Friday, 14 November 2014
Madeley sprinted down the corridors, his heart thudding in his chest, breath rasping in his throat.
Barging through gaggles of lab technicians, physicists and virologists without apology. Ignoring hostile stares as he shouldered his way through, leaving a wake of red faces and strewn paperwork.
He had been in reception when word had come through to his personal phone. Carson had called. His voice sounded tight and nervous. “..Err... there's been a spillage in the isolation lab Sir, I'm afraid it's...”
Madeley hadn't waited for Carson to finish. Panic swept through him. He snapped his phone shut and set off running.
Madeley's mind raced as he sped down the corridors. The present projects were robust, elegant, dangerous beyond comprehension.
Rh704, a rapid spreading virus with a ninety percent fatality rate, very nasty.
Even worse was BGX1402. An air-borne virus with a ninety eight percent fatality rate, a three day incubation period, and an agonisingly slow death for anyone coming into contact with it.
“Oh please god, don't let it be THAT one, anything but THAT one.” He silently prayed to himself, all the while, knowing in his heart that it would be THAT one.
He skidded round the corner towards the elevators, hesitated for a split second, then continued on, ploughing through the waiting crowd and punched through the access door and down the stairs, deciding it would be the quicker option.
Almost faint with oxygen starvation he reached the Level Seven security door, swiping his card through the reader and punching in his personal code.
The door hissed open and he stepped quickly through, chewing his lip impatiently as the the door closed and the lock cycled before the inner door opened.
What greeted his eyes did not herald good news.
The three technicians before him huddled together in a primal act of communal safety, they trembled in their white coveralls, staring at him with wide eyes.
There was an almost overpowering pungent aroma in the air, an all too familiar smell that Madeley's panic-stricken mind immediately connected to a worst case scenario.
Madeley glanced at the grille in the wall, the cold tendrils of sheer horror danced down his spine. The green light on the panel told him it was in active venting, his heart sank. It was too late, whatever had been spilt was out, vented into the world. It was probably a matter of weeks, or maybe even days before everything started to come apart.
Madeley sank into a nearby chair, he was close to tears. He reached for his phone, the sooner Operation Exodus got under way the more lives would be saved.
His voice was on the verge of breaking as he spoke.
“Wh... Which one was it? BGX1402? ...Rh704?”
“Err... what do you mean, Sir?” Ventured Carson, hesitantly.
“The spillage, you moron, the goddam spillage! What the hell else would I be talking about?”
“Err... it was ...err … tea, Sir.” Stuttered Carson, shrinking back into the embrace of the other two.
“Tea? TEA?” Said Madeley, staring incredulously at Carson.
“Y... Yes Sir. Th ...the special blend you had imported from Ceylon. It was an accident Sir, Janet tripped while carrying the tray and the packet split spilling all over the floor, the milk jug smashed and milk soaked into all the tea leaves Sir. I'm afraid we had to bin the whole lot.”
Madeley let his head sink into his hands and he sobbed uncontrollably. That tea was expensive, and it would be weeks before he would be able to get more shipped in.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 24 October 2014
She lived for her art.
The pride swelled within her each time she browsed her gallery.
Each one a masterpiece.
Each one a unique complex of curling swirls and whorls. Intertwining patterns interspaced with fine carvings and vignettes.
She surveyed her latest, her best to date in her opinion.
The memory of composition still fresh in her mind. The glint of bright light off steel still fresh in her eye. The feel of red swab still fresh on her fingertips.
And not an inch of skin without pattern.
Beautiful, just beautiful.
Yes, she lived for her art.
That others had to die for it mattered not.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 3 October 2014
“One point seven... eight... nine... Two. The bid is two million. Two point one... two... three... four... Two point four... I have two point four... Anyone else? Two point five at the back there, six... seven... eight... Two point eight... The bid is two point eight... Anyone else at two point eight? Going once... Twice... Sold to the man in the green jacket for two point eight million credits.”
Zaphor strolled out of the auction room clutching his newly-purchased document feeling rather pleased with himself. Two point eight mill' was a small price to pay for the twenty first century. The price would have been much higher if any of the regular hunters had been bidding.
Luckily, Baphram and Peoren were at present on safari in the first century, plenty of swords and sandals escapades to get themselves involved in there.
