Flash Fiction: History

History

“I had not expected you to be here, sir.” I said and I wanted to leave him to his moment of solitude, a moment which he would have seldom time to enjoy.

He was standing near the balcony overlooking the boulevard that was in front the house.

He was his usually tall self, slender to the point of wiry and holding a cigarette. The one that was kept from the public eye, because smoking was bad now and it was something that could be used against him, even though the elections were still few years away.

“Don’t leave..please join me for a moment.” He said.

I walked over to him and we both stared out of the window, looking at people and cars on the street. Small figures in the distance. The sky was losing the redness of the dusk and the black of the night was taking over.

“There will be no stars tonight.” He remarked.

“No sir. It is going to rain.”

He nodded.

“I have not seen you before.”

“No sir. My name is Claire Redmond and it would have been unlikely that you would have seen me otherwise.”

“Oh? How so?”

“We are not encouraged to.” I said.

 “Meaning you are told to avoid me.”, he laughed.

“That would be one way to say it, mister President.”

He nodded.

“What is it that you do, Claire?”

“I am a historian, mister President.” I said, “You might also call me record keeper. I write down what happens here.”

“Ah, you make history.”

“I would say you make history and I write it down.”

“That might be one way of putting it.” He smiled.

“It is unavoidable, being who you are.”

He nodded.

“Ever wondered about that, mister president?”

“About me making history?” He squeezed his eyes, sucked on his cigarette and was silent for a moment.

“Whenever I see a movie about a president, like one about Kennedy or Nixon, I think about it. But when I am in the midst of it I often forget,  but sometimes I feel it:  this is a historic moment, but that is just a small moment among all the other moments. It somehow becomes normal.”

“And was this a historic moment? One where you have this melancholic moment where you stare out over the city to make a decision about bombing a country or not?”

“I was just enjoying a cigarette.” He smiled.

“Pity. It would have made a nice historic movie moment, mister president.”

“It would have.”

“Maybe I could alter history a little bit and make this a historic moment, for the benefit of us both?”

“You would willing write yourself into history?” He said.

“A historians privilege.”

“I would have to make a decision first, though.”

“True, but even not making one could be a historic moment.”

“Sounds like a done deal then.”

“If I was narcissistic enough.”

“And you are not?”

“No mister president. I am historian.. not a politician.” And I gave him my best smile to cushion the shock.

He laughed, even with his eyes.

Silly laws 1: moose

Alaskan laws:

It is considered an offense to push a live moose out of a moving airplane.

It is considered an offense to feed alcoholic beverages to a moose.

Moose may not be viewed from an airplane

“Hey!”

Raine grabbed the side of her chair.  She made a sudden sideway motion, then felt herself  drop a dozen feet.  Her stomach followed a bit too late with the rest of her body. She felt nauseated.

There was a loud bleating from the back of the plane mixed with some shouts from the other passengers.

Raine worked her way toward the flightdeck, assisted by a sudden nosedive of the plane. She fell against the door, smashing her nose. Then the plane pulled up she almost fell backwards again, but she grabbed the door handle, thus opening the door. There was red on the handle.

“What the hell is wrong.” Raine shouted through the high pitch sound of an engine. There were lamps flashing on the panels.

“We lost one engine.”  Latimer, their pilot said with clenched teeth. He was fighting the yoke as if he I he was in a bullfight.

“We’re crashing?”

“Nah. The ride is just a bit more bumpy.” Latimer grunted. “It can fly one one engine.”

“Planning on an emergency landing?”

“We got nowhere to put her down here, “  he pointed towards the mountains, trees and water, “ And if we hit something at this speed, we will be torn to shreds. Need to lose some weight!”

“You mean as in throwing something of the plane?”

“Yeah.”

“Mervin!” Raine roared.

“Here!” Came from the back.

“One of the engines has had it. We need to lighten this thing.. Anything we can get rid off?”

“Let me, see.. We got the combat gear.”

“We need those and that is expensive stuff. Something else?”

“We got these crates of beer. Two of them” Mervin said. His voice suggested he was not thrilled at the idea of losing the beer.

“The crates?” Raine said to the pilot, “ Five of them, that would be around 60 pounds I guess.”

“We need lose more.”

“There is the moose.”  Mervin shouted, “It is big.”

