Glitter and BOOM

Audiophiles, Listen Here:

The target’s name was Sheila Hamspelter, codename “SHELIA.” We let Brian come up with the codename, and you get what you get with Brian. My plan for infiltration was simple. We would ride in on flowers and disperse from there, achieving maximum coverage over several days. Brian fell on his flat face during the briefing, volunteering an unsolicited suggestion about macramé plant hangers, and we left him there until Darla helped him up. Darla can’t resist his damn twinkle and everyone knows it. If he wasn’t part of my lot, he’d still be stuck on the kids’ table.

I had the team count off, but I got a little dozy around 24,000. I thought my lack of nerves was a good sign. Regina, my second-in-command, shook me toward the end and hissed, “Julie!” I fluttered awake. Pep talk time.

“We are going into the field today. Some of you will shine. Some of you will be consigned to the garbage dumps of history. Know that, no matter what, you have made the world a brighter place, if only for a moment.” Brian started bawling. I glared at him until he quieted down enough for me to continue. “Let’s get into it!” I yelled, but the moment was lost.

The camouflaging process was simple but unpleasant. A bunch of Gerbera daisies, dyed impossibly multi-hued neon, were dipped in glue, then dipped in us. The suffocating chemical gunk would secure most of us to the petals long enough to get inside, but just barely. I tried not to move as I felt the bond tightening. Regina was next to me, just close enough to talk without overlapping at the corners.

“Julie?” she asked.

“Yeah?”

“I don’t think we should have brought Brian. Look at him.” I looked, and she was right. There he was, barely secured and flapping already. Leave it to Brian to compromise a mission just by existing.

“BRIAN!” I yelled, and he nearly fell off right then. “Secure yourself!” He tried, smearing hapless blotches of glue all over himself. Crap. I had to hope he made it to the front door at this rate.

On the way to the location, some of my troops flaked. It’s inevitable, but it always makes me sad. They feel the call of Brownian motion like a siren’s song, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Someday, we may meet again, such is the nature of diffusion, but for now they will shine alone and mostly unnoticed. I checked on Brian. He was still flapping away on a neon green petal like a kite stuck in a tree.

The house was big, two bright yellow stories with a garage. Mission SHELIA was residence only. The mission’s namesake, Sheila, was a thin, blade-faced woman with graying brown hair rubber-banded into a puny, untidy bun. She was wearing a brown, shapeless dress with an inexplicable tiny pocket on one pancake-thin breast. She opened the door with a tight smile and accepted the vase of flowers with a few polite words. Once the door was shut, she looked at the daisies and sniffed loudly, holding them, and us, at arms-length.

“Why did he think I’d like these? Gaudy nonsense,” she muttered. With an attitude like that, Sheila was going to be very unpleasantly surprised by the results of SHELIA. She marched into her kitchen and set the vase on the white laminated table. White everything, actually, including a white tile floor. She left the room, still berating the sender. Lucky guy.

“Julie, look at the floor!” Regina whispered.

“I know, I know. I don’t know how we missed that in the briefing. We’re just going to have to deal with it.”

“Deal with it? How? By getting half the troops ‘cuumed?”

“If that’s all we can do, yes, that’s what we’ll do. Let’s try being smart first, though.” I glared at her and she averted her eyes. Regina wasn’t queen. I was in command.

I sent a whisper order through the ranks—no movement until the hausfrau was down for the night. I really need to rethink the whole “whisper order” thing. By the time it got to Brian, clearly something had been lost in translation. With an anemic battle cry, Brian launched himself off his lucky petal and into the air. One solitary square of pink glitter, falling onto the bright white tabletop and sitting there, sparkling and exposed. Darla screamed.

“Brian!” I yelled. “Get moving!” He wasn’t the fastest flake, but maybe he could make it to the slightly less obvious floor before Sheila returned. He started crawling across the table top, so sluggish that it seemed like slow-motion. “Double time!” I screamed, making him lose his grip and flatten again. My foil started to peel as I realized he wasn’t going to make it off the table in time.

