This is the first part of the new Exquisite Corpse, a collaborative story. Each part is written by a different writer, the set up can be found here, and each writer can take it in any direction they choose (within the rules of normal storytelling).
The writers are (writing in this order)
The photograph for the story was taken by @felt.buzz (kitchen impliments) and can be used by anyone who wants it.
Maisie was bored. Contrary to her expectations, the alien invasion and the subsequent destruction of the Earth was not the exciting action-packed, adrenaline-pumping, hero-creating, world-changing event the movies and comic strips had prepared her for.
Well, she conceded, looking through the thick glass porthole at the swirling clump of rocks that used to be the Earth, it had been world-changing. But the endless walking, the hiding, the searching for the farmhouse had been - as poor old Fred used to say about pretty much everything - “a bit of a snorefest”. Aside from the moments where she was scared witless, of course. So frightened she thought she might throw up. And then there was that time she actually did vomit all over that half eaten corpse.
Now, to top it, all not only was she stuck in this battered trash can floating through space, with this strange bunch of losers, Danny had just told her the internet was never coming back so she’d not only lost her home, and her best friend, but also the very thing that made her feel like she mattered.
She wasn’t thick. Obviously, she knew the internet, and everything - and everyone - else she’d ever known was dead. But hearing someone else say it, somehow made it more real. She felt like she’d been slapped in the face.
Staring at the collection of debris that used to be Earth, Maisie wondered whether it meant something that she had somehow managed to survive. Was she really part of a bigger plan? She hadn’t really ever believed in a God, she’d never been given cause to. Fred used to say that the Universe was bigger than any God. It had its own plans for her, he’d said, and the Universe would make sure things worked out just fine for the both of them.
But it hadn’t really worked out so well for Fred, had it?
The Universe had sent the beings that killed him. Or at least they’d travelled a long way through it to do the job. She shivered as the image of Fred’s final moment flashed through her brain, paralysing her for a moment. Trying not to let the others see her panic, she took slow deep breaths, just like Fred had taught her. Control your breathing, bring down your heart rate, Maisie-girl. Take control of your mind and body. Don’t let no one, or nothing, control you. You have the power. You. No one else.
Shit, she’d never felt so powerless. She missed Fred, so much.
Everyone she had ever loved, or cared about, had left her or been taken from her. If the Universe had a plan it was a cruel one.
“Can you believe they are at it, again?”
Maisie looked up at Danny, he winked and nodded over to the otherside of what the professor laughingly referred to as the “lounge”. Ally was standing nose to nose with Syd again, both of them shouting, neither of them listening. Syd’s briefcase was still in her hand, the chain attached to her wrist rattled as she gestured.
“Just think, this is the future of the human race,” Danny’s eyes twinkled. Despite herself, Maisie smiled back. Danny was charming. When he was talking to you, you felt you were important. You couldn’t help but like him. In her eleven years on Earth Maisie had met more than her fair share of Dannys. She had made the error of mistaking surface friendliness for actual friendship, before. She had learned to tread carefully.
“They haven’t worked out that their arguments are pointless, now. Of course, they always have been.”
Maisie looked into Danny’s eyes. “So, what is important, now?”
“Survival. Same as it always has been. Doing whatever it takes to live long enough to take the next breath.”
“That’s a bit sad. What about friendship? What about love?”
“Love!” Danny laughed, “love, friendship, whatever you want to call it, ain’t necessary for survival, kid. It’s just something we invented to make people feel better about life.” He looked back over towards Ally and Syd. Maisie saw something flash across his face, an expression too fast for her to read. But she knew she didn’t like it.
“Where’s the professor?” she asked, suddenly.
Danny shrugged, “engine room, I think.”
Maisie looked over to the trapdoor that led down to the engine room. Another massive disappointment. The trapdoor looked as if it used to be part of a car. In fact she was fairly sure it was the trunk of an old Citroen 2CV. She used to have an old picture of her mother sitting on the bonnet of one, when she was a student in Paris. That picture had gone forever now. Maisie looked around her. The whole ship had the appearance of something that had been cobbled together in someone’s garden shed. No swishing doors opening onto a shining computer filled flight deck. No téléportation devices. Nothing looked futuristic like it did in the movies. Hell, most of it looked as if it came from the last century, way before she’d been born. The professor told them the navigation system was constructed by linking some old computers - I Be Ems, she called them - found in an attic. It ran on something called Dross. Or, something like that.
