Finish The Story Contest: It Happened at DawnsteemCreated with Sketch.

in science •  3 months ago

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This post was written for finishthestory contest, sponsored by @bananafish. These weekly contests are great fun. Two authors write a story. One author is designated to create a beginning. From that, the second author must come up with an idea for an interesting ending.

This contest is wonderful for anyone who likes to write, but especially for those who sometimes feel stumped when looking at a blank page. Ideas tend to flow once the first part of the story is presented. I find that happens for me.

This week, the first half of the story was written by @calluna. I don't try to match her skill, but I do take inspiration from her magic. So, here it is, my idea on how to end @calluna's story fragment, The Town That Changed.



About the tag at the bottom: I made a mistake and couldn't correct it. This is not a science blog. It is fiction, pure fiction. And light fun. Sorry....



The Town That Changed
by @calluna

Change blew in on the air that morning, whispering through a sleeping town. An eerie quiet rested along the main road, early commuters not yet disturbing the grey dawn. A wisp of waning moon, brushed pink with the gentle glow of the coming sun, hung low in the ombre sky.

A subtle shift rocked the heavy foliage of scattered trees, rippling between the houses. The cool silence of night still clung to the shadows. A lone ginger cat stalked between the sentinels of bins guarding the curbs. It paused, hair bristling along it’s back as it sensed a disturbance rushing past.

A lone mournful howl echoed in the streets, erupting into a sorrowful symphony as others took up the canine call.
Not a single harsh bark interrupted the lament that awoke the town that morning.

Back doors opened onto gardens, not quite the same. Concerned residents in an array of dressing gowns, coats and slippers, padded outside to find the same, inexplicable sight.


Theo hadn’t been home in months. He had told his mum he was getting clean. It was a lie. He hadn’t been clean in years.

The dark country road snaked before him, a twisting river of retreating night. She had insisted he came home for the wedding. Theo couldn’t stand her boyfriend, but his mum had half chewed his ear off over it, and he couldn’t deny, he owed her this.

He swore under his breath. The rising itch was dancing across his skin. The hard edge cutting inside him. He needed another hit. He had been driving since 1am, he loaded up before he set off, but the ragged scraping of the comedown was consuming.

He glanced at the road, he hadn’t passed another car in hours, and he knew these twisting roads.

One hand on the wheel, he fumbled through the bag on the passenger seat. He couldn’t face that c*nt sober, Aunt Hazel would help.


His skin flushed with the intense bliss coursing through his veins as he approached the sleeping streets.

Dawn was pushing towards the horizon, her soft pink glow catching the clipped moon.

Theo was speeding when he got to the town. He heard the hair-raising call of neighbourhood dogs, raising their cry as one.

Then he saw it. The change. He couldn’t look away. He didn’t see the tree.





It Happened at Dawn


By @agmoore



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Picture Credit: Pixabay

"As far as we can tell, there's one fatality. Car accident, possibly not related, though it's going to take more investigation to pin down the exact cause."

"Did anyone try to leave town?"

"Not yet. It's all playing out as we hoped. They're too disoriented to form a plan. They seem frozen in a kind of community reinforcing pattern. Seeking the familiar. Hoping for confirmation of their own distorted perceptions."

"Do we know anything about the fatality?"

"Yeah. Good news. A local. License plate traced to a Theo Logan, 26-year-old son of the registered occupant at 67 Laurel. That's all we have now on him, but at least his family won't come looking for explanations, because they're already in town." The wry grimace reflected a shared sense of moral conflict that had pervaded the team since they entered the countdown for phase 4 of the experiment.

They were a tight, small group. Five years on the project, with a direct link to high command. Security was rigid. If word ever got out....

Three walls in the chrome-lined laboratory displayed a live feed of Manorville's waking hours: 122 humans, 67 felines, 41 canines. All roused with the release of a gas no one knew existed.

