350 Word Writing Challenge -- #50 (July 2023) -- VICTORY TO VICTORIA SILVERWOLF!!

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The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
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The inspiration image for Challenge #50 is:


Ice.jpg



Image credit: THX1138


THE CHALLENGE:

To write a story in 350 words or fewer
INSPIRED
by the image provided above
in the genre of

Science Fiction, Fantasy, or other Speculative Fiction



In addition to receiving
the Dignified Congratulations/Grovelling Admiration of Your Peers
the winner
has the option of having his/her story published on the Chrons Podcast!



THE RULES:

Only one entry per person

All stories Copyright 2023 by their respective authors,
who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here



This thread will be LOCKED until July 10th 2023
As soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story



Entries must be posted no later than July 31st 2023 at 11:59 pm GMT

Voting will open on August 1st 2023 and will close on August 15th 2023 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)



We ask all entrants to do their best to vote when the time comes

but you do not have to enter a story to vote
as we encourage ALL Chronicles members
to read the stories and take part in choosing the winning entry!


You may cast THREE votes


NO links, commentary or extraneous material in the posts, please,
as 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


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




** Please do not use the "Like" button in this thread! **
 

Victoria Silverwolf

Vegetarian Werewolf
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Dec 9, 2012
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Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
Best Friend

Valentina Rostov shuffled across the surface of Enceladus. Saturn loomed overhead.

Robot Seven rolled beside her. It reminded Valentina of a black refrigerator on eight fat tires. It wasn't much smarter than a refrigerator, only able to obey simple commands like stop and return to Base. It recorded data from multiple sensors while Valentina daydreamed about life in the moon's hidden ocean. Once in a while she used her hand laser to obtain a sample of ice, not expecting it to be of any interest.

A plume exploded silently on the horizon, sending water soaring thousands of kilometers into the sky, to fall back gently as snow. Valentina felt a rumble beneath her boots.

The ground opened beneath her. Valentina fell into a newly formed crevice, landing on her back after drifting down so slowly it seemed like a dream. She tried to stand, but the ice held her like a vise.

Feeling like a fool, she radioed Base. The signal didn't get through, whether because of the ice or Saturn's magnetosphere or both. She tested her direct line to Robot Seven. It worked, but the stupid machine couldn't get her out of here.

Cold filled her suit. The fall, gentle as it was, must have damaged something in the heating system.

Robot Seven sat on a ledge just above her. Valentina lifted her arm and aimed her laser at its side. The ruby beam formed letters on the machine's flank as it burned away the black paint. HELP.

"Return to Base." Valentina sighed as Robot Seven moved away. They said freezing to death was pleasant, just like falling asleep. Sleep . . .

Doctor Nagara's handsome face smiled down at her. Valentina lay in a wonderfully soft and warm bed in the infirmary.

"You'll have to regrow a few fingers and toes, but you'll be fine," he said. "That was a brilliant idea you had. Just get some rest now."

Valentina closed her eyes and thought about Robot Seven and a very old joke about a collie, a boy named Timmy, and a well. "Good dog," she whispered.
 

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
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Meet Whalesong, Alaska's Newest Family
(A Happy Tale of a Confluence of Sad Events)​

Miguel had heard horror stories of the inefficiencies of County Vagrants Hospital.
Before surgery he'd written upon his left leg, 'THIS ONE STAYS'.
Perpetually understaffed, CVH employed temps from MediPals Nursing, and the Pal prepping Miguel for amputation saw only 'THIS ONE' on the leg's upper surface (overlarge lettering having pushed 'STAYS' to the inner thigh). She'd painted that leg with sterilizing iodine, obscuring the final word.
The overworked surgeon removed the healthy leg, then from medical necessity, the dying one. Miguel, possessing neither family nor advocate, was kept unconscious, and put on the next refugee flight from Dallas.
The flight's passengers were Central Americans forcibly transported from Texas to Whalesong, Alaska (California and Massachusetts having successfully litigated against the mass transferring of immigrants by southern governors).
Alaska – ever short of workers, currently welcoming of the disenfranchised – widely promoted its newest State slogan:
Bring us your homeless, ambitious, your mistreated masses –
Welcome, new Alaskans.

This open-door policy explained how Ma'amdroid-7 (an android nanny) was living in Whalesong. The AI wasn't homeless, with rooms in the Artificials Inn, but was, due to its emotions programming, paralyzingly sad.
In a recent emergency, Ma'amdroid had had to choose which of its two charges to save, and helped the kind girl over the cruel boy. Its old family had discarded it, and Alaska also needed synthetic workers.

Then there was Spaniel Day-Lewis, a dog who'd been lamed in a wolf attack. His owners, desiring 'a proper puppy', had abandoned him near Whalesong.

