One Last Chance

Planet Earth watercolour painting by Elena Mozhvilo@miracleday Unsplash

Great Being Five had been twiddling her thumbs for too long at the Academy for Wisdom¹. Over the decades she’d re-educated many recalcitrant Great Beings and re-engineered their wrong-doings. She’d set them all back on the straight and narrow, repentant of their misdeeds in the management of their planets. But now she was bored.

True, she still retained responsibility for two planets, but one was still at the ‘rocks and slime stage’ and the other, Orea, the one she used to love so much, with its pretty pastel colours and cute, fluffy life-forms, was… well, just a little bit dull.

Five was missing her beautiful blue planet. Planet Earth, which she’d finally decided to delete² back in Earth Year 2033, before the greedy, selfish little humans destroyed it themselves and took off to infect another planet.

She missed those fallible little creatures. Back in the day, before they had too many technical toys at their disposal, they were such fun. So creative! Five sighed as a wave of nostalgia broke over her desk and splashed off her Universal Viewing Screen.

Back in the day. The thought crossed and re-crossed her mind.

It lingered while a plan formed.

She’d done it before, and she could do it again. As a top official in the Academy, she had both the authority and the autonomy. All she needed to do was turn back Time in that small solar system on the edge of the Milky Way. 

Once before she’d re-set Planet Earth, but sadly it hadn’t had much effect; soon the arrogant little inhabitants were back on the road to their inevitable existential fate. This time needed to be different. A planet-wide change of mind-set must be effected.

She knew just the Being to help her.

Five dropped a mind message to her first re-education subject, the one she knew best and her greatest success. She immediately sensed his enthusiasm for the project. He was primed and ready for action. She would take care of the Time-Grid and he would set up the means for a mind-set change.

He warned her it would be radical.
He warned her it would be tough.
He warned her it would take time.

She agreed.

Five aligned the Time-Grid: 01.01.2020.
A nice round number; not long before The Total Tipping Point.

She sat back. Watched and waited.

Planet Earth reappeared in its old position. The little humans had ceased their scurrying. They’d hunkered down and huddled in their homes. Five was saddened at the sickness and the suffering; the deaths of the elderly, the poorly and the poor.

The Earth turned and turned again
day after day
month after month.

Skies cleared. Rivers ran clean. Nature thrived and re-asserted itself.
The planet cooled down a little.

When the scourge passed, the little humans emerged. They had changed and the change came from within; a new understanding of their beautiful blue planet.

Five mind-melded with her colleague: thanks, Nineteen.

She hoped her little humans would get it right now.


¹ For the Greater Good
² And finally she pulled the plug

Photo credit: watercolour painting by Elena Mozhvilo

Review – A Sextet Of Shorts by Chris Hall

What a very pleasant surprise it was when Joe Leonardi, aka the Short Story Scribe, emailed me the other day to say he’d enjoyed my slim volume of short stories; and now he’s posted such an encouraging review.

Do please check out Joe’s work too: he’s recently published a new novella entitled ‘The Comfort of Despair’.  I’ve got my copy, have you?

Short Story Scribe

A Sextet of Shorts by [Hall, Chris]I enjoy good short stories, and in thisSextet of Shorts, Chris Hall does an amazing job. Each story is complete and fulfilling, and left me wanting for just a bit more.

My favorites are “The Swindler,” because it left me thinking, and “A New Friend for Henry,” because it left me smiling.

Chris Hall, as usual, tells some good stories. Stories I highly recommend.

A Sextet of Shorts is available on Amazon.com  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C1NC397


“Who the hell am I?”20190630_1305207795170130459536580.jpg

I am an independent, self-published teller of tales,
an author, as of yet, scarcely any renown.
However, as a storyteller, I know who I am,
and with that persona, I am both confident and comfortable. I invite you to visit my website,

ShortStoryScribe.com

and/or Amazon Author Pages

Joe Leonardi              Scono Sciuto

if you are so inclined please
purchase a copy and leave a review.

