Bah! I totally meant to post this yesterday, but a Saturday Halloween party more or less threw off my whole weekend, and I didn’t get home until Sunday afternoon. Needless to say I feel bad about being late, so instead of a Short Story Sunday, this will be a Short Story Monday. My bad….
At any rate, I’m trying to challenge myself more, especially on weeks where I’m just find spending a lot of time on my main WIP. As both a ‘punishment’ and a way to keep writing, I’d like to pump out a short story for those weeks. Nothing over 5,000 words, but always over 1,000, and for inspiration I’ve made a sort of ‘prompt’ sheet.
The prompt sheet as 4 categories/columns: person, action, location, object. Using an online dice roller I’ll pick one randomly from each category and use the four of those to create a story. Today I’ll share the first attempt with this method, and hopefully it’s entertaining.
Here are the words for this short story:
Astronaut | Sing | Jungle | Shovel
Marty felt the stress of his morning melt away as he opened the door ahead of him with the press of a button. The corridors behind him were an endless stretch of gray metals and white plastics, but across this threshold was a living, breathing mass of every green shade imaginable; a perfect man-made jungle created to save the world. He stepped through, and the door slid shut with a quiet whoosh of air behind him. Humidity wrapped around him, and for the next minute he just stood there and listened. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath of warm air.
Insects and camouflaged AL-Amazona chirped and sang, their tinny voices filling the space with a song never heard before on Earth. It was a fusion of nature and the unnatural, something all too familiar and yet strangely alien. He smiled, and a moment later their noises were drowned out by the sudden mechanical rumble of thunder, one of the hidden speakers crackling with a burst of static as its broken parts shook.
Marty sighed and opened his eyes. He grabbed one of the ponchos hanging by the door and slipped it on just as another rumble filled the room. The soft patter of water against leaves quickly followed. The drizzle fast turned into a deluge, and with a growing smile, Marty grabbed a shovel from the nearby tool rack. He pulled his hood up and headed into the downpour, the jungle foliage enveloping him with a whispering rustle.
With a spring in his step and the sweet smell of damp earth and decaying vegetation filling his every inhalation, he felt the sudden urge to sing. His smile grew into a grin and he lifted the shovel, holding the handle near to his mouth as he waved his imaginary audience to silence.
“You’re just too good to be true,” he spoke softly at first, only the slightest hint of a musical lilt to his words. “Can’t take my eyes off of you—”
He caressed the space around the handle of his shovel as if it were the back of a lover’s head, his voice steadily getting louder and more rhythmic.
“You feel like heaven to touch.” He bopped the handle on its imaginary nose. “I want to hold you so much. At long last love has arrived, and I thank God I’m alive. You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you—”
Marty spun the shovel in a circle then continued his trek forward at a faster pace as he sang more loudly than before.
“Pardon the way that I stare. There’s nothing else to compare. The sight of you makes me weak. There are no words left to speak. But if you feel like a feel, please let me know that it’s real. You’re just too good to be true; can’t take my eyes off of you.”
As he reached the chorus, Marty jumped on top of a large root that stuck up from the soft ground, his arms spread wide as if to embrace the jungle in return. As loud as he could, he sang the words out to the trees with all the passion he could muster.
“I love you baby! And if it’s quite all right, I need you baby, to warm the lonely nights. I love you baby, trust in me when I say—” he stretched the last word out, but before he could continue further a voice called out to him.
“Jesus Christ Marty, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
The voice appeared out from behind some underbrush, and Marty grinned at Jim before jumping down from the root. He shrugged, giving the man a quick once over. Jim’s fingers and uniform were dirty, but otherwise there was nothing else to note.
“Just felt like singing is all.”
“Yeah well, you know damn well that extra noise is gonna piss Marie off when she checks through the video later. She—wait, wasn’t she supposed to be on shift with you? Where is she?”
Marty’s grin damped a little, and he shrugged again.
“She wasn’t feeling well. I told her I’d handle everything. Where’s Kate?”
“She’s just packing up the samples.”
“Well let’s not keep her waiting.” He motioned for his colleague to lead the way. “I’ll help.”
Jim nodded and turned, and when he took a single step forward Marty’s grin bounced back onto his face. Before his friend could take one more stride he lifted the shovel and swung it forward as hard as he could.
Metal smashed into the back of Jim’s skull with a sickening crack, and the man fell forward before he even knew what had happened. His face landed into wet soil, and Marty pulled the shovel close to his mouth again.
“Oh pretty baby, don’t bring me down I pray. Oh pretty baby, now that I’ve found you stay—” he walked forward as he sang softly, stepping across Jim’s back as he headed towards Kate. “And let me love you, baby; let me love you…”
Marty hummed the next bit as he closed in on the woman. Her back was turned to him, and her hands were buried in a box as she sorted small biological samples. When his feet crunched against a branch she looked over her shoulder. Kate gave him a quick acknowledging nod before facing her work again.
“Heard you howling from all the way over here,” she commented as glass clinked at her fingertips, a small piece of tarp supported on poles keeping her hands, and the samples, dry. “I’m surprised Marie didn’t tackle you down and shove a ball-gag right in.”
“Oh,” Marty stepped up behind her and lifted the shovel to rest against his shoulder, his grin so large and constant it was beginning to hurt his cheeks. “Marie didn’t come with. She’s in bed right now; wasn’t feeling too good.”
“She’ll be giving you hell later then. Better get ready for it.”
“I don’t think she’ll mind so much,” He argued, bursting back into song a second later. “And I love you baby—!”
Kate jumped and turned in surprise at the sudden outburst, but she only managed to open her eyes wide in surprise just before the shovel slammed across the side of her head. The metallic thunk rang out in time with her grunt of pain, but unlike Jim she didn’t fall. In shock, Kate stumbled to the side and grabbed her head as a line of blood appeared on her brow, the rain quickly washing it down the side of her face in a steady pink stream. She swayed and looked up at Marty in horror, but he merely sang and walked closer.
“—and if it’s quite all right, I need you baby—” he swung again.
Kate’s hand was quick to block him, but as he made contact with her fingers they folded backwards and a strained shriek escaped her mouth. She staggered backwards and clutched her broken hand to her chest, her head shaking in furious denial as she blinked rain and tears and blood from her eyes.
“Marty, no—please, no—what are you—”
“—to warm the lonely nights. I love you baby—”
He sang over her words and pulled the shovel handle to his mouth again as winked at her.
“—Trust in me when I say—”
“You crazy son of a bitch!” Kate looked up to the cameras on the ceiling as she continued to backtrack. “Fucking help me goddamn it!”
“—Oh pretty baby—!” Marty rushed her then, leaping forward as he stabbed the shovel straight at her chest.
The tool’s head sunk into her torso with a wet crunch, and his song stopped as abruptly as her pleas. Kate’s head dropped to stare at him in surprise. Mouth gaping, her unbroken hand lifted to feel the new wound as if she couldn’t’ believe it was real. They stared at one another, the clink of rain on metal louder than the wheezing that escaped with Kate’s every labored breath.
“B—B—I—Why?” It was the only full word she managed, her tears disappearing into the reddened rainwater on her cheeks.
Marty’s grin wavered, and he licked his lips. Why indeed, he thought. He looked up at the cameras, then back down and past Kate’s tortured face, out to the beautiful green that surrounded them on every side. He sighed.
“They just don’t deserve this.” He answered, thinking of the dying planet below them.
Kate tried to speak again, but as her mouth worked wordlessly, Marty decided that he was done with the conversation. He still had work to do. His grin returned, and as he held the shovel tightly, he planted a boot against his colleague’s stomach and pushed. Her body fell into the mud their feet had trampled up, and with his weapon free, he held the handle back at his mouth and sang softly.
“Oh pretty baby, don’t bring me down I pray. Oh pretty baby, now that I’ve found you stay. And let me love you, baby; let me love you…”
Kate let out her last gurgling breath, and once again Marty was alone with the beautiful sound of rain and the quiet lull of insects and their aluminum hunters. All he had left to do now was head for the airlock. He didn’t deserve anything either, and with the entire crew of the space station resting peacefully, his work would finally be finished.
Marty smiled and headed for the door, humming all the way.