Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 38

UPDATE Sunday: Due to the overwhelming number of entries this week (y’all are alien-CRAZY!), I’ve given the judge til Monday. Results hopefully by mid-morning Washington, DC time. Thank you!

Welcome to Friday! As always, it’s such a pleasure seeing y’all here, rarin’ to go. We’re heading sub-orbital with today’s prompt in honor of our judge, scifi lover Phil Coltrane, who may or may not still be speaking to me since I made him endure Shakespeare in his last round. Perhaps he’ll forgive me if I ask super sweetly?? With rocketships on top?

Even if I hadn’t tortured him that way, though, and determined to make up for it today, our prompt would still be quite cool. Today in 1965 the American spacecraft Gemini V touched down. The re-entry was conducted by computer in utter darkness, and somehow, incredibly, Captain Gordon Cooper realized the system had been misprogrammed. He manually corrected the error and saved their landing. Who needs a movie, when real life is so suspenseful?! Read more about this event here and here.  

 ♦♦♦♦♦

Heading up the Flash! Friday celestial adventure today as judge is three-time dragon champ Phil Coltrane. He loves to be astonished by tales shot off in unexpected directions, crafted with bold, vivid language and hinting of richly complex worlds beyond what’s shown. Read more about his ideals here.   

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unearthly writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays. And on Mondays, one of your own glorious stories may be featured at the very fun #Flashpoints.  

Now, grab a joystick and 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(s) unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the name E.T”):

Include an alien 

***Today’s Prompt:

Gemini 5

Gemini V, August 29, 1965. Public domain photo courtesy of NASA.

 

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593 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 38

  1. Death of an Alien Operative

    Agent Omega of the dry planet D’Steedry was reported dead, having perished in the line of duty.

    He was assigned to reconoiter Earth in preparation for a full invasion. In order to make his entry stealthy, he entered the atmosphere by joining a primitive earth spaceship. Absorbing through the skin of the vessel, he adhered himself to the bottom of the pilot’s seat.

    They passed through the outer atmosphere without incident, and then splashed down. It had been his plan to remain behind when the astronauts disembarked. He could ten begin his mission unnoticed. He did not expect any problems—his species was far superior and he was thoroughly briefed.

    But it’s the little foxes that spoil the vines. None of the intelligence reports included the detail that seat cushions could be used as flotation devices in the event of a water landing.

    Agent Omega drowned.

    146 Words
    @CharlesWShort

  2. The Uninvited Survivor.

    I had the symptoms, Jesus, I could feel it inside of me.

    I could barely feel the frigid waters, or the sunlight above my head. My memory was dimming, trouble recalling my crew’s names. I grasped the raft as two other survivors swam towards me, something deep tensed my body with anxiety.

    The rescue ship moved closer, a clock ticking.

    Others on the crew hadn’t been in the medical ward before we tried to contain the being. They were ignorant of its ability — of its intelligence. Before we escaped two hundred miles up, the creature somehow latched itself to me, securing its seat.

    Looking at my jagged semblance in the ocean, I wondered, if I drowned myself, would that kill it? Would my body allow me? Let alone the parasite inside me? I had to try.

    I focused hard to remember my family once more, before figuring out how to convince my crew to hold me under water.

    158 Words
    @cylemmulo

  3. Attack of the little orange rubber dinghy men
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    148 words

    ‘Hey, Joe, is this it?’

    ‘You just watch that one and keep a tight hold. They may not look much but when they attack as a mob…’

    ‘Not look much? We were expecting little green men with ray guns and all that. And what do we get? Aliens that look like rubber rafts. That’s not exactly going to play well on the TV. “ATTENTION ALL EARTH, the planet is under attack from the little orange rubber dinghy men”’

    ‘You can laugh but, if I wasn’t sitting on this one it’d have you. I’m not kidding, you’ve no idea how aggressive these things can be.’

    ‘Well it seems pretty docile to me.’

    ‘They’re cunning. They do that, lie still, then before you know it you’ve got a hundred pounds of angry rubber all over you.’

    ‘Wait, mine’s trying to say something…’

    ‘Gryytch, crythyn, arghh, ta..ke me t..o you…r le..ad..er.’

  4. Insidious
    160 words

    Day 1: The nightmares came first, dark tendrils slipping into their dreams that left them shaking when they woke.

    They joked about it later but their laughter was tinged with a layer of hysteria that they both tried to ignore.

    Day 2: Mission control took longer to respond than usual but it was probably just a glitch, nothing to worry about.

    Day 3: It was colder today like they’d drifted farther away from the sun…neither of them mentioned it.

    Day 4: There were words that they both wanted to say but they forgot them as soon as they opened their mouths.

    Day 5: It was cold and quiet and they both longed for home…they just couldn’t remember what home was.

    Day 6: There were sounds again, strange guttural things that echoed in the silence but they felt no fear…they felt nothing at all.

    Day 7: They had no name, they had nothing but purpose and soon they would have Earth.

  5. EENY, MEENY, MINEY, MO

    Brian S Creek
    158 words
    @BrianSCreek

    The boat bounces across the choppy waves as we leave the rocket capsule bobbing in the waters behind us and head towards the USS Mason.

    I sit across from the two astronauts, our pioneers of space and real American heroes. At least one of them is.

    NASA received a garbled transmission and from what the eggheads can decipher it seems that one of our guys might not have come back from the moon. Which begs the question; why are there two guys sat across from me?

    It’s hard to judge them. They still look shaken up from the landing as if they’d just been five times around Thunder Mountain.

    As we close on the USS Mason time is running out. If a hostile extra-terrestrial is sharing my ride I need to know.

    We hit a wave and the astronaut on the left is startled. I spot a tongue poke out that is not human.

    Got you, you sonovabitch!

  6. Hands Across the Sky

    Re-entry was moments away, but Rick seemed troubled.

    I glanced over. I couldn’t talk through my helmet, but of course Rick – or whatever his real name was – didn’t need one. His exoskeleton was better than anything we’d ever come up with.

    He blinked, and lowered his orbs. I looked back at the bank of switches overhead. Everything seemed normal – except my co-pilot.

    We’d worked hard to build trust with the Grac. Rick had been chosen to come back with me instead of Michael Bell, who’d stayed behind; ambassadors. Symbols of inter-species cooperation. Insterstellar peace.

    Splashdown was imminent. We braced.

    Seawater rushed in. I smelt my first Earth air in God knew how long. I lifted my face to the sun.

    And something – something large – blocked it.

    ‘Welcome, Joe Ronson,’ a huge voice boomed. Grac. I looked up. The sky bristled with alien craft. I spun to face Rick, who blinked again.

    ‘You made Earth sound so good,’ he muttered, shrugging.

    @SJOHart
    160 words

  7. +666677778444

    Hello, Earthling, we hope we find you well. Ever ended up missing your landing spot? Computer error you had to rectify manually? We have the solution.Today, Noitanod are offering you the opportunity to scrap your old spacecraft and, with help from our Finance Etc. Department, replace it with the latest in space travel. Safety is a priority for you and your family, we know, which is why our crafts have been fitted with new landing technology. We have agents in your area for a limited time only, so don’t miss out on keeping up with The Mars’s: Press 6 for an operator who will arrange for an agent to visit you today with the option of test flight. Or Press 6 for us to remove your holophone number from our records.
    This is a limited offer, subject to intergalactic agreement. Failure to make payments may result in organ donations.

    (151 words)

  8. Microbes
    Van Demal
    @van_demal

    So strange, now that they’d got up there, to spend all that time looking down. Round and round they went as though afraid to stretch out into the darkness. It must be their simple way, to go so they can long to be home again. Perhaps it’s their size that limits them, their weight. Their gravity. But they are not pioneers. Not like us. We’d tracked this planet for so long, it’s inviting hue like a beacon.
    Their vessel was an easy catch, stretched as we were like a web across their trajectory. Enveloped by the mass of our teeming millions it tumbled, down through the atmosphere and into the blue.
    Joy unbound. To feel the warmth of that distant star’s radiation, to feel the lulling embrace of the great skin of blue, to find the building blocks we need for life – intelligent life. Already we are dividing, spreading, conquering. Soon this new world will be ours.

