Tag Archives: apocalyptic fiction

The Apocalypse Ticket


An illustration of an asteroid on its way to Earth. See more space dust images.

The Crimson Fist streaks around the corner in a blur of aerodynamic fins and chrome, scattering a crowd of shoppers clustered around a street vendor.

Stomping the accelerator, the Fist grits his teeth and steals a glance toward the sky.

Less than thirty minutes til impact. The oncoming asteroid — a small planet, really — hangs in the sky like an anvil, eerily unmoving despite hurtling toward the earth at interstellar speed.

He’s been waiting for this. He hasn’t hit anything in months, and he’s itching to strike with the energy of a dozen neutron bombs.

The Fist swerves past the traffic bumbling through the intersection, clips a pickup and sends it spinning up onto the sidewalk. Frustration rises: he makes to smack the dash but stays his hand. Calm. Focus. Don’t waste it. He grunts and checks his rear view. The damage is minor, and he zooms ahead. Then: the flashing of lights from behind. The chirp of a siren. He bites his lip. Wouldn’t be the first time some newbie on the force tried to pull him over. Then it’s memos. Depositions. Fruit baskets delivered to the injured officer’s house. A two-week anger management course. A tractor trailer parked in the middle of the road ahead.

“Damn!”

Crimson Fist stands up on the brakes. Pedestrians cluster on the sidewalk behind the semi, a three-car pileup sits in front. No way out. He yanks the emergency brake and whips the car around, but before he can gun it back up a side street, the police cruiser slides up in front of him and nudges his front bumper.

The PA boops and then booms: “Step out of the vehicle.”

Grinding his teeth, Fist hops out of the vehicle and flings a finger at the sky. “Do you see that? I have to go.”

But Officer Krups is in no hurry. He hooks his thumbs in his belt and saunters over. “Know how fast you were going, back there?”

“You can’t be serious. Hello? The world is about to end!”

Fist’s reflection wobbles in Krups’ aviator sunglasses as he shakes his head. “World’s always about to end, ain’t it? What with you superheroes and villains always feuding about this thing or that. Day always gets saved in the end though, don’t it?” He unclips his citation pad, deliberately licks the end of a pencil.

By me!” Fist fumes. “save the day. I have to –”

Krups holds up a finger. Writes. Slowly. “Running a red light.” He flips the page. “Fleeing the scene of an accident.”

Serenity. Breathe. “Come on. Look, write the ticket, but can you at least hurry up?”

Krups lowers his head, stares at him over the tops of his shades. “Speeding.”

A sudden shadow falls on the street. A hundred heads rotate skyward; the asteroid, taking up a lot more of the sky now, has drifted in front of the sun. The Crimson Fist mashes the knuckles of his right hand into the palm of his left, showering the pavement with sparks.

“Officer.” Fist speaks through grinding teeth. Consider the Other. “I’m sincerely sorry for the danger I’ve caused to these civilians. But if I don’t get to the rocket and get to that asteroid in the next –” he checks his watch “– seven minutes, you, and me, and everybody else on Earth is going to die.”

Weasel eyes narrow behind his aviators as Krups curls his mustached lip into a smirk. “There. Was a simple apology so hard?” He tears the tickets off his pad — rip, rip, rip — and presents them to the Fist, who snatches them away and stalks back toward his vehicle. “Hold on a minute, son.”

The Fist whirls, heat energy distorting the air around his hands, two tiny suns burning in his eyes.

“Wanna tell me about that expired tag?”

Krups explodes backwards and goes sailing through the front window of a coffee joint, scattering hipsters and overpriced coffee before cartwheeling over the counter and coming to rest on a couple of very startled baristas. The Fist is almost back in his car when he hears Krups calling weakly from the ruined shop, “Assaulting an officer!”

The door deforms as he slams it, and the Fist guns it across town. In minutes, he’s strapped into the space suit, and the one-man rocket blasts off into low orbit with thirty seconds to spare.

