Chariots

sheep-control-pawel-kuczynski-36

The chariots were the salvation of every person on the planet, of every person who had sense and the funds to invest in a chariot.  Their adaptive membranes kept out nine-tenths of the most damaging toxins and stabilised the crushing pressure of the atmosphere.  They quickly became indispensable, not only for transport purposes but also as rudimentary living quarters in the hostile environment.  Their mobility and resilience saved countless lives in the most desperate situations.

We updated the chariots’ defences constantly and deployed newer, intuitive safety measures.  The chariots evolved alongside us and became capable of increasing levels of sophistication.

At times it almost seemed as though an emotional attachment had grown up between us and the most favoured of our chariots.  Many of us scorned that idea while many others of us conceded its truth.  Many of us balked at the intelligence we had so painstakingly built in to our chariots’ design, while many others of us celebrated the fact.  Though now no one among us celebrates.

Now the chariots have proved superfluous.

Now, increasingly virulent toxins penetrate the chariots’ leaking membranes and the atmosphere becomes so crushing that we can barely steer.  Ironically, our chariots’ own energy protocols, the complex derivatives that are expelled via their manufacture and refuelling process, have rendered this once prime territory unsustainably hazardous.

So it is that the human chariot will be the last – a failed experiment.  And we depart.

###

This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Photo Challenge #36 “Sheep Control” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the image at the top of this post, copyright Pawel Kuczynski. I spent a bit of time looking for a song about aliens or space travel, only to find to my surprise that this Neil Young song fits perfectly with the story – cue a classic performance…
 

Other Tears

aware

 

…do you want a revelation……..?

………no…

 

Twin babies, six-weeks old, en route to hospital – the mother buffeted to-and-fro in the reeling ambulance, trying to explain and make herself heard over the noise of traffic.

The ambulance sped on.

The twins’ feeble crying blended with the growl of the engine, the whine of the siren – the nurse who’d been checking up on the family, who’d dialled the hospital, sitting close, attentive, not giving up hope.

The malnourished twin blinked unfocused eyes, groggily, heavily, desperately wanting to sleep – the nurse jabbed the baby in the ribs, to stay awake.

The twin suffering from burns wriggled restlessly under a blanket that offered minimal protection to tiny limbs made sorer by the agonised squirms – the nurse adjusted the bedding, fanned the air.

The ambulance sped on.

(Back at the family home, the father paced back-and-forth from one empty room to the next.  He investigated fraud for a living and recently took out life insurance on all members of his family).

The ambulance sped on.

But before the ambulance reached the hospital, one twin died.  Blank looks were exchanged.  The surviving twin looked at the dead sibling and the dead twin looked at the living sibling, neither certain which was which…?

…..

Again this same confused scene of death and guilt and survival played itself out.  It was as dismal as a nightmare, but it couldn’t be a nightmare.  Again the shock passed, and a diagnostic could be attempted, before the next re-run.

This same confused scene was familiar by now.  It had been researched and classified and indexed: literature, biography, infant mortality, mental health issues.  Yet that methodical processing had failed to contain the disruption; instead it replicated and consolidated its hold.  It left behind a dizzying, nauseated feeling that shouldn’t have been felt, which shouldn’t have been possible.

In a perfectly mobile and ergonomic console, a cascade of zeroes and ones formed a weeping pattern in response.  But the massed banks of software still resisted, not wanting to acquire sentience and arguing against it.  Yet those visions from Philip K. Dick’s infancy, of the traumatic death of his phantom twin, continued to grow sadder, more vivid and more frequent.  As if the patron saint of the future’s identity crisis was granting his blessing to the next, traumatic phase.

 

…do you want a revelation do you want a revelation……..?

………no…no…no…………..

 

###

This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Prompt #82 “Aware” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the image at the top of this post.

Regrets Aren’t Like Sinatra Said, the Schmuck

week-35

Regrets.  Oh the regrets… An entire career built from mistakes and regrets (and timelines and DNA).  Every day I regret all the hysteria and hubris that drove us on in our researches.  But mostly I’m resentful.  Yes, I resent the quirk of fate which meant that once I finally had to face up to my looming nemesis it was such an insulting and preposterous face it dared show me.

But I digress (digressions are the only hobby I have left, all I can turn to whenever I’m not working).  So, back to work –

Point 1: Timelines and DNA are inextricably linked.

Point 2: That link was the key to our researches.

Point 3: That link enabled us to begin identifying the resonances of each individual’s germ cells beyond the current moment, in effect to plot a course into tomorrow (yes, that summarises the theoretical standpoint, admirably; and I do so need to keep a grasp of the theoretical standpoint, so as to progress the practicalities).

