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

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StilLearning

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CSI Y'ha-nthle - the beginning.

Senior agent Baker had briefed me – me, a lowly CSI tech: “You’re brilliant but, frankly, expendable. A young couple heard screams and found the body, the shack. They’re, well,” she’d grinned under her fake tan, “still gibbering.”


*

I examined the crime scene: The driftwood beach hut reeked and liquefied flesh had soaked into the sand. Sunset came, and rather than quit I went for a flashlight. I’m not doing this twice, I told myself.

I was wrong: When I returned there were footprints running into the shack, and the bones and stinking sand had been removed.

I dialled Baker. Then I looked closer the footprints…

I dropped the phone.

*

My report made Baker’s voice go shrill “Oh God, you’re not saying -”

“Innsmouth’s just upshore-“

“-trigger a war! Where’s your evidence?“

I e-mailed her the photographs.

*
Now it’s two weeks later and I’m on a boat, watching the story break on CNN with my new partner, Mr Zardock:

“The ‘Deep one’ amphibians, until recently considered mythical, have apologised for what they call a ’terrible accident’. An unpreceded joint investigation with the undersea state Y'ha-nthle….”

“Politicians here still lie I see” Zardock the fish-man signs to me. “Everyone in Y'ha-nthle knows this was a stolen weapon, for dealing with… difficult entities. Unmistakeable effects. Question is… why steal the body?”

I grunt, eyes watering. The publicity, their techno-mystic secrets at risk of exposure, it had actually bought the fish men to the (seaweed covered) table. I’ve even gotten a pay rise. A new age.

But, dammit, the guy smells.

Time to go, Zardock has a lead: A deep one found dead – half dissolved - a few miles offshore.

I start pulling on my scuba gear.
 

Azzagorn

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Arty's Destiny

Arty stared at his console; eyes stinging something rotten. An unfortunate side effect of the serum being pumped through his neck to keep him awake. He dabbed at them with the back of his sleeve


“This Alpha Three Four Five,” he said, “ reporting no movement on the beach front all systems operational. Expected launch T-minus five hours.”


“ Alpha Three Four Five copy that.” Came a disembodied voice in his ear.


The following hours were spent running system checks and running complicated simulations. The importance of this experiment to the war effort wasn’t lost on Arty. Most importantly he was getting to be the hero for once. No one appreciated the engineer or the man hours put into secret projects; maybe because they didn’t know about it, but that was beside the point.


He, Arty Smythins is going to be a hero.


Hero, it had a nice ring to it. He smiled. He couldn’t help it.


“Alpha Three Four Five launch is a go.” The voice broke his day dream, the euphoria was now replaced by apprehension dare he say it, regret. This was a one way trip. He’d forgotten that during all his hero dreams. Leaving the island had never been done. It was indeed a first, but there was no way home. Six miles was an awful long way from home.


“ Command this is Alpha Three Four Five, request permission to consider my options?” Arty managed to hold back the bile.

“ Negative mission is a go.”

“But-”

“Mission. Is. A . Go.” The radiotron clicked dead.

“Hello? Command? Jimmy? Gordy?” No one responded. The engines clicked into life. Its steam power hissing like a group of angry snakes. The the ship rumbled forward.


“One small step for man.” He said, but the radiotron stayed silent no one heard him.
 

Quokka

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The Last Choice



For years their twin spikes had stood guard. Tiny paired sentinels driven into the sand, rusting and watching.

No one knew why they had worked. It had been a local couple who had started to plant them back before people started being torn apart in the night. Others had tried to stop the couple, pulling out their work and sending them away but each time they would make their way back and begin scrounging and building again.

And then suddenly dismemberment in the night had become as expected as it was feared and somehow the sentinels had awoken to begin their watch.

Once there had been hope that their range could be expanded. That something new could be built but they soon realised the spikes could not be moved or placed elsewhere. The two lines could be extended that was all. The town would have to come to them. Local rail steel was best, sometimes other materials worked and sometimes they didn't, experimenting was always dangerous.

Hope had not lasted, there would only ever be this one short strip of sanctuary and then, for the first time last night, their makeshift town had suffered through half-seen figures and missing neighbours.

Chance alone had kept him alive through the night and so with the morning he had decided to walk down the line one last time. He did not expect to return or even that there would be anything to return to. Instead he had simply made the one decision that still belonged to him. He would die on the beach and not huddled in some dark room.

The childlike tracks and disturbed sand did not end, the breach had not been isolated, all their sentinels had failed. All their safety was gone and so tonight the demons would come again.​
 

Ursa major

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Thank God it’s Friday....




Day Four

The footprint in the sand’s smaller than mine. I’m not alone!

