Category: Short Stories

An Amoeba Attacks

Author’s note: This story is based on the following writing prompt from A Jumble of Words: executive, amoeba, running, quietly, swift.


The amoeba assassin oozed through the door and crept past the security detail stationed at the first door, as it had done on countless missions past. But this mission was different from the others. It would be the most important job of its career, and regardless of the outcome, it would certainly be its last.

When you’re an Amoeboid, oozing is what you do. Walls are not the deterrent they are to humans and other solid organisms; they are pretty decorations easily circumvented through the tiniest crack. This ease of passage through otherwise impassable crevices is one of many reasons many of their kind turn to this kind of work. Many in the galaxies would – in a manner almost considered racist – attribute this to a corrupt, debased culture. But the Amoeboids do not see it this way. Pragmatically speaking, it would be foolish to squander such natural talents on anything but stealth infiltration and assassination.

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Queen of the Clouds

When the Queen returned, she did so golden and triumphant. From beyond the horizon, he could see it: the billowy and majestic force of nature known as the Nimbus. It announced its arrival to the land with a commanding thunderclap and a powerful flash of lightning from the heavens. The young man known as the Ribbon Boy looked upon it with a selfish gaze. He was the only one daring and foolhardy enough to climb the smooth pillars of Highrock Mountain, the peak of which gave put him level with the incoming ethereal skyship.

In appearance, it was an ordinary vessel no different in shape as the ones sailed at sea, save for the fact that it was made entirely of clouds and was soaring in the sky. Onboard, the Queen of his country had the helm and acted as captain to the country’s finest men. Two weeks ago, they departed as the citizens of the capital watched them disappear beyond the horizon in awe. There was a war on, and to quell the uprising in the east, she selected the strongest soldiers of the army and personally saw to it that peace would be returned to the region. The army itself hadn’t been mobilised in years; there was no need, not so long as the queen herself and her mighty ship made from clouds could sail the skies so effortlessly.

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Monsters of the Mind’s Own Making

The man stared out at the mysterious, majestic ocean before him with a cigarette in one hand and a steel-grey flask of whisky in the other. Entering his cone of vision and scattered across the sea to the horizon, terrible ash-creatures of unfathomable horror marched towards him. They were long, slender, sloppy, simplistic things. Their form defied reason or biological categorisation, almost like something out of a bored artist’s sketchbook.

Robert took another swig of the half-empty flask and shoved it back into his trenchcoat pocket. He took another long drag from his half-burnt cigarette.

They won’t get me. They can’t get me. They aren’t real.

Their flesh appeared to move and their mouths were ill-shaped maws with jagged, chaotic sets of teeth surrounding them. Their arrival was announced by the sudden halting of the rain storm and their screeching siren-like roar reverberating throughout the shore and presumably into the city as well.

But Robert couldn’t be bothered, or at least he was trying awfully hard not to be. He casually adjusted his hat so as to hide what few grey hairs he had left, as though it would make a difference when he was all alone on an empty beach on a rainy Saturday morning.

The gargantuan creatures that crawled from the ocean floor ceased to shamble and started to sprint. But Robert could not be bothered, because he knew this was his mind testing him, trying to trick him as it had his whole life.

“You aren’t real!” he shouted. “None of this shit is real!”

He immediately imbibed the last of the whisky and tossed the fragile flask to the floor, causing it to shatter into two big pieces and many little pieces. He had dealt with these hallucinatory creatures all his life, and though his family and many doctors sought to treat him, he never could be rid of them, not when reality and unreality are so similar.

But never before were the monsters and visions and creatures and hallucinations or delusions ever so fearsome. By now they were closer to the sand and he could see they had grown in scale since he first saw them. They were one hundred times Robert’s size or maybe bigger. But he couldn’t give them the time of day. He couldn’t give in to the delusion, because that would mean they win.

