Story Thread: June 9 – June 22 Flash Fiction Contest “Invasion”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the Theme: “Invasion”.

The prompt can be any kind of an invasion: military, alien, insect etc.

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:

One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.

Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

The winner shall name the next week’s writing prompt.
In case of ties, co-winners may be announced and the moderator shall select a winner to name the theme.
The winner has three days after the announcement to contact either Alice Nelson or Carrie Zylka via LIFlashFiction(at)gmail.com with the next theme/items of their choosing.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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12 thoughts on “Story Thread: June 9 – June 22 Flash Fiction Contest “Invasion”

  • June 10, 2016 at 8:21 pm
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    “This is my place,” she thought to herself while settling into her foxhole.” A hour before the sunsets with the sun to my back and the enemy still at dinner.” She cleaned her M-16, oiled the bore lightly, then loaded it with round. She pl aced the rifle so it avoided dirt and took her embroidery out. Sitting on a small stool, she arranged the colors she would use so that she could continue sewing even after dark when the moon became full.

    “Think they’ll come tonight, Sergeant Fuller?” the voice behind her said. She turned her head to see the new woman in her squad squatting nervously on the rim of her position.

    “Full moon, and ISIS out there? Yeah, they’ll attack us tonight, Private. Get into your position now, with snacks, your rifle ready and a share of the grenades. They’ll be here tonight, and determined to kill the women who hold them back. They curse us, tell the others that when a Kurdish woman kills them, they can’t go heaven. We Kurdish women, even me whose mother was Kurdish, need to turn them back. We need to turn them back once more, always again once more. Don’t forget your knife. Remember what we pledged.”

    “Sergeant Fuller, you were safe with your father’s family in the U.S. Why did you come back here? They can’t touch you back there. Why?”

    “Oh, girl, it’s simple. Invaders will come, take us as slaves, rape us and none can afford to be indifferent these days. I trained with the U.S. Army, earned my stripes there, but my sisters of my childhood are here, and I will keep them safe.”

    The young woman nodded and moved to ready herself for the fight that would come to them that night.

    “So,” the sergeant thought to herself, “I’ll sew red tonight for the flowers that lined the plaza where I grew up, for the hibiscus from California that I grew while in the Army. I’ll sew blue for the color of a free sky, now clouded by smoke. I’ll use the pink on the face of a child smiling in her families enclosure. I’ll sew green for the uniform I wear, olive green like the trees that used to be around my home. I’ll sew black for the revenge I intend to wreak tonight for the kidnapping and murder of my mother and sister. Then I will stand tall and take their throats if they try to sneak past us once again.”

    “I’m here, Sarge. Ready for this?” Private Marissa dropped into the hole. She began cleaning her weapon using the same protocol that the Sergeant had used. Finishing she picked up her pack and set their supply of grenades up at waist height. They had built a shelf there to accommodate them, set into the dirt wall.

    “I’m always ready, Private. There is talk of your promotion soon. I was pleased to endorse it.”

    “Yes, Sarge, thank you. They told me at dinner.” She took her own embroidery out, but only selected two colors. “We fight for our sisters. We fight for our lives. We fight so that those who seek to take our freedom pay dearly.” She was somber and watched the older woman stitch quietly. How could she feel so little anxiety? “I talked to the corporal who is with the new girl. She’s settling in nicely. How can you be so calm, Sarge? You are always so calm.”

    “I sit with the memories of my mother and sisters. If I die, I join them in heaven. If I live, I make our world safer for your mother and sisters. This is an invasion we face, and men will die tonight at the hands of the women whom they hold in scorn. Did you remember your knife? We don’t allow ourselves to be taken prisoner, and we don’t show mercy.” “Years,” she thought to herself. “I have the benefit of years. If I live, I continue this course. If I die, I die free.”

    They sat and sewed as the sun set. When the direct light of the sun faded, a sound occurred. The sergeant took a glance around and then called out as a crow would. She readied her rifle, stabilizing herself on the sandbag. The camera she used to look over the edge of her foxhole, transferred its data to her laptop, also on a dug in shelf. All of her people used the cameras. It gave them power.

    “Hell is on the way,” she murmured. “Pass the tea and the grenades, my dear. The party is about to start.”

  • June 11, 2016 at 4:05 am
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    An Invasion

    The faint hum of machinery was persistent. It filled her mind, harmonising with the images of that last day.

    That last day, Jacinta remembered the luncheon prepared for the visitors who had been shown through the amazing complex at Pine Gap. It was one of the few times media personnel would get to see the missile defence system set up to defend their vast continent.

    It had been a stroke of luck really, that she had been able to join the Herald Sun team who along with fifty or so other reporters from other agencies who were going to be taken through Pine Gap and treated to a catered BBQ dinner and some interesting presentations by military big wigs.

    “They must be preparing for something.” one of the older reporters had quipped sourly. “Catered luncheon. It can’t compare to anything that the VRC could turn on in the Members Pavilion at Flemington Racecourse.”

    “Roast Caloprymnus campestris for mains.” Quipped another and when Jacinta looked puzzled, her boss Amanda Box stated wearily “Desert Rat. They’re extinct anyway. Don’t worry. Here’s your itinerary. You’re leaving from Essendon Airport.” She looked at her watch. “In 55 minutes.”

    Jacinta caught the Skybus and loaded on to the military jet with around fifty or more other reporters. It was a raucous trip with alcohol aplenty. Jacinta wondered at that intoxicating abundance; nursed her single white wine and ate heartily of the roast beef lunch combined with a wonderfully light passionfruit meringue dessert. They arrived at the Gap in searing heat, despite it being only the 6th of August.

    They were broken up into five groups of eleven or twelve. Each group had a guide, along with four guards with submachine guns casually slung over their shoulders, who shepherded their charges through the vast complex at an efficient pace. Not a moment was to be wasted.

