Issue 68 – Dropship Troopers

The troops are ready
Long live our God emperor!
Let the anthem play

By Nieske den Heijer

terror out of space
not alien invaders
but human troopers

By Aeronwy Dafies

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Drop From Orbit
By DS Davidson

We ride the atmosphere
Down from orbit
Dropships filled with troops
Buffeted by the thickening air
And retro-rockets’ blast
That slam into the ground
We debark still dazed from impact
Firing wildly at anything
That isn’t a friendly
Return fire batters our armour
Nigh as thick as a tank’s
Artificial servo-muscles tighten
Providing speed and strength
Overwhelming the enemy
In terms of morale and militarily
We stride across the surface
Personifications of our God
Emperor of all space
Deities of adamantium
Lacking compassion and the capacity
To fail in our appointed task

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Mal Galeef
By Harris Coverley

The poet said:

colonial troop
man and alien alike
assigned enemy —
fighting for Old Earth’s empire
that drive for cosmic conquest

The soldier replied:

my name is Galeef
first name Malko — Phobos-born
and on Deimos raised —
my true battles internal
I am much still my own man

The poet replied:

you are empire’s tool
imperial policeman —
a blood-soaked unit
whether blood is red or green
you still take your pay and drink

The solider replied:

yes this soldier drinks
and so would you if you’d seen
the things that I’ve seen —
don’t ramble proudly poet
no gun but I have my fists!

The poet replied:

that is all you have:
the threat of force against those
who stand in your way —
distilled into the one beast:
xenocidal human race

The solider replied:

I obey orders
for that is my sworn duty
I am a rough man —
I am so on your behalf —
something you don’t understand!

rough and ready men
visit violence on the dark
so you can sleep sound

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On A Far and Distant World
By DJ Tyrer

In the lantern-light of bioluminescent cells
And the glow of a raging firmament,
A hero locks and loads his weapon,
Closing his polished-silver visor:
A fusillade of fragmentation shells
Clears his way of opposition;
H.E. blasts an entranceway.

Black armour like a beetle learnt to walk upright
Gives humanity’s saviour an alien anonymity.

Scuttling horrors of unearthly physiology appear
From all directions at once, overpowering
The hero, despite his rapid fire
And deadly, whirling blades:
Inhuman ichors mix with all-too-human blood
Creating unsettling swirls
With a soundtrack of pain.

Still twitching, not quite lifeless, dragged off
To provide a host in the birthing chamber…

Originally published in Handshake

It is almost time.
Who are we fighting today?
Never mind, let’s go!

By Nieske den Heijer

Issue 66 – Invasion!

The Mirror World
By Mark Hudson

Here we come, invading ourselves,
the human race, and a whole bunch of elves.
We’re coming from an alternate universe,
where everything is happening in reverse.

In America, what happened to Biden?
From the depths of the ocean, comes the Poseidon!
The dead passengers have come back to life,
they are zombies, and they are looking for wives!

Who’s the president? Back to George,
he is crossing the Valley Forge!
An alternative universe mixed with time travel,
judgment day, and the banging of the gavel.

The bubonic plague makes Covid look mild,
every senior citizen shrinks to a child.
Some crazy aliens must be in charge,
and here in a spaceship is grandmother Marge.

I’m the last man on Earth, or am I wrong?
Out of the jungle, arrives King Kong.
He grabs my girlfriend, makes her squeal,
then he trips over a banana peel.

This is the end, the worst invasion,
I won’t be able to survive the duration.
This is 2023; I can’t take any more,
the only thing worse will be 2024!

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Dust bunnies
By Nieske den Heijer

I settle behind the couch, trying to ignore the dust bunnies that have accumulated over time. A vacuum cleaner is too loud, and every time I exit from this hiding spot I forget about the dirt. The relief of still being in my own home and checking if all my friends are still here always takes priority over cleaning, followed by foraging for food and water.

The dust is a nice thing to keep my mind from wandering to the creatures that walk the streets outside. I can hear the squish that their tentacles make across the pavement, the humm of their floating vehicles and sometimes the screams of the people who did not hide well enough.

The television springs to life by itself, and plays the message of the invaders. They make famous people say how the earth was dying and the aliens are here to save us. A refuge has been set up on the moon, where we will be housed and taken care of. Then the earth can recover for a generation or two, and then our descendants can return to a better world.

I close my eyes and think of beaches, yoga and pineapple juice. Anything to drown out the lies, I will not allow their words to take root in my mind as that’s how they get you. I just wait until they go away, it feels like the safest option.

