This Show Case features five pieces submitted in response to our seventh Writing Prompt: Galaxy. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for this page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.
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by GD Deckard
“So that’s our choice? The Galactic Hordes?”
From the up and down movements of what may have been heads, Bob assumed that the -whatever- spoke for all of them. “Yes. It’s the natural solution. Now, do you want our help to advance your species or not?”
An amused voice sounded in his head, “Bob?”
“Are they talking about the whole human race?”
“I’m afraid so, Bob,” his telepathic Communications Officer giggled. “Us humans aren’t valuable in the galactic scheme of things. We’re substandard even as slaves. Our soft body sacks have to be fed and purged daily and rested for a third of our short lives. And that doesn’t count rest breaks, time spent absent-minded or doing things completely wrong. Slaves like us aren’t worth having.”
“I don’t want us to be slaves anyway.”
“So take their offer. Join the Galactic Hordes and unleash the human spirit. Then we can go about business as usual anywhere in the galaxy. It’s a perfect match.”
“What!? The Hordes are horrible! They lie, cheat, start fights and loot the bodies. Even their own people have to watch them. They spread out and use up everything as they go. They’re just… savage scavengers!“
“I rest my case,” Khavata sighed.
“Well, that’s unacceptable.”
To the Whatever, he answered, “Forget it. We’ll advance on our own.”
“No.” Somehow, Whatever’s mouth sounded the beat of drums behind his words. “You will not advance. Billions already find a better life in video games or on social media. Soon, you will create a virtual reality that satisfies all your cravings, and you will never leave it.”
“You talking about the Meta ‘verse? That virtual reality thing?”
“It doesn’t end there. We have seen many worlds like yours become rolling balls of glowing coffins. The beings inside the coffins experience life as they want it to be without ever, really, experiencing a life at all. In the end, the coffins wink out one by one and the species is gone.
“And joining the Galactic Hordes saves us? That’s stupid!”
“Recognize the world you forge, Human. Every natural resource is used up or about to be. Wealth has floated to the top like scum. More and more people can not be happy. They will drift into the Metaverse.”
“Well, that may be, but I don’t see how joining the Hordes is the natural solution.”
“The Galactic Hordes will let your people live life as they have evolved to live it.”
Bugs And Hugs
by Mimi Speike
Herk Hedgehog has shed his quills from a severe fright. Sly had organized chicks in his barnyard to be his crew on his pretend pirate ship, to sail with him to Madagascar, disembark, and go in search of the Dodo bird. The chick cut-throats discover Herk, who had declined to join the game, hiding in a hedge. They scare the daylights out of him.
What does the following have to do with ‘Galaxy’? The connection is in the last few lines.
(Image: Sly addresses his mom.)
“Crap, Ma! Herkie won’t talk to me.”
(His mom replies. You will see who’s talking from the yet-to-be-created art.)
“Don’t hound, I said. Ye got to tread light a good while.
Not you, ye’ll rile him up anew. Typical, Chew.”
(Sly has taken Chew for his pirate name. I forget exactly why. It’s in a previous story.)
“Poor laddie shakes! The sounds he makes!
Minus his pricks, he clicks an’ clicks.
He’s cupped up tight, a sorry sight.
He’s terrified, just wants to hide.
“Hog needs a wrap, Ma.
A knit cap to keep him warm and safe from harm–
tied round his middle, God forbid he be espied–to curl inside.
“A baby bonnet, Ma! Upon which,
could you hitch somehow–weave, stitch–
abundantly, please, greenery.
“Ma! A big mass o’ lemongrass!
The lemon scent, an excellent befuddlement,
so to avoid being annoyed.
Just thought that up!
‘Twill do that pup till he regrows spikes.
There ye goes, me little knows-it-all,” Ma mumbles.
“Always some ain’t-I-slick jab.
The gift o’ gab ye have indeed, I do concede.
Look, fresh-picked lilt is quick to wilt,
’twill have to be refreshed daily.
A daunting task, too much to ask.
“You want to comfort him, but come now,
this ain’t how to heal that row.
Take him his treats, his wig-gley eats,
a gesture more apt to restore trust.
