A bottle of hope sat on the shelf – Room 101

Just something about bleached anus’

This is in response to M’s fabulous prompts which you can see here. These used to be 101 words. Sometimes they still are. Sometimes not. They are often snippets, occasionally unfinished and sometimes simply the beginnings of something for another time. Mostly though they are just whatever the words inspire.


“Another,” Balthazar demanded, and slammed his glass on the bar top. His wings bristled, and the dim light glinted on the tips of his horns as he looked around the room. Small wisps of smoke drifted from his nostrils and his thin lips curled up in a sneer, revealing his sharp, white teeth.

A tall, pale faced creature with skin like dirty snow wandered across, his deep blue eyes flashed as he poured a thick, dark liquid into the waiting glass.

“Long day?” He asked. The barkeep pushed the cork back into the bottle, wiped the bar top habitually, and then flicked the cloth so that it sat across his shoulder.

Balthazar snarled and downed the drink, again loudly demanding a refill.

“You sure about that?” Asked the tall, pale creature. “This stuff don’t come cheap you know, and ….”

“Another!” Balthazar roared.

The glass was quickly filled, and then filled once more. The rage in Balthazar’s eyes dimmed slightly with each consumed glass, and by the time he had finished two more he placed the empty vessel quietly.

“Yes,” he said, letting out a long deep sigh.

“Yes, what?” the bar keep asked puzzled, as he offered the bottle once more.

Balthazar placed a hand over the glass and shook his head.

“Long day. You asked me if it had been a long day. Yes, yes it has. Really long.”

The barkeep nodded and placed the bottle back on the shelf behind him as Balthazar continued.

“It’s people you see,” he said, the wisps of smoke now gone and the fire in his eyes dimmed. “You know how it is with them right?” He didn’t, however, wait to find out whether the barkeep did, or did not, know how it was with people and continued. “Every day I get up, clean my horns, sharpen my teeth and ensure that my skin suit is clean and presentable. I’m never late, I stay late, and I give my very best efforts. You know what that gets me?” He asked.

A wide mouthed, bat like creature with ears where its eyes ought to be and eyes where its ears ought to be settled on the bar next to him and looked him up and down. It then caught the attention of the barkeep and asked for two vodka martinis to be delivered to table seven.

“You know how it is with people right?” Balthazar asked it, “you know how they are I’m sure.”

The bat like animal flashed a smile with its ear-eyes and gave Balthazar what he took be a confirmatory nod, and flittered off towards the back of the room where what appeared to be a couple of snakes were having a loud disagreement over the existential power of apple imagery in medieval architecture.

“You see, he knows,” Balthazar said, “he knows what they’re like.”

The barkeep was used to this sort of thing, he tended to see it a lot as the week wore on. First thing Monday morning everyone was filled with the optimism of the week ahead, the potential for pain and suffering, the chance to make a real difference and bring proper misery and sadness. But by Wednesday he could see the doubt seeping in as the long hours took their toll. By Friday the stark reality would dawn on them and they would flock to the bar after work with a pocket full of silver and a big old dose of reality.

“People,” the barkeep said knowingly.

“Exactly!” Proclaimed Balthazar. “See, you get it too. There is nothing that we can do to them that they probably haven’t already done to each other.” He seemed invigorated in finding someone who understood his plight. “Do you know, that just this morning I was doing some anal stretching on a school teacher from California, and do you knwo what she said?”

The barkeep shook his head.

“Bleach. She asked for bleach. Said she wanted to look her best and was wondering if she might be able to put a picture of it it on the ‘gram becasue she was pretty sure none of her friends would believe it.” Balthazar took a deep breath to compose himself, visibly shaking. “Do you know how hard it is to find bleachg down here?” He continued. “But even when I did find some it really wasn’t as if it was my idea, so where’s the joy in that. I had intended to start with gaping and progreess from there. I mean most people finish at gaping, so I set a high bar, professionally speaking. But I just couldn’t relly get into it. She stole all the pleasure from it. Left me with this horrible empty feeling right in the pit of my stomach.”

“That’s out of order,” said the barkeep as he signalled the bat like creature to fetch the drinks for table seven.

“Damn right it is, I had to desecrate a couple of yoga teachers to try and make myself feel better about things, but sometimes even defiled yoga teachers aren’t enough to make you feel good.”

“So what did you do?” The barkeep asked as Balthazar motioned to his empty glass once more.

“2 million likes for a bleached stretched anus,” Balthazar replied, his shoulders slumped and his eyes dark with disappointment. “Two million. I swear, we really should have just left them to it. They dont take anything seriously, and nothing we can do can make it any worse up here…fuck them all.”

Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday: LOOSE and TIGHT

My ongoing desecration of diminutive Japanese poetry forms

Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday

Not done one of these in yonks!  Let’s put that right…

This week the challenge was to use synonyms for LOOSE and TIGHT.


clothes baggy like sails

billow in wild winds of greed

tossed as left salad

in exchange for sweet, rich fare

trousers slowly strangle me

__________________________


A carnivore’s forbidden desire

The follow up from the archives…

You should read this first.  I did so enjoy writing it.  Below is quite the opposite and not a single word of it is true.  Ok maybe the frog pasty bit but only that.

 

After much consideration it appears I would perhaps

like to try Koala glazed with cranberries and schnapps

and I’m now perhaps quite tempted by a plate of hamster fillet

just as long as it’s deboned and someone took good care to skin it

 

These days I’m rather ready for a broth made out of Turtle

I would even eat a pokemon, say Pikachu or Squirtle

and I’d not say no pasties filled with vegetables and frog

and my mouth sure starts to slaver at the thought of slow roast dog

 

Ooh a seventies style fondue with small chunks of cat and monkey

and a creamy sauce of gruyere cheese would be ever so funky

and then wash it down with beaver juice fresh squeezed, soda and lime

or a thick stew made with Panda bits would hit the spot each time

 

Then at lunch time there’d be squirrel cakes and sauces thick and tasty

and a wellington with mushrooms and a parrot wrapped in pastry

there’d be volauvents with gold fish tails and budgie infused cider

and a lion steak and hippo cheek and tender side of tiger

 

Oh the banquet of the carnivore holds such delicious treats

mouth watering and quite sublime with most forbidden meats

they care not now for beef or lamb or chicken, goose or pork

to the extreme their pallet’s crave such dark things on their fork.

 

 

On the matter of eating endangered species

Ome from the archives…

I would not eat a panda

it does not appeal to me

Despite it being grass fed

and not tough and quite juicy

It’s flesh I would not sauté

bake or broil or steam or fry

I would not make some pastry

and then bake it in a pie

Please do not serve me blue whale

it would surely be obscene

To brown it in a skillet

with chopped garlic and some cream

I could not sample blow hole

or a steak of flesh most pink

Do not prepare me sperm whale

or an orca or a mink

Bald Eagle’s off the menu

it could never pass my lips

I’d never shallow fry it

And then serve it with some chips

Please do not bring it to me

if you do I will reject

The smorgasbord of tasty

claws and wings and beaks and necks

Be gone you furry entrée

do not ask me to abide

A puppy stuffed with kitten

and Koala on the side

It leaves me feeling queasy

and on me it does repeat

I gag on eucalyptus

flavoured mar-su-pi-al meat

I’d never eat a chilli

made of simians for sure

Orang-utan with lentils

that I surely would deplore

I’d not enjoy chim-pan-zee

milk poached with fresh vanilla

I’d rather eat a salad

than bar-be-cued gorilla

But pig and cow I’ll gorge on

and chickens fill the belly

Once eels I even sampled

But the hot ones not in jelly

So why’s each species different

some not headed for the pot

whilst others we eat freely

quite delicious cold or hot

——————————————————–

Fancy something else?
https://afterwards.blog/2017/07/03/first-blog-post/
https://afterwards.blog/2017/07/14/we-unlikely-few/

4 years of blogging and my 2000th post!

Well, well, well, what a conflagration of celebrations this is. Four years ago today I first penned something on WordPress and now I am here celebrating 2000 posts also.

2000. Yup, 2000!

Now if you’ve come to my blog more recently that might be a surprise, and I will admit I have not been particularly active the last year and a half, but regardless, what a fun ride it has been! ,

Now I know that lately it’s been a lot about limericks, some diet stuff and me meandering around Halifax with my dog but looking back at the post categories I realise just how eclectic the blog has been over the years.

There are hundreds of short stories and pieces of flash fiction, posts about comics and art, limericks and haiku a plenty, a smattering of moody poetry and there was even that kinda full book thingy I did that one month. Actually, I am quite proud of the 350000 words I have put to paper. There’s a big part of me on this blog. Mostly a rather twisted part, but a big part nonetheless.

Oh and the book, I published the book of limericks too didn’t I. And there was that time that I nearly accidentally ended up on the sex offenders list by showing a class of 9 years olds a detailed list of sexual fetishes. Remember that? Oh, how we laughed.

Those 2000 posts have helped me enjoy 1517 followers (though a lot seem to have become sadly inactive), 13000 comments, 30000 visitors, 76000 views, and rather a lot of new friends from a lot, but sadly not all, of the planet. Greenland continues to evade me, much to my constant frustration.

