Still Turnstiles at Station 6

2 05 2016

Oh look! There’s life in this blog place yet!

Here is another flash fiction, courtesy of Chuck Wendig on Terribleminds.com. This week’s challenge was an extension of last week’s where we were asked to come up with a title. Out of those, Chuck selected ten and asked us to choose one for our story. I was torn between The Blood Lottery, The Blind Tattooist, but eventually ended up with:

Still Turnstiles at Station 6

At its peak, every day, close to fifty thousand people passed through Station 6 on their journey onward to other parts of the solar system and beyond. The other five stations processed just as many people, which made for total of three hundred thousand humans leaving the Earth every day at the high point of the evacuation.

 
At that rate, it would take nearly sixty-five years to get everyone off the planet’s surface, by which time, of course, it would be too late. So more stations were built, each bigger and capable of taking more passengers until there were a total of twenty-one stations that cut the evacuation time down to just around fifteen years.

 
Now, even as the planet drew its last gasp and the majority of the population had left the surface either by way of one of the twenty-one space elevators or by private spacecraft, the original six stations were deemed needless, while the new and larger ones continued to lift those few who were left on the planet. It was not just the end of an era, it was the end of a world.

***

“When are you going up?” Ellis asked, casually leaning back against the counter he was manning, looking out over the nearly empty hall of Station 6. Of the row of twenty turnstiles, only three were still in operation and the queues by them hardly had more than a handful of families in them. It was quiet in the grand entry hall. So much so, that the tired whispers of those still here echoed loudly throughout the large space, making it seem like it was filled with ghosts.

 
“I’m not,” said Calloway, shrugging her shoulders as she looked out of the huge windows toward the desert landscape that had once been the Amazon jungle. There had been life out there, once, Calloway knew, but now all that was left was a flat and desolate plain that might as well have been on the Moon. If not for the colour of the dirt and the glint of light reflected off pools of brackish water, you could easily be fooled into thinking that you were, indeed, looking at a lunar landscape.

 
“You’re staying?” he asked, surprise written all over his face. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for an Earther, Cal.” His brow furrowed as he looked at her more carefully, trying to determine if she was joking or not. “Really?”

 
“Really. And it’s not Earther, it’s Preservationist. Some of us have to stay behind to try to preserve what’s still alive, make sure the Earth doesn’t end up like Mars used to be. In fact, we’re already using some of their terraforming efforts to restart our own ecology here.”

 
“Right. But…” Ellis had no idea what to say to this new-found knowledge. He’d always just assumed that his colleagues here at Station 6 were all going to join the evacuation, same as he was. The idea of staying behind was, to him, so absurd that it never even crossed his mind. “You’re staying?”

 
“Yes, really, Karl, I’m staying.”

 
“But why?” he demanded, still not satisfied with the answer. He’d known Calloway for well over ten years now, and she had never even given a hint that she might be thinking of staying behind on a dead planet. It made no sense at all. Why would anyone stay on a doomed planet, a planet that would surely be hostile to any kind of life within a decade?

 
“It’s the right thing to do, Karl. We might not succeed, but we at least have to try, don’t you think?” she said, looking at him with an intent expression and a small smile playing at the corner of her mouth. “Besides, I don’t have a family. No parents, no siblings. No children. And my wife agrees with me. We’re staying here. We’re going to do our best to save this world, heal it as best we can. Is that so wrong?”

 
“No. I guess. No, it’s not,” he said, the echo of closing doors making him look toward the gates that led into the departure hall, where the last of those leaving from Station 6 were waiting for their ride to orbit. It was quiet now, in the entry hall. The turnstiles had stopped clicking, the missing sound of them filling the space and making every one of the attendants fall silent.

***

Calloway wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand and stood, letting out a light groan as her back protested from having been bent over for so long. She looked around her, letting out a sigh at the dusty landscape around her, her gaze lingering for a moment on the dark line drawn straight up into the air by the space elevator nearby.

 
It was nearly ten years now, since the facilities at the base of that one had been closed and some seven or eight years since the last of the elevators had been closed down for good. There were still spacecraft coming and going, but even that was a rare event these days. The rest of humanity had given up on Earth, and more and more, it seemed like they were correct in their assessment that the planet was beyond saving.

 
“Georgia!” Pauline shouted, her voice full of joy and wonderment. “Come here! Look at this!”

 

THE END





Nickname

25 03 2014

Tell the story behind your nickname, or the story of the most unusual nickname you’ve ever heard.

I’m going to go with my online nickname that I’ve used for some nine years now: ComradeCharlie.

