Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 16

***Posting results momentarily, minus the hiccup. ***

Well, I knew it was bound to happen: my first quarter judges have all signed off–the last one’s doing so today. They’ve all dutifully turned in their keys to the lair, and though I’m a soggy mess seeing them go, it’s hard to be too sorry since of course they’re returning to the ranks of eligible writers. WATCH OUT!!!! They’ve been watching you closely these past months, and they’re eager as can be to leap back in.    

Next week, by the by, is going to be HUGE. So big, actually, it may well be ‘UGE. We will be welcoming our brand new Quarter 2 judge panel, AND we will be featuring a tribute to the marvelous flash contest Trifecta, which is ending this week. Be sure to come back!

And so: bidding us farewell, sort of, is Last But Not Least judge Erin McCabe. Erin, you’ve been fabulous. Thank you for your service–I hope you’ve had as much fun judging as we’ve had having you judge. Oh dear, that’s some awkward grammar. New judges: kindly disregard. We still have Standards, after all.

Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own stuff sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays “just for fun.”   

Now let’s get to it!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Sunday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the brand ‘Schwinn'”):

Space Travel

 

***Today’s Prompt:

Bicycle Tunnel, double exposure. CC photo by r. nial bradshaw.

Bicycle Tunnel, double exposure. CC photo by r. nial bradshaw.

 

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97 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 16

  1. Memories and Torment

    The memories of that day are plastered into the walls of my memory. It was why I joined the Colonial Defense Forces. I wanted to get as far away from that tunnel as possible.

    But memories followed me everywhere I went, indelibly etched in my mind. Other planets was not far enough to get away from them.

    Why had I been so careless? Why didn’t I wonder why there were bikes abandoned outside the tunnel?

    I blame myself. I assume the whole world blames me. I am sure their families do. I would if I was them. Actually, I am not them, but I still blame me.

    My squad was about to follow a group of smugglers into a cave. I saw a couple of landcruisers outside the cave.

    Thankfully I was driving. The captain had a cow when I stopped. But he forgave me when the explosion went off.

    My personal torment, saved those men.

    156 words
    @CharlesWShort

  2. Black
    (155 words)

    They probably knew I’d end up this way.

    But I requested it, aware of each frightening possibility. I should’ve had them let me die instead.

    I’ve been flying through this black nothingness between galaxies for thousands of years. When there’s nothing to see or feel it’s the same as being still. It’s easy enough to go dormant, but hard to stay that way. When my old human side and memories stir to make dreams I awake, at first instant assuming I’m in a bed, assuming I have a body of flesh. People I used to know are in the dreams. I want to reach out and touch them, to feel them in that subjective and sublime way my sensors can’t allow.

    My real body, that of a doctor of aeronautics, was carted to an incinerator thousands of years ago with its skull emptied. Sometimes I convince myself it’s on this ship waiting to be rescued.

  3. Earth Alpha

    Dan didn’t bother hailing; his words just boomed right through my skull, out of nowhere. I adjusted the volume on my CochliCall as he spoke.

    ‘Nico!’ he said. ‘Where are you?’

    ‘Oh, hey, Dan. Thanks for yelling.’

    ‘Shut up, and get over here. It’s happening!’

    ‘But – this early?’

    Dan just tssked, and disconnected.

    I had to think fast. Dad – working. Mom, offworld. Dan and me had sworn, as kids, that we’d watch the landing together, and I was going to keep my promise.

    But that didn’t solve my immediate problem – transport.

    Then, I remembered. Great-great-gramp’s bike!

    I skidded to the garage. Dad kept it in good nick, for nostalgia’s sake, but I’d never learned how to operate it. I did my best.

    As I rode, I watched the sky. Earth Omega was beautiful, and all, but I couldn’t wait to see Earth Alpha. Our origin planet, long abandoned.

    I smiled, pedalling faster. Maybe now, we could finally start going home.

    @SJOHart
    160 words

    • ‘CochliCall’ Brilliant! Great relationship between the two brothers shown clearly in very few words. I like, also, how you’ve used the bike to give an idea of time. Clever ending, too. Love it.

      • Thanks, Marie! They’re friends, as opposed to brothers, but I guess sometimes there’s very little difference. 🙂 Really appreciate your comment, and I’m glad you liked the story.

    • The idea of a CochiliCall is frightening, hopefully by then we can better filter marketing calls! I love the energy of this – I want to see Earth Alpha too! I’m just hoping they chose the name Omega because it was catchy and not because we’ve worked our way through the alphabet 🙂

      • Ah, well. You see. Humans haven’t got the greatest track record when it comes to conservation, have they? So, draw your own conclusions from the ‘Omega’ thing… 😉 Thank you.

