Shaken By A Strong Wind

The dream had been plaguing me for days. I’d go to bed determined that this night would be different, that I’d break the cycle. But I couldn’t.

 

I should have paid more attention to what the dream was trying to tell me.

 

I’m in bed, and at first, I think I’m just waking up in the random way people do where we sigh and roll over and drift right back off. Then I realize that it’s cold.

 

My bedroom is never cold.

 

The heat must be broken. I reach over and shake my husband’s arm. “Joshua,” I whisper, not wanting to wake the girls sleeping next door. “The fire’s gone out again.”

Josh mumbles something unintelligible and throws an arm up over his face.

 

He’s been working so much. I decide I’ll just take care of it. I always get splinters when I fill the stove, but there are worse things.

 

I get up and slide on my robe. I tiptoe past the girls’ room and out into the living room to take care of the fire.

 

It’s too bright out there, but not because there are any lights on. The moon must be full, I think absently.

 

I nearly jump when I start to walk past the bay window and Rachel’s bell clear, but startlingly inflectionless, voice says, “Mamma, the stars went out.”

 

It takes a split second before I can breathe again. Then I answer. “Sweetie, you scared me half to death! What are you doing out of bed?”

 

Carolyn speaks then, sounding, as always, exactly like her twin. “The stars went out, and now they’re falling. We want to watch them burn it all up.”

 

Gooseflesh zings up and down my arms, my spine. I look out the window, past their identical white blonde heads stained lavender by the strange light pouring in the picture window.

And they’re right.

 

The stars are indeed falling from a sky that looks nothing like it could possibly belong to Earth.

 

The girls turn toward me then, and their light blue eyes are gone. All that’s left are puckering holes filled with the light from that alien sky.

 

It woke me up screaming every day for a week. Once I could breathe again, once I could stop sobbing in terror, I’d go make my coffee, regardless of the hour and be up for the day.

 

Why didn’t I seek comfort from Josh, or go check on my girls?

 

Because they don’t exist. And they never have.

 

I’ve never married, and I don’t intend to. I’ve certainly never had children. I can’t. And even if I could, I don’t think I’d want them.

 

Especially now.

 

Now that I know.

 

When the dream came to me again this morning, instead of getting up and making coffee, I lay in bed for a long time.

 

Thinking.

 

I finally got up a couple of hours later and dressed for a long hike. I even packed my backpack for one.

 

I walked straight through my silent living room, not looking left or right. I especially avoided looking at my bay window. It was no longer stacked with pillows as a reading nook. As the dream persisted, I started filling that shelf up with everything I could that would prevent anyone, including eyeless dream offspring, from sitting on it.

 

I walked out my front door, not bothering to lock it behind me. I knew with eerie certainty that locks stopped mattering sometime between the dark and the dawn.

 

I looked up and saw what I’d been both dreading and expecting.

 

The sky has gone purple.

 

The same purple as the eyes my twins didn’t have. My twins that don’t exist.

 

The stars aren’t falling yet. But I know they will.

 

I feel it.

 

Deep in my chest.

 

But I feel something else, too.

 

We might be able to stop it.

 

 

 

I’m sure as Hell going to try.

 

The Mirror ~ J

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I’m at my desk, obsessively proofreading, like any other morning. I notice I’ve accidentally used ‘their’ instead of ‘they’re’. Hell and damn. I guess that’s what you get for writing half asleep. I reach for my mouse to eradicate this grammatical travesty, instead coffee sloshes on my hand.

“Huh.”

It’s a surprised sort of sound.

I’d lost track of my surroundings. I glance down, admonishing myself to be more careful, and my stomach drops. Everything on my desk is reversed.

Not just out of place. A mirror image of what I’d sat down to.

I’m breathing faster, feeling panicky nervous sweat between my shoulder blades. I want to act, but I’m momentarily frozen.

What do you even do in this situation?

Then I start to calm down. Obviously I call 911 because clearly I’m having a stroke. Or maybe the day job finally caused that nervous breakdown I’m always joking about, haha. I get up slowly. The cat perched on the back of my chair is white with pink eyes.

My breathing picks up again.

Not hyperventilating, but damned close.

