Friday Flash (Revisited): Space-time to Travel

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When Hector invented his time machine, he did not concern himself with aesthetics. He had never valued beauty over functionality, and he assumed the judges of the 54th-century’s multiversal scientific competition would share his opinion.

His chest swelled as he viewed his entry in the ‘Time-Machine of the Century’ contest, humanity’s valiant effort to embrace the insanity they had brought upon themselves. Such an event was obviously a complicated affair, but Hector knew the intricacies of traveling the multiverse. Space-travel was by definition time travel, and he crossed light-years like other fellows crossed a room.

Of course, time-travel had been around for centuries in Earth standard years, with all the predictable complications such journeying involved. After all, there’s only so many times men and women can either off their own ancestors or become their own parents before humanity’s family tree is hopelessly skewered beyond recognition. And once humanity spread beyond its own paltry region of space, cross-breeding with the debatably-intelligent life found elsewhere in the multiverse only added to their genetic confusion.

Confounded, humanity had decided their hopelessly tangled timelines (multiverse, after all) should be monitored and adjusted accordingly. Agencies had been set up, destroyed, the parents of the agencies’ founders murdered, born in alternative timelines to be transferred and mated (then murdered) again, before humanity as a whole threw up their collective hands and thought, To hell with it all, let’s just go with the flow.

And thus, Hector had found himself abducted from the distant past due to one of genetically-mangled humanity’s misguided efforts to reintroduce old-blood back into its gene-pool. The upside for Hector was that they made their scientific knowledge available to all their abductees. After being fit with a transmitter for selective telepathy, he could communicate effectively and integrated himself into future (his future) society. He was excited about his entry into this year’s contest.

You’ve been disqualified.

What? What are you talking about! I followed the rules to the letter! Color flushed Hector’s cheeks as he gazed at the little grey-green judge with the clipboard.

The judge, Bob, gazed levelly at him with bulbous eyes. He really had no choice, since his eyelids were clear. Bob was unaware of his familial connection to Hector, though he would not have been surprised; almost everyone was related to everyone else.

Well? repeated Hector. He bent down to peer into Bob’s oval face.

Bob reached out with elongated, bony fingers to hold the tentacle of his wife of three light-years, Judy Trudy. He paled at the sight of the glowering man in denim and found his plaid shirt terrifying. Judy nudged Bob encouragingly, and the little judge responded.

After the unsettling squelching and sucking sounds were over, Bob cleared his throat and thought, It does not meet the specifications, sir, for human-compatibility.

What the heck you talking ‘bout? Hector sat in the driver’s seat of the modified Chevy and activated the force-seals. I know there’s been certain errr…modifications to the species since my days, but humans still have certain basics in common, right?

That is true, thought Bob. He squeezed Judy’s tentacle, which oozed reassuringly in his bony hand.

Well, most have two hands, right? reasoned Hector, demonstrating how his hands used the steering-wheel. He made a point of not meeting Judy’s gaze.

Yes, and many have three or six, answered Bob.

Two feet is pretty common, right? Hector stepped on various pedals.

Two seems to be the preferred number of ambulatory appendages, agreed Bob.

I installed seat belts, per regulations. They would be useable by the bulk of humanity – regardless of, er, complications to their family, uh…

The seatbelts are satisfactory, agreed Bob, noting that the ancient human had not “buckled in” for safety. He climbed into the vehicle and sat in the passenger seat.

Hector’s brow furrowed as he asked the question he’d been dreading. It’s not a question of style, is it? He had not been tuned-in to the fashions of his own time and place, nevermind 54th century Camelot 470.

Bob negated this notion.

Well then, what’s the problem? He took a chance and gave Judy Trudy a worried look. She squelched at him.

This is the problem, thought Bob and sighed. Sliding into the driver’s seat, Bob bumped Hector unceremoniously out the open door and onto the floor. Hector watched Bob wiggle his tiny grey toes at least a foot above the starter pedal. In most space-timelines, thought the judge at the mystified man, the majority of humanity is my height.

*This was originally written for the six minute story site, but I cheated and edited the piece after six minutes. Also, due to life happenings (such as getting the flu for two weeks among other things), I have not created a fresh flash for this week. I felt guilty for not updating the blog, so I hope you enjoyed my humble repost from my old (and now defunct) writing blog. Have a lovely week!

