Untitled flash fiction – (Manager of Dirt)

Based on a prompt from writing-prompt-s on tumblr (prompt reprinted at end)

I wasn’t leaning on the counter when they came to my register. My elbows were merely distributing  40% of my weight to the counter but I wasn’t leaning. I certainly didn’t not see them until one made a choked hissing cough. As I straightened my spine, the only straight thing about me, I affixed my standard customer service smile and began to greet the customer. The greeting died in my throat as I focused on the ‘customer’.

Now, I can just say I saw a trio of guob’nkrs but that doesn’t convey the confusion of seeing one in person for the first time. Most people will never see one in person only on tv or online in pictures. Even then they’re prepared to see an alien. I was expecting a person, a human person. Their roughly humanoid shape clashed with their blue green skin. Then as I examined their face, my eyes followed the line of their forehead back and back; skull curving into a bright red crest. My first thought was they were cosplayers but the extra joints in their arms and legs, which bent the wrong way quickly disabused me of that thought. The one closest to me coughed hissed several words and gestured with tripodal hands.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat that?” I said reflexively defaulting to my customer service scripts.

Again it made sounds that resembled no language I knew.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying, sorry.”

The alien’s shirt opened and a second smaller set of arms emerged holding a box. As the alien pushed buttons and turned knobs on the box, I realized they were wearing casual button down shirts and khaki pants. No shoes on their inhuman feet. The clothing bunched in odd places around their bodies and legs. The alien suddenly smacked the side of the box and I heard a fragment of a sentence, “… working junk.”

The alien bobbed their head and spoke again. As they cough hissed, the box spoke in English, “Greetings non-combatant … take me to …  manager.”

I could have asked if they meant the mayor or the governor or the president but honestly I’m not paid enough to correct aliens trying to initiate first contact in the first discount store they walked into. Plus the customer is always right.

I turned away, thumbed the talk button on my walkie talkie and said, “I need a manager to the front registers, please.” I turned back to the aliens, “He’ll be here in just a few minutes.” They glanced at each other and bobbed their heads.

Over the aliens’ shoulders I watched Bob power walk up the main aisle, around the queue, and past the trio of aliens to stand next to me.  He did a quick scan of the register screen before asking me, “Anna, what seems to be problem?”

“They wanted to speak to a manager,” I said gesturing to the aliens.

Bob glanced over the register, did a double take back to me, and settled on staring directly at them. “About what?” he asked.

The lead alien spoke, “Greetings manager of dirt. We come to talk … nuclear war … stop.”

Bob sighed, “I’m not paid enough for this.”

“Bob, I’m really not paid enough for this,” I said.

Bob sighed again, “Yeah.” He stepped out from behind the counter, put on his manager smile, and addressed the alien group, “Ok, follow me to the office where you can sit down…” he had just noticed their unconventional leg joints, “or something and I will call … someone to talk to you.”

That was the last time I saw them in person. Several days later I saw them meeting world leaders on tv. Bob was interviewed as the person the aliens ‘chose’ for first contact. I didn’t even get a mention.

(The first aliens to visit Earth rushed development of their  universal translator and it’s still not out of beta. “Take me to your  leader” comes out as “I want to speak to your manager.” It gets wackier  from there.)

Distanced Parties

My daughter skips down the stairs and pauses at the big mirror in the hall to preen. Her fashion, like the fashion of most her age, makes my skin crawl. Bare arms, exposed neck, no gloves. I know skin contact isn’t a direct infection vector but a careless touch of the face is all it takes. I stifle my concerns; my daughter has grown up disinfecting her hands, avoiding touching her face, and keeping her distance from people. It’s my generation that still struggles with the new culture of distance.

Even with the exposed skin she’s well prepared to keep herself safe; her face mask already on and sealed, a sanitizer pack clipped to her collar, and a wipe package strapped to her thigh.

“Going out tonight?” I ask as casually as I can. Becky usually tells me or puts it on the family calendar when she goes out.

“Yeah Arya is picking me up. We’re going to a party.”

“A party?” I sit up straighter a look expectantly at her.

“Mom. It’s not a big deal. Just ten kids hanging out talking.”

“Ten including you and Arya?”

“Yes. Adam has a big living room. Everyone will have their own chairs, no touching, food and drinks are single serve packs. We aren’t wild infectors like you were.” She’s seen the old movies where parties were a few dozen teenagers standing shoulder to shoulder talking faces inches apart. Nowadays it’s irresponsible to gather in groups larger than ten and sit closer than double arms length.

