What Pegman Saw: Loxton Crook

The site was out on Karoonda Highway. On one side, the green swathe of Murray Barrandura’s vineyard, on the other a dusty khaki patchwork of Bush.

Two vehicles blocked the junction for Kingston Road – one I recognised as Murray’s faded blue ute. The other was Lachy Tuner’s Hilux.

‘Murray, Lachlan.’ I slammed the car door and came to stand beside them.

‘Rum thing,’ said Murray, scratching his thinning curls. ‘Not seen since Grandfather’s time.’

‘1930, the last one,’ said Lachy.

‘Did you see the flash?’ I said. ‘Lit up the sky like fireworks. Lucky it didn’t hit closer to town.’ The meteorite was the size of my fist, the surface like pumice flecked with chips of silica. ‘Made quite a hole.’

‘People got crook then.’ Murray sucked at his cheeks.

‘In 1930? That was flu. Meteorites don’t cause flu epidemics,’ scoffed Lachy.

Murray’s gaze drifted towards town, to the cluster of twinkling streetlights.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week, we are in Loxton, South Australia.

Notes

Back in 1930, a meteor shattered in the sky above Karoonda. The pieces weighed a total of 92 lbs.

Many Aboriginal cultures see meteors as harbingers, warnings of coming death or signs of evil spirits coming to suck water from the land. Read more here.

In Australian slang, crook means ill, likely to die.

What Pegman Saw : The Bone House

‘How long has he lived here?’ called Taylor.

Baruti shrugged, sandals slapping on leathery feet. His easy gait and slim frame made Taylor feel huge and awkward, an elephant beside a gazelle.

‘Could be an indicator of how far -‘

A hot wind blew up the valley and there it was – the same sound in Philadelphia, Bologna, Yekaterinburg. A wind chime made of bones.

‘There,’ said Baruti.

On top of the hill, a large hut on stilts.

‘Did he make that?’ said Taylor.

Forester had been an accountant, the least practical man Taylor ever met. But many of the sufferers had developed new skills. The virus’s capacity to construct new neural pathways in the brain was the reason he was there. One reason.

Baruti was already hurrying away, dust swallowing him.

Taylor checked the comforting swell of the Beretta under his jacket and pressed on.

 


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its inspiration. This week, we’re in Botswana. See here to join in, share and comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Line Tales : Towards the velvet black

three line tales week 116: an astronaut doing space repairs

photo by NASA (yes, THAT NASA – which is why you want to click through to the full size picture for the full effect) via Unsplash


 

‘Are you there? Dawson? Are you there?’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m here, Flores. Breathe slow now. Tell me what can you see.’

Cold misted Flores’ visor. Her limbs were stiffening, breath coming harder. She should stay quiet, conserve her oxygen, but what was the point now?

‘I see black,’ she breathed. ‘A lot of black.’ And silver, shreds of silver from the destroyed space station. And in the distance something white, a helmet shining on top of a motionless torso.

She looked away, towards the velvet black, the sprinkle of stars dancing like fairy lights on a string. If she just reached out, she could touch …

‘Flores? Flores?’


Written for Three Line Tales. See here to share, read and comment.

Always old fashioned

They sat in Terry’s office on stiff-backed chairs. Two untouched mugs of tea and a plate of soggy Bourbons perched on reams of paperwork on his desk. Terry didn’t like tea, but he always made himself one when visitors came because it seemed to make people less self-conscious than when they drank alone. Now things such as tea and biscuits seemed old-fashioned in this newly made world. But Terry didn’t mind that. He’d felt old-fashioned since he was a small boy.

The surface of the tea had formed a skin,  wrinkling under the air conditioning like geriatric flesh. He thought of mentioning his observation to the man from the Government – Donald was it? Or Dennis? – but his thoughts often made other people feel uncomfortable. Though Janey had never minded.

The Government man’s suit was as creased as his face, as if he’d used the jacket as a pillow. His skin was greasy, grey as the ring of dirt around his shirt collar. Yes, standards had dropped since the beginning of the outbreak.

Donald / Dennis scratched his forehead with bitten down nails. ‘Doctor Goddard, if you can tell me anything about Doctor Faber’s movements over the last few days. Anything at all.’

The man looked exhausted, but then they all were. He and Janey had taken to napping on the chaise longue in the corner of the office rather than bothering to drive home. They were both single. No one missed them. He gazed at the sofa now, at the threads of gold that could only be strands of her hair.

‘Doctor Goddard. Please. This is a matter of national security.’

‘We were trying to find a cure -‘

Donald / Dennis leaned forward, his tie shifting the papers on the desk. ‘A cure funded by the government, with key research and statistics supplied by our departments.’

All Terry knew was that she had been there one evening, peering over her notes, twisting her hair on top of her head with a biro, and gone the next morning. He hadn’t noticed the slides were missing until the phone rang.

The Government man’s jaw clenched. ‘I cannot stress how important it is we regain those samples.’

He didn’t mention Janey’s safety, that she was out there alone, the world dying around her.

When Terry had picked up the phone, her voice had been faint and breathy through the receiver. He thought she might have been running. Or crying. ‘I’m sorry, Terry,’ was all she’d said. ‘I’m so very sorry.’

Donald would take the words as an admission of her guilt, but Terry knew them for what they were. A goodbye.

 


I fancied revisiting Terry and Janey, two scientists caught in the jaws of a catastrophic disease outbreak. To read their first outing, When the time comes, see here.

#tuesdayuseitinasentence : When the time comes

Petri dishes, mould cultures

Image : Pixabay

‘You get your jabs yet?’ Terry Goddard looked at Janey over his half moon glasses, a sad, questioning smile on his lips.

His hair was uncombed, his shirt creased. He owned one tie and in the ten years they’d worked together he’d never had that washed. Until two weeks ago she hadn’t known he lived alone with a largely absent cat and a hyacinth macaw named Fleming. Then the news had somehow leaked through of how awful it was out there – the looting, the violence, the relentless spread of the disease – and they had spent an evening under the flourescent glare of laboratory lights, drinking a ten-year-old Glenfiddich and actually talking.

Now she wished they hadn’t, that they’d remained polite strangers. Imagining his childhood hop picking in Kent, how he nursed his mother through cancer after cancer until it finally stole her away … It would make it all so much harder when the time came.

‘No,’ she said, rubbing tired eyes. ‘I didn’t see the point.’

He lowered his voice. ‘You’ve got to make a show. For the sake of the others.’ He took her hand, gave it the briefest squeeze and was gone, bustling over petri dishes and samples.

She hoped she died first.

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Use the word – today it’s JAB – in a post. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

 

#tuesdayuseitinasentence: Break open the earth

Firework, explosion

Image : Pixabay

Someone gripped Ben’s shoulder, shaking him awake.

‘Fetch your kit,’ said the someone, just a shadow in black.

The shadow was breathing hard, a wheeze on the exhale he recognised in his own lungs. Shanty Chest, Dom had called it with a wink. But there was no more Dom. Ben kept forgetting.

He pulled his bag open, grabbing for his jacket, stuffing his bedroll inside, though it slipped and fought him as if it was alive.

‘Move,’ said the someone. ‘Five minutes and we’re out.’

Then there was no someone, no tent, only a whistling, gaping hole and the sky and stars and the stars were exploding over his head, big and white enough to blind, filling the night with cracks loud enough to break open the earth.

‘There coming!’ screamed another someone.

But he was staring up at the stars, watching them break and flash and fade and listening to the crackling hush to silence.

 


Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Use the word – today it’s KIT – in a post. See here to read the other tales and to join in.

Friday Fictioneers : For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson


 

Pristine white arches stretched over the dark corridor. The starship’s floor was warm beneath her feet, the restless air scented with plastic and engine oil. Machinery hummed – a dull, comforting throb.

She tried to control her breathing, tried not to glance into the alcoves as she followed the trail of winking lights. She knew what lay inside – egg-shaped pods, their glass lids sealed, the placid oval of a sleeping human face visible in each.

She was the last awake, the only one who’d heard the distress call from home – to know the heartbreaking truth.

‘Sleep well,’ she whispered.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the prompt photo and write a 100 word tale. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

The title comes from Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, from the speech beginning,

To be or not to be?