• Published a book you want to tell us about? Uploaded a YouTube video you want to share?

    Normally you'll need 100 posts to self-promote, but with an upgraded membership you can do so with your first post.

    Find out more here: Become a Supporting Member

300-word Writing Challenge #33 (April 2019) -- VICTORY TO JO ZEBEDEE!

Status
Not open for further replies.

Parson

This world is not my home
Supporter
Joined
Oct 11, 2006
Messages
8,139
Location
Iowa
A Vacant Planet

Baylee’s first view of LG736P3 took her breath away. A blue marble so like Earth she and her survey mates unofficially called it, Earth-Eden, EE for short. It resided right in the middle of the Goldilocks zone. The weather could not be more conducive to human life. And the news kept getting better. Usually such a planet would have an advanced tool using culture and would therefore be banned from further inspection. EE had way too many ants but no advanced tool users. In a thousand years of exploration humanity had only found 2 planets like this, and none, not even earth, was better suited for human life.

….. Nine months later ….

“Okay, Doc, what’s the call?” demanded crewman Ruiz. “You’re not going to nix our golden goose because of ant bites?”

Everyone knew about the shared $5,000,000,000 bonus. This was the pot of gold which made the highly dangerous work alluring. It also put a lot of pressure on Baylee to rule in favor of the company and her crewmates.

“I haven’t made the definitive call yet.” Baylee grumbled.

The Ants didn’t bother Baylee; those rocks did. Could such an arrangement occur naturally? Chief Xenobiologist Baylee, would have to make the call on colonization.

“Doc, I’ve got a sweet life waiting. You know, wine, women, etc.”

Baylee sighed; the rock formation was such an anomaly. It seemed possible only with intelligent intervention. “Had there been an alien landing in the past?”

-----

Colony Zeta was terrified. The colony of hive minds had recognized the alien threat. Bites had not deterred the Giants. Worse, Giant chemical warfare had been devastating. Now it all rested on God and the alter built by the ancients.

-----

God didn’t answer. Baylee voted colonization and bonus. The War of Ants was joined.
 

johnnyjet

Western PA High Tech Country Boy
Joined
Nov 11, 2011
Messages
1,481
Location
Pennsylvania
Her Thoughts Were Set in Stone

Whenever the alien Moaire came to the beach, she stacked large stones, then dismantled them when she left. I would watch her from the hut where I served refreshments.

Moaire was one of the Ancelites, popularly called Angelfolk. They looked and moved like angels, pure white under shimmering silver mesh. Tall and thin, they spoke softly like calm waves lapping the shore. They had three genders: alph, horm, and gale. Moaire was a gale, most resembling the human female.

I watched Moaire because of her unearthly beauty. I never approached her. Though friendly, Angelfolk interacted with humans only when necessary.

One day she approached my hut.

"Can you explain these beverages?"

Speechless at first, I eventually stumbled through descriptions of carbonated, non-carbonated, and alcoholic drinks.

She thanked me, then turned to leave.

"May I ask you a question?"

"Yes."

"Why build those amazing structures only to tear them down a few hours later?"

Her features softened. "I don't need them any more."

"I don't understand."

"It's like when you do something important. When it's done, you move on to something else.

"I stack the stones in the precise configuration that represents what's troubling my mind. The stones are my thoughts materialized and arranged in order. Once I've translated the stones to their proper configuration, then I have an understanding of the problem and a resolution. I no longer need the stones.

"I take them down until the next time I need them."

"That's amazing."

As she walked away, I watched her with a longing I couldn't understand. Perhaps I needed the stones to help me understand my hopes and dreams, my desires, my life's confusion. Perhaps she could teach me.

If only mankind could find it so easy to solve its problems, with such grace and simplicity.
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
Supporter
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
6,266
Not Forgotten

I laid the first when my mother died. She was taken when the cold winds blew into the cave and only the hardiest survived. The dead were given back to nature but then nothing remained.

