300-word Writing Challenge #31 (October 2018) -- VICTORY TO VICTORIA SILVERWOLF!

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AstroZon

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145
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Zama
Gemal-4

Dawn washed over the bay as the Vietnamese fishermen herded their prey into a labyrinth of nets – just as they’d done on Earth so many centuries ago. Gemal-4 was the only aquaculture success in New Keddaso – a man-made solar system with 36 planets orbiting a single sun.

Of the 4 planets in the Gemal ring, only Gemal-4 was capable of sustainable aquatic life. No one understood why as all were established identically - perhaps a trace too much nickel in the core or a bit too little oxygen in the atmosphere. Gemal-1’s oceans were overgrown with algae – so much so that it appeared green from space. Gemal-2 lost its oceans completely, and Gemal-3 flowed with robust oceans but nevertheless barren. It was tricky business playing god.

Dr. Constance Shu walked onto the shuttle pad and greeted the arriving dignitaries. “It’s good to see you again Connie,” stated Virgil Redsun, Director of Research as well as her former teacher and mentor. He leaned over and kissed her cheek. Straightening up, he made the formal introduction, “Consular Baasi, I’d like you to meet Dr. Shu.” “Gemal-4 welcomes you Consular,” she stated politely. “To what do we owe this visit?”

The Consular responded, “I’m here officially to inform you of the Region’s plans to build the new capitol - here on Gemal-4” “What,” exclaimed Connie, “here?” “Yes, it’s ideally suited: beautiful woodlands and oceans, perfect nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, and the correct gravity – virtually identical to Earth’s.” Connie waved her arms in anger, “But we’ve worked so hard achieving this balance. You’ll ruin it!”

Virgil turned as he heard the darts pierce the air. He saw nothing except Consular Baasi dropping to the ground.

The Vietnamese fishermen herded their prey into a labyrinth of nets – just as they’d done on Earth so many centuries ago.
 
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scarpelius

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Feb 19, 2018
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202
Location
Bucharest
Peace is but a dream

"Do you believe in God?"
That was a question I didn't expected. As always professor Navarre manage to surprise me.
"I think there is something... beyond us."
She giggled amused.
"Why are you asking?"
She showed me two pictures: one of a calm lake with fishermen attending their traps and the other was the famous picture of an alien ship over the Earth. There were more alien ships orbiting Earth, but that one was the only caught on camera, before they shoot down all our satellites.
"I don't see the connection."
"You don't? I thought is obvious!"
She continued encouraged by my puzzled face.
"Remember the links all of us made with alien ship shape and the ancient pyramids? Many thought they are our long lost and found gods. Also, the fight they had with the pointy, dart like alien ships, led us to believe they are our protectors."
That was a sight to see. Some fighters come down over the cities and crowds rejoiced every time a dart ship exploded like fireworks.
"I do. I also remember how unequal wealth was distributed before they come. This is the golden era of peace and prosperity. But they are not gods."
"I will agree with you on that. They are no gods. They are farmers."
I smiled.
"I know that theory."
Professor Navarre frowned at my words.
"Here is your proof." she said throwing a disk on the desk. "We manage to decipher one of the dart computing units. The harvest is due in half a year."
I've looked at the evidence she found.
"Do you believe now? Only God can save us!"
They gathered all the humans in big cities. Easy to harvest.
"God and the wilderness" I said. "Come with me."
She smiled.
 

johnnyjet

Western PA High Tech Country Boy
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Nov 11, 2011
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Location
Pennsylvania
Fishermen

He passed street lights and signs aglow in murky fog, robot sentinels guarding gated storefronts, burnt-out transports and drones. His smart van was a familiar sight to the street people, who mostly ignored him. They understood what he was looking for: the dead and the dying.

Not long into his shift he spotted his first. He pulled his van over to the curb and stepped out. The vermin pecking at the body scattered. He took a quick area scan, knelt down by his target, and checked for a pulse.

He xmitted an image with the caption, "We got a live one."

He spread his carrier arms out and scooped up the body. On command the back hatch of his van opened. He carefully deposited the body into the auto-med bay. Robotic arms came to life as the hatch slid shut.

He hopped into the driver's seat and sped off, alarms blaring.

ETA fifteen minutes.