Ma'amdroid had rescued Spaniel, then together they'd rescued Miguel.
Each undertook the healing of the others.

The hard-working citizens of Whalesong – the Inuit and Yupik, folks from Anchorage, Mogadishu, Panama City – would smile and wave at the family as it roamed the town, Miguel strapped to Ma'amdroid's back, Spaniel hopping alongside.
With spare power banks for Ma'amdroid, a coffeed thermos for Miguel, and biscuits for Spaniel, each morning they'd undertake the trek to Matanuska Glacier, where they'd picnic and plan their day's activities.
And if they could advise the world's dispossessed they'd say: Come, join our family in Whalesong, Alaska.
 

Rafellin

Independent Author & Publisher
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West Sussex, UK
Layers

“It looks like gateau.”

“No, milhoja.”

Susan wanders out to join the pair of Varkam on the viewing deck.

“Are you two comparing wonders of natural beauty to food again?”

Clingdio turns, dorsal crest flushing grey in embarrassment.

“Purely a textural comparison, Barda Susan.”

Akmafan shrugs her lower wings.

“Nothing but an idle diversion.”

Susan leans on the safety rail and considers the cracked and sagging glacier.

“I’m liking gateau. Persuade me: why milhoja?”

Akmafan points to the black deposits across the top.

“The jagged angularity of the Anthropocene burn layer reminded me of the dark chocolate topping atop the milhoja I enjoyed in Quito.”

Susan chuckles.

“Now there’s a comparison only visitors to Earth could make.”

Akmafan spins to face her, beak blushing blue in mortification. Clingdio turns a uniform grey in shock.

“Flock apologies, Barda. I did not know if you lost family, and should have enquired.”

Waving dismissively, Susan smiles at them.

“Everybody can say they lost someone. It’s the nature of near-extinctions.”

Clingdio returns to some semblance of pastel green.

“May I enquire on a related topic?”

Susan nods.

“We have read of ‘crimes against humanity’ charges being considered?”

She rests both elbows on the rail and pauses before replying.

“Nothing but a lot of humans desperately seeking a way to offset individual and collective guilt for what happened.”

Akmafan pauses to stretch a cramped upper wing.

“That opinion is not popular, I presume?”

Susan grins.

“True. Avoiding personal responsibility is part and parcel of delegating control of your life to others. Had so many of us not done so, whether the Anthropocene would have occurred at all is a valid question.”

“You feel a demand for remedial action?”

“Ten point six billion people died. The fires burned for fourteen years. Without Varkam intervention, it would have been more, and for longer. We have to face the failings, and respond with new ways. The cancerous civilisation that was cannot be allowed a resurgence.”

The conversation dies. They all turn to contemplate the glacier, thoughts far from dessert.
 

THX1138

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Land Locked Ocean Dream
The One Called Frozen Soul

I, Jon Olason from the village Vatnafjordur tell this story.

The elders of our village gathered young and old alike and convinced many to follow them, to become empty and cold of hearts like the valley we lived in. They called upon the Dragon named Frozen Soul to come and seal our village and lands in ice, to prevent anyone from leaving out of their hate and envy of all. A few others, along with myself, tried to stop this incantation with talk of reasoning but were met with threats and resentment. During the night, all was covered by a glacier the size and shape of the Dragon with Vatnafjordur and its people frozen in its belly forever.

The small group of us who kept warm through the dark cold, found a path that led out of the Dragon bowls and to its gaping mouth that was guarded by glistening sickles of ice. Working together, we escaped this prison and climbed carefully up along the Dragons face as it threatened to shed us into the fjord below, where our long boats drifted away in ruins.

We came upon the frozen field on its back where morning lit sheets of ice stood as shields sharpened by eons of jealousy and cold, like gravestones that moaned in the winds with the voices of the souls trapped within. Though tired from our climb, we helped each other in crossing this wasteland but some, including myself, were cut by these icy blades leaving our blood behind. This seemed to cause the Dragon great joy when one winced in pain and struggled to walk on.

Crossing onto the tundra to rest and mend our wounds, ravens then came and cawed as they pecked at the crimson stained ice. Greed for more was in their calls to us, a call that went ignored. In a short time with renewed hearts, we gathered and traveled across the tundra to a village away from Vatnafjordur, to live apart from its cold abandonment leaving the haunting howls of its Dragon behind.

In truth I say these words.
 

genelewis

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Tulsa, Oklahoma
Frozen Time

“An ice core is a time machine.”

Dr. Samantha Holman eased into her lecture.

