January 2020 – Furious Fiction Submission

Hey everyone,

I know I’ve been a little less active over the last few weeks – it’s a combination of focusing on my novel, being busy with “life stuff”, and changing my treatment regime for my anxiety and depression that has kept me away from the blog. It has been rather tumultuous, to say the least.

Anyway, another month, another unsuccessful Furious Fiction piece. I like it though, and I hope you do too.

The criteria was:

Each story had to include a COUNTDOWN of some kind.
Each story had to include a character who SHARES A SECRET.
Each story had to include the word SERENDIPITY.




As Zahraa’s spacecraft rounded the icy Jovian moon, a gargantuan crescent appeared. Strips of white, orange, brown, and red crept into view, looming over Europa. For a moment Jupiter was framed on one side by the almost translucent blue of the planet-sized moon around which Zahraa’s ship, the UNRV Maria Mitchell sped in a low-orbit; and framed on the other by the abysmal void.

The combination really made Jupiter’s colours pop, and in her month orbiting Europa Zahraa had come to resent the gas giant for that. She was here for one thing and there Jupiter was, dressed to impress, clinging to the moon like a handbag chosen to show off a dress. Only Jupiter had been clutching Europa at its side for four and a half billion years.

Zahraa pushed off from the wall and moved towards the cockpit with the grace of someone who had spent the majority of her adult life in null-G.

“Maria, please check probe status,” Zahraa said, her tone soft and personal as if talking to an old friend.

“My pleasure, Zahraa,” responded the ship.

Data spooled down her screen. Most of it was technical information and as long as it was showing green, she needn’t worry about the minutiae. What was important was the number at the end: a countdown; the moment her probe would break through the kilometre-thick extra-terrestrial ice and reveal to her the secrets below.

“Maria, let me know when the probe is half and hour from breaking through. I’m taking a nap.”

“No problem,” said the ship, “and would you like to know if there are any errors?”

“Please don’t jinx this,” responded Zahraa, who continued after a short pause, “but yes, please do.”

For three and a half hours Zahraa drifted in and out of sleep, she worried to herself that she would find nothing, and even if there was anything intelligent or civilised below the ice, it would take a moment of absolute serendipity for her to have found it on her first expedition.

But in space, one expedition is all you get.

* * *

Zahraa woke with a start, an alarm blaring and the screen in front of her flashing red.

“Status,” she said, curtly.

As the information spooled out in front of her yet again, her stomach tightened. Red, across the board.

Except, no – it wasn’t.

The probe wasn’t digging anymore, that was true – according to the ship’s countdown there was still another hour of digging remaining.

But the probe still had power, it had a camera, and most importantly, it was transmitting.

“Visual feed,” she said, and Maria responded wordlessly, switching away from the technical data.

It took a moment for the camera to focus, but when it did Zahraa could make out a world that was both alien and very familiar: an upside-down world of constructed structures; of life and movement; of symmetry, intelligence, and contrived beauty.

A secret civilisation, hidden for millennia from the humanity, and hers alone to share.

Prologue and excerpt – YA Novel (trilogy?)

Hey everyone,

I am back with another prologue and an excerpt for a novel. A different novel. My other one has been on the back-burner after hitting a couple of creative snags, and as a teacher I feel that I may be able to engage with the voices of young adults pretty easily – so I thought I would give it a try.

My aim here is mid- to late-high school readers, so please let me know if you think I am getting the tone right!

I won’t go into too much detail in relation to the plot, but you should get a pretty nice idea of some of the setting. The prologue is obviously there as a hook to get readers in, and the excerpt will be part of a chapter earlier on in the novel, but I am not sure where yet. As far as my understanding is concerned, there’s a good chance that neither will actually end up in the finished piece.

I will also be asking my darling wife to do some drawings at the start of each chapter, and it’s nice to have her involved so I hope she will do that for me – I will update you!

Please give me some feedback if you feel the temptation come over you – either through the website, via email, or on Twitter or Facebook. Also, if you’re a publisher and you’ve found your way to the bottom of the barrel where I am safely nestled and decide you’d like to give me money, please let me know.

Happy reading!




