Tag Archives: writing

Scheduled – Flash Fiction


What a dream, those changes in the light…

There is a change in the light, but I don’t pay attention. I’m watching the news on mute while watching my phone on headphones. I’m not so much absorbing anything so much as I’m using it to prop up my mind.

Then something shakes the building, and so I jerk my eyes away from the screens. I hurry across our apartment and split the curtains to look below.

Something has landed at the intersection.

“That is a ship,” I mutter, surprised at the deadness in my own voice. “It’s a fucking ship.”

My boyfriend pulls off his headphones with a raised bushy eyebrow. He pauses the game on his phone and swallows a bite of pizza. “You okay? You look absolutely terrified.”

I glance at him. My mouth is open and I’m sure I look stoned out of my mind. I can’t even speak. I turn back to stare at the thing that’s landed on the road below our apartment. I can’t even urge myself to point. To gesture. To get his attention. I feel that I’m frozen in molasses. Everything feels slow and distant.

The ship, for it surely must be a ship, is partially translucent and crystalline. It looks like someone took one of those salt lamps, embiggened it a hundred times, then carved it into the shape of science fiction.

Marcus finally pursues his sluggish curiosity. He joins me at the window and immediately drops his phone. Then his pizza. “What. The. Shit.”

Somehow, his presence frees me of my mental prison. Slowly. I still barely nod. “Right?”

He tips his glasses so that they rest in his curly hair and digs the heels of his palms against his dark brown eyes. “Aidan. What. Do you see down there?”

I let out a bark of a laugh. “Well.” I have to swallow because suddenly my mouth feels like I’ve swallowed a desert. “I guess. It really looks like a space ship?”

“Yeah. Shit. Wow. That’s what I thought, but, hell. I wasn’t. I dunno. I didn’t trust myself.” He leans forward and takes another look. Squints. Blinking, he remembers his glasses and slips them back to his nose. His face does a slow-motion transformation into bewildering excitement. “Fucking awesome!”

My body is gradually dethawing, so I’m still in out-of-body observe-mode as the ship releases a sudden cloud of steam under one of its legs. The craft is resting on three highly-articulated limbs. They look like they could belong to an insect.

Marcus is the opposite; his reactions are going haywire with energy—a touchstone of our relationship. I, the curious one, never feel excited. He, lacking curiosity, really goes berserk when he finds something that catches his interest. Pulling on pants over his lounge-around shorts, he dances on his tiptoes. He pulls on a hoody, and then a coat. He’s slipping into socks by the time my brain finally connects actions to consequences.

“Hey, hey, hey. What are you doing?”

“Well, we gotta get down there! This is historic!”

“But, Marcus. What the hell do you think is going to happen? How do you know this is safe?” I’m feeling more nervous with each passing moment. I have an urge to start barricading our windows with plywood.

He understands my reluctance perfectly, and for that I get the stink-eye. “If you’re not going, then at least record from the window.”

“I’m not staying here alone while you go down there!”

Marcus rolls his eyes at me. “Will you make up your mind? This is either the start or the end of our future.”

I tilt my head at his statement. “Wow, how wise. So, everything we do next matters, or it doesn’t.”

His shoulders droop as he hangs his head. “Aidan.”

I grit my teeth and clench my fists. “Fine. Fine! Let’s go.” I start scrambling to find my shoes. They’re buried under some clothes maybe? We were having a long weekend and in complete lounge mode.

“Dude, dude, dude.” Marcus has his face pressed against the window. “They. Are. Coming. Out!”

My mind does a hiccup. “So, we better get this party started?”

Marcus guffaws. “Just, come on!”

We practically tumble out of the apartment while trying to use the door at the same time. I race down the stairs—still shoeless—on Marcus’ heel. My pulse is hammering. The world has decided to show the duality of time. Everything is sure as hell happening all at once and frozen in the moment. I hear a car alarm go off.

There are others in the street, but most aren’t as willing as us. Well, they aren’t as willing as Marcus. I’m just along for the ride. He leads me, holding my hand, straight to the opening spacecraft.

The opening looks like one of those hologram stickers I used to keep on a binder in school. It’s a hexagonal void that glitters and sparkles without having a surface that my mind accepts. There’s just a void in the side of the ship.

A lot of old space movies show a ramp, and some show an elevator, but this thing creates a whole damned escalator setup. It unfolds from a clump of black at the bottom of the doorway, and then there are moving stairs.

