WEP June Challenge 2019 Entry

Being considerably occupied with Z Publishing House pieces when last months challenge was going on, I choose not to participate in the April challenge to concentrate my creative energies on those pieces. Knowing I would return for the June challenge instead.

With the challenging theme for this month being “Caged Bird,” I realized I could interrupt that in either a metaphorical way, a literal way, or a combination of them. That being stated, I quickly disregarded my first thought of doing a Faustian style story where the demon acts as the bird. Switching gears to something more imaginative and partly inspired by love of old fashioned science fiction, where unexplored alien worlds are common. Modifying that idea with some more modern thinking shaped by problems like climate change and resource depletion. Crafting a piece of flash fiction I hope you enjoy, titled Hope’s Fragility.


Looking through this self-tinting glass screen, I looked out at this alien landscape. Strange double helix looking trees covered in magenta colored bark, and having deep purple ellipse shaped leaves rested on the western horizon. Their roots obscured by layers of a pale tan soil, that darkened in color as it descended the ragged broken-toothed cliff. Breaking black waves from the adjacent dark sea bombarded the base of the cliff.

I was beginning to slowly stagger forward with caution, attempting to get a sense of any injuries from my forced crash landing on XR-ELP8. The probes I had been sent to retrieve indicated this celestial body had the potential for successful terraforming barring there was a vacancy of sentient, intelligent life. Any proven signs of civilization would cause an uproar in the media if we attempted terraforming in complete disregards to them. While only a few truly understand how our home, had slowly transformed into a rotting cage of increasingly toxic air, corporate control, and rapidly depleting resources.

I was ceasing to move when a high-pitched wail filled my airtight helmet. The noise was immediately drawing my attention to the flexible computer on my right arm that displayed the data it was processing from the endless array of sensors built into my spacesuit. Looking down at the dark screen, I saw that my less than smooth landing had torn three holes in my suit. I was cursing under my breath at my astounding ill fortune, quickly trying to repressurize my spacesuit. Knowing how important it was to maintain a constant internal equilibrium to minimize any changes my body would go through as I adapted between various shifts in gravity in my journey throughout the cosmos.

I managed to temporarily stabilize my suit before heading towards the wreckage of my ship. Stumbling forward into the smoldering crater hoping I had bought enough time to salvage the communication system and send an SOS signal back home. Gravity forcing me to slide downward for a few seconds before I forcibly stopped myself by placing my hands outward. Emitting a brief grunt between my teeth in my pain, as I stood up, stepping over a few pieces of blackened metal alloy plates that slashed through the foreign soil leaving tiny grooves behind.

Feeling briefly grateful when I noticed that the communication panel was still fully intact, and appeared to be in working order. With all the strange circumstances behind the crash, fortune had given me some leeway, giving me some chance I had a way home. Carefully stepping into my seat before connecting my suit’s computer into the ship’s mainframe and running a quick diagnostic to confirm that communications were still operational. Forced to wait in tense silence for a few minutes, thoughts of desperation, panic, and the chance this mission had become suicidal raced through my head. Hearing the steady pulse of my heartbeat begin to accelerate, thumping away in my head like a thousand bass drums being played at four hundred beats a second. Forcing a seemingly infinite amount to pump through my skin and soak my face and armpits.

What felt like a few hours passed but, it was likely it was only a few minutes before three short beeps emitted from the ship’s small onboard speaker. Taking multiple breathes before I looked down at the screen of my suit’s computer. It seems my worst, darkest nightmare had quickly overtaken and consumed any optimism I had left, filling me with a depressing sense of dread. With the primary communication antenna missing and presumed to be in an unknown distant location, I resigned to myself to a grim fate. My protective spacesuit was quickly transforming itself into a doomed cage of nylon, spandex, and synthetic polymers. The high-pitched wailing returning indicating I had inadvertently created more tears in the outer layer of suit. Compromising it beyond any repairs, I could do without proper assistance.

It left this mission that once gave hope to a dying world, into a task that could cost humanity its future. This planet was becoming one elaborate reluctant cage for an Earth-man who only wanted to serve the world. That was my last thought as this alien world fell dark around me.

Critique level: Full Word Count: 705

40 thoughts on “WEP June Challenge 2019 Entry

  1. A cage indeed for your protagonist, and a subject dear to my heart..
    I have strong reservations about our quest for other lands to colonise. We haven’t treated our own in a way which would lead any other life forms to welcome us.
    Is his darkness the end, or is there another story to be teased out?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Like Elephant’s Child, I feel that humans have no business colonizing anything. We have proven ourselves to be utterly selfish and thoughtless. The rare person such as the protagonist in your story means well, but often they are set up for failure.
    I somewhat get a feeling that the people who sent the protagonist on the ill-fated mission thought things out about as well as the people who designed the Titanic and didn’t provide enough lifeboats. What could possibly go wrong, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Heavy message, although the tragic fate seems inevitable given the mistakes the astronaut makes. Or were those mission misfortunes? Some of the science passed my by, or maybe it was the guy’s mannered language. Phrases like “my astounding ill fortune,” made me think British upper-class. The tale works though. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. you didn’t say if you want critique as it just says word count but I thought of this one thing:

    this sentence ‘Compromising it beyond any repairs, I could do without proper assistance. ‘ – has me baffled – is he (I think this is a he talking here) saying he compromise his suit without help – why does he need to say that? it sounds like he is repeating the same thing as the sentence above this one. I don’t know. the more I read that sentence, the more confuse I get.