    There was a long tunnel that disappeared into the ground not far from the BBQ area in a clearing outside where they would have the evening meal. Jacinta had tried to get some answers about its purpose earlier on in the day. The door to tunnel must have been at least a metre thick steel.

    “Classified information. Sorry.” The guide had answered. A military person she had asked during the meal had simply narrowed his eyes and turned his back on her, then marched away. She kept glancing at the solid door and wondering if she should slip inside. Just a quick look. She could pretend she thought it was the Ladies. She looked for an accomplice and found one in another female reporter Rose, from the Courier Mail. They started to edge their way over to the tunnel and the door.

    It was at precisely 6.01 pm when the sirens started. They saw the ground break open. Slowly, smoothly the huge missiles rose sixty or seventy metres into the darkening desert air. Gleaming white against a velvet star studded blanket, their nose cones pointed skyward and the earth paused – a deadly silence before a deafening roar. Several missiles disappeared; streaking into the night sky, but one.

    It hung for seconds, a broken bird and plummeted towards the base.

    Jacinta and Rose fled. To the tunnel door and stepped inside. Rose, panicked turned the wheel of the door to lock. As she did so, the door sealed. A voice warned them to step away from the door and to proceed as fast as they could down the tunnel. As they fled down the tunnel, other heavy steel doors activated and slammed down and up as well as across behind them. The voice guided them on. Later Jacinta realised that their footsteps down the tunnel had activated the security measures, sealing them off from the surface. They ran for what seemed like a kilometre or more.

    They slowed down finally. Tears running down her face, Rose tried calling. No signal. SOS. Nothing.

    “I think the walls are lead lined.” Jacinta white faced, tried to comprehend what they had just seen. They continued to walk. Suddenly the tunnel widened out into what looked like the entrance to a hospital unit. Through two sets of double glass doors, they could see some figures marching back and forth. They knocked and screamed for what seemed like ages, before someone noticed them and came to the set of doors where they were. It was only when the figure came closer, Jacinta realised it was a very human looking robot.

    “Military ID code? Unit Authorisation Code? Password of the day?” it asked.

    “We are reporters! This is an emergency. There has been an accident. Please LET US IN!!’

    “Military ID code? Unit Authorisation Code? Password of the day?” it repeated. They shouted and screamed to no avail.

    After the fifth repetition and the obvious wrong response, the robot turned and strode away leaving the two women screaming at the door. Precisely 15 minutes later, it returned with a small bespectacled man in a white coat. His name tag read, Research Unit – Dr Phillip Chambers.

    He palmed the doors and a voice-over told them, “15 seconds to enter.” The two frightened women did not need a second invitation. The doors snapped shut behind them.

    They tried to tell him what had happened. He stopped them.

    “We already know. We’ve closed circuit surveillance system that showed us a lot more than you’d care to see.”

    “Well, now you should make yourselves comfortable. We’re here for the next 75 years at least.’ Both women gasped.

    “You see we’re the research unit for the worst case scenario. I and five other researchers and you two are probably the only people left alive in Australia, with a few exceptions. There’s good news however.’

    “What is the good news?” Jacinta asked shaking.

    “There are 10,000 human embryos stored here. Embryos created from the top minds of the world. All nations, all races to repopulate the earth – the best of the best. You volunteering or not?”

  • June 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm
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    Mosquito Sunset on the Human Horizon

    The mosquito alighted on the woman’s unprotected neck, right between the frayed ends of her brown hair and the dirty collar of her beige shirt. Its proboscis probed her sunburnt skin until it found a spot of its liking then pierced her skin with so much precision and skill that a human surgeon, training day and night for the rest of his or her life, wouldn’t be able to match the beauty of its incision. But perhaps a surgeon would have been cleaner. As the mosquito drank its fill of the woman’s blood, a previously undiscovered virus strain, which the mosquito had picked up from a sick baboon dying alongside a riverbank, was entering the woman’s bloodstream courtesy of the mosquito’s saliva.
    Later that day, the woman, along with her husband, boarded a British Airway flight from Sudan to Boston with a five hour layover in Paris. The woman walked through Charles De Gaulle Airport feeling slightly ill and itchy. She urged her husband to quickly find her a place to sit so she could rest, and fearing her allergies were acting up, take the Benadryl Allergy pills she kept in her carry-on luggage. She hastily put two pills in her mouth and washed them down with a bottle of lukewarm water. Almost instantly, the itching subsided.

    “How are you feeling?” her husband asked, a short while later, looking up from his copy of National Geographic. On the cover was a snowy owl in mid-flight, cutting its way through a powdery sky on its way, most assuredly, to bring death to some unsuspecting small mammal.

    “I feel fine except my neck is sore,” she replied trying in vain to stretch the tightness she felt spreading through her shoulders.

    Like the dutiful husband he was, Christopher put the magazine aside and got up from his chair.

    “Here,” he said walking to stand behind his wife. “Let me massage that for you.” He knew that their missionary trip to Sudan had been overly stressful for her. She had wanted to bring home every malnourished child she saw since her barren womb unable to nourish a child of their own.

    She bowed her head and closed her eyes in anticipation of her husband’s strong, yet gentle, hands on her neck.

    “Janice?”

    “Hmm? You never call me Janice,” she said. “What’s the matter?” A pounding was just starting behind her eye that made her feel as though the airport was spinning around her. The sensation made her nauseous.

    “How long have you had this lump on the back of your neck?”

    Janice tried to respond but her mouth was suddenly a volcano, spewing the contents of her stomach into her lap and cascading onto the floor.
    *****
    It was Pierre’s first day working as a janitor at Charles De Gaulle Airport. It was not his dream job but employment in his small village of Provins was scarce. He had happily settled for the title of Gardien I after waiting three months to hear back from anyone willing to hire him. As a reward it seemed for his patience, an hour into his first shift he had already had to clean up the stinking vomit of some American tourist. The lady had apparently been quite ill, having been rushed from the airport to American Hospital of Paris, but he did not care about her condition. Americans were always spreading their filthy germs and ideologies wherever they went. The less he had to come in contact with them the better.