My thoughts return to memories of going to the beach. Involuntarily I take a deep breath and suck up some of the dust. Frantically I claw at my nose; a sneeze could give me away to those outside. I have no intention of finding out if they tell the truth. I am happy here, in my house, behind the couch. Here I know I am safe, there should be enough food to last me a few more weeks. I hold on to the hope that there must be a human army assembling out there somewhere to kick these invaders off our planet, there must be a liberation force.

The sounds pass my house, I get to stay on Earth for another day. I get up, dust myself off and let out a series of nice and loud sneezes. Time to find out where I left my broom.

Ends

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The Secret Invasion of Plants
By Harris Coverley

What could it have been? Starborn invasion or mere Terran mutation? Or something even more curious maybe? It just struck me as strange: walking along that night to hear that bizarre whining noise coming from the garden of that neighbour up the hill. I leaned in with ear and eye—the plant was whistling a metallic whistle!

Set against the redbrick of the terrace, a thin velvet green strand with wide flat olive spades of leaves, arranged in a step-by-step ladder, and yet engaging in a relay!

Did…did the people inside know? Were they aware? Were they stupid, insane, deaf, deafblind, mute to cry out for the danger? I could even see it shaking, vibrating with energy, its leaves twitching and humming…

What was it trying to communicate? And to whom? “Hello?” I asked it more than I greeted—but I got nothing back but that constant tinning buzz, continuous to a fault…

I walked on—had I been mistaken? Just fuzzed with white wine? If only I had known…if only I could have acted…put the word about…made a real stink…we perhaps could have today escaped from being under the foot of the plants, or should I rather say, under their roots

Out of deep space came the Green Dawn, and the end of the Age of Flesh…

Ends

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Zaffre
By Christopher Hivner

The sky had never been such a deep shade of blue. It was unnatural, as if the black of night were bleeding through. There had been explosions in most of the major cities and people thought it was the end of the world. Rumours started dancing around that Iran or North Korea had launched nukes. The soap-box preachers bellowed “apocalypse” and all the survivalists sprinted for the hills.

The sky wasn’t right, but it didn’t seem like the end to me. I gathered my family close to stay in our house. We didn’t run, we didn’t fight, just watched and waited. Maybe that was the stupidest thing of all to do.

When night fell nothing changed. The sky was still a lunging blue, like someone had jabbed a pen into it and emptied the ink on fabric. There were no stars, and the moon was a hazy shadow of its normal self. There were no clouds either. The sky was empty, a stately, dark shade of nothing.

No one could sleep. We didn’t have day or night anymore, just blue. After a week of restless hours my wife locked herself and the children in the attic. Through the thin wall I heard my son bleating my name and Joanne repeating the same phrase over and over: “They only want Jeff. They only want Jeff.”

The neighbours stopped interacting. They would only talk to me through a crack in the door or a window screen. Paranoia was taking over. None of us understood what was going on and some weren’t taking any chances. It turned out all the fear in the world wasn’t going to save them.

This afternoon I received a message in my brain. I was sitting on my porch when a sharp pain pierced my forehead. I dropped to my knees and vomited on myself, but when the feeling was gone it caused an awakening. I remembered who I was.

In my bathroom hidden in a secret compartment behind the medicine cabinet I found a knife made of a metallic alloy not found on Earth. I used this knife to flay off my human skin and reveal my true form. There are others like me all over the world doing the same.

My people altered the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere to hide our ships. Everything is in position now so it’s time to begin. My wife and children will be first. Just sit tight, we’ll get to you.

Ends

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Portal
By DJ Tyrer

Mystic portal opens
The veil drawn back
By strange cosmic forces
Unknown to man
Mythical beasts
Wander through
Strange horrors seeking prey
Dark Lords greedily eye Earth
But none understand
The portal is two-way
A strike force is ready
Takes the battle through

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Issue 64 – Krampus Night

The Horns
By Harris Coverley

underneath the tree
bloody footprints – no presents!
Krampus strikes again!
that dark knight of Christmastide –
naughty-judged forevermore!

Must be Krampus
By Cardinal Cox

(with apologies to H. Moore & B. Fredericks and any other Schnitzelbank adapters)

Who has tiny shiny hooves?
Who scampers up on roofs?
Who carries heavy chains and whips?
Who brands liars on their lips?
Who punishes naughty kids?
Who bangs all the dustbin lids?
Who is armed with twigs of birch?
Who sees you if you flirt in church?
Who turns the milkmaids mad?
Who’s got servants just as bad?
Chatterer, Batterer, Clatterer and Snips
Gobbler, Wobbler, Hobbler and Chips
Shiny hooves, up on roofs
Chains and whips, brands liar’s lips
Punishes kids, dustbin lids
Twigs of birch, flirt in church
Turns milkmaids mad, servants as bad
Chatterer, Batterer, Clatterer and Snips
Gobbler, Wobbler, Hobbler and Chips
Must be Krampus
Must be Krampus
Must be Krampus
On Krampusnacht !

