Monday, January 30, 2012

Kazka Press 713 Word Flash -January

The image above was the inspiration for this contest.  They say pictures are worth 1000 words, well in this case, it's only 713.  I submitted a work that took on the end of the world and human petrification.   The winner will be published on Feb. 1 and I will report back then. Winner is here.  I think I'm on the right track as the submissions was indeed emotional and relatively positive.  I wrote about romance, but my ending was tragic, need to have a positive end!

The Tickling of a Cockroach

Cold needles poked Jesse’s hand as he tried to corral another cockroach, but as he closed his fist he felt a warm sponginess that didn’t belong in the tank.  He looked up to see Eva, and a different set of needles rushed up his arm.  He smiled at her, hoping to convey what his heart felt, that he loved her in ways poets wrote about and that it wasn’t fair to finally find someone when the world was on the brink.

Instead he casually invited her to take a quick break to grab some food.

Jesse gawked at the way Eva held the apple in her hand, the way she closed her eyes as she sank her teeth into its crisp coolness, the way the clear juice trailed down the corner of her mouth.

“What if this is the last apple I ever eat?”  It took a second for Jesse to realize Eva had asked him a question.

“Hey now, you can’t think like that.”

Eva stared at him, her copper eyes glimmering behind oval frames.   He noticed her frizzy hair, her swollen eyelids.  He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms, rub her back, and promise here it would all be fine.   She sighed.

“You’re right.  If we concede that it’s over, we might as well not do our research.   We must go on with the faith that we’ll find a solution.  Any progress?”

“Not much.  We’ve achieved exoskeletons on rats and rabbits, but we’re getting mixed results with the chimps.  Our last run was really promising though.  You?”

“We’re at 99% deflection with the latest prototype for up to 6 hours.  Unfortunately, it’s useless.  You can’t move in it. All our designs with joints have areas of vulnerability.”

“You’ll find something.”  He reached out and clasped her hand.

“Thanks Jesse.  Did you hear that that the horticulturists developed underground algae that could be a dietary staple? ”

“Do you think they can make it taste like apples?”

Eva laughed, but the sirens deprived Jesse from hearing her.   Eva, now solemn, squeezed Jesse’s hand.

“No.  It’s too soon.  They said the first rays were at least a year away.  This must be just an alarm.”  Deep down, Jesse felt weight of the truth.  “Here, take these.”

He dropped two capsules in her palm.  Eva shook her head and started to pull away.

“Please, Eva, it could be our only chance.  I love you.  I haven’t been able to tell you, and now seems like the worst time, but you have to know.  I don’t want it all to end without ever having the chance to show you how much you mean to me.  I think there’s a good chance we can survive this, but a world without you is not one I care to live in.  I need to know you’ll be there on the other side.”

For a moment they were alone, the sirens were silent as they held each other’s gazed.  She drew near to him and kissed him. 

“I’ll be there” she whispered before she ran down the hallway.

Somehow in the chaos, Jesse made his way back to the lab.  The others were gathering their things, calling their loved ones, or just aimlessly wandering.  He walked along the animal cages, calming them, saying farewell.   Then the power went out.

It wouldn’t be long. All the hours of testing, the sleepless nights, wouldn’t matter.  Yet, Jesse was quite calm.   He was going to make it, and Eva would be there with him.  He popped the pills into his mouth and swallowed.

 At first it felt like mud underneath his skin, and then he felt his flesh harden.   The aching in his joints was shocking, but he supposed it would make sense that ligaments might be exposed to the metamorphosis.  But, as the solidification plunged deeper into Jesse’s body, into his muscles and bones, he realized how powerless he was.  He hoped Eva never took the pills.

As the sun beats down on a barren planet, a cockroach scuttles across a petrified man.  He can’t feel its feet tickling him anymore.  His blank stare passes over the desolate landscape until it falls on the form of a woman, lying prostrate, her stone hand reaching out for something.

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