I placed the stone on the ground. Round, perfect. I do not know why, but it was for her. Something to remember, that said, ‘she was here.’
Less than a turning of the seasons, my father lost his luck. The last I saw was his limp form dragged into the bush by the beast he hunted, long pointed fangs glistening with blood.

What I had done for my mother, I did for him. A more rugged stone, it seemed fitting, and I placed it upon my mother’s marker.
Together again.

Life was good. I had a strong mate. Three of my children lived! For the seven that did not, I placed small pebbles around my parents’ stones. They never even became people, but it seemed right. They were there. I did not want to forget.

I was lamed, unable to hunt, I lived longer. My mate though, she started coughing one day. She did not stop, until breathing stopped.
I found a beautiful stone of many colours and placed it with my mother and father. My children and I stood around it and remembered.
It will be my time soon. Another stone added to the pile. Mother. Father. Mate. Children. One for the daughter who was beaten by her mate. One for the son who just walked away.

Seasons will pass. The stones will stand. What are these things, why are they stacked so?

They will not remember us.

But they will question. They will think. They will not know the story.

But they will know someone was here.
 

Cory Swanson

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 19, 2016
Messages
450
Sentience, Of All Things

Of course, I didn't see it coming, but I did see it going. Prancing away with its bony wings.

I would have needed to be sentient already to have seen it coming. Now I'm left to wonder if this little fairy truly meant to grant me this gift. Me, of all things. A pile of rocks. Maybe its wand accidentally tapped me.

Or worse yet, maybe it meant to. That would make it a very mischievous little imp indeed, to curse a pile of rocks with self awareness. I have no legs to chase it down. No voice to call after it.

What am I going to do with sentience? Sit here and contemplate the universe? Wonder why I exist? Who made me? What I'm supposed to be doing?

Ridiculous.

I see someone has stacked me so I look vaguely like the beach monkeys. The ones who dump their filth in the water and are always inventing ways to kill one another.

Some good sentience did them.

They know enough about existence and the universe to modify it to their needs, yet they can't figure out how to pick up after themselves. Egotists. Always trying to make everything in their own image.

I bet they're the ones that stacked me like this. What a cruelty. One minute, I'm a happy bunch of rocks being shaped and redistributed by the forces of nature and the next I'm a self-aware stack of minerals resenting my very form.

If I could get ahold of that stinking fairy I'd…

That's a rather big wave. I wonder if—

Oh no. Oh God no.

Why? I've only been sentient for a couple of minutes. Why does it all have to end so soon? I'm not ready. I’m—
 

mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2006
Messages
6,745
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
The Balance of Probability

You have 30 seconds.”

“What?”

Now 29 seconds. My sensors indicate a rockfall ahead and at 486 mph we are travelling too fast to avoid a collision. I can do nothing.”

“Apply brakes!”

I have. And full reverse thrust. There will still be a collision. What we collide with is optional.”

“Explain!”

Steer away and you'll survive but with injuries. To the left you'll kill a child standing by the roadside. To the right right you'll kill one member of the rescue services and two medical staff. Do nothing and you'll die. Seven seconds.”

“Steer right! No, left! No! I don't know--”

“WAKE UP! Come on. You're alright.”

“Where am I?”

“Relax. You're fine. You passed out.”

“That was horrible. I feel sick, dizzy. I thought I was going to die.”

“Our simulator designers really know how to apply the pressure don't they? Here, a glass of water. That's better. Tell me, did you really think you were going to die?”

“Of course I did! That's what was intended wasn't it? You bastards.”

“Didn't you think it was all a bit unlikely? Being forced into an almost impossible moral dilemma? Having to choose between dying yourself or causing the deaths of innocent people?”

“I didn't have time to think. Who would? I panicked.”

“But isn't it about the balance of probability? Balancing the likelihood of such a situation occurring in reality, against the possibility that it was just some kind of test or dream.”

“But under extreme stress people don't think straight. I was overwhelmed by the perceived danger. I couldn't see the reality.”