He opened his fingers and let the last cigarette drop. When it did, he stomped it with total indignation. Then, when the first of the monsters reached him, it scooped him up in its unfeeling hands and tore his body in half with its dull teeth all in the span of a second, not even giving Robert time enough to scream.

This time, the monsters were real.

Fall of the Bloodred Moon

Their world was nearly been devoured a century ago. When the Yellow Thing From Outer Space first arrived in their dimension, there was little they could do. YTFROS, as it came to be known, existed solely to devour flesh and consume life. It could not think or feel, at least as far as any of the scientists of Endless Horizons knew. Their planet being so far from the rest of civilised space, there was no hope for a distress call and little chance of a happenstance discovery. In all of its 112-year reign above the firmament, not a single ship would pass by. This was viewed as ironic by some; separation from the galactic community is what they always wanted.

The colonists of Endless Horizons were never any strangers to danger; they came to this world to escape the persecution of their homeland. On one end of the system, a black hole. Closer to their small red star, a dense ring of asteroids and planetary debris orbited around the system in a small circle just beyond their world, still visible from the planet with even a low-power telescope. Their own world’s own orbit was once empty, strangely free of any natural satellites. For decades, they looked upon the clear skies with vain hope for the future. For the later generations, every night sky served as a grim reminder of their lonely place amongst the stars. It was the constant threat of death hanging above us all, multiplied to a planetary level. For the Horizonists, it represented an existential calamity thought by as most to be implacable.

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Killing the Chosen One

The elderly master of the arcane scoured the battlefield tirelessly until at last, he had found him: the Chosen One. But the chosen hero of legend was not standing victorious over a mountain of orcish corpses. He was not standing at all. Instead, his body had fallen in a sad slump in the midst of the carnage amongst the others who had fallen in the raid. Cantor the Wise was stunned.

It came so suddenly that they scarcely had time to prepare. The great sorcerer Cantor had been a mentor to him for five years, and suddenly all of his work had been undone.

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The Shapeshifter’s True Self

Ciera’s great. An all around great girl, really. When she chooses to be. Not that she ever chooses not to be great. I mean to say that she sometimes chooses to not be a girl.

No, no, no. She isn’t genderfluid or transexual or anything like that. At least, I don’t think. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I’m just not sure what terminology applies to shapeshifters. Usually, Ciera takes the form of a girl. I certainly prefer that form, because I’m not the type who enjoys getting it on with cats or dogs or other men. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! It’s just not my thing. Now I know that might make me sound kind of picky, but I’m really not! I really do enjoy the myriad shapes and sizes of Ciera the Shapeshifter. Sometimes she’s a bit heavier set. Sometimes she’s just a little curvy. Other times she’s as thin as a supermodel. Occasionally she’s muscular and intimidating. She doesn’t seem to enjoy that form very much, but I get a real kick out of it! And sometimes she’s of average height and build, but with a pair of cat ears. She likes those. Don’t ask me why.

Most of the time, when we’re not doing the do or getting in the mood to do the do, she takes the form of a household dog. I have to say, it really creeps me out. She insists that I treat her as a dog whilst in dog form, but it weirds me out, to be honest. I want to, but giving commands to a powerful shapeshifter like that? I’d really rather not. Sometimes I’ll pet her, though.

About a month ago, she and I were sitting on the couch. She had, as per usual, transmogrified into a canine and nestled her head in my lap as we binge watched random shows on Netflix. Pretty typical Saturday afternoon. There was a sad look in her adorable puppy dog eyes, but I shrugged it off as it just being a dog thing. It was a seemingly pleasant day, but something had been eating at me for a long time. So I decided to try my luck with a question I had pressed a few times before.

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Trespassers in Her Place

The young girl and her critter creatures hung high from a suspended tree log above the great forest. Above her was only brush; below was a world of wonder. It was the only world she had ever known. The trees around her stood taller than the largest towers ever built by Man. Spiralling around them were staircases of wood. Yes, they were made of wood, for nothing was introduced into the forest, save for Man and their Machines.