Then I see her.

In the mirror hanging on the wall opposite my writing desk, there is another me, sitting in my chair with everything looking the way it should. She glances over her shoulder, and meets my eyes. For a moment blue meets blue, then hers flash dangerous red. Through the glass I can make out the sounds of my family coming downstairs.

She smiles.

I see her teeth.

The Fall of Terra By Jess & Keith Flaherty

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Eyes downcast, hands folded, she always acted like a piece of furniture unless summoned. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t busy. When Master Den mentioned Kapteyn-6 she took an almost motionless step forward, seeming only to fidget as she adjusted the recording devices hidden in her prosthetic arm. She wasn’t worried anyone would notice.

She was hard to look at. Her robotic eye and the laser-burn scars that necessitated both devices running from the middle of her half-shaved head down her body made people uncomfortable. Den thought her ability to perceive more than the visual spectrum and her enhanced strength and dexterity made her excellent security material.

What he didn’t know was every image and sound was constantly recorded and transmitted to the Order’s base on Satellite 9. She was meant only to observe and transmit, allowing the order to use the information to weaken the Council of Seven and their organization. Once they had what they needed, she had her own plans.

Augments were highly sought after on the black market. She’d been captured trying to blow one of Den’s pipelines when she was fourteen. Her impassive face almost cracked into a smile. She’d let them catch her. Den Mirahz had always been her target. She’d pay him back for what his greed had done to her parents, to their small town, to her own fragile nine-year-old body. He had been her focus since she’d recovered.

Months of torture told him only that she was bright, had useful, if unattractive augs, and had been brainwashed by those intergalactic pains in the ass, the Green Order. Den thought her worth retraining. She’d been difficult to mold, but when he broke her she became one of his most loyal possessions, or so it seemed. She had never broken, only become bored with his game, ready to play her real hand. Fifteen years later, she was finally where she’d hoped to be, at the Hunter’s Lodge, the almost mythical gathering place of the Council, where Den and the rest manipulated the Interplanetary Federal Alliance.

“Terra! Stoke the fire,” called out the shimmering blue Proximalian, probably the nearest thing her master had to a friend at the table.

She bowed and moved down the mahogany table toward the cavernous fireplace. She looked around at the mounted trophies taken by the members of this destructive club from all over the galaxy on and around the hearth and the room’s exposed beams. Den had an impressive collection of animal teeth here, many of which were obviously human. She was glad she’d never been here with him before or she might have blown him to kingdom come years ago, promises be damned.

She used her hidden scanner on the blueprints next to the enormous red-scaled Gleisien, known as the Capo, the merciless figurehead of this council, as she reached out to stir the fire before adding more fuel cubes. It appeared to be a supply ship, meant to aid the survey of Kapteyn, but the diagrams revealed compartments perfect for smuggling. The primary cargo would be slaves like her, minimal survival gear, and an insulated pod for an atmospheric seeding medium and something called tanantobacter z-terranomica. She hoped the Order was receiving and could use this, because she wasn’t sure how much longer she could conceal her clandestine tech in this place.

Den gave her a hard look so she hurried back into position. “We’ll launch the bacterium, followed by the atmospheric seeding.”

The Capo asked, “Won’t that make the news cycle?”

“We’ll say a part broke off. That’ll explain the crash when Icarus falls out of orbit,” sniffed the furry Breeneen, Zalna, who Terra thought might be female. It certainly had enough breasts.

“What of the slaves?” asked the lizard-like Bavnial.

Den gave his sharks smile, “We’ll say they were crew. Anyone who matters wants a breeding colony as much as we do. The slaving ban is nominal and bound to end within a cycle or two. We need a decent supply chain.”

There were murmurs of agreement.

“Besides, we need labor for extraction. Robots aren’t equipped for the terrain or the extreme cold of the ice age on K-6.”

Zalna nodded, “It’ll save wear and tear on more worthwhile equipment for analyzing the minerals.”

Terra gritted her teeth as she transmitted this snippet. Populations were nothing more than another resource for The Seven to exploit for their friends. She took a careful breath, determined to slow her heartbeat. She was more nervous about being here than she’d expected. She’d never had to deal with the trappings of so many powerful people. She was starting to get strange glances from a number of other security personnel. A Kelparian guard slithered out of the shadows near the head of the table.

