’t possible.

"Geoff, we need them now! Just two more minutes, that’s all we need. Increase the gain a notch."

Two spaniels lollopped over the dunes, their ears seemingly propelling them down the slope and across the wet sand into the sea where they play-fought. Delighted, Ella followed them, chasing and being chased.

"Uh-oh, we’re getting glitches on one of them."

"Just remove it. She’ll go looking for it."

"Hettie!" she screamed, fearing the worst.

"They found the manuscripts! After we remove her hat, we have ten seconds to close the hatch and launch."
 
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Droflet

I don't teach chickens how to dance.
Joined
Apr 15, 2010
Messages
3,024
Location
Australia
Hopes Last Gleaming


“We’ll be home tomorrow, my love.”

Rachael, encased in the cryogenics tube, could not respond. But they say people in commas can hear your words. Don’t they?

“Remember our honeymoon on Herron Island.” So long ago but the memory made him smile. “We used to take long walks on the beach and talk about our future. Remember?”

He stared through the Plexiglas port at the stars which gently slowed as the Armstrong broke toward Earth orbit. He sighed. Of all the worlds they had explored none would sustain life. Twenty years of lost hope.

“They’ll have found a cure for Jerrold’s Disease by now.” His voice caught in his throat. Please, God, let them find a cure. “When we get home we’ll go back to Heron Island. We swam out to the reef one night and made love in those balmy moon drenched waters. Remember?”

Jason left her to sleep. Tomorrow he would once again hold her in his arms.

Sometime the next morning a gunshot jolted Jason awake. He jumped out of bed and hastily dressed.

On the bridge officers gathered around the captain’s chair. Blood seeped from Captain Ramsey’s shattered head, the gun dropped beside his lifeless body.

“What’s going on?” Jason asked.

In twenty years of working with these men and women he had never seen their faces cast in such wretched despair. A chill settled onto his skin as he walked to his duty station.

Running a scan on the planet he switched to visual. His heart broke as the image assaulted his numbed mind. A desolate landscape devoid of movement or purpose. Like all of the worlds from their fruitless exploration, Earth too showed no signs of life.

Tears welled as Jason strode to where the gun lay on the deck and picked it up.
 
Joined
Jan 4, 2016
Messages
18
Becoming More Than Human

When he thought of it now, decades since the encounter, he didn’t see the bright sunshine and crystal clear waters. It wasn’t that he felt any kind of resentment for the AI. In fact, the thought was nostalgic—a memory of a youth gifted something extraordinary.


Instead, he saw the beach through eyes of autumn. Slightly cold and desolate, yet still beautiful in its loneliness.


But that was only how he pictured the memory as a whole; only edited throughout the years to add a little bit more longing in every piece of sand and sky. The actual memory he still remembered—staring up at Neptune through the invisible bedroom ceiling, from the stranger’s bed on Triton. Not knowing that next to him was an entity far beyond anything he’d known existed. How could he have known? No one had


When the blueness of Neptune had overtaken them, he’d pointed out that it was how he’d imagined floating in the ocean felt like, a calm peaceful blue. It was because he’d said that, he knew now, that the AI had given him the gift.


Their eyes had locked, and the human next to him ceased to be human. With a caress, the AI introduced the nanites into his brain, allowing for the connection to one of its avatars on Earth. Instantly, he was running on the bright beach, through the hot sand and off the dock into the azure waters.


Those precious nanites had lingered and multiplied. Infecting his brain with powerful connections that somehow quickly integrated into the net. That catalyst had changed his life—in ways both incredible and terrifying.


He’d never had the chance to speak with the AI. When he’d gasped back into the bed below Neptune, the stranger was gone, never to be found again.
 

Ken Zulu

"A Questing Beast"
Joined
Jan 11, 2016
Messages
5
Location
America
Claim #2773QZ-1814

In reference to our original contract with Agricom made on SOL/STNRD-11/10/30 which GUARANTEED: “Terran scale, uninhabited exo-world with clean fossil record confirmed at least five thousand local solar years prior.”

