Three By Me
(A diyMFA 101 Exercise in 'Voice')
by Eric C Bailey
Three short stories, each written in a different authors 'voice'. Based on the nursery rhyme 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider'. Move cursor below each story to find the author's name I am mimicking.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout,
Down came the rain and washed the spider out,
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
Science Fiction/Fantasy (Foul Language/Mature Content)
WARNING: Spoilers Alert!
I, Bamah Baeu, was finally heading home to Earth after a three-year contract on Mars. On the drive to the Spider Ground Base, I rejoiced in the red, ocher and gray horizon for one last time. Gentle winds swirled dust around and between our shuttle and the Main Base Station buildings. Like all such buildings on Mars, they were a sterile, barely visible series of pale gray domes, and the occasional brick shaped out building.
Arriving at the entry to the base, we entered a series of rooms that mimicked the Main Base Station if only in color and the lack of windows. The one exception was the main waiting room which had large panoramic windows in the wall on the left as we walked in, and on the right-hand side several smaller windows and skylights at the top of the curved wall/roof. Through them you could see part of the Spider itself and, looking up, the 'web'; the large cable that seemed to disappear into the distance as your eye followed it upward.
As I was scheduled for the second trip of the day, and the first load of passengers had not boarded yet, I made my way through the filled seating area to the far wall where there were no windows, just the air-lock door to enter the Spider.
I sat in one of the last empty chairs, noticing out of the corner of my eye a fellow passenger sitting in the chair next to me. He seemed way too nervous for someone on another planet about to take a space elevator back to space. He had to be nervous about something else...
Just as I turned to ask him (rudely) why he was so nervous, a bell dinged and most of the waiting passengers started to stand and gather their stuff to board the Spider. There followed three separate dings and, one by one, the three airlock doors opened, and I could briefly see into the Spider's cabin.
Mars bureaucracy is efficient, and the waiting room quickly emptied, leaving me and a few others for the second trip of the day. The air-lock doors were closed, and the brief countdown to liftoff started. I could feel a faint, rising background vibration through my chair, which quickly dropped to almost nothing as the Spider left the docking bay. It accelerated quickly, climbing the cable into orbit.
I was curious about my fellow passenger but quickly forgot him as I thought about my time on Mars and my arrival back on Earth. I knew after the first blush of reacquainting myself with Earth's finer things, including but not limited to full gravity, it would soon pale. I would soon be looking for another contract, preferably off-Earth.
I was startled out of my reverie by the surprisingly loud whumf of the Spider notching itself back into its dock on the other side of the wall from me.
The Spider, having passed through what little atmosphere there is on Mars, had transported frozen trace levels of oxygen, carbon monoxide, water vapor, and lubricant from higher up the web. The half-melted space sludge did not last long at ground level. As I watched, the transparent-aluminum windows above me dried almost immediately, even in the weak sun and faint breeze.
Still curious about my fellow passenger, I tried to come up with a way to be impolite, politely. Then, amid the jostle of the two crowds moving upstream and downstream respectively, we bumped into each other as we headed towards the open doors of the air-lock. Amid the apologies, we traded names as we walked into the Spider for our trip up to the Orbital Station. That's when I asked him why he, Nevin Sparks, seemed... upset. I didn't want to use the word 'nervous'. As we settled into our chairs and strapped in, he explained that he was an engineer, and the inspector of the space elevator and the Spider. But it always made him nervous going into space and inspecting the things... never mind riding in one.
"Oh." I said.
"Don't worry, I'll be fine when I get back on board the ship and I'm heading back to Earth."
"Well... that's good." I said, looking straight ahead at the bulkhead in front of us as my stomach mimicked the motion of the Spider.
I really need to learn to mind my own business.
2. MOUSE ATTACK
My name is Harry Dresden. I'm a wizard; I have a listing in the yellow pages and everything. Tomorrow, my dog Mouse will go stay with my daughter, Maggie. She is living with my friends the Carpenters, for her own safety. Because I'm a wizard, and that puts people I care about in danger. Today, on what has to be the hottest day of the year, Mouse is helping me on one last mission. As we approached the mouth of the alley, Mouse stopped walking. I stopped alongside of him. Because when Mouse, a Foo Dog as big as a small fridge, hesitates, it's wise to pay attention. Mouse never hesitates. I turned and looked at him; he turned his head slightly, and he lifted an eyebrow at me, dropping his jaw in a canine grin. Well, that's what it seemed like he did. Maybe I've been spending too much time with him.
Just to be safe, I opened my Sight to scan the alley. There was nothing, no magic, no magical creatures at all. Not even a Fairy, which was a little weird, but not enough to matter. The only sign of life was a lone spider with no magic, climbing up a waterspout on the other side of the alley mouth.
As we started walking into the alley, Mouse hesitated only slightly before he took a moment to pee, of all things. I turned and looked down the alley while Mouse finished up. We continued on after a couple minutes like nothing had happened. Which... it hadn't.