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Krampus versus Santa Claus
By Mark Hudson

Santa Claus appears in the ice so frozen,
Krampus appears in his lederhosen.
Santa receives a warm cup of milk,
Krampus looks for presents to bilk.

Santa Claus has a bunch of reindeer,
Krampus likes to wear brassiere.
Santa Claus brings presents on a sleigh,
Krampus is looking for reindeer to slay.

Santa Claus has a big belly button,
Krampus likes to chomp on some mutton.
Santa Claus lives way in the North Pole,
Krampus is a terrible soul.

Santa Claus grants children’s wishes,
Krampus makes children suspicious.
Santa Claus has bright red cheeks,
Krampus is one among many freaks.

Santa takes trips to Fort Lauderdale,
Krampis makes frequent visits to jail.
Santa Claus is loved by kindergarteners,
Krampus goes to court and has no pardoners.

Santa Claus climbs up on people’s roof,
Krampus is crushed by reindeer’s hoof.
Santa Claus has a reindeer named Rudolph,
Krampus sort of resembles Adolph.

Santa is Jolly, Krampus is folly,
Krampus looks like Salvador Dali.
Santa checks all the children’s lists,
when Krampus dies, he won’t be missed.

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I Remember
By Nieske den Heijer

It is Christmas and again I am forced into the horrible red suit with the fur lining. After all these years it still does not fit me well and the fake beard itches. But I endure it, as I feel my wait is almost over. Most people have forgotten my name, my face and my purpose. But I have never forgotten, deep down I remember who I am.

The new guise humanity has bestowed on me is infuriating; rewarding the good is admirable but I feel forced to reward the naughty as well. I can already hear the tantrums; mostly children who believe they are owed more than they deserve. The child who thinks the thirty gifts are not enough. The teenager who is already complaining on social media because they got a white tablet and not a pink one. The spouse who wanted a diamond necklace but only got a diamond ring and will now not speak to their betrothed for the rest of the season. Each of their cries flows through me and gives me strength.

Soon you will all invite me in for the gift-giving, unaware of who I really am. You see a jolly old man with his sack full of presents. But I am Krampus and I look forward to dragging you all into the deep, dark forests. Just like the old days, I am looking forward to it.

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misleading Christmas
behind the stockings and gifts
Krampus stalks the dark

By Aeronwy Dafies

Issue 61 – Cybercity Rain

With souls dulled by rain
Wet people stopped noticing
Their own bright raincoats

By Nieske den Heijer

Lurching, drought to flood.
Man attempts Nature’s control.
Hubris and Folly.

By David Edwards

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Memory of Water
By Cardinal Cox

Water doesn’t have memory
No recollection of plesiosaurs
Swimming in it – no wistful
Thoughts of lapping round Cnut’s
Ankles – no heroic tales of dousing
Flames caused by incendiaries

Instead each drop holds a hologram
Of jets flying through clouds
Every dawn etches images
Into the vapour – so that
Puddles that form on cracked
Concrete shine with previous
Rainbows not some toxic spill,

While robots shelter from the
Torrent people remember
Skipping in wellies – lightning
Plays around the pylons –
Neon flickers where broken
Drain pipes overflow

Cybercity Rain, with the Blues Again
By David Edwards

All life is online.
No one outside to listen
at raindrops falling…
count the puddles afterward…
anticipate them disturbed.