Of course, on the internet, you need a username. My qualms about finding the ‘right’ one started when I joined LiveJournal wayyyy back in 2001 and lasted up until March, 2005 when I finally settled on ComradeCharlie. During that time, I must have had at least half a dozen usernames just on LJ and not a few more on IMs and email accounts. Needless to say, it was getting annoying changing my online name every few months.

But, to make a not so long story short, I finally arrived at my enduring username in March, 2005 and have kept it every since. And the reason behind it is so simple that I’ve sometimes kicked myself for not figuring it out sooner:

My RL nickname is Charlie, which is short for Charlotte (my first name) and I am a socialist. In American terms, that would be a bleeding-heart red commie, and I suppose in Danish terms I’m fairly far left-wing, too. Thus: Comrade. Put them together and you have ComradeCharlie, who I’ve been ever since.

It seems doubtful that I’ll change my political point of view any time soon, but if that happens, then yeah, probably I’ll have to change my username as well. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. For now, I’ve had nine years being ComradeCharlie and I’m still quite satisfied with the name. And, admittedly, a little unsatisfied that others out there have come up with the same idea. It’s difficult, isn’t it, coming up with a completely original username?

So that’s it, the story behind my username, and the first time I’ve used The Writer’s Block, which I bought months ago. And I got 313 words out of it. Not too bad for a first time, eh?





Reboot

2 01 2013

Hello again, blog!

Yes, I’m still here, alive and well. It’s a new year and so, as usual, I attempt to revive this blog with a New Year post of sorts. It’s also about a year ago that I started this blog and in that time I’ve made some thirteen posts, most of which have been flash fiction challenges set by Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds.com.

Anyway, in that year, there have been changes, some of them even corresponding to the plans (“resolutions”) I made in the very first post on this blog, exactly one year ago today. I’ve started exercising. Sure there was a break over the holidays (due to a toothache rather than any celebrations) and so far I haven’t lost much weight at all. I’ve made tiny steps into getting more healthy in the food department as well and am cooking a little now (rather than heating food in the microwave or oven), which is something I never did before. Still not as much as I’d like to, but it’s a start.

As for my flat, it’s all sorted out. All the mess is gone and I have new furniture (a sofa and more bookshelves) and got rid of other pieces of furniture that was just cluttering the place. My closet has been cleaned out as well and a lot of clothes were tossed out or donated. Could still pare that down more, I think, as I don’t really care about having a lot of clothes.

Getting up early is a big fat failure, more or less. I’m an extremely nocturnal creature and I do not appreciate being up before noon-ish. It not only kills my mood, it kills my very nocturnal muse as well and just makes me miserable. In that regard, I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as I’m unemployed (and more or less unemployable) there’s no reason to kill myself by getting up early.

Writing. Oh, writing! Well, I’m writing, but it’s for online roleplaying games and my own stories. And as evident by this blog, I haven’t done much of this blogging thing either. But I write pretty much every day, getting words out of my brain and into cyberspace where they are (I like to believe) appreciated by other people who share the same passion. And that makes me feel pretty good.

I was right, though. I said 2012 was going to be a good year and it was. It was the beginning of a new and better life for me and for that I am deeply grateful to those around me who have helped me in that endeavour and who keep helping. I could never have done this without you!

So, plans for 2013 are pretty much the same. Continue with the lifestyle change (it’s a bloody slow process, but the only way to go for me!) and get back to the gym at least three times a week, expand my cooking skills beyond pasta and omelets, and keep on writing both for my lovely roleplaying games but also get back into doing those flash fiction challenges and maybe, just maybe write a couple of short stories of my very own.

And that’s that: keep on keepin’ on.😀





The Deal

30 06 2012

Wooo! Been a while since I was active here. Well, still alive and kicking, and once more Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds put up a challenge that I just couldn’t say no to: Tell a story in three sentences and less than 100 words. Here’s mine. Three sentences, 49 words.

 

The Deal

Three silver coins lay glittering on the table’s dull surface, illuminated only by a single candle. The moment passed breathlessly and lingered forever as the two men held eye contact. A shot rang out and the coins were swept from the table by a scarred and blood-spattered hand.





Jump

25 04 2012

Yet another challenge from the master penmonkey, Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds.

Travel.
Travel — a journey of some sort — must figure into your story.
Moving from one place to another.
Point A to Point B.
Any genre.
Up to 1000 words.

This one is short, and probably more positive/fun than what I usually write. I might still be science fiction, but not in the obvious way. 653 words, according to Scrivener. Comments/critique is welcome too. Enjoy!