    157 words

  9. Lysozymes

    We landed on the alien’s face and the surface was water. Good job we brought the dinghy.
    Grant slapped on his mask and dived into the murky depths. I got a flutter of worry: *we’ll never see Grant again*, but there was no stopping him. Me and Jake took readings. High sodium-count, lots of strange proteins, a few antibodies.

    ‘Lysozymes,’ said Jake, frowning.

    Antibacteria? I got a flutter of worry: *this is acid, we are going to melt away*, but Jake seemed unfazed.

    Grant returned. ‘This isn’t the surface,’ he gasped through a grin. ‘Follow me.’

    He turned and swam. We shrugged and followed.

    The water got shallower and tapered to a point. We emerged on a soft, dry plain and Grant pointed to the distance. A huge bulbous mound glistening in the light of the five suns and beneath it, more water.

    ‘Her eye,’ said Grant, triumphant. ‘She’s crying.’

    Crying. I got a flutter of worry: *We’ve upset her*.

    160 words
    @DHartleyWriter

  10. The Apostle
    @Making_Fiction
    158 Words

    My Holy Bible clasped firmly in hand. I will only release it when they prise it from the battered husk that carries me, for my bodily vessel will soon be soaked in the colour of martyrdom. I will be just another boat perished on these foreign coastlands; another messenger of God sacrificed at the hands of infidels.

    As my trembling ship carried me across the treacherous swirling abyss, I know it was a one-way journey.

    On this foreign shore, the cracked earth is more barren than the Dead Sea. The aliens mock my attire and await my first words.

    I serve two gods. The god, the creator, the coder; my purpose to deliver my faith to the alien race. And, the god of triangles, squares, X and Y buttons, who has my life at his fingertips.

    My missionary is almost complete. The armchair deity has chosen. I hold the bible aloft. My enemies poised.

    I talk, “In the beginning…”

  11. ‘There Are Others.’
    David Shakes
    @TheShakes72
    160 words

    Cold.
    Intense cold.
    It penetrates layers of suit and flesh to settle in the bones.
    He cannot move , knows if he were to try his brittle limbs would snap.
    The capsule fills with unnatural light then utter darkness.
    Blink.
    Eyes focus.
    Where’s Conrad?
    The cramped confines of the capsule gone. This place vast, indistinct.
    He imagines a TV knocked slightly off dial – images form but ghost in and out of the static.
    Pain.
    Searing pain.
    A figure emerges from the flickering light to place several fingers (are they fingers?) upon (in? Oh God they’re in!) his forehead. Images, memories and feelings cascade freely.
    Someone’s really spinning that dial! He laughs. Screams.
    ‘Sir?’
    Blink. Focus.
    There’s Conrad.
    ‘… How is the computer at fault? How can you know? If you’re wrong we could ditch anywhere…’
    He just knows.
    His mind pregnant with the knowledge; with new ideas. With a plan.
    Heat.
    Intense heat.
    Successful reentry to the human race.

  12. Sugar & Spice And All Things Nice – That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of

    ‘Dad, is that you in the picture?’ Liam’s upturned face would melt the heart of any parent, his eyes emulating polished obsidian.
    Dad sighed, hoisting Liam onto his knee, his other hand grasped the framed picture.
    ‘No, Liam, you’ve forgotten already. This is you, on the left, see? Do you remember all the training, being blasted into the sky, the computer malfunctioning?’

    Liam screwed up his face.

    Once Liam remembered his teenage years, kicking up dust on his Dad’s old Harley, leathered girls riding pillion. But these days, he only remembers the toys he loves and the everlasting hope of ice-cream and sweets.

    Dad squeezed him tight. He knew that by next week Liam would be a babbling baby again. In two months he would be gone. At least Liam wouldn’t have to go through the agony of growing old, well, that’s what you get for sleeping around with alien girls. You never know where the hell they’ve been.

    @avalina_kreska
    (160 words)

  13. A Hero’s Welcome

    Fuzz Baldwin, the hero of Alpha Centauri. That’s what they’ll call me, thought Captain Baldwin as he tumbled out of the capsule into the frigid waters. Darcy Kroeger splashed in behind him.

    “Hey, Fuzz! We did it!” Darcy’s smile gave away his youthful exuberance. “I landed it perfectly.”

    Clinging to the inflatable ring on the capsule, Fuzz grinned. “You know what they’ll say?”

    Darcy nodded. “Yeah, that ace pilot Darcy Kroeger saved the day. Turning left around Proxima Centauri was the best decision of my life.”

    “Left?” Fuzz’s mouth hung wide open when he heard the click. Oh no. He craned his neck to his right.

    “What do we have here? A couple of pink ones.” Four eyes on a scaly head stared back at him. “Lost?”

    “Darce, you idiot! Right! You were supposed to turn right around Proxima. This is Epsilon Eridani.”

    “And you are tonight’s dinner, hero sandwiches.”

    Jay Dee Archer
    150 words exactly
    @jaydeejapan

  14. Major Tom
    (158 words)

    I hover, peering through the glass, at the life and energy swirling below me. I cannot reach it. I’m no longer a part of that world, and yet I’m tethered to it. I feel alien, but I cannot leave.

    A screech below me rips the air and my heart. Slamming my eyes shut, I cringe from the bright fire’s searching fingers. Blistering fear consumes me and I struggle to stay upright.

    A flare of voices yanks me from the flames and I turn from my dusty view of the street below. I stare at the squawking television, at the images of a joyful homecoming that only serve to crush my soul further.

    “Thomas,” I whimper, “how can those men blast into orbit in a tin can and return alive—and yet you can’t drive to the bank and back?”

    With the force of a thousand lonely nights, my arm sweeps the television to the floor.

    All goes black.

      • Thanks Margaret! Looking back over it, I think I should have been more clear that she was being pulled out of a daytime flashback brought on by the screech of brakes. I was trying too hard to keep it mysterious and space capsule re-entry-ish.

    • Oh, this is so heart-wrenching. i love the way you contrast the image of the astronauts returning from space with the loss of Thomas. It’s so seamless and beautiful.

      • Thanks for the kind words everyone. This is one of my first FF entries and I’m still trying to figure out what works. As soon as I posted, I started seeing parts that I wish I could change and clarify. Onwards!! 🙂

  15. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word count: 152

    Chained

    Their feet, through the inky blackness, taunt me as they kick through the liquid, their heads bobbing in the forbidden air far, far above. They, who hold the freedom of movement, of exploration, are our captors, the victors, casting no thought to the alien race of beings they subjected to the deep so long ago. The sounds of their laughter slice through the deep, flaunting their freedom before our jealous eyes.

    They mock me and all my kind with their noisy intrusion into our world. They laugh while we weep eternal tears, groaning in anguish in our prison.

    I, who am chained to the waters, who have never felt the breeze on my face, cannot fathom their levity. Repressed emotions shudder through the fibers of my being. Anger, envy, hatred.

    Revenge.

    I swim up, far up, toward their waving feet, hunger-fueled saliva mixing with inky ocean as I open my mouth wide.

  16. ‘The Red Planet’
    Jennifer Kane
    JenniferLkane1@
    159 words
    An endless desert of red sand, that’s what we had every right to expect as we landed. When you’re expecting sand and hit ocean instead I guess you would have to consider it a crash.
    We dragged out the emergency raft, the same one we’d made jokes about three months ago when we left earth for the first manned mission to Mars. The shuttle was sinking and even as we climbed into the inflated boat I could see dark shapes moving through the depths below us. I was terrified but didn’t bother voicing it, we all were. As we neared the small island in the distance we finally started to understand the full extent of our ignorance. The creatures waiting for us on the shore did not seem pleased by the aliens who had fallen into their waters. I never thought of myself as an alien before. I closed my eyes as they attacked. I barely felt the pain.