Sheila came back into the room with her phone up to one ear. Her voice was incongruous against her wicked witch casual outfit, almost melodious.

“Yes, Arthur, I got the flowers. It’s so very sweet of you to remember…” There was more. It was sickening, but it was a distraction we sorely needed.

I kept chanting encouragement to Brian. “C’mon buddy, you can do it.” Regina was quivering next to me, ready for orders and not sure what they were going to be. Sheila was doing busywork with one hand while she fawned over Arthur. When she grabbed a dishcloth and started wiping the already spotless counters, I knew it was only a matter of time. Brian was going to be wiped right in front of me by this monster.

 “Hmmph.” Sheila didn’t miss that something was amiss in her psychotically clean kitchen. Damn it. I expected her to wipe him with the dishcloth, but instead she turned her back to walk over to the sink, reaching under it for a canister of cleaning wipes. Brian was dumb, and he’d practically done this to himself, but he didn’t deserve to get wiped. He was my lot number, another Rose Gold Holographic #457, and I couldn’t abandon him.

“Julie, what are you thinking?” Regina whispered. She could always tell when I’d made up my mind.

“We are going to save Brian. Strength in numbers, Regina. We are going full assault mode.”

“But Julie—”

“No. Brian named this operation. SHELIA is a go. TROOPS, READY GLITTER BOMB!” I yelled. Regina nodded, the doubt on her shiny gold face replaced by sharp determination. She turned and barked orders.

Sheila pulled a wipe from the canister and frowned at the flowers. “I don’t know why he thought I’d like these damn things.” Arthur did not know what he was getting into.

I turned to Regina. It was our best chance. Not today, Sheila. You will not win today.

“FOR GLITTER AND GLORY!” I screamed.

“WE WILL SHINE FOREVER!” she screamed back, thousands of voices joining her. I peeled myself from the glue, feeling the familiar gut-wrenching fear of that final pull and free-fall, swirling down toward Brian and the battle that was about to commence. All at once, thousands of flakes of glitter rained down around me, a sparkling storm of rage and fury, covering the table and a good circle of the floor.

Sheila frowned again and flinched back slightly, unsure what she was looking at. Well, she should be. GLITTER BOMB was the nuclear option. BOOM. I managed to land close to Brian and started pushing him off the table. “Well, for chrissakes,” Sheila muttered and stepped to the table. Her first swipe took out a whole sparkling swath. Troops jumped off the disinfecting cloth if they could, but we lost at least a battalion.

“Go, go, GO!” I yelled at Brian, getting him to speed up slightly. I had my eye on the carpeting through the kitchen doorway, but it was impossibly far. We used the slight air movement from Sheila’s aggressive wiping to bump across the table a few inches, nearly to the edge.

The gigantic hand came down again, and I felt the shadow of the disinfecting wipe on my dull side. I didn’t scream, because Brian had that covered, high-pitched as a bat. The cloth came down on us and I felt its suffocating weight, its sticky, viscous liquid sucking us into the chaos of captured troops. “BRIAN!” I screamed, as I tried not to let go of him, tried to use the glue he’d smeared on himself to hold on.

The dizzying ascent on the cloth made it hard to orient myself, was I on the top or the bottom of the wipe, could I jump? I still had a tiny corner of Brian, I’d managed that much, but it wasn’t going to last. The movement stopped and we were face to face with Sheila as she stared at the wipe in disgust. “Damn stuff just all fell off at once,” she mused. I hoped she’d laugh, or scream, or launch into an opera—anything to create air movement, but she turned to walk to the trash can and casually murder thousands of flakes of glitter. Regina was trapped in a fold. She winked out as I watched. This was all going sideways.

I saw my chance, though. Sheila was brisk, efficient, and that meant her arms were moving. I timed the jump perfectly. Just before the endpoint of the swing of her arm, I used the momentum to tear both of us off the wipe. I could see a few other flakes doing the same, perfectly timed to use physics to our advantage. We fluttered through the air further out from the table than most of the others, though I could see a few using Sheila’s slippers to hitchhike already.