He glanced at the floating status readout. First time he noticed the target was young and female. With the thousand ways you can get killed in the streets, you couldn't always tell. It always shook him when it was a young girl. He'd lost a daughter a few years back. That's why he fished.

He xmitted, "Vitals holding steady."

He drove as fast as he could. Ten minutes. A lot could happen in ten minutes.

They were fishermen. They harvested the dead for the parts and the dying for a second chance—or option one. It was a toss-up. They did their job no matter which result. Too many, however, ended up with option one.

That night he celebrated. Out of twenty targets that day, he found one that had a second chance. That was always a reason to celebrate.
 

stormcrow

Caaw blimey, Guv'nor!
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Dec 2, 2011
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547
Sacrifice

“Catch a falling star, and put it in your keep-net…” Harker Jack sang softly to himself as he rowed; he was certain the weir-keeps ought to be larger.
Drowsily now “…save it for a rainy day”; he shivered as his damp smock stuck to his tired frame.
“Row, row, row your boat…gently through the steam…” barb-fish toxin in his veins muddling his thoughts now “merrily, scarily, verily, tearing me; the sky can’t hear me scream….”

Summer Rain kept her distance, hidden beyond the weirs; observing his progress, waiting to strike.

The rituals were old and timeless; their significance lost to memory and yet none selected would dare abstain.

Harker Jack had received the greater share of the votes cast; his now the glory of the poison and the oar.
Summer Rain was tasked with ensuring the sacrifice went well; hers the spear-point, should it be needed.

The rituals were cold and rhymeless; where significance cost their memory and yet none elected could share their pain.

“Star-fishers; weavers of dreams…”, the honour of dying to preserve the tribes’ good fortune rang dully in the dark corners of Harkers’ mind, a ships’ boll tolling distant.

Ebbing, ebbing: the water through the weir-reeds.
Ebbing, ebbing: the life force from the rower.
Eddying, charybdian: the fortunes of the tribe.

“Starlight, star-bright; first scar I wear tonight….” Muddled now; Harkers’ own hallucinations fought against the impending banality of the measured, metered, finely punctuated finality of death.

Summer Rain set down her bone harpoon in her kayak and listened as Harkers’ words ran to a simple steam of gurgled vowel sounds then softened into silence. A solitary star-trail dropped across the sky and the tiny ferrous ingot fell hissing into the weir-keeps. All is good.
 

David Evil Overlord

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Prime Evil Soup
Fillet O’ Flesh

Once upon a time, McDarkElf’s had served fish taken from the ocean. More often, the fish were taken from fishermen.

Raknir Backstabber, dark elf captain, was industriously robbing some human fishermen when one of them quite unfairly accused him of theft.

“Should any whose intellect properly cannot differentiate between my noble piracy and common theft dare to speak it,” he declaimed, “then they shall be paid in exposure!” He magnanimously brushed aside the human’s ignorant discourtesies, and exposed the creature’s innards to the elements.

“You cannot claim ownership of something merely because you did some hard work.” His tone said hard work was so far beneath him it was probably on another plane of existence entirely. “What is in the nets belongs to all. After all, you cannot put a wall around the sea.”

After sinking their graceless scow, he exposed the nasty, brutish and short humans to a similar life on a desert island.

But the fishermen built a raft, and made it back home. Then they built walls around schools of fish, as farmers did with their herds on land.

This turned not-theft into hard work, and his dark elves were disgruntled. Raknir was staring down mutiny, when a loud splash and a hail came from off the starboard bow.

Mermaids!

“Elves! I am Princess Phillette,” the prettiest mermaid cried. “We hunger, for humans are between us and the fish! We saw you fight them. Aid us!”

“We shall help you. Please, come aboard my ship so we may more easily discuss how I may serve you,” Raknir said.

Dozens of mermaids beached themselves upon his deck. Princess Phillette smiled shyly as he eyed her hungrily.

***​

For weeks afterwards, the fish served at McDarkElf’s had an exquisite flavour. Perhaps the secret ingredient was the sauce.

Perhaps not.
 

LittleStar

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Jun 30, 2011
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736
Pray


Naui stared at the moon. His hands knew the nets. Even in the dark. “Why does Meiun stay awake at night, when we’re all asleep?”

“We aren’t asleep though, are we?” Mahalla laughed, finishing his work. “Besides, who says he doesn’t drift off when everyone sleeps, eh?” He tapped the side of his head. “But not even I know how the gods work.”