Sometime in May, 2223CE

The perfect darkness weighed down on Anastasia, not only because it was so total that most people could go their entire lives without experiencing something like it; or because surrounding her strapped-down and laid-out body was less than ten centimetres of space at any given point; but because she knew that the coffin-like capsule was finally decelerating. The air which had floated carefully by her since they had left Earth’s gravity well now pushed down against her, making it hard to suck any in.

But being short of breath was the least of Anastasia’s problems, because if they were decelerating that that meant that they were almost there.

And if they were almost there, then she knew she would have to fight.

And if she had to fight, she knew she might die.

And that terrified her.

Anastasia had woken to the feeling of thrust gravity[1], and she didn’t know how long the capsule had been decelerating before she’d woken up, so she couldn’t be certain when the lid would open, but she was going to be ready, no matter what.

So, she closed her eyes and thought of her mothers holding her just months before – admittedly, she could not remember how many months before, now. She thought of herself, curled up on the living room couch watching an old-style LED TV, Mamma stroking her hair casually, without thought, while Ma called out from the kitchen that the Котлети[2] (Kotleti) were almost ready. They were always so delicious.

Despite herself, Anastasia felt hungry. Her mouth watered, and her cheeks were wet. Making herself sad wouldn’t help with what was to come. Even so, she missed her mothers and they’d been taken away from her, and that made her mad.

Her chest tightened as the deceleration intensified, and she clenched her fists to her sides.

They’d taken her away, and she didn’t know why.

In the kaleidoscope created by the pure black, she saw them reaching out to her, faces contorted. She saw the men strike them to the ground, hitting them in the heads with the butts of their guns one at a time, while she had a black sack shoved over her head.

She could smell the Котлети burning, abandoned on the stove when they knocked down the door. In the capsule she could feel place she’d fractured her rib as she’d fallen to the ground in the struggle, one of the men kicking her until she stopped clawing at the wall.

Echoing in her mind she heard the gunshots. Two of them, in quick succession. She would never know for sure what they signalled, but she knew what they probably meant.

For a long time, remembering that day made her sad. And then it made her desperate. And then she refused to believe it – it was her imagination, a dream, she’d wake up.

Now she knew it was true, and it didn’t make her sad.

It made her angry.

And for that reason, in the last stint of this long trip since the coffin had been closed on her struggling, living corpse, she’d slipped out of the restraints, and done her best to move and make sure that her muscles didn’t atrophy completely.

Anastasia would fight back, and if that meant she died then that’s what it meant.

Those mobsters would regret taking her life away from her.

[1] A kind of false-gravity created by a change in velocity – sort of like the way you might feel like you’re being pushed into the seat while an aeroplane takes off, but much, much stronger. Thrust gravity can make it possible for people travelling long distances in space to feel like they can walk around, take showers, or cook food – the catch is that you have to be either steadily speeding up, or steadily slowing down. The gravity created by planets is different, and the feeling of gravity created when things start spinning around is different still.

[2] Kot-let-i – a crispy, juicy snack which can be made from beef, pork, or chicken. The meat is mixed with spices and egg, and then breaded. Котлети is often thought of as a comfort food, and is found in Russia and areas surrounding it.


Chapter # – The Holy City


June, 2223

It had been a long, heated, and sometimes vicious debate well before anyone from the Arab Interplanetary Exploration Coalition had even set foot on the Red Planet, and it was an issue that was still vigorously debated even now, decades – more than half a century – since the colony had been formally established, first as a research station and now, like the other two colonies that came before it, a permanent settlement.

Here’s the problem: on Mars, which is an average of two-hundred and twenty-five million kilometres away from Earth, how does anyone pray towards Mecca?

Now, the easy answer is, “It doesn’t matter, if you don’t know where the qiblah is, then you make your best guess and pray that way.” But nothing is ever easy. For instance, if one were to pray towards Mecca from Sydney, Australia, you would assume that you would face north-west – and you would on Earth, of course you would. However, if you think of Earth as a planet, then the qiblah is below you, and if we put ourselves on Mars, then the qiblah can be above you.

You can know where Mecca is. You can look towards it. But if prayers are sent around the surface of a planet, rather than through it, how does one pray up or down towards Mecca?

Not so easy now, is it?