Two figures ride the escalator down to the street. They are not humanoid in any sense I understand. They look more like a combination of a camera tripod and a praying mantis—three buglike legs with probably-heads at the top.

One of them is holding a box.

Marcus stops us at the base of the escalator. He beams up at the creatures. “Hello!” He waves his arms. “Welcome to Earth!”

The two tripods twist as if facing each other. “Grbl”, says one. A subtitle—floating just under the tripod’s head—types out the word, “Shit.”

“Grbl,” says the other. Subtitle included.

The left tripod twists to face us. “Urtio la eggnz?” The subtitle offers, “You said, Earth?”

I know that tone of voice. That look. Aliens be damned, some things are universal. After all, I work for the postal service. “Where were you trying to go?”

The right tripod makes a clacking sound. All three of their legs wobble like wet noodles. “Etyu pourz ntthg ajg uiet.” The subtitle helpfully annotates, “We have a scheduled delivery for a Gregory Nassan on Truken Five.”

“Oh,” mumbles Marcus. He glances at me. “Uh.”

I grin sheepishly. “Sorry, buddy. Not on any of our maps.”

Marcus raises his hand—actually raises it. His eyes are suddenly gleaming. “Ooh, I mean, we’ll sign for it! If that’d help.”

The tripods exchange a glance. They pirouette at each other. “Vfhsdru.” The subtitle taps out, “Sure. Whatever.” Tossing us the box, both turn around without even checking to see if we catch.

Oceans of Shelter Fiction Collection

The header of the Oceans of Shelter fiction collection. A ship on the horizon of an ocean.

Oceans of Shelter fiction includes stories on the planet Nalan. Part of a distant universe, Nalan is home to strange gods and creatures. Mortals and deities have exchanged blows through eons of history. Ancient ghosts haunt the land and forgotten heroes wander the oceans. The world was once home to three civilizations, but only two remain. Wars and religions have reshaped earth and redrawn lines. Nalan contains worlds within.

Oceans of Shelter also follows the character Nuette Syimga. From youth, her life is filled with struggle, joy, and failure. Though her tales are disconnected by time and location, they build toward one destination. Some tales share a supporting cast, but others introduce new faces. Additional novels also connect these shorter pieces together.

Oceans of Shelter Fiction Characters

  • Nuette Syimga is a forever curious constant fighter. For her dreams, she seeks out understanding to manipulate spirit. Her interests also include math, Spirit Singing, and the ocean.
  • Wixie Toehfi is loud, aggressively friendly, and quick to love. She excels at connecting to people and wrangling negotiations. She spends down time helping friends and throwing parties.
  • Lilou Currena has always been small, but she has a large heart full of hope. She defines herself by organizing and sorting people and supplies. Her greatest enjoyments come from singing and crafting sculptures.
  • Cap runs the Wayward Home for Girls, but her distant nature makes her a mysterious figure at the helm of that ship. She seems to desire nothing more than building futures for those on her floating school.
  • Cotar Iu Tielui is a brash member of the amphibious Rodali race. However, he was exiled from the planet’s open water and struggles to regain life beneath the waves.
  • The Songfarer is a creature of bone and detritus. Her head is a skull, and polished jewels glow inside her otherwise empty eye sockets. Her powers seem unknowable, but she is forever loyal to those that seek her friendship.
  • Ghiosa Terfai was a prized student onboard the Wayward Home for Girls. She joined the ship at the age of 12 and worked her way to becoming Cap’s most-trusted Maven.

Review: We Lost the Sky by M. Howalt

We Lost the Sky Title Image

“I think fixing the mess I made is the best remedy,” Luca mumbled.
“I’m afraid there will be none of that,” she retorted.

Luca and Nanny. We Lost the Sky, by Marie Howalt

Luca is a teenager from the futuristic past, before the sky fell, but being a young man out of time does nothing to dampen his spirits. Teo is a young woman that anticipates a future with good friends and technological advances, but first she must face her father and the city he controls. Renn wanders a wasteland that used to be the Italian countryside, and all he wants is to rejoin his traveling group. Mender, an artificial intelligence in an artificial body, wakes in a future that fears sentients like nem or doesn’t believe they exist.

Written by Marie Howalt, We Lost the Sky is a 2019 novel about the post-apocalyptic Earth left over after a meteor strikes the moon. The book is set around what used to be Florence, Italy, and follows the lives of these four protagonists as they fall into a mess of will and circumstance.

