Saturday, September 12, 2009

Response to Last Week's Story Prompt

I just checked our e-mail, and it turns out someone sent in a story based on last week's prompt. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet and it was a little light on the sci-fi for my taste, but it seemed like a very interesting story. Anyway, here it is:

“Imogene, it’s this way” called my father as he and my mother started towards the stairs that led to the Crawler bays.
I looked up form where I had been standing on the monorail platform staring out at the tundra and started to follow them. There were a lot of people on the monorail platform, but at 17 I was tall and skinny so I slipped through the crowed easily. By the time I got there my parents had already been swept up in the crowd. Part of me wanted to just turn around and disappear into the crowd myself, but instead I started walking down stairs towards the Crawler bays.
The crowed started to thin almost as soon as I started down the stairs, and by the time I reached the bay I was the only one in the stairwell. That just goes to show how many people are smart enough not to want to leave the Dome.
My mother came rushing over to me almost as soon as I had stepped out of the stairwell, “Where were you? We turned around and you were gone. I’m not surprised though. That’s what happens when you walk around with your head in the clouds. Your father was all set to go looking for you, but I told him…”
I though about trying to explain that the landscape outside the dome had distracted me, but after 17 years I had learned that the best thing to do was just let my mother keep going. If I tried to say anything it would just draw her attention to the fact that I had been distracted by… snow.
Instead I just stood there and looked around me. I spotted my father standing next to a big guy with long curly hair. Behind them dwarfing them set the one of the Crawlers. It was basically a large heavily insulated box like container on equally huge treads. I had read somewhere that the crawlers where designed to withstand the -100 degree temperatures that existed outside the Domes while maintaining about room temperature inside, but I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to bet my life on that claim. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to bet my life on machine gun mounts that had been placed on each of the 10 crawlers, but I was slightly more confident in their ability to protect us from bandits than their ability to keep us from freezing to death.
“Imogene, are you listening to me?” asked my mother snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Yes, mother I was listening. I was just trying see where father was,” I replied covering for myself.
“He’s over there talking to Mr. Hogan. I honestly don’t know how you could miss your father given how tall he is,” said my mother as she started to lead the way over to where my father was standing. I reached down to pick up my duffle bag and my father’s anti-shay case from where I had set them, but when I reached for it the anti-shay case was gone.
I frantically started looking around desperately trying to see who had taken it. My father obviously didn’t have it, and my mother had given it to me to carry so she wouldn’t have taken it either. Then I saw it. A young man about my age had taken it and he was half was across the bay already.
“Excuse me, but that’s mine,” I said trying not to sound out of breath as I ran up to him.
“You’re only allowed one carry on,” he said as he looked me over.
“It’s my father’s. He asked me to carry it for him,” I replied stiffly.
“I thought you said it was yours,” he said with a sly smile.
Great, he was flirting with me, “Could I please have my case back. It’s very important.”
“Like I said one carry on only,” then with a wink he turned and started to walk away.
Without thinking I made a grab for it, but he was too fast for me.
“Hey,” he said pulling the case back, and holding it up high, “that wasn’t very nice.”
I knew I shouldn’t, but instead of listening to that part of myself I reached up and made a grab for the box. As his eyes followed that hand I struck out with the other hand punching him in the stomach. Before he could react I used the hand that had been reaching for the box to punch him in the face. As he started to stumble to the side he dropped his arm, and I reached out and grabbed the box from him. Then I took off through the little crowd that has started to gather around us.
“Imogene, where have you been?” scolded my mother as I suddenly arrived next to her.
“Sorry, mother I got all turned around,” I replied trying not to sound out of breath.
My mother started to reply but my father cut in, “Honey, maybe we should start settling in.”
She looked at him like he had two heads, but she nodded anyway, “Of course Mathew.”
With a wink in my direction my father took her arm and they headed towards the crawler. I picked up my bag, and still holding the case close I followed them on board.
Over the next hour I watched as Mr. and Mrs. Grayson, who were moving to Infinity to be closer to their grandchildren, Heather Ramon, who was a New Faith missionary, and Peter Cross, the driver, all came onboard.
The last person to come on board was the boy I had hit earlier. The Driver introduced him as Zane Ellis, our gunman, and when I glanced up at him from where I was sitting I noticed that despite the black eye he looked good. He was at least 6 feet with short dark brown hair and green eyes. His inso-suite was tight enough it confirmed my earlier guess that he was very… fit.
I tried to ignore him and go back to drawing pictures of the samples my father had shown me earlier in the week, but he was staring at me and it was distracting me. The Grayson’s came over and watched over my shoulder as I drew detailed pictures of mice from my memory. After a while my parents came over and started explained that my drawings showed how a new gene therapy they had developed to allow people to survive in the subzero temperatures that had existed on Earth for the past 200 years affected lab mice. I thought that he might come over then, but he just kept watching me. It made me uneasy having someone I’d punched an hour ago standing so close watching me, but I the only thing that I could think to do ignore him and keep drawing. In fact I spent the rest of the day drawing different colored mice, and to the best of my knowledge he spent the rest of the day icing his eye and pretending not to watch me.