To many all this seems trivial, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that religion can make the trivial seem catastrophic. No matter what, people have found ways to get angry at each other about religion, especially if they ostensibly believed the same things. Nothing would ever solve this problem, but when everyone was all squashed into a cramped habitat on a hostile, alien planet tensions tended to get high, and quickly. Luckily though, just as the former, now late leaders of the various sects of Islam had seen past their millennia of conflict to come together and build themselves an alliance and a space program to rival that of China, India, and the US, their current leaders expertly wove the strands of their cultures together, creating a society so tight-knit that they could withstand conflicts that would have torn them apart in the past.

All of this Laila thought about which she prayed, and she hoped that the fabric of her society would withstand the challenges of the time to come.

Unlike her friends, Laila wasn’t born on Mars. She wasn’t even born in the Middle East. No, she came from the sprawling megalopolis of Sydney, which now filled the natural basin that had stopped European explorers centuries prior, and more recently forced the city to build up instead of out.

Laila didn’t remember the disorganised network of trains and mega-highways. She didn’t remember the heat, or the constant summer that meant that fires were always threatening to bear down upon the ghetto-like suburbs that had emerged as climate change pushed people off the islands and coastlines on which they had resided for a significant chunk of human history. But she did remember the gravity, and the free air. The sun shining down on her skin.

The pale blue sky.

As she raised herself up and turned to the right she snuck a glance at the sky, directing her prayers upwards towards where Earth was meant to be and being met with the void-like stare of a cold and uncaring universe.

“Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah[1],” she said, her voice joining the crowd of people mirroring her.

She turned to the left, trying to focus on the task at hand and having trouble doing so in the knowledge that her prayer may not even be valid. After all, she thought, drawing breath for her next phrase, how do you pray upwards?

“Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,” she said again.

Over the next few minutes, people picked up their mats, returned those that were hurriedly rented from the automatic vendors that dotted the city, and moved off. Some moved quickly, and Laila knew that the prayer, for them, was just an obligation – a time a compulsory event that they had to adhere to. For others, the ones that moved off with more contemplation, she knew that their prayers had meaning, that they were asking for help for a loved one, a friend, or maybe just some inner peace which seemed so rare in this harsh environment.

Even though some of the people dwelled in place they all eventually moved off towards their business, and Laila was left all alone to make sense of a place on which God never intended us to be.

[1] Peace and the mercy of Allah be on you.

November 2019 – Furious Fiction Submission

Hey all,

This is a busy time of the year, with reports and other nonsense – hence the lack of posts and poems. Even so, I managed to get a Furious Fiction story complete for a super difficult prompt. I was proud of myself for just getting it in. Here’s the prompt:


I am about to collapse with tiredness, so enjoy the story. As always, feel free to comment or give me feedback.




The Crossroads

Susurrations, soft and sensuous, filled my ears as I stood staring at the tranquil moonlight that was filtering slowly through the canopy above. I could almost feel the breeze on my skin, the patchwork projection on the ground – shimmering, silver spotlights merging and splitting, a web-like network of photons shooting out from the sun, bouncing off our largest satellite and settling serenely on the autumnal detritus beneath my feat.

This Earth just looks so damn real.

I chuckled to myself at the thought.

“Not that I’d know the difference anyway,” I said, to nobody.

“Silence in the VR chamber,” a soft, androgynous, slightly tinny voice said over an unseen speaker.

“Yeah, zip it, mate,” said a male voice from his own world.

I sighed, not having realised I’d even spoken out loud, and continued to stroll through a virtual forest that had been constructed from the memories of the ones that left a long-abandoned world.

* * * * *

People handled The Thaw in very different ways. Some shook their old friends’ hands, happy to be alive again, and lied about how long it had felt since they’d seen them. Others slinked off into the far corners of The Crossroads – a Generation Ship that clutched the hopes of human-kind precariously in an artificial gravity well created by a combination of centripetal force and constant thrust – and mourned the planet they’d never see: the one their ancestors had promised them. Some checked the DNA roster and sought out the mate an AI had strictly allocated to them, so as to ensure genetic diversity for the entirety of the long voyage, and with whom they’d raise a child for 30 years. And a desperate few went to work to find a cure for the ruptures, in the hope that one day our feet would touch earth for the first time.

But despite their efforts, now and years before, and the state-of-the-art technology that filled the ship from the crown to the toe top-full of the best humanity had to offer, we could not stay suspended forever. Our biology just wouldn’t allow it. Over time, cells rupture and mutate. DNA is snipped, severed by the sheer length of the cryogenic suspension. Despite the best efforts of our Gen-5 scientists – propped up by the four generations that came before us, hundreds of years ago – no solution could be found before we had to go in for our one chance at a long sleep.

So, half an hour and a hundred years later, I paced gently from the VR station to the observation lounge. I passed the spectrum of humanity in the sterile, curved halls and found myself in company in the domed, couch-filled space. There were 11 souls in the observation lounge today, eyes glistening in the starlight, and with them I stared solemnly through the glass dome, and out into the void as we plummeted towards Planet B – the bastion of hope perched perilously among the trillions upon trillions of ruinous stars.

Prologue – Untitled Trilogy Book 1

Hey everyone,

Thought I may as well chuck up a piece of writing that I did at the end of last year. In theory it’s the prologue to the novel I have been (avoiding) writing for the past year or so. It’s slow going, and I find inspiration very infrequently. Even so, I am a little proud of what may be the opening to a novel that may or may not exist one day.

I won’t go into too much detail about the plot, which I have mapped out in my head and on a random bit of paper I have floating around in my study somewhere, but it should be enough to say I am planning the the novel to be set in Australia, a hundred or so years into the future – at least in the first book of the trilogy.

I won’t go on about it too much.

Enjoy, and feel free to leave me a comment with any advice, complements, or (more likely than not) criticisms.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be inspired to continue writing.



Australian Space Agency Launch Pad; Woomera, South Australia, Australia; 6:13am ACDT, 20th September, 2122 CE


Above the launch-pad the shooting stars that had glistened over the horizon throughout the night had given way to a subtle glow as the sun began to rise.

And for a moment it seemed almost as if the world wasn’t about to collapse.

The Australian Space Transport Ship Ark-10 waited impatiently, blowing recently evaporated liquid-nitrogen from its sides while it was made ready for departure.

“Engines cooled. Ark-10 on internal power,” there was a pause, and then, “T-Minus sixty seconds until lift-off.”

The voice over the speakers was calm and measured, but there was a sense of urgency that dominated the onlookers, some of whom had already been jostled into the shuttle-bus that would take them to be loaded into the next ship to take off, Ark-11.

If you looked closely at their faces you would see that they were scared, and that some of them had tear-streaks staining their cheeks.

You would see how tightly they gripped the hands of their loved-ones.

You would see the bribes of money and jewellery and information that was being passed between the passengers and their guides.

Oddly, it would be in only half an hour – if all went to plan – and they would have been shuffled onto the ship and sent on their way.

Not much had changed about space-travel since the first attempts in the mid-20th Century, and the largest changes of all had happened in the last twenty-four hours, when the news had broken. That news had sent people rushing to Woomera from all over the country. The smarter, richer, or more paranoid people had already arrived. The lucky ones had already left. And while those with the means had flown, looped, or even driven out to the middle of South Australia in an attempt to get onto one of the last flights off a dying planet, it was clear to those who took a moment to appreciate the gravity of the situation that only a few would ever make it off.

From Ark-10, a child who had only just qualified to meet the height restrictions looked out of the small window directly in front of him. The window faced outwards, but was tilted at a slight angle so that he could see straight up to the sky if he craned his neck backwards. For the last ten minutes the boy had been watching as the sky’s colour changed from a deep blue, streaked with light, through purple, and finally into the orange he saw now. What he didn’t know was that his seat was going to turn suddenly upwards, so that he was facing the nose of the vessel, as soon as thrust was applied, and he wouldn’t be able to see anything. Which, in hindsight, was probably lucky.

Actually, there were a great number of things he didn’t know, really, but that was okay – he wasn’t worried. The only thing that concerned him slightly was that he wasn’t sure whether his mother or father had gotten onto the ship with him.

Surely they had.

They wouldn’t leave him here.

“T-Minus thirty seconds. All systems are optimal.”