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A new dawn

Treetops by Nigel Whitehead
‘Tree tops’ by Nigel Whitehead

From my Flash Fiction Collection

Great Being Five was having a bad day. The worst day she’d ever had since she’d decided to delete planet Earth. She’d known she had to do it, but still she regretted it. What she also regretted was agreeing to collaborate with Great Being Nineteen on his newly relocated planet. What a nightmare that had turned out to be.

After the destruction of Earth, Great Being Nineteen had given his barren little red planet a nudge, moving it gently into the Earth’s old orbit. Deferring to her experience of the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ he’d asked her to set up the basic building blocks for life, most essentially, the liquid water. The planet already had important elements like carbon and nitrogen; it even had ready-made continents and a slightly defunct volcanic system which just required a little kick-start to give the planet more energy.

She’d carefully retrieved the Earth’s old moon and substituted for Mars’ own two moons which she felt weren’t really up to the job. They were too small and misshapen and she hated their forbidding names which reminded her of all the worst qualities of her erstwhile earthlings. Who in their right mind would call their nearest heavenly bodies Phobos and Deimos – fear and dread?

Being thrifty she had put them in storage in an empty part of the universe. They might come in useful for something, although Great Being Nineteen would probably auction them off.

She sighed as she looked across the surface of the red planet. It had gone so well initially, especially after she’d introduced the blue-green algae. The warmth of the now-nearer sun had allowed them to photosynthesize and voilà, oxygen levels increased rapidly, an ozone layer formed and the plant developed an atmosphere. It had been a long wait, but as far as Great Being Five was concerned, it was party time.

As she and Great Being Nineteen toasted their success, the bickering began. First of all they couldn’t agree on a name. It needed something new, bright and vibrant, but all their brainstorming only ended in bitter recrimination. Great Being Nineteen wanted something tough and macho-sounding. Five told him tersely that it really wouldn’t do. What sort of tone would that set for a new world? Eventually, they decided to ‘park’ the problem until the planet developed a character of its own.

The next bone of contention was how they would develop the aesthetic. Great Being Nineteen really had no idea. They browsed among the galaxies, searching for ideas, but nothing really grabbed them. Eventually Five decided to show him her lovely planet in Alpha Centauri, proudly lifting the subtle cloaking device she’d installed to keep it hidden from predatory interstellar life forms.

He wasn’t impressed. “Just birds and trees and flowers? Where’s the interest? Where’s the ultimate struggle for survival?”

Five had turned away in disgust, washing her hands of the whole project. Let him do as he wants, she thought, and turned her attention to adding some pretty pastel coloured animals to the dappled woodlands of her lovely planet; all herbivores, of course. And then, finally, she settled upon its name. Her lovely planet would be known as Orea.

But over the millennia she couldn’t resist the odd little peak at Nineteen’s handiwork.

Over time, Great Being Nineteen had named his planet Ferox and had introduced an interesting collection of flora and fauna. He’d raided the Earth archives she’d shared with him and picked out the most predatory creatures he could find. Huge raptors circled the skies, carnivores red in tooth and claw stalked the plains and forests, killer whales patrolled the oceans. Happily there were no war-mongering bipeds… yet.

Five had to admit his collection of big cats were beautiful, as she scanned the planet; but, wait, what was that tiger eating? She peered at her viewing screen more closely. What she saw filled her with horror.

She flicked her monitor over to Orea. Where were all the furry mammals? She roved among the woodland glades. Not a pink fluffy bunny in sight! And where were the birds?

She returned her attention to Ferox just in time to see a raptor gobble up one of her red-gold sun-birds in mid-flight. Everywhere she looked were signs of the carnage; a handful of bright feathers here, a sorry lump of pastel-coloured fur there.

He’d ransacked her lovely planet. It had to be him! No-one else knew about Orea. How could he do such a thing? She wept for the loss of her beautiful benign creatures.

Finally her lament ceased. Great Being Five brushed away her tears.

She had a plan. She would re-set her planet. Ctrl-alt-delete, turn back the clock, then repopulate.

Then she had her best idea.

