Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: August, 2015

Picture it and Write: Accident Report

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and Write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is from here, I’m only using it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy!

Accident Report

There was a faint wisp of rotten eggs so I adjusted the mask on my breather to ensure a proper seal. I had been taking photographs of a dry lake bed filled with the skeletal remains of old trees. From the degradation of the bark I guessed that they had been dead for decades, easily before the collapse. The house at what used to be the lake shore had been abandoned too, that was a blessing. There were no dead bodies in there.

I transmitted my images as well as a short assessment to the survey ship above and made my way to the transport ship standing in the baking sun. I was no more than half way to it when my satellite phone went off.

I answered it and it was Frank McDivot, the leader of the expedition. “Are you sure about those numbers Grimes?” No hello or any other pleasantries as usual “Is the desert as old as you say?”

“I think so sir!” I stuttered “I’ll have to check colonial records. But my visual inspection would give that age. Plus the houses in this region were all abandoned gradually and properly, not in a rush like the others.” I swallowed “Or not at all.”

“Good, Good!” Frank said “If you’re right Grimes, then I think we will have a working theory about how this cluster-fuck happened.”

“Really?” so soon I thought “What do you think happened?”

“Do you remember that mountain range to the East of you, the one that seems too high to be real?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“It turns out it wasn’t. That idiot Administrator Calvin wanted a view of mountains from his office but didn’t want to move so instead he had nano machine buried deep beneath some hills fifty kilometers from the capital. Had them grow to over twenty kilometers high.”

“Jesus!” That was madness. I said so to Frank then asked “But what about the environmental engineers?”

“They seem to have said everything would be okay if the mountains were kept under a kilometer but it seems that he told them to keep growing it as high as he wanted.”

“I take it there were a lot of repercussions from that”

“More than you know Grimes. First thing it did was block the south easterlies from the main ocean, setting up a rain shadow where you are now.”

“People must have noticed something was wrong then?”

“Some did. But nowhere near enough. Now all that rain had to go somewhere so it falls all down on the coastal plains, more rain than they could handle.”

“Floods?”

“A good few, there were at least ten deaths attributed to it. But that was taken as par for the course when a planet adjusts itself. The shit really hit the fan when all of that flood water hit the seas.”

“Was there a salt shock?”

“No. Worse. They had been laying tonnes of fertiliser out on the plain in order to support the agriculture they had intended for there. There wasn’t enough vegetation there yet to gather it all up so when the floods came…”

“It washed it all to sea.”

“Yep! Enough to turn half the ocean green for a season. Then there was a die off and all that algae rotted in the ocean.”

I thought of the rotten egg smell again. “And that released the hydrogen sulfide.”

“Got it in one. Billions of tonnes of it. The entire ocean went anoxic then all that waste gas had to go somewhere. The sensor records from the day of the collapse were very sketchy but it looks like the gas level took only a few hours to rise past toxic.”

I was aghast. The vanity, the stupidity of it all. “There was no warning?”

“Not at once. The gas spread like a wave across the planet. By the time some places were lethal other monitoring stations had barely registered a shift in the values. And of course, they were woefully unprepared. There were no respirators in the majority of towns as far as I can tell. What incompetence.”

“What about the administration? Who’s going to take responsibility for this?”

“We all know who’s responsible for this. And it looks like the bastard managed to escape too. They had respirators in his building the bunch of cretins.”

“Do you think he can be charged with anything.”

“I hope he can be. Fifty million people died here thanks to his whims. If there isn’t a law there to cover him, I hope to hell they write one.”

“Is there anything I can do.”

The line went silent for a minute then Frank said “We’ll need evidence, more than we have now. That means more leg work for the likes of you. Get back to your shuttle Grimes. I know exactly where I need to send you.”

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The Grand Design

At the door of the hotel was a sign.

THE LIFE ON THIS PLANET EVOLVED UNDER HIGH UV
YOU DIDN’T
WEAR SUNSCREEN

I looked outside. The red trees were perfectly designed to live there. As if they were designed.

A television shows the news “Ancient Aliens Across the Galaxy”

Perhaps they were.

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Written for The Grammar Ghoul Press Shape Shifting 13 number 16.

P.S.I.

Officer Graham cast a trenchant eye on his soul watcher. It was faint but there was definitely a trace of presence around the body.

Using all his powers he summoned the┬ávictim’s shade.

“Okay” He asked. “Who killed you?”

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Written for The Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 #15.