Naui looked back to the island, and the celebrations they were missing; the whole hill awash with light and music and feasts. He’d never been pious, but a god had never sailed there before.

“Should you not be there? A god would want the chief’s company.”

“And the chief wants his son’s” He dipped a torch in the oil. “Safer out here anyway. Gods are fickle.”

A flash of light caught Naui’s eye. “Did you see that!? In the water. A star, swimming as a fish.”

Mahalla grinned. “A kraken. Pack hunters, rare in the shallows. Seems this one got lost.

“But it glowed like the moon!”

“You’ve seen them in daylight, seen their skin dance and change in an instant. The kraken can shine…” He pre-empted Naui’s question. “Light lures as well as any worm. And curiosity is deadly to a small fish.”

“So it’s hunting. Do they all shine?” Naui struck a spark to the torch and the flame flared bright.

Mahalla nodded. “The bigger the light, the more attention the pack attracts. There are songs of whole whales being lured in and sunk down. Maybe true, maybe not.” Mahalla attached the torch over the water. “But it works so well.”

A piece of fire hissed into the water, and a flurry of fish nibbled at the smoke. Naui looked back to the hill once more, so bright. So tempting. But Gods are fickle.
 

chrispenycate

resident pedantissimo
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West Sussex
As below, so above.

In the silty, obscure depths the bottom-feeders gleaned. Even among fish, not famous for their intellectual brilliance, benthic species are low calibre thinkers, not even earning the 'cunning' label some of their surface-living kin enjoy. Carp, despite what the monks may say, are mediocre philosophers, but still more profound than mudworms or single-cell sludge dwellers.

If they could have understood the question they would have insisted that they were not captive, that the withies and cords circumscribing their motion brought forth an abundance of weed and crustaceans for their delectation and guided them to the richest harvests, utterly rejecting the hypothesis that the ichthyophagous mammals whose crude, rigid floating craft occasionally blocked such little sunlight as penetrated to them had trapped them, limited their possibilities. Until you are harvested life is good in the ooze.

The fishermen never saw the equivalence of their position, basically well fed and preyed on by the next social level up the aristocracy of eat. Traders, tax collectors, nobles - all the way up, step by step.

And up and down the food chain the narrow, squabbling layers of bureaucracy establish, and denigrate their inferiors, from the worms dodging the barbels in the thick ooze to gods above the grey, polluted sky. Fair pay, justice, balance All human illusions, the fish don't need them, while the gods laugh.
 
Joined
Mar 22, 2018
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286
Location
Number 6, The Moors
Washed Up


“Me old aunty Sylvie? Yes. Nice enough woman. They told me she was mad as a box of frogs. Well, nursing homes can do that.

“She always went on about this strange shell in her room. Said it had just washed up somewhere. It bore a carving of boats on water. Said it was symbolic like. Reminded her of the next tide.

"Moon pulls the water here – she said. But there are other, invisible tides ... made by bigger things like galaxies, whole universes and more. In time they wash up all manner of things.

"She used to ask me whose tide am I? Are there shores out there feeling our gravity? Do each one of us add that extra little pull or spin? Are we not all strange attractors?

"By all accounts, she started talking to herself. Staff said she started smelling kind of - seaweedy.

"Then one morning she was gone, just her walking stick laid on the bed. They told me ma the carpet was wet and kinda gritty underfoot. Odd really.

"Now you're here."

"Come with us," they sighed impatiently.

"Very tempting and all that, but I told you. I've got responsibilites. There's the cat. And the boys down the club on a Thursday - we do the Lottery you know. Won £25 once. No. Just see yourselves out."

You're truly happy with your ... life?” They laughed, blinding him momentarily as their rainbow tails washed through the walls of his quiet bungalow.

After a silence, their outlines began to waver, receding into serpentine smiles and scaly bodies repeatedly dipping beyond the membrane. A dozen eyes remained momentarily, inviting.

Arnold Rudge blinked and they were gone.

He crossed the carpet to the fallen shell, slippers squelching loudly.

“Oh, like that is it?”
 

M. Robert Gibson

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that
Joined
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306
Location
Discovery One
With Man’s Blood Paint The Ground

Prince Bregu starts as his chamber's curtain is suddenly parted and Queen Gwen enters, her face pale.
"Your father's been captured!"

