Gathering the Harvest

Picturesque Earth lay peaceful, to the untrained eye. 

One final pod slid up its cable to a ship in orbit.

I peered down from the viewing deck.
A streak of fire. Then an explosion. The cable rocked.

Another streak. Closer.

Pod integrity lost. Passengers compromised.

Ship sirens wailed. Incredible engines rumbled to life. The cable detached and drifted loose.

“Human harvest complete, hey?” a man stepped in close, watching the Earth shrink away.

“Failed, more like it,” I said, distancing myself.

“Ah well,” he winked, “I’m happy with the new Mars crop.”

My stomach turned, where’s the training deck?



After a long break, huge self growth and a literary focus change, I’m back. Trying my hand at proper sci-fi like I’ve never written before. 

And I love it.

A few extra themes added in this one, but primarily focused on this week’s 99 word Flash Fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch, Gathering a Harvest.

September 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

I’m feeling more courageous in my writing and I hope I inspire some other amazing humans out there!

Internal Monster

Her hands shook as new friends welcomed them inside. How would they take her? Life before her partner used to mean refusing these invites; too scared to take risks.
They sat together. She stared at her dinner. Everyone laughed at his jokes as he kept her safe from attention, helped her relax.
She started contributing, a word here, comment there.
“He always forgets things, he’s male,” she said smiling, glancing at him.
The light in his eyes faded.
Her stomach felt sick.
“But I do too,” she added, kissing him tenderly to fend off her hated negativities of old.


As soon as I read that Charli’s CarrotRanch.com, March 11 99 word Flash Fiction prompt for the #1000Speak initiative was “Building from Bullies” my heart immediately turned inward to the demons my beloved partner has inspired me to fight off.

My mind turned back to all of the times I said something hurtful because I’d expected that was the norm, or had tried to be amusing instead of protecting our bond.
I thought of how there are so many negative thoughts we must fight off in a day if we were never taught to think positively from a younger age.
Most negativity stems from the desire to protect ourselves, and the only way I’ve been able to fight off such a toxic mindset has been through my partner’s undying love and support. He has never spoken a bad word about me to others and I cannot thank him enough.

It shouldn’t be expected that partners pick on each other or bicker. A personal relationship shouldn’t be made the butt of a joke. We can’t function that way. No one should be made a joke of. No one can function that way.
Life should be positive. Not about gossiping or laughing at the expense of others.

I chose this particular moment for the prompt “Building from Bullies,” because I think we all have a bully hidden inside. A bully developed by the expectations of today’s society and I cannot believe how incredible I’ve felt since I have been trying to subdue that side of myself in every situation.

I only wish that everyone understood we don’t have to think that way.

Potential excerpt #1

The mass of rotting leaves felt soft beneath the soles of her feet, it played havoc with her senses and balance, she never quite thought a forest floor would be so . . . wet. Yet here she was, creeping beneath the underbrush, searching for a safe haven, as you do when you’re alone and grossly unequipped for an alien forest. Crouching, peering through an endless array of ferns, tree trunks and plants with large leaves and vibrant flowers, she gasped as one hand slipped off a moss-covered stone beside her feet and onto the damp ground. She felt the slimy decay first hand, squishing between her fingers and she yanked her hand away, trying in vain to wipe the mess off onto the trunk of an old tree behind, ending up with more foreign muck than she had started. Suppressing a gag, she brushed it off onto her hazard suit, well, what remained of the pants she’d secretly acquired for the journey. She’d have to get a new one made on her return, if they’d ever accept her back on friendly terms. She pictured old style wanted posters plastered across the interior of the City Tower, sporting her bland face, freckles and all, and she wasn’t entirely sure how menacing she’d appear to the public, if at all. Back to the situation at hand, speaking of her hand, which was still damp and slimy, she made a conscious effort not to brush her curls from her eyes with that one. She couldn’t see anything ahead, just more forest. Surely there had to be someone civilised on the planet. Resuming her half-crawl, half-creep through the underbrush, she kept her ears wide open for any signs of life, hostile or otherwise – preferably otherwise – as she ducked her head beneath what felt to be the hundredth fern. Her neck was getting sore. She rounded a particularly large tree trunk, which must’ve been at least a thousand years old since it took a while to reach the other side. A while of clambering over roots with her slimy hand, during which she slipped multiple times and she even managed to bang her forehead against one. That would bruise. Around this frustratingly large tree was a wooden cottage. Her heart leapt and she picked up her pace, once she’d slid down from the thick roots. The base of the cottage tilted outwards to either side and continued on to join a loose ring of trees encircling the structure. The wooden walls were long thick branches, entwined and endless. Her pace slowed. The cottage appeared as if it had grown from the roots of the trees. Who knew what was possible on this world? Tiny leaves sprouted beneath a few round windows and large, waxy leaves blanketed what would have been a roof. She glanced around, apparently alone. Reaching the door, she tried peering through gaps in the wood; nothing, nothing but darkness. Oh well, that should mean no body is home, right? She took her chance, if she didn’t find a place to rest and clean up soon she’d surely lose it. Holding her breath, she tapped lightly on the wood, “hello?” She whispered. She flinched as the door shifted – as it does in these situations. It swung inwards, leaves along the hinges rustling. Small baubles hanging along the ceiling, about as big as Christmas ornaments, began to glow, casting the room in a soft green light; a fascinating change from the sea of deep purples and reds outside. They were cold, alien, whereas this green held warmth, familiarity. She stepped inside onto a thatched floor. Stable, dry, welcoming. The tree roots formed a single-roomed cottage. With a crude, wooden bed extending from one wall, a small table and a couple of chairs from another, and what seemed to be a tub, with a spout above, built into a small alcove in another wall. Cupboards and hay baskets filled any empty space. It was built for necessity, and certainly more than enough for what she needed. Glancing back outside through the door, it swung closed and she froze for a moment, expecting to see something there with her. But, she was still alone, at least, she couldn’t tell if anyone else was there. Body detecting an opportunity to rest, her eyes began to hurt and she studied the small bed. A layer of hay and feathers littered the top. She sat on it, surprised by its softness. Not quite as soft as what we are used to, but after her adventure, it was miraculous. Laying down, struggling to keep her eyes open or her limbs functioning, she barely noticed as a blanket of moss drifted down over her and she settled off to sleep. Her mind sharpened, detecting a birdsong somewhere nearby, how long had she been asleep? Raising her hands from beneath her blanket, she rubbed her eyes and struggled to open them, one of her hands felt gunky and she instantly regretted touching her face. She glanced up at the door. She bolted upright, almost falling back off the end of the bed as she noticed the huge, slanted black eyes gazing at her. Long stringy hair framed the creature’s sharp features, its dark skin laced with what looked like the pale veins of leaves, sending shivers through her core. She daren’t move as the creature watched, with what she thought was a smile, playing across its thin lips, revealing a hint of sharp, white teeth.

