Spicy

Raj walks past the shop he used to frequent. The small door swings open and close, croaking in a repeated pattern. He peers into the window: families, friends and couples, having meals together and enjoying each other’s company. Mr. Amnah, the shop owner, busily instructs his band of waiters and waitresses to serve his hot dishes to the patrons. He seems content and happy. Raj pulls himself away from the shop and look at the street.

It is drizzling right now and the gravelled road glistens with rainwater. The tantalizing aroma of the spices still assaults his nose and ears and mouth – the urge to get a taste is nearly irresistible. He starts to walk with no destination in mind. “The further the better,” he thinks to himself.

He walks into a park and sits down on a bench. The rain does not show any sign of stopping. Not that it matters to him, for ever since the incident he has not fallen sick, major or minor. He takes a gulp of plain water from his bottle. It somehow soothes his body and calms him down.

A cricket ball dropped beside him. He looks around only to see a few teenagers with their bats, a surprised look on their faces. He knows what happened: they must have hit the ball too hard and his head sat in the middle of the trajectory. Typically a cricket ball can achieve a speed of 100 to 150 kilometres per hour, which means it travels around 40 metres every second!

Raj smiled at them and waved, shouting that he is alright. He knows he can’t be hurt by any means at all. When he took up the mantle of Defender, he knows that he must endure. In enduring, grow strong. He reminds himself. People think that superheroes get their abilities in a snap of finger, but the fact is that superheroes need to be trained. They need to succeed in countless drills, numerous practices, simulated mind tortures and potential grave dangers. Ultimately, they need to sacrifice a part of what makes them human to achieve superhuman. Übermensch. Raj was chosen to be a Defender, the epitome of protector. He still remembers the time he deflected three meteors away with his body at stratosphere. What a glorious time.

The teenagers wave back and turn away. Raj looks at them walking into the restaurant. It feels as if the smell of spices comes back. He used to enjoy the spicy food, but now he can’t at all. In order to feel no pain, he has rooted all possible sensors of pain from his body. Here goes the sensation of spicy, his favourite taste. He takes another sip of water and walks home. He needs to be ready for the Earth.

via Daily Prompt: Spicy

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Conquer

“So tell me, what’s the whole point of doing this?”

I sat down quietly on the metal chair. I wished the cold sensation could wake me up from this nightmarish reality.

“I have told you our intention. We’ve done our part, and now it’s your turn to decide. As the best person Earth could offer, I have a great faith in you to make the optimal decision.”

As the appointed Diplomat of the Earth, I was out of my wits for the first time. In my career spanning three decades, I have achieved the unachievables. I stopped Russia from invading the fringe countries with my diplomatic skills; I reconciled the long grudge between North and South Korea and disarmed the nukes by having a long overnight talk with the President Kim; and I witnessed the birth of Earth Federation unified under the same flag. I thought it was finally time to call it a day and had the chance to enjoy my retirement somewhere in Iceland, before they came to us.

“Well, Mr Frederick, we can’t resolve this if you don’t speak at all!” Another shrill. These strangers spoke with a focused, high pitched voice. The humanoid, roughly 8 feet tall, was tapping two appendages on his left arm. He was one of the many who came on the day. For an unknown reason, the alien fleet – dare I say alien while they spoke perfect English – just emerged on top of the stratosphere. Were they here to greet, to inquire, or to conquer? No one knew, and that’s the reason why I was sent here.

“I represent Earth Federation to welcome you and your friends, and …” I started my welcome speech before getting interrupted by another shrill.
“What’s the joy of unification? Why are you putting yourself in a risky, distasteful, restraining state in which you don’t grow at all?” He turned around and faced me. His eyes were of inquiry, of caring without any sense of anger. It’s like how an elder reproached his child.

I clenched my fists. “Thank you for your concern. The people on Earth realized that wars between nations and tribes don’t really advance the humanity as a race, and only under a peaceful condition we could make our lives better by devoting the resources to better uses.”

