Free Flash Fiction: “A Revised History of Earth”

A Revised History of Earth

“I don’t care about any of that,” Sherla said without looking up from her nail polish.

“But the tests are conclusive,” Mattie said, shaking her tablet at the other woman. “I’ve got it all right here.”

“Don’t care,” Sherla repeated. She applied another strip of opaque black polish to a blank nail and watched as it slowly expanded to cover her nail perfectly.

“You don’t care that the ruins we found on Planet X are actually older than any known civilization on Earth?”

“Nope.”

Mattie sat down on the edge of her bed with a heavy sigh. “I mean… that’s a big deal to me.”

Sherla was lying on her belly on her bed, only a few feet away in their tiny cabin. She turned her head to look Mattie in the eyes, while still blowing her nails, now finished. “I care that you care, honey. But I think we just see this two different ways.”

Mattie shook her head, barely ruffling her close-cropped curls. “How’s that?” she asked.

“Well, as you and most of the scientists on board see it, this expedition has proved that Earth was some kind of colony, right?”

“Yes, I think that’s got to be our working theory going forward from here,” Mattie said, relaxing a little. “We’ll have to go back and revisit all of the old site maps, build a new history of human civilization. New textbooks, new arguments. Oh no, those ancient alien crackpots are going to have a field day!” she added with a sudden grin. “I don’t envy the folks back home who’re going to have to listen to all of that nonsense on the off chance there’s even one hypothesis that matches up with what we’ve found here.”

“Right,” Sherla said, “because you’re not going back to Earth.” She blew on her nails one last time.

“Well, no, I – the expedition is moving out of our solar system to follow the star charts we found during the excavation.” She frowned a little, her dark eyebrows drawing closer together. “That doesn’t make our find less important. It’s actually the whole reason we’re still on the ship.”

Sherla pushed herself up off her elbows, turned, and sat down on the edge of the bed facing her friend. “No, Mattie, it’s why you’re still on the ship. And I’m glad for that, ‘cause you’re a whole sight better than the last girl they stuck me with.”

“The snorer?” Mattie asked, sympathetic.

“The snorer,” Sherla agreed, and for a moment, they both smiled. Then Sherla leaned in, put her hands on Mattie’s knees, and said with a serious face, “I’m not a scientist, honey. I’m enlisted. They didn’t put all us soldiers on this ship to help dig, and we’re not all heading out into the great unknown for anything other than one reason: someone with more brass than me decided I might have to kill some things.”

Mattie bit her lip. “I know that,” she said after a moment, “but that’s statistically unlikely, you know. Whatever might have been out there has probably been dead for half a million years, and Earth has what remains of its refugees.”

Sherla sat back. “Maybe. I hope so, really. I’d love to spend the next couple of decades learning new things and staying pretty instead of developing any serious holes in any part of my body that I can’t live without. But I have to wake up every day and train for the possibility that what’s out there didn’t want us to find it.”

All around them – the floor, the ceiling, the beds – began to shake, and a quiet hum started, grew louder. Sherla stood up.

“That’s ignition, which means we’re officially under way, and that means the goodbye party is about to start. Come on, honey, tell me how pretty I am.” She put her hands on her hips and posed.

“You’re very pretty,” Mattie replied.

“Which means you’re drop dead gorgeous,” Sherla told her, “and it would be unfair to deprive the folks in Aft Lounge 6 of the chance to see the two of us in all our glory.” She held her hands out.

Mattie took them and let herself be pulled to her feet. “You’re a terrible influence.”

“I plan to be, honey,” Sherla said with a grin. She kissed her roommate on the cheek, leaving a faint red stain behind in the exact shape of her lips. “There,” she said. “Now you’ll look like you started the party early, and everyone will be dying to find out just how fun you are.”

“I should get back to monitoring the digital reconstruction of the dig site,” Mattie said, but didn’t sound certain.

“Tomorrow,” Sherla said as she put her arm around the other woman and steered her toward the hallway. “Tomorrow you can worry about how to find our celestial ancestors and I can worry about how to fight them.” She tapped on the side of their door, which slid into the wall. In the distance, they could already hear the sounds of music, and distant voices.

“Tonight…” Sherla paused, and squeezed Mattie gently. Mattie leaned into her friend and nodded.

“Tonight,” Mattie finished for her, “we’re going to say goodbye to Earth, and drink until we forget that we’re never going home again.”

“That’s my girl.”


Greg Bennett gave me the prompts for this story: “Planet 9 discovered and in close orbit to solar system, woman led exploration mission, ancient ruins, discovery that Earth’s inhabitants are actually refugees…” It took me a little while to think of a way to do that without sounding like Battlestar Galactica, but once I realized I could start after that stuff has already been discovered, I knew the moment, the part of this story, I wanted to write.

