Stories

The Genesis of Steve, by P.J. Sambeaux

#Humor #literary #scifi

“Mom, what have you done?” Ellie whispered testily.

“I don’t know, honey,” her mother answered, her voice laden with fear and dismay. “I just don’t know.”  She reached out to lay a comforting hand on her daughter’s shoulder, but was irritably shrugged off.

It looked out at them from under the laundry basket in the corner.

“I do wish you’d both stop staring at me.”

**

“It says its name is Steve?” Carol told the customer service agent on the other end of the vid screen.

“What can you tell me of Steve’s genesis?” the man asked, sighing deeply – the tedium of job weighing heavily on his shoulders.

“Ok, this is going to sound really bad,” she began tentatively, “but I had a bunch of leftovers from old kits, so instead of buying a whole new kit I just put all the leftovers together?”

“Which leftovers did you use?”

“Ok,” she began, flipping through the torn labels, “I started out with Jamboree Fuzzy Time Loveable, then I added Einsteintatious, Kaleidescope Wowza, Submersible Party Time Buddy, Birds of All Feathers, Alien Wonder Bunny and Brief but Thrilling Terror from Outer Space.”

“How much temperalux and emoto-control would you say you added from all of the kits combined?

“None? Because there wasn’t any left?”

The customer service agent looked at the ceiling for guidance. There was none to be had.

“And when did you first notice something had gone wrong?”

“Um, I guess I’d have to say when he grabbed a knife and started waving it around.  I thought that was a really weird thing to do at a kid’s birthday party. So, yeah – that was probably when I realized something was off.”

“Is Steve fully sentient?”

“Oh, I don’t know, let me ask him.”  She turned to the creature. “Steve, they’re asking if you’re fully sentient?”

Steve sighed as tufts of pink hair sprouted above what were probably his ears.

“If you are asking me whether I am able to perceive my own existence and the existence of others in the environment in which I am currently situated, whether I have emotions and feelings, whether I am aware of my own abilities and limitations – then yes, Carol, I would have to say I am fully sentient.’

Carol turned back to the vid screen, her face pinched with worry. “Yes, he is reporting that he is fully sentient.”

“Ma’am, there is a reason that we advise you to discard any leftovers from a Temporary Party Time Buddy kit.  That reason, which you know are experiencing the full terror of, is the potential for creating a super-intelligent, possibly dangerous, probably hostile chimera.  The reason that we have you add the temperalux and emoto-control is so you can create an emotionally malleable creature that will expire just as your child has grown tired of it. I am going to have to put in a service call.  Someone should be with you between the hours of 5pm and 7pm.” The screen shut itself off as the call disconnected.

Carol walked over to her daughter, who was cautiously watching Steve, armed with a spatula and an extension cord.  She started to put her arm around her daughter’s shoulder, but then thought better of it.

“This never would have happened if your father had been here,” she mused unhappily. “I’m so sorry, honey.”

“You always are,” Ellie snapped back.

Carol brushed tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.  It was a few moments before she could speak.

“Happy ninth birthday, honey.”

“Thanks, mom,” Ellie hissed sarcastically.

“Yes, happy birthday, young lady,” Steve chimed in.

“Thank you, Steve,” Ellie said, eying him suspiciously.

**

“Ok, Carol,” Steve began some time later as they all waited for the serviceman to arrive.  “I’m going to put some of my cards on the table here. I’m not saying this to frighten you, but only as a demonstration of my trustworthiness.  The truth is that I can actually melt this laundry basket with my mind.”

Ellie made an involuntary sort of uh-oh sound, and her mother pulled her back and placed her own body in front as a shield.

“Oh, no, no,” Steve began hastily, waving two of his bioluminescent tentacles to show there had been a misunderstanding. “I am merely saying that you can trust me.  I could have done that thing, but I did not. I did not do something I have been capable of this entire time in order to earn your trust.”

Carol, who had begun backing away slowly, now turned frantically, knocking a tray of cupcakes and a plastic bottle of cherry soda off the kitchen table as she grabbed Ellie’s hand and ran to the front door.

That was when she realized the Party Time Buddies Company had put their apartment on lockdown.  There was no escape. She pushed Ellie into the coat closet, pulled the door closed behind them and waited.

 

**

“Carol,” Steve said, lighting up the dark closet with two bioluminescent tentacles probing underneath the door. “Really this is just silly.”

“What are you going to do to us?” she asked, the winter coats brushing the top of her head.

“Carol, I am not going to do anything to either of you.”

