Category: Under 1K Words


Stares

Musée Gustave Moreau

I absolutely love it when a story prompt is a picture, especially ones with beautiful architecture like this one! I really enjoy the Red Writing Hood prompts that Write on Edge (formerly known as the Red Dress Club) posts on Tuesdays and links on Fridays. This week, there were two pictures, and we could choose one or use both. I chose to go with this one.

I used TinEye to find more about the picture, even though that’s not necessary for the story. I found a blog called the Paris Hotel Boutique Journal that had some more information. Apparently the staircase is in the Musée Gustave Moreau in Paris.

Although the room is part of an art gallery, and is a large size, I imagined this staircase as being at one end of a grand ballroom. Perhaps the family’s children would sneak down the stairs to watch the festivities for which they were too young. Perhaps young debutantes would use the stairs to make a notable entrance.

Perhaps both…

He was staring at her.

So was everyone else.

She reminded herself that this was a good thing, she was dressed to inspire dropped jaws and double takes. She tried to look bored as she posed on the upper landing of the great spiral stair, pausing just long enough for a few people to begin to notice her, exactly as she had practiced with her mother and grandmother a hundred times in preparation for this very moment.

She felt terribly naughty as she left that upper landing, placing one slippered foot on the next step down into the ballroom. As a child, she had often sat on that landing late at night, after all her parents’ guests had arrived. Her governess had been indulgent, but strict. She could sit on the landing for a few minutes, watching the sea of faces and colors and fashion that was the ball of the year. But not one toe was to touch the next step down. Not even the hem of her dress should fall beyond that upper landing.

She fought down the nervous butterflies as she casually swept down the spiral, giving her audience a thorough glimpse of her gown and jewels from every angle. While her back was to them, she stole a quick glance at her own cleavage, well aware that she was padded and hoping no one would notice. She was terribly worried that if she relaxed her posture even the slightest bit, her breasts would fall out. But both her mother and grandmother had insisted that the fashion was exactly right for her.

Arriving at the lower landing, the buzz inside her head drowned out all the noise in the ballroom. So many faces were regarding her. Approval, disapproval. Admiration and unbridled lust. Curiosity.

She was still a head above the crowd. She had to fight not to make eye contact with him. How did he see her? Was he shocked at the little girl playing dress up? Or would he finally recognize the woman she had become?

She took a deep breath, and descended the last few steps, immersing herself in the ball, leaving her childhood behind.

On the stairs.

I've linked to the source site, there is incomplete attribution there..

One of the main reasons I participate in the link ups is for the exchange of constructive criticism! So, please, have at it! Concrit is welcome and expected. I don’t usually get to every single post in the link-up, but if you really want me to come and give you concrit on your post, just leave me a comment and a link and I’ll be there as soon as I can!

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-9i

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Delta Dawn

Not quite how I envision the Delta Dawn might look, but it is named Delta, and it’s launching at dawn. Courtesy of NASA

“Now this baby…”

He always called her baby. She’d been sitting around the shipyard for who knew how long, having been used and abused by who knew how many owners.

“This baby will do the Kessel run in sixteen parsecs.”

Buyers would inevitably be unimpressed. Sixteen parsecs didn’t earn bragging rights for the Kessel run. It wasn’t bad, but the Delta Dawn had enjoyed her heyday. She should be sitting in a scrapyard, not a showroom.

Sometimes they walked away asking each other “Do you smell flowers? I smell flowers…”

But not always.

It took Rose eight years to find her. Eight years of smiling for a living, flattering men who reeked of alcohol and treated her body like a sheath for their near impotent weapons. Delta Dawn had endured far worse. She had been shot, stuffed with contraband, even briefly abandoned in space before being salvaged. Through it all, she remained loyal to her true love, her Captain, her spouse. Others might possess her, but they would never have her love. It was a miracle she had ended up in the used ship lot, and not processed as scrap metal.

