I can’t believe it’s less than a week now until my new science fiction book, Banquet, comes out.
On one hand, I’m nervous, because I’ve never written long-form sci-fi before. On the other, I have always loved space opera, and I’m hoping to shake it up a bit by adding my own brand of strange into this well-defined genre.
Since I’ve been thinking so much about the book and the universe in which it is set, it was only natural that I use some writing prompts to understand it all better. I used three prompts for this short story.
From Inspiration Monday:
From Coldly Calculating:
Take us to “threescore and ten.” What is the highlight of their lifetime?
And from The Daily Post:
Righteous, She Followed
The incoming tide lapped gently at the tips of her toes and her hand stroked a small creature in her lap absently. She watched three small people splashing a few feet away from her in the foam-topped surf with the hint of a smile lifting a wrinkled jowl.
“Mind you don’t cut your feet on the shells,” she said to the eldest, a boy called Hy.
He nodded back and pulled his young sister from beneath the wave that had toppled her forward. She sputtered and he patted her back as he carried her closer to shore. He put her on her feet in the shallower water. She fell to her hands and knees to let the foam tickle her chin and nose.
“When I was your age, I would have never played there,” the old woman said. “I grew up in dry fields far from the water. My parents taught me it was dangerous.”
“Is it dangerous, Gam?” asked the middle child, an androgynous girl who resembled her grandmother in actions if not in looks. She waded out of the water and settled beside the old woman’s chair.
They gazed out across the water. The cove in which they sat was secluded; it was perfect, and undiscovered until the old woman settled there years before. The old woman handed the creature from her lap down to the child. “Not any more dangerous than any other place. Besides, it reminds me of someone, and that makes it worth the sodden toes.”
The girl nodded back. She watched her brother and sister in the water, stroking her pet absently. She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again and snuck a look at the old woman.
“You want me to tell you about her,” her grandmother said.
The girl’s breath caught. She cleared her throat. “Yes, please. Tell me about when you met.”
“I had been convicted of the attempted assassination of a corrupt man.”
“He killed your lover,” the girl said.
“He did. He was a monster who needn’t have lived as long as he did.”
The girl waited, then hazarded a glance up at her grandmother. “You met her when the transport ship crash-landed.”
“I did. She thought I had been sent by her own leader to take over for her.” She laughed. “Not only did I lack the skills and knowledge, I didn’t care about anyone but myself. I had a one-track mind filled to the brim with vengeance.”
“But you fell in love,” the girl prompted after a moment of quiet.
The old woman laughed softly. “She was beautiful and fearless, stronger than anyone I had ever met, and I wanted to help her to safety. I didn’t care about her cause; I just wanted to escape with her so that we could be together.”
“She wouldn’t leave until her mission was complete.”
“No, she wouldn’t.”
The girl smiled. “That only made you love her more.”
They watched as the small girl went under water and was pulled out again by her brother. He patted her back and wiped her tears as he made his way onto the beach. She squirmed from his grip, ran across the sand, and landed unceremoniously in her grandmother’s lap.
“Be careful, Ji! Gam is old,” the boy said.
Their grandmother raised an eyebrow. “I may be old, but I can still hear.”
“Sorry, Gam,” he said, then plopped onto the sand beside his sister. “What story are you telling Ia?”
His sister glared at him. “She’s talking about meeting Gam-Fe, and you’re interrupting.”
“It’s fine, Ia,” the old woman said. “Where was I?”
“You loved her more for her loyalty to her cause,” the girl prompted.
The old woman adjusted the small girl in her lap and turned her attention to the tide. “You are very much like her, Ia. When she put her mind to something, she didn’t stop until it was done…”
“Until she died,” the boy interrupted. Ia glared at him, and Ji leaned over her sister and swatted his hair.
“Stop talking!” the little girl scolded.
Ia looked up at her grandmother. “She never backed down from a fight.”
“That’s right,” the old woman said, smiling, her eyes wet. “Your Gam-Fe belongs in the stories of long past. She was a living goddess who waged a war on those who did terrible things to others.”
“How did she die?” the littlest asked in a whisper.
The question hit her like a lightning bolt, and she jerked upright. The old woman cleared her throat, patted the little one on back to get her up, then stood herself. “That’s a story for another day, little ones. Let’s go back home and see if your mother has finished our dinner. She’s almost as good a cook as her own.”
Three children walked with their grandmother as she limped, cane in hand, up the dune and onto the grassy expanse that would lead them to her house. When they reached the grass, the boy scooped up the smallest and carried her on quick feet to the fragrant kitchen. The middle child, every bit her grandmother’s ally, walked steadily beside her.
“I would never have survived if not for your Gam-Fe,” the old woman said through ragged breaths as they ascended the hill. “But these days, you children keep me going.”
“I hope to one day follow in your footsteps, Gam,” the child said.
The old woman stopped and studied the girl’s face.
“There is evil still to be conquered. How can I spend my life in peace when I know others are dying for what my family takes for granted?” the girl asked, her cheeks darkening green with the passion of the righteous.
“You have the same fire your Gam-Fe had. Use it wisely.”