    The rest of his shift went by quietly as he cleaned and scrubbed one toilet after another. It was as he was standing in line for the train to travel to his sister’s house in Saint-Denis that he began to feel sick. He attributed his tiredness and sudden soreness to working so hard that day after spending the previous three months lounging around playing video games. When the train finally arrived, he collapsed into the nearest seat hoping to catch a quick nap on the thirty minute trip.
    *****
    Alix Durand, manager of Charles De Gaulle Airport, rushed through the airport followed closely by Ilana Lazare, Director of Infectious Diseases at American Hospital of Paris, and a team of emergency medics. They were on their way to the office of Tomas Joffrey, head custodian of the airport.

    “Tomas!” Alix said breathlessly as he flung open Tomas’ office door and entered the small room.

    “Oui?” Tomas answered, startled by the interruption. He stood up from his desk when he noticed Alix had people with him.

    “Where is the janitor that attended to the American woman’s sickness earlier today?”

    “Pierre? The new guy?” Tomas asked knowing exactly who they were talking about since he had personally assigned Pierre to the mess as a sort of initiation to the custodial crew. He looked up at the clock on his wall. “Why, he should be home by now.”

    “Oh no,” said the woman standing next to Alix. “We have to find him immediately.”

    “Is Pierre in some kind of trouble?” Tomas asked, hoping that his newest employee didn’t turn out to be some sort of criminal.

    “This is Ilana Lazare,” Alix said gesturing to the woman next to him. “She works at American Hospital of Paris. She’s worried Pierre may have inadvertently contracted a virus from the American.”

    Tomas looked at them, a mixture of confusion and amusement on his face, before saying, “There are probably thousands of virus that come through here every day. It’s an airport.”

    “Nothing like this,” Ilana said shaking her head. “An invasion of this new virus could be globally catastrophic.”

    “Find his address and text it to me right away, Tomas. Right way,” Alix said. “We have to go.”

    “Of course,” Tomas said sitting back down at his desk to wake his computer. “Wait,” he called before the group could leave the room. “Is the woman okay?”

    “She’s dead,” Ilana said gravely before turning to follow Alix out of the room.

  • June 13, 2016 at 9:12 am
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    Invasion
    In the dark of night they attack, bringing with them images of death, decay, and bones. I run through the darkness blindly trying to escape them. I hear them behind me and around me and the sound of breathing strikes terror in my heart. My arms and legs become entangled in unseen obstacles as I push my way forward. When I pause to catch my breath I struggle to keep my gasps silent. My heartbeat pounds loudly in my ears. Why won’t they leave me alone??

    My vision is uncertain. At times I can dimly see the rotting bodies, the bones in the sand, or the girl’s body hidden inside a wall but I cannot see who or what chases me. My feet trip and slip over uneven surfaces that are ever changing. I run into a thick, slimy substance and I pray that it is only mud. It is soon waist high but I keep going, using my arms and hands to push the goo aside as the slime sucks at my body. My leg hits something solid and I reach down into the thick stuff. I grab something and pull it toward the surface. In that eerie dim light that appears I see the head and torso of a dead woman appear. Her eyes and mouth are open and I scream. I drop her back into the slime and back away, nearly falling fully into the mire myself as darkness obscures my vision once more.

    When I finally reach firm ground again, I try to wipe the slime from my body. I listen for those who pursue me as I stumble onward. I am tired and growing weak. I finally fall to the ground exhausted and allow the darkness to swallow me. When next I wake, I am in my own bed and the sun has risen. My heart, which began pounding as I awoke, slowly falls back into a normal rhythm as relieve surges through me. I lie there trembling before summoning the energy to get up and go about my day.

    The relief is short lived as I move mechanically through the day. I know I will face the invasion once again when darkness falls. I will be running for my life from the demons that inhabit the nightmares that plague me. They call it PTSD.

  • June 13, 2016 at 9:47 am
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    Final Straw

    Dean Hardage

    The bullets flew fast and furious, the shooters spraying the area indiscriminately with the 7.62 millimeter rounds from their black market AK-47 rifles. Sporadic return fire came from the 9 millimeter Glock pistols their rivals were equipped with.

    This had been a peaceful town for a lot of years before the Bloods gang decided it would be a perfect place for their meth lab. They’d moved in and, using cash from their drug operation, bought up an entire block of industrial buildings. It wasn’t long before the block bore a closer resemblance to a medieval fortress. Toxic fumes began to belch forth from boiler stacks and unmarked trucks escorted by black SUVs with darkly tinted windows came and went in an almost continuous stream.

    Of course such activity did not go unnoticed but law enforcement in this small suburb was hamstrung by poor funding and rampant corruption fed by the flows of easy cash in the form of bribes. Those who could not be bought were either intimidated or killed outright and the business flourished. The next group to take notice was much less hampered by human weakness and restrictive regulations. The Crips had finally determined the location of the lab and were determined to either take it over or destroy it and nothing would be permitted to stand in their way. The once quiet streets became a battle ground in a short time.

    One individual was also aware and had been taking quiet action for some time. He was floating high above the gunfight in the streets below, watching the thugs slowly eliminate one another. He called himself Mass, since mass stressed and warped space and that was his peculiar ability. He’d had that ability all his life and it gave him enormous power, though he seldom used it before the events of 9-11 when he realized that he could have saved numerous lives. It was then that he swore to save whatever life was within his considerable power.

    His anger simmered just below the surface but he held to his principal of not interfering unless civilians were in danger. He didn’t fight crime, preferring to leave that to the blue suited alien in Metropolis and the two guys in Gotham who drove the fancy black car. His only job was to protect innocent life. With luck the scum below would kill one another and eliminate a bit more of the problem.

