By H. C. Turk
My part is exploratory in nature. Just because we've managed to transport ourselves to an alien planet doesn't mean we have to move in. The thought of never returning home terrifies me. If the rest decide to colonize, we won't be commuting across parsecs of duration space. I would never see my home again. All right, my home is not the best place in the world (or the universe), but at least it's not alien. Though I have a say in the ultimate decision, it's only one voice.
If they decide to settle in, I, I would have to mutiny.
Of course, as scientists we are very advanced, as proven by our profound location. However, gross spaceship locomotion doesn't mean we can achieve similar results on a cultural scale. A semi-human scale. Standing in our tennies, breathing perfect air, we try to measure them. We think we're in a village, but those structures of local materials—wood and stone and metal—might be hollow sculptures, for all we know. They might be storage units for items the populace collected and then it deteriorated and blew away or the bugs ate it. They don't seem to be defensive mechansims, because we aren't being blown up while examining them.
What do you mean, "they"? We haven't found "them." These structures might be a new type of natural product created by the environment, like rocks or trees. Just because they're hollow doesn't mean they're nests. I certainly don't want one to become my nest.
We've been here for some time now. Our quarters are tents, because the ship isn't something to sleep in. It's more like a pair of shoes for several people. You wouldn't sleep in your shoes. The tents are great, not flexible or subject to the vagaries of local weather, which is mild and not at all alien. Yes, much of our whole crowded planet could live here, if they brought their own tents. Mass colonization would require creating an entire infrastructure for supporting non-alien human life, wouldn't it?
"Yes, but you can live indefinitely in a cabin in the woods," my peers tell me, the inferior bastards. "You don't have to be connected to the rest of society, unless you need to listen to the radio or pop into town now and then to buy a new pair of shoes."
"Our shoes last forever."
"I never listened to radio."
Well I listened to radio, when I lived on Earth, and I like a new pair of shoes now and again, even though these last forever, when they fit.
Forever. That's how long they've decided we'll remain here. I can't grab my ball and go home. It's not my ball. I can't return by myself, because that would be stealing their only transportation. That would be stealing their shoes.
A part of me understands the glory in remaining: the very first people in the history of mankind to live on another planet, one of Earth's oldest wishes.
No, it's a modern wish. An immortal wish is to live on a paradise, not in a planet.
It's time to decide; we're running out and can't pop into town to replenish. It's now or never. Returning would be very costly.
Running out? We have provisions to last as long as our shoes.
That type of running out is not what I mean.
It's time for all of us to decide, but we can't, because one of us is dead. The horror is incomparable, alien. In our modern world, people don't die easily. Our medicine is too good. They have to suffer from a spontaneous accident, or carefully planned murder. Or ghastly alien slaughter. That's new. We are living in a new land—no, no, we're only visiting. I don't want to live here. This can't be my home. It's too much like home. The land is open here, though foggy. No, that's a different type of haze; this is an alien land. An alien pasture in the wilderness that reminds me of home. I don't want this to be my home.
A part of me could love this place. The ambiance created mutually by the pasture and the haze and the buildings enthralls me. But those structures are not plural, and not alien, because I'm viewing our spaceship, which could take me home, even though it seems I have already arrived. My home, in the wilds with my cabin, has no alien haze caused by rotting corpses.
Why are the aliens killing us? We're leaving, so they don't have to reject us. But we don't see them and our technologies don't inform us of any aliens. If they're killing us because we're leaving, doesn't that mean they want us to stay? But if they want us to stay, why are they killing us? Evidently we are dealing with an alien mentality, and that senselessness makes perfect sense.
We have to hide. We have to run to our shoes, but can't expose ourselves without getting murdered.
No, no, we have to run to our ship.
Too late; the entire party is dead. At least, the part that made the bad decision, which was very human of them, and thus inappropriate for an alien existence. When you travel to an alien planet, you become alien to them.
Now that the aliens are gone, I can have this place to myself. If it fits.