Formidable

I struggled to see through the darkness as I stepped out into the backyard. The cold bit at my bare arms and I shivered.
“It’s time for bed!” I called out to the dogs, peering through the night.
A Husky and a German Shepherd bounded at me from behind the shed. I held my ground, they knew better than to bowl me over. They stopped at my feet, sitting perfectly still. Staring up at me with big eyes, ears forward and mouths hanging open as they panted.
“What were you doing behind there? You’d better not have been digging,” I said, as though they could understand me. I received no response. They had a gleam in their eyes and I dreaded the mess I’d have to clean in the morning. The Husky nudged my hand with his nose, the hand carrying the treats used to coerce them into the cubby for the night.
“Alright, alright,” I laughed as I stepped past them and headed for the cubby. They followed behind, occasionally stepping on the back of my heels, causing me to dance around them, frustrated, as they struggled to maintain a consistent pace. We reached the cubby and I ducked under the overhanging roof that acted like a veranda. They bolted inside past me and sat waiting. I tossed the treats into two opposite corners and they got busy devouring them while I shut the door and pushed the small bolt across, locking them inside for the night. All noise inside the cubby ceased as they settled for sleep. That was the last I’d hear from them until sunrise the next morning, it ensured that they didn’t get up to mischief at night; I didn’t want them hurting any other animals. Or getting themselves hurt.
I glanced up and spotted a large spider web spanning the underside of the veranda roof. Usually I resisted looking at them, but tonight I’d forgotten and the thought of being so close to whatever monster lurked in the crevasses, sent shivers down my spine. I stepped off the veranda and headed for the door, looking back across the yard. A low growl rumbled from a tree on the opposite side and I stopped dead. I couldn’t see anything, it was too dark. It growled again and I wished that I hadn’t threatened it; the wildlife around here may be small compared to a human but they were tough, tooth and claw always ready. Was it going to attack if I moved?
My heart pounded as my eyes darted left and right, trying to discern what else was with me in the yard. Of course the dogs were locked away, so they were of no use to me. My mind started conjuring up theories; perhaps it was a koala, I knew that they growled, but possums growl too. Maybe it was a bat.
And then the dreaded and inevitable thought; perhaps it’s an alien. The one thing that gets me quaking at the thought of having to walk through the house at night. The one thing whose motives and abilities humans have no idea about, they could do anything to us and we’d have no defence. Whenever I start to deviate down this train of thought, I feel ridiculous, but it doesn’t stop the fear.
It growled again and I raced for the door, ducking in to the safety of the house, refusing to look over my shoulder in case I saw it coming for me. I’d never be able to go out there at night again if I did.
I shut the door behind and stood panting for a moment, but curiosity still gripped me. I had to see what it was. Partially because I wanted to stop my imagination running wild for days to come, creating all sorts of horrors, all in my own backyard.
I grabbed a torch off the shelf beside me and cautiously stepped out the door. Flicking it on, I shone the beam toward the source of the growl and I scanned the trees. I spotted a large black mass at the centre of the fig tree and my heart stopped. It was nearly the size of one of my dogs, hanging effortlessly between the branches. What on Earth could do that?
It moved and I froze, staying as quiet and still as possible, never removing my hand from the door behind me. Slowly, it turned it’s head to face me and I was finally able to identify it.
It was a fully grown possum, red eyes gleaming in the light, broad grey tail hanging down beneath it. It was a beautiful creature, a formidable presence in this world of our weapons and wars. It stared at me for a moment before it bounded off into another tree. Disappearing into the dark, granting me permission to breathe.