Watering the Plants

Sometimes you look at the world and find that things just don’t seem to fit, that things do not work. Some people who see that want to complain to the gods but in truth it is not really their fault, when they made the world, it was their first day.
One of the biggest mistakes they made was forgetting that the plants they created to cover the ground were not made of the same stuff that they were, not immortal and everlasting, but frail, mortal and needing care. It was only after a few days that the Gods noticed that their brand new plants starting to wilt and even then they were hours figuring out what needed to be done.
What those plants needed, it turned out, was water, something that there was very little of at the beginning of the world, the Gods much preferring rock work over water features. So it turned out that someone had to bring water to all of the plants in the world. All the Gods baulked at that, because they to a divine entity, allergic to manual labour. So they drew lots, overseen by Bob, the king of the Gods, and Trevor, a God without portfolio, was chosen. So he got himself a little watering can, filled it up at the tap and went around the world watering all of creation. The plants all took to the watering and thrived and that was good but as the world got bigger and bigger and it was difficult for Trevor to keep up with the demand all of the plants were making. So he went to Bill, the God of plumbing, and came up with a system of pipes and sprinklers to take some of the load off Trevor and that worked well for a while too.
But after a couple of eons of this, there was another bit of a problem. All of the water that was being sprinkled on the plants had to go somewhere so it started to gather in the low points of the world. Building up first into ponds, then lakes and finally, seas. Poor Trevor wasn’t quite sure. He knew that the plant life in the world needed water to live but if he kept adding it the world would would eventually be flooded. He consulted with Bill about adding a drain down the Marianas trench but in the end circumstances beyond his control began to play out.
It turns out that Phil, the God of the Sun had been making a hames of what was supposed to be a simple job. The Sun was moving around in the sky not in the perfect circle that everyone had agreed with but instead in a parabolic motion that meant the Sun got closer at some times and further away at others. When the Sun was close these new bodies of water started to change into gas, billowing up into the sky, individual pieces of water gathering first as mists, then as great big clouds. This was a boon for the Gods and Mavis, the Goddess of Madness set it up so that people could see things in the clouds, everything from animals to erotic shapes, the thought of which would, as Mavis intended, drive you to distraction.
When the Sun got further away, the world got cooler, the clouds got darker and heavier and then finally it started to rain. It rained down on the whole world, soaking every plant in creation. Trevor was astounded, he had been watering with a can and that sprinkler set up for years and now here was the Sun, doing it for free. And that was when Trevor had his epiphany. The systems of the world, the sun, the wind, the rain, could act together, with appropriate tweaking, to sustain all the plants, all the life of the world, indefinitely. And that is what Trevor, as God of weather, has done, keeping the plants watered, up to this very day.

Picture it and Write: Home Cooking

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, I don’t own the picture, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy.

Home cooking

His friends called it a mail-order marriage but in reality it was not. They had met online, corresponded over several years, and finally, when the vagaries of work and finance allowed they finally got to see each other. She was as beautiful as he imagined and somehow, she though he was alright to look at too. It was another year and much wrangling with immigration before she had come to live with him and he could finally ask the question. They married as soon as the law would allow but no one at that point could say they were rushing it. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. She had what had to be one of the oddest tastes in cooking that he had ever see. She made pancakes with cricket flour, squid omelets and her very favourite, stuffed baked cactus. He didn’t know what to make of that particular confection. It was a cactus, stuffed with meat, beans and shredded vegetables, steamed for over an hour. He remembered the first time it was placed in front of him. With a loop stuck into the side to ease handling, he still had difficulty shifting his hands around the spines that where still attached to the cactus. There was a trick she told him, to eating and with a little patience he was able to open up the cactus and take a bite of the food within.
It was delicious. Savoury with a hint of tartness from the cactus flesh, as nice as anything he had tasted. It was always a bit like that, he’d be presented with something new, be all nervous about it, then taste it and realise that it was the most delicious thing ever. I supposed that there was lesson to be learned about this, but he wasn’t really too bothered. He was just going to enjoy more home cooking.

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Provocation

“Hey!”

“What is it?”

“Billy’s in trouble.”

“God! What now?”

“He painted a face on a wall at the witch’s house.”

“And?”

“It’s after eating him!”

Capture

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press shapeshifter 13 #14

Picture it and Write: Diamonds in the Sky

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Diamonds in the Sky

In the beginning, the sky was dark and barren, and the gods thought that that just did not work at all. So they got together, had a bit of a brainstorming session and decided to stick a great big light up there for the fun of it. They called this light the sun and due to issues with geometry that light only shone on one half of the world at any one time. This agreed with many of the Gods’ penchant for symmetrical paradigms but there was still something missing.

