Welcome to another Flash Fiction Friday. To find out what’s going on, click here.
Today we’re going with a different story generator, plot-generator.org.uk.
The prompt it generated is “In a world where monkeys are warriors, one engineer has no choice but to protect mankind using an old diary. It turns out the entire plot has been in the engineer’s imagination.”
Okay . . . then.
Without further ado,
“The Stories We Tell Ourselves”
I can remember the first time I laid eyes on one of them. My mother had taken me outside the confines of civilization for a day so that we might experience a little bit of what was left of nature.
We were enjoying a picnic when my mother suddenly froze. I followed her gaze and saw what had driven her into such a state of fear. Three of them stood at the edge of the clearing. They weren’t supposed to be anywhere around here, but there they were, taller and a bit thinner than I had expected. The tools in their hands were primitive, by our own standards, at least, but you could see that there was still danger in them.
Then my mother grabbed my hand and we sprinted for the edge of the woods, back towards the trail and the city. We ran almost the whole way there.
The war between our kinds hadn’t yet started, but to this day I can see the looks they had in their eyes that served as a perfect forecast of things to come.
Beyond that single event, there is little from my childhood that is worthy of remark.
We lived simple, quiet lives in a simple, quiet community on the edge of civilization.
In those days the green crystals had become a fixture of daily life. At some point each day everyone in the town would make their way to the square and pass by it. Some touched it, though that wasn’t necessary. The experience was unlike anything else. The crystal would make contact with your mind and pass along information, no, knowledge that you didn’t possess before. We didn’t know much about the stones except for the fact they were alien in origin. Yet, they had completely taken over society and pushed it towards its full potential.
With each passing day, I had a stronger feeling that I was supposed to take a job in the applied sciences. Engineering was what I settled on, and soon enough I had decided that a degree in mechanical engineering would serve me well.
That’s why I was contacted near the end of my studies by a man from the Department of Defense. He wore a nice suit and dark sunglasses, and he handed me an envelope at the start of the conversation. I told him I didn’t want to build weapons, and he told me that I wouldn’t be doing that, only building some lab equipment for some prominent scientists. When I asked who he told me he couldn’t say, but he asked me to look in the envelope.
“That’s our final offer,” he said.
The envelope contained an employment contract and an offer sheet with an astronomical sum written across the top.
I signed it that evening and took it back to his office the next day.
By the end of the week, I was at work in a laboratory inside a building with more security than was afforded to the President.
My boss was a man named Coleridge. He was tall and slender and exacting in his motions. He wrote down everything he thought in a little notebook he kept in his desk.
He was neither an easy man nor a hard one to work for. An autoimmune virologist, he was concerned with developing cures for the worst of those sexually-transmitted diseases, those which hijacked our immune system so that something else could finish us off.
My days consisted mostly of creating new machines by which he could perform more delicate research and test his conclusions.
For some months I had the feeling that we were on the verge of a breakthrough. I started working late, hoping that my extra exertion would bring the cure about faster.
There was an animal testing wing that I was under sturdy orders to never enter. However, one night I heard cries so piteous that I could not ignore them. I stole the keys from Coleridge’s office and let myself into the wing.
What I saw there still haunts my dreams.
A number of our enemies, with whom we were now at war, were in varying stages of disease, death, and decomposition.
The cries were coming from what appeared to be a mother, standing over the body of her child. According to the notes I read out of Coleridge’s journal, I was already too late to save her, but that doesn’t mean I’m haunted any less by her memory.
Sick as my complicity in the development of such weapons, even unknowingly, I resolved that I needed to act. I stole the journal and left my job and my home, never to return. I understood the war, the reasons for it, but I could never get behind biological genocide. Every being has a right to life. The nature of the war was not one of extermination, but rather of proper relations between the two species.