Please see attached high-gain image of exo-world 2773QZ received from Agricom Survey Team aboard Ginza company vessel GAUL-Besos on SOL/STNRD-5/23/32.

We did not request the fossil record as it was CLEARLY not necessary in disqualifying this world.

This is the third issue we’ve had with Agricom in cluster Trumpler-10. Please advise resolution strategy or we will be forced to move this issue to ICC Litigations.

Thank you for your prompt attention on this matter,

Rone Garrison-Lon,
Resource Acquisitions
Ginza Development Group. (Luna/Europa/Phobos)
 

I_Punch_Ghosts

New Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2016
Messages
1
No Home For You Here

Jasper spent the day on the beach, sitting next the smoldering wreck of his jump-ship, trying to shake off what he assumed was a concussion and find the motivation to find shelter. All of his survival training didn’t provide adequate preparation for existential dread but he was relievedthat the air was breathable. Whatever made this planet go dark had, at least, spared the atmosphere.

At mid-day, the fog on the water lifted and he saw the island. It pushed up from the still water like the spine of a great beast, its hide bristling with a thick coat of green. Jasper looked around his beach, and peered down its desolate length. The cluster of broken buildings behind him smiled jagged toothless grins, laughing at him. The island had more promise as a place to hole up. He just needed to move. Not today, though.

Jasper broke apart the rotting fence nearby and prepared a proper fire. The sun was in a freefall and he began to settle for a long night. Off in the distance, across the water he heard the first screams. It was piercing, and legion. He grabbed his sidearm. No sleep tonight, then.

Shortly after dusk, they came from the water. Their bodies were slick and black and their shape were fluid in the dim moonlight. Jasper could see impossibly long arms reaching out and clawing at the ground in a slow, measured crawl. He ran to the first crumbling building in sight. Create a choke point, he remembered, but he made due with three walls, full of holes.

They poured over and through, screaming as if in gut-wrenching agony. He was out of bullets in minutes. As the last rays of the sun blinked out, they dragged Jasper’s body into inky black water with them.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

Vegetarian Werewolf
Joined
Dec 9, 2012
Messages
6,731
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Stranger on the Shore

Marty walked by the edge of the ocean and watched the sun rise. Cool water hissed over his bare feet. His saxophone hung loose in his hand.

The beach was nearly deserted. A few gulls screeched overhead. In the distance somebody ran with a dog. A Collector tumbled by.

There were always Collectors around. Ever since they arrived there was hardly a place on Earth where you couldn’t find one. No giant starships, no flashing lights. They just showed up.

Marty blew a few notes. The sax wasn’t in the best condition and neither was his lip. Even in the old days he’d never been Bird or Coltrane, but he had a few licks left.

The Collector approached him. It was larger than most, about the size of a big horse. Dozens of ropy, grey limbs covered its translucent body. It looked as if it had swallowed a garbage can. Shells, rocks, beer cans, and cigarette butts stirred inside it like a slow kaleidoscope. The Collectors never hurt anybody, never responded to anybody. They just collected. Eventually the stuff disappeared.

Marty blasted out some bop. It didn’t sound too bad, although his fingers felt a little stiff. The Collector lashed out with one of its limbs and grabbed the saxophone. It pulled it away from him and shoved it into its body.

Marty pushed his hands into the Collector and

cinnamon and vinegar sandpaper and fur scarlet and amber acetone and roses sighs and screams

and fell back on the sand, the sax safe in his arms. The Collector rolled away.

Marty tested the instrument. It sounded fine, maybe even a little better. He understood the Collectors now. They took everything they could find, mixed it up, played with it, and created something new. They were jazzmen.
 

