Gordal’s Seed – FF Challenge

“In today’s news, Gordal the Great has decided to choose one lucky human woman to impregnate. The contest will take place on VH1’s Gordal’s Seed, which is set to begin recording at the end of March. Applications for this exciting new series are being accepted via prayer to Gordal the Great.”

“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Elijah says. He hits the power button on the TV controller and groans. He sits on a beaten up leather sofa with his arms folded. The room is cluttered, boxes stacked against the wall from months ago that need to be unpacked yesterday. Delilah sits at her desk, seemingly not paying attention. Her hair sits atop her head in a messy bun, a pen shoved behind her ear. She flips a page in a brochure for some obscure vacation spot.

Elijah stands and starts to pace. “I mean, who would be stupid enough to think they should just give everything up to carry a demigod? Have you ever met one of those kids?”

Delilah shrugs. “Wasn’t your grandmother a demigod?” she asks in a bored tone. She flips another page. “We should check out Empella’s Pillars for our next vacation. The ruins there are fantastic.”

“Yeah, but she was different,” Elijah says, ignoring the vacation idea. “Her mother and father loved one another. I mean my great grandmother, Metatorma, made herself mortal just to grow old with a human man. Gordal is just looking for more followers.”

“And thanks to her, you’re able to breathe underwater.” Delilah looks up from her brochure finally. “Besides, people are going to follow who they want. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. Gordal is a god, so he can do what he wants.”

Elijah huffs. “Okay then. Why don’t you apply for the show. I’d love to see your face when you find out you have to compete for a god with a bloated sense of celebrity.”

“You do realize he’s the god of ego?” She laughs. “They actually have to follow their nature. Otherwise we have centuries more of chaos and war, and millions of us regular people die. Gordal is just being who he is.” She closes the brochure and at last looks at Elijah. “Why does it bother you so much?”

He frowns. “How does it not bother you? In their eyes, we’re just pets. We are little things they like to collect and leave behind when they tire of us.”

Delilah stands and makes her way to the kitchen. “They are what they are, Eli. We can’t expect them to be anything else. If you don’t like Gordal, don’t pray to him. Find yourself a god you actually like.”

“The one I actually liked is dead.” He frowns. “All the good ones sacrifice themselves for us.”

Delilah opens a bottle of orange juice and starts drinking it right out of the bottle. She wipes her mouth with her sleeve. “That’s probably what they say about us.”

 

***

There’s something disturbing about waking up to a beam of light hovering over you with no source. Delilah sits up with a start and catches her breath. Elijah snores softly beside her, completely unaware they have a message from the gods.

“Delilah, it is a pleasure to see you again,” a voice says. She knows that voice. It’s Pelt, the god of communication. And just like when they were dating, he has no concern for the time of day.

“It’s four in the morning, Pelt. What do you want?”

“I have a message for you from Gordal the Great.”

Delilah frowns. “Why–”

“You have been summoned to audition for Gordal’s Seed.” Another pause. “And…it’s likely you’ll be chosen.”

“Hedra’s ass! You can tell Gordal the Great where to stick his mighty seed. Right up his–”

“Delilah, please. He has a lot of support. If you deny his invitation there’s no telling what the punishment will be. Remember Medusa?”

She has nothing else to say. This is probably what she gets for posing as a human. Though technically she is half human. “I don’t understand why he wants me. I don’t even meet his criteria.”

Pelt at last shows himself. Typical of gods, his body shimmers with a golden glow. Unreasonably lush hair falls over his perfectly symmetrical face. As beautiful as ever, she sees. Delilah swallows. “You’re sure there’s no way out of this?”

He shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I did argue against it. I even brought up your father.”

Delilah rolls her eyes. “Yeah, I’ll bet good old Dad really gives a damn. I haven’t heard from Devoro since I was nineteen, and that was because he thought I was someone else and decided to hit on me.” She shudders and makes a sour face.

Pelt curls his upper lip in disgust. “You never told me that.”

“Yeah well it’s not exactly something I like to discuss.” She stands from the bed, thankfully still wearing a t-shirt and shorts. “When do I leave?” She slides her feet into a pair of flip-flops beside her bed.

