Prompt Short Story: Lifetimes

Standing on the terrace, they thought about the first time it changed. All they remembered now was a rainy day, a moment of terror, the feeling of something solid hitting their chest and stomach, and a second of excruciating pain. Then there was darkness, and waking up, focusing on the first thing they could see. Their right wrist, with their birthmark in the shape of the number 9. Only now it was shaped like the number 8.

They smiled, looking out from their house, across the beach and to the ocean beyond, almost as if they could see all the way over to the opposite continent where that moment had happened. The moment that changed their…lives.

They adjusted their robe slightly, draping the material more comfortably down across their shoulders, flowing with the breeze around their ankles, and turned back inside.

Introspective, they turned more shadowy memories over. Crippling pain in their stomach, rushing through their body, being raced under flourescent lights and put to sleep. A laser shot to the head, the violent seizures that came before blessed darkness. Lying on a bed, surrounded by machines breathing for them, nodding for the breathing machine to be unplugged and hearing their own death rattle as the world shifted out of focus, and went black.

They looked at their wrist, escaping further 1u90 and bringing themselves back to now. The number read 3, these days, and they kept very much to themselves. The world might have changed over those lifetimes, but people stayed very much the same. Always looking for a way to tread on someone to get ahead, or just to make themselves feel better. For someone to blame. For someone to gain power from – or remove it from.

They had resisted the transhumanist movement that had taken over the world, giving people longer life, better bodies, repairing things that didn’t need repairing, and they remained fully flesh. It made them something of a pariah to all except the fringe groups that swore the metal people were destined for some form of doom, and those groups were, as far as they were concerned, much worse than those that filled their bodies with technology.

Because most people didn’t get extra lives. They were forgivable because they only got that one attempt.

Still. At least until their next lifetime, they preferred solitude. Next time they reset, perhaps it would change; they found their wants varied each time.

Sipping a whiskey almost as old as they were, they drifted into a reverie. The night came on, and they slept, dreaming of all of their lifetimes. Perhaps the next one would see them out in the world again. But for now, the silence suited them.

I hope you enjoyed the story! I you can share the link, I’d appreciate it. You can also leave a comment or drop me a mesage, I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, a donation via Paypal or a sub via Patreon would be a great help towards future, and better, endeavours!

Writing prompt used:

You were born with a birthmark the shape of a “9”on your wrist, one day you get in a fatal car accident. You wake up in a strange room and the first thing you notice is the 9 has changed to an 8.

Prompt Short Story: When Assassins Call

Ariana yawned, stretched, and mentally checked off a list of the tasks, chores, and homework she had to do so far that week, before weekend fun could begin. Starting this in a boring Monday afternoon class and continuing it through the week, as she added to and checked things off the list, made things feel less overwhelming. It was easy to get overwhelmed. For her, anyway. She supposed it was the same for others, but then, who talked about that stuff? Not teenagers. And certainly not to each other.

Except to Marcos. They didn’t talk about much, she barely knew anything about them, but somehow she always wound up telling them everything. And they’d give her that easy smile and tell her she could do it, tell her how smart and special she was, and how she’d do great things. And suddenly everything would seem alright for a while. Til her drunken mother would break her restraining order and try to ‘visit’ her at 3am. Til she’d miss a chore or drop to a 7 on some test or other piece of schoolwork and get that disappointed look from her da. Til she’d visit her grams, and look at that shrunken face, staring out in terror at a world she knew she should recognise, hearing how she’d misbehave, and hearing her da huff as he misunderstood her reasons. Ariana understood them. So did Marcos.

They weren’t dating or anything, Marcos had told her pretty firmly a while back that however much they wanted to, they couldn’t, and they couldn’t explain why, but they wanted her to know that if they could, they would have asked her out the first day they met. But they’re happy they’re friends, they don’t get to have many of those.

Ariana was fine with it. A relationship would add so much more complication to everything. When Marcos had told her all that she’d laughed a little, and told them she’d have loved to go out with them but everything was already too much. A healthy friendship was the best she could manage anyway.

It was awkward after that. For about 2 minutes. Then they moved on.

