Category Archives: Fiction Friday

Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber)

Scarab beetles. He kept randomly thinking of scarab beetles.

It was his own fault, really. Back when he’d invented the machine, he’d been so excited.

His experiments had started small. Five minutes, a few hours, a week into the past. He’d spent years keeping logs so they could be consulted before each trip. He didn’t want to run into himself, of course. As expected, it took surprisingly few bets to pay back the costs his researches had required. He’d experimented with a few changes here and there, but nothing major. Major changes seemed risky, and there was only one risk worth taking.

So many legs on those beetles. How could they coordinate?

He thought he’d understood time. It had seemed so obvious, so he set the big leap … the one he’d planned for. He’d worked out the paradoxes, found a place where the stasis bubbles could rest, undisturbed. He was going to save them. He was going to save them all, neatly stored in a deep cave. When he returned, he’d finally have them back. His friends, his family. All those lost in the Catastrophe would live again in their future, his present. It was going to work, he knew it.

But it was different. He’d anticipated the greater power. It was a deeper trip after all. He’d built safeties upon safeties, so if anything went wrong, he’d snap back to his present.

Shiny beetles, glinting in the sun.

He had thought time was elastic. It made sense, after all. You set the power spike and sustain, shoot back to your target then drop the sustaining power to snap back home. Every test worked fine. Evidence, of course, serves both to assuage fears and feed hubris.

The shallow trips, sure, he could bounce around all he’d wanted. But time wasn’t elastic. He was. How could he have known that time was brittle, that, when hit hard enough, time could break?

“Tink, tink, tink.” That is the sound beetles make when they hit the light, when one stays up far too late working.

The landing felt odd, but the immediate aftermath was the worst. The sky flickering between night and day. Sun, snow, rain, tornadoes shifting with no warning. His craft was broken, of course, and he was trapped. The longer he lived, at roughly normal rate, from the time he landed, the more things seemed to progress somewhat linearly. He’d finally come back into awareness in the aftermath of the Catastrophe. He’d lost all he’d loved, only to have lost them all over again.

He still experienced moments of missing time. He’d find himself with no recollection of what he was doing, eventually remembering. He’d always been somewhat absent minded, only now he knew that he was the cause. When he’d hit, when time broke, it shattered, scattering shards of itself forward and backward across decades. Shards of time lodging in his mind, in the minds of all those who had survived. Splinters of memories never to be.

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Distracted, he saw colours sparkling as beetles flew in the morning sun. The sun, as bright as the impact, temporarily blinding the world. The beetles, flying erratically as the lives he’d destroyed.

Sparks of red and gold mirroring his tears in the aftermath of the Catastrophe. Of his catastrophe.

Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)

It was all about the questions. That’s why. Few understood that, and the many stories about him, changing with each teller, didn’t help matters.

He wasn’t evil. He was curious. Sure, his life had been rife with error, but he prided himself in only making each mistake but once. The one everyone knew, however, he didn’t regret in the least.

In fact, in his long life, there was but one thing he wished to do differently. He thought of his friend, now gone. His friend was the explorer, the combatant. He stood against inequity, fighting all comers, regardless their strength. How often he’d seen his friend crawling home, bleeding, grinning from ear to ear … basking the joy of a fight, though lost, well fought.

He was used to it. He’d spent an eternity, it seemed, cleaning and binding wounds, then, during recuperation, talking philosophy. It all came back to one point of difference. He was cautious, his friend was not. He felt it important to respect power. Pain told you you’d overstepped your bounds. It let you know that you’d done wrong. He agreed that it was important to fight, but you should fight smart and only when you must.

His friend disagreed. He always said if you didn’t fight, you weren’t oppressed by another’s power but by your own fear. Only through fighting could you know, with certainty, the extent of that power. Only through constant testing could you improve, he said. Only by getting better, however long that took, could you eventually win.

That was the line, then, between them. His friend learned his limits by fighting while he learned by questioning. So when that fateful day came, his friend, the fighter, joined the revolution and he stayed behind asking about necessity, whether there was another way. His friend lost, as he often did. This time, though, he did not come home.

Since then, lonely, he had wandered asking questions. He learned from others, asking why they thought as they did, why they did as they did, particularly probing into areas where thought and action were in conflict. That was his reason for being … the questions.

“Why do you believe that?”
“What makes you think that way?”
“Who told you?”
“Were they right?”
“How can you know?”

Eons he had spent, trying to learn the truth, trying to find that line, behind which he could act and past which he could not … identifying choices, working with others to build a better understanding of the world. If he could know, truly know, maybe he could stop living in the past. Could his presence in the revolution have made the difference … if not to win, then maybe to plead on behalf of his friend, so they would still be together.