Once she found her, Rose visited Delta Dawn often. They’d shared one man’s affections for almost two decades, until the day he’d abandoned them both. Rose never wanted marriage. She knew that was impossible; the Captain was married to his ship.  Their early years together had been contentious ones. Delta Dawn was jealous of her husband’s mistress; Rose resented the time and affection her lover gave his wife.

They had eventually arrived at a tacit agreement…

Rose owned The Captain’s body.

Delta Dawn owned his soul.

His body had been destroyed in a drunken barroom brawl by a stray shot from a blaster.

Some said it was friendly fire.

Some said it was Rose.

They were probably wrong.

His soul was unaccounted for.

Woman With Umbrella, Claude Monet, 1875

The mysterious dark-haired man was not immune to Rose’s negotiable affections. Age had taken its toll, but she still knew how to please a man. Her skills were more than physical. She strolled through the shipyard on his arm, ignoring the salesman’s chatter. Her scent trailed behind them, lingering over other lost vessels, ships who had sadly survived their own captains’ abandonment. Ships who weren’t so fortunate.

Delta Dawn possessed something none of them had.

She had Rose.

Rose was no longer jealous of her lover’s wife; she had always been a willing and eager participant in their ménage. Rose loved Delta Dawn just as much if not more than their Captain had. It was surely a more selfless love than he had shown either of them. Countless times he’d tossed them both aside, forgotten for days at a time while he was off on some adventure. He never showed the slightest remorse.

“…you won’t regret this at all. No, this baby’s a fine ship. Now if you’ll just sign the papers, she’s all ready to lift off whenever you’re ready.”

The dark-haired man nodded acquiescence. Rose looked bored.

Rose took looking bored to a professional level. She did not sigh heavily, nor roll her eyes, yet the subtle nuances of her readily negotiated body prompted her buyer to say “Why don’t you go on inside while I finish up all this boring paperwork, darling?”

With a radiant smile, she did just that. She entered the Delta Dawn as a lover coming home, leaving nothing behind but the lingering scent of Pimpinellifoliae.

She sat at the console, caressing the controls, looking for a sign that their Captain had not abandoned them after all. All his whispered promises, that nebulous idea that someday…

She found it.

The key, the map to the mansion in the sky, his hoard from years of smuggling, written in a code she, as his constant companion, knew intimately. After all, he had called her his greatest treasure. She belonged there.

He’d promised.

The roar of the engines caught the dark-haired man by surprise. He stood there, suitcase in hand, watching both the woman and ship he’d purchased take off without him.

True lovers reunited at last.

This story came about because Tiffany Reisz tweeted something about how the classic country song Delta Dawn would make an awesome BDSM story. And it would! I so hope she writes it…

Meanwhile, it got me thinking about another twist on the story… what if Delta Dawn was a spaceship?

This story isn’t related to any others I’ve written, though it could fit into some universe.

And I have a writerly question: did I correctly use omniscient POV in this?

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-8x

This short story takes place on Kingdom Come. It’s not directly related to the novels; it is just another little glimpse into the life of Charity Kochsato, the Violet Duchess of Drakeshead.

Charity held Royal’s hair back as the small breakfast she’d tried to eat came right back up. They’d both put on some weight since the wedding, but whereas it turned out the Princess’ extra kilos came from pregnancy, Charity was simply getting fat.

“Charity…” Royal whispered after spitting out all she could. “Would you come back to bed with me?”

Charity looked up at the two maids who were hovering near. One for her, one for her wife. “Ari, please bring us each some ginger ale and some dry toast. Sorcha, please tell Rondelle and Patricia that both Royal and I will be indisposed for the morning.”

The maids scurried off, and Charity helped her nauseated wife rinse her mouth. They went to Royal’s bedchamber instead of the large group master bedroom. It was smaller, and more intimate, and Royal had her own bathroom close by.