This is the 4th story I’ve written for this year’s Flash Fiction Challenge, and it’s about 890 words long.

If you liked this and want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE.

You can read more about that, including last year’s flash stories, here.

So far, I’ve posted three other stories. Read them here:

My 2016 Awards Eligibility Post

#sfwapro

apex80cover

I have two short stories out this year that I loved and am proud of, for entirely different reasons, and which are also “award eligible”:

That Lucky Old Sun” Apex Magazine, Issue 80. January 2016.

I started out the year with an appearance in a big, pro-rate, well-known, solidly genre magazine. I love that my first appearance with Apex ended up being a solidly genre story which still flips Golden Age conventions on its head.

I write a lot about the people on the edges of, or left behind after, more “traditional” SF tropes have taken place. This one tackles McCarthyism and atomic age SF — stories about nuclear war and rocket ships and fleeing dying planets for new worlds — by focusing on just one little girl, and her mother, and one day of their life together.

Most readers got what I was aiming for, calling it “a very chilling tale”, and “a sad, lovely, hideous, wonderful comment on human folly” so what else could I ask for? (You can read more reviews of this story here.)

Ok, maybe I also am enamored of this review, which said:

“And that the story follows a mother and her daughter on this day is bleak as fuck, but also I rather enjoyed it. There is something to be said about this, that this is where fascism leads, that this is where intolerance and bigotry lead,” and then suggested “it’s a wrenching story and a sad one, very much worth reading but maybe prepare some cat videos for the aftermath.” (I cut out the spoilers but the whole review is fabulous if you want to read it after you’ve read the story.)

One Echo of an August Morning” Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal. Issue 1.3, Summer 2016.

This is a slightly strange, experimental, speculative fiction story set in the present (sort of), about parallel worlds, loneliness, and the nature of time. I loved being able to focus on details, to write about a woman truly living in the moment, and the fact that I got to extrapolate real science from a real math theorem that really exists.

I love math. And science. And writing science fiction that is solidly founded but still weird. Please take a look — you can also read this for free online — and let me know what you think.

A couple of other things I had published which you might have missed (but aren’t “award eligible”):

  • “If Wishes Were Feathers” (original fiction) appeared in the Art & Words show, October 2016, along with “Myth of the Mother Snake” (reprint poem, link goes to original appearance).
  • “Call Center Blues” (reprint) Luna Station Quarterly, September 1, 2016.
  • “Tomorrow I Will Bury My Dream In The Dirt and Let It Go” (poem) Wordgathering, September 2016.
  • Three SF haiku, Scifaikuest, May 2016 print issue and online.

And original work which is only posted here on my site:

I hope you found something of mine that you enjoy. If so, please let me know in the comments!

Thank you.

Happy Halloween! No tricks, all treat: “On the Methods of Preserving and Dissecting Icthyo Sapiens” (FREE PDF)

#SFWAPro

Art by Shannon Legler, commissioned for my story when it appeared at Mad Scientist Journal (November 4, 2013)

Art by Shannon Legler, commissioned for my story when it appeared at Mad Scientist Journal (November 4, 2013)

I can’t hand out candy over the internet — but oh, my friends, I would if I could — so instead, I am handing out a short, sad, and creepy story I originally wrote for Mad Scientist Journal in 2013. Read the excerpt and download a free PDF below.

Lab Notes, April 23, 1931. The subject has four limbs, but while its skin appears crocodilian, the limbs are not fixed under the body. Instead they appear to be jointed much as a man’s are, with longer back legs and a wide range of motion in the shorter front legs.

Water is everywhere. It is, always, since the earliest memories of my life. I feel it as a warm pressure on every part of my skin. It is an ever-moving source of air for my lungs and food for my belly. When the currents are strong it becomes thick enough to sit on, to grab a hold of and ride. The water is never still because it is never empty. I can taste the time of day.

Though it has a mouth and front facing eyes, it does not appear to breathe air, and instead has several gills hidden under heavy scales on its neck which are easy to miss. Kudos to Johnson for noticing them, or the thing might have drowned before we got its head and neck into a bucket of water.

I was born there, where the river flows into the deep lake. I have traveled upriver to mate, have seen water muddied by great hippos and in places a river lowered by heat and summer sun. I have crawled along the nearly empty river bed, me, who was born in a place so deep no light can penetrate it! I have seen all manner of fish and monsters and men. Everything has a place in the world, everything fits into each other and makes sense, except the men.

Download a free PDF of the full story here.

For more information about Shannon Legler, visit her site at http://lendmeyourbones.tumblr.com.

“On the Methods of Preserving and Dissecting Icthyo Sapiens” by Carrie Cuinn  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. (This means that you can share the story — including the PDF I’ve provided — freely, as long as you attribute it to me, do not charge any money for it, and don’t change it in any way. Please note this basic explanation is not a substitute for the license terms.)