Risk
By F. J. Bergmann

Danger was the real addiction. As a child, Chaal had shown off
to his friends by darting into traffic with his cap pulled down
over his eyes. He often thought that drugs and sex would have
had no appeal if indulging safely in either had been possible.
Not so for Ruyp, who’d wept after Chaal’s diagnosis, lost
in morbid fear of the hab membrane dissolving early, alternately
assuring him of eternal love and questioning him furiously
about how the precautions could have failed. Chaal might have
caught Plague anywhere; once he had walked home too late
(after the night rain had begun) from another lover whom Ruyp
hadn’t known about (and spent the rest of the cycle in the airlock
because the doorman was afraid to let him in). Another time
he’d surreptitiously peeled back the safety membrane after dark
to step out on the balcony for the sheer rush of defiance, staring
at undulating clouds, feeling the rush of water and horrible wind
on his naked skin. Risk. It was why he’d volunteered, after all—
what could be less safe? Or more exciting. Not just the idea
of a new planet; the other colonists were also young, attractive
and non-gender-fixed, in much higher concentration than what
was available in the district where he’d grown up. But all that
had changed. Become dull. Settled, indeed. The wilderness had
devolved into mega-tiered habitat grids and spiraling skymalls
assembled only by drones, identical to those on Earth. Except for
the rain-borne Plague, of course. Poor Ruyp would return soon,
to hover, sulk and recriminate; nightfall was nearly upon them.
Chaal stroked the cutter in his pocket, waiting for dark, imagining
the slash, the rush of raw, damp atmo, Ruyp’s scream, the leap.

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Grandmother, please tell us about the sun one more time?
Was it bigger than the lamp that now hangs above the city?
Did the sun turn on and off just like the lamp?
Was the sky really blue?
How did you talk to people without a chip in your arm?
Did you really not have to take those gross vitamin D supplements every day?
Was the sun hot?
What is snow?
Wait, if snow is cold and the sun is hot, how did that work?
What was the food like?
What is steak and chips? Was it anything like the purple standard rations?
Where did music come from if you had no ear implants?
Did you ever go to the beach in the sun? Do waves really sound like the recordings?

Who will tell us these stories after she is gone?
When the last human who remembers the blue sky passes on?

By Nieske den Heijer

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Rainmaker
By K. A. Williams

The man invaded my office with a broken umbrella and some foul words. Water dripped off him, making a wet stain on my carpet.

“Can I help you or did you just come in to dry off?”

“My name is Silas Fortescue and I want you to stop the rain.”

I laughed. “Really, is that all? Maybe you didn’t read the words on the door before you came in. It says ‘Private Investigator’ not ‘Miracle Worker’.”

“Does the name Mason Cornflower mean anything to you?”

“Sure. He’s a rich manufacturer.”

“Yes,” agreed my visitor. “And the reason he’s so rich is because he’s responsible for the rain.”

“Is he?” I took my feet off the desk and sat up straighter. “The scientists said that it was an equipment malfunction in the weather controller.”

“Do you suppose it was just a coincidence that on the day after the continuous rain started, Cornflower Corporation advertised their new product – the personal rain shield, which sold out in a matter of hours. He also manufactures different styles of umbrellas, raincoats, and galoshes for the old-fashioned and less rich citizens.”

“That’s all very interesting, but what do you want from me?”

“You can get proof and turn him into the authorities or blackmail him into fixing the weather machine. I’d prefer the latter. I’m tired of the rain and I could use the money.”

I nodded. “Me, too. I’ve got a friend who can hack into Cornflower’s mainframe computer and get the evidence. He always needs money because he buys a lot of those interactive dating simulation vids. We could split it three ways.”

“Okay. How much do you think we should ask for?”

***

My office door opened. Silas Fortescue stepped in and removed his sunglasses. He was wearing a tee shirt, shorts, and a big smile. “We’ve done it! The sun is shining and my share has been deposited into my bank account already.”

“Yes, same here. My friend got the info easily and I blackmailed Cornflower with it. He’ll never miss the money. Who do you think made your new outfit and sunglasses? Since Cornflower knew when the rain would end, he was able to start manufacturing his ‘Fun In The Sun’ items before anyone else.”

The End

https://www.amazon.com/author/k.williams

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Rain in Gang Land
By Mark Hudson

In Chicago, in future times,
there is still plenty of crime.
Corpses hidden in the drain,
as they have acid rain.

It’s a war between gangsters and cops;
and it’s fought under raindrops.
No time for an umbrella in a shootout,
burglars hide at their hideout.

Smoking crack in abandoned buildings,
it’s dry inside; like the drywall they’re dealing.
Deadly heroin cut with evil glass,
while toxic rain wilts all the grass.

The rain causes prisoners to escape,
leading to murder, thievery, and rape.
The police are now nothing but cowards,
in rain-soaked streets where they have showered.

A windshield wiper is high-tech technology,
as rain prevents cops and their ophthalmology.
They can’t see the suspects getting away,
in a Chicago winter, with skies so gray.

Buckets of rain, bullets of power,
on the grass, not a single flower.
The grass is all withered and yellow,
reminiscent of a book by Saul Bellow.

So kiddies, put your rubber boots on,
trudge through the puddles, fear atomic bombs!
Sleep with your teddy, have pleasant dreams,
the gang bangers are always up to their schemes.