“Correct. And that's probably why your mind's running at top speed and you think you're talking to me rather than heading into a rockfall at 82 mph.”

“What!?”

You have one second.”
 

Culhwch

Lost Boy
Staff member
Joined
Feb 4, 2005
Messages
7,477
Location
Brisbane, Australia
A Balanced Heart

‘This is stupid.’

‘You’re only saying that because you can’t do it.’ Kiara smirked as she guided another stone to the top of her stack.

‘No, because it’s pointless!’ Leith pushed, her meagre pile scattering down the stony slope.

‘Leith!’ snapped Tolin. ‘The exercise requires control, and discipline. Qualities you’d do well to learn.’

Leith shot their master an angry look, then glanced away, abashed. ‘Sorry, master.’

‘Again,’ Tolin said.

Leith cleared her mind, focused, and reached out for a stone.

***

‘I’m sorry, Leith.’

Leith shrugged. ‘We both knew this would happen.’

‘You’ll make master,’ said Kiara. ‘Tolin knows how hard you’ve worked.’

‘Hard work is one thing. Skill is another.’

‘You’re too hard on yourself.’

‘Let’s not do this now.’ She reached out, stroked Kiara’s cheek. ‘I wonder when I’ll see you again.’

‘Soon. This war’s all but won.’

‘Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.’

One corner of Kiara’s mouth twitched into a smile. ‘I can’t promise that.’

‘I love you, Kiara.’

Kiara leaned in to kiss her. ‘I know,’ she whispered.

***

Bodies littered the corridor -- soldiers, from both sides. The throne room doors were shattered. She stepped inside.

More bodies, more blood.

A throne.

A queen.

‘I knew you’d come. You couldn’t stay away.’

A slight hesitation; the truth in the words stung. ‘You killed Tolin.’

‘He tried to stop me.’

‘You’ve betrayed everything he taught you. Taught us.’

‘What use is power,’ Kiara said, ‘if we’re too afraid to wield it?’

Leith sighed. ‘All those years, I thought I was the failure. But it wasn’t true.’

‘Don’t be like them, Leith. Don’t be weak.‘ Kiara reached out a hand. ‘Join me.’

‘No, I won’t,’ she said, reaching for her own power, harnessing it. ‘But I promise I’ll look for you in the next world.’
 

scarpelius

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Messages
271
Location
Bucharest
The little one

____Cadet Sajat fidget anxiously. I can feel his unrest, he is young and my request to wait in silence is too much for his boiling blood.
____We are at d'Hogg Cliffs overlooking the Great Sea of the South. It is a sunny day with a slow, steady wind. Old Faithful is up in the sky and got a golden tint over his reddish disk. I can feel the warmth through the thickness of winter clothes. From now on his strength is going to grow steadily, until is going to be too dangerous to be outside in mid day.
____"Grandpa, how long does it take?"
____"Not long... the wind is calm today." I cannot see him but I'm sure his face is a portrait of unhappiness.
____"You say that every time. And those damn rocks don't hold more than a minute."
____"They will today, the wind will help."
And they did. Under the gentle pressure of the wind the unstable rock structure slowly rotates, until it found an equilibrium position.

____"Fifty years ago his majesty admiral said to a captain..."
____"Open fire captain, is just a pile of rocks and a few lice."
____"I know, you told me a million times that story."
____I gently touch the stones and turned them crosswind.
____"And now?"
____"They will align. Again.", said the cadet bored.
____"The rocks are like our world. They bend to the will of mighty." I raised one small pebble. "And this could be you one day."
____The cadet becomes curios. I turned the rocks and put one small pebble between the ground and first rock. The bottom stone held its position, the others align with the wind.
____"One day you could stand against the might of others and turn the tide of a war."
 
Last edited:

Shyrka

Friend of Ulysses
Joined
Jan 11, 2016
Messages
777
Far From the Tree

Morri gazed out at the slate-grey seas, their tumult little more than an angry smear without his spectacles. The cairns were still there – smudged black fangs jutting from the ashen beach. Memories of that day came swimming back – the breathtaking size of the orc fleet, the ugly wallowing of their junks, the thunder as they crashed into the beach. He had thrown and thrown and thrown again. His shoulder ached at the thought of it.

