Wednesday, October 31, 2012


OoryitThis time the man's Call was pure and steady. The beautiful note drew from all his strength, welling up from his chest, and struck at the three remaining ooryit all at once, causing them to flinch.

For several seconds nothing happened. The fog enveloped them, deadening all sound and seeming to stop time itself. Then, turning slowly, the ooryit began to whisper at each other, their weeping brain-like faces drawing closer to one another, the sultry sounds from their mouths more and more intense. The man scrambled out of the way as the creatures tackled each other, tearing and raking with their legs.

The man couldn't keep the note up for long; already he was beginning to feel spent. But before his voice cracked and the spell was broken, another of the ooryit was dead, and a second one had lost too many legs to be very mobile.

Just one uninjured one left. It came at the man where he kneeled, swaying left and right as it closed in.

The thing's whispers were beginning to break the man's internal silence; soon they would tear through his defenses completely, and the ooryit would control his mind.

He waited a moment longer; he needed the creature to be in range. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that the other ooryit, the nearly legless one, was dragging itself toward him through the fog-laden grass, its whispers picking up in strength. Its blind face was as deadly and impersonal as a shark's.

With what energy he had left, the man Called once more, but this time the note was weak and unsure; it warbled forth like a child crying. The uninjured one was leaning in now, less than a foot from his face. He could smell the breath of the thing....

Monday, October 22, 2012

Forty-Five Degrees

Forty-Five DegreesIt was inside the metal of the hull.

"Captain, maybe we should risk it. If that whole thing breaches I don't think we can patch it in time. Certainly not if it keeps growing like this." Maarstein's sharp blue eyes followed the scar of blistering metal along the ceiling to the latest mark made by whatever deep-sea alien malignancy was attacking the submarine vessel.

Captain Gutierrez glanced again at the sonar map. They were clear of the "lily pad," their name for one of the giant floating masses of plant matter that formed the only "land" on this waterlogged fish fart of a planet. But if they surfaced now they would still be well within detection range of the damned fast-flying Rays they'd been trying to escape in the first place. 


Gutierrez raised her voice so that everyone could hear. "Suit up, folks. Whatever this shit is, I'll warrant it won't be good for the complexion. Dorwell, take us up. Forty-fiver and power ahead, full.

The six-member crew did as they were told without an if or a but or even a smart-ass joke from Lang. They were all shit-scared, and as Gutierrez saw the weird blistering seam bulge a few more inches along the ceiling, she, too, had to steel herself against a sudden rising panic. 

"Three hundred meters, Cap," chirped Dorwell in a voice that was far too young to die. 

"Lang, get your ass to the aft cannon and put on your gamer face," Gutierrez barked. 

"On it Cappy. What we playin?" Lang was already vaulting past on his way to the weapons console. 

"One-fifty meters and rising, Cap," Dorwell piped. Someone groaned.

Gutierrez flashed a wry smile at Lang. "Sudden death, gunny. Better not miss, or it's our asses!" 

"Fifty meters, Cap." 

On the dorsal view monitor, several large shapes could be seen moving through the sky above the ocean to converge on the exact spot the submarine would be surfacing. 

"Hard to port!" she managed to blurt, just as the first projectile hit and sent the submarine into a spin. 

Her head slammed into the metal of the hull. The last thing she saw before sinking into the oblivion of unconsciousness was a fine spray of water that was arcing down from the ceiling, pretty in the flashing red of the warning lights.... 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


"I love you more."

She opened her eyes. "No, you don't. I love you more."

"Nope," he smiled. "I carved your name into the hilt of my dagger, remember? So I love you more."

"Ah," she purred. "But I gave you that dagger, last Circle Day. See? I love you more."

They were lying on their sides, facing one another. He drew back an inch or two and squinted. Mischief and triumph twinkled in her eyes as she traced a pair of fingers from the base of his neck downward until they were resting in the small of his back.

He shook his head, and the movement caused the cot on which they lay to squeak. "No, I love you more -- because it was with that very blade that I saved you from that rabid saberbeak up on Stoneknuckle Crag! So ha!"

"Not ha," she snorted. "Who was it who cooked you a very spicy saberbeak stew that night, hmmmm?? And sat by the fire eating it with you, too, even though I don't even like hot food. There's your proof: I love you more."

His hand glided past her hip to the back of her thigh. Meeting little resistance, he pulled gently until her knee was pressed against his. "Hey, I sometimes cook things the way you like them, too," he murmured.

"You try," she smirked.

He raised an eyebrow. "That I do. See?? I strive to impress you, despite great hardship and adversity. Because I love you mostest."

She laughed. "That's not even a word. If we're going to play without rules, then I love you infinity."

But no sooner had the last syllable left her tongue than she frowned and angled her eyes toward the pillow. For a while they lay together in silence, as if an invisible shroud had fallen across their naked bodies, extinguishing playfulness with a sudden melancholy.

Infinity was exactly what they had; the curse had made sure of that. The lovers had watched the decades glide by as first their parents, then siblings, and then children, grandchildren, great grandchildren... one by one had fallen to old age. Now it was just the two of them, forever together but forever alone in their house in the mountains.

He stroked her hair. "Hey," he whispered softly. "You win. You love me more."

The twinkle danced back into her eyes. "Yes, I do," she whispered, and drew his lips to hers. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Landfall ( II )

Landfall ( II )
(Continued from Landfall ( I ); scroll down to read.)

"Wot you mean 'wot'? Showed us, you know, Lan'fall." 

Ooplo was not in the mood for games. He leveled a thick finger at the farmzod. "Do you even know what that word means, rot-thumbs?"

The farmzod hesitated. Varantz shook his head and sighed.
Ooplo tried a different tack. "Alright, that thing they showed you on the Big-panel -- what did it look like? Was it square, was it triang—"

"No, no! Not sq-square. 'Twere like a wot's-it; like a, know, like a like a like a like a like a...."

Varantz thumped the farmod on the back to stop his skipping.

"Plate!! Like a plate; 'at's it." The little farmzod was grinning and wagging his head up and down. He seemed to get caught up in the motion and began to giggle vacantly as his movements became more and more exaggerated.

Ooplo snapped his fingers in the farmzod's face. "Stop it. A plate? As in a round plate? Like the kind you eat on?"

"A wot?"

"A rou—"

"Oy, yes!! Round it were! Round like a round plate!!"

"Okay, so, a circle," Ooplo said. "What color was it?"

"It were wot's-it; blue wi' a tiny bit o' white near the top an' bottom, it were. Blue an' white, yes."

Varantz gasped. "Well I'll be fu—"

Ooplo silenced him with a cautionary glare. The younger mechand pursed his lips and flared his nostrils. His face had gone pale.

The farmzod frowned and scratched his head, apparently trying to figure out what he was missing. Varantz sat rigid. Just then Ooplo chuckled.

"Bah, fun's over. Let's not kid the little fellow anymore!" he said, masking his excitement with a toothy grin and winking at Varantz. He turned back to the farmzod. "We were just messin' with ya, buddy! Blue and white you said, yeah?"

The farmzod nodded.

"Okay, well, blue and white plates are nothing to worry about! It's just a logo! A pretty design to look at, that's all; like a fancy floor!"

The farmzod tilted his head, his eyes darting back and forth between the two mechands as if wary of being tricked.

"It's true," Ooplo continued. "See, Landfall, my little food-growing friend, is just another word for the End of the Year Feast!" He smiled and Varantz forced himself out of his shock, grunting in agreement.

"Ah.... I... right. Right! 'At's wot I was sayin' in th' first place, only yous weren't list'nin'! I knew wot it was, I did; I was just teasin' you lot! Hahaha!!" The farmzod jumped up and down, squirming in his loose-fitting worksuit.

Ooplo and Varantz put on another good laugh then, but as soon as they could they shifted the conversation to safer topics. Eventually the warning bell sounded, and the scrawny little farmzod bounced happily off toward the elevator shaft to return to his work up in the growfields.

Ooplo and Varantz made their way back to their post, both deep in thought. Before they parted ways Ooplo put a hand on his friend's shoulder and spoke into his ear so quietly that Varantz barely heard him.

"If the shipmasters have indeed found a planet that can support life, this could be our one and only chance. We need to get the word out."

Varantz nodded solemnly. "Yes. Yes we do. And you know what? I'm tired of being a slave. You?"

"You know it, brother."

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Landfall ( I )

"The o'Mighty Gracef'l Shipmasters decreed it, They did.'Eard it wi' me own eyes this very wakin' hour, I did!"

"Well now I know you're lying.'Heard' it with your 'eyes'? Hey Var, get a load o' this mushbrain scallopgrafter! Ha!" Ooplo slapped the side of the tank with a mighty fist and belched a series of guffaws.

The little farmzod's eyes darted back and forth between the two brutish mechands, cringing at the booming sound of their laughter. "'At's..." He started, and then raised his voice to be heard. "Oy! 'At's not wot I meaned! I meaned seened. Seened wi' me ears is wot I meaned, I did. An' no joke, neither! They said to us—"

"Hey look," chuckled Varantz as he pointed at the farmzod and elbowed the other mechand in the ribs. "He's... he's like a.... He's like a volofruit!!"

"BAAAAHAHAAA!!!" Ooplo was laughing so hard his face bulged red, and a thin whine escaped his throat as he fought to catch his breath.

The farmzod sighed and rolled his eyes. "Fine, don' beleeb me. Do as wot suits you nice; jus' wait 'til the time comes, an' you lot'll miss out on a count o' you din see fit to beleeb the tooth in wot I be sayin'. It won' dee-sturb me nohow, it won't."

"Wai... wait," Ooplo wheezed. "I think the little veggiescab is actually trying to tell us something." Chest heaving and tears streaming down his soot-caked cheeks, he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and stared intently into the farmzod's eyes. The farmzod rolled them once more, but seemed suddenly less uptight now that he was being taken seriously.

"Now. What was it you think you heard, little one?" Ooplo said.

Varantz erupted with a fresh bout of sniggering. "Or saw?"

"Shut it," Ooplo barked, signaling for the farmzod to speak. The other mechand sobered immediately.

The farmzod folded his skinny arms and made a show of glancing over his shoulders to make sure they were alone. It was a particularly pointless gesture, because he was sitting with his back to the wall. "'Struth, I say," he hissed in a whisper louder than his normal speaking voice. "First time the o'Mighty Gracef'l Shipmasters deigned to make a announciation in months, see. You mechands down 'ere wi' your machines an' pipe tunnels an' all, you think us planters get blessed an' get pressies every day, but let me tell you—"

"Get on with it, dirtboy," Ooplo growled.

A vacant look came over the farmzod's features. He sniffed twice, pulled a string of grimy black snot from a nostril with the end of his little finger, and wiped it on his leathery forearm. "Right," he continued. "Well as I was sayin', They ain't made a announciation in months. An' 'ere They are this mornin', as sudden as a fart outa me mum's bum, a-speakin' to us right an' proper from the Big-panel jus' like they never left, see? Jus' like They was the lovin' Mothers an' Fathers They was o'vold, see? Only this time it weren't no 'Plant this, harvest that, get to work you lot;' no, I say! They was all eyes-a-glowin' an'—"

Varantz groaned.

The farmzod sat up straight. "Right." Wot they say was, Our Great Mother Ship, see, She's goin' to make Lan'fall within th' year, She is."

The two mechands sat stunned for a long moment. "Landfall?" Ooplo finally snorted. "You sure you heard right?"

"'At's wot I said; Lan'fall! Showed us clear as a drunk sot's piss on th' Big-panel, They did!" The little farmzod was blinking rapidly, quivering in anticipation of the praise he obviously felt he deserved for divulging this information.

"Showed you what, exactly?" Varantz's jaw was rigid. Ooplo sat still as a box of lead bolts, one hand frozen on his chin below a pair of slightly parted lips. There was not a trace of laughter left in either of the mechands' eyes.