Stonehenge Story Starts: Sunrise (Results)

Welcome back to our blog!  We hope you’ll enjoy this week’s story results. Our prompt was:

I never thought I’d see a sunrise that looked like that.

Two of our writers provided stories to this prompt.

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Karen Blakely:

I never thought I’d see a sunrise that looked like that. Though to be honest, I’d never expected to see a sunrise at all.

None of this will make much sense if you don’t know something important about me. I’ve always been a complete and total night owl. Going to bed before 3:00 a.m. was early for me these days. And even though my friends insisted that I was missing something beautiful, I would never voluntarily see a sunrise.

Which made my current predicament particularly bizarre.

My house backed onto a busy street. Day or night, there was plenty of traffic: cars, ambulances, eighteen wheelers, motorcycles. I always wore earbuds to bed and listened to soothing music to keep all that noise out. I also had black-out drapes on my windows since I was never awake before 11:00 a.m. and hated waking with the sun in my eyes.

It was 2:34 a.m. when I went to bed.  I’d checked the weather on my phone; the wind gusts outside were rising, and I was grateful we didn’t have hurricanes or tornados in Sacramento. The throaty roar outside my window was already shockingly loud, and according to the Weather Channel, the storm would continue to intensify until it reached its peak around 7:30 a.m.

Being the middle of winter, 7:30 a.m. would be around the same time the sun would rise in the morning. I’d laughed, knowing I wouldn’t be awake to see the worst of the storm or the sunrise.

When I did wake, my room was dark and still. I felt disoriented, which was a normal morning for me, but I also felt well-rested which was not. No, that’s much too bland. I felt excited, energized, ready to start my day. I was too busy being pleased to wonder what was different this morning.

Everything was silent when I pulled the earbuds from my ears, and I wondered if the storm had flooded the street, blocking the normal morning traffic. My floor was dry, so if there was a flood it hadn’t reached my house. I rolled out of bed and shuffled for the bedroom door. I decided to take a nice long soak in the tub. I didn’t have to be to be to work until 1:30 p.m. so there’d be plenty of time.

I didn’t feel any premonitions. No sense of dread. No inner voices warning me of what was to come. I simply threw open the bedroom door and lifted my foot to step over the threshold.

Then stopped, foot still lifted, sure I must be dreaming. Because the scene in front of me couldn’t possibly be real.

There was no bathroom with its claw foot tub. There was no hallway leading to the bathroom. There was nothing but an apocalyptic scene of destruction. The storm, or something else, had wiped out everything.

There were no trees. No people. No animals or birds. No houses. No cars on the busy road behind my house. Hell, there was no road. There was nothing as far as I could see, all the way to the horizon in the east.

Where the first glimmers of dawn began to emerge. My very first sunrise, making each bit of the dust filling the air sparkle. Painting the spoiled world around me in glowing shades of pink and peach and gold.

My friends had been right, the sunrise was beautiful.

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Cheryl Mahoney: Beneath an Alien Sun

Landfall – Day 2

I never thought I’d see a sunrise that looked like that.  And could it properly be called a sunrise, when it wasn’t the same sun I was used to?

I wasn’t supposed to be on this planet.  I wasn’t supposed to be on any planet but my own, and definitely not a Class-4 forbidden world.  I traveled the stars, but I wasn’t cleared for landfall, and no one was supposed to be on this planet at all.  Making the whole situation doubly forbidden.

I probably wasn’t supposed to find that exciting.

My job was much less exciting than it sounded.  Writing home about exploring new star systems and charting new phenomena sounds very well, but I never left the ship.  My particular job mostly involved reports and spreadsheets and tracking minute changes in radiation levels in stars.  Even I don’t find it very interesting, but hey, it was a paycheck.

But now we were all off the ship.  That’s what happens when you crash.

I sat back, enjoying the feel of the sand beneath me, lighting up in reds and purples as this world’s sun slowly rose above the horizon.  I seemed to be one of the first of our group awake.  Crash-landing less than one standard day before, we hadn’t exactly settled into a regular routine yet.  We had posted a sentry, of course, but the rest of our crew were still slumbering.

A dozen of us had survived the explosive malfunction of our ship’s engines, made it to lifepods, and landed here, in this sandy stretch not far from a river, somewhat north of the planet’s equator.  We had lost five crewmembers, and I regretted their deaths.  We had never been close, though.  For expeditions like ours, long-term excursions into deep space, the Fleet generally sent people who kept themselves to themselves.  We had to live in close quarters; best if we all had a healthy respect for privacy and personal space, or the interpersonal drama would become too much very fast.

I could see people beginning to stir, where we’d all curled up to sleep in the shelter of a sand dune the night before.  Time to get to the front of the line for breakfast, such as it would be.

 

Landfall – Day 4

Here I was on an alien planet, and I still couldn’t do anything very exciting.  The captain insisted we had to stay out of sight and not interfere with the locals while we waited for rescue.  Whenever that would be.  Class-4 forbidden world, noninterference, blah blah blah.  He only let a couple of the science team go exploring, while the rest of us just sat around.  Today’s briefing from the science team was the most interesting thing to happen since we landed.

“Here you can see an image of the planet’s dominant species,” the science officer announced, using his omniscreen to project against the side of another of the endless dunes.

