A Flower for Skalla – Alpha Writers Group
The City has become a bleak place since the Patreen invasion. Patreen stewards patrol the streets, while the original inhabitants, the Nasoots, are forced into exile or live as outlaws in the labyrinthine tunnels under the City. Only a handful of Nasoots remain in the City, where their superior technological skills are required by the Patreens. When the Nasoots invent a humoid far superior to the standard android, their plans to liberate the City from Patreen dominance take off with surprising results. Skalla, a young Nasoot girl, sparks off the liberation as she gradually discovers things that were outlawed in the oppressive City.
‘A Flower for Skalla’ is a collaborative writing project from Alpha Writers Group – it’s a science fiction story where each writer developed a new and exciting twist in the evolving plot.
All royalties go to Macmillan Cancer Support.
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A Little Piece of Fiction – Dorothy Davies
1240 words Science Fiction / Feel Good
A grandmother prepares her last gift to her grandson, who is about to take off for distant planets and stars.
Her hand trembled a little as she reached for the flour jar. She told herself to stop being stupid, there was a loaf to be made and very little time in which to make it. She tipped the flour into the bowl and added the fat; her wrinkled fingers began the process of rubbing it in. If Gary were to walk in now, she thought, he’d say, as he always did: “You need a mixer, Gran, one with a dough hook. It’ll do all that hard work for you. Go on, let me bring you Mother’s.” But she’d always made her bread this way and she always told him she was too told to change her ways.
A Stitch in Time – Neil MacDonald
1400 words Science Fiction
You can’t go back in time, because you might accidentally change things like killing your own grandfather, and so, the “grandfather paradox” forbids it. Or does it?
It was on June 29 that Mark began to flicker. It wasn’t so much that you could see the flicker as that it resonated in your head, like an ultra-sound vibration. It was below the level of consciousness. People just found something disturbing about being around him, without being able to put their fingers on it. Mark flickered. He felt it as something like a tidal pull, a sense of being in motion while standing completely still. He didn’t really think much about it, or the constant feeling of a lurking headache. He’d always felt this way. As far as he knew everyone else felt like this from the inside too. It was just part of life, like a heartbeat, or the pump and suck of his lungs. He’d always flickered.
Accessories Not Included – Allyn Keigh
1800 words Sci-fi / Humour
The only accessory a mechanical handyman really needs.
“Hey, Fred, you gotta come over and see this. I finally got an Uncle Homer,” Bart exclaimed, tucking his cellphone under his chin and pausing to swig a beer as he waited for Fred’s response. “Man, it’s about time!” Fred’s voice crackled out of the speaker. “I thought the guys were gonna have to take up a collection for you! Which model didya get?” “Top of the line, my man, top of the line,” Bart bragged. “Complete tool kit, multi-use tool package, the works.”
Alien Love – Jim Celer
5820 words Science Fiction / Romance
She was beautiful, she had a spaceship in her purse, and she brought a new perspective to love. She thought it important to count your toes. Of course he fell in love with her.
She was just suddenly there, and it was very strange, but immediately she gave me the feeling she had always been there, that I had always been vaguely aware of her there. I suspected this was not so. She was shaking her arms, looking at them, and at her feet, taking little steps, one at a time. When she saw me staring she smiled and said “They’re so percussive.” I smiled back and would have walked past her then, but she kept smiling at me and obviously she wanted my attention. Good, I thought.
All Down The Lonely Years – Dorothy Davies
1850 words Science Fiction
An empty school, a lonely teacher and a small boy who is looking for something to do until his telescreen is fixed -between them the two light up an empty summer with mutual companionship.
It was a scorching hot day. Charles Grey walked slowly toward the school, his arms swinging loosely in the disjointed shambling walk the old sometimes assume. The sun silvered the tick tight curls clustered around the bald patch, a halo of unconventional colour. The pavements were hot; his old shoes were no protection against bubbling tar. Already his tie was confining his throat and pulling the collar into his neck.
An Unexpected Visit – Alan C. Williams
1400 words Humour / Science Fiction
The police have some questions for Patti’s husband and she’s concerned that they won’t like the answers. After all, there have been some recent changes in their marriage, changes for the better, and Patti is afraid what will happen if they discover the truth about her ‘new’ Damien.
