Never the Bride

There he stands, by the preacher, oceanside. Immaculate tuxedo and perfect blond hair glowing with sunlight.

White dress. White gloves. Lanolin smooth skin. Her cherry lips quiver. Today they would tie the knot on the shores of this island paradise. My revenge on her will be black as its sands, treacherous as its tides.

How green his eyes! Like the hills of the Emerald Isle. We were so young and innocent, he and I. Together we kindled a flame that burns my heart like the devil’s brand.

Struggle all you want; the knot won’t come untied. No one can hear you. A shame to stain red such a lovely dress, but honey, you can’t have him. He’s mine.

Written for Flash! Friday vol. 3-45, whose theme was Moby Dick. This story is set on an island, and includes an overall theme of revenge. Image is Naufragos/Shipwrecked. CC2.0 photo by Luis Marina.

Snow White and Red All Over

Once upon a time, I had it all. My parents were royalty: their kingdom was great, and I was their world. Then an evil witch cursed them, and they died. That alone was insufficient for her, so she cursed me, too. I felt my life spiraling into tragedy, until my Prince Charming found me.

He still calls me “Snow White”. When he found me, he says, he had never seen skin so white, nor lips so red as mine. Not to mention my long, flowing mane of dark hair.

This, our wedding day, is our one-month anniversary. It was a fairy tale wedding. That evil witch stared down from the tower dungeon, powerless. The King and Queen were so happy to see their Prince Charming settle down. His frequent hunting expeditions into the forest delighted the nobles, but terrified his parents.

Now I wait for new husband in our royal bedchamber. As I brush my hair, the mirror catches the reflection of two wolf-pelts hung on the wall. The brilliant light of the full moon shines through the castle window. I hear Prince Charming entering the room.

Part of me knows it wasn’t his fault. He never knew those two wolves were my parents. Another part of me, a snarling canine force within, cries out for vengeance. My prince embraces me. I wrap my arms around him and know what is to come.

My fangs elongate. My fur grows out. I let loose a primal howl at the man who killed my parents while they were under the witch’s curse. Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

A second story for Flash! Friday vol. 3-40, where the prompt was Grimms’ Fairy Tales. This one was rushed in before the deadline and a little disorganized. (Also, I think I mixed up Snow White and Sleeping Beauty — inexcusable for someone with two young daughters!)

Image is still Three Sisters (Die drei Schwester). Public domain in the U.S.; artwork by Alexander Zick (1845-1907).

Mercury Poisons

If she had only stolen my husband, I would have gotten over her betrayal long ago. But Abbi Stronton wasn’t just my backstabbing witch of a best friend. She was prosecutor general for North America. Why should someone of her legal stature wait through a messy divorce?

Sedition was the charge, fifteen years the sentence. From the moment my rocket landed, I realized how thoroughly Abbi had stolen my life. My first month on Mercury was spent with laser chisel in hand, laboring in the underground prison to hollow out my own prison cell.

“A housewarming gift,” the aged warden said with an evil smile, tossing me a book. “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Thus began years of sadistic mental torture. By day I mined tungsten for export. Unlike the Château d’If, a tunnel on Mercury led not to freedom, but death.

At night I read stories of wrongful conviction, and raged hotter than the puddles of molten lead on the surface. With sixty-two notches, one per Mercurian year, carved on my wall, the warden approached me.

“They say our truth scanners are 99.9999% accurate.”

I shrugged. He coughed hoarsely.

“I say you’re my one in a million. This camp has made me wealthy off the labor of murderers and traitors, and deathly ill from lung disease.”

He coughed roughly.

“I see vengeance burning in your eyes. They say the best revenge is living well. I say one trillion credits could buy plenty of revenge.”

This modernization of The Count of Monte Cristo was written for Flash! Friday vol 3-30. Photo: Château d’If, Marseille, vu de la navette des Iles d’Or. CC2.0 photo by Jacqueline Poggi.

Z-End of the Line

It’s the last day of the A-to-Z Challenge! Z is for Zeta Reticuli, a binary star about 39 light-years from Earth, and fairly popular in science fiction.

If you’ve never heard a firsthand account of riding a hyperspace zipline, I’ll sum it up in two words: pure terror. Humans just weren’t meant for hyperspace travel, and if not for the ziplines connecting various star systems, we’d never have left Earth.

I never imagined myself volunteering to become a colonist. Colonization was for murderers, vagrants, and other riff-raff. But there I stood, at the “Z”-end of the zipline connecting Earth and Zeta Reticuli IV.

My first view of the fourth planet was beautiful in an eerie way: the hyperspace receiving station is an open-air acropolis carved from white marble. The structure looks like something built by Romans, and it’s the last familiar thing an incoming colonist ever sees.

Just past those towering columns, the cliff face plummets almost vertically down to the vast fields of purple crops, undulating in the wind. Isolated human settlements dot the landscape out to the distant horizon. Those are mostly two-story communal houses that the Z-Colony inhabitants have built from native thatch, and the blood-red adobe that’s ubiquitous on the planet.

As I viewed this alien countryside under the harsh lighting of the planet’s twin suns, I knew my old life was over. There was no way to ride back up the zipline to the “E”-end, and even if there were, no force in this universe could make me spend another microsecond in hyperspace.

“Thought you could get away from me so easily, Fortuno?”

My heart skipped a beat. That voice… “Reno?”

He approached me from the receiving station. From beneath the papyrus-like toga worn by all zipline travelers, he produced a spring-loaded stiletto knife. His brow furrowed. His long hair danced medusa-like in the thick air, whipped by wind and by residual electron buildup from hyperspace. A blaze of hatred poured forth from his eyes as he waved the stiletto at me.

