The Dark

THERE WAS NO LIGHT. That was precious knowledge. The realization of which had cost her more than she would have thought possible, if she had but known.

Everything needs a context. And for the darkness to mean anything there had to have been a memory of light. The memory was fading fast.

It would happen, and then, more often than not, happen again. Sometimes there was more than just the tentative awareness that, in its-self, did not always register.

She could not remember.

It would come back to her, things usually did. She always remembered didn’t she? But she couldn’t remember.

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In the Wink of an Eye

IT HADN’T WORKED. Tens of thousands of man-hours, billions of dollars and trillions of computations all culminating in a big, fat nothing. Professor Palmer’s senses returned to her slowly, almost reluctantly. For what felt like a long time her entire awareness had been filled with one overriding thought—the project was over.

She was uncomfortable, lying amongst broken glass and twisted debris, and as this discomfort began to register she tried to rouse herself. A klaxon was howling and she grimaced at its closeness as she struggled into a sitting position. The lights were out and the lab, or what was left of it, shimmered behind a thick veil of acrid, grey smoke. Coughing and gasping for breath, Palmer reached out for a shattered computer housing and used it to pull herself to her feet. There was a deep gash on her forehead and something sharp was embedded in her left shoulder, but apart from that and the headache she was fine. An involuntary laugh sprang to her throat, where it caught and mutated into a racking cough.

“Hans!” she called out, as soon as she was able. “Hans! Are you there?”

There was no answer from the wreckage, but the klaxon was too loud to hear anything else and the smoke and darkness made it impossible to see anything but the broadest details. As she called her colleague’s name out again, she caught sight of the looming bulk of the transmitter in the centre of the devastation. Half of its outer plating had been blasted away and it seemed like the core had shattered.

She cursed. Radiation. End of story. Continue reading

Delicacy

ON VERIDIDIAN, YOU GET USED TO SEEING STRANGE things. If you’re unlucky, it’s in your bathroom mirror first thing in the morning. Verididian moss has been known to take root overnight in the oddest places and it objects loudly to any attempts to move it. I thought I was beyond considering anything strange after fifteen years here. Then, one morning, my mirror made my heart miss a beat.

This isn’t a hideous tale of disfigurement, not at this point anyway. What I saw, reflected, was the hull of an Earth vessel passing over the light well of my bathroom. Strange, because I hadn’t seen one in five years. Stranger still, because I was the Consul-General of Verididian and I didn’t know a thing about it.

“Jeremy, you wretched sloth!” I screamed as I grabbed my ceremonial uniform from a hook, shoved my feet into my boots, and ran out into the tunnel. “Jeremy, you better have a damned good answer for this or I’ll send that rock you use for a head on a long vacation!”

I tried to regain some decorum. I had attracted a fair amount of attention from passersby. But decorum wasn’t easy since I was stumbling down the hall in my underwear, tall boots undone and flapping with every step. I stuffed a loose boob back into my bra and straightened my back. Human anatomy was a bit of a mystery to the locals and with all the eye-swivelling, I began to feel modest for my whole species.

“Jeremy!” I yelled as I charged round a bend in the tunnel. I thumped right into him and sent him and his component rocks rolling across the floor. “Oh Flurst!” I cried gripping my knee. For a little guy, he was solid.

As Jeremy gathered himself together, I spotted an invitation on the floor. Ranek’s—the Royal Advisor—scroll marked the top. I snatched it up and began to read as I pulled on my trousers and fastened my boots. “…to formally welcome Under-Consul Drummond at the arrivals hall tomorrow…”

I turned on the scattered rocks that were Jeremy. “Ranek summoned you to his office to collect this didn’t he?”

Jeremy’s head rock nodded.

“He summoned you yesterday and you’ve been delivering it ever since?”

Jeremy’s head nodded again.

I clenched my fists. “For Flurst’s sake, Jeremy! You have to learn to delegate!” Then remembering it paid to be precise, I added, “And NOT to another rock sloth!” I hobbled on down the tunnel, struggling into my jacket, and cursing Ranek’s attempt to keep me in the dark.

Still wrestling with fastenings and hair I joined the official greeting line in the arrivals hall.

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Finley’s Last Chapter

“Hi, my name is Finley,” she writes on the scrap of paper with a broken pencil Georgia gave her earlier. “You can blame Georgia for this, for what I am about to write, it was at her suggestion. Well, insistence, that I write it all down, how we came to this moment in time—” She pauses and looks out across the ink black darkness, straining to see anything moving, but sees nothing. It’s all gone quiet.

Too quiet, the incessant shelling having stopped a few hours earlier. No one knows what it means. Was it the proverbial calm before the storm, or maybe the eye of the storm? Did it matter which? The small pockets of resistance fighters, like her small group, were losing the war. She isn’t even sure what it is they are fighting for anymore.

Survival? That was a joke.

They were, according to Thomas, down to their last few scavenged tinned rations. And no one had found anything ‘living’ for several days. Nothing flew across the skies; no birds sang a morning chorus. No animal, if any still yet lived, scurried or foraged above ground. Not even the rats showed their faces. Those hardy creatures could survive through just about anything. They had vanished.

Finley knows they are living on borrowed time. Georgia knows it too. By the morning, the rest of them will know it as well.

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