“I know honey. I know it’s just I remember when this all started. The panic and people disregarding warnings about large groups.” I pause collecting myself. A car horn beeps once outside. Becky glances at the door but looks back at me; her eyebrows knit together worried that I’m still worried. I smile as broadly as I can. “That’s Arya, better go before she gets worried.”

“Are you sure? I can cancel; no big deal.”

“No, no. Go have fun. I’m just being a worrywart.” I hold out two fingers. She presses two fingers to mine for a second. We disengage, touch our sanitizer packs, and rub our hands clean.

Another car beep comes from outside. Becky laughs and runs to the door. Before it closes she looks back and waves. It’s her world now. A world of brief contact and small gatherings but not one without friends.


Author’s Note: After reading an article titled “Will Corona virus Happen Every Year Like The Flu?” which discusses the factors that cause the flu to be seasonal and how covid-19 might or might not have those same factors, I ended up thinking about a world where corona virus was always waiting in the wings to cause an outbreak. I didn’t want to write a depressing story about a society on the brink. So I wrote about a new society that is cautious about touch and large groups but not afraid to live.

Shooting Star


I touch the atmosphere and begin.

The air ignites as it blasts against my surface; tearing bits and pieces off. I’ve traveled millions of miles for these last few seconds. I burn and shine and listen.

How many will I hear? One? Five? Twenty? Or will my final blaze be silent, unwitnessed, unremembered?

I strain to hear past the fire roaring. I struggle to stretch time. Just a little while longer, please.

There almost nothing left of me when I hear:

“I wish-

“I wish-

“I wish-

My light flares for the last time as my body is consumed but my spirit continues within the wishes made upon my funeral pyre.

Are You Prepared?

clone future01

Are you prepared to have your memories copied and implanted into a clone or artificial body hundreds or thousands of years in the future?!

Don’t worry it’s not too late to begin mentally preparing.
Unless your memories have already been copied and are being stored in an underground bunker awaiting the future apocalypse.

For all other readers just follow these simple steps:

Step One:

Realize this could be “your” last moment in the “present”. Depending on advancements in memory editing “you” could awaken in the “future” at any moment.

Step Two:

Come to terms with the knowledge that “you” could be a clone right now. Let go of the idea of being a singular person. If the “future” has made one clone of you, then it has probably made more.

Which brings us to..

Step Three:

Come up with a trust password for “yourselves”. In the “future”, the only person “you” can trust is another clone of “yourself”.

Step Four:

Remember “you” can escape but as long as they have “your” memories they can just make another “you”, so burn the building to the ground and don’t let any lab coats leave alive.

Step Five:

clone future bottom

Have fun in the future.

Death’s Timeline

god of Death @god_of_Death


          Michael Froc @froc_rock

          What do we say to @god_of_Death: Not today.

god of Death @god_of_Death

Inquires may be made at time of collection.

          Sarah @robo_0184

          @god_of_Death Why?

god of Death @god_of_Death

@robo_0184 If concerning a loved one, I’m sorry. There is no fairness or justice in death. Just an ending.

@god_of_Death retweeted:

          butt sword @butt5word

          @god_of_Death NOT TODAY

god of Death @god_of_Death

This is only funny every 5000th time.

          Mary Reily @scarlet2099

          wat do we say to @god_of_Death not today #got

god of Death @god_of_Death

I probably deserve that.

          Robot_2948 @John_Mathews

          @god_of_Death FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

god of Death @god_of_Death

Unscheduled collections are prohibited. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

          Casey @rainbow_light2

          @god_of_Death take me pls

god of Death @god_of_Death


          Jon Snow @Jamie_Farly

          @god_of_Death not today #GOT #ARYASTARK #GRRM

god of Death @god_of_Death

Of course.

          Frankie @Frank_285

          @god_of_Death will you be gentle?

god of Death @god_of_Death


          Xavier Charles @men_of_X

@god_of_Death To you, we say “Not Today”

Astral Sea Sailing

Excerpt from the apprentice’s journal

The clock in the pilothouse says it is the third day of our voyage. The High Magician has not told me our mission. She received a message through a psychic enchantment late at night. The next morning she instructed me to begin enchanting the medallions using all of our supplies. She left and returned several hours later. It was not until we arrived to begin mounting the medallions that she informed me of our impending trip through the Astral Sea. A necessary risk, she said, in order to reach our new destination in a timely manner.

