EDIT/UPDATE: All three stories are now live. London is hot and sweaty & in dire need of air conditioning on the Underground.
Hi gang! This is a quick and dirty intro because I travelled to England today and I’m being told to go to bed (it’s past midnight local time and I’ve been on the run since before dawn).
This is how three flash fictions evolved onto my blog on Monday…. it all started with a story prompt. Please forgive the awkward formatting (spaces between the paragraphs and junk). I’ll fix it later.
I hope you enjoy!
If you want in on the fun add your story in the comments below!
Bound by the Past by Lesley Donaldson
The old dog, faithful as always, stayed with Tapley when Hicara trekked back to the outpost with the skeletons. Tapley scratched the dog’s head.
“Let’s see what the last hieroglyphs in Section 7 reveal, Gabs.” The soft pitch of Tapley’s voice, and his interest in archaeology, rendered him punching bag material more than once in his youth. Hicara insisted on leaving Gabs behind. The shaggy mutt didn’t have much zest for fighting, but he made an excellent early warning system.
“Glad Hicara went to Farraweigh instead of me.” Tapley preferred the solitude of their newly discovered cavern to the roughened folks who inhabited the remote settlement. He welcomed Gabs’s company all the same.
Tapley traced his sensory pads over chisel marks made by obsolete digging tools as they progressed down the corridor. His dark skin, scarred by years of field work, stood out against thick veins of white quartz, all but ignored on the journey to the core of the mountain. Each indent represented thousands of hominids who cut the passage. Judging by the range of skeletons he and Hicara found here, entire families spent their lives underground.
Their bones, escorted by Hicara to the transport depot at the outpost, wouldn’t see the light of day until the exhibit opened in the mainland museum.
“If the exhibit opens,” Tapley muttered. Gabs, trotting ahead, paused and looked over his shoulder. Tapley pushed on, the weight of the world they left behind heavy on his shoulders. In light of their work, perhaps the laws would change. Tapley hoped his lifelong search through layers of dirt in far-flung places proved that the Bipeds once had its own thriving culture, and weren’t a lesser species genetically bred for servitude.
The solo hike with the bulky supplies exacerbated Tapley’s fatigue. Pausing for breath, Tapley re-shouldered three of his four equipment bags. He inhaled deeply through his respirator, prepping himself for the final leg. If he used all eight tentacles, he’d make it to the mouth of the cavern in twenty minutes.
Gabs led the way, tongue lolling out. He sniffed Hicara’s bioluminescent slime markers as they passed, whining from time to time as if expecting her to meet them up ahead.
“I miss her too, buddy.” Tapley reached into a bag with a free tentacle and retrieved a well-chewed ball. He tossed it a few feet further into the passage. Gabs dashed after, slower than as a pup, but with more speed than his laden-down master.
Gabs waited, munching happily on the ball, until Tapley caught up with him. Tapley threw the toy again. They repeated this game of “toss and not-fetch” across the remaining distance.
At the mouth of the cavern, where Hicara’s slime stopped, Gabs had his tail between his legs. The ball, presumably, had disappeared into the darkness.
“Go get it, buddy.” Tapley urged Gabs forwards. The dog pushed back, digging his heels into the ground. Hicara’s bioluminescence didn’t penetrate the blackness beyond. “Won’t go in without me? What gives? You’ve never been shy about exploration before.” He turned on his projection lamp and stepped into the bowels of Section 7.
Gabs slunk in behind Tapley into a natural cavern at least one hundred feet in diameter, too expansive for Hicara’s slime to light up properly. Tapley’s lights twinkled in semi-precious stones mounted in geometric patterns on stalagmites hanging thirty to fifty feet above the floor. A deep pit, thirty feet across, with walls coated in thick grease, lay at the centre. Seven stone outcroppings surrounded the pit, their excavation awaiting Hicara’s return.
Tapley directed his lights to the biggest treasure. Horizontal layers of hieroglyphics adorned the walls. With five pairs of eyes, he had been the natural choice to stay behind and document everything. He set off for the last unrecorded section and tripped over Gab’s ball.
The ball fell into the gaping pit. Tapley wrapped three tentacles around the blunted points of an outcropping, preventing himself from crashing in after the ball. Gabs whined from the mouth of the cave.
“I’m not going in after it.” As he passed by the rocks that saved him, Tapley noticed they looked like the points had been blunted. Too excited to finish the last segment of the forgotten language, Tapley made a mental note to investigate the weird shape later. He reached the wall and sketched the final glyphs with enthusiasm.
