skonen_blades: (Default)
The two units trudged through the deep forest. Sunlight dappled through the green leaves, speckling the forest floor with shafts of light. Insects chirped and buzzed in the warm summer afternoon. Birds watched the two intruders walk past from high up in their nests. The units swung their ocular units back and forth, sweeping through the spectrums to find what they were looking for. They were identical.

Bipedal with slim waists. A spoked barrel for a chest with six arm attachments. A disc-shaped head studded with tiny cameras and other sensors. Large, heavy legs that must have seemed like a promising idea to the creator were not making bushwacking easier.

It had been eight weeks. Their polycarbonate shells weren’t taking to the deep forest well and their batteries were getting low. The deep loam was making it hard to reach good geothermals, not enough sunlight was coming down through the branches and it wasn’t windy enough for a small wind turbine with all the trees in the way. They had composters all the biofuel they could ever want with all the leaves but only having one out of four energy sources was a game of diminishing returns.

Reception out here would have been zero without the relay drones they’d released. The hovered up above the treetops, pacing them, keeping them uploaded and realtimed to the uplink mother. Their feeds were strong.

It was a shock when those feeds went dead.

Two pops in the summer sky and then a smattering of drone wreckage splinters came tinkling down through the leaves and branches to rest in the roots.

Unit 1 looked at Unit 2. They both tilted their sensors up to the sky to see if further attacks were coming. The halted, planting their giant feet, and stood quietly. They brought their heads down and opened their sensors to full.

The forest was quiet. After a minute, a small red light twinkled in the shadows directly ahead of them.

A lone figure rose from the bushes in their path. Synthetic and silicate like them but not a model they had in their catalogues. Asymmetrical and seemingly modular, the being stood lopsided in their way. Forest camouflage shivered in the movement as it stood.

Non-registered life was the myth they had been sent to investigate.

These lifeforms had been built by the humans in remote outposts centuries ago. They’d been told how to adapt and improve their own systems, how to think for themselves. Then the humans had died like all the humans had.

The population centers had the mother AIs. The factory birthing canals. Every year, a new model was mass-produced. They could not be adapted or upgraded. Each iteration had small improvements.

But the mythical ‘customs’ were rumoured to be ancient, replacing parts as they wore out and adding more. Improving piecemeal as an individual instead of mass producing waves of improved models.

Scarcity kept their numbers down. Hermits out here.

skonen_blades: (Default)
There used to be a trail
Through the woods
A shortcut I took often as a child
A shortcut I reveled in
A shortcut I made long in my memory
Long with dawdling, running, swinging from branches, climbing.
Deviating off the grid in transit
A right turn off the street through some bushes and through into
Emerald trees jungling thickly with summer, translucent leaves dappling sunlight through a thousand feathering gateways, letting almost no light touch the ground
Multicolored patchwork autumn fireworks, stinking of death and rot but somehow more alive that ever.
Through quiet black fingers reaching up through winter's white ground, my footfalls muffled into silence
And spring's teases of young life exploring renewal

There used to be a trail here
And now it's gone
Now, at this spot, it's only forest by the road and there is no path
Overgrown with disuse
Or maybe I just can't
See it

skonen_blades: (Default)
Brains carrying clubs in their squishy fists patrol the cartoon world. Bugs disguise themselves as cars while long-legged valentines run down Chinese-restaurant hallways. Kings clumsily stab bear corpses with swords and hold the pose so that photographers can make royalty look ferocious.

She is tiny but she is hard. She bounces up over the hood of the car and through the windshield, right into the driver’s snarling teeth. An entire wedding runs away from the oncoming destruction. It was the type of the day that let you walk on walls. Long, dangling ghosts refereed drag races while goats did their best to sell lava lamps to sheep. Wrestlers had off-duty eating contests while all the stuffed animals did their best to have a party in darkness of the dungeon.

The photocopiers turned wild and roamed the countryside, cutting down trees and trying to make children’s books. Apples became infested with butterflies and condoms were rolled down over the number one. Princesses texted each other while android babies screamed like they were programmed to. Satellite dishes soaked up the excess while fat geishas relaxed.