  4. Different day

    ***

    So I’m cycling to work.

    I hate this bicycle tunnel.

    This long concrete rectangular box – stinks of piss and is lined with cigarette butts, broken glass, beer cans, take-out packaging and discarded needles.

    I hate cycling to work.

    The fear of having to stop and remove a tyre – of having to try to find the puncture, to repair it and start cycling again only to hear a hissing sound and find the wheel grinding to a halt again.

    I hate my editing job.

    Wading through purple prose, through mistakes in word order and punctuation – such as starting sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’, not pacing out a sentence with the correct punctuation, incorrect use of singular or plural forms…

    Same shit, different day.

    Then my world spins in a blur as I tumble through the air; I see stars…

    …I wake up, hurting all over; I see the wreckage of my bicycle…

    …and I smile.

    ***

    @theimaginator20

    154 words

  5. The Long Voyage
    Ian Martyn (www.martynfiction.com)
    152 words

    This is not good. In my five previous lives this has never happened before. I had no choice, there only was the tunnel and now I’m walking down it, away from the light. I’m six hundred and two years into a thousand year voyage and while my body is suspended my mind gets to live out its fantasies.

    The mind has to stay active you see, playing and learning. Learning skills we’ll need when we arrive. But now I don’t think I’ll get to use all those new abilities. I would like to have seen that other world, feel the warmth of a real sun on my actual skin, feel the blood pumping in my veins as I rode that bicycle.

    But, there’s nothing I can do, other than watch the light recede, each step taking me further into the darkness. No, this is not good. My life support is shutting down.

  6. Interstellar Trip

    Fading light glints off the spaceship fuelled and ready for launch. I don’t board just yet, teasing the desire burning deep within me of escaping this cesspit of a planet.

    Cold concrete aches into my back as I strap myself down.

    Footsteps approach a stranger hurrying past, arms folded, head down. Classic flight pattern, fearful that the vagrant slumped within his cardboard boudoir is going to attack, or worse, talk.
    Unaware that I’m the last of the space cowboys, my comrades long since departed for alternate realities.

    The stranger exits the underpass, my hunger now beyond control.

    Commence countdown.

    Ten … nine … eight … seven … six … five … four …

    The dirty flaxen light of the underpass plays along the needle. Biting tenderly into flesh, tasting crimson.

    Three … two

    Scarlet flowers bloom deep inside my interstellar craft.

    One!

    Blast off!

    Red plunges deep into a network of blue.

    Taking me into the stars.

    @imageronin

    157 words

  7. Recycling
    160 words

    Greg found an old car engine down behind the bicycle tunnel, said we could turn it into a space ship. His troubled eyes had us agree with him.
    We raided our garages for potential gravity defying materials. First off, I managed to procure a torch, a wing mirror and an old tyre. We strapped our equipment to our own bicycles and each afternoon, after school, set about work.
    Greg decided on Launch Day. That was the time he refused to take off his sweater. We didn’t push it, just shared our drinks.
    He hammered the hell out of the old engine that day, called it all the names under the blistering sun.
    We waited past our dinner time; waited until we needed to put our own sweaters back on; waited for him to say he was delaying the launch.
    But he kept banging, so I spoke first, ‘Save it for tomorrow, Greg. Come home with me. My mom won’t mind.’

  8. “Distance”
    160 words
    @CaseyCaseRose

    I am sick again. I try to assure the serious white smocked drones that their methods are still perfect. My body does not feel the intense velocity of our travel. My body buys into the artificial stasis that has been created to feel like…home? No. Earth.
    The entire earth was not my home. So much space unseen, untraveled, that the concept of actual space could not have been much different.
    Home was a place we built, he and I.
    I am sick again because of the limits of my mind, not my body.
    Again and again I see him walking away, this first gap of distance between us harder to bear than hundreds of thousands of miles.
    I should have walked away first when he would not hear reason. When he decided he could not leave. Would not leave. Then the image burned in my mind might have been his face instead of his retreating back.
    Am I saved?

  9. “Take-off, Space Soldier”
    150 words
    @okiewashere

    “Did I ever tell you how much I abhor science fiction writers? They invented a fantastic and thrilling world of high tech spaceships, state-of-the-art weaponry, fashionable spacesuits, and cosy flats to spend the night. And you know what? This is so untrue! Let me tell you this, my friend: Space travel is uncomfortable. Whenever you are ordered to a new destination, you have to get on your bicycle, select the right tunnel, leave your bicycle, go farther inside the tunnel, hold your ID against the scanner – and be catapulted to your destination. There, you do your job, be it supporting settlers or fighting; you return, are exhausted, injured, or whatever, grab your bicycle and drive home to get some hours of sleep. You’ve got no insurance, no weather gear, need to reach the tunnel scanner in time – or be eliminated.
    Tell me: Do you really want to take the job?”