“No more stunts! That poor, wee runt’s
been terrorized, an’ traumatized.
Yer brat bravos, disgraceful! Those
marauding creeps, them nasty peeps,
ye keeps ’em clear o’ him, y’hear?”
(Sly lecturing chicks in their pirate outfits.)
“Listen, you mugs.”
Chicks wink and shrug. Chicks smirk and sneer.
The atmosphere: cock o’ the walk:
birds shrilly squawking, gaily stalking any mite, however sleight, fails to evade note.
None dismayed, Sly soldiers onward with aplomb.
“This cut-throat crap, that stuff’s for saps, kids.
Dump the gear, hey? Disappear
the belts and straps and zany caps.
The whole barnyard’s in stitches
over yer bozo1 menacing skulk.”
Miffed, the chicks sulk.
“Well, tone it down then, with th’ clownish
Yarrr! Avast, me hardy!
Blasted holy high, yer fool outcry.
I retroverts, ye rascal squirts.
I’m Sly, not Chew. How’s about you?”
“Begging yer pard’n, cap’n, sar.
‘Twas your provoke drove gentlefolk nuts,
heart-‘n-soul out o’control.”
“Gentles, y’say! I hope ‘n pray!
Please, sirs, to doff – means, sirs, peel off – the garb.
Those duds betoken bloods.
“Gentles, polite, do not affright.
They nod and coo–good day to you.
Hope you be well.
Let me dispel your least unease. Try to appease.
No arguments, kids. Got it, gents?
“You’re you. I’m Hog. We dialogue.
Who’s game? Yoo-hoo! You there. Yes, you!”
Pip tries: “Ye look none so bad shook as was foretold us.
Quite a scolding we had, too.
That odd ado, it were meant well.
That which befell ye last we met, we do regret.
Ones normal mild-mannered fell wild.
Not right o’ mind, we disinclined
to heed yer plea to be left be.”
“’Twill not impress none, that redress.
Donate him snacks, you looniacs.
Gather a sock-full, chock-a-block-full, if ye please.
Think on Herkie’s joy!
Bagged up slugs an’ worms, an’ bugs,
insert the snout to grand pig-out.
No finer gift to mend the rift
or this spatch-cock2 eats the damn sock.”
He’s off. Sly goes in search of hose.
The chicks confer, and they concur.
“Huh! Ye wants worms? Trap yer own squirms.
You scritch-scratch dirt. We should exert us for that riever?3
By yer leave, lads, he purrs – gross! – ‘n sidles – close!
How you peeps be? Lovely t’ see ye looking so . . . healthy.
“Hard by’s our Pap, raring t’ scrap
with any basturd-slickjack-brass hoping to gobble down a squab.
Hog hems and haws, fin’lly withdraws.
But comes the day he’ll have his way.
The chicks stand firm, bound and determined.
“Nossir! Nay! You want bugs? Hey!
Scoop ’em up by yer-damn-self.
Why would we assist?
We be dismissed, apparently, from sea duty.”
“Dismissed? Nay. Furloughed.
Best bestir,” advises Chew.
“I needs m’ crew.
Any would ship with me,
equip m’ hosiery fat an’ juicy with worms an’ bugs.
Hark to me, lugs, more yer lip-flap,
carry th’ cap4 ‘ll shut yer yap.
“Enough chit-chat! Get to, go at!
Then we go sees, calmly, banshees,5
sees can we perk up Herk the Jerk.
(Sly visits Herk, hidden in the barn.)
“Not what ye say.
Ye say come in.
Let’s us begin again.
Knock-knock. I got a sock,
filled up with, ah, just all kinda stuffs ye’ll relish.
Yer snigs6 ‘n snails, no puppy tails, sorry.
A snake, a spotted crake, latched onto him pure on a whim.
I fig’erd a touch o’ gourmet
would make ye smile, somewhat, somewhile.
“Me an’ m’ hands, we understands, we be aware a recent scare
has laid ye low, we’re here to show
ye our support with an assortment of goodies.”
Herk starts to sneeze.
Poor Herk! God bless, eh? Kids, it’s stress.
The hedgie sneeze does not mean he’s ill, indisposed.