“Now.”

“Well, I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”

***

“Contestant number four hundred, please approach,” the judges call. The judges for the auditions are a set of demigod triplets. Each of them wear their golden curls up with not even one hair out of place. They stare at Delilah with sharp golden-green eyes. Unlike human triplets, these three are dependant on one another. If one were to go more than a mile from the others, chaos would warp the reality of whatever area they inhabited. It happened once, with a tragic consequence. Over five hundred people were absorbed into the earth.

Delilah steps forward and nervously pinches the gown they’d made her wear. It’s a simple gown similar to those worn by the ancient Spartan women. Even if it’s perfectly comfortable, she finds herself wishing she were in a pair of shorts.

All three of the judges speak at once, though it sounds as if one voice rings out. “Please state your name, background, and why you would be a good contestant for the show.”

“Delilah Devrodi. I’m a demigod, daughter of Devro. My nature is privacy, which I might add, is exactly why I’m not a good choice for this show.” She scans the faces of the judges which are all wearing the same bored expression. “I have no interest in being Gordal’s lucky human woman.”

“But you are here auditioning. Why is that? Do you wish to go against your nature?”

She almost laughs. “I am here because Gordal summoned me. I’m half god. I thought he was looking for a human woman. So you tell me. What am I doing here?”

The triplets look at one another, obviously telepathically discussing the situation. They turn their eyes back to Delilah. “Gordal has personally chosen you to appear on his new series. Please take an information packet and proceed through the door to your right. You will be summoned again when it is time for filming.

Fuck,” Delilah says under her breath. She takes a packet and heads for the door to her right.

***

Avery and Penelope are the only two women left besides Delilah. So far she’s tried everything to be kicked off the show, and the unfortunate events that lead to the death of one of the contestants were partly her fault. Partly. If she hadn’t been forced to go against her nature it would have never happened. Greta had been arguing with Delilah over her anti-social attitude, which of course every camera turned to witness. She tried to stop it, tried to warn Greta and the camera operators. Ten minutes later paramedics were taking her body off the set. Avery and Penelope stay as far away from Delilah as possible now. Just how she prefers it.

She sits, stiff-backed in a dress too formal for her taste and stares at Gordal. There is no denying who is father is. Narcissus was worse, to be fair.

Gordal smiles at her despite her obvious lack of desire for him. “You look very much like your great-grandmother,” he says. “Although, you have your father’s nose. That isn’t unfortunate, though.”

“Are you trying to flatter me?” Because it’s working, she thinks then admonishes herself for it. One of Gordal’s gifts is charm, and it’s difficult to not fall under his spell. “I thought you were more interested in discussing yourself.”

He is gorgeous though. Look at that smile, those perfect teeth. His arms… She snaps herself out of the lapse.

Gordal chuckles. “Quite right. I am a rather fine specimen. Yet you continue to deny your attraction to me. As irritating as that is, I must say,” he leans in so he’s inches from her face, “I find it quite alluring,” he whispers.

Delilah’s pulse quickens in her ears and heat rises in her face. “I’m sure you do,” she says flatly. She downs her glass of wine.

***

“This has been such a difficult choice for me. Both of you would compliment me quite well,” Gordal says smoothly. Avery smiles so big Delilah is convinced her face will split open.

“Unfortunately, I can only choose one of you. Rules are rules right?” He winks like he’s just said something witty. Avery sighs audibly. Delilah huffs and shakes her head. “Avery,” he approaches her and allows for a long, dramatic pause.

Avery looks up into his eyes, trembling in his presence.

Delilah can feel the bile rising in her throat.

“I have chosen…”

“And cut,” the director shouts.

Gordal drops Avery’s hands and looks over at his stylist team. “How am I looking? Perfect right?”

“Yes, Gordal, you are the most perfect being in the universe.” His hair dresser, an unnecessary employee, blushes as she pulls out a mirror for him. He nods in satisfaction.

Delilah finds her mind wanders back to Elijah. The last time they spoke he threatened to leave. She didn’t blame him. Now she knows exactly what he had meant before. Thanks to Gordal, that’s another relationship that won’t work out.