Professional though we were, many of us recoiled from the image.  A biped at least four times our height, the creature was pale and bare-skinned, except for some dark fur on top of its head.

“We have landed near one of the more advanced societies on this planet,” the science officer continued, “in that they have already discovered a form of writing, and have managed a number of architectural achievements.  However, they are still what we would consider quite primitive, possibly a Level Nine or Ten society.  You might think of them as at a similar stage of development as our own race was some five thousand years ago.”

In other words, we were on a planet of barbarians.  Which, you know, might have been interesting, if we actually interacted with them.

“Contact with any society below Level 100 is, of course, strictly forbidden,” the science officer went on, insufferable rule-follower that he was.  “Should we encounter any native accidentally, we should be able to pass as one of their local species.”

A new image popped up on the side of the dune, this one much more pleasing to the eye.  Not quite one of our people, but you’d have to look at the details to be sure.

“This creature is common in this area and, while smaller in stature than ourselves, is not dissimilar to us.  Of course, they do not possess our level of intelligence, being essentially mere animals—although we do suspect that the natives may underestimate their intelligence and their potential.”

It was strange to think of creatures who so closely resembled us being at a mere animal level of intelligence.  It made me feel almost as creepy as the sight of those bipeds had.  I hardly had time to think about it, though, before the science officer brought another image up on screen—a great hairy, four-legged animal with sharp teeth.

“This animal is the natural predator of the animals we resemble, meaning we also should treat it with caution,” the science officer continued.  “While we can resort to our weaponry if absolutely necessary, remember that our highest priority must be to not interfere with the development of the native population.”

As if I’d let that nasty creature bite me, just to preserve the development of some ugly bipeds.  Please.

 

Landfall – Day 22

I tried, you know.  For days and days, I tried.  But we just sat there.  Doing nothing, going nowhere, hiding.  Like we were the animals, instead of the highly developed race we are.  Just waiting for rescue that might never come.

So I started a few quiet conversations with a few others I suspected might be as bored as I was.  About how we might improve our situation, if we stopped being quite so cautious.  If we stopped being so rule-bound.

Too bad they all sold me out to the captain.  Unimaginative cowards, the lot of them.

“Data Analyst, you understand why you are being brought before us for a reprimand?” the captain said to me, as I stood in the center of the circle everyone else had formed.

I sighed loudly.  “Look, I just think we can’t sit here forever.  If we make contact with the natives—”

“You are proposing that we break our highest law,” the captain thundered.

“Yeah, and what do you think you’re going to do to me for suggesting it?” I asked.  “We’re not on the ship anymore.  You don’t even have my personnel file to put a black mark into it.”

“When we are eventually rescued—” the captain began, and I didn’t wait to hear the proposed consequences.

Everything in me was itching for action.  Or maybe that was the sand.  Anyway, I’d had enough of sitting.

“Good luck with that waiting,” I said, and darted through the surrounding circle at its nearest point.  I was out beyond my colleagues and running hard before they could even react.

I made it over the crest of the next dune, putting me out of the sightlines for their weapons, and kept running.  If they wanted to keep sitting, fine.  I wanted to finally do something.

 

Landfall – Day 23

I kept moving through the night, heading towards the river.  That was where civilization, such as it was, could be found, so that’s where I was going.  I reached the riverbank just as the sun came up, though the eerie differences between sunrise here and sunrise on my own world had long since stopped intriguing me.

I slipped down to the bank, intent on getting a drink of water.  After trudging through endless sands, that water looked so good that I didn’t notice another presence on the bank until it was practically on top of me.

I jumped back, a startled hiss escaping from me.  It was one of the bipedal creatures, and for a moment it loomed high above me, pale and hairless, loose cloth wrapped around it.

Then it folded its lower limbs, dropping to a crouch, still staring at me out of its strange, white-rimmed eyes.  “You speak the name of the goddess,” it breathed.  “What manner of creature are you?”

The name of the goddess?  I hadn’t spoken anything, unless… “B’sst?” I repeated, trying to duplicate my earlier, unintentional hiss.

The biped lowered its head.  “I have never seen a creature such as you before—so grand, so golden!  Are you a manifestation of the goddess?”

Now, obviously, it’s practically on page one of our rule book that you never, ever, ever pretend to be a native people’s god.  But come on!  You can’t tell me there’s anyone who didn’t find that a deeply tempting idea.  And what options did I have?  I couldn’t go back to my own people.

Plus I’ve always been proud of my golden fur.

I arched my back and stretched all four limbs, waving my tail behind me, then sat down in my most regal pose.  “I come from the stars, come to inspect my worshippers.”

The biped dropped full-length now, upper limps stretched in front of it.  “Lady Bastet!  You honor me with your presence.  How may I serve you?”

Bastet, huh?  That was easier to say.  “I wish to be led to my nearest temple,” I said grandly.  “And I want mice and milk when I arrive.”

“But of course, Lady Bastet!”  The biped scrambled to its feet and led the way back towards the river, towards its people’s settlement.  What was the river’s name?  The science officer had said it in his presentation…  Oh yeah.  The Nile.

I’d be in a lot of trouble if the Fleet ever caught up to me, of course.  But they’d have to find me first.  And in the meantime, I was seeing enormous possibilities here.  Being a goddess was a lot better than calculating star radiation.

 

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