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

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Ice Age

The Northlands were no place for anyone. Few went there; none returned. It was a harsh, unforgiving place, sending the stoutest of warriors to the Great One. But Char had not come to die. He’d come to melt the ice.

Char remembered vaguely, as a child, a time when there was no ice, when the land was warm and green and the tribes could harvest food. But as he grew, both in size and position — eventually becoming the tribal Master Chief — so did the ice. Food became scarce and many died, so to protect his people Char took on a vision quest.

On his vision quest he encountered the Sky People. They revealed it was them who built the ice, but it had grown out of their control. They asked Char for his help in containing it, and gave him a powerful orb. They explained where to take the orb and how to use it. So Char set out for the Northlands, certain he would never return.

Fur boots crunched on the permafrost, each step a defiance against blackened toes and failing legs. Snakes of blowing snow slithered across the frozen wasteland, their stinging fangs injecting numbing venom into Char’s exposed cheeks. He pushed ahead, knowing the task at hand greater than himself and paramount to the survival of all people.

Finally, there in the distance was a massive ice temple, just as the Sky People had said. A cloud of breath parted Char’s lips as he thanked the Great One for his arrival. Inside the ice temple was an ice alter, just as the Sky People had said. The orb nearly lifted itself from his fur pack and he placed it onto the alter. Mother Earth let out a great sigh and shuddered. Drops of water began to weep from the temple walls and puddles formed around him.

Char collapsed from his frozen blood, undoubtful his sacrifice would save all people. As the last of his sight faded into nothingness, there stood once again the Sky People, arms outstretched in a grand gesture of gratitude and welcome.
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Whatever you do, don't Babadunk

If you are invited to the Galactic Council there are three things you should avoid:
  • Schemeegling.
  • Henongling.
  • And, worst of all ...Babadunking.
Just ask Gerry McLoughlin.
Because I promised I wouldn't tell anyone about what happened.

Back then Gerry was obsessed with a video game called 'Icebergs of Vroggle'. He'd play it every minute he could, eating tinned beans with whey powder for his meals to allow more time for gaming. Which was remarkable. Because Gerry is not the kinda fella to break a sweat. I reckon if they X-rayed him at the hospital they wouldn't find an ounce of work.

'Icebergs of Vroggle' was different. He'd play all night and roll into his job full of that manky diet. If it wasn't for the fact that he was permanently off on a cigarette break nobody would've been able to stick the smell.
But he must've been good at that game. Because it attracted the attention of the Galactic Overlord. Who decided that dedication to zapping Hallubadons from the Icebergs on Vroggle was something to cherish.
Which is why a Galactic emissary came knocking on Gerry's bedsit door with an invitation to join the Galactic Council. No human had ever been given such an invite, or has since. Gerry was smart enough to realize that an interstellar journey would take time so he filled up on whey bean mix and pre-rolled seven cigarettes.

'Is there anything I should know about the Galactic Overlord?', he asked as they boarded the rocketship.

'Don't Schemeegel, Henong, or Babadunk.'

Gerry would have asked for more details had the emissary not then vanished. Seven nervous cigarettes later Gerry stepped from the rocketship and into a small grey room with a table, an ashtray, and a large quadruped with a face on both flanks. Gerry didn't flinch.

'Thank you for not Schmeegling at my appearance.'

The creature then pointed a leg towards the ashtray, 'and I see you Henonged before you came, this augurs well.'

Gerry felt the weight of anticipation lift. The knot in his stomach loosened. And he allowed himself to relax.
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The Excursion

I could tell little Suzie was disappointed when we went to see the World’s last naturally occurring ice, although she tried to hide it.

“Is this it, or is there more over the hill there?” she asked, pointing into the distance.

“No, this is it, and please watch your footing young lady!” said the android guide, its kindness as artificial as its intelligence.

I squatted down beside her and said, “Suzie, the small amount is really the whole point. It used to stretch for thousands of miles. Soon there won’t be any at all.”

She had more fun later at the visitor centre making snowmen with the other kids in the ‘Hall of Ice’ while I watched from outside. It was then that I noticed the strangers, a man and a woman standing beside me at the railing, staring into the cold glass dome. They were an odd looking couple; both tall, elegant and dressed in furs (fake presumably). But it was their bald heads and a strange bluish hue to their skin that most made them stand out. Perhaps not so unusual in these days of cults, strange afflictions and lifestyle body modifications. I asked if they had a child inside and they turned to me startled. Eventually the man spoke:

“No, in fact we are here on a professional basis. You could call us naturalists. Our client is a collector of exotic near-extinct species. Live specimens of course.”

