Fly Like an Eagle, Sting Like a Bee

When the bird first visited us, we were young. We had just developed spaceflight, and the universe seemed so vast. Few among us believed in magic then; what was there to believe in? Magic is only what we call that which science has yet to explain. What the bird does is not magic. It is not technology, which is produced as the result of effort and progress over time. It is biology, it is nature, and it is inevitable.

(The Falcon by Alex Blăjan)

When the bird first entertained us, we were learning. We learned where it had come from, and why, though it resembled a bird in some respects, it did not in others. Nothing from beyond the stars could be a bird as we knew it. The bird was more reptilian than avian, and unlike the raptors of Earth, who have a screech, the bird did have a song. It would never harmonize with the locals, but it sang.

(The Arrow by Nicola Jones)
When the bird warned us, we were amazed. The markings it left across our beaches, in our mud, and on our trees were nothing short of miraculous to the scientists. An alien life form has arrived, and it was learning to communicate. First with arrows, then with shapes, it built up a lexicon until finally it could draw what it wanted; a flock of “birds”, and a skull and crossbones.

When we first rejected the bird, we were divided. There were some who felt a kinship to the traitor, who abandoned its species to save another. They were given little chance to speak. Though the bird may have cared for us, it never understood how much more we cared for the universe.

Afternoon Tea

“Hello dear! Would you like to stay for tea? I have cookies, for when darling children like you come to my home. Just have a seat at the table. I know it may be a bit tall for you, but we’ll fix that soon enough. Just enjoy the food, dear. 

How tall are you, would you say? Four feet and nine inches? A wonderful beginning, if I may be so bold to say. Where would you like to stop, dear? Seven? Ten? Fourteen? Some of my children have reached fifty feet. Make sure to eat well, dear, and drink up.”

Interview, Deconstructed

When Qwerty lost her muse, she started saving up. There was only so much that someone could do on Earth. If you weren’t an artist or a manager, your job was being performed better by computers. Those thieves had taken all of the work humans performed and then had the audacity to demand rights. If she had picked something like writing or music, things might have been easier. When your work was ediblep, there were fewer options.

Neptune had a teaching position open. Qwerty didn’t have room to be picky. The Neptunians were famous for their belief in the importance of leisure and entertainment; they had quotas for the amount of space that had to be dedicated to it. Qwerty had always thought it silly to have a playhouse behind every school, but as long as she didn’t have to use it, she could cope. Still, she had to admit she was expecting a slightly less intimate interview. Mack dressed in sweatpants and a t shirt, which would never fly back home. Instead, no one commented on the discrepancy between her clothing and his. It was an odd feeling.
Though they were in a restaurant, the food was all hers. There were other members of the company there, ignoring her interview completely. Mack took one bite of her baked chowder before getting to business. He smoothed out his shirt, which stretched tightly across his ponderous belly. 

“Tell me why you deserve this job,” said the man who would determine her future.

Qwerty tried to put a lid on her panic. She needed to be smooth. Anything too neurotic would get her a psych profile. 

“I value the work I do. Finding new ways to present and prepare food is so interesting. How are you enjoying the chowder?”

Mack missed her semaphorism, unsurprisingly. Neptunians were unflinchingly direct, which always created a tension in the room between them and her. While Qwerty might have been willing to fight until and past a stalemate, Mack was a Neptune native, and he would have no interest.

“It’s a paradox, you see. How can I hire you without checking out your work? But by using your services in this capacity, have I not hired you? It would be downright cruel not to pay you for this spread.”

Qwerty blinked, rotating her eyes toward the other diners.

“I’m sorry, so…”

“You got the job. Congratulations, Qwerty. With your portfolio, you’ve earned it. And with what you’ve been through? You deserve it.”

Dazed, Qwerty paused for a moment, and following Mack’s train of thought, stood up. He shook her hand warmly, and she felt her heart race. She was going to teach an entire generation of molecular gastronomists.

Where the Heart Is

Barry had never been an optimist. If things were going to go wrong, they were. There was nothing hope was going to do to fix it. And as pessimistic as he was, he could hardly be an idealist; people, like the rest of reality, would eventually disappoint.

When his retinue began to collapse around him, he wasn’t shocked. They were unreliable, always late and never apologetic. One by one, they left, and the chance of finishing the housing project dwindled. He couldn’t afford it by himself.

With just a facade between him and the world, Barry turned to the last member of his retinue, the only one who had never turned against him. But Terry was gone. Barry allowed himself a moment of panic before accepting his fate. He had never been an optimist.

Man’s Best Friend

Buck wore red, which nobody with a any brains would wear to a bullfight. He smiled and tipped his hat whenever he caught someone staring. Sauntering through the crowd, he finally hopped up to his seat, apologizing to everyone already seated. He hadn’t expected his shirt to blend in so much. Next time he would need to prepare better.  

“I give him five to three,” commented the old man to his left.

“Got enough meat on him to stand in a fight, but he’s getting older, slower.”

“Oh, same here. The hat looks worn down, too.”

The man furrowed his eyebrows.

“Are you dull? I was talking about the bull?”

Buck nodded.

“I’m a little dull. Folk gotta talk slow-like around me.”

The man shook his head, sliding further away.

Buck whistled, leaning forward. The fight was about to begin. He wondered if they were close, underneath all the acting and faking. He thought if had a bull, he’d be his friend. 

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The bull tossed its head, the audience hooting and tossing pieces of popcorn at its head. It turned to look at them. Buck felt a twinge of guilt. Even if they’d chosen this, it couldn’t be easy. 

The man stood, knife pressing into the side of his arm. The blood shone bright red in the midday sun, and the bull saw it. Buck settled in, stroking his rat as it trembled. If he had a bull, he’d have been its friend, but this wasn’t his bull.

Buy or Lease?

“She’s a liability! If you’d ever taught her to climb safely-”
“This is my fault now? I wasn’t there, I couldn’t catch her.”

Casey pretended to look at a mug. Why would anyone want to drink out of hospital memorabilia?

“-and now you’re making a scene! This is just like you!”

Sam was probably awake by now. Hopefully the nurses were in the room. It made sense that no one wanted to help someone like Sam. All anyone was talking about was separating them.

“Folks, I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave. There are actual parents here.”

Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing.

Prompt: Hospital gift shop, 9:00 AM 

Natural Formations

Cato had elected to live a simple life. In his cave, no one came looking for him. That was why the knock at the door surprised him. Only a banjoher could knock on his barrier. Why would one of them seek him out now? A tense conversation via flag followed, and Cato retreated deeper, thinking about what his intruder had said.

The person at the door claimed to be his sister, though he had grown up as an only child. She was a banjoher, but they were rare. How likely was it that he had a secret banjoher sister? His years of dedicated study were nothing compared to what she could teach him. This was the perfect trap for a banjotak of his caliber. 

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There is no safety here, he signaled.

I am friendly. I come in peace, she replied.

You come with weapons and betrayal, he said.

I wish to entreat with you, she offered.

I will go to war before I let you pass, he retorted.
You will lose, she concluded.

Cato sized up his food supply. He could wait two weeks before stepping outside. That would give her time to admit her true motivations. Love! As if.