  10. The Tunnel

    George and Phillipa left their Raleigh bikes at the tunnel entrance leaning against each other like a balanced sculpture.

    ‘See I told you,’ George said, indicting the tunnel.

    ‘You’re right, it’s massive,’ Phillipa said tapping the side as if it may pop out of existence when she touched it. ‘It isn’t on any map?

    ‘It’s got to be something Top Secret,’ George said. Phillipa recognised his growing excitement.

    ‘Could be old Ministry of Defence. Maybe something from the wars,’ Phillipa knew from history lessons that they didn’t always put things on maps in those days.

    George shook his head and started walking down the tunnel.

    ‘It’s too new for that,’ George stopped beside a discrete door.

    Phillipa saw the electronic keypad next to it.

    ‘I think this is Britain’s “Area 51”,’ said George confidently. ‘I bet if we could get through that door we’d find alien spacecraft.’

    ‘Space the Final Frontier and all that?’ Phillipa laughed, ‘What about our bikes?’

    160 words
    @zevonesque

  11. Sci-fi Writer
    @vbholmes
    160 words

    My first job after college was writing photo captions for an entertainment magazine. My passion, however, was sci-fi which I wrote through the night behind locked doors.

    My space-traveling vehicles were reality-defying miracles of uninformed science; my heroes were book-jacket perfect, and my aliens, creatures birthed by an illimitable imagination.

    There were Gasodozons, lethal adversaries with slug-like bodies, a Porcupine’s poisonous projectile quills, and the horizontal wings of a dragonfly. They could hover indefinitely and were speedy enough to catch a launched quill, traveling at 110mph, before it struck target.

    Among my favorites were the natives of Protozoterra (pedestrian, I know, but I was young). The planet was covered in red viscous slime which nurtured millions of miniscule, ever-moving, amoeba-like, life-forms that permanently encased invaders in their gel, tormented the enemy with their incessant swirling, returned with them to infect their homelands.

    I must admit, however, that none of my heroes began or ended an adventure in a bicycle tunnel.

  12. Make It So
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke / margaretlocke.com)
    154 words

    When we were children we dreamed that if we rode fast enough through the tunnel we could launch ourselves into space. We’d find ourselves astronauts on an Apollo mission, or on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. You’d be Kirk, I’d be Spock.

    We’d ride as hard as we could, pumping our legs, leaning furiously into the bike handles, closing our eyes at the last minute as we prayed for escape.

    It never worked. The only thing temporary blindness brought us was split lips and skinned knees.

    I pedal leisurely toward the entrance, no longer naive enough to believe in rescue. I just want to pay my respects.

    It’s then that I see the bicycles. Two of them, against the side. No one in sight.
    My eyes widen. For just a second, my mind asks, “Did it work?”

    Without conscious awareness, I grip the handlebars tighter, and ready my approach.

    Beam me up, Scotty.

  13. One Way Trip.
    Connor volunteered, no questions asked. He pedaled down the ramp to the unearthed thousand year old tunnel hardly registering the two bicycles up against the entrance wall. Faster past Dr. Vladik, sensed rather than seen where he stood at the milky green glow of the alien machine controls fused into the wall. Faster into the tunnel’s darkest dark, Vladik’s encouraging shouts behind him.
    Out, and into space and time, Connor alone, no ship, no space suit, no bicycle. He felt no ill effects as he travelled, and saw everything: stars, planets, comets and asteroids, the indescribable beauty of the cosmos. Space Travel was a cinch!
    A memory flashed across his mind in the refection of a billion stars. Two bicycles leaning against the tunnel wall. Why were they there? Where were their riders?
    Ice gripped his spine and stopped his breath and his heart.
    Vladik never told him how they would get him back.

    @rfmaraz38
    154 Words

  14. Tunneling

    James strood forward, a confident smile on his face. He stopped on the mark in the old bicycle tunnel “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the future of space travel!” He announced, nodding to the technicians.

    Beams of light enveloped him in a coruscating field, blinding him. Shifting gravity fluttered his stomach. he clenched his teeth against the nausea as the universe whirled and twisted around him. He concentrated fiercely on his destination. He was torn apart and then reassembled.

    He blinked his vision clear as everything solidified. He sighed in relief, recognizing his surroundings. He stood safely on the Mars Base receiving platform. He had done it! he had Tunneled and arrived in one piece! He frowned in confusion, something felt wrong. The waiting emergency medical crew was running for him, looks of horror on their faces. he became aware of an agonizing pain all over his body. he looked down at himself and screamed. His skin was gone!

    159 words karnemily@yahoo.com

    • pbbbbt! a leetle wave of the dragon wand, and it’s repaired! though a plant drifting through space is rather Douglas Adams of you.

