Short Story: Rescue at North Point

This story was inspired by a piece of the same name by my friend Col Price, who is a concept artist and art director who has worked in video games, TV and film for the last 20 years. Definitely check out his work! I submitted this story as part of a recent Creative Writing assignment for my course at Kingston University that scored a First; fair to say, I am extremely proud of this one! – Richard

Rescue at North Point
by Richard Holliday

Spittle mixed with dirty, salty air caked her hair as the wind whipped it into her face. Andrea winced, but looking down toward the waves that grew smaller and more distant under her with every second, she finally felt dry.

“We’re nearly there, Ms. Cross,” a voice, battered with static and interference, said abruptly into Andrea’s battered helmet. “The Ranger is standing by.”

With a gust a sheet of icy rain tumbling from the grey mass above Andrea was blown into her face. She winced instinctively and looked up. What little sun that penetrated smog-like clouds was blocked by the enveloping mass of the VTOL rescue ship Ranger that had plucked her from the gloom below.

Andrea clamped her eyes and the blood flowing through her veins began to warm core. The wind, so vicious and angry before, now merely rocked her gently in the harness.

A brook babbled innocently. Reeds gently ticked her face as she wriggled through. A young girl laughing, joyful and merry. The brook babbled and the reeds gave way to a pond, reflecting the sunshine from the cloudless sky in the crystal-clear water. The little girl ran along the bank of the pond, her blonde hair whipping with the gentle breeze. She never saw the root, jutting from the grass like a troll’s dirty hand, ready to grab her sandal and toss her into the water. What was clear and immaculate now threatened to envelop her, the sky turning black with every cough and gasp for breath…

Andrea opened her eyes. Whatever that was, what she faced now was reality. She put the dream about the little girl back in her mind, locked away. She fidgeted in the harness as it bucked and swayed and felt into her soaked uniform. The little locket was still there.

That one summer’s day led the girl to hate the water. For years the girl was told that water was the source of life. How could that be true? Water wanted me dead. Water hates me. Water must be conquered. Water is my enemy. Andrea followed it to the ends of the earth. Watching the last glacier dissolve into a surging mass of liquid. She remembered being there, hovering from a VTOL and cracking the ice herself with a titanium pick. That was part of her revenge.

“Are there any more survivors?” Andrea called toward the hoistman. The wind picked up, and carried her words out to sea. The hoistman remained motionless against the buffeting chassis of the VTOL.

“I said are there any more survivors?! The crew must’ve gotten…”

“No,” the hoistman called back. His irritation was clear over the static. “No-one else survived. They’re all dead. So shut up and hold tight if you want to see land again.”

A few hours ago she’d walked the rusting walkways that made up North Point. The undersea observatory had creaked and whinnied. A trickle of icy liquid fell into her hair. That was when it began. The trickle became a surge that punched through metal. It wanted Andrea. It wanted to make her pay, and pay dearly she would. The frothing mass that had laid all around North Point, eager to smash it to pieces and claim its mortal enemy, had waited to exploit the tiniest of flaws. Which it did. Nature always did.

The sea roared victoriously, gurgling into the hole below. Above, sheets of rain cascaded from the angular sides of the Ranger, forming a curtain of waterfalls that enveloped Andrea. Feeling entombed, her eyes closed again.

She remembered running along metal corridors that groaned underfoot. The fluorescent tubes bursting and flickering, sending sparks through a gloomy hell. Irregular movements as the undersea platform disintegrated, throwing her against walls. The screams of all those around her washed away. Trying to catch her breath on the ladder, but slipping on the cold rungs. Her bare knuckles turning white and, as the grey sky beckoned, a surge of water coming through the hatch, as if to say: “Not so fast. I’m not done with you yet.”

Andrea took a breath and looked down to see North Point disappear, the light of the service hatch flickering through the waves. A hand grabbed from the gloom above. The hoistman sighed with effort as Andrea’s soaked form fell onto the deck. With a final glance, she looked down to the sea. It was finally over.

© Richard Holliday, 2016

Update: If you’d like this story in Kindle format then visit my Short Stories folder where you’ll find it and all of my other stories!

Short Story: Safety Yellow

I was challenged to write a 300 word short story about a banana. This is the result.