Charity held her wife gently. She knew that Royal hated for anyone to see her like this, but she made exceptions for those closest to her. Especially Charity. When Royal was tired of putting on the show that was The White Duchess of Drakeshead, Princess of the Kingdom, it was Charity she hid behind.

Charity didn’t mind. In fact, she loved the fact that Royal wanted her. As children, they had met several times whenever Charity’s parents, who were the County of Finborough in the Duchy of Fallcastle, had business in the capitol. Royal, as the daughter of the Kingdom, led a rather sheltered and pampered life. Charity had been ecstatic the first time the princess singled her out. Charity was just a few years older, and Royal had asked her to reach some toy on a shelf that was just out of reach. It was a small gesture, but Charity had been warned to be on her very best behavior while visiting the royal family, and she was eager to please in any way she could.

When they were both older, Charity had been honored to be selected as the counselor assigned to work with the group of girls that included the young princess. Royal had chosen to do a sabbatical semester in Fallcastle, at a camp that specialized in the history of the Kingdom. It was the perfectly appropriate kind of camp for a princess to choose, especially a princess who was looking at a career in politics, following in the footsteps of her mother, the White Queen. Charity had kept an eye out for the younger girl during the semester. She did not ignore her other charges, but she understood that, as a princess, Royal had to live up to certain expectations, and a higher level of scrutiny.

Charity had always admired how well Royal bore that scrutiny. She was the ideal White Duchess, able to hold her composure under the harshest pressure.

Royal didn’t look very composed at the moment. She was a mess. She was snuggled against Charity’s breast, trying to breathe evenly and settle her queasy stomach. Charity was able to coax her to take just a little ginger ale and dry toast, and soon Royal was sleeping again.

The Black Duke snuck into the bedroom, and Charity looked up at their husband with a smile. He smiled back, and waved Charity’s link in the air as if to say she was needed elsewhere. He mouthed the words “I’ve got her” and blew a kiss to Charity as she quietly padded out of the room.

After dressing as quickly as she could and still be recognizably noble, she met with Patricia, her assistant. Together with Rondelle, Royal’s assistant, they figured out which duties could be shuffled around between the duchesses. Given her position as the Violet Duchess, her schedule was much more flexible than her spouses’. Royal had a series of outings planned to meet with the county nobility of the neighboring duchy, as well as visits to their own counties. Those, Charity could do for her. They were mostly meet and greets, and one duchess was as good as another. Of course, Royal would have been scouting candidates to fill the upcoming seats in their own counties, but Charity could fill her in on everyone she met each night.

Royal expressed immense relief and appreciation that Charity was taking over the tour for her.

And for Charity, she found an unexpected benefit. With all the walking, touring, and talking instead of eating at all the formal functions, the weight she had put on since the wedding slowly started to melt away again.

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-4D

This story stands alone, but it is the third part of a trilogy I began on May 7, 2011, just over a month ago.

You can read part one Number Eleven and part two Prime here on the blog.

Oh, and I realized too late that “Shade” is also the name of one of the Choose-Your-Own-Romance stories. Oh well!

Sand, Part Three:  Shade

Grandpa was a miner.

My granddaughter is going to be a scientist, just like her parents.

The sand likes her.

I still drive, though she bugs me to let her. Technically, she’s still too young, though I know her dad lets her sometimes.

We find a spot with some rare shade. Another rock formation, the kind the Nau Xibao like.

She takes out her tambourine, and scoops some sand, finding the darker particles differentiated from the tawny ones.

“Hmph. Too stupid.” She says, and scoops up some more. “That’s better.”

I lean over her shoulder and watch as she selects one of the phrases the Nau Xibao understand. “Is water near?”

The sand dances a bit. “Over there! But way down. Way way down.”

The translator has been learning more and more from the Nau Xibao’s feedback over the last few years. It can interpret all kinds of things now, even though getting them to understand a new concept is still a struggle.

“Too far?” my granddaughter asks.

“Not too too too far… you make shade?”

