Featured Story, Week of June 10, 2018: "The Curious Dot in the Dark" and "Man VS Morn


Each week we feature a story written by one or two of our group members at our weekly meetings. For this week's featured stories, we picked a mundane activity to write about and worked in three five-minute writing sections, dealing with the conflicts of man vs. self, man vs. nature, and man vs.man.

The Curious Dot in the Dark

By Bryan Mahoney

Darius stared at the green blip so intently, he wondered if his eyeballs could will it to move away. The blip represented that impossible scenario – the one thing they breeze over in training because “Oh you’ll never have to worry about that.”

He was worrying.

The round radar screen showed several other red and blue lights. He knew what those meant – harmless, normal, ordinary. But the green one … what was it they said? “You ever see this screen go green you …”

You what? A wall went up in Darius’ memory.

It was his short attention span. It always got him into trouble. On Saturn he worked at a Plutonian whiskey bar but he could never remember the orders. And if you got a Kessler whiskey mixed up with an Andromeda Ale … the result could be, well, explosive.

That’s what made the galactic military such an appealing job. He’d never have to remember orders; just follow them. And to get this assignment to boot … he thought it’d be as easy as learning a couple dials on a display and the ones he didn’t know he could always …

He dove under his desk and opened the metal footlocker.

“Please be here” he prayed.

He plucked a binder from the stack of manuals. “Ah!” he squeaked as he bumped his head on the desk.

He flipped through the radar manual to the optics grid. In the bottom right corner was his green dot.

“Black hole worm. Great,” he said.

He looked from the plasticine page to the screen, and back again. The green blip moved closer to the center of the display which represented the starship that Darius called home these past two years.

“Shyat,” he muttered. He saw a black hole worm in a zoo once. The zoo orbited Kessler 182 alongside the dead husk of a black hole worm. There are no microbes in space but there are ice crystals and bits of atmosphere that pop off a planet and stick to anything they find. It made the worm’s skin and tentacles have a spiky appearance, like a medieval mace placed among the stars by a god of war.

The alarms came up hard. Darius didn’t realize he’d pressed the red emergency button. Above the radar screen a glass panel slid open, exposing the code key to arm missiles.

“What is it, ensign?” A voice chuffed behind him.

“Black hole worm, approaching fast, ma’am,” he said.

Something in Darius’ mind made him question the faith he’d put in this manual. Was it really the green blip? Then what was the purple one?

The officer leaned in to the radar screen.

“You’re sure about this?” the woman asked.

Darius thought the green dot was pretty clear, stark against the black screen. She was close enough to give it a sniff …

Oh no.

Darius panicked.

She doesn’t know what green means either.

Darius held up the radar manual, still open to the color grid. “Green signal, B.H.W.” he said.

“Ensign, we have a lot of alarm bells you’ve decided to ring.” She stood straight now, hands clasped behind her. “Are you ready to risk your life and the life of this crew on that book, which looks like you pulled it from underneath your desk?”

Now Darius questioned himself. He just needed to get through this and it was back to his boring radar job for good. Another three years and he’d be out, free to live anywhere with a Galactic Navy pension under his belt. If he was wrong, same outcome minus pension.

“Sure, why not?” he said.

She stood still.

“Restore the missile key and uncheck the EM alarm,” she said. “You almost had us firing on the Billigine Home World.”

Darius completed the order. He was pretty sure his shoddy memory would let him recall the time he almost blew away a civilization.

Man Vs Morning

by Ryan Carbery

Wallet. Walletwalletwallet. Wallet. And keys. Wallet and keys...keyskeyskeyskeys...keys!. Wallet and keys and g-. Card. Cardcardcardcard. Goddammit. Card...not that card. Not that card. That...not that card. Card! Wallet keys card...what time is it? Sunglasses. Wrong shirt. Wrong shirt. Car. Sunglasses are in the car...I hope. Wallet keys card...sunglasses are in the car...yes. Sunglasses are in the car. Wallet keys card sunglasses...phone. Shit. Phonephonephonephone...phone. Phone wallet sunglasses card...what did I do with the keys? Seriously? Keyskeyskeys...house keys. Car keys are...still in the car? Let's go see if I still have a car. Keys are in the car.

Plug in phone...podcast...no, not pandora, podcast. No, podcast. Podcastpodcastpodcastpodcast...dick. Cool, podcast. Take it out of gear and...okay, turn it back. Try again. Okay, turn off radio turn off lights...wait a second...dammit. Left the lights on and...did I plug the stereo in or was it already plugged in? What the hell was I doing? Oh...finished a cigar in the car last night, left everything on. Great. Jump starter...where's...where did I leave the jumpstarter...Kat. I left the jump starter with...why did it have to travel? Jump start and then the car drives away without my jump starter. Alright. No jump start. Get help? Hahahaha...no. That's not going to happen. Plan B. It's always Plan B. So there's a car downhill of me. Get the apple box.

Okay, apple box under the front tire...push the brake, take out the parking brake, slowly let the brake out. Golden. Front push, back push...nnn...back push, I can feel when the apple box hits the tire...push kick push kick push kick push kick push kick push kick...crap...kick around around...around...tire. Cool. Okay, distance. Pull the parking brake, grab the apple box. Belt, put it in gear, turn the key and...son of a.

“Hey man. Hey, I need that space. No, I'm not...I know I'm in a legal space, that's not the...hey, dude, c'mon...I need to pop start my car. Pop...push start, I need spac-...what? '67. 1967. Yeah, long time. Right now?...I'm trying to start it but...no. No it won't, that's why...can you move your car man?”

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