07 January 2010

"Omega Rising" #Fridayflash

The rain spit on steaming pavement in the blasting heat. The second sun hadn't risen just yet but Alpha Star did the warming, and the Omega prompted Citizens' Precautions.

Tesa stopped in the dusty street to raise her eyes to the red ball in the violet sky with one shielding hand. A quick bleat from a rickshaw driver behind her snapped her from her reverie. She hoisted the line of geese over a weary shoulder again. There was a tale, a fable of a place where clouds gathered and did more than trickle on the dead terrain. Streams of water flowed, and anyone could have water. Free water.

The geese would fetch at least one litera of water, which would get her a good price back on the street. Her lean frame strained under the weight of the dead birds, unplucked and hung by their necks on a rope. Since last spring when her son was born still and lifeless, she'd managed to drop the weight with a little help from the Slat. Slat was a slang term for some long technical term she no longer could remember. It did that to you, The Slat. Slat. She slithered a parched tongue over her lips in anticipation. Life was a fuzzy purple haze on slat. Branda was no problem on the slat. Killing birds wasn't hard on the slat. Branda should have had the boy, not her. A woman bearing a live child was becoming rare and stupid.

She hurried on, unmindful of the warning horns signaling Omega's ascension. Motion occurred at the edges of her vision. A woman fell to the ground behind her, pulling another man with her. Another victim of the The Ninety-Year Drought? Perhaps. Perhaps it was The Slat.

Tesa chewed her peeling lips and shoved through the crowd.

A tug snagged her attention. A small boy, fool that he was. Trying to steal her precious quarry. Geese were scarce these days. Tesa shuffled forward, planting a hand in the middle of the boy's forehead to push him away. The Slat. Had to get The Slat.

The day weighed down on the few ragged souls left pondering the dust at their feet as Omega came into play, far outshining its astral brother. The warning horn sounded again. A few hundred more steps. It could be done. The geese felt like five-hundred octa on her shoulder, and the rope ate through her ripped shirt.

“Lady, you better get out of the suns, Omega is out and you don't look so good.”

Tesa glared at the young man. What was he? Twenty? Less? She took a stifled breath.

“Mind your elders. Mind the sun. I've my suns-screen.”

The man curled his lip at her in distaste and presented her with both middle fingers. “Slathead.”

A woman behind the water counter eyed Tesa warily as the geese were weighed and the water was measured and poured. A half-galo! Tesa was beside herself. Surely she'd be in Slat-heava for the rest of the month, maybe more if she could tell Branda that she'd only gotten—

Omega bore down on her leathery skin and cracked the pavement. The newscast said something about this being the worst Omega day out of the usual four. She turned the corner, her eyes scanning the faceless structures for an open window. Terrible light seared down on her, burning her scalp and drying her tongue to the roof of her mouth. The water sloshed around in the container temptingly. Her throat cried out for it.

The Slat dealer was minding his kids in the breeze of an oscillating fan. Tesa held out the container of water and he frowned.

“You don't look so good Tesa, take the shit and get out of my housa. I don't need you passing out here again.”

Since he'd had his children, he wasn't no fun anymore, Tesa thought with a crooked smile. The Slat squished against her breast as she descended the stairs again.

“Drink Your Water!” Came the warning from rusted bullhorns posted at strategic points of the dirt-laden city, followed by the forecast for the remainder of the week. Dust mingled with the air, creating red torrents of steam, visible and above them all, their fearsome god-star, Omega.

Unable to wait until she'd gotten back to her housa,Tesa pulled out the Slat and unwrapped one to slip into her mouth. Instantly, green mint filled her senses and she closed her eyes. Blossoms and cloudbursts. The roaring of an eternal sea.

The ground rose up to meet her but she didn't see it, or the small brown boy still following her. He slipped the warm package from her twitching, gnarled hands and watched her give one more breath.

It'd only be a matter of time before the Shovela came.


Linda said...

Blossoms and cloudbursts. The roaring of an eternal sea... it's this kind of prose that makes this piece cross genres. Super story.

Coyote Southbridge said...

Oooo scifi. Its different but I like it.

I'd like to see more in this world if there's any thing else there.

Great job!

Danielle said...

Wow, amazing SF piece. Somebody did their research. :)

Marisa Birns said...

Your story is so vivid in its description of the aridity in that world that I'm parched right now!

That Slat. Such a powerful--and deadly--escapist drug. You've written this story very well; it captures one's attention and keeps one wanting to read more to understand the strangeness of this world you so cleverly rendered.

Dana said...

You described every miserable aspect of the world so vividly! Great job!

I'm often wary of jargon in sci-fi stories, but yours wasn't obstrusive.

shannon said...

