300-word Writing Challenge #31 (October 2018) -- READ FIRST POST!

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Joined
Aug 7, 2007
Messages
20,476
Location
England
#1
Xiapu.jpg


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



SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

There will be a Prize for the Winner:

The Empyreus Proof by Bryan Wigmore (paperback or ebook)



THE RULES:

Only one entry per person

All stories Copyright 2018 by their respective authors,
who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here



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


Entries must be posted no later than October the 31st 2018,
at 11:59 pm GMT




Voting will close November the 15th, 2018 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:



Image credit: AlexH


This thread to be used for entries only.
Please keep all comments to the
DISCUSSION THREAD

Please do not "Like" posts in this thread
 

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elvet

Easily amused
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Joined
Feb 21, 2006
Messages
1,202
Location
Ontario, Canada
#2
The Escape

Did he see me?
While the panels on the circular weirs were not solid, they were translucent to a degree that let a shadow through. A moving shadow could catch a watchful eye.
I could see the dock getting smaller. My flat-boat moved silently through the calm waters as I rowed towards safety on the other side. I was trying hard not to make any sound, thankful for my training as a waterman.
Surely, they would have found out by now? I heard no alarms. There was no sign of activity on the shoreline in front of me. I glanced at the object at my feet. Would they miss the necklace more than me? Watermen were valuable for their ability to calm the great fish that swam in the weirs. We were their keepers, and without us, the food supply for the city would dwindle. The necklace was .... well, pretty. I was hoping it would fetch some coin when I reached my destination.
I had been planning this for a while. It was just luck that one of the breeder fish was about to spawn. I had an excuse ready. I needed to check the breeder’s enclosure, even though they rarely let us out this early. Now all I had to do was avoid the patrolling guard, and cross the unmarked border between the two realms.
My oars dipped silently through the surface of the lake. Sacrificing speed for stealth, it seemed like an eternity before the lake shallowed up. The weedy bottom turned to sand, and then came the satisfying crunch of a boat hitting the shore. I got out and grabbed my cargo.
A quick look back, and I had my answer.
No, he didn’t.
 
Joined
May 1, 2018
Messages
4
#3
Into the Styx

Stella stood calmly on a jetty by a large lake partly shrouded in a swirling mist. She waited, for what she was unsure. Death had not been as bad as she expected. Sure it was painful and confusing but now she felt strangely calm. Looking around she could see a nearby river fed the lake, there were enclosures constructed with long thin poles joined by odd netting that shimmered in the strange half-light. She could see rowing boats emerge from the mist, their occupants rowing around the irregular enclosures or through unconnected poles before disappearing once again. A man took shape beside her staring at a gold coin in his open palm. Stella looked at it too, then at her own empty hand. What did that mean? No words passed between them. More boats appeared, Stella recognised one occupant from earlier.

A mournful bell began to sound. An ancient oak boat emerged from the mist gliding toward them, only the bell on the bow heralded its approach. A hooded figure punted the boat through the water and deftly angled it so it slid silently beside the jetty. Stella stepped forward but Charon's bony hand barred her way. She could not see under the hood and shifted her gaze to the now open palm. Showing her hands to be empty, Charon nodded and retracted his hand. Turning he loosened a rope from the back of the boat and handed it to her pointing at the lake. The man stepped forward giving Charon his coin before climbing into the boat. Stella looked down at a small rowing boat realising she had to find her own way to the other side. Charon began to move the boat until they faded away. Stella got into her boat and rowed into the Styx.
 

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
8,398
Location
Everywhere.
#4
Landon’s Run


Landon ran down a hill to the water, though one couldn’t make the water easily; for a ragtag bunch of variously shaped houseboats lined the bay.

Without hesitation, Landon leapt upon the nearest houseboat. He grabbed a hook and kept his balance on the thin walkway.

He raced westward, then followed the walkway around to the opposite side. Spotting his opportunity, he leapt to a dilapidated junk, on the wide aft end. The spot he’d leapt from exploded, as a laser blast hit it just as his foot left!

He ran down a wider walkway. After passing an opening, a small man ran out screaming in Cantonese, “You get off my boat!” He got no more out, for something – or someone – unseen slammed into his back, knocking him over the railless side and into the dirty bay water!

“They’re catching up!” Landon shouted. “Where are you?!”

“I’m here,” came a calm voice from his wrist computer. He dared a look – and, thanks to his night vision contacts, saw the unlit speedboat tearing through the water, just beginning a sweeping turn that would bring it alongside the line of boats.