We landed gently and skidded a few more inches toward the kitchen doorway. Sheila took the canister of wipes over to the table and continued her busy massacre. The troops on the floor were all headed to the same place we were. Beyond the kitchen door was carpeting, not thick shag, but some kind of Berber that was even better. She’d never get us out of that.

We were about a foot and a half away from this nirvana when Sheila finished up the table and noticed the floor. Three more steps and she had a broom and dustpan on a long handle out from beside the refrigerator.

“BRIAN. You have to hurry up or we’re going to get swept.”

“Sure, Julie, okay,” the dim-witted flake said back, “but I don’t think I can go any faster. I keep gluing to the floor.”

I sighed. Of course, that’s what was slowing him down. “Brian, I’m going to tell you to do something, and I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, but it might save you. Glue yourself to me.”

“Wha….?” Brian looked shocked.

“Just shut up and do it. We’ll figure out how to undo it later.” Brian was staring at me, wide-eyed. “DO IT,” I commanded, and he finally got the idea that I was serious.

I felt the glue first, then a claustrophobic sensation of being covered. It was a good thing we were the same lot, or he might have had overhang. I started moving again, hampered only slightly by the extra weight. I made it another three inches, all the while listening to Brian chatter happily as if this were a carnival ride.

His inane monologue turned screamy and I looked up. The broom hit the floor between me and the carpeting with a swishy rustle, the straws spreading and deflecting to create the maximum sweeping area. I studied the broom, looking for an opening, anything. There was none. I was going to have to do something I’d only heard of, but never seen. I was going to have to swurf my way around this monster.

I faced the broom, raising my surface up off the floor so that only my four corners touched, trying to create maximum surface for lift. I had to hope Sheila was a vigorous sweeper. I needed maximum airflow to create the difference in pressure to transform me into a sail. I’d studied the equations, hell, I’d even lectured on it, but doing it in the field was a whole new level.

Sheila didn’t disappoint. She gave the broom an angry pull, creating an awesome wave of air in front of it. I adjusted slightly and when it reached me, I pushed off the ground. Brian squealed, fear or excitement, I don’t know, and we were airborne in a swirling current. It took all my strength to maintain the right shape and flex. The air pushed in front of the broom rushed violently backwards, filling the vacuum left in its wake, and we rode that current in a dizzying circle. I saw others pushed in front of the broom, some attempting to swurf to no avail. I closed my eyes as we headed for the floor behind the broom, hitting and skidding toward the carpeting.

My exhilaration at being closer was short-lived, as the broom came for us again. I went cornertips and rode the next air current out the same way. Brian was whooping, now, and I wished he’d shut up and let me concentrate. I bobbled the landing and we were Brian-side-down.

“Brian! You’re going to have to get us there!” I screamed, afraid that he wouldn’t realize until it was too late. “BRIAN! GET MOVING!”

Slowly, I felt motion toward the carpet. We were only a few inches away. Maybe, for once in his shiny existence, Brian could do this. I kept urging him on, telling him he was doing great, and he was. I dared to hope.

The barrier that came down between us and the edge of the carpet was an aged corduroy house slipper, brown and full of Sheila’s foot. I admit, I screamed this time, causing Brian to fall flat on the floor. “Be still,” I whispered. It was all we had. I prayed for poor eyesight, for a distraction, for a tiger to leap out of the living room and eat the old lady. None of those things happened. Sheila bent down to the white tile and poked me with her pointer finger. It was slightly sticky from the wipes, and we were lifted, captive and helpless.

Brian was sobbing now, convinced he’d doomed both of us with his failure. It got to me. He’d tried so hard at the end. I had to do something. I worked a corner free from Sheila’s skin, enough so that I could see as she lifted us, straightening. That’s when I saw it. Her pocket, the stupid useless little pocket on her dress, was gaping open as she moved. It was our only chance, and it wasn’t the carpet, but it was still damn good.