As time went on, the golden streaks above the world that had disappeared as the sun’s light got brighter began to reappear. Some people thought they saw little explosions, before light would blaze in pin-pricks overhead.

On the ground, a mother and daughter boarded the bus, but were separated in the crowd. Usually this bus would do two trips to load the passengers on board. They only had time for one now.

The daughter heard her mum call out to her, telling her to follow the instructions and that they would see one another soon. The daughter called out to her mother, telling her she loved her.

There was no response, but the bus was very loud.

From the viewing station a kilometre away from the launch-site – incidentally where the bus had just left with the mother and daughter – two parents looked on at the smoking vessel, a single pure-white cigar that would save their son. They looked at each other wordlessly, and the father held his wife’s hand tighter to stop his own from shaking.

Eight of the last ten ships had made it up. It was going to be okay.

The pair exchanged a smile, knowing that their son would make it. After all, they’d prayed together before putting him on the bus.

“T-Minus fifteen seconds. Ready for final count.”

The child had noticed that the ship had stopped vibrating. The whirring that he hadn’t realised he had been hearing for the last few minutes had stopped. He wondered who was crying, but couldn’t turn to see anyone. He decided it was his mother. He hoped she’d be okay.

He called out to her and told her it would be alright, but it only made her sob louder than before.

On the ground, the electric shuttle-bus shot forward towards the launch-pad, and the driver lowered the heat shields around the windows. They didn’t have time to replace the bus if it was burnt up by the rocket, but they usually didn’t drive directly at a launch.

The speakers on the bus played the final countdown, and all the occupants went quiet. Those who could, squinted through the heat shield near them to see the lift-off. There was a great deal riding on this launch – some people had family on Ark-10.

“T-Minus 10 seconds. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three.”

As the count landed on three, exhaust fumes billowed out of the tunnels that had been dug below the launch-pad as the engines powered up and began to thrust, held back only by the weight of the cargo.

On the bus, the driver slowed down by instinct, and braced himself for the heat as a shockwave hit the vehicle and the ground began to shake.

At the viewing point, the parents of the boy fell to their knees and closed their eyes, praying once more for their son’s life.

On Ark-10, the child was thrown backwards as the passengers’ chairs were moved into take-off position. He couldn’t hear anything anymore, so he thought the woman who he was convinced was his mother must have stopped crying.


Above, those not watching the space ship would have seen glitter in the sky – a huge storm of debris from the collisional cascade had entered the atmosphere as the ship began to buckle, almost lifting off the ground.


The only sound was the roar of the engines as Ark-10 began what should have been a long, uncomfortable journey towards the Martian colonies.

“Lift-off. We have lift-off,” the same emotionless voice reported over the speakers, as the debris-field entered the atmosphere yet again, and began to burn up.

Over the next ten minutes, a number of things happened. Firstly, the boy on the space ship, Ark-10 passed out. That was quite normal for boys of his age, who were not built to withstand the high-G environment of a space ship at full-thrust. Secondly, the parents opened their eyes, and watched with horror as Ark-10 sped towards the debris-field which was spreading across the sky, from horizon to horizon. Finally, the daughter realised that her mother was no longer on the bus, and screamed out for her while the others sobbed in sorrow and fear as their hopes and their loved ones joined the debris-field in the sky, and burned up in the atmosphere as they were torn apart aboard Ark-10.

August 2019 – Furious Fiction Submission

What a surprise, it’s been months since I last posted.

I have been told it’s important to write every day – in fact one of my colleagues tells me that if I really want to get my book written, I will need to do so. I know it’s true, but like so many things in my life I find it hard to find the place where my good intentions and reality meet.

Anyway, I am very grateful for the Australian Writers’ Centre, who give me a reason to write every few months.

If I can write a piece for each month over the coming few months I will be proud of myself. Let’s see how we go.

The prompt for August’s Furious Fiction was as follows:

  1. Each story had to include, word for word, ALL of the following SIX descriptions:
  2. One of these six descriptions had to appear in the first sentence of each story.

It was tough, and I was pretty happy with what I created, although I am yet to end up on a shortlist.

I did title it for the competition, but I have since forgotten the title, so I will leave it title-less.

Typical me.

I hope you enjoy reading last month’s piece. Keep an eye out for this month’s once the winners are announced.