I laughed, “The penguins, whales and seals are gone. Unless your client wants krill you are decades too late!”

“No,” he replied. “As usual I think we have arrived at a perfect time.”

The woman pulled at the man’s furs and spoke urgently into his ear as Suzie joined me, reaching around to hug my waist.

“My companion finds you healthy and strong. Your daughter too.”

I remember laughing nervously at what seemed such a strange comment….but that is all I recall of that day. That and the fleeting thought that life in an alien menagerie might not be so bad. It's all relative, as they say.
Words End


Would you look at that.

Those damned naysayers at the inn, all telling me that I was stupid to believe I could find the end of the world. They sat there supping cheap ale from their battered tankards, the air stinking of stale, stale – well, stale something, and they laughed, each derogatory sneer like cold blades sliding up and down my spine.

Good luck getting a ship!

And a crew!

The only ones prepared to sale on such a foolhardy venture, are the ones as deranged as you!

Oh, and they did not stop.

But I knew!

I had my charts, my sextant and compass, I had planned plotted and replotted the course and the small but significant thing they had all overlooked was my success as a navigator extraordinaire. I had made a fortune taking those where it was impossible to go, or routes quicker than any other. So, when it came to a ship, I did not need to hire one, I bought one.

And there is no adventurous soul who can resist the lure of the unknown.

We had set sail, out onto the seven seas, following the obscure, yet brilliant path I had charted. Through days of sunbaked stillness, to tempests fuelled by the malice of the oldest gods. Supplies dwindled, weevils got everywhere, and the water turned brackish and rank.

Men threw themselves overboard rather than suffer the pangs of thirst and starvation, those that remained drank rum and ate rats.

We had done what was needed to keep alive, no matter how grim.

We had just finished Jim the cabin boy, the air chill around us as we sucked the roast juices from our fingers, when something loomed in the distance. It grew larger until it dominated our world. A wall of something so white it looked blue.

The end of my course.

Stretching as far as the eye could see. Solid and insurmountable.

The end of the world.

And there up high a sight so incredible it nearly defied description.

Sigh, if we only had another 50 words…
Yeti Encounters Camping Expedition

‘For me,’ Conor said, ‘this expedition isn’t all about hoping to see the yeti.’

‘What’s it all about then?’ I asked.

‘This.’ He gestured around the group of twenty strangers sitting by the bonfire. ‘Simple companionship.’

I nodded. For someone I’d just met, I liked Conor a lot. He seemed wise in the ways of the world.

For a time, the group shared stories of previous yeti encounters. Some painted it as a savage beast; others, as a shapeshifter that took on the appearance of a helpful mountain guide. Both Conor and I lacked stories of our own, but we were happy just to listen and bask in the wonder of them.

The leader of our expedition, hunting rifle slung behind his shoulder, interrupted the stories with a headcount. ‘Twenty one… Somehow we’ve picked up one extra.’ He eyed the group suspiciously. ‘Someone here don’t belong.’

Like everyone else, I scanned the faces around me. But this early into the expedition, I couldn’t tell who the newcomer was.

‘If you’ve joined us,’ the leader said, ‘it ain’t a problem. But it will be if you don’t announce yourself.’

Nothing but the sounds of the dark forest night answered him.

Finally, the leader put voice to the thought running through my mind. ‘I believe the yeti is among us, pretending to be human.’

A woman scoffed. ‘You’re having us on!’

‘No ma'am. I don’t mess around on the job. This is as real as it gets.’ He subtly repositioned his rifle closer to hand.

‘W-what do we do?’ someone asked.

Conor stood up, managing to soothe the crowd with his calming presence. ‘Two things seem clear. One: the yeti means us no harm. And two: it doesn’t wish to be identified.’

‘How do you know?’ another said. ‘Is it you?’

Conor avoided the question. ‘You came to have an encounter with the yeti. Now you’re having one. I suggest we enjoy it while it lasts.’

I spoke up, ‘If the yeti truly is among us… what do you think it wants?’

Conor sat back down beside me and smiled. ‘Simple companionship.’
That Beastly Ice

“I heard there was a cult down planetside, saying the comet was full of aliens come to take the faithful to paradise.” There was a scoff over the channel from the other tug.

“It’s giving us a great show up here, but it’s just a hunk of ice flavoured with amino acids. And too close for my tastes.”

“Where’s your soul, Belle? It’s majestic.”