War.Earth

New Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
2
Call me Rad

“There aren't many places like this left on this world. Tranquil and soft.. Brae would..” Arm out stretched and as still as stone, he kept his forefinger half bent over the trigger, barely making contact with his skin.
"Complexity is where I feed, but here it is simple." He snapped his fingers and pointed towards the darkened horizon.

"My reinforcements are inbound and they will not be as appreciative of your capabilities as I am." With a quick tug to the bottom of his cold-plate, he removed his jaw framework exposing a network of wiring and metallic teeth. This allowed him to remove any unnecessary targeting hardware plugged into his battleframe.

"I thought it best to take a moment to stay and sit for a spell. Just be." He reached behind his lapel to reveal a tiny bent cigarette.

"Join me?" He asked. She didn't respond. He took a moment to light the cigarette using an exposed array of fiberweave on his neck that was severely damaged.

"Why do you chase us?" Slowly, she rose from a kneeling position. He remained oddly at ease. She was faster than him and she knew that.

"Brae Tolly. You are property of a Ms. Brae Tolly. It is time to go home 12." He took a long uninterrupted drag from his cigarette.

"I will kill Brae myself. I will return to her only as Death would come for you Rad." She flashed a sharp grin. Demonstrating no effort, she took to the sky.

"sh*t. You're the flying type." Before he could pull off another shot she became one with the night sky.

"Brae? Can you hear me?..” He plopped down on a piece of the old fence while he established a comms-link. "Think I'm gonna sit for a bit.. Just be."
 
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J D Foster

Rank amateur, utter novice, please help
Joined
Jul 1, 2015
Messages
193
Beached

Can't be that far can it? I mean, I know perspective is weird right? But I’ll bet I could swim that. Part of me knows it's folly, because they don't live here on this tiny island, they live across the sea. It's bigger, there's more vegetation, space to live and breathe, I can see all that from here. If I do manage to get there, if I survive, I'll be walking right into their world.

Stay here, my mind rages, stay here, who knows what could happen to you over there.

Sure, it's a prison here, it's hell, but at least you know what you're getting right? My hands are raw from clenching the straps, bracing against the pain of their 'procedures.' My arms are a rash of needle tracks, and the bandage at my torso seeps pink plasma. Even if the island is a close as it looks, could I hope to make it that far in my weakened state? I used to be buff, I used to be cut and mean before all this, now I'm emaciated.

The sun is high, they'll be back soon, it's now or never. Clothes off and tie my shirt into a backpack, that's the way to go. Brine prickles my wounds, fresh and old alike. It hurts at first, the cold sea bites me. Then my heart is racing, crashing as my chest breaches the swell. I can make it, I know I can.

That thin crust on the horizon. Each retreating wave sucking me closer to the Island, against me, for me, against me again. I'm bleeding sweat from every pore. My arms and chest burn as my muscles go beyond fatigue into screaming.

Against me,

Against me...

Damn sea, I know who's side you're on.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
17,882
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
THE WAY OF THE HUNT



Under a blue moon, on a turning tide – that’s when a hunt is started.

Across silvered sands, bare skinned, alert – that’s how a huntress travels.

Knife sheathed tight on hips, a bow slung over shoulders – that’s how a huntress kills.

A listening, a slipping through rocks, watching for a sheen of scales – that’s how a hunt draws close.

#

I see him first, a quick surge in the water, the smallest of splashes. I come up from my crouch, jump from rock to rock, feet sure, what I’ve been trained for since I was a child.

I reach the Mer-pool, its waters deep and still, and I dive, a clean cleave through numbing water. I follow the Knowledge by rote: knife unsheathed, head out of the water listening, body alert for movement. No need for the bow, not this close.

There! I grab. His tail pulls through my hands, muscular, thrashing, but I grip hard and haul him back. His Water-speed doesn’t match my Earth-strength. I grasp thin hips, take hold of firm, smooth flesh and tip him from the water to the rock-ledge.

His mouth opens, gasping. This is how a Merman is caught.

