Yes, I have entered another NYCMidnight writing competition. This one is the flash fiction contest that I didn't have time to enter last year. But I made time this year! I also entered the flash fiction micro contest but didn't make it past the first round. I got the word 'stand' and you had to create a 100 character story, poem line, or what-have-you in twelve hours. I read through the posts and voted for a bunch and wish the best for those who made it to the next round. Something I realized when reading them was that many were light-hearted/poetic whereas mine were not. So, perhaps that's something to consider for the future.
Anywho, as is the way with NYCMidnight you can post your story for feedback until results come in for those who've made it to the next round. You may remember this from my post earlier this year of my entry for the short story competition (top 5!). For this first round I was in group 1 and the mission was:
Genre: Science Fiction, Location: Fitness Center, Object: Knife Sharpener.
Pretty random huh? I know some others who got Sci-fi had a locale on a fish farm and heroin as an object. So I'm amped to see what comes out of that.
While I don't generally write sci-fi, but do read it and fantasy and dystopian from time-to-time I found this a challenge. But luckily, the first idea I had after seeing my prompt was one I liked and stuck with. I do think it's kind of dark and that this may be a trend with me. I just don't write light-hearted I guess. Not in my creative DNA.
Well, without further ado here's "Friend or Foe":
Friend or Foe
The stagnant smell of Patriot’s Gym invaded Celestra’s nostrils as she made her way to her father’s office. The fitness center went as far back as ten generations in her family. It seemed odd she was seeing glistening skin, energy capsules, weight balls hovering for the last time.
Unlike the bubble-shaped, iridescent buildings lining the streets of New Terra, Patriot’s was a sickly orange color, a relic brick building. It stood out for people like her father who preferred the world before humans and Soldarians co-existed. The layout of the planet—balanced, ecological, relying on solar power—was the first strike her father had against them. No Soldarian was allowed to set foot on Patriot’s premises.
And it was unfortunate for Celestra that she fell in love with one. Devon’s smile revealed the sharp teeth of his people, but it hadn’t instilled the fear her father had when she was younger. As she and Devon made love the scales on his chest and arms rubbing against her skin became an aphrodisiac.
Celestra twisted the ring on her finger as she passed through the weight room glimpsing women struggling to finish another squat as a simulated trainer stood over them with arms akimbo. Reaching her destination she took a deep breath before going through the sliding door.
Her father was hunched over his desk. Holograms with line graphs dipping towards the floor were projected around him. Behind him was a shelf with awards he’d won for fitness, for helping fight obesity once the epidemic became pandemic. There were also medals from the war between humans and Soldarians, prior to the peace accord.
“What’s doing today, sweetheart?” he asked without taking his eyes off the projections.
“I’m okay, Daddy. How are you?“
“Fine. Just wondering about things is all.” His skin sagged under his eyes.
“I wonder too. How are you and Mom going to survive after…” she let it hang in the air.
Devon offered to help. He was financially stable, all Soldarians were. They were socialists in nature. This was the second strike against Soldarians, especially for people like Celestra’s father who had been wealthy and now suffered from his own prejudice.
As she took a seat across from her father a large butcher knife with an ivory handle on the shelf behind him caught her eye.
“Where’d you get that?” she asked.
Her father craned his neck and looked around before spotting the knife. “Friend gave it to me.”
Her father met her eyes. There was a coldness in them she hadn’t seen since he showed her the tip of his finger cut off from an unfortunate encounter with a Soldarian.
“My friend Ralph and I were in South Asia, where they first landed. We were alone for a bit then someone came through. Seeing as how they look like us straight off we couldn’t tell. First clue was the thing wouldn’t talk. Second was it was buttoned up tight in it’s fatigues, even though it was hot as a sauna.
“Me and Ralph hatched a plan to see if it was friend or foe. I ended up butting it with my laser rifle. When it stumbled it opened it’s mouth and we saw those nasty fangs.”
Celestra froze, recalling Devon’s teeth, how she thought they’d devour her, but were actually gentle, nibbling her skin.
“We tried to shoot it but they had those damn gun disablers. Ralph was a grade-A cook. He maneuvered to his rucksack and threw the knife right at it.
“After that it was friend or foe. And if they were foe, we always took a prize.”
His fingers massaged his temple. “Ralph died and left me this. And a sharpener for it.” He scanned the shelf before finding the sharpener. The cogs inside looked rusted and chipped. Celestra squirmed in her seat.
As the projections faded her father stared at her, his eyes unwavering causing Celestra to look away.
“Where’d you get that ring?”
She glanced up.
“You’re holding your hand trying to cover it like I wouldn’t notice.”
“I. Um. I met someone. And he’s wonderful, Daddy.”
Her father got up from the chair with force letting it swivel in mid-air.
“What’s he look like?” he asked looking out the window displaying the center.
“He has light eyes, dark hair, and a cleft in his chin. He’s tall and striking. We met at that event for people recovering from supercancer—“
“You leaving something out, sweetheart?”
She gulped at that. “I’ve never felt this way before. About anyone.”
“He’s one of them?” He turned around and she felt the shame wash over her. Celestra nodded.
“You’d marry one of them?” his voice rose with each word.
“It just happened. He spoke so eloquently, so passionately—”
“You’d let one of them touch you!”
He stormed back behind his desk. His face was a sickly red. His pallor went back to normal as he sat down. His hands drummed against his armrest before pushing a button.
Celestra heard humming before she felt the measured vibrations of her chair.
“Do you know what the prizes were?”
Eyes cast to the floor Celestra shook her head.
She heard a creaking sound then a thump. Celestra looked up to see a bulging satchel.
He lifted the bag letting the contents fall to the desk, some rolled off the sides. A fetid smell wafted to her nose. She tried to cover it with her hand but felt her body going numb.
They were rotting. But some were newer. She could tell by the color of them. Some had scales, but some were human.
He got up and waved his hand signaling the lights to dim.
His voice was tender as he asked for her hand.
“Soldarians aren’t bad—“ she began.
He forced her hand onto the desk.
She tried to pull away but found herself fixed, the chair holding her back, tricking her muscles.
“Friend or foe, sweetheart. Answer the question.”
[© 2011 Jennifer Baker-Henry 2011]