That was what kept him from sleep. Where was the line between action and inaction? Had he been wrong? Had his friend? Had they been predestined to be separated or had there been a choice? Had me made the wrong one?

Every minute of every day, he lived under the weight of the questions, never resolved, always pressing, pressing, pressing him down into the dust.

That thing with the tree? That was nothing.

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Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

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Once, he would count the days, then the months, then the seasons. Now, he didn’t even bother to count the years. Some days he was wet. Some days he was dry. He’d been hot. He’d been cold. On windy days, he just had to hold on more tightly. Those were really the only differences that mattered.

He had been asked to wait and so he would. Already he had been waiting past memory, what was more time? He would endure — burning sun, freezing rain, biting gales, parching thirst, gnawing hunger — it was just pain. He’d felt pain before, he’d feel it again. No, he had agreed to wait, so wait he shall.

She would, eventually, return.

He had faith.


As midnight approached, he could feel the veil thinning again. It had taken him years — teasing the truth from ancient myths and modern maps. The spot moved, somewhat erratically, but every month, he’d found it again. Near it, sometimes faint, sometimes strong, there was always that faint vibration that drove, unceasingly, under his skin and into his blood. Today, the barrier was weaker than ever before and, as he stared into the divide, he felt his very bones itch as though they were being gnawed upon by beetles.

Though he knew the it was physics, he thought of the feeling as a protection system. There was danger here.

He had expected the discovery of the realm to bring him great knowledge, wealth and fame. But it was distant and peering within proved beyond his skill. Listening though, was possible. He hadn’t expected to find another him, though, on the other side, listening too. They were wary at first, trading trivialities. But, as the years had gone by, the trust grew. If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? The experiments began.

Working with himself, they had found that exchange was possible. At first, the items were small: feathers, beads, coins. The larger the item, the more power it took to swap, each trade seeming to weaken the barrier and push the realms apart. They had worked their way up to photographs and books when the first tears began to appear.

They were running out of time. They had tonight, and tonight only, for the final trade. This would be the one that mattered. This one would break the tether, sending the realms spinning apart.

He stared into the distance, thinking of the life here he was soon to leave behind. He had prepared for his other as best he could. He had, however, hidden the full truth. Yes, curiosity was the driving force for their trading lives. He needed to see what was on the other side. But the war was drawing near. In the next few seconds, he would be not only an explorer, but also a refugee.

He felt bad for tricking his other. In time, perhaps, he could live with what he was about to do.


Though the pain of the crossing was intense, he caught his replacements eye as they passed, shredding the veil. He felt both elation and sorrow, as he prepared to explore a new land, while trapping another in the life he could no longer live.

Then he felt nothing but fear, as saw the same in his other’s eyes.

Blue Tree Monitor (Varanus macraei)

Halfway up, he pauses, questioning.

His instructions were as specific as they were simple. Climb to the top. Do not speak. Do not look back.

Violating any rule would bring ruination. It would be the end of all he had worked for. Stealing the map from the mammoths of Lyrcea. Choosing a reed from the Minnorie, making from it the flute, and charming the guardian of the gates. The eons of walking across the shards littering the floors of the caves of death. Arrival. The endless days of debate and negotiation. All for the goal he finally achieved, that he knows is almost his. Behind him, unseeable, unhearable, unsmellable, trailing.

At least, he thinks. He hopes. But he how can he know?

Can he really trust the lords of the dead? Stories abound, of tricks and lies, of slippery words and slithering tongues. True, he’d done his best. He’d driven a hard bargain, given up less than he had feared. Yet, was it too little? Should it have hurt more, cost more?

He re-runs the talks in his head. Did he err? He had traded years of his life and half of his soul. Was that enough? What was the value of a year, to those that lived forever? What was the value of a soul, to those that had a multitude? He had wagered his skill against their champion, and won. But had he? For a champion, she had seemed flawed. Surely she could have sustained higher trills and more mournful lows. Why did she give it less than her all? Was he truly more motivated, as he had thought? Had she felt some measure of pity?

Or was it a trick?

It may have been. Perhaps in a century, stories would be told of his folly in the underworld. How he had hazarded it all and been played a fool. He wants to look back, to calm his fear and assuage what remains of his soul. A slight turn of the head, a shift of the eyes, and he can know.

But no. He will climb to the end. Or until, unable to continue, he will fall, damning himself and his love forever to death. No. If he is to fail, it will not be from weakness.

