Inspiration from New Horizons: “An Eon-old, Icy Tomb”

Having heard their desperate shouts on her transmitter, Yamamoto quickly donned a suit and, with a specialized ice axe in hand, rushed out to save her crew. The fog was impossibly thick, and she could not see the front of the nitrogen wave. Chunks of ice and snow fell to the ground slowly but in such density that little was visible to her.

When the first images from New Horizons became available a few years ago, I was immediately smitten with the bizarre features of Pluto and Charon. The geography of these distant worlds was both familiar and strange, and I think that added a layer of wonder that continues to fuel any author in the midst of a science fiction brainstorm. Continue reading “Inspiration from New Horizons: “An Eon-old, Icy Tomb””

“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Our Dinosauroid Overlords”

“We wish to die the way of our ancestors.”

When the dinosauroids returned to Earth after a sixty–six million year absence, most were pleased with how the planet had recovered from the devastation of Chicxulub Continue reading ““How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Our Dinosauroid Overlords””

“The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost”

Developing intelligence early in the Cretaceous, these dinosaurs had escaped the destruction of Chicxulub and departed the Earth for a distant world.

After their return, the creatures described their origin to mankind. Developing intelligence early in the Cretaceous, these dinosaurs had escaped the destruction of Chicxulub and departed the Earth for a distant world.  Continue reading ““The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost””

An Eon-old, Icy Tomb

This flash fiction piece was originally published by Pale Ghosts Magazine. I wanted to share this story again on the anniversary of Pluto’s discovery in 1930.

Colina slid across the surface of a frozen nitrogen lake, kicking up a haze of dust and ice. The gravity was not strong enough to pull him completely to the surface, but his momentum dragged him forward, scrapping his suit against several icy ridges. One sharp edge punctured his suit just below the right shoulder. The pressurized interior of the suit erupted through this opening, and Colina could see a gaseous jet of steam violently deflecting off the ice beneath him.

Hiller slowed his long strides just enough to bend down and wrap his arms around Colina. Regaining their footing, both men continued their retreat. In such low gravity, their movement resembled a long, awkward skip. Colina pressed a gloved hand over the puncture in his suit, hoping to stop the pressure and oxygen from escaping too fast.

Colina and Hiller were two of the three crewmembers of the Agnosta mission. The Agnosta had launched from Earth over a decade before, with each of the crewmembers kept in stasis for the journey to Pluto.

A century earlier, New Horizons successfully reached Pluto, sending tantalizing photographs and data about the dwarf planet back to Earth. These images and findings were eagerly released to the media, with one significant exception. New Horizons had photographed a mysterious object at the foot of the Wright Mons – a massive cryovolcano to the southwest of the Norgay Montes. The predominant theory was that this cryovolcano brought the mysterious object to the surface from within the pressurized interior of the dwarf planet. The object was believed to be a spacecraft of unknown origin.

Subsequent probes attempted to study the craft with mixed success. When a surface rover failed to negotiate the rugged terrain to the south of Sputnik Planum, plans were laid for the Agnosta mission.

After landing near the Wright Mons on a rocky outcropping between the Norgay Montes and Cthulhu Regio, the crew had spent two days preparing research equipment. On the third day, Hiller and Colina left the lander for their mysterious target. Yamamoto, the mission commander, stayed behind, monitoring the progress of her crew. The careful walk from the lander across the frozen nitrogen lake went as expected.

The first tremor created noticeable cracks on the icy lake surface not long after the pair had reached the foot of the cryovolcano.

Despite this ominous development, Hiller and Colina continued to their destination and spent several hours studying the craft. Chisels were used to remove icy masses from the bizarre fuselage. Measurements and photographs were taken. One occupant, frozen in place where one might expect to find a pilot, was oddly familiar in appearance. Cameras mounted on Hiller and Colina’s suits sent footage back to Yamamoto. The mission commander found the inscriptions on the outside of the craft to be fascinating. Although the language was alien, there was no doubt that a certain pattern on the craft seemed to show a solar system – a star encircled by eight planets. An accompanying design seemed to indicate that the craft had originated on the third planet and traveled beyond the eighth. Yamamoto, Hiller, and Colina were still processing this implication when the occasional tremors suddenly turned into an eruption.

Rushing down the slope as quickly as possible, Colina had repeatedly stumbled, finally falling and damaging his suit once reaching the lake. The Wright Mons released a fury of ice, rock, and nitrogen.

The nitrogen was the real concern.

