Posts Tagged Fortnightcap

Fortnightcap: Vicious Cycle

Vicious Cycle

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

“So.  You’ve come to kill me then?”

He didn’t turn around.  He didn’t need to.  He’d heard the faint click of the gun’s hammer being pulled back, and knew there was only one person who could be holding it.

“I have to.  You know I have to.  It’s the only way.”

“You won’t be able to.”  He turned his chair around, wanting to face the person with the gun.  He knew a general identity but not a face, not even a gender.  There was no mistaking the man there.  The high cheekbones.  The gentle nose.  This could only be his grandson.  “And really, I’m disappointed in your lack of imagination here.”

“You’re not making this easy for me.”

“It’s not supposed to be easy.  In fact, it’s supposed to be impossible.  I’m sure you’ve seen the equations, the proof that the timeline is immutable, unchangeable.  And really, picking on an old man like me?”

“You’re five years younger than me.”

“Oh sure,” he rose from his chair, and walked towards his grandson.  Around him lay the bits and pieces of his failed prototypes, in a room beyond was his success.  “I suppose now I am, but don’t you know me as an old man?  Wasn’t I kind to you?  I’ve always wanted to be a grandfather.  Your grandmother says I can’t wait to be old, and I suppose she’s right.  Are we still alive?”

His grandson’s hand was shaking, more and more as he stepped closer and closer.  “Please.  Please just stop.  You know it has to be this way.”

“Why?  Just because it’s called the Grandfather Paradox?  You have another grandfather, you know.  Somewhere else out there.  You could have even tried to kill your younger self, same paradox.”

“You invented the thing.  You’re the one everyone knows.  You’re the one that proved it’s impossible.  It just…it just has to be you.  Has to be this way.”

“You can’t.”

“Could you please sit back down?”

“You can’t.”

“Stop saying that!”  He was getting flustered.  There were tears streaming down his face, and his hand shook all the more.

“What’s your name?”

“Why does that matter?”

“If you’re going to kill me, I’d like to at least know your name.”

“They…they named me after you.”

The inventor smiled.  “Charles, then.  Do they call you ‘Charlie?’  I always hated Charlie.  Why don’t you give me the gun.  There are other paradoxes, other ways of testing things.  It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“It…it does.”  The resolve in his voice was slipping away.  His grip on the gun loosened.  The inventor reached out and pulled it away.

“That’s good.  Now, I’d love to hear all about your life.  My life.  That would be a paradox, too.  Let’s just put the safety on this,” the gun was slick with sweat.  It slipped in his hand.  He tried to catch it, but as he did the world exploded in noise and pain.  He looked down at the gaping hole in his own chest.

The inventor fell to his knees, looking up at his grandson’s shocked expression.  “This,” he said, each word a struggle, “wasn’t in my equations.”  Darkness closed in around him as the paradox storms swept in.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: With Apologies

With Apologies

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

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Ah how the sake did flow.

We’d gathered for a celebration in the great hall, among the jade and gold sculptures and tapestries that hung along the walls.  It was a room that promised decadence, and we delivered.  The battle had been long and hard, many good men lay dead on the fields.  Around me were the surviving samurais, cloaks stained in blood.  The blood of enemies, the blood of friends, their own blood, it all mingled together into dried brown stains.  Their swords were clean, they’d seen to that.

We drank to their brothers, we drank to their foes, we drank to the lord of the shogunate, lost in the battle and assumed dead.  But his land was secure, and in his place his son would rise and rule.

It had been an honor to fight along side them.  To see them in action.  To follow their code and defend their lands.

Again the servers went to the giant cask rolled out for the celebration, plunging ladles farther and farther down, bringing out more of the sweet drink that fueled the festivities.  It had a bite, but it was a pleasant one trimmed with the taste of plums.

Finally the cask was emptied, and the samurai and their attendants lefts one by one until there were just three of us left enjoying stories that translated past our language barriers, laughing at jokes that we couldn’t understand.  I’d hoped for one more drink, and looked down into the cask, hoping there might be just a few drops of the sweet rice wine left.  I was aware it was from the private reserve of the feudal lord of these lands, the man they toasted, intended only for his lips.  None had thought twice about opening the cask, to celebrate his life and mark his passing.

