Well, yes, right…or write…

The clocks have gone back, and it’s getting dark earlier and earlier, but there is still a blackbird singing in the garden, although there is also the smell of wood smoke in the air – from a bonfire, I would guess – and a definite chill in the air. The autumn leaves have been exceptionally beautiful this year, seeming to have an extra couple of tones of red and orange. And there are still plenty of late flowers out. I may be a summer person, but it is  decidedly beautiful at the moment..


I said I’d take part in NaNoWriMo this year, didn’t I? What on earth could I have been thinking of?

Did I really commit to writing over a thousand words a day all through the month?

Oh, for goodness sake! I’ve not even had time to look at anyone’s posts for the last five days, let alone write anything.

I quit. November 2nd, and I quit. Just like that. I’m sure no one else has ever backed out of it that early. Can I claim some sort of record?

But, as some sort of penance, I’m going to put up a short fiction piece for today’s post. I wrote it last week, so that’s almost November…

Light Years

It appears now both ridiculously arrogant and incredibly stupid, but after a mere few thousand years of development we seemed to think that we had arrived at a stage of development that we should consider to be an advanced civilisation. For a handful of years we had been capable of a rather limited space travel. We were beginning to probe the makeup of the universe and were on our way to some understanding of its complexities. And out of all of these thousands of years of development, we had had machines only for a few hundred years. We had had electric light for less than two hundred years. Computers for less than a hundred. We reached the moon one year, and two generations later we were probing the edges of the Solar System. And in those two generations, the life expectancy of almost everyone on the planet increased dramatically. We invented mobile phones and within one generation they were tiny computers that virtually controlled our lives.

In short, the pace of our technological progress increased exponentially.

But we had had wars and cruelty and genocide all of this time. We never solved that problem, we only invented crueller and more effective killing machines.

And should we ever make contact with another civilisation – that’s civilisation, mark you, not just life form – then the odds were that it might be several millions of years old.

No one seemed to realise the rather obvious implications.

And, despite warnings from a few of our more eminent and talented thinkers, we continued to recklessly send signals out into this huge unknown, advertising both our presence and our level of development.

Science fiction in popular culture would have aliens suddenly visiting our planet, swooping through the skies in huge flying saucers with deadly heat rays as weapons. The visitors would be recognisably bipedal – large headed, of course, since their brains would be more developed than ours – but with a limited range of facial expressions (why limited, I always wondered? Surely they would have developed more subtle ones? But perhaps they no longer needed them). The world would be in a panic; world leaders would meet, and attempt to make contact with the visitors. There would be an ill-advised attempt to engage them in battle, which would turn out very badly, but they would finally be forced to leave, or leave of their own accord, and in the end we would be the wiser for it.

But it wasn’t like that at all.

No one seemed to know what they saw, and many seemed unaware even that they had seen anything at all. There was light, but not the lights of UFOs buzzing through the skies at night, and not the stabbing beams of destruction envisioned by the writers and film-makers. For several days, it seemed to me that the light was a rather odd colour, and at times a little misty, or…hard. Others noticed that the light would move around, almost in blocks. It sounds ridiculous, but there you go.

That was about the time that I noticed a slight throbbing in my head and my brother complained of a ringing in his ears. No more than that, although it did seem that there was more shouting and arguing from some of the families in the neighbourhood, but this wasn’t particularly unusual and I thought nothing of it then.

It was the following day, which was yesterday, that everything seemed to go quiet. The arguing had stopped, for which I was grateful, but so had the background noise of traffic. I walked down to the ground floor and pushed open the door, and with that the throbbing in my head seemed to get worse. There were one or two people in the street outside, but no one seemed to be in a particular rush. All of them appeared to be strolling or standing around aimlessly and when I began to walk towards one of them, I found it quite difficult to move my legs; they felt very, very tired. I stopped and looked at the man I had been approaching, but when I caught his eye he began crying. It seemed shocking, and I wanted to cry too, although I did manage to stop myself. In the end, I turned around and went back home. I thought I’d see if there was anything on the news, but the TV no longer worked, and nor did my laptop. There was power, since the power lights came on, and I filled the electric kettle and made a cup of tea, but that tasted awful – perhaps the milk was off –  and I poured it away.

My head was still throbbing, but I thought I ought to see how my brother was this morning. I tapped on his door, then went in, but he wasn’t in his room and the bed looked as though it hadn’t been slept in. He had gone out the previous evening, and it seemed obvious that he had stayed out all night. It didn’t seem to matter.

I still felt tired, and now I did start to cry. It only lasted a moment, though, and then I thought I should have some breakfast. I put a couple of slices of bread into the toaster and put a pan on the cooker. I was going to fry a couple of eggs, but the oil in the bottle seemed to have turned a greenish colour and set solid overnight. I pushed the lever down on the toaster anyway, and for about a second the whole thing glowed with a bright orange light that hurt my eyes, and then just faded away. There was no smell of burning, and the toaster looked unharmed. I unplugged it from the wall, and lifted the lever. The bread was still white.

All of this should have worried me more than it did, but the truth was that I felt that I didn’t care. For the next hour or so I sat at the window, watching the few people outside trudging slowly along or standing and crying. A couple of them were lying motionless in the road. With an effort, I lifted my head and looked up to see that there were bands of thick colour across the sky; not clouds, because they were too transparent to be clouds, and they were the wrong colour anyway. I don’t know what colour they were, but it was wrong.

When I looked down again, the street was empty, apart from the colours.

It is possible that what we saw was no more than a trick of the light, or perhaps they were machines. Possibly, they were even the creatures that had sent them. Who knows, maybe they were both at once.

Light. Yes, light. It keeps coming back to light.

I don’t even know whether this is the end.

But I think it is.

64 thoughts on “Well, yes, right…or write…

  1. I really like this piece, Mick – disturbing but very subtly so. Almost eerie – it wears its horror very lightly. Also, I agree that it is a beautiful time of year! I love autumn and the smell of bonfires (I have plenty of my own!) and the colours are just super.
    Don’t worry about the NaN-whatever it is. I have never attempted it and never will. Horses for courses – just do your own thing 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I have always thought it a very odd endeavour indeed, but clearly it is incredibly popular and people really enjoy it, so hurrah for that. If it gets people excited about writing then super. But if anyone can explain the appeal to me I am genuinely all ears!

        Liked by 4 people

  2. I agree with Lucy…remain independent. I don’t see how this can be done, anyway, unless you are a full time writer in which case I suppose you wouldn’t need it anyway. However, your loyal supporters gained by getting the story, which I much enjoyed!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m an autumn person, Mick, so I love this time of year – today has been gorgeous 🙂

    And your fiction! Very creepy, and I like your way of thinking… even though it’s terrifying. Don’t worry about NaNo- if it’s not for you this time why stress yourself out trying to write – there’s no point 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Oooh Great Story. I love the subtlety and creepiness. I did Nano last year for the first time and it was quite brutal. Worth it, but not worth it enough for a repeat. Just do your own thing, especially if you are pretty good with self-discipline. Have a wonderful autumn!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think you may well be right Mick. Having said that, if alien civilisation is so much more advanced than our own, they would (arguably) already be aware of our existence via their superior technology. So, if they do exist its possible they have no interest in us or, alternatively observe us in a manner to that in which a human might observe an aquarium full of fish (with no intention to harm but no desire to interfere, merely an idle curiosity). There is also the theory that aliens created the earth or we are living in a computer simulation. I dont subscribe to this hypothesis it is, none the less a fascinating one. If I where a betting man (which I’m not) I would put my money on humanity either spreading out to other planets (although we would take both our good and bad points with us) or the whole thing ending in a way not entailing aliens. In my more optimistic moments I think how we have survived so much and think that, ultimately we will find a way to muddle through.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So many possibilities! Maybe the thing to fear is an alien civilisation just slightly more advanced than ours, (although every time I look at the news, I feel that could apply to the majority of the animal species on our own planet), or one that is desperately searching for the ‘Goldilocks planet’ as its own one is now ‘full’. I just have a bad feeling about the whole thing…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. There is also the theory that all civilisations do (when they reach a certain point in their development) self-destruct which (it’s proponents argue) explains why we havent been contacted by aliens. As you say, so many possibilities. I also think there are certain people (not your good self)! who obsess about aliens rather than dealing with concrete and present threats such as climate change.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. A fantastic story! Funny how we have this vision of alien life (civilized of course) and it could be something absolutely unpredictable. Mick, I’m 2 days in and I’m already thinking of throwing it in too. Ha! Trouble is, I’ve been very lacking in self discipline lately and I took Nano on as a way to enforce some upon myself. I’m done for today. Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. But I’ve done nearly 4000 words in 2 days!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I can’t image taking on NaNoWriMo. Seems like the only way to crank out that much would be near stream of consciousness and the results would be utter crap. I can hardly type a word without stopping to edit, probably a throwback to my old coding days.

    You never struck me as the type to write sci-fi, this was a fun departure. I like that genre because you can come up with almost anything and have it be plausible even if the very idea of interstellar travel seems impossible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think most writers do treat it that way. In fact, many advise you to write that way generally – stream of consciousness and then edit, edit, edit.
      You’re quite right about me and sci-fi; that’s the first one that I’ve ever written. It began as an idea for a Halloween story, but kind of morphed into sci-fi without my permission.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. VERRRY Good Story, my Dear Mick! You have been hiding Your talents. Am Sure You have Much more in You. I have not come acorssThis sort of Alien Invasion so far! Fantastic imagination! Kudos, and let Us have More of it. Hearty Regards. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. That was a great read,thanks for sharing it. I guess we are so concerned about about Aliens and Wars, that we fail to see how the new age technologies that are creating an alienation of our self from ourselves..or the constant ‘war’ within each of us to be able to achieve so much more than time allows us too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m glad you realized that you didn’t want to commit to such a grueling writing schedule, and got out quickly! Personally, I tend to stick with things much longer than I prefer, just out of guilt, which serves no one.
    And l liked the story very much! Believable, and paced just right. And who knows, it just might happen?


    1. Thanks, Ann. I’m sure if I had stuck with it I might have got something out of it, although I suppose that might have been no more than a headache and frustration.
      And let’s hope I’m not predicting the future!


  10. Pingback: Light years by Mick Canning #writephoto | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  11. I would have liked to have read more… any chance? Like the bit about the brother being out up to no good, perhaps? Chapter Two..
    Yes hasn’t Autumn been heavenly this year. Later still, but beautiful. I have been to both Wakehurst and Nymans and walked in the woods. ( and if you are interested Wakehurst have a wonderful candle light walk through their gardens and woods in early December to see it in frost and candle light. Cold today though….bbbrrr

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very cold today – I’ve walked 15-odd miles in it! Lovely morning, though.
      Any more? Afraid not – that’s the end of that one. Not a happy one. I do write cheerful stuff sometimes, though!


  12. Pingback: Photo prompt round up – Anomaly #writephoto | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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