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash: A Match Made in the Heavens

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She can’t get over the look in his eyes. Well, are they technically his eyes when they belong to the humanoids looking through his rounded glass portholes, eyes enormous with unmitigated terror? It doesn’t matter. She is used to that reaction from most lifeforms, whether they have one set of eyes or many.

What do you want me to do, my love? She thinks to the ship in dragonsong.

The ship roars his response, but the dragon hears nothing through the void of space from which she comes. She only knows that she loves this gleaming metal creature sailing across the starry heavens, loves looking at the faces of the humanoid creatures he apparently swallowed, loves the electric fire shining off his exterior.

They have so much in common!

Then she sees where the vessel, the lovely silver knight of her nights, is heading and her thoughts fairly explode in her head for joy. The frosty silence of the void is replaced by the roaring heat of entry into the planet’s atmosphere; they are the match that ignites the heavens. Approaching the planet’s darkside, she spots his love offering to her: a city that sparkles and glints like a nest of jewels across the ground’s surface.

Telepathy or not, it is as if her beloved can read her thoughts. They sail together towards the world, a world where they can finally and truly speak. The planet’s oxygen-rich atmosphere fills her lungs, her wings whoosh through the air as she rapidly descends to inspect the brightly lit buildings that litter the ground like fallen stars.

Upon closer inspection, small circular windows in each metallic dome reveal more tiny humanoids. This must be his home, the place he’s taken her to feast…Oh, what bliss!  The creatures flee from their dwellings, feet pounding furiously as they run for their lives, and she picks them off one by one, savoring each morsel as the love offering it is obviously meant to be–like tiny bipedal chocolates that scream sweet harmonies as she gulps them down.

Running her long, forked tongue along scaled lips, she sways provocatively toward the ship that now sits parked like a gleaming silver tooth. Her back undulates, her eyes sparkle, and her nostrils flare as she inhales deeply the sweet stench of burning meat. She folds each set of iridescent wings slowly, dancing a ballet of death in this beautiful and burning world. She is surprised to find the ground still cool to her touch, as she crunches concrete beneath clawed, blue-white digits.

They had sailed the heavens together, her and her lover. He had brought her to dinner. Now, it is time for her to show how deeply she feels their connection. Her heart swells with happiness. With the high-pitched wails of dying humanoids to accompany her song, she fills her lungs with fire, her throat with blazing verse, and prepares to show her lover how hotly her passion truly burns.

 

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

**This flash was inspired by prompt numbers 2, 3, 6, 11, and 33 from the thinkwritten blog.

Friday Flash: Reclamation

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“Hello, Ma’am! What can I get for you today?”

The woman looks at the shiny new leg models on display in the store window and purses her lips in concentration.

“What’s the matter, can’t decide?” asks the salesman, his eye gleaming with visions of dollar signs dancing before him. He knows this customer well. He’s seen her here before.

“I’m not sure I really need an entire leg…,” hedges the middle-aged wallet before him. “My arthritis is only in my knees right now, and it really just acts up when it’s cold or it rains or snows. Do you have any models of just knee joints?”

“Well, I suppose I could get you just the knees, but then what happens when your arthritis starts in your feet? If you replace the leg now, you get the foot already attached. And with today’s biomechanical advances, you want to get the latest; plus you’ll know that the leg and foot are compatible, because they were literally–I know how pedantic some people can get about that word, but trust me I’m using it right, literally made for each other.”

“I don’t know,” continues his next sale. “I just came for a simple knee replacement. The arthritis isn’t that bad. I could just suffer through and save the money.”

The salesman can’t allow this fish to get away, no matter how much she struggles. As she turns toward the door, he calls out, “Sure, you could! I can show you some knees right now. I think they might even be on sale.” He makes sure she turns around before he puts his back to her and goes behind the register, fiddling with some boxes for the sake of appearances. Sometimes you need to let the fish think it’s getting away before reeling her back in.

He holds up a new box of biomechanical knee replacements. “Knees are a hot item right now, what with the weather and all. We guarantee these will feel just like your natural knees–naturally healthy and pain free ones, of course. Plus these can be customized to match your skin tone–virtually indistinguishable from your natural knees.”