Duggle was somewhere near the beginning of the twentieth century, slaughtering his way through some sprawling trench-based conflict. Zaphor shuddered at the thought of wading through all that mud and barbed wire.
Rumour had it that poor Genevieve La Rouge had been having fun in the middle of a civil war in England somewhere around the middle of the seventeenth century, and had been tried and found guilty of witchcraft, and was burnt at the stake. “She always did take risks did that one. I blame her father for giving her too much self confidence.” Thought Zaphor. But he still made a mental note to look up a fellow named Matthew Hopkins if he ever found himself in that era. Zaphor and Genevieve had never been really close, but they were still in the trade, and he felt her loss.
Zaphor studied the paperwork closely. Exclusive rights to one year's unrestricted safari in the twenty first century. He rubbed his hands in excited anticipation.“Yes!” Thought Zaphor. “Fortune has certainly smiled my way today. Two point eight mill', a snap at twice the price. Boy am I going to have myself some fun.”
His timeleap car was in for service until tomorrow, so he would spend the rest of the day packing clothes and weaponry, picking out a few choice twenty first century conflicts to get himself involved in. Oh boy, he could barely wait.
Zaphor hummed happily to himself as he stepped onto the conveyor walkway that would take him homewards.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Saturday, 13 September 2014
The lyrics were by now burned deep into my psyche, an integral part of my very being, an essential component at the very core of my existence.
“I can't see my reflection in the water.
I can't speak the sounds to show no pain.
I can't hear the echo of my footsteps.
Or remember the sound of my own name.”
I must have dozed off with exhaustion, for I awoke to the weight of the guitar still on my knee, it had been there for a very long time.
My whole body jerked and shuddered as the strange energy flooded through me one more time.
My left hand automatically sliding the length of the neck, fingers positioning to form the opening chord. My right hand hung loosely above the sound hole. The fingers twitched, spasmed, then began to pick at the strings.
I opened my mouth involuntarily, and began to sing.
“I can't see my reflection in the water.....”
And as I sang the tears came. The words were discordant, barely distinguishable through the sobs and racking cries.
How it came to this I can't recall. When the pleasure turned into obsession, and that obsession turned into... something else.
I absolutely loved the song. I use the past tense because what I have now become makes it impossible for me to love anything any more.
In the days gone by I practised the song over and over, savouring every lyric, absorbing the vibration of every note. I wished I could just play and sing forever.
Those thoughts came back to haunt me with a vengeance I could not have foreseen.
I now play constantly. The same song, over and over and over again. I feel like a marionnette, my strings being manipulated by unseen hands, an unseen power.
I have been sat here so long my body has started to diminish. Where once was muscle there is now sagging skin, the bones easily visible, joints angular and protruding.
In places I have disappeared completely. A small gap has appeared in my left forearm, yet still the fingers continue to flow from chord to chord, the neuro responses from brain to hand somehow able to bridge the gap.
Both my right index and ring finger are missing completely, and still the rhythm is perfectly picked.
The song came to an end with a final six string strum on the G chord and I slumped forward onto the guitar, hoping, praying that something would change now.
Please, just end this nightmare. Let me die, or let me live, just please don't make me play any more.
I glanced at my right hand, only the thumb remained now. I Thank god I couldn't get to a mirror, I don't think my mind could take whatever sight would stare back at me.
I felt the frisson again, the pulse jerking my body upright, my left hand once more found the opening chord. My fingerless right hand began picking at the strings with invisible digits.
And the hell began all over again...
“I can't see my reflection in the water...”
In my heart I know beyond any shred of doubt that this curse will go on forever, until the guitar has rotted away, until the strings have rusted into nothingness...
Until I am just a memory.
And still the song will remain.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Author's note:- The words at the top of the page are the lyrics of the second verse from a Bob Dylan song entitled “Tomorrow is a long time”. This is one of my all-time favourite Bob Dylan songs, one I learned many years ago, and still enjoy playing to this day, unlike the unfortunate character in this story.
And the song will of course always remain, as it should, a beautiful gift from a very gifted man.
P.S. The "Walking Dead" Theme on the video link has no connections to the story, but the version of the song played on the link is the one that I am familiar with.
Thank you for reading.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Hi, and thanks for stopping by.
