Thursday, April 21, 2022

#SFF #AtoZChallenge #WEP #WEPFF Quietus

#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

A speculative fiction short story from a dreamer

A continuous #sff story during April. May Rose is the main character (🧑🏽 they/them pronouns).
RECAP: An alien empire of overlord species, most similar to Earth's creatures, has taken over after the Devastation (a human-caused apocalypse). Humans are their pets. Another alien species is at war with those overlords. They use reddish stones for a communication network, this is visible in the lightning. May has one stone but needs another for Jade to save her life. Budding Manor, where May Rose lives and works, uses overlord technology for defense against the apocalyptic elements. 🌩⛈

May rushed to prepare for the trip. Jade rubbed her eyes when May entered the bed-chamber.

"What's going on? Are you finally coming to bed?"

"No." May held Jade's face, kissing her deeply. "I love you. I hope to be back by morning. Do your best to cover for me if I'm not. I have to go somewhere and do something to save your life." 

Dressed to stay as dry as possible, carrying only a light satchel, May went to the far end of the grounds of Budding Manor. There, Overlord Tardigrade waited. He had been briefed on the travel plans. And, as his recent mistakes put May's livelihood in jeopardy, he agreed to do them the favor of transportation. What May hadn't counted on was his massive size. On Earth, the species he populated were microscopic. But the empire of overlords were all huge creatures. Luckily, Overlord Tardigrade had traveled here with his human pet, so there was a harness for May to use. A harness designed for someone considerably bigger. The torrential downpour didn't help matters.

jasper reddish stone
"Follow the red light," May said. Lightning flashed, illuminating the path between May's reddish stone and Quintilis Cave's. So began the quest to the last human born on Earth. 

May was grateful for the protection of the overlord's body. Moments after flying or leaping (it was unclear how the overlord propelled himself through the air) away from Budding Manor, the rain turned to hail and then to acid. The stench of rot wafted through the air. Geysers shot yellow foam high enough to nearly hit the overlord. May recalled someone getting hit with that foam. Watching as flesh fell off, muscle melted, and bones dissolved still haunted May's nightmares. 

The wet harness nearly caused May to fall. Gripping it tighter, May screamed into the night. Twelve tentacles with razor-sharp claws on the suckers shot up from the ocean below. Overlord Tardigrade moved higher in the sky. May gave thanks for not becoming a victim of the sea monster, but now struggled to breathe. Hyperventilation set in as May's heart raced. Lightning crashed so near that hair raised.

Finally, the overlord descended. On the side of a mountain, just beyond the remains of a human settlement, was the mouth of a cave. May wanted to rest, but there wasn't time. It was crucial to get back before breakfast. 

"Is anyone here?" May called out. A spear whizzed by. "I am May Rose. Named for the time and place of my birth. Is Quintilis Cave here?"

A 2D cartoon illustration of a tortoise with a flaming candle on its shell. Stledger Studio.
A candle on the back of a tortoise eased out of the cave. In the shadow behind, someone spoke. "I have heard of you. Come to meet the freak? If you hoped we would mate, my answer is no."

"I'm ill-equipped for that chore. Do you have a reddish stone?"

"Want to talk about the voice in my head? Even the bandits have abandoned me because of that. How did you get here? I cut the remaining bridge."

May took a step closer. "I have a stone too."

"Answer the other question."

"I traded a favor for transportation." May took another step. Quintilis came into view. "Wow. I have never seen eyes so blue."

"Right under my upside-down nose. At least your face passes as human. Is the mist covering the mountain base?"

May nodded. An upside-down nose was not the worst mutation to encounter. "Yeah. Makes it look like the mountain goes straight to the sea."

"All the dead washed ashore. As decaying bodies rotted open, that mist came out. Trees fell soon after. The remaining predator animals fled up the mountain. Adults died fighting them. Then others. I guess I'm too vile to eat. Bandits came many moons later. They wanted the yellowish rocks from the depth of the cave. Had a hard time getting rid them, but I did it. That's when the reddish stone told me to cut the bridge. No others in or out. Until you."

May opened the satchel. "I brought food and drink, if you're interested."