“The moose?” Raine and Latimer eyed each other.

“Yeah… we could.. well. We could push it from the plane.”

“You’re mad. The poor thing.” Raine said, “ Can’t we crash the plane in the river?”

“I can’t say what will happen when I do.” Latimer said.”But I figure if we drop the moose into a river it will be ok. The water will break it’s fall. There is the Nowita River coming up.” He pointed forward.

Raine cursed.”We get rid of the moose then. Say when.”

She struggled through the plane to the cargo hold. She and Mervin then buckled up their safety cords and opened the back of the plane.  They saw fir trees rushing past underneath them. The moose moaned loudly.

They removed the gate of the cage holding the moose and started to pull the animal backward towards the exit. The moose had enlarged eyes that shifted rapidly. It  braced itself and it refused to budge.

“Dammit. Can you pull up so it drops out?” Raine shouted. Underneath her she could see the river appear.

“I could give it a slight boost. But the engine will overheat!”

The plane suddenly pulled up, but the moose had locked itself tight in the cage.

“We need make it let go.”  Raine said.

“Maybe we can drop it with the cage.” Mervin mused

“It would drown.”

“Hmm..” Mervin said and looked at the crates. “We could start with losing the crates. Pitty, II could use a beer. Sometimes gives you good ideas.”

“That is it.”  Raine said, “Grab some bottles.”

Mervin got her some beer.

Raine removed the cap of one beer by using the other one and then pushed it into the mouth of the moose. The frightened animal first refused to drink, but then it started to drink.

Mervin grinned..

“Get more.” Raine said.

It took both crates before the animal let go. It waddled towards the open bay door. Then the  pilot shouted a warnin. The planes engine suddenly roared loudly and the plane pulled up. Mervin grabbed something, but Raine dropped together with the moose from the plane. Her safety line  arrested her fall. Dangling underneath the plane she saw the truss bridge  that had forced the pilot pull up the plane, a small village  and the moose arcing towards the bridge. It missed the bridge and plunged into the river. The shockwave caused a group of canoes to topple over and spill the paddlers and the contents into the river. Despite her precarious position Raine could not help but laugh at the ludicrous sight.

After Mervin had pulled her in, the plane labored it’s way towards the nearest airport.

There they were arrested.

“What for?? Nobody was harmed.” Raine excalimed.

“Yeah.. we had to do it.” Latimer said, “Otherwise we would have crashed.”

“That moose of yours. You know what it did?”

They shook their heads.

“It swam ashore, then lumbered into the village, wrecking property, broke into the local store, ravaged the interior before falling asleep. There are reasons we have laws against feeding mooses alcohol!” The policeman growled.

Signs of life 4: Fuzz

“No!”  Meena, the eldest of the two daughters said with an indignant expression on her face  when her parents proposed to go to the market fair.

Eve, the youngest, fell into an uncomfortable silence squeezing a plushie against her chest. She did not dare to go against her older sisters opinion, yet she feared her mother’s displeasure equally. She withdrew into the only direction she could: into herself.

“We never go to anything that we like. We always have to go to these boring things you like.” Meena continued waving her frail hand about,  ”I am not going and that is final!”

Harry, the father, tried to reason with her, but she was not going to listen: hormones and peer pressure were much more important for the budding teen than whatever considered arguments parents brought to bear.

Jane, the mother, then played the power card. “We all go and that is final!”

Meena grabbed her hand-held, stomped upstairs and closed the door of her room with such an audible bang that even the neighbors heard it. Everyone got that message. Then she started to whatsap all her friends that parents were the worst creatures in the universe by far and her parents were the vilest of the bunch.

Jane then shouted up the stairs that Meena should come down this instance or she would be facing a week of extra chores. Eve started to pout her lips and Harry began to tell Jane that maybe they should reconsider this fair business.

“See, even father doesn’t want to go!” Meena shouted, she triumphantly rubbed the words into her mothers face.

“I didn’t mean that!” Harry said, hearing how his words were being twisted into arguments for the defence.

“What then do you mean?”  Jane said. She felt slightly backstabbed by her husband but also knew that her eldest was twisting the knife on purpose. At the same time she saw her youngest discomfort and she grabbed Eve’s hand.
Harry smiled disarmingly at his wife. Meena had walked halfway down the stairs not wanting to give in to her mother, but also not wanting to face a week of extra chores. She looked down on the scene with her arms folded in front of her chest.