“I would say you were misguided and misinformed. Having a big, unified nation doesn’t really reap the benefits you just said. What science do the scientists should research? What machines do the engineers should build? What epics do the poets should compose? What anthems do the people should sing? Divided nations bring fire to the fight, and the people are motivated to fight for a better tomorrow. For an analogy, imagine a perfect lake: the water stays stagnant, lifeless if the water didn’t flow at all. Break the border a little, and the water will flow to form a river, bringing lives around.”

“Divided nations conquer each other. A united nation conquer itself from within. The difference is that one leads to prosperity, another complacency.” He cast a thoughtful stare with his single eye before locking the room.

That was the first meeting with these aliens. This memory was still replaying vividly in my head every night in my sleep. I have lost count of the days that have passed, but I could see, from my little room, that the electric lights on Earth was getting less and dimmer. Didn’t they figure out nuclear power or other energy sources before I came? I observed less and less launches of satellites or spaceships as if the Earth has closed the border to Space. What happened to the space policy? Don’t we want to explore beyond the Earth after we settled all the differences among us?

Without the spirit to conquer, humanity seemed to be conquered from within.

via Daily Prompt: Conquer

Swarm

He spun around his thrusters, speeding away from the disintegrated Sun. Although broken down into tiny globules of plasma matter, the collective mass of the remnants was still able to pull objects fairly easily, all thanks to gravity. He didn’t want to fall to the centre and get surrounded by the blazing glitters.

Under the slow yet deep hums of the ion engines, he flicked switches and pushed buttons frantically. The survival instinct had kicked in – he gotta run away from this menace. He has seen this exact scene before in the Aegean System where Perxians destroyed the stars one by one. Their grey fleets hovered in the dark void and sent out the silent killers – innumerable amount of tiny drones.

They looked completely harmless at the first sight. In his scope, he could only see small dots creeping across the view, creeping on the small golden pie. It reminded him of his mother’s raspberry pie baked in a sunny afternoon. Black ants came and formed a trail to the pie, busily following each other’s pheromone to the food. Being a young boy, he could not fathom why the ants were so busy, nor where they came from – He only knew how to crush them using his thumbs. The ants remained unmoved, and he still remembered how the crushed ants smelled on his hand.

“Warning: Small unmanned drones approaching. Number: Unable to calculate.” He woke up from his reminiscence. Thousands of small dots started blinking on his starmap, forming a green trail from behind, at the starboard side. Like ants looking for their food, these tiny dots were on a steady course to its prey – his space capsule.

 

via Daily Prompt: Swarm

Glitter

“Not all that glitters is star, not all those who wander are lost…”

He mumbled the first two lines of a variation of Tolkien’s poem in Lord of the Rings. Looking out of his observatory deck, the view was indeed breathtaking. He was drifting in space while the ring systems of Saturn slowly crept into the view. That was roughly over one billion kilometres away from Earth, and the wanderer was finally close to his home.

“…The old that is strong does not wither, deep core is not reached by the frost…”

The rings, a great feature of the gas giant, formed a glittering halo around its mother planet. Billions of tiny pebbles and ice cubes reflected the sunlight to his capsule, not unlike a flowing river that sheen with Sun’s grace. Sun, the yellow star that is special to humanity yet is totally ordinary in the universe, was fine now. He thought to himself. At least, it still remained unharmed, untouched by those hunters from which he escaped.

“…From the stardust a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring…”

He remembered what Mrs. Amy had taught in that breezy afternoon: Stars are born from the gravitational pull of the space dust, a gathering force so strong that the space dust starts to fuse and radiate heat and light. Most of them burn through their fuel and go off in a spectacular fashion, spewing out stardust in every possible direction. The cycle repeats and a new star is born again. He still remembered how the sunlight reflected off his crush’s glasses, and how beautiful her eyes looked under the autumn sun.

He stopped before the last couplet. The space capsule tumbled and stumbled, and he caught glimpses of a terrifying view every time the observation deck faced the Sun. It glittered, or in a better term, became glitters in the black backdrop of space. The sphere of hot plasma has disintegrated into thousands of small balls, like a big bubble breaking down into small ones in bathtub.

At that moment, he knew he was too late.

