short story under 1700 words

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 14, 2017

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Submitted: October 14, 2017



Pushing against an icy blanket of brittle leaves, Snipe wrestled the exposed roots of the Downy Birch. He clenched a shaking wrist, squinting, a blinding light loosened his grip. A thudding, rhythmic beat echoed deep within, the only thing able to move, his eyes, circled a hotchpotch of green and brown. A stilted intake of sulphur tinged air stung Snipe’s eyes as his muscles tensed to near snapping point. The invisible force released its grip as if no longer having anything to prove. He staggered, before falling back into the frosted cavity between trees.

His body drifted from side to side, like a flake of snow playing with the force of gravity, he felt no pain, no fear, just falling. Snipes' eyes flitted open at the sound of a drone hovering above the tree line. Old-fashioned mechanical gunfire peppered the air. Forming a tight protective ball, he looked through spread fingers as the drone exploded into a cloud of gas.

Pushing his tongue through parted swollen lips, he tried to comprehend the events that should have ended his life and what part he played. Like a hand flicking through a pack of playing cards any thoughts he had were jagged and stilted.

“Snipe, we need to move, its time,” Alex said with his son Chip shaking beside him.

“Alex, Chip, my god, didn’t you make it through.”

“We’ve come back for you Snipe, Lexi sent others.”

Snipe stood a good foot taller than Alex and his son and had a natural muscular, chiselled physique.

Snipe drew back, suspicious of how they could have changed clothes and scrubbed up within a few hours. “Where’s Lexi?” He looked them up and down.

“A new word Snipe, for over a year.” Frowning, Alex continued, “Two, another will pass on reentry. We haven’t any time, on your feet soldier.”

“The mine,” Chip called before running through trees. Sharp snapping laser fire followed by small arms fire trailed off into the distance. Snipe ran with Alex through thicket toward the flashes of the light, reaching a clearing.

“Down here,” Chips voice echoed around the opening of a disused mine.

A base like tone hummed as a lazar combed the roof of a retreating truck.  There was nothing he could do to help the small band of rebels.

Snipes body was failing to obey his orders to keep moving as he followed the well-trodden track. His chest hurt like hell as he stopped to gain composer. He looked back toward the woodland; moonlit trees were ablaze, he knew it was the truck beyond those trees bellowing out burning rubber mixed with the burnt flesh of freedom fighters.

Freedom fighters – Lexi – crystal – Why can’t I remember?

With every step forward he recounted events leading up to him waking beneath the Downy Birch. He remembered kissing Lexi. Alex and Chip went with her. Like a recurring nightmare, he’d been here before, running toward the gate between worlds.

Lexi and the others made it to the tunnel. Under fire, separated, Snipe provided cover, anything after was buried within the depth of a confused mind.

Fatigued, he mumbled, “A few minutes. That’s all I need.” As if justifying his grounded stance, Snipe closed his eyes. He should be dead. He was at a place he knew, but at a time that seemed impossible to fathom. Had years of fighting stole his soul, his memories, was this the way it ended? Or had it already? Was he dead or had he slipped into an alternative time zone? A different dimension maybe like the old movies he used to watch as a child. Right now he took comfort in watching stars leapfrogging beneath his eyelids.

Visions of Lexi faded along with his state of consciousness, as soon as he had a fix, the picture in his mind took them both back to childhood. He was thirteen; it was one of those days, a day that reaffirms how beautiful life is. Not too hot or cold, just enough breeze to make breathing seem effortless.  

Alex dragged Snipe to his feet; no words exchanged as they ran behind Chip who had nowhere else to run but along curved walls, between tracks, descending like a man trying to catch a runaway roller coaster. Stale air filled their lungs the further they went. Dust particles, masked by the gloomy tunnel, bleached their nostrils and dried the soft flesh under their tongs as they took in a breath.

“Dad… Snipe!”

The calling was faint and distorted. They ran toward it, blackness turned to a haze of purple, growing lighter the further they ran.

Chip stood at an opening, a halo of light surrounding his lean body changed from pink to purple merging with a mustard yellow. A cave, void of life opened before them. The majestic object standing central to the rugged stone walls glowed as if communicating with them. A mesmerising haunting chill ran through Snipes entire body; he stood dumbfounded by the spectacle. Chip’s eyes widened, his pupils pulsating in a hypnotic appreciation for its brilliance. Snipe felt drawn toward it. He blinked hard in defiance and forced himself to look down at the dust-filled stone floor.