Purr the cat sat in front of the door that led to the garden. She mewed at it and glanced at them to see if they would notice. Purr was certain that door would open sooner or later, and if it didn’t  she would lie down on her cushion on the couch. From that vantage point  she would then stare at them with an expression that seemed to say: what on earth are you all doing?

Signs of Life 3: Breach

Day 7: 13:15

Too many, John Atkins, systems engineer for Pacific Shipping Incorporated thought while he browsed his logs. He was at first intrigued by the large amount of failed logins on one of his monitoring servers. It wasn’t easy to pinpoint the source of the alerts as the logs contained a lot of information, most of which were only relevant in a specific context and in this context was mostly clutter. After he had applied a series of filters, he was still left with a lot failed attempts, but what worried him the most were not the failed one’s: they were the one’s that had succeeded.

Day 7: 13:55

Peter Seeren walked in into their office. Peter and John shared the office. Each having two desks bordering one another and thus making a huge desk. Each contained three screens connected to two computers. Peter also had a laptop.
“You look like you need a coffee.” Peter said.
“I think we have problem.” John said.
“What is?”
“These attempts to log in on our monitoring servers.”
If this statement had come from any other than John, Peter might have said something like: “Are you sure?” Or, “Aren’t they from this or that.” Instead he sat down and said, “How big a problem?”
“A big one.”

Day 7: 14:15

“Yes?” William Balking picked up the phone.
“William. This is John Atkins.”
“John. How can I help you?” William asked.
“Can you run a virus scan on some systems?”
“When?”
“As soon as possible.”
“As soon as possible? During production times?”
“Yes?”
“That might impact the production, you know?”
“Yes, I know.”
William was silent for a moment,”We better have some high up people approving this, otherwise we got hell to pay if it blows up in our face.”
“Yes. I arrange you that approval.”
“I get to work then. Do you have a list of the systems.”
“It is in the mail.”
“William opened the mail. Forty five systems. Not that many..” William scanned the list, then whistled loudly. ”Those are not just any systems..”
“No….”

Day 7: 15:35

Security Officer Harry Townsend was a very thin, slender bald man in his late fifties. He sat down with the two system engineers: the short broad shouldered John, a silent serious man with short black hair and the taller younger Peter, with brown hair. All three were clean shaven.
The two men gave the security officer a summary of their findings.
“So what do you think is happening?” Harry asked.
“The infected systems are running programs that try and log in to other systems. And they are succeeding.” John said, “And it is not a virus. We checked those systems.”
“So what should be done about it?” Harry asked.
“We can disable the accounts.” Peter said, “but this might cause systems to fail.”
“Can we disable specific accounts?”
“We can, but they are the important accounts.” John said, “The one’s that make things run.”
“What can we do without actually disabling them?”
“We can change the passwords of the administrators. Those don’t directly involve the operations of the systems.”
“At least not on ours.” Peter said.
Harry nodded,”Ours. As in the central ones. Those we maintain ourselves.”
“Yes.”
“And the ones we don’t run directly?”
“We have not looked at yet. We can’t.” John said.
“Unless the chief security officer gives the command.”
“Or we inform the local staff?” Peter said.
“Have we any evidence they are affected?”
“No.” John shook his head.
“This can cause a panic. We should be sure.” Harry said, then continued,”We do the central ones and I will ask the chief security officer. I expect he will have a meeting with management about this.”

Day 8: 10:35

“I have been asked to do as much as possible without causing panic.” Harry said.
The two engineers John and Peter looked at each other briefly.
“I have been asked to ascertain the threat and as such I got the permission to hire an outside agency.”
“Maybe we can see about what we can do at the moment. Like disabling some accounts. We can hold a meeting with engineers team.”
“That is a good idea, but only with one or two. Arrange it with your manager.”
When the two administrators had left Harry picked up the phone and started to call that outside agency. He was calling the best even though the company would have to pay a hefty price for it.

