I don’t whether to giggle or beg for forgiveness. And I fudged the word limit a little. I know no shame…..
Copyright 2017 Douglas Daniel
Yes, mortal– look upon me and know fear.
When I lived I was Muraz Khan the Terrible, the Blood-soaked, conqueror of Samarkhand and Beluchistan, devastator of Ashgabat, pillager of Tehran. My hordes ranged across the broad world. Mighty kings trembled and crawled on their bellies to kiss my gore-spattered boots. Those same kings gave me their daughters as playthings.
But on the verge on conquering the whole world, I was betrayed by a blood brother, Hanno. My bones were made into this chalice, and Hanno celebrated at an orgy, quaffing wine from my skull.
But my loyal magister put a curse on my bones. That very night an earthquake swallowed Hanno and the city in which he roistered. I would rise again to fulfill my destiny whenever I next lay in the hands of a man of power.
Centuries later archaeologists uncovered me. I thought my day had come. But something went wrong.
I was stolen from the artifact locker that very night by a graduate student. Three years later, needing extra cash for a Playstation, he sold me at a flea market to an accountant named Marvin and his wife Jenny, who sews quilts with kitten patterns.
Now I sit, locked in a china cabinet in Lower Hoboken with a collection of Disney Princess® glasses.
“I don’t care if they’re an endangered species,” Frank said. “Next one I see gets shot!”
“Granddad, you don’t mean that,” Cindy said. She stood and watched the bird feeder through the living room picture window.
“Why not? Damn liberals, always trying to protect this dicky-bird or that spotted snail or whatever. Poking their noses into people’s business. But if it’s on my property I should be able to do as I please.”
“Granddad, they’re wonders of nature,” Cindy said. Two blue-jays had landed on the feeder and were pecking away at the seeds in the feeder. Cindy could hear their squabbling through the glass.
“You, young lady, should take all those science classes with a bigger pinch of salt, is what I think,” Frank said. “Balance of nature this and global warming that—half of it’s hooey….”
“Wait!” Cindy said.
Outside the blue-jays looked up from their feeding, squawked in alarm, and took wing. Another winged form landed on the feeder, gripping the plastic with sharp talons. It hissed at the departing jays, folded its leathery wings, and began to eat.
“Look, look!” Cindy exclaimed. “It’s an Eastern Green dragonet! Isn’t it beautiful?”
The old man shook his head. “I would just hold you up.” His breath steamed thick.
“Nobody’s coming,” Celia said. “The snow’s too heavy….”
“And you can’t take me,” her grandfather said. “No, don’t argue with me. You should go.”
Celia knelt beside her grandfather’s chair. “I can’t….”
“You must.” Grandfather smiled. “Don’t fret. I’ve done most everything I’ve ever dreamed of. You need to go and find what future you can. I won’t be able to contribute to this world. Go.
Tears tracked down her cheeks. “I’m sorry.”
Her grandfather kissed her on the forehead. “You have nothing to be sorry for, child.”
Wrapped in layers, Celia stepped outside. She wiped the tears from her face, to keep them from freezing on her skin.
Her breath hung before her, a freezing fog. The cars on the street were all frozen solid, welded to the ground by the ice. She would have to walk out, or die. The houses across the road were all dark. Beyond them, the wall of ice loomed, massive, implacable. Celia craned her neck back, trying see its top. It was lost in the gloom.
This is sooo belated, though (by ten days), that I am not going to add my link to the collection for April 6th– there’s just no point. There’s also the not inconsiderable fact that I completely blew away the 200-word limit. So, instead, I’ll simply acknowledge the inspiration and move on.
Having said that, this doodle is actually part of a concept I have had for a while for a sci-fi story. I think it would work as a novel, but I think it would really rock as a movie. But the story has to come first, and these are the first few hundred words of the concept I’ve actually laid down.
In a far future, humanity shelters from a poisoned Earth in a vast, enclosed habitat. After centuries, things are not going well, and an unlicensed scientist approaches one of the elite– literally, a “high-level”– with his concerns….
Copyright 2014 by Douglas Daniel
“They say it’s the last tree on Earth,” Carr said.
Anneke knew that was not so. Far above, in the up-levels, there were many bonsai’d trees, individual specimens in pots. She had seen those all her life. But a full-grown tree—she had had no idea such a thing existed. This had to be the only, the last, of its type.
She looked up. There was the explanation– this patch of open space, nearly dead center under the core Atrium, was one of the few places in Lower London with plenty of light. Far, far above, sunlight shone through distant skylights, but this place was so down-level, at what the ancients had called ‘street-level’, that the natural light seemed filtered; it was bright here only because artificial light leaked into the core Atrium shaft and supplemented the sunlight. Even as she watched, the sunlight dimmed, then brightened again. Doubtless a dust-cloud had howled over the Habitat just then, momentarily occluding the sun.
“Come closer,” Carr said.
Anneke, hesitating, followed him into the open space around the tree. Odd stone slabs stood upright all around the tree, although some leaned considerably out of the vertical, and one or two had fallen. They were worn and gray; as she came closer Anneke saw that all of them had writing carved into them, although in a mode so ancient that she had trouble understanding the words. Some of the stones were so worn that she could not make out the writing at all.