- - -
H. C. Turk is a self-taught writer, sound artist, and visual artist living in Florida. His fiction has been published by Villard, Tor, and The Chicago Review.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Thursday, October 24, 2013
By Michael White
An extra-terrestrial being travels through innumerable galaxies en route to Earth, only to kill itself shortly after arriving: why? Allow me to start from the beginning. No, I am pressed for time here, so instead allow me to start from near the Fall.
Several weeks ago, on a slow afternoon, what appeared to be a corpse was brought into my firm’s laboratory. From the little information I obtained through its couriers, I was able to surmise not only that it was in fact a corpse, but also that it had fallen to its death. Master detective work, I know, but it was a good start.
Hung around the corpse’s neck, or what I presumed to be its neck, was an oblong device which emitted a slew of vibration-like sounds. Our in-house translators deemed all but one of the sounds unintelligible: the sound was the word Earth.
I was tasked with dissecting the corpse, so I named it Wallace. (It is important to be on a first-name basis with your specimens.) Wallace is a short pale creature with a whirlpool of little spikes along its torso. It has a mouth-like crater middlemost its chest, sandpaper skin, and many stern eyes the color of burnt bread, which pimple its face—or maybe its genitals; it is difficult to know what is up or down (if there is “up” or “down”) with Wallace. I only tell you all of this because I struggle even now to put into words what I found inside.
The machine in which Wallace had traveled here was soon after found buried at the bottom of a lake in the city. I was fortunate enough to attain a handful of photos through a friend in the police department. In them, the machine, although distorted by water and night’s haze, was shaped much like a torch, and even dead in the water its aura flickered like a strobe light. As of now the machine is still there. The surrounding area has become a sort-of tourist’s attraction: people come from all over the state, stare at the lake and see only the water’s misty crown, and yet leave filled with childlike astonishment. Some even refuse to leave, camping as long as a fortnight in wooden cells along its shore. The whole absurd spectacle reminds me of a Panopticon.
But I digre—
“Samuel! What of the specimen?”
“I’m still working on it, sir.”
“Is that the report?”
“No, sir, it’s a personal log.”
“Have you ever seen a man decapitated?”
“What’d you find inside?”
“I’m afraid I’m not finished yet.”
“Let me rephrase the question: what did you find inside?”
“Sir, that’s the same question.”
“Have you ever seen a man decapitated?”
“I found an image.”
“Nothing else but guts.”
“What of the image?”
“…it’s the Roman Colosseum.”
- - -
Originally from Chicago, IL, Michael White is a current full-time student at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. He is working toward his bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Losing Your Load
By Gary Hewitt
Karell stared at the screen. She prayed Davino HabbalBaddi did not get on her case.
“Anyone got the report for Altan Exports?”
His accusing eight eyes scoured the office.
“Mr HabbalBaddi, I have it here Sir,” squeaked Karell.
The office manager stormed over to her desk.
“Did you not see I marked it U R G E N T?”
Karrell's hands darted to and fro amongst the piles of memos and plunk-it notes. One of her six hands handed over HabbalBaddi's report.
“You damn Gorfick's are all the same,” he muttered. He snatched the paper and stormed off.
HabbalBaddi's middle face flushed in orange. His staff knew the stardust hit the cooler unit when his face turned the colour of deep space.
He was interrupted when the Ejackian Teleportprinter churned into life.
“Get that Abubabell.”
His clerk flew to the printer and plucked a note from the machine. Her wings almost stopped beating when she read the heading.
“I never thought I’d see one of those,”
“What? Bring it here.”
He seized the paper and turned purple.
Ogrenoid: Cargo Lost.
Figures swirled in HabbalBaddi's head; trillions of Zentagi's were invested on the consignment.
“Out of my way,” he shrieked and headed to his inner sanctum.
HabbalBaddi slammed the door. He punched the ID locator of the Ogrenoid into his Fractallocuter.
HabbalBaddi's voice screamed at the emerging image.
“This is Davino HabbalBaddi, office manager of Presics Logistics. What's this nonsense about a lost load?”
The image strengthened. Davino could visualise the interior of the Ogrenoid. He fumed when his pleas were ignored. He spotted movement to the left. Davino jumped when powerful jaws sprang at the screen. He shivered for he knew the name of the dangerous creature.