Anyway, so what have I learned I don’t hear you ask. Well, here you go. Pearls of wisdom for you…

  1. It really doesn’t matter if people like what you write about. Write for yourself and the right people will find you.
  2. Take a break when you need to, then come back when you want to. It can all get a bit overwhelming sometimes trying to keep creating content. So don’t. We will miss you when you’re not here and welcome you back when you return.
  3. Read more than you write. Everyone wants to be seen, but if you don’t follow, comment, like and read then you’re a selfish twat. There are some really fabulous people out there who pour themselves onto their blogs and you should feel honoured to be able to enjoy them. Mostly…I mean there is some utter shite too, but it’s passionate shite. Usually. And please, if people who you like don’t always read you just remember they were probably at the shops, or dealing with blocked drains or just dealing with the shit life brings. It’s not personal. Not usually anyway.
  4. Enjoy it. Seriously, find joy where you can and just enjoy it. Most of the people you find along the way will disappear on you but there are those that will stick it out with you and you will find friends in them, even if you don’t know what they look like or if they are even who they say they are.
  5. Don’t be a dick.

So there you go, happy blog day to me and here’s to many years more of looking for interesting words that rhyme with ‘Fuck’. A huge thank you to all of you who have been here with me along the way and especially those who I feel I know particularly well after these 4 years.

Stay fabulous

Michael

x

My wellbeing journey – Fit by 50 – 2nd of July 2021

An update for you…Happy weekend!

You can read the kick off post here

Ive not written about this for a while. I haven’t given up, that I can confirm. I’m mostly just not quite as focussed as writing about it as I was.

I am still walking lots, eating pretty well and mostly mindful of what I put in myself and what energy I expend. I am though, just at one of those stages where I am just trying to refocus and get things really where they need to be rather than it being ‘okay’.

I broke my ankle, then sprained the other, then sprained the broken one so ended up pretty immobile for a few months and took up eating and drinking a little too much during that time so am now working on improving those good habits again.

Ive stayed off the scales mostly, and to be honest they just lie anyway right, so don’t quite know the damage done but I am not bothered either. Creating that permanent change that can survive sitting on one’s arse for a few months is where I need to be and that remains my goal. The rest will follow.

Hey. Psst. You, yes you. Got a nasty limerick for you.

It’s just one. It will be fine. No one will know trust me…

A flatulent baker called Martin

Won all contests he’d entered his tarts in

His baked wares were the best

And he proudly confessed

“‘Cos as well as sweet treats, they have fart in!”

What Teddy saw. 9.

Teddy returns briefly to get him out of my drafts. I forgot about him.

Part 1 Part2  Part 3 Part 4 Part 5  Part 6  Part 7   Part 8

It’s been a while, I realise.  Because of reasons, obviously. And those reasons mostly revolve around the whole lot of them not having left the house for the last fucking year and a half nearly. I mean, Christ-on-a-bike, I couldn’t get one bloody minute free to myself to let you know how I was doing..

You’ve all been well I hope?

Who am I kidding, to be honest I don’t really care. I am currently so wrapped up in my own self pity that giving a monkey’s rancid fart about anyone or anything else seems beyond me.

Please don’t judge me too harshly though, a bear can only take so much you know. I know we have all been through a lot, and for many it has been a heart-breaking time filled fear, uncertainty and the horrors of a pandemic but fuck me, the obsession with zoom quizzes, bread baking and artisan cheeses is just not acceptable. And don’t get me started on the home schooling…seriously, I find it hard to believe that the lot of them get through the day without falling into heavy machinery or accidentally drinking bleach.

Oh and get this, you’ll love this, they started having family game nights. Excuse my big sweaty bear balls but that was hardly going to work out was it.  They can hardly stand each other at the best of times. Throw in monopoly and a bottle of riocha and she ended up locked in the downstairs bathroom insisting her mother was right about him and the kids were crying because daddy used naughty words about granny.

For what it’s worth though, he is right about her mother. But Jesus, in what world do you actually admit that she has a face like a melted candle and always smells like she’s just enjoyed a hearty lunch of pickled herring. Honesty never got anyone anywhere…

It’s all just a bit much and I really need them to fuck off back to work/school/wherever she used to go without her nickers on after he goes to the gym.

Enough already.

Did I mention the artisan cheeses?  Oh don’t get me started on that.

An animal lovers Tuesday limerick.

Not one of my better ones but it’ll do. Not like there are loads of bestiality limericks out there to compare it to…

A compassionate vet from Uganda

Stroked a cat whilst sat on his veranda

Took his love just too far

Touched a dog in his car

Now gives hand jobs to monkeys and panda

The place where silence had a voice

Another from the drafts that I continue to clear out…

Here’s another from my drafts. This one is apparently from October 2019. I don’t remember it at all really. It was one of M’s prompts that I never quite finished (obviosly right). I liked the beginning but never really planned it out, and the end is a bit of a cop out. It’s hardly an original idea, I think it was just s stream of consciousness kind of thing. Oh well, it’s something I guess.  Meh. *Presses ‘Publish’.

