Janitor’s Log

Back when they Kickstarted this thing, there was a contest for a book of short-short stories. I didn’t make the cut. 🙂

Stardate 021631011956

“In space, no one can hear you yawn,” I thought, as I crawled through Jeremy Tubes, checking lint traps, in the dead of the night watch.

That’s when the first impact rocked the ship, and klaxons started howling.

I heard an automatic hatch clang and seal ahead of me. Without further thought, I started scuttling assward as fast as knees and elbows could piston. I’d been locked in a Jeremy Tube during an emergency before. The power fluctuations had felt like biting insects in every orifice. No way I was going through that again.

I exited feet first into the ship’s holotheater and slammed and dogged the hatch.

The ship rocked with another explosive impact. The lights flickered, then stabilized.

“Right,” a British accent broke in, “what’s all this then?” The ship’s Hologram appeared before me, done up as a London Bobby. He waved a nightstick in my face. “What are you hooligans up to now?”

“I don’t know!” I snapped. “You’re the one with instant access to the main computer. You tell me! Call up a damage report!”

He stepped back, at attention, and stared at me a moment. Then his eyes went blank, losing their normal faux sparkle as he concentrated on tapping into the ship’s primary systems. His Bobby getup faded, revealing a naked physique like a mannikin, and his voice went all mechanical.

“Alien missiles. One. Two. The first struck primary crew quarters, behind the bridge. The captain is dead.”

My spine suddenly felt like jelly. “What about the First Officer? The Admiral?” I whispered.

“Last logged in their quarters, presumed dead,” he stated, emotionlessly.

I staggered backward, bracing myself against the bulkhead, and slid to a seat on the floor. “Can you hail the bridge?” I choked out.

“It was the target of the second missile,” he replied, flatly.

The hull vibrated with another distant explosion. A terrified cry suddenly filled my brain, then silence. That would be the ship’s Telepath.

“That hit Engineering,” the Hologram reported. The lights dimmed. “Power now at 49 percent.”

Suddenly the hatch to the Jeremy Tube above me cycled and reopened. A head popped out. The Cyborg.

“Ah. Excellent!” He said brightly, staring down at me. “At last. A human officer. Until we can raise someone else, I’m afraid you’re in charge, Sir!”

I gazed dumbly at him as he slid from the tube. He took a moment to straighten his uniform, then turned to the Hologram.

“Get a bridge simulation set up here,” he said, “to serve as an auxiliary. We’ll need to respond to the alien ship in kind, if we want to survive long enough to get the main drives back online and buffer the shields.”

The Hologram nodded, and bridge controls began materializing out of thin air. The Cyborg turned back to me.

“Are you with me, Sir?” He asked, offering a hand to help me to my feet.

I coughed. Swallowed. “Uh. Yeah. Sure,” I answered, taking his hand. “Just to be clear though, I get combat pay for this, right?”

Elementals, by Michael McDowell

At first, it seemed as if written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Then it slid inexorably into Dan Simmons territory.

It’s not often I feel truly chilled by a novel and frightened for its characters. This one took me there. Definitely recommended.

(And thank you, to the anonymous Amazon ebook reader who chose to share this with a stranger. I’m much obliged.)

Elementals on goodreads

Type “A” for “Audacity”!

One feature of a type A personality is, apparently, “They tend to set high expectations for themselves, and may believe others have these same high expectations of them as well.”

In my experience, that quotation could be boiled down to the single word “Guilt.” As in:

“I looked at my bucket list again, realized how overdue I am projects I volunteered for, and now I feel like a disappointing jerk.

“And under that box of postage supplies is that kit my family bought me two Christmases ago because I said I was interested in building a cigar-box guitar.

“Not to mention the home repair work hanging fire.”

Thank god for the energizing power of egoist audacity!

Snake Oil

“Snake oil or Memory Elixer anyone?” photo, Wesley Fryer, CC by 2.0
A couple of years ago, when Candace, my “Belgian” daughter was visiting, she asked me repeat to her boyfriend the swimming hole story I had told her as an adolescent. I couldn’t remember, until she reminded me. It goes like this …

I said, “As a boy, I was staying with a great-uncle in Kentucky, and a bunch of us went to the local swimming hole. I jumped in first, and discovered that a nest of water moccasins had taken up residence. I immediately swam for shore, but the snakes surrounded me, closing in, and they began biting me with their deadly venomous fangs!”

Candace asked, “Oh my god, Dad! What happened?”

I told her gently, “Well, Candace. I died.”