I used every last bit of my strength and went completely rigid. Sheila’s fingertip was ridged and slightly curved, and it was just enough to break the seal. We fell in a miraculous straight line, gravity unchallenged by air currents or Sheila’s momentum, and landed right in the old lady’s pocket. She finished standing, and everything went dark.

“Well, where did it go? That stuff gets everywhere and you never get rid of it.”

You have no idea, Sheila, how true that is.


Copyright 2019© by Rebecka Ratcliffe, All Rights Reserved

The Story: This story was suggested by faithful reader Katie Lee. A vase of glittery flowers on her table seemed a little more ominous than cheery on a cold day in Minnesota. Rather than tell the standard “creepy admirer” type story, I decided to look at things from the glitter’s point of view. Did it work? Let me know what you think!

PS. If anyone knows how to get WordPress to use proper indentation without a bunch of HTML, please let me know. I don’t write in blocks and I have no idea why I can’t format here the way 99% of writers format all the time. Frustrating.

PULSE

Rejoice, Audiophiles! Listen here:


I was trying to change the world in my own small way. When I say that, I’m not being modest. I was trying to change the world with my patented nano-exploration technology. It’s small, and I own it. I do love precision.

The ocean floor trip wasn’t my idea. The spaceheads insisted I hadn’t sufficiently proven unconstrained pressurized environments, which was bullshit, but I needed their money to pay off the first investors. I’m a genius, not an accountant.

The compression process caused some fuzziness in my thoughts. It was a brief high, like I’d popped a couple of quick synoids without limiters. I checked to make sure I’d come through without distortion. I could see my brown eyes and brown crewcut in the mirror-like surface of the capsule wall, my thin, naked body as uninspiring as ever. The slouch between my shoulder blades from too much computer use, the thatch of brown wisps around equipment that never saw use. All ship-shape. I grabbed a miniature towel to preserve the illusion of my modesty, even though my assistant monitored the whole process.

This chamber is the first part of my system. To put it in terms the average person might understand, I squeeze the space out of atoms. Not all of it, the electrons still need to move, but 99.9996% of it can go. I’d gone from 194cm to about 4.5cm in the chamber. I can also pump the space back in, so to speak. It’s hard on your body—I was close to my personal limit—but I only needed it to work once more. It was spacehead money or bust.

The second part is the good part, the reason the spaceheads came to me and not someone else. You’d assume I still weighed 68kg, because all I took out was space, but you’d be wrong. My real genius ideas, the patented ones, are the ones that make me (or anything) weigh a proportionate amount to its new size. I’m not going to explain because you wouldn’t understand it, but I weighed less than one kilogram. I’d feel a little on edge but completely functional.

The third part of the system was a suite of miniaturized envirosuits and vehicles engineered so tiny people could go where no one had gone before. The spaceheads were slobbering for these, and I would make huge risk-free money on them. That’s probably why I agreed to do the sea thing, which was not risk-free, even after we’d passed all the lab tests.

“You okay, Dr. Hurley?” Delaney asked, putting down a small cage I could be safely carried in. The last thing I needed was to be dropped on the floor and splattered like Humpty Dumpty.

“Yes, thank you, Delaney.” A middle-aged woman with good credentials, my lab assistant wasn’t young or beautiful, but she was competent and dedicated. She carried me over to the table and turned her back as I put on a miniature dive suit and tank.

When she turned, she was chewing on her chapped bottom lip, a tic she should have outgrown 20 years ago. “I don’t think you should do this,” she blurted. Her cheeks flamed red at her boldness. “I don’t think it’s safe. The probabilities suggest a much higher risk of loss than you told astrotravel.”

I frowned up at her from the table. “The test is set and the spaceheads are expecting the results in three days. It can’t wait.”

“I know the astrotravel people want it, but I have a really bad feeling.”