Safety Yellow

by Richard Holliday

299 words

Through the hazy sky above the tree line rose smoke that was alien in origin. There were never fires on this moist planet, and the tribal leader was intrigued. With a grunt he signalled to his troupe that investigation was necessary. They followed, their primitive language unable to question.

Through thick, sappy leaves the elder trudged, his feet sticking to the warm moss that lined the planet surface like a carpet stretching eternally. Despite his age he’d never seen the jungle of this world change. The sonic boom and earthshock of the crash was alien and deeply worrying. He didn’t like change.

It had recently rained and the moisture still hung in the air. Humidity was a fact of life here, and the elder’s flimsy cloth gave away the last vestiges of his human past. Coming to this place so long ago had changed him and his group of survivors, though they were more than that now. They were inhabitants of this place.

Smoke and the scent of death signalled the crash site was not far away. The elder grunted. This was an alien smell, though a vestigial part of his brain recognised it from a past life long deserted…

A large crater lay in the ground, exposing the natural dirt that the lichen and moss had shrouded for ever. Smoke rose from broken and exploded parts of grey space capsule. This was a re-awakening for the Elder. A figure in a silver suit lay lifeless across a rock. Clearly dead before he’d even entered the atmosphere.

Through the wreckage the Elder found one reminder of his past and the origins of this ship. A package, battered and blackened fell open in his hands. In it a solitary, squishy yellow object. It smelled sweet and vibrant.

A banana.

The End

No Kindle version available.

This story was recently posted under the title Vermillion Dream until I realised rather quickly how silly that was. (Vermillion being a shade of red; the colour my face went)

Image credit: Hardedge-Maelstrom on DeviantArt

Short Story: Mimic

by Richard Holliday

790 Words

The subtle whirr of electric motors beguiled whether you were talking to a human or one of them.

There was a day long ago when the assurance the person in front of you was a human was unnecessary. Absolute. Unquestionable. Who else could it be? Looking around the streets now at blank humanoid figures it’s anyone’s guess.

The machines were introduced as a novelty at first – an artificially animated facsimile of a human being’s physical form that waved, said hello, and entertained at dinner parties before being put away for more serious things. Then the technology was quickly augmented to make the machines the ultimate in walking, talking personal organisers. When they took on not only the appearance of their owners but their vocal cadences, personalities and thought processes to be come true artificial copies that the trouble really started.

The underlying concept that drove this innovation was altruistic and the ultimate in labour-saving. Couldn’t make a meeting, or your schedule clashed? Send your mimic; it’ll know what you would’ve wanted through a personality imprint of it’s owner used for decision making and say what other party wanted to hear.

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Short Story: Purity

by Richard Holliday

1,096 words

The concourse of the Panopticon heaved under the footfall of a hundred thousand anonymous travellers. Each moved silently through the grand transit station that evening, silently worming their way toward the trains and trams bound for final destinations across the distant country. Each mind was pre-occupied with the journey ahead and none realised how important that evening, in that very location, was for the history of humankind.

Across the rain-soaked city, four masked men clambered into a beat-up van and left, heading like so many others toward the Panopticon. They had no final destination though – theirs was the Panopticon. One checked the news on a tablet computer, humming with assent and a second later placing the tablet back into the rucksack which was lazily thrown into the back of the van.

The tablet was replaceable. They had one chance to enact their plan and this was it.

For several years, Sensus Life Sciences had been trialling passive gene therapy with the hope of eliminating congenital diseases that plagued humanity. This was the magnum opus of genetic science – to rid humanity of ailments and afflictions that existed purely because of a person’s genes. How cruel to suffer a disease purely for being oneself – and having chromosomes in a certain sequence. If any one group of people could possibly be described as doomed from birth, it would be those with these conditions. Alzheimers, the slow burner that waited until a person had lived a lifetime before burning it away. Down Syndrome too – one of a number of odious conditions that affected the brain and robbing the sufferer of their humanity due to it’s very composition. Even hereditary heart disease, liver failure, diabetes… these all waited in a person’s very genes for the opportune moment to strike the host person down, forming a cruel fate that waited like a time bomb in a man’s very essence. These were inheritances that no-one wanted but had eluded eradication for centuries and millennia.

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