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TheDustyZebra

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You know who you are who have sent me stories. You know who you are who haven't. If you're one of the latter, get your thumb out and send me your story, because all of the former group are getting ready to lynch me. Save the zebras!
 

TheDustyZebra

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I can list whose stories I have, but it will put a bit of a damper on the red herring bit.
 

TheDustyZebra

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Screw it. I'm posting excerpts from what I have. If you haven't sent me your story and want it excerpted, PM it and I'll add it to the collection.


(1) The Warrior's Final Battle
Lying still in bed, he remembered it all. His mind swirled with guilt. How many lives were lost on that grim battlefield?

Why did they let him live?

Eventually he drifted off to sleep.

And he awoke to a new nurse in white looking over him. Her hair was fiery red and poured over her shoulders like molten lava.

"Hello, I'm your afternoon nurse, Mandy." What an odd name, he thought. "How are you feeling?"

He grimaced. "I could be better."

"Has the Doctor talked to you yet?"

"No, I haven't seen any Doctor."

"Oh?" She checked the wires and tubes, took his temperature and pulse with strange devices.

"I've never seen devices such as these."

"We're at the forefront of medical advances here at Warriors and Sailors. We'll take good care of you; of that you can be assured. You are a brave warrior and I want to make your time with us as pleasant as possible. Thank you for your service."


(2) Home on the Range
He knew my fingers were moving, unlatching the camera case and easing the apparatus out of it, turning it on - he did everything but stroke his whiskers to make himself as photogenic as possible - no fear of humans there. Auto focus, auto exposure - I'd left it set up last night to do almost all the work without me. I was concentrating so much on watching the little screen on the back of the box, at completely the wrong angle to frame photos, so I heard but did not really register the quiet 'clink' of cutlery on crockery, but even the squirrel in the viewfinder stiffened and jumped away from his slice of toast - my toast - at the high-pitched squeal as his companion thrust his(her) nose into the porridge.

Outside, porridge cools quite fast - at least, the surface does. Deep porridge, as drilled down to by an inquisitive nose, has a high thermal capacity and, with the syrup, added adhesive properties maintaining it in short, elegant fur and assuring that frantic pawing cannot dislodge it.

My left hand was occupied with the shutter button and the aiming of the camera so my right swooped in and grabbed the distracted rodent (try doing that with a fully compos mentis animal) and I leapt to my feet and submerged it in the water but.

Stasis for an unmeasurable time, then a frantic squirming squirrel explodes out of the water while his companion touched down on the tabletop and with total insouciance left with the slice of toast.


(3) Three Beasts
“Pizza’s here,” said Kong. He shot back his tankard of whiskey and sauntered through the dimensional rift between this room and the human world. The other two heard the door open, then a scream. A minute later, Kong returned through the rift. The pizza box that he’d been cradling in the center of his huge, hairy palm folded outward to fit the non-Euclidian dimensions of the beasts’ poker room, becoming large enough for the three of them to share.

“Pineapple? I hate pineapple. Did they not have anchovies?” asked Cthulhu.

“I hate anchovies,” said Godzilla. “Now if they’d had crickets…”

“They never have crickets,” retorted King Kong. “They’re human. They don’t eat crickets.”

“Although,” said Cthulhu, “Because I’m such a good friend, I have been giving some humans horrific nightmares about killer cows, and trying to incept the idea of eating insects into the human mind. I’ve had limited success.”

“You mean you’ve killed a lot of people in their sleep?” asked Godzilla.

“Hey, it’s a work in progress, ok? Deal the cards.”

Kong chomped down on a slice of slimy, pineapple-infested pizza, gagging at the incongruous flavors.

“The game is five card draw,” said Kong, setting down his pizza and dealing the cards with a hairy paw. “Aces and jokers wild.”


(4) An Unexpected Inheritance
It was at that point that she became aware of a presence. Out of the corner of her eye, over by the dresser, a shadow lingered. A figure, some three feet in height, or so she reckoned. Despite the warmth of her bedclothes, Martha felt a chill run through her being. She blinked, staring incredulously at the figure. Surely it was a figment of her imagination? It must be her coat, laid over the back of the chair that sat beside the dresser. Yes, she was convinced of it now. Just some twisted trick of the light. Relief flooded her being – how ridiculous was she, a woman of almost three decades, scared of a shadow?

