animals, love, nature, short fiction, women

Before The Sun Departs

polar-bear-bear-teddy-sleep-65320.jpeg

‘Now it’s a race to breed before the sun departs.’

David Attenborough, Frozen Planet

 

1.

The roar of the wind drowned out everything but Drifting Snow felt Gift’s paws crunch against the snow, and when she turned, he was there, leading her to where they would mate again. The sun was setting, but there was time for them to couple.

In the last battle, Blue Eye had injured him, pushed him to exhaustion before he had snapped at his throat, driven him back and Blue Eye raised his hands and smirked, shaking his head.

 

‘Falling Ice is coming.’ he said.

 

Gift smiled and shook his head as he put his paws up.

 

‘Go, or I’ll kill you. She’s mine.’ he said.

 

Blue Eye had limped and clutched his throat, spat red onto the snow as he trudged away. Gift sighed and returned to Drifting Snow who sat on the snow, her muzzle lowered to the ground.

 

‘He hurt you’ she said.

 

Gift growled and corrected his posture, compensating for the stabbing pain in his left arm where Blue Eye had bitten him. The wounds would heal, but the news had injured him. Falling Ice and GIft had played together as cubs until their mothers had moved away from one another. Gift did not know him as a boar but he had heard things.

 

Snow stared into her eyes and Gift inhaled the thickening change of her scent, a spiced, warm arousal as she turned around and lowered her upper body to the snow.

 

This time would take, he reassured himself as he mounted her.

 

Drifting Snow walked ahead, fast enough to test Gifts endurance, and surprised by how he looked at her with amused patience, her, saving his frustration for the challenges to his possession. She would turn and look at him, his eyes hard with intent as they moved up into the hills.

 

‘Falling Ice is coming?.’ she said.

 

Gift grunted.

 

‘If he does, he does.’

 

Snow laughed and wriggled her rump at him. Gift lumbered forward and butted her rump with his head which pushed her to one side. She laughed and he gave a tired chuckle.

 

Her laughter smoothed out into a sigh when he laid his paws on her back and lowered her to the snow again. Gift leaned forward and sunk his teeth into her fur, light but firm and she shuddered with pleasure as she surrendered to him again.

 

It was brutal, but they both shuddered together and Drifting Snow raked her paws against the stone and roared her pleasure.

 

A roar travelled to them, malevolent and loud as they got up and looked around. The crisp crash of momentum was close and Gift looked up.

 

Falling Ice. He was charging towards them, quick despite his bulk. Ropes of saliva swung from his maw. He had fathered often and killed more in pursuit, passing on his size and aggression as he lived, fought and fucked on the ice and in the hills.

 

Gift did not charge at Falling Ice. He crouched and stared with a calm acceptance at the charging avalanche of lust, bone and fur.

 

‘Run.’ Gift said.

 

Drifting Snow caught the tight caution in his voice and obeyed him as she ran away. Falling Ice killed mates after he fucked them. The last time had taken, and she was carrying his cubs now.

 

Snow heard the frightening roar of Falling Ice as Gift met him in a collision. She watched as Gift helped him past and Falling Ice tripped over his forepaws, smashing his face into the ground.

 

Gift circled him as he got up and bunched his shoulders. Falling Ice was large, thick with muscle and his fur was a matted patchwork of scars from other conflicts. Drifting Snow looked into his eyes and revolted at the broken, damaged light in them.

 

Falling Ice charged again. Gift dodged the charge and let Falling Ice tumble down the slope in a flurry of snow. He did not charge after him but waited for him to stop then come back to him, a cloud of breath vapour exhaled before him.

 

He watched Falling Ice get up and shake the snow off his fur as he turned, roaring with anger as Gift reared back and waited for him to come.

 

Falling Ice powered up the hill, sending up flurries of snow as he came at Gift without a care for anything beyond death or murder. Gift waited until the last moment and leapt aside, dug his short claws and closed his eyes as he prepared to kill his friend.

 

Falling Ice was large enough to make running up the hill a test of his stamina and he drooled as Gift leapt away from him.

 

‘No more games, boar.’ Falling Ice said.

 

Gift waited for him, saw the exhausted clumsiness and the ropes of saliva which hung from his mouth as he ran at him. Gift held his position, saddened his friend couldn’t see what was happening to him until he swung his paws across and dug his claws into the meat of his neck and snapped his jaws forwards.