I'm now trying to peel my tongue from the roof of my mouth! Water...need...water. Wow, excellent. The saddest part is how un-empathetic the little boy has become just to survive. Hmmm...lots of fodder here for a bigger tale. I hope you're expanding this into more scenes!

Carrie Clevenger said...

It is funny how this story makes you want to run for the nearest faucet and drink.

The jargon is consistent with "a" at the end of most foreign terms, including the god-star OMEGA.

I really pushed the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of illustrating and I thank you all for the kind support and encouragement as I sail into vast, uncharted waters.

Unknown said...

Great visual descriptions and a cross-genre treat.

Eric J. Krause said...

Great description in this. And you're right: this'll get me up to get a drink of water as soon as I finish typing. I sure wouldn't want to live on that world. Excellent story!

Sulci Collective said...

Great stuff. It really is like a biblical Alpha & Omega, the end of all meaningful things.

I love the fact that she had to trade for not one but two different commodities to be able to get hold of the thing she really craved, the slat. More precious an addiction and link to life than even water on the most parched of planets. Wonderful insight into craven mentalities.

Marc Nash

Amy said...

What a world you've created! Light years from ours, yet it has the same problems. I totally believed in every miserable detail! An excellent read!

Michael Solender said...

your work always drips with detail and is so lush..love it. great piece carrie!

Anonymous said...

Hot stuff. Your descriptions are a delight. This place reminds me of New Delhi!

Laura Eno said...

Awe inspiring, Carrie! The first para gripped me and it just got better from there. Vivid descriptions.
I must go get a drink of water now...

Genevieve Jack said...

Your story made me thirsty and brought to mind a clip I saw about mothers in Afghanistan who feed their families opium because it's cheaper than food. There is something so realistically raw and human about this story. Masterful prose. Excellent!

Tony Noland said...

God, reading that made me thirsty! Terrific images here, very immersive.

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

Others say they want to grab a drink of water - for some reason I feel a need to go for a walk in a desert somewhere (am trying to ignore the snow outside!)

Great piece, great world!


Sam said...

Fantastically vivid scenes here and you captured Tesa's desperation perfectly. I'd love to read more stories based around this world too.

Ashley said...

Gorgeous piece, love the desperation against the heat of Omega :)

Anonymous said...

great sci-fi, a story really well told.

Crystal Posey said...

"It is funny how this story makes you want to run for the nearest faucet and drink." Ha, I agree!

~Tim said...

What a great description of a horrible place!

Grégoire said...

their fearsome god-star, Omega.

That's such a fabulous and philosophical phrase.

In these cold, rainy months when Sol gives us earthlings in the temperate latitudes 4 or 5 hours of weak light, filtered through thick cloud, I can join Tesa in raising an impotent fist, bleating a meaningless curse, vocalizing my wonder at why we're being punished so harshly.

pegjet said...

I do like sci-fi and this story drew me in. Great writing, and I agree; I'd like to see more stories centered on this world.

Anonymous said...

Extraordinary piece of work. Epic world-building with so few words. I'm awed.


"Dust mingled with the air, creating red torrents of stream"


Anne Tyler Lord said...

What an amazing world you have created! I'm not so much thirsty, as worried they won't get those geese will spoil before she can trade.

This is masterfully written!

Lily Mulholland said...

The Slat is such a strong metaphor in this piece - loved it.

I wonder if the piece might read a bit stronger from the get-out if you dropped the first paragraph. That way we jump straight into the action. I know the two suns concept is central to this piece, but you provide enough information throughout the piece for the reader to discover it for themselves.

Let's hope we don't have to live through a 90-year drought here...the past five years have been rough already.

Weezel said...

I sense a drug addict out of time . . . struggling in a baked world with 2 suns. The imagery is so spot on that I could picture that hot sun, the streets, & the world. Excellent writing!

Carrie Clevenger said...

Truly, thanks for so much praise.

@Anton - D'oh! I do silly typos like that. Checking into that after I finish this response.

@CascadeLily - Normally I do shave off the 'fat' AKA INFODUMP. I was torn on this one, but I think you are right. To be a pansy, I'll leave it like that here, so it's not the same version if I submit it.

Everyone - I followed some great examples and purchased www.carrieclevenger.com Thank you for the honorable lead.

Helen Ginger said...

What great and intense visuals in this piece. I could feel the heat and thirst. Really enjoyed this.

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

Carrie, you always leave me wanting more, and this story is no exception. I do hope you'll show us the others in this town. I could feel their skin cracking open. Superb writing!

Laurita said...

Loved the visuals in this. Excellent piece.