Flash in the Night

Author : Jenna Bilbrey

A breeze rustled through the corn field, drying the sweat from the day’s planting. The sky twinkled brighter than the Fourth of July.

A shooting star rocketed past. I wished for my girl to come back from the city. Another, brighter light flashed. Two in one night was a good omen. She’d be home soon.

Then a thrid. A fourth.

My father was missing the meteor shower. The stars were his only love after my mother passed. On clear evenings he gazed upwards, whispering to the heavens, late into the night.

But not tonight. Not after the court date, learning we would lose the farm. Tomorrow he would bury himself in the cornstalks and whisper. But not tonight.

The shower rained down–fiery rocks on their final astral journey. A blast lit the field, and I threw a hand to my eyes. When all went black, I dropped the hand. A flare hovered above the horizon. The salvo kicked back in the opposite direction.

Meteors falling away from Earth. Impossible.

Another burst lit the night. Lights twinkled and flared. More explosions. No noise.

Something large rocketed towards the earth, growing bigger and brighter each second. A whisper–was Father here after all?–turned to thunder as the flaming meteorite shot towards the farmhouse.

It hit before I could stand. An explosion, deafening and bright, devoured the night. This one didn’t fade. This one burned. Flames roared, consuming the farmhouse and my father sleeping inside.

Fire trucks wouldn’t come. Not this far out. The flames burned my eyes. Tears evaporated in the heat.

The fire raged until the sun blocked out the hateful stars. I approached the dying fire, my former life, to lay my eyes on the horrid rock. A rock thrown by a negligent god.

Metal gleamed from the rubble. This wasn’t a rock. This was a fallen satellite, a man-made device.

Etchings of some unknown language lined the disc, glowing white. There was no heat. A chill ran through my blood as goosebumps rose from my arms.

Sirens intensified in the distance, but I didn’t dare turn from the machine. It called out to me. Touch me. I laid a hand on the shining hull. An electric shock bolted through me. I launched from the rubble.

When I opened my eyes, a lone paramedic hovered over. He told me that I had passed out. That I was lucky to be alive.

“Awful house fire, that one,” the man said, looking at the ashes. “Haven’t seen one this bad since the Henderson’s barn went up in ‘92.”

I stared at charred wood and smoking embers. Only the refrigerator was left. Nothing else.

“There was metal,” I choked. “A big metal disc hit the house.”

“Son, you better take it easy,” the man said. “You must’ve breathed an awful lot of smoke getting out.”

He turned to me. “Were you the only one?”

“My father.”

He sighed. “I’ll get my son to meet you at the hospital. He’ll help you make the arrangements.”

“It was right there,” I whispered.

“Come on, son. There’s not much we can do here.” The scene blurred as he looked into my eyes. “You got a long couple of days ahead.”

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Author : Willis Weatherford

The piercing rays of a fiery star filtered through thickly opaque clouds to light Gerder’s face with a rosy hue: his first dawn on NovaTerra. As he peered through the narrow hatch of Probe Alpha 7, allowing his eyes to adjust to the relative brightness, a few motes of dust floated in and landed on the clear face-piece of his helmet. Dust. For the past two weeks, the filtration system of the Probe had eliminated all of it, and seeing it now made him strangely glad. “I’m alive”, he thought.

He pulled himself fully out of the probe, boots landing heavily on some gritty yellow stuff. It stretched away in static, parallel ridges, staccato interruptions between Gerder and the behemoth dominating the horizon: a jagged tooth of what looked like grey metal soaring towards the swirling canopy of cloud.

The urge to explore suddenly overwhelmed him. Gerder knew he was supposed to begin by taking samples and processing them in the probe’s lab, but just now he felt more like Ernest Shackleton than Louis Pasteur. He was the first man on a new planet, the first habitable planet man had ever visited; mission guidelines be damned, he was going to climb a mountain!

Cautiously, he cracked the seal on his helmet. A tendril of warm air made its way into his mouth and he hesitantly pulled it into his lungs. It tasted good, and the slightly higher oxygen content immediately made itself evident. He felt alive! Taking off the rest of the suit, Gerder stood naked in the light of dawn and laughed.

Gerder found the yellow grit felt like a soft, fine sand on his feet. A steady wind, strong but not violent, tousled his hair. Running a few steps, the past fourteen days of electrotherapy inside the probe and the lower gravity of NovaTerra allowed him to feel as fit as ever. The old competitive spirit of 5K races back on earth rose up as he took off towards the mountain.

A few minutes of fleet footfalls later, he placed a trembling palm on the grey flank of the mountain, and looked up. Cracks split the towering face. His toes found purchase on the gritty rock, fingers locked into a crack, and he pulled himself up onto the rock. Casting a glance over his shoulder, he saw the probe sitting where he had left it, and its presence reassured him. He could always go back down. “I’m alive, and I can do this!” Days of confinement within in the probe lent resolve to his limbs, and he began to climb.

As he moved higher up the side of the alpine objective, thoughts marched in line through his head, clamoring for his notice. “This is impossible”. “ No one has ever climbed this.” “No one else has even seen this.” The militant thoughts made him feel lonely and small, but hardened his resolve to reach the top. Hand, hand, foot, crimp the crack, jam a knee into the wide spot and push up. Finally, elbows and fingers oozing red life onto the blank rock, Gerder found there was no higher place to go: he was on the summit.

Once again, he laughed. The rushing wind blew over him, and Gerder felt himself a Titan. “That’s what I’ll name you, mountain!” he hollered, victory and gladness rising in his chest, “Titan! And I climbed you first!”. TerraNova stretched out below, awaiting his exploration, and Gerder was alive.