“Puggy was the best of us,” he said, answering the question that had lingered in the air since Ada had asked it long moments ago. “‘Farcaster’, they called him. No one could throw like him. His sling was lethal, yes, but it wasn’t just that. He was a strong leader too – taught us how to fight. Had us build the cairns so we’d always have ammunition.” He smiled bitterly. “And it worked too. For a while.”

“There were so many.” Morri's voice cracked. Bitter shame rose in his gorge. “We… we ran. I ran.” Morri slumped, hunching forward as a sob rocked his frame. “Puggy never faltered. He stood fast, sling whistling to the last. We found him days later, a dozen orcs at his feet.”

“It’s okay, Uncle. We understand,” said Ada gently.

“Why did you want to know about your father anywa-,” Morri stopped in his tracks. “Wait. What do you mean, ‘we’?”

Ada handed him something. Metallic and delicate. His spectacles.

His vision cleared. Beside each black cairn stood a young halfling. Each one cradled a sling. Ada hefted her own sling, one that looked all too familiar.

“The orcs will come again, Uncle. We need someone to train us.” said Ada, taking his hand. “Someone who learned from the best.”

His vision blurred again, this time with tears.
 
Last edited:

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,691
Location
California
Consecrated

The path wound steeply uphill toward the Place of Stones, great boulders the gods had stacked one upon the other, sacred since time immemorial. Rowan walked near the end of the procession, a cool breeze ruffling her hair. Beyond the stones dawn was just breaking. Her heartbeat quickened. It would not be long now.

She stopped to un-snag the long train of her gown which had caught on a small thorny shrub, ignoring the impatience of those behind who would have hurried her on. She shivered inside the thin white linen, not so much from the morning chill as from apprehension.

It was, everyone said, an honor to be the one chosen, but her feelings were mixed. She took a deep breath and resumed the climb, aching at the thought of all she left behind, and yet she knew some part of her had wanted this.

The priests walking on either side of her, imposing in their blood-red robes, began to chant, just as the rim of the sun rose above the crest of the hill. Rowan felt a lump rise in her throat, moved by the beauty of it all: the freshness of the morning, the golden light beginning to halo the stones, the ancient words of the chant.

Those walking before her began to peel off to the sides. She walked on past them, stopping at a spot near the base of the stones, where he, the young man, the stranger, chosen of another tribe, awaited her, his jaw set with determination. Their eyes met. Unexpected joy overwhelmed her.

One of the priests slipped around in front of them, and drew his knife.

He took the hand of the youth and slashed a shallow cut across the palm. “Do you take this woman….”
 

M. Robert Gibson

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that
Supporter
Joined
Feb 10, 2018
Messages
514
Location
Discovery One
The Ant and the Giant

There lived a King who had a son. The day arrived for the son to make his way in the world.
At the end of his first day travelling, as the Prince rested, preparing to eat, he heard a voice.

"Great Prince, wouldst thou share thy food?"

Looking around, he noticed an ant's nest, atop of which stood the Queen. Twas she who had spoken.
Being a kindly soul, he offered a piece of bannock which the Queen accepted.

"Because of thy generosity," she said, "if ever thou needest help, know thou may call on me."

On the second day, the Prince arrived at the shore of a great loch where he beheld a most beautiful Maiden, immediately falling in love.
"Fair maiden, may I pledge my troth?" he asked, but before she could reply, a Giant arose from the loch's depths.

"If thou wouldst marry my daughter, first must thou build a magnificent palace on these shores. Do this ere the sun completes one full cycle or thy life is forfeit."

The Prince looked around and, seeing naught but pebbles, stones and rocks, began to despair knowing he could not complete this task in time. In panic he began piling up everything as high as he could; pebbles on stones, rocks on pebbles. Then he recalled the Queen ant's promise.
"Oh Queen, veritably do I desire thy aid."
At which entreaty the Queen and her subjects appeared and began toiling and building most vigorously and diligently.