    From one of the nearby houses a horrified shout instantly caught attention. He focused his imaging visor on the source and saw a woman standing on the porch of her home, screaming for her little girl, barely a toddler, to come back. There was no knowing why the child had left the relative safety of her home but she was fully exposed as the intense crossfire continued and she was drawn closer by childish curiosity.

    Mass acted almost instantly but it was not fast enough. Even as he dropped like a stone toward the scene a stray bullet struck the tiny body, passing through it so quickly that she stood for a few seconds before crumpling to the ground. He grounded right next to her, his abrupt appearance causing the gang-bangers to turn their fire on him. He was unconcerned as the bullets all stopped a foot short of him like a scene from ‘The Matrix’.

    The suited figure lifted and held the lifeless child’s body with the tenderness of a loving parent. His shoulders heaved with his sobs but a moment later He looked up, his face the image of pure rage.

    “ENOUGH!” he thundered, reverently letting the tiny body come to rest.

    He stood, turned to the few gang-bangers foolish enough to still be present. With a wave of his hand their bodies and vehicles exploded, then imploded and vanished with loud pops of displaced air. He lifted the tiny body once again and carried her back to where her mother and father huddled weeping on the porch. He placed her in their arms and turned, rising silently as Death into the sky. The invasion of this once quiet and safe place had been started by them. Tonight he would end it.

    Word Count 697

  • June 13, 2016 at 10:31 am
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    INVADERS

    It was Harry’s idea, that’s all I can say. It was meant as a lark – for him, anyway. Yes, we’d been drinking, and yes, I wish I’d gone home earlier. But that’s easy to say now. Life is full of things you wish you’d done or hadn’t done. I’ll have this hanging over me until the day I die – that’s my burden.

    I want … no, I NEED … to say “I’m sorry” – to her parents and her brother. Details? Must I? But you know all the facts. What purpose will it serve? I’m not some kind of guinea-pig, that you can analyse my motives for future reference or training courses. I’ll give you this, though: as I said, it was meant to be a lark. We certainly hadn’t gone out that evening intending to do anyone any harm. Well, I hadn’t. As for Harry … he’s a tad crazy, if the truth be told, so I don’t know what he was thinking at the beginning of the evening.

    All right, if you insist. Where should I begin? Yes, we’d been at El Sitio. We had tapas and more beer than we were used to – it was so cheap, you see. Will and Stevie went back to the hotel. I wish I’d gone with them. But Harry insisted that we went for more drinks after El Sitio. I was a bit the worse for wear so I was very easy to influence. I’m like that anyway. I’m not a strong person, I’ll be honest with you – I mean ‘strong’ in the psychological sense. If anyone I like or respect says something, I’m more likely than not to go along with it. Mr Gullible, that’s me.

    So we’re heading off to this club that Harry said he knew. We were laughing and joking – he pushed me into some bushes, I got up, pretended to be angry, went for him, we wrestled … it was all good fun. When we’d dusted ourselves off and the laughter had subsided, Harry says to me “Look over there.”

    There was a small block of holiday apartments and he was pointing at a ground floor window that was half open. The lights appeared to be off inside. Harry said “Come on”, and I went.

    He hopped over a low parapet onto a small balcony. It was strange that a ground floor apartment would have a balcony at all, but this one did. As he made to slide the window fully open, I went “Whoa! Hang on, mate.” He looked round, gave me the old Harry wink, opened the window up and just disappeared into the apartment. I glanced up and down the street – it was deserted – hopped onto the balcony myself and slipped through the window.

    It took me a few moments to get accustomed to the gloom, but there was enough light edging into the room from the street for me to begin to see where we were: a small apartment with an open kitchen adjoining the living room and a corridor off to one side. Harry was already making for the corridor. I don’t know why he didn’t look round the living room first if he wanted to steal something. As I said, he’s a bit crazy; maybe he just wanted the danger.

    I followed him down the corridor. It was gloomier there but I was able to make out three doors. Harry opened the first – we could just see the outline of a shower cubicle. The next door was ajar. The bedroom was quite light; the curtains were open, and there was a street lamp outside the window. The double bed was made up and empty.

    I grabbed Harry by the sleeve. “Let’s get out of here, mate” I whispered. He shook himself free and carried on to the last door. It was closed so Harry opened it carefully, with the slightest of creaks. As soon as it was open, I heard a muffled sound; it took me just a couple of moments to realise that it was the sound of a child sleeping.

    Harry was already in the room, which also had the curtains open and was relatively light. There was a cot on one side of the room, on the other a small bed. In the bed was a little girl, snoring gently. I wondered where the children’s parents were. I pulled on Harry’s sleeve again, and he pulled away again, went over to the bed and picked the little girl up.

    I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Jesus, Harry!” I hissed, but he pushed past me and headed back down the corridor with the girl still asleep in his arms. I stood there for several seconds – I don’t think I understood what was going on. It seemed like madness. Then I hurried out after him.

    By the time I got to the street, he was halfway down it, moving quickly away. I ran and overtook him, blocking his path. He stopped and I went to grab the girl. He wasn’t letting her go, I pulled, he resisted, I threw a punch at his head, he turned slightly, my punch landed on the little girl’s head, there was a crunch.

    We must have stood there only a matter of seconds but it felt like hours, before Harry screamed through his teeth: “What the fuck have you done?!” The little girl wasn’t breathing.

    There was no discussion. Harry swore again, shook his head and set off at a trot, then a run, heading for the beach. I came to and sprinted after him. The street led to a secluded part of the beach; further along there was a party going on, but no one noticed as we dug a hole and placed the little girl in it.

    It’s been ten years, three thousand six hundred-odd days … and every one a living hell. I’m glad you know now, and you’ve retrieved the body. At least her parents will have that.