That is what gave us our happy ending. Something as simple as shade. What we thought was simply an oddly darker shade of sand turned out to be a sentient life form.

A life form on the verge of extinction.

I’ll leave it to my kids to explain just what they are or how they evolved or why they’re endangered. What I do understand is that they need both sun and shade to survive. When Grandpa and the other original settlers landed here, the Nau Xibao had no idea what was happening to them. But they did appreciate the shade they found in the shadows of our cities, even though when the cities began to grow too large they…

Well, you know the story.

“We go down down now.” The sand tells my granddaughter.

She spills the particles back to the ground, and soon I recognize the subtle shifts that mean the Nau Xibao are on the move. How can something without legs move? Ask someone else.

The smart girl won’t leave her tambourine on the sand. They like it, and they tend to pile on till the device is completely buried, which doesn’t help with the inter-species translation. I get to work erecting the simple shelter they like so much, the kind with translucent edges transitioning to complete light-blocking opacity in the middle. It’s like a luxury condominium complex for the Nau Xibao. Soon, all the sand in the lee of the shelter is dark, and the tawny silica they discarded is piled up at the base, helping to anchor it and make it permanent.

My granddaughter has been scooping and dumping sand, sometimes laughing, sometimes snorting in disgust. The Nau Xibao are like brain cells; just a few can’t do much. But the more you get together, the more they can do.

I love her laughter. Our alien friends have brought the water directly to her feet. Her boots are wet now. She has a dream to build a giant tambourine, one that will allow a larger than ever number of the sand creatures to congregate and communicate.

She will build it someday.

In the meantime, we will build our cities.

And we will build their cities too.

I kid you not. Tuesday afternoon I was thinking “Hmm… I keep meaning to write that third and final part of “Sand”. I should do that.” Then I decided that I would dare myself, and take whatever the Red Dress Club prompt happened to be that day, and I’d make it fit the ending to my story.

Imagine my laugh when I saw that Karma was with me and the prompt was “A Happy Ending!”

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-49

This story was written in response to The Red Dress Club prompt “We’d like you to write about what your character wants most.” I already had this in my head from several years ago… it was one of the very first stories I wrote about Kingdom Come. I’ve posted a few shorts on Kingdom Come before, and Charity has been mentioned at least once.

Charity was the first character I wrote about in this world. I know a lot of things that happen in her life, but they don’t necessarily fit neatly in a book. So, I play with her, and she ends up doing some cameos in the other stories. At some point I might write either her story, or one of her stories.

After writing this, it looks like it is more of an introduction to her story than a short story in itself. Please give constructive criticism… If this is your first time visiting my blog, was this short piece just odd and confusing? Did you want to find out how her story turns out? If you’ve visited before, did reading this remind you of Charity’s Ball, which I wrote a few weeks ago? Do questions spring up in your mind (Oligarchy? Dukes?) and if so, do they leave you confused and frustrated? Or do those questions make you want to turn the proverbial page to get them answered?

I am so involved in this world that it is difficult for me to see the forest for the trees. Feedback is appreciated!

You can follow Charity on twitter @CharityKochsato

You can follow me on twitter too! @USNessie

Love of Charity by AmyBeth Inverness

“Oh, my darling, they have to love you!” said Charity’s mother with a beatific smile, adjusting her daughter’s bridal veil. Charity chose to assume her mother meant “You are so beautiful, and so wonderful, they will fall in love with you at first sight!” even though she knew that what her mother really meant was “Don’t worry about the fact that you’re unlovable. It is an arranged marriage, and a political one, and it is their duty to love you anyway.”

Charity was grateful to the professional make-up artists and stylists who were on hand to make sure she and her fiancés were all beautifully coiffed and dressed. It had been more than a year since the planet had witnessed the commitment ceremony for a duchy. And this particular duchy was particularly noteworthy as it was brand new; lands that the Kingdom had just opened up as part of a rigid schedule of growth.