Clocking in at 295 pages, this is a full-length novel with plenty of time to explore its characters and setting. The pace is steady, never too fast or slow, and ‘natural’ is the word I think of when thinking about plot progression. Everything happens because it must, because everything chains together into an eventual outcome, and that makes the culminating events satisfying. I know where these characters came from, why they made their decisions, what they could’ve done instead, and how everyone came together for the climax.

“I say it’d be better for all of us if the flood made them leave,” commented the wife of one of the councilmen.
“Or drown,” added her husband. “Just kidding! Just kidding!”

Participants of the Dinner Party

Being a future-based post-apocalyptic society, We Lost the Sky presents people inhabiting a world that is largely unrecognizable. The story picks up decades after the cataclysm, and before that the world already had sentient artificial people and fanciful healing agents. The combination of future tech with a desolate landscape makes Earth seem more an alien world than our home. Though of course, the people are more than recognizable despite the strange surroundings.

Because Howalt does an excellent job at considering the line of consequences for a fallen moon. There are people that worship the moon’s fallen form, or think of her as a lost goddess, and there are signs of the (literal) impacts made by her disappearance. It’s also far enough past the disaster that people have forgotten the history of their downfall and who they even were. There are also clear divisions of those that were prepared versus those that survived. There are hidden caches of cryochambers, dome-covered cities stagnating under protective cover, and nomads purposefully avoiding attachments as they wander a broken world.

This is the setting of Howalt’s We Lost the Sky, and these are the locations that contain our four protagonists. Luca is the descendent of a wealthy family that had a safety chamber of cryo-storage, but he is the only one that survived. Teo is daughter to the man leading a stagnating domed Florence. Renn is the vagrant, and he meets up with the recently-wakened Mender seeking nir programmers for purpose in a lost world.

“Do you think it is always like that? That some people will go hungry while others have plenty?” Renn asked.
“I think it is a danger of any society, yes,” ne said.

Renn and Mender

All four begin the novel separate, alone in their own ways, and at a turning point in their lives. Luca is growing restless and fed up with the downfall of the cities he used to know. Teo is stretching the limits of her freedom. Renn loses track of his covey, the group he travels with for support and belonging. Mender is awakened after the loss of power for centuries.

And then, as events pull them along, the four meet and the knowing of one-another changes lives completely. When Renn meets Mender, he is shown a past that he never even considered. Luca meets these two and remembers loneliness and the promise of companionship. And Teo, though surrounded by the people of Florence, finds an understanding of greater possibility and responsibility with her introduction to the world beyond the city domes.

More than anything, this is a story that is about people finding people and making connections. About how we make judgments and resist change. The setting, with its wastelands and people afraid of the past and future, allow Howalt to highlight the absurdities of human nature. And the grace in our capability for kindness. The setting is used as a tool, though it’s also deep enough that the details feel like genuine byproducts of the broken planet. And it’s never used in a way that drags your face in some dismal reality or heavy-handed forewarning.

And I enjoy a story that has fun while taking itself seriously. We Lost the Sky does that in spades. The characters are living in their world and enjoying what they can, but they also respond properly to the threats and challenges they face. This is no cartoon world without consequences, but it isn’t joyless grimdark with overly-gruesome death and destruction. Luca cracks anachronistic jokes from his past while facing danger, and Teo flirts while toying with political intrigue.

Those interactions, both lighthearted and serious, do a pleasant job at revealing the characters and their ideas and ideals. It provides a discovery of the four lives separately, and all four are well established by the time they discover each other. Then, after the world jumbles them together, the group heads toward a new future with a hopeful message of peace and resolve. I knew them well enough to understand what they’ve lost, gained, and how they might change beyond the last page.

“Move it!” one of the guards behind them yelled. “Break it up!”
“What are you afraid of?” she shouted back.

Teo

I enjoyed We Lost the Sky for so many reasons that I can’t help but recommend giving it a read. On the forefront, Howalt’s book speaks on change, survival, and fear of the unknown. Behind that, this is a story about identity, family, standing up for your ideals, and accepting the wisdom of others. Then, there are sprinkled-in elements on the acceptance of gender, the strength of pacifism, and the values of traditionalism versus progressive ideas. All of these bits combine together into a fun book with fantastic aspects and well-written depth.

Full cover of We Lost the Sky

Get it at one of these locations, or read additional reviews:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43866656-we-lost-the-sky
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NKFL483/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
https://www.adenng.com/2019/01/31/book-review-we-lost-the-sky/
https://readspaceboy.com/