  • June 15, 2016 at 5:40 pm
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    Pox Americana. © 2016 by Ken Cartisano

    October 4, 2036
    To: The President Of The Provisional Government: Admiral Castalloni:

    Dear Sirs,

    I’m not sure how to preface this anonymous communication other than to say that this document came to light several years ago. At the time, due to circumstances which cannot be divulged, I felt it best to suppress the details of the incident. Despite the summary nature of General Stott’s actions, I concurred with his decision and have kept the information classified and confidential since then. However—considering the fact that we’ve been in a state of war for nine years now, with no sign of relief, I’m beginning to question my original assumptions.

    Since General Stott’s recent death in yet another case of friendly fire, it caused me to re-open this sealed document. I’m taking a substantial risk by sending you this information, and I hope you’ll find it useful somehow. I cannot verify with certainty the claims made by General Stott, nor do I know the name of the person involved, I just thought someone ought to know.

    At any rate, I’m including the entire entry from his journal and I’ll let you gentlemen decide its significance.

    Respectfully,
    A patriot.
    ********

    General Dudley Stott.
    Journal Entry: January 7, 2029

    There’s been little action at the front lately. Just a few minor skirmishes that might have been friendly fire. We’ve re-established front lines on an arbitrary basis to keep the bastards off balance, but an enemy incursion could come from anywhere.

    I had an interesting experience recently. I was inspecting the forward positions with an eye toward fortifying our various checkpoints and making sure the militia had the area completely secured. At the end of the day I received a message from a noncom that a doctor from one of our research facilities wished to see me at my earliest convenience. No reason was given, only that it was urgent. I arranged for a meeting with the doctor the following morning.

    It’s important to understand my state of mind. I was distracted by an increasing wave of enemy sightings, reports of enemy infiltration, and rumors of plots against the provisional government. But as usual, there was no hard evidence: No captives, no bodies, no photographic confirmation, nothing I could put my hands on. The enemy tactics were extremely cunning. Despite three years of military operations and a highly trained militia, we were still waiting for our first serious engagement. They were picking us off in small numbers, forcing us to fight a war of attrition, and we were losing. The suspense was driving us all to the point of exhaustion and we still weren’t even sure what we were dealing with.

    Considering these circumstances, I was anticipating some medical intel about the enemy that the doctor and his colleagues might have garnered from their research. Any hint of enemy psychology, motives or biology would have been tremendously helpful. So I had mixed feelings upon my arrival for the scheduled briefing.

    “General Stott,” the doctor says, “I’ve made an astonishing discovery. You may not believe this at first, but hear me out.” He spread some graphs out on the desk in front of him. “Working in secret, for obvious reasons, I’ve managed to isolate a—a bug, a bacterial virus that’s infected the majority of the population. Though highly contagious, it doesn’t appear, by itself, to be deadly. Very few people are immune, but fortunately, I happen to be one of them. Somehow, this bacteria has evolved a mechanism that allows it to pass through the normally impermeable blood-brain barrier, and in so doing, has carried a virus along with it.

    I was taken off guard by this information and asked him to estimate how many of my militia might be infected.

    “Maybe I’m not making myself clear,” the doctor said.

    I remember thinking, ‘No—you’re not.’

    The doctor seemed impatient as he spelled it out for me. “This whole war is a figment of our imaginations, General. There’s no enemy, no insurgency, no invasion. It’s a goddamned virus. We’re infected with something no more serious than the Chicken Pox. It just happens to be in our brain, and rather than making us sick, it makes us paranoid.”

    He had my attention now, by god. He was saying that the last ten years was an illusion: the war, the deprivation, the nightly brown-outs. I didn’t know what to say. But he wasn’t finished.

    “I just confirmed my suspicions a couple of days ago and wanted to consult you first, General, considering your position in the government. I thought it best to bring you up to speed as soon as possible. You can relax a little. Your vigilance, though admirable, is completely unnecessary.”

    “You seem to regard this as good news,” I told him.

    “Good news? It’s incredible!” He said. “All this military security, stringent restrictions on everything from travel to the basic necessities of life? Shortages of food, water, electricity? That’s all behind us. We’ve been duped by a goddamned bacteriophage, General.”

    (I guess he thought his exuberance was contagious too, but it wasn’t.)

    “I’m preparing to assemble several teams,” he went on, “a three pronged approach to formulate specific vaccines which, hopefully, will effectively stamp out this insidious bug.”

    “Very good.” I stood up and gazed out the window behind him. “How many people know about this, doctor?”

    He shook his head. “Nobody. Just you and me. As I said, I’m preparing to break the news to a few trusted members of my staff and assemble several teams to begin develop…”

    He looked puzzled as I pulled my sidearm from its holster.

    “What’re you doing, Stott? Don’t—you’re making a big mis…”

    I put a bullet through his head. I hate traitors. He must’ve thought I was an idiot. The war will go on. And we’ll win, even if we have to fight to the last man and woman on earth. We-will-win.

    ********

    End of Document.

  • June 17, 2016 at 3:20 am
    Permalink

    In Transition

    Mary and Tom gate-crashed and quickly ran towards the receptionist’s desk… a good 100 feet away. But when they reached it in an instant, they realized that they could now glide instead of run or walk.

    Mary gave Tom a stunned look. Tom, equally disbelieving, recovered fast and asked the receptionist:
    “Miss, we need to meet the in-charge here. ASAP!”

    The receptionist smiled at them, “Tom, Mary… welcome. Paul will be here right away. He has news for you.”

    Mary muttered, “How does she know our names?”

    Tom was flabbergasted too but then it struck him as natural. He gave Mary a soothing smile and the simplicity of it struck her in almost the same instant.

    A fair looking man approached them with a gentle smile, “Mary, Tom… Am sorry you came all the way here. You must go back, NOW.”

    “But how?” Mary sounded confused.

    “Go to Hamilton Street… the one that is two miles away from your house… but I must tell you that your bodies are unavailable. I am sorry.”

    Mary pounced on him, “Why not? What happened to them?” She hissed to Tom, “I am not getting into someone’s used bodies, Tom.”

    Tom gathered courage , “Mr. Paul… it’s not even half an hour since we were kinda forced out… am sure you can do better than offer us ‘used bodies’…” As he spoke he gained confidence and the last bit came out stronger than he thought he could.

