Category Archives: Something for the future?

Hunting

This one was written for a competition which set the opening line, and had a 750 word limit.  I actually wrote an entirely different entry for the competition.

 

I like this version, though an early draft had R.O.U.S.es which were vetoed.  Unfortunately it feels too much like the intro to a story to be a proper piece of flash fiction on it’s own.  I may come back to it and finish the story…

 

Hunting

By Jason Gibbs

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

Father had always been a well of great advice.  I’m not sure that was the best for my first day at boarding school, but his heart was in the right place.  Brain too, probably.

Another favourite was, “Penguins don’t need frying pans.”  If I’m honest I still don’t know what he meant, probably something jolly healthy like: eat raw fish.  Or possibly: technology isn’t always required.  Though he probably just liked how it scanned.

Of course the advice I should have given him was, “If you’ve just shot a large cat, don’t put your head in its mouth for a triumphal shot until you’re absolutely certain it’s properly dead.”  Not snappy I realise, but might have meant he’d have seen me graduate.

The years since hadn’t been kind.  But that piece of advice, while unhelpful at boarding school, had become surprisingly useful in the last few years.

“Jenkins!  Are you day dreaming again?”

“No sir, sorry sir.  Just remembering advice from my father.”

“Jolly good chap, pity about that whole lion thing.”

“Tiger sir.”

“Yes yes.  Get to work boy.  Sewers don’t clean themselves.  Take Jones with you.”

I nearly groaned.  Jones was such a despicable lick-spittle.  If I wanted to stop for a toke or two he’d be off tattling before I’d taken the first draw.  Also, more seriously, he didn’t understand the job.

Like my father I was a hunter.  Admittedly I was hunting in the sewers of our great capital, and not out in one of the colonies.

Jones arrived, cockily throwing his hat on the peg.

I nodded to him.  We were rarely on speaking terms.  He went to get his orders, and came back with his grin quite removed.  It would have been satisfying if I didn’t have to spend the next few days with him.

“Now Jones, we’re going out to the far reaches first.  Rumours of rat activity.”

“Spencer, we work in the sewers, there are rats everywhere.”

“Dammit man, this is the kind of activity we investigate!”

He rolled his eyes.

We were well kitted out.  Leather armour, including steel toecaps and heavy gloves.  Jones had the flame thrower, and I had the flechette gun.  It fired lots of tiny ice needles, which meant it was much less likely to cause damage to the walls, and the needles rarely penetrated leather.  They’d pass through skin and fur easily though.

We set out, and I tried to be civil to Jones.

“How long have you been here Jones?”

“Four extremely boring weeks.  Look, love to chat, but my brother sent me this great podcast which I need to listen too.”

With that he plugged in, and the only sound in the tunnels was our footsteps.

After hours of walking, and a couple of silent rest stops, we started to approach the area where the rat activity had been seen.  I looked around for any clues.  Jones carried on regardless, even after I tapped him and indicated we were approaching the danger area.  He’d never seen real rats.

I noticed slash marks on the wall.  Often the bigger rats would mark the walls of their territory.  We’d had a scientist studying them, he thought there might be a rudimentary language contained within them.  I hadn’t seen him for a while.

A screech made me stop.  The worrying thing was that it was from behind.  I tapped Jones again, and tried to indicate that he needed to get the flamethrower ready.  He ignored me and kept walking.

A few steps on he stopped and then started to scrabble back.  Clearly he’d seen the rats.  It’s always a shock the first time.

He backed towards me and started the flamethrower up.

I aimed up the tunnel as the creatures came round the corner.  There were hundreds of them, their eyes sparkling in our torchlight.  We must have found one of the bigger nests.

Jones opened up with the flamethrower, and the smell of burned rat filled the tunnel.  My job was more technical; I picked off rats which escaped around the edge of the flame.  I liked to think I’d inherited my father’s marksmanship as I killed them.  Each rat was stupid, but the swarm had intelligence and if enough got round they’d be all over us, so I made sure to focus on the task.  My father would have been proud of me.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Something for the future?

