השואה — or, the Land of a Thousand Hills

The forest trees hid the sunlight, their bowers heavy with dark green leaves, trunks carpeted in thickened moss. They silenced the forest sounds — there was no bird song, no insect call. No footfalls. A wolf stalked James through the forest and he couldn’t hear it. Only it wasn’t a wolf but a gnarled-toothed werewolf, sharp toothed and vicious.

But that was a bedtime story; James was safe at home, tucked tight under his blankets, warm up to his shoulders, secure in bedtime comfort. After his mother finished the story she kissed his cheek and tussled his hair, turned off the bedside lamp and closed the door behind her. Left in darkness James felt no fear. He enjoyed horror stories, and the best was yet to come.

The small ones came out first, all beard and mouth and teeth; bouncing from under the bed they jumped up to his feet and waited. The Cupboard Monster was the show-master, the speaker. It was calmness and stateliness. It’s fur luminesced and its voice was sliding gravel.

It said, “And now we begin.” The story was about the boy Abel; he and his family were chased from their home and hunted — not by werewolves, but by other men. They killed Abel’s mother in front of him. There was guns and violence, anger and hatred. His father stowed him away on a boat. Abel never saw his homeland or his father again. There was bravery, love and loss.

This story wasn’t as good as the previous night’s, where 800 000 people had been slaughtered in only 100 days. But it had been entertaining and thrilling, and that was all James asked for in his bedtime tales.

Once upon a time

Bedtime! I’ll read you one story before lights out. Ah, here’s a classic.

Once upon a time, long ago … No, I don’t think there were velociraptors. It wasn’t that long ago. No, there weren’t any sabre-toothed tigers, either. Yes, I know you like them, but they can’t be in the story. Why? Because I’m telling it!

Once upon a time, in a land far way…No, it wasn’t Nepal. Yes, I’m sure it is a beautiful country, but the story didn’t happen there. How about France? It may not be now, but it was far away then. Okay, okay, it was a far away country that doesn’t exist now called Landia. I don’t care if it’s a stupid name; that’s where the story happens.

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess … What! No, she didn’t stink! Where did that come from? People in general may not have bathed long ago, but this was a very special country where they all bathed every day. No, she didn’t have to go to school. Why? Because she was a princess. I know Prince Harry went to school, but she didn’t. No, she wasn’t ignorant; she had tutors! Yes, they would have taught her about velociraptors…and Nepal. The solar system? I don’t know. I give up!

Once upon a time, during the late Cretaceous period, in Nepal, there lived a perfectly ordinary, smelly girl who was eaten by a velociraptor. The End. Happy?

No, I don’t know what else the velociraptor had to eat that day.

Bedtime Stories

The nurse daubed at the patient’s pink, inflamed, suction cups. Only a light infection, it should clear up in a cycle or two.
“How’s that? Better?” he asked.
The patient nodded and flexed his beak.
“Excellent. Now where was I? Ah, yes, The Humans.” The patient’s eyes widened at the mention of the exotic aliens. The nurse shuffled in his seat, curling a tentacle around to take the patient’s temperature. “They’d just landed on an unexplored planet. They exit their space box onto the swampy ground, and stand gazing at the two purple suns.”
Giggles from two beds down.
“You,” the nurse said, throwing a tentacle up at the twins, “are supposed to be asleep.”
They squirmed against each other, heads and arms and legs becoming coils of smooth green skin, then they calmed. The nurse shook his head and chuckled to himself.
“‘Oh my goodness!’ Female1 said to her companion. ‘This is amazing, is it not, Female2?’
‘Indeed it is, Female1. Our fellow humans will be amazed when we return with our pictographs.’
‘Yes!’ Female 1 said, striding clumsily forward in her exploration shell, creaks and complaints at every step. ‘We shall pictorise it. For science!'”

“Dad, that’s stupid.”
“What? The aliens? Aliens might have tentacles. Have you seen any aliens? I haven’t.”
“No, silly. The humans. We don’t speak like that.”
“Some of us do,” he said, thinking of people at work the next morning. “Now where was I?”

An Introduction to a Dream

They wait outside: the former prince, turned minstrel and then thief;
The girl born deaf, with a magic touch; the farm boy with a golden heart;
The youngest son of the youngest son, your quest his only right;
They wait for you to choose the one, they wait their turn each night.

Choose wisely, for the tale demands the hero know the rules
The humble girl, the orphaned child, a stable-boy with an inner light
Those who believe in fairytales, share what they can, and have no fear
They may survive your twisted tale, their vision pure and clear.

Give them a horse, an ancient steed, or a camel spitting dust
A rusted sword, a tiny spell, a book, a candle and a bell,
Remember fortune serves the poor, those least likely to succeed
But riches and a retinue breed arrogance and greed.

So send them forth, to walk the hills, to seek the giant’s cave
The dragon’s egg, a unicorn, the place where forest nymphs are born,
To fight the shadow in the west, weave nets for souls, fix eagles’ nests,
To grow and learn and find inside the answer to their secret quest.