Adopting an anonymous thought-pattern, she sent a mind-message to Great Being Nineteen. “I have some very exciting new stock you might be interested in.” She smiled to herself as she dropped the thought into his brain. “It will add a real ‘wow factor’ to the planet I hear you’re working on,” she floated an image of a couple of dragons in flight in front of him. “But you’ll need to come in person.”

She gave him the co-ordinates.

Great Being Nineteen arrived on the surface of the planet. It looked familiar, very much like that soppy planet of Five’s, but he was certain he’d never visited this part of the Dark Universe. He stared around. Where was this new stock the dealer had offered him?

Over on the bright side of the universe Five hit the keyboard, glancing at her monitor to see the empty space which Orea had previously occupied.

She hit the keyboard again and entered another complex sequence into the system. Orea reappeared, recently returned from the furthest corner of the universe where she had dumped a few unwanted items. Orea was as lush as ever and ready for new life.

Suddenly it wasn’t a bad day after all.

©2019 Chris Hall

And finally, she pulled the plug

She pulled the plug by Chris Hall lunasonline

From my Flash Fiction Collection

And now there was nothing left of what had been her beautiful blue planet. Great Big Five sighed. She had given them chance after chance. She had very nearly deleted the entire human race in Earth Year 2018. Only that little message which flashed up after she had hit the big red button had given her pause.

Do you really want to DELETE?

No, she hadn’t. She’d cancelled the request. Sat back and watched and waited for fifteen Earth Years more. She’d watched the greedy, selfish humans squander more and more of the precious resources of her pretty planet. Barren soil blew away, the oceans turned to acid, the very atmosphere was toxic. Some of the little humans had tried to avert the crisis. They’d spoken out. Even important, influential ones had acted, added their voices. There were protests, social media campaigns, new policies agreed and implemented; the planet had staggered on, but it was all too little, too late.

Meanwhile others had been working on a plan. Done with the Earth, they would move on. Move to another planet. Their neighbour: the red planet. Clever little humans!

Never mind what they’d done to the animals and birds, the trees and flowers, the mountains and lakes. All her best work they’d left in tatters.

She had mind-melded with Great Being Nineteen. The red planet was under his jurisdiction. She had suspected he had plans. With Earth out of the way, he could move his smaller red planet nearer to its sun, into what her imaginative earthlings called the Goldilocks Zone, after one of their sweet little stories. Allow something new to evolve. He’d even let her collaborate on his project.

You have activated Planet Total Destruction. Are you sure you want to do this?

She did.

They couldn’t be allowed to spread their wicked ways.

©2019 Chris Hall

 

Fury

Superpower by Chris Hall lunasonline

Sandra’s superpowers had come as a surprise. Caused by a faulty connection in her washing machine, the freak accident had dumped her on the floor. She’d felt rather odd after that, sending out electric shocks at the most inopportune moments. It was only when she’d touched the interactive display at the mall and the whole panel had exploded that she’d realised their potential.

So many wrongs which need righting, it was hard to know where to start; but the people who had rejected her writing were at the top of her list.

Hell hath no fury like an author scorned.


Written in response to The Haunted Wordsmith’s Prompt May 13, 2019

Can you look again?

000 HW Prompt 28.04.19
Source

What do you see, Tiger Lily?

I see the moon.
I see the path shining in front of me, illuminated in the bright moonlight.

What else?

Nothing else.

What do you feel, Tiger Lily?

I feel the dampness of the night.
I feel the ground, wet beneath my feet.

What do you hear, Tiger Lily?

I hear waves breaking on a shore far away.
Do I hear you breathing?
Why can’t I see you?

What do you smell, Tiger Lily?

I smell the dampness of the earth.
Nothing else.
Where are you?

What do you taste, Tiger Lily

I taste nothing.
Just emptiness.

What do you remember, Tiger Lily?

I remember when we first met; on a moon-bright night like this.
I remember… everything.

And what do you want, Tiger Lily?

I want you back.


Written in response to The Haunted Wordsmith’s Daily Prompt 28.04.19

A Candlelit Evening

Candlelit evening by Chris Hall lunasinline photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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 Madness13 ‘A Ghost’
and with a nod to a scene from Michael Connelly’s ‘Dark Sacred Night’.