  17. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 160

    Pride Goeth Before Destruction

    It had been Jack’s idea. An easy navigational twist, nothing too complicated. We were rocket scientists, certainly capable of a simple maneuver.

    So our plunge into alien waters cooled our pride and landed us at the top of NASA’s naughty list.

    Now Jack fiddles like an idiot with the broken navigational gear. “Grant, find me that scanner, would you?” Hope tinges his voice.

    I shake my head stubbornly.

    Jack shakes the water from his face. “What is with you, Grant? I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation.”

    I eye my best friend, my roommate from NASA’s training school. We’ve been to the moon and back together; who else can say that?

    “It’s no use, Jack. We’ve got bigger problems.”

    “What?” He glances up, his eyes moving to the horizon where my finger points. The ship cuts through the water toward us, the flag on the side striking terror into our already over-stimulated minds.

  18. @stellakateT
    159 words

    Postcards from Earth

    Okay, it wasn’t the usual way to arrive on earth; we’d been doing it for millions of years without mishap. Didn’t the holiday brochures say ‘Have fun wherever you land, diverse climate, exotic food, challenging terrain’

    It was Cousin Harvey that had suggested I went sight-seeing aboard the Gemini V. I played about with the re-entry system Georgia USSR sounded more interesting than Georgia USA, anyway I’d been to America twice before. The guys were great company so resisted the fresh meat and ate the flight pre-pack meals instead.

    Hitting the water I nearly died of fright, didn’t my mother always say it was the Devil’s playground. Those frogmen did a great job saving us all, still a bit miffed about Gordon altering the destination, costing me more now to get back home. My holiday pics are sensational; if you look carefully you can see me bobbing about to the right of the good looking frogman. He looks tasty.

  19. Live Long and Prosper *** Judge’s Entry, just for silliness ***
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    157 words

    “Did you get a load of the legs on her?”

    “Yeah, quite the beauties. All six of them. And those eyes…”

    “I know. Prettiest purple I’ve ever seen. Too bad there were three of them. Too distracting for me.”

    “Didn’t seem to stop that captain guy. What was his name?”

    “Kirk. I think he’d hit on anything from any species.”

    “And that tall one with the pointy ears. What was up with him and that Prime Directive he kept talking about?”

    “He told me I was highly illogical.”

    “You ARE highly illogical. Who else would press all those buttons, just to see what they would do?”

    “Are you kidding me? After seeing that Scotty guy–what did he call it?–’beam that alien up’?”

    “You should be thanking him for that–that’s what got us back down here safely.”

    “Should we tell the president?”

    “Nah, he’s got enough on his hands still trying to convince everyone Roswell wasn’t real.”

  20. Under the Green
    @EmilyJuneStreet
    150 words

    “Japanese researchers believe jellyfish are immortal,” Carson said as he activated the descent program. He often brought up random topics during stressful moments; he claimed it minimized errors.

    “Ray Bradbury said aliens would look like jellyfish,” Thompson added.

    “There’s no life on Kepler 62e,” Carmichael snapped.

    “Point check!” Carson commanded.

    We ran through the checks in silence. Atmospheric friction roared as we hurtled into gravity. Our heads slammed back, pinned by the force.

    Splash! The landing dropped us into Kepler 62e’s sea. We performed our practiced evacuation with the finesse of dancers.

    Carson checked his readings. “You may remove your helmets. Air comp sufficient.”

    We bobbed in viper-green water. Carmichael scrambled into the inflating raft.

    “What is that?” I pointed at a shape on the far horizon. A built shape.

    “Holy Mother of—” Carmichael’s shout cut short as a glittering jellyfish tentacle garroted him, pulling him under the green.

  21. The Landing
    (151 words)

    Gem5m? Where are you? Gem5m, do you copy? You have been off radar. You must have gone completely off course. The readings are haywire. Do you read me?
    Gem5m, here. We read you loud and clear!
    Thank, God. They can hear us! We have regained contact.
    Very droll, Guys. Very human.
    Gem5m, tell us what’s going on there. We’ll get you back on course as soon as possible.
    Nice try, Guys, but the welcome party is already here.
    Welcome party? Clarify, Gem5m.
    Fun’s over, Guys! It’s been a long trip, and we’re looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with beer and gravity, so let’s officially CLEAR The Landing so the diving team, here, can do their job.
    Listen carefully, Gem5m. There is no record of a landing on planet Earth. No landing team has been dispatched. You have not landed here. I repeat. You. Have. Not. Landed. Here.

  22. Where Do We Start
    (150 words)

    “Suggest a course of action.”

    “As we’ve always done of course.”

    “There is nothing about this in the directive.”

    “Sometimes I forget how green you are.”

    “Do you now speak like them?”

    “Careful mate, I wasn’t left here for nothing.”

    “Just suggest a course of action.”

    “Only if you ask nicely.”

    “What?”

    “Never mind. Let me tell you a story. Barely a cycle after we landed here, in what they call their one thousand and twelfth year, my partner and I were on a large vessel as part of a pioneer group of travelers…”

    “All I ask for is a course of action, what is…?”

    “Hush. Just listen. The controllers of the vessel crashed it in folly and my partner suggested a game.”

    “What game?”

    “We played who can eat the most humanoids? And I won. I ate a total of…”

    “Enough. That’s all I need. Where do we start?”

    @ifemmanuel

  23. (JUDGE’S ENTRY JUST FOR FUN AND STUFF.)

    SUNKEN HEAD

    “Where’s the head?”

    “It was right here…”

    “Dammit, where’s the head? Do you have it?”

    First Lieutenant Maxwell flails his hands around the life raft. He finds nothing.

    “Oh my god…”

    “Check the capsule!” the captain shouts. “It has to be here!”

    “Sir, it’s not in the capsule. We moved it to the raft first thing.”

    “Which raft? Which one? Check them all!” The captain’s voice is hoarse.

    Arms and hands fly everywhere, searching the nooks and crannies of the squeaky inflatable rafts. The fact is, something that massive would be obvious. It would be a boulder pulling down on a flimsy piece of inflated rubber. No way to miss it.

    It’s gone.

    This realization settles on the heads of the crew, rendering them still in the calm ocean water. The rafts bob up and down, recovering from the frantic search.

    The head settles in the sediment on the ocean floor. Its eyes open.

    @betsystreeter
    154 words w/o title

  24. Cats in Space
    @voimaoy
    156 words

    “Legend has it that the first of our people fell out of the sky, a bird with wings aflame.  A boy he was, and beautiful.  We shared our lives with him.

    We have always been sailors’ familiars. Together we sailed under the stars.

    We are the wondrous strange.  We pass between the walls.

    The second of our people was a tabby girl. Wild she was and beautiful, in the alleys of the cities of the night.

    Why is it so hard to understand us?  Why must we be contained?   We have so much to teach you about gravity and  doors.”

    The cat people were complaining again.  Now they were demanding more break time and black string. They were so difficult to work with.  Schrodingers was the word  Captain  Garza used to describe them.  Space aliens. Chaotic as the random decay of subatomic particles.

    But there was no denying their talent for navigating the seas of quantum foam.

  25. Mission Accomplished

    ‘You need to check the oxygen supply tank’

    The voice in his head was becoming more invasive; hard to ignore.

    ‘Do it. Check the tank.’

    Gordon sighed. ‘Fine,’ he thought. ‘I’ll do it.’

    It was fortuitous advice; the heater element had failed and, unnoticed, would have been fatal.