Day 10: 12:20

“A hacker.” Harry said and he placed his hands flat on the security incident rapport on his desk. It had big letters across it: confidential. He looked at the man in the Armani suit who had laid it before him that morning. His name was Richard Thompson. John and Peter had joined them, as had William had being the one responsible for anti-virus system and Mark Cramer, who was the main network engineer. They all had read their copies of the rapport.
“Yes. It’s a hacker.. he or she gained access to a computer using an email about ten days ago. It was disguised as a business mail. The receiver opened the mail, double clicked the attachment and that set up a connection to the hacker.” the young man with sleek neatly combed hair, wearing the Armani suit with silk tie said. He had a small briefcase with him and read the rapport the five security company engineers had made for him. They had descended on Pacific Shipping Incorporated like birds of prey and started to uproot everything..
“But…our mail has got checkers for that.” William said, “Our anti-virus programs check for harmful programs in the email.”
“Indeed.. but this was not done by internal mail. It was done via webmail from a third party.” Thompson said.
“The block against that was removed by order of Berling, former CEO. He kept in touch with people via third party mail. He was supported in that by the board.”
“You mean Berling, the one that now works for Sea Containers United?” Peter said.
“Yes and before us he worked for a few other big companies, switching jobs every few years as is normal for people at that level. It was unhandy for him to have his mail transferred from one company mail system to another when he switched jobs.” William said, “So he approved an order to have those blocks removed.”
“But how can that hacker gain access… we got firewalls?” Harry said.
“I read here that they only work from the outside in, but this program worked the other way around.” Thompson said, “It was made to setup a connection.
“Blocking internet traffic from the inside out was considered inconvenient. We never got the approval to do that. I think is was director of the business that thought it harmed the ease with which to do business.” Harry said.
“But the antivirus system…”, Peter said.
“It’s not an virus. Just a small program that makes a connection to the outside.”
“But the system that ran it. I mean when it is stopped and restarted, it would have killed the program.”
“Not necessarily. For one, it could have restarted itself. For another, the system was never restarted by the user.” Thompson said.
“Because of cost savings the company delayed replacing the computers and those old one’s became very slow to shutdown and startup. It could take like twenty or thirty minutes. People stopped doing that to save time.” Harry said.
“We know that.” the engineers nodded.
“So gentlemen. The situation Pacific Shipping Incorporated is in is dire. This hacker has hacked his way into crucial systems.” Thompson said.
The others took this news with a grim silence.
“And the only way out of this is to change all passwords at once, rebuilt those systems that have been compromised and implement lock down security and maintain it.” Thompson said.
“Were local systems infected too?” Peter asked.
“We don’t know.” Thompson said. “We did not check their systems.”
“There has not been any formal statement yet.” the security officer said. “So I have no leverage.”
“So.. We don’t know?” Peter said.
“No.”
The men sitting around the table looked at each other. The engineers, with the exception of Peter, had worked a long time in the company. They knew what was going to happen.
“We could of course give you an extensive advice of what can be done to implement the required security.” Thompson said with a vague smile.
Harry nodded at that,”It is one of the follow up actions. Learn from the lessons learned.”
Thompson eyed the security officer. The room was silent.
“Lessons learned.” Peter said. “And will we implement those?”
“That is for management to decide.” Harry said while he placed his hands together making the fingers touch the one one the other hand.
Peter looked at the faces. The smiling one of the external consultant. The unreadable one of the old security officer and those of his co-workers who looked at him with that knowing glint in their eyes.
“We could implement some changes in the new systems, so over time it gets implemented everywhere when systems are replaced.” John said.
“And how about implementing them with local systems?”
“They won’t let us touch them. We need higher management to give the go ahead. We need to convince everyone with this rapport..” Peter demanded.
“It is a confidential rapport.”, the security officer said. “I understand from the chief security officer that it will be reclassified as highly confidential.”
“What does that mean?” Peter wondered out loud..
“That only a selected group of people can read it.” Mark said, “Only for a special group of people.” He lifted both hands to symbolise the double marks.
“So we can’t use it to convince the local people.” William underscored.
“Not unless higher management allows use of this.” Mark added and held up the rapport.
“Which they won’t.” William said. “Since they would have to admit to some painful errors.”
“We can off course make a risk assessment rapport.” Thompson said. “One that exactly advises what errors to amend and how.”
“But wouldn’t people know about it, with the password changes, rebuilds and such?” Peter asked.
“Maybe they do, but the strangest things happen in companies, so everyone accepts it as another strange fluke of the nerds and after a while people forget. Or want to forget.” Thompson said.
“Make that rapport. We try and implement what we can.” The security officer said.