A huff, a puff means, had enough!
He gives a click, he’s choleric.
If he should pop, worse, pop nonstop, he’s major irked,
you got your work cut out for you
to coax him through full-blown aggressive surliness.
Thugs rushing him with the brash vim-and-vigor glee
we oldsters see as troublesome,
the very young take for their due.
And so did you. And so did I, long time gone by.
Seems like a dream almost: supremely confident,
discouragement fleeting and, rarer yet, despair.
There’s the first kiss, a genesis, a tasty crumb of things to come,
good eats, your clan, jolly companions tried and true,
the bluest blue of skies above, to fall in love.
For these small few, it boils down to this: hugs and bugs.
And hugs and slugs. Not big on slugs, Sly adores snuggles.
(No contest, his Mum’s the best.)
Herk never got his share of what we all us crave.
The hedgies, they’ve missed out, their pokes discourage strokes.
Sure they’re upset. You bet they fret!
Disputative, the hedgies live their lives solo.
Less than outgoing, very shy, hedgies defy, greet with contempt
any attempt to consort. They, skittish, repay
with a cold shoulder one’s cajole7 to interact. That, friends, is fact.
Sly’s endlessly curious. He enjoys to take walks
and to make all kinds of friends.
He often spends the live-long night until first light a-tramp:
Hoyt’s Hill down to the mill, around the pond and way beyond.8
Those sweet summer evenings astir!
Nocturnal beasties scurry, feasting off of the gorgeous bounty.
(Explained previously: Sly is fascinated by the whole world, and especially what he observes in the heavens. This is something he will have in common with John Dee, in my novel.)
Some opt to laze, to pause and gaze up at the stars.
Though oculars9 not up to it, still, some will sit
and mystify at the night sky
and sometimes bond with others fond of the same fun.
Thus did a stunning friendship form, outside the norm,
a friendship gone so very wrong.
- Bozo: a muscular low-I.Q. male. Also (according to the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31, 1983): One who speaks Spanish poorly. Used in the slave trade. Perhaps from Spanish bozal. I say (humor me, hey?): possibly in use in the late sixteenth century.
- Spatch-cock: an immature male chicken. Used as an insult. (archaic)
- Riever: Scot and Northern English dialect. One who goes on a plundering raid.
- Carrying the Capstan: A shipboard punishment. I find this term in an ancient text. I’m trying to find out what it consisted of. Robert Jacob, author of A Pirate’s Life, is my go-to guy with questions of this nature. Find him on Facebook.
- A banshee is a female spirit in Irish mythology who heralds the death of a family member by wailing or shrieking. The original story was that the banshee appeared to people about to suffer a violent death. Cynics claimed the wails were the cries of barn owls, critters that do sound remarkably like a woman screeching.
- Snig: Cumbrian dialect, a small eel.
- Hedgehogs are usually solitary, pairing up only to mate. I read that there are several hedgehog personalities, some far friendlier than others.
- I’ve mentioned that Sly, as a youngster, had weak ankles. Daily hikes were part of his strategy to strengthen them.
- A term for an eyepiece. I extend it to include the eyes themselves.
by Mellow Curmudgeon
Were they high on something? When ancient shepherds (?) saw as much of our galaxy as clear skies w/o light pollution would grant to unaided eyes, they imagined that some of the brightest stars formed images of familiar things on Earth: a bear and a scorpion; a hunter and a virgin. (Maybe watching sheep sleep was hallucinogenic.) Humanity’s deep impulse to find analogies and commonalities among diverse things often leads to fanciful drivel like the Zodiac, but sometimes (when imagination combines with hard work and good luck) it leads to great art or great science. Isaac Newton saw how planets orbiting our sun were like falling apples. Modern astronomers see how stars orbiting the black hole at the center of a typical galaxy are also like falling apples. The ancient names of constellations persist in astronomy, along with the ancient yearning to make sense of it all.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In 2021-05 I surrendered to modernity and bought a smartphone. One incentive was that the Galaxy Note 20 was discounted when Samsung rolled out the Galaxy Note 21. OK, the “20” in my phone’s name makes sense. So does “Note” because it alludes to a capability of the stylus that makes a virtual keyboard useable for me. Does “Galaxy” make sense too? Hmmm. Our galaxy is too big and hefty to go into a back pocket of anybody’s jeans. Does anybody call tech support with a concern about a hot prickly feeling from their phone, only to be assured that stars are like that?
Maybe Samsung asked a focus group to choose among a few possible names for their line of smartphones. When “Galaxy” beat out “Goober” and “Glockenspiel” by wide margins, the suits congratulated themselves on predicting the group’s choice and ran with it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sagittarius A* (the black hole at the center of our galaxy) is not perfectly black. It emits a dim glow of Hawking radiation from ever so slightly beyond the event horizon. But whatever falls in deeper may be lost forever.
Play Store (the black hole at the center of my Galaxy) emits a bright glow of hawking radiation. Time and money that fall in are lost forever.
Maybe the name “Galaxy” makes sense after all. I like the phone anyway.
by Perry Palin
Owl and I were going to look for Brucie. I couldn’t reach him at home. I wanted Brucie to help with cutting some tractor trails, my summer work to get ready for my dad’s winter logging. Owl was on board with the work, and Brucie would round out our crew.
Owl was a year older than me, a senior in high school. He needed the job before heading for college in the fall. His name wasn’t really Owl. That’s what he was called. He had a round face and glasses with round lenses, and dry hair the color of wheat straw after a rain, and his hair stuck out in all directions like straw. In school his athletic career consisted of manager to the track team.
Owl and I were outside the mainstream of school society. Owl wanted to join the in crowd, but the boys didn’t take him seriously and the girls laughed at him. I didn’t hang out at the drive-in and I didn’t care too much about the style of my clothes, and that left me out too.
I supposed that Tommy Brown would be at the drive-in, with his blue ’57 Chevy and his dark hair combed in a wave like one the Everly Brothers. He considered himself among the social elite, laughing at anyone who wasn’t like him. Tommy had a nice car and I didn’t care about cars. He rode the bench on the basketball team, and I started at strong forward, and we kept our distances.
When Owl and I were ready to go my old Dodge had a flat tire, a cloud on a bright summer afternoon. My dad came out of the house and looked at the flat, and he threw me the keys to his car. “Don’t drive into a tree,” he told me. He said he would fix my flat while we were gone.
“Okay. We’ll be back in about an hour,” I told him.
Dad said, “Do you want money for something to eat? It’s late enough. You might as well eat at the drive-in.”
“I got enough for both of us. We’ll be back in an hour and a half.”
Owl and I walked over to my dad’s car, a one year old 1965 Ford Galaxie 500/XL two door hardtop. The car was pale green, a big car with lots of chrome. It had a 302 cu V8 and a three speed manual with overdrive. Some of the Galaxies had bigger engines, but this was big enough. It was a strange car for my father to own. Two brothers had returned from the Army in the nearby town of Tobais, and they each bought one of these cars. They won all their informal road races, picked up some speeding tickets, and then one of the boys wrapped his car around a tree. The driver survived, and his brother traded his Galaxie for something that would let him live. My dad bought his first car with tuned dual exhausts.
We slid into the front seat of the Galaxie. I turned the key and the engine purred. I drove out to the road and turned toward the lakeshore. I went through the gears, the Galaxie shifted into overdrive and the engine ran quietly, pushing us down the road.
Owl said, “Wow. Your dad lets you drive his car.”
“Why wouldn’t he? I let him drive mine.”
“Your car is lame, and he bought it for you.”
“My car is fine for me just now. Someday I’ll need another one, and I’ll have the money to buy newer.”
We were doing sixty down the asphalt. The bumps in the road were smoothed by the car. Owl smiled and said, “This is some ride. What do you think the kids will think at the drive-in? They’ll be jealous, I bet.”
“It’s a car, Owl. Don’t make more of it than it is.”
At the top of Paul’s Hill I took my foot off the accelerator. The car picked up speed on its own and we coasted most of the two miles to the shore road. At the shore I turned right. It was another mile to the drive-in. The lake was blue with small white waves. A sailboat tacked west as we moved toward the drive-in.
At the drive-in there were about ten cars in the lot. I didn’t see Brucie’s car. Tommy Brown’s blue ’57 Chevy was nose up to the drive-in. He was leaning against a fender. He wore a white tee shirt and his arms showed he had a summer tan. He was smiling and joking with three other boys. When they saw the Galaxie the other boys stopped listening to Tommy Brown.
I parked in the shade of a silver maple near one of the white picnic tables. I shut off the engine. I turned to Owl and asked, “Do you want a burger basket? I’m buying.”
“Sure, if you’re buying.”
We got out of the car. Owl sat at the picnic table and I walked across the lot to the carhops’ station. Roberta and Joanie were working. Roberta was short and pretty with straight white teeth and blue eyes and blond hair that smelled clean like birch bark. She smiled and said, “Got a new car, huh? It looks like a nice one.” She was Brucie’s girlfriend. I took that more seriously than Roberta did.
“Roberta, you know it’s my dad’s car. I just borrowed it from him.” I looked around the lot. “Has Brucie been here today? I need to talk to him.”
“He’ll come later, when my shift is up.”
“Can you ask him to call me? Can you do that? Or will both of you just be thinking about something else?”
“Since you put it that way, Mister ‘I’m just driving my dad’s car,’ I’ll be sure to tell him to call.”
“Thanks. Really. Thanks. Meanwhile, can you put in an order for two burger baskets for Owl and me? We’ll both have root beer with that.”
“Sure. It’ll be up in ten minutes.”
I turned back toward the car. Four boys were standing close, looking at the car’s lines. Tommy Brown was not among them. Tommy Brown was fond of challenging others to a quick race up to the bridge at Big River and back again. He knew the Galaxie’s history. He would never challenge me to a run to Big River. I would have declined the challenge, and he would have crowed about that, even though we all knew the Galaxie was more car than his Chevy.
I sat at the picnic table across from Owl. I did not talk to the boys looking at my dad’s car. When our burgers were ready Roberta carried them out to us. Owl was impressed that she would do that. I paid her for the burgers. She didn’t stop to chat with Owl. Tommy Brown had gotten into his Chevy and driven away. The other boys walked back to their own cars. We ate our burgers in the shade. I told Owl not to look at the car while we were eating. I told him it’s not cool to look at the car. When we finished I gathered our empty cups and wrappers and napkins and walked them up to the trash can. Roberta came up and smiled. She said “I remember. You want Brucie to call.”
“Thanks. It’s important to me.”
She smiled again. ‘Come back again. Come back soon.”
I got behind the wheel of the Galaxie with Owl riding shotgun. I started the car and the boys in the lot turned to watch me pull slowly out of the lot. I turned left and accelerated smoothly. The car purred.
A Fairy Tale
by S.T. Ranscht
Rumors slunk down the gentle hillsides of the Deep Woods to spread through the encircling villages. A ravenous monster — beast — creature of some sort had awoken to begin devouring all life within its widening range.
The truth was, no one knew how long the unnamed fear may have been awake or lain dormant before the rumors, or even if it had always been there or had arrived from some foreign land beyond their knowledge. Throughout their history, few from any of the villages were willing to enter the Woods. They were too dark, too suffocating, too terrifying. Children played on the safe side of the tall fences and walls their villages had built between the residents and the dense expanse of trees from whence their water sources flowed. Hunters and woodcutters kept their homes in sight whenever they plied their trades beneath the shadowy boughs at the Woods’ fringy edges. And the rare fools who thought to pass through the Woods’ center to get to the other side were never seen again.
Olaf was not a fool. Everyone he met agreed he was odd but brilliant and quite as far from foolish as it was possible to be. Olaf was an inventor. Villagers from far and wide sought his help from the time he was a young man, not yet old enough to establish his own home away from his parents’. People hired him to solve problems from building better rodent traps to improving their fields’ irrigation systems.
That was how he met Elea. She accompanied her father when he came to Olaf seeking a way to retrieve stricken prey and errant arrows without having to follow them into the Deep Woods. Their meeting turned to courtship, and by the time he fulfilled her father’s commission, they were pledged to one another. During their long — but childless — marriage, his devoted wife was fond of saying, “Olaf is no stranger than you or I, but his brain is unlike any this land has ever seen.”
While Elea was still alive, he created machines that eased her work to keep their household clean and warm. With one, he replaced the wash board she used at the river with a large water tub on legs that stood in the kitchen. Olaf installed a set of paddles in the tub that agitated the laundry when cranked by hand. A pair of hand-cranked rollers attached to the outside of the tub wrung the wash water from the clothing. Another of his inventions ran a grid of clay pipes beneath the plank floor of their little house to connect the kitchen stove to a stove in the bedroom and the fireplace in the main room. Heat that traveled through the pipes warmed the floors, and thence their feet.
When Elea fell ill from a disease that seemed to afflict people in every village surrounding the Deep Woods, doctors determined the illness had come from water tainted at the source. They had no treatment to offer. Village leaders came to Olaf begging for a filtration system that could eliminate the problem. Olaf worked day and night to devise one. It altered the water rather than filtered it, but his success came too late to save his beloved wife.
With Elea’s death, Olaf took his grief into his workshop and locked his attention on the problem in the Deep Woods. Knowing better than to hike into the Woods, he built an airship powered by wind, steam, and hot air to gain an aerial view and at least a chance of evading capture by whatever deadly presence lurked within. Aboard Elea’s Revenge, once he knew the enemy, he was confident he would be victorious.
He wondered if the tainted water could be used against the creature, and tried mixing it with some of the peculiar powders he had collected over the years. Most of those attempts accomplished nothing, but when he mixed the dark gray and yellow powders with a little of the water and struck a flint over it, the mixture sparked and burst into a swirling stream of flame and smoke and ash accelerating toward the ceiling. Curious. He set about making as many barrels of the mixture as the airship would hold.
Gnawing, echoing hunger growled through the nagging hollow in the creature’s gut. It couldn’t hear. It couldn’t see. It had no memories and no dreams. It hungered. It wasn’t starving. It simply expanded and absorbed what it encountered. But no matter how constantly the creature fed, it was never enough. It was as though the life it consumed provided insufficient nourishment. Or worse, an entirely wrong kind of nourishment. But it didn’t question. It just fed.
Olaf steered Elea’s Revenge toward the crown of the Deep Woods, ascending the hillside amidst the humming, ratchety-purr of the ship’s engine. Evening breezes pulled her dozen swollen sails beyond the reach of the Woods’ gnarled branches while the descending sun pushed the airship’s shadow across the glinting canopy.
The shadow crested the hill and vanished into a circle of darkness so deep it might have been a tunnel to the center of the world. Matte black, it had no visible features except its shape and size. Olaf watched in horror as it crept outward, inexorably extracting the ring of ancient trees that leaned into the void.
The airship’s bow dipped steeply toward the ground, shaking Olaf from his disbelief. The inevitable destruction of his world was suddenly clear. Turning the ship hard toward the creature’s edge, he pulled Elea’s Revenge up, gaining speed as it seemed flung from the scene below.
He lashed the tiller to circle the creature far enough away to resist its pull, but near enough to hope to kill it, and lit the first barrel’s fuse. Seconds before it would ignite the mixture, he hefted it overboard. It fell and fell and fell. In the instant before it faded into the gaping maw, it spit a shower of sparks. The creature made no response.
Olaf stood in stunned silence. Choosing the only option with any hope of success, he ran from barrel to barrel throughout the hold and on the deck, lighting all the fuses. Taking control of the tiller, he turned Elea’s Revenge toward the creature and aimed the prow at its heart.
“I owe you this, my love.”
The ground beneath the encircling villages shook. Houses shivered. People ran outside to see what might have happened. All who looked toward the Dark Woods saw the column of flame and smoke and ash racing into the twilit sky. As it separated from the Woods, the darkness at its tail blotted out the emerging stars, and still it accelerated upward.
What they would not live to see happened over eons far, far from their world: A swirl of stars gathered in the creature’s wake, colliding and giving birth and sorting themselves into a vast community around the creature itself. Whether to be eaten or thrive might never be known.