As Patti Gilmore opened their front door, she was surprised to see an overweight police detective flanked by two heavily armed officers. D.I. Sam Costello showed his badge and politely asked if they could come in. “It’s about your husband, Mrs Gilmore,” he explained gently. “Damien?” she asked, suddenly becoming worried. Her husband was in the backyard, gardening. “May we sit down, please? There are some concerns that we have about Mr Gilmore that we need to discuss with you, if that’s all right?”
Beyond My Window – R. F. Marazas
2600 words Science Fiction
There are strange doppelgangers on the planet Mars.
Letter to General Harrison from Oliver Hazard Perry, dated: United States Brig Niagara, off the Western Sisters, September 10, 1813, 4 P.M. “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” Beyond my window the sands of Mars shift like some great restless beast disturbed in sleep. Something undefined nags at me. Not the whiplash storm that greeted us at touchdown, keeping us prisoners for twenty-six hours listening to the sand pound in sheets against the hull. Not the eerie deathlike non-movement after the storm that makes a silence you don’t need to hear because you can actually see it. This is something else, unreal. Something.
Body Hugger – D A Cairns
2800 words Science Fiction
Dave the ‘Gadget Lover’ gets much more than he bargained for when he buys the very latest irresistible piece of technology.
Whenever and wherever the sales pitch was heard, Dave the Gadget Lover took it personally. If they said it was all the rage and a real must have, then Dave had to have it. He was always a sucker for a new gadget, a new toy with which to amuse himself. With a high paying, low stress job in the public service and only himself to feed, Dave had more than enough disposable income to accumulate the latest and greatest scientific novelties and technological marvels. He had a wonderful time with his collection of innovative time-wasters.
Butterfly – Dorothy Davies
2400 words Science Fiction
An ageing spaceman docks at a far flung port and finds the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. They spend his entire leave together, with him falling in love, with just the question mark hanging over him, why she refuses to go out in the rain. Eventually she tells him why…
It was raining when we left the ship. Yandra didn’t look very different from any other planet we’d docked at in the last few years. Or at least the spaceport didn’t. Dirty rundown shabby buildings staffed by disinterested attendants. Luggage and pass checks were so casual I doubt they remembered which ship we were from, let alone our names, five minutes after we passed through. Another place, another bar. Lead me to it, boys! You know the scene. It repeats itself in every space port across the universe every time a ship docks.
Causality – Khristo Poshtakov
2800 words Science Fiction
Every event stems from different causes and brings about different consequences. But when causality changes the entire human species, there may be aliens involved.
Boris Petrov, an intelligent, fit man of around fifty, hair and brows already graying, no pains in his joints and a prostate still normal in size, ambled towards his home. His robust body seemed to swim above the solitary sidewalk, irregularly lit up by the white light of street lamps. Snowflakes swirled here and there. The vodka and the enjoyable company at the local bar had taken him away from his drab existence, and the moderate dose of alcohol facilitated the flight of his thoughts toward wise, philosophical insights.
Chuckles for Speed – Nathaniel Tower
1500 words Humour / Science Fiction
Artie Frankinson thinks he has it made when he builds a time machine and travels back in time to win at horse racing, but he doesn’t realize the presence of his former self, and later former selves, will become such a problem.
Artie Frankinson smiled from his couch as Chuckles for Speed rounded the final turn and stretched its lead to 5 and a half lengths. When the thirty-to-one longshot crossed the finish line, Artie lifted his arms and squealed. After this short victory celebration he wrote down the order of finishers along with a lot of dollar signs. He hadn’t placed a bet on the race, at least not yet. A small black box covered with knobs and dials sat next to Artie, two long tubes jutting out into a small helmet. Artie placed the helmet on his head, fiddled with the dials, and disappeared.
Copied Right – Suzanne Conboy-Hill
700 words Science Fiction
The air is tingling and Jeff’s hand begins to leave trails of colour behind as it moves. ‘It’s like being in a photocopier,’ his friend says. But who or what is being copied?
Something odd was happening. The air had been tingling for days; fizzing when he wafted his hand across his face, and just lately leaving a faint after-glow in its trail. He’d taken to drawing out equations in the air to see how long the effect persisted, and if he could get a whole one up there before the first terms disappeared.
Dim-fold – Jon Elliott
1000 word Science Fiction
The construction and training phase had ended. It was time to start the human trials. No one was surprised when, military specialist, Lisa White volunteered to be the first to dim-fold. Actually, she was the only one brave enough.
