Shots

“Welcome to the Underworld! My name is Eugene and I’ll be your guide this evening.”

Jack opened his eyes and blinked hard, trying to focus his eyes. He was lying on his side, his face pressed against a cold, slightly damp cement floor and he had a splitting headache, worse than he had ever had in his life. “What—“ he tried before being interrupted by the exceedingly cheery, accented voice.

“The Underworld. Yes, you did indeed hear me correctly.” Jack finally laid eyes on the man casually leaning against the wall in the small, empty room.  He was dressed in strangely old-fashioned clothes, one hand casually in the pockets of his trousers, the other holding a clipboard at his side. He had an obnoxiously large grin slapped on his face. Jack sat up, wincing as his head protested the movement, and tried to make sense of what the man above him was saying. “I’m here to settle you into your new afterlife and to answer any and all questions you have, though I always find that this all works best if you just wait until the end of the orientation.” Jack couldn’t make heads or tails of what the man was saying so he chose to ignore him in favor of taking in his surroundings. He was in a dank box of a room, nothing more than four cement walls, a metal door, and the hard, slightly damp floor that he was already well acquainted with. Suddenly there were fingers snapping in his face to grab his attention. “Now, if you would please stand up and give me your full and undivided attention, I have a few questions for you before we get started.”

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Horse Drawn Library

So a couple friends and I decided to have a little challenge among ourselves and all write a story titled “Horse Drawn Library.” We all came up with completely different stories and let’s just say… I took a rather dark approach to what sounds like such a happy-go-lucky title! I had so much fun writing it!

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A scattering of leaves blew down the dirty street in the cold wind as the first hints of dawn started stretching over the sky. The air was grey with fog, moist and heavy and looming over the empty Whitechapel street. Inky black horses attached to a carriage stamped their hooves, snorting out impatient breaths as they waited.

“Settle down,” the carriage driver soothed as he climbed down from the perch. He moved around to his horses and pet their long noses with gloved hands. “She’ll be along soon, don’t you worry.” People were beginning to make their ways back home to sleep through the morning after a long night of disreputable deeds.

Soon after a poor young woman came walking quickly out the park and down the street toward them, moving fast so as to get off the streets and home safely as soon as she could. As she drew nearer, he straightened his rust waistcoat under his jacket as he looked around nervously. He tipped his worn top hat when she drew level with him and said, “A ride, miss?”

“Oh no, thank you. I don’t have any money.” She pulled her threadbare wrap around her more tightly, brushing her long, tangled blonde hair behind her ear.

“Please don’t worry about that, my dear,” he said, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder, ducking his head down a little to meet her eyes. “No fee, I just want to see you home safely. There are still untrustworthy people about this early in the day. Anything could happen to you. I would hate to read about you in the papers, what with all those disappearances, and knowing that I could have done something to help you. I just couldn’t stand it.”

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Invisible Parasite

Written for Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge on Terrible Minds last week. I’m a day late, but hey. I still finished it! The idea was to “roll for the title.” I rolled 14 and 19 to come up with Invisible Parasite and challenged myself to do something new, which was to write science fiction for the first time! I talked about it in my post last week how I’ve never written any science fiction and had always felt daunted by it. But I pushed past that and came up with this. It was incredibly fun and the ~1000 word limit really helped me from getting too out of hand. It really made me focus the story down, to edit, to not let it get away from me too much. So yeah. Here’s my result!

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Invisible Parasite

“I don’t know how much longer I have,” Nora spoke into the camera set up before her. “There’s something here, we don’t know what. I don’t know what. I’m the only one left now.” There was a door behind her which she kept glancing at nervously, fearfully. “When we launched this expedition to Mars, we had no idea what would happen. Trying to colonize the planet turned out to be a mistake, and I hope that this video reaches you before it’s too late. I hope this serves as enough of a warning for you.”

“It is March 22nd, 2631 and my name is Nora Peters. I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 2598. We were here for eight months before we noticed anything. I’m not sure if the effects of the parasite are delayed, or if they just didn’t get into our system until then, but we eventually noticed. David Johnson was the first to be infected. Johnson started acting very uncharacteristically.” A noise sounded outside of the door, just loud enough to be heard through the heavy steel door.

“There’s really no hope for me at this point. It’ll get me soon, but I had to get this to you first. I have to keep you safe.”

An incessant banging sounded from the locked door behind her, someone desperate to get in. Someone desperate to get her.

“Nora!” a voice shouted through the door. “Nora, please help me. Please let me in!”

“That’ll be Laura. Dr. Laura Shepherd.” Nora’s eyes watered as she heard her friend pleading with her. “She became infected last week. Started displaying the early signs. I’m getting ahead of myself though.” Nora collected herself. Dr. Shepherd continued to cry for help outside of the door.

“Eight months ago when we landed on this planet, it was to set about colonizing it, as you know. We were the team selected to pioneer the migration from our overcrowded Earth. Mars was the obvious choice. We started terraforming it, growing our own food in the soil, collected water from deep under the earth, everything to begin making it habitable for humans on a larger scale.”

“Nora! Please, he’s going to hurt me, please you have to help me!” Dr. Shepherd continued to shout.

“The first stage of the infection was hard to identify as something out of the ordinary. It really just looked like a flu virus of some form. Fatigue, aching, fever, all the symptoms of a flu. We didn’t think much of it at the time, assuming that someone had just carried the virus with us from Earth. But then the mood swings came. He would be fine one moment and the next he would become violently angry for the littlest things. Laur— Dr. Shepherd, ran some blood tests on him and found nothing. We were all concerned, but she couldn’t find anything wrong with him physically.

“He soon became too violent. He attacked Simon Young, one of our scientists.” Nora scrubbed her hands over her face. “Simon was in a coma for a couple of days afterwards. We were lucky we got to them when we did or Johnson would have easily killed him. We sedated Johnson and rushed them both to the infirmary. When Simon finally came out of it, he had the same flu-like symptoms Johnson first displayed. Two others had gotten sick within those days.

“Dr. Shepherd performed a physical on Simon, to try and find anything that accounted for what was happening to our team. She found a small bite mark just behind his ear, concealed by his hair. It looked like a spider bite, but a bit bigger. He had no recollection of anything biting him. Dr. Shepherd checked the others and found they had the same marks on various places on their bodies. We aren’t sure what is here, but there’s something. Some creature that’s infecting us.

“Johnson died just a week after he got sick, two days before Simon woke up. He wasn’t himself though for all those days. I don’t know if he would have remembered what had happened to him if he hadn’t— I’m not sure if I should say that he was really alive those final days or if he died the moment he got the bite.”

The banging on the door was growing louder as Laura continued to shout for Nora. She was no longer pleading with her, but was angry and savage. Another voice had joined hers. The door began to give way to their efforts.

“We don’t know where this thing came from. From the soil, from the water, from the air. It could be anywhere. We’ve never seen a creature in our station. We scanned the station and I searched for it, along with Paul Llewellyn. That’s him outside the door with Laura. We never found anything though. When we finally gave up and returned to the infirmary to talk to Laura, I noticed he had a bite mark on his neck. Laura had one as well.

“We lived here for eight months without anything happening and then just three weeks ago this nightmare began. I found a bite on my shoulder three days ago. I could barely bring myself to get here to film this. I’m feeling a bit better now, but I know what comes next and I had to warn you.” The door behind her flew open, banging heavily on the wall. Laura and Paul ran forward, bent on attack, eyes dark and empty, as Nora frantically implored with the camera, shouting at it, “They aren’t human anymore. I don’t know what it is, but their eyes. They’re empty, dead. Just— Don’t come to Mars. Leave the planet alone, don’t com—”