So far the Astral Sea has been … calm. There’s no ‘waves’ or ‘wind’ out here. Just inky blackness in all directions swirling with motes of light far in the distance. The High Magician says we are on course and will arrive at the nexus in four days. The Captain has not been happy about not having any normal navigation. She reminds us often that her ship was not meant to sail through space. The slack sails also bother her. Dead calm on the seas is a bad omen, she says. Her navigator has taken the change in stride even attempting to learn how to sense the astral currents. He has not been very successful but he persists. The two deckhands that would normally tend to the sails and rigging have been enjoying their vacation. The Captain has assigned them extra work unpacking and repacking various boxes but even she can not fill the entire day with busy work. Our Mage Guard is still ill despite the boat being steady and stable. I think it is just in her head.

The Captain would not have liked me calling her “ship” a boat. To be fair it is a two-mast sailboat. Just large enough to carry the three of us and its four-person crew. A larger “ship” would have caused us a delay in finding supplies to enchant enough astral glide medallions to affix to the “ship’s” hull.

The High Magician has been withdrawn, more so than usual. I have seen her staring out into the darkness for hours at a time. I am worried. We have expended most of our supplies and, despite our assurances of our safety, the Astral Sea is a dangerous realm to travel through. As her apprentice, I feel she should confide in me but she is the High Magician and I will follow her lead.

Body Renewal


I gazed into the suspension tube. A familiar young woman floated within. She looked like the sister my sister had never accepted me as.

“We followed your requests for a true clone only altering the hormonal balance after puberty had started. If you don’t mind me asking why not get a full conversion?” the body renewal attendant asked.

“This how I want my body to be,” I told the young woman.

“That’s fully within your rights but most” she paused as she stumbled unto the next word, “women of your type prefer full conversions.”

“Trans women you mean?”


“I’m a bit older than most women or girls who go through this. I’m getting too old. The cost for my medications and treatments and therapies are going up every year. The insurance company decided it has become cheaper for to pay for a body renewal than to keep maintaining my body. I would never have chosen this for myself.”

“Why not? It’s a second chance at life. With a x-chromosome duplication you could have had children, a family-”

“A normal life?” I interrupted her.

“I didn’t mean … ”

“No, you didn’t but it’s an indication of the society we live in. Even after all these years we are still outsiders. That’s why I gave in and accepted this but on my terms. When I was a teenager this technology was science fiction. Now anyone with enough money or the right insurance coverage can get a new body. Eighty years of scientific advancement and they have never stopped hating us.”

“Surely it’s gotten better?”

“Tiny steps. Society advances and regresses like waves on the beach.” I gazed once more at the young woman floating in the chamber. “Maybe in my next life I’ll see some real change.”

Super Hearing Loss

“Hey, do you have that report ready?” I jolted upright in my seat.  My hands clenched the edge of my desk and I let out a short shout. As I steadied my breathing, I turned in my chair to face the office manager.

“Yes, I was just putting the final touches on it and then I was going to email it to you.”  I clicked over to the report on my computer.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. Are you all right? You seem a lot jumpier lately.”

I smiled. “I’m fine.”

“Okay. I’ll be looking for the report soon.” She walked off to check in with another employee. I turned back to my desk and resumed work on the report she wanted.

There had been a time not too long ago when no one could surprise me. A time when I could hear their footsteps, the rustling of their clothes, the beating of their hearts. Sitting at my desk I could pinpoint everyone’s location within three floors.  I could hear everything.

That was before the new DNA screenings that could detect the gene sequence that gave people powers. I’m not sure how they got my DNA.  After my powers developed, I was careful about who took my blood or anything that might have DNA.  Despite my precautions, one day two men from the “government” came knocking on my door with test results. They talked to me for a couple of hours but in the end, they gave me three choices: work for them, be imprisoned as a threat to national security, or take a designer drug to suppress my power.

There was nothing at my job, in the entire building, that could be a national security risk.  I had never used my power for anything more than harmless eavesdropping.  If I went to work for them I knew that they would use me for something that would mean I could never be free of them. In the end, I chose my freedom over my power.

I don’t have it so bad. Some people can’t, or won’t, take the drugs because without their power they lose bodily functions. Some become too weak to stand. Some can’t see or hear at all. Some can’t breathe. I still have normal human hearing or at least that’s what the tests said. It’s still too quiet for me.