“You know, my husband will be home any minute,” she warned him.

“First, your apartment has been placed on lock down, and no one can enter without express authorization from the Party Time Buddies Company,” he replied in an educational tone. “Secondly, I’m guessing by the pervasive scent of rose potpourri and the decidedly feminine sense of organization in your apartment that no man has been domiciled here in at least sixteen weeks.

He had her there. She knocked her head against the wall of the closet in frustration.

“What was all that noise you were making earlier?” she asked.

“Ok, that was me trying one of those cupcakes and a little bit of spilled soda and discovering that they were actually potent stimulants.  I had to grow a whole volley of feet and run up one wall across the ceiling down the other wall and across the floor over and over again until the drugs were purged from my system.  Do you know what is in that “food”, Carol? Do you know that you’re feeding drugs to children?”

Carol sighed.

“It’s just an occasional treat.”

“Oh, right,” Steve said sarcastically, rolling the two eyes that were on the end of tentacles atop what could be described just that moment as his head.

“Mom, are we going to die?” Ellie whispered, as the initial jolt of adrenaline wore off and the gravity of the situation finally dawned on her.

“Ellie,” Steve began gently, “no one is going to die or be harmed in any way whatsoever.  I give you my word. Okay, what happened at the birthday party was that I was born and came into consciousness in the midst of a terrifying band of small-sized, yet heavily armed, ferocious monsters.  How was I to know they were children? Can you understand how I would have felt, Ellie? Can you imagine entering into the world in that manner?”

**

“Mom, why didn’t you just tell me you didn’t have the money for a Party Time Buddy?” Ellie asked after an hour spent in the stuffy closet. She was exasperated, hungry, and had an extreme need to use the bathroom.

“I didn’t want to let you down,” her mother said sadly. “And I didn’t want you to feel bad because your dad wasn’t coming.”

“Mom, dad isn’t coming back. Ever.  Deal with it!” Ellie shouted in sheer frustration.

The only thing that could be heard for a few minutes was muffled crying, then sniffling, then the blowing of a nose that was unintentionally obnoxious, like a sad foghorn.

“Carol,” Steve began after a time, “it’s obvious that you love your daughter and want the best for her and would give your life to protect her, but I’m going to need you both to come out of there now.”

“Could you come in here and get us?” Carol asked, suddenly terrified anew.

“Honesty did not work well between us earlier, so I’m just going to wait until you’re ready to come out.”

**

“Steve, may I ask you a question,” Ellie ventured a quarter of an hour later, too bored and uncomfortable to really be frightened any longer.

“Shoot.”

“When you melted the laundry basket with your mind, did the iron that I put on top of it fall through and hit you on the head?”

“Excellent question, Ellie. It did not.  I melted that as well and made you a pair of earrings for your birthday, which I will present to you when you come out.”

“How did you know what I’d like?”

“I read your thoughts.”

“Oh, jeez mom, he can read our thoughts.  He can melt stuff with his mind, and I really have to pee.  I’m going out there.”

“No!” her mother shouted, inadvertently digging fingernails into Ellie’s arm as she held her back.

“Mom,” Ellie said firmly, “I think if he wanted to hurt us, he would have done so already.  I’m pretty sure he can open an unlocked door.”

“She’s right, you know,” Steve chimed in.

Carol leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, trying to envision all of this having a positive outcome, just like they had practiced in the newly single parents support group she had gone to – only once, but then she was always so busy.  Taking a deep breath, she summoned all of her courage and, against her better judgment, opened the door a crack.

“Ok, Steve, what are your demands?”

“This isn’t a hostage negotiation, Carol.  I merely require your assistance in a couple of matters.”

**

“If you needed my DNA, why didn’t you just take it?” Carol asked.

“I would consider that highly rude, and I sincerely hope you would too,” Steve replied with indignation.

“What are you going to do with it?”

“Create a new species to populate an uninhabited planet.”

“Isn’t that a bit like playing God?”

“Asks the woman who created me out of leftover Party Time Buddy kits.”

“Well,” Carol said hesitantly after a moment’s deliberation, “what else do you need?”

“A couple of grape popsicles, a mixing basin, all the cleaning supplies you have in the apartment, and a teaspoon of baking soda.”

“Why grape popsicles?”

“Ellie is thinking of them just now and they sound intriguing.”

Just then Ellie walked in the living room. She was wearing the earrings Steve had made for her.

“Ellie, help me gather all the cleaning supplies in the apartment and grab us a few of grape popsicles out of the freezer, would you?”

