The following stories are more in the science fiction genre than anything else. And I've mostly written these in response to the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction prompts, something that happens monthly with a cash prize awarded - not that I've won any awards for these stories. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them.
A good day to die
Breathing hard, I crested the top of the mountain.
Before me was an amazing view, highlighted by the golden glow of the two suns, one sitting a few inches above the horizon, the other almost directly overhead. Wide-open plains stretched off into the hazy distance, separated by rugged mountains. A line of trees snaked its way throughout the nearest plain, outlining the river I’d followed.
Everything was silent and still. Breathing out, I planned my next move, relaxing my shoulders slightly. Turning, I scanned the approach through the lens atop my weapon. Sweat ran down my arms and back. My heart pounded like a drum.
Off to the right, a shape shimmered in the heat.
An Overlord slowly approached my position, studying me carefully. It stopped just within speaking distance. It’s elongated head lowered briefly, acknowledging me. It’s soft and doughy body, surrounded with razor-sharp, deadly thorns, quivered.
I lowered my weapon but held still. Waiting.
I’d been hunted relentlessly, but I’d managed to avoid this Overlord. Until now. Here, I had no escape. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. And no charge left in my weapon. I was hungry. Thirsty. Covered in dirt, my clothing stained and torn.
My muscles tensed, ready to fight, with my bare hands if necessary. I couldn’t keep up the unrelenting pace of the hunt. Not anymore.
And the Overlord before me undoubtedly knew this.
It’s whole body quivered again. In anticipation of the kill? Or in excitement of finally bringing me to ground? Its long, blue-scaled tongue came out and scented the air.
I stood as tall as possible, my shoulders back, eyes straight ahead. If I were to die, I would do so with dignity and pride.
“You humans are tougher than you look,” the Overlord said. “You’re brave, resourceful and worthy.”
I aimed my empty weapon at the heart-shaped tattoo etched on the Overlord's chest, willing to do anything. Knowing the end was near.
“Today,” I croaked, “is a good day to die.”
“Four days,” it hissed. “Four nights I’ve hunted you. With no capture. That’s a record. One even our best hunter couldn’t match.”
My finger twitched on my weapon’s trigger. My mind whirled frantically. The delicate perfume of crushed eucalyptus leaves wafted through my memory. A poignant reminder of home. Of love and friendship. Of good meals and happier times. Of everything I’d lost. Closing my eyes, tears welled. Sadness and regret expanded through my chest, as thick as honey.
“Come,” the Overlord said, stepping forward, “your reward awaits.”
# # #
Three weeks later, I amble along the riverbank. My stomach full, my weapon fully charged. A water bottle was strapped to my belt, my clothes clean. The golden glow of the twin suns touched the treetops like they were on fire. I glance down, admiring the tattoo etched onto my calf.
Four gum leaves.
A symbol of the family I’d lost.
An icon of my hard-won freedom.
Three dozen teenagers cautiously study me, already confident they knew everything.
Of course, they do. That’s why they’ve been chosen to attend this influential school. They’re our only hope for the future after all.
I begin the history lesson by describing how I grew up. About a time when hand-held portable devices allowed us to have the entire world’s knowledge at our fingertips. That we could listen to any music we wanted or contact anyone in the world via a thing called social media.
Of course, they don’t believe me.
When I tell them about the range of food that was available, initially their mouths drop open. Then they scoff, growing even more sceptical. The food I tell them about is a fantasy, a thing of dreams. Nothing like their reality.
I sigh. My past isn’t something these teenagers could ever imagine, let alone believe. No wonder they’re so suspicious.
To them I’m old. A relic of the past. Still, I strive to convey how different the world I grew up in was to now. Before long, the issue of my generation’s legacy is raised.
Which is good. Because it’s more than time to make things right.
“We thought the world was about to end,” I explain, my words rushing together. “That fire, floods and scorching temperatures were about to devour the earth. We were convinced the polar regions were melting. That islands would disappear due to rising sea levels. That all animal life would become extinct. Teenagers just like me, some younger than you, demanded immediate action. We wanted change. Because if we wanted to avoid a catastrophe, we knew they were essential. But the results we expected, the ones we hoped for, never eventuated.”
“You destroyed our world,” one teenage student, wearing a flowery shirt, proclaimed.
“It’s all your fault,” declared another. “You should be ashamed.”
“Look at what all your senseless, ridiculous theories created,” another angry teenager shouted, flinging their arms out wide.
The entire class glanced out at the cold, frozen lake outside. At the deep-packed snow surrounding us. To the dead trees. The overcast sky. The freezing wind sweeping the empty, featureless landscape beyond the college grounds.
I step back and cross my arms while my stomach tightens. “There’s still a lot we don’t understand about our climate. It doesn’t matter how who you believe, or how convincing the scientists are. Nothing is certain.” I pause as disbelief buzzes through the classroom. “We did our best to save your future.”
“And yet, what we inherited was a frozen wasteland,” a furious teenager snaps. “Somewhere it’s too cold to grow anything. With no resources. No power. A place where almost everything is dead.”
Three dozen cold, hard eyes bore into mine, condemning me, judging me harshly.
“So much for saving our world, our future.”
“Then don’t listen to those predicting doom,” I tell them. “That was our mistake, not yours. Be sensible. Act cautiously. And make up your own minds about the future you want.”