creative writing, fiction, flash fiction, short fiction, short stories, strength, touch, Uncategorized, war, wildness, women, writing

A Bridge For The Furies:Inventory

alienabar

Cara rolled her eyes in dismay at Gloria.

Gloria picked up her drink and took a sip and shuddered with the strength of it.

‘So you don’t question intelligent gas clouds, but you question a simple hack?’

It’s false nails and a set of contact lenses. You’re talking about some fucking Galactus level event and I go up against it with haute couture?’

Cara sighed as Olivia shifted in her seat, added to her ever growing mental list of questions about what or who was a Galactus. Drea wanted to punch the air that something was said that she actually understood. She ached for John and consciousness with a pang of deep, palpable longing that normally ended up in John’s hands getting the good kind of mean with her. Here, she took another drink and listened to the reserved bitching that characterised the failure of womankind to dominate society. Especially smart, white women but she kept that to herself in favour of enjoying the free show.

Cara gestured to the box.

‘Pop them in and on.’

Gloria sneered again but picked out the index fingernail, pearlescent and when she pinched it between her fingertips, it hummed pleasantly like the vibrator that laid gathering dust, hollow without batteries, much like her heart. It changed consistency, a warm plasticity as it looped over and adhered to her fingertip. A low charge ran up her forearm. The other nails leapt from their casings, with a graceful glee and the symphony of purpose used her body as the orchestra. The lenses elongated as they left the casing and attached themselves to her eyes, plasticized tears in reverse.

Gloria, in the healthy spirit of youthful experimentation, had experimented with hallucinogenic drugs for recreational purposes and the earnest, slightly grim spiritual ramifications. Peyote, psilocybin and lysergic acid had formed the river of her consciousness raising. The combination of the lenses and nails made it look like baby aspirin or the candied gummy vitamins that had characterised her sickly childhood.

Gloria had been given access to the operating system of the universe, a drop down menu floated in her vision like sunspots and she sat back in her seat, dumbstruck with a quiet awe. Olivia was fascinated by the shifting spectrum of colours that overlaid Gloria’s eyes even as the trembling posture of reverence unnerved her.

Gloria clicked on a free floating icon marked ‘tutorial’. Cara chuckled and sat back, gestured towards her with her glass.

‘She’s going to be a while.’

Olivia grew pale and gestured to Gloria.

‘What did you do?’

Cara furrowed her forehead and rolled her glass between her palms.

‘She can change things.’

Olivia swallowed and glanced between Gloria and Cara, concerned at what she might be gifted. She liked her own mind, even the distasteful streaks of self loathing and guilt were hers, goddamn it. Cara touched her hand, Olivia experienced a moment of raw satori and smiled at her.

‘I get it. You’ve put us together with the right tools for the job.’

Drea recoiled in her seat. She had seen the gesture, reminded of when John would use the quasi-hypnosis, social engineering tricks that took nervous young men and divorcees back into the dating arena with the confidence of bull studs.

‘Don’t do that to me.’ she said.

Cara smiled at her, eyes glittering as she picked up her drink.

‘Again, you mean. After all, you’re still convinced you’re dreaming.’

Drea gritted her teeth and forced a stoic expression onto her face to hide her disquiet.

‘So, what do we get?’ Drea said.

Cara clapped her hands together.

‘You two get to do something really spectacular.’

Olivia and Drea had grins appear on their faces in perfect symmetry.

‘Damage.’

Gloria, meanwhile, studied the physics of a falling leaf, the beauty of a broken hip and the pressures of being a good girl with a god’s eye for the sheer gift of it all.

Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3 and Part 4

 

 

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A Bridge For The Furies 5: Performance and Cocktails.

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(This is a photograph of a bar designed by HR Giger. I know, right?)

Previous episodes are here, here, here and here.

Cara ushered them through a set of double doors into a small lounge, where chairs shaped like clam shells were arranged around rectangular tables. Which would not have attracted anyone’s notice aside from the fact that everything floated a good foot above the floor.

Cara caught their mutual expressions of disbelief and laughed.

‘Rare earth magnets and molybdenum. They can take the weight of a Gysterfanica warpod, so we’ll be fine, I promise.’

She gestured towards the bar.

‘Now, I will get us drinks, and you have to trust me here. There are at least eighteen things on the menu that will kill you and about thirty that will turn you blind or insane.’

Drea chuckled and shook her head.

‘Sounds like my kind of bar. Although what the fuck is a Gysterwhatever?’

Gloria saw that Olivia had turned tense and pale, she put a hand on her shoulder and asked if she was okay. Olivia gave a tight nod and took a deep breath.