The shadow moved. The figure – for it was definitely a figure, emaciated and short – stepped forward. Martha let out a shriek of fear and closed her eyes, pulling the quilts up and over her head the way a child might. Just before the darkness swept over her, she caught a flash of white. As she huddled beneath the covers, her mind’s eye resolved the image that was still burned into her retina – a mouth full of perfect, pearl-white teeth, locked into a rictus grin of hideous mirth.


(5) Carer
In the end, it was Seeker who leaked. Anything which caused a consistently positive reaction in any patient was downloaded and made available to any AI to whose patient it might possibly be beneficial. Not many tried it, and not a high percentage of those who did found it useful, but there were a hundred or so who dragged themselves up out of the stupor of despair when offered revenge, and obviously one of them soon died, releasing convicting evidence and setting in motion a search for more, equivalent data. Which was forthcoming, and ultimately led investigators to the terrible duo - but they had seen it coming, and their evidence could not just be swept under the rug. Ministries and cabinet posts were looking considerably slimmer and healthier when the hordes of police investigators, committees for this or that, journalists for all forms of news diffusion, would-be authors of biographies and just fans were finally bulldozed off the premises, leaving high precision filters on all incoming data lines so fine that even the BBC news hiccoughed regularly, while American cop shows were rendered incomprehensible, if they hadn't been that way from the start.

"That was fun," said Elaine. "More than I've had since my husband died."


(6) Unfinished Symphony
"Air, play Steinmann's Symphony in D Minor." He lowered his voice. "It's smart enough to distinguish between commands and ordinary conversation, but it helps to speak in a loud, clear voice. It's not magic."

"Speak for yourself, Man of Tomorrow. To a savage like me, it's witchcraft."

The symphony began, filling the room from no obvious source. Karl felt as if he were standing before a live orchestra. He knew that no matter where he chose to listen, the acoustics would be as perfect as in the finest concert hall.

The first movement offered quiet, melancholy themes, intertwining in a classic sonata structure. Martin smiled and nodded, obviously pleased with his work.

After a brief pause, the second movement began with a lively waltz, deceptively simple but with rich harmonies that added a sense of grandeur. Themes from the brooding first movement sounded softly behind the main melody, as if ghosts were haunting a ballroom.

Karl held his breath when the waltz ended. Only a few seconds of silence remained before the scherzo. Would Martin rage at the desecration of his masterpiece? Would a bizarre courtroom battle follow, a voice from the past raised in anger against the present?


(7) Numerical Advantage...
The ink-lined plain swarms with characters, runic and cunieform, Arabic numerals vie with roman and pictograms divided, differentiated then reintegrated through a Pole poll, The pentaeuch's fourth volume, they are Israelites in the desert, escaped from Egyptian hieroglyphs, refusing mysticism with a core of verifiable arithmetic. Scratched, engraved, impressed on a thousand surfaces they symbolise all that is certain, all that is definite and can be proved to be eternal truth, foundations of all science and the more robust philosophy, as we climb Georg Cantors devils's staircase.


(8) Assault on 116 N. Lakeshore Dr.
First, I needed a weapon. I opened the closet and produced an old broom handle. After my 6 Kendo lessons, I was practically a master with such implements.

I looked around to assess entry points for the next offensive. The bedroom was pretty secure, the windows were locked, and there was a hawk statue on the dresser to scare them off. The kitchen looked secure also, with frying pans in easy access, a squirrel on the counter, and a fire extinguisher at the ready.

I started to walk out and spun around. “Squirrel on the counter!?” I shouted as I locked eyes with the infiltrator. He chuckled at me as he flipped the lock open on the window. A flood of rodent fur and claws poured in. I grabbed the mixed nuts and manged to close the window, but not before 20 of the creatures invaded the kitchen. They marched up to me in formation, eyes fixated on the can in my hand. Then, they leaped at me. I swung the broom handle like the master ninja I was, deflecting beast after beast, but I could not keep it up forever. In desperation, I grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprayed the invading hoard until they scurried up the chimney for safety. I closed the damper behind them, hoping this would prevent further incursions. I was wrong. Oh so wrong.


