A STRANGE AND PEACEFUL NEW WORLD (short story)

I never write short stories; this effort is the first, only, and maybe last I will ever do. The initial version came to me decades ago, when I was so young, but I later found it and rewrote it for my son. It was just a fun thing I decided to do, so I hope you enjoy it.

A STRANGE AND PEACEFUL NEW WORLD

Employing the latest holo-vision technology, top scientists on planet Obelus had fully monitored the Earth’s predictable decline. It was as if they had a front-row seat to a horror flick.

Arsenal, biological, and eventual nuclear warfare had prevailed for several Earth weeks. They experienced flooding, drought, landslides, and elevated levels of carbon in the hot, dry atmosphere. The few survivors lived in primitive darkness surrounded by fires and billowing smoke, breathing toxic air.

That was hundreds of years ago. Most of the survivors went insane, and, sane or not, they turned on each other.

On this particular day, Seren Heddle, one of the most famous scientists on Obelus, was there in the flesh. His brilliance had prompted the aristocracy of his native land to have him visit and observe the new Earth. At his side was the beautiful Alula, with whom he’d been obsessed ever since she came to work with him. They wore full body suits, rugged shoes, gloves, and safety visors, but underneath it all, Seren was a slight, five-foot-six inches with verdant green hair and eyes like topaz jewels. The shapely Alula, only a tad shorter than he was, had bits of silver stardust sprinkled through her lavender mane, which was straight and smooth to create an elegant frame for her feline face. Hers were the eyes, nose, and the clever snickering grin of what was once the Earth’s cat. She was a hybrid version of the feline species trained to scout on Earth and other planets.

Before them, grey steel buildings and factories stood amid tree stumps on barren lands of eroded soil and mud-filled puddles. The noise level was hard to bear, so dwellings and workplaces contained stone walls for better insulation. Experts planned for reforestation, hoping new trees would come to life within the next few decades.

“We had hoped to intervene,” Seren said with a slightly guilty conscience. “But, from all we’d heard and observed, many earthlings fear and demonize alien entities of any variety.”

Alula shrugged, as he’d said this before, many times. “Perhaps if we reflected their own images and perceptions, they’d have welcomed us with a champagne and truffles gift basket,” she joked.

Seren nodded. “They are that way with people in their homeland, too, and yes, terrified by ‘creatures’ from outer space, but, truth be told, they’d never even heard of Obelus.”

“Oh, right,” said Alula. “The astrologist scalawags pretended our planet didn’t exist, though they knew it was there all along. They tricked earthlings for centuries with their corrupt pseudoscience.” Obelus was huge and took up quite a lot of sky space for an ignored constellation, she thought. It held the second-closest star to the earth!

But earthlings had had much more to worry about than a world shaken by the revelation that the sun’s position, when observed from Earth, was not aligned with the arbitrarily defined planet they thought it was on the day they were born. 

You see, the last original human survivor, Mason Guthridge, was a scientist who’d built himself an elaborate bunker city and didn’t invite anyone else. He’d decided that only uniformity could create a world without jealousy, elitism, and hatred, so he decided to clone himself ad infinitum and lived underground with his clones, waiting for the remaining humans to expire before returning to the surface. His clones, male and female, were called dittos, and the dittos had plastered his photo on billboards throughout the planet, Mason was bald, with a circle of reddish hair above his ears and a walrus mustache. Aside from having a full head of hair, lacking the walrus ‘stache, and having different physiological ‘equipment,’ the females looked like him, too. Dittos had only the slightest variances in appearance and were about the same weight since limited resources had them all on a rationed diet.

“The man is a hero!” Seren marveled. “The wave of negative energy that once seemed the driving force here has dissipated!”

Alula nearly gagged. “Only a narcissist would clone himself even once, but enough times to populate an entire planet?!”

Seren begged to differ. “It’s marvelous, I tell you. There is no way to detect who is superior upon sight, and neither can one determine from where the dittos originate.”

A look of displeasure distorted Alula’s flawless face. “Seren, it could get so chaotic. There can be no attraction toward one another.”