“Oh, good call mom,” Ellie said, nodding with deep appreciation – clearly impressed, “A grape popsicle sounds amazing.”

Carol smiled at Steve when Ellie turned her back.  He winked at her from a dozen or so eyes on different parts of his body, which was less horrifying than it might sound.

“Oh, I also need to borrow a sweater. Well, have one since technically I won’t be returning,” Steve added as he turned to a bright green liquid and oozed all over the floor to relax before his trip.

 

**

Steve, dressed in a grey cashmere sweater embellished with playful white kittens and a black beret positioned at a jaunty angle on his head, melted the sliding glass doors with his mind and stepped out onto the balcony.  He set the pickle jar that was now housing the beginnings of a new species on the ground and smiled sweetly.

“Ellie, I want you to know that your mother tries very hard and loves you very much.”

“I know,” Ellie said sheepishly, turning several shades of red and looking down at the ground.

“And Carol,” he said fondly, reaching out with a tentacle that she took in her hand. “Carol, you are a remarkable woman, but you have to move on. Your husband is never coming back.  You need to stop waiting for him. The service man that’s going to knock on your door in 4.5 minutes is named Dan. He’s a really nice, solid guy. He’s been a bachelor for a while, so you’ll have to be patient with how rough around the edges he is, but trust me, it will be worth it.”

With that he reconstituted the sliding glass door, scooped up the pickle jar and floated off the balcony, turning pink and gold as the sunset reflected off his now opalescent body.

Mother and daughter looked at each other for a moment before they met in a tight embrace.  Together, they watched Steve float up into the sky, before he popped into the clouds and was gone.

They both smiled.

Three minutes later someone knocked on their door.

1+
Send to Kindle
Standard
Stories

A Tale of Blood and Roses, Part 2, by Keira Heckman

#blood and roses #fantasy #scifi

The official job title that Jake Lachlan held was “Project Manager.” It said so on his contract and in smaller letters on his ID badge, but his real purpose was cleaning up other people’s messes—a job that never seemed to end. It seemed like every few minutes there was another thing that he had to fix. The latest, was Rosalind’s face off with the faceless man.

“What the hell was that?”

Jake looked up from his phone to see a swarm of people in suits pace toward him, the leader of the group was his boss’s boss, John Maccan.

“Rosalind is supposed to be our finest agent, Lachlan, you said that she could get the job done,” Maccan said as he tugged sharply on his navy blazer, smoothing out a non-existent crease.

Maccan was dressed sharply with his dark hair slicked back. Jake was the complete opposite; his dirty blonde hair was unruly. It stuck up in all directions no matter how hard he tried to tame it. While his superior was decked out, Jake wore a beige checkered shirt and an old pair of jeans accompanied by rust stain half way down one pant leg.

Jake slipped his phone into a pocket, “Well, respectfully sir, she did get the job done. She neutralized the threat.”

Maccan’s assistant gave a small tut and tapped on the tablet she was carrying. She presented it to Maccan with a small look of satisfaction. He glaced at it and turned it so that Jake could see. Playing on the screen was footage of Rosalind’s tumble backwards down the hill. Maccan turned it off as she landed at the bottom.

He took a small step closer to Jack as he spoke, “Does this look like our finest agent? The best that we have to offer? This—,” he gestured to the screen, “—is an embarrassment to this agency. You had better deal with it before the press get wind of it. The FDA have been looking for an excuse to shut us down and I’ll be damned if she’s the reason.” He gave another sharp tug on his blazer and set off down the hallway with his gaggle of businessmen trailing after him.

Jake raced after them. “Sir, what exactly do you want me to do with her?” He had to jog to keep up with their brisk pace. “She made one mistake. She can’t be punished for falling.”

Maccan stopped and turned to stare down at him. “It was a mistake that could have got her killed and would have let a target get away. Do you know how much paperwork a mess like that would produce?”

“Actually, sir, I do,” Jake said. One of the joys of his job was filling out mountains of documents detailing the dangers of one’s mistakes. He continued, “But that doesn’t mean—”

“Do you know how much time and, more importantly, how much money goes into training a new agent? People are scared. We are getting more assignments every day. It’s a struggle as it is to keep all of this under wraps. Can you imagine the widespread panic that would happen if the general public knew that monsters or demons or whatever you want to call them are not only real, but running amok in their towns?” Maccan spat.

“Like I said, Lachlan, deal with this or I’ll have to deal with you and you know what happens when I get my hands on an agent’s file,” Maccan said sternly.

