Sunday, June 17, 2012

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge: A Tree Far From Home

I've titled this post with every intention of creating more of these.  We'll see how that pans out.  Chuck Wendig is a writer who I became familiar with years ago for his work on Hunter: the Reckoning, a White Wolf tabletop RPG that ranks to this day as my "all-time #1, run-at-the-drop-of-a-hat" system.  He has a blog (link at the end) through which he hands out all kind of free awesome for people interested in telling stories.  Every Friday he puts up some kind of flash fiction challenge to keep the creative juices overflowing and I thought I'd start participating because a) I love writing flash fiction and b) I need something to keep this blog moving while I struggle with my own writing issues.

Chuck's blog is here -

A Tree Far From Home

"Charles Donovan Pierce, you put your respirator on this instant!"

The voice was shrill through the amplification speakers.  Charlie pulled the clear plastic cone off his belt and slid the straps over his head, tugging it through straw blond hair until he heard the soft hiss of a seal being made.  The smell of ozone faded as the device did its work, filtering out the elements that might be troublesome.  The taste lingered, though, like sucking on a penny that had been electrified moments before.

"Sorry, Ma." he said, his own speaker amplifying the volume.  Tearing his eyes away to look at her was so difficult, so unwanted.

"Damn right, you are.  We haven't been here a week and already you're traipsing around like you're on the back forty." Vivian said, her frown visible but twisted unnaturally by the plastic of her mask.  She crunched through the grass, her suit slick with moisture.

"It's just..." Charlie began, his mind struggling for the words as he turned back to the tree, it's bent form swaying so soothingly in the soft argon fog.  "It's so like home, ya know.  The grass, the trees...well, most of them."  His mother reached his side and motioned upwards with a sweep of her hand.

"What color is that sun, boy?"  Charlie didn't have to shift his eyes to know the answer.  He'd stared up at it for hours when they first arrived, amazed at shimmering light it created.

"Blue, ma'am." he replied, reaching out towards the twisted branches of the tree in front of them.  His mother's hand was on his wrist in an instant, pulling it back.

"Right, because this isn't Earth.  You don't know what is out here.  How dangerous it could be." she said, her fingers tightening.

"But, Ma, the scientists said it was ok to breathe here for an hour." he said, his eyes locked to the thin green foliage on the spidery boughs.  A quick tug pulled his attention back to his mother's face.

"I don't care what no scientist's say.  You don't leave the tent unless your father or I give you permission."  she said, her voice tight with anger.  Charlie's eyes seemed to focus at that, pupils constricting as fear of his father's anger flooded his body with hormones.  "Are we clear?"

"Yeah...yes, ma'am.  I understand." he managed between deep gulps of air.  Her hand slid loose of his wrist and she set it on his shoulder instead, the rubberized plastic of his suit rippling at her touch.

"We just don't want anything to happen to you, Charlie.  This isn't home.  We have to be more careful here."  A slow push turned him around and he spared a glance towards the tree as they started back.  It was strange...he couldn't see now why he'd found it so fascinating.  He smiled to his mother as she continued.  "We have a few more holes to dig before he can plant the supports for our habitat but once that's done I thought we might break out the ice-cream your father freeze-dried before the trip."

The tree watched them go.  It slowed the swaying of its branches and let the mist dampen them again.  The chemicals in its leaves ceased to mingle, breaking rapidly down into their respective components.  It was a missed opportunity, to be sure.  The boy had been so close, so deeply entranced by the pheromones.  A minute longer would have been all it would need to finally see what these new creatures tasted like.

The tree sighed, though it only appeared to shudder in the wind from the outside.  It had been new to this place once, too.  Fresh from across the blackness of space when it was but a child, eager to plant roots and entice prey.  The setback was of little consequence.  They would be back, poking the ground with their strange devices and it would be there waiting for them.  So eager to explore, these beings were.

It would sleep until then.  Sleep despite the gnawing in its roots, the pangs of undernourishment.  Hunger did not sit well with its kind, and it had waited so very long for a meal.

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