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Our eldest daughter slept like a baby as I peered into her cot, her baby sister in another cot beside her. The eldest was on her side, legs sprawled and mouth open, with tiny toddler hands tucked against her cheek. Her eyelids flickered as invisible dreams danced through her mind. Oh how I wish I could see inside. Her Dad-O and I are the ones who know her best but even we don’t understand everything.
All too often we find ourselves calling through the house for each other’s support.
“Bub, do you know what she is trying to say?”
“I’m not sure,” I reply, “I’m sorry darling, what’s wrong? What are you trying to say?”
I scan the room for hints on what she might be thinking; was it something on the TV? Is she hungry? Is she thirsty? Is she in pain? Has she invented a new way to play and she’s trying to show us? Has she remembered something we used to do with her? Is she confused? Is she asking us to clarify something for her? To make her life easier?
Her brow furrows as she gets lost in thought, trying to find the right words from her limited toddler vocabulary.
“We’re sorry baby, we don’t understand.”
All too often we see her give up, realising that she just cannot explain what she needs. Though others say that her speech is wonderful for her age, on the few times she struggles, my heart breaks, as I’m sure her Dad-O’s does too.
Granted, she’s an incredible toddler and rarely loses her temper, but she is so young, so innocent, isn’t it wrong for her needs to go unmet?
These are the things that I stress over when I leave her in another’s care.
Now, it may just be my anxiety and my need to be organised and to follow a strict plan – so everyone knows what to expect of each other, I tell myself. Or it may just be that I care for my daughter, and that this stress is another normal part of parenthood, for me at least. Who knows?
I struggled to resist stroking her hair or touching her cheek as she slept so peacefully, but my logical mind told me not to, that it would only make the evening that much more difficult if she were to wake.
You see, Dad-O and I are leaving now, mid-afternoon, for a late lunch, a dinner and a drink with old mates from his previous workplace. We’ve spent evenings together without our daughters before, but never from the afternoon onwards. Never in the middle of her nap time until well past her night bed time.
My anxiety starts to peak as I frantically think through everything that they’ll need for their lunch, their dinner and their bath and bed routine.
Did I explain which nappies were whose? Did I explain the correct amount of hot water to add to the youngest’s bottles? What if something happens to the pre-mixed bottles? Maybe I should make another bottle, just in case. Did I leave enough food for the eldest? Maybe I should prepare more food too, just in case. Did I get out everything for their bath time? What if they dirty those clothes? Should I get out another couple of sets of clothes out? Did I demonstrate how to tuck the baby into bed? What if she doesn’t want to sleep? What if she gets cranky and struggles through the evening routine? What if the eldest gets stressed from the baby being upset? What if she’s stressed that we’re not home? That we’ve just disappeared while she was sleeping. What if she thinks we’re not coming back?
I fight back tears as one thing piles onto another, and a simple covering of the bases blows up into me potentially foregoing the entire night.
I snap out of it and regain my composure. I do this every time. It’s something I’ve been working hard to control, and Dad-O does really well in supporting me, though I know I’ll never overcome it completely. It’ll always be there, in the back of my mind, telling me to turn around and go back, to protect them, to make sure that I know what’s happening and that I’ll have the control to make the best decision if something goes wrong. So I won’t regret leaving them if something does go wrong.
I leave their room, and walk down the hall, constantly cycling worries through my mind, trying to counter them in any way possible.
A new thought appears, one that has taken a lot of push and pull, but one that appears more often nowadays than it ever used to; they adore their nanny. They know what to expect from her and she knows what I need to feel assured that they’ll be okay. And they will be okay.
I step into the lounge, all spruced up with make-up and hair done, some pretty evening clothes on and maybe some lingerie underneath – something I don’t do often enough – and reluctantly announce that I’m ready to leave.
I take a seat in the car, breathing deep and telling myself over and over, they’ll be okay.
As a cherry on top, Dad-O leans over from the driver side, kisses me softly and – as though he read my mind – says, “they’ll be okay,” before he starts the car and we head off for what will be the longest I’ve ever been without the girls.

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