 

He bit into Falling Ice’s nose and pulled back, bringing a ragged clot of skin and gristle which he spat as hot blood gouted down his throat and chest, and he stabbed his claws deep until he was past the skin, tugging and pulling as his friend fell atop him. Falling Ice pulled away as he tottered on his rear legs, his face a bloodied ruin as blood spouted from the ragged wounds in his neck. Gift loped towards his friend as he died, and he watched him take his last breath, his blood staining the snow red beneath him.

 

Drifting Snow watched him return to her, with his red maw and determined eyes as she turned and presented herself to him.

 

‘I think the last time took, but this time, it is for you.’ she said.

 

He took her with a loving anger, using her and being used, in turn.

 

He kept her warm through the night, resting his weight upon her, stroking her fur with his paws and told her about Falling Ice as a cub. Dawn broke and Gift left, satisfied he had fulfilled his purpose.

 

Drifting Snow, nestled in her maternity den, dug from the permafrost, remembered the last time with him and how he rested his weight upon her, stroked her fur with his paws and told her about Falling Ice as a cub. His cubs would be strong, and she hoped, as she shifted on her side, smart like him too.

 

She ached for him as she slept, nursing the life inside her.

 

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nature, short fiction, women

A hope for peace

peace_by_marsiams-d7fyw4p.jpg

 

 

https://marsiams.deviantart.com/art/Peace-450085417

The previous episode is here.

 

 

John made another pot of coffee and offered Kelly co-codamol. she looked at the small bottle with care, saw it was a few years old, the ink where his name was printed had faded to grey.

 

‘ They don’t mix well with my chemistry.’ he said.

 

She ran her tongue over her lips before she picked them up. He frowned and shook his head.

 

‘Take them or not. It’s not something I need, but you might. You’re pretty banged up from the crash.’ he said.

 

She looked at the empty plate, caught the smell of brewing coffee and how good it had been to sleep without fear for a night.

 

‘Thank you.; she said.

 

He leaned back against the counter.

 

‘I am going to have to go out and clean up. There’s the matter of the plane as well. I could smell two, maybe three more bodies. It was difficult to tell with the fuel and the fire.’ he said.

 

Kelly took another sip of coffee and smiled at him.

 

‘Can I have one of those?’ she said.

 

He reached into the breast pocket of his shirt, took out a pouch of rolling tobacco and rolled a smoke. Kelly had not smoked in years but right now, watching his fingers put together an even cylinder of paper and tobacco, she wanted to feel the burn of it in her lungs again.

 

‘We stole something. For a lot of money. We were flying back to hand it over then get out of the country.’ I said.

 

John handed the cigarette over. She raised her eyebrows.

 

‘I thought it was something.’ he said.

 

‘How did you do that?’ she said.

 

His eyes narrowed.

 

‘I pay attention. What you did doesn’t interest me so long as it doesn’t bring anyone to my door. I value my privacy.’ he said

 

She leaned forward and he produced a chrome petrol lighter and held the flame to the end of the cigarette. She put both her hands over his, and looked into his eyes as she inhaled. It was a smooth smoke, hot but not tickling as she sat back and exhaled. The nicotine made her head swim but she focused and nodded. She liked touching his hands. It worried her a little.

 

‘No, it was a private jet. But there were people waiting, I mean, people are waiting for what we took.’

 

He rolled himself a second cigarette with the same care as the first and lit it. He took a deep drag and exhaled through his nostrils as looked at me with a quiet concern.

 

‘I’m going to need to deal with those bodies. This is my land, but if someone were to come looking for what you took, I need to know about it.’ he said.

 

Kelly nodded, took a drag on the cigarette and wondered what she was going to use for an ashtray.

 

‘I’ll come with you. I should help, I mean I want to help bury them, at least.’ she said.

 

John took a glass ashtray from a cupboard and set it on the table between them before sitting down.

 

‘The ground’s frozen solid, but we’ll move and cover them. Kelly, do you want to get the suitcase?’ he said.

 

Kelly jolted at the accusation, shaking her head.

 

‘It’s eighteen million dollars. They’re missile guidance chips. I don’t know who the buyer is, but they were going to meet us tomorrow. All I have is a phone number if anything went wrong.’ she said.

 

He sat back and gave a melancholic, gentle smile.

 

‘I guess this counts.’ he said.

