Ghost of Christmas Present

For every day, there is a new spirit.  This spirit’s job is to observe the world in its entirety, recording in memory every moment, every word, every event from its one twenty-four hour period.

Jerome is the spirit of December 25, 2013.  He dreads his turn on the stage.

So much pressure.  Everyone expects the December 25s to record the happiest moments.  Gifts given.  Songs sung.  Drinks drunk.

No one cares that Jerome will also see the worst things.  Murders.  Rapes.  Illnesses.  Thefts.  Starvation.

“You’re supposed to be happy on Christmas,” people say.

Jerome wishes he had drawn December 26.

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I’m running a bit of fiction on Friday this week to participate in I Saw Lightning Fall‘s Advent Ghosts 2013 event.  Christmas is coming in less than a week, and it’s an exciting time for many people around the world.  I was feeling pensive, so I wanted to share something as a reminder that December 25 is still just December 25 to many others, and it’s subject to the same evils and injustices that we hear about every other day of the year.

Happy Holidays.

Friendship is Thick

Marmalade the unicorn galloped gleefully through the rolling hills of Summerberry Glen.

On the next hill over, he spied another member of his herd grazing.  It was that gloomy gus, Greyflicker.

“Hello, Greyflicker!” called Marmalade.

Greyflicker swished her tail and snorted.  “Go away.”

Cantering over, Marmalade winneyed his delight.  “I know when you say, ‘Go away,’ you just mean, ‘I’m lonely!’”

Looking up from her meal of fresh antelope, Greyflicker glared at the gleaming Marmalade.  “Go greet a virgin.  I’m fine by myself.”

“Okay!”  Marmalade trotted away in search of another friend.  Maybe UNICODE-BOT would like to play.

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Today’s story has two inspirations: i09‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt, and a drabble that Rachael wrote last night about a robot who tries to befriend real unicorns.  The former gave me the seed of an evil unicorn.  The latter gave me the idea to make it a silly story about friends who are just a little bit different.  Definitely check out those links for some more fun, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Funeral on the Ocean Floor

Terrance passed on Tuesday.

We had been replacing the oxygen filters in a farm pod.  He asked me to take the old filters off to recycling while he finished up putting the new ones in.  It was a five minute walk down the tubes.  No time at all, really.

So when I got back and found the port sealed and the warning lamp flashing the code for a breached hull, I didn’t fully comprehend what had happened.

The technicians determined the breach hadn’t been accidental on Wednesday.

They pumped the pod and collected Terrance’s body, which had bloated slightly after floating in the water for twelve hours.  For whatever reason, he’d been clutching at his wrench when he’d died, and the rigor mortis had frozen it in his grip.

So when I received the report in our quarters, I wondered what he could have been thinking.

We buried Terrance on Thursday.

His body was sealed in a steel coffin which they put in the sea floor out next to other crew who had died during the experiment.  I was there, watching from an overlook as they laid my husband to rest.

So that they wouldn’t hear my sobs, I kept my suit’s radio off and watched the funeral in silence.

I went back to work on Friday.

The captain wanted to assign me a new partner for my maintenance duties, but I insisted that I’d be fine working alone.  I was still grieving, for God’s sake.  I just needed some space to sort things out.

So when I found myself alone in another farm pod that needed new oxygen filters that afternoon with a wrench in my hand, I knew I needed to see my husband.

I died on Saturday.

Concept Art Writing Prompt: A Funeral on the Ocean Floor

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This week’s piece is another entry from i09‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt.  Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

Lunatic Hysteria

Clarence rather missed his Gwendolyn since her illness.

It had started simply enough when she and Clarence had been having a pleasant breakfast, enjoying a hearty plate of sausages.

“I think I’d like to go for a perambulation today, Darling.  Do change into one of your outdoor frocks, and we’ll set off in an hour,” Clarence had declared.

With a careful glance out the bay window facing the garden, her lovely face framed by her dark curls, Gwendolyn had murmured, “That sounds rather dull.”  This response had been most unexpected, considering her usual enthusiasm for whatever plan Clarence might make for their daily leisure.

Clarence had been quite befuddled, naturally, and had called the village doctor to come and examine his lovely wife to make sure she hadn’t suddenly come down with a fever.  When that physician had been unable to find anything wrong, he’d been written off as barely more than a farmer’s veterinarian, and Clarence had sent for an acquaintance of his from his club in London, a doctor who also boasted a respectable lordship to come and inspect his beloved for any malady.

The good doctor had prescribed bed rest for Gwendolyn to cure her disagreement, and she’d taken to the advice with a fury, throwing herself into bed and insisting for several weeks that Clarence should not disturb her while she convalesced.

Of course, this attitude was attributed to the illness, and the doctor assured Clarence there was no harm in seeing his wife while she recovered from her ailment.  When this course of action only served to exacerbate Gwendolyn’s foul mood, the doctor insisted it was only a sign that the treatment was working, and soon dear Gwendolyn would be through the worst of it.

When a month passed and Gwendolyn had taken to locking her door at all times (a fruitless gesture as the housekeeper was always ready with her great jangling keyring) and flinging whatever object was at hand when she saw Clarence’s sandy head poke through that portal, the bedraggled man finally resorted to having Gwendolyn restrained.

Clearly, the doctor told him, they had simply caught a very early case of hysteria, and it was now progressing into the more violent stages.  There was nothing to do but wait it out.

Much to Clarence’s chagrin, he finally conceded the point that his presence only seemed to agitate Gwendolyn, and so he refrained from further visitations to her chambers, although he still overheard great thumpings and groanings coming from that forbidden place, and all the while he fretted over the degraded sanity of his formerly angelic wife.

After a rather miserable winter, Clarence grew accustomed to his new circumstances.  He realized that he was, in nearly all respects, once again a bachelor.  Though thinking of Gwendolyn struck him with periodic pangs of regret, he acclimated to his new life.  It was almost comfortable.

In fact, it was so close to comfortable that the cool spring evening when the creature appeared from heaven and escorted Gwendolyn from the manor, regaled in her finest jewels and best silk dress, was remarkable only because it legitimately freed Clarence from the obligation he’d long excused himself from.  Yes, he’d been shocked at the time, and had looked on in horror as the thing which resembled a man, but which wore a hideous orange suit and had the visage of some sort of reptilian tabby cat, had taken Gwendolyn from his home, her arm linked comfortably around its own, and escorted her to a floating carriage the color of bright mint.  When Gwendolyn glanced back at him, he thought he had seen a glimmer of a smile.  Then they were gone, disappearing up into the clouds.

In the ensuing weeks, Clarence often thought of that moment, and wondered what exactly he had witnessed.  He tossed Gwendolyn’s chambers to ensure that she wasn’t playing some coy trick on him, though when she failed to turn up, he began to suspect that she was really gone.  He took to wearing mourning, since as far as he could tell his wife was no longer with them on this mortal coil, and it was a more sensible thing to explain to friends than to suggest what he thought he had seen.  He dared not repeat the story for fear that he might be seen as brain-addled.  That would be quite a horrible fate, now that he thought on it.

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As usual, this is a piece done for io9‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt feature.  I’m not entirely happy with the result, and would love to hear any suggestions for how it might be improved.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Mech Drivers Stop for Directions

“Mayday!  We are in need of immediate assistance in Lambda Sector!  The kaiju appears to be some sort of plant-based lifeform, and it’s resisting our conventional weapons.  Any available units, please respond!”

Dmitri flicked the switch to silence the channel.  “Which way is Lambda Sector, Galina?”

Galina scanned her chart.  “Southwest of our current position, about 6000 kilometers.  We can get there in approximately thirteen hours if we maintain top speed.”

Grimacing, Dmitri nodded.  “I hope there is someone closer who can help, but we will make our way there.  Set the course.”

Scanning her display, Galina shook her head.  “Our navigational system was knocked offline in our last engagement.  I know where we are, but I can’t get a heading,” she glanced outside the cockpit at the whiteout blizzard, “and solar navigation isn’t possible right now.  I’ve no idea how long this storm will last.”

“Don’t we have a compass?” Dmitri asked.

“No, our engine’s magnetic field distorts compass readings, remember?”  Galina sighed.  Dmitri was a good partner, but he never remembered any of the small details of piloting a mech.