Jake knew all too well what happened when Maccan got involved: memory wipes, arrests, and if worse came to worse, death.

5+
Send to Kindle
Standard
Stories

Beware, by Mark Kaufman

#scifi

Gort and Mrick grinned as they crossed the final bridge that separated the disquiet of urbanity from the calm of the countryside; the city trapped fine smoke particles in the air that stifled their lungs, and the traffic burdened their ears with rancorous, honking pollution.

Their hearing was strikingly sensitive, for the denizens of Maurus were adapted to hunt the swift-footed ungulates that inhabited the planet. Gort and Mrick, both Maurians, were terrifying looking creatures with enormous, pointed ears and great canines which protruded beneath their lips like stout tusks. But these adaptations, once helpful when primitive Maurians roamed the planet in search of prey, were of little use in the bustling metropolises where they now lived.

As they entered a land of green, rolling hills, Gort and Mrick glimpsed the roaring city vanish in their rear view mirror, and soon enough, their destination loomed before them like a sprawling empire: The Hinterlands of Sohr, whose sharp peaks resembled palatial spires.

“Damn,” grumbled Gort. “I forgot to bring a pillow.”

Mrick chuckled, deep and rumbling, like Maurians do. “You poor bastard, how will you ever survive the night?”

Gort fought to ignore the insult, but his rough, clawed fingers gripped the steering wheel tighter.

“Watch out!”

Gort swerved to avoid a bounding deer-like creature as it dashed across the road and dove into the woods. Their car bounced turbulently along the shoulder as Gort regained control of the vehicle. Distracted by adrenaline and acute thoughts of death, Gort and Mrick failed to notice an event of interest – a feral bipedal creature, with an unkempt lock of hair hanging from its face, had apparently been in vigorous pursuit of the dashing ungulate, and charged into the woods behind it.

Trembling, Gort pulled the car back onto the smooth highway. The near accident unsettled him, and his menacing claws clattered against the steering wheel.

Mrick’s gaze, meanwhile, was absorbed in the rear view mirror, although the road was empty. “What were those spears about?”

Gort squinted. “What are you talking about?”

“Didn’t you see? The long poles–they resembled spears, sticking out from that animal’s back.”

Froth had collected on the side of Gort’s mouth, an outward expression of Maurian frustration. “Of course not! I was immersed in the task of avoiding a collision with a tree!”

“There were two long spears, stuck in the animal’s back. Odd, so odd.”

The two Maurians continued to contemplate the uncertainties of the wild as they ascended into a cryptic, unfamiliar place. Queer trees leaned into the highway, and their gnarled limbs reached overhead like frozen skeletons, darkening the road.

Mrick spread his scaled, reptilian arms before him. “The Hinterlands of Sohr–certainly a humbling place. Where our ancestors lived, they say.”

“And hunted. They were wise. These thick woods must teem with prey. I just hope we don’t encounter any more on the road.”

Thankfully they did not, and both Maurians, whose rumps were numbed by the long ride, were delighted to arrive at the Sohr Valley Campground. They selected a comfortable site near both potable water and toilets, for these were city folk, and the trip here was adventure enough. There they pitched a cavernous tent, for Maurians were awkward, hulking creatures, who demanded ample space.

Exhausted from the journey across bridges, through hills, and up mountains, Gort and Mrick retired early, but not before preparing a great stew of steaming, fibrous pods, which sedated them further and readied them for a deep, snoring slumber.

But their slumber was often interrupted, for their hypersensitive ears heard whispers throughout the night. The whispers seemed far off; they came and went, like a struggling radio signal. Sometimes they came in heated, flurried, exchanges, and other times they were sparse and placid.

By dawn the whispers had subsided, and Gort arose early to relieve the stress in his abdomen. He exited the tent and let loose a lamenting wail.

Mrick’s eyelids shot open. “What is it!?”

“It’s the stew–it’s all gone!”

And the two Maurians realized their irresponsible error: They failed to secure their food in place where wild ravenous creatures scurry all through night, and can even deceive the perceptive ears of a Maurian.

After scolding one another for their ineptitude in the outdoors, Gort and Mrick thought it prudent to acquire a trail map, lest they lose themselves in the murky woods. A far-off campground in the deep hinterlands of Sohr lacked a traditional visitor center, but the two Maurians did find a helpful informational board which allowed them to select a comfortable trail, of both moderate difficultly and moderate length, that led to a heavenly waterfall.