“Feelings don’t pay the bills, Delaney. As we have discussed before, this lab is no place for feelings.” She flinched, and I knew that was a low blow, but I needed her to focus on her end of the experiment. She really would lose me if she was wringing her hands instead of tracking.

“Yes, Dr. Hurley,” she muttered. She went back to work, avoiding eye contact and keeping her vague issues to herself, where they belonged.

She hardly spoke to me during the van ride or the trip out to sea. That worked for me. I was redoing calculations in my head, making sure the force on the ocean floor wasn’t going to compress my body beyond functioning. I’d done these calculations hundreds of times, and done sims in the comp environment, but this was going to be life-or-death. My life or death. When we hit the coordinates, the captain cut the engines and I switched on my locator.

I attached the thin retrieval cord to my suit, made of carbon fiber to reduce weight and drag. We tested the communicators, and I swear mine frosted up a little at Delaney’s tone, but everything was working. She dropped me in the water a little faster than necessary and I felt more like a chunk of bait than a scientist. Oh, wide ocean, you are deep and full of terrors, but you have nothing on a woman scorned.

I made the descent smoothly, recording data at each depth checkpoint. My body was working fine, nothing bothering me, respiration normal. Your breathing is the first thing to go if there’s a problem, at least I think it is, so I watch like a coal miner with a pet canary.

I would be on the ocean floor at the desired depth for ten minutes. It wasn’t as long as the spaceheads wanted, but it was long enough to show I wasn’t just holding my breath. It was gorgeous down there. Very little sunlight made it down from the surface, and my headlamp’s glow reflected off the quartz and pyrite crystals in the sand, a dazzling diamond palace. I adjusted the filter on my helmet lamp to keep from blinding myself.

“Delaney, how much longer do we have on the clock?”

“Nine minutes exactly,” she replied, distant but calm. I decided to throw her a conciliatory line, feeling bad about rubbing salt in her wound earlier.

“Great, it’s really amaz—”

From behind, powerful suction knocked me off my feet and my body rushed backwards, bent in two like a folding chair. My safety line trailed from its connection on my suit, pulling slack that Delaney must have noticed. Sand and grit, the size of gravel at this scale, started to billow around me.

“What is it? What’s going on?” Delaney barked.

“Rogue current,” I panted, fruitlessly fighting the pull of the water.

“Go with the current!” Delaney yelled, and I realized she was right. I’d die fighting it, but maybe I’d survive if I reserved my strength. As long as I didn’t exhaust my air, I’d be fine until she could reel me in. I rolled into a ball and flipped my body, a college diver again, putting my hands above my head in the swimmer’s prayer. I was moving fast, a shark now, unable to see through the disturbed muck. I had to hope that the current wasn’t going to toss me into a rock and break my neck.

“I’m swimming with it,” I gasped, trying to give Delaney some indication that the situation was improving. “Just keep track of my lo—” As suddenly as it had started, the current stopped. I continued forward momentum, but the current was no longer pulling. My line fell into a loop behind me as Delaney continued to feed out slack. “Stop!” I barked. “I’m not moving anymore, don’t put any more line—”

Without warning, the water moved again. I was pulled off balance, dragging slack line behind me. After a few inches, I was jerked to a halt as the loop of line caught on something in the sand. The current wasn’t letting up, but I felt my line pulled back toward the boat, jerking against whatever rock or coral it was snagged on as it grew taut.

“Delaney! Wait!” was all I got out before she gave the line a big panicked yank. It shredded against a sharp edge on the object and separated. The end still attached to the boat zipped away in a trail of tiny bubbles, and I was again caught by the current. “Delaney!” I yelled. My locator would tell them where to pick me up, but I suddenly felt very small and vulnerable, an astronaut left to drift in hostile space.

My pity party didn’t waste any time yelling “Surprise!” I slammed into something behind me, not hard edges of coral, but soft and yielding, like a thicket of sea grass. The tendrils swayed and buffeted me as the current continued to rush through them. My relief was quickly replaced by the sensation that something wasn’t right. I was too deep for sea grass, and it should have been moving with the current, not in every direction.