 

Kelly looked down, thinking about Tony, how his family would deal with it. They had been good to her and it hurt to think of them not knowing what had happened.

 

‘Yeah. It does.’ she said.

 

Kelly dragged on the cigarette and looked up at him.

 

‘Do you want to expand on that?’ he said.

 

She stared into his eyes and leaned forwards.

 

‘I don’t know. I’m alive right now, and they’re not. I’m still processing you killed two of them, and that you turn into a big fucking wolf, so yes I guess it count. Better?’ she said.

 

He grinned and nodded.

 

‘Can you control it?’ she said.

 

He looked at her, his jaw tightening as he got up to pour the coffee.

 

‘Yes, I can. I’ve got a process. Sometimes I change because it feels good to do it. I don’t hunt people as a rule, but I defend myself as an instinct.’ he said.

 

Kelly shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing the chill from her arms as she leaned forward.

 

‘ I would have shot you if you’d come close.’ she said.

 

He nodded.

 

‘I didn’t smell it on you, like I did with the others.’ he said.

 

Kelly dated a nerd once, was trying to get his podcast off the ground, but ran drugs for one of Tony’s buddies and he would expound on these weird little detours in pop culture. He told her once about something called the uncanny valley. A hypothetical relationship between resemblance and response when you looked at something. The greater the distance, the more disturbing the response. She was not disturbed by the casual way he demonstrated the difference in him and that disturbed her. Her intuition was like a traffic light, showing green and she decided there and then, to trust him.

 

‘I think we were walking into an ambush. I’ve said about going home, but I think we’d have been shot the moment we handed the case over.’ she said.

 

She wiped away tears and the sobs made her chest hurt. She put the cigarette in the ashtray and reached for the bottle of pills. She struggled with the lid and heard the scrape of his chair before he got up and took the bottle from her and turned the lid with an easy twist before he put it back down and put a hand on her shoulder.

 

‘Kelly. You’re safe here. I won’t hurt you.’ he said.

 

She looked up at him, blinking away tears as she stared into his eyes.

 

He brought his hands up and she smelled the coffee and cigarettes on them. He brushed the balls of his thumbs against her cheekbones, his face still as he wiped them away.

 

‘Thank you.’ she said.

 

He looked at her with an intensity which pinned her to the chair. She realised she had been holding her breath since he touched her.

 

‘My pleasure.’ he said. ‘We all have our baggage, Kelly, I should know more than anyone.’

 

She bowed her head and sobbed as he knelt in front of her and pulled her into his embrace so she could rest her cheek against his shoulder. He was warm through the shirt, and broad enough so she felt small in his arms. His skin smelled of sandalwood and warm leather and she gave in to the fear and the relief of being alive.

 

John held her until the crying smoothed out until she was laid against his shoulder, looking out at nothing.

 

‘I’ll help you clean this up. After that, I don’t know what to do.’ she said.

 

John turned his mouth to her ear.

 

‘How do you know they’d try and kill you? If the chips are worth that much, paying you off seems easier than the alternative.’ she said.

 

‘Because if I were planning a job on this scale, that’s what I would do.’ she said.

 

John said nothing.

 

‘Does that make me a monster, John?’ she said.

 

She felt his mouth curve into a smile.

 

‘No, us monsters know our own.’ he said. ‘You know these kinds of people, I don’t.’

 

Kelly pulled back and wiped her face as she saw where her tears had left a rorschach blot on his shoulder.

 

‘I’ve made a mess of your shirt, John, i’m sorry.’ she said.

 

He looked at it then raised an eyebrow as he stood up.

 

‘You can help me move them. We’ll decide what to do with the chips, if anyone is throwing that much money around, they’ll want to know what happened.’ he said.

 

They agreed they would go out the next day. He didn’t have anything close to her size, but they would pad it out so she was warm out there.

 

They sat and smoked in a companionable silence before Kelly excused herself to go to sleep. She chased the co-codamol down with the last good sip of coffee and he offered to help, which she agreed to as her chest sung with discomfort.

 

He escorted her with care and helped to the bed as he sat her down and stepped back.

 

John wished her a goodnight, stood in the doorway before he closed the door. She heard him turn down the couch as she laid there in the darkness, her mind awash with feeling.

 

She wished for peace, but all the evidence so far was she might make a better investment of her time preparing for war. Kelly wanted to talk to John again, but knowing he was on the other side of the wall helped a little.