Charity was honored to have been selected as the Violet Duchess. Yes, she was qualified. Yes, she had demonstrated her dedication to the Kingdom through both her position as a researcher for the office of human services, and the volunteer work she loved. But many worthy candidates were passed over time and time again, for no greater reason than they didn’t fit with the other seven in the oligarchy.

Charity wondered how she fit. Over the past few months, she had communicated with the other seven, doing a delicate dance of trying to get to know each other while still being politically correct. The White Duchess To Be had been particularly warm and welcoming, and yet when Charity looked back, she realized that the words were all the kind of non-committal nonsense she had heard from politicians all her life. The Blue Duchess To Be and Brown Duchess To Be seemed sincere, though brief.

The men were slightly more forthcoming. The Red Duke To Be had sent flowers to each of them the same day that they all received their offers. He had even travelled across the Kingdom in the months before the wedding, greeting each of them personally in their far-flung homes. The Green Duke To Be had been more reserved, responding to each message with a prompt, personal response. The Grey Duke To Be had shown just a hint of humor, which Charity thought was unusual for a person in the financial field. The Black Duke To Be was rather young, even younger than Charity, though quite accomplished. Although his communications had been polite and friendly, she got the impression that he was nervous, or perhaps intimidated at the idea of being appointed to such a prestigious position at such a young age.

Charity herself had responded promptly to each note or gift from her intendeds, and the day after receiving (and promptly accepting) the offer of the duchy, she had hand written each of them a note on real paper, enclosing a pressed flower in the color that matched their station. She had picked and pressed the flowers shortly after completing her candidacy requirements, and placed them in her hope chest not knowing whether or not she would ever have a reason to take them out.

The flowers symbolized to her that the oligarchy to which she aspired was more than a political arrangement. It was a marriage in every sense of the word. She would live with these people, raise children with these people, and love them.

Charity had no doubts about her ability to give love.

Charity had every doubt regarding whether she would ever receive it.

Shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-3K

This is my response to The Red Dress Club prompt:

This week we asked you to write a post beginning with the words, “This was absolutely the last time” and ending with “She was wrong.”

Forgive me, it’s 1:30 am, my computer is recovering from an unexpected shut-down (Which, by the way, killed my first draft of this post at exactly the wrong moment) and I’m very tired, but I’m going to write this one completely off the cuff! Forgive me if, in the morning, it turns out to be completely incoherent.

And the Christian Slater photo? Completely gratuitous. sigh

This was absolutely the last time.

She wasn’t doing any more edits.

It was bad enough to realize that it hadn’t been perfect… ok, that it had really needed a lot of work… the first time she wrote it.

It was embarrassing that, when it came back from the proofreader the first time, it had far more typos than could possibly be excused.

It was enlightening to discover that, after making the suggested changes, it really was much, much better.

It was frustrating to have to endure not just two, but three more rounds of editing.

It was heartbreaking to think of her story, her baby, as a commodity that could be bought and sold.

No one thought she could ever be published.

Heck, no one thought she could even finish a rough draft.

She didn’t even believe it herself.

She didn’t believe she could write something that an agent, a publisher, and knock on wood the paying public would buy into.

She was wrong.

Shameless Self-Promotion: I have started a series of Choose-Your-Own Romance and Choose-Your-Own Science Fiction on my blog, but I need writers to pick up and continue the threads! It’s fiction, it’s fun, and should take less than an hour of your time. Click the picture for more info. Please join me!

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-3n

Sand: Prime

Sand has three parts. Each stands alone, and is less than 700 words. This post is the middle of the three. Part one is called Sand: Number Eleven, and part three is called Sand: Shade.

Prime    by AmyBeth Inverness

I pound my fist into the yielding sand, one powerful blow of frustration. Is this was happened to Maud? I pound twice, angry and scared.

I pound my fist three more times. And Elod, Erno, and Ince? Did they face the same fate?

I can’t remember the names of the five you disappeared next, but I pound my fist five times anyway.

