Everyone fled for the old, deserted places; to the caves, the ruins and the ancient abandoned settlements. The cities had long gone; collapsed in on themselves. All modern infrastructure wiped out.
No-one understood why, but there was no longer anyone to ask or to explain. The politicians, the scientists and the specialists had long retreated into their state-of-the-art doomsday bunkers. Much good would it have done them. All technology had fried when the black hole came into view.
The inevitable came, although it took months. Quite a number of us survived. There had been long enough to prepare. But then the time came. The skies grew dark. There were flashing lights, the rushing of wind, a strange hollow feeling that seemed to gnaw on the soul.
When it was all over, we awoke to a bright new dawn. We opened our eyes, felt our limbs, went outside and looked at each other. Then we noticed. Everything was reversed like in a mirror. Our hearts were beating on the other side of our chests. It took a little getting used to.
We carried on, improvised. Crops grew. The water in our wells was sweet. Everyone felt good, younger by the day. We were more vigorous, more robust, we were quicker and stronger. And then we realised. We were actually getting younger, day by day. And the process was speeding up. What would become of us as we hastened to youth, to childhood and earlier?
Wrapped in her fluffy pink robe she glides into the beautiful bathroom. Hot water gushes from swan-shaped tabs into a large claw-footed tub. The light is subdued. Rose-scented candles glow seductively, reflected in the slightly-smoked full length mirror with its glittering frame of hand-picked pink quartz tiles. She pauses and turns around. What has she forgotten?
Moments later she reappears carrying a large crystal glass containing her favourite mouth-filling red wine.
The white-tiled floor is glossy, and slippery with an unnoticed sheen of steam. She strides forward and suddenly…
She’s on the floor, prone on those pricey ice-white tiles. She hesitates for just a moment and then rises to her feet. She stands facing the mirror, but something’s wrong. Where’s her reflection? She focuses on the one missing tile on the far corner of the frame, still not mended, but when she looks back, her face is still absent.
Her gaze travels down the misting mirror. What’s that on the floor behind her? She turns and sees a pink robed figure. Spilled red blood mingles with spilled red wine. She raises her hand to her mouth to suppress a scream, but there is no hand, no mouth.
There is nothing.
Written in response to The Haunted Wordsmith’s ‘Main March Madness‘ 13 ‘A Ghost’
and with a nod to a scene from Michael Connelly’s ‘Dark Sacred Night’.
The year before, and all the years before that, as long as anyone could remember, when the travelling circus came to town, elephants and monkeys marched along the main road all the way through the town to the open field where they set up the tents. Snake handlers, people on stilts, and even the bearded lady followed, handing out fliers as they danced past.
But this year was different. On the appointed day we heard a brass band heralding the parade. The rosy cheeked ringmaster in his full regalia marched proudly at the front. Dainty drum majorettes followed, parading and pirouetting; next came the gaudily dressed clowns with their sad, smiling faces. And acrobats who turned cartwheels and somersaults.
But where were the lions, the tigers and elephants? Where were the dwarfs and the tallest man in the World? No ladies with beards or two-tailed monkeys? No fire-eaters, no sword-swallowers or freak acts at all!
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.”
I remember The Time Before. The time before The Changes, before the bees died all over the world. Suddenly. All wiped out. It was that one dreadful year when things started to break down. Lots of things happened, but it was all about the bees.
We knew they were important.
We knew they were vital.
We knew they were vital for life.
Everyone had predicted it would be a catastrophe; but it turned out there was hope. There was a work-around; people with technology, scientists, biologists, cyberneticists. They had a plan.
They brought out the drones. Not the only-good-for-one-thing males of the bee species. No, these were machines.
But we didn’t realise that these tiny robots were more than just little automated pollinators.
Did you know about the waggle dance? The one a bee did to tell other bees where to find the good stuff. No? Well it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the new drones, the cute little bee drones, have eyes everywhere. They’re watching us. So you’d better toe the line.
They don’t do a dance, but they do tell their masters.
They watch; their masters observe.
Their masters control. Your life.
Everyone had predicted it would be a catastrophe, and it was. But not in the way people had thought. And now nothing is like it was in The Time Before.
‘No more rides,’ said Humphrey the Unicorn, ‘especially not for that fat fairy.’ He was talking to himself, deep in the enchanted forest. His back ached and his horn was sore where the young fairies, pixies and elves had been touching it for luck. Much will that do them, he thought.
Humphrey sighed, ‘a noble beast like me, scratching a living as a side-show attraction at Friday’s Fantastical Fair. He wandered over to a patch of four-leaved clover and started munching.
‘Hey, Unicorn!’ said a voice. Humphrey looked up to see a strange little man leaning against a tree with a notebook in his hand and a pencil behind his ear.
‘Your good at story-telling aren’t you?’ the little man said.
Humphrey nodded. He’d always been fond of telling stories, but the magical kids of today weren’t interested.
‘And you’re looking for a new career?’
Humphrey nodded again.
‘Okay, here’s the thing,’ the little man pulled the pencil from behind his ear and waved it with a flourish. ‘I’ll pay you double what you get from the Friday Fantastical Fair, if every week, without fail, you provide me with a 250 word story for my Friday Flash Fiction spot.’
Humphrey jumped at the chance. He and The Writer, for that was who the strange little man was, made a pact for life. But one year later, when Humphrey couldn’t squeeze his brain for even one more story, he found to his cost that he’d made a pact with the devil.