“The depths of this glacier record many thousands of years. Air bubbles that reveal the composition of the atmosphere, ancient dust and pollen, even ash from cataclysmic events like a volcano or a meteor. The oldest cores go back longer than humans have existed as a species. Can you imagine? Through all of history and pre-history, and further, this glacier has patiently accumulated snow into ice, undisturbed, until we dug it up.”

Dr. Holman felt the students’ interest flagging. They sat hundreds of miles away in a warm classroom as she was beamed over video call. It took a leap of imagination to comprehend this frozen mountain, growing across deep time. Still, she saw sparks in a few eyes. Future scientists, maybe. That’s why she preserved time from her experiments to give these talks.

As she wrapped up, the intercom sounded.

“Sam, you need to see this.” Something strange in her assistant’s voice. He was at the drilling platform where they were testing a machine that could pull up the largest cores yet – six-foot wide cylinders from layers 400,000 years old.

“That’s impossible,” Dr. Holman said when she arrived.

Staring from within the newly lifted ice was a body, recognizably human. Even through the blue haze, Dr. Holman could tell the remains were astonishingly well preserved. Teeth, the vague shape of an ear, remnants of clothes.

“People weren’t here that long ago,” she said. “By current theories, people hadn’t evolved yet.”

Then she noticed something more strange. Descending from its neck were two long black strings attached to a rectangle.

“Is that… a lanyard?”

Losing all scientific composure, she rubbed at the ice to get a better view. She could make out words!

“Dr. Samantha Holman. Arctic Research Center. Project Lead.” It was identical to the card hanging from her own neck.

Dr. Holman stared into the dark hole from which the sample had come, and a thought echoed in her head. An ice core is a time machine.
 

Aknot

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2021
Messages
93
A Daughter’s Embrace

The mother told the tale of what was:

“When Kmakta made the mountains, great Omorda was furious. She and all her daughters and daughters’ daughters could no longer embrace the grasslands to the south. Omorda screamed in rage, covering the peaks in snow and ice. So strong was her anger that even mighty Beha’s warmth could not melt the frozen tops. But no matter how Omorda raged, Kmakta did not care, for they are the ground upon which we all tread.

As you know, all things must bow to Pekla, the bird that is the tide of time. As it flies, it brings the turn of seasons. Humiliated, Omorda sought out the bird and pleaded with it. She demanded that Pekla would help, but it only smiled. It was not for the bird to meddle in what lesser beings did. But it had words of comfort: Seasons will pass, and mountains are but grains and pebbles, easily worn down by the patient.

Omorda fumed and howled but knew Pekla was right, so she bided her time. Over time the winds of Mehu caressed the grasslands and the mountains alike, but while the stems swayed and held, piece by piece was carried away from what Kmakta had created.

Omorda waited as did her daughters and her daughters’ daughters. How many seasons passed, only Pekla knows. But the day came when a daughter could flow through a pass between the peaks, and more followed. In the ages since, more and more have crept forth, and now, once again, they embrace the grasslands even when the bird of time nestles in the north.”

“Will I ever see the grasslands?” Dola asked eagerly.

“Of course, my darling,” she answered. “But now you must rest. Pekla has just arrived, and now is the season when your sisters’ tears are flooding and seeping into Kmakla. When the bird leaves, you will be full-grown, and grandmother Omorda will guide you over the pass.”

“Yes, Mama,” her daughter yawned. Soon she was asleep, dreaming of when her icy body would embrace the grassland too.
 

Swank

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The Father

The old King had managed to kill Sulac’s immortal daughter. He could only imagine in horror what sort of effort that took, having himself lived through many such attempts through the eons. Destroying the Guard and tearing the King in two was hardly a consolation.

Sulac was referred to as “The Hill Wizard”, which he thought grossly mistaken. The steep mountain ranges around the Kingdom were certainly not hills, and Sulac had no magic - outside of his hideous durability. It was sitting in those crags one spring that a new solace overtook him. Really just a fantasy, but it would be grand!


You don’t wander a mountain range forever without taking note. Rivers descend from streams, streams from drips. Snow builds, then part melts. Debris become damns. Ebb and flow; spring delivering bounty to the accursed valley Kingdom.

Sulac had stacked rocks and felled trees for some time when the Kingdom graduated to steel armor. The war party lost their horses in the initial panic, then their lives as they couldn’t get away from Sulac’s fury on the uneven ground. The Hill Wizard was delighted to see the fine workmanship and polish on the dead mens’ breastplates, helmets and grieves. He watched the sun glean off them. Then he descended to the foothills with panned gold, intent on suitable craftsmen.

The greedy blacksmiths Sulac encountered exceeded all expectations. They produced adequately polished and lacquered curved mirrors, and a steady stream of a surprise asset - coke dust; fine and black.

