All Posts Tagged: fiction
By David Sarachman
“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.”
Her name (the name she goes by now) is Miranda; and, if you passed her on the street you probably wouldn’t notice her (not many do). If the word “Nondescript” had a face, it would be hers.
Later though, near the end of your day, when you’re alone, when it’s quiet; you would remember a feeling of warmth–like a campfire or fireplace. A heat that would twine itself around you as she had passed by, when you closed your eyes you would see her eyes, burning like twin embers in the dark looking back at you.
You want to stay in this moment forever, but then the phone rings, you get a text—life has once again found away of intruding.. So, maybe you shake your head, and then laugh at yourself with your silly imagination! The image of those eyes, and the memory of that warmth melts away like snow in the spring. You forget the day when you passed that woman on the street and in mere hours your life is colder… more “normal” once again.
Sometimes though, someone, a person (maybe even you), for no reason, and yet, perhaps, because of every reason—someone like you decides to follow her as she walks. Something about this plain, nondescript woman stirs something deep within them, something that urges them to follow.
If that person is indeed you, you’d be able to see that she walked without any urgency to to her step, because wherever it was that she was going she would get there in her own time.
If you keep watching, following, you might see her as she ripples her way through the pulsing crowds of people as they go about on their way to work, or maybe home–or, just somewhere, or nowhere.
Occasionally you’d see a flicker of movement, and then you might notice her hands, long fingered, tanned and lithe, kissed with a dozen little burns, that from here look like roses.
With these hands, she dances, and as she moves she begins to choose people. People unaware that they have become partners to a melody they cannot hear.
She moves unnoticed—like a feather in the wind, circling them as they make their way in their world. At the end of her dance she reaches out, and she touches them, it’s the lightest of touches for the briefest of moments; a dream has more weight.
If your eyes are very quick, you’d see these chosen ones smile, their eyes are now a little less dim, their smiles come more easier, their steps a little bit lighter—their lives a little brighter.
She walks this route every morning, making sure to come in contact with six people this way every day on her way, but, sometimes she manages as many as ten (but never less than four). She has no “type” except, maybe, that the people she chooses all seem to be carrying a weight that only she can see, for she is familiar with chains—but she has never explained herself and no one has ever asked.
You continue to follow her (unsure now if you could stop, even if you wanted to) as she makes her way to the front doors of the Olympus Lighting Company, founded in 1930 by Charles Morgan. Mr. Morgan doesn’t own the company anymore (nor, in fact, is he alive), but his name remains, painted on the bottom of the sign.
Just beyond these front doors, like a shrine to some discarded god, there is painting of the man mounted on the wall. Torn, dusty and faded (much like Charles at the end of his life), the painting hangs like a tattered sail, seeming to flutter in the gasping and flickering light of the three incandescent bulbs that have been burning since the day the building first opened.
The painting remains, because like the late Mr. Charles Morgan, it’s presence has been forgotten.
Miranda makes her way through that hall, but, sometimes, depending on the day (or her mood), she stops, and spends some time with the painting.
You cannot see what she is doing, but, if, by some trick, you could see her face during these moments, you’d that she was smiling— it’s a sad wistful thing filled with knowing and broken promises. Miranda knew Charles when he was a young man all those many years ago. She had a different name then, and a different face—she has had hundreds of both.
She leaves the painting behind her and makes her way through a series of doors. Some of these doors are adorned with signs (all different), and all of them are covered in a red paint that is now peeling and faded. On some of the doors there is the worn space of where a sign used to hang.
Long ago, the Olympus Lighting Company made hundreds of different kinds of lights made by hundreds of different people. Lights that shone like stars and chased away the dark. If you were alive thirty years ago, the chances are good that you lived your life under an Olympus light.
Make your Day from out of Night with Bright and Glowing OLYMPUS LIGHTS!
But not any more—these days the only things being made here are night lights and there is only one person making them.