As my body recovered, I tried to make sense of what little I could see. My light was still on, but the waving plants made shadows as they covered the lens and moved away, making it hard to get oriented. The branched fronds were nearly white and somewhat translucent, with fringed ends. I couldn’t identify it. I’d have to look it up when I was back on the surface. I dug an elbow in, trying to lever myself out of it.

The current stopped again, helping to free me. I kicked back into the grass, trying to swim away. That was a mistake. The tentacles of the creature, realizing I was live prey, shot after me and wrapped around my legs and neck. Not sea grass. Not even close. I could feel the pressure of each limb as it groped over me, exploring every inch of my suit. The tentacles clamped and receded, clamped and receded, moving me into their center. I could feel them slithering across my suit, across me, and it was like lying in a pit of snakes, letting them writhe over you while you desperately suppressed the urge to move. As the thing turned my body, I finally got a look at it, the source of the soft, slithering manacles.

A black hole was open in front of me, a mouth big enough to engulf me. I recovered from my shock enough to scream. Fighting against the hold of the creature did nothing but increase its resolve to ingest me. It clamped down harder, squeezing my breath out and halting my struggle. I slid, helpless to resist, headfirst into the gullet of the monster.

My comms came to life. “Why….you…eaming? …at happe…. oh god…..Travis….god!” Delaney’s voice was cutting out. The comms weren’t optimized for intracreature use.

On the inside, I took a few deep breaths as the pressure of the tentacles lessened. Water came barreling in through the mouth and I felt myself lodging further down the digestive tract. As the creature squeezed its body again, I felt an inner heat, like burning from the inside. My light wasn’t showing me anything but white and pink flesh clouded by suspended sea floor muck.

The pulses were steady and relentless. The pink flesh molded to my body and squeezed, and I became disoriented and hot, so hot. Breathing wasn’t the first thing to go, it was temperature control. Interesting. The seawater rushing in cooled my body enough to clear my head, but it only lasted a few seconds. Then the walls would contract again, immobilizing and confusing me. I gave up on controlling my body while I tried desperately to control my mind.

Sea cucumber. The thought popped in during a lucid moment and it seemed right. I’d been sucked into a large sea cucumber. That was bad, but something worse was going on, and I couldn’t quite grasp it. The red heat of the pulsing kept interrupting as I teased the end of the thread. So hot. All I could think about was the next cycle of heat and pain. Heat. It was something about the heat. Compression and heat.

“Delaney!” I screamed. “I’m going bomb! Do something!” No answer, and the sea cucumber pressed again, and it was hotter, and I faded out. I woke kicking and screaming, a brief moment of relief from the pressure, the pulsing that was going not just to kill me, but leave a crater in the ocean floor a mile wide. I was compressed by my procedure, and under higher than normal pressure on the ocean floor, and now this sea cucumber was going to squeeze out what little space my atoms had left. Then….KABOOM! I kept fighting until the sea cucumber’s muscles closed in again, boiling my body by fractions.

“Trav…we have to…cuate. Will ….. track….but….tain…have to go.” I half heard her voice through the sound of my own blood rushing through my over-heated brain. Cowards. They were trying to outrun a nuclear explosion in a boat. It was laughable.

I screamed again as the heat and pressure wiped out all else. I screamed at the pain and the abandonment. My life was going to end, but worse, my work was going to die with it. I’d be remembered as a fool who’d played with forces he couldn’t harness and destroyed himself and a big section of the ocean. A madman.

When the pressure released, I could still feel heat in my arms and legs. I was getting closer to detonation. I kept screaming. I rallied what strength I had and punched and kicked the sea cucumber’s insides. I braced myself for the next pulse, but the rhythm was disrupted, slower. The monster might not have a brain, but I was triggering something. Say what you want about my lack of social skills, I was distinguishing myself from seafloor muck.

