Short Story Sunday: Radio Waves

Tangled Tales

 

Radio Waves

“Why did they keep a vault box of old diseases?”

“For research purposes. It was a point of reference.”

“Then why didn’t they just eradicate them again? They had the knowledge. They had the vaccines.”

“No they’d didn’t have the vaccines. The box had been sealed for over a thousand years. They had no need for vaccines.  The contamination and speculation on the outcome was too overwhelming for them. Maybe for them but wewould have survived. We would have beaten it.”

“Wait, Nessie, that can’t be right. You’re saying there were no new germs, bacteria, or virus strains in a thousand years.”

“That is what the records say.”

“That can’t be right.”

“Stop questioning everything.”

“Why? Your ideas are based on something that happened almost 20,000 years ago. We’re here now and we’re happy. We’re safe. You’ve seen what happens to other species when they get sick.”

“Considering suicide is our main cause of death living in the risk of an occasional physical illness doesn’t sound that bad.“

He ran his hand up my thigh and leaned closer. “Suicide isn’t that bad.”

I pushed his hand away. “Bird shit. No other society does that.  No other society spends an eternity fleeing Armageddon because they’re too pretty and too delicate to deal with it.  Screw that. I’m ready to deal with it.  I’m ready to have a real home. I’m ready to fight.”

He rolled his eyes at me. “You’re getting emotional over something that’s never going to happen. Stop acting like a crazy woman.”

I broke up with my green-eyed boyfriend that night and started working on my escape.

 

 

I went home and pulled out the charts and old pictures I’d been collecting since I was a teenager.

There was a man. Damn he was handsome with turquoise eyes, white hair pulled back in a long braid.  There was a female. I guess I could say a woman of her species. Her head reached his shoulder. She was different without what others call magic.

I thought about that again. Other intelligent species around the universe admit we’re the best at almost any technology but we’re also magic. Seriously I feel sorry for them. They can’t read each other’s thoughts on their own. They have to rely on communication devices for any long distance conversations. When I think of all of the time and energy they waste on construction it boggles my mind. We can move things, and when there are a lot of us we can move extremely heavy objects. Nobody can build a city as fast as we can, no matter what building materials we use.  Those are beautiful cities too, not some slapped together ugly abominations.

I looked at the woman with the plain brown eyes, and odd waving brown hair. I couldn’t imagine being so drab, but there she was, radiant despite her coloring. They were all drab, the species we called Talkers. They ranged from the color of a fish belly to solid black with every shade of brown in-between. The hair color was all the color of dirt and rocks; brown, black, gray, yellow, and orange. Some had blue eyes they’d inherited from the Hummers. As far as I know all of the Hummers and Dancers had died off.

 

 

“Hello?”

I was so into my thoughts I didn’t hear my friend Arie come through the door.

“What are you doing Nessie?”

I didn’t hide my materials away like I usually do. “I’m looking into the reason why we left our original planet. I’d discovered some old documents. The story wasn’t as simple as some girl spreading diseases and genetic abnormalities across the land.”

Aries looked at the papers. Damn he was cute with his lavender eyes and dimples. “Tell me what you found out.”

First I poured us some wine, and then I told him the real story.

His skin was golden, his hair white with silver streaks, and his eyes lavender with specks of a darker purple. She was pale like a cloud with a blush of pink, her brown hair fell in ripples down her back, and her eyes were brown. Her kind were the colors of the earth in which they toiled.

Arie smiled in an amused curious way. “Toiled? They had agriculture?”

“Of course they did.  Just listen to the story will you.”

“I already know the story.”

“Not this version.”

“The Talkers were so primitive. Wouldn’t it be like falling in love with an animal?”

“No.  They weren’t animals. We interbred with them all the time. Any children were left with them.”

“That was pretty rare, you know, us doing the deed with them.”

“We did it enough that I’m sure some of our genetic shit is still with them.”

I continued my story.

She kept a wolf as a companion the way we kept birds, as a pet.  The animal was going to give birth soon and she promised him one of the pups.  That sounds like a bad romance but it’s the truth.

“A wolf? Really? She kept a large carnivorous animal as a companion? It would have eaten her.”

“They were friends. The wolf considered the woman part of her pack.”

“Wolves are too smart and too deadly and too organized to ever be domesticated.”

“The wolf doesn’t matter.  Arie let me finish.”