    Paul sighed and continued, “My dear Tom… Am afraid, there was a blast in your car right after the crash and your bodies were burned down. Am sorry… I can’t help you there.”

    Mary’s face crumpled, she felt close to tears… except that there was no water flowing out of her eyes… how she loved the dress she wore tonight… the short black dress that she bought specially to celebrate their one month old marriage.

    Tom was all eyes looking at her as if he wanted to devour her right there in the restaurant. Though a little plump, she loved her body. She looked towards Tom, who didn’t look much flustered. Did he really like her the way she was? May be he preferred a slimmer and model-like figure. Doubts began to rise in her. Was he a liar? How dared he? Tom looked at the rage building in Mary’s eyes and quickly put his arm across her shoulders and tugged her closer.

    “Darling, it will be ok… imagine if we are back, we can go on our honeymoon… you know I love you.”

    Paul continued, “As I was saying, go to Hamilton Street, on the side where Hershey’s is… you’ve got 10 minutes. There’s gonna be an accident at exactly 00:12 hours… it’s their time… not yours… run along… find your replacements. Just remember that you will have three minutes only to get into their bodies right after the crash…”

    Tom grabbed Mary’s hand and glided towards the exit…

    They missed the serene peacefulness of the last half an hour instantly. There was chaos across the street with sirens blaring and police shouting instructions.

    Tom whispered to Mary, “Accident…,” and both flew to the spot.

    The car sat smashed into the heavy reefer container. The couple inside lay slumped against the sides of the car. Someone opened the doors to defuse the airbags. Mary saw that a slim, blonde woman with heavily made-up face wearing a signal-red short dress was at the steering and the tuxedo-clad man with black hair and a French beard was in the passenger seat. Tom tugged on her arm and both flew seamlessly inside the car and took their positions.

    The police arrived precisely at that moment and started pulling the bodies out. Tom felt a tap on his shoulder… startled and shocked he turned around to see the spirit of the tux-man bobbing in the air… Mary almost fainted at the interruption… a ghost touching Tom??? Didn’t she read somewhere that spirits can’t sense things physically? But then another thought occurred… she and Tom were holding hands… so it was possible. The slim blonde in the red dress glared at Mary which made her dislike the blonde instantly.

    The bodies were laid out on the side walk. In a definite panic now, Tom and Mary decided to ignore the scramble and the chaotic thought process of what the tux-man and the slim blonde wanted from them… they just rushed into the bodies.

    As the transition progressed, Tom caught the warning in tux-man’s voice, “Look where you are going…” but the voice faded quickly and Tom opened his eyes. He looked around for Mary. A few feet away he saw the slumped figure of the tux-man. He thought back to what the man tried to tell him just before he rushed to the body.

    A voice from above him slapped gently on the cheek and he looked up into the face of a policeman, “Miss, can you hear me? What’s your name? Are you hurting anywhere?”

    Tom croaked, “I am Tom….” His answer was cut short by a loud shout from the tux-man who was awake and shouting out on top of his lungs, “What the hell do you mean by this, Paul? This is not what you promised us.” A paramedic went to him to calm him down. But ‘Mary’ kept ranting at no one in particular.

    ‘Tom’ realizing the mix-up struggled to be on ‘her’ knees and went to ‘Mary’, “Love, don’t you get it… we got it wrong…”

    ‘Tom’ hugged ‘Mary’ and bawled ‘her’ eyes out… but ‘Mary’ stood stoic… because ‘men’ never cried, did they???

  • June 17, 2016 at 4:11 am
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    The Silent Ones
    by Ralph Jensen © 2016

    It had been the gentlest invasion of all times.

    For millennia they had traveled across cosmic expanses, sustained by starlight, singing the song of becoming.

    Soon after entering the outskirts of this galaxy they discovered the blue ball circling a yellow sun.

    Slowly, in wonder and anticipation, they descended. They found a sentient race – undeveloped, primitive – but restless, searching, endeavoring. Awakening.

    Like dew descending on leaves in the morning they enveloped the earth. Only the minds that were ready they contacted. Only those that consented they entered – hundreds at first, then thousands, hundreds of millions to this day.

    More than an invasion it was an embrace, a flow of stillness and love born from a distant star. But an invasion it was nevertheless.

    Now it came to an end.

    ###

    Andrew Hansson sits cross-legged on a large fauteuil. Spread across a coffee table lie a dozen or so exposes of tech startups that have requested funding from Starseed Capital, the venture capital fund which he started a decade ago.

    His board of directors rejected these companies for various reasons yet something tells him to take another look, from another angle.

    What angle?

    He closes his eyes. Breathing calmly he allows his mind to travel. These days it always drifts to the same location, a moment more than 30 years ago, when he first heard the song of becoming.

    ###

    It had been on a trip to Tilicho Lake in Nepal, a lake that, due to its remoteness, is rarely visited by tourists even today. He had just submitted his doctoral thesis in mathematics, the cosmic language, and taken off to explore the meaning of life. Sitting in calm meditation, a practice he had learned from his grandfather at the age of twelve – “unless you calm your mind you cannot hear the voice of God” had been his frequent advice – something instructed him to open his eyes.

    Birds were singing, the chatter of people traveled up from the village nearby but in his mind was utter silence. There were no thoughts and if one arose he could release it just as a worker puts down a tool.

    Beyond all this was oneness with everything around. Everything, everyone was his friend, immensely beautiful, beloved and loving. He sensed every tree, every leaf of grass. He embraced the mountains, the clouds, even the stars behind the blue sky.

    And there was a promise, a knowingness that this state – conscious oneness with all existence – one day would be eternally his. He called that the Song of Becoming.

    It lasted for weeks. When it subsided it did so without his resistance or regret, but never vanished completely. And on that day of subsiding for the first time he sensed a presence: within his mind’s utter silence arose a thought, which was not his: “I am here.” First surprised, then puzzled and enchanted he smiled at it.

