I hope you have been enjoying the Five Sentence Fiction entries as much as I have. But I thought it would be interesting to go long form on you today so, here is something a little different. I am once again invoking the “pictures” part of my blog title.
I look in lots of places for inspiration. I recently stumbled across a forgotten folder of photos on my computer that were taken back in the 1940s. I downloaded and set them aside several years ago so sadly I have no recollection of where they came from or who took them. I would love to give credit where credit is due.
I didn’t know how I would use them but I loved the pictures. They are stunning and evocative photos taken back when color photography was still in its infancy, but the hue and clarity of these shots is wonderful. I include a couple here as story prompts. Since a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, my challenge to you is to chose one (or more) and write a story in 1,000 words or less (much less if you prefer, there is no minimum) and share it with us. Let us know which photo you chose as inspiration.
I look forward to reading your efforts. To start things off here’s my contribution, which, by the way, is my inaugural effort at Sci-Fi:
Out of Time [Photo H, 966 words]:
Harper Welles pushed through the heavy crowd along Hyde-Pierce Promenade in the heart of the Blue Zone. He was fighting against the tide of people like a spawning salmon. The collar of his long canvas coat was turned up to keep the stinging rain off his neck while his mask protected most of his face. Branded in mustard yellow lettering across the area just above the bug-eye lenses was his government assigned Personal ID: W-HG070147-BL-91-937PA.
A beefy hand clothed in a neoprene glove clutched at the shoulder of Harper’s black duster and roughly yanked him into the narrow, dark space between buildings. “Well lookie here, Flick. We got us a young one from Sector 91. A little far from home aren’t you? Do your Matri and Patri know where you are, offspring?” The words came out stark and unencumbered. Harper just stared at the mountainous man with missing teeth and a face peppered with small glistening acne-like sores. He had heard about those who had acclimated to the ruinous, lung-biting atmosphere but their life expectancy was considerably shorter.
“He’s a good one, Bull,” said the shorter of the two. His words sounded normal, muffled. Flick’s government PID had been shaved off his mask. Shit, Harper thought, Unknowns. “I wonder if he makes noise,” Flick continued and poked Harper lightly with a slender metal rod.
“Yeah, offspring. I asked you a question. You a deaf-mute or something?” Harper, still surprised into silence, blinked as Bull effortlessly lifted him from his feet. “Let’s give this one some flying lessons, Flick.” The landscape tilted and rotated as he felt himself sail through the air. He watched the slice of dirty orange haze outside the alley until he hit the back wall and fell onto a pile of debris, his mask jarred loose from his head. The cardboard and trash collapsed beneath him like a sink hole and Harper disappeared through it.
The landing on his back was a hard one and forced all the air out of his lungs. He kept his eyes squeezed closed bracing for a second attack from the pair of Unknowns. At the same time Harper was afraid to breathe in without his mask. His ears were ringing by the time reflexes took over and he gulped air into his lungs. Sweet, cool, soothing, unexpected air.
His eyes sprang open and like Dorothy stepping into Munchkin Land, Harper was faced with an equally alien landscape. He slid up the alley wall to a standing position, eyes darting. The orange dinge had been replaced with lapis blue skies and the poisoned atmosphere was gone. Harper filled his lungs again, deeply. No burn. No choking. Just pure, smooth, perfumed air.
Bull and Flick, along with the rest of the scurrying populace, had vanished. Only a few unmasked individuals dotted the walkway beyond the alley, moving at a leisurely, unguarded pace. Bright unfiltered sunlight bathed the relatively clean concrete and macadam. Near the mouth of the short alley was the entrance to what purported to be the Grand Grocery Co. Loosely hand lettered on the glass doors were the words “WE’RE OPEN. COME IN!” After looking around for a moment longer, Harper complied with the directive.
Before poking his head inside, he ran his hand over the door frame in a caressing motion. Wood. He had never seen this much wood. A whole building constructed from it, the proprietor must be a very wealthy man. The floors creaked under his footsteps despite his stepping reverently to avoid damage. He was assaulted with a wall of smells. Fresh, sweet, earthy and grassy smells. He was amazed by the pyramids of fruits and abundance of vegetable stacked with abandon in heavy crate-like bins. Fruit and veg right from the tree and soil.
“Son?” An older man in a shoulder-to-shin white apron stood at the front window where he had been stacking round orange-skinned foods for display. “Can I help you? Are you feeling all right? You don’t look well.” The shopkeeper was alarmed by the boy’s extremely pale and unhealthy appearance.
“I was attacked by a couple of…” He stopped himself before the word “Unknowns” came out.
“You’re not local, are you, son?” Harper shook his head in answer to the old man’s question. He has no idea how much an understatement that is, Harper thought. “Take a seat. There’s a chair over behind the counter.” The old man steered the black-coated young man over towards the counter with a kind hand on his back. “I saw you eyein’ those oranges. Would you like one?”
Harper nodded this time. He was disarmed by the kindness the man showed. The world—or time—he came from was a desperate, untrusting place and period. His own family unit, if he had still belonged to one, would not have shown caring of this level. The man in the apron returned with two oranges and Harper sunk his teeth deeply into one.
“Hang on there, son. Those ain’t apples. You gotta peel these. Here, let me show you.” The shopkeeper removed the thick bumpy skin in big chunks revealing tender succulent wedges. The boy popped one in his mouth and bit down. Juice as fresh and welcomed as the air and sun outside the shop filled his mouth. He greedily shoved two more sections in at the same time. Juice leaked from the corners of his mouth while tears ran down his cheeks mixing with the nectar. He wept as the old man—a stranger to him—stroked the boy’s back with gentle compassion. Harper Garrett Welles had no idea how he would ever find his way back to where or when he came from. He desperately hoped that he never would.