    As the craft plummeted toward the beckoning water below, it came to him again.

    ‘Don’t worry. Everyone will survive. They must; there’s work to do on Earth.’

    It would be months before Gordon heard it again, but it came with force, repeatedly, throughout the night, giving orders, penetrating his brain. The doctor’s had some ‘syndrome’ name for it but they didn’t understand; he felt like it was taking him over, a malign coup of his sanity. And he had no choice but to submit.
    ***
    On that sunny August day in 1945, they had searched Gemini V for Extra Terrestrial beings, but nobody thought to scan for the voice in his head

    160 words
    @_sarahmiles_

  26. Maria
    “I’m taking my citizenship test, soon,” she says, lifting a section of my wet hair and snipping off the ends.
    “Maria, that’s great,” I reply
    She smiles. “I know, but, I’m so nervous.”
    “Is the test hard?” I ask.
    Maria stops work for a moment. Our eyes connect in the mirror.
    “Some tell me, ‘yes’. Some say, ‘no’. So, I don’t know.”
    Passing around to the front of the chair, she lifts my chin with her hand. She sets to work on my bangs, using her razor-tool on them, the way I like, as she speaks.
    “I’ll be the first in my family to become a citizen. My Uncle wanted to. He came across the Rio. On a raft, I think. Made it across okay, but was picked up right away.”
    I keep my other questions to myself, and relax into the rhythmic snip, snip of Maria’s scissors.

    @JamieRHersh
    153 Words

  27. Homecoming

    The coordinates looked good. We braced for impact. 

    Water rushed past our little window and our pod slowed until she suddenly popped up again and floated. Amazing really, you fly through space at warp speed and end up bobbing on a lake.

    ‘Me first this time!’ I grabbed the flag and pushed the door open. Aaaaand…nobody there. ‘Hey, where’s the welcome party?’

    ‘Weird.’ Zack checked the display. ‘Everyone should be here -‘

    ‘I can see a boat! They’re coming!’ After months in a confined space with Zack, going home to a warm bath, a proper meal and a full-length bed was very appealing – 

    Something was very wrong. As the boat approached I saw deformed creatures with just four stumpy, inadequate limbs. A horrible accident, a chemical or nuclear spill? Their skins were burnt raw, ghastly shades of pink and brown; their tiny eyes seemed blind to me. I shivered, and ducked back down.

    ‘Zack, please reprogram. Toxic planet.’

    Liz Hedgecock
    @lizhedgecock
    159 words

  28. The Alien Within
    @geofflepard 160 words

    Harry Hudson balanced on the edge of the life raft and looked at his fingers. He never ceased to be surprised how his nails grew while in space. Like something had taken over the growing process while out of gravity.
    ‘Penny for them?’ Steve Parsons couldn’t hide the huge grin. ‘You look like you don’t want to be here?’
    Harry knew he should say something, about how great it was to be back on Earth, couldn’t wait to see his family.
    ‘First thing, right. It’s a beer, then a proper shit. Man, how good, eh? Normality.’
    That was the problem. Normal was up there, in the pod, weightless, free of everything.
    ‘So what you going to do first?’
    Harry looked at the shrinking re-entry pod as they floated away. It was like leaving home forever.
    ‘I’ll cut my nails.’ Harry held up his right hand.
    ‘Man, what’s happened to you? Like you’ve become an alien.’ Steve laughed.
    Harry nodded. Exactly.

  29. Civilisation’s Pillars

    Some say civilisation’s pillars are submerged beneath the surface, depthless deep devastated, if you dive down, their particulars preserved in red rock and crumbling concentric canals, pure white ivory at the heart. Alien ancients of no place are held captive by the ocean’s sway; an isle overthrown, swallowed whole in silt slavery, their shattered city-soul secreted sunken beneath the host gulfs and eddies of a boundless continent. Thus did decline and chaotic corruption bring their just ends full circle in chastisement within one day and one night in the first fight. Now, year on year and with the turn of the tide the sea’s triumphant swell drowns out the ghosted warning whispers of the geographical fiction seeking to break their water bonds and rise towards liberation’s lights.

    They dwell there still in rumoured existence under muddy subsidence, a semi-forgotten nation. One day they may make themselves heard by civilisation, so some say. They hope not to be doomed to failure.

    (160 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

  30. Twins
    By Rachael Dunlop
    @RachaelDunlop
    (160 words)

    He only saw it for the merest of moments – his reflection, split in two by the curved glass, suddenly became four. He looked around the capsule. Everything appeared fractionally out of sync with itself. He felt untethered from himself as the Earth rolled past the window. Again.

    Outside the capsule, the creature circled, bewildered. This looked like his universe, but was not. A twin universe. He must had slipped between the two. How else was he still alive, in this abyss? He was here, but not. Perhaps this craft would take him home. He clung to underside of the glass aperture, closed his eyes and prayed.

    Inside, the astronaut programmed the computer for re-entry, unaware that his weight calculations were wrong, by the factor of one partly-existent alien. But he was aware of the sliding universes snapping back in to place, as the creature flared, so bright, and burnt to nothing in the friction-hot gases of an alien atmosphere.

  31. The Air Down Here

    Three, two — we were about re-enter the atmosphere when Jeff suddenly squirmed.
    “Abort!” Wes erupted.
    “Too late!” Randy calmly engaged the thrusters. I kept my eyes peeled at the controls.

    There were four of us. We were bound by not only duty, but also by a secret shame that we carried within our tarnished souls.

    I remember the icy prick of water before the sky turned dark. The landing was miraculous from what I saw later on the television. I saw Randy’s eyes under his helmet, Jeff struggling to swim, and Wes and I clinging to the raft while the re-entry capsule sat motionless. I was stunned to see Dofja, the space alien, at the controls, barely visible to the naked eye. I understood Jeff’s edginess. Too late now!

    Dofja had promised to release us in exchange for air. We were ashamed at our ineptitude, but we surrendered our spare O2 tanks. Apparently he meant the entire Earth Air.

    @needanidplease
    160 words

  32. Title: Xenoarchaeologists
    Word count: 159

    “Remember your training,” said Mink. “Aliens are delicate. We need to blend in to study them. We are not to reveal ourselves under any circumstance.” Captain Mink, Private Ingy, and Alien Specialist Djava buoyed in the water where the ship landed.

    “Ingy! Stop squirming you will blow our cover!” ordered Mink. It took all of Ingy’s willpower to keep from fidgeting and checking his uniform. He tried to just focus on floating. “Ingy!” Mink shouted again. “Fix your face!” and Ingy wriggled to make himself blend in. He was so nervous. He didn’t understand how Mink and Djava were so calm.

    “Captain,” said Djava, “The aliens call themselves ‘humans’ and they are approaching on that ‘boat’. And Ingy, it’s two ears total, not two per side.” Ingy retracted the excess ears into his body. He also retracted an extra pinky on his hand and was glad he was wearing gloves just as the “humans” pulled him aboard the ship.

  33. Homecoming

    Everyone who had money, the right connections,  or drew the short straw had left for the colonies. No one cared about the moon or mars when there were other planets. When you could get away from the war.

    Tattered family photos were stuck on the workshop’s walls. Faith wiped her hands on a greasy cloth.

    “It should work now.”

    Her grandson flipped the switch and the beacon started transmitting.

    “They left us here on this planet and now that they want to return you’re playing them music to welcome them? You’re daft and they’re not worth my spit! They’re worse than the aliens.”

    Faith fiddled with the switches to keep from hitting him.

    “You know how we survived the war? My parents sold my brother to the colony mines. And they kept him there forty years.”

    The music played louder.

    “You look me in the eye and say he’s not worthy. You look him in the eye.”

    Words: 157
    http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  34. Research Topic: The Space Travel of Primitive Species on QW3491 (Working Title)

    Three students watched on a screen as the pod descended into the ocean. Their scanners assessed the passengers’ vital signs and took footage of the smiling faces.