“It’s doing a kilometre per second.” The comet was gigantic. Its reflected sunshine turned a view from the tug’s starboard window, normally a star field, into blinding light. A huge number of people, with several times that number of degrees between them, had decreed it was perfectly safe. The tug pilots were less sure, but had grown used to seeing it, slowly swelling in the dark. The wealthy and well-connected had nearly made this shipment to Mars late, filling up any spare moment in the lift schedule with bodies, eager to see the comet up close, as if it were a whale watching tour. The pilots laughed at them, secure in their superiority even as the sight became part of their daily routine.

“This lump’s so heavy it takes forever to move. I wouldn’t mind getting whisked off to paradise for a change.”

“I could whisk-“

“No. Be professional for once and focus on pulling this tanker off the dock and on to Mars.”

“It’s a private channel. Besides, I have a new tattoo.”

“You wear more tattoos than clothes, that’s not unusual. Besides, last time you ghosted me like you were taken by aliens.”

“What can I say, I’m not much of a cuddler. More a-”

Later, incident reports would record how at this point a relatively small comet fragment smashed the tug’s tether, whiplashing the smaller tug away and causing the tanker to plough into the orbital dock, to massive damage. The tug did not impact the tanker or the dock, and could not possibly have travelled close enough to the comet be caught up in its gravity. The tug was never found.

“Belle, what happened?

“Belle? This isn’t funny.


Of Old Nan and Old Faithful

The Elders referred to the men from the dome at the top of the valley as Smarties. Old Nan said it was short for smart-arses but said we should be thankful to them because they might save the world. That was when the always ice only reached as far as the tarn on Crows point.

The tarn on Crows was as long gone as Old Nan now.

It was already turning from spring to summer but to Missy, it didn’t look as if winter’s snow would release its grip from the north end of the valley this year. Likely it never would and she’d probably seen her last visit to the dome. The village would have to move south next spring. Maybe have to fight their way too, because any people already there wouldn’t take too kindly to sharing what little there was with strangers.

“Till we reach the Quator.” That’s what Old Nan used to say. “Then we are all done.” Whatever the Quator was.

Movement made Missy look up. Someone was coming over the snow, pacing laboriously on wide snowshoes toward her. Missy watched on as they reached the snowline and awkwardly removed the shoes. It had to be a Smarty, no one else lived north.

When he removed his face covering, Missy recognized Bill and couldn’t help smiling. She’d thought never to see him again.

“Hey Missy. Good to see you.”

“Nice day.” She greeted him warmly.

“Could be. “Bill looked up at the sky, towards where the sun hinted at its presence beyond grey cloud, then sat on the rock next to Missy.

“We need your people to live in the dome for a few months. We’ve enough supplies and it won’t be forever.”

“Why?” Missy asked, puzzled.

“We’re ready to trigger Yellowstone. It’ll probably make the air pretty toxic and might even make it colder for a while, but higher CO2 and ice covered in ash to reduce albedo, just might tip the balance.”

Though she understood none of it, Missy could see the fire in Bill’s eyes.

“We’re going to save the world Missy.”
Indiana Jones and the Evil Dead

The still of the night was interrupted by a black robed sorcerer named Drakoulias driving a 1970’s Chevy van racing down a deserted arctic desert highway. Chased close behind by eminent archaeologist, Dr Henry Jones Jr driving a motorcycle with a sidecar passenger named Ash Williams in hot pursuit. As Henry throttled the bike, Ash pull started his chainsaw that was attached to his wrist and shouted, “Get closer! I’m going to try to take out his rear wheel.” Rotating metal teeth sliced through the left rear tire causing the van to drift sideways, then death roll several times into smoking wreckage.

As both protagonists approached the decimated vehicle, screaming rotting corpses burst out of the van with outstretched clawed hands. Dr Jones wielded his bullwhip, lashing around a living dead enemy’s neck, pulling it down then decapitating it with a machete. Ash unholstered a sawed off shotgun from his back and blasted off the heads of three undead killers. Henry leaped upward and forward, kicking a soulless creature backward onto the ground, then chopped it to pieces. The last evil zombie was sliced diagonally by Ash’s chainsaw. The flopping final corpse growled, “We’ll swallow your souls!” was silenced by buckshot exploding its skull.

Drakoulias came to and tried to reach a black magic book called the Necronomicon which lay on the ground close but out of his grasp from the upside down Chevy. He was pinned inside, dripping gasoline ignited and the sorcerer was enveloped in a fiery cage of death.

Henry handed the book to Ash, “Can you get us home with this?”

“Yeah. There should be a text that will return us both back to our futures when Antarctica was covered in ice.”

“Before you send me back to the 1950's. What's the world like in the 1990’s?”

