Tag Archive | storytelling

Short Story – Winter

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a collector. A cat plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a blizzard in the future. The story is about loneliness.

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Grigor shivered and closed the pod. He could have sworn he’d heard something. And yet, when he opened the pod to look, he saw nothing but driving snow and layers of ice. As always. Or at least ever since he’d landed on this godforsaken outpost.

He thought back to the fatal day his pod had been ejected from the starship. His crime had been considered so heinous, so horrible,  that his punishment was banishment far from civilization. Altarean society considered the death penalty to be cruel and also too lenient. They wanted criminals to reflect on their misdeeds. And so he would have plenty of time and space to think, they had chosen this uninhabited locale so that Grigor could not damage other citizens.

“Damage” – Ha! That was their word. Grigor was taken from his family and friends and deposited here. They had allowed him to take his beloved recordings and books with him. He could read and he could write, although he could not communicate with anyone. They dropped food and supply shipments regularly. They never asked him what he wanted and they did not tell him when to expect it. The pod was equipped with a state-of-the-art communication system. but Grigor was forbidden to use it, and they did not choose to use it.

There! He heard the noise again. It was louder. He wrapped himself against the cold in his ice suit, grabbed an electron lantern, and opened the pod door again. He stepped out into the swirling ice and snow. And he heard it. A cry. He turned and closed the pod door behind him and headed toward the sound. He waded through the drifts. The sound seemed to be coming from the direction of his supply drops. He struggled over a larger ice rift, tripped and rolled. When he righted himself he noticed he had dropped the lantern. He walked over to retrieve it and found it firmly wedged under a rocky ledge. Cursing, he tugged and pulled to no avail. It would be more difficult to get back to the pod without the lantern.

Then he heard the cry again and forgot the lantern. He slogged toward the sound. He stumbled over the supply shipment. Cursing again he maneuvered around the shipment and kept moving toward the sound. It seemed to be coming from underneath the pile of containers. He started digging out the containers and stacking them to the side. He’d have to move them into the pod later.

He moved another container and heard a loud screech. He quickly picked it all the way up and set it aside. There in the snow he could barely make out a small, dark, furry ball . He reached down a hand to pick it up.  It shrank back in between the other containers.

“Now, now…” His voice cracked and the fur ball hissed.

“I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve uttered anything but expletives. Although that doesn’t mean I wish you harm.” He spoke in soothing tones.

He reached in again, more slowly, continuing to murmur.

“Come here little one. You won’t survive long out here.”

The fur ball finally let him pick her up.  She mewed pitifully and shivered. He opened his ice suit to put her in next to his heart for warmth. Then he noticed her leg.

“You’re hurt! Oh precious little one, I’m so sorry. That container must have been heavy. I should have come sooner.” He tucked her safely into his suit and closed it again. He could feel her shiver once more and then start to purr as she warmed up.

Grigor made his way slowly back to the pod.

The wind didn’t seem quite so cold any more.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

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Short Story – Luisa

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a toymaker. A sceptre plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a bridge in ancient times. The story is about trust.

*******

Giorgio set his bag down at his feet and looked over the parapet at the water. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief. The sun was still climbing, so he took his time, enjoying the breeze off the water.

“Excuse me, Signore.” He turned at the tap on his shoulder to find a young girl dressed in a simple frock  with an apron and wooden shoes. A scarf covered her hair.

“How can I assist you, signorina?”

Per favore, Signore, my mama is sick. I am to bring back the lemons to help her get well, but il mercante will not sell them to me. He calls me ragazza and tells me to go away. But you look kind. Will you please help me?”

What is your name, my dear?”

“Luisa, Signore. Luisa Cantone. I have the money here.” She shows him the piastras enclosed in her apron pocket.

“And where do you live with your mama, Luisa?”

“Via Veneta, Signore.”

“Very well, Luisa. Let’s go see Signor Mercante and see if we can get the lemons for your mama.” He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder and took her hand.

As they walked, she chatted happily about her family and the many babbinos at home. Luisa was the oldest and responsible for the others. When they reached the vendor, she pointed him out.

Giorgio approached the vendor, inquired about the lemons. He chose carefully,  sniffing each one and giving it a gentle squeeze.  He made the purchase on Luisa’s behalf then he turned and handed her the lemons.

Grazie, Signore! My mother will be so happy.”  Luisa ran for home.