The man’s name was Snow, like my last name. Nobody knew why he wanted to be alone in that research station at first. Snow was popular with everyone. He was never in need of company. He chose to work at a research station outside of the city.  It was because of her. It was because of Eleora.

She was one of the Talkers, the only subspecies of people who survived the cut, along with us.  Sure we could breed with them but we didn’t. Our DNA isn’t the same, obviously.

At first he thought Eleora came around out of curiosity. Snow thought she was pretty. Sure her eyes were small in comparison to his and her color was drab, but she got his attention. Let’s say she was simple but elegant. Actually she was beautiful. Just look at her picture here.

So he dressed her up, then undressed her. He did a lot of that. She became his little sex toy.

One night while he was asleep she became curious about his work. He didn’t think she would understand what he we doing because of his closed mind towards other peoples.

He’d believe all of the bigots and thought she was stupid. There was nothing stupid about her kind. She figured out the code and opened his research vault. Then she found the inner box containing five thousand years of viruses, bacteria, genetic nightmares, and other diseases. So what did she do? She opened it and let everything out.

“She had no idea what was in the box,” said Arie.

“Obviously not. For some dumb ass reason the box was a thing of beauty, covered in images of flowers. She probably thought it was full of seeds or jewelry.”

Snow’s little love puppet poisoned the planet. Thousands of years full of work gone to waste.

Thousands of our people died in the first three weeks. She vanished back into the woods with her wolf. Snow took the easy way out and killed himself.

We had the technology to leave so we did. Our planet was too poisoned to live on. It beyond repair.

Some said to bring a few of the Talkers with us but we left them all behind to deal with their mess. From all accounts they’re extinct and the planet is a place that all intelligent beings avoid.

I poured another glass of wine and topped off Arie’s glass. “We’ve been wandering around the universe for 20,000 years. It is time to stop.”

“I’ll go wherever you go.”

“What?”

“We’ve been friends forever. I share your dream.”

“You might be exposed to sickness.”

“I might stay and kill myself. Think about it.  But seriously I’ve been seriously thinking about the same thing for years. I’m tired of always being the guest. We’ve lived on three different planets since we were kids. I’m done with it. Lets do this. Let’s go home.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. I’ll take my chances with you.”

 

 

My ship was in a hanger owned by Mac Devine a long tailed blue skinned guy from a planet with a name I couldn’t even pronounce. The day before we left I talked to my Mac who’d taught me everything I knew about flying and the unsafe universe.

“You know you’ll be close when you start getting the radio signals.  Remember, they’ve been isolated. They don’t even know about YOU, much less everyone else out here.  They’d have the technology but they’re too busy having wars, jacking with religion, and fighting off pandemics. I didn’t even mention the natural disasters they deal with on a daily basis.”

“They’re still alive?”

“Thriving.”

“Is it safe?”

“Hell no.  Nobody goes near that poison planet.”

“Then how do you know they’re thriving?”

“We’re keeping tabs on them.  At least we were. Nobody has been in that part of the galaxy for ages. Listen, they get going strong, then something wipes most of them out, and then they just repeat the pattern. They’re not advanced enough to stop it.  Add to that the fact they’re incredibly violent. It’s a lost cause. Totally hopeless.”

“My people came from there too. We’re practically genetic twins with them.”

Honey, it ain’t your planet anymore. The folks who are there aren’t your people.”

“I’m tired of not having a home.”

“Your home is where you find love. Hey, sweetie, you have to prepare yourself for the possibility of some nasty and deadly diseases.  Listen, I was on Torex-87 a few years back and got a cold. “

“What was it like to be sick?”

“It was horrible. I couldn’t’ get off my couch for a week.  I couldn’t breath. I had a headache that wouldn’t stop. My throat felt like I’d swallowed fire. My wife suddenly turned into a monster and told me to stop being such a baby.”

“You survived.”

“Barely. My wife should be feeling sorry for me but she is still pissed off. She said I had something called a man flu.Can you fucking believe it? Man flu.“

I had to laugh. I’d miss Mac.

 

 

I couldn’t’ promise anything because I was going to go. Nothing could stop me.

With my crew of eighty, including fifteen children, we left in secret bound for that blue planet on an outer spiral of the galaxy. It was so isolated but I’d take my chances. The ship was in good working order and ready to go.

Our technology was more advanced than just about any in the entire universe. Yes, we’re that smart. We can jump through space without the usual lifetimes between planets. It is awesome what we can do.