  15. Your Dargonyness, could you please put full Italic brackets around the word “wrong”? Many thanks and chocolately goodness.

  16. Jacob —

    She lay cying in a fetal positing in the bike tunnel. Asking why. Begging him to stay. Telling him she needed him. They needed him.

    Jacob knelt down and gave her one last hug and kiss and whispered. “No. You don’t need me anymore. You’ll soon realize that.” He looked her in the eyes and smiled, “And besides, if I remember correctly, you told me yesterday you couldn’t wait til I was gone.”

    As he stood he told her, “I came to do what needed to be done. It’s done and I have to go now.”

    She jumped up and threw her arms around him, “But . . .”

    “No worries.”

    Jacob helped her steady herself on her bicycle. Once she reached the tunnel entrance she turned and waved. “We’ll miss you.”

    Straightening the basket and smoothing the streamers she played the tune he taught her on the bicycle bell, and with each chord the memory of Jacob faded.

    Word Count: 154
    @2020hines_sight

  17. Send Me Back (156 Words)

    Some days exercise stirs my memories, and I rest my bicycle against the wall of the covered bridge to breathe in the cool air. I think of home then.

    The Authorities say I’ll forget my old life. Eventually. But they’re wrong.

    Lilith has cooked some kind of fish for dinner. I eat it dutifully and try to forget the steaks and martinis I had to leave behind.

    She says I’ve been given a second chance. I say prison is prison. But Lilith never did understand the real world. She always had a soft heart. Maybe it kept us from being sent to Alpha 10. I’ve only heard rumors, but they say the inmates don’t last long there. I’m glad I wasn’t in petrochemicals.

    At night I sit with my special telescope and stare at my home so far away. A perfect blue and green sphere. They say it’s finally healed.

    If only they’d send me back.

  18. “The Cycles of the Moon” by Tinman
    157 words
    @TinmanDoneBadly

    His first cutback had been to let Pluto go.

    The new Director had been brought in to make cuts in NASA’s budget, and relegating Pluto from Mickey Mouse planet to over-sized rock instantly reduced the number of worlds in our Solar System that we will never set foot upon. This was regarded as a saving, for reasons as unclear as a nebula.

    Next the Chief Engineer was fired, which was more than you could say for his rockets. The Director had them replaced by bicycles.

    It didn’t work, of course. On the test-flight (unmanned and unmonkeyed, thankfully) the bicycle got a flat tyre, and the whole universe heard the giant fart as it zig-zagged past the moon like a dying balloon.

    The Director was devastated. He was the kind who dreamt things that never where and asked why not, and then wouldn’t listen to the answers.

    Such as that ET was not, as he’d thought, a documentary.

  19. Day 498

    I had a panic attack today while repairing the exterior shell from an asteroid shower. No one was amused, including myself. They haven’t punished me for the delay I caused. Yet.

    I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Do you remember the first time we kissed? In that old abandoned tunnel we found? Your fingers laced between mine and you pushed me against the tunnel wall. You whispered something into my ear, I can’t remember what. Your hot breath against my neck still gives me shivers. And that kiss… there were fireworks that championed any exploding star when our lips touched.

    The intercom on my wrist crackled. “Officer Hoyt, report to the Bridge.”

    “On my way.”

    I don’t give up hope that we’ll travel far enough into the stars to run into heaven. To you. Until then I’ll dream of your face as we float through this void of nothingness called space.

    153 Words
    @CaitlinStatus

  20. Sensible Traveling
    152 Words
    @AFOdom

    The impact with the hull rattled Bradbury’s false teeth. “Will you stop the infernal racket, Dominic?”

    “Sorry sir, but them bicycles, sir, I keep tripping over them. If I just finish settin’ this mount in the overhead, we could get ‘em out the — “

    “Bicycles, bicycles. I told you packing them was a fool’s idea.”

    Dominic opened his mouth, slammed it shut, then cleared his throat. “Sir, I actually think it was you who insisted we bring — “

    “Just look out there.” Bradbury waved to the nearest porthole. “Who rides a bike in the middle of space?”

    Dominic cleared his throat again. “Um, I think Dee does sir.”

    “What?” Bradbury turned to look outside, and they both watched in silence while Dee floated by on the blue bicycle. She pedaled like a mad thing. The old scientist harrumphed. “You, Dominic, are the only sensible person aboard this boat.”

    “Aye, sir. I try.”

  21. Double Trouble

    We cycled everywhere, that’s why I have these over developed calves. Sonia, my best mate, always laughs when she sees them. They look like Popeye’s biceps but in the wrong place. I’d taken so many photos on our travels that I could paper the whole flat with them. This one was my favourite and my last. I’d persuaded Sonia to cycle this route for the last time. We’d left the bikes at the end of the tunnel hoping their new owners would have as much fun as we had.