Steamed Pumpkins

This was a Halloween themed competition.  The limit was 750 words, and the guidance was parallel worlds.  I really enjoyed writing this one (and also did a version featuring zombies), but struggled to find a solid finish, a point which was mentioned in the very nice feedback I received explaining why I’d missed out on placing.

I think there’s definitely a much bigger story here, and may well return to this world in the future.

 

Steamed Pumpkins

By Jason Gibbs

Behold, the incredible Hopkins Pumpkin Farm, wonder of the modern world.  Be amazed by the giant chimneys, spewing forth the by-products of pumpkin production, standing tall above the fortress-like barns at the centre of the farm.  Shall we go closer?

This is the main barn.  All the pumpkins are fed in here, and these giant machines sort them.  The wheels, belts, smashers and knives are all powered by pumpkin steam.  Where are the people you ask?  As well you might.  This wonderful machine was built by Theodore Hopkins, even before the plague hit.  He was rather an unpleasant man, and did not like people.

Theodore, never Ted, had a gift with machines; with steam, and, as we shall see, with wind up mechanisms of all kinds.  He built machines to help his workers, to make them faster, and save wages of course.  Then there was an accident.  A smasher hit a head, and not a head-sized pumpkin.  The poor victim took hours to die, and the screams lived on for some time.  Then a cutter took off a man’s leg instead of the stalk of the pumpkin.  The wound was so deep that eight pints of blood had coated the floor long before the doctor arrived.  The other workers, petrified, refused to work with the frightening machines, so he fired them, all of them.  Just like that.

The farm was closed for weeks, and the field workers heard mighty crashes, and some said, mighty screams too.  Then one day Theodore walked out and told them to start loading the pumpkins again.  They peered in to see a monstrous iron creature, all cogs, wheels and steaming pipes.  They fed pumpkins into the monster’s maw, and it cleaned, chopped and selected them.  It boxed and labelled them.  It was even able to cut lanterns, though some said that the designs were so ghoulish they must be tainted by the blood of the dead workers.

Then the plague struck.  The field workers seemed most susceptible to its evil charms, and soon Theodore had almost no one to work the fields.  He had been tinkering, but hadn’t been ready to unleash his new mechanisms, until he realised he had no choice if he was to gather in his pumpkins.  The first of his cog-driven men stumbled out into the field.  The few remaining workers laughed; convinced the old man had finally gone mad.  The cog-men could do the job though, and they didn’t stop at night.  Every few hours they would return to the innards of the factory, where they would be wound up again by the main machine.  They wouldn’t stop, even if someone was in their way.  A field worker didn’t move fast enough, and cog-man shattered his leg.  In previous days this would have been the cause of a strike.  Now the tired workers just packed up their bags, picked up their fallen comrade, and trekked home, never to return.

The pumpkin farm prospered, even as the plague strangled the life out of the countryside.  Theodore continued to tinker.  When the coal stopped coming he barely noticed, as he’d already converted the boiler to run on pumpkin waste, and gas from the giant compost heaps.  His greatest invention though, was the Pumpkin Master.  He invested it with all his energy, and gave it the magic of imagination.  It created the next set of cog-men.  These could plough up new fields, move boulders and even put in fences.  The plague emptied the neighbouring farms.  The pumpkin farm expanded.

Theodore Hopkins’ last day came.  He was ill and wanted to see his creation one last time.  He stumbled into the factory, and beheld the wonder he had built.  He went to see the Pumpkin Master, and after stroking it a final time, fell dying to the floor.  No human came for old Theodore, instead one of the cog-men came and picked him up, and carried him to the compost heap.  Nothing was ever wasted on the pumpkin farm.

The years passed, and the farm grew ever larger.  Farms were swallowed up, their fields converted to pumpkins, their buildings knocked down for more space.  Each year saw yet more tens of millions of pumpkins produced.  The factory farm produced them as whole pumpkins, as sliced pumpkin, it created lanterns in hundreds of designs and even experimented with pumpkin pies, all ready for Halloween.

What a wonder, a marvel even.  Where are the people you ask? As well you might.

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Filed under Dark, Flash Fiction, Something for the future?, Steampunk