It was the last thing we needed to get rid of before settlement in a couple of days: an old, scratched and weather-worn bench that our father had perched himself upon, cigarette hanging pensively from his mouth. He had sat there watching the sun set almost every day of our lives. Until the other day, when he just wasn’t.

That’s not a euphemism – we’re sure he’s not dead.

It’s just that he wasn’t anymore.

* * *

“He hasn’t answered his phone in a couple of days.”

“I know.”

“Or tagged me in anything awkward on Facebook,” my sister said, smirking and brushing her shiny, silver fashion-statement hair away from her eyes jauntily as the video-call buffered.

“I know,” I responded again. Dad could go days without answering the phone, but this long without a problematic Facebook post was cause for serious concern.

“In fact,” she paused, clacking on her keyboard for a second, “his profile is gone. I’m worried – we should check on him.”

I sighed, “I know.”

* * *

The weirdest thing about the house wasn’t even the fact that the door was already unlocked, nor was it that all the trinkets, electronics, clothes, pictures, and even the bills were gone. It was that on top of all of those things even the sweet and pungent smell of Dad’s cigarettes had disappeared entirely.

It was a smell that we wouldn’t have noticed if it had been there.

It was the smell of our childhood, an aroma that permeated memories of a man we tried to love, and who tried to love us. The smell wasn’t masked or cleaned away but just like Dad, it just never was.

* * *

The old removal truck had let out a shrill, piercing wail when it had come to a stop in front of what was apparently unbeknownst to us a property that was owned by my sister and I since we were in our early-20s. As the weeks after our father wasn’t dragged on, we discovered that according to the collective memory of our family and friends our Dad had left suddenly just before we were born.

Now the truck sat idle, waiting for the final possession to make its way up the hill, ready to be taken to Vinnies.

“You know what?” I asked with a smirk, collecting a now cold and greasy chip from the take-away box and sticking it in my mouth while I stared at the same sunset my father had watched for years before me.

“What?” asked my sister, doing the same.

“His butt still made an impression.”

She looked at me, bemused, and then looked down at the worn-out space that he’d occupied on the bench. The house was cleared, and he was gone without a trace. In every other way our father wasn’t, but like an ink-stained page an indelible impression had been left on this old bench.

And that, it seemed, was enough.

“Let’s find him.”

May 2018 – Furious Fiction Submission

This is another entry for Furious Fiction run by the Australian Writers’ Centre, and I am happy with this one more because of the fact it has inspired me for my novel, which I’ll admit is only plodding along very slowly.

I am finding “very short” fiction is good for writing during the school term, as it usually only takes me a couple of hours to knock out, but I feel like I can work my creative muscles a little bit. In this story, I spent some time practising my development of character voice throughout the piece.

Not much else to say apart from that there were a few specific prerequisites that I needed to meet like in the previous one:

  • The story had to begin with the words “A long time ago”
  • The story had to include the words “star”, “war” and “force” (or a plural of those words).
  • The story had to feature something that flies.

Obviously it needed to be written in the 55-hour time-frame and could only be 500 words at the most.




The Kessler Effect

“A long time ago,” said Zahraa, “in an orbit not so far away, people just like us lived on another world. A dead world.” She paused dramatically, a habit she’d picked up from years of storytelling. But this story was different.

Zahraa glanced up instinctively before continuing, peering through the transparent dome overhead and scanning the sky for the blue-brown pinprick of light amongst the stars. She couldn’t find it, and when she looked back down at her children their eyes reflected the red of the landscape just beyond the glass.

“But we can never go back to that dead world now, and even if we did, we could never leave it. Around that world is barrier, or a dome,” she patted the thick glass beside her, “but that dome around the world was made by accident, and unlike ours it is not there to keep the world safe. The dome around the dead world is made of junk that moves so fast that it tears apart anything that tries to enter and, more importantly, that tries to leave.”

Zahraa noticed her son’s sharp intake of breath and continued before he interrupted.

“Before the Collapse it was a beautiful place, of blues and greens and yellows and purples. On good days or in the right places you could breathe the air and walk outside barefoot to feel the soft grass. But the planet was slowly dying, and everyone was leaving to the Colonies-“

“Like Mars?” Zahraa’s daughter managed to interject.