"What? How?"

"The Londmen. An ambush. They've taken him to the White Lagoon. You must rescue him."

"But I should stay and protect the... "

"No. It must be you. Only you can wield Abreotan. The time has come for you to learn its power."

"Its power?"

"Yes. Its destructive power. Choose your target and say the word 'Fordoneall'. Be warned, use it sparingly. There are... consequences."

Frowning, Bregu takes the trident and swims off.

* * *

Adlig, the Londking, watches from his barge as Bregu enters the White Lagoon. "So, the princeling dares enter my domain alone." Turning to his captain. "When he reaches the grand pen, net him."

The barge shadows Bregu. On reaching the pen, the captain releases a trawling net which closes tight around Bregu. The captain winches it up until Bregu is face to face with Adlig.

"Foul creature, you defile the White Lagoon. But not for long. I will exterminate all Merfolk. Let it join its father."

* * *

King Brimwisa is jolted from his reverie as Bregu is dumped into the pen.

"My son! How? Why?"

"To rescue you. I have Abreotan. What means the word 'Fordoneall'?"
As he finishes, a powerful water jet erupts from the trident.
"So that's its power." Taking aim at the walls, Bregu repeats the word. The pen bars disintegrate. Looking up, Bregu sees two guard boats. He unleashes the power again and again.

"Father! Surely with such power we can easily defeat the Londmen."

"No. We must return to the..."

"No! I will not! I wield Abreotan now. I will destroy our enemies. Me!"

Sadly, Brimwisa regards his son, knowing the true destructive power of Abreotan has already taken hold.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
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nearly the New Forest
Fishing


“The first lot in our Chinese Masters catalogue, ladies and gentlemen, Fisherfolk of Xiapu. Ink wash on silk in the Southern School tradition, part of a panoramic screen hanging-scroll. No seal stamp, date and artist unknown. Sold by executors of Ms Sara Wang’s estate. A pleasant little painting, with delicate tonalities and a touch of red in the fisherwoman’s gown. What am I bid?”

At the back of the auction room, Sara waited patiently. Her mother had taught her about painting, and about fishing. Both required endless patience.

As for her father, he’d taught her guile, duplicity, and his magic.

*​

Sara waited patiently as the auctioneer patronised her.

“Low bids were to be expected for a painting of that quality. I understand your duty as executor to maximise the estate, but the reserve price was set ridiculously high.” The rider went unspoken – It’s only because you’re screwing the chairman that cheap tat by a talentless nobody was allowed into the auction.

Sara thought of her mother in her red gown, waiting, trapped in the scroll. “The auction of lesser Masters next year, Fisherfolk might sell then.”

*​

Contempt as Fisherfolk was again shown.

Sara waited, still patient.

Twenty years she’d waited, since she’d stolen the scroll from her father. Twenty years to discover how to overpaint it to reverse his enchantment. Now it simply had to be reunited with the eight scrolls he’d retained of the panoramic screen – her mother would be released, he’d be imprisoned in her place.

He’d long since gone into hiding. Since Sara couldn’t find him, she’d let him find the missing scroll.

Faking her death had been easy. Pretending to be her own executor easier still. Waiting was the hard part, but fishing required patience.

Sooner or later her father would take the bait.
 

Phyrebrat

ba-Ba-ba-brat
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Feb 13, 2011
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In your bedroom wardrobe...
Witches End

The fishnet lead of the old attic window ensnared the scrub and pines of the forest beyond the front garden, lumpen with snow. But winter’s twilit chill didn’t reach Sam. In fact, winter never reached beyond the bushes, it seemed.

The gardenias were in bloom. Ten bushes that should be dead in this climate, glowed whiter than the duvet of snow, the liquid stink of them stronger, still.

They always made him think of Gran. ‘Don’t you let Sam touch my petals, Sal! He’s a sensitive wee soul…’

He’d never known what “my petals” were; Mum’d said it was just the hangover of a muddled memory echoing from Gran’s past.

***

Later, he stacked and re-stacked boxes, looking for the Christmas decorations. Instead, he found an old scrapbook, bulging with inserts and fold-outs, and pages headed in Gran’s scalloped handwriting:

To Bring Pressure to Bear on an Enemy; For Love; For Abundance; Consecration…

‘You mysterious old bird,’ he said to the rafters, smiling.

