Carried Away

The shop had all kinds of things. Toys, tools, jugs and mugs. Masks from far away, colourful clothes, gadgets of all sorts.

There, behind a basket full of cones and torches, something caught Ild’s attention. Two strange sticks with a little ball on the end of each one. The little balls emitted a green light.

The shop keeper looked at him with interest him as he walked closer.

-I see they have chosen you,

He had only one eye and a big scar across his face. He lacked several teeth as well, probably for other reasons. He grinned, but it was no friendly grin.

-Excuse me?

-They’ve found you.

-Wouldn’t that be rather I’ve found them?

-Whatever you say, the shop keeper said. -They’re yours, no charge.

He didn’t look like the kind of man who would give away things for free.

-What are they for? Ild sent him a sceptical glare.

-They summon things, finds things. Leads the way.

There was a long silence. Ild was about to speak to break the tension, when the man continued in a sudden, fierce tone.

-Take them! Get out of here!

Ild grabbed the sticks, looking confused at the man behind the desk. This was all very strange, but he was intrigued by the two sticks, the strange words, even the way the shop keeper acted.

-Er… Thank you.

The shop keeper laughed when he walked out of the alley. He could hear his laughter stronger and stronger as he walked down the road, as if it was following him.

He got home, looking at his new, glowing sticks. He liked them a lot. He waved them around a bit in the semi darkness, making lines and circles.

A greenish cloud appeared, shining, like northern lights, like stars. There was a face, first diffuse, unclear. Then solid, still floating.

-Come with me.

-W…Where to?

-To the lost city of balloons and wonders.To the city of Tor’ar.

They walked. They walked for a long time, up in the mountains, between high walls. They walked on paths no one had walked in a long time, paths long forgotten.

Balloons could be seen in the skies. A valley appeared, deep like an abyss, rocky, infertile.

-Here we are.

The other side was far away, the abyss was deep and wide. Ild sat down to rest. The hologram kept staring at the other side, waiting. Ild fell asleep.

He woke up by the sound of metal hitting rock. An anchor had touched the ground in front of him.

-Hop on! We don’t have all day!

A balloon was waiting for them. The driver had a vest on, and short pants. His one eye was sparkling a glow Ild knew from before. A scar across his face.

Stranger at Home

-They are coming! Squeak! Coming! The bird looked towards the castle far away on the other side of the fields.

-They are coming, they are coming! The other birds echoed through the woods. A war was about to begin.

The squirrel ran through the woods, wanting to get a good spot.

The soldiers marched. They were many, and heavily armed. The trees shivered as they passed by.

On the other side of the forest there was another land, vast, beautiful and fertile. A king ruled, better than most. According to the plan, he was not to rule much longer.

-Some battle, wasn’t it? The squirrel jumped back and forth between the branches. Blood was flowing, people were screaming. It was over.

-Some battle! Some battle! The bird flew off, over the battle field.

Perkel was lying under a pile of bodies. Some friends, other foes, all dead or dying. He was unhurt, but he didn’t move. Mercy would not be granted for anyone who was caught, and the army he had fought for was destroyed. The attack had been demolished.

Men started carrying the bodies away, putting them in piles further down. Perkel crawled down a ditch, reached the river. He let himself in, drifted away from the horrors he had been a part of.

A bird circled above him, watching him with interest. Further down he reached the forest. He pulled himself up, crawled in between the bushes. Lay on the ground, rested. Tried to get his mind back in place. It felt splintered, destroyed. Images of violence rushed through his inner eye, fear tormented his soul.

-Hi!

Perkel jumped around.  There was no one there. He grabbed a rock from the ground.

-Up here, silly! Squeak!

He looked up in the trees. The bird was looking down at him. A squirrel was watching from another tree.

-You escaped, didn’t you? The battle! You deserted! Deserted!

-I did. Perkel looked down, moving the grass with his foot. -I didn’t want to die.

-Well, you didn’t, did you? The squirrel jumped down a few branches, to get a better look. It seemed uprightly happy for him. -Now what you going to do?

-I have no idea… I can’t go home, that’s for sure. I’d be killed for deserting. And I can’t go back to the land we were attacking, My kind won’t be welcome there now.

The squirrel looked at him with its head on the chess. -There’s not many choices left, then, is there?.

-No choices! No choices! Squeak!

Perkel looked around. The forest was dense and wild, and he had no idea how to survive there. -How would I even find food? he said out loud, expecting no answer.

-There are nuts everywhere at this time of year, wouldn’t you know? The squirrel jumped up to a higher branch, threw him a cluster of acorns. -You’ll be fine, don’t you think?

-And bugs! Bugs all over! We’ll teach you! Squeak!

Perkel lived in the forest for years. When winter came closer, food was getting scarce, and he missed home, his family. His wife and child. He didn’t know how they were, let alone the worry he felt for them believing he was dead. Still, he stayed. There would be no pardon from the king if he returned.

His beard grew long and wild, so did his hair. The third year he made a decision.

-I’m going back home, he told the squirrel. -I need to see my family.

-You’ll have luck, don’t you think? I sure hope they will treat you right…

-I sure hope so. Thank you, my friend, for everything.

He walked through the forest, the way he had come long ago. He walked through the fields, hoping no one would see him. He reached his little farm in the country side.

There was no one there… (more)

Surveillance

The little OrginizerbotTM came running by, back and forth all day long. It was the best buy Miguel had ever done. It did the work of five employees and it never needed to rest.

He went into his office, threw his feet up on the table. Outside the sun was shining, birds singing in the trees. A good day for letting his all-automatic grocery store do its job.

-Hi, Hun! There’s dinner on the table. His wife Scarlet gave him a kiss. -I’m off to the gym, ‘be back in an hour or so. 