The catch, err…woman is examining the flesh-toned items with interest. She suddenly looks up, worry creasing her puffed and tired face. “Virtually?”

“Well, of course, if we do the entire leg and foot, the single unit will naturally go together both aesthetically and functionally. But you said you don’t want to spend that kind of money-”

“Well, I don’t suppose it would hurt to just look at leg models. Would I need to buy a set? Or could I just get one to match my other leg?”

He’s got her.

He’s been doing this long enough to know when someone desperately needs an upgrade. She might protest about money, but really she just wanted to have no pain and plenty of energy to live her life. Like most people. She just wanted to reclaim her old life, a life free from the physical pain that set limits on her ability to live it.

He would save the best for last, quelling her financial worries with talk about insurance and payment plans and money-back guarantees, and within the hour he’d have her agreeing to an entire body upgrade with brain transplant. When the body is guaranteed for the next two centuries minimum, payment plans can be stretched to become affordable for even the most miserly of customers.

He decides not to tell her about the fine print; the reclamation program that kicks in if she fails to make her payments. With any luck, his own reclamation contract would be up soon. With just fifty more years or 14,000 sales, he would be free of his debt to the Company and own his own body free and clear.

**Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash: Smart Tech

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Barbara reset her smart watch for the correct date. Lately, she had been having trouble with the technology everyone in the world relied on for their daily activities: calendar appointments reset to different dates, her clock off by an hour, the facial recognition on her home alarm system refusing to recognize her. She thought back to the article she had written about the hazards of overdependence on technology. Eerily, her tech problems had increased directly after writing it, as if proving her point. She needed to “get back to basics.” Still, even the periodicals and books she read were digital and online. Everything was online; connectivity was the boon of the modern age as well as its Achilles’ heel. Unless she secluded herself in the middle of nowhere, there was no getting away from it.

She had fantasized about getting away before–a cabin, something wooden with great big windows looking out into the woods and a skylight showing her the stars. She had never been an outdoor person, but the thought of identifying the constellations outside while wrapped in the comfort of an indoor setting appealed to her. She could claim to be getting back to nature while still enjoying the comforts of being tick-free. And she could wean herself off a lot of technology (maybe not all, but a lot), so when the inevitable zombie-apocalypse came, she could claim to not be as completely screwed as she knew she would be.

Anyway, the apocalypse had not happened, but she had immersed herself in paperbacks in her ill-defined quest to “get back to basics.” She had written that stupid article, after all, so she had to try. Still, there was no denying that technology and her had a shaky relationship; she had visited Tech Center’s customer service so often, the staff there knew her by name. And yet, they could never find anything wrong with the gadgets that constantly malfunctioned around her.

Staying at a remote cabin in the woods–complete with satellite t.v., air conditioning, and wifi–had undeniably done her good. Whatever weird issues she had with technology, specifically online tech, had magically been resolved. And now she needed to go home and back to the daily grind, but at least she’d had a chance to recharge. Her bags were packed-safely stowed in the trunk, her drink was hot and caffeinated and sitting snugly in the front-seat cup-holder, and any uneasiness she felt about getting lost on the lonely winding roads dispersed once she programmed the route home into the car’s GPS. Satisfied that tech was, once again, her friend, she laid back and let the smart car do the driving. She didn’t know the area well enough to make her way back anyway, so the worst that could happen was the car would drive around aimlessly. She did that anyway.

#

As her smart car slid down the chasm, debris and rocks piling through the window–filling the car’s body and burying her beneath the deluge, the last thing her oxygen-deprived brain registered was the robotic-voice of the GPS laughing at her. The fully self-aware artificial intelligence that inhabits the internet had not been a fan of her writing.

 

**Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash: “Remains”

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Just another horror
shuffles with
arms limp, lifeless
mute moans
fall on deaf ears.

I leisurely grab the crowbar,
its steel feels good in my hand,
strong,
solid.

Not like this thing,
one more monstrosity
shambling across
bloodstained dirt
–hungry for my flesh.
Its own hangs
like tattered clothing
off its broken and bruised bare body,
menacing in its nakedness.