The appointed hour arrived and again the Giant arose.
"What's this I see? A truly magnificent palace. Thou hast shown thy worthiness. With my blessings, thou may marry my daughter."

The Prince returned home with the Maiden where they married amid much rejoicing and they lived happily the rest of their days.
 

Phyrebrat

ba-Ba-ba-brat
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
4,308
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
The Concretion of Love

Olenus waited as patient as time.
Left and right the November beach was barren save for the stacks of mossy rocks. They weren’t much in the way of company - not even he could offer that, either - so he waited for the return of the women with those already here, in sentinel silence.

Would she ever return? Had she even loved him?
The waves, an impassive, relentless chumble as loud as his insecurities, didn’t answer.

Scuds of blown spume tumbled across the dirty shoreline, reminding Olenus of when all this started; that gristly lump which had popped out between his third and forth rib, then another from his armpit, the pores stretching like stoma to birth them. The pain became insensate to the point when, by the second week, he was waking up with a bed full of egg-like deposits of fat and sinew.

Then organs.

Distill the human body down into the right molecules and it’s remarkable what you can assemble - or what’s left behind.

As he waited with the other heartbroken husbands, he considered death might be a good thing for those whose love had inflicted concretion upon them. If he were religious he’d wonder if this was justice; but a hopeful inner voice reminded him every saint has a past, every sinner a future. So wet, cold and igneous, he abided.

Still no sight of smokestacks on the horizon, no dawdling sloops or leaning clippers - hell, even a black sail would be welcome.

Time slowed; he might be middle aged but it’d be better to measure his age by half-life, instead.
How many others suffered concretion as they waited for the return of their sweethearts?
He sighed at the mass of stacks.
Not even that cemetery, Egypt, and all its chimera could match this.
 
Last edited:

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
10,346
Location
nearly the New Forest
The Stone-Singer


I was four when I first heard the songs. Five when I first balanced the stones to create more music. Six when I was promised to the seamaids. Seven when they blinded me.

No, no pain. A sting as their hands touched my eyes, as you might get from a sea nettle. Nothing more.

A great loss, yes. So it seemed. At first. No longer able to run and jump and play with carefree abandon, that was hard. No longer able to see my mother’s face. But I knew I did it for her and my family, for our fisherfolk, our sailors. For everyone.

A sacrifice, yes. But a blessing, too, as the old stone-singer told me. He stayed by my side, guided me through the darkness, until the colours burst upon me.

No, not blackness. Colours more vivid, more alive than ever I saw with seeing eyes; stronger, more intense. Crimson, jade, sapphire, coral, gold. Colours for which there are no names, fruits of the harmonies the stones create, which the sighted cannot see.

Oh, the harmonies. Decades of joy I’ve spent balancing the stones, bathing in their sound, hearing their colours; stacking, searching, weaving and blending their tunes; seeking the right pebble, the true song. Creating such music as makes my heart dance, my soul soar.

Yes, all done to maintain the covenant. We stone-singers make the music which soothes the great beasts which otherwise would hunt the seamaids. If we did not, the siren seamaids would sing to protect themselves. So we make the stones sing, to keep the seamaids silent, to keep our people safe.

Do not fear. I will stay at your side. I will guide you through the darkness, until the colours burst upon you.

Come and receive the seamaids’ hands.
 

LittleStar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2011
Messages
764
Of Salt and Stars


The cold sand scratched Hettie’s knees. The wet had seeped up her skirt hem already. She caught her breath, looking up to Angelo who set the next stone. With the moon-glow and whisping clouds behind he looked as though he were flying, soaring to the stars.

“Tired already?” His smile danced in his words.

A crab scurried through the darkness, leaving a black constellation in the sand. Hettie shrugged. “Just taking a breather.”

