Tag Archives: science fiction

Lockdown Fiction: Connectivity

Inspired by an Improbable Press prompt!


I know better. Of course I do. But broke, living in my car, and denied the necessary freedom of internet access for the sixth day running prove too much for my caution. I have job applications to lodge, even with my small hope of success, and no data left on my phone. The lure of the open WiFi network named SpinATale is too strong.

I click.

I fall headlong into SpinATale’s web.

First my screen goes dark, and when it fires up again a moment later my Star Wars wallpaper has been replaced by what looks like tangled purple crochet that reminds me of my first and only attempt at a scarf, made when I was twelve.

I hit escape.

This is either my second mistake or my next good choice of the day.

My finger freezes onto the escape key, stuck onto the keyboard which is communing with the cascade of code and energy beyond the Bluetooth chip.

Words appear across the screen – first in white text.

Spin a Tale with me.

Then in black.

Tell Your Story.

Then in deep purple.

Share Your Story.

My story. Huh. I stare at the flashing words and think about my story.  

I was unlucky. I misjudged.  I lost my job. I lost my hope. I lost my love and I lost my way. I’m on my last fifty bucks and my last legs.  My life’s not going anywhere, and I’ve literally and figuratively got nothing in the tank to take me anywhere. I’m down and nearly out and nobody cares.

We care.

I blink at the new words, in deep, dark red. I still can’t get my finger off the escape key.

Do you want to escape?

This life? This moment? This noisy world where no sound I make can be heard? Where I shout into the void and nobody listens and nobody cares?

We care. We will listen.

Can a wireless network show empathy for a blip of human data stuck in the hardware world?

We will share your story. You will be heard.

Oh hell yes I want to escape. I want to flee, fly, flow into whatever lurks behind SpinATale’s cryptic, mind-reading connection.

Double click ESC to Escape.

I double click.

I escape.

You hear me now, don’t you?

Lockdown Fiction: The Thing with Feathers

Today’s story was prompted by Improbable Press.

The Thing with Feathers*

It’s a con job, this planetfall. We can see the planet through the viewports of course, all shrouded in cloud, and beneath, glimpses of mountains and valleys, and long green plains. Snow-capped poles and blue oceans that look like they’ll team with life. Safe, non-toxic, edible life to eat alongside the nutrient-rich grains we’ll grow alongside smaller gardens of plenty in that rich soil we can see down there.

Only the viewport is not a window, it’s a sensor relay. What we see is a collection of pixels, and nobody knows where the pixels come from.

This shiny ball of hope we see, this bauble promising we survivors a future, how can we even know it’s real? That spritz of interference here – is that just an error in the computer-generated render of a planet-shaped animation? That impossible blue, that breathtaking green, are they from a painter’s palette rather than real and true and actual nature?

The captain says we’re landing. I think we’re crashing. Into some rocky moon or an asteroid field, and this beautiful lie is how they’re making it easy for us.

I want to believe it, but the gravity is all wrong. A planet would be pulling us into its orbit differently. We’re not being pulled. We’re not landing, we’re not falling. We’re diving. We are aiming for the end to come, at last, at last. No more waiting for us.

We survivors.

We can’t survive everything.

The ship is shaking. My knuckles are white. Everything is coming to an end, and I am full of grief, and full of relief.

Hope is all we had and hope is hard, the hardest thing, sometimes.

And then.

And then.

And then the shaking stops and even with the stabilisers on, we can feel the thrust of engines in an upper atmosphere. I used to know that feeling well, when I worked on the moonbase, then on the Mars base, then on the ship that would take us far from the Sun, which fuelled our last big push into the unknown, before it went Nova.

The gravity, though, was wrong.

Or did I just forget the pull of it? The anchoring, blissful wonder of it?

The viewport crackles and clears on the curve of the blue-green planet. The rushing seas and the green plains. The clouds scudding below us, then beside us, then above us. Winged creatures, feathered, ludicrous, splendid, wheel away to the horizon. The captain records them and plays their calls and cries and songs on the wing as we land.

We land.

We land.

*Title from Emily Dickinson’s poem: “Hope” is the thing with feathers.

Lockdown Fiction: Ink Black

During this time of social isolation, I’m going to try writing a few extra stories to share. This one is actually a response to a writing prompt posted on Improbable Press using the words black water, buzz buzz, Martian and boardwalk, and it’s on that page with some other great responses.

Future lockdown stories will be posted first on my Patreon and then be made public a few days later – but I’m sharing this first one here too!

Ink Black

Sitting on the edge of the boardwalk, my feet dangle over black water: ink and crow feather black; shadow black; mourning black.

The surface of this black lake, flat as a mirror, reflects no stars. When I peer hard I can discern the distant line of the bio dome reflected in the mirror. Beyond the dome, the Earth circles between me and the Sun. I am not certain, this Martian equinox, where in its path it is, but knowing it waltzes out there, spinning and yet blue, gives comfort to my homesick heart.

(One day, perhaps soon, my Earth will be grey. She spins and dies so far away from me.)

At my back, on the red soil shore, stands the Mars Terraform Project’s water extraction plant. Squeezing the moisture from waste matter and the sweat from our clothes. The precious fluids of the living things that died. The little white mice from the lab. And not only mice. Channelling it into the lake. 

And from the ink black, sorrow black lake, comes the soft whispering buzz buzz of all those dehydrated souls. Not haunting; promising.

One day – not soon but one day – you and we and all will quench the thirst of alien soil and make it fertile. We will grow the new world and nourish our successors. 

My darling Li Xiu Ling’s whisper buzzes to my ear, reminding me that, to her, black is the colour of prosperity, of health.

One day (not soon but one day) I will be not on but of the lake. I will give everything to the prosperity and health of the future. One day, humankind will survive, because of us. Because of me.

In our lake, black as ink, as elegance, as infinity, Li Xiu Ling and I are the grandmothers, the goddesses, of this brave new world.

New short story: Earworm Armageddon

I don’t often write SF, but my recent foray into the genre, Earworm Armageddon (about an aurally led subjugation of the Earth, with deaf protagonists fighting the good fight) has been published in Jay Henge’s Wavelengths anthology.

Sometimes communication is not as straightforward as we might expect. From body language to Morse code, conveying messages comes in a wide variety of forms. How do we get our message across?

The stories and novellas in this anthology plumb the depths of the imagination, seeking to understand what might come to be if we were forced to communicate with those who no longer or never did understand us.

Buy Wavelengths

Check out the Fantasy, Horror and SF Short Stories page for more buying options, which I’ll add as they become available.