Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all my subscribers.
Whatever your plans, I hope they work out just as you’d imagined.
In the event you have any downtime, here is a free piece I wrote for an international flash fiction contest back in November 2016. It came in third overall (the judge was a Brit), and as far as I am concerned, is the best flash I have yet completed. And what’s more, I did it in totally free streaming audio for your earholes!
Click below for streaming audio, or you can read it like a savage just below the image. FYI, the image was the only prompt for the submission, so it shaped the voice of the story, which was fun and challenging.
At any rate, Enjoy!
I haven’t written anything in forever, and I don’t goddamn want to. It took ages to get my vidcap booted. This whole hab’s ripe for the junk heap, not just this old-ass sensory cap. Not like NASA can’t afford a new one.
Why am I writing? It’s November, according to the readout on my HUD, which hangs just outside my normal field of view. They’ll be expecting a report, but who gives a damn? Houston sent me here to put out fires, not be a goddamned secretary.
I crawl into the bath to get some relief from my aching back, though technically it’s not my back. I am having a hard time adjusting to the new body. The tits are nice, but there’s only so much fun you can have rubbing your own body and looking in the hollo-reflector, tits or not. This frame wasn’t designed to dig in the hard packed blue-gray rock that make the moon’s glow so iconic. It’s like NASA isn’t even trying to disqualify candidates anymore. Too much PC bullshit happening back on brown soil.
The tiller is broken, otherwise it wouldn’t matter. I hate this fucking job. NASA keeps sending up lackeys, and they keep frying out in the first lunar cycle. No matter what kind of training they throw at the diggers, nothing prepares them for living on the little white ball when it’s so black you can feel the weight of light years’ of vacuum pressing down on you. So, they send me to clean it all up. They tell the poor fried motherfucker to calm the hell down and put on the vidcap and that they can call home, that it will all be butterflies and cotton-candy, or whatever the fuck. Then they hijack the poor bastards’ cortex and wipe it. Plant me inside.
I go out to keep the tiller working and make sure the place is tip-top (ha) for the next transfer. I only ever get a short break before I’m called in to jockey a new meat-puppet for the rest of the rotation.
I light a smoke, knowing the alarms will start firing before I’ve exhaled my first drag. It’s one of the few comforts NASA allows me, and one of the few reasons I do this shit job. I don’t have lungs of my own any longer, they were removed. Cancer. Shit sucked. I got a loaner pair from some frat boy douchebag that wrapped his Italian sports car around a Doric column outside a government building. The transplant didn’t take, so I smoke once in a blue moon… literally.
Somewhere back on Earth, my body’s hooked to respirators and other apparatuses that keep my brain supplied with enough oxygen and fatty acids to keep me driving the puppets who mine the ore, but I haven’t been on a walk in Earth Gravity in ages. Last time I tried, I bounce-hopped like a dumbshit and took a tumble.
I silence the atmo sensor alarm and suck down another harsh and wonderful pull from the smoke, not quite enjoying the dizzy feeling. She must not’ve been a smoker. The next one’ll be better, once the skinsuit builds a tolerance.
Anyway, the report.
Sector 16, log: November twelve 2079. What was your message, NASA? It’s been purged from the log. Today, before I boarded the rover, there was a message-waiting indicator at the main terminal. I was ready to go EVA, so I left it. Those fucking gloves… anyway…. When I got back, the message was gone. Please advise.
EVA: It took a week to get the drift dug out and retrieve the tiller. The chain’s missing several links. I can make it work, but we’ll need a new chain and auger bits at resupply. Hab‘s only functioning at 78 percent and Solar-One was sabotaged by candidate Alvarez before the wipe. Apparently, she was harvesting the fuel cells, but for what, I don’t know. Can’t find ‘em. Probably need to send up a new rod while you’re at it. And let’s put someone on the boat that can at least carry 200 pounds. I don’t want to convert that to kilos, you nerds figure it out.
I get out and dry my new tits off a little longer than I should. I flick the butt into the tub and leave it for the reclaimer, a big no-no for which I’ve been reprimanded twice already, but when it breaks, I’m the one who cleans the septic anyway, so fuck it.
I power down and uncouple the vidcap, and rub my face, her face, with the damp towel.
An alarm sounds at the main console. A response from NASA so soon? Impossible. No time to boot the ancient vidcap again, I race to the terminal, careful not to skid on the thin aluminum flooring as I round the corners.
It’s not from NASA. There are no headers. Instead, there’s a crude graphic of the hourglass from Windows ‘98 draining binary sand in the ultra-high-definition that can only be brought to you in 16 bits. I’m stupid and curious, so I click the hourglass before the sands can run out. It asks for my security clearance. I offer it, thinking maybe it’s NASA after all.
Go for operation? [Y/N], it says.
I don’t have time to think, but I do anyway. Alvarez may have been hysterical and destroyed Solar-One, but she was also a brilliant coder.
I touch nothing, hoping It’ll go away.
A spontaneous [Y] appears in the command prompt, and suddenly I know where that fucking fuel cell is. The whole place glows bright orange and then… [SIGNAL LOST]
“Thanks for your service, Lieutenant.”
“Anytime,” my artificial larynx buzzes.
“I’m glad the relay worked, or we’d have no idea what happened up there. Get some rest. We’ll get you reassigned tomorrow.”
“Somewhere with atmo.”
“On your way out, tell the nurse I’d like to be moved by the window… just for a little while.”