“You think you can just sleep with another man’s wife, then ride a hyperline off to some exotic alien world to escape?”

“It’s not like that, Reno.” I held my hands up defensively. “I didn’t know she was your wife. I mean… when I found out, I called it off.”

“And then you ran. To your parents. To your friends. To Fortuno’s many fawning admirers.” For all my money, and all my popularity, there was no place on Earth where I had been able to hide from Reno.

“Yes,” I admitted. “I thought you’d be able to patch things up. You and your wife could have reconciled and been happy.”

“Reconciled?” he scoffed. “I killed her the night I found out!” he confessed, making a stabbing motion with his weapon. “Adulteress and adulterer, killed with the same weapon. Poetic, is it not, Fortuno?”

“You have an odd notion of poetry, Reno.” He had backed me up against the sheer cliff face. There was no escape for me this time: I would stand and die as a man, or be dashed to pieces on the jagged rocks far below. “But I understand your anger. Had I known, I never would have been with Maria.”

“Maria?” My assassin frowned. “My wife was Naomi.”

The two of us sat down at the edge of the cliff, legs dangling in midair, and contemplated our fate. We can’t go home again, and there’s nothing but murderers, vagrants, and riff-raff at Z-End of the line.

Puck, Uranus

Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s 50 Characters Challenge. The challenge is to write a 1500 word story including five characters chosen from a list of fifty. This story includes:

  • The philandering architect searching for purpose.
  • The strong, contemplative prospector.
  • The unhealthy jailer.
  • The domineering assassin looking for a challenge.
  • The brutal businessperson.

Warning: may contain textual nudity and juvenile humor about a certain outer planet whose name should not be mentioned.

Uranus would never be sexy, tourism board advertisements notwithstanding. A featureless green orb, its name the butt of jokes, Uranus carried none of the majesty of Jupiter, nor the romance of Saturn. Thrill-seekers skipped right past it for outermost Neptune.

Its unpopularity didn’t matter to me. No one much cared for Alabama back when my namesake and four-greats grandfather moved to Huntsville. We were alike in so many ways. Same pointed chin. Same blue eyes. Both architect/engineers — him for NASA, me for the Corporation.

Of course, I was taller and slimmer, but the analytical part of my brain knew that was mostly due to the low surface gravity on Puck.

We both realized impossible dreams early in life. He was barely out of college that summer evening when he and his coworkers gathered around a television and cheered to see an astronaut first set foot on the Moon.

When I was not much older than him, I and my colleagues at Puck Station monitored the holovids as the Uranian Space Tower — a space elevator — descended into position. They said it was impossible. We did it in less than three years.

What do you do when your lifetime achievement comes at the beginning of your career?
Continue reading “Puck, Uranus”

Life Lit Up

An entry for Flash! Friday vol. 2-20.

Even from this distance, I recognize you, Hassan al-Fathi. Who else could it be, surrounded by your gaggle of guards and guns?

Before the revolution, global defense companies hired me to work their secret contracts. I developed the weapons the superpowers used in their distant conflicts.

Never would I have dreamed that your shadow would fall upon our peaceful land. That my sons would die at your hands, victims of my work. That I would welcome being forced to wear a burqa, to cover my scars.

I continued my work in secret. My greatest weapon is now ready. My sons will be avenged. My granddaughters will grow up basking in the light of freedom.

You think you’re safe, Hassan al-Fathi? You have no idea what I’ve planned for you. You are accustomed to weapons that break people’s bodies.

I’ve learned how to steal your soul.

Hailee Eddinger Laughs Last in Stiletto Heels

An entry for Flash Friday vol. 2-15.

A ruddy leviathan of a sun beat its oppressive light upon the ragged landscape. Through the tinted windshield, Hailee saw sunspots on its enormous surface that were bigger than the full moon. She exited the vehicle in full protective gear.

“It’s an oven out here!”

“Minimal carbon dioxide atmosphere,” her Tattler told. “Surface temperature 627 Kelvin.”

“Hot enough to melt lead. Chroniton detection?”

“Positive, southwest.”

“He’s here!” Hailee debated her options. Shadowed by a rocky outcrop, her vehicle — a VW Acerbus mini-bus — was safe from the hellish heat. Her silver thermal suit, though…

“Cooling system failure within two hours,” warned the Tattler. “Recommend immediate mission abort.”

“Negative!” With dogged determination, Hailee set off. Barren dirt crunched beneath her heavy boots. “I’ve followed him to the end of the Earth. I won’t rest until I get back what he stole from me.”

“A pair of shoes is not worth the risk.”

Hailee ignored the Tattler and marched on.

Life in Flux

For Flash Friday vol. 2-12.

When the judge sentenced me, I laughed. Life in prison, for a retiree?

Hard time changes even an old man. I fell in the shower too often, so the warden put me in solitary — “protective confinement”.

After ten years behind those steel bars, I learned to cry. I mourned the numerous victims of my messed-up life. I read Scripture. I prayed forgiveness.

Parole denied.

Maybe I prayed to the wrong god. The talisman Bokor Gris gave me worked!

Here was that grungy welding shop from my childhood. My own blessed mother, a true Rosie the Riveter, unaware inside, welding steel to make ends meet.

That pinup calendar on the wall. January 1946!

I ran as fast as a septuagenarian can, up the road toward the brown wood-framed house. Inside, my gin-soaked stepfather’s torment of a certain little boy was just beginning.

The parole board said if I ever got out of prison, I’d kill again.

They were right.