Escape Velocity #Writingprompt

pixabay image by Natan Vance

Sci-fi writer Sheron McCartha shares her full story here. I hope you enjoy it.

Escape Velocity

By Sheron Wood McCartha

 

Quiet. So quiet.
The sound of her rasping breath filled the night as empty buildings loomed above on both sides, and a silent street stretched ahead. The only other noise was the thudding echo of her pounding feet on hard pavement as she ran as hard as she could.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
The sole sounds in a deserted city.
Her lungs burned. Her legs ached. She blinked watering eyes.
But she had to keep running.
Darkness surrounded her, making it hard to see ahead.
But she had to continue. She dared not stop.
Behind her the moon swelled, growing larger and larger in the night sky.
She didn’t want to turn around to look.
She couldn’t afford to turn around for even a brief glimpse.

 

For years, the moon had grown larger and larger in the overhead sky, causing ever increasing violent tidal swings. Now, the ground grumbled and shook under its tug every second of every minute, causing low-level cities to be evacuated as tidal surges wiped out people and places. Then higher altitudes were threatened. And higher. In other drier areas, the ground opened up, swallowing entire towns with one gulp.

 

Humanity peered upwards toward the stars for salvation. It would not be found here on this devastated Earth.
Sixty ships built, and fifty-nine already launched—the last now ready to leave the planet behind. Any minute now.
So, too, she would be left behind if she didn’t hurry.
In the distance, she saw the glow of light silhouetting the last ship and heard the faint roar of frantic voices.
Run. Run. Faster. Faster.
Mother had died in her arms, and she’d been glad to be there at her passing, but it may have been a fatal mistake to stay for her last goodbye. Nevertheless, she would never have forgiven herself if she hadn’t.
The com in her pocket vibrated. She pulled it out and took precious time to answer. “What!”
She couldn’t stop a second or even slow.
Not now.
She could see the dark bulk of the ship ahead of her. So close.
“Where are you?”
“Twenty minutes,” she panted. “Twenty minutes.”
“There’s a mob at the front hatch. You’ll have to go around the back to the emergency entrance and move the gantry over three feet to the left. I told the Captain you were a computer wizard, and he would need your skills. Don’t make me a liar. Hurry.”
The voice continued, but she turned it off. She didn’t need the distraction.
She couldn’t afford it.
Blood pulsed in her ears. Her legs ached. Her mouth felt parched from inhaling the smoky night air and puffing it out in hard short bursts.
Huff. Huff. Huff.
She arrived at the edge of the screaming mob, whose fists pounded vainly against impervious metal. Her feet did not slow a step. But, her heart hurt from hearing the desperation in their voices. Quickly, she circled to the back, stumbling in the effort.
She wanted to lie down. To collapse on the ground and never rise again.
But she couldn’t let Jazz down. Her best friend had saved her a seat.
Tugging the gantry to the left, she eyed the endless rungs above her.
Then she began to climb.
Her hands grew raw from the rough metal, and her arms ached as they reached for yet the next rung. Suddenly, she felt the engines stir beneath her hands and the ship began to shake. A hiss of steam vented below her.
The monster within awakened.
Heat licked her heels as engines ignited, and she hammered at the blurred words stenciled in front of her. Emergency Exit. She screamed, hoping to be heard above the increasing volume of noise. Suddenly, the hatch opened and a hand reached out to yank her in, then slammed shut.
Lying on the hard metal floor, she stared up into the frantic face of her friend as the ship rumbled and began to slowly lift. Tears from above splashed onto her cheeks and her lips. “You cut it awfully close.”
She nodded slightly. It was all she could manage. Lifted awkwardly into a chair, buckles snapped around her. The ship gathered velocity and leaped into the night sky with a roar.

 

She closed her eyes as the heavy hand of gravity slammed down on her.
The moon expanded in the night sky outside, dooming all those left behind, but the stars twinkled a promise as they beckoned the ship forward.

