How To Find What You Came Here For

Welcome to the worlds that populate my brain!
The short stories you find here are the product
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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Never Too Late For Coffee


The air raid siren finally woke her up.

She was late.

Again.

Adrenaline shot her out of bed and onto her feet but did nothing to jump start her brain, which is why when she reached for her wailing cell phone she sent it sailing off the bedside table and under the bed. Erin stared at the spot the phone had been and seriously considered just leaving it under the bed.

Except now it was vibrating on the hardwood floor. The floor that separated her bedroom from the bedroom in the apartment below hers. With the neighbor who worked nights and would have gotten to bed about two hours ago.

Crap.

She dropped to her knees and reached under the bed for the phone. Dead center, surrounded by dust coyotes (they'd long since eaten the harmless bunnies she'd started with). Bowing to the inevitable, she lay on the cold floor and scooted under the bed far enough to grab the screaming and dancing phone and yank it back.

Her arm was covered in dust and dog hair. She didn't own a dog, but she had dog hair. The joys of renting an apartment in a building that allowed pets, apparently.

Despite the chill, despite the dust, and despite the shih-tzu sized ball of hair three inches from her nose, the idea of staying right there and catching a few more minutes of sleep was incredibly attractive.

But she was late, so she was already going to be skipping the omelet and cup of coffee she'd hoped to eat for breakfast and starving until lunch.

Shoving up to her feet, the sharp pop reminded her a little too late that she still held the renegade cell phone in one of the hands she'd used to lever herself off the floor.

Erin stared at the crack that ran from one corner of the screen to the opposite corner. At least the alarm had stopped.

"I've got time for coffee."


Monday, September 21, 2015

Home Away From Home


Used to, Brecha would have waited until her family was asleep to come out into the apartment and rummage around for whatever had been left that she could make use of. Used to, wives would leave things on purpose, in return for the little things that might happen in night. But that was before the water.

Before the water, life was different. Maybe better, maybe not. It was hard to remember how it really was, when things changed too much.

When their families left the fair land and came over the water some of the ùruisg came with them, finding places to tuck themselves in and be useful. The new land was a wonder and a terror, and so much louder and busier. Even so, the old ways remained and gave them purpose.

But human lives are so short, and memories even shorter.

It hadn't been that way in the fair land. The knowing of the ùruisg had continued without fail or fade since before humans had found time.

Something in the new land changed that, and the knowing had died away like flowers under an early frost.

In the now, the best time to be unseen was in the brightness of day. Homes emptied early and stayed so until late in the day. Even venturing outside posed no real risk when humans had forgotten to look anywhere but toward their destination.

Brecha stood quite still at the gap between two cupboards in the kitchen, more out of habit than need. The tiny apartment was empty, but never silent. Machines in every room, humming and buzzing and rattling through the day and night. It was a wonder to her that humans didn't go mad with the noise they endured.

"Linsa, come now or we'll be last for certain." Brecha looked over her shoulder and waited for her friend to gather up their contribution to the meeting.

"We'll not be last. Feran is always last, and had naught to eat or drink with it." Her voice was little more than a wisp and matched the tiny frame that produced it. Linsa was fading, nearly matching the plastic grocery bag she wore as a dress.

Brecha turned away and smoothed the brown paper bag she preferred to wear, and tried not to worry. They couldn't die - not as humans did - but they could fade into nothing, or the next thing to it. Linsa needed a new family to care for, a family to replace the one that had left, but Brecha feared the news she brought to the meeting would wither that small hope. Bringing it to the other ùruisg and the king was the only solution she'd been able to think of.

She reached for one of the soda caps Linsa was trying to lift, and nudged the smaller woman toward the opening. "Let's get going, we're meeting at Belvedere Castle in Central Park and that's no little bit."

They moved fast. Fast enough to be mistaken for bits of trash blown about in the wind that howled and growled through the steel and glass canyons of the city. Dodging feet - humans, animals, the all-too-frequent oversized bug - made keeping the liquid in the caps they carried a challenge.

Linsa brightened when they crossed under the trees and into the cool, green calm of the park. Brecha deliberately slowed her pace a bit, drawing out the pleasure of the crossing and delaying the moment she was dreading.

"Are you listening, Brecha?"

Her friend's voice penetrated the dark thoughts that had crept in, and she forced an easy smile. "I was thinking about green things, Linsa. My apologies."

As they neared the castle they were joined by small groups of other ùruisg. They came together as they always had, chattering and singing, sharing the things they'd brought. Their bottle caps of strong spirits were most welcome, and quickly shared around.

She was amused to note that Linsa had been correct: Feran was again the last to arrive, and did so empty handed as usual.

Less amusing was the state he was in. The sock he'd fashioned into a tunic was worn and threadbare, the deep creases in his ashen skin taking up where the lines in the fabric left off. He lived in a building not far from theirs, and had lost his family much as Linsa had.

The feasting was ending when their king stood on a large rock and called them to as much order as they ever managed at one of their gatherings.

"Brecha has news to share, please attend," he announced, pitching his voice to be heard over the small crowd and motioning her up to take his place on the rock.

Looking out over the faces turned up to her, Brecha wished fervently that she didn't have to be the bearer of such disheartening news. Still, she supposed it was better to know and prepare than to be caught unaware.

"I know a number of us have lost families recently, and we've hoped that more families would move in as they have before," her eyes scanned the crowd and came to rest on Linsa and Feran's faces, and she took a deep breath.

"That's not going to happen."

The gasps and cries of dismay at her bald declaration buffeted her.

