January 2014: Decision

Theme: Distance (physical, temporal, emotional) 
Required Element: A ship (anything from a dugout canoe to a kilometre-long void carrier) 
Required Element: A decision (to be considered, made, or have foisted upon you)

Canoeing

When you know there’s something or someone watching you, but you shoot quick glances out the corners of your eyes and there’s nobody in sight? That.

Dan paddled a little faster, and his dugout shot across the water. His best time for crossing the distance between his home island and the one Mira lived on was forty-seven minutes and nineteen seconds, measured on the watch her family had given him when they accepted his request to court her. A man in love with the pretty daughter of a wealthy family paddles fast, but a man who is being watched by somebody in hiding paddles faster. He was pretty damn definitely going to shave a good few minutes off his best time, presuming he got the chance. He half turned his head again, quickly, but nothing, just his crisp wake in the still water. And then he saw the shadow, immense, drifting up the wake as it blotted out the sun.

Mira’s family hadn’t picked a fool, there was nothing wrong with his reflexes. Even as the shadow closed with his dugout he tipped over and came up gasping inside it, treading water. What what what what—he couldn’t even formulate the questions, the reality was so completely outside anything life had sent his way so far, but at least here he was safe, nobody could see him. Just an upturned canoe. Nobody here but us fishes, fly away monster.

Instead there was a strange singing sound in his ears, an odd feeling of pressure, a moment of weightlessness—and he was standing upright, his canoe sliding off his head to clatter to the steel floor.

*A perfect specimen* a voice purred in his head, sounding deeply satisfied. *Look at the depth of that chest! And those thighs and arms! What age is it?*

*Around twenty, I would say* there was a definite touch of smugness in the voice that responded. *Should live for years, this breed has been known to reach eighty or ninety in captivity*

‘Hey!’ he looked about wildly ‘what you talking about, man? I’m no specimen, I’m Daniel! You put me back right now!’

*Good bark, too, I like that. It’s a male, of course. Do you think we can source some females for it? Ideally at least three, but try to get fatter ones this time. The thin ones don’t last well. Anyway, give it some food, see if we can coax it to eat.*

A shutter in the nearest gleaming wall slid back and Dan stalked across, stiff-legged. Hmm. Roasted meat, cold, but—he took a bite—delicious. And roasted roots, not as delicious, but at least the food would be good. Dan rather liked his food. And three females, all the food he could eat, no more paddling to get everywhere and living twenty years at least longer than anyone on his island, in living memory . . . he chewed thoughtfully.

They didn’t understand his voice, but he understood them. Was there an advantage in staying dumb? Or was it in his interests to think-talk to them, tell them about Mira, how pretty and healthy she was, and her best friend Tali, and even Gina, who had made him a man and then refused to teach him any further? One would need to think REALLY clearly, and REALLY loudly, perhaps. He glanced back at the dugout and saw beyond it a big bed, some sculpted furniture. A viewing screen on the wall.

Well, faint heart never won three fair ladies—*ER, HELLO? CAN YOU UNDERSTAND ME NOW?*

(see my SciFi tab for the other monthly entries in the friendly microstory competition on LinkedIn)

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