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Taking Submissions: Scott’s Planet
Deadline: May 30th, 2022
Payment: 3 cents per word
Theme: Shared world science fiction anthology based on the short story at the end of this post
A Shared World Anthology based on an existing short story contained at the end of the this description.
500 to 5000 words.
Obviously no repritns.
Pays 3 cents a word upon publication.
Closes May 30, 2022. Anticipated Pub Date, February 2023.
This is the short simple story the world is set in.
Use your imagination. This is not the only settlement. These are not the only characters. I’m looking to fill a world here.
I set my gear on the shelf outside the back door and wiped my feet. There was a downside to free range chickens.
Lois spoke from the kitchen.
“So it’s happened.” She said the words matter-of-factly.
“Yup.” I answered. I began shedding my boots–even cleaned, they didn’t enter the house.
She continued. “I downloaded the details. They say we have three weeks to be ready for transport. There’ll only be one ship. A one-way trip to almost anywhere.”
We had known this was coming. Now it was final. Scott’s Planet, once in the first wave of colonization planets, was now determined by the Union to no longer be economically viable.
“We don’t have to go.” I said.
“Don’t be silly. You know we’ve always talked about leaving.”
She was right. She often spoke of leaving.
I let the silence speak for me.
All sounds from the kitchen stopped. There were footsteps. Lois appeared in the doorway. “You don’t want to go.”
The bottom fell out of my stomach. All the make-believe conversations I’d held in my head dropped with it.
“I thought we might could talk about it.”
“Talk about what? Living in caves and eating eggs?”
“We wouldn’t be living in caves.” The colony was well supplied. There were spare parts.
“We might as well be. What happens when the solar cells go bad?”
“We go into town and have them fixed.”
“There won’t be a town. Where will the parts for the shop come from? Remember when the fab shop’s data files crashed? We were within six weeks of being powerless.
“The evacuation ship is bringing a year’s worth of spare parts.”
“I don’t want to die here.”
“This isn’t about dying here. It’s about living here.”
She stared at me. Her head cocked, her eyes wide. “You’re serious.”
“You can’t be suggesting we stay.”
“No.” My voice was flat.
“Thank God,” she said. She smiled a small victory smile and approached me; her arms open for the conciliatory hug.
I stood stationary. My guts shook. “I wasn’t suggesting that we stay.” She looked puzzled for a moment and then she stopped. I could see her eyes narrow as she considered the ramifications.
“You’re staying.” She realized it was no longer a question.
“What about me?”
“You’ll have the relocation allowance. I won’t need the credits we’ve accumulated. You can take them.”
Her eyes fixed on a spot on the wall, just over my right shoulder. She was thinking. The panicked look was gone from her face. We weren’t poor. The credits were enough to live in slight comfort for years.
“Okay.” She said. We ate supper in silence.
* * *
From my back porch, I looked at the neighbor’s farm. Pete and Catherine’s spread and my own fed from the same power center. Farm was a mild word. Both had once been state of the art Biological Interface Units, designed to provide a safe and dependable food supply for the colony. Pete and Catherine raised sheep; Lois and I ran chickens. I’d always called it my chicken farm.
Pete would be out on his porch looking over the land, fretting over undone chores. I walked across the spongy surface.
“Nice evening.” Pete rumbled out the greeting as soon as I rounded the corner to his porch. The porches had been our own addition. The colonial design committee or whoever designed our units hadn’t believed porches were important. For Pete, the porch was more important than ever. From his wheelchair it made a good place to look out, he could do little more than that these days.
He gestured toward my chair. The chess board was already set up. I took my seat. With a rapid reflexive motion we walked through what over the years had become our standard opening; neither willing to change what we perceived to give us the advantage.
“Looks like you’ll be getting out of here sooner than you expected.” I broached the subject of the impending evacuation as I moved my queen clear of a knight’s attack.
He paused, studying the board, and with a slight grunt reached out and advanced a pawn. “Yeah,” he said. “They’ve already scheduled me for repair.” He spoke of his crushed spine as if it were a faulty power conduit. I guess it was.
“This is sooner than you had expected.” I gave an upbeat lilt, looking for a response.