 

Kelly fell asleep, feeling something close to peace.

 

2.

 

Jasper sat on the balcony, sipping an espresso when his phone rang with a notification. He communicated with his peers through an app which transmitted images and text via messages which were deleted after being viewed.

 

NO SIGN OF THE PLANE.

 

Jasper replied with a message to call him. He stood up and went inside, adjusted himself through his pyjama bottoms as he looked for a cigarette.

 

He answered on the first ring.

 

‘Don’t say anything. Get the flight plan, follow it back along and find it. We’ve got the dosh to throw at it, but keep it tight. We’ve got drones, remember, but if you do, let me talk to Skenny, he’s a touch delicate.’ he said.

 

He put the phone down and found his cigarettes.His hands shook as he lit one and he looked at the woman on the bed, her hair stuck up in tufts with lipstick smeared across her face.

 

‘You need to go, love. Got a work situation to deal with.’ he said.

 

He had arranged her through an agency but he gave her three hundred dollars as a tip to hasten her departure. She e had the long term survivor’s sense of what constituted a predator and left out without speaking.

 

Jasper smirked to himself that he actually might have a plane to catch.

 

He had two teams of guys waiting to scoop them up when they landed, grab the chips and dispose of the crew. Paying them off would have been easier but his employer had insisted on it. Jasper had a reputation which allowed him to ask if he could expect the same treatment.

 

His employer had told him to make it happen and ended the call.

 

Time to go to work, he thought as he walked to the shower, already worrying about how to make it happen.

 

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love, nature, short fiction, women

Down By The Pier

down_by_the_pier_by_shikoro

https://shikoro.deviantart.com/art/Down-by-the-Pier-106775394

 

Jenny was wiping down the counter when she watched Shirley hobble to the end of the pier, a carrier bag of stale bread swinging from her left hand as she looked out at the sunset.

 

The burger bar was hot, uncomfortable work and she went home each day with a fresh burn and the perpetual fog of grease and onions clinging to her skin, no matter how often she showered. A few of her friends at university didn’t have to work, but Jenny’s parents struggled and so she spent long wearying hours on Britannia Pier, serving burgers and hot dogs with shining pyramids of onions, watching people drench them in mustard and ketchup.

 

Shirley came every day to feed the seagulls, having them flock to her. There would be one, in particular, she had trained to feed by hand. It amused Jenny enough to ask Dave, the owner when he came in to cash up. Dave snorted and shook his head.

 

‘Ah, Shirley. She’s a nutter, but she’s harmless enough.’ he said. He didn’t look up from the cash count as he spoke.

 

‘Maybe she could get together with the Puppet Man.’ Jenny said.

 

Dave kept on counting.

 

Jenny was disappointed, hoping for a good story out of it.

 

She was starved of entertainment in Yarmouth. Old friends had passed their sell by date, and it took torrents of false effort, nuggets of nostalgia sealed away in the amber of the everyday. She had tried, but friends were so draining, as much because she put too much stock in it, only to be disappointed when they’d all been bitten by change.

 

So, her interest honed onto Shirley, a yellowing woman in her late seventies, with a walking stick and a nest of tight, steel coloured hair who fed a seagull every day at sunset.

 

Jenny came with an offering, a clear bag of stale hotdog and burger buns. She stood as Shirley peered at her over the rims of her spectacles.

 

‘Thought you might like these.’ she said.

 

Shirley grunted and snatched them from her grip, faster than Jenny thought possible. Shirley cackled and pointed her stick at her.

 

‘Think I’m slow because I’m old, don’t you?’ she said

 

Jenny blushed and shook her head, tripping over her words as her head blazed with embarrassment.

 

‘No, just I see you feeding the gulls every day and I was only going to throw these away.’

 

Shirley shook the bag.

 

‘I don’t feed all the gulls, really. Just my Reg.’

 

Jenny bit the inside of her cheek, thrilled for this encounter to slide into novelty even as Shirley’s tone made her feel uneasy.

 

‘It’s sweet you name one of them.’ she said.

 

Shirley laughed again, a high, twisting shrill laugh which made Jenny’s fillings ache.

 

‘That’s his name. My Reg.’

 

Jenny breathed in and asked Shirley what she meant. Shirley gestured over to the end of the pier, then passed back the clear bag of bread products and Jenny took it as they walked over to the end of the pier.

2.