He assured Admiral Denier Humisle it would be safe to transport Farnocks to Rhesa Prime. His personal poron rang.
“Davino, it’s Sorgaram Pwattan here. What's this about a lost load?”
The Chief Director of Presics Green space division disliked surprises.
“I'll be right up.”
Davino's seven legs scuttled towards the imperial office. The alienated office staff glanced at their trembling boss. His three heads had turned black.
“Sit,” ordered Pwattan.
Davino cowered under his bosses gaze. Sorgaram was the most impressive Gutawaler he had ever seen. Sorgaram's stomach had grown to huge dimensions and his array of eyes could seek out the tiniest flaw in any alien’s composure.
“A Lost load, Davino. This is furoggian terrible.”
The rise in Sorgaram's voice shattered Davino's electron shield of confidence.
“Can you explain the loss of over seventeen trillion Zentagis?”
“Farnocks, Sir. The stupid humans didn't follow protocol.”
“Who authorised this?”
“It was a joint decision.”
“Answer the furoggian question.”
“I did,” said HabbalBaddi. He examined the pixellated floor.
“You're responsible,” cursed Sorgaram. He pointed an accusing tentacle at his office manager.
HabbalBaddi did not dare reply.
“I've got no choice Davino.”
Sorgaram opened up a cavernous drawer to his left. He removed a Mallevian Extrapolator.
“You’re fired,” he said.
He pressed the orange button. Davino HabbalBaddi was sucked into the sacking device. Sorgaram was damned if he was going to be blamed.
- - -
Gary Hewitt has had several stories published in various publications including Linguistic Erosion, M-Brane and the Rusty Nail. His style tends to be dark/bizarre. He is also a member of the Hazlitt Arts Centre writers' group.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Wilbur’s Great Gaffe
By David Castlewitz
When the bride entered the auditorium and the wedding guests turned to watch her waddle down the aisle, someone shouted, “My God! She’s a monster.”
She teetered, her bodice heaved, and when she lurched to her waiting human bridegroom, the warts on her puffy cheeks sparkled. Juvenile Cullers trailed her. As a princess of Culleria, she enjoyed the attendance of children to hold her satin train and throw insect-eating flowers in her wake. The man picked to marry her -- an offering to Culleria – shivered as the princess neared.
Henry Wilbur shut his eyes to the image on the wall-mounted monitor. He didn’t want to see his startled face or watch his wife, Cynthia, burst into tears.
“How many times have you watched that?” Wilbur’s advisor asked. Unlike the females, he lacked facial warts, but black and red bumps decorated the backs of his hands.
“It was inadvertent,” Wilbur said. “A joke. You know? Can’t they take a joke?” The smell of ammonia scratched at his nose. Four months aboard the Culler ship had accustomed Wilbur to many smells. Humanoids, lizard-headed beings, as well as scaly Cullers, visited every day, some to gawk, some to tease. Many used scent to enhance communications.
Wilbur turned to his dinner, a bowl of soft black pudding. According to the advisor, it had been developed to meet his nutritional needs.
“Recite your apology.” The advisor’s pointy teeth flashed white against his red skin. “As the judge ordered.”
Wilbur cleared his throat. Slowly, in Cullerian Speak, he intoned the words he’d been taught.
“I am truly and deeply regretful of my speech and apologize to Culleria and its royal family and to the princess herself for what I said at her wedding.”
The advisor stepped to the door. “You must sound sincere or my leaders will annihilate Newark.”
The “Sense-of-Humor” defense, Wilbur’s lawyer said, would exploit a common complaint about Earth’s conquerors. A cartoon in a newspaper, a satirical essay, a TV skit or even a newscaster’s aside often brought swift punishment. Sometimes, they demolished a building, as they did when a local television station in Chicago staged a panel discussion that included a reference to the Cullers as lizards because of their scaly skin.
In Wilbur’s case, four Cullers and three humans listened to witnesses for a week. Scores came forward to identify Wilbur. Although similar sentiments had been whispered elsewhere, Wilbur spoke loud enough to be heard.
His defense lasted two minutes. It was a joke, not an insult. But the judges, even the human ones, rejected this claim, found Wilbur guilty and announced the sentence:
Newark would be destroyed.