With a bright smile, he shook his little head. “No, Alula, that is not true. No one is prettier or more handsome as to inspire jealousy, turning twisted envy into angry and hurtful vengeance. The dittos communicate without consciousness of the physical self and form opinions then ultimately relationships, based on hearts and souls connecting. Each has only his or her inner being to offer, and only by that can he or she be judged.”

Alula yawned before countering, “Okay, if they, Guthridge, or anyone else here truly was a genius or had any brains at all, they wouldn’t need such a preposterous solution in order to accept one another, differences and all! Want to know why this is insane? I’ll tell you why. Life, this way, is impossible! Suppose I was to converse with a gentleman and hoped to run into him again. How would I recognize him? Infidelity must be a common problem.”

Seren shook his head. “The meetings and arrangements are discussed, as are ways of how and when to contact. That is good, for if one wants to meet with you or have you contact, he can voluntarily instruct you. If he or she does not wish to see you again, it is marvelous, for the individual can, simply, withhold the information, and you never could harass the person. It would be difficult.”

“That is not likely to discourage infidelity.”

“I assure you, Alula, it is not a problem, for the mates are in heart and soul exclusively. Nothing is worth the risk of losing what they’d found.”

“That’s fine,” she allowed, “but how would I know if I’d like to converse with someone passing by and possibly get to know him?”

“Well, the signal for approach is always a beep, but you are not an earthling and therefore not equipped for beeping.”

Alula kicked some nearby rocks. “That is just stupid.”

“Why is that stupid, my lady?”

“It’s stupid because how does one know if he or she would like to beep?”

“They do not control the beeping process,” Seren replied. “When ditto instincts dictate, and they have the intention of approaching, they beep automatically. An effective method for dealing with shyness, wouldn’t you say?”

“No, no, no, no!” She stomped her foot for good measure.

He ignored that. “We might think about a similar system for—”

Alula was aghast at the mere suggestion. “Oh, right, let’s adopt this post-apocalyptic absurdity in our perfectly functional society. Are you out of your mind? The last thing I want to do is trade my unique attributes to become just another ditto.” She thought of another argument. “What then might I do if I’m walking merrily along and feel someone sneak up behind and pinch me? How would I know which beeping ditto did it? I’d turn around and see a slew of them parading behind.”

“Why would any of them resort to that?” Seren turned his palms up, smiling. “There is no physical attraction, and lust is no longer an obsession.”

“Lust? Do you think it has to do solely with lust— why people prey upon others? There are other reasons they choose to be a nuisance.” Alula folded her arms across her chest. “How much do you want to bet? You’ll have confused dittos beeping incessantly at everyone!”

At that very moment, a frantic, beeping ditto raced toward Seren. While yanking the wallet from his pocket, the culprit pulled at his nose, bopped him on the head and knocked off his visor. Alula could not help laughing, cupping her mouth, and feeling relieved for, in an instant, the guilty ditto was lost amidst a crowd of lookalike dittos up ahead.

“Obviously, a psychotic,” Seren said, looking for his visor amid the rubble.

“Hmm, and this is why we can’t have nice things.” Alula spied the visor and picked it up for him. “Tsk! Listen, I love the idea of being one and equal and loving one another, but if the answer is they can only beep and steal wallets, well—”

           Seren, grabbing the visor from her hand, looked embarrassed. “The unfortunate result of generations of inbreeding, I suspect, but it could have worked.”

***The End***

Feature image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay 

QUIET ETERNAL SONG – a short story by David Antrobus

Here is a short story written by a dear friend of mine, author/editor, David Antrobus. I just love the beauty of his writing and storytelling, and, so, I wanted to share it with you.

David Antrobus Posted On Saturday, December 5, 2020 At 10:53PM

She showed up every afternoon in the town square, her guitar and amp ready to display her bona fides, ready to dazzle. She used to hear god’s whisper but no longer. 

She was an auburn beauty, which was incidental, but her gathered ponytail and her classical vulpine face were assets, however the music came.

Yes, pretty hurts, but goddamn, it still had such currency.

“Pretty lady, I won’t rain on your parade, but this isn’t the place for you.”