It was near on two centuries since his darling Lizbeth’s murder. It was also the year of the first great avalanche. Flowing and crushing through the outlying towns, scores of the King’s subjects perished. All of Sulac’s meddling on high had shifted the snowpack to the valley head. The Kingdom’s crops shrank along with its summers. A massive clot of ice was forming in the high valley.

Sulac sat on the glacier he was building. In not so many decades, the King’s castle where his Lizbeth was murdered would be ground to dust, obliterating the Kingdom for all time.
 

Rjalex

How do you throw a space party? You planet.
Joined
Jun 17, 2023
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Southern Tasmania
Archives and Records

I’d never heard of Earth, no one had it seems. I mean, there’s a lot of planets out there. A fairly mediocre planet from which only one species had ever achieved space travel; not exactly memorable. And when I say space travel I mean in the most minimal way. They - the humans; that’s what they called themselves - never even made it to their nearest neighbouring system only 4.6 light years away.

So, anyway when the call came through at the end of my shift recording Squidath it did not go as expected; you know, the usual debrief at the end of a hard couple of billion years work: “Yeah, another one bites the dust. Wiped themselves out; destroyed the only place in the Universe they had evolved to survive in. Variations on the same theme. Yes, yes, it’s all backed up and on its way to storage.”

This call did not go like that.

“Hey Cael.” It was Gyled from Archives and Records. “Looks like someone’s royally ballsed up. Bit of an oversight I’m afraid. Little planet—“

“Wait, wait. I’m about to clock off.”

“I know I know—”

“I just spent 2 billion years watching a planet of squids destroy themselves with increasingly toxic rivers of bio-engineered black ink. I think I deserv—”

“Yeah, remind me to get you debriefed on that one. But look, I know it’ll be overtime but there’s no record of this - Earth, the locals call it - and you’re the only one close enough to get there in time.”

“Oh man…Where is it?”

Turned out it was too far to get to until the very end so there wasn't much I could record. The end was pretty typical though. The usual cascading effect of unintended consequences. Monoculture agriculture, petty wars, addiction to burning fuels leading to melting polar ice caps and a runaway green house effect. One slightly weird thing was that the closer they came to the end the more they seemed to ignore it.

Oh well. At least it was relatively quick. I was just glad to get home.
 
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Paul J. Menzies

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Jun 14, 2023
Messages
54

A Hoary Song of Ice and Ire

---1912---


Old Hoary floated steadfastly in the bay before judges even older---mountains wearing grey mist, the wigs of dignified office... The tribunal.

"Ye have called me before ye, Ancient Ones." He bowed his respects.

"Yes," the mountains replied. The tribunal spoke together in a terrifying chorus that could frost the bones of anyone not already an iceberg. "It has come to our attention that you were involved... in an incident."

Hoary gave a quick nod. "A ship plumb ran into me, yer Honors."

"Did it, now. That was a pretty famous voyage. Everyone knew about it, and you of all icebergs just happened to be right there in the way."

"Mindin' me own business, I was, just floatin' along. Then this great big Titanic of a ship carved a right jagged scar into me love handles."

"Hmm... You don't look any worse for wear. How many souls did they lose?"

The frozen colossus stared down into the bay's depths. "Over fifteen hundred."

"Great Gaia! Hoary, what were you thinking?"

He shrugged. "They're just humans. They're renewable, they'll grow back."

The mountains leaned forward, glaring down at the iceberg. "So are you. Is that a war you have any hope of winning? We'd rather have people on our side, not at war with Nature. Thank heavens social media hasn't been invented yet, this is a public relations nightmare."

"Yer blowing it all outta perportion."

"It was the Titanic. These are humans. Humans love to re-tell stories, it's what they're good at. They'll likely be re-telling this one for decades," said the tribunal, rolling its collective eyes. "So, to give the story time to fade, we sentence you to chill for one hundred years off the coast of Siberia."

"Howww long?"

"That's like a one game suspension for a 'berg your age. Deal with it." The tribunal faded into the clouds.


---2023---


Old Hoary had finally maneuvered his way back to the North Atlantic. He allowed himself to drift, hunting for a useful current...

The narrative had shifted. Mayhap the tribunal will reward his blood thirst, this time round.
 

Elckerlyc

"Philosophy will clip an angel's wings."
Joined
Aug 27, 2019
Messages
2,040
Location
The Netherlands
The Water Merchant

You want to know my secret. That is why you are here, in my office. Am I right?
Understandable. I sell pure, uncontaminated water and ice. It has made me rich. But don’t be mistaken, it is not the straightforward and simple enterprise you are likely to presume. Let me show you around; your daring intrusion deserves something.