I looked deep, but alas it was gone.  As were, when I looked up, my friends.  Instead there stood the man we toasted, the owner of this hall, the owner of the sake, not dead but triumphantly stained with the blood of his enemies, limping into the hall.

That’s when I learned a lesson the hard way.  There’s nothing more dangerous than standing alone, staring down the barrel of a shogun.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: The New God

The New God

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

They came to this place in the time before to worship.  They came to this place at the awakening to flee.  That is what our stories tell us, and our stories are all we have.

That was so long ago.  Generations now.  Our new god protects us, even as he slumbers with eyes that never close.  He protects us and watches over us, as he has for generations.

We do not go to the east anymore.  There is the old city, where many of our ancestors came from when they fled.  The stories speak of buildings constructed in the time before, and of great metal birds that flew the sky.  I don’t believe in those birds.  The only things that fly the skies in the day are the eagles.  At night the sinewy gaunts take to the sky and call to us in languages I cannot understand.  Thankfully, they don’t dare land where our god has sway.

There are stories of people still living there, thirsting for blood, calling for death, with brains so damaged by the gods that came that they are little more than animals.  They wait for us there, keeping us hemmed in, picking us off one by one if we leave the protection of our great protector god.  And so we go west.  We track the buffalo, we track the deer, we till the soil.

And we try not to see the things that are out there to see.

When we come across an animal touched by the hands of the horrible gods, we kill it.  That is called compassion.  For they are horrible beasts with mouths that hang open and drool blood, eyes that roll in lidless sockets, limbs with no bones that pull these poor creatures slowly and painfully over the land.  We do not eat them, but we do bring them back to burn them, sacrificing the creatures created by the enemy gods to our protector.

We knows he sees the sacrifices because his eyes, his eight glorious eyes, are always open.  And we know he gets the sacrifices because he continues to protect us.

We do not know where our god came from, or how he came to be.  We just know he came from the before time, the good time.  Some say he was thrust up from the earth, some that he fell from the sky.  Some say he was crafted by men.  That is called heresy, for how could men create a god?  But there is some hope in that thought.  If a god could be crafted once, could not one be crafted again?  That too is heresy, sadly.

So here is the land where my father raised me, and where I am raising my children.  I will teach them of our god.  I will show them the forests to the west, and warn them of the lands to the east.  Soon my oldest will be ready to hunt, to kill, and to sacrifice.  And I will tell them of this history of this place.  How their ancestors came to Dakota to be protected from the gods that rose.  And how they found our new god, our Rushmore.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: An Announcement

An Announcement

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Scientists Announce Final Invention

At a press conference this afternoon, a team of scientists, engineers, and inventors announced they had invented the last item that will ever be invented.  For centuries thought an impossibility, the moment has been anticipated by philosophologists for the past decade as it became very clear that there are only so many possibilities that can exist within the human imagination.  The invention in question is a new musical instrument that converts thoughts into musical notes.  There followed a brief demonstration by the inventor, Mary Forth, who chose to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number 3.

The announcement set off immediate reactions from people worldwide.  When approached for this article, Harold Maude, a holovision technician from Hoboken, said, “Come on, there has to be something someone hasn’t invented.  Like, I don’t know, some kind of combination hat rack and computer server.”  Computer and sartorial engineer Lucas Freemont, when approached, responded that such a device had in fact been invented in 2117, but proved to be a financial failure.

“Anyway,” he continued, “we aren’t looking at notions of ‘what if we combined this and that’ but at the creation of new and completely novel devices.  There will always be some room for improvement of existing products.  There just won’t be anything completely new ever again.  Which is something we’re all going to have to deal with.”  Mr. Freemont was unable to comment further as he was finalizing his application for a job grilling soy patties at McDonalds.

There are still some holdouts within the scientific community who believe that there can’t possibly ever be an end of invention.  However, this final invention has been foreseen for several years during a period of complete inventive sterility from the scientific and engineering communities.  It was merely a matter of which enterprising person finally realized the concept and could reap the rewards.   Mrs. Forth will receive a prize of $5,000,000 from the federal government, which can now get out of the business of rewarding inventors and get back to the serious work of declaring national weeks of recognition.