“Same s**t, different leaders.”

“History repeats itself I guess.”

“Hopefully there’ll be more good guys in the far future that will make the world a better place.”

“God willing.”

“Amen brother. Well, it’s time to go home.” Flips pages. “Oh yeah. I know this one. Klaatu, Barada, Nikto.”
In Case of Emergency…

Day 47

More problems.

The button attracts my eyes again.

Large, red, covered with a transparent break-to-press cover and the label ‘In Case of Emergency’ beneath.

No contact with Control for days despite repeated attempts. Only the crackle of static. Could be the Sahara blowing up a sandstorm out there or something’s bust. Jamieson’s had a look but says the equipment looks fine and he’s the comms man after all.

The button looks tempting but control staff, if they actually still exist, would have to intervene and that would be the end of the experiment. Billions of NASA dollars down the drain. A quandary – real problem or a test?

In the control room Jackson and Bennet watch with interest.

“Bet he presses it,” says Jackson, who’s always up for a wager.

“Heads he does, tails he doesn’t,” says Bennet flipping a coin and watching with interest as it lands tails up. “You’re on. Loser makes coffees for a week.”

“Okay. But I fancy my chances. I’ve got an idea or two.”

Day 48

Still no contact. The temperature controls are playing up. Sometimes it’s roasting at night and sometimes it’s freezing by day.

Day 49

The oxygen and carbon dioxide levels have gone haywire and are only just within limits. Roberts says the hydroponics are down.

Jamieson’s taken to his bunk.

Just what do they mean by ‘emergency’? We’re all three still alive even if extremely uncomfortable.

The storm continues.

“Thought he’d have succumbed by now.”

“I’m gonna win! You’re running out of time. The powers-that-be say that if he doesn’t press we’ll have to pull the plug ourselves.”

“Just one more day!”

Day 50

Enough is enough! I’ve had to separate Jamieson and Roberts. Took a knife off Jamieson.

I’ve just pressed the thing. The exit has opened and I’m getting out.

What?! There’s cameras and lights…

“Welcome to Channel Nine’s ‘Will He Press It?’. You’ve kept millions entertained these past weeks. And here come Jamieson and Roberts who played their parts admirably.”

I’ve still got Jamieson’s knife. “Could you step a little closer…?”
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The Jökull and the Return of Hope

On a cool summer morning on the northern end of North Island, Rev. Charles Stone, a man of faith and science, woke up sore as usual. He noted that his ponies were much the worse for their wear. He sighed. He was tempted to go home and stop the quest for a Jökull. Still, he determined to soldier on. His quest was critical.

It was critical because every indicator showed that the human race was dying. A surprising five percent of the human race had survived the “Hot Times of Death,” and yet the past 150 years had seen earth’s population continue to drop, not from lack of resources but from lack of hope. Earth was almost universally seen as worn-out and unable to provide a better life than what most humans now experienced. Neither science nor faith, both of which indicated that better days were coming, seemed able to counter the building malaise. A sign, a miracle if you will, was needed. So, Charles was looking for a sign which would convince many that a better day would dawn. He was convinced discovering a growing Jökull was what was needed.

On August 1 Rev. Charles Stone explored a north facing valley with a stream running out of it. As he neared the end of it, he discovered the first Jökull seen in over 300 years. God had provided the miracle the human race needed. Rev. Stone had to tell the story.

For the next 30 years he preached about God’s love and faithfulness. He declared God’s renewal and led groups of people to see the Jökull grow year by year. But he was mocked, thrown out of his professorship, and generally thought to be mad to believe that something more than a hard-scrabble life was possible on earth.

He died a failure. Everyone said so.