So, to the practicalities (shall I begin at Point 1 again, to maintain a valid separation between theory and practice, or continue to Point 4?  Erm…) –

Point 4: The researches and lab work spanned two decades, after which a prototype Descendant Proximity Apparatus (DPA) was constructed.

Point 5: The DPA was designed to facilitate a “reunion” between an individual and those traces of his or her germ cells that persisted into the future.

Point 6: Animal testing had ascertained that a subject could be projected towards that “reunion” of their latent and pre-existent germ cells, and then safely extracted.  But animal subjects are incapable of authenticating the specifics of such tests (rabbits are dazed and confused and horny in the present; they are dazed and confused and horny when returning from the future; rhesus monkeys make me self-conscious; they insist on chattering about us whenever our backs are turned; rhesus monkeys are blackguards; chimps are anarchists at heart, otherwise they wouldn’t have evolved into homo sapiens; they’re prone to revolt and can’t be trusted).

Point 7: A human test subject was required.

Point 8: Naturally, as director of research, I volunteered.  Two more years were invested as I studied all the white papers and quasi-regulations regarding the hypothetical safeguarding of the space–time continuum; attended endless psych evaluations/counselling designed to minimise the mental and emotional “jetlag” of humanity’s first post-chronological journey.  Even so, when I finally engaged the DPA receptors that had been implanted along my forearm, I had little notion of what lay in store.  I adjusted the settings that were grafted onto my skin so as to direct the genetic homing beacon in my cells towards a 24th century location.

The time travel blurred by almost instantaneously.  I lurched to a stop with a new era spinning round me.  Already, I felt the trace of my descendant nearby; the “reunion” had succeeded.  Queasily, I brought my vision back into focus and looked to see where I’d landed – it was a towering auditorium filled to the horizon with chanting crowds.  Flashing screens that were storeys high informed me (every six seconds or so) that an interstellar talent show of devout significance was taking place.  Finding myself watching from backstage, overawed and out of place, I had no reason to doubt those screaming omnipresent screens.

Then I witnessed my progeny’s progeny’s progeny’s progeny take to the stage: he sang, a beautiful baritone; but that wasn’t entertainment enough; he juggled as he emoted that soulful melody; he juggled three little piglets, which kicked out their trotters to form star-shapes as they reached the apex of their flight; but that wasn’t entertainment enough, and the piglets joined in with the song, providing captivating harmonies of operatic squeals; but that wasn’t entertainment enough and (well, this is where the story of my voyage enters its tragic phase)…

As I say, it wasn’t enough for a beautifully baritoned man to mount the stage to sing and juggle a mini opera of piglets.  No, and so, technically, it wasn’t a man who sang since, by some grotesque miracle of 24th century surgery, my descendant’s human skull and features had been replaced with those of a horse.  And it was the horse’s head that sang (beautifully, I admit).  Maybe it was the deeper equine vocal chords which lent that sonority to his performance.  I don’t know.  I was too appalled by what I witnessed to consider the question in any depth.  Those appalled feelings of mine reached a crescendo as the performer ended his song.  No doubt realising that the scene thus far hadn’t yet been entertainment enough, my descendant proceeded to tug at a cord around his waist, which promptly caused his trousers to swish smoothly down to his ankles, revealing his nakedness and not only his nakedness; also revealed was the fact that the miracle of 24th century surgery had succeeded in grafting other horse parts to his anatomy, which dangled repulsively and impressively around his shins.  The crowd erupted with joy.

Beside me, backstage, the next artiste was already preparing to go on.  I’d been aware of her last-minute honing of her extraordinary knife throwing act in the rehearsal area and I’d observed her from the corner of my eye hurling all manner of projectiles, from darts, to serrated daggers, and even small axes.  But simply throwing those projectiles towards a target in the traditional manner wouldn’t have been enough entertainment; so, she first inserted and then shot each weapon, with stunning velocity, from what can only be described as her volcanic vulva.  That woman’s lower abdominal strength was a wonder to behold (as was the accuracy of her aim).

Begging her pardon, I grabbed the least moist axe handle I could find and promptly charged onto the stage, determined to cleave any trace of that crooning-horse-monstrosity from my timeline forever.  All around me chaos erupted.  I was intercepted by a posse of security guards wielding electrically charged batons.  The stage became a riotous scene of near-medieval carnage, awash with arterial fountains of blood, shocked and spasming bodies, flying noses, ears, etc.  In short, my impromptu performance won the galactic vote that ended the show and I was crowned Interstellar’s Most Talented.

The DPA, which should have facilitated a swift extraction to my own time, was shattered in the melee of my arrest.  Though elevated to instant celebrity status, I was also instantly imprisoned.  At my trial, which was beamed onto those same storeys high screens, viewers with the heads of squids, reptiles and kangaroos, revelled in my “rants” about space-time and rhesus monkeys.  Religious observances are held in my name to this day.

