In A Flash: The Invader

There were no objects distant and unrecognizable on the horizon, no people who spoke, in voices tinged with madness, of having been kidnapped by unseen creatures, no armada of stars filling the night skies above. One day they were not there and the next they were, with no sign of how they had done so. There was no panic, no riots in the streets, or calls to arms, for it was obvious to all there would be no point to it. They were among them, walking the streets and going about their business as if they had always been there.

No one even thought it particularly strange, though on some distant level, deep within their consciousness, they knew it was. They were aliens and they had seized the planet without so much as a word of defiance. How had it happened? Something must have occurred. Something terrible and awful, to make them surrender so completely. But no one seemed to know. This was the way it had always been, they said, even as they knew it was not so.

It was difficult to describe the invaders. They were not human and they were…something. Words failed them, as did their memories. The shape and substance of the aliens seemed to dissipate as soon as their minds tried to focus on them. It was as though they were figments of dreams, and yet there could be no doubt they were there. Their presence was palpable everywhere one went. It left them with nothing to fight, nothing to even focus their anxiety on.

Strangest of all was how little things changed. The invaders were among them, shadowing their thoughts, filling their every step with doubt, and yet they did little concrete. Businesses still opened and closed, people went to work and ran their errands, and returned home to their families. But all the while the aliens were there, not observing, not disrupting, simply there, as if they had always been and always would be. Continue reading


In A Flash: The Adventures of Holly and Morris

They hit the payroll, catching them in a crossfire as they came into Horseshoe Canyon on their way to pay the miners at the Atlas Coal Mine in Wayne. There were only two guns protecting it and Morris and Holly picked one off each from their perches across the canyon. The two men leading the packhorses tried to flee, but they shot the horses out from under them and then had to scramble to their own mounts to catch up with the fleeing payroll. That they did, intercepting the stampeding horses before they could scamper up the narrow and winding trail that led from the canyon to the plains above.

When they had calmed the panicked animals they left the canyon behind, heading up into the hills to the north where they had a camp set up. There they watered the horses and set them loose to eat and counted their day’s earnings. They were giddy as they went through the coins and the well-creased bills, over two hundred fifty dollars worth. They could sell the two pack horses too and probably get close to three hundred when it was all said and done. Holly whooped and danced, kissing Morris and pulling at his beard.

He laughed in joy at her delight. “No more worries for awhile, Holly dear.”

“No more worries, Morris honey,” she said and pulled him to his feet to join in her dance. Continue reading

In A Flash: The Flitcraft Effect

Musaira Deshu lived an unremarkable life as such things were measured. She worked for a company that provided the processed food and other supplies for several planetary and asteroid mining conglomerates. When she was introduced to people they invariably commented on how interesting her job must be, associated with such interstellar daring. Space travel, with all its attendant consequences, was still a novelty for most people, who would never so much as think of leaving the planet surface, except to visit a thermospheric resort.

Musaira was in fact one of these. Her job was in payroll and compliance. The closest she came to space was when she calculated the taxable benefits for those off planet, who had different exemptions than those on. She was completely fine with this. The job was not what one would call exciting, but she took satisfaction in it and considered herself quite good at it. She was married and had a young daughter, and much of the joy she found in life came there.

One day, on her way to work, she was nearly hit by a falling pane of glass as she walked by a tower that was under construction. Workers had been installing the windows above and had left one resting against the ledge on the roof. Somehow a gust of wind caught it, lifted it up, and sent it tumbling down to the ground. The police, when they investigated, said it was just poor luck that it had happened, though they expected the construction company to be fined for failing to take the necessary precautions.

For Musaira the incident was a revelation. The glass landed right beside her as she walked by the tower. She could feel the brush of the wind as it passed by, and had actually looked to see if someone was reaching out to get her attention. She turned in time to see the glass shatter and let out a scream, jumping back. In spite of the shards of glass spraying in all directions around her, she wound up with only a small cut on her left hand. People farther away than her ended up with cuts and bits of glass embedded in their flesh. One man even lost an eye. Continue reading

In A Flash: Blossoming Hearts

In springtime the nobles of Nazagul would gather in the finer districts of the city, or, for those of particular fortune, in the court of the Emperor himself, to watch the blossoming of the baha flowers. Such an occasion, which came but once a year and lasted for only a weektwo if the season was truly favorablewas an opportunity to observe the ephemeral splendor of nature. Life itself was transient and fleeting, a moment that passed and disappeared without a thought. A beauty that could never be captured and held.

Genha felt herself to be in such a moment now, an exquisite perfection that she would spend the rest of her days seeking to replicate, all to no avail. Everything stood on the precipice ready to collapse, but it yet stood, all in balance. The flowers bloomed, and though she knew the day would come, not long from now, when the blossoms would fall and scatter to the winds, they seemed so alive that she could almost believe it was impossible that they should perish.

The moment of her realization came during that year’s baha festivities. She and her husband attended the celebration of one of the Emperor’s viziers in the hills above the imperial city in the park the Emperor had set aside for the nobility. The group of themthe vizier and his wife, Genha and her husband, their children and retainerssat beneath one of the baha trees, five trees from the Emperor himself. Two trees further yet was the family Leiy’s celebration, and sitting with them was their firstborn son and his wife and their children.

They spent the afternoon beneath the trees contemplating the baha blossoms, amidst laughter and joking , eating and drinking,. The moment that Genha would remember, that she would treasure for the remainder of her days, came as the sun’s descent became obvious. The shadow’s began to lengthen around them, the air seeming to change, as if to announce that night would not be held at bay for long. As she sat at the edge of the vizier’s blanket, watching her secondborn son play with the vizier’s firstborn daughter, she felt the eyes of someone upon her and glanced up to see the Firstborn Leiy staring at her. Their eyes met for an instant, and they both looked away before anyone noticed. It was in that instant, that exquisite glance, that Genha realized she had never known such happiness.

The day went on and the blankets were folded up and the Emperor led the procession back into the imperial city. As they descended from the hills, down the wide imperial avenue, everyone could see as smoke began to billow from the Xavin District near the city walls. A quiet murmur passed through the crowd, as various parties speculated about the fire and its cause, as well as its location, so near the army barracks. The Emperor made no comment and gave no sign he even noticed the blaze, leading the procession below with his head held high.

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In A Flash: All That Remains

I emerged, crawling upward from the bowels of unending, the grime thick and the smoke spreading.

What lay there, I hardly recall. My thoughts were not my own then. They are barely my own now. I am not who I am, you see. I am all that remains.

Here is what I remember of that dark time. The memory of that caustic smoke, acrid tasting, stings my eyes still. The dim phosphorescence provided by the braziers stationed on the walls at various junctures left everything shrouded, so that I made my way through the boweled earth by feel as much as by sight. It mattered little for I trod the same path each day, the hours of my waking passing with a regularity that provided its own kind of timekeeping. I knew when to sleep. I knew when to eat. I knew what to do at every moment of every day.

My tasks I barely understood, only that they were ancient and immutable, part of a vast undertaking involving those thousands of us who lived below. I knew nothing of them and they nothing of me. Our existence was tied solely to what duty required of us. Hour after hour, day after day, we moved through those tunnels and byways, in service to those who had gone. Our chants and songs, incantations and prayers, filled the air, clouding it as much as the smoke, never falling silent, easing me to sleep when my time came.

What we did defined us and I remember so little of it now. Every step, every gesture of my hands, every intonation, all so precisely done, in spite of the obscurity we existed in. The meaning of it all escapes me. I am not who I was. Continue reading