She raised her hands, "Please, listen!" Waiting for them to quiet gave her time to steady herself, and she was glad of it. "My family had a visitor. All of the buildings on my block and the next two are to be torn down, that's why the families have been leaving."

At this there was silence, more heartbreaking than the tears, and she hurried to finish.

"We have to move. We have to find new homes, new families."


She waited for the king to step forward, to take charge and guide those faced with losing their home, to guide her. He stood, staring at her in a way that made clear guidance would not be coming from that quarter. Fear swamped her.

Brecha watched Linsa pale and shrink, losing all the color she'd gained on the trip through the park, and suddenly the fear she'd felt was engulfed in frustrated anger.

"We have moved before," she started, then started again, her voice harder than the stone she stood on. "We crossed the water, when we had no way of knowing what would meet us. We found families, and homes, and made our lives."

The crowd quieted and turned to her, waiting. She wasn't sure what they were waiting for, what they expected, but she knew their survival depended on giving it to them.

It was so much simpler before the water. Before humans changed, got busy, and started forgetting...

Unless it wasn't the humans who were forgetting.

"We are ùruisg. We existed before time, before seasons. We are part of this world, and we are strong." We will find a place for ourselves, we will make a place."

She took a breath in the silence.

"We are ùruisg!"

 Cheers shook the leaves in the trees overhead, raining gold and red on the men and women below. Brecha watched groups form and break apart as plans were made and felt hopeful for the first time since the visitor. They were ùruisg, and they would make a place.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gatekeeper



Whenever someone asked how he got stuck on a rock at the ass end of the galaxy, Chanx liked to tell them he'd gotten an offer he couldn't refuse.

Nobody ever got the reference, but he thought it was funny so he kept saying it.

Besides it was true. When he'd been convicted of doing...well, very bad things...the guy in the slick suit had given him an alternative to the permanent nap. Granted, this "offer" meant spending up to two years at a time taking a nap, but at least it wasn't permanent. The fact was, he wasn't really that fond of people, which was part of why he'd done those very bad things.

He wandered through to the room the engineers had laughingly called a "kitchen." Technically it was true. There was stuff that could be turned into food, if he felt like it. Mostly he didn't, so he ended up with the protein drinks the nutritionists had designed to refuel his system when he woke up. They didn't taste great, but food had never been his thing anyway.

It was the pilots who'd started calling him Gatekeeper and he'd decided he liked it. He was the gatekeeper to all those new worlds to replace the one they'd ruined. The pilots had the same deal he did: long naps in the cryo and protein shakes you try not to taste on the way down.

When they'd first sent him out to this rock they'd promised a comm system that would let him talk to Earth and the other colonies as they got set up. A way to stay connected. Never happened. There were reasons, but it didn't change the fact that he was on his own on a rock at the ass end of the galaxy.

The cryo clock was always the first thing he checked when he woke up.

At first the elapsed time was usually just a few months. The colony ships had been regular then, and they'd brought all the old movies and books. The books he ignored at first, but the movies he'd devoured.


It had been three hundred and sixty-two years since the last ship.

Two years of his time, since it took two days to reset the cryo after it woke him up. Those engineers had never been able to figure out how to get the units to run longer than two years without a reset. He wasn't sure if he was glad they hadn't figured it out, or not. It was one of those two-edged sword things.

Chanx had been trying not to think about it, but that cryo clock was always the first thing he checked when he woke up. It was a habit he couldn't shake, and it was driving him crazy.


No ships for more than three hundred years. In either direction.

It had to mean something, he just couldn't figure out what it was.

He reached for the tall cup and forced himself to take a long drink before he turned around to check the cryo clock. This was a game he'd started playing with himself after the first century. So far the longest he'd made it before he couldn't resist looking was an hour.

Three hundred and sixty-four. He knew that's what it would say. Another two years without a ship, without word, without contact. It was driving him crazy.

When he couldn't stand it any more he turned around to check the clock.

Three hundred and sixty...three.

A ship was coming.


"A shower...I need a shower!"

He slapped the cup down on the counter and headed for the living area. Showers had become optional after the first half century or so - what was the point when there weren't any ships? - and he was pretty sure he didn't smell that great.

A spin through the ultrasonic shower knocked the worst of the smell off, but the jumper he'd worn was a total loss and went directly into the recycle bin. After he'd slid into the first clean jumper he'd bothered with in a couple of centuries he felt almost human.

The first thing he needed to do was set up some food and drinks. The ships wake the pilots up a day before they get to the gate that'll shoot them whichever way they were headed. The one thing they all wanted, more than anything else, was something that tasted like real food.

They liked the basics: something that looked and tasted like beer, and a variety of things to eat that tasted like anything but a protein shake. He hit the menu on storage and retrieval system.

"PLEASE CHECK STORES"

The mechanical voice was incredibly loud after so many years of silence. Chanx stumbled back a few steps in surprise.

"What the hell?"

"PLEASE CHECK STORES"

Chanx stepped back to the display and pulled up the message history.

Message after message sent out, requesting a shipment of stores and supplies. Messages no one had ever responded to.

That's why the cryo system had woken him up. There was no ship. For all he knew, there weren't anymore people, either.

He picked up the shake and stared into it.


The Gatekeeper, that's what they'd called him for over seven hundred years. They'd changed him, out here on this rock. They'd made him see other people as something to value. They'd made him dependent on human contact.


He downed the shake in on long gulp and headed back to the cryo unit and pulled the cover shut.

An offer he couldn't refuse.

It occurred to him that movie hadn't had much of a happy ending, either.