    Remember those torturous hills in Wales and how you laughed when I fell into the gorse in Scotland. You loved your Schwinn I loved my Falcon. I would never cycle again; my calves would deflate eventually like a slow puncture. The coroner said no one was to blame but I knew you were flying too close to the wind that day.

    @stellakateT
    150 words

  22. Pinball

    The dark abyss of space consumed everything in front of me. The ship jerked and pulled bouncing me around the cockpit chair. I imaged this must be what a ball felt like in those pinball machines I’d heard tales of from primal Earth.

    “Engine failure in thirty seconds Captain,” I said above the screaming alarm system.

    “Plot our trajectory towards the Mars clearing route,” said the Captain.

    “Sir? That will put us into a collision course with the asteroids.”

    “I know Blair. They won’t follow us. It’s our only shot. Go dead and float into the mix.”

    “Yes sir.” The controls bounded in and out of my reach while the engine cried though its final death throws.

    The quiet void of space wrapped around us. Momentum thrusting us forward into darkness and death. I stared at the oncoming field of dancing space rocks. Like the ball in the machine, there was no turning back now.

    155 words
    @AuthorRDelane

  23. TUNNELS

    Third planet from the sun – inhabited – resources include carbon-based life – major communal nest building species – semi-intelligent – suggestible –

    In the pit of the night, the Expeditionary Force settled at their designated landing sites in the major cities around the world. Without noise, without disruption, without detection the aliens merged into the landscape, across thoroughfares. Where before there had been a cycle path, was now a modified cycle path. Where before had been a subway, was now a modified subway. They drifted with the land in the same way that whale sharks, feeding on plankton, drifted with the ocean current.

    Phil, cycling to work, barely noticed the new tunnel. As he approached, its newness did not register. Responding to an inaudible suggestion, he dismounted at the tunnel’s entrance and blindly leant his bicycle against the others. He continued his journey on foot along the tongue of the cycle path, without thought, into the maw.

    @CliveNewnham – 158 words

  24. “Two Bicycles”
    160 words
    @MSeeseTweets

    He gazed to the northwest. “Where are you?” he said aloud. He didn’t care if anyone overheard. No one could think him to be any crazier.

    He was sure they’d believe him. But they laughed, and mocked him. They would pick up an imaginary phone and say, “Call me.”

    A downward spiral of the big Ds ensued. Depression. Drugs. Desperation. At least he had fared better than his siblings. His sister now resided in a state asylum. Michael hanged himself before they could take him. The only reason Elliott had not been put away was because he ran away. His life had become little more than a scurry between the filthy, stinking underpasses which dwell in the shadows of the LA freeway system.

    “You said you’d come back!” he screamed. “You promised. I even got you your own bicycle. Where are you, E.T.?”

    At that moment, 500 feet below Area 51, Dr. Lassiter looked at his team.

    “Let’s begin. Scalpel.”

  25. Warped
    By: Allison K. García
    159 words

    “I swear to God it’s true. One minute I walked into the tunnel, the next thing I knew I’d been transported to another planet.”

    “Mm-hmm…” Looking into his wide eyes, I noted his delusions in his chart. Nothing fazed me anymore. I’d heard it all. Space travel. Alien abduction. Government mind-control. A couple shots of olanzapine would hopefully do the trick.

    He snickered. “I can see you’re just like the rest. You think I’m making this up. That it’s all in my head. A figment of my imagination.” He leaned forward in his chair. His eyes opening wider than I thought possible. He smiled shakily. “I’ve got proof.”

    They always did.

    Unballing his fist in one flick, a miniature portal appeared in the palm of his hand.

    Hairs on my arm stood up. My eyes flitted between him and the door.

    “No way, Doc. You’re coming with me.” His hand shot towards me, and my world was pulled away.

  26. A Million Miles From Home
    160 words

    It was cold.

    There was a chill that hung in this air that was so much thinner than what it was accustomed to.

    Everything was strange here, there was an overwhelming weight that pressed against its body until it pulled its appendages close, trying desperately to keep itself whole and not be crushed.

    It didn’t remember much other than the fall, the feeling of its body plummeting through the nothingness that it had called home.

    It did not want to be here, it didn’t want to exist in this place that was strange and foreign and not home.

    It was cold and now there was another sensation squirming in the centre of its being, something that it hadn’t felt since its birth.

    It was hungry.

    Around it the darkness swelled, twisting and writhing in reaction to its distress, then everything stopped.

    A strange sound drew its attention and it watched eagerly as the thing came closer, maybe this was food?