Most kids looked at Marcos like he was the weirdo in their midst, and he kind of was. Even in a school uniform they always somehow looked like they would be ready, at a moment’s notice, to spring into action and save the world. Or at least the immediate vicinity. For all Ariana knew, that was even true. It would explain, well, everything.

Anyway, she had gotten off track. One of her jobs this week was to make Marcos some sort of birthday present. They hated when she bought them stuff, but seemed to enjoy the handmade gifts she’d made. Last year it had been a vase she’d handmade at a workshop and painted with a landscape. She had to figure out how to beat that. Could she make some fake flowers to go in it? She bet they’d never thought to add any decoration, so that might be nice.

The class bell went and she filed out with the rest, headed for the last one of the day.

Marcos slid in beside her and slipped an arm through hers, tugging her urgently, but subtly, in a different direction. 

“Marcos, what-“

“Shh, I’m sorry, but you have to come with me, we’re both in danger.”

Ariana looked over, beginning to protest again, but on seeing Marcos’ face, she allowed herself to be moved to an empty classroom. 

Marcos closed the blinds and held a finger to their lips as the last of the stragglers moved past the door to their classes. Only when everything was silent did they speak.

“Ariana I am so sorry. I should never have let us become friends. I’m in danger, which means you’re in danger, and that’s my fault.”

Ariana frowned. For the first time, she detected an accent in Marcos’ voice. She’d never thought about it before, but they were usually perfectly English, no accent at all. But now there was a trace of…she couldn’t place it, but definitely something.

Marcos tapped at their phone, frowned, tapped again, and sighed, “We have about fifteen minutes before a secure vehicle can get here. Fuck. I don’t know if we’re safe in here, or if we should move, get outside ready maybe?”

They weren’t talking to her but Ariana answered anyway, “Who are you afraid of? Who’s sending a secure vehicle? What does that even mean? And why do you suddenly have an accent?”

Marcos wiped their face with their hands, smoothing back their dark hair. They reached into their pocket and pulled something out, “Do you trust me, Ariana?”

The 16 year old looked at her friend closely. The smooth mask was gone. They were terrified. She wasn’t sure what was happening, or what was about to be revealed, but this was still Marcos. She trusted them like she would her own self. She nodded.

“Good! That’s good. Use this,” Marcos handed her a hair tie.

Ariana tied back her hair, the bleached streak standing clearly out against the black. 

“Now you gotta listen to me,” Marcos’ head snapped around at the tread of boots outside, and they grimaced, “I promise I’ll tell you everything. Even the bits I’m not supposed to. But first you have to do everything I say, without hesitation, without question, and nothing you might be about to see can get in the way of you doing that, or we could die. We might anyway, but hesitating will definitely make it happen. We have…” Marcos checked their phone, “11 minutes til the van gets here. Once it arrives and they see us, we’re safe. Until then, follow me, do exactly as I say, and…I’m sorry that your opinion of me might change because of this, but, don’t interfere with anything I do.”

“I trust you,” Ariana nodded, quickly stretching out to be ready for any movement.

Marcos was testing one of the windows. They had brought them both to the front of the school, presumably for easy access to the road, but there was either a corridor and a 300 meter run to get there, or, Ariana supposed, a window and a 300 meter run.

But the boots came closer, and as Marcos looked out, they both saw an incoming platoon of booted, masked, and heavily armed people heading across the fields to either side.

“Not very subtle, are they?” Ariana whispered. 

Marcos snickered, “Never. They prefer to storm in and leave someone else to cover up their mess. Ok, we gotta go through the window but I don’t know how to get this thing open without making noise, look, it’s nailed shut.”

Ariana shook her head, “I don’t have a crowbar on me, sorry.”

“Oh!” Marcos looked back at her and grinned, perfect teeth flashing. They reached into their backpack and removed a small multitool, opening up something small and sharp, they began to dig around the nails. “If I can just get the wood away to get a grip on them, I can pull them out.”

“Uh. Marcos… Small flaw in the plan…” Ariana pulled them down as a shout went up, and a rattle of fire went off, hitting the wall they hid behind and breaking the window above.

“Well I guess sneaking’s out, but at least the window’s open!” Marcos opened their bag again and pulled out a pair of what looked like cycling gloves. Except these had metal spikes on the knuckles.