The wolf had appeared from shadows beneath the chapel roof and the market awnings, and he smiled through tumultuous teeth and tried to dam his drool. Oh, he was hungry.

“The skies are clear and this isn’t my parade, Mr. Wolf,” she said. “This is a way station, and I come from elsewhere, but here I sing my truth.”

“Don’t push me, woman.” 

“I won’t. Instead I’ll make my music.”

And she did that. Splashes of half or quarter melodies, staccato squalls merging into dreamscape, arpeggios traipsing on ramparts of crenelated chords, spiralling into the darkest of wells and spinning into meadowlark updrafts. Distortion like the most shattered of mirrors, hot liquid globules and elastic spans of glass, a glittering haze of misted diamond. Her thumb like a hammer conjuring bass notes, rhythmic and sundry as coitus, her arachnid fingers a blur as lacquered nails plucked and glissandoed reflected layers of overlapping melody. And above it soared her voice, like the great mountain condor, effortless and buoyed by thermals.

The townsfolk gathered and grew in numbers, and they sometimes sang snippets that only augmented her song, and children danced, and then their mothers, and then, looking sheepish between themselves, their fathers. 

The wolf was humbled, reduced, his snout a wilted thing, his ears flat, the luxuriance of his tail now tucked. 

“Mr. Wolf, I won’t stay. I’ve done what I came for, and it’s always time to move on. What will you do?”

Cupping the town in its rough hands was a landscape of clear streams and falls, forests dappled by light and deer, skies that paraded like blue and white and grey ticker tape, crags and flats and the quiet eternal song of the land.

The wolf, who recognized the good as well, knew all this and loved it, but he felt thwarted. Her cello nape, her downy hollows, her female scent itself a taunt, and though he knew he was wrong, he let himself down.

“I will eat you; it’s how I’m made. It’s what I am. And you, my chestnut fawn, were made for this too.”

She sighed while she packed her instruments. Something in the faraway hills echoed and crackled like an exhaled nightmare. She wished she could love the wolf and receive his love in turn.

“You will do what you were made to do, Mr. Wolf. But you are not emblematic of your kind.”

The wolf was puzzled. He didn’t know what emblematic meant. And while he crunched her words like marrow from the bones of a lover, spurned and sickly as the plague-struck, the townsfolk moved in silence with their clubs and knives and systematically dismembered him, and hearing his last furious yowl she cried as she left town, her hardware hunched like a stigma on her back, the neck of her guitar a phallus, her keening cry a screech of corvid grief in the spent and airless afternoon. 

ANNOUNCEMENT! NEW MAGAZINE!

Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.

Some of the topics we will cover:

Adversity, anxiety, artist(s), authors, books, writing (editing tips and experiences), childhood, classic literature, codependency, compassion, creativity, depression, dreams, ego, evolving, feeling unworthy, fiction pieces and excerpts, fun, giving back, gratitude, grief, growing, healing, hope, humanity, humility, humor, inspiration, interviews, judgment, learning, letting go, life, loss, love, mental health, narcissism, oppression, panic attacks, parenting, passion, poetry, politics, prejudice, reading and reviews, recovery from addiction and trauma, relationships, religion, romance, sadness, self-sabotage, self-care and self-love, shame, stigma, stress, and tolerance.

For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.

For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.

Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!

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In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:

A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.

The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.

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For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.

We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.

Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.

We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.

We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at submissions@bravewingsmag.com.

If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.

For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.

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Photo by KH Koehler Design

Old Honza’s Day Out by James Gault

Please enjoy this guest post by author, James Gault.

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I’m really amazed that this seventy-five year old brain still manages to think every day.   Well, not every day, exactly!   I found myself this morning wondering what the hell happened to yesterday.  I suppose I got up, I suppose I ate something, and then I suppose I sat in front of my half broken Russian TV watching fuzzy images without seeing.  But I can’t be sure. I read somewhere that half of my brain cells must have died by now, but that’s not why some days my mind doesn’t seem able to do anything.   I think it just says to itself, ‘Why bother?’   Hopelessness gets you like that.   You try to switch on but there’s just no power.  The thoughts just never get started.  A whole day goes by and nothing moves.