Landon picked up speed, leapt to the third boat, then leapt out over the water.

He landed on the speeder, rolled once and crashed into the opposite side.

“Ow!” Landon complained, as the boat’s force field absorbed laser shots from unseen assailants on the boat he’d just left. Picking himself up, he added, “Girl, these last second rescues are beginning to suck!”

As she added more speed, heading out of the bay, Gayle laughed. You know you love the excitement, Agent Landon!
 

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
Supporter
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Messages
2,269
#5
Guanyan's Journey of Destiny

From my cabin’s doorway I look into the empty corridor, opalescent with its glowing, nanofibre walls. The whispering airflow makes me feel desperately hollow. My mother once held a seashell to my ear, and this sounds like that – but if I was trapped, alone, inside the deepest chamber of the pearlescent, corkscrewed shell.
“Close,” I call, and the door whisks shut. “Sofa.” The furnicube reshapes itself.
“Hello, Astra.”
She answers with programmed calmness. “May I help you, Vasiliev?”
“Vodka – litre bottle. Then activate the viewscreen.
"Repeat sequence: Google Earth, date 8-1-2150, loc QR279BL. Google Mars, 11-10-2178, loc 69GX4. Google Space, 57 days ago, Xinjiang’s course toward Proxima Centauri.”
“Vasiliev … Alexander, is this wise?”
“Please, Astra.”
Vented air wooshes over me – Astra’s exasperated sighing – then the sequence begins:
~ Fujian province, the fisheries of Guanyan’s parents, her day of birth; she would work there and dream of becoming the first star voyager.
~ Mars, Eurasia United’s terraforming base; beside the New Sea, the cairn we’d built to commemorate our marriage.
~ The point between stars where Guanyan died.

“Birthday,” I whisper, “cairn, space.” I’ve no idea how long I drink, this time.

Guanyan’s the engineer – she insists she make the repairs. “Space’s no place for a pilot,” she says, laughing, while suiting up. ...
She screams, as an interstellar pebble tears through her. ...
Dressing, hurrying outside … her body distant, the ship speeding relentlessly away.


“Uhh – wha’?”
I’m awake …
... hungover …
... shattered.
“Astra.”
“Alexander.”
“External 3D projection, album 7W.”
Air sighs over me. The lights extinguish, the cabin’s outer wall becomes transparent.
I’m sprawled before the Universe.
Within the vacuum, against star-bejeweled darkness, Guanyan on our wedding day – beautiful, smiling, my joy personified.
Guanyan, voyaging amongst the stars.
Guanyan, a pearl set into eternity’s crown.

At least until I finish this bottle, and abandon her again.
 

Rafellin

Independent Author & Publisher
Joined
Oct 29, 2013
Messages
467
Location
West Sussex, UK
#6
The Coming of the Duobei King

Nephal brushes some ashes aside, contemplates what is revealed, then looks up at the circle of unhappy faces.

“The embers say we remain beholden.”

Laiti disagrees: “The song says we were released.”

“The truth remains unsung.”

“Then tell us.”

Firelight flickers on the half circle of nets draped across drying frames. Night draws in across the lake; reflections of stars as unmoving as their counterparts above.

He sighs.

“We slaved for the Phoenix until Panhu raised a mighty dragon stick and led us into the mountains. There we found lakes and first learned how to corral fish. Then, Panhu saved us again by winning the love of a princess. Her father, the Duobei King, placed our debt in abeyance until such a time as he had need of our land.

From that wedding gift, we lived there for centuries. When a new world was found for us to call home, we rejoiced. Kept ignorant of reneging on the debt, we journeyed here.”

Laiti claps her hands: “That’s why the chiefs of the Great Journey are excluded from the Fang Songs!”

He nods.

A voice is raised: “What else from the embers?”

Nephal shrugs: “A descendant of the Duobei King comes to collect, but the embers sing of sanctuary, not burden. Still your fears.”

Reassured, the crowd disperses.

Laiti crouches down and whispers: “What do some of the other unsung truths tell us?”

“The burst transmission says they’re fleeing a coup. Only him and his girlfriend escaped. They’re delighted the family secret actually exists.”

“I hope he can fish.”

“All warriors can.”

“What?”

“The original lineage fell from grace. He’s a guardsman accompanying the Duobei Princess, his beloved.”

“Didn’t this all start with a princess?”