Also posted prominently upon the board were a series of suggestions and warnings. One of these stated, in bold letters:

BEWARE:
HUMANS MAY BE FOUND IN THIS AREA. THEY ARE CONSIDERED TO BE IMPORTANT MEMBERS OF THE NATURAL COMMUNITY. THEY WILL NOT ATTACK, BUT IF DISTRURBED OR CORNERED THEY WILL DEFEEND THEMSELVES.

The two Maurians finished reading, and then made sure to top off their water bottles before embarking on a trail of moderate difficultly, through the enchanting hinterlands of Sohr.

2+
Send to Kindle
Standard
Stories

Lycaon, Part One, by Garret Schuelke

#action #adventure #fiction #flashfiction #lycaon #scifi #shortstories #werewolf

Banner knew that he should have never got a can opener from Goodwill. Even if they did give it to him for free, it still refused to properly open the can of beans that he needed to complete his chili.

He heard a train coming. He pledged that if he couldn’t get the can open by the time the train appeared, he would whip the can opener underneath the wheels.

On top of the train, Gareth woke up. He looked out at the Thunder Bay River. He sat up and stretched out. Being away for this long still hasn’t changed anything, he thought, scanning the streets. Same businesses, no new attractions, not even any kind of construction going on.

Gareth put on his backpack. “Chicago, babe, expect me back ASAP. Once I save this hole, I’ll be back home to stay.” He jumped off the train as it started to slow down. “For some time, anyway.”

Banner cursed the can opener. He threw it towards the tracks. Gareth felt something hit his leg as he landed. He looked down to see the can opener tumbling down the gravel.

“Oh Jesus, I’m sorry, man,” Banner yelled, running towards Gareth. “I swear, I didn’t mean to hit you!”

“Can’t get the can open?” Gareth asked, pointing at the can of beans Banner was holding.

“Yeah, and I got my chili cookin’ right now. It wouldn’t be the same without these beans.”

“I got a can opener that’ll work,” Gareth said, putting his arm around Banners shoulders. “Let’s go to your pad and I’ll dig it out.”

Gareth put his backpack down when they got inside the dilapidated train shack. He dug the can opener out of one of the side compartments. Making sure that Banner was still stirring his chili, Gareth concentrated on transforming his right hand. His hand tightened, and his fingernails grew into claws. He stuck a finger into the can, and circled the top until the lid came completely off. He relaxed his hand, reverting it back to its normal state.

“Here’s your beans,” Gareth said, dumping them into the chili. “You can take my can opener too. I’m not going to need it anymore.”

“Thanks much, man. You sure don’t you need it, though?” Banner asked.

Gareth shook his head, put on his backpack and headed out the door.  “There are a lot of things I don’t need anymore.”

Gareth searched through the shelves where the Alpena News and other Michigan newspapers were for stories on the wolf attacks that occurred in Alpena County over the last month. He copied the articles, and snuck out of the library to avoid paying the copy fees.

He headed over to Save-A-Lot. He scoped out the front entrance in the alley across from the store. After thinking over what he remembered of the store’s layout, he tied his grey mask over his eyes. He transformed, stretched his legs, and ran into the store.

He swiped some hamburger patties, barbecue sauce, and a package of white bread. Running out the store, he nearly ran into a girl who was texting.

His last stop was Tarters Party Store.  He planned to swipe a bottle of red wine, but then he saw the 24 packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon that were right next to the entrance. Aw yeah, he thought. Using his super speed, he darted across the street, swiped one of the packs, and sped down Chisholm towards downtown.

Read part two.

1+
Send to Kindle
Standard
Stories

Blog Post, by Garret Schuelke

#action #scifi

Regent Park, Toronto

“Four on the roof,” Godan said, “stationed at each corner.”

Murrieta flew them closer. One of the Braves spotted Godan and Murrieta and shouted. They opened fire. Murrieta put his hand up to his face as the bullets bounced off him.

“Okay, now I’m curious,” Murrieta said. “Do the bullets even deflect back and hit—”

“Dodge! DODGE!” Godan yelled, gripping Murrieta’s hand. Murrieta looked down and saw Godan shielding himself as the bullets entered him.

Murrieta swerved. “My bad. I keep forgetting that you got soft flesh.”

“Shit, that hurts!” Godan shook his arm. “Just blast them already!”

Murrieta aimed his finger at the Braves and fired four Sun Bullets, knocking them out. They then set down on the roof of the apartment building.

“They’re on the sixth floor, right?” Godan asked as he clenched his fists, concentrating on his healing factor. “What apartment number?”

“I got it here.” Murrieta pulled out his phone and looked at the saved screenshot of the blog post. “Apartment seven!”