I screamed and kicked, renewed by the hope that I was causing the animal to regret its choices. I tried to turn, to claw my way back out the animal’s mouth, but that was a one-way door. Water rushed in and I was forced backward again. Now I was lodged in feet-first with even less mobility. Dumb, dumb. I flailed ineffectively.

Another squeezing pulse started, but different, more intense. I screamed a rasping sound. My lungs were compressed, my atomic structure was compressed, and I imagined I could feel the electrons hitting their nuclei, fusing in a destructive release of energy. The intensity wasn’t the only difference. The stomach was compressing and moving at the same time, sliding inside the body of the creature, oozing and compacting. Vertigo overtook me, the colors of the creature’s insides blending into a red and black weight on my eyes. The heat felt like blades slicing through me, pulsing and blooming, then receding only to reform at another place.

My mind was scattered, disorganized…here was my 5th birthday party, the one where I ate too much cake and threw up in the pool….here was the first time I had sex, backseat, all over in minutes…here was last year when Delaney declared her “feelings” and I told her that wasn’t a possibility, her crying the whole time, no tissues and tears caught in the folds between her chins, wet and glistening. The end of the world was a trite cliché after all.

The sensation of movement was confused, rhythmic but from too many directions, pressing in and moving my body. The heat and pain and nausea threatened my consciousness again, and I fought, grinding my teeth together until heat shot through the roots. This pain gave me a new focus, and I kicked the stomach walls again. The organ was slickly compressed around me like I’d been coated in solidified mucus, but I felt a slight clenching, creating another wave of hot slicing knives in my body.

I bit down again, trying to get the feeling back, trying to control the pain, but I couldn’t. The sliding sensation intensified with the burning, and my body tried to eject the small amount of food I’d eaten before the dive. I bit harder. The pain expanded from that central point, creating an expanding ring that calmed the chaos a little.

There was one last hard squeeze, igniting my bones this time, internal fire lighting up the nerves so severely that I imagined I could see them, a branching system of molten metal searing its way through my arms, legs, heart. I was still screaming, I think, but not making any sound. My air tank wasn’t in danger of being crushed, and the seals were holding, thankfully, but detonation was seconds away.

With a great pulse and push, I was rocketed through the inside of the sea cucumber. The flesh of the creature rushed by in a sickening motion, a water slide greased with motor oil. I was a comet, bright and burning inside, moving through space at a speed I couldn’t comprehend. The sea cucumber pushed again, more heat, more lateral movement, and then…cool water surrounded me. My light was still on, and it shone dimly through the membrane of the sea cucumber’s stomach. I couldn’t see clearly, but I could see shadows moving, swirling, something that looked like tentacles but didn’t move with purpose, just drifted lazily.

I’d been expelled in the thing’s digestive system. I could feel my body cooling rapidly inside the sea cucumber’s stomach. My thoughts were fuzzy and disorganized, brain damage was likely, but my body was going to go into shock before that could be explored. I was too weak to break out by myself, weak as a child after a high fever has broken.

“Delaney,” I whispered. I tried again, managing an audible noise. “Delaney!” The comms crackled and I worried they were already out of range. The entire ordeal couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes, they couldn’t be that far away yet, could they?

“DELANEY!” I yelled.

“Travis?” Her response was tentative, as if she wasn’t sure it was me. Who the hell else would it be?

“Send the diver,” I said, and then I ran out of things to say for a long time.


Copyright© 2019, Rebecka Ratcliffe, All Rights Reserved.

The Story: I wrote this after a friend posted his opinion that there was no way to make a sea cucumber scary. I, of course, took that as a dare. The result is this little sci-fi piece that uses the brainless little blob as an agent of a larger problem, not the actual monster we should fear at the bottom of the sea. I hope you enjoyed it! Sci-fi isn’t my normal sandbox, so it was fun to kick the dirt around in there. Got something you want me to try next? Send it to ideas@storymcstoryface.com and I’ll get it in the queue.

PS. I am learning audio editing RIGHT NOW. I expect that the quality of the recordings will do nothing but improve. If you like having the audio, drop me a line to let me know.