The asteroid looms like an inverted, rocky earth as he clears the stratosphere. He ejects from the ship and sails toward the rocky mass, like falling toward a mountaintop out of an airplane, except upside-down. His knuckles glow.

The craggy, pitted peaks drift closer. The Fist draws back his hand. The wispy atmosphere around his fingertips churns and ignites.

He lets fly.

His fist strikes the asteroid with the force of a dying star going supernova. An explosion of light and a deafening crack and he’s falling to earth again …

But something’s wrong. It wasn’t enough.

Only pulverized dust should remain, but the asteroid has sheared and fragmented and become many, hurtling toward Earth with deadly inevitability. As he falls, with the doom of the planet swirling all around him, the Fist can only think of one thing.

Krups.

Down below, Krups has hauled himself out into the street. He regards his upended police cruiser and the oncoming shower of meteors with the same sour scowl.

“Knew he was a fraud,” Krups mumbles, as the first of the meteorites pepper the street.

 

**********

This week’s Flash Fiction is brought to you by Chuck Wendig’s random title challenge.

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Grey Search


Chuck’s challenge this week: Random Titles.

I found my title — Grey Search — and after banishing thoughts of Gandalf fan-fiction, the only thing left clanging around in my brain was Grey Goo. I ran a little long, but I’m cutting myself a break in favor of the interesting world this found me in.

So…

Photo by Ian Norman @ Flickr.

Photo by Ian Norman @ Flickr.

Grey Search

Another day, another foray into the Grey.

I scrub up and haul on the lime green bodysuit, stuff my feet into triple-poly thermal boots, strap on the insulated mitts so thick and stiff they’re like big yeti paws. I don’t bother to check myself in the mirror: I already know I look perfectly indistinguishable from the others on my team, suiting up in their own clean rooms.

The redundancy is tedious, but chances are not worth taking.

I double check my seams and tromp down the hallway to the airlock. I breathe the canned air deep into my lungs; it’s been recycled so many times, it’s hard not to smell the stale farts and garbage in it, though the utility squad assures me that’s just my imagination. Still, it’s better than the bland, window-cleaner smelling brew they outfit the enviro-suits with. It resists contamination longer, they say. But it turns my stomach something awful.

Satch and Virge are already in the airlock, masks in place and suits pressurized. They look like a pair of Stay-Puft marshmallow men. Manx waits by the terminal, her fingers flying over the keyboard, probably reconfiguring the daily power allowances for the core. We used to have three people handling that job around the clock, until Manx got her hands on a computer and showed the council she could do the same job in a third of the time, by herself. That kind of usefulness in a place like this means you stay busy. It’s a big deal, her running Control for us.

“Bout time, Deel.” She doesn’t look up from her code. “You’ve got the Grade 3 suits today for maximum time in the field. Eight hours of pure air and another four if your purifiers hold.” She finally looks at me, arching an eyebrow under her mousy brown bangs. “Try not to push it, though.” She cut her hair. Looks almost normal again. Hasn’t looked so — happy isn’t the word — all right since Danny got caught out a few months back. I tell her it suits her. She tells me to get my mask on, then presses the button at my wrist to pressurize my suit.

The ambient world disappears with a hiss and a click. My ears pop, and I breathe in the window-cleaner-scented air.

“Big day today,” Virge’s voice crackles in my ear.

“Just come back safe,” Manx says, pressing the last few buttons on the terminal. She retreats through the airlock hatch and the door whooshes closed behind her. Red flashing lights. Klaxons. Then the far wall opens up and the sunlight spills in. We throw up our gloved hands to block out the sun, then glance at each other and trudge out into the Grey.

#

The suits are heavy, but the air feels light today. Clear skies. Endless azure stretching off into the distance, meeting a solid line of grey at the horizon, grey which continues all the way back to our feet. Can’t even see Installation 17 behind us any more. Been a long time since anybody ventured this far out.

Since Danny, we all think, but nobody says.

