So, another first line friday. Same deal again, randomly generated first line, 30 minute time limit. Though in this case I went over that limit I think, I kept getting interrupted. My only agenda with this story was to try to write something positive and with a sense of wonder to it, rather than the grim, survival horror style that I did last week. Hope you like it.
The Birds Swooped Low
The birds swooped low. We saw them plunge out of the cloud layer, trailing wisps of yellowish vapour with them and drop like daggers towards the distant meadow before spreading their wings. They unfurled and glided towards us, straight towards us, so low down and so fast that Samson and I could make out the ripples in the grass stalks as they flew over.
My first thought was that the Xenobiologists were going to explode with excitement, for those two birds were the biggest life we’d seen by far. The largest, most complex things we’d discovered up till then had been a type of mosquito. My second thought was that they were really, really big. Much bigger than any avian life ever discovered anywhere. They must have been over a kilometre distant, yet we could clearly make out their general shape. And they were moving fast.
Samson raised his Tri-Nocs, interfacing them with his visor HUD. He stood like that for several seconds, holding them up to his face. He looked bulky and ungainly in his suit, so did I, but his fingers found the controls and danced over them easily. I’d always admired him for that.
“Can you see what they are?” I asked. I tried to keep a tone of detachment, though I’m not sure if it worked. Hanging onto my excitement has never been one of my strong points. His reply crackled back to me over the suit radio. He sounded irritated.
“Can’t make out a damned thing.” He said. “They’re going way to fast, I can’t keep my focus on them. They’ve got wings though.”
That startled me a bit. At those speeds, if they’d only been a kilometre or so away, they would have flown overhead by now. They could only have been farther away than we’d thought…but that meant they had to be even bigger than I’d estimated. I told Samson so.
“Yeah…thought so too,” He muttered, and I had to strain to hear him, “You know…I’m not sure they ARE birds.”
Something in his voice made me tense up. Either way those two winged shapes were getting closer, fast. Very fast. I queried his statement even as I began to back away, though looking back, I’ve no idea why I thought that would help.
“They haven’t moved those wings once since they dropped…nothing glides that fast.”
We were both running before he’d finished speaking. Foolish really. Those things were so much faster than we were and in our clumsy suits we couldn’t move that quickly anyway. I guess we were hoping to get back to our buggy. Like I said, foolish.
Our first view of the planet, our first proper view that wasn’t just this Earth-like orb in space, with yellow clouds instead of white, was when we broke atmosphere. The landing capsule had a clean detach from the Second Stage assembly and we were coming in on our final approach. We broke through the cloud layer and began skimming down, retros flaring and drag chutes slowing our descent. Nice and textbook, all things considered.
What we saw was breathtaking. It was so like Earth in some ways that it was almost eerie. We were coming down over great rolling meadows, hundreds of acres of what looked almost like corn stalks waving in the breeze. As we got closer we realised they were very different, those sheafs at their tips flickered and moved of their own accord. We’d later discovered they were sticky and used to catch insects.
In the distance, we saw mountains rising, sharp, jagged peaks and closer than that were forests of things that looked like trees, or giant fronds of oddly delicate fungi. There was no sign of animal life where we touched down, nothing to suggest intelligent life either, though we soon encountered the first insects. That was exciting enough, though. We’d made planetfall on a rich and beatiful ecosystem, more alien yet more familiar than we’d ever thought possible. Our first footsteps on that world, even in our bulky suits, were the amongst the finest moments of my life.
We ran. We didn’t get very far. Like I said, our suits got in the way too much, and those bird-things were so much faster. Samson and I had barely made it halfway to our buggy when we were both knocked sprawling. I went end over end, tumbling painfully. I thought one of them had struck me, though the way were send flying like that it had to have been the downdraft as they flew over us. I heard the roaring as they went overhead, the sky above us darkened by their sheer size. Both of them had to be larger than our landing capsule…and that had been designed to hold all three of our survey teams and our equipment.
Then they slowed. I remember being stunned by how fast they did it. Nothing alive could stop like that, but they did. And they hovered. That was the first good look we got of them both. I could hear Samson’s breath sprinting over the comms, and I knew exactly how he felt. It was terrifying. The implications were mind-numbing. I lay there on the alien grass and stared. I literally couldn’t think. I think I might have screamed.
They were both massive, and vaguely birdlike, at least at first. We were seeing them sort of from behind, as they had to furl their wings and turn round. What struck me first though, was that those wings were artificial. That’s right. Non-biological. They had feathers, of a sort, though stylised almost, but they were made from some kind of lightweight material that resembled metal but didn’t act like it. Its colour was black at first, but as the heat haze from the hidden engines died and the sun hit them, I saw shimmering blues and reds that seemed to flow and dance in front of me.
Samson was trying to crawl away. I rolled and tried to get to him. The two things folded up their wings and landed beside us. They were oddly silent despite their size. They landed on legs that stretched from where they’d been curled against their bodies. I could see then that not all of these things were artificial. There was animal there too, grown or grafted to the machine somehow. I saw a long, powerful beak, like an eagle and compound eyes set in an irregular fashion. I saw too many arms with too many joints reach out and hands with long, oddly delicate fingers, even though each one was as long as I was tall.
Samson had curled into a ball. These giant half-machine things were so beyond anything we’d expected that I wanted to join him.
One of them reached out to me, hand out in a gesture that seemed perversely human. Then it did something that changed my life, all our lives. It opened doors we thought would never open and showed us we were dealing with things that knew far more about us than we could have thought possible. It blew my mind, that’s for sure.