“I never planned it this way.” He said it without bitterness. Pete hadn’t always been in the wheelchair. Seven months ago he fell off the roof of his processing building. Facilities to repair his spine didn’t exist planet side. We, the collective colonial we, made the decision to support a lift for Pete to go off-planet for medical treatment. Then came the evacuation. If he lifted now, it was one way. If he stayed, it was forever.
“You’ll be as good as new?” I took his knight. It was troubling when he got a knight anywhere near my king.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I’ll be as good as new.” He looked out over the view from his porch. “I’ll just not be coming back.”
“She’s excited. You know how she is. She could shine up a pile of shit and make you believe it came out that way.”
I smiled and advanced a pawn. Catherine was Pete’s wife.
“So what will you do after you get fixed?”
“I don’t know, I never thought about it. I just assumed I’d come back here. Now that’s not a plan. I’m sure there’s plenty of room out there for a good station mechanic. Some colonies are screaming for us.” He dropped his queen back; I immediately slid my rook into an open file.
“I’m thinking of staying.” He countered my rook by blocking the attack with a bishop.
“She’s thinking of going.”
“I’d stay if it weren’t for this.” He banged the wheelchair. “So would Catherine. I know she wants to stay.”
“Check.” My knight forked his king and queen.
He slid his king a square. I took his queen.
“There won’t be any more ships.” I said the words softly. “This’ll be the only one.”
Catherine didn’t respond. She often didn’t. We walked silently for a dozen steps. Catherine had been my friend long before Pete’s accident.
She seldom mentioned my wife’s name.
I looked at my best friend, my neighbor. Her face told me to wait. She was formulating a thought. “Lois will want to leave?”
We both knew the answer. I answered anyway.
“She’s going. I’m staying.”
“Why is it come to this?” She asked. “Why here? Why now?”
“I don’t know. Too many planets, not enough ships, not enough money. The Union says it can’t support every isolated planet. We spread too fast, too far.” I kicked at the spongy green mat that covered most of the planet. My chickens thrived on it, not much else would eat it. “It might be temporary, it might be permanent.”
“I love you.” I said it as a challenge. Some things were permanent.
A soft clucking interrupted us as Helen pecked Catherine’s foot. Helen was a great red. One of the approved colonial breeds of chicken. She stood as high as Catherine’s hip pocket. Her clucking took on a more purring tone.
Catherine reached into her pocket and pulled out a few crumbles. Helen’s head froze, an eye focused intently on Catherine’s hand. As soon as it opened and the food dropped to the ground, Helen jumped forward and began to peck the particles. Catherine gave a small laugh and reached down and gave Helen a small stroke on the back. The chicken sidestepped. Chickens don’t like being touched.
“I love you too.” She said. “I love your chickens.”
“If we stay, we could die here.”
“Weren’t we planning on that anyway?”
We spent a few moments contemplating it.
“Would we be alone?”
“I don’t know. I can’t imagine everyone wanting to go. Some people were born here.”
“Pete and Lois will go?”
“Yes.” I said it as much in hope as anything I’d ever said. I took a familiar step towards the fence line; Catherine took my elbow. I was acutely aware of her breast against my arm. Helen looked up, a single eye focused on Catherine, she contemplated whether to follow for future food or finish the residue. The residue won. There were other chickens approaching and Helen shared poorly.
Catherine going for a walk usually gathered a small flock. Most of my chickens lived in the barns. Two years ago one of the power supplies gave out. Replacement parts were already in short supply. Faced between butchering half a hundred chickens or introducing free-range poultry to Scott’s Planet, the poultry won. An accidental rooster in the mix turned several dozen chickens into over a hundred. Included in that number were now at least two small flocks gone completely wild. They roosted in a grove, I guess that’s the right word, of large ferns down by the creek.
I knew I’d violated at least a half a dozen colonization regulations by letting the chickens go feral. As of today, I chose not to worry. There wasn’t a native non-plant life form for two hundred miles that was bigger than my little finger, and those were small lizards. The chickens loved them. I wondered from time to time if the chickens were making the lizards into faster and better critters. Both the chickens and the lizards loved the tiny bugs that permeated the fungus-and-plant-rich soil.
We walked together across the loamy soil and paused at the garden gate. The garden grew well. The growing season on the planet supported three crops with a long but mild winter that supported the traditional early spring crops of turnips, salsify, and kohlrabi.
“How do we tell them?” I asked. “How do we tell them that we’re staying? Together.”
Via: B Cubed Press’s Moksha.
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!