Strange News From Another Star

The waves break on the black-stone beach.

The pebbles rattle as the water pulls back, gargling.

The dead sun overhead is slowly stripping the atmosphere away from this rock; it’s been forty-six days. There is nothing new to report.

#

Day forty-nine, by the Terran calendar. The concepts of ‘day’ and ‘night’ have no meaning, beneath the technicolour consumption going on upstairs. Day and night have no meaning, shadows are stretched, muted, changed – there is more than one shade of black. Black has no meaning, anymore, as subtle purples and blues and reds seem to erupt from the pebbles on the shoreline like flowers. Is this something I should report? It feels more like an isolation experiment than an exploration – maybe it’s both.

#

Where is Terra? Maybe I should ask the computer. The purple-blue-black-red-green sky is holding back the stars – in its death-throes the star has captured this planet, it’s now tidally locked, one side ever facing the monster in the sky that is peeling away the atmosphere in vast swathes. I sped over the dark side coming in to land, a featureless mass that suddenly gave way a twisted sun-line. New flowers open up daily on the beach; I’ve moved the rover away from the shore. They shine like gemstones, in the multi-coloured rain, but disappear when I stretch out my hand. The computer cannot tell me how long we have before the atmosphere is gone. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.

#

Further from the landing site now. The pebbles are gone, replaced by a fine, grey sand that clogs the rover’s ventilation system and lays a soft silt on my instruments. Vacuum-sealed my arse. The flowers don’t seem to grow here in the highlands. I’ve lost track of the days that have passed, and the computer doesn’t seem to want to contribute to the conversation. The baleful, dying eye of this system is finally starting to sink beneath the horizon. I can still see no stars. When sleep overcomes me, the rover drifts to a stop; when I wake, it begins again. Or I hope it does. There is no ‘day’, no ‘night’. I sleep when I must, that is my night. When I awaken the sun sits lower on the horizon. Are we moving in the night? There is no night.

#

We have been moving at night. When I woke we were still moving. The computer won’t tell me why. It just hums, idiotically. I want to turn back. The sun has sunk even further, barely poking above the edge of the world. Fuck, what day is it? How long have I been here? The dust is everywhere. The computer would know how long it has been since we landed. It was never supposed to keep moving at night. I want to turn back, back to the sun.

#

It’s so dark here, so cold. The stars shine like solid points in the sky, like stones. Sometimes the dust whips by, thrown up into the sky by the wind, by the rover’s tires. Strange shapes form in the clouds. I want to see the sun. I’ve taken to leaving the lights blazing, even though there is nothing to see but dust. The lights burn only to illuminate the depth of the darkness. I want to turn back to the sun. The internal lights only illuminate the dust that’s settled inside the cabin. The computer won’t let me get out, no matter how much I beg. I don’t care what day it is. There is only night, now. Turn back, turn back. Let me out.

#

I can feel it growing inside of me. Fuck, did I say that aloud?

#

It’s still, here, at the outer edge of the blackness. So quiet, now. The sun has begun to peer over the horizon, blessed, beautiful.  I shoved a screwdriver into the computer – can you still hear me, you bastard? Are you still recording everything I say? I hope so, you fucker. I can feel it growing inside me. I am not ashamed, anymore, not a pinch of guilt. I can feel it  growing, I can feel its tendrils plucking their way through my veins and arteries, gently fingering my nervous system, ossifying and crystallizing my bones. I am waiting, little one.

#

A bloom pokes through my eye – it hurt, at first. It doesn’t now. The sun is here, and the beach. There is less water, or whatever it is. It looks like water. The sun is here – brilliant, purple-blue-black. I am a seed, or a meadow, and I am waiting for the flowers to grow.

 

 


 

Written for this week’s TerribleMinds flash fiction challenge: the Random Song Title Challenge. The song I got was Blur’s Strange News from Another Star. I also managed to squeeze in some of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: pinch of guilt and multi-coloured rain. Let me know what you think! 

 

 

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A Feeble Touch of Sunlight

She staggered through the darkness, the chanting, echoing drone of the wind and the feel of the rough-sided walls her only companions. Well, the wind and the walls and the feeling of black, black eternity. The walls seemed to close in around her, claustrophobic.