These night lights made here aren’t funny, or cute. They’re not shaped like talking cowboy toys or singing snow sorceress’s. Miranda makes only one kind of night light, and it’s a gaudy, blue thing with a horrid little smile. It’s a little bit terrifying, but Miranda thinks they’re beautiful.
To be honest, they’re not even a very bright light (at least to mortal eyes), and they probably wouldn’t sell very well (not that they’ve ever been for sale), but they are the last product of the Olympus Lighting Company and their intent was never meant to be bright—they were made to keep the monsters away.
Miranda is now standing at her place on the assembly line (as she has times beyond counting before), in front of her, arranged in a semicircle, is a row of parts—plastic, glass and hundreds of tiny bits of metal arrayed before her. This is where she makes them—there is no one else.
Silently she begins to assemble the parts of things into a whole thing; there is a rhythm to her movements, as if she were playing a harp or conducting a symphony.
There are parts enough to make only a dozen this time. Perhaps tomorrow there will be enough parts for more— perhaps less. She never knows until she arrives and even then it’s not certain. She doesn’t know who delivers the parts, only that they will be there when she arrives, or they will not be; she has never questioned this.
The parts begin to dwindle, and a row of new night lights begins to grow.
Each light is small, blue and mis-shapeningly ugly (maybe they’re a clown? Or beast? She has never thought too hard on it). As conventional lighting go, they are rather sad looking, since (as previously stated)—they don’t give off much light.
If you’re a monster though (or have the heart of one), that light will burn you out of the memory of the world…forever.
She looks at the assembled row now, her eyes reddened, and fatigue flashing across her face. She looks at twelve lights she has made today; twelve tiny beacons— grotesque little lanterns. Not much to look at when they’re off, but chain them to the power of Zeus and they will keep you safe from the dark.
She begins, carefully and gently to pack them into a single box. She won’t have to ship them—for that is not her burden.
Somehow though, they will be collected, and these lights will find their way to those that need them most. Tonight, somewhere in this world (or another) twelve children will wake up to a muted flickering glow from an ugly little blue faced light plugged into their wall. They won’t know how they it got there, but in the end it won’t matter because within the glow the monsters cannot find them, and, for the first time in forever they will sleep without fear.
Miranda doesn’t know what time it is when she leaves the factory but it’s already dark. The street lights have already begun to flicker to life but Miranda knows they are a false light, and they do nothing to keep the monsters away. She chuckles (or maybe coughs) as she begins her long walk home.
She has spent a lifetime making these lights— thousands of lifetimes. From the very first one, with a light stolen from the gods of Olympus (and was punished for it!) to today. She’ll keep on making these night lights with that stolen fire for as long as she can, for as long as the fire lasts.
Her lights are the only thing that keep the monsters away.
She (once he) stole fire from the gods back when the Earth was a dark place and gave it to those fledgling creatures called humanity to keep the monsters away. The gods punished her for it— but she escaped that mountain AND that accursed eagle. She escaped, and ran, and hid.
She walks home, and as she does she remembers her first home (and her first face), in Greece, and she remembers her first name—Prometheus, she chuckles, maybe next life she’ll be a man again…but perhaps not.
She doesn’t know if the gods have stopped hunting for her but, after all this time she no longer cares. She changes her names and her face every mortal lifetime more out of habit or boredom than of fear .
Maybe the gods HAVE stopped looking, maybe they’re dead (they’ve been so quiet)? The monsters aren’t dead though (there are always more monsters)—so she keeps making her lights.
Because, if she didn’t…the monsters would have found you.
Because you remember that night light…
This is why you followed…
Tau-Ceti System, Galactic Hegemony, 23562 GY
Ambassador Kroon stared at the holographic report that floated in front of him; the phosphor blue glow of a million points of calculated data reflected a thousand times across the surface of his multifaceted eyes.
He idly tapped
the tips of his phalanges on the cryssteel surface of his desk, because he found the sound of the clicking soothing– a habit he had frustratingly acquired recently, much to the chagrin of his aide who stood, quietly, and patiently, behind him.