Unless Wilbur apologized in a ceremony performed on Culleria in the presence of the Royal House.
When the transporter entered orbit around Culleria, Wilbur welcomed the end of his journey. Then came the first surprise. The Culler advisor told him that an apology was made bereft of adornment, including clothes.
Dressed in a properly fitted suit, Wilbur thought he looked successful, not at all like a mere government office clerk. Naked, with his pot belly and knobby knees, he looked as ineffectual as the Cullers portrayed Earthmen in movies and TV.
“Naked? Okay.” He sighed.
The advisor patted the scales under his chin. “I hope your spousal person is not embarrassed.”
“This is going out on TV?”
“Interplanetary,” the advisor said, and continued with, “The coals will be hot, but you must not run.” They walked out of his cell and down the empty corridor to the waiting shuttle.
“Coals?” Wilbur asked.
“Don’t worry. We have ointments to heal the burns.”
“You do have oxygen?” Wilbur said. “I’ll be able to breathe down there, right?”
The advisor frowned. “Of course.”
The event took place in an outdoor arena. Wilbur anticipated seeing bleached skulls on sticks, impaled enemies and axe-wielding soldiers. Instead, helmeted security personnel in black and red jumpsuits protected him from the crowds lining the blue carpet leading to the arena gates. Females wailed, their facial warts oozing pink foam. Males shook scaly arms and knobby fists.
Wilbur entered the stadium and walked to the path of sizzling coals. The fumes stung his eyes. Tears trickled down his cheeks. The Royals watched from a raised stage.
Prompted by the advisor, Wilbur shrugged off his robe. The audience brayed and honked. A drumbeat sounded, followed by the clash of cymbals, the blare of bugles.
Wilbur walked on the coals. Heat punished his feet, but he knew he shouldn’t hop.
“With dignity,” the advisor had said. “An apology must be delivered with dignity.”
Wilbur reached the end of the long path, his chest heaving, his feet peeling. He stepped onto a pad of thick cooling grass and looked up at the Royal Family. Layers of scales, large warts, and narrow mouths with pointy teeth greeted him.
The grass platform rose in the air. Wilbur fought to keep his balance when he drew level with the Royals.
The largest of the male Cullers bellowed. The advisor brought him a translator pin. “You are the worthless human who insulted my daughter?” the pin said.
“Now,” the advisor mouthed.
Wilbur recited his speech, straining to get each word right. When he finished, the Culler King said, “You will seal your words with the refuse of my daughter’s mother.”
The queen squatted over a clay bowl and dropped the flap covering her rear. A dark brown mass oozed out of her body and into the bowl. With a grunt, the Culler queen closed the flap and resumed her seat next to the king. An attendant brought the bowl to Wilbur and gave him a wooden spoon.
“Eat it,” the advisor whispered. “Or see Newark destroyed.”
Wilbur sniffed the bowl. No odor. He dipped his spoon into the dark mass. It had the same consistency as the pudding they’d fed him over the past six months.
The king hooted. “And you say we have no sense of humor.”
- - -
Thursday, October 3, 2013
The Distant Drums
By Scott Raven
I can hear the beating of distant drums,
Imagination fueling the possibilities of life beyond my reach.
Softly and rhythmic, the sound of another culture runs through my mind like a deep river,
Lustfully beckoning my belonging.
A distant busyness taunts my solitary existence,
My limited abilities thicken my thirst for exploration,
And the time has come to drop excuses and run,
Run away from normality and towards a land where one's name is absent.
Despite ingrained passion, this vital desire remains nothing more than a distant hope,
much like a star we wish upon which is forever out of reach.
The far flung drums remain forever far away.
I have seen little of the Earth and her perpetual immensity,
Yet I know out there, hidden in plain sight lies my final resting spot,
And it ties me like an anchor in an ocean of possibilities.
All the while, the voice heard when all senses are stripped can tell,
My body belongs in a place I do not know.
It screams at me: Am I not meant for more?
I am homesick for a place I have never been,
Yet despite the distance from this real fantasy,
I can still hear the beating of their drums.
- - -
Scott Raven from Buckinghamshire, England.
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