Nephal wags his finger at her: “Stop that. I’m trying to ignore lurking portents.”
 

dannymcg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2016
Messages
2,537
Location
Cumbria UK
#7
The terrible day the hell world portal opened to it's full width.

Frantically she paddled away from the holding pens, ominous bubbles were rising ever larger to the surface all around her.

A quick glance back showed her the shattered wooden stakes, no match for the awesome size of a full grown Kraken.
Soon she was drawing near to the village, by now the watch keepers had noticed the catastrophe and the sirens were wailing thinly.

Guards came dashing out of the barracks and forming up on the pebbled beach, their long spears and flintlock pistols suddenly inadequate. For decades they'd only had to cope with youngling Kraken, no larger than oxen, the only size that could slip through the portal; the newly massive portal.

Hastily she steered now to the beach, not her original goal of the rickety jetty, as she neared it the sirens stopped and the garrison’s one small cannon cracked out uselessly.
White faced troops muttered nervously and some broke ranks and cried out in fear as the drama played out.

With a scream of triumph she launched herself up the smooth stones and lashed her spiked tentacles down amongst the milling troops, her vicious beak impaling and shredding more with each stab.

Behind her loud screams added to the caconaphy as her Kraken brethren charged in hunger for the shore, soon this world would be theirs.
 

Dan Jones

Free Omar!
Supporter
Joined
Nov 14, 2014
Messages
2,662
Location
Here, Now
#8
The Travels Of Sir Reginald Rigmarole, Part 94

So! After slipping the clutches of El Boppo, whose bravura combination of sadism and slapstick had had him branded by the Nicaraguan press as the most hilarious drugs capo in the country, I yomped with rare magnificence to a fundraiser in Xiapu for fabulously wealthy heiresses cruelly deprived of a career in rowing by dint of their inability to row. The more beautiful of the creatures enjoyed gaggles of hormonally dysfunctional males kayaking around them, panting hypothetically at the sight of a well-turned buttock, or a nice pointy hat.

But I was interested in the more ugsome individuals, and invited a banal, flapping monster named Ergo to the Cardomoms, the quite brilliant name I'd given my London bolthole, just outside Buxton, off the A53.

"Oh seňor, tu tienes tantos manos, como el pulpo!" she snorted through her single nostril, offering me a coffee absolutely riddled with Colombian honking powder.

"No gracias, generalamente yo hago Dry January," I hollered, quaffing the lot with humble élan.

But zoinks! The wazzo drink caused such virulent hallucinaballinations that I witnessed a merry score of Jezebels armed with AK47s osmosing through the walls! The most hithersome of them produced a rubber mallet and twonked me about the fizzog with such dexterity that it tempered my nausea with a frisson of admiration.

Slowly, Ergo peeled away her rubber mask to reveal the smiling, twiglet-featured boat race of El Boppo himself!

To the cheers of his amoeba-brained henchmen he produced a large feline chicken festooned with rubber noblets from his underchatterers and my heart, already yampering from the charlie, soared into a panicked (but groovy) rhythm, for I well knew El Boppo's tortuous methods.

"¡Es el ora para la Unión de la pollo y la bumbum!" he squealed with irresistible pleasure.

Foiled again!
 

Luiglin

by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Messages
1,520
Location
Mercia, UK
#9
Caelum’s Return

A pencil dug irregular furrows back and forth across the paper. The markings were chaotic, no single one the same but all written with purpose. If it were a language, then there was nothing discernible for them to even consider a translation.

“How long have they been writing?”

“Since 04:00. They started to scratch on the walls before we gave them the paper and pencils.”

“Any other sign of consciousness?”

“None. All test results show no higher brain functions.”

Commander Jonsson glanced at the other monitors. Each showed another member of the Caelum crew, all of them writing. The mission had been a resounding success, landing on Caelus, the legendary Planet X. Readings and samples had been taken, experiments completed. Caelum had been on return approach to Pluto Station when the mission went dark, a final message, a short burst of binary – 100111011.

Caelum docked on emergency autopilot, its AI wiped clean. The crew were still within their acceleration couches, life monitors having registered brain death at the same time of the binary code.

100111011, 315 in decimal, it meant nothing to Jonsson.

“How long before we hear from Earth?”

“10 hours at the earliest,” said his Deputy, Ukagu, her voice tremulous.

“You alright?”

“It’s stupid,” she replied.

“But?” Something caught his eye on a monitor.