Smiling, Giorgio turned toward the bridge. Thud! He felt the blow on the back of his head and lost consciousness.

When he awoke with a throbbing head, the sun was low in the sky and his purse was gone. His nose and mouth were full of dirt. His bag was inside out and the contents were strewn on the ground. There were pieces everywhere. With a heavy heart he knelt to gather them. Everything appeared to be unbroken. He breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, Signore!” Luisa reappeared at his side.  “Are you hurt? I am so sorry.”

Giorgio stood and examined her distraught face. “Why should you be sorry, Luisa?”

“I should never have left you, Signore. Then you would have been safe.”

“But you needed to get the lemons to your mother…”

“She could have waited until I saw you safely back to the bridge. The market is not a good place for strangers. I am sorry, Signore. You helped me and I left you. It is all my fault.”  She hung her head.

“Now, now, Luisa. Please help me pick up the rest of my things and you can show me back to the bridge.”

“Oh si, si, of course, Signore. I will help you.” Luisa dropped to her knees and began to gather the contents of his bag.

Signore?”

“Yes, Luisa?”

‘What are all these things?”

“What do they look like to you, Luisa?”

She picked up a miniature cabinet and tiny belt and held them toward him.

“They look like toys, Signore.”

“Yes, Luisa. I am a toymaker.”

She continued to pick up furniture and clothing, balls and puppets. She marveled at a small doll in a green velvet dress.

“She is very beautiful, Signore.”

Si, she is very beautiful, Luisa. And she is even more beautiful with her crown,” he placed a tiny jeweled crown on the doll’s head. “And her scepter.” He placed a golden scepter in the doll’s little hand.

“Oh, Signore! She is marvelous to behold. How did you make her so perfectly? Look! She is smiling since you gave her back her things.” She turned to Giorgio in wonder.

“Shh! That is a secret.”

“But Signore, she was not smiling before and now she is. You must be a marvelous toymaker indeed.”

Si, si, Luisa. She is happy now, but it is not because of her things. If you promise not to tell, I will share her secret.”

“Si, si, Signore. I will not tell.” And then her face fell. “No. Do not tell me, Signore. I do not deserve to know. ”  She put her head down and sobbed.

“There, there, Luisa. Don’t cry.” He patted her shoulder.

“But Signore. I let you get hurt.” She sobbed harder.

“Luisa, it is mostly my pride that is hurt now.”

“But your money,” she wailed

“I have my toys. They are my treasure and my livelihood. Please, Luisa. Calm yourself.”

She continued to sniffle. He held out the tiny doll. Luisa wiped her nose on her sleeve. Her jaw dropped in wonder.

Signore, she is crying.”

“She is crying because you are crying.”

Luisa wiped her eyes and took the doll. “You are right, she is not crying any more.” And as her smile grew so did the doll’s until both were grinning from ear to ear.

“She is yours, Luisa. But…”

Luisa remained entranced by the doll’s reflection of her mood.

“But you must promise you will never lie again.”

Shocked, Luisa looked up from the doll’s face.

“If you do, she will tell on you and everyone will know.”

Luisa nodded soberly and the tiny version of Luisa in the green velvet dress with the crown and the sceptre smiled.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Ssssilliness

Story prompt:
The story’s protagonist is female and a shopkeeper. A piece of fruit plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a school in the far future. The story is about freedom.

*******

It always rains on Mondays. It doesn’t matter what planet you’re on.  Saness watched the drops sliding down the window, taking her mood with them.  Blork! How could anything get worse? Her parents were in Argonnia on vacation and out of reach of cyberspace, so she had to watch the shop. Her sister was on work assignment in the Saurean planetoids. Her most recent boyfriend had jilted her for a Seruvian sylph. And even Silna, her pet strottar was sick with a septic infection. No one to embrace. No one to speak to. No one to share with. No one to keep her mood from sliding into saturninity. And she had school today.

The Second Synchronized Superlative Sensational Silent Sky- Spy Super-Secret Sanskrit Skill School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Most of her classmates called it Snake U (a play on the SSSSSSSSS acronym).  She said “Ssssssss” until she realized people thought she was hissing. At them. She attended via the satellite telelearning system, which synchronized the entire class in space-time. Participation was mandatory. Assignments compulsory. And since they had a thousand ways to find you and force you to submit, parents supposed it was worth the price.