But first, open the lowest right drawer of my desk. There is a spare key taped to the underside. Take it, you will need it momentarily.
You know the shop itself, I assume. Perhaps you have seen the water carts delivering their daily barrels. Clear water, not the foul, polluted drab that fills our wells and rivers these days. The deliveries are a lie.
The other door in the corridor leads to the ice cellar. It locks automatically, you’ll need the key to open it.

Ice. Look at it! Beauty and bounty in one. The ice stored inhere melts, slowly. This is the clear water I sell. It also necessitates regular replenishments. Note however, contrary to all the rumours, there is no magical ice-machine here. I can’t produce ice. Not without electricity or certain unobtainable chemicals.

In the back you see a kind of closet with a peculiar door. Next to it hang several body-enclosing suits with helmets and oxygen cylinders. Let’s don a suit and step inside the closet. From this point on caution is essential. Always securely close the door, always check your breathing equipment twice, and only then press the blue button. Your life depends on it.
Because, my intrepid friend, you are now standing on Mars, in a grotto, deep underground. The ice here used to be within easy reach, but after generations of mining it is now more arduous to access. Exertion burns oxygen. If you run out of oxygen here...

The fact that you are in my office reading this note, undoubtedly means I have not returned from my latest excursion. I am therefore very likely dead. Drat!
If you dare, the shop is yours. Like I did before you.
 

Yozh

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Dec 3, 2022
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203
Location
USA
Awakenings

Slowly I become aware that I am cold. Very cold. I try to get up, to move. My body will not obey, not even to shiver. I must be dying. Or dead.

My eyes stare straight ahead at a wall of striated blue ice. I sense that I am somehow glowing. And I realize my life’s work has gone wrong.

Cryostasis was a fail-safe. I took the injection grudgingly, as a condition of the grant, assured that it would be metabolized within 10 days as long as the surface temperature remained compatible with human life. Which we all thought it would. That was the point of this project, to counteract global warming and keep Earth compatible with human life.

Hours later, the heatsuit has warmed my body enough to trigger the nanocapsules in my blood which bring me back to thermostasis. I look around to see my hut, which had been atop the glacier is now above my head, teetering at the edge of the melt-water crevasse in which I myself am wedged.

I painstakingly work my backpack around to pull out a supply of heating nutri-gel. I suck down the slippery contents of one pack quickly. I yell for help. And wait. And yell again.

How to get out of this crevasse alone? Upward looks impossible. Downward, water flows into a broader stream and light hints at an opening.

So down I go, into the frozen waters of the past. Finally, I reach a shallow gravelly pool at the level of the light. I am not the first one here. A fur-clad woman lies supine, the ice below her still partly molded to her form.

She looks like she fell there yesterday, but her clothing is from a time this ice was new. I find a syringe of nanocapsules in my pack, carefully inject her, and wait. I watch her go through the same panic I had hours earlier. Her terrified eyes stare at me. When she has warmed enough to move she makes a small cry and reaches for something. Too late I see the stone ax.
 

paranoid marvin

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A Promise Kept



The frost-dragon terrorised the city, eating livestock, torching buildings and occasionally (when nothing tastier was available) dining on the citizens themselves. That was until a master longbowman (employed by the mayor at considerable expense) put an arrow through its wing.

Limping back to its icy lair, an apothecary was elected to negotiate with the wounded creature. Entering its chilly den he chattered nervously, "Oh m-mighty dr-dragon..."

"Get to the point!" it demanded, "before you get to mine," displaying its teeth.

Plucking up courage, whilst wrapping his clothing tightly around himself, the apothecary continued, "If I promise to tend your wound, will you promise to leave our city in peace?"

After some consideration, the frost-dragon agreed.

Dutifully the apothecary tended to its punctured wing, applying soothing poultices. Each day he would return and apply a fresh dressing, and each time before departing he would ask the creature if it would keep to its bargain, to which it would agree.

Soon the wound was healed; the apothecary returned one final time. "Dragon, I have done as I promised. Will you do likewise?"

Flexing its wings before soaring into the air, it bellowed, "Foolish human! Dragons do not bargain with insects. I shall return to your city, with frost-fire and fury such as never before. That is a promise." Lunging at the apothecary, it dealt him a fatal blow.

Mortally wounded, the apothecary smiled weakly before quaffing the contents of a flask. "Foolish dragon. Did you think I would be naive enough to trust a fell beast such as yourself? The poultices I applied contained a slow-working poison, the antidote being in the flask I just imbibed. If you had kept to our bargain, I would have administered it to you; but now we shall both perish together."