“If you split the binary you get 10011 and 1011 or 19 11.”

“So?” The crew had stopped writing, instead now arranging the sheets of paper. He altered the cameras.

“19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war,” Ukagu said softly.

Across the six monitors, sheets of paper were twisted into position, becoming one image, a final revelation... The Word of God.
 

Appello

Literary Hitchhiker
Joined
Jun 18, 2012
Messages
98
Location
Inside my head
#10
Nets

I was born to the bite of iron at my throat.

It's what I remember best. That, and my mother's cry as they tore me from her breast. You'll always be mine, she'd whispered, and I clung to those words like a prayer for years. But I never did see her again.

They keep ten of us to a net. There's not enough room, and our tails waste from disuse. I try to keep active by swimming in mindless circles, but the others push and shove at me when I get in their way. They don't understand why I keep fighting. Fool, they spit, and I duck my head from the censure in their eyes.

The harvesters arrive before the sun. I try to hide, swimming down to the very bottom of my net, but it never works for long. Their machines reach to the sea floor and drag me out, pinning my arms and clasping my tail while needles burrow into my spine. Afterwards, I'm too weak to do more than float across the filmy surface of the water, drifting listlessly while the sun burns and the insects feast. It takes hours to recover enough to swim back into the blissful darkness.

It's there in the depths that I spy it. The tiniest of holes, barely large enough to accommodate my fist. I can hardly believe it. For weeks I watch it widen, willing the powerful electric currents to die away and the fabric to degrade. Little by little it grows, until finally it's big enough for me to slip through.

Freedom. The word bubbles in my chest, buoying me to the surface for one last breath.

Hope flares, then withers. I survey the horizon. Shadows congeal; my heart sinks.

The repair crews have come.
 

mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2006
Messages
6,574
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
#11
Big Fish, Little Fish.

“He says we should leave.”

“You sure?”

“Sure as I can be with just gestures and 'hand' signals. But we haven't been too far adrift understanding each other before. There's little reason to doubt now.”

We thought the fishing village was a good place to make contact with the locals and the barren offshore island seemed an ideal place to put down. Good visibility, no possibility of being surprised by aggressive flora or fauna. After a cautious approach the natives turned out to be friendly enough even though a little grotesque when viewed through human eyes.

“Did he say why?”

'He' was the village elder. The 'wise man'. Funny how you can sense authority and wisdom in an individual even when they look much the same as the other 'spiders'.

“He says there's some big fish out here. So big we have no idea. Bigger than big. Offshore is not a good place to be. It's approaching spawning time and they get unpredictable, apparently.”

“Never been threatened by a fish before. You sure he said 'fish'?”

“Closest I could get - 'thing in the sea'.”

“Okay. We're over a hundred metres from the beach in any direction and we'll double the guard. That should be sufficient - whatever comes ashore.”

“So we're not leaving?”

“Leaving? Hell no. We've made useful contact here. There's some important work to do. We're reasonably well armed and we can be airborne in under thirty minutes. I appreciate the village elder's warning but a big fish is obviously more of a threat to a flimsy fishing boat than to a well armed research lander.”

“It's just that he seemed so...”

It was about now that observers in the orbiting mother ship watched in horror as the island slowly rolled over, blew air, and slipped beneath the waves.
 

Calliopenjo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2016
Messages
235
Location
USA
#12
The Worst Punishment

They put me on the wagon to move me to Dragon Sealock because I set the camp on fire. Not on purpose, but the old telling of a swift wind burst came true. The arrow set fire to the lead fieldhouse. My fellows practiced in that landspan, and I did not believe there would be a problem. I guessed wrong.

My malodorous headship gave me the impulse to smell roses as a sweotol lack of hygiene became self-standing. That went away when I found myself on the way to what had been called, through the elds, Lonely Sealock. One gets put there and one does not expect to get out. At least, not anytime soon.

Dragon Sealock had been betokened as such because they use the area to spawn Water Dragon eyren. It takes anywhere from a decade to half-a-century for one to incubate. So why put people there if it takes until retirement to hatch?

The outing to the landspan, according to hearsay, could take a couple of fortnights. The trail has been littered with boulders, fallen trees and kingdoms, change of steeds and wagons, supply pick up, and anything else that would cause a problem to reach any destination. Many roads needed to be taken to arrive at such a keen place. That sealock never sees the sun.

Unable to locate anything that would hasten my dengang, I was forced to listen to the constant goings on of my companion. I had never been so glad for someone to leave. I never knew someone could talk so much about nothing at all.
 

