Thursday, August 29, 2013

Prompt: When the last one leaves, part 3

“Miriam, please don’t die. Please try to come into the kitchen. I have medicine that will help you. Cool water. As much as you want. We have plenty, and I’ll collect more. Please, Miriam.”

Alice’s voice couldn’t sound any different, but it did. Miriam heard desperation. Alice was afraid. The thought shocked her into movement. She rolled onto her stomach and pulled herself with her left arm, pushing with her left foot.

“Okay, Alice. I’m coming. Do we have any strawberries left it the vaccuum packs?”

“Yes, we have 27 packs remaining. Would you like me to pull one out for you?”

“Yes, Alice. I think I deserve a reward for this,” Miriam’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Yes, Miriam, you do deserve a reward. Please continue into the kitchen and I will have it ready for you.” Miriam heard relief in Alice’s voice. She kept crawling.

“These are the best strawberries I ever had. Thanks, Alice,” she leaned over the counter so she could use her left hand to eat and drink, to swallow the medicine Alice had dispensed hours earlier. She climbed down and lay on the cool kitchen floor. “Alice, I’m going to sleep again. Two hours, okay?”

“Okay, Miriam. Please wake up. Miriam? Please wake up? Miriam?”

It didn’t feel like she had slept at all. Her whole body ached. Wait. Her whole body burned. She looked down and tried to move her right hand. It flopped feebly on the floor.


“What, Miriam?”

“I have feeling on my right side, and I can move my hand a little. I think I’m getting a little better. I need a bath, to clean off my butt and legs. They’re a mess.”

“I’ll heat water so you can have a hot bath when you get into the bathroom,” Alice promised. Miriam heard the relief in her voice.

Her right leg was feeble and uncoordinated, but she made much better time into the bathroom and soon pulled herself into the most luxurious hot bath she had ever felt. Her skin burned, and she reveled in the feeling.

“I guess I’m not going to die today, Alice.”

“That’s good, Miriam. I don’t want you to die.”

“Why not?” Miriam asked, drowsily waving her hands back and forth in the water. When Alice didn’t answer, she looked up. “Alice? Why don’t you want me to die?”

“I don’t want to be left here all alone,” Alice finally said.

Miriam leaned back in the tub. She had always thought she was the last one left. “I know, Alice. I know.”

TBC (perhaps)

Dogs in house

Time writing:
~1 hour (all three parts)

August word count:

Prompt: When the last one leaves, part 2

“I had another afib, and a stroke, I think, this time. I can barely move. I wish Jacob had finished your mobile functions before he died.”

“I do too, Miriam. Can you come into the house? What do you need?”

“Water. Food. Medicine. A bath. My butt hurts.”

“Your butt hurts?”

“Yeah, never mind. I’m coming. Can you dispense those things for me?”

“Yes, Miriam. They will be on the kitchen counter when you come in. I can’t dispense them on the floor. Can you get up?”

“I’ll figure something out. Alice?”

“Yes, Miriam?”

“I think I’m dying.”

“Please don’t die, Miriam.”

She laughed weakly, having pulled herself into the center of the main room. “I’ll try, Alice. I think I need to rest here for a little bit. Don’t let me sleep more than two hours, okay?”

“Okay, Miriam.”

She dreamed. Air Force training, the NASA trials, falling in love with Jacob on the Space Station, the trip to the Mars Station. The longer trip to Vermella, named for the Finn who discovered the red dward star with three planets, the farthest with a breathable atmosphere, once you got used to the nitrogen tang.

The crash. Holding Sarah in her arms, the first to die. Building the house from the wreckage. Burying Ben, their captain, their fearless leader. Burying Jacob. Burying Andrea, the last to die.

Waiting, always waiting. It had been more than long enough. Why had no one come? Not even a Rover probe to check on them? After Andrea died, Miriam quit counting days, noting them in her journal. She explored. There was nothing here. No vegetable life. No animal life. She planted the garden stores they had salvaged, and it grew and bloomed unchecked. She let it go. It was years since she had dreamed of meat, chocolate, wine, cold beer, her mother’s chili.

“Miriam? Wake up. Miriam? Wake up. Miriam? Wake—”

“I’m up,” Miriam croaked.

Alice said, “Good. Come into the kitchen. I have the things you asked for here.”

Miriam groaned and pulled herself up to sitting, then rolled back onto her side. Her bottom and legs were raw. She looked down and saw blood on the floor where she had come in. Tears sprang to her eyes and she gasped, a choking sob.

“I can’t! Oh, Alice! I’m going to die here!”

To be continued...

Dogs in house

Time writing:
~1 hour (all three parts)

August word count:

Prompt: When the last one leaves, part 1

Miriam felt the now-familiar fluttering of her heart and lay down on the ground before they reached their peak. This time, a shooting pain lanced up from the back of her neck up through her skull. She felt like the top of her head might explode. Darkness.