“So what do we do?”  Dmitri sank into his seat, sulking.  He hated being delayed from getting to a good fight.

Galina scanned the landscape for anything that might be a recognizable landmark.  In the blur of the whiteout, she thought she saw some movements out their left viewport.  A quick check of her scanners confirmed that there was something alive out there.  No telling if it was animal or human from this distance, but it was better than nothing.  “I have life signs to our port side.”

“Out in this mess?  It must be some wildlife.”

“We should check, though.”  Galina keyed her console to turn on the loudspeaker.  “Hello?  Is anyone out there?”  She peered out the viewport, watching intently for people.

Gradually, a pair of vertical black shapes appeared out of the blizzard.  Definitely bipedal.

“Those are people, Dmitri!”

Dmitri huffed.  “Wonderful.  Now what, ask for directions?”

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Another entry from i09‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt series.  This one’s kind of dashed off, but I think it’s fun.  Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

The Octopus Train

The fog is thick enough that you feel your skin crawling despite the bone-freezing cold.  Massive, moist tentacles slide into view, grasping and sucking at the tracks, the station, the passengers as they pull your ride out of obscurity.

When it glides to a stop, a hatch opens, revealing glistening viscera the color of hot tar.

Stepping inside, your hand brushes the wall.  Against your skin the slime shimmers iridescent, as if the faintest red from your frozen, pallorous hand excites the entire spectrum.

The conductor takes your burgeoning pseudopod in his own, and as he punches it, you scream.

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I wrote up this drabble after my creative slump that happened earlier this week, and I think it turned out pretty well.  It’s based on the image you see up above, which I found on i09‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt feature.

When I first saw this image, I seriously had no idea what I was going to do with it.  It was just so bizarre and the people were so uninteresting next to the train.  After a few days with no ideas, I decided to do a drabble length horror story, since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to create any interesting sort of narrative with the extra space of 500 or so words.  One hundred words seemed like the perfect length to describe the train, have someone board it, and then make one really creepy thing happen.

Did I do accomplish my goal with this piece?  Let me know.

A Boy and His Robot Vs. the Police

    They had been wandering for hours.  What started as a simple trip out into the meadow behind Franz’s parents’ farmhouse had taken a bad turn when they wandered through a small copse of woods and had gotten disoriented.  When they’d emerged, they had ended up in a neighboring meadow where the treeline obscured their view of the house.

    It probably wouldn’t have helped much even if they had been able to see it though; Franz and Werner were only six years old, and all the farmhouses looked similar to them.

    Werner’s keeper had accompanied the boys, and the hulking biped glided alongside them, making sure they stayed safe, although it was helpless to guide them back to home.  Its onboard GPS was programmed to specifically seek out Werner’s house, which was miles and miles away.  They could be lost for days if they tried to follow that signal, or worse, meet a stranger.

    With this unfortunate set of circumstances, the boys had no choice but to try to find their way back to the right meadow.

    Back at the farm, the boys’ parents had called the police when they realized they didn’t see the lumbering orange chassis of the keeper out in the field, and a search had been quickly organized.

    Sig had been assigned to drive the van through the fields while other searchers set up a perimeter along the nearby roads.  He was relieved when he spotted the keeper a couple of fields over from the parents’ house.

    When Franz saw the van approaching them, he tugged on Werner’s arm, urging him to run.  Neither boy could read very well yet, and the clear police markings all over the van went unnoticed by them.

    Nonetheless, Werner wasn’t scared of strangers.  He knew that his keeper would protect them.  He spoke into the manual control module, and the keeper took off at a steady gait towards the van.

    When it got within range to use its visual scanners, the keeper, which was able to read quite well, recognized the police markings, and came to a full stop.  Its directives included a failsafe that overrode all aggressive action in the presence of emergency personnel.

    The boys found themselves home just in time for a late dinner before they were put to bed.  They had had a full day.

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Happy Sunday everyone!  This is not my favorite piece ever, but the prompt picture was difficult to work with.  Yeah, there could have been an explosion following this scene, but I didn’t want explosions; I wanted a children’s story.

As usual, this is piece was done for i09‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt.  Follow the link to read other stories based on the same picture.

Feedback’s welcome in the comments!