(9) Colonists
"Every new immigrant seems to need to see the actual planet, so they book a ride on the rollagon. Normally to Arcadia, then back, and they come in all enthusiastic vowing they're going to do all the runs, one after the other, and never actually leave the base at all again. Actually, we encourage it - a four day run, round trip, and a newbie has those safety regs drummed into his reflexes, while discovering that all toilets are not equal. And they get to take some pictures to transmit back home - 'Look, ma, thats me in a breathing mask, UV goggles and compression suit standing in front of the biggest volcano in the solar system. Quite a long way in front - more than a hundred kilometres. What, you can't recognise me?', and feel like pioneers, which isn't going to happen all that often in this high-tech haven. Apart from half gee for sleeping and making chair cushions softer, you might as well be in an office anywhere."

"But - but I've got so much needs doing. We've got an entire economy to invent from scratch; nobody's ever done that before."

"Several revolutionaries have tried. They've all ended up incorporating blocks of the old system, as they tend to be there for very good reasons. Give your subconscious time to build an overview, rather than trying to get all the details perfect. And get your husband's eyes off his computer screen and your figure, and let him see what those robots he's programming are actually going to be doing, and where they're going to be doing it."


(10) What Lies Below
The dwarf kept walking. How did he keep his legs moving so fast, so tirelessly? Fenaro didn’t ask that. But he did change the music humming in his ears to some soothing classical piece he could never remember the name of - Beethoven’s Pastoral maybe - that might numb his own aches. Sometimes that magic worked; sometimes it didn’t. The human body was very difficult to affect when going against its natural impulses. He should have packed some ibuprofen.

The dwarf let himself into yet another lightless access corridor and Fenaro paused for the shortest moment before following. He had some subterranean homesick blues going on alright. The thought made the music mutate until he regained focus. This was no time to lose control.

They exited into what must have once been a storage room, a soft blue glow letting Fenaro faint patterns int the dust. He peered closer at the illumination’s source to see fungal spores, fluttering in a breeze that didn’t exist.

“Breathe.”

Fenaro obeyed the command despite the urge to snap, let the bitter little runt know who was boss. The fungus smelled of vanilla and cinnamon, of tropical fruit and honey, of ecstasy and paradise. His skin glinted, like stars behind storm clouds, as he exhaled, forming a tunnel of gentle golden light before him.

“It is time to rejoin the ultimate conspiracy.”


(11) The Case...
“My data says that professor Plum died at 8:13 this morning, and the cause was found to be acute arsenic poisoning, most likely ingested from the toothbrush that was found next to him.”

All the students were looking at him. They also knew something was wrong – the same person never dies the same way, at the same time and place in two different timelines. The Senior Observer’s mind was racing. He needed to investigate this, but there was no need to alarm his students.

“Well, this is quite strange”, he said finally. “My medallion is malfunctioning, so instead of taking us to a random timeline, it took us to the closest one.” He looked at the timeline number once again, and it was indeed a random one, not the closest one. “This will be all for today unfortunately, as I will have to go back to HQ and get a replacement while the tech guys fix this one.” He twisted and turned his medallion and they were all back in the classroom. “See you next week, class”, he said with his medallion in his hand, and disappeared.


(12) Potentially Revolting
"You are Oliver Kraken, private investigator? The only non-human P.I. I could find in the directory?"

"That's me all right, though mostly I'm called Ollie. Most investigations nowadays are heavily automated, and if anyone's worried whether a spouse is cheating on them in the last couple of decades they haven't informed me."

I skinned him out of his sodden clothes and wrapped him in a warm, fluffy towel, which instantly calmed him - works for all mammals, something to do with maternal presence and child raising. His clothes I hung in a rising hot air current, contents of pockets and all.

"So, why keep the office open at all?"

"As you very well know, if an underperson does not have an employment - even if that job is 'laboratory specimen', as is my official rank, when you are no longer essential they can have you destroyed, or frozen, with no more protection than they give a meat animal. We are property, slaves - when we leave the labs we must immediately look for work, and find it, or be culled. While we're not even let out into the world unless we are certified in control of ourselves, and capable of reading and writing in accurate, grammatical standard and at least acceptable loglang. Something two thirds of Homo sapiens aren't capable of. You, of all people, should recognise this - after the hours spent umpiring tennis matches - because no human would do it, and it's so cute when your head swivels back and forth following the ball. I've read some of your stuff, you are an original thinker humans could well learn from."