Her parents had enrolled her here as a last resort. Saness had managed to fail out of every course of study she started.

She had alienated herself from the Autonomous Amiable Androgynous Analytic Alibi Academy

She was booted from the Bereaved Barbarian Bedazzled Bohemian Bakery and Bourgeois Ballet Bastion

Caught canoodling in the Coeducational Collaborative Cantankerous Culinary College

Delivered from the Dogmatic Deliberate Diligent Dilettante Doomsday Decoy Dojo by a dalliance with a deacon.

She had even been expelled from the Excellent Egalitarian Energetic Eclectic Enthusiastic Ecole for Everyone.

Her parents, tired of working through the alphabetical listing in order decided to skip a few letters to reduce the number of options.  So here she was.  Stuck in her teledesk.

“Saness, please explain the concept of surreptitious surveillance.”

Her reverie stymied, Saness brought her scrutiny back to the 4D classroom and the instructor’s solicitation.

“Skillful application of presence auditing,” she said straightforwardly.

Satisfied, the instructor sailed on to the next item on the syllabus and Saness returned to her stargazing. It wasn’t that she was a bad student. She was good at memorization and always seemed to know what the teachers were expecting. She grasped the concepts easily enough and she had acquired any new skills they taught. Yet, she never managed to finish certification anywhere. She was closer this time than she had ever been. All she had to do was survive a little longer.

She took a bite of a strawberry from the fruit bowl in front of her. She had snatched it from the counter in the shop right before class. The strawberry was sweet and succulent. She savored the scent that assailed her nose, the beautiful scarlet flesh. Lost in her senses, she floated out of her body. The teledesk held her physical presence with her head facing the classroom and she went out through the virtual raindrops into the ether.

In a snap she was in the veterinary hospital sliding into the cage with her beloved Silna. When Saness arrived, Silna’s ether was floating above her snoring body, curled in the same position. Saness wrapped her filmy arms around Silna’s scintillating fur and Silna reciprocated with the purring enthusiasm only a six-tailed strottar can give.  Saness snuggled her silky companion and was feeling significantly strengthened. If only she could stay in this state, she would be so safe and satisfied.

Crack! blzzzt! Saness felt the suction and struggled. She was swirling, spinning. Splat! Sabotaged, she was shoved back into her body, only it was no longer in the 4D classroom. She was in the superintendent”s office and her parents were there. Oh slurge! This was not going to be copacetic.

She’d been sacked. Again.

“Saness, how could you?” said her father, not really expecting an answer.

“We were hoping you could stick this one out. You were so close.” Saness wished she could soothe away the sadness in her mother’s eyes.

“Under the circumstances…” the superintendent looked at her parents with sympathy and then at Saness.

“I see.” Saness slunk down.

“Let’s go back to the shop,” said her father wrapping his sheltering arm around her shoulder. Saness searched his smiling face.

“There’s always the Universal Ubiquitous Understated Ubuntu University on Uranus.”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs. We were extra silly in this session.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Honestly

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and an inventor. A towel plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a kitchen in the present. The story is about honesty.

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Jeff fanned the steam away from the boiling pot with a blue kitchen towel and then realized he could have turned on the fan. So he did. As the vapor was drawn away, he looked into the pot to see how his dinner was faring. Then realizing his glasses were fogged up, he activated the mini-wipers. Two quick swipes and they were clear again, so he peered into the pot.

Chicken chow mein, frozen in a plastic bag that was prepared by placing the plastic bag in boiling water (AKA boil-in-bag) was his favorite quick meal since he was a child. In his mind, boil-in-bag dinners were the greatest invention even although they were much harder to find these days. He bought them by the case from the Piggly Wiggly® website. He had a very large storage freezer that was way too much for one person – unless that person liked to store five cases of frozen chicken chow mein boil-in-bag dinners. He also had a case of beef stew and one of sweet and sour pork for variety’s sake. Jeff didn’t like to waste a lot of time thinking about what he was going to eat.

Jeff liked to boil his dinners because he didn’t trust the microwave. He had fried several when he forgot and put an aluminum TV dinner tray or a fork in and turned it on. The sparks were amazing, if a little scary. Microwave ovens were not designed to operate under those conditions and most would quit in protest. Since he could not seem to remember not to put metal utensils in them, he gave up after the fifth one turned in its resignation.

