In addition to deciding I want to venture into flash fiction, with two projects on my agenda including a flash fiction story based on the premise of Intelligence, (Intelligence itself will likely be renamed and instead focus on the social issues which the plight of androids in a fictional society can represent, but more on that later) I’ve spawned yet another short story idea.
What about, you ask? Have a look at this promotional stock photo and take a wild guess.
That’s right, I did it again. I’ve got yet another alien in my life. The story is currently titled Captain Martin, and you can read all about it here. If that doesn’t spark your interest, though, check out the sample below from a scene in which Carrie startles Martin by opening the automatic blinds while he’s napping on the couch.
He shoots into the air, limbs flailing, howling angry gibberish as he rolls all the way over the back of the couch, hitting the carpet with a thud on the other side. He shouts words that sound like high pressure water and gravel being turned over in something metal, and then one three fingers frog hand appears over the couch-back to make a refreshingly self-explanatory, grabby gesture. Carrie sighs.
“What am I, you hand servant?” she grumbles. The hand hovering over the couch grabs at the air again.
Carrie sighs and picks up the handheld from the table and throws it over the couch. He lets out an ear piercing shriek and she can hear the sound of scrambling as he tries to catch it, getting hit with it in the process judging by the squishy, muted thud she hears. Then he lets out another cat-purr-sigh, and she hears the mechanical voiceover of the handhold translator.
“Why?” he wines, “why do you have to, all the time, all the time with the lights,Kar-i?”
“Because it’s dark, brainiac.”
His hand, and the handheld, appear over the couch-back again.
“Nuh-uh,” she huffs, crossing her arms, “you can come out and bring that over here yourself. Lazy.”
Though she knows he doesn’t understand her words, he seems to understand her meaning. His hand disappears and then reappears again, one and then the other taking hold of the back of the couch while he emerges slowly on the other side. He peers at her with a furiously furrowed brow and narrowed eyes, and hisses, though he doesn’t rise far enough off the floor for her to see his mouth move over the sound.
“Lights first, Kar-i,” he huffs into the handhold. She rolls her eyes.
“Is there life on Mars, they asked. It would be intelligent, they said. It will be fun, they said … someday some asshole at NASA or wherever is gonna get a really angry letter from me, let me tell you …” she grumbles to herself all the way to the blinds controls on the wall as she shuts them again, “are you happy now, you little green drama queen?”
Martin emerges slowly from behind the couch and brings her the handhold. “Again repeat, please.”
“I turn on the light because it’s dark,” she explains. He shakes his head, and leans into the handheld between them, all rubbery green skin and orangey freckles. She doesn’t lift the handheld very high, and he leans forward so much to speak into it that he looks like he’s bowing, the little spiny not-quite-tentacle protrusions on his head poking into the base of his neck.
“This is not dark, Kar-i. This is nice.”
“It’s like a cave in here.”
“Kar-i. My people are in caves. On a ship or underground caves always, now. Mostly ships.”
“And you like your ships dark, too? Why? Why not turn up the light and give it a couple of generations to sink in?”
“Light was never our way. Not bright light, Earth light brightness? Never. Mars,Kar-i. Farther planet, distant sun?”
“Don’t cop that attitude with me, Martin.”
Martin makes a noise that doesn’t mean much of anything and, if he were a cat, would have lead her to rush him off of the carpet. But his nonplussed expression and flat mouth are suggestive of a huff.
“Does it really bother you that much?”
“Light? Yes, Kar-i. Always painful and blinding with the lights, I cannot open my eyes … three days now, I am blind!”
“You’re eyes are closed?” They look like they always do, all flat, matte black, with a bit of shine near the middle. He nods.
“Always closed,” he affirms, “or squinting. It is always bright here, except at night.”
“Oh, now that doesn’t make, oh … Oh! No, that makes sense, you’re what … loosely amphibious? No? But you’re built for high water retention in sheltered environments, like amphibians, sorry, human genetic similarities I know, I know. But you don’t have palpebral—you don’t have eyelids.”
“Flesh eyelids? No, Kar-i.”
“You have a nictitating membrane.”
“We call it eyelid.”
She leans towards his face, evidently startling him, to stare at his eyes.
“Sorry,” she says, “but that’s fascinating. Can you open them, or are they reflexive?”
Martin shakes his head. Stuttering the same ch-ch-ch sound over several times before managing a sentence, albeit on that sounds like a lawnmower, he says “later, at night, always bright here,” into the handhold and the shifts from one foot to the other, his arms stiff at his side, until she leans away again. He repeats himself as his posture relaxes. “Later.”
“Ok,” Carrie agrees, “later. In the meantime, you stay here, I’m going to drive into town to get something.”
He gives her a quizzical look. She grins. “Just you wait,” she says. She picks up her keys and leaves. Carrie returns three hours later with twelve different pairs of sunglasses and a sort of special glasses-lanyard to hold them on his face. She marches through the front door holding a shopping bag above her head, and tells him to choose a style.