Lisa lay as still as possible on the dim-fold table. This would be her first, out-of-body, dimensional fold. Her left foot twitched unceremoniously. She wished she had put her long auburn hair into a bun. Bob leaned over her face, “Nervous?” Lisa focused on the countdown timer and said, “I’m ready.” Bob backed away from the table. When the timer hit zero, she felt a mild electric pinch. She now hovered near the ceiling, staring down at her body on the folding table.
Discovering Marilyn – Alan Cadman
2000 words Women’s Fiction
When Michael ducks inside a shop doorway, to shelter from a sudden downpour of rain, he doesn’t realise he is about to embark on a brief, but revealing adventure. The woman he literally bumps into looks familiar; there’s something about her eyes that holds his attention.
Michael winced as fat splashes of water rained down on him. He ducked into the nearest shop doorway and bumped into a woman already sheltering there. ‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘another typical English summer, isn’t it?’ ‘I know. I’m so annoyed.’ Michael ruffled his hair and shivered, even though it was in the middle of August. The woman’s eyes held his attention. ‘Do we know each other?’ he asked. ‘You remind me of someone.’
Draining the Spirit Gland – Robert Paul Blumenstein
7000 words Science Fiction
In this dystopian tale a dark secret is held by the Elders of the Dome. When humans come of age, they are deemed ready for the harvest. However, two seventeen-year-olds aren’t about to go quietly to the Pacification Center. Perhaps, in this time, youth might actually “change the world.”
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world…” — Albert Einstein The loose bricks knocking together sounded an odd click resembling eggs cracking on the side of a pan, yet when the whole pile slid down under their feet it rumbled like a sieve rocker sifting stones. After Seth and Rachel rode the unstable slack to the bottom of the pile they froze. Had the sensors on the Vibration Detectors been triggered? Both squinted straining their young ears to pick up the whirring sound made by the overhead camera vehicles that patrolled the Desolate Area. Satisfied that they were here alone they moved on toward a stairwell that led into a basement. It was here they were to meet Uta, in secret, to continue their lesson.
Father – Ivaylo G. Ivanov
3300 words Science Fiction
An absurd coincidence drives a young man to look for the truth about his deceased father – and find out the price of fatherly love.
I am walking, and I cannot hear my steps. Their tapping is drowned in the lashing rain and the deafening roar of thunder. I have no steps… The cool drops run down my cheeks and my temples, soak through my clothes and lap the bouquet of white narcissi. I can’t help remembering Murphy’s laws–it never rains but it pours. Damn it, I didn’t even take an umbrella! Yet, what does an umbrella have to do with all that? IX sector, fifth row–there’s the small copper plaque “Sean Simon (2053-2081)”.
Giving It a Rest – Allison Symes
1100 word Fantasy / Science Fiction
Narrated by an alien collector of specimens, disillusioned with their job. They reveal what their job entails and leave evidence to warn humans not every alien is as honourable (by their standards) as this one. They know the consequences of their actions could be fatal.
I’ll leave my notes and universal translator here so you can read why I jacked in my job to explore different worlds for my enjoyment, rather than my bosses’ profit margins. I’m not going into how those profit margins were shared but I’ll be the year’s top earner at the end of this trip if all goes well. It’s why I’ve stuck it out for so long. The penalty for disobedience is an electric shock applied to one’s intimate areas. Not fun I can tell you. I’m still the best worker, despite having the treatment five times, which is why I’m here and not dead.
Green Door – Allison Symes
4000 word Fantasy / Science Fiction
Emily Shanton is lonely, she has recently been forced out of her job. She discovers there is more to her new neighbour, Jemma, than meets the eye. Jemma is everything Emily isn’t: young, outgoing, comfortable socially, but has a secret. Emily discovers, the hard way, what this is.
The blonde woman over the road was painting her front door in British racing green. ‘And about time,’ Emily Shanton told herself, finally letting her brilliant white net curtains drop into their usual position. ‘Given she has visitors at all hours all week her house needs a decent spruce up. Mother said women who always had visitors could never be up to any good. Mother was so right and on so many things.’ Emily paused. I shouldn’t have thought that. Mother would’ve thought it. She relished thinking nastily. Mother was difficult. Will I ever forget about her? I won’t be like her. I won’t. She was a tyrant. I must make myself think nice thoughts.
Immigrants – Les Bohem
5300 words Science Fiction
The obvious conclusion that this was a sentient, carbon-based life went without saying. That he came from a people with a technology more advanced than ours – he got here, didn’t he? But the questions of what kind of sentient – of why he’d gotten here and what he wanted and how he planned to go about getting it – those questions were debated endlessly. Linda would just have to wait for Adam to wake up and provide the answers.