But those things would leave in time. They were never permanent fixtures in this place, in the great and mighty and wondrous forest of eternal splendour. The forest’s floor was dotted with huts and shacks made of wood and twig and earth. Everything made by them in the forest was made from the forest itself. They did not take; they only reshaped and replaced.

The light shone through the leaves only in sporadic bursts, creating a dimly lit ambience. All around the trees and their spiral staircases were glowing embers, just bright enough to illuminate the darkness below the canopy. This was a place that was never dark, nor was it ever truly bright. It was… a pleasant dimness, but it was never difficult to see, for the forest broke apart and retreated into a vast meadow just to her south.

“This is my place.” She affirmed to herself.

It was now the time of day in which the sun would set in the south, causing brilliant rays of sunshine to peer through the edge of the forest. Beneath the girl, the forest was bisected by a thin river that ran the length of the entire wood itself. It was through this watery passage the foreign Men of the Grey Places would come. Some came to take. Some came to gawk. But none came to stay. On that day, there were three passing the steam all at once. Three boats! Typically they travelled alone, or on the odd day, two would happen to sail through on the same day at once. Three was a rarity, and she had never seen four or more though the elders speak of days long past when the Grey Men of the North sent great lines of boats in straight lines through the river. But this was a time before the little girl. Today, there were three boats in her ken.

She watched for a moment as the ships glided across the river like water striders. It was almost serene to her. But there was that feeling in her gut she could discern. There was a strange churning in her gut. From atop her swing suspended from the tree tops, they looked like logs floating downstream. But she knew this was only a deception. They were machines. They were the foreign devices of Man.

A great gust hit her back from the North, rocking her log swing ever slightly. Looking down, the young girl was filled once more with disgust. She could no longer bear the sight of the boats below. The wind had spurred her into action.

With a powerful heave, she swung the swing back against the wind, bringing it closer to the nearby platform. All in an instant, she lifted her legs from where they were dangling and mingling in the air and stood up on her two feet. She balanced atop the thin log as the critter creatures fled and leapt to the nearby tree. She leapt as well, landing squarely on the platform. Then the young girl lifted her skinny legs and sprinted straight across the platform and toward the wood bridge that wrapped itself around the trees and across the space betwixt them. Finally, she leapt off of the bridge, soaring briefly through the air before catching onto an upward sprouting root that had begun coiling about the bark. She did this all without breaking a sweat or showing even the slightest hesitancy, for this was a dance she had danced many times before. She was a girl of the greatest forest in all the land; their people could move about the trees with greater grace and skill than that of the critter creatures themselves.

She slid down the root and planted her feet on the terra firma once more. It was the first time her bare feet had touched the soil in a couple of days. Breaking into a sprint once more, those feet squished in the damp mud underfoot as she felt the cool breeze running against her cheeks. The young girl ran alongside the riverbank until she had finally caught up to the boat farthest back. Unlike the others, this one was lazily drifting along, leaving a faint trail of ripples behind it. This one was not propelled by any device or machine. There was a single person in the boat. It was a woman. Pushing against the stream rhythmically with a simple wooden oar, the woman hummed to herself. Annoyed, the girl of the forest waved and shouted at her.

“Hey you! Yes, I know you. You’re a Woman of the Grey Places. No doubt.”

The woman continued to hum and swayed in the breeze like the leaves falling all around them.

“Did I not catch your attention, Woman of the Grey Place?”

The woman looked up, pushing back her conical hat and revealing a face slightly wrinkled and a smile that was altogether warmer and brighter than sunshine.

“Why yes, you did, young one. But more than that. You caught my admiration.”

“Your what?” The young girl tilted her head as her face formed a puzzled expression.

“Yes, my admiration. I saw you dancing amongst the branches above, and now I must say, you’ve caught my admiration. Would you like to know what that is?”

