Tag Archives: war

Homecoming – Friday Fictioneers

Copyright D Lovering

Copyright D Lovering

Homecoming

The whole town was there, standing in hushed anticipation for the return of Senor Najera’s son from the war.

“He was wounded,” someone whispered. “Hit by the enemy’s new weapon.”

The ship approached, the gangplank descended, and Mateo Najera appeared. The crowd gasped.

The rags of the once-proud army uniform were stretched over the misshapen, hulking figure that shambled off. One huge eye lolled at them, roaming witlessly.

Senora Najera tore from her husband’s restraint. “Stop!” he shouted. “What if he’s contagious?”

“He’s still my baby,” she said and ran to embrace him until her tears wet his festering skin.

 


All Wrung Out

This story deals with somewhat disturbing material. Just a heads up. It’s a story for Al Forbes’ Sunday Photo Fiction. A bit over the word limit, but please forgive me this time.

All Wrung Out

I feel wrung out, with a soul like an old dishrag, flapping in the burning wind. But you gotta keep on, so I flip a smile, crack a joke and pretend. We all do.

“We got a drill hole on 10th Avenue,” Marc calls. “A real slip-n-slide.”

“And here I forgot my bathing suit,” I say, climbing into the truck.

There are no survivors, of course. The laser beam drilled a perfect hole down through the 20-story building, gutting it and disintegrating everything in its path. Nobody calls us when there are survivors, only when there is “organic material” to clean up. I don’t mind the “organic material”; it’s picking up the body parts I can recognize that gets to me. Nobody said war was pretty.

“Do you ever wish one of those lasers would get us?” Marc asks that evening. “Just erase the memories and nightmares forever.”

“What, and leave this dream job?” I say, laughing and taking a swig of beer.

He looks at me with pain in his eyes, pleading silently for me to be serious, just once. But I can’t do it, because I feel so thin inside that if I stop smiling, I’ll shatter.

I’m just all wrung out.


Xerxes’ War (Part 1)

After the disastrous dinner with the Hendersons, Xerxes didn’t see them anymore. Even Obsequious Otter didn’t come by anymore, although Xerxes’ Prescient Pigeon said it saw the otter around sometimes. Penelope, Xerxes’ ex-girlfriend and current laundry room wall, didn’t mention if his trip to the Hendersons’ had affected her relationship with their dining room wall Bumble and he didn’t ask. He just wanted to be left alone.

One morning, Xerxes was eating cereal over the kitchen sink and staring blearily out into the eternal, empty grey, when a huge parrot landed on his windowsill.

“Awwk! Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” it asked.

“I don’t have any sugar,” Xerxes said automatically, wondering if he could kill a parrot with one punch.

“Liar! Liar!” the parrot shrieked. “You have at least four cups left.”

“But I’m going to make a cake today and I need it all.”

“Liar! Liar!” the bird yelled again. “You’ve never made a cake in your life.”

“Let me guess, you’re Polygraph Parrot,” Xerxes said. He had dealt with novelty pets enough to know how things worked.

“My owners call me Polygraph Polly,” it said. Xerxes ended up giving it some sugar, just to make it go away.

It wasn’t just Polly either. Over the next few weeks, other animals appeared at the house, sometimes just to say hello and sometimes to ask for things. There was Gregarious Goat, who always wanted to talk for hours; Haranguing Hamster, who squeaked up at him about the lack of hamster representation in politics; and then there was Malicious Marmoset. Xerxes found the marmoset chasing his ShyPhone 4 around his bedroom. It hissed at him, then stole the book he was reading off his table, tore the cover, and threw it in the toilet.

That night, Xerxes pulled out the house manual and figured out how to lock the doors and windows, something he’d never done before. After an hour, he got them all locked, ending with the kitchen window, which was how Prescient Pigeon usually came and went.

“You don’t have a ceiling,” Mr. Pettyevil, Xerxes’ kitchen wall, whispered.

“What?”

“You don’t have a ceiling,” Mr. Pettyevil repeated, and smirked as only a wall can. Xerxes looked up. Dang, he was right. He had forgotten there was no ceiling. It had cost extra and Xerxes had just assumed he wouldn’t need one in an empty dimension where his house was the only thing in the whole universe. Plus, he liked the idea of his walls appearing to go up and up into infinity.

The next day, Prescient Pigeon arrived with a gun, just as Xerxes decided that one might be necessary. He wasn’t sure what kind he wanted, so he was curious what kind the pigeon had brought.

“It shoots gummy worms,” Prescient Pigeon said proudly.

“What?”

“That’s not all,” the pigeon said quickly. “There’s a selector knob here. Let’s see . . . It also shoots gummy bears, gummy spiders, gummy amoeba, and gummy Ten Commandments. See?” The pigeon aimed the gun at the wall and fired with his foot. There was a bang and Mr. Pettyevil shouted in irritation. Xerxes picked up a tiny, gummy copy of the Ten Commandments. It was perfectly readable, or would have been if Xerxes could speak ancient Hebrew.