    He finally decided to reciprocate: “I am here.”

    A conversation developed – about the lake, the village, innocent things.

    “Are you God?” He had to ask.

    “No more than you are.”

    Then and now, he took that as a no.

    ###

    Andrew opens his eyes to the room – a wide hall, sparsely furnished so the mind can breathe.

    “Why do you have to leave?”

    They never answered rhetorical questions, or questions born from laziness, or when he skirted an issue. Indeed, for some time he has known that the time of departure would come.

    “I don’t want you to leave.” An honest thought that comes from the heart.

    Clear as day in his mind: “I want to show you something.”

    “I don’t think I’m ready. We are not ready.”

    Silence follows but the presence remains.

    ###

    Over the years he had come to know the answer.

    They had arrived on earth in the early 1500s. One of them had described to him the weather on the day when Martin Luther hung his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517.

    Not often did they teach directly. They rather just shone their light, providing an environment of stillness that balanced the conflicted human minds scarred by the echoes of a messy and violent history. In their presence his mind unfolded and so had done those of countless others, all in their own way, allowing for astounding progress of modern humankind in just a few years – the industrial revolution, religious reformation, intellectual enlightenment.

    But there were setbacks – world wars, the holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the slaughter under communism, ISIS, Al Quaeda. Sometimes Andrew doubted that humankind would ever be ready to go it alone. But they did not agree.

    “We too still sing the song of becoming. It’s for us to move on. Our task was to shield you and to learn. We are ready now and so are you.”

    In the presence of truth no argument seems feasible.

    ###

    “What do you want to show me?”

    “Look.”

    Andrew turns to the window where he sees the cities of the world covered in mist. Lights hover above them – hundreds, thousands, hundreds of millions across the earth. Every now and then some of them ascend to the sky and leave the earth.

    But the light does not diminish. Silently, others take their place. These are from earth.

    “Can’t you show me who those are?”

    “You know how we are with street addresses.”

    Silently, he knows.

    “And it wouldn’t be right.”

    He knows that too. This is his path, that of humanity, owners of the realm.

    “You should learn how to dance.”

    “Dance?”

    “To the Song of Becoming.”

    The song of becoming…

    “Dance to it and you will meet them.”

    ###

    After quite some time Andrew turns from the window. There is the coffee table. He takes an expose, browses through it.

    He dials a number.

  • June 19, 2016 at 4:59 pm
    Permalink

    She Invader
    By Alice Nelson ©2016

    I followed Penny into the woods, and secretly watched as she communicated with them —whoever they were. She was using a machine that looked like a laptop, and on the display screen, thousands of numbers and symbols floated by.

    I’m Charlotte Farnsworth, most people call me Charley. I’ve lived in Hollow Grove nearly all of my life —in fact my family were some of the original settlers. Things have never been what you call normal in our neck of the woods. Legend has it that odd occurrences happened right from the start; when two years after this place was settled, the town’s founder Mercury King, went hunting in the woods one day in 1878, and was never seen again.

    Penny Pomeroy was my friend, or so I thought. Then the disappearances started happening, and I saw her coming out of the woods the same night Ted and June Winslow vanished. There were two steadfast rules in The Hollow; don’t go too deep into the woods, and don’t go there at all after nightfall —Penny knew this; but that night she wasn’t afraid, and I knew something was horribly wrong.

    Penny had lived here for over a year, and was always a bit strange; but lots of eccentric people were drawn to our little town of Hollow Grove, Idaho. Still I couldn’t help but like her —most people did, which was a rare thing for strangers to experience who were new to The Hollow.

    _______________________________________________________

    I watched her from my hiding spot, knowing I had to stop her. I grabbed a large stick that was lying next to me, burst from my hiding place and began beating that laptop, until it was nothing more than bits and pieces of broken circuitry.
    .
    Penny just stared at me, a small smile had spread across her face, and that terrified me more than anything.

    “That won’t stop us.” She said, “More will come.”

    I knew she was right, and that’s when I turned my rage on her. With the same club I used to punish her computer, I hit Penny again and again and again, until she lay there lifeless, blood flowing away from her in a long, zigzagging stream.

    Then I heard a strange crackling sound coming from her remote communicator, and a voice said, “Agent 2713 is dead…4217 will replace her.”

    Oh God, there’s more, maybe they’re even in town already. It was beginning again, I guess deep down I always knew they’d be back. I had to tell the Sheriff what I’d done.

    ________________________________________________________

    Sheriff Melvin Carmichael had once been my father’s best friend; he was even the best man when dad married mom, and has known me since the day I was born. Now as Sheriff, he sat across from me in the lone interrogation room, and said nothing for several minutes. Then he asked,

    “Why Charley?” But his eyes told me he knew why.

    “They’re back Mel, Penny was one of them.”

    Melvin dropped his gaze, and held his head in his hands. Without looking up he asked. “Are you sure Charley?”

    I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out the remote communicator that crackled with news of a new agent arriving, set it on the table and slid it over to him.

    “Damn,” he said almost imperceptibly. “Anyone else know?”

    “I didn’t tell the others, I wasn’t even sure until tonight.”

    Sheriff Melvin Carmichael rubbed his face, “Why are they back after all this time?” He said, to himself mostly.

    Most folks in The Hollow have lost someone to the woods, or to whatever it was that lurked in them. My mother and father went missing when I was thirteen. But for almost twenty years there was nothing, and we were almost beginning to feel like a normal town. If they were sending things like Penny Pomeroy, who could masquerade as one of us and not even be suspect until now, we were in for the fight of our lives.

    “When was the last one, ’98?” The Sherriff asked. “They’ve gotten better that’s for sure, she was more convincing than any I have ever seen.”

    “And another is on the way, or already here.”

    Melvin looked tired. He had been charged to keep the town safe, and to be the guardian of its secrets since mom and dad vanished. Only the first families of Hollow Grove knew about the abductions, and had been fighting these beings for years.