March Speculative Fiction Prompt

pixabay image by Natan Vance

For visually challenged writers, this is a silhouette of a young person walking in a street in a darkened and empty city. Overhead is a huge moon eclipsing the sun.

Thank you to everyone who responded to February’s prompt. I loved reading and sharing your stories, poems, and artwork. Now, heading in a new direction once again! Above is March’s image. If interested, you have until March 23rd to submit a response. Happy Writing!

Note: I haven’t been getting all the pingbacks from stories. Yikes! Please be sure to link to this post, not to WP Reader. If you’re unsure, just pop a link in the comments below. Thanks!

Here’s how it works:

On the first of every month, I’ll post a speculative fiction prompt from Pixabay. These images are attribution free so you can use them on your blog without worrying about copyright restrictions.

Throughout the month, in order of receipt, I’ll reblog as many of your prompt-inspired creations as I can. And on the last day of each month, I’ll share a complete round-up of all contributions with links to the original posts. Visiting the blogs of participants is a great way to meet other speculative fiction writers.

Post your response on your own blog and link back to this post with a pingback, so I can reblog your post as well as include you in the month-end round-up. There are no word limits or style restrictions, but please keep it somewhat family friendly.

I encourage all authors to stop in and reply to the kind readers who leave comments about your story. This is a lovely way to build connections.

If you’re unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here. If you prefer, you can copy and paste your link into the comments of this post.

Above all, have fun.

Fragrant #Writephoto

Copyright Sue Vincent

Agatha inherited her grandmother’s home, a small thing as houses went, with creaky floors and spidery cracks, a kitchen with two hundred years of updates and none of them modern. The place smelled of beeswax and herbs, lemon polish, patchouli, and memories.

She loved the quaint place that would become her home, but it was the formal garden that she roamed first. The Garden of Good Intentions, a little hand-painted sign said at the start of the nearest path. Neatly edged walkways, lined with bright fireworks of lavender, divided the round garden into quarters like slices of pie. All well-tended. But it was the myriad roses that had soaked up her grandmother’s devotion—old garden heirlooms and hybrid teas, exotics and wild species, miniatures and clusters of grandifloras.

The garden had once filled Agatha’s childhood with magic, but now as she strolled the pathways, her eyes widened with dread. She was born with a withering, wilting, aphid-prone, black-spotted thumb. In a year, the cherished garden would be dead.

Despite its impending doom, the place was worth an effort at least. Lips pressed between her teeth, Agatha rummaged in the shed for clippers and gloves and donned her grandmother’s straw hat with plastic daisies wired to the brim.

She watered too much when she wasn’t watering too little, cut away dying canes and broke a few living ones, deadheaded, and made her own fertilizers and bug sprays that scarcely worked. In the autumn, she trimmed the bushes back so far that she figured a few would never see spring. And yet somehow, they always recovered after a year… or two, heavy with blooms, vibrant, and smelling like heaven.

Jocelyn inherited her grandmother’s home with its creaky floors and spidery cracks, and though the kitchen had been updated, the place still smelled of honey and herbs, lemon polish and memories. She loved the quaint place that would become her home, but it was the beautiful garden that she roamed first. The Garden of Good Intentions, a hand-painted sign said at the start of the nearest path.

**

This story is in response to Sue Vincent’s #Writephoto prompt. Sue shares a new prompt every Thursday.

Diana’s January Story: Dead Planet

via Pixabay by Stefan Keller

Dead Planet

Our planet died, for no living thing can thrive forever beneath the grinding thumb of neglect. But the blue squalls and wind-carved rime weren’t the first to herald a long overdue demise. We endured fires, then the parched ash and dust of rainless drought. Snow seemed almost a blessing until summer never returned.

Now we trek south, burdened only by the essentials, all luxuries of the past abandoned along the way. Lighten the load. Always lighten the load. Learn to survive with less because that’s become the single, intentional goal. To survive.

