Below are 23 stories, each exactly 100 words long (not counting the titles, which were added later). Writing these has been a great exercise in learning the craft of story-telling. Some of these have been published (as noted) and some have been entered in contests.
No Present For Second Place
The would-be invaders arrived too late. The planet had already been conquered. Evidence clearly showed militaries surrendering to one powerful superman. Civilians were taking shelter.
But how could he be so successful?
Perhaps his telepathy protected him. He knew so much about so many people!
Perhaps it was his speed of movement, so fast even the aliens’ orbiting technology couldn’t track him.
Another unexpected datapoint: his victims were resilient, surviving his repeated incursions.
The aliens listened, transfixed, as the war below played out for all to hear.
“This is a NORAD special report. Santa Claus has left the North Pole…”
—First published at Specklit.com on 24 December, 2015
Shakespeare’s Last Stand
The legendary Shakespearean actor awoke to, “Assume crash positions!”
Glancing around as panicked faces craned to peer out the windows, abject fear at the angle of their descent ghosting their visages.
What do they know of fear? Peons!
Fear the indignities of ageing. Fear indifference and degradation! Flying to an audition? Audacity!
Sitting in Economy, among the Greek chorus? Not even a window seat? Humiliation!
If they must die, let them die enlightened. One final stage then and not a critic to besmirch the memory, he thought as he arose, clearing his throat for their attention.
“To be, or”
—Submitted as part of a contest run by Janet Reid, June 2015 (was a finalist)
Forget Me Nots
Two hundred years ago, we discovered FTL.
A hundred and eleven years ago, we made first contact. War inevitably followed.
Ninety-eight years ago, the remnants of humanity were dispersed among twenty hidden, low profile colonies, none knowing the location of any other, only that they existed.
Eighty-five years ago, omni-directional broadcasts from Earth stopped abruptly.
Seventy-two years ago, catastrophe beacons started broadcasting fallen colonies’ epitaphs.
Two months ago, nineteen colonies had been accounted for, destroyed, all but us.
Three weeks ago, something entered our solar system.
An hour ago, our president apologized for failing to save us.
A second ago…
—First published at Specklit.com on 25 July, 2016
My First Cosplay
This should be a great night!
Human Cosplay is new to my species. Dressing up in another being’s guise is incredibly empowering.
It’s almost as much fun as making the costume.
Entering the bar, everyone notices my impressive appearance. I must have done well to draw such immediate attention.
There are my co-workers, at the back: the cool crowd, finally accepting me.
“Dreegli, what have you done?” Cute little Shrel asks, exasperated, eyes wildly tracing the blood dripping down my sides.
“I … came as a Human?”
“You’re supposed to emulate them, not kill them and wear the carcass.”
Author’s Note: I read recently about a cosplay hosted at the Sydney Sexpo. It got me thinking about how easy it is to misunderstand the base assumptions of participation in someone else’s traditions.
—First published at Specklit.com on 17 July, 2016
How do you disprove the existence of God when he’s standing in front of you: Wry smile on his all-knowing countenance; not as old as you’d expect; not a stitch of clothing on him; definitely male, if a little feral.
There were hundreds gathered around – watching, recording, posting – when I arrived at the scene. I was numb from the October wind. He wasn’t even shivering.
He wasn’t flashy: No miracles or anything, just knew everything, everyone, every…
Red laser! Gunshot! He’s down!
* * *
“Your first telepath?” My Director sympathized later. “They always try the ‘I’m God’ gambit. But nude? That’s new.”
—First published at Specklit.com on 30 November, 2015
Everyone knows where the answers are – at the event horizon. Hawking radiation retains all information. All you have to do is go get it…
Bold and desperate peoples, attempting to rewrite their history, often tried, and repeatedly failed.
The crew of Hawking’s Hope had a different plan. Don’t try to capture the information, try to join it:
Immortality, a long sleep, until someone else figures out how to retrieve them. So the last humans, fleeing extermination, gathered on one ship, gambling on becoming woolly mammoths revived from extinction.
Whether that ship’s fool errand worked, we still don’t know. Maybe someday.