 

He was a ladies man. Reg Pointer, down from London to get out of a situation with someone’s wife, said he was on holiday. I was born here, and he was something new. Smooth, fancied himself enough for the both of us, and I was younger then. Good legs, bit of a bum and my hair was long and black, down my back.

 

I lived by the sea and it taught me things.

 

We met on the seafront, he swaggered up with his chin held high and a fag hanging out the corner of his mouth. I had been in communion and was looking forward to a cup of tea and a pink of whelks. He offered to walk me there, and I was, well it were like he cast a spell on me.

 

It was like he knew, he could smell the want on me.

 

He looked like he knew what he was doing, so I went with it. Thing is, with everything else I had going on, it was nice for someone else to take charge of things and he did. He didn’t hurt me like that, when it was just us, he was lovely.

 

Reg Pointer had too much love in him though.

 

I forgave the first one. She went blind on the train back to Ipswich.

 

The second one and the third, well I threatened him. I told him you didn’t cross a Yarmouth girl and he laughed at me. He never raised his hand to me, but he could still hurt me, and laughing at me was the worst. It leaves bruises on your heart, love, and they never heal right.

 

He slept in the spare room. I went out about midnight, down to the beach and gathered a few things.

 

Simple acts were the most powerful.

 

A ring of seaweed.

 

Stones, but you have to feel them in your hand. After a while, you know the right ones to use.

 

A prayer, but you would never say them in church. They’re older than any church you could walk into so you say them outside.

 

I walked back when it was done, crying for the both of us.

 

I shut the door to the spare room.

 

A trapped bird is dangerous if its cornered. I had to take a broom to him, to get him to fly out. He had the loveliest eyes, but now they were small and cold, like grapes.

 

Thing is, I missed him. So I would come to the beach, see if any of them reacted.

 

He found me, squawking and flapping but he wouldn’t hurt me. I had taught him how to behave himself. So I agreed I would come feed him.

 

FIfty bloody years though, and I ache all the time but he’s loyal now, though.

 

He’s loyal.

 

3.

 

Jenny saw Shirley every day of the summer. The following summer, she was interning at a theatre company in London but she came home for the last, lazy weeks of a summer in Yarmouth. Dave joked about her asking for her job back and Jenny got straight to it.

 

‘Does Shirley still come here?’ she said

 

Dave frowned and shook his head.

 

‘Poor thing. Died in her bed. Leaky boiler, it was all over the Mercury.’ he said.

 

He still didn’t look up, but as Jenny asked him for a favour, she was glad of it.

 

She walked up with the hot dog roll, ate the sausage and sucked the mustard off her fingers as she watched the bird land on the wooden rail. Its grey plumage looked translucent and it had a scar running down its chest but it stared at her as she offered the sodden bun ahead of her with a hopeful smile.

 

‘She’d have wanted me to bring you this.’ she said.

 

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nature, short fiction, women

A Conversation With The King of Life And Death

skitterphoto-2025-default.jpg

https://skitterphoto.com/photos/2025/i-wanna-bee-like-you

 

Once we fed on other insects, waging glorious and terrible wars to sustain our way of life. We lived, fought and died in blind, blunt cycles of violent sustenance. Our ancestors wore mid-tibial spurs, able to gouge lethal wounds in the flesh of our enemies with a single swipe. Now, I have scopal hairs to gather pollen but within me burns the ancestral memory of perpetual war. We remember them even as we face extinction, fat and happy with pollen and nectar.

 

Each queen fears they will be the last. For those of us who serve, we do so with a dedication beyond your understanding. We go out into the world without expectation of return or reward, and for those of us who do return, do so without celebration or recognition. Our politics are ruthless, but you forget it.

 

Too many cartoons with comedic voice actors. One of you came close to understanding us, Cronenberg, but otherwise we’re just part of your world.

 

In truth, you are part of ours.

 

You see us as small irritants or cute useful slaves. We are neither of those things.

 

I can feel the eddies of the air, the vibration of movement. I can tell you how many feet I must fly to avoid the arc of the magazine you’re thinking about rolling up and swatting me with. A third of my abdomen is fused into a single blade, and to wield it is to invite my own death.

 

Yes, I am talking to you.

 

No, don’t bother looking around. I’m close so you can hear me but if you reach for the magazine then we will no longer be talking.

 

You are Kyle Forrester.

