We actually got our own prompt for the first time this week from Odd Prompts. That’s more challenging than getting to pick between several. Here’s what we have to work with. “The wraiths that roam the corridors of the Newgrange Passage Tombs are beginning to feel lonely.” We had two very different ideas about what to do with this. We could do something new and unexpected, or we could put it into the narrative that people in the group liked. Jim liked the idea of something new, and my initial thought was to try for more of Tamith and Iolan. As is frequently the case, there was more inspiration in his idea, so this is where it went. BTW, you get an extra little snippet of flash fiction at the end that came out of nowhere.
Cold, so cold.
Despite being deep underground, a constant breeze circulates the air between the blank faces of the sepulchral edifices, as it has for untold ages. It’s lonely here, with only the wind for company. Nothing changes because there’s so little to change.
Changelessness is actually where the problem started. Once the Orinith were beautiful, scintillating, vivacious. They achieved so much in the arts and in science. They valued life and individuality. In fact, they valued them so much that their work to preserve it became their downfall. They dropped their outward questing (Too dangerous, we could lose someone!) and focused their efforts on extending life, preserving what they could of those who they could no longer keep alive. Finally, in triumph, they announced a technique that would end death forever. It was the beginning of the end for the Orinith.
It started slowly, with valued intellectuals who were near the end of their days and would otherwise be lost forever. It was gruesome enough that few were eager for it in the early days, given that almost all of the nervous system had to be preserved for success. Images of the flesh being flayed from the nerves of a still living person were off putting. A few quiet examples of those who the nerve blocks didn’t work on, who lost their minds during the early years, kept it a bold step for decades. As time went on and techniques got better, and people got more jaded, more and more clamored for the honor of being included among those to be preserved.
Finally, in the later years of the move to eternity, as resources were used up in the production of the technology that supported the crypts in which the casks were maintained, the increasing inhospitality of the world, now stripped of that which made it beautiful and vibrant, made it a necessity, and even children were transformed.
The children became a problem quickly. Eternally trapped in an immaturity dictated by their unfinished neural nets, they disrupted the order of the higher thought practiced by the followers of those first, elite Eternals and were banished to their own limited halls. Next came the ordinary people, the salt of the earth, those who were left until the end to preserve, since it was they who produced the raw materials needed by the utopian Eternals. They too were banished to their own passages, passages like Newgrange.
While the intellectuals managed to keep themselves involved in higher thought, chasing ever more esoteric problems and creations, those in the lower, more isolated halls got bored. The squabbles broke out into fights, the fights broke out into low grade warfare, and finally, unable to do any permanent harm, fell into apathy. Apathy led to boredom. Despite many attempts at finding new things to do, these people who had been so busy, always doing something, always making something…had nothing to do. Old favorites like tinkering and crafting fell flat in this new setting. The speed of production and the impermanence of anything produced underlined the futility of such things.
So they got bored, and they got lonely, isolating themselves from one another for long periods of time, then recontacting one another only to find that they hadn’t changed and their time apart only emphasized their boredom. They vacillated between bored apathy and bored rage. Apathy won out for eons at a time.
Then the Humans came.
They almost didn’t notice the first visit. It was a tiny ship. It couldn’t have held more than a few of them, based on their size, unless they were built very differently than any creature the Orinith remembered from their past, before their ecosystem gave out from the strain. They didn’t really look much like any creature the Orinith knew of, with their smooth skin bared like that of a carrion eater, just tufts of feathers on the top of their head and body coverings that looked artificial.
There were only two individuals who came out of the ship to look around. They carefully moved through deserted structures and examined abandoned tools. They chose a few small samples of equipment and packaged them carefully. The Orinith of Newgrange Passage watched eagerly. Had there been a porthole for them to look through instead of individual access to viewers, they would have clustered thickly, pushing and shoving to get a better view. It was the most exciting thing that had happened in eons!
And then they went away.
The wraiths that roam the corridors of the Newgrange Passage Tombs began to feel lonely once again, once they’d wrung what excitement they could from the visit. They had gotten a taste of entertainment, and it wasn’t enough. The new creatures had come and gone in just a few days. They needed to have them there, doing things for them to speculate on the meaning of for longer. They needed to make plans.
The next time a ship came, it was much larger. It had many people, who swarmed out like ants and began to work their way through the largest of the abandoned cities. It was hard to be patient, but with so many more of the alien creatures than they had expected, they couldn’t simply try to overwhelm them all. The mechanical maintenance units had been a challenge to reconfigure, and they had only managed a few.
To add to the complexity, the aliens were all so different. They came in so many sizes, but with less of a range of colors than the Orinith. There were even some with four legs and no hands, which they disregarded after careful observation determined that they were a subservient race. That turned out to be a mistake when they attempted their first grab.
One of the creatures had gone off on his own, with only one of the four legged creatures as a companion, surveying to see if he could find anything different from what had already been found in the boring residential area where they had started. As the mechanicals approached, staying out of sight of the person, the four legged creature started yelling a warning. The human, startled, saw the manipulators reaching for it and jumped back, pulling something from its equipment and pushing it out in the direction of the device. The Orinith didn’t have to wonder what the creature was doing for long, as the device emitted something that damaged their mechanical, and the creature sped away on surprisingly fast limbs for such a thick-legged being.
Not long after, the Orinith saw a group of the creatures return to the place where one mechanical was trying to repair the other. There was much noise, and the group split up, with some leaving, still arguing, and the others staying to watch the mechanicals. A few days later, they had packed up their things, with as many loose artifacts as they could find quickly, and they too left. The Orinith have recordings of their babble, but with no context for a variety of languages, can make little sense of it, other than to note that a new sound became common just before the others left. “Interdiction.”
The Orinith settle down to wait for their return. Having something new to discuss will only keep them occupied for so long. The wraiths that roam the corridors of the Newgrange Passage Tombs are beginning to feel lonely.
This week, our prompt went to Becky Jones, who gets to tell us what she did when “You posted an Op-Ed about something you were passionate about and it went viral. Then somewhat as an online protest/prank you became a write in candidate for President….and you won. What do you do?”
(Click the link for the image that inspired this snippet)
Eric looked down as he tied his shoes, thinking about what they meant and how his mother would have felt about him wearing them. His mom had been a tender soul. She had been a fan of social justice and defunding the police for years, until the attacks on police had gotten to be so bad that she couldn’t ignore them. Since she was then working as a social worker in a clinic and seeing the victims of crimes get worse and more frequent, it really hit her hard. Even then, she felt like she had to keep her mouth shut about her evolving sense of wrongness, since she knew that to speak was to be set upon.
Now he was a cop. One of the new breed, still finding its way in this environment of cautious acceptance. In the world before, a badge was all that was needed to declare one’s affiliation and authority, but now, with so many still apprehensive, it took more. Thus the shoes. Everything he wore, from the top of his head to his toes, declared him to be the police. Any time he interacted with a victim or suspect, those shoes activated and declared to all that this man was potentially dangerous, and those who wanted to prey on others needed to take their business elsewhere.
Eric hoped that they’d progress further in restoring the police. With all the precautions and semi-solutions, all they were really doing now was shuffling the predators along, but at least they were starting to do something for the group his mother had hurt for the most…the victims.
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