A Flash Fiction challenge was offered on June 2 by the TerribleMinds blog (filled with the entertaining wordspewings of author Chuck Wendig) and it tickled my fancy, so I wrote something then and there. And then immediately forgot I wrote it until I stumbled over it yesterday (June 18), long after the challenge had ended. I blame my cats. And allergy pills. And my new-to-me subscription to Amazon Prime, which temps me with episodes of Doctor Who.
Anyway, I was inspired by this paragraph from Chuck’s post: Presently, I am in a shed that has once again, in a timely fashion, become a staging ground for gigantic carpenter ants. I have two above my head right now. I had three above my head five minutes ago, but one literally dropped down onto my hand as I was typing an email.
So, here’s where my brain went with that. 991 words. I think I spell checked it, and changed two words after it fell from my brain onto the page, but otherwise it’s pretty much exactly what I wrote in one quick sitting. And then forgot I wrote, which is really annoying to me.
“He’s there again,” Shorty said. We gathered around him, half in comfort, half in fear. I didn’t want to look so I concentrated on my team.
“I still say we should try to communicate — that’s our damn job.” Red was pacing and twitching. He was right and wrong at the same time. We were explorers, not diplomats. Sure, we sometimes had to make contact but that wasn’t the real job. Not the one that drove us to keep moving forward.
Pal shook his head. “We take ground first — we need to map out this side of the uplands and find one or more sites for satellite camps. Then if there’s time we’ll move inward and make contact.” He glanced toward me as he said “make contact” and confirmed my suspicion that our Queen had designated me for the job. “Zigzag, grab Lefty and head up, we’ll follow with Zippy and he’ll mark the final trails. Keep your eyes out for places to set up a satellite camp.”
Lefty and I headed for the highest point. He was the best at finding hidden traps, while I concentrated on figuring out the easiest way from point A to point B. We both ignored our fear and focused on finding possible food and shelter on our pathway. We had a task, and we were bound by honor and by desire to complete it, fear or no fear.
Red caught up to us as we made our way across the High Upland. The path was easy to create here — no obstacles or sudden cliffs, just a large open expanse. Not without dangers though — Red was there to watch for the Hidden Ones and the Loud Ones. We froze, once, feeling the Uplands shake from a distant event. I always had problems walking after a tremor like that, and didn’t trust my legs for a while, so we stopped for a conference.
“I say we try to make contact. We know where it is right now, and if we can start talking we might have a truce before Her Highness decides to call us back and send us elsewhere. This place is perfect — I’ve seen no sign of Hidden Ones or Loud Ones, and we’ve spotted resources in every direction. We could have multiple camps here, all gathering resources, and the tribe would grow.”
Lefty turned his back to Red and ignored him. I was torn. My contribution to our tribe and to our Queen was just that of wandering around a little better than some of the others. What good was that, really? Would I be told of in tales, the way my brothers had told stories to me? Zigzag the wanderer was useful, but boring. But if I was Zigzag the Communicator? Could that even be possible? I shivered at the thought. To be the first to talk to the large one that had appeared Inland right as we started to think of colonizing this land — those were stories worth telling to all who came after me.
I couldn’t make a decision of my own, and thankfully didn’t have to try — the Glow came early. It was far from us still, but close enough we could hear the distant repetitive sound from the creature as it danced to the Glow that lived in the Inland center. We couldn’t wait for the rest of the team — stories were told of the Glow causing madness and any communication needed to happen before the large one was driven insane. My brothers watched me go and waved goodbye.
The Glow was bigger than I could sense, and warm in a strange and painful way I found unnerving. I found it hard to close in on the Glow, but my target was there. I could see him dancing, and feel the hard light flicker and shake as he crooned and twirled. I could tell he was trying to communicate with the Glow and suspected a love song. I stood where I could be seen and waited, trying not to fidget, as he grew louder and danced with more desperation.
I sensed his awareness of me and unwillingness to stop his dance, and was startled when he suddenly turned and dove my direction. I cried out in fear and tried to dodge but one large wing brushed me as he banked to turn back to the Glow, and I could feel my hold on the Uplands come loose. I don’t remember screaming as I fell, but I know I did when I landed on the alien softness. Dazed, I let darkness take me.
The place I’m at now is strange — the walls and top are close but clear, and through them a distorted view of the uplands and lowlands can be seen at a great distance. My sense of smell is muffled by this prison, and I’m not sure where my brothers are though I can sense the Glow high overhead. There is something moving out there, something far too large for me to focus on. Now and then it moves close to the enclosed place and I wave and try to send my messages, but it ignores me. The material of the prison is sleek and firm, and I cannot climb nor can I tunnel through the equally unnatural substance under my feet. I am the smallest, and the youngest, but I never expected to end up a prisoner. I feel great fear, and can only hope my team of brothers has made it back to my Queen and is helping her to leave this new world we thought to conquer. Whatever this large moving thing is, we cannot communicate with it the way we hoped to talk with the winged one. It has no smell, no dance. And I fear it has come to destroy our world, just as the Evil did in the tales told me in the nest. The promised land has been invaded.