‘It’s a lot to take in, you know? My biggest concern was keeping the farm running and maybe someone to run it with, ya know?’

Gloria saw the pensive light in her eyes and expressed a true pang of sympathy for her. At least her and Drea had some form of pop culture to inoculate them against all of this, but Olivia was experiencing the cognitive dissonance that would result from giving a Victorian lady a Hitachi Magic Wand.

‘If it’s any consolation, I am ready to run around screaming at any possible minute. So look, let’s keep this in perspective. If you’re mad, then so am I and if we’re not, then we see what she has to say. Deal?’

Olivia managed a terse smile and put a callused hand out to shake. Gloria shook it and grinned, surprised at the strength she manifested in a causal handshake. Farm girls, she thought. The contact was enlivening and grounding, reminding her that she was not the only one going through this.

Cara came back with a black slate tablet and gestured to a nearby table.

‘Drea, a warpod is a species of an intelligent mollusc race that used to cause all kinds of shit, but they’re absolutely hilarious once you get over the whole cultural barrier. Now let’s sit down and I can fill you all in on the next bit.’

Drea frowned and pointed to the tablet in Cara’s hands.

‘Where are our drinks? If I’m going to listen to more space cosmic shit, then I want at least one entertaining anecdote to wake up with.’

Cara rolled her eyes and placed the tablet onto the table, where it sank into the surface with the ease of a pebble dropped into a body of water. Four tumblers emerged from the mass of the table and immediately filled with an orange carbonated liquid.  In the centre rose a small column that began to glow and hum with a sequence of different colours. The air around them vibrated and became tangible against their skins as they sat down.

Drea picked up the tumbler and took a sniff. It carried an oily, citrus scent and when she brought it to her lips, it was thick and warm with the aftertaste of bubbles. She set it down and stared into space for a second then looked at the three of them in turn.

‘When I used to watch Star Trek, they all used to drink these fruity, strange looking drinks and I always wondered how they tasted.’

Cara picked hers up and raised it.

‘Here’s to mayhem.’

The three women looked at one another, with mutual apprehension before Olivia and Gloria took sips of their drinks. When their powers of speech returned to him, Gloria asked if she could have a drop of water added to hers. Cara chuckled and said that she could, but only if she wanted it to explode in her lower intestine. Gloria set the drink down and it melted into the body of the table.

‘That’s a perfectly fine Undara Surprise you’re not drinking.’

Gloria winced and shook her head. She leaned forward, forearms resting on her thighs, afraid to touch the table in case it did something to her. She had always believed that the future would appear bizarre and at too high a velocity for a traveller from the past, but she could not say whether this was the future or not. Cara was the only recognizable human, and Gloria noted that her syntax and intonation had an odd, stilted quality to it.

‘I’ve had enough surprises to last me a lifetime. So, now that we’re all settled, why don’t you tell us what we’re supposed to do.’

Cara downed her drink in one and set it onto the table.

‘I like a woman who gets down to business. So, I’ve chosen the three of you-‘

Olivia coughed as she took another sip, with her eyes glazed over and a beatific smile on her face.

‘This stuff is…yeah…it kind of creeps up on you, don’t it?’

Drea tried to give her a thumbs up, but the brain-body connection that she took for granted had surrendered to whatever was in the drinks. Instead she gave a sloppy grin and tried to arrange her features into some kind of order that denoted mindfulness and concentration. She failed, but she figured it was worth the try.

‘It’s okay, it wears off in a bit if you just have the one, plus I’ve got RB’s if anyone’s a bit too off their tits.’

‘Arby’s?’ Gloria said.

Cara shook her head.

‘Receptor blockers, basically sobers you up  instantly. I swear by them, especially with the diplomatic functions I have to attend.’

Gloria sat back and decided to go with the confusion. Source yourself in nothingness, she told herself and let it all happen. She remembered the retreat at Spirit Rock meditation centre, how it had removed the thorn of grief left in her heart’s paw, but it still stung when she moved.

‘Anyway, so what makes us so special?’ Gloria said.

Cara pointed at her with her index finger and the platinum ring there began to glow with a soothing amber light.

‘You in particular, or in general?’

‘THIS BOY WEARS COVERS, KIND OF HIM TO FAINT.’

The four of them turned as a Klee cloud from earlier billowed into the room exuding drunken indignation, which resembled in it’s scent signature, a gas station bathroom at four a.m. Cara rolled her eyes.

Olivia raised her hand.

‘The guy said it was because ah can shoot.’

Gloria fought to keep the consternation from her face, for fear of offending Olivia, who had inspired a protectiveness in her even though they were roughly the same age. There was a lack of sophistication to her that Gloria warmed to, from the very first. Cara gave her the thumbs up.

