Fiction Fursday/First Contact

This week, my writing prompt comes from my long-suffering partner in crime, Samwise. Her suggestion was that I write about a world where humans do not exist. I think this is a great prompt which gave me a several ideas right away. In fact, I may revisit the prompt  another time because there are lots of stories I’d like to write from it!

After some thought, I decided to give the subject a sci-fi twist and take some of the focus away from the human-less planet. I hope you enjoy what I’ve managed to come up with.

P.S. If any of you would like to suggest a prompt for me to use in the future, please feel free to let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

 

First Contact

By Adam Dixon

When the shining rock burst out of the sky and crashed into the ocean the dolphins hurried to see it. Its landing had been terrifying; it had slammed into the ocean and tidal waves had erupted from the depths like roused giants fleeing for the shore. It took them many days to swim from their respective territories across the world, but the rock had remained inactive during that time, floating and steaming silently. Bobbing upon the warm waves near the shores of southern Spain, the Seven Kings and Seven Queens of the Seas clicked and screeched to one another in agitation as they waited for…something. They couldn’t explain it but they knew that the appearance of the rock was only the beginning of something incredibly important. Some parted the seawater in smooth movements as they circled the huge floating object, not quite knowing what to make of it. It appeared to have been crafted by hand and so was not simply a rock after all. It was unlike anything the Simian-Builders could hope to produce and the workmanship far exceeded them. The material was smooth and gleaming in the sunlight, and they could not understand its buoyancy. It was too large and heavy and its surface area too oddly-shaped to allow it to float, but float it did. It had caused a panic when it had been spotted as a ball of flame tearing across the sky but soon the animals’ fear had given way to curiosity. Finally, the combined minds of the Intelligent Species had identified it as some kind of great shell, most likely containing a living thing. That idea alone was enough to send ripples of awe and apprehension through the ranks of the world. A living thing which came from beyond the sky! What did it mean?

The dolphins were nervous and squeaked in excitement as the front of the shell began to hiss, seeming to break open and push a small section away from the main bulk. The score of apes in attendance grunted and whooped on board their sturdy wooden barge. The barge was lashed to the back of a great whale, who occasionally saw fit to spray its passengers with discharge from its blow-hole. The hulking gorillas ignored the action but the chimpanzees and monkeys leapt about, screeching their annoyance. Eagles, hawks and other majestic birds of prey circled overhead, watching the proceedings with keen eyes and ready talons. They, at least, would not be slaves to their emotions. White smoke billowed out from the shell, followed by the dim silhouette of a large, hunched creature.

“Something is coming!” the king of the Arctic Ocean squeaked. “And it has fire in its shell!” His fellows angrily bade him to be silent. They could not afford to become overexcited. Their coal-black eyes watched as the creature shuffled forwards through the smoke and revealed its form. It was a huge being, reaching seven feet tall despite being bent almost double on three hind legs. Its legs were muscular and hairless, with its dark blue skin shimmering in the light like scales. It had two long, tree-like arms which ended in sharp, tough claws. It had no visible neck, but it had one large, yellow eye at the front, left and right side of its head. Wide below its eyes appeared to be nostrils, but the animals could not see a mouth or a snout anywhere on its face. A sour, unnatural smell emanated from the creature, raising hackles and ruffling feathers in disgust. It was certainly not a smell known to animals, not even to their ancestral memory. The significance of the meeting settled on each creature like a leaden shroud.

“What is it?” the queen of the Pacific Ocean asked, her clicks subdued in wonder. No-one answered her.

It stood on the threshold of its spacecraft, taking in its surroundings. The planet’s nearest star was close enough to provide ample warmth but the glare forced it to squint its eyes. That had been a mistake; it should have calculated for such an inevitability. If the hunter’s vision was impaired, then the hunter lost its prey. It took in careful sips of air, sampling its flavours. The air was clean and unpolluted with plenty of oxygen, although it would have more comfortable with extra nitrogen. It began attempting to identify the various creatures attending it via their strong, individual scents. The water covering the landing spot had an almost overpowering scent of salt which made differentiation a challenge. Another potential hindrance to a hunt, it noted. The damp, silky beings were the closest and one of them swam towards it.

