Yikes. I apologize for the late post. But here it is, finally!
The website io9.com posts a piece of concept art every Saturday challenging its viewers to write a piece of flash fiction based on that art. Stories must be less than eight hundred words. As of the time of this blog posting, there are thirty-six images online (they added another on September 8th.) There may be more and I failed to uncover them by searching for the wrong terms, but eh. I think thirty-six’s a plenty big pool to draw from. I’ve assigned each a number, with the newest being 36 and the oldest being 1. I’m going to generate a random number within that range and write a piece of flash fiction on the prompt (generating a new number should I pick an already used image.) Exciting, no?
The third piece is entitled “That Sleep of Death,” inspired by “Hypersleep” by Pascal Blanche. I don’t own this image, I claim no rights to this image, and should Pascal Blanche stumble across this post and demand that the image be removed, I will gladly do so. Also, you should go check out Pascal’s deviantArt page at: http://pascalblanche.deviantart.com/. And while you’re at it, you should go back to my last two posts and check out those guys’ pages as well (seeing as I’ve added links to them. I don’t know why I didn’t include them to begin with. Very thoughtless of me.)
As a final note, it is with a certain cryptic amount of pride that I say we will see the characters and the setting in today’s post sometime in the future. I have plans for them, and if you find yourself interested in their story, you may rest assured that they’ll be back in a more fleshed out piece soon enough.
Anyway, let’s begin!
“Do you think they can hear us?” Seph asked. She stared up at the man or woman before her, their body interred within an elaborate powered suit, their face obscured by a mask stylized to look like a skull.
There was no trace of identity there. No name. No features. Not even a gender. Everything about this person had been obliterated in their service to the State. This was their final reward: a tomb where they could not die. An afterlife where they would know no rest. A network of cables and inscrutable devices that literally tethered them to this world.
Was this the fate that awaited everyone with the Interface? Was this the fate that awaited her? Seph shuddered.
The Professor nodded without bothering to even turn and look at Seph. He pressed on, intent upon finding an Interface station for her to access. “Most likely.” He swept his flashlight across the room, exposing nothing but cobwebs and dust. “The question is, do they even care?” For the first time since they had entered this forgotten chamber in the ruins beneath Undercity, the Professor turned his light on the morbid figure before them. Seph watched his expression, but it didn’t change from the look of mild annoyance he always wore.
She didn’t much like the Professor, she realized.
“Do they sense intruders? Are they panicking? Are they studying us? Are they planning how to dispose of us? Or do they hear nothing but the chatter of senseless animals, creatures beneath their notice save for the mild irritation we can cause?” The Professor frowned. “Let’s find what we’re looking for and get out of here. This place is unpleasant.”
“Should we have Alpha in here with us?” Seph asked. “Would that be… safer?”
The Professor shook his head. “That shouldn’t be necessary.” The Professor looked at the corners of the room, his grey eyebrows furrowing as if he were looking for something, some minute detail. “We’ll be fine in here, and he’ll be fine out there.” The Professor turned and shined his light on Seph, her purple and blue-dyed hair impossibly metallic and bright in the darkness of the chamber. She winced and looked away. “This is the world we live in, Persephone,” the Professor said. “You need to understand that. It’s dark and it’s dirty and it’s dangerous, and it’s not for everyone. Frankly, it’s not for anyone. But it’s ours, mine and Alpha’s, and we are very good at living here.”
“I’ve grown up in Undercity all my life, thanks,” Seph said. She hoped she sounded strong and defiant, but she was worried that she just sounded petulant. “My mom died giving birth to me, and they took me out of my dad’s arms so they could wire me up with the Interface. I think I know something about what a crappy world this is.”
The Professor frowned. “I’m not talking about ‘what a crappy world this is,’ I’m talking about danger. Real danger, Persephone. There’s your world, then there’s my world. In your world, people live meaningless lives of quiet desperation. In my world, you’re a wanted criminal. The State hunts you. Criminal organizations hire you. In your world, you wake up in the morning and you never see the sun because the wealthy have built their houses in its way. In my world, you don’t wake up in the morning because some assassin has slipped a blade between your ribs in the middle of the night!” The Professor was shouting now, and Seph said nothing as his anger washed over her. She said nothing, but she didn’t wince or turn away. She wouldn’t let herself, couldn’t.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, opened them again. “And the only way out of Undercity is to go into your world, isn’t it?” She stared into the Professor’s cold blue eyes, her own betraying nothing but steel. “There’s no escaping that Hell without going into yours, is there?”
The Professor snorted. He looked her up and down, the clothes she wore, the way she carried herself, the skin that would have been olive in the sunlight of Sky City but was the color of dust in Undercity. He let his eyes linger on the Interface visible just beneath her skin, the gold and copper wiring, the machinery that was as much a part of who she was as her bones and her blood.
“No,” he said. “They’ll never let you go. You’re too valuable.”
Seph willed an edge into her voice. “Then let’s find the damn station and get out of here.”
For the first time since she’d known him, the Professor smiled. It was just a smirk, really, but it was the first time she’d ever seen him looking anything even resembling happy. “Yes. Let’s.”
Thank you for indulging me in this little diversion! Be here on Monday when I switch back to longer pieces!