#7DayFlashFictionChallenge – Day One

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Just before typing up this post, I wrote the first story in the #7DayFlashFictionChallenge I mentioned a couple of hours ago. It went pretty well, and I’m happy with the result.

For the inspiration factors, I went to Random Pictures, which pulls a user-selected number of random royalty-free images from Pixabay at the click of a button. I set the number of pictures I wanted to three, clicked the button, stared at the pictures for a minute, and then left them visible on my secondary monitor as I started typing.

I completely blew past the 250-500 word range I quoted in my post about this mini-project, finishing at about 760 then going back for a read through and making some adjustments to wind up at 845 words after a total of 47 minutes and 1 second, including reaction time, according to the stopwatch I started right before I hit the keyboard.

If you’re curious about the pictures, the generator came up with this one, this one, and this one. You can guess which one had the biggest input into the story.

That’s more than enough pre-amble. For your reading pleasure, I present “Brhirri Surf Rescue”.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

Brhirri Surf Rescue

“They Walked Like Men.”

Gina turned her head towards me, the frown pulling her light blonde eyebrows down matched by a confused curl of lips at the side of her mouth. “What?”

Probably both sides, but I didn’t look right at her, keeping my own gaze forward as if I were completely absorbed by the spectacle on the beach. I shrugged, knowing the motion pulled my head into a brief tilt to the left. “It’s an old, really old, science fiction book by one of my favourite early writers. I know the Brhirri weren’t what he had in mind when he wrote about alien invaders shaped like bowling balls, but they’re kind of what I pictured when I first read the book.”

The ancient, tattered copy of the book—the paper book!—my grandfather had given to me as a kid was probably the thing that set me on the path ending with me standing on a beach sixty-plus light years from where I’d learned to surf and acting as lifeguard to a quarter-annual alien festival I didn’t ever remotely understand instead of on standby for run-of-the-mill life-threatening emergencies. The other hundred-eighty-six days of the local year, there wasn’t a lot to do for the twelve-person SAR team at the outpost. The scientists and cultural xenologists were a pretty tame group, and Brhirri fished and swam and played in the water, but they almost never got into trouble.

Except every solstice and equinox for the Ritual of Garriin.

Shaking her head, she looked back towards the beach, the clusters of four-eyed, two-legged mottled grey bowling ball aliens humming in a rhythm with the waves as they waited for the right moment to come. “It’s a good thing you’re good at your job, you know that? Because you’re pretty weird.”

“Right. I read old books. That makes me weird.”

Gina snorted and shook her head. “No, you read old books that no one else has ever heard of and you do it to avoid socializing with the limited number of humans stationed here. That’s what makes you weird.”

“So not so much the book reading as the introvert thing. Got it.”

“Shh. It’s starting.” I let it go because she was right on both counts. I was an introvert and it was starting.

The mixed humming broke away from the wave rhythm as the various groups began to merge their sounds together into a single, unified note that we could hear over the surf, even standing more than a dozen metres from the back of the most timid members of the crowd. That hum grew in volume and rose to a pitch of, I’d read, the E above high C. The gathered crowd sustained it for a solid thirty seconds, emptying their air bladders, before rushing on mass into the water, each intent on being the one to find the prize first and come back to take their new place in society.

Somewhere under the waves, wrapped in ancient, rusty chains, was a box lovingly carved from white sun-oak. Whoever found the box and brought back a detachable link of the chain to the waiting High Council first took the place of the outgoing councillor as the new junior member. Since the Council had nine members, that meant that there was a new member every two and a quarter local years. An odd way to choose your leaders, depending on endurance, speed, and luck, but I’d read about worse ways. In principle, it would come up with motivated individuals who actually wanted the job even knowing it was a limited time gig, though there was no law or custom saying you couldn’t try again.

But needing to be the first one back made it a competition. Every link could be detached from the chain if need be and the box was anchored on its own so there wasn’t any need to fight for a link. But it was a race.

“The first ones are going under.”

I nodded, watching a ripple of the small round aliens contract and disappear under the waves, but decided Gina wasn’t looking for a response. She was just telling me she’d started the clock. We had about five minutes before we needed to be at the edge of the water, which was how long the average healthy adult Brhirri could go with an empty air bladder before oxygen deprivation kicked in and they needed to take a breath.

Wrapping one hand around my surfboard, I tried to let my body relax. Five minutes before the divers had to start breathing meant we had about five and a half minutes before the first half-drowned bowling ball bobbed to the surface. The first of dozens, we’d have to pick that bobbing ball out of a crowd of the ones who hadn’t waited too long to start back up, drag them back to shore, and start looking for the next one.

It was going to be a long, long haul until sunset, and we wouldn’t know our rescue success rate until sometime after that.

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