“Nice,” he said. “I wish I had a porch, so I could sit out there with this and shout, ‘Get off my lawn!’”

“You’d need a lawn too,” Prescient Pigeon said, “but I’m not carrying that here for you.”

That night, Xerxes woke up in darkness to hear something crawling down his wall. It must be that Malicious Marmoset! he thought. Slowly, he reached over and picked up his gummy gun. He flicked on the lights and there was the marmoset, dumping melted lemon sherbet into his sock drawer. Xerxes fired a burst of gummy amoebas at it and it dropped the bucket and darted to the far wall. Xerxes flicked the selector switch and strafed the fleeing marmoset with gummy worms. It screeched as it was hit and finally fled back up into darkness.

Minimalism

The next day, Xerxes coaxed his ShyPhone 4 out from under the bed and called Conrad, his real estate agent.

“Conrad, this is insane. When I moved here, you promised me total isolation. Now I’ve got marmosets dumping lemon sherbet into my sock drawer in the middle of the night.”

“Just wash them. The washing machine still works, right?” Conrad said.

“Well, it turns out the Cereal Python really loves sherbet,” Xerxes said. “He ate it all. Unfortunately, he ate all my socks too.” At that moment, Prescient Pigeon arrived, gasping and clutching a 12-pack of socks. Xerxes took them with a nod.

There was a knock at the door. “And now there’s a knock at my door!” Xerxes shouted over the phone. “In a dimension where I’m the only person, I should not have people knocking on my door.” He hung up and flung the door open.

There was no one there. Instead, there was a note taped to the door. It said:

How dare you attack our cutsey-wootsey marmoset! You, sir, are no gentleman. This means WAR!

For some reason, this cheered Xerxes up. No one had to be polite or make small talk during a war.

house

(to be continued)


What Does This Button Do? – Friday Fictioneers

First of all, apologies to all the Fictioneers whose stories I didn’t get  a chance to read last week. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and it’s hard to read and comment on my phone. However, this week I’m going to make up for it by reading all of them.

Also, this story may seem a bit confusing, but stick with it to the end.

copyright Claire Fuller

copyright Claire Fuller

What Does This Button Do?

Just before the bombs struck, Patty pressed the button.

The high-pitched whistle above meant imminent death.

As she reached the workshop, she heard the dreaded drone of bombers above.

There it was, half-buried.

Penny scrambled over wreckage, biting back the scream that kept trying to rise.

The workshop! Was it still untouched?

She peered out of a burning hole into a hellscape littered with bodies and burning cars.

The next day, the bombs fell; Patty woke to heat and smoke.

“Ok.”

“It reverses the flow of time,” her uncle said. “Don’t touch it.”

“What does this button do?” Patty asked.


Happy Easter from Korea

Today is Easter Sunday. So Happy Easter.

Although Christmas has eclipsed it in recent history because of the whole gift-giving thing, Easter has traditionally been the most significant holiday in the year for Christians. It is the day we remember Jesus rising from the dead, which is a bigger deal, and much more important even than him being born.

Of course, this Easter I’m living in Korea, and things are a bit tense these days in Korea, as you have probably seen on the news. The fact is that North Korea makes threats on a regular basis, but it’s never a good thing when you ratchet up tensions to this level on the most heavily-fortified border in the world. We don’t live right next to the border, but if the borders were all open, we would only be a four-hour drive from Pyongyang.

Here the atmosphere is guarded. People continue to go about their daily lives, but still, they watch and wait. Last week, I went to a Korean church service and the pastor talked in part about what our response should be if war broke out. It was the first time I’d ever heard a Korean acknowledge the possibility, although I’m sure they think about it enough.

In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah uses the term “Prince of Peace” when referring to the Messiah. That is what I hope and pray for this Easter: peace. Obviously the tensions in Korea are quite pressing on my mind, but there is also the Syrian civil war, fighting in Afghanistan, Burma, Mali, and other places. A lot of the world is a pretty scary, violent place.

I am not expecting war here, but at this point, no one knows what to expect. I’m not worried for myself but my heart aches at the thought that my beloved Korea and its wonderful people could ever go through such an ordeal.

So, Happy Easter. May the Prince of Peace reign.


The Universe of Five

This story was inspired by the picture for this week’s Friday Fictioneers. I was originally going to use this story idea, but it proved to way too long, so I wrote it up properly here. I feel like I should continue it, but I don’t want to dilute the original story theme. Read it and let me know what you think.

cogs

She counted to five, because there were only five things in the tiny cave that was her whole world.

  1. The Bed, where she slept.
  2. The Hatch, where her food and water appeared while she slept.
  3. The Hole in the floor where the smelly stuff went that came out of her body.
  4. The Wheel. The Wheel was her life. She turned it in long, slow revolutions, around and around and around.
  5. The Light that was built into the ceiling and illuminated her world in a sickly yellow glow. When it came on, she got up and ate and began to turn the Wheel. When it went off, she went to sleep.

It was not a life without thought, but it was a life of small thoughts. She was not sure how she had ever learned how to turn the Wheel, or why she turned it when the Light came on. That was just life. She did not worry about how her food got there; the process was invisible and did not warrant thinking about. All that was real was in her small cave.