Kroon had been staring at the data for over three malons, but it had felt like longer– it was probably longer.
Kroon’s eyes flitted over the data, and the tempo of his rapping increased until it had reached a level where his aide was convinced that the desk was going to shatter (and of course he would get blamed for).
“We’re doomed!” Screeched Kroon as he exploded to his feet– flailing arms sending both his chair and his assistant flying.
The chair landed with a crash– he’s probably going to blame me for this. His assistant lamented as he flew through the air.
The ambassador spun around, all four of his arms in the air and a frantic look in his eyes. He paused mid panic to look at the knocked over chair, and, the knocked over assistant; he seemed confused at the presence of both.
“Doomed, Ambassador?” The assistant asked, dusting himself off as he stood.
“Yes! Doomed! Completely, and, utterly doomed!” Kroon wailed.
“That’s a pretty broad statement sir, perhaps you could, maybe, I don’t know–narrow down the doom?”
“I have reviewed the data,” Kroon said glumly.
“Ah…the data” said the aide.
“And I have arrived at a most unpleasant realization.”
“I had surmised that sir,” observed the aide.
“You have?” Kroon asked, his tone suggesting that he doubted his aide’s ability to surmise anything.
His aide nodded.
Kroon glared at his assistant, his antennae twitched in such a way that indicated that he didn’t trust his aide. His aide however, used to the paranoia of his employer merely shrugged and up righted the chair.
“Please ambassador, I am eager to hear of this doom.” He gestured towards the chair.
“It’s about the humans.” Kroon’s tone was almost petulant.
“So you said.”
“Well, Ambassador, it was implied.”
“I implied the doom was with regards to the humans?”
The aide nodded again, “yes sir, however I have not deduced, whether it is, that the doom you scream of, or, sorry, speak of, is that the humans are doomed, or, that the humans bring doom?”
“It’s the latter,” Kroon said, “why would I care if the humans were doomed?”
“Of course sir–so the humans are the source of the doom.”
“So, you’ve read the report?”
The aide shook his head, “no sir, I have not.”
“And yet, you stand there surmising your way through sensitive data…”
“A benefit of working for you, sir,” the aide shrugged.
Kroon rubbed his antennae, “I remain unconvinced.”
“I shall aspire to convince you sir, and failing that, learn to live with the shame of failure, but, you were saying something about doom?”
“Yes…yes…the report points to calamity with the humans–wait, can we call them humans? Or, is Terrans the more correct term? Or do we call them Earthers? Damn those new sensitivity protocols!”
“You were saying ambassador,” the aide prodded.
“Yes, the humans,” the ambassador agreed.
“I suspected so sir.”
“How do you come to this suspicion?” Kroon eyed his aide suspiciously.
The aide cleared his throat, “well sir, if you had not realized a problem, I believe you would not have reacted the way you did.”
“I reacted?” Kroon seemed surprised.
“Positively sir, your earlier performance was not that of a being that had solved a problem, but that of a being that had realized that the problem is…”
“–yes?” Kroon asked.
“…problematic,” replied the aide.
Kroon slumped, and seemed not so much to sit down, as he poured himself into his chair–liquids sat down with less fluidity.
“It’s true,” Kroon sighed.
“So sir, do you have a solution?” The aide asked.
“The solution…ah yes…the solution. The solution is currently a statement, which seems innocent enough, however, if it is taken the wrong way by the humans and not in the spirit for which it was intended…”
“–and what was the intended spirit Ambassador?” asked the aide.
“That the humans are monsters, and will destroy us all.”
“That seems a bit harsh, perhaps sir, you should read the statement to me and, perhaps we can modify the message.” The aide offered.
“But, the doom?” Implored Kroon.
“We’ll try to keep the message of doom Ambassador, for that is the crux of the message is it not? We’ll just try to spin it in such a way so as not to offend anyone as per the new sensitivity protocols.”