When she woke, she could not feel her right side, and she wondered how she would get home. The red dwarf sun had set, and the moons were already high. At least it would not be completely dark. She slept.

There was nothing to disturb her, not even an ant. Nothing to see her distress, not even a bird or a buzzing insect. No one to rescue her. Her lips were thick and dry when she woke. She fumbled around with her left hand and found her water bottle.

Two swallows. That’s all she ever allowed herself. It took so long to capture the condensed water vapor from the air, she felt the need to save as much as possible. This was a rather exceptional situation, of course. She gave herself two more long swallows.

She could rock, side to side, and when she finally rolled onto her useless right side, she pushed herself up with her left hand, straining all the muscles she could feel to pull herself sitting upright. The moons were bright in their apposite orbits, and they would give her good light for most of the night. She tried to estimate how far she was from the house. How long had she been walking?

Sitting, she could push with her left leg and help with her left hand. She felt ridiculous. It was a long time since she had felt self-conscious. Mainly she was glad she had worn her threadbare jumpsuit for sun protection that day. She rarely bothered with clothes any more. She could feel the fabric rubbing and tearing against her bottom and the backs of her legs. So much for the jumpsuit. She grimaced.

The moons had crossed by the time she pulled herself close enough to see the house. She had only two swallows left in her water bottle, and she promised herself she could drink them as soon as she reached the porch. In the moonlight, she could see past the house to the headstones lined up in a military-straight row. “Should I pass the house and come lie down with you?” she thought to her old friends. She rarely spoke aloud any more. Only to Alice.

“Alice, I’m hurt,” she said, lying on the porch after she drank her last two swallows of water.

“How are you hurt?” Alice said in her uninflected voice.

To be continued in part 2...

Dogs in house

Time writing:
~1 hour (all three parts)

August word count:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Prompt: Sunlight in the Factory

Thanks to Alexandra Semushina for permission to use her beautiful artwork, "The Factory"!

Dhen popped the last widget from the stack of frames in front of him. He dropped the widget in the full tub on the standing conveyor belt, and the empty frame on the lower beltThe digital display flashed 90 seconds. Good, he’d kept up his steady speed and earned a little break. He laid down his small pincers and hammer and stretched his arms overhead, popping his shoulders as he bent backwards, reaching his hands to the floor. Resting all six fingers on the floor, he pressed up and down, sliding his vertebrae against each other in relief.

Mhek dropped down beside him, stretching his long legs under the quiet conveyor belt. “Do you ever wonder?” He asked quietly as he flexed his feet forward and back, up and down, side to side.

Dhen glanced over with raised eyebrows, then up to see if any of the floor monitors were around. “Wonder what, you egghead?”

Mhek rubbed his bald head ruefully. “Wonder what it is we make here.”

Dhen shrugged and swung his body upright, reaching down to pull Mhek standing. He tugged Mhek close for a moment. “Don’t wonder. Not in here. And not aloud.” He pushed Mhek away and said loudly, “I did not get my frames on your side!”

Mhek looked puzzled, then nodded briefly. “Just be careful, you sloppy bhewtin!”

Dhen’s eyes widened and he laughed loudly. “That’s all you’ve got, egghead?” He shook his own blare blue noggin.

Mhek opened his mouth to reply, then snapped it shut. A floor manager stood on the balcony above them, idly swinging his bhewtin whip back and forth. Mhek busied himself adjusting the bin on the belt, hoping to avoid the manager’s notice, or the whip’s.

He heard Dhen’s whispered countdown, “Four, three, two, one…” The conveyor belt jerked and groaned as it rolled the bins past them, disappearing into the dark chamber next to Dhen. Mhek looked the other way, watching the next batch of full frames emerge from the chamber on his side. Twenty frames, forty widgets each. Two taps per strut to release, then a tug with the pincers to pluck each widget free and drop it in the tub.

In sixteen cycles, since he matured and started losing his baby fuzz, he still had no idea what the widgets did, what they were part of. He didn’t understand why he wasn’t supposed to ask questions. Why they weren’t supposed to know anything.

The digital clock reset to the new shift’s countdown. The sky had lightened and the sun’s golden rays peeked through the windows far away on the side of the factory walls. Mhek turned, and Dhen was already facing the light. Another countdown. “Two one…” The light burst through the factory, setting it ablaze with golden fire. Every metal surface reflected the light as if it were made of gold. Mhek held his breath, silently counting with Dhen until, with a single flash, the light was gone, the factory returned to cavernous darkness, buzzers sounded, and the clink, clink, clink of hammers filled the air once more.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing:
~30 minutes

August word count: