Category Archives: short story

A Science Fiction Short Story: Space Launch

Space travel is incredible. Today, a spaceship left Earth for the purpose of throwing a urine-filled balloon into space. It’s obviously a complete waste of money and science, but that’s what happened.

I watched the shuttle launch at home. The astronauts were shaking hands with the president. The commander of Eagle Two gave a speech on how this is the greatest country in the world and the mission will be a historic achievement. A lady gave the astronaut a bouquet of roses at the end of his press deal. The audience applauded and people were even crying.

Crying for what—throwing a balloon of piss into space?

Most of the country tends to support the mission. You’re supposed to be patriotic and get all choked up. So everyone buys flags and hangs them on their houses as the launch date nears. The other day, I saw a guy dressed up in an astronaut suit at a used car lot. Everyone crowded around him waiting to take a picture. They probably sold a lot of jalopies that day.

A minority of vocal opponents claim these missions are driving us dangerously close to economic collapse and are the primary reason we’re invading Spain. The public and mainstream media ignores them as wing-nuts. Universities do protest, but nobody really cares besides the students. It’s their college so let them do whatever the hell they want. Kids need to rebel. Next week they’ll be crying over a new crusade.

The reality is public support is too strong for the missions to stop. It was on the news that an anti-launch protestor was shot in front of his house. That caused a big uproar for a minute and then quickly became old news. A million other things could be done with the taxpayer’s money than throwing a piss balloon into outer space. What does it even have to do with anything? The whole thing just gives me a headache.

I’ll admit it: I was interested in the launch. It was difficult not to be. Just walking through the grocery store, electricity was in the air. Customers treated each other as if they were on the winning team. As I walked away with my bags, the cashier shouted, “Hey buddy!” I turned around and he gave me thumbs up. I tried to smile, but it probably came off a little weird looking. On the drive home, motorists flashed me peace signs as they passed by. Goofy stuff like that happens every time there’s a launch.

The funny thing was that nobody mentioned the piss-balloon-throwing part. I mean, c’mon, it’s the main reason we ever gone. But that aspect remained entirely unaddressed. A group of big time American bozos debated launch statistics. They brought up astronauts by their first names as if they were personal friends. And the way they described the shuttle, you’d swear they built the damn thing. All the while, a swollen balloon of piss lingered over their heads. Nobody comments on the balloon. And this wasn’t the first time we’ve taken a crack. The previous launch, Eagle One, was a total failure. A malfunction occurred and we lost a whole team of astronauts. Now they’re considered national heroes. Folks get touchy on that subject.

The launch day was finally underway. I got off the couch and walked into the kitchen as the TV yammered on. I reached into the cupboard, got a bottle of whisky, and poured myself a drink—one to wish the astronauts good luck. The camera followed the astronauts to the shuttle, followed by close ups of American flags and hopeful faces. The astronauts waved at the crowd before they shut the hatch. A grainy voice from tower control came over the air.

“Eagle Two, this is Tower One. All systems are go for launch, Eagle Two.”

I listened anxiously with the rest of the country as the head astronaut responded back, “Tower One, we copy that. Eagle Two is all systems go. We are ready for launch.”

“We copy that, Eagle Two. Is that an affirmative for countdown?”

“Affirmative for countdown.”

“Countdown is to commence. God’s speed, Eagle Two.”

“Roger that.”

His voice was emotionless as he started from ten. We were all digging our fingers into cushions. I held my breath when the Eagle Two commander reached five. Then the rest came:

“4…

“3…

“2…

“1…

“Ignition.”

The thrusters flared up in a massive cloud of fire. The shuttle lagged then slowly lifted off the ground. The TV switched to a skyward shot of Eagle Two burning towards heaven. It rose until it looked like a shining star in the middle of the day. It was a beautiful sight. The launch was a success. I poured another drink.

Despite their absurd objective, I hope they make it. Throwing a piss balloon into outer space has to serve a purpose. If it’s for nothing, then the feat in itself must mean something. Just think about it—when they finally get up there, one of our guys is going to stare into the mysterious dark universe, cock back his arm, and throw a balloon filled with piss right into God’s face.

Ap11-s69-31740

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A noir short story: In the bag

I didn’t know where I woke up. The bed sheets smelt like wet cigarettes and old beer. A small room with fading pink wallpaper appeared as my bloodshot eyes focused. I was in some roach motel I didn’t recognize. The Bag! Cold panic hit me like ice water.

The leather travel bag was sitting in the armchair. I sighed in relief.

There was a pack of smokes on the nightstand. I reached over for them—it was empty. Lousy luck is all I’ve had since I took on this assignment. The thing that drove me bat shit was that I didn’t even know who hired me or what I was even supposed to go. All it took was two things at my office to get this wild goose chase started, a note and a bag. Oh, yeah, the attached 50K of crispy hundred dollar bills might have done something to motivate me too. There was a note scratched with some fancy writing. Whoever scribbled it had spent a fair amount of time with a book shoved in their face. The ends of the letters curled like the eyelashes of a troubled dame. I assumed it was a woman, probably a librarian, or a man who secretly wore women’s clothes. There are plenty of freaks and weirdos to go around in this town. Nothing surprises me anymore. But the message threw me for a curveball.

“Blubber Island”

Was this some sort of joke? But five-hundred c-notes don’t bullshit anyone in my line of work. Whoever dropped this off wanted the assignment to be done without error. ‘Then why the absurd message?’ I wondered. For a second I suspected it might be too good to be true. I put my ear against the bag. Not a sound, anyways it was too light to be a bomb, and who in their right mind would toast fifty thousand of their own cash? It be a lot cheaper to just hand me the dough and let me drink myself to death, if greasing me was their intention. The bag itself was an ordinary black leather travel bag except the metal zipper had been melted shut. The only way to open it was with a knife. This mystery client must be in some big time danger. Whoever it was didn’t risk a phone call or quick chat. Even the message was enigmatic as the hieroglyphics on King Tut’s tomb. What or who the hell was “Blubber Island”? I was reading the note when suddenly the phone rang.