 

Jump

She stood at the edge of the cliff, looking down and down and down. Kneeling for a moment, she picked up a fist-sized rock and threw it down into the chasm below, watching it drop until she lost sight of it in the distance. Long way down, she thought with a wild grin and stepped back from the edge.

There were two ways down that cliff (well, three, but hitching a ride back down was a cop-out). You either climbed down, which was the long and hard way and the way gluttons for punishment did it. Or you jumped, and let gravity do the rest.

Seven or eight paces back she stopped and turned, took a couple of deep breaths and then, before she could change her mind, ran as fast as she could and leapt off the edge, into the abyss.

For a brief moment which felt like eternity it was like she just hung there, suspended in weightlessness, as if time had stopped and she was frozen in this one glorious instant, although somewhere at the back of her mind she couldn’t help thinking of Wile E. Coyote, making her want to laugh hysterically.

Time resumed and she dropped, the adrenaline surging through her body, making it seem like her heart had leapt into her throat to prevent her from screaming out her fear, joy and thrill, leaving her mind to do the work that her voice refused to do.

For long seconds she fell, head down with arms held close to her body and her legs kept tightly together, presenting as little resistance to the air as possible, heightening the sensation of speed better than any kind of powered flight could achieve.

Off to her left – so close it seemed she could just reach out and touch it – the red rock wall of the cliff added to that sensation of speed, outcroppings, handholds and all detail blurring together when she tried to focus on it and reminding her that any contact with that wall would spell disaster. Which, of course, only added to the exhilaration of the headlong drop.

A warning sound beeped in her earpiece, telling her that it was about time to think about deploying the wingsuit, at first just a friendly little pulse of sound, then as she pushed the envelope and kept her slim shape with arms and legs held back, the sound rose in volume and shrillness, until she couldn’t bear it – or ignore it – any longer.

Spreading out arms and legs the brightly coloured fabric of the wingsuit snapped out and caught an updraught, slowing her descent and levelling it out so she glided now instead of falling, replacing the sensation of speed and motion with that of flying like a sea bird.

The seconds stretched into infinity as she caught current after current until, at last, the pesky alert sounded in her ear, a warning that told her that the trip was coming to an end, that it was time to pull the cord for the parachute. By now, she could just about see individual rocks on the rusty ground and listened as the alarm sounded louder and louder, and it wasn’t until it had reached a shrill screech that she pulled the cord and floated gently the last few feet of her journey, her heart still pounding in her chest with the pure joy of it.

* * *

A voice spoke to her, saying her name.

“Hmm?” she muttered with a blink and was back in her office, her colleague sitting across from her with an amused look on his face.

“You were a million miles away,” he told her, lifting a questioning eyebrow.

“Yeah… I was,” she nodded with a slow smile, leaning back in her chair, a content sigh escaping her lips as she glanced at the drawer where the ticket to adventure lay waiting for the day to end.





Winter Stars

21 04 2012

Missed the deadline on last week’s Terribleminds challenge, but I wanted to post it anyway. The challenge was posted on April 13th, which was exactly two years to the day after my mother died. I contemplated writing about that, but found it too hard and too personal to put into a story. Maybe I’ll write about it in a regular blog post some day. Anyway, Chuck’s challenge was “Death is on the table” and went like this:

What all this means is, today we’re talking about death.

The Big “D.”

Demise. Dirt-Nap. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

You have 1000 words to write a short story that prominently features death. What that means is up to you, of course. And genre is also in your court.

But a death — or the concept of death, or an exploration of death — must be front and center.

I went the science fiction route as per usual and for once went a little long. 1043 words according to Scrivener. Hope you like.

 

Winter Stars

There were worse ways to die.

Lying paralysed by a laser shot in the back wasn’t bad at all. He felt nothing from below that point right somewhere around the upper thoracic region and he had a wonderful view of a clear starry sky overhead to keep him company as life slipped away. No, this wasn’t bad at all.

His eyes tracked the movement of a satellite across the sky, wondering briefly if it was looking down on him, recording these last moments of his life, but dismissed the idea since it obviously wasn’t geostationary. There were probably others up there, watching, he figured.

“Still alive, huh, Finnegan?”

Fuck! Couldn’t the bastards even let him die in peace?! Closing his eyes in frustration for a moment, he turned his head in the direction of the voice, then opened them again to look at the approaching silhouette of the woman. “Go away, Jules. You’re intruding,” Finn said, the words misting in the cold air as he spoke.

“You should be happy to see me,” she said, almost casually, as she set an aluminium case down beside him, then knelt in the snow, throwing back the fur trimmed hood of her down jacket. She flashed a smile at him, running a gloved hand through her dark curls. “I’m here to help.”