Alex stumbled backwards into Snipe. A flash, as bright as the sun appearing from an eclipse, struck them. The intensity blinding with a sharpness otherwise only felt from a physical impact.

“Chip,” Alex called, “where are you.”

Footprints, impossible to duplicate in such numbers vanished as if the obstruction was placed on top, moments before their arrival.

Rubbing his eyes, Snipe watched as Alex walked into the crystal. Snipe ran to it, stopping short of making contact, he peered at the razor sharp cut glass with jagged edges and rubbed his eyes once more. Fearing he was hallucinating he turned away. A warm, welcoming glow cloaked his body; completeness washed over him. He turned to face it. Serrated edges softened to jelly. He reached out with one figure, compelled to touch the thing that made him feel so complete. His finger slid in, then his hand. He yanked at his arm. A hand, soft feminine skin, smaller than his own, stroked and squeezed his, enticing him to be with the girl to whom it belonged. He whispered, Lexi, as the jellified substance, enveloped his entire body.

Having resisted the transition between worlds, Snipe collapsed on entry. He breathed in a sweet smell. The smell a child would experience or one imagined by an adult reminiscing. A warm, soothing breeze washed a sense of blissful oneness over him. He couldn’t feel his body. Did he need one?

I’ve died—yes that’s it. I’ve died, and this is what it’s like being dead… Not so bad. At least it’s not final.  

As his mind wandered, so did his senses. A sweet scent, the warm blanket soft breeze, the sound of motor vehicles and people chatter, the taste of soft, delicate lips against his own.

Snipes' eyes sprang open, he felt the embrace of true love, and they kissed and spoke without either one hearing the other. Two lost souls entwined as one, each completing the picture of a jigsaw that had been missing two different, yet essential pieces.

“Snipe, baby… listen to me—take your time, it’ll take a few minutes to adjust,” Lexi said before looking up to Alex.

He was at a park; Snipe rubbed a leaf between his fingers. The tree was the same as any other tree but seemed more alive, vivid in appearance. He looked around and down at the grass. That too looked greener and more vibrant than he remembered grass ever being.

Lexi grabbed his waist, “Ha,”

“Is it me or does everything look the same but somehow more alive?” he said returning to the leaf.

She moved in closer and said, “It’s like seeing in HD babes look closer and you’ll notice even more.”

He did and saw water passing through its veins, “Wow it’s like I’ve got x-ray vision,” he smelt it. An explosion of fragrances blasted his senses. Not one but many undefinable smells climbed his nasal passage.

“All you have to do is think about someone and as a dog sniff the air and hay-presto you will know if they’ve had a shower that morning,” she said.

Snipe had to admit; sensitivity had increased. He felt attuned with this new environment and at peace. Not to the level of the others but less guarded, more relaxed.

“You were only hours ahead of me,” Snipe said stroking her hair, “You have new clothes, you’re clean and, well different, more relaxed.”

Laying hand in hand in the shade of the Downy Birch, the grass had a pleasant warmth about it only he couldn’t place the sun. The sky was blue and dotted with wispy white clouds like any summers day back home yet quieter; he could hear the click of the ball as it fell into a wooden cup held arm’s length by a child.

“Lexi, look up, tell me what’s missing?”

She did, “The sun, I know, I was going to make that my question for tomorrow. The whole sky brightens, then darkens in the evening. Must be up there somewhere.”

“No something else… birds? There are no birds,” he said turning his head on the grass. Their eyes met, “what’s wrong Lexi?”

“We can only ask one question; I was going to ask where the sun was tomorrow at the meeting.” She said, kissing him”

“Ask who Lex?”

“Our section keeper, a humanoid, I think.”

Tilting his head, “Section?”

“Species are separated on arrival; this is our section.”

“Like a zoo,” Snipe said, looking back toward the giant glowing crystal.

“Better than earth,” Lexi said, “We have all we need here, the gateway is about to close, thank god you made it through.”

“A caged rodent has food, water and playthings Lexi.”

Closing one eye, he kissed her as the crystal flickered dimly.

He pulled away and walked towards a haze of purple. Alex and chip stood watching the fading object.  

“Snipe where are you going,” Alex approached, “Lexi’s coming.”

The crystal vaporised with Snipe inside.  

© Copyright 2019 S P Rowell. All rights reserved.

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