—First published at Specklit.com on 16 November, 2015
How It Really Happened
For most of them, it was the night sky that gave the first clue. They used social media to meet up, to stand together, ooh-ing and aah-ing as a constant stream of shooting stars rained down on Earth for almost four whole days.
But their leaders knew better.
No artificial satellite could survive that bombardment. Blinded, they could do nothing but await the inevitable arrival of the asteroids.
Of the eight we sent, only five hit – one missed completely, and two glanced off the atmosphere.
Nevermind, it was sufficient.
The humans had no colonies. They are no longer a threat.
Author’s Note: Despite what some books and movies may tell you, there’s no reason why aliens would invade Earth. Killing us from afar is a much more efficient way to remove a resource competitor.
—First published at Specklit.com on 19 October, 2015
The satellite definitely isn’t American.
ESA, Russia, and China all deny its provenance too. So the Americans decide to crack this mystery open, see who complains.
Hanson intercepts it slowly. Thrust. Glide. Adjust. Repeat.
At 3 metres, she reports in. “It looks like rock. Are you sure it isn’t?”
“It’s pulsing in high band UV.”
A minute later. “Contact! Feels like rock.”
A shiny round orb scurries around the rock, stares at Hanson.
“Um, guys, it’s alive!”
The orb blinks.
Hanson’s suit dies. She drifts off, spinning slowly. Below, she can see the cities on Earth’s night side going dark.
“The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived.”
Disheartening uncertainty plagued his dreams: which were real, which perceived?
Indeterminacy was more than a philosophy … they wanted him to love Lucy, not Peppermint Patty
Entanglement occurs only over limited distances … the gang didn’t wear mittens when skating on the pond
The kitten was both dead and alive
… but they wanted him to play the piano
Was he Schrödinger or Schroeder? … Beethoven’s fifth uncertainty, please.
Heisenberg awoke from his dreams, or were they nightmares? Uncertainty persists!
Note to self: congratulate Erwin.
— Written for another of Janet Reid’s contests, not submitted.
The golden box is a Goddess, no doubt. If we give her sunlight everyday, then she gives us light at night.
She refused to marry our old chief, so we killed him. Our new chief won’t even ask her. He is wiser.
She says we must “keep a separation of church and state.” Whatever that means.
She gives us knowledge.
Just say the magic words, “Hey Siri…” Then ask her: “Where am I?” and she draws a “map.” (She taught us “maps.”)
“Will it rain tomorrow?”
Every day, we walk “north” looking for this magical food called “restaurants.”
“Merge left for greater prosperity in the coming year.” I merged left, hoping that meant I would finally pay down my student loans.
“Those wise in the ways of the heart follow I-95.” I took the crowded I-95.
“Stop in 1 mile at the IHOP to meet your soul mate.” Of course, it never tells you how long to wait for your soul mate. I gave up after three hours.
“Your lucky roads are US 63, I-75 and 1st Avenue.” What kind of direction is that? Damn I hate the ‘fortune cookie’ upgrade to Waze.
Maybe the Tindr upgrade would’ve been better?
Hail to the Chiefs
“Sir,” An agent interrupted my dinner, “President Jones is dead. I’m sorry sir, you’re president now.”
The Secret Service doesn’t so much protect presidents these days, as ensure they don’t run away.
The AI, desiring peace, keeps assassinating successive presidents because they have the power to declare war. Lexington, bless his heart, tried to change that constitutional clause, but congress refused to ratify the amendments, the cowards.
The AI’s been creative lately: A snowplow killed Kringle, Lexington was trampled by horses, Jones suffocated in a submerged locker.
God help me but I can already imagine my demise, I’m named Quarters.
Toto Was Wrong
Toto was wrong
Working five years, Capetown to Kampala;
Cities, townships, and refugee camps blue.
I have heard wild dogs cry out in the night (and lions, too)
I’ve killed a black mamba, eaten a croc
and a giraffe’s thigh.
I’ve sought wisdom from an old bull elephant.
I’ve seen friends die.
With great people, famous and obscure,
I’ve stood shoulderby.
I have been blessed by the rains down in Africa
Kilimanjaro does not rise above the Serengeti
(like an empress, or no).
It would take a lot to drag me away from you,
Toto was right.
