A.J. Walker

writerer

January 2023

Flowers of Heaven

MidWeek278
Mid Week Flash Challenge: Week 278

Flowers of Heaven

Modelo was a handsome young man heading towards old age in a slip sliding fashion. It was easy to lose track of time when you lived alone on an island in a barely occupied planet due west of nowhere. But he enjoyed his solitary life. His mother had called him Modelo after seeing it on an old bottle in the background from some Terra documentary. She’d thought it sounded special. It had more letters than model; and models were treated as something special. It stood to reason Modelos were even more special.

Yet she got him assigned to a place where no-one had any use for a model; with or without the extra ‘O’. He was on a planet he’d possibly heard of from his school days, and then certainly on occasional news items; when he lived light years away - and still had friends and family. He had a good place to live, reasonable food and fabrication generators, and communication privileges - should he need (or wish) to use them: he rarely did.

Life was good solo and he loved his job as the island’s curator. His mother was paid an enormous stipend for allowing (sending) her only son on such a secondment. Modelo remembered thinking that secondment sounded like a description of something temporary. Decades ago as he bottled his flowers for the nineteenth time it had dawned on him that his job was not to be short term. He’d not leave the planet unless he was picked up by accident or escaped. Neither was going to happen. The only thing that left the island was the drug.

Flowers of Heaven were amongst the rarest and most delicate raw material in the universe. Countless ‘experts’ had said they could translocate the plants off world and grow them somewhere better placed (for the markets) and other experts had said they could replicate the drug the plants produced. So far none had done either in anything approaching a worthwhile fashion. And so it was that Modelo ploughed his solo furrow, on a planet with not even a city worthy of a name, as the protector of the plants; and drones.

In reality there was so much remote firepower around the island and indeed the planet that he wasn’t guarding the plants per se. He had a shield, which he soon realised was symbolical and not for defence. Not once had anyone during his tenure attempted to rob anything from the entire planet; or at least they hadn’t made it was far as the island. Modelo practiced his fighting techniques with the attack drones not because he expected to need them; the twice weekly fighting time was the closest he ever got to to a regular life. He’d even given all the drones names. He worried about that sometimes. Should you anthropomorphise an attack drone?

He decided it was best not to think about it too much, or ask anyone light years away. He’d only seen his ultimate bosses once and that was over twenty seasons ago as they were showing off the drones. They weren’t even interested in his beloved Flowers of Heaven. If he’d have had an issue they have simply replaced him.

Then came the day of the twin messages. In hindsight he assumed they thought they’d better give him the first after deciding they ought to give him the second one. The first was from a real person, or a fine approximation, who informed him of his mother’s passing. No date or reason given. She’d been old, but that was no excuse on the money she was getting. Shortly afterwards the second message came through informing him that experts now synthesised the ‘Drug of Heaven’ and that the plants he was charged with looking after were consequently worthless. To the corporation they may be worthless, to Modelo they were his life. After days of mulling things over he came to the conclusion that his mother had probably died many year ago and they’d only thought they’d better inform him whilst delivering the ‘worthless’ message. He’d be picked up ‘
if he wanted’ on the next routine circular trip to the planet: months away.

He wondered what he’d do ultimately. His expertise was rather niche. In the meantime he continued protecting the flowers and fighting his drone friends. Had anybody told them? Shit, would anyone train him to deal with people? Real people were only a concept. He wondered whether to try the drug. What was heaven really going to be?


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WC: 750

From the Light

Catherdal Shade
Mid Week Flash Challenge: Week 277

From the Light

Through the busy streets of the old town Stefan walked as quickly as he could in the oppressive heat. He almost found himself running, but fought the urge as he’d stick out like a sore thumb. The cafes and bars were thronging with locals and strangers alike. How could they not sense the danger? Adrenaline had filled his body and driven him to pass through a couple of miles in rapid time. He’d kept to the left hand side of the street, keen to stay in the sun. The flip side of the safety of the light was the sapping of his energy. What did they say? Mad dogs and Englishmen? He wasn’t English, but he couldn’t swear on his sanity.

Several times he knocked into tourists dawdling, taking photos - and far too much time. He was concious he was in a race with the lowering sun. The area of light was diminishing and he was sure it would be all shade soon. He had just enough time to get to the church. The thin spire atop the giant fortified tower had disappeared, he was so close now that the adjacent buildings hid it.

The noise of the tourists and the baying out of the vendors to grab their slice of the holiday dollars was assailing his ears; when it wasn’t his panting. Several times in his peripheral vision he saw the worrying tell tale signs of the wraiths in the darkest shadows - doors slamming, curtains swaying, glasses falling. They were flying down the twists and curves of the old town. He was in no doubt they were after him. They weren’t interested in anyone else. That cursed woman had been right, he should never have picked up the amulet that he now felt burning into his hand. But it was so pretty. He’d have to be someone very strong to have left it - or to have handed it to the authorities; they’d have kept it anyway. It was gold inlaid with lapis and malachite and what he thought was rubies. There was a Latin inscription; a reference to a saint and the devils. The crone had said it had belonged to cardinals of the city in ages past. That it had passed out of history, after being stolen. She’d said English or Portugese pirates had probably taken it. And now here it was, so close to its home.

She’d muttered something about those living in the shadows; that they wouldn’t want the amulet returning. That evil had prospered in the city since its loss and the decline of the church. It was too powerful to any blessed and able to use it. Stefan had laughed as the ever sceptical atheist. He’d find someone rich to sell it to.

That was until he got out of the sun. In the shadows he saw them heading the same way he was. First there was one, then they came in twos and threes. They were after him. Clearly. She must have been right.

And so he ran.

He got to the side of the church and there was still some sun streaming through the support arches. He remembered walking through them with his Ana when they were young and in love. ‘It’s our beautiful place.’ She’d said. They had loved going there for the chance of a cooling breeze in the shade of the alley of arches. Today he had no time for such memories. He needed to get around to the end of the church, to the steps and to the cardinal or whoever now represented the church here. He wondered if it was actually still an operating church, or just an historic place of interest. He could only hope there was someone there who’d take the amulet from him; someone who could protect him.

The shade was moving and there was movement within it. He heard whispers, promises at his ear. He kept turning but could see nothing when he looked directly. But peripherally he saw them. His energy suddenly wilted. His legs buckled and he fell against the wall banging his head. Was it consecrated there? Did the line of arches mean he was actually in the church?

The police found his body later that evening. In his hand was the shape of a circle seared into his palm. They surmised that he’d been robbed for a pendant. Pickpockets and thieves were common. There was badness everywhere; the policemen all knew. And it seemed only to be getting worse.


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Word Count: 750