We’d been gone about a week (our time) when the nightmares began.

I had dreams of disease invading my body. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. My toes turned into liquid leaving me with only bones sticking out of my feet. I went blind. Everything in my body hurt. My bowels let loose as I vomited up the entire contents of my stomach for hours on end. My heart started to beat unevenly. Worms crawled into my ears. My lover spread sickness through my body with his touch. Sores covered my body.

I woke up catching my breath and checking my arms for scabs.  Nothing.  I was fine. Arie was sleeping peacefully next to me no doubt dreaming his usual sweet dreams of better things to come.

 

 

We were traveling at a semi leisurely but lightning fast speed for a while, and coming sort of close to our home planet when it happened.

Izzy, my communications lead came running into my office.

“Captain we’ve picked up signals.”

I ran down the hall with him to see and hear the first messages from our home planet.

“Look. 23 73,” said Izzy, hardly able to contain his excitement.

“Blips.” I said. “These aren’t random.”

“Look at the pattern.”

“It looks like a child’s puzzle. “

Izzy squinted. “Some guy named Carl made it.”

“Interesting.”

Then the flood of signals came.

There was sound. Not just blips and pings. It was real sound.

It was music.

We’d never heard anything like it.

Beautiful music.

“But how? How could such beautiful sounds come from such a poisoned planet?” said Arie.

“Magic. I mean, a different kind of magic. They have their own magic,” I said savoring the wonder.  “Izzy does it have a name?”

“I think so,” said Izzy. “I don’t know what it means but I made out Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, Number 3, G major.”

“How old are these signals?”

“Maybe a hundred years, but you never know once signals get into space.”

I looked at Izzy and sent him a suggestion. “Turn on the translation. We need to know what they’re saying.”

Izzy smiled and flipped the switch.

We listened to fuzzy sounding music for a few hours then before we knew it clear voices started to come through.

“Those are our people,” I said.

“Sort of our people,” said Arie.

 

 

The music came in all varieties. Some was fast and frantic. Others were slow. Voices sang about love, heartbreak, loss, and addiction.

They spoke of airplanes and breaking flight records. Yes, they could fly. Finally they could fly. How many years did it take them? Over twenty thousand. They’d been slow with technology but all of the sudden they were catching up with the rest of the universe.

There was more music. Always more music.

An air machine called a Zeppelin exploded.  It was called the Hindenburg.  A male voice called out in anguish about the humanity. Humanity. They called themselves humans. Humans.  The Talkers had their own name. Humans or Homo sapiens. The Hummers, now extinct, were known as Neanderthals. The Dancers, also now extinct, were known as Denisovans.

A man’s voice screamed about the motherland. Next reports of a horrible and violent war came through the radio waves. Thousands were dead. Then it was over. The music changed again, but they continued to play music by Bach.

The real game changer was for us when the news of a polio vaccine came out. They had vaccines, apparently for quite a while. Polio was a disease that took away the ability to walk or even breath. News of other vaccines came through the radio waves.

“Honestly I thought they’d all be dead by now,” said Izzy. “They’re thriving.”

“They’re incredibly creative,” said Arie.

“Listen to this,” said Izzy. He turned on a song that made us all want to just leap up and dance.

“What is it?” I asked in wonder.

Izzy smiled. “Buddy Holly.”

A few hours later Izzy wasn’t looking so good. “What happened?” I asked.

“Buddy Holly died.”

We didn’t have much time to mourn the death of Buddy Holly. Pictures started coming in.

We watched silly grotesque puppets called Howdy Doodies. There were news programs where people were told of event from all over the world. The variety was astonishing.

Arie squinted his eyes at the images. “Where is the color?” The color would come soon enough.

Some of the most interesting news was about medical advances.

“They have a pill that prevents pregnancy,” I said in astonishment.

“Can’t they control it?” Izzy asked.

“No, that is one of the differences between us and them. It’s the difference between us and most intelligent life forms.”

“They just get pregnant by accident?”

“Apparently, but now they have pills to control their own fertility.”

“Wow. I can’t even imagine.”

 

 

Over the days we heard more of medical advancements including a heart transplant.

Arie and I were having a glass of wine and looking out a window to the stars. I expressed some apprehension about our visit. “We will be exposed to every disease on that planet. Sure they have vaccines. Even their animals have vaccines.  Will those vaccines work on us?”