The sand lets go.

I scramble backwards, but it grabs me again. But somehow it seems like a tentative grip, expectant…

What had I done to make it release me the last time?

I wail away with my fists, and the sand grabs me even tighter, almost cutting off my circulation, so I stop.

I think of Maud again, and pat the sand once, firmly. It vibrates expectantly.

Then again, twice.

I think of Elod, Erno, and Ince, patting the sand thrice firmly. It loosens, but does not let go.

I pat the sand five times, pause, then seven… the last disappearance was seven people, right?

The sand almost lets go as I pat it ten more times. Didn’t the radio say ten people went missing just today? The sand quivers expectantly, but then begins to gently tighten again.

Walter Tango Foxtrot? What did I do wrong? Should be it eleven? Should I count my own near abduction?

I begin again. One pat. Two. Three. Five. Seven. Eleven… and then it hits me. I tap thirteen times and the sand lets go completely.

I make it out of the pit, but the sand grabs me again when I’m safely out of the depression. It gently releases one foot while holding fast to the other, and then it switches and lets me adjust the other foot. It’s like the sand wants me to be comfortable, but it doesn’t want to let me go.

I start the pattern again, wishing I was better at math. Prime numbers; one,two, three, five, seven, eleven, thirteen, seventeen. The sand does a little dance, pleased, but it does not let go.

I decide I’m better off restarting the pattern each time. I don’t want the sand to get frustrated with my performance and suck me back in. I go up to nineteen, wait for the happy sand dance, then go up to twenty-one.

Oops… twenty-one isn’t a prime… quick… um… twenty-three.

The sand is percolating. It is distinctly different from the happy dance. I’m actually sinking a bit, like a raft caught in a sudden rush of bubbles. I restart the pattern quickly, ending at twenty-three, and the sand freezes, expectant. I start the pattern yet again, ending at twenty-seven. Help had better come soon. Math is not my forte.

I really hope twenty-nine is a prime number. I get the happy sand dance again, so it must be. I make my next series of thumps long and drawn out, giving myself time to think. I don’t want to lose track. I don’t want to start sinking again.

The thirties aren’t too bad, but the forties challenge me, and I make several mistakes in the fifties and can’t find a way to apologize for my mistakes. When I took tests in school and I got frustrated, I’d just give up. It’s not like it really mattered if I passed. I’ve never been faced with a life or death math test before.

Throughout the sixties and seventies, I sink when I mess up, but rise again when I figure it out and correct myself. I sweat in the heat, and at the thought of what to do when I pass 100.

The sound of a flier in the distance makes my heart leap, but the sand is agitated. I panic as I sink a whole meter suddenly, but instead of being covered in sand, I’m sitting in a newly formed depression.

The flier finds me, throws me a line, and pulls me up.

Rovers barks furiously the whole time.

I’ve never been so happy to be so slobbered.

Shortlink for this post: http://wp.me/p1rMYd-2b

This work of fiction was inspired by TRDC prompt “Sloth”.

Carla eased herself into her chair as the phone rang. It would just have to wait. She had been on her feet all afternoon, and she wasn’t getting up again for nobody, no how.

She waited for her laptop to boot, and went to facebook. Great. Another bible verse from her mother.

“Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.”  Proverbs 19:15

She clicked “like” even though she knew it was a dig. Just like in the grocery store when she had dropped a box of ice cream sandwiches and the jogging-bra wearing thirty-something had offered to put it back for her. Not to put it in the cart for her, but to put it back. So much for subtly telling a perfect stranger you think they’re fat and shouldn’t be buying ice cream.

Carla had been accused of being lazy all her life. When she quit her job to stay home with their kids. When she just let her kids play in their backyard tree fort all summer instead of signing them up for everything parks and rec had to offer.

When she’d barely shipped off her youngest to college, and lost her husband to a heart attack that same week.