And what of all the inventors?  All the hard working men and women who toil and sweat in the hopes of creating something new?  Many are continuing on, unaffected by the news.  Whether this proves to be a futile use of time and resources, or whether they may still prove the establishment wrong is yet to be seen.  Jordan Lauerbeck, for one, is undeterred.  “I was so close to finishing my own thought horn, and I really hope that I can use some of those concepts to, perhaps, create a new form of dentifrice.”

To Mr. Lauerbeck and the other plucky inventors still struggling on, all we can say is good luck.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better. Picture of Kepler’s Supernova courtesy of NASA, released to public domain.

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Fortnightcap: Take Me Back

Take Me Back

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

One day Virginia wasn’t there anymore.

There were no warning signs, there was no explosion or noise, it just wasn’t there.  We watched on the news, horrified, from our hotel room in Philadelphia, realizing that everything we owned and everyone we knew was in Virginia.  And now Virginia wasn’t there.  There wasn’t even a great slagheap that could be sifted through, examined and tutted over.  Instead, drivers headed southbound on 95 were leaving Baltimore and thirty minutes later passing through Rocky Mount.  Physicists were interviewed on the news, asked their opinion about the anomaly, and all were stumped.

Support came in from around the planet.  Rallies in world capitals, people waiving blue flags and holding up signs “Today we are all Virginians.”  No.  We’re Virginians.  The last of a dying breed.  We’ve been asked to check in with the government, an attempt to figure out how many people died.  Did they die?  They’re certainly gone, and no one is quite able to find them.

My parents.  My in-laws.  It’s overwhelming.

People want to donate money, but they’re not sure where to donate it.  The Red Cross can’t do anything, there’s no one injured to help.  There are promises to rebuild, but rebuild what and where?  People are starting to ask questions.  Fox News broke the ice by pointing out there are now two Democratic senators who don’t actually represent a state.  MSNBC pointed out that there’s also eleven Representatives, eight of whom are Republican, in the same position.  I’m glad to know that people are really caring about the important things right now.

The news here in Philly has interviewed me several times, the real live Virginian in the city.  How did I escape?  How do I feel?  I don’t have answers for them.  I didn’t escape, I was just on vacation, some sort of horrible and fortunate and devastating coincidence which means I’m here while Virginia is gone.

People want something to blame.  Terrorism is brought up.  Radical extremism.  Divine retribution.  Sunspots.  Vaccines.  Global Warming.  Everyone has some theory, which doesn’t help in the end.  When all is said and done, everyone is wondering if it could happen again, and after some hemming and hawing no expert going on the TV can say anything other than “I don’t know.”

So here we are.  My wife has family in Maryland willing to take us in until we can get our feet under us.  I don’t know how I feel about being that close to where Virginia is supposed to be, but there’s nowhere better for us to go.  Perhaps we’ll go west, live on the California coast.

So wish us luck.  And remember Virginia.  People are already forgetting it.  A celebrity did something stupid, the Middle East got three percent more dangerous, and the loss was gone.  People don’t talk about Virginia anymore.  I appear to have misplaced my Virginia’s drivers license.  I’m trying to keep remembering it, but it all feels like a strange fever dream.  Is it possible that there never was such a place?

No.  It had to have been there.

Right?

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: Don’t Walk

Don’t Walk

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The little white walking man gave way to a blinking red palm.  Beside it, a red countdown began at 28.

“Come on, guys, we can still make it!”  Brad picked up his pace, leaving Antoine and Jon looking at each other, and speeding up to catch him.

“You’ll never make it.  We’ll never make it!”  Jon hastened his pace to catch up with Brad.  Brad had, in the meantime, reached the edge of the sidewalk.  Reached the curb.  Stepped off and into the street.  The countdown was at 24 seconds.

Antoine ran to catch up with the other two.  “It’s an eight lane road.  Just stop, we’ll wait for the next walk sign!”