________________________

With what should have been his hands, Walter quite unsuccessfully reached for what ought to have been his head and found nothing.

After further exploration he quickly determined that neither his head, nor his hands were in the general vicinity of where one would expect to find them. In fact, without too much effort at all he was able to ascertain that he seemed to be missing rather a lot of assorted appendages and parts. And by a lot, he meant precisely everything.

His leg bone was not connected to his foot bone. And his neck bone was not connected to his back bone. In fact, none of his bones seemed to be connected to any other of his bones in any sort of way that would allow him to sing the song with the measure of confidence he was pretty certain he would have been able to earlier that morning.

In addition, and to compound his growing consternation, Walter also noted that he couldn’t see anything.  Not his non existent hands, or his curiously absent feet. Nor any of his other absent body parts.  Whether it was a deficiency of eyes that was causing the lack of everything else, or whether he indeed possessed eyes but there was simply nothing for them to see he could not tell, and the whole thing really left him feeling rather unwell.

“What the devil is going on?” He said mustering as best a sense of authority as he could, calling upon all he had learned during a two day seminar on ‘Meaningful Management’ in Brighton more years ago now than he could quite recall.  “Is anybody there?  Hello. HELLO!”

“Oh, good day,” replied a voice in the darkness. “I wasn’t expecting anybody, I am sorry.”  The voice was warm and calm, not quite a man’s or a woman’s, just somewhere comfortingly in-between the two.  “Did you have an appointment?”

“Appointment?” Replied Walter, confused. 

“Yes, an appointment, everyone who comes here tends to have an appointment,” replied the voice. “However would we maintain order if we didn’t have appointments.  It would be chaos and that really would not do.  No, it would not do one jot.”

As far as he was aware, Walter didn’t have an appointment and he confirmed as much. He knew he needed to be somewhere, though doubted it was here. It was far more likely he needed to pop to the shops for milk or tea bags. That said, it was was all a little fuzzy and he couldn’t be absolutely certain.

Walter noted that he couldn’t feel his tongue or lips, and that made him wonder how he was managing to speak.

“It’s your consciousness” said the voice.

“What is?”

“You were wondering about where the words were coming from weren’t you.”

Walter managed little more than a mumble in response. 

“I…well you see it is just that….” Walter’s voice trailed away and once more only darkness remained as he waited.

And Waited.

“Ahem,” Walter coughed politely.

“Oh yes yes, so sorry, now about that appointment.  You say you don’t have one right?  Most unusual I must say.”

“Sorry no, I don’t really know what is going on to be honest with you.”

“Best policy that” Replied the voice enthusiastically, “Can’t go wrong with a bit of honesty.  Now let’s clear up this appointment business shall we.”

Walter would have shuffled on the spot had there been a spot to shuffle on. Or feet to shuffle.

“Yes, there’s definitely no appointment.” The voice said. “The book is never wrong and there is nobody due for another one point eight seconds.”

Walter mouthed a silent nothing. He would very much have liked to have something constructive to say, anything, but he had precisely nothing. 

“Well,” continued the voice, “this really is a pickle isn’t it. What are we going to do with you. It’s not like we can just send you back now, is it.” 

It wasn’t as much a question as a statement, Walter thought. 

“Are you sure?” He mustered. “I am pretty sure there is somewhere that I need to be.”

“Oh no, no chance of that. You’re here now. We can’t just stuff you back in now can we. Whatever would those upstairs say if we just went stuffing things where they ought not to be stuffed. It would be chaos. No, no, you’re here now.” 

“You can’t?” Said Walter, remembering where it was that he was supposed to be. “I was supposed to have a job interview this afternoon. In Wimbledon.  Could you maybe not just drop me off there?”

Whether he was being ignored, or the voice had drifted off somewhere to do whatever it is disembodied voices do when people don’t have appointments, Walter did not know, but for what seemed an immeasurable length of time, he waited. And paced. In as much as you can pace without anywhere to pace to or anything to pace with. 

“Good news,” came the voice in the darkness. “We have an opening. I had a word with the boys in lost property and we think we have something that might fit. “It’s not exactly your size but should do the trick.”

Walter did an about turn and then faced back to where he had been originally. “What do you mean by ‘fit’, he asked. “I need to be in Wimbledon. I have an interview. I really cannot be late.”

“Oh no, terribly sorry, but you won’t be going to Wimbledon,” the voice said. “That ship has sailed. Afraid you’re just going to have to settle for whatever we have. Clerical cock up I’m afraid.”

“Sailed? You mean I missed it?” Walter asked. “But it had wonderful benefits and a parking space and….”

“Just step back a little will you,” said the voice. 

Without thinking, Walter shuffled backwards.

“That’s it, just there. Now hold still.”