Peter V

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 1, 2016
Messages
290
Location
London
#13
Careful What You Fish For

Never go alone to the birthing ponds, that’s what they always said. But Spencer needed cash and Jules had told him that there was no danger if you stayed focused. Besides, no one had been lost to the Ayeni for years and everyone knew their interest in humans had waned.

It was still two hours till sun up when Spencer reached the water’s edge, so unlikely he’d be spotted by an over officious constable. He unpacked his rod, selected a juicy grub for the line and settled down to fish.

Spencer stared at the float, wiling it to bob under. He focused on it, ignoring a rustling amongst the rushes to his left.

Anything that lived in the waters of the birthing ponds absorbed the ‘gleam’ but fish were definitely best. Half a dozen, that’s all he needed. It wouldn’t make him rich, nor be enough to draw him to the attention of the cartel but he could settle his debt and maybe live a little for a while. Just so long as he didn’t sample the merchandise. That’s how he’d gotten into this mess.

A splash. Those rushes again. Spencer glanced away momentarily then quickly returned his attention to the float. Focus!

Join with us.

The voice is his head was soft and welcoming. Spencer closed his eyes and told himself it was nothing to be scared of, that the trembling in the rod was due to the cold.

When he opened his eyes he was in the middle of the pond, serenely floating and staring up at the twin moons. He felt no pain when the Ayeni fused with him and why should he? It was a wonderful thing. His lungs filled with water as he sank beneath the surface.

It didn’t matter, he wouldn’t need them again.
 

Heijan Xavier

nathanjessehoffman.com
Joined
Apr 17, 2016
Messages
308
Location
Raleigh
#14
Forgotten Harvest

The harvesters row in circles. They search the lagoon for days without sleep, weeks without food, months without sitting, years without speaking, and lifetimes without love. Some have forgotten for what they search, yet they remain focused on the forgotten.

Those who disrupt the harvest, pay with pain.

One small child approaches a harvester, rippling the water in the lagoon, rippling the harvester’s focus. The harvester wastes no time and slashes at the groin of the small child with a razor-sharp oar and expressionlessly returns to the harvest. The small child does not scream in agony though, it leans backward, eyes rolled white to the back of its head and mouth dumbly agape.

Why mutilate children? I think, aghast. I shift my seething, panicked gaze to the harvester. It acts as though nothing has happened. To the harvester you see, nothing has happened; it has already forgotten.

I return to the small child, whose wounds are exposed. A swarm of hornets rises therefrom. I am scared, petrified, paralyzed. How can I not be? The hornets appear harmless, however, and in fact ARE harmless; they are illusions cast around floating metallic bubbles which coalesce into one giant hornet, but not a nasty one, a bulbous one, like a child’s plaything. I set my mind to wonder.

And to wander.

The small child is now one of many small children, standing on the small raft in the still lagoon.

Giggling, they set free the bulbous hornet. Then, they look at me through calm wise eyes that say,

We know something you don’t know. Condescension is not our intent, but we cannot tell you the truth; we can only pray that you figure it out for yourself.

We can only pray, Harvester, that you remember what you have forgotten.
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2
#15
Wine and reeds

Diei prayed his grandfather didn’t notice the doubt in his balance, the extra effort he had to make to remain on top of the raft. Turned out the rice wine he was given last night was far stronger than he was assured. Thankfully it seemed the old man was too busy checking the murky waters surrounded by nets.

“Can you see any holes on that side?” he was suddenly asked from across the hatchery. The question made him stumble for a second, raising small waves that quickly extended along the shallow waters, cutting the reflection of the sun’s rays. He almost lost one of the oars trying to regain his balance.

He shot a quick glance across the pond in panic, and saw his grandfather was looking at him. He inmediately turned down his gaze, but knew he was too late. Nothing escaped the old man’s narrow eyes, his withering stare. Diei could already hear the reproach again, the same old story of how ten generations of Zheis had arrived from Old Terra to make a living in these remote lands, in this remote planet, only for him to make be a disgrace.

Too submerged in the sorrow of knowing what awaited him, he lost his footing and quickly found himself actually submerged. Fortunately, this time his feet didn’t get tangled in the reeds that covered the bottom. He surfaced just in time to see the tip of the long pole coming down in an arc, striking him square in the head. The old man could seem frail, but he could make that raft fly across the water.

-“Next time no rice wine for you!”
 
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