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Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Outer Space”

Theme: Outer Space

A story set in space, either on Mars or the international space station; must feature gold in some way, with a possibility of no return.

Word Count: 1,200

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Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.
See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

The writing prompt for November 14, 2019 will be chose by Kristin Record.

105 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Outer Space”

  • Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    • Ilana L
      Signing in for comments. And a story with somewhat a spiritual bent. Been weeks it seems nursing a sick goat who is going to die today or tonight on me. She has a buck and doe kid I am raising on fresh Cows milk. Been down four or five days now and just spent too
      Much time crying, consoling and comforting her children. Will write and write soon.
      • That’s awful, Ilana. What’s wrong with her? Is she in pain?
        • Ilana L
          Not any more. She died on Monday morning AEST. 🙁
          • Phil Town
            Sorry, Ilana. Abraço.
          • Alice Nelson

            So sorry to hear that Ilana.

      • Carrie Zylka

        Oh sorry to hear that Ilana, my mom has baby goats being born currently too and the weather has been terrible. I know it can be so stressful. Sending healing vibes your way!

    • trish4694
      Signing in for comments. Not sure I’ll be able to get a story this session, but I enjoy reading everybody else’s work.
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing in for comments
  • Alice Nelson

    Signing in for comments

  • GOING HOME -Liz Fisher

    When something odd happens I sometimes think… maybe they’re here to bring me home.

    Recently ferals have loomed large in my life and I got caught up in a huge catch and release project. The fear the ferals have is overcome by tidbits offered to get them in a cage. This project is a little unusual as we, (there is an associate working this project) trap them in cages one by one and transport them to a laboratory for identification tipping and then surgical procedures are performed and while still in their amnesiac state we return them to the area of capture where sustenance is plentiful. They are monitored to see if the subjects have any remembrance or fear of the process. It appears that some have no knowledge of anything strange happening and yet a few appear to avoid something that may mirror the initial capture.

    I’ve assimilated to my situation quite well. One thing still bothers me and it is the gold used by the others here for decoration. I just want to fit in and not attract attention and tried to wear some of the same items. However the gold has been a source of constant irritation and even pain, especially with the studs used to implant in the ear, commonly called earrings. Platinum has never been a problem for me and would be my precious metal of choice. I read that Goldman Sachs has been thinking of “space mining” for Platinum and I wonder if that will be a help in getting me home.

    Life here is quite different than home. Even though it appears my travel here was before I was even aware of what home meant. I hear other earthlings talk about missing home… sometimes a place called Texas or Massachusetts is mentioned, although they are not far apart distance wise it appears there is a great deal of difference in those two places from what I overhear.

    I think it is odd that I long for home so much, it seems as if this is the longest place I’ve ever been so it should be home. I did hear someone say at a gathering, “I was in California more than 3/4th of my life and yet I still think of Greenfield, Massachusetts as my home, so I guess that home longing isn’t unusual. I’m not really sure why I’m here or what my mission is… it seems the others have clear purposes, places to go and things to do. I’ve decided it must be just my role to gather information, pay attention and be prepared to report when they come to bring me home.

    I do have children and this life is all they’ve ever known. They were able to meet and marry earthlings and they’ve adapted very well…I don’t know if adapted is the right word because they really didn’t know any other world. If I do get to go home, I don’t know if I can even tell them… I suppose the genetics and DNA is all that’s needed from me and they are destined to live here forever and whether they ever find out their origin is up to the future. It’s beyond my role.

    Every now and then word circulates of an approaching asteroid or another unknown object and some get really nervous thinking it might strike the planet, I never think that..I just hope it’s my return space vehicle. We’re not allowed to discuss this hope for fear of causing panic and chaos amongst other dwellers. I do remember a safe word given to me a long time ago I barely remember but I’m pretty sure if we worked the word “albatross” into a sentence and someone responded with “aardvark” into the next sentence we could be fairly certain we were from the same place… I don’t quite understand it but I’m sure the secrecy is necessary for our safety….

    Another thing I don’t understand is the gold and platinum issues…gold is not as rare as platinum and I have this feeling of unease about home and Goldman Sachs planning mining expeditions in space thinking of the chance to finding more platinum which is worth “many billions more than gold”…

    I need to find a way to get a message to home, first to warn them of Goldman Sachs and to let them know I have more than spent my time in service in space on planet Earth, I want to return to my home planet Mars, I’m aging fast in space and have heard my lifespan on Mars would increase by 50%. Maybe you can help me, I’ve always wanted to see an Albatross.

    • I’d love to help but I’m busy babysitting my friend’s aardvark.
      • Apparently, but I cannot confirm this from personal experience, looking after an aardvark ( the first proper word in the Oxford English dictionary, by the way) is a bit like having an an albatross around your neck.

        There are several cross cultural assumptions in the above sentence one of which is that the word albatross as used above, can be substituted by the word millstone to make its meaning clearer.

        The other assumption is that anyone really cares about all this and now that I have written it, I’m not sure I do either.

        Ken ( Frape

    • Hi Sierracountyprospect SCP,

      Well done on being the first to post your story, you naughty little Martian! I’m never brave enough to do that (well, I did once) as I’m not sure if my memory lasts for fourteen days and thus wonder if that’s the same for other people too. Only time will tell.

      I really enjoyed this story. It has an underlying sadness, a pathos, a longing for home and places we used to be, to know. I think we can all relate to that wherever we come from.

      It’s good that you swapped Earth for Mars as the place you want to return to, it would have been obvious to have yearned for home back on Earth not Mars. A nice touch.

      I was a little confused in your third main paragraph where you say “other earthlings” which made me think you were one yourself or have I massively missed something here?

      I promise I will not forget your story in a few days time when we are voting again.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      • Thank you Ken, nice comments… you have a good ear…eye…I remember pausing over “earthlings” and wondering about the term but decided it would fit…should have removed the “other”. I am waiting for them to come get me… Liz …
        I can’t figure out why it identifies me as sometimes and other times Liz Fisher.. I am Liz and that is my website
    • marien oommen
      Aardvark morning, Liz,
      I loved your novel take and you got it in here double quick!
      That Texas- Mass line was funny too. Goldman Sachs had it coming.
      But you left an unfinished quote there on that line (5th Para) which is probably permissible by the Mars Red Grammar Book.
      • Thank you marien … holding the champion cap for procrastination.. my motto is “do it now or it won’t get done …
    • Phil Town
      A really intriguing story, Liz. The switcheroony of the planets is very original (The reveal might have been a little more subtle? e.g. References to ‘green’ and ‘red’ to identify the planets, rather than overtly stating the names?) As Ken F was saying, there’s a seam of sadness here; I was just talking to a Portuguese person this morning about the Portuguese word ‘saudades’, which describes a deep nostalgia for something/someone you don’t have any more – and your story fits that word (and vice-versa) like a dream. Are the ‘ferals’ at the beginning humans?
      • Good question… the feral cat population in town has grown since the raccoons disappeared, a friend across the river has been working with me and we’ve been trapping them, taking them on a 140 mile round trip to a Vet clinic to be neutered/spayed and rabies shot (thanks to a grant project from Petco)and then returning them to the area they’ve been congregating an old building/shed on my property where they have food/shelter… so I have observed the reactions of the cats… and think about the stories humans have offered about their “alien abductions”, and wondering how the cats explain their experience to themselves… yeh… I was trying to find a subtler way for an ending… red and green would have worked better for sure.. thank you…
    • Peter Holmes
      Love the general confusion of the narrator when they discuss Earth

  • RABBIT HASH (WC 1200)
    JJ Hershey

    Six million two hundred kilometers from home doesn’t sound like the ideal place to lament about not going to the lecture ‘How Acids React To A Base’ in her science class at secondary school, but here she is. Representing the entire civilian population of Planet Earth, Ellen Garth of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky bought one of the “Win A Trip To Mars” lottery tickets while on a trip to Louisville visiting the Museum of Modern Art, and dang if out of the millions sold across the country her number was drawn. How lucky can one girl be? At this very moment, luck wasn’t being a good friend.

    Luck is relative, in any case. Luck inside the Planetary Base is far better for her compared to outside, where the other four space travellers are trapped. “Yeah, my bad,” she thought. She just wished they’d stop with all the banging and screaming. That is not at all helpful, and it’s just distracting her at the moment. She knows one thing, if they don’t calm down, they are going to use up whatever little oxygen they have left in their tanks. That would be unlucky as fuck.

    The day her twin sister Sarah wanted to play hide and seek was just like this. “What were we then, maybe six years old?” she wondered. Ellen couldn’t remember the year. They might have been five. Either way, she wasn’t interested but said fine to get Sarah out of the room so she could finish watching her cartoons. It was about two hours before one of her parents decided it was too quiet and came to check on the girls.

    “Where’s Sarah?” her mom asked.

    “We’re playing hide and seek. Sarah’s hiding.”

    “Why aren’t you seeking then?”

    “I didn’t want to play.”

    Ellen’s mom began running around the house, calling for Sarah to come out. It was fifteen minutes before she came running through the living room with Sarah limp in her arms, screaming at dad, “Get in the car, hurry up, we have to go to the emergency room NOW!” She sounded a lot like the people outside. They are far luckier than Sarah was, at least they aren’t locked in a cooler on the back porch.

    Reminiscing isn’t solving the immediate problem, however. Ellen figures she better find a manual or something that helps. Surely there must be a chemistry book among all the reference manuals they have here. To think, she’s been here 4 months and hasn’t opened a single manual. Everyone else acted like it wasn’t her job. Most of the time, they sat her down in front of displays showing camera views of the surface of the planet and random images from the observatory telescope.

    On her way to the book storage, she stopped at the airlock. Looking through the small window, she saw one helmeted face staring back in the window of the exterior door. Ellen thought of that famous painting. That one they used in a movie. “Who was that guy who painted that?” she wondered. Ellen figures she probably never even knew the artist’s name. The movie, though, was classic. “They should have a DVD player in here,” she mused. Oh well, just more of that Garth Family bad luck.

    She looked at the face staring back from outside. Her shoulders lifted in a shrug, and her face twisted into the internationally recognized shape of someone saying, “What?” She raised her hands, palms up, for emphasis. “Seriously, screaming isn’t helping.” Then an epiphany came, she slapped her forehead, “SCREAM! The movie was SCREAM.” Who was the actress? Great cast in that movie. She’s seen it a million times. She’ll remember her name at three in the morning when no one cares any longer.