Tombstones. The realization came with a start—it meant she was standing in a graveyard, among, or over, the bones of ancients buried here. And that meant that the dilapidated stone building standing close at hand was a church. The sheer antiquity of what she was seeing caused her to shiver, all the more because the Hampstead Heath support pillar loomed gigantic over the open space, a few hundred meters beyond the church, and the walls of the Atrium rose dizzyingly overhead.
The two of them stopped beneath the tree. The ground was covered with pink-white petals, matching those still on the tree. As Anneke stood there, a petal fell from a stem somewhere overhead and, in falling, brushed her face. She started, but the petal was soft and the impact gentle.
Looking up, she had an impression of a complexity of brown branches, green leaves, and pink blossoms. She had the sudden sense of being in the presence of a mighty, but silent, being. How long had it grown here, forgotten, a lost remnant of a dead world?
But more petals were falling. “Is it dying?” she asked Carr.
He shook his head. He casually laid a hand on the tree’s trunk, as if they were old friends. “No—it’s spring, or it’s supposed to be. I suppose there’s just enough natural light for the tree to follow its normal cycle. It was normal for trees to blossom in the spring, and then shed their flowers as the season passed. If there were other trees to pollinate each other, then they would bear fruit.” He paused, looking up at the tree. “But this tree hasn’t borne anything for centuries.”
Anneke shifted on her feet, uncomfortable. “Why are you showing me this?”
“I wanted to give you a taste,” Carr said, “of what humanity has lost. We’ve been trapped in the Habitat for so long, we’ve forgotten what the Earth was like before the Catastrophe. Imagine trees like this, thousands of them, standing in forests, groups of trees that covered the land and were so vast you could get lost in them, all under an atmosphere you could actually breathe. And that was only one sort of life-form on the Earth in the old days.”
“I know the history of the Catastrophe, and the ancient times,” Anneke said, irritated.
“I know you’ve read the histories,” Carr said. “Reading history can only carry you so far. Come, touch it.”
Anneke realized she was reluctant, and then she was angry with herself. She stepped closer and laid her hand on the tree trunk. The…bark, she supposed, was rough under her fingers, but cool and benign.
“We are meant to live among other life-forms like this,” Carr said. He stood over her, but there was no threat. His expression was solemn. “Humanity can’t continue to be trapped in the Habitat. We are dying, lady, slowly dying, because we have been cut off too long from what is natural. I think you know that.”
“Yes,” Anneke whispered. “But what’s to be done? The Earth is poisoned, and it’s been poisoned for two thousand years.”
“We must find a way,” Carr said, “to purify the world. And I think those who built the Habitat meant for there to be a way to do that. If so, surely the Administrator’s own daughter would be in a position to find out what that was.”
Anneke looked at him, comprehending. “So that is why you contacted me.”
“Yes,” Carr said. “My friends and I are desperate, lady. You may be our last hope. Please.”
Anneke hesitated. What Carr was asking her to do was to go against her father, the bureaucracy, the entire security apparatus of the Habitat, and two thousand years of tradition. But we are dying. There was no escaping that fact.
“I will try,” she said.
Since putting Princess of Fire on hiatus, I have doodled away on several other projects, this among them. I may spend a few more weeks off, and then take a whack at PoF version 2.0. It’s not the way I usually handle my drafts, but Fire has already proven to be an unusual project.
200 word flash-fiction challenge based on a photo.
Note: this piece is related to my first photo flash-fiction, as well as a couple of the abandoned fragments I’ve previously posted. This character keeps coming back to me, demanding his page-time.
It’s my fault.
I should have been there. The battle was won, but the bastards who killed you didn’t know that. I assumed you were safe. It’s my fault.
Your father looks at me as if I wielded the sword that cut you down. I have nothing to say to him, because there are no words strong enough to dissolve this hurt.
The priest– how many times now has he gone around your cairn, bathing it with incense? I’ve lost count. I need him to finish.
I’ll build an altar here. Your family will do their rites, and then I will do mine. A sacrifice and prayer to the Unchanging, that’s what needs to be done. So He will find you in the shadow-lands and take you home. You and the child who never got to be named.
I can’t bring a proper offering. I should burn bullocks and rams, feast your family, make a song about you and the little girl. Instead all I have are two doves. A poor man’s guilt offering.
They say I need to live on. That there’s work to be done. I don’t know how. I don’t know why.
Pretty sure this doesn’t work, but I thought I’d give it a shot, anyway.
“The bridges are down,” Sebae whispered, horrified.
I looked. The fog dispersed into a low-lying layer ahead of us. Over it I saw the Salt Island bridge– except it was no longer a bridge. On the eastward side of the River the upper deck had collapsed into the lower. Metal filaments and broken chunks of plasticrete alone remained of the towers that had supported it.
To the west, the bridge was simply gone. Water rushed about pilings and ruined pieces of bridge deck protruding from the water. Far beyond, I saw only a wrecked tracery of metal that had been the Tulland bridge.
“All gone,” Sebae said, still whispering, as if he could not believe it. “The settlements….”
He didn’t have to finish the thought. I leaned for a moment on my paddle. Five thousand years— that’s how long the bridges had stood– built by the Ancients to endure. And the Firebringer had destroyed them in a night, with less thought than a child might have for a toy they did not want.
“What do we do now?” Sebae said, sounding lost.
I breathed deep, put my paddle in the water again. “Row,” I said. “The messages won’t wait.”