This week I'm taking part in the September challenge at John Xero's 101-FICTION site.
The challenge is to write a flash of exactly 100 words, plus a 1-word title, and the prompt for the September challenge is the word “Blue”
You will find John's 101 blog here:- 101-FICTION.
My own 101 word submission is here:- BACTERIMELANCHOL
I hope you enjoy it.
Anyone who is not familiar with John's work are missing something very special, he is an excellent writer, mostly of genre fiction, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and is always well worth the visit.
John's main blog where he posts his longer fiction can be found here:- XEROVERSE.
Thank you for reading.
Saturday, 23 August 2014
My, but how it has grown.
How strong and healthy it has become.
This was the first time she had been to this corner of the garden since... that evening.
This corner was always... his corner.
His to plant, his to nurture... his to not share.
This was the first anniversary, how the months have flown.
She had smirked as they dug up the patio, quietly chanting “How green you are” under her breath.
She had sung it even quieter when they prised the floorboards, when they searched the attic crawl space.
They finally accepted her story of abandonment, and her tears.
It was in full bloom again now. All those red droplets brought the memories flooding back.
Images flickered. A sneering smile. A raised spade. And all those red droplets.
More than one person had remarked what a good-for-nothing piece of manure he was.
They were wrong on one count. He was good for something.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 15 August 2014
Anyone wishing to read Part 1 can find it here:- A stillness in the air (Part 1)
A STILLNESS IN THE AIR (Part 2)
Before long the red glow thickened, took on form.
The air rapidly grew hotter and heavier as the cloud approached. The thrumming reached almost ear-shattering levels.
Blake buried his face in the ground, his hands clamped tightly over his ears, fear and anger flooded through him as the very earth shook and trembled beneath him.
His whole world became an energy-draining cacophony of howling, whipping winds and deafening, shrieking, bone-shaking vibration. A blinding kaleidoscope of swirling reds and purples, spangled with diamond glints and sizzling blue flashes.
He clung to his sanity for what seemed like an eternity. His screamed prayers snatched from his mouth by the turbulence.
Eventually the assault on his senses lessened as the cloud passed his position. He rolled onto his back and stared at the enemy.
The monstrous, multi-hued, vaporous cloud a hundred feet or so from the ground rolled inexorably toward the citadel.
Blake raised his Minigat and took sight, then faltered indecisively.
There was nothing to shoot at, nothing tangible to target. How do you fight something that has no substance?
Several yards to his left a weapon opened up. The thousands of light pulses per second thrown out by the multi-barrels appeared as one solid stream as it arced up and into the cloud, spraying back and forth in what should have been a murderous firefield.
The cloud just absorbed the rounds and continued on toward the citadel unscathed.
A narrow red beam sliced down from the cloud to touch the shooting soldier. Blake watched in helpless horror as he vanished. No blood spray, no screaming, just a momentary red flash and the soldier disappeared.
Blake watched, transfixed with fear, as the same scenario was repeated time and time again all along the ridge. Hundreds of weapons sprayed into the cloud, and rapidly the army on the ridge vanished beneath a hail of red needles.
The cloud rolled on across the plain as if the engagement had never happened.
Blake dragged himself to his feet. Fighting this thing was futile. Whatever it was, these weapons were useless against it.
There was only one thought on his mind now, Sulya and his daughters, if there was any chance he could save them...
He shouldered his Minigat and set off toward the citadel. After only a few paces he saw the immense Spitlights open up, pouring billions of pulses into the cloud. Even from this distance he could feel the heat from the incredible amount of energy piercing the air.
Hope crept into Blake's heart. Surely nothing could withstand a barrage like that?
Blake watched unbelievingly as once more red beams lanced down. They grew in number until the whole citadel was sheathed in a massive scarlet cloak. The bright light pulses rapidly diminished until there was only red. Bright arterial red.
And then nothing.
No sounds. No firefight... No citadel.
Blake slumped to his knees, allowing the tears to fall freely. There was no-one left to see them, to witness his humiliation.
The cloud seemed to gather in on itself, as if compressing and centralizing its energy. It became smaller, shrinking in on itself until it became a solid red orb. Slowly, slowly it began to rise. Gaining speed and height it flew straight up into the sky until it was lost from sight.