I raise my knife. His tail will fetch a fortune, it’ll feed us for a year. His eyes meet mine, mute and pleading.

This is what a huntress must not do: look at him. Now I know why – his eyes are human, not dead, not a creature from a book. His fear is real.

My knife falters. I cannot kill.

I roll away and he flicks into the water. A soft splash, a single dive and he’s through the rock-exit and out to sea.

I lie, looking at the skies. This, then, is how a huntress fails.
 

Inca_UK

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Messages
55
Location
Lancashire, England
That man sat on the beach and stared out across the sea at the island.

It had been over a year since he'd seen another living being. A sickness lay on the land, it was dying. The leaves had long since fallen from the trees and the grass was replaced by dust. Many times he'd almost given up, but he carried on going, carried on walking using the hunger to drive him.

But he'd reached the sea and it seemed like the road had ended. He pressed his toes into the sand and watched as the mist parted before his eyes.

Those trees in the distance had promise. It was hard to tell but they looked like they had leaves. And if they had leaves then there was life. And that was all that mattered; that he wasn't the last animal on earth.

He looked around at the barren beach, the rotting tree trunk upon which he sat and the boots full of holes which lay beside him. This was no life for anyone. He stood up. He longed to be among people again. His heavy coat dropped to the sand beside him and he began to walk forwards.

The cold of the sea stopped him in his tracks. Was he sure wanted to do this? There was no turning back once he's out there. But without hope to sustain him there was nothing and this land was increasingly void of such a thing.

The man pressed on and began to swim, after all, what did he have to lose?
 

Shyrka

Friend of Ulysses
Joined
Jan 11, 2016
Messages
814
Quality Control

The swell rolled lazily toward the shore, the rush of water on sand rising to a muted crescendo. Flecks of foam crowned the wave as it broke, boiling away to nothing as the energy waned. Turning, the retreating ocean dragged away grains of sand, the particles catching sporadically on pebbles already half-swallowed by the beach.

Nodding with satisfaction, Conrad began to rise but stopped. He canted his head to one side and squinted. Something was... off. His eyes were drawn to the rotting piles that littered the beach.

"Build up," he murmured.

Moving closer, he knelt down as another wave washed around the closest pile. He traced the particles" path once more as they were drawn back toward the gnarled pillar.

And straight through it.

Conrad sighed, reaching up to touch his ear.

"Daniels," came the reply. "What is it now?" She sounded tired.

"Particle dynamics are off. Missing collision on one of the piers."

"Well which one?" Daniels was testy. No one liked bad news.

"Coordinates are in the report," said Conrad. "But it looks like a generic issue."

"It can't be," she said. Denial. Always after anger. "You're sure?"

"Mmhmm. No build up on the landward side of the piles."

"Crap. That probably means we've hit a buffer limit. That's... that's going to cost." Daniels sounded like someone had shot her puppy. "Does it matter?"

Conrad rolled his eyes. "Sasha, it has to be perfect, remember?"

"Do you know how long it'll take to bring another cluster online? My ass is on the line if we don't make Q2. Waive it."

"Your ass? Your ass?!”, the QA daemon shouted. “Your ass isn't going to be obliterated if she decides to pull the plug!"

Silence.

"I hate you."

He smiled. “I'm submitting the report now."
 

Denise Tanaka

Denise RobargeTanaka
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
358
Location
San Jose, CA
“Looking Back”


Charred posts remained of the defensive wall. Warrior firebirds, bound in service of the faraway king, had seen to that.


The boy turned away from survivors walking the beach. He looked at their footprints leading away from what was once their home. Smoke hooded the solitary island.


“Can’t we fight?” His voice sounded small against the ocean.


The others plodded onward. Heads bowed, shoulders hunched, they carried bundled remnants of households on their backs. Pots rattled. Babies whimpered.


“I wish I was bigger.” He hoped the spirits were listening.


