300 Word Writing Challenge #48 -- VICTORY TO THE JUDGE!

Not open for further replies.
Never United

Cloning technology was by far the greatest achievement for us. We did explore the solar system in the following years because of it, but by doing so, the krezhta were discovered.
“Are we done with this batch?” asked Denrri. He was a newcomer on the washing team and still learning from other members.
“No need to rush, there are still a couple of bags to finish today’s work”, said Laia, team leader and survivor of the tenth incursion. She has been working with the team for several months after having a trauma; recovering the peace of mind with these mundane jobs, close to many allies as possible.
Even though time had passed since the incident, she always brought a gun with her to any kind of job. Even washing duty.
After the last batch of clothes were washed, the team took a break in one of the nearby tents to eat some food. The protected city had been growing in population and food started to be more limited.
“Oh, so now we are only getting two pieces of bread! Do you think I can live with this?” Shouted Devall, getting closer to starting a fight.
“Devall, stop whining and eat. Trouble is the least we want now” said Laia with a calm voice.
“You can have one of mine” said Denrri, a subtle smile on his face.
The place grew silent all of a sudden. Faces looking directly at Denrri with fear and anger.
“You’re a Krez…” said Laia. “We don’t share food… never”
Denrri’s face went pale. “It was just a joke!” He said with a forced laugh, but realized it was too late. He would die once again, not being able to live as a Mars habitant.
The Shirt On Your Back
Blood is always so damn difficult to clean off. Ditto brains. Unfortunately, my latest wearer had a very, very messy death.
Still, at least I didn’t get damaged; not even a rat bite afterwards. In the past, I was forever being slashed by a sword or ripped by a dagger, and you wouldn’t believe the hours I’ve spent mending bullet holes recently.
Of course, I don’t have to clean myself, but being washed just isn’t the same these days. In the past there was a sensuality to it that made my fibres quiver – women at riverbanks beating me against sturdy rocks; the glorious heat of later laundry houses. It’s all machines now. Sterile and soulless. As for repairs, don’t get me started on present day mending skills.
And with communal washing, there was a chance of encountering other ensorcelled clothes. Occasionally, I even met garments created by my own Mage and we’d reminisce. Oh, he was a careless eater! No wonder self-cleaning was always the first power he gave us.
Naturally, I’ve changed myself over the years. I’ve been shirt, nightshirt, chemise, shift, petticoat, blouse; long, short (a braw cutty sark I was for one comely Scots girl!); with sleeves, without; collared or not. Ruffles and embroidery have come and gone, but my favourite embellishment remains blackwork – what I wore for my first murder.
Black work, indeed, you might say, but when the drunken bully wearing me beat a child to death I had to do something. Beguiling wearers is always easy; I simply inveigled the thug into drowning himself.
Since then? To be honest, I’ve lost count of all I’ve killed. I’m no shirt of Nessus, though. Rather, think of me as Nemesis, punishing those who deserve it.
But next time you’re wearing a devastatingly exquisite shirt, remember me.
Beneath The Surface

Let’s be honest, I grew up in the worst part of the world. A vast shanty that stretched for hundreds of miles across the surface of a world that was barely amenable to human life.

A long time ago, it was said that our ancestors arrived from another world, a paradise of technological wonder, where the planet provided everything. Whatever the reason, we had left our Eden behind and come here.

I’m not sure what wonderful new beginning was expected, hell, it might even have been a perfect start.

But it wasn’t now.

Crops and animals did not take, over generations, became sickly and died, leaving swollen bellies and hunger.

Tumbledown shacks smothered with dust and dirt, stretching as far as the eye could see. Blotches of colour where people had tried to make their homes stand out. But brilliant hues did not stop the leaking roofs, did not protect against the bitter chill of winter, did not protect the thick dust that coated everything.

Like so many others I sat on the roof of my hut, watching the funeral procession as it wound its way through the chaotic pathways that existed between uneven walls and overhanging eves. The body was dragged through the dust, legs cutting twin trails and strips of flayed flesh.

The great honour of the dead.

Presented to the world around them, led through the streets. Unknown, nameless, but honoured by all.

From the streets of the slum, to the foot of the shining city, where lights shined and wonder reigned, there to be laid to their rest in the golden halls.

Then eaten.

Food for the minority, so the rich thrived.

