Category: short stories

The Last Wisp of the Universe

Since astronomers first looked up at the stars they’ve wondered about the expanse of the universe. The shape. How many galaxies are there? How far does it stretch beyond the observable? Does it have edges?

Not really.

But she does have elbows.

Flight 374

The flight from New York to LA takes just over 6 hours.

Martin VonBraun hugged his brother Joe goodbye at airport security. He spent some time in duty-free before he headed to Gate 7A. Joeseph made his way back into the city, through crowded tubes and up a cramped escalator to his office. He sat down at his desk as flight 374 was taking off from New York airport.

An hour later, Martin was sitting back and choosing which in-flight movie to watch. Joe was pouring over a legal case on his desk, feeling a little too hot. He called his secretary to open the window.

Two hours into the flight, Martin got up to use the bathroom. Joe was in a bathroom too, vomiting blood.

At hour three, Martin was asleep. Joe was paralyzed, but fully conscious.

At hour five, Joe watched as his fingers shriveled and turned black. Martin ordered a beer from the flight attendant.

The flight from New York to LA takes just over 6 hours. Parasite X kills its host 5 hours and 11 minutes from the time of infection.

Flight 374 was delayed coming into LA airport. Nobody from air traffic control would answer them. When they did eventually pluck up the courage to land, it appeared from the air that all flights had been grounded. As they came closer,  they saw the corpses littering the runways. Blackened and shriveled, like a fire had spread through every living person, leaving all else untouched.

The plane sat on the runway, but nobody ran out to meet them and nobody dared leave. They checked their phones. Messages from loved ones came through- emotional jigsaw pieces of the last 6 hours, as the parasite had infected and taken down the country. Possibly the world. The pilot radioed out. Perhaps there were other flights full of the uninfected. Perhaps there were more than these 204 survivors. Or perhaps not. It would only take one infected passenger to take down the whole plane. Maybe they’d all just been lucky.

Martin’s thought about calling his brother, but he couldn’t seem to move his fingers. The corpse of Joe VonBraun lay in a silent office, surrounded by so many more. His dead fingers curled against the floor. The parasite inside him, still hungry, took root in his brain. Joe was gone, but his fingers twitched. His eyes opened.


Via Daily Prompt: Infect

Written in the Stars

She stood on the shore and watched a star fall down from the heavens towards her. The closer it came, the smaller it got. It burnt brighter as it entered her atmosphere and then dimmed. She almost lost track of it altogether until she heard the thud of it landing in a sand dune behind her. She turned and ran to find it, just a small, flat piece of rock that had once been a star.

She picked it up. It was almost too hot to hold. She turned it over in her hand and couldn’t believe what she saw. There, etched in the stone in shimmering silver were the words: hello. Is there anyone out there as lonely as me?

The words made her heart hurt. She turned the stone over and pulled out a black marker pen from her pocket.

Yes. She wrote back and threw it as hard as she could in to the heavens. It vanished. She stood alone for a while feeling how small she was in this big and empty universe.

The next night she watched as another star fell towards her. This one was much bigger and it said I have thrown my words to the universe for centuries and now it has thrown me back a friend. Who are you?

And so they began to write to each other. The girl on the shore and the girl in the stars had a conversation that spanned the cosmos. It travelled at lightspeeds through moonbeams. It dove in to black holes and bounced across galaxies. The universe was still big and they were still small, but no longer alone. They had fallen in love in the starlight.

One night, without warning, the girl in the stars stopped replying. The girl on the shore waited. For decades she threw words at the stars who stayed silent. Her hair turned grey, her hands hurt when she moved them but still she wrote. Still she waited.

I miss you, she wrote with a shaley hand and raised her arm to throw it. But then in the distance she saw something. At first she thought it was her old eyes failing her, but as she squinted at the sky she saw the light of a falling star. When it entered her atmosphere it did not dim. It grew brighter and brighter until she almost couldn’t bare to look. One last flash and then there in the sand in front of her was a beautiful woman made of stardust.

“My love,” she smiled at the old woman on the shore. “You are so beautiful.”

The old woman blushed. “I am old,” she said.

“Your age is nothing compared to the universe. Everything that is anything no once burned in the heart of a star. Your outer shell does not matter. Not when we are all made of stardust.”

Via Daily Prompt: Blush