The frost-dragon laughed mightily. Noticing the apothecary's puzzled expression, it explained, "You swallowed the antidote, so all I have to do is swallow you." Saying this it tossed the apothecary into the air before swallowing him whole, then flew out of the cave to wreak its promised vengeance.
 

Guttersnipe

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Dec 28, 2019
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Cocagne
Howl of the Heart


The Himalayas, 1949. Harold Pincher, filmmaker, was having a private chat with Jules Bingham, screenwriter.

"Today's an amazing day, Jules-old-boy," Pincher said, "an amazing day for me! I found some shaman who gave me a...love potion?" he asked, searching Bingham's eyes.

"Right, sir," said the writer, "A love potion. Or a philter."

"Sure," Pincher said, "a good one. It works on dames. I saw a demonstration. Says it's made of yeti sweat. Hah! Of course, I don't believe in yetis. This filler of his must've been concocted up with science, something a rational man like me would have to...," here he made fumbling gestures, "...scientificate about. Anywho..."

Pincher turned and jerked his thumb over his back.

"That lady, Amanda," he said.

"Angela, sir."

"Whichever. That babe. She's gonna be mine when she gets a whiff of me!"

Pincher took out a flask containing orange liquid and splashed it liberally all over himself. He giggled in anticipation.

"Go fetch her, will you," Pincher commanded rather than asked. Bingham was back with Angela momentarily.

"Hello," she said blandly. Then her eyes widened and she broke into a grin.

"Darling!" she said, embracing him, "I haven't seen you in a half hour!" She threw her arms around him and kissed him all over his face.

A brunette actress skeptically approached them, then too fell victim to the scent.

"Get off of him," she said, "He's mine." A small fight broke out. Pincher chuckled. Bingham grabbed the camera and started filming.

All of a sudden, there was the sound of rocks falling. A monstrous white shape came out of the cave adjacent to them. Everyone knew what it was, but Pincher didn't believe it, couldn't believe it. Nevertheless, the yeti grabbed him from the women and dragged him into the darkness as he screamed.

"Looks like you'll have to wait your turns, ladies," Bingham said, "As for the rest of the show, I'll be taking over. We're no longer making a romance adventure. We're making a black comedy with Pincher as the star. Naturally, there will be a plenty of love interests. That's lunch!"
 
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BigJ

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Oct 2, 2012
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257
A promise made; a promise kept

Sirens blared overhead as she and I ran down the concrete tunnel, finally reaching the massive elevator already overloaded with people.

“Name,” a guard demanded.

“Miller!”

He frowned at his clipboard. “Only room for one of you.”

“What!?! How – “

“Doesn’t matter! We go down in thirty seconds. You need to choose. Now.”

We turned to each other, and I looked into her eyes, the eyes that had stolen my heart, had said yes when I’d asked, had promised a life together.

“It has to be you.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. “I can’t leave you.”

I took her hands in mine, slid my old dog tags into her palm.

“I’ll come for you, when it’s safe.”

“Fifteen seconds!”

“Promise me, Josh Miller. Promise me you’ll live!”

“I promise. Dream of me.”

“We gotta go now!”

They pulled us apart, dragging her onto the elevator as it started its journey down to the secure cryostasis facility.

I swore I heard her shout “I love you” as I turned to sprint for the surface.

The bombs were coming, and I had a promise to keep.

* * *​

My hazmat suit was wide open as I sat slumped on the floor, my Geiger counter silent for the first time in months.

Two decades I’d been in the far north, trying to escape the radiation. Waiting for the nuclear winter to abate. Waiting for the radiation to dissipate enough to travel. Waiting to return.

I stared at the cryo unit in front of me. The controls had been torn apart; scavengers looking for salvage, certainly, but the unit itself was intact. The reactor would power it for a thousand years.

I looked at her, in perfect suspension, my dog tags hanging around her neck. A breath away with no means to wake her.

I pulled myself to my feet and approached the cryo unit; pulled off my glove and placed my hand on the glass.

“Dream of me.”

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I turned away. I had to gear up and get back to the surface.

I still had a promise to keep.
 

Luiglin

Getting worse one day at a time
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Mar 22, 2012
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2,471
Location
Mercia, UK

Paronomasia​

The glacier remained its boring self. Streaks of grit and cracks aplenty spoilt the magnificence of the pristine blue ice.

At the prow of the ship in the deep meltwaters, stood two dark silhouettes, one tall, the second short.

“It’s a glacier, and an ugly one at that,” stated the taller.

From beneath voluminous robes of the shorter figure, came a hand. It flourished a confident poise before producing a balletic fit of movement in reply.

“Of course, it’s melting. That’s what they do. Well known for it. If they didn’t, we’d have damn ice everywhere.”

The hand, showing a touch of resigned petulance, responded.