    I guess I kind of like it if there is some glimmer of hope at the end instead of this dark ending but you’re the writer

    have a lovely day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Christopher! One of your best. Good work. I was focused on the tears in his spacesuit and wondered whether it was a deliberate ploy of yours to align these with humanity’s fate. Interesting how readers find space exploration/colonisation a negative practice. We have certainly messed up the planet we’ve been given. Thanks for your ‘caged bird’ entry.

    Denise

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi,
    This reminds me of a short story by Mark Twain that I read at university. Everything blew up and the protagonist landed somewhere in a vast darkness, alone.
    You have described very well the ending of a man’s world and maybe the beginning of something new if he awakes and adjust.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Like

  7. Hi Christopher – I cannot imagine being out in space on my own, with no back up … even if I wanted to save the world … I’m not sure (however clever I am meant to be) I could do it. I do wonder what our world holds for us and how far we’ll ‘tame’ space or even begin to understand it. No thanks … leave me here … but an interesting read … double-helix type trees with magenta bark: I enjoyed this description. Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Not a great way to go, but I kind of feel like he deserved it. People need to remember that just because they can go somewhere, doesn’t mean they necessarily should. And if they do, they need to respect the land and the people already there.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Stuck in a cage that is decaying away, sure not a fun way to go. Then again, we can’t even take care of our own planet, so maybe that’s what we get for going to other worlds. Or maybe we just need better space gear.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Firstly, I loved the metaphor of the Earth transformed into a cage by misuse. A brilliant take on the prompt. This has an epic hero kind of feel to it and can be expanded in a range of possible ways. Is the darkness final, or is it an interlude that he will wake from? Will humanity break free of the cage or create more cages in the cosmos? I also liked the details of the world building, the double helical trees with the colourful shoots, the black waves crashing on a tan cliff/beach…great imagery and a great story premise.

    Since you’ve asked for a full critique, just a few minor points –
    1. The word looking/look is repeated three times in the first two sentences. It is also repeated several times thereafter in the story. You might like to consider if replacing ‘look’/rephrasing those sentences might be more effective.
    2. As Nancy has pointed out, a few errors need review in the second last para – ‘breathes’ should read breaths, there is a lapse from the past into the present tense with ‘seems’, also the double continuous ‘returning indicating’ is a bit confusing.

    Thanks for sharing your work at WEP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have considered expanding the idea, with this as the “Murphy’s law,” of training simulations. Since I doubt traveling to other worlds would be cost-effective, the potential candidates would have to be prepared mentally, and physically for every possible outcome.

      Like

  11. This is a fascinating take on the prompt! I loved your descriptions of this new world. Very creative! I enjoy stories about humans colonizing other worlds, and there are so many things that can go wrong. It certainly would be a harrowing experience that could lead to disaster for those who dare to venture out to those new worlds.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dark! Very dark. Impressive science fiction there and the link to the prompt and interpretation of it was creative. I would like to see what happens next. Surely he doesn’t die in his cage of a space suit?

    Like

  13. When I was a kid, I was entranced by the idea of space travel and devoured science fiction by the box. The reality shown here, cages within cages, and a dark end without hope, even if we realize we were complicit, our egos and pride, still takes me back to that time when I dreamed of exploring space, not to conquer but simply to know and be a part of the unknown. Your story reminds me that ‘nature’ is implacable. For every action, there’s a reaction/result that is not always benign. Or aware.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. An intriguing tale, but I felt like the writing could use some polish. In addition to the repetitions of “look” and “looking” noted by Nilanjana, I felt like there were a number of rough places, commas out of place, or changes in tense. You took on a challenging tense to write in, I think–not even sure what to call that… present continuing or something? (everything I know about the technical terms for grammar you can write on a dime).

    The trapped space explorer is of course not a new theme, but I like the twist that he/she is trying to find a way to save humanity, so we have a sense that this was a desperate mission that’s cost more than the explorer’s life. I’d love to know what went wrong on the landing!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What a creative take on the prompt. I like a good sci-fi drama. There’s a bit of irony in that the explorer left the cage of a dying world with the intention to save humanity, only to be trapped in his/her own suit and fail to complete the mission.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I was here before the judging ended, but for some reason couldn’t leave a comment. Sorry this is late, but I did try. Your message is a good one, and I agree with some of the others who are opposed to the idea of colonization.

    If you continue with the piece, I think you might revise of the sentence structure.
    Looking through this self-tinting glass screen, I looked out at this alien landscape. (I’d avoid the “looking” and “look” in the same sentence.)

    I was beginning to slowly stagger forward with caution
    I was ceasing to move when a high-pitched (You could vary the head of the sentence. Also I like to use present continuous tense in small doses, since it slows the pace. You have a tense scene and changing to simple past might make that tension stronger.)

    Hope you continue with your story. I like the premise.

    Liked by 1 person

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