“Help finish me off before I freeze to death?” he asked and shook his head – the only part of him he could still move – then fixed his eyes back on the stars and the moving specks of satellites above. “Thanks, but no thanks. If you don’t mind, I’d rather take this the slow way.”

“I’m not here to kill you,” she said, sounding disappointed and hurt that he would think that. There was a light rustle in the night from her jacket as she shrugged and turned to open the clasps that held the lid of the case shut. “Then again, I’m not exactly here to save you either.”

“No…” he groaned, realising then what was going on and why Jules had arrived just as he was about to check out of this life. Bastards weren’t going to let him leave that easily.

* * *

“One more mission and you’re done, Finnegan. Your contract will be fulfilled,” Jackson said, sitting behind his desk with his characteristic Cheshire Cat grin, fingers laced together as he leaned back in his leather chair. “You sure you won’t sign an extension? You’ve done good work for us, you know.”

“Positive,” Finn said, a little too forcefully, but he wanted the Director to know without a doubt that he would never work for him or the Agency again. “I’m done with this kind of work.”

“Well… Too bad,” the Director said, shifting forward in his chair to put his hands on his desk, pale blue eyes studying Finn for a long quiet moment. Then, abruptly, he reached out for the data chip lying next to him on the desk and tossed it to the agent who caught it in a smooth motion. “Your next target. I suggest you pack your long johns. It’s gonna get cold where you’re headed.”

* * *

The mission had been fake, of course. He’d realised that too late, though, when the target had led him on a wild goose-chase out in the middle of bloody nowhere. He’d made a fatal mistake and knew that his mind hadn’t been properly on the job, and now he was paying for it.

“You’re here to…” Finn began, leaving the rest unsaid, not wanting to put words to it. Doing that would make it real and he didn’t want it to be real. This wasn’t something he’d agreed to, but then the Agency did whatever the Agency wanted. And that, he had known. He had been arrogant to think that he was exempt from that. Now he knew better and it filled him with a dread that was worse than the idea of dying.

“Yes,” Jules replied, doing him the favour of leaving the unsaid words unsaid. A slight hissing noise came next, as she lifted the metallic device from the foam inside the case, starlight glinting of it in the periphery of his vision as she moved it in front of her to inspect it. She pulled off her leather gloves – one after the other – using her teeth, dropping them in the snow beside her, then turned to look at him. “It’s time, Finn.”

She sounded almost sad, he thought, his eyes still watching the stars, while his mind had spiralled into a panic that his body refused to acknowledge and react appropriately to. The sniper who’d shot him sure as hell knew what he was doing and Finn had to admire that on some level. On another level, he cursed that sniper’s skill. A little to one side or the other, up or down and he’d be dead already, and his worst nightmare wouldn’t be coming true.

“Please. Don’t,” he pleaded, shocking himself – and Jules – with the fear and horror in his voice. “Just let me die. Please. I’m begging you, Jules. If ever —”

“I have to,” she cut him off, and he quietly thanked her for that even as she leaned over and pulled off the knit hat he wore, then slipped the metallic headband with its thin wires attached over his head.

He felt it contract and then thin needles stabbed into his scalp, though his skull and into his brain, the searing pain only lasting a second until there was…

Nothing.

* * *

“Finnegan,” the voice said, female and familiar. “Finn? Wake up. C’mon, open your eyes.”

“I’m awake,” he said. He felt numb, like a part of him was missing, something substantial and important, but he couldn’t put a finger on what it was. And he bloody well couldn’t figure out where he knew that voice from. Somewhere…

“It’s time, Finn.”

Jules.

“Why’d you do this to me?” he asked, opening eyes that weren’t his, turning to focus them on her as he spoke with lips that had belonged to someone else before they had Transferred him into their body.

“Because we own you, Finn,” she said with a cold smile and jutted out her chin in an authoritative gesture. “Now get up. You have a mission.”

 





Meet Charlie

30 03 2012

 

This is Charlie. He moved in with me today. Someone on Facebook asked me whether I adopted him or he adopted me. I’m still not quite sure about the answer to that one, although I did get him from a friend. The first few hours, he was very uncertain about the whole thing and hid under the sofa, but after I’d taken a nap (no cats allowed in the bedroom!), he seemed to have accepted this turn of events and decided that I’m pretty good at giving scritches. And also that my blanket is apparently very good at digging his claws into.

And yes, his name is the same as mine. Sure I could change it, but he’s 5-6 years old and imho, Charlie is a perfectly good name, so I see no need to give him a new name.

Oh, and look! New cat-egory! (har har)








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