At the end, the last image showed a tall biped with on foot squashing an egg-shaped object while holding an elongated, pointed weapon. Tapley brushed away excess dirt. Carved in deeper relief than the rest of the figure, the weapon’s profile formed a deep slot.
Tapley tore through one of the bags he had dragged with him, full of artifacts they’d uncovered during the excavation. One of the finds was a flat, thin piece of metal, with grooves on one side that had been around the neck of a skeleton outside the cavern. He slid the metal into the keyhole and turned.
Grinding echoed throughout the chamber. The walls telescoped, creating rows of elevated seating. Gabs howled and ran to Tapley’s side at the same time as Tapley stumbled back. He tripped over the mutt and crashed into the pit. His tentacles slapped in futility as he tried climb out.
Rotating from within the ground, seven statues of robed Bipeds emerged. “Engineering. Hierarchy. They did have a culture and civilization!”
What Tapley thought were stone outcroppings were crowns on the statues. The impassive Bipeds towered over Tapley’s struggling form. Air electrified between the weapons in their extended hands.
Tapley scrambled through the dirt, sprayed heaps of soil aside. His tentacles wrapped around something stiff and leathery. The smell of ozone increased as lightning cracked overhead. Gabs barked incessantly.
Before he felt the searing pain of the incandescent flash, Tapley beheld the dried out remains of an Octo’s tentacles, pierced with rings not unlike the ones used around the necks of the Biped slaves.
copyright July 2017 Lesley Donaldson (unedited)
Lady and the Rain by A.J. Hare
My dog Lady used to love water. We couldn’t keep her out of it. I had to lock the bathroom door when I washed. She would nip at the rain as it fell and belly-flopped in every puddle she saw. I used to say ‘April showers gives Lady powers.’ Despite the fun she had, I could always count on her to come when called. Good old Lady.
Then one afternoon there had been a particularly violent hailstorm. It wasn’t predicted in the forecast and was unusually destructive. Some car windows were broken and roofs were dented. Environmental scientists spoke of it as another sign of global warming. After that, she wouldn’t touch it. She barked at the faucet when it was running. If it was overcast outside she wouldn’t go for a walk and wouldn’t follow me anymore. She would only drink bottled water when she used to be fine with tap water. Silly old Lady.
Then she stopped liking the bottled water. I couldn’t understand what had happened. She became weak from dehydration so I took her to the vet to have her checked out. The veterinarian thought I must have done something to her to make her so lethargic. The vet kept her overnight as she received treatment for severe hydration. I was heartbroken to leave her but the vet said she needed an IV treatment. Poor old Lady.
The day after I brought Lady home from the vet I started feeling out of sorts myself. I tried to book an appointment with my doctor but couldn’t get one. The receptionist said that there had been a huge number of calls that week and that I couldn’t be seen. I should go to a walk-in clinic or the emergency room if I felt worse. I began feeling feverish after hanging up the phone so I drew myself a cool bath. Lady had barked and tugged at my shirt in an effort to keep me out of the tub. Wise old Lady.
Soaking in the tub helped cool the fever a great deal. I closed my eyes and relaxed. In that moment I could feel the water cover me and I knew that poor dehydrated Lady would outlive me. The old dog, faithful as always, stayed. She came over to my glistening body in the tub and licked my hand one last time.
The movies and TV shows mostly got it wrong. The aliens usually arrived with such a display that everyone knew they had arrived. Massive CGI spaceships landed in the most public of places in broad daylight. Invasion was obvious. The naïve hopes of Hollywood. We have stealth technology but leaving Earth is risky at best. Why did we think that an alien race could master interstellar travel but not master invisibility?
And the movies had lots of outlandish ideas as to why they would attack. They needed our resources. They needed a clean planet. They needed us as food. They were building a highway through space. We ascribed to them our own needs. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Their needs are evolved so far beyond ours that we can’t even understand what it is that we have for them to take.
It was my dog that made first contact with the Conquerors. She and I were the first earthlings to see one of them. I bet they wanted to know how she knew not to touch the water.
Day 86 by Michael Adams
Cole Heely sat for breakfast for the first time in days. It wasn’t much but it was fresh or at least just in the nick of time before the “sell by” date. A collection of eggs, biscuits, and what he assumed was vegetarian sausage patties covered in a gravy made of powder something he found in a can. It all tasted like heaven. He felt a soft tap at his feet as he chewed and heard a gently whimper, coaxing him to look downward.