But today is better.   Somewhere I find the energy to get up and get out.   I can’t go far.  I walk slowly now, and there’s no spare money for tram tickets.   So my Prague has shrunk to the little area I can shuffle around in the couple of hours before my physical energy gives out.   Out of this old apartment block, across the tram lines, to the Golden Angel Shopping Centre and back again.

I totter to the glass doors of the Novy Smichov centre and they fly open with a deceptive gesture of welcome that reminds me of the promises of the five year plans of forty and fifty years ago.   Repeated promises that prosperity was on its way!    Am I witnessing its arrival now? I stumble around this packed, noisy bustle hoping no one will knock me over.  Preoccupied crowds too busy to see me!   I don’t belong to this purposeful hustle.  It’s not for me and my generation. This is my little bit of Prague, but they’ve taken it from me.  Again!

I can’t remember the golden age of the first Republic.   I was eight when the Nazis came. Since then, I seem to have always lived in a desolate present between a past that was better and a future full of empty promise.   Like I seem to have always lived in a place they told me was mine but where someone else was firmly in possession.   It seems that there’s always someone from outside who has to come and save me from something.  Nazis saving me from Jews, Russians saving me from capitalists, and now capitalists saving me from oppression!  So many well meaning people helping themselves by helping me!

There’s a bench up ahead that I’ll be able to sit on if I’m lucky.   We had benches under the communists and now we have them under the capitalists.   The only difference is that capitalist benches are busier, more productive.   Demand carefully researched and efficiently undersupplied.  If I manage to fend off low-flying attacks from shopping trolleys, and if none of those shouting, fighting school kids get there before me, there just might be some space for me on this bench.  And, even in the new market economy, bench sitting is still free of charge.  Without paying a heller, without even having to buy an overpriced cup of coffee, you can sit on this wooden bench in this opulent palace of plenty, with these excellent views of displays of merchandise you can never hope to afford.   Enjoy!

Damn! A fat lady has just sprawled herself and her two overflowing supermarket plastic bags over most of the space I had my eye on.  Not much chance she’ll think of moving one of those bags to make a little room for me. I wonder if I can squeeze into the narrow vacant strip at the end.

Made it!   The fat lady is looking at me as if I have stolen something from her.  I understand how you feel, my dear.   Sharing is no longer in fashion.  You got to the bench first, it’s yours!  I’ve no rights even to this little bit of it.  If I’m too weak to take part in the struggle, it’s my problem.  But this is one of my strong days.   I would smile at her defiantly, if I could just find enough spare breath.

I lean back to relax and the idea crosses my mind that while this bench is pretty, the old pre-revolution benches were more comfortable.   No, Honza!   No! No! No! No!  This is the new order.   No complaining!   Everything is better now!  I am enjoying myself. Everything is wonderful.   Get a grip on yourself, Honza!  This is the new Czech Republic, land of liberty and luxury. You’ve got fifty crowns to last you until the end of the month and the freedom to work out for yourself that you’re happy.

A grumpy boy of about ten comes up to the bench and complains to the fat lady that he’s tired.   ‘I’m sorry, Petr’ she tells him, ‘there’s no room on this bench,’ and, after a pause, she adds a pointed ‘Now!’  Both of them glare at me.  I’m an old, decrepit waste of space, using up resources without making a contribution.   Well, hard luck, you little monster!   I got here first and this little corner of this bench is MINE!   The new market economy, survival of the fittest!  And, for just this once, I’ve been the fittest!  Put your plastic bags on the floor and make room for your little whine, you fat hag!   Or give him a clip across the ear and tell him to behave himself!  I ignore them, and fix a defiant gaze on clothes I wouldn’t wear even if I had the money to buy them.   God, but I’m having a good day today!

Eventually, faced with my unreasonable determination not to move, the awful Petr changes tack and begins whinging about a new computer game.   The woman lifts her bags and struggles after her son, who is bouncing triumphantly towards the game shop.   That’s the new Czech Republic – the younger you are the more power you have.