“Everyone take their places please,” the director shouts.

By the time the cameras are rolling again, Delilah is fighting the urge to run.

“I have chosen…”

She sighs at another long pause.

“Delilah,” Gordal finally says. He drops Avery’s hands. “I am sorry, Avery. I hope you have a wonderful life.

It takes a few moments for it to register that Gordal has chosen her. At last it happens. The outrage breaks through like a Hydra ready to devour its next hero. “Absolutely not!” She turns on Gordal. “I am not yours to impregnate. None of us are.” Delilahs face is hot, her hands shaking.

“I am!” Avery announces.

Gordal ignores the crying woman and glares at Delilah. “Excuse me?” His eyes have gone from sapphire to the color of burning embers.

“You heard me. I’m done.” All around her, the crew is chattering under their breaths. None of them know what to do now. Gordal gawks at her. He’s never been so humiliated. “Go back to your wife, Gordal.” With that, Delilah storms off the set and calls for a transport with Pelt.

***

“I can’t believe you actually did that on live television. I swear you have a death wish.” Elijah stands in their living room. The boxes are gone, but she isn’t sure if that means he’s unpacked or he has moved them somewhere else. He cracks a smile. “Fucking told Gordal to go back to his wife. I’ll bet she loves you.”

Delilah shrugs. It’s not so funny. “What about you? Are you…” She can’t bring herself to ask the question.

“I’m sorry, De.” He drops his gaze. She can feel her stomach bottom out. “I’ve decided to stay and torture you.” He grins wide.

“Gods, I hate you,” she says. Her heart pounds. “I…but what about–”

“The fact that you’re a demigod?” He shrugs. “I guess you’re one of the good ones.”

Random Rambling Writing

Jessa is the one in the old worn coat standing in the rain. Parts of her shake, but she’s steady inside. Her hands and knees tremble. It’s not because she’s afraid. Anxious…maybe. There’s confidence in her face. A snicker in the back of her throat. This world is her’s,  and she will see it gone. And, she thinks, I will be the last to go.

It’s time before Jessa is ready. She steps onto the transport unsteadily. Damn it. She wanted to appear assured.

The grinding begins, and she straightens herself with the safety bars. The timer ticks down. Forty five minutes to go.

Memory Thief

It isn’t something you can see. When it arrives, your olfactories go into overdrive.  The acrid stench stings your nostrils, but it doesn’t prepare you for the overwhelming stink of death. And I’m not talking about the rat in the walls stink. I’m talking about a corpse left in the sun for a week. You feel like your stomach is coming up through your mouth.That’s how you know it’s there.

My journal is nearly full. I stare down at the worn pages as I turn them. They haven’t changed in a year. Each one for that period repeats the same thing. Except…I turn to the last page I’ve written and glance at the date. I can’t remember what today is. How long have I been here? My first thought is to look around…and I do. Carefully.

The room is nothing to brag about. There’s a bed beneath me with a simple wool blanket and white sheet. I don’t even have a pillow. The walls are all barren except for a small window just at eye level. Bars cover it. I stand and make my way across the concrete floor in slippers I don’t remember putting on. In fact, I don’t remember dressing in this robe or tying back my hair. I can feel the pull of it behind my head. I pause as I begin to question what I actually remember at all. And it’s…nothing. I woke in this bed, surrounded by these walls, with this journal in my hand. Is it mine?

Before I can make it to the window, there’s a short knock at the door behind me. I spin and catch my breath. It takes a moment for me to recover. “Wh-who’s there?”

“Doctor Estez,” a muffled voice answers from behind the door. “Please have a seat, Nova.”

“I don’t understand.”

There’s a short pause before he answers. I can hear him mumble something, but it’s too low to make out. “Please have a seat, Nova. We’re here to help.”

I’m not certain why, but I obey and sit on the edge of my bed. It’s stiff, uncomfortable for any position. I glance back at the door. “O-okay. I’m sitting now.”

I hear three loud clicks and metal grinding against metal as the locks release. The door complains as it opens, letting out a woeful groan against its hinges. Doctor Estes stands behind two men in uniform, both carrying guns. All of them wear facemasks.

My frown deepens. “Why do you have weapons?”

“It’s for my safety, Nova,” Doctor Estes says calmly. He steps past the two men and looks at me over his glasses. “You’re not always…cooperative.”

There’s something that itches in the back of my mind when I hear his voice. A shudder of panic races through my nervous system. I can’t quite place why, but there it is. I don’t trust him.

He produces a large syringe and holds it gently in gloved hands. “I need a sample today. We’re getting closer to finding a way to hide from it.”

“It?” I think back over the journal entry I read.

He nods. “You’ve quite frequently called it ‘the monster,’ but we know it as Memoria Fur.” He gestures to one of the soldiers who immediately moves further into the room. “We just need a blood sample today, Nova. We need to know why it chose you…to find a reason it chooses anyone.”

I swallow against a dry throat. “I don’t…What do you mean chooses? Please, Doctor Estes, I don’t understand.”

Doctor Estes sighs. “Doctor Bellard will be in here shortly to explain. He’s our psych advisor. We go through this every time.”

“Every time? As in you’ve taken my blood before.” Something about that seems wrong. “Why would you need multiple samples?”

He smiles. “I’m always fascinated by the amount of knowledge you’ve retained. Others…well most of them can barely tie their shoes.” He leans down so that he’s eye level with me. “And that’s why you are so important, Doctor Nova Rithe.” He straightens and shrugs. His grip on the syringe has tightened. “Of course, I need more samples because you destroyed the last batch. It’s the third incident.” He nods to the soldier beside me.

Before I can react, the solder has me in a tight bear hug. He’s too strong to fight. I struggle, but it’s pointless, so I give up. Another man, much smaller and meeker, moves toward me with a strip of rubber.

“You don’t have to hold me down,” I say breathlessly. “You can have your sample.”

“Yes. You said that last time.” Doctor Estes pulls the collar of his shirt down. A bruise is there on his neck…in the shape of teeth. “I learned my lesson.”

***

It isn’t something you can see. When it arrives your olfactories go into overdrive.  The acrid stench stings your nostrils, but it doesn’t prepare you for the overwhelming stink of death. And I’m not talking about the rat in the walls stink. I’m talking about a corpse left in the sun for a week. You feel like your stomach is coming up through your mouth.That’s how you know it’s there.

I look up from the pages of the journal I hold. Doctor Bellard sits across a silver table from me. He’s watching me intently, arms crossed over his broad chest. The respirator he wears over his face blocks the turn of his lips. I imagine he’s frowning. He’s not like Doctor Estes. There’s something calming about his presence. And something sad.

He tilts his head. “Turn to the very last page.”

“That’s the last one,” I say with a small amount of uncertainty.

“The last one,” he says. “As in the very last page in the entire journal.”

I glance down at it and hesitate. My jaw tightens as I do as he asks.

It has been two years since I was attacked. The monster has taken everything. I know love, but I do not remember it. I know I had a mother, a father, a husband…a child. But I cannot picture them. My hands shake more frequently. Soon I will not even remember my name. Short-term memory is failing. What did I eat yesterday? When did I put on these clothes?

If only I had found the camouflage before I was attacked….

A tear falls from my chin onto the page, blurring the last word. I snap the journal closed and set it on the table.

“Do you remember me, Nova? Do you know who I am?” Doctor Bellard leans forward with his arms on the table now. His eyes convey sympathy. I want none.

I shake my head no. It’s all I can muster.

“That’s okay,” he says as he reaches for my hand.

I draw it back. Not out of spite. I can’t hate him–not that I know why that is. I just want answers now, not comfort. “What is this….monster?”

He sighs and leans back in his chair. “Memoria Fur is a creature…sort of. It’s out of our visual range. It can only be seen in infrared. But basically it’s exactly as its name translates.”

“Memory thief,” I whisper. How do I know that?

Doctor Bellard nods. “Yes. It absorbs the energy from specific brain activity. When we remember things, life memories, it latches on.”

“Like a parasite.”

“Yes and no. It continues until it has had its fill. Unfortunately for some, that means everything. For some reason your memories were taken, but you’ve retained your knowledge. Doctor Estes is convinced he can find out why through your DNA, but…”

I shake my head no again. “It’s in my brain structure.”

He frowns. “Nova, do you know what that means?”

“Doctor Bellard,” I draw a deep breath. “Get me a brain surgeon.”

***

The bed is softer than mine, and for some reason I appreciate that. Even if I’m about to die. Doctor Thames looks at me through surgical glasses. I can’t make out his mouth beneath the mask, but I can see he’s worried from the deep furrow in his brow. “I want you to know, I protested this all the way to the top. We can’t guarantee we’ll find what we need this way.”

The drugs are just setting in, so it takes all of my energy to answer. “I can’t live like this.”

There was a Great Man

My dad’s name was Michael, and he was 54 when he died on Sunday, February 12, 2017. My dad was loving, tough, determined, intelligent, and passionate. And I feel like he was unjustly stolen from us. It’s hard to describe how losing a parent changes things. You find yourself wallowing in a well of depression. You find yourself angry and bitter. You find the world suddenly missing some of its light. Days are darker, time is agonizingly slow, and the slightest thing can trigger the flow of tears you keep trying not to cry.

Now that he’s gone, I’ve come to realize something. I realize that despite his being temperamental  and seemingly pissed off at the entire universe, my dad fully embraced unconditional love. Very few people, I’ve found, truly understand the meaning of unconditional love. He did though, and no matter how hard it was for him to get past his anger, he never stopped loving. It might have been days or weeks, even months before he overcame whatever it was that hurt him, but he would. Differences meant nothing, angry words were left behind, and all that remained was the unbreakable bond he’d formed with his family.

This doesn’t mean that he was always forgiving. Unless you were one of his daughters, he could hold on to a grudge with a grip so tight not even a god could break it. But in the last couple of years of his life, he’d learned and mastered forgiveness too. He made peace with those who had hurt him and he had hurt back. It made him lighter at heart. He was happier. He was calmer. His temper was no longer as explosive as it once was. Even through his messages to me, I could tell something had changed, and it was for the better.

Yet since his death, something in me has changed. I’ve reached the stage in my grief where not only am I profoundly hurt, but I’m carrying around a lot of rage. I’m starting to open my eyes to the wrongs I didn’t want to believe before. I could have had so many more years knowing my dad if it hadn’t been for one person. My whole life I’ve held her in the same light I did when I was a little girl. The pedestal may have been battered, but it never fell. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen her since I was ten. It didn’t matter she’d abandoned me and my sister, or that she’d made little effort staying in contact with us. I made excuses for her. She’s sick. She couldn’t help it. We’re better off because she didn’t have the capacity to raise us.

It’s true my mother’s mental health has never been stable. But right now, I don’t want to make excuses for her. When I was around eight years old I spent a brief amount of time with my dad. That was until my mother did something unforgivable. She left him for the second time, but that’s not what I’m so pissed off about. It’s the fact that she didn’t even leave him a means to contact me. She didn’t even tell him where we went or that we were even going away. She stole my time with him from me.

What right did she have cutting out the one parent who gave a damn about me? She spouts all these grand words of love for me, but where has she been? Not here. When I told her my dad had died…I wanted to kick her. She went on about herself and how she felt about him without so much as asking if I was okay. I’ve come so close to hating her that I can taste the bile in the back of my throat when I think about her. But I’m being selfish now. My bitterness is overshadowing the fact that there was a great man. His name was Michael, and he was my dad.

He left behind 4 daughters, a granddaughter, and a family that loved him deeply. I worry most about my sisters. They’re young, too young to have lost a parent. But I know they’ve inherited our dad’s strength. I can see it in the way they carry on despite the hardships in their lives. I’m proud of them. Somehow we’ll get through all of this. We might have to take the long way around, but we’ll get to a place where thinking of Dad won’t leave a painful knot in our chests. We’ll be able to smile and talk about how amazing he was.

Our dad’s name was Michael. He was 54 when he died. He wasn’t perfect, but he loved us, and we’ll never stop loving him.

 

The Kiss

I wrote this for a flash fiction contest. It didn’t place, but it did score pretty well. I think it should be published somewhere, so here is as good a place as any.

~~~

It always starts with a kiss—one long, breathless kiss. It begins so fiercely with eyes squeezed shut and arms wrapped tight around him. When it ends, she’s left to her darkness, frantic to begin again. It’s all she has now. She tries desperately to hold on to it. She clings to its memory, binds herself to it. The kiss that says hello and goodbye all at once. The kiss that means a new start in life, but it’s over before she has the chance.

She can’t remember how she got here, or why, or who, or what. Even her name escapes her. Someone says it, a face she remembers like the fading part of a dream. But before she can grasp what it was, it’s gone. Again she dreams of the kiss.

What happened that night? It was night wasn’t it? She worries the memory, unfolding it and bending it into a shape that might make sense. Lights. She sees them, blurred by streaks of rain—bright lights scuttling toward her. And a terrible screech pierces the moment, finishing it with a thunderous crack—and pain. She’s in such pain. It seizes her unexpectedly, ripping her limbs, crushing her bones, biting her skin until she’s too weak to breathe.

The face is there again. Though too hazy to see clearly, she can tell he’s crying. He shouts her name. She strains to hear it, struggles to remember it. He says it with such hurt in his voice. A shudder warps the sound of it. His fingers in hers, he cries it out once more. Isabella. She remembers now, and she tries to say it out loud. But nothing can penetrate the deafening silence of this place.

She lies in a cold, black cell of decay. Why is she so cold? The foul stink of her swallows the small space they’ve left her in, and it mingles with earth, worms, and bugs. She wants to move, to reach out for something, anything. If she could just get to her feet, get a feel for the space, maybe she could find a way out of here.

But her feet won’t move. Her fingers won’t twitch. Her eyes refuse to open. No matter how she fights, nothing moves except the scene she repeats. And she holds tightly to it, this dream or nightmare. A memory perhaps? The warmth of skin touching hers, tender caresses, gentle sighs, and a violent scream. She lets herself return to it. The beginning plays for her like it’s the first time.

It always starts with a kiss.

FF Challenge – The Insomnia Project

This is a very rough piece for Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week. We had to “figure insomnia” into our stories. It was fun coming up with the idea, and I did a little research. Probably still got some facts wrong.

**

The Insomnia Project

Valley was a nobody. A meth-addled, low life, scum of the earth loser with jacked up teeth. She was the skeleton in skin sheets that everyone tried hard not to look at. As far as anyone was concerned, she’d be better off dead than walking among them, breathing their air and drinking their water. No one could have guessed she would be the one to save the human race.

Five years after its discovery, BOZ-1 had claimed the lives of over two million people. The parasite caused extreme fatigue, eventually leading its victims to sleep until they died. Nothing worked. Treatments were useless. Hospitals were overwhelmed. The CDC had thrown up its hands. Researchers were at a loss. And now the parasite was spreading faster.

Valley hadn’t thought much of it. People die. She watched both her parents overdose; one from heroine, the other from cocaine. Her best friend was shot in the back during a foiled up robbery. Her boyfriend was killed in a car accident. Valley had completely given up on forming bonds with anyone. Fuck it. They’ll just die anyway.

She stepped into the clinic’s doors, a back pack slung over her shoulder, wearing a dress three sizes too big for her. The straps kept falling down, and her nipples played peek-a-boo with anyone who noticed her. It was time for her HIV check up. She got one once a year—not really for herself. The one good thing about Valley was she refused to be responsible for anyone’s death, and that included passing on a deadly virus.

The nurse peeked up at her over the front desk and nodded without a word. She reached for a clipboard, slapped a pen on the top and shoved it over to Valley. “Fill this out. We’ll call you when the doctor is ready.”

*

“Miss Dempsey, your test was negative,” Doctor Venner said. “But I need to speak to you about your condition.”

Valley scowled and crossed her arms. “I ain’t got no time for you to be tellin’ me how ta live my life. It’s my fuckin’ body. I’ll do what the hell I want with it.”

