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DF Lewis is the recipient of the British Fantasy Society Karl Edward Wagner Award 1998. He has around 1300 different stories published in printed books and magazines from 1987, and for five consecutive years was published in YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES (Daw - USA). His stories have been published in literary journals such as STAND, ORBIS, IRON, PANURGE and LONDON MAGAZINE and in THE BEST NEW HORROR Vols. One, Two & Eight. He's received several 'honourable mentions' in YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR. His acclaimed novella AGRA ASKA was published in 1998. He produced the paperback book 'Only Connect' written in collaboration with his 78 year old father. In 2000, he produced two novel-length accretions called MISCREANT IN MOONSTREAM and EMOSS CRACK which are autonomously seeking their own market in 2001. He is currently the Nemonymous Tsar.

Here is one of his very imaginative stories, Dear Mum, a haunting tale.

Dear Mum
DF Lewis

As the old saying goes, those slain by the sword can never remember the last stroke of the blade. I feel that Iíve been lost in space within this pod for so long, I can only have a certain amount of time left. But what will eventually kill me is still a mystery. Thereís plenty of food in the dispenser-or the dials at least indicate that. As you can see from this, my mind is pretty strong, despite the growing solitude. Holmbee died weeks ago from his version of old age; a peaceful sleep spread cross his face, but his last words Iíve already forgotten.

Iíve decided to write these last journal pages in the form of a letter to you, in the hope one day theyíll be found. But, of course, youíll be dead by now, after all these years ... unless space travel, in a peculiarly Einsteinian way I could never understand, has altered the time zones in which each of us lives.

Iíve chosen you, Mum, because, when I was a boy, we often sat down and just talked, human being to human being. Dad never had time to listen to me, but you did, knowing that a growing lad needed to get things off his chest. So, be patient, Mum, while I spend my inevitable last days in ďtalkingĒ to you again.

Anyway, getting down to it, I still carry out the duties which the Universal Corporation left with me. You wouldnít believe it, but, despite all modern science, I have to clean out the podís weed hatch, as if it were one of those Narrow Boats slowly plying the canals of Ancient England. Debris g!ets cluttered up in there, you see, things that should never have existed, for space was always thought to be empty. Some of the stuff actually must live since tangled fur often clogs up the podís perpetuator.

Naturally, I keep a look out for enemy ships. That was, if you remember, the job that Holmbee and I were commissioned to do out here. Lookouts, scouts, reconnaissance experts. But, weíve not seen anything ... except, once, the flicker of a tail which made me think a living creature was being sucked up by our exhaust pistons.

The whole job has been pointless. But, I still stare out into the black sahara of space. Hourlessly, I pine after at least a glimpse of those enemies who we were told are nearer to a human form than was good for them. If I eventually die while I am jabbing out the vital code upon the podboard computer, encapsulating success in our watch for such aliens, then it would seem to make the whole gig worthwhile somehow.

By the way, Mum, the self-imposed nights are more lonely because sleep has grown empty of dreams.

#

Mum, a number of days have passed since I last wrote to you. This letter has had to take second place, for events overtook it.

Soon after putting my antique biro to rest, last time, I saw the speck of a glint in the ďskyĒ. It darted like a fish. So I had to keep alert for following its path, in case it encroached on the man-made space lanes-wherethrough ďcargo has to passĒ as it says in the instruction log. Maybe it was a figment of my dulled imagination, but it did warrant vigilance. At least for a time.

I hope you are well. Have you still got that necklace I left as a keepsake? It took a whole yearís earnings (but donít worry as, of course, Iíve no use for money now) and it did set off your neck a real treat. I hope you wear it. I picture you wearing it, anyway. It sparkled so, didnít it, and I hope it still does.

A read-out has come through on the computer, the first for several months (or is it years?) A red letter day!

What did it say? I hear you asking. It used words I could not fully understand, but I gained the impression that Earth is still alive, even though you may be too old yourself. Iíll read it again later, to see if I can make head or tail of it.

The weed hatch and the bilge still need plenty of attention, I can tell you. This part of space must be crawling with life but, damn me, I canít see any of it from the podís cockpit. They must creep up on me and then get caught up in the workings.

Howís Dad? Still making your life a misery? I certainly hope not.

Iíve looked at that read-out again, because thereís not much otherwise happening. Iíve seen only one unidentified object since that last one I told you about. It looked as if it had square-rigging.

Other than that, nothing much. Even the weed hatch has grown emptier. Loneliness becomes worse and I pray for aliens to turn up and scare the bejesus out of me.

Iíve jettisoned Holmbeeís body. I know he would have wanted me to do it, because the smell was getting too much. At first, the decay was a welcome relief from the clinical sameness, but then it became too foul and fetid even for me. Heís floating quite close to the pod, slowly twirling on an unseen spit. I cannot bear watching him, so the reconnaissance has had to go hoots.

Never mind, Iíd rather write to you. Who knows, but this may become a historical document one day. A primary source.

The read-outís beginning to make more sense. It seems as if somebody has invented immortality back home on Earth, a condition Mankindís ever been after. I canít believe it, but whatever is meant by ďimmortalityĒ is a state I can never attain, being so far from the ďmedicine spoonsĒ, as I am. Does that mean that you, dear Mum, may still !be alive? In many ways, I hope not. Misery is only bearable when you know itís going to end. Happiness is only at its happiest when you need to optimise it within a strict time frame. Do you see what I mean? You were already old enough when I so proudly placed that necklace around your scrawny neck. It did set your face off beautifully, though, and Iím glad I made that one last sacrifice before I departed on this mission.

Another read-outís been gibbering from the computer. Oodles of ancient pyjama paper with facts and figures littering it. Apparently, immortalityís only half of it.

#

Mum, Iíve seen sights that would make your hair curl. Outlandish faces at the porthole, so wrinkled and evil, I canít believe theyíre anything but dreams ... except they fetch Holmbee up to the glass and smear his face across making green or yellow streaks and smudges. These are the creatures parts of which I once trawled from the weed hatch, but now they must know the knack of not getting themselves caught up. Their bearded mouths lust for the flesh on my bones, no doubt. Their doleful yet burning eyes tell me that they want to come in. Itís troubling to watch. Are these the inhabitants of the enemy ships Holmbee and I were sent out here to log? If so, I can tell you, that they seem to represent no danger to us humans, for their limbs are long and weak, knotted with threadbare patches of fur, and twiggy fingers unable to grasp.

Theyíve eaten Holmbee. His bare bones swim along with the pod, making shapes I used to doodle as a kid on your lap.

Mum, has immortality, so-called, changed humanity? It must have done, I suppose. Having beaten death at its own game, maybe the badness has to come out in other way. They say Mankind came out of the primaeval soup, evolving from fish to walkabouts almost overnight in the scheme of things.

I canít reckon it. All I can say is that I hope the last stroke of the blade strikes before I get to any possible PS.

Love you forever, Davy XXX

PS: The necklace I later found in the weed hatch-sparkling amid a catís cradle of flesh and fur-is more than I can bear or even explain.


 

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