Sunday, August 29, 2010

Elephant Words week #10

More flash fiction from the Elephant Words site, based on the image below. Created within a day or so of the image going up, it could certainly use some fleshing out, but here it is, warts and all.

Maybe someday I'll get back to it, but right now I'm expanding on this one (I've added a couple thousand words of backstory to the initial 850 words and am excited about where I plan to go with it)


Mars Explorer

By Chris Beckett

A ruddy cloud blew across Jimmy’s vision. Raising his hand instinctively, he took a deep breath, air hissing in his ears as it carried through his spacesuit. Dropping his gloved hand Jimmy turned slowly, absorbing the barren expanse of the Martian landscape. It was just as he’d always imagined.

He took one hesitant step, unsure of the relative gravity, afraid of flying off awkwardly. With the slightest push, he managed to float quite a few feet away from the ship. It was exhilarating. Jimmy pushed off harder, his stomach tingling as he jumped toward the horizon.

“Hey! Where you goin’?” Janey’s signal came over the wireless in the helmet. Jimmy turned to see her standing in the hatchway of the Double-X Rocket ™. Even in the bulky pressure suit, he thought she was beautiful.

Jimmy waved his hand buoyantly, his excitement threatening to overwhelm him. He gave no reply, but knew Janey could see his smile. Turning, he made for a large outcropping about a mile east of the landing.

“Be careful.” Jimmy nodded slightly as he raised his hand in acknowledgement.

Bounding across the flat expanse, Jimmy felt like he was back home in the neighbor’s pool, moving lazily through the soft pull of the water. Looking up, the rough pile of stones barely appeared any closer. He stopped for a quick rest; the exertion coupled with his excitement threatening hyperventilation.

Looking back, Jimmy saw Janey now following him. He could see her head turning left and right as if she were out for an afternoon walk, working to take everything in.

“What are you up to?” he called through the headset.

“Just checkin’ things out. You?”

“Taking a breather on my way to those boulders. Wonder what’s on the other side.”

“More rocks. Haha.”

“Comedian,” came Jimmy’s droll reply.

He got up and moved toward the eastern horizon once more. Before him, the huge stones bounced in his vision, growing slowly bigger with every up/down, up/down. Jimmy worked to keep his mind from racing again, replaying Janey’s remark, more rocks, over and over. So many others had come here looking for that Rosetta stone to explain the mysteries of the universe and only returned with handfuls of dust. He couldn’t let himself get too excited.

A few minutes and Jimmy reached the base of the outcrop. It rose fifty feet into the air, multiple handholds and ledges crossing its jagged face. Janey had picked up her pace and, looking back, he could see she was almost on top of him. He awaited her before beginning his ascent.

“Sucker!” Janey didn’t slow down, taking the first fifteen feet in one leap. It was a second before Jimmy recovered. He pushed off hard, clearing a wide ledge above his head quite easily. Without taking time to firmly plant, he shoved off once more and passed Janey who had reverted to a traditional climbing technique past that initial jump.

Floating through the air, Jimmy watched as Janey panicked and steadied for her own giant leap. He smiled and turned his gaze toward his next foothold.

Landing hard, he pushed off, and the rocks gave way. His face fell toward one large boulder as his arms hit heavily, legs flying out into nothing. The impact shuddered his suit, rippled across his body. Gravity snagged him; he began sliding down the steep face, feet flailing, searching for anything to break his fall.

As he settled into a tiny crevice, Janey passed him, eyeing the summit as she ignored him.

“Hey, a little help,” he called into the speaker.

“Uhn-uh. Not falling for that one,” came her titter.

Jimmy pushed up and bounded after her. Thirty feet from the top he watched her go over. He stopped to gain his bearings a bit.

“AAAAAHHHHH!!” Janey’s screech numbed him. With a single leap, Jimmy was over the summit.

Before Janey was a huge beast, white and hairy, almost four meters high, Jimmy immediately thought - Abominable from Rudolph. Keying his glove console, Jimmy felt his palm warm up as the battery charged, readying the laser housed in the arm of his suit.


He looked up to see the beast upon him, Janey small in the background lying on her side. His eyes widened as the albino monster raised its arms. Jimmy did the same, but too late. It smashed into the side of his helmet. Jimmy soared fifty feet through the air, skidding over jagged rocks. A small hiss came to his ears. His faceplate was cracked just below his left eye. The readout showed the system working to compensate for the drop in pressure, but it wouldn’t be long.

“Jimmy!” Janey yelled for him again. He tried to raise himself, but his arms were limp, fatigue overcoming him, no air to breathe.

Jimmy, her voice more distant than before. He could feel himself going into shock and wondered what would happen to Janey.

Jimmy. Fainter still. His eyes rolled as darkness enveloped him. Why couldn’t he save her?


“Jimmy. Supper.” His mother called from the back door. Jimmy opened his eyes, clouds now covered the sun, and he could feel a dampness now clinging to his clothes.

Sighing deeply, Jimmy unlocked his wheels and turned his chair around. Pushing hard, he rolled up over the walkway his dad had constructed last summer for him to “walk” out into the back field. A tear cooled softly on his cheek as he moved toward the house.

Rolling up the ramp, Jimmy made his way into the kitchen. From across the back lawn he could hear Mrs. Parks next door calling her own children to supper.

“Tom. Janey. Hurry up or it’ll get cold.”

And the sound of the door closing behind him rang heavy in his ears.

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