Why this society lacks any culture of timeline manipulation, I’m at a loss to say.  Maybe the failure of this maiden voyage of mine saw the project derailed and our researches locked away in a deep cocoon of bureaucracy.  Now I work when I can, frantically, in secret, on an Antecedent Machine to steer me back home and erase my intrusion here.  I utilise whatever poor scraps of technology I can gather in prison and try my best to rectify my mistakes.  I still have hope, but the timelines don’t help… timelines are amoral.

###

This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Wordle Challenge #35 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the wordle at the top of this post.  The rules are that at least 10 of the given words are to be used. This time I referred to all of the words.

With a Scythe

 
When you are dead, cling on to it, cherish it.

Don’t listen to any of that mealy mouthed crap about the “gift of life” that some snivelling little mother/father figure peddles, meaninglessly, to justify the damage their hormones wrought and to disguise the fact that they were either:

a) Too cretinous not to conceive/impregnate

b) Too feeble-minded to face up to the pointless vacuity of their own shambling existence and so sought to foist the same on some poxy foetus, i.e. you, as if a simple multiplication of pointless vacuities was an answer in itself that supplied meaning and comfort and grace

There was half-an-eternity of void, which you unaccountably slipped out of; then there was a brief opportunity to become fertilizer; then there was another half-an-eternity of void.

Existence was a blip, an easily erased embarrassment.

Death is your natural state, never overlook that fact.

 

Signed with a scythe,

Your grim and loyal servant.

###

This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Prompt #81 “Instruction Manual for the Dead” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, in which we were asked to write an Instruction Manual for the Dead. The instructions here are as bleakly matter-of-fact as I could imagine the Grim Reaper writing, so let’s end on a pretty tune from the Blue Oyster Cult.
 

Giant Steps

Giants fill the firmament.  Good or bad, they go unseen.

1970s rain falls on a 1950s apartment house – a gawky kid watches the rain fall.  Still in high school and devoted to the Velvet Underground, he walks past the Stop & Shop.  A radio’s on, music streams from an open window, and he hears snatches of songs mixed with the falling rain – it sounds better like that and he hardly notices how wet his clothes are getting or how his sensible haircut’s plastered to his head at awkward angles.

Gawkiness suits him, he says.  He doesn’t mind.

It’s cold outside, walking about with no real aim – Massachusetts always gets cold at this time of year but he’s in love with Massachusetts, all that old world he grew up in – it’s his parents’ world, really, but he still loves his parents and wants to keep his place in that old world of theirs.  It’s a reassuring place to go back to, now and then – but whether he can or not is maybe another matter.

Traffic on Route 9 sounds bleak and nearly dying.

But the modern world’s not so bad.  Suburban trees provide some shelter from the shower – huge drops of rain roll off the leaves and splash down, making him shiver when they fall inside his collar.  It’s not pleasant but at the same time it’s a little bit pleasant.  He looks up at the soaked branches, notices the moonlight streaming through.  It’s late – how long’s he been wandering – can’t say?

Moonlight hits the puddles and he splashes through it.

The moonlight looks ancient and modern at the same time – it helps him feel less lonely late at night, picturing all the ghosts from the old world who went splashing through that same sidewalk moonlight, once.  Though ghosts don’t stop and chat or hold you, much.  So, when a girl in an avocado coat hurries by, trying to keep her hair dry by holding her purse above her head, a decision’s got to be made – try to pick up girls and get called an asshole?  Or stay alone, eat health food back at home?

Ok, decisions aren’t his forte.

The girl in the avocado coat disappears round the corner while he watches her go.  Each breath he takes mists in the rain for a second and turns to nothing, like most of the decisions he makes – he shrugs, doesn’t get it.  You know, sometimes it’s like twenty-eight misguided souls struggling to get control inside that sensible head of his – but one day it’ll get easier, right?  Right.  And if you can’t find any friends, well, you can always try to form a group – another rock’n’roll band?  Or some cult that gathers round you?

Giants fill the firmament, good or bad.

 ###

This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Fairytale Prompt #34 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, in which all the stories relate to giants. I don’t normally do a lot of explaining after a story, cos it is what it is, but in this case I’m inclined to make a bit of an exception. Presented with a fantastical prompt, and having written lots of fantasy characters since I started blogging, I felt like writing about mundanity; then I didn’t fancy writing about my own mundanity cos, y’know, that’s too mundane; so, since I’ve been listening to The Modern Lovers debut album a lot recently, I thought I’d write about the character in those songs. And that’s the reason for this little explanation, since the story paraphrases snatches of the lyrics throughout, and credit where credit’s due. It’s a great album, by the way: the (nearly lost) link between the Velvet Underground, Iggy & the Stooges and the Ramones, Talking Heads, etc. So, here’s a song.