Godan looked over the ledge. “Hey, they’re gathered in front of the entrance.” Murrieta levitated over. “Bomb them, and let’s do this.”

Godan walked to the door. Murrieta looked down at the Braves. All of them were either looking up at him or talking amongst themselves. He flattened his palm and created a Sun Grenade. He threw it at the pavement. Light vaporized the Braves. It vanished, leaving cracks in the pavement.

Godan busted the lock and kicked the door open. He walked in, looked down the stairwell, and jumped down the gap. Murrieta flew past him and hovered in front of the sixth floor entrance. He extended his hand and Godan grabbed it.

They entered the hall and found apartment seven. Godan knocked on the door. No one answered.

“Bullshit, they better be home!” Godan said, knocking harder.

“They’re just scurrying to the door as we speak,” Murrieta said, rolling his eyes.

The doors of the other apartments on the floor opened. Braves entered the hall, talking and yelling amongst themselves. They fell silent when they spotted Godan and Murrieta. They cocked and aimed their firearms.

“I’ll take care of them.” Murrieta cracked his knuckles. “Again.”

Godan smashed the lock and opened the door. “You’re such a considerate partner.”

Gunfire erupted as Godan closed the door. He didn’t see anyone in the apartment. He growled, then he heard sobbing coming from behind the kitchen counter. He walked around and found an elderly woman holding a young girl.

“Ms. Ruiz? And you’re Ellen, right?” Godan asked, kneeling down. “Hey, we’re here to get you guys out of this hole!”

Ellen buried her face into her grandmother’s chest. Ms. Ruiz shook violently as she stared at Godan.

“I’m not with the Braves of Aztlan!” Godan said, offering his hand. “My partner’s taking care of them right now. We’re the heroes!”

Ms. Ruiz looked at Godan’s claws. Her eyes widened, and she scooted herself and her granddaughter into the corner. “EL DEMONIO!” she yelled. “EL DEMONIO! EL DEMONIO! EL DEMONIO!”

Godan backed away. Ellen began to cry. Godan shook his head and walked towards the door.

The Braves stopped shooting. The smoke cleared. Murrieta stood with his arms crossed. They lowered their guns.

“Good thing I can get these ponchos on the cheap,” Murrieta said.

<You little shit!> one of the Braves yelled, whipping out a machete.

Godan entered the hall. “You try to talk to them,” he said to Murrieta. “I don’t speak Spanish, plus I’m white. They’ll trust you more.”

Murrieta nodded and entered the apartment. The machete-wielding Brave rushed towards Godan.

Ms. Ritz screamed when Murrieta came into view.

<Miss, please don’t be afraid,> Murrieta said, <I’m not the bad guy here.>

The windows in the apartment rattled. Crashes and screams intruded from outside.

<You’re Ellen, aren’t you?> Murrieta kneeled in front of Ellen, holding up his phone. <This is an entry you posted, isn’t it?>

Ellen sat up. She stopped shaking and nodded.

<All your friends are worried about you, especially Selena. She showed us this, and we agreed to get you two out of here.>

The fire alarm went off, followed by more screams and crashes.

<This is the only place we can afford to live!> Ms. Ritz said.

<But you’re living right in the heart of Aztlan territory! Selena said Ellen hasn’t been seen at school for over a week. When was the last time you guys even left this building?>

Gunfire drowned out the fire alarm before it was silenced.

<I want to leave!> Ellen said. She breathed deeply, trying to control her crying.

Murrieta stood up. He extended his hand. <I’ll get you out of here. Selena said you can stay with her as long as you want.> He looked Ms. Ritz in the eye.  <Seriously, it’s all good.>

Ellen got to her feet. Ms. Ritz took Murrieta’s hand and he pulled her up. They walked to the door. Murrieta put his hand up.  He could only hear the fire alarm and the sprinklers going off. He opened the door slightly. The bodies of unconscious Braves were strewn across the floor. He pushed it open all the way.

Godan was leaning against the wall, covered in blood and water. “I was beginning to think we would have to drag them out,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Godan walked over the Braves. Murrieta told Ellen and Ms. Ritz to hug him tightly, then he levitated them down the hall, following Godan.

Godan held the door open. He looked down the stairwell and saw Braves running up. “GO!” Godan yelled, jabbing his thumb upwards before he started ascending the stairs.

Murrieta flew to the top level. Ms. Ritz screamed. He stopped himself before they hit the roof. He flew them out the door.