Doctor Venner shook his head and reached for her chart. His office was tidy, a bit Spartan with a few rewards and honors hanging on his walls. From the looks of things, he might have once been a star in the medical field. Instead he was stuck working at this dead-end shit hole. “No, I think you misunderstand.”

“Oh really?” She rolled her eyes.

“Yes. See,” He cleared his throat and pushed the chart toward her. “you have the BOZ-1 parasite. Do you know what that is?”

Valley looked down at the chart, her frown deepening. “I can’t read none of this. What’s it mean?”

“It’s a parasite that attaches itself to your hypothalamus…er…the region of the brain responsible for sleep and waking.”

“Oh yeah. Heard about that one a few years ago. You mean I’m gonna die? Shit. I didn’t pass that on to anyone did I?”

Doctor Venner shook his head. “It’s normally passed through contact with an infected person’s blood, or from drinking tainted water. If you’ve been passing needles around—”

“Hell no. I don’t do that shit. I’m not some dirty bitch who wants to fuck everyone with my infected blood.” Valley started chewing the nubs of her fingers, her leg bouncing so fast it made the floor shake. “So what am I gonna do? Do I need medicine or somethin’?”

“There is no cure, Miss Dempsey. I’d like to ask you if you’d consider further testing. As far as I know, you are the first person carrying the parasite with no symptoms. There’s a research facility two miles from here focusing on developing a cure.”

Valley shrugged. “They gonna pay me?”

“Miss Dempsey, at this point, I’ll pay you.” Doctor Venner leaned back in his fancy, high-backed leather desk chair and sighed. “People are dying. It’s time we stop it.”

*

A year after Valley offered herself up to the BOZ-1 research project she was all over the news—Former Meth Addict May Save Us All. Doctor Venner had even paid for her to have a new set of teeth so she could smile for the cameras.

The Insomnia Project was implemented a year later. The cure had been in the human brain all along. Researchers had long ago discovered that sleep was necessary to flush out harmful toxins that built up in the brain during the period of time a person is awake. To BOZ-1 these toxins were lethal.

Amphetamines were unscheduled, and for several weeks, no one slept. Not even children. The world was a wake, and while a few patients suffered heart attacks and strokes, the parasite all but disappeared.

FF Challenge Accepted – The God Factory

Chuck Wendig posted a Flash Fiction challenge today, and it’s been so long that I decided to accept. You can tell I’ve been reading a lot of N. K. Jemisin here. I’m just a little inspired. It’s pretty rough, needs a lot of work, and probably deserves to be spread out over a longer story, but I like what it is so far.

**

The God Factory

Before there was a beginning, there was a first. The Nothing had always existed and had not. From the Nothing came the Everything, and that was when I sprang forth. I was a god, by mortal standards, an infant as well. Unlike most creatures, I had no mother or father to teach me. My parents were existence in its purest form. But because the Nothing and the Everything have no solid consciousness, I was left without love or companionship—though such words meant nothing to me then.

They had gifted me with the ability to learn quickly, to understand such things no mortal ever could, and an abundance of creativity. I knew what they wished for me. That I would go on creating new things. I was happy to oblige, not only for them, but also for my entertainment. It was rather boring for the first few eons of my existence.

My first universe had been an utter failure. I hadn’t thought to put any physical laws into place and so planets refused to form around stars that had no idea how to burn. I left it there, empty and adrift, the dead evidence of my incompetence. To be fair, I was only a child.

It was my fifth universe that had at last been a total success. This one was painted in nebulae and a thousand thousand galaxies. Here I’d laid down the basic laws of physics I believed would hold it together. Unfortunately, no matter how successful this universe was, something seemed to be missing. I called out to my parents in a plea, “Help me.”

At this point I had no concept of life. I, myself, was not a living being. I merely existed and will continue to exist until the Nothing decides to end it. It was the Everything that spoke to me. (I say spoke, but it isn’t such a simple thing as that. It was more like a knowing, as though I had always known the idea the Everything planted within me.) “Life,” I whispered.

And my universe shivered.

Single-celled organisms were simple enough. They lived and died with no real understanding that they did so. When I attempted to clump them together, the results were often strange. One being lived for only a solitary day, and died knowing its existence was impossible. At last, after another eon had passed, I watched as plant life took hold. And soon creatures of the sea. Quickly, before this fragile thing I’d created could fail, I drew up requirements for life to continue existing.