“Councilmembers, I’ve intercepted a transmission.”

“Yes?” the Capo snapped.

“The blueprints as well as your conversation have been broadcast to an outpost on Satellite 9.”

“From where?” the Gleisien shouted.

“Behind Master Mirahz, Capo.”

Den was on his feet, glaring. He’d been so sure she was his. His sense of betrayal hissed out, “You’ll wish you were in Hell long before I send you there.”

That voice always menaced slaves into cowering compliance. Now she gave him a cool, satisfied smile. She’d waited for this for over a decade, and she’d served the Order as promised today, finally delivered the evidence of collusion needed to loosen the Council’s grip. Terra held out her hand to display the dim red pulse of the micro-fusion explosive she designed and buried in her artificial flesh.

“Why don’t we go together?”

With a snap of her fingers, they did.

The fire took days to extinguish and the smoke created months of stunning sunsets. That was the end of Terra. But it was also the beginning of the end of the Council’s influence. The Terra she truly loved, her shining blue Earth, and other planets like it, now had a fighting chance.

One Terra fell, so the other could rise.

~ End ~

Strange Invaders – Winner of the Facebook Writers Assembled 2018 Spring Story Contest

WA Spring

Dave stuck his head behind the curtain and grinned at his partner.

The kid was looking pretty green, and clearly regretting his short trip down the alleyway responding to a stranger’s hoarse call for help.

“You doin’ okay, Morales?”

Eli looked up from contemplating the bandage on his forearm. “Great,” he said drily. “’Cuz being a chew toy for crazy bums is totally why we do this.”

“Thin blue line,” Dave chuckled, sitting on the hard plastic chair by the wall. “They almost done with you, or what?”

Eli shook his head. “Jesus, I hope so. Nurse Johnson has already put more holes in me than our friendly neighborhood nutjob.”

“Yeah, but she’s damn cute.”

“Alright, there, Officer Johnson … You know it’s a stereotype for cops to marry nurses, right?”

Dave gave a real laugh. He always felt like he was under Anna’s feet when he had to bring someone in here, but tonight would also serve as a rough introduction to their latest foster child. God knew she’d adopt Eli, regardless of what the usual house procedure was for a new partner anyway. He was just too much of a puppy not to make it into the normal dinner rotation on a faster route than her usual.

They were both still chuckling a little when a nice-looking nurse’s assistant bustled in and collected some items off the roll table next to Eli. He chatted with them for a few minutes. Then he stood next to the injured cop looking at the tablet he’d brought in with him and asked Eli to confirm the date of his last tetanus shot. Eli did and the young man said sympathetically that someone would be right back. Eli’s eyes followed him until he disappeared back out into the chaos.

Dave laughed quietly, “You know it’s a stereotype for cops to flirt with nurses?”

Eli grinned. “Learning from the best, Old Man.” Then he frowned. “Might be nice to get something outta tonight other than a scar.”

More ribbing before he got into a sour mood seemed in order. “I’m sure you will. Your rowdy indigent probably had rabies.”

Instead of finding it funny, Eli’s head sunk against the stiff pillow. “Jesus. Probably.”

“I’m kidding. Probably high on bath salts. That’s not contagious. You just gotta be born stupid.”

This time Eli snickered, as he peered around a gap in the curtain. “I just want to get home and sleep tonight off. It’s noisy as hell in here.”

He rubbed his forehead absently and squinted.

“You hit your head when you went down?”

“I don’t think so; probably just a stress headache. Because my partner’s a dick and keeps saying shit like rabies.”

“Sorry, man. I’ll shut up,” Dave laughed and got up. “Gimme a minute, I’ll see if I can get them movin’ on discharging you.” He was going to see if he could speed things up. Being married to the charge nurse was supposed to be worth something. Eli was right, it was noisy.

Dave stepped out into the hallway of the Emergency Department and it was chaos; shouting, fighting, things flying through the air. He started to radio for assistance, but heard a crash from the cubicle behind him. He turned to check on his partner, but the eyes staring up at him belonged to the same hunger that had gotten him bitten.