Inspired byThe Haunted Wordsmith’s Three Things Challenge– fairy, unicorn, devil These little prompts are coming to an end, but with Halloween approaching Teresa promises us new inspiration for tales of ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties.
Sounds like fun!
With apologies to the creators of Star Trek and Doctor Who
The doors to the holodeck swooshed closed. Ensign Marcus Bain felt a warm breeze ruffle his crew cut and the midday sun on his skin. Dressed in appropriate time-period leisurewear he plunged into the fairground crowd.
Garish colours, distorted sounds and the smell of fried food assaulted his senses. He checked the handful of notes and coins which had been issued to him with his slippery pale blue nylon outfit. There had been some orientation information on the pre-entry briefing screen, but he’d barely skimmed it in his impatience to visit late-twentieth century Earth.
He stared about at the crudely-made mechanical rides from which music blared and people screamed. The young ensign selected a ride at random and proffered a handful of coins. The operator raised his eyebrows and laughed, saying something Marcus didn’t catch, before showing him to one of the little rubber-rimmed cars which people were driving around the smooth oval-shaped rink.
Marcus had only just wedged himself into the seat of his little green car when someone bumped him hard from behind. He swivelled around, but the car had already reversed away. Then another slammed into him from the side. “You drive like a Klingon on Rackta,” he yelled at the driver who gave him a thumbs-up sign before driving off to bash a little blue car. Marcus clutched the steering wheel and depressed the single pedal on the floor. The car moved forward, describing a graceful arc.
He cruised around the rink, skilfully avoiding attempts by other cars to bump him. It was a bit like steering a star-ship through a meteor shower; not that he’d actually done that other than on a simulator. Marcus was oblivious to the hostile looks from the other drivers as he evaded their challenges and failed to make any contact himself. Then three cars came at him at once, one behind and two on either side, driving him edge of the rink. There was nowhere for his little green car to go. Marcus swung his car around to face them and stopped. He could feel the pressure from their cars push against his, which was tight up against the rim of the rink. The electric charges from the poles mounted on the back of the cars crackled brightly on the conductive mesh above their heads. The three guys scowled at Marcus. All were dressed in tight cut off t-shirts which revealed hostile-looking tattoos on their arms. He saw the man on his right crack his knuckles.
Marcus was up and out of the little green car before they had a chance to move. He hesitated for a few seconds, then seeing them hoist themselves out onto the busy rink and advance towards him, he set off at a run. The nylon fabric of his clothing slid unpleasantly over his skin as he looked around for somewhere to lose his pursuers.
Marcus noticed a door flapping open at the rear of one of the flimsy buildings. He dived through the door slamming it behind him. It was very dark. Marcus felt his way along a narrow corridor. His stomach knotted as he heard his pursuers enter behind him. Marcus groped his way along the passage until he found another door; he opened it cautiously and slipped through.
It was suddenly very bright; the walls around him were lined with mirrors which distorted and multiplied his reflection. He rounded a corner, hurrying past the grotesque versions of his reflected self into a mirror-lined corridor which twisted and zigzagged before opening into a large, triangular-shaped room. He heard a shout: ‘split up, get him.’ Heavy footsteps pounded on the wooden floor; the mirrors shook. Before Marcus could decide which way to run, three figures appeared each from a different doorway. Marcus was trapped.
‘Exit!’ shouted Marcus, remembering the escape command.
‘We’re not going anywhere,’ one of them grunted. The three men closed in on the now desperate Marcus, who knew he was not immune to blows from holographic foe.
‘Exit!’ Marcus yelled again. Why didn’t the program end?
Vworp! Vworp! The three men stopped and turned to see a large shape materializing in the middle of the room. Marcus sighed with relief. But what appeared wasn’t what he’d expected. Rather than an archway, it was a big blue box, taller than a man and a little wider than the double doors in the side which faced him. Perhaps this was a new version of the Arch? He wished he’d read the briefing more thoroughly. One of the doors opened and a figure in a long brown coat and an even longer stripy scarf appeared. He raised his broad-brimmed hat revealing a shock of unruly, curly hair.
‘Good afternoon, gentlemen,’ he said. He looked at Marcus, ‘You’d better come with me ensign.’
Marcus hesitated; his three would-be assailants stood open-mouthed.
‘Come along Ensign Bain, hurry up now,’ the man said, beckoning to him. ‘This way.’
Marcus hurried toward the blue box. ‘Who are you?’ he asked his rescuer as he drew level with him at the doorway.
‘I’m the Doctor,’ he replied, offering Marcus a toothy grin as he ushered him inside.
‘Doctor who?’ asked Marcus.
‘Have a jelly baby,’ said the Doctor, offering him a crumpled paper bag.
Marcus stared around him.
‘Welcome to the Tardis! Bigger on the inside, yes, I know,’ said the Doctor, beaming wide-eyed at Marcus. ‘Now let’s get you back where you belong,’ he said as he pushed buttons and pulled on levers at the central console.
Before Marcus could take stock of his surroundings, the Tardis materialized in the engine room of the USS Enterprise. ‘Home,’ said the Doctor, helping a dazed Marcus out.
‘Aye, another one, is it Doctor?’ said Scotty, the Chief Engineer.
The Doctor nodded. ‘Your virtual reality toy keeps causing a tiny rift in the space-time continuum. You need to fix it. I’ve better things to do than scoop up young ensigns on their day off.’
‘Aye, Doctor,’ said Scotty, ‘we’ll get onto it right away.’