After another brainstorming session, they decided to place another light up there in the heavens. Due to budget constraints, this second light was a lot dimmer and somewhat smaller meaning it had to be closer to the world to stay the same apparent size. This meant that this second light or moon (so named because its pale, mottled appearance was remarkably similar to the bare buttocks regularly displayed by Derek, the God of off-colour jokes) did not travel a path diametrically opposed to that of the Sun. Every month or so it would catch up, even coming so close it would occasionally cover up the light of the Sun. This again played to the Gods’ love of regular cycles and kept them happy for the best part of a month. Still; they found there was something lacking in the sky.

It so happened that Reggie God of the Underworld had bought so many gemstones that Fairfax, the God of economic prudence was having conniptions. Some of these, diamonds, rubies and assorted emeralds have to sent to a place where they could not interfere with the laws of supply and demand he ordered, “I don’t care where.” he said, “Just nowhere people could go.”

Reggie racked his brains for days trying to figure out what do with all the gems. But when he heard they were looking for something to do with the darkness in the sky he had a brain wave. Not only could the gods populate the heavens with all the surplus gems but any god who wanted could use them to write messages in the sky.

This was too good an opportunity to pass up. Some of the gods drew little pictures. Bears and dogs and a stick figure hunter amongst others. Others wrote messages, Derek a bawdy limerick and Bob, the king of the gods, the secret recipe for an immortality serum with one ingredient wrong (Meaning the recipient died in seconds. He had a good laugh about that one). There were song lyrics to inspire a thousand minstrels and plain up “Dave woz here” graffiti.

The sky was a beautiful, chaotic and ever changing place. After a fair bit of work, the gods were happy with what they had done.

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Power to the people

I considered democracy’s promise. Then I thought about people and wept for it.

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Written for the grammar ghoul press  shapeshifting 13 #13

Picture it and write: Hidden Talents

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’ Picture it and Write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy!

Hidden Talents

I don’t know what it is, people like to talk to me in bars. You know like; uninvited. An Ex told me I have a listener’s face, one that attracts people with things to say, the odder the better. Not that that makes me feel any better. It is a bit like a curse; you know? Like the Chinese one “May you live in interesting times”, you’re very likely not to enjoy it when things when they happen, but at least you’ll have interesting stories after.

So I was having a drink; like the many I have had after a hard day’s wrangling numbers on a computer screen when I felt the oh so familiar presence of someone behind me with something to say. I turned around and there beside me was a genial looking middle aged man in a dark suit. I nodded to say hello.

“Lovely day.” He said. I nodded uncommittedly, hoping he’d take the hint and move on. No such luck.

He leaned over to me, looked around conspiratorially and said “I’ve had a very busy day. I have taken so many soulgraphs I think my fingers are going to cramp in protest.”

I looked confusingly at him “Soulgraphs?”

His eyes scrunched for a second then he smiled apologetically. “Forgive me. I’ve forgotten where I am. Let me show you.” He took a couple of what looked like Polaroids from his pocket and handed me one. The material felt different, almost like a parchment. On the picture was a woman waiting for a bus. It must have been Photoshopped; because instead of a normal shadow, there was figure about the same size dressed up like a soldier. I remarked as much.

The man chuckled. “Oh no sir. The image is real. It is the latest innovation from home. When the soulgraph takes a picture it looks into the soul of a person, shows you what they are meant to do with their lives as their shadow.” he grinned at me “Call it career guidance advice.”

He showed me some of his other images. There was a street sweeper, who was meant to be a doctor, a homeless man who seemed to be an engineer and a child who appeared to be a politician addressing a crowd. “Interesting” I said, trying to figure out where this obvious con was going.

“Not as interesting as this” he said and handed me one last picture.

It was taken from behind and at some distance, but I could tell from the gait and the clothes that it was obviously me. But instead of some mundane profession that I had always expected. My shadow was dressed in some form of wizard’s outfit, making to throw something at a dragon flying behind me. I looked at my new companion, demanding an explanation.

He looked all serious “There is magic in this world, I can tell. Only it has been hidden by centuries of people believing only what they can feel with dead hearts. Where I am from, things are very different.” He gently took the picture from my hands and stared at it “I am on what you could call a recruitment drive. You are the first person I have found in a long time with any potential.”

I was totally confused “What are you talking about? I’m an accountant. What do I know about magic? I don’t even believe in it. What kind of game are you playing at?”

The man shrugged “A game you’ll be very unfortunate to pass up on my friend. The soulgraph never lies. Let me guess, you have never liked being an accountant. Or anything else you have tried your hand in in this world. Am I right?” I nodded reluctantly “Well here is your answer why. This,” he stuck the picture at me again, “Is what you were born to do. You do have a lot to learn. But that can be arranged, you have the talent hidden underneath all that” his hand moved up and down to encompass me “come with me and we’ll find your full potential.”

And that was the end of my boring life as an accountant. Where I am now; people still like to talk to me in bars. Everything else though; is a lot more interesting.

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