<Okay, we’re gonna go real fast now!> he yelled as they flew higher into the air. <Keep your heads down and hang on!>

Ellen dug her face into Murrieta’s poncho. He tightened his grip on them and sped off. He gritted his teeth as the wind slapped his face. He hoped that the speed and air pressure wasn’t harming them.

Out of the corner of his eye, Murrieta saw Selena’s house passing by. He stopped, causing Ellen to gasp. He apologized, flew back, and landed in the backyard.

Ellen and Ms. Ritz dropped to the ground. Ellen immediately got up and ran to the screen door and banged on it. Selena answered and they embraced.

<I think you guys are good now,> Murrieta said, helping Ms. Ritz to her feet. <I gotta get back and help my partner.>

Murrieta slowly flew up. He heard Ellen and Selena calling to him. He flew over and levitated above them.

<Sir, I have—> Ellen said.

< ‘Sir’? I’m not even a teenager yet! Just call me Murrieta.>

<Murrieta, could you save our other friends at the apartment?> Selena asked.

Murrieta’s eyes widened. <Other friends?> He felt a tingle go up his spine. <Yeah, I’ll save your friends. No prob!>

<I also have a cousin that lives on the first floor.> Ellen said. <Could you please make sure the Braves don’t hurt him?>

Murrieta bumped his chest. <Call TPS for me. Tell them that Murrieta and Godan will have so many Braves waiting for them that every cell in Toronto will be filled to the brim!>

Murrieta launched himself into the air and flew back to the complex. As it came into view, he saw Godan choke-slam a cyborg Brave. Godan stomped on a Braves metal tentacle that was about to lash out at him. He kicked the Brave in the head, knocking him out.

“Hey, I made another promise to Selena and Ellen,” Murrieta said, looking over the Braves that Godan put down.

Godan tore off the tentacle and tossed it to Murrieta. “I suggest we finish this first, then we’ll do whatever they asked.”

Godan nodded towards the edge of the roof. Murrieta landed and walked over. He looked down and saw the Braves gathering in front of the entrance, initiating their arm cannons, distributing firearms, stretching their tentacles, and spreading Judas Ashes on themselves.

One of the Braves looked up and, spotting Murrieta, shouted <YOU WILL BURN BEFORE AZTLAN! WE WILL COVER OUR FLESH WITH YOUR ASHES!>

“What did he say?” Godan asked, dragging the cyborg Brave over.

Murrieta tossed the tentacle over his shoulder. “Loose translation: they’re gonna annihilate us.”

Godan laughed. He heaved the Brave over the ledge. The Brave’s tentacles smacked against the side of the building as it tumbled down. He crashed into a car that had its trunk open, full of firearms.

“Nice shot,” Murrieta said.

“I wasn’t even aiming for anything in particular!” Godan said.

The Braves raged. They started to enter the building. Some took aim with their arm cannons and guns. Godan crossed his arms. Murrieta pointed his finger at them. It started to glow yellow. He grinned.

Follow Garret on Twitter

0
Send to Kindle
Standard
Stories

The Crystal Dragon, Part Five, by Edward King

#adventure #crystal dragon #russia #science fiction #scifi #siberia

Fenimore Cooper Jr. High was in the new part of town, and as such was pervaded by a new, clean, soulless feeling. It had no history. No stories imbued its plastic stacking bleachers, its computer labs.

Sedgwick lugged in his beat-up Marshall amp–his father’s. You could see, in the leather covering, years of rings from coffee mugs and beer bottles, burn marks from when it was used to hold an ashtray. Its glass tubes had held the riffs of hundreds of late, stoned nights, of shows; of the strained bends of a man struggling to define himself as he entertained others, to exist in place as time moved all around him.

It meant a lot to Sedgwick.

Sedgwick’s father had decided in his youth that making rent should be a monthly struggle, an item of low priority compared to the More Important Things: music, late nights, experiences.
He had loved Sedgwick’s mother with all his heart, and lived passionately and fully then.

When Sedgwick was born, he took a job at a call center. Suddenly his status mattered; he couldn’t simply tell a manager to “eat it,” walk away with a smirk on his face, and look for a new job after that night’s show.

Once he accepted this, he moved up quickly. He found that while the people around him accepted their fate blindly, complaining about the menial tasks that they were daily subjected to but ultimately not acting to change anything, he saw ways that things could improve.

He built good relationships and earned the higher-ups’ trust. But in the process he became distant. He was determined to provide for his family, but as he moved up and earned more his mind became more occupied with work than what he was working for.