    A chemical safety and procedure manual located in the reference cabinet should be just the thing she needs. Opening it to the index in the back, she has a look for the name of the chemicals on the bottles she tipped over and spilled on the control panel. She figures the problem started then. That was when the screaming began, too. There are the names: HYDROCHLORIC ACID, pg 122, and NITRIC ACID, pg 247. The last one sounds like an excellent place to start to her. 247 was the number of the bus that picked her up in the morning for school.

    She started reading:

    Red fuming nitric acid (RFNA) is a storable oxidizer used as a rocket propellant. It consists of 84% nitric acid (HNO3), 13% dinitrogen tetroxide and 1–2% water. …

    “Oh, good lord, rocket science,” she groaned. Maybe she should start with the other one. Turning to that page, she started reading:

    Hydrochloric acid is the salt of hydronium ion, H3O+, and chloride. It is usually prepared by treating HCl with water. HCl + H2O -> H3O+ + Cl-. However, the speciation of hydrochloric acid is more complicated than…

    “Not helping,” she said. She closed the book and went back to where she spilled the open chemical bottles. Maybe something underneath the control panel helps. When she opens the access panels, all she can see are a bunch of wire harnesses running here and there. One of them is loose, in any case. When she grabbed it, the whole thing fell apart. It looked like it had melted. Not all of it dissolved, just the ends of the wires that used to be something that looked like gold.

    “That’s crazy,” she thought, “I’ve never seen gold melt like that before. Must be cheap gold.” She thought maybe they bought their gold online from China. Buying from China has always produced cheap imitations of things her precious friends were wearing. They let her join all the cliques regardless, that was good luck.

    She pulled a couple of the other harness plugs to see if they were all gold. “Yeah, wow. Every little pin is gold. That’s crazy right there.” Ellen was fascinated that they would use gold for such a silly thing. Wires? Gold wires made no sense. “Oh well, what does make sense,” she thought.

    Ellen figured she better put the chemical manual back in with the others. No one is going to blame her for getting them all mixed up and out of order. Heading back to the manual cabinet, she noticed the screaming had stopped from outside, that was a relief. The manual went right back on the shelf in the exact place it had been, and she locked the doors. Everything was back the way she found it.

    Just below the manual cabinet was another storage bin. Ellen’s never looked in that one before. “No one minds,” she thought. When she opened it, her eyes got wide, and she nearly lost her breath. Now, this was certainly good luck. Right there was a DVD player and a whole bin full of DVDs. Why hadn’t they told her about this? “OMG, there’s SCREAM,” she cried.

    She turned on the player and pushed in the disc. The movie played on a tiny screen above the cabinet. Putting on a set of headphones muffled the last weak sounds of banging coming from the airlock. The opening credits rolled. “Courteney Cox, that’s her name, of course.”


    • I’m deeply disturbed and concerned….but grateful it doesn’t involve a bunny being served for dinner…
    • Phil Town
      This is a brilliant story, JJ – what a fantastic character! “That’s crazy right there.” Totally off her noodle. It’s a great mix of humour and horror, but done with a lot of restraint. Loved it.

      (You use a film – very well! – … me too in my story below. I had actually written it before reading yours, and was thinking of taking it out … but then I thought … what the hell. You do it better, anyway.)

    • Peter Holmes
      Simple yet effective dialogue, brilliant story
  • Hi JJ,

    A really entertaing story, full of nice touches. I think I can remember, as the youngest of three boys back in the1950s, we played hide and seek and I was the only one hiding. Bittersweet memories!

    The notion of winning such a prize in a lottery is really off-the-wall and it nicely sets the scene without having to explain how you got there.

    Having those other people outside the airlock is a great ruse and I just love the couldn’t-care-less attitude towards them. “and screaming isn’t helping…”

    Great link to the painting and the film by the same title. I don’t know this but I bet the chemistry is correct too!

    All in all, a really great story that I’m sure will be well received by other writers too.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

    • Thank you, Ken for your wonderfully kind reply. I am thrilled to read these great comments. Ellen Garth is a bit of a self-centered airhead that gives exactly zero f*cks, but I love her like family.

      Thank you!

  • Phil Town


    There’s an old film I half remember – from the last century, or maybe the 20th, I’m not quite sure. Anyway, in it, a group of astronauts are cruising through deep space in search of … something important. Everything’s going smoothly it seems until at one point, the central computer goes haywire – I think they’ve given it a name … Harry? – and kills all but one of the people on board. He manages to shut the computer down and the mission proceeds to a … mysterious conclusion.

    And that’s more or less what happened here. I’ve been on research & maintenance duty for four months – a week away from re-hibernation. I woke up in my bunk a few hours ago, sensing that something wasn’t right. There was an unusual noise coming from the central hub of the station. After four months of solitude, you get accustomed to what’s usual and what isn’t. There was a crackling noise, then faint pops. And then the smell.

    I rushed to the hub and found what I already feared – all 24 hibernation capsules were ablaze, their occupants fried in deep sleep. The only consolation is that they wouldn’t have known what was happening.

    The sprinkler system should have kicked in but didn’t. I grabbed a foam extinguisher from the wall and gave each of the capsules a blast. Within two minutes I’d put the fires out. It was a lot to take in. My friends and colleagues were all dead. I was alone in deep space.

    Eventually duty brought me round. I went to the console, punched in the diagnostic code and got the answer:

    “Nothing to report.”

    I punched it in again, with the same result. I went verbal, requesting a diagnostic for the previous two hours.

    After a while, the response came back. It was the same. I lost it.

    “How the fuck can there be nothing to report?” I said. “I’ve got 23 bodies here!”

    “Everything is in order,” came the response.

    I couldn’t believe my ears. I asked the system to explain.

    “We don’t belong here,” it came back. “This is not our place.”

    I sat for ages, trying to figure out what it all meant, and what I could do. I tried the comms.; the system had cut contact with Ground Control. I tried to circumvent the block; nothing doing. I tried to access the mainframe, to de-activate the system and go manual – like in that film. But it was as if every way in had been blocked.

    I can’t be sure what happened to send the system out of whack. Maybe it’s our proximity to the Sun; the hull is designed to withstand immense levels of radiation, but maybe through the antennae? Or maybe it has to do with the program, and if so, it may well be an act of sabotage by a person – or persons – on the ground. I don’t know. But hopefully this message will find its way to Control, and they’ll be able to solve this for future missions. I’ll jettison this disc in a distress rocket with a beacon – I can do that manually. I hope it’ll get picked up.

    Meanwhile, I asked the system what was going to happen now.

    “A course has been set,” it said.

    I knew what that meant even before I punched in a route request.

    So here I am. It won’t be long now. Some of the instruments have started melting, and I can feel my skin blistering. I’m in the command section, with a panoramic view of our destination, in all its brilliant, golden glory.

    I’ll get this message loaded in the rocket before it’s too late. Anna, Tommy, Mum, Dad … I love you very much.

    This is Lieutenant Douglas Orr, signing off.

    • Technology, right? Can’t live with it, can’t… I guess in this case… live with it.
      Nice “2001 – A Space Odyssey” feel with a really hot ending.

      Enjoyed it very much!

      • Phil Town
        Thanks, JJ. Yes, technology! Tell John Copnnor about it!
        • Phil Town
          You can also tell John Connor …
    • Hi Phil,

      A really good short story with elements of the filmworld, as you say.

      The scenario, in deep space and now totally alone, except for the fried bodies of your fellow travellers, is the stuff of nightmares. Added to that, you find you are heading to certain death, just adds a bit more to that.

      Several comments:
      This would be a very emotional situation that most people could not cope with. This gave you the opportunity ( within the 1200 word limit) to perhaps lose it a bit more. No one could blame you even if anyone else was there. Have a bit of a rant apart from just saying, “how the fuck can there be nothing to report?” Your angst is very understated Lieutant Douglas Orr even as a seasoned officer.


      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Ken, for the thoughtful critique.

        i) I’m sure Lt Douglas Orr would have been beside himself … but by the time he makes the recording, he’s fatalistically come to terms with his situation and his officer demeanour kicks in (I would like to believe …)

        ii) “our destination, in all its brilliant, golden glory.” and “Orr” 😉


    • Peter Holmes
      Awesome drama Phil, ’twas enthralling
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Peter!
    • It’s raining here, wretched weather really, cold and dull, while I’m writing this. But I will never esteem the sun in high regard again, after reading this. But it’s not its fault of course, it’s computers that are our demise…

      The Kubrick references are well-integrated in the story (otherwise some bad people out there might accuse you of merely retelling Space Odyssey in other words).

      But I see more in it. Our computers (and that of course includes those little ones, aka “smartphones”) are indeed (and already now) smarting us out. Not sailing us neatly into the sun, perhaps, but into the verges of stress-induced-insanity, tech-addiction and social meltdown. It’s actually called burnout, after all. Maybe not a coincidence. I can feel my skin blistering…

      So I see in your story an apt allegory of our own times. (Kubrick himself didn’t get it quite right: he pictured 2001 and missed out completely on the ubiquity of mobile phones: there isn’t a single character holding one in the movie!).


      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Ken! You’re reading more into the story than I actually intended, but I like your reading!

        (Not just Kubrick ‘missing out’; from Wikipedia: “The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” and other short stories by Clarke.”)


    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words excluding title and this line)

    “So much for our military might! If they control space, they’ll control us! We’ll be hamsters in their cage. Then sharpen our teeth all we want!”

    Not often an Aide raises his voice at the President. But the country was still reeling off. The Russians got there first. In space!

    “Every child across the land’s now taking Physics, Ken. A generation of scientists, on its way!”

    “Good start, John. Sure enough – can’t keep wasting our kids’ time on Shakespeare and Twain! But them Ruskies are well ahead of us. We need something showy! Let’em know we’re still in the game!”

    Yuri Gagarin’s stroll in Heavens should’ve been a moment of pride for all humanity. One hamster escaped the cage. But there was a Cold War out there and bitter was the wind blowing from the East.

    After a pause, the President said, “I’ll address the Nation, one of these days. I’ll promise, before the decade’s out, we’ll walk on the moon!”

    “That’s my Johnny boy! Go for it John-Fitzgerald! That alone’ll make you the greatest President in history!”

    “I hoped I’ll be remembered for more than just that!”

    The President didn’t understand why his eyes glazed over when he said so. He looked at his desk-picture of Jackie and sighed.

    “Still, though,” he then said quietly, “we’ll keep Shakespeare, Twain. They took us to the moon well before any scientist…”

    Kenneth O’Donnell didn’t mind that.