    You’re probably thinking, why don’t we just move away? Well, it’s not that simple. Some have tried to leave, but most end up returning. There is a connection with those born here in The Hollow that draws you back, no matter how badly you attempt to escape it —I know, I’ve tried.

    “The voice on the communicator called her Agent 2713.” I told the sheriff.

    Melvin wrote it down, then radioed Everett, who verified that the number was tattooed in the usual place, under the hairline on the back of the scalp. Each invader was imprinted with specific numbers, we still weren’t sure what they meant. But every one of them that was discovered, had a number tattooed on their scalp.

    Melvin had good instincts about the invaders, could sniff one out a mile away —usually. Penny was a different breed, one that was able to disguise itself better than any before her. Maybe that’s why we hadn’t seen one in twenty years, because these beings were perfecting their deception.

    I was happy that I had found a friend in Penny, because I don’t make them easily —I never have. I’m angry at myself that I was fooled by her. I will be on my toes from now on. The 20 year respite is over, they are back, and it’s my turn to take over where my parents left off.

    This is my life, maybe it’s my destiny, one I can no longer ignore.

  • June 20, 2016 at 7:33 pm
    Permalink

    Window on the West
    [Revised – 930 words]

    ‘I wish to know how everything works, down to the last detail, Mr Pepys,’ he tells me.

    We sit in armchairs either side of the hearth, as the candles burn down. Peter I, Duke of Muscovy, Tsar of all the Russias, dwarfs the chair beneath him. My eyes are drawn to his immense hands, hands that worked alongside Dutch carpenters in their shipyards where, incongruously dressed in a craftsman’s hat and tunic, he feigned to work incognito. At nearly seven feet tall, the attempt did not entirely succeed.

    His French is polished, as befits a Prince, though somewhat slurred after our night of excess. I expect my speech is equally slurred, having struggled to keep pace with him. His appetites are indeed voracious, his endurance beyond any I have previously encountered. It is as if he were driven by some uncanny and restless force of nature to do more and to be more than other men. A dozen wenches attended him through the night. He boasts proudly of ‘reloading’ seven times. I am quite outdone. Yet he seems to accord me some fellowship and respect for my meagre debauchery, and for facilitating his more royal efforts.

    I wish only to climb the stairs to my bed. Yet Tsar Peter is determined to defy sleep, and to question me on my time as Chief Secretary to the Admiralty.

    ‘So you are here to spy on our navy, Sir,’ I jest.

    ‘If so, my Embassy to the West is the most public of espionage,’ he replies, with good humour. ‘The purpose of my tour is no secret. I will make Russia great among the nations. For that, we must become more like you, without losing our Russian soul. We shall learn your industries, your arts, your commerce.’

    ‘And have a navy. Though your port at Archangel is frozen half the year.’

    He brushes aside my objection with a wave of his hand. ‘I will create new ports. When I take it back from Sweden, my capital shall be at the mouth of the Neva. It will be my window on the West.’

    I raise a doubtful eyebrow, which he did not take amiss.

    ‘Believe me, I will have more. I will drive the Tatars from the Ukraine and establish us on the Black Sea. The world will be astonished, and take heed of us.’

    ‘It seems you have an appetite for conquest, as well as women and wine,’ I remark. ‘Whence does this great appetite come, Sir?’

    He looks greatly troubled as he prods the fire in the hearth back to feeble life. The candles have burned down. Shadows cross the room as I stand to light new candles from the old. He seems in some doubt as to whether to reply, as if some memory or present thought causes him profound anxiety. My frivolous comment about the source of his appetites appears to have caused some considerable perturbation in his mind.

    I am about to move the conversation to a lighter note when he begins to speak quietly. ‘Perhaps you know of my childhood, how I witnessed the murder of my family? From my hiding place behind the wood panelling, I saw the blood and tasted fear beyond understanding. Until, as I cowered, a hole opened in the wall beside me, and they came upon me.’

    ‘They?’

    ‘I apprehended them as – as a scream, both high in pitch and like a low, earth-shaking roar. They swarmed over my terror-struck body, enveloped me in a cloak akin to ice-cold honey. They absorbed my terror, calmed my soul. Now I could watch the slaughter, and feel nothing but the surety of my revenge.

    ‘ “Let us become you,” they whispered. “And all will be yours. Just feed us. Feed us. Let us see the world through your eyes, feel the world through your senses. Then you will have power to do all you desire.” ’

    ‘But who are “they”?’ I insist, as the embers in the fire give up their last vestiges of heat to the chill of dawn. I feel he must be losing his mind, or be in thrall to demonic forces.

    ‘This they told me: “We are those before, now and hereafter who dare to be great – Ivan the Great, Ivan the Dread, Catherine, Alexander, Vladimir Ilyich, Joseph Vissarionovich, Vladimir Vladimirovich … All who embrace us will make Russia foremost amongst the nations of the Earth, and beyond.” I could not refuse them.

    ‘They feed on our passions, thrive on excess. They must know all, do all, feel all. In return they give me strength. I have glimpses into their world. A land of dark shapes and strange machines, unnatural dwellings clustered one on another and floating in the ether. When all is accomplished they will join us here. In the flesh – if flesh they have.’

    ‘But – to what end?’

    ‘We have a saying in Russia: “Poverty is in want of much. Avarice is in want of everything.” ’ As he fixed me with his gaze, I saw fleetingly not two eyes but a myriad more, like two honeycombs of ocular menace. He spoke in a voice that, though soft, reverberated through me and through the timbers of our dwelling: ‘I advise you not to put this in your diary, Mr Pepys.’

    ‘My diary? I no longer …’ My voice fails me. The diary I used to keep was not a matter of public knowledge, and I have no intention that it ever shall be.

    ‘Now, tell me how to organise a navy,’ he says. ‘And call your maid – I have need of refreshment.’

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