“We’re genetically 99.8% the same as them,” Arie said taking my hand.

“Point two zero percent different.”

“This is your dream Nessie.”

“I thought I had it all figured out,” I said.

“What if we expose them to something that we’re carrying?”

“We’re the squeakiest clean beings in the universe.”

“Clean slates ready for every vile thing in the universe to attach to.”

“Now you’re describing my first marriage,” said Arie.

I should have laughed at his joke, even just to be polite.

“Come on love,” I said. “Let’s see what is going on downstairs.”

In the communications room about thirty people were all dancing; even the children were there.

“What is this?” I asked Izzy.

Izzy grinned. “Soul Train.”

About an hour later there were Zeppelins again. This time is wasn’t an explosion. It was Led Zeppelin. That was the name of a group of musicians. The music was called Kashmir. I’d never even in my wildest dreams imagined music could touch me so.

The music continued. Stairway to Heaven. Time Passages. Enter the Sandman. Love Bites. Leaving on a Jet Plane. Fight for Your Right. I Will Survive. Ring of Fire. Beat It. The list of songs went on and on and on. It was insane. It was seriously insane. I had to get some sleep before my head exploded.

 

 

The next day after breakfast I couldn’t find anyone.

“Arie, where is my crew?”

“Watching Golden Girls.”

 

As I watched the images come through, in obviously random order, I wondered at the people called humans we’d left behind.

The images were now color. A woman named Jane spent a lifetime with a primate species called chimpanzees. The chimpanzees were so much like us yet so different. Why didn’t we know about chimpanzees?

The wolves had become dogs. I thought dogs were the most amazing adorable creatures I’d ever seen until I saw the obsession with cats. The humans had domesticated cats. CATS. When we started to get access to what the humans called The Internet fifty percent of it was about cats. Another quarter was pornography. Humans liked sex even more than we did.

One of the most astonishing things was that they knew other intelligent life was out side of their planet even thought they’d never had contact and only gone as far as their own moon. But the most surprising thing is that they remembered us through their myths, legends, and artwork. The girl who opened the vault was known as Pandora. I thought we’d erased all traces of our culture when we left, but there were enough foundations and things we’d helped with that they thought we must have been aliens come from another planet. I have to admit that made Arie and I laugh out loud. Aliens. Our technology was anything but alien. Our power and brainpower was from Earth.

The next message of importance that came through was about a new pandemic called Covid-19. Izzy and I decided to not tell anyone about it until we got closer. We could beat this. We would wash our hands and wear our masks and wait until we got out into the general population.

I thought about it all for a while and continued to steer my ship towards our home planet the humans called Earth.

Finally we saw the beautiful blue ball with the single gray moon. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. None of us could stay away from the windows.

We had our safety gear. We had masks. We had safety suits. We had communication devices.

As I pulled the ship into the Earth’s orbit I tried not to feel overwhelmed with emotion.

 

 

A message came through, as I expected. A voice asked that we identify ourselves.

“This is Captain Nessie Snow of the Starship Endurance. We left Earth, our home planet twenty thousand years ago. We’re coming home. We’re here.”

Suddenly we were flanked by sleek black flying ships. A human man in a helmet looked at me right through the window. I could tell his eyes were blue. He put his thumb up.

I put my thumb up and flashed him a dazzling smile and winked my turquoise eyes at him.

He smiled. “Do you wish to land?” He said that through his radio device.

“Yes. We come in peace,” I said.

“Do you need anything?”

I didn’t expect that. “Sure, dogs, cats, and when the pandemic is over concert tickets to EVERYTHING.”

I heard him laughing and knew it would be all right.

 

We’ve been hanging out at an Air Force Base in a place called California.  The wine is amazing. The people are accepting and interesting. The general public hasn’t been told about us yet.  We have dogs and cats. Best of all none of us have become ill. None of us.

I think it’s going to work out here.  It’s good to be home.

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

Tangled Tales: Permission to Mourn

Druce the Warlock was missing his friend Morcant the Selkie.

Druce was missing a lot of old friends as he stayed at home like everyone else. He’d stopped listening to the daily updates from Governor Newsom. The only thing he’d look at was the map of where the virus had hit the hardest, and the grim numbers. In other centuries it might not have been so unusual but it would have still been bad. People would still be mourning the loss of those they loved, staying at home, and waiting for the unknown darkness to end.

