And just under the wire (and with the predictable busy RL work schedule growing pains) another entry to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge, this time One Amazing Sentence. I’ve tried to link in ryanjamesblack’s sentence in the body of the text, I hope it works. Anyway there were so many amazing sentences to choose from, I could have written a dozen stories. But this one just made this very particular character spring to life in my head like that. It’s probably way funnier in my mind than it is written down, but hey, I hope you enjoy it anyway.
One of the scientifically proven facts about the success of the species that has labeled themselves homo sapiens sapiens – and what an apt and arrogant description, calling oneself knowing, wise two times over – is that humanity is bloody good at adapting to everything and anything. Provided the world is prepared to be changed according to their pesky desires and comforts. Still, it has to be said of us as a species that we’re quite resilient in our ultimate quest for survival and incredibly inventive, too, especially concerning the things the human mind is able to accept and work with as a new truth. It comes as no surprise that once our superficially treasured, yet ultimately discarded homeplanet could no longer hold or sustain our numbers, humanity would set out to find new worlds fit to be our cosmic safety net.
So, with an inordinate amount of money, ingenuity and effort poured into the endeavor by a race confronted with its dying home and its own mortality, we actually found our way into a universe that was so much bigger than the scholars could have dreamed. Professional pioneer became a coveted and quite lucrative career that I – as an adventurous and profit-minded person – found myself a comfortable niche in.
Despite the incredible technological advances and mind-boggling revelations of the ever expanding universe though, some of the fundamental problems of survival stay the same. Which is how I found myself in my current perilous situation, stuck on an outback trek to the as yet uncharted lower continent of a border planet: Gigantavultures circled overhead, sand sharks below, while in the midnight middle there was me, arguing with a pile of diesel drenched dinosaur bones over why they wouldn’t just ignite already and save me from the desert night deep freeze.
“But you’re DEAD!”
“So? That’s no reason to treat a brother like fossil fuel, man, not cool!”
Sentient remains, when they had first been discovered as one of the planet’s special quirks, had sounded like a real hoot, setting the scholarly types to swoon. Turns out, it’s much less of an advantage when you are bound by the Inter-Planetary Code of Conduct that expressly forbids to harm, marry or molecularly alter any creature that is able to give consent. Or withhold it, as it were. It’s not a perfect system by a long shot, but getting the Enforcers on your ass for an offense like torching something against their will is never a good idea. I had to change my strategy.
“Think about it, you’d be able to do a good deed, even from beyond the grave, saving a traveler in need!”
The skull clattered a little with its enormous teeth, while the vaguely disembodied voice hummed as it considered the argument. I cast my eyes around furtively. The vultures were less of a problem, they considered humans an insignificantly small and not particularly tasty prey, but the sand sharks were a different matter altogether. They had the ability to pick up on minute vibrations in the shifting sands of the desert, so even sleeping I was liable to sound like a great meal. However, they would certainly be deterred by the heat signature of a blazing fire.
“Come on, don’t you have it in you to be charitable at all?”
“See, I’m not unreasonable, but if I let you torch my bones, I wanna get a little something something out of it, too.”
Bargaining, at last, something I could actually work with. In the end, quid pro quo makes the world go round.
“Well, is there anything I could offer you, to make it worth your while?”
A pile of brittle bones shouldn’t be able to put on an expression at all, but the dino-head suddenly had a definite air of shiftiness about it.
“You’re one of them dudes, one of them pio…peonies…”
“Yeah, one of those, right?”
“And you’ve been to all sorts of places, correct? Like exotic outer quadrant shit.”
“I’ve been around the block a few times, yes.”
And I already had an inkling where this would be going, too.
“You know about the Illyrian Falls?”
“I know of them, yes, most beautiful vistas of the fifth quadrant.”
“Ok, tell you what, I’ll do you a solid, let you light me up. And in return, you’ll gather my ashes, take me to the Falls, so I can get a taste of them. We got a deal?”
The Illyrian Falls, where an extraordinary gravitational pull attracted stardust from all around to polarize it and spew it back out over an asteroid ridge like a waterfall of rainbows, was one of the most amazing places the mapping efforts had uncovered so far. They were also about three solar clicks off course from my itinerary and the detour would be a bitch on fuel costs. But if the choice lay between putting a stack of money on the pump or waiting around while the moisture in my cells slowly turned to ice in subzero desert temperatures, there wasn’t really a question to be asked.
“Alright, Deal. I survive tonight; you get your ride to the prettiest corner of the universe.”
“I’d say that’s a good deal then. But don’t you think about dumping me in a subpar tourist trap ‘roid field instead; I will haunt your ass!”
I didn’t think that was an idle threat. And 500 lbs of pissed of dinosaur bones would certainly make for one massive pain-in-the-ass poltergeist.
“I hear you. I’m a man of my word.”
One last muttered “you better” was mostly drowned out by the woosh of the igniting diesel when I finally threw a match to it. And not a moment too soon, as it turned out, judging by the scuttling ridgeline in the sand just a mere five feet away from my steel-toed boots. I dragged my pack closer and set up my small traveling pallet as close to the blazing warmth of the fire as I dared. Might as well get some shut-eye for the long trek back to the way station in the morning. After tucking myself into the thermo-wrap, I looked up into the vast beauty of the dark green, starlit sky and let myself be lulled to sleep by the faint flap of gigantic wings and the occasional crackle of a bursting bone.