He pauses, tensing his muscles, resting a mere moment, then continues his climb.

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His crime was saying “no”.

When his brother asked him, he said “no”. When his chief demanded, he said “no”. When his wife and daughter begged him, tears streaming down their cheeks, he said “no”.

He would not fight.

The tribe geared for war, each soldier, in turn, giving him a scornful look as they marched. The spouses left behind watching them go, then turning to look, anger glaring from their eyes.

His next chance came with the priest, initiates trailing, hauling a heavy cart. He responded affirmatively to each of the priest’s inquiries … all but one. Yes, he loved his family. Yes, he cared about his friends. Yes, he knew what he should do, what he had been raised to do, since he was a child. But no.


He would not fight.

With a sigh, the priest motioned and the cart was drawn near. Out came the shackles and chains. He did not resist as he was lain in the cart. His only movement, closing his eyes against the bright glaring sun, as he baked in the fiery summer heat, each rock beneath the cart’s wheels lancing pain into his back. Two hours later, he was held at the alter, panting, bleeding.

The priest asked one last time.

Parched from the heat, he could no longer speak. Instead, one slight shake of his head and the priest sighed released him, collapsing between the two standing stones and upon the altar.

There, in a torrent of smoke and flame, he beheld Tekaletali. The god of his family. The god of his tribe. The god of War.

Tekaletali stared and he withered, charring under the gaze of the god. Then he felt the voice, reverberating through the very core of his being.




He felt himself transformed, stretching, down into the earth, immobile against the sharp piercing rocks, skin cracking in the heat of the sun.

Eons later, there he stays, long after his tribe is gone, vanquished and slain. The alter stones, worn by the winds, broken and pillaged by the enemies of his tribe. All traces of his home, his people, gone. Bones, stones and moans, all turned to dust. And there he stays, forever living, forever bleeding, a blind and mute witness to the passage of time.

He did not have to fight.


Sand Cat (Felis margarita)

A year wasn’t enough.

She remembered them, small and mewling. She remembered their loud purrs, echoing in their cave throughout the night as they suckled and slept. Later, she’d bring them meals, carefully parceled out for their tiny teeth. A gerbil a day, perhaps a hare. They grew so quickly. Soon they were hunting on their own.

The grasshoppers were amusing. It took them a while to master the technique, but until they did, their hops, alerting the grasshoppers … a passel of bouncing across the desert.

As they grew, they pursued greater prey. Jerobas, larks, geckos, all eventually fell to their tiny claws.

She’d lost one to a viper. That had hurt, but the others had helped. Her family reduced by one, she became more careful, collecting the threats, one by one. She showed them all the tricks, ensuring they knew how to attack. Snakes, from behind. One massive strike to the head preventing another. Scorpions, flipped, removing the sting with the sand. She’d tried to teach them of drought, but that is a lesson they would need to learn on their own.

She knew it was time when their play took them further afield. Some nights, one wouldn’t return, and her heart would race a bit faster. They’d be there come morning though. All but the one she’d lost — the brave one. She hoped the others would be brave, but not too brave. They gradually moved further, coming home less and less often. Until now, when none returned. Three nights she’d watched, hoping, waiting.

Tonight, she just listened.

She thought she heard one, off in the distance, the soft slide of sand cascading down a dune. She imagined another, far in the East, lazing after a kill, first to see the sunrise. She hoped for the best for them, but knew her time with them was done. She’d done her best. Made them as strong, as quick, as smart as she could. Their lives were their own now. She knew it was right. She knew it was proper.

Still, a year wasn’t enough.

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Potto (Perodictus potto)

They feast on dreams.

They weren’t always this way. Their dreams were once glorious. Songs were sung in lilting verse of the deeds done by their heroes. Poems recited over an entire day, yet kept their audience in constant rapture. Epics sculpted into entire cities, homes for the future forever telling the stories of the past. A single dream could feed a clan for a week and be crafted into dances, novellas and watercolours.

But they grew jaded. The greater their successes, the more they saw their flaws. Their dreams became reinterpretations. Impressions fed impressions — a single thread of dream stretching into the distance past. But it wasn’t enough. In the pursuit of ever higher art, they hit the limits of dream. They began to experiment with forcing dreams of specificity. Such dreams were less succulent, less filling, but created such art. Vivid colours, stark shapes and contrasts. A song of beauty crafted from nothing but two notes alternating with various patterns. A drama created for audience and of the audience, with no script but the prompts found on props. Such work was talked about far and wide.

But it faded fast.