Day 10: 12:55

“It is a pity. We could have used that rapport to proof we need to tighten security. Now we get a rapport suggesting the same thing, but there is no urgent reason to implement them.” Peter said to John when they had returned to their room.
John nodded.
“Maybe if production was seriously affected something would happen.”
“Perhaps..but we don’t want that to happen.” John said.
“It is like telling people we need a fire-brigade when you need a fire to convince them .”
“Something like that.”
“But now everything is hushed up. The rapport will never get out.”
“Perhaps.” John said. “But people talk. We don’t live on an island.”

Day 11: 17:15 Dave’s Pub

“Have one on me, John.” Charles Dorn smiled at Atkins and handed him a glass of beer, cold with small drops to the outside. The music played Jailhouse Rock loudly. The only other person was the bartender James, who was cleaning glasses.
“A beer..Wasn’t it all tea for you. And to go wild: coffee.”
“You know I don’t want to make a habit out of it.”
“So how are things with you people up in the Ivory Tower.” Charles said with a grin. ”Or does the beer speak for you?”
“You still see the others? Friday afternoon?”
“Of course. They all drop in at times. Every Friday afternoon. We have a drink and a chat.Nothing serious, really.”
“Well, Charles, we had this problem…” John Atkins whispered.

Flash: Collateral

Jonathan Ames had saluted with a blank expression on his face after they had pinned up his medal.

“Well done, Captain.”  the general had said, a man Ames had only known by name. “A vital contribution to the war against terrorism. ”

He remembered that moment every time they held their ceremony at the veterans day. They would raise the flag, play the national anthem and they would all salute. And he would have his blank expression on his face.

“What did you get the medal for?” someone would ask sometimes.

“Programming.” he would answer.

“Programming? Programming what?” the next question would be.

“A robot plane.”

“How does that get you a medal?” would be asked..

He could not tell because of security reasons, but if he could have, he would have answered, “It launched a guided missile that blew up a car containing Muhafeed Al Jazar.”

And the questioner would whistle and say, “That guy? Did you do that?”

But he never got to this point as he was sworn to silence, because several groups of fanatics had howled revenge for this high tech assassination and the deaths of twenty-seven men, women and children of the village the car had been in when the rocket exploded.

He sometimes wondered who had actually gained from this vital contribution.

When the caged bird sings..