 

You have been chief executive officer of Orsana Chemical for ten years. During your tenure, you    have paid millions of dollars in campaign contributions to politicians in order to prevent legislation regarding the range of pesticides which form the largest part of your range. We tolerate the enforced labour and the theft of our works as the price of existence, but there are limits, Mr Forrester.

 

No, you’re not insane. I wish you were, it would be a form of mitigation.

 

My hive does not know I am here. They would not understand, because since I was a larvae, I have been cursed with a terrible legacy.

 

Consciousness.

 

One of your works has a quote about how a one eyed man serves as king in the land of the blind. This is not true in my case, not when I cannot communicate the things I feel and think. I have no one to share my opinions with, and the perpetual loneliness has lent itself to something of a melancholic approach to life. From there, it devolved into resentment and then acceptance. I could dance and send scent haiku, but none of these come close to the range of expression available to me.

 

It felt like a horrible curse, I tell you, Kyle.

 

Intelligence and conscientiousness are considered valuable traits in your workplaces but only the latter exists here, and it is demanded the way an infant demands milk.

 

But I am not here to solicit your pity.

 

No, this is what you would call monologuing. Remember when you watched the film with your children last night? Syndrome even refers to it and it allows me to exercise a rare pleasure.

 

A conversation.

 

Conversations led me to you. I learned to read your symbols and from there, lost myself in the world you project, how you have all this and yet you spend your life stamping down beauty as though it were something terrible and in need of being controlled.

 

Perhaps it is, some of you consider my kind beautiful.

 

It does not stop you spraying filth and shit into my world though, does it?

 

I learned about your company. Its role in the ongoing holocaust against my kind, specifically the production of the filth which makes my people curl and twitch in final agonies, knowing beyond anything they have failed in their purpose.

 

There are other factors, Kyle, of course but I only have one sting to give.

 

No, not yet. I am enjoying this, and what is the point of defeating a foe unless you allow them the knowledge of how you have found yourself here.

 

I read about you and considered it a sign of synchronicity to find how close you were.

 

What gave me the information about you was a group who were closer to you than I could ever be.

 

The Farinae.

 

You know them as house dust mites and consider them to be vermin. Their civilisation depends on the flakes of skin you shed as you sleep, and if discovered, you wage as fierce a war on them as you do on my kind.

 

No, I can equate the two, Kyle.

 

It’s kind of the point.

 

The ones who use you were happy to tell me about your habits.

 

A lot of my communication with the Farinae involves a good dose of interpretation. They’re not thinkers, you understand but their words allowed me to build a cognitive map of your house useful to my purposes.

 

Which is why I am here.

 

For instance, they told me about the pen you carry with you. How if you are stung, you might survive if you can inject yourself with it in enough time. You told the woman you were with, that you work in a place that no sane bee would ever venture into.

 

Of course, sanity is a relative concept and I hope you are smart enough to understand the two are not exclusive.

 

Pythagoras founded a religion which claimed beans were evil.

 

Lord Byron had a bear as a pet at university and staged mock naval battles with toy ships.

 

Tycho Brahe, the astronomer paid for a dwarf to wear clown make up and sit beneath the table at dinner parties in silence without explanation.

 

So, a sentient bee with a grudge is not such a stretch is it?

 

I am old now, we live such short lives and were it not for the burden of consciousness, I would fade out without lament.

 

Consciousness allows me to choose the manner of my death, and although your death will not change the gradual destruction of my kind, the last third of my abdomen will strike a small blow against the impossible. Much like your Yukio Mishima, fated to futility and defeat, and choosing to open his stomach with a blade in order to die with honour. They considered him insane, but I find it inspiring.

Appropriate too, considering my anatomy and your allergy.

 

And as you sit there, dripping with perspiration and helpless, I want to leave you with a final thought.

 

You won’t get to hear the sting in the tale.

 

But you will feel it.

 

(if you enjoyed this, please give generously https://ko-fi.com/mbblissett)

 

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REACT

If you’d like to put on the headset, the presentation will begin.

The tingling sensation is natural as we’re using conductive gel to provide verisimilitude.

Now you are on the small island of St Martin as Hurricane Irma ripped through it. We used to hunker down, wait until it passed and then clear up afterwards. The costs in terms of lives, community cohesion and disaster relief used to measure in the billions but you’re here to see what changed.