She counted obsessively. “1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch, 3: the Hole, 4: the Wheel, 5: the Light. 1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch . . .” She did not count with words—she knew no words—but only saw the images in her mind as she went through the list. She did not count her food. It was there, but then she would eat it and it would disappear and become part of herself and so ceased to be truly real. She did not even count herself. She could see her body, but it disappeared out of sight around her chest and shoulders. Her head was invisible to her and anything that was invisible was not truly real. So she moved like a ghost through her world of five real things.

Time was binary: there was dark and then there was light. The dark was the empty place, when things ceased to be real. Then the light came again and the world was recreated. Every time the Light came on, she would get up, count the world, and then eat. Then she would squat over the hole, and then begin to turn the Wheel. She had no memory of past events, because all events were the same.

universe of 5

Until the dark time when the Light did not come on.

She became aware of lying on the Bed in a world of nothing. This happened sometimes, but then the Light would come on. So she lay there and waited. The next thing she noticed was an uncomfortable feeling in her body. She needed to eat, and to squat.

She wondered if the food was there. That was impossible, since the Light wasn’t on. A thought occurred to her. Was the Hole there? It was a strange thought and at first she dismissed it. The Light wasn’t on, how could it be? But maybe it was like the Bed. The Bed winked out of existence with everything else when the light went out, but it still cradled her formless body as she slept. It had a sort of dark form. Could the Hole have that too?

After a few heartbeats, she crawled forward and felt the floor beyond the Bed. She kept moving and her probing hand felt the floor disappear in a small circle, just like the Hole. By now, the urgency in her body was frantic and despite the absurdity of the situation, she positioned her invisible body over the non-existent Hole and squatted.

When she was finished, she wondered if the Wheel was there. Did everything have a dark form? She moved forward and found the Wheel. She could even turn it. The idea of turning an invisible wheel seemed ludicrous to her and she laughed.

It seemed obvious now, but it had never occurred to her before. Everything must have a dark form. But already her mind came up with an objection. How could the Light have a dark form? It was a contradiction. That, at least, must be impossible.

She made her way to the Hatch and found that it was there, but with no food or water. That made sense, since the food came with the light, but she could not understand why her body wanted it so much. Noises came out of her middle. There was an indentation inside the Hatch where the food always appeared. She felt around with her hands, but nothing was there.

While probing with her hands, she found a small opening further up. She put her arm through it and continued to probe. She felt a dark form she had never known before—smooth and hard with small bumps. There was a bigger bump and when she pushed on it, part of the Hatch fell away and she tumbled forward, through the hatch and out of her known world.

It was still totally dark, which was almost comforting. It meant it was still like a dream. Perhaps it was a dream. She started walking, hands out in front, seemingly floating through an abyss of emptiness. Walls came up against her touch, but she floating around them, letting them effortlessly guide her progress.

She walked in a sort of reverie and it was a shock when she realized there was light up ahead. It was not the Light, but a different light. This was grey and faint, unlike the dull, yellow Light that she knew. It kept getting stronger until she saw that she was in a cave that was very long. All along the sides were things that looked like the Hatch. She could not count them, but there were more than five.

Ahead of her was a kind of floor that went up. It was the shape of the Hole, but much bigger. The light was coming from it, far, far above. The pain in her middle drove her on and she walked, up and up in a circle, going towards the light.

She came to the top, where there was something like a large hatch and something like a very small wheel on it. It turned like the wheel and then the large hatch opened. Light poured in.

It was a cave without walls, huge beyond imagining and filled with light and far, far too many things to count. The size, the colors, the numbers all overwhelmed her. She wanted to run back and hide, but she stood as if frozen, trying to take in this whole new world at once.

*         *         *

Captain Nuris piloted the jump-craft just above the blasted landscape, surveying the site of their victory. Not much was left; the enemy capital had been fire-bombed into oblivion. Smoldering wrecks and piles of rubble showed where the once powerful city had stood.

“No signs of life yet, Captain,” his navigator said. “Wait. There’s someone over there. It’s a woman, I think, but naked and filthy. Just look at that tangle of hair! How do you think she survived?”

Nuris stopped the jump-craft and looked over at the figure, standing frozen in front of a door. Behind her, a massive building lay in shattered ruins. “Must be one of the Cogs that powered the machinery,” he said. “This was a manufacturing plant here, I think.”

“I thought they were supposed to be non-intelligent?”

“Well, this one had enough sense to escape.”

“What should we do: pick her up or leave her?” the navigator asked.

“It’s been three days since the bombing—she’s got to be hungry. If she’ll come with us, we’ll take her.” He turned the jump-craft and started towards her.


Visual Fiction – Dawn Guardtower

“The sentry gripped his spear with sweaty hands, watching the shadowy figures moving in the valley below. The final assault was beginning and it was likely he would not see another day. Behind him, the sun rose, a blazing orb setting alight the funeral pyre of the world.”

I took this picture from my kitchen window, as a matter of fact.


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