My name is Mouse. I'm a Good Dog. My Friend, Harry Dresden is a good and powerful wizard, but he doesn't see everything. I don't see everything either, but I can see some things My Friend doesn't. Haunts are a type of creep, well that's what me and Maggie call them. I can barely see haunts under normal conditions. But, if something goes wrong when someone stands up to them, and makes them flee, they can sometimes increase their power, concentrate it while inhabiting another creature. A death sentence for the unlucky creature. To the haunt, it's when something goes right and they can increase their power and move to another being, like this spider. This is when they can become dangerous, no one knows why, when separated from their tribe they become more dangerous. But they do. As this one is. I know this haunt spider will kill My Friend if I don't do something. I can feel it in my tail.
My Friend already suspects me of having more controlled magic than most Foo dogs, so I have to hide it if possible. I have to figure out how to kill the haunt spider without My Friend knowing. So, I stood there panting slightly, looking a little more silly than usual. Then I lifted my leg a little higher than required and knocked the haunt spider off of the downspout with a short spurt of 'pee', as My Friend calls it. My Friend, turned away, looking down the alley...
Good. This put the haunt spider on the ground and into range for the next step. It was a tiny spider, although it's struggle to get out of a puddle of pee on the ground would not take long. It had landed on a patch of sun-warmed, dry dirt at the mouth of the alley. As I watched, the dry dirt and the sun combined to start drying out the puddle the spider was in. So, I quickly turned away from the haunt spider, allowing me to block the sun, and get in position to take the next step.
As I concentrated on the power of the sun, now falling directly on me, the ends of my fur and mane sparkled, hidden slightly by the glare of the sun, so My Friend would notice nothing unusual if he looked back at me. I concentrated a little magic in the right spot, looked over at My Friend, and squeezed out a smallish 'pfoot', big enough to kill even a haunt-infested spider and blowing it back up onto the downspout with a moist thunk.
My Friend looked over at me, arching his eyebrow at me. I shook my fur/mane out, wagging my tail and dropping my jaw into a canine grin. "Whuff," I said. My Friend shrugged slightly and started moving farther down the alley. I followed My Friend towards what could be our last adventure together, for a while at least.
Even though My Friend did not understand what I had done, I know I'm a Good Dog. A very Good Dog. Maybe I will get French fries later. I love My Friend; I love Maggie, and I love French fries.
Jim Butcher... duh...
3. AN ITREYAN FEAST
Wrapping shadows tighter around herself, she moved closer to the wall of the nearest house, shivering as she touched the chill foundation stone. She quietly crept along the wall, peeking around the corner of the house into the alley. She pulled back, startled by the movement of an Itreyan spider climbing up the waterspout right in front of her. Small, and guilty only of bad taste, although most don't realize that.*
Mister Kindly sat at her feet, a cat that was not a cat, a shadow barely darker than Mia's own shadow, feeding on Mia's fear, little as there was at the moment. Mia sent the not-cat down the alley, scouting ahead of her...
She started to follow Mister Kindly, shivering slightly as a hopefully brief (but fierce) rain shower beat down on the miserable nevernight. She twitched slightly as a gout of water running off of the roof knocked the spider to the muddy ground behind her.
A door swung open in the taverna across the road, spilling the light from multiple lanterns, into the nevernight like yet another sun, as if three were not enough. The light, as little as it was, contributed if only for a moment to the brightest and driest it would get tonight...
The spider ran lightning fast and, despite being lit by the lanterns made it back up the water spout unharmed.
Mia stood in the alley, hesitating. She should head back to the barracks.
And then, in a rush, memories of her childhood almost overwhelmed her. Her first taste of Itreyan spider. Her father arguing with a newly hired chef that cutting the spiders above the legs was the only proper, civilized method...
Mia, shocked by a mingling of memories, uttered a whispered... "Fuck me." Then, quiet as death, and as quick as an Itreyan spider, she jumped from shadow to shadow in the opposite direction she had been going, heading back to the Inn she had just left. To confirm if Ashlinn really tastes like an Itreyan spider...
* The Itreyan spider is all that is left of what was once one of the most abundant, um, of animals. Unfortunately for them they were delicious, and only the smallest (which still exists) were poisonous at all, and only slightly at that, just enough to ruin the flavor.
The larger ones, of which there were several variations of sub-species were all too easy to catch and doubly unfortunate for them, while they lasted, they were all the rage among the marrow-born, and of course the lower houses as well if they could get them.
The passion of the chefs for cooking them only matched by the passion of all for feasting on their flesh. All too often gentlefriends, bloody fights over how to cut Itreyan spiders in half (horizontally) arose in more than one high house kitchen, and on at least one memorable occasion, in the dining room itself. The argument being a decidedly foolish question of whether to cut just above or just below the legs in order to place the stuffing betwixt the halved spider before roasting in an oven...
Gentlefriends, I ask you: as long as it is split and stuffed with Summer Savoury stuffing and includes gravy, who gives a fuck?
Copyright © 2020 Eric C Bailey (Some rights reserved)