I knew that I could not mold life alone. By now I’d learned that lesson several times over. Life needs to be free to transform itself. So I passed the reigns to nature. “Evolve,” I whispered, and it shivered. I did this to several more galaxies and waited once my seeds were sewn.

***

For another three billion years I traveled through my galaxies, observing as complex life took hold. I visited planets, mingled with its mortals. I even loved some of them. Love was new to me and took me, quite abruptly, by surprise. I had no idea that one could feel such deep emotions for creatures with such terribly short life-spans. Most of my time was spent on the oldest of my living planets.

Laku, its people called it. Beautiful, in its green and blue shimmer. I walked among its inhabitants, in corporeal form—sometimes male, sometimes female. Each of them knew me on sight. I had spent so much time among them that they had even named me: Ahn. I rather liked that name. In their language it meant “first.” While I wasn’t exactly the true first, for them I was, and so I kept it.

Time is a funny thing. Even for gods, who barely notice its passage, time is fickle. It lingers on and moves slowly as we sit in dull silence. And then it races ahead when we busy ourselves with tasks, mundane or exciting. Without realizing it, over four thousand years had passed as I moved among my mortals. Laku’s mortal population when I had arrived was no more than a few hundred thousand. Now it had reached over eight billion, and that number was still rising. As I had commanded of nature, they evolved. Most no longer used spoken words. Telepathy was as easy to them as breathing.

It was in this four thousandth year that I felt something change. It was subtle at first, no more than a gentle breeze. Yet as more time passed, I found myself struggling against the gale-force winds. Life had not only evolved within the rules of nature, but something else—something impossible—had sprung forth.

I raced across continents, losing corporeal form to avoid the laws of Laku’s gravity. She was on the other side, waiting for me. Back in corporeal form I found myself in the waiting room of a hospital. I glanced up to see the sign, maternity ward. My heart raced as I darted down the halls and burst into the room where she emerged. I knew when she opened her eyes. I knew. I knew.

Her mother smiled up at me, proud that the great Ahn would visit her during her difficult time. It broke my heart to know she wouldn’t last long. The daughter she’d born was impossible and impossible things destroy weaker beings. Only a god can survive the birth of a god. In a breath of a moment the mother’s smile faded, and her body stilled forever more.

The child, however was strong and healthy, and completely beyond the understanding of her handlers. I took her at once, without explanation and wisped her away to my home. (I had long ago claimed an island for myself on Laku, and on it I built an expansive fortress. No mortals argued or fought to take it from me. I was, after all, their creator.)

Ahntah, as I had named her, grew quickly. While she was born physically and in a corporeal body, she had the ability to be much more, and she knew it. She absorbed knowledge at a rate that astounded me. She touched parts of my soul with her beauty—inwardly and outwardly—and there ignited a flame. I had fallen in love.

It was another thousand years when Ahntah and I felt the winds again. Then five hundred years, then two hundred. Soon it became clear; Laku’s people were no longer simple mortals. There I stood with my mate, and thousands of her brothers and sisters. We were gods. Gods! In all of my existence I had never believed there could be more than just me, the lonely god in his dismal fortress.

Yet a singular problem remained. Though the Laku were now gods, there were still those drops of mortal in their souls. They knew hate and envy and rage just as much as they knew love and creativity and happiness. Ahntah was the first to say it aloud, and I nodded because I had known all along.

“They will fight amongst themselves and destroy this world and then your universe,” she whispered while wrapped in my arms.

“There is only one way to prevent it,” I answered.

We met one another’s eyes and reached out once more to the Everything.

Our universe shivered.

***

We exist as our universe’s only gods, Ahntah and me. The others have been granted their own universes and the capacity to create whatever worlds they wish. It is our job to ensure the gods born here are given the proper tools to create. As Ahntah once pointed out to me, our universe is the god factory.