Cybercity Rain
By DJ Tyrer

Constant rainfall
Like tears for a city
Devoid of freedom and truth
Corporate plaything
Cybernetic battleground
Nightmare home for the poor

The End Time
By F. J. Bergmann

All day on the street it seemed to him
that on every block a rumbling bus
was coasting up to a traffic light
or pulling away from a scheduled stop,
reflections of its headlights on wet asphalt
like long, gleaming fangs.

But once night fell, as if some giant
had dropped a charred wool coat
soaked in silence and rain, time stretched
and yawned, closed its yellow eyes
for a moment, and then much longer
than a moment.

That must be why the street is empty, why
the splash and growl of traffic has dwindled
to absence, why the sodium vapor lights
are darkening to red, why he is frozen still,
waiting, increasingly certain that the bus
will never come.

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Ghost in the machine
Watches meat world going by
Filled with neon rain

By DS Davidson

Issue 29 – Hic sunt dracones… part one

Here Be Dragons
By David Babatunde Wilson

Sometimes, in ancient days
Maps bore the words
Here be Dragons”
In unknown lands
Where adventures lay

Sometimes, in my heart
I feel dragons
When I see your face
And dream of the unknown
Adventures ahead

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Here Be Dragons
By DS Davidson

Hidden from the world
More cunning than men
Dragons hide
In secret corners
And on unknown isles
Waiting
Waiting
Biding their time
Till the day no more slayers
Humanity grows too weak
Flabby, fearful
Then to re-emerge
Resume their crowns
In a deluge of prismatic flame

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first-born, flame-born, wyrms
wings wide, scintillating, flame
source of awe, terror
in talons hold life and death
wisdom and devastation

By Aeronwy Dafiesdragon-1969052_640

Cyberian Dragon
By Cardinal Cox

drowsy – lolling across cryptocurrency
hoard looted from datamine
each of the silicon-mix obsidian scales
etched with microcircuit processor
silver eye orbs function as inverse
VR – projecting out into the dark
fibre-optic nervous system filled
with light – liquid nitrogen
blood cooling hard-drive heart
ready in fragment of a second
to go flaming against either troll
or knight in blockchain mail

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Dragonfire
By DJ Tyrer

Alien dragon
Mythic star-straddling entity
Flesh like blazing plasma
Scales of deep-space ice
Breath like comets
Or solar flares
Blazing across the heavens
Cosmic dragonfire

Originally published in Aphelion webzine issue 236, February 2019

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Rainbow Valley
By Nieske den Heijer

Not long after the dragon had landed on top of Mount Everest, several channels were live broadcasting it to all corners of the world. Cameras attached to drones tried to catch every movement of the enormous limbs, and the pearlescent glimmer of pearly scales against the snow.

And then they spoke, greeting the human race as a whole and offering their help. They had seen that the Earth was in trouble and promised pearls of wisdom to the people who would climb up to ask their questions. But be quick, they would only be staying a short while.

Immediately the world went wild. Tibet and Nepal tried to remind the world that such a thing as ‘climbing permits’ existed, but the hoards of people were unfathomed by such technicalities. The same masses were also prepared to disregard any regulations, and common sense, for this opportunity.

Some of the first climbers were altruistic humans, asking about climate change, education, equality or medicine. These people, most of whom made it back down, quickly dispersed, with a strange glow to their skin and a clear purpose.

Sadly, most that followed them were inclined towards selfishness. Especially the rich, who were by now the only ones who could get their hands on mountaineering gear or could pay the steep fees that a Sherpa could now charge. There were also the people with the least experience, and who, overcome by cold and envy, started falling over left and right.

A rumble came from the summit, as the dragon laughed. “Ah, the first few made me so hopeful for the human race, but the rest of you… ah the rest of you. I now know what I need to know, thank you very much.” They stretched their legs, scales glittering in the sunlight, which caused a global sigh from the people watching the news. Then they spread their leathery wings and a shudder went through the massive body as it readied for take-off. A few people on the summit begged for them to stay, and others screamed as they realised what was about to happen.

The dragon pushed off, the downwind from the wings pushing tons of snow downwards. A jumble of colourful snowsuits made their way down the mountain, in a strange way mirroring the gleam of the scales that caught beams of sunlight as the dragon flew off to wherever it had come from. Then the cameras went black.

Ends

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Foolheart
By Harris Coverley

“o’er there be dragons”
“I fear nothing!”―ended up
crunchy with ketchup

 

Want tales of dragons and slayers?

Watch out for Crunchy With Ketchup – coming soon from Wolfsinger Publications