CSFG members wrote 10 postcard-sized micro stories for distribution at the Conflux 8 convention in Canberra in September 2012. The stories will be published here, a couple at a time, over the next few weeks.
“It Caught Up With Me” by Leife Shallcross
“Being Other” by Gillian Polack
“Betrayal” by Rob Porteous
“A Vain Hope” by Cat Sheely
“Killing Two Birds” by Shauna O’Meara
“You Look Like Me” by Tuan Linh Nguyen
“Alt Heim” by Jerry Everard
“The Fennegal” by Kim Gaal
“Signal Lost” by Phillip Berrie
“The End” by Natalie Maddalena
It caught up with me
by Leife Shallcross
She makes her implacable way towards me along the shoreline, leaning into the wind. Its strength drags back her stiff black skirts, hampering her steps. She holds one black-gloved hand outstretched. Something in it glints in the cold sunlight.
Her eyes bore into mine. The waves churn in my ears. I cannot move.
The wind has failed to assail her hair, coiled neatly beneath her precisely applied hat. There is nothing on her trim, wasp-waisted jacket to buffet. Her posture is ramrod-straight. By contrast, I am ragged and unkempt. Frayed coattails flap about my knees. I am weighed down, my pockets full of stones.
I can see what she is holding now. A flash of fear spears through me, but I am rooted to the spot.
A few feet away, she pauses. Her black satin fingers flick the golden fob-watch open. She smiles.
‘Your time is up,’ she says.
by Gillian Polack
I am the Other. I am the person you do not see. I am the person you make decisions for. I am the person who receives no confirmation of their abilities or self through normal social interaction. I am lost. I am angry.
I am not what you think. I never was what you think. I chose to be Other. I chose this planet. I chose to be female. I chose how you would see me. I chose my skin colour, my eye type, my waistline. I listened to your words about community and equality. I believed.
I became lost. I became angry.
Now it’s time to report home. Soon it will be time to go home. I won’t be Other.
I won’t be alien. I won’t be lost. But I will still be angry. At that moment, I will cease to be invisible.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
by Rob Porteous
I never expected the zombie apocalypse to be so boring. I push my shopping trolley down the street, a couple of cans rattling in the bottom, on the look out for a supermarket or convenience store that hasn’t been ransacked yet. The sound attracts a zombie, her face all open sores; she shuffles jerkily behind me for a while until she forgets why she’s following and stops still, staring after me.
I find a Caltex with a mini-mart. I can tell by the smell that there’s a zombie in there. It’s an old man, thin, lying motionless just inside. His eyes stare at me, seem to follow me round as I search for anything safe to eat. I don’t find anything.
As I leave, I can feel his stare drilling into my back. God, I hope he can’t see. I hope he isn’t locked in there, watching me, unable to move.
I hope he’s dead.
Not that he didn’t deserve it. They all did. It’s karma—the second prion plague was judgement for their exploitation of animals. They were poisoned by every mouthful of meat, by the froth on their cappuccinos.
Just like CJD, there was no cure. It only took a few years for the first to fall, and by then everyone had it, their brains rotting from the inside. Becoming zombies.
It won’t be long until I’m the only person left. But that’s OK, I guess. I’m getting used to being alone.
But one thing keeps eating at me… you know how you think you really know someone? Think you can trust them?
Well then, how am I the only vegan left?
A vain hope
by Cat Sheely
As Enola spun the spell from the old embossed book that lay on the rough chest of drawers, a dim fog began to coalesce around her. With little transition she found herself standing in the middle of her hut holding her baby son just as she had four months before.
This time she was able to hide the tiny bundle in the hidey-hole under the floorboards as the raiders battled outside. Her grandmother’s words echoed in her mind. ‘You can only use this spell for others. Should you use it for yourself, it will destroy you.’ But it was to save her son, not herself. He would be safe.
This time, the raiders slit her throat instead of abusing her.
This time they fired the hut.
Killing Two Birds
by Shauna O’Meara
I enter the room silently, befitting my training, and, with my blade, shed the daimyo’s blood across the courtesan’s back. His dying gasps blend seamlessly with his paid-for exertions.
“For my mother,” I hiss.