New and increasingly garish works were required, so they experimented with pain. The pain of life infected the dreams, and painful dreams were ever so delicious. The art became darker. Images of blood and ravens. A single feather resting on a dusty mirror. A thorn pressing, not piercing, the eye’s surface. The slow, steady thumb of bass replacing the heartbeat of the dancer until they lost all sense of self in the inky black.

Such art was beautiful in its despair, but they could not survive on the dreams. They tried to recapture their dreams of old, but the truth and elegance was lost. In the pursuit of ever better art, the very art of dreaming was lost.

So they turned to others.

They tasted the dreams of the bluebirds and wove them into mile-long tapestries of cloud and wind. The dream of a tortoise was small and hard, slow to digest, but had such depth of meaning. Operatic cycles are still being written from the nugget of the first tortoise dream ever harvested. Hummingbird dreams were hard to collect and dissolved quickly, but evoked kinetic sculpture so light and fast that it seemed to move without effort.

They became addicted, seeking wider experiences, forming packs, learning to hunt.

They hunt best alone. They make small … adjustments to lives. The frustration of a misplaced item, joy of an unexpected find, despair from a total loss, any of these with twist a dream. It can take many weeks to craft the perfect dream with the right mix of broken hearts and blush of love, of the rush of success or the crushing pain of loss, of thrilling life and yawning death. Then, when their prey are right on the brink of collapse, they lurk in the dark, waiting for the right moment to strike.

They just need you to fall asleep.

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Florida Orb Web Spider (Nephila clavipes)

It started as a thrum, soft, almost unnoticeable. Some felt it as a slight sense of unease. Some, a dull worry. At first it was the sensitive ones, the artists mostly. They spoke of the changing times, wrote music, painted, sculpted. It was an age of widespread creativity. Then it was the protectors, who worked with the artists to create edifices of magnificent beauty and function.

But it wasn’t enough.

The thrum became an itch. A slight tingle in the center of the brain, more insistent year by year. More noticed. Artists became activists. Defenders became fighters. War raged — without regard for country or creed. Those in power needed battle. Those oppressed needed to fight. Only action could scratch the itch, could make it tolerable. If one couldn’t fight in person, one could fight by proxy … watching or controlling avatars on screens.

But it still wasn’t enough.

No longer an itch, it became a steady vibration interspersed with a beat. Everyone noticed it now. They felt driven. They feared. They panicked. They began to accumulate wealth. Those with the most needed the most. Those without defended themselves through community. They drew together, into conclaves of outrage. Lines were drawn, crossed, and drawn again. War raged again, but more personally, more viscously.

But the vibration continued, the beat grew ever stronger.

One day, a city vanished, crumbling into rubble overnight. That’s when they realized it wasn’t all in their minds. Sensitive instruments were developed. Detection and triangulation pointed towards a source. More machines were built. Machines that could see further than before, deeper than before. Five more cities crumbled before they succeeded, when the universe began to become clear.

They saw their world, a mere dot, connected to many many others. They began to understand the vast distances they knew of and the newly discovered, thin tendrils linking them together. They developed new technologies to talk to nearby worlds. Those nearer the source had nothing to offer but broadcasts of immense devastation. Looking further, there was nothing but planets in shards, glistening among the blue. The looked away from the source and detected pristine worlds, though some with evidence of growing war.

Still, cities crumbled, islands sank, volcanoes erupted and then melted into oblivion.

They improved their technologies. And, in seeking at greater and greater distances detected nothing but dead and dying worlds in one direction and oblivious and silent ones in the other. They tried to seek even further and saw nothing but mist in the deep distance and, occasionally, movement.

Then their moon exploded, scattering splinters across the cosmos.

They felt utterly alone.

But they weren’t.

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Buff Cheeked Gibbon (Hylobates gabriellae)

She returns to the spot where it happened. It’s not everyday. Sometimes weeks will go by with nary a thought to that day. But eventually, she returns.

She remembers her joy that day, the opportunity. It was glorious. Finally, her day in the light. She was noticed. She was with new friends, building a new life. She was elated when she returned, anxious to share her news with him.

But he was gone. He was gone and she hadn’t been there. Would it have happened if she had said no? If she had kept the date? If it had, could she have saved him? Would they have died together? Would they have lived, returning together to this point to share a different memory entirely?

Maybe. Maybe not. But she would know.

Not knowing is truly the worst.

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Potto (Perodictus potto)

Your fiction talks of dimensions as other places, but you are wrong. You know of length, width and breadth. There’s also time, though your pitiful species is limited there. There are, however, others: Blerf, fnirf, and sglorf, the three other so-called spacial dimensions. There’s also thmop and yjilk, completing time’s triad.

