Fiction

A collection of all our works of literary fiction, including writing challenge entries.

Raymond’s attempt for the monthly writing challenge of April 2015.

This was my second attempt, I scraped the first after getting half way through writing it. If you want to check out the piece of art that inspired this fiction you can see it here.

In Eternity

28th of March, year 254 of the Roland dynasty. Blue year. stars of the Mother. Endsday.
Dearest Jonathan; I hope this letter eases your burden.

I have written this letter several times since the death of your father and sister last june.
Each time I thought I was about to face the fiend that killed my husband and youngest child, I would compose the letter a new.

I now go to face that creature one last time. I am sure of it. I have tracked the ghastly spirit and it’s host Father Mathew Star to the town of Agriphil. An Iron farming community near where the dracon sea meets the golden sands. I have learned from my mistakes. my body is scarred with reminders of my past failure. arcane lessons are written on my flesh with holy ink. The stars of the Mother hang in the sky over me tonight as i pray to our ancestors. perhaps they are one in the same? I hope my Sylvia found her way to them, and that Victor found his own home in the stars.
I ride into town tomorrow afternoon, finally our family will be avenged. I cast special bullets for Star some months ago. they have the words of the fallen on them.

if you are reading this I did not survive to make it back to you. I’ll leave this letter and some money with a post captain in town. it’s Risingday tomorrow, if I had survived, this letter would have never met your eyes.

I love you with all my heart Jon, but i had to end him. I could not put it to rest. I pray that you find peace an easier puzzle to solve.

In eternity; your mother, Ira.

The Sapphire sun of a blue year hung high in the midday sky. on the edge of town a tired horse slowly dragged its hoofs through the sand. It’s rider walked besides it, a wide brimmed white hat sat on her head. a long tan duster coat concealed the 7 shooter slung across the back of her belt.

the haggard pair walked down the main street of town before stopping in front of the post office. The rider abandoned her horse in the street before stumbling into the office. it was a small building, crafted from Iron trees grown together some 100 years ago during king Alron’s reign. the greying post captain was bent over an ancient straw broom sweeping sand out of the room when Ira walked in.

“i need this letter posted to Iropton. It’s for Jonathan Traylor of Traylor station.” Ira’s voice was soft and worn. 8 months in the desert had been hard on her body, and her spirit.

“Of course we can do that for you ma’am, but that is on the other side of the Bridgford ranges. it will take…” Ira cut the post captain off before he could finish. she plucked a coin purse from her belt, lifted out 3 gold dollars and dropped the bag on the counter.

“you can keep the change, just tell me….” she paused massaging her throat with a free hand as she sucked in a breeth. “is there a priest of the Father in town?”

the post captain was stunned for a moment before he quickly spoke. “why yes of course. Father Star is staying at the Broderick hotel down the block. He’s a very kind fellow, true avatar of the Father that one. I’m sure he’d be glad to give you service.”

Ira rolled her shoulders, shrugging off the ache and wear of the last few months in an instant. she turned her head to the side and spoke with a firm authority. “I do not worship the star lords.”

Ira strolled with purpose towards the Broderick, tightly grasping her remaining gold dollars in her fist. she had rehearsed this moment repeatedly over the last year. she had visualized it as she cut at her flesh in the endless rain of the Froh Dan basin. muttered it under her breath as the needles of the Carthadian nomads relentlessly marked her skin. Ira had even spoken them with conviction when she gunned down an innocent Father in the courthouse of Gum city.

there would be no mistakes this time. she knew this was the right Star. she failed to stop him in Xanthian; but he had had the advantage of night. now daylight was on Iras side. she stood at the doors to the Broderick Hotel and took a half second to compose herself before strolling in.

The Broderick clearly had once been a ritzy establishment. it had exposed Forest wood beams as main supports, and very little iron tree material in it’s walls. the former being rare in the desert, and later being very common in an iron farming community like Agriphil. At some point it must have changed hands and clientele as it was looking very run down. the tables and chairs were all grown from iron trees with very little treating as they had begun to rust. some of the broken Forest wood planks that made up the floor had been replaced with processed iron. In one corner 4 filth covered iron workers sat playing a game of chance.

Sitting alone at the stained and regrown bar sat a man in a black shirt, black trousers, and black boots. the purple stripe down the back of his shirt marked him as a priest of the star lords. the gold tattoos on his neck and hands gave away that he was an avatar of the Father. It had to be Star.