She looked at Danny, “why do you think they let us go?”
“The aliens. They travel across the universe, invade Earth and kill everything. All life on Earth. Every. Last. Living. Thing. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, they blow up the planet. But before they press the destruct button, they let us go,” she gestured at the battered metal structure, around her. “In this shitheap, with only just had enough power to escape the atmosphere. They could have finished the job, easily. Blown us up as we left the Earth’s orbit, or as we drifted past that huge evil looking warship. But they let us limp on. Why?”
Danny shrugged. “I have difficulty enough understanding how other people think, let alone aliens. Perhaps we amuse them. Does it really matter? We’re alive that’s all that counts.”
Maisie shrugged. She supposed that was something. But there was something weird about the whole thing. How come the professor was the only one on Earth who seemed to have advanced knowledge about the alien invasion? Fred said that she’d been posting things on the internet for years. That’s how he knew where to go. How come with all the technology that the USA and Russia, and China and who-the-fuck-knew-where-else had developed over the last century, only some nutty old professor living on an abandoned farm in rural France was able to get a spacecraft off the ground in one piece? It just didn’t add up.
“Don’t you think they might come after us?”
Danny shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know,” he gestured back at Syd and Ally. “Perhaps they’re waiting for us to beg them to blow us up, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
Maisie watched as Syd pushed Ally and Ally pushed back and then tried to grab the briefcase.
“Just face it, you ain’t no one anymore. You ain’t worth shit!” Ally shouted.
“At least I was someone,” Syd hissed, using her suitcase to take swipe at Ally’s head. “What have you ever achieved? Knocking those of us who got off our arses and made something of ourselves! You’re pathetic!”
Maisie looked at Danny. He was right: this had to stop. She sighed and stood up.
“Look, you two! Don’t you think we have more things to worry about now? If we’re gonna survive we have to start working together.”
Ally and Syd stared at each other, both breathing heavily.
“She started it,” Ally said.
Behind her, Maisie heard Danny chuckle. She raised her hand, stopping Syd before she could respond. “You guys are supposed to be the grown-ups!” Both of them stared at her. “All I’ve heard since we got here is you two arguing like little kids. Syd, who cares if you were some kind of financial wizard and made so much money you didn’t know what to do with it? It means nothing, now.” Syd didn’t say anything, just stared at her feet. Maisie saw Ally smirk. “And you, Ally! All your protests, your roadblocks, your occupying this, and occupying that, they didn’t save the world, did they?” she pointed out of the porthole at the remains of their planet. “It didn’t save shit. Our planet is gone,” she felt tears well up in her eyes. “Everything has gone. So, please, can we just put all our differences aside and try to work out what the hell we are going to do next?”
Ally and Syd looked at the floor, and nodded simultaneously.
Maisie heard Danny chuckle again and then give her a round of applause.
“And that isn’t helping either, Danny. We are humanity's last hope. I’m only eleven years old and I seem to be the only one who seems to be taking this shit seriously!”
“Sorry, Maisie,” Ally said. Maisie saw Syd mouth the word “sorry”, too. She heard Danny chuckle again.
“I assume the Prof has some kind of plan,” Syd said, nodding at the trap door. “After all she was the one who managed to get us all together.”
“We need to start repopulating the human race!” Ally said, suddenly. Syd looked at Ally, then at Maisie, and then they all turned to Danny.
“Don’t look at me, girls!” he chuckled. “I’m not going to be much help.”
Ally looked disappointed. Maisie couldn’t read Syd’s expression.
“Not that it’s any of your beeswax,” he said, pushing himself up and coming to stand next to Maisie. “But, a few years back I had gender reassignment surgery. I may well have all the right bits, but they won’t be up to the job you have in mind.”
Syd opened her mouth, about to say something when the engine room trap door swung open with a crash. The professor’s head popped up through the hole.
“I hate to break it to you,” she said. “But we have rather a big problem.”
Over to you, @blockurator...
I had a comment left on one of my freewrites and I have to say, it made my day!
“Hey I got the book and want to tell you how much I enjoyed your story! Loved the twist at the end… you somehow nearly always manage to produce an unexpected twist... . Love the care you take with your characters, intertwining them.” @owasco
Voices In The Darkness is now ALSO available as a paperback!
If you want a taster of what is in the book, the video below shows me reading the first 900 words, or so, of my story, The Tell-Tale Dead
Proud member of two GREAT houses:
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