As Ariana gaped, they also pulled out a telescopic baton, testing it with a swish before closing and holstering it in their belt.

“OK. They probably won’t try to hurt you if they think they can get me, but if you get within their reach, or I get too annoying, they will. They’ll be aiming to capture me at first so we hopefully have time for the van to get here in…6 minutes, before they get pissed enough to stop trying to get me alive. So stick to me, stay down so I can fight, and use this if anyone gets close to you.”

Marcos handed over a small box with two antenna and a button on the side.

“A taser?!”

“Yeah, and this one’s voltage level is illegal, so it’ll drop even their enhanced fighters. I’ll also explain that later.”

The sound of boots was close now. 

“4 minutes. Let’s go!”

Marcos leapt through the window in a single, swift movement. Ariana climbed through behind them and looked up, ensuring she was still within inches of Marcos, the taser gripped tightly in both sweaty hands.

She saw Marcos lash out at the unprotected leg of one of the attackers with their baton, and saw the attacker go down. Marcos tore off their helmet and socked them once in the face, letting them drop as more closed in.

“Moving now!” Marcos shouted, glancing back to ensure Ariana was behind them. 

She nodded, mostly to confirm to herself that she was ready, and followed close behind.

She fixed her gaze on Marcos’ back, trying to block out the sound of fighting. As long as Marcos remained standing, she was safe, and she would follow them.

It felt like an eternity before Marcos spoke again. Like the distance to the road would never be covered. Like time would never pass to make the van arrive. Like this was her entire existence now. The sounds of kicks and punches, the cracking of bones, the occasional gunshot, the cries and shouts and grunts of exertion. But suddenly the eternity was over.

“Van’s here! Run!” Marcos turned back and pulled her up, keeping hold of her hand as they ran.

Ariana sprinted blindly, her head down, the gravel rushing past, heart hammering in her ears. She heard Marcos give a grunt of pain, and felt them stagger, but their weight was lifted and she looked up, ready to hit someone with her taser.

“No! No! Friend!” the face said, looking slightly panicked.

Marcos’ voice came, “Down, Ariana, we’re safe.”

The shouts from behind her grew more distant as she dropped her hand. Unsure what to do with her adrenaline, she laughed, slightly delirious, “Is this a normal Monday for you?”

“No. The assassins usually try to kill me on Tuesday.” Marcos grinned, then grunted as they lifted their shirt and removed a bullet from the vest beneath it.

“Is that sarcasm?”

“Yes, gormless. Now get in the van before they see you’re still out there and decide to take a potshot.”

Ariana obeyed, suddenly incredibly tired. She sat by Marcos, who pulled themselves upright and touched her hand.

The van set off at a leisurely speed as the handful of people around them settled down.

“Thanks Ariana,” Marcos said, “Let me figure out how to explain all this to you, and I promise you’ll know everything.”

“But sir!” a woman sitting by them protested.

Marcos gave her a stern look, “She wound up involved, and put in danger. She gets to know. Everything.”

The woman nodded, chastised.

Ariana raised her eyebrows at Marcos.

“I’ll explain! Just…give me a couple of hours.”

“Fine. But It better be good.

Marcos laughed and nodded, laying their head back to rest and order their tale. It would definitely be good.

I hope you enjoyed the story! I you can share the link, I’d appreciate it. You can also leave a comment or drop me a mesage, I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, a donation via Paypal or a sub via Patreon would be a great help towards future, and better, endeavours!

Writing prompt used:

“Is this a normal Monday for you?” “No. The assassins usually try to kill me on Tuesday .” “Is that sarcasm?” “Yes, idiot, now get in the van before thry see you” [sidenote: I asked the writers who do this with me to not use the ableist tern ‘idiot’, and either replace it or rework the sentence – which we all did]

Prompt Short Story: Touched – Promises, Promises

Jenkin twirled the bottle in her flesh hand, the magnetised slide that ran out from the wrist of the other simultaneously spinning the cocktail shaker. As she slid the bottle across the barback to its home position, she upended the shaker into the iced glass, pouring with a flourish before sliding it down the bar, to stop exactly in front of the customer who had ordered the drink.

