From sky-blue silk

Prasanth Dasari on Unsplash
Photo by Prasanth Dasari on Unsplash

From my Flash Fiction collection

We’d heard rumours of strange reptilian creatures stalking the lands beyond our borders. We’d not paid much attention. Similarly, we’d dismissed the reports which were sent back from the Palace Guard’s intelligence team who patrolled the perimeter of our kingdom. Men, far away from home are prone to flights of fancy and over-exaggeration. However, when the creatures did appear they were quite beyond imagination.

One spring morning they came, floating down from the fluffy white clouds under little canopies of sky-blue silk. We watched from our roof tops and our high city walls as they landed, then marched upon us, fanning out around the entire circumference of the city. We’d closed the heavy outer gates, pulled up the drawbridge and manned the battlements. But it was not enough. They were too large, too strong, too determined. And there were so many of them.

Our archers fired on them, but the arrows bounced off their patterned breast plates and scaly bodies. Within the hour they had peeled back our gates and smashed down our ramparts with their huge taloned paws. Our swords and spears were no match for them either. Once they had entered the city, they unslung their weapons and fired beams of sound and light which turned men to dust.

People scattered before them. Those who were too old or too slow were scooped up in their great scaly arms and flung aside with a force that snapped necks and broke bones. One of the creatures pulled a bleating goat from its tether and bit the poor animal’s head off. Then it split the body in two and tossed each half to its comrades who marched on either side.

What was left of the Palace Guard formed a ring around the entrance to the Sanctum where our queen and her council were gathered. The creatures filled the main square; row upon row of them. They stood in their ranks, facing our guards. Silence fell, punctuated only by the groans of the injured and the laments of the bereaved.

Then one of the creatures stepped forward; the symbols on its breastplate finer and more intricate than the rest. It advanced up the steps to face the Commander of the Palace Guard. Bringing a huge, scaly paw down on the Commander’s left shoulder it leant forward, forked tongue flickering.

At that moment, there was a strange roaring noise and suddenly, out of thin air a mysterious object appeared. A huge, great storage vessel, rather like the ones we use to store oil or wine, but much larger and made of a dull, grey metal. A door in the side of the object slid open and a tall, willowy figure dressed in a flowing silver gown appeared. The creatures in the square turned towards her, low whistling sounds emanating from their nostrils. They cowed their heads. She raised a shiny black staff and pointed it at their leader. She spoke and although her words were incomprehensible to us, we knew they were full of power. The lizard leader muttered something. She said a single, potent word and it vanished in a puff of smoke. Then she turned her shiny black staff on the massed ranks of creatures. Pop, pop, pop. They all disappeared. Then without a word, she returned to the vessel and the door closed behind her. The roaring noise sounded and the vessel was gone.

The old man finished his story and stared into the distance. Someone asked him a question.

“True? You ask me if my story’s true? Evidence?” He paused. “Well, if you look carefully there are some scorch marks near the entrance to the Sanctum.” The old man held up his finger. “And, I believe, fine sky-blue silk underwear is still worn here by women of a certain age.”

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Games Aliens Play

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Probe Agents Delta-Zero-Four and Beta-Two-Two were waiting for the next batch of human minds to be loaded for processing. Something had gone wrong with the scanner and their monitors were blank. Delta-Zero-Four was idly picking at her front claws while Beta-Two-Two was playing a game on his cellphone, his forked tongue curled around his upper lip as he concentrated. The phone was emitting a series of beeps and whoops interspersed with the sounds of gunfire and explosions.

“What’s that you’re playing, Beta-Two-Two?” asked Delta-Zero-Four.

“Mmm?” said her colleague, jabbing away at the screen with his manicured claws.

“What’re you playing?” she asked again, peering over the divider which separated their desks.

There was another rattle of gunfire and a flash of light from the screen of the phone. A cry of jubilation escaped Beta-Two-Two’s leathery lips. “Gotcha!”

The four operatives at the next bank of desks looked round at him and scowled.

“Show me?” wheedled Delta-Zero-Four.

Beta-Two-Two looked up. “Okay, bring your chair around here.”

Delta-Zero-Four hooked her tail over the back of her chair and propelled it round the desk on its castors with her broad scaly feet.

“Look,” he said, showing her the screen. “It’s the new Live-Game from BlatherTech, and it’s set here on Earth. It has awesome graphics!” Delta-Zero-Four nodded. “It uses live feed of actual human beings.” His claws tapped busily on the screen. “Here have a go.”

Beta-Two-Two handed her his phone. She studied the screen. The game was called ‘Fight your way to the top.’ There followed a series of instructions on the levels of play and the points.