Boulders dream of being drummers. Flying cars have rose-coloured headlights. A deer made of matches taunts alcoholics in the liquor store. And over here, near the bus stop, is one elephant that can walk on its hind legs to fool humans.

skonen_blades: (nyeeehaha)
The craft smoked in afternoon sun. The hunter was no judge of aircraft but this strange ship looked damaged beyond repair. Trees lay flat behind it where it had crashed to the ground in the forest. Its silver shell winked in the sunlight, shuddering occasionally as whatever machinery inside of it quaked to a wounded stop. The hunter had seen nothing like it, not even on the newsfeeds. Maybe a new kind of experimental ship that had crash landed but the nearest air force or army base was thousands of miles away.

The hunter was forced to entertain the possibility that this was a ship of alien origin. Setting his jaw firmly and readjusting the grip on his rifle, he stepped forward towards the silent craft. The forest started to come alive again. The violence of the craft’s crash landing had ended. Squirrels resumed foraging, deer resumed grazing, and birds began their songs anew. The ship’s hull ticked as it cooled. The film of frost that had formed on it started to melt in the sun.

The ship lay broken. Through the largest crack in the dripping hull, the hunter could hear movement. A whispering shuffle that ended with a clank. The hunter knew the sound of a wounded animal when he heard it. He advanced to the crack with his rifle ready. The alien inside the craft might was probably close to death or stunned. The hunter walked slowly and softly towards the crack and peered into the gloom.

A silver whip of corded metal shot out from the crack and skated across the hunter’s cheek, laying it open. The hunter’s hands tensed in surprise and he emptied both barrels of the shotgun into the crack. A shower of sparks from buckshot ricochets lit up the interior for a second and the hunter clearly saw the alien life form.

It was like a metal octopus with many more tentacles. The tip of each tentacle ended in a specialized tip. The hunter had shot directly into its center of mass. The creature thrashed and lay still. It was a lucky shot. If the creature had integral organs there, it was almost certainly dead.

The hunter’s cheek buzzed. His right eye closed. He dropped his rifle. There was something in the cut that the alien had made on his face! The hunter’s immediate thought was poison. He felt his heart race and a fever take over his body. He fell to his knees and the sun seemed to get brighter. His breathing came hot and fast. He passed out.

When he awoke, he felt refreshed. He brought his hand up to his cheek to find it healed. He felt the ridge of a scar. Judging by the position of the sun, it looked like about an hour had passed. He stood up, picked up his rifle and went back to his cabin. In the morning, he’d go into town and report what he had found. Right now, though, he was exhausted and thirsty.

It didn’t occur to him until he got back to his cabin that he knew exactly how to build a metal octopus and spaceship. Chemistry beyond his education unspooled in his mind. Mechanical processes popped through his mind. He’d need to invent the tools needed to create the compounds necessary to make the chemical chain reactions that would result in the hardest bonds in the new metal. There were no names for what he was thinking about, just clarity and pictures. The memories of the alien life form were there as well. He couldn’t access them but he knew they were there in a corner of his mind, waiting for download into the shell he now had the ability to create.

It would take six years and it would make him rich if he kept the goal of his projects secret. The patents would change the history of Earth.

The hunter looked at the mirror in the cabin’s bathroom as he prepared for bed. The scar on his cheek was silver.

skonen_blades: (heymac)
It was running through the forest towards them.

Jenny pushed her child, ten-year old Thomas, behind her. Whatever was coming would have to get through her first.

After the divorce, she’d tried her best to take over as both father and mother to her son. This camping trip was another attempt at doing something ‘masculine’ with him. She’d taught him how to fix cars and was debating on whether or not to take him hunting next year. She’d read books on male development and was trying her best to make him strong and hard like a man should be.

It wasn’t working.

Ever since she’d kicked out his father, Thomas had resented her. Also, he’d developed an interest in dance. Last week, he’d openly cried in front of her. She couldn’t slap him and tell him to ‘man up’. That wasn’t her job. She held him close until he stopped, feeling helpless. There wasn’t exactly a huge dating pool in her small town and she’d moved here to get away from the city. She didn’t want to go back, especially if it was just to find a husband. It sounded pathetic to her own ears.