A golden speck twinkled in the sand. The boy hopped across footprints to reach it. As he’d hoped, a downy feather rippled barbs of pure fire. It crinkled like dry grass burning.


The boy’s heart pounded. “Mama, look!”


“Don’t fall behind.”


Legends said that if one owned a Firebird’s feather, he would become its master.


The boy picked it up. The fiery feather seared his palm. He shivered and held tight.


A bright crane launched from the island. Sunset’s colors matched its feathers. Smokey strings curled behind its broad flapping wings. Its long neck was like a soldier’s lance.


He grinned skyward. It’s working! I am the Firebird’s master!


The others screamed. “It’s coming for us! Run, hurry! Make for the cove!”


His mother rushed to his side. “You’re burnt!” She uncorked a flask and poured clean water over his fist.


The feather sizzled out. Smoke puffed between his blackened knuckles. Glory was gone; only pain remained. “No-o-o-o! I had him! We coulda won!”


His mother scooped him under one arm. She carried him at her hip while he kicked his little legs against her.


The Firebird banked against breezes curling under the cliffs. Its wings burned a crescent arc in the sky as it returned to its perch.


#
 

Ihe

Forum Revolutionary
Joined
Apr 4, 2015
Messages
1,119
Long Term Values


Oona stared at the burnt bracelet covering her forearm, moving the small, strung pieces of uneven wood back and forth with great interest.

“So?” Marak asked.

“12.598 significant divergences,” she concluded, without turning her head.

Marak sighed, lowering his axe in disappointment. He turned to the ragged fellow sobbing and pleading at their feet. “That’s above the threshold of impact. Do you know what that means?” he asked solemnly. “It means your thieving ways will not end today.”

The vagabond stopped blubbering, confused.

“It means get out.” Marak pointed to the shack door.

Oona kicked him lightly. “Go on, git.”

Astounded by his good fortune, the man stuttered praises for their infinite benevolence and hurried off.

Marak shook his head. “Unfair. We allow that filth life; yet we turn blind eyes to the plague taking most of the upright people in this village.”

“His bloodline is resilient through time. History as we know it could not be without him,” Oona said, still gazing at her wrist-abacus; counting futures.

“I know. Just wish I could’ve tried my newly bought souvenir on him. He was especially repulsive.”

“That axe of yours will taste blood soon enough,” Oona assured him.

“Good.” Marak clapped. “And now better get ready to go back—err, forward. Home awaits tonight!”

-- --

Night came. The time machine, disguised as a plain stone pillar, let Oona in.

Marak lay on the dirt, a stone’s throw away; shiny new axe wedged between shoulder blades.

“I promised, didn’t I?” Oona sang, checking her abacus—just thirteen divergences for puny Marak’s death, but essential ones, the kind that tarnish timelines and empires with bloody coups if not purged.

These soldier types never questioned her senseless excursions’ purpose. None of her last 127 companions had. Oona applauded their military discipline.
 

TitaniumTi

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2013
Messages
821
Location
NSW, Australia
Adventurer

The dinghy jiggles at its moorings, as impatient as I am. I reach for its tether, but a hand stays me.

“Please, Lea. Don’t go,” Liam says.

My hand finds his. “Come with me.”

“I can’t. My people need me.”

I sigh. “And they won’t leave.”

“How can they? The Guardian keeps them safe. Keeps us safe.” His voice cracks. He swallows. “It’s dangerous out there.”

I sigh. “Goodbye, Liam,” I say, releasing his hand.

**

I row past the wrecks. I remember the nearest one, name unknown. I remember how the sea churned with missiles from The Guardian, how the ship lurched when the first rock hit. I remember the screams as it broke up. I’ll never forget the bodies, washing onto the beach.

I wasn't born when the Odyssey went down, but I remember its sole survivor. He steadied me on his knee as he told me stories. Grandfather.

A splash startles me. I turn my head and stare at a circle of foam. Then something rises from the island. It draws an arc against the sky before it splashes down. I gasp. Guardians hold prisoners, don’t they?