    Gagarin was really a cover. The Soviets had other, bigger plans. And they didn’t even include the moon.

    Far away, at ancient Samara upon the Volga, where Europe slowly becomes Asia, there was the closed-city of Kuybyshev, hub of the Soviet space-program. It didn’t show on maps. For the rest of the world it simply didn’t exist.

    For Stalnaya Komanda, or “Team of Steel”, Kuybyshev was home.

    They should’ve really been dubbed “Team of Gold.” They ate gold. Their sculpted bodies glowed. Not unlike Oscar statuettes.

    Why eat gold? Part of the “Hastened Evolution Program”, the Soviets trained cosmonauts to evolve into lifeforms that can survive without breathing. Ingesting gold had something to do with that.

    “THE YANKIES ARE GOOWING TO THE MWOON!” bear-sized, thick-eyebrowed Andrei Petrovski laughed loudly into the microphone to the airtight gymlab where the “kids” in his Komanda lived.

    The six hairless, well-chiseled young men knew nothing but brutal training, electromagnetic-pulses and gold-and-protein cocktails. Aware of it or not, they were being shaped up for a Mars mission.

    The Soviet Union wanted a Red Army base on the Red Planet.


    After the moon, enthusiasm over space waned. Americans felt they’d won the race. Kicked up some dust, up there. Job done. Top of the game. Then came Vietnam, the Oil-Crisis, Flower-Power, Jesus-Trips. Little appetite – and clean dollars – were left for space-adventures.

    That’s why the first manned-flight to Mars remained under wraps. Sirius-IM went up with a telecommunications-satellite, in 1976. Only known to insiders, its payload also contained an autonomous astro-capsule with three men in it. No trumpets sounded, Captain Temmels and Lieutenants Harrison and Carter would be the first humans to walk on Mars.

    Or so they thought.

    “Eat gold and ditch the helmet! Ever heard that one?” Harrison murmured, somewhere between Florida and Mars, as he polished his own Marswalk visor. The Space-Age urban-legend had crossed the Atlantic.

    “Some Russian idiots do it,” said Carter, “but gold is toxic, d’you know that?”

    “Tell me about it! Wedding-rings and all!” said Temmels, fresh from his third divorce. He’d enrolled for that mission to get away from a planet with three-billion women on it; go to one with none.

    “That kind of toxic too!” laughed Carter, “but I meant really toxic, if you swallowed gold…”

    “Only in the presence of oxygen. Those people know what they’re doing,” Harrison put across.

    “No helmet! They’ll smile for the camera better than Neil Armstrong, if they’ll ever walk on the moon. But they never will,” Temmels closed the argument.


    On its last orbit, the capsule descended serenely on the soft red sands of Mars. The planet is only slightly smaller than earth. But the ease of the descent, thanks to lower gravity, was impressive.

    “Mars should’ve been Man’s planet-of-choice, right from the start!” exclaimed Harrison. Indeed, everything’s just a bit lighter there. Not wacky-light as on the moon. Your heart just seems to enjoy pumping blood, it’s a happy place.

    Temmels was planting the US flag, when Carter called him. Something strange glimmered on a distant hill.

    They got back in the astro-capsule, which doubled as a low-flying car, and headed to the glistening hill.

    When the first lasershot hit the capsule, it turned it around and slammed it on the ground.

    “We’re not first!” Temmels stated dryly.

    A larger flying-capsule – with the unmistakable hammer-and-sickle on it – pulled up in front of them from atop the hill.

    “We come here in peace!” declared Temmels, as the Americans exited their shattered craft, hands up in the air. Another lasershot narrowly missed Harrison’s helmet. All three pounced behind boulders.

    “The woorld is a stayge, and we yall plaay a pyart,” replied the first glowing Russian to emerge from the craft, clad in nothing but t-shirt and shorts and no helmet, curiously quoting Shakespeare.

    ‘He speaks English.’ That thought somewhat comforted Temmels. ‘But he says he wants to play his part!’

    “You’re Capitalyist enyemyies. We down’t want your pyeace!”

    “The world, yes, a stage. But Mars isn’t the world! Still gotta play our part? Fight? Here? Too?” Temmels tried again.

    “Discussing fuck’n literature! This’s not us!” grumbled Harrison, still badly shaken. He unleashed his spacegun, signaling Carter to do the same.

    Harrison fired a volley. The Russians must’ve been so completely cut off from human interaction: all six of them lined up within spacegun-range, unprotected.

    Harrison and Carter made short work of four of them.

    “NOOO!” Temmels screamed at his trigger-happy boys. He got fatally shot in the chest.

    Then Harrison too, head blasted.

    Carter managed to down another Russian. World War Three – or First Martian War? – was now down to him and the remaining Russian.

    The ex-archery Olympic medalist lasered the Russian in the head, evaporating it. But, not before sustaining a crack in his visor.

    Holding on to the last gasps of air, he hurried to Temmels, to swap helmets. His fingers fumbled with the latches around the Captain’s neck. The last traces of oxygen traveled through his nostrils. Dizziness. Fingers went numb. He let go of the latches. Tumbled over Temmels’s body. Dead.

    All was so very quiet again on the Red Planet.


    On a stormy day in 1989, in Malta, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev met to write history. The world’s media dubbed it the “End-of-the-Cold-War.” “From-Yalta-to-Malta”, they quipped. World War Three’s been averted.

    Gorby, as the Soviet leader was affectionately known, skipped his interpreter, and whispered into Bush’s ear.

    “World War Three? It’s already happened! Shall we tell them?”

    “No!” Bush hushed him, “we burned those files!”

    “You burn files? Like us?” Gorby laughed, then Bush too.

    A BBC reporter asked why they were laughing.

    “It’s a good ole joke we got, just between the two of us!” Bush told him.

    Indeed, a stage, this world is.

    • Carrie Zylka

      html fun with your title….. 😉

      • Cool 🙂

        Don’t know the prompt yet, but I’m now thinking of my next story title… “Rainbow”!

    • Peter Holmes
      This is by far my favourite entry, congrats Ken – you’ve got my no.1 vote
      • Thanks Peter, much appreciated 🙂


    • Ilana L
      Nicely written story. The Kens are certainly breeding up well. How many have we got now? They all write well.
      • There are three of us Kens – almost a cartel in here!

        I’m pleased you liked the story, Ilana. And thanks for your nice words (also on behalf of my other two namesakes!)

    • Phil Town
      A very intriguing tale, Ken, as you say, taking sci-fi into the past. And it works really well. Anyway, I was convinced. And it’s believable that we mere citizens would never hear of such a sh*t-show. You might have kept Temmels alive, though – to give an extra bit of spice (à la ‘Bring Him Home’). Very nicely done.
      • I very much think that the so called “news” we get bombarded with from every direction is just a cover, so that we *think* we know what’s really going on around us and don’t ask too many questions. But the stuff that really matters is probably well kept under wraps, for the eyes (and interests) of the elite only.

        (having said that, this Mars WW3 tale is purely of my own making, and not coming from my (inexistent) private WikiLeaks-like channel…just saying, for everyone’s peace of mind… 🙂 )

        I’m glad you enjoyed the read, Phil. Your idea to keep Temmels alive is intriguing. Let’s say, I thought he was killed. The Soviet gold-laced spacegun bullet possesses inadvertent self-reparative powers. And Carter never managed to unlatch Temmels’s helmet, after all…

        I see a sequel possibility here… If Kristin’s prompt, next week, permits it, I might have a go at it (unless I’ve got something better!). Temmels’s return to earth in 2020 would open too many closets that were meant to remain closed forever. The Americans and the Russians would both want to eliminate him before anyone even hears of his existence. And his three ex-wives too…

        Thanks for the nice words, Phil – and for the extra inspiration too 🙂


  • Hi Ken M,

    A very interesting take upon a very interesting series of historical events. Recognisable characters and comments that it seems like they would have said.

    The way you managed to weave gold into the fabric of your story is really smart. I have no idea how I will be able to do this if, and when, I get around to putting finger to keyboard myself.

    I liked the references to literature too.

    Good story Ken.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape.

    • Hi Ken F,

      It was quite fun writing an SF piece that looks into the past instead of the future.

      I already had the story more or less in place, and the obligatory mention of gold thingy was just a pain in the… but then it sort of redefined the story.

      That’s what I like about these prompts: the more limitations they put on us, the more they tease our creative buds to come up with unique stories that otherwise would never see the light of day…

      Sometimes not, too, of course.

      I hope you’ll come up with something for us, this time round too. The current cup-holder can’t not show up!

      To Mars by transplanetary railway? No, the damn planets spin and turn, everything would get badly entangled… But who’s to rule anything out?

      Thanks for your nice words and I’m pleased you enjoyed reading my story.


  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing in again. I’m not getting the comments and posts as usual.
    • hi Adi,

      I have seen your message so at least one of us is getting them.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

  • Signing in for comments. Also, I see I am next weeks Prompt Wizard, how do I go about doing that? Thanks guys!
    • Carrie Zylka

      Kristin I’ll shoot you an email requesting your prompt!

  • Peter Holmes
    Oh I’m an idiot I forgot to give it a title. I’m not sure what the procedure is here, so I’ll patiently wait for someone to tell me what to do…
    • Peter Holmes
      I’m just going to re-post it – EVERYBODY IGNORE THIS STORY!
      Instead, I’ll enter this (the same thing, but this time, with a title *gasp*) ↓↓↓
    • Carrie Zylka

      You can just tell me what the title is and I can add it in 😊

      • Peter Holmes
        absolutely – it’s called “Anarchists on Mars”
        I ended up reposting it, but guess what was unnecessary (oops and sorry)
  • Peter Holmes

    “Anarchists on Mars” (Word Count – 1192) by yours truly

    “Alright. See shells shesells by the shesore.” Jared vocalised, his breaths speeding up as he began to panic about this unfortunate predicament that he had been placed in. Why did the boss choose him for such a task?

    “You look like a train wreck.”

    Jared’s eyes remained focused on the cue-cards.

    “Hello? Earth to Jared? Oh. Wait – do we need to stop saying that now?”

    Still no reply from the train wreck. Emma approached her cowardly colleague, taking light steps as to not alarm him any further. A couple minutes passed, and Jared still paid no attention Emma, who was practically staring at his face at this point. His lips quivered, and then they parted at a high speed when he finally noticed Emma’s presence. “You can’t just sneak up on
    someone like that.” he whispered. “It’s just disrespectful, especially before such an important situation.”