The next few drinks were mundane, and the magnetic slide returned to its home position just inside her left wrist, ready for its next use – be that the next cocktail, ensuring her safety knife couldn’t be taken from her as she walked home, or, really, anything else that she might need not to drop. Like cooking tools. That was the main reason she’d looked at the implant to begin with – hard to cook when you’re so clumsy everything winds up on the floor.

The monofibre that ran through it could be adjusted to ensure a variety of items stuck, as required. She didn’t really get how it worked, but the settings were adjustable from the eyeware that took instruction from her brain synapses, somehow. It worked, was the main point, and she had gone from scrabbling for jobs to pay rent on a oneroom where everything – kitchen, bed, toilet and stand-up shower – were in one tiny space without any doors, and which was about 8 paces wall to wall, to this job which, between pay and tips for the fancy moves, paid for a proper threeroom, meaning a bedroom, bathroom, and living room/kitchenette, all separated with doors. It was no palace, but it was hers as long as the rent was paid on time.

Jenkin snapped her mind back to her job, as another cocktail order was called, this time from a slender, masc-looking person, wearing sunglasses and a fitted monosuit beneath a plain dark t-shirt. Jenkin wondered, as she gave them the show, just how much of them was flesh, and how much tech. The expensive stuff was getting harder and harder to tell, though she guessed their eyes were of the more advanced type that still made a person look dead. Sunglasses worn inside were generally a giveaway for that.

As her shift drew towards the end and the place began to empty after last call, letting her start to clean up, she realised Sunglasses was still here. They looked up as she approached, and removed the glasses.

She inwardly noted that she’d been correct. Their eyes were a solid, pulsing, golden colour, and she suppressed a nervous shiver as they turned her way.

“Hi Jenkin.”

Their voice was a soft alto, accentless – like most who had escaped a poor beginning and reached a better, or at least richer, life.

“Hey. I know you? I’m sorry, I get a lotta folk through here.”

Their golden eyes were cold and lifeless as they stared at her, “You have no idea who I am, do you?”

“Sorry, like I said, I get a lotta-“

They began to sing. Quiet enough that nobody else would hear, but loud enough for her. The song flooded her with memories. Days spent exploring the undercity, chatting to the folk who lived down in the disused tunnels. Being grounded for it, waiting out the time, then doing it again. An unshakeable bond, a promise to get out, and to never leave the other behind. The sense of loss, of betrayal, when they left to work their own way up the ladder.

“The fuck do you want?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would take this long. I know I left, and I know I ghosted you, but I did that so I could get into a position where I could bring you with me. I knew if they caught me with you they’d judge me, and I’d lose any chance I had at getting you out.”

“You’re pretty smart, Deniel. Pretty sure you coulda gotten me one single message. Ever. To explain that. Instead you disappear for a decade, get yourself all wired and teched up, then show up just as I’m doing ok, to, what? Make yourself feel better? “

“To offer you a job. I’m starting my own firm, and I want you with me. It’s gonna be hard, and they’re gonna be pissed,and i’m gonna have to pay a shitton in severance to keep some of these implants, but it’s the only way I can be sure the entire thing isn’t prejudiced from the top down, and you’re the only person I want at my side.” They shook their head, “I can’t apologise in any way that’s acceptable, but please understand, I did do this for us, for our promise.”

Jenkin stared at them. It was quite an offer. And she knew how these firms worked – pick a talented person from the poorer districts, make them cut contact as part of their working contract, and fill them with tech they’ll never be able to afford to buy out.

But some managed it. Some with the drive to stay rooted, and not get caught up with the luxury and temptations that surrounded them.

They would catch hell for the rest of their days for not getting a message to her – at least to explain and give her hope. But maybe they were on the level. Maybe they at least deserved a hearing, if only to fulfill her side of their promise.

“Alright. Here’s my place,” she skimmed across her address, “Lemme finish up here and I’ll hear you out.”

They smiled, showing the smallest hint of the person Jenkin remembered, underneath the implants, and swallowed their drink. They gave her a staggering tip, and left the bar for, presumably, her place.

Jenkin took her time finishing up, seeing no reason not to make them wait a little, then headed home, ready to hear them out.