The bedtime story is now told. It was a worthy training ground
Look at them now! A motley crew, experienced witches, fighters true
Ready to leap into your dreams where the adventure still goes on
Where their wisdom, wit and wiles will make the hours fly ‘till dawn.

Gold-E and the Battlebots

[Content: extra galactic EV-17 event class NN6 emergency log dump]

Hi Admiral,

Found a bit of a funny out here and just want to report it.

The scan on dwarf-sub-planetlet 6 indicated an 8Q. When I looked that up the mission manual suggested we launch Gold-E (V7 scoutbot). Gold-E failed on touchdown so I’ve copied the last status stream we got in case you want to take it up with the manufacturers:

Damage assessment: 8 critical systems offline; power unstable.
Nanoheal prognosis: 80% functional recovery dependant on 22g Nanotech and A22-compat power-source.
Target structure inaccessible.
Plasma cannon authorised by damage assessment.
Target structure accessible.  Searching interior.
Discovered nano-organic substrate. Analysis initiated: too hot for conversion.
Discovered nano-organic substrate. Analysis initiated: too cold for conversion.
Discovered nano-organic substrate. Analysis initiated: within tolerance.
Substrate converted.
Discovered recharger. A22 Compatibility: failed.
Discovered recharger. A22 Compatibility: failed.
Discovered recharger. A22 Compatibility: compliance verified.
Connected to recharger.
Initiating recharge and repair shutdown. Goodnight.

There is pre-reconstruction technology below because an hour later we intercepted a transmission which the ship translated from an ancient battlebot protocol:

UrsaPater: All warden alert. Dome 192-7 depressurised. Respond.
UrsaMater: Approaching Dome, careful dear hearts.
UrsaDimin: wow! Orange Alert, incoming.
UrsaPater: Concussive dome breach. Upgrade status to [growling red]. Validate dome inventory.
UrsaMater: Repair Inv#31221 is terribly messy.
UrsaPater: Repair Inv#31222 has been intrusively analysed.
UrsaDimin: Repair Inv#31223 is code 8. That’s inventory stolen or sabotaged.
UrsaPater: This battle unit knows the codes, diminutive mechanical. Set alert level to [crimson rush] and conserve your bandwidth. Alert planet wide warden network.
UrsaPater: Recharge unit Q15 appears damaged.
UrsaMater: Recharge unit Q16 has been activated
UrsaDimin: Recharge unit Q17 currently in use. It’s Code 92 boss Daddy! There’s an alien. Can I? Can I?
UrsaPater: Fire at will. Upgrade communications status to [hunting darkness].

Nothing after that so I suppose the old bots finally failed. The strange swan song of our ancient selves: I do love this job.

Yours in exploration,

Captain H

Bedtime

Well, here’s a nice turn of things. The bed’s gold and silver and ivory, the coverlets are glass. They may as well be ice. This wasn’t my idea: beds should be welcoming. There’s a piece of flax under my nail, a piece of apple in my mouth, a poisoned comb in my hair; the spindle lies next to the bed, bloodied. I am very beautiful, but this is not sleep, and I hate to think what I’ll dream about.

I am not safe in this bed. The briar hedge, the crystal coffin, the locked room, won’t protect me. I can feel the eyes out there. My lord will dig down through the fairy hill and demand my silent body. My prince will come. The falcon will find me, the old women betray me at every turn.  The stranger will bed me, kiss me, carry me away, lie with me for forty days and nights. Insensible, I’ll bear him children. This is not sleep. You can keep it.

How’s this? I will consent to wake up when the prince has wrapped himself in seven winding sheets and sleeps in his grave in the garden. When he bites the apple. See how he likes the spindle. It’s a test. Princes should be tested.

But I’m only pretending. While he lies here, pale and silent, I’ll be elsewhere, safe as nut-meat in a softer bed. Cotton sheets and a fire in the grate, or maybe tender grass and the moon through trees. Alone. Unwatched. Sleeping.

Holy

Every kid has a favourite bedtime story.  The story they want to hear over and over.  My bedtime story was the best and my mother was the best at telling it.  It started with a man, a man full of faith.  This man was so full of faith that he believed it was his destiny, no, his purpose to rid the world of all evil.  He had been ordained by his god to do this.  And he believed he would be victorious.

Every night he would set out to rid the world of the evils that festered in the dark corners and seeped into forgotten thoughts.  He would go forth with his cross, his holy water, his book and his utter conviction that he was right – his true belief.  The story went on to tell of the horror that he came across, the fallen and the unmentionable.

My brothers and I would sit, begging for more as the sun started to rise.  Once more before we go to bed, oh, please.  Once more so our day dreams were filled with our heroics – we would vanquish this man, his faith would fall before us and our might.  We were children in shadows but in our dreams, we were heroes.  Hail the victorious Undead.