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I Woke Up One Morning

Author : Rodger Parr

If you have ever awoken in the morning to find yourself with the body of a human and the head of an insect then you must surely empathise if not at least sympathise with me. For it was with this strange dilemma that I awoke to one Sunday morning.

At first everyone was repulsed by my sight and children would throw stones at me in the streets whilst screaming obscenities. The parents would sometimes join in.

A man from the circus came to see me and offered me a lot of money to become one of his sideshows. I accepted immediately.

I would sit every night in a sideshow tent whilst a man outside stood shouting at the passers by. “Roll up, roll up. Come and see the half man half insect. Come see the freak”. For that is what I had become.

After one of the many nights spent being gawked at by wide eyed strangers I returned to the caravan that had become my home and counted my savings. I had enough.

I went to see the doctor the next day. I told him I was tired of being a freak and showed him my money. He said it would be difficult but he could do it. That same day I was anaesthetised and taken into surgery.

When I awoke the doctor was standing by my bed. “A complete success” he said, holding up a mirror for me to view myself. Although still groggy from the operation I eagerly looked into the mirror. Bright blue eyes stared back framed by an oval and slightly flushed face underneath a full head of blonde hair. “What do you think?” he said, lowering the mirror and beaming down at me.

“But what have you done?” I stammered “Where is my old body? And what have you done with my head?” My scream slowly started to fill the room.

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Borne Out of Darkness

Author : Dakota Brown

“We are born out of darkness,” she told herself begrudgingly. “Certainly it holds no true power.”

Around her, the frightened masses had gathered (after, of course, a stretch of panicked footfalls and curses towards the heavens). They found each other in the confusion, linking arms and muttering their fears. The generators had shut down. The darkness was upon them.

She had made her way down the hospital corridors enough to know the dimensions by heart: each doorway passed had always been a moment of anticipation, each elbowed turn a stifled tear. Her mother’s room had been the destination, but when the last drop of gasoline burned out it became the starting point of a journey that she had too little time to fear.

The cables and wires connecting her mother to the hospital’s machines were removed hastily, her only hesitance the grunts of discomfort the frail woman attempted to hide.

“It’s not far,” the young girl lied. “And the lights may be back before our eyes can even adjust.”

The old woman mumbled part of a sentence, the intention of which was to know why the lights had gone out. Her daughter threw her around her neck and joked “I guess even the government has trouble paying their bills.”

Groans of sorrow, fear, and anger filled the darkness, the staff and patients reveling in their soon to be demise. Many sought answers from their gods. Many lashed out when they heard no answer.

Silence, a patient entity awaiting moments of extremity, made itself known. The hospital collectively fell to a hush, each person knowing what was to come. The girl trudged on, however, mother in tow.

“They think this is the end. I hate it for them. Their belief makes it so.”

A swift kick to the base of the entrance door marked the two women’s exit, though the darkness outside mirrored the one they had escaped.

“They have faith, mother, and that is important. But,” she trilled as she retrieved a battery cell from her satchel, “preparation needn’t be ignored.”

The two women, one small from age and one small from sickness, fit comfortably in the single occupant rail capsule. With a quick charge and a push of a button, the capsule lit up and shot off, the mother’s soft brown eyes flickering in the incandescent glow of the control panel. They were eyes that predated sickness. They were eyes that inspired action.

The girl imagined the residents of the city consumed by the darkness, allowing themselves to be torn into nothingness by the nothingness around them, all the while praying for release to gods who had granted them minds and willpower permitting their escapes.

They strained their voices and necks praying to the heavens, but she found the gods in a pair of hazel eyes.


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Author : Rachelle Shepherd

We stopped at the Drug Market for clone-cloves, street illegal copies of Indonesian spice and porn-shop perfume. They were thick rolls of black steel with bands of gold in a no-nonsense plastic wrap pack. Even their cellophane slip was less than legal litter, a fine of 50 credits and community service at the soup kitchen.

There was no 2000 era Surgeon General warning on these bootleg beauties.

All natural unnatural chemical release. The Historians say Americans used to pull this sap smoke thick straight to the lungs, relishing on the novelty of loiter fines. They crowded like fireflies outside nightclubs, winking in the shadows of crumbling stone masonry.

They kept the smokers from the non-smokers, segregating vices into self-righteous wrongs and rights. Even a smoker’s breath was poison and a clove was like to knock a set of virgin lungs into toxic shock.

Clone-cloves were no heat no smoke electronic gadgets, packed full of a body’s memory of epiphany and release. All it took was a kiss of lips to metal and our lungs puffed up like balloons, stretching pink and fleshy in our aching chests. The info-tech tickled when it poured down the throat, causing real-life real-time smoker’s cough. We hacked and gagged our way through the first stick and watched the tech fall apart like ashes in the wind.

Three pairs of boots in a puddle of metal shavings.

We were bloated on vice, giddy with the shock and sensation of peering into a dead past of unhealth and hospital bills. Giddy with the memory of smog clouds and ancestor waste.

Our pack passed hand to hand, puff and pass, nausea contagious.

There was nothing left but crinkling cellophane and churning stomachs, water-heavy lungs and a light head buzz. We held a small funeral at the corner side incinerator, paraphernalia flaring into ember. Spicy incense on the midnight air. Scent pollution.

Sudden cravings led us to a regulation café. I wanted a cup of caffeine and a new taste in my mouth. Something melting, something chocolate. Something to wash away the melancholy of propaganda.

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