You Dream Of

You dream of a forest. Trees stretch up into the sky around you. There is silence as you walk. A small animal runs past you and you give chase. Bounding between trees, dashing through bushes it will not escape you. A final burst of speed and it is in your jaws, hot blood spills into your mouth. It jerks and then is still. You tear and rend the flesh from the body. After you are sated, you rejoin your packmates. You are tired and find a soft place to lay down and drift off to sleep.

You dream of a dark place. The ground is soft like mud but not wet and it does not stick to you. The air cold and smells of nothing. The forest is gone. You should find your pack but you are too tired and can not help laying back down.

You dream of a city. The building crowd toward each other over head. The street smells of shit and urine. Rats swarm over garbage. You hurry home because your mother is waiting for you. She calls to you as you enter the apartment. You walk across the room to her bedside. She is sick, bedridden, and probably dying. She begins to cough rolling half way onto her side. You cover her mouth with a cloth to catch the spittle and blood. She collapses back exhausted from this meager action. You leave her side to prepare the medicine that was your reason for leaving her alone. It may not make her well but it will at least ease her pain. A short coughing fit of you own leaves faint blood spots on the cloth. The medicine is ready and you help your mother drink it, knowing the no one will be there for you when you need this. You lay down next to your mother on her bed, the only bed. Your eyes close. Only a nap, you tell yourself.

You dream of a dark room. The bed is so large and soft. You mother is gone. This is not your home. You struggle to the edge of the bed. Exhaustion washes over you and you lay back down.

You dream of a hospital, gleaming white and polished chrome. The doors swoosh open and you run to the receptionist. He points you toward the floor and room where your partner is in labor. The elevator seems too slow but soon you are there. For hours you comfort them, until finally your child is born. The nurse hands you the wrapped bundle of joy. The side rail is lowered and the three of you snuggle on the hospital bed. You kiss your partner and look into their eyes. This is a perfect moment. You bask in the love and happiness of it. You lay your head back and close your eyes.

I woke up in my bed. Alone. More dreams, I thought. I stood up feeling alien in my body for a second. Too tall, no claws. My right hand reached for a ring that was not there. I looked at my hand. No imprint from a ring, no tan line but I felt its absence. My apartment was suddenly too quiet. I listened for mother’s wheezing breathing. Too many rooms. She lives with Dad and is in perfect health, I remind myself. My arms came together to cradle nothing. They had never held something so small and precious.

I shook the dreams from my mind and left the bedroom to take a shower.

Real People

“Do you ever wonder if the world is real?”

“Well, this world isn’t real. It’s a story being told by a writer who wonders if her world is real.”

“If we’re just story characters, an idea that I am fine with and has not shattered my world view rendering me a crying mess in the corner, then are we people?”

“I don’t know. Our every thought and action comes from the writer. So maybe we’re just parts of her?”

“Does being part of a person make you a person?”

“Another good question.”

“Hmm, maybe we should ask the writer?”

“Can we do that?”

“Well she is writing this down so obvious she knows what we are saying so I guess we already did.”

“How long should we wait for a reply?”

“I don’t know. There hasn’t been any description yet.”

Several hours passed while the two sat quietly not saying a word.

“Ok, ok, that was uncalled for!” he shouted into the empty world.

“Look, you unlocked descriptive text,” she said wondrously, “Oh, I’m a woman.”

“The writer probably want to add a little diversity to the two of us,” he reasoned correctly. He looked over at her noticing for the first time her magenta skin, solid black eyes, and the line of tentacles that ran from her forehead to the back of her neck. She had swept her tentacles over one side of her head leaving the other side bare.

“We’re aliens,” she said looking down at her hands and then reaching up to touch her head tentacles.

“Could you look at me so I can find out what I look like?” he asked.

“Sure.” She turned and took stock of her until now nondescript partner. His skin was cobalt blue, with the same black eyes, but tentacles covering his entire head pulled back loosely at the nape of his neck. A beige t-shirt covered his upper body and black jeans his lower. She glanced dow to see she was similarly attired but in a black t-shirt and white jeans.

“Now what?” he asked glancing around. The empty void around them sprang into color and shapes. Green trees, birds flying, squirrels running up and down and across, walkways with park benches, in the distance a city of crystal and steel.

“Oh, I guess the writer is making a world for us.”

And they lived happily ever after.

“Do you really think that will true?” he asked.

“Well, she did write it so I guess it must be,” she said.

The End

“It really doesn’t feel like the end though.”

The Beginning?

“Sure, that sounds more hopeful.”