He turned on the virtual reality all-round Mind Hologram, and put a movie on. He lived the role of the protagonist, really experienced it. He even felt he had free will, all though everything went according to the script. Getting into fights without consequences. Having sex with other women without being unfaithful. His wife watched movies too, after all. Everybody did.

-Why don’t we go to bed early tonight, baby? Scarlet opened a button in her blouse. She was hot, very hot. The kind of woman all the men in the neighbourhood would die for. But to him it was just old paths and known territory. He wasn’t in the mood.

-I need to check some messages, my love. He got up from the coach.

There was something happening down at the store. Or rather, not enough happening. He got the surveillance system on and had a look.

The robot was working non stop as it always did, but he couldn’t see exactly what it was doing. It was always just outside of the cameras’ reach, as if it was avoiding them.

He walked through the bedroom. His wife was lying on the bed in her underwear. Staring at him, her back curved. He pretended he didn’t see it.

-I have to go, babe

-At this time? I was hoping we could have some fun…

-There something strange happening down at the store, sweetie. Don’t wait up! He left.

Scarlet fell asleep on the bed, the surveillance system still on. She dreamt about the shop, some sinister robot taking control. Her beloved husband was in trouble, tied up in a chair. She woke up with a scream.

-Let me go, now! Miguel’s voice was hard and decided, as he used to speak to his employees when he still had them. -Bad robot!

-I have no intention on comply…

Head Hunters

Terry kicked the ball straight past Brand.

“Hey! Attention!”

Brand was looking at the sky. It was changed, it had a yellow glow over it.

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we should…” The sound of sirens. Many sirens, all over town. “Maybe we should get home.”

Midway over the city hills the first military helicopters appeared. Fighter planes shortly after. Explosions.

“Damn! It looks like… war?”

“Who would invade America? Who could?”

Bombs fell. Several big explosions around town. The planes and helicopters fell. Some gunshots for a short while. 

Silence. An alarm going off in a distance. A scream every once in a while.

There were men walking somewhere further down. They all dressed the same, like if they had uniforms. From their shoulders there was a strange beam going up. They had no heads.

Terry grabbed Brand’s arm.

“Hide!”

They jumped behind some bushes. Lay down. The headless men walked by, marching like soldiers, but they saw no weapons.

“Oh, my God… We need to get home.”

Some men were standing up by the clearing where the pushers used to hang out. They looked at the headless men. One of them, a skinny guy, laughed.

“What are these guys?”

“Some disguises! Ha! Where are you going, nerds?

The headless men did not answer… (more)

Runaway Train

Even was driving his train through the beautiful countryside. He liked being a train engineer. The meditative tranquillity of the train following its tracks, the calm attention of keeping his eyes on the way and make sure the speed was as it should be.

-A bit more steam! He had shout to be heard over the noise. The fireman threw more coal in the fire.

Even laid back, watching the smoke from the chimney. This was the life.

The train stopped on the Droftville station. Fine people went on and off, beautiful, elegant men and women. Among them was Jessica Babbit. Her life in the spotlight had made her quite a fortune.

She sat down on the seat, looking out of the window. Touched the blue little tumour on her belly, the little lump she hadn’t told anyone about, that seemed to grow when she was nervous.

An old lady was sitting by her side.

-So, where are you going?

-I’m going into town. Paperwork, you know.

-Isn’t this beautiful? The old lady lent over Jessica, looking out through the window.

The train chooed on between tall hills and green forests.

Even looked ahead. There was a cow on the track. He pulled the chain. The whistle sounded through the valley, the cow looked apathetically up toward the train further up.

It didn’t move.

There was still a long way down, and Even stepped on the brakes.

-What the… They didn’t work. -Hmm. That’s odd, Even pulled the emergency break.  The lever came off.

With the lever in his hand Even looked in terror at the cow on the tracks. It was big enough to throw the locomotive into the field.

The little lump tingled a bit, as it usually did when Jessica was annoyed. The old lady kept chatting on about grandchildren and cake and how horrible things were these days. It tingled so hard it hurt. She touched it. It had spread, grown… (more)

Castaway

Please help me.

I’m stuck on this island, my boat is stranded. My shipmates are all dead. This will be the end of me if I can’t get away. Please, help me. Help me.

Ben Torkelson

He added the coordinates he had calculated from the stars.

His last bottle was thrown into the sea. The waves carried it away. On one side the ship was stuck to the rocks underneath, the rocks the storm had thrown it onto months ago. On the other side a deep abyss went into the darkness in the clear, transparent water.

He stood on the bridge, looking at the island in the falling darkness. The Rock. The silhouette made it feel threatening. A strange sound from somewhere in there. It couldn’t be a bird. There were no birds.

He walked down to his cabin, into the lower chambers. One staircase led further down to where the water came in. He had dived down there several times to get the cans and the bottles. The liquor helped the first days and weeks, but now it was just making things worse. There was hardly any left.

He looked out towards the sea, towards where he had come from. To where he had chosen to live. He turned towards the rock. It was black in the darkness of the night. Once again he heard the sound.

A rumble, like if it came from somewhere inside the rock, as if the rock itself was alive.

The next day he went in to the island with his little boat. There was no more food on the ship, and the island offered nothing, nothing at all, just rocky ground and stones. Even the fish seemed to flee the area, even the whales seemed to stay far away.

He climbed up on the highest point where he had build a pile of wood from the ship, looked out. There was something there, far out in the horizon. Sails. He rubbed his eyes, looked again. A ship was coming.

He lit the pile. The smoke was dark and thick. The fire was burning vividly. The sun was going down.

The ground shook.

The ship was turning his way.

The ground shook harder….(more)