Beta-Two-Two watched as Delta-Zero-Four made a few moves before selecting a target and firing a rocket launcher at the doors of Bankalot on Wall Street. ‘200 points’ flashed on the corner of the screen. She trashed the security desk with a couple of hand grenades and picked off a mixed group of secretarial staff and junior traders on the way to the elevator. The score climbed to 1000 points. Bursting through double doors on the fifth floor, Delta-Zero-Four pressed ahead, felling a handful of middle managers and a post-boy, who appeared out of a side office right on the edge of the screen (2500 points). Following the signs, she paused at the doors of the boardroom while she scooped up some passing ammunition, then she let loose with a pair of automatic pistols. The glass doors shattered and she strode into the room. Delta-Zero-Four sprayed bullets around the table. Spot bonuses of 500 points flashed up on the screen as she took out assorted senior executives including the Finance Director and the COO. Both guns flashed up as empty, but Delta-Zero-Four had collected a Smith and Wesson pistol on the way out of the elevator. She aimed and fired, hitting the man sitting at the head of the table between the eyes. The phone made a series of excited beeps and a message flashed up. CEO down! Score 10,000 points. Click to play again.

©2018 Chris Hall

Invasion of the Lizard People

 

2050: the land is too dry, or too wet.  Little grows.  We sit in our Ivory Tower, measuring, monitoring, allocating rations; creaming a little off the top for ourselves.

Khaki-clad figures under red parachutes drop from the sky.  They advance on our building.  Security yields.

Lizard tongues flick across our screens as they scrutinise our figures.

“Take me to your leader,” one says.

“Gladly,” I reply. (Will you eat him?  I wonder.)

Two years later: crops thrive, no-one’s hungry.  There’s a downside though.  They nibble on live rats at their desks and will eat your pets when you’re not looking.

©2018 Chris Hall

Shape-shifting for Beginners

From my Flash Fiction Collection

shape shifting for beginners lunasonlineIt’s not easy living with a serial shape-shifter. Most people on Spegorus could change their physical form to some degree, but Peter had really never got the knack of it. His sister, on the other hand, had always had a real flair for transformation and over the years had developed a huge repertoire. Joanna could take on one of these alternative forms at the drop of a hat, while Peter struggled to change the colour of his hair (as she would joke at his expense).

Even as a very young child Joanna would transform herself into creatures from her story books, often at quite inopportune times. Peter could recall numerous occasions when a normal family trip out had dissolved into chaos as Joanna had suddenly reinvented herself as a six foot ogre or a fluffy pink flying pig or some other insane creature from her imagination.

Of course it was tolerated in a child – to a degree – but there were rules, obviously, for adults. If nothing else it was simply a question of good manners not to go changing into a giant mollusc in the middle of lunch.

That afternoon, however, Joanna had gone too far. Way too far.  Peter had returned home with Gillian after a pleasant afternoon perusing the book shops and music stores in town. Peter and Gillian had a lot in common, including a love of reading and a dislike of creepy-crawlies. So when Peter opened the front door and invited Gillian in, the sight of a three foot wide hairy spider clinging upside down from the bannisters was an unwelcome, if not a downright alarming sight.

Gillian screamed. Peter cringed. Of course he knew it was Joanna, so apart from being vaguely repulsed he viewed the sight with relative composure. He put a reassuring arm around Gillian, but she pulled away from him and bolted through the front door and down the path.

‘What the hell d’you think you’re doing, Joanna? You know that’s an inacceptable form!’

Joanna’s spider antennae bent forward forming into two elegant question marks.

‘You are totally out of order. How can you be so mean?’

Joanna descended to the floor on a length of silk the diameter of a rope. She stood in front of Peter and opened her huge spider maw and yawned.

‘That’s it. I’m going to report you. But first I’m going to find Gillian.’

He turned towards the door.

‘I’m sorry, Peter, I was just bored hanging around the house…I’m sorry I upset your friend.’ Joanna wheedled in a little girl voice. ‘You won’t report me, will you?’

Peter looked over his shoulder to see a six year old Joanna in a pink party frock.

‘Don’t!  Just don’t, Joanna.’ Peter seethed.  He stormed out of the house slamming the door behind him.

Peter looked up and down the street. There was no sign of Gillian. He sighed and started walking away from the house, not really thinking, just walking. There was a small park at the bottom of the road.  Peter often escaped here. He headed towards the lake and stared at the swans which were calmly sailing over the sunlit water. Peter sighed again and sat down on the bank of the lake.