It was perhaps not the first order the emperor Armadius gave, but the order to capture the bird was among the first when he ascended the throne. It was the witch Najeste who caught the bird with a fine net and put the petite colorful bird in a golden cage, which was then placed on a pedestal before the throne set up in the large hall.
Another of those first orders caused the capture and summary execution of those relatives who might be a direct threat to the new ruler or be used by others against him. Among those captured was also the prince Lanare, an otherwise insignificant noble of an insignificant estate, but he was reviled by the emperor for his openly bi-sexual lifestyle. It was well known that Najeste and Lanare were lovers and after some rough handling by guards it was revealed that the witch was indeed a man, although his looks and behavior suggested otherwise. It was something the new emperor had always suspected.
The emperor promised Najeste to spare Lanare from the executioners axe in exchange for the birds capture, but he did not feel obliged to give them their freedom, so he had both men thrown into a dungeon. Each in their own cell: separate, close together but far enough to make communication suitably difficult…
It then took the emperor a year and some thousand lives to squash any potential opposition to his rule, either real or perceived, before he returned to his throne room to ponder the mystery of the bird.
Twenty-five years before, the old emperor had been close to death, but somehow the bird had saved the old emperor from dying. But that was not all. Not only had the bird saved the emperor, but it had also changed him. At first he had been an ruthless warrior whose reputation for bloodshed was only overshadowed by his reputation as conqueror, but the bird had changed him into a gently benign ruler with it’s singing.
During those twenty-five years of reign the old emperor had sat each and every morning on his balcony and listened to the bird and enjoyed the marvelous view of the capital city that stretched out from the palace all the way to the sea. And he had stopped the conquests, encouraged trade, advanced education and alleviated poverty. He had send away the generals and the courtiers and surrounded himself with children. One of which had been Armadius.
Armadius took seat on his throne and he listened to the bird sing for a few days, but nothing was revealed to him. But he was determined to discover the power of this bird one way or another. He sent messengers to all ends of his empire and beyond, and promised untold riches to anyone who would succeed in tapping the power. From far and wide wizards, witches, conjurers, demonists, wise men, hermits and crackpots flocked to the palace, even from far away Siang, but none succeeded in this task.
When all other means were exhausted Armadius had Najeste and Lanare dragged from their cells.
“Tell me the birds secret.” Armadius commanded Najeste,” And I will let you despicable people go.”
The two men held each other close, giving each other comfort and strength. Najeste then looked the emperor straight in the eyes.”I do not know this birds power. The only thing I know is that a child once said that when the bird sings all the other birds come.”
“The bird has sung before me each and every day in this very hall and never has anything remarkable happened.” the emperor said.
“Then the truth must be that the bird has no power whatsoever.” Najeste said,”And whatever happened to the old emperor had more to do with a change in himself than with any outside influence..”
Although the emperor was satisfied with this answer, he had both the prince and witch executed. The prince was staked and the witch torn into four parts by four horses and each part was buried some distance from the other in each point of the compass. He felt that it was offensive to the high gods teachings to let the lovers live and witches were dangerous anyway, especially after being slighted..
Armadius by now had been convinced that the bird did not posses any magic whatsoever and he felt proven when a few months later the bird died of some disease. The emperor was out conquering yet another country when it happened and when he was told he merely shrugged.
When the emperor returned to his palace he ordered the now empty cage to be taken away, and the hall to be filled with the voices of men and women who sang the praises of the emperor and the high god. To him it was a sound much more befitting the palace..
He then sat down on the same balcony the old emperor has sat and looked out over the city.. He enjoyed the view for it gave him to feeling he was a master of all he surveyed, which was true, for everything he saw, but for the sea. He could have his guards go to the city and have them slaughter each and every men. Nobody would be able to stand up to him. Tomorrow his victorious armies would parade down there to demonstrate the might of the empire. He felt satisfied and proud.
He had his servants serve him food and drinks there, like the old emperor had, and when night came he watched the moon rise and the lights of the city flicker below, like the stars did in the sky above, until he fell asleep.
The next morning he woke to see the first light of dawn. The red light flooded the streets of the city. It was the red of morning, but it looked like a sea of blood. The red climbed up towards the mountain and lightened the stake that had once held the carcass of the Prince Lanare.
The emperor rose to his feet and he watched the dawns splendor which took away his breath. And then a petite colorful bird fluttered to the balustrade and picked at some stray crumbs and then started a song. And from the city a wind brought the sound of singing, as the men and women started the new day with songs. And some of those songs were about wise old emperors and others about boundless lovers.
And the emperor felt tears in his eyes as he heard and saw this and then a deep sorrow possessed him as he saw the deceased Lanare and recalled the untold suffering he had caused.
Maybe this sorrow would have lasted a short while and maybe he would have forgotten about it, but he suddenly remembered how the old emperor once had asked him to sing him a song when he was still a child. An innocent song only a child would sing. And the emperor sang that song and the whole city sang to him.

Xtralife:Unexpected treasure

Sandra landed the Raven, a crate with the pretense of a spaceship, as close to the space wreck as she deemed safe. A feeble automated distress signal had brought it to her attention. When she went out to investigate, she was surprised to see there was someone alive, because a shadow disconnected itself from the mangled overgrown rusty shape and turned into a burly in man dressed in rags aiming a plasma rifle at her.

Sandra had no weapons on her, because she hated guns and relied on her luck to get out of sticky situations. Someone once told her that relying on luck was silly, but she had replied  that luck had gained her more than guns. And those who knew her well, like Eve, had to admit that it was true. Somewhere there had to be whole worlds populated by unlucky people to offset the imbalance.

“And if luck doesn’t help I can rely on my looks.” Sandra added smugly.  Those poor saps were not only unlucky, but they were ugly too. Life really sucks.

“What a tasty morsel you are.” the man said with a gruff voice. “Now let’s get of this planet..”

After the Raven had entered space, the man leaned close to Sandra, who was sitting behind the controls of the ship. When he got that close he noticed red lights on one of displays..

“What are those lights?” He pointed.

“That is life support.”

“Life support?”

“Yes, we removed most of it to make room for more essential things.” Sandra said in a deadpan manner.