It said, “Hello.”
Am totally stealing this idea from a friends blog. The idea being to take the first line of a story idea from an online generator and "flash" write whatever comes to mind. She's been doing ten minute posts, but since I'm a slower writer I decided to make it 30 minutes for me. I'm not used to sprint writing. The other excuse I have is a collie who wants to play. Either way this is the what I came up with this time. Its unedited, except for spelling, and I stuck to my time limit.
First Line Friday: The Sound Of Breaking Glass Stopped Her
The sound of breaking glass stopped her. It meant they were coming.
She skidded and stumbled, kicking up dust on the road, almost going down on her hands and knees as she moved, scrambling into the shade beside an upturned truck. It was too open and she knew she’d have to move. Get to cover. Hide.
The sound came again. It was a painful, cracking, tearing, clinking noise. The sound of splintered glass, like a fist through a window. She flinched, peering out round the ruined cab of the truck. They could be anywhere. She couldn’t tell how close they were, all she knew was that they were coming, because she could hear the glass.
She pulled herself up and ran towards a building, dodging past the corpse of a car and trying not to look at the remains inside. Her footsteps seemed so loud, echoing round the street. She vaulted the the hole in the wall were the window had been and hunkered down. She needed to think and there wasn’t much time to do so.
None of the buildings had windows anymore. There wasn’t a scrap of glass left untouched in the whole city, as far as she knew. They liked the glass, it was all angles and reflections, somehow perfect in their strange, unknowable minds. She’d seen what they left once they were done with it, just grains, glass rendered to sand or dust. They used it until it was too broken and ground up to still have whatever they considered as value, then they’d leave it and go seeking some other source. That was the only chance she had. She had to keep moving and avoiding them until they had to leave their glass bodies. Not much chance, but enough.
The noises were coming closer, she could hear them over the wind that moaned through the skeletons of the buildings. She stayed low, and crawled further into the building, away from the street.
No one knew where the hounds had come from. None of the survivors she’d met had any idea what had really happened, and as their numbers dwindled the chances of anyone realising got smaller and smaller. She was glad of that, in some way. Bad enough to know the truth and be the only one who knew, but it would have been worse for others to know when they looked at her. Bad enough to know..bad enough to be responsible.
She should have smashed the crystal when she’d had the chance. The Shining Trapezahedron. She’d been so stupid, so convinced of what she thought she knew that by the time she learned the final, awful truth it was too late. She knew nothing, understood less. Some doors should not be opened, some windows should not be looked beyond. When your reflection looks back at you from the time yet to come, its already too late.
For a long time she’d wondered why they hadn’t just killed her or dragged her back to whatever far flung epoch that they hunted from. Their first steps into the world had been shocking and brutal and intensely violent. Humankind did so like to use glass. Windows, roofs, ornaments, mirrors. The hounds liked to use it even more, and had shown their victims what they liked to do with it.
Even then, the hounds hadn’t touched her. At first it had seemed like chance, simple dumb luck. Then, as the dying continued and the stragglers of humanity had dwindled, picked off one by one, she realised what they were actually doing. Playing.
The hounds were going to take her only when there was no-one else left.
She scrambled up the stairwell. Running almost on all fours, she moved fast and hard. For a brief, horrible moment she was reminded of how the hounds moved, but she was also reminded of when she’d been a girl, so desperate to get up the stairs in her parent’s house that she’d used her hands as well as her feet. Just walking up, like everyone else, had seemed to take too long. Now she didn’t have time to walk. The hounds weren’t slowed by stairs, when they bothered to use them. Sometimes they just used the walls.
The screech of tortured glass echoed somewhere below her, which meant they were following her up. She quickened her pace, panting in fear. Her hands were slicked with sweat and she slipped on the dirt streaked floor. They barked and howled below her, brittle noises like shattering windows.
She got to the top floor and kept going, heading to the roof. She clambered past the shreds of a person, gagging at the smell and the way they’d been…spread. Whoever they’d been, they must have been trying to get to the roof too. A hand was still attached to the handle of the access door. She kicked the door open rather than touch it, and as she moved past she thought she eyes of that skull followed her. You did this, they accused. She got out onto the roof, wind tugging at what remained of her clothes. It was then she realised her mistake. They weren’t just following her.
They were waiting for her.
I'm seeing a ton of stuff I'd like to change here. Foremost being theres a lack of description. I'd like to put in more visual stuff to let the reader get the scene in their minds eye. It also seems unfinished to me, but there WAS a time limit and I stuck to it. I would love to describe what one of these hounds looks like. All in all, im happy with the idea as it developed though.
...shower gels keep on getting weirder. The one im using at the moment is "chocolate and mint"....I smell a bit like an After Eight. Bizarre. And while I had NO REASON to share that, I will go on to point out that I dont even like the combination of choc and mint, as something to eat. Even more bizarre.
And moving on...imma gonna share some other stuff thats hopefully not so TMI.
Writing wise im being adventurous. Im idly editing a story that a wrote ages ago, that I intend to post on Smashwords once its ready. I'm also merrily being all fanboy-ish and writing a Warhammer 40k short story that I'm going to punt off to Black Library since their submissions window is open. I figure its worth a try, and since im writing the story regardless, I have no reason not too. "Pawprints" isnt going anywhere particulary fast, but thats because I want to do it right rather than just battering it onto the page. Its a larger project than I'm used to writing, so I'd like to take my time.
I've also started dieting. Sort of. I don't eat much at the best if times these days, but when I do its generally not good, so I'm trying to sort that. Wooo.