I could turn back to safety. The Guardian would let me return. But I row on, burning with fury. I’d rather die.

It’s like being caught in the worst of storms, the highest surf. Funnels of spume drench the boat. I hunker down, battling to wield the oars. A rock shaves my dinghy. I throw myself to the side, righting the boat. Then all is serene. After one last look at the village, I face forward. The oars feel firm, like encouraging hands.

Past the island, on a low, dark line of land, a pinnacle points skywards. It glows like a beacon in the sunlight. I shout my delight.
 
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Dan Jones

Ooh, that's not sexy...
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La Baise de la Mer

Maud stared at the sea, eyes red raw with grief and hope. Years ago Bill used to yell at her to come back to the beach house till he was hoarse. Nowadays the sound of his voice was forgotten, and the house succumbed to the slow death of salty neglect.

She barely noticed Bill’s leaving. It was the sea she listened to, waiting for its call. It never drowned Aurora; just kidnapped her. She was certain. And she’d give her own life to return her.

One day, she heard it.

“We have her.” The merest whisper, like distant whalesong. The sea.

Maud stroked her biceps: skinny, gooseprickled, strong. Naked, she dove. Below freezing froth, below clawing riptides, beyond the dappled temptation of sunlight, downwards.

Eyes stinging, the silhouette of a small head appeared, faint, just beyond her fingertips… overwhelmed, she almost expended precious air, but she controlled her cramping diaphragm and dove until her ears ached.

My baby.

Propelled by delirious memories of that hateful day, preparing to give herself to the sea so her child might return to the surface, she reached, despite her lungs lurching and limbs burning with lactic acid. The unmistakable golden lock of a child’s hair – ethereal, innocent, plucked – wrapped itself around her outstretched hand.

Take me, she thought. I’m ready. Go home now, baby girl.

But when the child looked up there was a dark, empty abyss where Aurora’s beautiful face had once shone. A thin, reedy hand shot up and grasped her arm, tugging her down.

Maud thrashed uselessly, then screamed, inhaling brine. Her body jerked in protest, lungs splitting, muscles spasming. The empty face drew near, kissed her cold, and as darkness bubbled around her its whalesong voice sang, “we never only wanted Aurora. We wanted you, too.”
 

Phyrebrat

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The Rime of the Brackish Mariner

The wind speaks in Roquebrun.

A labyrinth pond there I once fished as a boy, where darting, infant mullet kissed a fallen mirror. Away, behind eyelashed dunes, mother languished and father malingered on a Martian beach. Ahead, a choppy fringe of mountains loomed and in between, and all around, the Mediterranean’s zephyr played and urged:

This way, not that!

And I'd move along, following the call with my sis - seven year old mule for my dinghy.

It's better over here!

Call and come, call and come, always travelling under the sun; horizon to horizon.
Late, we saw a dumpling isle; a rusting sandbar in the evening sun, and doubtless home to latin treasures. Into my boat we jumped.

Yes, Yes! Go to the island.

I paddled hard until my salty skin like leather - and bloated tongue, too - made my sister laugh for joy. Over the deeps I rowed where mullet danced no more and gliding shadows in the brack no longer looked like earthly fish.

Come! Come! This island's fun!

We leapt through patchwork shallows onto the pristine beach. No plover stippled the littoral, no ragworms cast their sandy wool, and though we looked for snakes, for once we saw none.

Over here! I'm over here.

Hot sand spread our toes as our legs madly pedalled to take us to the other side. The margins here were honey-warm and though our shoulders blistered red, bleeding freely down our legs, we followed the gambolling wind, over a spit, past a dry lake bed.

The mountains, you have to see the mountains!

Zulu reed mace hides us; our parents search but never find us.
We cannot risk to shout, I fear; they'll heed the lament that conjured us both here:

The worlds... You have to see the worlds…
 
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