“But I…now listen here, what do you mean by cock up,” Walter protested, “I want to speak to someone in charge. I have right s you know. This is all very…”

Walter never finished explaining what exactly it was, and he never got to speak to whoever was in charge. The quiet darkness was replaced by a roaring gush of sound and there was an ear piercing scream. All about him he felt a warm wetness, and his chest was tight as his lungs burned.

“Just a little more,” came a voice as the darkness gave way to soft warm light. It was a woman’s voice. “Her head is nearly out…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fetish Haiku – A is for Acrotomophilia

Been forever since I did some of these. Found a new list to work to so let’s see where this leads…

In Fingerless gloves

Through absence of feet aroused

Smooth, sensual stumps


Acrotomophilia – Arousal to amputees

To be honest I have heard of this one. Apparently some people (and by that I mean men. Pretty much it’s always men right….) Anyway, there’s some good money to be made from rubs from stubs. That what my research leads me to believe.

I need to burn my computer now because I should have known better than to google ‘weird kinks’) whilst not in incognito mode… Okay so I clicked a few links. I’m just naturally curious!

Theodore Rufus Doggington the 1st. My what a big dog he is…

Theo and I wandering the local area with camera in hand

So ten months in and what sort of dog is he now? Curiously, he hasn’t really changed much. He is sweet, friendly and wants to be everyone’s BFF. Only main difference is that he can now mostly pull my shoulder out of its socket if he get the sniff of the sort of thing that makes dogs lunge wildly. You know, squirrels, a random leaf, a small child with an ice cream. That sort of stuff.

We continue to wander around Halifax as the mood takes us, and he also had a trip to Scarborough recently to have his first swim in the sea, and he bloody loved it. He followed it up with fish and chips and some dog ice cream, so as days go I think it was perhaps one of his best. I think it just pipped the day he got hold of 3 bags of dog treats and scoffed down the lot.

He’s made plenty of friends, though remains a little rough when he plays with them so has some learning to do on that front. He isn’t bitey, it’s not anything like that, he is just an exuberant ball of uncoordinated enthusiasm which can be rather off putting.

Anyway, here’s a few pictures of us wandering about aimlessly.

Belugas and dreamlifters

I loved it when I started, hated it by the time I was finished but at least the idea is kind of out of my head now and I can fix it another day.

Been a while, so let’s have a look at M’s prompts. I used to do a lot of these and want to do more this year. This one is from January, but I liked the title, and have been dabbling for many months meaning to get to it. If you’re reading it now I guess I finished it. Kind of. TBH I just wanted it out of my drafts. I think the idea is an interesting one, just lost momentum along the way. Anyway, it’s a draft but as far as I am going with it – it is done. Woohoo.


The Expatria drifted slowly through the inky black of space, Jupiter’s shadow cast across her massive bulk as she rounded the pale moon of Europa and engaged her sub light drives. At over five million tonnes she was the largest of the Heavy Weight Class ships to leave the Martian shipyards, and she was bigger even than the Federal battle cruisers that patrolled the region.

Even in the dark of space she seemed to spark and flicker as light struck the long curves or her upper decks, her gigantic storage tanks buried deep within the bulge at her centre and lower sections waiting to be filled. The distinctive yellow and black Martian livery marked her unmistakably as a Dreamlifter, and as she slowed the small fleet of support vessels about her sprung into life, preparing her for action.

The bridge sat high on the front of the ship, three sides open to the dark of space, and standing on the deck looking out across the surface of the moon, Captain Staines issued his orders calmly.

“Bring her around ten degrees to moon side, nice and easy, ensign. And keep up 10 miles above surface.”

“Yes sir,” came the response from somewhere behind him, and he felt the ship turn slowly, almost imperceptibly. But with 25 years on these birds he could feel her every movement in his bones.

“Engineering, what’s our status?” Staines asked.

Behind him, there were thirty crew sat at long arrays of display banks, arranged in three rows that ran the width of the bridge. Pale green light flickered across their faces as the ship continued to move slowly then came to a halt, hanging above the moon surface.

An angular featured, thick set engineer, his yellow EngCore colours displayed in thick flashes on the shoulders of his dark blue uniform looked up from his display.

“Captain, readouts confirm that all systems are green-for-go, and we are now within harness range of the spike,” he said. His voice boomed across the bridge like approaching thunder and a passing service robot scuttled for cover.

The feint hum of the sub light engines filled the air as they held the Expatria in place against the massive gravitational pull of Jupiter in the distance, the slow hypnotic swirl of the planet’s surface distracting him while the crew waited on his orders. She was a thing of true beauty, and something to be feared if you were foolish enough to stray too close to her.

“Engineering, initiate harness protocols and prepare for harvest.” Staines said, turning back towards the crew. “Time to go to work.”


Barnabas threw a boot across the cabin at Lafayette as she stirred in her bunk.

“Hey, come on!” he shouted as she rolled over, swearing into her pillow. “We’re green, and we need to get our arses in gear.”