Ira made it halfway to the bar before Star turned to face her. for a moment his pale youthful face made Ira’s heart sink but she caught herself before her own face betrayed her. She grinned widely and chuckled.

“ha ha, Father Star. Just the priest I’m looking for!” Ira grabbed a seat to right of Mathew at the bar as she threw an arm around his shoulder. the Father just stared back confused.

“Do I know you daughter? you don’t seem familiar to me?” Ira grinned as he said daughter in order to hide her disgust. now was her moment.

“really? you don’t remember?” Ira signalled to the bar keep before shouting with slightly too much enthusiasm. “two shots of slater bourbon my man. leave the bottle.”

Star and Ira gazed at each other for a moment. one pair of eyes full of vengeance. another pair full of anxiety. then the bartender plonked down the bottle and stood waiting to be paid.

Ira pushed one shot glass towards the priest before slamming back the other and flicking a gold coin at the barmen. Mathew Star tried to hide his disgust at the smell of the Slater Bourbon.

“one for the father” she said as she poured herself another shot. she saluted this one to the sky before drinking it. “one for the mother” she flicked another coin at the barmen, he was clearly growing very annoyed.

Ira poured another shot. raised it up between Father Mathew and herself as she glared into his soul and slid her last coin across the bar towards him. “and one for the daughter.” the words slid out of her mouth between clenched teeth.

in a moment of realisation Star swept his hand across the bar, scattering the coin, the shot, and the bottle. he jumped to his feet kicking his stool out behind him as he let loose a scream of frustration and rage in two voices.

Ira chucked her shot towards her adversary as she flicked the tail of her coat and reached back to draw the revolver that was strapped to the small of her back. Star threw up his arms to shield his face like a pugilist. The bourbon splashed across his fists and he growl out and inhuman sound. the skin of his fists started to rupture and bleed as the Bourbon rolled across it. The mystic ink in Ira’s body had let her transmute the contents of the glass into a shadow poison. she had done the same to her own drink as well. she’d be dead in minutes, but her blood was now toxic to Star, as well as what ever he was host for.

Ira whipped her gun around just as thick black smoke started to seep out of Stars eyes and wounds. there was no mistake, this was the creature that had killed Victor and Sylvia. Ira pulled the trigger on her 7 shooter just as the spewing smoke made it’s host roar out all the air left in his lungs, Black acrid smoke coming with it. The specially built munition struck true at Star’s heart and he stumbled back, gripping the bar as he fell. the skin on his face was bubbling with blood as he coughed up black smoke.

Star slid down the face of the bar slowly. coughing, spluttering, and retching smoke and blood as he went. Ira took a few steps back and clutched her gun grip with both hands as she watched her true enemy take shape. the smoke had been rising steadily, but out of no where it shuddered and collapsed on the floor taking on the silhouette of a panther or tiger.
All at once a sea of red eyes opened in the smoke of it’s face, snapping to glare at Ira’s chest. She swiftly unloaded 4 of her remaining 6 rounds into its face and shoulders as it leapt at her. For a creature made of smoke it had a lot of mass as it slammed into her, knocking her to the ground and sending her revolver flying towards the door. the smoke cat hissed as wisps of itself dripped onto the floor, or flaked into the air.

A rip opened across it’s head and a mouth of jagged teeth, looking like broken glass, appeared. Ira tried to push it off of herself but the beast quickly bit into her shoulder, puncturing part of her neck as it did. Ira wailed in pain as she tried to strike at the smoke demon. her blows slipped through it’s mass like a bird through the air. She looked around for something or someone to help her and caught the gamblers fleeing out the back. Ira could just make out the bartender cowering behind a table. She whipped her head around, desperately looking for a bottle or a shard of iron, anything to strike back with. She could see a shuttered window just above her head and tried to grab at it as the smoke forced it’s spectral teeth deeper into her flesh.

She couldn’t reach it. she looked to the bartender with sorrow and desperation in her eyes and screamed. “break the window! break the damn window!”

the creature ripped it’s head back and tore a chunk of meat from Ira’s shoulder. she let out a blood curdling cry of agony before spitting out. “in the name of your ancestors break the mother fucking window!”

The loud thunder of a shotgun sounded through the Broderick as buckshot shredded the cheap scrap of the shutters, flooding the room with beams of Sapphire light. the sunlight blew great holes in the smoke tiger as Ira’s toxic blood dripped through it’s belly.