  27. Remembrance

    Ted comes to remember. How it had been. How it might have been, if things had played out differently. If. Only, if. He sees it before him; immeasurable, endless possibility, before it was swept away by circumstance. The paths they might have travelled in time and space; the journeys they could have taken. Pathways forsaken and spared. Choices they would have shared, if he had had his way. Too late now; way too late – the tunnel led only one way in the end. Still, he finds himself returning, inevitably. Every once in a while; not too often. Perhaps it is his homage to the spaces of times past. He fancies he sees the groove left by the bicycles they rested against the tunnel walls when they came here, though that is untrue. He would have noticed before now, at least once. He has been here numerous times. His penance to the wrongly travelled path. If thought alone could transport him.

    160 words
    @FallIntoFiction

  28. Illusion

    We waited with bated breath as Gwyllian approached, willing his power to hold the illusion for a little longer. He’d come the farthest and must be low on reserves.

    The humans would build a road above our heartstone. How could they not feel the magic pulsing beneath their feet? Gwyllian wobbled – or the human riding a bike he was pretending to be did – and I shivered in fear. If he fell… No. He could make it another twenty feet.

    Gwyllian made it under cover and dropped his illusion. His sides heaved. His mouth frothed. His withers twitched uncontrollably. His horn gleamed bright in the shade of the tunnel.

    He drank from our bucket of water then spoke, “We haven’t much time. We mustn’t wait,” he said. We joined our horns together and connected to the heartstone.

    Dematerialization. Rematerialization.

    Our ship – in geosynchronous orbit over the dark side of the moon – stood ready. The counsel needed to hear our report.

    159 words
    @lissajean7

  29. This o’erhanging firmament
    @dieterrogiers – 160 words

    Two had gone before.

    Years ago their bikes had returned – neatly parked at the edge of the tunnel – but they themselves had not. Hope was they were still out there. Somewhere in the vastness.

    Young Hilliard had spent most of his youth waiting for their return, with stories of undiscovered lands and strange creatures beyond the reaches of space. Waiting, at the edge of the tunnel, with its delicately warped interior. Waiting, eternity within reach.

    And as time passed and hope for the two subsided, Hilliard’s courage grew alongside his curiosity. At the age of 21, he bought a rusty old bicycle, said goodbye to his parents and peddled doggedly into the blackness. Three days later the bike returned. Hilliard did not.

    His name would soon be forgotten, as had been those of the first two. But young boys are still gathering at the edge of the tunnel, staring into the void.

    Staring, through their youthful struggles, to the stars.

  30. Sailing Away with Charon of the Stars

    The sun was low and fat in the sky, and Paul pedaled as fast as he could along the river, knowing that once it set, he’d be in for a whipping at home. But home lay to the south, and he was riding north.

    His right arm was numb from the shoulder down, and getting through the day at school without alerting the nurse had been a nightmare. Thankfully, they weren’t doing wrestling anymore in gym.

    The overpass was really too far for him to ride at his age, but the man he’d met had told him to be there by sundown, and he wasn’t the sort to wait. Paul didn’t look forward to seeing the grin on the man’s face when he promised him that on his world, all mommies loved their children had given him nightmares, again, but anything was better than that empty place at the dinner table or the shadows where his sister had once lived.

    @drmagoo
    160 words

    • Very sad, nicely full story. I kind of wish the voice had been younger, though, to match the narrator’s age — like when you said “mommies” instead of the other options.

  31. Boys Don’t Cry

    They left their bikes at the tunnel’s edge and plunged into the darkness one last time, hands finding each other with a certainty their sun-blind eyes struggled to match. Jodie tasted of spearmint, Mikey of smoke, and for a long time neither spoke. That was fine.

    Holding her close, Mikey thought of playing Dungeon Realm, listening to mix tapes worn almost blank, hanging with Jay. Somehow sensing where his thoughts were heading, the erstwhile Elf Maiden squeezed him tighter.

    “Hey! Don’t go there Mikey. You know he wouldn’t want you getting down.”

    “I guess. It’s just, first Jay, now you…”

    He stumbled over the name, and Jodie tried to remember when she’d last heard it spoken aloud. It was too big to think about, so she pushed it back down.

    “Come on, it’s not that bad.”

    “You’re going to Space Camp.

    She punched his shoulder.

    “Astronautical Training, dick!”

    Mikey stared at his feet, welded to the cool dirt.

    “Same difference.”

    160 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

  32. As Easy as Riding a Bicycle (160 words)

    First it hurts. There won’t be any more pain, if you relax and let the cold creep up from your toes.
    Right about it starts to freeze in your abdomen, the dark tunnel will begin to take shape. Not too high, not too wide, just big enough to close in all around you. The darkness that you see isn’t perceived with your eyes.
    When the chill hits your chest, you’ll notice a pinprick size spot of light at the end of the tunnel.
    As the silence falls in your heart, the light should become a small square.
    Wait for it.
    The struggle to breathe makes your throat rattle but the light will begin to expand.
    You’ll see it then. The other side, the world across the tunnel, a normal bright sunny day with a blue sky and a dirt road beyond.
    The bicycles are at the end of the tunnel. Get on one and ride. No one ever forgets how.

  33. Ponderings and Ruminations
    (145)

    Despite knowing mom expected me home for dinner, I stood looking up into the sky long after the silver craft had disappeared from view.

    Alex’s expression had been a mixture of awe, surprise, and glee as the gold beam engulfed him. He’d flashed me a smile as he vanished into the light, willing to let the aliens take him away.

    I wondered if he’d be safe on the journey or would the aliens visit untold horrors upon him?

    … wondered if he’d get to explore the vast reaches of space or stay locked in a cell?

    …wondered if he’d miss Earth and me or joyfully turn his back on all that he once knew?

    With a sigh, I head back to the tunnel we’d ridden through as a shortcut home, contemplating all those questions.

    I wondered if he’d mind if I pawned his bike?

  34. Chris Milam @Blukris
    The Sequel (160 words)

    The kids had gathered in the tunnel for their one shot, they were anxious and fidgety. The dads weren’t fairing much better. Pacing back and forth and glancing nervously at anything that wasn’t the Director.

    The first boy pedaled liked like a madman, tearing down the street. His father was transfixed on the bike, hoping his kid was the one. He wasn’t. His Huffy never left the ground.

    Four others failed and the Director was getting frustrated. Without the aid of his space traveling star, the boys were all underwhelming.

    Donald Boone pumped his skinny legs like pistons in a Corvette. His dad held his breath. The Director, Spielberg, just stared. The Schwinn’s rubber tires left asphalt and met air, Donald still hammering away at the pedals. He was the one.

    As he coasted past the moon, his father’s eyes watered. E.T. had touched every father out here as children and they all wanted to be Donald at this very moment.

  35. Little brave space man

    It’s not space travel if you don’t have a suit and it’s not happening until it’s dark enough.
    It was a concrete gaping void near the railroad; an echoing passage where the only sound would be from his feet beating down on the pedals, desperate to be fast enough to ride through before he gets too scared.

    His helmet clicked under his chin and he peddled slowly, until his front tire was consumed in darkness, no end to the tunnel visible to him. He had to do this, he was the Space Man after all, and he needed to fight this black mass to get away from the monsters chasing him.

    The dark scared him like never before, but the mutated beasts that were destroying his city horrified him. He needed to find his brother if he was still alive.
    He peddled onwards, darkness thick as the universe consuming him.

    150 words
    @Raptamei

  36. A Wrong Turn

    The wisps of a nearby galaxy trailed across the window, shimmering oranges and purples. Commander Keen admired the view while twirling his mustache, a retro throwback to the whimsy of the 21st century.
    “Plot co-ordinates for Quantum tunneling,” he bellowed for no apparent reason, the computers microphones could detect a fart in the vacuum of space.
    “Co-ordinates plotted” was the monotone reply.
    “Prepare to execute.” He was going to make history, the first man to fly a wormhole solo.

    His twirling intensified, any faster and he would ignite his facial hair. He left a suitably dramatic pause. “Execute.”

    The oranges and purples swirled together like an artists palette. Keen prepared to make history, but instead there was a terrible grinding sound. The ship juddered to a halt, the view outside the window deeply disturbing. He panicked, “Situation report. Where are we?”
    “Destination reached. Location Sydney, Australia, 20th century, QANTAS tunnel.”
    Keen shook his head, “Damn you Auto-correct!”

    160 words
    @todayschapter

  37. Jettisoned
    @WillWallyWonder
    159 words

    Dawson thumped his scanner, ‘What’s our time datum?’

    ‘1930s judging by the state of those.’ Marian pointed to two bikes leaning at the tunnel’s entrance, ‘It’s the right kind of place to hide a Relativity Raft.’

    Dawson put his ear to the tunnel wall, ‘Maybe the tunnel is the ship.’

    Marian smirked, ‘They wouldn’t trust you with anything this large.’

    ‘I didn’t break the ASM-9!’

    ‘So you say. ‘

    A distant whirring silenced further objection from Dawson.

    Marian stepped back against the tunnel wall as the sound grew into a man on a bike. He whizzed past them and out into the daylight.

    ‘System Control hates us.’ Marian muttered.

    Dawson resumed his scan and the instrument beeped.

    He redirected it and it beeped again. He looked to Marian, ‘They wouldn’t..?’

    Marian looked down the scanner’s line of sight and back to the tunnel’s entrance.

    Dawson raised it again to triple check the data.

    Marian ran for the red one.

  38. Every Now and Then
    (160 words)

    Mr. Anderson is quiet this afternoon, which is unusual. I’ve only known him for two months, but that’s long enough to know he’s not a quiet person.

    Every day, he rambles on and on, and honestly, I feel sorry for him. The poor guy’s got it fixed in his head that he’s traveled among the stars. He talks about planets whose names I won’t try to pronounce.

    What he talks most about is the tunnel with the bikes at the end. I didn’t think much of it at first -they were the ramblings of man who’d lost his mind. He speaks of a darkness hanging like fog.

    Every now and then, when I’m walking down the hall, it seems just a bit darker, but the lights haven’t been changed in years.

    Every now and then, my voice is a hollow echo, but this building’s old.

    Every now and then, a pair of bikes sit at the end of the hall.

  39. Afternoon of the Spaceman
    (150 words)

    “Three… two… one… Blast off!”

    Gravel flew as Jimmy the Spaceman pedaled as fast as he could. This time, that bug-eyed monster Willie McGurk would not escape interplanetary justice.

    “You’ll never catch me, Spaceman!” taunted his foe as they zoomed through the bridge tunnel.

    The valiant spaceman leveled his atomic laser blaster squarely at McGurk’s craft. “Pew! Pew! Pew!”

    Yet the battle-hardened McGurk the Merciless skillful dodged the laser bolts. “No hands!” he bragged.

    Alas, pride was McGurk’s downfall. The shiny vehicle wobbled in its course, then spun out. McGurk tumbled, landing on a lush green planetoid. An indigenous plastic flamingo observed him in silence.

    Jimmy the Spaceman aimed his blaster at the fallen opponent. “Your nefarious space pirate days are over, McGurk!”

    Willie McGurk dusted himself off, noticing the grass stains on his t-shirt.

    “I’m bored of this. Let’s ride over to the corner store and get a soda.”

    • Love! ‘An indigenous plastic flamingo observed him in silence.’ What a fabulous line. 🙂 I love the contrast between the tone and the situation, and the ending is great.

  40. Informed Consent

    I didn’t know.

    They promise you adventure, excitement — a life among the stars. Worlds waiting to be discovered, and freedom, from the pain of a mundane life, of mediocrity.

    You’d think there would be years involved, of training. But you’d be wrong. You sign, and you leave, packaged like living cargo. To explore the unknown, and report back if you survive. Not to return — never to return.

    They found me, and I signed, and their machines, they chose my fate.

    We’re less expensive than robots, and easier to instruct. Expendable.

    They sent me to this tunnel, and now, with nothing left to do, I walk to its bright light, finding trinkets to report, seeking their promises around invisible corners.

    They promised me a galaxy, and sent me to the sky. But as you fly, the stars are just the dotted line.

    (141 words; @AriaGlazki)

  41. “Whoda ya think you are, Wile E. Coyote?” she asked, watching him peel off the duct tape and attach the photo to the wall.
    “Yes. Yes I am,” he said, his usual cockiness overflowing.
    She rolled her eyes.
    “So. Well. Yeah…this has been a great first date. Nearly losing my life because you drive like a manic, then listening to you talk your way out of a ticket only to come out of the restaurant and find that, apparently, you have a doppleganger who claimed your car from the valet.” She reached out and patted his elbow in a polite mock of sincerity.
    “Anywho…I think I’ll…”
    “Anywho?” he said, suddenly interested. The intensity with which he searched her eyes scared her. So did his cheesy grin. If he’d had fangs, they’d be showing.
    “Um.. yes. Anywho—” something in the picture caught her eye. He waved at her…from the picture.

    @USNessie

    Yeah. Well, I got here at 11:55 lol! There was going to be space travel…really there was…

  42. Seeking (142)

    “We’ve discovered twenty-seven debris fields, five Sagan-level black holes, and thirty-three new galactic species. How in the blank do you figure we haven’t been looking hard enough?”
    “Ceria, we just haven’t found it yet.”
    “It’s a tunnel! The ENTIRE planet of Garish XII is tunnels.”
    “None of those felt right. Plus, their sun went dwarf so long ago it hardly smolders.”
    “How about Termis III? All they ride are bicycles AND they have a sun.”
    “The Termians all come in pairs though. The man we’re looking for is alone.”
    “He’s alone in the photograph. That doesn’t mean he’s always alone.”
    “He’s alone. I can feel it.”
    “Pardon me if your feeling seems odd. You are a machine, after all.”
    “I’m a machine? While technically true I take offense to your tone. We’re all seeking our creators, aren’t we. Just some more literally.”

    @LadyPutz

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