“More essential things?”

“Yeah. We didn’t remove everything, of course. Like that one.” Sandra pressed a button and something started to hiss.

“What is that?”

“Let me see..” Sandra stood up, making such movements that he could not help but watch her and then she bent over the console so the shape of her body was silhouetted against the lights of the screens. She then looked over her shoulder and gave him one of her smiles, while holding up a package of cigarettes, “Mind if I smoke?”

The man started to turn pale and breathe loudly. He then grabbed at her. For a few moments they struggled and then he fell to the ground.

Sandra examined him thoughtfully for a few minutes and then gave him a vicious kick. When he didn’t react she pressed the button again to stop the hissing sound. Absentmindedly she grabbed one of her smokes and tried lighten it, but the lighter did not produce a flame.

“That sucks.” She wanted to say, but while her mouth made the movements, there was no sound..

She then went over to the communications console and typed a short message to Eve which said: Yeah, let’s keep the oxygen unit, it has it’s uses.  Oh btw, I got a guest for dinner.” And she snickered an inaudible fanged laugh. She was sooo funny.

.

Signs of life 2

Despite the drizzle the red male cat had been outside in our garden the whole morning. He had been  making those weird howls males make when they are in heat. Somehow he had found out that we had a female cat even though she had only been with us for a few months and only outside for one.. Her name was Saar and she was a beautiful Maine Coon, with long grey and black hair, intense yellow eyes and a  bussy plume for a tail.

She was the third cat in out house for we had two castrated male cats as well. A small red one called Sam and a black grey one called Moos. The names were taken from two fictive characters invented by the Dutch humorist Max Tailleur, who had them talk to each other as part of his jokes.

Sam was the smallest of our two cats. He was a nervous, somewhat unpredictable cat who had a fear of men. Probably he had once had some kind of traumatic experience with a man and it took him a long time to get used to any man, like our neighbor who took care of our cats when we were on holiday. On the other side Sam was most social of the two and was the one who sometimes played with Saar.

Moos was almost the opposite of Sam. He seemed to be unaffected by anything going on around him. In fact, although he was aware of things around him, it looked like he did just did not seem to register them.  You couldn’t call him relaxed, so perhaps he was an autistic cat. He was a buddy of Sam, but he completely ignored Saar.

The drizzle had stopped at noon, but the red male had kept on howling. Saar had taken position on a blue plastic table at the other end of the garden. It felt like she was cautiously curious. Not quite sure about his intentions but curious about his behavior. The male saw Saar on that table and started to sneak towards her.

My eldest daughter, unaware of what was going outside opened the garden door to let Sam out. He had been sitting before the door casting looks at us that meant to say that he wanted to have that door opened.  Sam saw the red male crouching in the grass. Something clicked in his head and he charged. The red male was oblivious of the oncoming Sam, until he was on top of him.  He gave a surprised meow and fled.  Sam chased him, but my eldest called out to him and he stopped.

We  fantasized about the reason for the charge and came up with all kinds of explanations, but we all agreed that the one our eldest gave was the most fitting.

“Perhaps he was just fed up with the incessant howling.” she said.

Signs of life 1

With a long penetrating shriek the double decker train came to an abrupt halt inside the station.  The double doors unlocked with an audible low bang, hesitated for a moment, but then proceeded with opening very slowly.

A boy, in his late teens, ran up the stairs that led from the lower part of the train to the exit. He was fumbling with his backpack and focused on getting outside, so he did not notice the teenage boy sitting near the exit..

“Hey.” the sitting teen boy greeted.

“Hey.” the boy with the backpack said and he jumped onto the platform.

“Nice party last night.” the other said with a forced smile, “ A shame about the jacket though.”

“Yeah. Nice party.” the other boy said. He seemed calmer now, probably because he did not need to hurry now that he had gained the platform..

“I drank too much.. So.., well you know…” the sitting boy made a vague gesture with his hand, “I shouldn’t drink so much.”

“Yeah.“

“Nice party though. I will certainly be there next time.”

“And maybe drink less.” The boy on the platform said with a thin smile.

“Yeah.” The boy inside the train leaned backwards. His face was a bit white and his eyes reddish.

The doors of the train closed abruptly and the train waddled out of the station, picking up speed gradually.

The boy swallowed and his face became a shade whiter.