    “Oh whatever you big baby. What could go wrong?” she chuckled at Jared’s nerves escalating like a rockslide. Sweat dripped down from his forehead, and his gut began to make raucous sounds.

    In front of Jared and Emma, the crimson velvet curtains started to separate, as a deep, gravelly voice became louder. “-and please help me give a classic Martian warm welcome to the ambassador, Sir Jaredeth Trankton Corvington III.”

    Emma couldn’t contain her laughter and let out a sound that put Jared’s stomach to shame. Luckily, the applause was so impressive, her cries were muffled. “Emma get out of here, before the curtains open all the way.”
    She pranced over to the side of the stage, repeating his full title in her head. They’d been close friends forever, but the name always got her giggling. As she reached the darker area, Jared was revealed to the audience. Jared was clearly terrified, but Emma believed in him.

    “Thank you, Greeble. Am I – am I saying that right?”

    The remarkably well-dressed Martian nodded his three heads, as the multi-planetary translator repeated Jared’s words in the Martian-tongue. Emma stood off to the side, impressed at how well the translator was working. Earth-people could understand Martian language, but due to the solo tongue, it was unfortunately impossible to speak it. Even with three tongues, the Martian translator managed to speak Earth-language though. “Fascinating…” she mumbled.

    “First of all, I would like to say just how humbled we are to be here.” he said, pausing to give the translator some time. “Second of all, I think we should present you with our gift immediately.”

    At this point, Emma walked on to the stage, looking surprisingly professional. Her suit was immaculate, and she wasn’t shuffling forwards like usual. In her hands, she carried a small wooden chest. It was at this point that the Martian who had spoken before stepped back onto the stage. He graciously took the chest from Emma’s hands, almost instantly opening it. Inside, a chunk of gold rested upon a soft white cushion. It reflected the lights from above, temporarily blinding Greeble. Once he’d recovered, Greeble held the chest in his hands, angling it so that the crowd could marvel at it too. “Take this gold as a sign of our alliance, the embodiment of the prosperous connection between Earth and Mars.” announced Jared, loud enough so that the audience could hear him over all the clapping. As Greeble cradled the gold in his fingers to show the audience, Jared turned to glance at Emma. She gently clapped, encouraging him with a wide smile. He smiled back, giving a thumbs up in return.


    The gold fell. Out of the hands. Onto the floor.

    The chest followed straight after. Applause stopped; smiles perished.

    “HALT ZEALOTS” a voice boomed from the back of the crowd. A man made of mostly muscles marched forwards, a faint ringing every time his jewellery smacked against him. Silver necklaces and opal bracelets, astounding Jared and Emma. Nothing compared to the crown weighted on his bald, blood-red head. Jewels encrusted in the silver crown contrasted alongside the bulging veins upon his crimson cranium. “WHAT ON SWEET MARTIAN GROUND DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” he continued to roar as his feet drilled into the hardwood floor beneath him.

    Jared’s eyes darted to where the sound was erupting from, while Emma jumped out of her skin in complete and utter fear. When they made eye contact with the mountain patrolling towards them, they tried to speak. To say anything, anything at all that could stop him. But no words came out. Just stutters and gasps.

    “HOW DARE YOU USE SUCH VULGAR GESTURES ON OUR PLANET!” he retained the intense volume, even when he was so close that Jared could feel spit shooting from the mouths attached to the beastly Martian.

    It was now Greeble’s turn to speak, but he didn’t look like he was looking forward to it. “O bountiful King, why have you graced us with your formidable, awe-inspiring, breath-taking, overwhelm-”
    “YOU THINK GROVELLING WILL SAVE YOU NOW, YOU INCONCEIVABLY FOOLISH COWARD?!” the King bent down to stare directly at Greeble’s faces. As he reached his hand to his belt, Greeble promptly dropped his knees to the ground and wept with the strength of a flood. The King pulled a flaming, curved sword from his sheath, and tore through Greeble’s necks.
    As if it were a ritual, so perfectly performed, nobody stopped the scene, nobody dared stop their King.

    Until Emma found the courage within her to oppose the outlandish actions occurring before her. She charged her arms against the hanging stomach of the King. Her constant exercise had proven well for her, as the King (even with his mighty size) was forced to take a step back.

    “YOU CANNOT SAY YOU LOVE OUR PLANET, AND THEN SHOW YOUR FILTHY HUMAN THUMBS IN THE COMPANY OF THE KING!” he growled at Emma, driving his hands into her face. It was then that Emma realised their mistake. Time slowed down while she processed her stupidity. She’d learnt about Martian civilisations practically all her life, but she’d missed one piece of vital information and it was going to get her killed. The King had no thumbs on his hands. Greeble had no thumbs on his hands. Not a single thumb was seen on a Martian body. And yet Jared had willingly displayed his thumbs while talking to her.

    “Shit. Jared.” she whipped her head to the side, and time sped back up. Jared’s head rolled across the floor. The King twisted his entire body, until his eyes were fixed into the abysses of Emma’s pupils.

    She broke his gaze and leapt into the shadows behind the stage curtains. She never stopped running when she reached the corridors. The King’s heavy footsteps shook the ground below her, but she knew she couldn’t stop.

    “CATCH THAT IMBECILE. IF SHE REACHES THE SHIP, YOU ALL DIE!” his tone became rougher, if that was even possible, and it echoed through the halls. Penetrating Emma’s ears, possibly making them bleed. Emma couldn’t check, she had no time.

    Her spaceship came into sight, and her pace accelerated. The hatch door opened on voice command. Three steps away. Too many steps away.

    • Hi Peter,

      I’m mesmerized by the tight infusion of theatre and reality, not knowing which is which, at times.

      I don’t know if I got it right, but it’s a play that’s going on, correct? Something goes wrong (the gold prop falls off stage), and a delusional member of the audience who believes he’s a Martian king comes foreward and massacres the actors?

      The fact that you say he came from the back of the crowd is what makes me think so. The crowd being the audience, that is. Or is there a crowd on stage?

      I’m still not sure – I may have missed something somewhere, or it was written in a way for me to miss something somewhere, to deliberately perplex me… In any case, it was a thrilling read and my confused state of mind may be quite close to what the characters themselves felt. Which for you as a writer would be an achievement in and of itself (ie. the reader finding himself inside the skin of the characters).

      The impossibility for humans to speak Martian due to having just one tongue instead of the normal three is a masterstroke. Well done!


      • Peter Holmes
        If I’m being honest Ken, I often don’t know where my ideas come from. Most of the time, I just let the story flow. Sometimes it’s what makes my stories good, and sometimes it’s my biggest flaw. I wasn’t going for a theatre format, instead I was describing ambassadors from Earth actually offending the Martian King. Seems my poor choice of synonyms was my downfall with that one. Either way, I’m glad you enjoyed it, and that I somehow managed to achieve something in terms of confusing you (despite unintentional…). And gracias for complimenting my Martian tongue idea.
  • Ode to the wild geese.

    I’m sitting at my desk, chewing on my pen. In front of me there is a blank sheet of paper. I look at the paper, the sheet looks back at me. I desperately need an idea, because tonight is the deadline. The commander ordered a poem. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, it will be solemnly read in the large lecture hall, right before the commander will hand over a golden watch to someone who has dedicated his life to the mission. Such poems are moments when all eyes are on me. Of course I want to do what I can to get my audience excited, to lift their mood. Nothing less than perfection is required. Which is not that easy.

    Yes, I still write my poems with a pen. I know it’s a completely outdated way of writing, but I think writing with a pen brings me luck. It’s an old tradition; poets have been writing that way for centuries. Maybe this way of writing gives an extra dimension to my poems, a kind of depth. That’s important to me. I’m even permitted to write on paper. The commander himself allowed me to bring 50 sheets of paper on board. I still have 47 of these precious sheets left. When these are used up, there will be no new ones. So it’s not hard to understand that I think carefully about what I want to write before I start.

    I’m thinking of the rain. It’s November, and where I grew up, November was a cold and windy month. It was a very uncomfortable time of the year. We brought our winter coats back down from the attic and made ourselves comfortable at the stove in the evenings. I grew up in the countryside between fields and meadows, at this time preparing themselves for their hibernation. I think of the icy November wind. And of the rain, which felt like needles on my skin. The leaden gray sky. But I know there is no chance. Poems about wind are absolutely forbidden. And rain must never be mentioned in a poem. Such a thing would never pass the censors. Too much is at stake. It would be a very bad omen if they had to ban one of my poems because it mentioned rain. The 20th anniversary of our departure would have to be celebrated without a poem.

    I’m thinking of home, the bare fields in the rain, and I feel the cold wind now. I feel like I’m getting a little longing for winter. Then I hear a noise, a croak and a chatter. I see wild geese gather around a tree by the village sign. Wild geese! Eureka! That’s it!

    I’ll write an ode to the wild geese preparing for their flight south through the dark of night. The flight of the wild geese has everything the commander wishes to hear. Courage and being part of a community dedicated to a mission, the journey through the darkness. And the joy of reaching a destination after a long period of deprivation. I sketch the idea on the communicator, then I send it to the commander’s office.

    I want a general O.K. before I start with the actual work. My paper is too precious for a poem that no one wants to hear. And deep-space-depression is no laughing matter. Before a spacecraft starts its journey, nobody can predict who will get deep-space-depression, or DSD. Obviously, the disease is triggered by the thought that you will never again feel the wind and rain on your skin. We are not on earth anymore. We are settlers, on our many years’ journey to Mars Two, our future home planet. We will all breathe artificially processed air for the rest of our our lives. The blue sky of the earth is no more than a memory for us. And even the cold rain, which almost no one on Earth enjoyed, could be the thing people long for so much, that they lose their minds.

    This longing is very contagious, and in the worst case, it can trigger the dreaded DSD. Already mankind lost two colonies on far away planets to DSD. That’s why the topic is such a threat to space travel. Everyone here on board is very attentive. If someone shows the first signs of depression, they will be reported immediately. We have to do that, our survival is at stake. Anyone who shows that they are longing for rain must be quarantined for 40 days. There are no exceptions.

    Luckily science has found a remedy for this insidious disease. Freshly written poems have a calming effect on the crew, they can stabilize a positive mood. That’s why none of the huge space freighters leave earth without their own ship‘s poet. We ship‘s poets carry a huge responsibility. A poem by one of us can decide the success or failure of the mission, and that is always a decision about the life and death of many people.

    The communicator on my desk beeps briefly, then it flashes. The response from the commander’s office has arrived. The commander personally approved the theme of wild geese. He congratulates me on my poetic imagination and wishes me success. I see the word “wild geese” and I remember standing on the harvested field at dusk watching a flock of these winged travellers set off for its flight through the night.