“Shizy, private eye,” I spoke into the receiver still looking at the note in my hand. There was a long second of nothing and then he spoke.

“Yeah, Hi…”

Male, Caucasian, in his late twenties with a serious drug habit. I waited for him to continue.

“You got a gun?” the junkie asked.

“I got two. Who are you, punk?”

A dead line.

I reached into the desk drawer and pulled out my 357 snub nose revolver. Somebody was watching me. I could feel eyes slithering all over arms and face. I peeked through the blinds. The sun was sinking down on a city crowded with people going about. The sky turned shades of deep purple and color of blood oranges. The junkie who made the call could be baiting me to rush outside straight into an ambush. But staying in here was pointless if they already knew where I was. I took it as a tip off for the time being. One thing was for sure, I needed to get the hell out of there before someone came looking for me.

My senses were on fire. I put on my coat and hat before grabbing the bag, gun, and loot. The air I breathed felt like cold threads being pulled into my lungs. I flicked off the lights. Soft blades of light, from the streetlamps outside, cut into my office. For a moment I leaned against the wall. ‘What are you doing, man? You’re going to stick your neck out for 50K. Why not throw the suitcase outside the window and write it off as a rejected proposal?’ I pictured my body lying on a cold metal table in autopsy room. Morticians in blue scrubs wearing white masks walked around me while I stared down at myself with eyes like two dead goldfish.

The doorknob on the front door jiggled.

My eyes darted towards the noise. I froze. Through the frosted window panel was a shadow of a figure wearing a hat. From the outline I could tell it was large man. The shadow loomed there staring into my darkened office without the slightest movement. Slowly I reached into my coat pocket for the steel. Was this the guy they sent to cut my throat? It was too late to turn back now. Even if I handed over the bag I’ve already become too much of a liability. I’d kill me to if I were him. There was only two ways out of the office. I could go out the window, but that would mean an eight story suicide. The other was through the waiting shadow. I was stuck in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Sweat was breaking out all over my face. I was trapped. The thought of blasting him through window came to mind. I pointed my gun at the figure. My finger was squeezing on the trigger—I stopped. What if I blew the head off a cop? I lowered my gun. My only option was to play the rotten hand good enough to save my skin. Quietly I moved through the dark until I was ducking by the window. Was I hallucinating? The shadow seemed to grow larger. The aura of death came over me. The blood in my veins turned cold as blunted lead slug. Across the street from my window a lone utility pole stood. The door begun to shake violently, all the while the shadow remained still. I lifted up the blinds and fired outside the window. The transformer on the power pole exploded in a blinding shower of sparks killing every light in the building. Suddenly, I heard the sound of breaking glass and the door smash in. In the perfect darkness, for a brief moment, I saw the glint of a knife appear out of nothing. I swung my gun and fired. In the muzzle flash a shapeless black form moved towards me like a panther. I managed to squeeze off another round when I felt a blade cut open the side of my face and someone smash into me. We grappled on the floor. I felt an arm and grabbed for its wrist. With my other hand I gripped a shirt collar. I twisted my body and hurled the assailant through the window. Broken glass trickled onto the street. When I looked outside there was a man lying dead with a switchblade clutched in his death grip.

I grabbed a bottle of whisky from my bookshelf and took a long drink. He would have had my number if it wasn’t for junkie’s anonymous call. I made my way out of the office and into the hall. There wasn’t a bit of light in the building. Luckily, I knew the place so well I could walk it with my eyes closed. ‘Turn right, walk about thirty feet, and the stairwell is on the left,’ were the directions in my head. I descended the stairs taking care not to break an ankle. Going down I realized this was the first time I had taken the stairs. There was no point in taking the long walk up or down because of the elevator. I’d push a button and twenty seconds later the doors open up. How long does it take going by stairs? This long walk feels like I’m going to end up in the subway. The air suddenly weighed a hundred pounds. What the hell is going on here? My head is getting drowsy. I can’t help it. I’m losing conciseness. Pulling the bag to me— I blackout.

 

That’s the last thing I remember before waking up in this strange room. From the looks of it everything is still here. My gun, the money, the bag, nothing is gone. Even my empty packet of cigarettes is still here. My throat was dry. I got up for a glass of water with the gun in my hand. I filled up the cheap plastic tumbler next to the ice bucket and drank down some stale tasting tap water. In the mirror the ugly gash on my face stood out. The cut was deep and there was a lot of dried blood on my face. I looked like the movie poster to a slasher film. This was insane. Was it even worth the 50K anymore? I wondered. That’s when I heard a sound. A faint scratching was coming from behind me.  I spun around ready to blast. That’s when I realized where it was coming from, the bag. I stepped towards it cautiously. There was something definitely moving inside the bag. I would have noticed this before. I can be dumb, but not that dumb. That’s when I heard the muffled cry of a tiny animal. I didn’t have a choice. Using my trusty switchblade I punctured the leather bag and cut it open. Two big green eyes appeared from within the bag. A black kitten jumped out. I admit she got the drop on me. Without meaning to talk to her I said, “This doesn’t make any sense.” We stared at each other for a while then she gave an excruciatingly long meow. Her white collar said her name was “Ninja.” For an all-black cat the name was fitting. At least something made sense.

 

I took her with me. Someone had to feed her.

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