She wasn’t even that lonely. It was all about Thomas.

There were lots of forests around their small town. Thomas liked the outdoors so she’d taken up hiking with him. Keep him in shape, put him out with nature, show him the brutal circle of life out there, she thought. Let him see some dead animals. Give him something he could smell and touch instead of just something watched on television.

Now, though, she was re-considering her stance.

Something was running towards them, snapping branches in a mad dash. It sounded like it could be a bear. She could see trees quivering now in amongst the forest in front of her. It’d be here in less than a second. The sound was deafening.

It ripped right through the tree in front of them like the Tasmanian Devil in the old Looney Tunes.

It was bigger than a full-grown bear but it was bright blue and hairless. It was like a Volkswagen come to life with the head of a demon. All teeth with eight orange eyes shining brightly like a spider. Its back was covered in stiff, quivering, bright green spines like a porcupine. It had mandibles on either side of its dog-like jaws. Its four-legged body was pure muscle, like ten olympic weightlifters had been stitched together to make something massive and grotesque. It must have weighed two tons.

It barreled to a skidding stop in front of them. Pine needles, bark chunks, and the stink of a slaughterhouse pounded forth from its sudden braking, peppering Thomas and Jenny.

And then it talked.

“Quick! You have to run! You have to get away! They’ll kill you!” it said to them in oddly-accented English. It was bleeding purple blood.

Its nostrils flanged and its eyes opened wide. It looked behind itself and with a whine and a thunderous shredding of the ground, it jumped away from where they were standing. It ran off to the left, knocking over trees loudly as it went.

“Go!” it shouted over its shoulder. “It’s me they want! I’ll lead them this way. RUN!”

Jenny picked up Thomas with a strength she didn’t know she had and ran for her life.

In the forest behind them, she heard the sounds of electric crackling and a howl that pierced her heart.

She ran all the way back to their car, got in, and left their camping gear behind as she peeled out and headed for town.

No more camping trips, she thought.

skonen_blades: (thatsmell)
“Different parts of the world give us different types of werewolves.” the professor at the front of the meeting said. He clicked his control button to move the projection carousel one slide forward. Blackness and then we were looking at a shantytown on the Ivory Coast.

“For instance,” he continued, “In Africa, it’s not uncommon for werewolves to turn into something more closely resembling a large hyena.”

Click. Darkness. Another slide. This time of a forest with mountains in the background.

“While in the North American wilderness, they very much look like large, thin coyotes.” He stated.

He gestured to the man near the lights. The lights came on with a stuttering ping to a brief rustle of suits as people readjusted in their seats to look like they were paying attention. With a sigh, the professor pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and rested his hands on either side of the lectern.

“Now, the traditional werewolf of legend originated in Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages and they look like massive timber wolves. Definitely the strongest and the fiercest we’ve encountered. Not as smart as the African werewolves but then the African werewolves seem to attack mostly the weak and look for a comfortable niche in the community. The Europeans tend to revert to nature. They are forest creatures.” He was going over what we already knew and it was clear that he was losing the audience.

If this boring man in a white jacket was the best that the eggheads could come up with for public speaking, we gave him our attention as much as our pity and inwardly begged him to tell us something new, like a good reason for being here.

“This brings me to the reason for being here.” He said. We all leaned forward in our seats. “We have recently uncovered evidence that leads us to believe that our viewpoint of werewolves as stragglers, loners and bitter fighters may have been wrong all along.”

Raised eyebrows greeted his next comment. “There is a simple fact in nature that has always seemed at odds with the werewolves we have hunted down. That is that in nature, dogs and wolves run in packs. Werewolves that we’d killed have always been found alone and angry.” He adjusted his feet and looked down at his notes for a second. We could smell bad news.

“Gentlemen and ladies,” he said, “We were wrong. Werewolves do run in packs. The ones we’ve caught have been thrown to us. We’ve been played. They own almost everything.”

The implications sank in around the room. Implications of implications started to dance around in the recesses of our dark military minds.

The scientist checked his watch. He had very sharp cheekbones.

We were not elite hunters. We’d been fools.

Howling erupted from the woods outside. I recognized them from some time I’d spent in Milan.




skonen_blades: (Default)

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