A dried petal fell out. Nine more, glued in a circle, decorated a page headed Witching Posts, and beneath where the petal had been was a sketch of a squared, timber post. He could make out others under the affixed petals.

Mum slumped - gin-lulled - in a chair like a pile of laundry so he stole into the dark, moving to the nearest bush. Heat oozed from it like a secretion, and when he poked his head in, he banged it on an ancient wooden post. At his touch it transformed into a charred thing, and from above came screams and the hungry crackle of fire. Sam ran indoors as if the very Devil chased him.

Before, the village’s name seemed rural, but now he understood just how rural Tenburnstake’s history was.
 
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Mr Orange

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb...
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Jun 17, 2013
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1,328
Location
Noo Zillund
The Yú Pool

The night was dark, a sliver moon only. Everyone in the village was meditating, as I should have been. Not on the lake, looking for my dead brother.

I paddled the skiff to the high fence of the Yú Pool, where the Jiānhùrén farmed the strange fish they kept us alive with. I glanced over my shoulder. The Jiānhùrén weren’t there, but the Jīxiè lined the beach, their giant, armoured bodies still. I fingered the greenstone amulet around my neck, thankful for whatever magic it held that made me invisible to our conquerors’ monsters.

I misjudged my speed and hit the fence with a loud scrape. The boat rocked and I tumbled into the pool, the cold water closing over my head.

I burst through the surface, gasping. Into a dark night, with a sliver moon only. In the lake, where the Yú Pool should have been. I swam and stepped, dripping, onto a rubble strewn beach. There were no Jīxiè, but there was a figure, dark and silent.

“Hello?” I croaked.

“Qiánshuǐ?”

My breath caught.

“Qiūjì? Is that you?”

And there he was, my brother, filthy, wearing rags, but alive.

“How…” I began, but the sound of something in the lake stopped me.

“Jīxiè.” Qiūjì took something out of a bag, held it up towards the hills and clicked his fingers. A spark and brief flash lit up a concave mirror, then everything was dark again.

“Brother?”

He looked at me, suddenly old. “They hunt… us. To feed to… us. Let’s go.”

The Jīxiè were too fast. We hadn’t even got off the beach before they caught us. And thundered past.

Qiūjì stared at the glowing amulet.

“What’s that?”

“Umm, I don’t really know.”

“We need to get you to the others.”

We ran.
 

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
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20,692
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England
Magic Circles


My father often said his motto – Magic is Stupid – but never said what he meant by it.
Of course, I “knew” what it meant. After all, father had a Nobel Prize for Physics. Indeed, the whole family was up to its eyes in highly regarded awards in various branches of science. I, for example, was steered towards studying material science, not the most glamorous of subjects.
Aunt Phoebe said, whenever I wished I had followed her career path, “You’ll be surprised just how useful it will prove.”
She said this often, rather odd given her own career, conjuring. But then my family is full of surprises, not the least of which being that my aunt was no black sheep, but highly regarded by all my relatives. (And this after getting a First in mathematics at Cambridge.)
It was only when my father died that things became clear. After the funeral, Aunt Phoebe repeated the motto.
“But magic is your life,” I said.
“That… and conjuring.” She laughed. “Magic is stupid in the same way a computer is stupid: it has to be told exactly what to do. You can’t ask magic to create a rabbit inside a top hat. Magic doesn’t know what a top hat is, let alone a live rabbit. It has to be told… and in excruciating detail.”
“Sorry?”
“That’s why nearly everyone in the family is a scientist,” she continued. “We need to know what things are before we can get magic to even manipulate them, let alone create them. For centuries, we’ve been creating the equivalent of software procedures so that when we say, ‘Create a top hat,’ magic knows what to do.”
So now, when the world isn’t looking, I follow the family trade... being a real magician….
 

chrispenycate

resident pedantissimo
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WHAT'S STOPPING YOU?!THERE'S JUST UNDER THIRTY HOURS LEFT. GET ON WITH IT!
It seems as if those who submitted but have not yet voted comprise:-
Appello, Harliebunny, mosaix, Mr Orange, Phyrebrat, SaitamXVII, The Judge and Ursa major. Those who intended to vote without submitting are more difficult to estimate. And Calliopenjo and Vaz each used only one vote of their three. :).
 
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