“Quicker than usual? Well, Minion. It is summer. You know Sol, she always gets overexcited at this time of year.”

If a hand could sigh, it did. Dextrous digits gave their all.

“Climate change? Well, yes it does, they’re called seasons. I’m not sure why you are struggling with this, Minion.”

The hand slapped what could have been a head or a shoulder, the robes would not reveal. With a shake, it commenced gesticulations galore.

Silence settled over the ship, injected by the occasional creak of ice under pressure to escape itself.

“More water means the dwarven mines will get flooded. That’s great news, those grubby beardy bleeders could do with a bath.”

The Dark Lord watched as the Minion launched into another set of limb jerks that would have put a contortionist to shame.

“I have no need to believe in Gods, I know they exist.”

A boom of light rocked the boat. Above the glacier floated a figure. Resplendent in unrealistic armour and sporting a weapon that even a troll would find cumbersome, the visitor surveyed the scene.

“Why are the virtuous ones always beautiful? So clichéd, pardon my Elvish.”

A chuck of glacier, glad for the help, slid with dignity into the water.

“I get it, this climate change idea has inspired the peasants to believe in a new God. What have they called him?”

The Minion waggled a middle finger.

“Thaw, the God of Melting? That’s awful,” groaned the Dark Lord.
 

johnnyjet

Western PA High Tech Country Boy
Joined
Nov 11, 2011
Messages
1,716
Location
Pennsylvania
Skating Away on the Thick Ice of a New Day

They skated fast. A new outcrop was ready to break loose.

They took their positions around the ice mass: Nathan north, Kamal west, Jai east, Melanie south. Nathan tested the fissure with his electrode stick.

“Soon,” said Nathan over their comm link.

“Biggest slab yet,” said Melanie.

Nathan nodded. “Close to the transport’s limit certainly.”

The ice rumbled. They held their footing. The carved slope alongside glistened under spotlights from monitor drones above.

They lost Cal in the early days of ice herding on Pluto. Afterwards, skates were redesigned and safety enhancements added. However, it was still a dangerous job.

Cracking increased in intensity and frequency.

Jai said, “Let’s begin.”

They crouched, drove their spikes, tightening the line that linked them.

Minutes later, it broke free. They went to work with their sticks, directing the slab toward the man-made chute. Downward they flew.

Kamal called, “Spike broke loose. I’m free riding.”

Jai said, “Hold tight until he reconnects.”

Stunned, Nathan watched Kamal bounce off the ice like a child’s toy, cringing each time he contacted. There was nothing anyone could do. He was on his own.

Kamal struck out with his spike, missed, flew outward again.

Melanie said, “Don’t give up.”

The next pass the spike flew from his grip, skidding toward Nathan. He leaped, caught it. The others struggled to hold their positions as the ice slab slammed against the side walls.

Kamal called, “Slide it to me.”

Nathan’s heart raced. Timing was crucial. If the spike was lost, there would be little hope for Kamal’s survival.

“What if I miss?”

“I won’t hold it against you.”

He counted the seconds. He launched it. Kamal hit the ice, reached out, snagged the spike, almost fumbling it, then spun around driving it into the ice. He lurched, fell to his knees, cried out.

Melanie cheered. “I knew you could do it!”

After a moment, Kamal staggered into position. “I wasn’t sure myself. Thanks, Nate.”

Jai said, “Let’s get this ice to transport. Worlds are waiting for water.”

Nathan took a deep breath. They weren’t the only ones.
 

Phyrebrat

www.beanwriting.com
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Feb 13, 2011
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5,944
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
Under Starlight

Tap-tap-tap.
Oh God, there it is. Again.
“Come hither ye bleak, northern winds,”
‘For God’s sake, leave me alone!’
“Tear the boats moored on the shoals,”
She drives me insane with that occluded, rimy nail on my window; standing on my porch, shivering.
“Flash like a rage through me, ice.”

I first saw her shortly after I’d moved here. It was near enough the time of year when constellations have to fight to free themselves from the perpetual sunlight. Now, in the months of eternal gloaming, the gulf between the stars seems shorter than between people, and I regret shouting at her.

I’d been on my first trip to Gardineau’s General Store; the kind of emporium selling all you’d expect a remote outpost store to sell; from ice cream to claw hammers; gas to Cheezums — even deckchairs. A woman and child stood outside; a child who seemed to have crawled from her womb, breach, rather than been delivered from it.