Not that I ever was. I’m beta-testing the latest in virtual reality. It’s really good: like a logical dream. Only two things aren’t real. While it looks and feels like Earth – even down to the gravity – two red moons in the night sky give the game away. That and the fact that I’ve seen those moons three nights running, yet the real-time clock I can access says I’ve been testing the system for fifty-eight minutes.

It isn’t as if I’ve been sitting about, or lying on the beach. Day One found me following the coast until I found my own footprints, and the welcoming caress of my hammock. Boy did I need that rest. I spent Days Two and Three investigating the interior. The place isn’t large, but the tracks wind through the forested slopes of the interior and I’ve never visited the same place twice. Other than the well-stocked base camp. I can’t believe I’ve had three breakfasts, four good lunches and three dinners in less than an hour and still don’t feel full.




Day Ten

Yet more footprints, and smaller than yesterday’s. Again. I followed these ones round the island. I must be getting fitter: it took a fraction of the time of Day One’s circumnavigation.



Day Twelve

I’ve been in the system almost two hours and no-one’s responding to my requests to leave.



Day Fifty-Seven

I can see right across the island. At this rate, I’ll be able to step across it by next week. There’s no sign of any other land, or any other soul. Speaking of which…. Why do my recent dreams have me signing the non-disclosure agreement in my own blood?

 
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The Judge

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The Song for the Seal-Kin


Sand, yellow as mimosa blossom.

I wore mimosa the first time I played here, the first night he came to me. I carry more now. Not a chaplet this time. A wreath.

I long to leave my footprints in the mimosa sand, to walk into the sea again, the Guarneri under my chin. But my limbs are palsied, my hands clawed, cancer has ravaged my chin and throat.

“Not too cold for you, Bridie?”

Another patronising carer. I swallow my pride – I’ve had practice enough – and the chair’s speech generator answers: “Take me down the jetty, then leave.”

He wheels the chair along the planks, talking about the contest, wondering why I’m not there, judging. I don’t need to be. Siobhan, my nephew’s grandchild, is ready. She’ll win. She has the gift. She also now has the Guarneri.

“Here we are, Bridie. Sure you don’t want me staying?”

“Very sure.”

“See you in an hour. Don’t touch the buttons.” His usual joke. My fingers can’t reach them.

After he’s gone, the chair plays my earliest recording, before grief darkened my performance, my violin's voice. Ethereal notes soar over the sea.

Sleek black heads appear. Seals. Ten, twenty, a hundred. Then one changes, becomes a man’s smiling face. Still beautiful. Still young, though it’s sixty years since first he smiled at me. At his side, his son. Our son.

I’ve waited long enough. Siobhan will take up the burden of payment. It’s a peppercorn rent the seal-kin charge for preventing the sea overwhelming the isles, for allowing humans to live. But a rent that tears the heart of the payer.

The bridal mimosa in my clawed hands gives me the reach I need. It touches the buttons I mustn’t touch. Husband waiting, heart soaring, I drive forward into the sea.
 

Mad Alice

From Earth; Mad House of the Universe
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Blood Rain

Deja followed the trail of cat's paw prints across the sand. The cloud ships were starting to spray red rain down. Deja's small feet sped past empty boat pilings, over deserted bridges spanning dry canals and onto the silent streets. Cats watched from abandoned palaces, hiding from the rain that streaked the ruins with bloody tears. Grandfather's shop was an oasis of light. The window's displayed masks stared unseeing at St. Marks square, the piazza painted in crimson pools of rain.
"Déja!" Grandfather's servos ratcheted his cranial holding tank up, his familiar features peering though green preservo gel from where he was writing in his-story book next to the newest masked doll being built.
Cats twined through dozens of Deja sized dolls. "Out in the rain!"
Deja held up a rainbow banded wrist "my 'gote peeped!"
Grandfather gently removed the extraction band, carefully placing it in his incubator. "Zygote, Deja. A history of you."
Deja wrinkled her nose. Grandfather's book again.
"What does it mean? Another shot?"
Grandfather sighed "No more needles, Deja, they won't do any more good I fear."
Deja scratched her arm where red rain drops had pooled. They tracked over Deja, rapidly morphing her into felinity.
"I hoped you had developed an immunity to the cloud alien's feline rhino virus. Luckily your Zygote was retrieved." Grandfather mused, petting the young female.
"Rainbow hope." Deja started, as her form changed, her voice trailing into a mew. Scrabbling she sped from the shop crying.
Grandfather put a dish of cream by the door to lure Deja back, then finished his entry. "Two hundredth trial. Subject's age of resistance increased to five years...Still humanity's last rainbow of hope continues."
And on the Bridge of Sighs Grandfather's newest kitten found sanctuary out of the rain.
 
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