Ira Floundered limply for her revolver which sat on the other side of the room, her blood spewing out around her. an old man with a sheriff star on his belt and a golden shotgun in his hands walked towards her. the smoke was all but gone now, he would have only seen the wisp of it before crouching down next to her. he grabbed her hand and placing his longarm on the floor besides them.

his voice seemed distant as he spoke. “ you can go to the mother now.” he paused as he lifted Ira’s hat and began stroking here hair. Ira felt like her gut was boiling as he whispered to her. “or find your way to your ancestors.”

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Midnight

“i didn’t ask for this”

I wrote a piece of short fiction based on the above image, and a conversation i had with a novelist friend on tumblr. i hope you enjoy it. Thank you to Kamron Brooks for help with editing.

A cold wind whistled faintly across the dry desert plain. Blinking purple lights on perimeter probes were the only source of illumination. Thick green clouds hung low overhead, blocking the stars – a reminder of the scourge. Signs of life were absent from the surrounds, the desiccated skeleton of a solitary tree the only thing piercing the flat monotony of the horizon. Tall and broken, its silvery bark seemed to shine softly in the gloom.

Beneath the tree, surrounded by metal spheres hovering on dragonfly wings, an infantry drone sat with a cyber-dog dozing in its lap. The drone’s optics clicked and whirred into life. One robotic paw of the cyber-dog twitched; the drone stroked its companion tenderly with a free hand as its other reached for its pulse rifle.

“Commander,” the tiny voice of a combat drone whispered, “we must break camp. There’s a radstorm approaching from the east.”

The small cyber-dog rolled onto its feet and stretched out its legs ponderously. All tactical command Uplifts were based on Corgi genetic stock, their small size and natural intelligence a sound logistical choice. Easier to transport, less neuromechanical modification needed to Uplift. Externally, there was very little Corgi left. The cyber-dog was covered almost head to toe in plastic, metal, and composite, with a visor and sensor packs instead of soft doe-eyes and a wet black nose.

“My legs are aching,” the cyber-dog growled. “We’ll need to source some replacements at the next Oasis.” You could tell from the sound of his augment voice box that more than just his legs were aching. Cyber dogs had extended life spans, command units even more so. Still, 40 years was a long time to be online in hostile conditions.

“How long till the storm is on us Ro?” The commander yawned into the name, stretching his muzzle wide, chromed teeth shining in the dim night.

The humanoid combat machine opened a pouch on its superiors vest, pulling out a bar of food before replying. “If we remain beneath this tree and the winds don’t change, I would estimate 3 hours.” Ro stood up, the quiet sounds of the machines servos whispering across the desolate plain, and placed the food near its friend. They had been together since the closing days of the Australian-Indonesian war, more than 25 years ago. Ro picked a jacket up off the gravel, the only piece of clothing they had. It was stained, and the colour had faded, but it had few bullet holes.

“Commander Kai. The probes have spotted a large dust trail coming from the north east.” It was hard for Ro’s voice box to emote concern, but it still managed it well enough.

Commander Kai growled and snapped his head towards the dust trail. The visor grafted over his eyes shone with a diffuse red light as he sprinted up the dead tree, cyber-claws digging into the wood for purchase. The visor enhanced his vision while also overlaying the sensor data from the both the probes and Ro. He barked once into the night – it had the same emotion as someone cursing.

“Lots of heat coming off their machine, whatever it is. My bet is humans from the convoy.”  Kai let out a high pitched “Yip!” before jumping from the top of the tree and into Ro’s arms.

Ro shifted commander Kai so he could be held with one arm. Ro pointed the scavenged pulse rifle towards the oncoming dust cloud as ports on the side of its head flared open. “Fight or flight commander, either way I am with you.”

“Fuck it,” the ageing cyber-dog snapped, “I was sick of walking anyway.”

***

The dry red dust kicked up behind them as their truck hurtled across the desert. A turbine engine powered by nuclear batteries salvaged from broken and defeated war drones pushed the machine forward at terrifying speeds. Built to provide light armour support to airborne infantry, the frame of the buggy was rugged and sturdy. Most of the original armour still remained but the main laser had been scrapped, a broken focusing lens rendering it useless. Missile pods had been stripped out to carry more people and supplies when needed. Tonight though, they needed speed.

The radstorm was rolling in and the convoy needed shelter. Most of the large trucks and tanks could last a few hours, the scout cars and bikes sent wide to look for caves, bunkers — even a carport would help. The buggy was headed south west. 1 driver, 2 lookouts. Nadia was behind the wheel, Cassy in the turret, and Mich was in the navigator’s seat checking the screens. Of the three, only Nadia could remember life before the scourge…barely.