“Strange creature,” the queen of the Indian Ocean chattered, raising herself up to her full height in the water. “I bid you welcome to our domain. You are being addressed by the Seven Kings and Seven Queens of the Seas, alpha-mammals all and elected spokes-creatures for all life. Close by are representatives of the gallant Sky-Creatures and the Simian-Builders. Please identify yourself. Be you animal, vegetable or mineral? Do you come for a home, for a mate or for prey?” She flicked her tail to remain in her proud position, staring intently at the creature. The other dolphins bobbed in silence, waiting for any response. The creature gazed out at the assembled lifeforms impassively, turning its body to encompass them all in its wide field of vision. The tension from the animals was as palpable as the warmth of the sun and the caress of the wind on their skin, fur and feathers. The creature made no indication of understanding, it merely stood in its shell with its nostrils flaring as it tasted the air.

It was good to feel an atmosphere again, despite the frivolity of such desires. The creature counted fifty-four lifeforms in its immediate vicinity, including those in the sky. It concluded that it had been reckless to expose itself to three potential angles of attack, but it had been curious. Curious and bored. It had been a long journey to reach this small blue planet, and its orders were to scout for information, after all. But a hunter did not reveal itself to the prey, a hunter waited. It had failed this most basic lesson…

“I repeat, please identify yourself,” the queen of the Indian Ocean squeaked, her pitch betraying her impatience. Still the creature said nothing. A guttural hooting came from the whale-barge, and one of the gorillas, a proud silverback, was calling to the dolphins.

“I think the Simian is correct, my queen,” the king of the Atlantic Ocean clicked. “The creature doesn’t appear to understand us.”

“Hmmph! Perhaps!” the queen of the Indian Ocean snapped. “But tell that brute to keep his opinions to himself! He and his kind have our blessing to observe, not to make suggestions, sharks take them all!” The silverback was swiftly remonstrated and attention swung back to the alien. What was it, and what was it doing there?

It watched the collection of species before it with great interest. There were a wondrous variety of creatures on the planet, some of which appeared to be bound completely to the ocean. It was impressed by the ingenuity of the large, hairy beings who had braved and conquered the seas, albeit with the aid of a lesser, but gigantic, species. That indicated great potential. What of the aquatic creatures, though? They had attempted to communicate with it, that much was certain. Its tiny ears were hurt by the high-pitched calls of the individual which had addressed it. That one was clearly their leader. It would have to watch with caution. What else? Judging by the way that all of the creatures stared at its spacecraft it deduced that they had not seen metalwork before. They also did not possess any form of ground-to-air defences; it had simply coasted onto their planet at its leisure! So, they were primitive despite their obvious intelligence and were many generations away from space-travel yet. That was a pity, as perhaps they would have provided the challenge its people sought otherwise…

“I shall try to communicate using echolocation,” the queen of the Indian Ocean declared, swimming gracefully in a circle in order to look at each of her subjects and fellows. “It will not work as effectively on the surface, but it’s worth a try, I believe. Stand by…”

What was the leader doing now? It had moved through the waves with the ease of a great hunter, casting its eyes on the others gathered around it. Such an effective adaption; those creatures would prove difficult to best in the water. Something was about to happen, and the alien stood calmly as it waited. It reared up in alarm and pain as an assault of noise sent shock-waves into its skull. What was that?!

The animals screeched, yelled and chattered in astonishment as the creature made its first reaction since appearing to them. Most of them could only just make out the high-pitched series of clicks the dolphin was making, but they saw that the alien could not bear it. The combined racket of the animals only made it worse. It thrashed its huge arms wildly and stomped its three feet, producing a clanging noise from the strange shining shell. Overhead, the leader of the eagles perceived the burst of movement as a display of aggression and shrieked its battle-cry. Spreading his wings wide, he dove down towards the distressed creature, two of his fellows joining him and stretching their razor-like talons.