She kept turning left – that’s what you’re ‘supposed to do’ in a maze, keep turning left, and eventually you’ll find the exit. She kept finding dead ends. Still, she followed the walls, followed the walls. Down an alleyway, to dead end after dead end. She kept her left hand scraping against the rough stone. Eventually she would find her way out. She lost track of time – darkness has a way of perpetuating itself, of folding time around itself.

She walked until sleep overcame her, and, when she awoke, she walked again. Always in darkness. She drank the water that dribbled down the walls and pooled in the depressions in the tunnel’s floor. She ate fluttering insects and bundles of fur, invisible but fighting back. She shat in the dead ends, so she wouldn’t tread in it on her return journey – if there was a return journey.

She could see herself, bedraggled, gaunt, stumbling, left hand still on the stone wall. She imagined herself passing by in the darkness. She didn’t call out. What could she say to herself, passing in the eternal blackness? Don’t eat me. Please, I know you’re hungry. Please don’t eat me. When she heard footsteps she pressed herself against the wall, silent, and waited for them to pass. They never passed. It always took so long – even though time was uncountable here – so long for her to realise it was her heartbeat.

Or maybe she just convinced herself it was her heart. She always pressed on, sticking to the left.

Until today – this morning? this afternoon? – there was light ahead, weak and yellow, but light, light, up ahead. She took her hand from the wall. She ran. She ran. Tripping and spitting out curses, scraping raw her right knee when she fell. Her voice sounded strange in the blackness. She passed into the light.

A cavern opened up around her, the walls soft brick, unclimbable, opening onto the grey sky.

A feeble touch of sunlight.

It kissed her skin.

A tunnel open on the far side, a black mouth.

She stuck to the left wall, and worked her way around to it.

Back into the dark.

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Review: Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a really good read. This classic ghost story is gothic, both Southern and European, and quite modern. Judas Coyne is a retired rock star, who has fallen into the habit of collecting the macabre, which for an ex-metal star seems just “…like wearing leather pants, just part of the costume.” He owns a genuine snuff tape, a collection of Medieval with-hunters’ guides and a cannibal’s cookbook, and so when he’s contacted across the internet about a ghost for sale (“…not eBay but one of the wannabes…”) it seems quite natural for it to fall into his collection.

The suit arrives in a heart-shaped box, and the haunting begins…

“The mad sometimes drilled holes in their own heads to let the demons out. To relieve the pressure of thoughts they could no longer bear. Jude understood the impulse. Each beat of his heart was a fresh and staggering blow felt in the nerves behind his eyes and in his temples. Punishing evidence of life.”

I really enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box, which is odd for me as I’m not a huge fan of horror, but this story keeps the gore in check and is packed with great writing (“…a rotund family in promotional T-Shirts, their ample bellies doing double duty as billboards.”), a fantastic twist or two and some damn compelling characters. I love the way violence is introduced into the plot, as well as how the ghost speaks, cryptic and threatening through the radio (“…the dead drag the living down…”) It was great (especially as it was his debut novel), and on the strength of this novel I’m going to buy some more of Joe Hill’s books.

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A Shadow in the Blackness

The smoke rose. Flames licked at houses stacked like kindling – such beautiful colours – and screams rang out, cut off by the sudden, jolting

………………………………….crash

……………………………………………………of falling timber and collapsed masonry. The heat pushes gently at the membranes of my wings, granting me flight, and the once-cold iron that bound my ankles warms and warps, bending as I pull my legs free. I rake at the cobblestones beneath my feet, gouging loose the stones, and bellow into the night – my guards are busy, struggling to douse the orange tongues I cast about myself, my shield – and I let the warmth take me, carrying me upward into the night.

 

I am a shadow in the blackness, a scar on the night sky.

 

They flock to the church, scared little birds, watching their village burn.

 

I swoop, wings folded back.

 

I am death, I am destruction.

 

I am vengeance.

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Claws Red, Fangs Snapping

Terry Whidborne's latest sketch

Terry Whidborne’s latest sketch

She drew her cloak tighter around the ragged edges of her breath, trying to disguise the rapid rise-and-fall of her chest. She pulled her face-mask closed, to hide her lolling tongue and to cover the sound of her panting. To conceal the spatters of blood and the tracing lines of intestines on her skin-suit.

 

Voices rose up  behind her, shrill and panicked, reaching a crescendo as she turned the corner.

 

She had to convince herself to slow down, to control her footsteps. The wet cobblestones shone, and seemed to guide her along her path. She caught her breath, crouching down against a rough-scaled wall – she left a patch of crimson on the stone as she moved. Her tongue arrowed out from between razor-sharp teeth, picking loose scraps of gristle and fat, tasting the flavour of him on her lips. She smiled, a withering smile, and was disappointed that she had no-one to direct it toward. No matter. She let her mind replay the gory scene from which she had so recently fled, and the smile returned.

 

She saw the signal, the twin spirals in the sky, clouds-where-there-should-be-no-clouds.

 

Claws red, fangs snapping. 

 

The memory was not quite as delicious as the act.

 

The spirals, the disguise, the soon-to-be-dead.

Continue reading

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Little Monster

I’m burning up,

temperature rising.

Stomach cramps,

savage, aching pain.

Who will save me?

The hell inside me burns,

unchanging, unchangeable,

little monster.

Soon to be born

and soon to set

the world

ablaze.

Stop Freaking Out About Ebola

My latest article is up on Gate 37:

Stop Freaking Out About Ebola!

At least you haven’t contracted St Vitus’s Dance…

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Promised Land

Caution: Radiation Controlled Area. Creative Commons 2.0 photo by Oleg.

The door groaned closed, and Brother Ponder groaned also, dropping onto one arthritic knee before it. He shivered beneath his cloak, and ran gnarled fingers over the rusted hinges, whispering his solemn thanks.

For each drop of the sacred ointment he chanted prayers and blessings, his fingers tracing delicate ruins as he massaged the oil into the metal. This door had kept them safe for so long, through careful attention and the proper ritual. His father had taught him the words and the motions, that had been passed down the generations. Keep the faith, say the right words, sing the right songs and the door would hold.

He whispered his thanks, and moved on to the next doorway.

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Night-walks in Toowong

Laughter and screams

And drunkenness echo down

From window-box apartments

Bright against the starless sky.

I fill the empty street.

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Black Cat

I crossed paths

With a black cat

Hidden in darkness.

She watched me,

Watched me go,

She is the night.

I live a charmed life.

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The Night Closes In

Possums perch,

like gargoyles or grotesques,

guarding tree-branch archways and crippled, leaning fences.

The night closes in.

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Skin

The bugs flow, green-blue, scratching beneath his skin.

Not hallucinating.

Each new egg bursts, exquisite agony, life-from-death.

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Like Claws

Her hands were like claws, tight and cold, still clenched into fists.

He lay on the floor, and the rust-red pool around his head thickened.

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These Hands

Sunday Sketch - Tezzabold

Sunday Sketch – Tezzabold

His fur was matted, with blood and flesh and gizzards.

What had he done?

The taste of it was in his mouth.

He wanted more.

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World’s End

There are so many ways

to destroy a world.

But in the end

his native violence took hold,

and he tore it apart,

to the screams

of millions.

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Ashcan Comics Needs Some Help!

So, Ashcan Comics (a Brisbane-based, independent comics publisher) needs your help.

They’ve got a huge backlog of comics, and need to free up some space in their warehouse.

And make some cash so they can keep printing cool comics, can buy tables at cons…all those sorts of things that I have no idea about when it comes to being a publisher.

My short story UTOPIA is illustrated in Issue 9. Is that a graphic short story? I don’t know.

Awesomely, they don’t just publish super-hero comics.

If they publish them at all. Mine’s sci-fi (surprise!)

Anyway, buy some. Help an indie publisher out!

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A BURNING DESIRE: The Culture of Censorship

A page from Maurice Sendak’s THE NIGHT KITCHEN, one of the most frequently challenged books in the United States (because it shows a penis!)

So, my latest article, A BURNING DESIRE: The Culture of Censorship, is up on the Kill Your Darlings website.

It focuses on literary censorship, especially the recent banning of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes in ALDI Supermarkets, and on censorship in general, particularly in Australia and the United States.

Let me know what you think!

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The Boys are Back in Town (part 4 of 4)

Image by Kessiye – via Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

I can wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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