Lafayette opened her eyes slowly, and instinctively reached for the bottle next to her bed, noted it was empty and let it fall to the floor as she sat up, tossing the boot back across the room.

“Eat my balls,” she said swinging her legs out of bed and into her her boots.

“Nice,” said Barnabus, “you talk to your mother with that mouth?”

“Thoughts of what I do with my mouth should never even enter your head,” she said, rubbing her eyes and running her fingers through her long dark hair, pulling it into a tight pony tail. “We got a confirmed spike?” She asked.

“Big one apparently,” Barnabus answered as Lafayette got to her feet. She straightened the red overall she had fallen asleep in the night before and pulled the black belt tight around her narrow waist.

“What we waiting for then?” She said, brushing past Barnabus and stooping down to pass through the low cabin doorway.

Barnabus smiled and set off after her. She was one hell of a drinker, but she was an even better harpoon operator, one of the best, and talk was that there was a big one out there.

The clank of boots on steel echoed as they passed the rough the long, dimly lit corridor that ran from the crew quarters low on the stern of the Expatria. On each side service routes branched off and snaked throughout the bowels of the ship, and it was down one of these that Barnabus and Lafayette headed.

“So exactly how big are we talking?” Asked Lafayette without looking back at Barnabus who trailed behind.

“A Neptune event big, apparently,” replied Barnabus, “maybe even bigger. It has be something special to bring us this close to the planet, I reckon.”

Lafayette smiled to herself. Big haul meant big pay, and the Guild paid the best rates in the sector. They held a tight grip on the shipping lanes that crisscrossed the galaxy, and they couldn’t do this without controlling the dark matter that fuelled the faster then light engines that made crossing such huge distances possible.

“And who else is on duty, have they said?” She asked.

Barnabus hurried to catch her up. She had a competitive streak for sure, in fact it was more than just a streak, it was a compulsion to be the best and when you were trying to harness pure dark matter it helped to be motivated.

“It’s you, Jones and Metlichok,” Barnabus answered. “And me and Zulu on radar.”

Lafayette bristled as she slowed and looked back at Barnabus, who was now a little breathless as he struggled to keep up with her.

“Christ, are you fucking kidding me!” Lafayette snapped. “Those jokers nearly got me toasted at Caloris Basin. Jones is a bag of nerves and Metlichock doesn’t give a shit about anything the money. It makes him reckless.” She scrolled through the display on her watch, checking the ship comms for details of who was on duty on the bridge. “I need to see Staines. Is he on deck?”

“And how do you think that will go down exactly?” Barnabus asked. “This thing is big, big time big, and like them or not they get the job done. There are millions of cubes of DM, just waiting to be ‘pooned and you can’t play nicely with the other children. Not a good look on you, you know.”

Lafayette knew Barnabus was right, they wouldn’t change the crew, and this made her angrier still.

“Well they can still eat my balls,” she snapped.

Barnabus grinned. “You seem rather obsessed with having your non existent balls eaten you know.”

“They’re metaphorical, thank you very much. Metaphorical balls. Big hairy ones.”

“Even so, you know, you really do seem very keen to…”

“Okay, enough, enough,” snapped Lafayette, pushing through a set of heavy double doors, “let’s just go to work shall we.”

Barnabus smiled as he followed her through the doors into the wide, low room ahead. “Okay, if you insist.”


“Are we ready to engage?” Captain Staines asked as the Expatria hung above the surface of the moon, her huge shadow cast across the surface. He looked unusually nervous, and strode back and forth across the bridge, his hands his hands dug deep into his jacket pockets.

“All service online and ready to proceed Captain,” came a voice from behind him. “Estimated haul…”

There was a pause and the voice trailed away, a tone of disbelief left hanging in the air.

“Yes?” Prompted Staines

“Sir, it’s of the charts. Readings spiking all over the place.”

Staines turned slowly and faced the room. The dim light of the computer banks lit the pale faces of the crew that sat behind them.

“Is there a problem Ensign?” The captain asked, his voice prickling with frustration. He needed this haul, it was critical to the success of their mission and the Shipping Guild were on the comms hourly asking for updates.

“No sir,” the Ensign replied, “Ive just never seen anything like this.”

Staines fixed him with a stare and waited.

“Sorry sir, no problems reported, we are ready to engage.”

“Then do it.”

The Ensign punched in release codes and a red light lit up the room. A ship wide alert barked out. ‘Extraction protocols live. All hands to stations.’

“Thank you Ensign,” said the Captain. “Comms, send a message to the Guild and inform them harpooning has commenced.”

A wiry haired operator responded sharply. “Yes sir,” he said, looking up, and then returned to his screen, fingers flashing across the flat panel in front of him.

As he punched the ‘transmit’ button all hell broke loose.