Seemingly mollified, Kroon cleared his throat, “So it is the just and fair decision of the council of the Galactic Hegemony, that the inhabitants of the planet known as….” He spun around to look at his screen. “…earth, be restricted to their own solar system in the hopes that they will not bring ruin, destruction and Armageddon to us all.” Kroon stared at his assistant.
“Does that sound too strong? That sounds strong to me. ” the ambassador suddenly now less confident– nervously fiddled with his antenna.
“Well it’s a little strong” replied his aide
“It’s just that we can’t really have a race of poison breathing pursuit predators wandering the Galaxy.”
The aide shuddered “Carbon Dioxide? But that’s a banned substance.”
Kroon continued, “I know! And, these carbon-based lifeforms make it naturally! They’re walking weapons factory!” He shrilled as he started to pace, “Seven billion carbon dioxide expelling weapons platforms-we have to contain them before they kill us all!”
“They might not see that way.”
“Well we can’t really go to them and ask them to alter their basic biological makeup can we?” Kroon threw up his appendages, “wait…can we?”
The aide shook his head.
“No of course we can’t! We most likely cannot…probably can’t”
The aide glanced over at the hologram, “some might say we’re punishing the humans for something outside their control ”
“Do you want a population of poison breathing hunters, who by the way, only require seven hours sleep instead of fourteen– but can survive with much less. Do you want a population of sleepless humans hunting your loved ones? Because that’s what they’ll do with all that extra consciousness they have.”
“No of course not,” replied the aide.
“And you can shoot them in an appendage and they can survive! They’re unstoppable killing machines!” Kroon whispered.
“They might not be that bad…”
“And,” Kroon shook, “Do you know what they eat?” Kroon didn’t wait for an answer, “they eat organic material!”
“Yes but…” said the aide.
“Do you know what we’re made of?” Kroon glared at his aide.
“Organic material! We are made of human food! We’re probably delicious!” Kroon looked at one of his arms and shuddered.
“And, they chew it! With these sharpened hardened deposits of calcium that they keep in their face orifice! Imagine it, you’re out and about, enjoying the day when BAM! Out of the bushes you get jumped by a human and they tear into you with those….” He spun around and shifted through the data hologram. “Teeth! By the stars they call them Teeth! Have you ever heard anything as horrible as that?”
“And!” Kroon barreled on, “the same hole they use to eat with, they use to communicate with! They use their murder holes as their primary means of communication!”
“And that’s not even the worse part!” Kroon screamed.
“There’s a worse part?” Asked the aide.
“They have a gestation period of around one solar cycle. One CYCLE!”
“Only one?” The aide gulped.
“ONE! And their females don’t die after giving birth! So, maybe, one day you stumble upon a nest of humans, and you think, well that’s nice, a pack of humans in the wild, nature is truly beautiful. The next thing you know, there’s a billion humans on your planet and they’re eating your face!
“Eating your face with their teeth!”
“I am sure it’s not as bad…”
“No! No, no, this has to be done. We let these humans…” Kroon sneered, “off their planet, and the next thing you know, we’re on the verge of a galactic apocalypse, and do you know what they’ll say?”
“I really think…”
“They’ll say– well, we had a really nice universe until that ambassador Kroon let those humans into it, it’s a shame about all that apocalypse we’re having. And, then there will be an inquiry, and a tribunal, and then I can pretty much kiss my pension goodbye.”
“Sir I really think you’re blowing the situation out of proportion.”
“Of course you do, you won’t be the one they turn into a cautionary tale. Oohh don’t touch that, don’t be a Kroon!” He rested his forehead on his desk, antennae twitching.
“Well you’re going to have to let the humans know that their petition to join the Galactic Council has been…declined.”
“Well that’s a problem.” Kroon said, never raising his head.
“Why is that?”
“There isn’t a petition.”
“How can there not be a petition. They created an entire new department within the ambassadorial wing to accommodate the Human Petition, we have our jobs because of it.”
“About what?” The aide asked.
“The Human Petition.”