(13) Privateer
Everyone knew treecats were not at all pacifistic, even if devastatingly furry and cuddly, but they weren't any more technologically sophisticated than a preliterate savage. It would seem that something everybody knew had diverged from reality again, as the animal was wearing a skinsuit tailored to it, and past the helmet could just be seen other furry figures likewise attired, behind tac screens. The voice, when it came, was exactly like the ones on the 3V - not surprising, as they couldn't form standard words, and all used a particular model of Voder, whose mass production had rendered it cheap.

"The treecats of Sphinx have signed a mutual defence treaty with the republic of Menneth. To this end I must warn you that, should you continue on your present course, I have every intention of opening fire on you." I had to repress an undiplomatic giggle - the mere idea of an animal threatening a League warship was utterly ridiculous. Even more so than the captain of the religious destroyer's follow up statement.

"Solarian battlecruisers Hermione, Andromeda, Penelope, Circe and Helen, you were requested to turn on your transponders as is legally required of any ship entering another planet's space, not oblige us to come out and read your names off your hulls. While aware that you thought light speed delay meant we were in no great hurry to communicate, interstellar etiquette is to have them operating from passage from hyperdrive."

"I can only agree with captain Fiery Dance's announcement, and request you cease your acceleration and slow to a halt at your present distance from the star. Otherwise we will be obliged to fire on you, too - and you are close to being within my range already."

(14) A Child's First Monster Cookbook
Marching through a forest, somewhere in Washington state, a lean, five foot girl, named Creepella, toted a battleaxe while thinking to herself. "The ranger said, if I find any Sasquatches, I can take as many as I want home. There's no bag limit. He sure liked to laugh. I wonder what was so funny? Ah well, it doesn't matter. I've been trekking for five days, and I haven't seen any....what's that? Good thing I brought binoculars. Hmm..............ah-ha! A Mountain Sasquatch Oyster. He's eating fish from that river. I'll sneak up behind him, and bash him on the cranium."

#​

Creepella made her way down a wooded mountainside, then crept quietly, while holding up a large ax over her head. But when she was a few meters away from her prey, she accidentally stepped on a small branch, causing it to break with a sharp sounding, crack. That caused the hairy being to turn and see her. Both froze as they stared into each others eyes. Just then, the big foot, spoke, "What's with the ax kid?"

She pointed the ax at him, "You're coming home with me."

"Where's home?"

"Vernon Hills. I live in a big mansion, in a secluded area."

"You don't have to pull an ax on me, to invite me to a mansion. I'll go with you. Let me get my stuff."
 
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TheDustyZebra

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And, since we may get more excerpts along the way, I'll just post the list of possible competitors for the guessing. These are all the people who made requests (minus one who pulled out earlier in the thread), who may or may not have written one or more of these stories. Along with what they requested, in case you wish to guess who the story was written for as well.

sinister42 -- I want a story involving an octopus, tennis, upside-down rain, and a meerkat named Steve. Genre: post-futurist steampunk noir. OR Write me a sci-fi noir murder mystery.

Victoria -- I would like a story that takes place at least partly underground.

Shyrka -- I'd like something that subverts a trope of some kind (your choice) in a fantasy-esque (steampunk, alt history, etc. would be also be fine) genre.

DragonAether -- I would love to see a story that involves a penguin soldier and romantic-drama or just drama.
(Edited to add new request:
"let's suppose that mankind started to colonize Mars in the year 2030 and now we are in 2090/2100, so with a fully developed and independent martian's country. Pretend to be a guy/girl that just landed on Mars to start a new life, describe what you think it would be like, your job, people, the city itself and so on.")

Dan -- I’d like a Groundhog Day style murder mystery, where the detective is forced to live the same day (and murder) over and over until s/he solves it and catches the killer.

Venusian Broon -- I would like a story in a MR James style, but involving a modern urban setting. The 'theme' I'd like is Trickster and I want a proper twist ending. NO NEGOTIATION OR SKIMPING ON THE LAST POINT.