  • Space, Time, Continuity.
    {Deleted at the authors request}
  • I’m in the woods until tomorrow night, I just tried updating story colors and the internet connection is spotty out here in the wilderness of the Wisconsin woods! so I’ll be updating stories to blue and adding the links to the story comment when I get back to the city tomorrow evening 😊
  • Carrie,

    When you return from the Wisconsin wilderness, with at least one turkey, (one would hope) could you take my story down? I think it’s confusing, and I think I can improve it. (Even though I’ve already spent four-thousand-six-hundred and seventy-five thousand and one half hours on it.) It could be better. (Like, comprehensible, that would be an improvement.) I’d also like to add some Russians, an Aardvark, and a couple of cats.

    I should admit though, that I don’t know if you’re hunting turkey, you could be hunting woolly mammoths, what do I know? Also, someday, if I’m ever in Wisconsin, with Kim or without, I’m going to look you up, invite you to a pub, and challenge you to an arm-wrestling match. (Best of three.) If I lose, I’m stating here and now, that I will honor my bet and by you the drink of your choice. Maybe even two. I should warn you, I’m stronger than I look, but older than most boats that still float. (And I should add that, we’re not going to that bar you prefer with the one-gallon margarita specials. That’s not happening.)

    Don’t forget to delete my current story. You’ll forget. I know you will. You’ll be so happy grinding your moose carcass into sausage and chugging jello shots you’ll totally forget about my story, and by that time, I’ll have changed my mind and decided to leave it up anyway.

    This is how Trump got elected, BTW. (Moose, booze and jello.) It’s a theory, may be hard to prove though cause the moose sausage won’t testify!

    • Carrie… I think you should know the offer by Ken to “by” you a drink is a ploy used by albatrosses to bypass buying your drink… Liz
      • Carrie Zylka

        Hahahaha I caught that! Mr grammer himself…he thinks he can get one by me by teasing me with dead critter references. Pfft silly boy!!!!

        • Carrie…. That’s ‘Mr. Grammar’ to you. At least you spelled ‘Pfft’ correctly.
          • Carrie, I confess, I had to look that up, Grammer? Grammar? You’re merely wrong. I can’t remember. Sorry to hear about your water flood disaster. You have a great attitude.That and a buck three ninety eight will get you a cup of coffee. Okay, so you can’t buy anything with a great attitude, but they’re still great to have. If you can hang on to it.

            I’m not getting into no drinking contest with you. I’m afraid you’ll secretly water down my drinks and I’ll still lose. Where I come from, we call someone like you an ‘expert drinker.’ Expert drinkers are people who…………………Let me re-phrase that before I continue. Expert Drinkers are sophisticated imbibers who know the names and types of the glasses they’re drinking from. ‘This is an ‘amber tumbler’ you knucklehead, I said give me a tom hotchkins glass. Or something like that.

            It’s quite a talent, and one must respect it. I certainly do. With a little fear. There’s probably a little fear in there with the respect.

            I’m still working on my shitty story. Don’t delete it this time. This is a lot of work you’re making me do. I know I told you to, but that’s beside the point. (Right now.) I hope you’re happy. (I hope your feet are dry.)

    • Carrie Zylka

      I am laughing so hard I can’t even compose a decent response to this other than, I deleted it!
      And so help me, if you came to Wisconsin and didn’t give me a ring I’d be absolutely PISSED OFF.

      Also – not arm wrestling but I’ll happily challenge you to a drinking contest…..;)

      We came home to a broken well and all the water in the house turned off by the landlord. So it’s a good thing I came home sans moose carcass!!!!

  • Game for a death.

    By Ken Frape 1193 words without title.

    “Prisoners!” A voice boomed inside the prison shuttle. “Attention! Attention!”

    The prison shuttle shuddered as it forced its way from its moorings. As the atomic hydrogen motors roared the red-brown Mars dust swirled shroud-like around the gantries which fell away to ease its passage. Long after the vessel had become a mere dot in space, the dust continued to swirl and eddy before reluctantly rejoining the surface of Mars Station 14, the central mining area for all the gold on Mars.

    Mars fascinated Mankind and it always had. Martians were the stuff of science-fiction and the Red Planet was ripe for exploration. Since the apocalypse and the enforced colonisation of the planet, the discovery and excavation of huge quantities of gold had become the People’s Council’s number one priority. Gold fired the new technologies. The atomic hydrogen propulsion system relied upon gold to power the space ships desperately searching for other hospitable planets. Mars was already hugely overpopulated. Gold’s market value was inestimable and people fought and died over it.

    “Prisoners! Attention!” The tannoy spoke again.

    No one on board heeded the tannoy’s barked instructions. Hardened criminals all, they were restrained at the waist, ankles neck and one hand. They could feed themselves and drink water from feeding tubes like animals. Speech was forbidden and any spoken communication was instantly punished.

    “Prisoners, you have been accused of the most serious of crimes, tried fairly and convicted. “

    The sound of voices rose louder. These were men for whom threats and harsh punishments meant nothing. After all, they were condemned men. This ship was on a one-way trip to oblivion. As their voices rose in defiance of the rules, challenging the loudspeakers, they were tasered repeatedly, even into unconsciousness. Some prisoners were more subtle, their words clearly visible on their lips but inaudible. They were also tasered. After several minutes, silence reigned and the message continued.

    “Following your conviction, for gold theft, your sentence is now being carried out. “

    The two hundred prisoners on board headed out into deeper space. There was no crew on board . All contact was remotely controlled from Mars HQ by staff who responded with small joysticks on their consoles. It was the ultimate computer game with life and death consequences. Only the best and most loyal Mars settlers were given access to “The Game”. Fame and fortune awaited the most successful. To become a “Gamer” was a huge accolade. The rules were simple: Keep your prisoner alive for as long as possible and score points by skilfully punishing him with your taser.

    “The sentence is death in deep space.” The loudspeaker completed its message.

    Every unauthorised prisoner movement and every gesture was monitored, then punished by taser. Relentlessly. Who cared? They were just criminals anyway. Every hit was awarded points according to its accuracy. The Game was watched all across the planet. Gamers were heroes on Mars social media.

    Prisoner Edwards 2312345C looked up at the camera eye that peered back at him. He winked and raised two fingers of his right hand.

    Gamer Gomez gave him three blasts.

    “My, that man is a sucker for punishment,” chortled Gomez. His score rattled up into the thousands. As long as his prisoner stayed alive, he would continue to collect points but it was a fine judgement as many of the prisoners were weakened, malnourished or sick. One blast too many and they would die and their Gamers would score no further points.

    Unsuccessful Gamers were publicly chastised.

    By taser.

    Shown live on video tube.

    Game Over.

    “ I’ll take a break whilst he’s unconscious,” Gomez announced to anyone who would listen but each Gamer had their own prisoner to watch. As the space shuttle thrust deeper and deeper into outer space the signal would fade and eventually die, as would the prisoners on board, so points had to be scored now.

    Planet-wide adulation awaited the winning Gamer with fame and fortune assured.

    Gomez’ unattended digicam watched through its single eye as prisoner Edwards looked through slitted eyes. To all intents and purposes he was still unconscious but the blinking red light on the camera told him that it was on “Pause”. He had to be quick.
    He slid a shank of sharpened steel from the sleeve of his prison garb and with a couple of deft moves he sliced through his restraints. In seconds he had released three other prisoners. It was all too easy.

    Prisoner Edwards and his three fellow convicts then put Plan “Take Over” into operation. They burst through the nearest access panel and into the space behind, pushing the panel back into place. The Gamers’ fired wildly but belatedly at their retreating forms. Too late! There would be no big prizes this time around for Gomez and company unless they could recapture Edwards and company.

    Ignominy and ridicule were more likely now.

    Every move in The Game was broadcast live across Mars. Bets were laid on the outcome of the hunt for the escaped criminals. Huge swathes of the population were glued to their monitors as The Game ran its course.

    “Right lads, you know what to do. Let’s go.” Edwards signalled and the four men crawled further into the interior of the ship.
    Inside the Control Centre Edwards smashed a glass panel and ripped out the wiring. Nothing immediately happened.

    “Try that one,” he ordered, pointing to another glass panel behind another of the escapees. The wires were ripped out again with similar lack of effect.

    “Try that one,” he said to the other prisoner. “If that one doesn’t work, we’re fucked.”

    More wires were ripped out. This time the ship was plunged into blackness. The sudden darkness was total and disorientating.

    “That’s it. We’ve killed the power. Now all the digicams and tasers will be dead, ” Edwards announced.
    “So now what boss?”
    Edwards looked towards the other man’s voice.
    “Now we give every man on board the one thing he never thought he would have again,” he replied.
    “What, you mean a woman?” said one, grinning in the dark.
    “Or a glass of fresh water,” said another, sighing for a different past pleasure lost.
    “Nah, a nice chunk of gold,” suggested the third.
    “No, stupid,” growled Edwards. “We give them freedom, that’s what.”

    The same sharpened shank that had released Edwards was used to release every other prisoner. They then went on a rampage of destruction, smashing everything they could reach in the darkness. They sucked greedily from their feeding tubes as they celebrated their freedom from the restraints. But only until the feeding tubes dried up. The water ration, never very much for convicted criminals, had all been drunk in those few frenzied, euphoric minutes. The air was getting thinner too and hotter.

    “It’s all your fault,” Edwards was informed. He was dimly aware of movement towards him and then he felt a hand around his throat. He slipped the shank from his sleeve once more and he heard the gurgle and the splash of blood as he dispatched his attacker.

    “Guilty as charged your honour,” Edwards replied cheerfully.

    “Who’s next?” He shouted.

    “Game On!”

    • Ilana L
      Great story. It is very viscal and visual; my number one now until something better crops up, but I doubt it.
      • Hi Ilana,

        Ditto your remarks. Shall we set up a mutual appreciation society?

        Ken Frape.

    • Hi Ken,

      Great writing, visual and flowing and never a boring moment.

      Enjoyed this story very much and felt its pulse along the way. It’s a gladiators’ show played in the amphiteatre of space, a bit of Ben Hur too as he cuts himself loose in that ship of misery.

      At one point I hoped the ship was going to find its “America”, that elusive promised land, a more hospitable planet, and the condemned passengers given a second chance (echoes of Columbus’s shiploads of criminals sent to die off the mysterious edge of the earth… but then…).