Despite the intense ringing inside its skull, it still saw the approaching creatures. There was no doubt as to their intentions. It spun and struck out at the winged beasts, its claws tearing into one of them in mid-flight. The creature fell into the ocean with a splash, crimson blood darkening the water and torn feathers decorating the surface. Talons raked across its broad back and above its central eye, ripping open the tight, hardened skin. It staggered in pain and surprise; not even its prey on advanced worlds had managed to break its hide with such ease! So, the planet did have warriors after all… Cool purple blood seeped into its eye and down its back as it took a defensive stance and awaited a second attack. The surviving beasts wheeled and rose high into the air once again. This was more like it!

“Stop! Stop!” the dolphins keened in unison. The creature flinched and the entire gathering of Sky-Beasts halted their lethal dive, pounding their impressive wings to hover a few meters above it. A few seconds later and they would have engulfed the creature. The apes were screeching and leaping about in a fury, smelling the acrid blood of the stranger and roaring their challenges to it. The whale beneath them became agitated, rocking the platform violently in an attempt to dislodge the barge. The apes panicked and tried their best to calm the whale with soothing ululations, clambering down the side of the platform to gently pat its glistening skin. The great beast stopped rocking, but sprayed water in agitation. The dolphins took stock of their surroundings, making sure that everything was once again under control before turning to face the creature. They were dismayed to see the creature lumbering back inside its shell and it closing up behind it. The oddly-shaped thing hummed and whirred unnaturally and a maelstrom of foam and heated water spun beneath it as it began to lift off from the sea.

It flicked switches and touched flashing screens with its pointed claws, irritated by the red blood which was smeared across the controls. It had underestimated the earthlings, which had been a grave error considering how hopelessly outnumbered it was. It had refused to give in to its blood-rage and had recognised the need to flee, but it had learned plenty during the brief visit. The creatures it had seen were intelligent and would make worthy adversaries, but it had concluded with certainty that the planet was not ready for interstellar combat. It glanced up at the preserved skeletons of defeated creatures from across the universe; grisly trophies which decorated every single ship of its people. They were warriors and lived for the thrill of battle, but they did not wish to engage in combat with creatures of lesser worth or prowess. No, this Earth was not yet ready. But it would be, and when its people returned in force…those would be glorious days! It closed its eyes as its craft sped through Earth’s atmosphere, imagining with longing the war to come. Soon, they would return…

Fiction Fursday/Flossy’s Chance

It’s Thursday again and time for another short story. This week my prompt comes from the Ben Kenobi to my Luke Skywalker of short stories, Geoff Le Pard. By the way, did you lot know that he’s published his Nano stories in a collection? Well then, now you do and you can visit the Amazon page and take a look! Go on, they’re very good!

Geoff’s suggestion is an interesting one. He challenged me to write a story in the 2nd person involving a rescue dog. Now, I don’t believe I’ve ever written a story in the 2nd person before so I’ve taken on the challenge with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I hope it turned out okay! Thanks again, Geoff!

P.S. If any of you lovely people would like to challenge me to write a story one week, please feel free to leave a comment and let me steal your ideas!

Flossy’s Chance

By Adam Dixon

Do you remember when they first brought you home? The word hadn’t prompted feelings of security or solace before, only thoughts of misery and pain. The big place with the cages hadn’t been much better as you had missed your old master terribly despite all he had done. You liked the new humans a lot, in fact you believed that you loved them, but you weren’t sure about “going home” again. Your fears were allayed almost immediately as soon as you stepped into their house, your three legs quivering. It was much, much bigger than the last one you lived in and it smelled better too. It smelled cleaner, more inviting, with barely a hint of alcohol anywhere. It smelled of happiness and comfort, without the pervasive taint of anger and bitterness. The two little boys even gave you a new name to signify your new life: Chance. It was a good name and you loved it.

Do you remember when you saw Flossy for the first time? You were quite a shock to her as well! The old black cat was extremely put-out by your arrival, viewing you as an invader to her home of peace and pampering. You were frightened of her to begin with, but then again you were frightened of everything back then. Flossy resorted to passive-aggression anyway: she would hiss at you if you approached her food bowl and she would demurely ignore you whenever you sniffed her but she would never touch you. You grew confident and happy with that thought in mind and began to truly enjoy your new home. The young boys would take you out for your daily walks, laughing merrily as you hobbled along to keep up. You would cower whenever another dog drew near, whimpering as they tried to greet you. You even ran from adoring strangers who wanted to stroke you and call you a good boy. You were so frightened of everything, but you knew that you were safe with your new family nearby.