Thank you for sharing, and reading!

The 5th Annual Art and Words show is tonight!

#SFWAPro

My poem, “Myth of the Mother Snake“, will be appearing in tonight’s Art & Words show, alongside original art that’s being created to go with it. I won’t be able to be there — it’s in Texas — but if you’re local, you show definitely go.

art_show

In addition, I was assigned a piece of art to be inspired by: Todd Ford’s painting, Ravenous (above). From that, I wrote an 800 word flash story, “If Wishes Were Feathers”. It won’t be unveiled for the public until the show, but here’s an excerpt:

If Wishes Were Feathers

The raven was past dead when Melda found it. Its belly had been ripped open by something with a small muzzle and sharp teeth, and its innards were long gone. It was missing a leg as well, and all around the raven’s body, black feathers littered the ground like drops of water shaken from a wet dog. Whatever blood had spilled was dried to a brown smear. She quickly grabbed a hold of the bird’s head and twisted.

It didn’t come off.

She pulled harder, struggling to not breathe, to not think of the way the feathers poked her tiny fingers and the flies buzzed around her head. Suddenly, with a squick of mud and fluids, the bird pulled free from the dirt and Melda fell backward. The air escaped her lungs in a rush; without meaning to, she breathed in the foul stench of decomposition, and choked on it. Coughing, she scrambled to get up without letting go of the raven’s head, and somehow, when she was standing upright, the rest of the body had dropped off.

“You be good now,” she said. “We’re going to see a witch.”

You can find the show at:

Art on the Boulevard

4919 Camp Bowie Boulevard, Suite B
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Reception and Reading:  6:30 until 9:30 PM.  Exhibit will continue until Oct.9.2106.  

Where to Start When You Want to Start Reading My Work (Fiction)

Last updated May 18, 2017

Non-fiction is here, and a chronological list of my professional fiction publications is here.

If you’re new to me as a writer (hi there!) or you’ve read a story you loved and want to read more in the same vein, this sorted list might help you choose what to read next…

(Please note that some stories are listed more than once because they fit into multiple categories.)

If you like fiction with female main characters:

LGBTQ and/or NB/genderqueer characters in your fiction? Start here:

If you want positive representations of people with disabilities, try this:

If you like fiction about love, sex, and relationships set in SFF worlds:

If you want your stories set at the end of the world:

If you like HPL-inspired/Mythos fiction:

If you like stories with strong Cold War Era themes:

If you like unsettling, creepy, or scary:

If you like fiction about robots:

If you like fiction about zombies:

  • “Mitch’s Girl” Edge Publishing’s Rigor Amortis anthology. October 1, 2010. (TW: zombie sex!)
  • “Dear Mom, This is Serious” Livingdead Press’s Emails of the Dead anthology. September 2010.

If you like mad science and other weirdness:

If you like noir:

  • A Different LeagueMondays are Murder web series, Akashic Books. August 26, 2013.

If you like (sometimes dark) humorous stories:

If you want to be sad when you’re finished:

If you like stories with fighting, hunting, or soldiers:

If you like stories about books and maps:

If you like flash fiction of any stripe:

If you like Twitter Fiction:

If you like poetry:

And, if you want to read a bunch of these stories all together, please check out my first collection, Women and Other Constructs (published June 2013). Get it from me (print, epub or mobi), or from Amazon (print or Kindle).

Note: This list is presented with the most recent sales/publications first. When the story name is hyperlinked, click to read it for free online; if the title of the publication is linked, you can buy it online as well.

#SFWAPro

Book Review: Dial M for Monkey

3 of 5*

Only 60+ pages; this quick read can be started and finished in well under an hour, and that alone makes it not a waste of time. The stories are a mix of “high impact” and “needs an editor” – I kept wanting to revise or strike his last lines, over and over.

Maxwell sticks to a format of “Here’s the story, wait, no there’s a twist coming up, TWIST”, expanding it sometimes to “Here’s the story, wait, no there’s a twist coming up, wait for it, wait for it, really I mean it, keep waiting, TWIST, he he he” for most of the collection. Most of the characters are middle-aged, blue collar, London-area blokes, and a lot of the humor is crude (“He got hit in the balls with a block, lol” type of stuff.)

Probably the best are “I Almost Spanked A Monkey”, “Sprouts” (which is one of the few near-genre stories in the book), and “Is That To Go?”. All use Maxwell’s preferred format successfully, and none go on too long.

The longer pieces aren’t quite as good as the flash, IMO, but at the same time Maxwell brings in an earthy, working class, feel to his fiction that I don’t often see in lit flash. It’s an important perspective because it’s not often published, and some of the pieces do work very well. Don’t read it because it’s the best ever (it’s not) but it is a valuable use of an hour, even if you’re only learning what not to do yourself.