There is a spirit here that won't be broken​

Sweet pea,

My Grandfather used to spin a tale, his version of an old book he’d once read. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk of it before. He claimed it to be prophetic. Hoped I’d never get to an age where I’d understand.

I’m there now, and I do.

Nothing makes sense. Nothing about our lives is right. Nothing about the past has helped us steer our future. We are a species choking ourselves, and everything else we touch, to death. We are a Darwinist dead end.

My Grandfather said the original had the name “Make room, make room”. I still find that title amusing, but not one that gives rise to any sort of laughter.

We eke out a life. Existing on recycled chemical compound foods and filtered, stale tasting air. Ten-foot square cubes, where not having a window is considered a blessing. Where yellowed plascrete walls offer no privacy; as our neighbours turn their infounits to maximum volume to drown out the noise. As, in turn, do we.

We’ve become a society of self-imprisoned prisoners.

The Global Council has promised hope before. A green Mars, luxury Lagrange orbitals, abyssal plain metropolises. And now the Sunseekers.

They say humanity will survive, will flourish, will expand. We will finally realise our preordained potential.

As you and I know, they say many things. I’ve written most of them.

We are not blind to the probabilities. My last glimmer of hope goes with you. With no belief, I pray. You did not ask for this world. Did not ask for this life. Your place on the Sunseekers is the only legacy I have to give.

Yet, I have no fear. I know that you will make the stars shine for you.

Some words are sad to say… I love you, goodbye.


What a Mother Knows

Who’d have thought a little white lie (okay, a big white lie), and a file that should no longer exist, could cause so much pain, and for so many reasons? No one, obviously; otherwise that lie would have been better thought through and that file would have been expunged.
The first sign of anything being wrong was a shriek from my daughter’s bedroom. I ran up the stairs to find Imogen staring at her screen, a look of horror on her face.
I couldn’t see what she was looking at – we like to live as we did before we moved here – so Imogen was able to say, “They’ve been skinned!” while I was still ignorant of the cause of her distress.
I almost laughed when I saw the image, one showing some sort of outdoor laundry from Before, but managed to stop myself. The last thing I wanted to do was freak Imogen out.
And then I realised that there was nothing I could do to prevent this. But I had to try.
“Have you been viewing where you shouldn’t have?” I asked.
“No… and you know I can’t.”
“And yet here you are, looking at something age-inappropriate.”
“I was doing my Geology homework. We’re studying India and I was looking at pictures of the Ghats when this appeared. I might have been prepared if the subject had been History, the time when people did horrible things to each other.” She looked thoughtful. “Why would they skin people?”
I might have answered, “That’s what some people did back then,” but thoughts of the Before were swarming through my mind, of the time when people wore clothes and didn’t just reconfigure their own appearances… when people weren’t just code and data.
“I need to tell you something.”

There is more to laundry than meets the eye

Father died last night. They found him this morning, lying face down in basin L7 under a giant heap of stuck laundry, No one had bothered to look what was blocking the conduits.

It angered me not a little. I let the responsible overseers haul his 113 kilo’s out of the basin and carry him to his house, 800 meters uphill. After that I sent them away to explain to our clients why their clothes were now an entangled mass consisting of several dozen batches. A task which in other circumstances I would have preferred to take upon myself.

While I waited for the alerted family to arrive, I contemplated the future. What to do with the business? People thought it was an old-fashioned laundry site, hopelessly out-of-date. It was neither. Father had added something unique to the process; his invention. A substance that made cloth wear resistant. A substance that failed to work in washing machines. A substance of which he alone knew the formula, though never used for his own clothing. And now it was lost.
To some his death was most fortunate. How had he ended up in basin L7? Whatever the case, it would have to wait till after the cremation.

But the first person to arrive was the doctor, who wished to examine the body.
“He did not drown. Nor do I see any signs of a fall on him. It looks more as if he clambered down into that basin himself.”
“Than what did he die off?”
“I cannot say without an autopsy first.” Something the family, for religious reasons, was opposed to.

The ritual washing of his body revealed strange symbols on his undergarments that had only become visible after its immersion in basin L7.
It was a formula.