“Like Mars,” she answered, taking a breath. “Every day the Colony ships rocketed towards a future only a few could afford to have and we would watch exhaust streams cross-hatch the sky, reminding us that we could not leave. Not yet. But then we thought we had years, not days.

“Then it happened: a ship that was launched from a place called Woomera was torn up when it hit an old, defunct satellite in lower orbit, and that debris hit another satellite, and the chain reaction that had begun continued until Earth’s orbit began to completely fill with junk,” Zahraa did her best to force back the quiver in her voice. “Once they realised there wasn’t much time, important people from powerful countries started wars, using bombs that wiped out entire cities as they scrambled to get their own ships into the sky.

“I was too young to realise how bad it was. Even when my mothers sat with me as the car drove us to the launch pad. Even when the shuttle door closed behind me with them on the other side. Even as our only home faded into the distance as we scraped through the debris field and shot towards Mars.

“Like all that are left now, I was alone without a home, and in the end all the Colonies could do once the orbit was full was listen to the desperate cries for help as Earth killed itself, cut off from anything that could save it.”

April 2018 – Furious Fiction Submission

So there is a competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre called “Furious Fiction“, which is a 55-hour event each month that asks writers to put forth their best 500-word writing to a set of specific criteria.

The below example is my entry to the April competition, in which entries needed to meet the following criteria:

  • The title of the story had to be THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.
  • The story had to feature the words “busted”, “emerged” and “key”.
  • The story had to end with “the clock struck four”.

They also, obviously, suggested that you try to stay relatively close to the spirit of the titular saying.

I was actually pretty happy with this piece, but this was my first try at really short writing like this so it was a bit of a struggle, and I didn’t expect much to come of it. Having said that, I tricked my Year 9 students into reading it, planting it within an anthology of their writing, and they liked it.

I suppose as long as I have their approval, what more do I need?


The Elephant in the Room

“Look Malcolm, I think it’s time that we addressed the –“ Jen was cut off by the Operations Commander, who had torn his eyes away from the glowing screens when she had spoken.

“If anything, this is actually a better outcome,” Malcolm said, staring at the other worried-looking faces dotting the room, “and with the thrust systems the way they are –“

“You mean completely busted?” said Jen.

Malcolm continued unphased, “with the thrust systems the way they are I think we should just take what we can get.”

At this there was silence. In the end, there was very little that the others could do. They had all seen Malcolm key in the coordinate override when they realised that the ship that was meant to be on an intercept course to land on Europa would instead continue on into the much larger gravitational well that held 53 moons in orbit if they didn’t intervene.

Realistically, all they could do is try to appeal to his sense of human dignity. And it was for this reason that they all looked so hopeless.

“Listen,” Malcolm said, turning to face them. Everyone in the room could feel an ‘inspirational’ speech coming on, which they all knew they didn’t have time for, “this is a numbers game – we all know that – and we all know when the primary thrusters go, there isn’t much we can do.”

“That is why we have secondary thrust Mal,” said Jen, “that is why we have contingencies.”

“And in a situation like this, secondaries only have a seventy percent chance of working, if that,” Malcolm wasn’t letting up, “if we continue with my plan, then we are certain to get some valuable data about the atmos and the core.”

“So you’re saying a bit of data is worth more than a ten-year mission?”

“We can send another mission Jen – the funding won’t dry up, not now that it’s emerged that we have to find a way off this dump.”

“But Mal we still have time, if we burn before o-four-hundred we might just–“

“It’s done.”

“Mal there are people on that ship!”

“We can get more people, and we can get a new ship” said Mal, barely finishing his sentence before Jen and the others had left the room.

* * * * *

The crew had been woken two days ago, and the excitement amongst the fifteen of them was palpable. For them, it had only felt like a three-week trip, and while the cryo-sleep couldn’t stop their aging, it had certainly made interplanetary travel much easier.

So, the fifteen first settlers of the Outer System watched the ice-moon, shining by the light of the distant sun, approach from the viewing bay and thought of home – both old and new. As the ship drew near, the crew braced for a thrust that never came, and watched their new home sail past while in the Command Centre, Malcolm stood alone, smiling as the clock struck four.