I wonder, do the southerners trek north? Will we meet in the middle and goggle at each other, our doom reflected across the narrow gap separating our frozen breaths? These are the things I ponder as my snowshoes cut a jagged groove through the crust.

We reach the mountains’ divide. Finally. Ahead stretches a white tundra, a wind-scoured wasteland. The moon hangs in the sky, thin as spilled milk. Far ahead something unnatural rises from the barren land, and I take it as a sign, an assurance of progress. I aim my feet in its direction.

A small chuckle escapes my chest, a white cloud of warmth. Despite my misery, I still nurture a spark of hope deep in my heart, a promise as bright as midnight fire. Even amidst the endless days of frost and cold and muted color, the world is beautiful, and I long to believe that the gods haven’t forsaken us. Our ancestors cursed us, and we have made mistakes indeed, but salvation must lie ahead. This can’t be the end of everything, can it—our planet a sparkling blue orb, spinning onward, devoid of life?

I sweat beneath my coat and yet my toes are numb, both portending danger. But I cannot die. Not with the gods watching over me. Not with the prayers that I drop like cairns along my trail. The bodies we have left in the snow say otherwise, but I will not accept it. I cannot.

The distant monolith draws nearer, a pale blue mountain, sharp as a dog’s tooth. Its final shape eludes me, but I know it is something unnatural, something fashioned by man. I should rest, tend to my feet, but I quicken my pace. The others lag behind me, but my tracks are simple to follow. If I possessed the strength, I would run.

There is a point in most lives, I think, when we must accept our failures. When we realize there is no turning back the hands of time, no do-overs, no choices but to recognize that our wishes are as ephemeral as our breath. I reach that moment of clarity when I come close enough to decipher the frozen shape. Our gods too have perished in this desecration. I hang my head and march onward, knowing I will die before sunrise.

**

This is the last of the January stories.
Sorry to end on such a dreary note!

Stay tuned for the February prompt on the 1st.

Spirals of Time #Writephoto

photo by Sue Vincent

I’ve always known I would travel here, to the heathered moors and verdant hills, to wander narrow roadways past stone cottages with views of the cold northern sea. Perhaps it was the Brontes or Hardy who first entranced me with the raw emotion that seems embedded in the very soil, that sweeps through castle ruins and keens across ancient cairns and holy places.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on the pulse of my yearning. But after my accident, I chose to wait no more.

The stone chapel was once part of a larger manor. It’s a quaint place of colored glass and worn reliefs, of strange carvings above its arched doorway. But also a place of layered faiths and archaic mysteries, imbued with ghosts of the past like a spiritual lodestone. I can no more ignore it than deny my heart to beat.

The day wanes, and I worry that the door might be locked. I give the latch a tug, and my fears prove true. Undaunted, I circle the perimeter, looking for another way in. To break in, frankly, though my intentions are harmless overall.

“Can I help you?”

The voice startles me, and I turn, sputtering apologies, only to encounter another shock. The fellow stands so close we nearly bump noses. “I was attempting to find a way in,” I explain, retreating a step.

“I can see that.”

“I’m from the US.”

“Do people from the US normally break into private chapels?”

“No!” My nerves force a laugh. “Not that I’ve heard of anyway. Rarely. I’ve… Well, this will sound strange, but I… It seems so silly really.” A blush pinks my face, and I stick out my hand. “I’m Daphne.”

“William. The guardian.” He takes my hand and bows, kissing it.

“The guardian?” I blink at him, flustered and nervous, but not afraid. He seems a part of this place, bonded to the stones and wildflowers, the crooked graveyard, and the weathered cross at the roof’s peak. I blow out an awkward breath. “What I meant to say is… I think destiny delivered me here, to this exact moment, to this chapel. It’s puzzling, but I feel as though I belong here and always have.”