I take the chance to spread myself out in case another overloaded shopper sees the empty space beside me.   Should I be really anti-social and sit right in the middle of the bench?  Stretch out my walking sticks on either side so nobody can get near?   Be like everyone else? After all these years, I should have learned by now to play the game, whatever the rules of the times might be.   But I don’t spread myself out; I don’t hog the whole bench.  I leave space for others.   For sharing, for solidarity!  I’m a dissident by nature, I suppose.

I’m so full of energy today I’m wondering if I might make an attempt at shopping.  Maybe I could spend twenty crowns on a couple of vegetables to feed me over the next two days.   Then it’s the weekend.   My son will come and take me to lunch on Saturday.   My daughter will turn up with a bag of groceries and cook for me on Sunday.  She’ll put the leftovers in the old fridge and I’ll be able to live off them for the rest of the week.  And then it’s pension day.  If it all works out I might just have the price of a bottle of beer to celebrate the end of the month.   I would get a job if I could only move just a little faster.  A lot of people of my age work.   Lucky bastards!

God but I’m having a really good day!   My thoughts all make more or less sense to me, and I can even feel myself getting a tiny bit angry.   I’m not dead yet.   I’m going to tackle the supermarket.   I know it’s dangerous.  The space is more restricted in there:  the crowds are faster and more determined.   All of them out to get me!   The slightest touch and I’ll be flat on my back all over the floor.   But I need to eat.   I can face the scorn of the other customers at the checkout.   ‘Look at the old ones, eating like they always ate’.   You think we choose a starvation diet?  Thin vegetable soup and meat twice a week if we’re lucky!   You think it’s because we just can’t adjust to the change?  ‘It’s what they’re used to. It’s what they want.’  Come on, give it a rest!   Stop playing at doublethink to salve your guilty consciences.   You’re living in comfort while we’re bloody broke.

I’m in the supermarket, hanging onto a trolley.   I know I’m only going to put a couple of things in it, but it helps me stay upright.   I feel something pushing into my back.  This is it, head over heels and I’ll be looking up at the fluorescent lights.   But by some miracle I manage to stay upright.  I even find the energy to turn around and face my assailant.   And even more power within me to glare!   A look to wither!   A harassed young girl pulls her trolley complete with toddler out of my back.   She looks embarrassed, almost to the point of apologising.   Another victory!

I hobble home, my plastic bag with its tiny cabbage and single carrot dangling precariously from one finger as I try to manage two walking sticks and my shopping with two feeble arthritic hands.   Always so slow, always this constant fear of falling!   But, all in all, it’s been a good day.   If I’m lucky, I’ll have another good day tomorrow.   One half as good would be O.K.

About the author:

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James Gault, born in Scotland, has recently retired to SW France after spending ten years in the Czech Republic. There he enjoys the sunshine, writes novels, short stories and English Language textbooks.

He also produces the on-line literary magazine Vox Lit with monthly notes by writers for writers and readers, news, features (short stories, poems and extracts from novels.)

He has written three novels, all available on Amazon as e-books and paperbacks:
Teaching Tania (Young Tania tries to put the world to rights with the help of her English teacher – a comic detective story)
Ogg (Supernatural being tries to teach teenage Antonia how to think rationally as they try to save the world from destruction – comic philosophical thriller)
The Redemption of Anna Petrovna (Young woman in ex-communist country tries to build a career in a totally corrupt society – political psychological thriller

He is currently working on a detective thriller set in Scotland, France and Spain.

As well as ELT books and his novels, he has written short stories published in various reviews and magazines. In 2007, he won the writing prize from the British Czech and Slovak Society for his short story ‘Old Honza’s Day Out’.

In his time James has been an IT specialist, a businessman and a teacher as well as a writer, and has traveled extensively throughout Europe. He has worked with and taught English to students of many nationalities. He has an international outlook on life and his writing reflects both this and his other interests.

Apart from writing, his passions are politics, philosophy, film making, computer system development and his grandchildren.

Books by James Gault:

OGG (Kindle Edition)

The Redemption of Anna Petrovna (Kindle Edition)

Teaching Tania (Kindle Edition)