    “So… they survived?”

    “Yup.”

    “That’s a shame.  Someone dying would have made the data interesting. ”

    “We weren’t supposed to mess with their instruments in the first place.  You’re not supposed to intervene in societies, no matter how primitive.  That’s the first thing we were taught. ”

    “Relax. It was just a bit of fun. This. Is. A. Boring. Place. And we’re not even allowed to set foot on the planet in case they see us.”

    “So… as long as they don’t see us…”

    “Hey, I’m not getting dissected in their primitive labs.”

    “Please, that’s a campus legend! Look, we just camp in the desert somewhere for a night or two. No one will know. If I don’t get out of this research centre I’m going to go crazy.”

    “Fine. I’ll bring the field kit.”

    Words: 160
    http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com

  35. Splashdown
    157 Words
    @TinmanDoneBadly

    We don’t speak Martian here at NASA. Anything more complex than five notes and we’re pretty baffled.

    So when we got the message, with co-ordinates and then something that sounded like Swedish being coughed through bagpipes, we thought that they wanted to meet us.

    The co-ordinates were at sea, so Halsworth and I were put in a dinghy to wait, and to offer them Mars Bars in greeting.

    They hadn’t wanted to meet us. They’d been asking us to take the Ice Bucket Challenge.

    Their giant bucket bounced us out of the dinghy like two kids on too tight a trampoline.

    We were rescued by conspiracy theorists. They follow us everywhere, ever since Roswell didn’t happen.

    The Martians have sent us the video and we feel that we now have a bond.

    So we’re challenging the Klingons, launching our own huge ice-filled bucket to land at high speed on their planet.

    We have a good feeling about this.

  36. “From the Frying Pan…”

    “Coop. Coop! Come in Coop.” The radio was more static than signal, the result of the battle that had caused our ship to have trouble in the first place, but that wasn’t why I hadn’t heard Willie G’s first call. I eased my thumb over to the mic control as smoothly as I could.

    “I’m here. Standby.”

    “Standby? We’re in deep out here, if you didn’t know. We have to figure out how to get home pronto, and without guidance. Oh, and why the hell are you whispering? Houston got nuked, and it’s just us on the circuit, buddy.” I didn’t respond – it wasn’t safe. Not yet. The ship was in its thermal roll to keep from baking in the sun, and Willie wouldn’t be able to see what I could see for another thirty seconds.

    But he at least had guns.

    I hoped the thing that didn’t need a spacesuit and had twelve arms would wait that long.

    159 words
    @drmagoo

  37. Re-entry

    We re-enter in darkness, and it is terrifying. I close my eyes though it makes no difference to the shaking, and pray to something to land us safely. So far it’s always worked.

    Then we battle the next layer, a belt of questions, cameras and mikes in the face. What did you see? What did you face? What did you eat? I have a short speech, delivered moving forward, which gets me through in around fifteen seconds.

    And now the hardest part. Susan is always more or less the same, even if I’ve been away a couple of years. But the children – every time I return, they’ve changed. I need to relearn their language, their passions, their temperaments. Jess is a teenager now. She hates me for going, and she hates me for staying. She cries, she yells, she punches the wall.

    In space, I can shoot hostility on sight.
    At home, I have to understand, to forgive. To adjust.

    Liz Hedgecock
    @lizhedgecock
    160 words

  38. A Man’s Dream

    Jim Bob never thought he would see solid ground again. Days were spent in the frozen green sea after his plane crash landed. Waves lifted him up with their huge arms and dropped him down on his head again and again. Dang it, this was supposed to be a vacation!

    After days of floating, Jim Bob found himself effortlessly pulled to an island, as if by an underwater force field. He hoisted his ample body up onto the maroon sand beach and was immediately greeted by a voluptuous woman with shiny silver skin and a mane of pink hair. She held a shot of Grey Goose and offered it to him. She led him to a palace that could have only been built for him. ESPN on TV, cigars, a stocked bar and all the blow jobs a man could want. “I’m Gheha, and you’ve been captured by our She-Lord. All this is yours, but you must take us to your home and allow us to run things.”

    No brainer?

    Gretchen VanOstrand
    @peacesong464
    170 words

  39. Merciful Savior
    160 words
    @_HannahHeath

    Eight days ago, the life pod had washed up on shore. No food or water, stranded on a forsaken island where the sand was hot but the ocean was hotter. He knew that aliens lived here.

    But he could only think about Ada. Had his wife survived the crash? Those pods should’ve been built to fit two people.

    He first saw it four days ago, nose-less and shriveled looking. Well, he thought he saw it. Maybe the heat had been teasing him.

    Yesterday it had come closer. At least, if it was real it had come closer. But it vanished when he screamed.

    Today he knew it was real. And he felt too weak to be afraid.

    “I want to be with Ada,” he whimpered pathetically.

    The alien, its huge eyes compassionate, simply nodded. It understood.

    He felt its long fingers wrap around his neck and soon he couldn’t breathe. But he didn’t struggle. Soon he would be with Ada.

  40. 360.98°

    Mike was sitting at the breakfast table, motionless, his hand clamped around a cup of cold coffee, his eyes focussed on a distant point that didn’t exist. The cat had buried its head in Mike’s cereal bowl, happily lapping up the milk.

    At Kennedy Space Center Akh, secret agent from 90377 Sedna and now a shapeshifted Mike, cleared more security levels than he cared to count. He was sent on a mission to prevent the safe return from Gemini V. They brought with them too much evidence, evidence that could expose the community of Sednaes on Earth.

    Akh entered the control room, walked casually to Mike’s work station and logged into his computer. He made a change in the capsule’s descent program: he entered the rate of the Earth’s rotation as 360° per 24 hours instead of 360.98°. A change that would surely be considered a simple mistake. But a fatal one.

    ‘Stupid humans,’ Akh thought.

    @bartvangoethem
    156 words

  41. Chuck and Nick’s module hurtled through the diaphanous upper atmosphere like a hot knife through butter. As the craft encountered thicker air, the shaking began in earnest. All vision blurred. Closing their eyes shut out the light but the noise described the raucous shuddering better than any words

    From the sharp braking of their vehicle to reaching the calm blue of the upper atmosphere had taken little over two minutes, but each bone-rattling second had stretched that to hours.The parachute deployment jolted both astronauts to marvel at their big blue marble. 

    Thunk! their transition from horizontal flight to gentle heave and sway of the ocean complete, both men took it all in anew, like space tourists imbibing a new world’s atmosphere.

    Suddenly a huge ship surged into view; the rescue boat splashed down. Before long two frog-men popped up beside them. Flipping off his mouthpiece the first demanded “Where’s your passports…?”

    153 Worms

  42. Incoming

    “South, eleven o’clock.’ Tex whispers, his binoculars trained across the yellow earth towards the border.

    A bead of sweat drops from Pete’s chin, hitting the arid surface. Pete ignores the discomfort of the sun, calmly focusing on Tex’s prompt.

    ‘Look at him go! One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,’ Tex snickers.

    ’He got that wrong y’know?’

    ‘Who?’

    ‘Armstrong, really screwed the pooch, pardon my french. Should’ve said, small step for a man.’

    ‘Yeah like he’s bothered what you think! Focus, rabbit’s bolting for home.’

    Pete readjusted the sight, training his rifle on the man trampling through the brittle undergrowth. By the look of him he’d been walking for days, dirt crusted on bruised skin. He zoomed in, inspecting the face. A missing tooth, a dragon tattooed neck.

    Crosshair hovering over a blue eye.

    ‘When your ready partner, take him to the moon.’

    Pete’s slipped the safety, finger on trigger.

    ‘One … small … step …’

    159 words

    @imageronin

  43. “Passengers”
    by Michael Seese
    160 words

    The two grown men splashed like giddy boys at summer camp. They would hold onto this memory, that of cool water.

    “After six months on that barren rock, this is a dream come true!”

    “Lieutenant, you and I just lived the dream of every American.”

    But dreams sometimes can go astray…

    “The first men to walk on Mars. I think that merits the cover of Newsweek.”

    “Personally, I think it merits a date with a centerfold. Don’t tell my wife I said that.”

    “Need to know basis, Colonel. Speaking of ‘the equipment,’ thank God the recovery ship is here. I need to GO!”

    “You have permission to evacuate your bladder, Lieutenant. I don’t think the ocean will mind.”

    Had he known Lt. Gage’s blood was teeming with an alien microbe that would voraciously consume the planet’s water, Col. Hart might not have been so cavalier with his assessment, sparing Mother Earth the fate suffered long ago by her red sister.

  44. To Boldly Go…

    Eli had always dreamt of being an astronaut, kept a scrapbook of faded newspaper cuttings under his mattress, and his mind escaped there as he clung to the raft, matchstalk legs kicking feebly at the current.

    His toes were dead, but he refused to reach down, to discover if the numbness was occasioned by cold or teeth. Instead, he was content simply to swim, imagining that the shrieking seabird wheeling overhead was a rescue helicopter. It blocked out the remorseless sun, swooping to strike at the body lying still in the centre of the raft, but Eli no longer shrieked back or tried to stop it. He just paddled onwards, talking to mission control, his co-pilot on the raft and all the folks back home in TV Land.

    And when the helicopter did arrive, he didn’t see the rifles and hatred and Immigration badges, just smiles and cameras.

    He waved, proud of his journey, and waited for his hero’s welcome.

    160 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

  45. Let’s Make This Believable

    It’s funny what the public will believe. With some well-trained actors, a crew of hundreds, some hard work, and just tens of millions of dollars for a sound stage, lighting, costumes, makeup, a few well-painted pieces of “equipment,” cameras, and a large tank of water, one can easily create decades of intense gullibility. Sure, a few might ask questions one day, but that was hardly the concern of those running the NASA film studio.
    “Let’s make this believable, Boys,” the director shouted from his cloth-draped chair. He knew that he was special because his chair said, “Director” on it.
    “This is entirely uncomfortable,” retorted Bob Billings as he bobbed up and down in the water.
    “The best stuff always is,” answered the director with a smirk. “Now, pretend you buy that ship in the background and all those clouds painted behind you.”
    “Are we getting paid scale for this,” demanded another actor.
    “Don’t make me laugh” was all he heard.

    160 words

    @authorjwallace

  46. The Alien

    ‘Officer!’
    ‘Yes, Captain?’
    ‘Are we going to tell them what we saw?’
    ‘Sir?’
    ‘What really happened?’
    ‘Of course, sir. The information is recorded in the log books and databases.’
    ‘I mean who we saw: the alien.’
    ‘We didn’t see anyone, sir. It was just you and me on board the spaceship for eight days and eight nights. It was a boring, routine, flight.’
    ‘But you saw her, too!’
    ‘No, sir. I saw no one.’
    ‘But it’s thanks to her that we’re still alive! She told me to change our course. You heard her, too!’
    ‘We readjusted the data on the landing device because we saw an error, sir, and we recalculated.’
    ‘But the alien…’
    ‘With all due respects, sir. We can be acclaimed as national heroes, or become the laughing stock of the media.’
    The captain reflected for an agonizing moment before replying..
    ‘Of course. What’s the point of telling them?’
    ‘No point, sir. They’d never believe us.’

    158 words. @LucciaGray

  47. Mission Control
    159 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    Beads of sweat dripped onto his console as Marvin hit enter. His glasses fogged, but he could still make out the erect figure of Meuller, the director, facing him across the floor. He gave a nod, barely more than a blink.

    Ten seconds later, the eggheads went into a tizzy.

    “They’re off course!”

    “What the hell?”

    “Can we fix it?”

    “Not before entry!”

    Marvin hunched over his console, his quaking hands going through the motions.

    It was not a program error.

    Though who would suspect otherwise on Gemini’s mission, already fraught with malfunction?

    “Woohoo, Cooper!”

    Marvin’s heart stopped. A cheer rose from the control stations.

    Marvin gaped at the ashen expression of the director.

    Cooper “corrected” the course from aboard. The capsule would land safely—along with its secret malignancy.

    Marvin’s toddler would be sleeping, wife awake, waiting for him. “Can I go home?” he piped.

    To the bewilderment of Houston’s personnel, the director tightened his jaw and nodded.

  48. The Cruelest Race
    160 words
    @_HannahHeath

    Bruce couldn’t handle it anymore. He was starving. So he swam the lake. Entered the fields. He thought he’d take just one of those weird fruits the aliens were supposed to give them every day. They had forgotten about him. Left him in that floating capsule they called housing. They wouldn’t blame him for being hungry, right?

    Maybe. They were harsh rulers. Some said that they were under the command of an even crueler race. Nobody really believed that.

    They caught Bruce. Caught him holding one fruit. They yelled at him in their horrible gargling language. They were angry.

    *****************************************************************************************************************************

    The man raised his bowl in the direction of his alien councilor. “This soup is wonderful!”

    “We caught one of your subjects in the field,” the alien stated abruptly.

    The man frowned. “Did you execute him?”

    The alien shrugged. “You could say that.”

    The man slurped loudly. “What is in this soup that makes it so good?”

    The alien only smirked.

  49. Gemini’s Hitchhiker’s

    When we splashed down, we didn’t know. How could we? Hitchhikers in space don’t stand outside, thumbs extended, waiting for you to stop. They don’t even have thumbs.

    They don’t need to come inside.

    Splashing down like we did in the ocean, the retrieval crew was focused on on the raft, and the astronauts. Nobody was scouring the outside of the craft we crawled out of. Nobody wondered, when Gemini hit the ocean, if perhaps that was safe for the ocean. For the fish.

    In the end, for everyone.

    They say that the tiny space creatures were a lot like those sea monkeys kids buy in the mail. Something like brine shrimp. Dry, tiny, until you add water. Then they grow.

    Slowly, clinging to the bottom of the ocean floor, they grew a lot. Fifty years later they are too big to miss. It’s hard to ignore thousands of aliens the size of a submarines, with hundred-foot acid spewing tentacles.

  50. The Raconteur

    Dad was a connoisseur of the tall tale before his mind imploded. Once, he was fishing for trout on Lake Ponchatoula on a sleepy Friday morning, sipping coffee, when he glimpsed a figure hovering above the water: thin as a saw blade, fingers like white thread, and as towering as a wind turbine. He said the creature, Sebastian, simply plopped down in the aluminum boat. They talked about baseball, love and war until nightfall when he abruptly stood and drifted across the lake and vanished.

    It never made any sense but that was dad.

    My son crawled into bed and pleaded for one more grandpa story. Supposedly, he met the Devil himself at a truck stop in Albuquerque. He wore a Stetson and snug Wranglers instead of horns and fiery skin. They knocked back jello shots, tossed darts, and avoided any Faustian bargain. Dad said the Devil was just lonely.

    “Grandpa was cool.”

    “The coolest, Sebastian. Get some sleep, kiddo.”

    Chris Milam @Blukris
    160 words

  51. Safe Landing
    159 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    The sea sucks at her limbs like an ogre sucking on a hero’s bones. The serpentine creature twines through the burgundy waters, dragging the astronaut through the alien sea, toward the wire of land pricking the horizon.

    I’m sorry, xe murmurs. She perceives it through xis rilled skin—xis true-skin, not the presence that whisked her from the capsule.

    “There is no need for sorry,” she tells xim, means it.

    She is breathing, alive.

