Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Bad Blood (Flash fiction to see in the New Year!)



The boy sat on the edge of his bed, curtains drawn back to let the cool night in.  Before him the Milky-Way arced across the inky sky filling his view with infinite possibilities.  He would try and pick out the star clusters he’d seen in Nav class, the ones with habitable systems, but more often than not his eyes would land on a forbidden zone, a system of the barbarians.  He’d find himself staring intently at the regions he knew sat at the extremities of the spiral arm far beyond the reach of the Unified Worlds Alliance.  

The arc of starlight ended abruptly as the sparkling sky was swallowed by the glowering dark of the nearby mountains.  He sat with his legs dangling off the edge of his bed, arms by his sides each hand gripping the bedcovers too tight.  Still pondering what lay beyond the UWA his attention was drawn to a shooting star, that was behaving rather oddly.  The star he realised, was a small ship’s lights.  They had grown steadily and moved with unnatural speed to the mountains, then stood out in stark relief to the impossible blackness behind.  His heart skipped a beat as the unmistakably angry form of a Traphelen scout ship came to rest by the edge of the clearing at the end of his garden.  He watched as the ship went dark and a broad silhouette emerged and moved towards the house.  What could she possibly want? He thought, his heart racing, sweat trickling down his back.

Since the treaty of Europa they couldn’t eat humans anymore.  But that didn’t make a Traphelen any better company.  Not only did the older ones frequently speak about how delicious human blood was but they didn’t seem to understand social convention.  A Traphelen would frequently butt in mid conversation, speak over you or worst of all, stand too close.  Their deep cavernous mouths all teeth and salivation, assaulting your senses with hot and putrid breath, was too much for some people to handle.  Despite their own contempt for human civility the Traphelen were an acutely sensitive species.  So letting one know of your disgust was a dangerous move, cases to compensate for the loss of human life and Traphelen pride clogged UWA courts.  Had the species not become so completely mutually dependant the tenuous relationship could not have survived.

The boy stared hard into the darkness.  Star shadows cast by the long flexible umbilicals that connected his little home to the ship high above, swayed across the lawn. Shadows from the iridescent sky above refused to betray the Traphelen he knew was there, making her way slowly, inexorably towards his home.  Not risking a glance, he contemplated hitting the emergency evac button.  But curiosity prevented the sensible choice of return to the ship skimming the dense atmosphere to which he was being conditioned.  Instead his desire to know why she was there, drowned out the screaming inner voice to be winched to safety.  

Too late anyway, he thought as the unmistakable sound to suckers and tentacles scaling the wall drew nearer, until finally the head of the sanguinivorous creature peered over the window sill, and froze.  The boy gasped, then checked himself, remembering the lessons of inter-species etiquette at the academy.  Imagining himself in his future role as a space-liner captain he stood and straightened his pyjama top, before stepping back to the other side of his room and motioning politely for the alien to enter.  He was happy to have the bed between them and the door within a step behind.

Cautiously the Traphelen entered, she heaved her thick upper body through the window using her six sucker tipped tentacles.  Her slug like lower body followed, squeezing through the opening and thumping down onto the floor.  Four saucer sized, black eyes shone towards the boy.  Her massive dome of a head tilted to the side, the broad base hung open revealing a serrated series of fangs behind which a thick pink tongue salivated.  Drool splattered to the floor from her mouth and moisture began to trickle from the holes beneath her eyes - her equivalent of a nose, the boy observed -  struggling with the dry atmosphere of the human planet.  Two stubby vestigial arms flapped by her sides and she carefully extended a tentacle toward to boy.  Every fibre of his body screamed run, ancient instincts writhed within as horror boiled just beneath the surface. But he kept his breathing slow, projecting calm towards the huge black scaly monster in his bedroom.

“Welcome to my home.” the boy began carefully, “what can I do for you?”  Thankfully the reaching tentacle stopped just shy of the boys face.  He remembered his lessons and held his hand up, just in front of the sucker which began to pulsate sending a gentle waft of air onto his palm.  He then gave the necessary but odd reply of a vigorous wave wafting air gently back onto the sucker. 
“I have come to set you free.”  She replied, her giant slimy foot inching towards him, the bed being pushed to the side.
“What does that mean?”  he began, failing to hide his fear.  He stepped back, hand on the door, poised to push it to the side and run.
“Don’t be afraid,” the Traphalen continued as she approached, coiling two tentacles behind the boy, two more at his sides, two more just above his head.  He pressed the door hard to the side, it slid open but too late!  He tried to run and the Traphelen pounced, gripping him tightly.
“Let me go! You can’t do this!” he screamed as he felt the needles shoot from the centre of the suckers and pierce his skin.  The anaesthetic secretion that followed made him fall limp.  Supported only by the Traphelen’s tentacles, he hung lifeless like a marionette in the grasp of a grotesque puppeteer.

The boy awoke some hours later, as the first flames of dawn struck the upper slopes of the mountains.  He lay on his floor, and found a new sense of purpose and vigour coursed through him.  He took off his top and had a good look at himself in the mirror.  Two large bruises decorated his head, one at each temple, and four on his body.  Two on each side of his waist and two on his back, one on each shoulder.  They were perfectly circular with an angry weeping boil in the centre.  There was no sign of the Traphalen.

He surveyed his surroundings, the small room he called a bedroom no longer felt comfortable or safe.  The garden even looked shabby and sparse.  Beyond the clearing hundreds of identical little modular homes had appeared.  Each was connected to the sky via a thick swaying umbilical, and each consisted of a bedroom upstairs, a schoolroom with its glowing screens, below.  Had they always been there?  He shook his head trying to focus, his memories were shadows lost in thick fog.  But slowly the world began to take shape in stark, inhuman reality.  

It was as though a veil had been lifted and he saw his home for what it was, spartan, functional, a prison cell.  He looked again at himself in the mirror, not a boy but a young man stared back, muscular and scarred.  A landscape of old wounds told of a violent past that was slowly coming back to him as the effects of the bad blood lifted.  She had set his mind free but to what end?  His thoughts took some time to coalesce into a true reflection of his new reality, and soon he realised, there was a way out, but the road would be long.  The UWA or whatever they really were needed human pilots, and he was going be a damned good one.  He dressed for school, Nav class awaited.  Somewhere in those charts, deep in the forbidden zone, lay a planet of barbarians that one day he knew, he would once again call home.


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Thank you for reading.  If you enjoyed this, you might want to check out my full length novel.  DRYAD - a dystopian novel set in a future Earth, ravaged by climate disaster and ruled by tyrannical corporations.  A sinister force however, is pulling the strings - with an agenda darker and more twisted than anyone could possibly imagine....  

Amazon US:
https://www.amazon.com/DRYAD-When-night-Darkness-Engine-ebook/dp/B081WY85VY/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=dryad+Matthew+Shaw&qid=1575758119&sr=8-1




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Bad Blood (Flash fiction to see in the New Year!)

The boy sat on the edge of his bed, curtains drawn back to let the cool night in.  Before him the Milky-Way arced across the inky sky ...