Just as the little egg-shaped timer dinged to let him know his dinner was done, the doorbell rang. Startled, Jeff paused to turn off the burner and the fan. Then he put the blue towel back on his shoulder and headed for the front door. He paused to look through the peephole and seeing a pretty young woman, unlocked and opened the door.

“Yes?” he asked her, hoping she would get to the point so he could go back and eat his dinner.

“Hi? My name’s Amber and I live across the hall?” she replied. She had a habit of raising her voice at the end of her sentences so they sounded like questions.

“What do you want?” Jeff responded.

“Well, I was really hoping I could have a chance to talk to you?” again raising her voice and inching her way into his living room.

“And my dinner is getting cold, so please explain what you want quickly,” as he fell back startled at her bold move.

“We-e-l-l-l, I am new in town and I was hoping I could find somebody to show me around?” as she moved now quickly from the living room to the kitchen.

“As I explained, I am busy. Please state your business or come back at another time.”

“You mean you won’t take me out to dinner?” she pouted standing in his kitchen.

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Guys always take me out to dinner? You could take me out to dinner?” she purred as she started to pull the blue towel slowly off his shoulder with her fingers.

“No, I could not. I have dinner plans.” He grabbed the towel away from her and stepped back.

She sauntered over to the stove, peered into the slightly steaming pot and grabbed a corner of the plastic bag, pulled it up, dangling it over the pot. “This” she pointed at the bag, “is not ‘dinner’ and it is definitely not ‘plans’.”

Swiftly he grabbed the bag out of her right hand with his left and dropped it back in the pot which he grabbed with his right and spun away from her. He set the pot down again and adjusting his glasses on his nose, he looked down at her. “This is MY dinner plans. Your dinner plans are an entirely different matter and you should leave me alone and go take care of them.”

Undeterred, she started to inch closer to him again, giving her best pretty girl pout. “But I’m hungry and I don’t know anyone?”

“Th-th-that is not m-m-my pro-pro-problem.” He was startled by his disobedient tongue and then realized she was rubbing herself against him. Knowing that he would not be able to speak clearly until he was again at a safe distance, he shrugged himself away, stepped around the table, quickly placed a kitchen chair directly in front of himself and kept his hands on its back.

Amber climbed up on the chair one knee at a time and started to reach for the towel again, running her fingers up his arm to play with it. She smiled.

He snatched the towel out of her fingers and stepped away from the chair. “Young lady, I am not taking you to dinner. If you are truly as hungry as you say, I am willing to prepare another meal like mine for you to eat. Otherwise, you should go bother someone else.”

Sensing she would not get any further tonight. She pouted and then stepped off and pulled the chair up so she was seated at the table. “Okay? I would like dinner, please?”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Jeff threw the towel back over his left shoulder and went to the freezer. “Chicken chow mein, beef stew or sweet and sour pork?”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Dreams

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a scholar. A computer plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bathhouse in the future. The story is about dreams.

*******

Zanter trudged down the street, feeling the weight of the day. The dirt and noise of the city were heavy on his spirit. It seemed to take forever until finally he reached an ancient building and mounted the few stairs to the front portal.

Zanter glided through the opening and greeted the owner briefly before proceeding to the changing area, where he divested himself of clothing and put his belongings into a small pod anchored to the wall. Then he padded barefoot down a narrow passage to the center of the building. As he passed through the ultrasonic shower and into the bathing area, he was awed anew at the sight. The space was glorious and ancient with high pillars, soaring ceilings and sculptures and frescoes of merpeople and sealife. The ceiling could be opened to the stars by a series of louvered panels.

He had once asked about the history of the building and was told that it had been a bathhouse for thousands of years. It was originally built over natural hot springs to take advantage of the minerals and warmth they exuded. The current owner was descended from the last several owners, each taking over in turn. Some things had changed. There were no longer religious rituals required of the bathers. There were showers and saunas in chambers off the large central pool. Computers controlled all the portals, pods, and louvered panels. The processes for regulating the temperature, monitoring bacterial and mineral levels, and filtering and recycling the water were now automated. And yet, the concept of the place remained the same – healing and renewal.

As he slipped into the pool, the humidity and warmth began to work their magic on him. His sinuses and pores opened, his muscles relaxed, and he felt his spirit lift. Given the ubiquitous nature of pools and bathhouses like this one, Zanter thought, “Perhaps we were once sea creatures after all. And the water takes us home.”

As he floated in the water, he closed his eyes, letting his thoughts drift. He reminded himself he did not come here just to wash dirt and sweat from his body. Simple cleansing could be accomplished in the privacy of his domicile. Here he could swim and float and when he left, he would feel completely different than he did after bathing at home.

He had been drifting for awhile with his eyes closed, and when he opened them he was surprised to find that the pool was dark. He stood up in the water and looked around. He listened carefully for the splash or low conversation from other bathers and heard nothing but lapping water in the pool, splashing water from the shower chamber. He spoke quietly, knowing the water would carry the sound, “Hello? Is anyone else here?”

No one answered. He lowered himself back into the water. Briefly he felt panic begin to rise. “What if he was alone in the building? What if he was locked in? What if he could not get out? Where was the owner?”

And then he felt the pull of the water, warmly, gently caressing him, urging him to relax. He succumbed to the motion and started floating again. This time with his eyes open. He allowed the thoughts to tumble and spill away again. As he looked up at the ceiling he noticed that the panels had been retracted and he could see the night sky above with its myriad stars. The view fascinated him and pulled his musings further into the ancient questions that have ever tugged at human minds. The questions of philosophers and religious scholars like him. “Who am I really? How did I get here? Is there something or someone out there that made this world I see? Why?”

And as he pondered these things, he felt himself expand, absorbing everything in his path, until the whole city, the whole continent, then the whole planet were inside him. He continued to move outward, taking in everything until his awareness encompassed all he could imagine. He felt the water surround him and envelop him. And he was water, indistinguishable from everything else. Absorbing it all, encircling it all. He was enjoying the feeling. So incredible. So beautiful…

Then as if a drain had been unplugged he started swirling rapidly, growing smaller and pulling back down to his body that had seemed so far away. He ebbed like the tide away from the shore and too quickly found himself back to his normal state. So small. So insignificant.

Vaguely he heard a voice nearby and opened his eyes. He was in the pool at the bath house. The lights were on. He sat up out of the water. Across the pool two bathers were engaged in low conversation. He must have been dreaming…

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – The Gardener

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a gardener. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bedroom in ancient times. The story is about movement.

*******

After it was over, he picked up the pieces of statuary that had fallen, and moved them to a storage shed. He surveyed the damage to the fountains. The largest one was leaking, so he turned the water off and added it to the list of repairs needed. As he passed the ruins of the house, he thought he heard a sound. The house was not his responsibility, still, he had no way of knowing who was left to take care of things. And the sound was small. Like a child. He could not just pass by. So he followed the sound. Up onto the great patio. More smashed statuary and another fountain with chipped cherubs. Past the doors to the great hall that allowed the large parties to flow out into the gardens. The doors were now gaping wide as they did when the great hall was filled with dancers and musicians and food. Only there were no guests, no orchestra.

He paused and then followed the sound along the southern wall until he came to the balustrade that separated the large formal gardens from the private terraces. He worked his way back down to the main garden along the stairs and then back up to the house at the first private patio. The sound lured him on and he found a set of doors that opened onto the terrace. They were broken and stood open with the curtains billowing in the breeze. He paused a moment and then pushed back the curtains and stepped through the doorway.

He had never spent much time in the house, although he wasn’t surprised to find himself in a large bedroom. The house was designed so that all the rooms opened onto a garden. Even the library opened out into an outdoor reading room with little benches and shaded hammocks that called a reader to idle away the hours with a good book.

The bedroom was part of a suite and massive.  Nearly equal in size to the great hall. Ah – this would be the master’s quarters then. Or the mistress’ -she had always liked and commanded a larger space… And the sound was closer now. A whimpering. He started to search the overturned furniture and disarrayed hangings and draperies and tapestries, pulling them aside and peering behind. And finally, he found her. She was curled into a small ball, hiding under the cushions, behind the draperies surrounding the bed. He recognized the youngest daughter, who was called “Mina” by all. She continued to sob softly, her face buried in the silken bedclothes unaware of his presence. Gently, he knelt beside her like he would for the rabbits and deer and swans that populated the garden. Quietly he began to speak to her, reaching out to stroke her hair ever so softly. She was too forlorn to be startled and continued to whimper even as he gathered her into his arms. She smelled of the outdoors and childish sweat and faintly of the soap her mother used to bathe her. Her clothes were rumpled and slightly dirty. He checked her limbs to be sure none were broken. There was no blood on the bedding or pillows where she had lain, only the tear stains from her crying.

“Ssss, quiet now… are you hurt?”

Mina wailed.

He patted her back and held her and waited for her tears to subside again. He sat down on the bed cuddling her and rocking. And then he saw her mother across the room, shattered under an enormous pillar. He pulled Mina tighter to his chest covering her eyes.

“Ssss, quiet now… would you like to hear a story?”

Mina subdued somewhat replied “Thirsty.”

“Certainly, you are. We shall do something to address your thirst presently. For now, I would like to offer you a story, if you wish.”

Mina nodded and he began. “Once upon a time…” as he gently carried her from the room.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – The World of Plants

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and an interpreter. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a farm in the future. The story is about pride.

*******

I talk to plants. It’s true. Actually, they talk to me. I am an interpreter for the plants. I tell their stories. I am the only one I know who does this work. I ply my trade among the planets of the fourth star in the Pleiades. My small interplanetary craft is fast and efficient, so I can cover a lot of territory. The plants pay me in their way, so I am never hungry. I barter some of the produce for my other needs. And the plants are always grateful.

All right, maybe not always. There was a time…

I had traveled farther than usual that day at the request of a local agriculturalist. It seems that a large plant type life form was rebelling and causing some disharmony in the local economy.

My landing was carefully calculated to be within walking distance of the biodome, but still far enough to keep from disturbing the immediate area. Since the vibrations from my ship could add to the chaotic emotions already in play.

The agriculturalist was waiting just outside the biodome. Zefra was obviously agitated when I reached her, so I paused to help soothe her ruffled feelings. She could not introduce me to the belligerent life form if she was not in a good state. She explained that the plant in question had just insulted her intelligence and thrown rotten foliage at her. She had been tempted to kick the plant in its genitalia. Unfortunately, the plant in question was too valuable to sustain that kind of damage so she had managed to restrain herself long enough to leave the biodome before venting her anger. Still pacing, Zefra continued to rant about “Ranc,” which turned out to be short for Ranunculus Vitae, a variation of a plant once found several parsecs from here on a small blue planet circling the star Helios.

“He’s such a self-sanctimonious, self-important, self-aggrandizing, egotistical… did I say self-important?! Well he is! He thinks he’s the most significant lifeform here!”

I allowed Zefra to continue on for several minutes in this vein so that she could gain control of her feelings again. Then I began to massage her aura and bathe it in cooling light. Finally she could speak without spitting. So I asked her what had brought on this latest outburst.

“I offered him some fertilizer,” she replied simply.

“That’s all?”

“Yes.”

“Surely there was more to it than that? It’s not as if he can make his own.”

“Then you will have to ask him. It’s not as if we speak the same language,” she snapped a bit too sharply.

“I plan to do so as soon as you are serene enough to perform an introduction,” I replied gently trying to smooth the latest flare in her temper.

After a few moments working on her, she visibly relaxed. “Very well, I think I can do it now.”

Her aura had traces of pink but no more red. I continued to surround her with serene vibrations until I was sure she was settled enough to enter.

“Then let us proceed,” I said quietly.

Zefra walked beside me to the portal and then opened an airlock to allow me to enter first. As I stepped in, the aromas of damp soil, grass, and a faint smell of rotting vegetation assailed my senses. It was warm and moist and I was still in the airlock. It must be a jungle inside. I pulled a biosuit off one of the hooks and put it on, while she did the same.

The biosuits on this planet completely covered the wearer from head to toe so that there was no chance a stray cell or organism could shed from the wearer and contaminate the ecosystem. A single cell with its strands of DNA could cause incredible changes in the lifeforms in here. And humans are notorious for shedding skin cells and hair constantly. And to think some humans once worried about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their food. They would shudder at the rapacity of the lifeforms here, eager to glom onto even the smallest fragments of DNA and RNA and incorporate them into their own.

The newest versions of biosuits were seamless and form-fitting. They were a shimmering silvery pearl color, which stood out against green, red, blue, yellow and most other hues, to make the wearer easier to locate once inside. Although the suits also had a chameleon option that could be activated if necessary to protect the wearer. The air system and filters no longer distort the voice, and the suit can read vibrations from the vocal chords. So everyone sounds “normal” even when they are completely encased in biofiber.

Zefra initiated the decontamination cycle. Luckily, the suits also help maintain body temperature. When we went through the second airlock the temperature was just over 317°Kelvin, which is easily 20 degrees warmer than most humanoids find comfortable. My personal comfort zone is right around 297°K, so I was doubly grateful for the biosuit.

This biodome was small enough that we could walk from one end to the other in 30 minutes. Zefra pointed out the interactive map on the right arm of my biosuit, which handily showed where each biosuit was located, in addition to the other more stationary lifeforms. My biosuit appeared to be indicated in the map by a tiny replica of me. I could watch myself moving about the biodome in a small four-dimensional version that floated just above my forearm. From the noise and Doppler vibrations in the interactive map, I could find my way to Ranc without Zefra’s guidance, but protocol still dictated that she lead the way and introduce me properly.

Much of the vegetation was blue although the flowers they produced were every color of the rainbow and often more than three colors at any given moment. I heard a little heckling from some of the smaller lifeforms, plenty of chatter, and one particularly pretty pink, aqua, and silver plant form wished me well. Zefra did not react to any of their talk so I assumed that she, like most humanoids, could not discern it from rustling foliage. I used to be that way, too. But once I learned the basic plantoid language, I heard gabbing everywhere. The soft rustling of poets became incessant chatter. Eventually, I learned how to turn the babble into a conversation and my opportunities expanded to support my current interstellar reputation. And at that moment, I was sure I was the best and the only way to resolve the conflict here.

We moved slowly as I did not want to add ripples to the pool of vibrations swirling around us. It seemed to take forever until we reached Ranc’s location. Although we could easily follow his distorted wavelengths, I had no desire to increase his agitation.

When we were finally facing each other, the waves of red and black streaming from him were almost violent enough to knock us down. Without meaning to do so, I started trying to still the pulsations flying in our direction. When Ranc felt the pushback he became angrier. I realized what had happened and ceased my efforts immediately, hoping he would back down.

Ranc was not going to be pacified that easily. He turned his focus on me throwing all the vibrations in my direction. Zefra had already put up a shield. She wasn’t taking any more plekth from a non-humanoid.

It was so loud and so bright, I was going to have to put up a shield, or risk losing my senses all together. I dropped to my knees and finally laid down flat on my belly with my arms covering my head and ears. I didn’t know how much more I could take before I would be forced to raise a shield. I tried to send the signal of introduction and then I blacked out.

When I came to awareness again, I was still lying face down on the ground, but the vibrations were calmer and no longer buffeted my senses. I risked uncovering my ears and lifting my head to look in Ranc’s direction. He had assumed a military bearing, unbending and unemotional. So I started to get to my feet. A loud crack dropped me back to my hands and knees and made it clear Ranc did not want me standing upright. This was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be when I first got the call.

I attempted to signal my introduction again, and was rebuffed. Still on my hands and knees, I waited. What did he want me to do? How was I going to get his attention? Wait! I already had his attention, how could I get him to listen to me? As I was considering my options and trying to figure out how to reach him, I missed the change in his aura. Ranc was laughing at me!

Keeping my head down, I signaled, “Service.” Ranc roared with laughter.

Head still bowed, I tried again, and signaled, “Beneficence.” Ranc doubled over with hilarity. Not an easy feat for a plant form twice my height and four times my girth.

When Ranc finally calmed down, I tried a third time and signed, “Honor” and set Ranc to laughing again.

Zefra messaged me through the map to start backing away while Ranc was distracted. Unsure how to proceed and still shaking from the sound and light waves that had originally knocked me off my feet, I went to chameleon mode and did as she suggested. Moving slowly, I crawled backward, still on my hands and knees, I did not look up until I was out of reach of his force field. Then, still camouflaged, I raised myself to a crouch and slowly moved to the airlock and out into the chamber. When Zefra had closed the inner seal and decontaminated the chamber again. I sagged onto the nearest bench with my head in my hands.

“I have failed you,” I told her dejectedly.

“Not at all,” she replied.

I looked up, puzzled at her response.

She explained, “Ranc is now in a fabulous mood.”

“Yes, but, I never found out what he wanted,” I protested.

“Oh yes, you did,” She smiled.

I gave her another quizzical look.

“You are the court jester.”

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.