The girl stood still as the ship continued to float downstream ever so slightly. Finally, she nodded her head in silence. The woman offered a hand and another smile, but the child rejected the gesture, choosing instead to leap from the forest floor and into the humble vessel. Her feet hit the deck with a loud thud, causing it rock wildly for a moment. The woman laughed as water splashed onto their shins.

“Now will you tell me what you mean, Woman of the Grey?”

She placed a firm hand on her shoulder. “Admiration is…” She paused and took a deep breath through her nostrils.

“It’s when you love something very much.”

“Then why didn’t you just say that?” The girl pushed the hand away as she spoke.

“Because it’s a different kind of love, dear. It’s a special love.”

The woman looked at the surrounding scenery wistfully. “This is a special place, after all. It’s a place that I admire. I hold it in my heart and remember it with great joy. From time to time, I like to sail through this stream, just to gaze at these woods. The trees are an awesome sight, when viewed from the river.

“Well, the Elders say this land used to be nothing but forest, that the Great Forest covered every inch of the world. Even the Grey Places!”

“Yes, I think there is some truth to that dear,” She said, not averting her gaze from the windswept leaves above. “My father came here too, in his youth. As did his father, and every father in my family. But they only came to take, I think.”

“Then why don’t you stay here if you love it so much?”

“Because this is not just love, my child. It is admiration. In time, that love would fade and the forests would cease to be a wonder but would instead become an old, tired familiar place. I want to admire this place only in passing. That way, it will always be a place of beauty in my heart.”

“Old and tired like you, you mean?”

The middle-aged woman chuckled to herself slightly. “Yes, I suppose that’s an accurate assessment. Tell me, did my presence here bother you?”

The young one her shook her head. She wanted to say yes, but suddenly that seemed to be the incorrect response. It felt as though all of the animosity and bitterness had left her at that moment. She found those feeling replaced with a burning desire. She sorely wanted to understand this “admiration” that the older woman carried in her heart. “Ma’am, where are you headed?”

“Towards one of the Grey Places, of course. Then it will be back again through the steam to return to my home.” “What is it like there?”

“Well, they’re large and sprawling and bustling and teeming and overflowing with all kinds of life!” The woman became animated as she described the places to her.

“Like the forest?”

“Yes, I… I suppose you could say that.”

The child looked up and stared into the woman’s face with a look of what could only be described as pure innocence. “Then, won’t you take me to one of these Grey Forests?”

The old woman’s smile never faded. She nodded but once and with that, the child’s face was teeming with pure happiness. She leant against the short wooden railing at the front of the craft and stared Southward into the setting sun. She had never felt this feeling before, of discontent and wonder. She wanted to see what lie past the vast meadow beyond the wood. She wanted to see the Grey Places and the large rivers past them.

“Tell me, Grey Woman, are there other forests like this one?”

“Yes, but there is no place in the world just like this. I think there’s beauty in every inch of the world. You’ll see it in the “Grey Place”, perhaps.“

The young girl’s eyes widened as the forest retreated behind her. Grassy meadowland lie ahead of her now.

“If I go to the Grey Place with you, you must make a promise.” The girl suddenly spouted, crossing her arms as she spoke.

“Oh, and what is that, my dear?”

“You must return and plant a sapling with me. I don’t think it’s enough to simply ‘admire’ this place. You shouldn’t just take or admire. You should give.”

“Perhaps you are right, child. Perhaps I too will contribute to our place.”

“I’d like that very much.” The girl’s voice took on a pleasant tone.

Far behind them, the village elder leant over the railing of a platform on the edge of the forest. The young girl would certainly miss the night’s dinner; and surely the breakfast after that; and likely the luncheon afterwards; and perhaps even the dinner of tomorrow. But he paid it no mind. This was a dance that had been danced many times before. Whether the young girl would return to stay in their place amongst the trees was ultimately her decision.