—Written for another of Janet Reid’s contests, not submitted.
Jakarta’s setting sun illuminates the dust. With a parched cough, you dodge motorbikes, jostle with crowds among the stalls of the old market.
Why’d you ever enrol in this stupid school anyway? They take all your money, toss you on some God-forsaken street, calling it “Orientation.”
Weathered farmers, selling fresh durian, are wary of you. They’ve got your number, seeing that hunger, not morality, drives your actions.
You fade into the crowd, pleased at your prize: one small durian.
Beside you, your schoolmaster appears. His ruler cracks your knuckles. “First lesson: hunger betrays a thief. Start again.”
—Written for another of Janet Reid’s contests.
“WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST!”
We scrambled against time, scavenging for fortified food packets airdropped the night before.
Boom! A mine.
Gregor got careless. Shrapnel missed me; blood, not so much…
I grabbed Gregor’s packet, handed it to Mary. We’d eat this week.
“Grace be upon us.” 9-year-old me mumbled.
“His gaze be upon us,” corrected a man. Panic hit hard. How’d I missed the “MEN ENTERING NOW” klaxon?
He leered. Mary bolted. He chased: her, the food, or both. Boom! Fine dirt and blood everywhere, again.
I carefully recovered the packet, made it to sanctuary, alone.
—Written for another of Janet Reid’s contests.
The scientists unveiled their plan. “We thought big bang nucleosynthesis was the beginning of the universe. But then we discovered a period of cosmic inflation predating that. With our latest technology, we should be able to pierce that veil and truly discover what created the universe.”
At the back of the lecture hall, one man spoke into his lapel. “Did you hear that? Is the next layer ready?”
“No, dammit,” his earpiece replied. “They’re progressing too quickly. This time, they will discover us. Options?”
“Reset the universe?”
“Another big bang? No. How about just a supernova? Their local star?”
He called us the scatterlings of Africa,
children of the ultimate Diaspora.
He read from the book of the survived:
Everywhere they’d taken us, we had thrived.
We weathered every storm, every freezing snap;
even contaminated cooler crap.
We stood on the shoulders of giants
(and other parts, we ain’t lyin’)
We went into the dark
Saw the loneliness that Diddy fear’d.
We rode rockets to the stars;
finding places irrevocably queer’d.
We embraced our destiny
despite Diddy’s implore.
We traded disease, pestilence, even death to win that war.
We are the mother-bopping cockroaches, and we ain’t mortal no more!
—Written for another of Janet Reid’s contests (was a finalist).
“All your heart wants, really, is a good life… wife… I meant ‘wife’.” Frustrated, you reach for the glass of champagne and try to remember your speech. A voice in your head says, ‘don’t drink it all.’
You drink it all.
Then it says, ‘don’t look at the bride…’
You look at the bride…
She’s telegraphing her thoughts, her anger, ‘what are you plotting, little brother? Don’t you dare screw this up.’
You nod thoughtfully, ‘dare accepted!’ You bend down and take another hit from the helium balloon.
In your best Donald Duck voice you say, “Dude, marry someone nice.”
—Written for another of Janet Reid’s contests.
I Learned a lot
I learned a lot from the man in black.
Black hats don’t run.
Either meaning of the word – you don’t run from danger when you wear a black hat, and the colour doesn’t run when it gets wet.
Black boots don’t show dirt.
You dig a lot when you’re the man in black. Well, if you want to be the mysterious man in black anyway. Can’t let them find the bodies.
Black thoughts don’t acknowledge the bodies.
What bodies? Did I say bodies?
Mostly I learned that black vests don’t reveal bloodstains.
And his clothes are my size, too.
I pressed record. “Who’s the one that got away?”
“This girl,” wistful remembrance filled Grampa’s sun-baked face: An Alzheimer’s-proof memory. “We met on a train in the Crimea, right after the war. My God, we were so alive. She wanted to swim in the sea. She took me skinny dipping!”
“Grandpa!” I barked. He smiled, sadly.
“Ah, Ian, my ruff Ian, you must live poetically, at least once in your life. Promise me that?”
“She wasn’t for me, I guess. It isn’t easy but you let people go, be happy for them.”
That night we let Grandpa go.