‘Yes, you, my dear, are a regular Carlos Hathcock. Also you give off a tremendous amount of potential energy when viewed from my particular perspective.’

Drea sat back in her chair, cautious because she realised that she was sitting in something with no apparent means of support.

‘There’s better fighters than me, out there. No shame in that.’ she said.

Cara nodded, in agreement.

‘Again, I’m working from a particular set of criteria here. Sure, you may not be Ronda Rousey but all my data centred around you three as a cluster of possibility.’

Gloria chuckled.

‘You’re using English, but I will be damned if I know what you’re talking about.’

Cara’s humour left her and she fixed Gloria with a look that could freeze the blood in her veins.

‘I could give you reassuring techno babble, none of which you would understand and we could waste time. I chose you because all the horribly sophisticated intelligence arrays and the experiences I have had, most of which will have shortened my life expectancy by centuries said that you three would be the most effective means of subduing -‘

Olivia cocked an eyebrow.

‘Y’all said kill.’

Cara nodded and waved her off, her attention focused on Gloria like a magnifying glass on an anthill.

‘Subdue, kill, either way if we don’t stop the Leviathan, there will be months of diplomatic wrangling, some messy and futile military action and then nothing.’

‘Nothing doesn’t sound that bad.’ Drea said.

Cara blinked slowly and sat up, pulling her shoulders back and lifting her chin.

‘When I say nothing, because my fear is that Leviathan will eat creation itself, or enough of it to make sure that our lives, inconsequential as they may be, are no longer around to be mourned.’

Gloria tried to imagine nothingness, much like the concept of zero, it took a great deal to approximate the idea of it. Endless possibilities, ended and she would never see or experience any of it. She thought about it on a smaller, more manageable set of concepts. No more running in the mornings, no more books to be written or read. No more ‘I love yous’.

‘So come it falls to you?; Gloria said.

Cara winked at her.

‘You know how Bond was the bastard of the British Empire, you know, everyone knew it was him coming if you messed with the empire and he was going to kick seven shades of shit out of you, raid your liquor cabinet and shag your girlfriend?’

Gloria smiled, warmed by the endearing swagger that Cara projected.

‘You’re the alien equivalent.’ she said.

Cara winked at her and made finger pistols.

‘Got it in one, but part of it means that I get a degree of levity that means I can move resources around faster than organisations or governments can. You three are assets that all my intelligence shows to be the most effective, least messy way of sorting this out. I outfit you with the kit, point you in the right direction and we all go home at the end of the day. That’s really about it.’

Gloria chuckled and shook her head.

‘I write books, what possible kit do I think I can get from you?’

Cara reached inside her jacket and retrieved a slim case, the kind that you would find a decent fountain pen within, a gift set that looked classy but showed little to no consideration. She slid it across the table to Gloria.

Gloria looked down at it, then back up at Cara who gave her a challenging, smug expression. She opened it slowly then looked up and sneered.

‘False nails and contact lenses? How the fuck am I meant to save creation with that?”

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

 

 

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A Bridge For The Furies: 4.

carina_nebula_by_eso

Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

‘THE LEVIATHAN MAY HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE WITHIN THIS SPHERE BEYOND GROWTH AND FEBRILE AMBITION’

Olivia stood there, looking up at the luminescent cloud that moved against the prevailing gravity with the liquid insistence of a jellyfish. Each time it spoke, it produced flashes of brilliant light that stripped her of comprehension, such was the awe with which she beheld it. Since she had crossed the bridge, she had seen enough wonders to last her a lifetime, although she had arrived unaccompanied.

Drea backed up against a wall, her hands pressed against it and found that it flexed like a muscle against her. She turned around, ready to throw a punch. She kept telling herself that this was all simply a dream. She told herself that again and again, until the words were robbed of meaning.

Olivia felt quite proud of herself. She had not immediately lost her mind or control of her bladder. It might have been the presence of the rifle, even though everything around her was on a scale that made her wonder if a bullet would do anything other than embarrass her, rather than wound or kill anything. She had not seem Heimdall since she agreed to cross the bridge.

‘Sorry about the ceremonial stuff. There’s a lot of protocol around this sort of thing, so we have our work cut out figuring what the best way to get someone over is.’

The three women turned their heads to follow the source of the explanation. She stood, with her hands up in front of her, dressed in a black suit, tailored to accommodate her lean hips and long legs with a white shirt and a black bow tie. She had short, black hair that was combed away from a high, regal forehead. On her fingers were an assortment of rings, that each gave off a soft glow, in a myriad of colours that caught the light and did wonderful, interesting things with it.