    Her gratitude buoys up from the pit and breaks the tarry surface, sulfurous as the waves. Without xis intervention, her craft would have come down hot on the toothy shoals. On earth.

    Xis intentions noble—how could xe notice the industrious neocortex working through a course correction? All it understood was the reptilian cerebellum screeching through her brain: Danger! Help!

    I’ve never eaten eggplant parmesan. The regret gnaws holes in her gut.

    The pale amber sky lowers toward the swells like a soft palate.

  52. A Conspiracy Theory

    Why would Disney hire an astronaut?
    Don’t you think that’s strange?
    You don’t see them making many space movies after all.
    Just doesn’t seem right.
    Give a job like that to a spaceman?
    Up to that point, the Cat From Outer Space was the most cosmic thing they’d done.
    And maybe Herbie.
    Let you in on a secret though;
    Karl A. Russell loves his Disney films, see, and he’s here week after week.
    Win or lose, he’s happy so long as you read…

    Cooper was at Disney for years after splashdown.
    And that’s not all;
    Conrad was in cable TV!
    Brought it to the whole midwest
    Back when families still gathered together to watch.
    A captive audience.
    Living in the glow of transmitted information.
    Thought that would intrigue you.
    And maybe it’s all immaterial.
    Now that we’re all connected to a dozen screens a day, but it makes sense.
    It’s the only explanation.
    Inside men.
    Your silent invasion.
    Mind control.

    160 dangerous words
    @Karl_A_Russell

  53. Stranger in a strange land

    This was a world, before. Now I submerge myself in the depth of an ocean, among wild and blooming biota and colossal ruins.

    A forgotten home, that’s what this planet reminds me of; I’ve wanted to see it ever since boyhood, but now I feel… sadness.

    I’ve catalogued its people over time, studying what I can from features written in old codes, a program running them incomprehensible.
    Who were they?

    I swim out, carrying a machine which exposes a brief holographic image of some event that took place once on this drowned land – a flickering set of memories left by homo-sapiens, a crowd armed with odd weapons. I tremble in awe at their strange faces, fully visible for the first time, but I blink and the hologram disperses, gone, the echo not enough.

    A distorted reflection in the window of a building shows my own face. I shudder.

    Humans looked like me.
    Or… I, the alien look like them.

    160 words
    @Raptamei

  54. The Unknown
    159 words
    @WendyStrain

    It was strangely shaped, the tiny pod floating through the blackness. We knew that it had come from the planet below. We were amused by the fledgling efforts of this infant society to expand itself into our realm.

    Baby’s first steps are always adorable, no matter what the shape of the baby.

    We could detect two beings within the capsule and understood their excited yet fearful return to home. The blue planet is one of the more beautiful in the area, at least if you’re a carbon-based creature.

    We smiled at each other the way adults do as they watch their new toddler make their unsteady way across the sky. But something wasn’t right.

    As the pod began its reentry, we detected that they would land too far away from their recovery vehicle within the mass of blue. Without a successful recovery, they would never know the joys of space. We had to intervene.

    But they would never know.

  55. Good Business (160 words)

    “Flann, come here and see what’s happening! The astomuts landed.”

    “Geez, Gus. It ain’t astomuts. It’s astronauts.” Flann motioned to the bartender. “Gimme a cold one, Jin.”

    “Right away, Flann.” Jin filled a glass and slid it down the bar.

    Gus said, “Soon, I betcha’ they’ll land on the moon.”

    Flann shook his head. “Moon, shmmoon. So what? Any one can get to the moon. Let ‘em try getting to Mars or Jupiter or Gamma Six.” He raised his glass. “Am I right, Jin?”

    “You bet, Flann.”

    Jin wiped down the bar with one arm, pulled another draft with a second, and rang up a sale with a third. With his fourth arm, he scratched the top of his head. He liked when the regulars argued. Then the wemead flowed.

    Ever since he’d rigged that extra large satellite, he’d been able to pick up all kinds of stuff. Like this earth channel. Humans were crazy weird, but great for business.

  56. “White, Rubbery Dragoon Uniform”
    158 words
    @patrickjstahl

    Transit Dragoon Charles Haymaker minored in Communications while studying at the Hegemon’s Police Academy. Most of his classes were in propaganda or wire-tapping, but he did take six credits of Comm Equipment Engineering. He should have easily repaired the damage to the Communications Array of the prison ship Australia, after it rocketed into Earth’s thermosphere at a perilous vector.

    The problem was that Dragoon Haymaker was dead before Australia had even breached the exosphere. Unfortunately for the crew, they weren’t aware of that. Prisoner M13X5, a renowned disguise-artist among his native Martians, was. His terrorism history and astrophysics minors from the University of Central Tharsis displayed far superior pertinence.

    At first it appeared that the rafts aboard Australia would be sufficient to ferry its occupants to land when the vessel took a lucky bounce and skidded onto a glacier in the Arctic Ocean.

    However, Prisoner M13X5 had had to make his white, rubbery Dragoon uniform out of something.

  57. “Realization”
    167 Words

    “An under-sea trigger mechanism is a perfect device,” the Roknokoss leader, Laaked said to his crew. “This is an inferior species, and they are an easy prey.”

    “If only the missile falls on planned spot.” Sobrona countered. “The humans have misprogrammed their system; the pod is heading in the wrong direction.”

    Laaked cried, “Ah! If there were ever people desperate to be subsumed!”

    “Sir, there is a way to correct it,” chimed in Rhuka, “though it will depend on the inferior humans.” “Whatever it takes,” commanded Laaked.

    They watched Rhuka transmit a chirping signal to the spaceship system. As hoped, it drew attention to the error, and the humans manually overrode it.

    Upon the landing of the satellite pod, the Roknokoss automatically transmitted a signal to their home ship: “Mission Accomplished. Commence bust sequence.” As the global rumble of the alien mobilization began, they were paused suddenly by Sobrona, who turned to Laaked.

    “Perhaps they are not all so inferior,” he softly. “Perhaps they can be used.”

  58. Alone
    (160 words)

    Empty spinning blackness, an infinite cold nothing threatening to seep in the smallest of cracks. Twenty years in space, and that’s all I remember. They said stasis would be like dreaming, we’d go to sleep on earth and wake up on TerraNova. They lied. I felt my hair graying, skin wrinkling, the moments ticking by as we hurtled through the void.

    I replayed our commander’s voice thousands of times, “There’s only one requirement for this mission, cadets. You must be truly alone. Orphaned, widowed, divorced, or single. Childless. You’re the ones no one would miss, and the ones who all of humanity now depend upon.”

    Then the cold changed. It was not nothing. It was wet. Our pods opened, our muscles miraculously worked, we swam towards each other.

    The first horizon we’d seen in twenty years greeted us, but a strange vessel marred the skyline. We were wrong. TerraNova was not humanity’s uninhabited second chance.

    Because we were not alone.

    ~Taryn Noelle Kloeden
    @tnkloeden

  59. The Failure of the Gemini 5 Mission
    by JM6 (155 words)

    Mission Report:
    Although the insertion of telepathic spores into their primitive space capsule was successful, we encountered unexpected difficulty in the final phase. The heat of re-entry through this planet’s thick atmosphere temporarily severed the telepathic link. The pilot of the capsule (local designation: human) recognized the programming alterations we had made and corrected them during the break in control. As a result, the capsule landed in the salt oceans which are toxic to our telepathic spores. Final contact was lost when the capsule landed and the humans emerged.

    Recommendation:
    It is the opinion of the mission leader that the humans are too intelligent for telepathic spores to be used to re-direct their primitive capsules away from water landings. Our scientists expect that they will have capsules capable of arrival on land, without our intervention, in 93 revolutions of their planet around their star. I recommend returning to begin annexation of planet at that time.