On the surface of Pluto, nitrogen was volatile. The low pressure boiled some of the nitrogen into a gas, creating a hazy blue fog. The incredibly low temperatures froze some of the nitrogen, resurfacing the lake. Unfortunately, a considerable portion of the nitrogen stayed a liquid wave. This wave gained on the desperately skipping Agnosta crewmen.

The lake shook violently, opening a massive chasm in front of Colina. Unable to stop, Colina tumbled into this chasm ahead of a rush of liquid nitrogen. Hiller threw himself onto the surface of the lake and reached down into the chasm.

“Jump!” Hiller shouted. His voice came to Colina’s ears laced with static.

The blue fog blanketed the chasm. Hiller could no longer see Colina, but he could hear the man’s fading cries.

Suddenly, Hiller felt Colina grab both of his hands.

“I’ve got you!” Hiller called.

Having heard their desperate shouts on her transmitter, Yamamoto quickly donned a suit and, with a specialized ice axe in hand, rushed out to save her crew. The fog was impossibly thick, and she could not see the front of the nitrogen wave. Chunks of ice and snow fell to the ground slowly, but in such density that little was visible to her.

“I’ve got him!” Hiller called over the transmitter. “We’re a hundred meters from the lander but I’m pulling him out.”

Hiller twisted his body to lift Colina from the chasm but was hardly able to move. The chasm was nearly filled with nitrogen, and Hiller knew that Colina was submerged in the liquid. Hiller pulled again to no avail.

Splashing through nitrogen, Yamamoto could see Hiller’s form on the surface of the lake. She called out to him.

“My arms!” Hiller shouted back. “I’m stuck!”

Hiller’s arms had frozen in the chasm.

Yamamoto rushed forward, swinging the axe down into the chasm with all the force she could muster. The nitrogen was too deep now, and she knew the chasm was nearly frozen solid. She wouldn’t be able to hack Hiller’s arms out of the ice in time.

“Pull on me!” Hiller cried.

Yamamoto grabbed Hiller around the chest and pulled back. Hiller strained with his back and legs. With a rush of movement, Yamamoto and Hiller tumbled backward. Hiller’s screams deafened the Agnosta commander.

Hiller had freed his arms, but the ice had ripped off his gloves. His hands and wrists were exposed to the freezing, near-vacuum of Pluto.

His hands immediately discolored and swelled. Yamamoto scrambled in the freezing slush to lift Hiller to his feet, but his suit completely depressurized in seconds. He gagged and choked as his blood began to boil in the thin atmosphere.

Hiller fell away from Yamamoto, collapsing down into the slush in agony. Yamamoto could only save herself now. She turned to begin striding toward the lander.

Her feet did not move. The slush from the eruption was now above her ankles, and she realized that she would join Colina, Hiller, and, most likely, the Agnosta lander in becoming a part of the frozen nitrogen lake. She briefly envisioned her crew and lander being regurgitated by the Wright Mons eons in the future, as the ice of the lake was forced down, partially melted, pressurized, and forced through the cryovolcano.

Surely, that’s what had happened with the mysterious spacecraft that the Agnosta had come to study. The mysterious spacecraft that had traveled from Earth millions of years ago to this same point, for purposes only to be imagined, and crewed by a race of previously unknown, but obviously very intelligent, theropods, only to be trapped on the surface of this same lake.

Yamamoto imagined space-faring dinosaurs escaping the Earth sixty-five million years earlier in order to avoid the Chicxulub asteroid.

As the nitrogen slush slowly consumed her, she wondered what, if anything, might one day come along next, only to inevitably join her in this icy tomb.

Joshua Scully, Chicxulub Redux

DODGING THE RAIN

Joshua Scully is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. He writes primarily speculative fiction. His work has appeared in several online and print magazines and can be found @jojascully. 

The Red Planet grumbled uneasily. This subterranean shuddering was no longer only mildly disconcerting. Rayar understood that no matter how surreal his entire situation appeared, the consequences of this mission would be both momentous and tangible.

Coolly manipulating controls within the operation cabin, Rayar disengaged the primary support struts of the first missile. Knowing that the launch window was approaching, he activated the piloting and propulsion systems. Lithium power cells hummed to life far below the launch platform. He exhaled deeply, hoping to keep his nerves in check. He didn’t want his stomach to turn at this critical point.

Each system required time to fully come online, so Rayar allowed himself a few moments of mental release. He imagined his home…

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An Eon-old, Icy Tomb

A Visit to the Idea Factory

A mysterious spacecraft is discovered partially buried on the surface of Pluto in “An Eon-old, Icy Tomb” – my most recent science fiction piece to be published. Inspiration for this particular story came from photographs taken by the New Horizons probe. Pluto offers some absolutely breathtaking landscapes, shaped by both slowly unfolding geological events and violent outburst that can occur quiet suddenly.

The real backbone of the story concerns the primary characters attempting to flee from an erupting cryovolcano – no easy task. Most of the action occurs near the Wright Mons, which is the geological feature that drives the action. The origin of the ancient spacecraft owes to an eon-old curiosity of my own.

Pale Ghosts Magazine published “An Eon-old, Icy Tomb” in November of 2016.

Click on the image below to be taken to “An Eon-old, Icy Tomb” somewhere among the chaos terrain and wastelands of Pluto.

pluto

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#twitterfiction

I’ve been alive for about 11,016 days, and for 11,006 of those days I had no idea “Twitter fiction” existed.

A good friend of mine introduced me to the idea of “flash fiction” a few weeks ago. Writing a good story with thousands of words can be a real challenge. However, writing a good story with only hundreds of words is just as strenuous. I’ve tried my hand at writing a handful of flash fiction pieces over the last few weeks and have done my best to keep each story at less than 1,000 words. The difficulty in doing so becomes readily apparent once you realize that this paragraph alone has 100 words. That’s a tenth of the entire story!

The world of flash fiction inevitably brought me to “twitterature” – #twitterfictionTwitter fiction is surprisingly complex, although this article does a relatively good job at effectively summarizing what a newcomer to the 140-character tale should know.

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Quite a few of my #twitterfiction pieces involve the railroad.

I’ve posted some Twitter fiction to my Twitter over the last week to mostly positive results. My approach has been to crunch the central event or climax of the story down into a sentence or two. The imagination of the reader goes from there to create the beginning and ending of the story. I should note that this is not the universal approach to posting fictional writing on Twitter.

 

Writing Twitter fiction can be tedious. I find often that I’m just a few characters over the limit. That requires me to trim a letter or two (and occasionally an entire word), which is often a conflicting process.

My Twitter is @jojascully, but you can also see my work by simply searching Twitter for #twitterfiction. I’ve tried to post at least one Twitter fiction piece per day since August 9th. Searching Twitter for #twitterfiction will also allow you to view the work of other users. I usually write my Twitter fiction pieces while I’m at the gym or watching baseball. I stockpile the pieces as drafts and publish a few to Twitter each day. Generally speaking, my Twitter fiction tweets are not connected and each one stands alone. I’ve yet to try my hand at a “twovel” – a Twitter novel.

You’ll find examples of some of my #twitterfiction below. Please let me know if there is one that you especially appreciate.

The dunes seemed to roll toward the sun. As he wearily stretched an arm across the white sand, a raindrop struck his palm. #twitterfiction

When sparks fell from the bride’s eyes, the priest suddenly understood the need for this secret, nighttime ceremony. #twitterfiction

He twisted and kicked as long talons ripped into his back. Discovering a giant species of eagle had been a mixed blessing. #twitterfiction

A pepper quickly rolled across the counter. When a tomato sprouted arms and seized a fork, she decided not to make a salad. #twitterfiction

The crowd shrieked as he rounded third. These were not cheers. The catcher had convulsed into an unearthly creature. #twitterfiction

The #Tyrannosaurus ominously loomed over him. This was an unfortunate time for the buttons on his #TimeMachine to stick. #twitterfiction

As long as she kept skiing, she could stay just ahead of the abominable snowman. However, no slope went on forever. #twitterfiction

He was certain that he knew how to kill a #vampire. But a vampiric #cephalopod? Three hearts. He only had one stake. #twitterfiction

As he watched a railroad car roll across the ferry’s deck, he realized the urgency in his captain’s order to abandon ship. #twitterfiction

The beast straddled the tracks ahead of the locomotive. Deciding to take his chances in the forest, he leapt from the cab. #twitterfiction

He fell in the snow beside the poacher. Each man scrambled for the rifle. The mammoth trumpeted – the beast was still alive. #twitterfiction

She could swing the oar clumsily at best. She had no idea #merfolk were flesh-eating and never considered that possibility. #twitterfiction

Crouching, he steadied his rifle. He thought he could get off at least one shot before the #yeti was on him. He was wrong. #twitterfiction

Knee-deep in freezing water, he wanted to kick himself for suggesting an Antarctic cruise. So much for winning the #lottery. #twitterfiction

Although the police weren’t far behind, he was only a mile or so from #Mexico. Of course, a mile is a long way to swim. #twitterfiction

The clock struck midnight. The governor hurriedly picked up the phone. He had forgot to wind the timepiece today. #twitterfiction