“I made it up,” Kroon practically whimpered.
“You made what up Ambassador?”
“The whole thing, the request! The petition to join! All of it!” Kroon was wailing again.
“Why would you do that?”
“At the time, before I knew anything about the humans, before all this, I thought that humans were these mostly harmless, non-toxic furry things with long ears. I thought, how good it would be for my career if I, Kroon, helped guide a fledgling species into the Galactic Hegemony? I would have been celebrated! I would have been promoted…there would probably have been a parade.”
“But now…” the aide said.
“Now, the Galactic council is expecting me to present my findings on the humans! They’ll want to know if they should be considered. Which we can never do because two malons after we let the humans in, the entire universe will burn down and they’re going to be looking for the guy holding the match, and do you know who that’s going to be?!”
“Me!” Kroon cried.
“Well, couldn’t you retract the petition, couldn’t you tell the council the humans changed their minds?”
“I can’t do that! Because as soon as a petition is retracted it gets passed to another department, and they’re going to investigate why the humans changed their minds.”
“Ah,” said the aide.
“Exactly! They’ll find out, and then goodbye ambassadorial position, hello head of sanitation…and that’s if I’m lucky!”
“So you have to suggest that the council deny the request.” The aide offered.
“I can’t do anything else, since I, as I am sure you’d agree, have become fond of living in a galaxy that isn’t engulfed in flames.”
The aide nodded. “So what’s the problem then? Deny the humans and be done with that”
“Because I have to send them a refusal!”
“So… ummm…fake it.”
“I can’t! The refusal must be sent by galactic standard quantum courier, and their response must be catalogued.”
“So, what if the humans, when the get the refusal, come and investigate? What then? What happens when the King Human flies in, breathes poison everywhere and then demands to know why they were refused entry?”
“Would they even care? I mean, surely Ambassador if they aren’t even aware they are being considered, maybe they’ll have a good laugh and then move on.”
Kroon stared at his assistant, “are you a fool? Of course they’ll care. I’m sure they’ll think that they applied but forgot. So, now we have a group of amnesiac killer humans all over the place and wanting to know why they were refused for an application that they can’t even remember sending.”
“Well, maybe if you phrase the refusal in a manner that makes it seem that the not joining the Hegemony is actually better for them…” the aide said.
“Of course! Make it seem that the Galactic Hegemony is a horrible place to be! I mean, it practically is already… We make it so horrible they’ll think they dodged a blaster shot!” Kroon cheered, “You’re a genius….er…”
“Steven, Ambassador…my name is Steven.”
“Ah, of course…really? Your names Steven? Well, anyway, well done Steven! When the dust from this ordeal settles I will remember you fondly in my memoirs.”
“Thank you Ambassador.”
Kroon turn back to his desk and cracked four sets of knuckles.
“Now…how do you spell hegemony in human again?”
I should have stuck with music and joined a band, Thought Steven as the Ambassador began to type.
Earth, SETI Observatory February 1 2016
Dr. Andrea McCormack is staring at her monitor. A thousand mathematical equations are reflecting across the lenses of her glasses. A pop-up flashes in the lower corner of her screen.
New message from Kroon
Idly, she clicks open and begins to read her email, she doesn’t recognize the sender or what a Kroon is…maybe German? But her mind is pudding from looking at star map data all day.
She glances over the message, “Hey Steve!” she calls out to her lab assistant who has been busy trying to look busy.
“Yes Dr. McCormack?” he responds hastily closing his Facebook page.
“Apparently we’ve been declined entry into something called hedge monkey.”
“Isn’t Hedge Monkey the name of that Nirvana cover band? They play at the Whale every Thursday, they aren’t very good,” he adds.
“Really? Well they’ve declined us entry, or something, it’s not really clear here. Just goes on and on about carbon dioxide. Ah well, I guess we’ll have to continue just being astrophysicists.”
“Damn,” Steve says as he turns back to his computer. “I always wanted to be in a band.”