I hope you enjoyed the story! I you can share the link, I’d appreciate it. You can also leave a comment or drop me a mesage, I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, a donation via Paypal or a sub via Patreon would be a great help towards future, and better, endeavours!

Writing prompt used:

Writing Prompt. His eyes were cold and lifelessas hebstared at me. “You have no idea who I am, domyou?” www.worldsmyths.com

Prompt Short Story: Excavation

Tensae carefully brushed the dirt and dust of ages off the rectangular object one of the volunteers had excavated from the dig. Anthony, another of the volunteers, watched her closely,  excited as ever.

“Wait, an iPhone?” He exclaimed, comparing it to various data and matching the correct one. “One of those old things? Does it still work, d’you think?”

Tensae shook her head slightly, “Unlikely. We’ll test it, sometimes we can get them to hold power, but these things weren’t exactly built to last.”

Anthony looked disappointed but nodded, “Can I be there when you try?”

“Sure. But right now I need you back out on the site, we’re behind schedule on section 7.”

“Right you are, boss, off I go.”

Tensae watched him bounce off in the generally correct direction and set the old phone aside for tomorrow, when she would spend a day back in the lab in the city – apparently with Anthony for company.

They were finding valuable things here. Things that told the story of why the human race had collapsed. The weight of their own hubris, their selfish ways, so much power given to those least inclined to use it for good, manipulation of the population to direct their ire to the wrong places.

She looked out of the tent, appraising her volunteers, a mix of Stanisthesians and humans – heavily modified by her own species to survive on the planet they destroyed – and nodded in satisfaction. It would all make for excellent lessons back on her home planet.

I hope you enjoyed the story! I you can share the link, I’d appreciate it. You can also leave a comment or drop me a mesage, I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, a donation via Paypal or a sub via Patreon would be a great help towards future, and better, endeavours!

Writing prompt used:

“An iPhone! That old thing. I haven’t seen one of these in agss. Does it still w9rk?”

Prompt Short Story: Evolution

04/07, 4th AF

I woke up this morning after a dream about the time before the fall. Goddess, it was so real. Waking up felt like losing everything all over again. My inner therapist tells me I should write down dreams, thoughts, that stuff, so I figure now’s a good time to start. Let’s pretend you, dear reader who doesn’t exist, are an archaeologist from way in the future, and you want to know what happened. Well, let me tell you a little about it.

The world was slowly dying. Between late stage capitalism, selfish assholes, and the easily manipulated gullible (who then turned into the selfish assholes), we were killing everything. The air sucked, we melted the ice caps,  the weather patterns alone were enough to kill hundreds of thousands every year. But hey it was cool, cos the 1% that had all the money just shrugged and plugged money into keeping themselves safe (sarcasm still exists, right?). They established a moon colony and moved themselves and their  “staff” (more like slaves at this point) in. The rest of us got left behind. But we were plebs, so fuck us, right? If we wanted to survive we shoulda just not been so damned poor.

About 8 years ago, the extinctions began in earnest. It was like Mother Earth just went “fuck it”, hit the reboot button, and everything started shutting down. Before we knew it we were knee deep in dead-fucking-everything. Mammals, fish, lizards, insects, birds, you couldn’t throw a rock without it bouncing over a dozen corpses.

Seriously, like, everything was dying, except the humans. We wondered about that at first, then the rumours started. Photos, video, internet posts – was this another conspiracy theory or was it real? Turned out to be real. Humans weren’t dying. We were changing.

Scientifically, what I understand is that junk DNA – all those bits that never came to fruition, all the evolutionary paths that we didn’t go down – suddenly they started taking over. Imagine almost overnight going from brown hair and brown eyes, to pale blonde and blue eyed, because that recessive gene suddenly became dominant. It was that, but so much more fucking painful and scary. Because our entire bodies were forced to change. Within days someone would change from your standard human, into something totally new – it’d still be them, but maybe now they had talons and feathers and a beak. Or fur and all sharp teeth and eyes that could see in the dark. Or scales and a tail and a snout.I saw one guy I knew suffocate, cos we didn’t realise quick enough that he was changing into a fish thing and needed dumping in the water cos his fucking gills just grew in!