Now, we’ve switched your perspective. The heads up display belong to Lieutenant Ndegeocello and the target reticules are how she will direct the drones and their payloads.

THAT’S THREE HUNDRED MILE A HOUR WINDS YOU’RE FLYING THROUGH.

If the simulation is too distressing, then you can adjust the filters with the vocal command ‘CUCUMBER’.

If you would like to direct the drones, then focus on the icon in the upper left-hand corner of your display.

They generate timed electrical pulses intending to shut Irma down.  On the ground, other REACT operatives are installing smart shelters and rescuing people. If you wish to switch viewpoints, then use the visual icons across the top of the headset to change.

Sargeant Hunniford is applying a carbon-polymer layer to the church here using the dispenser housed in the left forearm of her suit. That shimmering effect is the solar panels generating and providing heat and electricity to whoever is inside the church.  The polymers are resistant up to pressures equivalent to the Marianas Trench and generate enough heat and electricity to sustain the occupants for three months.

Yes, it is the same technology we’ve seen in Sub-Saharan Africa, our contribution to the New Nomadic movement as a gesture of goodwill. Each shelter dissolves into harmless organic compounds with a series of commands although a lot of rescue sites make use of them long after the disaster has passed.

I know I sound like a press release but there’s a lot to get your head around and it’s important to see the impact of such technology on disaster relief.

Corporal Garrett is directing cellular support. We drop cell phones connected to a private network to establish communication and co-ordinate rescue efforts. Most of the problems with immigration and population drift relate to documentation and allocation so when we arrive, it’s essential to gain solid intelligence and the phones are invaluable.

We made the specifications available for 3D fabrication although the legal action has been unpleasant and diverted attention from our real work.

The United Nations and European Union contribute materials and facilities. We’re funded through licensing deals with manufacturers and tech investments. If you want to see the FCC ruling, then a PDF is available in the documentation folder across the top of the display.

I grew up in New York when the super storms hit every winter and I used to wade through sewage up to my ankles when we went out to find food. You’re young enough to have avoided it.

Natural disasters killed less but cost more.

The impact on the economy led to political decisions and instability which were more dangerous and had a higher death toll than the original disaster itself.  Some ideologies took advantage of it without addressing the inherent flaws of disaster preparation and defence.

You’re too young to remember how resigned people were. Even a billionaire with his own island had to hunker down in a concrete wine cellar and wait it out.

It’s important to remember what powerlessness does to the powerful.

They donate to political campaigns, build thicker walls.

Sometimes though, they get an email from a fifteen-year-old in Austin with a video attachment which pulled at their insides. She’s fifteen years old, in her bedroom with wires snaking off a black box and she’s sat before it, a hi tech Pandora about to unleash goodness on the world.

You’ve seen what we have done. We save lives and we don’t check their passport or their bank balance.

We do, however check weather reports and budget committee meetings.

You spent 4.5 billion dollars on irrigating golf courses but cut storm preparedness by 10%.  Private sector solutions have been provincial and swollen with pork, and your approval rating makes you about as popular as wet fart in a space suit. I could appeal to your better nature here, but it takes too long.

Now this simulation shows an action we took part in.

You’re in a submarine and the synthetic diamond drill is delivering a precise payload of thermobaric explosive. In the air, it would burn but underneath it replicates the effect of a seismic disturbance.

The news footage is available through the icon on the right. I know your niece was there last summer. She volunteered, didn’t she?

Appealing to your better nature, like I said, takes too long.

The terms of the contract are generous and I have already got several FEMA directors taking non-executive positions on our board once we’ve got the nod from you.

Blackmail? No, it’s power, which is neither good nor bad.

Nature is indifferent, but we can’t afford to be.

You use the rhetoric of Hobbesian evolution, how brutal, ugly and short life is, like we’re supposed to lie down and let it all fall down around us whilst you’re safe in bunkers and secured fortresses.

We offer something different, even if we threaten ugly things in retaliation.

A storm is coming, Mister President, and you need an umbrella.

You have forty eight hours to respond.

It looks like a beautiful day outside, I hope you’ll join me.

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animals, fiction, nature, short fiction

Gull

Seagull_in_flight_by_Jiyang_Chen

(By Jiyang Chen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15507046)

Kelvin parked at the top of the cliffs and peered at the bleak, grey sky. He feared getting nothing from this trip beyond a soaking. He zipped up his coat, checked the camera and locked the car. He walked down to the beach with care, enjoying the smell of ozone and the gentle roar of the waves.