“And I’ve been expecting you.” He smiles, looking quite noble, and sweeps his palm toward the door.

I laugh at his odd comment, but his kindness puts me at ease. He unlocks the door, and I enter without a sound. The room is tiny, though I hardly notice, my eyes drawn to a tomb illuminated by the sunlight lancing a slender window. “Whose tomb…?” I begin to ask, but William has withdrawn and awaits me in the garden.

The place is silent and still, and yet it’s thick with souls and reeling with the passage of time. I can scarcely breathe as I approach the tomb and gaze upon the sculpture of a knight. He appears asleep, his features tranquil and familiar. William’s face. A red rose, the only color in the gray-washed chapel, lies near his belt, and a white note in a woman’s script, my script, rests at its side.

Wait for me, my loyal knight, and trust my heart,
for through the spirals of time, 
I will return.

My fingers pass through the paper without a flutter. I now know why I have come here. I am home.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the beautiful Thursday #Writephoto prompt. It was hard to resist a little romance. ❤

Frozen Giant

via Pixabay by Stefan Keller

Note: This story was written by Dawn at Dawn’s Nights. Her blog is private, so she’s given me permission to post the entire story here. I hope you enjoy.

Frozen Giant

The frozen giant rose in the distance, its face a mixture of sadness and resignation.

Even if he wished to move, his joints were now paralysed by the icy temperatures on this forsaken moon.

But he had no wish to spend such energy. What good would moving do? He had no friend to meet with. He had no foe either. Even fighting was not an option to break the stubborn emptiness of time.

So he crouched there, isolated in the vastness of the wind-battered desert. But his existence was not without a purpose; he had a duty to perform.

His strong arm extended, hand resting on the head of the snow dragon he held captive. The winter storms had frozen it too, mouth agape, tongue drawn out in one long, eternal last breath.

His beard had grown in all the time he had been sitting there, a cascade of rock flowing down from his chin to his feet. His crown of disheveled hair stood high above the frigid ground, a semaphore of sorts.

The cold light of a summer sun would not warm him, but its pale glow through the moon’s ice storms shone enough to guide a group of 20 humans, bundled up and determined, slowly advancing on ski through knee-deep snow.

Tiredness was starting to be felt by all, the journey had been long from their advanced base, their backpacks heavy. And as soon as night would fall, the temperatures would drop so low that even their specially designed suits couldn’t save them.

Reaching the mighty mountain was their only hope of survival, for in the mouth of the tamed dragon lay the entrance to their underground city.

Everyone was feeling a sense of weariness mixed with a rush of impatience, fear and excitement. After months of wandering the desolate surface and sleeping on the rough, they would finally get to see parents, husbands, wives, children.

Unfortunately, the news they brought wasn’t as good as they wished. The other city wasn’t faring any better than theirs. Overcrowded, they too lacked food, and were faced with ever more difficulties to keep everyone warm.

Unless a miracle happened, the future looked bleak for the human settlements on Callipso.

Halloweensie Contest

Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 8th Halloweensie Contest. Last year she got 235 entries. Wowza! To enter, write a kid’s Halloween story using no more than 100 words including cauldron, shiver, and howl. Visit her site for complete rules if you want to play along, but hurry.

pixabay compilation

A Beasty Brew

“Beauty blood.” Grissella Ravenclaw squinted at the potion’s blurred label, shrugged her crooked shoulders, and poured. The cauldron burbled with a green, stinky goo. She wrinkled her warty nose and swallowed the goop down anyway. She’d be the queen of the Goblin’s Halloween ball.

Her stomach gurgled.

She shivered and burped.

Then her nose bulged into a toothsome snout, and her ears perked up. Gray fur covered her skin, ending in a fluffy tail… and itchy FLEAS! Her paws on the shelf, she read the label with wolf-sharp eyes. “Noooo,” she howled. “I wanted beauty blood. Not beasty blood! Aahhroooo…”

**

Happy Halloween!