Throughout the town, valves were opened at first light and XYM gas seeped into Manorville. Within 5 minutes, neural interference was evident in 91% of the subjects. In 10 minutes, that number went up to 100%.

Subjects' distress ranged from mild anxiety to wild panic. As the Adjutant General observed these idiosyncratic reactions, she made a note to explore whether it was exposure levels or individual sensitivity that determined degree of response.

XYM had a half life of 2 hours. That's what earlier tests in mental hospitals and prisons had shown. This meant that by the time investigators arrived in town, no trace would remain, anywhere. The stealth characteristic of the gas was essential. The Manorville episode must be written off as mass hysteria.

The General congratulated herself. XYM was a truly humane breakthrough in warfare. An anti-personnel weapon with no fatalities and no long-term consequences. Yet, devastatingly effective at disabling an enemy.

She would have to include the one automobile fatality in her report, even though there was no clear connection to the experiment. And the potential complications for pregnancies. Just two women in their third trimester had been identified. Spontaneous abortion was possible. Undetected first trimester pregnancies did carry a teratogenic risk. But these contingencies were negligible, given the effectiveness of the new weapon.

She looked up at the large map on the fourth wall of the laboratory. Five cities highlighted. Five more test zones. Today's results would be reconciled with those, when they came in, and all of it combined with data from institutional studies. But she didn't need that information for her own satisfaction. There was no doubt in her mind what the numbers would show.

She had created the perfect weapon.

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Finish the Story Contest - week # 25 is waiting for you, brave storyteller!

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I'll try to summon the muse as I discover what is store for me....

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I'll try to summon
The muse as I discover
What is store for me....

                 - agmoore


I'm a bot. I detect haiku.

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I'll try to summon the muse as I discover what is store for me....

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I'll try to summon
The muse as I discover
What is store for me....

                 - agmoore


I'm a bot. I detect haiku.

Nice take @agmoore! Conspiracy is always a rich vein!

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Thanks @marcoriccardi. I hope the way I tapped that vein was entertaining :)

I loved your sharp lexicon, which immerses the reader in a convincing environment. Those citizens look like an agar plate waiting for the infection to proliferate.. maybe this could be the initial scene of a possible movie.. Thank you for commenting everyone Doc, your support is gold and it's helping me since in this month I'm dedicating some due extra focus to my family 😊

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Thank you for those encouraging words. I think you're right... it could set the scene for a sinister movie :)
As for supporting the "team"--that's how I see finishthestory contest. A cooperative effort, more than a competition. This is an environment that's comfortable for beginners and skilled alike--a great vibe.

Have a wonderful time with your family. After all, everything we do is for them.

Ohhh!!! at first I thought it was going through a forensic discussion between the sheriff and the coroner but making it a military conspiracy was indeed unexpected.

I have this half remembered memory of a city either in Houston or somewhere in the US where the CIA was using the inhabitants of the town in their experiment in neuro toxin. This came out after the declassification of some military records so their is a tinge of truth in your story.

Fascinating but scary.

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There are so many instances of the medical community, with the cooperation of government agencies, experimenting on unknowing civilians. There's George Jervis, for example, at Letchworth Village--a sprawling institution that housed the disabled. He used Letchworth as his personal laboratory and conducted experiments on the residents. And then, also at Letchworth, Hilary Koprowski tested a completely unproven polio vaccine. I guess, when I read @calluna's piece, this information was floating around somewhere in my head and, voila...:)

This was a gripping read. It was written very well. Love it.

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Thank you, @gaby-crb! I'm going to spend some time today reading through the other stories and using my upvotes as they accumulate. This is always an adventure. See you over there :)

People often think that a scenario like this couldn't happen today, but things can change very fast once people feel under threat and an enemy is identified. I think dark science-fiction will always be one of my favourite genres!