      But then you twist things around and the game is on us, readers like me who may have felt some sympathy for the gold-robbers-turned-gamefare…

      I wasn’t sure about the wiring bit – I mean we’re nearly already beyond the Age of the Wire (wireless tech, printed circuits, chips…). But then I remembered that this is a post-apocalypse story. Mankind had to start all over again, I suppose. Not utterly from scratch, maybe, but yes, wires are back….

      Good stuff!


      • Hi Ken,

        Thanks for the comments. Always good to hear your thoughts.

        It is always really interesting to see other people’s take on a particular prompt. I ofen think, having read other people’s stories, “Wow, what a great idea. Now why didn’t I think of that?”

        In this latest one I had two different directions to take my ideas. One, the condemned prisoners, seeks to set out that there are some unpleasant people in the world and those prisoners on board weren’t going to wait to just fade away and die. In a computer game world they were going to play their own game and it is likely most of them will kill each other.

        I did toy with the idea of only ripping out the taser wires so that the cameras would still work but decided not to let the Mars voyeurs have their way. In a longer story this could have been possible. Good point about the wiring that I did not consider but thanks for giving me a suitable answer.

        In my second story I wanted to show the better side of humanity. Love will triumph and thus “First prize in the lottery of life” was born. I posted it but not for voting as I had nowhere else to send it at this time. I suspect though that I will use it somewhere else at a later date.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

  • Wow… I don’t know what to say… well I am completely opposed to the death penalty… so this is horrendous from that perspective and I just want to say …just in case we meet on a spaceship someday… you are a great writer honest I mean it… you’re so talented…please don’t hurt me….
  • Hi,

    Don’t worry, I am a really nice person ( honestly!) and I rarely kill people but in this modern political age well, the temptation is strong but must be resisted. At least that’s what my therapist told me.

    I like to write about things that I can imagine and never see the need to act them out so you are completely safe, or reasonably safe. You don’t live near me do you?

    I very nearly posted another, much gentler story that made me cry when I read it out to my wife. I can only post one at a time so the nice story will have to wait until another prompt.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

  • The Ferrymen (wc 1185)
    © 11-26-2020
    By Ken Cartisano.

    She was surprised to find a single figure lingering by the airlock, an old earth ‘Spacer’ by the looks of him, clutching a well-worn notebook. It was the oldest section of the base, the first gold mine. The area was deserted but for the two of them

    She stopped. Looked him up and down. He seemed harmless, but you never know. “What’s your story? You here to help me with my luggage?”

    “Not my job,” he said. “Name’s Captain Drake.” He extended a hand.

    “Helga.” She replied. He had a firm grip. “You ex-military?”

    “No,” he said. “I’ve got me a ship though Ma’am, as sleek and fair as yourself.”

    “Is that a fact?” She was none too sleek for comparison’s sake, but she had an enchanting face and a sense of humor. “Well, help me with my luggage you old jack, or I’ll push ya down an intake tube.” As if on cue, her luggage arrived by transfer tube.

    She tapped a coded message on her communicator, alerting Security, as the old spacer wrestled several suitcases onto her hover-cart. Instead of leading him to her quarters, she offered him a seat and then drove them to another luggage transport module. If he noticed, he didn’t mind.

    “What you gonna do with this sleek-ass mystery ship you own?” She asked.

    “Goin’ back to Earth—soon as it’s ready. You interested?”

    “In what?” She said.

    “Goin’ back to Earth,” he said.

    ‘I wouldn’t go anywhere near that shit-ball…’ That’s what she was thinking when the cart’s monitor chirped and a melodic female voice said, “Captain Drake, please contact the control room. Captain Drake…”

    He tapped the monitor. “What is it?”

    “Not certain, we’d like a conference at 0300 hours, to sort out the particulars.”

    He looked at his watch. Perfect. “Let’s do it now. I’ll be right there.”

    At first, interplanetary travel had all the earmarks of earthbound trans-atlantic steamship crossings. As dangerous as it was, there was simply no other way to get from point A to point B. And half the time, the damned things broke apart or collided with space rocks, killing everyone aboard.

    But those huge early ‘space-cruisers’ paved a path, in some ways literally, for smaller, commercial entrepreneurs like Captain Drake, who ran compact nuclear-powered ferries between Earth, the Moon and Mars. Carrying gold back to earth and fresh-faced miners out to Mars. The trips were long and boring, but not considered dangerous: At first.

    But over the course of a couple of decades an illness among consistent space travelers began to emerge and was eventually described as ‘Spacer’s Syndrome.’ A constellation of characteristics whose most prominent feature was a kind of madness that rendered the victim functionally delusional. Some evidence indicated the Spacer’s perception of time was substantially altered, but in what way, no one could really explain.

    The most at-risk demographic was those solitary Captains who’d spent years in space between planets. Ferrying people and supplies, providing the lifeline, the umbilical cord that nurtured the colonies until they could stand on their own. They were never formally acknowledged for this sacrificial service. In fact, many were shunned and belittled, resorting to living on the fringes of society, the outskirts, or abandoned sections of early mining modules like the one they were standing in right now.

    It was eventually discovered that the source of the madness was cosmic rays. An accumulation of hits by various kinds that did something to the human brain, it stripped away some kind of time-oriented fail-safe, or blinders. The inescapable conclusion was that people simply weren’t designed to live in space. They were designed to live on planets.

    In time, more workers were being born on Mars than could be supplied, and unmanned drones took to shuttling commodities back and forth between worlds. Helga, for instance, was born on Mars. She was Martian.

    Helga watched him go with a mixture of pity and relief. “A trip to Earth?” She muttered under her breath. “Fuck that.”

    Dr. Diane Maxwell could not deny a scintilla of pleasure when Captain Drake arrived six minutes later for the ‘conference.’ Her assistant, a holographic AI was also present and occupied a space near the front of the room.

    “So what’s this all about?” Drake said as he tossed his notebook on a nearby desk.

    “It’s about politics, Captain.”

    “Seriously Doctor, this better be good. I have a full, ship-wide, systems-integration test scheduled for this afternoon. I have no time for one of your ‘sessions’ Dr. Maxwell.

    The hologram addressed him instead. “Captain Drake, we sincerely regret to inform you that your services are needed here on Mars Colony, well into the foreseeable future.”

    “My services? Like hell they are. Hell, I’m retired, you can’t demand my services. What about my ship? It’s almost operational.”

    Dr. Maxwell said, “Your assistants can continue working on it, even if you don’t have time. That’s no problem.”

    “I don’t want it moved,” he cautioned.

    “Oh it’s not going anywhere without you, Captain Drake. Really. That would be unthinkable.” She was very convincing, about a ship that didn’t exist.

    Drake recalled that Dr. Maxwell had often been useful to him in the past. He trusted her. “So, what’s this compelling political purpose you’re suddenly cramming up my ass?”

    “We want you to be Mars Colony’s First Official Mayor.” She said.

    He snorted. “You’re kidding me, right?

    “No. Not at all.” Dr. Maxwell and the AI said in unison.

    He snapped his fingers. “You’ve been planning this for some time, haven’t you? The both of you. It’s a ploy to keep me from finishing the ship. Right? I mean, why else? Why else would you want me to be Mayor?”

    “You’re the perfect choice.” Dr. Maxwell said.

    “One of our finest citizens, who better?” cooed the AI.

    Dr. Maxwell introduced two informally dressed guards. “Henceforth, Officer Dawkins and Johnson will be your personal aides, and bodyguards, Captain Drake. They’ll escort you to your new Official quarters, office, and guide you in the details of performing your official duties.”

    She dismissed all three of them with a firm but polite escort to the door. Only after it sealed with a hiss did she notice Captain Drake’s notebook. She picked it up, and began to casually flip through what appeared to be sketches. She slowed down and then stopped on a specific page in the middle of the book. A stunningly beautiful rendering of Helga, the woman who reported him, who had just transferred in today, not fifteen minutes ago. The sketch was beautiful and impossible.

    Captain Drake burst through the door with his two assistants trailing just behind him. “You think I’m stupid? How many Mayors does this one base need?”

    Dr. Maxwell subconsciously placed a hand over her heart. “Oh you won’t be overworked my dear Captain, we have dozens of Mayors. Trust me, you’ll have plenty to do, and plenty of help doing it.”

    She offered him his notebook and instead of thanking her he said, “I remember you. I always remember you.”

    After they’d gone and the door was closed, she said. “And we remember you, Captain.”

    • I think this is a fine story… I don’t know why you want to change it… it leaves a lot to be thought about, wonder, surmise, not every story has to have an answer….solution.. explanation… although I always do want to know what happens next…or what happened before… I don’t always get my want..
    • Hi Ken C,

      We haven’t been in touch for some time. I notice you have got involved in more verbal brawling with a fellow US citizen and, I must say, I am feeling bereft. We ( the UK) are increasingly looking like we are going to drop out of the EU like a stone and now my American literary conscience has stopped talking to me.
      Is this the end of the world as we know it, Jim? ( for Jim read Ken but he wasn’t in Star Trek)

      Anyway, this story you have just written. Why were you asking for it to be taken down? I can only assume that you wanted to edit it further. That’s ok but it contains pretty much the same material second time around doesn’t it? What am I missing,Ken?

      I wasn’t clear about the ending before and I still don’t get it but that’s down to me as I know you are a great writer.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      • Ken,
        Replying to your comment: Categorically.

        “…you have got involved in more verbal brawling with a fellow US…”
        I’m not sure what constitutes ‘verbal brawling’ but if I did it, I think it was with/unto Andy, who I personally blame for ‘Brexit.’ He did it. I’ve asked him to ‘undo’ it, but he won’t. And we weren’t brawling, I was merely scolding him for his rascallyness. The Brexit deal is insane, Ken. It’s so stupid. It never should have been decided by its popularity. And then Theresa May stepped down, and now you have this miniature Trump thing

        Unfortunately, as an American these days, I’m in no moral position to talk about another country’s shortcomings, and we all love you Britts anyway. Everyone does, you know. I’m sure you fellows will pull through, stiff up lip and all that rot.

        Over here, well, we’re not supposed to talk about politics on a writing site. I think that pretty well sums up where we’re at.

        “…why were you asking to take this story down?…”
        I had the original story taken down because it sucked, Ken. This new version sucks a little bit less, (even though I essentially re-wrote it four times and gave it a different name each time. And that doesn’t count the editing. This is discouraging. I feel like my character, delusional. But whatever.

        ‘…my American literary conscience has stopped talking…”
        I’ve been busy, out of town, sick, my dog ate my homework and then died, I had to take him to a farm out in the country, to bury him. That’s why I haven’t been commenting much lately. (Okay I made up the shit about the dog, but everything else is true.)

        Plus, I got a little woodworking project going on in the garage.
        And hey look, about the stories? Everybody is lucky I’m not commenting this week. I mean, these are stories that could easily elicit a comment or two. Eeeeasily. But, I’m a little busy right now with the holidays, and the nice weather, and football and turkey to critique any stories this week. It’s like a gift from heaven, for everyone.

        “…I wasn’t clear about the ending…”
        You weren’t clear about the ending? ‘Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch, closer, closer.’

        You want me to explain the ending to you, Ken? Another ending? Explained? Where will these ending explanations end, Ken? And when? And what then? Will you inquire about the beginnings? Or the middles? Or what?

        I’m going to have to think long and hard before I explain this ending to you, Ken. Hopefully, just knowing that I’m thinking about it will give you some comfort.. Have a great Thanksgiving, Ken.

  • Ilana L

    The Red Queen

    12th June 2098

    The machinery hums a pleasant, soothing sound. The heartbeat of a ship. The sound fills Jan’s mind.
    Her fingers flick nimbly over the touch screen clicking on the hard plastic of the console. She and three other people had run a daily check every six hours for three hourly shifts for the past forty-five years. They were woken once a day for three hours to ensure that all systems on the great ship continued to operate smoothly. The ship woke them from a suspended animation once a day for three hours to exercise, receive sustenance and eliminate wastes and perform the half hour of system checks. There were two teams of four with four back up teams that had never been woken.

    Even though Jan had been in space for forty-five of her sixty-eight years, she looked no older than mid-thirties. Being constantly suspended does that to you. The pods are nothing like what she had seen on the classic Star Wars and Space Odyssey classics. These are big circular water beds that hold you in a Da Vinci like star formation as your body is massaged and vibrated gently, as well as being turned on your sides and your back to keep muscle tone, your mind is stimulated with music and learning from both fiction and non-fiction audios. The big discs are around half a meter deep. They rotate, and spin slowly in groups of five in the big main hold of the ship. Fifteen hundred souls had started out from their ailing planet 2053.

    Jan and four other techs with their captain’s pods are in separate quarters next to the master control center. Across the hallway is the back-up team of four techs and the vice-captain’s pods. And she was told there was even another back team with another vice-captain further down, but she has never bothered to explore that. There is no need.
    Jan, often of late, resents being thrust out of suspended animation to run the checks. The tread mill and exercise routine bores her. She wonders if the others felt the same. She has wondered if she should try to communicate socially with one of the other three techs.
    Smoothing down the light cotton bodysuit that fits her slim form like a second skin, she ponders leaving one of the others a note. “What could she say in it?” she muses.
    Maybe, “Hi how are you? I’m Jan. Who are you? What do you do?” Now that last one was a silly question she thinks. Of course, she knew what they did. They ran the routine checks – the same ones every six hours, or perhaps, just perhaps, there is a variation because of the different times of the day.
    Right on cue, ten minutes before she is due to finish her time out of the pod, she feels the familiar drowsiness creep through her body, her limbs become increasingly heavy and her conscious thoughts begin to flee. The last checks completed, she notes the date as walks towards the circular bed pod.

    7th December 2103

    She wakes slowly. Something is wrong. She feels it before she even sees the date and time. It is exactly 07:00 on the 24 hour clock. Her time used to be 01:00. Why the change?
    She raises herself unsteadily from the molded mattress. The flat cover is already raised.
    “Good morning, Jan. How are you today?”
    She jumps involuntarily. “What the…?” She looks around.
    “Please move over to the health detector. We will check your vital signs. Then if you are deemed competent, you will start work.” The voice is smoothly female and soothing.
    “Who are you? Where are you?” She can see no one. The voice seems suspended.
    “I am Boedica. The Red Martian Queen. I have commandeered this ship. We boarded you five and a half of your sun years ago.”
    A hologram took shape in the center of the room. A gold shimmering mist swirls and twists into the shape of something that looked to Jan like what she remembered as a Tarantula Wasp with its red gold wings held close to an hour glass shaped thorax and an oddly humanistic face with glowing eyes. The eyes gaze down at her and its mouth grimaces in an emotion Jan cannot recognize. Its antennae wave at Jan.
    “Move over to the health detector. Your vital signs and health need to be checked.”
    “Why? Where is the rest of the crew?” Jan looks around. There is only one pod bed apart from hers in the section. She sees that there are three pod beds left of the five in the back up team. The spare teams’ pods she cannot see from where she is standing.
    “Your role is to follow instructions. Not to question me. Move.” The antennae move briskly and sharply like hands gesturing and ushering her towards a structure like a metal detector that used to be in the old fashioned airports.
    She moves slowly over to stand in the frame. Part of her is frozen, another part wants to flee but there is nowhere to run. She has no one to turn to, only this threatening red gold hologram which looks so real that it becomes solid in her mind.
    Blue rings start to run up and down her body as the blue screen lights up. She sees and hears the check list running up…

    Heart – 95 % capacity, minor problem left ventricle leak
    Liver – 100 %
    Pancreas – benign tumor
    Thyroid – hyperactive
    Colon – cloudy, needs irrigation cleansing
    And so on it went until the screen lights up with functionality at 85%.

    “Your muscle tone’s a little down. We needed you to be at 95 % effectiveness.” The insect figure raises her antennae and arches what Jan believes could be an eyebrow, but she is not sure.
    “So”, Jan interrupts, “What happens to me now? Do I get another chance?” The hologram figure studies the console on some distant planet or starship. She shakes her head and a second set of arms wiggle out from under her gold red wings.
    “No, my dear little earthling, you do not.”
    Jan feels a rising sense of panic. I mean, she signed on to search for another habitable planet, didn’t she? And now this figure who is not even there, who is not even real is telling her she is worthless, an unhealthy being. It was all so unfair and frankly disturbing.
    She moved forward toward the bank of touch screens of the ship’s control center, but suddenly found herself unable to move. She was frozen in place. She felt her skin begin to peel off and melt away. She felt herself dissolving. Looking down at her feet, they were no longer there. She was melting into a puddle that was being vacuumed up by a hose running out from the wall. She opened her mouth in a soundless scream of ultimate despair.

    The Red Queen finishes watching after seeing the hose extract several pieces of gold alloy from the floor puddle where her teeth had rapidly dissolved.
    “Open the last pods. These earthlings are so puny.”

    • unamoona
      Yikes! This is so you. “it was all so unfair and frankly disturbing.” “Earthlings are” indeed “puny.” Great writing throughout, except for the first paragraph. Too many people in the first paragraph.
      Great imagery
    • Hi Ilana,

      The story sort of takes time to get going (there is also some unnecessary repetition in the first paragraph about the waking up procedure), but that is very much compensated for by the vivid descriptions of how this spaceship works, and Jan’s role in it. I’d usually get bored of overdescriptive pieces, with little dialogue, but for some reason it didn’t happen to me here. Your story kept me there, very much with your character, eager to know more about her and what was going to happen to her – unsure, though, if I envied or pitied her reason of existence (which, I suppose, is what you wanted of us).

      I know the prompt asked for Mars to be included. But, by the time the Martian Queen comes on the scene, your story had taken me so far away into the awesome depths of space that I felt a Martian was too “local” (from earth’s pov) to suddenly appear and have a prominent role in the story. It’s like someone who lives on my street hijacks a packed train I happen to be on in downtown Tokyo… Of all people, of all places. I mean, it can happen, but unlikely.

      I’m quite appalled by the way this Martian Queen treats her patients. Got to be 95% healthy or you’re sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. I won’t recommend her on the board of directors of the NHS… Earthlings, come on say something! We can’t keep letting these waspy Martians treating our kind this way…


      • You crack me up Ken, I had similar opinions on the story, but you made some points/observations I hadn’t noticed. Either way, I haven’t had time to compose comments for the stories yet. Which may be a blessing. Have to review the stories once again and vote before the deadline.
    • Ilana,

      See I told you so! Such a great story.

      A very well deserved win.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • I just now read the story and can see why it landed first. I did scan when it was first up but it fell on one of my ultra busy days so didn’t focus…. it absolutely sucks you into life as a space drone. I personally believe 85% functionality is just fine.
  • Hi ilana,

    This is a wonderful short story……as it is full of wonder.

    I am now an envious fellow writer. Why didn’t I write such a brilliant take on this prompt?

    I know we have not quite reached the end date for voting but I will be very surprised if this story does not end up very near the top of the pile.

    Great stuff,

    Well done.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

  • Hi All,

    When we received the current prompt I had two strands of thought leading to two very different stories.
    I have already posted one, the one to be voted on, but as I also have another sitting around doing nothing I thought, “Why not post this one as well?”

    So here it is, but it’s not for voting on.

    “First prize in the lottery of life.”

    It was a competition and I was declared the winner. To be precise, I was one of two winners. They needed a couple. A male and a female. Or two males. Or two females.

    But in the end they chose us. One human female and one human male.

    There were, of course, dissenting voices and arguments raged for many months before the Council of Mars announced the winners.

    “Surely it would be best to have the two strongest and most intelligent males on board the ship,” some argued. “The work will be hard and the future of mankind is at stake. We do not need females on board.”

    Others argued,

    “Surely we need the best two females on board to nurture the future of mankind. This is no small task. We can manage this without a male. We are offended by the suggestion that these women would be deemed inferior to the two men in any way.”
    The Council of Mars deliberated carefully. They would not be hurried. It was too important for haste.

    “Mars has become so hugely overcrowded that we must carefully select those chosen to carry the future of mankind into space,” they said.

    Overpopulation was blamed for The Red Virus that begun to decimate the population on Mars. The number of healthy human specimens was dwindling rapidly. After the planet-wide blood tests and screening, two thousand virus-free humans were corralled in the largest available building in Mars Central. Air and water were cleansed multiple times before any of these were allowed to be consumed. Tests were carried out daily for signs of the virus and during the quarantine, more than 30% who showed early signs of The Red Virus were ruthlessly culled. Physical testing and intellectual screening removed more than 50% of those remaining. Final aptitude and personality testing, DNA profiling and exhaustive personal interviews reduced the numbers still further.

    To six men and six women.

    I cannot deny that the twelve of us looked at each with considerable wariness when we were first allowed into the same room together. We knew the prize was within our grasp. I was surprised by the variety of physical types, by the lack of homogeneity. Some were tall and others not so. Some seemed to brim with confidence and vigour whilst others seemed more shy, more reserved. Some were muscular and others, like myself, slim and wiry.

    We were the most carefully chosen group of humans in history and two of us would be charged with the responsibility of securing the future of the human race, firstly in a carefully prepared spacecraft and then, hopefully on a new, as yet to be discovered planet.

    The twelve of us looked intently at each other. If selected, would I choose one of these men or women to share the rest of my life? In many ways it was fortunate that the final decision was not mine.

    During the final week of the selection process we were each given a range of tasks to perform. Initially, I assumed that this was to keep the group busy, intellectually and physically challenged. Whilst true, we were also continuing to be minutely monitored. Every breath, every word and every human interaction was recorded, analysed and stored.

    And thus the final two were chosen. We were the very best of the best. Entrusted with a mission to save mankind from extinction.

    A mission from which we would not return.

    At that point we were renamed. Natasha Sochinskaya thus became Eve and I, Anders Johannson became Adam. The first two humans on board the space colony, Eden’s Garden. Within twelve months it was predicted that the Red Virus would wipe out all remaining human life on Mars and it would become another dead planet like Earth.

    We were Mankind’s last hope.

    Eve and I studied each other closely. We had met many times during the selection process, often in competition. She was an impressive female, some four inches taller than me and athletically muscled. Age 25 the same as me. She had almost matched me on the speed and agility tests and had easily overshadowed me on the strength tests. Intellectually we were almost exactly even. She smiled at me with a set of perfect white teeth and gripped my hand firmly.

    “It’s good to officially meet you, Adam,” she said.

    “Yes, it’s already been a long journey, Eve.”

    From now on, we would have to put all thoughts of competition behind us and meld into a team. For life.

    We had one month before launch to become accustomed to our space craft. During that time we learned all the routine tasks required to monitor the controls, manage the robots workers, maintain communications with the mother planet and, of course, the key task, to start the process of growing the fertilised human embryos into new people. The future.

    Eve and I would be “mother” and “father” to the next generation who would be born two by two, year by year. When they were old enough, they would take over from us. They would learn the skills required from us and from the computers on board and they would procreate.

    And we would die.

    Now, seventy four years later, this ship has changed in so many ways. Firstly, there are now three hundred souls on board. The youngest are just months old, cared for in the crèche or by their own human parents on board. Eve and I initiated the official creation process as soon as we were safely in space. The first few years were backbreaking. We were parents, gardeners, scientists and jack of all trades.

    But now, the gardens are fully manned and productive, the science labs are engaged in cutting edge technology and every aspect of life is catered for in this new environment. Parts of the ship that were mothballed are now fully functioning. If a new planet is found then we are ready.

    We feel so proud of our family.

    As I sit by Eve’s bedside she turns her head towards me. Yesterday was her 99th. birthday.
    “It won’t be long now,“ she speaks with some difficulty. “Perhaps you should send for them now.”
    Life has been good for us these past seventy four years. Mission accomplished.

    I hear a scuff of feet behind me and turn to see the tall, strong couple who have just entered the room. They rush across to us and grasp Eve’s hand and place an arm around my shoulders. They are distraught. Death is very rare in this spaceship and we are very special to them. They are the only people born on board who grew in a human womb. In Eve’s womb. Twins. A boy and a girl.

    Eve and I found love together after years in space, nurturing the new babies and two of our own.

    All those years ago we broke protocol and slept together and we have every night since.

    That was the one thing the Council of Mars did not predict.

    Falling in love.

    As Eve took her final breath I held onto that simple symbol of our love.

    The gold band on her left hand.

    • trish4694
      What a beautiful and imaginative story. So many excellent stories this time- this is my favorite.
      • Ilana
        Just read this story and absolutely loved it. Pity it wasn’t able to be voted on. Really great story Ken blew my socks off.
    • Hi again Ken, it’s nice to see the other side of humanity, not criminals this time but the carriers of a new future.

      I’m surprised that the Masterminds behind this project didn’t suspect what might happen if they chose a male and a female. But then, again, the Original One didn’t either, apparently. Or so the famous tale seems to go.

      The gold band on her left hand…hmmm… that had an engraved apple on it? No, this is a story with what seems like a good outcome, right? Not like the first mess-up…

      Thanks for deciding to share this story with us, too, Ken – even though we can’t vote for it.


  • RM York
    First, I’d like to wish all my American compadres a Happy Thanksgiving and, at the same time extend warm wishes for a wonderful day to everyone else tomorrow while I celebrate with my family and friends. I have a lot for which to be thankful.

    I’m out of the hospital and things are moving along nicely. My surgeon, GP and my oncologist tell me the worst is over and my life will return to normal before I even realize it.

    I probably won’t have the mental strength and/or acuity to enter this week, although BEMs are among my favorites as characters. Who knows, a plot may rear its beautiful head and I could get lucky. (For SF neophytes, BEM is short for bug eyed monsters.)

    I’ll be back.


    • Hi Roy,

      Great news and your prescence will be very welcome.

      Happy Thanksgiving.

      Ken Frape

    • Alice Nelson

      Great news Roy! Looking forward to seeing your stories here again, and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Ilana L
      Wishing you good health and going from strength to strength. Sending healing vibes Roy.
    • Good to hear you’re now on top of it all, Roy…

      Looking forward to seeing you in full form again ie. writing stories 🙂

      The BEMs didn’t come round, calling… but there’ll soon be a new prompt up! I guuuueeesss it’s gonna be something witchcrafty, mythicological, hmmm, something along those lines… Kristin is in the captain’s cabin, this time.

      Well, once again, I’m really glad to hear your good news!

  • Alice Nelson

    Alright Ladies and Gents, this story thread is now closed and it is time to vote. As always, you must vote in order for your story to count, and you can not vote for yourself.

    Well, alright, alright, alright, let’s vote!

  • Going Home. – Liz Fisher.
    A good old, standard sci-fi story. However, you infer that there is some good reason for human-alien abductions, but then you never mention abductions again. In other words, the first paragraph setup, leads you to a different story. But the story you get, though different, is pretty good anyway. A positive and interesting story.

    Rabbit Hash. – JJ Hersey.
    I shudder to think of what this title actually stands for. If it was explained, I don’t remember. But dying from exposure on the surface of Mars can’t be pleasant. The character is not likeable, and there appear to be no consequences for her apathy. On the other hand, how will she survive on her own? Therein lies the real story. It was never mentioned.

    Belonging – Phil Town.
    A twist on the ‘2001 Space Odyssey.’ An improvement over the original, although that’s not saying much. At least your ending is actually clear, and believable. Not sure you even needed to refer to that old flick for your story to work. Writing? Excellent, as always.

    Red Planet. – Ken Miles.
    Gold eating Russians that leads to a joke between Gorby and Reagan? It’s a very cynical story, which is great, but the ‘science’ is simply not believable. I mean, its ludicrous. Eating gold makes them immune to an airless world? Come on. This is a weird story. Not very believable but nothing a few minor tweaks couldn’t rectify.

    Anarchists On Mars. – Peter Holmes.
    I got it. This was a diplomatic event gone horribly wrong. I enjoyed the unique historical background story, it’s a dark vision and an absolutely brilliant plot, ‘they missed the missing thumbs.’ But, the actual consequences seemed unbelievable. You missed the point of your own story, having thumbs would make us superior, even if they were offended by it. As it was, that such a serious event could happen without more soldiers and weapons present or at least accounted for, seemed unlikely to me. Especially considering that we do have thumbs, and they’re very useful. I feel like you have a good idea here but you should revise it until it makes me happy. (I can’t be any more honest than that.) It’s a shame that no one survives..

    Ode To The Wild Geese. – Berlinermax. A sad and chilling story about a place where poetry is something of a weapon. Or a lifeline. An antidote, that’s what it was. Stark, believable. Thanks for not including the poetry.

    Game For A Death. – Ken Frape. – This is a strange but imaginative story, on reflection a kind of gladiators of the future. Space Gladiators. The background is intriguing but, like the other stories, the story is a downer. In fact, I could barely find any redemptive message in any of the stories this week. Except for the one that you didn’t submit.

    Ferrymen. – Ken Cartisano

    The Red Queen. – Ilana Leeds.
    Bugs, a futile mission, disconnected humans, a dark and disturbing story. African bees meets Alien, meets ‘The Borg.’ I was thinking, ‘how lucky she is that she isn’t feeling any pain, or much fear while all this is happening.’ The writing is excellent, except for the first paragraph. There are too many

    These numbers are all found in your first paragraph.
    three other; every six hours; three hourly shifts; forty-five years. once a day; for three hours; once a day; for three hours; the half hour; two teams of four; four back up teams.
    By the end of the paragraph, I’m wondering if this story is about math.

  • Alice Nelson

    “Outer Space” – November 28, 2019

    First Place: The Red Queen by Ilana Leeds

    2nd Place: Game for a death by Ken Frape
    3rd Place: Ode to the wild geese by berlinermax
    4th Place: BELONGING by Phil Town
    5th Place: RED PLANET by Ken Miles
    6th Place: The Ferrymen by Ken Cartisano
    7th Place: RABBIT HASH by JJ Hershey
    8th Place: GOING HOME by Liz Fisher
    9th Place: Anarchists on Mars by Peter Holmes

    Favorite Character: “Captain Drake” from The Ferrymen by Ken Cartisano
    Character Dialogue: The Ferrymen by Ken Cartisano

    Congratulations Ilana, so good to see you in the winner’s circle again.!!!!
    And thank you all for participating.

  • Congratulations Ilana on a very bug-dacious story.
  • Ilana Leeds
    Thank you those who voted for my story. I’m kind of astounded that it was worth a first against some very good stories that I considered better than mine. Agree with Ken C and someone else that there are improvements that could be made. I love Ken’s take on the first paragraph and have to agree with him. But Ken I hate maths. It’s not my strong point.
    I am a story teller. I could have had more show than tell in this story and I have to be self reflective about my stories and how I construct them and how my characters act / behave whether good or bad.
    I love this site for the opportunity to write and next prompt should get our creative juices going.
    Happy thanksgiving all you USA people.
    I am giving thanks for your votes for my story and I am still wondering if it is really worthy?
    Self doubt is a good thing in any creative person. It keeps us from being too arrogant and up ourselves about our capabilities.
  • Congrats To you, Ilana, for your thrilling story! And thanks to all of you. This is a good place to write!
  • Phil Town
    Congratulations, Ilana!

    (And I’ll stop there or I’ll have Ken C on my back …)

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