Blake continued on to the citadel. Hoping against hope that Sulya and the girls had somehow survived. They would have been in one of the safer, lower levels, far below ground. They would still be there, there would be more survivors. There had to be.
As he walked he reflected on the other incidents around the planet, the other citadels. No contact had been made with them once the cloud had reached them.
Blake refused to give up hope. The cloud must have destroyed the communications systems in all the citadels. That would be logical, that would explain the lack of contact.
Sulya was still alive. His precious children were still alive. He knew it. With unshakeable certainty Blake knew his family waited for him in those lower levels.
He quickened his pace, his heart soaring. They would flee to the forest, live amongst the trees. His children would grow healthy and strong in the beautiful outdoors.
Two hours later found Blake at the lip of the crater, staring down into the depths of the massive hole in the ground.
Of the citadel nothing remained. Not a brick, shard of metal, shred of flesh. Not a molecule to say there had ever been anything there but earth. The building was gone, right down to the lowest foundation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was three days later that the first craft landed.
Blake watched from cover as the huge silver machine settled onto the plain in a whirl of wind and hissing of retro motors.
A ramp slid down from the ship's belly and angled to the ground.
Several small, humanoid creatures walked down the ramp, gathering at the base in a huddle. Conversing animatedly.
Large eyed, blue-skinned heads stood on long necks. They wore grey uniforms, but the lack of helmets told Blake they must find our atmosphere breathable.
He understood now, the cloud was a weapon, not the enemy. This was the enemy.
This was something he could target, something he could shoot at, something he could kill.
Blake stepped out into the open and sighted his minigat. The creatures appeared not to notice him, his Invisuit hiding him from their view. Blake hesitated, concealment would be a precious weapon in his arsenal.
These creatures look physically weak, soft skinned, vulnerable.
Blake grinned widely, a grin that wouldn't reach his eyes, couldn't reach his heart.
He had nothing but time, plenty of ammo, and carried more hate than a man should be capable of.
He would wait, let more come, let them settle, become complacent.
Then he would turn their newly acquired world into a nightmare.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 8 August 2014
There was not a whisper of a breeze. Not a rustle of leaf or twitch of grass.
It felt like the world held its breath.
Possibly the last breath it would ever hold.
Blake scanned the valley and the distant low hills, flicking through the spectrums with each pass of the scope. Nothing.
If there was life out there the scope would have found it.
Nothing. Not an insect, a bird, a rabbit.
They knew. They all knew something was coming.
Blake slid the scope into its sheath. He glanced back over his shoulder at the squat slab of the citadel in the centre of the plain several miles away.
Even from this distance the massive walls looked impregnable, unbreachable. Bristling with weaponry. The huge, multi-barrelled Spitlight cannons could take out anything known to mankind.
But it wasn't men that were coming for them.
Of one hundred and sixteen citadels scattered throughout the planet, this was the only one left.
One by one they had all been crushed.
Blake checked his weapon one more time. A miniature, hand held version of the massive Spitlights. A devastating weapon, proven in many campaigns, but it brought him little comfort now. At least wielding it meant he would die a soldier's death.
He sat down on the grass and breathed deeply, forcing himself to relax.
The stillness in the air felt unnatural. It had the aura of an animal frozen in fear.
Even so, Blake took what he could from the peace and quiet.
A slight tremor ran through the ground, barely detectable. The air began to thrum.
Blake flicked his commset. “Base, this is Scout Delta niner, they're coming.”
His earpiece crackled. “Roger Delta niner. Hold position, let them pass, then engage at your discretion... And may god be with you.”
A rapid staccato stabbed the quiet as the men all up and down the line locked and loaded.
A slight shimmer briefly distorted the ridge as Invisuits were switched to full camo mode.
Blake reached into an inner breast pocket and pulled out the picture of Sulya and the girls. He looked at it for several seconds, feeling the emotion building in him. He kissed the photo then replaced in his pocket, the one next to his heart, storing the love there alongside it. He wiped the single tear from his cheek as he switched on his own camo.
Blake gazed at the horizon, a faint pink glow appeared, slowly darkening toward red.
The storm was a long way off yet.
But it was coming fast.
Bringing them with it.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
Continued in:- A stillness in the air (Part 2)