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.”

The Day the Soldiers Came

the day the soldiers came by chris hall lunasonline

I smile as I watch my mother play with my little brother Tommy on the hearth-rug. My father sits in his chair, still but alert. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I detect a movement in the yard.  I turn to look. Soldiers, four of them! By the way they are dressed, I know them instantly as ‘the enemy’. My father has followed my gaze as I gasp in fright and immediately he’s on his feet, sweeping up Tommy in the same movement and shoving him in my direction.

‘You know what to do Annie,’ he says quietly. He nods urgently at me and I grab Tommy’s hand and propel him through the kitchen. I look through the window, checking our route to the barn. It’s clear, so I open the door and we slide through and dash into the slatted wooden building. Behind us, I hear the soldiers hammering on the front door, shouting.

Although Tommy’s only little he knows what to do. Just as we’ve practiced so many times in recent months, I help him up the ladder to the hayloft. He doesn’t make a sound as we creep across the creaky boards and hide ourselves in the straw behind the loosely baled hay. We lie there, waiting. We haven’t practised what happens next. Then I hear a scream; I know it’s my mother, although the sound is like none I’ve ever heard her make. Her pain and terror flood my head. I grip Tommy tightly; he’s trembling and sobbing silently. The minutes tick by; I wonder what’s happening in the house. My father is shouting, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. The shouting stops abruptly and I hear the back door slam against the outside wall of the kitchen.

Heavy boots march towards the barn; I bite down hard on my knuckles. A cold fist contorts my stomach as I suddenly realise I forgot to drag the ladder up behind us. I hear the soldier’s heavy breathing down below. He’s pulling things over, searching. He approaches the ladder and in my mind’s eye I see him grab the ladder and place his boot on the first rung. Sweat runs down my back. Tommy is rigid in my arms.

There is a loud call from the house: ‘Move on!’ I hear the sound of the ladder clattering to the floor.  It settles and there is no sound apart from the blood pumping in my ears. Slowly I get up, my legs are shaking. I grab the rail at the edge of the loft and feel for the rope which we use as a swing when it’s too wet to play outside. Telling Tommy to stay where his is, I let myself down and run quickly towards the back door which is gaping off its hinges.

Inside the house furniture has been overturned and one curtain has been ripped from the window. My mother cowers in a corner. Her blouse is torn and there is blood on her skirt. Father’s face is bruised and bloody. He reaches for her, but she turns her face to the wall.

A Sextet of Shorts Cover pic

That was the first piece from ‘A Sextet of Shorts’, my little book of short fiction pieces.

‘Sextet’ is currently available to download on your Kindle for $0.99 / €0.99 / £0.99 and other currency equivalents  (+VAT) until midnight on 01.01.19.

And, since it’s the holidays, if you’d like a freebie, I will arrange to gift a download to the first 10 people who respond in the comments section below!

Waiting

Souls cross the skies of time, like clouds crossing the skies of the world.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas.

Charcoal drawing by Suzanne Starr

Charcoal drawing by Suzanne Starr

She sits and waits; a traveller.
He sits, arms folded, staring into space where for him there is now only the present.
Time stretches away. Infinite co-ordinates undefined. Souls slip past each other.

She stares at a wall, across tracks she cannot see; the tracks of time.
The tracks of my tears.
For I am that girl with no past and no future and I am waiting for you.

We agreed we’d meet, that we’d find each other. On the other side.

Before:

– Do you believe in reincarnation?
– Maybe.
– Do you think we come back as ghosts?
– Perhaps.
– If we do, shall we meet?
– We’ll need to arrange where and when.
– Each other’s birthdays?
– Will you remember?
– Of course.
– Where then?
– I don’t know.
– We can decide later, there’s plenty of time.

We never did decide, did we?


Another cross-continental collaboration with artist, Suzanne Starr. I find her artwork both intriguing and inspiring.
You can find more of Suzanne’s artwork at www.suzannestarart.com – check it out!