I left under the cover of darkness, working my way out into the undeveloped battlegrounds. It took a couple of hours to sneak through my own lines, but I made it. An hour later I stumbled onto one of the enemy’s patrols. They raised their guns as though they were going to shoot me, but I yelled a couple of words I knew in their language, hoping to convince them I meant them no harm.
They took me captive and separated me from the diary, but I was relatively unharmed. I was blindfolded and put in the back of a vehicle. We traveled for hours. When the blindfold was removed, I was sitting at a table in a dark conference room. A single bulb hanging from the ceiling provided the only illumination.
Across from me was one of the enemy in a general’s uniform. To this day, it unnerves me to see them in clothing. It defies the natural order of things.
But, I swallowed down my disgust and made my case as best I could. I tried for about an hour to explain exactly what it was that the journal contained. No progress was made until they brought in a translator. He butchered the nuance of the language when speaking to me, but from the expressions on both men’s faces, I got the impression that they understood the gravity of the situation.
They thanked me and left.
I was taken by some underlings to a cell in what appeared to be a military prison. My cell was just that—a bed, toilet, and shower. There was a TV in the corner, behind a couple of bars, but it didn’t work. They brought me meals and occasionally books. Time wore on. I lost track of when exactly it was, surely weeks in, but not months or a whole season.
To some, this might seem unfair. I had mixed feelings about it myself, but I understood that my people were at war with these, well, not people, but other things. I needed safety from the local populace, and given my betrayal, from my own kind, too.
One day, an officer entered my cell wearing a gas mask. He instructed me to put it on and not take it off for any reason.
I asked why, but he wouldn’t tell me.
I did as he instructed and waited.
Later that day green smoke began to pour into my cell between the bars in the outer wall that separated me from the outer world.
My heart quickened, but there was nowhere I could go.
I kept my breathing slow. If the gas mask didn’t work, there was little I could do.
Soon, I could tell that the mask was working. I felt no ill effects at all.
However, the gas didn’t want to dissipate, instead lingering in the room, near the floor, forming little green clouds that swirled like a storm as you walked through them. It didn’t burn to the touch, luckily.
Since it wasn’t dissipating, though, I was forced to keep my mask on.
I became thirsty first.
My sink had plenty of water. At one point I tortured myself by running it and pretending I could take the mask off and relieve myself, but I never had the confidence to do so. As torturous as it got, and as dry as my mouth got, I wouldn’t dare.
My head began to pound, and soon enough I was hungry, too.
I curled up on the bed, careful to lay on my back as to not let the mask slip around my face.
How long did they last?
It became a pressing question, one that I couldn’t answer, but worried about.
After about three days, at least, I think it was three days, my captors came to my cell and brought me out and up to the surface, where I was told it was safe to remove my mask. I did so and took deep, greedy breaths before gurgling down the bottle of offered water.
They told me they were moving me to a new facility. What they wouldn’t tell me was why. A hood was placed on my head for the majority of the journey.
When it was removed, I was in a place not unlike home, with the only major differences being four sheer walls that extended up well beyond my ability to jump.
The most unique feature of the place, however, was the fact that the lower sections of two of the walls were made with transparent glass.
Every day a few adults would pass by and stop and stare for a little while. I suppose I was a curiosity, a tamed enemy.
However, as time passed, I realized that I was meant to be kept here indefinitely with no hope of ever returning home. So, I began work on a contraption which would be essential to my escape. A pair of problems hindered me. First, there was a general lack of resources in my enclosure, which made fabricating the complicated parts I would need difficult. Second, a lack of proximity to the crystal meant that my reserves of superhuman knowledge were steadily draining.
After a few weeks, children started to appear at the windows, and in large numbers, which suggested to me that the war was over since they were out of hiding and out in public.
I’m told I’m one of the very last of my kind.
They won’t tell me why, but I’m sure it’s because of the journal I gave them. They were able to strike first.
So, now I’m alone or nearly that way.
A few more weeks, a bit more stolen material, and a half a dash of luck and I could get out of here.
Wish me luck.