In an instant, the Expatria was rocked sideways, and Captain Staines was thrown across the deck and send crashing to the floor against an instrument array that sat raised to the side of the bridge. A screaming whine filled the air as the sub light drives fought to right the ship and lights flashed and flickered as the crew were tossed from their positions and strewn across the brdge.

Horror flashed across Staines’ face as he fought to gain his footing, leaning against the console against which he’d been thrown.

“What the hell was that!” He shouted as a second shudder ran through the ship. A mix of alarms and shouting rent the air as the crew scrambled to regain their positions.

“Massive overload!” Shouted an ashen faced engineer. “Tanks at 98%. Auxillary hold engaged. Integrity steady but outlet manifolds under sever stress Captain.”

Staines scrambled over to his chair on the opposite end of the deck and threw himself into it, pulling the harness straps tight over his shoulders.

“Get me Lafayette on comms now! He barked. “And put radar on heads up. I need information.”

A holoscreen appeared in mid air about a metre in front of where Stanines sat. It flickered for a moment and then the flustered face of Barnabus appeared on it, no longer sporting it’s usual broad smile.

“What the fuck is going on down there?” Stains demanded.

A control panel behind Barnabus sparked and cracked, lights flickering and the hiss of escaping steam mixed with the shouts and cries in the background.

“It’s a Beluga sir,” shouted Barnabus over the din, “a huge one sir, like nothing I’ve seen before, and it’s pissed.”

Captain Staines shook his head. As critical as the ‘pooners were, their superstitions, folklore and spiritual view of dark matter defied all sense or logic, and he knew better than to diminish the very thing that seemed to allow them to harness it.

“Just tell me what you’re seeing, Barnabus,” Staines said calmly.

Barnabus flinched as a heat duct came crashing down and collapsed behind him.

“This thing is after us Sir, from the minute I locked on and issued coordinates to Lafayette it was like it knew we were here and it came straight for us. We didn’t need to try and hit it – it came to us.”

Staines took a deep breath. “Have you unlocked targeting?” He asked. “Have we disengaged.”

“Yes Sir,” Barnabus shouted in terror, his eyes were wide and Staines could see him shaking. “But it’s still after us Sir. It’s a Beluga Sir, and it’s still coming down the system, I can see it, I can feel it!”

There was a loud scream from somewhere behind Barnabus and the screen fizzed and went black. The Expatria rocked and a cacophony of alarms sounded. Staines unstrapped himself from the chair and stumbled towards a door that lead from the bridge.

“Keep her steady!” He shouted and he pushed through the doors. “And keep all channels open on me. I’m going below deck.”

________________

Lafayette righted herself from where she lay on the floor, her head was spinning and there was the metallic taste of blood in her mouth. A searing pain shot up her right leg as she got to her feet and looking down she could see the blood seeping through her coveralls.

“Barnabus! Barnabus!” She shouted. Everywhere was thick with steam and smoke, and the sparking radar consoles threw red and orange shadows across the room. Small fires crackled and hissed and there was a pungent smell of melted rubber in the air.

Barnabus didn’t respond. She called out for Jones and Metlichok, but again, no answer. She tapped the comms piece in her ear, but there was only a feint crackle of static.

“Christ, where are they,” she said leaning against the radar console. It was somehow still functioning, and the usually green screen was awash with the small white streaks that indicated dark matter. Usually there would be a couple at most, but now…well now, there was very little else.

All she could remember was being told it was a big one, and Barnabus looking terrified and then….Nothing. Just this. This complete and total shit show. Lafayette attempted to move in the general direction of the thick double doors that guarded the harpoon bays, but pain flooded through her and she stumbled forward, collapsing once more onto the floor. Her head was spinning and there was a darkness in the periphery of her vision. Realising she was losing consciousness she attempted to drag herself to the door, a thick streak of blood trailing behind her.

Reaching out a hand through the smoke, she grabbed the leg of what she guessed to be one of the heavy tables that stood either side of the entrance doors. Her fingers were bloodied and her breathing was heavy.

“Over here,” came a voice. A familiar voice. It was calm and kind.

“Barnabus!” Lafayette shouted. “Barnabus, where are you. I’m hurt, I can’t…”

“This way, just a little further,” it said, “keep coming towards my voice.”

“Where are you?” Lafayette said, panicked. She was dizzy from the pain and everything now seemed so very dark.

“Just a little more,” said the voice again. “It will all be over soon.” She could hear it, it sounded like Barnabus, but there was something different, she wasn’t so much hearing it as feeling it deep inside her, resonating.

Lafayette pulled herself forward and dragged herself upright using the leg of the table, and sat up against it, breathing heavily. The bleeding seemed to have stopped, though in the smoke it was hard to be certain. She knew it hurt like hell though, and she knew she had lost a lot of blood by the thick red trail she had left across the floor.