The heart attack had been her fault. Too lazy to plan a decent meal. Too submissive to tell him he should eat better. Too much time at the computer, not enough time exercising.

Her children seemed to have inherited the sloth gene. Too busy to write a letter. Too embarrassed to visit the house. She stalked them on facebook and twitter.

Carla’s medication was in easy reach. The bottle was full. The bottle had not been opened in weeks.

It didn’t matter.

She didn’t matter.

The only one who ever thought she mattered had been gone a year, and he wasn’t coming back.

But she could join him.

Before you ask… yes I’m fine!

I do understand what depression is like, and that’s why I went this way with the prompt.

I think society today does judge some people lazy or slothful unjustly.

Shortlink for this post: http://wp.me/p1rMYd-24

The next prompt is “sand”. Geri already wrote hers, then she had an idea that was more up my alley, and she sent the seed to me!

I need a few people to read this and see if it makes sense… I shortened it, and I don’t know if I left out too much. This story is unrelated to any others, although fans of Frank Herbert will recognize the names! Bonus points to an commenter who can tell how many will “go” the next week…

Number Eleven     By AmyBeth Inverness

Grandpa was a miner.

He helped settle this planet; a lifeless world with a suitable atmosphere conveniently located close enough to several ore and mineral sources.  Terraforming Herbert’s World made it possible for miners like Grandpa to have a family. He’d spend a few weeks out in the field, chasing his fortune in the airless void, then he’d have a week or two to spend with the wife and kids at home.

We don’t have giant worms, but there is plenty of desert. Sand and rocks and not much else. There are only two oases; named Arakeen and Caladan by the same science fiction fans who named the planet.  Creating those two livable spaces was a major investment on the behalf of the mining co-op, but it paid off in the end.

In my father’s day, Arrakeen and Caladan grew by leaps and bounds, slowly but surely conquering the invasive sand. But about ten years ago, we seemed to come to a standstill. The desert pushed in; we pushed out again. We thought we were making such great progress, turning the lifeless hunk of rock into a slice of paradise…

Then a couple years ago the desert started winning. Most people say it’s normal, the natural cycles a planet goes through. Others say that the oases are big enough, and instead of expanding them farther, we should start a new one.

That’s why I’m out here, me and a dog named Rover in a rover named Dawg. It’s my job to scout the best location.

Rover is good company. Mostly, he just listens to me ramble, and he never complains about my singing. He even chimes in from time to time. Mom wanted me to take at least one other surveyor with me, after what’s been happening, but I really don’t have the time nor the inclination to take on a partner.

No one was surprised when crazy Maud walked off into the desert and got herself lost. A couple more went missing the next month. But a few weeks later, three people disappeared in one day, and that raised some eyebrows. The next week, it was five, and last week seven people managed to vanish without a trace.

If you ask me, that’s good reason to get out of the city for a while! If there’s some deranged lunatic lopping off heads or something, I’ll take the dunes anytime! The sand likes me. People don’t.

I’ve found what I’m pretty sure will be a good location for the new city. Bedrock that frequently pierces the desert surface, just far enough from Arrakeen and Caladan to be self-sufficient, but close enough for commerce and social interaction.

The radio has confirmed my choice of companions for the day. After several days of peace and quiet (albeit the random drunken brawl; that just happens) ten more people went missing today. I’m glad I’m out here with Rover, and not back in the city. I’m looking forward to moving out here.

I drive Dawg out into a shady spot in the lee of one of the larger rock formations. Rover starts barking his head off at something, I’ve no idea what. The only thing that moves is the wind. Somewhere around here I left a data miner; a device to record temperature fluctuations and such. The lee of the stone is a dead space for communications, and it’s part of my job to find out why.

I find it in a deep depression, which is weird because it was perfectly flat sand when I was here the other day. I can understand sand blowing up against it and creating a dune, but a depression? It’s like the sand is trying to eat it!

Rover growls and races around the edge of the hole as I skim my way down.