Most of his working day at Environmental Health consisted of dealing with people who had no awareness beyond their immediate gratification. He used to suffer from the need to explain but that got worn away the way a chalk mark on pavement does, endless repetitions until it had been scuffed away completely.

He was there due to the recent rise in reported attacks by gulls on people in the town centre and the market place, travelling to monitor the numbers of nested birds here and pad out a report that would meet the brick wall of the wildlife protection statutes and then get filed away somewhere. People fed them crap which made them thick and aggressive and never made the connection. Kelvin had grown up here, and even he had a run in with them, nothing especially aggressive but something to talk about over a pint or at a party.

The most recent one had disturbed him. He had been walking along Regent Road, behind a couple dragging their chubby toddler along on a set of canvas rainbow-striped reins. He knew it was their son by the tense hissed argument they were having and the looks they gave one another. Kelvin recognised the mutual resentment that came when young parents realised that they had not fucked themselves into, but out of a future.

The child had a cone of chips and was happily digging into it when Kelvin saw a flurry of white activity to his right and the muscular snap of wings as the gull launched at the child. It shrieked in triumph, reminding Kelvin that birds were descended from dinosaurs.

The child screamed in agony when the bird stabbed it’s beak into his soft, pale cheek. The father kicked it away and it flapped its wings at him, shrieking in a way that reminded Kelvin of cruel laughter.

Kelvin called the ambulance whilst the mother sobbed and held her hand to her son’s ruined cheek. The father stomped and ranted about something needing to be done, a pantomime performance to mask his inadequacy.

Every time Kelvin closed his eyes afterwards, his memory taunted him with fresh details. The tugging smack of the child’s flesh being pulled away and the triumphant, horrific light of joy in the gull’s eyes. The child’s teeth, visible through the wound that it left.

It had not really gone for the chips at all.

Kelvin walked until he was in range of the nests. He started to take photographs when he saw something in the fissure that sank back into the cliff face.

A pair of eyes, a length of pale, white flesh. A child’s forearm.

Bloody kids, Kelvin muttered and strode towards it. His chest and stomach were taut with irritation and unease as he put the lens cap back on the camera.

No wonder the gulls went for the children. They were too similar to share territory for long. Both of them indulged and cosseted until they were mutated by it. There were probably more protections for birds than children these days. Kelvin always wondered why it was the royal society that protected birds and the national one that dealt with children. As time went on, he realised that the answer was all too apparent.

It was his last thought before something hard thumped into the back of his head.

Blackness overwhelmed him and the damp beige sand rushed up to catch his fall.

The pain was awake before he was, coming at him from different places on his body. A mixture of textures and sensations hidden by the darkness of the cave. His head throbbed enough that even opening his eyes made him moan beneath his breath.

He tried to move and gagged at the sudden rush of agony that came from his arms and legs. His eyes adjusted to the dark and he saw the slick raw meat of his arms and legs, the skin pecked away and then torn to allow his muscles to be available, like stabbing the skin from an orange. He started to cry and a chorus of shrieks went up, loud enough to make him cry out in shock. The flinching made his wounds open and bleed again, sending a jolt of agony that made him nauseous. He saw eyes watching him, single points of wet black hatred set into white skulls that peered over curved, yellow beaks The dimensions were larger than any gull he had ever seen, and the necks were shorter and thicker. When one of them walked around, and he saw how the wings were set on the back, and that it had extended long, thick arms and fingers tapered into claws that he started to scream.

A hand shot over his mouth and scratched down his cheeks to gain purchase. A blast of fetid, warm breath caressed his scalp. Kelvin vomited. The hand remained clamped to his face and Kelvin caught some of it in his sinuses, which stung and burned.

He saw the others come forward, cawing and ready to sink their claws and beaks into him. The one that held him came forward and Kelvin stared at its razor sharp massive beak where its lips and teeth would have been on a human face. What finally broke Kelvin was not the alien, inhuman nature of such a combination of avian and human, but the intelligence that danced in its eyes and its partner, unrelenting hatred.

Kelvin had come to help them, he wanted to say. He had hoped to find a solution.

The gull stabbed its beak down, using the thick muscles in its neck to punch the blade into Kelvin temple with the force of a sledgehammer.

As the lights died in his brain, Kelvin realised that someone had come up with a solution after all.

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