Is It A Bird?: ‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #30 NEW Image Prompt. Join in the fun! #IARTG #ASMSG @pursoot #WritingCommunity
Hi everyone! It’s that time of the week again …fun flash fiction from Suzanne Burke. I’m right at the 750 word limit this week. Here’s the short story I came up with >>>
Is It A Bird?
‘Is it a bird?’
Josh turned an incredulous stare on Mac. ‘Since when are birds that shiny?’
‘Or that big,’ Meemie added.
Mac flushed beetroot. ‘I-I remember these.’
Meemie tutted. ‘Kid’s stories. Ape.’
The sky rumbled, and the friends stood and stared while trying not to show how much their bodies shook.
In a breathy voice, Josh asked, ‘Was that it’s roar?’
‘Engines!’ Mac shouted, face alight with glee. ‘I read about these.’ He scrunched his face up in concentration. ‘Aeroplanes.’
Josh and Meemie shook their heads. ‘Those aren’t real.’
Meemie repeated her earlier insult.
Stubborn, Mac retorted, ‘We’re all apes compared to what we used to be.’
Josh stood akimbo. ‘Okay, clever clogs. Where did it come from? If that stuff did used to exist, why haven’t we seen anything like it until now?’
Mac’s flushed face paled. ‘It’s nothing good.’
The trio gazed into the sky—now devoid of strange gleaming beasts. The only sign of the object’s passing came from a column of cloud, which slashed across the sky like an omen. A definitive divide between before and after.
Mac told his friends, ‘That’s a contrail.’
Josh swallowed audibly. ‘Well, if those stories are true, we should head back in.’
Meemie nodded. ‘And find the stash of masks.’
A sudden gust of gritty air struck the threesome in the face. As one, they staggered backward and coughed. With their eyes scrunched shut, they groped blindly for one another’s hands. Strung together, they fought their way through the increasing gale and tried to find their way back to the entrance to the underground bunker. The bare concrete space had been their home since before any of them could recall. Only their grandparents remembered up-top from before. And only a couple of weeks ago had the youngsters received permission to venture out.
Through the dust cloud, searing heat suffocated and burned. Somewhere off to their left, a woman’s high-pitched scream reached them. The wail of abject despair entered Mac’s ears, ricocheted around his brain, and then fell—leaden—down into his gullet.
Mac oriented his feet toward that awful moan of dejection. Even though hopelessness curled and rolled through his intestines, he pushed onward and pulled his friends with him.
The hatch stood closed.
Horrified, Mac gaped first at Meemie and then at Josh. Their reddened, blistered faces frowned back at him. Neither one comprehended. Not yet.
Mac sank to his knees and grabbed a fistful of the deadly dirt. Slowly, he let the grains drain through his fingers.
Meemie and Josh crouched either side of him. Meemie tugged at his elbow. ‘What’s happening?’
Mac recovered from a coughing fit and stared at the impenetrable hatch. He wiped tears from his eyes, only to find that more followed. The only water to be had in this barren wasteland. ‘I guess they came back to finish what they started.’
Josh still tried for amused disbelief, ‘The wars finished decades ago.’
Mac shook his head and opened his mouth, but Meemie said it for him, ‘Great Grampa remembers.’
‘Which means that they remember too,’ Mac said.
Josh’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times. ‘But why’d they shut us out?’
Mac worked hard for patience. ‘We’re contaminated now. Look at us.’
Meemie said, ‘We’d just take it back in with us.’
Josh asked, ‘But what will they eat?’
The friends shared a look. The only reason they’d risked coming up-top was to forage. The stored supplies were almost exhausted.
Josh looked skyward—or where the blue-white expanse would have been if not for this dust-out. ‘Did the aeroplane do it?’
Mac shook his head and spat grit from his tongue. ‘Nah. Trying to escape, I reckon.’
Meemie murmured, ‘Did they make it, do you think?’
Just then, a boom sounded from behind, and through the thick dust, they could, dimly, make out a black plume of smoke.
Quietly, Mac said, ‘I don’t think so.’
‘But, why?’ Meemie wailed.
Finally, some common sense and unfortunate cynicism came from Josh, ‘Why not? The ones who count are all on Mars by now.’
‘But we count too.’ Tears streamed down her cheeks.
Mac pulled her into his arms, and Josh embraced both of them. Mac whispered, ‘Yeah, we do. We count.’
Josh pulled away suddenly. ‘If those stories are true …’
Mac’s heart lurched and then sped. ‘The last lunar pod …’
Meemie grinned, even though it must have hurt through those blisters. ‘Let’s take our contaminated selves to Mars.’
© Harmony Kent 2021
I’d love to know what you think of this short piece … so please don’t be shy and leave me a reply.
Have a great week, everyone!
Please put your entry (or a link to it) in a comment HERE or email it to Sooz at her email address. by DEADLINE: 4pm EDT on Thursday, January 7th. Subject: Fiction in a Flash Challenge. If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to THIS page would be much appreciated.
UPDATE: The response to the prompts has been just wonderful. As a result, Soooz be sharing all entries received, and her own contribution on her blog AS SHE RECEIVES THEM. Rather than posting all of them only over a few days.
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