And the pain. I don’t know how to describe it. Like, your entire body was teething. Bones breaking, fusing, growing. Every bit of your skin feeling like it’s being nonstop stabbed by needles cos it’s moulting, or sprouting fur or feathers. Everything would change shape and purpose and it’d be days of nonstop agony.  Shit, just the transformations alone were enough to kill millions. Heart attacks, strokes, falls, suffocation like the fish guy, even starvation cos they didn’t know how to hunt – or didn’t want to. Suicides. So many fucking suicides, for a while it felt like sheer fucking despair would be the thing that finished the human race off.

But then, that was the thing wasn’t it? Were we still the human race? Scientists started coming up with names I still can’t spell or pronounce, for the new amalgamations – homo-whateverus and all that. I’m pretty sure that was mostly to try and persuade us all that we’re still some form of human, and I guess we are at that, we’re just not sapiens anymore.So the world fell. Or rose? I guess it’s all in how you look at it. If nothing else it convinced everyone to do something about what we’d done to our home. First we rebuilt on higher land. Architectural marvels appeared, connecting us to each other, giving us vertical farms and hydroponic power. We ate homegrown everything – even meat for the carnivores, proper synthesised meat, no more cattle farming. We began marking a new calendar – AF for After the Fall (yeah I know, boring name, but that’s scientists for you) – and we gave the finger to the rich bastards on the moon – they know not to come down here if they wanna keep their bits intact. To explain how this all happened and worked needs a better person than me – a smarter one. Besides, sitting in the position I need to type on my tablet hurts my nutrient hump after a while.

But here’s what I think. I think Mother decided that the only way we’d see and feel and realise what we were doing, and what we needed to do to fix it, was to turn us into the very things we were hurting.

Well, Mother, it worked. Some days I thank you and some days I curse you, but I can’t ever deny that it did the trick.

Hey, whaddya know, I actually feel better after writing this. I think maybe I’ll do it again. Maybe some tales from before the fall. Maybe some tales from after. I got plenty of both.

But I gotta get to work now.

You know, before all this, I worked three jobs. Bagging groceries in the day, waiting tables at night, then I sold nudes for extra cash when I wasn’t doing either of those. Honestly the last one was the best, weirdly the folk buying my body were more respectful than the customers in either the store or the restaurant. Go figure. And nobody could hold that job hostage like those fuckers did – lateness through no fault of your own or for emergencies, standing up for yourself, getting sick – everything got you a write-up and a pay dock, and then a firing, cos hey, they got a waiting list a mile long of other suckers desperate for a job to pay rent or eat.

I’m not sure anyone wants to see me naked anymore – physical attraction all got a little weird,  what with all the changes – but I only have one job now. 3 days a week I do upkeep on one of the hydroponics stations. We all get a basic money allowance, and we work for more if we want it – and 99% of us do even if it’s just because we want to contribute to this version of society. It works. We get what we need, and we get healthcare and shit, and then we make everything run ok. No more working to death just to live.

Alright, definitely gotta go to work. Dear future archaeologist. I hope your world is a good one and we didn’t fuck it up again. Peace out for now.

I hope you enjoyed the story! If you can share the link, I’d appreciate it. You can also leave a comment or drop me a message, I’d love to hear from you. And if you can, a donation via Paypal or a sub via Patreon would be a great help towards future, and better, endeavours!

Everything was dying, except tbe humans. HollowaysHideaway.com

Prompt Short Story: Duty

“The coordinates are wrong! Taking fire.”

“Shit! Beta team! Check in! Beta team!”

There was no response, just a hollow emptiness where even a quiet set of comms should have given a small hiss of white noise to show they remained active.

Bailey swore loudly. It was a setup and she’d fallen for it like the noob she was. She pulled off her headset, momentarily ignoring the cries from Alpha and Gamma teams, and took a long drink, from the nutrient tube that ran into her pod.

Fresh out of a promotion to Field Team Leader and her first mission was a shitshow. This wouldn’t stand. She couldn’t let it. Those were her people, and some of them had their real bodies on the line out there.

She activated her field ‘droid, smashing it out of its box and nodding to the salutes from the humans on Alpha team as she began issuing orders and moving forward with them: 3 warm bodies, 3 drones, and now her.

Continue reading “Prompt Short Story: Duty”