 

via Daily Prompt: Glitter

Yellow

Any sort of colour was a welcome sight to him. In his field, people grouped different subjects in terms of their colours – red, yellow, blue – and studied them. The different hues showed the maturity of each star, how close it was to its doomsday. They could blow up in a interstellar firework, or collapse to a black hole. Of course, the assumption was the star died to a natural cause.

To him, yellow was particularly alluring. It signified home, instilling a sense of belonging in him. The appearance of a small yellow speck on his navi-globe could have brought him to tears. That could mean the Sun, and in turn, Earth, his home.

He has been a space nomad for twenty years. Or that’s what his console’s screen showed him after the superluminal device broke down. You couldn’t really count days and years in space without a reference point. After all, the notion of year started as the time for Earth to revolve around the Sun for a complete round.

His space capsule was kept in a tumbling motion to create a micro-gravity environment, not unlike how a rollercoaster could keep the passengers on the seats. He once groaned at the reason when Mrs. Amy mentioned it in Physics class – “For God’s sake, there are seat belts!” No one could argue with the universal law of centrifugal force though, especially when you’re stranded in space without any seat belt.

He was on a mission from Aegean: to be a herald of inevitable doom from Marathon. And he’s afraid he was too late. Mrs. Amy and all the people he knew might have perished, and everything he knew turned into dust.

 

via Daily Prompt: Yellow

Marathon

Word had it that space was the final frontier – a boundary to push ourselves beyond our capabilities to achieve things beyond our imagination. What the word didn’t say was we might cower and crumble under the sheer speechless horror when facing the unimaginable.

He opened his eyes and gasped when the capsule shook uncontrollably. It has been two hundreds years since he was put in the stasis, and his awakening could only spell one thing: the total destruction of Starfleet Endeavour. The battle at Aegean System must have failed, and he needed to carry the message back to the Earth.

He was one of the ten Mercury agents, a special crew trained for superluminal travel to carry messages between two predestined points. The discovery of such technological breakthrough happened in 3,257 AD at Planet Ionian, a planet at the outer rim of Aegean. Humanity elated at its potential: hyperspace travel, information transmission and other dreams once forbidden by ordinary physical laws.

And they came. Cold and calculated, as if they had been waiting for this precise moment to happen. They belonged to a species called Perxian, according to an intercepted signal. Not much intel was extracted, only one painful fact: they consumed light, creeping endlessly in the dark space.

He tried to recall what happened before his pod was ejected: Endeavour warped to Marathon space in Aegean to stop the spreading of the mad Perxian mass, and arrived only to be swallowed by the swirling void. Mercury agents were deployed when the hull cracked, to warn the Earth: RUN.

Fumbling the console in front of him, he saw a tiny screen with a reflection of his eyes. Haggard and bloodshot. He pressed a key and a message flashed on the screen.

” νενικήκαμεν?”

 

via Daily Prompt: Marathon

Flee

“This is not the right way! Go back!” A man cladded in armor shouted, signalling two persons at his back before a huge glob of black matter swallowed him alive.

The two persons stopped and turned back silently without saying anything. They strided forward and navigated themselves in the maze. They could not see anything beyond the two walls beside them, and a harrowing long tunnel in front of them.

The first spoke. “What’s the status now? We flee or we fight?” His sound was bloodied and defeated. His face was marred with black oil, a memoir from the previous encounter.

The second peered at him. Her stare projected authority.

“Yes, ma’da…” A long glass spike pierced through his armour. That was not in the calculations. Glass, being an artificial material, was a rare sight as nobody knew how to manufacture it anymore. At least those who were still alive.

She cursed and ran again, trying to recall all the routes they have tried and erred. She swung her club wildly as if it could get rid of the nightmare the befell her and the humanity. What would you do when the world you built turned against you? The steel they hammered, the oil they harvested, the plastic they happily used and wasted… These dead materials seemed to gain conscience, and decided to revolt against their former slaver.

She vaguely remembered something called “flight or fight” response when an animal meets an adversary. She’s just human, and human is animal too. When running out of choice, she could only run.

via Daily Prompt: Flee