Then, the incident happened. You remember it well, although I’m sure that you wish you didn’t. You had been playing with the boys and had retreated out into the garden as they chased you. Barking with delight, you had stumbled into the grassy paradise eager for more. The boy’s mother had called them back, however, so you were left to amuse yourself. You knew that you shouldn’t have gone anywhere near the wall, but curiosity got the better of you. You approached the low wooden structure and after sniffing about you scented your neighbour. Too late. With a bark more akin to a roar, the gigantic hound from next door leaped over the fence and stood in front of you, his eyes alight with fire. You were so frightened! You had heard the nightly declarations of the great beast for months, listening to him boast about his strength and cunning and of how he could tear any of the local dogs apart. Staring up at his bared fangs you believed it completely. The big dog mocked you with his laughing growl and approached with deliberate menace. You whimpered and begged, crouching as low as possible because fleeing was futile. Your almost-forgotten memories of the beatings and the cruelty came flooding back and you almost died of fear then and there.

The last thing you expected was for Flossy to get involved. You were dimly aware of the sound of the cat-flap bursting open and before you knew it a black streak of fur sailed over your head and struck the big dog. The dog yelped and leaped backwards, bleeding from deep scratches on his face. Flossy stood between you and the beast, her hackles raised and her tail erect like a sword, spitting and hissing furiously. The big dog was shaken by the sudden interference and stared down at the old cat in disbelief. Flossy screeched and charged, her claws extended. The big dog yelped like a new-born pup and scrambled back over the wall in a panic. Flossy nimbly jumped on top on the wall and hurled more abuse at the hound as he raced away. You were saved!

From that day on, Flossy rarely left your side. It’s strange, isn’t it? The way Flossy saw herself as your protector after months of dislike? Clearly it had all been an act and you had never been happier to realise it. Your new-found guardian angel stalked a few feet behind you whenever you hobbled into the garden and could be spotted watching you play in the park with the children, calmly licking her fur but keeping a wary eye on everything. Feeling her watchful green eyes on you at all times made you feel as if you were wearing armour. Nobody and nothing could touch you when Flossy was around!

Sadly though, Flossy was an old cat…her death hit you hard, didn’t it? You knew that she hadn’t been well for a long time and tried to stop her from following you when her legs were aching. Flossy ignored you and followed you anyway. She was a stubborn old thing, wasn’t she! She never shirked one day from her duties as your protector, did she? It was heart-breaking for you when she passed during the night and your piteous howls of pain awoke the family to share in your grief. It was a dark day when Flossy the Super-Cat wasn’t watching you anymore…

You’re still going to lie there, then? Ever since she was buried under her favourite apple tree you’ve spent hours lying there in the evenings. Do you mean to watch over her as she once did for you? If so, you’re a very sweet dog. Flossy would be happy knowing that you still cared. But it is getting dark now, so perhaps you had better come inside. There’s a good boy.

A-Z Challenge Day 1

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The day has arrived for me to plunge headlong into the A-Z Challenge this month!

To kick things off, my first prompt has been provided by the lovely Niki, and her word is ‘ABANDONED’. Quite a powerful word right from the start and one which threw up plenty of ideas right away. Here’s what I was able to come up with.

Quick note: As the word suggests, this story leans heavily on the emotional side, so consider yourselves warned!