“Any sign yet?” Virge asks, her voice not particularly hopeful.

Not that he needs to, but Satch checks the scanner. “Not for a few miles yet.”

We plod on in silence.

#

It’s impossible to tell in the suit, but it almost looks like there’s a little breeze out here, blowing little wisps of grey dust around in swirling eddies.

“You guys see that?” I point as a fine, pale mist washes across our feet.

“Is that … wind?”

It’s too much to hope for, but there it is. There hasn’t been wind or weather since the world went Grey.

“If that’s wind…” Satch takes his time. He knows the danger of hope. “Then Danny might have been right.”

Virge knows better. “Right or not, he still died out here. Like we will if we get caught up chasing wind.”

“We should get a sample of that dust,” I say. Because if there’s still wind, then maybe the island is real, too. I’m an idiot for thinking it. The island is a myth, a fairy tale. Some land out there in the wastes, untouched by the Grey, unclaimed by it. Something in the air that keeps it pure. A place we could live like humans again.

“Stick to the mission,” Virge barks.

Satch stops walking. “Virge. You know what it could mean.”

“What I know,” Virge stops as well, pulling up right in Satch’s face, “is that Deel’s already picked up some bugs.”

She points. We look. There’s a faint steam rising from the toe of my boot.

“Shit. How long?”

“Just the last twenty minutes or so. Nothing to stress about.” She fixes Satch with a steely look. “But let’s not forget that time is a factor. Besides. Any sample would just be goo by the time we got it back.”

She’s right, of course.

#

The sonar pings are getting closer and closer. Danny’s tracker. The tiny transmitter encased in a shell of ultra-dense, non-reactive alloy. If we’re lucky, it’ll be all that’s left. I’ve seen my share of humans consumed by the Grey. Flesh goes quick, but the bones can resist for a while. They look like skeletons made of ash.

#

Danny’s just a bump in the goo. Wouldn’t even know he was there if not for the pinging of the sonar on Satch’s tracker. But here he is, at our feet. My boot is smoldering steadily now, up to the ankle. It’s lucky we found him — I’ve only got a few more hours to get back before the bugs got through.

Usually we’d draw straws before digging into the goo, but I’m already contaminated, so before anybody can argue, I plunge my mitts into the muck. It’s weird, the goo — solid as a rock underfoot, but dig into it or stand still for too long, it’s like riverbank mud. Goopy and sticky and awful, and I try not to think about whether I’m rooting around in Danny’s chest cavity or his skull. Then I feel it: a solid little walnut buried in the sludge. I pull it out, hold it aloft, grin through the fog in my mask.

“Let’s head back,” Virge says.

#

Our gear goes into the incinerator, and I get an extra-long hose-down. Two layers of my boot and most of the glove-arm of my suit was chewed up and crumbling away by the time we got back. Still, I get the all clear.

Manx sits in Control, staring off at something invisible about five feet in front of her. Her eyes are kissed with red and puffy. She looks like a marionette somebody threw into a chair. I sit down by the door and make a big deal of not looking at her.

Finally she speaks.

“You found him.”

“We found him.”

“He recorded a message in his tracker. If he was telling the truth, his feet had already gone Grey and he knew he wasn’t going to make it.”

Knowing Danny, he was probably a lot worse off than that, but there’s no sense saying that to Manx. “Did he find it? The island?”

Tears well in her eyes again, and I know I shouldn’t have asked. The island is too much to hope for.

“He found it.” And Manx looks at me with the wrong emotion in her eyes. There should be joy. We should be celebrating, calling the council, hell, sounding the all-call. But she looks dead inside. “He found it, but he was already contaminated, and he brought the Grey with him.” She bites back a sob. “We destroyed it, just like we destroyed everything else.”

I pat her shoulder a little aimlessly, but there’s nothing to say. I wonder if the council will spread the word that Danny found the island.  Probably not. We’re all dead anyway, but at least we can pretend we have something to live for.


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