One of the swans headed over to where he was sitting and waddled up the bank. Peter sat very still. Swans could be quite dangerous, he thought. If it was actually swan? He looked more closely. The swan winked at him.

‘Gillian?’

The swan nodded slowly and moved closer. Her beak nuzzled at his neck. Suddenly Peter felt a shiver go right through him. His hands and feet were tingling. He looked down. The ground seemed to be moving towards him. He stretched out his arms. White feathers were spouting where his fingers used to be. He looked down. His trainers transformed into webbed feet. Peter shook himself. Gillian’s swan neck was encircling his.

Together they walked down to the water’s edge and launched themselves into the lake. Paddling through the sparkling water seemed like the most natural thing in the world. He turned towards Gillian. She opened her beak and spoke to him. His swan’s brain understood and together they started to paddle harder. Gillian took off ahead of him. Now Peter was flying with gentle flaps of his great wings.

‘Let’s do this together for a while,’ he thought. The thought came back: ‘or maybe a life-time?’

©2018 Chris Hall

Mind Mess

“I thought you said this was a good one.  Ordered mind packed with information, experiences and emotions?” Probe Agent Delta-Zero-Four turned to her colleague, the scales on her forehead raised. “We’re not going to learn much here.  Look!”

Probe Agent Beta –Two-Two peered over her shoulder at the screen, “When tested the subject scored exceptionally well,” he read.  His forked tongue flickered.  “Mmm, does look a bit of a mess.”  He jabbed a manicured claw at the bottom of the screen. “What are those?”

“Initialising visual brain-image enhancer,” she tweaked a knob on the side of the monitor.  “Thought-debris, mind-rubbish, emotional nonsense…I don’t see much else.”

“Very well, are we agreed Delta-Zero-Four?”

“Agreed, Beta-Two-Two.”  She said, pushing a red button in the centre of her console.

The screen went blank for a second, then a message flashed up: “Mind-wipe activated, click on the tab for next subject.”

Delta-Zero-Four clicked on the mouse.

©2018 Chris Hall

 

The Chosen One

The Chosen One lunasonline

From my Flash Fiction collection

Moonlight shimmers on Jenny’s dress. It is the winter solstice and the night is clear, the bright white moon surrounded by velvet blackness.  Jenny is the Chosen One. Her long golden hair crowned with a mistletoe and ivy garland cascades over her shoulders. Tall and slim, she holds the silver chalice aloft

She must be so cold, Cal thinks.

The villagers stand in a circle holding blazing torches, their faces reflected oddly in the flickering flames. The priest throws back his head and starts to chant. The gathering echoes his words of power. The spell reaches a climax and suddenly there is silence. Jenny puts the chalice to her lips and drinks. It falls to the floor and rolls away as the trance takes hold of her.

The chalice stops at the edge of the circle by Cal’s feet. He picks it up feeling the warmth where his sister had held it.

The priest lifts Jenny onto the stone table. A woman comes forward and takes the garland from her hair, replacing it with a delicate silver circlet. The priest starts to chant again and the woman returns to the circle. The transformation is about to begin.

As the villagers depart, Cal slips away and hides behind the old oak tree. He watches as the priest raises his arms and performs a final incantation before following the line of villagers back down to the valley.

Jenny is alone on the hilltop now. Cal shivers although he is dressed in his warmest clothes.  How can Jenny stand this?

Something rustles in the undergrowth beside him. Cal looks down. A small furry creature looks up at him with bright black eyes. More rustling: a rabbit, now a fox and a fawn.  Forest animals gather around the stone table. The smallest ones climb up and nuzzle up to Jenny. Soon she is covered by a living blanket of fur.

Out of nowhere, thunder; sounding like galloping horses. The noise reverberates around the hilltop. Clouds cover the moon. Cal cowers.

Then a column of the brightest light that Cal has ever seen strikes the hilltop. The creatures scatter leaving Jenny exposed on the stone table. The beam glows and throbs, alive with energy. Cal watches open-mouthed as Jenny’s body is lifted up.

The transformation, Cal thinks. No one has ever witnessed this.

*          *           *

The following morning the priest walks up the hill to bring back the Chosen One. As he looks around to check he is alone he notices something at the foot of the old oak tree. He hurries over. It is the boy, Cal, who picked up the chalice last night. The chalice is still clutched in his hand, but the body is lifeless. The priest shakes his head.

He walks over to the table. The girl is sleeping peacefully, covered in a shiny silver blanket. As he removes the strange material, she stirs and opens her eyes. Bright turquoise: the transformation is complete.  She is truly the Chosen One.

©2018 Chris Hall