‘Who are you?’

Gloria was the first to say it. A headful of stories gave her something of an advantage in adjusting to whatever and wherever this was. She had seen a man make a bird of fire with a single phrase.

SOWAHIMTIPSNU.

It sounded like a shaman clearing his throat, and she found herself saying it in her hand like a mantra, hoping that this would all start to make sense. Part of her wondered if she hadn’t simply broken something in her head, laid there at the side of the road, flesh dimpling with the cold and the rain in her eyes.

‘I’m responsible for the three of you being here.’

Drea narrowed her eyes and examined the woman’s face, cast in a perfect mask of polite embarrassment. She was waiting for her to stop making sense and go inscrutable like the white haired woman had. ‘Sob carefully, the headwinds will cost you tears’ She wondered if there was meaning in that.

‘No, I had some girl with white hair that she smacked me around with and I was in the, I don’t know, future or something.’

Olivia guffawed and shook her hair out.

‘I was taking the scenic route home, came across a bridge, turned out to be magic, who knew?’

Gloria smiled and realised that if this was all a product of her broken brain, then it was at least worthwhile and quite well realised. She hoped that she would live to write about it. There was at least a book out of it, which was an unkind but honest phrase that she used with every rejection and tragedy.

Until the last one.

‘So, I met someone who was named after the god of stories, you -‘ she pointed to Drea.

‘I’m dreaming.’ Drea said and shot a harsh look around the room to challenge anyone who said different.

‘OK, so you are in a dream where you fought some trope from wu shu cinema and I pretty much had the same experience as-‘ She looked at Olivia and smiled at her. Olivia blushed and gave her name, in a voice gone smooth and soft, like whipped cream from the earnest look and the smile that Gloria gave her.

‘I’m Drea, pleased to meet you two.’ She shook hands with the pair of them, tight, dry handshakes that spoke to a desire to wake up now please, even if it was all couched in a polite, awkward play of manners.

The fourth woman clapped her hands together.

‘Ok, so I am Cara and this is a good news, bad news situation. You all know that something big and horrible is supposed to happen and you’ve been asked to come and lend a hand.’

Drea folded her arms and smirked.

‘Is that the good or the bad news?’

Olivia chuckled and winked at her. She had spirit, which Olivia always liked in anyone.

‘No, it’s a preamble. The cloud up there is a diplomat from the Klee, who are a species of gas based lifeforms. Very intelligent but they communicate in chemical signals and the translation software we use makes them sound like that. However, what it’s referring to, is what’s coming.’

Gloria remembered the word. Leviathan. An old testament word, even writing it down made it look it was carved into stone or word. Big fish, she remembered, in that way that made writing fun but the rest of her life awkward and uncomfortable.

‘So, the bad news is that the leviathan is really bad?’ Gloria said.

Cara grimaced and pressed her palms together.

‘Well, it’s a lifeform that someone created just before the heat death of a universe, and it then starts travelling backwards through time and space. Eating everything in it’s path.’

Drea put her hand up, realised that she was beginning to experience the onset of a tension headache.

‘When you say everything, what does that mean?’

Cara’s face grew serious, which made the three women very nervous.

‘Time, space, everything. Mostly though it eats stories.’

Gloria fought a burst of nausea at the thought.

‘So, I get that this is a problem but we won’t be around to see it happen, I mean, time and space, are pretty big. Infinite kind of big.’

Cara frowned and gestured towards the klee cloud.

‘So’s the leviathan. We’ve been feeding it to see if there was a way to poison it or anything but it’s relentless.’

Olivia looked at the rifle in her arms, the care and attention in hours of polishing and oiling it, making sure that each part worked with clarity. She experienced the sadness of how impotent it was, here on this scale. She looked up.

‘It won’t stop, will it?’

Cara shook her head.

‘No, it won’t. But I have an idea.’

Gloria looked up at the klee cloud again.

‘And I take it, seeing as there are alien diplomats, that there’s a bit of a problem getting between your idea and actually doing it?’

Cara pointed at her and grinned.

‘Six points for Gryffindor. Yes, so I thought I would just go ahead and do it.’

Drea sighed and raised her eyebrows.

‘Do what?’

The woman’s smile widened in a way that made the three women nervous and excited at the same time. A smile that promised trouble, the spontaneous, hilarious kind. For the three women, that meant individual experiences and regrets, but this was a woman who spoke intimately about the scale of universes and stories with an exactness that convinced each of them that insanity, a brain haemorrhage or a simple dream might have been preferable.

‘We’re going to fucking kill it.’

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

 

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