It was the middle of the night, and I was lying in the snow dressed in my inso-suite when I heard a door swing shut.
“You aren’t supposed to be out here.” Zane said from somewhere above me.
“I know. I just needed a second,” I said trying not to sound startled as tucked my sketch pad back inside my coat and started to climb to my feet.
“If you knew then why’d you do it?” he asked suddenly surprising me.
“If you knew you weren’t supposed to then why did you come outside?” he clarified.
I knew how this would sound, but looked him in the eye and said it anyway, “To draw.”
“What?” he sounded even more surprised than I’d thought he would.
“I’ve never been outside of Serenity Dome before, and I wanted to draw what the sky really looks like,” I replied as I started to turn back.
“Hey,” he said surprising me again.
“What?” I said over my shoulder, not bothering to turn this time.
“Come on,” he said grabbing my hand and leading me over to the side of the Crawler.
He motioned for me to follow him as he started climbing up a latter that was fastened to the side of the Crawler. I hesitated for a second, but in the end I zipped my sketch pad inside my coat and followed him up.
He was waiting for me when I got to the top, and he reached out to help me over the low railing. I ignored his hand and climbed over myself. When I glanced up at him again he was smiling.
“You just won’t cut a guy a break. Will you?” he asked me seriously
I walked past him and set down with my back against the gun turret. It felt nice to be outside breathing fresh air, even if it was through an air filter mask.
Zane was still standing next to the railing staring at me. I patted the deck next to me with my gloved hand, “Consider this your break. I suggest you use it wisely.”
He smiled and set down next to me. He started to rap his arm around me, but something made him stop. Without a word I leaned over enough for him to put his arm around me. Then as he rapped his arm around me I leaned into him.
He looked at me surprised, and I whispered, “It’s easier to draw when I’m warmer.”
I was defiantly not warm a half hour later we when stumbled back into the Crawler. My fingers were so cold that I had couldn’t unfasten the hood from my inso-suite, but I’d never been happier.
Zane looked at me, shook his head, and reached out to help me with my gear. I thought about stopping him, but for some reason I let him. I think it was because I knew that if I said no he would back off, and honestly I didn’t want him too.
As he helped me undo my hood he leaned in close, and for a second my breath caught. I barely knew him, but still the thought of kissing him made me almost as happy as being outside had. I started to lean in, but then suddenly he eased my hood over my head and the moment was over.
The next morning I was sitting in the galley drawing, you guessed it, more mice when Zane slid into the seat across from me.
“Hey,” I said after a few seconds of waiting for him to say something.
“You drew this?” he asked as he put a drawing on the table between us.
I pulled the picture closer and looked at it. It was the one I had drawn last night after we had come back inside. It was of the two of us sitting curled up against the gun turret, “yes.”
“Why?” he asked as he reached out and took the picture back.
“I felt like I should do something to say thank you,” I replied even as I wondered if that really was why I had done it. At the time I hadn’t really thought about it, so yeah that probably wasn’t it.
“You drew it to say thank you?” he asked as he looked at me.
“Yeah, for letting me stay outside. Why did you think I drew it?” I said staring back at him still wondering the same thing myself.
“I don’t know. That’s why I was asking you,” he said as he leaned closer. I don’t know why, but I started to lean in as well.
Then as he took my hand there was a loud boom. A second later the Crawler started to sway, and I could hear things hitting the roof.
Zane was on his feet in an instant, and heading for the cockpit.
I got up and started to follow him, but my mother’s panicked voice stopped me, “What happened what’s going on?”
I turned to see her standing in the doorway to the sleeping area. Heather was standing behind her looking frantic. I stood there frozen for e second. I wanted to find out what happened, but my mother needed me to stay here.
In the end I moved over to her and rapped my arms around her, “its okay mom. Zane went to see what happened. He’ll be back in a minute to let us know.”
As if on cue I heard a all of the people in the room behind me start talking at once as Zane came in.
“Everything’s alright. Something happened to the lead Crawler. Hogan’s sending a team up there now to see what happened,” he said to the small crowd, and I let go of my mother as I turned to look at him, “we should be…”
But he never finished. Instead he was just standing there staring at my mother. I turned and looked at her. Heather had a gun pressed to the side of my mother’s head.
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen.” She said sweetly, and then to me she added, “Honey, if I were you I’d start to back away very slowly.”
I heard the words, but it just didn’t register, and for what felt like the longest time I just stood there. Then a noise to my left snapped me out of it, and just as Heather cocked the gun I threw out my arm. I caught my dad square in the stomach and he doubled over.
“Nice,” complimented Hearther, “Now, one more time. BACK UP!”
Then from outside a man’s voice ordered, “Out of the Crawlers, now!”
“Alright,” said Heather as she pushed my mother towards us and started motioning for us to pull on our gear, “Not that this hasn’t been… interesting, but you heard the man.”
In the books this would be where the heroes would overpower the bad gun an escape in the nick of time, but I doubted that that was going to happen here. With that scenario out of the way I wasn’t sure what exactly would happen instead, so I just did what everyone else was doing and stood there staring at Heather. That is until Zane nudged me and shoved my inso-mask into my hands.
I pulled the mask on and reached for my parka. As I pulled on my gloves Zane opened the door and stepped out. Instead of moving out of the way he stood in the doorway and reached out his hand to help me down. It might have seemed romantic if I hadn’t already realized that he was trying to block the bandit’s line of fire. Oh well, I guess that’s still kind of romantic.
When we were all standing in the snow a man with a very large gun ordered us to put our hands behind our heads. Then he and Heather started herding us over to where the passengers from the other crawlers were standing.
“Alright,” barked a man who appeared to be in charge once we were all lined up, “I’m going to keep this simple. The nice people with the guns are going to come around and tie your hands, and if anyone makes a move your former passengers will shoot you.”
As they moved down the line towards us I stood as still as I could. My father reached out and took my hand, but I just kept staring off into the distance. Even without looking at Zane I could tell that he was watching me trying to figure out if I was okay.
They reached Zane first, and one of the bandits reached up and pulled Zane’s hand down to start tying his wrist. As he did that Zane swung his other hand down under the bandit’s arms and sucker punched him in the gut. The man doubled over and Zane grabbed the man’s head as he drove his knee up into the man’s face.
Zane started to run away from the line and towards the line of Crawlers. For a second I hesitated, but then my father let go of my hand. Before I could think about it I took off after Zane. I heard something, and I knew they were shooting at us. But I kept running.
Then, suddenly with an oof noise stopped I knew that my father had tackled the person who had tried to stop me, and I knew what would happen next. I started to turn back, but Zane had grabbed my wrist and wouldn’t let me. From behind me I heard the shot. My mother screamed, and then there was another shot, then nothing.
I knew that they were dead, but this time I didn’t even try to stop. I didn’t even slow down. We ran past the Crawlers and into the gathering darkness, and this time no one tried to follow us. Why would they?
Even though no one was chasing us we didn’t stop running until our lungs were about to explode, and there were ice crystals forming on our air filters. I collapsed in a snow bank breathing heavily. Zane tried to pull me up, but I wouldn’t budge. I could already feel the cold seeping in through my inso-suit, but at this point I really didn’t care anymore.
“Hey,” begged Zane as he pulled at my arm, “Infinity is just through this pass, but we’ve got to keep moving.”
I looked up at him and thought about getting back up again, but he beat me to the punch as he sank down next to me in the snow.
This wasn’t going to work. I had looked at the maps before we had left Serenity, and if we were where I thought we were there was no way we were going to be able to walk to Infinity before our suites gave out and we froze to death.
For the first time since he had put it there I looked down at the full syringe my father had slipped in my hand while we were standing in line. So, what do you chose: freeze to death or inject yourself with an experimental gene therapy that was designed to alter a person’s genetics so that they could survive in subzero temperatures. Not a choice that I had imagined having to make.
I pulled back my air filter, and then I reached out and pulled back Zane’s as well.
“What are you doing,” asked Zane as he turned his head to look at me. Instead of answering I leaned over and kissed him. It was a strange kiss. The air was so cold that without my air filter to warm it it burned my throat, but at the same time I felt warm all over. As we kissed Zane started to relax easing us both back into the snow bank. When he was lying back I pulled away a little, and I drove the needle through his inso-suite and into his arm. He gasped and looked up at me shocked as I shot half of the serum into his arm. As the serum entered his blood stream he started to relax even more, and then he closed his eyes.
I took a deep breath and before I could talk myself out of it I drove the needle into my own arm. For a second I felt very tired, and then everything went black
When I woke up I was laying in a bed, and Zane was standing over me. At least I thought it was Zane, but he looked different. He had snow white skin and hair. The only thing that was the same was his eyes, but they were defiantly Zane’s eyes.
“Hey,” he said quietly when I opened my eyes.
I started to ask him what was going on, but I didn’t get a chance. As I watched he reached over and picked up a mirror from the bedside table, and handed it to me. I hesitated for a second, but then I looked down at it.
I looked so different. My hair was snow white, and all of the color had left my skin. Just like Zane the only thing that had remained the same was my eyes, but now they looked so sad.
I looked over at Zane who had set down on the bed next to me. Then I looked back at the mirror. I reached out and touched it with a finger hoping that the image would change. Instead a coating of frost spread across its surface obscuring my face from sight. Then the mirror cracked.

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