Another prompt, another round of great stories to choose from. Check the stories out below and vote for your favorite!
A Laughing Man
That morning when Herb Cayer got out of his truck and looked across the small ocean channel separating his island community from the distant Mainland, a distance at once real and imagined, manageable and foreboding, and saw on the mountain tops, not a trace of winter snow where there had always been, in each of his fifty-five years prior, at least a remnant of the snowpack even as a typical summer heat melted most of it away, he felt his heart silently wither.
He continued to gaze as if the length of his longing look would somehow alter the view. He shook his head a few times and then, ever a self-conscious man, glanced at the waiting early morning ferry traffic lineup of which he was a part to see if anyone had taken notice. As he did, a stranger approached.
“Something wrong?” the stranger asked. “You look…troubled.”
He took the questioner in, a tourist most likely, someone from away, unuse to how this part of the world was, or had been, and how it now was changing year upon year with no hope of salvation.
“Visitor?” he asked the stranger, opting to use a less categorical term than “tourist” which the locals frequently used derogatorily.
“Just spent two beautiful weeks on this island…away from the city…such a joy…back to the grind, now. So, you’re okay?”
How to answer? Herb gave it more thought than he might have just a few years ago. What was “okay” now? The world was dying. The mountains, his Island, were evaporating. The sea was becoming a backyard hot tub. Any fool could tell.
“I’m okay,” he finally said. “Just stretching. Have a good trip back.”
“Thanks,” the stranger said. “Hope to be back next year.”
“Hope,” muttered Herb. “Hope!”298 words, by Bill Engleson (@billmelaterplea)
“You sure about this, Stevie?”
Dietrich’s voice buzzed over the intercom. Only environmental controls and security had been reinforced enough to fully weather the activation of the alien tech.
“It’s what we do, Deet.”
Major Stevie Cannon planted her feet inside the alien ring and took hold of the handles, which automatically adjusted up to her shoulder height.
“I’m serious! The lab guys are only 90% sure that’s a control interface and, between you and me, I don’t think it was meant for humans.”
“Feels good to me! Fire it up!” Stevie grinned. “It was going to be you or me, and I won the coin toss.”
Dietrich scoffed, “If I’d won, I would have chosen NOT to be it.”
“Look, just don’t die. Okay?”
Dietrich was a good guy, but sometimes he got too into his own head.
“Deal. You can have the next ride.”
The ring clamped down on Stevie’s hands and feet. It was a tight pinch. Then the burning sensation shot through her veins. Pain lanced through her mind.
Cataloging the experience, Stevie tried to take control. It was like her first space flight! As she oriented herself, she felt the machine stop fighting her and start supporting her instead.
Stars and galaxies flew by. Planets with thousands of years of history Stevie could almost taste. Some interval between seconds and centuries Stevie returned to a burning Earth. Unimaginable chaos and destruction with a malevolence behind it. They had awoken something they shouldn’t have!
Stevie Cannon came to in darkness before the alien ring. The base was on emergency power. All her senses had been dialed to 11 and yet the alarms seemed distant. The mysterious alloy of the alien ring had reinforced her organic systems and coated her like armor.
“What happened? Deet? Anybody?”300 words, by David A Ludwig (@DavidALudwig)