I have quite a number of these, which I am presently collating into an anthology ‘Forgotten Memories and other Fiction’ . Again I hope to self-bublish soonish.
In the meantime. here is one of which I am particularly proud…
An Alien Life
(First Prize Harvey Bay Qld Day Short Story Competition)
I cling to the gray and white ribbon, my lifeline in this alien land. What will happen if the engine conks out? Obsessively, I check the twilight-blue gauges. My eyes slide to The Captain, her furrowed brow reflecting my own inner anxiety. It is so hot and inhospitable out there. Eerie, primordial shapes loom out at us – enormous residue of a long forgotten upheaval, scattered willy-nilly across the desolation.
Gingerly, I lift the lower edge of my darkened goggles. A searing brightness prevents clear vision. I lose concentration and veer off course. The Captain speaks sharply; the passengers mutter.Damn! That was close. This wilderness has swallowed better men. I have to deliver these people, my people, safely and the distant out-post is relying on me for new supplies and news from home. I re-double my concentration but the air in the cabin, warmly redolent with the funky odours of other’s respiration and digestion, weighs heavy on my lids. I request permission to open the vents but The Captain is dubious about the quality of the air out there. I remind her that we have on board the latest in filtration systems and though outside it is hot, it is breathable — just.
A curt nod, a flick of the wrist and CLACK the vents open. In rushes the kiln-dry heat taking our breath away on its blast, sapping our energy in minutes.
“Enough!” snaps The Captain.
CLACK! The vents close and the system shudders, as it takes over the cooling and re-cycling. Lack-lustre sighs of relief issue from passengers too tired to bother talking or even moving. The initial babble of excitement has subsided to a dull apathy.
I think of Treena, my little sister — stuck out here for five years now. I have missed her. She keeps me grounded. I guess her reality is closer to the truth. She always shamed me with her insouciance and strength of character. I have ever been a creature of comfort, trying to convince myself that my job, therefore myself, is invaluable.
Now, I know how invaluable I am… made redundant by a machine. A machine, which I thought, in my arrogance, was my servant. “Efficiency and productivity!” No point feeling anger or bitterness towards the computer.
I hear my boss. “Efficiency and productivity! Nothing personal. You have to make way for the innovative. We must keep our fingers on the pulse.”
I reflect that in this ‘Brave New World’ there is no pulse because there is no heart. Humanity has given way to wire-less invisible energy. ‘Efficiency and Productivity!’ A computer never wastes its time on questioning or self-doubt. Treena would laugh at such self-absorption.
The lifeline stretches ahead, over the flat terrain, to the horizon pulling us along. On either side pale, spiked pom-poms of sparse vegetation re-assure me that life is possible out here — different, difficult but definitely possible.
Is that odd leaping of my pulse fear or excitement? A frisson of apprehension has me gripping the steering mechanism with unwonted desperation. I will make this work. I have to make this work!
Treena and her partner — no one marries anymore — claw out a living in this stark environment. They have found a new species of bizarre, desert flora. Its rattling seedpods produce copious oil for weight. It makes a high-grade, renewable fuel and if they plant, harvest and produce it cost-effectively they will gain a lucrative market. That is where I come in – finance and marketing. So, here I am in the middle of nowhere acting as taxi and post-man, searching the shimmering topography for the interruption of human existence.
A dot flickers in and out of focus on the left shoulder. The odometer indicates that we’ve arrived. We pull into the sidetrack, sliding to stop in a cloud of roiling red talc, which, despite the latest technology, drifts into our vehicle. Almost before we come to a standstill, The Captain is out — mask firmly in place to prevent the dust from entering her sensitive airways. I follow more slowly, my self-confidence shattered by the desolation and eerie silence. Treena throws herself at me.
The name from my childhood catches me by surprise — for years I have been, ‘James’ or surreptitiously, ‘Sir James’. My mood lifts in the welcoming warmth of her sweaty embrace. As I return the favour, I savour the smell of sunshine, horse and diesel under-laid by the citric freshness I used to know so well. I close my tired eyes and see my little sister salting and sucking lemons.
“Come on, follow us!” shouts The Partner above the whine of the desiccating dryness. “Only two hours and you can drop off the mail at the trading-post then another hour and a half and we are home.”
Thank god the passengers have remained in insulated comfort and do not hear this blithe dismissal of time. My gut clenches as I realise that it will be well after the descent of the garnet sun when we arrive. How will we follow the already barely visible track?
Treena’s dilapidated Terrestrial careers ahead, billowing raw-red mist and hailstones of tiny fossils. Once again, technology lets us down and we choke in her wake.
‘Bitch!’ I grin, as I throttle back to evade her emissions.
After dropping the sacks of longed-for supplies and correspondence, we head northwest as glory lights a purpling sky. The passengers are stirred to mutter and voice sleepy wonder. The Captain points out a bright satellite whose orbit crosses ours but receives no response. The passengers sleep. Three stars tumble into inky oblivion and a brilliant golden-tailed meteorite streaks away to the East before we spot the weak pinpoints of the homestead.
“Welcome to The Nulla Nulla!” applauds Treena, as we cart sleeping passengers indoors.
Later, as we stand in the cool stillness of the bull-nosed veranda The Captain
whispers, “Perhaps, outback Queensland is the answer for us after all.”
An Alien Life (c) Rosa Christian