She wore anonymous clothes but sported an usherette’s tray, like the ice cream girls of an old cinema. Instead of ice cream, she peddled tiny ice sculptures. At first I’d thought them quartz containing rare inclusions, but a closer glance showed they bore miniature figures carved within; perhaps people, perhaps not (I dodged her for fear of her grift). The whole time I was browsing Gardineau’s, there she was, tap-tap-tapping on whichever window I stood near. Fed up with it, I berated her as I left (I think I used the word “tat”). Didn’t see her again till after the avalanche.

Every night since: tap-tap-tap on my window.

So, last night I answered the door. The beggar stood on my stoop in torn clothes, with her blueberry baby — and trinkets.
‘Please, do you have spare clothes? It’s so cold,’ she said.
I obliged (because who wouldn’t) — and offered food, which she declined.
This morning I found the clothes returned, folded neatly, on the stoop.

I felt atoned.

Tonight: no tapping, just a voice.

“And take the life that tires me.”

And on the stoop, a miniature puddle of meltwater.
 

Daysman

this way comes
Joined
Oct 14, 2018
Messages
728
Location
east of gornal wood, south of weddell wynd
the wreck of the infinite jest

I'd no clue who contacted Varest. The minister boarded the Institute flagship the morning we pulled alongside. Senior officers ushered my team into a lecture theatre, along with our ancient husk.

She eyed us from the gods. "You've acquired a giant!"

I explained, "My colleagues here, having spent weeks pulling ice cores from bergs in the polar region, discovered fragments of eternal materials just above the 'crowded earth' boundary."

"Shed by a vessel of that era?"

"Certainly. So they went looking for the wreck, and found it, but mostly buried too deeply to retrieve."

Varest grinned. "Mostly?"

"They spotted a deck plate near the surface, beneath it the mummified corpse you see here. Being separated from the wreck, we had… "

"No lithium or related toxicity issues," Varest concluded.

"Precisely. We extracted the remains, assessed them enroute, and delivered them today."

"Findings?"

"Male, healthy, tall by modern standards due to a superior diet. Insect infestation, though curtailed by cold, suggests the body lay on deck for weeks. Snowfalls wrapped a protective shell of ice about it. It survived untouched under the decking for millennia. The small fingers and toes are gone. A bird took his eyes."

Varest looked puzzled. "I wish to examine it."

"I really don't…"

"Everyone out," she said, staring me down. "Not you."

Once the theatre had cleared, she joined me beside the corpse, which she ignored. "Forgive my ruse. We should talk."

"About?"

"Stars."

"I heard rumours," I admitted. Faint, fast moving satellites of our world, thousands of them about our heads, dancing with some insane design, recently discovered, signalling with light somehow."

"They were pinned there, by this one and his ilk."

"What of it?"

"Their messages, often coordinates, places, times, given to locate a particular chunk of ice, or a ship."

I stammered, "I don't…"

"Its hand is broken. You wrenched something from it. A mirror? Was its glass impossibly thin, fractured…"

"No," I answered, almost relieved at her skullduggery. "The glass was whole, but why do you need a mirror?"

"Why? To talk to the stars, young man, that's why, and hear their voices."
 
Last edited:

emrosenagel

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Joined
May 4, 2021
Messages
119
Location
Sebastian, FL
La Loba Without Teeth

When mama first went with my father, a tooth fell out of her mouth.

"You are mine, mi princesa," he had said, and it popped out. Only a small loss. It wouldn't happen again.

On her wedding day she lost another, and another on her wedding night. Small pieces of herself. Behind their casita nueva, mama made a garden of marigolds. Bright, fragile. She buried her teeth among the flowers.

I always knew when mama had lost a tooth, because she would tend to her garden all day and often stare into the pines, watching. Waiting for something to happen. Mama had always been full of light, despite how my father abused her. But I could see her breaking inside. Behind her closed smile, she had few teeth left.

"Will I lose them, too?"

"Don't think of it, mija." She stroked my head with calloused fingers. "Let me worry."

When my father became too frail to walk, mama had to care for him. What kind of wife would she be if she didn't? Mi tias and abuelas all told her she must, so she did. The last of her teeth fell out and she buried them with the others.

"The marigolds are dying," my father told her. "What is that?"

A ring of sharp, pearly canines had grown up from the soil. Tiny montañas blancas.

"Only fungus." She looked into the pines, losing her mind in every fern and stone and dancing mariposa, hands clasped before her. "Don't worry yourself."

"Get rid of it. Es antiestético."

"It will be gone soon."

One warm September night, una loba gnawed her way up from the garden with a mouthful of dirt and petals. Masiva and gray with eyes as yellow as the moon. She came into the house knowing exactly where my father slept and dragged him out into the pines. And mama grinned, if only with gums; the teeth would come back, but not the man. Libertad.

When my first tooth fell out, mama said to me, "Shove it back in and clench your jaw. Wolves need their teeth."
 
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