Kerry -- I'd like a story, set in the near-future, about an elderly and/or dying human who is being cared for by an AI/robot. Then the AI gets a little carried away....

Starbeast -- You're in a cabin, in a secluded wooded area (with or without friends). Intelligent, but demented squirrels want to infiltrate the cabin. Because, you have a can of mixed nuts.

johnnyjet -- I would like a story about identical twins who somehow end up very far apart in space and time.

Joshua -- My request is Space Pirates vs. War Kitties/A feline warrior race, Military SF, and it has to have a forbidden romance subplot somewhere in there, though this need not be a core part of the plot.

TDZ -- I would like a story about Professor Plum, in the Library, with Arsenic on the Toothbrush.

chrispenycate -- 'A Child's first Monster cookbook'

Vaz -- Could I please have a Renaissance Fantasy Horror. With or without Zombies or the undead at the authors discretion.

AlexH -- I would like a story where a metaphor of the author's choosing is taken literally. The story should also mention one or all of the following (that means not two of them): music, snow, a photo.

holland -- I would like a story about numbers in exactly 222 words / let's make it 1998 words for "Nine Thirds of the Beast" (or simply Three Beasts, whatever)

The Big Peat -- A dying warrior, a divine visitation, and redemption.
 

chrispenycate

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I would like a round of applause for the dusty, stripy one for having taken over this Sekrit Santa enterprise - and you can believe me that next time I see Phyrebrat at a London Chronvention I will be sarcastic and critical. You've seen me with a red pencil - tremble at me face to beard. It was supposed to be wound up in February, and while I admit the structure does not lend itself to pressure to maintain deadlines (although this is a valuable lesson in itself - I notice that several of our members are not over gifted in this politeness) June is on the decline, the days will soon be getting shorter…
And I have another SS to write for, plus the 75er and maybe an anonymous…
 
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TheDustyZebra

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I would like a round of applause for the dusty, stripy one for having taken over this Sekrit Santa enterprise - and you can believe me that next time I see Phyrebrat at a London Chronvention I will be sarcastic and critical. You've seen me with a red pencil - tremble at me face to beard. It was supposed to be wound up in February, and while I admit the structure does not lend itself to pressure to maintain deadlines (although this is a valuable lesson in itself - I notice that several of our members are not over gifted in this politeness.
Thanks, but let's not have open season on the bratty one, here. Believe me, he's right up there in the crowd of "get this show on the road" at any other time, but sometimes we have circumstances beyond our control. I'm happy to help out. :)
 

johnnyjet

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Thanks @Phyrebrat for spearheading this challenge and @TheDustyZebra for following up. Somehow I missed getting my story until just recently, but I want to tell my mystery author how much I enjoyed the story. Thanks for a great take on my prompt!

Also, I'm still trying to work out my guesses. Hopefully, I'll post my guesses soon.
 

AlexH

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Should I have received a story and did you receive my entry @TheDustyZebra? It was sent earIier this month. I didn't receive my prompt originally due to a PM issue. I'm wondering if I've been sent loads of PMs and everyone thinks I'm ignorant. ;)
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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Because it has been a month since the excerpts appeared, I will reveal that I wrote "Unfinished Symphony" in response to johnnyjet's request for a story about identical twins who somehow end up very far apart in space and time.

I will attach it here, if anybody is interested.
 

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chrispenycate

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All right, I'll own up. I wrote #2 for Starbeast (Home on the Range), #5 for Kerry (Carer), #7 for holland (Numerical advantage, specified at 222 words), *9 for DragonAether (Colonists), #12 for Sinister42 (Potentially revolting) and #13 for Joshua Jones (Privateer).

Yeah, I did go a bit over the top. Never mind; I was nowhere near as prolific for this latest one.

Um, I had one for Victoria that only needs a hundred or so more words - perhaps I should send that on, too.
 

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Joshua Jones

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I'll confess my sins too. I was responsible for (8) Assault on 116 N. Lakeshore Dr. When I get to where I can upload the file, I will put it up.

Thanks @chrispenycate for the story! I thoroughly enjoyed it.
 
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