Friday, 20 February 2015
Dyson sat on the edge of the cliff, swinging his legs and savouring the cool breeze.
His headgear lay on the scorched ground several feet behind him, and beyond that trailed the rest of his protective clothing, discarded over the last few yards of his existence.
He held the pistol between his hands, much as he would have held his wife's hand over the table sometimes.
A long time ago. How long ago? He couldn't recall. A tear trickled down his cheek, forging a meandering path through the encrusted dust
He couldn't even recall how long it was since he last saw another human being. A month? A year? A decade? Maybe he never had.
He wasn't sure how to tell the difference between memory and imagination any more, or even sure if he ever was able to.
Behind him the sun was setting over the mountains. A beautiful sunset, multi-hued with every shade of red, pink and purple.
He knew this without the need to turn his head to see it. Every sunset was the same now, the contamination had seen to that. What it took in life, it returned in those sunsets, the one beautiful gift it gave.
Dyson checked the load in the pistol once more, then laid the weapon down on the ground beside his thigh.
He listened intently for a while. No birds chirrupped, no insects droned, just the faint lap of the ocean on the rocks far below his feet.
And the feel of that cool, cool breeze on his skin.
He had been wrapped in the sweaty confines of the suit so long he had forgotten just how it felt. Just how so, so good it felt.
He was paying for that cool breeze with every exposed second, with every unfiltered breath.
He didn't mind.
He wouldn't suffer like so many had before him. He had the pistol.
He allowed himself to fall backwards and lay on the ground. He stared at the sky. The brightness of it hurt his eyes. The blue of days gone by replaced with an almost unfettered harsh glare. There were no clouds any more either, another contamination casualty.
Before long the heat from the ground began to burn into the bare skin of his back. He pushed himself into an upright position and stared out to sea once more, the cool breeze flowing over him.
He leaned forward and glanced down at the sharp rocks far below, considering whether to just close his eyes and lean further forward until he reached tipping point.
The sea would welcome him, he had no doubt of that, just one more piece of dead meat to mingle with all the other dead it already contained. Another ingredient in the soup.
Dyson breathed a deep sigh.
He stared out to sea until his vision blurred.
Until his thoughts wandered.
Until his mind's eye found what he had lost. What had been taken from him.
For the last time in his life he experienced the love of a good woman. The joy of holding his new born baby. All happy, beautiful memories flooded his thoughts, coursed through his very being, bringing the deepest joy he had felt for such a long, long time.
As the happiness inside him strengthened, so did the feeling of violation in his skin and bones.
The pain within him grew as his organs strove to function effectively.
Dyson resolved to carry those happy memories and emotions with him on the last leg of his journey.
As he reached for the pistol he called his wife's name over and over.
No-one would hear him.
Just as no-one would hear the sound of the shot as it was carried away on that cool, cool breeze.
©2015 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 13 February 2015
I have heard it said that everyone can remember where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, anyone who is old enough to remember that is.
Well, I imagine you could say the same for the day the colours disappeared, anyone that is still alive to remember that is.
One minute there they were, in all their myriad glory, unappreciated for the most part, taken for granted, just a part of everyday, humdrum existence for all to see. The next minute they were no more, ripped from the spectrum. Plunging mankind into a drab, monochromatic existence. A world of black, white, and varying shades of grey.
At first there was confusion, bemusement, bafflement, even panic, as scientists futilely searched for a cause, for a remedy, for a way to put things right again.
If they had known why the colours had disappeared, they would have spent their time more fruitfully, preparing defences, arming themselves, barricading doors and windows.
The reason why was soon to manifest itself in all its horrifying glory.
Taste was the next casualty, followed closely by the sense of smell, then hearing.
In the gigantic mothership, presently in orbit on the far side of the moon, Second Commander Qairt argued for immediate invasion. Slavering in anticipation as his trident tongue flickered over row upon row of needle teeth.
“Patience, Qairt.” Said Commander Pzeen. “We want to make this as easy as possible. We will add another beam frequency to remove their sight next, leaving them virtually senseless, then we can go down there and eat our fill. There is an abundance of food available, and we can stock our freezers to bursting point before continuing our journey.”
First technician Zaphon looked up from his instrument panel. “The beacon is now fully installed on the moon's surface, Commander. We can now switch these senses on or off at will. Awaiting your command to remove the menu's sight, Sir.”
Commander Pzeen beamed at the technician.
“Thank you Zaphon, you may commence immediately, I am feeling rather peckish myself.” Said commander Pzeen in accompaniment to a mighty tummy rumble.
“We must remember to restore their senses before we leave this system though, we don't want to inhibit their breeding ability do we? This place will be an ideal refreshment stop when our intergalactic budget tours reach this quadrant.”
©2015 Stephen. J. Green.
Friday, 12 December 2014
Bernard Hardy stared into the darkness, stared at the curtain-less window. A faint, barely perceptible tinge of light was evident, dawn was on the way.
The dining chair felt like concrete beneath his buttocks. The hours of immobility had taken their toll on his muscles and joints. He ached like a bitch, but still he remained motionless. They would hear any movement.
Hardy sat without moving, without blinking, and strove to sit without even thinking, as the light grew, crept to grey, crawled to full daylight. Then, and only then, did he feel safe to move.
They couldn't see movement in full light. Couldn't hear movement in full light. The day brought them deafness and blindness. They shut down until the fading day came around again, renewing, revigorating.
Hardy stuck to his routine. He had survived where most had not. His routine gave him life, continued existence.
He ate, bathed, then slept. His alarm would wake him before dusk. He would replace everything back exactly where it had been. Nothing must change. A place for everything and everything in its place. They would notice the difference, would investigate, would discover him.
Hardy had no idea how much of the town's population still survived, he hadn't been out of the house in a while, not since his last supermarket scavenge, but he suspected it would not be many. If the initial TV reports were to be believed the situation was global, so Hardy supposed that the world population had dwindled somewhat too.
The TV reports were no more, of course. TV was no more. Radio was no more. Traffic was no more. Electricity was no more. Muchly most of everything was no more.
Except them. They were more. They were everywhere. Watching, listening, snuffling... eating.
Creatures of the shadows.
When they first came they were like foxes in the chicken coops. Glutting out on the abundant flesh.
Now most of the chickens were gone they searched for change, for sounds, for anything that signified food presence.
The smallest things warranted attention. A fuller trash can, a recently closed blind, a fresh footprint.
Hardy awoke to the ringing of the clockwork alarm, the sound jarring his senses.
He forced himself to a sitting position, his brain struggling to become fully aware, to take In his surroundings. His almost constant depression made his first hour of consciousness the worst of the day, the hardest to deal with.
He sometimes wondered if he should just end his routine. Just give himself to them, but his fear always won out, and every evening saw him walking the walk, checking that everything was just where it should be. Just where it was when they first came.
As the light began to fade again, Hardy placed the chair back into its exact spot, sat in it in the exact same position, and tried to think of not moving.
Winter is coming, and the nights are getting longer.
Hardy stared unblinkingly at the window, watching the darkness creep back in, and did wonder to himself how much longer he could carry on doing this.
©2014 Stephen. J. Green.
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.