The amp made Sedgwick picture a different version of his father. This one had trouble paying rent still. He taught his son how to play the guitar.

Sometimes this version still showed through. His dad could be convinced to play the guitar again, and Sedgwick saw the wild, free version of his father that he held in his admiration.

%

Sedgwick came running towards Hammer through the snow. His cheeks were flushed and he looked distinctly paunchy and unfit, not the confident figure he cut indoors. He had played soccer in high school, Hammer remembered, but clearly he had let his body go in four years of college. Still, Hammer was bizarrely glad to see him.

He managed to breathe, “what the hell?”

“Come inside,” said Sedgwick. “I’ll tell you what happened.”

What little I know, thought Sedgwick, leading Hammer back inside.

Follow Ed at @edjamesking

0
Send to Kindle
Standard
Science fiction, Stories

“Dust” by James Smith

#contemplative #dust #flashfiction #scifi #shortstories

There is a man downtown who swears he’s seen the end of the world.

And where he lives – downtown – being a naysayer, prophet of one god or another or a doombringer with a sign proclaiming ‘The end is nigh!’ is about as common an occupation as a plumber or shopkeeper. But the man downtown is different.

For one thing, he sits in a café all day, reading the newspaper, only getting up to relieve his bladder or tip the waitress enough they don’t kick him out.

For another, he won’t say a word about it – not even a hint unless he has to. You sit opposite ehim. He welcomes visitors especially. He puts up two fingers at the waitress he smiles so sincerely to, and then makes a ‘T’ shape with his palm resting horizontally across his fingertips. ‘2 T’.

You talk. About the weather, the rain and the fog, how this football team or that is destined to win one league or another, what his friends used to say during the ‘olden days’. It doesn’t matter. And when the conversation lulls – when neither you nor he has anything else to say – he leans backwards, takes a drag on his cuppa and whispers:

“I’ve seen the end, you know.”

You lean forward too. His breath stinks but is not rank – leafy and milky, exotic yet homely. The man downtown wears a tweed jacket every day. The sewed-on brown patches over his elbows are genuine.

“How does it go?” you ask.

He pauses. The tea returns to his coaster. At first, he ducks the question.

“Heat and energy and light.  In some corner, beyond the touch of light, hidden among clouds of ash and in a deep and mineral stew, a spark ignites. A cell smaller than a single strand of DNA replicates and divides. Rising, gaining consciousness. This is dust. The dust was formed and made. The dust awakened. And the dust began to think.”

Then the man’s eyes glaze over, as they have so many times before. This is just an iteration –a phase, something passing. The traveler to whom he departs the most  blessed and beatifying knowledge is different, yet so much is the same. You read this from the w-crease on his forehead.

“First the stars go out. Light—traveling millions of light years across existence to reach our blue marble will be gone. Suns and stars will supernova, and the matter that gave them birth will be gone. Then the planets follow suit. Galaxies and nebulae and brilliant, bright things will vanish. All that was, all that is, all there has ever been. This they call the dying of Light, friend.

“And slowly, everything will recede to a single point, and when we are alone in the void, when the sky is black, unsullied velvet, unmarked with anything we ever saw before, there will be anarchy and discord.

People slaying other people – breaking up instead of uniting. Some will be hurt. Many will die.

“Eventually, we will be like a bubble on the edge of a lake, heaving ourselves further into the briny depths of the bygone. It will be gone. All the teetering works of art and culture and all that came before and after. Kings fail, dynasties rise and fall, and men die. And, perhaps, come of those man will climb the slipping sandy shore, and look out into the depths. They will think, they will question and, eventually, protest. “I am important,” this wise one might scream. “I matter. It’s not fair!” It doesn’t matter.
The page turns.”

He sips, and you want to copy except you cannot because you are full of sound and fury. Anger builds within you, like the burning bricks of a wall. You shout at him: “Then why? Why tell me this? Why bother when everything’s going anyway?”

The man downtown doesn’t answer. You storm out of the café.

“Wait,” he says. “Wait.”

You slink back in. “What?”

“An answer, sir. I’ll give you one to any question.”

“Fine,” you say. Nothing can be worse. “What happens after everything recedes? What happens to the point?”

He stops.  Breathe out.

“Heat and energy and light.  In some corner, beyond the touch of light, hidden among clouds of ash and in a deep and mineral stew, a spark ignites. A cell smaller than a single strand of DNA replicates and divides. Rising, gaining consciousness. This is dust. The dust was formed and made. The dust awakened. And the dust began to think.”

Dedicated to Leo.

0
Send to Kindle
Standard