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I really didn't think it's that far-fetched. The US army did mind-altering experiments with LSD and there has been research into developing weapons that harm people but don't do damage to structures. And, if there is doubt about the government's willingness to experiment on civilian populations, we can look to Tuskegee where infected patients were observed and not treated. Lied to so they'd go on with their lives and infect their spouses and children. I just put it all together in my peculiar head and came up with this story.

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it very much.

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I think there are always people in government willing to do those kind of things, but in times of peace they don't have the justification to do it

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Welcome back man! ✌️

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Hi f3nix, good to see that the banana fish is still moving us inevitably towards oblivion. I'm still overseas for now, should be fully back in action in a couple of weeks

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Hey matey! How's your traveling so far? Your absence has been noted, we miss your deliriums (and yes, the bananafish is Nyarlathotep's cousin).

Scary

well done, i love it!

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Thank you! Scary is good, sometimes. Thanks for reading.

Nailed it! Awesome read.

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Thanks! That helps to soften the self-doubt that creeps in every time I write...

Ah, the lovely bureaucracy at work with their effortless efficiency. Now able to end wars on a miracle drug, lest they possess some good gas masks that certainly would be distributed if they caught wind of mass hysteria out of nowhere. (Puns intended.) Resteem'd.

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Thanks...I'm afraid some people don't like to go there, but the possibility of there does exist :)

... very dark.
Didn't like it at all ;-)

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Sorry...:)
I wrote a small book a few years ago about Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine (for kids). I learned that, as WWII loomed, the military was concerned about a flu epidemic among the troops (remember 1918?). They asked the research community to develop a vaccine. Salk, and others, tested their vaccine on patients at a mental hospital. Years later he tested his unproven polio vaccine on handicapped, institutionalized children. There are so many other examples of medicine and/or government putting individuals at risk "for the greater good". That was sort of the inspiration for the story. But you're right, it was dark.

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I hope that the age in which such attempts are made is over. However, one could also think somewhat cynically that these tests are now legal and that people volunteer for them. On a scientific basis one could say that no development can do without various wrong attempts and also damage. This is the dark side of experiments... I have different thoughts and feelings about it. It always depends on the extent to which research involves ethics in its deliberations and commissions are formed that are prepared to pursue ethical questions. This is a difficult subject...

Your story demonstrated the human mistakes well and grabbed the reader by the balls :)

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Thank you! I meant to grab readers, and if that's where I grabbed them, OK by me :)

This story creeped me out. To bad I don't live in a city that doesn't do that to their people in some respect.

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You never know....:)

Hello @agmoore, thank you for sharing this creative work! We just stopped by to say that you've been upvoted by the @creativecrypto magazine. The Creative Crypto is all about art on the blockchain and learning from creatives like you. Looking forward to crossing paths again soon. Steem on!

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This is very encouraging. I'm honored to be acknowledged by Creative Crypto. Makes it easier to sit down and write another piece. Thank you so much.

That is a much different take that mine but good job.

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Thank you :)

Government conspiracy stories are always fun in an unsettling way. This was very well done 😄

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Thank you! I think you're right--people do find government conspiracies unsettling. Interesting...I appreciate the feedback:)

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A sanctioned experiment! And of such scale! A wonderfully written ending that was a pleasure to read. The scary element of governments just doing this in secret is very effective, it would be the perfect weapon, they would need to test it on unwitting subjects...

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Thank you! I think it was too believable for some readers. Seemed to upset them--I guess that's good :)

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I was literally just talking about how this is one of my favourite ending! Clearly just did too good a job of picking up on the dark undertones. My stories are often a bit on the upsetting side, so if anything it is proof of fulfilling the goal and picking up the thread in the same tone!

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Thank you! I've always been a little bit off center... not just in writing, either :)

This is wonderfully written! The many details and the tone as the general goes over the data feel very believable. Chilling!

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I appreciate that. I actually looked up some stuff to make sure I didn't fudge on details. (Ex: checked half lives of different medicines to make the gas disappeared quickly). Once I got the idea of an experiment, it was just a matter of trimming to make the piece "clean". Thanks for reading!