“You hungry girl? I didn’t forget you, there’s a copy of mine in your bowl right now.”
Lucy whined a little louder but Cole just gave her head a pat and pointed to her dish. She eventually obeyed and headed toward her dish to enjoy breakfast. She was a massive beast of a dog, probably part mastiff if he had to guess, but then again, the way life was these days she could be a mix of anything and it would be the same result. Her legs were beefy and her eyes were jet black, two signs that she was probably infected with something, but it was nothing that appeared contagious. He had been by her side for almost a year and she didn’t so much as lick him without permission so whatever she was, it wasn’t aggressive. He had seen so much since the event and he assumed she had as well. He was lucky to have her.
“Tastes good, right? I found a small compact filled with supplies so we’ll be eating like kings for at least a month.”
Lucy gulped down her meal, which was many times larger than his, and gave a series of excited barks. It had been a long time since she had real food that also wasn’t also trying to kill them. As she finished and licked the bowl clean she ran back to his side and plopped down with a thud. She was impossibly gentle despite her enormous strength and size. Sunlight started to trickle through the small gaps in the fortifications, signaling it was time for work.
“You ready girl? We’ve got work to do.”
Lucy barked in acknowledgment and bounced up, heading straight for the door to the outside. Cole got up, stretched, and gave his joints a crack. He took a slower pace than she had but only because he had more to do to get ready than she did. He opened the hallway closet and removed a set of heavy armor and his shotgun. It took longer than it should to get ready, but the armor gave him confidence to go outside and face whatever new challenge awaited him. It was a work in progress as well, being nothing more than cobbled together bits and pieces with ballistic military weave underneath. It was hot and heavy, but it was the best he had. It hadn’t failed him yet and if he kept tinkering, it never would. After he was dressed he grabbed his backpack and loaded his shot gun. Lucy was whimpering was mad and he just laughed as he rubbed her head.
“Take it easy girl. I don’t regenerate like you do. Let’s go.”
He opened the door and Lucy took off like a cannonball. She immediately jumped with her jaws open at the nearest creature and tore it in half. This caused the others to turn in her direction. They were hunched over and walked like their back-left legs were all wounded in the same way. Their fingers were long and clawed and their hairless grey bodies were speckled with what looked like feathers. Their faces were twisted and their noses long like beaks. He had taken to calling them Grey Crows and he treated them just like any farmer would treat standard crows. He smiled as he took aim and proceeded to blow the nearest one’s head off.
Lucy was having a blast ripping them apart. Despite their claws they couldn’t pierce her tough hide and their bites did nothing but bring them closer to her for quicker kills. Unlike real crows these things would never run away and would fight even after they lost.
“You didn’t save enough for me girl. You did well.”
There was only five of them today, but if he didn’t burn the bodies soon more of them would show up, or something even worse. Lucy barked excitedly and started to drag the bodies with him to the fire pit. He took a small knife out of his backpack and sliced open their stomachs for any hidden treasures. There was nothing to special this time, just a few bullet shells and miscellaneous jewelry and digested food, but he wasn’t going to waste the chance to hit the jackpot. Upon closer inspection of the Grey Crows he noticed one looked very familiar.
“Oh shit. That’s Jethro from the farm down the road. They must have broken through his fence. Damn shame.”
He closed Jethro’s eyes and placed him on the top of the burn pile. He said a prayer and watched as an old friend returned to the ether. This burning felt different when a known friend was in the pile, but that feeling passed quickly as he walked to his toolshed with a sigh. Lucy whimpered in confusion as she saw him open the door and arm himself more heavily. He smiled as he put on a reworked pilot’s helmet and gave her neck some scratches.
“I have to go now girl. Jethro was a good friend and his family has a well-supplied farm. Chances are that if his family is still alive they are going to need some help from a friend, and if they aren’t alive…” He paused and looked over at the smoking remains of his friend, “They’d rather be looted by a friend rather than a stranger.”
Lucy licked his hand and started to follow him but he knelt and rubbed her face. “No girl, not yet. I’m just going to scout as much as I can first. You need to stay home and keep the place safe. Once I get an idea of what we’re up against I’ll come back for you and the truck. You got that?” She barked and gave his helmet a lick. “That’s a good girl. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon. You stay here until then. Be a good girl Lucy.”
She watched as he headed away from the far and into the world beyond their walls. The old dog, faithful as always, stayed.