Eli was lost to the invasion’s first wave.

~ End ~

Search and Rescue

Author’s note: Prompt in a writing challenge I’m doing – “Imagine that you are unable to leave the room that you’re in for the next 7 days. Chronicle each of the seven days using only 50 words each.”

That sounded boring, so I went fictional. ~ J

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Day One

Don’t know what happened. Maybe an earthquake or a bomb. I remember a loud noise and then jolting, slipping. If anyone else is still alive here I can’t hear them. It was late; people were starting to head home so maybe they all made it. My head hurts and I…

Day Two

This is the second day since whatever happened. I think. I might have passed out when I tried to write things down last time, pretty sure. I remembered people screaming at first. I found the vending machine. The glass was broken. The water fountain is only dripping. I’m so thirsty.

Day Three

Remembered the LED on keychain. Found water cooler. Not full, but better than drips. Head still hurts. Found baby wipes in Marci’s desk. Happy to wipe off blood. Remembered the daycare is down a floor. Sick. Can’t get into bathroom. Emptied a file cabinet for… Think maybe I hear scratching.

Day Four

There’re digging sounds over my head. Building must have collapsed. That was the slipping I felt. At least someone’s trying to find me. I’m so glad I found water. There’s not a lot of real food in the machine, but it’ll probably keep me alive. I hear the scratching again.

Day Five

The digging sounds are closer. If I hold my breath I can almost hear rescue workers shouting to each other between my heartbeats. The water is getting low, so I’m glad they’re getting closer … Something happened. I think it’s the same day. Part of this room collapsed. Vending machine was there.

Day Six

I still have water. Put trashcan under water fountain to collect drips. Working so far. I’ll be okay if I run out of the other. So hungry. They sound closer. I hope. Help coming soon. LED looks dimmer. Don’t want to waste it looking for food unless I get desperate.

Day Seven

Digging has stopped. LED died last night. Found something squishy in a desk. I ate it anyway. Didn’t throw up. Water cooler empty, but trashcan full. Scratching sounds started again. Louder. If I listen I can hear the others.

They’re looking for me.

But I don’t think they are alive.

July 8, 2016 ~ JF

“Imagine that you are unable to leave the room that you’re in for the next 7 days. Chronicle each of the seven days using only 50 words each.”

Day One

Don’t know what happened. Maybe an earthquake or a bomb. I remember a loud noise and then jolting, slipping. If anyone else is still alive here I can’t hear them. It was late; people were starting to head home so maybe they all made it. My head hurts and I…

Day Two

This is the second day since whatever happened. I think. I might have passed out when I tried to write things down last time, pretty sure. I remembered people screaming at first. I found the vending machine. The glass was broken. The water fountain is only dripping. I’m so thirsty.

Day Three

Remembered the LED on keychain. Found water cooler. Not full, but better than drips. Head still hurts. Found baby wipes in Marci’s desk. Happy to wipe off blood. Remembered the daycare is down a floor. Sick. Can’t get into bathroom. Emptied a file cabinet for… Think maybe I hear scratching.

Day Four

There’re digging sounds over my head. Building must have collapsed. That was the slipping I felt. At least someone’s trying to find me. I’m so glad I found water. There’s not a lot of real food in the machine, but it’ll probably keep me alive. I hear the scratching again.

Day Five

The digging sounds are closer. If I hold my breath I can almost hear rescue workers shouting to each other between my heartbeats. The water is getting low, so I’m glad they’re getting closer…Something happened. I think it’s the same day. Part of this room collapsed. Vending machine was there.

Day Six

I still have water. Put trashcan under water fountain to collect drips. Working so far. I’ll be okay if I run out of the other. So hungry. They sound closer. I hope. Help coming soon. LED looks dimmer. Don’t want to waste it looking for food unless I get desperate.

Day Seven

Digging has stopped. LED died last night. Found something squishy in a desk. I ate it anyway. Didn’t throw up. Water cooler empty, but trashcan full. Scratching sounds started again. Louder. If I listen I can hear the others. They’re looking for me. But I don’t think they are alive.