Prompt: Fallen rock, as any fool could tell thee for a fact, was a terrible omen for our town of King’s Tact. Yet would any such fool believe I did see, grey of skin and black of eyes, from cursed rock little men emerge, three, upon my stride long ere sunrise.
Inspiration is difficult to find in King’s Tact. It’s a very literate town, one of the reasons I never left, but the literacy is in all the wrong places. We’re drowning in lawyers, essayists, and religious scholars. They know all their rules, they copy everything so perfectly, but they rarely think about why anything gets written in the first place.
I was out one day, escaping my husband’s dreary conversation of new tax codes regarding only perfectly ripe produce, in order to find some inspiration for my own work: poetry. It doesn’t sell well in King’s Tact, but that’s just fine as I would never sell it. It’s for my own consumption. That’s why you’re not getting rhyme in this recollection. I hoard that all to myself. I give some to Cousin, hoping he can hear it, each night, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I said, I was out walking the fields and fences just beyond Tact. It was the place where all the plowed dirt had been pushed: reddish soft hills practically exploding with weeds and wildflowers. I had the river on one side and an unstable overhang of dandelions and yellow skunkberries on the other. It was either the flowers’ job or the river’s to give me my inspiration, I wanted at least enough for a hundred page collection, but they were falling down on the job.
There was no spirit in the yellow petals, no intrigue in the roiling waters. I had to search with my bare hands, pushing plants out of the way to see if there were any nesting animals underneath. With one tug on a vine above me, I accidentally destabilized a boulder. I gasped and curled under the ridge so it fell in front of me.
It moved, so it was more inspiration than anything else. I followed it to the edge of the river. Before it stopped rolling the stone split in two, each half falling in the opposite direction and wobbling like an empty bowl. The halves were in fact empty, the same way an uninspiring geode might be, but something lived in that hollow space.
From one half came a strange little man half as high as my knee. From the other came two. I stared at them, and they stared back. My confusion must have been obvious, for they quickly bowed to calm me down. It was then that I observed the details of their strange appearance: heads shaped like pears, gray skin like a pachyderm, and black eyes that dripped, not like tears but like faucets not quite shut off. They had colorful little shirts and shoes. Each and every one of them made sure to dig a handful of sparkling red powder out of their nostrils before addressing me.
“Hello,” the leader said, distinguishable from the other two by the bigger, almost bubble-like, drips from his eyes. “I am the Captain of this Doomeor. These are my co-captains.” The other two bowed again, pouring more sparkling red sand out of their noses, like streams from an hourglass. “Would you be so kind as to tell us the current date and location?”
“It is the year 1790,” I answered. “You are outside the dull town of King’s Tact, and you are speaking with the poetic wife of a tax man. She is called Meladona.” I made sure to tell them who I was, as I wasn’t going to be treated as less important than the date or location. Us poets have to be careful about that, as we’re always the first to go when societies prune what they see as their least crucial professions. Not me. I was as relevant as the town and the year.
“Hmm,” the Captain muttered, stroking his chin. The co-captains followed suit, thinking only as long as their leader did.
“May I ask why you’re asking?” I asked this to keep myself relevant. If I hadn’t, this retelling might’ve ended here. Imagine that ending. That would be terrible.
“We crash-landed,” the Captain explained. “In something far too soft. Our powder failed to ignite. Tell me, were the others successful? Were the great lizards wiped out?” His co-captains sneezed, an action so volatile that the red powder out of their noses ignited into momentary fireballs. It nearly tossed them into the river.
“The great lizards?” I thought out loud. Could they have meant fossils? Those long dead things the scientists made boring with all their diagrams? That would make these funny little men hundreds of years old at the very least. I had to pause for another moment, to figure out if the little men were the inspiration I searched for, but it was almost immediately apparent that they weren’t. Their attention spans were even shorter than a regular man’s; they’d already started wandering away, toward the town. I pursued. “Your kind killed the great lizards? Why would you do such a thing?”
“They were gross,” the Captain declared, even as red sand and black liquid dripped out of his face. “So a thousand of us were sent here, in our stony doomeors, to guide them to impact sites and blow the vile creatures up. We were assigned because we, sadly, are also gross.” The co-captains wiped their noses on their sleeves.
“So what will you do now?”
“We failed to end our grossness, so we must try again. We must find an object of similar mass to our doomeor, crawl inside, and pilot it back into the sky. Then we will crash it again, and hope to ignite our disturbing fluids. We will repent for our gooey lives.”
The problem with this was immediately apparent to me. The lizard bones had been unearthed all over the world. If a thousand of these strange men could kill them all, then igniting just one of them would create a blast that would certainly level King’s Tact. It wouldn’t destroy much of value, except my poetry was there!
It was at that moment that the town asserted itself. My cousin Dimian, a man who took after my husband in the simplicity of his thoughts, rounded the bend. He was looking for me, as apparently I was supposed to be back home already, cooking up the stew. Dimian was a very large man, with a round hanging stomach and arms as thick as pregnant badgers. He couldn’t even wait for me to return, as he was already halfway through a pastry with figgy filling.
The Captain of the little men put up his hands and framed Dimian within them. His eyes lit up, their dripping speed increased to a generous flow. He immediately gave chase to poor Dimian, the others following behind. Cousin didn’t know what to do when he saw them, so he just ran. He didn’t drop the pastry though.
I followed as well, which I knew to be prudent, as the little men seemed to only want one thing. My theory was proven correct when the little men caught up to him, climbed his massive belly, and started forcing themselves down his mouth.
Dimian was shaped almost exactly like the rock I dislodged. Apparently, with his waistline as it was, he was of sufficient mass for their needs. By the time I caught up, he’d been forced to swallow two of them already, and the third was halfway down. Dimian reached for me, but there was little I could do for him in that state.
“If you want to destroy King’s Tact, or anything else alive, you’ll need to take a left at the hollow tree. Remember that.” I tried to put as much emphasis on the words as possible. The co-captain nodded before disappearing down Dimian’s gullet. I hoped he would pass the information on. I apologized to Dimian as he screamed. Then, he took off, lifted by unseen forces. The little men piloted him just as they had their ‘doomeor’.
That’s how I saved your miserable little town from destruction, why this retelling is the most celebrated written work in the land. For you see, Dimian always had the worst sense of direction. He always got lost around that hollow tree. I assume when those little men tried to pilot him past it his old useless instincts kicked in, and he got them lost somewhere in the sky. Maybe they’re still flying somewhere. Who knows.
Now, if you want to hear some poetry, the cost is quite steep.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by GoldenFellow during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!