“Are you ready?” The voice asked.

“Barnabus…”

“It’s time. It’s over,” the voice continued, “it’s time to join us.”

Before her, the smoke cleared, and Lafayette felt cold creep over her skin. Small pinpricks of light swirled before her, soon joined by more, dancing and flitting back and forth. Her breath misted as she breathed heavily, and slowly the lights took a familiar form. It was Barnabus, formed by the shimmering lights. His eyes were dark, and as he reached out a hand she felt the cold seep deep into her bones.

Lafayette struggled, but she was powerless to move, and as the sparkling hand touched her shoulder she felt her lungs fill with suffocating cold, like she was drowning. She looked down and watched with silent horror as her legs began to turn to dazzling specks of light.

“Come home now, Lafayette,” said the shape before her, thin silvery lips smiling at her. “It’s over now.”

As Captain Staines crashed through the doors, Lafayette screamed, a desperate silent scream, and as she raised a hand before her face he watched as she dissolved into starlight before him, and then, in a moment, she was gone. In a final crescendo of existence, her light swirled high up into the room, hanging from the ceiling and then, it tumbled slowly downwards, settling on the bloodied floor around him like fine snow on a still winter morning.

For a while he just stood there, motionless, heart racing. The room was cold and dark, it was silent, and it was empty. As he stared to where Lafayette had sat only seconds before, the silence was broken by the sudden clicking of fans kicking into life as the ventilation system came online, and the room quickly cleared of smoke as it was sucked from the room.

A small ping sounded behind him and he turned to where one of the radar bays still glowed green. White lights moved across it, darting and swirling back and forth and as he watched they formed a familiar pattern. It was Lafayette, unmistakable.

He reached to touch the screen and the image flickered for a moment, a thin smile across her face. He knew she could see him, just as he could see her, and then again , for one final time, she was gone.

________________

High above the Moon of Europa the Calista circled the wreckage of the Expatria as she drifted slowly in her lifeless orbit, a mile long gash in her side a reminder of the explosion in her tanks that had ended the lives of so many.

From his vantage point on the deck Captain Staines looked down on the graveyard of a ship he had once commanded. Even now, years later, the nightmare of those final moments still haunted him. His nights were filled with the silent screams of the thousands that had perished in the cold of space as he watched, helpless, from the small round window of the lifeboat.

“Are we ready to engage, Ensign?” He asked, his voice wavering.

“Yes Sir, all systems green-to-go.”

“Radar, please confirm status,” he prompted as he turned in his chair to his holo screen.

“Yes sir,” came an enthusiastic reply. The operator was young, barely out his teens, and Staines could feel the excitement in his voice.

“Engage,” ordered Staines. His stomach lurched.

Red lights flashed across the bridge and the hum of the harpoon’s cycling up could be felt throughout the ship. Staines switched his screen to monitor the radar and watched as the small pinpricks of light on the screen blinked out, one by one, and the monstrous containment tanks began to fill slowly.

“All systems normal,” sounded a confirmation from the arrayed banks behind him. “Tanks at 15% and rising. Pressure levels normal.”

Staines breathed heavily, his focus on the screens as the tanks continued to fill.

As the gauges continued to creep slowly upwards across the screen there was a brief flicker on the radar, and then another.

“Radar, report,” he ordered.

“All systems normal Sir,” came the response.

“Engineering, report,” Staines said, sitting upright in his chair and pulling his shoulder straps tight.

“All systems normal sir, containment at 100 percent. No anomalies present.”

Staines continued to watch the screen. It flickered again.

“Radar, report!” He demanded.

“Sir, all systems normal. She’s a big one, but nothing we haven’t seen before Sir.”

“Engin….” Staines’ voice trailed away as the screen flashed from green to an incandescent white. Brilliant pinpricks danced and swirled before his eyes. At first they were random, a confusion of brilliance, and then slowly they began to take shape.

Staines tried to speak but his voice was caught n his throat. He felt unable to move as before his eyes, there on the screen was a face he had seen is his dreams every night. It smiled at him, like a long lost friend, eyes full of wonder and compassion, and then, as the gauges on the side of the screen continued to rise a pained expression crept across her face. The pain turned to a contorted grimace and she mouthed silent exhortations, the remnants of long lost fingers clawing at the edges of the screen.

“Tanks at 50% Sir, anomaly 99% harnessed,” came a confirmation from a dark haired Ensign sat off to his right. “Initiating shut down protocols.”

Her eyes now wild, Lafayette stared out at him, her empty mouth wide in a pained grimace. Tears spilled from her eyes and ran down her starlit cheeks as the hum of the harpoon’s fell silent and slowly, pinprick by silvery pinprick, her image faded from the screen and all that remained was the pale green glow of the radar.

Lafayette, she had come home at last.