“We can make it,” said Brad, “don’t just stand there.”

“Hell,” Antoine said, and followed the two out into the street as the countdown hit 20 seconds.  These things were always mistimed, gave people too long to cross, were designed for even the slowest walkers.  Eight lanes.  Nineteen seconds.  It wasn’t that far.

“This!” Brad shouted, doing a turn.  “This is living!  Look at that.  Eighteen, seventeen.  We’ve still got several lanes to go.  We might not even make it before the hand turns red.  Wouldn’t that be something?  Out here during Don’t Walk.”

“You’re sick,” said Antoine.

“Sick and crazy,” amended Jon, as the sign hit fifteen.

“And alive.  Not like you two.  If I listened to you, where would we be.  Back there!” he said, turning to point at the curb behind them.  “Just a bunch of clucking hens talking about how long it takes to cross a road.”

Brad turned back, took a step towards the far curb.  His foot landed awkwardly, his ankle twisted, and he went down hard on the asphalt.  Twelve seconds.

“Damn!” Antoine shouted.  “Damn damn damn.  I knew this would happen, I mean, I knew this would happen.  I follow you two bastards out into the road, and now look at this, Brad’s twisted his ankle, and we’ve got ten seconds left to make it across the street!”

Nine.

“Leave him!” Jon shouted, starting to run.

Eight.

“We can’t leave him out here!”

Seven.

“We can, and we will.  He knew what he was doing!”

Six.

“He’s our friend!”

Five.

“Leave me, damn it!”

Four.

Antoine looked back at Brad, and started running.  Four lanes of traffic to go, and not nearly enough time.  He looked ahead and Jon was on the far curb.  He was shouting, but Antoine couldn’t hear the words.  All he could hear was the blood rushing past his ears.  His feet as they pounded on the pavement.  His heart as it throbbed and tried to erupt from his chest.

One.

The curb was still two feet off.  He launched himself forward.  He hit the ground hard and rolled.  His eyes were screwed shut, instinct protecting them as he hit.  As he opened them, he prayed that he saw the white of the sidewalk instead of the black of the road.  Prayed that he’d made it across before the sign went from flashing to solid red.

White.

He exhaled, then looked back.  Jon was staring at the road, shaking.  Antoine looked to where Brad had fallen, and saw smoke being dissipated by the speeding traffic.

The sign was clear.

Don’t walk.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: Field Trip

Field Trip

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The sunshields went from opaque to clear, and the kids went silent for the first time in the trip.  The vessel beyond was huge.  It had to be.  Larger than the star jumper they were in.  Larger than any vessel these kids had seen.  Likely larger than all the star ships they’d seen combined.

“Class, this is the Generation Ship Eden.  The very first generational ship that was sent out from earth.  This is how humans first left Earth to settle new solar systems.  It was designed to hold thousands of people for centuries.  Can anyone tell me why?”

A hand went up.  “They didn’t have star drives?”

“Very good, Billy!  Yes, these ships were sent out in the years before star drives existed.  Back then it was believed that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.  Can anyone tell me the speed of light?”

No hands.  They were still just third graders.  They wouldn’t get into astrophysics for two more years.

“Well, let’s put it this way, the speed of light is such that light traveling from Sol to the earth takes only eight minutes.  We call that eight light minutes, the distance light travels in eight non relativistic minutes.  A light year is the distance light travels in one year, and from one solar system to the next is dozens if not hundreds of light years.  And thus without star drives, those old ships could take centuries to reach their destination.  So these generational ships were sent out, designed such that the crew that arrived at the destination would be the great great great grand children of the crew that left.”

A hand went up.

“Yes, Michelle?”

“How many years was the trip of the Eden?”

“It was launched in 2105 towards what we now call New Caldonia, the first planet outside of the solar system confirmed to be habitable by humans.  The Eden was rediscovered in 2340, and ever since it has been maintained as a museum.”

She waited.  This was the time where the smarter kids got to show off their math skills.  A hand went up.

“Yes, Billy?”

“Has anyone told them about the invention of the star drive yet?”

“That would disturb the historic nature of the ship.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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