The thunder rumbled in the distance. "Not long now. There's a countdown. A wave of energy is going to wash over everything. Stronger than the Devastation. Earth is getting cleansed. My stone wants me to leave. It whispers to me. Does yours?"

"No. Mine is quiet. I have a spare blanket. Probably gets colder than this up here."

Quintilis laughed. "Much colder. Did you see the tiny skeletons on my mountain? Some straddle the bones of their mounts. How about the ash under the split trees? Lightning struck, knocking their tops off and frying the woman who birthed me. Mother ash."

May reached to the bottom of the satchel. There was only one object left.

"Is it better where you are? Does Rose have life?"

"No. Those who remain do whatever it takes to survive. That is the only way. I have never seen better."

Quintilis removed a glove, revealing the reddish stone. "Have you come to take me somewhere so I will tell others what I've seen?"

May pulled the weapon from the satchel. Quintilis Cave had no time to react. May took the candle off the tortoise and extinguished it. 

"Quietus," May whispered while taking the stone. The executioner climbed into the harness and went home.

Quietus 883 words FCA
Tagline: An executioner extinguishes one life to save another.
#AtoZChallenge 2022 tribute badge

Question: Did this remind you of the prompt song? A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN

"The main theme of the song revolves around the post-war period and the diversification brought about through war and destruction" (ipl). "warns against a coming apocalypse while cataloging horrific visions" (Rolling Stone) "But this rain was abstract rather than literal. “It’s not the fallout rain,” Dylan said." (Rolling Stone)

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  1. Did you write like 2500 words today? Nice work.

    Good story.

  2. That was intense!!!
    I don't know if any of know what we're capable of until we're put to the test like May

  3. What a fascinating story. I must read it from the beginning.

  4. I knew May had it in them! I liked the dystopian setting outside the manor.

    Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge My Languishing TBR: Q

    1. I've been foreshadowing all month, but waiting until WEP to show the outside world.

  5. Unexpected. Tense. Dramatic. Thank you.

  6. What an interesting and suspenseful story!

  7. Interesting excerpt and superb world building. And a great way to ace Q too! :) Well done.

  8. Hi JLenni - well done ... certainly held me to my seat as I read. Quietus is an excellent Q and so appropriate for your storyline ... thank you - Hilary

  9. Replies
    1. I am! Between hospital visits. My friend had heart surgery and is recovering.

  10. That was a surprise. Well written.

  11. Great job! Hope things are going better for you!

    Janet’s Smiles

    1. One day at a time. At least our last trips to the hospital came with preparation and provisions. As opposed to splitting the last Mr. Goodbar in a vending machine and gnawing on my pocket jerky.
      (Yes, I'm that guy. The one who always has jerky in my pocket.)

  12. JLenni hope you're getting through the A - Z okay. Looks like you did a lot of prep. This story was the biz, so intense.

    1. 😅 Does it???
      My "prep" was looking at the prompt list, noting that WEP was "Q" so there wouldn't be a viewing of the outside world until then. And that was it. I'm winging, or pantstering, this month. I have an idea of how I'll get to the end, but there's no outline. Just a list of what parts of the story will go in which act. A-G was Act 1, H-R is Act 2, and S-Z is act 3. That's it.

  13. Very intense but exciting. A quest for freedom comes at a cost. Exciting A to Z, congratulations!

  14. You did a great job of crafting a unique and compelling narrative. The ending was also perfect.

  15. Very psychedelic. I think this story would translate well to becoming a graphic novel in the style of the underground comics from the 1960s and 1970s. This sort of thought-provoking fantasy is a bit of a lost art.

  16. A stunning setting. And a very gripping narrative. Loved it!

  17. Ooo - that was tense. I tried to remember the different aspects of the world but then gave up, carried along by the story itself. Brilliantly done.

  18. This reminded me a little of the giant owl in The Secret of N.I.M.H. or the turtle in Neverending Story!

  19. Wow, I thought May was going to ask to borrow Quintillis' stone after some cunning trade. I definitely didn't expect that end.

  20. Whoa. Now that was an unexpected twist! Love the worldbuilding!


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