Careful where you walk, they say. Stay away from the water or the Jennies will get you. Shake your washing out before you sleep. The Jennies love a warm house; a warm body even more.
i met her at a night cafe down by the waterfront. All around me were sleepy-eyed people, peeling home to sleep. Instead, we sat on and on. She showed me magic in the darkness, fire drawn from the air, shapes that danced to the deep music that edged on and on until morning.
I brought her home, to bed, to lie together, skin warm, her burrowed into me. I asked her name: Jenny, she told me. In the morning she was gone, just the shape of her lips a memory slicked along my skin. By evening I began to walk, to search, my energy never dimming except when I met another, when I held them through the darkness while they slept and I sought only their warmth, to hold back the coldness within me.
Today I walked 100 miles. I didn’t eat, or drink. I haven’t slept since that night, in my own warm bed. I click my fingers against the grains of dust in the air, bored, and the fire comes and Fades and comes again. I cannot die; I‘ve tried. Tomorrow, I’ll walk a hundred more.
No hate, no love, no soul. No joy, no sorrow, an empty vessel in the sands.
Tonight, I’ll find a late night cafe. I’ll hum a song, low and deep. I’ll draw someone towards me, someone who finds the empty me alluring. I’ll show them magic drawn from the air. I’ll lean in close and whisper: don’t go near the Jennies, dear. Stay away from the water, shake your clothes out before you wear them. Keep them from your bed.
And when they ask my name, I’ll tell them.
Jenny, I’m a Jenny.
And then I’ll leave without looking back, and hope they’ll never have to walk alone.
Last edited:
The Menace of Closure

There’s a community made of piquant spices and finest fabrics, where colours roll on mid-sea breakers; where boats fly overhead leaving cotton-tail trails, and water is warm on cold skin.

There are scores of people, forever fixed on their futures of sandy shores or cosmopolitan midnight jaunts; to tread the sandalwood throats of the Pharaohs’ tombs, or climb the pillars of the sky, crampons fixing them to a rock-face like insects.

A silver-eyed condor, custodian, promised them this: assurances of diverse treats, and wondrous sights; his mate verifying lines of code, numbers conjuring flight paths.

Instead of birds, boxes soar and sink on invisible thermal streams like cherry blossom in April winds; fabric ones and plastic ones and metal ones, and resin. Santa has been, it seems, for children’s toys hang everywhere, though not on the feathers of blue spruces, or the spikes of redolent balsam firs; the fauna here is of a slicker type — and redder, browner.

Unseen, the condor spiralled down, a bass clef of ever-decreasing integers until now, voyagers from another world, drop down one by one, scouring the village with eager, bulging eyes, directed by a hundred geo-synchronous Inmarsats.

Cameras are secured, nets and joists tightened, all under the scrutiny of a gambol of dancers who foxtrot and waltz, yet all in solo. And though they know what the voyagers seek, their eyes, glazed with a sea mist, offer no clues; though their mouths are forever-open, the words that come are silent, and dumb.

Until at last, years or decades later — for time has nothing to offer but entropy in this village made from the colours of other people’s lives — a jubilant message comes:

‘Found it!’

And, drunk on the sorrows of the world, the divers bring BA78’s black box to the surface.

Water cascaded from tier to tier, like something a child would construct at the beach. The concrete shone in places, polished down by madras. June smelled only herself inside the filter suit.

“We have the exposed in quarantine. This laundry has three tributaries, so the source could be anywhere - or Patient Zero brought it with him.”

“Him?” June asked the WHO rep; a political appointee with an air of competence.

“Oh; yes. We he’s Sung Kim, former SEAL. Probably Korean intelligence. They gave us that much. He’s disappeared.”

The last was unnecessary; June wouldn’t be there if anyone was easy to find. She took the dossier, the box of PPE and her assumptions to the airfield. The French surveillance jet connected her to the network before it had time to get airborne.

Eighteen hours later, June had nearly exhausted a Mossad database of corruptible immigration officials when she got confirmation on Virginia. The pilot steered five degrees south and checked in with ATC.

Kim hadn’t just been savvy. He had been invisible to every witness - who each claimed cheerfully that they don’t recall the man at all. Only electronic records showed his passing.

June working her usual skills, June arrived at a house in Portsmouth; the CDC isolation team on standby and a Japanese police revolver in her pocket - mask on. The door was open.

“Mr. Kim. You are carrying an infectious…” He moved so fast; they were struggling on the ground immediately. He tore at her mask, gasping into her exposed mouth.


She was someone else. June felt what maleness is. Spring in Seoul. Loss. Drowning. Anger. A whole life.

June realized why no one he met would help. Sung Kim was not going into quarantine. He had an empathy to infect on mankind.
Not open for further replies.