The miner won’t budge, even after five minutes of shaking and finding just the right leverage. It’s like the sand at the bottom magically turned itself to cement.

…and now my feet won’t budge. I’ve never been so happy for loose shoelaces, and I’m able to pull myself halfway out of the hole before I get bogged down again.

“Home!” I bark at Rover. “Go home!” He looks at me funny, but he runs off in the direction of Arrakeen. He may be slobbery, but he’s well trained. I just hope he can get help before I become number eleven.

By popular demand, I did continue this story. You can read Sand: Prime here.

Shortlink for this post: http://wp.me/p1rMYd-1Z

I have no idea why Geri and I started joking about Man-eating Pygmies this week, but I dared her to work the phrase into her Red Dress Club post, and she did. So I had to go one better.

This story is not related to anything anywhere. Enjoy. Concrit is welcome and eagerly anticipated!

(Oh, and Mom? The prompt was “jealousy”.)

Man-Eating Pygmies, by AmyBeth Inverness

Yes, these are the Pygmies from "Galaxy Quest", but the look works for this story lol!

Gloriana’s normally sea-blue eyes turned green. He’d one-upped her again. Sorensen had no shame, and enough money that most people didn’t care. The filthy rich could indulge in shameless behavior, so long as they didn’t Sheen themselves.

Gloriana’s accomplishments were built on hard work. She had done the legwork on life-supporting planets herself, and her contribution to the society’s menagerie was impressive. There were cross-eyed toads from Sygnus Three, bipolar bees from the smallest moon of Jamison’s Planet, and walking woodchips from Wiebe’s World.

Sorensen was the only explorer to bring back a hominid.

Not just one, but a whole village of short, bi-pedal creatures that looked frightfully similar to human beings. He had scooped them up in toto with their little grass huts and some kind of domesticated fur ball that reminded her of a guinea pig.

On the edge of the balcony overlooking their exhibit, a sign proclaimed The Peaceful Pygmies of Colantoni. Sorensen was posing for the paparazzi with whom he had a mutually fulfilling relationship, leaning casually against the railing. His tall frame teetered over the relatively low barrier. Sorensen was tall and blonde and handsome as a Ken doll, with money and brains to boot. Gloriana was just as blonde and her eyes were even bluer. The paparazzi loved her too, just for different reasons. The same two reasons Sorensen liked her, even though his respect was something he would never offer.

Gloriana looked at her reflection in the darkened glass of an exhibit under construction. Her reasons were in danger of busting out, as she had worn the most revealing possible neckline in anticipation of the press’ visit to the menagerie.

She watched Sorensen eat up the attention, and wished there was something she could do to make him lose his composure for just a moment, just long enough for the photographers to get some other expression than the toothy white smile that was permanently painted on.

She sauntered casually up to the edge of the crowd, listening to Sorensen’s self-aggrandizing speech about how he had found the little people. Subtly, she waited till his gaze wandered to her, and she took that moment to make a tiny adjustment to her bra.

It worked. It was just a moment of distraction when he lost his train of thought, but the next moment he turned back to the paparazzi and a flash illuminated his face. He teetered backwards for a moment, flailing his arms. It seemed that he would be able to right himself, but he fell backwards and landed with a splash in the moat that separated the pygmy camp from the observation wall.

Gloriana and the press rushed to the railing as the pygmies rushed to the moat. They approached cautiously, seeing the gangly explorer sitting up in their moat, his knees creating tiny islands in the water. Curious at first, there was a sudden change in their demeanor and the pack descended upon the helpless explorer. He screamed in agony as they tore him limb from limb.

Gloriana stumbled backwards, hitting her head on a stone bench. Blackness covered her sight, and she came to a few minutes later to find a handsome EMT leaning over her.

Sorensen had not stood a chance. His shoes were all that remained, and they were enshrined in their own exhibit in the menagerie’s main hall.

And the sign was changed to The Man-Eating Pygmies of Colantoni.

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