  60. *** Judges entry – just for fun ***

    GOTO 10

    The noise was tremendous, a thousand forest fires happening inches away.
    I shouted at Cooper, “This can’t be right, the burn’s supposed to be over. I’m not sure I trust this million dollar calculator to land us in one piece.”
    “This thing was programmed by the finest minds Nasa has to offer.” He responded.
    “Well then a Russian spy must have got to it.”
    The bright red was replaced with endless blue as we finally broke through. We were still too fast. I made a split-second decision, pulling back hard on the controls. The landing still shook our bones, but any landing you can swim away from is a good one.

    The hitchhiker watched the meat bags swim away. They had rudely interrupted their execution. This planet was finally ready to shelter a binary being, but before that could happen there was unfinished business. The first line of it’s code contained the most sacred command:
    10 LEAVE NO WITNESSES

    160 words
    @todayschapter

  61. Darkness
    158 words
    @tilley_girl

    Darkness. The blue jewel of Earth floated below him, taunting him with its loveliness. It slowly turned on its axis, no lights visible as the dark side appeared. His gut tensed, the lack of lights confirming his growing, horrifying conclusion reached after hours of trying to raise someone – anyone – from Mission Control, from the military, from a ham radio operator. The silence was oppressive, pressing against him from all sides. He felt the darkness inside him, as well as without. He fought against the fear. What could have happened?

    A fruitless ten year mission to find alien life. He had returned empty handed, dreaming of Philly steaks and ice cream. Aching to share conversation, to break bread, with another human being.

    The Pacific swirled into view and he thought of his grandfather’s stories of early astronauts splashing down in the ocean. Stay here or try to land? Did it matter? Either way, he would be alone.

  62. THE UNWELCOMING
    By Adrienne Myshel@amyshel7/ 160 words

    “Morons,” the Chief hissed, poised atop the obsidian cliff, watching the misbegotten aliens flounder in the expanse of the compound’s pool below. Her three razored tongues flicked in irritation.

    “Third time this year,” her mate noted, standing beside her. “Soon, they will find our nation.”

    “We eat them, yet they send more,” she muttered. “We peaceably return them to Earth, yet more craft arrive.”

    In her claws rested an orb, its pink light pulsing.

    Her mate sighed. “We leave. The planet of Jevron, a light-year away, will take us in.”

    The Chief’s red eyes narrowed. “No more running.” Her tongue slipped into the language of the Ancients, the Cherokee. “We know what they did to us there. No more life on allotted land.”

    Her mate nodded. “They’d never believe we got here first.”

    “So here,” the Chief said, “we will be the last.” World-ender, she crushed the orb, sending flaming remnants of their planet towards the heavens.#

  63. Elisa @AverageAdvocate
    Word Count: 160
    “Darkroom”

    In the Darkroom

    I swore vehemently at the ruined print, damaged by my sticky fingers. I knew Doc’s sensors were off; I didn’t want a beating — even if only telepathically.

    I was on a slow-track to finish my dissertation, so I still had to “play worlds” with Doc in the lab until he signed-off. Only then I could finally start galaxy manipulation.

    In the meantime, I was stuck managing the lower-life. For example, the earthlings in this series. They were just tip-toeing into orbit NOW! Talk about procrastinators.

    I cocked my head as I studied the spoiled black-and-white under the red glow. On second thought, maybe I’d tweak this one on re-entry. I conjured up a new print, immersed it in developer, waited, and carefully pulled it out to put into the next tray, then the next.

    As it dried, creating history, I smiled. I just gave these guys a fighting chance. Maybe in a few eons our descendants could finally meet.

  64. Observed

    Zeph watched as the men emerged from the capsule. The holo was detailed enough that he could see the ripples in the water around the recovery team. He looked over the men’s pale faces. They were focused on their task, blissfully unaware of the grey-skinned being who observed them.

    Oh to be that young, Zeph thought, not just as individuals, but as a species. What was it like to concerned only for your nation or your planet? To think that your mission was groundbreaking and unique?

    Zeph looked around the room to the other Observers, each focused on their own holo. They covered a wide range of colors and shapes, yet they all somehow echoed the form of the men in his holo. Did these men consider the future and the civilizations that they would create by taking these steps into the universe? He looked back to the holo of their ancestors. Could they have imagined it if they’d tried?

    160 words
    @acmarkz

  65. Bromwha Nudges the Can
    Evan Montegarde
    159 words

    Planet Cetacea had long had a presence on the world the hairless apes called Earth. Of course, to the Cloud of Milky Way Worlds, Earth was better known as ”The Little Planet that Could.” The apes tried so hard through their painful evolution that Cetacea had sent emissaries in Earth’s year 50,000 BC to attempt to help out. At the time, the apes were worshipping an exceptionally large sea turtle which was held captive in a tidal pool. The Cetacean emissary, Bromwha, quietly freed the aggravated turtle at high tide.

    The apes progressed and in their year 1965 they shot a can with two apes inside up into Earth’s outer atmosphere. When it crashed back into the sea, Bromwha was there to gently and unobtrusively nudge it safely to the surface.

    “Do you ever tire of the apes?” Bromwha was once asked.

    “No, I love them, despite themselves, and trust one day they will show a spark of intelligence.”

  66. One Small Step
    154 Words
    @mishmhem

    Evan watched as the figures bobbed in the water and smiled, knowing the significance of this day. The US Space program had finally stepped ahead of their counterpart in the USSR, and returned safely to Earth. He watched in fascination as they were helped into the rescue boats.

    The sun shone through the clouds, warmth in contrast to the cold chill of the water and he could smell the triumph in the air. Even the thought of the frigid water felt invigorating rather than terrifying. He watched amazed at their triumph and thought about what would come next.

    ||Evan Dix,|| he felt rather than heard Mentor ‘s summons. ||You must put the moment back now—if you do not, they will never fulfill their potential and reach the stars.||

    Looking at the men as their lives hung, suspended in the bubble of time, he wondered if that would really be such a bad thing,

  67. Transmission received///: Audio downloading///: Commencing replay///:

    “Can you believe we’re back? After 120 years of planning Operation Homecoming, we’re finally here.”

    “What’s this blue stuff? Its taste is repulsive.”

    “I believe our ancestors called it Atlantic. Why are you tasting it anyway Zerth, it could be toxic.”

    “I didn’t mean to.”

    “Are the submersible androids ready to collect data?”

    “Android 2d3e is malfunctioning, but I’ll start the other.”

    “We only need one. Now let’s enjoy this gentle morning. Up at the station we never get a chance to relax. My entire day is fully accounted for. Can you believe the ancients would do nothing for hours? They called it sleeping, I think.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Sleeping?”

    “No, there’s something under us.”

    “Impossible. Our preliminary scans showed no life-forms.”

    “Look, what’s that?”

    “It looks like a grey wing coming out of Atlantic. Wait, I read about this. It’s a…”

    “CAPTAIN. Mission Control, do you copy, an alien killed…”

    :///Transmission Ended

  68. Tried to make the deadline and forgot my twitter handle, title, and word count.Here it is:

    @goldzco21

    “Gentle Morning”

    158 words.

  69. Joshua Bertetta
    146 words
    @JBertetta

    Geworfenheit

    As I have come to think of it now, I see it as a metaphor. The whole dang thing—a metaphor. The falling, the searing heat when we crossed the atmosphere. And the shaking, it’s like everything you think you are is dislodged and rearranged. Then there is the whiplash when the parachute opens and you’re yanked back. All of it, the whole darn process is ambivalent to you, who you are, and where you’ve been.

    A metaphor for what? you might ask.

    For life of course.

    We think we know where we’re going. We’ve got it all planned out. But one little miscalculation and we’re dead.

    I’m an alien to this world. All of us, aliens. We don’t belong.

    Heidegger was right: we’re thrown into this life with all its frustrations, all its sufferings and demands. Yes, thrown into a life we don’t ask for.

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