Angelo collected another rock, and clambered back up the mound. “Well this thing ain’t—” He slipped on the ocean spray, the stone slammed on his hand. “Dammit!” His scream fell flat along the waves. “What’s the point? We’ll never make it high enough to see him.” He sucked his thumb, inspected for lasting damage.

“I never asked for your help!”

“And I never offered.” He never did; yet... Angelo bumped her shoulder when he sat. His skin was warm, fire to her weary ice. “So where’s he supposed to be up there?”

Hettie pointed to the stars. It was his sign, summer born, and as good a place as any, nevermind the irony.

“You know the story for that one?”

She shook her head, rested it on his shoulder.

“When Heracles fought the Hydra, a crab tried to distract him. Time and again he came, nipping Heracles’ toes. For that bravery Hera gave the little warrior immortality.”

Hettie tasted the ocean trickling from her eyes.

“Hey. He fought, hard as he could. Twice. But it’s a persistent bugger.” Angelo stood, holding his hand out for her.

“But you said... what’s the point?”

He breathed a sea salt laugh, and purple dawn brightened the night. “You’re not guna listen to me, are you? Only thing I know is we’ll never make it if we don’t try.”
 
Last edited:

Mr Orange

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb...
Joined
Jun 17, 2013
Messages
1,428
Location
Noo Zillund
Equilibrium


None of them noticed. Not even Zimrak, our supposed “wise man”. They were all so focused on my little sculpture on the beach that they missed their looming destiny. Mind you, I didn’t notice either, which is even more stupid. I was the one tricking them, after all. Not that I knew it at the time; all I knew was that each day another stone had to be added to the sculpture. I couldn’t stop myself any more than the greedy elders could stop themselves pillaging the earth and sea.

It was all perspective, you see. With each small stone added, the reef at the edge of the lagoon rose. But, relative to my pile of rocks, it didn’t. And that was the trick. It wasn’t until the monstrous shape took form and stood that anyone saw it for what it was. Seawater and debris streamed from its vaguely human form as it advanced. Everyone on the beach stopped looking at my stones then. Our mother had returned, as the script said she would, to claim us all. The smog over the city probably spared most of the citizens her grotesquely majestic figure, but they would know soon enough.

Even now, as the end is upon us, I’m quite proud of my sculpture. Each stone perfectly laid on the one below. No gum, notches or anything. Just balance. As the seas rage I sit and realise we lost ours a long time ago.

A foaming wave crashes on the beach and the carefully placed stones are washed away.
 

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Aug 7, 2007
Messages
21,002
Location
England

Stacking Stones -- Its Not Rocket Science


“You expect me to replicate that?”
“The same stones are available,” my aunt replied, “at the same location.”
“The stones aren’t the point!”
“No, the point is in the background… if you look at the 3D image the right way.”
“The pointlessness of the exercise is the point!” Was she trying to wind me up? “Someone’s already stacked them once. Why travel to another continent just to do it again? I can see exactly how they’re arranged. I’d be wasting my time lifting… they aren’t bigger than they look, are they?”
“They’re easily lifted, even by hand. You’ll be using your mind, of course. For your test.”
“What test?” Then the penny dropped. My aunt hadn’t bribed the examiner as she’d promised. She was the examiner. “Well done. You’ve raised my hopes, only to dash them. You’ve ensured that I’ve not been practising my skills… if you can call them that.”
“What I’ve done is to prepare you properly. Your “skills” are no such thing. They are not to be learnt. That’s what we say to make ordinary people think that they can’t master the gift rather than realise that they don’t have it.”
“I’ve seen them almost manage it.”
“You’ve seen their ‘teachers’ make it look as if they have.”
“Then we’d better go to this precise location where the self-same stones are, so I can fail the test.”
“We’ll do no such thing. You’ll move the stones from here. Your gift works all across the planet, if you want it to. Just give me your amulet.”
“It gives me luck.”
“It dampens your power.” She grabbed it from me.
I could feel the stones. I could feel them move into position.
“I reckon you’ve scraped a pass,” she smiled. “I said it was a gift.”
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top