I’ve been reading about something called Flash Fiction. Unbeknown to me, much of what I write may qualify as such. I say may because the definition varies from that of a story exactly 55 words long, to anything under a couple of thousand words. I’m playing it safe; the following is 762 words.
As often is with my writing, I get an idea for a scene, then I let it stew for a while as details gather from far and wide to form a framework propping up the scene. Once I deem the structure reasonably sound, I write it down.
This happens to be a larger idea than most, possibly giving me lots of material for future stories, and maybe even a short story. Then again, I am not an unbiased bystander; I happen to think my stuff borders on brilliance, with rich insight, subtle emotional nuances, and originality to boot. Yes, I know; the reality is probably a far cry from what I just described, but since the majority of my audience agrees with me (my audience being mostly me), I will stick to that view until someone does me the favor of giving me an honest critique of my work.
Anyway, here is my first official piece of Flash Fiction.
Ed saw it coming, the usual entourage following at a respectful distance.
Its deliberate pace up the path to the house gave Ed time to examine the presumed impenetrable shell hiding one the Wanderers, beings no one had laid eyes on. The composition of the material was unknown, but it was known it could withstand the blast of a low yield tactical nuke, about a tenth the power of Little Boy and Fat Man.
That was found out a few years ago, when the Wanderers first began landing all over the world. The result of the attack was half of North Korea and a small part of China slagged by what was theorized to be a microwave beam directed from orbit. The beam slowly and systematically “sanitized” a hundred miles diameter area centered where the weapon had been launched from.
The Wanderers did not call for orbital strikes when dealing with misguided people who shot, beat, or otherwise threatened the enclosures. People attacking the shells risked anything from a mild burn to a sizable hole courtesy of built-in lasers modern armies would willingly trade their left testicle for. Nearly unstoppable, on many occasion they literally walked through buildings; through walls, furniture, machinery, and anything that massed less than they did and was not made of solid rock. Concrete gave them pause, but on at least one known instance, a determined Wanderer breached a fortified military installation. Usually they just veered off and went on their way.
Eventually things settled down, humans begrudgingly learning to live with the Wanderers. All the beings did was walk around looking at stuff, or so people assumed. As often happens with these things, they developed followings, with people joining the Wanderers in their travels, much as happened to Forest Gump when he started running cross-country. Police or army personnel who tried to stop these followers met with the same fate as if they had tried to stop the being themselves. Soon it became clear . . . within line of sight of the beings one was reasonably safe from attack or threat. It also became clear one did not venture close to the beings unless approached by them; they could walk up to you, but you risked a laser hole if you approached them, and they did not discriminate between adults, kids, or animals.
Ed contemplated all this as he watched the being make its way to his porch. The followers had stopped a hundred yards away, many of them raising binoculars to get a better view of what was happening. Ed was old and tired. He had outlived many friends, and any family he cared for, and the thought crossed his mind this might be the end of his time on this rock. He was ambivalent about it; part of him feared what might happen, and part was ready to welcome the end if that’s what awaited him.
Ed reached for the coffee on the nearby table, and settled back on his porch bench. The being came to a stop at his side, the porch creaking under the added weight. The sun was about to set, the reason why Ed was out here in the first place, and he took his eyes away from the massive shell to gaze at the changing hues as the Earth slowly began to hide the sun from his gaze. The shell rotated 180 degrees in place, and appeared to settle some, looking to those watching as if it too sat to watch the sunset.
Minutes passed as the sun’s disk begun to disappear. A snap, followed by a hiss, got Ed to look back at the shell. A split appeared on the sides, and the front portion of the shell moved forward and began to raise. To his knowledge, no one had ever seen any of the shells do this. The exclamations of surprise from the entourage echoed his own astonishment and suspense as he waited to see what would emerge.
Later few could agree on what it was they saw. Some called it a blob, others discerned various shapes, and other still saw faces or semblances of various animals. Ed had the best seat, and he refused to speak of what he saw. One long look, and Ed turned to catch the last of the sun disappear. As twilight lost its battle with the darkness, he sat in silence next to the open shell. Then, just as the first stars appeared, the shell emitted a short steady beep, slowly closed, and shut down.
Ed knew it was now a tomb.