The prostitute turns at the sound, her client dismounting lifelessly. My chosen, unwitting martyr, I slit her throat with regret before placing the knife of retribution in her still-jolting hand. It was no accident I brought a woman’s blade. I’d planned the scene of his death meticulously.
I unsheathe and wet his sword with her blood and step back. Even in death he looks the violator. Only, this time, the woman seemingly bit back.
Calling out, I slip from the room. His samurai bodyguard swarm in. The scene is self-explanatory. Their master was left unguarded. With satisfaction I watch their organs drop to the floor.
“For my sister.”
Justice is served. The war is over. I can finally relinquish my blade.
What use is vengeance when there are gardens to tend?
You look like me
by Tuan Linh Nguyen
The adventurer tinkered away at the hidden gearbox, easily the hardest he had ever tampered with. The door it controlled creaked and slowly slid open, billowing out several centuries’ worth of residual steam.
For that door the adventurer had wasted much of his life. No deed was too low or crime too heinous for him to get closer to it. The one who solved the vault’s mystery, they said, would find out the reason why the old civilization had crumbled, as well as inherit a wealth of its treasures – schematics, perhaps, or even lost artifacts. Greed, pride and curiosity were, after all, strong motivations.
When the steam subsided, the adventurer rushed inside to savor the moment, only to find a weathered and rusty chamber of steel devoid of any wealth or artifact.
There, in its midst was a single mirror, reflecting his expressions, aghast with bewilderment and despair.
by Jerry Everard
The Stranger thanked his guide and recalled his parting words as he took the road towards the town. He would find what he was looking for at the old house on the hillside. Oscillating between hope and disappointment he made the climb. Too many times had his hopes been raised, and too often those hopes were met only with more questions. Was he now in the right timeline?
The house he encountered looked somehow familiar, yet altogether strange. The garden was overgrown and unkempt, much like himself, thought the Stranger. The gate squeaked loudly on rusted hinges as though no-one had passed through it for years.
He knocked at the door but there was no answer. He called out and heard only his own voice in reply as it echoed back down the valley. Then he remembered the key in his pocket. Home.
by Kim Gaal
It wasn’t where I left it.
I’d made it very clear at breakfast. ‘It looks like there’s a mess on my floor,’ I told Mum while she schlooped the eggs onto my plate. ‘But it isn’t. It’s all there on purpose.’
‘Uh-ha.’ Mum added a tomato next to the egg. Splat!
‘The fennegals are back, Mum.’ I tried not to talk about the fennegals. Not since I went to The Place where they made me lie and say they weren’t real. ‘I had them trapped in the cupboard until you took the ropes off. I’m not saying it’s your fault.’ Mum eyeballed me. ‘Just, maybe, could you not move the stuff on the floor? Please?’
Mum was talking on the phone when I got home, in the voice she only used at The Place. I went to my room to check the barrier.
It wasn’t where I left it.
In the corner, they were waiting.
by Phillip Berrie
As soon as the probe detected the faint coherent signals it changed its course towards the distant star from which they originated. It would take a long time to reach its destination, but to make contact with intelligent life was the probe’s mission.
The signals grew more numerous and complex as the probe approached. This allowed its artificial intellect to learn the language and customs of the dominant life form of that still far-distant planet and grow concerned about the present that these signals from the planet’s past suggested – for to make contact with intelligent life was the probe’s mission.
Unfortunately, by the time the probe reached the third planet of that yellow star, it was too late. The artificially induced runaway greenhouse effect had catastrophically altered the planet’s biosphere and all signs of intelligent life were gone.
by Natalie Maddalena
This was the culmination of months of questing. I had trudged through the Desert of Dessication , fighting off scorpions; then the Forest of Terror , up to my elbows in goblins’ blood. I had defeated the four lesser dragonlords and the two greater, taking their protective amulets for myself.
Now I faced FlameTalon himself. Not alone, I had help; Xeno the wizard encased the mighty dragon in ice to slow it and Ping healed my burns and gashes almost as they were created. It was time for the final blow. I ducked under FlameTalon’s huge belly and rammed the enchanted Sword of Power home in the vulnerable spot in his armpit. The dragon screeched, and toppled.
Victory! The world was saved! Glory was mine!
Then I stared at the screen, and wept that there were no more worlds to conquer.