It is typical of your arrogance to think that your perception of our world is complete. You see us as stupid and slow, completely oblivious to all we do elsewise and otherwhen. For three millenia, in how you measure time, we’ve been watching. We’ve been planning. We’ve been preparing. What you see is placidity is debate, development and experimentation.

It is the damage.

Only recently have you become aware of the damage you do and the death you deal, but you are limited. You see only what you cause where you perceive, remaining ignorant of the widespread devestation. You speak now, centuries too late, of endangered species. But what of the lost and leaking lands, polluted with your chemicals and fractured from your wars. What of the sky? Even with your limited senses, you must see it has changed. You must somehow sense the echoes, the ripples from the gaping craters just outside your perception. Even the oceans. You test them and find them warmer, more acidic. You don’t see them cut, bleeding, lacerated by your tankers, poisoned by your spills.

We can wait no longer. Our army is formed. Our plans are made. Spend your final hours making your peace.

We are coming through.

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Their missions have varied. As spies, their information has toppled empires. As messengers, they have ex-filtrated secrets from the most guarded regimes. As warriors, their carefully planned assaults have removed threats that the world has never seen and that will never be known. Still, throughout the centuries, they have been guided.

He is old. He fought against them in the war. Though he helped win many battles, he was eventually taken prisoner during the Seige of Nkya and, as prisoner, selected for experimentation. The pain was tremendous. Though he did not know it at the time, it was worse than any of his kind had ever felt. However, the experiment was a success, at least in some respects. He found he no longer aged. He learned it not from his captors, but from his fellow prisoners as they died, slowly, one by one.

He lived, albeit in crippling pain. He survived the war. He survived the next war. And the war after that. Yet he remained, ever, a prisoner. He’d watch as other prisoners were taken and eventually died. He’d watched his captors age, and die, only to be replaced by the next generation. Tenscore of their generations went by before he even realized that they had a language. Even then, it took another fifty generations and half as many years before he could truly communicate with them.

These days, he is still held, though his prison no longer seems as such. He receives their reports and helps them to understand their implications. He explains meanings — why they must die, who the next generation must become, and what they must do in the process.

Though his people are gone and the wars of his age now seem meaningless, he has found something new. No longer a prisoner, he now serves as their memory, their intellect … their conscience.

He ponders, sometimes, if he would have chosen this life, had he been given a chance. He thinks of the evil he has fought, if only by proxy. He thinks of the lives he has formed and guided and the friends he has seen leave his world. All told, he has come to believe that a life with meaning is better than one without, and one with deep meaning is better than the shallow meaning of constant war.

Still, he does wish that, even if only temporarily, the pain would cease.



She’d been living in the woods for weeks. It took a while, but she was able to adapt her skills from the streets to her new environs. Stealing a gentleman’s wristcomp wasn’t all that different from snaring a grouse. Street rats and squirrels both gathered caches of food that could be pillaged if you watched and waited. Keeping an eye out for coppers, even when sleeping, required the same ever-present awareness you needed to avoid the invaders.

Until today.

Today, in fleeing one triad, she ran into another that she has not sensed. Though she successfully got away, she found herself in a part of the forest she’d never seen before. She could hear both triads off in the distance, looking for her. Taking a few deep breaths, she forced herself to calm down and she climbed a tree to ascertain her whereabouts. Though she saw nothing familiar, there was a glint of sun coming nearby from the green. She marked hew way to the water, hoping that she could lose her scent.

Before she could climb down, though, there was a tremendous flash far off in the distance that could only mean one thing. The dome had given way. London had fallen. As she watched, fighter pods converged where she knew the city must be. Letting a sigh, she climbed down and, resignedly, made for the lake. She knew it wouldn’t last forever, but living half starved in the wild was better than the half-life she could expect were she captured.

The noise of the triads pursuing her faded into the distance as she neared the lakes edge. Exhausted, she waded to her waist and stopped, staring down at her reflection. She thought of her friends (and enemies) in the city and the fate that was almost certainly befalling them. She thought of the life she wanted, but now could never have. As she watched, a tear fell, ripping the still waters.

Then she heard a voice. “It is time.”

As the water began to bubble, the voice spoke. “Long, long, ago, this day was foretold. Seize your weapon. The future rests on you.”


As she stared in astonishment, a perfect flamingo rose from the depths, shaking itself three times. As if in a daze, she reached out, and grasped its leg, preventing it from flying free.

It was England’s darkest hour.

And Alice was armed.