A light pop sounded through the night, almost inaudible over the roar of the turbine. The pop was swiftly followed by bright flash of white light that faded to a yellow orb that hung in the sky. Nadia quickly swerved towards it.

Mich called from the navigator’s seat. “Cassy, who launched that flare?”

Cassy was adjusting the smart visor settings, to no avail. “I got nothing, you?”

The flare had temporarily overwhelmed the IR scanners, but Mich managed to get something off the LIDAR; the silhouette of a tree with no leaves. “There’s a tree up ahead.” Mich paused as the sensors indicated a faint trace of a comms mesh near the trees. “Head over there,” he yelled up at Nadia, “and prime the turret.” The last part he directed at Cassy. They might not have had a laser, but a machine gun could still get the job done — most of the time.

Nadia skidded the truck to a stop just a few metres short of the tree. Cassy slowly panned the machine gun turret to the left, stopping when it was pointed at the tree. As the turbine wound down the only sounds that remained were the random chirps and pings of the scanners, the heavy yet steady breathing of the scouts.

Mich pretty quickly picked up where the bulk of comms mesh was situated, spotting a cluster of perimeter probes hung silently in the upper branches of the tree. An old model, they could hover at a maximum altitude of almost a thousand metres. Mich was at a loss trying to think of why someone would stick them in a tree. He quickly checked the IR sensor: it’d be working properly in a few seconds. “I’m gonna check out the bug bots” he called to his comrades. Locked into the side of his chair was his frag-gun. Looking like little more than overcharged blunderbuss, the frag-gun used a shaped charge to push a wall of fire and red hot shrapnel at whatever you wanted dead. It was best used at close range in a confined space though, which was why Mich also carried a machine pistol.

He stepped out of the buggy, grabbed his gun and quickly checked the IR. After a second of thought Mich screamed as he realised what was on the screen. A combat droid buried in the dirt right at the nose of the truck. “Ambush!”

***

Ro jumped from the dirt as the Scav-Hunter shouted, rolling forward and past. The turret swivelled to face where Ro had just been, but was now pointed at an empty hole. Ro slammed an overclocked arm into loud-mouth’s legs like a sledgehammer, sweeping him off his feet. The dirty man looked up at Ro, stunned. He was barely into his 20’s.

“Sorry” Ro chirped as a robotic fist slammed in Mich’s face like freight train hitting a wall of butter.

The machine gunner had found Ro. They managed to put 5 bullets into Ro’s back before the combat drone’s powerful legs launched it backwards a couple of metres. Ro tumbled to the left once it felt the ground beneath its legs, coming up into a crouched firing stance, and squeezed the pulse rifle’s trigger. A half-second’s burst worth of glowing red bullets punched right through what little armour the turret had, penetrating through to the dirty scavenger manning it. Two down, one to go.

Once the shooting and the yelling had started, commander Kai had dashed out from behind the tree and headed for the car. Within seconds Ro had killed two of the Sanctuary’s scouts and Kai could smell the remaining woman panicking. She probably hadn’t ever encountered a fully refurbished infantry drone before, let alone one with over 25 years’ experience. The commander crept under the truck, a flechette gun sliding out from a combat slot on its back. Kai could see through Ro’s eyes and knew the drone was watching the last target. She was desperately trying to pick up her frag-gun, fumbling in her panic. The commander jacked Ro’s voice box.

“Drop your weapon. Surrender your vehicle. If you comply, you will be allowed to live.” Kai’s words might have seemed strange coming from Ro, but it was something they’d done hundreds of times over the last quarter of a century.

The woman trembled as she pointed the gun at Ro, who was too far away to be seriously injured by it. “Drop the weapon now.” Ro bellowed.

The gun fired with a loud boom. Kai sprinted out from under the car, past Nadia’s legs. He leapt into the air, twisting around to unleash a tight stream of silent metal needles. At such close range the flechette gun shredded Nadia’s neck, face and shoulders. Kai slammed into the dirt, shock stressing his legs. A second later Nadia fell to her knees, blood bubbling out of a plethora of small pinhole punctures in her flesh. She tried to say something but just coughed a fine mist of blood into the air in front of her before collapsing into the dust.

Ro slowly lowered the pulse rifle and walked towards the buggy. “Are we going to bury the bodies, commander?” Ro sounded almost genuine.

The old cyber-dog snarled. “Humans don’t deserve the fucking sentiment.”