ABANDONED

By Adam Dixon

It was cold and wet and Jasper wanted to go home. The wind had picked up, chilling his sodden fur and making him tremble. He tugged pathetically at his lead but it had been tied securely to a fence post. He lay back down and gazed forlornly in the direction his Master had gone.
Jasper didn’t know why his Master had seen fit to leave him alone in the rain. He knew that there must be a reason for, as his Master was not an impulsive Man. Perhaps he had been BAD again…Jasper knew that he was a BAD DOG because his Master so often told him so. He wanted to be GOOD and tried to do all the things that a GOOD DOG should, but he was still BAD and his Master was angry with him an awful lot.
Perhaps this was his Punishment then? When Jasper was BAD he would often be driven from the house and be made to sleep outside. When he had been VERY BAD, like when he had accidentally knocked over the Man-Pup, he had been kicked several times and then locked outside for two days. It was his Punishment for being too big and too clumsy, and Jasper knew this well. He couldn’t help being so big, but he should be more careful, especially around the small Man-Pup.
But what had he done this time? He must have been VERY BAD to deserve this kind of Punishment! Jasper racked his brains but could not think of anything he had done recently which was especially BAD. Perhaps that was the point, and that he once he acknowledged his behaviour his Master would return and allow him to get back into the Car. Then they would drive home once more, and Jasper would be better…
By the third day Jasper was very hungry. He had been able to drink from various puddles of water due to the constant rain, but hunger was gnawing at his belly with the same level of commitment Jasper gnawed at his squeaky Toys. He looked up expectantly every time a Car approached the field, but his was never his Car and so it continued past the unhappy dog. Jasper began to whine softly. He’d be a GOOD DOG if his Master came back soon!
Later that third day, a big Car approached and stopped on the roadside, a few feet from where Jasper lay. It was not Jasper’s Car, so he remained where he was and ignored it. The doors opened and a Man and a Woman climbed out. The Man was short with black hair and a beard, and the woman was tall with blond hair and freckles. Both were dressed in dark uniforms with a blue badge across their left breast. They approached Jasper cautiously, wearing large smiles and speaking in hushed, soothing tones. They moved almost within touching distance before Jasper seemed to finally notice them and shied away, whimpering. Who were these people? Where was his Master?
The Man and Woman stopped and looked at each other. They exchanged some brief words before the Man strode back to the Car. The Woman stayed where she was, crouching in the pouring rain and smiling at Jasper.
“It’s okay, boy,” she was saying softly, looking earnestly at him. “Me and my friend are here to help you! Look at you, you poor thing! Who would leave a lovely big boy like you out here in the rain, eh?” Jasper stood as far away as his lead would allow, shivering and watching the Woman anxiously. The Woman maintained her crouch until the Man returned, carrying a large umbrella. He passed it to the Woman who opened it slowly and shimmed closer to Jasper. Jasper still trembled, but he allowed the Woman to shelter him from the rain. It felt like a very very long time since Jasper had been out of the rain. The Man and the Woman sat at the roadside, holding the umbrella over Jasper, talking to him continually. The Man went back to the Car once more to fetch a packet of biscuits.
Jasper’s ears pricked up as soon as he smelled the biscuits, but he was unsure whether or not to trust these new people. They seemed nice enough, but where was his Master? He began to whine in distress, tugging at his lead and glancing up the road.
“Come on, boy,” the Woman insisted, holding out a biscuit and blinking rainwater from her eyes. “It’s okay, you’re safe now.” Jasper looked at the biscuit, then up at the Woman. He took a tentative step forward, sniffing the offered treat. After another moment of hesitation, Jasper’s tongue flopped out and he stood munching with crumbs falling from his chops. The Woman whispered encouragement and offered another which Jasper accepted readily this time. Then, something happened which hadn’t occurred for three days: Jasper’s great, rope-like tail began to wag. Jasper had decided that these people were very kind and he was glad of their company. He ate biscuit after biscuit as his new friends attempted to fill his empty belly, and they patted and stroked him as he did so.
“I never get used to seein’ this kind of thing,” the Man said sadly as he closed the back of the Car. Jasper had been untied and with a lot of coaxing they had managed to get him into the vehicle. He now sat inside the Car, wagging his tail vigorously.
“Me neither, mate,” the Woman sighed, shaking rain from her hair. “But it’s a bloody good thing that someone called us. This fella wouldn’t’ve lasted much longer. C’mon, let’s get him to the shelter.”
Presently they got into the Car and began to drive away. In the back, Jasper realised what was happening and began to howl. How would he find his Master now?