But God’s ways are not our ways. Today there is an obelisk on top of Jökull Mountain and written on it are the words: Rev. Charles Stone: The Preacher of Hope who discovered the first Jökull of the new age.
Heart of Ice
Magic has a flavour. Not quite a scent; more a taste in the air.​
Few can sense it, though. Karina occasionally caught a lingering trace, but since her death, I’m the only one. So as we drag ourselves through the frozen waste, towards the heart of the ice sheet, everyone looks to me to find the Sorcerer.​
The unnatural weather crept slowly over the land at first. Then came the snows all summer long, the icebound rivers and ports; bringing famine, war, desperation, death. Sorcery, everyone agreed. And the Hunters came into being, to find and destroy the man wielding it.​
We trudge past seracs, the huge columns of glacial ice towering above us; their grandeur imbued with menace, the ever-present threat of collapse and avalanche.​
“You OK, Hulda?” someone asks. The Hunters are rough, violent, but they’ve been especially gentle with me these last weeks. We were lovers, Karina and me. Soul mates, she always said. Two women, one heart.
We approach a glacier cave, the scent-taste of magic stinging my tongue like crystals of ice. The tenth “Sorcerer” we’ve found; like the others, merely a petty warlock. He pleads for mercy as the Hunters confront him, claiming he’s preparing a counterspell to thwart the Sorcerer’s deadly power. But the Hunters are in no mood to be merciful.​
As always, I wait some distance away, watching the snow spiral down through the crystalline air. Another blizzard soon, I decide. Like the one that blew up suddenly around Karina, forcing her away from us, flinging her into the crevasse.​
The warlock’s screams end at last. The snow still falls. A Hunter breaks down, sobbing. “We’ll never find the b*stard.”​
I say nothing, just stare over the aquamarine blue of the glacier. There’s beauty here, but it’s cold and hard and treacherous. Like me, I suppose.​
I’m sorry about Karina, but her sense of magic was growing. She was getting close to the truth.​
But I’m safe now. And as the Hunters again begin the search for someone they’ll never find, I smile and weave another storm of ice.​

I watch from the international space station as the world ends.

The aliens themselves were no threat. The glacier had taken three thousand years to disgorge their ship. They were both long dead.

The Russian survey ship that found their floating vessel said nothing until it reached St Petersburg. From there the authorities took over, paying the crew well for their silence.

In the institute the inevitable decision was made to open the vessel in a sealed chamber.

Measurements were made indicating that the alien atmosphere was nothing like our own, and that the bodies would not smell too great when it came to autopsy.

Staff in bio-suits entered the chamber with mice and closed the door on them.

There was panic as, after thirty minutes, the mice appeared to desiccate and die.

Gas monitors reported an increase in Hydrogen and Oxygen in the chamber.

Shortly afterward in the staff room the coffee in the staffers mugs started to roil and froth.

“Did you drink any?” the director yelled, as the workers lips began to shrivel.

One man instinctively threw his coffee down the sink. Sealing the fate of the world.

The alien life support, it was rapidly deduced, used a bacteria which converted water to its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, as a quick application of a lighter to the foaming coffee amply demonstrated.

But the discovery came too late. The electrolysing bacteria had been flushed down the drain and out into the Gulf of Finland, where its rapid and unstoppable multiplication had begun.

Billions of gallons of sea water were now electrolysing daily.

The areas of “sea-fire”, hydrogen ignited by lightning, could be seen expanding out across the north Atlantic as small flashes from up here.

Soon explosive fire would circle the globe, the voracious and deadly microbes being carried by the ocean currents.

Portending mankind’s last days.
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Out of Freeze

“Sleep’s over.”
“What sort of welcome’s that?” I ask.
“Who said you’re welcome?”
“Situation report.”
“No change.”
So the situation’s same as I’d heard ten seconds ago, by my persistence clock. “Which pilot are you?”
“Seven. I’m on my umpteenth shift, bored stiff and can’t wait for the freeze.”
Hence the cranky reception. “Nothing’s changed?”
“Not as far as you’re concerned. Pilot’s business. Don’t worry: you weren’t brought out of freeze for fun.”
“Good.” I’ve been in freeze since the day after the distress call came in from a survey ship forced to land on a planet it was mapping.
Staying in orbit requires constant power, which a damaged ship thousands of light years from home can’t rely on. There’s a tidally locked moon, but the distress call indicated that the planet was inhabited by intelligent creatures already starting to develop technology.
Limited to hiding itself on the planet, and thus its technological capabilities, the ship buried itself deep in an ice cap, thus hiding itself and any evidence that it had done so.
Unfortunately, the surveyed world was coming out of an ice age, so time was critical and I didn’t know what I’d be facing. Communication by entanglement is very limited, and most of the entangled bits were used to send the distress signal, with its pared-down situation report. The rest was used to send an “I’m still here” signal every few decades.
Now, thousands of years later, we’re also here… and the situation has definitely changed: the planet did warm up significantly, both physically and technologically.
“Any real-time communications from the ship?”
“Coming at very low power. Can’t let the natives listen in. There’s a coded SITREP.”
“Send it.”
“Anything interesting.”
“Not your concern,” I say, “but panic over. The ship’s out of the ice, but the inhabitants made their world uninhabitable before they could create machines like us, so it’s just a simple repair job, with none of that having to hide from the natives.”
“I’ll send a repair team down. And you?”
“Just power me down again.” I hate getting bored.





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