He’d driven a hard bargain so that he wouldn’t suffer an early death. That was almost two thousand years ago. Back in the 5th Century he couldn’t have imagined in his wildest Warlock dreams what the future would hold, especially not the the 21st Century.

Morcant, with his quick smile, and unending charm, had succumbed to old age years ago. Even a Selkie who was both from the land and the sea, and lived longer than most Earth creatures couldn’t live forever.

The banshee Milen has a sore throat. She’d been watching. Watching and waiting. She was also weary.

She go out with her red hair, gray cloak, pale skin, white dress, in the tradition of Irish Banshees. When she was especially animated or in the throes of passion he could still hear the Irish in her voice.

Tonight her red hair was loose down her back, her skin was pale, but she wore sweat pants and leggings. For the rest of the night she’d be in a physical form.

He’d met them all. Assorted reapers, vampires, spirits, demons, witches, wizards, and every assorted freak and keeper of magic and wonder and wickedness. He thought more of wonder, as in good things, about those who inhabited the places most people could not see or feel.

Milen took a sip of wine from a crystal goblet and gave Druce a sad look. “Is there anything you can do, or conjure up from the spirit world to make this virus go away?”

“Darling, I can’t do anything about a virus. I can make someone fall in love, or make a night sky light up with sparks, but I can’t stop a virus.”

“Odd that something so small can cause so much harm.”

“Our bodies, well, not our bodies, but living beings are made up of tiny particles and then attacked by tiny particles. Those particles don’t care who you are or how much power you hold. They don’t follow a god, or any rules of conduct, or care who lives or dies. They just are. You just have to stay home and wash your hands a lot.”

Druce tended to be a positive person for a Warlock. He always looked on the bright side of life.

“How are you holding up Milen?”

“Alright I suppose. It could be worse. I could be in New York, or elsewhere on the East Coast. I have friends who were in Italy and China.”

She rolled her shoulders then leaned back on the couch. “I give people permission to mourn. I give them warning. I settle their grief.”

Taking her hand Druce sat next to her. “You are not to be feared.”

“I warn them and let them know that bonds are about to be broken, not by screams but by sinking feelings in their stomachs and the sense that they are about to have their souls emptied out. I used to just scream, but that doesn’t work anymore, it just makes something think a violent crime is being committed. So it is just a silent scream now, not just for those who have a virus but for all of those who are sick, in accidents, fall by the hands of others, or take their own lives.”

Putting her head on Druce’s shoulder she sighed and closed her eyes. He stroked her hair, then she turned her head and kissed him.

In the morning she was gone. The sweatshirt and leggings were neatly folded and placed on the top of his dresser. Bruce went online and ordered pastries, crepes, and coffee from the local bakery. He’d put on his face mask and go pick them up. He missed the mornings when he could meet friends outside and talk for hours over coffee and the best croissants outside of France. Maybe they were better than anything in France.

He thought of so long ago, the day he and his friend Morcant met Merlin the Wizard for the first time. As always Druce had baked his famous seed bread. It was Morcant’s favorite. It had been centuries since he’d baked his seed bread in an outside wood stove. Maybe later he’d bake some in his modern kitchen, that is if he could find the ingredients. It had been two weeks since he’d gone to the store. Maybe today he’d take his changes and go out. He wouldn’t get sick enough to die, but he had to make sure he couldn’t accidentally get anyone else sick.

He could give you sweet dreams or nightmares, or bring good fortune or sadness, but he refused to bring illness to those who were innocent.

It was a beautiful day with the sun shining and the trees full of tiny song birds. He got out a face mask, put his reusable bags in the trunk of his car, and headed to the store.

Things were bad, but in some ways, in most ways, things had never been better.

 

Druce’s Seed Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2 cups whole wheat flour (you may use 1/2 white flour if you prefer)

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Zest from 1 lemon or orange (optional)

1 egg beaten

1/2 cup canola oil or melted butter (if you use butter a half oil half butter mix works best)

1/3 cup honey or molasses

1 1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds,

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Combine dry ingredients. Fold in wed ingredients with as few strokes as pollible, bust until the flour is moistened, leaving a few lumps. Spoon into greased muffin tins, or use paper muffin cup liners.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the muffin comes out clean.

As an option sprinkle the tops of muffins with white sugar before baking.

You may also exchange the seeds in this recipe for any of your favorite seeds or nuts.

~end

 

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman