Archive | March 1, 2012

Out of their minds, a story of Bug Invasion for the (January) Giraffe Call

For fflox‘s commissioned continuation of
All in Your Head (LJ), after
From the moment they breathed our air (Lj) after: Staying in the City (LJ) and Spooks vs. Bugs (DW)

“You’re not real. You’re in my imagination.”

“I don’t believe in you.”

“I can live my life without you just fine.”


“I’ve never seen this many fair folk. I’ve never seen anything like this many so close to a city.”

“Or ghosts. It’s like everyone who ever died here is back…”

Paula was, generally, a well-grounded, sensible, rational young lady, or so her bosses had said, so her teachers had said, so her friends had believed. She had her feet on the ground and she didn’t, as a general rule, believe in things she couldn’t see.

She was also, and had been for several months now, infested with an alien symbiote that read her mind and sometimes controlled her body.

The bugs had invaded dozens of planets, some successfully, some failures, but none, she was getting the impression, as big a failure as Earth was becoming for them. Their system of bonding with native hosts had, she had been told, served them well even on planets where they couldn’t manage a full-scale invasion. They could sit undetected that way, breed that way, and conquer large parts of the planet from “on the ground.”

They had, she was pretty certain, never faced this sort of resistance, a two-front rebellion from the un-infected outside their walls and from their hosts, the hosts they needed to survive the pollution, in their very homes and bodies.

And Paula, the sensible one, the one who didn’t believe in, say, faeries and was a fan of pharmaceuticals to help the unstable, found herself slipping from host to host, suggesting that they look at the fae, asking how they dealt with the voices in their head, reminding them to forget their allergy meds.

She was too practical and too calm for any of this to really work for her, sadly; she couldn’t really see the fair folk or ghosts that well, and she had never heard another voice in her head before, except her conscience and the echoes of her mother.

But she could help the others. She could sit down with a new friend and talk her through a panic attack, talk her through a dark moment until the friend could look up and say “this isn’t real. That’s not me saying that,” and have control of her head again. She’d done that before, for college friends, bad acid trips or just bad brain chemistry, more than a few times.

She knew it was working the day that three of her friends, all at once, sat down and said “You’re not real. You’re not real. You’re not real.”

And it was, finally, too much for the symbiotes, as all three fled their hosts and lay choking, dying on the ground like so many ant-fish looking things.

“You’re not real,” another friend said, and a fifth said “the ghosts are really thick here. Do you think bugs have ghosts?”

And that was it. AS their non-symbiote family watched helplessly from their controlled-environment ship, well over half the hosted bugs fled their clearly-insane human hosts, as unable to handle the strange brain chemistry as they were the atmosphere.

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Planting Future, a continuation of Tir na Cali for the Feb. Giraffe Call.

For stryck‘s commissioned continuation of Second Pressing.

Tir Na Cali has a landing page here.

Keri wanted to complain.

Keri liked complaining in general; if Onyx had been feeling less generous, she would be irritated that the girl had been bought with them. But Keri had skill, as she and Taris did, and that was what their new master would need.

He, their new Lord, had, with some advice from Taris, picked the best of the field slaves from their old master’s former staff, the best and those that, while not wonderful, were motivated enough to be trained. He had taken Keri and Onyx shopping with him for equipment, and set all three of them to buying furnishings.

The vineyard he had purchased had been abandoned for almost twenty years, bad dirt and bad business sense driving it bankrupt and bad blood leaving it empty. There was a lot of work to be done to make it tenable again, and for the first couple weeks, that work was all on the shoulders of the three of them and their Lord.

So Keri, of course, wanted to complain. She was a soft thing, not used to hard work, and their former master had spoiled her, right up to when he’d sold them.

Taris and Onyx, on the other hand, were blissful. They had, first and foremost, a second chance to prove themselves, and, secondly, a very light hand on their reins to allow them to do so. The plants their Lord was seeding were fascinating, and his ability to change them once planted opened up a whole world of opportunities to experiment that they’d never before even imagined. It was, in Onyx’s mind, the best world she could have dreamed of, and Taris seemed to agree.

When it became clear that Kari was not of the same mind, when she seemed determined to keep complaining, the two of them took her aside, in the barracks they’d cleaned out and refurbished first as their temporary home.

“Look.” Onyx did the talking. “It’s hard work. It’s a lot of hard work.”

“I thought you said we wouldn’t get sold to be manual laborers,” she cut in.

“No, Taris said that’s what happened if we weren’t lucky. Field work.” She didn’t talk about the other options.

“But you two act like you just won the lotto, and you’re grubbing out in the vines like the lowest field hand. I don’t get it.” She looked down at her chipped and cracked nails. “Why is this better?”

“Because,” Taris cut in, “Lord Karl listens to our advice, and heeds it. Because he’s trying something new, and knows it – if he fails, it will be because it was an experiment. Less taint,” he clarified. “And if he succeeds…”

“If he succeeds, it will color us, too,” Onyx took back over. “These berries;” she picked up a bright-pink grape-thing, “these could make his fortune. And he will remember us when it comes time for rewards.”

Keri chewed on a nail. “So all this digging in the rocks…”

“It’s planting our future along with his,” Onyx agreed. “That’s a comfortable old age we’re fertilizing there, for the Lord and for us, too.”

“Planting our future,” the girl repeated. “I like that.”

Next: Success (LJ)

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Making Harvest Wreathes, a story of the Unicorn/Factory for the Feb. Giraffe Call

For [personal profile] kelkyag‘s prompt.

Unicorn/Factory has a landing page here.

The village was tense as they prepared for the harvest festival, the mothers and the unwed daughters holding themselves as if afraid to hope, the fathers and sons and young children hating the helpless feeling, rattling around slamming into things like an animal gone mad, all of them trying to hard not to remember, not to think about it, not to worry, not to show what they were feeling.

It made fingers tremble, as they hung the garlands. It made hands shake, as they wove the wreaths, twisting grapevines and roses together. It made smiles tense and sharp, and greetings unpleasantly perfunctory.

Orna, weaving the wreaths in the town square, remembered when it had been a joyous occasion, not a tense one. She remembered when the crown with the thorns had been considered a blessing, the Autumn Queen, the charmed one, not a potential death sentence. She remembered when she had worn it, and when she had gone down to the river, all smiles, and received the unicorn’s blessing.

Now, she knew that there would be three crowns with red roses and thorns, three wreaths that would send their wearer down to the river, lip-bitten and trying not to cry. There would be three that she wove that could lead in death, or in a small child with no father to name…

…and one of those crowns could land on her granddaughter’s head. She bit her own lip and did what needed to be done, as they all did, and thought about happier times, when their wreaths had meant a bit of naughty pleasure and nothing more.

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Reconsidering Giraffe Incentives and Time Crunching

As I struggle to finish January‘s Giraffe Call, I am coming to the conclusion that I have overextended myself on, at the very least, the higher reaches of the call incentive levels and need to rethink them.

So, my question to you, oh my readers:

* What incentives do you really like, that encourage you to participate/donate?
* Which don’t motivate you at all/do you really not care about?
* Would you rather have less in a more timely fashion, or more stretched out over 2-3 months?

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