The Not of This World Issue
Quick as a Flash - Week 5
Fact and Fiction
Aaand we’re back! The break took a little longer than initially expected. I waffled between a few different ideas on what I wanted to do with this newsletter and how to prioritize them. Today’s priority was to get something out because I think we’ve all waited long enough. Expect future issues to get slightly more experimental until I get a feel for what works. Don’t worry! At the end of the day, that means more content, not less.
Today’s issue is Not of This World! Yes, it was written in This World, but it definitely is Not of It. Please enjoy, and I’ll see you next week!
“The truth is… we’re aliens.”
His daughter gave him the stoniest look. “Dad,” she said. Here come the tears. “My friends have tentacles and five eyes. I have opposable thumbs. I’ve known I wasn’t pilik for like six restics.”
Oof. That’s over a decade. Dad of the Year, he was not.
Life of a Star
She thought herself a star, and she was—average talent with a huge amount of bluster for all to see. Yes, she seemed bright and marketable, but on a second look, past the nebula, there was a scared girl—one who knew that in 15 minutes, she’d be dwarfed by the next big thing.
The Last Place You Look
The Desert Sorrow is where those without the will to live go to disappear forever. What nobody realizes until they cross its threshold is that the desert’s sands are shallow. After a dozen paces, the sands shift and underneath is the hope your soul was searching for all along.
Tey walked through the blaze, flames dancing across her legs and forearms.
Not again. Not another unwanted touch.
She pushed the fire away, watching as it died out—just as she watched the life flicker from her captors’ eyes many moons ago.
Yes, she would do just fine here.
Meals of the Future
The station’s kitchen has an AI whose responsibilities include scanning your body for nutritional needs and, within minutes, popping a tasteless gray meal cube into your mouth.
The temptation will be there to order “real” food, but the friendly, built-in lasers remind you not to!
Cole groaned as he shoved the heavy, lifeless body off of him. He closed his eyes and fought to stop his labored breathing. He needed to move soon. If reinforcements arrived while he was without a weapon, then this whole trip would be a bust.
He caught his breath and chanced a glance at his attacker. The alien was an imagon of the beetle variety: two-thirds his size and at least double his weight, with a hammer-like horn that he had been on the wrong end of. It was a miracle he’d been able to wedge his hunting knife through its chitinous outer shell and into the so-called heart in its abdomen.
He pushed himself off the cold tiled floor and crawled toward the creature, reaching to retrieve his weapon. His chest ached where the bug had tackled him, but he fought past it and yanked harder.
No good. “Dammit,” he muttered, slamming his fist onto the corpse. The dull thud did nothing to assuage him.
In the scuffle, he’d been scratched and spat on with some of it entering his mouth, if the acrid taste was anything to go by. Odds were high that he’d be serving as the alien’s replacement soon enough.
But right now, that didn’t matter. He had a job to do. He pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and, with shaky bare hands, unfolded it. In typical doctor’s chicken scratch was the list of medications he was to grab and the minimum quantities needed to get full brownie points. He eyed the half-empty shelves of the hospital’s pharmacy. Most of what was there still looked good, despite the city being carpet-bombed to hell and back.
He went down the list and filled his backpack with everything he could find. It was when he reached for the Pulmicort that he had to set his gear down and drag his filthy fingers down his face to wipe away the tears.
He needed to simmer down. He could break down later when his skin peeled off and wings sprouted from his back. Right now, he had to finish this. For Seb.
Azelport was not the kindest settlement, but it was certainly the best stocked. The medical supplies and food reserves were a boon to those with health concerns, so when he learned his six-year-old son had both asthma and a roach allergy, he knew he needed to get the hell out of the understaffed Coobury and hit the wasteland. So they left, armed with a meager set of supplies and the half-empty inhaler that the doctor could spare.
The month of travel was slow, with a lot of looking over their shoulders for human bandits and imagons alike. Steadily, their water reserves ran low, and Cole could feel the squeeze of Death’s noose around his neck. The only thing worse was watching the same happen to his kid.
But they got to Azelport and were accepted with the latest batch of newcomers. They were given a room in an inn and monthly rations. Cole was assigned a job working with the fishermen at the crack of dawn every weekday. On weekends, they’d assign him extra tasks to earn points that could be redeemed for more rations, weapons, and other items. He was halfway to affording a small home for the two of them. Too bad there wasn’t an antidote to redeem points for.
Of course, things weren’t perfect. Azelport had a zero-tolerance policy for the infected, and the armed guards didn’t like to take chances. The weekend missions were always proposed as if they were optional, but if they found a way to strong-arm you into it, they would. The overseer made it very clear how easy it was to “forget” to turn Seb back over to Cole after daycare or for their supplies to turn up a little light.
Sniffling, Cole grabbed every box of Pulmicort he could. Fifteen minutes later, he was heading back to the settlement.
There was no way they’d let him back in. Anyone returning was stripped, searched for wounds, and questioned. If there was any suspicion, a doctor was on hand to administer all sorts of invasive tests. But like all of Azelport’s draconian rules, it was deemed necessary and effective.
Hours later, he arrived at the guard post outside of the barricaded settlement. The guard saw him and pointed a hunting rifle in his direction. “That’s close enough. State your business.” Her leather skull cap, goggles, and scowl masked any signs of humanity.
Cole dropped his bag on the ground and raised his hands. “I’m Citizen One-Oh-Six-Oh. I’ve returned with the medical supplies I was asked to retrieve.”
The guard motioned for him to step away, and he obliged. She approached the bag, opened it with gloved hands, and sorted the contents. Nodding, she kicked the pack behind her, once again aiming at Cole.
“Are you infected?”
He had options. He could try lying. He could run away. But only one kept Seb taken care of. “I have reason to believe I am.”
She pressed her lips together into a firm line. “You know what that means, right?”
He swallowed, possibly for the last time. “Yes. But first,” he said. “Can you let the overseer and those in charge of records know that my brownie points should be bequeathed to my son, Citizen One-Oh-Six-One, and his new guardian?” Seb was a cute kid. One look into those green eyes, and the childless widows will fight over him. He won’t be without a guardian for long.
The guard’s lips quivered. It took a couple moments before she finally uttered, “I will pass your information on.” She adjusted her aim to point directly at his head. “Anything you want said to your son?”
Tears streamed down his face. It was getting harder to breathe.
“Ju—Just tell him that Daddy loves him.”