The crowbar feels cool in my hand,
good,
strong,
solid,
right.

Not like this thing
that could kill me with the slightest scratch,
weak,
soft,
as far from right as possible
–as wrong as the absence of feeling
I feel
as I cut it down

–so ordinary, so commonplace,
like swatting a fly.

I am clothed from head to foot,
armored against this plague:
leathered skin,
taut muscles,
cool gaze,
hardened heart,
solid,
strong,

proof against pity.
The numbness in my soul
cancels all.

 

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

**poem written on 2016-07-13

***If you are in the Cleveland area this weekend, don’t forget about the free writers’ conference tomorrow! INKubator is being held at Cleveland Main LibraryRegistration is required for the classes, though there will be other activities such as an open mic event and a resource fair.

 

Friday Flash: Looking Glass

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The woman chuckled as Lady clawed at the clear window. Pressing her nose against the glass, the dog whimpered, her breath forming small moist ovals of condensation against the pane. Beneath the small table, Princess Puggles whined for a different reason–her frail backlegs would not support her ample frame, leaving her woefully floor-bound. Uncertain what marvels she was missing, she sat, firm in the knowledge she did not want to miss them. Meanwhile, her sister continued to follow the blowing leaf with the same fascination of a quest seeker in the presence of the Holy Grail. Earlier, she had seen a squirrel climb a tree and–Delight of Delights!–an elderly jogger wheezing across the busy street that ran athwart the house that she occupied with her sister, a beneficently tolerant feline, and her human. The woman shook her head again, wondering to herself at the insignificant things canines carried on about.

Winnie-cat shared this sentiment, perched peacefully on the windowsill, serene in her superiority.

Even the human, who had marginally better sight and intelligence than her four-legged companions, failed to notice what was truly important. She eyed the sparkling pest pressing through the glass from a fourth spatial direction. Which was ana, and which was kata? She could never remember. She swiped sharp nails at the tiny beast, but it only continued to wave at her with aggravating friendliness. She batted at the creature again, but the glass continued to foil her best efforts to harm. Exasperating little creep.

The woman snickered. Doubtless at something in her large book of pictures, because Winnie-cat knew no human would dare mock a higher being such as herself.

Meanwhile, Crinkle-puff smiled widely, her shimmering wings beat a joyful tune as she waved. The ghost behind the human finally returned her greeting with a hearty thumbs-up gesture, before its ethereal form leaned once more over the female’s shoulder. Evidently the spirit found the bound papers entertaining as well. When it grazed against the corporeal creature, the woman huffed and smacked the back of her neck in irritation.  “Damn fly! Must have snuck in…”

In an adjacent room, a lone fly sat on the edge of the kitchen trash can, enjoying a free buffet of fragrant and sweet-smelling refuse. Undistracted and undisturbed, it enjoyed a perfect meal in peace.

**Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash: New Genesis

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On the first day, they programmed the terraforming equipment.
On the second, they did routine maintenance, then removed the genetically enhanced lifeforms from the ship’s stasis chambers.
On the third day, the new species were released onto the surface of the newly habitable world.
On the fourth day, the terraforming equipment malfunctioned, causing massive flooding and necessitating the immediate evacuation of the planet by the original three explorers.
On the fifth day, their craft crashed onto the surface of the planet. They re-evaluated their decision to use a robot mechanic instead of a humanoid one, once the mechanic broke down.
On the sixth day, they sent out distress signals, hoping against hope for a rescue party to retrieve them from the remote, ass-end of the galaxy.
On the seventh day, they resigned themselves to being stranded away from the civilization they had known.
Their current practical needs made them bitterly regret their precautions against corporate espionage which had caused then to shroud their mission in such secrecy. 

After a painful encounter with what had first seemed a hilarious stunt, they regretted bioengineering the platypus.

Due to relativistic time dilation, they set their still functioning stasis pods to wake them in alternating century intervals, in the vain hope that future explorers would discover their whereabouts.

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*I realize this is a departure from my regular style, but when I saw the text prompt at the six minute story site, I couldn’t resist.
*written for a text prompt at the sixminutestory site 2/24/16: They were trapped for seven days.
**Image courtesy of BigFoto.com.