Linda was called in a few months before the arrival. Something spotted in the sky – something moving towards us – something no one could account for. The protocols were in place, and they were ready. Biologists, astrophysicists, chemists, engineers, soldiers, clergy – a world-wide, multidisciplinary team – a group of people who had all firmly believed that this day would never come. It was the kind of thing, some poor junior senator from Nebraska is put on a contingency committee – what to do in case of alien contact. Seriously. He gets a trip to some international conference in the Hague – something the whole world can agree on ‘cause it’s never gonna happen. But the protocols had been in place, and now when they were needed, they functioned beautifully. From around the world, the experts came.
In the Beginning – Dorothy Davies
2200 words Science Fiction
After the end of the world, few people are left and few items remain from Before. The Television is one of them. It is worshipped as an oracle by the tribe, but one boy sees past this and longs to change the way they all think.
‘In the beginning was the mushroom cloud, many trees tall into the sky and from the cloud came fine dust. It burned the ground and tore the skin from the bones of those who ran.’ IT stood in the centre of the square in its own hut, the wooden casing marked with rain, the flimsy back which housed the electronics slowly dissolving, colourful wires falling out. ‘There were some people who ran to burrow in the ground like the rabbit in his hole, there to live until the dust should cease to fall.’
Level Playing – Suzanne Conboy-Hill
700 words Science Fiction
When the fish don’t look real and lag interferes with the rendering, the game doesn’t go well. But who are the players and who’s being played?
‘The fish aren’t real, are they?’ ‘Well, of course they are, Lucy. What makes you think they’re not?’ ‘Dunno. It’s just when I see them sideways …’ ‘Sideways?’ ‘Like when I’m looking at something else and they’re like, off to the side.’ ‘Oh, out of the corner of your eye? Well, that’s not unusual, eyes do funny things at the sides.
Life is What You Make It – Allison Symes
3700 word Science Fiction
Marc fights to keep his life and his wife, Barbara. Lose her and he’ll lose everything he ran away from his ruthless bosses to get. Punishment on his home planet is not known for its compassion and executions are televised as a warning to others. Marc does not want to be on the next scheduled programme nor does he want to reveal to Barbara he isn’t as human as he appears.
‘I don’t care how you do it but Marc must be stopped. He’s asking awkward questions about our experiments and I tell you he’s looking for a way out. He’ll find some suitable planet to defect to and we’ll lose him. He has got the talent to outwit us all.’ The Grand Inquisitor stared down at his quivering deputy. ‘Our lives will be on the line if that happens. You know how compassionate the Grand Council can be.’ The trembling deputy did know. Failure on Anarect meant a horribly slow, lingering death, which was televised to act as a warning for the masses. As a policy it worked. Within a year of its implementation, crime rates dropped by over 80%.
Luca – Fi Clarkson
2500 words Science Fiction / Children 8 – 12
Luca has never felt that he truly belongs in his family and suspects he is adopted. But when his parents are tragically killed, Luca finally discovers who he really is. And the truth is far more shocking than he could ever have imagined.
There were times when, distracted by the TV or a computer game, Luca forgot. For a moment, at least, until he startled himself by smiling. Then the memory hit him again, like a fist, and made him catch his breath. He felt sick with guilt that he could have forgotten, even for a moment, that his parents were gone and they were never coming back. Missing them was an ache that throbbed inside him until he couldn’t bear it. Almost instinctively, his fingers reached for the back of his head, pushing through his hair to find that spot, just behind his right ear, that was slightly softer than the rest of his skull.
Norm – James McHarg
3000 words Science Fiction
The Jones family live on NewWorld, where the government ensures an ordered and peaceful existence. But nothing is perfect. A sinister secret lurks behind the façade of their Utopian society and this family will stare it right in the face.
Norm loomed tall in my doorway, his opaque eyes staring through me rather than at me. I knew it was a by-product of the Reaping, nonetheless, I found it quite unnerving. He was clad from neck to ankle in white coveralls, the only splash of colour, the four-inch-square red patch of his name tag. I didn’t even know why they had a name tag. After all, they were all named Norm. Norm glanced down at his eTab, swiping a finger across the screen. “Mister Evan Jones,” he said in his automaton voice. “May I enter?” “I, uh, guess I have no choice. Do I?” “No,” Norm sharply answered. “We were just sitting down to eat supper. Are you sure you can’t come back another time?”